Monday, May 30, 2011

Think Memorial Day, think Buffalo

It's Memorial Day and flags and graveside flowers abound. This is moving me in a non traditional way. Today I want to center my holiday around resourcefulness. So if this day finds you grieving loss, I mourn with you. I am completely aware that loss can take many forms, whether it is a loss through death, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, lost focus, lost ground or lost traction in your life. We all lose in life, and it wounds us. So help me digest the idea of being resourceful with our losses, you can't lose anything more by trying.

Whenever someone uses the world "resourceful" my mind immediately feeds me an image of a buffalo, in a field. And yes this went on before I moved to Oklahoma. I am pretty sure I imagine buffalo because when I was younger, all my grade school teachers got together once a year to see how often they could talk about buffalo. And more specifically how the Native Americans hunted buffalo, and used every part of it, not wasting a thing, not even a hoof. I am pretty sure I heard the Native Americans / buffalo lesson no less than 37 times before 6th grade. So when I think of the word resourceful I think of buffalo, every time. Well done grade school teachers, well done.

Ahh the majestic buffalo, let us drink in his majesty....

In spite of the repetitious nature of the buffalo lesson it has always fascinated me and I love the concept of not wasting anything. I like to recycle and I really want a compost tumbler. It may look like extra work to you but it jives with the very nature of who God is changing me into, I don't want to waste anything. Not a yogurt tub, not a moment with a friend, not a chance to grow, nothing.

This is a very God inspired movement I assure you. If you need proof read with me in John 9. I love John 9, because it's all about resourcefulness (among a ton of other things). Do you need me to link you to it and make your holiday a little more relaxing? Well fine, click here and type in John 9. I recommend you try either the message or the NIV versions, they are both delicious.

So there you have it, in summary Jesus and his disciples encounter a blind man, who has been blind his whole life. And in keeping with the thoughts of their day the disciples want to know why he is blind, they need an answer for why God would cause this man to be born this way (now you can sing lady gaga all day long, you're welcome) Anyway, then Jesus redirects completely and tells them to quit focusing on "why" and instead focus on "what." What can God do through this? How can God be glorified? And then he tells them, hey as long as you have daylight, (ie: if you are alive) ask this question: What can you do today that lines up with God's work? You have pain? Glorify.

The man at the gate had a painful life, his days consisted of begging for the cash he needed to meet the most basic of needs. He didn't just lose his sight, he never had it to begin with. If you follow human logic he had every right be pissed at God, and demand why he didn't get his fair share of the five senses. However, Jesus isn't interested in explaining why, he skips that path completely and heads straight in to the concept of glorifying God in spite of it.

I like to use the first few books of Genesis as a foundation for the rest of the bible. God didn't create us with pain, disease or death, but because sin entered the world we have to live in a world where those things are our reality. God didn't choose the pain for us, we sinned and it all fell apart. After that we had to learn to follow God in new parameters. To have a relationship with him sight unseen and to live lives that will end in bodies that will fail. So if you are like me you do not believe that God is on a throne somewhere up there sending death and pain at us like lightening bolts. He's not in heaving yelling: "Cancer for you! And depression to you! And a best friend in a car accident to you!" I think that when people say "This was a part of his plan for you"
at funerals or in hospital rooms it creates that version of God, and really confuses people.

To sum this idea up, God didn't send you this. Whatever your "this" is, it's part of our broken world. Your pain is not a punishment, you didn't directly cause your "this." But you are responsible for how you handle it, and you are called to glorify God in spite of it.

So if today finds you heavy with the loss of something, take heart and take a deep breath. Slowly start to shift the way you think about your loss. Start to imagine the beautiful things that can come out of it, and grow to trust God again. It would be hard to serve lightening bolt, cancer sending God. The good news is that you don't have to. The bible teaches us that God hurts when we hurt, painful loss wasn't part of his plan A for his children. However we live in plan B world, were hurt happens, and sometimes it happens, and happens, and happens.

So allow your wounds to heal in light of how much he loves you. Talk to someone who has been there and chooses life in spite of pain. Take their hand and let them help you along. After you have done that a bit, take a look around and I can almost guarantee you will find someone else hurting in the same way you were. Grab their hand and help them start to move forward. Let us be resourceful together with our hurts and losses as we remain faithful in God's work of redeeming what is broken.

Go team buffalo.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Can't relate

For the last 4 days we have been celebrating my newly two year-old daughter. Even now our kitchen is brightened by birthday decorations, and I think I am going to let the celebrating continue, it's biblical, it's refreshing and our family loves to party. Also I got most of the decorations up yesterday and I like them, I'm not ready to part with my hard work.

Changing topics: This morning I have been doing some serious pondering and puzzling and I am going to give you the gift of my honesty and confession. Today neither of our kids woke up at all until 5:30 AM, this is new for us these past few weeks as they seem to enjoy playing musical needs all night along. So I stayed up after I fed my little guy and started in on some bible time. And I am ashamed to admit I actually had this thought: "If I get my God time out of the way now I can look at magazines and read my book over coffee before everyone else gets up." So yeah, apparently I view time with God, the God of the universe and beyond, as something to get out of the way so I can flip through a magazine. How ridiculous and all-wrong of me.

I believe in God, but I don't really grasp the idea of relating with Jesus in this whole relationship with Jesus thing.

This shameful thought led me to revisit some of the things I picked up at Bible College, one of the most central of which was the concept of world-view. If you break down the word world-view it defines itself. How do you view the world? What beliefs or experiences are at work governing the way you process information and make decisions. For example, if you believe you are bulletproof and immortal, you would regularly eat the BK quad-stacker or the KFC double-down (so much meat!). If you believe garden spiders are life-threatening you would jump on a chair and scream should one show up in your kitchen. On a more serious note, if you believe that God is good and his love permeates your life you would feel safe in all circumstances and one of your life's goals would be to share this news and love in the way you live.

So here is how I am connecting world-view with my lack of passion for doing my quiet time with God. I believe in the bible, and what it teaches heavily impacts how I live my life and respond to the situations and issues that I am faced with. I believe this truth like I believe in gravity. The truth of God is deep within the way my mind processes life, and this is no easy task and it is to be celebrated. I believe that I will spend my life trying to weave this truth into the deepest levels of my thinking and believing. I want to take my past experiences and future plans and continuously look at them in the light of the truth of God. I want to unlearn dark and wrong beliefs and replace them with this truth. However, here is the kicker: I am almost all world-view when it comes to God and not very heavy on the relationship side of things. I believe the truth, and I strive to live it, but the concept of relating to God is a struggle. I am not good at carving out time to sit with him, truth to be told I am not good at carving out time to sit, period.

There are old hymns and new songs that speak to knowing him, hearing him, walking with him and talking with him. I want more of this in addition to my deep level, life-governing world-view. I know how to think about God, but relating with him in actual space and time now, it's a struggle. Is relating to a God you can't have an actual conversation with supposed to be easy? On the other hand I believe that I relate to him in others as we are all carrying this truth and love that we share, but I am talking about actual quiet time, moment by moment relationship with God.

Am I looking at this all wrong? Does anyone else feel like they are either missing it? I need fresh eyes and a new perspective, I need a deepened desire to be still and to listen for his voice. I need to clear a wide amount of room for God in my daily life, in my TIME and not just my thought processes. Has anyone else been where I am today who isn't here now and is willing to help me along? Or, are you where I am and we can journey this together?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wide View

For the last week I have been enjoying and exploring all that is the Salt Lake City area of Utah. I went to visit my good friend Jenni and her family. I had a fabulous trip and Utah offers everything I need in a city. Noelle expended her boundless energy at the aquarium, the children's museum, the farm at Thanksgiving Point and build a bear workshop. As for me, I bought $13 of pretentious cheese at the very foodie friendly Pirate O's and got to try a Crown Burger. This is a delicious meaty burger topped with a heap of extra-meaty pastrami, and I declare it to be delicious. Also the entire city is surrounded by majestic snow capped mountains, it's like a city that God made just for me. There was only one, make that two, small issues with my time in Salt Lake City. The day before I left I got food poisoning, and while I was there I developed two separate infections complete with fevers and more antibiotics. I have been sick more this year than any other year in my life, and it's only May. I have had to swim hard to stay above the water, and fight even harder to keep a somewhat positive attitude.

Last week I was playing with Noelle in Utah and starting to jump into the cycle of self pity. But as I stared at the mountains a single phrase popped into my head, "keep a wide view." In this moment I felt close to God, mostly because in my head the mountains are closer to God than just any ol spot, but the concept of a wide view felt so spiritual and refreshing to me. Yeah, I have been sick a ridiculous amount this year, and yeah I am still coming out of some really deep personal loss, but you know what? I choose a wide view. Twenty years from now this year will just be a portion of my life, a season, a small part of the awesome picture God is painting with my time on this earth. In the middle of the pain and the doctor's visits and the frustration, if I can remember to keep a wide view, big picture attitude, I will survive and thrive in the worst circumstances. Someday my life will be a story to be told by those that remember it, and this will be a chapter in a book that I hope impacts this world in a very unique way.

I am still dealing with the loss of my Mom and I am beyond tired of fighting infections, but this will pass and I will feel healthy and strong again, I can feel it. Life holds too much beauty to focus on momentary issues.

I choose the wide view.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mothers Day and Hope

So, this past Sunday was Mother's day, and for me it overflowed with an immense range of emotions. It seemed to all center around the concept of hope, both new hope with its endless possibility and crushed hope with its painful finality. For starters, it was my first Mother's day as a mom of two, and we were having Caedmon dedicated at church that morning surrounded by friends and family. I have so much hope for our kids, I want them to feel free and safe and loved. It was my first Mother's day without my Mom, she lost her battle with depression last October, and all the hopes and prayers I had for her healing and freedom went with her. And to add weight to my already heavy heart, one of my students from UCM, Stacy, had died of a drug overdose just the day before. I have so much hope for all of our students and to lose one to drugs was a kick in the gut. I had special hope for Stacy, and I told her this often.

And so there I was Mother's day morning with my tummy full of a tasty French Toast breakfast made by Kel, on my way to church. As we made our way to the front with all the other parents I started to lose it. There I was holding my son, a little guy with a life full of hope, a little guy my Mom never got to meet because all the hopes I had for her couldn't save her from depression. And on my heart was a student who I loved, and encouraged, and prayed for, gone in an instant from a bad choice on a Friday night. So I was holding hope in my arms while my heart was heavy from hope that didn't pan out. I am fairly certain I was the only Mom up there weeping, just trying to process the dichotomy of this world we live in where the beauty of dedicating my sweet son and the tragedy of sudden death coexist in my heart.

Some days are heavy with bitter pain and some days are as light as meringue or whipped cream, and just as sweet. I think the ones that really get me are the bittersweet ones, trying to feel immense joy and sadness at the same time. It seems like they don't belong together, like they should be corralled apart from each other, and experienced separately. But life is messy, isn't it?

The more I do life on this planet the more I come to realize that it's not black and white and it is certainly messy. There are at least a million less absolutes than there were when I was in college. When I was sure I had it mostly figured out, as long as it didn't involve managing money or going to bed before midnight I was an expert. But now? I don't have it even close to all figured out, and I am at peace with that. I have completely stopped trying to figure out why things happen. I choose to focus on what, as in "now what?" I choose to live in spite of things and I choose to live in response to things. And I refuse to give up hope, even when it's budding out of the ashes of something lost.

So Happy Mother's Day, hold on to hope and don't forget to water the flowers you inevitably received. I always get hanging baskets, because that's the way it should be, you just can't celebrate a mom with out suspended flowers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Saltine Diet

I feel like I have been hungry for a long time. I've been starving really, like the kind of hungry where you are ready to tuck in to a holiday feast, with pie and appetizers. This hunger hasn't been for food, although I do love food don't get me wrong.

I've been hungry to connect with people, with friends, with family. I want a good long meal filled with good food, laughter, and that comfortable feeling you have when you can be totally safe with someone. Where you're not fearing judgment because you know you are safe, loved, and known. However most of my communication these days comes from texts, tweets, and e-messages in various forms. These feel like saltines for my hungry soul. When you are so hungry you are about to eat your own arm and someone hands you one saltine it's a joke! You are thankful for a little something to chew on, but you need a whole lot more than this one little saltine. It won't last.

Does anyone else feel like our techy forms of connection aren't cutting it? Does anyone else long to have a good deep belly laugh instead of a twitter-inspired chuckle? Does anyone else want to eat pot roast together rather than take out alone over their iPhone? Is it just me or does anyone else feel like we are missing out on the connection God really had for us because face to face is so much more than pictures on a screen. The mountain view of the actual mountains can not be captured in a screen shot.

This whole year God has been calling me to something deeper. To something more satisfying. So I am going to throw some more dinner parties and try to get some more play dates. I am going to open up my home to friends in the hopes that they want to connect as much as I do.

This isn't whining, or a guilt trip to you the reader. It's a manifesto, a mini or maxi revolution. I don't want to leave this earth not knowing those I love as fully as I can. I want to be known, to open up my closed off heart and be vulnerable. I want more connection with real friends and less casual contact with acquaintances.

So many poets have written about drinking deeply of this life. I am certain I am not alone in this world or in this time. Lonely is a human condition, we aren't in the garden with our Lord anymore, there is this rift which isn't healed yet. He is the only one who knows us fully and we aren't in face to face relationship with him right now. However he lives in each of us, so lets connect with each other and get as close as we can.

Go team.
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