Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gone Fishin


I looked up from watering my roses to see the dirtiest kid ever running in my direction barefoot and wearing only overalls carrying a fishing pole.

I like kids.  No, really, I do.  Especially clean, funny kids.  At that moment he was neither to me.

"Lady?"  I almost didn't answer, but I'm afraid of being the single crazy cat lady in the neighborhood that makes all the children afraid so.....  

"Hey, what's up?"

"Lady, do you have any worms?"

"Worms?" I asked borderline condescendingly.  

No person child or adult has ever looked at me like he did.  His face twisted into this look like adults were just the saddest people and he flat felt sorry for them.

I jumped back as he said at 10 level loud, "WORMS!  FOR FISHIN!  WORMS!"

It took me a minute to remember he was a minor and beating him up would probably make me a bad person.

"Oh," I said stepping back, "no, sorry, I don't."

Exasperated, he put down his fishing pole and folded his arms across some unknown slime on his too big overalls.  He got uncomfortably close to me before asking for real condescendingly, "do you THINK you could help me FIND some?"

I looked at my manicured fingernails and back at the at this point scary little person and heard myself say, "Um, ok?"

So, we dug around in the dirt with great purpose and found a few worms.  It was, perhaps, the best way I've spent 10 minutes lately.  He picked up his fishing pole, stuck the worms in his front pocket and hopped off down the road stopping only to stomp in a puddle along the way.  

I sat on my front step and smiled.  I prayed for that little boy that he would always have childlike faith and never forget to jump in puddles.  I prayed that whenever he needed help, someone would be there - even if it was just to find a little bait for a fishin trip.

And I prayed he would catch a fish because I like to think the smile on a child's face brings one to God's, too.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Confirmation - one year later

Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?

I do, and with God's grace I will follow him as my Savior and Lord.
Truth be told, I wasn't sure it was going to be that big of a deal.  I had just spent a year of my life in the trenches trying to convince people who weren't listening I was not going to Hell because I walked out the door of one denomination and into the doors of another.  And maybe, just a tiny bit, I was trying to convince myself, too. 

God knows I tried to find out for myself why joining the Episcopal Church was such a terrible idea.  But, it wasn't working.  I read doctrine and history.  I listened as people told me what the church meant to them.  Probably with arms crossed I told the priest during one of my confirmation sessions, "I'm not going to agree with everything in the Episcopal Church." 

She never missed a beat.  "Okay, that's fine."  Quickly apparent to me was this church let you think and have an opinion.  Fascinating! 

I even made a pro/con list, but never got past the first pro - "God led me to Christ Church."  I don't believe you can always trust your feelings, but sometimes you just know.  Run around, read a bunch of stuff, drive yourself crazy if you want to, but when God speaks - listen.

It's my experience that the important decisions are often fraught with opposition.  Test of faith?  Maybe.  An opportunity for God to get all the credit?  Absolutely.  And I'll gladly give it to Him because I still find myself at the altar sometimes thinking, "Wait, what?  How did I end up here?"

Confirmation was a spiritual line in the sand for me; a leap from confusion to confidence.  Oh, I loved the same God before and after.  My faith remained.  But, I was different.  And maybe that's the point of any true spiritual transformation anyway. 

God doesn't need me to defend Him or what he's up to in my life.  He only needs me to follow Him as my Lord and Savior.  And I will continue to.  With God's grace.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brave Enough

Scripture is often frustrating in an attempt to be helpful.
                Worried?  Don’t be!
                Anxious?  Don’t be!
                Afraid?  Don’t be!

Uh huh.  If my genuine leather copy of Holy Scripture didn’t cost more than 2 pairs of heels, I might be tempted to dramatically throw it in the air and scream, “Easier said than done, God!  Easier said than done.” 

But, courage and bravery have been echoing in my heart lately.  I’m fragile.  I get hurt too easily and break too permanently.  I proclaim that God is enough and then act like He couldn’t possibly be. 

Warning: if you ever have a book published, people will use your own words against you and you will hate it! 

God has helped me lately to dig through some emotional garbage and find the truth.  And the truth is, I have to be braver. 

Brave enough to realize I can and am doing life on my own and that’s okay.  I have to make every decision - career, financial, household, and life.  No one else is going to do it for me.  And brave enough to know I may feel alone sometimes, but God will never leave me.  He promises.

Brave enough to realize I love maybe too much.  Some, (not all!), but some of my relationships are painfully one sided and that’s not fair.  Quality relationships have to be give and take.  And I can be brave enough to know that some of them need to go.

Brave enough to realize I’m okay.  I’m not drop dead beautiful, anywhere near the perfect weight, or emotionally super stable most of the time, but I’ve made it this far when sometimes I never thought I would.  I did the work and I’m way more okay that I could have been.      

So, I’m praying for courage these days.  I’m not praying that I would be a super Christian with all the answers and a perfect relationship with God.  I’m not praying that life would go my way all the time and in every way.  I’m not even praying for miracles or signs or wonders.  I’m praying God would remind me that He loves me and that He would show his love through this cracked and fragile vessel.  I’m praying for an authentic life over a perfect one. 

I’m praying that I would always be His.

That I would be secure in Him.

And that no matter what comes……

I’ll be brave enough.      

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why I keep the Daily Office

The Daily Office is meant to be prayed together in community.  There have been few greater spiritual moments in my life than sitting in the pews with the monks at the abbey listening to the daily office prayed and sung seven times in a 24 hour period.  It feels stable and connected both with God and each other.  There is deep soul work done in the repetition of the words and the heart cry of prayers passed on for hundreds of years to the faithful few who dare to keep it. 

But we don’t have the luxury of constant community, so I often pray it on my own.  Over the years I have changed from exactly the written prayers to several others I’ve found along the way.  I love Celtic prayers and the prayers of the saints.  I rarely keep all the offices on any given day, but very few go by when I don’t keep the watch of Vigils at 3:15 a.m.  It’s been years since I’ve set my alarm for this office, but still around 3 I tend to wake up.  I no longer need a light to pray the prayers so often I soak up the darkness and stillness and find God to be very present to this life.  It's holy ground for me.

Sometimes it’s a 30 second prayer because I’m a firm believer the most spiritual thing we can do for ourselves at times is sleep.  But, more often than not, 3 a.m. finds me praying true soul prayers.  It’s my best writing and journal time.  And it’s the time of day I most feel loved by the Father.  I live as we all do in the tension of the now and the not yet of the spiritual life, and that is what 3 a.m. tends to be for me.  It’s not really night and it’s not really morning.  And God is present without distraction.

People always ask me how to pray the offices.  The short answer?  Do it.  I don’t believe in people telling me what to do so I wouldn’t suggest everyone pray vigils.  Last week I prayed morning prayer at 2 p.m. still in my pajamas.  Hey, it’s morning somewhere!  I have friends who faithfully pray an office at lunch and others when they wake.  Some like to end their day by praying Vespers or Compline.  It doesn’t matter.  Find what works for you and do it consistently.  There is great wisdom in the ancient spiritual fathers and those in monasteries today who create a discipline of prayer.  And if we’re faithful, we’ll soon find when it’s not a part of our days, we miss it.  And that’s how we nurture our spiritual lives.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Remembering Brennan Manning

Last year when Brennan Manning’s latest book came out, we had a little debate at the bookstore where I worked at the time.  Having loved his writing forever, I immediately added All is Grace to my bookshelf and my heart.  It was the final work of a man that had, more than once, saved my spiritual life.  And I never take those people for granted.  Never.
That day at the store someone suggested Brennan Manning maybe wasn’t a Christian because he struggled with addiction and doubts the entirety of his life.  They felt that maybe he never found Christ because he wasn’t ever truly free by worldly standards.  They didn’t think anything negative should consume the life forever of a true follower of Christ.  I refrained barely from making a comment about judgment, ahem, and said nothing. 

At some point we’re not supposed to struggle?  Is that even possible living in a place we don’t belong?  Aren’t the faith and the growth and the victory IN the struggle?  To reach a place where we are beyond stumbling and past falling would be……Heaven.  Literally.

I’m not a big crier, but the first copy of his book Abba’s Child I owned ended up with tear stained highlighter running off the book and onto the floor.  It was maybe the first time in my adult life I truly understood.  I was not just loved by God, I was unconditionally sought after, saved, and kept by the only One able to keep every promise and forgive every sin.  With Him, I belonged!

So, here’s to you Brennan Manning.  May you rest in peace knowing your transparent love of the Father and honest stumbling made those of us covered with patches and held together only by grace feel like we had company on the journey.  Enjoy being Home. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The church and depression

The recent news of Rick Warren's son committing suicide has not only rocked people individually, but the church as well.  I've written extensively on here about my own journey with depression and my spiritual thoughts about mental illness.  I'm certainly not saying every person having a bad day needs dragged to the altar for a splash of oil and a low key exorcism, but I am saying as the church we have got to get better at helping struggling people.  

Rick mentions in his letter to his church family that his son had everything possible available  for healing physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  He lived at least ten years longer than he wanted to and still last weekend he killed himself.  He died.  He's no longer here and if you want my two cents - he's in Heaven.

Check back later this week for my blog post How to go to Hell and stay there.  For now I'll say it's not up to us to assume everyone who commits suicide goes to Hell.  I happen to think God understands suffering much better than we do.  

Trust me on this - you can love God with everything you have and still not want to be here another second.  Even a soul saved by grace has a dark night sometimes.  And often that darkness lingers.   Despair is exhausting.

People don't have to be throwing themselves off a bridge to be dying.

And the Warren family tragedy is proof that the church can't save everyone from ending their life, or suffering, or feeling hopeless.  But, as a church we can be there and we can do better.  We can show up.  We can be in community enough to know how people are doing.  And how they're doing really.

Having all the answers is never a requirement for helping.  If you have hands then you can hold someone else.  If you have ears you can listen.  And if you have a heart you can help.  People would much rather hear, "I'm so sorry," than a 12 step solution for feeling better by Friday anyway.

As for eternal life, that's not up to us.  I like to think God picks up the bottle of tears to overflowing and feels the hurt.  He senses pain before we do.  He knows when hearts are broken and the repairs aren't holding.  He knows.

I echo the sentiment of Ruth Graham today who said, "When a believer takes their own life, God hasn't called them home, but He welcomes them home."