Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shut up and sit shiva

Today is a busy day, so this will not begin to contain all I wish to say.  But if I say nothing at all, I think I will burst.  I do not know which I am more ashamed to be associated with today:  Christians who are assuming a conection between Sandy Hook and the removal of prayer from school ( or even further seeing this as a consequence or punishment for a nation adrift spiritually) or Liberals who are shouting for gun control reform (do you really think we could come up with a law that would have prevented Adam from doing what he did?  Really?)

Now is the time to sit a nation.  I am not jewish and my knowledge of shiva is extremely limited, so if I misspeak please forgive me and look beyond to the intent.  Shiva is a jewish custom of  mourning the death of a loved one by coming to the house of the deceased and simply, quietly sitting with the family and mourning with them.  When Jesus arrived at Bethany after the death of Lazarus the friends and family of Mary and Martha were sitting shiva with them. 

Do you see the picture?  This is a time to mourn in a profound way.  To weep with those who are broken-hearted and deeply in pain.  What can you and I do to enter their pain?  We can pray and mourn with them, even if we are no where near Connecticut.  We can remember them all daily and the very hard road that lays before the whole community.  We can be silent and enter their pain..much like Jesus did in entering our world all those years ago.  We can be still and quiet on their behalf.

We can shut up.  Now is not the time to talk about gun control.  Now is not the time to talk about mental healthcare.  And it's not time to bemoan how far our society has drifted from its once-held judeo-christian beliefs.  Moving to these, in less than a week, is a dishonor to those who died and a disservice to those who remain.  Shame on us.  Shame on us as a nation.

What happened at Sandy Hook strikes fear and anger in all of us.  We desperately want to jump to action to prevent it from ever happening again.  But we will never be able to eradicate evil from our society, not completely.  And that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  But not this week, not the rest of this month.  There will be a time to honor those from Sandy Hook by changing our nation for the better, but this is not it.

But now is a time to shut up.  Be still.  Mourn.  Pray for those who are decimated by this tragedy.  It is a time to sit a nation.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bittersweets from Friday

It was an early morning for me.  I was driving my daughter Ruth to Chic-fila (a family staple) to meet her sister Anna before school.  It was dark, but warm and damp outside as we met by Anna's car.  She gave me a hug, kissed her sister on the cheek and then they got in the car and drove off.  I felt like I was watching  the years drive by as they left.  How did they manage to get out of car seats?   Wasn't it time to get into the carpool line at Cornelius Elementary?  It made me sad in a way that I usually don't experience.  I have always loved the age my kids were, with all its unique ups and downs.  But watching them drive off together made me realize that in a little while they won't live in my home and while I will daily talk to God about them, I may not daily talk to them.  I didn't want to let them go.  I spent the rest of the day as I ran errands in Lake Norman watching moms with little kids and kinda wishing for a chance to go back and do it all again with them.  Bittersweet.

As I drove around town I was blasting Kyle Dillard et al.'s Christmas CD (yes, I still play cds).  I love Christmas.  It's my favorite holiday.  This year has been particularly fun.  Anyway, I was thinking about how exciting the birth of Jesus is for me.  It is the moment in time and space when he entered our realm.  He became "Emmanuel", which means "God with us".  Sometimes God's presence with me is the most comforting thing about walking through life with him,  My situation may be painful or difficult with no easy solutions in sight, but I can find hope in knowing I'm not in this mess alone.  He is with me and understands my heart.

But as I thought about it, it struck me.  I wonder about this event we celebrate, this birth that gives me such joy, hope and comfort.  What did God himself feel?  It seems to me that even though this was an apex in his plan to redeem his beloved, it had to feel bittersweet to let Jesus go.  Jesus coming to our realm meant leaving his home.  My minded flashed back to those beautiful girls driving away from Chic-fila.  And the moment Jesus was born he was on a path to death, to being betrayed and totally separated from God.  Like a countdown beginning, that prior to his birth was forever on the horizon.

So this season as I drive around singing my favorite holiday songs, as I decorate my tree, visit with friends and family, and bake cookies, I'm a little more thankful to God.  I'm aware in a new way that what brings me joy brought him both joy and pain. It makes me all the more grateful to him for allowing him to come at all. It is bittersweet.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

what I'm thankful for

Just read my pastor's blog about thanksgiving, and it made me want to post my own list of what I'm thankful for.  So here goes:

I'm thankful for my church home at a new location.  Making the switch to LFC-D was not easy at first, but now it feels like home.   I love the size and the feeling of knowing people.  I love the amazing students I meet and hang out with that so enrich my life.  I really like our new community group and the putting down of roots with new people.  It feels like home.

I'm thankful for the way God has use physical adversity in those I love to challenge me, shake me, teach me and ultimately draw me closer to him.  It has been a hard year watching Ruth suffer with post concussive syndrome (AKA wicked headaches) and my mom suffer with the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis.  God is healing one slow and taking the other unto himself slowly.  It is the "hard"  from which he blesses me.

I'm thankful for emotional health, for the days and weeks when depression seems like a packed-up box shelved in the corner of the attic.  But I would be remiss if I didn't admit I'm thankful for the depression as well because nothing drops me to my knees and leads me to rely on God like it.  I'm very thankful for my comrades in arms, those who suffer alongside me and "get me"... for Karen Millin, who will always laugh and encourage me and lets me say anything.  For my husband, who watches me like a hawk to make sure my head is above water, who steps in with "suggestions"  when I'm indecisive and who never judges me.

I'm thankful for my friends.  For Virginia, Jennifer, Angela & Julie.  I love doing life with these guys.  For the lunches and walks and bike rides and the countless calls and texts that make me feel known and loved.

I'm thankful to be a student again for the first time in over twenty years.  It is a blessing to learn.  And speaking of school, I'm thankful that my three babies are having such amazing years in school, both academically and socially.  Unlike Mike, I'm thankful for swimming.  I love the chance once a month to steal away with my daughter and watch her excel at something she deeply loves.  And I'm thankful that this past year Huck and Ruth have both found a sport that they are passionate about.  There are few greater joys than watching your child deeply enjoy a sport.  

My family is my greatest source of thanksgiving.  We love, laugh, fight, cry and just do life together.  It is the biggest joy, the greatest ride, I have ever known this side of heaven.  My children amaze me and humble me and make me glad every day for the privilege of being a Mom.  My husband is by far the best gift God has ever given me, and I awake everyday and want to be with him and near him.

I'm thankful that in November 1985 God reached down and made himself known to me in such a deeply private and personal way that I could no longer denied that I needed him or that he loved me.  He has changed me; thankfully, for me and for those around me, I am not the same.  I wonder sometimes what life would be like if he hadn't touched me;  I feel certain I would by now have a trail of sorrow and broken relationships where joy and love now exists.   So I'm thankful.  So very, very thankful.

Monday, January 30, 2012

presently swimming in seaweed

I like the beach. And when it's really hot I enjoy going for a dip in the ocean. But sometimes I don't like the ocean at all. Have you ever been in the ocean on a day when the wind has blown in a bunch of seaweed? I mean a day when you can hardly move without being touched by the slimy branches of green gunk. I hate it when everytime I move I'm sloshing up against the stuff.

After listening to Don Miller this weekend, I have decided that life is like swimming in a seeweed infested ocean. There is still good and enjoyment to be had, but it sure is mixed up with a whole bunch of gunk. And I hate gunk. There so much of the stuff, that we even think of mildly infested waters as being enjoyable....but they really aren't.

My best life is not here and it is not now. I want to train myself to stop being surprised by struggle...and pain...and tragedy...and injustice. I don't want to become numb to all that is horribly sad but I do want to see it as more of the norm of life. I want to be blissfully surprised when the ocean is pristine, but I don't want to be alarmed when its not. After all, the stuff is SEA weed.

And if I'm going to expect for life to be infested with pain and sorrow and other similar gunk, I need to also retrain myself of where my hope lies. It doesn't lie in overcoming obstacles, or being pain free, not suffering with depression , or watching my children live victoriously successful lives. No hope for me lies in two places: I have a home awaiting me at death that far supasses what this life has to offer. AND I have a savior that wades through the seeweed infested waters with me. As my friend Laura says, he is closer than my fingernails.

So...this week as I watch Ruth struggle with week 14 of a concussion and I feel that worry eating me up. Seeweed. We didn't do anything wrong. We aren't being punished. It's life...normal life. And I'll hold his hand (and hers) and keep asking him to heal her and look forward to a day in the near future when the wind changes, and the seeweed abates and she is better....and a day that will come when only God knows when she and I will barely remember what a seaweed infested ocean feels like.

Friday, January 20, 2012

my idol, my app

In our culture today, idolatry is such a squirmy thing. I mean we rarely use the word unless referring to would-be famous vocalists. We only refer to sports figures as idols when they disappoint us. We don't keep carved statues in our houses and if we do we don't burn incense to them or pray to them.

But idolatry is surely a part of our lives just as it has been for every generation. Why? Because we were built to worship, to give our allegiance; without this we are incomplete. And sometimes even with it we are still incomplete. We might be good at pointing out someone else's idol, but seem incredulously blind to our own. Or at least blind to the depth that idolatry rules and ruins our lives.

I thought I'd share with you my week with a particular idol. Maybe writing about it will help me to let it go. And maybe reading about it will help you to recognize your own idols.

It started at 8 am on Tuesday morning. I was already exhausted from a long weekend of swimming. My child swam and I sat on a bleacher for more hours than you would believe. I had a plan. Take my son to school, then spend some good leisurely time with God before heading off to a meeting at 10am. A chance email and a small conversation with the teacher sent me reeling. I felt frustrated, angry, hurt, sad and ashamed. How is it possible to have all of that swarm over you in a matter of minutes?

I returned to the car ripe for a conversation with God. I needed to bear my heart to lay all this mess of emotion at His feet and find some way to trust Him with it all. So it was good that my plan included him next.

Except it didn't. I sat in the car and caught my breath. Instead of opening my Bible, I picked up my iphone and downloaded an app. then I sat there for two hours and played the app. Never once talking to God.

I went to my meeting, and then played my app. Helped my son with his homework and played my app. Didn't fold laundry because....I was playing my app. Put the kids to bed and played my app. Kissed my husband goodnight, promising I'd be to bed in a second and played my app. Two and a half hours later I deleted the app and went to bed ashamed and angry at myself for making such a dumb choice to stay up so late. (I mean, I was already way exhausted).

Now intrinsically, apps are not idols. But clearly on Tuesday, this one was an idol to me. It kept me separated from God. It robbed me of precious time with those I love and who count of me. I was fixated and attached and it held my attention much longer than I had ever planned. And at the end of the day it left me feeling ashamed, stupid, small and unworthy. I felt so bad...I might as well play the stupid app again.

But that was Tuesday. I had to pay the consequences for little sleep on Wednesday, but the app was gone. was...until...I re-installed it. Now I didn't play it as much. I patted myself on the back that I was in control this time. What a crock! What a stupid deception. So on Wednesday, instead of turning the corner, I stayed in the emotional hate myself pit, didn't do the things I should of (at least not all of them, or as well as I should have), and played that app for hours. But I was having fun, right? I was enjoying it, right? I just needed a break to relax, right? Yeah, right. Clearly this idol has helped to make the last 48 hours a complete mess.

And today, well today is Saturday. And I have uninstalled and re-installed the app at least once more. And I'm still playing the stupid thing. Having fun. Enjoying it. Relaxing. I am a true and utter idiot. But that's the way idols work in our lives. They take over and we deceive ourselves into believing they are actually good for us.

When I am honest, I must admit what my personal history (and Jesus) have taught me about idols. They have to go. Completely. Cold Turkey. Get the thing off my phone and stop reinstalling it. I will not be able to abide with even a little of this app in my life. At least not right now. Maybe never. But if I want to be free...if I want to really live...really have fun...enjoy myself...relax, I have to let it go. I have to return to worshiping Jesus and only Him. After all, who exactly do you think made me, designed me to worship?

Okay time you see me. Ask to see my phone. Check in on me and see...what am I worshipping today.

Friday, January 13, 2012

early morning bubbles and an aha moment

In the event that anyone is actually out there reading things I write, sorry for the long hiatus. I hope to be more regular as time moves forward. But back to the bubbles and the aha.

So it happened today on Statesville Rd. as I was driving Huck to school and trying to keep the dog from drooling all over me as I ate my Chicfila biscuit. (He, the dog not Huck, had already devoured his and was now hoping that his persistence would pay off as it usually does...and it did). I was thinking about fear (my most prevelant emotion at present)and my lack of faith ...when this verse popped into my hear.

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling..." Phil 2:12

What? I've read this verse and meditated on it many times,but this time the word FEAR jumped out at me....because it is my most prevelant emotion this week. Work it out with fear and trembling?

It was the poetic illustration of me this morning in the bathtub. I couldn't sleep and my legs were sore from exercising yesterday so I hauled my body into the bath, ran a tub of steaming hot water with bubbles and slid in. It was not one of those luxurious relaxing baths. It was one of those, OMG how am I going to pull myself through this day soaks. And it ended with me sobbing out my fear and lack of faith to God.

I got out feeling defeated and still crying ( but my legs felt better)and started rousing the family because it was time. I felt so defeated by my fear, and lost. I felt like twenty five years of faith had just evaporated and I was back to be 18, scared and alone and trying my damnedest to solve all my own problems.

So when the Holy Spirit sprung this verse on me this morning, I nearly leaped out of the car. You mean, God, that part of walking this journey is just that: working out with fear and trembling...taking the things that scare me shitless and bringing the whole big mess back to a three year old with a broken toy, certain that you can fix it.

It gave me hope...I'm not struggling to get back on the path of faith; I'm on it. The struggle is the path; the mess is the road. I'm in the right place, doing the right thing....even if it doesn't feel so great...I'm not lost and I'm not alone. But I am still afraid. I still lack faith. But somehow knowing that I'm on the right road makes the struggle seem more managable. I'm still having to work it out...I suppose to some degree I will spend this lifetime doing just that. Thanks for the moment this morning.