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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, March 28, 2011

Ready to Run….

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

Ready to Run….     l owledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

…I'll run this race, nestled safely in Amazing Grace,
 I made up my mind, I don’t have much time
So I’ll run, Til I Finish
Run Til I Finish, Smokie Norful

I might run today.  Outside.  Like run for real.  For the last 9 weeks, there is simply no way I could’ve considered taking a serious run outside.  I’ve been sidelined with a knee injury that played with my body, messed with my mind, and tried to wage war with my spirit.  While I was concerned, I tried never to let it get me down.  I tried to stay focused on the “so what now” portion of the equation, rather than “poor me.” 

Healing now, and certain that no chronic condition will prevent me from walking, dancing, and running this time around, I confessed in a conversation with my BFF, that I was suffering my version of depression.  Once again, she said the thing that makes me so grateful God placed her in my life.  Essentially, she said, confirming all my best fantasies about my tenacity and my secret life as a warrior woman, that while she knew I wasn’t myself emotionally, a) I didn’t need coddling, b) she knew I’d ask for coddling if I did (I wouldn’t), and c) I’d figure it out and probably laugh when I did.  I reminded her again that God knew what He was doing when He made her show up, and we put the matter to bed.

The lesson I learned about myself is that I am strong, There have been times in my life when I resented my strength, because I thought it would incline people not to help me, or even inquire, thinking I could handle it on my own.  What I’ve learned is that true strength is fearless, asks for help, gives you permission to take a break or make an adjustment, and that most of all, true strength endures, and doesn’t give up. 

I never considered not dancing.  I’ve been modifying choreography with the loving help and support of fellow dancers and our artistic director and choreographer since I first started feeling pain back in January.  Instead of backing out of the 5k run I agreed to do with friends this Spring, we pushed back and found another event.  My Faith mantra became “we’ll figure it out,” not “we won’t be able to do that anymore.” I figured if I couldn’t run the occasional 5, 8, or 10k any longer, maybe I could be a race walker.  I never considered giving up. 

This morning, with no pain, much joy and certainly not enough layers considering the 27˚ weather, I briskly walked my baby, which I haven’t done without pain and fear of falling since January.  We meandered more than a mile, and I could tell he was happy to be roaming.  It was really cold, but I didn’t mind. 

I think it’s going to warm up today.  I hope so.  I want to worship while I run, today.  I’ve been missing the solitary joy of moving through the air, losing myself in the breezes, logging miles and spending time with The One who gave me life, gives me joy and who never left me, ever.  So, while it may be cold today, I can choose to bundle up and go outside, OR stay in and wait a little longer for Spring thaw.  I have choices, and I choose to run on, because I’m ready.  Further evidence that God is Good. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Broke down, but not broken….

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

Broke down, but not broken….
your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.’ The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18(NASB)

So I'll tell anyone who'll listen, I'll testify
about how good you were to me, 
when so call friends passed me by
the fact that you would show somebody
 so broke down, so much-mercy…
“I’m gonna be ready”
music and lyrics by
 Terry Lewis, Yolanda Adams, 
James Wright and James Harris

I’ve been nursing a bum knee for two months.  At first, it was just annoying.  However, when it began to adversely impact my life in ways I wasn’t prepared to accept, making it hard to dance, impossible to run, a struggle to wear heels and generally get around, I decided to do the thing I wouldn’t ordinarily do soon enough.   I found a sports medicine MD and made an appointment. And then I kept the appointment, AND went.  As you might imagine, my husband was furious with me for suffering as long as I did without curbing all activity, certain that I’d overdone exercise or dance, and almost got me to commit to giving up the movement I so love in order to heal.  I was broke down, but not broken.

Now I am awaiting test results, and facing the possibility of a diagnosis that could fundamentally alter my life. In the interim, I still dance, I exercise within reason, knowing that I’m not doing further damage based upon the MD’s assessment. I’m sure that some might see mt circumstances as less than optimal, and it isn’t.  However, I still have my faith, and I’m still fine.  I am broke down, like a car in the shop, but not broken. 

Brokenness is the point at which you meet God.  It’s the end of the line, the last stop before your first immersion in His Reedeeming Love; the first time you figure out that whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working and the only way out is through your pain and into His Arms.   I’m not saying that I’ve never been broken, and that I might not ever experience brokenness again, I’m just saying that my faith is holding me together and I am blessed to know the difference. Today, I’m just broke down.

You wouldn’t trash a car just because it wouldn’t start one time, and I’m not anticipating amputation if my knee (or my body) is seriously jacked up. I don’t give up that easily.  I don't give up. I’m not wired that way, and I’m not blessed to process in that manner (I think my wiring and my blessing are the same thing, but that’s just me.)

I thought I’d go to the MD and get my answer.  I expected this would be a simple process.  Rather, this is just another opportunity for me to acknowledge that God drives the bus, and I am merely a passenger sitting in the back, looking out the rear window.  From this vantage point, it is clear to me that I am not in control.  From this vantage point, I am able to rejoice at how far we’ve come, the Driver and me.  From this vantage point, I see the abundance in my life, the multiplicity of blessings, even if the stuff ahead is scary, ‘cause I ain’t looking out that way.  That’s not my job.  It’s the Driver’s responsibility.  God drives my bus.

So, while my knee may be broke down, and my life may need a tune up, I am not broken.  I am no longer broken, because I have surrendered to The One who Drives my Bus.  Considering bad weather, or the circumstances life might place on the road, this is simply further evidence that God is Good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dance like David….

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

Dance like David….
Psalm 149
 3 Let them praise his name with dancing
   and make music to him with timbrel and harp. 

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Dance as though no one is watching you.
Love as though you have never been hurt before.
Sing as though no one can hear you.
Live as though heaven is on earth.
Fr. Alfred D’Souza

Dance moves me.  It releases me from my fear, my body consciousness, my shyness. It is said that liturgical dance is a form of prophecy.  I am no prophet.  However, I do believe in the transformative nature of dance to carry those who minister through it and those with whom they worship beyond their current circumstances.   Liturgical dance is relational.  The dancer needs someone to lead as much as the group desires to be led.  

Recently, the liturgical ensemble to which I’ve belonged for nearly 10 years ministered through dance as part of a program at my church.  I do not dance with my church's liturgical ministry; I belonged to my ensemble before we joined the church where we currently worship, and the affinity I feel to that group is permanent. At the close of the program, my pastor called our ensemble forward, and said that what she most appreciates about us is that, though we are technically trained dancers who take our art seriously, we never perform.  She said, essentially, that we lead those before whom we dance into worship.  Wow.  We’ve never wanted to be solely performers, and indeed, when we were not looking for a compliment; we received confirmation, we were caught in the very act of doing what we most desired; diminishing ourselves to allow our bodies to be used as vessels to carry His Word. 

We all know how we behave when we know we need to be on our best behavior, right? The right clothes, SPANX, the right shoes, jewelry, hair tight, nails right,  etc.  As a life-long African American Baptist girl with church roots several generations deep, don’t EVEN get me started on the art and science of the Easter outfit.  However, what do you look like, inside and out, when you’re not preparing to Dance?

My promise to myself as I age, is to be consistently authentic.  That means being ready to Dance at any time.  I don’t mean literally.  Preparing to minister through dance means my body is in its best condition.  I am well fed; well stretched; well rehearsed, in fact, so much so that I don’t feel anxious about the choreography.  As a liturgical dancer, I feel best when I move beyond the choreography.  This does not mean that I ever take the art and the technique of our choreographer lightly.  Rather, I am ready to dance when my muscles know their job and my mind can be freed to worship.  I hate stressing over choreography, and I have a particular process for learning.  I’m NOT the dancer who gets it right the first time.  Rather, I need to live with the Work, studying it, replaying it in my head.  My Aha moments usually come in the kitchen, a day or two after rehearsal, when for me, it finally comes together.   So, ready to Dance moments for me are the result of consistent preparation, the practice of habits that I need to return to, regularly.

I am approaching the point in my life where I’m always ready to Dance.  In stepping on the altar as a liturgical dancer, I am truly never nervous.  I never consider the “audience.” Those are the moments when I “dance as though no one is watching…” Those are the times when my movement is a gift offered up, intimately, privately, unashamed.  I’d like my entire life to be like that.  So, the discipline I try to give to dance is the discipline I must give to the rest of my life. 

What does that mean? Physically, it means not needing to wear my SPANX anymore, because the discipline I have imposed upon my physical self means a) I no longer NEED to rely upon shape wear, assuming b) I stick  to the regular routine of exercise I have adopted that has put both my body and my head in much better shape.

When I speak, particularly in this season of Lent, I do not raise my voice.  For Lent, I gave up shouting at my children, believing that the discipline required will develop into a better habit, and that modeling the lesson to my children is a valuable thing, not only for them, but for me.  It also means that when I speak, what I say, and what I do (which shouts, even when I whisper or am silent) says so much about who I am, and who I desire to be.  Lord, let my speaking be a Dance for You.

So, I’m dancing like David. Remember the story? It is said that David was so filled in worship that he danced before the Lord like he’d lost his mind, a kind of "wild worship.” It was, however, authentic. So, from here forward, I’m doing me.  Not just when I’m dancing, but like it’s all Dance.  I can choose to focus on the challenges, or I can praise him, worshiping wildly, for all He’s done, and what’s to come, because the best is still ahead.

So, I dance, because He created us to Love Him.  I dance, because He created us to be His Hands and Voice in the world.  I dance, because Praise is What I Do.  And its what I want to do, whether or not anyone watches. Because He is always watching.  And whenever you might be feeling alone, or unhappy, you are reminded, as am I, that God’s love is an abundant feast.  And there it is. Further evidence that God is Good.   

Monday, March 7, 2011

Follow the map….

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

Follow the map….
 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Him, and  Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV

I always know where I want to go, even if it’s not where I’m headed.  I consistently visualize the optimal way to handle a situation, with calm, measured words, encouragement, to leave everyone feeling uplifted, better.  I always see it.  Sometimes, it comes to me the moment I’m walking away, knowing I didn’t quite get it right.  Yesterday, as I hung up the phone with my teenager, I realized something wonderful; in that moment, chatting with her, I’d won.  I was present, listening, and encouraging.  I DID IT! Of course, since perfection is a moving target, she was sullen with me by the end of the day, and I was back on my quest.  Occasionally hitting a moving target is not the description to which I aspire.  I want to be right more often than remorseful.  I’m making a fresh commitment to follow the map.
Those who know me well know I channel Claire Huxtable in my best mothering moments.  There are other, real people in my life that set the example for the kind of Christian, women, and friend I seek to be. Each of us, I am sure, has people we emulate, for any one of a number of reasons.  While that’s generally a good thing, within reason, we’ve always had a reliable map available.  Proverbs teaches us many things, not the least of which is, while we think we may be very smart, and we thank God for his Providence, we should not rely upon our own grey matter.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Yeah, you’re (we’re) smart and all, but it’s so much better if we’re not driving the bus.  Here’s the best part, with only an acknowledgement of God and His Divine Grace, He’ll drive the bus!   
I see a very practical application for me as I seek to follow the map.  Have you ever noticed that acknowledging someone or something requires energy and focus? Merriam.com defines “acknowledge” as “taking notice of.”  If you paused to take notice before speaking and acting, regularly, would you likely be more or less proud of the things you said and did? I’m going to be mindful of acknowledging Him.  For me, that means thinking before I act, considering before I speak, measuring my words and my actions prospectively.

Prospectively.  You see, I am a remarkable Monday morning quarterback. I sometimes get it right on time, in real time, but I need better stats.  I’m no longer accepting close, but not close enough.  I’m following the map.

Yolanda Adams, in writing “Open My heart” gives me the self-talk I’m intending to master. 
“So show me how to do things Your way…Don't let me make the same mistakes over and over again.  Your will be done and I'll be the one to make sure that it's carried out…and in me I don’t want any doubt, that’s why I want to talk to You, and ask you for Your guidance.”

I’ve got the map.  I’ve even got a soundtrack for the road.  I’m going to do better.  Hit the target more regularly, because by pausing to measure, acknowledging the proper model, Perfection may still be a moving target, but I’m always , with a map, going to be moving in the right direction.

So, I’ll still miss.  I’m human.  But with the right map, I’ve never shooting entirely in the wrong direction anymore, and that’s an abundant blessing. So, for all those who were wondering, having a map is a good thing.  It is certainly more evidence that the map maker, God, is good.

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

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