Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the darkness has not overcome it

i looked into his eyes, and there it was. loneliness, longing, sadness, all wrapped up and personified in the light-less gaze of his eyes, the sagging of his face, the sigh of his posture. i know i've felt these feelings before, but it was as though all my senses were engulfed in its spider web. you know, the kind that's fresh and sticky, that feels like it's still glued to you even after you've frantically brushed yourself off countless times.

the excuses given to him are many, but as they are rattled off, nothing changes. they are the soundtrack behind a distantly shot film scene or the slow moving roll of the credits. present, yet distant, these excuses seem to bear no weight, providing no comfort to the loneliness. with a click you could turn the sound on or off, and the scene would continue on just the same.

how have i not realized how hard it's been for him after her death? i tell myself they weren't close, there was bickering and distance. but how do you spend a lifetime with someone and not become a part of them, and them a part of you? the bonds of marriage, of the relationships made possible by a relational God, are more powerful than i know. God, i wish grandpa knew You. i know only you can mend the glazed eyes, the hollow look, the longing for someone who infinitely cares and loves and gives, fills and satisfies. it's not too late. I pray God, that he knows you yet.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit..."

Thursday, July 22, 2010


***i wrote this in my journal last week and am just now getting around to sharing...hopefully this marks the start of me actually writing again! i have missed it =)

last week i realized that i loved people. this week i learned how to let them go.

i've known for quite some time that i love people, but something happened last week, something that i can't quite explain. somewhere in the depths of my soul, where God surely resides, i felt for the first time this overwhelming sensation. at first i didn't get it. then it wouldn't go away. and then it clicked. i loved people. i love my family and friends in a way that extended beyond myself and my petty little human ways of attempting to show it and live it out.

as soon as i realized this--WAM. curveball. it could not be denied by me that this love all came from God.

maybe this isn't shocking to you, but it was to me. i've known this fact in my head, for sure. but knowing this in my heart and actions was something radical. if all this love truly comes from God, i thought, then my ability to love is naught without him. it's all from God. and so are the people that i love.

which can only mean that they are his to love, not mine. they are here for his purpose, not mine. and despite all my best efforts, i cannot love them as well as he can. quite simply, i need to let them go. pray for them? absolutely. build relationships with them? it's one of my favorite things to do! provide encouragement, support, and my worldly things? yes, yes, and yes. but yet always remembering, i am not God. and it's only because of his love for me that i have the honor to participate in his giving of love to others.

at the end of the day, i am his, and so are the ones that i love. and God knows how to love us best. my job is simply to walk faithfully in that love.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

seek his face

Isaiah 55

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.

Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor."

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."

do you ever have moments where you just know the Spirit is near? that you are being led in something way beyond what your mind can fathom? lately i have felt the Lord tugging on my heart in a multitude of mysterious ways, as if he's invading all my senses: the taste of tears beginning to form; the warmth of spring breezes on my skin; the ache in my chest of love lost and love anticipated; the rhythm of the ocean to sudden, unexpected stillness; the faint murmur of a baby's beating heart; the way words compose and transform a page. can my doubts and fears sustain such an invasion?

it's easier to lower my view of God than to raise my level of faith...may this serve as a reminder that i serve a mysterious, all-powerful, just, faithful and loving God who is beyond my wildest imagination...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

from the mouth of babes

but when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant. "do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, 'out of the mouths of children and infants you have ordained praise?'"
~matt. 21:15-16

kids never cease to surprise me. this past sunday, my faith was challenged by two kiddos in a way that can only be said, heard, and felt from the mouths of babes.

lesson 1:
"who is satan?" mmm, gotta love those deep theological questions from first graders. you have to love the innocence with which this question was asked. sometimes you just try to brush these questions off, move on with the lesson at hand. but it seems that every kid in the room that day had an answer to that one. not to mention, this young lady was per-sis-tant. so finally, i attempted an answer, to which only more questions kept coming. "is he here? is he a snake? why is he bad? why can't God just make him do what He wants?" wowzers.

what a moment. i wish i could truly convey the facial expressions of this sweet child of God as i attempted explanations to her questions. i saw the sadness on her face, the true and deep realization that satan and sin is indeed in our world. but oh! then i saw such hope and joy! to see her face relax, to witness her changing thoughts visibly on her face as she was affirmed that God, too, is present and greater, that He reigns! to see the peace painted on her face...that is the faith that moves mountains.

lesson 2:
later in our lesson, i was talking with the kids about things that are difficult and hard for us to do, like how it was hard for Elijah to go talk to King Ahab. i was trying to think of examples on the fly that the kids could relate to, and was failing pretty miserably. all that came to mind was me pretending that my roommate hadn't cleaned up her toys at home(aka-dishes) and how that can be hard to not get upset or mad. the same girl from earlier quips up and says, "why doesn't she just clean them up? well, you can just pick up her toys cause maybe if you do something nice to her, she will do something nice for you."
this girl is a world-changing-theologian in the making, you mark my words.

lesson 3:
was hanging out in my neighborhood with some of the kids when one of them asked me if i had gone to church that day. i said i had, and we talked briefly about it. then he suddenly asks, "have you met Jesus?" you know, just as if it was a casual, everyday question. here's how this convo went:

awesome kid: have you met Jesus?
me: um, yes. i have! have you?
him: yea, me too. have you talked to Jesus?
me: well...yea, i have. i did today actually.
him: yea, me too. what did he say? that one stumped me for a lil bit. fortunately, my friend continued to talk in the silence of my delayed response. he told me how he was in his room one day and heard someone call his name. he thought it was his dad, so he went and found him and asked him if he called. his dad replied that he hadn't called him--it must have been Jesus.

now, this could just be his dad playing a joke on his son; knowing his family, i don't think this is the case. but i mean, c'mon--how POWERFUL is that?!? all Jesus had to do was call his name?!? that's all he needed to hear to know that Jesus is alive and present in his life?!? all it takes to trust and believe is to hear Jesus call him once by name...

it was even more ironic and striking to me because during my prayer time just before this i had been purposely trying to just listen to God, to not fill in all the space with my thoughts and requests. but honestly, well, i didn't really know what or if he had said anything to me. and then here my 4th grade friend comes along, explaining how simple it all was. God has called me by name. He continues to call my name each day, if i only i will listen.

i think i'm only just beginning to grasp what it must have been like to hear all those children shouting "Hosanna to the son of David!" such simple yet exceedingly wise words from the mouths of those with a truly powerful, bold, and stirring faith. puts a whole new meaning on having the heart of a child of God.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

cookie-less wednesdays

"The purpose of Lent is...a preparation to rejoice in God's love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of God's mercy - a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy." ~thomas merton

i have always, since as far as i can remember, loved giving something up for Lent. now granted, i have come a long ways since my 3rd grade days, giving up eating cookies but only on wednesdays. i don't even think i ate cookies that much to begin with...and i probably ended up forgetting on accident anyways. but yet a seed was planted, and thus followed a slew of enjoyable things that i began to give up each year with more and more heart.

it's funny to me how many christians i hear griping about this aspect of Lent. it's as if giving up something is now passe; we should do something instead. now, of course, i have no problem with people showing their devotion to Christ in this way--Lord knows i need to increase my prayer time, give more money to those in need, and volunteer my time and love more often. faith in action is a beautiful, and necessary, thing. but there appears to be a battle these days amongst christians between personally fasting versus helping others. it's as if self-reflection, in the form of fasting for a season, is the lesser of the two; that we can only draw closer to God, and help others, by doing instead of being. the way i see it, i'm already quite skilled at distracting myself by doing things. what i'm avoiding, but yet so desperately need, is to face the reality of what needs to be worked on in my own heart.

granted, our attempts to do so are not always the most pure. clearly my younger cookie-less-wednesday self didn't fully grasp the heart behind giving something up for Lent. but with age and self awareness, i'd like to think i've progressed. maybe that's why Lent is my favorite time of year. it's a chance for progress. it's a chance to unveil just how selfish and single-minded i am and yet still give me a glimmer of hope, an anticipation that God's work in me is not yet finished.

i hesitate to say what exactly it is i am giving up for lent, but i think it might help people to understand the why behind it all. and who knows? perhaps by merely giving up something, by being without, i can give perspective to someone else, too.

make-up. that's right--Jeannie is going sans make-up for 40 awesomely Jesus-filled days. so far it's been...well...surprisingly uneventful. i remember on Ash wednesday thinking, 'well, i feel and i look interesting.' i don't know why i thought there would be this gremlin-like creature emerging from the mirror that entire day...that would have made for a much more thrilling story though.

God has really placed beauty on my heart the past year or so, especially in terms of how i, as a woman, view myself in light of creation and as a child of God. beauty is more than skin-deep, as we all know, but it is also very visible. at some point in my wrestling, i realized that i was relying on other things and people to validate my worth and beauty in the eyes of the Creator. this Lent season is a baby step for me to take, an action of not doing that will lead to more actions, actions of confidence, actions of love. and more concretely, it's forcing me to think about God and Her beauty given to me every time i begin to notice or think about the fact that i haven't made-up a face today. this step is necessary for me, as Merton says, so that i might open my heart to God, that i might see who i am and who i am being made to be. with each day, i cast out thoughts and actions that prevent me from receiving all God's love and mercy.

regardless of whether you are giving something up, actively doing, or perhaps both or neither, let us remember this--we are all works in progress. to ashes we will all return, but until that day we must continue to encourage one another in our attempts to open our hearts further to God. in the meantime, i'm rockin out what my maker gave me! and still eating cookies on wednesdays. =)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fiber for the Soul

because of the recent snow-pocalypse(s) that has taken over Charlottesville, i've had some good times of catching up with friends, and that of course includes the bestest--God. this past sunday, we were spending some quality time together when he brought up the sabbath to me. 'how appropriate,' you might say, 'that it was a sunday!' yea, yea, that's what i thought at first, too.

i get one of those daily bible verse emails, and that day's happened to be Hebrews 4:9-11:
there remains, then, a sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

as i reread the verse, plus the few before, i was taken aback by a single thought--so wait, could it be that the sabbath is something to be taken everyday?!? not gonna lie, i sometimes feel kinda guilty for taking a sabbath, as if resting isn't worthy of God. but shoot, then comes Hebrews telling me that not doing so is, how that changes things.

we always talk about how we have this new freedom in Christ, and i often feel lost about what in the world this really means, especially in light of needing and wanting to be obedient. but when it says for me to enter God's rest, i think i start to understand. to enter into the rest of God is essentially freedom, freedom from the burdens of work, school, relationships, failures, life. sabbath is the freedom to trust God everyday, to put faith in the Creator who will provide for us, take care of us, and ultimately knows, and will do, what is best for us. taking a sabbath is an act of faith, trust, and obedience to the living God.

what if i actually did this everyday? actively said, and believed, that God will take care of all my needs if i simply rest in him? wow, how my life would look different! how the things i worry about would drastically change! how differently i would carry on in this world!

i suppose, in the end, that taking a sabbath should ultimately be the example of our prayer life and relationship with God. it's just as necessary as our "quiet times," or as i like to call it, play time, for building a trusting and meaningful relationship with our Creator. it shows that our faith is beyond anything we think we could ever do to earn such love and grace.

course, this is easier said than done. but i think i've got a new mindset that will help me to strive for a sabbath, for a time everyday to rest in God and give my life to him. the way i see it, the sabbath is kinda like fiber for the soul--ya gotta get enough of it everyday so that all can run smoothly, right? ;)

Monday, January 25, 2010

finger painting 101

i recently bought my first ever set of watercolors. i've had a desire as of late to paint. don't ask me why, cause i have no visually artistic abilities whatsoever. so far i've only painted once, and while it was quite fun, perhaps i should have started out my painting exploration with finger paints.

art. the Bible is a piece of art. yea, yea, it's also the written word of God. but the Bible is ART.

i have recently been struck by the Bible's literary awesomeness. the poetry, the use of language, the stories, i've been reading the Psalms as of late, mostly because i feel like they just speak to me, that i connect better to their use of imagery and artistry. but then i began to read Lamentations, and Elijah's story, and Esther, and i realized, well, the whole Bible is this fascinating literary work. i love writing. i love reading. i love the thought that goes into each word, each phrase, but more than that i love the bigger picture. and right now, the big picture that the Bible paints is one of such diversity and creativity that it just makes me downright giddy and giggly.

i've been pondering a lot lately about translation and interpretation. something that has been on my heart and mind is how often we nitpick at verses, how we, in our attempts to be "literal" and "unbiased" readers of the Bible, end up reducing it to something so devoid of creativity and passion, of diversity and emotion. it just seems to me downright silly. i could never read the Bible NOT being me, just as you can't read it not being you. and i don't think that's a bad thing. the creative God of the entire Universe couldn't possibly have desired for us to read about Him in the exact same way, right?!?

perhaps some will say my thoughts are heretical, i dunno. but i can't imagine that the way God and His Word reach out to me is the way it must reach others. just as believers have a plethora of testimonies, so we should also have just as many ways to read and see and explore God's Word and His ever-reaching hands in our lives. the early writers certainly thought so too--why else would we otherwise have at least 4(!!!) different accounts of the same story of Jesus' life?!? same God, different people, different ways of reaching them, different accounts of who He is. do you see how beautiful that is?!? that only collectively, through all our different eyes, words and lives, can we see the fullness of God's creativity and awesomeness?!?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

bigger hands

last week, i had one of those awesome, random conversations that can only be chalked up to a mind infinitely greater than humankind's collectively. i met with a volunteer with the United Way to do a joint presentation to raise money for them and talk about Abundant Life, an organization that benefits from said money. This happened to be the 3rd time that Kevin and i were doing such a presentation. we arrived early, and as we were waiting somehow got talking about faith and Christianity. he ended up telling me how him and his family all got baptized not too many years ago and a little bit about his journey so far in his faith. it was really a heartwarming conversation for me that suddenly turned to a different tone.

"have you ever thought about preaching?"
i stared blankly at him for a good solid bit and then, "well...actually..."

who knew that this conversation would end up there?!? i began to tell him some of my story, how i was going to Divinity school next year, how i had thought about preaching before but wasn't sure where that might lead, how i knew the stakes were high and the road would be difficult regardless because i am a woman. and from there the conversation began to move to race, to where his heart was moving in terms of reconciliation and the struggles that entails, and i got to share with him my journey so far along that road. this whole time i'm thinking, "here is this 50ish year-old white man, about as new to his faith as i am, bringing up both women in ministry and racial reconciliation to a person he barely knows and opening his heart to what God might have him do and think about it." the Lord works through everyday, ordinary people, that's for sure.

surely, i thought, it cannot be coincidence that he brought up both of the topics that are so full on my heart, that have led me to divinity school, and ministry for that matter, in the first place? how encouraging it was to hear him, to see his heart so soft for the Lord, to hear him beginning to work out the changes God was making in his life. and then to hear him genuinely take interest in the matters on my heart, to wrestle with my perspective! how could he so unabashedly and unknowingly encourage and affirm me, a woman he barely knew, to follow through with what i, and perhaps he, believe God is calling me to do?

our presentation that day turned out to be to a whopping 3 people. but as we parted ways to our cars to go back to work, i knew this encounter was purposed for another reason. as he walked away, he once again affirmed and encouraged me and left me with these parting words, "Just remember, there are bigger hands at work here." Amen.