Wanting depth

from pinterest

I was talking with a dear friend tonight, trying to articulate some thoughts I’ve been having for the last few weeks.

I know Jesus loves me. I know I am saved and perfectly loved through His finished, completely effective work. But I don’t always live with that knowledge at the forefront of my mind.

OK, who am I kidding? I usually don’t live with that knowledge at the forefront of my mind!!

Basically, I’m hungry. Wanting to go deeper. Knowing there is more joy, more meaning, more fulfillment in Jesus than I am getting right now. But I’m not quite sure how to get there.

A wise man recently said that our fears of stepping into responsibility can keep us from growth and experiencing God’s blessing in new ways.

I’ve struggled with fears and anxiety off and on throughout my life. I fought a pretty big war against them about five years ago, and experienced significant healing and freedom.

But lately those little anxious thoughts have crept back in. The fears. The worries. About frivolous things and serious ones.

And I don’t want to let them take over again.

I’ve been pondering how to practice going deeper — how to meditate on the Word more, memorize it, chew it over, let it inform my life at a more intense level.

But at every chance my little leaky-bucket heart wants to do something else. It’s quiet, subtle, but always choosing NOT to think about Jesus.

Little heart, God is greater than you. He wants what is best for you, and not what you want — you want to be Him, and nobody can be Him except for God.

So here’s to adventures in spiritual discipline. Said dear friend is going to check up on me, and see if I’m regurgitating ideas on this blog on a semi-regular basis. And I’m going to ask another dear friend to adventure through Scripture memory with me.

I have no idea where this will end.

But I know I need Jesus. I need Him every day.

And, knowing Him, He will pull me through my fears, grow me to be more like Himself, and change my leaky-bucket, anxious heart into a little flicker of His own radiance.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

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Peace

I went to a choir concert a few weeks ago, which spurred many thoughts.

I have a long history with choir singing — grew up in girls’ choir, attended choir camp faithfully every summer, sung through college, and following college, was able to make a small career out of my singing habit. But about a year ago, I realized I was a bit burnt out and decided to take a break.

One of my friends sings with this very talented group, and a mutual group of friends had extra tickets to her show. So we went.

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a google image (not mine) of the church, showing the organ

Being out of the choral scene for most of a year has given me an interesting perspective on it; sitting there in the pew, several different thoughts flooded over me during the show.

First: choral music is an acquired taste, and sometimes it’s just objectively odd if you haven’t been exposed to it. For me, it’s often more pleasurable to sing it than to listen to it. Several of the pieces were very “crunchy” and dissonant, which I enjoyed — but the people I was attending with just felt it was weird. If I hadn’t sung similar pieces before, there’s no way I would have enjoyed the music as much.

Second: in my city especially, many choral groups love to sing music about peace, but they never acknowledge the source of true peace — Jesus — and that the whole reason we need it in the first place is that our sin has broken it. They only reference peace and the search for it as an inter-human endeavor. So much of choral music is sacred in nature, and I was reminded that much of my own secular choral experience has felt hollow. I don’t mean to be arrogant, but I know where true peace and true meaning come from in life, and it doesn’t matter how much art directors put together themed concerts or gifted composers write avant-garde pieces;  without acknowledging our sin and Jesus’s love, all appeals to mercy, justice, kindness, and peace feel very hollow.

(Caveat: I know there are a great many people out there who share my beliefs, and still find joy and fulfillment in programs centered around ambivalently spiritual themes. I have a track record of discounting things that don’t line up to my expectations exactly, so I ask the reader to take my bewailings with a grain of salt. There’s probably much more to glean from secular interpretations of sacred and spiritual themed music than I can see at the moment.)

Third: the keynote piece was one I’d sung as a teenager at choir camp, which led to many flashbacks; the heat and stress of preparing a complicated piece in a few short days of intense effort in July — learning to sing in Hebrew — our director blowing giant rams horns — my own brother singing a long solo just hours before his voice changed. It’s full of lovely, weird, asymmetrical rhythms; strange to ears that hadn’t heard it before (like my friends) but emotional and familiar and different all at once.

Fourth: I had moments of intense pleasure through this concert, which made me wonder if this is why people keep coming back? I’ve definitely had “choral high” as a singer, but never understood why people enjoyed coming to choir concerts. Apparently you can get a bit of that choral high from the audience as well. Who knew?

So there you go: some random musings from my brain while sitting and listening to crunchy music for organ and choir! Perhaps God will be kind to our city, and someday there will be appeals for peace made through song that acknowledge the only source for peace is first being at peace with God Himself.

Melinda

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sermon scraps: 2

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

and He will make your paths straight.

Prov. 3:5-6

 

There’s nothing inside of you that can lead you to a living, active trust in Christ. It has to be the work of God to bring you to acknowledge Him — to a deep, personal, intimate knowing.

Trust: an active reliance and confidence on the promises of God.

Heart: moral behavior and character, not emotions.

Hoping in all God is, who He is, what He’s called us to, in active trust.

 

CPC Ventura, 24 July

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Making it Work

I got engaged about a week ago. It’s still new and delicious, but because life is real and keeps going, and we’re on a tight timeline, the Fiance and I have already planned about 75% of the wedding. (!)

An unexpected side effect of this life change is that, when I explain why I have a beautifully sparkly ring on my left hand, other people are more willing than normal to tell me about their own love lives. It’s been somewhat of a mixed bag. My parents are still together, happily so, and a lot of my friends growing up came from stable homes. But among my social circle from the last week and a half, the trend is overwhelmingly different: married twice, now divorced and single; two kids by first marriage, divorced, with a boyfriend; just married, future uncertain; single, exploring options on Tinder.

The Fiance and I have been reading “The Meaning of Marriage”, by Tim and Kathy Keller. I just finished the chapter on the difference between a consumer relationship and a covenental one. Consumer relationships exist as long as both parties are happy and receiving goods or services (or sex, or emotional fulfillment) that are to their liking; when conditions change and you are no longer pleased with the relationship, it ends, one way or another. As the Kellers point out, this is entirely appropriate in many contexts (did the plumber actually fix the sink? your landlord raised the rent?) but marriage, biblically speaking, is something different.

Marriage, according to the Bible, is a covenant — a solemn vow between two parties that they will keep their word regardless of changing conditions, emotions, or circumstances. When things get tough, or one party isn’t “feeling it” anymore, covenants act as a safeguard for the relationship: you promised to stick it out, so do it. Act loving and married, even if you don’t feel like it. American society still seems to view the parent/child relationship as covenental (you’re stuck with each other, unless one party outright disowns the other) but marriage…that has largely slipped into a consumeristic view, the Kellers argue.

My little poll seems to agree.

And, for myself, on the brink of such a life-changing threshold, watching so many people around me end up breaking their vows is very sobering.

So today, it was a sweet breath of fresh air to hear another person at work say she’d been married for 30 years, that it was hard at times, but you make it work.

It is sweet to see my sister, deeply happy, loving and respecting her husband of (almost three!??) years; sweeter still to see my parents, working hard to know each other better and go deeper in the third decade of their relationship.

And it is sweetest of all, to know Jesus; to know His unchanging, inescapable love. He is the original Covenant-Maker, and the best Covenant-Keeper.

God is still at work, friends. He is sustaining marriages everywhere. And if you’re reading this, and you’ve made marriage vows, and it’s hard, let me encourage you (weird as this may be coming from a starry eyed engaged lady) God can give you the power and the strength to act as if you respected your husband. As if you loved your wife. As if the biggest problem in your marriage was your own selfishness, and not his. God often works best in times like these, where we are weakest and most incapable.

This is not to say divorce is always wrong; there is strong Biblical evidence that sometimes divorce is godly and appropriate.

But if you’re married, and it’s not one of those few “divorce is biblically sanctioned” situations — please. Lean into Jesus. Ask Him for help. Stick it out.

He will not fail you or forsake you.

And by His sustaining grace and power, I believe the Fiance and I will be able to make it work.

 

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Beach Views, Day 2

…ok, technically this is day 3, but yesterday looked a lot like this, and I just forgot to take a picture.

Plus “day 2” rhymes, so there’s that.

beach views day 2

I’m still getting used to the semi-constant fog.

But, so far, so good. New adVentures for sure.

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Ephemera

I collect little bits of ephemera — paper scraps, ticket stubs, notes, receipts, dried flowers, wristbands. All memories of sweet times spent with friends, or reminders of God’s kindness to me. Not everything is happy — there are two pages in my journal that are blank, except for the dried petals from my grandpa’s funeral five years ago. (I didn’t have words at the time, the petals seemed so much more eloquent.) But the first time my boyfriend took me to a movie? It was one of our first dates. You bet I kept that ticket stub. It meant so much, to have him drop $15 on me to see Star Wars.

These little memory pieces — they pile up.

I was going through one such pile this afternoon, and a little flower fell out. And I couldn’t remember where it had come from. The memory was lost. I’m sure it was a good one, or meant something important.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the transitory nature of our lives — barely three generations later, and you’re just a memory. If you’re lucky, your descendents are telling stories about you, remembering you imperfectly and losing something of the original in every telling. How much more, the innumerable smaller moments we each face every day, that rapidly fade into oblivion.

What if — what if that’s how God wanted it? Our lives to be so full of sweet little blessings that our brains physically can’t hold them all?

So, I thanked God for the flower, chucked it, and am now eagerly looking forward to a new string of memories He is going to give me.

Because God is really, really good, and I look forward to imperfectly, fleetingly, remembering His kindness and faithfulness to me.

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City living, day 223

It’s been long enough that some of the honeymoon feelings have worn off. The delicious novelty is gone, and I’ve settled into an easy familiarity, beginning to complain about commutes and distances (starting to sound vaguely like I did as a suburbanite — which is a little alarming!)

We’ve had gunshots, sirens, people smoking substances that maybe shouldn’t be legal in our stairwell.

I’m facing a summer full of road trips and adventures in new places!

But today, I walked to my favorite bakery (three blocks away) and I thought….maybe this is the last time for a while. I’m going to miss the bakery while I’m on the road.

So today, in the face of an impending change, I’m resolved to stop and enjoy each moment I still have in this crazy, wonderful city for exactly what it is, and not waste it.

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