Lent: Day 13; Beautiful things.

Pretend to go back with me, if you will, to when the earth was newly created. But before man was. Just the earth and heavens.

In the beginning, God created:

  • the earth
  • the water
  • the land
  • the sky
  • the moon
  • the sun
  • birds of the air
  • sea animals
  • animals on the land
  • etc.


Nothing specific about dust. Dust probably was just assumed with the whole “land” idea. I’ll bet that on our little hypothetical mind field trip to the beginning of the earth, that we would marvel in the beauty of the trees and the clearness of the skies and the water and the animals, but I doubt we would trip over ourselves admiring the dust.

And yet that dust is what God chose to create us from.

credit: weheartit.com


Some days I definitely feel like the dust. An irrelevant creation, kind of overshadowed by real beauty. I feel simple, ordinary, plain, allergenic, slightly annoying and easily muddied. Easily overlooked, easily walked on… and so on, and so forth.

But God chose dust.

So even on my days when I feel all of those simple, plain, ordinary things.
When I see the height and shade of the trees,
the wings of the birds,
the stars in the sky…

I can look at mankind.
I can look at dust.

and I can remember that God does great things with seemingly unremarkable stuff. Like Dust, and like Me.

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Lent: Days 6-11.

I’ve been reading my Bible a lot {more than I usually do…}. Right now I’m in 1 Kings, and I feel like I am meeting God for the first time in my life. Hear me out. I spend a lot of time talking about God, listening about God, surrounding myself with God-talk, if you will. But I’ve never spent much time reading about God in the Bible. I kind of bounce between complete horror and total awe. There are moments where I want to slam my Bible on the table out of frustration and lack of understanding, and then there are moments I want to curl up in the fetal position on the floor and pretend God is going to come down and hold me.

In the book I’m {slowly} reading, The Liturgical Year, it talks about Holy Saturday, a day we rarely observe in the Christian church. The day between Good Friday and Easter. The day hope was gone. A very dark day indeed. Maybe even worse than Good Friday, because on Saturday tons of people woke up and had to face the realization that the day before had actually happened. But I guess we can talk more about that on Holy Saturday. Yesterday I read these words by Joan Chittister:

It is now, when we feel the absence of Jesus most keenly, that we can find ourselves listening to Him most intensely. All of a sudden we are totally immersed in what He has come to be to us. Now we see just exactly how much His life and words mean to us. We begin to realize that we have already been changed by it. What can we possibly do without it?

That is exactly how I feel about reading the Old Testament. It’s easy to buy into the idea that it’s out dated and old and not relevant to us, since Christ came and brought us a new covenant, a new way to be with God. But as I read the Old Testament and see so much of the way things were before Christ, I grow to love him more and more with each page I turn.

Remember how I was wrestling with the idea of God doing what “is good” in his eyes? It keeps coming up. “…The LORD will do what is good in his sight” {2 Sam. 10:12} and “As for God, his way is perfect” {2 Sam 22:13}. I’m trying to understand that, to believe – and most importantly to trust – that from God comes what is good, and what he does is perfect regardless of how I feel towards it. and he even loves me enough to do what is perfect knowing it will cause me pain for awhile. Don’t we do the same, allowing people we love to “learn the hard way” because we know you can’t learn any other way? I’ve spent a lot of time working with teenage girls in my life, and I will tell you that at some point you have to stop talking and let them fall on their face because sometimes that’s the most effective way to get through to them.

So anyway. There’s that. I’ve had a very tired, emotional week and there’s nothing much to say that is of any worth or will be of any benefit to anyone.

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. ~C.S. Lewis.

I don’t like to get out of the shower with my hair wet and water dripping to the floor, so I will frequently turn off the water and sit quietly in the shower, thinking. Sometimes I will take the time to wash my feet or read the labels of my shampoo bottle, and sometimes I will just sit. Sometimes I will pray.

Today as I sat, I was looking at skin and thinking how weird it is, and then started thinking about the entire makeup of the human body – my human body, and had this strange sense of temporary. This body, while a very real part of me, is not all of me. I am not a brain encompassed within a package. I am a soul residing in a body. That C.S. Lewis quote came to mind, the one I only recently understood about not having a soul but being a soul.

Last year I got coffee with my friend Jon-Marc, and can remember a distinct moment where I got completely distracted by his nose, and not for any striking aspect of it but just because I suddenly felt as if I’d never seen a nose before in my life. The whole of his face took me in shock and I realized that for a brief second, I felt as if I was a soul sitting down and having coffee with another soul. The fact that he was housed in a body suddenly became real, because I knew and know that there is more to Jon-Marc than his face and his body. He exists beyond that.

and today I thought of an overwhelming thought while I was trying to reason through the idea that I am encased but not exclusive to my human body, I realized that somewhere in Heaven is a God who created this body for me, for my soul to live in while on earth. It is a way to distinguish me from anybody else. But God knows me without my body. He knows my soul, the core of my existence. He could recognize my soul. Can. He can recognize my soul.

It was kind of overwhelming to start thinking about, so that’s when I decided to get dressed.

Lent: Day 5 – The day I cut my hair off.

The first Sunday of Lent. A day to reflect on Christ’s time in the desert. I read this devotional about it with this picture included, and I absolutely loved this picture. I think it’s supposed to be Jesus and Satan, and I love that Jesus is like “talk to the hand.”

Right? That’s the sassy Jesus that comes out from time to time!

It is easy for us to say that we are alone in enduring our sufferings because Christ was perfect and did not sin, so how could he possibly understand the weight of temptation as someone who never gave in? Pastor Matt Hannan once used this example. Consider two road signs on either side of the street. The wind starts gently blowing and gaining speed. At 25 mph, the signs start shaking. The wind increases to 30 mph… 35…. 40…. and one street sign falls down. But the wind continues to pick up speed… 45…. 55… 60… the wind reaches 70 miles per hour before it dies down. Which street sign understands the full power of the wind?

Keep that in mind as you contemplate Christ’s time in the desert. Though he did not give in to temptation, he endured it to the highest degree – especially because, as Hannah pointed out this evening, the salvation of the world was at stake. Satan would not have held anything back, he would have gone all out to try and tempt the perfect Lamb to acquire blemishes.

Today I have been grieving for my friend. My friend is hurting, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it aside from pray and offer encouragement. It has weighed heavy on my heart. I spent a few hours in Starbucks reading my Bible before I came home to shower. My shower took forever because my heart was so heavy. I was being still and quiet and got this overwhelming sense of urgency to cut my hair.

If you know me, you know that I am kind of attached to my hair {aren’t we all, really? haha…. anyway} and would rather walk through fire than cut my hair {though walking through fire would probably destroy my hair, but oh well}. But there in the shower, I felt this strange urgency. Not an impulse, mind you, as cutting my hair is not exciting, thrilling or enjoyable to me.

So I got out of the shower, and when Hannah walked into the apartment I was putting my hair into a ponytail to cut it. I tried explaining to Hannah how weird it was; I kept saying “what could I do?” in response to this gut feeling.

This is what I did:


It does not look nice, it does not make me happy, but I feel as if those two facts are irrelevant because there was an undeniable moving within me to do this.

Notice that I am using language that we usually use to describe the Holy Spirit’s leading without actually attributing it to the Spirit. I want to say it was, because it was similar to other experiences I’ve had where the Spirit has sought from me an immediate reaction, but it just seems too weird and irrelevant.

I consumed a lot of free icedcoffeewithmilkandcaramel refills, and make frequent trips to the bathroom. Time for another one.

Lent: Days 2 & 3.

I’ve had the opportunity and time to sit down and write the past two days but have chosen not to. It’s good to rest.

On Thursday, I went to Liturgical Chapel with Hannah. At one point, they asked us to quietly free our minds and listen to the Word of God spoken three times in three voices. They read Romans 8:26 {ish and around}.. three different people, three different versions. Each time we were encouraged to pick up on a word or a phrase that seemed to resonate with us, and to focus on that. Mine grew each time. Groaning deeper than words was what bounced in my head over and over. The Spirit’s interceding for us with groaning deeper than words. It was a great practice, followed by the Eucharist and the opportunity to be anointed with oil and prayed for. While praying for me, he mentioned a verse I’ve been thinking about a lot.

2 Timothy 2:17
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

It is strange to me that self-discipline is given in response to a spirit of being timid. Strength has to lie in the ability to control oneself, within the freedom to say “no” to that which the world would have you say “yes.” It is in our abstaining and fasting and self-denial that we find freedom and liberation from the world, and from sin. Anyway.

It kept me up late, and I didn’t wake up in time to do my devotions in the morning. When I was done with work I went to Starbucks and spent an hour reading and reflecting on the Word. I realized that while people encourage you to read the Bible slowly and carefully, really concentrating on what is going in and savoring it all.. I read quickly. I miss some things, but then my journal is full of Scripture references or passages written down; things I know I want to think about but want to keep reading more before I stop and really let my brain go.

Occasionally, I can’t help but stop and think. I was reading the story of Samuel and God calling him at night. It’s all different when you’re reading it from the Bible and not looking at pictures on the wall that your Sunday School teacher cut out, right? So I’m reading about what God told him, about how Eli’s family will suffer punishment for his son’s actions and for Eli’s passiveness. and Eli makes Samuel tell him everything, to which Eli replies

“He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

In our devotions at night we’ve been reading through Romans. We were reading Romans 9 and trying to understand the idea of “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” {v18}

But when I read the words of Eli, I realized my peace with that verse will come with me giving up my desire to understand, because when it comes down to it, God acts in according to what “is good“. I say that with a bit of a chuckle because my understanding or ideas of “is good” is limited. Do I mean what “is good” in relationship to me, my personal situation? Or perhaps in response to what “is good” for me regarding the people I concern myself. Or, is it what “is good” for the body of Christ? Maybe it is what “is good” for all of humanity. Even, as much as this defies my ability to reason, it is what “is good” for all of creation, that which we can see and that which we cannot.

So to say that God will and does do what “is good” in his eyes is admittedly beyond my ability to fathom, as I do not know ultimately what “good” means, applies to, or implies. Many things that have been “good” have been painful. I would feel comfortable saying that the blood of Christ is good. But the response of the earth when he last breathed leads me to think that there was a heartbreak in Heaven, that God did not passively sit back and check a box on a “plan for salvation” and wait for the Resurrection. He was loud. The was confusion among the disciples, there was sorrow in the hearts of the women who loved him. There was disappointment in those who believed in him. The goodness of the cross did not spare anyone from pain. But the cross was very, very good. For me personally, for me communally, for the Body, for humanity and for all seen and unseen creation.



Then last night was a fancy dress-up dinner at our church. It was supposed to be us who rooted for the blackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellow team at the Super Bowl to serve those who rooted for the winners. Instead it turned into one of the girls and her mom serving all of us a really nice, fancy dinner while we watched She’s the Man. Carrie tried to teach me how to eat like a princess, which was more of a fail than a success because I tend to talk with my mouth full and I use the sawing technique when cutting things like… well, everything.


Would you believe that on a Saturday morning with no alarm clock, my body wakes up at 6:30? It is a sleep-in of an hour of a half, but I have completely lost my ability to sleep late. I love it, because I’ve been sitting in this chair for about an hour and a half doing nothing but reading Wikipedia and now writing this. Next up on my list is getting dressed and going to Starbucks to read my Bible some more. There is something about fairly instant free icedcoffeewithmilkandcaramel refills that is just so appealing to me about Starbucks….

 

 

March 7th, 2011

Today I am having a quiet, meditative day.

A few weeks ago one of the cadets preached about praying without ceasing and how that means including God all throughout your day. I see it as a seamless weaving of God throughout your life; and I feel that I do this, praying in my car and while washing the dishes. Thinking on the Lord frequently and with passion. But that does not replace the peace I get when I am on my knees with my head to the floor, concentrating on God. It is the only time I receive real peace. The other times are for venting or asking for patience or wisdom or discernment, but is never really about sharing with the Lord and resting quietly while he responds.

For the first time in a long time, I prayed like that. and now I am quiet.

As I was making lunch, this song came up on shuffle. It is now on repeat as I sit quietly and think about the Lord.

I used to live my life in fear
was worried all the time
From waking up to laying down
I had no peace of mind
The world became a darkened place,
a struggle without end.
Although bitter times those were
the days that I began to understand
I was only a man.

I grew up singing songs in church
with questions in my mind,
then turned my back and ran away
from God who gave me life.
Then one night, his presence fell;
I wept and shook and then
I fell down and cried, Dear Jesus
rescue me again. I understand
I am only a man.

Then He said,

What will it be now?
Will you choose me
or keep swimming upstream now?
I’ve been inside your head
hearing you scream out.
Well here I am, just take my hand
and I’ll take out all of the pain
and all of the fear.

I’ll give you my burdens.
I’ll give you peace.
All of my desires.
I’ll give you what you need.
and what about these chains, Lord?
I’ll set you free.
But they’re so heavy…
Lay them at my feet.
I’ll lay them at your feet.. just promise you won’t leave.
I’ll never leave.
So where do I go from here, Lord?
Just follow me, just follow me.
I”ll follow you wherever you lead, wherever you lead..
wherever you lead.



and so it is with a quiet heart that I will begin to prepare myself for the Lenten season. In a day when everything we do is broadcast, may we all be secretly fasting in order that we may rid ourselves of distractions and become more like our Lord in our selves, not just our statuses and shares.

Also – my friend LaTrice posted this great article about why women should not pursue men. I needed the reminder. —


Will you be giving anything up for Lent? if so, what??

February 27th, 2011.

Almost Lent. This year, I am going to remind myself that God not only loves cheerful givers but also cheerful giver uppers. So as I take my 40 days without Facebook or a coffee beverage over the size of a tall, I will be doing it with a willing and cheerful spirit, not reluctantly or out of obligation.

Something I learned a few years ago was that I can’t just give something up for Lent, I must also replace that with something. For example, what is the point of giving up Facebook if I take that entire time and dedicate it to trying to bring back MySpace? No point. Why give up excessive coffee drinks just to replace it with a senseless consumption of soda? Right? So that which is not being poured into the abstained needs to go elsewhere. In addition to what I’m giving up is, more importantly, what I am implementing.

It’s a lot.

Quiet time every day. I tried to set a time limit on how long my quiet time must last every day, but I guess that doesn’t really matter. It just has to be a consistent, set apart time to pray and meditate, to read my Bible and journal, and to write letters. Quiet time. Learning to still my heart.

Because I’m going to be honest, but I’m just going to tell you what Stephen Curtis Chapman sang.

If the truth was known and a light was shown on every hidden part of my soul,
most would turn away, shake their heads and say “he’s still got such a long way to go…”

This morning in Sunday School we were talking about spiritual warfare and evil and what that looks like. I commented that for the believer, it usually happens slowly. Satan plants a seed within us, and we willingly water and tend to it. Suddenly we’re being suffocated by something we could have stopped all along were we to acknowledge what was happening.

I feel that the seed has been planted in me. It’s a nasty, ugly, spiky little thing.

Worthlessness. Apathy. Undisciplined. Irritability. Gossiping. …and those are just the parts I’ve really noticed.

Deep within me I feel an urgency to address this, to stand up against my adversary and fight.

Forty days of celebrating discipline and self-control and sacrifice, all leading up to a celebration of the liberating power from sin and death that I have access to because of Christ’s Resurrection? Yes please. Yes PLEASE!

Pray for me, because I am feeling like a prime piece of real estate for Satan and I need deliverance. From myself.

But now that we have my nerdy Lent-talk out of the way……

Jessica came to visit me from North Dakota.

I got an annual Disneyland pass. That is my “no my last name is not Orifice… or Office…” face.

but the best pictures I can show you are from the Crystal Cathedral. They had all of these Biblical statues. First I saw this Moses one and it cracked me up.



In my head I thought “hey guys, got a decent second copy!”

Next came the Holy fam. Baby Jesus was silver. Super weird. So of course I played with him for a little bit.

But then.

This one, you guys.

We’re walking down this path, and I look to my left and I see this statue and I fell to the ground in hysterical laughter.

Before I show you a close up of why it was so funny, let me give you a general overview of this statue entitled “The Lost Get Found.”


Get it? It’s Jesus carrying the one lost sheep. and a bunch of little kids running up to him. oh and me, I was running up to him as well. and for clarification purposes, I had shorts on underneath that.

Okay so now you’re thinking “what is so funny about this picture? It seems quite lovely.”

Brace yourselves.

When I looked this up on the internet to show Rachel, the minute this picture opened on my computer I burst into a giggle fit again.

 

DO YOU SEE THAT FACE? It is the craziest Jesus face I have ever seen in my entire life! It was the funniest thing I’ve maybe ever seen in my life. Maybe.

Then finally. I like to call this one… “hey guys! wait for me!”

So that’s it. I’ve made some progress in my whole 20-11’s list. Perhaps I will update that later.

Thank you and Goodnight.

Also – could you all please e-mail your mailing addresses to stephanieorefice@gmail.com? I would appreciate that. Heather, I located your letter. It will be sent soon 🙂