Hello all!! Sorry for the long absence. I returned yesterday from our trip to New Orleans and Gulf Shores! I drove straight 14 hours through the night to get us back and so yesterday was a recovery day. I was without Internet service for the week so could not post loverly pictures with which to make you insanely jealous. Yes, I was disappointed as well. But sometime soon I’ll have a photo album of pictures to share with you. It won’t be this week because I leave tomorrow for children’s camp for the week. Ah – the summer life of a youth minister . . .
Anyway, while I was on my trip I did blog a couple of times just for therapeutic reasons so I will post those now. Beware . . it is lengthy. With lots of time to read and think, my processing gears were worked overtime.
Enjoy and I’ll post again later this week when I return from camp with the children!
Peace – Melissa
Tuesday, May 31, 2005:
Today is our first full day on the beach. I discovered last night that our phone line does not work here at the beach house. I called a technician to come out today and they reported that there is damage still from Hurricane Ivan that hit last summer and destroyed much of the area. There is a lot of reconstruction going on down here and lots of sediment where roads use to be. This area was hit very hard and you can still see many scars from that event. The phone line here is one of them. So, I will not have Internet all week to post stories and pictures.
But I realized that even if not for you, I needed to blog. From long shift of driving to thought-provoking reading, I need to continue with my on line journaling for my sake if anything. I need some outlet to share discoveries or to throw out challenges. So I am journaling on my computer and will load each one when I return home. So even though you are receiving this in one bunch at the end of the week, you will still have access to my adventures.
Trip update: We spent a rainy morning in New Orleans – shopping, eating at Cafe de Mundo – a famous little pastry/coffee outdoor eatery in the French Quarter. While the kids did their sight-seeing, I made another stop in St. Louis Cathedral, bought a couple of jazz cds at a local shop, and spent several minutes in a second-hand book store. They had a few shelves of Religious-Protestant books and I was completely psyched to find two books that I’ve wanted to buy – for $4 each! What are the odds! I bought Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg which is the next book in line to read with Bryce and also If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. We left New Orleans around 12:30 pm and arrived at the beach house at about 4:30 pm. It is a great house and perfect for the 17 of us. It sits right on the ocean with a wonderful boardwalk from our back door. The kids hit the beach right away while Lisa and I drove back to town to get groceries for the week and pizzas for supper That grocery trip always makes me thankful that I don’t have a butt-load of children. Last night we just chilled and relaxed and hit the bed early. Got a great nights sleep and slept in until 10 because it was storming this morning. But after that it cleared out and we’ve been on the beach for most of the day. Turned out beautiful. Pretty soon the guys will be cooking supper since it is their night. Mexican is on the menu. Yum-Yum.
Reading/Processing update: I finished Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. Great read and so many thoughts. I highly recommend reading it and engaging it. Let me share a few things that I jotted down as I was reading.
"I have sometimes wondered if the greatest desire of man is to be known and loved anyway."
"Imagine how much a man’s life would be changed if he trusted that he was loved by God." (176)
"I would imagine, then, that the repentance we are called to is about choosing one Audience over another." (176)
"Why not accept your feelings of redemption because of His pleasure in you, not the fickle and empty favor of man? And only then will you know who you are, and only then will you have true, uninhibited relationships with others." (177)
"looking for a reason for morality . . the motive is love, love of God and of my fellow man. (184)
"Morality as a battle cry against a depraved culture is simply not a New Testament idea. Morality as a ramification of our spiritual union and relationship with Christ, however, is. (186)
"… justification through comparison." (187) ** The idea that many Christians use in regards to their self-righteousness. Compared to Joe and the vices of his life, I am pretty darn good. A very faulty and unbiblical approach.
"What we must do in these instances is listen to our conscience and allow Scripture to instruct us about morality and methodology, not just morality." (189)
"In war you shoot the enemy, not the hostage." (190) ** In reference to our attacks on persons who are held hostage by the evils of humanity, rather than battling the evils themselves – like injustice, poverty, marginalizing, oppression, etc.
I could write a bunch on these quote but I’ll let them mostly speak for themselves. I know you are missing the context of Miller’s book which would shed more fullness on the above. This is why you should pick up the book and read it. But I do think you an garner enough from the quotes above to be challenged about some of our misplaced notions and behaviors regarding selfishness, morality and compassion.
I’ve also started a book called Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina. I will be practicing this ancient spiritual discipline with the seniors this week. But I’ve been richly challenged by some of Thelma Hall’s opening comments – especially as she talked about "The Grace of Accepted Love."
"There remains within us a love that can be awakened by the sheer grace of his love’s desire for us, if we fully accept it." (29)
". . . the great saints and mystic have been those who fully accepted God’s love for them." (29)
"Our incredulity in the face of God’s immense love, and also self-hate or an unyielding sense of guilt, can be formidable obstacles to God’s love and are often subtle and unrecognized forms of pride, in putting our ‘bad’ above his mercy." (29-30)
These words really spoke to me because it is a great struggle of mine to fully accept God’s love for me. I do find it incredible and I do live with a sense of guilt that I don’t deserve it and therefore, must try to live in a way in which God will not be disappointed that grace was given to me. In a sense, it is a desire to earn the grace that has already been given to me. God – you went out on a major limb to give me grace and I’ll make sure that I don’t let you down. Reading these words by Hal helped me to face a reality I’ve known. At some significant point in my faith journey, I needed to come to the full understanding that I absolutely need God and God’s grace. That sin will forever be a part of my nature and I need the grace and love of God. But after I realize and confess this and accept God’s grace, there is not a need to continually live with a sense of guilt about my need. To continually feel guilty and to try and deserve grace is a futile pursuit and as Hall stated "can be a formidable obstacle to God’s love." I’m hearing this, I’m receiving this but I’m honestly not sure what I’m going to do about it. There is just a strong awareness within me that I am not accepting God’s grace. What it will look like for me to live and think in accordance with the great saints and mystics who have fully accepted God’s love for them . . well, I don’t know what it will look like. I just know that I want it.
Peace – Melissa
Wednesday, June 1, 2005:
I love my senior. This is such a great group of young adults. They enjoy hanging out with one another; they are relaxed and laid-back; they have a sincere interest in spiritual things. It has been a refreshing and delightful week with them thus far. We spent the morning on the beach working on our suntans. Then headed into Gulf Shores for the afternoon and evening. We took them to a few souvenir shops, seafood supper, mini-golf and ice cream! We came back to the beach house and ended the night with our Bible study. Tonight we focused on compassion – God’s compassion for us that we, in turn, share with others. We spent some time talking about our feelings as we walked down Bourbon Street in New Orleans and whether our initial reaction was judgment or compassion. The kids were obviously affected by the sights, sounds, and smells of the French Quarter but we had not had time to process it. I was surprised by their extreme uncomfortableness and was concerned about the lack of compassion I saw. We had a great study and discussion tonight and were able to come to a point together where we understood that compassion is to truly love someone – that’s it. We don’t need to be concerned with changing them or their reaction to us. We don’t have to have some right methodology or steps to better compassion. We are called to love because they deserved to be loved.
Had a great conversation with one of my senior girls as well that was a rich blessing. I see a lot of myself in her and it was a joy to discover that commonality tonight as we talked.
Two things to share:
1. "Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure." – Rumi, Persian Mystic Poet
What a truth to hold on to. We are guaranteed ruin in our lifetime. Some of us have more ruins then others with which to look for treasures but treasure can be found – if we look for it with open eyes. In the aftermath of destruction in our life, we must set ourselves to the task of finding treasure among the heaps of rubble. Look under every stone if you must but do not give up.
2. "Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love." (Ephesians 5:2 – The Message)
What a great life verse.
Peace – Melissa