Thursday, November 21, 2013

praise flows out

Prayer is hard.

Or is prayer easy?

I think it's both.  It's as simple as having a conversation with God, and yet it is complicated enough for there to be scores of books on the subject.

If you've been around the church for any length of time, I'm sure you've heard prayer reduced to simple formulas that direct us "how-to" pray and get it right.  Acronyms like A.C.T.S. (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) and P.R.A.Y. (praise, repent, ask, yield) were tossed about frequently in my youth.  As I got older, I became interested in exploring more of my prayer-options, and have experimented with a variety of methods - body posture prayers, classical/historical prayers, liturgy, prayer walks and labyrinths, mandalas, and even coloring.  But no matter what form of prayer I tried, I always felt pressure to get it "right."

The problem was that when I sat down to pray, there was always a long laundry list of things that I was asking God to do for me, or areas I was asking him to work in, or people I was asking him to reveal himself to... I was always asking for something!  And I asked, because we all ask, for God to work in our lives because he does work in them.  But I had the feeling that I was supposed to balance out all my requests with praise and adoration, so that I wasn't just constantly asking him for things.  And I did try to make it more balanced.  I'm part of a Bible study group in which the leadership team prays corporately each week, and I've learned some great things from their model.  We begin with adoration, which simply means stating things about God that we know to be true!  God, you are holy, you are Provider, you are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, you are Alpha and Omega, you are truth and light.  Sometimes I try to pray this way in my personal prayers.  But the problem is that all my concerns come rushing in, tripping over one another in their eagerness to be heard by God.

Today as I was driving to work, I had a prayer experience that changed my thoughts about some of those things.  (To first clarify, all those things that I sometimes struggle with in prayer are based in right thinking:  I don't want to only pray when I need something from God, it is good to have structure when it's needed, and we should worship and praise our Father in private prayer!)  Instead of trying to balance all the things I was asking for with the right amount of praise and adoration, I just prayed for what was weighing on my heart.  I asked God for his peace in the day, for his joy and energy and strength, and for other people and situations that I want to see him move in.  And as I came to the end of my requests, I felt the praise and adoration begin to flow freely in response to everything I had just asked him for.  My praise was natural, and not forced, because I knew I was praising a God who had just heard all that I asked for, and who wanted to answer me!  It flowed out of an safe place in my heart, and my trust that I had been heard and was loved.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

He touched him

Last week my BSF group was studying Matthew 8.  It's the beginning of Jesus' public ministry teaching and healing people.  I've heard the stories many times before, but this time something jumped out at me that I'd never seen before.  Let's read:
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  "I am willing," he said.  "Be clean!"  Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.  Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."  Matthew 8:1-4

Did you catch that?
He touched him.  The leper.
Jesus touched that unclean man who begged him for healing.
Later in the chapter, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant by speaking a word when he wasn’t even near him.  He didn’t have to touch the leper.  But he did.  Because Jesus, being Jesus, knew that what the man needed healing - but what he really needed was love, and compassion, and someone to tell him that he still mattered.  As a leper in that society, he was unclean, and anyone who came in contact with him also became unclean.  The leprous and diseased had a special place outside the city limits for them to live without bothering others, and if they did have to venture inside the city with the “normal” people, they were required to announce their presence as they walked through the streets so that no one would accidentally touch them.
Can you imagine how lonely that would be?
Jesus allowed the leper access back into society by healing him, but he touched him as an unclean man.  He touched him.
And he touches us.  In all of our dirt and scum and mess and sin, he touches us.  He isn’t afraid of becoming unclean, and he isn’t grossed out by us.  Despite what we see when we look in the mirror or in our hearts, when Jesus looks at us he sees the creatures that he made and loved, and he reaches down to touch us, covered in mess, and we are instantly cleansed.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

That can't be right...

Tomorrow is my 29th birthday.

This is a big deal... Because after 29 is 30.  And thirty is a real number.  A grown-up number.  A "have your life together" kind of number.  But that's a blog for another day.

Jess, E and I last summer in Seattle

A lot of cool people have birthdays in May.  When I lived in Pittsburgh, at least half a dozen in my circle of friends were May babies, and we would get together to celebrate birthdays, half-birthdays, and awesomeness.  Now I know and love even MORE wonderful people who were born in the best month (don't argue).  Two weeks before me is bestfriend birthday, the day after is Jess's birthday, and many many others.

I learned recently that this really cool blogger-lady named Joy the Baker is also a May baby!  This only makes her more awesome.  But I mention this because I love her recipes, her sass, and her perspective on life.  Go read her reflections on turning thirty-two.  The girl is spot on.  Particularly this part:
 I subscribe to the idea that working really hard and loving people better every day will get me where I want to be each day, week, month and year.  
 But not so much the part where she says that baking your own birthday cake is silly.  'Cuz I'm totally doing that.  Lemon Cake with Black Tea Frosting, thank you very much.  But then again, I'm not a food blogger, so it's probably different.

I like her idea about listing things she's gained perspective on during the past year.  Perhaps I'll include some of those when I finally write down that list I've been pondering about how to get my life together before I turn 30.  Stay tuned ;)

Also, just in case you were wondering...  Bestfriend makes the best mix CDs.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Right Reasons

Lately, I've been working out pretty regularly. I am surprised at my consistency, because exercising has never been one of my favorite things to do. I always knew I could trick myself into it by playing some kind of team sport, but then I would get discouraged by how out of breath I was while playing, and how sore I was the next day. But there are several things I've discovered over the past couple months that have enabled me to stick with it this time around.

Schedule. One of the excuses I used to use was that I got off work too late, and after a long day I just wanted to go home and relax! Now, I am off by 1pm every day, and that consistency keeps me from wimping out. I've also discovered how to do an abbreviated workout when I don't have as much time, but still want to be active. I also know what things to do when I'm feeling sore from a previous workout and just don't want to move my feet! And that leads me to my next topic:

Stretching. It is a serious motivation killer to wake up the day after a good workout and feel like every muscle in your body hurts! I've taken to saving a good 10 or 15 minutes at the end of my workout just to stretch. Then, the next day, I actually WANT to go back and do it again!

The elderly. My gym is full of old people who are cute (the "aww" factor!), slow (no competition!), consistent (how inspiring!) and old! (They're not the typical gym rats who are already in perfect shape and just go to be admired by other perfectly in-shape people.)

Rockin' tunes. I have forgotten to bring my headphones a few times, and let me tell you, exercising without music is BORING! My top 5 kick-butt-motivating songs are:
"Turn Me On," David Guetta & Nicki Minaj
"Die Young," Ke$ha
"Brokenhearted," Karmin
"Big Mouth," Santigold
And my FAVORITE workout song (seriously, please add this to your playlist now, I promise you will want to run forever and conquer the world when you hear this) is
"Run the World (Girls)," Beyonce

(I just watched the video... It is weird but the song is totally a girl-power song.)

Motivation.  I've always known that I'm never going to be a small girl.  I'm "big-boned," as they used to say.  And when the motivation for working out is to lose weight or whatever...  Well, progress is hard to see, and I get impatient waiting for results.  I won't deny that I would like to go down a size or two, just to make buying jeans easier.  But it's easier to keep going back to the gym when the goal is to be strong and healthy, not tiny and thin.  And it's easier to notice the results!  My arms are more toned, I have the slightest hint of a bicep bulge, and I am batting better at softball games.  Work is easier, and my legs aren't as tired after standing for eight hours.  I'm more flexible!  All the ab work has made it more natural to tuck in my tummy.  And although I don't see any changes in my weight or the fit of my clothes (I have yet to get disciplined with my eating habits), I like being able to DO things easier.  I like being strong.  It makes me proud of my body, and I want to keep going back every week.