What kind of virgin are you?

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.    Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

 -Matthew 25:1-2

I don’t know about you, but this parable has always been a little unnerving to me.  This morning, I was compelled to do some research to see what kind of deeper message I might be missing here, besides the obvious, which I read as: the kingdom of heaven is open to everyone…until it isn’t.  While I know this, I’m always driven to see how this might be a message of God’s love for His people.   Because, on it’s surface I’ll admit this doesn’t exactly mesh with the image I have of a loving God!

So, here’s a little backstory I found:  first of all, as Biblical scholar Scott Hahn states in his commentary, “this story line centers on a Jewish marital custom: following the period of betrothal, the groom would lead a procession to bring his new wife to their home, and they would celebrate a week-long banquet with family and friends.”  Ok, so that explains why the virgins (also called bridesmaids or maidens in some translations) need lamps while waiting for the bridegroom:  because while you are expecting his arrival any time, you don’t know exactly when he will come (it  may be dark).  There is a rather obvious parallel here then to our lives as Christians awaiting the second coming of Jesus.  Like all ten virgins in the story, we need to be ready for the arrival of our Eternal Bridegroom Jesus.  For we know not the day nor the hour of that arrival (Mark 13:32).

But what is the significance of the lamp and the oil in my life today?  And here too, my bible footnotes* were a help.  It states that both Origen and St. Hilary tell of a moral parallel for us here:  that the lamp is our Christian faith and the oil represents our good works. This makes much more sense (and sounds much less harsh in this context) when later the ten “foolish” virgins say to the wise ones, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out,” and the wise virgins reply, “Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:8-9)

Ahhh.  Now I see.  Some things–like a personal lived experience with Jesus– just cannot be given to us through others.  Why?  Because Jesus invites each of us individually. Unless we respond to the invitation and open our hearts, the gift may simply go unopened. Not because we aren’t loved, but because we need to welcome that experience for ourselves. This is the risk of free will.

The work we Christians are called to do is done out of charity that is inspired by our personal relationship with Jesus.  If I don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, you cannot make that happen for me.  If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, I cannot make that happen for you.  If your aunt was a nun or your daddy a preacher, this does not mean you will automatically have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Sure we can share our stories, and we can encourage one another in our faith, but when it comes time to “meet our Maker”, the only experience of God that counts is our own.

These thoughts reminded me of another saying I’ve heard recently, “God has no grandchildren.”  What this says to me is that every child of God–all us adopted sons and daughters through the light of our baptism in Jesus–are first-generation children of God! While that may seem somewhat obvious at first, when I ponder that my relationship with God is every bit as personal and real (or has the potential to be if I “do the work” that is required in relationships) as if I were one his chosen people of the Old Testament like Moses or Elijah , or the New Testament like Peter and Paul, my mind just kind of buckles in awe. Can you believe that’s what we are invited to… you and I!?

But what we do with that invitation is ours for the chosing.  We can either stoke the fire that lights our faith with prayer (talking to God) and meditation (listening to God through more prayer and Scripture), or we can hold our faith-lamp close (or throw it away)  and criticize and blame others for its brokenness and lack of light.

Faith is a trust and confidence in something (or Someone) you cannot see.  It is God’s gift to us, but we must open our hearts to receive it.

What we do with that faith–the charitable works of giving to others (and the daily work, too, like prayer and meditation)–are our gifts to God.

According to my bible dictionary**, a virgin, in biblical terms,  is a female “whom no man had known” in a sexual or deeply intimate way, but it can be used as a figure of speech or image referring to nations or peoples as well.  In the Old Testament virginity was not esteemed for its own sake, but in New Testament times it became a desired state in life as a path to spiritual fulfillment modeled by many  (think John the Baptist, Mary, Jesus, Paul).

This parable reminds me, among other things, that a healthy personal relationship with Jesus requires both faith and works.  And that a personal, intimate relationship with our Triune God–Father, Son and Spirit– is the relationship I, we, must desire above all else. Settling for anything less is foolish.

I pray we all choose wisely.

 

*Ignatious Catholic Study Bible New Testament, Second Catholic Edition, RSV
**Catholic Bible Dictionary, Scott Hahn, ed.
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New Year: New Song

“Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done marvelous deeds.” – Psalms 98: 1

Over Christmas, as our family sat waiting for Mass to begin, the choir was singing a different version to a song I’ve always loved.  Hearing it with new words and a slightly varied melody made this old favorite a ‘new song’ of sorts, for me.

As the soloists took turns with each verse, I found myself hanging on each word anew to hear the story they were singing unfold (though the story itself–the nativity story–was also an old familiar one).

Then, this week, as I read the readings from the lectionary, I kept seeing this Psalm repeated throughout the week’s readings.  And I kept thinking of that old familiar song our church choir sang anew, and I couldn’t help but make a connection between it being a new year, and the desire to want to start so many things in a new way as we humans do.  Perhaps one of the most important things we can make new, though, is our prayers.

It is no secret that our prayers are not meant to change God, but rather to change us…change our hearts, change our thoughts, change our focus to something better, higher, more holy than we might first imagine.  So, what better way to start that change, than by approaching our prayer life…our “song” to God, if you will…in a new way?

Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Start praying.  If you haven’t made prayer (conversation with God) a regular part of your daily life, then make this the year you start.  Pick something you naturally do each day that will trigger you to remember your prayer time.  I have a friend who always said her prayers in the shower because it was the one thing she knew she would do consistently every day!
  • Go the opposite.  If you already have a prayer life established, we can still get into ruts from time to time.  Has your prayer life become a list of complaints to God?  Try telling him instead what you are grateful for!   Has your prayer life become a long litany of you asking God for things you’d like to see him do?  Try asking God what he would like you to do…and take some quiet time to wait for the stirring in your heart that just may be his reply.
  • Go simple.  If conversation with God seems unnatural to you, try starting with what’s familiar to you.  Perhaps you are  familiar with the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary but you don’t really know what they mean or how they came to be.  Use this opportunity to do some research and find the true beauty and depth of humility in these simple words.  Or, if formal prayer doesn’t seem natural to you, but you don’t think you can come up with your own words, you can google prayers for  all kinds of things! (The internet isn’t all bad, you know.)  There is no shame in using someone else’s words for a while until you can find your own.
  • Keep at it.  It is easy to think that once we’ve tried something a few times, “we’ve got this” but only the slightest of interruptions to our schedule, can find us going hours, days, or weeks without prayer, and we simply forget to begin again or build it back into our daily life.  Even more common is to simply grow bored with prayer, because it is easy to fall into the trap of believing our prayers are going unheard or unanswered (because we are used to immediate results) so when we don’t get results, we give up.  Prayer is not something (in many cases) that will change us over night. Instead, like a newly planted seed, it is something that takes patience and persistence and faith before we’ll see the “fruits” of our labor.
  • Accept imperfection.  It’s easy to think that when we are doing new, we want to  “get it right.”  God is so much bigger than you or I that he can do very much with our very little!  This means that when words flow beautifully from you and you can pour your heart out to God, God understands and hears you!  But, also, when no words come, only tears and pain in your heart… God also understands and hears you!  God doesn’t need us to be perfect in our prayer. God only needs us to make ourselves available to him.

In a way, we are all beginners when it comes to prayer.  Whether we have “prayed without ceasing”  (1 Thess 5:17) as Paul urged the people of Thessalonica to do long ago, or whether today is our first day in years (or ever!) of saying a  prayer, let us remember that our goal is simply to make some time to offer ourselves to God.

He is sure to notice.

And in doing so, may we discover (whether for the first time, or again and again), that prayer really does change us.  Sometimes in shocking, mind-blowing, dramatic ways. And sometimes in small, but welcoming ways…like an old song, heard new.

Faith Like Abraham

The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

-Genesis 15:5-6

The first time I heard that Abraham was most likely–  based on the later lines in Scripture– brought outside to count the stars during the day, it was a total game-changer.  (See Genesis 15:12 “As the sun was about to set…”)

How many of us go to bed worrying if the sun will rise tomorrow?  How many of us worry that the sun will never set?  How many of us spend our time thinking the stars will burn out and we will never have those pin-pricks of light in our distance?

Most of us–even chronic worriers–don’t waste time worrying about these things.  Why?  Because we know we don’t have to!

Thousands of years ago, even Abraham knew that the stars were still there in the daytime, though he couldn’t see them.  And Scripture tells us it was then that he “put his faith in the LORD.”

During this season of Lent, as we make sacrifices in an effort to change for the better, let us approach every act of sacrifice we make with faith like Abraham. Let us remember in our hearts that God–in His infinite love and mercy– is right here with us, keeping all the promises He’s kept with mankind throughout the ages.  And let us rejoice together knowing that, in doing so, just like Abraham, our gracious God will count even these smallest of things we do, as acts of righteousness for us.

And if ever we doubt it, we need only remind ourselves by stepping outside in the afternoon and smiling at the heavens as we attempt to count the stars…if we are able.

You Are Not Alone

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit…

was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness,

tempted by the devil.”

-Luke 4:1-2

 

Each of the three synoptic Gospel writers who mention the temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew, Mark and Luke) anchor the temptation solidly between two other events:  Baptism and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

What might they be trying to tell us about Jesus—and ourselves–by this sequence?

First, perhaps to remind us that we are not alone in what we experience in life…good or ill. The Holy Spirit, poured out to us at our Baptism– the very same Spirit who told Jesus he was God’s “beloved Son” –is with us in times of joy as well as in times of suffering.  Through this single event of Baptism, we, too, become “beloved” sons and daughters of God.

Second, times of trial and temptation are a necessary part of our life experience. The old adage here of “If God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it” comes to mind.  Not everywhere the Spirit leads us will be a pleasant one; but even the unpleasant experiences will be worth it, if we endure.

Third, that we are all called to a life of ministry, by using our suffering to help others. How much would we be willing to listen to someone who has never suffered in life?  How much do we think they would be able to relate to us, if they have never suffered?  Not much at all, of course!  Why?  Because it is primarily through someone else having “been there, done that” and showing empathy and compassion for our own suffering that usually resonates the loudest with us.  This type of “ministry” is at the very heart of Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs.  Only those who have suffered the effects of drugs and alcohol addiction, and then learned to overcome that addiction have earned the right to be heard by those who are suffering.  It is someone else’s stories of triumph over the type of suffering we also experience, that  softens us enough for our “ears to hear and eyes to see” (Matt  13).

Each of us, no matter what lot in life we’ve been dealt, knows suffering and knows joy. Let us use this season of Lent to live out the faith of that cycle—suffering, joy; suffering, joy; suffering, joy—so that we may help others do the same.  Most of us are not going to live a life experience of preaching to crowds of people, true.  But each of us knows someone who may, right now, have it just a little worse than we do.  Let’s let our life be a beacon of hope to that person, and let our experience of suffering be the doorway to compassion we need in order to help them through.  That may be the closest to “ministry” most of us will ever get; but, it may also be just what we need to deliver us to eternal joy.

 

Reflect: What are the times in my life when I have suffered the most?  What/who was it that helped me through?  What was it that was so hard for me to change and/or accept that time of suffering?  How might I be able to use that experience to help others?

Pray: Lord of our sorrow, help us to know that we are not alone in our suffering. Help us to remember that you sent your Son to suffer just as we do, as an act of love for us. Help us to remember that while he suffered greatly, he was never alone;  your Spirit was with Him, as it is with us now.  Come, Holy Spirit of Love and Joy!  Lead my life towards others who may benefit from my suffering, and guide my heart to comfort them in the way they need most.  Amen

Random Quotes from the Book I’m Reading Now

In an effort to follow through on my one word for 2013 of “Simplify,” I’m reading another book by one of my favorite spiritual authors, Richard Rohr, called Simplicity:  The Freedom of Letting Go.

The title alone is telling, but in classic Rohr style, his words bring not only a sense of peace, but also unrest.  Often at the same time.

From my reading this weekend, here are some of the thoughts he shares that stood out to me and had me either screaming with a resounding “YES!” or thinking, “Oh, boy.  I’d not thought of it like that before.”  In either case, his words resonated with me, on a very  deep level, and have given me much to think about as I continue to try to simplify not just from the standpoint of trying to simplify my life more by going “without,”  but also by taking a good look and “cleaning house” on my life from “within.”

From Richard Rohr’s Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go:

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  • First you agree to give yourself, and then you will understand it, not the other way around.
  • Don’t be afraid!  Fear comes from a need to control.  And we are not in control anyway.
  • When Jesus healed the sick people, he always said:  “Your faith has made you whole.”  He never said, “Your correct doctrine, your orthodoxy, your dogmatism have healed you.”
  • That is the problem of the soul.  I have to do my work and leave the judgment to God.
  • Jesus is a person and at the same time a process.  Jesus is the Son of God, but at the same time he is “the Way.”  He’s the goal, but he’s also the means, and the means is always the way of the cross.
  • The way of the cross looks like a way of failure.
  • The way inward demands that you build bridges with your own soul.  But anyone who builds a bridge always runs the danger of being trampled from both sides, of being misunderstood by both sides.

And finally, I will close with my personal favorite:

  • We become like the God we adore.

Happy Monday, all!

Every Knee Shall Bend

I knew this would happen.

Me and my big mouth.  Or big words from my keyboard.

Or whatever.

Remember three weeks ago when I had the brilliant idea that I needed to discipline myself to blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through Lent (but really, if I’m honest my intention was through forever, I was just too chicken to admit it)?   Well, here we are at the day I feared as soon as I published those words…the day I’m too full of thoughts about my unending To Do list to really settle down and put thoughts together to share.  (I was hoping for a short thought at least, but so far, I got nothin’!).  I even laid the groundwork for a topic to write about today on Monday’s post but can’t seem to focus my mind enough to even tie into what I thought I was going to say clear back then.

And now, instead of being able to put any thoughts together about Mary and the women’s roles in the story of Christ’s Passion, I am instead  full of thoughts about volunteer work I’m behind on, laundry that needs to be done, and housework and groceries and upcoming meetings and Easter and Mass times and fasting.

The good news is that in writing this post, I have succeeded in my discipline of blogging every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (so far).

The bad news is that other than sharing my To Do list with you, I’ve failed at writing anything even remotely significant.

Fortunately, I have been taught that failure is always a good thing.  And I can see it right now as I fail before you.  What you may see right now are my meaningless ramblings and a half-hearted attempt to fulfill an obligation to discipline myself and my writing.  But what I see is me allowing myself for the first time to step out of the room, completely naked (speaking figuratively here, folks!) , and show you my true self:  scatter-brained, with nothing to offer you except evidence that I have made a promise to you and I will keep it.

On that note, it has occurred to me that perhaps “showing up” today wasn’t really about me at all.

Perhaps it was about you.

And what I can offer you. (Despite my long To Do list).

And the one thing I could offer you as we prepare for Maundy Thursday, the traditional day of the “washing of the feet”– a reenactment of one of the greatest acts of service in Scripture–is my prayer.

I offer you my prayer.

Sure, my To Do list is long, but I do my best to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).  I would be happy to pray with you as I work through my To Do list today.  If you have anything or anyone special to pray for drop it in the comments below.  Though I’m not overly talented at multi-tasking, prayer is the one thing I can do well with anything!  (Even if you just “like” it, I’ll be sure to pray!)

I believe that Jesus set this example for us– bending down to offer us his service in the most humbling way–so that we would in turn go out and do the same.

After all, he never did become a king the way his followers expected, so what else could it meant that “at the name of Jesus, even knee shall bend.” (Phil 2:10)?

Garden Moments

IMG_0880

Yesterday, for the start of the Christian Holy Week, I watched for the second time in my life, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  This week, in celebration of Holy Week, I’d like to share some random thoughts I had as I watched the movie.

  • I like that Gibson’s portrayal depicted Jesus’ time in the garden as one of an ongoing internal struggle.  In the past, it’s been far too easy for me when reading Scripture to think that Jesus said, “Not my will, but Thine” (Luke 22:42) with a lot of strength and certitude.   My thinking had long been that because Jesus is also God, somehow facing his own impending doom was easier than it would be for us “mere humans”, but in that thinking, it also makes Jesus very distant from our own struggles.   Instead, Gibson nicely casts the human side of Jesus for us, struggling with putting his own personal agenda aside, letting God work through him as the darkness surrounds him.  In this depiction, Jesus is much more relatable to us, much more understanding of our own struggles, making our own suffering perhaps more tolerable because we know that he, too, has “been there.”
  • Gibson’s portrayal depicts Satan as a soft, gentle tempter.  I think very often the challenges that God lays out for us are often the more difficult for us to choose (Remember “choose always the hardest”?), and so this makes Satan’s job much more easy, because he is simply appealing to our own human weakness.  If you don’t believe me, look again at Genesis and the story of Eve.  Have you ever noticed that she doesn’t ever question the serpent?  Never says, “Where did you hear that?”  or “What would make you say such a thing about God?”  No.  There’s no need to question because she’s already thought it for herself.  The serpent’s gentle suggestion that God is not being completely honest with her was all she needed to act in vain.
  • I like the fact that when Jesus was looking to the moon and praying for God to take away his burden, a cloud immediately passes in front of the moon.  I’ve had experiences like this in nature before and I personally believe God speaks to us all the time in nature, but we rarely listen, or we slough it off as coincidence.  I remember one particular incident last year when I was really angry with God about our having been relocated again.  Why was I being called away from the work I had grown to love in my old town and the friendships I’d formed?  Why was I being asked again to start over, knowing that this location, too, would likely not be permanent?  And the whole time I was letting God have it!  (If you’ve never done this before, you may want to try it.  I’ve learned he can take it!)   As I was demanding answers to these questions, the sun was parked hidden behind a cloud.  The cloudy sky seemed to fit my mood perfectly.  As I rounded the church building that was part of my dog’s and my daily route, the sun and cloud were blocked entirely, but just as I rounded the corner of the building on the other side (and was really letting God have it), the sun popped up real big from behind that cloud  and I heard (in the quiet of my heart) the ringing laughter of my grandpa who’s been gone for over 20 years, and the words, “It’s OK, I’ll leave the light on for you.”  And just like that, my anger was gone.  Gone!  And I was ready to move forward.  It was the perfect “sign” for me, and the perfect “thing to say” to my heart.  It made me laugh out loud!  In a similar way, Gibson’s version of the cloud covering the moon at the time that Jesus is praying for relief, seems to be the perfect “sign” for Jesus, too.  It seems to confirm what Jesus already knows, that he will not be relieved from his fate.  And just after that, when the soldiers arrive, Jesus meets them with a new resolve that he was missing earlier.  I like this depiction. From my own experience, it makes sense to me.
  • My thoughts on this final topic are jumbled, but I’ll do the best I can to explain…. If there were one thing I would change about the garden scene, it would be to try to draw us into what I see as the deeper meaning of Jesus’ request to the disciples to “stay awake.”  I’ll admit I wouldn’t have the first clue how to show it.   But, I personally  contrast Jesus’ ability to do this with the inability of Adam & Eve to do so in the Garden of Eden.  True, Adam & Eve never literally “fell asleep” there, but it seems to me that if they had been “awake” to the serpent’s suggestions in the garden, and not “fallen”  into blaming others (and each other) for their own bad choices, our whole salvation history would probably be written much differently.  To me, it is every bit as disappointing to “fall asleep” in the hour of another’s need like the disciples did  (I’ve heard many a divorcée or ill person lament about the so-called friends that left them in the hour of their greatest need), as it is to “fall asleep”  and abandon ourselves, as I believe Adam & Eve did, in our hours of greatest need.  The times we really should question the gentle, coaxing voice that says, “There’s always tomorrow,” or “God wouldn’t mind,” (am I the only one who hear’s that voice?)  are, as I see it,  all “garden moments” because somewhere deep down we know that tomorrow is never guaranteed, and that if we are seeking reassurance that God “wouldn’t mind” something we are about to do, it is only because we already know that he would.  I’ve come to believe that the only real difference in a garden moment is whether we choose to follow Adam & Eve’s example, or follow Jesus.  This is, I believe, why it is only proper that Jesus is the only one fit to “stay awake.” (Of course, eventually all of the disciples did “wake up”– providing hope for us that we can do the same– and then went out to spread God’s Word instead of blaming “the crowds” for putting God to death…and that is, in fact, Good News!)

Join me on Wednesday as I take a closer look at Gibson’s depiction of some of the other characters in the story of the Passion.  And if you haven’t yet seen the movie, or it’s been awhile, I encourage you to revisit this movie for Holy Week, as well as reading about the Passion in Scripture which begins in each of the four Gospels at the following chapters:  Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 12.

How I *Know* Everything

I guess there are at least some benefits to having blogged for over a year now.  One of them being that when your mind is just not able to properly communicate to your fingers what to type, you can just choose to re-post something you’ve written before.  Which is what I’m doing today.  This post was originated on my first ever blog (www.lisachristiansen.blogspot.com) in February of last year.  But I think it’s still one of my favorite posts.  And if I’m lucky, it will inspire me with some new writing for next week.  Until then…enjoy!

Technology is not my friend. 

 

You know how sometimes when you’re writing and you just *know* you’re on to something and you’re typing so fast you’re hardly even thinking about it and you feel electric with energy because you are starting to think you are just Such. A. Flaming. Genius?

 

So then you take a moment to review it and you smile and you think, This is SO GOOD!  I’m just gonna cut it and paste it over here where I can edit it a little better without the worry of accidentally hitting ‘send’ before it’s too soon.

And you go and you cut it. 

 

But then for whatever stinking reason under this side of heaven it Just. Won’t. PASTE.

 

 

Yep, you guessed it.  Somewhere out in cyberspace (or hiding in some tiny irretrievable recesses of my computer) is that sheer genius piece of writing.  From Friday.  When I was trying to ‘work ahead’ and tell you what I *knew*.

 

So let’s just agree that Friday’s lost entry was my Pulitzer Prize winner that unfortunately got lost in a galaxy too large for any of us to find.  And when we see who wins the Prize this year we’ll all *know* it was supposed to be me…OK?

 

Instead, I’m going to use today to clarify something.  Because since some of you have been kind enough to let me know you are, in fact, reading what I’m writing here in Blogland and that I’m not just writing it to myself [which, by the way is incredibly kind of you, and also extremely terrifying for me, but I thank you anyway].  Still, since I’m pretty sure I’ll have at least one reader every day (thanks, Mom) it’s important that we  are of the same mind on something.

 

And that something is what I mean when I write the word know with those cute little asterisks around it like this:

*know*

 

You see, when I write that I *know* something, I’m talking about the kind of *knowing* that me and my women friends had when we were young and newly married and we were SO READY to start a family and have our kids spaced out here. And here.  And here.  And we had it all planned out.  And we *knew* that’s how it would go. 

 

You know what I’m talking about?  Remember that kind of *knowing*?

 

I do. 

 

Any guesses how many times I’ve *known* I was pregnant? 

 

At least 12. 

 

Yep.

 

I’d bet at least that many.

 

Which is, of course, different from how many times I’ve actually been pregnant. Which, for the record is three.  (And believe me, I’m OK with that!) So, you see, when I say I *know* something, I think what I really mean is that I’m being intuitive.  But the stink of it is, that sometimes it’s really hard to separate our intuition (our built-in truth-finder, if you will) from what we really, really want.

 

And what we want may not always be the Truth we’re intended to live.

 

SO…

 

sometimes we have to *know* and be wrong, and sniff (and cry) our way back to our Life Path before we *know* and get it right. 

 

And the reward is that when we *know* and then it’s confirmed for us over and over and over again– through the things we see (ultrasound), and the things others see in us (You are GLOWING!) and the way we feel (over-the-moon-euphoric!)– that we have, in fact, found the Truth. 

 

Or we’ve let it find us.

 

Either way, I’m fairly certain that what happens in that moment is that our minds are finally in tune with our hearts.   Which really isn’t that far of a distance.

 

Still…sometimes it’s a looooooong and crooked road there.

 

*Sigh*

 

Anyway.

 

Now we can at least be on the same page and you will know that when I *know* something I just may be Dead. Wrong.

 

And that stinks.

 

But it’ll be OK.

 

You know why?

 

Because I’ve learned that my being wrong is really just an invitation from God… to wait. 

 

I guess it’s the only way He can make sure He is out in front of me before I go blazing ahead.   He’s real protective like that.  And I REALLY like to blaze!

 

Still. 

 

In my heart I know that it really would be a whole lot easier that way. 

 

You’d think we’d have gotten it awhile back when God sent us Jesus who told us

 

                                                            “Follow me.”

-Matthew 9:9

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

-Matthew 11:30

 

 

But I’ll be honest, I used to think He was lying.   Not about the following, so much.  More about the easy.

 

I really did. 

 

And trust me, I realize it’s probably not nice to say you think God’s a liar, but since it’s my understanding that God created my heart (and my head… and my soul),  I guess there’s no real sense in my hiding the fact that I may think He’s a liar. 

 

Because He’s got a Front Row seat in there, anyway. 

 

Still. 

 

It’s what I thought.  

 

He was lying. 

 

And I thought that because it seemed like my own personal experience told me otherwise.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking this, because how often don’t we say to ourselves and each other that “life isn’t easy”?

 

It seems that way a lot. 

 

But then.

 

I let God weigh in with His two cents (and seriously, that’s about all the more I let Him weigh in because I’m stubborn like that).  And  I realize that it really may not be as hard as I first thought. 

 

I mean, after all…

 

I’m living right now.  And right now.  And right now.  And this isn’t really all that hard. 

 

But you know what’s IS hard? 

 

 

WAITING. 

 

 

At least most of the time. 

 

 

At least for me.

 

 

So that’s why God is sending me (and maybe you, too) this here little postcard today. 

 

It’s to remind me why I need to wait:

 footprints_in_sand_wallpaper

 

 

 

So,  I’m making a choice to listen.

Because if God isn’t there yet…well, I guess I really don’t want to go there yet either. 

 

Even if it means letting someone else get that Pulitzer.

 

So that’s why I’m gonna sit another day or two before I rewrite that sheer genius entry I lost last Friday.

 

Because I may not have to rewrite it at all.

 

You see, I’m still trying to sniff out the Truth, even though I *know* what it is.

 

And that sometimes takes awhile. 

Going Deep

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Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  (Luke 5:3-4)

So it’s been just over a year and a half since we uprooted ourselves from Packerland USA and settled here in Steelers Country.  And one of the hardest parts of moving is happening again.  Right now as I type:

I’m starting to get to know and care about and really like the people here.

I love them, even.

I know. Cry me a river, right?

I know.

But here’s the thing about moving around every couple of years or so:   it hurts.

It hurts to start over.  It hurts to say goodbye.  It hurts to leave the place where “everybody knows your name” and go to a place where nobody does.  It hurts especially because when I’m making new friends, I know something that most of them don’t (even though I tell them right away).  I know that they’re going to get to know me–really know me–just in time to say goodbye.

So unfortunately, what happens, to me at least, (not to everyone, because I’ve learned it really depends on your personality, and some people really love being nomads.  I’m just not one of those people.), is that I try not to get to know too many people.

Which is just wrong.  Because I really, really like people.

(Most of them, anyway).

(Most of the time).

I love them even.

I’m fascinated by them.

Fascinated by what they think, how they feel, how they act, the things they say, and how they say them.  What makes them mad, or happy, or relaxed or defensive.

I love watching it all, hearing it all, and learning from it.

But it’s safer from a distance.  Because then it doesn’t hurt so much to say goodbye.

But, now,  I’ve been getting signs pointing me into the direction of The Deep.

I’ve found myself getting phone calls or emails to volunteer more.  (I was going to cut back on that “this time around” here in PA.  Though I can’t help but wonder… did I really think I could cut back on getting involved in activities and helping out with school and church functions for two or three years?)  I have more lunch dates with friends, and more GNO’s.   (Sidebar here:  when I first saw someone post on Facebook that they were having a “GNO Tonight!”  I thought they had an appointment with their GyNecOlogist, and wondered why in the world they felt the need to announce it to the rest of us.  Then I learned that GNO stands for Girls’ Night Out which makes more sense.  But I still don’t like the acronym).

Anyway, like I said, it’s happening.  I’m making connections.  I’m getting involved.  I’m making more friends than before.

And it already hurts to think about saying goodbye.

Again.

*sigh*

But.

Here’s the thing.

Getting involved and helping others is still the best way to effectively share your story.  I can write for days and weeks and months and years about how God has changed me, how much I love God, how I believe that we are ALL God’s children.

But those are just words.

And words?  As much as I love them?  All by themselves, they seldom transform people.  Transformed people transform people, says Richard Rohr.   And, hard as I’ve tried to keep my distance, it’s difficult to make a difference in someone’s life if you aren’t involved in it.  And I know he’s right.

Sure, I’ve enjoyed teaching here “from the shore.” And I hope I’ve said some words that have maybe touched some hearts from time to time.  And that is good. In return, many people whose hearts have been touched by my words have turned around and touched mine right back.  So, of course, I will continue this work.  It feeds me!

But it is not enough.

So, now, after a year and a half, I know it’s time to do what I was led here to do.

I’m realizing now that more is being asked of me here in the land that I’m trying so desperately to dwell on, rather than in.  It’s time for me to share myself– all of me– and whatever gifts I have to offer.   In the past those gifts involved creating new ways for others to learn and grow in their faith, and working closely with others… and…making lifelong friends.   It’s time for me to open my heart and do what I can in that capacity here, and share with others who I am.  And Whose I am.

Not with my words, but with…me.

So…even though I still carry the sadness of having done that before… in my last towns… (right before I left), it’s been a year and half now.  And it is time to “cast” again.  Cast out my doubts.  Cast open my heart. Plunge into the Mystery of the new waters around me. And share my gifts.

Because the only way to make a good catch?

Is to go deep.

Courting God

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How long do you think a love affair could last between two people if one of them insisted to the other again and again and again, that they were unloveable?

It’s amazing that we can see so quickly it would never work when the question is framed like that.  It seems that so much of the courtship and wooing that goes into finding that “forever mate” is a dance where we show each other just how lovable we can be.

Why do we insist on making our courtship with God so differently?

Those were my thoughts as I read my devotional by Henri Nouwen this week:

God is saying, “I have always loved you and I love you now.  I want you to receive my love.”  And you are saying, “You can’t love me, God, because I’m so bad.  By thinking about my past I will prove to you that I am beyond forgiveness.”

What kind of person would ever put up with that kind of message again and again and again?

None that I know of.

So how can we explain why God would put up with this?

The only answer I have is so trite it seems to lose meaning over time, but it is still so true it needs to be said again.

Because our God?

Our God is an awesome God!

Amen.