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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  Isaiah 26:3 A warning in advance-in...

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Monday, February 28, 2011

My daffodils are breaking through…

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

My daffodils are breaking through….

… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry…
Mark 6:28-31

A blue and rainy Monday. I didn’t bicker so much with my children about getting up and out the door. The dog walked me just over a mile as storm clouds cleared; we had a pleasant time and didn’t get wet. My migraine is only in 2nd gear, my knee hurts less, and when I look at my garden beds, despite the overall forlorn appearance of my yard, my daffodils are breaking through the ground. By all rights, I have every reason to be ticked off, frustrated, or depressed. However, the emergence of pale green and yellow shoots through the mulch (that needs replacing) brings me joy, and tunes me in to the voice of the One, whom I clearly hear saying, “consider the lilies of the field...” (Mark 6:28-31) Lord, I thank You.

My daffodils are breaking through. My daffodils are breaking through. It almost feels like a magic formula, but better than magic, because there are neither smoke nor mirrors. My daffodils are breaking through. Spring returns. What seemed dead prepares to rise again. The earth is being restored, like after Noah’s flood, and I know it is well with my soul.

The Sermon on the Mount, from which these scriptures arise, is contemporary. It could even be considered radical, and in its time, it was. It addresses matters as relevant today as they were nearly 2000 years ago when first preached. As much as I wish I could say that my biblical studies are regular and diligent; I promise when blogging always to be honest; I could do better. That is why I am so deeply thankful that this morning, I got the message… my daffodils are breaking through.

In yesterday’s sermon, the Pastor said that you recognize God’s voice when you hear it all the time. She analogized receiving a call from her mother, with whom she is very close. As she said, when mom calls, I don’t need to inquire “who’s calling?” That’s why I get my daffodils. They are my harbingers of things to come. They encourage my faith, the way spectators keep you going in a 5k you realize you were nuts to register for and you can’t possibly complete, except with those voices of encouragement, you do.

My daffodils are breaking through. And I am reminded to hope some more. I am emboldened to be more faithful, having been encouraged by the voice of the One, who is a refuge for His people, who blots out our transgressions, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, who is the Rock of our Salvation, our Bright and Morning Star, our Ever Present Help, our Rising of the Sun, the One who sent my daffodils as a reminder of His Love.

My daffodils are breaking through. And though I am not where I desire to be, or even where I reasonably believe I should be today, I am abundantly blessed by a God who can speak to me even when I am too sad to hold up my head, putting a message on the ground so I will see it. My daffodils are breaking through. I need no greater evidence that God is good. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Smile, though your heart is aching….

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

Smile, though your heart is aching….

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
- Psalm 30:11-12

One of my favorite people commended me today for my ability to laugh at the things most people anguish over.  It’s just a survival mechanism; I wish I could take credit for it; it’s just the way I’m wired. 

I made my husband laugh this morning.  As we listened to today’s gloomy forecast, rain, wind, you know, soup and nap weather, I began to sing the Lena Horne classic, “Stormy Weather,” well, sort of.  My version went a little like this,

            Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, Stormy Weather
            Since my poor career ain’t together, it’s raining all the time. 
My resume’s bare, gloom and misery everywhere, Stormy Weather, 
blah, blah, blah

My ditty won’t win a Grammy.  It was never intended to.  In fact, if my husband hadn’t suggested blogging about it, I never would’ve told anybody, including my buddy, who also got a kick out of it after I sang her my “It’s Friday!” song.  It’s another one of my originals, and this one was so spontaneous that I don’t even remember it now. Hey, she was having a particularly HORRIBLE week, and I simply wanted to remind her that no matter what she might encounter in the office today, the weekend was merely hours away.  Sometimes you need someone to remind you, that no matter how challenged you feel in the midst of it all, you can, you WILL weather the storm.  She was laughing when we said goodbye.  It worked.

Oddly enough, funnily enough, (masochistically enough??), I am thankful for storms.  They remind me to appreciate sunshine.  When the winds and rain go away, figuratively and literally, I take deliberate pleasure in clear skies.  I look up.  I breathe deeply.   I give Thanks.  That hopefulness, that expectation gets me out of bed when it rains.  It helps me hold my head up when I remember my last job was more than a little while ago.  I find reasons to smile, reasons to stay engaged, reasons to keep going until the storm is over. 

The 30th psalm is a portion of the traditional Jewish service of morning prayers. It lists a myriad of reasons to be thankful, including, being lifted out of the depths (I can relate), healing (I can relate), the longevity of His favor (I can surely relate), and the reminder that no matter how sincerely current reality bites, He will turn your mourning into dancing and your joy will have no end. 

He wired me to smile, even with an aching heart.  Joy is coming, just beyond the gloom.  Suddenly, it ain’t so bad, and with that, my perspective is restored.  I’m recognizing balance, even if it hovers just beyond my reach.  I will get there.  And with that, I pick myself up, square my shoulders, and grab the umbrella.  I’m going in (or out).  Because, even in the midst of it all, I am abundantly blessed, if with nothing more than my strength.  And that strength is further evidence, if ever I needed more, that God is good.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
   hide me in the shadow of your wings ~Psalms 17:8

Because you are my help,
   I sing in the shadow of your wings.
 I cling to you;
   your right hand upholds me
. ~Psalms 63:7-8

“Make me be silent.” That is my prayer.  I whisper it often, lately, because there is so much noise in my life.  Much of the noise I make myself; television, music, self-talk (some good, some not so good), to-do-lists, advice and guidance to my children, admonishment, my fears, my concerns, my dreams.  So much noise, that I am certain “that still small voice” is speaking and I cannot hear it.  Lord, I desire to hear You when You call, when You encourage, when You teach.  So, this is my prayer, “make me be still.”

You stilled us at the waters in the 23rd Psalms.  You stilled us into silence in the 46th.  Your Word is full of quietness that frankly, we simply don’t hear, because we’ve got so much going on.  I am thankful for my distractions, for the blessings they represent.  I will not fail to thank You for access to information, for family, for friends that check on me, even when they can hear in my voice that I don’t want to talk (so rare for me).  I am grateful, and yet I ask, “make it quiet.”

I desire quiet closeness with You.  Quiet time.  One of my favorite things about being with my husband is that we can be alone, together.  We can share space and closeness without feeling compelled to do.  Though those times are rare, and so often interrupted by a child or the dog, I am thankful for them.  They are blissful, hushed acknowledgements of intimacy that do not require a soundtrack, and that is what I crave with God.
He is always there, ever watchful, ever vigilant, ever loving, and I am obliged to give devoted service in gratitude.  I only wish I would learn to still myself, stripping away the stuff that would keep me from You.  

I will never be a nun.  I will never be cloistered.  Real stillness, absolute quiet, let’s be honest, is kind of scary.  Generally, I need a soundtrack to still the noise before I can even find quiet.  How crazy and counterintuitive is that? As a runner, I use music to control distractions.  I have also deliberately ceded my running time to devotion, because it is time I can permissibly carve out without guilt.  So here, once again, I make a declaration of intent.  I pray when I run, and now I will practice stillness and quiet as I stretch daily.  I will be conscious about making it quiet.

In a world filled with busyness, we feel guilty about not doing.  In a world filled with stuff, we find ourselves cluttered.  I’ve got to much stuff, and I’ve got too much noise.  So I’m stripping it down, beginning today.  Perhaps I’ll hear more, or, maybe I will simply learn the discipline of being quiet, being still, being obedient.  Wow.  Because one thing I have come to acknowledge is that the lesson you think you’re learning is not always the lesson you get.  So, because I need to learn this lesson, I will purposefully pursue it.
And, if ever I thought, even for a moment, that He was not absolutely in the midst of it all, I already received confirmation.  You know who you are, and I will only say, “thank you, for living your life as an example I am honored to emulate. You make God smile.  You made me smile, too.”

So, up I get, from this perch, to stretch and be quiet.  I will seek Your voice and turn away, beginning my own spiritual game of Hide and Seek.  For a time, precious little time, I will hide from the noise and seek His face.  I will practice quiet.  And among my many distractions, things to do, people to see, stuff to manage, I will continue to feel abundantly blessed, because while there could always be more, there is still so much from which I must withdraw, and for that, today, I am thankful.  It is this day’s grace.  Further evidence that God is good.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stronger than pride….

Stronger than pride….

I won't pretend that I intend to stop living
I won't pretend I'm good at forgiving
But I can't hate you
Although I have tried
I still really really love you
Love is stronger than pride

Love is Stronger than Pride
words and music
Sade Adu

Valentine's Day is the second largest card-sending holiday, according to the Greeting Card Association, with an estimated one billion cards sent each year.  On the other hand, real love doesn’t wait for February 14.  It isn’t unfailing polite or always gift bearing, and often makes you question your sanity.   Genuine love is selfless. 1 Corinthians 13 explains “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The Love in 1 Corinthians makes you hug a teenager you’d rather throttle, or worse.  That love allows you to breathe deeply, pause and smile, and then address one more time the question you spouse already asked that you already answered.  1 Corinthians can teach you to avoid fights rather than trying to either seek them out, to grin when you want to bare it (fists, sarcasm, fury?). That love really is strong.

Are you a wimp if you aspire to this kind of love? No way, because this ain’t easy.  There are times in my life when I know I’ve achieved it.  They aren’t glamorous, or numerous.  They are the times when I’ve shown compassion despite being really ticked off.  They are the times I’ve been gracious instead of pouting. I declare here and now, I don’t do Valentine’s Day love.  It’s nice, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t buy cards or tokens to acknowledge the tradition.  It’s just like our 10-year-old said this morning, “it’s Valentine’s day every day in our house.  We don’t need no stinkin’ holiday to remind us.” 

What I aspire to is a love stronger than pride.  A love that just is.  So, let’s agree to make it an action verb.  Go do love. Do it quietly, a whisper rather than a shout.  Can you manage it without fanfare? Go be love. Go be God, because isn’t that one of the first things we learn, that God is love?

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Forever.  Go do love. And if ever you’ve had someone who loved you, or loves you now, or whom you love, then you too lead a rich and abundant life.  No matter what happens in my life, I am clearly blessed with abundance.  That does not mean that I have every material possession, or that my resources are without limit; neither of these reflects my circumstance.  God alone provided everything I have ever needed, and I learn, each day, that it is neither career nor husband, nor anything under my control.  It is solely the Grace of the Father by which I am endowed.  Further evidence that God is good.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Running on fumes…

“An empty pitcher cannot pour.”  This is the advice a dear friend gave me many years ago, when I felt stressed out and overwrought by the challenges of chasing my desire; to stay happily and successfully married, expert (a la Claire Huxtable) at mothering, building a career of which I could be proud, along with the notion of personal time and personal space, all under the dry-cleaned and flowing cape of Super Woman. Ha! “An empty pitcher cannot pour.”  It is also the advice I gave my sister (the best friend who is truly my sibling in every way but genetics) this morning as I sat at my keyboard wondering what to type.  This is usually how my blogs get written.

My sister lamented how worn out she felt, divining the needs of two children (I don’t care if they’re related, you’re doomed if you think that mothering means that one size fits all…), a husband, managing a household, and recounted the story of her 5 year old commenting on her tiredness and crankiness (before you chastise, gentle reader, that 5 year old is my beloved godson…). It sounded like a page from my life.  We are currently afflicted with the same ailment.  I am cranky.  I am always tired.  I am running on fumes.

I wear a lot of hats; we all do, and wear them well, mostly.  In my case, I am his wife, their mom, daughter to one, granddaughter to another (they live together, and that carries its own drama, trust me), the surprisingly strong woman who promised first a grandfather and then a father that I’d care for the women they loved when they left too soon.  I am sister, auntie, cousin, in-law, friend, chief cook and bottle washer, magician, Fashionistachauffeur, banker and finance analyst, dancer, runner, community advocate.  I perform any other duties as necessary.  Although I’m running on fumes, the good news is that I’ve been here before, and have recovered, literally returning from the brink of disaster.  What I learned, and what I hope to share, is that before you get to empty, you have to refresh yourself.
I LOVE MY LIFE, really. Don’t you? I happen to know that most of my mommy-friends are jogging on the same Sisyphusian treadmill, nearly killing ourselves, when if we only remembered to breathe, exhale (and giggle?), we’d all be so much better off.  There are those who actually believe that “the way you breathe is the way you live.”  According to Reichian therapy, one’s “capacity to experience joy and fully-realized lives is constricted by walls and armor we put up to protect us from the world.” I am no Reichian master, but I get it.  We need to release.  We need to shake it off.

There are examples of withdrawing in the Bible.  In both Mark 3:7 and Luke 5:16, there is the Divine example of taking a pause, remembering to breathe, getting it back on track, and reclaiming the cool, calm, present focus we all so desire.  Remember, in my best wife and mothering moments, I am channeling Claire Huxtable.
Even as I sit at my keyboard, I am listening to the gentle rhythm of my puppy as he snores.  Loudly.  It draws me away, if only for a moment.  It makes me slow down. Distractions can be a good thing, maybe a blessing.  The 23rd Psalms is a big ol’ stop sign, if you take a minute to read it.
2 He makes me lie down…”
When was the last time you rested? Did you have time? Did you make time? Why not? I am clear that since I currently don’t have a regular commute or a FT job outside the home, it’s okay for me to rest during the day, because I haven’t always had the opportunity to do so, and someday that may very likely go away.  What’s the harm? Better question, what are the benefits??

“…He leads me beside still waters.”
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be led? I noticed that in teaching our 10 year old son to dance, I was always leading, and I had to apologize and stop.  What example was I setting for him, as a woman?  What was I teaching him about being a man? Are you always rushing? Are you often impatient? What would happen if you slowed down? Have you ever noticed that you pay attention to people who speak more slowly? Have you ever tried it?

“3 He restores my soul.”
This is the game changer. Guess what? You cannot, and I repeat, cannot, do it all.  Allow yourself to be restored.  Imagine resting in it.  In Peace.  In Quiet.  In Serenity.  Imagine resting in silent meditation, in prayer, simply breathing, with your eyes closed, because restoration is the most important thing you might do in that one moment.  What could you accomplish if you weren’t always in a rush?

“…He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” STOP! It’s not about you.  It never was (about you, or me, or anyone else.)   We are led for His Name’s sake. So stop being cranky.  Rest if you’re tired.  Would you rather be cared for by someone who delights in what they’re doing (please take the time to re-read the 23rd Psalm), or be hustled around by a burnt-out, overworked, overwrought, under-appreciated, resentful, guilty version of yourself?
My church has a prayer shawl ministry, where members who knit and/or crochet come together a couple hours, once a month.  I noticed it for the first time in the bulletin last Sunday, and I’m going.  Who knows what might happen? I also dug out, recommended to a friend, and recommitted to finally reading my copy of The Artist’s Way-A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self.  I’m not going to allow myself to run on fumes anymore.  It’s not good for me, and it sets a bad example for the people who might be watching (and you never know who’s watching).

My children deserve better.  My husband deserves better.  I deserve better.  I owe it to God, as I make of myself an offering.

I don’t feel better yet, but I will.  I’m about to go for a run.  I will feel even better when I hit the publish button, because I promised my sister I’d commit to working out our problem in this blog.  So now, Lord, it’s up to You.  I did my part.  I showed up.  I made myself slow down, focusing solely on this task, to the exclusion of multi-tasking, not easy for me, as an object lesson in filling my own pitcher.  It cost me nothing.

So, when you are feeling pressed on every side, with not enough energy, time, or resources to cover all the things you think you need to cover, remember that you too are abundantly blessed.  Fill your pitcher.  Make yourself smile.  I believe that God desires, like any good parent, that His children be happy.  Hmm, happiness as a Divine Right? Now that’s further evidence that God is Good.

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