Friday, November 16, 2012

Discovering the Miracle of Eucharisteo

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything — or destroy it!  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it.*

This is the truth – and I know it all too well. My family knows it all too well. My daughter knows it all too well. Why is it, that with all my best intentions, the ones I love the most inevitably bear the harshest brunt of my worst failings? Tensions and my temper – already primed like a flash grenade – have not always done well in these past several years as we have struggled in and out of stability and in the ever-looming face of the unknown. They run high and on a hair trigger – ready to detonate at the slightest provocation. And like a flash grenade can impair vision, cause hearing loss, disorient, and upend balance for long, aching moments.

But things are changing. The tides are turning. The Spirit is moving.

A friend’s Facebook post led me to the discovery of Ann Voskamp and her book 1000 Gifts, and the Joy Dare. Which led me to her blog: aholyexperience, which led to the writing community, Allume; which led to the online community, (in)courage; which led to oh my word – a re-thinking, a re-focusing – a re-imagining if you will – of my own writing, my own blogging, my own living. And me starting to make my own list. And counting. And thanking. And discovering Eucharisteo – which is giving thanks and grace and joy all wrapped up together. And trying to live fully in the midst of my unending inexplicable mess and my desert wanderings. Striving to remember what Ann writes: “thanksgiving comes before the miracle.” And then …

One night after work, instead of a sweet, happy grin peeking in through the window to pick me up, there was the saddest little face, all full of tears and woe. I walked out into the cold and dark and she was stricken and torn, and could barely talk about it. I tried to coax it out and puzzle out what was wrong, but she kept crying pulling away and saying: but you’ll be so mad. And I don’t want you to be mad.

By the talented Ursula Abresch
And then my heart broke again. Because I know what I look like (what I sound like)  – what I’ve looked like – when I go off the rails and get mad and blow up and my tongue loses control and I send the whole world up in smoke with my anger. I know. So I just pulled her close and said, tell me, just as soft as I could. And she did.

And then there was the miracle.

Because maybe three or four weeks before, I probably would have sparked mad and gone off the rails over nothing; turning harmony to chaos. But somehow, I just held her close. And loved her. And said that it was okay. And that I wasn’t mad – really – could she really see that I wasn’t mad. And that I loved her and that it was going to be okay. And there was grace pouring down and I said thank you again. Breathed out thank you again up into the deep blue of the night sky to God who was working and mending. And prayed that it wouldn’t just be this one time. That He’d keep fixing the broken bits of me.

And He is. Because the miracle happened again. Just this morning. When she decided to put every bit of the whole new tube of toothpaste down the drain. To see if it would clean the drain. Maybe that will make no sense to you – why get mad about toothpaste? (Because it’s wasteful. And pointless.) And when you’re living on the edge of stability and cutting every corner’s corner, every penny counts. A new tube of toothpaste is supposed to last for at least a month and be one less thing you have to spend your tiny bits of money on the next time you’re at the store. And yes. I probably would have gone all flash bang grenade on that one too. But I didn’t. I actually laughed. Out loud. Tweaked her nose, made her smile, and said, silly girl, what did you do that for? Breathed oh, thank you Lord again. And that was a grace note of joy all in itself. 

*James 3: 5-6ish MSG

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Way Through Wondering

It came. Another phone call with not good news. Not devastating news. Not life threatening news. Just not good news. In a long, long line of not good news. I felt it like a punch in my gut – stronger than a catch in my throat. I wanted to freeze time right there so I could crawl under my desk and just sob. And to be honest – kick something. Very hard.

A friend had recently sent a passage from the Psalms to me and the verses immediately sprang to mind:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

That’s what I would be crying out from under my desk: How. Long?

There are times in our lives that God takes us on a path that makes no sense to us. We can see nothing. The way is not clear. And then things are resolved, and in retrospect – with the clear view of hindsight – we can see the orchestrations of His hand. I’ve been there. I’ve been through. I’ve seen.

But right now, I’m in the midst of a path I cannot discern – it’s the longest one He’s asked me to walk so far in this life. And it hurts. Every once in a while I get a glimpse of a miracle; a fleeting glance of something amazing revealed. But so many times, I just struggle along asking, “how long?” I write about this path as my desert. My journey of dryness. My discovery of dependence. My revelation of dying. Because there’s so much in me that needs to be stripped away. I need so much to be pared down to what Christ will reveal in me. So I can hear Him speak clearly. So I can become what I am meant to be.

God speaks in so many ways, and in my devotional this morning were words that were meant for a day such as this – a day with not good news:

Your sense of security must not rest in your possessions or in things going your way. I am training you to depend on Me alone, finding fulfillment in My Presence. This entails being satisfied with much or with little, accepting either as My will for the moment. Instead of grasping and controlling, you are learning to release and receive. Cultivate this receptive stance by trusting Me in every situation.

That would fairly cover so many of the things I struggle with. The things I need to let go of. The friend that sent me the Psalm reminded me that our God is large enough to bear our cries and our laments. He is large enough to survive our inconsistencies. He is large enough to carry our frustrations – and oh, help me – even our anger. If we remember to come back to Him with thanksgiving in our heart. Because we do not thank Him or Praise Him because of what He give us or does for us (although we can and surely do), but simply because of who He is. And so we can say with David,

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me

I am trying. Trying and learning to counteract bad news, heartache, frustration, and anger with thanksgiving. This is a tough lesson for me. And yet, the truth of it is in there: it is harder to remain angry or sad with thanksgiving in your heart.

Psalm verses from Psalm 13 (ESV). Devotional excerpt from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Trick of Transparency

Lately, I’ve been challenged to be real. To be authentic. To be transparent. To be honest.

I’m laughing.  In that painful, reality-smacks-you-in-the-face kind of way.

I could have stopped that first sentence at “lately, I’ve been challenged.” And that’s exactly what makes the rest of it such a challenge. Or to not be so polite - so damn hard. Authenticity. Transparency. Honesty. Being real. It’s what so many of us want; what we're encouraged to strive for in our lives. But what happens when reality is too real. Too authentic? Let’s be honest – too scary? Can it be too real? Do you ever wonder, "will I be understood (accepted) if I let people see what really is real?"

It’s much easier to try and simulate real. To give an illustrious illusion of what real is – a measure of how much of our reality we think people around us can handle. Or me, speaking from my core – how much of my reality I think people can take before they take a real good look and run screaming from my presence. Because sometimes, I think that’s what would happen if I let everyone around me see what the real me actually looks like.

Am I willing to let go of this fa├žade that friends and family have? I know what some think they see – I’ve played with the word brainstorming; done the exercises; tagged friends in the online games. Lovely, descriptive, admirable words come pouring back upon me like a shower of gifts: creative, loyal, driven, peaceful, resourceful, calming. You could almost imagine that I’m a nice person when you look at them. But I have hard time owning those words in their entirety. I don’t disavow them completely – because I’m striving to reach them. But I see others intertwined in their midst: darkness, frailty, brokenness, fractured incapability, lightning-fast impatience, and above all, a consuming anger that could set the world to flame. Would I still be loved and wanted if everyone around me could see the darkness that overwhelms me at times? It makes me a little bit mad to say, “Yes, I would care. Yes, I still want to be loved.”

At times – so much of the time. Lately – it’s all I can do to keep my head above water – to keep on breathing. To keep smiling. To keep going on. And so I’m trying to keep going. To keep moving forward. Because that’s what you do. You can’t stand still because then you just start sliding backwards. And the last place I need to go is back. In going forward, I am making intentional steps towards something more; something better. Taking my mess and making it matter.

I read recently that we need our messy stories. We need to write them and we need to share them. Because sharing them allows the Spirit of God to bind up our wounds and the wounds of those who read them and are impacted by them. But it's a risk – that trick of transparency – being brave enough to show your mess to the world. So I'm choosing to be brave – a little braver each day – a little braver each time I write. And trust that in revealing my own mess, somewhere, the Spirit will bind up a wound, and spill grace abundant into someone's life. Leaving them just a little bit less alone in their mess.