Tag Archives: God

Things I’ve Learned This Week

I can’t turn my passions into money makers; they have to become that on their own or I will grow to hate them.

Stress about the future isn’t worth it.

A week ago, I thought I was going to be an editor/designer/typographer/painter, but then God gave me a studio, a bunch of people with great advice, a ton of encouragement, and a new goal: build a portfolio and get a graduate degree in painting.

When I am on the verge of moving on or falling deeper in love with someone, teetering on the edge–although it is potentially more painful than moving on–might be just what I need to find my balance.

When blogging might make me late for church, sometimes I just might need to blog anyway.


I Was Writing About Fortune Cookies, But Got Distracted By Jesus

One time I had this idea that I should start a fortune cookie company. All the fortunes would preach the gospel. I can’t tell you how much it would make me smile to crack open a cookie and find

You are a child of God.

Believe that he died for you, and you will grow in your ability to authentically care for the people you love.

You are more sinful than you know, but he’s already died for it.

The king of kings has called you his own.

In Christ you are more than a conqueror.

Listen, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.

 

I am a gospel fiend. I can’t get enough.

When my boyfriend tells me about something that he’s struggling with, I often ask, Why is the gospel good news in that situation? By now he knows I am not just quizzing him. Well, I do want to offer as much practice as possible for him and everyone in articulating why the gospel is always good news in every corner of our lives, but more than anything else, I just want to hear it again.

Tell me, again, again, again, and again, what did Jesus do? Really? Wow. My heart changes a little every time I hear it. It’s like the love that I always knew was surrounding me, just feels a little thicker, tastes a little sweeter, looks more glorious, and I sink in a little deeper every time someone tells me the truth.


The Light Came

As an update to my last post, you should know that upon sitting down, seeking to be filled with light, overwhelming joy descended on me immediately, so that when Emilie walked in just a few minutes later, I greeted her with a full and silly smile which stood in contrast to my assertion that it had been a rough day.

 

Last week I experienced major hesitations about even being in a relationship. Talking to Jamie made me rethink things even more. It was a good talk, though. She wanted to make sure that I could feel free to enjoy the situation that I am in, or change it, if need be. I know from past conversations with her that her marriage to Steve is as strong as it is because of their years of friendship that preceded it. God’s grace to them was that they could know and love one another without the complication of relationship stuff. Unfortunately, that is not a situation that I can manufacture. It is often confusing to start a relationship that doesn’t have years behind it, but maybe God’s grace to me looks different. I need to trust in it and stop being so concerned with my ability or inability to control how that relationship develops.

The better I get to know my boyfriend, the more feel like my mind is completely blown by how good of a match he is. We got to spend a long weekend in Portland and seeing him all day every day for a few days made me feel like I’d known him for a long time. We’re so much closer.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I really don’t buy it. Absence helps when you like the version of a person that you keep in your head better than their presence. (That isn’t completely true, I know. There are valid uses of the phrase, but for me it doesn’t really work now.) I prefer the reality of him to the idea of him.

God’s grace to me in this moment is a new best friend (yes I still mean the boyfriend), a new brother in Christ, whom I constantly lift up in my heart through prayer, and for whom I delight in being a stepping stone toward godliness.


My Prayer For Us

Well, I have a boyfriend.

When we posted our relationship status on Facebook, one person commented, saying, “Took you guys long enough.”

Well, I hardly had the same reaction. There I was (for the past month or so) thinking, we’ll just be best friends for several months, and then maybe some dating will happen, if he’s even interested.

Hello, Jacquie! Of course he was interested, you’re smarter than that! But I didn’t want to think about it, because being in a relationship feels a lot more uncertain. Once I think about going under the dating banner, a lot more can go wrong in my head.

So the day it became official, I woke up from an upsetting dream feeling anxious, like I wanted to hold off until he was qualified to be my savior. Only Jesus will ever be my savior. So I prayed, “Make him more like you, make me more like you. Let it work in its proper time. Your peace, your gospel—keep driving them deeper into my soul.”

The proper time is now.

Here’s my prayer for us in our new relationship:

“Give me intentionality to be a part of a holy relationship and a heart, your heart, to work and look beyond it. I think I wanted to have such a clear picture of what makes a relationship good that I wouldn’t need you to be involved. Why on earth would you give me that?

“Here’s the reality: every day I suit up to fight a personal battle to make Christ king of my heart. Each morning I rise to crown you again. So long as we both do that, a relationship will be life-giving. Pour out your grace on us. Relationship or not, I am going to run in the same direction, after you alone.

“No wonder the idea of a relationship was disorienting to me. I regarded it as a direction-change. It isn’t. No man will ever be worth turning my head to the right or to the left. It will always be me, training my eyes to look ever-deeper into yours, my beautiful Savior.”


You Came At The Wrong Time

Can anything really come at the wrong time? Does the right time ever really feel right? Even the right time will feel wrong. Aren’t we always going to be challenged by the next step?

I was supposed to be single for a while. At least six months. Now who knows? It is silly to wait when someone who seems to match your passion for life and the kingdom of heaven is right in front of you.

As he thrusts the most beloved before him, tender even in his hardness, the jealous one—, thus I thrust this blissful hour before me.

Away with you, you blissful hour! With you there came to me an involuntary bliss! I stand here ready for my deepest pain:—you came at the wrong time!

Away with you, you blissful hour! Rather seek shelter there—with my children! Hurry! And bless them before evening with my happiness!

There evening already approaches: the sun sinks. Away—my happiness!—

Thus spoke Zarathustra. And he waited for his misfortune the whole night: but he waited in vain. The night remained clear and calm and happiness itself came closer and closer to him. But towards morning Zarathustra laughed in his heart and said mockingly: “Happiness runs after me. That is because I do not run after women. But happiness is a woman.”

I read this page of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and I zero in on, “You came at the wrong time.”

But, no, it’s not possible to come at the wrong time with a sovereign God.

Relationships are not for the faint of heart. A relationship should be your happiness, but it is also another challenge leading you toward your holiness. It’ll demand that you become full enough in yourself through Christ to share it with someone. Enjoy your blissful hours together where you have them, but expect something far richer than bliss. The Lord will not let your heart alone in it for long. He is greedy for you, always claiming more, making you more like him.

Nothing can come at the wrong time. And to where has it come, anyway? Surely God knows the time and I have no doubt that it is right. The question is: for what is the time right? How shall I approach this oh-so-right time?

I will never stop asking it.


A Special Place

IN ANY PLACE I LIVE long enough, I must find at least one nature-spot where I can retreat for prayer. It becomes my place, where I stain the earth with devastated prayers and paint the air with memories of healing.

At the house I grew up in, where my parents still live, this place is Skyline Memorial Gardens, about a fifteen-minute drive from my parents’ house. From there I can see the suburbs of the West side of Portland, and some of Beaverton and Hillsboro. As I sit on the green hill and talk to God, I look straight out and see the sky in front of me.

I go there to escape life. Sometimes it’s cabin fever, sometimes it’s relatives in town, sometimes it’s after work and I have a build-up of the brokenness of the world, which I have helplessly overheard working at Target.

Oftentimes I retreat with my Bible and prayer journal and write my thoughts to God. It is in those times that I remember how Jesus’ disciples always followed him up to the mountain where he would teach them. As I write, he teaches me about my heart, about the places where it needs breaking and healing, death, and resurrection. Sometimes I sit on the ground with my journal on a marble bench bearing the name someone who used to be alive.

SKYLINE MEMORIAL GARDENS is a cemetery. I never knew anyone who is buried there. When I explain it to people as one of my favorite peaceful places, I am hesitant to use the word cemetery for fear of sounding morbid.

In reality, Skyline is a gorgeous and uplifting place. I am not one to stalk about in grim places, but this isn’t one of them. Unlike spooky-story depictions of creepy cemeteries, Skyline does not have large headstones with heavy, archaic crosses upon them, it has small, usually metal grave markers, flush with the ground, sometimes with a little holder for fresh flowers, so that, if you were look out across one of the rolling green hills, you would think it was just like any other well-manicured field with only a few memorial vases peeking out from the trimmed blades of grass, erected in a salute to the textured sky.

One day when I escaped my life to meet the Lord on the hill, I could see the rainstorm coming from Hillsboro. I watched it approach, until the rain finally arrived; then I put down my pen and danced.

Sometimes I drive up there at night, even though the gate is closed, and I park alongside the road and walk through.  As I enter I become aware of the small house on the edge of the property where the dog barks until I am long past. I imagine a few of the possibly sinister outcomes should I encounter any shady characters, then, uttering a short prayer against the possibility, I leave those cares floating in the air behind me, to settle and sink into their graves.

Sometimes I’ll just take off, out-running my anxiety before kneeling in the grass and pressing what’s left of my worries into the ground with my forehead. Burying them, so that Christ can rise in my heart.

These are the moments when I understand why they do child’s pose in yoga; supposedly the pressure of one’s forehead against the ground has a very calming effect. I think God designed it that way, so the prostrate would have peace.

No matter what kind of environment I need, I can find it at Skyline. Some trees are gentle looking, others are wild and windblown. Sometimes I just need an open place in the grass, other times I just need to look at the various grave markers and contemplate my own mortality.

Sometimes I go around to the back where they keep the maintenance equipment. There are two sheds, a rusty trashcan, and an old, rusted pickup truck with a wooden bed. That is one of my favorite backdrops for taking pictures, which I often do there.  While I am there, I almost always head toward one of the buildings. The roof has gravel on it and the top back edge meets the ground due to the steep slope. I walk out to the edge of the roof, sometimes hanging my feet off the edge. If I don’t look down, I can completely forget about the land beneath me and imagine that this is the edge of the earth. Most often, I come to walk around and look at the statues of Jesus, representing various moments during his ministry.

I am not usually one to connect well with religious iconography, but coming up on the mountain to meet with him, the statues serve as a reminder of his human presence. One of my favorite things to do there is to go up to a given statue and read that part of the gospels. To think about it in light of the physical presence of the figure before me. Since my favorite part used to be Jesus’ time with the Samaritan woman at the well, I would go there often to read and work on memorizing that story. While I could paraphrase it pretty well, I definitely don’t have it memorized anymore.

I FIRST DISCOVERED Skyline with my best friends one night when I was in High School. We had just finished with some adventure or another—maybe it was the day that Becca and I went hiking instead of to the prom and then to Rimsky’s for dessert. But I know I went there before that. Okay, so I don’t know when I discovered it: sometime in high school—probably junior year. It’s been a short relationship, but it has shaped my life in more ways than I can count, because each time I return is a time in which my soul is emptied out, all of it buried, dead, like those whose names surface to make their mark on the meadow.

Although it is a spot for spiritual rest and renewal, it is also the first place I think of when I am in need for a good backdrop for a portrait. Like I mentioned before, there is the rustic maintenance and storage area, and there is the huge green hill. First Becca took her own senior pictures there, letting me into a few frames, then I followed suit a couple years later, photographing my sister for her senior photos in the same spot.

I remember one frame in particular with Becca: we had set up the camera down the hill and hit the self-timer button. We didn’t walk fast enough to sit down on the grass. It clicked right as we sat down. The frame captured showed us looking at each other, hair still falling back from our abrupt movement, and I am looking and smiling right at her. “You look like you’re in love with me!” she says playfully. It’s still my favorite picture of the two of us.

ONE SUMMER I BROUGHT my boyfriend there with me. We ran down the steep grassy hill to sit at the feet of Jesus as he preached the gospel to the Samaritan woman. For a long time we stared off in every direction, him thinking, I think, and me thinking about what he must be thinking about, looking for a long time at a given tree where a goofy and repetitive birdsong stood in stark contrast to our contemplative silence. After a long time I asked what he was thinking. He said he was thinking about his confused theology. I don’t remember how he explained it, but this time he didn’t go into much detail. He was questioning a lot. “Where in the Bible does it say God is good?”  Scott Starbuck had asked in Old Testament Prophets that past semester. Freshman year at Whitworth had taken its toll on his worldview.

For many people, I imagine, Skyline is a place to bring flowers and remember people that were special to them. I define the space as a place to remember and discover what it is to be human and to ask questions like: Who is God? How can we ask anything of him? He has a will of his own, which I can do nothing to manipulate. He will ruthlessly do whatever it is he does for whatever reason it is that he does it, so what can I do? Where in the Bible does it even say God is good? And it is here that he answers the faithful.

I like to imagine that each grave marker represents one more face that will open wide its mouth to declare at the time of resurrection with that glorious sound of a great multitude, like peals of thunder and the roar of many waters.

I HOPE THAT PEOPLE I never knew meet with Jesus over my grave. Maybe my children will bury me there. And I hope that when I am buried there I have left behind an earth littered with marks of divine encounter. I hope I will have readied spaces for the prayer warriors of tomorrow.