Monday, February 25, 2013

Fuzzy Morning

I think I woke up too early today. I wrote so I'd have something to hold for balance. As I finished, God's sweet birds started singing outside my window, and I realized life was ok after all. I'm sharing what I wrote in case you have fuzzy mornings, too.

I guess it’s hardest in the mornings. Early, before the light is sure, before my mind is sure what’s real today. Everything is shadowy and I can’t tell if the sun will come back. Reaching for habits, I hold on to unfamiliar familiarity, knowing this is what was here yesterday, but feeling as if it doesn’t fit, as if it doesn’t want to and I don’t want it to. Shadowy, but there aren’t any shadows. If there were, I could know something was real, because only real things cast shadows.

Does God re-make the world every morning? I feel pretty formless and void when I wake up, and nothing around me changes that impression.

I miss being sure, but I’m not sure if I was ever sure. I know it’s always been an act of my will to be sure. That much is sure.

Does everyone feel this way before the first cup of coffee?

If so, maybe I should start drinking coffee.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

About "Mama" - "Mother," to me - Five Minute Friday

Roots make my mother, and they made me.

I come from a long line of very strong women. Among us we have overcome poverty, loneliness, abandonment, starvation, ignorance, and abuse, for a start.

These are women who seek strength outside ourselves, but not from other people - from God. Other people, in our experience, disappoint. We don't want to be dependent on what will let us down, so instead we're independent. To a fault.

When the chips are down and the going gets tough, we pray and we remember all those women before us. "At least my husband is still around." "At least the house payment is made." "At least I had money to buy that loaf of bread." "At least I got here in time."

Our roots are tough. The family stories are all stories about how things got bad but we (they) survived. So I know that I (part of them) can survive, too.

I am not only a root, for my stem and leaves and blossoms have set me apart from my beginnings. But I know I have roots, and I know that they made the beginnings of me. And when things get bad, I know where to look, even if only in memory.

I have roots, so I am strong. I got at least some of those roots from my mother.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Seaside Meditation

We live out life on a shore, a sandy windblown beach washed by the salty waters of life, the tears of the Savior weeping over us.

Castles we build, some filigreed and grand, some solid and plain, structures scraped and molded from the ground beneath our feet, the dust that forms us and will reclaim us. Sand castles are defiant shouts against the deafening roar of the inevitably victorious surf.

“This will last forever.”

Forever, like a diamond, like a marriage, like a bff promise. There is no forever in this world. One man sows and another gathers his fruit; there is no certainty here. Seasons there are: seedtime and harvest, plenty and want, building and washing away.  Some castles last longer than others, but nothing lasts forever.

“I will not be defeated.”

Nor will our team, nor our party, nor our nation. Right is on our side. Little matter. The walls, well-built and high above the surf line, battlements against the battle of earth and sea and sky, are made of nothing. Millions of tiny grains of nothing, leftover someone elses, decayed somethings, lifeless stuff piled into fortresses cannot stop death and destruction.

“This time will be different.”

Our species lives in hope. Maybe that defines us. Surely it has something to do with our survival, success after failure after failure after failure. The poor will always be with us. The hungry will never be filled. The emperor is wearing no clothes. Yet we build again, feed again, hope again. We conceive one more solution, execute one more plan, build one more castle, and the waves and the wind and the sand devour it.

“Here I stand.”

The very ground beneath our feet is unstable, water separating the grains as heels, then toes, then ankles sink into the sucking earth. Without moving we lose ground quite literally as it washes away from our firmly planted feet. This is no place to make a stand.

There is no other place to stand; what must we do to be safe? Should we run? Fast and free, dancing in and out of the surf, will we run heedless of the cutting sand, the stinging salt, rejoicing in the music of the elements? There is no safety there. One misstep and tendons twist, ligaments stretch, bones snap. Should we retreat? Shall we move away from the line, away from the ever-evident eroding, away to a calm and quiet retreat? We cannot live without the water, nor can we breathe without the wind, and the illusion of solid ground is one we must choose to believe even far from this place. Should we rest? Shall we lie down and wait to die, wait for the windblown sand to cut us into tiny pieces to be washed away, wait until we become parts of the shifting substance of the world we mistrust? Should we not stand instead? Shall we stand facing the sea, building what we can, accepting the failures, rejoicing in the moments spent here, alive? At the end of the day, will we look back and wish we’d never built, or will we celebrate the memories of work and play, perhaps cherishing a bit of shell, a piece of special beauty saved from the barrage of the elements?

We do stand, yes, and shout into the wind, and our words rush back down our throats as the waves faint at our feet. Messengers they, expiring with the words they must bring to save us, completing their marathon journey with the reminder: “Joy, we win!”

John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”


Monday, February 18, 2013

What's Your Scary Story?

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

It sounds like an icebreaker question at a twenty-something party.

It isn’t.

It’s the cry of a desperate person facing a scary day, gritting her teeth, gripping the glass of water she’s sipping to stay still.

I guess when I’m scared I don’t want to be alone. THAT’s the scariest thing of all, aloneness.  It’s the threat hissing in my right ear while I try to work. Abandoned. Cast out. Banned. Me, alone.

I’d better not mess this up. I’d better do it, and do it right, and do it now.

Performance-based acceptance is a ravenous wolf that will not be filled. I fight this battle much too often.

So what have you done that made you feel afraid? Have you faced a challenge that carried with it the idea that failure would be unbearable? Have you set your jaw and squinted your eyes and screwed up your courage, gathered your tools and your armor and your security blanket, and charged into the face of almost-certain doom?

I guess I’m being over-dramatic. It’s not all that bad. It’s only a computer accounting program. It’s just that I’ve never done this and my best helper is not accessible and my best friends can’t help and my best resource costs money I don’t want to spend until I figure out if I can afford him. And I’m feeling ill-prepared to face this again, since I broke down in tears fifteen minutes into my first encounter – over four weeks ago.

Water glass is empty. Software window is open. I’m hiding over here on my blog page avoiding the inevitable.

Breathe. Refill water. Post. Go back.

You’ve seen my beast. What’s yours?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Beloved - Five Minute Friday (One Day Late)

Being beloved makes the beloved beautiful.

More than anything, I want to live out love in my short passage through this world. Doing that consciously helps me to see beauty in so many unexpected places. I guess it's one of the mysteries of God that if I choose to love, the beloved becomes more lovable to me.

The part that's out of my control, though, is that when I feel beloved, I feel beautiful. I wish I could wake up every morning, go through every day, retire at night feeling beautiful and capable and . . . lovable. Truth be told, though, I don't. I criticize myself, I hear criticism (even unintended) from others, and I feel unlovely and unlovable. All it takes is a word, even a glance, to turn that all around for me. When someone offers love to me, I feel beautiful.

I hope I can remember that so that I can make this beloved world a more beautiful place.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Woman at the Well - a Different Perspective

Sunday we heard a sermon about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, recorded in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel. We heard that she was a woman of bad character, or at the very least a woman who had made bad choices, who was not respected by the community, who was coming to the well in the heat of the day to avoid the scorn of gossiping neighbors. We were challenged to think about her response to Jesus; it was suggested that she wondered why He (a Jew, a man, a stranger, a rabbi) was speaking to her (a Samaritan, a woman). But what if . . .

What if she was a woman who had been married five times and was now living with a man who was not her husband, and she was getting water in the middle of the day (all we’re told about her, really), but . . .

What if she did know why He was speaking to her? What if she’d always been looking, always seeing the flaws in the solutions she found for life’s challenges, but never giving up the search? What if she had sought and been disappointed so many times that she should have been dead by her own hand by this time or so dulled by her own choice that she was only going through the motions of living until she could finally find rest in the grave? What if instead of choosing death or dullness she still had a tiny flame, a spark that only showed red when she breathed on it, a coal of fire in her breast that she kept hidden from all view but her own in the rare moments when she could dare to draw away from the responsibilities of living long enough to hope for life? What if she knew there was more (as we sang this morning), if she had repeatedly hoped for more than an existence controlled by a man who could not see, could not understand, could not hope as she could? What if these many husbands had died of natural causes, accidents of the hard work and danger of life, honorable men who had done their best as required by their culture, even godly men who had sought and followed Yahweh? What if because of the limitations of her time in history this woman had to have a husband to protect and provide for her, but battle-worn and weary, torn by repeated grief and loss, she had let herself enter a marriage relationship without the endorsement of the established authorities?

What if the reason she came in the middle of the day was not because she dreaded the sharp tongues of the scolding harpies in town, but rather because she was weary of the emptiness of women’s talk? What if she simply wanted some time alone with her own thoughts, so much deeper than theirs, time to reflect and to breathe, even in the heat of the day, and to refresh herself with water to slake at least the body’s thirst for life, even though her existence did not offer refreshment for her soul? What if this daily walk was a ritual she had developed to remind her that there was a refreshment, a hope, a life beyond what she was living, and this walk through heat and aridity to the Well of Jacob – Israel – was her way of remembering that God’s promises to Israel were to all His children, and despite her current circumstances He would refresh and renew her one day?

What if instead of being confused by Jesus’ remark about living water, this woman sensed exactly what He was offering, and her question back to him was rather a challenge for him to prove the truth of the offer? What if all her life she had been waiting for this moment and she knew when she heard His first remark that this was the One she’d been waiting for?

I’ve studied the woman at the well. I’ve thought of her story from different angles. Today, as I thought of her, these questions came to me, and I thought perhaps if the story were read that way . . .

what if I am that woman?

I think a lot of us are. A lot of us know there is more, determinedly refuse to give up that hope, and know without a doubt when we find it.

Or I should say, when He finds us.

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, February 8, 2013

After God's Own Heart

after God’s heart – I just realized it doesn’t mean “dear to God’s heart”
it means chasing after, seeking, following, trying to find God’s heart
David was after God’s heart
he turned around and faced God every time he realized he’d stopped seeking God
he messed up, over and over
he forgot to seek and obey
he was selfish and sinful
and he kept on turning around and seeking after God’s heart
pretty much,
he was no one special
God was just commenting that David was seeking Him
like we can
just exactly like me

Bare – Five Minute Friday

I’ve spent some time with “nude” and “naked” in recent months. I’m not sure if “bare” fits in with those somewhere or not.

I do know that when I come to God, if I let myself go all the way into His presence, I am bare when I get there. He sees me bare all the time, but when I see myself bare and sense His acceptance of me so – that’s when I am free to worship.

I learned a long time ago a mnemonic for praying, an order to pray to help us remember what prayer is about. ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. Gee, I learned that over thirty years ago, but now, as a Real Live Grownup, I am finally seeing it happen.

I think the confession part is making myself bare, taking off the coverings and conventions and expectations and imitations. I first spend time acknowledging who God is (adoring and praising Him), then it’s easy to feel comfortable baring my soul to Him.

I wonder what would have happened in Eden if, instead of hiding, Adam had considered Who was asking, “Where are you?” If instead of covering himself, Adam had stayed bare, body and soul, before his Maker, I wonder how things would have continued.

I wonder if doing laundry is part of The Curse that we wouldn’t have borne if Adam had stayed bare!

Lord, let me stay bare before You and never hide from You. When faced with truth, even uncomfortable truth, help me to stay uncovered and honest. Amen.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fresh Air and Rest

Sometimes I forget things that I've known all my life.

"Some fresh air will do you good."

I think that as a child I thought that meant I should go away and leave someone alone and entertain myself for a while.

In my Very Adult Life I don't have time to entertain myself for a while and there's too much work just to go away. So I forget that getting fresh air renews my spirit and clears my head and strengthens my body. I forget that if I go away and come back I'll have new eyes and new energy to do all that Very Important Work.

"You'll feel better after you rest."

I know that as a child I thought that meant that whatever I was feeling was not real, but just a response to being tired.

Now I'm tired a lot of the time. Those feelings that might get better if I rest are pretty much constantly with me, and they feel very real. I force myself to rest because of obligations and discipline, not because I expect to feel better in the morning.

But if I do get fresh air, and if I do rest, I really do feel better. This morning I woke up so heavily burdened that my greatest wish was to run away. No, I don't run, I stay and fight. I don't quit. But my world felt endlessly dark and just to move took all my effort.

Enter God (and my husband, God's gift to me).

I had to go get milk for breakfast. Obligation. Duty. Work. I headed out the door, and hubby tagged along because he knew I felt bleh. Very bleh. We went together through the darkness to the grocery store. Outside my conscious awareness my spirit began moving toward the dance floor where I dance in the joy of The Lord. As we left the grocery store, the new day was officially dawning, and the most beautiful pink sunrise was covering half the sky.

How could I have forgotten? He loves me, and each of us, so much that He gives us a sunrise every day. If I'll just get some fresh air - His air - and rest in Him, I can walk lightly and even dance in the midst of any trouble or trial.

I must remember.

And then I must choose to do something about it.

Thank you, God, for fresh air and rest, and for making me weak enough to need those so that I'll remember how much I need You.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Afraid - Five Minute Friday

"Afraid" is a word I like to avoid. Not that I'm scared of it; I'm just tired of it and its influence on me. I don't want to pass it on to anyone else. I don't want to give it undue power over me.

"I'm afraid we're going to have to . . . " It's just an expression, but I'm not really fearful when I say it. So I don't say it. If I AM afraid, then I have other things to say.

"God, I'm afraid we're going to have to . . . Help me to believe. Help me to see. Help me to trust. Help me to receive and give love."

Because perfect love, received and given, casts out all fear, I don't have to be afraid of ANYthing! God loves me perfectly, eternally, inside and out, and He is committed to what is best for me.

I think He knows me pretty well, too. He knows all of us. Notice that the Christmas angels open their messages with "Be not afraid, " even though they're bringing the best news ever.

Let's take that counsel and not be afraid!

Five Minute Friday