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, Day 12: The day I called 9-1-1 about my car.

Do you know one of those people who have stories and at the end of them, someone kind of laughs and says “that WOULD happen to you, of all people.“? I am one of those people. Here’s a new tale for you.

This week I will be in San Francisco with my favorite people in the world. I was going to leave Friday, but decided to stick around and see this…

and then yesterday had been invited to Roland’s 80th birthday party, and stayed for that. Which I’m so glad I did, but I’ll write about that later.

I was driving on I-5, listening to Legally Blonde the Musical and pretending like I could hit half of those notes when this big ugly light came on. My battery light. I gave it a few minutes before I called my dad.

Long story short, I was talking to my dad about what to do when the lights inside of my car started growing dim. I quickly pulled over to the side of the freeway and my car stopped. I’d like to pretend like my reaction was “oh weird,” but I’d be lying if I didn’t fess up to “WHAT DO I DO, WHAT DO I DO, WHAT DO I DO???” while crying on the phone.

You see, I didn’t really know where I was… just that I was a few hours away from Covina and that I hadn’t hit Bakersfield yet. and it was getting dark.

So you know what I did? I did what any reasonable, calm person would do. I called 9-1-1. The lady was really nice, didn’t think I was a weirdo at all. She put me in touch with highway patrol, who didn’t laugh at my attempt at humor when she asked the color of my car. but she did call a tow truck for me and told me she’d make sure officers knew I was there. Which was great, because yesterday morning Aleen and Hannah and I had a big discussion about what we would do if we were ever attacked. My response was: DNA. Collect it & leave it. So I kept thinking about that, preparing for the worst.

It was getting cold in my car and I was wearing a skirt and realized that I had pajamas in my suitcase which I’d decided to put in the backseat instead of the trunk. But when I went to reach for my suitcase, I realized that I had a pair of cozy pink sweat pants sitting on the passenger seat. I even had a pair of slippers!

The police officer came and I sent him away because I am kind of intimidated by police officers.. they like to give me tickets and pull me over and I’d just prefer he was not there.

I got in touch with Nancy in Bakersfield who said I could stay with them and that she’d pick me up wherever they dropped my car off.

My car got towed safely, last night I stayed up talking to Katie until my eyes couldn’t handle it, and this morning I woke up and got to play with Spencer.

Right now I am across the street from Pep Boys, in a McDonalds, enjoying free wifi and pretending to enjoy a latte and wondering why I didn’t notice the giant sign for oatmeal before I ordered.

The car will be ready soon, and I will be back en route to Camp Redwood Glen, a place I rarely drive to without collecting some weird story.

Last night I made a pretty big decision. I’ve had my Bible for almost ten years, and I’ve only highlighted one verse. 2 Corinthians 12:9. But I’m going to highlight those words Eli spoke when presented with consequences. “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.” I prayed that last night a few times, telling God that whatever happened when that annoying light went off, be it a weird fluke or something major, that I would trust Him, that I would try to understand that what he chooses to allow to happen to me is not out of apathy or torture, but that he holds all understanding and truth and that I would submit myself to him.

That verse, in the past week and a half or so, has changed and shaped me more than anything I can remember in awhile. It’s redefining how I view God, how I look at the world, how I am responding to God. I wish I could squeeze you all inside of my heart and let you sit there and understand, but instead I will just hope you maybe get it.

My car was right. I’m about to go pay for my new battery and my new alternator and then I will properly get on the road to see a bunch of people I love, a bunch of people who will laugh at my misfortune with me and will be happy I made it there safely, and whose love and joy will overshadow this entire ordeal. Because that’s just how it works. Joy comes in the morning with 2 cinnamon rolls, 2-year-old Spencer, coffee, and adventure. Joy comes in the Lord doing what is good in his eyes and all of us trusting it.

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.

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, Day 4: The day I accidentally went to Facebook.

This is my today. I never went to Starbucks for my iced coffee. Instead I made a burrito, went to a soccer game {in which my only valuable advice was “brush your teeth every night before bed!“} and then went to the mall with Sarah, where I took advantage of a used CD store going out of business.

Then I came home, Hannah and Rach came home, and I am just sitting here clicking through blogs.

One of the blogs had this link on the side:

Naturally, I clicked that. Wouldn’t you?

It opened in a new tab and I watched in horror as Facebook loaded onto my computer.

Turns out I should have LOGGED OUT when Lent started.

Because now I know that I have 22 new notifications, 2 messages and worst of all: 1 friend request. I soaked up all of that information in the .05 seconds it took for the page to load and for me to realize what had happened.

I didn’t check any of it, though. I didn’t read a single status or click to see what any of the notifications were about. Because Facebook itself is not the horror, it is instead its tendency to be a black hole of my LIFE.

But really, what I wanted this post to be about was something a little bit more serious, so keep reading.

Why is it that as a woman, one of the most offensive, vile and disturbing things in the entire world is a toilet seat that has been left up? Today in the car Sarah and I were discussing it, how seeing that gives us some amount of inconvenience and frustration.

Sometimes the lid is left down. and I have to lift the lid before sitting down to go to the bathroom. But that doesn’t make me angry. Not like the toilet seat.
I’ve never realized until today how upset this makes me. Once recently I went into the bathroom at Starbucks after a man. He left the seat up. I was so upset that I am pretty sure I judged his character based on the fact that he left the seat up in a bathroom that girls use as well.

The point can be made about girls sitting on the toilet without realizing the seat is up and falling in. But when do you ever just sit down without taking any notice whatsoever of the toilet? Maybe I’m the only person paranoid that someone will saran wrap the seat or that a spider will be in there waiting to bite my butt, but I never just throw myself onto the toilet and endanger my butt to a spider bite or a splash.

Even not counting that as a real argument, I cannot for the life of me figure out why I feel such a strong, personal reaction to the toilet seat being left up.

Anybody else, or is this a party of 1?

Also, when looking for a picture, I came across this. I’m not about to read it, but someone else should and tell me what it says. 🙂

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….



Lent: Day 1.

I love the Lenten season. Maybe because I love Easter, but not how I love Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday: it’s pink, sparkly, lovey, hearty, glittery… makes sense, right? But Easter is my essential holiday. As Easter approaches, I start to get really excited. Easter is the most important day in the history of the world. Maybe not Easter in general, but what it celebrates. You know. The Resurrection. and so I appreciate the 46 days before, a time of denial and sacrifice. and other things.

Awhile ago I was clicking around Wikipedia and stumbled upon various aspects of the liturgical year and was elated to discover a book simply entitled The Liturgical Year available for review on BookSneeze. I’ve timed it to be at the Lent/Ash Wednesday part today. and by “I’ve timed it” I mean… yesterday I sat at Starbucks and read a deliberate number of pages. It kept my heart quiet and contemplative as I reminded myself again and again what I would give up, implement, and for what purpose. Here are a few parts I especially enjoyed:

To be able to control our bodies is to be able to control ourselves in even more challenging situations. Fasting enables us to say no to ourselves, no small feat in a world that stresses self-gratification to the ultimate.

Learning to forgo the lusting self, then, is one of the disciplines of the spiritual life. But giving things up does not imply loss. In fact, because of what we give up, we stand to gain a great deal.

We become aware of what is necessary in life, rather than wasting all life’s energies on what is at most cosmetic. We gain the kind of consciousness that is lost in the fog of alcohol or gluttony, agitated by lust, consumed by greed. We learn the greatest gift of all-freedom from the demands of the self for the good of the flowering of the spirit.

{Joan Chittister} Read more from the book on Joan’s page.

So this morning I got up {at 5 am. Brutal!!} and did devotions. In the spirit of Lent, sacrifice, and holding my possessions loosely, I picked out one of my favorite necklaces to give the little girl I spend most of my time with.

She was really excited, and I knew it was a great decision. Plus, it was on my list of 20-11’s. Because I’ve still been working on it, just haven’t been great with the posting part.

Babysat for two other kids right afterwards. Called my dad.

Then, I went to the post office. Because yesterday I got a slip saying there was a parcel for me at the post office. I had no idea who would have sent me anything. So I was anxious as the lady brought a box up for me, return address “The Dutch Blitz Club.” Cassie and Katie. My intentions were to wait until I got home to open it, but who are we kidding? I opened it right away but waited to get home before unpacking it….

That’s what it looked like on the drive home. My friends know me well, right? Then I took it all out…

That would be… a nice fuzzy blanket with hearts, a pink framed Justin Bieber picture {picked out by anti-Bieber Katie herself!} a pink polka dotted mug {that you can write on with chalk!}, silly putty, a sparkly pink box with candy, a candy heart frame, and letters. It was good to receive.

When did I become the kind of person whose friends send her books, make her quilts, send her coffee, send her boxes of awesome, write her quiet unannounced letters {Heather!}???? Have any of these people actually met me? The best part is they have. and have all seen me at my worst, and yet somehow think favorably of me. My friends are clearly the most graceful people in the world.

My devotions this morning were great. I’m in Judges. Don’t ask me how long ago I started with Genesis. Please, just don’t. You will lose any respect for me you may have had. But have you EVER tried to read Leviticus? Let me tell you that it took me THREE MONTHS to get through Leviticus.  Back to Judges.  I underlined Judges 5:21b.. March on, my soul; be strong! That’s all.

  • Pastor Eugene has written a great blog about the heart of Lent. I dig it.