The God Who is Not Embarrassed

This is another guest post from my beautiful friend, Tara. And it’s definitely one that I needed to hear right now. Growing up as a “good religious girl” I struggle with desire and how to handle my own desires. I struggle with how to honestly and openly journey into desire and invite God into my desires. So, this post hit home for me personally. Tara always has a way of saying things that I need to hear right when I need to hear them and I’m so glad that I got a chance to see her in person and connect with her this past week. Thanks again, my friend!


LGLPMexico34Have you ever been in a public place when somebody blurted something out that made everyone else around turn red with embarrassment? Quite a few years ago, standing in the checkout line at Target, my little son stood up in the cart and, at the top of his lungs, yelled…“Mom…I need to go psssst!!!” and then proceeded to point to those body parts that mothers wish their kids wouldn’t point to in public.

I am not totally sure what I did, but I am sure I wished that I could have looked around bewildered, asking how some strange child (obviously not mine!) had gotten into my cart. Embarrassed, I did not want to claim this one as my own!!

Now, quite a few years later, I am coming to realize that how I felt that day in Target is oftentimes how I feel about the deep desires within my heart. Their strength and volume embarrass and, honestly, scare me.

The “good religious girl” in me is unnerved by the deep rumblings of my soul and asks questions like:

  • what about being selfless and sacrificing?
  • what if this leads you away from God?
  • can you really trust the desires of your heart?
  • aren’t they full of sin and marred by your depravity?
  • what if you name your desire and then realize it can’t be lived?
  • isn’t desiring bad?
  • shouldn’t you just read the Bible and “do”?
  • what if a desire is in opposition to what God wants?

She asks all these questions in rapid fire succession, all while glancing around nervously to be sure nobody actually heard the stated desire out loud.

It is not that those questions are bad, but it is here where I get stuck. Do I stay where I am or do I journey into desire? And what if I lose my way on the journey? Some of the spiritual authors I read – CS Lewis, John Eldridge, Sue Monk Kidd, Ruth Haley Barton – all speak of this journey into exploring our desires. But if I were to be honest, I am afraid at the force of the desires that press against my heart and make me feel like they will undo me. I am afraid to say them out loud for others to hear…for me to hear…for God to hear. I am afraid to want.

As I sit silently with this longing ache, I am reminded of the story of Bartimaeus and Jesus in Mark 10. It is a story of much shouting, and shushing and eventually poignnant question asking.

In the narrative the blind beggar Bartimaeus knows that Jesus is near and does not want to waste the opportunity; he begins to cry out!! Interestingly, his cry is “Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me!!!” It is from this portion of Scripture that we get our orthodox “Jesus Prayer”, and it dawned on me that it is a cry of desperation and longing for Jesus to stop…pay attention…and notice. It is the cry of utter longing mixed with the physical reality of a present state of total blindness. It is the state I find myself in as I take the journey of desire.

If we read on in the passage, we can see that these longing shouts unnerve the crowd. People try to shut Bartimaeus up. His desire and his loud cries are embarrassing them. But Bartimaeus chooses not to listen and cries out all the louder…”Son of David!! Mercy, have mercy on me!!”

Jesus stops. He has noticed. He calls this loud, raw, longing, blind beggar over. And then He asks him the question…”What do you want Me to do for you?…What do you want?…”

At this point Bartimaeus has a choice. Will he actually risk saying out loud what his deepest longing is? Does he have the guts to say to the Son of God what it is he wants? Does he risk looking stupid in front of others and Jesus to name his desire?

These are the questions that we, who journey with desire, must all face. Will we say out loud what is in our hearts and wait for the answer from the Master? For me…I am learning that God is large enough to handle my desire. He is gentle enough to sometimes say no and good enough to sometimes say yes. He is capable enough to transform my wanting into new and surprising desires too. And He is risky enough to not be afraid or embarrassed of it all.

PictureofTaraForSite

Tara Malouf makes her home in the Seattle area with her husband and two kids. She loves images and words, quiet and beauty, walking and prayer. She sees with “connectedness” eyes and thinks life is lived in story. She aspires to be a professional friend.

You can check out her photography at www.redthreadphoto.blogspot.com and her occasional musings at www.stroyformed.wordpress.com

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Yoga as a Spiritual Practice

Yesterday Christine Sine posted another blog in her series “What is a Spiritual Practice?” It was written by Christina Whitehouse-Suggs and was about yoga as a spiritual practice. This is something that obviously caught my attention as yoga has (especially in the past two years) become a very dear part of my life and a very significant way that I relate to God.

Let me begin by specifying for all of you that yoga is not in and of itself spiritual. It is not a religion and it does not need to be practiced religiously. I know that there are those who think that yoga is part of Eastern religion and Hinduism in particular and that because of that Christian’s shouldn’t practice it. I strongly disagree with this, on two levels. One being that it’s just not true. Yoga is not religious in and of itself. Yoga is a philosophy. Like any other philosophy it can be incorporated with a broad range of religions or it can be followed or practiced on its own without religious connections. Secondly, I tend to think that even if it was really religious in nature there would still be things that we as Christian’s could learn from it. I think there are probably things that we could learn from a lot of other religions. Not that I think we should openly accept anything and everything that is out there, but I do think that an open and honest dialogue can never be really harmful and that we can glean much from people who believe and practice a faith that is different than our own.

That all being said I think that for me yoga, both the physical practice and the philosophy of yoga have become very spiritual and very closely connected with my religious experience. I have learned and continue to learn a lot about God and life and myself through yoga. And I have experienced God through my yoga practice. It stretches me and grows my faith and draws me into an experience of the divine just as any other spiritual practice does.

I have written off and on quite a bit about how I relate to God through yoga, giving examples of things I learn from yoga and even posting yoga routines that incorporate scripture and prayer and that have been powerful experiences for me. To share all these posts again would be way too much, but I did want to re-share a few of them that specifically talked about things I’ve learned about God and myself through yoga to compliment Christina’s wonderful posts about what she has learned through her yoga experience.

Here are both of Christina’s posts on yoga as a spiritual practice:

Becoming a Good Student – about the “five qualities that contribute to being a good student of yoga and how they relate to natural elements”. She points out that these are also significant qualities needed for being a follower or student of Christ.

Yoga & Jesus – about three of the paths of yoga and how they relate to the greatest commandment given by Jesus. l

Here are just a few of mine:

Lessons from Yoga: Headstands – about experiencing a tangible picture for the up-side-down and back-wards kingdom that Christ calls us to

Lessons from Yoga: Warrior Poses – about power and fighting for justice and standing up for ourselves

Lessons from Yoga: Savasana and Letting Go – about surrendering to God and letting go

Lessons from Yoga: Focus – about the difference that focusing on God instead of ourselves can make

Hope you enjoy some or all of these posts.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Three more great links

In honor of St. Patty’s day here is a great overview of the life of St. Patrick, including the prayer “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”

This is also worth a read. It’s a great article by Julie Clawson bringing awareness to how little there is for children within the emerging church and calling for the emerging church to focus more on it’s children.

For while resources continue to amass for adults in the emerging church, very little has been provided for children.  There are few children’s curriculums that encourage, for example, resisting empire.  It’s hard to find brightly colored picture books that explore the Kingdom of God or children’s bibles that don’t chop up the text or impose moralistic interpretations on the stories.  I’ve yet to find resources that don’t limit spiritual disciplines for children to going to church, praying and reading the Bible.  As a parent I would rather my daughter learn that scripture is messy, that following Jesus is an entire way of life, and that believers are to seek justice for the oppressed.  I want her to know that growing our own food and picking up trash is a way of showing God we love him by caring for his creation.  I want her to respect people from other ethnic or religious backgrounds and not be quick to put God in a box.  These aren’t messages she will hear in most traditional church settings.  I’m more than happy to teach her, but I don’t want to have to teach her these things alone – reinventing the wheel at each step.”

 If this is a topic that resonates with you I encourage you to check out the article and also check out www.emergingparents.com.

And the last one… This is a TED talk on creativity from the author of Eat, Pray, Love that I found really interesting. I definitely recommend it.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Moving Towards True Being: The long Process of Maturity

When I first heard that the topic for this month’s synchroblog was “Maturity” I was excited. I even wrote a blog right away with some random thoughts on maturity. But, then it came time to actually write my synchroblog post and I didn’t really know what to write. I found that I couldn’t really write until I answered one important question:

What is maturity?

So, of course, I went were any respectable blogger would go for an answer, Wikipedia. Here’s what it said:

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner.”

Well, that makes sense, but it seemed to be missing something. So, I went to other sources…

My beautiful mother-in-law described maturity this way:

“To be able to exhibit the fruits of the spirit. To be kind, even though we are not treated kindly. To see others with heavenly eyes, not earthly ones. Allow our speech to be seasoned with grace and be patient with those who are in a different part of that process than we are. To be able to be childlike , without being childish. To never lose our sense of awe and wonderment, even after knowing all that we do about our world. To show hospitality to others in a way that makes them feel special and welcome without regard for our own self. To look for the positive in not only others, but our situation. To have an attitude that not only is a sweet incense to God, but attracts and uplifts those around us.”

I love the picture she paints, but there was something else that maturity seemed to be to me personally that those definitions and descriptions where touching on but not really getting at. After reading a few more things and talking to a few more people, it dawned on me.

I think maturity is the long process of becoming more and more the people we are suppose to be. It’s the process of reaching our full potential as unique individuals. A tree is said to be mature when it has grown from a seedling and has reached its full potential as a tree. A person is mature when they have grown into the full potential of being exactly and fully the person that God desires for them to be. Maturity is not just acting appropriately in a given situation (though that may come with maturity), maturity is a movement that draws us into true being.

I found this quote and I think it sums up much of what I really think maturity is at its heart:

“Becoming [mature] means that the individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is. He moves away from being what he is not, from being a façade. He is not trying to be more than his is, with the attendant feelings of insecurity or bombastic defensiveness. He is not trying to be less than he is, with the attendant feelings of guilt or self-depreciation. He is increasingly listening to the deepest recesses of his psychological and emotional being, and finds himself increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which he most truly is.”

I think maturity is also a process that requires surrender. At some point in order to really become mature, in order to really reach our full potential as sons and daughters of God, we must surrender to His hand and allow Him to mold and shape us.

George MacDonald writes:

“The one secret of life and development is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work – to do every moment’s duty aright – that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come – not what will, for there is no such thing – but what the eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first. If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made – let the maker handle them as the potter his clay, yielding themselves in respondent motion and submissive hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the divine end in view, the bringing of a son into glory; whereas, behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed, notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort: they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds, and ask to be finished.”

I think that maturity is stopping fighting against God’s molding work in our lives and asking to be finished. It is the long process of being finished, of surrendering to becoming the person God desires for us to be. And as we do so, as we surrender to be molded and then are molded more and more into ourselves – the true self which God intended for us when he “knit us together in our mother’s womb” – something amazing happens we find that we are truly free.

I think that maturity is a process that takes us to freedom – freedom to be who we are and freedom to live fully and authentically from our true self. I was talking with a few friends the other night and we were talking about the different stages of development that humans go through and about how our spiritual and inner maturity seems to mirror those stages. Maturing means becoming an adult and growing into adulthood means a new sense of freedom. As we mature spiritually we are no longer the 7 year old that begs God for the toys we want and needs to ask His permission for every little decision we make. Instead we learn that there is much more to walking with God then getting what we want and as we walk with Him he gives us much more freedom to make choices then we ever imagined. It reminded me of a C.S. Lewis quote I have always loved from the book Perelandra:

” ‘I have been so young till this moment that all my life now seems to have been a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking… What you have made me see is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before – that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished – if it were possible to wish – you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit insipid by thinking of the other… And this, O Piebald, is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it… I thought,’ she said, ‘that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent drew me into them; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming… It is a delight with terror in it! One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths – but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.'”

I think maturity is growing into our freedom, learning to walk beside God even though He has made us separate enough from Himself that we can walk away. I think maturity is letting go of our own selfish ideas and desires and learning instead to be in truth that which God wants us to be. Maturity isn’t some place you arrive at and it’s not just being “grown up”, maturity is a process of becoming.

And it comes at a cost. As a friend of mine pointed out mature things, like wine and cheese and pearls and even big full grown trees, are expensive. We develop maturity – we gain freedom and learn who we really are – through struggles and the long passing of time. Maturity can’t be rushed, and it doesn’t come easy. We are refined by fire.

Maturity also doesn’t usually happen in a smooth linear line. It’s often two steps forward and one step back. Like a baby learning to walk we step forward and then fall down. Maturity is a slow process and it doesn’t happen in all areas of our life at once. We grow in bursts, sometimes in one area and sometimes in another. Different parts of us mature at different stages and different paces.

So, that’s what I think about maturity. Those are my jumbled and often borrowed thoughts on maturity. Maybe my thoughts will be more orderly for the next synchroblog… we’ll see J

Here’s what other people are saying about maturity:

Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?”
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories”
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting Spiritual Infants in Charge”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity”
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up”
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schrmal at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue”
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching”
Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Saturday Links: All sorts of Goodness

I guess I’ll just jump right in…

My friend Tara, wrote a prayer on her blog this week. She drew from the Psalms of Ascent and the result was a beautiful psalm of her own. I encourage you to check it out as well as her other blog entries.

Chad at Blooming in Bullock wrote a blog titled A New Thing this week.  It is basically about different reactions people have to God doing “a new thing.” He writes about Isaiah 43:18-19 and I found it to be a really interesting and challenging post.

Kathy Escobar wrote on her blog this week about being safe people and safe communities. I thought she had some really good points and it was challenging to think to myself, “am I a safe place for those around me?”

Julie Clawson wrote on her blog, Onehandclapping, about Questioning God. I loved her thoughts on this. I have for a long time been a firm believer that questioning God and wresting WITH him can be a very powerful and necessary experience in the life of the believer. I also love Julie’s honesty in sharing her own life.

I recently started reading a blog called The Margins and I have really enjoyed the thoughts that I’ve found there. This week there was a post called Narrow is the road. It was a story taken from a driving experience and I found it to be a really interesting analogy. I encourage you to read it.

The Homeschool Diva is a blog that I am quickly coming to love. This week she wrote two posts about Giving children perspective on Jesus. You can find part one HERE and part two HERE. I found these very interesting and I really respect how thoughtful and intentional she and her husband are in the spiritual formation of their children. I want to be that kind of parent some day (when I have children).

I found a new blog this past week and so far I’m really enjoying the thoughts shared there. The blog is called Stepping Out of the Grey. I especially liked this post entitled Change of Plans. The thought that really stood out to me in it was “How many times do we drive or walk past someone who is experiencing the hardest or worst day or their life?”

 

Alright, I think that is it for this now. Hope you enjoy!

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.