Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mysterious Easter

The other day I sat in a coffee shop and watched people rush past.  Here and there, to and fro.  The great philosopher Socrates said, "Beware of the barrenness of the busy life."   But, sadly, this is how we often live. The modern world rushes on and we let ourselves be robbed. We think we're wise, but we're foolish.  We think we're something special in our progressive, 'enlightened' state, but we're just proud.  We think we're accomplishing, but we often miss out.

We spend our whole lives trying to become more wise, more knowledgeable, more in control of our own destiny while one of the mysteries of the gospel is the exact opposite; we must become like a little child (Matt. 18:3).  We must let go of our own self-sufficiency to truly enter into Him, to trust, to grow.

I, for one, don't enjoy this painful process, but I do like the results.  Becoming closer to Him.  Becoming a better conduit of His love.

It seems like a strange thing to ask, this becoming childlike, but something that He Himself was willing to give.  Our example, the Creator of the universe as a tiny helpless babe.....

Oh, how He loves us.

I don't understand this humility.  It's foreign to our natural state.  I struggle to live it out within my own little community of well-loved family and friends, let alone being like the Perfect One abused and dying for the masses.....

"Christ died for all men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it."  
(C.S. Lewis)  

Masses of millions lying, cheating, hurting each other.  Many just living for the betterment of themselves.  A huge comfort to me while living in Kolkata was the thought that while the pain that I saw on the streets every day shredded my own heart, how much more bloody the heart must be of the Omnipresent One who sees it ALL everywhere.  Fellowship in suffering.

Oh, how He loves us.

But love can be distorted and misunderstood,  "Because fellow humans who are supposed to love us well don't always do a very good job, we project that inadequate human love onto God.  If we could ever begin to truly grasp the depth of the love God has for us, it would forever change the way we view him, the plans he has for us, and the way we see ourselves."  (Kay Warren)  Instead we need to, "fix(ing) our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Heb. 12:2)  Other versions say, "the champion," "the author," "the source," "the founder," "the leader," "the maker of faith."  That's Who we need to gaze upon.  We need to develop the habit of keeping our eyes on Him more than we do on the problems around us.  Where are your eyes today?  Looking at problems and pain, or fixed on the One who is the solution?

"God and love are synonymous.  Love is not an attribute of God, it is God.  Whatever God is, love is." (Oswald Chambers) If we spend a lifetime seeking Him we will only scratch the surface of Who He is, and therefore, what is love.  

And, oh, how He loves us.

He loved us as the Creator, as that helpless little babe, as the Savior on the cross, as the Author of our faith.  He loves us in our helplessness, in our pride, in our selfishness, in our greed; our imperfection.  He love us in our struggles and through our lack of trust, lack of faith and through the minefield of doubt.  He loves us to the Cross and back....

He will never, ever love us more than He does right now----and He will never, ever love us less.   Pause and reflect, embrace that this Easter.  Embrace Him.  

"But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins, 
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.......

......When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, 
he will be satisfied.  
And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins."  (Is. 53:5,11)

Because of love.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wake up......

Recently my daughter Hannah had a crazy busy day at work after an already busy week.  She was the barista that day at the cafe where she works.  They were short staffed and the orders lined up in front of her were getting covered up by a second row of orders.  Every customer service job worker's nightmare!  She decided that she had a conscious choice.  She could sit down and give up, or she could take a deep breath, say, "I can do this," and keep on keepin' on.

In a job the choice is obvious.  You've got to keep going or loose the job!  But in life in general that choice isn't always as black and white.

When seasons of life have tough things in them, when the hard things seem to go on and on, the natural human response it to let ourselves go numb.  When we've had enough of misery, stress, tears, insomnia, moments of panic, or things that steal our joy; we just want to protect, insulate, avoid.......

We're weary.

It's often not that everything is horrible, there's always good, but when we feel like a punching bag for the jabs of life, soreness makes the rest hard to find.

I'm getting over yet another sinus infection with bouts of vertigo.  My little gift from Calcutta that keeps on giving!  It's been a while since the last one--improvement!-- and I've been trying to get rid of it though natural remedies.  But the other day I realized that a couple of weeks of trying to 'solider on' and ignore the pain had made me emotionally numb / alternating with just plain fussy, so for the sake of those around me I've resorted to antibiotics.  With this on top of other things in life, I've found myself a little bit lifeless lately.

It took an online chat with a friend from Calcutta to get me out of my funk.  We've supported each other through some tough times.  She knows me and what makes me tick and said, "Spend some time taking care of your own needs, not just other people's.  Get out and take a walk on the beach or something."  In other words, "Go admire the work of your Creator."  Or, "Stop mindlessly navel gazing and look Up."  She was right.  Sometimes at first glance it seems easier to just stay down when the first step out of the numbness is actually pretty simple.

Now I'm trying to 'wake up' again.  Wake up to joy.  Wake up to happiness.  Wake up to life.

How quickly we can numb.

Being numb may help us avoid pain, but it cancels out the good stuff as well.  Brene Brown said this in her TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability":

"You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing those other effects and emotions (the good stuff).  You cannot selectively numb.  So when we numb those, we numb joy.  We numb gratitude. We numb happiness.  And then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning.  And then we feel vulnerable so we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.  And it becomes this dangerous cycle."

While our tendency is to avoid, that's not how we're meant to live.  Numbing to the negative also makes us numb to the One who is the Author of all joy.  If, "The joy of the Lord is your (my) strength,"  (Nehemiah 8:10) then if we're being robbed of joy, we're being robbed of our strength as well.  Another dangerous cycle.

There is always joy, because there is always Him.  There is always the promise of something better, the promise of redemption, the promise of Heaven.  "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart because I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)  There will always be pain in this life, but the many pleasures that He DOES grant us here are prophetic glimpses wetting our appetite for the perfect life to come----where pain ends.  And His Presence is walking beside us even now.  Always.

God is the Source of joy, but when Adam and Eve sinned what was the first thing they did?  They hid:  from God, from their nakedness, the consequences of their actions, their vulnerability.  The hid from the One Thing that could make them whole again.

And He did.  He does.  He came.  He died.  He lives.  He has "overcome the world."

Cause for worship.  For meditation on His Holiness.  For allowing the shadow of our 'light and momentary troubles' to disappear in the light of His Grace.  His Sacrifice.  His Love.

Breathe it in.

One of my friends took this.  If it was you please remind me who you are so I can give you credit!
When life gets to be too much, when becoming numb seems like a really good option, when our joy is fleeting and for whatever reason our hope is dim; there is still HIM.  There is still peace in His presence.  There is still joy. And we can find that, not by hiding, not by numbing ourselves, but by walking in worship---straight into Him.

In astonishment and awe for all that He is, for all that He does, and for the life we find in Him. WAKE UP!

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me;  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  (Ps. 23:4)

"Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song and He has become my salvation."  (Is. 12:2)

"So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  (Is. 41:10)

"You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me;  you stoop down to make me great."  (Ps. 18:35)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Being Serene

I've been thinking about serenity lately.  Finding that place of peace and rest.  The calm in the storm, getting the most out of this moment.  And this one.  I've been consciously listening to laughter from the next room, looking at rolling hills, memorizing the faces of loved ones, watching the antics of this long awaited pet who definitely enjoys life in the NOW.
Adam doesn't remember having a pet so is loving our kitten Moli (Fijian spelling)!
Not that life has stopped--it hasn't!--but we need to find those moments when we can.  Planning them, instigating them, choosing them over the instant, the things that just distract us.

I have a fireplace for the first time since I was a child and for someone who finds serenity in watching sunsets, ocean waves, fish tanks, and fires this is an exciting thing!  I prefer the sun but am looking forward to winter this year.
Our stove all ready for winter minus the wood and the cold.  
It's put me in a nesting mode and for the first time in ages I've picked up my crochet needle to make a blanket/afghan.  There's a release in creativity and something good happens inside when you sit there doing something routine like that.  It gives you time to think, unravel tangled thoughts, pray.  The other night as I was crocheting by the 'fire'--my lit candle on top of the stove!--Rachel came home and teased me about the 'old lady' sitting there.  She then commented about how no one her age knows how to do things like that.  That their lives are filled with a continual stream of 'entertainment' instead of movies, things online, etc.

I don't do well very long living like that.  I think most of us are probably that way.  If we don't dial down now and then we don't process.  If we don't process we live stressed and don't even realize the parts of us that need to change; the places were we're anxious, have bad attitudes, don't recognize the needs of others.  Just generally what we need to do to live life better, more content and fulfilled, and ready to be used by Him as well.

I recently saw a Humans of New York Facebook post with a photo of a homeless man in a wheelchair.  The dialogue with the photo went:
"I think I'm the happiest when I'm broke.
"Why's that?"
"Because I can always find a good meal.  But when I'm broke, I can't afford to do the things I shouldn't be doing."

Profound really.  In a society that is rich financially we often find ourselves truly poor because the easy 'fix', whatever that may be, crowds out what's really important and sometimes actually harms us.

There are times that it's impossible to stop for any length of time.  But to live long-term with the pressing overwhelming the precious is a tragedy.  We miss out.  We aren't good for ourselves or others.  We live on a starvation diet, barely getting needed nourishment from our Source and the Great Relationship of our lives grows cold.  And our human ones follow.

We're all unique and have to find balance.  I need to do something that makes me sit still for a bit and calms me.  Steve needs to do something active like work on an engine or putter in the garage.  I admire people who can produce things like great food or a work of art while they're getting in touch with their Creator.  I find it interesting  that all religions and creeds have an element of this.  Finding their 'zen', their place of peace. It's a basic human need.

I, like many, am very tactile and generally influenced in all my senses by things around me.  Certain environments are harder for me than others, so I've had to learn ways to 'settle' in order to focus on Him. While I'm not into doing ritualistic things for the purpose of tradition alone, I find that certain routines help. One of my current favorites is praying with a small wooden cross that I hold in my hand. As soon as I pick it up, the feel of it in my hand, the visual of being reminded of my Redeemer, helps me shut down the things around and focus on Him.

It's getting in touch with who we are each uniquely created to be and operating in that.  It's letting it be OK to be who we really are in Him.  It's how HE made us!  How He wants us to come.  Uniquely individual. One person in billions, but one cherished individual to Him.

The world is bent and broken.  What seems to satisfy for an instant actually leaves us thirsty for more.  We need to dial down, reconnect with our need for Him and find the balance of true serenity before it's too late.  Before busyness is just a habit and the space in between is filled by all that is empty and meaningless.  And life just passes by.

"Yet I am always with you;  you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory."  (Ps. 73:23-24)

We need to do what it takes to LIVE.  Forever doesn't start in some distant far off time.  If you are living and breathing today, your forever has already started.

photo credit Christine White