The Interior Castle

I was reading things for Church History last night and one thing was “The Interior Castle” by St. Teresa of Avila. She wrote it to teach the women in her convent about prayer and I think it makes some really good points.

She writes about how all of us have an interior castle within us which is made of diamond or clear crystal. The outer gate is only entered by those who have nominal faith in Christ who pray. The outer rooms of the castle are covered with poisonous snakes and serpents which bite those who cannot get out of them or who choose to remain in them. As you go toward the center, the light gets brighter and the center chamber is where God dwells and His light radiates outward. Essentially, our interior castle is the beautiful part of our soul where Jesus dwells within us when we ask Him into our lives.

This really radiated with me because I like the idea of having a place of brightness in me, especially when I am so depressed. She goes on and talks about how mortal sin takes the fountain of life in this castle and turns it into black sludge. The tree containing the fruits of our spirit is poisoned by this sludge. This was also a really compelling thought.

Probably the most striking point she made was on how our lack of prayer is like losing the use of our hands or feet. We have them but cannot give orders to them. I know that my lack of devotions can cripple me (which is probably why I added a couple devotional sites onto my Resources section) and I hadn’t realized how crippling it could be. Then, I realize that my day goes much better if I enter into prayer first thing the morning. The sad thing: I was so good about this before I hit seminary. Mea culpa!!!!

I really hope that going to Evening Prayer a few nights a week can help me here…

Praying the Lord’s Prayer

This morning, I was leading prayer (and reading and singing) for the contemporary service and I had the brilliant idea of praying according to the Lord’s Prayer. Well… it’s actually the Holy Spirit that gave me the idea because I’m not great at extemporaneous prayer, especially when I am really sleep-deprived and have fallen behind in my devotions. This isn’t my exact prayer (or my original outline) from this morning but it’s a way to pray:

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name… I thank You for the opportunity to gather in this place. I am blessed to be here in a place where I may worship You without persecution and fear of death. I thank You for this opportunity to be in Your presence worshipping You, the living God, who moves in my life and on this earth.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven… I pray, Lord, that you would be with me in my daily life, helping me to live your Word out fully in my words and actions. I pray for the decisions I must make in the next week and a half that You would guide me as I make them. Be with Jon and I as we attempt to find our way through the mess that the pre-Internship process has created and discern what Your will is for us.

Give us today our daily bread… Father, take care of Jon and I and give us the things we need — shelter, food, and adequate clothing. Help us to find love in this community and the community where we will be for Jon’s internship. Protect our families and provide for them. I pray now for those who lack even these basic necessities and ask that you would work on the hearts of your followers to help provide these basic things out of the abundance that you give others.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us… Lord, help me to forgive the people who have hurt me. Help me to forgive Pastor Jenkins for the amount of stress and pain her decision has put on Jon and I. I confess that I have triangled the situation with some people and Lord, I am sorry for this. Please forgive me and help me to keep from triangling other people into this that should not be there.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… I pray that you would be with Joene and others in my classes who are sick. Heal Julie’s arm and help her to deal with the pain caused by the fracture and dislocation. Be with Dani as she mourns for her grandmother and others who are in mourning right now. Let your healing and comforting presence be with them in their time of grief.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory… Help me and my classmates to shine our lights in this world and to show Your power through our testimonies. Help us to tell everyone the kind of work that You have done in us that we might glorify Your name. Lord, shine your light through us that we may light the world.

Amen… Lord, listen to your child praying. Lord send your spirit in this place. Lord listen to your child praying. Send your love, send your power, send your grace. In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

(The last part is a paraphrase of a hymn from “With One Voice” [the blue Lutheran hymnal] called “Lord Listen to Your Children”.) C/S

Developments Toward Internship

The last few days have been proof of how much love and support I have here. I met with my pastor after my Hebrew quiz on Tuesday and he really affirmed my decision and told me that he would totally support me in whatever I did. Pastor Tom also asked me a lot about my stomach and grilled me on my Crohn’s disease (something that I’ll have to get used to as it *is* stress-related). He suggested I talk to our seminary president who is a former bishop to see if I would stay with Southern Ohio Synod for my candidacy or not.

I talked with Dr. Ramseth (our seminary president) yesterday and he was incredibly affirming and also (I think) very shocked. He was trying to come up with answers so that Jon and I can stay which was really hard for me because I felt really conflicted between what I felt God wanted and what I want (which is not to leave the community). He asked what was said and he is going to look into it to make sure that my needs are met as well as Jon’s. I was really thankful because I honestly feel like Jon and I were treated badly by the Contextual Ed person (who is being badmouthed by some of the students in her advisory group). When I started crying, he passed me some Kleenex and also prayed with me for God’s guidance.

This morning in chapel, I started crying and could not stop. I tried cleaning my face after class but people decided to hug me which got me started crying again. Then, we had the Junior Class Prayer Meeting because a lot of the people in my class are going through some pretty tough times. I felt bad because other people have been through death and illness and I was sitting there crying because I was upset about leaving. People were incredibly accepting though and I feel like I have an incredible support base here.

It’s ironic and probably not coincidental that all of this is coming out on Valentine’s Day. It was an agape kind of love that led to the first Valentine’s Day when St. Valentine sent messages to people from his cell and counselled young lovers. I think that the love and support of the community was the best present I could have received today. I just really wished I knew what God wanted for me right now. I am feeling so torn and conflicted and I just feel helpless. I know that I can pray and that prayer is the best weapon; but I just still feel like I am in a mire of despair at times. C/S

Where Am I Going

Slowly, the Holy Spirit is working within me to make me feel better about what is going on. I’m actually feeling like I want the adventure of not knowing where I’ll be living in five months. I am also slowly sorting through my feelings at being moved. Mom reminded me today that this is like living in corporate America — they don’t really care about your feelings and they’ll move you where they need a person.

I am feeling pretty angry at our Contextual Ed person for not caring about how I was feeling. They made Jon out to be incredibly problematic as an intern which I thought was untrue and that we were really treated badly because we are both so young. There really is no equality between the ages here — the older person tends to win because “they have more life experience”. I’ve had more life experience than some of the older people here after having fought depression and still managed to graduate early and keep my faith with God.

Right now, I am just wondering where God wants to take me next year. It would be cool to be in Minnesota or Wisconsin or maybe even Iowa or the Daks. The East Coast would be interesting as well as would someplace like North Carolina. Montana would be cool but that’s about the extent of where I’d like to travel. I do have to move furniture and stuff to wherever the internship site is.

My focus right now is also on trusting my Father to put me where He wants me. I know that my life is in His hands and that I will never be put in a place where He cannot protect me. This is a comforting thing, especially since I feel like the only stable things left in life are Jon and the Lord. C/S

Not Some Good News

I was prepared to make this a reflection on how much I am looking forward to Lent. Instead, this is where I am working out my feelings regarding how I am feeling about what has happened today.

Jon’s pre-Internship interview was today and it is important because Internship basically decides if you’ll be ordained, especially if it’s a terminal internship like Jon’s is. At the meeting, they broke the news to us that they would not be able to keep Jon in the Columbus area and give him a site that would benefit him the most. Since I am the most flexible, they asked me if I might want to take a year off of school and go wherever Jon needs to go for his site. (He needs a good site because there are factors like age and his previous experience that are not in his favor as far as being called to a parish.) I commented that I would be OK with dropping seminary for a year so that Jon could go on Internship. They told us to talk about it and pray about it and get back to them at the second interview on February 26th.

Truth be told, I would be OK with taking a year off because I need the break. I have squeezed 18 years of school into 17 and it would enable me to rest and have them find out what is so wrong with my stomach. However, this morning pulled everything stable in my life out from under me with the exception of Jon and God, and I think I do have a valid reason to be upset about that. I was looking forward to seeing Ed and Thuan again after Internship and having another year with Karen and Joene and Julie and everyone else in my class. I’ll miss Darby and having Dr. Petersen and Dr. Schroeder for Church History and possibly Dr. Taylor for NT II. I was looking forward to working with Carol and Dr. Ramseth on the Christmas party next year.

Yes, I know that they could very easily find Jon something that’s an hour away and he can commute to Internship and that would be my wish; but I also know that when I promised to go where God led me, God really wanted me to keep my end of the bargain. I have been in tears for much of the day as I have no ****ing idea where I will be in 5 months — just that I will be with God and with Jon. That is really scary for someone who has never lived in one place less than 3 years and who grew up in the same house from birth until high school.

I know that God will not put me in a place where His grace cannot protect me but I am still really hurting. Please keep me and Jon in your prayers though I feel like I’m the one getting shafted by what just came up today. We have to give them our answer on February 26th and this process needs to be accompanied by a lot of prayer and discussion. C/S


If you have watched the news lately, you’ll see that they have shown a video of Osama bin Laden that predicts more pain and evil will come upon the U.S. and that this is in response to the prayers of Palestinian mothers. That video sickens me as does the commentary which is mostly pro-Israel and not much in favor of the Palestinians. Ariel Sharon commented that he wishes that he had killed Yassir Arafat twenty years ago, which was probably not the best thing to say. My friend Brian has commented frequently on the hopelessness of the situation and I’m starting to see his point very clearly.

The painful part spiritually is that we are all worshipping the same deity and it breaks my heart into pieces every time I hear someone invoke God’s name in these fights. This is a God who wants us to come to Him and who wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I cannot fathom a God who does not consider it justice to treat one’s neighbors with dignity even if they are not Christian, Muslim, or Jewish like everyone else. Granted, we are called to spread the Gospel to all nations but we are to do this lovingly and not by the sword. We are called to deal justly with people and if you’ve looked at the history of the land battle in Israel, you do have to agree that the Palestinians have been dealt with less than justly. In 1948, they stood to have about 58% of the land in “Israel” and that has shrunk dramatically. It’s like owning a room of a house but not being able to go out into the hall because your enemy owns the hall.

A lot of my criticism of bin Laden is the fact that Islam preaches that there is no compulsion in religion. (I’m not sure of the surah where that is found in the Qur’an.) Bin Laden wants us out of Saudi Arabia (which is not an unreasonable demand) but his reasoning is that we are polluting the Holy Land because we are a non-Muslim presence on Muslim soil. It’s kind of interesting to me that Jews and Christians lived in that land for 1200 years without engaging in conflict with the Muslim populations there. I feel that bin Laden wants all of us to become Muslim because it’s all about spreading the message of Islam. His tactics however violate the concept of non-compulsion. Most (and I mean all non-Wahhabi) Muslims consider us equal to them in the eyes of God and believe that if we are faithful to our religion, we will be in Paradise with them. It saddens me that a small percentage are so violent just as it saddens me that such a small percentage of evangelical Christians like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Fred Phelps spoil the view of Christianity for the rest of us.

The other thing I am just struggling with is the events of September 11th. I really never fully dealt with them and the day just seemed so surreal because I was in so much shock. I never believed that people could be so evil as to fly a plane with innocent people on it into a building where thousands of people worked!!! It saddens me that evil could be so present in one person like bin Laden who rejoiced at seeing all of this take place. Granted, we are a rich and spoiled country and we really need to evaluate the way we use resources and promote materialism but… does that really warrant killing thousands of innocent people as a protest??? Now, bin Laden is saying that this level of terror will continue to punish the USA. At first it seemed like the attacks were a personification of 1 Corinthians 1:27 where it says that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. I’m not saying that the events of 9/11 were God’s punitive attacks on the U.S.A. but one has to admit that the plans were not that technologically advanced. They took away our national security (which would have been better placed had it been in the LORD than in our fancy weaponry) and it is awful to live in fear of such attacks happening again.

Sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all/ When the mountains look so big /And my faith just seems so small/ So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf/ You have been King of my glory/ Won’t you be my Prince of peace/ And I wake up in the night and feel the dark/ It’s so hot inside my soul I swear/ There must be blisters on my heart/ So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf/ You have been King of my glory/ Won’t you be my Prince of peace/ Surrender don’t come natural to me/ I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want/ Then to take what You give that I need/ And I’ve beat my head against so many walls/ I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees/ And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn/ And your grace rings out so deep/ It makes my resistance seem so thin/ So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf/ You have been King of my glory/ Won’t you be my Prince of peace?
-“Hold Me Jesus” — Rich Mullins


If I Stand

There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun/ And more that shines in the night than just the moon/ It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm/ In a shelter that is larger than this room/ And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments/ And a music higher than the songs that I can sing/ The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance/I owe only to the Giver of all good things/ So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through/ And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace_ that first brought me to You/ And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs/ And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home/ There’s more than dances on the prairies than the wind/ More that pulses in the ocean than the tide/ There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends/ More gently than a mother’s when her baby’s at her side/ And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments/ And a music higher than the songs that I can sing/ The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance/I owe only to the Giver of all good things/ So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through/ And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace_ that first brought me to You/ And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs/ And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home. –Rich Mullins, “If I Stand”

I really see the Gospel in this song. It’s like someone saying, there is more behind all of these things than their mere existence. There is a force of life behind the wind that sweeps across the prairies and more to the force of the tide in the ocean. There is so much more power in the love between friends and the love of a mother for her child. I cannot abide by the people who say love is just a biological function — there is such a divine element to love — God is love — He created it and He gives us the ability to love others.

The chorus, So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through/ And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace_ that first brought me to You/ And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs/ And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home, brings me to tears because it really shows my walk with God. The promise that He will bring me through everything is what I live for much of the time, and I cherish the promise that I can fall on God’s grace_ when I cannot stand on my own. I love to sing religious music because it reflects the connection I have with my Heavenly Father. Sad songs show my ability to come to Him for solace and the more joyful ones allow me to praise Him for the works He has done in my life. I also am thankful every day that I can come to Him when I am weeping because the things of earth have saddened me (an occurrence that happens more and more these days). C/S