A Summer Prayer

 

If fire is honor, then we’ll stand and let it burn.

Hot and loud as it calms into a deep burning midnight.

Popping and clapping its truths.

Glowing red and warm; a blanket of appreciation.

Shadows of flames dancing on our faces as we gather around and listen.

 

If water is pure,

let us strip off these pretenses and plunge in.

Washing away all of the expectations.

Easing the heavy weight from our bones, bathing us fresh and new.

 

If the earth is nakedness,

let us run.

Let us take to the fields and carry ourselves to the edges of sight.

Let us stomp our feet in the dust,
to the sound of drums.
Dancing unashamed.

Like the children who still live hidden away
under the layers piled on our hearts.

Let us uncover these wounds and expose them to the open air for healing.

 

If the stars are mystery,

let us follow their lead.

Surrendering our proud explanations and false humility.

Gazing upon the vastness and treasuring the wonder that we are so eager to dismiss.

 

If the moon is lonely,

let us be a friend.

Let us set ourselves aside and turn our faces toward each other.

Let us see what we don’t want to see.

Let us forgive and be forgiven.

 

If the sun is victory,

let it burn brilliant and forever.

Let us turn our faces upward in unison to soak up the radiance that is promised.

Let us lift our hands together in thanks.

Like warriors,
moments away from an earned homecoming.

Finishing strong and whole.

 

 

 

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Why “Life of Pi” is a must watch for the spiritual traveler

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when he seemed indifferent to my suffering, he was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, he gave me rest. Then he gave me a sign to continue my journey.”
– Pi Patel, Life of Pi

I have been haunted by the movie “Life of Pi” since I watched it a few nights ago. It was a beautiful movie just to look at but the content embedded within the story I found to be equally as beautiful. It has been out for quite awhile now, so I think it’ll be safe to talk about, but in case you haven’t yet seen it I’ll announce a *spoiler alert* just in case.

The movie begins with an adult Pi settling in to share his story with a young writer who is promised that by hearing…he would surely believe in God. He starts with sharing that as boy he had spent a great amount of time reconciling his faith between three different religions. Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Finding value in all three and eventually taking nuggets of each as a foundation of his own faith. He says,” I came to faith through Hinduism, and I found God’s love through Christ. But God wasn’t finished with me yet. God works in mysterious ways, and so it was he introduced himself again. This time by the name of Allah. — Allāhu Akbar. My Arabic was never very good, but the sound and feel of the words brought me closer to God. In performing salah (prayer), the ground I touched became holy ground, and I found a feeling of serenity and brotherhood…Faith is a house with many rooms.”
The Young writer asks,”But no room for doubt?”
“Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.” He replies.

Essentially, the movie then tells two stories of what happens to an adolescent Pi after being the only human surviving a ship wreck. The longer version that he narrates takes up most of the movie and is full of adventure, sharing a boat with an adult bengal tiger, stunning beauty, courage and overcoming the intense difficulty of loss and loneliness that he had to face at sea. When he is finally rescued, the investigators having to find an official cause for the sunken ship have a hard time believing his story. They reject it completely. So, he ends up telling them another story that parallels much of the first but with more realistic and dark details. The movie ends with the open ended question of which story was true? Had he only shared the second story to tell them what he thought they wanted to hear? Was the first story a figment of his imagination to help him deal with the harsh realities of what he had gone through? As the movie came to a close, the adult Pi asked the young writer with whom he was sharing which story he preferred. The young writer answers as I’m sure most of us would,” The one with the tiger, thats the better story. ” And Pi answers,” Thank you. And so it goes with God.”

I interpreted that as meaning that we can look at our lives and circumstances in many ways, perspective can make or break us. I think the same is true with God. We all look at God in many ways. Some can see Him as guiding us and aiding us through the storms in our lives, providing beauty and rest in between the difficulty to Him being indifferent or even non-existant. Some have even been taught to see him as wrathful and disgusted with us, only merely tolerating some of whom he has chosen to glorify himself. As a Christian, I found this struggle with faith to be a fascinating theme throughout the movie. Probably more so at this time in my life because I could resonate so well with Pi and his struggle of seeking the truth of his faith. He had many different influences but his character never stopped genuinely seeking God. It was very moving to me.

I have gotten myself into some trouble for using the word “interpretation” when discussing my own faith with well intentioned peeps. It seems that sometimes in church culture there is no room to stretch out and examine these kinds of thoughts. I think sometimes we all forget that we are all working out our faith in fear and trembling from drastically different points of view. I think that God is big enough to handle that.
I guess the big lesson learned for me in all of this is to be as respectful of other peoples spiritual journeys as I would want them to be towards mine. I ought not to make judgements or assumptions about things that aren’t my business. My business should be about loving people as Jesus commanded, “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another, just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall everyone know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) I also mustn’t rely on other peoples interpretations of an experience I am having first hand. God created me to view him through my eyes and my heart and the perspective is mine alone.
Fortunately for me, my view just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

An open letter to myself


“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ”
― Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Dear 17 year old self who is about to commit to a life of faith,

I know that right now you are living away from your family because you have gotten into trouble. This 30 year old version of you remembers how scared you are, and is proud of you for doing what you’ve needed to to while living there. I know it feels like (all) your parents have easily rid themselves of the “headache” of you, but the truth is they are all hurting and broken people too. Not really knowing what to do with a wild daughter who keeps sneaking off in the night, doing drugs and breaking rules. They really don’t yet know how to comfort your hurts and pains the way you’re waiting for them to. They love you, but they are only human.

This is why the good news of the Gospel presented to you has rocked your world. This Jesus who has come calling, wooing you, becoming more and more real in your life…He is the real deal. Compelling you to see your life as a valued piece of a bigger picture. WHAT?! Yes, YOU. I know your mind is struck by the God of the universe, knowing your name! Caring for you, closer to you than your own breath. For the first time in your young life you realize you are not a nuisance, or accident, but beloved. That Jesus would willingly die in your place, to make a right relationship for you and your Heavenly Father. Willingly pay the price for the wrongs done to you and the wrongs you have done to others…mind blowing.

At this time “sin” is simple. You can pinpoint what sin in your life has looked like. It is obvious. The partying. The wanting to continue partying. The obvious things that seem sinful at 17. I know that the choice to turn away from this is huge for you and it seems at that point your life is changed and you are on the good road to being a good Christian.

This is where I want to warn you. Please don’t forget this wonder and romance you have felt in this time of meeting your faith face to face. The mundane of the churched life and a life before you of different ministries will start to chip away at the poetry of it all that beckoned you in the first place. God is a gentleman, He will not force or shout or MAKE you sit and spend time with him…He waits for you. The sin in your life is sneaky…it will ensnare you every time. You will have to turn away from it again and again and again, there is no ending point. You do not have the strength for it, you must ask for His help. There is no road to being a good Christian, there is no such thing. There is no ending point to your life being changed and transformed. It is constant. There is only surrender.

People are going to try and tell you who God is. What His plan is. What you should be doing. What the bible says and specifically what it means. What the consequences are. You will be confused. God will not seem like the one you’ve come to know. It will make you angry. Because people will let you down. All of them. Some worse than others. The dreadful truth is YOU will let them down too. You will make many mistakes and judgements. But I tell you, press forward! Learn from them. Be humble. Be quick to forgive and seek forgiveness. Be willing to own your mistakes. You are prone to hold grudges…get that Italian temper under control girl!
The things that seem really big, are not. God is who He says He is.

Do not let other humans rob you of the wonder you have found in your faith.

There are many joys and pains. The future will most certainly be wobbly sometimes but you have great things ahead, I promise. But, there will be many times when you choose to turn to empty things and/or people for comfort. Above all of it, always come back to this moment…this choice you’ve made. To jump into a new life. To embrace faith and wrap it around you like a warm blanket.

You’ll have to choose it again and again, so don’t become so bitter that you toss it off to the side. Just relax, and let God tend to His business.

Love,
Your 30 year old self

Demolition Day

The purpose of everything I am doing right now is to cut through all the crap and get to what’s real. I had been a part of women’s groups and conversations and read books that have all left me wanting more.

This pursuit of a meaningful makeover has led me to be honest about where I am at spiritually, mentally and physically. The goal being that I just want to be ALL the me I was created to be and maybe inspire some along the way to do the same. I have been reading, writing, learning, sharing, talking. I have been interviewing, questioning, goal setting. I have been counseled and coached. In the past, I have done programs, weight watchers, shakes, ordered DVDs, made accountability plans with friends…all of which lasted for a few weeks and eventually ran out of steam.
I no longer have the luxury of running out of steam. I decided this time to really dig up all of the hard stuff first. Deal with the heart issues that I have that keep me literally weighed down. I even go to a 12 step recovery group at a church on Tuesday nights, specifically to deal with the addictive and behavioral aspect of my urges that lead me to binge eating.
I shared a couple of weeks ago in another post that I was given the imagery of having built a monument to a lifetime of pain with all this weight I carry around. It couldn’t be more true. We talked last night about anger and abuse in my recovery class and it came around again and hit my right between the eyes. The statement was made that people continue to carry their hurts around with them in their life because they just don’t believe that they are as astoundingly valuable as they really are. It evoked images in my head of people struggling and bustling to work holding coffee cups while wheeling suitcases and duffle bags around. Lugging backpacks and totes. Literal baggage hanging all over them as they pretend to ignore it and carry on with their day.

We ALL do this.

Some to greater lengths than others, but we all have our baggage. We all, at some point, fail to see the value in ourselves. The value of our lives woven with others. The value that God sees in us and created us with.

The time has come for me to go ahead and set the luggage down. Some of it not even mine, I’ve been carrying it around for others.
To begin demo on this monument. I have been living my life accommodating it. Living around it. Squeezing it into booths at restaurants hoping that no one will say anything. Hiding it under layers of clothes. Tucking it safety underneath the bluff of my composure. Laughing it away, swatting at it as if it were nothing more than a pesky fly.

This month begins the doing. I’ve done the digging, the sifting, the weeding and uprooting in my heart. Now it’s time to get busy, and stay busy.

Below is an email I received from a dear friend, as encouragement to tearing down my monument. I HAD to share it. I’m so grateful for every person God has removed from my life that was life taking, He has replaced with life giving.

“When I was reading your blog this morning the book of Nehemiah came to mind and
the whole thought process of how you are rebuilding your life. Not necessarily building
walls…but the walls of your life and self-esteem have been torn down over the years…
and God is wanting to build you up…from what seems to be the outside as well as
the inside.

Read chapter 4. Be encouraged my friend,
you are loved.”

The chapter is referring to opposition to the rebuilding of the temple for God. The Jews were being mocked and ridiculed and insulted as they built. But they prayed and kept building. Pushed past the difficulty. In realizing that the wall was still being built their enemies became angry and planned to attack them and kill them so they would be stopped. So the people of Judah kept praying and finally in verse 13: “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives, and homes.”

My friends email said, “In numerous portions of your blog you said you are doing this for you…but you also want to be a better example to your daughter and son…God is fighting for you and your family my friend!”

It continues in verse 15: “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.”

She concluded with,” If you will allow me…I want to be one in your life who stands in the gap for you and will cover with prayer and stand guard for you…doing battle while you work your Realology.”

Let the trumpets sound then!!! There will be opposition, but I know that victory is on its way!

Huckleberry Finn

I have been sitting in front of a blank screen for a couple hours, trying to dig up the post I had intended on writing. It seems the only thing I can think about is this blog post that has been haunting me all morning since I read it.

( http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/huck-finn-hell )

It’s interesting to me that this exact reference from Huckleberry Finn be used in this discussion, as it was also the punchline of an article I posted a few months ago that started my great exodus from the fundamentalist way of thinking. It created a tornado of theological debate and ugliness, so much so that I had to take the whole thing down. The whole event spurred me into evaluating what I actually believe…

(Here is that article : http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2012/december-online-only/going-to-hell-with-ted-haggard.html )

For a long time as a Christian I was tucked in safely with all the others around me who had the same beliefs. After my initial “salvation experience” I settled into the Christian culture and over time, became very comfortable. I served in my church. I listened to Christian music. I pretended like my husband and I didn’t cross “physical boundaries” before we were married. I went to bible studies and retreats. I voted republican. I judged those whom appeared to be on “slippery slopes”. Then vowed to “pray” for them, like that would excuse my gossip.
A lot of these things I still do. I have gone to a wonderful church for 13 years. I like bible studies. It has been a safe environment where I have been led to grow spiritually and also been given the space to be me. It hasn’t all been pretty but I am so thankful for it, and the people who are my family there.

The thing that has changed for me is the realization of that stale, comfortable culture I was living in. Somehow I exchanged real living, breathing, life altering faith for a code of moral ethics. But who’s morals? Gods?

My “morals” were squeaky clean ( at least what I portrayed) until I realized they weren’t. My attitudes and judgements had actually been repelling people away from the love of God instead of attracting. I began to thaw from what felt like a deep freeze.
I posted the Christianity Today article because it choked me up. The question was asked, ” why do we eat our own?” and I felt that. I remember feeling compelled to share it because even though Ted Haggard’s story is not mine, it was. I resonate with the monster of the story. He, being the betrayer and harm doer, had to publicly fall from grace. Ask for forgiveness. Only then was he able to really be shattered and put back together by God.

Aren’t we all harm doers? Truth benders? Betrayers? Outcasts? Saying and doing secret things in dark, secret places? Isn’t that why we run and dive into the Christian life when we hear about the forgiveness offered at the cross? The blood of Christ blotting out these things that we try to hide…It’s already finished. He did it for us. All of us. Maybe even my Gay friends ?

As we approach Easter Sunday this weekend, I am challenged yet again on what it all means and whom will be gathered at the foot of the cross. I think we may be surprised.

I learned recently that the actual meaning of the word repent is “to have a change of mind or change of heart”.

May it be so.

Hopeful

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 NLT)

The words of my mouth are formed out of my heart.
Gotta sort through what’s pooling there…
A river gushing and flowing.
A current.
Strong and forceful.
Held for so long by the damn, fear.

Mediations can sometimes be shaky-
not be trusted but I am learning to unclench the grip a bit.
So tightly to the walls
that have held me back, happy to shed the skin of excess.

Free.
Knowing your hand guides me through these currents.
Water clear, fast and smooth. Running.
Ripened leaves bouncing in the breeze.
Stunning.
A perfect afternoon.
A deliciously lazy moment.
Enjoyed.
Sweet shining sun cooking my skin.
Aches in my belly from laughing
Smile on my face.
Feels good to be in a season of change.
My joy found in all you’ve given me.
May my life be pleasing,
an offering.

Climbing

So I saw this motivational picture early this morning. It read, ” success: doing the best you can with what you have every single day!”
I like these. Sometimes you can feel like your Facebook newsfeed is over run with spammy stuff like this, but every now and then there is a really good one that jumps out at you.
I try to share the good ones to keep the momentum going.
I think the hardest part of choosing to live my life with joy, and choosing a positive attitude is that someways ya just don’t feel like it. Somedays I would just rather eat leftovers and rubbish and play mahjong instead of get up and do what I need to do to start my day right. Somedays I would rather throw my clothes on and for whatever reason just be in a bad mood. Maybe the Hubs and I are funky because we had a disagreement, maybe my children are being annoying ( yes! I said it!). Maybe I’ve just let myself go ahead and crawl back into my dark cave of accepting a powerless, painful life. It never fails that when I allow this, my whole day sucks. Why are we prone to this kind of living? It’s our default.

The magic is in the momentum. The great bursts of motivation do you no good if you only grasp it and hold onto it for five minutes. This has always been my problem! Seeking and grabbing ahold of momentum every single day is what inches you closer and closer to success. Inches us closer and closer to lives we are actually enjoying. Joy amidst any circumstance! It’s ours for the taking!
I did a little dabbling this morning in the bible for some morning inspiration and found some exciting things.

“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
(Lamentations 3:23 NLT)

This, the classic morning verse beloved for the reminder that YES, each morning we get a fresh clean start. Clean slate. God is merciful and if your eyes popped open this morning and you have oxygen in your lungs…you get one more day to live, gotta get after it.

“If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” (Psalms 139:9, 10 NLT)

This one I really liked because of the great poetry of it all. I WANT to know this in my life! that no matter where I go, His hand is guiding and supporting me. Riding the wings of the morning paints this great mind picture, sweeping down near the waters close enough to feel the spray and run your fingertips through it while you’re flying by. Conjures up memories of the movie “The Neverending Story” which actually used to bum me out, so lets move on.

“Be ready in the morning to climb up Mount Sinai and present yourself to me on the top of the mountain.”
(Exodus 34:2 NLT)

This is the money verse right here.

Be ready. In the morning. To climb the mountain. Present yourself to God on top.

The verse is taken from Exodus where God is telling Moses what to do to obtain the Ten Commandments. My tasks for the day are no where near that heavy and important for mankind, but for me in my own life, they are! I’ve got heavy tasks. I’ve got mountains to climb. We all do.

The question is am I ready?

“Be ready in the morning to climb…”

If I can begin each day in this way, bringing all I’ve got, the best I can with what I have, in the morning and presenting it before God on the mountain top…there isn’t much I won’t be able to do. The great news is when Moses climbed the mountain He was rewarded with being in the very presence of God. When he finally came down His face was so radiant that he had to cover it because he freaked people out. Yes! I want to be radiant! I want people to know that I’ve have climbed to the mountaintop and been with God. We have the choice. When you choose to climb everyday I imagine there isn’t much that will bring me down or get in my way. Success is simply a state of mind.

We can choose momentum or we can choose apathy. But it has to be grabbed ahold of daily. Go get it.

Day 20 of 35!!! 😊✅✅✅ Today was a CRAZY day, so I had to fit a quick 20 min SOMETHING in this morning! Hey...a workout is a workout! 💪🏽💥🙌🏼🔥💜 #keepgoing #persist #35daysofgainz #notallworkoutareglorious

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