Month: June 2014

Five Minute Friday: Lost

Beloved,

I forget to thank You for many things but this morning, something arose and I must stop, and thank You, and probably continue thanking You off and on for some time. I called the pharmacy to refill my prescriptions, worried about the cost, (Could I afford them?) only to be put on hold for a long time while they checked. After a few minutes, someone asked if I had been helped. To my great surprise, I said, “I believe I have been. Thank you.” My voice remained calm, even toned, normal. No defensiveness. No anger because the wait was so long (but really because I was worried).

You first showed me when my thyroid was removed that I could be in great pain, dealing with an unresponsive doctor, and remain calm. It’s taken several years, but that seems to be happening more and more. I’ve lost the automatic “flinch” I learned when the man used to shout at me and hit me and beat me because I was hurting or upset or sick. Please, don’t let me find it again. I don’t want it. Let it remain lost forever. Thank You.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished words to each other and our readers. Lisa Jo Baker provides a prompt on her blog and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Christian Community

VG35507The scandal of Christianity is that God gets His hands dirty with creation. He jumps right into the midst of us and places Himself in an utterly dependent relationship with us. (Whose more dependent that a baby?)

That’s the model we’ve been given for Christian community. We’re to jump in as God did. It’s messy. It’s difficult. It looks nothing like the images we tend to have in our minds. We must simply jump. That’s the banquet, the great dance. (Of course there’s dancing at the wedding banquet of the Lamb.) Even this side of heaven, the banquet is the greatest party evah!

Excerpt From the Last Chapter: Reaching

“…He isn’t withholding knowledge of Himself out of capriciousness or wrath or cruelty. [It’s simply that] we don’t speak Heaven’s language. We don’t read it. We don’t understand it. We must learn. And first, we must want to learn,” I wrote.

Z exploded again, “‘[W]e must want to learn.’ [B]ut why would we want to learn? [W]hat could possibly set us upon a path towards knowledge and understanding of scripture? [T]he answer, unfortunately for you, is that there is nothing. [T]he wanting to learn presupposes some reason to want to learn. [B]ut having some reason to want to learn presupposes some knowledge. [B]ut having some knowledge is only possible if one wants to learn. [S]o round and round and round we go, until we either vomit or concede that this is a path to nowhere. [W]e only want to learn if we have knowledge, but only have knowledge if we want to learn. [B]ut all this is part and parcel of the christian [sic] blame-the-victim mentality. [I]f only you wanted to learn… [I]f only you would open your heart… [T]he real issue is god’s [sic] existence or his sanity. [O]ne or the other must be absent.”

He believes there is nothing that could set us on a path to learning to be in communication with You. But it’s like what happened with Georg:

Georg read from my book:

“So she was burnt with all her clothes,
“And arms and hands, and eyes and nose;
“Till she had nothing more to lose
“Except her little scarlet shoes;
“And nothing else but these was found
“Among her ashes on the ground.” (1)

“Paulinchin!” I crowed and bounced in my seat. “Papa reads that story to me in German!” Carsten, Georg’s little brother, pressed close to the older boy’s side. “She burned up,” he said softly as his thumb inched into his mouth. “She did!” I bounced again. “She played with matches and danced around the fire and burned up!” I bounced out of my chair and twirled until I fell on the floor in a dizzy heap. When the room stopped spinning, I looked up at Georg, “How do you know what those black marks on the page mean?” “I can read,” he told me. “How?” my voice was a long breathless wonder. “I learned to read in school,” he said definitively.

“When can I go to school?” I asked Marmar. She started back a bit, creases came into her forehead, “When you’re five. I suppose…” I nodded and swaggered off to play with my wooden train.

“And how old are you?” the strange man asked me. I backed myself against Papa’s leg, my eyes opened wide. “How old are you. Lysse?” Papa prompted. “Five,” I held up three fingers. “She’s three,” Papa corrected me. I looked up at Papa, “I’m five.” Papa and the strange man exchanged glances. “She’s three,” Papa told him.

“I’m five!” I ran through the hall singing. “I’m five!” Marmar called me into the sitting room. “Lysse, you know you’re three,” I stood before her clouded face. “I’m five,” I insisted nodding my head. “Why do you keep saying you’re five? You know you’re three,” Marmar used her serious voice. “Because,” I began. “You said I could go to school when I’m five.” Marmar blinked, “Why do you want to go to school?” “I want to learn to read,” I told her. “Read?” she asked, her forehead crinkling. “Georg learned to read at school. I want to know what those black marks in books are.” Marmar pressed her lips together for a moment. Finally she said, “I’ll talk to your Papa. Go play now.” She sent me off with a pat on my bum.

“Lysse, I want you to meet Mara,” a young woman with curly red hair reached for my hand. She was taller than Marmar; red freckles covered her face. I kept my hands behind my back. Marmar lifted me from the floor. She spoke gently, “Mara has come to teach you to read.” I looked at the curly, red haired woman. Her brilliant blue eyes crinkled as she smiled. My eyes widened; my mouth shaped itself into a little smile.

I didn’t know what school was. But Georg was tall and swung me and Carsten around and played with us on the floor. He read the stories only grown ups read. I wanted to learn to read like him. He showed me something new and like a baby learning to crawl or walk, I reached. That’s the way You’ve made us, to reach for more.

Yes we need some knowledge. We must know there’s something out of reach. But we also need the desire to stretch out and grab hold of it. Without that desire, we’re like that poor eight month-old baby whose father left him in the playpen all day as he watched sports. No matter what I tried, he wasn’t interested in anything. He’d sit in his highchair and prop his head on one hand. When one arm tired, he’d prop his head on the other side. I’ve cared for so many babies but never encountered another eight month-old like him.

He opened his mouth and let me spoon food into it. He ate Cheerios one at a time. He didn’t gobble the things he loved or squawk when something odd was popped into his mouth. He was a lump. Oh Beloved, I wish I’d been able to sit for him more often, take him out, play with him. But they didn’t want to spend the money. I do pray You healed him. That baby was not as You’ve made us to be.

1) Heinrich Hoffman, Slovenly Peter or Cheerful Stories and Funny Pictures for Good Little Folks (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, n.d. (1900?), (http://germanstories.vcu.edu/struwwel/pauline_e.html)

Five Minute Friday: Release

Beloved,

You’ve changed me. Really, really changed me.

You know things are tight right now. I’m beginning to feel desperate. I’ve felt that way in the past. Last night, I was tempted to hurt myself. An old memory of hitting myself with a hard, leather belt, the way the man used to hit me, came into my mind. I’ve done it in the past. I’ve been tempted and cried to You for help only to find myself hurting myself in rage and desperation. But last night, I cried out to You for help. I said, “No! I don’t want this. I don’t need it anymore.” I prayed and the temptation left.

How long was I in bondage to obsessive actions? To replaying what was done to me because that’s what I deserved? Because there was no hope for anything more? How often did I tell myself, “Hang on. God have more in store for you?” Last night, I didn’t need to convince myself. All I needed was to cry out to You, to pray, to reject self-destructiveness. You have set me free. You have released me.

Oh, my Lord, I’m free. I’m free.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer and write for 5 minutes and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished words to each other and our readers. Lisa Jo Baker provides a prompt on her blog and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Fair For Whom?

It’s not enough that I be simply alive, sentient. Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, I must accept “infinitely more than I can ask or imagine.”(1) And that’s always the cross. But like mush, I push the cross away. So God takes me apart and makes me new, makes me able to suffer and sacrifice. He doesn’t limit His faithfulness to that of a provider. He doesn’t just clean my cage and give me fresh food and water. He is faithful to His original plan. And His faithfulness has made me faithful to Him even though “I’m not like other people. I can’t stand pain. It hurts me”(2)

It’s not fair. The question is, fair for whom? Fair for me or fair for God? He makes man in His image and likeness, able to become like Him, and Adam and Eve choose to listen to a sea serpent. Yes, Adam is scared and Eve is tempted but they didn’t just spill the milk. They rejected their Creator. They shattered their relationship with Him. Nor did they admit their transgressions. Nor did they seek forgiveness. And when I’m honest, I must admit, I’m just like our first parents.

It was never wrong to want my family. Anything else would be unnatural. But I picked at the wound in my heart and made my pain worse. I made Marmar and Papa idols. Parents model God for their children, so that’s normal — for a child. But I continued idolizing them as an adult, long after I knew that anything and anyone could be an idol. I wanted them safe in my idol cupboard. They were my household gods. It never even occurred to me until I began writing this final chapter that I enthroned Marmar and Papa as my saviours, as gods, just like Andrew enthrones himself and his friends.(3) And just as Andrew kills his only friend, Jonathan, so that he might become a god, I used my wounds and my loss as an excuse to engage in some version of every one of the seven deadly sins. My culpability may have been less because of the wounds I’d suffered; that’s between me and my confessor and God. But in the imagination of my heart, I made them more than they could ever be and used my imaginings to harm others.

I begged for a world no bigger than I could imagine. It was too little. too little for me, too little for Marmar and Papa. By insisting that I could only be happy by having those two people, I made them more important than God. My heart became smaller. My ability to love decreased. Often, I couldn’t even see love, couldn’t trust love, couldn’t accept love. Love was an irritant, always reminding me of what I lost, an irritant that even limited my ability to accept God’s love.

1) Ephesians 3:20 (NAB)

2)  Looney Tunes, The Abominable Snow Rabbit (Warner Bros. 1961)

3) Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 7 (will add correct episode info)

Why Would I Want A Happy Ending?

What does it take to raise animated dirt to divinity? What does it take to create a diamond? Becoming like God can’t be easier than transforming coal. We’re not involved in Andrew’s pastoral dream where he romps with Warren and Jonathan singing, “We are gods.”(1) What we are to be is beyond our comprehension. But His Word, Christ’s transfiguration and resurrection and His people’s thousands of years of meditation on His revelation points to a grandness of immense magnitude: “we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”(2) I expect to dance stars, design just one robe for our Lady, sing the music I can almost hear this side of heaven, delve to my hearts content. And that’s only the beginning. Every instant will be this instant. Everything I do will be a hymn of praise to God, who raised up recalcitrant, stubborn me in spite of myself. My hymn will blend with all the other hymns of praise into living music. I will create beauty just as my Father does because, then, I will be like Him. There can be no “happy ending” to my story. I no longer want one. Why should it end? I’m still working to be ready for it to begin in earnest. Neither do I pine for halcyon days. This is earth, a school, of sorts, for those who will attend and apply themselves. It’s transitory. We are students training for the real thing.

1) Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 7 (will find correct episode)

2) 1 John 3:2 (RSV)

Faith

Faith is not a feeling, not even a feeling of devotion, not an ardor. It is often, so far as ordinary sentiments go, an emptiness, an aridity, a dry torment, a mind jumbled with distraction, directionless, unfeeling. Faith is a calm and feelingless redirecting of mind and will toward the unseen love, notable more for its steadiness and willingness to go on acting just as it would if it had been carried along by transports of joy, instead of being left bereft of signs and comforts. Only in that way can faith be tested for truth, steadfastness, and authenticity. Only in that way is it shown to be the real thing.”

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.*

“One story that I am reminded of here and that has ministered to me tremendously in the past while walking through trial is that of the great hymnist Horatio Spafford and the origin of his song, It Is Well. If you don’t know the back story of the song, it was written during a time of incredible loss in His life. During the Great Chicago fire of the late 1800’s He had planned to travel to Europe with his family. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

“‘When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

Read the entire post.

*Job 13:15, KJV

“MTD” – The Opposite Of Hanging With God

Often, I say, “I’ve spent my life hanging with God.” He raised me. He continues to raise me. He’s my Friend; I have no memory of a time when God was not present in my life. But God isn’t a generic figure. He’s specific. He reveals Himself throughout history, to Abraham, to Moses, to Israel, to us in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, He continues to reveal Himself to each of us every day and we need to be in relationship with Him to understand that He is revealing Himself. Sometimes our relationships are stormy but that’s not a problem. In fact, if you’re like me, it’s to be expected. The problem is when we opt out or try to appease God so that He’ll leave us alone. Then, we suffer from “MTD.” It’s not a Catholic thing. It’s a Christian thing. It’s a human thing. And it’s deadly.

Regardless ones faith, Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s post is worth a read.

Five Minute Fridays: Messenger

“I’ve wanted to meet you ever since I heard your story,” James Coburn told me. “Actually, I saw you walking down the staircase one day and realized, you look just like your cousins.” My heart began to pound. Over the past three years, I had been searching for family members, There must be one person who wanted to know me. “I’m trying to find an uncle or cousin or someone. There are no relations on my mother’s side. But there are so many on my father’s,” I told him trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. This man knows my family! “I went to school with some of your cousins,” he told me “They’re not really people you want to know.” “What?” my voice was shrill but soft. “You look just like them, but they’d hate you because your mother was from the south of Portugal.” His face was sad. “So what?” I asked. “They care,” he told me. “They care very much. It would be wiser if you would let it go. I’m so sorry.” “Isn’t there anyone?” I insisted blinking back tears. “Some of the younger ones, perhaps. But they’d never admit it. Your father’s family was involved with the Nazis. They really believe in racial purity. It’s probably why he left. A lot of Germans left when they grew up and discovered what their families had done. Let it go. Find a way to be happy and let it go.”

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