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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Season Finales

I have a confession to make.  I didn’t watch popular TV for a couple of decades, but then I did again.

Why do we invest our time in fictional narratives?  Perhaps the reasons are as diverse as the number of us who exist and continue to circle around the sun.  My honest answer is that there was this moment when I said to myself, “I need to sit down and binge watch something that has characters with more complicated lives than mine.” 

I chose Grey’s Anatomy.  If I legitimately wanted characters with ridiculously complex lives, I struck gold.  I watched 12 seasons in three months.  That’s 269 episodes.  I have yet to decide if I am proud of this or irrevocably ashamed.  After years upon years of being an entertainment media purist, I felt like I was flipping off the world, rebel me, watching all that off screen sex… and blood related to medical procedures… and bad language…   I was angry.  But this was three years ago.

Most days, I don’t wake up angry anymore.  Honestly, most days I wake up super exhausted and hope somebody has hit the power button on the Keurig, as I grapple for my glasses and consider how I can best balance the writing of children’s sermons and academic papers… being mom in sweatpants and jet-setting in business suits… being who I am and who I hope to be… and most days, I’m fairly amazed that I have the opportunity.

But I’m thinking a lot about season finales, right now, because it’s that time of year (and one does not surrender thirteen full days of one’s life to follow characters and then fail to turn the final page…  it can’t go on forever, right?).  I’m thinking about how season finales have the power to bring us to tears or even make us throw things (that might just be me).  I’m thinking about how they are almost always cliffhangers, keeping us on the edge of our seats, causing us to set the DVR for fall… watching… waiting…  And, I’m thinking about how I am living a season finale, right now.

Some finales are more epic than others.  Undoubtedly, the most difficult ones are those in which we say good-bye to beloved characters.  If you know anything at all about living in Shondaland, you also know she is more than willing to kill off major characters… like… all of them, without apology…   Equally tragic, however, are the characters that choose to leave, and it really plays with our emotions when these characters make guest appearances, showing up on the scene again… 

Honestly, this can feel a lot like real life…  “Oh crap, there you are…  I forgot you weren’t dead…”

It sounds brutal, but I think it hurts more when people decide we aren’t worth their time or walk away to protect their own interests, leaving ours in a heap of disarray that can, at best, be gathered and sorted and sobbed over, but that, at worst, is so damaged it can never be fixed… or even properly dealt with or grieved.

I mean, come on…  How can you actually grieve something to its end when there are constant (or even intermittent, see: I’m really not angry every day) reminders that it could still exist, if every star aligned just right?  Even if you don’t want that to be the case, there can still be too many “what ifs” and “if onlys” to permanently put it to rest.

There have occasionally been times in my life when I have uttered the words, “I would give anything for…”

It’s actually a really dumb thing to say, because there are few things in the world that any of us would actually give anything… let alone everything… for.  But stay with me.  This is all going to connect.  The mending of broken relationship might come closest, with just not hurting over broken relationship taking a tight second.

As I’ve processed (and, admittedly, maybe even over-processed) some things along these lines, I have run across a couple of well-meaning friends who have suggested the potential for reframing the stories and changing the narratives we tell.  Apparently, this works well for many people… alleviates anxiety… minimizes triggers… results in a happy ending…  But I just can’t buy it!

Proverbs 4: 7, 13, 25-27a, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding…  Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you… Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left…”

I think I’d rather feel it.  I think someday it will hurt less, because it already hurts less often, but I do not want to forget (I’ve heard that might be my problem).  I think I’d rather cry forever, but I also know I’m not crying nearly as much.   I think revisionist history is dangerous, because although it may allow us to forget the tragedy, it also causes us to forget the joy. 

And… see Psalm 6:8-9, “for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” 

I’m just not willing to wipe that out.

Is it easy?  Yeah.  Some days it is.  Is it difficult?  Ditto.  Is it unbearable?  Yep, at times, that too.  Welcome back to ordinary days...  Welcome back to what it is to be human.  And just in case you didn’t catch it, this is also a cliff hanger…  Stay tuned in to find out which characters make this cut…


PS Don’t even get me started on series finales...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

To No Fanfare

I have too many potential ideas for posts running around in my head, today, and I also have an incredibly quiet office…  This is either going to end well or not…

I woke up to a pageview ticker that informed me Flip Flops, Glitter, and Theology had flipped 50,000 pageviews, while I slept.  I thought I would watch this happen (like I did as I neared the 10,000 mark), but life is incredibly different now than it was then… and it hasn’t really been that long. 

I was deep in thought about small things and big things and how sometimes small things seem big (either in positive or negative ways), but then you live a little bit more, and perspective is so fluid. 

I spent last week thinking a lot about big fish in small ponds and how the ponds I once thought were lakes now look more like puddles to me, and also about how I have absolutely no desire to flop around in them like an oxygen deprived fish.  I was thinking about how I used to be so desperate to be seen and heard in circles that no longer matter to me, because I am being seen and heard in bigger bodies of water… like the ocean.  I really like the ocean.  And I had a brief moment of panic when someone suggested I might be gaining enough traction to become a big fish there, and I don’t want that!  I mean, I honestly don’t!  I have this new, bigger dream than I ever imagined was possible, and I’m OK if it continues to change and grow, but I legitimately don’t want to be blown out of the water.  I’m getting kind of old for that!

Interestingly, the daily office related well to the stuff I was already thinking, which continues to blow my mind, year after year after year… 

So, shout out to the minor prophet Zechariah who was brave enough to pen these words,  “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice” (4:10a, NRSV).

I sure have lived that—the despising of the day of small things.  The Psalmist also writes about days, “When they were of little account” (see Psalm 105), and it’s interesting how it doesn’t stay that way, even when it seems the small stuff is never-ending. 

Every once in awhile, I actually wish I could return to a simpler time.  But then I remember how much I love what God is doing in the world, and I’m not willing to miss out on my part, whatever it may be!


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

We Can Have Both

I sometimes struggle with knowing exactly how to pray.  It’s not that there is any one right way, but the evolution of my theology can make for some interesting conversations with God.

Ephesians 3:14-21:For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This is mind blowing stuff.  Paul prays that the Ephesians might be able to comprehend that which is incomprehensible.  He prays for the impossible, and then he acts as if this is completely reasonable, since the God we can’t fully comprehend can do more than we can imagine.  It’s as if Paul is asking God to help us understand what cannot be understood, and he expects that might actually happen, even though he can’t possibly expect it.  This is often how I pray.

But I think we have to take a step back for a moment, because I don’t want to miss the part where we are strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit, which allows us to be rooted and grounded in love.  I don’t want to miss that part, because I think we can all have that.  And, I also think it’s the most important part, particularly when comprehension and knowledge are elusive.

I really like to know stuff.  A lot.  In fact, I admit the quest for knowledge can be overwhelming and consuming, at times, and I am far more unapologetic than Solomon (see Ecclesiastes).  I wholeheartedly believe this thirst is a part of who we are and who we were created to be.  But I also have to remember that we were first created to love, and the measure of that love is infinite in nature.  

It's not a binary choice, though... this non-existent knowledge vs. love dichotomy.  Love is the greatest, but we can have both.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Don't Blink

Matthew 7:24-25, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”

I’m waxing a little bit sentimental, today, and it’s odd in some ways, because this morning I am sitting alone in what was a popular college hang-out when I was college-aged but didn’t go to this University.  Simultaneously, my two oldest children have decided to squeeze in an official college visit at the beginning of their quiz week, and I opted to simply drop them off for this, because we are close… really close… and I would never change that for anything in the entire world, but part of the job of parenting is learning how and when to let go, and today is a letting go day.

We have had rain… and floods… and winds.  Heck, if I’m honest, we have has debilitating lightning strikes, hurricanes and tsunamis, and a tornado or two.  I can remember times (distant and recent) when people have stopped me to tell me how invested they are in watching how my children turn out, because they have been so very incredible, all along (and they really, truly have been)… no pressure… But don’t for one single second think we haven’t waded through the crap, too.

And now, these original two of mine are almost ‘turned out.’  And I like them.

Of course, I recognize that we have entered into an era of extended adolescence, but there is something mind boggling about knowing that this time next year I will be the mother of one legal adult and two high school graduates.  Y’all…  I blinked.

Everyone tells young parents how fast it goes… how much you’re going to miss it… but none of us ever really grasps the reality until whatever ‘it’ is has already gone.  So I’d like to say to young parents, today, “It’s fast.  You’re going to miss it.  But I know you don’t really understand, and that’s OK.”

I hope we’ve built these houses on solid rock.  And, I hope they’ve had the grace to sway in the wind just enough to bend but not break. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Blessed Are... Blessed Are... Blessed Are...

Sometimes it takes a couple of days to sink in…

As we move toward ascension, I have a lot of feelings, but the most prominent one, year after year, is that of the abandonment that comes from grief.  I have blogged about it in the past and was honored to flesh it out a little more in a commentary for this week at A Plain Account, found here. 

The daily office, however, keeps leading me back to passages of comfort and blessing, and although the beatitudes do not make an appearance, I could not help but think of them.  But you know who’s comforted?  Those who mourn.  And let’s be real.  I don’t want that part.  You don’t want that part.  We don’t want that part.

Most of this is coming in fits and starts for me.

Matthew 5:

“Blessed are… blessed are… blessed are…”

Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Psalm 80:18-19, “We will never turn back from you; give us life and we will call on your name.  Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”

Matthew 13:16, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

Those two men in white in the ascension story want the apostles to stop looking up into the sky.  We always assume they are helpful to the narrative (and I suppose they probably are), but this has me thinking about something I say to my children when I want to know they are definitely listening to me, that they really hear me.  I say, “Look at my face.”

Ascension is difficult, because we mourn and grieve as we lose sight of Jesus’ face.  Blessing generally comes with his face toward ours and our faces fixed on his, and we understand that kind of blessing.  As I write about it, today, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach.  It is the kind of blessing that makes us forget about everything that surrounds us, because our eyes are fixed on just one thing.  Our ears are fixed on just one thing, and it is so good.

But that other kind of blessing…  the one that only comes when we have mourned, when comfort becomes valuable to us…  it’s harder to swallow.  Could we not just skip the part that hurts?  And what of the heartrending moments in which we cannot see Jesus, at all? 

Perhaps we might pray:

II Timothy 2:2b, “… that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”

Sometimes blessings are hard earned and the furthest thing from what we ever wanted.  That’s probably when we need to be blessed the very most.