Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Destination: Home

A good epic fantasy (like Lord of the Rings, for example) involves a character(s) making his/her way through a very trying journey, to accomplish the impossible and arrive at a distant desirable location, usually being home. Motel 6 paints an accurate picture with their slogan, "We'll leave the light on." People on a long, difficult, tiring journey long for the eventual end of the road; for their arrival to be anticipated, welcomed, enjoyed. They want to get to the place where they belong.

Thus goes life. For the nonbeliever, the grave eventually becomes an emblem of peace (hence the epitaph, RIP...not to mention the location of most cemeteries on a shady, picturesque hillside, fenced off from the hustle and bustle of everyday life). For the believer, heaven is our hope. As the apostle Paul put it, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Corinthians 15:19, NIV).

Jesus said, "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I'm taking" (John 14:1-4, The Message).

I think it's cool how we have an explicit invitation to make His home our home. His casa can be our casa...as long as we stay on the road that gets us to that destination, and continue to journey's end, no matter what obstacles we face along the way. And the end is not the only source of joy. The journey itself can be pretty interesting, too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Late-Night Wonderings

When I do not sin, I feel self-righteous. When I do sin, I feel dirty and cheap. I wonder where the line is between trusting in God's grace and riding the proverbial fence to see how much one can "get away with". I wonder at what a great responsibility it is to teach others in matters regarding their souls. I wonder that so many people's "revelations" conflict with each other...and at how superficial we tend to be who think we have such revelation. I wonder that EVERYTHING in life is a rat race. I want to live outside the grid.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thinking About Where I'm At

I am in a very strange place right now, emotionally speaking. It seems I am at the end of some processes, in the middle of others, and just beginning yet others. I have a lot going on in my day-to-day life right now; concrete here-and-now things that need taking care of. But as I go about my tasks, I am doing a lot of thinking.

Let's do a typical Melodic jump and start with things I am in the middle of. I am in the middle of finishing this past semester of seminary. I have been late in finishing the last two or three semesters, and this time I have two courses finished and two yet to complete. I have until June 20th. I think I might make it, but I will really have to focus. I think part of my hesitation in finishing has been that I have been unsure of what to work toward as a goal. (Finishing would be good, eh?) I have struggled with a lot of self-doubt...fearing that I cannot effectively accomplish anything ministerially...or that I am unworthy to do so. Many times in the last year or two, I have reconsidered my entire vocation. Last fall I actually enrolled at a different school, in an entirely different major, and fully intended to change the direction of my life. But God had other plans and for some reason I continued on the path I had already begun. So now I am finishing up another late semester, and it has been so inconvenient to have this task looming over me so far into the summer. But I think what I am learning is how to stay in the process. Even when it seems I might fail (or even that I already have), I am learning to press through. After all, life does not end when we encounter failure and/or obstacles. We have to keep going and somehow get past it.

I have been on a cleaning frenzy lately, too. To others, it may look like my progress is epicly slow, but I think there are some major emotional connotations to what I have been doing. I am so close to having everything I own both clean and organized. For the first time in my life, everything will have a place. My personal space will not be cluttered, and everything in it will be fully inventoried. Clutter does not bother me too much, but at times my disorganization has been astounding. I have finally gone through all the boxes I've dragged along, unopened, from my past. Things that have always sat in the back of the room, and I knew they were there but never looked at them. I have made a decision to sweep out the corners and the cobwebs of who I am. I am not going to be afraid to open those boxes anymore...and pretty soon, there won't be any boxes left to fear. My "avoidance" issues are coming to an end.

Hopefully by the end of the summer, I am on the verge of some new beginnings as well. One is that I plan to move to Springfield (an hour away, where I go to school). That idea has never sat with me well until now; I believe I am ready. And even excited! I have been contemplating my plans after seminary, and I do have some ideas. They are unique (would you expect anything less?) and seem sure to be difficult...but I am intrigued.

When I first set out to pursue God's adventure for my life, I felt like He spoke this promise to me: "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29). Today I have been remembering the "hundred times as much" God has given me. Someday I want to be used by Him to bless other young people like so many have blessed me. I have been well taken-care-of!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Poor, But Grateful, Spirit

I'm reading Brennan Manning's book The Ragamuffin Gospel right now for one of my classes. On page 80 he tells the story of a meeting he held in Louisiana, after which a man he didn't know handed him an envelope, which he later discovered held a $6,000-check. He decided to send the check to a man he had met the week before, who had 10 children, three of whom had already died because of the poverty they experienced subsisting off the garbage of the town trash heap in Juarez, Mexico. Manning related this to the first beatitude ("Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven") and wrote:

"He wrote me nine letters in two days - letters overflowing with gratitude and describing in detail how he was using the money to help his own family and other neighbors at the dump. That gave me a beautiful insight into what a poor man is like. When he receives a gift he first experiences, then expresses, genuine gratitude. Having nothing, he appreciates the slightest gift. ...The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become - the more we realize that everything in life is a gift."

I think I generally recognize and am grateful for the "small" gifts in my life. To name a couple...I am at least 75% certain I will never have children of my own. But with the family I live with right now, God has allowed me to experience the joy of everyday life with a baby. I am safe; all my basic needs are met; and I have many blessings besides, including a vehicle, a cell phone, shelves and shelves of books, and an education. And I do my very best to take note when little things I pray for are answered, in expected or unexpected ways.

But there is one gift...the greatest gift I have been given...which is so difficult for me to receive with "merely" a "Thank You." It is the gift of salvation...salvation by grace, in fact. Manning's entire point is that we cannot save ourselves; therefore, we should lay aside our false sense of security (or lack thereof) based on our own religious activities (or lack thereof).

When I think about the great gift Jesus has given me, I am completely overcome with thankfulness and a keen sense of my own humility...and even the awe-inspiring awareness that God loves me! But it is so hard to just accept it...because I don't understand it.

This is my prayer:
God, please help me to come to some sort of comprehension of this great gift You have given me...and of the fact that I can neither inspire nor dissuade Your love for me by anything I do. Help me to live a life of gratefulness for this gift, and to share the liberating grace of it with others. Thank You for the extraordinary gift of Your love, which I have never done a single thing to earn. Even in my lack of understanding, the mere glimmer of the knowledge that You love me fills me with hope and joy and, yes, overwhelming gratefulness!