4/28/2005

Folly Seems Closer Sometimes

With grace He called me out of my cage and taught me about His love and mercy. With freedom from sin I flew into the storm and tried to make sense without Jesus. But He placed a new heart within me that hungered after truth. I fought through my childish impulses and dove into the Word time after time, still not quite understanding my place. Then, my heart was broken again and I saw it like a star blazing across the night sky. He is the only good. He is the only right. Within His love is the only life.

Folly still calls to me from her doorway trying to seduce me with images of pleasure and beauty. She yells, almost singing, "Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!" (prov. 9:17) But I have smelled the decaying bodies around her bed. I still see the ashy color of my face when hope had been drained out of me. I have tasted her stolen water and the memory of it's bitterness in my stomach reminds me of that death. How could I ever entertain the thought of leaving my Lord's side...yet, I do. Spoiled, cursed, foolish darkness! I long to be perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus is the love of my life and it's only through Him that I have amazing hope beyond reason.

This is a time for pruning and sowing. As the dead branches in me get cut off, the living ones scatter seed for the Kingdom. My one true desire is to abide in the Vine and live forever with Him. Amen.

4/24/2005

The Fine Line of Living Gratefully

There was an interesting couple at the coffee house last night. The man was someone I have known of for many years. He used to attend an open mic I hosted five years ago. He had a young wife back then, young enough to be his daughter. She wasn't with him last night, but another young girl was. It appeared that she didn't speak much english and she looked filipino or partly asian. My first impression was 'mail-order bride'. In any case I glanced over at them from time to time. He was giggling like a child and she was bright and young, shoving him and laughing. I wonder if she was a mail-order bride or something like it.

What struck me was how happy she looked. It wasn't the bored grin of a spoiled American who struggled to find pleasure in her hot cocoa and frozen yogurt. She was truly grateful for the beverage, dessert, and the live music being played. I wondered if she would ever lose her gratitude and become spoiled, knowing how to get exactly what she wants. I wondered if she would ever see her husband the way some American woman undoubtedly see him: a lonely man in denial about his age who prefers young, clueless women who won't challenge his intellect and maturity. For her sake, I hope she doesn't.

But all of this forces me to remember how many variables come into play when blessings and good fortune appear. I am given my freedom, youth, health, and abilities to choose what I will do with them from birth, perhaps this 'filipina' wasn't given that. But for me, instead of going after fame and riches and glory for myself, I trust in the Lord and look for Him to bring Glory to His name through those things. Part of me really thinks I should start climbing the ladder of the music industry (christian and/or mainstream) simply because I can. But the other part of me wants God to lift me up from humble places of surrender and use my music the ways He wants to. Am I being scared or lazy by not charging full-force towards success as I wait on the Lord? Or am I leaning not unto my own understanding and acknowledging that God is big enough to take my music where He wants it to go from any humble, remote place?

I just want to see my blessings for what they are, blessings. They are given by God and I praise Him for them. I don't want to bury my talent, but I do want to invest it wisely. I want to please my Master, but I don't want to jump the gun and go cutting off ears like Peter. I know I could use my music for selfish ambition so I just lay it on the altar everyday and wait for the guidance I know will come. Anything done outside of faith is sin. It is a delicate business to walk on water. Doubt loves to yell at us and distract us. But by His grace, we stand firmly on the waves.

4/22/2005

My Coffee Shop Ministry

All day yesterday I was concentrating on the scripture about our words. And I talked a lot...

Skye arrived at her usual 11:30am after she got out of middle school. She spent the whole day there yesterday and it was delightfully teenager-like in my coffee shop! She's a fourteen-year-old seeker and possible peacemaker who listens really well and has amazing manners for her age. Her mom is the mother of two adult boys, one teenage boy, and an 8-year old girl as well as Skye. Her mom is also an old acquaintance of mine and my 'sister' Emily's brother's ex-girlfriend (we are all connected in this small town). I 'dated' one of her sons for a week last year. It was a small bout with missionary dating and I didn't do anything with him. Her whole family respects me because girls always do stuff with this particular son of hers. But not me. He's still in my prayers, though. His name is Billy. Skye's family is complex and full of creative, sensitive seekers that I pray God takes special notice of. They have a lot of wiccan-style beliefs, but Jesus is talked about a little and Skye was given a cross necklace by her mom that she finally took out yesterday. I placed it around her neck and later gave her my NLT bible. I wrote in it, To: Skye, because I love her!

Roger (my dear brother in Christ, ex-biker, self-proclaimed street-talker, stained glass artist)came in for his large cup of joe and he and I gave Skye a talking to about God and dreams and some stories in the bible. She stood there and listened patiently. I was so impressed! Was I anything like that at fourteen? I just remember being terrified most of the time :) She seems so confident, but Lord only knows what goes on in that heart of hers. Roger and I weren't overbearing, we let her lead the conversation. At one point she said, "...we are all gods." and I flinched a little and said, "You know we disagree on that point right?" She proceeded to backpedal and tried to explain what she meant was we are all 'connected' to God. I told her we are adopted into his family when we believe and are purified of our sins because God won't have anything but perfection in His kingdom, etc. Jesus is the key, bridge, sacrifice...

After work I gave two village roamer-kids a ride home: Summer and Lisa. They were appreciative and most helpful with taking the fast food trash out of the front seat. I contributed cigarettes to their minor lungs (I don't know why, except I've been smoking since I was 12 so I manage to rationalize it) and we listened to Jurassic 5. They said they would see me at church on Sunday. I will be attending the Harvest church this week because I work all through Sunday. Normally I would go to my home church, Community. But I am looking forward to seeing all my village-kids. (The Village is the place where my coffee shop is, by the way. It has a few dozen shops and a handful of restaurants and a lot of foot-traffic in the Summer-time)

I was told many times, "I love you, Diana" by Skye, Katrina (14), and Marie (17) yesterday and it told me something. They either admire me a little too much or they feel loved by me and so they say it. I hope it's the latter because I truly love them so much. Sometimes my heart swells for them and I stop it from swelling too much because I am afraid of mothering them. I am their peer and a fellow human being. Only God provides all they need. If I trust in Him He will guide me into the way I should love them.

Thank You, Lord for blessing me with this coffee shop ministry! I am sorry I didn't see what it really was before and I am sorry I wanted to leave. Thank You for forgiving me and providing me with people I can love in Your name. Bless You, God! Bring glory to Your Kingdom, through my silly hands and words. You alone are good. In Jesus' name I pray You would bless all of my regulars and reveal Your love & mercy to them. AMEN.

4/20/2005

Mother Superior Jumped the Gun

My mind has been quieted and my heart relaxed. But I still have an amazing amount of options before me. This usually happens when I make myself available to God's plan. If anything draws me to my knees faster, it's fifteen roads diverged in the flatlands of oblivion. These roads splay like the veining streams of a marsh in the wetlands. I have never even seen wetlands before, but I'd imagine my options are just as confusing as my metaphors. There is still time. Money is a big issue (when isn't it?) and housing options are still sprouting up everywhere. I couldn't possibly know which option is the wisest or most spiritually sound. I do know that in the past I didn't wait for God to speak, or direct my path...I jumped the gun.

I've had that Beatles song in my head since yesterday. "Happiness is a warm gun..bang bang shoot shoot." It's the part chanted about Mother Superior that reminds me to wait. God works in mysterious ways...

Something in me reminds, "Don't jump the gun. Don't be like Mother Superior in that song. ;) I know people around to appear to be getting great things done for the Lord and you have amazing ideas of How to bring glory to the Father. But since when has comparing yourself to others, or leaning unto your own understanding ever done any good?"

I am pleased to annouce the fact that I have my whole life ahead of me. I appreciate the gifts God has given me and though I could bank on them and work the world system to my own selfish advantage, I choose to surrender them to Him. They are His after all. He bought them and then set them free. He bought me and then set me free. But my ONE true desire is to love Him and obey His commands. I am gonna go love others...

4/18/2005

Self Control vs. Selfish Ambition

There are many things I would like to do here on earth that would make my life easier, more productive, more successful, and more exciting. But my own life is no longer my priority. It's God I serve. It's sad that every fiber in my darkened self rebels against that comment. This is the battle within me. I must know myself and the operations of my body in order to properly control it and offer it as a living sacrifice. But in the process of knowing myself, the tendency is to obey the self. The trick is this: as I learn things about myself I offer them to God. Jesus then strengthens me to control those things I have discovered. This is what Romans 12:1 actually means! I always thought it meant I was suppose to get super healthy and strive for beauty and strength on my own and then I would offer myself to God. But the holy & pleasing only comes from Jesus. It is my duty to offer all that I am to God every day as His Holy Spirit transforms me every day.

Self Control
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28 (NIV)
All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NLT)
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Galatians 5:22,23 (NLT)
Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. 2Peter 1:6,7 (NLT)

Selfish Ambition
Then Jesus said to the disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23
If you are wise and understand God's ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don't brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don't brag about being wise. That is the worst kind of lie. For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil James 3:13-16 (NLT)

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25

4/15/2005

I'm His Fan

In my new frame of mind where God is constantly reminding me of His presence, I can't help see things even more differently than I have before...

There are so many fan clubs in this postmodern world. People want to worship something. They paint themselves and hold up signs for the players or celebrities to see so they will know how much they've inspired their fan. They scream and cry and hold onto one another when their team wins or loses. Their dedication looks so extreme to anyone who doesn't love the same thing they do.

I want to take the pictures of Baseball fans and movie star fans and replace their object of worship with God. He actually deserves the worship! We can hold up brightly lettered signs to Him and paint our faces with scenes from His creation. "One Way" used to be popular and people pointed to heaven as a way of identifying that they were Christians. I don't know what we could do now that would identify us as fans of Jesus, but it would have to start with an obsession.

When I was a teenager I obsessed over boys, Soundgarden, The Beatles, my hair, my face...I remember how much time I spent thinking about those things. I dreamt about them! God is my new obsession. Nothing I say about Him could ever be enough to express His true glory, but I will say it and write it and wear it nonetheless. I won't push it on people, because when you are an obsessed fan over something, you know that's the worst way to get people interested. You have to take them to a game, or a movie, or a concert and just let them experience it. Likewise if anyone ever asked me why I was obsessed with God I would take them to the cross. Not to church, or to a miraculous healing conference! I would take them to the cross. And I would introduce them to the Holy Spirit.

4/13/2005

Dreams Won't Leave Me Alone

"Dreams won't leave you alone, you were born to feed the notion.
These fine hours speed the day and pray time won't drag you away." --Something Like Silas

I don't know what my dreams mean. Daydreams and nightdreams both are so vivid and full of apparent meaning. But they threaten the peace and trust I have in my God. I have always been taught to go after my dreams and that's usually what I end up doing, stumbling around like an idiot in the process. God knows my dreams, my desires. My job is to love Him and others.

All of the images in my head are pleasing to me. They are images of romance, fame, appreciation, and money. I try to justify them by placing a token image somewhere in the collage where I am standing in the midst of dirty orphans for a second, teaching them of God's love. Why don't I dream about that longer or more often? Maybe it's because it stirs my conscience and makes me irrationally want to believe in miracles. The more I see the faces of poor, sick children with little hope, I feel selfish and silly in my other fantasies. I write off those kinds of mission to people who have a greater calling for service; people with more patience and grace than I have. But what alternative missions do we have? I have no family or even a hope of a family to take care of. I have no boyfriend. I have no responsibilties to anyone else; no dependents. Why can't my goal be to be just like Mama Heidi?

Instead I am obsessed with serving myself instead of others. Lord, help me. I repent! Right now! It can't have been right of me to be so preoccupied with falling in love and creating my own dependents. There are so many children out there who need to be loved.

Maybe I just wanted to give up all of my responsibility to a man. The act of submission became a way to be lazy? Well, it's time to grow up I think. I want to run towards God with all that I've got and be oblivious to anything else. He is all that matters. I have been so selfish and childish. Thank You, Lord for Your forgiveness and healing. Help me to put others before myself today, and everyday. Amen.

4/11/2005

God Heals the Broken-Hearted

Last night I broke up with my boyfriend for good. My heart hurts but I know it was the right thing to do. It isn't fair for me to be waiting for him to change. I was a little emotional last night and needed to be comforted but he couldn't provide that tiny thing for me. That's when I realized we shouldn't be together. Not just because of that instance but because I was accepting things with the hope that they would change. I started crying a little and held his hand after I had said woman-gibberish that didn't make any sense to him (believe me, my woman-gibberish sounds like beat poetry on crack). I just needed him to tell me everything was going to be okay. But he was hurt by my attitude somehow. So I found myself in a familiar situation where I could so easily hurt my love. He wasn't enduring all things or believing all things. It's over.

Last night I left his house pretty abruptly. He asked me why I was leaving and I said, "I can't make this work." He said, "What do you want me to do?" I said, "Stop me." But he didn't. He walked me to the door. I think that hurt the most. My heart is broken, but God is here.

When I was driving home I turned on the preacher station and the comforting words washed over me in God's presence. They were in the book of Lamentations and it was all about suffering. Crazy thoughts had been entering and exiting my head. I was going to shave my hair off my head to try to make myself less attractive. I was going to stay home, not move to the O.C., and save money to move to Zimbabwe and help orphans with AIDS. Then my now ex-boyfriend called me on my cell...

He just wanted to see if I was okay. I told him that God is with me and I know I did the right thing. He said that we could be brother and sister in Christ now. I agreed and said, "That's what we are." I had flinched at his adaptability to the situation, but then I realized that this is what God had intended all along. I had taken matters into my own hands by looking online for someone. I thought God would use it and He has, but not in the way I planned. I do love the guy so much. I think I may even love him more now that we aren't together. I love him in a purer, safer way.

When I got off the phone with him I felt tears of happiness and melancholy rising up. The radio was off and traffic was picking back up. I was noticing God's hand moving the cars in my lane out of my way so I punched the gas to thank Him and take advantage of the open lane. Then I saw a sight that changed my life forever.

If there was any doubt in my mind about whether or not I did the right thing, it vanished the moment I saw it: a shooting star fell from the middle of the sky almost straight down where it disappeared behind an overpass. I gasped and burst into tears, laughing and praising God. You see, whenever I make a decision that has drastic consequences for my life path I always open the bible to random places (which I had done with no reassurance a half hour before at the gas station) or look into the night sky for a shooting star. With every difficult choice having to do with this boyfriend I had never gotten a word or a sign from God until last night, when I really let him go. Then I saw that shooting star which tells me He loves me and He is there. It is a hug from God and that's all the reassurance I needed. His timing is perfect.

I am still moving down to Orange as long as the Lord wills it. So many things can change now that I have submitted to God. Every day is a battle. I am like Eowyn riding with the big boys on the strength of Love and Honor from the Most High. Today I wear my armor and ride with confidence that God guides and protects me. I am not thinking about tomorrow, only today. Today I am single and devoted to the Lord, focused on His will for me. Today I will make plans and then consult Him for guidance and changes. I will pray about anything or anyone that crosses my path. God is here with me. Jesus never leaves me. It will be a good day.

James 4:
13Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money.
14Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].
15You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing].
16But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong.
17So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.
(AMP)

4/08/2005

I Met a Monk

A monk named Spiridon came in to my work yesterday for ice tea. He had been in before while I was reading the bible and I meant to talk to him. I didn't know what religion he was, I just knew he was something because of his black dress, beard, and hat. He really is something, too.

We talked yesterday for about two hours in between customers. We exchanged words about his name (a monk's given name), his life, my life, Jesus and the modern church's shallowness. I have never spoken to a monk before. Spiridon is way cool. He gave me two books by Frederica Mathewes-Green. The one I am reading now is called The Illumined Heart. There is a lot of good stuff in it.

4/06/2005

The Battle of Self-denial

What is it about my body and mind that I can't deny? There is a rebellious streak in me that demands to be the leader, but when it comes to some things I am a wuss! For example, there is a moment when I know most of the doughnuts at work are not going to be sold. My mind immediately gets to work rationalizing eating one of them. Sometimes I even pay for it (my boss doesn't even want me to pay for anything while I'm working) just to pat myself on the back for contributing $.75 that wouldn't have been contributed otherwise. More rationalization. The truth is, I don't need to eat the doughnut. I don't actually want to eat the doughnut, but obviously my body and mind are addicted to the comfort of the soft, sugary experience. I have never been too crazy about stupid doughnuts anyways!!! What is happening to me?!?!

Rather than panic over my sickening lack of self-discipline I am going to try to formulate a system of behaviors that tells myself "No!" I suppose it's just a matter of telling myself "No!" whenever I go after something that I don't actually want. The first step seems to be knowing what I don't actually want. The italicized I is Christ-in-me-me while the plain I is temporal-fleshly-pain-in-my-own-butt-me.

So I will practice:

Me: how about another double espresso, you seem tired.
Me: I don't think so. I have had enough coffee today and the comedown is something I want to avoid....

Hold it! I've already messed up! There's no reasoning with me! I can rationalize anything and I have proven that to myself time and again. The trick is "Just say NO!" even though it's terribly cheezy and unoriginal. "No!" doesn't even need a reason. If I have established why I don't need to do something prior to the actual situation then I don't need to explain it to myself again. Let's try this again:

Me: you want a nice greasy hamburger for lunch!
Me: No!
Me: well what are you going to eat for lunch?
Me: Nothing, since I didn't prepare a healthy one in advance.
Me: You can't do that to yourself! You know how you get when you miss a meal!
Me: Oh shut up. I think I have enough fat stored away to get me through.
Me: But the stomach cramps! The inevitable headaches! You NEED that hamburger!
Me: Didn't I tell you to shut up?! I said NO and I will get through the consequences of my lack of preparation.

Lunchtime...
Me: Oh my GOD you are so hungry!!! GREASY HAMBURGER!!
Me: Oh please. Water is doing the trick.
Me: You can't drink tap water it's got all sorts of crap in it!
Me: I live in the mountains. And I am not having this discussion with you. SHUT UP!
Me: Oooooo! You are testy. It's because you haven't eaten lunch. Do you really want to treat your customers like this, too? It WILL happen if you don't stuff your face with a doughnut or two. You deserve it for making it this far without lunch. I mean, it's already one o' clock!
Me: Dear Lord Jesus, I have had about enough of myself. Only by Your strength can I conquer. In You I am more than a conqueror and I know Your grace is sufficient for me. I will spend my moments in prayer and meditation on Your word. I will work with my hands rather than read a magazine. I will not allow the enemy to establish his footing in my mind. Thank You for the wisdom that comes only from Your Word. It comes only from You. Draw near to me Jesus. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

As it turns out, I am weak. This is cause for rejoicing! Someday I may even fast in the Lord's name. Hallelujah!

Ephesians 6:10

4/01/2005

Eternal Survival

Life is survival. There are two important forms of survival: temporal survival and eternal survival. Some people never understand that eternal survival is the most important survival. In fact, it is desirable to give up temporal survival for the sake of the eternal. If given that opportunity I would like to think I would choose the eternal over the temporal. It's just a matter of how much satisfaction I want right now...

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. I have discovered that everything that is temporal will one day disappoint if it is the central need. Since I have switched my focus to the Kingdom and that place Jesus prepares for me, I have been able to enjoy temporalities without fear. It is a moment-to-moment focus fixing. I have wanted so often to go to the extreme level of giving up this life for the life of a Christian nun but I always ran into walls. I suppose I am to remain in the life which I was called in. (1Cor 7:17) Every day I am humbled in my calling and I share my hope with customers in a coffee shop. I repent of sinful thoughts and deeds and discipline my mind with prayer and the cleansing of the Word. I have joined my heart with a man who lives two hours away. This is my temporal existance. My eternal existance is not yet known, but the hope is to have treasures there and not be harmed by the 'second death'. Who even knows what that means?!

I need to understand the Word of God more. My primary concern is for eternal survival and I see that this temporal survival diminishes in intensity but not in importance. What I do here and the decisions I make will effect my eternal survival. Am I written in the Book of Life, never to be blotted out? I believe in Jesus and hold onto my faith. Will my faith be tested so that I can see the truth and so I can see whether I am written in the Book or in the fire? What amount of faith is enough to ensure hope? All I know is that I beg the Lord for His presence. I beg for truth and light and LIFE. It is only in Him. I don't know what I will DO, I just know what I BELIEVE. God is.