Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

If this joy be satisfying.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

[photo credit]

When your soul has simply trusted Jesus, have you ever been confounded?

Have you not up till now found your Lord to be a compassionate and generous friend to you, and has not simple faith in Him given you all the peace your spirit could desire? Can you so much as dream of a better friend than he has been to you? …

This is the joy we have today that we are saved in Him; and if this joy be satisfying, wherefore should we think of changing? Who barters gold for dross?

We will not forswear the sun till we find a better light, nor leave our Lord until a brighter lover shall appear; and, since this can never be, we will hold Him with a grasp immortal, and bind His name as a seal upon our arm.

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from Morning and Evening

Time and danger.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

[photo credit]

She did good. She stood up like a
planted flower among yellow weeds
turning to please the sun
                they were all shiny
it was known she was planted

– from “Stanzas” by Grace Paley

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. How I use it. How slowly and quickly it seems to pass – and why it is that it never goes fast enough during the hard parts and the waiting parts and is so darn hasty when you’d just like it to stop. And how to protect it — saying yes or no.

At TGCW 2012, Mindy Belz spoke on a journalist’s call to speak truth. She quoted Ann Voskamp as she talked about being a “dangerous disciple of an unsafe God.” A slowly creeping realization revealed itself then.

To be planted. To be unsafe.

For a few years now, I’ve been protecting myself. Keeping in mind my own sensitivity, strengths and weaknesses during and after a period when I never knew whether the day’s events would have me feeling fine or curled up on the couch sobbing — since a disturbing scene in a movie might have me in bed all day, since I could easily let the burdens of my youth group girls weigh on me like they were my own.

Anxiety is crippling, not just in its attacks but between — less like a loaded gun and more like a spider web, a soft underbelly.

With that fragility came strict management of my time and activities. I couldn’t read about starving children or sex trafficking or abortion. I certainly couldn’t meet their victims. I relied on grace, and on the ones stronger than me to fix things, and I prayed for them.

But this year. Now. I’ve zipped myself in long enough, I think, and I’m hearing small whisperings of danger — the danger that gums you but can’t bite.

I’m moving toward being less protective of my time and stepping into more and more healing.

To prove it, this week I prayerfully volunteered for two positions that will take up a few hours each week on top of my normal duties. I’m hoping they not only help me keep moving toward freedom, but place me in positions to help free others.

And maybe they’ll give me some writing fodder, as well?


Gratefully overwhelmed.

Friday, June 29th, 2012

[photo credit]

 Something weird is happening in my brain.

There are FOUR unfinished posts (some barely started) sitting in my drafts folder. I have notes upon notes that I have yet to go through from last weekend’s Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. My brain has just been too full — and as soon as I would have been able to process it, I had to jump back into the crazy of catching up with work after being gone.

And I can’t come up with a word for any of it, other than just gratefully overwhelmed.

The day after the conference I felt like I couldn’t even talk — there was too much. Too much happening in my heart to put into words; too much happening as soon as I got back to think through it all. My notes have sat, waiting for me to return to them. Because when you sit in a room with 3800 women worshiping, the reality of it all is just stunning. And no eight-point outline hastily scratched can truly get at what was spoken — and more, what was conveyed as a whole. The reality of God. The JOY of him.

Many of the silly things I pay attention to have no significance; the wisdom of man, I listen to for no reason other than that my human mind can’t surround all the beauty and I let myself skirt around it, believing faith is inferior.

A song has been stuck in my head for a week now —

We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on him, our souls’ reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done.

To fix my eyes. To abide, enjoying. To learn to set aside distractions until they’re set aside forever. Those are my prayers.


Joy List 2012

Friday, January 27th, 2012

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. —Jesus


I have not been feeling blogging lately.  See, what happens with clinical depression and just straight up downtroddenness (at least for me) is this: I get stuck.  Not go for a run to clear my head stuck, or let’s make a mindmap to sort through these feelings stuck.  Trapped in a cycle of feeling like I don’t and can’t know anything. It’s a helpless, incompetent feeling that only leads to more despair.  So, while reading back over my joy list from earlier this week (or last week?), I decided I needed to practice.

Because the only thing that fights lies is the truth.

Here, I’m letting you in on a little of that practice as I expand on each item in my joy list. I’ll muse about vague goals, remind myself of the ultimate purpose of each aim, and hopefully you’ll get to add a little something to the conversation, too.  If you have any thoughts to contribute, please comment—let’s get this conversation started, because, well, I’m stuck in my own head and I’d love to be a collective conscious with you.

Giving of myself to church service and fellowship.

Repentance time—I am a bare minimum doer. I have self-preservation and overcommitment anxiety and I am absolutely convinced that more than once a month in the nursery, a meal here and there or helping someone move is the extent of my ability to serve.  Then I hear of people absolutely swamped by church work and I feel guilty. Ugh. What’s happening here is obviously that it’s easy for my sinner mind to twist good and faithful service to Jesus into a competition with others.  Then I feel like I’m not doing enough, but for the wrong reasons. My goal here is to prayerfully consider areas where I (or Eric and I as a couple) might be able to serve more selflessly. Then to work on not worrying about protecting myself—that’s His job.

Praying always

It’s so funny how this concept has changed for me over the years. As a teenager I thought “praying without ceasing” sounded like a great goal, but one that was absolutely impossible.  I still struggle a bit with the idea of literally kneeling down, closing my eyes, bowing my head and praying for hours.  But what I have found through the process is what prayer looks like for me.  I journal prayers, requests, notes, thoughts.  In fourth grade I wrote to my “diary.” In 6th grade, my journal was named “Sunshine” (no, not kidding…).   Oh, doesn’t this seem like an appropriate place to slip in an embarrassing 6th grade journal entry?

Sixth Grade Journal Entry

Yes, I was that cool. Ahhh….

Anyway, after that, I wrote to some vague journal-y being, or maybe myself; but some point a few years ago, without even meaning to, journaling naturally became writing to God. And because my journaling is thinking, I’ve noticed my thoughts generally shifting in that direction, too—thinking to God. Could that not be the start of constant prayer?

Memorizing scripture

Simple reasoning, difficult execution. It comes back to what I wrote above: fighting lies with truth, without having to look it up.

Writing often

To continue to tap into the soulspring; to do something I love and with which I have been gifted.  To practice and work hard to not squander it.

Spending time in creation

Doesn’t this, without fail, prompt thoughts of the eternal? I was reading yesterday that Dave Ramsey went from being an atheist to a theist simply by observing miracles in creation: birth, skiing on an incredible mountain. Order does not come from chaos.

Charles Spuregon is said to have answered, when asked how to defend the Bible/God/the Gospel (100 various web sources differ…), with this statement (or something close):

“Very easy. The same way I defend a lion. I simply let it out of its cage.”

Creation points to Creator.  To me, it is the lion. Who can argue? Who can even stand?

[Edit: Soon after posting this, my mom showed me this incredible video of HD time-lapse photography in Yosemite. You MUST watch it.]

Resting intentionally/Using time purposefully

Um, this means not sitting on Facebook/Twitter/Google reader, etc. Going to bed on time. Scheduling time for internet browsing, instead of letting my rest time be eaten up by cyberspace.  It also means planning short retreats, investing in my marriage and skills I want to keep up or develop.  Specifically, I hope that includes getting back into the habit of playing piano, learning some basic photograph skills, and reading books more than I read screens.

Practicing Gratitude

See this post, and these.

Having grace for myself and my mistakes

i.e. fighting perfectionism, one day (hour, minute) at a time.  It is a serious goal of mine to not avoid starting something because I know I won’t do it perfectly. This is a huge hangup and major manifestation of my fear that actually affects my day-to-day life negatively. No, no.

Forgiving quickly

Not only by forgiving when I am wronged today or tomorrow, but by forgiving immediately again and again when a past hurt arises. Not dwelling or holding grudges. Remembering how much I have offended and how much I am forgiven.  He who is forgiven much loves much.

Serving Jesus by serving other people

With my eyes on Jesus I pray to not look for recognition from Eric, from my boss or students, from clients, from family.  I pray to not feel so dependent on affirmation. To remember again that I am an unworthy servant, and to do all things with that in mind.  I used to interpret the command to “work as unto the Lord” as though it said “work as if unto the Lord.” I don’t know how the words translate, but I do know this: working for God is different than imagining I’m working for God. Guess which one is more effective?

I’d love to hear your insights about any or all of these items. Please chime in if you feel so inclined!

Have a joy-filled, purposeful, restful weekend.


Finding my name: Guest post by my Mama.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

At the start of the new year, I wrote that my “word” for this year..and last year…and the year before that.. has been joy.  Not long before that, I had written a poem that would become part one of this Finding my Name series of posts. There, I promised the story would be continued.

I asked my mother to tell this story herself for a few reasons: I wanted to hear it in her own words, and I knew she would remember the details much better than I can from the tellings and retellings throughout my life. But most of all, although it is my name’s story, a large part of it is more her own story than mine.

It’s a story I feel unworthy to be part of; God’s grace extended, turning beaten to beatific and using me to fulfill a promise to his own precious daughter. Thanks for reading.

Me with my mama last summer

Brynna’s Name Story

told by her mother, Karen Murray

Ever have one of those days when something much bigger than you is happening and you just know there is a God and that He is not silent?  We were living in Germany in December of 1990, and this was one of those days.  Oh, it started out as a pretty ordinary morning.  We woke to our normal routine, and after my husband left for work, I piled all the kids into the car to drive Rachel to her German 2nd grade class and Brynna to her German Kindergarten and then returned home with Lauren, our two-year-old, and her new baby brother, Evan. I was trying to make the best use of the time I had between trips to and from home and school. Just before noon I loaded the little ones back into the car to go pick up Brynna, drive to Frankfurt Central Chapel on the Army post to pick up a bag of baby boy clothes that someone had left there for me, and get back to Hattersheim before Rachel’s class dismissed at 2:30 pm.  No problem!

When we arrived at the chapel, Brynna announced that she wanted to go say hello to our chaplain. Why not? We walked to his office and found that he was not there on Mondays. Oh the disappointment! So I suggested we go meet the Rabbi whose office was at the next door down the hall. Good enough. When we approached the kind man, he seemed genuinely interested in meeting my little ones.  He asked for their names.  I introduced them.  “This is Evan, this is Lauren, and this is Brynna.” While shaking Brynna’s hand he stated, “I have a sister named Bryna.”  I told him that was the name I saw in the Baby Name Book, and we loved the meaning, but changed the spelling so that it would be pronounced differently. He asked me, “What did the Name Book say it means?”  “Strength, virtue, and honor,” I confidently replied. He responded, “Well, we say it means ‘rejoicing’.” 

That’s when I got chills and suddenly knew this was not an ordinary day.  In order to explain, I have to take you back a few years.  Our first daughter was born in December of 1983.  Between her birth and Brynna’s I suffered two miscarriages.  The first one was hard enough, with feelings of loss and questioning why it had happened, but the second one brought with it the worry that I might not ever be able to carry another pregnancy.  I trusted in God’s sovereignty and providence, but the fear was very real.

In the days following the second miscarriage I happened to be reading for my Bible study. The assigned lesson asked me to look up specific verses about joy.  One of those verses seemed to be written especially for me.  It was John 16:22 – “ . . . Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  I felt as if God was giving me a promise that the next time I conceived it would be okay, that I need not fear.  Oh how I clung to those words! I just knew it would be all right.

Well, I did conceive three months later and Brynna was born a year after the last miscarriage. We named her Brynna Lynea Murray:  Brynna for “strength, virtue, and honor,” Lynea because it’s a family name (and a Norwegian flower) and we liked the sound and the look of the names together.  Even though we really liked our choice, deep in my heart I had always wished we had thought of naming her Brynna JOY to connect her name to the Scriptural promise I had received.

Four years later we found ourselves in a foreign country speaking with a Jewish Rabbi who lets me know that we had indeed named our daughter JOY.  Of course I had to explain why I got chills when he informed me of the Hebrew meaning, so I told him my story.  Then he explained that the same Hebrew word is found in Psalm 126:5, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of JOY!”  B’rina – ‘with rejoicing’ – what a reason to rejoice!

But that wasn’t the end of my sense of God’s smile.  There were two other “God-incidences” that afternoon.  The first is that it just happened to be the Rabbi’s birthday that day.  As we left his office, his wife was just arriving with a balloon bouquet to help him celebrate!  Then after we left we picked up Rachel from school and returned home.  I was doing a little straightening up around the house and noticed my turn-over-a-page-a-day ‘family traditions’ calender was behind a few days.  I flipped over to the correct date and read:  “Hebrew Birthday:  Make your child’s birthday special.  Write his name in Hebrew on the birthday cake.”  I am not joking.  I could not believe my eyes.  I still to this day ask myself why, in a world so full of major current events — including at that specific time, the Persian Gulf War — why would God be so concerned about expressing His love and faithfulness in things as trivial as birthday balloons and calendar pages?

I guess it’s the same reason that there are hundreds of colorful fish in the ocean that most people never see, or that a lovely wildflower peeks up through the snow on a mountain where only God will ever see it.  Or that He is particularly pleased when people do kind things that are seemingly unnoticed. And He knows when a sparrow falls, and how many hairs are on my head, and what I’m going to say before a word is on my tongue. He knew I’d named her JOY for more than four years before He let me in on the glorious secret.  And even to this day the promise is true: no one will take away my joy.  Thank you, God, for my Brynna Lynea.