Rainy day Thursday musings…

Ahhhh…. rain. I stood outside this morning in the rain, catching the first spatterings from the sky with unconcealed joy. I love the rain. It’s probably because we don’t get much here (we average 7.48″/year, according to the InterWebs). Perhaps if we had a Portland-esque climate I’d feel differently (42″/year!) But I digress.

When it rains, I feel like my soul is being watered; it’s a tangible reminder to me of God’s grace & His care… & when I stand in the rain, I often pray, asking, “God, water the parts of me that are dry & crusty, the places that need Your life & Your touch.” And I feel like He does.

About a year ago, I felt like I experienced a “dark night of the soul” aka a place that Dallas Willard referred to as something that “tests one’s joyful confidence in God“. There were many reasons for this including challenging family circumstances, a roller-coaster of incapacitating anxiety/panic attacks, depression, & the loss/deterioration of a few close friendships. I slept a lot & didn’t eat well… (NOTE: I ate a lot, & my weight jumped… which led to most of my clothes not fitting… which led to more anxiety & crud.)

One day, I saw an invitation on social media from an acquaintance looking for guinea pigs (volunteers) to be a part of his spiritual direction “internship.” This involved a 1x/month Skype session with him for the purpose of discovering/rediscovering what God is saying, doing, & where He is leading. Considering the hole I was in, (& desperately wanted out of) I jumped at the invite. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Over the course of several months, I sensed my dark night (it was more like a dark quarter of a year,) dissipating, with the knowledge that, even when I hadn’t known it, God had been right there in the middle of it with me… And that He didn’t waste any of the pain, but actually turned it to be a source of fuel for bringing change in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally, & spiritually. And in the last 12 months, I’ve been able to track a turnaround in my life. Not an instant miracle, not a “BOOM! you’re healed” moment, but a gradual, (& lasting) shift in how I live, approach anxiety/adversity, what I give myself to, & most significantly, in my relationship with God. My spiritual director didn’t give advice, offer a plan for change, or really direct me to do anything. He merely asked lots of (Holy Spirit inspired) questions, listened to my answers, & asked more questions. And God used these reflections to give me a mirror into my own soul & to shine a bright light that eventually led me out of the dark night… (If you’d be interested in hearing more about this & my spiritual director, send me a note or let me know in the comments…)

This Saturday is our “Giver Team” dinner at Hillside – its a time where we acknowledge & appreciate all the “Givers” who give of their time & energy to serve at Hillside… In essence, its a celebration of the people who make Hillside what it is: a community of people, pursuing relationship with God & with each other, looking to find, understand, & follow God’s plan for their lives, & to help others in that pursuit. When it comes down to it, we believe in process… meaning, when we serve at church, we believe God uses that service (& our interactions with each other) as a source of helping us grow, in Him. Which ultimately means serving (being on the Giver Team) is a way to grow towards our goal: being mature, fully grown Christians… who live, love, & act like Christ would if He were walking in our shoes…. living, working, & playing where we live. I’m so thankful for this community of people – & I would love to be a part of this even if I wasn’t the pastor. And that is saying something.

More rain. I’m going outside.

leftover thoughts from Dallas Willard, & other musings on a monday…

I spent some time in Los Angeles about 3 weeks ago for the on-site/beginning of my Masters program. One of the speakers was Dallas Willard… He brought up a series of questions that have stayed at the forefront of my thought processes for the last weeks… Specifically, the questions address what it means and looks like, lived out, to BE a Christ-follower, practicing the disciplines. He asked:

“Why do you fast? Why do you practice solitude? The other disciplines?” Simply, it’s NOT doing what you want, and it IS doing what you don’t. It’s a declaration of FROM WHERE and from WHO do I draw my strength.”

I’d read something similar in the reading for the class, but hearing him say it brought ‘depth’ to it. I’m confronted with the reality that the practice of fasting in my own life had often been done as an exercise of (supposed?) obedience, but NOT as a way to rely on Christ as my source of sustenance. Willard’s words brought to life the scripture, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Looking to Christ instead of food, or to Christ in place of human companionship all of a sudden came into clearer focus. These disciplines are for leaning fully into the LORD, and reminding my flesh where my help comes from.

Loved the Super Bowl. Though neither the Packers or Steelers are my team, I was pulling for the Packers… A good game, mixed in with theBean’s wings & other yums, an adequate amount of shouting at the television (gratifying to know that I’m not the only one that does this,) made for lots of fun. TheBean watches the game for one reason: the commercials. I thought they were mostly weak, though I enjoyed the VW/Darth Vader “Use the Force” spot.

Down to my last week of my 1st masters class – everything is done & turned in except a 12 page paper outlining my ‘personal leadership development plan.’ Here I go. Booyah.