A Soul Cracked Open

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We tend to think that religion is sitting stiff and antiseptic and a little bored and that joy is laughter and freedom and reaching out our arms to embrace the whole wide and preposterous earth which is so beautiful that sometimes it nearly breaks our hearts. We need to be reminded that Christianity is joy and that laughter and freedom and the reaching out of arms are the essence of it. Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark, Listening to Your Life, October 28

I came away from the news with a blackness threatening to cloud my mind as it usually does when I watch it at all now. Inasmuch as I think we all have a responsibility to know what’s going on in the world, here lately a little snippet goes a long way. It confirms what the Bible says: that human nature still hasn’t found a way of redeeming itself. There is a comfort for me in that, for the darker things seem in the world, the more I am finding true comfort from my Redeemer.  The brighter His light shines.

How can I adequately describe the wild joy in prayer when I least expect it? Or how can I describe faith? It’s like blowing on an ember you didn’t think had any life in it, and watching it as it brilliantly flares from within. Writing these thoughts is almost painful because I want everyone to understand and know the hope that lays beyond all the beauty that is still out there. All the things we see and feel and touch……all of this, even if we can appreciate it, means nothing without God’s Spirit to illuminate it.

Beauty is one of the things God cracks our souls with so the Light of Heaven can get in. 

When I think of all the places I have been and the beauty I have seen it almost breaks my heart for those who can’t see who is truly behind it all. Whose Spirit resides as the backdrop for it all, whose unapproachable Light gleams behind every flame colored leaf fluttering against the sky. One whose breath moved along the waters even before the world began. My soul is cracked open at the wonder of it all. That I am here at all.

Without God, and without His Spirit moving through it, all this beauty is dead even while it lives. And that is the weight, the heaviness we carry in this life, the burden we feel to keep it all going. God invites us to step off the carousel, just for a while, so that we can remember that He has kept it going all along. We feel the tiredness of this world because it echoes our own, but even as we share the burden of it, glimmering at its edges we see the brilliance of that other world. The Promise and the Joy of Heaven in the here and the now.

Joy is where the whole being is pointed in one direction, and it is something that by its nature a man never hoards but always wants to share. The second thing is that joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes. Even nailed to a tree.

Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark, Listening to Your Life, October 28

Morning Journal, October 12

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference…….Robert Frost.

I walked out with blank pages but somehow I knew that words would come. They usually always do when I am outside under the sky. I have kept a journal for years and years now. I quit for a while when all the days started to sound the same and it was more like me whining. When I started again it turned into more of a prayer journal. I started it because I didn’t want to forget all those little miracles that happen in a day. I wanted it on record, my way of thanking God on paper. Now when I go back and read all the answered prayers, all the big and little moments I smile and remember just how big He is and how small my little worries were.

Where does the time go? Now the morning air is cool–a co-worker joked, here the leaves don’t change, the license plates do. He and I both got a kick out of that one. I do miss seeing the leaves turn. I miss the red, yellow and brown spiraling to the ground, tossed by the wind. But I always feel them in my heart just the same.  Up North they are turning and we don’t go to see God’s spectacle. There always seems to be something pressing here.

Had the first fire in the fire-pit. That means fall here in the valley of the sun. My friend at work will be in Yosemite today. I remember fall there–the big gold leafed oaks in the meadow, standing like sentries there in the sun. I remember the crunch of leaves mingled with pine-needles underfoot. And the smoke from campfires filling in all the crevasses way up amongst the tall pines. I remember the one year we got snow.

We all went out to the edge of the meadow to watch it settle on the granite cliffs like a master baker somewhere up above was sifting powdered sugar down. So many good memories.

Too doves are resting on the wall soaking in the early sun, one just now came to drink at the fountain. The all made it through dove season and that’s a good thing.

Another good thing. When I was just writing these words, I wasn’t worried or stressed about anything at all. That is some kind of a small miracle.

Thank you God, for such a good start to the day. It always amazes me that I can go through a dry spell for weeks and have no words at all, but then I get two or three blog posts one right after the other.

That’s how writing is, it’s like faith. Somehow you know the words are there somewhere and that maybe right now you have nothing, but tomorrow or the next day you will. Always there.

I Remember………

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Memory is a powerful thing, one of the best gifts we have. Just make one simple statement like: “I remember…….” and see what you come up with. The point is not to think too hard, just let your mind flow free and write the first ones that come to mind. No need to label who you’re writing about either, it can be all different people and places, one right after the other.  I thought of this last night right before I went to bed.

I’ll go first……..

I remember:

Your laugh when I first met you and those striped t-shirts you wore, yellow and blue……and the way you wore your hair.

The way you molded the meatloaf right before you put it in the pan, I do it the exact same way.

Cold flannel shirt mornings and cracking walnuts on the garage floor.

The sound of your voice as you prayed for me by firelight, and the feel of your hand in mine.

Me shifting impatiently as your curled my hair before school.

Wrapping your sandwiches in waxed paper and tucking them in your lunch.

The sound of the screen door as it opened and closed.

The squeak in my Aunt’s old stairs, the one we hit, every single time.

Rain on the plastic tarp.

The first time I saw you after you were born and the time I cried when I had to leave.

Laying on the warm driveway soaking wet and looking at our imprint when we got up. We called it making skeletons.

The sound of those metal skate wheels.

A girl on the playground named Kathy McVay whose hair fell in waves, plastered just so and held in place with a jeweled clip. She ran the bases on kickball holding her head so her hair wouldn’t move.

Hot sand on the beach.

German spoke between sisters as I drowsed on the outdoor swing and the feel of the gray cover with the white fringe.

A box of kittens and scooping one out and saying, “That’s the one.”

Another kitten, wreaking havoc at Petsmart, someone saying no one will take that one. We did.

Waking up at my Grandma’s house where I always felt at peace because she left a night-light on the buffet.

I could go on and go……..

Now it’s your turn.

 

 

 

Why written words will never go away……

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I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”

Over and over again, Paul especially, stresses the importance of writing this “with his own hand.” At times others would take down the message, but when Paul wanted to emphasize something he said this. It was his way of saying, “Pay attention, I want to you to see how important this is to me.”

When we get something handwritten it’s almost like we get a piece of that person, almost as if they leave a bit of themselves behind with the ink on the page. When I want to keep someone close, I tuck something they’ve written in my wallet. Even now I have some folded notes and little drawings I have held onto for years. My wallet is fat, but not with folded money, with other kinds of treasures.

And today I was given a special journal, an unexpected gift to go along with us on our journey. Elaine said, “This had your name on it.” as she held it out, smiling. I will keep it and scribble notes in it and maybe someday years from now someone will find it and wonder whose it was.

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Tomorrow, we will go on a long-expected road trip. We will drive for miles and miles. We will sing out loud with the radio across several states and we’ll stop where we want. It will be a grand adventure and I thank God for the opportunity. And in my purse, there are four people I hold dear who will come with me because right now I am holding them all close in prayer. I need part of them near me, with me on this journey.

Because what’s written on those pages I carry is part of them, and part of me too.

That’s why what’s written will never go away.

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Of Iphones and Idols……

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Just the other day I was sitting at my workstation glancing idly at my IPhone and one of our bosses asked me if I was “one of those people” hooked on social media. I had to pause for a moment and smile remembering the time B.I. (Before iPhone/iPad) entered my life. And I confess, I caught myself feeling a little bit defensive, like tiny little fists were rising up from somewhere inside. “Well, I used to” I said, “when I first got my iPhone.”

I remember the day clearly. She was going out to get a new cell phone and asked what I wanted since both of us were on the same phone plan. “Oh,” I said,  “I don’t care, just get me a cheapo. I really don’t use the one I have.” At that time I had a little flip phone which was red and cute and mostly it just layed there unless it rang.

About 2 hours later, she came home triumphant and smiling, white Apple store baggies swinging from each arm. She held them aloft and despite myself I was curious.”I got one for you too!” She said. I opened the box and It gleamed at me from its little resting place. It could have been my imagination but I think it might have winked at me.

We were like little kids. well, mostly I was. Me, miss “I don’t care what you get” had turned into a full-fledged IPhone junky. These weren’t just cell phones, these were iPhones after all. The portent of change was crackling in the air.

Finally, I had it in my possession; all backed up, synced and ready to use, I felt a little bit like Mary Lennox when she first discovered the Secret Garden. This was a window to an entirely new world. I was enraptured with all the Apps I could get. And they were free for goodness sake.

I jumped in with both feet. Or both thumbs as it were. I was texting for the first time in my life. This was better than shopping. I got an Instagram account, then I joined Twitter. Later I discovered Pinterest and before I knew it I had over 3000 pins. I got an iPad for my Birthday. I was irrevocably hooked.

I kept trying to convince my Mom that technology and computers are not the Antichrist. When I went back home I would show her things to prove my point. She didn’t budge; though I did sense a weakening in her resolve when I showed her the You Version Bible App.

It was all wonderful until the day my best friend looked up at me with a hurt expression. “We don’t talk anymore.” She had been suffering in silence, carrying a burden I could have helped her bear, but I was too busy to see it. That pulled me up short.

After that I learned to keep a more balanced perspective. I have backed off from some things. Along the way I have learned that technology and social media have indeed enriched my life in ways I never expected. But all things in moderation. Technology is not evil in itself, despite what some believe. Like anything else, it has tremendous capacity to be used for good and evil.

With the help of technology and social media, we have the added blessing of casting our net a bit wider and extending our circle of Grace. It’s a wonderful thing. But it must never come at the expense of the people in our lives. The ones we live with, the ones who need to know we are still there.

I’m sharing this story as part of The High Calling’s community link-up. You can add your voice to the “Technology at Work” conversation here.

Photo credit: www.Icanhascheeseburger.com

I give you Buechner……I give you today.

 

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Reading from the devotional book, “Listening to Your Life” by Frederick Buechner:

September 1

It is a moment of light surrounded on all sides with darkness and oblivion. In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history there has never been another just like it and there will never be another just like it again. It is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until your death. If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it.  Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.

“This is the day that The Lord has made,” say the 118th Psalm. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Or weep and be sad in it for that matter. The point is to see it for what it is because it will be gone before you know it. If you waste it, it is your life that you’re wasting. If you look the other way, it may be the moment you’ve been waiting for always that you’re missing.

All other days have either disappeared into darkness and oblivion or not yet emerged from them. Today is the only day there is.

Whew…..few writers like that guy. Even when capturing the beauty of the moment, he comes off a little fatalistic, but then again, life is pretty fatalistic. The point is to treasure each day as if it’s the only one you have, for it just may be, and then eternity awaits. Embrace the joy of this new day, because there is always reason to hope…..to dance.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever……….Psalm 118:29

photo taken in Moss Landing, California

 

 

Finding peace begins when we stop trying to figure it all out.

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In the hushed silence bare light of morning, I kick the walnut Sydney loves to bat around and it skitters across the floor. The air outside is heavy with heat….too hot to pray out there, so I sit here reading Holy moments between the pages of Emily’s book. It’s here that He meets us. In the quiet, in the background of two cats snoring and my tailbone sore from sitting here on the floor by the bed.

Behind the peace, behind happy and content there are flickers of fear being tamped down. It seems to be a by-product of living this life, the wondering how long anything settled, sure and peaceful will last. But I have learned the secret of culling His peace here and now, for the Heaven on earth moments Jesus talked about are found in the miracles of each day. Real faith is found in between the everyday wrangling of trying to figure it all out; wondering how in the world the pieces are all going to come together.

Peace begins when we figure out God doesn’t expect us to figure it all out, but to trust that He already has.

My dreams are restless…..night before last, everyone was ready for the party except me, everybody lined up ready to go, polished and looking their best and I was late. I could find nothing to wear, even my underwear disappeared.

Last night it I was in my Grandmother’s old  house on 501 South Lee with a black panther, I was thankful for those two pocket doors between the kitchen and living room and the kitchen and the den. I slipped those closed as the panther prowled beyond them.

And then I threw a party where everyone wanted to leave early.

Across the 600 plus miles between here and there, I feel my Mom’s burdens as she struggles with things that are difficult and things she can’t do at all. The sand in the hour-glass I see in my mind is pouring through faster with each passing year. A daughter understands a Mother’s burdens more than anyone and we both know it.

I also see my Dad longing for the peace that comes from not being able to do as much, fix as much, be as much in his own eyes, but not in mine.

It’s these in between times where fear nips at our heels at the uncertainty of life that our faith grows. It learns to live and breathe when we swim to the surface and break free,  to stop thrashing about and see the ring God throws over the side of the boat.

I am so grateful for the peaceful rhythm that flows through these days. It’s what I have right now and I don’t want to miss anything by worrying about what will happen tomorrow. For God already has that.

He holds us all in His palm. He says: “Look behind you and see everything I have brought you through……..that’s your future!”

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it. Isaiah…..30:15