FRAGMENTS

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anais Nin

On Beauty by Solzhenitsyn

IMG_1780There is a great deal of chaos right now in the world. It seems that everywhere I turn another tragedy has unfolded. I wake up each morning wondering what is coming next. And in all of that, one can’t help but wonder what in the world makes a difference? Does it matter that I pen my novels, or that someone is busy painting their pictures? Shouldn’t we be about doing something more?

Of course, we are to be active participants in doing good on this earth. But what is good? And what changes things over time? I have my ideas. But this morning, I was reminded of the absolute authority of beauty in part of a speech that Solzhenitsyn gave many years ago, and it gave me hope. I thought I would share this with you. Today.

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Dostoevsky once let drop the enigmatic phrase: “Beauty will save the world.” What does this mean? For a long time it used to seem to me that this was a mere phrase. Just how could such a thing be possible? When had it ever happened in the bloodthirsty course of history that beauty had saved anyone from anything? Beauty had provided embellishment, certainly, given uplift – but whom had it ever saved?  

However, there is a special quality in the essence of beauty, a special quality in the status of art: the conviction carried by a genuine work of art is absolutely indisputable and tames even the strongly opposed heart. One can construct a political speech, an assertive journalistic polemic, a program for organizing society, a philosophical system, so that in appearance it is smooth, well structured, and yet it is built upon a mistake, a lie; and the hidden element, the distortion, will not immediately become visible. And a speech, or a journalistic essay, or a program in rebuttal, or a different philosophical structure can be counterposed to the first – and it will seem to fit. And therefore one has faith in them – yet no one has faith.

It is vain to affirm that which the heart does not confirm. In contrast, a work of art bears within itself its own confirmation: concepts which are manufactured out of whole cloth or overstrained will not stand up to being tested in images, will somehow fall aprt and turn out to be sickly and pallid and convincing to no one. Works steeped in truth and presenting it to us vividly alive will take hold of us, will attract us to themselves with great power – and no one, ever, even in a later age, will presume to negate them. And so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light – yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.

And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoevsky to say that “Beauty will save the world,” but a prophecy.

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Nobel Lecture” 

I can only add, a deep and abiding Amen to such remarkable words.

Much Love,

Tina

 

On Taking His Time

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I’ve been reading through the book of John. Slowly. A chapter a week. I read the chapter in English, then the next day I read it in Spanish, then I think it over, and then do all that again. It’s a new way for me to go through the Gospels and I’m doing it mainly because I need to mull over things more efficiently in my life. Be slower, more thoughtful.

I’m in chapter eleven. The chapter where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. And I’m stuck. I’m in the part when Jesus waits and doesn’t go quickly to heal his dying friend. He deliberately waits knowing it’s going to cause a whole lot of suffering to the people he loves. But he waits anyways. And he tells them why. For God’s glory. This bothers me.

It hits home. I think it hits home for all of us. How many times have we waited for God to do something, only to realize he’s not going to do it? At least not in the way we think he should.

Jesus knew Lazarus was dying. And the people that called on Jesus, Mary and Martha, in particular, didn’t know that Jesus was going to raise him from the dead. All they knew was that he had healed others with a word, and they waited expectantly, and he wasn’t coming. I can only imagine when Lazarus breathed his last how it felt to his sisters. Why didn’t Jesus come? They must have been … Disappointed. Crushed. Sad. Overwhelmed. Confused.

This is why this story is so crucial in our relationship with God. This passage beckons us to look higher, to think deeper, to wait longer, and to hope farther.

Jesus wanted to do something they hadn’t ever seen before. I used to think it was because Jesus wanted to do something bigger. There might be that. But now, it occurs to me that he wanted to show them another piece of himself. They already knew he could heal. They knew him as Healer. They didn’t know He WAS and IS the Resurrection and the Life. They didn’t know that even after four days dead, with the stench and all, that Jesus could and would call their brother forth.

And here’s why I’m stuck. Stuck. Because honestly, I would have been happy with Lazarus just getting healed. I don’t always appreciate that Jesus wants to show us more. I would have liked Jesus to get a move on, go faster, walk quicker – lay hands on Lazarus and heal him. But, in the end … the story was so much better. For everyone.

We, as a family, are in a place of waiting, of struggling with God to answer prayers, of seeking for answers. It seems we’ve been in this place for two years now. And I can’t help but say … “How long must we wait?”

We’re working on our house with limited funds, Rodrigo’s working on finding a job or figuring out what to do. Do we stay put, or go back? I’m daring to hope again and submit one of my novels once more for the sake of more rejection with the chance that maybe someone will want to buy it. And in all of it, I can’t help but hear this whisper … that God wants to show us more of himself. Call us into deeper intimacy, deeper dependence on him…. He’s about something. Trust him in the waiting…

At the end of the story, Lazarus was alive, the sisters were overjoyed, and everyone knew Jesus better – some really hated him after that and plotted even more to kill him. But, everyone knew what he was about in a radically different way than before. They saw him call a man who was dead for four days, out of the tomb with two words – and Lazarus got up and came forth.

And let’s not forget that even when Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus, Jesus still wept. He still let life and death touch him. Jesus let his emotions rise up inside him and he felt deeply. He is not immune to my cries in the night. He just wants me to trust him – that he’s doing something. That he will make all the pieces of my life make sense. He will make all the waiting and the longing and the confusion and the sorrow and the joy and the laughter come together and be whole – be one piece. One story in Him. Because He is Life.

How about you? What are you waiting for? Praying for? I’d love to hear.

Much Love,

Tina

 

Attend to Today

riverWe’ve talked for a few weeks about hearing God and although, it’s far from exhaustive, I think I’ve made my point. God talks. We have to learn how to listen and hear, to understand. I’ve heard some warm-hearted stories about God speaking to people through dreams, visions, through learning to be quiet in heart. I love reading people’s stories. It helps me to see I’m not alone.

I’ve recently started a new novel and I’m getting ready to publish another book, one I’ve been working on for three years. What is it with me? I am a slow writer. It drives me crazy. I’m determined to write this new one much faster. But you know what they say about the plans of mice and men… The novel I’m hoping to publish in the next couple of months is called An Ordinary Love. An Ordinary Love is all about ordinary love. Ha! Big surprise. I’ll share more in the weeks to come.

However, I’d like to say something about this new project. It’s significant because for the past two years, I’ve suffered from what I can only describe as Writer’s Block. Every time I came up with an idea to write a novel, I’d start taking notes and a couple days into it, I’d declare myself a failure and agree that the book was stupid, the idea dumb, completely unoriginal, and then I’d throw it in the garbage and despair. Not to mention, I didn’t have creative energy. This sounds more New Age than I mean for it to. I mean, I didn’t have the internal resources to create something new. I was working on starting a new life, dealing with culture shock, trying to find my way here, and all the creative energy I had was used up going to the grocery store and trying to understand Chilean – the words that are underneath the words … the language of people’s hearts. That’s where culture reveals itself. And it was a language I didn’t know, one I really didn’t understand. The Chilean language. Two years later, I at least understand that it’s foreign to me and can accept that we approach life from a completely different vantage point. And yet, even in that cultural divide, brokenness and heartache really look the same, don’t they?

Anyways, about this new book. It’s not that anything revelatory happened that I think everyone should know. It’s that one day I woke up and said, Okay. Now, I can start this book. And I did. I didn’t have to make myself sick trying to do it. It was there. There was water to draw out of the creative well.

I think this can be applied to almost anything in our lives. Transition and heartache, change, new beginnnings, painting, prayer, raising children, being pregnant, getting married … all those things require creative energy. They all require that we be present to them and attend to their needs. Sometimes we can’t do anything else but live today. Be present in today. It’s enough.

It’s fairly common for me to hear people’s unspoken dreams. The wishes and I-would-have-if-I-could-have statements. And I used to tell them that anything worth doing in our lives takes discipline. I get up and write every morning. Except … all of a sudden, I couldn’t. Sometimes, I got up and wrote but it was chaff, stupid – I was truly blocked. For two years. I blogged, journaled all that, but I didn’t write a novel, which is what I love to do.

These last two years has given me insight and have tilled great compassion inside me for anyone struggling with creative blocks. You want to paint, you want to design, you want to write, but it’s not there.

Isabel Allende struggled with writer’s block after her daughter Paula died. She wrote Paula, the memoir, and then afterwards pretty much went dry. It was in a bookstore that she came across Anne Lamott and told her of her struggles and Anne Lamott just said, “The well has gone dry. You need to go out and fill up your well again.” So Isabel Allende went to India and traveled and grieved her most beloved daughter and gave herself time. Then, one day, she was ready, and she wrote.

Some of you, my friends, are ready. But you’re afraid. You want to write, you want to show your work to someone but you’re afraid they’ll tell you your work sucks. Find better friends if your best friends tell you that your creative work sucks. But whatever you do, you must share your heart. It’s time.

But there are others who don’t have the energy or the strength or the time and you feel shamed when you read that there’s always time if you really want to do something, that it takes discipine. And I think there’s truth in this. So maybe, just maybe, you really don’t want to do it yet. And that’s okay. It’s not time to paint or sculpt, or write. It’s time to be present to the people right in front of you and they are enough. That’s what I finally had to say to myself. It’s not the time to write a new novel. It’s time to be present. And when it’s time to write a new novel, it’ll be there.

The fear was that it wouldn’t be there ever again. And well, that’s just one of those things I had to wrestle with. Maybe it wouldn’t be there ever again. And that was finally okay too.

Much Love,

Tina

 

When God’s Not Talking

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It happens to every single one of us at some point or another in our walk with God. It happens for many reasons, or maybe for no reason at all, and for some of us it happens when we least expect it. It’s when God stops talking. Absolute silence. And you wonder if heaven dried up, or if you have gone deaf, or more even frightening, if God has forgotten you.

There have been moments in my two years here in Chile, when God was so silent, and the circumstances were so difficult that I felt like God had dropped me off at the end of a dirt road and was waving down a semi-truck to run me over. And to top it off, all I got from heaven when I cried out in desperation was silence. Not a word. Now, to be fair to God, I was extremely busy screaming at him, so part of his silence might have been because I wouldn’t give him a moment to talk.

However, all the reasons aside, I felt alone and abandoned and scared that my life would never make sense again and that God didn’t care. All I wanted was a word, a little sign that all would be well, that he was still around. The problem is, when it comes to needing signs, God’s not the greatest performer. He doesn’t ask how high, when I say jump.

There is this really old story, in a very old book called Job, where we can learn a whole lot about God and mystery and people and evil and sorrow if we want to. It’s interesting because God’s pretty quiet for most of that book. He doesn’t say much, and then right out of nowhere, out of the wind and sorrow and desolation of Job’s life – Job gets invited to a meeting. He is told to brace himself like a man. And then. God talks.

In the middle of God talking, Job actually asks him to please stop talking because it’s so hard to hear. But God keeps on going. He had a lot of words for our man Job. At the end of God’s dissertation, Job responds: He says he didn’t understand before. He says that before, he thought he knew God, but now he realizes he never even had a clue. He’d only heard about him before. It’s like the most beautiful passage in all of scripture to me. Maybe not all of scripture, but it’s mesmerzing nonetheless, because it holds one of the greatest secrets to suffering and sorrow and loss in the whole history of literature.

Here’s the secret: God will use all of our pain and suffering and terrible losses as the means to grow deep and life-giving intimacy with Him, if we’re willing. This is remarkable to consider.

One of the other things we learn is that when someone else is suffering, it would be in our best interest to shut up and just sit with them. Not offer a bunch of stupid responses about how everything happens for a reason and about how God doesn’t give us more than we can handle and about how God will make it all come right. And we really shouldn’t blame the person who is suffering. I’d think twice about doing that.

When we read Job, we realize that we really don’t see everything there is to see and we don’t understand everything. We see in part. And we know in part. This is because we’re human. And the more willing we are to recognize and embrace our humanity, the more in line with God’s heart we become.

The other thing we learn, is that in times of suffering and times when God is silent, he’s up to something. He’s up to something really big. And the stakes are usually pretty high. And in the end, he invites us into a deeper relationship with him, but sometimes he has to do some deconstruction. A lot of the time he’s trying to break me out of my little tiny walls and my little tiny answers and all my little tiny solutions – in order to help me see that he’s a whole lot bigger and whole lot better and just plain more than I ever imagined.

While I was sitting at the end of my dirt road waiting for the semi-truck to run me over, I read Job. Over and over. Afterwards, I looked round about me, stopped yelling at God, and came to the startling conclusion that God doesn’t owe me an explanation for anything.

So, I bowed my head, kneeled down, and resolved to follow him even when he’s silent, even when he doesn’t do what I want, or expect, or even need him to do, and even when everything looks bleak and grim and there are no easy answers. And then, I invited him into the mess and asked him to help me make something of it, to bring order and life into the places that seemed lost and ruined. And then, my heart went quiet and still and I knew I was finally getting somewhere. I was getting lower, to be exact. And you know what he says about getting lower …

 

On Silence as a Prerequisite

IMG_1777Since moving to our land two months ago, the external noise in my life has absolutely transformed. I don’t have noise anymore. It’s silent, save the birds chirping and the dogs barking, or the rain’s patter against the roof, or the rushing wind. I go on walks in the morning and the silence is astounding. It strips me and reveals how much clamor is inside my head. How much nonsense is really there.

When I need to get the kids’ attention, I usually ask quietly for them to listen up. Sometimes they hear me. Sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, I raise my voice until they take heed and pay attention. Sometimes, I yell. And sometimes, on the really bad days when I wonder if anyone in the world is paying attention anymore, I scream. Finally, they’ll pay attention and go off and do what I’ve asked, annoyed that I’ve shouted at them.

God’s isn’t like that. God won’t compete for my attention. He doesn’t scream to get my ear. He pursues and seeks. He waits. But He will not make an attempt to out-talk all the clamor in my life. He wants me be still.

Inside of all our inner noise, is usually a lot of confusion and misunderstanding: all the expectations we have, the expectations that others have, the list of all the things I think God wants to say to me, the should’s, the have to’s, the why didn’t you do this and why didn’t you do that, all the shame of unmet expectations, the regrets and broken dreams, the hope crushing disappointments. When my kids were little, I lived in a near constant state of shame over not doing all the things I thought I was supposed to do. That was nonsense. Jesus does not give us more burdens. He lifts them. He doesn’t add to our list – He washes it away. And invites us into his way – the way of the humble and lowly. The way of a quiet life – A life free of competition and fear. A life full of love and peace and hope and confidence.

When I’m in a place where I really need to hear God, I go on walks. I usually spend the first half telling God everything I think. All that’s on my mind. I cry, I shake my fist, I rage, I wail, or I just talk it out. I pretty much pour out my heart, until there’s nothing left. Then, I pause and invite Jesus into those empty places and ask him to fill them. I ask him to send forth his word. And then … when my heart and mind are quiet, I listen. I turn my ear and let the silence ground me.

It’s there. Right there, in that sacred interplay between silence and a settled heart where God whispers. And it’s always good. It always heals. It always restores. It always gives strength. Always. If it’s from God, it will bring life. Even through death, He brings forth life.

Both silence and a settled heart are vital. Maybe you’re confused or sad, or broken, or desperate, but your heart must be quiet. It must be at a place, where you are open to receive. Even if your soul is downcast or overwhelmed it can still be in a posture to receive.

Silence is necessary. If we want to go outside and look at the stars, it must be dark. If we want to hear God, we must be quiet.

Tell me about how you silence the excess noise in your life. I’d love to hear.

Much Love,

 

Tina

Where Does Doubt Fit In?

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At the heart of the Judeo-Christian faith is this core belief that the God who made the heavens and the earth is relational. He’s personal. One can know him. He does not stand at a distance, but instead, gets involved in our lives.

This was never a difficult idea for me to believe, until of late. I’ve recently gone through a long season of doubt. I’m not sure why, or how it happened, but from one day to the next, I woke up and thought – Maybe there is no God. Maybe it’s all a sham. What if it’s all a big joke?

I wrestled with my doubt and it’s been lonely for me because I talk to God about all my troubles and here I was doubting him. How could I talk about doubting his existence with the very one I doubted? And it wasn’t exactly that I doubted God’s existence – I doubted my understanding of who He is, what He is about. I doubted Christianity as a means to finding God. I doubted the incarnation, the fact that Jesus came in the flesh and was and is God. I was looking at all the myths and tales of history and realized, Maybe Jesus is just another story. Yes, he existed, but maybe he was just a man. Nothing more.

Honestly, I couldn’t figure out what to do with my doubts. I shared them with no one. I contemplated changing traditions. I wondered if converting to Catholicism would fix my struggle. I like the contemplative life. Would that make it better?

I considered Judaism. One of my favorite writers, Mary Doria Russel, is a converted Jew. She couldn’t believe in the incarnation. But she does believe in God. Judaism has worked for her. Perhaps it would work for me.

My problem, as I wrestled with these things over the past year, maybe two years is that I really like Jesus. I can’t just toss him out. I know him. I’ve touched the hem of his garment, if you will. He’s touched my life and my heart and I’ve heard his voice. I recognize his voice. Not that he was saying a whole lot to me at the time. It was pretty silent, but I’ve experienced his presence in my life. Even in the face of my doubts, that was my anchor. I’ve been with him. I’ve seen him change whole families. My family. I’ve seen women, broken by abusive husbands break free because of Jesus and make new lives – empowered lives, because they found hope in the incarnation. I’ve seen men get up and walk out of terrible addictions that were really hurting them, because they saw Jesus in their lives, in their story, and it made them want to be better men. I’ve watched God re-name people. He re-named me. I’ve seen miracles.

But in this seasons of doubt, I wondered if it was all a sham. Joke’s on you, Tina.

What then do we do? How do we make peace with our doubts and still continue on and not feel like liars or fakes? How could I doubt? I have no idea, but I did. And it’s been the best thing that could have happened, because it recentered my life.

Sometimes faith a gift. Many people would argue, it’s always a gift. And I used to believe this too. For most of my life, it’s been that. A genuine honest gift. I believed with no effort of my own. As if it was granted to me. I simply believed that Jesus was the Son of God, raised from the dead. A resounding amen, would come from me whenever I thought of it, whenever I heard it spoken. It was settled in my mind and in my heart.

And sometimes faith is a choice. In this spiritually dry season, I’ve chosen. I’ve chosen to hold on for dear life and say I believe. I choose to believe there is an author. That He’s present. Most of all I choose to believe He is Love and He is for me and knows my name. That there is purpose in all the mayhem. That wrong will be righted. That Jesus is the Son of God. Present in this world. Alive today.

During this season, I read the Bible and prayed. Mainly, I read the Psalms. Over. And. Over. For a while, I tried to conjure faith like an amulet, a charm bracelet. It didn’t work. I doubted. And after a while, I had to make peace with my doubts. I still doubt. But I’ve chosen to live by faith. Not by doubt. And there’s a difference.

Now faith is being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see …

 

 

Dreams

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Once, I had this dream where one of my aunts came to me and grabbed me by my arms. Her face was stricken with profound intensity and her eyes were persistent, pleading, unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

“Pray for me,” she cried out in panic.

And then I woke up. I had no idea what the problem was. Nor did I need to. I got out of bed, fell to my knees and prayed.

 

Another dream I had was where I was sitting in a big field, at a picnic table and people were coming to get prayer. A woman, whom I had known for most of my life, came and sat down on the bench in front of me. Her eyes were filled with sorrow. She lowered her head and spoke in a low voice. “I had an abortion and it killed my soul.”

I reached across the table and took hold of her hands. “No it didn’t,” I said. “Nothing, nothing you’ve ever done can kill your soul. God loves you. He loves you very much and He longs for you ….”

After I woke, I called my mom and asked her about the specifics of the information the woman had given me. “What do you think that was about?” I asked.

My mom spoke quietly, pensive. “She didn’t have one abortion, she had several. And it’s been a deep sorrow in her life. I think you’re supposed to pray for her.”

I prayed for her for many years. That God would bring hope and that he would help her.

 

Another dream was where a very good friend, with whom I hadn’t spoken for quite some time ended up at the same party that I was at. (In the dream.) And in the dream, I overheard her talking to a group of women about needing to get a divorce.

Interestingly, she wasn’t speaking to me. I simply overheard it. I woke up and asked God what I was supposed to do.

God spoke quietly to me that early morning. “Pray she’d find the way out and be able to stay married.”

I didn’t understand those words. At all. I had no idea what was going on. But it’s what I prayed for many months.

Later, at an appropriate time, I asked her about it. She had in fact been thinking of getting divorced. She didn’t want to – but she wasn’t sure what else to do. Things were desperate. At some point, something shifted in their relationship and they ended up staying together.

 

I’ve always paid attention to my dreams. Not obsessively, but diligently. Sometimes, God reaches us in our subconscious much better than through our wakened selves. This is mysterious. But also wondrous. The key is to be careful what you do with the information you’re given in any dream. Don’t be haste. Wait, pray, ponder. Whatever you’re supposed to do will be revealed at the right time.

 

How about you? Do you dream often?Does God talk to you in your dreams?

 

Hearing God Through Others

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After thirty plus years of cross-denominational church life, I’ve been around the corner when it comes to people hearing from God – especially people who believe they hear what you’re incapable of hearing. Almost as if there’s no need for you to go and pray yourself. They heard and now all is well and you can go on your happy little way.

To be fair, some of the deepest and kindest words I’ve ever received from God have come through the channel of friends and family. But also the most ridiculous and absurd words have come through other people. This is why discernment is so important.

One time when I was living on the ship, a friend came to me late in the evening. He was a homely man, awkward, gentle in heart and soul, and good in the the most natural way a person can be, but not the sort of man women are off flirting with when they’re traveling around the world for two years.

He visited some church in the middle of some city where their designated prophet went round person to person speaking God’s words to them.

My friend came back to the ship, troubled and sullen. He told me what had happened. It seems his word from God was that he would not be getting married. Ever. God did not have a wife for him.

I spoke up about as quick as a lioness pouncing on prey. “Yeah. That wasn’t God,” I told him.

“How do you know?” he asked, perplexed I could be so certain. “Maybe God doesn’t want me to get married.”

“That might be true,” I said, nodding. “But it wouldn’t make you feel so despairing. God’s words relieve us, convict us, encourage us, and sometimes tell us what is to come. They don’t deflate us. God’s not mean and he doesn’t trample over people’s hearts. When God talks through other people you should walk away more full, more confident in what God is doing in your life. Or at least you should be more settled in his love for you. Neither of those things occurred in this instance. You walked away heartbroken. God mends hearts, he doesn’t break them. Therefore, it’s not from God.”

He sighed in relief.

A few months later, he fell madly in love with a woman and they’ve lived happily ever after with a few children tagging along after them over the years.

Just because someone tells you they’ve heard from God for you, doesn’t mean they have. Your own heart and mind and life with God must confirm what the person shares. Sometimes it takes years for a promise to come to pass. That’s fine. That’s life. But the word should not kill your heart or spirit. It should bring life. Always.

What about you? Feel free to comment.

Much Love,

Tina

If God Talks, What Does He Sound Like?

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When I moved onto the ship, right after high school, something took place inside me, at the core level, like shifting platelets. I came across a different kind of Christianity than I had seen before. Or maybe I had seen it, but because it seemed so completely other – it shined brighter. It made me want to know God deeper. As if a mask had been revealed and I wanted to uncover it. I didn’t know exactly how to do this, but there was this girl on the ship. A Korean girl, who loved God in the most authentic, radical way I’d really ever seen. And she read her Bible all the time. All the time. She had huge portions memorized. When I heard her pray in Korean, I had no idea what she was saying, but it was obvious she knew exactly what she was saying, and she knew exactly who she was saying it to.

I’m oversimplifying this, but something happened when I watched her pray and talk about God – it sparked a hunger in me. For That. For that real faith that wasn’t put on or contrived because of great worship music or an exciting retreat experience. Her faith came from somewhere deeper. So, I decided to do what she did. She got up every morning and read her Bible and prayed. I would get up every morning, read my Bible and pray.

I learned that when we decide to seek God with our whole hearts: He helps us find Him.

I got up every morning early and read and read and read. Beginning to end. I loved it. I loved the Bible. In the most authentic way imagineable. And I fell irrevocably in love with God. Absolutely and terribly. There was nothing showy about it. No one knew what I was doing. It wasn’t because of some challenge or some sermon I heard. It was a raw desperation to find God. To find something real in my life. And the stories wrapped me up and swept me in. I immersed myself in them. For months.

One of the things that happened by immersing myself in Scripture was that it gave me a structure for hearing God. It gave me a frame of reference. Something to go by.

The magnificent thing about the Bible is that it spans hundreds of years with such an array of authors … you get lots of stories and teachings that are varied. All of them go into your soul and heart and mind when you read them over and over and they set you up for your own search for God.

And after reading enough, I knew it wasn’t crazy for me to want to hear from God because they all wanted to hear from God. And God made these radical promises that made no sense to anyone but the person he made the promise to, and the encounter would be so strong, so life changing that they’d believe God, and would not give up even when it didn’t make sense and they were confused about everything around them. And eventually the person or people would see that He was worth the wait. Women, men, non-religious, religious, bad people, good people … he interacted with them all. And things would change in their lives and they would make changes in their lives … and things would happen.

It also gave me a grid for the nuances and the sorts of things God says and the myriad ways he says them. Like the fact that God is totally into dreams. He talks to people in their dreams ALL the time in the Bible. So, I realized I’d better pay attention to my dreams. He also talks through visions. He talks through other people. Even through a donkey. But mainly, He talks to the spirit and the heart of a person, ready to hear. So, I’d need to learn how to be still and quiet my heart and mind. I learned he talks to the broken, and the lowly, the foreigner, the lost, the found, the rich, the poor, the outcast. Mainly, He talks to anyone paying attention and willing to hear. And the people who heard him always came out different, more solid, more real, more honest – hearing God always changed them.

So you ask…

Where do I start? How much do I read? Where do I begin?

Wherever you want. It’s your faith. It’s your search for God. I read the Biographies of Jesus a lot. But for many years I started in Genesis and kept reading till Revelation and then started again. Reading from beginning to end in big gulps and little sips provides a sort of panorama, a whole picture that is very good for us. And very confusing and frustrating and liberating. We don’t need to understand it all to keep reading. Hearing God and understanding God aren’t the same thing. Besides, we will never completely understand him. He is wildly mysterious.

What do I do when I get bored? Keep reading. Push through it, or change it up. But mainly, I keep reading.

What do you do if you hate to read and/or aren’t very good at it? Millions of people fall into that camp. Be not dismayed. Buy an audio Bible on CD and listen to it. Download this application thing called The Daily Audio Bible and listen to that while you’re in the shower, making bread, folding clothes, driving to work. Find what works for you and do it. With your whole heart. Even when you don’t feel like it. I think that’s key. Even when we don’t feel like it.

Tell me about your journey with reading the Bible … good, bad, frustrating? Stuck? Mad? I’d love to hear.

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

The Healing Presence by Leanne Payne

The Healing Presence was a pivotal book in understanding and learning to listen and recognize God’s voice in my life. I recommend all of Leanne Payne’s books. They are excellent.

“It is all too easy for us moderns to regard the supernatural world (e.g. the Holy Spirit, angels, demons) and activities as somehow less real than the world we behold with our senses. As twentieth-century Christians, we live in a materialistic age, one in which our systems of learning have long based their conclusions on scientific truth alone. The presuppositions of such systems have misled many generations of students, blinding them to the truths of God and the Unseen Real, whether more or spiritual. Because of these intellectual blocks, we moderns have more difficulty with invisible realities and perhaps a much greater need for the discipline of practicing the Presence than did our forefathers in the faith. In the very beginning of the Christian Era, however, St. Paul spoke of the practice by saying: “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18) The practice of the Presence then, is simply the discipline of calling to mind the truth that God is with us. When we consistently do this, the miracle of seeing by faith is given. We begin to see with the eyes of our hearts.” (26)

 

This coming Monday’s blog … “What does God Sound Like?”

Much Love,

Tina