Monthly Archives: April 2014

Now What?

After 40 days of Lent, six feast days, and a glorious Easter which began with getting on the scale and being pleased with the number I saw…

(NO, I’m not going to post a picture of THAT) 😉

Then lighting all the candles on the wreath…

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Continued with celebration at church…

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And ended with a feast to end all feasts à Chez Maddalena which included this beautiful lamb, roasting on a HAND-CRANKED spit over an open fire for about ten hours (many people took turns with the cranking)…

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And homemade grilled flatbread, and many side dishes and more desserts than I could count, including a platter of “my” infamous Kosher Crack (which truly does require a support group for its addictive qualities), and my friend Debbie Cunningham’s amazing piece of edible art (chocolate-covered pretzels and lemon curd macarons)…

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I collapsed in a pile of exhilarated exhaustion yesterday, and allowed myself one more day of indulgence. I went with a friend to lunch at Umami Burger. Their truffle cheese fries, tempura onion rings, ketchup made in-house (less sweet and sooo good!) and outrageous burgers (in flavor, not size) were worth the effort it took to get out of my comfy chair.

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We ordered Thai delivery for dinner and had the most unusual and delicious crepes that were more like large Thai tacos, stuffed with ground chicken, shrimp, shredded coconut, ground roasted peanut, sweet radish, bean sprouts, and cilantro. If Easter was the feast epic proportions, yesterday was the feast of epic flavors.

Now it’s Tuesday, and both the feasting and fasting are over. I’m wondering what my “new normal” is going to look like.

If the Lenten journey in solidarity with the poor taught me anything, it’s that I must make changes in my life in order to serve the hungry. I’m leaving tomorrow for 10 days in Ohio, most of which will be at the third of four retreats for my Spiritual Director Certification. Soon after I get back, I’ll be going to the volunteer orientation at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland. I’m excited to start acting locally while I continue to pray globally. (I had hoped to volunteer at the food bank that’s within walking distance of our home, but the only positions open required too much heavy lifting. Mope.)

While I’m away, I will be praying about what kinds of dietary changes to make and what organizations to support. Glenn and I are both feeling especially moved to somehow support efforts to bring clean water to villages around the world. There is much to ponder.

I’m so delighted that this blog now has some followers whom I’ve never met — Hi y’all!! I want to reiterate a challenge I made toward the beginning of the journey in case my new friends didn’t go back that far in their reading:

Let’s all figure out a way to DO SOMETHING…whatever we can…to help the poor and hungry and thirsty on our planet. I listed some ideas HERE. Most of us probably don’t have lives that will allow us to travel the world doing international service projects, but there are so many ways we can help out in our own backyards as well as offering monetary assistance to organizations and people who CAN bring aid where it’s needed in other countries. We can all work together and EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS.

Aside from volunteering at the food bank, I want to fast regularly (not sure what that will look like yet; maybe one day a week, or multiple meals a month, or…?) in order to support hunger projects, and to commit to only drinking free water when I eat out so I can donate the money I save to clean water projects. Of course, I probably won’t be eating out as much either; much remains to be seen. This “new normal” is most definitely a work in progress and will probably change along the way.

Would love to hear from any of you who decide to make some changes along the way and how it’s going, how it’s changing you, and how I can be praying for you.

This blog will not solely be about these issues, of course. It began as a “broken hallelujah” and will remain so. There is so much I’m learning as I travel toward a more contemplative life, and I’m excited to share whatever God bubbles up in my heart, soul, and spirit along the way.

Thanks to all of you who made the trek through Lent with me, whether it was for one day, or for the entire journey, or something in between.

HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Now…let’s be His hands and feet!!!

 

 

 

 

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Day 40: Sitting in Saturday

holy-saturday-grief(image from frjcrascher.wordpress.com)

No one seems to know what to do with this day, the final day of Lent. Good Friday we know; Easter even moreso. But what do we make of the day in between?

I love the image above; it holds much insight about this day. With Calvary in the background, one disciple appears overcome with exhaustion and grief, head in lap. Another is pensive, his elbow on the grieving one, perhaps thinking about all that happened yesterday, and all Jesus had said over the time He spent with His disciples. The woman in blue appears to be in prayer, perhaps offering her grieving heart to the Lord. The man on the right offers yet another view — his eyes are wide and on his face is an ever-so-slight upward turn of his mouth, hinting at the possibility of hope; perhaps yesterday’s nightmare isn’t the end of the story?

We know the pain of Friday. We know the joy of Sunday. But what about this limbo called Saturday?

True confession — I hadn’t thought much about this until I took Dan Allender’s counseling classes this past year. He’s big on Saturday, because it is his belief, and now mine, that most of life is lived in Saturday. We all experience pain and death of many different kinds in many different ways throughout our lives. If we are Christ-followers, we also trust in the reality of the joy of the resurrection that is ultimately to come upon Jesus’ return. But here and now? With our feet on the ground?

We live sitting in Saturday.

But we don’t want to. And so the Church unfortunately tends to leap from Friday to Sunday not just in how we commemorate the story every year, but in how we think, how we pray, how we minister to one another. Ever been in a truckload of pain only to have someone tell you that it’s all going to be OK because Jesus loves you and after all, Heaven awaits? Ugh. I’ve been on both sides of that coin. (I give you all permission to slap me if I ever say anything like that to you!)

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the hope of Heaven, but I have a new expression, “Feet on the ground, face to the sky.” This means I believe Heaven is real, but I also hope for things here on earth, while facing the realities that offer no guarantees. I long to see broken relationships reconciled; people who are sick or dying healed; global poverty and hunger ended; broken hearts mended; the evils of trafficking obliterated; the damage done to the hearts of innocent children through sexual abuse soothed and healed. And so much more. Oh. How. I. Hope.

“You gotta have faith,” some might say. Sure! But here’s what Allender helped me grasp — faith looks backward; it’s based on God’s faithfulness and goodness throughout the ages. It is our firm foundation to be sure. God guarantees He will never leave us or forsake us and He has proven that over centuries and centuries of generations. However, hope looks forward and has no guarantees. NONE. Not in this life. Only in the next.

Allender brazenly says, “We hate hope,” and he’s right, because REAL hope isn’t pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by. Real hope lives on the ground and it hurts. When we hope we risk more pain, more disappointment. We all know about that; some of us live in fear of that, and so we allow fear to kill hope.

If we’re honest, we live in the limbo of Saturday most of the time. Every now and then dreams do come true, people are healed, and relationships are mended. But not always. No guarantees. Anyone who tells you that all you need to do is “pray this prayer” or “stand on this Scripture” is selling you a bill of goods. A quick read of the life Paul with his THREE shipwrecks, among other things, ought to be enough to clue us in to the idea that life in Jesus was never going to be easy, with guarantees for success at every turn.

Life in Saturday involves all the faces in the image above — grief, pensiveness, prayer, hope. And let’s not forget doubt and anger, among others. The one thing we mustn’t do is become hardened or cynical.

That’s the greatest challenge.

For to become hardened, cynical, and/or hopeless is to kill our heart. But to weep and wail and lament and to offer every tear as worship to God…to ask questions…to ponder everything that has gone before us…to pray to the One who will never leave us, offering our desires again and again and again…and setting our faces toward the sky while our feet are firmly on the ground?

That’s what it means to be FULLY ALIVE.

I pray for all of us as we travel through painful Fridays and far-too-long Saturdays, that we will each have glimmers and tastes of Sunday along the way.

And that we will NEVER stop hoping.

 

Day 39: TGIF

imgres(image from timeanddate.com)

It’s my favorite holiday…holy day.

This holiday has nothing to do with celebration, and everything to do with it. It has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with me. No presents, but Presence. No wrapped gifts, but The Gift unwrapped and nailed down.

Do not speak of E***er or resur***tion today. Do not tell me “Sunday’s coming!” because today I don’t know that.

Today is a day to stare death in the face. To contemplate sacrificial love. To see beyond all the trappings and get down to the CRUX of the matter — one man, the God-man, nailed to wood. Spat on, rejected, mocked, cursed, beaten, betrayed. Literally the weight of the world’s sins on His shoulders.

And this is how He asked us to remember Him!

“He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.'” (Luke 22:19)

It is not His glory that He asked us to remember, but His suffering. Too much of the Church misses this, and so too much of the Church doesn’t know what to do with suffering. We give pat answers, spout some Bible verses, and point to Heaven.

The American prosperity gospel would like us to think that being a Christian means an end to suffering, when it’s actually just the opposite. Jesus knows what it is to suffer, and we are to share in His sufferings and come alongside the suffering world…and our suffering Brothers and Sisters.

He came to die. Following Him means dying. To make many journeys of descent and find life in death. It’s all backwards from the American Dream and what the world says will give satisfaction. But Jesus was always backwards from the norm.

Thank God it’s Friday? Yes.

And Thank God FOR Friday.

isus-pe-cruce(image from cocorioko.net)

Day 36: A Holy Week Surprise

images(image from walkingtogetherministries.com)

I’ve always thought “Holy Week” was a bit of a misnomer. After Palm Sunday, there isn’t much going on until Maundy Thursday arrives with its foot washings and often a Passover Seder (whether or not it’s actually Passover on the calendar) commemorating the final meal Jesus shared with His disciples. Perhaps “Holy Half-Week” would be more accurate, since Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are pretty uneventful.

Not this year.

Yesterday afternoon I went out to our mail closet (truly; a door in the side of the house opens to reveal shelves where the mail is placed) expecting the usual assortment of bills and junk mail. What I found on our shelf was an extra-large padded envelope that took up the entire shelf. I saw the name of the sender and remembered how that friend had asked for my mailing address quite awhile ago; at the time I thought a card or invitation to something might be on the way. I got busy with school and everything else going on in life and forgot all about it. You can imagine how my jaw hit the floor when I unwrapped this:

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Tucked in with the gift was a card in which my friend wrote how the Lord had told her to make the journal, even waking her up in the night to tell her what it was to look like. She lovingly explained what each symbol meant. I was speechless.

I still am.

Words hardly seem adequate to convey what I am feeling. But I’m going to try, albeit feebly, to express what’s in my heart because while this gift is specific to me, I believe there is a greater message I’m to share:

GOD SEES.

That’s what keeps welling up in my heart as I read and re- and re- and re-read the card, and keep looking at all the details on the journal, touching the textures, trying to soak it all in. Not just what is in front of me, but all that is behind what my eyes are seeing — the heart of a woman who listens for her Shepherd’s voice and who spends time, energy, resources, whatever it takes, to obey what she hears; the listening, planning, choosing, praying, painting, printing, gluing…all out of obedience, trusting the work of her hands would convey the heart of God to a friend far away.

And it did. It does.

GOD SEES ME.

He used a friend — and one with whom I haven’t had much contact recently — to convey His heart, His eyes, His love to me.

And to you.

As I hold this treasure, I feel my heart beating wildly with the heartbeat of the Father who longs for you to know that He sees. He cares. He knows. He hears. He weeps. He rejoices. He is for you. And with you. Always. In the silence and the noise. In the pain, the questions, and confusion. In the laughter and the tears. Whether you’re alone or in a crowd. Or healthy or ill. When dreams come true or are dashed in disappointment.

HE SEES.

The day after Palm Sunday now has a new name — Hagar Monday; for Hagar was the one who proclaimed in Genesis 16, You are the God who sees me.” 

I pray we all move toward Easter knowing this more deeply.

And whisper thanks for my faithful friend.

 

 

 

 

The Beginning of the End

images(image from slopeofhope.com)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey…
-Zechariah 9:9

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

On a donkey.

The crowd didn’t seem to notice the donkey…they just noticed HIM. Looked to Him to be their new King. Expected Him to change everything.

And He did.

Only not the way they imagined it. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Several years ago, something stuck out to me in the Palm Sunday story that has stayed with me ever since. Some in the crowd laid their cloaks down on the ground. Something about shedding the outer layer made me swallow hard. To hail the King, they removed their protection, and laid down those garments as a “red carpet” for Jesus. I wonder what became of those clothes. The donkey walked on them…perhaps even shat on them! I like to think those cloaks stayed on the ground, never to be picked up again.

And so I come to Holy Week asking if there is some outer layer I could shed to welcome my King. And if so, will I lay it down completely and let Him trample on it?

I pray so.

Day 32: Guilty by Dissociation

 

guilty2(image from finkorswim.com)

So I said I’d be honest about my struggles during Lent, and it’s time to come clean — this week I have failed miserably at staying off Facebook and limiting checking email to twice a day.

Apparently coming back from Chicago and feeling the deep loss of connection with those folks was more than I could emotionally bear without reaching for some kind of false comfort. I think many of us in that cohort were feeling this as there were lots of small FB posts and just enough emailing back and forth with pictures and memories to keep me logging in “just one more time.”

Yeah, right. *sigh*

I have eight more days of Lent and I want to finish well. That doesn’t mean doing things perfectly, but it means being aware and awake. That’s more important than not opening the laptop for a “quick peek.”

As I’ve mentioned in at least one other post, the fast from my normal diet has been really easy, except when around lots of people eating pasta and pie. 😉 But eating the same things every day has been simple and quite life-giving. My therapist suggested that not having food to turn to for comfort has allowed my compulsion to connect online to come to the surface and I agree.

I need to stop in the moment and check in with my soul. Just as I do when I open the fridge mindlessly, I can ask myself, “What am I really hungry for?” Because if I’ve checked my email several times already, there’s something going on in me that I’m not willing to look at. Instead of sitting for a bit and becoming still and aware of my breathing and what’s going on in my heart and mind, it’s become far too easy to surf the net and dissociate, reading blogs and googling nothing and everything, and taking one more look for new messages. TV isn’t available to me right now, but if it was, I’d be in my chair, staring at that screen instead. This I know.

I am not wont for things to do — I have a book I need to read before heading to OH for the third leg of the Spiritual Director Certification Program I’m in. Our office is still a disaster and needs serious organizing. There are several Holy Week services for which I need to plan music and other things. Heck, I still need to unpack from my Chicago trip!

So to make good on one of my life verses, James 5:16, I am confessing that I am guilty of dissociating, and I’m asking you to please pray for me. I need healing. I know God ‘s hand is in all of this, showing me how I’m not tending to what’s in front of me OR inside of me. I’ve been avoiding the inevitable pain and longings that are trying hard to come to the surface; I keep pushing them down with mindless, inane activity that isn’t life-giving.

So grateful for forgiveness.

So grateful to BEGIN AGAIN.

Even on Day 32.

 

 

 

Day 30: Wait, There’s MORE?

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“It slices, it dices, it makes julienne fries!”

Those of us of “a certain age” remember Ron Popeil’s immortal words, proclaiming the wonders of the “Veg-o-Matic.” And of course, there was always the tag line which has since infiltrated almost every infomercial — “But wait! There’s more!”

I had an experience on my trip to Chicago that brought me face to face with that notion of “more.” I wrote HERE about the joy of working on my final project — a coat of arms to represent my “kingdom.” That experience was immensely deep and joyous, and I was excited to bring both versions with me to share with my small group. While I am pleased with the work I was able to do with colored pencils, scissors, and glue — especially given my phobia of art projects — I am still in awe of the way my son, Caleb, was able to take my ideas and create art that shines! (His graphics Facebook page is HERE. You can see the coat of arms he created for himself, too! Contact him at creatorworks1987@gmail.com if you’re interested in having him help you create something!)

Coat of Arms

My Coat by Caleb

To explain everything in the project would make for a way-too-long blog post. Suffice it to say, I thought it was complete, and I had many stories behind each symbol, phrase, and choices of colors and jewels. (For example, pearls represent suffering and so they are on the top of the crown, moving toward the cross, where all suffering was taken….)

In the teaching time, Dan told us to be flexible with our coats of arms, that they aren’t meant to be static and will change over time, perhaps even over the course of the weekend. I tucked that notion away for safekeeping, but perhaps a bit too far away.

My small group’s response to my sharing was unnerving. They wanted more. MORE??? I fought them on it. I shed tears. I was not understanding their what-felt-like-criticism and the seeming dissatisfaction with what I was presenting.

That night, I met with a friend for dinner who listened to my confusion/anger/hurt and she asked to look at my project. Her response?

“Yeah, I want to see more of you on here, too. My group has been telling me the same thing, so you’re not alone.”

*Thud*

Though everything on there is representative of very deep, meaningful things in my life and how I interface with the world, what drives my heart and ministry, etc., I slowly began to understand it was too compact and apparently too serious for someone as playful as I can be. I do have other passions/interests/motivators in my life and my group wanted to see a fuller representation of ALL of me, not just ministry. Maybe I misunderstood the assignment. Or maybe I thought the other things weren’t important or valid enough to put on there. Was I trying to hide my true self or did I just interpret the assignment differently? I don’t have an easy answer. But I was challenged…relentlessly.

And it was GOOD.

So this is now in flux. I’m still going to hang it on my wall as a reminder of the time and all the lessons learned, and to celebrate the joy of creating something with my son…and the blessing of being able share his talents with the entire cohort, not just my small group. (The sound of the collective gasp in the room when I unveiled his rendition will stay with me for a loooong time!)

At some point I need to get back to the drawing board and figure out how to add my family to the picture…and to represent singing in a larger way…and to increase the proportion of Paris (one French phrase isn’t cutting it)…and to somehow feature my passion for cooking/food/nourishing — maybe a Le Creuset pot in the middle? And let’s not forget a large splash of humor/playfulness — perhaps a picture of Dweezil? Because all of those things are definitely a big part of my life and heart and I need to celebrate those things fully, as God-gifts, not just minor interests that pale in comparison to the cross. (After all, what could possibly compare to THAT?!)

I think I’m starting to understand. In hindsight it was a beautiful thing to have my friend and my small group tell me in various ways, “We see more in you and we want you to celebrate ALL of who you are!” What an amazing gift to be that loved.

But wait…there’s MORE!!!