Selah

For this moment, I allow my heart to have no words…

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Surreal. I’ve been using that word a lot the past week or two. This particular moment in my life is surreal on so many levels. Today is the day that I receive my master’s hood for my Master of Divinity. Four years ago to the day, I was the last one in the office on a Friday evening, sitting at my desk and praying. I never expected that the response I would hear that evening would be a call to vocational ministry. In God’s sense of humor, in a few days I will be returning to that very office as I step back into a role on the Taylor Enterprise Applications Management team at Taylor University while I continue to explore ministry and writing opportunities.

That day four years ago feels like a lifetime ago, and over the past four years I have not just studied, but have been renewed body, mind, and spirit. I’ve had the blessing of having no commitments this week, allowing me space to reflect and process. Even so, I have struggled to find words for the multitude of thoughts and emotions that I am experiencing this week as I am presented with such a clear side-by-side of who I am now and who I was four years ago, of the magnitude of God’s faithfulness. I feel profound gratitude for all those who have journeyed beside me these past four year. I am struck silent with awe at the grace, healing, and freedom God has poured into my life during this past season.

This week has been my “selah,” my worshipful pause. Monday brings a new beginning, and my selah will turn into a different form of praise. But for today and for this weekend, I relish in my pause and I cherish every minute. For this moment, I allow my heart to have no words, and to offer my profound silence.

Selah.

To My Seminary Family

We who once were strangers have become family.

We who once were strangers have become family. We’ve sat around tables in classrooms, coffee shops, and late-night paper writing in the library; we sat across from each other and wondered, questioned, wrestled, and hoped together. We’ve discussed scripture, and history, and theology; the world, and the church, and yes, even politics. Our minds have been stretched with the content of our courses, and our hearts have been nourished as we–students and teachers together–have gathered as a community to seek God through it all.

As we part ways, we laugh and cry, knowing we have walked through deep places together. In the years to come, we will weather many storms, and see many mountaintops. As our lives diverge only to intersect again through text, email, coffee, or conferences, we acknowledge that we are forever connected, forever a part of a tapestry of those who have given their lives to pursue God’s call on their life, wherever that may lead.

We’ve arrived at graduation, commencement, the new beginning that marks the end of a season. As we continue onward, growing in our role in the Body of Christ, we step forward in faith, with confidence in our preparation, knowing that our seminary family is always there for us. Yet we are strengthened not as much by the answers we know as by the courage we have given one another to never stop exploring the depths of the mysteries of God.

Grief, Joy, and Faith

Today I declare that God is good.

I’m scheduled for surgery a week from tomorrow, so I went for a run this morning. I ran this morning as an act of faith.

It’s been tempting for the last 5 weeks (since calling to schedule my surgery for my endometriosis) to give in to hopelessness. So often I thought, “I’m not in good shape right now, and I’m having surgery soon, so why bother to exercise?” For me, I choosing to run anyways was a prophetic act. It was my way of declaring, even though I’m facing a surgery that has the potential to end in a full hysterectomy, leaving me unable to have kids while still unmarried and in my 20s, that God is good. More than that, I believe that God will/has healed me and I will not need surgery, so there’s no reason to wait to get into shape. But most of all, my choice to run is a declaration that I can and should continue to prepare for the future because, whatever happens, it will be good.

My journey with endometriosis has deepened my faith in incredible ways. It has taught me how to face the facts and still declare that my God is bigger than any circumstance. I believe God, through healing, will make it so that I do not need surgery, and yet if my test tomorrow shows that I do still need surgery, that does not change my faith. It is easier to live only in facts, or only in blind faith; learning how to live in the tension of both facts and faith has shaped me in beautiful ways.

As I have faced the reality that I may need to grieve my ability to have biological children, God has been teaching me how to face grief with joy. The potential for grief is not the same as walking through current grief, so please don’t hear me equating the two. However this journey has helped me in other areas of my life where I am walking through current grief, though that’s more than I can go into in this post. As I’ve approached surgery, I have been tempted to buy into the lie that if I think about how much it could hurt, I’ll be prepared. That’s a lie. These past few years, but especially this past month, God has been teaching me that the only way to ‘prepare’ for potential grief is to practice joy. Joy will not take away the pain of grief, but it will keep us from actively making it worse. I don’t understand how it works; perhaps it’s simply supernatural. What I do know is that joy has allowed me to grieve more deeply and fully in areas of current grief without losing sight of the goodness of God, and the goodness of God always brings peace. Somehow, with God, facing grief has brought me joy.

I will likely know tomorrow whether or not I can cancel the surgery, and so today I ran. Today I declare that God is good. That tomorrow and next week there will be joy whatever the circumstances. God is good, and that is more than enough.

Embodied Living Hope

I sing of perfect love, who breathes dreams to the soul

This is a poem/song that I wrote primarily during vacation in North Carolina last summer. It was born out of a time of reflection, taking time to sit in silence, listening to what God was saying to me in that moment as well as attempting to summarize and articulate some of what God had been teaching in past months and years. These words continue to speak deeply to my heart of some of God’s truths and promises, and I hope you hear God’s passionate love as you read.

Embodied Living Hope

Oh hear, you weary ones
Come rest, you battle-worn
I sing of perfect love
Who breathes dreams to the soul

We bring our joys, our scars
They story His faithfulness
We long with yearning hope
To be made like our Lord

As I walk through the flame
Of God’s faithful acts I will sing

I play in the presence of almighty God
For I’m known by the scarred, exalted Son
Filled with Spirit of resurrection power,
I am embodied living hope

I gaze into his eyes
Eyes filled with passionate love
I feel joy rising up
As I’m named: Child of God

As I walk through the flame
Of God’s faithful acts I will sing

I play in the presence of almighty God
For I’m known by the scarred, exalted Son
Filled with Spirit of resurrection power,
I am embodied living hope

I’m clothed in his glory
In the power of his name
No darkness can hold me
No chain can remain

I’m clothed in his glory
In the power of his name
No darkness can hold me
No chain can remain

I play in the presence of almighty God
For I’m known by the scarred, exalted Son
Filled with Spirit of resurrection power,
I am embodied living hope

Generosity and Grace

I’ve been learning a lot lately about allowing myself grace. I have, for a number of reasons, chosen to take this summer to slow down. I’m being more strict with myself about taking a full day off every week, and am trying to figure out, as a workaholic, how to do this “rest” thing. Similarly, as much as I hate the term “people-pleaser,” I draw way too much of my perceived self-worth from being helpful and useful. I’m learning how unhealthy these tendencies are, and I believe it all comes back to worship and love.

When asked about what the top commandment is, Jesus gave two: love God and love others. However, I think I at least have a tendency to separate them too much. The second is an outflowing of the first. When a couple is in love, they are always learning more about each other. Similarly, as we love God, we grow in our understanding of who God is; it is by knowing and trusting in who God is that we are able to act in love towards others. A part of that trusting God, though, is trusting what he says is true about us. That’s the part I struggle the most with.

God is love, and it is through learning more about Love that we know what it looks like to truly and purely love another.

I’ve heard it argued that in order to “love others as ourselves,” we must learn to love ourselves. While it is true that it is only through healthy self-respect and boundaries we can love others (Brené Brown has some great resources on this), healthy self-respect doesn’t come because I focus on myself. We are healthy when we believe what God says about us. Though I may decide that I want to work harder all the time, God says I am made to have a sabbath. I have to decide to trust what God says over my own voice. It comes down to worshiping God, not myself, and trusting that God is good.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV, Matthew 7:11-12)

I don’t always know what is best for my life. Like a child, I have to trust that my Father knows what is best for me and will give me good gifts. I love these two verses; Jesus goes straight from saying to trust God’s goodness to the “golden rule,” the second of the two most important commandments. I’ve been struggling with trusting in the goodness of God regarding myself and my future; perhaps for others the struggle is in a different area of trust. However, I believe it is only by trusting that God is a perfect father who gives good gifts that I will ever really love those around me.

What do you think? Do you struggle to trust that God is good? How have you found your view of God to affect how you love others? I’d love to hear from you!