Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I have encountered multifarious difficulties this semester. I did not anticipate these types of obstacles. I am glad that I did not know ahead of time the traumas that I would face, or I would have hidden away in the safe town of Clemmons, surrounded by the cocoon of my church family and friends. I didn’t know, and that was better. What has felt in many ways like dying is emerging into a platform leading to more complete experiences of living.
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, lessons that I have learned is in the realm of friendship. I have found myself hurt deeply on several levels over the past months. I was terrified of stepping back out into the dangerous world of relationships, so I hid. I hid from everyone, and in the midst of my hurt, I stayed stuck. Healing comes from the great Healer, and He works through community. I separated from community as a knee-jerk reaction out of anger and fear.
How do you reach out in the midst of your personal hell when you don’t even know how to deal with it? It seems selfish and unfair to ask someone to come along side to be with you through the pain and agony of grief and hurt. Is it more appropriate to keep it to one’s self? Is it just a “me-and-God” type of deal? Should I cry alone at night into my pillow, stifling the sobs so that no one is concerned or burdened? What is friendship? What are boundaries? When do I reach out, and when do I simply stay away?
I now have a new experience of friendship. This is a friendship where a companion does not enter into the pain of another in order to fix. There may be a place for encouragement, admonishment, and accountability. Sometimes, however, the only thing that is needed is presence. In the pit of my depths of pain, I did not need some one to fix me or even to give me the right words or read the right Bible verse. I just needed a shoulder, arms to wrap around me as I sobbed. Someone who was willing to sit and hear the stories and the nightmares and say, “Wow! That sucks. I am so sorry. Keep breathing.” I do not expect them to fix me. I just need them to be there.
On the other side, I see the weight lifted off of my shoulders in my friendships where there is a need. I don’t have to fix someone. I don’t have to have the right words. I just need to be accessible. I can sit and listen or sit and cry with my friend. There is no longer the weigh of having to be the “savior” or the “fix-it friend.” It is not my job to be the voice of conviction or the one who is always right. My job is to be the friend who comes along side, offers up prayers of intercession, sits for hours if needed, just to be present through the pain.
Here is the moral today: Friendship is presence. It is willingness to “enter in” with those that we love. We fail sometimes and we come through sometimes. But we love through being there.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I was just given the most simple yet absolutely perfect revelation. God chose to create me. Because of that, I am the Beloved. He did not have to choose to form me. He did not have to breathe life into my lungs. Every individual, everywhere, historically, presently, and in the future is infinitely valuable because the God of the universe breathes His life into them. He chose us the moment He imagined us.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5

Only God could do the type of choosing that sets every person everywhere apart. No one misses this choosing. No one evades belovedness, because no one was formed outside of God’s plan.

God doesn’t create and then forget. He loves me. He loves me because He created me. He created me knowing the pain that I would be, the quirks that I would possess, the mess that I would be, the shattered pieces that would become my life. He made me knowing that He could put those pieces back together. He made me knowing that He would be able to redeem my mistakes and my traumas. He made me knowing all of me, and still He chose to make me. He chose me.

Somehow, in the vastness of all of the humans who ever walked this earth, in the volume of every set of lungs that inhaled air, and every tiny baby whose life was snuffed out before they uttered a cry, God chose us. And He loves each of us. We are each, in our finite terms, His “favorite.” I am His favorite. You are His favorite. How can He do this? I don’t know, but He can because He is God.

I want to see myself through this lens of belovedness. I want to see others through this lens of belovedness.

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All of the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139: 15-16

He dreamt us into being. He, in His infinite perfection, created us to mirror Him. The take-home message is this: How do I know my belovedness? It is so simple yet perfect. I know that I am the Beloved because He chose to create me.

The Samaritan's Legacy of Love

When I say "Samaritan," what do you automatically think of? Before I understood Bible history or different people groups in the New Testament, I thought a Samaritan was a good neighbor. I did not realize that Samaritans were frowned upon by the Jews. I did not recognize the negative connotations that were implicitly held by the word "Samaritan." Samaritans were half-breeds. They had a defective devotion to Judaism, and they were connected ancestrally to pagans. Jews believed that in crossing Samaritan land, they would be contaminated. As a child, I did not know this, although I knew the parable of the good Samaritan. In retrospect, I find that Samaritan held a very positive connotation in my mind. I find it fascinating that Jesus' interactions/parables about Samaritans were both positive and didactic for the rest of the Christ-followers. The Samaritan woman at the well and the Samaritan who cared for the beaten, dying man both served in ways that were to be emulated by all.
What I see first is that Jesus did not restrict His examples to Jews. He actually seemed to enjoy using those who were socially and culturally "less than" as a way to presenting the universality of the gospel. This was also a way of showing that true devotion, compassion, and love can be evidenced by all people of every nationality.
I guess that I was mostly struck today when I hit the word Samaritan and realized that I recognize it as a positive term. One imaginary man in a parable influenced forever my idea of what type of person is a Samaritan. "Who was a neighbor?” Jesus asked. The one who was the least like a neighbor to begin with became the truest neighbor possible. Jesus tells the religious scholar, the devout Jew, to go and do the same as the Samaritan.
Jesus turned labels upside-down and inside out. The label of Samaritan holds more tenderness in my heart than the label of Jewish leader or religious scholar. How interesting.
Love: It is the greatest of all. Eagerly desire the gifts of the spirit, but above all desire love. What did this Samaritan have that the others did not have? Love. I want to let love influence everything. Who can give the gift of belovedness to others? Only the beloved can do that. Stigmas and stereotypes externally do not take away my identity as the beloved. The socially lowest of low were able to give love because they were loved infinitely by the creator of the universe. His love does not discriminate. It does not label. It does not diagnose or stereotype or write someone off as untouchable. As His beloved, now I can love. Just like the Samaritan.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Me Beautiful

Every cloud has a silver lining. What the heck does that mean? Clouds don’t have linings. They are vapors. And if they had linings, they couldn’t be made of silver. It is not flexible enough. It is metal, not cloth. Silver lining in clouds is impossible. Can there be good embedded in every situation?
Finding out from the doctor that the growth is malignant? The dreaded call that brings your life to a crumbled heap? The rejection that leaves your mind reeling and your faith in humanity shaken? The medical malpractice that brings your world to shambles? The job loss that leads you to destitution? Are there always “silver linings” whatever the heck they are? While silver lining doesn’t compute in my brain, I see in retrospect that every crisis carried with it a special touch, lesson, or revelation from the Lord. Sometimes, it took years to see the great grace that was embedded in the tragedy. Other times, it took days. At this point, I am still waiting to see the redemption of some losses.
Why does God have to allow clouds? Why do we even have to look for silver linings? We live in a fallen world. I get that. We face personal sin, environmental disasters, and physical illness. But why does such excruciating pain exist? Why do I have to face those moments, hours, and days that weigh on my chest and threaten to suffocate my spirit? Why do I have to crumble in a heap on the cold floor in my empty room in order to learn these lessons of the faith and see God’s hand more clearly? In hindsight, I guess I am glad for the pain—I think. But man, it is terrible.
What about when it is my fault? When I make a stupid choice or react unhealthily to an environmental stressor? What about when I dig myself deeper and deeper into a hole of self-pity or shame? Can God redeem those moments of utter disobedience or sheer ignorance?
What about when I have no control over the matter? What about through oversight or malevolence, I am wronged? What if sickness hits? What if accidents bring life to a screeching halt? Is there grace that is great enough to bring good out of these circumstances?
Sometimes the losses are unfathomable and I can never get back what I once had. But I must believe that God can bring some good from the pain. The pain is not in vain. Nothing does not pass through His allowance unnoticed. He knows. He knows the loss. He grieves with my loss. He sits next to me as I writhe in pain on a cold floor. He holds me in His arms as I weep. He lets me snot on His shoulder. He reminds me to take the next breath when I forget to breathe. He picks up my feet to walk when I cannot seem to gather the energy to take the next step. He holds my hands in His tender palms. He is gentle. He is kind. He is the stark contrast against the background of chaos and brutality. He is grounding when I am not sure what is up and what is down. I may question everything else but I know that HE IS.
Sometimes nothing makes sense. Sometimes the hurt is deeper than I am thick. Sometimes I pray for relief and relief doesn’t come. Always He is faithful. This isn’t cliché. It isn’t cliché because I know what it means. It isn’t a trite statement. It is the story of my broken life. It creates a tapestry out of my life of shattered pieces. Only God can make something beautiful out of the mess that is Megan. And He is making me beautiful.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What if it wasn't your fault?

I lived in a world of fault. It was my fault for everything, down to natural disasters. It was my fault for family dysfunction and illness. I was somehow responsible for everything. I was the one who deserved punishment. Now, this is natural in some stages of development, when the world seems to revolve around the child, but somehow I maintained this weight of responsibility. It was like I was frozen around age six when I blamed myself for everything. When it looked like it could have been some one else’s fault, it just meant that I had to look a little deeper to find that I was the culprit. More recent traumas have occurred, and I blamed myself for them. I still do.

My mind floods with “what-ifs”. What if somehow I caused the lightning to strike my house? What if I set myself up for the tremendous bullying? What if I set out, choosing to develop the illnesses of adolescence and early adulthood? What if I had caught the medication blunder? What if I had exercised more will power? What if it really truly was my choice and my fault and I am truly solely responsible? Of course, I am responsible on many levels. I am not denying that. I am just questioning the extreme self blame that I have lived under.
The question was posed to me tonight, “what if all of this wasn’t your fault?” What if? What if it had nothing to do with my choice and my failures? What if it was just the result of the fallen world, and the failures and sins of others? What if I have been placing the blame on the wrong shoulders and crumbling underneath the undeserved weight? What would be the implications of this exoneration?
Now, I am not willing to admit that this is entirely the case. I am willing to accept that in some cases, I was the victim. I was the victim to events that should have never transpired and medical malpractice that should have been prevented or even caught before such traumas occurred. But the message of tonight is simply the question, “what if it wasn’t your fault?”
It seems wrong to ask it. It seems like I would be shirking responsibility, not accepting culpability of actions that I may have chosen. It is the reverse of the question that has been haunting me for years: What if it was your entire fault?
I answered this question with “yes,” because this is what the lies were screaming. I accepted the blame and shame, and now I see the destruction that it produces. I set out to punish myself, to pay a form of penance. I did not need to forgive anyone else. No one else was to blame, and I never could forgive myself for all of those horrible things. The list was just too long and heavy.
I don’t yet know how to answer the question, “what if it wasn’t your fault?” This could mean that I have a lot of people to forgive. It also may make it easier to forgive myself.
I have so long blamed myself that it seems foreign and bizarre to think that it could be anything other than my fault. I know, however, that the shame attached with who I am as a person is inappropriate. I also know that there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. That truth has not quite hit my heart yet, but I trust that it will as I seek to recognize the truth of His word and to know Him more completely.
It seems that my posts have come to develop more into questions than answers. I like answers. I like to understand and be able to make sense out of things. I trust, however, that in time, this will make more sense in a heart knowledge kind of way. In the mean time, I will keep asking and seeking. It could be that it is not so much about the answers but about the One to whom the questions are directed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Talitha koum (Jairus' story)

She was dying. She was just twelve. I didn’t care anymore how it looked. I could pretend that I didn’t believe to save face in front of the other leaders, but it wasn’t about saving face anymore. My little girl was dying. There was no hope besides this Man. I may lose my position. But it didn’t matter. She was worth it. I couldn’t remember life before her. She was the sun that lit my days. Her smile could melt even the coldest heart. But now her lifeless body lay on her deathbed. She was only twelve. She would never see thirteen. Unless….

But that Man was here in town. I had to leave my little girl’s bedside to get to him. That was the hardest thing I would ever do. I heard that He was coming back across the river….if only I could get to Him and ask, and He would heal her. There was word that He healed the sick, cast out demons, made blind see and made the lame walk. He could certainly breathe life back into my precious daughter’s lungs. I wasn’t sure about this Messiah thing, but I knew He could heal, and that was all that I needed. So I ran as fast as I could. I left the wailing and weeping crowds outside of my house. I kissed my wife as I left, cradling her chin in my hands, and I promised her that this Jesus was real, and that He would bring our little girl back. With tears streaming down her face onto my hands, she nodded, mutely.

There He was, with the three that were continually with Him. His was the face of hope. This was the man who healed in my temple. He was the one whom I had wanted to kick out. He was too much of a spectacle. He had led too many of my followers astray. He was a heretic. As a whole, we wanted nothing to do with Him. Now I wanted everything to do with Him. Let Him be a heretic. Just as long as He can save my child. So there I was. I had never flung myself at anyone’s feet before, let alone the feet of one of such controversial teachings. And I lay before Him, as a slave! I knew all He would have to do is touch her. I had seen Him do it before. She had a future, and it was slipping away. I wanted this Man, whoever He was, to give life back to my little girl.

He conceded. I was speechless. This man, Jesus, was following me to my house!! My baby will live! We will have tomorrow with her, and the next day. She will become a teenager, and then a beautiful woman! She will have children, and we will hear her sing again and see her dance again. She will play and run and be filled with life! Hallelujah! And, yes, I will believe in you, Jesus. If you save my daughter, I will turn my world inside out. You can wreck my world. Take away my position in the church. Even take my life for hers. Whatever you want. Just give my daughter back her life.

Wait! Why are we stopping? What?? He felt someone touch His robes?? Listen to your disciples, Jesus. It doesn’t matter. People are crowding in on you. Everyone is touching You. I need you to touch MY daughter. Please, don’t stop walking. We don’t have much time. Time may have already run out! Oh, there she is. That is that woman who is contaminated. We don’t touch her. NO! We don’t have time for her now. My little girl needs Jesus. Now, Jesus is talking to this woman….she is healed….another miracle….ok. That’s enough. It is my little girl’s turn.

I see them in the distance. My stomach drops. I can’t see them anymore through the cascade of tears. How did I get down on the ground? Don’t tell me. PLEASE don’t tell me…. I will order you to be killed if you tell me….she isn’t dead. She can’t be dead. She was breathing when I left. She was talking yesterday. She was running around and dancing three weeks ago. NO!! She can’t be dead. JESUS PLEASE….TELL THEM. No, you can’t tell me not to bother the Teacher. He is the SAVIOR, and I WILL bother Him until my child is alive!

Then followed the cryptic words that replaced the words that I wanted to hear: “Do not be afraid any longer. Only believe. “

Ok. It was all that I had. All I could do was believe. There was no where else that I could place my trust. It was either believe or admit defeat. And I could not believe that she was dead. So I let Him lift me up from my crumpled heap and we walked forward toward my house. I was like one lost in a trance. It was the beginning stages of shock, so I followed, dumbly, blindly, mutely. I did not feel my legs. The only thing that was evident was the drum beat of my heart in my ears. My daughter’s laughter echoed in my mind. I could not allow myself to forget it. Oh, please God, allow me to hear her laughter in real life again.

We stopped again. Why did we stop? We have not entered into my house. Oh, all the crowds. Why are THEY wailing? She is MY daughter. Then Jesus responded to them with the most beautiful words that I have ever heard in my life. These words will echo in my memory as long as I live: “The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” I am still mute. Why are they laughing at Jesus? In an instant, they went from weeping to laughing. They don’t really care at all. Slowly anger flooded my vision. Then I saw Jesus, and He led me into the room. HER room. My wife’s face was contorted with the greatest sorrow I could ever bear to see. I wondered if mine looked the same. We were never meant to bury our children.

I forced myself to look at the bed. There she was. Or there was her body, lifeless, empty. But Jesus took her tiny, fragile, white, cold hand, which was swallowed up in His ruddy, carpenter’s hand, and He said, “Talitha koum.”

My heart leapt. My daughter immediately arose. The speed in which the color returned to her face was astonishing. She hadn’t stood in days. And now she was walking around. My head spun. For the third time that day, I fell to my knees. I heard the laugh. It was her laughter! She was alive! She was alive! She was alive! I peeled my eyes off of my beautiful ray of joy to gaze on the face of the One who gave her back to me. He saw my gratitude, and in His eyes, I could see the commission. My wife had already enfolded our little girl in her embrace, so I wrapped my arms around both of my girls. We wept. We all wept. Then we heard a little growl. It was her tummy. She was hungry….before Jesus walked out, He said, “Go get her something to eat.” I swept her up in my arms, and we followed her mother down to the kitchen to feed our daughter dinner, and we rejoiced that we would have the pleasure of feeding her many more.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Degrees of Healing

As I studied Mark 8:22-26, I was astonished at an element of the story that I have always overlooked. Here is the passage in the NIV:

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put His hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

Why is this miracle different than the other miracles surrounding it? I was astonished that the healing did not “work” initially. He could see better, but he could not see fully. Previously, in this same chapter, Jesus had performed the incredible miracle of feeding the 4,000. He did this completely on the “first try.” There was no step one, and then step two. His miracles never had worked in the degrees that this one was composed of. Was this specific miracle flawed? Was there something wrong with the blind man’s faith? Did he not have enough faith? Was Jesus’ touch not quite as influential as it should have been? Was this blindness especially severe? Jesus doesn’t offer any reasons, nor does the author of Mark. As students of the word and sensitive recipients of the Spirit’s messages, we can look a little bit deeper, and we can make some guesses.

I was so perplexed by the slow progression of this miracle. It seemed almost like a trial-and-error process. It deeply disturbed my spirit, and I could not understand why. I got some help from the great biblical scholar Matthew Henry in my understanding of this passage.

Jesus could have been taking this man slowly through healing, building his faith in steps, so that he could see the full healing more completely. This gradual nature of this miracle was not typical. The man looked up after the first touch, with his sight somewhat recovered, but he could not discern great details. Men were only distinguishable from trees in that they were walking around. But Christ doesn’t only heal partially. He wants to say, “It is finished.” So He placed His fingers in the man’s eyes again, and this time he looked intently. He could see clearly.
Christ would not be boxed. He would not be tied to a specific prescription of healing. He still won’t. We try to package Him, and He breaks the mold. Henry says, “Providence gains the same end in different ways, that men may attend its motions with an implicit faith.”

Why does this hit me with such power? The reason is this: I did not experience immediate healing. Hands were laid on me, and I was healed. Partially. I found freedom that I had never known before. Previously, I had never been able to even see shades of light. I had never beheld people or trees, so the blurry image of tree-people was pretty good. Then the Lord asked, “What do you see?” And I told Him. He was not finished. Next, I saw the outline of their silhouettes, the shading of their clothes, and the backdrop of the green, but there was no detail. It was better than anything I had ever seen, so I was pretty happy. Jesus asked again, “child, what do you see?” I told Him, but He still had more. He will keep building my faith. He will keep increasing the power of my vision until I am finally able to look intently and see crystal-clearly. Until then, He will keep asking “child, what do you see?”

Some people find complete healing at once. Their faith may very easily be stronger than mine. He can heal immediately. He made the deaf hear immediately. He restored the sight of some blind men immediately. He raised Lazarus with one beckoning call. The cool thing was that this blind man got two touches from Jesus, while the other recipients of His healing only got one touch or a word.

I do not resent this progressive healing. God knows what He is doing. He is healing by degrees not because my God is less powerful or incompetent. He is meeting my need right now. And yeah, the people and scenery that I observe now are a little bit blurry, but I get to spend the process with my Lord as He keeps on anointing my eyes with His blessed touch. He won’t stop until He can say, “it is finished.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am sick of swallowing my emotions. I am nauseous all the time, and I know that is why. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I bought into the belief that people can’t handle my emotions, that I can’t handle my emotions, and that God doesn’t want to handle my emotions. I have believed that they are morally wrong to have. I have bought into the lie that true healthy Christians can’t feel fear, anxiety, anger, hurt, jealousy, and sadness. Those feelings are unacceptable. Because they were not allowed in my world, and because I felt them on a regular basis, I got really good at “swallowing” my emotions. In carrying some overlapping blog themes, swallowing emotions is kind of like swallowing gum: not so good for the digestive track! The emotions are too much for people. They will scare people away. They will reveal what a hopeless case that I am. They are too big. If I let my emotions out in a room, they would expand like flubber, filling up the entire room, plastering those poor souls within to the walls, gasping for oxygen. I kept on swallowing these “flubber monster” emotions, and wondered why there was no room for food. Why did I always feel so full?

I have come face to face with a multitude of emotions over the past couple weeks. I have faced rage and devastation as the primary emotions. I allowed myself to cry for all of ten seconds yesterday before apologizing profusely, shoving it back in, and trying to paste on a happy face. With all these good Christian people around me at Asbury Seminary, I assume that holiness abounds. There is no room for a basket case like me amidst the greatly sanctified chosen ones here at Asbury. At least that’s what this shame keeps telling me. You think that I would learn by now not to listen to anything with the name of shame.

I have noticed a trend in my life. When go through intense seasons of battling very powerful emotions, I become less and less hungry. In fact, I feel pretty full all the time. I am literally swallowing my emotions. This is no good for the process of recovery. I am supposed to be eating food, not feelings. I have found that feelings have no nutritional value, and in fact, they burn quite a few extra calories.

One of the best ways to unload the truckload of feelings is to have a good cry. After my best cries, I feel famished. It is those times that I finally have emptied out the feelings to make room for the food. Catharsis is fantastic, but it seems so dangerous. Sometimes, crying alone is terrible. Sometimes, or often, I need someone or some people in the community to carry my sorrow with me, or to cry with me, or to laugh with me, or to scream with me. This is so scary. What if I scare them off forever? What if truly no one can love me enough to handle my massive emotions? What if I turn into the flubber emotion monster myself?

I don’t know what this healing is going to look like. I don’t know how long it will take, who it will involve, or what I will have to do. But I have to believe that God brings healing through His Spirit at work through His body in our communities. He loves us through each other. He made us for relationships, and He made us not to swallow all of our emotions to the point that there is no room for dinner.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Advocate-Counselor

The Lord calls His followers to justice. I love the verse in Micah 6:8 which says that the Lord requires of us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God and with men. Until tonight, I have had yet to experience such a heavy weight of responsibility as a counselor. There is a call for justice, and those who cannot speak for themselves need someone to speak for them. If it is true that the Bible mentions over 500 times the topics of the poor, the widows, and the orphans, I need to aid in their protection and care. This means advocacy. Jesus plowed the way of turning the social structure upside down, where the poor populate God’s family, and that it is virtually impossible for the rich to inhabit the kingdom of heaven. The way up is down in the economy of the Lord. The Lord has provided the world with enough resources, if those who have in abundance will give freely to those who have not.

John Wesley continually emphasizes the social responsibilities of Christians. I love his elevation of social holiness. We do not live in vacuums, and we inhabit a world full of broken people. I am reminded of a verse that the Lord has lain continuously on my heart. Isaiah 61 says that the Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bind up the brokenhearted, to bring freedom for the captives, and release to the prisoners, to bestow on those who weep a garland of praise. His Spirit is upon me not for my own benefit alone. His Spirit has anointed me to go out and love through many means. One of those means is through the pursuit of justice and social advocacy. Who will act on the behalf of those who are crushed if those who are enabled to do so choose to do nothing? In my education and knowledge of the oppressed and poverty-stricken, I am now responsible. I think of the song “Albertine” by Brooke Frasier, which says, “now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead.” There was bliss in my former ignorance, but now that ignorance has been eradicated. Now I must choose how to respond.
In the system of righteousness, I acknowledge that God is the God of retributive justice. I leave that up to Him. I have responsibility in the realm of sharing the message of restorative justice, where Christ died for the sinners. Next, I have the calling to administer distributive justice through sharing all that I have with those who have nothing.

I am so quick to forget the affluence that I live in. I consider the debt that I am building and the very tight budget that I operate on. I restrict my driving to save gas money, and calculate expenses so that I can come up positive in my bank account. Working as a work study, I devote my income strictly to tuition. I am living on borrowed money. My privilege is that I have access to this borrowed money, and that I will finish this process more qualified and equipped to generate a stable income. There are many who are infinitely worse off than I am. This was an incredible eye-opener tonight after several weeks of self-pity and panic. There are many who have limited educational, emotional, social, and foundational resources, leading to deeper despair. This is despair leads to a soul poverty that runs much deeper than a bank account. It is a poverty of soul, and this is the poverty that destroys.

As a counselor grows out of self, there is a universal awareness, and a more global calling. We cannot interact with individuals on a micro-level and not find ourselves broken for society on a macro-level. I am almost inclined at this point to consider it unethical to counsel and not to feel the need to advocate on some level. Deeper understanding of the core issues of humanity leads to a greater awareness of the global need for healing and restoration. This sounds amazingly exhausting and discouraging. I am sure that there are great rewards along the journey as well. It has to be a calling, or else it will grow very old very quickly. I feel the calling, however, and I cannot do anything but respond as Isaiah did. Therefore, I stand up in this system of injustice and cry, “Here I am Lord! Send me!”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chewing Gum?

I sat enjoying my first meal in the ATS cafeteria last week, when my eyes landed on a little sign that was posted on the napkin holder. The sign, which may be helpful to some, was troublesome to me.

It said: “Chew gum. Curb snack cravings.”

First of all, on a research based level, gum has been proven to be somewhat unhealthy to the stomach. The chewing process causes the stomach to secrete acids that erode its lining and cause further complications. When we start to chew our brain thinks it’s going to get food so it secretes digestive enzymes through our saliva glands, which is the first stage of digestion. It then tells our digestive system to prepare for what it believes to be food coming down and more enzymes are produced. This is how our body normally breaks down fat and protein. However, since there is no food, bloating occurs. Then because of the relationship between enzymes and hormones, a hormone imbalance follows. The stomach produces hydrochloric acid and since that isn’t being used it creates digestive dysfunction which in turn causes acid reflux and ulcers. It also can develop into TMJ, a painful jaw disorder (with which I am presently dealing).

Secondly, gum has historically curbed cravings and hunger for me. I could trick my body into thinking that I was eating. It was also a way to trick my mind. Sadly, I was replacing nourishment with empty chewing that satisfied a temporary craving but led to further starvation and devastation to my body. I was able to restrict and feel in control through the chewing of gum. My mouth had something to do, and I could replace my true longing with something that would suffice but not fulfill.

Today, I made the commitment to fast from gum. Today, I was reminded of a former conviction that I felt about a decade ago in high school. I have encountered the opportunity to take communion three times in the past five days. This is a record high, and it has been such a blessing to me. Facing communion each time, I noticed that I was chewing gum. In those events, I either swallowed the gum (which I hear is not so good for the digestive system), or I spit it out in a wrapper. It detracts from my worship experience, and I find the leftover minty flavor tainting my actual experience of communion. The Lord wants my whole heart during this participation.

He wants me to fully encounter His presence at the table of His goodness.
Gum has been a substitute for food. Analogously, I have replaced pure spiritual food with empty “chewing gum” of different sorts. Whether it has been running, restriction, friendships, TV shows, shopping, or various other activities, I have sought to replace the good spiritual food of relationship with the Lord.

“Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Isaiah 55:2

Why would I waste time and stomach acid on nothing but chewing, not being satisfied, but delaying hunger? What would I waste precious energy and resources on serving other masters rather than the Most High?

He is the real nourishment. He is the bread of life. Abraham Maslow says that “man cannot live on bread alone, unless he has no bread.” I had no bread, because I was wasting my chewing on gum. Now, I truly cannot live on bread alone, because I have experienced that need met. Now is the time to replace the emotional gum with Spiritual riches.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Patron-Client Relationship and God as Benefactor

I have been given a new picture of God as benefactor. This picture is the ancient Greco-Roman patron-client relationship. In this relationship, the Patron is the benefactor who gives altruistically, without expecting anything in return from His “client.” He makes the gift strictly for the sake of giving. The goal is not to create servants, but to serve. The term for this altruistic benefaction is “general reciprocity.”

The expectation of clients in this situation is a form of praise and respect for the patron. In fact, ingratitude is considered in this culture one of the most reprehensible affronts, more offensive than murder, cheating, lying, and idolatry. This system not only applied to political agendas, but also to Deities. God gives freely, and God needs nothing in His completeness. The appropriate and expected response of a mortal to the Divine Benefactor was the gift of power and authority. Thanksgiving is the natural duty to a God who has given all. There is nothing else that can be given, and He does not NEED anything. No one is so poverty-stricken that he cannot spare praise. It is a commodity that is always available even to the most destitute.

“The commitment is understood here: God gives, we return honor and gratitude to the Benefactor who continues His benefaction—thus loyalty and faithfulness are shown by both parties, that is commitment.” (Neyrey, God Benefactor and Patron).

This is the “sacrifice of praise.” There are four categories of offerings made by mortals in exchange for the gifts of the Benefactor. These are: Sacrifice, commitment, praise, and influence. In response to God’s altruistic gift to the clients, they offer Him an altruistic gift of God-centeredness. The highest form of God’s benefaction is found in the very popular text of John 3:16, and then later in John 15, where we find that greater love cannot exist beyond our Lord’s gift in laying down His life for His friends, even when they are His enemies. The response that God expects from us is that we obey Him and do what He has called us to do by keeping His commands. Our faith is reckoned as righteousness. Though out of our faith flows the fruit of the Spirit, our response to the benefaction of the Father God is not directly our works, but our worship, trust, and friendship.

I see the application here as this: I have been given the gift of life through the sacrifice of the Benefactor. He has saved my life. He has restored my life. He has freely given first eternal life, and secondly a gift of preservation in the midst of crippling odds of death. He has also given me abundance and provision in this present life. I see the Psalmists’ responses to God’s provision all throughout the book of Psalms, especially in Psalm 107. The Psalmist says “let the redeemed of the Lord say this, those He redeemed from the hand of the foe, let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds before. Let them give thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.”

I cannot help but declare what the Lord has done in my life. The story of my life points back to Him and His great work. He has pulled my life from the pit, He has put my feet on a rock and given me a firm place to stand. The greatest joy of my life is to respond to my Patron. What He expects from me is something that I delight in doing. Does there exist a better deal?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Consecrated Pearl

At the risk of sounding narcissistic and self-absorbed, I have done some extensive research of my name. My name is Megan Elizabeth. My mom had a card that she stuck to our refrigerator as I was a child. It had my name on it and its definition. I would read it and feel precious and seen. Megan means “pearl”. Elizabeth means “consecrated unto God”. Specifically, the Hebrew definition for Elizabeth is “my God is my oath.” I am a pearl, consecrated unto God.
Pearls are found inside of oysters. I happened to wear a pearl necklace over the past couple days. The past year, right before my graduation from Mercy, my mother gave me a beautiful necklace made of real black pearls. They are more deep purple rather than black, but they are still considered to be black. The word “pearl” has become a metaphor for something very rare, fine, and admirable. All of these qualities are qualities that I would never attribute to myself. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. Pearls, as I stated earlier, are formed inside the shell of mollusks. The pearl is actually created as a defense mechanism, protecting the mollusk from parasites that might form within the shell. When a shell becomes a host for an irritant (parasite), it secretes pure calcium carbonate to cover the irritant over and over, creating the pearl. The shell turns something parasitic into something rare, beautiful, and fine. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the pearl of great price. The farmer buries the pearl, sells all that he has, and returns to the pearl. It is worth more than this man’s amassed wealth. Pearls are attached to eternity in Revelation, where the gates are made of pearl. In summary, the pearl is of great value. The Lord says, “Megan, you are my valuable pearl. You are worth more than you can imagine. You have been formed around great irritants, and I have made good in you out of danger.” Once again, I see that what the enemy intended for evil, the Lord has used for great good. The pearl is what it is because of a history of very specific formation.
The Lord calls me consecrated unto Himself. Consecrated items are set apart as sacred. They are sanctified for the purpose of communion. They are dedicated to a holy purpose or goal. This is a future-oriented value. A consecrated item is what it is for future service and communion with the Lord. Its Latin roots mean specifically to be made sacred. This making of consecration is something that is done to the recipient, not something that the recipient produces through its own efforts. One Hebrew word for consecrated is “qadash,” which implies that something is PRONOUNCED to be clean. It is appointed. It is bidden. It is made clean for the purpose of God’s work. Another Hebrew word for consecrated is “malo.” This means to be filled to overflowing. Once again, the implication is “to have done from without.” It is an exhaustive in the sense that it is filled up. To fill one’s hand is to consecrate someone for priestly service.
This leads me to the passage in 1 Peter 2, which says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, God’s own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God. Once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy.”
The Lord has taken me as something that is parasitic and destructive and made me into something that is well-formed, rare, and beautiful to Him. He has from without called and named me as His own, bidden for His own purpose. He has poured Himself into me to overflowing because of His purpose in me for priestly service. My name is beautiful. My bridegroom calls me precious, holy, and consecrated, and that is who I am. He is pulling me out of the shell, stringing me on his necklace, and calling me beautiful. Then He is preparing me for ministry through the continual pouring in of His Spirit so that I can be a vessel through which He ministers to the world.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Table

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Psalm 23:5

I find myself back in the place of former oppression, death, and darkness. This is the place where my enemies triumphed and almost had my life. This was the place of the greatest promise and the most devastating loss. The enemy stole the table set before me. There was food that the Lord had prepared, but it was stolen, leaving me starving and dying. The enemy almost won, but he did not. Great is His faithfulness.

My enemy is present. He is waiting at every blind spot. He knows that this is where he stole the most, but I know that he will not get it again. In fact, I will find a double portion this time to make up for what the locusts have eaten. I am glad that this table has been prepared in the presence of my enemy. That way he can see the feast that the Lord has before me, and he can see me dining with my Host and His other guests. This table is lavish, with great bounty and rich foods. The table is vast and spread out. As I sit before it and partake, my enemy is tortured.

This verse from the 23rd Psalm was highlighted this morning in our first session for the orientation here at Asbury Seminary. This place, located in the town of great pain and sorrow, is the place where God intends to do a mightier work than has ever taken place in my life thus far. Chills cascaded down my arms as the speaker read this scripture. The place of starvation has become a place of feast. The cafeteria of restriction is now the table of abundance and nourishment. My enemy will watch me sit and recline at the table which the Lord has prepared for me. Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message that the Lord serves a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.

The Hebrew word for presence here is “neged” which connotes the idea that the table is immediately in the enemy’s face. There is a quality of opposition here. It is a parade of the Lord’s healing and power. The enemy can only stand, speechless, observing in defeat my feast at the Lord’s table.

In the enemy’s presence today, I sang in my first chapel service of my graduate school experience. I sang the hymn that is the Vessel class of 2005 hymn at the college. “Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.” His faithfulness is a thread that is woven so perfectly throughout my life, a banner that flies when someone sees the odds that I have overcome. His faithfulness brought me back to this place of deep hurt to bring profound healing. All I have needed His hand has provided. My defeated enemies ruefully observe as that same hand serves me from His table of hospitality here at Asbury Seminary.


Today held a lot of significance in the healing process for me. As all of the new students have arrived on campus, I have found myself experimenting on self-disclosure. People here are incredibly kind, friendly, and sincere. It is a great environment. I also fear some judgment and condemnation (based on my own judgment and condemnation but also based on experiences at church and at college).
I see some similarities between my orientation at Asbury College eight years ago and my orientation at Asbury Seminary today. It two days, non-stop. It is exhausting, with tons of stimulation, overwhelming numbers of people, loads of information, and excessive emotion. We are divided into TAG (transition and guidance) groups, which include 8-14 people with two students as the leaders. Fortunately, both in college and in seminary, I have had the opportunity to arrive on campus early, and I have not been as overwhelmed by the "newness" of the campus while trying to get to know tons of new people. I feel almost seasoned enough to give a tour myself.
As I entered college, I had made significant strides out of the eating disorder. I considered it to be on its way out of my life. As I enter graduate school, once again, I see the eating disorder as part of my history, however recent. My goal with college was the leave the eating disorder behind, but as I shared life with fellow students, I disclosed parts of my "history" that turned out to be much more present than I wanted to acknowledge. I began to enter into the role that I set up for myself. I believe with tentative reservation that I am at a greater place of understanding now, but I face the same dilemma. I am no longer defined by anorexia. I never want to be identified with it or defined by it again. The problem, however, is that when asked, "what brought you here to Asbury?" or "will you tell me about your journey?" I have to figure out a balance between over-transparency and hiding. I am not ashamed of who I am, and I know that I am not condemned. Though our group setting was intimate tonight, it seemed that it was not appropriate to disclose anything more specific than a "prolonged illness" that detoured my path. I do not want to step into a relationship and open up too much too soon. You cannot suck words back into your mouth. But I don't want to veil all of my words with this vague cloak of generalization when presenting my testimony (which was very much what I felt like I was doing tonight). I felt like I was wading through this marsh of "code language." I don't want to walk around with a scarlet "A" on my chest. But I don't want to hide in the shadows, trying to not be found out. I was so nervous about not exposing myself that I was jumbling up my message tremendously.
It is hard not wanting to be defined by something while remembering that it has truly been deeply involved in the process of becoming who I am.
So, tonight, I was vague. But when it was over, I think that I conveyed the message well enough. There was great support, encouragement, and several people thanked me for what I shared. I know that doors were opened, and those who want to know me more deeply will invite me into a place of deeper levels of disclosure at the right time. With that disclosure, I will not enter into the "role" that I jumped back into in college. As I look back over the ever-increasing distance between the present freedom and the past bondage, I will be reminded that I never want to go back and that I am so thankful that what the enemy intended for harm God has used for good. And eight years later, praise the Lord that graduate school is NOT a repeat of college.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Turtle and Me

I, Megan Coe, am a turtle. I have the capacity to stretch my neck far enough to get my head out of my shell into the world. But one little discomfort or threat causes me to thrust my head right back into the safe, dark, familiar home of my little shell. I am an introvert. I thrive on alone time. This does not mean that I was designed to be alone. Why would God make introverts if He designed us all for relationships and community? I doesn’t seem fair in this social holiness theology. Is it just to stretch my neck a little longer, to drag me out of the comfort of my nice, warm, secure home, out of my stable, orderly, book-filled dorm room?

Some people thrive in social settings. Their energy is restored through interaction with others. They meet more people, and are more dateable. They can invest more in the lives of others. I wince at the thought of groups greater than three. I either shrink back in crowds, or I act like an awkward fool. My poor friends try to draw me out, and it is truly torturous for all of us. It is like pulling permanent teeth. I say no, and then we bargain, and then I say, “yes, but I will drive my own car,” or “yes, but I will only stay an hour,” or “yes, but I have to go to bed early.” That early bed time excuse is always a lie. I go back home and bury myself in a book, or open up my journal , or dive into some academic endeavor, or do my nails, or pluck my eyebrows….ANYTHING rather than being at a social gathering.
I don’t have great and profound things to say in this entry. I am just confused. If I was made to be relational, why is my inclination to be alone? I was this way as a child. My mother always jokingly said how independent I was as an 18-month-old. I would stay in my room for hours, happy as a little clam (ahahah, I just totally stumbled on that analogy, though it is incredibly appropriate). Does this just mean that life is going to be even harder for me, to pry my shell open and drag myself into the world, awkward and wary? Is it wrong that I find more delight in sitting and reading? I like long walks in the woods by myself. I like writing for hours without distractions. I like spending a day, reading an entire 600-page novel. Maybe this is pure selfishness. Jesus retreated from people to go pray, but He never failed to minister and spend time with people. Neither did He limit His party size to three people at a time. He was good with one-on-one or entertaining 5,000 over dinner.

Maybe I am jus t playing the “it’s not fair” card. But here it is: IT’S NOT FAIR. I want to be a peacock, not a turtle. But I am a turtle. I like my shell. If my shell breaks, I die. What is just my natural bent toward introversion, and what is my responsibility towards koinonia and fellowship? Is it just a matter of still daily dying to the flesh and stepping out into the crowds? I tend to think that there is something valid and perfectly ok about my inclination, but I feel a sense of caution as I seek to find the balance. I hear over and over again that “isolation” is a red flag, and I know that red flags are signs of necessary change. But when is solitude ok? I think I just want some black and white answers, and I know that they do not always exist. It is not formulaic. I just need some little nudges out into the world of community. In community there is support, love, accountability, and more Jesus. Jesus is there, ministering in solitude. I am pretty partial to that ministry. I just need to stretch out my neck and risk being known and experiencing Jesus’ ministry within relationships.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Difference is Night and Day

The first two and a half decades of my life were riddled with fear, darkness, and death. As a child, the night was the time of evil, oppression, and turmoil. Bed time was terrifying, because I was left alone in the dark with the demons that flooded my waking and sleeping hours. Night after night I faced with terror and dread. I stretched out the evening. I did not want to stay up late for normal childhood reasons. I wanted to stay up late, because I knew that as soon as the lights went out, the phantoms of night would rise. It was not a normal “kid fear the dark.” It was a “I can’t move a muscle in my bed, sobbing silently into my pillow praying for God to make the demons leave” kind of fear. I ask myself if it was primarily mental illness or primarily spiritual warfare, and I know that it was both. I felt trapped in the darkness of oppression and death.

I faced this history on Tuesday night, and I poured out my past and heart before the Lord. Because writing is my vehicle of healing, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote for what seemed like forever, reliving memories of the night that I had never wanted to replay. I went to bed that night asking, “Lord, where were you? How could you allow your daughter such torment and anguish in the night hours of her entire childhood?” I asked the Lord, “Is your power enough to redeem this life and cast out shame?” At four in the morning, I fell into bed, exhausted and heart broken for the child of my memories, the child that was curled up in a ball in her bed, wanting to escape the terror of night, praying for morning to arrive sooner or praying for death to take her away from the world of night.

I awoke Wednesday morning determined to seek the Lord until He provided some sort of healing revelation. That was when I opened my Bible. My intention was not to play “bible roulette”, but God threw a verse in my face with my first flip. That verse was Isaiah 60:1, which states:

“Arise (from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to a new life)! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

At moments like this, I cannot doubt the existence of the Lord. How could He have picked a better verse or a better translation in which to reveal it? He is raising me to a new life from the depression and prostration in which I found myself through circumstances of childhood beyond my control. As I studied the word “arise” in the Hebrew language, I found that it refers specifically to daylight, coming forth at daybreak. How appropriate is that? God revealed that He is bringing daylight into my world of horrific night times. He is bringing the rising of the sun, the glorious sun, to illuminate my life. Even in the terrible memory of my history, He was irradiating and showing forth beams of light into the deepest, darkest corners of my most shameful childhood secrets.

This revelation would be fully sufficient except that God took it to the next level. He calls me to arise to a new life. I am the one who is to shine forth beams of light into the world. He is illuminating my life, and He is calling me to illuminate the darkest places of the world, cloaked with the enemy’s shadows of lingering lies. He is calling me to reflect His sun rise. As I bask in the glory of the rising Son in my life, I have the opportunity to reflect His rays onto a world of perpetual night and darkness.

I conclude, stating, “Rejoice not against me, oh mine enemy. When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Micah 7:8.

In retrospect, I recall the nightlights that were always plugged into the wall in my room at night. I could never sleep without the presence of one of those muted bulbs, exposing the shadows to be what they truly were: merely absence of light, and taking the edge off of the darkness of an otherwise pitch black room. “The Lord shall be a light unto me.” Where was God during those dark nights of terror? He was there. He was the nightlight. He was my nightlight when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. He is my rising sun as I step up to this new life. I walk in the light, and He has always been the light, even in the darkest night.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Where is God?

Where is God?
Where is He to be found?
Only in the churches, clothed in holy robes?
Where is God?
Let us look around,
He is walking the streets, garbed in tattered clothes.

Where is God?
Woven through our being,
We reflect His true visage, formed by His own hand.
Where is God?
Are we blind, not seeing,
His own divine shadows, now cloaking this land?

Where is God?
Cooped up in the temple?
He will not be contained, but breathes through blades of grass.
Where is God?
Is He quite so simple,
As do our fleshly minds, want to hold in our grasp?

Embedded in our genes,
Is the precious life divine.
Perplexing though it seems,
He is not so hard to find.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Mind of Christ

Who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.
1 Corinthians 2:16

What does it mean that I have the mind of Christ? This is a verse that I have mindlessly quoted, but I have not fully absorbed what this gift of the mind of the Messiah means. The mind is the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising faculties of understanding, perception, feeling, judging, and determining. It encompasses much more than just mere reason. It is not so much of the “brain” as it is the personhood. The mind of Christ is the testimony of Christ in His Godhood. What does this mean for me today? I have the mind of Christ. Paul asserts that this is the case.

What is the context of this statement? Paul is talking to the church at Corinth, stating that he has not come under a false pretense of intellectualism or lofty words. He has come humbly, asserting that He wanted to know nothing but Jesus Christ the Messiah. He claims that his language and speech was not persuasive or meant to be performed in a great eloquent monologue. It was greater than that. It had the power of the Holy Spirit behind it. We see here the beginning of the development of the mind that Paul is portraying. This mind is not the same as the wisdom of men. It is more power-based than persuasion-rooted. The persuasion will pass away. There is a mind here that is interminable. This mind was once unavailable. It was top secret within the Godhead. It has always been in existence, but it has not always been accessible. Now it is.

This is a mind that eye has not seen and ear has not heard. It has never even been able to enter into the hearts of man. How, then, do we access this mind? This mind that is so obscure, evasive, and inaccessible? There is an inside link. The Holy Spirit that dwelt in Christ rests in us as believers, giving us the same mind that existed in the Son of God. This constant indwelling companion has unlimited access to the profound and bottomless riches of God’s wisdom and divine counsels. These are buried far beyond the fleshly man’s scrutiny.

Man is made in the image of God, and no one can access a man’s thoughts except his own mind. No one can access God’s thoughts unless they have direct contact with His mind. The amazing thing is this: We have this thing called the Spirit that is connected with the mind of God at all times. The Lord gave His Spirit so that we can realize and comprehend the mind of the Father. Only from the mind of the Lord God can come certain truths that are directly from His heart, His deepest, most profound secrets. The mind of Christ sometimes doesn’t speak our language. It is the language of the Spirit, sometimes unutterable.

The mind of Christ is not appreciated by the natural man. The thoughts of Christ make no sense to a man rooted in human reason. The knowing that the Spirit brings is progressive recognizing and discernment. It is a process. With the mind of Christ, the believer can examine all things in order to see the truth from the lie.

I have the mind of Christ, the messiah, and I hold the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of His heart.

What does this mean today for me? I don’t have to figure out this life thing out on
my own. I cannot figure life out alone. But I have access to the source of truth and light. The only way to discern the mind of Christ is to stay plugged in to the source. This new nature is bestowed to the believer at salvation. It is a mind of readiness, peace, wisdom, and truth. It is a mind that stood against temptation and won. It is a mind that bore the emotions of the cross and all of its passion. It is a mind that has overcome death and trampled it on the ground, making a public spectacle of it. It is the mind that will live eternally. That same mind lives in me. The Spirit of truth lives in me. I have the inside connection to the heart of God. The same power lives in me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You Hold Everything Together

“ And He [Jesus] existed before all things, and in Him all things consist, cohere, and are held together.”

I found myself caught up in the rat race of striving and straining in class. I got a B+ on the first test of my graduate school career, and I was furious. I worked so hard. I thought I was smarter than that. It was easy. It is so simple, really. So how did I get it wrong? (Oh wait, there is the shame-based perfectionism thing again!) But the Lord has called me to greater things than “making the grade.” He has called me to actively participate in this process of learning. My wonderful roommate tonight sat in her chair and confidently said to me in her rich, beautiful accent, “you can enjoy this process. You don’t have to constantly strive to get the grade.” I can participate in the Lord’s wisdom, and learn on deeper levels than multiple choice and true/false. Granted, a certain GPA is required to maintain scholarships, ect. The Lord will guide me, however, and He will reward me as I faithfully pursue Him, His wisdom, and do an appropriate amount of work and study. I love to learn. I take delight in reading and writing and dialoging with professors and students. I also love to have fun, watch 30 Rock re-runs, take walks around campus, go to the mall, goof off, and participate in life. I have the privilege of making mistakes and learning from them. I have the grace to not do everything perfect or to always get an A. The Lord has covered me with His grace and His favor, and I can actively rest, knowing that He is the greatest wisdom and truth. He holds this together. He existed before the grading scale.

This learning process is part of the journey. This graduate school experience is taking me to a place of greater effectiveness for caring for hurting souls and ministering to a lost world, more specifically, to desperately broken young girls and women. My heart is for them, and I will continue to remember them before I give into pride and perfectionism.

I started to get haughty. I started to place too much confidence in the flesh, in my own mental capacities, and in my own power and study skills. I had to be humbled in order to recognize that the Lord is my wisdom. He can orchestrate a test with questions to stump me just so I can get knocked off of my high horse of academic overconfidence. He holds all things together. I am a steward of this mind and of this gift of education. Therefore, I will be diligent to do the studying and preparation appropriate for my classes. I will not, however, neglect the higher callings for the sake of a superficial number on a sheet of paper, even if it is in red. These red letters are not the words of Christ. They are letters of a human measuring stick, flawed at best, that does not see into my heart or even into my mind. What is the deal with me and numbers? Weights, grades, finances….too bad for measurements!

I surrender my worship of the “almighty grade” unto the Lord, so that I can exalt Him as the ruler of my life. Once again, for the millionth time, He reminds me, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In the sweet knowledge that this is all created for His service, that He holds tomorrow’s test in His hand, and that He holds this world together, I can lay my head on my pillow, recognize Him as the center, and rest.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Burning orange blaze,
Cascading like a torrent
Through the sky.
My eyes can now
Receive its passion.

Little yellow lily,
Face lifted radiantly,
Blushing in the glow.
My heart at last
Absorbs its glory.

Stabbing pain of loss,
Piercing like a dart
Through my wounded soul,
My sobs forming within
Cannot be silenced.

Fears once held at bay,
Bubble forth beyond
Their well-kept banks.
My once forceful strength
No longer bears its weight.

Precious friendship arms,
Open wide with love
In my brokenness,
My rigidity now can relax
Into their embrace.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Shepherd Breaks the Wayward Sheep

I took a stroll tonight on a beautiful trail behind Asbury College. I thought that I was incredibly familiar with this course until tonight when it hit me that I had missed its glory. It was the course behind the college where I ran cross country. I always like to say that I “ran cross country in college.” The fact is that I tried to run in college. I ran too hard and too long, injured myself, got sick, and sat out during meets. Secretly, I was relieved to sit out during meets. I hated racing. I claimed to love running, but the stress of competition only paralyzed me. I found myself sick before meets, dehydrated during them, and devastated after them. I typically ran five to ten minutes slower during meets than I ran during actual practice.

I was never athletic as a child. I cried over the presidential fitness test, got sick on the one-mile run during middle school, and never made a single team that I tried out for. In fact, in eighth grade, I was the only student who tried out for the volleyball team who got cut. How terrible is that? I gave up in athletics. I wallowed in my awkward physical incompetency. Somehow, it was terrible to be inadequate in sports. My other talents took back seat. They disappeared in the wake of the devastation of knowing that I was athletically challenged. I was ashamed and appalled at my pathetic physical makeup. Until I made the “cut,” I would only be a partial person.

The anorexia and the athletic training went hand-in-hand. They started together, and they ended together. I set out to prove the world of PE teachers and big taunting boys wrong. I was not a pathetic klutz. I was fast, enduring, and strong. They would eat their words and their taunting.

I got sicker, faster, and more “committed” to my training. I started cross country in high school and continued in college. It became my identity in partnership with the eating disorder. In my mind, I proved everybody wrong. I overcame my limitations and created a “new self.”

What I did not realize, however, was that my new self sought to replace my true self. The true Megan is thoughtful, artsy, literary, and passionate. These characteristics are not in conflict with physical health and self-care, but I was never meant to be a long-distance runner or star athlete. And that is ok. As I walked tonight, rather than running, I experienced the beauty of nature. I observed the white and purple flowers, vast fields, the occasional daylily, the bunny hopping across the path, the trickling creek, a pond hidden behind the trees, puffy clouds, the occasional rain drop, and the deer darting through the foliage. I missed those elements of the trails for four years! I never saw the cool rocks, the little trails woven throughout the brush, the beautiful white butterflies, and the rest of the glorious creation.

Some people feel God’s pleasure when they run. I feel God’s pleasure when I participate in His creation. I feel His pleasure when I sit down for tea with a friend, when I sit and enjoy the beauty of His natural world, when I enjoy skillful literature, or when I sit and meditate on His word. I successfully numbed out through exercise for 14 years. Now I am participating in life, learning the beauty of a leisurely nature walk, feeling and listening to my body’s signals of pain, and responding appropriately.

Running is not intrinsically a bad thing. For me, it was a trap. It broke my bones, ate up hours of each day, and consumed my thought life. It robbed my energy, and stole my passions. I built it as an idol, and God had to bulldoze it. When He allowed me to break my ankle, I saw Him as the shepherd who breaks the legs of a sheep that has gone astray. Some shepherds break their sheep’s legs and carry it on their shoulders, because they know that if the sheep continues to stray, it will die. This is what the Lord did for me. As He carried me, broken, on His shoulders, I experienced the gentleness and greatness of my Shepherd. I will never go back. Running was an idol that almost killed me. It robbed me of precious college pleasure and passion, it destroyed my bones, and it starved my spirit. It has no more power.

I run in the ways of the Lord. Paul says to Timothy that physical training is of a little value, but training in godliness produces beautiful fruit not only for this life but for the life to come. I am seeing the fruit here in this temporal existence, and it reminds me of the infinitely greater fruit of the life that waits on the gleaming horizon. To have remained consumed in running would have provided no benefits for this (shortened) life nor any treasures laid up in heaven. How devastating it would have been to see Jesus face-to-face, only to realize that I had run in vain my whole life!

Yes Lord, running in the way of your word, I wait for you. Your name and Your renown are the desire of my heart.

Replacing Vice with Virtue

This is a little scholarly sounding, but it is still very personal and honest. I think scholarly is going to become a little more pervasive in my writing at least for the next couple years, so I appoligize ahead of time!

During this past year and a half, God has done a greater transformative work in my life than ever before. Through His Spirit’s calling, leading to my continued surrender, I have seen greater wonders throughout 2008 and 2009 than I have ever seen previously. God has initiated and propelled this process, and I have had the responsibility to respond to His leading through obedience and submission. This pursuit of holiness has been two-fold, as God has been refining my personal relationship with Him as well as my social relationships with the body of Christ and the world. He has developed my character in the realms of my thought life, my prayer life, my social life, and my physical self. As He has dealt with me in abandoning my vices, He has replaced my sinful decisions with virtuous decisions.

I began my spiritual journey with Christ at the age of three, and the Lord revealed His nature and His word during my childhood. I hid His word in my heart early on, which has propelled my spiritual growth throughout the rest of my life. That early foundation has proven to be vital in my spiritual, emotional, and mental development.

In spite of my early conversion experience and childhood training in the word, I faced genetic predisposition to various chemical imbalances and depressive tendencies. Circumstances boosted those tendencies into realities, and I chose to embrace a myriad of vices, which temporarily overshadowed the virtues that had been blossoming during childhood. Diagnoses were made, and I erroneously found myself confined to a “label.” I allowed myself to stay trapped in that label for 14 years, and the vices multiplied until I was almost consumed.

The process of abandoning vices has been an incredibly rewarding though arduous process. Because fleshly and disordered thought patterns were so deeply embedded into my entire existence, I had to literally “take every thought captive” and make it obedient to the Lord. The utilization of coping skills and tools for recovery were the vehicles through which the Spirit worked to uproot my sinful lifestyle and thinking patterns. The main vices that I found to be prevalent have been pride and fear. According to C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, pride is the basis of most human vices. In my personal life, I have found this statement to be accurate. Early on in my process of the abandonment of vices, I was conversing with a spiritual advisor, and she boldly and appropriately called my disordered thinking for what it was: It was pride, and I needed to fall to my knees in repentance. At that point in repentant contrition, I opened up my heart to true transformation. This initial time of repentance opened up the doors for a new sensitivity to the Spirit’s convictions and leadings unto further repentance and growth. Slowly, over the following year, my thought life was refined and redirected, as I learned to discern the Spirit’s voice as He called me to repentance and restructuring. With the weeds of lies uprooted, the soil of my mind was fertile for new seeds of truth to be planted. Mere elimination of negative thoughts is never sufficient for recovery and transformation. The negative thoughts must be replaced with the truth of God’s word and wise counsel of fellow believers and counselors.

This replacement process is synonymous with the concept of embracing virtues. The fruit which the Spirit produces in the life of the believer is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. These virtues, though never fully embraced at all times, have begun to take root in my heart and through the watering of the Spirit, are springing forth in my personal walk with the Lord and in my social interactions with others. Through a deepened and more deliberate prayer life, I have found a new level of peace that has replaced the previous stronghold of anxiety, worry, and fear. Through active participation in and vigorous study of scripture, I have found a handbook for the fruit of the Spirit. In my study of the life of Christ, I see the embodiment of all of these virtues, and as I emulate the Savoir through the power of the Spirit, I can also embody these virtues. As I have served others through my career at Starbucks, engaged in mentor relationships with adolescent girls, participated in fellowship in church, built new and healthy relationships with friends and family, and learned to intercede continually, I have learned to love more deeply, to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully, and to practice patience and gentleness with the even the most resistant individuals. Without the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in my relationships with others, my personal holiness and spiritual growth is at best questionable.

God is taking me to deeper levels of growth and higher levels of social responsibility during my time at Asbury Seminary. As I pursue my degree in counseling, I am making a commitment to learn to practice the virtues of Christianity with greater skill and understanding of myself, others, and God.

Throughout the previous season of my life, I enjoyed a relaxed schedule with plenty of down time. It was not difficult to make time and room for the Lord, because I had plenty of time to work with. This season will require much more time management and deliberate planning. In choosing to make Christ central, I will be required to set healthy boundaries with myself regarding sleep, scheduling, and self-care. One aspect of making room for the Lord to work, therefore, is making room in my schedule for concentrated time with Him. This will carry over into my professional life when I leave Asbury. It will be vital, as I pour into the lives of clients, that I be filled up regularly with my life Source. My time at the Seminary will help train me in time management as I learn to steward the areas of study, service, church, fun, and rest.

I am prepared for my previous understanding of God, myself, and methodology to be challenged and unraveled as He provides enlightenment through classes and individual study. As I walk in humble willingness to restructure my views while holding onto Orthodoxy, I will find myself made more like Christ and better able to serve and care for others. There will always be room for learning and academic growth in my life, as it seems that the more I learn, the higher my awareness becomes that I know very little. Therefore, humility is a key virtue that must always exist in this process and throughout the rest of my life.

Without the evidence of social holiness, personal holiness is somewhat arbitrary. Social holiness, however, cannot occur without the existence of personal holiness. They go hand-in-hand. This partnership is parallel with James’ argument regarding faith and works. Faith without works is dead, but works not founded in faith are merely acts of spiritless legalism. I have spent the last year and a half participating in deep and transformative pursuit of personal holiness, with only marginally significant social holiness springing forth. Now is the season for greater levels of social holiness to be paired with my continued pursuit of personal holiness. As this new season emerges on the heels of the previous season of renewal and transformation, I eagerly anticipate great personal growth with manifold social consequences.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"What Are You Running From?"

One time, 11 years ago, I was running and running and running, in the blazing heat of a summer afternoon, after 8 hours of building a roof on a church mission trip. I was running endless circles around a track, simultaneously numb and hurting. Echoes of a Voice of truth rang in the back of my head, but I thought that I could run away from it. I was in the running zone, which for me was deadness, and a voice cried out from somewhere. I never saw the source. I will never forget the words that rang in my ears. It queried, “What are you running from?” Appalled and indignant, I yelled, “Nothing.” I was so wrong. I was desperately running from the truth, from hearing, from life.

Over a decade later, I have learned the significance of those words so aptly spoken, anonymously, evidently inspired by the voice of the Lord.

What are defense mechanisms? What are addictions? What are idols and unhealthy habits? They are efforts to run from God. What happens when we run from God? It may go well for a while. We really can’t predict how long. If we know God, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we will have a nagging feeling in our gut (Holy Spirit??) that we are not truly satisfied. The Spirit will not let us be satisfied in a life of running. That is the reason why the prodigal son returned to his father. He must have known his father and realize that his life was sadly incomplete in comparison to the life he had known. He crashed, eating with the pigs. How many times have I chosen to eat with the pigs when God had for me a feast? Pride says to keep running, especially now. You have run so far, that there can’t be any grace left for you. Farther and farther, the promises have proven to be lies, but the lies grow stronger even though they are blatantly glaringly wrong.

The longer we run the more weight we run with. We try to outrun the pain, only to realize that the pain is carried in a nap sack on our back. It is like trying to move out of a town to get away from an illness that we carry within ourselves. Running away from consequences delays them and only increases their impact. They will catch up. They always do. Our Lord allows consequences, not out of a vindictive nature, but out of love. He wants us to come back. Why would He want me back? Doesn’t he know? I ran even thought I knew. I ran even though His Spirit grated and pulled and nagged.

Now the running shoes are shame. Guilt and shame propel my flight. I cannot go back to my home, because He has probably thrown my belongings out the door, given my bed to the dogs. Maybe He is seething in anger. Worse yet, maybe He has forgotten me. So I keep running, and my shoes of shame say, “You can never go back. He won’t want you. His mercy only stretches so far, and that grace ended miles, years, decades back.”

But how could His grace have ended if His voice stretches even here? How could the unbearable tug exist if He has already given up on us? He cries, “My grace is still for you. Your room is prepared. I am so much bigger than your running course, especially because you are running in circles. You cannot outrun my grace. I will not let you run without my voice reaching you. Come home. Come home. Come home. Come home."

Step after step, exhaustion increases. Step after step, we break down. We fall on our knees, and there is nothing left. His voice echoes in our heart:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Rest? Oh, to rest! I forgot what that was! You will what? Take my burden? I don’t deserve it. I deserve this burden. There is no way that Your grace is sufficient for me.

“Oh, child, you don’t know My ability to extend grace. You don’t have to be guilty anymore. It doesn’t matter. I can forget it. You don’t have to run anymore. You can’t run anymore. You have come to the end of yourself.”

But I am so dirty, Lord. Do you see the layers of filth? I stink with sin and condemnation.

“Oh my child, I have shower for you. The blood of my Son will wash away your filth. You will be white as snow. You will be spotless. There will be no residue of your trip away from me.”

Can you make me whole, Lord? I am wasted away because of my running. There is
nothing left of me. I gave it away.

“Oh, child, I will make you more whole than you thought possible, because I will fill you. I will restore every part of you.”

A couple of years later after the voice questioned my running at World Changers, I collapsed in a heap with a broken hip, and shame screamed that I could not return to my Shepherd. I kept running. I collapsed again, and I heard and listened to His voice. I stopped running. I fell into His arms. He washed. He restored. He healed. He made me whole. We walk together. I don’t carry around stains. Mercy is mine, and His voice is my guide rather than a nagging thorn. He loves me. He has always loved me, and the only place that I run now is into His arms.

For me, running was in many ways literal. It takes many forms. As many forms as there are individuals on this earth. But there is no form of running that is too far from the grasp of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Holy Paradox

There is a sobering splendor,
A furious fortitude,
A chaotic complexity,
On this sinful stunning planet.
The lion, the kingly killer,
The mountains, triumphant and terrible,
The sea, rapturous yet raging,
The clouds, producing calming rain and clamoring lightning,
The sun, yielding warming rays, and withering radiation,
The mind, profoundly deep and psychotically depraved.
The heart, lovely and lowly.
This great, glorious existence,
This paradoxical state of awe and despair.
This beauty that turns in an instant into destruction.
How can we comprehend it?

We can only stand in awe and worship its Creator:
Righteous and merciful,
Loving and just,
Mighty and meek,
Transcendent and personal,
Destructive and restorative,
Never forgetting, always forgiving.
The earth and all that is within it reflect Him,
This Holy Triune juxtaposition.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Mercy Ring

As I walked on the tread-climber today, my mercy ring caught my eye. Honestly, I never take it off, except to wash dishes. I think that it is beautiful, not necessarily because of its physical appearance. It might not be a size and style that I would pick for my finger, and people are often asking if I am married or engaged. I gaze at it and love it with such a fierce passion because of what it represents. It screams “freedom” to me. It tells the story of my transformation every time it catches my eye. It reminds me of the liberty and release from bondage as one who was lost but now is found. It speaks to me the pervasive presence of the Holy Trinity in my life.

Samuel, as he was leading the Israelites in their smiting of the Philistines, took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, declaring, “thus far the Lord has helped us.” I stand between the place of promise and the promised land, saying the same thing that Samuel did as he firmly planted the Ebenezer stone in the ground.

IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]. Galatians 5:1

Paul is absolutely relevant for today as he is speaking to the church of Galatia. God has set me free. He has liberated me from the chains of anorexia and depression that once choked and almost killed me. I am COMPLETELY liberated, according to the Amplified version. Paul declares the freedom of the believer. He then commands each individual to STAND FAST. He continually refers to this freedom throughout the book of Galatians, because the church has forgotten her freedom. She is running back to the worship of the law and its mandates. They have put off the yoke of slavery, but they are not immune to its mesmerizing appeal. Why is it so attractive? It was hell on earth. My life before mercy was 14 years of despair, bondage, and death. My life since mercy, while containing multiple struggles and devastating circumstances, has been full of joy, hope, favor, and blessing. I CAN go back to the yoke of slavery, but I CHOOSE not to. I CHOOSE to recall to my mind the works that the Lord has done and the wonderful consequences of obedience.

As I walked the tread climber today, I was reminded of my limits. After a decade of bondage to excessive exercise, I have sought to honor the Lord with my body through moderate activity. My limit is thirty minutes. I can do less, but I cannot do more. The flesh screams more. Five more minutes would not be detrimental, according to the sin nature fed by the lies of the enemy. My soulish nature today said, “A little more would be ok.” Then I saw the glistening of the stones in my ring. I recalled the freedom, and I chose through the power of the Lord my liberator to stand fast. I have been asked to participate in cycle classes that last an hour. For some people, that may be fine. For me, it is crossing the line into potential idolatry. God directs my eyes to my right hand, and I say “no thanks.” Sometimes it opens wide a door to share my testimony.

As I open my eyes in the morning, I stretch and the sun catches my ring. I remember how God’s word has sustained me and brought forth freedom into my life. His word has replaced the lies with the truth. The bed is so comfortable, and an hour more of sleep would feel so good. The Spirit whispers a reminder of the vital need that I have for sustenance through the feast of His word. I rise and enjoy my first meal of the day with my Lord. I look back and I see the progressive work of God’s renewal of my mind as I allowed His word to replace the lies of the eating disorder. My ring reminds me of the truth, which has set me free. My ring also calls me to walk in that freedom through abiding in the Vine. In this, I STAND FAST.

It is 11:45 AM. I face the hardest meal of the day: Lunch. I don’t know why it has always been so difficult, but my flesh still begs me to compromise. I open the refrigerator, at a loss. I shift my gaze to the gleaming of the silver that dances on my finger. I remember the glorious realization that my body needs food on a regular basis. I remember that my body did not blow up as a result of eating a healthy balanced lunch during my time at mercy. I look into the refrigerator with renewed zest and determination. I act out the call of my mercy ring. It says to STAND FIRM and not to fall back into the yoke of slavery to restriction the demands more and more calorie cutting and meal skipping. I will not be mastered again by a false god of my own making.

In its own basic substance, my mercy ring holds no power. It is the voice of the Lord that whispers as He reminds me of His wonderful works of healing through His great mercy that brought me to the place where Nancy slid the ring on my finger, and I declared, “SATAN HAS BEEN DEFEATED!” I cannot forget what the Lord has done in my life as long as I keep tangible reminders of the milestones and victories that He has accomplished. I am so thankful for the Ebenezer stone, which is my mercy ring. I look at my tri-stone ring and declare, “thus far the Lord has helped me.” Why would He stop now?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


She sits, rocking, looking at the empty cradle,
The yellow walls scream, mocking,
Her heart, broken in pieces,
“Why” is too simple.
There are no words.
Life is backwards, inside-out.
Light has become dark.
The yellow has turned to grey.
How to keep believing?
She mourns and weeps.
Can we understand on this side?
Should we try?
Just taking it as it comes,
Trusting, even when there is no trust left.
Tears crystallized into jewels,
Kept in a jar to be poured out,
As perfume at His feet.
Still, “why?” is too small.
A language of grief unutterable.
Guttural moans, sobs,
Life over but days keep coming.
Hopes dashed on rocks, promised life snuffed.
But can we see all?
What if….
He is carried in greater arms?
He is rocked to sleep by one who never sleeps?
He will never feel pain or sorrow?
He is parented by the Father of life?
Death has opened into life, and the morning of joy has come?
He will learn to walk in fields of lilies?
He will dance on streets of gold?
He will live the life that we taste in our sweetest dreams?
Still she weeps,
For her loss is greater than her own life.
Yet she mourns with joy,
Not as one without hope.
And her faith grows as she knows:
One day she will hold him again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

In Her Eyes (The Mercy Girl)

Look in her eyes,
Raise your gaze.
She wants to distract you,
From who she is.
She wants to be invisible,
But don’t let her.

See in her hurt.
Scars deeper than tools can reach,
She tries to deny them,
So you won’t judge.
Not wanting to be hurt again,
She retreats into death.

See her need.
Desperate for His love,
She feels unworthy,
So she does not reach out.
Longing but terrified,
She puts up walls.

See her hope.
Beginning her faith walk,
She is afraid yet sincere.
She has taken the first step,
You meet in the middle.
Walk with her there.

Look into her eyes,
Don’t look down.
Look for the hope,
Take her hand.

Monday, June 29, 2009

How I walk out recovery

I employ the Nike slogan "just do it."
I evaluate the discrepancies between my behavior and my words.
I open my days and close my days with the truths that are to replace the lies. I spend them in the Bible and in prayer.
I keep it real with accountability and my treatment team.
I recognize that recovery is a process, and there is joy in the journey.
I realize that I cannot "negotiate" with the eating disorder. I am either on its side, or I am battling against it.
I see that the thoughts about size, weight, and food are symptoms of deeper issues, and I explore the true issues rather than give in hook, line, and sinker to the lies.
When I want to work out to burn calories, control emotions, or feel thin, I refuse to work out.
When the ED tells me to do one thing, I do the opposite.
I recognize fears as indicators of areas of potential growth.
I continually recall to memory the milestones and recovery points that I have crossed.
I give to others and get out of my me, me, me mentality.
I spend time with children.
I dream about and plan my future that can only take place if I continue in recovery.
I sit at the feet of Jesus and behold His face.
I spend time outside, soaking up vitamin D.
I write my victories and struggles.
I take time to rest and listen to my body.
I incorperate fun into my daily life.
I set healthy boundaries with myself, family, and friends.
I refuse to settle for anything less than complete freedom.
I remember that things often seem a lot worse at night than in the morning.
I worship.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Joy Cometh in the Morning

I am doing the Beth Moore study on the Psalms of the Ascents. Another name for this series of Psalms from 120 to 134 is “Psalms of degrees.” These were the songs of pilgrims, as they returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. They were songs that were sung as the pilgrims ascended the 15 steps into the temple. They were songs of celebration. The captive children of Israel had not sung in years, nor had they broken out their sadly unused harps. The song after a long, sorrowful night of captivity, however, was so much more beautiful.

The children of God had long been in mourning. They had been journeying and yearning. They were anticipating a time of rejoicing and celebration. This time of rejoicing was made all the more appealing because of the sorrow that preceded it. I find it fascinating that these pilgrim songs follow and juxtopose the longest Psalm in the collection. They are short and repetitive and easily memorized.

I love the way that God orchestrates my study of His word and my supplementary reading. I am presently reading “Hind’s Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard for about the seventh time. I love this book. It is a beautiful allegory of a young shepherdess’s journey to the “high places” under the leadership of the Shepherd (God) and in the company of her two guides, Sorrow and Suffering. Her name is Much Afraid, and she follows the Shepherd out of the Valley of Fearings into the high places where no fear can enter. Her journey is one of ascent. She is traveling the degrees of obedience and surrender. After great grief, trial, and death, she comes to the high places where she is given a new name, “Grace and Glory.” A key verse in this beautiful allegory is Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The long night of the soul comes to a close. We have journeyed in obedience to our Lord through the night of weeping and sorrow. We have stumbled, fallen captive to fear, and found ourself badly bruised a scratched out of our own willful pride and stubbornness, but we have said, “Lord, I have no one else but Thee, and I must trust You.” We have surrendered, crawled off of the altar, and asked God to bind us to the altar. We have allowed Him to uproot the weeds of desire for human love from our hearts so that His seed of true love can grow. Through our journey, we did not realize that the suffering, thrashing, and trials were equipping us for the promised high places.

In her song, “Painting Pictures of Egypt,” Sara Groves sings a profound lyric: “If it comes to quick, I may not appreciate it. Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?” Through the Pilgrimage of weeping, we have grown to long for Jerusalem. As we ascend the steps to the temple finally, we are filled with songs of celebration. I am sure that the Jews memorized the Songs of Ascents before the time of Ascent so that they could sing them perfectly as they climbed the stairs. They had what seemed like endless time to learn them by heart, to live in joyful anticipation of the future liberation and glory. As Much Afraid made her journey through the desert, the great precipice injury, the great mist, the forest of danger and tribulation, the shores of loneliness, and finally to the place of anointing, she learned various songs. Sorrow, Suffering, and the Shepherd taught her songs for the journey. These were love songs, full of joy, celebration, and expectation of the high places to come. She would have not made it through the perilous journey without the practice of song.

I am called to sing in the night, to sing in the valley, to sing in the storm, to sing in the face of the enemy, and to sing through the journey, so that I can worship my Lord when I fall on my face before His throne.

In church this morning, we sang, “How can I keep from singing” by Chris Tomlin.

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives

And I will walk with You
Knowing You'll see me through
And sing the songs You give

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne

I will keep singing because He has called me to be a worshipper. I worship on the journey, and I anticipate the glory and grace that will be poured upon me in the high places, in the temple of Jerusalem, when I sing with joy in the morning.