Tag Archives: prayer

A Non-Trivial Update on My Pursuits

15 Jan

I’m checking in after a half a month of adopting my word for 2014, “pursue.” I think it’s important to assess once in awhile. How am I doing with pursuing things? In no particular order, I’ll evaluate.

 

PURSUE friendships- It’s been rough going back to LA to see my friends. While it’s great at the time and it’s so easy, I’m finding that going home again is never the same…I think they say that because eventually, you have to leave. The reality is Los Angeles is not my home anymore. I’m painfully aware of this every time I see great job postings for LA and I ask if I can telecommute. So far, the answer has been no.

 

Biking at Hermosa BeachPursuing friendship means determining how to stay in touch with my old friends and investing in them even though it’s hard sometimes. I know that part of the grieving process means that at times I’ll feel angry, upset, and annoyed at the way things are. That manifested itself last Sunday after I returned from a small birthday party on Friday night and a fantastic beach day at Hermosa on Saturday with many of my good friends.

 

Pursuing also means seeking out new friends. I’m asking old friends to connect me with people they know here. It’s almost like being set up on an awkward blind date, at times, but I continually am trying to reach out. I’m realizing that unlike me at the moment, most people are busy. Even in San Diego. So, I’ll keep reaching out. Asking questions. Engaging with others. It’s definitely better than it was. And this way I’ll get to know ALL of the coffee shops around, not just Starbucks. 🙂

 

Pursuing Marriage

Pursuing Marriage: Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf

PURSUE God- Mark and I have finally decided to join a small group together! I’ve never been in a co-ed small group, but I thought it was important for us to join one so that we would be intentional about our spirituality together. Pursuing God means pursuing a good marriage, too, so it being me, I’ve been reading a lot of books on marriage and trying to incorporate prayer into our daily routine. I’ve also been reading a lot of people’s blogs and I think we’ll start a couple’s devotional together on a weekly basis so that we can be on the same page.

 

Pursuing God is tough when you are going to a new church. Things seem unfamilar at times and we haven’t completely settled on a church forever, but we’re trying things out, going regularly, and meeting new people there to see if it’s the place where God is calling us. After that, we’ll pursue serving there in some capacity.

 

PURSUE writing. I joined a group called 500 Words put on by Jeff Goins. I’m writing 500 words a day for the month of January in hopes of developing a regular writing habit. So far, doing it in the morning seems tough, so I usually squeeze it in at the end of the day. I think I’m doing that because writing seems scary to me. I hope for the next few weeks to make writing be a top priority.

 

PURSUE employment. Prayers are starting to be answered as I see a lot of possibilities on the horizon that weren’t there a few weeks ago. I’m hopeful and have been meeting a lot of new people due to friends connecting me with others they know. I’m hoping to be gainfully employed on a full time basis very soon! Meanwhile, I’m trying to trust God with the details of our finances.

 

I could go into more, but it’s time to hang out with Mark and PURSUE a good marriage. 🙂

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Idealism On Pause: Musing About The Hardest News Week In Recent Memory Accompanied By Ray LaMontagne

19 Apr

 

Although not the Boston Marathon, this one was my first experience with the "heart" that runners have for excellence and perseverance

Although not the Boston Marathon, this one was my first experience with the “heart” that runners have for excellence and perseverance

It’s 9:17PM on Friday, April 19, 2013. It’s a Ray LaMontagne “Trouble” rather than a Taylor Swift “Trouble” kind of night. I don’t feel much like doing anything except for enjoying the creature comforts of my childhood — old episodes of “Growing Pains” and macaroni and cheese. I thought after this week I’d want to go out with friends but truth be told, I don’t have the energy. I barely made it home after sitting in LA traffic and having a mild panic attack because they finally caught “Suspect 2” from the Boston Marathon bombings.

 

I wonder if others felt what I felt this week. I don’t have a TV but I was glued to the news feed and radio, obsessed with learning everything I could about the Boston Marathon bombings, chase, pursuit, and key players. I stayed up late every night feasting on the latest “breaking news”, which, as one of my friends pointed out, seemed as if it were being directed by Michael Bay (think summer blockbuster movie with lots of explosions and his name is probably all over it). It’s strange to think that news can be “breaking” all week. The newness wears off at some point, but it didn’t really for me. For some reason, I just had to know what was going on.I felt like if I missed it, I’d be unable to help, even though there’s really nothing I can do aside from pray, which I could barely do.

 

I’m having what my friend calls “a dry spell” with God. I’m not really sure why but in times like this when I get totally overwhelmed with bad news and I sit in it for too long, I start to realize how much I really need God and how horrible a world without God would be. I think of those who don’t have his comfort because they don’t have a relationship with him and it saddens me to the point of tears.

 

I wonder what else I could be doing tonight. The anxiety surrounds me like a blanket. I know I’m safe. I know God is good but I can’t help but wonder what people in Boston thought as they quickly watched their town turn into a police state. Running free on Monday to locked in their houses as the police searched up and down for a 19-year-old accused of wreaking havoc on a city and the American psyche as a whole. I don’t know what to do with that. 19 years old. And the 26-year-old. I think about what I was doing at 26 and it definitely didn’t involve 200 rounds and robbing a 7-11.

 

“Sometimes it feels like worry is my only friend.” Ray sings. 

 

That was me today. Worry and anxiety seemed like constant companions.  Was it the stress of covering a busy CEO’s desk? Or did it really have to do with me experiencing what my life coach calls “the dark side” of my strengths individualization and empathy? Apparently when those two talents are paired in a person, it can mean that one has a blind spot and can overly experience situations and emotions of others all around them. If this is true, it explains why after this exhausting week both at work and news wise, I’m just spent. Over. Done. Cooked goose.

 

I thought about those people all stuck in their homes in fear today. What kind of a world do we live in right now when someone can set off a bomb affecting hundreds of lives and then set off a police chase affecting millions more just four days later? I’m having an increasingly tough time with that. And yet, I know that the police worked so diligently together. They caught the suspect. They made the streets safe. For that, I am grateful. The waving American flags. Bostonians with smiles on their faces for the first time since the marathon’s beginning. And now that the fear has subsided, the city of Boston cheers tonight because they can come out of their houses a little less fearful.

 

Hope in the desert

Hope in the desert

If you want the honest truth, some days I don’t know how to live in a world where weeks like this one are commonplace. I don’t know how we can just get “used to” school shootings, bombings, poisonous letters, 8 year olds dying, demented doctors getting away with murder, entire towns blowing up, and the like. I don’t know how to pray for that, because doing so would admit that this world is so very broken and I don’t often like seeing it that way even though it is true. As an idealist, I prefer the rose-colored glasses. Oceans. Sunsets. Nature. People loving one another well. Bubbles. Babies and puppies. Silly smiles. Meadows. Fresh laundry. Anything good you’d see on Pinterest. But right now, I don’t have the words to pray. My faith feels fragile tonight. It’s hard to see the good in this moment. Yes, the terror has subsided. But a small part of me wonders “What next? Will next week be worse?”

 

As Ray sings these lyrics from “Empty,” I pause.

 

Asking questions that don't have easy answers

Asking questions that don’t have easy answers

“There’s a lot of things I don’t understand/Why so many people lie/Well, it’s the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me/ Will I always feel this way/So empty, so estranged?” 

I let myself sit there while the words hang in the air for a moment.

And then, slowly, as if coming out of a fog, I remember the words of my pastor last Sunday. We’re currently in a series called “Sifted”, which is about how following Christ means we’ll go through trials. He said, “Hold on. Cling on tight. Don’t waste a sifting because we’re all going to be sifted.”

In my doubts, in my fears and anger and grief about this situation and others this week, I’ll do my best to cling. I’ll not waste it. I’ll do my best to see a bigger picture where people come out of their houses after a horrible week so that they can wave flags and smile because justice has been done. I will choose hope, once again.

Another song just came on…

 

“I will shelter you…I will shelter you…I will shelter you.”

I will do my best tonight, despite my uneasiness, to cling to that promise.

 

2012 Was, In Many Ways, A Horrible Year…And Yet…

10 Jan
Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

It’s that time of year when we consider where we’ve been and where we want to go. Let’s look back in hopes that it can help us make sense of things so as to move forward:

Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar…

2012 was a very disturbing year in a lot of ways. I became increasingly aware of how fragile life is and how hard grief can hit home when, in February, a 15-year-old kid took his own life by jumping off of his school roof in the town next to the Community Center where I worked. The trend continued when, in July, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in the mall where I grew up. How chilling. How unexpected. Death seemed so close. And to what purpose?

You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain...

In the fall, death knocked again and I lost my Grandmother. Although not sudden, I didn’t really have the opportunity to say goodbye because life got in the way and I had to keep moving forward. With the end of the year came the end of the world, or so said the Mayans. A minute part of me thought that maybe it would actually happen because although I’m not a cynical person, the news seems to be getting worse lately and fear is at an all time high. I wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t reflected in some of our movies like “The Dark Knight Rises” where, for most of the film, Batman is thwarted by a pervasive evil that he just can’t seem to overcome. Half of me thought he wouldn’t be able to beat Bane but the title did have “Rise” in the title, which gave me a little hope.

 You know all of our suffering. 

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

And then in the political arena came doomsday talk of “If Obama wins, it’s over” and “If Romney wins, the country will never be the same.” And although I’ve never really seen a James Bond film, can someone tell me why even the title, “Skyfall”, sounds so ominous? And does he always let women die in these movies? I found it more than a little disturbing that some psychopath, played by Javier Bardem, was so obsessed with killing Judy Dench’s character that the whole movie was based on some sort of misogynistic revenge plot against women. James Bond, himself, wasn’t much better, letting the Bond girl die when, minutes later he was rescued via helicopter. He could have stopped her from getting shot. Amidst all of that came Newtown and the tragedy that struck there. What a horrific cap to an already collectively tough year for us all. Where is the hope when 6 year olds get murdered just for showing up to school?

Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. 

As a caveat to explain my morose tone, I write this at the beginning of January, two days after learning that my dad’s cousin, who was like an aunt to me, lost her 7 year battle to breast cancer. And all that I can do is cry out. Oh Lord, why? Where’s your hope? Where is your peace? Can you please comfort us?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

I can’t help but believe that we need God more than ever now. We need more good news. More good stories. Stories of hope and life. Stories to help us remember that the news isn’t so bleak and that we’re going to make it through this dark season.

 Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world.

On a cold (for California) night when we’re just ten days into the new year, dare I hope that joy is still here? Dare I pray for God to show up in the midst of all of this? Dare I not?! I have to cling. Because clinging is all I really know how to do to cope with all which seems overwhelming.

Hebrews says it best: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Unswerving. That means to hold on tight no matter what. When the waves are high, when the outlook is bleak. When my soul is downtrodden. When bad things happen to good people. When trying seems pointless. When effort feels wasted. When people die. When the unexpected happens and the healthy become sick. When love is lost. When jobs don’t pan out. When I’m feeling alone and unsure. I hope. I cling.

Help us now, God. We need you. 

So I dare to hope that 2013 is a year of adventure and newness. I hope for a rebirth. I hope for love. I hope for new beginnings and fresh starts. To put behind what was and to hold tight to the hope that I have not yet seen. I hope for good finishes to things I’ve completed and many moments where I’m able to release the breath I’ve had all pent-up in my throat so that I can find peace. With myself. With my life. With death. And with God.

Amen. 

Hope On A LilypadAnd so the whole prayer, we say again slowly, hopefully, and together: Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar. You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain. You know all of our suffering. Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world. Help us now, God. We need you. Amen. 

 

 

 

What Veruca Salt, That Guy Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, And My “I Want” Syndrome Have Taught Me About Love

23 Jul

Love is patient.

Wait until the clock strikes 12.

I’ve been reading a lot about love this week. It’s funny because at this prayer series we’re doing at church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians and I was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud to everyone in the group. I smirked.  This was a week after being inundated with everyone’s opinions about what “love” is everywhere I go. Through a new song from one of my favorite band’s (Stars), I’ve heard “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.” Or, from another song introduced to me by Love and Respect Now, I’ve been pondering the question, how do we not idolize romantic love or the thought of feeling known in community? (Another blog to come).

Or, another idea of love from one of my favorite ministries, The Living Room:

“Love is more than words spoken from our mouths. It must be lived out in the patterns and actions of our lives.”

According to the Bible, to love means to be patient. I find that interesting that it’s mentioned as the first characteristic of love. Maybe because patience is so difficult for us?

Patient is: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Two of my favorite kids wait in anticipation for a wedding ceremony their father is performing to begin.

Wow, I can honestly say I haven’t figured this out yet. At all. I want what I want and I want it now. I want people to know me, I want things to work the way I want, I want my boyfriend to read my mind, I want work to be fulfilling, I want to live happily ever after, I want my friends to think I’m awesome, I … I want, I want, I want. And NOW.  (On bad days, I’m kind of like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden goose.) My “I wants” have become insatiable of late… More food, sleep, time with loved ones, meaningful moments, recognition at work.

Waiting isn’t easy, as I’ve mentioned here before. It’s tough and most of the time, I fail at it. But I’m learning. Last week in traffic I didn’t swear at all when I got cut off! It was a small victory, considering a few weeks ago I actually made my hand into fist and almost raised it yelling something about picking a lane and the fact that driving a Ferarri under 60 on the freeway should be illegal.

Who would want to hang out with this girl? Thus, learning patience is a top priority.

So what about this patience? What does it look like? Here’s what I think:

-It looks like waiting for an unfulfilled dream even if you doubt you can muster even a little seed of hope.

-It looks like being patient with a child that has overwhelmed you, when you’re tired beyond belief.

-It looks like trusting that although you might not be in your dream job, you can keep praying and actively looking without just jumping into something else without cause.

-It is not putting the cart before the horse in romantic love, letting a relationship grow and develop. Trusting that with patience, much will be revealed at the perfect time.

-It’s about not trying to have control, but instead giving ample time to those who might not go as fast whether that be in traffic or in life.

-Patience means hearing someone else out, not interrupting, not needing to be first. Having it not be all about me and instead letting others shine even when I have the bright idea first.

-Patience is sacrificial. It might mean not getting your own way. It could look like delayed gratification (another area I struggle with) or believing that something good could come out of the time spent.

-Patience could mean acceptance that things have not gone the way you’ve planned. Getting back up when you’ve fallen and trying again, knowing that you’re not quite there yet, but you’re getting closer.

-For me right now, patience means knowing that I don’t have all of the answers and that question marks are okay for now. It’s being aware of the fact that I’m in limbo in some areas. It’s not trying to force a false sense of closeness or intimacy with friends, family, community, or in close relationships, but instead letting them play out and being present to a greater reality that I am not in control.

If patience is an action, I may have a lot to learn. So in those moments when I feel the need to control or give up or move too fast or break down, I stop. I ask the question, am I being patient right now? And I remember that I’ve grown in this. There is grace for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to somehow master patience. But I can move closer to trust. And to a God who knows me and my impatience and loves me anyway.

What about you? Do you think love is patient? How has this played out in your life recently?  Feel free to leave a comment. 🙂 I’ll be continuing this series on what love is in the coming days.

Post-Valentine’s Day Thoughts From A Guest Blogger!

17 Feb

During a conversation about Valentine’s Day, I joked with my neighbor and friend, Michael Gilley, that he had a lot of thoughts on the matter. I told him to write a blog about it. So here it is, Michael’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day:

The V-Day Invasion

A few days ago we celebrated Valentine’s Day and I have just one question: Why do we suffer this holiday year after year?

Who likes Valentine’s Day? Really? Who voted for it? I don’t know one person who really enjoys or looks forward to Valentine’s Day. As I prepared to write this post I thought about all the ways I disliked the holiday and all the ways my friends have been frustrated by it. Then, I began thinking about all the ways that married and dating couples also dislike the holiday. I finally arrived at a new realization: I don’t need to sell my annoyance to anyone.

Cupid got shot! (Melissa's caption)

Everyone already hates the day and everything associated with it. (I heard those little heart candies are actually made from chalk that ossifies in the heart slowly killing you from the inside out.) So why do we allow Valentine’s Day to live? I say we should all rise up as one and slay it!

Valentine’s Day is a day set aside for the remembrance of Saint Valentine. The problem is, nobody knows a thing about the guy! We’re not even sure he ever existed. There’s so little known about ol’ Valentine that the Catholic Church actually removed his feast day from the Christian calendar! On top of this, there wasn’t a romantic twist to his day until the poet Chaucer came along in the fourteenth century, and that’s not that surprising because he spun a romantic twist on everything to win French speakers over to English. It was only two hundred years ago that card producers began commercially selling “mechanical valentines” to men to give to their sweethearts. The rest is, as they say, history.

It cannot be denied that Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, is a commercial juggernaut. There are others who have written off Valentine’s Day simply for this reason. I on the other hand am not as bothered by this. What bothers me about the holiday is the constant, powerful reinforcing of the same story that strangles relationships and wounds individuals all in the name of love.

Valentine’s Day & Faith

 What do we disciples do when it comes to Valentine’s Day, or romantic relationships in general?

I suggest that we begin thinking of our relationships with one another as a story. What kind of story are we embracing? What story are we retelling? Is it the story of the Gospel or is it another kind of story? Does it grow from self-sacrificial love and mutual support or does it feed off of compulsion and expectancy? Does it begin with acceptance of the other as they truly are or does it start off with a messianic version of those we trust to save us?

People get hurt when romantic relationships are co-opted as a salvation from loneliness. (Loneliness, by the way, usually results from complacency more than isolation but that’s for another time and place.) The fact that the pain of divorce directly affects over half of the Western population ought to make this clear.

When we are consistently told the story of how we find our true worthiness and purpose in another person (be it a knight in shining armor or a damsel in distress) we come to rely on our grandiose fantasies of what that person can do for me. Should we be surprised when we wake up disillusioned, hurt, crushed, and with ossified hearts?

It’s usual to hear 1 Corinthians 13 read at a wedding. Unfortunately, that text doesn’t only apply to the love expressed between a husband and a wife. It’s much greater than that. It’s much wider than that. It ought to ask us how our relationships foster love for others.

Does it inspire in others patience, kindness, an end to envy, bragging, and arrogance? Does it seek the good of others and encourage timely forgiveness? Does it live to find out and bring injustices to light? Does it delight in truth telling? Does it tell a story of all things settled in God who sits on the mighty throne?

I must confess, the story I often hear (and too often hear from the church) is one that inspires in me anxiety, a sense of entitlement, victimizing the self. I want to think of myself and my needs. I want to forgive past hurts when I feel ready to release the grudge. I hear the need to think about my own plights before the injustice felt by others. I want to hide for fear that the other might find out who I truly am and end the relationship. I hear in the background the ticking clock of time and death.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day of torture. Perhaps it can be a day to redeem, a day when we all — singles and couples — can come together to pray. We should pray for help in modeling the kind of relationships in love that is seen in Christ. We should pray that we will continue to resist the urge to place our hopes and worthiness in anyone other than God. We should pray for healing for those who have been hurt in the past. We should pray for forgiveness and hope to move on. But above all, we should pray for love.

Michael Gilley hails from Missouri but now lives in South Pasadena, CA.  He holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He likes coffee, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anabaptists,  and playing Cluno, a game that we made up with our friends.  There’s a lot more to him than this hastily put together bio mentions, but I wanted to publish his blog so it is what it is.

Coloring Like A Kid

12 Apr

I love it. I love coloring. It brings me back to a place I haven’t been in a long time. A childlike place. Sometimes when I babysit, I’ll beg the kids to color and I’ll end up coloring my page long after they lose interest.

My friend Liz Roddy told me about this book “Praying in Color.” I haven’t read the book yet, I just took a risk and started writing people’s names in markers and then writing words next to them that I thought of and drawing lines and dots. It was so helpful to get it out into one place. It became therapeutic for me, actually. I was able to focus and suddenly, praying was actually kind of fun and not some other part of my To Do list.

A short entry but I thought I would share anyway. Have you colored your prayers lately, if ever? I hadn’t either. I have a feeling I’m going to like it though! 🙂

Remembering to Remember

9 Mar

The ashes come from the previous year’s palms from Palm Sunday

Oh how easily we forget. I need reminders. All of the time. I need to remember how to love because I get so wrapped up with myself and my needs and my hopes and dreams. I so easily forget everyone else. I forget to notice the grass. I say this because today on my lunch break, I made a point to notice it. If I don’t stop to slow down and notice, the world will continue at it’s breakneck pace and I will forget again. Today is Ash Wednesday. I brought my life group (a group of women I co-lead on Wednesday nights), to a traditional Ash Wednesday service, not knowing what to expect. We do not go to a traditional church, but instead go to what some call a “happy clappy church” or a “hugging church” where weekly we experience community and the joy of God. It’s amazing. It’s healing. It’s done so much for my soul. I love it there and it has become more like home than any place I’ve ever belonged.

At our church, Christian Assembly, we don’t often get a chance to experience a liturgical service where there is chanting and hymns and prayers where we repeat after the pastor. Tonight was that at St. James Episcopal. It was very procedural compared to what I’m used to, which in some ways was freeing. It was kneel. It was ashes. It was “From dust you came and to dust you will go.” It was a reminder of all that Jesus did for us brought forth in an unfamiliar way. It was beautiful.

As I watched these women go to have the ashes placed on their foreheads, I couldn’t help but smile. I love exposing people to new things. I love traditions. I love Ash Wednesday. On no other day throughout the year except for maybe Good Friday do I get the chance to pause and reflect on the sacrifice that was made for me. For me, Lent has become sacred. It is about preparing my heart for Jesus’ crucifiction. It is a time to acknowledge the ways that I have sinned and the ways in which I need a savior. It’s reminder that we are all here for such a short time.

I don’t want to take advantage. I want to love well. I want to believe strongly. I want to remember. Lent is a great time to remember and to fast. God doesn’t need us to fast, but sometimes we need ourselves to. In times of fasting, I become profoundly aware that I am not in control. There is this illusion that I walk around with that makes me think that I am. But I am not. I remember that when I go without food. My stomach growls. I get cranky. I simply need food to survive. And I need it often. In giving it up, I remember that if it weren’t for provision, I wouldn’t have food in the first place. I am brought in communion with those who don’t have food. I am thankful in a new way because I am reminded again of what I have. I love this season. I feel like I have a new chance to reflect, pray, fast, and become aware of how little I can control. And for a perfectionist like me, something about that is quite freeing.

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