Don’t let it keep you away

June 20, 2010

I lost a friend today, someone with whom I shared a unique relationship.

Her health caused her to rely heavily on others for taking care of her bodily needs.  I thought of it as being a normal circumstance for someone of poor health… but she asked to me one day,

“What can you do, when you don’t have yourself anymore?”

I’ve been asking myself that question ever since.

There are a lot of conflicting views on what it would mean to “have oneself”.  It could mean to be in control of all your faculties, or it could mean making your own decisions.  It could mean security and contentedness, or it could mean being isolated and not interdependent on others in any way.

There are a lot of views on how to “lose oneself” as well.  Usually we attribute that to forgetting who we are… sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a bad way.  This makes me think of what it would mean to let someone else “have you”.  Or what it would mean to let God have you, until you don’t have yourself anymore (doesn’t mean that you aren’t yourself anymore, in fact you will be more like yourself).

As her health got worse, she began to sleep more and more, and she would sleep while I was there with her.  She was devastated by this, and would constantly apologize… and one time just before I left she grabbed by arm and said despairingly,

“I’m so sorry, don’t let it keep you away!”

She was so afraid that I wouldn’t come anymore, because her life circumstance… and I have certainly felt that way about my own circumstances.  That’s why it takes so long to get to know someone, because we won’t illuminate the fearful things, or the wounded things, or the things beyond our control, until we trust the other person to stay in spite of it. 

I saw her a few days ago, and I knew she was near the finish line.  She could barely open her eyes, so I wasn’t sure if she saw me there with her… until she reached out her arm towards me.  It was the only strength she had, so I took her hand and just sat with her, studying her face.  I thought about being in her position, lying there helpless, unable to communicate.  I thought about what I would want from the people around me, even though they’re helpless as well.  I was glad just to sit and hold her hand, both of us helpless, and I think she was glad too.

My friend taught me not to judge my worth by how much I control (myself or my surroundings), which is a difficult idea to sustain in our world…  she also taught me to accept and present myself as I am, and to not let anything keep me away when others do it too.

Latoya

May 27, 2010

I tried to plant a tree yesterday…

I went outside looking for the best place to put it, and my eye caught a very sunny and slightly low spot in the yard.  It was literally the perfect place.

So I started digging this hole, and I dug until I hit something hard in the ground.  It was obviously wooden, so at first I mistook it for a root… until I realized that this wooden object spanned the entire bottom of the hole which I had dug (and beyond).  I had no idea how big it really was, or how far down it went, so I theorized about it for awhile and decided that it was either: a random wooden plank, an old historical item (like something colonial), or Noah’s Ark.

I consulted my dad about it when he came home, and after chopping at the thing with a hatchet he realized that it was actually a tree.  Before our house was constructed there must have been a big tree there which was cut down (and the landscapers didn’t remove the stump, probably because they knew that the area would be covered up with dirt to level off the yard).

So I couldn’t plant my tree because there was already a tree there under the surface… 

I feel like this is a profundity somehow…

(I did plant the tree though, beside the subterranean tree… and it really can’t be a coincidence that the only place in the yard that I dug a hole in was the one spot in the yard directly over an underground tree).

I can’t say for sure what this means, but it reminds me of a sermon that I heard from an American missionary in Thailand (he was visiting from HongKong).  He said that sometimes God won’t give us new things if we’re still holding onto the old things.  His example was Saul and David.  He said that the Hebrew people only thought Saul was a good king because they didn’t know that there was a David on the waywe hold really tightly to what we’ve got, because we underestimate what God will give us in the future.  But God’s plans for us are infinitely better than anything we would choose for ourselves, so you have to forfeit your Saul in order for God to give you a David.

For me (at the time) this idea applied directly to the fact that I no longer had a church home, and that I was torn over whether to return to the church I had left (which I was still holding onto) or to find a new church home (which I couldn’t imagine any great possibilities for).

Now I think this lesson (holding onto what’s past, because you’re afraid of the future) applies to every aspect of my life… job, living situation, friends, relationships, location, etc…

But I’m really not sure what specifically the old tree is that I’ve buried in the ground of my life, or what I’m trying to put in it’s place… so let me know if you have theories about it.

UPDATE::

In the “Something to think and pray about this week” section of the Sacred Space website, they said something really interesting.

“Jesus’ image of the wheatgrain dying, then bearing fruit, symbolises not just our mortal life, but the many times we die a little before our death: with every parting, moving of house or job, loss of a friend or dear one, loss of property. Can I think of any experience of suffering and loss that has borne fruit because of God’s grace? How did it happen? To cling to what we have lost is to bury our life in the past. Even the most painful loss can be a new beginning. Lord, when I was suffering pain, and the loss of people and things I loved, I believe you were somehow present to me. Show me how you were.”

Moonpie & Me

May 27, 2010

The cat sees a bird outside, and he follows that bird from window to window. Working his back legs, ready to pounce… I open the front door to let him out. 

 But he doesn’t want the real thing, he wants the dream.  Like we don’t want the real thing, we want the dream.

He reminded me so much of me… dreaming dreams, chasing possibilities, and then fearfully passing on their legitimate opportunities.

Native American Prayers

May 8, 2010

 

Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold
the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have
made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things
you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.
(translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887) published in Native American Prayers – by the Episcopal Church.

“The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.” – Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  – Chief Seattle

“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.” – Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe

“When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” – Cree Prophecy

The True Peace
“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.” – Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

The Tragedy of Grace

April 29, 2010

I’m dumbstruck by tragedy like I’m dumbstruck by grace.
Both leave me weeping and asking “Why?”   Both feel like an ache.  Both feel like urgency.

Why did this man stab 28 kindergarteners in China?  How can life be so grave? How can this happen?

Why does God love me unconditionally when my love is nothing but conditional?  Why did he die for me when I didn’t deserve it?  How can this happen?

Somehow they feel the same, like something’s been wasted.

Because at the heart of it, grace feels like a tragedy.  It’s the gift that we don’t know how to accept, because it can’t be repaid.  It’s the sacrifice that we don’t deserve, like pearls under swine… like crucifying your savior.

The prodigal son story has a happy ending when read on paper, but the real son doesn’t stay at home, does he?  We don’t wander once and then kill the desire.  We take the money and run, many times over.  We come back ashamed, and are forgiven, many times over.  The cycle continues.  God is the one who provides, the one who is rejected and left behind, and the one who welcomes us home again.  We’re shown so clearly in Hosea that we are the continually unfaithful spouse in a sad but beautiful love story.

Our savior walked among us, taught us how to love, and suffered our brutality.  He conquered death so that we would be raised to new life with him, and so often we still choose death.  We can do anything with our lives… and too often we’d rather do nothing at all rather than give them to him.

We’d rather be bound by comfortable chains, than be frighteningly unbridled in the land of the Lord; we’d rather feel the reassurance of a stranger’s skin, than the aching freedom of unconditional love.

Proverbs 15:15-17

January 30, 2010

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. 

16 Better a little with fear of the Lord, than great wealth with turmoil. 

17 Better a meal of vegetables with love, than a fattened calf with hatred.

I love the message of this proverb, but I don’t like the sentence structure.

The first line speaks of the oppressed, and then speaks of the cheerful-of-heart.  At first glance, it looks like they’re talking about two separate groups of people (or two separate life situations) that don’t intersect.  But I think it’s talking about the same group of people.  It’s confusing, because the next two verses DO talk about separate situations that don’t intersect.

I think that verse 15 is the equivalent of the first situation listed in the two following verses.  So we’re given a picture of an oppressed person, whose days are wretched, but who can still have a continual feast if they keep a cheerful heart.  “Better a little with fear of the Lord”, “Better a meal of vegetables with love”.  Also, it’s interesting that it’s not the person who feasts, but rather the heart.  What does the heart feast on… love? Inspiration? Affirmation? Encouragement?  Better to be oppressed and have a continual feast of love, than to be free with a starving and withered heart.

I really don’t like the term God-fearing, or “fear of the Lord” in verse 16.  I think it’s poorly translated, and should be “standing in awe of the Lord” or “God-revering”.  Because if we’re contrasting “Fear of the Lord” with “turmoil”, neither seems great, they both have negative connotations.  But it’s interesting that the proverb suggests you can have one or the other.  Suggesting that you won’t have turmoil if you’re standing in awe of the Lord. 

In verse 17, it seems to me that the meal itself is created or cultivated by the situation of love or hatred.  The vegetables were planted and grown with love, and the love is increased by the meal (the preparation, the cooking, the sharing).  But the calf was fattened with hatred and perhaps cruelty, and maybe the person has no one to share it with (or refuses to share it with anyone) because their hatred is increased and their fears validated by the lonely and selfish meal.

Perhaps the oppressed people, out of their reverence for God, share their continual heart feasts with eachother to keep turmoil at bay… but the man with the fattened calf only feeds himself, feeding his hatred, and has only himself to cling to in turmoil.

Just some thoughts on good ol’ 139

January 1, 2010

Psalm 139

1 O LORD, you have searched me
       and you know me.

 2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
       you perceive my thoughts from afar.

 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
       you are familiar with all my ways.

 4 Before a word is on my tongue
       you know it completely, O LORD.

This first section is all about God’s intimate knowledge of our inner workings, our hearts and minds.  I especially like “You are familiar with all my ways”, because to me that doesn’t speak of vague thoughts/actions, but every detail of our being and everything we touch… our lifestyles, habits, relationship tendencies, insecurities, fears, secrets, sins, hopes, loves, gifts, potential, the past, the present, the future, and even the physical inner workings and processes of the human body (psychologically and physiologically).

One prayer discipline that I’ve been practicing for many years is “Telling God the Whole Ugly Truth”.  Basically, God already knows, and the best thing that you can do is to be honest with him.  So don’t sugar coat prayer, don’t lie to God, don’t make deals or shallow promises, don’t leave out the bad or embarrassing parts, don’t leave out the good parts either, don’t re-word the sin or the situation to make yourself look better, don’t make excuses, don’t only confess sin to God but share your joys with him as well.  And the most important thing is to come before God in confidence, to humbly and reverently speak to him about ugly/scary things in full confidence/faith that he loves you and will always be there for you. 

 5 You hem me in—behind and before;
       you have laid your hand upon me.

 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
       too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
       Where can I flee from your presence?

 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
       if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
       if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 10 even there your hand will guide me,
       your right hand will hold me fast.

 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
       and the light become night around me,”

 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
       the night will shine like the day,
       for darkness is as light to you.

This part is really interesting, because firstly it reminds us that we are always within God’s presence no matter where we go, and it goes further to say that even in death we will not escape God’s presence.  It very specifically states that God is in “The Depths” which in Hebrew is “Sheol”.  What’s interesting about Sheol and the Jewish understanding of the afterlife, was that everyone (good or bad) went to Sheol.  There was no mention or understanding of a dualistic, punishment VS reward afterlife (heaven/hell).  It was actually a rather mystical and tribal view of death, (similar to Native Americans) where it was often been stated that they will simply ‘rest with their fathers’.

The second interesting point in this section is that it shows a person running away from God, and shows God pursuing them and already waiting for them in their escapes and secret places.  The person even tries to shroud themselves in darkness, but God cuts through it like a knife.  I really like “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea”.

 13 For you created my inmost being;
       you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.

 15 My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.

Now we get into the real meat of this chapter, and it’s in the first verse of this section, “for you created my inmost being”.  There is a very real reason why God knows our inner workings, and it’s because he created them himself, they were his idea.  He uniquely crafted them, and gave them to us.  Who knows our hearts better than the one who shaped them with his own hands, in the image of his own great heart? 

That is why he’s so “Familiar” with our ways, not because sees them fully, but because he made them, and he knows why he made them and whether or not they’ve been distorted, lied to, or have gotten lost.  In fact, he’s the only one who knows what we were created to be.  Only the one who made the heart knows the hearts true potential, and only God can look into our hearts and see how well they bear his image.

 17 How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God!
       How vast is the sum of them!

 18 Were I to count them,
       they would outnumber the grains of sand.
       When I awake,
       I am still with you.

 19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
       Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

 20 They speak of you with evil intent;
       your adversaries misuse your name.

 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
       and abhor those who rise up against you?

 22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
       I count them my enemies.

This part seems like a jumble of ideas at first, but each one has a purpose.  First, the author very briefly praises God’s thoughts.  He talks about the vast number of God’s thoughts.    It is interesting that this follows the affirmation of God creating us.  Maybe each of us first began as one of God’s thoughts or ideas, and our purpose/potential was one of God’s hopes for manifesting that thought in creation.

My favorite part of this section is “When I awake, I’m still with you”.  The word “still” is the intriguing part for me, because it suggests that the author fell asleep with God, and then awoke with God.  The idea, although very endearing, almost seems out of place, but perhaps is there to continue the theme of the faithfulness of God’s presence.

Then out of nowhere, in this incredibly creative, poetic, and mystical psalm about riding on the wings of the dawn and being woven together in the depths of the earth…… we suddenly hear about hatred and killing.  It doesn’t seem to really fit with the theme of the chapter, but the idea that the author feels surrounded and attacked is very typical for the Psalms, and for the Jews (who were probably enslaved by someone when they wrote this). 

I do think it’s very important for these references of hatred to be present, whether or not I agree with them, simply as a reminder that these words were written by real people whose most sincere feelings and songs desperately needed to range across the entire spectrum of human emotion, as they do today.  And it shows us how necessary it is to acknowledge all types of feeling to God, and not hide anything from him  (But praise God for teaching us through Jesus that love is freedom, forgiveness is liberation, and hate is a yoke of oppression).

 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
       test me and know my anxious thoughts.

 24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
       and lead me in the way everlasting.

The end of the chapter is very very interesting, the final words of the author suggest that everything that was written in this chapter was just the first half of the discussion which is taking place. 

The author told God the whole ugly truth.  He acknowledged that God already knew everything about him (and that there was no hiding from it or escaping it).  He acknowledged that God created him, and had a purpose for his life.  He praised God, and glorified him for the numbers of his thoughts.  He mentioned that he was in the presence of God at night, and again first thing in the morning.  He mentioned his hates, fears, and conflicts.  He said in full confidence without hesitation what he wanted God to do in the conflict.  He told God what he was honestly feeling, which is always right, whether or not the feeling itself was right or wrong.

And now that he has spoken everything that was on his mind, he’s ready for God’s response.

He says “search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” 

He acknowledges that God knows him better than he knows himself, and he asks God to fill in the gaps of what his present state of being is.  He’s been honest about what he’s aware of, and is now asking God to reveal anything that he’s hiding from himself, any habit/sin/fear that has crept up on him without realizing it.  He specifically asks God to point out his sins, which is a pretty scary thing to do… but again, he does it in full confidence that God is forgiving, and that God reveals our sin to us out of love and the desire for redemption, renewal, and holistic healing, as we’re told in John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

And lastly, after all his hidden sin is revealed to him, he asks God to lead him in ‘the way everlasting’.  To me this can only be what 1st century citizens referred to as “The Way”; that which has always been, and will be revealed in the deep when the shallows of this world evaporate; that which will always be, and by whose light the world will be illuminated when the shadows of this age dissolve; the Kingdom of Heaven, the Word, Christ the Lord, Christ is Lord.

Luke 21:34-36

November 28, 2009

Luke 21:34-36

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

I’m so glad for this verse. Oh how it speaks to my heart this morning, for I was caught in a trap of worry, a thicket of briars constricting and choking me. But the good shepherd, who is always good, set my heart free.

“I cried out in anguish to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free” Psalm118:5

“Be at rest once more Oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” Psalm116:7

I’ve heard this verse quoted before, but only ever to emphasize the word “drunkenness”. I know a lot of people who dislike the idea of drinking, and use this one verse to confirm their dislike. I personally see a lot of depth in these verses, with drunkenness being the smallest tree in the deep woods of the word.

Readers would be correct to say that there is a primary command in this excerpt, and they have every right to believe it is “Do not drink alcohol”. I however, believe that the primary command is in the first three words: “Be On Guard”.  To me those words sound like a defensive measure.  The command is then followed by reasoning: “So that your hearts are not weighed down”.  To me, this reasoning is the main point of these verses. Protecting the heart, protecting it’s freedom which is given by God, is the purpose of the guarding.  To emphasize this point even further, they list 3 of the many many ways our hearts can be weighed down: “dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life”.  It’s interesting to me that none of those three are singled out as being better or worse.  Because of this, it’s my belief that wastefulness/unnecessary excess (dissipation), excessive drinking, and excessive worrying can all be equally sinful. I also think it’s interesting that we are to “Be on guard” against these things, as if they are coming at us at attacks from an outside source.

We are then warned about our hearts being weighed down: “And that day will catch you unexpectedly, like a trap”.  And it certainly does.  People generally don’t try to become alcoholics, it’s a sin that builds gradually until they are surrounded and trapped by it.  Similarly you can wake up one day and be paralyzed with worry… worries that have been building in your mind and never resolved or let go.  Dissipation is an interesting one. I see dissipation as the opposite of simple living.  To dissipate means to scatter, but dissipating as a lifestyle is to scatter your resources through wastefulness and excessive spending.  This can definitely be a trap if you are trying to conform to a wealthy lifestyle.  All of your clothes need to have designer labels, and all of your TVs need to be bigger than your neighbor’s TVs.  This can be physically paralyzing (credit card debt, status quo), and psychologically paralyzing by skewing and reversing the value of material possessions with the value of human life and relationships. 

The verse goes further to say: “For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole Earth”.  The rain falls on good and evil alike.  I think it’s very important to know that hope, faith, and love will not guarantee a trouble-free life.  I’ve known many people who blame God for their troubles, or see them as punishment from God, or use strife to accuse God of not being good or not being in control.  Each of these are extremely important ideas, because they plague the world with walls that people put up against God, building them with the bricks of illness, death, rejection, injustice, and every wrongdoing they’ve ever seen or experienced.  It’s very difficult to get our minds around the concept that God is good, and is in control, and loves us unconditionally, when we live in an unpredictable world where bad things can happen to anyone.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, but it’s ok to question it. I think that God likes questions.  I also think that it’s important to note that we’re not in paradise yet, and that there is a very real presence of evil in the world, so it’s unrealistic to expect anything to be perfect while we’re here.  However, I also believe in eternal life: not life beginning when we die, but life continuing when we die… the continuation of the life and the love that we’ve been building with God, so I believe that Heaven starts now in our hearts, and is a paradise we can retreat to when our hearts are weighed down by the Hells of the world.

Then in these verses we are given a secondary and complimentary command (remember the first was Be On Guard).  The 2nd is: “Be Alert at all times”.  I like to think of that command as “Be Present”, or “Be Aware” maybe just “Be”.  If you are worrying excessively then your mind isn’t in the present, you’re distracted, distressed, and preoccupied by things that probably can’t be resolved/fixed at that moment.  Obviously in a state of drunkenness, our minds are not fully present, and are definitely not alert or aware.  When dissipating, we’re inebriated with greed and luxury, unaware of our lack of generosity and the poverty in the world that our action or inaction helps to perpetuate. 

This secondary command also gives a reasoning: “Be alert at all times, Praying…”.  We should be present with God, and grow in awareness of him constantly.  For God sees what we cannot see, and knows what we cannot know… so in our awareness of the presence of God, we can be infinitely more alert than we are without him.  The verse goes on to say: “(Praying) that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place”.  Praying for strength.  To me, the language in this verse compliments the previous verses so well.  It speaks of the need to escape the things that weigh on the heart, which directly correlates to the idea of those things as a trap.  Also, in saying “all these things that will take place” it reaffirms the idea that troubles will happen in this life, and that we should not only accept it as a fact, but can freely ask God for the strength to make it through. 

The last statement in these verses is: “And to stand before the Son of Man”. This last part is definitely an attention getter, and the sentence is given to interpretation. That whole verse is “Be alert, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man”. 

I can see it two different ways.

  1.  Be alert, praying that you may (have the strength to escape all these things) and to stand before the Son of Man.
  2.  Be alert, praying that you may have the strength to (escape all these
    things) and to stand before the Son of Man.

 One prays to be with Christ, and the other prays for the strength to be with Christ.  That’s an interesting concept.  When I first read this, the idea of Judgement Day came to mind… where someone might need strength to stand before a scary bloodied Christ on horseback.  I’m not a big fan of that perspective, because I believe that we’re totally forgiven and redeemed by Christ’s blood, and the only thing scary about him might be the blinding light of his glory. 

Perhaps praying for the strength to stand before him is to be on guard against the fear of death, to “pick up your cross”.  Or it could be to “go before” him with the good news (as John the Bapt did).  Or perhaps having the strength to stand before him means coming to him in total confidence, total repentance, total acceptance of his grace, and total trust in his goodness.  Or perhaps it means total recognition of his sacrifice, as the disciples did not have the strength to stand before him during his crucifixion (except maybe John, maybe).  For the other idea, praying to stand before Christ, could be a prayer of salvation.  It could also be a retreat into the heart, or a surrender. It could be a meditation, or a prayer of imagination.

“This was my method of prayer; as I could not make reflections with my understanding, I contrived to picture Christ within me… I did many simple things of this kind… I believe my soul gained very much in this way, because I began to practice prayer without knowing what it was.” – St. Teresa of Avila.

Overall, these verses specifically made me aware of my worries, and the ways they were trapping me. It also reminded me how much God prizes our hearts, and wants us to join him in protecting them: by guarding them ourselves, and by receiving strength from God to guard them, and by being present with God.  It also reminded me how much we take freedom for granted, the freedom that God gives to our hearts.

“In making the thick darkness a swaddling band for the sea, God ‘set bars and doors’ and said, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.’ But have we come even that far? Have we rowed out to the thick darkness, or are we all playing pinochle in the bottom of the boat?” – Annie Dillard, The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Sorted Stories

November 12, 2009

I’ve been under the impression, for most of my life, that existence as we know it is a story (and everyone’s story is important, whether or not they think so).

A lot of things have tried to kill my story over the years, including me.  I always felt like I was in a bad story, or the wrong story, and was always looking for a way out of it.

When I was a small child, the story I wanted to live in was The Chronicles of Narnia.  I wanted to be in an adventure, and I wanted to be a hero.  I wanted Aslan to be my God, instead of having the real God of my own bad story (who did none of the things that Aslan did). 

I constantly thought of ways to leave my story, or end it all together (more than any child should).  You never realize in the midst of conflicts, obstacles, dramas, or tragedies, how big the story is and how necessary it is for you overcome those things.

In “The Art Of Being”, Matt Odmark suggests that God’s story is the great story, and everyone is a part of it.  Or perhaps, God has a story in mind for each of us, which all woven together create his large grandiose story afghan.  However, we have the option of ignoring God’s story, being a loose thread, and creating separate shallow stories of our own.  He goes on to say that God’s story for us isn’t always what we would choose for ourselves… take Hosea for instance.  If Hosea had chosen a story for himself, he would not have chosen to marry a prostitute, who continued to be unfaithful to him.  However, that was God’s story for Hosea’s life, and I’m assuming that God compensated Hosea in some peace-beyond-understanding kind of way (like giving him the everlasting fame of having his own chapter in the Bible…. Makes me wonder what I could do to get my own chapter in the Bible).

It’s the idea of trusting that God knows the best story for you, one that he had in mind when he created you, and you have to choose to die to all the other stories.  It’s a weird mixture of intense faith, and intense uncertainty.  Trusting that God will lead you where you need to be, but not knowing where that is exactly…… and not being able to verbalize that to your nosey relatives when you see them at family reunions and they want to know why you’re not in a career or a marriage.

I know God has a story for my life, and looking back (you could call this “the regress”), I see life where I used to see death, and purpose where I used to see chance.  I see God&my story, instead of the wrong story.

I’ll give you an example:  for most of my life, I considered myself to be an accident.  My parents weren’t shy in admitting that they didn’t plan for my arrival.  However, it was only within the past 2 years that my mother finally told me that my conception was a miracle, and that it pretty much defies science.

From as far back as I can remember, and until I was an adult, I received a lot of convincing messages/lies concerning who I was in the story, which is what made me believe I was in the wrong story.  Because if you hear the same thing said about you over and over, you start to believe it, whether or not it’s true.  And it’s easy to convince someone that they’re not a hero.  Because if no one believes in you, and you can’t believe in yourself, then what kind of accursed story have you been thrown into?  If you have no ownership in the story then how can you participate in it beyond being an object for the use and abuse of others? 

Looking back… I can say that when you’re thrown into a pit, it’s not because you’re meant to live there. 

If you can climb out of the pit, then your story will not be the same when you reach the surface.  You can’t see the whole story from inside the pit, and you might think you’re in the wrong story because of it…… but if you climb out, and you look across the landscape… you will not only see all of the pits that you’ve climbed out of, but you’ll see an entire world that you’ve climbed into… a big beautiful story that’s been waiting for it’s hero to emerge.

Realizations At the Honda Dealership

October 10, 2009

I drew some conclusions while waiting for my car to be worked on…

1.  Being faithful to the vision that God has given you = Success.

2. My opinion on marriage = my opinion on Heaven. 

I was reading one of my favorite books whilst at the dealership (it’s called the Art Of Being, the book not the dealership), and I read something that I really disagreed with.  I was part-way through Tammy Trent’s essay (talking about her wedding) when she described her feelings prior to the ceremony.  She thought “This is it, our lives are about to begin”.   Well I disagreed with that, and I’ll tell you why. 

(And again, this is something which I’ve applied towards heaven, and now to marriage as well). 

It’s not a new life, or a new start… it’s putting a new name on what you’ve been creating all along.

At first I thought it was ironic that I was using my heaven theory towards marriage, but then I remembered that scripture primarily uses marital/wedding metaphors for heaven (which is WAY more ironic).

Then they gave me a free carwash, and I wrote a sweet song on the ride home.  “Do you feel it, do you feel my love?”.