Word

It was a simple question texted to our 25-year-old son about whether he’d be joining us for a meal. He answered back, Word. I always have to stop and remind myself that in the language of young people, Word means Yes.

Then I have to remind myself that the usage goes way beyond that into other languages and cultures. This young generation actually uses the word Word in an ancient format. In Greek, the word for word is Logos. It is translated Yes. However, it is a big yes, as in what gives the whole cosmos order, form and meaning.

That’s why the opening of the gospel of John is rather stunning, especially if we could read it in Greek. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word/logos=Yes, a big yes=order, form and meaning=Jesus.

That’s a whole lot for a Monday so allow me to simplify: the word Word means yes.

I marvel at that considering all the words we throw back and forth these days; all the texts, the cable news words, the pundits, the back and forth….just so many words.

I crave just a brief word; a true word, a divine word, ordering and injecting meaning into all, don’t you?

I celebrate being able to share my words and having others read and share them also.

For years, I’ve known that writing was one of my passions. Writing is the place where I lose myself, where I am unaware of how much time has gone by; writing for me is a creative, God inspired act.  When I have taken or taught courses on finding one’s strength or passion, writing always comes out high for me. I love words. Writing leads to preaching and speaking but writing comes first.

So imagine how thrilled I was about a month ago when the Marketing Director of the Jesus Calling materials (Harper Collins Publisher) invited me to blog for them for May. They asked if I would combine the themes of motherhood and graduation with a blog about my own graduation to becoming a grandmother. They gave me 1000 words which  to a blogger is an extravagant gift. They asked if I would cite the resource, Jesus Always. I read Jesus Always daily and am truly inspired by it. Could there be a more joyful, delicious, natural writing assignment me?

The blog will come out this week on the Jesuscalling.com website.  It will also be e-blasted to, I don’t know, at least a few people world-wide.

Sometimes, it seems God says no. Sometimes God says wait, or heal. And then other times, when you least expect it, God says yes.

Today, I’m giving thanks for this yes and wherever it might lead. Wednesday and Thursday I know you will help me share my words and God’s Word through the Jesus Calling blog.

 

 

 

 

Here and Now

Have you ever found yourself disgruntled? At odds with someone or something? Have you ever had an issue with say, something going on in our world? our country? your community? church? in your family?

Have you ever found yourself face to face with something that seemed unfathomable and unfair beyond measure? A diagnosis? A tragedy? An event that you would give anything to do over?

I’ve found myself recently, in more than one scenario, really outraged. I wanted to file a complaint, write a letter, state a grievance only to realize sadly, there was nowhere to file that complaint or send that letter or no one who would listen to how I felt about it. Or that there were unseen forces and systems at work that morphed way beyond my control or input.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more in touch with how I feel about certain things and currently, that feeling is disgruntled.

Thankfully, in spite of how I feel, I religiously stick to a devotional, scripture reading, prayer and daily writing routine. It grounds me. Sometimes it even surprises me.

Today, all three devotionals I read had the same teaching. Jesus Always by Sarah Young woke me up with this line, “The present moment is the point at which time intersects eternity.” “Have a wide awake heart.” “Stay in the present moment.” Jesus Calling by the same author said, “Here and now are the coordinates of your life.”

 

Can you see the surprising word of God piercing my very real (and I believe justified outrage) to coax me into today; into the here and now? As with most God things, this puzzles me. How do you even do that? How do you shift your eyes from what seems oh- so-wrong to this moment? I believe it takes spirit infused strength. We can’t really do it on our own.

If the present moment really is the point at which time intersects eternity, I’d just soon not miss it being disgruntled and writing out my complaints to no one in particular. I do want to make a difference, speak out when I can, help tear apart systems that hurt. I just need to do it well-anchored in the gift of the present and connected to a God who is ever-present.

When our family learned of my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis last June, I was angry and overwhelmed. I remember just sitting down on a bench outside the doctor’s office and crying angry tears. If there was a place to lodge a complaint I would have done it. Instead I just sat there rage-crying. A beautiful stranger of another race joined me on the bench and comforted me, not knowing what was going on. Can you imagine? She was the here and now. She was the present. She was the now moment that intersected eternity. And, strangely, that was enough.

 

 

The Teacher

Life is clearly a series of transitions. We should be used to that by now. So many I know are in the midst of some achingly abrupt and difficult transitions. The hardest ones seem to the be the ones no one asked for.

I have friends who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Some are grieving breaking or broken marriages. Some are agonizing over the painful transitions of their children in trying to launch into the real world or who are struggling with addiction, anxiety, learning differences or depression. People I know keep getting difficult diagnoses. I know some right now who are transitioning from this life to the next or sitting near a loved one who is.

I have two sets of friends who are literally going through everything they own in order to move to different countries for a work season. I know some who are in the midst of big job changes, some they didn’t ask for.

My family has been wrapping our hearts around my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis which became official last June after revealing itself slowly a few years before that. She does not like to call it that. She believes she has normal “old people forgetfulness.” We try sometimes to gently remind her that it is more than that but I don’t suppose it matters.

My mom was an elementary school teacher. She’s still teaching me, even through her own transition. As Alzheimer’s erases her memory, she is forced to stay anchored in the present: the this day, this moment, present. Her disease has made her more attentive, more reflective even. We spend Wednesdays together. One of her favorite topics is for me to tell her about my childhood. I’m a storyteller anyway and not that many people are asking about my childhood these days, so I find it delightful. She hangs on every word. She’ll say, “I remember that!” Or, “I was a good mom, wasn’t I?”

She gets more caught up in the moment we are in. Last week, at a restaurant, she said she loved me and asked if she could kiss me. One kiss led to more all over my face. With the business lunch crowd looking on, she kissed and loved on me as if I was 9 months old. I just let every single kiss soak right in.

She stays in the present. She savors things, gratefully. She loves playing Tetris and beating me, every time. She loves a nice cold glass of Chardonnay. She loves peppermints, iced coffee, ice cream, playing Solitaire and Words with Friends on her Kindle. She will look at pictures of her loved ones all day long. She often names the things she likes, like a Holy litany.

Almost every time we are together, she tells me to look at the sky. “Can you believe how blue it is?” “Look at that tiny cloud over there!” “I’ve never seen the sky look so beautiful, have you?”

I do not romanticize her disease or what is coming for all of us. I know how hard and long and ever changing our journey will be.

But for now, in this transition-no-one-asked-for, she’s still teaching. I think her lesson points can work for anyone going through a hard season.

Stay in today. It is all we really have.

If you love someone, tell them and kiss them all over their face.

Savor little things, gratefully. Name what is good in your life over and over and give thanks.

And, for God’s sake, and yours, look up. Look up.

That Silent Saturday

In Christianity, there’s not really even a name for that Saturday. No one seems to know what to do with the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is such an awful, awkward, painful day.

I’ve heard it called Holy Saturday, but not much. Even the Bible doesn’t have much to say about that day. Matthew’s gospel has Pilate demanding that the tomb be sealed and guards watch it around the clock, just in case someone tries to steal the body. All the other gospels are silent on the topic.

The torture of the agony of Friday ending in death’s finality. The tears, the earthquake, the ripping of the heavens, life over as they knew it. Hopes and dreams crushed. And, then, can you imagine? Saturday happens and it is just silent. God is silent. Time, I imagine, agonizingly slow. There are no answers, no revelations, no angels. Just nothing.

What I want to say today is this, don’t gloss over that horrible Saturday while you are getting ready for Easter. Don’t use it as only a day of gathering Easter supplies and food for tomorrow. Don’t just use it to pull together your Easter fashion ensemble.

Stay in it. Pray through it. Try to feel it because the Silent Saturday is as much a part of the Christian faith as all our other milestone days. In fact, I believe most of our Christian life is lived in the silent, awkward Saturday seasons.

Like when death has been pronounced and the body taken away; or when the divorce papers are signed and submitted; when the diagnosis comes and you have no clue how it will unfold. Hospital waiting room moments or right after you hear them say that you are no longer employed. Our faith lives are full of silent Saturdays.

What we do in the silent, painful, awful moments of life is as important as what we do on Easter.  Actually, maybe how we handle Saturday matters more than how we do when the angel assures us that “He is not here. He has risen just as he said” Matthew 28:6

This awkward, awful, no name, no information Saturday has something to teach us about life and faith. Stay in it and learn.

Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

Your Face is Shining

I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it. (Jack Handey, American Humorist) I agree with Jack, I don’t get it. The older I get, the more I don’t understand…like politics, plumbing or why bad things happen or even why good things happen.

I’m home today with a plumber and he’s helping me see how much I don’t know about my home’s plumbing needs. He’s telling me in big long paragraphs about water minerals and I’m wanting him to condense it to 140 characters or less. Finally,  I ordered a new toilet and he seemed excited about that and stopped trying to teach me things. Clearly,  some things I’m not meant to understand.

But, I’ve never stopped trying to learn more about faith, life and our purpose here. I don’t believe at all that life is a big joke. I do believe it is a fleeting gift. I believe some people squander it and some people savor it.

I believe the key to it all is light. Yes, light. It’s why I’m slightly obsessed with sunrises and sunsets. That whole twice a day phenomenon is about light. Sometimes I’m watching a sunrise that seems unspectacular when something tells me to wait for it and all glory breaks out. Sometimes a sunset is plain and then you look at the sky all around it in a panoramic view and that’s somehow where the color has gone. I like light through the trees, seasonal light changes, candlelight, starlight, moonlight.

Scripture is full of light images too, like it’s trying to tell us some truth we need to know. Do a Biblical word study on light and you will see. My favorite images are the ones that try to tell us about God’s light glory. Arise, shine; for the glory of God has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 I love scripture about God’s radiance rubbing off on us like this blessing, May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you….Numbers 6:24. Read the 34th chapter of Exodus where Moses comes down the mountain after talking to God but doesn’t realize his face has changed because of God’s light.

Once upon a time, as a very young pastor working in a small west Texas town where female clergy were unheard of, I visited a local nursing home for the first time. I do not wear a clerical collar, carry a big Bible or wear giant crosses. Nothing about me says “pastor”. As I entered the facility there was a collection of residents dozing in wheelchairs near the door. One woman woke up when I entered and called me over. She said, “You are one of God’s pastors.” I was blown away. “How did you know that?” I asked. She said simply, “Your face is shining.”

Later, I was told she had dementia and not to make too much of what she said. I disregarded that advice and consider it to be one of the highest pastoral comments I’ve ever received. Twenty eight years later I remember everything about that encounter.

I don’t know the meaning of life. But I think it is about light. God is light and we are to reflect that. Whenever there is darkness we are to be light. Watch the light places and you will see God. Watch the light faces and you will see God. Watch what God does with light every day. Study it in nature and in scripture and in the ways people love each other. If life is confusing or hard or bewildering for you right now, my advice is to go toward the light. Look at it. Bask in it. Fill your heart with it. Do light affirming activities.

I’m clearly not good at plumbing, but light I can do.

If Only I Could Write While Doing Yoga

One of my new ventures this year is a yoga class twice a week. Obviously, I am several centuries/generations/cultures behind others who have engaged in this ancient physical/spiritual practice over time. I’m 100% aware of how late I am to this game. I am still very much a back row beginner and super clear on the fact that I know almost nothing about yoga.

There is, however, an ancient saying, When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  I think it just took me a while to be ready for what yoga had to teach me.

I love the quietness of it. I love the stretching and the physical challenge. I love that our teacher said early on yoga is not supposed to hurt.  I tell myself when it starts hurting, which helps. I love noting my steady progress. Some things I absolutely could not do at the beginning, I do pretty well now.

What I was not expecting were the life lessons. Last class, I wished for a notepad to jot down what our teacher was saying. Then, I realized, of course, writing would not be possible while doing yoga. You pretty much need your hands to hold you up, balance, stretch and pose.

So, I can only share the good lessons that I remember. Here are a few:

Yoga is not a competitive sport. It is all about what you challenge yourself to do. This is so refreshing. 100% of my focus is on what I can do better each time, stretching a little further, balancing a little longer and no one else.

This teaching is closely related to one I made up. No one is looking at you in your yoga pants because they are focusing on their own balance, poses and issues. Get over it. 

Falling is part of the pose. Don’t worry about it. I almost screamed with delight when she taught us this. Falling is part of the pose! It is also part of every single thing I’ve ever experienced in life. Imagine finding a way to tell yourself with each fall, “this is fall is part of the pose.”

In the course of each class, there are resting moments sprinkled among the hard ones. Our teacher says, Enjoy the pause. Drink it in.  I want to do that better in life: enjoying the break, the weekend, the deep breath, the nap, the meal, the drink of water, the park bench, the good night’s sleep.

At the end we do this relaxing thing. It is only a few minutes long and it has long yoga name.  Our teacher talks us through relaxing every part of our body, softening, she says. Soften your forehead, your face and so on. As everything softens she says, now, relax more deeply.  This also makes me want to scream in happiness. Did anyone out there know you can relax more deeply than even your most relaxed self?

Our teacher says, search your body and your soul and let go of what you do not need.  It is okay to let go of what you do not need. Just, let it go. I’m still happy screaming, silently and in a relaxed way, of course.  

At the end, with prayer hands, we whisper Namaste to each other. This means the divine in me honors the divine in you.  In today’s world, I believe that one word, Namaste, could possibly transform everyone and everything.  What if we honored the divine in every single person we met, from every single walk of life? What if the Republicans and Democrats started with that? Or, the Christians and Muslims? Or people of each race? I could go on and on. Namaste.

The pose in the picture is called the Half Moon. I can pretty much do that pose and hold it when I’m not falling (which as I mentioned is part of the pose.) I think it is pretty close to a full on cartwheel. Namaste and happy silent screaming to you.