It's my three-year BLOG-O-VERSARY this month! I can't believe it's been three whole years. There have been dry spells where I neglected Mr. Blog, but for the most part, it's been a valuable tool for reflection, updating, laughing, and marking moments in our lives.

Three things that have changed since I started blogging:

1. Our church officially began holding services in early September 2005!

2. I started a job at Winthrop University shortly after the blog commenced, in October 2005.

3. I began taking classes in graphic design in August 2007.

I can't believe the major life changes that the past three years have brought. Feel free to think back to YOUR last three years and post a comment about what has changed in your lives!! Perhaps three years ago, you have never even HEARD of a blog!! Visit the "Archive" on the right to view old posts...and take a stroll down memory lane.

If you're still a bit unsure about all of this blogging stuff, check out this WALL STREET JOURNAL story about the history of the blog and some important people's perspectives about them. My google search for "blog anniversary" generated over 3 million hits. Crazy. Thank you for dropping by to celebrate the blogoversary with me.


I'm a Human Doing. Thoughts on Prayer.

(long one. no apologies.)
If you've come across me here before or know me in "real" life...you'll know my battle with being a performance-oriented do-er. It's one thing to struggle with that in the day-to-day life, but what about when it permeates my spiritual walk, too? God and I have had some talks about this need to mine to produce and be affirmed...constantly.

On one particular occassion a few years back, I was scurrying around preparing for a youth service at the church where I worked. I had done a good job on this night of delegating to volunteers--so good a job, in fact, that I worked myself right into having not a task to accomplish as the service began. What an odd feeling it was. Just the freedom to BE in the service and not worry about what needed to happen next. But my reaction to this freedom was the problem. The music began, and I started churning about what I might have forgotten, what else could be done...when God hit me upside the head with a thought just as clear as day. "Be a worshipper, Shelley." He didn't want me to engage with anything but HIM at that moment.

I tend to find this is the case. We want to know what we can do FOR Him, BECAUSE OF Him, or IN HIS NAME...instead of just being near to Him and letting Him move us to doing. The "being" needs to come well before the "doing."

So, our church had a week of 24/7 prayer last week. We all signed up for an hour-long slot and were asked to go to a particular prayer center in downtown Charlotte. Can do. Sign me up! I do very well with clear expectations. Jerod and I signed up for an hour each, in back-to-back time slots between 8 - 10 pm. We're there.

I expected a cold, dark room with a pillow...maybe a candle...and just some quiet for the Lord to reveal all His great and wonderful plans to me. I expected maybe to sing Hallelujah while doing arms gestures the moment I walked in the door. Instant epiphanies! I don't know what all I expected...but those were darn near close.

As we entered the space, we were greeted by a familiar couple coming off a two-three hour stint in the center. They explained a bit of what was there, and left us to it. There were stations, information, cozy chairs...there was dim lighting, beautiful decor...a shabby-chic, thrift-store, well-worn secret spot feeling...like "The Secret Garden," but with candles and ottomans instead of flowers. There were cubbies and DVD's, paints, paper, and Bibles, post it notes to write down secrets and names and prayer requests...and then there was me. Very overwhelmed. Here I expected to have a pillow and Jesus...and here is all this stuff...TO DO!!!!! I didn't know whether to cry or cheer. "But I didn't come here to DO!" I thought. "I came here to PRAY!"

I immediately set about going through the cubbies, putting on headphones for DVD's on various topics, such as discipleship, forgiveness, etc. I found myself at odds with the whole experience at first. I didn't come to listen to a person! I came to listen to GOD!!!! These quotes and photos and books and videos are all very cool, but they make me think about how I could re-create such a thing...that's a great font...where did they find that picture?...I love this chair...it was all becoming a project for me somehow.

God at this point is probably just chuckling at my denseness.

After being somewhat annoyed and trying to figure out how to open myself up to this prayer process, I finally ended up in a corner cubby. Most of what I remember about it is that the one word, "SUBMIT" was taped to the wall there. And there was a journal, filled with handwritten prayers/thoughts/quotes/verses and magazine clippings...like someone had emptied thoughts from his/her creative brain onto paper and gathered them all in a book. "What the heck...let's look at that. I'm not getting much else out of this yet..."

And, forty minutes into my first hour...I finally realized I had yet to PRAY (at the prayer center...I know!). As I pored through the journal, the Lord FINALLY was able to get through to me. The first thing that jumped off the page: "How can you lead others by still waters when you are in perpetual motion?" OK. Time to get serious. I continued to read, prayerfully now...asking the Lord to speak. Of course He did. He always will when we get still and quiet our brains and bodies and ask Him to.

Thankfully, Jerod and I chose to combine our hour slots and be in the space at the same time...so I had another hour and some change to get myself in the right frame of mind. Prayer can be so difficult for do-ers because it insists on your BEING first. You can't switch the two. You can't come into His presence with a to-do list and expect to get anything DONE. You have to come to him empty-handed. He does the work. That's why He says "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." He does the heavy lifting if we let Him!!! And that, my friends, is why RESTING in HIM and PRAYING is the best doing we can do. Start there, and the other stuff will make more sense. What He asks us to do will be more effective and less frustrating and just less...busy.

So, I've been singing this song lately...especially at the beginning of my prayer time:

Breathe in Your presence...Breathe out my prayers

A Holy Reunion

You whisper in my ear.

I long to see Your face,

I long to hear Your voice,

Wrap me in Your presence, Oh Lord.


Let it Rain!

sidebar: I seem to be posting a lot with audio-visual effects. If you can play this, please do. It makes a nice accompaniment to the post. If you really want the full effect of the blog today, sing along.

I know first-hand the need for rain. We have been in exceptional drought conditions for over a year now in South Carolina. Silly as it sounds, I had to watch my sweet little plants wither up to nothing because we felt the need to conserve so we could do things like brush our teeth and clothes. I remember watching the red clay earth dry up and crack open last summer...then, when we had a 10-minute flash shower after months of nearly nothing, I remember running outside and doing a rain-jig on the front lawn (this is not a metaphor...I literally was doing a jig! The Tall One didn't know whether to laugh or commit me.). I remember another day that some threatening clouds came overhead, looking as if they might release the needed water onto our thirsty ground. I sang this song at the top of my lungs as I stood in my doorway, hopeful and expecting.

And my soul has been singing this song for months, years, maybe my whole life. And the Lord is faithful to answer the cry. And recently, I think, He has loaded the rain clouds with His truth and grace and power. But I wasn't expecting to get such a flood. There's nothing worse sometimes than being caught in a rainstorm unprepared...you just have to resign yourself to complete drenching. Typically, you resist by trying to find something just to cover your head...an overhang...a newspaper...you try to protect your cell phone...etc. But even if you're not expecting it and it seems a pain at first, you give in. Let the mighty truths of God come crashing to earth, splashing all around you. The big ideas of His grace falling all around, soaking you from stem to stern. You know that it will wash off your make-up and ruin your hair...but that's quite the point. Instead of hiding from the rain of God, we should run out into it, embracing all the possibilities that it brings for growth and its life-giving power...it will heal the dry cracks in our soul...we focus on little more than the rain itself...washing away the stilted air and filth that has built up in the drought. And the beautiful thing for a crier like me...no one even notices your tears in the rain! And then, after the rain...abundance!

Isaiah 30:23-26 (The Message)

God will provide rain for the seeds you sow. The grain that grows will be abundant. Your cattle will range far and wide. Oblivious to war and earthquake, the oxen and donkeys you use for hauling and plowing will be fed well near running brooks that flow freely from mountains and hills. Better yet, on the Day God heals his people of the wounds and bruises from the time of punishment, moonlight will flare into sunlight, and sunlight, like a whole week of sunshine at once, will flood the land.

LET IT RAIN!!!!!!!!


You consume me...

...moving through me. Like a burning flame running through my veins...click to listen and see a favorite song of old.

I started this thought in an email to a friend today...and liked it well enough to elaborate...

Oh, to be able to dance upon His clouds of grace without fear of falling! Instead, we trudge in meadows of mud, finding delight in what we can see on the ground...getting bogged down more often than not. We admire some nice flower or a moment of sunshine as a ray kisses our face. Content with a fleeting moment of beauty in an otherwise sloggy hike. Imagine the freedom of dancing on clouds of grace...lighter than air! Which one would you like to describe your spiritual "walk?" Will we rest in his grace and his ability to maneuver us, or will be be content to have small moments of grace and continue our striving with heavy feet? I want to be consumed by His grace, close to His face. Close enough to know when He turns to the right or left. To feel His breath. To know that however He consumes me, it will be for my good. But if He does not consume me, I am destined to the misery of the in-between.


Report on the report and thoughts on community

Well, I must say everyone pulled through with the Annual Report...albeit at the last minute. But, at the last minute is far better than AFTER the last minute. :) Go team!! I think we were finally hitting our stride as a group, despite the fact that all have very different styles. It was good to be stretched to design in a way that's different from your natural inclinations. It was good to have to come to a middle ground, so to speak, and blend our ideas. It was really entertaining to watch as three very opinionated people and two "just tell me what you want" people tried to decide on themes, colors, concepts, etc. I was desperate to sit back and let it roll. But you can only fight your nature so much.
It's interesting to watch "community" dynamics. Wherever that community may happen--in a class, at a job, on a committee, or at church. It is in all of our natures to compare and compete to some degree. You may never say it, but often you think "My idea was better than his..." or "So-and-so isn't working as hard on this as I am..." What I have to remind myself: we are all learning. We all have some valuable ideas. We all have contributions. Even the people that I may think are in left field...we should all be open to listening and learning from those whom we think have nothing to teach. Competition among a community is a killer. It kills ideas and creativity. It creates drama. It is the face of selfish ambition. Instead, we should find a place of encouragement and inspiration...a healthy competition to do one's personal best while making the rest of the group look good at the same time. Selfless ambition. Lofty goal. Hard to attain. Let's try, shall we?