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I have been meaning to write about all the years I have been ministering to and teaching people about hearing the voice of God – the love Jesus has for us and the intimate relationship we can have with Him. Maybe someday I will write about how I got to this place, but at this point, Jesus is telling me to start where He has me today and what He is doing in me now. My hope is that what results will be a story of God’s great love for life and beauty and His daily life-giving Presence which sustains me.

As you know, Kit and I have been in a transition for the last year and a half. Going from 20 years of ministry at a Retreat Center with open space, gardens, and living close to Nature, to ministry in an urban setting where culture is vast, and where sharp lines  in design and architecture, and sounds all over the place, come at me predictably, and unpredictably. In both places, I discovered and are still discovering that His beauty and His creative passion and Spirit are always present. That is not to say I have not had to learn anew, and adjust my vision with  God’s help in this different landscape of beauty, but it is here.

What are some of my adjustments? For one, I am being asked by God to put on new glasses, glasses that allow me to see the still moments of beauty around me in the midst of busyness, noise, and humanity moving all at a different pace in time. Contemplation, reflection, and listening to Jesus’s voice has always been part of me. It fits a part of the creative introvert I am. Yet in the city, one needs to keep the hearing of God’s voice and moments of reflection always in the process of discovery, in balance with the energy-filled, creative unfolding of life and distractions of urban living. Not that Nature and the landscape of God’s Creation are not distracting at times, but I find in the city environment He is asking me to be more intentional about being still in the midst of all the movement around me that passes by so quickly or I will grow blind and passive to it.

By walking to our office from our third floor apartment I am able to have moments to pause and pay attention to the day in the presence of the city and God. I no longer have to drive fifteen minutes from our Sunderland apartment . Now the corner where I sit at my grandfather’s desk between the windows overlooking Main Street, in our Third floor apartment has given me a place to watch, listen, and be still to hear Jesus calm me, comfort me, and care for me. For many years ago in a brownstone in Clinton Street in Brooklyn, NY this desk sat in my grandfather’s room-I think between two windows. The history of life in a city continues to unfold within its folding-down-top presence.

In helping me to make this transition and to readjust my vision to this place, Jesus gave me a model to use and pay attention to. It was a  picture of Him and His response to this city:

I saw Him walking up and down the street. He was talking and He was patient. He would pause and bend down to listen to be present with someone even if they did not want to see Him. He was compassionate as He walked and He told me to be likewise. He paid attention and He told me to do likewise. He was not blinded by the ugliness, but he pointed to His beauty here. He kept on telling me, “I am here daily, walk as I walk. Uncover my beauty in this place.”

I am trying with His grace to do this. I am not great at it, and have found it easier said than done. Yet, He is leading. My job is to yield, to choose daily to stay at a pace which He gives to sustain me, and also allows me to see all He wants me to see, to be present to the God of all good things in this place.

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I returned home Thursday afternoon from being in the hospital since Saturday afternoon. It was good to be away from the unfamiliar and back to the familiar. We humans do like to be connected to our own space that gives us our own sense of security in many ways. Suffering often upsets this. For me, my space is key to who I am and how I am wired, even though I do love change – the hospital over Europe loses every time!

WHERE DO THINGS STAND?

I am stable and on an antibiotic to keep my white cells, now normal, in balance. We are not sure why or where the infection came from yet. I had many tests X-rays and CAT Scan. I had my gallbladder checked by ultrasound, thinking that Grandmother and Mother had theirs removed, but all looks well.

Did I eat a bad hamburger (that I cooked), or did I have a reaction to diet Twizzlers with Sorbital? They are not sure. I have been sick in the past and hospitalized for E-Coli, but tests showed nothing this time

I am on Probiotic and Prolisec to keep a small irritation in my stomach under control.

I am on a lactose-free and low fiber diet to ease my stomach, and keep my upper intestines and colon functioning normally. Today is the first real food I have had since Sunday.

WHATS NEXT:

In three weeks, I go to the Gastroenterologist and have a Colonoscopy. We need to wait, because the lining of my colon is thin and highly sensitive. We do not want to rip it. If between then and now I end up in severe pain in any way, I will return to the hospital where the surgeon will go in to see what’s up.

From the Colonoscopy we hope to see what could have caused the shut down or blockage of my colon, as well as the build-up of germ-filled air that seeped through the lining of my colon and into my liver. By the way, Saturday night the CT scan looked dire, and the surgeon was ready to do some exploratory surgery and take out parts of my colon. Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, the X-ray was clear, no air in the liver or lining of the colon. My GI guy was quite surprised. Thank you for your prayers during that night and next morning.

I still have a slight ache and sensitivity in my upper intestine; this may be the cause of the problem. I forget how extensive our colon is.

MY REFLECTION ON THIS EPISODE IN MY LIFE

Saturday night was miserable with 10 hours of pain that only morphine (by the way, a terrible drug) could lessen some until they put a tube through my nose and into my stomach to try to remove pressure. At one point, I said to Jesus “travailing in natural childbirth was nothing to this.” Childbirth does end; this seemed like there was no end in sight.

I was brought up to the Intensive Care Unit at 4 Sunday morning. I told Kit to go home. He had been trying so hard to get me through the waves of excruciating pain that came every 6 seconds, he was done in himself. A good husband is a treasure of mercy, strength and tenderness when we really need it.

So I lie there looking out the window at the darkness, pressure and pain subsiding, exhausted with a bad headache as well. I know Jesus and God were with me, but I felt a strange kind of aloneness as I looked out at the rain pouring over the lights in the parking lot. The nurses were talking at the station outside my room. Life was happening, yet all I wanted to do was sleep, but it was not coming.
I was feeling the weight of it all, uncertainty, vulnerability and the fragileness of my own humanity. Every time I closed my eyes I would see a hideous image, demon, etc., with this kind of fake black smoke billowing up to try to intimidate me. I said,

“Jesus, you know where I am. This is dark, Help me and show the way.”

Suffering is not nice, neat, controlled, predictable, but it is one of those places we most likely can experience Jesus to be our Strength, if we yield. We are fully aware of our limited capacity to cope, live and survive. We try to fight to live, but realize it cannot be on our own, but on His ability to catch us at our wit’s end. There have been places in my past where I have walked through suffering with Jesus holding my hand. Each time has revealed something new and a better way of choosing to live my life afterwards.

Those components are in this experience as well, but there is something deeper here at work.

One of the interesting things that occurred as the harassing images would come, is that I would see Jesus’s face as an X-ray black and white, dead, and then as a still photo, and then as alive and well motioning to me, comforting. This is significant in relationship to Lent.

Then, I saw a light coming across out of the darkness, creating a burst of light and the breath of God pushing away the feeble grey smoke in front of my vision. I heard God say, “I have created the heavens and the earth and all the universe.” At that point, I saw stars and I saw the earth, like a astronaut may see from space, but it was forming and became what it was meant to be. It was interesting because I was viewing this next to or through Gods eyes. I felt a closeness. He said, “Tricia, I am in charge over all things.” I was aware of His magnificence and capabilities. I said, as typical of me, “what do you want me to do?” He said, “REST, REST and REST.” He kept on repeating it.

Each day after that has had its trials and discoveries where the Lord has spoken to me. I have had a chronic headache that has now gotten better, but I was always aware of pain.

On 3.8.10 I had a terrible toothache that resulted in surgery and a biopsy of a mass under it. March has been an interesting month. I lost the tooth, but the biopsy was negative. This is what The Lord said to me that morning:

I said, “Have mercy on me.” He said,” My daughter, I see you’re suffering. You can bear it and let me walk with you. I deeply care for you and weep at your pain. I know pain. Walk with me in this suffering. It will be resolved, but it will take awhile; be patient, but don’t give up – persist. I will lead you closer to me and deeper into the mysteries of God. Hold close to the Glory of my Life in you. Life will be renewed, abundantly. Rely totally on me. You will become safe, sturdy, and suffering will be over, and you will be free. Rely on My hand of healing and you will get through this by My strength.”

Prior to the week before I was put in the hospital, I was busy with launching a church, developing retreats again, seeing individuals for ministry, trying to help elderly parents in CT, etc. Busy, busy, busy. In the middle of the week, the Lord reminded me of the years past where I would be so engaged in the Lenten season. When living at a Retreat Center, He reminded me of the many parts of His journey during the time of Lent. How I would spend time with Him and listen to Him during Lent and see another part that He wanted me to see.

I became aware that I felt distant from it now and asked His forgiveness, and invited Him to show me in a deeper way what He wanted me to see.

In the hospital every day, God kept reminding me of the 3 images of His face. Jesus kept on talking to me about the terror and fears of our humanity, of death from this side, and what He went through, and then He said,

“This dark night is a taste of my dark night on Good Friday. Tricia, you always teach that the Tomb cannot be separated from the Resurrection. I have taught you this through your life, but this time you are seeing it as I saw it. The power of the foreboding and attacks of the enemy, but all brought into balance by the Glory of God and the power of His Spirit in the world, and in you to bring life anew. I AM with you always and forever.”

I am sharing this with you to not just pray for my continuing unfolding of the Lord’s healing in my process of recovery, and in the discovery of what caused this to happen. Also, pray for my need to rest and trust in God’s provision for us in a variety of ways.

I am also asking you to pray this Easter weekend that you to grab hold of the ever-present Jesus walking with you in your pain, struggle, illness and suffering. Being human is complicated, fascinating, difficult and always changing, yet Jesus enters into it as One Who Knows. We are worth it because we are made in His image.
Love you all, in Christ,
Tricia

Seeking Balance

We chose not to go away two weekends ago, but to be nestled in our window-wrapped apartment to regroup a bit. For me, it was such a gift because prior to this, God had been trying to get my attention. In getting quiet and being alone with Him without an agenda ahead of me, I was enabled to process what He has been calling me to pay attention to.

Last week I was restless and knew something was off in me. I was lacking peace. So I sat down with the Lord and asked Him: “Jesus, what is it I am missing or lacking right now?”

I explained to Him that I feel I am missing the seasons. I am in September and feel I missed the summer. The failure to capture moments and the frantic attention to all that does not feed me became moans of discontent. I would try to capture something of beauty to feed my soul, but it was fleeting. I would lose my stillness because I had to cover so many responsibilities of life and ministry. It all related to the practical, but not the creative.

For a moment, I was able to stop and identify that I was slowly losing myself. What made it worse,  it felt I was also losing hearing Him.

I realized much of my struggle had to do with my cry of, “I have so little time to do what I love to do – no time left to produce what I want to produce, what fulfills me in Him” It seems we can become almost schizophrenic in what we allow on ourselves as demands, expectations and requirements. We can get lost in the details and forget to ask, ” Are they all from God?” Do I have a say in how I got here in the first place?

In asking these questions, I was seeking a perspective of truth that could bring me back to balance.

So as I sought Him and listened for His voice, He showed me what was off. One of the things that most leaders tend not to do who are designed as individualists is ask others for help. It is not natural for them. Jesus has been working with me in this area for years. Especially now, it is hard for me because we do not yet have enough people in place to mentor and take leadership in some of responsibilities I carry. Having such leaders would keep me balanced so I can have the time to be who I am creatively. I think all leaders need to mentor and raise up others to do what they are gifted to do. I believe doing so is at the core of Kingdom life.

So the main picture Jesus gave me when I spent time with Him had  to do with my heart and soul. It was an image of me slumped over with a heavy blanket over my shoulders draped to the ground. He was telling me that in this posture I was weary and haggard, but also accepting it. What I needed to do was give Him permission to straighten me up and take the weight of the blanket off me. He named it for me, the posture I was in. It had to do with allowing responsibility to take over my life and passions as a creative person. Also, I was feeling I had lost who I thought I was by taking on heavy responsibilities, requirements and needs. He reminded  I do know the difference of walking uprightly in freedom as I create, do ministry, and carry responsibilities.

What He restored to me is the ability to let Him lead in calling me to balance. The freedom to be who I am in the middle of all I must do is possible if I do so. Jesus spoke gently about how when I am out of balance I begin to be bent over, the posture of my spirit being crippled. He invited me to let Him straighten me so I would be back in touch with my heart, gifts, passions and responsibilities without one overriding the other.

So I invited Him to do this. The blanket became a light shawl, quite beautiful I might add. I was straightened with my chin up so I was looking at Him. He added something else as well. When I get a bit out of balance with who I am, He re-parents me by setting up some structure in my life.

He asked me to do these four things daily being very intentional about them:

1. Thank Him for at least one thing each day.

2. Let go of something each day.

3. Create something each day.

4. Ask Him for something each day.

All of these things I have done before. but not together or each day. Now by doing them,  I have experienced a healthy discipline of structure and freedom. I can make use of anything physical, spiritual or emotional. There is no format I am meant to stay in as I do them in prayer with Him or in my day.  He is my source of clarity.

May He be yours as well.

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