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Archive for September, 2009

This is going to read a little weird, because my original post disappeared when I tried to publish it. I guess it’s a lesson in the verse I was reflecting upon. Colossians chapter 3:

12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

The initial question to my post was: “Would you rather be right or happy?” I had masterfully explained that I concluded it’s not important to be either, and that I’ve found the most important things are to walk with Jesus and be eternally grateful even when things aren’t going your way.

And then my blog post disappeared. God has an interesting sense of humor. And he’s definitely giving me some practice lessons in humility these days. Let’s just put it this way: Once one has committed her life to Jesus, she walks with him in everything. Absolutely everything, from the mundane to the sublime, from the grotesque to the glorious. Jesus is there in every stinking detail! Right down to my petty thoughts and judgments, even in the moments where I’m obsessing over minutiae. Jesus is there, loving me and supporting me, laughing with me, crying with me, shouldering my burdens and multiplying my joys.

Pretty darn wonderful if you ask me. So wonderful I’m be willing to give up both being right and happy just to live in the assurance of such a blessed and eternal grace.

So, tonight you’re lacking my original brilliance and you’re getting yet another glimpse at my folly. I guess God had better plans for us today…

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How often do you think God doesn’t know what he’s doing? If you’re like me, it can sometimes become a daily struggle. I like to problem-solve. I love untangling, re-organizing, weaving back together using worn fabric to make something beautiful. And sometimes I think it’s my job to do that not only for me, but for you and all your friends.

People in my family like to give unsolicited advice. It happens less in my adult life, but when I was a kid I was told what I should do all the time. I hated it growing up, and in fact it still ruffles my feathers when I call home to tell how I’m doing and I hang up with a head full of “shoulds.” But that doesn’t stop me from should-ing other people. I daresay I verge on being a busybody when I get really out of control, even giving advice to random strangers.

So what gives? Why is it so hard to trust God? I have no answers to these questions. I only have experience in yielding, again and again, to the will of a power much bigger than me who has much better intentions and much bigger vision than I have. Usually I wait to give over control to God until I’m beat down and bedraggled, and there seem to be no other options. But the other day I wrote to a friend of mine asking for prayer around a particular situation where I was trying too hard to be right, and she sent back Jeremiah 29:11-14:

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God‘s Decree. “I’ll turn things around for you.”

I’m serious about finding God, and I want it more than anything else. Temptation to fall into the old pattern is strong, but releasing myself to the compassion and care of God, who is made of love…it just makes so much more sense than any strategy I’ve ever tried. I’m not sure what this new way of living has in store for me, and experience shows me that life in God’s care is never boring or dull. No matter what happens as I embark on the next year of my life’s, I’m sure the promise will be fulfilled and I won’t be disappointed.

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I have a new mantra: “Everthing is possible.”

Now don’t roll your eyes at me just yet. This does have some basis in real life experience.

Here in intentional community the potential for drama runs high most of the time. It’s because we don’t just go home and close up shop at the end of the day. We live where we worship, where we work, where we serve and study and play. The interactions we have with one another are, at some point, going to challenge everything we think we know to be true. And I do mean everything.

A few years back I participated in an orientation session when my friends Beth and Havilah were here as summer interns. I don’t remember the exact question that was asked, but I said to them that life in community goes something like this: Your ideals and dreams are built up bigger than you ever could have imagined, and then before you know it everything is shattered. And this cycle happens again and again, building up, everything is so indescribably wonderful and amazing and couldn’t get any better…then suddenly without too much explanation you find yourself in a pile of broken dreams and shattered ideals.

Beth and Havilah later told me that my words were some of the most terrifying ideas they had ever heard. I don’t mean to make life in Christian community sound completely horrifying, but, well, sometimes it’s just that. And I was having one of those moments this evening, where the entire cycle happened in just a matter of hours.

The issue at hand today was food. I’ve started cooking community lunch several days a week, and I’m taking it very seriously and trying to make food that tastes good and that is good for us. Today I made a huge pot of soup that got lots of wonderful feedback, and people seemed very satisfied with the meal. I used lots of home-grown vegetables and it was a very inexpensive meal to make. (insert pat on the back here) So I’d had my ego stroked a little bit, and I must say it felt pretty darn good. Ideals = Built Up, Dreams = Fulfilled.

But there are some people here who have different ideas than I do about what kind of food is good and what we need to be putting out on the table. I wound up in a tremendously intense moment of conflict with two of them this evening after dinner. It came out of nowhere, and we were actually shouting at one another about whether or not they would agree to cook some okra the following day at lunch. I then began to cry and stormed out of the Dining Hall, where I had yet another shouting conversation with one of my friends. All of us overreacted, myself included, and we ran the risk of driving a wedge into our relationships based on whether or not to consume a slimy green vegetable. Dreams = Broken, Ideals = Shattered.

So we all walked away from that moment feeling pretty frustrated, with ourselves, with each other. I was wounded, which made me first want to lash out. But instead I spent a few moments in prayer, and found that I would probably do the entire universe some good if I would just go over and own up to my own part in the whole situation. So even though it may have seemed like more fun to go home and complain myself into a self-righteous stupor, I sucked up all my pride and headed over to Jubilee house to apologize. I walked in fairly detached from the outcome, trying to keep my thoughts focused on my part and what I could to to make right my ridiculous behavior. Dreams = Feverish, Ideals = Making a Comeback.

With humility at the forefront, peace is always possible. I kept my chin up and apologized, then expressed what I really was needing in the situation and asked to be heard. My friends were able to listen, to give me feedback on how my intense bursts of emotion affect them and we also came to some agreements about how we might handle a similar escalation if/when it happens again. We began a dialog about many important underlying issues that had been at play in our interaction, and I believe a door that had been securely padlocked just an hour before was opened for clear and honest communication among the four of us. In the end, we expressed our love for each other, and came to a place of mutual respect for each other’s autonomy when it comes to living in this intense experiment. Ideals = in practice, Dreams = deeds.

So what’s all this got to do with my mantra? Well, we so often like to abdicate responsibility for our own thoughts and actions to the way that others think and act; we think that feelings come from other people. In truth, no one has ever made me feel anything. All my feelings come from within me. This is actually some of the best news I’ve ever heard, because it means that I’m completely responsible for my own feelings. In other words, I’m free to respond to the things you say and do in any way that I choose to respond. What I do with my feelings is my choice.*

The other side of that coin is the gift of faith. Cliches are what they are because they hold such deep truth: “With God, all things are possible.” So when we start to talk about faith that can move mountains, we mean it! Everything is possible because there are infinite choices in front of me at every single moment of every single day. Sometimes I choose actions that result in positive emotions. Other times I wish I could crawl under a rock and never look anyone in the eye again. And the best news of all is that, thanks be to God, there is an infinite amount of forgiveness available for all those mistakes. Even when I’m utterly unlovable, God is there to pick up my pieces and patiently puts my dreams and ideals back in order.

* An important afterthought: This new way of dealing with conflict came to me through my recent study and practice of Nonviolent Communication (click on the words for more info).  I’m so grateful for the gift of language, and for the fact that peace can be made possible just by choosing our words with intention.

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