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Open Up

July 23, 2013

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Faith is great, the assurance of hope is all good and fine but none of it works when you’ve got a blocked heart. I guess it’s kinda like when you’ve got one of those pesky sinus infections and then the worst thing happens, one nostril is clogged. One nostril! You never get a really fresh and good breath of air, the headache starts, and all you want to do is crawl up in bed with the humidifier running.

It’s the same thing for faith when my heart closes.

It’s something I have to be conscious of, something I never really thought about until the last few years of my life. I close up, build walls, escape into myself and my inner voice starts to sabotage my life.

If you were a good (fill in the blank) you would do more, be more, have more. Why can’t you be better?

says my inner asshole voice.

The times in my life when I undermine myself are no less frequent than they were before, I just know they come and when they do, I pray. I meditate to the Holy Spirit and ask for my heart to remain open, to fill me with God’s energy, to help me center my consciousness and open up…

Because nothing is ever worth closing my heart.

Hi God, it’s me again. Help me understand how to remain open, I do not want to live with a closed heart. Use the energy from the Holy Spirit to open my heart so that I can be filled with Your love. So that I can love those around me to the best of my ability. Fill me with peace to block that voice within that continues to throw a wrench in my progress, the one that can shut me down so easily that I end up escaping into myself. I am in here, behind all of that noise. I am ready, as always, to take my heart back and give it to You. I’ll say it again, nothing is ever worth closing my heart to Your love, or just love in general. I love you. Thank you.

The Assurance of Hope

April 28, 2013

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“Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of good things. And no good thing ever dies.”
—The Shawshank Redemption

Webster’s dictionary defines hope as, a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. A desire for a better life, the expectation that tomorrow is going to come and we can start anew. Sometimes God gives us people or things that spark a renewed sense of possibility. A sign from above that gives us that little piece of hope we’ve been longing for…longing for for so long.

Singers sing about it, writers write about it, and the common person can only, well, us regular old folks can only hope for a better day. A day that our faith, wherever our faith lies, will give us the assurance of hope. My faith gives me the assurance of hope. The assurance that we can escape the inhumanity of everyday life with a little bit of hope in the humanity of others. The love we pour out for each other; the love that triumphs over the hate; the light that always wins over the darkness; the hope that trumps the hopeless.

Andy: Here’s where it makes the most sense. (gestures over his heart) You need it so you don’t forget.
Red: Forget?
Andy: Forget that there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside…that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
Red: What are you talking about?
Andy: Hope.
Red: Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no place here. Better get used to the idea.

Hope. It is all yours for the taking, all yours if you can simply give into it for a while. Give your self to hope; go toward the love, the light, the freedom that only hope can bring.

“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope I can see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams. I hope.”

—The Shawshank Redemption

Feeling the Forsaken Lift

February 27, 2013

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“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”

I used to read this in my skeptical days and weep, I’d actually become frustrated and irate. It made me an unbeliever. I would yell at God, “Yea, what the fudge, God! Why did you let this happen? He is Jesus for crying out loud, the prodigal SON! Why did he feel forsaken? You were supposed to look out for him, ease his pain a little bit.” I didn’t understand why he had to suffer so badly, and on top of that, he felt forsaken. I was pissed.

Now, as an investigator into my faith, some of these pieces that I never understood start to fall into place. And that’s no accident, I incessantly pray for better understanding of the Bible. Especially lately, since I’m diving in head first into my Bible study again. My desire for knowledge comes in waves, it’s like my body craves information and then needs a break to process it all. Then I put things on the back burner until I’ve gotten myself into a spiritual sloth like state of mind. Then the study comes back in full force.

Instead of feeling abandoned by God, I now believe Jesus was reciting the first line from a popular poem from Psalms, written by King David. Psalm 22 is a prayer, an amazing and layered prayer to comfort those in despair, because it ends with praising God. Then the fascinating part of this Psalm, King David (probably unknowingly) prophesied the death of Jesus during it.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. 4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. 10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. 22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. 25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him– may your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. 29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.”

Jesus must have read this Psalm many many times is his years on Earth, as a scholar. He also had to know that those around him knew the Psalm just as well, and its accurate prophesy qualities. PLUS, he was in excruciating pain, blood loss, breathing became difficult, and it probably felt good to yell about being forsaken. But in his mind, I like to think Jesus was declaring; “19 But you, oh Lord, be not far off; O my strength, come quickly to help me.” And “praise Him” — “for he has done it.”

Sometimes I feel like I could say these things at the beginning of this prayer to God. I know I’ve asked the same question, “why aren’t you listening.” But then I feel it, light is cast on my issues, and I feel this love, unyielding love, pouring into my core. I feel understanding, as if i know what to read, filtering into my brain.

The only ones of us that are forsaken by God are those of us who won’t wait around a little bit, wait around and open your heart so that you can feel.

Seeing Faith

February 26, 2013

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I don’t want my faith to be blind.

I feel like followers of Jesus, myself included, have given themselves a bad rap by simply saying faith is blind. Actually, to be honest, I think it’s a cop out. An apathetic cop out. The lazy persons way of saying “I’m not going to research the truth, I’ll just jump on this Christian bandwagon…if I say the right prayers and “accept” Jesus as my savior, then I’ll be saved”. Like it’s some sort of after life insurance policy.

Faith is not blind for me anymore. Goodbye apathy; I read, I write, read some more, and then I repeat. I read and respect different points of view, which helps me understand my faith more. It means more to me than simply accepting Jesus, I have given myself to follow Him. To become what I can’t be on my own, allowing myself to die so that I can be reborn in Him. That is not blind. When my world starts crashing down, that’s when I find it, my Salvation. I repent. I reach out from my soul, meditate on God’s word, and give myself to Him. I pray.

That’s when I feel the rebirth of joy in my soul.

I’m not sure why it is always in moments that I have been swimming against the current, that I wait to reach out with prayer. It’s like I have to wait until I’m nearly drowning in my life, before I turn to God and say, “I need you”!

Dear God,
I seek You and I am found. I might fall but You are faithful and lift me up from the depths of my despair. I may sabotage myself from time to time, but You are my soul and lift me up. You bring me home when I get lost in the darkness of my mind. Thank you, Lord. Bring to me the understanding that is Your will. Amen.

Losing Peace

February 22, 2013

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Do you ever notice those times in life when peace slips out of your grasp?

Maybe peace has never been weaved through your fingers in the first place, always just out of reach. Perhaps you looked for that feeling of peaceful bliss in places or in things where the only result was that it left you longing for more.

Something more.

More of something.

I’ve been there, to the land of more, and still return from time to time. I transform back into that person who is always “desperately seeking something”. The frustrating part here is that I know the peace, I know it well. But life gets so hectic that peace slips out from under me and gets lost in the shuffle. So I go forward, trying to find it in a quick fix, flying high on whatever compulsion suits my fancy that day.

Do you know how that feels?

For me it can be unnecessary shopping, escaping into romance novels, trying to find the magic happy pill at the doctor’s office, eating (too much), being a technology junkie, and the list goes on. But then God (figuratively) slaps me upside the head (of course figuratively, because I don’t really think He would necessarily slap me, bah!), but I can see Him saying: “LISTEN, Joy. Why are you filling yourself with these needless and pointless things that are dooming you to endless compulsion?”

Really, doomed to endless compulsion? Like, condemned to certain destruction or death…that kind of doomed?

Yup, that kind of doomed. Fill yourself with me, Joy. You know that MY love will strengthen you and fill your void.

Dear God,
I need help filling my heart with the capacity to love. I have strayed from you, again. None of these material compulsions are filling my most basic need. You, my relationship with you, Lord it is my most basic need. Only spiritual experience with you, Lord, can fix me in times that I lose peace. Help me, God, help me find my way back to that peace.

Thank you and, uh Amen.

Curable Disease

February 20, 2013

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There are times when we are sick, both mentally and/or physically, and the disease we are diagnosed with is incurable. There’s no quick fix to make it go away, no magic pill to replace the pain and make you feel fantastic, so we try to ride “it”out. Whatever it might be. Maybe we try to make sense of what ails us; cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, mental illness, and the list could go on.

Lord, breathe life into these dry bones.(Ezekiel 37)

Dear God,
I am scared. I am vulnerable. My thoughts grow dark and I am in desperate need of the light that is You. I surrender it all, I give it all to You, Lord. My heart and soul are open to receive the essence that is yours, I am grateful for Your grace.

Amen.

There is only one way to accomplish breathing life into dry bones and it doesn’t matter weather you are fighting for your life in the depths of despair or having the time of your life while riding the crest of awesomeness. Let God’s love in, nothing, and I mean NOTHING can separate you from His love.

It’s a choice in your heart. Like me, you can bury the love and put it on the back burner every now and then, until you are being followed by a forest fire. Burning everything you touch with tired and withered hands. Burned out and burning up.

I am reborn again and again in this life. I crash and burn constantly. But my disease, my human condition, my disease of that temporary godlessness, it is curable. No matter how far I occasionally stray from God’s love…the warmth I feel when I reel myself back in is sweeter than any day spent on the beach, soaking up the sun. My heart feels full.

“I feel like it’s been ten shades of winter, and I need the sun!” (One Republic)

Beautiful Chaos

August 25, 2012

Oh, I’m just thinking right now. Again. This time I’m sitting in the ICU at a hospital, looking over at my sister-in-law, who is also a best friend, she is recovering from almost bleeding to death.

Yep, you heard me. I said bleeding to death.

She is always go, go, going – more than usual lately. Life has been hectic with all of the beautiful chaos(we all have the beautiful chaos, right?). Children, husband, parental units to worry about, an acreage and a household to help run, a career, political campaigning, hobbies…seriously. Life. Is. Busy.

Too busy.

When do we stop to take care of ourselves? When does the beautiful chaos stop so we can smell the roses?

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She was concerned with the well being of everyone else and forgot to care for her self. How many times have you done this in life? I know I have so many times, I can’t even count. I’ve just never ended up in critical care because of it.

Is this what God intended for the human race? Live in the beauty of chaos? No, I’m pretty sure the busy life thing is the plan of another. Keeping us all insanely busy so that we miss the reason for life in the first place. I swear, you can find anything in the Bible and relate it somehow to life in the here and now. The word of God is amazing like that and for this I am infinitely grateful. In this passage from Luke 10:38-42, Jesus lets us know what is truly important.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

What is the better part?

It is being a disciple of Jesus, that’s the better part. Not that Martha was necessarily wrong in the way she wanted to serve the Lord, no, not at all. She just had her priorities mixed up, lost her focus, let the anger overwhelm. Became distracted. Plus Mary was her younger sister who may have been a tad bit more on the scholarly side. The annoying to a big sister scholarly side, as depicted in this painting by Tintoretto as Mary sat at the foot of Jesus learning. Sibling rivalry, anyone?

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Yes. Sitting here in this hospital is reminding me, once again that I need to stop. Stop and smell the roses, sit at the foot of Jesus for a while, and thank Him for everything that is. Because life is too precious to become that busy.

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