Monday, July 11, 2011

Meaning in a Meaningless World

I believe very strongly in working smarter, not harder. I am not afraid of hard work nor do I find it particularly unpleasant, in fact I enjoy work. But I absolutely hate wasting my time. Some might think some things I do is a waste of time, but if it refreshes and renews me I do not consider it a waste, so to each his own. So I suppose it follows that since I do not want to waste my efforts, I am continually coming back to what the true definition of success is to me, what my greatest purpose is. So I find it astounding how often I am slowly diverted from what my true focus ought to be.

At this moment Ecclesiastes stands out to me like a Vegas billboard. The book, written by Solomon the wisest man to ever live, says in a nutshell, that everything under the sun, anything you can put your hand to or pursue, is without meaning. All is futile, worthless, and beyond comprehension. Pursuing wisdom and knowledge will only make you more aware of the sorrow and grief of life, pleasure will leave you empty and hollow, power and wealth are pointless, in short there is no point. Not exactly encouraging or cheering words, and certainly nothing the suicide hotline has on their list of recommended reading, even going so far as to say “the day you die is better than the day you are born” (7:1) and yet… the final chapter begs to reader to remember God while they are still young. Each and every chapter ends with the thought that after the author had come to the end of himself, God was there. Through God meaning was found and peace came.
In chapter 5 Solomon extols us to keep our ears open and our mouths shut when we come before God, for He is in heaven and we are earth (His wisdom is beyond our grasp), so let our words be few. Too much activity gives you restless dreams, and too many words make you a fool. I am reminded of a bit of wisdom my favorite cowgirl philosopher, Gladiola Montana wrote, “Occasional flashes of silence can be mistaken for brilliance.” Looking back over everything I hear God say to me, He is forever telling me shut my mouth and listen to Him for a change.

During a recent conversation where the topic was “what word did you choose to define your year,” when my turn came, since I don’t do new year’s resolutions, I chose what the year has brought to me thus far, both where I have succeeded and failed, and said diligence for my defining word. Diligence, according to Mister Webster is persevering application, or to be diligent is to be steady, unceasing, and relentless. To complete what you sent out to do, and to pursue one’s goals with single mindedness. In a great many ways I have been diligent, in my studies, work, commitments, and responsibilities. Yet I find that in the way which matters most, which will follow me through this life and into the next, I have failed. The relationship which matters most (and if you know me well, you know I value relationships above all else), my relationship with my creator has been shifted from the primary position because of other responsibilities.

Earlier this year a prophetic benediction was spoken over me, a love letter to me from God.
The preciousness of your heart is a blessing to God. You are called to walk in authority and power and intimacy. I see and I know what I put within you that will come forth in a greater power than what you know. Because I have called you to walk in the direction of My power and yes, I have called you to a higher place but only to me, because I am jealous of your attention. Feel My heart beat and you will be tuned in to My voice to know in a greater way that is My choice; because you have done what I called you to do. Get ready, for I have shown you things you have not seen before and I will show you strange and different paths to take and they all lead to Me. What I want you to be in constant fellowship with Me.

Every time I read this I find myself laughing, because I had been beating myself up, saying I am a horrible Christian, I don’t spend nearly enough time in God’s Word. Over and over in this He calls come spend time with me, I want you to be with me. Yet from God it comes as a caress, gentle and drawing, not guilty or like a slap on the hand as it does from my own mind. Lord, teach me to speak in such a way!

So the only real point is God. Everything begins and comes back around to Him. Any meaning we are to find will come from knowing him. Anything which distracts us from Him, not matter how good it may be, church work, school, anything which usurps His place as first in our lives, ceases to be good. Maybe it takes major life changes to fix; maybe it only takes a shift in awareness.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sidetracked much?

Ever notice how easy it is to get sidetracked from what really matters? Seems like every so often I get in a rut and have to wake myself up. I am so focused on dispatching immediate goals; I lose sight of why I was working on that in the first place. Such irony; good things distract me from the best things. This semester is a good example. So many blessing have been pouring down on me constantly. One of my scholarships was doubled totally paying for fall tuition, even paying me over and above footing my college bill. I found a place to volunteer for the service hour’s requirement for said scholarship, and instead of doing menial work, the board voted for me to be a member and treasurer. One of my old bosses gave me a job paying about the same in one evening as I made in a week at my summer job, with the flexibility to work only one to two days a week. I am making so many friends from all different walks of life. I have been so busy with work, the board, friends, and school I have felt like I was drowning in a sea of good things all semester. It hasn’t all been good of course; accounting has been a living nightmare. The school assigned the two worst Profs. in the dept to “teach” the make it or break it account course. Teach is the operative, or perhaps I should say, un-operative word. They have not taught once. This is not my opinion; this is a statement of fact supported by my classmates as well. I have been pouring so much time and energy into this class, and yet it still stands a good chance of being the first class I fail, a big admission coming from someone who was routinely on the dean and vice president’s honor roll. I have been very relaxed (for me, anyway) about this class, but still the frustration does build up.

Today I was in such a lousy mood, a pretty rare occurrence. Nothing I did could shake it loose, and it was sapping my energy and casting a pall over things I normally enjoy. As a last resort I put on Third Day’s Christmas album and tried to sing along. Sometimes the only thing to break pain, sorrow, or discouragement is offering up praise to the one who made you and knows you, even if praise is the furthest thing from what you feel. Praise when you don’t feel it, when it’s by faith or just nerve, is I think, one of the purest forms of praise. It comes from a deeper place. I was just going through the motions of singing when the words sank into my consciousness.

Said the night wind to the little lamb

Do you see what I see?

A star, a star dancing in the night

With a tail as big as kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy

Do you hear what I hear?

A song, a song ringing through the trees

With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king

Do you know what I know?

A child, a child shivers in the cold

Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere

Listen to what I say

Pray for peace people everywhere

Listen to what I say

A child, a child sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light

Finals and the holidays are coming fast, with all the preparation and work inherent to them. But I was suddenly struck with an image of an icy crystal clear night so full of white fire stars the sky seemed touch earth, blazing forth glory, while a soft night breeze scented with evergreen, snow, and wood smoke weaves through tall firs and cedars announcing joy across the open prairies and towering mountains. All this spoken from the mouth of creation lifting voices to its Creator, celebrating the wonder, beauty, and timelessness of His handiwork. His grace and mercy all encompassing, redeeming and rescuing what he made. Everything beneath that diamond sky and touched by that breeze was, is His and will be evermore.

The world is always carping about living in the present, and it’s true, you have to be here and now, but it is not the final chapter. I once heard someone say one of evil’s favorite victories is to make you become so absorbed with good things, that you totally miss God’s best. He knows the plans he has for you and He is actively working them out, to prosper you, to give you a future, and a hope. Now I am laughing and singing along with the night wind. I am reminded, I am not temporary, the real part of me is eternal. The current frustrations are temporal and are not to be allowed to siphon away my joy and peace. I will enjoy the good things, but I am not going to miss God’s best.

It isn’t here yet, but I can feel it coming, as much as I can smell the promise of snow in the air.

I crave more, more joy, more peace, more laughter, more everything.

I work harder, fight stronger, stretch further, hold on longer.

I learn from the past and set it aside,

I toil, strive, and struggle in the present,

I walk toward, hope for, and keep my eye on the future.

My past can’t hurt me,

My present can’t hold me,

My future can’t escape me.

Never settle for anything less than the BEST,

A Modern Rahab

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So, a lot has been happening since my last letter.
First, I got a job ( yay!) working in a bookstore, my transcript was finally released at a little less than originally expected, and I have started to slowly make some new friends.
Second is slightly less of a yay update; I was recently diagnosed with Insulin Resistance Syndrome. For those who aren't clear on what that is, it basically means my cells don't absorb insulin the way they should, so they tell my body to make more, thus flooding my system with insulin and kicking my functions into overdrive. IRS ( hee, I actually find calling it that funny), is a fore runner to diabetes. But now the surprisingly upbeat flipside; catching it early like this (it usually doesn't kick in till closer to middle age), means I can head diabetes off and prevent myself from developing it. I don't have to test my blood, I do have to stick to a new and at first royal-pain-in-the-patella eating life style of no carbs, sugars, or starches. I say life style as opposed to diet, because this is a permanent change.
Ironically, instead of being upset by this news, I was very blaise about it at first, and now having been faithful to the new changes for over eight weeks I am actually quite thankful for it. My second set of bloodwork came back with my insulin down by 40%, my potassium up (usually you lose potassium), and I have lost ten pounds and I'm still dropping. It's encouraging because I had been working out with a trainer for over a year religiously and while I was gaining muscles, and toning my upper body and calves, I was gaining fat around my middle. Very discouraging, I was beginning to think "they" (the ever elusive they) had lied to me about exercise. Turns out IRS causes you to gain weight around the middle and not be able to lose it no matter how hard you workout, and around half the population has IRS, but only 25% of those that have it, know it!

Just think, finding out about it now probably saved my life later on down the road.
Funny story about it. I had been really faithful for about four weeks to eat right, and then my co-workers had a pizza party for lunch. I had brown bagged in tuna salad (bear in mind that I really despise like tuna salad, but eat it because it's good for me). I could smell that hot pizza and then I could smell my tuna. I tried to eat a bite of my tuna, but could barely swallow it. I thought "oh well, I've been good. One slice won't kill me." Horsefeathers it won't. I felt like I was going to die all afternoon after that. Figured out my body had been numb to how bad carbs had been for me till I went cold-turkey and purged them all from my system. I've been religious about it since then. The cool part is now I don't particularlly crave the carbs. I can take a bite of bread and think no, don't believe I want that.

And finally, third, I keep feeling God's voice almost tangibly. I say feeling his voice because while the words are flowing through my mind, my heart feels like it is being held as gently as you would hold a baby bird.
Everywhere I turn, everything I listen to I seem to hear God speak.
He told me to shut up.
I immediatly thought "what?"
"You heard me. Quit harping on about finding your purpose. I have a purpose for you, and when the timing is right I WILL tell you. You haven't even begun to hit your stride. Remember those trains you used to watch when you were little? Remember how long it took them to gather any kind of momentum, but once they were really rolling there was no stopping them. Give me a little time, you don't need to rush about trying to figure out my plan for you. I will drop it into your lap! What I have begun I will be faithful and just to complete it. I WILL DO IT. ME. Not you. Your job is to retrain your heart to listen for me. Learn to anticipate my presence and revel in it. I am moving around you all the time, but your sense of my glory is weak. When you come to worship me, you don't have to burst into the song immediatly. Take some time, sift about till you find me. I will guide you in what is a fit and pleasing offering of praise. No going through the motions, I am not in that. The more time you spend with me, not just in my scriptures or set prayer time, but continually turning the ear of your heart to hear what I will say, the more you will come to see your identity in me. No more hearing my voice and dismissing it as just your own rambling thoughts. You HEARD ME. Absorb it and put it to use."

So I have been shushing my internal voice to listen and scan for His presence. And He has been speaking and showing me things. One evening as I was trying to fall asleep, I suddenly began to daydream about Pakistan, the christians there, and a mission team there. I saw the pakistani christians and the team fighting againgst a towering spirit of fear and intimidation, and saw him fall and be chased away. The daydream continued all the next day until late evening, when my mom informed me a friend who had gone to Pakistan to minister to the christian ladies, was holded up in her hotel because the Al-Qeida was attacking the city she was in, and she had sent out an email for prayer around the time I first started to daydream. She said they had peace and were not afraid.
Why I was allowed a parallel dream in real time, but was given no distinct faces or urge to pray I don't know. This and the same to much lesser degrees to have been the result of heightening my awareness of the presence.
One thing He has told me was to "lay out plans for things you have no means of achieving at this time without divine intervention. If you wait until I supply the means you won't be ready. Prepare your life to receive what I will give, so none is lost."

I know this, God is far from stale to me now.

Anticipate the Glory,
A Modern Rahab

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Modern Day Rahab

I don't know if anyone will read this or if I even want it read, but it may be I will strike a cord with someone who is where I have been, the same way a cord was struck with me. So, here's the story...

I have always hated the word
average. My life to memory has spent pursuing excellence. If it was second best I wanted nothing to do with it. In school it was the best grades, in my first job, the highest sales and never give the boss a reason to complain. Point me toward the top and watch me go over. The surest way (and almost the only way) to make me dislike you was to come between me and what I intended to achieve. I would succeed, come hell or high water.
Nothing wrong with ambition, it's healthy to have, and since I wasn't anal about things like sports or games my hang-up was seen as a virtue. But I wasn't just ambitious, I HAD to succeed. My whole estimation of my worth came from my achievement.

Stressful way to live and humiliating when the realization of insufficiency sets in.
Having accepted Christ as my savior at a very young age, I had always heard it said that my true worth was in him. Easy enough to hear but so hard to believe for such a perfectionist.
God used college and some of the most hellacious experiences to finally allow me to absorb the truth of striving to be more and be better is good, but that is not who anyone is or is meant to be.

So take a year off from college to work, but mostly to ruminate on the highly elusive and much desired clarity of purpose. It was a good year; a lot of positive growth in all the areas of life. I began to reclaim the confident joy I was born with, met some truly marvelous ladies with a heart for God, was offered a job that is was unheard of for someone with as little experience as I had to be given, and generally made strides forward into life. Then came the changes

Money was tight and I was living alone in a city rather far away from my family with whom I had always been close. After prayer and counsel I moved back to live with my parents for a couple years to save money, be closer to family, and finish college in the area I was from.
At this point all hell broke loose. The economy was suddenly shot to pieces, the college where I had most of my undergrad hours claimed I owed them $4,000 (I didn't, they sent back scholarship money they shouldn't have) and refused to release my transcript. So I had no money, no job, no transcript, no friends remotely near, was getting nothing from either prayer or my bible, and no way to move forward or backward. The few consolations were knowing I did hear God tell me to come back home, and my dear, dear dog I rescued from the pound right after moving back.

For the past six months I could swear I've been living in purgatory. But today things changed. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say
I changed. At the end of my rope, feeling as hopeless as I have ever been I contacted an friend of my mother's. A strong woman of God, I asked to meet with her. She sat and listened to me for half an hour. She then prayed and counseled me for three hours, explaining I was not even remotely close to being the only one who could not hear God right now, many people, in particular my age group, the new adults setting forth into the world, were crying out because no matter the time they spent they could not hear His Voice, and many were struggling with anger. Why allow us to come of age at a time when the world offers no place for us? Why can we not find our purpose? Would you raise us up to have no impact? Is there something we aren't doing that we should be? How long will You be silent?

She said salvation you already have, that isn't the worry. You truly love God, that isn't the worry. What to be wary of is missing God's best out of fear and desperation to make my goals come to fruition, taking the inferior fool's gold circumventing God's blessing before I hit pay dirt. She urged me to examine my deepest reasons for wanting a particular sphere of influence, what was at the base of the strong emotions I was experiencing. What was my fear. My greatest fear is that I will have gone through all the circles of hell called life, and in the end, Leave. No. Impact. I am not afraid of the struggle or the pain, I am afraid of going through it and it counting for nothing.

For the first time in a long time condemnation and guilt was lifted off me. Condemnation that if I were a better christian, if I were more spiritual, if I did this or that I would have all the answers. Guilt that I couldn't hear God, that I was despairing of reading my bible, that I could muster no enthusiasm to pray. She and I prayed together (well, she prayed and I agreed, and repeated after her). She prayed clarity, peace, hope, and God's wisdom over me. She prayed healing to my wounded heart, and for an end to the isolation from His Voice.

Finally I was able to pray, to really talk to God, not just go through the forms and motions
Throughout the rest of the day God came and met with me, speaking to me even as I drove down the road. He showed me how he saw me, tall, confident, strong, beautiful, dressed for battle to claim the world, with a crown on my forehead to declare me a royal daughter of the King of Kings. Then He showed me how I see myself, dirty, shaking with fear, dressed in the cast offs of a slave, pressed as far into a corner as can be. The stark differences made me sob (still does as write this). I heard him tell me "the warrior is who I created you to be. Unafraid, not just holding your ground, but plundering My enemies, reclaiming what they have attempted to steal, and making what has always been Mine yours as well. Don't fight against Me; you aren't strong enough for that and you wouldn't win anyway. Believe Me, see My glory unfolding before you. You know the verse 'for I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a FUTURE and a hope.' Now think about the word 'know.' The original Hebrew word means to dwell on something, to be actively thinking about something. Remember the Hebrew or gin of 'future?' It means to encompass the past and merge it with the future. Where you have been and what you have done are your past and are tied to My future for you.You must have a past before you can have a future. If you had a different past, your future would be different as well. I am continually thinking of you and laying out the road ahead of you. Hold fast for now, the time is coming very swiftly that you will explode out the place you are in, there will be no holding you back or slowing your momentum. I am preparing to shake loose the ideas of how great or small I am, of where I have influence, and what does and does not belong to Me. It will be both frightening and exciting. The world will struggle, but those I have selected will shine in the eyes of the people... Tell me what you want."

I thought for a moment and answered "I want MORE. Just being saved isn't nearly enough. I want to be one to blaze forth with a holy passion. I want to not just survive, I want to THRIVE! I want to be a force to be reckoned with, to knock the snot out the demons that have been thrashing me. I want to be without fear, to never second guess that I heard you. I want your holy wisdom, your joy, your love. I want an unshakable purpose. I want to never miss the glory.

I believe God spoke to me then saying, "That was the heart of Rahab. She only heard of My glory and power, and she believed in it, in Me. She risked everything, down to her life, not just to be saved, but to be a part of My people, a part of Me. She gave up her past routine and former life, and joined herself to those I called My children. She let go of her shame, her pain, everything she had known, to follow Me. She wanted more. I grafted her into My people, gave her a husband to care for her, and ultimately made her a grandmother to My son, one of only five women mentioned as an ancestor. Are you willing to be another Rahab? To have faith in Me, even if you do not see Me? Are you willing, even if those who call themselves My church reject you and condemn you?"

Yes, Lord.

This, then, is my rousing myself from the stupor I had fallen into, and my battle cry;
No more complacency, no more vapidity, no more will I be beaten down.
I am in this war to win it. I am not a second class citizen.
I am Beloved Royal Daughter of The King,
and a warrior on assignment for the duration of my life.
I have been granted the authority and imperative by Divine Law to reclaim what was stolen,
to destroy the enemy wherever I may find him,
and to uphold and support my fellow Royal Children.

I am stepping into the legacy of

you deserve more,
A Modern Rahab