Some Questions I’m Asking

photo-1423477491197-ec2f29ac4d6b

After the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas this last week and the attack at the Istanbul airport the week before, my soul will not rest, my heart is moving toward despair, and my body actually hurts with the loss of life. I don’t have words, but I have a bunch of questions that I’ve been wrestling with as I’ve listened to the news, read various blog posts, and scanned through social media posts. Here they are:

What does it mean to live in our world today?

What does it mean to be white in the United States? How is the lens through which I see every victim and perpetrator impacting my heart and mind and response?

What does it mean to be black in the United States…and how do I know the answer to that?

Who do I need to sit with and listen to?

What authors do I need to read?

What are the things I want to be right about and why?

What statistics are right? Does it matter?

How am I benefiting from unjust systems, laws, practices, and presumptions?

What do I do with the despair I feel?

What topics, questions, conversations make me afraid? And why?

Who do I want to be wrong and why?

What are all the things that are making me so sad?

What ways of thinking or assumptions need to be renewed, challenged, questioned?

What history am I believing and has this caused me to be biased for or against certain people?

Who will be a light?

What lens am I seeing the world through?

What does love (and not being right, being respected, being loud, being defensive) look like right now?

What is my hope really in? Really.

Do you see us, Lord? Is your heart breaking?

What is mine to do?

How can I be on the side of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation?

Advertisements

Does the God You Follow Look Suspiciously Like Santa?

snow-light

Have you ever thought about all the images of God you carry around in your head and heart without even realizing it? From time to time, I reflect on whether any false or lesser images of God have crept into my psyche. During one of these reflections a while back, I discovered that my image of God looked more like Santa Claus than I would have believed. It seems ridiculous, I know, but let me show you what I mean.

Santa relates to the children of the world based upon their behavior—whether I’m good or bad determines his view of me. If I’m good, I’m placed on the “nice list” and I get good things. If I’m bad, I’m placed on the “naughty list” and I get a lump of coal as a sign of my depravity. And, by the way, the standards about who makes the nice list and who makes the naughty list are not public so none of us even know how to qualify. It’s all pretty arbitrary. We don’t know for sure until we open our eyes on Christmas morning and see what he brought. So, if you’ve done some bad things here and there (and I’ll just speak for myself, when I say I have), you’re on pins and needles for the whole month of December. Plus, Santa only comes around once a year. He’s not involved in the day-to-day matters of life. He’s more absent than present. When you send him a letter, he doesn’t write back and you’re never sure whether he gets your mail. Finally, Santa has no power other than to fly with reindeer, mobilize magical elves to make toys, and squeeze his body into chimneys. This is all sweet, but once you’re about 15, or if your life isn’t picture-perfect, it seems a bit irrelevant. His power doesn’t heal sickness and he doesn’t provide long-term hope.

This analysis led me to ask myself these questions: Are you unsure where you stand with God? Are you hoping that at the end of the day, your good outweighs the bad? Do you find yourself “good binging” to make up for the bad you’ve done hoping to even out the scales? Do you pray not knowing whether anyone actually receives your pleas or is interested enough to listen? Is God more absent than present? Do you believe God is unable to empower you and supply you the courage, wisdom, and grace you need to live a full life?

If my answer to any of these questions is yes, then I have replaced the actual living God with someone who looks a lot like Santa. And God is not at all like Santa. With God, in Christ, I know exactly where I stand—blameless, saved, secure. I have no work to do; no good-binging is required to restore me to His good graces. God receives every prayer, whether I utter it or not. He knows the deepest parts of my heart. God is actually within me—more present to me than any other person or thing in all of creation. And nothing can separate me from His love.

What false or lesser images of God do you carry around with you without even realizing it?

Practicing Bravery

photo-1431623383349-64a0332fa725

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:3–6

Growing up I received the message that it wasn’t okay to say how you were feeling, when you were hurt, or what made you angry. This was all to be stuffed down to maintain a fragile peace and to ensure that you would continue to be loved. This approach to feelings has spilled over into every relationship I’ve ever had. About a year ago, God showed me that He longed to heal this wound in me. And as in all transformation, my participation was required. So, I began practicing bravery in relationships—sharing when I felt hurt, overlooked, undervalued, or angry—every now and then. “Practicing” because I wasn’t sure I could do it or that I’d like it. This practicing is one of my biggest life battles because God is asking me to do the thing that, for me, is the hardest thing.

This weekend while riding in the car, I off-handedly told my 15-year old daughter that something another person said had annoyed me. Even as I said it, I knew there was more to the feeling, but I left it at annoyance. By some miracle, she has not inherited my stuff-it-don’t-say-it philosophy, so she proceeded to tell me it annoyed her that I was so annoyed. She said she couldn’t understand why it mattered so much to me that the other person said what they said. He was just expressing his opinion.

I felt stung and like I was 12 again and my feelings were not valid and shouldn’t be shared. My face burned and my gut tightened.

My daughter’s words hung in the air between us, waiting for a response. Everything in me demanded I not speak and the more time that passed, the more hostile the silence became. I know this kind of silence well; it has been a pillar of my relationships. A full five minutes went by and the silence felt like being in the presence of an old friend. I could wait out the awkwardness and then move ahead as if this moment had never happened. I’d done this all my life. I had a bottomless storage tank in my heart for unexpressed feelings.

I glanced over at my daughter in the passenger seat looking out the window. I know she sensed the tension in this silence and probably began to believe that she had done something wrong—that she shouldn’t have shared her feelings with me. But she could not have known the battle raging in my mind and heart. It started to feel cruel not to say anything even after the hundreds of seconds that had passed since she spoke. It was an act of aggression to shut down. Panic rose in the back of my throat as I considered responding. I prayed, but not in words; it was mostly just silent heart groans.

I breathed deeply, kept both hands firmly on the steering wheel. “Here’s why what he said mattered so much to me: When I was a kid…” I recalled what had happened at least 25 years earlier and the feelings that had been triggered. She listened with all the love she has in her, which is enough to fill an ocean. She asked a soft question and when she did, relief rushed over me and light filled my soul. I did it! And I was okay. I was safe. She still loves me.

We have no idea the battles being waged in the hearts and minds of people around us. May we be gentle and gracious with each other. And may we be brave and open as God heals our wounds.

The Lord’s Prayer, A Blessing

May you join with our Lord Jesus in calling on our Father.

May you feel our Father’s presence in your lungs – in your inhale and in your exhale.

May you have eyes that see the presence of the kingdom now and celebrate; may you have eyes that notice the kingdom’s absence and then bring God’s light.

May you have the courage to be small in God’s presence and dependent on his grace.

May you have the humility to be attentive to the bread God provides to you this day.

May you, at the slightest turn and with the smallest step toward him, have eyes to see the Father who runs to you, throws his arms around you, and calls you his beloved daughter…his beloved son.

May you open your heart and receive God’s gentle grace as he makes and remakes you into a forgiver.

May you, in the midst of the darkest valley, surrender to the leadership of the Good Shepherd, who leads you through every trial and every temptation and delivers you from all evil.

Our Father, your kingdom reigns forever and ever.

Our Father, yours is the power forever and ever.

Our Father, all the glory be to you alone forever and ever.

Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

Photo: © Cleardesign | Dreamstime.com – Bread Roll, Wheat And Flour On Black Background Photo

A Journey Into Silence

 

This silence is too loud.
I should unlock my hands.
Don’t breathe that fast.
My job title should be slightly different.

This silence is too long.
My cheek itches.
I shouldn’t have used those words.
I wish he would see me differently.

This silence is too deep.
I wonder if she loved me.
She ignored me.
I was little, I didn’t know.

This silence has gone too far.
Don’t keep walking that way,
It’s too close, it’s too close!
Open your eyes, break the silence!

IMG_0390

No, the clouds are moving so fast
and the grass tickles the backs of my knees,
making me laugh, my hands behind my head.

Oh! The sun beats down on my six-year old toes
and I close my eyes tight, dizzied by the
size of the sky and how I don’t see where it ends.

This silence is too beautiful.

Opened

IMG_0069.JPG

No one ever walks around in my neighborhood. Especially when it’s raining. We have cars to get us where we need to go, you see. Until the day I read Jesus’ words about the good Samaritan and decided to take his command to “go and do likewise” seriously. Then suddenly, I see that there is at least one person, a woman, who walks to work, carrying a heavy bag and sheltering herself from the cold rain with a flowered umbrella. When she gets in my car, God’s presence rushes in with her, stronger than the stormy breeze outside and she says she speak only a little English. I feel like I’ve known her, Maria, all my life and when I drop her off at the home where she works, I feel a loss. Tears trace the corners of my smiling mouth, the fullness of God there in that breath of a moment. Oh, what the eyes see and the soul experiences when they are opened.

Being Transformed

IMG_2162

The deep pain it is to be molded,
fingers pressing in and around,
kneading the spots that are sensitive
and sore to the touch.

The potter shapes and forms,
coaxing his subject and speaking softly
as he works this would-be treasure
into a new creation.

The outside begins to reveal its purpose
and the potter could stop,
but he pushes on and the clay’s
insides scream to be let alone.

The fire is too hot and too much
of the old self seeps out,
leaving a seemingly empty vessel
for which there is no going back.

The potter eyes his formation,
stronger now because of his hands,
but still unsure and resistant
of this being transformed.