Sunday, March 6, 2016

You Cut Me Real Deep


A few weeks ago, I decided to get a new ACL (the old one saw its last leg skiing in Colorado on a run called ‘The Lower Ambush’ of all things).  Surgery went well, but when I finally removed the remainder of the bandaging after 10 days, a part of the incision started to bleed a bit.  Of course, this worried me, as I thought I might have re-opened the wound.  So I had a friend of mine (who happens to be a health care provider) check it out.  


It turns out that the way you assess whether an incision is healing well is to lightly jostle one side of the incision to see if the other side moves along with it.  (Hopefully that makes sense, otherwise the rest of this might be a little rough.)  So down the length of the incision, my friend jostled one side, then the other, watching for any ‘weak spots’ where the two sides moved independently of one another.  We ended up rebandaging the incision to let the sides continue to heal together, but big picture: it was fine.




Physical incisions are but an outward display of the wounds of the heart.  Fear of being alone, fear of being unloved, fear that I am not understood, or fear that I am too much...these all have their days in my life, and they manifest themselves in so many little ways that I worry they are unable to be healed.  Though it’s uncomfortable, God makes it clear that he is able to find these fears, these wounds.  A wise friend related it to me this way: God comes into every facet of my personality (which he LOVES by the way), and freely pours His love.  He listens for his love to echo back to him from my heart, and based on my response, he is able to find places of woundedness.  


God: I love you!
Me: Let’s talk about something else.
God: I love you!
Me: Okay...but seriously, there are ways I reject you that I don’t even want to give up.  
God: I want to be with you!
Me: But what will happen to me if I let you near me?  This can’t be good.


He calls, and my response is there but disjointed.  It doesn’t match his call.  One side of the incision is tested, and the other does not move with it.  




-Genesis 3-
When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  (next part is summarized to mirror the situation above)

God: Where are you?
Adam: I heard you, but I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.
God: Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree?
Adam: The woman that you put here gave the fruit to me.
God: What have you done?
Woman: The snake tricked me.


Adam and Eve don’t even answer the questions God asks.  God calls, and their response is disjointed.  One side of the incision is tested, and the other does not move with it.  






Like any good friend, spouse, health care provider, or parent, God does not want me to think it's normal or good to walk around with a limp, an open wound, or tears brimming under the surface. So he zones in right to the place of woundedness.  He does not leave me unattended, but stays with me way past the point I think he should; he is not afraid of my weak response.  He will continue to call, until I respond with wonder at his faithfulness to me.  He will never stop calling.  He is well aware that it is he who loves first, and he will continue to call with great hope that, by simply letting myself be loved, I will realize I am loving him in return.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Keep Your Eyes on the Director"

Last night I was an audience member at a high school vocal music concert.  It was an easy and joyful occasion for me to be drawn into their music, with fond memories of music-making welling up from high school days.   

I remember directors reminding us every so often to ‘Keep your eyes on me!’.  I knew this was important for group dynamics and cut-offs.  But it wasn’t until last night that a greater depth in this admonition was revealed.   



I found myself delighted most by the students whose eyes were focused on their director; these students were imbued with confidence.  These students were magnetic, and I felt permitted to watch them, since they weren't cognizant of me, but cared only for their director’s gaze.  And I found my eyes darting anxiously away from students who (knowingly or unknowingly) were looking anywhere else but at their director. 

One may posit that each student’s gaze is just ‘one among many’ and that the director’s gaze matters less since it is dispersed among a vast crowd.  But the director’s gaze was needed by each student.  And each student’s gaze was needed by the director.  Both student and director delight in this connection.  This gaze is needed; I could tell when it was there and I could tell when it was missing.   

There is a sense of urgency, of grasping, and of dying to create individuality that manifests in a student whose gaze is elsewhere.  It was apparent last night, and it is apparent in my life when I try to define myself by everything else other than being supremely loved by Christ.      

Refusing the gaze of the director carries with it a bit of defiance and forgetfulness of my part in a larger group.  “I know my part” and it’s tempting to think that’s all that matters, that I must sing loud so as not to be forgotten.  Paradoxically, through submitting to the director and becoming a part of the group, my part does not ‘get lost’.  Rather, it’s channeled into something more beautiful.  The song, and my part in it, is surely most beautiful when I remain in the gaze of the director.  


-             -              -               -

The following from Pope Benedict XVI expands on the particular beauty found in this gaze, this steady rock of friendship with Christ. 

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way?  If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?  Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful?  Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No!  If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.  No!  Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.  And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ!  He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything.  When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return.  Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's all about who, you know.

Last week, a group of us (teachers) went to a conference.  There were 5 sessions, and 15 topic offerings per session.  As I sifted through titles, times, presenters, and locations, I noticed that my ‘deciding factor’ was the presenter.  Case in point: I have almost no knowledge, nor much interest in wrestling.  But I jumped at the chance to attend a session by a certain wrestling coach because I have friends who wrestled for him and loved their experience. 

It’s about the person behind the words.

In the movie Hitch, Alex kicks Sarah in the face, causing her to fall off a jet ski into dirty water, he loses his shirt, and has an exaggerated allergic reaction to shellfish. Yet her analyses of the dates are “yeah, he failed miserably…but he did it with style…and this is a good thing”. If the same things were done by a different guy, Sarah would have probably written him off. And she may have cited the above incidents as ‘the reasons’. But those incidents wouldn't really have been the reasons. We all know...at the end of the day, she just liked him.  

The heart has its own reasons, of which reason knows not.” (Pascal...for an in-depth analysis of this, click here)

Texts, calls, and dates: there’s no magic formula about when, how, and where.  They aren't objectively good or bad.  The text, call, or date becomes good (or bad) because of the person behind it.  On paper, a date may be bad, but it is perceived as good.  On paper, a date may be good, but it is perceived as bad. 

As much as we wish our good actions defined us, they just don’t.  And as much as we worry that our mistakes and sins define us, they just don’t.  There is so much more to the story...thank God!

We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.  - Blessed Pope John Paul II, WYD Toronto 2002

This is the shape he was in when he spoke those words!
I pray that I will not define myself, nor define you, by your good or bad actions, but rather widen my circle to let us be defined as the sum of the Father’s love for us, and allow Him to form us in the image of his Son.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 'It' Factor

    You know those people who just have ‘it’?   Everyone wants to be around them.  They are magnanimous: joyful, confident, and generous.  They are happy to be themselves.  I want to be like that.  But the pursuit is frustrating and fascinating; ‘it’ seems always attainable but just out of reach. 

     I've tried to acquire ‘it’ by imitation (because joy, confidence, and generosity are great qualities).  I've tried to acquire ‘it’ by pursuing originality (because I know that I am created uniquely to be me).  But I am left restless, still wanting whatever ‘it’ is.  

Finding 'it' is part elusive, part frantic.  Yes, just like this.
     'It' is not just being funny, or kind, or a good listener, or generous, or happy, though these are good and imitable.  Pope John Paul II said that we are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures.  I think we are also not the sum of our gifts and successes.  We are the sum of our Father's love for us.  

     No, what these people have, this ‘it’, is the deep peace resulting from the struggle and beauty of allowing the light of Christ to shine in their darkness, healing and revealing their true selves.  These people have had an encounter with one who knows them and wants them in all their fullness.  They have the better part which will not be taken from them. 

     Allowing Christ’s light to shine into darkness is uncomfortable and unnerving because what will be revealed is not yet known.  But equally – actually more - uncomfortable and unnerving is darkness; the restless strive to ‘create myself’ through an endless game of imitation and originality.  So let there be light. 


     Once I am convinced that darkness is scarier than light, it begins.  We walk through my soul.  As I watch Jesus teach me about each thing we see along the way, it becomes easier and easier to trust Him.  He brings clarity, peace, and simplicity to what was confused, unknown, and tainted.  My idea of finding 'it' through imitation and originality fades in the light of the glory of His new creation.  And I am not alone in aching for light to shine.  


At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God.  I will go further now.  There are no real personalities anywhere else.  Until you have given up yourself to Him you will not have a real self.  Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ.  How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.                                                                                              - C.S. Lewis


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  
John 1:5


Monday, July 1, 2013

The 'Accidental Facebook Like'

    A month ago, I got a new phone.  In figuring out nuances of the phone, I have managed to ‘like’ pictures I intended only to scroll through, ‘favorite’ tweets I meant to ‘collapse’, send three text messages when I only wanted to send one, and commit other delightful social media faux-pas at the most opportune times. 

    For my reason or another, I’ll take a gamble that you too have been in the “accidentally-liking/friending/commenting-and-hurrying-to-undo” boat.  We want to ‘undo’ it because a) we actually don’t like the item or b) we don’t want the person to know we were looking.  Either way, it’s awkward to ‘undo’ because What if they already saw it? or What if they think I’m rude?



So what’s behind the freak-out moment of the ‘accidental like’? 

“If we have no peace, it is because we've forgotten that we belong to each other.”  Mother Teresa

    There’s a freak-out moment with the ‘accidental like’ because it reminds me that even if I’m behind a screen, I am not anonymous and neither are you.  We are real, and belong to one another.  But shoot, that shouldn't be such a surprise.  I think we deserve more.  

    The antidote is tough to find, but I know what it's not.  It’s not “go on a mission to humanize the internet by commenting/liking/reacting to everything I see”; that’s annoying and means nothing.  And it’s not “get off of social media because it’s not real life”; social media is real, and can be good.  St. Augustine said ‘abstinence is easier than perfect moderation’; in this case, he means it is easier for me to cut out all social media, but better to learn to use it well and manage my time.  

I need to remember it’s YOU on the other side and act accordingly.  


The following are so insightful.  I loved reading them, and if you've made it this far, then you might too. 

2.  XKCD's comic 'The Pace of Modern Life'
3.  Pope Benedict XVI on The Year of Faith, which runs from 2012-2013 (excerpt below)

 “Among the most striking experiences of the last decades is finding doors closed.  The bolted door of my house, the place of my intimate life, my dreams, hopes, sufferings and moments of happiness, is locked against others. And it is not simply a matter of the physical house; it is also the whole area of my life, of my heart. All the time there are fewer who can cross that threshold. The security of reinforced doors protects the insecurity of a life which is becoming more fragile and less open to the riches of the life and the love of others.

The image of an open door has always been a symbol of light, friendship, happiness, liberty, and trust.  How we need to recover them."  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Final Sale! [or, happily and literally, the point of no return]


I was happy to walk into one of my favorite stores to discover that they were having a sale on sale items.  Fortune smiled on me as I snagged great finds at great prices.  As I came to the register, the clerk said “Just so you know, these items are on final sale.”



“Okay, that’s fine, thanks.”  A smooth response on the exterior was accompanied by an inward moment of brief panic, a darting scan through my items, aaaand the moment of decision.  (Very important matters here.)  I bought them all. 

As I have unpacked or worn the items this week, each time I rip off a tag, I am reminded that I don’t need to deliberate; I already made the decision, these are mine, and I might as well wear the heck out of ‘em and enjoy the odd sense of freedom that comes with the ‘final sale’ decision. 
                
The month has been full of good conversations.  Recently I spoke with a friend about the impossibility of having a cake and eating it too.  Other than the obvious point of the proverb (I must choose one thing or the other), it’s worth noting that by wanting both options but failing to decide, I lose both options.  By staying committed to indecision, inner paralysis wins, no choice is exercised, and neither option gets a fair shake.    



But, if a choice is made, if one option is pursued, I can learn if it’s right or wrong.  I can experience joy and sorrow instead of paralysis.  And I can just experience…period.  Using what I am given, in the time that I have, keeping goodness and truth in mind, I just need to choose.  



“And you have your choices.  These are what make man great, his ladder to the stars.”
- Timshel, Mumford & Sons

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” 
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Beauty: in the eye of the mover


The ominous springtime sky makes for a beautiful drive through the streets of town.  Large amounts of rain bring, of course, very green plant life.  So the trees, with young green leaves, were on great display yesterday. 

As I drove through an arch of trees like the one above, I really wanted to capture the moment…re-drive the street…take a picture …stop to get out?  I have stopped during drives to get out and ‘soak up’ the scenery, but it’s always awkward, or just not what I expect.  I get out and realize all of a sudden that I’m in front of someone’s house…and there are people around, and it that it looks pretty questionable to park, get out, and stand in the street looking at trees.  And even if there were no one around, stopping just doesn’t capture what I thought it would…it just doesn’t work. 



To experience the ‘beauty’ of a drive, for angles to change, for the light to cast new shadows, for new scenes to appear, I must move.  Though something in me wants to take it all in for good, there is something most beautiful about moving through beautiful things.  Beauty is suggestive, penetrating, but its capture is evasive.  I can only behold it if I am willing to leave it, to trust that more will be supplied.  

Columbia River, Washington State
Where I learned how to waterski.
I did not take the pic, but it does look like this...go there.

A friend of mine was struck by a hymn with the lyrics ‘Peace is flowing like a river…’ because ‘Peace’ and ‘constant change’ normally aren’t associated.  But upon reflection, he came to see that a river is actually peaceful in the best and truest sense.  A river supplies life precisely because of the moving waters; a river is fresh, replenished, and allows for migration.  If it was dammed, the life it supplies would be severely diminished.  There is life around a river because it is always flowing. 

So too, I have Peace when I allow Grace to flow through me rather than receive a little and grasp at it to keep it.  Was I not promised that I would be given water and never thirst again?  (John 7:37-38) Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.  As Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.”

Grace, like Beauty, is not meant to be stopped up, but to flow.  Like water in a river, Grace supplies life to whatever it touches.  It enlightens, invigorates, and changes forever that which it encounters.  And there is an endless supply, but only if it’s moving.