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Numinous Awe

“The Numinous is not the same as the morally good, and a man overwhelmed with awe is likely, if left to himself, to think the numinous object beyond good and evil.”
C.S. Lewis

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Off to the park

We’ve recently moved across town and happen to live closer to nieces and nephews. You know what that means. We’ve been added to the speed-dial sitter list.

Last weekend was our maiden voyage.  A full day with the 3-year old twins. As you might imagine, we had no trouble sleeping that night. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the girls, but they certainly kept us going all day.  To any of you who have children or nieces/nephews, this will come as no surprise, but we came away from the day having been reminded of some important things. These are lessons I gained from a day with three-year olds:

1: SLOW DOWN. Normally, it takes Brent and I about four minutes to get to the park on our bikes. Not so with three-year-olds. No, it was a 45-minute walk each way. The trip to the park wasn’t my brightest idea on a 95-degree day. But they were troopers and never complained. Yet it was a slow, deliberate pace the entire way. There was no rush, no sense of needing to get to our destination quickly. No wonder it’s only adults who deal with things like high blood pressure. We’d all do well to slow down our pace a notch or two!

Stop & Smell the Flowers

2: STOP & SMELL THE FLOWERS: One of the highlights on the trail was to stop and smell the flowers. If we’d been in a hurry, the beauty of the landscape and wildflowers would have been missed. It was sweet to see one sister want to share her flower experience with the other. What a great lesson. Stop, take a look around. Be present in the moment, enjoy what God puts in your path and share it with those around you.

Quack Quack!

3. INJECT FUN INTO ORDINARY THINGS. The girls knew we’d be having a cold treat when we got home, but we kept the fact that it was smoothies a surprise. Unwilling to allow an unnamed treat, the twins decided to refer to the surprise as “Quack Quack.” Silly as it was, it brought us all lots of laughter for the rest of the night.

4: KINDLE THE JOY OF READING (no pun intended!). I’ve always loved books. Most of my life I’ve been a voracious reader. But, for some reason, recent years have drew my attention elsewhere. Watching the girls bring me book after book after book to read was contagious. I think we put away about 20 books before the night was over.

5. REMEMBER THE SNEETCHES. One of the many stories we read was Dr. Seuss’ “Sneetches.” It’s a book I’ve had since I was a child and it shows by its well-worn corners. It made an impact on me as a child and I often recall its lessons even as an adult. The basic message is not to get caught up in the latest trends or judge others just because they’re not caught up in them. I think about how our society is so influenced by the latest

Sneetches

hot gadget, fashion or topic. Too often we’re judged by what toys we have or what we wear or how informed we are about the current trending Twitter feed. Yet, being on top of those things has nothing to do with strong character, kindness and living a godly life.

Isn’t it amazing what God shows us through children? What lessons have you learned lately?

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In this post, I’d like to speak to the roots of this blog. A special feature of this experiment is that Blada is a dual blog. We wanted to share a creative outlet as a means to demonstrate that we’re on the same path, ruled by a single Master. We got married late in life, at a time when most of our contemporaries are seeing their kids graduate and go to college. Unlike most of our contemporaries, we didn’t date for years or have a long engagement. Because we waited longer than most, we both knew what we were looking for and when we found it, we dove in.

Our Wedding at Jax Cafe in NE Mpls

Our wedding theme, “One”, is from Ephesians 4:6 from The Message Bible, “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”

It is this love note from God that has enabled us to clear early hurdles in our first few years of marriage. This morning another familiar verse from Ephesians stood out to us as we drove to the orthopedic treatment center to check on Lisa’s foot. We heard it on the radio, from the New American Standard Bible, Ephesians 5:28-30, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”

What stood out was that first sentence about husbands loving their own wives as their own bodies. I’ve always thought that the writer of Ephesians (Paul) wrote a strange sentence. What did that mean, love my wife as I love my own body? The help for understanding is found in the verse from our wedding about “oneness”.

The verse isn’t saying we men ought to love our wives “like” we love our own body, but rather we should love our wives in the same way we love ourselves because our flesh is made AS one in the person of Christ. This verse has presented itself as vital to the foundation of our marriage over the last 2 1/2 years. Most recently in the adventure of Lisa’s broken foot. It has been important for me to put aside things that I wanted to do and/or think about in order to be present for Lisa, provide her support and encouragement and demonstrate love.

This is what we’re all called to do when we accept Yeshua as Lord. We put to death those things we once considered as important and look to elevate Yeshua in all things, this is especially true in our marriage.

Lisa’s broken foot is temporary. It will eventually heal and we’ll be back to our old routines. But I want to publicly thank God for allowing this broken foot to come along and remind us of what’s really important. He is perfecting in me the verse we held up as we made wedding vows to each other, and I’m glad he’s provided me with someone forgiving and patient with me as I learn to love the way He loves.

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I’ll just be honest. I don’t like having a broken foot. I don’t like spending most of my day on our futon. The futon isn’t that cozy. And my “to-do” list is growing.

I don’t like watching my husband do a good share of the cooking, cleaning and laundry. I know that might sound silly, but I am definitely ready to jump back into having a mobile life again. I want my freedom back. For three weeks I’ve been unable to carry anything and unable to drive and there’s barely one position that works comfortably well for sleeping these days.

I know that sounds like a lot of complaining. The truth is there’s nothing to really complain about. I know this is temporary. It’s obviously not in the top 10 of medical issues that deserve extreme sympathy. Not even close. And I’ve got a great husband who is taking good care of me. As I write, he’s downstairs doing the dishes. How can I complain?

I’ve had my moments of frustration and even self-pity. My to-do list grows and the house is a little dusty, but I’ve also felt new compassion for people who have truly long-term health challenges. That is one of the gifts in this season of inconvenience. Sure the scooter was sort of fun, until I experienced the awkwardness of it running out of juice in the middle of a busy aisle at Costco. And then came the looks of pity from passers-by. I have been humbled to ask for help when there was no other way. 

There have been other unexpected discoveries. I’ve seen how just hobbling around in a boot with crutches seems to break barriers. Perhaps it comes from being in an obvious place of vulnerability. All sorts of people have opened up conversations with me that I’m quite sure never would have otherwise.

People have gone out of their way to open doors, offered to help, given advice from personal experience with broken bones and extended encouragement. Total strangers have smiled and wished me well.

On the way home from the doctor, we got into long discussions with couples who sat next to us when we stopped for lunch. I think it ended up being a timely encouragement for all of us. Last week two women stopped me at Target, asking if they could pray for me. What a sweet gift. At the Ordway, two women shared a bunch of their life story with me while Brent went to get the car. When he picked me up, he was amazed at all I had learned in a mere 15 minutes. I love to hear people’s stories and am reminded to pray for them as they come to mind.

We know that God has purpose in this latest adventure he has us on, so we’re doing our best to sit up and take notice. We’re praying that the inconvenience, the extra sense of weariness we feel at the end of the night, and the momentary frustrations don’t get in the way of all he wants to show us. We don’t want to miss a thing. 

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I don’t imagine we’ve been married long enough to suppose we can offer too much in the way of marital advice. But one thing we’ve experienced in our short time together as man and wife is that while challenges and trials can put great pressure on a relationship, they can also deepen and cement it. Right from the start this was evident for us.

While we were dating, I ended up needing a biopsy. I was scared, but not having dated all that long I had no idea how Brent would react. I was amazed at his response. He assured me that he’d be there no matter what the outcome was. He even sought out the advice of a female friend, wanting to understand what I might be going through from a woman’s point of view. Thankfully, the outcome was good, but we knew a bit more about what each other was made of.

Not long after we were married, we found ourselves facing considerable home expenses that were completely out of our control. The economy, the timing our our wedding, having to sell one of our homes and unexpected home repairs all came together at the same time. Quickly, we learned even more about one another. Yes, it was stressful for both of us. At one time or another, each of us struggled with it. But I was grateful that more often than not, Brent’s response was something like, “Well, God’s in control. He owns it all anyway. He must have a purpose. He’ll see us through.”

Through every challenge you learn more. You learn when and how to communicate. On a lighter note, just this week I realized I had adjusted my method of communicating impending traffic dangers during our busy morning commute. In the beginning, I typically let out a loud gasp while pressing that pseudo passenger-side brake. Unfortunately, that only alarmed Brent and was not helpful. I see now that I’ve adjusted my communication to a gentle side-to-side wave. (It’s sometimes still accompanied by braking.) This is much less alarming, seems to work fairly well and gets a chuckle or two from Brent.

My prince in shining armor

This week we’ve entered a whole new lesson platform. After a major miscommunication with the stairway, I ended up with a fairly severe fractured foot. This will mean six or more weeks of being dramatically to roughly incapacitated. And that means Brent is making dinners, cleaning, doing laundry, driving and more. That might sound like a dream for some, but being someone like me who always has a long list and has a hard time even sitting through one TV show without getting up to clean something, this will be an immense challenge. I’m in pain, impatient with the healing process already and poor Brent is fetching me everything from Tylenol to meals to ice packs. Tell me we won’t learn a thing or two in the coming weeks! We could use your prayers.

We’ve been reading a lot about the sovereignty of God lately. That’s probably not a coincidence in itself. We’re trusting that this current little “blurp” in our plans has his fingerprints all over it. It’s a pain. I’ve complained already and it’s annoying. But we’ve also begun to see him unfold some opportunities we’d never have had outside of these current circumstances. And so we hobble along and pray for his grace to see and embrace these unexpected opportunities.

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John Eldredge is the author and leader of Ransomed Heart Ministries. I have read all of John’s books and attended 2 of his conferences in Colorado. Here is a quick review of his latest book, Beautiful Outlaw.

Beautiful Outlaw inspires me to relate to Jesus in new ways, like many of John’s other books. Beautiful Outlaw focuses on the “man” in the personality of the God-man, namely Jesus. John describes how the humanity of Jesus is God’s beautiful solution that enables us to relate to him personally. He argues that the humanity of Christ is as important as his sovereignty, and experiencing Christ’s full personality is paramount to knowing him. He faults too many churches for letting the Deceiver distort Christ by being “highly invested in doing religion right.” In other words, their focus is on our performance versus what Christ has done for us and how he has made himself available to us to experience real life.

Biblically speaking, experiencing is the subtle and very Hebrew way of “knowing” someone or something. God leads the Hebrews into Sinai for 40 years in order to teach and test their hearts by experiencing what it means to be totally dependent on him for everything. This is God teaching them and us how to begin to “know” God.

John unpacks Jesus’ character one chapter at a time providing a channel to experience Jesus’ playfulness, fierceness, generosity, honesty, freedom, cunning, humility, trueness, beauty and loving.

By the middle of the book [pg 124], John really closes in on the crux of the barrier of experiencing God’s full character. Specifically he writes, “Consider the natural human longing to be loved and admired”. I would go further and say Jesus made each of us with a God sized hole in our heart that only he can fill. John’s point is that we all desire to be loved unconditionally for who we are. So when Jesus relates to us with his humanity, we hide [see Adam & Eve]. We don’t believe him because we don’t think of ourselves as worthy enough to receive the promises of these personal characteristics. We don’t believe we’re worthy because our experience focuses on our performance, what we think and what others think. The solution is to focus on Jesus’ performance, and on what Jesus says about us. John says, “Love Jesus. Let him be himself with you. Allow his life to fill yours. Everyday give him your life to be filled with his.”

John likes to quote George MacDonald. This quote isn’t in the book, but it seems to sum up the barrier that John is trying to help tear down, “Man finds it hard to get what he wants because he does not want the best. God finds it hard to give because he would give us the best, and man will not take it.”

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The post title is a paraphrase and I’ll tell you the author if you take the time to read down. Long posts typically aren’t encouraged. But if you have a few minutes today, I hope you’ll stay with me and be rewarded with some prose from a really great author who may be new to you.

I picked up an old friend in the form of a worn out book a few moments ago and turned to a dog-eared page with my notes and underlines in the margins. I like to write commentary in my books, it’s one of the reasons I haven’t purchased an e-reader yet. Maybe there’s a way to do that, let me know. One of my favorite things is to pick up a book that spoke to me in the past and re-read sections again. Often whatever it was that made me highlight the phrases the first time, has a way of speaking to me in new ways that are relevant now. Does that ever happen to you?

The passage I marked is one of the best pieces of prose I’ve ever discovered. The selection is perfectly aligned with the dominant red quadrant in my Hermann Brain Dominance Index. It paints pictures with words that help me see possibilities. It’s so good that I’m going to type up a portion of it for you and encourage you to use the comments section to tell me if it helps you too.

The author is a Scotsman named George MacDonald (1824-1905). He was a preacher who wrote poetry, prose, and children’s stories. You probably never heard of him, which is too bad because G.K. Chesterton referred to MacDonald as “one of the three or four greatest men of the nineteenth century.” Unfortunately, not many writers of that era are widely remembered. Especially in the twentieth century as writing styles changed drastically. Victorian writers wrote  hefty volumes with 150 word  complex sentences. Many got paid by the word, so economics produced a style that paid the rent. Today it’s the opposite and arguably no better. We’re dominated by instant-messages limited to 140 characters for the Twitter-verse. Not many people have the patience or attention span to read anything other than a headline. But I’m going to take a chance on a long post in the hope that the extended weekend will entice you to fly back in time and read something truly worthwhile. If you made it this far without leaving, you’ll be glad to know that this excerpt is from the works of Michael Phillips who took the time to edit MacDonald’s Victorian era style in Your Life in Christ, copyright 2005, Bethany House publishers – Minneapolis, MN. (Links to Amazon).

Courage to Fight for Life

Let us in all the troubles of life remember that our one lack is life, that what we need is more life – more of the life-making presence in us making us more, and more largely, alive.

When most oppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us remind ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death we are weary of. When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are. It is the life in us that is discontented. We need more of what is discontented, not more of the cause of its discontent.

Discontent, I repeat, is the life in us that has not enough of itself. He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death or for the repose of forgetfulness, but for strength to fight, for more power, more consciousness of being, more God in him. He has the victory who, when sorely wounded, says with Sir Andrew Barton in the old ballad:

Fight on my men, says Sir Andrew Barton
I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.

We summon such courage with no silly notion of playing the hero – what have creatures like us who are not yet barely honest to do with heroism! – but because so to fight is the truth, and the only way to live.

If in the extreme of our exhaustion there should come to us, as to Elijah when he slept in the desert, an angel to rouse us and show us the waiting bread and water, how would we carry ourselves? Would we remain faint and unwilling to rise and eat? Would we answer , “Lo, I am weary unto death! The battle is gone from me! It is lost, or not worth gaining! The world is too much for me! Its forces will not heed me! They have worn me out! I have wrought no salvation even for my own, and never should work any, were I to live for ever! It is enough. Let me now return whence I came. Let me be gathered to my fathers and be at rest.”

I should be loath to think that, if the enemy, in recognizable shape, came roaring upon us, we would not, like the red-cross knight, stagger, heavy sword in nerveless arm, to meet him. In the feebleness of foiled effort, it requires yet more faith to rise and partake of the food that shall bring back more effort, more travail, more weariness.

The true man trusts in a strength which is not his and which he does not feel – which he does not even always desire. He believes in a power that seems far from him which is yet at the root of his fatigue itself and his need of rest – rest as far from death as is labour.

To trust in the strength of God in our weakness is victory. To say, “I am weak; so let me be. God is strong, is victory.” To seek from him who is our life, as the natural simple cure of all that is amiss with us, the power to do, and be , and live, even when we are weary – this is the victory that overcomes the world.

To believe in God our strength in the face of all seeming denial . . . to believe in him out of the heart of weakness and unbelief in spite of numbness and weariness and lethargy . . . to believe in the wide-awake real, through all the stupefying, enervating, distorting dream . . . to will to wake when the very being seems athirst for a godless repose – these are the broken steps up to the high fields where repose is but a form of strength, strength but a form of joy, joy but a form of love.

“I am weak,” says the true soul, “but not so weak that I would not be strong, not so sleepy that I would not see the sun rise, not so lame but that I would walk! Thanks be to him who perfects strength in weakness, and gives to his beloved while they sleep!”

If we will but let our God and Father work his will with us, there can be no limit to his enlargement of our existence, to the flood of life with which he will overflow our consciousness. We have no conception of what life might be, of how vast the consciousness of which we could be made capable.

Many can recall some moment in which life seemed richer and fuller than ever before. To some, such moments arrive mostly in dreams. But shall a soul, awake or asleep, embrace a greater bliss than its Life, the living God, can seal, perpetuate, and enlarge? Can the human twilight of a dream be capable of generating or holding a fuller life than the morning of divine reality? Surely God could at any moment give to a soul, by a word breathing afresh into the secret caves of that soul’s being, a sense of life before which the most exultant  ecstasy of earthly triumph would pale to ashes!

If ever a sunlit, sail-crowded sea, under a blue heaven flecked with wind-chased white, filled your heart as with a new gift of life, think what sense of existence must be yours if he whose thought has but fringed its garment with the outburst of such a show make his home with you. And while imagining the gladness of God inside your being, think of the wonder that he is carrying you as a father in his bosom!

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