Renovation of the Heart and Mind

(and maybe a little on the blog as well, as you may have noticed)

Many of you know that if I haven't posted in awhile, it's usually because:
[a] I haven't anything (complete) to say worth writing or reading
[b] I've been procrastinating
[c] I'm learning something
[d] A little of all the above.
    In this case, I would circle "d". I usually write when there's something I want to say... And I haven't pieced all the puzzle together yet, but I'm starting to see the picture fill in. A friend encouraged me recently to blog about what He is doing... in me and the world. No easy task, but here I am.

    For now I think I'll have to stick with the former. I can't claim to know what He IS doing specifically, only what I know He does and plans to do. I do know that for the world He works to bring new life. That is His mission.

Jesus, the "Resurrection and Life" (John 11:25) said:
"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." - [John 10:9-11]

    I have been learning so much. And it seems I learn in trends. By trends, I mean that one topic is in focus for quite some time, then it shifts to another topic that is enriched by the first topic. But in the meantime, the second topic also sheds light on the first. They are part of a trend.

The recent trend has been love.
    Out of this has come ponderings and realizations concerning the importance and significance of love. God's love. You see why I haven't had anything to write? How can I even begin to scratch the surface on this topic? And what could be more important to correctly convey? What I'm beginning to realize more and more is how much it all depends on this. This is at the center. It's Him. His love is not just part of Him, He is His love. [1 John 4:16]

So what is this doing in me?
    My focus has been rooted to these verses:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -[Matthew 22:36-40]

    When Jesus said this, it might be a little confusing to us who think of the commandments as the "big 10" found in Exodus 20. Neither one of these seems to be found in the Ten Commandments. However, to the Pharisees, this was incredibly significant. See, the Jews read the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible. This is the Law that Jesus was referring to, and within it are 613 commandments. Yeah, that's a lot more than 10. So, out of these commandments, which did Jesus think was the greatest? It was really a trick question. (You can check out the reference to see that.) They were trying to trip Him up.
    They didn't expect Jesus to say what He did. He quoted to them something very familiar... something that is still the foundational creed of Judaism today. It is called the Shema. It comes out of Deuteronomy chapter 6:

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

    As you can see, this was quite a big deal. And to this, Jesus added that the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." - [Leviticus 19:18] He said that this commandment was like the first. In other words, it connects with what John said in 1 John 4:16.

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

    When we love others, we are keeping the first commandment, that we love God. And when we love God, we can do that by showing our love to others. This is central. Jesus says it sums up the Law and the Prophets! In other words He's saying that this is the underlying essence. This is the key. Love.

    So this spreads out to everything. Everything. He did it all for love. This demands a re-estimation of our understanding of what love really is. Because Jesus said there was no greater love than someone laying down their life for their friends. [John 15:13] Love is more than romance. It's greater than a feeling that fades. It's bigger than your fears and stronger than death. It is Him. It changes your life. It transforms. It renews. It gives life!

    How do I convey the gravity of this? How can I show you all that I am learning? How can I help you understand? This is so important. This is the meaning. The reason... for all of it. He did it all for love. And I have so much yet to learn myself. His glory and His love. The purpose. His sovereignty. Our choices. The plan...

    This journey Somewhere is taking me down a path that points to love. It's renovating my heart, rewiring my mind. It is challenging me. Daring me to live my life out of this love. To dare to love completely. To live life wholly. And to live life in love, I must live it in Him. I know it sounds kind of mystical, and I'm trying my best to explain it. He is life, how can try to live without this Life who is Love?

    Ani lomedet. I am learning. Always learning...
Learning to trust, lean, wait... Learning to love. To hope. To live.


Signature Scent

I have a confession to make...

For the past several months I have been on a desperate search for my signature scent. Yeah, I bought into that whole idea of a personal, one and only, "wow-every-time-I-smell-this-I-think-of-you" scent. Allow me to attempt to justify myself for such a belief. Everybody knows that certain smells trigger certain memories. So it stands to reason that if someone smells a certain way all the time, then that smell will become associated with them, yes? Thus their signature scent.
That's it. Sorry, no mind-boggling, brilliant, philosophical notions on this one. Just always wanted to have a "Brittany" smell. A good one, preferably. I know some of you are probably thinking, "Uhm, everyone has a smell, Brittany." People will smell like their house or their laundry detergent or their body spray... even just their personal, inherent scent...or some combination of those. Right, but I seriously don't have one. No really. I know you can't smell yourself, so I've asked other people. "What do I smell like?" Big whiff. Pause. Pressing of my skin to their face, another big whiff. "Uh...nothing." Seriously.

So! I wanted my own scent. And I'm picky. Super picky. Most perfumes, if you didn't know, have alcohol infused in them. It's for utility purposes and spraying and stuff. Well, that junk gives me headaches most of the time. Awesome. Conveniently I've been on this all natural kick for awhile, so I started researching natural perfumery. (I know, I'm a total nerd.) Anyway, there's a difference, still, between natural perfumery and organic perfumery. And even more of a difference if you go vegan. Yes. Vegan. People, this stuff can get expensive too! So, I looked through different websites, I traversed Etsy stores... but shopping online for something you simply must smell is pretty difficult. So, I ventured to buy only a few samples. Some were okay... at least, that's what I convinced myself. But not me. The search continued.

Then I even began to consider scented lotions. I mean, after all, perfume (at least many natural ones) you have to dab on (because the essential oils don't spray without that added alcohol), and so the scent is kind of isolated. I'd spend quite a bit of time on the cosmetic aisle in the stores I went to...sniffing things. I came across a pretty nice, natural, shea moisture lotion that I enjoy quite a bit...and finally bought after coming back to it at three different stores. But it's still not my signature scent. (I know, I'm rambling... I have a point to this.)

Last night I came across the closest thing I've found yet. Hah... I can't believe I'm actually writing about this. It's made by a natural perfumer in Italy. Get this, it's a French man who's converted to Sufi Islam. (Of course, right? I would pick the most random thing ever.) He's a perfume composer. For real. Well, after all the reviews I read, apparently the guy is a genius. Anyway, I was just browsing his site and came across a scent called Tasneem, the warrior poet. Loved the name. I kinda chuckled to myself and opened the page for more info. Loved the bottle. And, of course, it had all my favorite scents... almondy floral accent, vanilla, Egyptian jasmine...a subtle, muted sweet with an oriental (middle eastern) twist... Oh, and it cost way too much money. I knew I had a problem which I actually began to consider it.

Don't worry, I got snapped out of it today. I know I was being silly. Lately, my focus on material things has been pretty shameful. Just preoccupied with too much stuff. I don't need anything. I mean, I need to pay off some student loans eventually, but I don't need another pair of jeans or some fancy luggage... All of this stuff is just so temporary. And today, I was reminded that I need to keep my eyes on "things above" and not on "earthly things". [Colossians 3:1-4]
There's nothing wrong with wearing perfume. There's nothing wrong with nice clothes. Please don't misunderstand me. I splurge from time to time myself. It's fun to have a nice little sundress to wear. But I can't be thinking about those things all the time. They can't be my focus. Those temporary, material things don't even need to get close to that. I don't have enough time to live for the temporary. If I want to live for God, I need to focus on things that have eternal significance. I need to shape my life with love, style it with joy, mark it with peace...

It's not my clothes that make me beautiful.
It's a kind and gentle spirit.  -[1 Peter 3:3-4]
In 10 years it won't matter what I smelled like.
I want my life to ooze God's love. I want it to permeate the air around me. To obey His voice, follow the Spirit, and let Him use me in such a way that people do a mental "double take" and wonder what just passed by. Not so that they'll think about me, or so I feel special... but so that it will trigger something inside of them. Something familiar. And remind them of Him. [Ecclesiastes 3:11] That it will touch that deep longing in them for something more...and maybe they'll recognize it's Him they're looking for.
Perfume? I'd rather be saturated with the fragrance of Christ and Life mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:14.
Let that be my signature scent.


Þú Ert Jörðin & Leaves of Gold

"I do not know how the great loving Father
will bring out light at last, 
but He knows, and He will do it."
-David Livingstone

Long in waiting, I have no idea what I will write.
I only know that for a couple of weeks now, it's been pressing on me to write here again.

On my desk sits a thousand things.
Old film and picture frames. Old books full of poetry.
Most of it still unread.
Letters in a box overflowing.
Sunglasses from a distant land.
Notes. Timelines. CDs. Folders and calendars. 
Wire, books, and string.
Rocks covered in salt from the Dead Sea.
Sand dollars. Sea shells.
Glass bottles full of notes for me.
Purple and pink flowers fading...

      This semester has been something. That's for sure. I guess this is what college is supposed to feel like? I have learned so much. And mostly from the two classes that I was completely dreading! Isn't that ironic? In fact, the teacher I feared the most at the beginning of the semester taught me the most. 
      I was stretched. I was tried. I was poked and prodded and challenged. It was beautiful. Incredibly, annoyingly painful, but beautiful. Beautiful. That word carries such weight. Such marvelous weight of meaning! It's heady. It's potent... But I can't go there just now.

      -mark momentary pondering, back-spacing and frustrated contemplation on the next move in this post...-

     A statement worth noting here that was mentioned this past semester is, "Human beings cannot live without poetry." That's a pretty bold statement. But I'm wondering more and more at how true it seems. We can't live without this charged form of language. There are just some things that we cannot describe in the form of prose properly. A sunset. The birth of a child. Falling in love... And even God. There are some parts of the Bible that we enjoy not only for it's instruction and importance or application, but because it's beautifully written. Because, as my professor says, "It's darn good poetry."
     I have so much yet to learn. And I'm wondering how I walked around before without knowing all the things I know now. It's interesting how enriched our lives become with heightened understanding. And it's not that I'm claiming to lay hold of truth. It's laying hold of me. I have to wrestle with it. And it's risky! Because it changes you. It touches something in the core of your being.
     Now that's something I've been learning this semester. Do you ever wonder... We sometimes hold God at arm's length. "Yes, I want to feel Your comfort and Your presence and Your love... but don't get too close! Whoa! Right there is quite close enough. Yes, that's close enough. Maybe scoot back a couple of inches... You're making me uncomfortable." Do you know what I'm talking about? Right. So, why do we do that? Why do we look into the face of perfect love and say, "Nah, too much of a good thing has to be bad for you."
     I think it's more than a fear of disappointment. After all, God has never given us a reason not to trust Him. I think it's a fear of what His love will do to us. Because, no doubt we will change. You will be transformed. How could you not be? How could your world not be utterly rocked when wrapped inside the arms of the God of the universe? "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God." (Hebrews 10:31). Are we not to consider such things carefully? Then abandon ourselves to it recklessly...
     Sounds radical, doesn't it? Faith. Surrender.
     But we fear change, I think. Could it be that we're afraid of what we could be? Or maybe what we'll never be... To truly wrestle with truth and beauty and reality and love... these things will mark us. The fight will leave us with a limp for the rest of our lives. But what if we limp away seeing the world differently? More clearly? More vibrantly? More fully?
     I will not pretend to have all of this figured out. That's the beauty of it too. The mystery. The pursuit. The chase. The constant knowing and seeking to know more. The moment, still and moving. And this isn't some unattainable meditative or super-ultra-spiritual state. It doesn't mean you're impossibly joyful or unearthly serene all of the time. It means you're alive.
      You know... those moments in the mundane. The monotony. Can you see it? The wind blowing the trees. The blue against the green. The feeling of the sun's warmth on your chilled fingers. The smell of food when you're hungry and about to eat. The feeling when you just finished something. The jingling of keys. The feeling of sitting after standing a long time... Do you know what I'm talking about? A true poet can see beauty in the most simple things. The hard and the plain things. In the real things.

     I have a lot of work ahead of me. And, at the moment, I don't really know what's going to happen. I'm moving forward, hoping that I'm going in the right direction. Hoping. Expectant. Waiting.
     You know, that place where you've done everything you can do... so now it's up to Him. And letting go can be so hard, because I still hold responsibility. I still have to try. I still have to run, trusting that He's guiding me. And life is crazy. Unexpected. Well, at least it is to me. To Him, well, He knows everything. That's why it's good to be holding onto His hand.

"Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait."
- Henry W. Longfellow


Somewhat like an Epiphany

I'm sensing a shift in perspective.
Or maybe understanding or sight.
So staunchly before perceiving truth,
discerning what was right.
No lesser there do I grow
in my knowledge and understanding
(ever drawn and guided by the Word,
its Light therein).
But suddenly beauty bursts forth in everything.
And creation groans
for the revelation of the sons of God.
They seek the light,
but blind eyes knowing not where to look
(light gives heat,
turning their face toward,
hearts inclined)
they express their anguish
and their yearning
in book and song and rhyme.
Hiddeness and metaphor.
Beauty, depth and questioning
from inmost of the soul,
reflections of His endowed creativity.
I am learning to see.
To perceive Truth.
To not shoot down the world's expressions,
but to see them truly,
to their root.
To see their motivation and true question.
And in that seeing, undisguised,
I do not condemn,
but have compassion on them
And here the Love of God is able to follow,
Perhaps a shift in understanding,
though here I lightly tread,
in seeing the world not as an enemy,
but as lost and broken instead.
Not as a theif bent to corrupt,
but corrupted by dark lies...
waiting to find Truth,
and know Love.
(At least their souls' intent,
though the heart knows it not.)

-Are we not to be light?- 


"Futher Up, Further In..."

Can it already have been 23 days into the new year?
    This month has been like a whirlwind for me. Yet, though it now seems to have passed in a flash, its duration seems more along the lines of a few months instead of just around three weeks. (The paradox of time... or our perceptions of time...) Here's some stuff out of the overflow:

    I am back in America.
    Coming back here feels like trying to keep up on a major highway with a bicycle. Can I please go back to the picturesque, twisting country roads with little traffic and lots of time to ponder the world from my worn, comfortable old Schwinn bicycle seat? (That was a metaphor... I didn't have country roads to ride on, and my bike temporarily has a popped front tire.)

    It is so good to see old friends again. To spend time with them, to share the Word with them, to pour out truth and have truth poured in, to encourage, uplift, listen... To joke and laugh and play. To live. To be. You know what I'm talking about? Living life. Not surviving life. Living it.
   And I'm not talking about that "wild side" "living the life" stuff, either. I'm talking about the real stuff. The simple stuff. The stuff we miss sometimes if we're not looking up from our cell phones and computer screens.
    I'm talking about conversation. Relationship. Face-to-face, flesh and blood stuff.
    The "stop-in-your-tracks-and-gaze-in-awe-at-the-sunset" stuff.
    The learning you were wrong and it's okay stuff. 
    Real life

    What a blessing to be alive!
    What a blessing to be able to go to classes that challenge me and sharpen my critical thinking skills. What a blessing to force myself out of bed, to push myself to learn and know more, to drive toward...

    Light falls across my keyboard and shoots a reflection through the the tumbler holding my tea. Piano music is streaming through the speakers. My Bible is close at hand. I have a paper to write. A couple of textbooks to read. Some Romantic poets to endure... And through it all, I'm just looking for those things God is trying to show me, to teach me. To make me more like Him.

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious riches so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."
-[Colossians 1:9-12]

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God... I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
-[Ephesians 3:14-19, 4:1-3]

"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart my be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe..."
-[Ephsians 1:15-19]

    Ah! There is so much more! You must read it! Sharpen your minds. He's so good! His plan of salvation and for the kingdom of heaven is so intricate and masterfully pieced together. How could we ask for more? What a beautiful mystery, this gospel of Jesus Christ!

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