What do you most long to hear from God these days?

Last week, I posted about a fresh new beginning for this blog, with posts based on questions. Questions I hope you respond to as well, on your own blog, in the comments, or just in your journal at home. I hope it helps this blog become more of a conversation than a monologue. I also hope it helps us all wrestle through the important stuff of life and faith, the kind of stuff we might ignore if left to our own devices. You can read more background and hopes here.

The first set of questions will come from Steve Wien's book, Beginnings, which I highly recommend you buy and read. However, you are welcome to participate even if you haven't read it, just by tackling the questions.

Our first question comes from page 25, at the end of Day One, when God says, "Let there be light." It is a chapter about God ushering us into new beginnings. 

long to hear from God

What do you most long to hear from God these days?

What do I think I should want to hear from God? What would it sound good to say I wanted to hear from God? What do I wish I wanted to hear from God? What do I  actually long to hear from God? 

If you're like me, you had to wrestle through the first few questions to get to the heart of the actual question for today. It's amazing how difficult it can be to stay in touch with our own desires and needs. We slip on people-pleasing and religious posturing like the comfortable sweatshirt from high school we can't bear to part with, even though it's full of holes and does nothing to keep us warm. Then, wrapped up in that, we convince ourselves that's what a sweatshirt is supposed to feel like, and it's truly what we want and need.

I'm taking off that tattered sweatshirt today. I'm not even taking it to Goodwill- I don't want anyone else to pick it up and think they are stuck with it, too. Nope, this baby is going straight to the trash.

What do I most long to hear from God these days? That I can be free.

Free from people-pleasing. Free from the swirling questions about what others are thinking about me that seem to be my constant companion. Free from using food as a drug to ease my pain, soothe my boredom, or reward me for my hard work. Free from answering questions about how I am doing with how everyone around me is feeling. Free from the shaming voice that instantly notices all the things I could have done better. Free from working to try to earn my belovedness. 

Free to be fully present to the present moment. Free to walk confidently in my calling without fear of how others will respond. Free to laugh and be ridiculous, even if people are looking. Free to embrace the strength of my vulnerability and the reality of my neediness. Free to love and be loved without trying so damn hard. Free to be me- the messed-up me, the extraordinary me, the regular-ole me, the creative me, the compassionate me, the whole me, the true me.

I long to hear God say that freedom is possible, freedom is coming, and freedom can be my new way of being. I long for affirmation that the hard emotional work I have done over the last few years has led me here, to the cultivated soil now ready to sprout with free and reckless life.  

"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand!" -Gal 5:1 (The Message)

I'm ready.

- Steph

P.S. I've been thinking about what my OneWord 365 should be. Sounds like I found one: FREE.

(Keep reading to enter the link-up, to see next week's question, and to find out who won the free book from the post on New Beginnings.)

Your turn: What are you longing to hear from God these days?

If  you are a blogger, link up with your post below. If you are not a blogger, you can also link up to an Instagram post, how cool is that? Or, maybe now is the the time to step out of the shadows and respond with a comment. I promised I will reply to all comments left. 

There is risk, but there is also great power, in sharing our longings out loud.


Now, it's time to reveal next week's question, from page 44 of Beginnings, "What are some things you think you may need to let go of in order to expand into who you need to become?"

Finally, the winner of a copy of Beginnings is... Crosby Kuehl! Congrats. I'll email to figure out details of getting you a copy. There were only 5 entries, so I went old school and literally wrote out names and picked from a hat. :)

A Blessing for a New Day

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Inhale.
Breathe deep the life of a new day.

As energy surges through all that has rested in the darkness,
May the light of morning awaken you to hope.

May grace find its way to your heart,
Releasing you to an expansive love,
Unprotected and free.

May love make its way to your brain,
Breaking open your thought loops of not-enough-ness,
With the deep knowledge of your cherishedness. 

May your cherishedness travel to your hands,
Allowing you to embrace others
In the same way you have been held.

May peace go to your gut,
Calming the churning insides of fear,
And creating space to feel the difficulties of life
Without letting their acids get the best of you.

May wonder grab hold of your ears,
Opening them to the delight of laughter
That is dancing its way around this world. 

May courage push through the tired muscles of your legs, all the way to your feet,
Giving you strength to turn from the regrets of yesterday
And walk expectantly towards new challenges,
Bringing all of yourself along for the ride.

May desire reach your eyes,
Giving you vision to see past the illusions of what you think you want,
To the inmost longings for that which really matters.

May beauty journey to your tongue, 
Giving you a taste of eternal contentedness
And a hunger to create more.

May the Spirit who hovered over the beginning of all things
Like a mama bird protecting her young,
Speak new life to your soul
And carry you into the future.

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I have been reading the lovely book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O'Donohue. In it he says,
 "Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality, some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing."

It is a beautiful work that is inspiring me to speak words of blessing to those around me. Whatever your day holds, in some small way, I pray these words of mine remind you of the intimate kindness of the Divine. 

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Advent and the Vulnerability of Hope

Our relationship with hope changes as we grow older.

When I was a child, the anticipation of the Christmas season filled me with excitement. My heart would dance in joyful wonder in the presence of trees and lights, my tastebuds would water in expectations of cookies and cider, and my mind would swirl with the possibilities of presents and parties. I never worried that these expectations would fail to come to pass. 

The hope of Christmas was tangible and good.

By the time we reach adulthood, our experiences of disappointment have stacked into a giant wall. Times we have been left waiting, dreams that never became reality, results that weren't what we wanted, and relationships that have fallen apart, all these come together to form a barricade around our desires. It begins to feel safer to stay inside than to break through. We know all too well how horrible it feels if our expectations aren't met. 

Sometimes hope feels less like goodness and more like danger. In a wide open space filled with possibilities, we know that one option, sometimes the most likely option, is that we will be hurt. 

Advent is a season of longing for Christ. We travel back in time to wait alongside those who lived before Christ came, and we sit in the present time to wait with the world for Christ who is still coming. We notice the brokenness of this world and the jagged edges of ourselves, and allow ourselves to anticipate the Savior who is coming to make us whole.

At Advent, we enter into a season of hope. At least, we try to.

Because, honestly, it feels like too much to believe sometimes, doesn't it? That God came to earth as a baby? And that He will come again to make all things right? Because He is actually real and He actually loves us? 

What if we hope, only to have our expectations dashed once again, like they always are? 

It feels safer to sit in the darkness, behind our wall, than to break through and believe in the possibility of the light. 

I wonder if part of the waiting of Advent is to hope that we don't have to be the ones to break through. Because at Christmas, God showed us that He is the type of God who breaks through on our behalf. That His love can push through our walls, pull us out from hiding, and hold our hands as we walk in His light towards something new. 

Maybe at Advent, God is showing us that in the vulnerable space of hope, we don't have to wait alone.

The risk of hope feels tangible to me this Advent. Come January, I don't have a job. Like a crazy person, I left my current position without a plan for what's next. (You can hear more about that in the message at the top of this page.) In an amazing way, God made Himself tangibly present in that decision, and yet I find it difficult to continue to trust Him here, in the waiting space.

As I've talked with God about what is next, the scariest things to pray about haven't been my fears. The most difficult truths to admit to God are my desires. What if I build up these hopes and expectations only to have them dashed? 

Hope pushes us to confront what we believe about God's character. Do we believe that He is good, regardless of our circumstances? Do we believe that He is at work, even when the world is such a mess? Do we believe He cares about our desires?

In Mark 10, when Jesus comes across the blind man Bartimaeus, he doesn't simply heal him on the spot. He starts with a question,

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” - Mark 10:51

Do we have the courage to answer Jesus question, "What do you want me to do for you?" To answer that question for ourselves and for the world?

Do we have the courage to hope?

Just yesterday, when I was doubting God's presence in this waiting space, when hope was feeling too risky, God broke through and pulled me out from behind the wall. In an amazing way, He reminded me that He is here and He sees me. I am not alone.

The beauty of Advent hope is that though we wait in longing for the Christ who is still coming, we also worship the Christ who has already come. Having eyes to see Christ at work in our present can give us the courage to name our desire for Christ to work in our futures.

This Advent, let's dare to hope.