Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Different Prayer

No matter your Eschatological (End Times) view:
You most likely believe that Jesus is coming back someday.
The question is: Do you want Him to? Have you asked Him to?

This past Saturday I attended the Simply Worship conference in Hopkinton, MA... put on by my friends from the Andy Needham Band (http://www.andyneedhamband.com) and Greenhouse ministries (http://www.wearegreenhouse.org). It's the second of their conferences I have been able to attend.

And each time, I walk away changed.
Really. They are better than Christmas Day!

As a worship leader, I love to sing. But to back off the microphone and listen to others sing to our great God is my favorite moment. My heart overflows with gratitude to see His people talking with Him and praising Him.

And in that moment, I can stop leading and do the same.

But something struck me during the middle of one of the worship gatherings at the conference:The last time I remember truly asking the Lord to come back was at the previous conference about one year before. And I do not mean in a, "Lord, I'm so sick of this world and weariness..." but a true, "Lord, I just want to finally meet You face to face.." kind of way. Tears streamed down my face off and on through out the worship times together.... some of it because sometimes I just take it for granted that the Sovereign Being in and of the Universe loves me... and sometimes, because I just wanted to be in His presence: forever.

So the question is this: why have I not wanted or prayed for Jesus to come back again? And again, not out of frustration or weariness (though those are not bad reasons in themselves) but out of pure love and readiness to see Jesus?

Well, I wish that my answer was spiritually uplifting... but unfortunately, I think the answer lies more within the desires of this world entering my spirit. The love of money, comparisons, distractions and sin, just to name a few.

I'm not proud of this. One bit.

In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning states, "One thing we do know: We don't comprehend the love of Jesus Christ... Calvary cries out more clearly than any theology textbook we do not know our God. We have not grasped the truth in the First Letter of John: 'In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us...'

I remember in college telling a friend, "I wish I loved Jesus more." His response? "So ask for more love for Him: I started praying that... and He keeps answering!"

So I challenge you as I begin to challenge myself:
Let us pray a different prayer: let us pray to see Him, and soon... for Him to open our hearts to loving Him more- the way He should be. As a bride and bridegroom are filled with longing to finally catch a mere glimpse of each other on their wedding day: let us pray to be filled with such love and gratefulness that we can not help but pray to see Him-- and soon

And in the meantime, let us do as the angel told the Apostle John while he wrote the book of Revelation (22:9):

Worship God.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A [Single's] Holiday Perspective

Even as I write this post, I can hear the, "But Shauna!'s" that are going to come out. I plead with you to A.) read this entire post first and B.) acknowledge this: You are most likely married and/or have kids... And you, dear friend, are whom I writing to.

I am 32 years old.
I love Jesus.
I am not extremely close with my family.
So you know what?
Real hard.

As the years roll forward on Social Media, people often find the courage to write and "share" about causes that which they may not do otherwise. Or be able to otherwise. One of these causes is the, "I will not shop at __________ on Thanksgiving (or Christmas) because their employees should be home with their family!"

And you know what? I get it.
 I really, really get it

But you know what I also get?
I get that I've been that person that once worked at 16 hour shift at a Girl's Shelter on Christmas Day for no other reason than, well, "I'd rather work on Christmas than be alone all day."

Being in your head can be a really dangerous place for someone during the Holiday Season. Even now, as I am the healthiest I have ever been, spiritually, physically and emotionally I can honestly say: I am bracing myself for this upcoming Season. And to add to that, I'm so looking forward to this Season.

But I have not always looked forward to the Holiday Season.

I've had years of living paycheck to paycheck and feeling guilty for any purchase: never mind a gift. Having jobs that I wasn't particularly happy in. Years of having to figure out life and major life-decisions without someone to walk through it all with. Years of needing that time and a half to help pay for a Christmas gift or a bill. Years of crying while hearing, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and not being able to explain why the tears are flowing.

I have been so blessed to have families "adopt" me during the Holiday Season. My best friend and her family have adopted me now for several years for Christmas. (In fact, the part of the tradition I bring is making Christmas Breakfast- or the Christmas Breakfast/Dinner). Friends of mine in NH have adopted me the last couple of years for Thanksgiving. I, of course, have my moments of just wanting to curl up in a corner and hide sometimes.. and sometimes I do. But even in that: it's nice to hear voices and laughter around those corners.

This year I am hoping to start a new tradition. I've invited a young co-worker to come to my place for Thanksgiving Day. It is time that I begin to reach out to others the way that so many have reached out to me and given me a place to not hear silence.

So my request to you is this... Though America is all about being corporate and making as much money as possible, that those who may be working at the grocery stores and coffee places may rather be at work that day than to be home alone. Of course, I'm sure that many would rather be home, but I am telling you from a place of experience: I would have rather have been at work.

So maybe when you go into Starbucks or your local grocery store, you could bless them by giving them something: a gift card. A "thank you". [Lord knows if you live in the Boston area, we are not known for being friendly people... we're known for our cut-offs: verbally and with our cars.] Who knows, maybe you could even invite a stranger to your dinner.

So, as you stress out over where Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner is going to be hosted in a few weeks.. and over what to make and what to bring.... I plead with you to look around. At the very least, you have stressed out because there are people in your life: Not everyone has that option. Is there someone that just transferred to your work and may not have family around? Is there someone at your church that is new or you notice just sort of looks around, too shy to start a conversation? Or perhaps, just perhaps it's the person right under your nose... that you never thought would struggle with being alone, but truly is.

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others...So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone... [For] the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Philippians 2:4, Galatians 6:9,10 & Matthew 25:40.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Reaction vs. Action

"Thankfulness should be a reaction."
                                                     -Derek Duncan

This is an area of my life that I sense God has been stirring in me. It started almost two years ago while reading a devotional ("Choosing Gratitude", Nancy De Moss) that recommended writing 5 things every day that you are thankful for.. whether it's the curtains on your window or the car in your driveway... The "Experiencing God" study by Henry Blackaby was life-changing as well, as every day you are to pray, "Lord, open my eyes to what You are doing around me..." May I tell you now, dear friend: One can only be thankful when He opens your eyes to where He is around you.

I could go on to tell the various literal hundreds of stories that could encompass how God has shown me when to be thankful and for what, but for now, I'll just share a few.

This summer was the hardest summer I had ever spent at my favorite place on earth (www.lwcamp.com) ... I felt defeated. I felt angry. I felt justified. I felt entitled...I felt... I ... I... I... It was bad. Thankfully, beautiful souls have reminded me that it is when we are weak that He is strong (II Corinthians 12:8,9) and that He finally gets to work. Nothing is beyond His control. (Just use the whole Bible for that reference!) So I've decided to be thankful... thankful that I was able to be where He wanted me. Thankful to be surrounded by godly men and women who spoke Truth into my life. Thankful to be constantly witness to His beautiful creation. Thankful for a sun tan and novel reading. Thankful for air conditioning. Thankful that He (hopefully) still used me despite myself. THANKFUL.

The Fall came.. bringing with it huge changes and challenges. A hunt for a new place to live. A new roommate. Finances. The singing of the National Anthem.The loss of a friendship. The addition of a second job and all that that entails. You know what? God has provided the grace and strength for every one of these. (And because of this, I know that He will continue to!) These could be small challenges for you- but big and/or complicated for me. In fact He has poured His grace over me so abundantly I have shed tears of joy for the glimpses that He has shared in what He is doing around me... perhaps even through me. As John Piper is noted for saying, "In any given moment God could be doing 10,000 things.. but He may only show you 2 or 3 of those..." I. Am. Just. So. Thankful. And at times, rendered speechless.

My prayer for asking God to open my eyes to what HE is doing around me is being answered.. and to that I am thankful. Reactionally thankful. I pray for it to be even more so as the Winter comes, bringing with it the "Winter Blues". 

May His grace and strength build a wall of un-penetrable thankfulness in us and around us.

(*For further study, just a FEW of the verses to read on Thankfulness and Rejoicing, read, Philippians 4:4, 6, Colossians 3:15, 16, 17, 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18, 1 Timothy 6:6... just as a jump start.)