Wednesday, November 30, 2011

O Holy Night

Over 400 years had passed since the last words of the prophets had been spoken. No new revelation had been given. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.  When would Messiah come?  Do you think their hope began to wane?  Do you think they questioned whether He would ever come?  Do you think their longing turned to hopelessness or a bitter, questioning heart?  When hope seems elusive, our hearts can despair.  However, imagine a stable, a manger, a baby, our Savior.  I wonder if on the night Messiah was born, the world felt something shift.  The One who would arrive would bring Hope, because Hope is not in things, dreams, wants, and others, HOPE is a Person, the person of Jesus. I encourage you to take a minute and reflect and listen to my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night and think about the significance of that quiet night in Bethlehem when Hope came in the form of a baby.
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, 
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Something Strange in this Neighborhood

Many of you have heard me talk about the book one thousand gifts by Ann Voskamp. This book has now entered into my top two, right behind the thrilling titled, Shattered Dreams by (everyone say it with me now) Larry Crabb. When I first started reading this book back in February I was slightly annoyed. I was like, “Oh great, another book about being thankful.” I’m sure it is written by someone who’s most difficult challenge in life was that the tough economy had caused her family to be so financially strapped that they could only take 4 vacations instead of their normal 6. I wanted to hear from someone who was hurting and had disappointments that they talked about in PRESENT tense, not past tense with a big bow wrapped around it. I put the book down and picked it back up in May.

Something began to happen. At the start of my counseling internship, I read these very words, “Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.” – Ann Voskamp

Hmm….could she know something about suffering, longing to live freely, wanting chains to fall off of her weary and broken legs too? Was I actually reading a book that my heart longed to write? This phrase knocked the wind out of me when I read it and I want to challenge you to comment on it, “When did I stop seeing life as dessert?”

What happened to me? How did I get to this place of life losing some of its luster? How did I get caught up in monotony and the longing for a Pottery Barn life? Surely this is not the abundant life that Jesus spoke of. So what was Jesus’ invitation? What is Jesus’ invitation?

I have had to take an honest look at the depths of my heart and realize that I would never be happy with a life that did not include an incredible story, so what hold me back?

“Wherever you are, be all there. I have lived the runner, panting ahead in worry, pounding back regrets, terrified to live in the present, because here-time asks me to do the hardest of all: just open wide and receive.”

It is in the HERE AND NOW, in THIS MOMENT that God is….that God invites us to live fully alive to Him RIGHT NOW. In the mundane. In the waiting. In the learning. In the interactions with the addicts and desperate. But aren’t we all desperate? Some of us just hide it a little better than others. A beautiful Jesus invites us to a dance. A race. A walk. Sometimes a crawl. I have to choose thankfulness. Moment by moment. Day by day. Choosing thanks. This is not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, too often I want to cry about what I think I need or want, but He is extending an invitation to look at those moments and say, “Thank you that somehow this moment of utter sorrow is an invitation to press in to You.” It has been very difficult, but something is happening internally that I believe is good and I believe is 100% the spirit of God and His kindness. I long to be known as one with a grateful heart. A heart that sees life as dessert and an adventure with the Father. An invitation………

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mother Teresa can kick Sleeping Beauty's............

I have a confession.  I think Snow White is a weakling.  She ran around with dwarfs, didn't have any real girlfriends, and birds came and sat on her head when she sang.  The worst thing that happened to her was that she choked on a piece of apple.  And don't even get me started on Sleeping Beauty!  I will however throw a shout out to my girl Cinderella because at least she got her hands dirty and had a love for shoes. But I must admit, the whole concept of being a princess, wearing a tiara, and riding behind her prince on a white horse never really got to my heart.  I don't know if I am sad about that or glad.  Maybe a little bit more of a balance wouldn't be half-bad. 

I'm writing today because this powerful image has been rolling around in my head and heart for a couple of weeks now.  I was talking with a friend who was sharing with me that a few years ago his wife had been reading a popular book among Christian women that really focused on us being princesses.  I was laughing because he shared that his wife realized that she was getting a little agitated that she wasn't being treated like the princess that she was.  She soon realized what she was expecting and acknowledged it.  What is neat is that at the same time my friends wife was reading this book she was also reading the autobiography of Mother Teresa.  The suffering servant.  I won't go into lots of detail because I have encouraged my friend to have his wife write about what she realized when comparing the two books....I think she has a story to tell and that story isn't mine, but I will share a few thoughts as just the sharing of her experience was powerful to me.
You may not agree with everythign Mother Teresa stood for, but you cannot argue about how she laid down her life for the "least of these."  As my friend said to me, "She was a suffering servant."  She opened homes for orphanges, for those with HIV/Aids, leprosy, tuberculosis, and even hospice care where my friend Chris went and sat with those who were alone and dying.  Suffering servant.  I just keep thinking about how this is the Gospel, not my being in a castle far removed from suffering, but being IN IT WITH others.  If I have learned anything in the past five weeks of sitting with addicts and the mentally ill, it is this - we are not that different.  And while I want to wear a pretty dress, be pursued, and treated well, in my heart of hearts God has called us to be suffering servants.  This resonates deeply although it is not very popular.  It means saying "yes" to entering into the pain and yuck of your own life in order to enter the pain and yuck of someone else. To be the hands and feet of Jesus..........I can't even finish that sentence.
Don't hear me completely knocking the princess idea, because ofcourse there is some validity to it, but I think it is overdone and we don't teach one another the reality that this world will not treat you like a princess unless you are Kate Middleton and trust me, that will wear off as soon as she says something without thinking or decides to wear a cardigan from Target.  Anyway, we are suffering servants and if I have to be a princess then I want my own horse.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Our Gal Sal

My friend Sally is one-of-a-kind. When Sal lived in Knoxville, she was a nurse at Childrens hospital. We shared a house for four years here in Knoxville, until she married Corey not quite three years ago.  Sally was always "sought after" and was quite the heartbreaker and then she fell in love with Corey.  Sal and I bonded over cookies, awkward moments in singles groups, Sal always volunteering to pray when no one else would after what felt llike ten minutes of silence.  We bonded over bears on our porch, raccoons in our garbage, foxes running across our driveway, and the one memorable time when she called me and said she had seen a malmute out by the tree. Huh?!?  We have prayed for one another, encouraged one another in hard seasons, and now it is my turn to ask all of you to join with me in praying for a miracle of healing for our gal Sal.  We know that God chooses to work in different ways, but we are praying for healing until he heals or until he says, "no". 

You can read Sally's caringbridge site - Sally Cleek for current updates, but basically in December while Sally was approx. 12 weeks pregnant with their first child, the doctor found breast cancer.  Sal had chemo and even surgery while preganant with baby Drew.  They induced labor on May 4th and beautiful Drew Cleek was welcomed into this world. Because Drew was over a month early, he had to be in the NICU and immediately Sally had to start another round of chemo.  Over two weeks ago, Sally and Corey were able to bring Drew home from the hospital.  The very next day Sal was having excruciating headaches and the doctors found that cancer had moved to her brain.  She has been undergoing radiation and we are praying for healing.  Below are some prayer requests Sally has.  Would you please join me in praying for a miracle?  Please feel free to pass these along to anyone who might join all of us in praying for Sal.  She truly is a treasured friend. 

(These are Sally's words)
~The biggest prayer request involves us meeting the neuro oncologist Tuesday at 1 named Dr. Motts.  This is how I will find out if the cancer is in the fluid around the brain.  Please pray that it's not there.  That will make my diagnosis much worse.  It may require that I have a spinal tap to discover if it is in there so pray for wisdom about that decision

~pray my neurological symptoms would go away, especially blurry vision and headaches

~pray for Hope and Peace for me....I've never been so devastated or heart broken before.

~pray I get an appt. in Boston soon with Dr. Nancy Linn, the premiere doctor in the country for my disease with brain involvement

~pray for a real sense of purpose while we are going through this

~God has promised me that if I believe that I would see the glory of God

~please pray for surge of faith beyond my fear

~(my words) please pray for Sally's and Corey's family who adore her!

~pray that Drew will thrive and grow despite his mommy being sick and that we would have an incredible bond

~pray I will be grateful for the life I've been given and that I would be able to minister to others through this pain

~please pray for more time for me to see my baby grow up and grow old with my husband.  That is the desire of my heart so will you ask Him with me for more time

Thank you all for praying with me for healing of our sweet Sally. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Are you WITH me?

 Emmanuel.  God WITH us.   With - "accompanied by."  Thank you,  I'm beginning to crawl out of the hole that I have been in for the past month. A hole that included the beach, starting classes again, and beginning my internship which means seeing clients for the first time.  But I also have been more internal as I allow a significant week at the end of April to continue to resonate in my heart and mind.  I don't know if I will ever truly understand why it feels more safe for me to share some heart things on a blog, but a little more difficult for me to share one-on-one....I'll make sure I ask my counselor next week. :)  Anyway, I wanted to share with you what has been stirring in me.

Larry Crabb is a hero of mine.  When I was walking through my broken engagement my discipler gave me a book of his called Finding God.  From then on I was hooked.  His message often is not popular, but it was what I needed to hear.  Do I want God more than I want his blessings?  Does He desire to bless? YES! But I cannot demand it.  When my desires get out of order, entitlement surfaces, and let me tell you friends, it ain't pretty.  All that to say is that I went to a conference/retreat/school with Larry at the end of April.  At the schools that he leads, he always prays about who he wants to ask to "chat" with him in front of the class for four nights.  He calls it "chatting" and I would call it "counseling the neurotic redhead who has a really bad ugly cry."  I digress.  Needless to say, he picked me.  I have no clue why, other than it was Jesus loving on me in a very specific way that I was not expecting. 
Even now my eys well up with tears (shocker, I know) as I think about how God met me.  Probably even more AFTER the week than the week there.  I kept waiting for Larry to address blind spots in my life, to tell me areas in my life where I was just unteachable, etc.  I think I feel this way about Jesus more than I was willing to admit.  What Larry wanted me to know is that he enjoyed being WITH me.  He would tell me that and I would just stare at him.  I was undone.  I followed the man around all week.  STALKER.  I sat in front of him as he taught.  I asked him questions at every break.  He would turn around and I would say, "Hey! It's me again."  Here's the thing. I adore this man and he has played a significant role in my life, but he isn't Jesus.  What he showed me is that Jesus also enjoys being WITH me. 

So once again, when my days of longing for "home" are more intense than others, I am learning to see it as a continued invitation to press in and experience Jesus' "withness".  Augustine said that we are restless until we find our rest in Him.  Such wisdom and truth.  WITHNESS is powerful.  My new friends from that week saw and recognized what I could not....that I needed to undersand Jesus wants to be WITH me as all of us, including myself, have experienced painful times when others did not want to be WITH.......Can you believe that God left heaven to be WITH us?  What crap deal on his end.  Let's not analyze that  weak theological statement.

In the picture above, it reminds me of the power of healing we have in our relationships with one another.  Can I be WITH someone in silence, tears, and pain? Can I be fully present and joyful WITH another as they get engaged and then move on to marriage and babies?  Can I be WITH someone in their anger and disappointment?  Can I be WITH someone when all I want to do is run away from the uncomfortable emotions or fear that it surfaces in me?  I pray we will all learn more from the One who is With.........

Monday, March 28, 2011

One Man's Trash, Another Man's Treasure

This past summer I bought my first white sundress against my better judgment.  Ever since my mom did the color wheel with me at age 2, and I knew I was an "autumn", I just couldn't allow myself the privilege of wearing white.  Well, so I went into Anthropologie to buy hair accessories, cause let's be honest, Anthropologie is not cheap and I can only afford hair accessories.  I went to the sale rack, found this white dress and bought it.  Sadly, I have to admit that the chore around the house that I most detest is putting away clean laundry.  I'll move it from my bed to the floor to the bed to the floor. Well, my white dress fell off onto the floor and off I went to campus.  When I got home I noticed that my dog, Sophie, had mistaken it for her puppy pad.  Needless to say, it went into the garbage.  It was my treasure and Sophie's trash. 

This is how I feel about eHarmony.One man's trash, another man's treasure.  I firmly believe in eHarmony for so many of my friends. It has been a treasure! Several have gotten married and all it took was "4 easy steps to find the right match!"  Kidding.  That's just what their website says. I am against it for myself because I really need and want to know someone in their daily context.  We all know those people who are awesome and first impressions and personable, then you find out they have 6 wives.  Anyway, if everyone thinks eHarmony is so great, why are most people embarrassed to admit they are doing it?  Here's my proposition.....I want to hear if you think I should do it and why? Or if I shouldn't and why? I have no desire to do it, but part of me thinks it would be a fun blogging topic. Anyway, if I choose to do it, I will not be secretive about it.  I'll break "code".  Imagine that.  Okay, hit me up with your opinions.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Realizations of a "Fiat" God.

It has been the most boringly, interesting week.  It's one of those weeks that seemed somewhat "normal" and yet here it is Friday at 4PM and I realize that all the "normal" has led me to a huge revelation and grateful heart.
I've been really sick all week. Grouchy.  Irritable. Not able to engage well with people due to low energy. One of those weeks where you want to throw your shoe at the heads of those who take for granted their significant other when you have to go to the store in your pj's for kleenex and the latest People magazine. Oh it's a cruel, cruel world. :)  Anyway, I was feeling sorry for myself when I started thinking back over my week, which led me to one year ago. The day I learned about "FIAT" God. And no, I'm not talking about the cheap little European car.  I'm talking about being in a place where hope deferred makes the heart sick and you don't see how things could change.  Awake my soul. 
 It was February 1st, 2010 when I sat down with my dear friend and mentor Carol Jordan and she said, "Beth, have you heard about God being a 'Fiat" God?"  I was tempted to nod in arrogance, but I had not a clue what was coming out of her mouth.  Awake my soul. Pause.  Let me back up here.  In 2007 and 2008 there was a mass Exodus in Knoxville of my core group of friends.  MASS EXODUS.  A life I had loved was no longer.  It was me and Jesus and the Marshmans and a really hard two years with Campus Crusade at UT for me personally.  Even writing about the Marshmans makes me cry.  Hank and Chrisy and their two sons Brett and Blake are my second family.  They have been constant.  Awake my soul.  I was physically sick in many ways that I've shared about in the past and it had taken it's toll emotionally as well. God has created us for relationship....being in relationship with others who walk with Him brings is also painful as we speak truth in love and exhort.  However, it is a gift and when that community was stripped away, I floundered.  Back to Carol and February 1st, 2010.  "Fiat" - means Creator. God creates out of NOTHING.    Carol said, "Let's pray and ask God to bring community out of nothing!" This sounds pitiful.  Oh well, nothing like showing your guts on the worldwide web. Awake my soul.

So my first gift came in the form of one of my best friends from Cumberland College days.  J Lo (Jennifer Loveday) moved in to the other side of my house.  I can't even tell you how big of a blessing that has been. Is that my soul stirring?

Another way it has come is in the form of the Ancelets.  Tracie and I have had tons of mutual friends and have shared a love of  well.....EVERYTHING.  A friend who knows both of us have coined us, "Peanut butter and jelly."  Tracie and I have also both been to Larry Crabb's school of spiritual direction, so we speak the same language. Soul is stirring even more.  I love the Ancelet's.  They also have a three year old named Abel who they adopted from Ethiopia which has been a dream of mine.  Tracie - FIAT my friend.  What a gift you are. 
 Today I got some more great news.  My roommate my first three years on staff, Kim, is moving close to Knoxville.  I literally cannot believe this.  Kim "Keebie Jeanie" and I laugh so hard when we are together and also share on a deep level things that God is doing in our lives.  I am doing toe touches over the fact that I will get the opportunity to be an "auntie" to her kiddos and to do life a little more with her.  Soul is awake!
 When I started school at Richmont, I never thought that it would open up a whole new world of friendships, but it has gone way above and beyond what I ever thought possible. I meet women like Jane Neall, who is fighting Pancreatic cancer with bravery and doesn't want to be known for that.  She loves Jesus and it exudes from every fiber of her being.  You meet people like Rae, a single mom of three who fights for justice and gives those a voice who don't have one.  You meet Phillip who costs you a lot of money due to his book recommendations.  I've also loved that these friends aren't phased at all when you feel like a train wreck.  There's also no room for small talk or superficiality because we are in school for counseling.  It's pretty hilarious. 

Thanks for letting me ramble about people you do not even know.  I do this for myself, because like the Israelites, I constantly need to REMEMBER   God's faithfulness and celebrate it.  Sometimes I have the book so close to my face that I can't see the story.  Thank you, God for creating something out of nothing.  I didn't have to do a thing.  I couldn't have even if I had wanted to, I was too broken and ill.  Awake my soul and sing. I have no idea where you are if you are reading this, but I do know that He is a FIAT God for you as well.  He longs for our lives to fully AWAKENED to Him.  Only then can we dream dreams He has for us and be open and alive to the adventure and invitation He extends to us on a daily we go.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ME, Me, me, you, You, YOU.

There's a name I am extremely familiar with.  So familiar in fact that I'm kind of over it.  The name is "Me".  A few years ago my staff team had a joke regarding a band we had heard rehearsing.  We kept hearing the lead singer say, "Can I get a little more me in the mic?"  "Can I get a little more me in the monitor?"  "A little more me, please?"  Over the past little while I have been listening to the Lord say to me, "This life is not all about you."  Don't get me wrong, I know He adores me.  I know He cares and pursues.  But I've seen too much of ME over the years.  Recently I went on a cruise.  The cruise was a gift and one night while watching the sunset I was thinking about Jesus and wondering what if He had come to Earth with a "ME" mentality.  How different life would be.  I think about Philippians 2 and how He made himself nothing and humbled himself to death and not just any death, but death on a cross.  And the Father gave him the name that is above every other name.  A name greater than "Me".  A name greater than Obama or George.  A name greater than Osama or Haggard.  A name greater than Billy Graham or Mother Theresa.  Greater than Tim Keller or Larry Crabb. A name of the one that one day I will have the joy of seeing face to face.

I've realized more lately that my longing for Home has increased.  For years I have wrestled with this strange sense of sadness and restlessness that usually comes everyday around the hours of 5PM-8PM.  I've often attributed it to winter, a draining time in ministry, singleness, whatever is about ME.  My sweet sister even made me a hilarious CD several years ago called, "5 to 8" with lines from Christmas Vacation, dance music, and a variety of entertaining musings.  Well people, I've had an epiphany (which most of you would say "duh" to).  I think no matter what happens in my life, dreams fulfilled, a life lived to the fullest, community, etc. that I will always have that slight sadness or restlessness.  Why? Because it is a very real reminder that I am not Home yet.  It reminds me that there is a greater invitation Jesus offers to us than just having a "good life".  I think I would be bored.  So this invitation continues..............

As I think back over 2010, I could not be more grateful for the journey and the process.  The first half was brutal and the second half involved a skip in my step and a song in my heart.  Crawford Lorritts says, "Sometimes your hope has to be threatened in order for it to be strengthened."  True dat, Crawford.  I wonder what invitation Christ will extend to me in 2011?  Will I lean into it?  What reminds you that you are not Home yet?  Above I copied a youtube video of a song I literally have been hopping around to all day.  Pretty funny sight when one is wearing an ugly black boot for leg issues, but nevertheless it is a powerful song.  I can't wait to worship face to face with Him and with YOU beside me.