Thanks so much to all of you who took the time to read and comment on my recent blog posts. I placed all of your names in a hat and picked three winners this morning. Merry Christmas to all of you!
Thanks to my lovely daughter Madison who recorded all of your names and took these real time photos. Oh, the drama!
So, Megan Parsons, Jennifer Fromke, and RJ Thesman--Merry Christmas! You each win your selection of a DVD from Yahweh Yoga. Please email me at email@example.com with your address and the DVD you would like. You can check out your options at Yahweh Yoga's website.
Again, thanks to everyone who participated. May the peace of our Savior overwhelm you today!
There's much talk about interactions between God and humans during this season. Angels appearing to Mary and shepherds and Zachariah. Remembrances of God's word to the prophets. Clear directions. Loving promises. Dramatic interventions.
For many years I believed that kind of communication had ceased long ago. I'd seen tel-evangelists misuse the phrase "God told me..." and I didn't grow up in a faith community that entrusted conversations with God to non-clergy. If God had something to say, he said it in the Bible. End of story. In this theology, my Bible reading was reduced to analyzing context and my prayer was limited to me speaking because I didn't know a God who would respond.
Oh, I heard stories of people who claimed that God spoke to them. My mother sometimes hinted that she experienced this kind of heresy. Of course, she also read "The Living Bible" so I wasn't sure she could be trusted. While I desired to experience more of God, it never occurred to me to listen for his voice.
Moving into the unknown...or the previously unheard.
I can't pinpoint the moment, or even the year that my theology began to change. I remember that my husband preached a sermon about hearing God and then I read a book by the same title by Dallas Willard. I moved slowly at first; reticent to trust what I was experiencing. But one of my first realizations was that God had been speaking to me all along. In retrospect, divine whispers permeated my story.
I was reminded this week of one of my earliest memories of God giving me words. It was at Sioux Center Christian School in Mr. Hofland's Jr. High art class. Our class had been commissioned to create a stained glass window for the building entrance and Mr. Hofland was soliciting potential Bible verses or spiritual phrases that would be appropriate for this masterpiece.
Art was not my thing and a part of my brain shut down when creative ideas were being bantered around. I preferred to excel on the basketball court or on tests where right and wrong were easily deciphered. My best friend, Jami, was good at art. She had the 'eye'. I did not. While I could recognize great art, I could absolutely not create it.
But sitting in that art room an idea came to me. Not just a passing thought. More like a a passion. Time slowed and I could feel my heart beat. I raised my hand to share these words. "The least of these I call my own." As I said them, I had a deep sense that to choose any other phrase for the window would be a grave wrong. Perhaps I was so invested in these words because I rarely contributed anything of artistic or creative value in this class, but I think not. Today, I believe it was one of my first brushes with the voice of God.
Since then I've become more attune to God's voice. I've experienced nearly irresistible calls to action where all my senses were engaged as well as barely distinguishable melodies of grace. I've misunderstood, I've sometimes disobeyed and I've often questioned these promptings. But I no longer question that God speaks, and that he speaks to me.
John 10:27English Standard Version (ESV)
The phrase I shared that day was ultimately chosen, becoming a visual reminder to me of the joy of following a God who would entrust me with his heart. But this season is all about this amazing God who would embrace the weak and lowly and "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). May you experience him afresh this season and hear him lovingly sing your name!
How does God speak to you? Are there any times when his voice has been unmistakable? Have you ever questioned if you were hearing God's voice or just thinking crazy thoughts? How do you distinguish?
I have an unusual request this year. I assume that I'm on the 'nice' list again, but I'm hoping you can leave a single lump of coal in my stocking this Christmas. Lest you think I'm being altruistic or sacrificial, let me assure you this is motivated entirely by self-interest (which should make me a shoe-in for the 'naughty' list next year).
Allow me to explain. I'm a writer and I need a little tension to get the
creative juices flowing. That's right. I'm asking for some angst in my life.
Some drama or injustice. Nothing too severe, mind you. A lump of coal in a good girl's stocking should do the trick. It's then that I'm at my literary best. When everything is smooth sailing I find my words are utterly vanilla. Boring. Monosyllabic. Uncreative and uninspiring.
This is not the stereotypical brooding artist syndrome. I'm an optimist. But I love to analyze (some have said over analyze) so I crave an emotional dilemma or spiritual battle. I began blogging in earnest three years ago. My job was in jeopardy and I had 75 days to accomplish a list of objectives in order to have a shot at keeping it.
Writing about it saved me.
The words came easy and helped clarify my emotions. Some days they vindicated me. Other days they convicted me. In the end, the job remained mine. I met my goals and proved my worth. Through the process I was changed and my public journal was evidence of God's transforming work.
But there was more. A spark had ignited and now I needed to write.
Only what would I write about with the crisis passed?
Over the next two years I experimented with different styles. I wrote about every day stuff and parenting stuff and spiritual stuff. I tried being descriptive and prescriptive and instructional and theological.
But, today as I review my past years' work, I find I have the most joy in my writing when I'm processing pain or searching for clarity in the midst of confusion or exposing my embedded spiritual blind spots and
mis-beliefs. I've been told that no one will read my blog if I don't give readers helpful advise or tools they can use. But that's not what God gave me to give. All I have is my story. I rarely have a plan for what I want people to take away from the reading of my blog. I share what I'm learning about myself, what I'm learning about God and how it's impacting my life. That's it. It's not the path of every writer, but for me, it's the only way.
So I'm asking for a little help--a writing kick-start to ensure a joy-filled, inspiring year of writing. However, if this request is too far out of character for you, I will accept an iPad 3 as a consolation gift.
Merry Christmas to my readers!
I'd love to hear from you! Comment on this blog and include your email address for a chance to win a free Christian yoga DVD from the Peaceful Hymn series at Yahweh Yoga. Three readers will be gifted with the single DVD of their choice. (Sorry, only for my readers living in the United States.)
Winners will be announced on Christmas Day. Go to www.yahwehyoga.com to pick your favorite, then comment to enter!
I'm walking into the grey. More accurately, I'm standing still as the clouds come. The last stage of the transition is here and it simply can't be avoided by running to the ocean or calling home or trying to make something of myself.
How thoughtful of the weather to oblige. The first big winter storm will blow out by Wednesday, but I sense my new melancholy will not be leaving so soon.
The year of firsts is nearly over, each one coming with a small thrill that overshadowed the tinge of loss. It seemed I had outsmarted the natural process of major transitions. I had willed myself to enjoy. I had immersed myself in new rhythms and navigated each new thing without breaking down. One more 'first' and I'm home free!
But its this last 'first' that did me in. The first Christmas in California. It seems all the pain is wrapped up in this season, waiting to finally be opened. Like a present forgotten under the tree and dutifully packed away with all the ornaments and bows and stockings until the next year. And now, here it sits–last year's loss refusing to be ignored.
So I'll open it and sit in the grey during this season of waiting and wonder. I'll feel the weight of loss because I know it's the only path to the thrill of hope and new life. And I'll keep singing and loving, even as I grieve.
Not exactly what I was expecting, but I don't want what I can envision…I need the redemption that only God can offer.
In December I like to spend time reflecting--looking back at God's transforming work in my life. With that in mind, I'll be sharing some blog posts from the past. I posted this one on December 2, 2010, days away from my first fundraising dessert.
I woke this morning to a pounding headache. I experience a variety of headaches, but this is the kind that requires Tylenol, but not on an empty stomach. Unfortunately, I'm already too nauseous to eat, so I'll probably throw up from eating if I don't throw up from taking medicine on an empty stomach. But strangely, I don't mind. Yesterday I was thinking a minor car accident where I was hospitalized for just a couple of days would be a welcome break. A headache seems to accomplish almost the same thing without the risk of life long back pain or soaring medical bills. So, back to bed. Truly it's my only option, but I'm so grateful. After a couple hours of sleep, I awake at 11 with only a slight "headache hangover". Here is where my series of poor decisions begins. What I know I should do is take a quick shower and get started on my workday. What I do is drag myself to the living room (what feels like a small victory) and open a book I've been reading. I manage to check email on my phone to make sure there are no fires to put out. I even respond to one. When the phone rings, I answer it and act like the intelligent, capable woman I'm pretending to be. Actually, I am an intelligent, capable woman but today I'm pretending to be helpless and weak. And very convincingly, thank you very much!
I'm 2 1/2 days from my dessert--the magical date on the calendar, that 47 days ago I hoped would usher in a new era of faith and awe in me. I'm such a sucker for the dramatic. I love when the music swells and the battle has been fought and won and there's crying and joy. I love the Hallelujah Chorus and my picture of the Queen and her irrepressible urge to stand in the presence of greatness and beauty.
But today, I'm more realistic. A couple of my larger donors have said, 'no'. My coach wanted me to have 100 people at the dessert and I'll have around 35. I'm probably not going to raise the remaining $42,000 and strangely, I'm okay with that. I'm too tired to care today.
And now, I'm making myself sick with all this whining. So pathetic. World hunger, AIDS, sex trafficking and...my potentially unsuccessful fundraiser. Wahhh. Good thing I'm so mentally tough! "And you want to be my latex salesman?" Sorry. Seinfeld reference.
So, after a good 4 hours of self pitying lack of productivity, I'm ready to get started. Not because I expect the Hallelujah Chorus, but because there is glory in the walking and working. Faith and obedience are linked and I'm wishing for one without the other. O Lord, increase my obedience!
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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