A Year of Spiritual Writing: December 2014

Last month I wrote about us being the main character in our life stories, inspired by my attendance at Donald Miller’s Storyline conference in Chicago, IL. I wrote about the theme of the conference:  “Your Story Matters” and how Miller and his cohorts stressed living a great story, helping others and sharing your own spiritual gifts with a broken world. I also shared a bit of Miller’s philosophy; that we are to live great stories by knowing who we are, what we want, what conflict we will need to engage in, and then taking action.
  I discussed the “Who I Am” aspect of his philosophy, and now I will elaborate on the “what we want” of it. Miller based his philosophy on some of the work of Vicktor Frankl, a neurologist and psychologist from Vienna, Austria. Frankl worked early in his life alongside Sigmund Freud. They shared similar philosophies on the motivators of men and women, but Frankl’s philosophy differed from Freud’s as he believed that humans are not reacting to selfish instincts, but rather that we want to live with a deep experience of meaning. That is to say that we are not just seeking pleasures, but rather when we cannot find meaning in our lives, we instead numb it with pleasures. Therefore, there is room for God to act in our lives when we search for meaning; we can be fulfilled by seeking a project that serves others or developing intimate, safe relationships. Miller says, “God did not create us in reaction, but as co-creators of a meaningful life.”
  It is when you want something that is altruistic, not self-serving and is concerned with others around you, that we benefit. This is true of our favorite characters in books and movies, and especially in the Bible. Would we identify that much with David, although an adulterer and murderer, if he did not seek so steadfastly after God’s own heart? Where would Joseph be if he had decided to blast his brothers for what they had done to him earlier in his story, when they come to him seeking food in Egypt?
  Christmas is the best time to remind people of Christ’s benevolent spirit and mission. After all, it is his life we celebrate at this time in the year. Instead of rushing about, getting the best deal on the “it” item for the holidays, why not go beyond our selfish nature instead and seek the poor and needy, in life and spirit, and reach out a kindhearted hand? In this way, we will truly find purpose in our stories.

A Year of Spiritual Writing: November 2014

 I have the great pleasure of writing to you from the Storyline Conference in Chicago, IL. Where do I start with all of the analyzing, advice, encouragement, guidance, wisdom, mentoring, and hugs I’ve received in these last three days? (Yes – even hugs from strangers who became fast friends in a thirty minute lunch break!) Part of me tears up because I cannot share with you everything I learned in this conference about life, learning from others, and Jesus Christ’s redeeming love in this bit of space I get – oh and storywriting, that too. Instead, I’m going to attempt to tell you the novella of this epic of an experience.
  The mantra of the Storyline Conference is that “Your Story Matters”; it’s worth sharing so other people can have a “me too” connection, and in sharing our past, present, and future, we can really start to live better stories.

The living great stories is the heart of the Storyline concept. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, creator of Storyline and its concepts, stresses that we all have the potential to live great stories just like our favorite heroes, whether those be like Esther, Moses, Joseph or Luke and Leia in Star Wars. In our story, we are the main character and we “need to know who we are, what we want, what conflict we will need to engage and then we must take action.” Wow, I first thought. Who I am? Uh. Hi, my name is Kristel Morris. You can call me KrisTALL, if that helps you remember WHO I AM. No, actually, there’s a better way to figure this all out. Miller elaborates, “live a page-turner of a life that is unique to you. Life can be full of meaning. Live with passion. I can’t believe God would give me a life to give ONLY mostly of myself.” Likewise, stop comparing yourself to others was another bell that ceremoniously rang throughout the conference, and many times I felt like it was speaking just to me. You may be at the stage in your life where “figuring out who you are” is checked-off on your bucket
list or you are still following the treasure map, but my guess is that it is the latter. Above all answering “who did God wire me to be?” at least with a couple bullet points is a start.

I’m going to do the worst thing for English teachers to see, and mine would be ashamed of me. I’m going to only address characters knowing who they are, and not the rest of what characters do for their stories. I honestly, truly feel that I will be sharing more with you about this and I don’t want to reveal all just yet. In closing, I now know that we all have stories. We might not all want to write about them, but God wants you to share yours. Bob Goff, author of Love Does, put it this way, “Jesus didn’t play it safe. We’re not trying to get safer – we’re trying to get better.” Who may get better because of your story?

A Year of Spiritual Writing: October 2014

When I consider the scripture to use for the closing headline, I often look to current Bible studies I’m involved in or devotionals I have. For this month’s, I used this same scripture written on the page titled “October” of
Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. Yet, in the words “burden” and “rest,” I am also referencing the book we are studying in Ladies’ Bible Class on Tuesday mornings,
Crock Pot Living in a Pressure Cooker World by Terry Butler Copeland.

Copeland’s book is about the stress in our lives; the tension-creating, panic-inducing, imbalance-creating upset that sometimes causes high blood pressure, “hypertension, ulcers, migraine headaches, and even heart disease” (27). The author argues that in order to overcome stress, we must be vigilant and seek out rest with God. She even points out that many Christians believe that because there is no closing “And there was evening and there was morning, the ____ day” in the Genesis account, for the seventh day, that means that God’s rest has never ended, and we as Christians can look forward to someday sharing the rest He now enjoys (19). Sounds wonderful!

Whether you believe this argument or not, one thing is for certain. Jesus will take all of your stress and burdens if you just call out to him. His arms are open wide, ready to take you in his loving embrace.

A Year of Spiritual Writing: September 2014

I was watching my girls jumping on our trampoline, the youngest playfully chasing the oldest, both giggling as little girls do. The late afternoon sun caressed the tops of their heads, highlighting the slight red they inherited from me, my mom, my grandmother. Then they collapsed in a bounce and were tangled in hugs, but all the while happy, still enjoying the other’s company.
This moment reminded me of growing up with my sister, the joyful times, the silly times, the times we even needed the other for comfort and support. It also reminded me of my sister-in-law, Brooke, for her generosity. If she and my brother-in-law Jarod hadn’t given us the trampoline, and thought about our children using it, this memory would be obsolete.
I know, however, that not everyone has had a sister to experience these kinds of memories. How lucky we all are to have our Sisters in Christ then! This September and for much of the Fall Quarter, we will have many chances to strengthen ourselves in who we are supposed to be as these sisters.
We have a wonderful opportunity to learn how to best minister to them, both within the church and in our community, on Wednesday nights; Tuesday Ladies’ Bible Class will focus on slowing down; there are celebration events for Highway 80 Rescue Mission Women’s and Children’s; and we have several more get-together events for all-aged sisters!
Please don’t miss out on gathering together with us. You are important, we love you, and Jesus loves you!

A Year of Spiritual Writing: August 2014

When I was a teenager, my chore was rinsing the dishes and loading them into the dishwasher. I loathed this chore. I thought, “why do I have to be responsible for taking care of my parents’ coffee cups which never stopped coming – I’d finish rinsing and loading one week’s worth, go to unload them, only to see a counter full of ceramics towering over me saying, “I am the dirty coffee-cup monster and you will clean me!” It was disheartening to use my “teenager time” and not see an end in sight. I vowed to give up dishwashing when I was out on my own or married…is that what they call a pipe dream?
   Dishwashers have pipes. When Seth and I were first married we didn’t have a built in dishwasher, but rather a hook-up one. I quickly learned that my teenager chore was preparation for life – but really, what was going to be the “right way to do things” and what was going to be the “wrong way to do things.” According to my husband, his way was the “right way,” mine was the “wrong way.” This conflict of opinion surfaced when we discovered that our placement of the silverware in the basket was different. He always set the the handles in the basket, with the forks, spoons, knives facing up and out (waiting to draw blood or be dirtied by a nasty hand after they’ve been cleaned, but I’m not biased). I’ve always put the dangerous little devils in the basket facing down with the handles up, so when you unload the part you put in your mouth, it stays untouched and clean.
   For a number of years we both did the dishes, yet when I unloaded them after he had done a load, I would still get angry with him for doing it his way. I’d complain to him, we’d have words where he’d assert his way was better; I was driving a wedge in my marriage over a silly utensil. I should have been happy he was helping doing the dishes. Now I do the dishes; it’s my chore, mine to do because I grumbled too much about his way of doing things.
   Ritchie’s sermons about our mistakes as a church – limiting others from the Kingdom of Heaven because they don’t fit the mold of what we believe a Christian should be, say, and do – has really hit my home. I wonder who has turned from Christ because of my hypocrisy? We need to pray for our judgment of others and our ability to cooperate and work together. Just because someone’s background isn’t “ideal” to your state of mind, doesn’t make her any less valuable to the church’s mission (i.e. I wasn’t raised in this denomination, and I think I’m contributing as best I can). In other words, your way of loading the dishwasher is just as good as mine!
  And in other news, I began involving my kids in loading the dishwasher. I try to loosen my control by letting them load it how they want to, (even if I fix it when they’re not looking)!

A Year of Spiritual Writing: July 2014

I don’t know about you, but as a woman I feel about as stretched as Michelle Dugger’s belly. It could be because of the “thirty(ish)” in me, or the “married,” “mother,” “housekeeper,” calendar-keeper,” “house accountant,” “referee,” or “child therapist.” Naturally, I was drawn to the book Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. It is written in a ‘letter-to-a-mentor-for-advice’ format and the advice is in overabundance in the best way possible. The book’s subtitle directs it towards “hope for the mom who needs to breathe,” but I believe the advice can be taken by any woman who needs a minute or sixty to refocus.
  However, this model does not encourage loneliness. Our life turns into a battle sometimes and we need our sisters in Christ, but like Sally and Sarah demonstrate in the book, we have the opportunity to find older mentors who can guide us by showing how they have completed their paths in God; vice versa, the older generation can choose to seek out the younger women to be mentees.
  In the book, Sally, the elder, shares with Sarah, “going at it alone is, without a doubt, one of the most common and effective strategies that Satan uses to discourage moms. A woman alone in her home with her ideals eventually wears down and becomes a perfect target for Satan to discourage. Some women have journeyed alone for so long they are not even aware of their urgent need for mentors, friends, peers, and fellowship” (19).
  As I worked on the newsletter for this month, the events were quite spare.  I realize it’s summer, but you’ll notice on the calendar portion I “stole” events from other groups that involved women to make the calendar not look so limp.  All silliness aside, I do wish there were more fellowship opportunities, but I’m usually the one waiting to get invited. God must have known my desires, because He led me to another passage in the above-mentioned book in which Sally states, “I have to start almost every group to which I have ever belonged. One of the first lessons I learned was not to be discouraged if others did not invite me. In this individualistic culture where everyone is too busy and overwhelmed with life, the groups in which we find community will inevitably by the groups we start ourselves” (22).
  Therefore – I am doing it! Ladies’ Night Out at Diddy’s Yogurt Shoppe (See calendar below for details) Let’s pack the place and take all of their orange chairs! If you have any ideas for future Ladies’ get-togethers, bring them with you!

A Year of Spiritual Writing: June 2014

This month’s newsletter has been difficult to write for me. Despite praying for writing inspiration, I’ve felt like a force of interception has been upon this mission. When I have had the opportunity to sit down and work on this opening welcome to you, either something would go immediately awry with my children, making me abandon the task for yet another day, or the words would just not come.
Interest in the upcoming Summer Sunday Bible Class unit, focusing on spiritual warfare, has made me more keen on looking for situations that may be the devil and his army trying to thwart my mission. I would think that if I’m trying to reach you, and I end up with nothing to say to you, then certainly Satan would consider that a victory. Even as I write now, a little voice is telling me, “none of this ramble is good enough for a newsletter, just push DELETE, and type HAPPY JUNE EVERYBODY and be done with it!” I’m going to keep it though…you can e-mail me and tell me what you thought of my decision!
From previous experience, I know to expect an increase in the spiritual warfare (maybe there will be less to read from me come July)! Jokes aside, God’s word tells us we can have confidence in Him and not fear no matter what the devil’s schemes are. All we need is His full armor as described in Ephesians 6:10-17.
I pray this month that you consider attending our Summer Sunday Bible Class series. We all need to know Who we are really up against. Please pray for the men who will be teaching us and their families. They’ll need it!