A Lenten Prayer

This beautiful prayer—really a set of prayers—was included in some Lenten resources my pastors sent out; I thought someone else “out there” might enjoy adding it to their practice(s) during this season. I’m going to pray it daily. I could also see focusing on a different portion during each week of Lent. Use it however it suits you best!

Merciful God,
Teach us to fast. Give us strength to resist our greed and the patience to withstand our passing need. Help us to stand in sol­idarity with those who don’t get to choose. And help us to be hungry for the right things — for righteousness, for justice and peace.

Faithful God,
Teach us to pray. Give us grace to sit still. Help us to value time with you above all other time. Show us how to find and keep a routine and pattern of life so that you are the ebb and flow of our every thought and word and deed.

Generous God,
Teach us to give money away. As you have invested your whole destiny in us, let our giving reflect our gratitude and our longing to be like you. Show us the person, the institution, the cause to which you will us to be bound by bonds of finance and affection.

Truthful God,
Teach us to examine ourselves. Search inside our hearts and take away those things that don’t belong there. Help us to search inside your heart and put the things we find there inside our own.

Revealing God,
Teach us to read your Scripture. Show us the parts of your story we forget and open to us the aspects of your purposes we fail to comprehend. Make your word a lantern to our feet and a light to our path.

Reconciling God,
Come and heal our broken relationships. This Lent show us one enemy who can become a friend. Introduce us to a stranger who opens to us a window into your kingdom. And teach us when and how to say the word, “Sorry.”

Amen.

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Victory?

Apparently it’s time to dust off the ol’ blog. Life has certainly had its twists and turns over the last couple of years…really, over the last seven-and-a-half years…and while I’ve had moments—even seasons—of clarity, contentment, peace, and joy, it’s been quite a journey to find my footing; if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’ve found it just yet. I do feel more solid in many ways but less solid in some as I continue to walk the path set before me, one step at a time.

I’ve been hesitant to write about my journey because I’m not very good at being veiled and there are people whose lives would be affected if I opened up a vein too much. Up until recently, I’ve been too raw to put my thoughts and feelings “out there” out of concern for people I love. I re-enter the blogosphere with a little trepidation, but I also trust that somehow I’ll be able to navigate the minefield of my post-divorce life without doing too much damage along the way. And if I do offend anyone, it will be an opportunity to dialog and hopefully to grow through it. We shall see.

However, today’s topic has little to do with my journey of late and everything to do with something I read this morning. But it still might offend. 😉

My favorite season of the year—Lent—began yesterday. I’ve chosen to use Contemplating the Cross by Tricia McCary Rhodes as my Lenten reading. I used this wonderful book many years ago and knew it was time to revisit it. I’ve gotten a little off track in my heart and soul over the last six months and it was time to return to, “the one thing that I know”—Christ crucified.

Today’s reading looked at Matthew 26:36-38, where Jesus tell his disciples he’s grieved to the point of death and asks his three best friends to be with him. I’ve read this account a zillion times. Anyone who knows me well knows that Gethsemane has become a favorite place and how much it has helped me to learn about lament and the example Jesus sets for us here. But this morning some dots connected for me that were new…at least to me.

There is a stream in the church that is very focused on “victory.” I’ve been around it just enough to know there is little to no room for lament, grief, sorrow, or any expression of pain or negativity because “Sunday’s a-comin’!” Christ rose from the grave so it’s all good and we’re supposed to shake it off, smile, and praise God any time anything tough happens because the Bible says to “count it all joy.” :shudder: NOT that I don’t take “count it all joy” seriously; I just don’t think it means you’re supposed to be happy when your child dies or your husband leaves you or you get fired or [name your very hard thing].

Here’s what struck me today—We who believe Jesus is part of the Trinity believe that he was fully human and fully God while he walked the earth. If ANYONE knew that Sunday was “a-comin'” it was HIM. Right? He knew what was happening and why and what the outcome would be, which is a far cry from where we find ourselves when we’re in the midst of a “trial.” (Such a sanitary word for times when you feel like your guts are being ripped out or your whole world is crashing to the ground.)

But look at the scene—Do we see happy? Do we see, “It’s all good”? Do we see someone excited to face the tough stuff because he knows victory is around the corner? Do we see someone with a smile on his face?

NO!!! That is exactly what we DON’T see.

We see a man who is in AGONY. How did HE “count it all joy”? Not in the way the “victory people” would tell us to. I don’t sense Jesus smiling through tears here. I don’t see him “standing on Scripture” or even declaring God’s goodness. And, fascinatingly, I don’t see him doing spiritual warfare to push back the evil that’s at work. What I see is a man who is in deep grief, deep pain, and who really, Really, REALLY doesn’t want to do what is being asked of Him. Not to mention a man who gets pretty pissed off with his friends for falling asleep on the job!

Jesus shows us that joy has little to do with emotion, smiles, or declarations of “God is good (all the time!).” Joy here is seen in his relationship with the Father…that he could come before Abba, with sweat, blood, and tears, and say, “This is too hard. Please make it stop.” Have you ever said that? I’ve said it more times than I can count.

So the next time you risk sharing something painful and someone tells you not to cry, or to cheer up because Heaven is coming soon, or to stand on the victory you have in Christ, etc., please point them to this passage and ask them how the Son of God models what they’re telling you to do.

I pray stunned silence will be the response.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Thoughts after “Adaline”

walk-the-talk(image from twinlifemarketing.com.au)

God’s sometimes-ironic sense of humor was alive and well when I woke up this morning with the worst cold I’ve had in years. Right now my entire face is throbbing, everything is clogged and I have a “case of the miserables.” Hmmm, how to walk last night’s talk today when all I want to do is curl under a blanket and binge-watch “Frasier”? 

Of course there is nothing wrong with taking a sick day or two. However, I felt compelled to not give into that just yet. (I’ll probably succumb in an hour or two.) I have too long a history of emotional epiphanies only to see them vaporize the next day when hardship comes my way. How many diets have ended on a Monday evening or Tuesday morning? 😉 (Which is partially why “Always we begin again” is so helpful to me.) I did not want today to be like that. 

So with clogged ears, and a throbbing head, I got back in touch with how I felt as I left the theater a couple of evenings ago. I thought again about my “age” and what it means to have a “dash” to live out. 

And all sorts of thoughts started to swirl in me about how worth and value isn’t in what we DO but who we ARE so putting too much emphasis on performance and productivity can be harmful. And I certainly don’t want to convey to anyone out there who struggles with something like chronic illness or depression that they need to “snap out of it” and “get moving.” That is so not what I’m trying to say. That swirl was followed by remembering a recent conversation I had with someone about “faith without works is dead.” Ah, the paradox…the both-and…AGAIN.

All I can say is that I feel that I’m in some kind of corrective place. My life had gotten out of balance and I wasn’t even aware of it until God used this lovely little movie to get me thinking about how I spend my days. Adaline had to keep running from being found out…she could never “bloom where she was planted.” And there’s the rub — she was given an eternity of days but couldn’t actually LIVE. I’ve been given a finite number of days and have the opportunity to live life to the full. Even in the midst of divorce. Even in the midst of deep grief. Even in the midst of my own chronic conditions.

So…little steps that got me moving — I tidied up my bedroom then decided to tackle a small but important project for church. (I learned how to embed a video into PowerPoint. Huzzah!) Wound up having a lovely IM chat with a friend, supporting each other through some difficult things. In and of themselves, they aren’t much to write about (hello more irony), but it’s all part of the notion of moments connecting with moments to get me out of myself and live into the “dash.” 

And there’s something in this about hope, too. As I live in “Saturday” I can hold onto hope, and part of doing that is not giving up or giving in to sloth, worry, or escapism (among other things). It’s an act of faith, and an act of hope, to do something, anything, when I feel beaten down by life, grief, and/or a nasty virus. 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to see the obvious, and sometimes I need a smack on the head to wake me up. However, this time God chose to open my eyes in such a beautiful and gentle way. Grateful for this mercy undeserved.

I still want to see the movie again, to help solidify some of these thoughts and to see if there is more to glean. Once my ears unclog, that is.

 

 

The Age of Nina

adaline-better(image from thewrap.com)

Last night I saw the film “The Age of Adaline” and was so moved by it that I’m going to see it again tomorrow. Perhaps I should wait until then to write about it, but there is so much swirling in my soul that I want to put fingers to keyboard today while things are still fresh. (Perhaps a Part Two with further reflections will come after the second viewing. We shall see.)

For anyone who hasn’t yet seen the film, there won’t be any spoilers here. The premise has been made clear in the trailers — a woman (Adaline) has something happen to her which causes her to never age. That’s it, in a nutshell. However, the complexities of this condition are played out in the film with such poignancy and grace, that at times I found myself holding my breath. I became completely absorbed in the story as I entered this woman’s world and her struggles with remaining young while her daughter ages, and time moves on. She lives through decade after decade, the same age. Her hairstyles and fashions change with the times, but nary a wrinkle or gray hair. 

There are some twists and turns which I won’t share, but it all got me to thinking about the life we are given. We’re all given an “age” — a span of time with which to live out our days. I remember my brother-in-law once commented on how tombstones show the dates of birth and death with a dash in between, but what REALLY matters is “what happened in the dash.” (Thanks, Russ!) We do not know how long our “dash” will be. Adaline had to contend with being an anomaly who will never die. For the rest of us, our days are numbered. 

The movie made me take a closer look at how I spend my time, what things I focus on, and if I’m making a bit of difference on this planet during my “dash.” Am I taking care of myself in body, soul, and spirit so that I can live a long, healthy, and meaningful life?

Not lately.

The last three months have been particularly difficult ones as I’ve been in a place of deep grief which has consumed most of my energy. My resolve to eat healthily and exercise regularly pretty much flew out the window after I moved when I began to feel the pain of leaving our home and the loss in knowing we would never have a home together again. Adjusting to living in someone else’s house has been hard. Trying to sort through all of the emotions of the divorce while our 30th anniversary looms ahead has been really hard. And while I talk a good talk about sitting in “Saturday” (HERE and HERE) I fall prey to escapism just like everyone else…binge-watching Netflix, binge-eating ice cream; numbing the pain when it becomes too hard to bear; spiritual practices going by the wayside, my Bible reading plan stalled and gratitude journal often going untouched for days on end.

As I walked out of the theater last night, I pondered the last three months and what rose up in me was, “No more!” I had become so focused on whatever I was feeling in the moment that I had lost sight of the big picture, the long view, my “age,” my “dash.” I had gotten stuck in a pit and realized it’s time to climb out.

Now I believe it is important to be fully present in the present, for that is where God’s presence is. I am a big believer in feeling the feelings as you feel them; cry hard and laugh hard. Metabolizing emotions is so important for mental and physical health. BUT…I can get so bogged down in the moment that I forget how continuing certain disciplines and practices even in the midst of the pain will only increase the healing. The short term effort will reap big results, but I lose sight of this when I am consumed with rage and sadness. Easier to turn off the alarm and roll over and sleep another two hours instead of getting out of bed and going for a walk. Easier to drive through for fast food than make a healthy dinner. So much easier to flip on the TV and numb out than to sit quietly in God’s presence and pray and feel…and heal.

Of course there is grace; I’m not expecting myself or anyone else to be perfect here. But Adaline’s plight caused me to take stock of where I am right now and I came up short. No condemnation — thanks be to God! —  only a newfound appreciation of the gift of TIME, of the moments, days, weeks, months, and years of my “dash.” I don’t want to waste any of it. 

So this morning, even though I was emotionally exhausted from weeping right before bed and my body felt awful from both the emotional stress and all the sugar I’d eaten the day before, I thought of how I felt yesterday after the movie and I remembered I only have a finite number of days. So I went for a walk and prayed. I came home and made a healthy smoothie. I spent time meditating on God’s goodness, even with body, soul, and spirit all in pain.

And I thought, “This is the abundant life.” It’s not happy-skippy but it is FULL and GOOD. I had an important meeting to go to in the afternoon where I knew I needed to be present and offer whatever I could to help bring some resolution to a sticky situation. I also needed to reach out and care for my son who’s across the country on an adventure that didn’t start out too well. I needed to be able to be present to others while being present to God and myself. (Ah…the old upward/outward/inward journey!) No matter the pain. No matter the internal struggle. It was a good day. And as i wrap it up, I realize I had very few moments of escaping. I want more days like these. I pray they will add up, one by one, into a really good “age” and a long, fruitful “dash.” 

Thanks, Adaline.

Saturday

 

holy-saturday-grief(“Holy Saturday” by Roxolana Armstrong)

Today might be my favorite day of the year because it represents the bulk of life. Holy Saturday…the day between death and resurrection, pain and healing, despair and celebration. A day full of unanswered questions, dashed dreams, and unfulfilled longings. We usually think of it as a day of waiting for Sunday, but that gets it all wrong. Because on that first Saturday, no one understood what was going to happen on Sunday, even though Jesus had told them. No one was waiting for anything. I think they were all numb and in shock and trying to process all that happened. With that, they also had faith in a good God, and I believe they had a glimmer of hope for the future even if they had no idea what that would look like.

So for any of us still reeling from life’s blows — whether they happened yesterday or long ago — I want to encourage us to lean into Saturday. Grieve, lament, go scream somewhere, or pound hard on a pillow. This is not a day for pie-in-the-sky answers. This is a day to mourn and feel and question. AND to hope. But be aware — as my teacher and friend, Dan Allender has warned — most of us actually hate hope. Because hope holds no guarantees. Hope is hard work. It’s far easier to escape into despair, or drugs, or sex, or food, or TV, or shopping…anything to prevent us from feeling the tension of hope in the midst of pain.

Yeah, we all know “Sunday” is coming tomorrow. But what if we didn’t? And what if we don’t? Yes, the day on the calendar will change. And we will celebrate Christ’s resurrection. And the final resurrection is ahead for those of us in Christ. But will we see “Sunday” in the midst of broken families, health problems, financial crises, deep emotional scars, the death of dreams? Maybe…maybe not.

So we wait. 

And we hope.

Coming up for Air

Ocean_Drowning(image from mytrainerfitness.com)

Have you ever been knocked down by a wave in the ocean, only to have just enough time to take a quick breath before getting hit by the next wave? If so, then you might understand what life has been like for me since I last wrote. Wave upon wave of grief, anger, and pain had me gasping for emotional and spiritual breaths. I was hanging onto Jesus for dear life, trusting that the storm would pass and calmer waters would prevail.

After a few tough weeks, the emotional tidal waves finally ebbed; I feel my feet on the floor again and my head well above water. I’m no longer gasping for air, but enjoying slow, deep breaths, clean and clear, which nourish every fiber of my being. I’m breathing in God’s love, and oxygen, and sunshine, and gentle breezes…reveling in the songs of the birds in the morning and the glistening water of the lagoon near my lovely, though very temporary, home. Laughter feels pure again; for awhile it seemed only to be an escape from pain.

I am so grateful for those who loved on me during the gasping times. My older son, in particular, was here during the worst of it. I could not have gotten through that time without him. He helped keep me going when all I wanted to do was curl up in a fetal position and wail. One gasp at a time, I managed to (mostly) stay on task. Everything got done on time and more importantly, our bond is stronger for it all. So thankful for such beauty in the midst of ashes. On top of everything else, he introduced me to “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and I’m pretty convinced that Pinkie Pie and I are soul sisters. (Curly hair, super-expressive, loves to bake and give parties and make people laugh, yet can be utterly fierce when necessary. Sound familiar?)

happy_pinkie_pie_by_thatguy1945-d6rctaq imgres

I want to say thanks to the friends who came out to help on moving day. It was another moment of beauty in the rubble to see people who didn’t know each other working together in excellent teamwork. Friends from church plus a friend from Tucson now living here and his significant other, plus a childhood friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected, plus a neighbor; all with the common denominator of the desire to be helpful. Baked goods for breakfast and Chipotle for lunch wasn’t enough of a “thank you” but it’s all I could offer, along with this shout out. 🙂

What’s next? NOTHING. I don’t have to make plans just yet. I’m enjoying a respite from doing and getting back in touch with being.

And breathing.

shutterstock_116398339(image from mytrainerfitness.com)

Everything Must Go!

let-it-go1(image from amzlove.wordpress.com)

I had a yard sale yesterday, something millions of people do across America every weekend. As I watched the crowd rummage through and purchase the many things my son and I laid out (in organized fashion, I might add) in the front yard, I entered a deeper grief. I was watching my life being dismantled; my former life, anyway. Twenty-nine years of married life, of family life, being sold off, one tchotchke at a time…one gift-to-him-from-me, one gift-to-me-from-him at a time. A lifetime of memories, sold mostly for a buck or less to perfect strangers looking for a bargain.

The toughest moment was when someone bought the entire box of Christmas ornaments we’d collected over the years; one ornament for each Christmas we were together, from 1985 through 2013. I loved hanging those on the tree every year, watching the collection grow, and wondering what our tree would be like when we were old and had 60+ of those special ornaments. Instead, the collection stopped at 29 and will now be hung on someone else’s tree, commemorating birthdays instead of a marriage.

The man buying the ornaments was excited to give them to his daughter, and I smiled through my tears as I took his money…breathed deeply as I watched him walk away with a box of our history, sold for $5. Such a deal.

When the sale was winding down, with just about everything sold, my son hugged me and encouraged me that all of this was going to open up opportunities for other dreams to come true, that the end of one thing is the beginning of something else, and that I would discover new dreams in my new life. As if to confirm his words, this quote was on Facebook this morning, posted by my friend Sally Ann

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, 
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
– E.M. Forester

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much. 

I took a walk, had a good cry, and then came inside and counted the money…over $550 dollars to put toward moving into my new life. Not a bad haul. It will pay for the U-Haul next weekend and the food to feed my friends who are coming to help me move across town. The rest will go toward moving to SoCal in the spring. 

Kind of poetic how the proceeds from the old are funding the beginning of the new.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.