Facebook Timeline: narcissism or spiritual formation?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So, I just activated the new Timeline today, and it was a fascinating experience. Primarily, I noticed that my 15 minutes of allowed social web time on Chrome ran out very quickly.* I wasn't spending a lot more time looking at others' pages, new Twitter accounts, recommended friends, or any of the other normal rabbit trails that make you lose 15 minutes in the blink of an eye. Instead, I was deep in the historical archives of my own Facebook page.

When the message popped up, Shouldn't you be working?!* I was forced to think, what have I been doing for 15 minutes? I was looking through old photographs. Oh yes, I remember meeting up with those girls at the Japanese place for Rachel's birthday? or was it Erin's? I was perusing old Facebook wall messages. Apparently my college roommate, Roomie, and I were very concerned about graduating and not seeing each other all the time. There's plenty of What will I do without you? going back and forth. Ha!

Then I wondered, is this narcissistic? I certainly could get lost in the annuls of the past 7 years of my life and spend plenty of time passing judgment on myself for past relationships or dumb pictures that are now permanently on the web. Or I could relish so much in past trips and graduations that I fail to lose myself in where I am right now.

Or, could this even be a spiritual formation exercise? Larry and I have been spending the past few months in a series of self-evaluation activities. We've developed rules of life, a la St. Benedict. We've drawn timelines to trace education, relationships, moves, victories. We've analyzed core lies and designs. By Tuesday, I'll have written more than 90 pages on myself. (Don't worry, I'm not going to post it or anything.) The point is, all that looking back with the guidance of the Holy Spirit has helped me to see where God was providentially moving in the places of opposition and of rest in my life. It's helped me to see that I've been designed uniquely in such a way that my giftings are revealed whether I was working as a telemarketer, a seminarian, or a project manager. I function in relationships similarly whether we're talking about my marriage, my friendships, or my family. All this has been a spiritual formation exercise. It has helped me to understand where I am right now and how the Lord is currently teaching me.

So I'm thankful for the question, Shouldn't you be working?* It called me to attention. And I think that's the point. You could waste endless hours reflecting on highs and lows of past places in your life. Or you could look back in order to see where God is moving you now. You might just find that you enjoy yourself and can even look back at that 21st birthday party with a grin and a prayer of thanksgiving.

*If you want to discipline yourself, too, you can add the Chrome extension Stay Focusd. You can set a time limit, and it'll cut you off from any site you want after a certain amount of time.

follower of Jesus, can you live apart from him?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A word from Jean at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church for Advent. And very timely for me.

December 8 The True Vine

I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

Perhaps the reason I love this name of Jesus so much is the beautiful word picture it paints. It’s probable that when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples they had just left the upper room and were walking through a vineyard on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was the night of His betrayal. He was preparing His followers for life without His physical presence. How could they conceive that it would be better for them for Jesus to go away? What could be better than the flesh-and-blood nearness of their Master, hearing His voice, looking into His eyes, feeling the warmth of His touch, following in His footsteps as together they walked the dusty roads? How could they live apart from Him?

As Jesus had done with His disciples so often, He again chose to use something in the earthy physical realm to illustrate something in the spiritual realm. From this time forward, the sight of vines and branches heavy with clusters of grapes would hold new meaning. They would see what happened to the branches that were attached to the vine; they would bear fruit. As well, they would see what happened to the branches that were no longer attached to the vine; they would not bear fruit.

Jesus’ use of this simple metaphor has provided a profound truth for all those who would follow Him from that time forward. Just as the branch is completely dependent upon the vine to provide everything needed to produce its fruit; so are Jesus’ disciples completely dependent upon Him to provide everything needed to produce the fruit of lives that bring glory to His name.

Was it better for His disciples that Jesus would no longer be with them in the flesh? Yes, for though He would walk beside them no longer, through His Holy Spirit He would soon be within them. They would then experience the life of the True Vine flowing through them, infusing them with power and enabling them to live fruitfully for Him. Time and again in my own life I have experienced the dismal results of attempting life on my own, apart from Him. Thankfully however, because of His mercy and grace, He is using those times to teach me this timeless truth – apart from Him I cannot do a thing of eternal value!

Follower of Jesus, can you live apart from Him?

Jean Smith

Heavenly Father, help me to stay, to remain, to abide in vital union with Jesus, the One True Vine, knowing that without Him I can do nothing. AMEN

more than the gift

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I truly love buying presents for people, all times of the year. So here's a round up of places I've come across where you bless people on both sides of the buying. I encourage you to consider purchasing with purpose!

(note from Amy: Kyle and I are pursuing a lofty goal, but we know with YOUR help we can do it! Our goal is to raise $2,000 in 7 DAYS through the sale of these t-shirts. We have a huge chunk of money due SOON so it is full on fundraising around here! Purchase a shirt, $25 adult $15 kids, and help us bring Hannah Cate home forever!!! Email me amytippens@gmail.com to place your order. Guy and boy version is the gray and red, ladies and girl version is the navy and light coral.)

I'm still shopping, too. Are there any other places you'd want to add?


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Larry and I wrote an entry for our church's Advent devotional which came out today. I love that we wrote it together several months ago and a) I can't remember which of the words belong to me and which belong to Larry and b) I sense the anticipation of waiting for the light all the more!

There were clouds that morning, but not on the horizon where it mattered. Before us was the slope of the mountain and a gaggle of tree-covered islands before the expanse of the sea, all covered in a haze of deep blue. Our eyes were fixed on that horizon, expectant, waiting. The colors began to change, blue became purple, red, pink, orange. The undersides of the clouds lit up in fire and suddenly a point of light appeared, illuminating our faces. For all its intensity, we could not turn away until the light had disappeared behind the low-lying clouds. We were captivated. The light was literally seared in our vision for quite a bit of time moving forward.

Reading John’s words about Jesus reminds us of that day on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. John opens with the expectant image of waiting for the light. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming”—it was coming!—into the world! (John 1:9) The Gospel of Luke reminds us of all those who were waiting for him, beginning with Zechariah and Anna. And then the rest of the Gospels give us so many full-on glimpses of the pure, blinding light of Jesus as he proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Light of life, indeed, who dispels the darkness of sin. (1 John 1:7)

As John says, the true light is already shining, but the darkness is still passing away and we see its shadows around us, perhaps inside us, still. (1 John 2:8) In a way, we join Zechariah and Anna, still waiting, still expectant, seeing in a mirror dimly but expectant to see face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12) We anticipate his coming, piercing the deep blue expanse of the world. We are watchers of the world, watching the horizon for his full glory to be revealed.

Where are you waiting expectantly for God’s light to shine? What shadows have you seen Him cast out by His presence?

have mercy on me

Monday, November 21, 2011

I've had this image on my desktop for a quite a while now. I preached on the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 last spring. I had heard it preached in my church like in January, and right up through class today, I still had a lot of questions about the story.

The situation is: 2 men come to pray in the temple. One leaves justified and the other doesn't. I was bothered that only 1 did, and that it wasn't the one I was relating to. See, the Pharisee comes up and stands by himself and prays what I heard as an honest prayer-- "God, I thank you that I'm not an adulterer" and basically-- I do my best to follow you. And I do thank God that I'm not an adulterer, and I do do my best to be a good Christian. So I didn't see anything wrong with his prayer.

What I realized when we studied this same passage in Luke class today was that it wasn't the content of his prayer. It was his attitude.

See, his "presenting problem" (medical term for my med friends out there) was introduced at the beginning of the story in Luke 18:9. The Pharisees had shown up confident in themselves that they were righteous because of all their religious activity (which wasn't bad in and of itself, but they thought it was making them super-holy) and despising everyone else. They had a heart problem. It was a big one, and it was affecting everyone else around them. He had no love for those around him, and he didn't need God to do anything to make his life more holy, he was doing fine by himself.
Contrastly, the sinner comes and stands by himself. He knows he can enter the temple. He knows he can draw near. He's trusting in God's love and grace. But there's nothing of his own doing that brings him forward. He's not bragging in front of everyone about how much he's read or given to the church. And we see this condition of his heart in his prayer, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner." He goes back home justified, set right, restored in relationship with God.

And it has made me wonder-- what's the diagnosis on my heart?

in love with "Once Upon a Time"

Monday, November 7, 2011

I am swooning over ABC's "Once Upon a Time." Not only does it have great characterization, the traces of bread crumbs (not Hansel & Gretel types, but the kind "Lost" is famous for), thrilling intros of favorite storybook characters, and some pretty interesting cinematography. BUT ALSO... as a theology student, Larry and I as well as my girls here just can't resist digging into the themes we're seeing.

What do you think about:
  • Snow White having a cross around her neck? Are the writers alluding to the Christian faith somehow with her? Is it a moral symbol indicating the purity of her character?
  • How the characters do not know who they are until they begin to understand their part in the story? Could this relate to how we only come to know who we truly are as we identify ourselves in a larger story?
  • Quotes like, "Good will always win"?
  • Quotes like, "Believing in the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing"?
  • Concepts like, the one who knows your name has power over you?
  • Out of the mouths of babes... the truth of the story comes out of a young boy?
  • Purity of love both breaks and seals curses?
  • Every curse can be broken?
What are you picking up on? Have you watched it yet?

all my single ladies

Friday, November 4, 2011

I've been deeply desiring to write a really good, insightful blogspot about my friends' singleness. Don't expect this blog to be that. But I do want to get one thought on paper:

A male, single, 20-something, seminary friend listed as one of his goals "To be married and have kids." And we all nodded in agreement. As a group, we affirmed that his goal to get married and have kids was equitable with the goal to be debt-free or to run a 5K or to own a dog. We all assumed that a male, single, 20-something, seminarian will have no trouble accomplishing this goal.

What if a female, single, 20-something, seminary friend had listed as her goal "To be married and have kids" ? We would probably politely nod, and then send someone to talk to her to make sure she was "finding her fulfillment in Jesus" because, let's be honest, she might not get married, and she might not have kids.

I was struck and bothered and dumfounded and confused and "puzzled" (a new word I learned last weekend) by this discovery of the innate reaction in me to assume that men can and will get married if it's their goal and women might not.

And so, Kevin DeYoung posted a proper response. Peruse and discuss, if you so desire.

The Divine Name

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prepare for some Exodus love! We're digging into a few short verses with some major impact for the rest of the semester in class, and I just can't withhold what I'm seeing! It's who God declares himself to be after a faithful servant, Moses, asks to see God's glory in Exodus 34:5-7.

In my initial observation, I've loved noticing that what God needs us to know about his glory is that it is FOR US. He doesn't emphasize his majesty or holiness or that he's Creator of the world or about his throne or about his eternal being. Instead, he describes his glory and his divine name by what he is for us. For me. For you. And this is what he needs us to know of himself:
  • He is compassionate
  • He is gracious
  • He is slow to anger
  • He is abounding in lovingkindness
  • He is abounding in truth
  • He keeps lovingkindness for thousands
  • He carries and takes on iniquity
  • He carries and takes on transgression
  • He carries and takes on sin
(what a tri-fecta that he carries and takes on for us!)
  • He punishes iniquity
(Note that he takes action on the iniquity, sin, and transgression himself pre-punishing iniquity)

WOW. This is who he is for me. This is the revelation of his glory. This is the God I serve and worship. Do you know him?

Emotional Translation

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The other day I was alternately weeping and translating, translating and weeping. In a former season, it was because of how difficult the exercise was. This week, it was for the beauty and grace, love and worship, and sense of calling revealed to me in the pages of Luke as I translated.

This is why I came to seminary. This is why I serve the Lord. This is why I love Jesus.

"And answering, Simon said: Master, through the whole night we were toiling and growing exceedingly weary, and we caught nothing. But at your word, I will let down the nets.

When they had done this, they enclosed a multitude, many fish, and their nets began breaking through. And they signaled to the partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and they filled both the boats until they began to sink."

(Hear Peter's response:)
"After seeing this, Simon Peter fell down to the knees before Jesus saying, 'Depart from me, because a sinful man am I, lord.' For amazement had seized him and all those with him because of the catch of fish which they had caught. And likewise, also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon."

(And the response of Christ:)
"And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not fear; from now on, you will be a catcher of men.'

And when they had brought down the boats to land, they left everything and followed him."

First, I was overwhelmed by Peter's response to seeing Jesus perform a miracle-- the miracle of catching fish. Peter had worked and toiled the whole night, growing weary as he attempted but was unsuccessful at catching even one fish. Jesus uses this same action of fishing to then demonstrate what working in the Kingdom will look like. On our own, we are unable to bring the Gospel to even one man. But with the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit in us, we will see many receive the Good News of the saving work of Jesus Christ. We just obey. At his word, let down the nets. And man, will that boat of ours fill to sinking.

This isn't a numbers game. It is a raw obedience, receiving grace, witnessing God's power, leaving everything to follow him kind of moment. How do we respond to such an amazing gift? I have taken my cue from Peter, and his beautiful confession. What descriptive words-- he falls down in front of, says the verb, and to his knees, Luke additionally describes, before Jesus. Proclaiming his unworthiness of such an outpouring of Jesus' power. May I have such awe.

(Passage is my rough translation of Luke 5:5-11)

4 day Boston itinerary

Friday, August 12, 2011

I have had a blast playing travel guide for several folks traveling to Boston this summer! And in the spirits of hoping to have more folks come to visit us in our final year of school, here's what I would propose as a 4-5 day travel itinerary in Boston and our North Shore!

Begin by looking at Google maps and orienting yourself to the Charles River and the Gardens/Commons. You can't get lost if you know where these 2 landmarks are.
I recommend staying in the Back Bay.

Afternoon post-airport. You could start as late as 3 or 4pm.
Freedom Trail (beginning at Boston Commons/Gardens ending in North End (aka Little Italy))
Dinner in Little Italy at Giacomo's. You'll want the butternut squash ravioli. You need cash.
Dessert just a block closer to downtown on Hanover Street at Mike's Pastries.
Walk back to the Boston Gardens via Charles St. (where the signs are pictoral)

Full day: Exploration of Back Bay and Cambridge
Begin again near the Boston Gardens
Walk Newbury Street, enjoying the fancy shops
Track back on Boylston, hit the 3 story Apple store, the Boston Public Library, Copley Square, and Filene's basement
Take the Copley Plaza subway (to the left of the library, up the hill 1/2 a block if you're looking at the library) to Fenway
Fenway Park
EITHER Take the red line to Cambridge/Harvard. Enjoy the campus, Harvard Square, and maybe grab dinner there. Walk along the Charles. Take the subway back to Back Bay or your hotel.
OR Take public transportation to the Sam Adams Brewery for a tour.

North Shore/Cape Ann
1st stop- me at Gordon-Conwell!
You'll want my pass to go onto Crane's Beach (a couple dollars) and maybe the Crane Estate (free) if you're interested in that.
Pick apples at Russell Orchards on the way to/from or at least stop for fresh cider donuts.
Have brunch at Sugar Magnolias in Gloucester. You'll want the carrot cake pancakes. Breakfast only until 1pm.
Maybe pop through Rockport. It's a bit touristy, but quintessential New England. The Proposal with Sandra Bullock was filmed here.
Drive up the coast to Halibut State Park
Catch a sunset dinner at the Lobster Pool
Either spend the night at an Inn in Rockport, or go ahead and drive up to Newburyport

Spend the morning walking around, looking at boats, trying to find the jean store, Katwalk, and popping through Azure
Have lunch either at Michael's Harborside (a bit expensive, but good local seafood) or The Black Cow (yummy local pub). Both have amazing porches on the water
Spend the afternoon driving up 1A to Portsmouth
Walk around and enjoy an evening in Portsmouth. Not sure where to eat here for dinner, but I'm sure you'll find somewhere amazing either there or on the way.
Spend the night in Portsmouth.
Grab breakfast at The Friendly Toast on your way out.
Stop at the Kittery Outlets if you haven't had enough shopping.

Back to Boston! That'll do you, I think!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2 things brought up this passage in an hour, so I feel compelled to bring it up a third and round it out.

Genesis 2:18: The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make an ezer suitable for him."

Ezer. You probably added in the word helpmate from memory. This for me conjures up the image of a woman standing behind a man giving him a boost. or providing a third hand. or grabbing the edger while he mows. or cooking a meal for him while he works. Helpmate.

Contrast this with the roles taken on by an ezer in other places in Scripture. The image of ezer elsewhere is of God delivering from the sword of Pharoah (Exodus 18:4). and contending against the adversary (Deuteronomy 33:7). and saving his people (Deuteronomy 33:29). and assisting the troops (Ezekiel 12:14). and answering in the day of trouble (Psalm 20:2).

On and on... every time this exact title is used, all 16 other times for "ezer" in the Old Testament, it is used as a military assistance and deliverance, most often as a title for God. So where does this "boost" idea come from?

Here's the 2 contexts of the hour:
1. A college student asks me how I defend biblically my role as a woman in the ministry of the church. My answer? Sure-- I could have talked about the roles of Esther and Deborah. I can discuss the principle versus the application of Paul's letters. But really, I see all of that as flushing out what it looks like that God said it was NOT GOOD for man to be alone, that he needed a helper suitable for him to take on the Kingdom work of subduing the earth, even before the fall. And so I conclude that men and women need each other in ministry. It's not good to take on God's work alone. So we need one another in the home, the church, and the business world.

2. The Boston Globe published a photo essay about the most dangerous countries for women in the world. And all I could think was-- it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone! Why are women being treated in these horrific fashions? It goes against what God has created and ordained for his world.

We must, really must, recapture the God-given mandate to work together!

"I lift my eyes up to the hills. Where does my ezer come from? My ezer comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121: 1-2

PS. Carolyn Custis James wrote a book about the role of women in the church, and she introduced me to the meaning of ezer throughout the Bible, as a word used to describe the military might and help of YHWH, the LORD God.

talkin' money

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I know we (as in, we as a people, generally) don't talk about money very often. But we did, kinda, with new friends this weekend, and we got a great idea from them!

They keep 1 main bank account and everything for the month gets paid out from it. But then they have 2 separate checking accounts, 1 for each of them, that is used for spending money. It doesn't get tracked in the major budget, and you can spend it however you'd like. The money for the spending accounts comes from the leftover at the end of the month, which is split in half.

I love this idea of a spending account that I can use to get myself a pedicure, a new album on iTunes, or to save up my birthday money without it disappearing into the oblivion of the monthly budget. I know Larry likes the idea of being able to save up for the new iPhone 5 without hand calculating how much of the current checking account is "his." I married a saver, while mine tends to go $10 at a time. But the idea of splitting the difference at the end of the month doesn't work for 2 students whose pay checks aren't identical month-to-month, and neither are our student expenses (like the $1500 semesterly health insurance check we're about to write!). So we've modified the idea and come up with this:

- 2 separate spending accounts, 1 for each of us
- $15 a month going into each account plus any birthday/holiday money. Plus Christmas spending money for the other spouse so that we don't see what the other one bought.

So I thought I'd just open it up and see if anybody else has some ingenius money ideas out there that they're hoarding just because people don't talk about money! Do you keep separate spending accounts? How has it worked out for you? Any bugs in this system you want to warn me about?

give it away now

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I’ve just finished cram-studying church history from about 1600AD to present. Exam’s done. This is the first thing I read afterward, and it’s quite a bit of the theology and history in my exam in one article from my financial website:
"Are You Ready to Start Giving Money to Charity" from Mint.com

You can get the gist for yourself, but basically they’re saying that donating money lacks financial wisdom. So don’t do it. Be like the airlines. Put your own mask on first.

But then they throw in this last line with the most tremendous sense of irony and dispacement with the rest of the article:

In fact, he’s done economic numbers crunching to establish “that when people give more money away, they tend to prosper.”

Well, Fancy that.

What are your thoughts? What value do you find in “giving away” money? Where have you seen this trend before?

wordless wednesday: tornado

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

eternity through a mouse and an owl

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Due to a night owl and a mouse, I crave the new earth. Allow me to explain.

I don’t do well with rodents. I once had a cat named Natasha that was supposed to stand guard over my house while I was sleeping, protecting me from the mice I knew were there. She was terribly ineffective. Arrow Exterminators was effective, but I still felt bad for their poison methods. They’re brutal. (Never Google what poison does to animals.) Yesterday I found out that we have a mouse in the cabin, and neither Natasha nor Arrow are at my disposal. So we had to go with the traps.

Bless Larry’s heart, he had to set them. They kept snapping at him with this horrible noise. He placed them around the kitchen sink, which is all of 2 arm lengths from where we sleep. I was already dreading hearing that sound in the middle of the night. And heard it, I did.

Snap! “Larry! Please wake up! It’s the mouse. It got him.” Followed by squeak, squeak, lots of grunting, shuffle, shuffle. Why is it making that much noise?! “Seriously, Larry. Please get up, I can’t stand it!”

Sparing you any more details than necessary, it only got his tail, so Larry threw him out the front door. And I didn’t sleep for another hour as I actually prayed for the Lord to bring in the new heavens and the new earth where I wouldn’t have to kill and expel his created mice (disease carrying, food eating, defecating everywhere mice) from my dwelling.

As for the night owl, don’t worry. I’m not going to tell a story about setting a trap for an owl. (Though I did see one while I was sitting on the cabin’s porch! He was flying low about 3 feet from me. They are beautiful!!) Our church where we are serving this summer has a program called Night OWLS where we hang out for the evening with children with special needs and with their siblings. It’s a gift of a program, and I really feel as though I was the one who walked away blessed and served.

Larry walked away that night with a keen insight. As he lifted a child out of a wheelchair so that he could sit in a fire engine, as he placed the child’s hands upon the fire truck so he could feel its rough texture, and as he turned his head to see the shiny bins (shiny bins!) on the side of the truck, Larry perceived that this is his own posture in the hands of his loving God. That we are broken individuals in need of a loving Father to carry us in our sin and brokenness, to lift us up into places where we can see what’s coming ahead, to lead us to the people we need to reach out and touch, and to turn our heads to what we need to notice. Larry also showed me what I could not see: that these children are a reminder to us of the promise of restoration. God has promised that he will set the world aright. That he will heal the broken.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face. Rev 22:1-4

So I’m holding out hope today for the night owls and the mice. I’m also claiming this eternal promise for other circumstances that have arisen just this week—funerals, Alzheimer’s, injustice against orphans in Bolivia, addiction, lost college students, tornado victims, and cancer patients. And I hold out hope for myself as well—that the wounded places will be mended and that family and friends that have left this earth will be brought back into communal presence. That tree’s going to bear fruit each month. Heaven will be eternally abundant and whole.

Spirituality of a Taproot

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The image of the taproot.
My friends visited a vineyard recently and shared with me this image:
A stressed vine is a healthy vine.

Let me repeat.
A stressed vine is a healthy vine.

This is not one of those immediately applicable images for which the heavens part and we immediately grasp that-- yes! a stressed Megan or a stressed Mom or a stressed student or a stressed teenager or a stressed person is a healthy Megan, Mom, student, teenager, or person. But it is a miracle of nature that a stressed vine is a healthy vine.

So why would you observe this in nature? That in the case of a vineyard, a stressed vine is a healthy vine? Prepare for some science.

The vine has a taproot from which it receives its water. The taproot will naturally grow as deep as the water it needs reside. So in a season of sufficient rain, the taproot will grow near the surface, receiving water from the taproot in the immediate soil.

Seasons of stress drive the taproot deep into the soil. Seasons of stress for the vine are primarily seasons in which water is withheld. I’m a bit dense. It’s 5am, so let’s try that again.

A stressed season is a season in which water is withheld.

Who’s withholding water from a vine? You want wine after all, which definitely requires water. The vinedresser knows that a stressed vine is a healthy vine, and so she will withhold water from her vine in order that the taproot will grow more deeply, seeking water. The taproot will grow more deeply when the topsoil, the soil near the surface of the plant, is providing insufficient water.

So the vinedresser withholds water from the vine for a season, ensuring that her vine’s taproot will grow deeply and have a source of deeper water so that when a dry season comes, she is not tapped out (sorry, couldn’t resist).

A stressed vine is a healthy vine because her taproot has rooted herself into the deep, rich source of water available far below the surface. Because her careful vine dresser has withheld surface water for a season, deeper nutrients are available to her in seasons of unexpected stress.

How’s this picture working for you?

It’s working for me right now. I even think my careful vinedresser has prepared me for a season of withholding by showing me the sustenance available below the surface level of my faith. I have been sitting every morning this week in the words of Psalm 46. Here the Psalmist introduces us to the tumultuous nature of the world in which mountains are literally being hurled into the sea. He concludes with, “Be still.” For the God who throws mountains into the sea, the Lord of the angel hosts, is with you. He is your fortress-- an immovable place-- when mountains are being hurled into the sea. I cannot imagine any place being safe when mountains are being hurled into nonexistence. And yet, God promises us that even when he is in the business of absolute destruction of all that surrounds, he is in the business of protecting us.

When you feel you are in a season of being withheld from-- loneliness, uncertain health diagnosis, unanswered questions, temporary living situations, without work, empty bank account, a string of “no’s” or “not yets,” persecution; when your surface level soil isn’t providing the nutrients you’re used to-- when your friends, spouse, calendar, devotional time, sense of calling, go-to verse, vacation, exercise plan aren’t delivering what you need; will you allow me to remind you of the nutrients available just a bit deeper? Will you allow the vinedresser to send your taproot deeper?

A stressed vine is a healthy vine.
Times of stress can be opportunities to send your taproot down deeper.

More fulfilling nutrients with a better promise of satisfaction are available in the Word of God, below the surface areas from which you are used to receiving the love, acceptance, and assurance you need. There is an invitation to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence to find mercy and receive grace to help in your time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Let us allow God to send us deeper into his Word when we feel lonely and unsatisfied, that we may find the truth that will enable us to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness in the season to come. May we not squander our vinedresser’s season of withholding so that we will have access to the nutrients we need in the season of harvest to come.

Better nutrients are available below the surface.
God’s Word supplies more richly than the platitudes often repeated.
Tapped out? Go deeper.

Wordless Wednesday: What's the Bible Study Topic for Tomorrow?!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Cure

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

no more VIP

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Such a strange thing. The place where I worked for 3 years closed their doors this week, leaving many people without work. I don't think the closing was unexpected, but certainly the timing. March was the buzz I was hearing when I was home, but then they closed just this week.

The strange thing is thinking-- what were those 3 years of work about? Lots of calling people, trying to get them to accept the free stuff they had earned by being AT&T customers. Imagine trying to get people to believe that. Hi, I'm from AT&T. You've earned $500 in Visa cards. Yeah, right they said. But they did. So weird. Then a couple more years of working with an amazing team of project managers, spending entire nights adding little electronic coupons into people's accounts. I know that doesn't make sense when it's typed out, but that's what I spent some time doing. And now that work's for naught. Or is it? I learned a lot of things during my time there:

1. The excitement of having a schedule full of meetings (post-call center)
2. The excitement of having a full day without any meetings (post-1st year in project management)
3. The fun of remembering birthdays with Koch's donuts
4. How to function as someone's second brain (miss you, Donna!)
5. Many Excel, Outlook, SharePoint, and Word tricks
6. The not-so-beauty of the not-so-effective "recall" option in Outlook
7. How to brainstorm for catchy tag lines
8. The bribing/rewarding power of cupcakes
9. How to fill empty hours with "research"
10. The importance of being ethical

I think ethics is ultimately what undermined the business. From the very top to the very bottom of a company, you must have people who do what they say will do, are who they say they are, do business with who they say they do business, and speak frankly and familially with both their customers and their employees. I watched that breakdown, and I am sad to say that.

Differing weights and differing measures-- the LORD detests them both. Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright? - Proverbs 20:10-11

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

my own response

Friday, January 21, 2011

I've been lying here, watching the snow come down for several hours thinking about what I posted yesterday.

Abundance. That's what I experienced last month at home. Abundance. In every sense of the word. We had surf & turf with wine instead of frozen taquitos. We had the very best of friends in wave upon wave of laughter and food and unplanned time together. So I think it's only natural that I miss home. But I also think it's got to be natural for me to continue on here where I am. And then I will celebrate all the more those moments of abundance.
I'm reading a wonderful book on Sabbath that I highly recommend-- The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. And toward the end, he suggests that one of the reasons we don't delight in the abundant rest that Sabbath provides is because we do not know frugality the other 6 days of the week. If we're eating cupcakes everyday, then what's special about a birthday cake? And so I even invite a bit of frugality, because the last year and a half here made me treasure home in a way which was fairly unexpected and deeply celebratory.

responsibility and sad or SAD

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm really trying not to be sad about being back at school. Not SAD (though many suffer for that), just sad-- as in, not quite myself, not quite happy. I am really glad to be here, really! I am thrilled with the chance to be in seminary, studying right in all the same classes with Larry. I'm very aware how few get to have the opportunity to study what they want right alongside their spouse. But I'm sad.
There are plenty of legitimate things to point to, I think. I had SUCH a great time at home for practically a month. I got to hang out with A LOT of 2 year olds that came along with some of my very closest friends ever. And let's face it-- when you move, you don't replace those kinds of friends. In fact, it even takes a long time for friends to even remotely come close to the level of closeness that you'll have with the "gold" friends. And "silver" just isn't cutting it for me right now.

(25 points for those of you now singing the girl scout song to yourself)

But I really think what's bearing down on me is the weight of responsibility. Being at home had very little responsibilities-- I voluntarily washed dishes and cooked meals, went to the grocery store, or vacuumed. Here I have to because no one else will. And without demeaning Larry, most of the time I do those kind of chores by myself. My poor little hyper-extroverted self just doesn't do by myself well very often. Not to mention work and school and blah blah blah.
But it's really even the more mundane that get to me. Is anyone else bothered by the stack of magazines that lie unread? Or the Netflix movie that's sat in the bowl for a month?

I know-- I'm ridiculous.

SO-- What's your best cure for sad or SAD? Either one, we've got lots of cases up here.
For me, I hope it's sledding on 8 inches of fresh powder on top of 18 inches of not so fresh tomorrow morning. It's also the cluttered fridge filled with the pictures of those precious 2 year olds.

So I'll stop my whining. Here's some humorous, pre-recorded whining for all of you, taken immediately after our baby-sitting shift at his brother's. That precious 2 year old is in time-out. They've taught him to "spread 'em."