Thursday, September 29, 2005

Prayer

I've been thinking a lot about prayer the past week or so. I've said before that I haven't really been able to pray. But I'm not so sure about that now. Maybe I have been praying all along and didn't realize that's what I was doing.

For instance, I've been listening to a lot of praise music, and even though I can't always sing the words of the song, my heart and head go into this dialogue of sorts. I do this daily, and the more I think about it the more I'm realizing that praise music is a form of prayer for me.

Then there's this site. Most of the stuff that I write about is my internal struggle. It's the stuff that I think about almost every waking minute. And, in thinking and writing about it, this site has almost become like a prayer journal. It's a place where I am writing down my questions and struggles and realizations. God knows what's going on inside of my head, and as I type the words out onto this little screen, my questions and feelings are intended for Him, too. I'm not looking to you guys for answers, I'm looking to Him, hoping that maybe He will use you guys (and He does) to help answer or validate some of what I'm going through.

What I'm also realizing is how my prayers are changing. It is becoming more and more difficult for me to sit down or lay in bed and structure a "Dear God..." kind of prayer. Those prayers feel canned, fake; too thought-out to be real conversation with Him. If I really want Him to know how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking, I want what He hears to be raw. He can handle it. I think what that means is that prayer is becoming more of me. It's not something that I "do" on occassion when I'm consciously thinking about it, it's something that I'm doing as I go throughout my day, often when I don't even realize I'm doing it.

My preacher as been talking a lot about prayer lately in my counseling group, and I didn't take too much of it in at first, but this week I can't stop thinking about it. How often are your prayers situational? Mine are almost always about the situations that I find myself in. Maybe this isn't what God intended. Maybe God wants more out of us than requests about how we want Him to handle our situations. Maybe, instead, He wants us praying above our situations. Not the problem itself, but about how are character is shaped through our problem. Maybe He wants less of, "God, heal me," and more of, "God, mold me and use me in spite of my illness." Maybe it's only when we have prayed these prayers and allowed Him to work on us...when we have died to so much of ourselves that we look more like Christ than like our former selves, that's when we gain real, authentic communion with Him.

God, I hope that's where I'm headed.......

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Changes

Things are different now than they were a week or two ago.

Some of the differences I can directly pinpoint. I've started a tough class, which means things are more hectic. My body doesn't like hectic life. I am so thankful that I only took 4 hours this semester. I'm tired. I'm tired a lot. But that's okay. I can handle being tired. The problem is that when a person wears their body out like I have been doing lately, it tends to weaken. Often, that means that even the healthiest of people can get sick. I am not the healthiest of people. I have to be very, very careful.

Work is busy, which is a change. I've been working on three different experiments, one that flopped and I have to try to figure out what went wrong. The other I was supposed to finish this week, but my bacteria didn't grow right so that won't happen now. The other is a monsterous experiment that I really need to start for grad school, but I just can't seem to get the ball rolling on that one. Busy-ness. (I just realized that you can't spell that by turning the 'y' to an 'i' otherwise you get business....It's all the same, I guess.)

And there's the other "thing" that I can't quite pinpoint. Happiness....but it's more than that; different than that. Life still pretty much stinks. My kidneys are still giving me fits. I finally broke down and called the doctor. They said it's something that could potentially be serious and that I need to go to my general physician to get it checked out....yeah, in my spare time. I'm still struggling with being chronically ill. I can't seem to wrap my mind around that just yet. And I'm scared. I'm scared of a lot of things. I'm afraid that this kindey thing may be very serious. I'm afraid of going back to the hospital. I'm afraid of rejecting my liver again. I know that as tired as I've been lately, my body changes and the last thing that I want/need is for that to lead to rejection. And there's the bigger picture: I'm afraid of having children one day, because I know that I may not live long enough to see them grow up. I'm afraid of leaving Rick alone. I'm afraid that this will not be the worst thing that I have to encounter in my life. I'm learning that pain is cyclic. Pain-->Perserverence-->Character-->Hope-->Pain-->etc. I'm in the perserverence stage right now. I can't say that my character is building because that's not something I can see. I pray that it is. I pray that God is molding and shaping me into the person that He wants me to be. I want my character to change. I yearn for that to lead to The Hope. The Hope that is Him.

But back to the happiness....maybe it's not happiness at all. Maybe it's joy. Wouldn't that be something? I hurt, but I can smile now. I can't pinpoint anything that has made me change from forcing smiles to not being able to contain them at times, but it's there.

And God is giving me ministry opportunities....very, very subtle ones, but I see them. I saw one yesterday, and I took it. Does this mean that I can hear the Spirit again? It's been so long.....but maybe, just maybe........

We sang "All In All" in church two weeks ago. And I smiled. I wanted to cry because I'm starting to really, really believe that. I'm starting to really believe that He is all I need.

Changes.....some good, some bad.....but the bad ones don't matter. He is working. And I can see it now. That's what matters.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Excuses, Excuses

I've been lax in posting lately. You'll have to excuse me. I started class and I'm nearing the end of a very intense 3-week course. Next Wednesday is my final exam. I am in the middle of taking a test right now. They are giving us over 5 days to complete it if that tells you anything of the difficulty of this class. Three of those five days were the weekend.

I'm tired, I'm stressed, and I'm not feeling well. I'll be back to normal in a week or so......

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Couple of Things

First of all, I feel like a dip-wad. I didn't give Debi credit for the quiz on my last post. I found it on her blog.

Also, I feel like a dip because, when I go back and take the time to actually read what it said, it turns out I'm kind of bragging on myself. I don't like that. I don't actually believe that I'm all wise and spiritual and whatever else that first line said about me. Maybe spiritual in the sense of "concerned about spiritual matters" but not "I'm a Spiritual Giant and I've got it all figured out." Puh-lease.

Secondly, like Preston, I've been exposed to more Fenelon. I'd like your thoughts on this:

"Concerning our friend, I pray that God will give him a simplicity of trust that will bring him peace. When we are careful to instantly let go of all needless worries and restless thoughts (that is, self-centered thoughts, rather than loving, outgoing ones), then we shall find ourselves on plateaus of peace even in the midst of the straight and narrow. We shall find ourselves walking in the freedom and innocent peace of the children of God, not lacking wholesome relationships either toward God or man.

I willingly apply to myself the same advice that I give to others, for I am convinced that I must seek my own peace in the same direction. Even now my soul is suffering, but I am aware that it is the life of self which causes us pain; that which is dead does not suffer. If we were really dead, and our life hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), we would no longer struggle with those pains in spirit that now afflict us. So we must learn to bear all sufferings with composure, even those which come upon us through no fault of our own. But we must beware of that restlessness of spirit which might be
our own fault. We can add to our God-given cross by agitated resistance and an unwillingness to suffer. This is simply an evidence of the remaining life of self.

A cross which comes from God ought to be welcomed without any concern for self. And when you accept your cross this way, even though it is painful, you will find that you can bear it in peace. But when you receive your cross unwillingly, you will find it to be doubly severe. The resistance within is harder to bear than the cross itself! But if you recognize the hand of God, and make no opposition to His Will, you will have peace in the midst of affliction. Happy indeed are they who can bear their suffering with this simple peace and perfect submission to the will of God! Nothing so shortens and soothes suffering as this spirit of non-resistance.

But usually we want to drive a bargain with God. We would at least like to suggest some limits so that we can see an end to our sufferings. We don't realize how we are thwarting the purposes of God when we take this attitude. Because the stubborn clinging to life which makes the cross necessary in the first place, also tends us to reject that cross -- at least in part. So we have to go over the same ground again and again.

We end up suffering greatly, but to very little purpose. May the Lord deliver us from falling into that state of soul in which crosses are of no benefit to us. God loves a cheerful giver, according to St. Paul in Second Corinthinas 9:7. Ah! What must be His love for those who, in cheerful and absolute abandonment, give themselves complelely to be crucified with Christ!"1



1 From Let Go, Letter 2: How to Bear Suffering Peacefully, Fenelon.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Twilight Zone

Anyone else that knows me find this freakishly right about me????

Your Personality Profile

You are dignified, spiritual, and wise.
Always unsatisfied, you constantly try to better yourself.
You are also a seeker of knowledge and often buried in books.

You tend to be philosophical, looking for the big picture in life.
You dream of inner peace for yourself, your friends, and the world.
A good friend, you always give of yourself first.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I've Been Had!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had entered some photographs in some amature photography contests. Much to my delight, this morning I received an e-mail stating that one of my photos had been chosen to be published! This one:


They said I was chosen for "assymetry and light composition throughout." I was so excited! I never dreamed that I would be published!

Then I read on:

"You have been chosen from 8,5xx entries to be published in this year's issue of ____________. Because of your merit, you are now able to order this beautiful book for $59 (reg. price $69). A winner will be chosen from those who purchase the book to receive $5,000."

Now I'm at a loss. This seems to be a ligitimate photography company. It very well could be like Who's Who Among American College Students (which I was accepted into one year) where you are accepted into the program based on merit, but you still have to purchase the book for about $100 with your name, picture, and biographical information. They said that this particular book is about 300 pages long and has this year's finalists plus many articles on how to improve your photography through composition, lighting, etc.

But then again it could be a scam with 8,000 thumb-nail sized pictures scattered over 300 pages.

In addition to the book, they offered me a very nice looking plaque stating that I have been published, with my name, the title of the photograph, and the photograph itself.........

But that's an extra $50.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Head is Swimming

I've got so much to say lately...I feel bad because I sincerely hope that, as often as I'm posting these days, everyone is having time to read everything that they want to read.

Phil left a comment on my last post about marriage to let me know that they were not able to record Tim's sermon on Sunday. They had a virus on the computer. I'm so bummed. Hummm....if my husband were working on our church's computers, that wouldn't have happened..... *wink*

Also, I would like you guys to read this post on Waiter Rant's blog. Let me know what you think. And please excuse some of the language you might be exposed to, not so much on this post, but on other posts if you decide to surf around a little. The guy can be a terrific writer, and he has a very interesting story, but I would really like to get everyone's opinion on that post.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Marriage

It seems like from my last post that marriage would be a hot topic to discuss, so I'm gonna discuss it. :o)

I mentioned only briefly what our sermon at church was about yesterday. At small group last night, we had our monthly meeting with our "mentor group" or group of older married couples. I have to tell you, this is my favorite life group ever. I love these older couples. There is so much we can learn from them (and do learn from them) and it's just so great to get to know some people that we ordinarily wouldn't have the chance to meet because we go to a different church service than most of them do. The group itself was different yesterday. We had a lot of visitors and even some New Orleans refugees, which translates to a very, very large amount of people crammed into a living room with babies screaming and adults trying to talk and listen to the story that these people were telling of being stranded in New Orleans. They were there for 10 days before they were rescued and able to leave the city. It was incredible.

After everyone left, though, was the best. Rick and I stayed after and talked with one of our elders and his wife. Among the many topics we talked about was the sermon we had heard that morning.

I wish it were up on Otter Creek's web site already. I would tell all of you to go download it now so we could all discuss it. But they are a little behind on getting the sermons up on the web site, so I'll have to do my best to recount what my interpretation of the sermon was. Those of you that were there can agree or disagree with me. Actually, please do. It would be nice to hear what everyone else got out of the sermon.

As I said before, Tim talked about how are marriages are the church's business. But even deeper than that, he said that he would no longer marry a believe to an unbeliever, or even a strong believer to someone whom he thought was a "wishy-washy Christian." He got some applause for these statements, and I also think it was very honorable of him to make those pledges. I interpreted that as Tim saying that he would do his best to no longer contribute to the fall of marriages in our church. But even that wasn't the point of his sermon.

He went on to talk about the path that a marriage takes before it fails. He thinks that the key in this break down is secrecy. I've talked before about how we need to start talking about our "shit" and I think this was the "pulpit-ized" way of saying that very thing. We have little problems that we push under the rug, thinking that we've either solved them or that they don't amount to anything, and that may be true if you take them one-for-one. But what happens when those things start to build up? You can only shove so many under the rug before you trip over the lumpy floor. These "small" issues have the capability to build resentment in a marriage, especially if one person feels as if they are the one always letting it go. And what have we done about this in our churches? We talk about marriage counselling and financial counselling and learning to communicate with one another...all of which are good things in their own right, but we have borrowed these good things from our culture. Tim espounded on the idea that what our churches are missing and forgetting about is the spiritual side of marriage. It's assumed that because we get married by a preacher in a church that the spiritual side is there, but that's not necessarily true. Just because you're Christian and you're married to another Christian doesn't mean it's a marriage that will glorify God. Wow! What a concept. Of course, this is his sermon in my words. I'm sure I have left a lot out or taken a different view of what he said than someone else that was there. I would love to hear all of your opinions-whether you were there or not.

Last night, Rick and I sat with our elder and his wife for 2 hours and talked with them about this. What does this mean for our church? How do we handle this? What do we do to put this into action instead of making it "just another sermon"....another good idea but an empty promise? I told the couple that, in all honesty, I don't know how to be a couple that glorifies God. I know how to do that as an individual, and I can honestly say that I believe I've seen some couples that I believe have a God-glorifying marriage, but I don't know how to do that myself. Does it make us a God-glorifying couple because we pray together? Because we study together? Because we freely discuss the Sunday sermon? I don't believe there is a "3-step method" that will teach a couple how to glorify God, but I would love it if there was some kind of mentoring program or class at our church so that we get an idea of how different couples do it.

Even unbelievers can have a "good marriage" with great communication and never get divorced, but why is it that the marriages in our churches have stopped there, too?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Random, So Much to Say Part I

These are some pictures I took on our vacation. You can click on them to enlarge them. I have entered some of them into amature photography contests for the heck of it. I don't think I have any hope of winning after I saw some of the other entries. Photography is one of my passions like gardening; I love to do it, but I'm not so great at it. Maybe one day I'll take a class....


This is a picture of the sunrise from the plane on the way to New Orleans.



Sunrise, again.

Cozumel skyline, from the cruise ship.

I called this one, "Road to Paradise" because this is the only straight road on a 45-50 minute 4x4 Jeep ride through the jungle that lead us to the beach at Isle Pasion, or Passion Island.

I wasn't lying when I called this Paradise.....

Isle Pasion, again.

....and again....

This isn't Passion Island, but I thought it was really pretty. I like the old abandoned boat. There was something really peaceful about this scene.

This is the same area where the boat was. Just an old boat dock that looked like it hadn't been used in years. Beat up by hurricane Emily (wasn't that the hurricane that came through there not very long ago???). Anyway, it was beautiful. So simple. I love the way my camera picked up all of the colors in the water an in the wood of the dock.

Random - So Much to Say, Part II


Church this morning was incredible. Our minister preached about marriage and about how the problems we have in our marriages are our church's business. How do we expect the world to see us as Jesus when our marriages don't reflect that? He made some very bold statements that I applaud him for. My husband (who's dad is a retired CoC minister) said to me, "These are the kinds of sermons my dad preached that would get him fired."
_________________________________________________________

I have also been on a sort of roller-coaster ride of emotions today. We got to church late, but I sat up in the balcony and just cried. All of the songs we sang during praise and worship were about struggle and how God is our refuge in those times. One song, in particular (..."when the rain falls/He is my shelter/and when I'm lost and alone/He rescues me...."), really got to me. I think it's because I want so bad to feel that but don't. I want to believe that He's sheltering me right now and that, even though I feel so lost and alone that He's right there watching over me. I couldn't sing it. The harmonies in that song are so beautiful and I just sat there and cried into Rick's shoulders while the church sang it around me. I so badly want to feel Him.

Then, after church, we decided to go eat at Olive Garden. But then we remembered how far away Olive Garden is from our church and our house. We started that way and decided not to go. We ended up stopping in Brentwood, looking for a meat-and-three that Rick used to like. Apparantly, that place has closed down, but I was absolutely elated to find Smooth Moves. I cannot even begin to explain the joy that rushed through my veins when I saw it. I don't care if you have to pay $5 for a smoothy from that place, it is so worth it. I used to go all the time when they were in Green Hills, at least three times a week. When my parents would come down to visit me, we would always go to Alpine Bagel and grab a bagel and then walk next door to Smooth Moves and have a smoothy for breakfast. Then, one dreaded day, I drove to Smooth Moves, parked in front of the building, and was so saddened to see a sign in their window: "Closed. Moved to Brentwood. The Mall at Green Hills would not renew our lease." Oh, pain! I have looked and looked and looked in Brentwood for them, but have never found them. Years I have been without Smooth Moves. Until today. Glorious, glorious Sunday! It really is a good thing we don't live in Brentwood. We would go broke trying to afford my renewed smoothy habit. At $5 a pop, we would have to file bankruptcy pretty quickly.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

From Counselling

1. I have my Ruth (Rick).

2. I'm keeping my eyes open for my Boaz.

3. I can't see the foreshadowing of the harvest.

4. I'm going to start looking really, really hard for a foreshadowing of the harvest.

5. I may not have a harvest.

6. I may be someone else's harvest.

7. I don't want to be someone else's harvest.

8. I'm not afraid of death.

9. I am afraid of living a very short life.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Yet Another Blog about Katrina

I'm jumping on the bandwagon for a moment.....

I am sick and tired of reading blogs by Christians and posts in Christian forums about how God sent the hurricane to NOLA to punish the sinners.

Was/Is there rampant sin in NOLA? Yes! But is that any different than Anywhere Else, USA? Hell, no! If God were to send down Hurricane Katrina-caliber natural disasters to punish sin, there would be no more world left. It would be over. Done with. We would all be gone.

Don't put yourself up on a pedestal just because you were spared from this natural disaster. You deserved it, too. We all did.

Edit: If you would like some first-hand information about what's going on on the Gulf Coast, especially in regards to evangelism and needs, check out JD's blog, Out Here Hope Remains. He is a minister at a Gulf Coast church. If you would like something tangible to donate to rather than the Red Cross, this would be a great place to start. Their needs seem insurmoutable at the moment. I'm itching to get down there and help.....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Prayer Request

You guys know that I work in a laboratory. What you may not know is The Family's Dad that I've been writing about recently is still my boss. (That's another part of the whole faith walk thing I'll have to write about later).

Researchers have to write grants to pay their salary. We have one in our department who was not doing that. Boss Man/Family's Dad gave this man a 6 month notice that if he didn't start writing grants, our department would not support him. He would have to leave when his contract was up unless he got some grant money in.

No-Money-Man disappeared. I have seen him around Nashville a time or two, but haven't seen him at Vanderbilt in quite a while. We (me and a few other people in my lab) have been cleaning out No-Money-Man's lab space because we've been moving. This continued into this week.

On Wednesday of this week, the day this man's contract expired, some people in my lab were continuing to clean out this man's lab space. He left a gi-normous mess. On of our office workers had to get into his office to get some paper work when she found him. He had hung himself in his office at work.

This man had no family in the US, they are all in Germany, so of course, they need our prayers. But so does the woman who found him. And so do the other two women that rushed in when they heard her scream and who also saw his body. And so does Boss Man. He is blaming himself for the death of this man because he fired him.

Boss Man is in England right now and will soon be making his way to Australia. It took a lot of coaxing to make him stay to finish out his trip. He feels terrible for what has happened.

Please Please Please pray for my co-workers and my boss. This has hit our department pretty hard.

The Cruise

I don't really have a lot to say about it just yet. We were effected by the hurricane since our original port was out of New Orleans. It's surreal to me to think that I got some of the last pictures of New Orleans in it's "normal" state. And to see picures of the Convention Center and the dead bodies. I was just there.

But today, I'm tired. I hurt all over. My kidneys are killing me.....killing me. I came home with a fever last night and went right to bed. Luckily, that is gone today, but something has got to be done about this low back/kidney pain.

I'm not supposed to get blood work done for another couple of weeks, but I'm thinking of moving it up. Somethin' just ain't right. Maybe I picked up some weird bug in Mexico.......