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. :)

When the idea of a book club is just what I needed.

This morning, I was listing to my friend Steve's podcast. In it, he mentioned a blogger named Steph from Minneapolis, who was starting a book club about his new book, Beginnings. I wondered who else named Steph was a Minneapolis blogger, and friends with Steve. Because though last week I wrote a post about the book, and offered to give away a copy (one day left to enter!), I had no intentions of starting a club. 

I went to his show notes and discovered the link did in fact go to my site. At first I laughed, feeling the human connection of making a mistake. The laughter quickly faded when I felt the prompting that it's absolutely what I should do. 

What Steve doesn't know is that the beginning of this new year had me pondering what to do with my blog. The start of a new year is a great time to ask if it's time to stop something that has been part of our routines. My writing has been slowly fading out over the last year or two, as I have tried to figure out where it fits with the rest of my shifting vocational directions. 

I like writing. But I love having conversations. The isolation of blogging has always been difficult for me to navigate. I'm an extrovert who is at my best when I can look into someone's eyes instead of at a screen. I love being with people face-to-face and diving into the depths faith. That is why I adore the way of teaching the Scriptures that has entered my life, where we gather in a circle with slowness, vulnerability, and questions. 

questions are kindling

Questions are kindling for the fire of connection. They are among my favorite things. 

One of the many gifts Beginnings gives the reader is the great questions at the end of each chapter. If you are like me, though, you read good questions in books, think about how they would be good prompts for reflection, then keep moving onto the next chapter. In the absence of community, questions can easily be skipped.

All this got me wondering: what if my blog became about questions instead of answers? What if posts were an invitation to dig into life together? What if it was less of a monologue and more of a conversation? 

I don't know exactly where this wondering will go, but I know where it will start: Steve's book. I guess I'm starting a book club after all. Though, I'm not sure I'd call it a book club- it will be more of a book prompt. I hope to use the book to create written conversations about life and faith. 

Here's how it will work: Each week, I will choose a question from Beginnings, write about it, and invite you to write about it too.

I will reveal the question a week in advance, to give time for us to ponder it. When I write my response to the question, I will provide a link up where you can post a link to your blog, if you choose to write about it, too. If you don't have a blog, you can write your response in the comments. If you don't want to do either of those things, perhaps you can write your response in a journal, or talk about it with a friend. (I also recommend reading the book, as it will help you dive much deeper into the questions.)

When we get done with the questions from Steve's book, I have some other questions I have used in Scripture studies or explored in conversations or been pondering, which I would love to explore here, too. (I might even start sprinkling those in between his book questions... we'll see.)

I am struck by the beauty of having a new beginning in this space that starts with the book Beginnings. I am excited to see what new life is coming. 

Here's our first question, from page 25, at the end of the chapter about light: What do you most long to hear from God these days? 

Check back next week for my reflection, and to share yours, too.  I can't wait.

Undissected Praise

magnifying glassWe humans have a tendency to dissect things to the point that what was once whole becomes a pile of unrecognizable pieces.  

We think that looking at things from every angle helps us see more clearly, but I wonder sometimes if it actually puts our focus in the wrong place.

 

I’m not sure if this has always been the case, or if it is one of the effects of modern technology. Our access to information can be a curse as much as it can be a blessing. We watch and discuss and listen and post and read and tweet, taking the pieces of life apart to discuss them, not realizing that we might not know how to put them back together.

 

We do this with the Bible. And it pulls apart our faith.

 

Yes, we should come to the Scriptures as educated pursuers of its truth. We need to realize that how we read things will be shaped and misshaped by our own experiences. We should remember that the words are thousands of years old, from a culture vastly different from our own. We ought to do some work to understand how different translations approached the original text, and maybe even do some language study.

 

But also? We should remember that the same Holy Spirit that was with the authors of the Books as they wrote their words is within us as we read them. We need to sometimes leave the questions on the table and let our heart be captured by the wonder of an unfathomable God. We ought to worship our God alongside the worshipers of long ago, without worrying about whether the words are translated precisely for  our modern day.

 

So yes, Psalm 47 is a Psalm written by and for Israel. It is praising God for giving them victory over their enemies and a safe city in which to dwell. We could dissect whether it is appropriate for believers today to use its words. We could question and argue about how to translate its words, like “maskil.” (Does it mean “psalm of praise” or “skillful psalm”?) We could get into long theological debates about what it means for God to be king over the earth, and how that joins together with the existence of human free will.

 

Or, we could just sing it.

 

We could sing Psalm 47’s words of praise to God without dissecting them to pieces. We could join with those who have sung words throughout the ages that praise God for His strength and might. We could clap our hands in joy that this God is the One who Reigns is the One who Loves is the One Who Died is the One Who Rose Again is the One Who is with us in all things is the One who Forever Will Be God.

 

Clap your hands, all you nations;     shout to God with cries of joy.

For the Lord Most High is awesome,     the great King over all the earth.

God has ascended amid shouts of joy,     the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;     sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth;     sing to him a psalm of praise.

God reigns over the nations;     God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble     as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God;     he is greatly exalted.

- Psalm 47:1-2, 5-9

 

Amen.

 

walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.