Wednesday, May 17, 2006

//Sabbath #14 - 13 February 2006//

Well, I need to make this short. I notice that in past entries when I've set out to do just such a thing, I've failed miserably. But I'm determined; come on, it's 1:30am! This past week I faced the daunting task of overcoming backlash from the micromanaging fiasco of the week prior. But You are amazing, LORD...a few nights up late, a sickness that gradually took hold of me as the week wore on ... but You took care of me. Blessed be the Name of the LORD! So I was tempted from early on in the week and felt the heavy oppressiveness of it upon my soul, but You helped me come into victory by and large. And how my heart is changed! My heart was overjoyed at the lack of sin, but disheartened at the lack of prayer walks! Not mere victory, but spiritual communion -- intimacy was desired. I had quenched my thirst on previous weeks with nightly prayer walks...and now when my soul didn't receive that, it ached! Oh, to become more Your servant! More Your vessel! More Yours, O LORD and Father -- Lord Jesus!

You blessed me most directly with this verse towards the end of the week: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." [Col. 2:15-17]. That verse came on Friday, I believe. I had been stressed out the entire week and worrying about homegroup, LT, life, classes, tests...and then Thursday came and I awoke and felt completely sick [under the weather] then Thursday afternoon I struggled to finish my teaching. But then at homegroup the worship time was amazing; it was such a blessing and for the first time in the week, I felt Your peace. The next day it was pouring outside and I was miserably sick, but decided I needed to go to class nonetheless. As I was waiting for the bus, there was this guy named Kyle standing there. Now, I'd seen Kyle many times before, but we'd never talked. Long story short, he came to church and he may come to homegroup on Thursday! You encourage me, LORD, even when I really don't deserve it in the least [but as stated before, when do we ever?]. [...]

NOTE: Sorry for the misnumbering. Apparently there were two 'Sabbath #14's -- but I don't care enough to go back and correct the mistake. So, deal with it.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

//Sabbath #14 - 6 February 2006//

What a strange week this last one turned out to be. My opinion of how and where it was going changed several times over. Though the week itself was marked again by a clear and pointed sense of focus. Starting out, I was in a tough spot. On Sunday I was pretty torn up emotionally, that's not particularly visible in my entry from that day. But it was, in fact, the case. I had been plagued that weekend by a sudden attack of loneliness. As previously explained as to why this came about, I was in bad shape on Sunday afternoon. But that night and particularly in core group the next day, I was just confronted with the feeling that You desired for me to surrender myself to You on a deeper and new level. And it was a good and hard feeling simultaneously. I felt myself constantly being emptied and filled by You; a pitcher being poured clean and then filled sweetly overflowing again and again. It was a hard-pressed drunken car ride. Loneliness is a terrible disease. The prayer time on Monday night was a monument to Your grace. I realized in prayer the psalm of my weekend [It was as if I wanted to cry, 'Let the earth swallow me rather than face down my own loneliness!'/ The skeletones of the trees became foreign, the night grew bitter cold/ And I cried out, and in tears called, 'Will You not save me?'/ And then I remembered who You are -- the God of the Universe, the LORD who delights in saving the meek and humble/ You are my strength, O LORD!].

But Tuesday morning awoke with a sense of duty and business to it. I met with Harry and was greatly encouraged and challenged by his fiery heart for You, LORD. Literally, I have seen few people as wired and excited as he is about the gospel. Sadly he hasn't been part of a fellowship. Real fellowship. Then the rest of the week was filled with meetings as well. Wednesday -- Aaron and Nick Adams; Thursday -- Danny. And this is the benefit of hindsight. I realize now that I am micromanaging far too much. Because I overextended myself last week, I had a painfully dry weekend spiritually [a tiresome affair] and a swamped academic schedule awaiting me this week. Again, that is perhaps why this week was a mixed bag of sorts. Thursday night at homegroup I realized I was entirely worn out. I couldn't get a whole lot out of the teaching or worship time for that matter -- I was worn thin.

Thus, changes must be taken to amend this mistake. Though last night we had a grand ol' Super Bowl party that was entirely too much fun...and from what I heard, the girls had an amazing time at their retreat. The pangs of loneliness and awkwardness of love are still stinging. Enough of my emotions though -- it really does seem that our homegroup might go somewhere if we don't bog it down in our human weakness. LORD, we indeed need Your strength. Your focus. I believe I've started the week on the wrong side of the bed, correct my ways. Even now, reflection has aided that blindness.

//Sabbath #13 - 29 January 2006//

Things move. I don't have a terribly long time to journal tonight [which really translates to -- I didn't give myself enough time]. But there's my short summary: things move. They don't stay, they occasionally idle...but eventually move. As Sufjan Stevens sings, 'All things go, all things go...' This week saw the propulsion of the semester a little more into full swing. Thursday I had a good meeting with Mr. Garcia -- he was a little downtrodden a couple weeks back, but this past week he's been doing good spiritually. I lift him up to You, LORD. Friday afternoon I met with Bryan Tabor, much talk of how he's gonna have a busy semester [needs to keep his B's to stay in engineering]. I really do pray and hope that he'll take Discipleship class this semester though. He's much like a new Christian, it's exciting -- but I pray he'll keep striving after You. Jeff is supposed to start meeting with Nick Adams, I'm hoping that happens -- Jeff has grown so much since he's been here, we could really use him in helping out with leadership. This sounds like a very business-like entry, no? It felt somewhat business-like this week. Prayer time on Monday, homegroup on Thursday, Chinese Bible Study on Friday. I don't know, it's not that it was done was more the fact that all felt very organized and structured spiritually. For the better part of the week I felt keenly focused on the end goal and how we as a homegroup needed to get there. The end goal being of course to glorify Your Name.

We moved from the beginning of the week in which everyone seemed a bit anxious and unsure. Colleen was worried about closing their house and moving in, Jeff was stressed about getting an internship for the summer, Desire was facing a hard time emotionally...and then the week moved on and through much prayer many if not all of these trials were rested by You. Tuesday and Wednesday I was somewhat hard-pressed in deciding what You wanted me to teach about in homegroup. Sunday night on a prayer walk I felt that You told me, 'I already told you -- it's all about the child.' [I had asked You to tell me what to speak about]. I mean, generally, I was supposed to talk on 'Experiencing God' -- but there were many categories that were sort of candidates with that [it's a fairly general topic]. Wednesday, I felt You confirm that answer, You called me to talk about how our experiences with You effect our perception of You.

Thursday night, homegroup was a very good time. We had two new kids there -- Harry and Mary [ha!] and then Sonny came! Off all the craziness -- I hadn't seen him in forever! I pray You'll work in his heart so that he'll keep coming. Anyway, that's the short end of it. This weekend I had an emotional breakdown -- a quick one-hour affair. [...] It's also just hard on me with Ben not being here this semester. I didn't realize it until now, I guess he really is one of my best friends, period. There! That was all very un-business-like, if you will.

//Sabbath #12 - 22 January 2006//

What a strange and awkward start to the semester this has been. I knew from the start it would be kind of different [what with Ben being gone and Michelle having her child, and so forth], but just didn't anticipate the feeling of it all. It has been raining off and on since Friday and it's made everything seem a bit dreamscape -- a bit impressionistic. Today Michelle had her Entrustment Ceremony and it was a very, as Laurie Johnson put it, 'bittersweet' time.

Beginning with the previous week, everything has seemed a bit remiss. Monday night before school started we had many individual Pizza and Vision times rather than the normal AMCF-wide time because of remodeling in the gym. So, from the first, all felt kind of strange and anti-climactic. Don't get me wrong -- it was a wonderful time we had nonetheless...but still, it was a bumpy start to the semester. The whole time as all this went on, I was pretty stressed. I had still not been forced into a class I was supposed to be in and it kept nagging me, it was always in the back of my mind the entire week. Somewhere in the week I lost my confidence. I lost my edge. I began to be very self-conscious and subdued; I was trying to help prepare a special song for the rally and all the while try to hold it together. Strangely enough this was another curve I couldn't have seen coming. Sunday night I felt the most spiritually prepared I think I've ever felt for a new semester...and yet here was the first week -- one trial after another. The entire time I just kept wondering who I am and where I'm going. I'm still scared to death of this sudden change in career plans [possibly going on with GCM after school]. I don't know, I'm scared of the insecurity and unsure nature of the future. Actually, a very encouraging thing -- Jordan Castille mentioned off-hand the verse about not worrying about what tomorrow brings [Matthew 6:34] when I told him was so stressed. But nonetheless, everything felt very tentative [Life as it were] this week.

Friday morning I got the e-mail saying that Michelle had her baby...and what a trip! There's always this weird disconnect when it comes to not really comprehending something's existence fully until I see or feel or experience it for myself. It was just a real grounding in reality. Friday night before the party I went to visit Michelle in the hospital. Hospitals are strange places. Everything always feels so subdued and foreign, like entering a tomb. It's as if you enter and you're in this whole other world where people aren't meant to be, and don't necessarily want to be -- but rather have to be. It was a surreal drive through the rain-soaked streets in the dark; then parking, asking the old desk clerk for a room number. What a frightening place! And yet the baby! The infant was wonderful and small and complex and completely, fully, and utterly alive. It was so revealing to see this kid my own age with a child of her own. But ever more wonderful and bewildering was to see the child itself -- fully alive! The homegroup party afterward was fun but somewhat subdued [I enjoy that word tonight]. However, the real joy came on my prayer walk that night. I was walking along feeling somewhat frustrated about how the semester had started [only one new person at the party]...but God answered by turning my attention to what I had seen that day. This living creation, this child had formed from Michelle! He had grown out of her -- and as weird as that sounds, the miracle of God's creation blew me away in my heart of hearts! I was suddenly taken to seeing myself as a newborn, as a fetus in the womb -- 'knit together' as David wrote [Psalm 139: 13]. And all my unecessary worries and dramas left me. I thought of how amazing it is how God has created me and knew me from the start. And loves me because I am. Because I exist!

What an emotionally taxing weekend! I was reminded of Hannah when she gave up Samuel to the LORD for service as a priest...I thought how hard! How crushing that must have been, and yet Hannah stayed true [1 Samuel 1:21-2:11]. What a hard thing! I pray for Michelle over these next couple of weeks especially. I couldn't help but tear up at the Entrustment Ceremony -- what a hard thing! And yet all glory to You, God! Hearing the story of how You brought Dane and Laurie to know Michelle was amazing. You are a good God, who blesses His people. I am in Your hands, we are in Your hands, that child [Stephen Michael] is in Your hands. We need Your strength. Amen, LORD, amen.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

//Sabbath #11 - 29 December 2005//

I am just back from Schertz. So far it has been a very good break [deep sigh and long pause], except for a few hiccups and a couple of days of lost focus [like falling in purity just yesterday; hang my head]. But deeply, and with much sincerity I can say this has been a much needed retreat for me. Spiritually speaking, I found myself again. In the quiet moments, in the moments of nothingness -- all becomes quite clear to me. I have fallen in love with that boat ramp down on the bank of the Comal; I spent many hours there, pacing back and forth in prayer for the coming semester.

To note, this break has seen the return of the Prayer Walk for me. As it was meant to be, rather. I do not mean to say that anything less than these drawn-out times of wrestling is insincere, but rather that sweet times of communion cut short are much less fulfilling for me. As has been a matter of meditation lately -- love takes time. The veritable Relationship takes time. Time to question validity, time to question directions, motives, feelings, desires, needs, etcetera. The Prayer Time strangled in length lacks such an ability to question and consequently an ability to find said answers. Though in the past I have often viewed myself as a man of some patience, it appears I have in fact inherited a bit of the impatient spirit of our times. Prayer needs space, room to feel its way around, search the 'depths of our hearts' as the saying goes. I have had more than a few of these good times of prayer this break and I cannot stress enough the difference felt in my heart. A yearning is renewed in my heart for such time with You. The sweet taste is still on my tongue.

I desire very much to get away once more before school. Perhaps next weekend, a trip to Surfside. I desire to pray for this semester until all feels quite satisfactory, for I dearly wish to not enter this semester having inadequately prayed for it.

The trip to Ben's was a real blessing. To get off 'on my own' as it were was so greatly needed. I was, in all truth, not on my own -- but having such a small group was comforting and the quiet of the road trip was healing. It was also enjoyable riding in the car with Michelle because much like my trip with Desire last spring, I now know Michelle better than I probably could have any other way. Though there are often light-hearted, loving, yet quite meaningless coversations about music and other random matters -- I often crave more substantial talk with individuals to really know them. To know a person truly you must know them spiritually. Not politically, not occupationally, not culturally -- spiritually. To hear someone's testimony and where they are in their relationship with the LORD, that is to know a person. And to return to the aforementioned point, it takes time to get to such a place. One must learn to swim the shallows before proceeding to the ocean. And truly, a person's soul is indeed an ocean, to know the soul and probe its alien depths is to be God [and there is but One].

My father asked me the other night if I had considered going on Staff [working for GCM] after graduation. I said I had not. I am not sure what brought the change in him, in the past I recall him recommending I not do that. I suppose opinions or evaluations change [as do needs]. I guess over time I have grown foreign to the idea -- should I reconsider? I do not know! To me Staff seems something that requires a deep, deep faith in the LORD as a Provider. Perhaps that is where I need to be. I do not believe I have ever had to trust Him so greatly for provisions. Much prayer will be needed. Much.

I am excited and not about this coming semester. I am somewhat shaking in my boots. At times I'm scared, at times not. LORD, You are the Provider. This is off-the-record, but do sincere conversations ever cross the line with unseen undertones? [...] I am not quite sure how that works. [...] I do not evaluate, I merely record for curiosity's sake [or so said the historian]. "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to seperate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:37-39).

[NOTE: the '...' edits will not always makes sense from here on in, and for that I apologize. Honesty is one of the greatest virtues -- but love is the greatest, even more so than all spiritual gifts [1 Cor. 13:13]. I feel I am editing certain details on account of my love for individuals. Be assured, these are not shameful details [a la black-outs on declassified documents], but rather are particulars obviously worth noting for my own sake -- but not for your sake at this point. Thanks.]

Monday, May 01, 2006

//Sabbath #10 - 5 December 2005//

It's amazing how special some of the small things in life are to me. It's in the forties tonight, colder than it has been all winter. I'm sitting on the book store floor with a cup of hot cocoa -- and I think, ya know -- I love hot cocoa on a cold night! Particularly when it's close to Christmas and it just feels natural. Haha! The other day I bought Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas -- and I haven't listened to anything since then. There's something about listening to jazz when it's cold outside. It's almost as if the brushwork on the drums and those meandering piano lines are the winter day, the season.

This past week was a really good one. Honestly, the best week I've had since last week. Especially my meetings. Just when I thought I hardly knew him and had lost closeness with him, Aaron and I had a great meeting on Tuesday. There was a lot more feeling and honesty in that meeting than probably most every other meeting we had this semester. My heart was just in a much better place. Though it was nine in the morning, I was focused and geared to go. Likewise, my meeting with Bryan was really good as well. We went and met down in that old antique park down on the Southside. It was such a good time, and I'm just so encouraged with how well Bryan is doing in reading [and really becoming excited about] the Word. He's nearly done with John now.

Homegroup felt a little awkward on Thursday. Everyone seemed really tired. I could just was this spirit in the place. Oh well, Nick still did a good job on the teaching -- the usual 'Gung-ho! Go get um!' teaching to prepare for the break.

2 Kings has continued to bless me. I am to Hezekiah now; he really is one of my favorite dudes in the Bible. He is the embodiment of a King who is faithful to his LORD. LTT on Sunday night was a real blessing as well. We were talking about the Spiritual Disciplines and I realized how much further I have to grow. How young my faith is. How far I have to go. Memorization and Meditation, Intercessory Prayer, Fasting, Extra-biblical Reading, Giving, Sharing our Faith with Unbelievers. It's always surprising to see how many gaping holes there are in my spiritual maturity. Let me be a man after Your own heart.