Tag Archives: God

Night Verses Light

Our daughter has always had fun with words. She twists them, turns them and creates new ones that make more sense. When she was about three she told us she smelled a “Stunk”.  Skunk is a great word but, my goodness, stunk is better. No wonder she grew up to be a very good speech pathologist.

When she was young, she would tell me things her “Sleep Brain” was telling her. Not dreams really but crazy, untruths. She somehow knew, even as a girl, that her awake brain and her sleep brain had two different points of view.

Because of her use of language, I’m able, even now, to examine a thought or perception that happens in the night as just my “sleep brain” talking. Every once in a while, in that state between wake and sleep my brain will be insightful, useful or come up with the answer to a problem from earlier in the day. “Oh, my headphones are in my hoodie pocket!” “Her name is Mary Ann!” I always marvel at my brain to work on something long after I forgot to think about it anymore.

But most of the time my sleep brain is not logical. She magnifies and distorts reality. She makes me worry and dream about pointless problems. Because I gave my heart, soul and career to the church for thirty years, my sleep brain still does a stunning amount of church work even though I let that go almost two years ago. I’ve spent many a night trying to organize sermon notes, make it to the sanctuary on time and find my clergy robe.

Basically, there is a huge difference between night thinking and light thinking. I try to keep my thoughts exposed to the light of day. I journal every day so I can be real with myself. I write down night thoughts and dreams. Sometimes I’ve even recorded my “Night Thinking” and listed right beside it my “Light Thinking.”

The Bible is redundantly about light. Ephesians 5, selected verses from The Message translation, You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer, you are out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get with it! The good, the right, the true–these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours….Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busy work, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham that they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on…the darkness…see how attractive everything looks in the light of Christ.

Night verses Light. Which one do you choose?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and a breast cancer survivor who loves God’s Light.   

      

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Delight

Have you ever followed a toddler around? I think everyone should. It is a crash course in wonder and emotions. In the past week, I spent lots of time with a soon to be two-year old and he does not miss a thing. He notices super small feathers and the tiniest of snails. He brought me a withered spider and a thankfully deceased giant bumblebee carcass.

He lives near cows and a couple of donkeys and is transfixed in place by their sounds. He notices birds, airplanes, trains and helicopters. And tractors, oh my, he’s in love with tractors.

He delights in having a task to do, like feeding the dog, making a tower out of blocks or taking his diapers to the trash can. He’s learning to color but coloring directly on the table seems the most fun.

He is a dramatic one with melting falls to the floor when the tower doesn’t come together like he visualized. He will knock it down and cry “Oh No” before collapsing in despair. In remind him that he did the knocking down and ask what is he going to do about it. Problem solving quickly follows.

But most of all, I love his delight. He’s getting a sense of humor. I love to trigger it. His hat on my head is hilarious. Me pretending to drink his milk is super funny. When he hides in plain sight and I find him, he throws his head back and belly laughs.

His baby brother just received a new super soft blanket. When we laid it on the floor for the baby, big brother had to delight in it first, stretching out his arms for that first good long feel of softness.

Delight. The Bible is full of delight. In some places it is actually a commandment. God delights in us when we are grateful, aware and when we acknowledge our needs. God wants us to delight in creation, people and places. God invites us to a life of delight and mysteriously through that, promises to give us everything we need. Delight yourself in the Lord and God will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Wow. If I delight, I’ll have everything? Money, security, good looks, eternal youth, no problems? No, I think it means delight, savor, notice, be grateful and joyful…that is everything your heart needs.

I’ve noticed joy in the strangest of places, in mothers who’ve lost children, in people living in poverty, in those in the midst of the worst kind of trauma. You’ve seen it too. Laughter at a funeral, the tiniest ray of light in an otherwise dark night, music in a hospital room.

Toddlers know how to delight. They do it in between and throughout all the other emotions of the day. Help me, God, to be like that.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. She is currently enrolled in a course on delight, taught by her grandson.            

FaithWaiting

I enjoy making up words. I loved word play with my children. We now have several words only our family knows. Today I made up this one: FaithWaiting.

FaithWaiting is different from regular waiting.

All waiting is pretty excruciating. Waiting for admission to that certain college. Waiting to turn 16. Waiting for the wedding day. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for the biopsy results…or really, almost any results. Waiting to hear if you got that job. All kinds of hospital waiting is agonizing.

In our family we are waiting on a baby to arrive.  Pregnancy is so long! There are so many unknowns. My daughter is now down to the baby-could-come-at-any-time part of pregnancy. She and I are planners and we are having trouble with our plan making because we DO NOT KNOW WHEN THIS WILL HAPPEN. She is going to the doctor weekly now. Last time I asked her if the doctor said when this will happen and she reminded me rather sternly that they do not tell you WHEN.

I am planning to be there when this impossible-to-know thing happens but I live 5 hours away so how do I plan? How do I wait? How do they wait? How does anyone FaithWait verses plain old anxious waiting?

A few tips for FaithWaiting:

Do what you can. In my case that includes keeping gas in my car, suitcase mostly packed, making lots of casseroles to fill my daughter’s freezer when I get there, keeping my phone nearby.

Remember what you know. God is faithful. All will be well. You are not and never were in control. You are in God’s hands. Waiting is a gift, a discipline and an exercise in faith.

Trust. Today’s entry in Jesus Calling reminds us of God’s word to us, Waiting on Me means directing your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do. It entails trusting Me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure things out yourself. Waiting on Me is the way I designed you to live: all day, every day. 

Pray. Pray for peace as you wait.

Keep your routines and rituals. Sometimes keeping a schedule is an act of grace that calms us down and reminds us of God’s presence in the daily routine acts of life. Eat, exercise, work, rest, repeat.

I’ve preached and written before about how hard it must have been for the followers of Jesus on that day of waiting between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. How did they bear it? Can you imagine the sorrow, angst, worry, uncertainty and pain they must have felt? The Bible says very little about that Saturday but I believe it is one of the most important times in the whole Bible because it was a whole day of not knowing when all they could do was FaithWait. I imagine time just painfully crawling that day, oozing with despair.

Waiting is what the Christian life is all about. We do not know the plan. We do not know what the future holds. Most of the time we barely know what God wants us to do.

The difference is we wait as those who have hope. That is FaithWaiting at its finest. Psalm 33:20-22 offers this prayer: We wait in hope for the Lord; God is our help and our shield. In God our hearts rejoice, for we trust in God’s holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. 

Casserole by casserole, I FaithWait.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mimosa to Keller and his soon to arrive baby brother and one who waits with hope.

Heartache and Light

Seven years ago today I suddenly, unexpectedly lost a friend, a colleague, my boss, the senior pastor of our church. In that one day, many things changed for many of us. For me, it began a seven year journey of challenges that are best described as a series of gut punches.

As today dawned, I remembered. Some things you do not forget. Some hurts stay etched on your soul.

I reached out to those I know who are hurting more and remembering today too. That helped a little.

In my journal, I noted that my feelings surprise me. In seven years,  it seems I would be more healed from that loss. But, today I can feel an actual physical pain in the same broken place in my heart where this grief lives. It feels gently healed but ever-so-tender, like new pink skin is growing there, very thin and delicate. It feels like I should shield it.

I don’t know what to do on a gray and achy day like this except to honor my feelings. To name them. To bathe them in prayer and in God’s Light. To say, “Yes, that happened and it really hurt, really mattered and really changed me.” A mentor once told me that our tears baptize our feelings. Today, my tears are at work in the Holy act of baptizing this loss once again.

God is a God of healing and so much healing has happened in these seven years. I celebrate that. I see it. I live it every day.

The entry in Jesus Calling today, February 19, says, You need to remember who I am in all my Power and Glory.  What a Word this is. Even before this loss, God’s Glory has of course been on display. In the midst of it and in the years since, God has continued to shine.

Creation shows us this all the time: Pure darkness, then the first light of dawn. Heavy, angry storm clouds then a rainbow. Moonlight, starlight on a previously black night. God saying, Yes, you’ve had darkness but remember who I am in all my Power and Glory.

Today, I remember. I remember my friend. I recall the deep loss. I revisit the tender ache of it. And, most of all, I remember who God is.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, a wife, a mother of three, friend and colleague of Dr. Ken Diehm, breast cancer survivor, Mimosa to Keller. 

J.T.’s Footwear

I enjoyed last night’s Super Bowl but was distracted by Justin Timberlake’s footwear. I like Justin Timberlake and believe he is a very gifted true artist. I’ve watched him grow up from his Mickey Mouse Club days to N Sync to his very cool current status. I especially love it when he performs with Chris Stapleton.

J.T. wore a nice pair of comfy white tennis shoes and they distracted me because I was picturing all the female artists who do all the same moves on 5 inch heels. As long as men get to wear shoes like that while women don’t, I’m going to claim that the world is not yet just.

Men get to wear comfortable undergarments, boxer type swimsuits and flat shoes. For some reason, they have no make up expectations, very few hair worries and only have to shave their faces.  The only thing I can see that might cause them discomfort is a necktie and they have control over how that feels. They don’t wear Spanx that I know of.

A couple of weeks ago, while shopping for a black tie event, I saw that they now have Spanx for arms. I nearly collapsed in despair right there in front of the display. A very rich woman named Sara invented Spanx and I have bought plenty and been quite grateful for their power to spare people of my lumps and bumps. But arm Spanx? No.

Is it not enough that we are smashing our thighs, tummies and rear ends into submission? Now, our arms too?

I can just picture us in all our Spanx, falling off our 5 inch heels, our carcasses exploding out of our Spanx like busted cans of Southern Style biscuits, while we lay there mumbling, “This is not the look I was going for.”

So today, I say no. If J.T. gets to wear comfy tennis shoes while dancing, so do we.

When my baby grandson was born, I had a ringside seat. I am freshly aware that he came into this world shoeless, Spanx-less, perfect, 100% fearfully and wonderfully made.

Scripture reminds us that we are created in God’s image, all of us, male and female. (Genesis 1:27)

We are enough just as we are. We are good. We reflect the divine. Maybe it is time to dress like we believe it.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and breast cancer survivor. Today she is wearing comfy tennis shoes and no Spanx. You can hear her speak this week at The Well event for women on Thursday evening, February 8 at First UMC, Grapevine, Texas. Meal tickets are sold out but program-only tickets are available for $15 all week at http://www.fumcg.org/cindyryan.              

A Baby, Why?

I was lingering over coffee with a friend this week when she suddenly said, “Why did God choose to come as a baby?” Yes, this is just one example of the delicious people I spend time with these days.

I told her I genuinely did not know but nothing could be more surprising, unexpected or tender. She added, “Or, in need of care.”

It somewhat paralleled another feeling I was having lately about my daughter’s pregnancy  Our world seems so divisive, chaotic, fearful, angry and upside down right now and yet, our family has another tiny baby boy coming our way in the spring.  I was thinking, “Thank God for a lovely, hopeful, opposite-of-everything-else, sign of new life.”

My friend’s words just keep ringing in my ears, “God’s revelation in Jesus came in need of human care.” God’s Word came needing flawed humans to keep it alive.  Isn’t that something?

An all-powerful, all-knowing God chose to be revealed to us but packaged that Word as an infant.

So here’s what I’m wondering this Advent,  are we looking in all the wrong places for Truth, Light, Righteousness and Justice? Maybe we are searching for BIG answers or an adult leader to be in charge of the world while God is delivering truth in tiny, fragile, unexpected ways that need us to see the truth, cradle it, feed it, sing to it and help it grow.

When our grandson was born, even though I had raised three babies of my own, I was stunned at how much he needed us. I was struck by the fact that he seemed to thrive and be comforted from day one by sleeping held closely on a loved one’s chest, hearing a heart beating next to his. I marveled at there flex he had to grasp a finger with his tiny hand and hold on.

What if God’s latest Word has already been delivered and it is like that, in need of human nurture, love and connection? What if it’s waiting on us to respond so it can thrive and transform us and our world? Are you looking this advent for some small, infant-like wisp of justice, goodness, grace or peace? Is there some tender piece of Good News that needs to nestle safely in your arms and grow?

It’s happened before…

 

 

Tree Trauma

Tis the season of gifts. You have your list and I have mine. Retailers are working as hard as they can to make sure we want to give what they have. Thankfully, our family’s gift lists have been trimmed down over the years due to our intentional simplification. Today I found a picture of Christmas from about 20 years. We were in a large room and the gifts were all over the room, a huge pile in front of each person, above our heads. We were sitting down, but still. And, this was just our celebration with one side of the family. Everyone had at least 15 gifts; there were 11 of us in the picture. You do the math.

In the Christian faith, we mark this season before Christmas as a time of watching and waiting. We decorate with the focus on a few candles. Sunday by Sunday we light one candle, then two as we talk about gifts, The gifts we talk about in Advent are the ones God wants to give us: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. That’s it.

The older I get the less I want wrapped, bought gifts and the more I desperately crave God’s gifts.

Last week, we put up our tree. I love having the tree up and lit early so I can enjoy it for all the weeks leading to Christmas. Because of our empty nest, we are short on labor around here so I decided I could assemble the four pieces of our artificial tree by myself, get the stand and skirt on it, get the lights working, add all the red ribbon by myself and then coax my husband into adding ornaments with me later.

This proved to be a very difficult task for one person. It is still hot here in Texas so I was in a full body sweat by the time I got it all up, MOST of the lights working and ribbon swirling sort of attractively around it. For some reason my dog chose that time while I was distracted and sweating to help herself to a whole bag of pepper jack cheese. This cheese thing, plus the sweating really dampened my Christmas Spirit which comes and goes anyway due to the over-the-top nature of all things Christmas.

When my husband got home I shared my work of art and told him he had just enough time to add ornaments with me before the Cowboy game. He was motivated and moving fast. Then, in the midst of it all, I had a huge wave of Missing My Children which hit without warning as we put up ornament after ornament with their preschool and elementary age faces plus all the baby’s first Christmas ones and the ones we love the most and the ones that always make us laugh. So, yes, I started crying and telling my husband no one warned me about the empty nest tree part.

He coaxed me to move onward mostly because of the Cowboy game. At the last touches the tree seemed to sway a bit, then a bit more. He quietly asked if I’d secured the stand with the three big screws provided. I told him there were no screws provided and that I was sure we didn’t need them as long as no one ever brushed up against or came even remotely close to the tree. He disagreed.

What happened next involved both of us at times prone on the floor under the tree, yelling at each other better ways to do what needed to be done, needing a flashlight, dismantling the whole thing and sweating.

It’s up now, no longer swaying and quite beautiful.

Between the heat, the dog eating the cheese, the Empty Nest meltdown and the after the fact securing, I’m back where I started, just needing God’s gifts: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ.

Every one of us has our seasonal challenges, some are bigger than others, of course. May God’s best gifts continue to soothe you and yours this season.