This is default featured slide 1 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 2 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 3 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 4 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 5 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moments of Grace

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Second only to work and my bed. Last week I spent about 4 hours at one of them reading a book in preparation for a class I would be teaching on prayer. I really struggled with this particular element of prayer in my own life, and I had no idea what to say about it. Hence, the book I read for 4 hours. Maybe only 3, because I sometimes got distracted by the guitar playing and the old lady telling the baristas her life story. And I felt like I was getting nothing out of it. I was getting so frustrated. Here I was, volunteering to teach a class that wasn’t even mine, and choosing the hardest topic ever to talk about. Was I an idiot? Was I in over my head? Why couldn’t I wrap my mind around whatever it was I was supposed to be understanding? Why had I just wasted hours of my life on something that was useless?

On my drive back home, I just vented to God. What is wrong with me? What do you want me to say? I don’t get it! I just don’t understand! As I repeated these mantras of failure over and over in my mind, a verse in 2 Corinthians 12 that I had read earlier that day came to me… “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Yeah, you don’t get it. You don’t understand. And that’s just how I want it – my grace is sufficient for your lack of knowing. My power is made PERFECT in your weakness. With an unspoken “Oh,” I burst into a fresh phase of tears. This is where He wants me after all. Every time my mind went back to the ifs and buts, I just kept hearing the same thing. My grace is sufficient… My grace is sufficient… My grace is sufficient…

He is glorified when I am weak because that is the only time I will LET Him save me.

I got my lesson done the night before the class. All was well.


I read this in Henri Nouwen's Reaching Out today. Spiritual punch in the face. And perfectly befitting for such a post as this.

"To prepare ourselves for service we have to prepare ourselves for an articulate not knowing, a docta ignorantia, a learned ignorance. This is very difficult to accept for people whose whole attitude is towards mastering and controlling the world. We all want to be educated so that we can be in control of the situation and make things work according our our own need. But education to ministry is an education not to master God but to be mastered by God... well-educated ministers are not individuals who can tell you exactly who God is, where good and evil are and how to travel from this world to the next, but people whose articulate not-knowing makes them free to listen to the voice of God in the words of the people, in the events of the day and in the books containing the life experience of men and women from other places and other times. In short, learned ignorance makes one able to receive the word from others and the Other with great attention."

Monday, March 14, 2011

I gave up worrying for Lent (sort of).

I was talking to youth kid the other night. I was feeling profound, so I asked her what made her feel alive. Her answer included helping people, seeing a change in them, being a part of that change. Naturally, she asked me the same thing. Do you ever ask questions that you forget how to answer for yourself? It took me a little bit, but my answer was pretty simple: connecting with people, knowing them, and being known by them. As I thought more about it after our conversation was over, my answer basically boiled down to this: not feeling alone.

I'm in a Beth Moore Bible study called “Stepping Up” which focuses on the Psalms of Ascent. Last week talked a lot about God surrounding us.

"The LORD surrounds His people, both now and forever." (Psalm 125:2)

"He encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them." (Psalm 34:7)

"He encircles me and places His hand on me." (Psalm 138:5)

Beth wrote, "God has you surrounded. His presence looms over you from every direction... Nothing can close in on you without closing in on Him first."

And it’s amazing that I feel all by myself when, in reality, I’m completely surrounded. I'm sitting in the fetal position in the middle of a dome of impenetrable glory, power... love. I’m surrounded. Encircled. Overwhelmed. By the God who knows the number of hairs on my head.

"Those who trust (are confident, secure, sure) in the LORD are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken; it remains forever" (Psalm 125:1).

He never loses sight of me. I am never truly alone. He loves me. He has me.

So, like I said, I gave up worrying about specific things (in general: a life lived alone) for Lent. It’s kind of a joke, in that I should never worry about anything at any time. The Bible says not to, right? So I guess this is just more of a deliberate effort. Something done in the name of the Lenten season. Running to God instead of to this thing, this worry, this burden, this parasite.

“Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:23-26)

Needless to say, I’ve been praying this a lot more often over the last few days.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hold on, let me tuck in my love handles.

Do you ever have those days where you just feel ridiculous? Or those weeks? Or maybe longer. I feel like my life has been one long... well, lifespan, of trying not to look ridiculous. Will everyone look at me if I walk in late? I think I'll pass on ping pong - I'm horrible anyway.

On a side note, I just realized the other day that I'm pretty sure I have never played a legitimate game of ping pong. I just tell people I'm really bad and let them play with people who are less bad than I am.

It's really hard to keep up a facade of perfection. I would know; I've tried all my life. And a lot of the time, I think, I've been pretty convincing. I'm the girl who always got those yearbook autographs that said things like, ‘Reagan you seem so nice. Wish we could have talked more.’ Really? You don't know that I'm nice. You just know that I only said 3 words in the entirety of my high school career.

I'll be giving my testimony at Aftershock in a few weeks. I think this is what I'm going to talk about. The lifelong angst of pseudo-perfectionism. How, really, you're not perfect. You're just invisible.

I go to great lengths to shield my crazy and broken and flabby self from the rest of the world. But I don't understand why it's so important to me. Over the last few months, I've gotten to know some pretty cool people. And they're cool because they're authentic. They're REAL. And every time someone has walked up to me and said something like, 'REAGAN, what's wrong? No, you're not fine. What's the deal?' it has been such a punch in face and yet... a relief. Oh yeah, they're not idiots. They know I'm a human who doesn't have it all together.

This scenario happened (again) this week, actually. The Bridge staff went on a 26-hour retreat, just taking time off to relax, cast a vision, talk about where we are, and learn about Jesus. I had been feeling kind of off that day, but since I'm the bottle-it-up-and-don't-tell-anyone-unless-they-threaten-to-crucify-me type, I tried to be pretty low-key (which isn't unusual anyway, I guess). One of my friends caught me and demanded (after the "I'm fine" spiel, of course) that I talk to her about what was going on with me. So I did. And it was embarrassing, and vulnerable, and freeing. Because, really, we keep people at arm's length when all we want is to be known. To be heard. For someone to see us be ridiculous and still think we’re incredible and worthy of love and grace and things that are beautiful.

That same freedom – only better – is found in the grace of Jesus Christ, though I’m just as hesitant to embrace it. I so often forget that I’m saved, I’m righteous, I’m already purified. I don’t have to hide my crap from Him. I don’t have to live ashamed. I don’t have to be good enough for Him to love me. I don’t have to be a pretty wallflower for Him to think I’m nice. He delights in me. And if all my worth is in Him – in His salvation, His sacrifice, His love, and the only real satisfaction that exists – I don’t have to feel alone anymore.

I wrote this in my journal during our study over Galatians:

I am plagued with the thinking that if I could just get it together/right, God will see that, reward me, and value me more. He’ll see that I’m “ready.” I’m not motivated by grace – God is in me; I am righteous; I’m okay. I am motivated by shame, greed, [and all that is encompassed by the kingdom of Reagan]. I am not free. My identity is based on all that I will someday attain. When I accept grace – that I am righteous through salvation – I am convicted when I sin – I can be corrected for growth – but I am not ultimately devalued as a human being – God’s child.

Don’t forget that I am already good enough – purified.

Grace leads to obedience.

Oh yeah, God’s not an idiot. He knows I’m a human who doesn’t have it all together.

I can’t explain (and I usually forget) how much freedom there is in dropping your defenses. How much beauty there is in true community – people who love you because of God’s love for them.

So much better than being a pretty wallflower.

Image source.