Thursday, December 19, 2013

A New Tradition
This past Thanksgiving, my family had an awakening of sorts.  The day started as it always does, with me up early in the kitchen working to prepare a special breakfast and ultimately dinner. Shortly after I begin cooking each holiday, my husband and kiddo smell something going on and they join me downstairs where the food is within reach.  We pray, we laugh, and we eat, and then I quickly return to my role as Thanksgiving Chef.  For the last seven years, with the exception of maybe one when we went out of town, I have carried out the traditions of my mother, and probably her mother, and prepared a feast.  It was a job I thought I loved...until I realized I didn't.  Over the last few years, I started noticing a pattern in my behavior each year.  As the morning progressed each Thanksgiving, this most recent one included, I began to get cranky and resentful of being the sole worker on a day that is relaxing for others.  Shortly following these feelings was guilt over not enjoying the sacrificial act of serving others.  "God, help me to love this and enjoy this day, and please forgive my sour attitude," has become a basic prayer over the last couple of years.  It didn't work.  No matter how much I prayed and tried to mold myself into a woman who loves to prepare a festive Thanksgiving feast for her loved ones, it just never happened.  Instead, I made everyone around me feel like they had to walk on pins and needles.  Worse, they were made to feel guilty for not doing more to help, and last year I even got flowers from my husband and son "in appreciation for all you do," as the card read.  I was moved and touched and then felt terrible for having made them feel like they had to reward me somehow for all my hard work.  This year I began to pray differently.  "God, show me why I act this way.  What causes me to behave so badly and how can I change it?"  What God revealed can be summed up in Isaiah 43:19 that says this: "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"  I didn't need to be molded into someone different; the need was a new tradition. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reckless Abandon

I've heard it said that our greatest stories come out of our darkest hours and from my own life, I know this to be true. Birthed from my hardest times have been my greatest victories, and the internal pit of hell I found myself drowning in back in 2007 marked the re-commencement of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Though I didn't understand what giving my life to Him meant 16 years ago when I initially invited Him into my heart, I grasp it clearly today, and it's rarely an easy walk.  God has gotten involved in my life's most personal and intimate details and shaken things up in such a way that has sometimes hurt, but always, always been worth it.  More recently He has been leading me down a path of both inward and outward exploration as I endeavor to navigate through the daunting task that is my dissertation. In heuristically examining the phenomenon of abandoned faith among former clergy (more posts on this later), I have purposed to immerse myself in the life narratives of those who have gone from serving God in the church to a life of atheism, and the journey already has been challenging.  While one day I'll experience great success in finding answers, other days like today found the enemy a temporary victor over my mind and heart.  As I tearfully talked through some of my struggles with my husband this afternoon, he gently reminded me that God isn't the only One walking alongside me on this path.  Our adversary, the devil, walks nearby as well, and as 1 Peter 5:8 says: "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." As I reflected over this, it occurred to me that I had momentarily let down my guard over the last couple of weeks, and unfortunately, the enemy is always watching and waiting for an opening and the door need only be ajar.  In he came and tore at my spirit, but God is faithful and reminded me that the enemy is desperate and fights us harder as our light shines brighter. To this end, I must give God my all in reckless abandon.