Monthly Archives: June 2009

>Daddy’s Girl

>God’s voice My voice

“Jesus says–Go steadily on with what I have told you to do and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you will remove yourself from my deliverance.” -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
But God, why must it be deliverance, why can’t it be prevention?
Because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. ANd hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3b-5)
But what is it I should hope for?
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalms 25:5) Hope that God is truth, that He will not let me be put to shame, that He will “guard my life and rescue me” and that He will redeem me from all my troubles. Not that He will never let them happen, but that He will make good come from them.
Oh, God, I don’t know if I like that! I accept it but I don’t think I like it very much at all. But give me a willing spirit, I want very much to trust you, God, and I don’t want to guard against you of all people.
Psalm 27:1 – The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?
:4 – One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
:14 – Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

This conversation came yesterday, the day after a long postponed arranged meeting at a picnic for International Friendships, with the son of my parents’ friends’ friend. It was every bit as awkward as I had imagined over the two months since the first proposition of the idea, but I was trying to give him a chance so I could at least tell my parents I had honestly tried. To give you an idea of the tenor of our interaction…

Me: So, what’s your dating philosophy?
Him: Uh…crash and burn?

Precisely the answer I did not want to hear, but I was promptly rescued by the arrival at the bus stop of some international students who had been at the picnic, with whom we each proceeded to talk for the next twenty minutes while studiously ignoring each other. I realized the next day, however, that God was running interference for me from the start, and that I should have listened to my own intuition instead of thinking about pleasing others. God has been guarding me against all manner of encounters with men, even trivial ones, and I think it is fairly safe to say that He wants me to be single right now. I will have to ask whether that is to be a long-term condition, and while He doesn’t have to tell me, I am least going to ask so later on I can’t say I didn’t try to find and follow His will.

Psalm 28:7-9 – The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.

I read this psalm during the prayer meeting, but earlier today during church I was struck strongly by the mental image/physical sensation of myself as a small child reaching her arms up to her Father, who scooped me up and held me tight. I’m Daddy’s girl, right now and forever. I realize now that God is keeping me from wasting my time and emotional currency on someone who isn’t right for me. Even though wasting time can be pleasurable sometimes, I can never get back time or emotion that I’ve given away, so it’s better that God is making me save them. It is not so much a matter of being stingy with all others but being generous to the one God intends for me, if such a person exists (and if not, my all belongs to God!). Don’t I want to give h[H]im the best? I ask God to keep that in reserve for me and tell me if or when to give it to the right person.


>Cleaning the Mirror


“It’s like He sees who you could be, and that’s what he remembers.”

These words of wisdom came from a dear friend, and were brought to life for me by another friend that I’ve known since high school. We were catching up last night and I was telling her about how education is such a good fit for me because it combines my passions for people and for learning. I told her how I had never really paid attention to people like I do now, and how my master’s program is almost like being in high school again, only this time I planned to be more socially successful. She looked at me and said, “That’s funny, because I sort of always saw you that way. Everybody loved you!”

This struck me as mildly ridiculous. I never felt fully accepted by my peers when I was growing up, except for my friends, and even those relationships were not nearly as deep as the ones I have cultivated in colleges (and some of these are expansions of friendships I had in high school). Now I am very secure in my friends’ love for me, but I wonder if maybe that was there all along and I just couldn’t see it.

Aren’t our friends sometimes better at seeing us than we ourselves are? I could have said something very similar for her. She was an avowed atheist throughout high school, but I saw the way she passionately pursued knowledge and thought, “Man, she would make such a great Christian!” And now God’s gotten a hold of her and I cannot wait to see what amazing things He will do through her life. I’m not claiming to be any sort of clairvoyant about people; all knowledge is God’s knowledge and sometimes He imparts what He knows about us to other people to pass on to us.

The same pattern happened during the “crucible” period of my recovery from eating disorder. Each week while I was attending my support group, I asked for God to show me something new about myself to replace the twisted images and thoughts. And He did, only they turned out to be all things that I already knew but had forgotten. A physical representation of that process was reintroducing foods like carbs and dairy…I’d tasted them all before but made myself give them up along the way. God was showing me how He saw me and how others saw me, and my weight and physical appearance were actually negligible parts of the person they saw. I still struggle with body image and probably always will, but it’s been a joy learning to see myself the way others, most importantly God, see me.

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I Can See Clearly Now
Johnny Nash

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

P.S. I think I’m going to get Lasik in September.

>Pitcher Perfect: thoughts on mysticism

>”Love the pitcher less and the water more.” -a description of Sufism (Islamic mysticism) in Islam: A Concise Introduction

I definitely have a more mystical bent than many people I know, and sometimes I wonder if that doesn’t leave me vulnerable to fickle changes in sentiment. I also wonder about the other mystic traditions out there. Why should God be limited to a certain name if His character remains the same? (Of course, that distinction is very hard to tease out.) I think mysticism is less concerned with the outward differences between religions (the pitcher, to use the analogy above) and more concerned with the God behind it all. I also think the world’s mystic traditions are more similar than the corresponding orthodox and radical religious traditions. Is all truth God’s truth? A few weeks ago in Sunday School Pastor Nick alluded to people who are saved but don’t know it, and I wonder how that is possible. Natural theology? Innate morality? Jiminy Cricket? I have no idea…

Another book, Essential Sufism, explains that, “Mysticism breaks through the boundaries that protect the faith of the typical believer.” But I don’t suppose that it is a good idea to start with mysticism because the foundational truths have to be there. Thomas Merton puts it this way: “But the truth is that the saints arrived at the deepest and most vital and also the most individual and personal knowledge of God precisely because of the Church’s teaching authority, precisely through the tradition that is guarded and fostered by that authority.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)

Contemplation requires a truth to contemplate, and that is what church teaching brings to the table: a conceptualization, a vocabulary, as it were. And while no human words or ideas can perfectly spell out the nature of God or his revelation, I think we have to start somewhere and words are the medium of choice. My Hebrew professor pointed out something that is very “Duh” on the surface but carries deep implications: the Bible is written in human language and meant to be understood that way. There are certainly many ways in which God reveals Himself, but the choice of words as a medium is important for transmission. Language can corrupt meaning, but it can also clarify. (An excellent example is Father Merton himself, who always seems to be good at putting into words what I feel or think but cannot express!)

After we have the words and the language, provided by the Bible and the church, then we can transcend. It is like learning to speak and read verbally so that one has the means with which to learn how to read and play music. I am at the point now where I want to go beyond words, even though I will always love communicating verbally, to know and contemplate God, but I’m not sure how that will happen or if now is the right time for it. I’m just always searching, always hungry…

>God is my Champion


Psalm 3

O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”
But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift b]”>up my head.
To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
I lie down and sleep;I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

It’s hard for me to keep up posting on here since I write everything down in my journal but I have to decide what to share, and then make time to make it a little more coherent. About a week ago I was having some major body image issues again, and the temptation to purge became extremely strong. But as I prayed in desperation, I saw in my mind the face of a friend whom I had asked to pray for me the night before. The thought of him, and all the other people who love me, praying for me stopped me short of sinning against my body.

How great God is for protecting His own victories! He is not army that invades, vanquishes, and destroys; He stays and rebuilds the land and governs wisely. Before my recovery began, I knew that my eating disorder would hurt the people who cared about me, so I never told anyone just how bad it was. I figured they wouldn’t understand, and I was right, but I was wrong to think they wouldn’t care. A crucial part of recovery for me was the ability to talk about it, first to other women who had or were experiencing the same things, then to my spiritual sisters, then to my parents, and finally to the world at large. In this way I constructed a system of accountability, but not in an oppressive or coercive way. I was open with these people because I knew they loved and cared for me; in the same way, they could better love and care for me because I was open with my weaknesses. There were a lot of things that helped turn things around for me, which I will write about eventually, but this was one of the most important ones, the true knowledge that I was loved by God and people and that there was no need to hate myself.

Here’s proof of how far I’ve come…I went downtown Sunday with some photography buff friends to model for them, and when I saw the shots, for the first time since I’ve been at this weight I actually thought, “Hey, I really like the way I look in these!” And that is such a huge breakthrough for me. Thanks, Paul and Shing, for making me look pretty, and thank you, God, for making me pretty.

>Come to the light.

>Two weeks ago Joe preached a sermon titled, “The Garden” about how our spiritual lives are like plants, referring of course to the parable of the soils. As a take-home reminder, he let us plant seeds in paper cups. I chose basil, with visions of homemade pesto dancing in my head. I had tried to grow herb cuttings from the Porostoskys’ garden in the fall, but they died after about a month.

This time I started from seed, and within a week I had three tiny seedlings poking their heads out of the soil. A few days later I noticed the paper cup I had planted them in was getting pretty skanky, so I transferred them to a plastic cup I had punched drainage holes into. I tried to be careful in the process, but was terrified I had somehow damaged the root ball (all 10 mm of it). For days after the transfer I kept checking them to see if they were dead…they weren’t, but they didn’t seem to be growing either.

A few days ago I noticed that the sun no longer shone directly in my window at any point during the day. (My apartment building is shaped like a U and my unit is angled so that it is shaded most of the time.) I had mentioned my basil plants to my supervisor Ryan and he’d said that they need full sunlight. Today, I finally put two and two together and wondered if maybe my basil babies weren’t getting enough light. So I stuck them under the light near the sink. Six hours later, I looked and they were decidedly perkier.

I wish I had thought to take a “Before” picture, but I had no idea they would react so quickly. The new position of the light source is to the left in the picture; before they were both kind of bent over to the right. When I consider what I know about plant cells, that they can’t move and must change shape in order to change the plant’s position, and that this involves the coordinated movement of thousands of cytoskeleton molecules…wow.

The metaphor couldn’t be clearer. In order to grow spiritually, we must be illuminated by the Light of the world. Plants seek light because they need the energy to generate food. We have to look for Jesus or else even the Bible is just a lot of dead words. Lately I’ve been feeling that, no matter how much I love words and how much I need them to process the world, God is still bigger than that and I want to reach an understanding of Him that transcends even my preferred method of communication.