Monthly Archives: August 2013

As Mountains are for Winds

Image “Be like the cliff against which the waves continually break; but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.” ― Marcus AureliusMeditations “Ay, to the proof, as mountains are for winds, that shakes not, though they blow perpetually.” ― William ShakespeareThe Taming of the Shrew There is always a moving forward, a pressing on, a progression toward the future.  There are continuously voices calling for change. Change is good, but can we pause for just a moment and recognize that change can be hard, that there is loss, that there is grief?   Can we allow for the fact that in the forward march some beauty sometimes gets left in the dust? We are told that we must continue on, must keep on keeping on, must go with the flow and adapt to the change. But so much changes so fast and there is a sense that sometimes pain is not accounted for or allowed.  Chin up, stay calm, soldier on. What about the grand tree with solid deep roots?  What about the steady cliff beaten by the waves but not diminished?  Can we learn nothing from them?  Yes there is change, fairly constant beating of the waves on us.  But there are firm foundations and places deep down where we can find the solace of steadfast unchanging strength. Not everything needs to change.  And those who push so hard for change need to sometimes stop, breathe, look around, tend to those who are reeling from it all with compassion and grace.  We do not all move so fast so easily anymore. And there is wisdom in the knowing that not all was meant for change.  Not everything is in constant state of fluctuating or adapting.  There is in all of it an ancient undercurrent, a solid fortress, a rock that is higher than the waves, higher than the seemingly insatiable appetite for  something new, something better, something, if nothing else, just different than what is. There is time for change.  There are moments where acceptance and adapting are necessary and good.  But there is also time when it is just as necessary and good to  stand still, take a breath, and hold on to what life is right now.  There is a time to be as mountains are for winds.

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August 22, 2013 · 10:03 AM

The post I couldn’t finish

ImageRather we need to be exacting with ourselves regarding our integrity and motivation, and very generous in ascribing the best of motivations to the actions and efforts of others.” -Charles Ringma, Seize The Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer I might have been in a mood. A few weeks ago I began a post I just couldn’t finish.  It was nothing to horribly scandalous, but it did cause a twinge in my conscience nonetheless. This  nonpunishable post was born out of a recent annoyance I have felt at something we all encounter, likely daily.  It was concerning those pesky “than thous” that flit about us, on TV, in conversations, in social media, and even with close friends and family. “Than thou” used to be restricted to the realm of religiosity, as in “holier than thou,” but now you think of an area of life or current philosophy or lifestyle, and the than thous have found a very comfortable spot to nest. Among the “than thous” I seem to encounter (you may have others that come to mind)  are healthier/more organic than thou, more of a foodie than thou, fitter than thou, greener than thou, more progressive, hip, or enlightened than thou, more creative than thou, and better overall parent than thou (although that last one has probably been around since there existed more than one family on this earth).  And sadly, as much as I love the work of Brene Brown, (and I do), I wonder if we sometimes don’t also slip into more genuine/ “real” than thou and more compassionate than thou. Of course, as soon as I began mulling all these things over, and feeling, well, a bit smug, I had one of those looking in the mirror pointing a finger pointing back at me moments.  What am I then?  Less “than thou” than thou? And I had to stop writing and start really thinking this through. So where do these “than thous” come from?  The more I ponder this, the more I think they actually begin in a beautiful place, maybe like weeds that pop out in a lush lovely garden. We all, I believe, have the potential for passion in us.  And that passion manifests itself in different ways, maybe because of what we have been exposed to or educated about, maybe because of people we love and admire, maybe just because we are “wired” that way. So the passion grows and we get excited about it and it bubbles over so that it becomes part of many of our conversations.  We want to share, we want others to understand, to see the beauty of the garden. I think where the stink comes in is, well, pride.  Pride sneaking in once again.  Pride causes us to say things like “Well, would never…” or “I always…” and then pride gives way to judgement which says “How could anyone…?”  and begins to view others as the unenlightened masses. And then, of course, there is the backlash, which I experienced in my own heart and mind:  “Well,  would never say those things.  I am not prideful.”  Um.  ok. So what to do? How do I rewrite this?  Two things come to mind.  One is to humbly suggest that all of us work to cultivate our passions, our gardens, while at the same time mind those weeds (or bugs, pick your metaphor).  It is difficult, but not impossible, to bring those passions, those beliefs that come from deep in our souls to the table humbly, graciously, kindly.  It is possible to pick up our heads, look around, and see the bounty of all that others are also bringing to the table.  It is possible to stop talking (or typing) long enough to listen to someone else’s story, open up to the passion that dwells in someone else’s heart. And secondly, I walk away convicted that I can be guilty of missing the garden for the weeds.  I can too easily be distracted by the tone and miss the heart behind it.  I need to have eyes and ears to take in what others have to offer and drop the self-focused mindset that this is all about comparison (or frankly, all about me, and how I may or may not measure up).  I need to be quiet, even in my mind, and allow the beauty of another’s heart penetrate my own. And so this is the post I wrote and finished.  And this is the mindset, and the “heartset” I will (try to) keep.

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Filed under Examining life

Memories

Image“I miss innocence/ I miss the arms of my mother/ I miss feeling light, like a childhood summer.” -Sara Groves There is a certain ambiguous heaviness I feel every year around this time.  I think most anyone who has suffered a significant loss that ties back to a certain time and series of days can relate on some level.  There is a deep longing, an ache, a trying to bring back someone, or somewhere, or sometime.  There is a  sense that you have lost something, or maybe it is you that is lost, a sense of reaching out  and grasping, of holding on, and then realizing, what was there, is not, but also that what is there, is not lost.  What is left, what is not lost, is the pure sweet memory of what was.  It is with these thoughts that I re-post my first blog post, in memory of my mother:

Memories are part of who we are. They are deeply embedded in us, in a place that almost has a touch of the holy. When it seems we have been robbed of all that is important to us, they remain a sanctuary, mostly untarnished. Even for those who have difficulty remembering information that seems essential to daily living, memories have a way of nestling into the fabric of their lives. For all of us, memories are a road map to reclaiming some of our past selves.
 
Memories are often incomplete, coming to us in fragments and sometimes, seemingly, in no particular order. They are like snapshots, dusty photos discovered in a box. Some are a little out of focus, a little fuzzy. They cause us to wonder: When did that happen? Where was that? Who was there? We worry we cannot trust what comes to mind, wonder if we have it all straight. But other memories are almost tangible in their representation of a moment. They have the power to bring us sharply, almost uncomfortably, right back into a specific time and place. Sometimes, though, it is not at all uncomfortable. Sometimes, we have the desire to linger, to hold on tightly, to stay as long as we are allowed.
 
Memories are powerfully connected to our world of senses….the sight of a treasured object, a park bench where you used to sit, a holiday decoration that was a perennial favorite…the feel of the crisp breeze or warm sunshine…the smell of a familiar perfume, or a beloved family recipe coming out of the oven…the sound of a song that holds special significance…Often, these experiences catch us off guard, so ordinary, yet so filled with meaning and intense unfulfilled longing that we did not know was possible. Sometimes the door of comfort is cracked open as we allow ourselves the sweetness of a presence we miss so dearly. Other times, we wince as the floodgates of pain and loss feel as though they have opened and will never close.
 
Memories can be painfully elusive as we can almost feel ourselves grasp into the air, trying to will the moment back into reality. How much more true this is when the memory is of a loved one who has left this earth. If I close my eyes…hear his voice…feel her hug…I can, just, almost… And then it’s gone.
Remembering can be hard. But it is so very important. The stories we tell, or the ones we keep quiet and held close, these are what begin to make up part of who we are. And it is in this process, the looking, lingering, holding on, speaking the names, giving voice to the moments of the past, that memories become a gift to be treasured. They become a way to hold on to that which has been lost. For in some small way, that which has been lost, is found. And once found, it is guarded in our very souls.

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Filed under Grief and loss

Let Our Words Be Few

Image “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'”- Matthew 11:17 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever…What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” –Ecclesiastes 1:4,9 Pride is as alive as it ever was, and it is so very seductive. No one is beyond its grasp. Pride whispers sweetly in our ears until we are lulled into believing we have the absolute right to demand the church be molded into our image, brothers and sisters in Christ bend to our personal tastes and preferences, and Christ himself be whittled down into a comfortable pocket guide for living. No one is exempt and no moment in time is safe from the siren call of pride and the assertion of the will. Each one of us is as prone as the other to fall into the trap. I will preface a link to the recent article by Rachel Held Evans by saying the words and specifics may vary, but the idea is not new. Nothing is new under the sun. We all at one time or another have desired to tailor God, His Word, and His purposes to our will.  Evans addresses the evangelical church, and its perceived failure to hold captive the attention and loyalty of so-called millenials.    The desire to cast a wider net is understandable, but some of the ideas represented here seem to be rooted in the desire to have a sovereignty of self, to base our criticisms of institutions on our own authority, not the authority of scripture. “It is clear,” Eugene Peterson writes urgently in Eat This Book, “that we live in an age in which the authority of Scripture in our lives has been replaced by the authority of the self: we are encouraged on all sides to take charge of our lives and use our own experience as the authoritative text by which we live.” Not only this, but “we are in the odd and embarrassing position of being a church in which many among us believe ardently in the authority of the Bible, but, instead of submitting to it, use it apply it, take charge of it endlessly, using our own experience as the authority for how and where and when we will use it.” We can slide so easily into the habit of self-appointed authority with God’s word, with His people, and, (this should cause us to shudder), with God Himself. It is so tempting to say we want a big God with power and glory and majesty, but in the same breath want to manage the Almighty and His work on earth. We want the great King to be safe. But we are to be admonished in this kind of thinking, just like the character of Susan in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: “Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.” This foolish desire to waltz into God’s house and lay out a list of demands has surely been a problem since the time of the writing of Ecclesiastes, prompting these words: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know what they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth. So let you words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3) Let our words be few. And let those words be appropriately humble. Let us remember, no matter what generation we are in, that we do not call the shots. It may be that it is more tempting for the generations now coming of age to feel entitled than previous generations. (Though I doubt it. Nothing is new under the sun). It also may be that there have been some misguided attempts by various churches to cater to one group or another, motivated by fear of losing numbers. Haven’t we been warned though, that “the love of most will grow cold?” (Matthew 24:11) I believe a church’s effectiveness in pursuing and carrying out the will of God does not lie in popularity but in holding fast to His Word, and in effectively using those who will be counted present and available. The question, then, isn’t  what is the church to me, but what kind of instrument am I in the church? What do I bring? How can I humbly serve, minister to, love, console, rejoice with, and walk alongside my brothers and sisters? How can I be hands and feet to those outside the walls of my church and beyond the boundaries of my comfort? This is to walk in the feet of Christ. This is, again in the words of Eugene Peterson, “liv[ing] these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.” This is the antidote to pride. So let our words be few. Let our demands be silenced. Let our condescension and criticisms be muted and our actions speak volumes. And let our actions not just show that we love our neighbor, as important as that is. Let them show that we submit to the will of the Father, and follow the first and greatest commandment, which, if we truly take Christ at His word, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Let our words be few. Let our awe be genuine. Let us humbly acknowledge that God is God and His Will will be done, whether we choose to be a part of it or not.

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August 1, 2013 · 5:55 PM