Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good morning!

I mentioned in my last blog that God loves being creative. The next day after writing that, He proved Himself yet again in that way!

When I visited a new church Sunday morning, I heard worship and a sermon with a strong theme of submission to God's plan. They cited several passages of scripture as examples of the fact that sometimes a period of darkness precedes a time of understanding, awareness, and celebration of God's great grace. Sometimes darkness is a step we go through in learning submission. The speaker mentioned that to God, there is no difference between darkness and light--or should I say, they are different to Him, but He sees past all that. Darkness doesn't change Him the way it changes me--He remains faithful. I can bank on the fact. Darkness seasons were heavily on my mind in the last writing I did!

Even the Scripture passages (Psalm 139 was one among them) were some of the same that came to my heart while I wrote my last post. God knows I tend to forget or doubt His message of teaching and encouragement. He also knows the best way for me to learn is repetition! Thanks be to Him. :)

Help me to listen!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Time to Sing a New Song

You know the feeling of losing a battle, yes? Maybe hitting snooze for the 5th time so there's no time left for that workout you wanted to achieve before getting the day started. Maybe losing your temper with the bitter coworker you swore you wouldn't let get to you. Maybe surrendering to that strong-willed toddler when you just can't be more stubborn anymore. Maybe a literal, larger-than-life, ugly battle as part of a war that you can't even justify to yourself. Realizing that for all the time you spent carefully presenting a good image as a Christian, you feel you destroyed it in one moment of hypocrisy, publicly showcased.

Sometimes we fight hard. Then other days, it seems like it might truly be best to just surrender. Sometimes we just give up because it got too hard and confusing. This is when we are our own worst enemy.

I've definitely lost a few big battles in the past year. There isn't much I can say that I'm proud of that I've achieved. It's mostly defeat, surrender, laying down arms because it doesn't make sense any more.

If knowing the depth of my weakness makes me a better person, maybe I've grown in some way. But I don't really think that's what it's been about.

For all the ways I've given up and failed, I think of this Proverb: "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." (24:10) I have fainted. My strength is small. I agree with the Bible.

This seemed shameful to me, but I am writing to tell you that my shame is not worth discussing in comparison with the faithfulness of God. I have slapped him in the face and pushed him away with all my heart, soul and mind. I have believed and declared that he failed me. When things got hard in life and in my spirit, I did not trust him. All the while I have been devastated because no matter what else I lost or said farewell to in 2011, the loss of my Dearest Companion and Holiest Friend was ripping my insides apart and hurting me worse than anything else. I doubted him so much. I was so angry at him for departing from me. I didn't ever think I would lose my faith in him, but let me tell you, I did. This was the Valley of the Shadow of Death, to me. Complete, unknowable, unsensible darkness. Why did this happen? It came on so suddenly. Where did he go?

And when he was gone, I couldn't make sense of anything anymore. I didn't really know how to love anyone properly. What is life without love?

Thankfully, miraculously, wonderfully:
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

I agree with the Bible again, from Psalm 139.

God appeared to me again. He made Himself visible when I had stopped looking for Him. I said, "YOU will have to reach down and pull me out of this quagmire, because I don't even believe it can be done so I've decided to stop trying." So He said okay, and how is that different from what I've done before? I defied Him with a prayer of challenge. He humbled me to the ground by answering me lovingly, unmistakably, immediately and creatively. He is such a Creator -- He can't help Himself. He can't resist the rebuilding with beautiful intricacies the house of my heart that I'd already condemned. When I knew Him and hated Him, He knew me and loved me back so tenderly I couldn't hold onto my anger anymore.

You hem me in, behind and before,   and lay your hand upon me.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;   it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit?
   Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
   If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
   and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me.

More things from Psalm 139 that have been proven in my life.

God has given me so many good things and I am so thankful for the rich blessings of my life. The biggest blessing I have received from Him, I believe, is that my life means nothing to me when I refuse to acknowledge Him in everything I do. I need Him so badly, before any other thing or person in this universe. He has given me a small life, with no celebrity status. He has created in me a craving to tell the story of His love for me so that others can know that He is still living and active in this world, just like His Word. I want to tell the stories He has entrusted to me with more clarity. That is what this blog is all about. If no one ever reads it, no matter. It is my offering to Him. It is my scratch paper to work the equations of life events that yield a solution illuminating the reality of Him.

The story is just beginning a new chapter. I am following the steps of Jesus into a new area. I am admitting the places where the difficulty of living in community with my fellow man has resulted in my turning off of my brain and my soul instead of asking Him to help my answer the hard questions to myself. It is time to throw off another layer of fear that's cloaked on. It's time to go deeper into the Book that is living. It is time to receive a great gift of love that He just won't stop showering on me. Adam and Eve were naked and without shame -- they had no fear. To be fearless... the lifelong goal of this storytelling. To stand bare and fearless under the raining down of God's love... My ultimate end.

Thank you for reading... be encouraged in your own dark and fearful places. God is designing an elaborate floodlight for you, as well. 

Truly God is good to Israel,   to those who are pure in heart.But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,   my steps had nearly slipped. [...]But when I thought how to understand this,   it seemed to me a wearisome task,until I went into the sanctuary of God; [...]When my soul was embittered,
   when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
   I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
   you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
   you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
   I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
   that I may tell of all your works.

(I agree with Psalm 73 as well.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Warning: Not for the healthy. Only for the sick.

Recently, a dear friend of mine who was not raised in the same Christian culture as I and most of my friends said to me, "You people really love Jesus, don't you?" Yes ... we are pretty much obsessed with Him.

Frankly, there is no reason to be a Christian without Him. With Him, there are many reasons to actually want to be a Christian.

I have been thinking about this a lot. Like many people in this world, I get frustrated with insincere religiosity, callous people who call themselves spiritual and yet consider themselves better than their fellows in humanity, and contentious people who draw all kinds of divisive lines over things that truly do not matter at all in the very epic scheme of things.

Sometimes mainstream symbols of my own religion make me sick to my stomach at the idea of Christianity. Even better, I see these sickening signs of insincerity in my own practice and watch my faithfulness dragging on the ground behind me like a pair of pants that are way too big with no belt to be found. Some days those trousers just fall completely to the ground and leave me embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Some days I look like a slob and a fool and I just don't have the energy to try to fit in or feel apologetic.

But it is because of the person Jesus Christ that I stick around. There are so many reasons for this, but one in particular keeps harping on my mind. It has to do with being healthy or sick.

There are so many initiatives in our society trying to encourage us to be healthy. Healthiness is good because it means not only that your life might last longer but also that the quality of said life will be improved. We are attracted to healthy people. Those emotionally, physically and relationally healthy people are just so desirable and alluring. [I find it interesting that most people excel in one area of healthiness, not usually all. It's hard to find a balance in healthiness!]

The unhealthy are considered less attractive in our society -- except for when they allow us to feel better about our own shortcomings. Many of those mentally, physically or emotionally unsound folks become the outcasts of society or at least social groups. We can't usually deal with another person's profound lack of health because we in ourselves are not usually strong enough to cope with the way another person's dysfunction spotlights our own. Not to mention the fact that we are left incredibly weary trying to overcome our own illnesses. I'm not talking about bodily illness.

This is why people like Mother Teresa bring us to our knees in awe -- she touched and loved and mingled with the most sick and unsound for her life's work. I drive by a seriously sick homeless man on my way to work every day. Every day tears spring to my eyes and I want to jump out of my car and embrace him and love that illness right out of his life -- but I do not. I'm way too scared. (Heck -- I am way too scared to be in the same room with a puking person for fear I'll end up puking, too!) Mother Teresa would've done it. (!!!) She would've done it because she had encountered the impressive person of Jesus, who was filled with perfection yet brushed more than just shoulders with the most perverse of His contemporary society. She would've done it because she was acquainted with her own illness and knew how much she needed the touch of Jesus for healing.

While we draw lines and quarantine the sickest and try to keep ourselves pure, we can't run away from the haunting knowledge that inside of us is a sickness we can't do anything about. Sick egos. Sick thoughts. Distorted feelings and untimely reactions. Anger we can't control. Despair we can't admit. Outbursts we'll always regret. Inconsistency and hypocrisy. Repetitive self-destructive behavior. Total and complete inability to forever change the things we hate the most about ourselves. Insecurity that threatens to sell out the most unique and genuine aspects of our individual character. To God, our Creator, it was too important to let us carry on this way. He had to come down to earth. He had to bring His perfection to bear in the most non-judgmental, non-condemning way imaginable. The only One holy enough to have a right to condemn came not to condemn but to end the condemnation.

Now, today, the only way I can feel this presence is through the people who embody this kind of love and acceptance to me. The only way to get better is to receive that unconditional love and acceptance. When you do, it just has to spill right back out of you.

 15-16Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: "What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?"
 17Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit."(Mark 2 - The Message)

And then there are people who seem to channel this same Spirit, just from the heart somehow. (You can help!)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Talk too much and you will eat what you say!"

21Words can bring death or life!
   Talk too much, and you will eat
   everything you say.
Prov 18:21

Delicious words. I love them. I love new words, old words, fancy and simple ones. I love putting them together on a paper with a pen, or typing them out on my laptop screen. I enjoy writing for business and writing for pleasure.

In my current line of work, there is a huge emphasis placed on the written word. Any time you talk contracts in the U.S., you talk the written agreement. I cannot tell you how much heartache I've witnessed based on the misunderstanding that a conversation accomplishes a contract. The "But you said..." phrase breaks my heart when I hear a confused resident think back on a previous moment of connection with a person in the office. It's not that it didn't happen if it didn't get put in writing, it's just that it doesn't stand up legally if it's not writing. Until something is written down and usually signed by both parties, there is no certainty if it's "just talk," still at the level of imagination, or if it's really going to happen. 

I think it's interesting that the only way to truly navigate the discomfort of these exchanges is to expertly and gently wield the spoken word with compassion and certainty. You can't make someone feel better by putting it in writing. You have to talk, listen and let a person know they're heard. 

The written word is now turning into tiny bites like text messages, status updates, "tweets," and chats. Our attention span is thinning. All the while, I wonder if we take less time for conversation, exchanging ideas, sharing our innermost thoughts, giving feedback and comfort. Will we ever give up communicating altogether?

I have friends who speak multiple languages. I mean, more than two. This is amazing to me -- think of all the communication possibilities they have! I am severely limited by my usable knowledge of one delicious word menu.

So, in the defense of words, written and spoken, I have been thinking about how I can really use their power. I've been considering how many ways words enrich my life. And I've decided to share a few with you, in case you're feeling a word drought. 

  • Try writing a letter. I get letters and notes from friends occasionally. Even though snail mail is dying, it's still one of the brightest spots in my life to receive a care package or a card. Can we mail one package/note per week to someone new for 2 months? That's roughly 8 people. 8 brighter days. 
  • Sponsor a Compassion child -- the letter-writing aspect of this program is huge. I just got an email today that they are in desperate need of people able to sponsor older children. 
  • Learn a new language? I'm going to try to (again). There is nothing like learning a new language to awaken the brain to all sorts of new ways of thinking about the world. It's not just different sound combinations, it's actual thought constructs and methods of expression that are different. [I remember this from my years of Spanish and semesters of Japanese. Both of which I loved!] You can find podcasts and of course there's always Rosetta Stone. This will open doors to travel and even new job possibilities. 
  • Find some new blogs out there. Sharell is one of my favorite bloggers nowadays, but my brother-in-law Daniel also wrote something fantastic the other day about the insight and invite of Jesus. I thought how glad I was that I keep up with the blogs of close family and friends as well as complete strangers in other countries. Wow! Small world! You can use Blogger, Wordpress and other internet venues to find topical blogs on pretty much anything. 
  • Listen. Watch for body language. Two ears. Two eyes. One mouth. Value words by listening first and listening beyond what you hear before speaking. Think twice, speak once, right? I say many foolish things per day, but I save many more foolish things from coming out when I realize that what I'm about to say is purely motivated by ego, manipulation, sleep deprivation, or an overreaction. 
  • Journal. Say what you need to say. Don't be afraid -- conflict isn't always bad. Words must be carefully chosen and fearless.
That's all I've got for tonight. I love words. Write some to me anytime! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Your dog's name is what??"

One aspect of My Real Life is my puppy. Her name is Winky, and no, it's not a boy's name. She is a Miniature Dachshund of approximately 6 months and 8 lbs (she'll get a little bigger). Tonight she looks like..

It's just after surgery. She is looking pretty low to me! Now she's sleeping comfortably all curled up in her own bed and does not seem to be messing with the stitches too much.

Winky is named after a House Elf from Harry Potter. If you need a crash-course in Harry Potter magical creatures, please try this link. I thought (with some help from Michael Ruiz) that Dachshunds look quite a bit like the standard portrayal of the House Elf, and the qualities of loyalty, obedience, bravery and mischief all seemed to line up. I was originally thinking that I'd get a male pup and name it Dobby, after the House Elf who saves the day, but instead I got a girl, and named her after Dobby's friend: Winky.

[By the way, Winky the House Elf has her own fan page on Facebook!]

Winky is usually peppy, playful, vocal, energetic, sweet, cuddly, attentive and friendly. She loves other pets and considers every human being a part of her family. I have never seen her turn an admirer away, though she does look at me in shock when people pass her on the street with indifference. She is such a charmer that even people who do not like small dogs -- or Dachshunds or whatever the stated prejudice -- will fall for her and start thinking about a little pet of their own.

Winky came to me from the litter of some good old friends, Gypsy and Otto. I used to house-sit for the Prince family and they became some very special people in my life (ah, the good old days of hiding rubber chickens where one least expects it!). I grew attached to the dogs as well (to my surprise, having always been a big-dog kind of person), and promised myself that one day I'd get a puppy of my own. In the Spring I learned that they planned to breed one last time, with puppies expected in November 2010. I began mentally preparing. I knew that I'd have to find my puppy from among this litter!

My mom picked out the puppy for me here in Maryland while I was still living in Texas. Somehow, Winky ended up being the perfect match for my on-the-go lifestyle. She is the most gregarious little thing, yet so snuggly. She will sleep in the bed with me every night, but she's not too shy to welcome every new person into the home. I knew I wanted to get a dog who was resilient enough to travel with me anywhere, and Winky fits the bill! She is never skittish after a plane flight and settles in quickly to cheering the nearest person in any new environment (she does follow me a little more closely in unfamiliar places, though).

We all have those days when nothing seems to go our way and we feel like the worst parts of our character are totally exposed to the point that our flaws are all that's visible. When I have a day like that and then come home to Winky, I remember that she can only see the best in me and remain my best friend regardless. Sheer companionship is truly amazing.

Winky has a few nicknames... Stinky Winky, Winks, Little Winks, Little Girl and more.

Her favorite activities include running through the neighborhood (me trailing), playing with her sister, chewing on toys and snuggling (especially with my mom, me, or her Aunties [Jessica, Christina, etc.]). She also loves little children and plays well with my 2-and-a-half-year-old nephew, Stephen. The other night she heard his little infant brother crying and couldn't stop herself from trying everything possible to get to him and make it all better! Such a sweetie. :) She also enjoys trying to steal the cat's food.

Winky's least favorite events include baths, nail-grooming and sleeping on her own.

All in all, she's a keeper. Here's a short video of her first night with me after leaving her litter.

If you'd like, leave a message for Winky in the comments and I'll make sure she reads them all.
Yes. I AM *that* dog-lover, and I'm not ashamed!

Just ... keep breathing.

Bare skin against her listening device. I had trouble relaxing, as it was. She told me to stop breathing. I was obedient. "Take a very deep breath." That I did, too. "Oh!" she said, "Good lungs!" My lungs sat up a little straighter. "Take another very deep breath!" I was thankful for her emphasis and I breathed. "Oh, very good lungs! This makes me happy."

Wow. My lungs were practically blushing by now. They had never received so many compliments in a matter of seconds! Now they were making people happy and everything. All I had ever done was curse them for their weakness in times of 13.1-mile runs.

Flashes blotched into my brain in millisecond intervals and then they were gone. Here he was before me again: in the bed, covered with a thin sheet, pipes and tubes and beeping and ... his light was so far from us. Could he ever breathe on his own again? Flash of eyes opened -- beeps -- flash of eyes closed -- whooshing -- flash -- pumping air through the lungs that use to take the breaths that churned out the stories and pushed the cheeks into rosy smiles and yielded all the children rolling in laughter. We laughed until we couldn't breathe. When he lost his breath, we gained ours. No more laughing, at least not for awhile.

These were not good lungs. They did not make me happy. They made us cry. And they made me say goodbye. 

When I made my way to the car I thought about the lungs I knew and then the lungs I carried inside me. I hugged my lungs. Thank you, thank you for being so good. 

Then I completely forgot about my lungs again.
Until tonight.

Sabrina teaches us yoga on Wednesday nights. We learn the vinyasa practice for an hour, followed by savasana for 20-30 minutes and some time spent in seated meditation. The entire time is gentle and flowing. She teaches us to welcome our burdens onto the mat with us and allow them to "inform our practice" before we let them go, just temporarily.

If you are like me, sometimes your burdens cause you to hold your breath. I respond to stress of all kinds with tension in my upper body -- wrapping it around my lungs and carrying it on my shoulders like a boa constrictor. For this reason and many others, I love Sabrina's class. She teaches us to breathe deeply the entire first hour, and it is LOUD. You let the breath exhale out your mouth at the back of your throat, keeping it very open, and the sound of 16-20 people breathing this way all at once reverberates and can be so loud as to echo.

Sometimes she reminds us to concentrate on our breath if we are trying a new or difficult posture. It can be awkward to be the only one breathing this way once everyone gets distracted with their own things.

Today she told us to remember our neighbors while we were breathing: sometimes it would be easy to get distracted and so each person in the room had a responsibility to their neighbor to breathe so their neighbor would be reminded to concentrate on their own breath. Funny, the idea that I should be taking responsibility for encouraging my neighbor's breath by focusing on my own. 

I especially need to breathe these days. Without a concentrated effort, it might be easy to focus constantly on all the things I don't yet know and all the areas of my life beyond my true control. Breathing still comes subconsciously, but it gets more difficult.

So I practiced, my burdens "informing" me of my need to breathe all the while. While many people became distracted and their breath quieted, mine remained loud. I didn't care this time -- no self-consciousness. My lungs were ready to show off again (they liked the attention they'd gotten, maybe?).

As I focused just on the breath itself being the most important thing I could sustain in the moment, I began to realize that I was the richest girl I knew. I could fill my midsection with all the air it could hold. Then I could make space for more. The breath was free and freeing. It was filling yet always creating new space within me. I was greedy for the breath, and every time I filled the collection basket of my midsection with air to the point that it was spilling over, I loudly emptied it out for my "neighbors" to benefit. There was so much of exactly what I needed at that moment that I could never feel as though I lacked anything. There was so much plenty that I could share with others, encouraging them, reminding them of the only thing they needed to focus on at that moment. They could be rich, too, if only they would sink their efforts into acquiring that which was most plentiful all around them.

Sabrina spoke to us, saying, "I am going to see one of my favorite teachers this weekend. He always tells us -- and you may have heard me say this before -- that any time you see one fully, deeply concentrated on their breathing practice, you are seeing a person who is experiencing an enormous transitional phase in life." Tears threatened to part my eyelids. Instead I felt myself smiling. If only she knew ... I supposed that she did.

Now that I have seen my sister in the throes of laboring to give birth to a baby, I know that breath is the most important thing to carry you through. If you can keep your breath, concentrate on the breath, you can skim the top of the greatest pains of giving life. You will still feel the pain, but you will remain in control of the gut-wrenching process. If you breathe properly, you will withstand the hardest trials that threaten to snatch away your efforts at success. Take in the air slowly, fill yourself with mighty, invisible riches, then let it out. Begin again. My sister needed her husband to help her breathe. Who is helping you keep breathing?

You can't see it. You can't touch it. You can't live without it. It begins with you and yet it must come to an end outside of you. Then it begins again. Does it hurt? It will hurt worst if you stop. It will hurt others the most if you stop. Keep breathing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

She's a Brick . . . House!

I used to dream about living or working in Washington, D.C. Now, I practically do! It's amazing to me to drive along Washington Blvd and see the monuments staring back at me. It's especially enchanting in the evenings after dark when I see them by spotlight. It's truly a beautiful city with so much to see and do, there is no real reason to ever be bored!

One thing that has amazed me is all the small things that are noteworthy in a day. We all know and love the cherry blossoms, Smithsonian museums, monuments and war memorials. The White House and the Capitol Building are etched in our minds from childhood even if we've never seen them.

What we don't hear about are the beautiful row homes and bits of old neighborhood architecture. One spot along my commute on New York Ave has the best buildings. I don't even mind getting stuck in traffic because I just want to keep looking at the buildings! They are uniquely designed and painted and although they are obviously old, they look strikingly new and clean.

Everything displays such a pop. One afternoon I was driving home and almost ran into a curb when I saw a Corona van parked in front of a particular row. The van was painted all over in bright colors, flavors of Mexico, and the back drop of the brilliantly painted row homes resulted in such an visual explosion that I thought I had finally found the end of a rainbow. These are the things I never would've thought to ask or hope for, and yet I stumble upon their beauty anyhow!

These pictures don't do anything near justice, as they were taken with my phone in haste at stop lights or in parking lot-style traffic jams. I really need to take my camera down there and just roam the streets until I have a good selection of photos. The honest truth, however, is that a street-stupid (girl) walking the streets with an expensive camera is not that great of an idea. Maybe I should do that and wear pig-tails also and dangle money and Apple products from my clothing. 

No, I don't plan on putting any money in your styrofoam cup. And wow, Big Ben's liquor sure is a hoppin' place for 9am on Tuesday morning . . .

Thus, until I have a willing victim to act as my companion / body guard, I may be stuck with these stolen photos and the Google results for "Washington, D.C. residential architecture New York Ave" wedged into my Bookmarks folder. [Feel free to tell me if you think my search terms are at fault for a disappointing array of results.]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in"

I am not going to lie to you, this whole Japan tragedy has me beating my head against the proverbial walls. I hate it so much. I hate that so many lives are lost and so much beauty has just been laid waste. I don't understand why God would make something so beautiful ... and then wash it away? I am angry, cosmically speaking.

It doesn't help that it just happened in New Zealand .. and Chile .. and Haiti. (Wish that I could throw my arms around the world!)

I believe God is Love. I believe God loves His creation and that includes eternal souls. My wise friend Lindsay says that when she is stopped short in her tracks by something contrary to what she knows about God, she starts reciting what she knows of His character out loud. She lets the known flood the not understood, shouting into that void.

There is something I used to know ... so I'm re-posting again today. I am re-posting it to remember that God loves Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Haiti -- and all the nations -- far more than I do. Their tears are His tears. I don't have the wisdom to say that it would be better for them to live without this suffering -- only God knows how suffering brings about the best things. I just know that my muscles won't grow until I tear them to shreds and then give them good nutrition to rebuild what I've killed.

It is of every earthly importance to me today that God did not create this place or these people to be a waste, but He designed this place to be lived in (so He told us in the words below). God is all about abundant life. I can't see it right now, but seeing is not believing. I will believe God, because I've seen Him to be true too many times to disbelieve Him now.

Oh, and by the way, I would love to hear how your thought process / tradition / spirituality helps you make sense of this tragedy. I crave dialogue on the topic. No wrong answers, I want to hear it all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I Make Well-Being and Create Woe

My life gushes to the brim full of blessings. I am loved, I am befriended, I am educated, employed, valued, I am rich enough that I own my car and have my own room, I have things like an iPod and a smart phone. I have friends that would give me the shirt off their backs, and I know they're not going anywhere. As for my family ... well: the stuff of legends. My life is the sweetest of fare, but don't try to get me to admit that just any day. I can be stubbornly negative about my circumstances when I focus all the time on what I've got still to achieve.

There have been days, however, when I have tasted blood. Even for whining weakling like myself, there have been wounds worthy of a tear or few shed. I've been battered and bruised -- sometimes it's a byproduct of my own misjudgments; other times it's been a legitimate betrayal of trust. Sometimes it's just senseless, wasteful, undeserved injury. Times when turnabout was very unfair play. And I know I'm not alone. We all draw this card from time to time.

Wednesday morning I read a Word from my God and I was startled at what He said: "I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things." Subconsciously I want to protect Him from His own proclamation. "Nah, God, you're not all that bad..." It takes me a moment or two to realize this isn't my pal talking, needing my encouragement and asking my help to let go of their self-berating. God is not apologizing. He doesn't need me to help Him feel better about Himself.

God, did You make my woe? Was that You?

Have you ever been in a situation where you're complaining to some trusted friend about something that really annoyed you or ticked you off, and you don't know who caused it so you're just blabbing away about how much it bothered you, and then all of the sudden! -- Your (crazy) trusted friend decides to say, "I did that. And the reason why is ..." And suddenly the beloved's logic makes sense and you realize all along you'd been embarrassingly self-absorbed in your moment of annoyance? You backpedal and tell your friend why you really don't mind that much and you totally understand where they were coming from anyway... [Or has that only happened to me??]

Reading this passage from Isaiah's book was a little like that moment. I wanted to suddenly justify all God's actions, but He wasn't asking me to. He's not embarrassed. He has a logic. He has a purpose. He's in control of it all because he created it all. By God, nothing is wasted. Not one tear, not a sigh, not one crushing blow or suffocated heart trying to keep beating through the letdown. Ultimately, expect justice. For your enemies and yourself, pray mercy.

When you cry and beat your chest and feel angry, depressed, confused: please know that God isn't trying to lie to you. He hasn't pretended to be something He's not. He's been honest at every turn. He is in control of your circumstances, and mine. He's responsible for all those Kodak moments you love, and yet He's still conducting the orchestra through the tragedies. He's a friend and lover with a logic that we can't yet defend, because His ways are beyond our understanding. If you need to scream at Him, scream. He can take it and see you through it. He won't try to explain any more than He already has, but He might reveal a bit more of his heart when you're ready to see it.

HIS longing is for creativity ... justice ... salvation ... life!

Is 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25

I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this.

For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Friday, March 11, 2011

To Japan, with Love

A re-post today, just a silly poem I once wrote to Japan & me.:

"True Story"

I should have gone to Japan.

It's not that I'm bitter, just that now I know better.

Japan asked me to come over. A once-in-a-life opportunity! She said. Maybe there was some hyperbole on her part, but many a true word is spoken in jest and other such cliches. I told her I would think about it.

Then he said Come see me so we can see what may be but if you I do not see then we may as well be nothing. See me or see Japan. And that doesn't rhyme, so make your company mine. Cause you like things to rhyme. 

Well, truth be told, Japan has no soul and so I was bold and told Japan that she'd be put on hold. Seemed like gold. 

To choose another human soul and perhaps make mine one with another -- this was a prospect that forced my hand - how could one deny the beauty of unity even in mere possibility? Well, one could not since one hoped to tie the knot. 

Set into motion were a string of events devoid of sense and nearly too late I realized that one soul plus my soul into unity was not the intention. Abolition of my soul was the objective, no one protective, no tying of knots just snot on my sleeve and would you believe - I almost drowned had I not found my rebellion at last. 

Japan, I apologize. You wanted to imprint my soul with ephemeral beauty to never be forgotten. I declined your gift, my regrets are stiff for the offer will haunt me for eternity. But you may be pleased when you see that I have set your opponent to sail on seas without me. By degrees I perceive that the enemy is me and I will rebel against myself until the least impurities bleed out

and Japan -- my soul now imprinted with eternity: all you'd asked for me. 

Come see, come see me.
posted by Sydney McFearless at 3:18 PM on Mar 18, 2009
And, Japan, thank you for our trees. 
They mean so much to me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Some things that keep coming up in my mind and in things I hear swirling around me....
What does it mean to be a bride? There is so much in Scripture about this and I want to explore it more. I am not a bride in this life, so I don't know how that feels. I am most certainly a bride in another realm, so I need to understand that.
I know that the beloved bride of Christ is the Church. I have so much to learn about the Church. I don't understand the first thing about it! But I've been a part of it for as long as I can remember. Have I forgotten my first love? Does some intimacy need rekindling?

As my friend James so wisely pointed out for us, God promises to give us to the nations, as a light. It's not about what I can receive, or what I can give. It's what He is giving and He is giving me, so I'm kinda motivated to check myself and make sure I'm living like a gift! Pretty sure there is some room for expansion in this area.

*        *        *        *        *

Thank you to those of you who follow the trail of my hobbling brokenness all over this page and encourage me with your insight. We are all in this together. We are all the walking wounded ... we are under His healing care.

For my part, and that of others I'm close to, I see that God is supernaturally, fabulously kind and good to me. I am so abashed by the way He is blessing me, even as I collapse into frustration and fearfulness every 5 hours. I don't want to forget! I need to be faithful.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Divine Disappointment


It's an interesting word... the positive word "appoint" appears in the middle of a generally negative statement.

Appoint: "to name or assign to a position, an office, or the like; designate."

It makes me smile knowingly to myself when I think about all the positions I've assigned the nouns of my life -- people, places, things, each one having their identity ascribed in my mind. They've all got a designated role and office. They are neatly organized. They are assigned a purpose and a power. I purpose them for myself, and I give them power ... over myself.

(But in actual fact, perhaps I've appointed myself in relationship to things? I've said, "I will serve you. I will respond to you with my emotions. I will believe what you tell me about myself, about life, about God." Or maybe it's a back-and-forth, reciprocal servanthood status.) 

People, places & things begin to determine my steps, or so I hope. I try to control, but I'm spinning out of it.  This person suddenly seems to have forgotten their sole purpose that I've assigned them. This thing is not living up to my standards of conduct. This place seems to have forgotten to read the tour guide I wrote, for it's missing all the satisfying touristy enjoyments. 

Maybe it's not that cute. Maybe it's a failed endeavor, in which I'd placed all hopes for fulfillment for secret lifelong dreams. "By such-and-such a day and age, I will be or do this or that..." Maybe it's a person that I just cannot manipulate or change, no matter how hard I try. They just won't be everything I've expected demanded dreamed for them to be! Well, that's a disappointment.

Dear God, I am so disappointed. 

Disappoint: "to defeat the fulfillment of (hopes, plans, etc.); thwart; frustrate.
Oh, hey, who needs the dictionary for that one? 

With this, as with many other internal struggles we fight, knowing is half the battle. I told my mom with thousands of tears pouring that whatever happens next in my life, I am so, so SO disappointed. I could not snap my fingers and line up the details of life in perfect order. As much as any one else has disappointed me, I have truly disappointed myself -- I am not who I wanted, expected, demanded of myself to be at this point. 

I am a failure -- but it's okay. I am appointed to arise from failure before my Heavenly Father, to walking in step with my Brother, my Friend, my Savior. 

Listen to what the One who makes all the Divine Appointments says about Himself, and our destiny:

Thus says God, the LORD, 
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
   who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
 who gives breath to the people on it
   and spirit to those who walk in it:
"I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
   I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
   from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
   my glory I give to no other,
   nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
   and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth

   I tell you of them."
I'm sorry (no I'm not), but HALLELUJAH ("a shout of joy, praise, or gratitude")! Did you just read that? I cannot even wrap my mind around it, but there are a few facts that I know:
1) It is easy, even second nature, for me to attempt to make those divine appointments for earthly things. I become an idol worshiper whenever I believe that my life, my breath, my soul derives its power from a created thing. This, I have done.
2) God will take me by the hand, even so. He knew I would do this when He called me by name. He will keep me! I am "a keeper" to the Creator of the Heavens! I never have to worry that He is not going to pursue me hard enough to make our relationship last. There are no more words...
3) He has promised to give my life meaning and purpose as I walk in the footprints of His Perfect Servant. He will make me a useful part of His church, His bride, and I will be an instrument of God's own intention to end injustice and degradation.
4) As long as I attempt to appoint His glory to a created thing, I can be sure to find myself disappointed again. He has too many NEW THINGS to do to let that carry on.

Let me be disappointed then. And then, declare a new thing. Hallelujah.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When the Wind is Knocked Out of You

There is that split-second that seems to last for eons. It feels like you might die in full awareness of the fact. And yet, there is an equally-weighted thought, fully conscious, that you are going to live, this is just the momentary result of a powerful and unexpected blow that hit you in just the right spot to stop your breath for just those few seconds.

And then you breathe again,
and then you feel again,
and if it's right, you'll feel happy that you lived and  slightly silly for ever thinking something so short-lived could kill you.

The tradeoffs of one moment folding into the next is the joy and the tragedy of this temporal life we're living.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, ESV)
Bear with me as I catch my breath, friends. "It takes time to come clean, and I know it's time..."