Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trust Me

"When God wants you to go somewhere and He doesn’t tell you the direction, it is because He is teaching you trust. You have to trust Him joyfully. If you don’t do it joyfully, you will do it anxiously, which means you won’t trust! All trust must be joyful." ~Graham Cooke

So this happened. Last night, I was driving over to my brother's place to help him pack for an upcoming move. It's a route I take fairly often. It takes me past a thrift store that I love (and which, incidentally, has been crucial to our family's survival over the past months). I was about two minutes away from the thrift store turn-off, my mind focused on the task ahead of me, when from out of nowhere, it was like someone else took over my brain. I suddenly felt very strongly that I needed to go right now and look for a pair of running shoes at the thrift store. My gut told me it was God, but I immediately doubted that initial certainty, and figured it was just because I'd been thinking about that very thing the day before, since my current sneakers are pretty much worn out. I was running late as it was; I was in the wrong lane, and with the exit fast approaching, I wavered. I quickly made a bargain with myself, that if both lanes were empty at that last instant before I had to turn off, I'd go. There was a lot of traffic on the roads, but sure enough, the second before I was past the point of no return, there was not a car in sight, so I crossed the two lanes over to the turn-off and snaked my way through the vast parking lot over to the thrift store. I was still arguing with myself, wondering if I had indeed had a divine inspiration, or if it was my thrift store addiction that was compelling me. 

Long story short - I found the perfect running shoes; a like-new pair of brand name sneakers at a really great price. (I do apologize if buying shoes second-hand grosses you out - if it does, consider yourself lucky; but sometimes ya gotta do whatcha gotta do...) 

Fast-forward to this morning: I headed out in the cool of the early morning for my (almost) daily walk, and to put my "new" shoes to the test. I started out at a slow jog, enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and the little high that comes when you conquer your desire to stay in bed for another half-hour and make a good choice instead (and the perfect fit of the new shoes - I've never had a more comfortable pair!). And it happens again - my thoughts morph into something quite beyond myself and I get the distinct impression that I am now officially in training - and that that's what the sneakers were all about! But - in training? "For what?" is the question that pops up almost in spite of myself. Seems like the logical next step in this line of thinking, right? 

Silence. Wind blowing in the grasses, birds chirping, my feet pounding the pavement...and not a word, not one definite thought or impression. But I could almost see my Father gazing down at me with a loving, knowing smile spread across His face. Then these words: "Trust Me." 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Right in the Middle of It

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, 
it must come completely undone. 
The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. 
To someone who doesn't understand growth, 
it would look like complete destruction.
~Cynthia Occelli

Some days, it feels as if I've been on this journey to discover (the) real joy forever - and not in a good way... I get so impatient, berating myself for not having achieved more, for not having progressed farther along this path. Even though I know the journey has value, has purpose, has meaning, I still just want to get to the end of it. To be done. To arrive. It would appear, even after all of this, that I remain hopelessly results-driven.

There is a beautiful discipleship model that I've become acquainted with over the past couple of years. So much of the approach resonates deeply with me. One of the major components is called a huddle - a group of six to twelve people (a la Jesus' twelve disciples) with one person as the leader or teacher. This group intentionally learns and explores and seeks God and grows together for a year or two, and then members are sent out to start forming their own huddles, and so on and so on. Ideally, the leader is one who has gone through the huddle/discipleship process him/herself. It's the "follow me as I follow Christ" idea. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Obviously, there's much more to it than what I've outlined above, but you get the gist. From my very first introduction, I felt that I should be capable of leading one of these groups. I mean, I've been a Jesus-follower for almost 35 years now. I've held a lot of leadership positions. But even a quick glance at my life makes me shudder at the thought of inviting others to follow me as I follow Christ? As much as I hate to admit it, I'm still in need of discipling. (Gotta say, it did make me feel better to hear a pastor recently confess to the same need.) Most of my faith journey has been much like a do-it-yourself course - I didn't think I needed anyone to teach me. (I think I've mentioned my long history of fierce independence here before.) I look back with both gratefulness and regret, recalling the multitude of godly people by which I've been surrounded for so much of my life. I could have gleaned so much from them! Sadly, more often than not, I'd either shut them out or worse yet, compare myself to them, criticizing and judging in a feeble attempt to plump up a suffering self-esteem. All on my own (insert tongue in cheek here) I've become a reasonably respected and accomplished worship leader, writer and speaker. No mentor. No classes or courses or instruction, per se. (I'll be the first to admit that there have been many, many wonderful people who've contributed to these accomplishments - it just makes me sad now to think how things might be different if I'd swallowed my pride and fear and deliberately sought to learn from them...)

Which leads me to the title of this post and the quote at the top (in a round-about kind of way):

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, 
it must come completely undone. 
The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. 
To someone who doesn't understand growth, 
it would look like complete destruction.
~Cynthia Occelli

I have not arrived. I will not arrive until I arrive Home. On the contrary, I'm right in the middle of the messiness of growth and discovery and metamorphosis. I'm feeling "completely undone", like my insides are spilling all over the place, that everything's changing. Again. Still! And that's disturbing. Unsettling. Not comfortable, not familiar, not easy. Sometimes it does feel like "complete destruction". But it's good. Oh, so good. Once again, I get to learn to make peace with that which is not by nature peaceful - change. I can carry the unchanging peace that Jesus offers right into the middle of the fray. 

(I'm hoping that a discipling relationship will come along for me. I still do my share of questioning God's timing, but I know Him well enough by now to rest assured that He will provide what's needed when needed. He's good like that.) 

I know I used this verse just a few posts ago, but I guess I need to be reminded of it again (and again and again...). Maybe you do, too?

...being confident of this, 
that He who began a good work in you 
will carry it on to completion 
until the day of Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 1:6

Sunday, July 12, 2015

All of Me

Good morning, beautiful friends! Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in the North - it's been above 30 degrees C more often than not over the past 10 days or so (that's 86 F for my southern readers - might not seem like a big deal, but it's a shock to our systems up here!), and the Feltmates are feelin' it... We camped out in the basement for a couple of nights when the temperature in the house was higher than outside, but decided to return everyone to their rooms last night. Long story short - it was a late night; it ended up being well after midnight when, finally, all was quiet on the western front.

But even so, I found myself wide awake just after 6 am this morning. So I rolled out of bed and quietly crept downstairs, so as not to wake my sleeping beauties, and headed out for an early morning walk. (I had been meaning to do this every morning since the kids have been out of school, but this was the first one I'd managed...)

What a delight to be out in cool(ish) air! My mind began to clear of its heat-induced haze for the first time in days. And so, of course, God brought something to mind that He's been prompting me to deal with for some time, which I'd been basically ignoring. (Word to the wise: don't ignore God - it's never a good idea...remember Jonah?)

So here it is. Those of you who know me in real life know that I'm more than a little on the plump side. And have been for most of my life. Add to it the fact that I'm four feet nine-and-a-half inches tall, and we have a pretty serious problem. (If I was five feet nine, I'd be in pretty good shape...) I've struggled with food addiction to varying degrees over the years, and have a strong tendency to be lazy rather than active, and voila the result. One of the main issues in all this is my lack of discipline - I'll make great resolutions, work hard at it for awhile, see some results, and then slide back into my old habits; repeat, repeat, repeat.

I've made some significant progress so far this year - incorporated some healthy lifestyle changes with more consistency than usual - and managed to drop 25 pounds. (I have a long way to go yet, but yay!) I still fall into the cycle mentioned above, but I'm learning to pull myself out of it in a few days rather than weeks or months. But the deeper, root issue remains.

When I started this journey of self-discovery (and thus this blog) five years ago, it was one of the first things I dug up that needed overcoming. I was eating myself to death on purpose, albeit subconsciously, because I hated myself. (You can read all about that here.)  God has done some really fantastic, incredible, awesome healing in my life - for which I'm extremely grateful. But I've noticed traces of that old belief - the lie that told me I was worthless - still clinging to the edges of my mind.

Back to my walk this morning. I had quickly grabbed some clothes and tip-toed down stairs - later realizing that I'd grabbed a more snug-ish fitting shirt than I'd normally wear. I've always had a foolish habit of wearing clothes that are too big - I suppose the vain hope is that if the bulges can't be seen, I can pretend they're not there. But that's exactly what God spoke to me about this morning. I've never seen my excess poundage as a part of myself, but rather a separate, alien, undesirable entity - an enemy to wage war against. (I know, dangling participle...I can deal with it - that's not all I've got that's dangling :) )

It may seem like the most obvious truth in the world, but God loves ALL of me! So I need to learn to love ALL of me! I think this is one major road-block that needs to be dynamited right out of my mind - I can just feel that it will make a difference.

And how about you? What's your issue, your road-block; the insidious, debilitating lie that needs attention, correction, healing? It might be something obvious like your weight - or something less out-there, more hidden, concealed...I dare you to name it, face it, call it out, start dealing with it.

But not in a self-help, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, I-can-do-this kind of way. Our kind, patient, loving, gentle, powerful Father wants to journey along with us. He paid the price for our freedom - and He wants us to learn to live in it even more than we do! Let's be bold and brave and start living in the freedom we already have!

It is for freedom that Chris has set us free! 
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 
Galatians 5:1