Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dream Job

This week I realized that I have my dream job. Now don't think that means this has been an easy week, or one without conflict or juggling personalities or wondering what God's plan is for the ministry at this time. But I realized, again, that the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, that I genuinely love shepherding the people in my care, that God is in control and that it's my job to grab onto His coattails to be brought along for journey.

I also remembered that although I have my dream job, my FANTASY JOB is still to be a musical comedy actress. And fantasy it is likely to remain.

Micah Girl

Bobbie's Blogging Garden

Bobbie of Emerging Sideways has invited bloggers to imagine a flower metaphor to describe themselves. Since the rains have started here and (please God!) the snow are melting away, I am eager for the mud-licious yard to dry and ready itself for planting and gardening. I am fantasizing about an all red garden...red tomatoes, red strawberries, red peppers and red hollyhocks. It may not be the delight of a garden designer, but the passion of the sweep of the color, the sweetness of the fruit, all framed by the tall beauty of the mid red hollyhock seem to me an oasis of spring after a long, hard winter.

A hollyhock is a constant, old-fashioned flower used to accent the beauty of the rest of the garden...understated, elegant, strong and hardy. It's ever present in cottage gardens which appear free and chaotic but have a rhyme and reason of their own and make me think of a long afternoon of working the soil finished with a proper pot of tea.

So I am a hollyhock, steady, familiar and strong, passionate and ever reaching new heights.

Or so I imagine...

Micah Girl

Friday, March 25, 2005

Garrison Keillor on marriage

Garrison Keillor posts some wonderful advice to a young man on marriage. Here is the link to the whole post. This is better than most of the marriage preparation manuals that I have read. Here's the gist of it:

"Michael, you have come to the right person. I have more experience with marriage than almost anybody else. In general, the rules for marriage are similar to the rules for being in a lifeboat on the open ocean: don't crowd each other, no sudden moves, and keep all disastrous thoughts to yourself. Beyond that, I advise against long discussions about the Relationship — in fact, don't ever use the word "relationship" and you'll be ahead of the game. A relationship is what exists between fruit trees; what you and your beloved have is a hot romance and it is your job, Michael, to keep that romance hot, or at least toasty warm, and you do this by being faithful and avoiding the monster of jealousy, especially jealousy of the past, and also by using your imagination. And by not discussing the Relationship.

"Avoid arguments about money. Be generous.

"I know a couple in Florida, two of my Republican friends, who for thirty-five years have asked each other every day, "What do you need from me today?" and feel that this habit has kept them on track.

"But you do need to stick up for yourself. Some men make the mistake of being passive in the name of love, thinking to avoid conflict, and so they say "Yes, dear" about twenty-two thousand times and one morning they wake up and realize they are living someone else's life and not their own, and they blow up the lifeboat. So if you like to go shoot small defenseless creatures, and she doesn't like it, but you need to do it, then go do it.

"Michael, I have plenty of advice. Put another nickel in and you'll get more."

I especially appreciate the avoidance of talk about "the relationship" because I have a husband who is great at relationship, but like Garrison, prefers not to sit and dissect it like he's on Dr. Phil. Also, my marriage is indeed a lifeboat on the open sea of my life, and for the sake of both of us, we need for this thing to stay afloat!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Drowning in work

Sometimes the most fervent and effective prayer is help! especially when I am overwhelmed with work and stress, but know that I must push through...

Thank you, Lord, that You are bigger than my deadlines, stronger than my fears, and purer than my mixed motivation. Work through me for Your renown and help me to surender to Your purpose in my immediate tasks as well as every area of my life. Please care for those areas that I must let go at this time and grant me Your supernatural peace.

Jeremiah 50:34
Yet their Redeemer is strong; the LORD Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land...

Help me Redeemer... help!

Micah Girl

Thursday, March 17, 2005

St. Patrick's Day Prayer

Real Live Preacher has this beautiful prayer on his site that sounds so celtic to me, it does my Irish heart good. (I'm not of course all Irish, but especially on St. Patrick's Day my blood runs green.)

A Prayer Of Closing And Opening
And Of Things That Come Before

Thy will before my will;
Thy goodness before my desire;
Thy service before my comfort.

This season before all seasons;
This day before all days;
This moment before all moments.

All people before my people;
My people before one person;
One person before me.

My love for one person;
One person's love for my people;
My people's love for all people.

All moments bring us this moment;
All days reveal this day;
All seasons balance this season.

My comfort found in Thy service;
My desire to be Thy goodness;
My will and Thine the same.

Micah Girl

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Women & Jesus

My husband & I saw the Passion Recut just a few days ago. We are officially the last two evangelicals in the USA to have seen the movie. When it came out last year all of my students saw it, my ministry team, everyone I know who is a follower of Jesus and I just never went...partly because I didn't believe the hype, partly because I can't stomach too much violence, and partly because we almost never go out to the movies. Although I can't imagine how much more gory the original version is, we really did love it.

One of the things that struck me in the film was how truly powerful the women were: Mary, Jesus's mother, Mary Magdalene, Claudia (wife of Pontius Pilate), Veronica...strong, brave women facing utter brutality. The mother and son moments were among the most moving particularly because of the counterpoint of the flashbacks.

While thinking about this movie, I found a great article on line at Present Testimony Ministry that reinforced what I was thinking. Here is an excerpt from God's View of a Woman, a teaching delivered by Frank Viola at a church in Chile.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

When Luke writes his Gospel, he talks about the twelve apostles. He often refers to them with the shorthand phrase the Twelve. These men were with the Lord for three-and-a-half years. They lived with Him. They went with Him everywhere. But Jesus had a group of women following Him in addition to the Twelve. Luke also used a shorthand phrase to refer to them. He simply calls them the Women. He uses this phrase the same way he uses the Twelve. These were the Lord’s female disciples. They were His followers, just like the Twelve. The Women followed the Lord wherever He went, and they tended to His needs. They took care of Him. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But there is more. The greatest disciples of Jesus Christ were not the Twelve. They were the Women. The reason? Because they were more faithful. When Jesus Christ was taken to die, the Twelve fled. They checked out. They said, "See ya!" But the Women stayed with Him. They did not leave. They followed Him to Calvary to do what they had been doing all along—comforting Him. And they watched Him undergo a bloody, gory crucifixion. Six long hours of torture.

To watch a man die the most hideous and horrible death is something that goes against every fiber that lives inside of a woman. Yet they would not leave Him. They stayed the entire time. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Can I hear an amen, somebody??

Micah Girl

Sunday, March 13, 2005

When the Messiah lets you down...

Sometimes death sits on my chest like a heavy weight as I drift off to sleep. He reminds me that the beating of my own heart could stop in a moment, that my children could be taken from me suddenly, or that I could be left a widow. He reminds me that my parents whom I love will not always be a phone call and a short drive away. Death is a thief who walks off with your hopes and your dreams and smothers them out of pure meanness. Death is waiting for us all, even those of us who live with the promise of eternal life with Jesus. Life now is just a temporary gift, a vapor that vanishes, a brief glimmer of a flashlight underneath a night sky stuffed with shining lights. Death is always just outside the door kept at bay only by the mercies of God.

Today I have not been able to forget you, Lazarus. You are a good friend of Jesus', and the brother of two of the liveliest and spiritual women remembered in the New Testament. Mary, the unofficial rabbinical student learning at Jesus' feet, the follower who washed His feet with perfume and her own hair, is always remembered for her passion. And Martha, that bustling dynamo, has a servant's heart which makes her a most gracious hostess. Both of these women care for you devotedly, even as you lay sick and dying and longing for Jesus to come. If your best friend is the Messiah, the one who assures you that the Kingdom of God is at hand while sitting at your table, surely you will have an "in" with him? This miracle worker has restored sight to blind strangers, cleansed leprous outsiders and released the posssessed of their demons. When you send word of your situation, surely He will hurry to heal you who are like a brother to him!

And yet he delays. Word has gotten to him...you're sure of it, and still he does not come. Why? And your breaths grow shorter and your life slips away from you as your sisters sit beside you, praying and crying. Where is Jesus? Why has he not come? What do you think as you close your eyes in death? What crushing despair do your sisters feel as they prepare for your funeral and burial?

And yet what surprises you have in store even as you lay lifeless and decaying in a closed tomb. Jesus arrives--late-- and he grieves openly. He weeps over the pain of death, the result of sin and decay, even as He looks ahead to His victory over death. Jesus has allowed you to die, just as He would later allow himself to die. And then He foolishly has them roll the stone away and shouts into the grave, "Lazarus, come out!" He then raises you up as he will raise us all up on the last day. You come out wrapped in the grave clothes to the wonder and amazement of everyone there. You will, of course, die again and await your final resurrection while Jesus, the Resurrected one, sits at the right hand of God the Father, awaiting the time of His return.

As I think of you, Lazarus, I sit also under the benediction of John who wrote:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Rev. 1:4-6)

Micah Girl

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Baby Hunger

I was everyone's favorite babysitter from the age of 11. I always loved babies, kids, mothering.... When I was in college I had a job babysitting a beautiful newborn girl, Georgina. I went into her mother's apartment, a woman only five or ten years older than me, whose wedding pictures and baby made her seem light years ahead of me. I was so blessed by the opportunity two afternoons a week to hold her baby while her mom left the cramped apartment to get out and have a break from the demands of motherhood.

I remember sitting on the floor with my legs crossed, with Georgina's little head crooked in my arm, her body close to mine, her face near my breast as I fed her her bottle. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of being a woman--although this child was not mine, and it would indeed be "light years" until I had my own, I had this sense of the power of womanhood to reproduce and nurture a child. I yearned for a baby of my own.

Over the years, as my friends began having babies, and as my sister had her second batch of kids, I wondered if I would ever have my own. It's an aching yearning to have children that many women experience. Even after I had my first little angel, I would be jonesing for another one whenever I saw a newborn. Now I am blessed with three from ages 3 to 6 and my heart is so content with them.

A friend of mine just had her first baby at 40 after years of infertility and I visited her in the hospital. Holding her little miracle, Sofia, I did not feel that hunger to have another of my own. I was grateful that I noticed this fact, but that it did not make me melancholy for that season of my life that has passed.

About a year ago when my baby was two, she came running to me with her arms open and I said to myself out loud, "There will never be anyone so beautiful as all of my babies, until I have my grandbabies." Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the family that you have blessed me with--my husband whom I adore, and the three most beautiful children in the world, who will retain that title until they have children of their own.

Micah Girl

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Bearing the cross

Matthew 27:32    As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

Luke 14:25-27 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

I can't remember the last time I heard a sermon about bearing a cross for Jesus. I also can't remember when I taught such a lesson. Is it such an old-fashioned, non-seeker-sensitive notion that it's been lost? I know it's a hard message, but my sin nature is hard to put to death, and without it being crucified daily, I am afraid that I haven't got a shot of becoming more like Jesus.

I heard a message today about following Jesus that really spoke to my heart and encouraged me to exchange my own life for Jesus', but in the middle of it I began wondering about how shallow I really am. I've been thinking hard about discipleship in terms of ministry programs, but really discipleship is about dying to oneself. How do you teach that? First you have to do it--I have so far to go in that area! Then you need not be afraid of hard messages and pass them along. And finally, there must be something about grace in there...the fact that any cross we bear actually brings us closer to Jesus, that any suffering ultimately results in good in God's economy.

I am in a place these last few days, perhaps because it's Lent, perhaps because it's been a long winter, where I feel I need to live in the shadow of the cross in a fresh way. I love, love, love the old hymn with its mournful, minor chords, "Be Still My Soul."

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds shall know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

(Katharina von Schlege, Be Still, My Soul)

May Jesus teach us all to be full disciples who count the cost of following him and do not turn back at the first sign of sacrifice. May we view suffering as the opportunity to grow more like him. May we seek to sacrifice our own selfish desires daily (those that fiercely rise up each morning and rattle our cages all day) so that God may fill us with his own desires and purpose.

Micah Girl

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Pastoral Reading

Finally, I've started At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. It is such a wonderful world to enter. Father Tim, the bachelor Episcopal priest who pastors a sleepy town, is so endearing. His spirituality is so practical and integrated into his life, and the residents of Mitford are so quirky and realistic. Nothing about it is trendy, and it's so refreshing. It's been hard to put down. I became interested in reading it after hearing that this fictional account of pastoring had renewed the call to ministry of many world-weary pastors.

I've also recently re-read The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. When I read it in seminary a few years ago, I really didn't get it. Now that I've been in ministry for several years and have grown in my understanding of myself as more than "just" a collegiate minister (and a woman at that!) I have realized that I am indeed a pastor. Peterson is also a practically spiritual, down-to-earth, called-to-the-core pastor like the fictional Father Tim. I have been so inspired by this book and plan to re-read it devotionally as well as collecting everything else he has written. Peterson is currently featured in two articles on Christianity Today Spirituality for all the Wrong Reasons and Hospitality Incarnate . I so admire him and want to make him one of my mentors from afar.

Micah Girl

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Fantasy afternoon @ Panera

Here I sit, wireless and caffeined-up, all by myself at Panera's. This has been my fantasy for weeks. To catch up on work, to sit without distraction and to take advantage of the free wireless connection to work on the computer. However, the conversations around me are loud and distracting. The music blaring through the speakers is just a tad too loud. And the intercom goes off every few minutes to announce sandwiches and page employees.

Where is my quiet afternoon of work? It's more relaxing at home with my kids fighting and jumping off the couch...Don't these people have anywhere else to go?

I'm not really a misanthrope, I just found out that another of my romanticized ideas is less than expected.

Ah, well.

Micah Girl

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