Monday, June 30, 2008

Day Twenty Nine: Craziness

I am astounded, and more than a bit humbled by our little chunk of reading from Acts today. Paul and Barnabas, two new-ish followers of Jesus, are traveling around telling people of all they've seen and heard, essentially saying, "If you want your life to be different, this guy Jesus is the real deal..." Their message had power (miracles make for GREAT public speaking devices) and people believed them. Then five minutes later, those same people heard someone say something different and decided they believed THEM instead, and tried to murder Paul and Barnabas.

(Can you imagine how perilous it would be for self-help/spirituality authors today if every time one of their devoted fans moved on to the next big idea, they tried to kill them??? The Oprah show would be a bloodbath...)

Anyway...this happens again in the next city they visit: one minute, the crowd is so certain that Paul and Barnabas are gods, they're preparing to sacrifice animals in their honor. Then a few moments later, they hear some other persuasive speaker, and pull out the rocks to stone our intrepid traveling pair.

What's up with that? Why are we so prone to believe one thing, and then five minutes later be utterly convinced that something else is "the truth"? And more importantly, how can we get off this crazy ride and land somewhere steady and solid?

I didn't really have an answer for that question when I typed it a few minutes ago, but then I heard Ayiesha Woods' song, The Remedy and thought, "Well, there it is..." Download it, listen to the lyrics, and let me know what you think. The reminder (and reassurance) is well worth the 99 cents. Who knows? It might be the first time you've ever paid to get off a ride :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day Twenty Seven: Friends

Hi All,
I'm in Connecticut right now, hanging out with Kristen and engaging in some quality girl time. She and I have been friends since college. We've seen each other through weddings, divorces, dog dilemmas, fashion crises, and everything in between. And we've each, at times, been so mad at the other that we were ready to throw the whole thing out.

Wow, are we glad we didn't. The only reason that's possible, and the only reason we're still sane after all of our collective drama, is that God helps us forgive--each other, the people who've hurt us, the guy who cut us off in traffic last night on the way home from dinner--everybody. Because the truth is, if we're close to people, we're going to annoy them from time to time. We'll forget to call, or we'll remember to call and end up lecturing the other on what she ABSOLUTELY HAS TO DO (that last one is me...trying to fix that!), or we'll screw up in some other way for the ninety seventh time.

Sometimes you forgive and move on, and that's totally the appropriate choice. But sometimes you forgive and hold on, realizing you've got something worth sticking around for. With Kristen, I'm super-glad we opted for the second option.

No take home point for today's post, I guess...just what's on my mind :)

See you Monday!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day Twenty Six: Get up, keep moving

Sometimes, we fall off the wagon. It might be on a diet or exercise plan, it might be some new habit we're trying to cultivate or break, it might be something we're fasting from in hopes that God will move mountains in our lives. It happens. Here's the thing though: it's rarely as big a deal as we make it out to be--it doesn't have to short-circuit our hopes or dreams or prayers.

I've messed up on almost every fast I've tried. When I fasted from dating for six months, I met a guy in the middle of month four. (I didn't fall off the wagon so much as fling myself from it. You can imagine how spectacularly that went...) But afterwards, when I picked my face up out of the mud and ascertained that no bones had been broken in the crash, a wise friend pointed out that the best thing to do was to ask God to forgive me (because this was a choice I made, not an inadvertent slip up), and finish out my fast. No need to start over, or double my time as some sort of self-inflicted penance; that's not what this is about. Just get back ON the wagon, he said, and you'll be fine.

I flashed back to this at the beginning of our 40 Days. I think it was day three or five--not to long into things--when I was sitting on an airplane from somewhere to someplace else, realizing, "Oh $#%&! I had sugar in my coffee this morning!!!"

As some of you might recall, I'm fasting from sugar in my coffee, and yet just a few days after we started, there I was, ripping open those Dominoes packets in my hotel room like God and I had never had that chat. For about a nanosecond, I felt horrible. But then I realized that my guilt didn't add anything to my prayers. I'd been sitting too close to the edge of the wagon, not paying attention, and I fell off. No big deal. So I said, "God, please forgive me...and help me remember my fast!" and that was that. Sometimes, things can be simple.

On an entirely different note, today's chapter of Acts shows things getting decidedly complicated for the Disciples, who encounter some serious resistance to their message. Believers in other spiritual paths, religious folks who were all about rules rather than transformative spiritual seems that suggesting Jesus as the reason for the season wasn't always a big hit back then, either. Still, as Dr. Phil points out, you can't argue with results...

Today's song: Brooke Fraser's Faithful. I saw her in concert last night, and this song just amazed me. It's lyrics talk about that frustrating feeling when God seems far away, unreachable... If you're feeling this way, I'll be giving a talk on Sunday about different ways we might realize God is guiding us...I'll post it as soon as it's online. Until then, let's reach anyway...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day Twenty Five: Are we there yet?

The awesome answer to Kim's prayers (see yesterdays comments for the scoop) did MUCH to bolster my spirits yesterday--how about you? It's so easy to look at the heading on these posts and think, "How is it possible that it's only day twenty five when we've been doing this FOREVER???" And then God answers, and somehow we're given the strength to hope and pray for one more day. Yay God :)

I took a much needed hour off last night. It was around dinner time, and I went out on the deck with a giant glass of cold water and my iPod, to slouch in a chair and listen to Natalie Imbruglia's White Lilies Island. And that's all I did for a whole hour. No multitasking, no jotting down quick notes about things to do when I went back inside, no wondering when things would change or besieging God to make things different. Now I know the whole "we're spiritual BEINGS, not spiritual DOINGS" bit has gotten a lot of press in recent years, but to be honest, I don't really ascribe to it as a long-term life solution. For the most part, God has stuff for us to do with our lives, and that's a good thing. But every once in awhile, it's nice to dial down and recharge for a bit.

What recharges you? Specifically, that is--most of us generally like the beach, music, sunsets, etc. Is there a specific place outside you visit to wind down? A certain artist you listen to?

Our reading today is the opposite of dialed down: there's a prison break, a murder, two different angelic visitations. I'm going to try and grab a few minutes today to head back outside and think about what this passage reminds me: that God has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve to change circumstances in our lives. He's not limited by our imaginations, so the more freedom we give him to work, the more miracles we'll see. That seems to be the deal. (And, as Peter discovered, when God does cool things, it may take a bit of patience to explain it to everyone else...)

Have an amazing day, all! And if you're looking for a good song, check out Sunlight :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day Twenty Four: Not what we expected

Sometimes things don't go quite the way we plan--have you noticed?

My brother takes this idea so seriously that he and my sister-in-law have made a special effort to teach their kids to roll with change. After all, life goes a lot more smoothly when you're not stopped in your tracks every time you don't get the job, the girl, etc. Wise parents, huh?

Not much of anything in my life has gone the way I thought it would. For a long time I was the poster child for that song, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again..." After a few wipe-outs, you either get really scared of what's gonna happen next, or you develop some skills in assessing new circumstances and moving forward with what you've got. I've done this both with God's help and without, and I highly recommend the former. It wasn't until I took a few minutes, down there in my pile of dust, to ask Jesus his thoughts on my circumstances--what to take forward, what to leave behind--that I gained any sort of momentum toward where I wanted to be in life. And a LOT of what he suggested surprised me. It's as if I thought my problem was apples, and he said, "No, your apples are fine...but your oranges, on the other hand..."

In Acts 10, pretty much everybody's expectations get blown out of the water. Cornelius is visited by an angel, Peter is told by God to eat food formerly forbidden to Jews, the Holy Spirit falls on Gentiles for the first time and it's clear God intends the good news of Jesus for everybody. This is, I think, a great representation of what life with God looks like: it's usually not at all what we expect or plan. It's BETTER somehow, when we look back on what has happened. We can't always see it when we're in it, but hindsight reveals a track record of God bringing things together for our good that's second-to-none. In the meantime, though, we just have to trust his promises and follow his lead. And if he says our oranges could uses some attention, it's probably worthwhile to listen, and do as he suggests.

Today's song: Change by Tracy Chapman. Her lyrics made my eyes go wide when I first heard them, they're so direct and to the point:

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses, how much regret?
What chain reaction will cause an effect?
Makes you turn around, makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change...makes you change?

I think they opened my heart a bit, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day Twenty Three: Name Change

I had ugly nightmares last night. The violent, grisly kind that left me unwilling to go back to sleep but so exhausted I couldn't really fight it. Not fun.

So this morning, I'm rather foggy, reading about this violent murderer Saul and how Jesus stopped him on the road to his latest slaughter, knocked him down and said, "What the #$%$! are you doing?" (Okay, maybe he didn't put it quite like that, but you get the picture.) Now, Jesus didn't just knock Saul down. He picked him up again and gave him an entirely new identity: from that point on, he'd be Paul, and his job was to tell others what he'd seen--that Jesus was real and had the power to transform our lives. He went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament. Kind of a big deal.

In the six years I've been into Jesus, I've wrestled with Paul's take on life more than anything else in the Bible. From the moment I first encountered him, I thought, "Man, this Paul guy has issues..." Suffice to say, Paul and I don't always share the same perspective. But my friend Dave says that when you hit these rough patches, it's helpful to assume that everything that is in the Bible is supposed to be there--God knows about it. So then our job is to ask God, "What's the deal with this?" and he'll help us reconcile what we read with how we see the world. And he really does this--it's rather amazing.

So I thought that today, as we see Saul become Paul and an entirely new chapter in the Jesus Chronicles begins, this might be a handy tool for us to have: when we read something in the Bible that bothers us, let's take it to God. We can ask him to explain himself, and what this might mean for us. If we leave a little bit of space for him to answer us, he will. And I guarantee it will be different--more encouraging, filled with hope and possibility--than we might expect.

Any suggestions for today's song? Leave them in the comments :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day Twenty Two: Signs and Wonders

We're reading Acts 9 today. I dig this chapter, I guess because it's action-packed, and because when I first read it, it helped make sense of what was going on for me. I felt a bit like Simon the Sorcerer, then--I'd keep people amused and amazed by my own little collection of magic powers: knowing things about them through astrology; explaining how if they'd just move the couch to the other side of their living room, everything in life would go better; repeating words of authors I'd seen on Oprah that seemed wise and profound... And yet underneath my sparkling fun facade, my life was pretty disappointing. Whatever "it" was I'd been searching for, it was pretty clear to me I hadn't found it.

But when I read what Jesus claimed in the Bible, and then saw it playing out among real, live people who were trying to follow his lead, the difference between that and what I was hawking was like night and day. It's not that what Jesus says is altogether different than the other spiritual systems I was working (although I'm fairly certain Jesus never rearranged anyone's tent furniture to fix their love life...) It's that he offers real power through the Holy Spirit to get us from where we are to where we want to be. Other systems might tell us how important it is to overcome our fear, or our ego, or our my experience, only Jesus has the power to pull that off; without him, it's just a bunch of wasted effort.

When you're in the middle of a long trip (as we are, here in this 40 Days of Faith), it's easy to wonder where you are, and if you're even headed in the right direction. I've been on many a highway in my various travels, longing for a sign to tell me I was actually headed north on Route 301. I guess this post--and this passage in Acts--is like a highway sign. If you're trying to follow Jesus' lead in this, you're on the right road.

For obvious reasons, THIS is our song for the day :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day Twenty: Ask, Seek, Knock

"When you see the southern cross for the first time
You'll understand now why you came this way.
Cause the truth you might be running from is so small--
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day."
--"Southern Cross," Crosby, Stills & Nash

When we get where we're going, we'll know why we came this way. Interesting thought, huh?

I first heard Crosby, Stills & Nash in concert right before heading off on one of the bigger adventures in my life. I wasn't sure what was about to change, exactly, but I knew nothing would ever be the same. And these three guys, with their beautiful lyrics of hope and longing and loss, with the ambiguous spiritual undercurrent running through it all, connected me to God in a way that had never happened before. I remember that feeling: knowing that rough waters were ahead, perhaps, but that things would turn out okay.

Of course, I forgot all about this feeling the minute the rough waters hit...

Last night, I remembered it again. I'm taking part in a two-day workshop about how God can transform us if we let him. One of the main speakers was telling a story about searching for a house when he first moved to Boston. He'd almost settled for a grim little condo because so many people had told him it would be impossible to get anything at all in his price range. But when that deal feel through, a friend asked him, "Did you ever ask God for the house you want? You know--specifically?" He sheepishly admitted that he hadn't. But by that point it seemed crazy to ask God for something so much nicer than the grim condo he'd just lost out on. Nevertheless, he asked. "I'd like a place for a grill, God...and some yard for a garden." He also wanted to be near his son & daughter-in-law.

You know where this is going: today, he has a great little house a block from his family. He grills. His wife gardens in the yard.

This story totally busted me. I haven't been asking; not specifically, anyway. I've been praying in broad strokes, asking for vague "good things." Ugh. Sigh.

God invites us to MORE. He loves when we ask. So last night, I recalibrated. I asked. And I'm doing so again today. It takes some time, because there are a few different miracles I'm praying for. But if I'm on this ship headed for God's best for me, and I don't have to steer, that means I've got plenty of time to dream and pray about where we'll land.

Today, let's just do one chapter of Acts, as it's pretty intense. Acts 7. Stephen suggests that we tend to ignore (or kill) the people God sends to tell us where our ship is headed. Let's not do that anymore....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day Nineteen: To get over the bar, we can't sneak under it...

"I ain't settling for just getting by
I've had enough so-so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting to low, so raise the bar high
Cause enough ain't enough this time."

I want to start today by saying how proud I am of you guys! This is hard, what we're doing, and I love the fact that you're not only hanging in and pushing through, but you're also cheering each other on in the comments section, offering encouragement and saying, "Don't settle! We can do this!"

Amen to that.

THIS is, I think, why God wants us to pursue him together, why following Jesus is a team sport. We're not alone in seeking him for big things that feel impossibly far away; we're not the only ones out on this precarious ledge of hope, wondering if we'll fall or fly. Somehow, it helps to know this.

Today's reading is a doozey. Acts 5 kicks off with two people lying to God because they want to look good to the people around them, and the consequences are pretty high. It's tempting to look at this story as a threat that we have to give up everything that matters to us to be okay with God, but I think that's a red herring. What I actually think this suggests is much simpler: don't lie. Don't say you're "fine" when you're struggling; don't say you're sponsoring 14 kids at an orphanage in Brazil if you're not; don't say you own your house if you rent. Jesus' friend John warned that we'd be tempted to boast of what we have and what we do, but that this urge is not from God; it leads us off the path of his best for us.

But after this warning, it's back to the miracles: the apostles are put in jail, but set free by an angel. That's a pretty cool reminder that God has ways of getting us out of bad situations that go beyond what we can dream up. It's around this time, seeing all of these things happen, that a guy named Gamaliel makes a wise observation: "If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God."

Have you noticed how things of human origin fail? I'm thinking of diet fads, self-help suggestions, even the some of the things I read in the latest issue of my favorite women's magazine that make me cringe and think, "Actually, that's terrible advice..."

I feel like a point I keep coming back to in my life is how important it is for us to look at the lives of the people we're following. Not just their bank accounts, or that they have the power to attract media attention (although both of those are fun things to have). God keeps telling me: Look at the structure. Look at the life they come home to at the end of the day: their relationships, their sense of themselves. Are they miserable, always casting about in the hope things might be different, or they do they have that peace and grace that shines through when someone is connected with God's Holy Spirit?

This is, I suspect, part of not settling. We don't have to run down every path that presents itself. We can stop and ask God for direction and discernment, saying specifically, "Don't let me settle, God...I want your best..."

Here's to not settling. I'm pretty sure this is where the exceeded expectations hang out :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day Eighteen: Dig Deep

We're almost at the halfway point of our 40 Days of Faith, which is typically when I start to wonder why I ever bothered. It's so easy to lose sight of the big picture here in the middle.

I've been chatting with God about this over the past couple of days, asking for ideas for how to cheer us all on and keep us moving in the right direction. But God's answers when I've broached the subject haven't been of the "let's throw a party to keep morale high" variety. Instead, he pointed me to the book of Acts and essentially said, "Get going."

My guess is, this is why: Sure, I could throw in a pep-talk day with a random, happy bible verse like Jeremiah 29:11. I could even give something away, like a book or an ipod shuffle with our song list on it. And at some point, I probably will. But I feel like God's point right now is that with this much of our journey left to go, we don't need a party to cheer us on. Instead, we need solid evidence that what we're pursuing is real, and worth the effort.

There's no better place to find this proof than Acts. We're only in chapter 3 & 4, and already we're seeing a crippled man healed. Which was such a GIGANTIC, OBVIOUS miracle that it freaked out an entire city and landed Peter and John in court. What strikes me about this part of the story is how different Peter and John's reaction to this hurting man is that what our society typically suggests: They didn't empathize with him. They didn't spend hours validating his feelings or dredging up his wounded inner child. They didn't give him money. Instead, they said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you: in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk." And he did.

I feel like this runs directly counter to the way we're typically told to help each other in today's world. The Acts approach is not about empathy, validation, or dredging up our past hurts and ripping them open again for more examination. Jesus promises us NEW LIFE if we're following him, and that transcends all our pop-psychology attempts to deal with things on our own. This path we're on is about more than than our own best ideas and efforts: It's about real spiritual power coming to change things in our lives so that we can be everything God created us to be.

I don't know about you, but when I'm in need, I'll take God's power over well-intentioned human expression of, "Oh, that must be so hard for you..." any day of the week. But sometimes I have to dig deep to get to the place that knows this, because the empathy lulls me into a false sense of comfort.

So today, no false comfort. Dig deep folks, we've got a ways to go. But we're going somewhere, and God is in this with us. That's good news!

Today's song: Love is Waiting by Brooke Fraser.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day Seventeen: All Things Are Possible

I'm not sure how many of you caught the NBA finals last night, but the Boston Celtics beat the pants off of the LA Lakers. Now obviously, as a lifelong New Englander and a sports fan, this was a fun game for me to watch. (Especially because I'd broken protocol and prayed for the Celtics on Sunday when I spoke at church about the power of prayer...)

I'm not bragging about basketball here on our 40 Days blog simply because I'm an excited fan. I'm bragging about basketball because what happened with the Celtics this season feels like a bit of a miracle. Them winning the championship represents an absolute, 180 degree turn around from where they were were at this time last year. Day and night, complete change. Beyond what anyone could have asked or imagined.

The Celtics have stunk for most of my adult life. Last year was especially bad; they won only twenty four games ALL SEASON, and I think one of those was a charity event against retired circus clowns or something. It was pitiful. Fans called for Coach Doc Rivers to be fired, captain Paul Pierce to be traded to some pickup league in the Arctic Circle, and Larry Bird to be brought out of retirement to see if maybe he, on his own, could amass a better record. You know, maybe win twenty five games.

Then everything changed. New players came on board, rolled up their sleeves and worked harder than anyone expected, checking their egos at the door for the good of the team in ways NO ONE thought possible. Attitudes were different, expectations were different, and (most excitingly) RESULTS were different. EVERYTHING CHANGED.

This is today's take home point: however things look today, it's not (necessarily) indicative of how they'll look at this time next year! That's an exciting possibility, right? What God invites us into is shaping that change, rather than coasting along hoping for the best. We can work with him to push back against inertia and hopelessness with real spiritual power. Now granted, we have to roll up our sleeves and work harder than we expect, and check our egos at the door, because now, we're part of a team. But the results!?! The Bible seems to suggest that it's completely reasonable to expect a complete turn around in our circumstances. How cool is that?

In keeping with this, we're diving into some deeper waters, reading-wise. We're turning to the book of Acts, which is the action-packed account of what happened after Jesus left earth for heaven. (If you need proof that Jesus can make good on his promises, Acts is your book.) It was written by a doctor named Luke, who also wrote the account of Jesus' life that bears his name...the book of Luke is a "prequel" to Acts--interesting reading if you want to check it out.

Right before Jesus left, he promised his followers that they would be "clothed with power from on high." That's what happens in the early pages of Acts: God's Holy Spirit comes and fills the people who have said, "I'm with Jesus." This changes everything in some astonishing, miraculous ways.

My friend Dave says that this one of the most important moments in human history--that throughout all time, people have longed for a connection with the divine, and at this moment God came down and filled us with his Spirit, such that we can speak with him and hear from him all the time. This strikes me as pretty great news.

Today, let's read the first two chapters of Acts. It tells us about the Holy Spirit showing up for the first time, and how it resulted in a pretty big turn-around in Peter, who had been a complete buffoon up until this point. Suddenly, he emerges as a powerful, encouraging leader...I'm pretty sure no one saw that one coming.

If you're on the fence about whether or not to jump into the "I'm with Jesus" line, today might be a good day to give it a go. And let's all pray, "God, fill me with your Holy Spirit, open up the doors of connection."

If you'd like more on this "talking to God" idea, here is a link to the talk I gave on Sunday called "How Can My Prayers Have Power?" (It jumps in mid-way through my first few sentences, but it's right at the beginning). And don't worry, I only spent a little time praying for the Celtics :)

Today's song: Turn it Around by Israel Houghton & New Breed. The first few lines are great prayers for today, saying to God (and reminding ourselves): All things are possible for you...nothing's too difficult for you...

It's the truth :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day Sixteen: Repeat as Necessary

We're going to soldier through and finish Psalm 119 today. It's been a long time coming, huh? This is the longest prayer in the Bible, and to be honest, I was a little afraid we'd get bogged down in it and never find our way out. But the risk seems worth it, because this Psalm is a pretty handy thing to have at our disposal when we're asking God to do big things in our lives.
(Which, if we land in the exciting, dynamic lives some of us dream of, might be everyday...)

If you've read my book, you'll know that I first happened upon Psalm 119 as a escape hatch when I found myself facing a certain type of temptation (the nature of which I won't mention here because who needs that kind of web traffic?) Let's just say that sometimes, taking your mind off of things for a half hour or so is a helpful option :)

But now, as I read these last few sections, I'm struck by something slightly different: how the writer of this prayer reminds himself--and God--of the same few things, over and over and over again. At it's core, Psalm 119 goes something like this:

1. Okay God, I've investigated all the other options. I get it: your way is the best way if I want things to go well for me.

2. But I'm likely to lose sight of this, because--let's be honest-- the other ways of approaching life seem a lot cooler and more attractive than yours. But I've seen where those ways lead--which is pretty much nowhere.

3. Your way, in contrast, produces great results. I'll try to focus on that, because that's what I want my life to look like.

4. And now that we've established this, God...could you PLEASE answer my prayers?

I love the honesty in this. It reminds me that I have every right to come to God morning, noon, and night asking for the deepest desires of my heart. Why? Because I've decided to live according to his system...and this is how his system operates. He set it up this way. We don't bug God with our prayers; rather, we invite him into places that have up to this point been labeled, "No Divine Help Needed/I'm Fine Here, Really..."

Look at all the things the writer asks for in the final section of Psalm 119:
Hear my prayer
Give me understanding
Deliver me
Teach me
Help me
Save me
Let me live that I might praise you....

And by "live" here, I think he means the abundant life Jesus promises, not just mere survival. As Nichole Nordeman, my favorite singer-songwriter asks so poignantly:

Why would a young man live in a waste land
When the castle of his dreams is standing by?
And why would a princess put on an old dress
To dance with her beloved and the chance to catch his eye?

Why, indeed?

Her song, Live, is today's addition to the playlist. Let's ask God to make it possible (and repeat as necessary).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day Fifteen: Who Are You?

"If you're always guarding your image, you can't ever get to the essence of what God is calling you to." -- Mark Steiger

Wise words, huh? I feel like this has been a central issue for me in terms of "growing up"--giving up the illusion that I can/should/must control my image. Like anything I've ever tried to control with my own will, these attempts at perception management haven't gone so well for me. Instead, they created this bizarre three-way split between who I was in public, who I was in private, and who I longed to be. Intriguing, at some level, perhaps; but not anyone you'd want to spend more than a few minutes with unless you were doing research for a psych class.

I was pretty much at the end of my image when I finally decided to give Jesus a try. I was living in a run-down shambles of an apartment, temping at a job where I'm make one or two photocopies a week and then surf the internet for the other thirty-nine and a half hours. There was nowhere to go but up. And yet at some level, as my life improved in tangible, amazing ways, I always thought that at some point, I'd get it (my image) back.

Touring with my book over the past two months disabused me of this idea once and (I hope) for all. It was astonishing, really--at any event I went into with some pre-conceived idea of how I wanted to come across, I fell flat on my face (and got run over by a bus or two while I was down there). But when I checked my image at the door, amazing things happened: great conversations, answered prayers, interactions with fun people that instantly felt like friends. And (not coincidentally) lots of book sales. So much more fun and fruitful. Good stuff.

So last night, when I was with a group of people discussing a book called "HEROIC LEADERSHIP" (and what tempts me to start polishing up my image more than the idea of being a hero???) my friend Mark made the wise comment above. I scrambled to write it down. I should have it emblazoned on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and post-it notes; little reminders that guarding my image not only takes TONS of effort that could be better spent elsewhere, but it's destined to fail.

How about you? Do you have an image you cultivate?

Today's passage: Psalm 119:113-136

Today's song: My Life by Mary J. Blige

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Day Thirteen: Pray it like it is

My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, "When will you comfort me?...How long must your servant wait?"
--Psalm 119:81-82, 84

These are the opening lines of today's section of Psalm 119. I love them, and at the same time they make me want to throw stuff across the room in frustration. Here's why:

I love them because they give me proof that we can pray honestly. The person who wrote these words wasn't stifling his disappointment or making peace with his plight. He was saying, "Look God--I'm doing what you asked me to. I spend all day, every day, looking for you to come through on your promise....until my eyes FAIL. When are you going to come through???" If I'm going to worship and interact with a God, I want him/her/it to be a God I can be real with. I guess it's like any other relationship--it quickly loses steam if I have to be someone I'm not. To me, it's good news that God can handle my prayers, even when they're of the, "HELLO!!! Have you lost my file???" variety.

The throwing stuff across the room part comes from the fact that I have these times at all. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't? If each time we found a new promise in the Bible--abundant provision, for example, or purpose and direction in our lives--we could just press the right buttons on the God computer and order them shipped to our front door?

I was just going to write that the Bible is not a catalog, but then I stopped. Because in a way, it is. It gives us pictures of things we can have if we're willing to pay the price. The thing is, though, the price is our prayers, our faith, our willing to wait for God's timing, rather than insisting on our own. It's expensive, this God life. But the stuff we get after all the praying and hoping and waiting is top-quality, custom built, and made to last.

A few lines later, the writer of Psalm 119 comes to the same conclusion I always do, still wanting God's best rather than something less: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," he writes. "Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth and teach me your heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end."

Let's pray that today, honestly, from wherever we are. God can take it!

Here's a fun song that helps me bounce back from the funk of "have you lost my file?" prayers: My God is Good by Fred Hammond. It's a fine reminder :)

Have a great sabbath tomorrow (living like we know our prayers are answered, and the results are on their way) and I'll see you Monday!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day Twelve: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work :)

Sorry for the delayed post. I was in Princeton, New Jersey last night, speaking to a super-fun group of women. We talked some about life and love and spirituality—all my favorite subjects. But the focus was actually on bigger questions, along the lines of, “Does God want us to dream big dreams?”

Here’s what we came up with, in a nutshell: Yes.

What strikes me about last night was how much the women in that gathering supported each other. You could almost feel the energy and excitement in the room when I asked, “Have you ever noticed that sometimes it’s easier to have faith for other people then for ourselves?” These ladies didn’t just nod, they shot each other knowing glances, the ones you give your friends that say, “Don’t you DARE give up hope!” And some of them had never met before that night.

Powerful stuff, this. As I rode back on the train this morning, I was wondering how we could leverage this on our Forty Days Blog. Here’s what I came up with:

Someone, somewhere, said that 90% of life is showing up. Let’s start by showing up. If you come by the blog, if you have something you’re asking God to do in your life, leave a comment. Say, “I’m here.” This isn’t an attendance sort of thing. Rather, it’s a way to give us all a sense of how NOT alone we are—how we’re all hoping and praying that God will come through. That’s POWERFUL. We don’t know how our presence might change things for someone else. But we know for sure that it won’t change anything at all if we don’t show up.

So for the record, I'm here :)

Today’s wise words from my favorite how-to book: Psalm 119.

Today’s song: You Found Me by Kelly Clarkson.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day Eleven: Enough to Go Around

Have you ever looked at someone who has what you want most in life and thought, "Really, God? Her, but not me?"

I'm sure you never have. It's just me who goes to that place of despair and ugly hopelessness, certain that if someone else has the success, the relationship, or the children I long for, then there's none left for me.

The good news is, when I get in this headspace, I'm wrong. Not "wrong" as in, "My, Trish, that's not a very nice way to look at things..." or "Wow dude, that's, like, unspiritual..." But "wrong" as in, "That's simply not the truth of the situation."

Here's the truth of the situation: Anytime I see someone else walking around with something I'm praying for, it's fabulous, encouraging news. It means that God is still into making cool things like that happen for people; evidence that my prayers could be answered in the tangible way I hope.

I was reminded of this over the weekend. I was at a writers conference, and met a rising-star author who (and this is where you can feel free to say, "Wow dude, that's like, unspiritual...") I fully expected to dislike. I'm not sure why... I guess it's because her writing is so good. Disliking her was the last defense I had against the ugly truth that her success made me feel bad about myself. But she won me over: she was lovely and gracious, funny and humble.

This morning when I got up, I felt God say to me, "Pray for her..." Not as penance to atone for my own lack of graciousness, but as a reminder that her success is proof that God makes things happen; he answers all sorts of prayers, in all sorts of ways. So for today (and probably a good part of tomorrow), I'll be thanking God for making that author's book such a break-out hit, praising him for doing such excellent work, and asking for even more blessing for her.

Try it with me, if you want. It's a little hard to get going, but so far, it's made for a pretty sunny morning.

Here are today's verses from Psalm 119.

And today's song: Breathe by Michelle Branch. I just like it :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day Ten: The Right Step in the Wrong Direction

I took our assignment literally yesterday, spending a good part of the afternoon driving through the hills of about fifteen different towns west of the city, listening to Patty Griffin's "Rain" (an impossibly beautiful song about broken hearts and dashed hopes) and wondering how far I could get before I'd need to pull out the map to find my way home. I used to love doing this. Driving through the mountains of Connecticut while listening to one singer-songwriter or another was one of the ways I occupied myself right after I escaped from my first husband (even when you're in hiding, you still need something to do all day). But now that a tank of gas costs almost as much as a monthly car payment, driving for the sake of driving seems outrageous. I have to say, though, yesterday's excursion calmed me in ways no massage or spa treatment ever could.

It also got me thinking about momentum, and direction--this idea we touched on yesterday that we're going somewhere. To do this, we have to get up off of the couch sometimes; we have to become initiators... and yet somehow balance this with letting God call the shots.

Have you noticed that God (unlike AAA) doesn't map out the whole trip for us beforehand? There's no yellow-highlighted direct route, or alternative scenic back roads marked out in orange. Usually there are just two marks: a giant circle with an arrow marked "Here's where you're headed," and then a tiny dot next to where we're standing, about an eighth of an inch from where we are. "This is your first step," is the implication, but it seems too crazy to be possible. Why? Because if we follow that dot, it will usually move us AWAY from where we want to get to. No rational person would choose this path.

A big part of my spiritual journey has been figuring out when to step away from what a rational person might do, to create some space to see what a person of faith might do. From what I can tell so far, that second person listens for God's suggestions, and then suspends disbelief for long enough to give it a try.

No rational person would choose driving through the country listening to a recently-divorced singer-songwriter wail as a way to restore her equilibrium, but God knows what we need. No rational person would believe that leaving the sugar out of her morning coffee would somehow bring her closer to God's plan for her life, but God suggests that it might. God knows what we need to get going, to build the right kind of momentum and direction (rather than that awful kind that leaves us exhausted and spinning our wheels) and it probably won't make sense to us if we think about it too closely.

So today, let's follow those small promptings. Let's chase after them, even. Ask, "Jesus--what's my next step?" and then when something occurs to you (it may be right away, it may be at nine o'clock tonight) jump in and give it a try. How will you know it's God? If deep down inside, something in you says, "Oh--that would be wonderful, but it's so ridiculous..." then that's your thing.

Speaking of wonderful and ridiculous, let's read Psalm 119 together over the next few days. It's a prayer, essentially asking for God's help in following the path he lays out for each of us. We'll start with the first three sections. My favorite part here is the line that says, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." That seems so honest, admitting that on my own, I'm likely to miss the good stuff.

If the language or imagery in what we read seems obscure, feel free to ask about it. Ask God, that is. I'm consistently surprised that when I pray, "Jesus, this seems like the stupidest, most outdated/obscure/ridiculous thing I've ever read; how could this possibly apply to me?" He answers in some very cool ways. It's almost as if he enjoys the conversation :)

Verse 105 of this Psalm says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," which seems to indicate that the Bible is part of what he uses to mark our map. Here's to that experience being real for each of us, starting today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day Nine: Keep Driving

So sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. I was stranded in Chicago because tornadoes kept rolling through the Midwest, making air travel a little dicey (at one point I was standing in the world's longest line at O'Hare, whimpering like Dorothy: "There's no place like home...there's no place like home...")

How are you guys doing 40 Days-wise? Feeling excited? Totally drained? Somewhere in between? I've noticed that "40 Days" seems like a short bit of time from the outside, and impossibly long when I'm in the middle of it. For me, it's kind of like the tornado my friends and I drove through on Saturday night: at times, everything looks dark and hopeless; there's a feeling that I could just spin off the road (in terms of faith, hope, or achieving any sort of dreams in my life) at any minute. But there's also no reasonable place to stop; all I can do is keep driving.

That's today's theme: keep driving. We're going somewhere, which means that we have to get through whatever storms roll in--whether they're literal or figurative, animal, vegetable, or mineral. This isn't much fun. It makes me tense, worried, and a little bit scared as my mind fills with grim "what ifs."

Music helps. And the perfect song when you just have to keep driving is The Bug by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

Here's to not being the bug :) And in that spirit, I'm putting off our next "tour through a book of the Bible" until tomorrow. For today, let's just focus on this amazing promise the Apostle Paul makes when writing to a bunch of folks in Rome who were trying to figure out questions of faith:

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

That's US, in case you're wondering. We love God by including him in our lives--as I mentioned before, Jesus is a gentleman; he won't barge in uninvited. And in an interesting twist, the Bible also suggests that the only way people even think to invite him in is if God himself puts the idea in front of us--that's what it means to be "called." So I'd argue that by virtue of our hanging out together on a blog like this, we're the people Paul described, the ones for whom God works ALL things for our good. It will be interesting to see how he pulls this off :)

Here's to covering some serious spiritual miles today, even if it's looking a little dark out there!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Delayed, but not forgotten!

Hi All,

Trish's webmaster here! :)

Our intrepid heroine was unexpectedly delayed in her travels due to some weather issues and has been prevented from making the blog posts she had planned, but fear not! She should be winging her way home as I write this and will be back online this evening. In the meantime, many thanks for your support and your patience! :)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day Six! A Good Thing to Find?

A friend sent me this article yesterday. I hope you'll forgive me if I cross-post my reaction from my other blog; it seems relevant to the conversation we're having here:

The article astounds, baffles, and exasperates me. A girl agrees to tie herself to a man two decades older than she is with a 15 foot rope, live a celibate life with him forever (in a YURT no less) and people are flocking to her for relationship advice?

Shouldn't there be some point at which we look at the people we're seeking counsel from and think, "Do I really want to end up where s/he is?" How many of us want to end up tied to an old guy in a yurt???

I wonder if this is where my parents thought I was headed, all those times I came home and explained how they needed to spread salt around their house to absorb any negative energy, lest they suffer harm when Mercury came into retrograde?

At the very least, spiritual exploration gives us funny stories to share at cocktail parties. You know, once we've left the yurt and vaccummed up all the loose salt from our parents' living room...

In other words, who am I to judge? Except that to some extent, we ARE supposed to judge: not in the condemnation/denouncing sense, but rather in terms of asking ourselves the question I pose above (the one I failed for so many years to ask): "Do I really want to end up where s/he is?" and the all-important follow-up: "Given my answer, should I seek their counsel?"

It makes me wonder why I was so quick to line up for weird advice?

One of the fun things that jumped out at me when I started considering this idea of wisdom and where to find it, was how closely Proverbs describes the benefits of finding wisdom and the benefits of finding a wife:

"Whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life and receives favor from the Lord."--Proverbs 8:35

"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord."--Proverbs 18:22

It suggests a parallel, I think. Or perhaps it just struck me this way because the job of "wife" seemed utterly unattainable, and I'd been so dumb in my past relationships. (Clearly, the book "He's Just Not That Into You" was written with me in mind). These passages suggested that the future could be different. They inspired me to seek out people--wives especially, but people in other areas, too--who were where I wanted to be in life, and discard advice from people I didn't actually want to follow.

Today, let's consider where we're getting our wisdom, and ask ourselves tough-love questions about whether our advisors are standing where we want to end up? (Note: mostly what I'm talking about here, for me at least, are books, tv shows, magazine articles...things we look to as "expert advice" that may not be all that expert. I'm NOT suggesting that anyone call up their mother or Great Aunt Hilda and say, "I'm not listening to you any more!!!" We still want to abide by the "Love is kind" rule wherever possible!)

Today's song: I just discovered the gorgeous music of Brooke Fraser. If you're looking for something cool to listen to, check out "Shadowfeet."

An administrative note: I won't be posting tomorrow (Sunday). I'll be in Chicago, away from my computer. At first this really bugged me, but then I had one of those "intersecting thoughts" that probably came from God (It's unlikely I'd have come up with it on my own): If we're seeking God together for huge, wonderful answers to prayer, it's probably not a great idea to blow off one of the Ten Commandments! (The one about keeping a sabbath where we don't work is the one I'm thinking of, but I'd also suggest avoiding murder, adultery, and coveting to whatever extent we can.) So instead of a usual post, I thought of this:

How about if Sundays are the days we live as if we KNOW our prayers are being answered? If instead of saying, "Please God, could you do/bring/change_____," we instead say, "THANK YOU God that you're doing/bringing/changing ______; thank you that you hear and that you answer.... "

It seems like something worth practicing :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Day Five: Hiring a better Architect

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
-Proverbs 3:5-6

This is some of the best advice I've ever received, in terms of bang for the buck (you can read the whole thing here). If Dr. Phil wandered by and ask me, "So--how's that workin' for ya?" I'd be able to say "Pretty well, actually. Thanks for checking in!" This stands out in stark contrast to how this conversation would have gone a few years ago, when I was leaning on all different versions of "my own understanding" to negotiate life, convinced as I was of my unique brilliance. UGH.

We come up with some pretty silly ideas on our own, if you think about it. Grab the bull by the horns. Empty your mind. Both of these are terrible ideas. For me, this list includes, He hasn't called, so I should call him, and If I try just hang in here, maybe things will change.

God promises us better than that, but it's almost like there's a transaction that has to take place. He's a gentleman; he doesn't just barge into our lives and take over. We have to open the door, invite him in, pour some drinks, and settle in to listen to what he has to say. This was the hard part for me--not the drinks and the listening, but figuring out what type of an audience I was granting God: Was I humoring him? Or did I actually plan to DO what he suggested, overriding my own plan for how to approach my life? Given that state of my life at the time, you'd think this would have been a no-brainer. And yet quite a bit of inner wrestling took place before I pulled out my blueprint for life and handed it over to him, mumbling, "Here--maybe you can do something with this..."

Today, let's consider whose running the show in the different areas of our lives. As a starting point, I'm inviting God to be in charge of dinner :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day Four: Celebration Evaluation

"It's very difficult to take a people who won't celebrate and teach them to. But you can take a people who love to celebrate and give them a greater reason."
--Jean Larroux, as told to Cathleen Falsani

I woke up this morning with one of those splitting sinus headaches that makes you beg for mercy and coffee, and not necessarily in that order. It's gloomy her in New England--one of those unproductively gray days where it doesn't rain, it just prevents any sunshine from getting through. When the world threatens me with a funky day (and by "funky" I mean problematic and annoying, rather than unique and eclectic), I find Kool and the Gang uniquely helpful. They're among the best at replacing bad funk with good funk, and getting me in the celebratory spirit. I want to be one of those people who loves to celebrate, even before I have a tangible reason.

Speaking of celebrations, today we finish the story of Ruth. I think God is pretty awesome for getting to the happily ever after part in just four quick chapters (as opposed to, for example, Job, who suffers for 41 and-a-half chapters before God turns things around for him). It's almost like God knows that we (or maybe it's just me?) have neither the stamina nor the patience to wade through too much sadness before the encouraging part comes along. I need regular reminders that, as my friend Dave points out, God can change anything at anytime. He's got a good track record; I should trust him.

There are times when I lose hold of this encouragement. I'll read some skeptic's claim that Ruth's story isn't true, that it's really just a metaphor for some theological premise I don't understand; or a rant by an angry Bible thumper claiming that Ruth seduced Boaz and so maybe he wasn't such a great guy after all--and I deflate like a popped balloon. When I first read Ruth, here's what I saw: a story of how God brought a man and a woman together and exceeded both of their expectations. They didn't go through months or years of anguish and doubt and wondering where the relationship was going, God brought them together and took them someplace, and even blessed Naomi in the process.

This was what I wanted, so this was what I prayed for. And to fend off the gray clouds trying to block out my sunshine, I had little celebrations in my head that this day was coming for me, too.

In one of the "prophetic" books in the Bible (where God tells his people what's to come in the future), there's a beautiful promise where God describes how he'll bind up our broken hearts and make us beautiful, happy, and full of praise--in other words, ready to celebrate. Later, when Jesus showed up on the scene, he quoted this promise, saying, "I'm that guy--the one my father sent to do this stuff!" Then he did a bunch of miracles right along these lines (not to mention healing the sick, raising the dead, and turning gallons of Aquafina into some nice Merlot). He didn't just make big promises, he delivered. Maybe it's just me, but I think a miracle or two would be a fabulous way to start a party.

What if today is the day to get our party started?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day Three! Todays Theme: Wisdom

I'm a bit late in posting today. Partly because I overslept, but mostly because I read today's chapter in Ruth, the one where her mother-in-law tells her how to approach her dream man Boaz (who is kind of like Mr. Big from Sex and the City, except that he's actually a really good guy. One gets the impression that, were phones invented in Biblical times, you could count on Boaz to call when he said he would...)

Anyway, this got me thinking about something I heard recently (I wish I could remember where) about how we're the first generation to look mostly to our peers for advice. It used to be that most of us, as we wrestled our way into adulthood, would have had a handful of wise older mentors to informally help us out, sort of like the bowling ally bumpers that help little kids learn to bowl. These wise folks would help us stay out of the gutters, so to speak, mostly by sharing how they'd succeeded and failed as they wrestled with their own life questions.

My parents tried this, but I steadfastly ignored pretty much anything they ever tried to tell me. I was one of those kids, far too sophisticated and worldly-wise for their outdated opinions. (How I could think this, when I lived in a cloistered, tiny town in Maine astounds me, but there you have it). Needless to say, without the bumpers, I spent most of my 20's rolling down one gutter or another, then popping up on the bowling ball conveyor belt, hoping the next roll would go better. In hindsight, I don't recommend stubborn independence as a life strategy.

Now I'm not sure why, but as these thoughts square-danced across my barely-awake brain this morning, I kept thinking of Carole King. She's a singer-songwriter who wrote an album called TAPESTRY back in the 1970s about love and life and hope and heartbreak that is STILL being played by men, women, and Hollywood film producers more than 30 years later. I thought of I Will Follow, the theme song to The Gilmore Girls--and how one of the beautiful things about that show was how the mother found a way to share her wisdom with her daughter, and her daughter found a way to hear her. I thought of You've Got A Friend, which should be the litmus test for any romantic relationship we ever consider: if a guy won't come running from wherever he is when we call out in need--winter, spring, summer, or fall--then he's not the guy for us. And I thought of It's Too Late, and how I wish I'd faced the music in so many dying relationships the way she does in this song; sometimes there's dignity in moving on.

In Proverbs (which is kind of the "self-help" section of the Bible), there are whole sections on the importance of getting wisdom as we go, advising that it's more valuable than rubies or gold. This always makes me think of a ring my first husband gave me as an apology gift after one of his particularly awful outbursts. My mom's wisdom to RUN from that tumultuous marriage turned out to be far more valuable than that ring (or any other bauble, for that matter). I'm so thankful I finally listened; it changed my entire life.

So today, let's think about where we get wisdom. Let's pray for it. And (especially for those of us asking God for divine intervention in our romantic lives) let's listen to the songs on TAPESTRY and realize that there's not a single relationship issue we'll ever face that hasn't come up before--so chances are, someone out there can help us negotiate the maze from where we are to where we'd like to be.

What's the wisest advice you've ever received?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Day Two! Today's Theme: Brave

"We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through plastic sham to living, breathing reality, and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give....
--Madeleine L'Engle

I'm not doing so well with this brave thing. It feels absurd to confess this so early in our 40 Days, but without honesty I'm sunk. So here you have it: last night as I went to bed (that seems to be revelation time for me lately) I realized that I still don't know what I'm praying and fasting for. Isn't that absurd? Don't get me wrong: I have some vague hopes that feel sort of amorphous and slippery, but they're not the problem. It's the specific hopes, and how they fall into two frustrating categories, that are tripping me up. Here's how:

First, there are the things I've prayed about already--in some cases, A LOT. Areas of life where I'm pretty much out of words to express, "Hey God, in case you missed my earlier memos, there's still this thing missing from my life...." I'm not sure how to pray without getting naggy and obnoxious, which seems to run counter to my self-image as super-together faith chick. (I suspect God is not really for that image, but still...)

And then there are the OTHER things, the ones that just feel too gigantic and ridiculous to pray for at all. I mean, I love the whole "Believe six impossible things before breakfast" bit from Alice in Wonderland, but today, I'm having a tough time believing even one.

I think God wants to challenge me (I'll take a guess that I'm not alone in this frustration, and say us...) in this. Not #1, so much. In my more rational moments, I know that he got the earlier memos; he's on it. But #2, definitely. It's pretty clear that he wants us to step up to the plate and actually PRAY our gigantic, ridiculous prayers. Sure, they're gigantic and ridiculous. But if we're going to dream these things (and even consider the possibility that these dreams CAME from God in the first place), we might as well dream them with Jesus--I think he's the only spiritual leader type who claims he can help us get there. As I mentioned on Sunday, he even said, "What's impossible with man is possible with God." How can I argue with that? (More importantly, why would I want to?)

Chapter 2 of Ruth fits right into this theme, as she heads out into a stranger's field to try and gather enough grain from the leftovers to keep she and Naomi alive (today, this would be like picking through recycling bins all over town, looking for bottles to return for a nickel). It's crazy for her to think any sort of a life is possible at this point. And yet...

So I'm asking God to make me brave. And each time I do, I'm going to dive in and pray my gigantic, ridiculous prayers, even when it makes me feel awkward and squirmy inside. Maybe prayer is like like working out: it counts even if it doesn't feel good.

In honor of this little decision, today's song is called--you guessed it! Brave. It's by yesterday's featured singer, Nichole Nordeman, which makes me feel like I'm failing a bit at the DJ aspect of this project, but hey--I can't argue with the lyrics. Tomorrow, perhaps we'll have a new artist. Until then, this rockin, happy song will give us all something to hum under our breath as we go about our day. All together now:

So long status quo--I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was, is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave....

What do you guys think of this?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Day One! Today's Theme: There's Still Ink in the Pen...

I woke up this morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and THAT DOG curled up on top of my feet. It was a happy, happy place. Then, like a flash, I remembered the impression I got last night when I asked, "Hey God, what do you think I should fast from for the next 40 days?" I saw a picture in my head of a spoon, lowering sugar into my beloved morning coffee. ACK! "You're joking, right?" I said (hoping the sugar image would be replaced by a picture of me doing sit ups--I'd be happy to fast from sit ups). Turns out, he wasn't. So as I type this, I'm drinking my first of 40 cups of sugarless morning coffee. Will it be worth it? I wondered. Then I remembered this amazing, wise quote from Laura Dave's novel, THE DIVORCE PARTY:

"In the end, belief isn't supposed to make sense, at least not all of the time. In that, it finds it's power. It gets to creep up on you and carry you forward."

It doesn't make sense that one less spoonful of sugar will bring me closer to my dreams in life (or to God, for that matter), and yet I believe that it will. I've seen it happen. It has crept up on me and carried me forward, into places better than I could have imagined. It's worth it.

This morning I also read the first part Ruth, a story in the Bible I talk about in my book (and no, it's no coincidence that my favorite book in the Bible is only four chapters long and includes the world's best happy ending). I thought it might be a good place for us to begin our Forty Days, for a couple of reasons. Here's a link to the first chapter--check it out here.
(It'll take 2-3 minutes to read). Then come back and I'll tell you what I love about it.

The main characters in this chapter--Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, are absolutely hopeless. They've lost everything, and nothing they do on their own is going to pull their lives into any semblance of better. I've been there. Granted, I wasn't starving. But there have been times when the landscape of my life was shockingly bleak, and there was no rational hope that it would ever improve: when I realized I'd spent six years pursuing a career I was no good at; when I ran away from my first marriage and went into hiding; when I'd lived here in Cambridge for an entire year and my only friend was a woman my then-boyfriend hit on while walking THAT DOG at a dog park. I think most of us have these times.

Ruth's story invites us to consider the irrational possibility that things can change. My favorite songwriter, Nichole Nordeman, captures today's theme perfectly when she writes:

"I believe in the rest of the story...I believe there's still ink in the pen...I have wasted my very last day, trying to change what happened way back when..."

There's still ink in the pen. Wherever you are in this 40 Days of Faith is not where you'll be at the end of it--that's the promise God offers us, the reason we hope when the rational thing to do is give up.

You can download this song, called Someday, here. It's the kickoff song for our playlist, and hope we'll carry for the next few weeks together.

As we chat with God today about what we're praying for (as I'm doing with each sip of bitter coffee), let's ask him about this ink thing. Feel free to make a few suggestions for what you'd like to see in your next chapters. He may have to move some things around, but who knows? Maybe he's been waiting for us to give him some editorial freedom?