Category Archives: God
In the Christian tradition which I grew up in and still attend, we take communion every Sunday. Growing up, it was a very solemn occasion where one focused on the suffrage of Jesus, his crucifixion, and death. The church I currently attend has more of a family getting together for a special occasion feeling to it. We quietly chat, we hug, we go back sit in a seat and meditate. It is still a time of quiet reflection.
Our communion tradition has origin in the Jewish Passover. It was during the Passover, that Jesus took the bread and cup and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We [Christians] often quote this line prior to taking our little cracker wafer and our thimble of juice to help remember why we take communion.
While participating in communion last Sunday, “Do this in remembrance of me” was quoted. Instead of my mind focusing on Jesus and his crucifixion, I pondered more over the phrase, “In remembrance of me.” I began to think of my parents and what it means to remember them. I remember the way they lived. I remember who they were and what they stood for. I remember my dad’s laugh, the way it sounded. I remember my mom with mud on her boots from walking the cow pasture. I remember their strength. I remember the way my dad would aggravate my mom until she was furious with him. I remember how determined my mom was to master any skill that kept her from accomplishing what she wanted. I remember their hearts.
What I don’t think of is their last days. Not because I refuse to, but because it is not a good reflection of who each of them was as a person. When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” I don’t think he wanted us to solemnly dwell on His death and contrast it to our own humanity. I think, rather, he wanted us to celebrate his life, what he taught his followers, and how he treated people–especially the outcast. I think he wanted us to reflect on what he came to represent–the love that God has for us. I have been so transfixed on the suffrage of Jesus, that I think I have lost, or perhaps I never knew, who Jesus really was. I know the stories, but I don’t think I know Him. A pastor who mentored me, Terry Smith, told me, “I wanted to know Him [Jesus] so well that it was like He was the very blood in my veins, like He was the very air I breathed.” I think I am coming to understand what Terry meant by that.
It wasn’t a clinical analysis of Jesus’ death that Terry was after, but rather to know Jesus, the man, His life, the way Jesus thought, what made Him tick that Terry was after. He was in pursuit of life, not death. Perhaps that is the difference I am trying to sum up: that we need to pursue life and not death. We need to remember and participate in the legacy of Jesus, not just His final days. How different would church be, would humanity be, if we lived in legacy and not in death? Pursue life.
I so look forward to homegrown tomatoes during the summer months. There is nothing like homegrown sweetness that will make you never want another store bought tomato again.
In the spring I planted a few tomato plants along with some herbs. I have a couple of large raised garden beds that my daughter Gillian and I made last year. We did the
lasagna layering method, and this year when I turned the dirt it was so dark and rich.
This year we were just a bit late in planting our tomatoes. Not necessarily a bad thing, it is just that I was getting jealous as my neighbors who were gathering their tomatoes, and mine were just blooming. However, my neighbors must have also noticed my longing looks, because they generously shared with me early in the summer.
Finally, my first tomato began to ripen. I watched it for days waiting for it to ripen enough to pic it. Finally the day came that it was a nice orangey-red hue. I picked it and raised it to my nose to smell the acidic tomatoey goodness.
It was my first fruit of the season. “First Fruits,” I thought. Then it really started to hit me. By Jewish law, in Lev. 23:9-14 there is the institution of the Feast of First Fruits, one is to give the first grain or the first of their harvest to the Priest for an offering to the Lord. This feast is in remembrance of the Exodus and being given Canaan, the land of milk and honey. It is a time to remember that all things come from God, everything belongs to Him and a time to be grateful for God’s provisions.
I thought about Cain and Abel. I wondered why Abel’s offering was acceptable, but not Cain’s. In doing some research, there are theories regarding it not being a blood sacrifice or because Cain did not follow God’s instructions completely. My personal take is that it had to do with the condition of the heart. In Hebrews 11:4 it states, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain.” Abel had offered God the fat sections of the firstborn of his flock. As I pondered on these things the way I thought about first fruits changed.
When you give your First Fruit, it is to be in thanksgiving of God’s provision. In faith, we are to give, believing that God will provide. Abel gave in faith, Cain did not. It is hard to give up that first fruit. It is hard not to keep what you have in order to save up for an emergency so that you can give to God with a grateful, faithful heart.
It is common in Christianity to do some church oriented, community service based work, but I would guess that the majority of people’s efforts are based primarily in tithes. I have always said it is easier for me to give my money than my time. Time for me is what has had value. It is so easy for me to write a check and feel like I have given my fair share of the contribution. There have been years where I have lived by this philosophy and others where I have given of my time and emotional resources greatly.
As I smelled my first tomato, I wanted to be the one to eat it. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted to eat all of it, all by myself. I wanted BLTs with extra T. I wanted salad with fresh tomato. But I knew I didn’t want to share and I defenitiely didn’t want to give it away.
I did not want to give away my first fruit. To do so, I would be giving away something that I truly wanted. I would be giving away something I had been anticipating, something I had been longing for. To give away my tomato would mean I couldn’t have it. It would mean that I would have to wait on the second tomato to come in, and I didn’t want to wait. I wanted the first one.
So is that what our giving is supposed to look like? Not just writing a check, but giving to the point it hurts just a bit? Is giving supposed to be less than convenient? And to top it off, to give with joy knowing that God is going to provide again?
I don’t know, and to be honest, this topic makes me a little uneasy. I want to ask, “isn’t there something else, another way?” I know you can get into debates over first fruits, tithes, and the difference in Hebrew law and what the New Testament dictates. I’m not here for that. I think, simply, that the bottom line is that you give in Faith with your heart.
As an artist, you are taught to use contrasting colors to define your positive and negative space within a work. Normally, you want to highlight the focus of the piece and shade the non-focal areas. You want to draw attention to the positive. I realize artwork is not always positive in the way of subject matter. That is not exactly what I am talking about. I am talking about the area to which your eye is drawn. In the picture to the left, there are two images, one in negative space in one in the positive. Do you naturally see one before the other? Usually it is the positive space. But the same is not true when I think of myself.
My husband and I were having a conversation while sitting on the couch yesterday morning. I mentioned some things I was struggling with emotionally. It seems I have had many struggles lately. Nothing overwhelming, just many small things that make my mind whirl. Specifically, I was talking about a hearing test I had recently that revealed I have low-frequency hearing loss. I guess my husband had had enough of my whining because he said, “Holly, I want you to think about something. You are letting all these negative things define you–whether it is your bipolar disorder or hearing loss or whatever else is wrong. I want you to think of the good things about yourself and let them define you.”
I was suddenly fighting back tears. The sad truth: I couldn’t think of anything positive about myself that defined me. I feel like I fall short on everything. I feel like I am failing my children because I don’t spend enough constructive time with them. I feel like I fail as a housekeeper because there is usually enough dust on my ceiling fans to plant corn. I fail as an artist because I have no time to invest. The same goes for being a writer. Other than knowing I am God’s Child, Redeemed, I can think of nothing.
This is something I desperately need to work on. I don’t have a resolution or a happy how-to ending for this blog post. Rather, I want to ask you, “What positive things define you?”
A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in couples’ therapy when I confessed how hard it is for me to ask for help. “Why is it that you can’t ask for help? What do you think would happen?” our therapist inquired of me.
She was hitting a deeply sensitive spot and my face twisted up. I felt my face getting hot as I fought back the response, “Because if I have to ask for help, then I am failing,” the response tumbled out.
The truth is I hate asking for help. I am a mom of four with a pile of Mt. Saint Laundry that actually has its own altitude and climate changes. I often feel like I suffer from the “Little Red Hen” syndrome, except, unlike the little red hen, I never ask. I just brood over the fact that everything seems to get placed on my plate to take care of. Dishes are in the sink and I am angry that no one has taken the initiative to load them into the dishwasher, there is actually dust in the grooves of the kitchen cabinets that no one seems to see except me and let’s not talk about the pile of crumbs under the table that my preschooler leaves behind. But if I can’t ask, then I really don’t have justification for being upset over something no one knew would even bother me in the first place. I have to learn to ask. I have to give myself permission to ask with the understanding that it does not mean I am failing because I can’t handle everything.
I have thought frequently over the last couple of weeks regarding the conversation with the therapist. And I have thought about my prayer life and my relationship to God. The truth is, I don’t lean on God the way I should. Like everything else, I feel as if everything is my responsibility and I only ask for Him to intercede after I am beyond desperate. In fact, I may just harbor a bit of secret pride in the fact that my prayer life does not read like a Christmas wish list of wants and desires. (Something else I need to work on).
Matt. 7:7 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”
My daughters have taught me this concept more than anyone else in my life. It is watching and hearing the tiniest of prayers–praying for the bees, for safety in the storm and thanking God for “my pink blankey.” They know they are not self-reliant, so they have no problem asking for their needs to be met. It is only through the wounds of humanity that we stop asking. I forget that God is not like the rest of humanity. It is the nature of being human that we eventually emotionally hurt someone. God, however, will not let me down. He is constant and He is omni-everything. Only He can fulfill my deepest desires that I am unable to even whisper. But I need to ask.
Before a painter put brush to canvas, he sees his picture mentally … If you think of .: in terms of a painting, what do you see? Is the picture you think worth painting? … You create yourself in the image you hold in your mind. – Thomas Dreier.
We all have goals in life. Some goals are material, others are spiritual. Honestly, I concentrate more on my physical world than my spiritual ones. I am in the middle of raising my family, I would like a bigger house, I need to bring in a regular income to our family. There are so many other things that my mind obsesses about. But when I boil down who I really want to be, it all comes down to being Godly. My goals consist of writing a book for women based on my own spiritual experiences, I want to minister to those who believe that they are not “good enough.” I believe this is the calling God has placed upon me. I know things will happen all in His time. Honestly though, I am not doing a whole lot to make that happen.
I believe the scripture in Phil. 1 that states, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” I know God will finish what He began in me. But I am not doing a whole lot to help that along. In my defense, it is hard to find 3 hours of solitude a day when raising four daughters, two of whom are still at home. And now summer is here and all four of them are with me. And did I mention my little ones wake up as soon as the first bird sings and the first light breaks? (Case in point: It is not even six and I hear small footsteps coming down the hallway).
It seems my life is going so fast that I barely have time to breathe. I give of myself until I crash with exhaustion. But I believe that God has began a good work within me. In my time with Him, I get a little vision of what that person should look like. She would be an author and speaker giving testimony without fear and with fire. She has much more energy than I currently do.
Many times I get so wrapped up in pursing my goals, I forget who I supposed to become. I get wrapped up in: Must blog, must go to conferences, must build my following, must write the rest of my book, –that I loose track of who I want to become.
So I took so time the other day a doodled about goals, who I am, who I am to become. I took a step back and instead of being in the middle of the race, I looked at what type of person the racer is, what they need in order to be nourished, and what they would look like on the inside and out. I took a mental look at what my final painting would look like. I took a look at all the stages in between. I discovered I am too wrapped up in the “got to” of life. When I boil it down to who I want to be and what that will look like, I want to pursue holiness and live in a way that radiates that. It is that simple.
It is so easy to write that check to the church and feel like I have done my part. It is easy to allow the ministry staff at the church to use that money to fund their ministries and feel satisfied. They are the experts, they will know what to do and how to handle things. But we are called to more than that. We are called to give of ourselves.
I hold back. Why? I am afraid. I am afraid of what others will think. I am afraid I am not equipped. I think, “who am I?” I am afraid of someone thinking negatively of me because I did not perform well. I can easily say that these statements flow from a place of low self esteem and insecurities. But when I read them, they all start with, “I”. The thing I need to remember is it is not about me. I am just the vessel. The fear of giving of ourselves becomes about our own ego. I am guilty. Nevertheless, I am racked with fear.
For the past week or so I have been really struggling with if I can make a difference. Does this blog matter? On one hand I feel like I have a calling, and on the other, I feel like I am underqualified and someone else can fill those shoes much better than me. Many of these thoughts probably come from the fact that I am in the middle of changing some of my mood stabilizing medication and it really affects the way I view myself. That is why I have not blogged in over a week. Then God answers those questions for me very boldly. I had not one, but four people ask me at church why I have not blogged recently, one of whom I do not really even know. Okay God, I get it.
But I am still racked with fear. So I have to ask myself: “How would I live if I were not afraid?”
1. I would be more transparent. I would allow people to see who I really am and the struggles of my imperfections.
2. I would be more willing to give of myself. I would not be afraid of what other people thought if I spoke up and fumbled my way through explaining things.
3. I would offer myself more, and when not needed, not to take it personally.
4. I would minister without hesitation. I think of a man named Alan who stopped me in Michael’s craft store a few months back. He asked me to pray for him. I told him I would do that, but what I should have done was pray over him right then and there. But I was afraid. Afraid of stares, afraid of being awkward.
I need to remember that God equips the called; not calls the equipped. I need to remember that it is not about about me; that I am just the vessel. Even Beth Moore has horrid criticism. Jesus faced horrid criticism. I will not be immune. I need to plant my feet firmly in who defines me. May I not be afraid to serve; may I not be afraid to give of myself.
How would you live if you were fearless?
Two days ago via Twitter I heard the news that Rick and Kay Warren’s youngest son had taken his own life. Rick Warren is the pastor of the Saddleback Valley Community Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life. His book made a huge impact on me during some of my darkest days when I was holding strong to the belief that I was nothing. His book influenced me to think that maybe, just maybe I was created for a purpose and was worth something–that I mattered and could make a difference.
I am not alone in being heavily influenced by this book and I grieve that their son Mathew did not believe there was more purpose to his life and chose to end it short. I am angry that the illness won.
Depression is a master of lies about one’s self. Just goes to prove how someone who is suffering can not seem to believe beyond the silent whispers, “you are worthless,” that depression breathes into your head. It is a relentless onslaught to your mental faculties.
I speak from experience. This hits home with me on a most personal level. Even though I do not know the Warren family, I grieve with them. I grieve for all of us who suffer from mental illness that brings us to the point of suicide. I am one of the lucky ones. I survived my attempt. But I have both physical and mental scars which remain. God spoke to me that day. For this first time I understood He knew my name. It was a turning point. But there were still days, months, maybe even a year of a desire to exit from this reality. It was an every day struggle of survival. The meds were not working. Med after med failed me. It took close on a year before I found the correct combination. Every day that I was still here went down as a success at survival.
Saddleback Valley Community Church is a mega-church in Southern CA. Despite being surrounded by thousands of people who knew and admired the Warren family, Rick said, “But only those closest knew that he [his son] struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided.”
I grieve that only those closest to the Warrens knew of their son’s struggle. I am in no way slamming their decision, I am grieving with them. At the same time, I want to be an advocate for change. In a society where it is okay to accept and sympathize with others’ differences, there is still a stigma regarding mental illness. I think this is true especially in the church, where we are all supposed to be striving toward ultimate fulfillment and full of praise for the one who gave us life. But the truth is that we are a bunch of broken people trying to find grace and peace.
My own experience with being bipolar and in the church has been similar. I can recall quite a few sermons where those who went on meds to treat their symptoms of mental illness were called “having weak faith” or “to think about what Jesus had to suffer.” We were shamed for our illness and the desire to treat it. So we tried to fake it and we kept silent. And we suffered needlessly for years because of ignorance.
This is not true for the church I attend currently. They have never shamed me. Although, when I was at my worst, I don’t believe they were equipped to handle me. They simply did not have the resources, and I was a full five gallon bucket of crazy with a splash of psychosis. I was more than a handful. — And no one knew what to do with me.
With as prominent as mental illness is, and considering how debilitating or fatal it can be, I would like to challenge churches to begin a resource program for those who may come to you in need. We need to know GOOD Christian therapist and psychiatrist for our area. We need a list of treatment facilities for different things. We need a way to know about the drugs we are taking to treat our symptoms. We need someone who will hold us accountable: similar to a sponsor in an A.A. program. Speaking of A.A. programs, churches should have a list of those, because those of us who are suffering often try to self-medicate in order to subdue the extreme symptoms of the illness. It is time to step up and help those who need it–before it kills them.
“Riffraff, street rat
I don’t buy that
If only they’d look closer
Would they see a poor boy?
They’d find out
There’s so much more to me.”
These words are spoken by Aladdin during the reprise of “One Jump Ahead” (Disney). I wonder about those words he spoke. How much did he believe that he was more than a street rat. Aladdin believed that he was so much more than his circumstances. Somehow, Aladdin was able to wash off any of the labels that had been placed upon him by society. He did not believe he was Riffraff. As it turns out, Aladdin was a true “Diamond in the Rough.”
Contrast that to me. I seem to absorb every negative label that floats my way. Just last night my husband was fussing about the dishes not being done. Granted I had already run one load through the dishwasher that day, but there are always more. I immediately felt I wasn’t doing a good enough job. As a mom of pre-schoolers, sometimes I feel that all I do is run around and catch things before they fall. Literally. It had been one of those days.
The dishes not being done translated to me not doing a good enough job which translated to me not being good enough. Logically, I know my husband was just ranting in general, and that he is quite capable of doing the dishes himself. But somehow that translates in my mind to me not being enough. Somehow I can’t seem to separate what I do from what I am. Ahh, perhaps there is more to that statement than I can process at the moment.
I have always wondered what made me worthy of receiving anything of being anything noteworthy. The truth is that I am nothing without God’s grace. God is the master at using the most unlikely people and the most unlikely circumstances to make something wonderful. Moses was a murderer, David an adulterer. Birthrights and blessings are repeatedly transposed from elder brother to younger brother. Yet, all these men accomplished great things in Biblical history. They were all the “diamond in the rough.”
So, I wonder about myself. Am I a diamond in the rough? What will it take to shine me up? Is it simply the belief in what you are that makes you who you are?
Then I remember the premise of what my who book is about: It is about allowing the Beauty of His Light to shine through you. It is not my own qualities that make me beautiful, but the ability to be the prism through which the light shines. When the light shines through a prism, it shines in the colors of a rainbow. It sparkles, it shines. Our job is to make rainbows happen. Be the diamond through which His light shines!
“I’m irritable.” I typed these words out to my psychiatrist in an email last week. It had been a few days of feeling like I was going to start throwing plates across the room at any moment. The intensity of the desire raises red flags within me. It was an email that followed days of feeling like I was going to loose control with my children. I have been on edge, irritable and easily angered.
The truth is that I am very frusterated with who I am. I know that in Psalm 139:13 David says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” I have to wonder about the meaning of that verse. I wonder because my body is flawed; my mind is flawed. I have bipolar mood disorder, and trying to keep a good head on your shoulders is sometimes very difficult. Tweaking your meds is a constant. I am very blessed. I have been very stable for the past six or seven years. Some people go their whole life without that type of stability. But this constant tweaking. . .I want to scream, “Why did You make me this way! Why, if you are the one who wove me together, did you make me this way!”
I am thankful for my meds and I would be okay with them if it weren’t for the side effects. In recent years, they have gotten to where they make me so sleepy. I try tweaking my meds only to find myself sleeping half the day away and in a mind-fog the other part of the day. No options seem to be acceptable. I can’t be this irritable as my life-style. I laugh at the funny quips from Facebook that say things like, “I say, you are about to exceed the limitations of my medication” or “I don’t need more medicine, I need people to stop pissing me off.” I can relate to both.
I wonder if a more accurate way to say God wove me together has more to do with my creation of spirit and less with my body and mind. God created my spirit in His image. I am not so sure about my body. I try to be at peace and find a light to light connection between my dim light source and the one who is light, pure light, without a trace of darkness.
Even in my frustration, I remember how far I have come, the days of being unstable, the days of intense emotional pain and agony. I remember the soaring highs of chasing the sun and the darkness of the crashing lows. I remember how utterly worthless I felt I was. I remember being acquainted with the night in a most intimate way.
I am grateful that it has been years since I was intimately acquainted with the night. I praise God that someone was able to make a medicine that keeps me stable. Yet, it is not perfect and I still struggle.
I don’t claim to understand why, if God created me, was I created with bi-polar disorder. I suppose the same reason why people are born without an arm, deaf, or with Down’s Syndrome. I could blame it on genetics. But we live in a fallen world where things are not perfect. Humanity is not perfect and we have imperfect bodies. But the soul, our light source, our made in the image of God, — I am not even sure that is perfect, but I know that my light desires the perfection of God.
I once said that I wonder if we are judged on how well we fight the demons of our lives. I still wonder that. It is easy to be good if you have no struggles in your life, but when put under pressure, we find out who we really are. Maybe it is who we are at core that is judged.
If that is so, then being acquainted with the night has served purpose of which I have been made the humble servant of. Whatever path or obstacles you overcome, do it for God’s Glory.
I just finished a book titled A Testament of Devotion by Tomas R. Kelly. In this book Thomas spoke freely of how to connect, spirit to spirit, to the Creator. His words were so lulling so peaceful, that when I would finish a section, I would feel at peace with the world. In his first chapter, Kelly states, “Protestant emphasis, beginning so nobly in the early Luther, has grown externally rationalistic, humanistic, and service minded. Dogmas and creed and the closed revelation of a completed canon have replaced the emphasis upon keeping close to the fresh upspringins of the Inner Life.” In recent years, I have struggled to have a meditation and devotion time be a consistent part of my life. As a mom of four, it seems like I don’t even have time to pee, much less the take time in daily devotionals. So yeah, maybe I am a product of that line of thought–that doing is more important than meditation with the Spirit.
I must confess that I long for that inner peace and joy from being in tune with the Spirit that Kelly spoke of. I read such authors as Kelly and Wayne Dyer, hoping to obtain that peace. However, I really want a book to tell me how to obtain peace while a toddler is yelling, “mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, momma, mommmmmyyyyyy . . .”
“Nothing. (giggle) I love you.”
Sweetness laced with frustration. All this happening simultaneously while I am trying to cook dinner and carry on a conversation with my oldest daughters. Are all these peaceful of spirit people, do they have all this stuff coming at them? I don’t know anyone who could keep inner peace while being pulled mentally and emotionally in 20 different directions. Except Ann Voskamp. I think she may be on to something. The rest of us are struggling with “praising Jesus one minute and screaming at your kids the next.” (Lysa Turkheurst, Unglued).
So I do. I keep the house clean and raise my children; try to be a good wife and mother and a woman of God all in the same breath. I am normal. But I desire a relationship with everyone around me that is beyond ordinary, including my creator. I just don’t know how to accomplish that. Maybe I am expecting too much from myself at this stage of my life. I don’t know. I just feel like I am falling short. But then there is grace. Grace from God and Grace from those around me.
I am rambling, so back to meditation and living life fully. There are a few things that help me to be at peace and feel more connected to my creator. I will share them with you:
1. Get up before the kids and have time with God. Read scripture and pray or journal. This is soooo hard for me, but it starts my day with peace, which spills over into the rest of my day. I literally have to go to bed as soon as my pre-schoolers do in order to do this.
2. Get organized. It amazes me how much physical clutter around me translates to emotional and spiritual clutter. I stay at home with my children, and I am trying out a schedule for us. So far I am really liking the results. It is a work in progress. I just have to careful not to make everything into a “check off the to-do list.” I have to remember to enjoy the moment.
3. Simplify. It seems like something is going on in our life all the time that we “must” attend. A birthday party, a sleepover, extra curricular activities. This is why Shabbot is so important. Take time to rest. It is okay to say “no” sometimes to request.
Those are my tricks. What are your tricks for finding inner peace? Please share. I really need more advice than I am giving.