Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘God’

~Diaper-changing exacerbates any early-onset arthritis you may be in the process of acquiring.

~The Jehovah’s Witness that comes to the door and wakes everybody up at naptime comments, “I see you have a lovely grandchild!”

~Grabbing the child by the back of the OshKosh overalls while they’re attempting to escape, causes a pulled muscle underneath your rib cage. For eight days.

~You look forward to their nap time not so you can get the dishes and laundry done, but so that you can nap too, to gas up for the next round of their shenanigans.

~Your back goes out while bending over to pick up toys.

~You are eternally grateful to Pixar for making movies that you probably appreciate more than the child, since most the humor goes over their head.

~You’re rather appreciative of their willingness to pick up and eat dropped Cheerios off the floor; one less thing to have to sweep up.

~The only things you bother to discipline are the big ticket-things: non-flushable items flushed down the toilet, jumping on private parts and locking you out of the house or car.

~Make and stay friends with a nurse. It’ll save you hundreds in copays.

~There is no guilty conscience whatsoever in donating toys which require batteries, make noise or otherwise interfere with your increasingly-slowing thought process.

~They can actually outrun you now. And you just watch them recklessly fly down the street, as you rock in the rocking chair on the front porch. We’ll hook up sooner or later….

~They learn to be more creative and just as smart since you don’t have the energy to shove all manner of trendy sensory input down their throat. The metal spoon whacked against the pot makes just as fine (if not better) a drum, than the latest retail electronic Fisher-Price equivalent with all the bells and whistles. And the pot drives everybody just a hair crazier anyhow.

~No pants, no shirt, no problem: toilet training made easier…

~You are grateful he learned the hard way (but not too hard!) about why you kept telling him not to touch the stove…one less thing to have to harp on. He gets it now.

~You know the ropes, so you have 5 full years to prepare your argument to the school district as to why your child, born just two days after the cutoff, should be allowed to enter Kindergarten earlier than according to the letter of the law. Besides, it wasn’t your fault…the induction date was a hotly debated issue of negotiation due to an approaching hurricane at the time. Aw, c’mon…

~The line between naughty behavior and experiential learning has become more profoundly blurred.

~It is easier to appreciate the preoperational line of thinking: you understand that the act of charging Daddy unexpectedly from behind with the toilet plunger is an act of securing love, not a derelict violation of household protocol. After you holler at him.

~Maybe french fries in the car seat and animal crackers in bed ain’t so bad after all…they love running the vacuum “all by myself,” anyway.

~Accidentally dumped kitty’s water all over the kitchen floor? Needed mopping anyway. Thanks, kid!

~What goes in, must and will come out, by hook or by crook.

~No one can really tell which side of the debate one’s parents were on when it came to issues like co-sleeping, diapering or pacifiers…we all wind up being a little neurotic anyway.

~You hope they never notice that theirs is the only baby book of all the siblings that only had the first few pages filled out and everything else haphazardly jammed in the front flap, with no pictures because by the time they turned 1 everything was on memory stick anyway.

~Whoops! Who let him out to ride on his Very Noisy Little Tykes Motorcycle at 6 am after the neighbors kept everyone awake till 3 am with their too-loud party?

~You recognize the value of using the baby as a key accessory in the embarrassment of his middle school brother when warranted, until the middle school brother recognizes that the baby can be used as a chick magnet.

~Screen saver pictures at work effectively serve to elevate your status as a Wise Elder, since no one else can claim parenthood at such an old age, and you and your body have endured something they won’t. (Insert audio of Toy Story aliens: “Ooooooooh!”)

~Neither you nor child are quite of the age to really give a rip about too much. Let’s just see how things turn out…

~People are divided into 2 camps: those who assume, and those who can tell but don’t dare to ask.

~You are more inclined to let the crayon scribbles on the wall remain as a sentimental memento, so you can show his future spouse when you are introduced. Besides, the house would be so terribly dull and lifeless if every wall was perfectly maintained…

~All you can do is helplessly turn away and laugh instead of registering appropriate horror when the baby tries his hand at doing what his disabled brother was just admonished for doing in rapid succession at the Fall Festival: coming up behind women with disproportionately and outrageously gargantuan back porches, and losing his hand somewhere in their butt by trying to pat it, angelic smile upward when they generate an updraft by whirling around in shock to see who dared. Let ’em wonder which one in the crowd is the urchin’s mama…

~Beautiful women strike up conversations with Daddy in the grocery store, after cooing over the small, human lure strapped into the buggy.

~It is equally risky to use paid time off for anything but infirmity, since your body has entered its second childhood, and either of you are at risk of requiring sudden medical attention at any given moment. Falling out of a tree is about as easy as dislocating a hip by landing wrong on a meandering Lego.

~You’re the perfect cross between Willy Wonka and Andy Rooney.

Thank you God, for Your perfect timing in all things, for perspective and love. Do we keep You on Your toes, too, God?

Read Full Post »

I suppose it wasn’t really there after all. I must have been daydreaming. When you’re hanging at the beach, some things just kind of blur together, like the pod of dolphins the other day at one point clearly being a pod of dolphins, gradually fooling the eyes into trying to decipher what was bottlenose and what was fin and what was tall wave. The playful animals somehow melded into being waves. Eventually when the excitement wanes and you start questioning your own senses and sensibility, you learn to quit looking, and refocus anew on what is, on what was, to begin with.

I thought I saw a ship, of great proportions, traversing the horizon. It had a bright color that caught my eye, contrasting from the sea, and maintained a steady path, as long as I dared to watch.

While it caught my gaze, I imagined where it came from, how long it had stayed in port, and where it now headed, what it carried. The Sunday newspaper keeps a public record of such data, but it’s been a month of Sundays since I read a Sunday paper.

But the ship was real as long as I looked at it.

I was driving, though, and could only afford intermittent glances. I was driving fast, windows down, music loud, hair flying.

I know it was there. But then, I glanced again, and it was not. Simply slipped out of my vision, out of my reality.

It reminded me of the man I used to see come home on what I calculated must be his lunch hour, as I ran the last hill on my runs. His house was one of my reality checks – I used it to remind myself of my goal, since it was at the peak of the knoll, the hardest and steepest hill of the three I conquer on my usual 2.5 run. Once upon a time in the season of jasmine, I marveled at the tall southern pines which graced his front yard, with something that looked like clematis climbing up the trunks of each tree. They were so fragrant, I came to look forward to springtime runs, just to get to that last, steep incline. Each labored inhalation was rewarded. His front porch was typically Southern, a wraparound with ample rocking chairs and detail in the woodwork, beckoning one to stop for a glass of sweet tea (slice of lemon) in the fragrance of the climbing flowers. The trees, and the clinging flowers, disappeared up into the sky-blue like some Jack-in-the-Beanstalk fairy tale.

How I would have loved to stop!

But my course would have been ruined had I done so – I was compelled to finish what I began, compulsively dedicated to completing my circuit, and his house was only one stop on my way to my destination. How sad…and it always seemed…no, seems (I still go by) so inviting.

Through the spring and part of the summer, I saw him come home. He would be parked in the side driveway, sometimes standing on the porch, sometimes inside, sometimes conversing with his landscapers. Sometimes just standing there, yakking on his phone, or pausing to watch me and wave.

And I always kept going.

Although we saw each other nearly daily, he was a stranger, and I to him. He was at the end of my run, at the top of the steepest hill, and I could not, would not stop, no, never. Never meant to be. He and his coveted possessions were well out of my league. I would not be interested in such.

I had to keep running, keep my pace, knowing the end was near and soon I would have rest. But in that rest I often thought of how nice it would have been to stop my run short and crash on that ample front porch and get acquainted with the wealthy neighbor. He didn’t know me, not really. And I didn’t know him. No, we were Worlds Apart, on two different courses, two different schedules, two different paths. He may have thought he knew me; he probably imagined he knew me, but he would have been wrong. Someone like that and those Things could not have understood or known joy from someone like me and my things.

And, like the ship that I’m not sure ever really existed, he also ceased to exist after my weeks of illness which prevented me from my daily runs. I have gingerly, carefully resumed and gone back, as I sit at the lapping water here, but he no longer comes home for lunch. And I have not seen a ship like it on the horizon since, either.

Both are gone; I am alone, and left wondering if they ever really existed, or if they were figments of my imagination, like so many other things.

I suppose I was a figment, too…not quite real, not quite tangible. Just sort of, out there. Interesting to imagine, but not really existent.

There is safety in not really being real, not able to be figured out, comprehended, perceived fully. Perhaps it is best if figments remain figments, visions as visions, dreams as dreams. That way, things of intrigue remain as we wish for them to be thought of, and we do not run the risk of disappointment, should the harshness of reality not live up to our dreams.

Our dreams…our delusions…our mirages serve us well, to provide the comfort of distracted vision, and of hope and curiosity, without the pain of what is, what must be, no matter how satisfying what must be, is.

Both the ship and the man were elusive and surreal as they passed before what I thought was my reality, bringing interest and reason to look while they lingered in the periphery of my reality, ever just so out of reach and causing me to question my sanity, yet serving a purpose by challenging myself to keep looking and to keep running all at the same time.

Oh, why O why, didn’t I stop long enough to verify the existence of the ship? and the man? Was I afraid they’d be real? Or that I would have to change to accommodate their reality? Was it better that they came and went from what I thought was my vision, that they remained a part of the Unsure?

How bittersweet, never to know for sure. I could never pursue either, and must stay on my circuit.

Damn, today’s run was totally to mentally detox. The news at high noon (delivered in the best room with the best catered food which I didn’t eat) was supposed to be good, which I couldn’t swallow, either. It was good to everyone but me. My crestfallenness did not go unnoticed, and I know they saw me tear out of the parking lot on my run after the meeting with more vigor than usual Upon my return, I was swamped with Higher Visitors and calls from all angles, feeling me out, no one daring to ask. The Secret is not theirs to uncover, they knew. And I was helpless, speechless, unable to explain. Only someone like me could be living such a dual life in so many dimensions.

But the run was hard and fast, and the man wasn’t there…again. I guess I missed too many days, so it was…just…a run. And I returned to face reality, my dreams and thoughts and feelings sequestered to the depths of my inner being, where they are better kept behind the game face.

But nothing can erase the ship on the horizon. I know it was there. I know it seemed like it wasn’t at one point, but I can still see it, I can still picture it crossing my path when I had time to pause my gaze. It was big and bright and happy, and added perspective to the horizon. The fact idea that it was there gave enough impetus to relish the rest of the surroundings, even after it disappeared.

Even if it wasn’t real, it was…just for a moment…it really was. And if I willed it to be so for the sake of my sanity, is there anything wrong with that?

The fumes of belief fuel faith.

Read Full Post »

She was tired, nearing the finish, but still a ways away…pacing herself and thoroughly exhausted. The third hill had been a bitch, to say the least, after nearly 6 weeks straight of being sick. Recovering from surgery last spring after coming within minutes of losing her life,  had been much easier than resuming her old circuit lunchtime run. She wasn’t prepared for the endurance it would require, the perseverance, the determination to finish.

And then, afterwards, the grief of the loss of being finished. Phoo, having to return to reality.

She impatiently forwarded through the songs on her iPod to get just the right song to get to the sprinted finish, even though she didn’t know which song might suit her at the moment. All she wanted was motivation, hope,  and damn it, a little bit of fun to ease the pain. Her muscles were aching, lungs searing, and she was oblivious to the traffic as she darted across the busy road, staying focused on her goal to finish – sprinklers, ankle-twisters and common obstacles invisible.

Then she saw him. She had avoided this for months…for years…but there was no avoiding him now. He came up the hill, iPod strapped firmly to his well-developed bicep, keeping a pace that was intimidating at best. She couldn’t hide; he saw her and waved. She had to move toward him and get through the traffic and respond to his paused jogging on the other side of the busy road. Now she was unable to avoid giving the wrong impression, but wasn’t supposed to… it wouldn’t look right. She had fought this for so long. But now she had no choice. He beckoned and was waiting for her. No one else was watching, and there was nothing but more running to do. Innocent enough, she justified. Her passion for running spontaneously combined with divine and unforeseen opportunity.

She made it across the road and they resumed a good pace, running together with him in harmony, exchanging both smalltalk and insightful dialogue. She was reluctant to tell him she did not like to talk while she ran, preferred to dream inside her music and pace… part of the world, but not really part of it. But here she was, happy to be there anyway, because she loved the freedom of running. She wasn’t prepared for running with him, though. She thought she was, but once she really was, it was different. She felt different. It was exciting and wrong.

Yet she felt like she was a real runner, like someone unencumbered with disabilities and schedules and hangups in life. Without his even encouraging her, she felt like she could run the real race – not just this daily self-imposed jaunt – with competence, with speed, and without abandon. She was never one to talk on runs, but this time she talked, and was able to keep up a conversation. He was impressed with her, having seen her leave to go running 30 minutes earlier, and knowing that she had not stopped, that she had run alone and was intoxicated with endorphins…and she joined him anyway, running a route she had already completed by herself, but was gracious and eager to do again, partly because she wanted to for the hell of it, and partly because it communicated something to him about her. She wasn’t sure quite what – didn’t have the energy or wherewithal after the first half hour to second-guess what it meant to him. She just knew it was the right thing to do at the moment.

She became worried, though, during their run…what began as a casual, friendly pursuit, training for a marathon relay this winter, somehow turned into a competitive thing, with him envisioning all the benefits of coming out ahead at all costs, and her grieving all the people and things it would leave behind in the process. He admitted he was born with a competitive spirit – trained in his youth to go far and go long, and he could not appreciate (other than peripherally, from having polite little encounters) the people and things he would leave behind in his wake of pursuit, such as those who only wanted a taste of what he could do, or those who looked up to him and trusted him because he always said and did the right things. But somehow he always got ahead, and they always got left behind. Or those who could only dream of being like him, or being near him in his inner circle, because being around him brought them comfort and security. Funny thing was, he never really noticed it, he was so focused on competing with himself. But she listened without judging. And valued him for his sake.

But somehow, he remained an Untouchable, always being the best, always being the fastest, always being the guy nobody could catch up to. He never quite understood the plight of the Underlings. Although he said he did, he never really did. And he remained out of touch, but never really knowing it.

After we finished running the loop together, he noticed I was becoming increasingly silent. He lovingly checked on me, inquiring as to my silence and verbally acknowledging the change in my breathing and pace. I forgot my inhaler last night, I admitted. I could at once see the suppositions form in his head: how can that happen, is she negligent, is she damaged, is she less-than, why would anyone not ensure that they were in tip-top perfection at any given moment. I couldn’t answer, my breath escaped me, my lungs burned, but I knew I had to finish with him and get to the gate at the top of the hill. He was counting on me to be with him. As we continued up the hill, I feebly gasped that I was conserving my oxygen. He had heard enough times about my stories of overcoming asthma to finish a marathon, seen me enough times darting out the door with a big smile and my iPod blaring as my legs couldn’t contain the urge to start running even before the door shut behind me, and rolling in from of the parking lot, tank top saturated from beneath my breasts to my tummy, face red as the sun setting on the bay, music still blaring and my rock ‘n roll hair needing brushing, wild and free because my pony tail holder pounded itself out of my hair by the rhythm of my hard pace over time, oblivious to my transition from running reverie to reality.

He saw me all those times, but I didn’t really see him. I mean, I know I saw him, but I knew he was in another world, and I in another.

And yesterday I saw him. And I had to join him. And I wanted to. And because of that, I ran that extra mile, literally. I don’t know what he thought about it, but I think I benefited (although the scale today defies me). But I don’t want to think about it, because I wasn’t supposed to do that because the premise was, what would others think if they saw us running together? But the funny thing was, nobody saw us. And we ran. And it was lovely. But I paid for it dearly. And it was worth every molecule of oxygen, I tell you.

Alas, in all his glory, he ran away. Shortly before we saw the end coming, he acknowledged it and told me he was going to slay the dragons on up the road, since he got out of the gate later than I had, he was going to go on up the hill and conquer great horizons up towards the next traffic light. He alluded to the weaker folk not being allowed to run the race with us, and suggested ones he deemed worthy. I was worthy, of course, he said…and I knew this by how impressed he was by my having run this extra mile with him after he knew I’d already run three just before…,but they somehow I was not worthy. I knew he was right…the ones I had hoped to bring into the race to instill a sense of “you can, too!” were, by his competitive spirit, disqualified before they were allowed to register for the race. How would I tell my friends that others had been chosen? Would they be relieved and not look back? Would they feel more disheartened and separated from  Those Who Can?

Once upon a time, I had not been able to run three. I had not been able to run one-half. I had not been able to run two mailboxes away from my own house.

This saddened me.

He was so right, though, he couldn’t see any other right.

But for me to join the race, it took a marathon-runner to come along side me and slow down long enough to encourage me that I could do the same…and she stayed with me until I did. She didn’t run off to New York and do the NYC Marathon, like she planned, so she could improve her time for the Boston Marathon. No, she stayed in this Podunk town and reveled in encouraging me, marveling at how someone with asthma could really do what she knew I could do all along. She was also my disabled son’s occupational therapist, ironically. The year after the marathon, I wrote a nomination that won her an award for her accomplishments, and we had a blast going to the beach resort where she accepted the award. She didn’t win it for excelling in her athletic pursuits, or for helping my child with his disabilities.

She won it for believing in the unbelievable.

Back on the circuit, I suggested other races he might run to get that 13.1 sticker he covets to slap on the back of his wonderful SUV that the rest of us can’t afford. I encouraged him that if I can run a marathon with my asthma in honor of my disabled child, surely he, in his history of cross-country glory, can, too. He could aim higher than he currently is. He chided me for not gloating and putting the 26.2 sticker on every vehicle I own. He patronized me and maintained his perfectionistic, all-or-nothing thinking, “if I can’t do it in the time I deem appropriate, then it doesn’t matter and it’s not as meaningful.” He had the audacity to dictate that those we had previously committed to helping to train in the race, that they were likely too weak or unworthy, and would inhibit our race outcome.

He had the fever of success and pride. There was little I could say to him, or do for him, but wait. And accept. And love anyway.

Dang it, it all started as a goodwill, good fellowship, mutual encouragement thing for the race this winter. How did it come to this?!

How many races do we run that we deem our worst or our least, when they are victories for others? How many ways do we deceive ourselves into measuring our achievements in a way that somehow equate to how God measures us?

Apples and oranges.

Perhaps we need to look at our defeats and our shortcomings to grasp how God is measuring us.

Kneeling in front of the candles at the altar railing this Sunday, continuing to re-accustom myself to the verbal and physical obligations during communion, I thought of my eighteen years as an evangelical Christian, now coming home to my church of origin this summer.

God didn’t change, I did. He was always there, no matter where I went, no matter what I did, no matter what I believed, no matter how I practiced. Suddenly, it all made sense.

It was up to me to run the race – He provided the stamina, the endurance, the change of scenery, the inhaler when I needed it. He was there with me at every corner, at every refreshment station, at every mile marker, at every finish chute. He is there adjusting my time when I stop to assist a fellow racer who is injured, or to slow down and walk with one who clearly needs some encouragement to finish. He is providing the last-blast music to crank up for that final sprint toward the finish. He will be the One tearing the strip off my race number after I pass under the time clock, just before the Gatorade station with all the banana and orange slices. (Then come the masseuse tables, mmmm).

It’s up to me to give Him the victory for the race.

Now excuse me while I tend to my disabled child who is writhing in pain in his sleep, while my gifted child is demanding to know what I did with my Latin textbook from college. The race is not about us and our abilities, how fast we run or what circuit we train on…it is about acknowledging Jesus as Savior and serving Him, at the expense of our own notions of what that all means.

Let Him brush our rock ‘n roll hair.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Read Full Post »

Grocery List: Hope

Hey, God…

With remorse I awoke. In my chaos I had a grocery list going for three days. Somehow I vaguely remember putting the word “hope” on the list, but I don’t remember when. But it was there. You have reminded me that hope starts with a true and hard look at oneself. And repentance.

I have not been very nice. I have expected others to live up to the very expectations I myself cannot live up to. I will try to be more careful with my words, and to remember that those start with my thoughts. And those start with the heart.

I am sorry.

Thank you, Lord, for your cleansing. I will try to accept it, but I’ve had a lot of sand in my shoes lately. I think I’ll go barefoot for awhile and open myself to the experience of nervelessly feeling everything raw. Pain, and all. Broken shells, and all. Yes, I deserve it.

ow-ow-ow-ouchie-ow-oooch-ow!

It is the pain of honest reflection which leads one to the hope of renewal and improvement.

Let me go forth today in a state of humility, for You, even though I am not worthy of servanthood. Let me remember that in my heart at all times.

Thanks, God, for putting up with me, and for giving others the same forgiveness of me.

 

Read Full Post »

Helluva Monday, it was. I did nothing but explain stuff:

2:38 am: To two young children, why it was not time to get out of bed and plug in a Three Stooges DVD.

4:45 am: To my body, why I was ignoring the alarm and snoozing another 1/2 hour, when I hate snoozing.

6:19 am: To algebra teacher via email, why child is not living up to potential, and what we will do to rectify situation.

8:06 am: To supervisor, how I was able to heed her advice to not think about “this place” over the weekend, by hitting the beach.

10:32 am: To irate grandparent, to their face and with authorities present, why I was recommending their rights to child be terminated.

12:14 pm: To coworkers, why they ought not kidnap and take me on 3 mile run on lunch tomorrow, because I’m still weak from illness.

1:20 pm: To myself, why I’m missing my dad when he’s long gone.

2:03pm: To several children swarming me, why each of them could not have my undivided attention immediately and simultaneously.

2:46 pm: To coworker, why I will never ever ever reveal the location of this blog, over my dead body, etc.

3:14 pm: To child, why an unavoidable obstacle preventing her expectations from being met, feels like being lied to.

4:09 pm: To administrator with a windowed office, how and why another one of my good intentions paved yet another road to hell with my staff.

4:43 pm: To myself, why I just now “got” something somebody told me months ago, while dreaming and flying over the bridge over water.

5:01 pm: To my car, why I switched to the left lane because the right was too slow, only to have the left lane slow down thanks to the guy 3 cars ahead slowing down to turn left. Then switching back to the right, only to have the right lane slow down thanks to the guy another few cars ahead hold us up to turn right. Repeat left and right, two more times.

5:14 pm: To husband, why I am late. Again. Aaargh.

5:49 pm: To inquisitive eight year old, why God won’t rain manna right now, why we can’t have “smart marshmallows” rain down instead that we can eat and instantly get smart, and to sage twelve-year-old, why God doesn’t just rain down wisdom. And what the heck manna is anyway.

6:35 pm: To laptop, how the month got away in rare form for me, and why I was paying a bill online instead the usual way.

7:52 pm: To three-year old, why mommy doesn’t have the same equipment that all the other guys in the house do. And what it’s called instead.

8:31 pm: To my keyboard, why I should restrain myself from responding to the missions outfit that sent a plea in the mail today for us to support their unemployed missionaries while they hang here in the States until “God provides,” listing the identical financial obligations I also am faced with.

9:02 pm: To my disabled child, why he should not be afraid to go to sleep even though he will probably “see dreams.”

9:52: To God, crying out why life is so hard, then feeling guilty for crying out because others have it harder… hungry but not able to eat, weary yet not able to rest, grateful but too downtrodden to show it, joyful but too grieved to celebrate, surrounded and loved, but lonely.

Hey, God…do your stuff. That’s all I know to pray right now. This was one crazy day!! Your will, not mine. I’ve plain run out of ways to explain myself. You do the rest, please. Thank you, Lord!

Read Full Post »

Hey, y’all…

Although yesterday’s beach sand (see yesterday’s post) tracked throughout and through-in has by now been relocated, the spiritual grit, albeit smoothed and soothed, remains lodged in the shoes of my soul. Today, it’s back to the piles of laundry and dishes…there they sit, here I blog. 🙂

Several encounters recently have caused me to reexamine various facets of the nature of faith as it relates to human behavior. Certainly, cramming for an upcoming exam is contributing to these ponderings; two notions in particular. One of these is the fact that those who are financially comfortable have more time to devote to introspection and tend to focus more on self, while those who are financially challenged are focused outside themselves, primarily due to the need for basic survival and possibly more of a personalized reality of what it means to give and receive. Like the widow giving two mites, perhaps it is easier to give and receive when less means more, than when more means less.

The second is the idea of cognitive dissonance and balance theories and research, which indicate that we are naturally drawn toward achieving a state of balance in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors: when one area is incongruent with the others, we find ways to support our choices in any of these three areas by justifying or finding facts to support our choices. The classic example is the owner of a new Ford, who selectively focuses on anything he can find which supports Ford ownership and which points out the pitfalls of owning a Chevy, finding reasons to reject any information which may support the opposite decision.

We like to think we have logical, external backing for our internal processes. It lent itself to sanity, yes, and gives us a wiggle-exit if we later find we thought/felt/did wrong…we can then conveniently externalize the responsibility. You know you’ve done this! It is the ballroom dance between our internal and external loci of control. It is how we drive our mental car. “I chose to do/think/feel this way because my understanding of the life as I know it, gives me both reason and responsibility to do so.” This is how we seek comfort in all senses of the word. It is how our world becomes right, and how we find things to be right with the world. Paradoxically, it is also how we justify wrongdoing. The Ford owner forms his beliefs and stands by his choice, the same way the Holocaust happened. No offense to Ford owners, but sin…is sin…is sin.

The problem comes when such notions driving our choices fly in the face of common sense, basic human responsibility, scriptural or moral obligations, etc. Here I tread carefully, aware that merely philosophizing about this renders one in hypocrite territory. Thus, I will be the first to admit, as human, I have also sinned, have introspected as wealthy and have survived as poor; I have selectively arranged the world around me in my head to accommodate my mental, emotional and physical processes. I have criticized others’ choices while justifying my own. I have harbored thoughts both of evil and wellbeing, understandings and misunderstandings, uncovered “facts” as frauds when more information was obtained, and have altered my perceptions when afforded a different perspective. Even though I have (at least in theory) traded in my judgment goggles for an understanding that I am terribly limited in what I know and experience, somehow my wretched tendency to make sense of the world by selective opinion formation persists.

Rats.

Like yesterday’s fine, white sand causing chafing and annoyance until washed away, the experience of spiritual grit ultimately yields smooth and refined surfaces. Here are a few little grains of grit from my recent days which are (if I don’t let them spiritually flatten me further) – and I chafe to admit – ultimately lending themselves to refinement, if permitted:

1.) “I feel really led by God to….(fill in the blank with one’s personal desire). Here we have the classic ticket in or out of whatever it is we want to do. Typically, people don’t stretch this one too far, since they are implying that it is something virtuous it is that they wish to do. The key word is “feel:” we all know we can’t always trust our feelings. So why trust them when it’s convenient? Just what does it look like, broken down into steps, when God leads somebody to do something? What about His having given us freewill? Most blokes in the Bible usually hid or ran the other direction when actually being led or called by God.

It doesn’t really jibe with the predetermination camp of thinking, either. I mean, how exactly does one experience the feeling of being led by the Almighty? Do common everyday experiences suddenly become “signs,” or are our subconscious psychological drives leading us to believe faith-based movement is at hand? I can feel led to lead a Bible study about as easily as I can feel led to blow off the laundry and sit on my ass and blog. I can just as easily find any number of scripture to back up either choice. Sorry, I’m not buying this one just now. I saw someone use this two weeks ago to weasel out of something that would have been a more charitable, goodwill activity, to go sit in church instead of helping those in need. I’ve done this myself, hurting others in my wake. I recognize baloney when I see it. And for better or worse, I was trained to spot it a mile away. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we were honest? In the end, people appreciate truth, so goes the proverb. And for God’s sake (literally, not taking His name in vain), don’t invoke the image of His powers, if you’re basing it on your human feelings/beliefs. It would be more accurate to say, “I want/need/believe I should….”

2.) “(fill in the blank with an event) must be/isn’t God’s will.” Okay, this one gets old. This one has been pegged as the worst possible thing you can say to someone grieving. But what about the rest of the time? When was the last time you knew, really knew God’s will, before He made His intentions manifest? You didn’t, did you (rhetorical, please)? Last time I checked, the whole thing was a work in progress, with a beginning and an end, and we’re not at either end of the spectrum. At least not yet, if you’re reading this. Most the times I’ve thought I knew what His will was, I wound up being so far off-base, it wasn’t even funny. When things work out the way they do, is it because He willed it? Or allowed it, given our choices and beliefs? Or did He predetermine it before we saw it coming? Or did we screw it up in our foiblous state, and He’s going to make the best of it despite us?

Moses had to go before Pharaoh many times before rocks started to roll in the direction of God’s will. But there was a lot of anguish and suffering along the way. How presumptuous for us to assume we can know His will in the moment, when our perceptions and experiences are so miniscule on the spectrum of His timeline. I agree that praying His will is the prayer that is always answered…but from what I can tell in my limited understanding, it is not always answered directly in front of us. Sometimes things unfold over eons. And sometimes they’re a done deal. Either way, how can we possibly comprehend and perceive, from among the leaves and debris on the forest floor, the bigger picture that lies beyond the top of the forest canopy?

3.) “Satan/God really must….(fill in the blank with a convenient anthropomorphism).” How amused the entities must be when we impose our suppositions on that which we cannot tangibly perceive! Yes, I see the hypocrisy of my assertion, so I’ll leave well enough alone on this one.

4.) Denominational elitism: As if we are competing in some type of Spiritual Superbowl, people like to back up their decision to attend their chosen place of worship because they find it to be superior to others. Well, that’s what it is, isn’t it? We have to tell ourselves that this is the best place to go because of this or that. Who in their right mind would hang out at a place they believe is inferior? No, we are driven to settle in the place we find most comfortable. Comfort is achieved when we experience cognitive balance. It aligns with OUR beliefs, perceptions, understanding, hopes, etc. Have you ever forced yourself to hang out in a place that went against your core beliefs? (Ford guy driving a Chevy?) What happened?

It will either drive you to discomfort and negative emotions as you struggle with the dissonance and eventually leave in an existential huff, or you will find ways to accommodate the differences into your current mental schema. You will find ways to justify and support your decision to stay. I believe this is, at a systems-level, how good places of worship go bad. One thing I have found in my spiritual travels, is that there really is not a whole lot of difference between denominations’ goals. Style and interpretation may differ, but peoples’ ultimate quest is pretty much the same. We must make mental exceptions to brush off the aspects we don’t agree with, in order to settle on one place or the other. Unfortunately, it is the aspects we brush off that sometimes ought to be paid more attention.

In any case, it is easy to be complicit with being off-target, and again, we justify our choice to be where we are worshiping, because it “feels” best to our way of thinking and our expectations. In upholding our choice, we unavoidably diss the choices of others. Those spiritually inclined ought to move themselves out of their comfort zones more often and engage in a moveable feast of experiencing others’ experiences. Rarely did God keep His guys in one spot forever…the good ones, the ones He used most, were always on the move. Mobility spawns wisdom and perspective. “Settling” spawns tunnel vision and ignorance (in the dictionary sense of the term, e.g. lack of awareness). When God spoke, it was always “Go.” It was never, “Pray about it and get back to me if you’re game.”

Unleash thyself, thou pigeonholed! Dare to expand yourself in Him.

5.) “Let me pray about that…” (used in the context of an impending decision to be made). As referenced above, what kind of clarity does God give us with our limited perspectives? and our limited wills? When you think about it, we’re probably more unwilling to do what He’d like us to do, than we realize. How pompous of us to imply, much less to others, that by praying about something, we will be among the privileged few to receive a clear answer. What really happens when we pray? How does “the” answer come to us? Is it some divine lightning bolt that bears God’s stamp of approval on it? And what exactly does that look like?

That being said, we must pray. And in my understanding, we have a direct line to God. I talk to Him as a friend, as you know from other posts. He is there with me. At least I feel/will/think/believe Him to be. But the process of prayer is not like some privy consultation going on that elevates us and diminishes others’ same right. No, it is I as a humble servant who cannot possibly know the magnitude of His will. I trust I will only see slivers of it. I believe day to day decisions we make are based upon our knowledge, thoughts, feelings and experience. Part of that may be scriptural, but ultimately, shouldn’t we take responsibility for our choices? What can go wrong if we screw up? We’re already sinners, that’s already been well established. We mean well in some ways, and we don’t in others, because we are naturally selfish creatures. We want what we want, simultaneously while wanting to be perceived by others and ourselves as virtuous. Sometimes the best we can do is acknowledge our wretchedness and learn from our mistakes. Some of us are doomed to repeat them, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving to be better.

When asked what drives people away from God and worship, most research shows people are disillusioned with what they perceive to be hypocrisy. These five points were salient to me because they got stuck in the shoe of my walk. Thanks for pausing with me while I slide off my shoes and dump the sand out, dear friend.  I know my weary feet are all the smoother and prettier out of the deal, on this long walk of life. And thanks for walking this beach with me.

Heh, life’s a beach!

Read Full Post »

Hey, God…and hey there, my friend…

Thanks for pulling up a chair.

And thanks for another great day.

I was mentally blogging on a thousand subjects since my last post, each one worthy of its own post.

Remind me to tell you sometime about the guy who flirted with me for two years, and has now has turned his sights on the coworker who filled my shoes. After coworker and I put two and two together and giggled like schoolgirls about this poor chap’s efforts, I bribed her with chocolate if she’d use on him the last line he used on me a couple of months ago just before he met her. And capture his reaction on her phone. Then we can blow him away altogether and both take him to that Mexican restaurant (watch him squirm!) he kept trying to lure me to on a lunch hour. Holy guacamole, that would be fun!

Or the business idea my hairdresser and I hatched while she excitedly envisioned and whacked away. Uh oh! I gotta remember to do most the talking so she can tune me out and concentrate on what she’s doing. I think this idea might just fly, though…

Or the cute dude behind me for most of the commute, who wasn’t so cute after all, after he became obsessed with his hair for six straight traffic lights (it can only go so many ways when you’re thinning, got it? okay, then…get your eyes off yourself in your rear view mirror and drive, ya groomin’ monkey…).

Or the new challenges at work I’ve never encountered before, complete with mutiny on the bounty, and the sage advice of my superiors laughing off my uneasiness and telling me to hold my head high, keep doing what I do best, they’ll get over it, and soliciting my solemn promise not to think one iota about anything remotely related to “this place” over the weekend. Okay! See ya!

Or getting conked over the head with a new frontier at home altogether, and having to pass through several stages before I decide what I really think about it. I’m still thinking, but I think it’s cool. Hmmm…a taste of my own medicine.

“In a time of treason, is the time to trust,” so sayeth Bono these days. I’ll buy it. Hope I’m not being stupid naive. Again.

So, friend, enough of all that garble. What I really wanted to talk to you about today is not about me. It’s about you. So many times you pull up this chair with me here on the beach, and it’s my agenda. Today I want to hush up and let you enjoy what we’re seeing and hearing today at the seashore. The tourists are gone now; we have it all to ourselves. Be with me, and let’s just enjoy what we’re seeing, what really existed this morning, once upon a time, in a land not so far away, in utter reality. Let me share with you my world today, and you lean back and enjoy.

Sea spray inundating our senses, foam at our feet.

Sparkling shimmers on the waves, sun rising and bright, dancing in a thousand splendors, inundating our rods and cones.

A lone pelican diving for jumping fish. He’s so huge, yet so graceful, scooping up his breakfast in that long beak!

Let’s get up and wade…each wave creeps a little higher until the part we didn’t want to get wet, gets biffed anyway. What the hey, might as well wade deeper! Go ahead, envelop me…let me not be in control for a spell.

Moon Jellies!

What’s that weird feeling at our ankles? Wow, it’s a giant moon jelly! Look at it!

Four perfect crimson circles in its center, graceful glob flowing with the whims of the water….

don’t worry, moon jellies won’t sting.

But look out for that ray! And here’s a giant blue crab, worthy of taking home for lunch…except it’s a she…have to try to untangle it from our net and let her back out to sea.Can’t boil a she-crab.

Let me pick up and twirl in the air, the little child who just caught his very first sea star! It’s missing part of one of its five legs, but it gets around great anyway. You found another one! This one is perfect. Let’s watch them help each other crawl back into the sea together. They are so beautiful, so alive.

Let’s sit for a while now and let the surf wash the sand off our feet. The aromatherapy of the sea washes the grit out of our hearts and minds, too.

Let’s just veg, k?

Mmmmm…hear the waves with your eyes closed.

One eye open. Both eyes fly wide open at the sight of a bottlenose dolphin, not too far from us, leaping 15 feet out of the water! Oh, WOW! There they go, there’s a whole bunch of them – look at them fly! Fish leaping, dolphins playing and feeding. How do they do that?! They look so happy! Joyful! Wheeeeee! We watch them till their acrobatic maneuvers blend in with the waves on the horizon. Eyes closed again.

Breathing deeply, fully inhaling sheer relaxation. Exhaling all that mattered before we got here. Letting the sea breeze carry it all away…

Thank you, God….and thanks, my dear friend, for being here with me. I hope this brought you rest and rejuvenation.

Read Full Post »

Hey, God…

Thanks for the laughing-till-crying story exchanged at 1am today. I hate that I already have to edit and censor the story, and can’t share that slice of life. I would much rather assume the world would be better off seeing the humor instead of seeing the legal implications. Anyway…I was just sayin’….

Had I come upon this scene, I probably would not have connected the morgue door+breathing body on gurney. I am too hyper to notice such details in the moment; these are the type of things I connect later on, typically during sleep. I am the one capturing these delayed realizations on Post-It notes at 3 in the morning or flying down the interstate. I am also responsible for editing this blog days later, when I realize I had yet another song title butchered. I type what I hear, facts be damned. There is always time for pesky details later, right?

So this guy lies to me a couple of days ago, looking me earnestly in the eye while doing so. I fall right into it, fully believing him, even though I knew better. We were surrounded by other people who, although otherwise occupied and not really listening, also would have known better. I was being served up a royal yarn. “Wow,” I habitually and wrongly assumed, “I must have my facts wrong, or hadn’t heard those facts yet.”

This has long been the drumbeat of my superiors, who see me do this time after time: “Trust your judgment, it’s always spot-on,” they inform me, as if this were a foreign concept to me. This week, although I fell for it in the moment, I knew something was amiss, and instead of awaking at 3 am to “get it,” I marched straight to someone who could immediately assure me that I was indeed just lied to.

Yep, I was lied to, alright.

The weird thing was everybody else laughed about it like it was nothing new. REALLY? I was floored anew, albeit satisfied that the liar was going to be justly confronted and dealt with. I, on the other hand, always react as if I am being hurt anew, as though this is not normal human behavior, as though, as I naively assume, everyone shares the same values as I do: to be honest, forthcoming, do your best, willing to learn and change, and knowing that things like lying eventually come back to haunt you, so it is illogical to do so.

You would think in my profession, I would have gotten “it” by now, that humans do not operate logically in most cases. I’ve even known some so obsessed with conducting their lives in an ultra-logical fashion, that they paradoxically lived illogically.

Maybe I need to live a little more illogically, think a little more illogically…assuming that lying is illogical, and assuming that most of us are illogical. Maybe I need to quit being so naive and assuming people have the best of intentions at all times.

God, I know it’s a world of sin. But I don’t wanna see it that way. I like to think higher of people, of the world. Help me temper my impatience with sin, including my own. God, is it good or bad to be so naive all the time?

Thanks, friend, for contemplating these things with me here on the beach with God. I’m in a hurry this morning and have a bazillion other things I am mentally multitasking, and I will probably come back and edit this later. Not one of my better posts, and I could care less…that’s the nice thing about friends, we don’t have to be something we’re not…we don’t need to lie to one another, do we? Meanwhile, I’ll try not to be so naive and work on paying more attention to details. And trusting my judgement more.

On the other hand, I kind of enjoy blissfulness…

Read Full Post »

9/11: Anonymously Intimate

Recently, my neighbor came over to fetch her children, as they played with mine in the growing shadows of the big, old oak tree while the sun cast its final rays before bidding us good evening. She’d been busy with her life; I’d been busy with mine, and it had been a shamefully long time since we’d had a chance to visit. Seizing the opportunity, I invited her in while the children played on, school night be darned, kitchen table be blessed. Red for her, white for me.

Some time ago, we’d already established that we had much in common, besides being neighbors: we both attended liberal arts colleges for women on the east coast (come to think of it, she, from the same one my young cousin (bless her Yankee heart) from Boston graduated from), we have similar goals for future education, our children are in the same class, both just placed in the gifted program, and we both have a passion for writing. Interestingly, each of us followed the path the other one considered, but did not take. She gets paid to write (a professional poet, a rare and exotic bird!) yet is drawn to work with students. I get paid to work with students, yet I am drawn to write.

Now, my dear friend, you may think we’d have many words to share with one another, but, as most writers are better writers than speakers, our neighborly conversations are deliciously and painfully (yes, pain might be delicious) elongated as we grapple with the paradox of having to work hard at extracting the words in our heads that flow best through our fingers. One sentence can last a small and awkward eternity, as we labor to retrieve the precise words that otherwise would effortlessly transfer on to paper or screen, and instead harness and channel them through the speech department of the left brain so it rather ejects out of our mouth. Not so easier-said-than-done!

Baby blogger that I am, I began to wonder if we had yet another thing in common. “Do you blog?” I cautiously prodded. Yes, she responded in an equally cautious tone; in fact, two: one for poetry, one for journaling, and had been doing so for the better part of a decade. But, she quickly added with hesitation, “I don’t really share them…I just kind of put them out there, you know….” She trailed off as I read her mind, because that was my own intention for this: a way to satisfy my compulsion to write to God, you, and the universe without having to explain myself to those I choose not to disclose my heart to, be they relatives, coworkers, you know…

I quickly put her mind at ease by assuring her I wasn’t headed in the direction of exchanging blog addresses for the same reasons she also communicated, and we agreed it was easier to be anonymously intimate. Good fences make good neighbors, indeed: we not only shared blogging in common, but also valued the wisdom in remaining anonymous with each other in this way. We are both on WordPress: I can surf the “poetry” tag and never know which work is hers; she will never know I am the Southern Sea Muse. Another paradox: inner hearts wide open to the world, yet jealously protective of privacy. What an interesting world it has evolved into. And yet, the mutual affirmation of our respective needs for anonymity somehow strengthened our bond. How many lessons in love might be extrapolated from that little nugget?

I was moved to study Project 2996 yesterday. Scrolling through the names of those I might choose to memorialize who lost their lives on 9/11, I found myself with some odd version of writer’s block: many already had moving memorials written – how could I possibly add to these? what more could possibly be said? What could I, one who did not know any of them personally, find that was freshly moving to add? Ten years have passed; each person had by now enough information out there that they were easily Google-able. The only thing I personally could relate to them was my memory of the last time I walked the streets of New York City, back when the Twin Towers were still a part of the skyline. And my memory of 9/11 itself.

Where were you?

I had to think about it now, ten years later. Ten years ago, we had just returned from a trip to this very cherished sea from which I now write to you, two days before airline travel would change as we now know it. I was in a house – not yet home here – near the top of a mountain, nursing the eldest in the bedroom when my mother-in-law called, and told us to turn on the television, informing us of the first tower being struck. Just as we hung up and tuned in, we watched in sheer horror, live, as the second tower was struck. The surreal moment subdued us into silence for a long, long time, as our minds tried to wrap around what we were seeing and hearing. The baby stopped nursing, perceiving that something was emotionally amiss. Other than that, I am certain this experience was not unlike what hundreds of thousands of others also experienced.

Waking up in the mood to blog today, it wasn’t long before I decided that whatever I had to say about life as I know it, felt pale, insignificant, even crass, as I reflected upon what today means to our country. I was again subdued into silence, and found it ironic that I had no voice (literally, as ignoring last week’s little cold has turned into this week’s bigger battle demanding attention). Being sick, life’s typical annoyances are magnified tenfold. Yet another “Good Christian” (a relative, no less) came out of the woodwork after a few years, calling me at work, and behaved in a manner that caused me to put another notch in the bedpost of wavering faith (thanks, God, for Your steadfastness, anyway!). Meanwhile, at work, it was sheer mutiny on the bounty as I guide my staff through unprecedented changes in the company’s history. Eldest child had suspicious blood work prompting CT scan. Cramming for my national exam. One of those kind of weeks. And here I sit on 9/11, voiceless, unable to care one whit about much of the above, except for the families of the victims of 9/11. Grateful that I have a life. And a family. And problems to worry about. And dreams to dream. And neighbors to be anonymously intimate with.

For the good people who died were doing the most noble of things when they passed: they were living their lives despite such annoyances, they were doing what they deemed best to be doing at the time, helping others (especially the emergency response team members who perished), standing up for what they believe.They were doing the very best that any of us would do. The man, upside-down, falling to his death with seconds to live: he had made a decision that he deemed best at the time. I can respect that. The man waving the white towel out the broken-out window, with only minutes unknown to him before the tower collapsed: he did what seemed best at the moment, and I also respect that. The countless firefighters who climbed the stairwells through the smoke and ash to find the still-living, who would not come out alive: undeniably respectable, noble and heroic.

Would you do anything differently?

I doubt it.

We share so many intimacies, despite our anonymity.

Courage comes from passion, and passion is unquenchable. You, too, will face a moment of courage in which you will be forced to make a life-and-death decision. You will be challenged to act upon what you believe. There will be no hiding, no anonymity in your decision: you will either act, or you will not. It will be an intimate moment, and it will not be anonymous, because you will be accountable for your choice. But there will come a time when you must face yourself in one of the most difficult moments you’ve ever encountered.

Are you ready for that?

God, grant us the courage and stamina of those who endured 9/11 at Ground Zero and the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Bless the families who lost loved ones that day. Give us the wherewithal to muster the same level of bravery in the battles ahead. Nurture the children who will never know the parents or loved ones they lost ten years ago today; may these children have Your vision and passion in leading the next generations into the future. Thank You for healing our nation, and for giving us the impetus to keep striving for improvement. God, thank You for giving me the passion to live this past March when I had the all-too-easy option to die. Help me to understand why I was allowed to make that choice, and others have not. May I have the courage to choose death as easily as it may choose me. May we be martyrs for Your will, not ours. Give us patience with one another, and let us look forward to Your peace. Let us fear no form of evil. Heal the divided nations, Lord. Make it right. Teach us to serve You. Give us the vision to see and do right. Help us to have perspective, wisdom and submissiveness. May the spirit of those who lost their lives ten years ago on 9/11, live on in our passion. Come, Lord Jesus.

Read Full Post »

No, not I…the 2, about-to-be 3 year old. He graciously reminded me tonight of the importance of unwinding. Really unwinding. He reminds me that we must perpetually turn to children, the older we get, for advice on how to live. Really live. With the first child, scolding was the parenting du jour should he have attempted such a feat…with child #4…..well…I learned to take heed. You know, step back and contemplate….hmmm…well, isn’t kind of, er, funny? Go ahead, break into the chase, let him go squealing with delight, buck naked, round and round, catching him with laughter and direction to get into jammies….silly boy. I love you.

But I really wish you hadn’t have put four toothbrushes and one Mardi Gras cup in the toilet today. Luv ya anyway. Say, what happened when you tried to flush? Sorry I wasn’t there to find out with you. Bless Daddy.

Sometimes it takes a child to hold our hand and lead us precisely where we need to be. Children know freedom.

It was what our very country was founded upon.

We must constantly question and examine our beliefs, as the development of beliefs can be a fluid process throughout each life phase. A good, hard look at why we believe what we believe is good for the soul, and keeps us fresh. We become stagnant if we can no longer embrace the merits of our beliefs. Yet we cling so tightly sometimes to things that no longer make sense…

A conversation with “Common Sense:”

“He should not be allowed to run naked through the house. This is wrong.”

“And what could happen?

“Why, it’s not proper. It might make others want to run naked through the house.”

“And then what?”

“Well, then things would be out of control. They’d get the wrong message. One thing leads to another”

“What’s the wrong message?”

“That you can’t think that you can run naked through the house and it’s okay. There must be consequences.”

“And then what,? if not?”

“Ummmm… I dunno. It’s just wrong.”

“With whom? How?”

“Ummmmm..I dunno.”‘

“What harm does it do? I mean, does it serve a purpose for the runner? Do they get some benefit from it, something out of their system, sow their wild oats, then want to conform, or what? What’s going to happen if a little off-kilter happens? Doesn’t off-kilter behavior serve an ultimate purpose?”

“Well, I never thought about it.”

“Well, think about it. Is it so bad? You ever been off-kilter? What did you need to do to get right?”

‘Nuff said.

Sometimes, in all our adult wisdom, we completely miss the point of living.

When was the last time you ran naked through the house? Would the sky fall? Is it so bad?

Thanks, God, for freedom and laughter and children. It figures only the serpent could have made it so we had to wear fig leaves and toil, instead of having the childlike freedom of running naked through the house.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »