Monday, May 31, 2010


With the changes that are taking place in our church, it seems like a good time to reflect on the past few years and my thoughts about church and community.

We came to LifePoint Church in 2007, the first time they met at the local movie theater. It just happened to work out that way; we hadn't attended church in months, and prior to that, we had never found a church that felt like a good fit for us. We hoped that we would one day find the right church for us, and at some point I finally decided to turn to the almighty Google. I began searching for a non-denominational church in our area, and I found LifePoint. We read over the website and thought it sounded like something we might be interested in, so we decided to check it out. And what we found there drew us in. God, community, a message of love for God and people-- and not just in words, but in action.

Yesterday, LifePoint met at the movie theater for the last time. Actually, "LifePoint" met for the last time. We're seeking a location that's a better fit for us, and we've also changed our name to one that is a better fit-- The Exchange.

But although we've changed our name and location, the community remains. I've written many times about the church being more than just a building and more than just a Sunday morning gathering-- and that's true!-- but I think it can be easy to forget that when you've become used to the Sunday morning church routine. Suddenly, when the comfort of the familiar Sunday morning service in the familiar location is gone, you are stripped down to the core of community-- God, people, and love. And that can be a really good thing.

I've said it many times, and I'll say it again now. Community is beautiful, and community is messy. There are heartaches and struggles and tears; there is laughter and support and love. There are times of worshiping together and times of mourning together. These are the people we share our lives with, our successes and struggles, our dreams and our disappointments. In the past three years I have seen so many living and breathing examples of the love of Christ. Helping people when they're struggling financially, clothing the needy, feeding the hungry, housing the poor, providing a listening ear, sharing the love of God, growing together on this journey of faith.

So to the people in this amazing community-- I love you, and I cannot wait to see where our journey takes us next.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. -Matthew 22:37-39

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not God

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul writes that God has revealed himself through his creation, yet people have ended up worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.

I think it's beautiful that God chose to reveal himself through the things he made. He called them good, and they are indeed good-- perhaps because they point to him. It's not hard to get caught up in making false idols of that which is of God-- that which points to him, reveals him, and reflects him-- but is not God.

Oftentimes the things we make idols of are not bad things, they are good things. They reveal something about God, and we see the goodness in them, but we may end up following after those things rather than God himself. And eventually, it's easy to be swept away and led astray because what we've committed our hearts to and set our sights on is not God.

Actually, this reminds me of something I read in the book Jesus for President. I'll share a short excerpt here (emphasis added):

It's the beautiful things that get us. Perhaps the greatest seduction is not the anti-God, but the almost-God. Poisonous fruit can look pretty tasty. That's what is so dangerous about ideas like freedom, peace and justice. They are all seductive qualities, close to the heart of God... Most of the ugliness in the human narrative comes from a distorted quest to possess beauty. Coveting begins with appreciating blessings. Murder begins with a hunger for justice. Lust begins with a recognition of beauty. Gluttony beings when our enjoyment of the delectable gifts of God starts to consume us. Idolatry begins when our seeing a reflection of God in something beautiful leads to our thinking that the beautiful image bearer is worthy of worship.

Suppose you've been reading someone's blog or a book they've written, so you know quite a lot about what they enjoy and appreciate. So you decide you will pursue those same things, you will try to become like them and appreciate the things they appreciate and enjoy the things they enjoy and do the things they do. Then maybe one day, when you're enough like that person, you will meet them and form a relationship.

That's a weird way to approach a relationship, right? Yet I think we do this with God more often than we realize. On the surface there seems to be just a trivial difference between following after the things that are close to God's heart and following after God, but in reality the difference isn't trivial at all! As Christians, we can read through the Bible and see the heart of God revealed over and over. But do we try to pursue the things that are close to God's heart, the good things, the "almost-God," or do we first develop a relationship with him?

Here is the beautiful thing: through relationship with him, our hearts will be changed and we will naturally start living in ways that are close to the heart of God. To try to pursue those things without the relationship, or in hopes of becoming good enough to develop a relationship with him, is backwards.

Maybe this sounds entirely foreign to you, but it's something I've struggled with, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I have seen things that absolutely reflect the heart of God and I've tried to do and be those things-- but without pursuing the relationship above all! I end up trying to do them on my own, and I tell myself that if I can make these things appear in my life, I will be closer to God. In the end it's another kind of legalism and another kind of idolatry. It reminds me of the fruit of the Spirit; you can't make it grow in your life. It is not the fruit of your efforts or the fruit of your good intentions; it is the fruit of a relationship with God.

So when we see things that are good, things that are close to God's heart, God's beautiful creation, the "almost-God," let's remember that these do not stand alone. They are good, they are beautiful, they are meaningful, because they point to him. How tragic it would be to be so close to the Creator only to be sidetracked by following after the things that are close to him-- but are not him.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


A couple years ago, I read through the book of Luke and wrote about each chapter on my old blog. It took me a while to get through it, but it was something I really enjoyed doing. I think it's time to do something similar, this time with Romans.

I'll go ahead and tell you I happen to love the book of Romans. Each time I read it, it speaks to me in such a profound way. There's so much in there, so I won't be writing about every single point and every single verse; instead, I will do what I did with Luke and write about one or two things that stand out to me as I read through each chapter.

I'll also go ahead and tell you that I'm no theologian. These posts are just going to be about the thoughts, ideas, and questions that come to mind as I read. I hope you'll bear with me through it all and join me as I blog my way through Romans.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Is Good

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." -Voltaire

How true this has proven to be in my life. The perfect crouches on my shoulder, disguised to look like an angel, when really it is a demon. The perfect entices me, becomes an idol, a false god, something for which I constantly strive. The perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect house, the perfect life.

Except in perfection, there is no room for grace. If we are capable of being perfect, we have no need for God or a savior. Perfection, then, would be a hollow prize; I could glorify myself and have faith and pride in myself, but I would still be missing something-- something that is more complicated and much more treasured than perfection. God. Love. Forgiveness. Grace. Humility.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chaos and Order

It's one of those days where I don't know what to write. As always, a lot of things are in my mind, but they're all fragmented bits of thoughts and not fully (or even halfway) developed.

But, ironically, this is one of the reasons I need to write. In the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore pulls memories out of his mind and stores them away so he can come back to revisit them later. And in a sense, this is what writing is for me, a way to extract the thoughts from my head, not only so I can revisit them later, but so they stop rattling around in my mind and distracting me.

You see, when I don't write, all those thoughts and fragments of thoughts whirl around in my head constantly, and I cannot help but focus on them. At times like this, I'm only halfway involved in the present moment; another part of me is lost in my own head trying to make sense of it all, put it all together, or even sort it all out.

I'm one of those people who has trouble sleeping sometimes because I can't stop thinking. When I do finally sleep, often the things on my mind carry over into my dreams.

Sometimes writing helps me disconnect thoughts that I had assumed were connected until I started examining them more closely. At other times writing helps me make connections between thoughts that I hadn't realized were related.

The Torah was written in Hebrew, and from what I understand, ancient Hebrew is actually made up of word pictures, where each letter is a picture, so each word is made up of pictures, and so on. These word pictures help bring more understanding to the ideas being expressed. I've read that when you take into account the word pictures, Genesis 1:1 actually says, "The one who hung on a cross stood in the midst of chaos and brought order."

Now, obviously, I don't place myself anywhere close to the level of God. But I think there's something to be said for the ability of creation to bring order where there was chaos. God, of course, is the Creator, but we are fashioned in his image, so it only makes sense that the Creator would design us to create as well. Naturally, how this looks in our individual lives varies because we all have unique interests and abilities. I think most people would agree that God put a desire to create inside of us, but I think the word pictures mentioned above bring a greater understanding, not just to the Genesis account of creation, but also to the significance of creation, taking what was chaos and bringing order to it.

Writing brings order to the chaos in my head. It is how I create. How do you create?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why I Fear Failure

It all began to come together while I was reading a chapter in the book The Mission of Motherhood. This particular chapter was about teaching kids about God, the Bible, morality, and so on. I found myself becoming very uncomfortable with some of the things that were being said. Even things that I'm sure were meant in an innocuous way "sounded" shaming and manipulative to me. Then this passage got me seriously thinking about figuring out what on earth my problem is:

Jesus also taught principles of right and wrong in simple, concrete ways that are easy for children to grasp and apply. His Sermon on the Mount instructions to treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31; Matthews 7:12) has to be one of the main training points of toddlerhood! I can't begin to count how many times I have separated squabbling little ones with gentle but pointed reminders that they should not snatch toys or hit-- because they wouldn't like it if someone did that to them... and "Jesus tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated."

As I read that paragraph, I felt uncomfortable, and I wanted to know why. I know these same words could be said in a shaming tone with the motivation to make the child feel bad or wrong, but I truly don't believe that's how the author meant it. So why was I automatically "hearing" it that way when I read it? This happens for me a lot when it comes to religious stuff aimed at children; I "hear" shame and manipulation where there may be none intended.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks-- the reason why I'm so afraid of failure, the reason I'm so driven to find the "best" choice so I don't mess up, the reason I struggle with stories like the one above.

It's because somewhere along the way-- I don't know where and I don't know why-- in my mind, I began automatically equating failure with disappointing people (or God) and being loved or liked less. And, as you can probably imagine, I also began equating doing the right thing with pleasing people and being loved more or approved of more.

And so even though I honestly do not believe that God loves us less if we mess up, or that he loves us more if we do what he wants, my mind still goes there when I hear stories like the one above. I read that and in my mind what it's saying is, "Jesus tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated-- and you aren't doing that. You aren't doing what Jesus said to do. You've failed, and you're a disappointment. Shame on you." And I balk because I cannot fathom saying that to a child, or an adult, or anyone (but I say it to myself).

It's pretty easy to see how I've ended up in a place where I fear failure or making less than perfect choices, isn't it? No, I don't believe that God loves me less if I fail. But there is something inside me that feels like a failure, like I'm worth less and deserve to be liked or loved less, if I don't do everything just right-- and that I'll be loved more or gain more approval or liked better if I do everything perfectly. Not by God, necessarily, but by myself and by other people.

Where to go from here, I don't know. But I think this has been a step in the right direction. I need to remember that my successes and failures do not determine my worth or how much I'm loved. We all mess up sometimes, every last one of us, and we are loved dearly by God all the same. And if God isn't going to love me less when I mess up, why should I love me less? Why continue to heap shame and guilt upon myself, why continue to pressure myself to be perfect, why continue to be immobilized because I fear failure?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Free Will and Fear of Failure

I hear that one of the keys to becoming a successful writer is to write. That makes sense to me-- write every day, develop your skills, get some practice, improve. The trouble I always have with this idea is that some days I just don't feel like writing. Maybe I have nothing to say, or maybe I feel like what I have to say is too controversial, or maybe I'm worried about saying it all perfectly and I don't want to post my thoughts for others to read until I feel they're flawless.

The first two reasons are true of me occasionally. There have been plenty of times where I'm itching to write something, but I have no idea what I want to say. And several posts have been sitting in my drafts for quite a while now because I fear that they're too controversial to put out there.

But if I'm being completely honest, the third reason probably rings truest for me most of the time. In my writing, just as in the rest of my life, I want things to be perfect and I hesitate to make a move at all unless I feel that it's flawless.

At church lately, and also in a few conversations, the idea has been discussed that maybe God doesn't have a specific plan laid out for everything in our lives. Maybe there are areas that are left up to us to decide, and God will work through them. Perhaps things like how many children to have, or where to live, or what career to pursue. While I'm sure that God does have a plan for these things for some people, I'm also fairly confident that many times he gives us passions and talents and then wants us to use our free will in conjunction with these to make choices about our lives-- and then he will work through those choices.

I know that some have a hard time grasping that idea. Maybe it sounds slightly blasphemous, as though I'm saying God isn't actually all-powerful. (That's not what I'm saying.) Or perhaps it freaks you out a little because you like the idea of God having it all planned out, and it's stressful to think that maybe sometimes the choices are left up to you. Maybe the idea of this challenges you or your understanding of God in some other way.

Personally, I'm comfortable with the idea because in a way, it takes the pressure off a little. If God has a plan for everything, and I make the wrong choice, I could ruin his plan for my life! It feels very freeing to think that sometimes God wants us to make our own choices and that he will work through them.

So while I don't really struggle with this idea, I do still struggle with wanting to make the "best" choice. Even if God doesn't have a specific plan all laid out for me, I can't help feeling that some choices are going to be better or more logical than others, so there must also be a best choice if I just think it through enough. So I end up spending an insane amount of time examining everything from every angle, trying to figure out what's the very best. After all, I don't want to do anything imperfectly. I want it all figured out, planned out, and flawlessly carried out.

But more and more, I'm starting to think that maybe in a lot of situations, there isn't even a "best" or most logical plan. Maybe sometimes lots of different options will work out equally well-- differently, but equally well-- and I just need to make a choice and go for it. Maybe I'll fail. Maybe it won't be all that I thought it was cracked up to be. And that's okay. (I know that, but it's a hard pill to swallow still, because I fear failure.)

If the key to becoming a successful writer is to write, perhaps the key to living a successful life is to, well, live. Make choices. Try new things. Do something you're afraid to do. Accept that you may fail sometimes. Just live-- even when you don't feel like it, even when you don't think you have anything to do or say, even when you may be coming up against the status quo, and even (maybe especially) when you fear failure.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Homeschooling Decision, Part 2

Why homeschool? Well, obviously because I'm trying to turn my children into narrow-minded social outcasts with no interpersonal skills! And also because I think denim jumpers are super sexy, and you know that's the homeschool mom's uniform, right? ;-) (Read the description; it really does say that it's sexy!)

Of course that's not the reason! :-P Yet that's the negative image many people have in their heads when they think of homeschoolers. Here are a few of the real reasons why I've decided to homeschool next year.

Individual, Personal Education: I know my children better than anyone else. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know how they learn best. I know where they excel and where they struggle. I know their temperaments and personalities. I know their interests. And I am capable of teaching them in ways that fit them best. In a classroom, only a limited amount of that can occur; there are so many children and only one teacher, and it's just not feasible for a teacher to tailor his or her teaching to each and every individual child.

Real Socialization: If you've ever talked to anyone about homeschooling, you know that the socialization issue is one of the hot topics. It seems to me, though, that the public school model of grouping 20+ same-age kids together for 7 hours a day is not representative of real-life socialization. Sure, it's good for kids to hang out with other kids their age-- but it's even better for them to be around all different age groups, from babies on up to the elderly. Homeschooling doesn't mean kids won't spend time with other children their own age, but in most cases it does mean that they'll be exposed to a variety of people. That seems like positive socialization to me! This is how the rest of us live our lives every day, so I'm not sure how this would not prepare kids for real-world interaction. This is real-world interaction.

Learning for Learning's Sake: This is not the fault of public school teachers, so I hope you don't think I'm picking on them. I'm friends with several teachers and I think they're amazing people! Unfortunately, the way the public school system is set up requires so much "teaching to the test." Schools are expected to deliver certain test scores, and when you're trying to cram in all the material needed for the students to score well, you just don't have time to slow down and emphasize the process of learning. Kids are natural learners; they are inquisitive and curious, and they want to know all kinds of things. But after a few years in school, many start to think of learning as a boring chore that you have to sit down and do. When really, life is learning, and it's naturally rewarding if we would just let it happen.

It Feels Natural: I've chosen a certain kind of parenting because I believe in it wholeheartedly. When I view discipline as teaching and guiding my children, and when fostering a healthy attachment is very important, it only seems natural for homeschooling to flow out of that.

Time: I'll be honest, I hate what the public school schedule does to our family. Elijah has to get up way too early, he's gone for several hours, and when he comes home, we have just a few hours to squeeze in family time, homework, dinner, and any other evening activities before bedtime comes along at 8:00. When he's home, we're able to follow a schedule that fits our family better. Schooling can flow naturally into the rhythm of our day, rather than our day being dictated by the school's schedule.

Connection: When Elijah's away from home for 7 hours a day, we start to feel really disconnected from each other, and this shows up in very obvious ways in our relationship. So many people feel frustrated with their kids and think they'd never be able to stand spending all day with them, but I've found that when I'm able to spend more time with Elijah, things are actually much better. We feel connected again, we have time to relax together, we learn together and pursue interests, and our home actually feels much more peaceful. The difference is very noticeable.

So those are just a few of my reasons for wanting to homeschool. I know that these reasons may not resonate with everyone, and that's fine. We all have to follow our hearts and do what's best for our own families. There have been times where I truly don't believe homeschooling would have been the best fit for our family-- but right now, it is, and that's what we're going to do. :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Homeschooling Decision- Part 1

Once upon a time, I thought homeschooling was weird (and homebirthing, and cloth diapering, and breastfeeding past 12 months old... there's a pattern here!). But several years ago, I found out that one of my favorite college professors and his wife homeschooled their kids, and they seemed like relatively normal people. I became curious, and began looking into it a little more, and what I learned really intrigued me. Elijah was about 3 years old then. That summer I homeschooled him. He was developmentally delayed and we made a huge amount of progress in just a couple months. It was awesome.

After that, though, while I was still interested in homeschooling, I struggled to get much of anywhere with it. Plus Elijah really enjoyed preschool, so we decided to keep him in it. When the time came for him to start kindergarten, I was very pregnant with our second child and knew my limitations well enough to know that homeschooling just wouldn't be a good idea for me that year, so off to kindergarten he went, while I reminded myself that I would reevaluate our schooling decisions each year. First grade rolled around, and he had enjoyed kindergarten, and I still didn't feel up to the task of homeschooling, so he returned to the elementary school for another year.

But during first grade, something changed. It's not that our school experience has been bad; he's learning, making friends, and overall doing quite well. But the public school model of education simply doesn't match up with our beliefs and goals regarding our children's education at this time. There are other things too, which I'll tell you about in the next post. But the point of this post is to say that after years of being interested in homeschooling but not being ready yet for one reason or another, I'm ready now. We've decided to bring Elijah home for second grade. I'm excited to start the journey, and a little nervous too, but I think that's normal. Elijah is also excited. I think this is going to be a great fit for our family. And I promise I won't start wearing denim jumpers or have fifteen more babies. That's just a stereotype, friends. ;-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In Honor of Mother's Day

Today, as I'm sure you are aware, is a very special day, a day in which we celebrate mothers. And because I am nearly incapable of being serious and not cracking a joke at some point, I bring you a special song about mothers performed by none other than Mr. T:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Food, Eating Habits, and Weight

Despite never really being taught how to eat well, make the healthiest possible choices, or stick to reasonable portions, I was small for most of my life. Throughout my childhood I was very skinny, then when I became a teenager and put on more weight than I would've liked (although I was still at a very healthy weight!) I all but stopped eating for a few months. I ate just enough to not arouse too much suspicion, and I lost about 20 pounds, at which point I started eating normally again.

All was well for a few years. And then I had a baby. :-P After Elijah was born, I weighed about 15 pounds more than I had before I'd gotten pregnant. And then I put on more weight because I didn't know how to make the healthiest choices or stick to reasonable portions. I would lose a little, then gain it all back plus some. It doesn't help that I tend to eat out of boredom or stress, or that I crave simple carbs and sugar. When I got pregnant with Isaac, I was at my highest weight ever to that point, which of course got higher as the pregnancy went on. At 9 months pregnant I weighed a full 100 pounds more than I had seven years prior, before I'd married and had children. Yikes!

But since Isaac's birth almost 18 months ago, things have really turned around. I've become more and more committed to eating better and taking care of myself, plus breastfeeding helps because it burns calories. Yay, breastfeeding! ;-) Between the day of Isaac's birth and today, I have lost 62 pounds. Ten of those have been in the last five weeks or so as I've really been working on my eating habits and cutting out the simple carbs I was addicted to.

Sixty-two pounds is a lot, and I'm really proud of it. It's so awesome to look in the mirror and realize that I'm finally looking like myself again. And I feel so much better. But I still have more to lose-- 38 pounds to get to my ultimate goal. I'm confident that I'm going to get there!

So that's the story of my struggle with food and weight, at least the short version. Do you struggle with food and weight too? What are you doing to help yourself in these areas?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I Don't Believe in "Crying It Out"

I understand that letting kids "cry it out" is supported to various degrees in our culture. You don't have to look far to find books and magazine articles and lots of opinions about why it's okay and how to do it. I think that many parents don't know what else to do, and everyone's telling them to let their child cry himself to sleep, and no one ever tells them there are other options. So I'm writing this post, not to criticize people who really do believe in crying it out, but to let people know that there is another way and to encourage parents to listen to their own hearts.

I write this as a parent who has been at the other end of the spectrum in the past. When my seven year old was a baby/toddler, I did leave him to cry it out. I was exhausted and stressed out, and I just didn't know what else to do. I didn't like to do it, but I was afraid that if I didn't, he'd never learn to fall asleep on his own and he'd always be dependent on me at nighttime. (Note: any parenting advice that relies on fear-mongering by using words like always and never is probably not worth your time. As children grow and mature, they develop new abilities and naturally become more independent. Being dependent in a particular area at a young age does not mean a child will always be dependent in that area.)

My nearly-18-month-old son has never been left to cry himself to sleep. We have done what's called "parenting to sleep," which is simply staying with him and helping him fall asleep. Depending on what he's needed at the time, we've held him, rocked him, nursed him, given him a pacifier, hummed songs, gotten in bed next to him, patted his back, and so on. And he is learning, at his own pace and according to his own developmental abilities, to fall asleep on his own. He's still dependent on us at bedtime, and that's okay. He's only eighteen months old; still very, very young in the grand scheme of things! We don't believe in pushing children to be more independent than they are capable of being at any given developmental stage. He's less dependent on us than he used to be, though. I rarely nurse him to sleep anymore; in fact, Clark is usually the one who puts him to bed these days. Isaac is also growing fond of lying down in bed together, where he gets comfortable and goes to sleep without being held, rocked, etc. He's getting more and more independent, and I fully believe that he will learn to fall asleep on his own when he's ready.

I don't believe that leaving a child to cry himself to sleep teaches healthy sleep habits or healthy sleep associations. Bedtime and falling asleep can become associated with loneliness, stress, and even fear. Maybe not for all children, but definitely for some. I want to help my son learn to fall asleep on his own in a gradual, developmentally-appropriate way, without it being associated with stress. You can find all kinds of research on the negative effects of leaving kids to cry it out, and I can vouch for the validity of some of them because I've seen it happen in my oldest son. :-(

I won't lie; sometimes parenting to sleep isn't convenient. But in the end, I feel strongly that I must choose what's best for my child over what's most convenient for me. My heart just will not let me do the "cry it out" method again. The most important lesson I've learned in parenting is to listen to my heart. God gave me mothering instincts for a reason, and I have learned to listen to them over culture or other people's opinions.

In the end, we are each responsible for the decisions we've made regarding our own children-- both the positive and the negative ones. I encourage you to listen to your heart and your God-given parenting instincts. Don't rely on culture or parenting books or magazine articles or other people's opinions (not even mine!) to tell you that you must do [insert parenting method here] with your child or risk ruining him forever. Research, absolutely-- seriously weigh the pros and cons, and take other people's thoughts into consideration. But then decide for yourself what feels right in your heart, and take responsibility for that decision. What I encourage more than anything, for ALL parents, is informed, intentional parenting and following your heart. :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Recently my friend James and I were discussing worship, and we talked about how different people worship and feel close to God in different ways. I think that God communicates with us uniquely; it doesn't look exactly the same for everyone because we are all so different. We have various interests and talents and things that speak to our souls.

I started thinking about what makes me feel closest to God. The biggest thing for me is writing. When I write, when I take all the thoughts that are whirling around in my head and put them on paper, I feel as though I can see life more clearly. It's easier to see solutions to problems, answers to questions, and connections between things I hadn't noticed before. Reading is related to writing, too; when I read books that challenge or inspire me, I write about my thoughts that relate to what I've read. So many times it has felt as though God has led me in certain directions through writing.

Another thing is music. I've always enjoyed listening to music; some songs are so incredibly moving to me. And this isn't just religious music; all kinds of songs have this effect on me. Something about the lyrics and the music, the emotions and experiences they are singing about or that the songs evoke in me, can make me feel so in tune with God. I'm not particularly musically talented myself; I'm a decent singer and I wish I could play guitar. But listening to music is something that can really affect me. Unfortunately, I haven't found a lot of Christian music that does this for me; so much of it seems so cheesy or surface-level that it doesn't affect me deeply. I've been listening to a couple songs by Aaron Keyes lately that are fantastic, though.

Nature helps me feel close to God too. The beauty and intricacy of nature is so amazing. Sunrises and sunsets and mountains and oceans and the moon and the stars and the blue sky and the green grass and the leaves in fall... what an awesome, creative God we have.

And other people. This one may actually deserve to be right up at the top of the list with writing. Conversations with other people, the give and take of thoughts and ideas, everything from the serious stuff to the silly stuff-- God uses these in such a profound way. Many, many times I have talked to friends only to discover that the same things that have been on my mind lately have been on theirs too. We talk and we build relationships and we grow-- not only within ourselves, not only in our friendship, but in our understanding of and relationship with God. This is the beauty of community.

I think this is how God meant for us to be. As we grow in relationship with him, we see him in the things that are most beautiful and dear to us-- things like writing, music, nature, people, and so on. He speaks to us through so many things, and as we become more in tune with him, we hear him. I love that God communicates with us as unique individuals. I love that the interests and talents he's given us can also be worship. It's so amazing.

What about you? What does worship look like for you? Where do you see God most clearly?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Searching for the "Best"

Last night I had a dream that told me a lot about myself. I'll share some of it here in case it resonates with anyone who reads this.

In the dream, I was sitting around a table with a few people from church, and we were discussing ideas and plans (I can't remember what they were about specifically). A couple of ideas were talked about, then one person started expanding on one particular idea and asking what I thought about it. I was hesitant; I said that I usually don't jump on board with an idea immediately, and I needed time to think about it. Then I said that I would really rather talk about lots of different ideas before we started making plans. If we spent a lot of time on an idea, we might go with it not because it was the best idea but because we invested so much time and energy in it, and we might not get around to considering ideas that would actually be better. Another person agreed and said they'd prefer to work that way too.

And I woke up with this on my mind, wondering if this is at the heart of why I struggle with moving forward sometimes. I am hesitant to fully jump on board; I want time to think it through, and I want to be able to consider all possible options before investing time and energy into one. And this kind of caution is a good thing-- but I wonder if I take it too far, if I spend too much time staying right where I am, immobilized because I'm trying to make sure I've considered all my options and have chosen the right and very best plan. On the other hand, too often I let my emotions get the best of me and I jump on board with a plan, only to jump off board pretty quickly once I start realizing it may not be the best plan.

When I am constantly in search of the best, I often end up stuck and not moving anywhere, afraid of mistakenly making the wrong choice. And I do a lot of thinking and dreaming about different ideas in the process, turning each one over in my head, examining it from every angle, thinking through pros and cons, and possibly driving other people (and myself) a little crazy in the process.

Does anyone else have this struggle, or am I alone here?