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

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

Hearing from God

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It’s not a surprise to anyone, but I’m going to write it anyways. I’m a Christian. I’m one of those Bible reading, pray-on-your-knees sorts of people, who have the most varied reputations around the world. We are loved and we are hated and in some places barely tolerated. The very word Christian is loaded. We are responsible for some of the great good all over the globe, and conversely also the greatest harm across history. I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I even worked in full-time Christian ministry for over a decade. Consequently, I’ve been part of the some of that world-wide good and I’m sure I’ve also regrettably taken part in some of the things that harm our reputation.

I’ve been fairly quiet about my faith on this blog, mainly because I don’t like to trivialize something so dear and precious to me, or be misunderstood. Not everyone likes Christians. Frankly, I don’t always like us. We can be arrogant and very obstinate about our particular take on some big mysterious truths in this Universe. However, for better or for worse, I am part of a religious family, one I love most dearly – and after much deliberation, I’ve decided to talk about it here, on this blog more regularly.

After my visit to the States in November, someone asked me if I would be willing to write about the process in which I learned to hear God’s voice. I floundered around trying to figure out where and how to share about the topic. I thought about writing a book about it and using a pen name (very honest and proud of my faith ) – I’ve wobbled around trying to stay right in the middle. Not talk too much about God on this blog, but talk enough that I was still being sort of honest. As a practicing Christian, I’ve finally concluded that if I’m going to claim to be something, I’d better be bold and honest about it rather than ashamed and timid about it.

My purpose in this is not to convince anyone anything or make some weird attempt to coerce people into some sort of conversion. That’s not my way. However, over the years, I’ve come to the deep abiding conclusion that God is good, is present in this mysteriously beautiful and painful world, and that he loves me, and shows it most tenderly and consistently in the person of Jesus Christ.

After many hours of prayer – in my chair and bed, not on my knees – I’ve decided I’d like to talk about this said faith – here. What I share about my experience with God might, from time to time intersect with what God is doing in your life, it might shed light on your own personal journey, or it might seriously piss you off. (I apologize in advance for that.)

Here’s the thing: After twenty years of listening to God tell me things and make promises and then keeping them and utterly changing my life from the inside out, I’ve come to see and know and believe that there is no kinder voice, no stronger assurance to one’s soul, no better relationship to invest in. I would cross oceans, climb mountains, and forge rivers to hear and be with Jesus if even for a few minutes… I would do this because I love him…

What I’ve come to believe in the core, bone-deep part of me is that God, the one who made earth and sky and sea, knows my name and wants me to know his. And he is radically on my side. And part of that knowing is learning to recognize and discern what he is trying to say to me at my particular spot in the big wide world right now.

One of the things that gets in our way is the insidious belief that God is mad at us. I’ve seen it. I’ve watched people brace themselves when they hear God has something to say to them, or they hear a message about listening to God. It’s like the natural tendency is to believe that if God is going to say something it’s going to be about my bad stuff, the stuff I’m afraid to tell anyone else. That he’s ashamed of me, and if I were to do the hard work of settling down to listen, I’d get blasted with everything I’m not doing. And how I’ve disappointed him, shamed the family blah blah blah. May I just gently and tenderly say to you, dear reader – this is garbage. All of it. God is not mad at you. God is not waiting around the corner to make you feel bad about yourself.

Truth be told: God likes you. God is on your side. And God knows how to restore your soul, knows how to make you feel more at home with yourself and how to settle you into your one and only life. And I promise if you take the time to listen to him, to find him – God won’t be tell you you suck. That’s not God because He doesn’t say things like that.

So, after much thought and consideration – I’m going to write about Hearing God for the next few weeks. And then I’ll write about something else – maybe confession and forgiveness or something really easy like that. I still plan to write about life in Chile, and life in general, post pictures and things like that, but I’m adding this to the whole purpose of my blog.

This is the take away today, what I’d like to be clear on:

God talks. He’s personal. He’s all-consuming and life-giving and might I add, his is the voice I’ve spent most of my life learning to pay attention to, the voice that steadies me, rescues me, calms me, and most of all the voice I run toward.

Much Love,

Tina

 

A Guest Post on Gardening

My dear friend and life-long neighbor, Christy Freriks, is a journalist and lawyer and a damn good gardener. Since many of my readers are now in full fledged spring I thought it’d be fun to post something for you guys about gardening. Nice idea, but I’m in the throws of rain and mud and leaves strewn about everywhere. So, I asked Christy to write something. And of course, it made me cry.

See you on Monday when we talk about … Hearing from God.

Much Love,

Tina

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Companion Plants by Christy Freriks

I am a lifelong hobby gardener. However, my gardening skill and ability isn’t particularly amazing. Let’s just say that I am glad that my family doesn’t depend on my skills to eat. However, in a good year we have jam and spaghetti sauce to carry us through the winter. It allows me to teach my boys one way of connecting with the earth.

Recently I started to read more about companion gardening. It sounds like something I should embrace since my garden is short on square footage. It is an ancient concept that was often overlooked when fertilizers and pesticides came into easy reach.

The Farmer’s Almanac states that “plant companions ensure a happy garden—and gardener.” The concept is quite simple; some plants make each other healthier by either providing a scent that wards off pets or by supplementing nutrients that another needs.

The most well known example of companion plantings is called the Three Sisters Garden. You plant corn, pole beans, and squash together. The corn provides support for the pole beans and the beans enrich the soil. The squash then provides shade for the feet of the corn and the beans and slows water evaporation. The three work together each using strength to minimize another’s weakness.

Is the same not true with people? As we age, the hope is that we grow with the wisdom to attach ourselves to the people that bolster the things we are lacking.

Certain people often challenge us as individuals and this helps to provide the foundation that we need to grow taller, stronger and more confident. Others shade us in those times where we need to hunker down and send our energy to our roots so we can rise another day. Some people simply provide the nutrient we need no matter the situation. They pray with us and for us and help us to shine a little brighter. Somehow, simply being around that person makes us a little better, a little healthier.

Carrots hate coriander and dill. Sometimes we plant ourselves near someone in the hopes that the relationship will bear fruit. Instead we find ourselves surrounded by pests, drama, and conflict. Eventually, the relationship withers or we decide to uproot and move along to healthier pastures. In the case of coriander and dill, they put off excretions harmful to carrots and are actively destructive to each other.

A third type of planting is one like beans and carrots. Carrots love tomatoes in a mutually beneficial relationship. However, the relationship between carrots and beans is unrequited. Beans are helpful in fixing nitrogen but carrots don’t need a lot of nitrogen. The carrots help the beans grow and the beans don’t do much in return.

The other day I sat in my garden about to move my new bean seedlings out into the garden. I contemplated paring them the carrot seeds I just got in the mail from my new favorite seed company (The Seattle Seed Co). What to do? I planted them together.

I guess at the end of the day I think that there is a time and a place for non-reciprocal relationships. Sometimes it is our job to step in and lift someone else up even when it is unlikely that you will get something out of the relationship. I figure that for every time I have been the carrot, there are at least 10 more where I have been the bean.  In gardening terms, I don’t have a lot of space and it made logistical sense to let them hang out for a season.

There also are times when companions are hanging out together and it still doesn’t work. The soil is too wet and the roots just rot. It should work but it just doesn’t. This happens to people as well. We pick our church, our neighborhood, our school and our friendships carefully and thoughtfully and try to force it. Sometimes we just have to accept that there are many different reasons that relationships work.

I also am happy to know that companion plants can thrive even when they aren’t near each other. I spent many years gardening and my carrots and tomatoes had to gaze adoringly at each other from vast distances. Despite that complication, each one managed to survive and provide something to harvest in the season. Many of my closest friendships are with companions that are spread far and wide. Although mountains and seas separate us, the bond remains strong and does not falter. Just like companion plants, some relationships are a gift that stand the test of time because what they bring is something that we cannot do without.

Companion Plants (information from the Old Farmer’s Almanac):

Asparagus Friends: Dill, Coriander, Carrots, and Tomatoes. Avoid: Onions, Garlic and Potatoes.

Beans – Friends: Cucumbers, Corn, Squash, Strawberries, and Tomatoes Foe: Garlic, Onions, Peppers and Sunflowers

Lettuce: Friends: Asparagus, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Corn, and Cucumbers Foe: Broccoli

Peppers: Basil, Onions, Spinach, and Tomatoes Foe: Beans and Kohlrabi

Tomatoes: Carrots, Peppers, Spinach, Asparagus and Thyme Foe: Broccoli, Cabbage, Corn and Potatoes