Not Clutching the Pearls: Live and Unscripted

Elspeth likes to make me laugh by saying, “how can you be so classy and yet not clutch your pearls”.    I dunno about classy… but no, I don’t clutch pearls much.

Why?

1) I belong to a non-denomination that doesn’t encourage that kind of thing.  I’m probably the most over-dressed person at church most Saturday evenings.  I *like* to get gussied up for God, but mostly folks wear jeans.  That’s fine.  Because I look like a lost apple on a stick when I wear pants doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t wear pants.   We have SO much other stuff to worry about.  I really don’t care.

2)  I got broken.   That’s the long and the short of it.  I got broken.  Long story with lots of chapters.  But my decision to follow Jesus is absolute, has been tested, and was the only way forward.  Yes, life is good and sunshiny now.  It hasn’t always been.  The Cloistered Heart speaks my purpose – because I’ve tried the others and have failed, spectacularly.   You want me to go against God?  Try another address, you’ll not sell those wares here.  I *will* obey Him to the best of my ability.  Want to convince me I’m doing it wrong?  Chapter and verse and I’ll pray over it.  Don’t bother with anything else.

3)  I’ve already heard it.  I don’t live in the most sheltered place in the universe, and I’m the kind of woman you unburden your heart to.  My early 20s, when I got my innocence ripped off (insofar as evil in the universe) was highly unpleasant.  I’m in my early 40s now.  I’ve heard it.  Like as not, I’ve heard worse.

So.  Yes, I’m acting like the woman I was raised to be, in many ways.  But I had a choice – I’ve had lots of choices, actually.   I could have paid lip-service to God and done the Sunday Christian thing.  I could have … well, there are a lot of choices in life.  This?  Who you see?  I chose this.  It is my honor and my privilege to follow Christ, and I will do so until my last breath.

So don’t mind the sweet smile and the big blue eyes.  I’m not going to freak out, I’m not going to clutch my pearls… and I guess that answers your question?  :)

The Cloistered Heart

CS Lewis once said that those who loved Christ the most and were most serious about their religion would find themselves closest in faith… regardless of their denomination.  I have found this so true, over the past 10 years or so.  Being serious about my relationship with Christ makes it possible to see and embrace others who are likewise serious.  We gather ’round Jesus, and are blessed.

Alte just turned me on to a blog called “The Cloistered Heart”.   Since the writer’s goal is similar to my own, although I’d never thought of mine as particularly special, I’ve bookmarked it and am reading hungrily.

http://www.thecloisteredheart.org

So:  what IS a cloistered heart?  The analogy, which is multi-faceted by now, has three main  parts:

The Monastery, which is the person’s own life.  A monastery is a place consecrated to God, a place of prayer, a place where God is loved and lived for and served.  Our lives can, and should, become every one of these.
The Enclosure, which is within the will of God.  As a cloistered nun or monk lives within a specific area known as the cloister, we can make a specific choice to live within the will of God.  We can actively embrace the boundaries of God’s will as these are revealed in Scripture and Church teaching.

The Grille, which is the will of God.  As some monasteries have grillwork through which those in the cloister interact with the world outside, we can have spiritual “grillwork.”  We can practice seeing and responding to every person and every situation through the will of God.

She writes as I cannot write, from a tradition that makes this sort of thing explicit.   Crazed Jesus Freaks don’t have a monastic tradition to use as metaphor for life’s journey and striving to please Christ.

If you’d read this post about courage, you’d hear all of what I keep *trying* to say in my “Ambassadorial” posts and failing.

http://www.thecloisteredheart.org/2014/11/a-gradual-courage.html

Brava!

*Well, obviously not the bits about “church” teaching.  Just Bible.  Heretic that I am.

Liebster: Hey, I got a blog award!

Heather at Where Grace Abounds has nominated me for a Liebster Award.  Thank you, Heather!  I am extremely flattered.  (Linkie:  https://sparrowsingsweetly.wordpress.com/  - a pleasant place to visit, full of Bible and beauty).

Recent terms of participation involve the following:

  •  Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to their blog.
  • Write 5 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 bloggers who you feel deserve this award and (preferably) have less than 200 followers.
  • Answer the questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 5 questions.

………………………………………………………..

Random Facts About Me:

  • I have an obsessive relationship with color, and spend quite a lot of time thinking about colors, exact shades, matching, how things work on different people, how I’d dress my friends, the shade of the sea or the interplay of colors with a blossom on the ground.  I **really enjoy** visual beauty and am emotionally affected by the aesthetics of my surroundings.  I *do* stop to smell the roses or just to look at them more closely!
  • I tend to let things for this blog burble around in the back of my head and then I pour them out all at once.  With rare exceptions, I don’t do much editing.   I’m not a wordsmith, I’m trying to get the idea across.  Since I think in pictures and connections more than in words, this is sometimes difficult for me.  (I think in collage – collages of ideas, pictures, etc.)  *Please* feel free to comment, you might help me draw out what I was trying to say in the first place.
  • I really like rocks.  I like chunks of stone from river rocks to amethyst.   My husband does too, our house is full of rocks.  I like glass and wood and sharp steel - I don’t particularly like plastic, and I avoid it.  I also strongly prefer natural fibers, and my friends get a kick out of the face I make when I touch cheap polyester.
  • I’m an only child of an only child.  (My mom has sibs, my dad does not).
  • I couldn’t think of anything else you don’t know, so I told my husband I was trying to think up 5 facts about myself.  He said, “You look like a Swedish barmaid”.   I don’t know how relevant that is, but it made me laugh, so there you are.

Heather’s questions for us:

  1. What is your most influential blogging inspiration?  Uh.  Elspeth over at Breathing Grace maybe?  Um.  That’s hard, I write as I think.  So if something you said makes me think, then you’re my inspiration.
  2. Share a favorite quotation.  Um again.  This one fits where my head has been lately, although it was forgotten in my pinterest page of quotations.  Francis Chan. “It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that He didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.”
  3. What is your favorite book, author or literary genre?  I read fantasy/sci-fi, with forays into topical autobiography.
  4.  Do you have a favorite season?  If so, why?  Yes, Spring.  :)  The weather is beyond perfection, with warm sun and cool breezes, and all the lovely flowers and green grass…. ah, could it only be Spring forever!
  5. List three sources of joy in your life.  Other than God, which is sort of cheating…. and my family, likewise… Beauty, creation, nature.

Questions for my hapless lot of award-ees:

  1. If there was one thing you could change about the world to set us back on the right course … what would that be, and why?
  2. What are your favorite creative outlets?
  3. What music do you listen to that makes your heart glad?
  4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be, and why?
  5. Why do you read blogs?

Now for my nominees… there are a couple that I would nominate but I think they’d prefer the semi-anonymity that they blog under, so I’ll skip them.  If you think that’s you, it probably is.  ;)

Elspeth at Loving in the Ruins:  http://lovingintheruins.wordpress.com/

Jenny at Delightful Oak:  http://www.delightfuloak.com/

Maeve at Wannabe Martha:  http://maeve0330.wordpress.com/

Magistra at Myriads of Thoughts:  http://magistratrium.wordpress.com/

Debbie at Coop and Cottage:  http://coopandcottage.blogspot.com/

Okay, it’s been fun but it took forever to do that… I think one blog award is sufficient for a lifetime, though if you want to tell me I’m awesome, please feel free anytime.  LOL.  :D

For Such a Time as This

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Good things vs. God things”?

I’ve wanted a lot of good things in my life.  Truly good things.  Things straight off of the “perfect Christian life” page.   I’ve passed a lot of them on the freeway of life, but there’s one that sticks.  It’s the daydream of getting away from it all – living somewhere more rural, somewhere I could have more than a few sad tomato plants, where my long skirts and slight hair coverings wouldn’t leave folks wondering if I was Amish, somewhere I wouldn’t have to fight traffic at 7pm or wonder about my safety and that of my kids.

It’s not a bad daydream, as daydreams go.

You know, most of the “perfect Christian” stuff isn’t bad.  Most of it is valuable and good and worthy.  It’s worth pursuing, if we’re allowed to do so.

But we take those good things and we make them into gods.   We’re in flesh-tents, it’s not weird to want to “win” at mortal life.  It’s not weird to compare ourselves to the “perfect Christian” – however imaginary that person is.   It’s *not* weird.  But it’s fleshly.

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

The questions we should be asking ourselves are, “What am I here for?”  “How can I serve?”  “How can I bless the people around me – today?”

None of us has been promised a perfect life.  None of us has been promised a tomorrow.  And it’s not as if this world is all there is – not for any of us.   Someday I’ll have a mansion… and maybe our Lord will put it on a windswept moor where I can stomp ’round the heather with my faithful dog rampaging somewhere in the distance…. or maybe He has something better.  I’m not tied to a life that is merely mortal, and “as good as it gets” is not up to me.

If I were to die tonight…. the regrets I would have are the times I totally flubbed my Christian witness.  The people I left thinking, “Hypocrite”.  I would care about the work left undone in my children’s lives, and leaving my husband to mourn.  I would be sad about those folks that I hadn’t yet witnessed to, and those I had somehow offended.*   But that’s it.  The last breath in this world is the last breath I take in hell.   I’m looking forward to the rest of eternity.

So – today I’m here to remind you (and me) that our purpose is for today.  To do the good work that is before us with the strength in our hands and the joy that is in our hearts.  I’m here to remind you that pursuing “perfection” is fine if it’s God sending you on the errand because something lacks in your heart – and isn’t fine if it’s something that you’re doing so you can make *yourself* good enough.

I won’t regret a moment of kindness, I won’t regret the opportunities to refresh people’s minds about Scary Christian Ladies.   (Okay, I like being a very confusing Scary Christian Lady).

So – while I’ll enjoy every bit of good that God brings into my life, I’m not going to cry too hard about not getting to stomp ’round those moors.  I’ll get to them someday, and when I do, maybe I won’t be walking on a crippled foot.

* Don’t worry, I’m in my usual robust state of health.  Have some kale?

Shades of Grey

I was talking to a Pagan friend the other day and she said that there is no white without black, no black without white.  That was bad enough, and then I started reading some books written by another Pagan (Neil Gaiman) and an atheist (Anthony Bourdain) and opened my eyes a bit to the world (sometimes I try hard to not pay attention to the dominant paradigm).

The books were well-written, and my friend is beloved.  But they caused me to open my eyes and start seeing what is around me.  I read that letter purported to be by a woman planning to abort her child, saying that this is just not the time to meet.  I listened to the way things are phrased in the world about me.

My dear mist-dwellers.  You have won.  No, you haven’t won the war, but you’ve won the hearts of those bound away from God.  No one believes in white anymore.  Maybe they believe in black – but probably not.  This makes my heart weep, and rage and grieve.  No wonder you think I’m a simple sweet girl, as I see nearly everything as white or black.  How silly of me, to fail to see the subtleties.

And I weep.  Because you do not see God.  You do not see the God, so bright and shining that no mortal may see His glory and live.  Whose merest reflection on Moses’ face caused it to shine.  That a coal from His altar could cleanse the lips of His prophet, as if by fire.  Oh blessed cleansing fire, my Lord, they will not see You!

If I hated them, I would not care.  It is just that those who turn from the Light live in a world of shadow.  But I don’t hate them.  I wonder, and I ask myself, “Why, Lord – can you not make my face like Moses’ face, that they will see Your light in me?  If they will not look to You, can you not reflect yourself in a thousand thousand eager Christian eyes?”  How, how can I make them see God?

I cannot.  So I will pray.  And I will pray with fierceness and fire and heart.  Let the Lord’s Light so shine before men that they cannot say that there is no White in this world, that there is no purity, that there is no good without the stain of evil.  *I* am stained, but He is not.

The whispering, clinging, sneaking tendrils of swamp mist? Those are fit only for the torch, to be burned away and revealed for what they are – lies.

Verses on my mind:

John 3:19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Romans 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Once upon a time, our stories and myths were written about those who followed Right to the end, no matter what stood in their way.  We wrote about those who would not compromise with evil, simply because it was evil.  Our imaginations were filled with knights and paladins … and even simple hobbits, willing to go to the end of the World.

And now we have compromised with evil for so long, that we no longer see what is good, and righteous, and true.  And if you cannot see your goal, how can you walk towards it?

This world grieves me.  But I can pray.  And you can pray.  And we can stand firm in the gospel of Christ, stand for what is right.

It’s our turn to subvert the dominant paradigm.  Are you with me?

Audiences

The possible audiences to address:

1) Those who are not Christians, they don’t know Jesus yet.  I hope to bring some Light to these folks and show them even the teeniest part of how wonderful it is to belong to the Lord.  I hope to start the questions in their hearts that the Light can inspire, to give them a craving for Jesus.

2)  Those who are Christians, who love Jesus and want to please Him.  I want to walk with these folks and share our journeys together.  “When you go through the swamps, watch out for the mosquitoes!”  We have good stuff to offer one another – I’m here to offer my life, my walk, to be transparent so maybe it makes some part of your walk a little easier.

3)  To folks who are nominally Christians but don’t care about pleasing Jesus.  I hope I can inspire them to fall in love with our Lord and obey Him with all joy.  He’s where it’s at.  Sometimes we can get so mixed up and think that doing stuff on the outside will fix our insides.

Why isn’t my blog about “how to be a good Christian housewife”?  I have a homemakingish blog – although mostly I talk about sewing, but it’s not like, “here’s how to be a good wife”.  Other women do it, and they do it well.  It’s their calling.

I don’t want to argue with folks.  Either you love Jesus and you want to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and body… and we can compare notes and learn from one another along that path – or you don’t.  If you don’t, maybe I can change your mind about Jesus.  But if you don’t have a soft heart to our Lord, all my arguments are useless… because that’s what they’re based on.  My worst rebuke is, “Do you think what you’re doing/saying is bringing glory to God?”

See, I don’t think you can build a good house without the right foundation.  I tried.  I tried that Sunday Christian dreck… and it was lousy.  I tried the outer righteousness bit, where I worked really hard on my outsides and “if I can just get this right, my world will be okay” … and that crumbled too.  The *only* foundation is Jesus.  So get your relationship with our Lord right and tight, and everything else will follow.  You’ll want to be good at being a good wife or husband – because you’ll want to please Jesus.  Love Jesus, then follow His commandments.   That’s the order He put it in, there’s probably a reason.

It’s not that the following part is unimportant.  It’s just that you have to have a reason to follow Him.  You have to be utterly sold out to Jesus, with the determination that NOTHING will pull you away from Him.  If you are… well, the rest *will* follow.

And I’m not pretending I’m there, that I’m perfect or I don’t have stuff to deal with.  I am far from perfect and I have lots of stuff.  But the thing is – I know it, I’m working on it, and the reason I’m *doing that* is because I want to please my Lord and Savior.

(I know there are people who take this as a reason to not work, and I don’t get that.  If you love Him, your actions will show it.  Generally I take those folks not-very-seriously.  If you care, put your money where your mouth is … or shut up.  One or the other, thanks).

So.  That’s why I write what I write – and don’t write.

Priorities

Hat tip to BB… whose comment:  http://lovingintheruins.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/els-marriage-purpose-statement/comment-page-1/#comment-7306 in regards to marriage purpose statements gave me some great stuff to mull over in the back of my head for the past week or two.

Another hat-tip… I was just taking a mental break and went over to Jess’ place and SLAM!  Here you go.  http://jessconnell.com/the-opposite-of-the-proverbs-31-woman/

I am someone who is continually sanding herself down, continually working to find the right balance.   I work to think up good schedules and priorities, and then I let those run along while I get on with the rest of my life.   Give things a month or two, and see what needs tightening up.   I’m also a person whose unofficial priorities (the emotional ones) sneak in and have to be defended against.

My goal is to become a Proverbs 31 wife.  When I picture the Prov 31 lady, I see a lady in her 50s.  She’s still strong, still capable of taking just about everything life can dish out – but she also has a lifetime of skills to draw on, and is far enough along that she is reaping the benefits of the investments made.  She has grown children, she has handmaidens, she has a husband who is hanging out at the gates of the city.  This woman is a woman in her full maturity.

The season of life that I find myself in (see “week in the life of me”) is primarily concerned with maintenance and supervision.  My children are older – 10 and 14 – and well able to keep up with their own work as long as I provide guidance and an occasional prod.   It is time for me to – having gotten the most important things going – to start work on the other parts of my life.  (Without letting my primaries slip).  (I’m 41, fwiw).

I spent the last year doing an internship at church, so I can be part of serving the Body in a more organized fashion.  And I’ve been trying to get my sewing skills off the ground – make a bit of a business of it.  But I find that I still have the mentality that my sewing is a “me thing” – and so is my physical activity.  Even though a long walk in what will have to do as the woods does me no *end* of good psychologically and physically… I feel a bit guilty.

So, since making intelligent investments in the future is a big part of being a Proverbs 31, it’s time for me to look very carefully at my life and see where I’m being nibbled to death by ducks, and it’s time for me to ruthlessly squash guilt when it rears its ugly head.   There are times when I’m being a lazy-bug, but more times when I’m just spread too thin and suffering for it.

It’s all putting theory into action!