Monday, May 30, 2011

Sitting Shiva

I woke up to this song this morning, so I thought I would share, as it was pertinent to something I pondered/learned yesterday.  I learned about sitting shiva.  As the story of Job unfolds, he has three friends to come to him, and at first, they all sit together in silence for a week.  I just finished reading John Ortberg's "God is Closer than You Think," and in it, he says, "The friends' love is so strong, their grief is so great, that they plan to sit next to him and take on his anguish.  Have you ever been so sick that when someone came to visit, they took one look at you and burst into tears?  There's no use pretending."  He asks the reader to imagine sitting with someone in silence for seven days.  Then he says, "This was such a powerful act that it became a part of Jewish life."  Siting sivas means sitting sevens.  He goes on to say that this is perhaps the greatest example in Scripture of the command to "mourn with those who mourn."  I want to be the kind of person who mourns with others this way.

Here's the song, "Pray you Through" by Sixteen Cities

What are you mourning?  Have you told someone your pain and let them mourn with you?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Catching Lightning Bugs

The Summer in Pics: May 26

This week we went to Wal-Mart, the McWane Center, stayed home all day one day, the Galleria, and then Grandmaw and Uncle Robby took Princess and Speed Racer to the zoo on Friday, and they also went to spend the night with Nana.

Family Update

I am really behind on family updates, so I thought I would catch up on them.

First of all, my baby DoodleBug has turned 1, and she is already 13 months at that.  So here are some party pics.  You know I love owls, so we had an owl birthday party.

Next comes Easter:

Princess's preschool graduation:

A Idealist's Struggle

I have kept a journal most of my life.  During my teenage years, I think they were full of anger and how much I hated life and my parents.  I no longer have them, so I can't say for sure. 

College years are fascinating to me - Devotion to God and what I was learning.

Then the years where I did a collage journal.  Where I was questioning.  Pictures more adequately displayed my thoughts than words sometimes did, though as you see in the example, I am still wordy in my collages.

Then the silent years, where I very rarely wrote something down.

And then the blog years, of which I am still doing of course.

I am struggling today.  If you look at my collage which is undated, but I know it is at least 10 years old, on the right, you will see a phrase, "The Disease to Please," which is the disease I still have.  Some days are better than others.  I've always had a tendency toward a melancholic disposition, so my inner thoughts occasionally do get the better of me.  I have to always be ready to take every thought captive.

Things that are bothering me today:

1.  I forgot my hair appointment yesterday.  The hair stylist called me, and I told her I thought I still had another month before my appt and then I looked at my calendar, and there was my appt time written down for yesterday.  The last time, I was late.  I actually got there, sat down, and waited, and she was unbeknownst to me getting ready to leave (I thought I was only a few minutes late).  So while I love my stylist, I look like an absolute idiot to her, and I hate this.

2.  I don't really know what the future holds for some extended family situations, and I am sad about that.

3.  My lovely little Princess is going to Kindergarten in the the fall, and I just feel this overwhelming pressure to have the perfect summer.  At the beginning of 4K, I was feeling good about how she was developing, but she is going through a hard phase again, and I am struggling with reaching her again.  I realize this is a cycle that will always be between us, and I hate it.  She and I are a lot alike, and yet we are very different at the same time - similar in how we process thoughts and feelings, different in that she leans more toward rebellion and I leaned more toward pleasing compliance.  Last year I had a newborn, and the family dynamic always changes.  She has had outside influences which have influenced her greatly, hearing music and watching movies I wasn't ready for her to be exposed to.  The sum total of that makes me feel like a failure.  Somehow I didn't dig deep enough and reach down and pull out of her things that matter, things that needed encouraging.  I know it's just a phase, but...

4.  Plain and simple, I am not in control.  And I see how we all in our own different ways battle for control. 

If God's really the master author of all of these things, why do I let them get me down so much?

So, I will turn it around:

4.  God's in control.  He's crafting a masterpiece in my life and in my family's life.  I need to continue to submit to His authority and continue to trust His goodness and influence in our lives.

3.  I lay my daughter at the feet of Jesus.  I will trust the Lord and lean not in my own understanding and keep walking the path He leads me to walk with her.

2.  I will hope and pray for God to be seen, shown, and known.

1.  As much I as I vow to "not be that person," I know that even vowing to myself will not work, so I'm not sure what to do other than ask God to help me be on time and on the right day for my hair appts.  Ai-yi-yi.

What's bothering you today?  How will you turn it around for God's glory?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Life Leftovers

So what does a compost pile have to do with a magnet for ovarian cancer?

We have a compost pile.  Several weeks ago (before the tornadoes) when I was trying to help God out with how He wants me to write and to speak, I decided to try to attempt to be greener.  I was inspired by the zero waste home and thought maybe that was a good starting point for me.  To clarify, I am no where near having a zero waste home and thought I would try to take steps to get there and maybe God would somehow use that as a basis for me to write and to speak (you can laugh - it IS an absurd idea that I would do this).  God quickly told me that was not to be my platform for writing or speaking, but He did not tell me that I could not recycle or be more environmentally conscious.  We already had a compost pile, so I became more conscientious about setting aside waste and scraps that could go to the compost pile.  It has been fun.  The whole family gets involved in it.  Our leftovers are taken and placed in the compost pile, and worms and bugs and other stuff take the decay and turn it into new soil.  Which in turn is used for planting and growing new plants.  What is old is made new.  What once was a living thing becomes life giving soil and nourishment to another living thing.  It is what Ann Voskamp would call the Ugly-Beautiful.  I was reminded of Genesis 3:19, "for dust you are and to dust you will return," as well as Isaiah 61:3, "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes."  Everything has a place and purpose for the kingdom of God.  Sometimes, the most useful is what we call our leftovers.  The things we throw out, He reuses, He repurposes, He makes new.  Our weaknesses, His strength.  So there was God hiding in the middle of compost and leftovers.

And then there was the magnet for ovarian cancer.  Ovarian cancer is a silent killer, which again took me to the Garden of Eden, where in the beginning we were told not to eat off the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for if we did, we would surely die.  We were not meant to experience death let alone know the cause of our death.  But now that our eyes have been opened to knowledge, we futilely work to prevent that which can never be prevented - our death and our demise.  I want a cure for cancer just as much as the next person, but whether or not a cure is ever found, there can only be one cure for death - Jesus Christ.  All other attempts at cures for death are futile at best.  We prolong the inevitable. 

Every thing in the physical world is a symbol of the spiritual world.  All of us will experience a physical death.  "For dust we are and to dust we will return."  I don't know what it will be like and I don't know anyone who can tell me.  But, just as in the physical realm, we will die in the spiritual realm - those who Christ knows will live in Him, those who He never knew will be eternally separated from Him.  And what I do know about the spiritual realm (which is very little indeed) is that it seems to be even better than the physical realm.   Just like the leftovers going into the compost, my body will be recycled and made new, and spiritually, I will awake to new life in a new place with Christ.  I will be given a new body and new sight.  And my old, former self, will be as a speck of dust.

"For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."  1 Cor 15:22

Christ gives abundant life.  It does not await us in eternity.  It begins now.  Even when we throw out our leftovers, He awaits to resurrect them anew - be it past sins, current sins, future sins, or everyday struggles, like gossip, or rebellion, or idolatry.  For example, if you throw out gossip, He just might start using your mouth to speak truth.  If you throw out rebellion, He might use you more powerfully than you ever believed a rebel could be used for His glory.  If you throw out insecurity, you might find security in Him.

Only God can take something so disgusting and ugly and turn it into something indescribably beautiful.

{Just so you know, He wants so much more than your leftovers - He wants every little piece of you, from the good and the beautiful to the bad and the ugly.}

What Life leftovers will you offer Him today?

How God Speaks to Me

When God speaks to me, He does not necessarily repeat something to me over and over, although, when something does repeat, I know it is really important.  I first learned the concept of repetition being important 5 or 6 years ago.  A woman who used to lead studies in our church named Jill Glassco is who I heard it from first.  And then a gentle reminder at our ladies retreat back in January about the Sacred Echo.  But God has used many means and methods to speak to me.  Please do not get me wrong about my next statement.  I am no new age thinker, but God can be found everywhere in everything.  I suppose the difference between my thoughts and one regarding new age is that I believe there is one way to God, but He uses all things to get you to the One.  I believe like Ann Voskamp that each moment is an opportunity for communion with the divine.

Example:  God gave me some thoughts about our compost pile.  I was going to write a post about that. Yesterday, I was driving around, and the car in front of me had a magnet that was a teal ribbon for ovarian cancer.  God gave me His thoughts on that, and that as I pondered them, I realized the two things were really one.  But I don't completely know the direction He is going with it until I write it and the Spirit guides me to His truth.

How do I know that those thoughts are not my own?  He brings a bible verse to mind or He shows me how whatever I am thinking about is about Him and His glory.  My own natural inclination is to think self degrading thoughts, and I feel that I am incapable on my own accord to think Higher thoughts.  He brings Himself to mind.  His Spirit moves my spirit, guides me, counsels me, helps to see and understand what the Father wants of me.

Are my words inspired like the words of Scripture are?  Yes and no.  My words are not Scripture.  The Bible was completed with the book of Revelation and admonishment is given by John that no one add or take away from his letter of Revelation, which I believe is admonishment for the entirety of the Bible itself.  However, I believe that I am still a letter and my words are thus as described in 2 Cor. 3:2, "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."  As people (Christians) who carry around the Divine Father, Son, and Spirit around in their temple bodies each and every day, we are the daily and continual revelation of God Himself.  But everything I say and do is not of God.  I still sin and mess up.  Believers should still check my words with the Word and with the Spirit who resides in them.  I am not God, but occasionally God uses me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

One God Same Message Different Person

I have this sense that I have lost my way in the blogging world, so just bare with me if I get to rambling or if this post really stinks.

I've recently realized something.  Something about transparency.  I love to read Rebekah Gilbert's blog:  A New Song to Sing.  She almost always writes what is on my heart before I have a chance to write it and most of the time I don't write my post, because she does such a great job, I just cannot imagine anything I write would get any better and I am not trying to copy or compete with her.  A few of the posts that she has written recently that really resounded with me are:  Good Girls and Not the Only Freak.  Go check them out.  I think you will be blessed.

Back to my point, I am working on a ministry project with my friend Nikol.  Right now I am in the research stages of the project.  And she and I have been reading different books about the topic we are researching.  I've looked at books at the library and the Christian book store.  I have found lots of books on the same topic.  However, each book is similar to the other one but is ultimately completely different because it is written by a different person with different life experiences.  So to me the point is this, I am to write whenever and whatever God lays on my heart even though somebody might be writing the same message in what I think is a better way.  Why?  Because I can reach a different audience and have a different way to share the same truth that would continue to touch and inspire in a new way, so I need to be faithful to continue to write and speak what the Spirit asks me too.

A couple of weeks ago my friend (I mention this with her permission) began to speak up in bible study class about something very dear to her heart.  One of the ladies in class interrupted her, and I joined in the interruption.  {funny because we are studying life interruptions.}  I had been struggling with feeling like my story and testimony were unimportant because my story seems like a story without much rebellion.  I had been thinking how could God use just an average person with no BIG sin or rebellion in her life - a person who continually feels insecure about herself and struggles with believing that God could see her as He does.  However God revealed to me that my "small" sins and insecurities were just as BIG as the other sins in the world - my scars and my pain just has real was the ones with the BIGGER sins - my need from Him just as GREAT.  As my friend and I discussed what happened we realized we had the same message to share only from a different perspective - transparency is vital, whether you've rebelled and need to share your struggles from the pain that it caused or because you haven't walked in blatant rebellion, but you've still sinned and messed up and you struggle with believing His truths to you.  Transparency is necessary and valuable no matter who is telling or receiving the message, each one of us have a responsibility to be real and genuine.  No Christian is squeaky clean, and no "squeaky clean" Christian is allowed to get away with not sharing either.  All have fallen short of the glory of God.  We all have pain.  We all have a need for one another and for Him.  We have to ensure that we make our time together as brothers and sisters safe and real.

My point: In Christ, we all have a message to share.  We have One God who carries the Same Message through the vessel of Different Persons.  Each time He has asks us to share, it is vital to do it whether or not we believe the story has already been written or not.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."  James 5:16

Friday, May 13, 2011

Not Me, Nothing to Say

I apologize that it has been silent here on my little blog world.  I have wanted to write a million things, and when I go to write, I have nothing to say, and perhaps, that is the point.  I, as in Jamie, me, myself, and I, have nothing to say.  After I felt nudged by the Lord to write and to speak, I felt this urgency to write and to speak.  I would go to tell my story in bible study.  Nothing would come out.  God would shut my mouth.  And it seems I would go to write on my little blog, and the words would not flow.  God stopped the flow of my thoughts to the computer screen.  I am only hoping that something will happen this time, and that it will not be me, but God using me.

Somewhere along the way, I gave somebody or somebodies the impression that I am a "right all the time know-it-all" type of person.  I guess I feel urged to teach what God has taught me, but other than what He has given me in my own life experiences and what Scripture says, I know nothing.  I am not wise.  I am not good.  I am not right (at least not all of the time) ;)  ha!!

Once upon a time, I grew up in a home where I was told that I was a good girl from the moment I was born.  As most good little girls do, I began to believe that I was good.  I disciplined my sister because I was good and she was not good.  When I made a B on my first report card, I was told that was not good enough, so I never made another B until I got to college.  I was taught to people please and hide my emotions.  Emotions were not good, and I was a good girl.  But emotions and people pleasing can only get you so far before you start to shut down or explode.  I grew up with no one teaching me how to be me but how to be everything others wanted me to be.  I had no identity other than perfectionism and codependency, but I would have not known those were my descriptors.  I left home, got close to God and He began to set me free from the traps I had been enslaved in.  I made some of my own choices that rocked the boat.  I did missions when I was supposed to work.  I thought about moving far away when others could not understand why others far away would need the Lord.  I stopped hearing God's voice.  I got tangled into sin.  I looked for salvation in my people gods and they failed me.  I tried again to be good, but being good was never good enough.  There was nothing left but God.  And He would not let me live in sin and washed me clean.  I went to bible college and studied Scripture anew and saw that the purpose of the Old Testament law was to show the Jews that the Law was not enough - that a Messiah was needed.  In my trying to be good enough, I needed to know that the rules pointed to my need for Jesus and Jesus alone!

All this time, I was still living trapped and unwhole and I did not know it.  I was a caged bird with a broken wing and did not know that I was caged or that my wing was broken.  Even during all that, God sent me a husband and gave me children, but He was still not finished with me.  He took me out of the cage, but my wing was still unhealed.  I still did not know how I had been wounded or how I needed to heal.  I unintentionally set a boundary and God used that to open my eyes.  Over time, he showed me my little people gods, my past attempts to be good, to be perfect, and he healed me and set me free.  Now he has given me a healed wing and the wind to fly.  I have been set free.  I am nothing more than a sinner saved inexplicably by grace, chosen before the foundation of the world.  I am not good, but He is.

I am sure that once upon a time I was an obnoxious goody good who was always right and I am sure I still have that tendency to exalt myself in that way.  Now that I have been set free, I see how I have also wounded.  As I flittered around with a wounded wing, I wounded others.  I was hurt but was not set free to see fully in how I also hurted others - friends, family, my husband, my children.  Perhaps the rest of my life will be an attempt to clean up the mess I made.  I am incapable of cleaning it up.  Only God can.  He can heal.  He can set free.  He is the Life Giving Hope Fulfiller.

Prisciller Shirer says in her Jonah study that "sometimes your greatest message is the mess of your life."  May it be true that when I am weak, He is strong.  May He redeem something from the ashes and make it beautiful, fragrant, happy, and strong in His name, in His glory.

Only because of a Life with Him,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cordova, Alabama

All of the Happy Harpers are alive and well.  Last week we had some devastating storms here in Alabama, and we were without power for several days.  There were two waves of storms that day.  We awoke early on Wednesday morning and ran to our basement, and then we were trapped in our neighborhood for a few hours.  The meteorologists said that another storm situation was coming later on in the day and would be even more dangerous.  I had heard that a tornado hit my hometown of Cordova, AL, that morning.  I did not imagine that another one would hit it again, but it did.  I have a smartphone, and since our power had been out since 5:30 am that morning, the only way I kept up with everything was via facebook.  Friends posted that the downtown of Cordova was wiped out, and I was scared wondering if my grandparents were okay.  Quickly word came back that someone from town had seen them.  They were okay.  But their home was not.  It was totally destroyed.  Four people did die in this town as a result of the tornado that hit.

Cordova, Alabama, is a very proud but poor town.  Coming from Birmingham, it is like visiting another world.  In a sense I think people like myself grow up, leave, and forget just exactly how great the general need there is.  Even though I would visit my grandparents and see the need and not totally forget, I never knew what I should DO if anything about what I would see.

It may sound odd but I think this town is not evidence of God's wrath but of God's mercy on the people there.  Instead of letting this town be forgotten, He remembered them.  As in the song "Blessings" by Laura Story, "And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"  I have visited twice - once to hand out food and cold drinks, and both times to take in donations to help.  I am gathering up more to donate more.  I was amazed at all that had been given already, but know that there is still more need.

Cordova, you are loved and not forgotten.


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