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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sometimes Babies Are Ugly

Well...  here's the truth.  I am super uncomfortable posting this.  It worked for what it was, but if you are a regular reader here, you've already read/heard at least half of this...  Which means you really don't have to watch it... really...  But it's all I've got tonight...

Just FYI...  Grace loves this story.  I'm really not mean...

L.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Solitude



It's interesting how we can read the same Scripture repeatedly, but sometimes it speaks different truth into our lives than we had ever imagined.

As you know, if you've read this blog more than a couple of times, lately; God's presence, God's nearness, God's accessibility to humanity, even, has become an important theme for me.  So, the following verse might appear to flow seamlessly with what I have been repeating over and over and over again:

Psalm 139:7, "Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?" (NIV).

Nothing about these words should strike me as profound, except that they are words that I was reading very differently just a short time ago.  Instead of taking them in context and recognizing the beauty of a God who is near, there was a period of time during which I was reading them as a literal question.  I legitimately wanted to know where I could go to escape God's Spirit.  I wanted to be alone.  I wanted to be very, very alone.

Notably, I don't want that anymore, and I'm glad to recognize, again, that the answer to this question is nowhere.  There is nowhere I can go from God's Spirit.  There is nowhere I can flee from God's presence.  It's not that God is a stalker or anything like that.  It is that God is genuinely close, making Godself within reach, even when we are floundering in the dark... hoping that we will reach through that in order to join God... hoping that we'll choose community over solitude. 

Not that solitude is always bad.  As a matter of fact, solitude is one of the often neglected spiritual disciplines that I think we would do well to embrace... for a time.  Solitude can be beautiful for a variety of reasons, but I think one of them is the profound understanding we gain of our need for community.  Solitude can refresh, but it should always end with reconnecting.  While it might be futile to look for the place we can go to hide from God, it is not such a bad idea to occasionally enter into the place where only God can find us.  And sometimes we appreciate the light a whole lot more when we emerge from the darkness.

But we really should emerge...  you know... at some point...

L.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Area 51



I started off with Psalm 40, today.  I got to Psalm 40:1a, before the irony was so thick I laughed out loud, "I waited patiently for the Lord..." (NIV).  Patience is not a strong point for me.  I'm not even sure it's a weak point for me.  I am not patient.  In addition, I am distracted today.  I mean really distracted.  If you're familiar with Disney/Pixar's "Up," it is a squirrel kind of day, today.  I don't even know why.  Yes, that's how my lectionary reading began...

Eventually I worked my way through Psalm 40, which I would highly suggest to... well... everyone...  And I smiled again at the end, "You are my God, do not delay" (v.17).  See...  still not patient...

However, by the time I got to this point I was focused enough to actually dwell on the rest of the readings.  I looked at the list to see what was next.  Psalm 51.  My initial thought was, "Oh, no.  What have I done, now."

Do you know anything about Area 51?  OK, let's be real.  No one really knows anything about Area 51.  But the whole experimental testing, secrecy, security clearance, conspiracy theory mindset (see wiki), that's sort of how I feel about Psalm 51.  It's this heartbreaking lament, really, after everything that David tried to hide is exposed.  After David is exposed.  I spent a lot of time in Psalm 51 last winter.  Honestly, I spent a lot of time feeling grateful that there was no Nathan the prophet to get all up in my face, to expose my sin.  What happens in Area 51.  Well, it could just stay in Area 51.  Except, as it turned out, Psalm 51 sort of became Nathan to me. 

Sin is awful.  Confession is necessary.

Now, here's the thing.  Very few of us have ever been so turned on by our neighbor's spouse's bathing habits that we call him or her to come on over for some recreation and procreation, only to realize that we are seriously going to get caught, so we make sure our neighbor is murdered.  And let's just be clear, by "us", I do not mean "me", here.  Often I do, but truly friends...  I didn't do that, just in case anyone was speculating.  The story of David and Bathsheba?  It takes the cake. 

Or does it?

All sin is awful.  Confession is necessary.  And healing takes time.  Oh, with the patience again...  

Well, winter turned to spring, and my own story started spewing out of my mouth.  Psalm 51:17 became pretty important in my life, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise" (NIV).  I was broken.  I was so, so broken.  And contrite.  I was contrite, too.  But mostly I was broken.  And it seemed like there was going to be no end to this.
Spring turned to summer which turned to fall, and there were reminders at every corner.  To be honest, there were moments when I just wondered why God didn't get on with it and do whatever God needed to do for this to be behind me.  I was just done.

And then slowly, mercifully, I realized that it was winter again. 

Hebrews 10:17-18 says, "'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.'  And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary" (NIV).

Today I realized that I feel slightly less broken.  I have no idea if that seems hopeful to anyone else or not.  It feels pretty good to me.

There are still hard days.  There are still moments when something will remind me of some piece of the madness that became last year.  I will see something... or hear something... or even smell something, and I go quiet.  I have to remember that I'm not living that narrative anymore.  I have to remember to breathe in and breathe out and refrain from throwing something across the room, because it won't make any sense, and you should only throw things if it makes sense... or something...  But it's so much better.

I know it's not that God is taking an extraordinary amount of time with this.  It's just that some things take an extraordinary amount of time.  But there is hope.  There is always hope.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, NIV).

L.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

God Who Sees...



Genesis 16:13 "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me'" (NIV).

Sometimes I feel invisible. 

As a child... and then as a teenager... and, OK, sometimes even as an adult... invisibility seemed sort of cool.  For someone who has often tried to blend in with the walls, it's ironic that it bothers me so much, lately.  I know I've written about this somewhere, recently, but I don't think it was here...  The tension between introversion and extroversion, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, the need for time alone and the fear that I am talking to myself... and no one else is listening.

I had it out with God pretty well, last night.  It's a good thing God can take it.

But then I was reading about Hagar, and I remembered a quote that I recently read.  It went something like this:

"Remember that some people would give anything for your worst days..."

Yeah...

So here's a short description of God for you... for us... OK, for me... today...

God sees...

There goes my latest attempt at a super power...

L.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why I Am Pro-Life



And I mean really, really pro-life... pro-life from conception to natural death, a pacifist (or at least really close to it), and anti capital punishment.  There.  I've said it.  Is everybody sufficiently offended? 

Psalm 49:7-8, "No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough" (NIV).

Life is costly.  Life is precious.  Life is an enormous risk.  Always.

I get it that there are unspeakable tragedies that occur which cause people from every side of every situation to question whether life is the best choice, perhaps even whether life is the most compassionate choice.  We could get into all kinds of greater good arguments.  The biggest problem with greater good arguments is that we will always come to a point where we are choosing which lives matter most.  We don't get to choose that, and it's not because of some cliché that leads to God choosing which lives matter most.  All lives matter most.  All of them.  All of us.  Together.  As a community.  We have been created imago Dei (in the image of God).  Any "greater good" that results in the loss of life is not greater.  I mean, seriously, greater than what?  The loss of more life?  The loss of more important lives?  No.  We have to stop thinking like this.

But what do we do about lives that have been devalued?

Even as I wrote the paragraph above, I started to worry, will people think I am self identifying with the "all lives matter" hashtag people?  You know, the people who were offended by the "black lives matter" hashtag?  Because I do not identify with bigots.  Just sayin'.  In thinking about this, though, it seems that we have pushed the envelope of bigotry so far that the concept of all life being important has become, in itself, a sarcastic way to look as if we care about all life while actually screaming that our own lives are most important. 

How about the lives of the elderly?  I have recently seen many posts regarding how unethical it is to continue to resuscitate the dying and to keep them breathing, artificially, in a vegetative state, because we can't let go.  Is that really pro-life, is it really pro-all-life, or is it us, screaming, that our own comfort is most important?

What about the nineteen year old girl who is raped and pregnant and kicked out of her home and terrified.  When we shame her and declare that she deserves to live on the street, with nothing, are we creating a pro-life environment?  Do we actually care about the life of the unborn child?  What about the life of the already born child who cannot meet her own basic needs let alone the needs of another person?  When we have no empathy and shout words from across the street (or halfway across the world), are we not screaming that our own privileged lives are more important?

When we're willing to kill people because of their religious beliefs or because they happen to live down the street from someone whose religious beliefs are different than our own, making them an unfortunate, accidental casualty; when we do this and cover it by calling it our responsibility, are we not screaming that our Christian, American lives are more important?

Even when people seemingly bring death on themselves by committing atrocious acts against others, do we somehow think that killing them will right the wrong, bring justice, heal the wounds?  It won't, but are we not screaming that our need for blood is more important than their need for redemption?  That our more righteous lives, and our vengeance, are more important?

Oh friends...  We need to stop screaming and start loving... start looking beyond... start letting go... start giving... start listening...

How did we ever get to the point where the "Christian" answer is hate and death?  God, forgive us.  Help us fix this.

L.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

If I Die First



From, "Worshipchic," my personal blog (www.oneworshipchic.blogspot.com).  Ordinarily I don't make a lot of duplicate posts, but this one seems to have ignited some interest, and I think it is a worthwhile topic, even if it falls outside the norm for this forum...

Today I ran across a blog post titled, "10 Requests for My Husband Should I Die First".  I am 99% sure it was supposed to be (mostly) funny.  It was written by a popular "mommy blogger".  It has thousands of "likes" on Facebook.  I chuckled a couple of times, myself.  But then I thought to myself, if I could make ten requests of my husband, should I die first, I would not have to waste several of them on instructions for our children's personal hygiene.

I got in pretty deep a couple of months ago when I made a Facebook post confessing that I had told Phil who I thought he should marry if I died first.  My mother-in-law actually told me that she thought I should take it back.  I told her no.  I'm not taking it back.  Let's be real.  If I die first, Phil doesn't have to follow any of my preferences.  But, I think I'll put a few out there, anyway. 

1.  Do not spend a lot of money on my funeral/burial.  I don't want to be cremated, but seriously, bury me cheap.  If you really feel the need to add a little sparkle, glitter is cheap.  But please remember that under no circumstances should there be terrible music at the funeral.  Loud, angry, angsty music will do.  I own plenty of it.  There are no excuses here.

2.  The day after the funeral, throw the children in the van and go to Disney World.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Cry if you have to.  We did that at Disney, sometimes.  Do all of my favorite stuff, and talk about all of the good memories, but for goodness sake, don't lie!  It's OK to talk about the complete meltdown I had in New Fantasyland when I couldn't deal with all the changes or how mad I got that one time about the ice cream cone, and you should definitely point out all of the places we've vomited on Disney property.  Be real.  But, you know, be magical, too.  You might skip the Haunted Mansion on the first trip... Just sayin'...

3.  Use my name.  Keep pictures up.  Tell stories.  Watch videos.  Don't ever let these things become taboo.  This might be my most selfish request.  But, remember me. 

4.  Don't delete my many, many, many documents that are bits and pieces of things I've written, but don't try to read them all right away, either.  You may want them someday.  The kids may want them someday.  I may be famously published posthumously someday.  Just save it all somewhere.

5.  But don't save all my stuff.  Make sure you keep enough for the kids to all have things that remind them of me, but give a lot of it away to people who need it.  I think it's pretty obvious, though, that no one needs my purple flower pants.  Hang my purple flower pants in Grace's closet. 

6.  Your inclination to be alone will be strong.  Surround yourself with community, anyway.  The kids will desperately need this.  Our quiz family will almost assuredly be the greatest support after blood related relatives.  Go to every quiz, even if you really don't want to.  Go even if the kids can't focus to study.  Those people will hold your arms up.

7.  Make sure the kids call and/or email my parents on a fairly regular basis.  I know it's difficult to get in contact with them, but they are their grandparents.

8.  Date.  It wasn't too long ago that our oldest three children expressed that if I died first they thought you would basically never leave the house again.  They thought I would find someone to "go out to lunch with" if it was the other way around.  Remember that.  Go out to lunch.

9.  Get married again.  This would be so much easier than you think.  Do you have any idea how many people I have told how awesome you are?  Many of them would kill for a husband like you.  So, be careful (I hope that's not how we got to this point).  The kids are the deal breaker.  She must adore the children.  All five of them, even though Miah has always wanted an evil stepmother.  Some of the kids won't like it.  Show them this.  She must adore you, too.  When the kids grow up and move out, you'll still have to like each other.

10.  Remember that God is good, even when life sucks.  Remember when I said, "God has never failed us yet, I don't expect today to be the day he starts".  It's still true.  God is near. 

Well, crap, that was awful!  After writing it, I think I now understand why someone might want to write a humorous post instead... 

L.