So I am seriously considering this opportunity, but I wondered how many other people would be interested in joining the bloggers book club? And if you're interested, what would you name the blogging book club? Do tell.
Check out the band:
The Neil Cowley Trio
It'll do your ears good. (And they're BRILLIANT live, if you ever get a chance to hear them.)
That day I sat at the kitchen table and wrote the first honest thing to God that I've said in months. It went like this:
I think I'm forgetting how to trust you. I think I doubt your love. I'm not sure why . . . maybe it has something to do with growing up and seeing more of the bad in the world? The older I get, the more uncertain I become that you have a plan for everything and everyone. I've begun to believe that you don't step in as often--that more often than not we're left to the consequences of our own sin and choices. Is this a hazard to my faith? That I don't expect miracles? Or that I don't pray believing you'll answer in the way I want? My prayers have become so small.
So that night I woke at 1 am, wide awake, with nothing to think or do. It clicked in me like a light bulb to start reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz again. It's one of my favorite books and it had been awhile since I read it. I took it to bed and switched on my headlamp so as not to disturb Jonathan, and then I ended up moving to the kitchen table. Finally, at page 86, back in my bed again, God's love took hold of me in one of the most powerful ways it ever has. This is what I read: "Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God's love will. The ability to accept God's unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey him in return. Accepting God's kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, he changes our character with the passion of his love."
Ever since that night, I've been praying more. And I tell you, God has been answering the funniest little prayers. Last week I went to the library and was told that I returned a DVD without its disc. The library woman graciously checked it back out to me so that I could take it home and find the disc, but when I went home, it wasn't anywhere, and I prayed it would be at the library so I wouldn't have to pay £15 for a DVD I didn't want. After a few days I went back and explained to another woman that I couldn't find it, and lo and behold, it was filed in another case.
The other night, Jonathan made a mistake while restoring his iPhone, so that he thought he lost all of his data, including his sporadic notes he takes every day. He prayed that he would get it all back, and suddenly, without explanation, his iPhone restored from nothing.
On Friday I prayed for my parent's safe driving to Seward and back to Denver (to take my brother Andrew to college for the first time). Today they told me that they went to a mechanic when they got back, and he said their tires and ball bearings should not have carried them safely all the way home. But they made it safely and without any accident, praise God.
So, maybe these prayers don't stop wars or global warming or world poverty, but maybe it means enough to Him that I start believing that prayer changes the world--and me. Maybe that's why he sent the little miracles that I told him I didn't believe in anymore.
I know one thing and it alone changes me: I am loved.
"Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficienty of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement."
Sweet relief! When we reach fifty we can put a basket on our head and men will still find us (at least our bottom half) attractive. At least we'll be better practiced...
In this video, posted on Focus on the Family's website, a guy asks people to pray for rain during Obama's speech at the Democratic convention in Denver.
Somebody please tell me why we don't yet have a democratic voting process for Christian leaders. F on the F is one of the greatest known "Christian" organizations in the nation, and they're using their resources and influential platform to stoop to the realm of mean-spirited political propaganda that tells the nation Jesus is a republican who doesn't care about democrats or Obama supporters?
When he was in the world, Jesus stayed out of politics.
I wish I had a say in the organizations and "authorities" who represent my faith.
I got to thinking about my marriage after I read that, and I wondered if part of the reason why Jonathan and I are so happy together, and why we haven't had major difficulties, is because we both had realistic expectations of marriage before we said 'I do'. Of course there are other factors that determine the health of a marriage, but I'm convinced that anticipation plays a starring role.
So then I thought: maybe realistic expectations are the key to a satisfactory life. If we go into life expecting not more or less than what it offers, then we can't be disappointed with the reality. Assuming that it's possible to have realistic expectations in life, that is. But the more I thought about it, the more the virtue of realistic expectations didn't sit well with me. And I don't often (or ever) hear it preached from pulpits or billboards or commercials or lecturers.
I think my discomfort stems from the fact that it doesn't co-exist with faith very well. Faith doesn't rely on our knowledge of reality. In fact, God doesn't really fit into our concept of reality, because most of what we know is physical. So the first problem with settling for reality is that we're not even able to fully grasp what's available to us in this life. We have deep-seeded wants and needs buried inside of us from the moment of our birth, some that we can't even fully explain to people, but sometimes the greater problem is naming the desire, not claiming the desire. So how can we be expected to expect? What can we be expected to expect?
Then along comes the little matter of praying. We're supposed to ask for everything we want. We're supposed to pray boldly, believe expectantly, and hope eternally. If we value realistic expectations, if we settle for not more, not less, we can't very well take all that God is offering us, can we?
While still trying to marry the idea of realistic expectation and expectant faith, I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis from his book "Weight of Glory":
“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
As painful as desiring may be, even though it seems cheeky or greedy to ask for more and reach beyond the everyday muddle into the everyday eternal, I am convinced that hope will not disappoint us.* It's all a matter of perspective. This world, made of friendships, love, community, laughter, food, drink, mountains, oceans, rainforests, animals, literature, art, films, music, science, athletics, weekends, work--is available to everyone. But if we could only expect a life beyond this one, we might realize our potential to live for others and not ourselves; and then this life could be beautiful.**
* "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5.5
**He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:13
Not only have I fulfilled a dream of living abroad, but in a month I'll have completed a Masters degree. Although I don't know exactly where I'll be working next year, I already have freelance work with the London book publishing company I worked for on internship. I've hopped on planes, trains and automobiles to see Europe and made memories of Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, England and France with friends and family. I'm more confident as a traveler. I've established a life-long commitment to Mac products (I have to include that one for Jonathan). I love curry and almond croissants and English beer. My eyes have been opened to different cultures and people, my perspective on social and political society has expanded, and my appreciation of my country has grown. Because I've spent a year away from my closest friends and family, I'm reminded how much I rely on them and how blessed I am to have them in my life. My faith has been challenged--especially it's relevance strengthened in a world that believes it's irrelevant. I've been astounded how much my marriage has matured and how I've never loved Jonathan more; how our removal from the known has hacked away at the shell of our younger, selfish selves and exposed our deeper capacity to love and communicate that love. Overall, I'm thankful for a greater understanding of my place in this world among people, places and ideas, and of the limited time I have to spend here, and how each moment and each relationship counts and should be handled with care.
So here's to my family who have molded me; here's to the friends who have affirmed me; above all, here's to the Creator who breathed life into you and me and the beautiful world we live in. May you always know how deep and wide and high His love is.
I've heard magical things about Ireland... about how the Irish are extraordinary weavers of conversation (and you can discover this by hanging out in any pub and extending a friendly eye to strangers); how they give directions according to the city's lay of the pubs; how time stands still on the winding country roads; how the rocky cliffs and green hills and ocean views are from another world altogether... I've even heard about a local dolphin who swims near Dingle (where we're staying) and who you're almost guaranteed to see if you venture by the bay. These things, along with other sights, sounds and tastes of my imagined Ireland, are building my anticipation as I write. And I will be thrilled to share my experiences when I get back. Until then, I'll be toasting you a few tasty pints of Guinness. (They say it tastes better in Ireland! I'm counting on the luck o' the Irish for that.)