Spirituality

1 Corinthians 15:58:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Another new year. Like most years, scads of possibilities for personal improvement and greater good have surfaced in my brain and, like most years, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities. This is also a time of year that typically ushers in, for me, lower mood and energy. This is not a pity party; I am not powerless to take action against this negativity, but I do feel like many people can relate to these feelings and might appreciate the acknowledgment amidst all the Facebook posts detailing the number of miles their friends have run (even though it’s eight degrees outside) and the new healthy eating plans they’ve implemented. There. Now I’ve acknowledged the crappy feelings and pray that my sympathizers and I can move on to being inspired by other people’s successes instead. 🙂

Before the new year started, my fellow-blogger and inspirational friend, Crystal, suggested that we try an adapted form of the 60/60 Experiment. We aren’t reading Soul Revolution, but we are using the idea to stop once an hour to honor, incorporate, remember God in our lives. After a rough start, I downloaded a customizable timer app that helps me remember, although I’m still not perfectly observant. I find that what happens when that timer sounds is a sort of accountability exercise. Because I get caught up in daily life and I’m not expecting to communicate with God at those moments, I wind up examining whether whatever is happening in my head or whatever action I might be taking is good and pleasing to Him. It’s been valuable and interesting. I’m planning to maintain this practice for the foreseeable future.

Now for the worst part. I decided to couple this experiment with a resolution to stop looking at my Facebook feed 1,800 times a day. I am not commenting on the evils or merits of Facebook, but for me, it was turning into a bad habit. I prayed about it and told God my intention to check it only once a day. I failed to honor my commitment. I am ashamed of my lack of discipline. This sin is not limited to this single, self-imposed thing. I struggle with laziness. While it might not appear that way to those who know me, I know myself well enough to make that assertion with no hesitation. Therefore, my “resolution” is to avoid idleness. I will continue to value R&R, but I have been lazy even in that, failing to take from it rejuvenation and joy. To my intention stated here, I add prayers for forgiveness and guidance.

Happy January, folks!

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Just One More in the Vanity Series (Christianity and Women)

Lately, I’ve been trying to work through my feelings on what scripture says about the ways a woman should live.  I’ve mostly ignored this issue to this point, because it bothers me. It is tough for me to take emotion out of it, but I’ve tried very hard to view it objectively. Thank you to my awesome spiritual mentors for lending your perspectives and helping expand mine. I’m writing this post after reading one from Tim (Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another) that I thought was pretty awesome. You can read it here: http://timfall.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/biblical-womanhood-is-nothing-and-neither-is-biblical-manhood/. In it he states:

“Which brings me to the point. How Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood – whatever those phrases mean – are lived by the members of the body of Christ will be different for each individual woman and man. The only universal principle that I can discern in Scripture is that we are each destined to be more like Jesus as we grow in him.”

I love that. Here are some of my thoughts on this issue.

First, I believe that historical context has some bearing on specific verses applying to women (such as, perhaps, Paul’s instructions about women serving in the church in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35), but the general theme of submission and subservience seems to say that women are worth less than men. This offends my sensitive ego (hmm… now we’re getting somewhere. 🙂 )Please don’t misunderstand – I do believe that men and women are different and that acknowledging and embracing our diversity allows us to serve better. The issue for me is this feeling of inherent inferiority. But I think maybe I’m reading something that isn’t there. The fact is, verses about submission do not apply only to women. It is easy to pluck these verses out of the Bible and, therefore, assess them out of context, but we are ALL to live lives of submission in Christ. And the beautiful thing is that if we follow the advice given us, there is no abuse of power; in fact, we use it to give back and to serve. Submission is power, for serving others is an act of love and nothing is more valuable or powerful than that. Like any ideal, this model can and has been perverted, taken out of context and used as justification for devaluing people. That is not an indication of its validity, but of the misguided (at least, that’s the word I’ll use in polite company) nature of humanity.

I still don’t entirely understand the hierarchical structure evidenced in the Bible, even within the trinity, but at the end of the day, Christ served us and he served God. If Jesus’ ego didn’t keep him from washing the feet of his disciples, maybe mine shouldn’t keep me from washing the feet of my husband, or anyone else for that matter. The validity test? Well, I’ll let you know if the fruit is good. I suspect it will be. 🙂

Spirituality

Everywhichway

It has been quite a while since I last posted to the blog… too long. I know because my brain is swimming in idea snippets. I’ve been having some trouble deciding which one deserves my focus today, and confession: I still don’t know. I’m hoping that it will just magically come together. 🙂

Looking for a job has got me a little distracted and little stressed. It isn’t so much the thought of returning to work that bothers me, but the idea of leaving my daughter in daycare. It seems terribly unfair to me that my child should spend the vast majority of her waking hours with people other than her family. I know that lots of people can relate!

I’ve prayed for guidance, but not perhaps in the right way. I want God to reveal a clear path, neon arrows flashing. But I haven’t really been watching and listening for him.

Between illness and trying to corral my little girl during the service, this morning’s sermon was the first one I’ve heard in a while.  One of the members of our congregation delivered the message. He talked a little bit about his personal struggle to make God the focus of his life and ministry. It was very easy to relate. In my recent parenting and financial endeavors, my focus has been on the distractions at hand. I throw some prayers in there, but I’ve just realized that I’ve been praying with a closed mind. There are certain directions I don’t think I want to go, so even though those possibilities are on the edge of my consciousness, I’ve been refusing to really examine them. So… how to fix this?

I struggle a lot with the practical application of the adage “just give it to God.” It sounds really nice, but honestly, it never seems doable. The whole idea speaks to a certain undercurrent in Christianity; this notion that Jesus’ death somehow made things easier and absolved us of our responsibility. All you have to do is believe in Jesus. But what does that entail? Grace and forgiveness are very real, but Jesus asks a lot from us. Continual commitment of body, mind and soul is… well… the hardest thing ever.

So giving this decision up, saying that I’m willing to do whatever God asks of me, is NOT easy. The fact is, I still have to listen, decide and move in a certain direction. It isn’t like giving the decision about what we’re going to eat tonight to my husband, so that I can kick back and take a nap. No, giving something to God isn’t about making life easier, necessarily; it’s about a willingness to go where you’re led, and remain steadfast, working to accomplish what you think God wants from you because you know it’s the right thing.

Wish me luck.. and maybe throw in a prayer! 🙂 Happy Sunday!

1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

 

 

 

Spirituality

Redecorating the Soul

I am not a do-it-yourselfer. Whenever some project comes along that requires tape measuring, hammering, screwing, leveling or any other tool-related activity, I let my husband take the lead. Well, truthfully, I let him do it all. I usually have to leave the area because my impatient and irritable nature can hardly stand the set-backs and slow, careful work. He always does a beautiful job. When I do embark on some project, I take short-cuts and the quality of my work reflects them. Afterward, they bother me… remind me of this flaw in my nature. Fortunately, the older I get, the more patient I become.

This week, I decided to start a project and I wanted to do it myself. It required disassembling shelving, pulling an absurd number of plastic wall anchors out of drywall, patching holes, painting, removing doors and assembling furniture from Target (pretty sure Lamentations was written as a direct response to “assembly required.” ***).  But I did it! It isn’t perfect, but five years ago, I don’t think I’d have had the patience or drive.

Surveying my work, I felt very proud of myself indeed. It was a small personal victory. Now, though, I’m feeling reflective. The “I took a shortcut and I’m dissatisfied with the results” problem is not exclusive to do-it-yourself projects. It applies to every area of our lives. From parenting to preparing a meal, when we don’t commit to making our best effort, we suffer both the practical and psychological consequences. And to fulfill our potential we have to invite God in. If he created us, then we would in a literal sense be nothing without him. And if he has the power to form the universe, to create humanity in all of its staggering beauty and diversity, then I could ask for no better help.

When I said, “I’m not a do-it-yourselfer” earlier, it was an admission of laziness. I want to be able to use that expression in an entirely different way; to change it to mean that I’ve committed to working hard… with God’s help. My hunch is that learning to recognize his guidance and accept his help, will require some demolition. I will have to expose and acknowledge my flaws and ask him to fill those holes I haven’t patched, to smooth over the rough edges. In short, I want God to redecorate my soul.  🙂

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Colossians 1:29 – For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

*** Post-publication Edit: I’m leaving that quip about “assembly required,” but I couldn’t help but feel like a terribly spoiled thing after re-reading it. I apologize if it seemed like I was making light of the very real pain and suffering in the world.