Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding the Stillness

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from blog land. I needed it. I need it every once in a while. I get tired of hearing my own voice. The same thought patterns reaching the same cadences about the same things. I am the one person I really cannot escape, even when the last hours of night are growing thin and even the silence of sleep eludes me.

What I need is a vacation, but I want to take this vacation without myself.

Okay. Obviously that won't work.

This is how I found myself on a hiatus from blog land.

Have you ever tried to still your own mind, or at least ignore the parts of it that take voice? It isn't easy. The thing that works best for me is to fill it up with other things. My mind's voice is not easy to cover up, like maxing out your ipod at a rock concert, but realizing you can still feel the thump of the speakers in your belly. I read A LOT! I watch A LOT of my favorite DVR'd TV shows, and I do A LOT of listening without entering in to conversations.

Does it work? I don't know. I guess. A little.

Monday morning I had some things to think about. Some things that I knew would not be okay to tune out. I went to my favorite fair weather spot, those bright teal blue Adirondack chairs that sit just outside the doors of my dining room on the slab of broken cement. The spot of our "someday" deck. With the wind whipping my hair and the sun warming my face I was still. I just sat. I sat and I prayed a little and just was... still.

It was interesting because I'd expected my usual barrage of thoughts and voices. The ones I'd grown tired of and had been working so hard to ignore. I was dreading their return and I had braced myself a bit in that anticipation. My ears heard only the rushing wind though, as my mind stayed still. I walked out onto the lawn and did the thing I love to do when arriving back from a long jog down our quiet country road. I sprawled out in the grass and opened my eyes beneath the towering canopy of trees, watching as airy clouds passed through the swaying leaves creating a moving landscape of incredible art. This had the effect it always had. I felt small. I felt the goodness of being small. Not inconsequential, just small.

With my mind still and my heart small I began to hear. It isn't really what He said that is important. It's that I could hear. And I could hear clearly, without all the other stuff, or my own voice trying to compete with His. I could hear and I could listen.

I needed a vacation from myself. I tried to accomplish something of the sort. But on Monday I realized that if I let down all my defenses and just sat still and small refreshment would come in a different form. Refreshment would come in the listening.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It might be Hope

Someone asked me the other day what exactly I mean when I talk about Hope. She asked me "What do you feel when you say that Hope is what matters most in your life? What does Hope mean?" I use the word a lot and I suppose I haven't always realized that Hope means many different things to people. I had a hard time that day describing Hope. Of course I was able to articulate that Hope is the certain knowledge of our eternity with Christ, where everything is beautiful and nothing painful can ever touch us again. But sometimes when you're in a bad way, that description is too far off for impact.

Spring fever.

Wiapedia describes it as an increase in energy and vitality.

I go through it every year. The clocks tick at double time for an hour in the middle of March and the combination of that time change along with the seasonal transition to warmer, longer days forces my body clock all out of rhythm. Usually a light and slight sleeper I become infatuated with sleep. It's all I want all the time. For a couple of weeks I dread the alarm and during usual waking hours find myself drawn to my couch and ottoman with unyielding desire. It's somewhat torturous for an active girl like myself who is accustomed to actually enjoying both early morning workouts and a late night movie. Often both in the same day. And it's not just the lack of energy I grieve. There comes with it a certain sadness. A sense of things just being not right somehow. I truly have come to "Beware the Ides of March" and to know that for me that sense of exhaustion and foreboding lasts for a least a few long weeks.

The last couple of days however I've noticed the effect has begun to lessen. I've been able to wake before the buzzing alarm begins it's annoying lament. I find myself opening windows and drinking in the fresh green scent that only spring can usher in. Today the lonely dirt road just past the intersection outside my house beckons and I can hardly wait to lace up my shoes. Spring Fever.

I know things are only going to get better from here. I can feel my energy level rising. The sunlight that floods through my kitchen and living room makes me want to do crazy things like, wash windows and clean cupboards. These things get done in anticipation of long summer days when there will be so many better things to do. Soon fishing with the kids and taking them to the beach will trump any domestic duties on the perfect sunny day. And even the normal, the mundane and everyday, will be accompanied by brighter happier moments. The drive to work becomes something better when the windows get rolled down and the radio turned up. The sometimes chore of making supper brightens when you can do it standing outside in the late day sun over a smoking grill. Evenings are spent in leisure on the deck of a good friend with a cool, frothy drink in hand. (Last year we discovered mojitos...perhaps something new for summer 2010?) I could go on and on.

Late last night I sat in a pool of bright moonlight in my favorite chair and reflected on the last few days. I thanked God for reminding me that my energy level will fully return and for how much I have to look forward to with this change of seasons. And suddenly I realized... this is Hope! Hope is this sense that even though right now I'm just so tired and I'm still trying to come out of that December snow there is something so bright just around the corner. In the midst of March I usually forget that it's there. I can actually convince myself that spring won't be coming this year. But then a stray breeze wanders across my face or a patch of early morning sunlight on my pillow changes everything and even if I can't feel it yet, I know what comes next. And that moment right there... that's what Hope feels like for me.

Hope looks different for different people though. And I know for many of you it isn't as sunny as all this. But you still know Hope. I'm interested to know.. how do you describe Hope?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Making History

I once had a pastor who was fond of saying "World History always serves Church History." As in; the history of the world is really story of God growing, teaching, stretching, strengthening and increasing His people.

Economically, politically and religiously our country is in a very unstable place. It's easy to panic. It's easy to live in fear. I find myself asking questions like, "How much will we have to suffer Lord?" And worse still, "How much will my kids have to suffer?"

I think about World History and what some have gone through in the name of Church History, and I don't rejoice. I cringe. I don't want to have to do that. I know that God is always and only good. But, if I'm being honest, I don't really want God's goodness to be hard to understand or see. I like the kind of goodness I understand.

But, there is something about that statement that calms my soul at the core level. There is stirring in it that speaks of a Something and someOne so much bigger than even our country's social, moral and economic decline. And in that, there is Hope. Yes, World History may be painful, even torturous at times but Church History makes all that pale in comparison. Church history points to a Hope that does not disappoint.

Like the baby that is born of a ghastly intense labor and delivery to a mother delirious with the joy of his birth, if we could ask the saints who've gone before us about their trials, I can only assume those trials would be nothing as we spoke, basking in the light of our Jesus.

Lord, make us faithful. Make us strong. Stretch us and multiply us and give us courage. Keep our eyes fixed on Hope and convict of It's assurance. Help us to see the bigger picture of Church History and want to be counted in that number."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hearing voices

There's a pestering voice inside my head that likes to ask the most impractical questions or suggest the most impossible ideas.

Things like:

"Why not convince Steve to quit his job and move to Hawaii where you can open an island bistro together?"

"We should start a new church!"

"A pet monkey couldn't be that bad could it?"

Usually I shake my head at this inner voice and leave well enough alone. Still, I have to smile a little at this side of myself that still likes to envision the world through the irredescent streamers that hung inside my childhood bedroom window. There just beyond the bows of the towering maple tree that practically reached inside my room, anything seemed possible.

She's not very practcal though, the voice inside my head. She doesn't see things as they really are. She doesn't see obstacles or respect certain social rules. She heeds no warning and takes insane risks. You really can't listen to anything she says.

Lately, she keeps asking me the same thing. "Why don't people just do things that they enjoy? Spend time on things that make them happy, fulfilled, satisfied? Why do people spend so much time doing stuff that makes them crabby?"

I try to reason with her. Well, because people have to work. They have responsibilities. And because, sometimes what we enjoy isn't good for us. Sometimes we have to make ourselves find satisfaction in what we have been given to do.

She rarely buys it. I don't know why I thought she would this time.

"But like, couldn't you find time to do SOME more of the things that you enjoy, IF they're things that are okay with God?"

Hmmm.... she might have a point.

I've been asking myself this question alot lately. There is SO much that I love to do in this world. I LOVE to try a new and totally impractical recipe. I love taking a long and indulgent walk in the country, just my ipod and me, and no stop watch and no time goal. I love a glass of wine and a good book in the bathtub. I love wearing shorts and a baseball cap when it's 50 degrees and spring is still a bit of a dream. I love a cat nap in the sun on the couch in the middle of the afternoon. I love a good massage, an afternoon in the bookstore, and a cup of hot tea on the patio.

Sure...there are bathrooms to clean, laundry to fold, and appointments to be made and kept. There are phone calls to return and quick meals to prepare and concerts, games and performances to attend. All this not to mention work and family. But, I can see that my little voice is making a good point. Now perhaps is not the time to visit the Caribbean. This day it will not work to hike through a rainforest or flip a house or start a new business. But, surely everyday there can be time made to indulge a little. To really LIVE life. To not only glorify God, but to ENJOY Him, as the catechism says.

I suppose it's a bit late for resolutions this year, but as I morph from 34 to 35 I want to do it with this thought in mind... maybe, just maybe, not everything that little voice inside my head comes up with is as far out of reach as I think. Maybe I should listen to her a bit more. And definately I'm taking her advice on this one. Everyday should include some time to just do what I enjoy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Risky Dream


"Is my imagination running away or is...
all this really happening to me?
Am I a prince in a far away land filled with fantasy?
Where is reality and what are the actions that will define who I am?
I am holding on to the visions I've seen of what I could be.
More than it seems these dreams inside (show me the way to these dreams)
Blur reality's line (till there's nothing left of me)
If I could believe the dreams aside (show me the way to these dreams)
I am capable of more than it seems.
Passing through darkness into my own world.
Will I be more than when I left?
Never letting go of the lessons I learned.
This will make a change.
A change within me.
This time I won't run away.
I found the strength to face these long days.
This time I won't run away.
Till there's nothing left of me
Show me the way to these dreams."

There was this day last week when I was making breakfast and the sun was just starting to rise in this sort of beautiful pink way and it began reflecting off all of the millions of pieces of frost that were falling from the trees and the result was so stunning that I had to go sit out on my step and just watch it happen. There I was, surrounded by a world of glittering iridescent light that could only be possible via the Creator of Beauty. It was breathtaking in the way that beauty is. In the way that you know you can't hold it or capture it you can only be a part of it. It was for me, one of those moments where heaven meets earth for just a little bit and there are these audible echoes of Eden and these believable rumors of Glory and for that nano second of time I'm not caught in between.

I'm there.

I thought of this song as I was watching God work a miracle in my front yard that morning. I thought of how possible everything seemed just then. I thought about "the actions that define who I am" and how I want to hold on to "the visions of what I could be...what I should be."

Eventually I had to go back inside and finish making breakfast (and to warm up), but I was so eager to go back out and just be in that amazing world. When the kids were on the bus and I had a few minutes before work I shot out the door with excitement and ran out into the snow, but I found myself standing in the middle of all that fallen frost with the average, ordinary winter sun much higher in the sky. The newly created colors were gone. The crystal shower was over. The magic had ended.

The world has a way of doing that doesn't it? It takes a heart of great risk to believe in the possibility that "I am capable of more than it seems" for longer than a moment or two. The demands of life tear at the edges of our dreams and all too soon we realize that Narnia (the movie that inspired the song) or Narnia on earth anyway isn't really, real. Or at least it doesn't feel real, which, is essentially the same thing in this case.
But on my way to work I listened to the song again anyway. Just because. For the first time I really heard the second verse and understood it. "Will I be more than when I left...this will make a change. A change within me." Hmmm... not a change within the world. Not something everyone will see or understand. The tree's limbs will still be bare and the sun will not sink back to recreate the morning light... but I will have changed for having seen it. The change will have been within me.

There's risk in that. There's risk in believing the dream and allowing it to "blur the lines of reality". Because it requires a lot of letting go of what I thought was real. I guess that's why the song says "Till there's nothing left of me ... show me the way to these dreams."

I guess that's what life is. It's a constant unveiling of reality which turns out in the end to have been the dream all along. That's the whole point... this life... being "More than it seems." (Click here to see video)

Today I am challenged to not let the schedule or the responsibility or the distractions keep me from living the dream of reality. Today I am challenged to share that with a world who so desperately needs it... one random interaction at a time. And today, I will take a long moment to meet with my Savior and thank Him for being so real and for effecting a real change in me!

Monday, February 22, 2010

When it's good to forget

"Humanly we can choose to forgive, but it is outside our capability as humans to choose to forget."

I heard this quote once upon a time somewhere that I can no longer remember, but obviously it has remained with me. I was thinking about that quote a lot this weekend. And I was imagining. I was imagining what it would be like if we could choose to forget. What if it were up to me; if it were my choice to forget all the bad and remember only the good? What would the consequences of such a choice be?

We do it naturally at funerals. Have you noticed that? When someone dies we gather to remember them and we collectively choose to remember only the good. Rarely at a funeral have I heard someone recall a story that brought up past hurts or disappointments. And, it's not just that we're choosing to focus on the good at a funeral. It's like somehow, when we face death, it is possible to actually forget all the wrongs.

Yet, for the living we find it so hard to do that.


I wonder if it all boils down to self preservation. If it's all about protecting ourselves from hurt. When someone dies they are no longer a threat to us. Whatever it is that they've done to wrong us in the past no longer holds any power of repeat. They're not going to be able to hurt us again the same way so letting go of those transgressions doesn't carry with it the same vulnerability as it does for someone who's still living. Choosing, if we could, to forget the way we've been hurt means leaving ourselves open for future hurt. Or at least, that's what it feels like. If I forget how she manipulates the things I say I might not be as guarded around her next time. If I forget how he loses his temper when he doesn't agree with my opinion I might speak too freely. If I forget how much it hurt to lose that friendship I might walk right back into it again and risk hurting all over again.

It's easier to remember because we think the remembering will protect us from pain.

But what would the upside be to choosing only to store up the good stuff about someone? What if nothing terrible were recorded in our memory banks? What if with every new encounter the slate were wiped clean and everyone were given the benefit of the doubt? I can only imagine that kind of power that would be released in that!

God chooses to see me that way everyday. He's been hurt by me a million times, but He literally chooses to simply not remember it. Each night as I sleep and in the morning when I wake to start a new day He greets me with what my friend Patty calls a "Holy Amnesia". He doesn't hold back. He doesn't self preserve or protect. He's all out risk. He has everything to lose when he loves me like that. I'm destined to repeat my sins. I'm fated to break His heart again. But each time He chooses to forgive... and to forget.

"As far as the east is from the west. So far has He removed our transgressions from us."

Only He would so lovingly choose infinity to describe just how forgetful He is!

Why does God do that? Wouldn't hanging on to my offenses be easier? Or at least less painful?

Choosing to forget does seem impossible. But with time and lots of prayers for holy amnesia I think it is possible. And as for that guarded heart, I have found in those instances when I've found success in the forgetting that God has done all the guarding. And He's done a better job of it than I ever could. Laying my heart out,open and vulnerable has in those times has proven to be the most rewarding moments of my life! Relationships that seemed doomed have been not just brought back to life but have filled my life with blessings immeasurable. And not having to carry around all the baggage all the time? Wow! What a relief!

I've said and done some pretty thoughtless things in my lifetime. I can't imagine how freeing it would be if it were all forgotten. And, I know... some people are harder to forgive than others. I know that some hurts are much harder to forget. But I want to work toward that. I want to be able to offer it in every instance because if the goal is to look as much like Jesus as I can... then the forgetting must play a pretty big role. And because I know how much it would mean to me if those I've offended were able to offer even more than forgiveness but forgetfulness as well.

Is it humanly possible all the time? I don't know. But I do want to die trying!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Restlessness

Dalton, my 12 year old came home from school Tuesday with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. When asked to answer my routine after school questions of "How was school?" and, "Did anything interesting happen?", he answered with an unusual bleakness. "School was boring. Nothing interesting happened. Nothing interesting ever happens. I wish there was something exciting that would happen."
It's January. He's twelve. The sameness of the cold and snow and rountine are beginning to wear on my youngest of men. I looked into his eyes and saw a deep and familiar need buried there. A need to feel, to be challenged, excited...alive.
I'm really not much diffrent than Dalton sometimes. Things settle into a routine and the fog of sameness rolls in around me and I feel trapped, unimportant, irrelevant. I become crabby, jaded and difficult to please. I don't know what I want or how I want it. I only know that I'm restless and need to move, to feel, to experience.
Right now, I want the snow to melt. I want the sun to shine bright and hot on the green fields that will sping up outside my windows. I want to take long walks down the dirt road on the kind of summer evening when the light, like a treasured friend, seems to linger just a little while longer than it was meant to. I want sunny days at the beach and dark nights around a campfire. What I desire is the carefree comradarie of summer.
I guess, like the seasons that pass outside my window, when I look at my life I want everyday to be like the best days, the easiest or the proudest or the most exciting. I suppose it doesn't surprise me that life isn't like that. I always knew that we weren't promised ease of living or endless happiness. And, when trouble rears it's head, I know God's presence and have been blessed to quickly sense His love and sheltering aid. Hard times don't surprise me much. What does take me by surprise though, is how difficult the "everyday and mundane" can be. Those are Oswald Chambers' descriptors, and I like them. Everyday...the monotony of work, laundry, meal prep, bed, wake up, do it again. The mundane, same customers, same groceries in the cart, same house, same responsibilities. Sameness can be excrutiating.
Thankfully I love some aspects of this everyday and mundane. I LOVE the basketball games. I LOVE the cozy movie nights that are easy to have with the kids. I love the beauty of the winter white landscape. It's just so easy to miss in the midst of all the sameness.
And then my thoughts turn to Haiti. To a people who would give anything for little bit of everyday. A moment of two of the old, familiar, mundane. And I think of friends who struggle with cancer or have children with demanding and difficult diagnosis'; who beg God for a little familiar sameness. Who wish they could go back and have a few more days of normal before their world was changed completely.
Perspective is everything they say. And I certainly think that applies here. I, like Dalton, need to shift my perspective.
In fact what could be more energizing than organizing some sort of drive to collect money for Haiti. And it might help ease the sameness of the day to stop in with coffee for a visit with a friend who's housebound with her disabled son. Now that I think of it, the possibilities are endless. It's really very exciting.
Hmmmm.... maybe that was the point of my being restless all along!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No Conditions

"The word says God don't give us credit for lovin' the folks we want to love anyway. No, He gives us credit for lovin' the unlovable. The perfect love of God don't come with no conditions."
"the same kinda different as me"
Ron Hall and Denver Moore

I read these words this morning and something like conviction took place as they bounced around in my head and finally settled into my heart. I would like to think that I love unconditionally. I would like to think that when someone I love offends me or hurts my feelings or even takes an action that is outside the realm of what I typically deem "acceptable", I go on loving that person. I accept their shortcomings because I try, most of the time, to keep my own less than perfect moments ever before me. I consider that to be the stuff of unconditional love. The ability to love someone, even when they let you down.

Reading this book though, I realize that the kind of unconditional love Denver recieved is something entirely different. You see, it's easy to love someone enough to forebear their transgressions, to look over their failures, or to see past their shortcomings. You do that based on history. You love a person long enough and there's really not much they could do to destroy your connection with them. And I suppose, that is a sort of unconditional love. It's the way we love our families, our friends, espeically our children. But what about the people we don't have history with? How often do we love them unconditonally?

I don't know about you but I tend to size a person up upon meeting them. I label them. She's a nice dresser. He 's nice. She's friendly. I compile a subconscious list of things I observe as I spend time with a person and at some point, usually decide I might like to spend more time with them and eventually pursue a friendship on some level. Sometimes I'm not all that attracted to what I observe. He isn't very friendly. She seems snotty. He isn't very deep. These people I tend to pass over. I'm not usually rude to them, but I write them off rather quickly and don't pursue any further contact.

There was a time in my life when loving the unlovable came easy. I had less pressures. Less time contraints. Less distractions. These days it seems I'm always running somewhere, attending something, working on something. I rarely have time to meet new people, let alone puruse a relationship with someone who seems unlovable.

I may not often find myself in a soup kitchen or at a homeless shelter, but reading that quote from Denver this morning made me realize that not all of the unconditional loving in the world takes place in the missions, or shelters or kitchens. Alot of the unconditional loving that needs to be done can happen right where I already exsist. The bleachers, the work room, the car pools and the grocery lines; these are places filled with people who need to feel unconditional love. But as I choose who to sit by or stand by, or work by, I need to do that without any sort of sizing up taking place. Because the unconditional part doesn't happen after there's a shared history. The unconditional part happens at first glance. It's reaching out in love to someone I wouldn't "want to love anyway", and offering them my heart.

Someone loved Denver like that. They loved him at first sight even when what they saw seemed unlovable and for Denver it made all the difference in the world.

I want to love like that. I want to love uncondionally....the way I now understand it...the very way I have been loved. I want to love... like that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It matters to me

What matters?

I mean what… really… matters?

And what are the qualifications for giving something that distinction of, well, mattering? Standing the test of time? Do things that stand the test of time matter because they do? How about providing respite from the chaos and pressure of life? Does something that distracts or calms or comforts then, matter? Intangibility. Does it factor in to what matters or what doesn’t?

If we were in Haiti right now I suspect our definition of what matters would gain some serious perspective.

But, we’re not in Haiti right now.

Does that matter?

The basketball game last night mattered to me. I hated that about myself. I hated that it mattered. And it mattered a lot. For a moment. And then it didn’t. So the things that matter only momentarily… do they really matter at all?

I spent time today with a very close friend and it was wonderful. The connection mattered a lot to me. Tonight I’ll be with friends who share my heart and matter a great deal in my life. Do these things matter more because the relationships have an impact that lasts for a lifetime, or do they matter less because if there were an earthquake tomorrow I couldn’t take them with me to heaven. I couldn’t take anything with me to heaven.

Only Christ.

Only Christ matters. What does that mean?

What about the way the basketball game brought happiness to my heart? Was that me realizing one aspect of the chief end of man? “Enjoying God?” I was enjoying my kid on the court. How God made him. I was granted a reprieve for a few hours from the pressures and responsibilities of life and just able to enjoy the game. Does Christ care about basketball? Does He care about me enjoying it? Because that might make it matter.

The relationships with my family and friends. I see Christ in that. Does that mean they matter?

I love to decorate, my house, weddings, events…. Those things seem not to matter. But what if to me they do? How do I know that they matter to Him?

I don’t know.

The answer to what matters is an easy one and yet… clearly not.

I just don’t know.