Friday, October 30, 2015

then grace steps in

Sometimes you don't see the grace in your day until it has already passed.  And other times, your eyes are so wide open that grace smacks you in the face and you almost have to laugh at how real God is.

After I was stuck with a small thorn in my side, and contemplating marinating in a mix of self pity and guilt, grace stepped in.  A baby that was handed to me, and slept on my chest for 40 minutes.  The unexpected voices that sang Amazing Grace at morning mass.  The coffee date with a friend who craves the knowledge and wisdom of faith as much as I do.  The half hour call with my kids therapist who put me ease, assured me everything was OK, and made my life feel less in crisis than it usually does.  And then Carol.

Unplanned, I stepped into the church for one last prayer before heading home.  Carol was there.  "Oh, I didn't recognize you", she said.  Carol is in her 80's, and she was looking frail.  "You lost weight" I told her, as my arms wrapped around her tiny shoulders.  "I had breast cancer" she flat out told me.  Which means that that time at Panera when I was picking up dinner and ran into her and complained about how hard my move into the new home was...she had breast cancer.
"Oh no" was all I could get out of my selfish mouth.

She asked about my Bible Study, and we briefly talked about life, and before we parted she asked, "Would you say a prayer for my husband?  He is in hospice at home now.  I have a care taker there."
I told her of course, and asked for his name, but all I could think was, "good grief, does it ever get easy?"  

And with her sweet, soft face, and snow white hair, she smiled, and as if reading my mind she said, "You know, I remember when my father was in his 70's and I asked him, 'Dad, is it easy now??'  And after dead silence, he finally answered.  He said, 'Carol?  It is all hard.'"

Then with a twinkle in her eye, she shook her head smiling and said, "but we keep on trucking."

Carol left and I walked up to the altar, got down on my knees, and stayed at the feet of Jesus. Through tears I asked Him, "Why IS it so hard?" and before I could get an answer I opened my eyes and focused in on His hands. The nails. The wounds.  And like a bolt of lightning I realized-of course it is all hard. Look at you.  Nailed to the cross. MY nails in your hands. You are up there for me.  For my hard stuff. What better way to get close to you than to to do the hard stuff with you.

I don't pretend to ever think that any good thought I have is ever my own.  Nor do I pretend that the baby on my chest, the dear friend and coffee, the lyrics "amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me", the encouraging words over the phone, or running into Carol, were all things that happened by me.  Because of me.  It is HIM.  It is His grace.  And His grace swirls around me, around you, around all of us.  It is in the baby's breath, and in the 80 year old eyes, it is in the hard stuff he gifts me with, assuring I stay planted at His feet, the strength that keeps me trucking on and on.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

if you are broken

This is what I am thinking about.

When you break your iPhone, you take it to the apple store.
When your car breaks, you take it to the dealership.
If your camera breaks, you send it back to the manufacturer.
Because whoever made it, knows it best.
Whoever put it together, knows exactly how to fix it.

If you are broken, troubled, burdened, weary, sick, angry, lost, or lonely....stop searching for your help in false idols, and go to the One who made you, who knows you best.
He put you together.
He holds the pieces.
He knows exactly how to fix you.

It just makes sense.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

He sends a large fish

As we drove into our driveway, my teenage daughter eyed the two deflated balloons, still hanging from a party two weeks ago, tied desperately to the hanging sign post, looking like a couple of breasts that just nursed their 9th child.  "I am going to take those balloons down.  I refuse to be that house with the deflated balloons", she told me.

I, too, refused to be lots of things, back in the day.

Last night I was woken up by a strange sound of running water.  I shot up out of bed.  Clearly the roof was about to cave in from the rain and I was seconds away from being crushed to death.  Only it wasn't raining.  So obviously, an intruder had broken in, and he was showering before stabbing me to death. A shadow emerged at the bottom of the steps, and I recognized the form immediately. It was my son. He climbed up the stairs, half asleep, sat on my bed, looking tired and confused.  I peeked down the stairs to confirm that there was no intruder freshening up in my bathroom before striking, but rather, my son had gotten out of his bed and peed on his carpet.  He peed a lot. I threw a towel on top of the soaked spot, and went back to bed.  I probably should have cleaned it up.

This morning I set my yellow highlighter down next to my Bible on the coffee table, and came back to find the highlighter gone....but my dogs fur neon yellow.  I suppose I should have looked for the marker, and washed the dog.

Should have...used to do...suppose I should...thought I would never.
I could go on and on about all of the things I said I would never do or be.
I could write a book about all of the things I have let slide and let go.
I could fill a room with all of the times I didn't obey God.
And not that failing to take down balloons, or jumping up to clean a carpet or dog is disobeying God.  But it is a slippery slope, isn't  it?  Small acts of laziness lend themselves to disobedience, and have the ability to grow into bigger habits of neglect.  Huge sins don't happen over night. They are born small. It is our laziness to correct them that continually feeds them.  And it has been my experience that if you do not wish for something to grow big, don't feed it.

And so I have been thinking about Jonah a lot lately. Not the Jonah from that boy band, but Jonah the guy in the Old Testament, in the belly of the whale.  Jonah didn't listen to God.  Jonah refused to be who God asked him to be.  And because of his lack of obedience, things got ugly for the guy, and Jonah ends up getting thrown into a raging sea, surely to drown. "But the Lord sent a large fish" and put him in the belly of a whale for three days.  And that might sound drastic, and well, kind of gross, not to mention really impossible.  But that is the story and God is the author, and so we go with it.  Three days.  Inside of a whale.   And there, in the darkness, what did Jonah do?
"From the belly of the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God.  Then the Lord commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore." 

That list, those books, that room I could fill with all of my regrets?  Maybe they were needed.  Maybe I needed to become that woman, that house, that person I swore I would never be, to be the woman, wife and mom I am today, and still have yet to grow into.  Maybe I still need those moments to be exactly what it is I do not want to be, in order to become who God has created me to be.  I am not hoping I continue on a road of disobedience or laziness.  But I do hope in the truth that God is pretty much an expert at taking my mess and pulling something beautiful and unexpected out of it.  I know this, because I have witnessed it for myself.

The deflated balloons, by the way, are still hanging.
The pee soaked carpet has yet to be cleaned.
As I write, my neon dog is snuggled up close to my side.
The laziness to get up and do something about any of this, I believe, has been fed by the fact that my husband traveled for the last two weeks, I have been sick, kids have had fevers, and well, I am exhausted.
And exhaustion can be scary.
Exhausted is how the devil likes me.
I am more sensitive, low on patience, and incredibly self-critical and absorbed, when I am exhausted.
In truth, the last two days have been rough on me.  Because my focus has been inward, and not on what is above, I have felt disappointed, alone, unattractive, and taken for granted.  My selfishness and lack of eternal perspective has me feeling as if I have been thrown overboard, into the raging sea; a sea of what I could have been, who I used to be, how I have failed, and what I will never become.  Surely, I am destined to drown.

But then He sends a large fish.

And when I quiet my heart, and close my eyes, I see this anchor of hope.
No matter how strong the waves, or how deep the sea, I have this anchor of hope.
Even when I feel I have drifted from where He wants me to be, He has me secure.
Even when I refuse His guidance, and insist on my own way, he keeps me tethered.
Even when I feel like I am drowning, he reaches out, draws me near, and gently reminds me to step out of myself, and into His arms.

It is here, in the darkness, He invites me into prayer.
Here, in the belly of the fish.

Friday, October 2, 2015

why Jesus calls over a child

Today’s Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5, 10  

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels
Transitioning back to school has been tough this year. There have been lots of notes sent home from the teacher, many phone conversations, and lots and lots of tears (and most of them mine!)
Waiting for the bus the other morning, my eight-year-old son, the one suffering through these hard days of back-to-school, suggested he could say his own prayer. I said sure, and asked him, “What do you want to thank God for today?” He said, “My life.” Then I asked, “What is one thing you would like to ask God to help you with today?” and he said, “Paying attention.” Then I asked, “Is there one person in particular you would like to ask God to protect? Someone you want to say extra prayers for?”
Now, I will be completely honest. I was hoping he would say “my mom.” I was sure he was going to pick me. I felt deserving of the extra prayer. But he didn’t. Do you know what he prayed for?
“I pray for everyone who needs more help than me.”
This is the reason when asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus calls over a child.


In what ways do you need to turn and become like a child?


Jesus, thank you for my life, help me to pay attention, and I pray for everyone who needs more help than me. Amen.