Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shine Lord and My Terror Shall Cease

Shine, Lord and my terror shall cease
The blood of atonement apply
And lead me to Jesus for peace
The rock that is higher than I
Speak, Saviour, for sweet is thy voice
Thy presence is fair to behold
I thirst for thy Spirit with cries
And groanings that cannot be told.*

-*Encompassed With Clouds of Distress (Augustus Toplady/Steve Elliot)

It has come to my attention this week just how fearful I am. I fear both sides of a situation. I fear what will happen if something comes through and what will happen if it does not. I fear staying in New York but I also fear leaving. I fear singleness but I also fear companionship. I fear what life as a performer would look like and what it would look like if I wasn’t.

What is kind of incredible is that there have been times when my worst fears have been realized… and yet I am still in one piece. Satan has created an environment within me where the fear of possibilities is far more paralyzing than the reality of any catastrophe.

A life lived in fear is not a life lived in trust in God. And therefore it is not a life lived in freedom. It is a life in complete bondage to the possibility of God not coming through for me… or at least God not coming through for me in the way that I want him to.

My pastor talked about the sins that crouch at our doors this past week (Genesis 4: 6-7). The ones that we are blind to. The ones that we minimize and rationalize. And then, he said, they master us.

The sin crouching at my door is my desire to control. And right now, I am at a point where I have zero control over every situation in my life. Well, I guess I always have zero control, but I usually am able to pretend that I do. And since this moment does not allow me to be deceived by the illusion that I have control, Satan is whispering to me that the One who is in control does not have my best interest at heart:

If sometimes I strive, as I mourn
My hold of thy promise to keep,
The billows more fiercely return,
And plunge me again in the deep:
While harassed and cast from thy sight,
The tempter suggests with a roar,
"The Lord has forsaken thee quite;
Thy God will be gracious no more."*

The goal has been all about me. I have to make the goal all about my Lord. The only way to relinquish control, to get rid of the fear is to fix my eyes on a different prize. I am constantly relearning that a life that is happy and easy is not always the life that is best for me. Because sometimes it is not the life that draws me to my Lord. My goal cannot be comfort.
I have desires, but I hold them with open hands. And I ask that God will make my goal Him... that He will make my goal Christ alone and then take me down the path that best helps me get there.

Yet, Lord, if thy love hath designed
No covenant blessing for me,
Ah, tell me, how is it I find
Some sweetness in waiting for thee?
Almighty to rescue thou art;
Thy grace is immortal and free.
Lord, succor and comfort my heart
And make me live holy to thee.*

(This song has rocked my world. I love it when God uses a piece of art to speak so deeply to me. If you go here: it is the last song on the page. Enjoy.)

(P.S. Photo by Susan Nacorda.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Well, God has completely blown open my thoughts about money in the last two weeks. I’ve always heard that “all money is God’s money” but I have never really believed it. Sure, it’s God’s money but He wants me to enjoy life so if I want to spend it on Starbucks and J.Crew and eating out for lunch and fancy desserts at dinner then that’s cool, right?

Hmmm…. Well, Xaris and Laura have really challenged me to be a better steward. But even more than that, I have been floored in my fundraising efforts for a mission trip I am going on to a Moroccan orphanage.

My first thought when I decided to go was, “Well, if I can spare the money to go, then by all means I will but I’m not going to ASK people for money. In this economy??? Money is precious to people…. I’m not going to ask for them to give me money to go on a mission trip!”

But when I got to the root of why I felt that way, I realized it was because of my deep, deep pride. I was raised to believe, subconsciously, that you pay for yourself. You are generous with what you have. You give to others who are less fortunate, but you never allow your needs to be met by others. You just get it together and make enough money to do whatever you want to do and to help other people. But we do not ASK other people for money. They could be offended by your asking. They could think you are lazy and unable to pay for yourself. And they might even think, oh dear, that you are selfish.

My Beth Moore Bible study yesterday asked the question: “When was the last time you had to risk losing face to save something more precious than pride?” I realized that I cared way too much about people thinking I was totally selfish to ask for money to actually do it when I knew God wanted me to.

And the thing that has amazed me about this entire process, is that the people who are so generous are people who have very little. And I have plenty. And I am not living nearly as freely with the knowledge that my money is God’s money and I can give it to others knowing that God will take care of my needs. Ouch.

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."-
Mark 4:41-44

I have had people I do not even know contact me saying they would love to give to me. Really?? People I’ve never met?? Do I SEEK OUT ways to further advance God’s kingdom here on earth. No way. If you ask me I’ll consider whether or not giving you money will cut into my Starbucks/J.Crew/eating out/broadway show account and if it doesn’t, I’ll give you some dough. But do I SEEK OUT ways to give my money to other people with a generous heart? Nope. Double ouch.

I credit Xaris and Laura for pointing out to me that we dwell on Bible verses about purity and adultery, violence and bitterness, dishonesty, etc. and don’t tolerate those sins. But Jesus talks about being generous and sacrificial with your money a lot and we rarely consider anything less than that intolerable among Christians.

So, I’m extremely grateful for all of this fundraising business. I’m extremely grateful to the number of people who have given to me and shown me that the body of Christ is a body. A body which cannot function without us being codependent on each other. Without my needs being intertwined with your needs. I am thankful that I have been shown that I do not have to be ashamed of “losing face” to ask the body for help for what God calls me to do. And I am thankful that those who have given to me in times of non-plenty (which is probably anyone right about now) will be blessed because they are stepping out in faith that God is going to take care of their financial needs. Wow.

Have I got this figured out?
Will I continue to struggle with being selfish with my money and drinking overpriced Starbucks coffee?
Of course.

But at least now, I recognize that there is a problem of 1) pride in asking for money and 2) giving to others only when it is not sacrificial.
At least now I’m beginning to internalize that God calls me to be a generous giver in times of plenty and in scarcity. And that when I give sacrificially in times of scarcity like the widow who gave everything, my faith will be tested, strengthened and purified.

(P.S. I heard a priest once give a homily on "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. What a great book.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Perfect Love Casts out Fear

"God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. "

-1 John 4:16-18

As I begin a scary journey, I am thankful today that God is love and there is no fear in Him because He casts it out. Perfect love casts out fear. And God's love is perfect. I have nothing to fear.
Amen and amen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unbelief and God's Goodness

I cry out
For Your hand of mercy to heal me.
I am weak
I need Your love to free me.
Oh Lord, my rock
My strength in weakness.
Come rescue me, oh Lord.
You are my hope.
Your promise never fails me.
And my desire
Is to follow You forever.

For You are good,
For You are good
For You are good to me.
-"Good to Me" Lyrics

Since this song was included in worship last Sunday, I think I have listened to it at least 50 times.... No lies. Seriously.

The thing that I love about it the most is the tension that exists between being weak and needing God's love to free me to declaring in the next line that the Lord is "my rock, my strength in weakness."

It got me thinking about my doubts. Some people doubt God's existence or doubt God's sovereignty, but most often I struggle with doubting God's goodness.

This week my pastor said that all temptations boil down to believing that I can't or shouldn't fully follow God because He won't give me happiness.

In Mark 9:21-24, a father has brought his son to Jesus for healing from an evil spirit:
Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
"If I can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Thank goodness I can ask Jesus to help me overcome my unbelief... about His existence, His sovereignty, His goodness....

If I didn't have moments of doubt, of skepticism, of unbelief there would be nothing to require me to go deeper to find answers... to seek out truth... and to be less dependent on myself and more dependent on God to "help me overcome" my skepticism.

"Doubts and questions are to be loved like the answers themselves. They are the precious journey, without which the destination is worthless."-Frederica Ghesquiere

For He is good,
For He is good,
For He is good to me...

And when I doubt that, He will help me overcome my unbelief.

(P.S. I'll try to make that the last Van Gogh pic. I was still dreaming about the exhibit they had at the MOMA...)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Every Morning

I'm not sure I have ever been as excited and hopeful for a new year to begin as I was this year. This December 31st, I was so ready to enter a new phase and apply all of the things I learned last year. I was pumped. It was going to be great. 2009- here I come.

Well, it's one week into the new year and I have already failed professionally (Oh, did I say I would go to EVERY audition avaliable to me?), personally (As I sip from a Starbucks right NOW knowing I had vowed to spend less money there.) and spiritually (Maybe if I just apply the odd numbers of what I learned on my list from 2008?)

Thank goodness I can always rest in the knowledge that I am a PLMF- a Perfectly Loved Moral Failure. And thank goodness, God's mercies are new and avaliable to me not on a yearly basis but on a daily basis:

"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness."- Lamentations 3:21-23

In Kentucky, I heard a sermon by Pastor Kyle McDanell on the passage where Jesus is washing His disciples feet. The passage starts with Peter saying he does not want his feet to be washed by his Savior:

"'No,' said Peter, 'you shall never wash my feet.'
Jesus answered, 'Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.'
'Then, Lord,' Simon Peter replied, 'not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'
Jesus answered, 'A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean...'"
John 13:8-10a

Pastor McDanell pointed out that Peter had been saved and spiritually speaking he had"been bathed." He didn't need to have his hands, head, body, etc. washed. But even though he was clean before God's eyes, he still had to have Jesus wash the dirt off his feet. And the pastor pointed out that we all need our feet washed multiple times a day, just like people in Jesus time needed their feet washed literally multiple times a day as they walked on dirty roads in their sandals. They didn't need their whole bodies cleaned, but they needed to wash the dirt of the world off of their feet over and over.

As 2009 begins, I am a Perfectly Loved Moral Failure. God looks on me perfectly because I am covered by Jesus sacrifice. I don't need a bath. (Well I might but not figuratively ;-)

But I am a moral failure, and I must keep coming to Jesus, spending time with Jesus, pressing in to Jesus to get my feet washed.... to get the dust off.... the junk... the dirt of this world. And I will have to keep doing that every moment of every day for the rest of my life, until I see Jesus face to face.

Thank God his mercies are new every morning. Thank God Jesus not only died for me, but He is perfect in humility to invite me to draw near to Him so He can also wash my feet.

Some Lyrics from "Great is Thy Faithfulness":

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Praise God that I do not have to wait until 2010 to get my feet washed again by His merciful hands. Whenever I spend time in His presence, He will show up and if I ask, He will take away the my dirt and make me clean again.

(P.S. The VanGogh exhibit was in town at the MOMA last week. I think the sun is probably setting in this picture... but you know, we can pretend it's morning, right?)

UPDATE 1/13/09: Thanks to Grace for adding the term PLMF to Urban Dictionary:

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years Thought

"But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
-Deuteronomy 11:11-12

So beautiful. God is here from the beginning of the year until the end.