Thursday, August 30, 2012

Play Time: Passing Along the Blessing

 How many of us remember receiving a chain letter promising good fortune as long we passed it along and piles of guilt if we didn’t? 

These days I get the pass-a-blessing- along kind in my email. Although I appreciate the thought of someone forwarding me a blessing, and I dread the prospect of being the one to stop a prayer someone might need that day, I usually suck up my guilt for all of five minutes as I whisper “thank you” and then delete. I just don’t do play well.

So when I received this blogger award that required taking time to answer eleven questions, make eleven new ones, and choose eleven others to pass the award along to, I balked. Thirty-three things! At first I didn’t want to take the time.

 I wanted to write a pithy blog post—you know—the one that released words of refreshment, healing, joy, encouragement, and previously un-penned truth.

But that one just wouldn’t come, imagine that.

This Liebster Award, (Beloved) however, was burning a hole in my inbox. Since it was given to me by the lovely Cathy Baker, who manages to pen poems of beauty by day and laugh, play, and gab by night I’ve decided to take part in the spirit of it. It’s given to bloggers with 200 or fewer followers by bloggers as a way to acknowledge each other and say “you’re doing a great job.”  (Looks like encouragement to me.)We hope you’ll check them out.

One way it goes is when you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person(s) who nominated you, then pass the Award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions. 

However I have seen shorter versions of this, hence I have reduced my responses to six. 

To those of you who receive my award, please do with as your time and energy dictates. It’s supposed to be fun! (To get the button, right click the picture on my page and save the picture to your computer. You can then upload to your blog.)

6 Random Facts About Me

1. Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef--guide promised there weren't any sharks--later found out it was the shark attack capital of the seas. 

  2. Made my own 20' diameter tepee and lived in it for a summer--my contribution to the hippie culture.

  3.  Hedwig von Trapp (yes, one of them) kicked me in the shin for missing a note in some Latin hymn. I was in fourth grade and probably shouldn't have been in the choir, but there were only about six of us in the little Catholic church--haven't been able to carry a tune since.)  

4. Might be the only person on House Hunters who gushes, "I love the kitchen; it's so small."    
5. Am a middle child. Does that explain anything?                                                          

6.  Am married to a man who can turn my visions into realities and to a God who makes all things possible                                                                                                                     .                             

6 Questions asked of me         

1.      If someone wrote a book about your life, what would they title it?                                                        
Call of a Coward—the God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife!

2.      Who’s your favorite singer or band?
Depends on the season—Still…Who can top Simon and Garfunkel?

3.      If you had to choose a favorite book of the Bible, what would it be and why?
 Isaiah. I’m an Isaiah junkie, but Hebrews is next. So to the throne with both of them.

4.      What's your favorite cookie?
Not big on cookies ever since I ate a whole bag of ginger snaps in college to cure myself of sweets.

5.      If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

6.      What recent blessing from the Lord would you like to share? 
Seeing the fruit of a long labored prayer for loved one       

 Actually, the above questions are also the ones I am asking my six  (seven for now) choices:    

Elizabeth, who manages to make preparing food as much of a delight as eating it—and serve it all up with finesse            

Celeste  who offers a daily prescription hope and healing at Celestial Prescriptions  

Beth who has a lovely website and is fun

Alycia who always has a Thoughtful Spot

Leslie who is a voice for those who have none—the trafficked and abused

Cecilia whose gentle thoughts and outstanding artwork inspires at Out of the closet and into the light

Mary whose reflections are blessings at  A Mary Like Me 

 Thanks for stopping by. Have a blessed day and remember- The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Monday, August 20, 2012

The scariest thing about memoir: hanging out the laundry

 Someone has approached me to write a book about a plan interrupted—actually, his plan to kill his mother’s murderer.  

 I’m interested for a couple of reasons. The first is because I love how God gets in the way of things, doesn’t sweat standing between a round of 9mm bullets and a man’s heart. Brings assassins to their knees in worship. 

That kind of story reminds me no heart is too hardened, too broken, or too bitter for Him to heal.

The second reason is personal. After writing one memoir, I’ve taken on a great deal of anxiety about having hung my laundry, right down to the seamless underwear, out there for all to see. In person I am cautious, reserved. I keep my distance for a while. (I think I figured out that even a fool seems wise if she keeps her mouth shut long before I read it in Scripture.) 

But when I write, this other person starts talking. She’s shameless, she tells all. Then she publishes it.

It’s ironic that I feel more comfortable about getting into someone else’s head—even one with murder on the mind—than I do about exposing my own story again. Now there are probably other things going on here, but one thing is for sure: good memoir isn’t about airing dirty laundry just for the sake of shocking the neighbors, but it is about being real, touching nerves, bravely hanging those bigger-than-you-like and dingier-than-you-wish undies right alongside the teeny frilly pair.

And then not hiding behind the sheets when someone comes by.

I see from the reviews on my book how much people enjoy seeing the humanness that wrestles with life but surrenders to God, the hidden weakness that stands strong in God’s strength. Because truth touches the stuff of life that belongs to us all.

So what stops us from openly sharing these thoughts—the struggles AND the joys with each other or even with God? What makes me fend off swarms of insecurity about what people will think now that the memoirist inside of me has spilled her mind?

Last Sunday our pastor asked everyone to write down what stops them from diving full-face into a surrendered life with the Lord. What blocks our living as though we really believed?  As the pastor read some of the responses: fear, self, carnal delights, and distrust that God would fail them, I ran down my own list. 

Why do I block that person who delights in early morning solitude with the Lord from living “joyfully free” in him in front of others?

Maybe that early morning person is related to the memoirist who boldly pens about faith and foibles.

Maybe I need to be living inside out.

photo credit: romerican via photo pin cc

Monday, August 13, 2012

Those who chirp and mutter

I have to admit—no one says it better than the Lord. My Bible journal is punctuated with bits and pieces of sentences, unusual phrases, perfect metaphors and imagery. 

This morning I really wanted to share with you one more thought about God’s time, but my attention is snagged on some wording from my reading in Isaiah 8:19:

And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God?

Chirp and mutter.

What a perfect way to express the delivery of foolish, empty words. Yet how many people today, as in Isaiah’s time, would rather seek advice and consolation from those who chirp and mutter than from the One whose living and active word is able to save their souls, give truth, and life?

At one time in my life, I too sought out those who I thought held the secrets to life. For weeks, I made the two hour trip from my home in Vermont to Montreal so I could study palmistry with a man from India. I drove across country in my blue Volkswagen bug to spend a month with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a retreat in California where I hoped to find enlightenment. I studied books with charts of star times and treks.

But one day, enroute to yet another empty adventure, I stood in my living room and said, “God, this time I want to know truth.”

I continued on my journey, but on the other end, instead of finding the answer in a rich man and course in the healing power of colors, I found Jesus, the Word of God.

Now I am beyond seeking the consolation of seers and necromancers, but before I get too self-righteous, I have to question whether or not I’m beyond giving ear to chirped and muttered words of deception.

Recently I had a go at it in the pit of despair, unable to slug off a shroud of apathy. Some said it was an attack of the enemy because I was going to speak at a church women’s conference. Regardless of the source, I was the one listening.

Although the other conference speaker and I had never met, we had perfectly matched messages. But God used her to give me the jump start I needed. Being a good Southern Baptist girl all her life, she had memorized lots of Scripture—books even.

For some reason, instead of being another spiritual have-to, the idea invigorated me. (And I pictured the perfect place to do it—on the dreaded treadmill time my daughter has me scheduled for!)

It’s been a while since I memorized Bible verses and probably forever since I’ve memorized a whole book, but I have begun—just ask me the first twelve verses of James. Oh, and to practice doing them!

Whether it’s from hiding his word in my heart from memory or from reading it fresh in the morning, I want to infuse my spirit with words from the One who gives life, because I know, “With God we shall do valiantly!”—Psalm 108:13

How about you? Do you need a fresh infusion of words of life?

Lord, I pray for any friend stopping by who is bowed low because of muttering and chirping rather than the word that revives.

WE wait for you LORD, our souls do wait, and in your word do we hope.—Psalm 130:5
Sustain us according to your word, that we may live; —Psalm. 119:116, and
Establish your word to us as that which produces reverence for you.—Psalm 130:5

photo credit: rickz via photo pin cc

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The hitchhiker's question
He traveled light, the young man making his way from Tennessee to a town here in South Carolina where someone was keeping his “things.” A T-shirt, shorts, and pair of sandals suggested a life devoid of roots.

“I’ve been in and out of jail since I was fifteen,” he said. I twisted to get a better view of him in the backseat, and tried not to look too obvious as I scanned his body for any gun shaped bulges. “I want to get my life together, start over.”

My husband asked a few questions about family, friends, or ties that connected him to this place and then cut to the chase: “Do you know the Lord?”

He assured us he did, but his affirmation was riddled with fragmented sentences that started and ended mid-thought as another piece of an idea floated by. Talk of “it’s a relationship” was mixed with “ya gotta do good,” and “it’s crazy.” A mind short-circuited by drugs wrestled with things he’d heard about being a Christian.

My husband carefully explained God’s plan of salvation and Jesus’ power to give him the new life he sought. We rode in silence for a few minutes and then the hitchhiker asked, “How do you know? Like just because someone says something it’s true? “

The wariness in his question caught me. It bespoke a young life lived in the company of lies—lies he’d spoken, lies others said to him. He hardly dare believe this was truth, that Jesus was who he said he was, that there really was hope for a new life.

“How do you know?”

“Ask him,” Bob said.

It just didn’t seem the time for expounding proofs of Jesus’ deity. The simplest of responses struck at the heart of the matter—he had a mind full of ideas about how Christianity is relationship and yet didn’t have one.

“Ask him to show you.”

The young hitchhiker’s question made me think about the pat answers we give, the Christianese we speak. I often hear, “Christianity is about relationship, not religion,” and I wonder what a close relationship with Jesus means to people in a busy post-Christian culture. In a Southern culture where Christianity still has a face on every street corner. In a Northern culture where it doesn’t. What does having a relationship with Jesus look like to me?

Perhaps it is seeing what it looks like without Jesus that my answer is best expressed. The one thought that could pitch me over the abyss is the one the psalmist expresses in Psalm 27:13: “I would have despaired unless I believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” 

Life without the hope I have in the presence of the Living God?
Absolute despair.

Do I look forward to seeing the Lord in heaven? Certainly. But I also look to seeing him now, daily, in this land of the living. I expect my prayer to be heard by a living God. I expect to hear his voice guiding me as I read his word, as l lift my prayer. I look for signs of his interventions and intersections with people and places. And I trust that when I step out on the farthest point of a limb, He is there.

My relationship with Jesus not only means I spend time at his feet with my concerns and requests, and worship, but that I look for Him , seek to approach my every day with the realization Hagar came to: He is the Living One Who Sees Me

And to hear Him call me as He did Mary at the empty tomb:“Marcia.”  

I 'm careful about words and dreams and visions and things unseen, but relationship to me is a a street that runs both ways,and my God travels the highway from heaven to earth. What about you?  I’d love to hear about what having a relationship with Jesus looks like to you.