Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sitting Shiva

Recently I have experienced hearing news from close friends of tragedy in their lives. Whether it's emotional abuse from a spouse, the separation of parents after 25+ years, or the death of a child six days before delivery; each causes deep pain in my heart. And, I find myself asking, "What do I say to these friends? How do I offer encouragement?" Even though my desire is to encourage, I find myself utterly speechless.

There is a Jewish word that I was introduced to about a year ago called "shiva." The definition of shiva is, "a period of seven days of mourning after the death of close relative." However, as I understand shiva from its historical perspective it was much more than just seven days of mourning. Friends of the family experiencing loss would come and "sit shiva" with the mourners, meaning they would come in and simply show their support by quietly sitting and mourning with them. It did not involve words or some attempt at easing pain by saying the right thing. One would walk in and just be. Just mourn. Just let the pain of the moment speak for itself.

Isn't that what we all want when we're grieving? Isn't it hard to hear the words that seem so utterly useless in the face of gut-wrenching pain? Yes, the words are usually true; and yes, usually in a matter of a few weeks or months it is easier and healthy to swallow them. But, in the midst of the extreme pain of the moment, don't we just want a friend that will acknowledge it for what it is and hurt with us? I've experienced that in my past, and it's the most refreshing thing you can imagine.

So, being speechless is okay. I wish with all my heart that I could go and physically sit shiva with each of my friends mourning losses in their lives. However, I am mourning for them now, and begging the Lord to grant them an extra measure of grace, peace, and comfort during this season of their lives.

May God bless you whether the season you are in is one of extreme joy or extreme pain. Jehovah God is the God of both, and He will see you through.

"Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe."
Psalm 61:1-3

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Quirky and weird

"I'm weird."
"No, you're quirky. Quirky and weird are two very different things."
"I think there is a distinct possibility that I am profoundly and irreversibly screwed up."
-Quoted from the movie Runaway Bride

Have you ever felt this way? Profoundly and irreversibly screwed up? I hope someone else has, cause I sure feel that way these days. The last week or so I feel like I have come face to face with so many different areas of my life that are so not aligned with Christ. I mean, good grief, if it's not one thing, it's another. And, I find myself wondering: what do I tackle first? How do I start aligning every area of my life to Christ without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted? Which areas are the most important to focus on?

Maybe I need to step back a little. Maybe I need to slow down and watch life go by while soaking up each minute the Lord gives me. I wonder if I try this tactic, then becoming more like Christ won't feel like such an overwhelming task...but instead will just naturally happen by spending time noticing my Lord. I don't know, but that's what I'm going to try right now. Because right now, I am tired and overwhelmed. I want so badly to be more like Christ, but I am so far away from that goal.

Adonai--please be near. Change my heart and give me the patience to let the change happen in Your timing. Lord, I need patience in so many areas of my life. Oh, please give me patience.

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Philippians 4:6-7 from The Message

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Through the Blood of Christ


The above three words are my top three spiritual gifts (in numerical order) as I discovered after recently filling out a spiritual gifts survey. All of the women at our Sacred Sisterhood retreat this weekend took the same spiritual gifts survey. The gifts on this particular survey were as follows: exhorter, mercy-shower, helper, shepherd, prophet, giver, evangelist, teacher, and administrator. Every individual exhibits qualities of each gift, but a few of them always stand out. It was fascinating to learn about the other gifts and to listen to the awe found in women who never realized they had any gifts. One of the questions asked during the course of the weekend was, "Which of your top three gifts are you using the least?" When answering this question for myself, the answer was mercy-shower. Of my top three, I believe I show mercy less than I help or teach.

Now, having said all that, I'd like to put it to the side for a minute. I want to take a moment to share with you, my readers, something I wrote down as a reflection during the course of the weekend. I wrote the following:

"Letting go of mistakes I've made. I often find myself wondering if my mistakes in relationships (big or small) are too big to overcome. I find myself asking questions like: 'What if she can't forgive me? What if that (behavior/mistake) is what he thinks I am like all the time? What if she can't see past the mistakes I've made?' How do I place all the 'what-ifs' in God's hands? How do I let go of the mistakes I've made enough to let God handle the other person. Instead of trying to 'control' the situation by worrying about how the other person perceives me. Lord, take control."

After writing this reflection, I shared it with a sweet friend of mine. She listened and made a couple of comments, and our conversation turned in the direction of our spiritual gifts. We began discussing with each other which of our top three spiritual gifts we are using the least. I shared with my friend that I feel that I use mercy-shower more than I use helper and teacher. She asked why I thought this was the case. As I started answering I started realizing the great flaw in my thinking...more than a flaw actually-an outright sin. Here's what I discovered: I easily show mercy to those I am close to. I find myself extremely eager to shower mercy on individuals I am in close-authentic relationships with. On the flip side, individuals with which I either have superficial relationships or we are merely acquaintances...I find myself prone to perceiving them by their annoyances.

Ouch. As I voiced this to my friend, I realized how horrible it sounded. She acknowledged that, but then went a step further. She said, "Oh, Kristi, that's why you wrote your reflection earlier. You are scared that the people in your life will see you in the same way that you are prone to see others." I had to ask her to say it again just so I could let it all sink in a little. What a heavy burden I have placed on others! What a heavy burden I have placed on myself! What a waste of a sacred gift if I only bestow it upon my closest friends!

Praise the Lord that I am not in control of how others view me...and that it doesn't matter, anyway. And, I pray from the depths of my soul that the Lord will take my gift of mercy-showing and stretch and mature me to see all individuals through the blood of Christ. Because if I am wearing the lens of the blood of Christ, then everyone will be the same. Only then can I allow the Lord to use me to pour forth mercy on His children.

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness"
Psalm 115:1

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sacred Sisterhood

Leading worship is...

  • a blessing
  • exhausting
  • a blessing
  • hard work
  • a blessing
  • an adrenaline rush
  • a blessing
  • followed by an adrenaline crash
  • a blessing
  • and much, much more
This weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to lead worship at our annual women's retreat. All of the above bullets describe the experience for me. It was wonderfully hectic and beautiful. The theme for the weekend was Sacred Sisterhood. We tackled the "whoppers" and "milk duds" that tear community apart for women (and, yes, there was definitely chocolate!). We hashed out gossip, slander, bickering, complaining, and other kinds of negative talk women are prone to exhibit. It was a piercing, convicting weekend. The following are some of the questions I found myself asking in my heart of hearts. These are the questions I will need to spend some time prayerfully considering in the days ahead.

  • What are my words doing to others?
  • What does the spirit of my words do to me?
  • How do I be an emotional woman without letting my emotions negatively spill out on others?
  • I use words to process, detox, vent, and work through things. How do I balance being a woman who uses words to process, with being a woman who knows when to choose silence?
  • Why is it so hard for me to overlook an offense?
  • What needs to change in me in order to overlook an offense?
  • Do I see each person I come in contact with through the blood of Christ?
So, here I am back to life away from the retreat. It is now time to sit on all the questions and ponderings the Lord has placed in my heart. Pray that the Lord will grant me clarity of thought and conviction to follow through on His guidance. May the Lord bless you as you grow to be more like Him.

"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."
Proverbs 19:11

"...fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5 from The Message

Sunday, October 7, 2007


"The truth is, sabbath keeping is a discipline that will mess with you, because once you move beyond just thinking about it and actually begin to practice it, the goodness of it will capture you, body, soul and spirit. You will long to wake up to a day that stretches out in front of you with nothing in it but rest and delight. You will long for a simple way to turn your heart toward God in worship without much effort. You will long for a space in time when the pace is slow and family and friends linger with one another, savoring one another's presence because no one has anywhere else to go."
-Ruth Haley Barton from her book Sacred Rhythms

Since my college days I have thoroughly enjoyed Sunday afternoon naps. There is something divine about the need for a Sunday afternoon nap. I have found myself saying, "Of course I long for a nap on Sundays more than other days...it is the Sabbath." But, is the Sabbath just about a two-hour nap? For years I have found myself saying that if I get my nap in, then that's all the Sabbath rest I need for the day. However, after reading Ruth Haley Barton's chapter on Sabbath from her book Sacred Rhythms, I am finding myself inclined to think of Sabbath as so much more than just a Sunday afternoon nap. Currently, I am finding myself convicted to protect my Sunday. To make sure that the entire day stays one of rest. All my work around the house and "to-do" things either get done before Sunday or they will wait until Monday. Because Sunday is my day to rest and delight in the Lord. Here's what my day has looked like:

  • Worship, communion, and fellowship with other believers
  • Simple lunch
  • A two and a half hour nap--one of those kinds of naps where you doze for a little while, wake up, roll over, soak in the quiet, and doze some more. I also found myself waking up with the lyrics from a song we sang this morning pouring through my heart and head. I think the Lord was using my nap time to allow this song to penetrate my heart even deeper
  • Novel time--reading a novel is so refreshing and relaxing to me. I've discovered that simply watching TV all afternoon on the Sabbath leaves me feeling empty and unfulfilled. Reading is just the opposite.
  • Time to meditate and pray on several things such as: selfless love-do I love others in such a way that I demand nothing from them in return? Am I proclaiming Christ to others or just simply showing Christ by my actions? Am I scared to proclaim Christ? Is my heart open to where God is next leading me?
  • Leisurely walk with my dog
  • Time to blog and read others' blogs
  • More novel reading to come...
As I enter early evening of my Sabbath day, I feel as though my body, soul, mind and heart are breathing a collective sigh of relief and rest. Ahhh...it's the Sabbath day. God is good. His will is good. He is holding my life in His hands, and no matter what stretches in front of me tomorrow, this week, next month, or next year I am at rest in Him.

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
Ephesians 2:10

Monday, October 1, 2007

Girl's Best Friend

My little Rori is now 6 1/2 months old, and I realized I haven't shared pictures in a very long time. Rori is absolutely wonderful. She is so much fun! We play all the time, and she is finally starting to snuggle up a little more. It's amazing how intuitive she is. She was extremely attentive and cuddly last week while I was a little off emotionally. She really is a girl's best friend!!!! I'm so glad I made this investment. We have been going to Petsmart for a little obedience training because Rori is strong-willed! :) She's even been known to spit out her treat after following directions correctly. Little does she know it doesn't bother me if she doesn't eat it! :) Hope you enjoyed the above pictures!