Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leafy Songs Surround.

Casting a moving shadow over my shoulder
As it's neighbor, the breeze, gently skips across
The back of my head--rousing tendrils and curls to
Freely dance and sway,
The Fall sun now lingers on my face
Masked partially in Summer's garb.

Bursts of cool air interspersed with rays of warmth--
The quintessential marriage between heat and allusions of cold.
Few but boldly colored leaves paint the air with delicate strokes
As the wafts of wind fight to keep them dancing for as long as
They can before they rest on grounds below.
Freefalling--a short-lived escapade.

Dry, crisp and peculiarly loud, the crackling leaves
Under my feet are surprising.
Strange that such decibels could be reached
By such unassumingly sized leaves.
Heel to toe, heel to toe,
Leafy songs surround.

Side by side and without motion--
My feet.
No crackling leaves.
The sun seemingly still by the horizon.
Eyes closed and kept closed by
An invigorating dance of air
Coming from the heels of my feet
around and up to the crown of my head.
Arms stretched out to either side,
Palms upward and receiving
With the rest of me,
The glorious gift of Fall
In its many forms.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hold up!

" Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God's footsteps. Waiting on God is an active, alert--yes, joyful--waiting. As we wait we remember Him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember Him we create a community ready to welcome him when He comes." H. Nouwen 

** Waiting is active--not passive. It is preparation for His coming but also preparation for us to become more of who we are made to be in Him.

I was reading a passage yesterday that stood out to me differently than it has before:

"Abide in Me as I abide in you." It may be that the translation I read struck a different chord. "AS" I abide in you. It doesn't say abide in me, then I will abide in you. It's a simultaneous abiding; it's mutual. It's a place of constant connection. This is a place of simultaneous abiding in which the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives. Actively waiting gives us greater vision of what it means to be constantly abiding.

As we wait, the Vinedresser is pruning us. All the while as parts of us are cut away because they don't bear fruit, we are still very much a part of the vine. Pruning doesn't cause there to be a separation between us and the Vine; rather, it's the Vinedresser removing lifeless limbs. Those fall away, and there the branches are given room and freedom to bear the intended Fruit.

**An active waiting also allows us to be interruptible.

This is something I've been praying for more of--room in my life to be interruptible. All time is His time, but I treat it as my own, precious commodity. I've seen much grace here as I trust Him to provide time to do what He knows I need to do (also for things I get to do :)). This idea of being interruptible has been very closely tied to the idea of worship for me. Being interruptible implies that there is a constant awareness of the Spirit of God actively moving in and through all seconds, minutes and hours of our lives. I want to be present for that. I don't want schedules, for busyness, and for routine to squelch the possibility for being really alive in moments when He is clearly wanting to move and make Himself known. If we're aware of His movements and what He's up to,  we can (we get to) respond appropriately, even immediately, in worship. In other words, if we are constantly waiting on Him, we can constantly be worshipping Him.

I love God's creativity--being open to God's time instead of mine can take shape through unexpected conversations, through stopping long enough to be amazed by a delicate flower, to pray, to sing, to play, to be still, to do someone's dishes, to ask someone how they're doing, etc...

Though the idea of being interruptible might drive us to think in terms of sacrifice (which may very well be true at times--dying to self, placing others before ourselves, etc...), it is freeing; it breaks off the chains that have been a part of lives--those places which have been deeply enslaved to our own desires. Asking God to move in our lives this way removes the shackles of selfishness. To be interruptible means to be free to worship.

This semester, I was able to meet someone quite special-- a classmate of mine. She is of quiet and gentle spirit, full of joy and worship. The words I choose here won't do justice the work that God has done in this woman's life, but she is constantly worshipping God--in word and in deed. At any given moment regardless of what's going on, if she senses the Spirit at work, she will stop to thank God for His provision, for His goodness, and for His ability to blow her mind time after time. Never is it done in the look-at-me sense. Anyone around her can simply tell that it's a natural response; she knows nothing other than to thank God. It's almost as though she knows she'd explode if she kept it in. Often times her genuine responses to God move me a great deal--this morning I was moved to tears as I thought about the way she worships. I'm humbled, and I desire more of that kind of life. I'm blessed by her faithful heart of worship; it is contagious! Hiromi, you live a life that is interruptible, and I praise God for your lovely heart.


Father, give us Your strength as you incline our hearts to wait on You. Free us up to see you, to serve you, and to respond appropriately to you. As we still ourselves before you, May we see the weight of your glory. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

If Ice Cubes Could Talk

Imagine yourself as an ice cube 
simply resting on the sidewalk.
God is with you.

This was a prayer/silence exercise that my friend took us through during our small group last night. We sat there in silence, some more still than others, for a whoppin' four minutes (It amuses me that four minutes of silence can cause people to become so uncomfortable, fidgety and anxious. It's so odd). As we sat there and prayed and visualized, we were encouraged to ask God how the imagery spoke to us. Did it bring a sense of rest? A sense of anxiety? Where is God during this time and in this image? 

I was a glistening, square cube melting slowly into the cracks, pores, and grooves of the sidewalk. The warmth of the sun was gently but persistently transforming me into an altogether new substance--rays of sunshine bouncing and ricocheting off of some surfaces but being absorbed by others--including me, the ice cube.  Hardness became a substance that flowed freely into its surroundings. There was a sense of release as I melted away. I didn't have to try; there was no striving. I was simply being and the strength of the sun was doing the rest. As I continued to melt, there was a moment when I was the small little remainder of an ice cube that was wiggling around in the puddle that had formed around me, dancing and swirling but never straying far from that place. (This spoke to me because I feel that often time stillness can be restrictive, but in reality, it is freeing.) 

The image of the melting ice cube affected me deeply because I often get pictures of myself falling into a pile of pillows or sitting in the Father's lap when I'm in a state of rest, but the imagery of the melting ice cube took me into a greater place of understanding. I don't just want to rest on top of something. I want to lean into and become a part of what supports me--to melt into, to become one with the rest that is only found in my Father. To simply be in His presence is a form of worship, and that just blows my mind. 

"Come to me, all you who are troubled and weighted down with care, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Touchy Feely Matter.

Some of us are naturally inclined to being rather in tune with our emotions, while others of us are not. On occasion it seems like we feel everything with the sensitivity of that of a flower petal--completely exposed and aware. Other times, we are numb to everything: nothing feels like anything, and it almost appears as though we fear feeling. Too many of us make all of our decisions on the basis of our feelings, and others of us don't take them into consideration when making decisions.

We dance on extreme ends of the reality of emotions and feelings. Neither end of the continuum is healthy, and we really are challenged constantly to find the balance. Neither end is safe or sound. A number of us feel ashamed for feeling too much, and others of us think we're weird for not feeling enough.

Feelings and emotions help us find commonality, but they also have the capacity to be a mechanism that brings about ostracism. These feeilngs can be rooted in believing lies that we've been told or that we have believed about those around us, but they also have the immense power of affirming what is true!

In the midst of experiencing what we feel when we hear the lies, it is imperative that we ask ourselves what is true. Emotions in light of these moments too often lead us into a posture of wallowing and thinking that is very narrow-minded, self-centered, self-degrading, and self-destructive. Those emotions completely undermine the freedom and truth found in the powerful work of  Jesus that has already taken place in our lives. Lies and defeat have no room in our lives--and absolutely no power in our lives.

The beauty in emotions is found in the very moments when they affirm what is true.  This is not to say that all that is true is joyous and a cause for celebration. Tears from one who grieves, laughter from one who rejoices, sorrow from one who experiences death of a loved one, joy and relief from one who has experiences freedom, righteous anger towards injustice, etc.. These are all very real processes. We aren't meant to ignore what we feel but rather ask the Lord what it is that He wants to show us through them. What is He trying to teach us? What is He trying to show us of Himself?

We are not to live without emotions, but our emotions should not drive how we live. Emotions are a gift--that which allows us to experience and feel and be very much alive. They weren't meant to reap and sow destruction. The combination of emotions and sound mind produces a lovely depiction of a healthy and thriving soul whereas the combination of emotions and confusion produces a portrait of chaos and angst.

Father, show us Your heart. Give us the strength to sit in what we feel as you teach us to surrender what we feel to You. Give us your strength so that we don't run from what we need to face. Teach us to walk in the freedom of knowing You--that we would see ourselves as You see us. Refine what we feel and the ways in which we feel, so that our actions and our responses reflect your Spirit in us. We pray for clarity and sound mind, and we ask for hearts that are sensitive to You. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lovely webs.

I got up this morning--cheery and bright. The airy, somewhat fog-infused light of morning was dancing through the blinds, and I found myself ready for today. 6:30 AM. A little unheard of for me? A bit. I don't mind being up that early, but I don't know if i'd use the word cheery to describe my innermost feelings.

Whatever the case may be, the cheer and delight continued throughout my day: there was a consistent feeling of peace, of steady-pacedness (yes, it's made up), and the sense of being in a relaxed but intentional dance. It felt very natural to rest, to breathe, and to enjoy being present. A very common thread for all of the days activities and encounters could be summed up in one word: connectedness.

This word is loaded, and I experienced multiple of its facets today. Where I found it most was in the lovely webs that I have found and continue to find myself in--the web of individuals and community. The webs that He's so carefully weaves as He continues to leave me dumbfounded.

I visited my old occupational stomping grounds today at the Learning Assistance Center at CSULB. It feels like home there; I loved/love the people I worked with, and the environment is one of encouragement and warmth. There's a project I have coming up for one of my classes and it required some information from second language learners. What better place to go, right?

Even before I got inside, I caught the eye of one of my old bosses and flashed the biggest smile ever. Immediately, I was flooded with hugs and "How are you's" and was incredibly blessed by the love. My former boss, Erik, then proceeded to clear his desk as he offered it to me while I worked on some of my research. Every five minutes or so, an old co-worker would come by and say hi. In some special instances, we'd catch up on life. Each story was like a hug to my heart, and each interaction reminded me of what amazing relationships i've been given in the last few years of my life. I hadn't seen any of these friends since graduating in June, but the joy in reuniting was incredibly sweet.

Opportunities came up for me to share of God's faithfulness in how he trained me at the LAC, through very specific people and situations for what I was going to experience in grad school/life.  I realized that He has shown me great favor in my relationships with others--bosses, co-workers, friends, those I tutored, etc... This is completely His doing, and it is altogether humbling. It's  undeserved, and I know that it is out of His love and mercy that He's allowing me to go through life seeing this gift from Him so clearly. I left the LAC with more research than I came with, a heart full of love and with a refreshed spirit.

(Sidenote: As I'm writing this, my Melatonin is kicking in big time; what you read in this post may be interesting =p)

Becks picked me up, and we closed the night with some more connectedness: to each other, to our home, to my schooling, to God, etc...

This post doesn't do what I experienced of connectedness justice; it's but a mere glimpse of His always masterful orchestration of our lives.

I'll leave you with these (pictures from 1st dinner w/ Becks back as a roomie!):


Saturday, November 7, 2009

P.s. [to Jaunt Down Memory Lane]

Though we're sad as Natalie transitions out of our Long Beach home, we also joyously welcome our sweet Becca (Becks and I have been roomies of the literal kind before, so this is a reunion of sorts :D).

Who knew at the time that these pictures would be so telling :) ?
[Time period of photos: Fall 2008]

God, you are the Master Painter, and we delight in seeing more and more of your brushstrokes in our lives--may we see fuller expressions of You.

A Jaunt Down Memory Lane

Gosh, let's see. We've been through various haircuts, hair colors, relationships: giddiness/ heartaches/ learning experiences, encounters with strange people that have made for good stories, tears, countless cups of coffee, confrontation, kitchen-counter conversations, clothes-borrowing, strange-habit experiencing, prayer, laughter, meals, jokes only roommates can be open with, and memories that will continue to pop up and surprise us for the rest of our lives (and we'll remember them at the strangest, most wonderful times :D). The most humbling part of roomie-hood for me is experiencing growth with each other. Each of my roommates has been nothing short of a gift--teaching me more of myself, more of them, more of God, ultimately more of what it means to be in community as His Body. Girls (women, really) , you have refined me, and I'm so grateful that you are a part of the genius orchestration of His that allowed/allows us to live life with each other. 

Here's but a glimpse of what sharing living spaces/life has looked like in the past year plus some:

The pictures will do most of the talking; I'll just be the provider of needed context.

August 2008 (First Roomie Picture-Train trip to LA)

December 2008: Kelly @ the Dresden

December 2009: Walk in Long Beach
(Amber, we already know what you're thinking!!!)

December 2008: DT Long Beach Roomie Day

New Year's 2009:Orange, CA

Wes' Birthday

January 2009: Bike Riding Downtown Long Beach

(quite literally picking me up while I was down)

March 2009: My birthday
(An attempt at a totem pole--sort of successful)

July 2009: Ray LaMontagne in LA

October 2009: Amber's Birthday

November 2009: Roomie Dinner

I can't believe how time flies. Those were only some of the pictures we've taken over the time we've known each other. There will be more taken :). Thanks for marking a really special season of my life, girls. It seriously would have been utterly different without the specific combination of both of you. I'm proud and blessed to know women of your caliber. You are full of love and grace, and your hearts are bigger than what you know to do with. I'm not trying to toot your horns, I'm just sayin' it like it is. 

Transitions are bittersweet, but they are exciting. I look forward to seeing what this next season holds for us. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

First and final.

I was reminded of this verse today through various thoughts and ponderings as well as a drive.

Thought I'd provide it in two versions (Matthew 6:33):

    But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

But first be concerned about God's kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be provided for you as well. 


I started typing a reflection to this, and each time it took away from the beauty and piercing power of the passage. 

That's all. That's it. That's all we need. That's all He asks. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swimming in a Sea of Pattern & Texture

Today breathes an air of levity. I decided to stay home and work on some big things due tomorrow and the rest of this week at school. Usually, I end up distracted and not getting any work done. Today I decided to integrate a creative release into my day while being at home, so that I could function appropriately :). Oh, and the creativity also entailed me getting around to organizing some things which have been set on the back burner for a while now.

There are patterns and textures everywhere!
  A visual trip to some of the "places" my eyes have been today:

Hooks for some of my decorative strands :)

Necessary points and flats.

First one up.

I finally brought out the crock pot last night: White Chicken Chili.
I'd be more than happy to pass along the recipe! 

(Enjoyed some for a mid-morning brunch)

These necklaces have been sadly resting on a hanger in my closet for months. I loved organizing them onto their new hook homes; I was reminded of the stories behind some of them 
(some date back to high school). 

Since I already had the hammer out, I decided to work some more on the frame wall (Each piece of art bears unique meaning, and each frame was a thrifty find :D). Excuse that gaping hole; I'm still waiting for something just right to put up. 

I love the creases that add character on this bit of fridge art. It reminds me of how beautifully made we are--creases, "flaws," and all. 

These three just served as a reminder to me that I'm immersed in pattern, in colors, in textures all the time. My hope is that in being sensitive to my surroundings, my "mundane" never becomes dull.

To end on a good note, here's my coffee for the day. I forgot (don't ask me how) to make coffee this morning and thought it'd behoove me to do so before I kept working on my school work. I really enjoy the varying textures in this shot, even that somewhat annoying, unidentifiable crumb.

The song lyrics for the day:

Your love is like the ocean; 

I'm drowning in Your presence.

("Your Love is Like" by Rick Pino)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A different art...

Much of our culture succeeds too often in molding its inhabitants into masterful Artisans of Trying.

Trying/striving in this worldly sense only succeeds in allowing us to:
-hide what we perceive to be flaws
-mask our insecurities only to give ourselves a false sense of worth
-outdo others' perceptions of who we are
-outdo our perceptions of ourselves
-one up the people around us
-smack on band-aids over wounds that need the exposure to heal

The danger in this type of living isn't so much the desire to be something or someone else; rather, it's the lack of understanding and conviction in who we already are--who we are made in and through Christ's love and redemption: new creations, justified, adopted sons and daughters of the King, heirs. 

Trying and striving are incredibly tiresome and draining. I liken this to what I wrote many blogs back--it's that tension that you feel in your gut when you can't be yourself around people. It's debilitating. There's no freedom there, and everything seems to be done in vain.

The shocking thing in the midst of all of this is how this manifests itself in the subtleties of my life. It's not at all blatant, others don't always notice it, and it's deeply personal. In fact, I often don't see this junk until it starts oozing in other places of my life.

I hate how I feel when I'm in the trying/striving mode; it's the result of many things, I'm sure. I perhaps am feeling off, not good enough or undervalued. It's in the very moments when I take my eyes off of Love and onto myself. My eyes then look through a faulty filter rather than the filter of the Perfect Lamb given on my behalf. How quickly my eyes shift! Someone mentioned this the other day in a conversation--it's like taking your eyes off one of those Magic Eye pictures. If you look away for even a split second, you lose the ability to decipher or see the image you're supposed to see. It doesn't take long to lose focus. Staring and being still enough to look intently upon that image--upon Him--requires discipline. 

Sometimes I feel as though my life is lived out in a fog of ADD, and I just want to be sedated. Therein lies the danger--masking an issue rather than countering it with something far more potent. I want to continue to learn a very different art--the art of being still.

Being still lends itself to:
-an awareness of our surroundings (esp. the needs of those around us)
-an environment where we can fight the lies that come about in chaos and hurried lives
-an understanding of our present state (maybe even the ability to cry out, "I need You!")
-the ability to reverently come before Him in a posture of worship
-appropriate perception of the greatness of God as we're not walking before him, but waiting on Him
-feeling what we need to feel, so that healing can come into those places of pain
-feeling what we need to feel, so that thanksgiving can be offered unto Him who is worthy
-knowing that HE is GOD

It's when we know that He is God that we live in a greater, fuller understanding of who we are. There--we find freedom to be who we are. There--we can worship. There--we can see Him.

There are moments when being still seems second nature and other times I suck at it big time. God knows I can't do it by myself--I've tried and that's when I see that I suck at it :). In my need and in my acknowledgment of it, there His strength facilitates room in my heart to simply be.

May we be inclined to lives of steadfastness and stillness--in times of suffering, joy and everything else that's in between so that we can see Him because He's worthy of our attention.