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Held

24 Feb

Christians ask the question. Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu people ask it. Atheists and agnostics ask it, a lot. Despite all our difference and diversity, this one question unites humanity.

Why?

Why cancer? Why depression? Why alzheimers?

Why death?

I’ve asked that question many times, in tones of anger, confusion, sadness, hopelessness. I’ve never gotten an answer. But when I quiet my heart, I do hear the still, small voice whisper, “Wrong question.”

I’m not sure what the right question is. I may never know.

But I do know how humbling it is to watch communities come together in the wake of tragedy.

There is a Natalie Grant song which encapsulates these feelings far better than anything I could write. I hope that it brings comfort, even if it doesn’t answer “why.”

Everything Is Sacred

6 Jan

I found an interesting article while scanning my Facebook feed today, posted by an acquaintance who would probably refer to herself as “not spiritual,” entitled “21 ‘Non-spiritual’ Things That Make Us Happy.” You can find it here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11/21-non-spiritual-things-that-make-us-happy/

Have you read it yet?

Go. Read it. Come back.

Thank you for coming back. 

So, if you, like me, do classify yourself as “spiritual,” what did you think about this list?

I personally found every single item on that list to be spiritual. Because when you are a “spiritual” person, everything is sacred.

Everything.

Poop is sacred. Dinner is sacred. Reading is sacred. Art is sacred. Taking a shower is sacred. Walking your kid to the bus stop is sacred. Weather is sacred. Changing a diaper is sacred. Being betrayed by a friend is sacred. So is losing your job.

Anything I do or experience as a human being is sacred.

There are very few “all or nothing” things in life, but in my experience, spirituality is one of them. You may be one of those who believes there is gray area, that you are a skeptic; but if you are unconvinced of a spiritual dimension to life, well, it’s kind of hard to see that dimension unless you have a mind open to the possibility. If you are open to the possibility, you may start out thinking only “churchy” stuff is sacred, but as you begin to see the sacred in one aspect of your life, you can’t help but notice it everywhere.

If you are one of those who classify yourself as “not spiritual,” I highly recommend doing everything on that list. It’s not what we believe about those actions that makes us happy, it’s the DOING them, whether we think they are spiritual or not. In fact, one of the pitfalls of my thinking that any action is “spiritual” is the ripe potential of seeing myself as “spiritual enough” or, even worse, “spiritually better than.” When it comes to spirituality, there is no “enough,” and there is no “better than” or “worse than.”

I am sacred. Not “sacred enough.” Not “less sacred than” or “more sacred than.” Just sacred. Like everything.

Sacred is the great equalizer.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Sacred, by Caedmon’s Call. You can listen to it here:

http://youtu.be/wdYXX42lKSY

You can live life as it everything is sacred, or as if nothing is. The choice is yours, and the choice doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you live.

Auld Lang Syne

1 Jan

Should old acquaintance be forgot?

I have always loved Dan Fogelburg’s song Same Auld Lang Syne, even when I was a little girl and had no idea what it was about. Call it foreshadowing.

I’m still not sure what “auld lang syne” means. But I have learned a thing or two about holding on to the memories of a lost lover – and finding closure.

One such lover used to say he didn’t believe in closure, only “deeper levels of acceptance.” I would just use that as an excuse to nurse “that old familiar pain.” I believe there comes a time when I get to the bottom of that champagne glass and dump the last sip or two down the sink, because it’s flat and warm, and I never liked champagne to begin with.

I have friendships with most of my old lovers. With some of them I engage in good-natured political and theological battles on Facebook, ever grateful that we are ex’s and ever grateful that I still get to enjoy my favorite parts of who they are – from a distance. Other ex’s I’ve reconnected with but don’t communicate with much because the past is the past and it’s enough to know that the old familiar pain is forgiven and released. The few with whom I have no contact are best left that way. But even in those cases, God has brought some of them back into my life by chance meeting as an opportunity for me to get closure.

Closure looks a lot like forgiving ourselves for being young and all that goes with it. We drink a toast to innocence, we drink a toast to now and how far we’ve come. I find that elusive balance of not regretting the past nor wishing to shut the door on it. It is enough to look through that open door and be grateful I never have to go to that place with him again.

Should old acquaintance be forgot? No. Just that old familiar pain. To that, I say goodbye.

Me and God

14 Oct

We live in troubled times. I don’t know about you, but when I think of all the changes and strife going on all around me, I get really scared. Most fear stems from one of two sources: fear of not getting what you want or fear of losing what you have. The way I see it, the divide in our country today comes down to those two fears battling each other. They are both realistic fears, which makes it such a stalemate.

Realistic or not, they are only fears. Frustration, Ego, Anxiety, Resentment. False expectations appearing real. Failure expected and received. Frantic efforts to appear real. Fuck everything and run.

Forgetting everything’s all right.

If conflict stems from fear of not getting what I want or losing what I have, I truly have forgotten the truth – that everything I have is not mine. It’s on loan from God. And as soon as it gets in the way of that relationship, I will lose it one way or another.

Yesterday as I was getting ready for church, this song by country artist Josh Turner was playing, and it reminded me of the truth of who’s in charge.

In these troubled, conflicted, stalemated times, let us pray not that God be on “our side,” but that we be on His.

The Lord Our God

8 Oct

The past few days have been underscored by a single question – is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? The current state of affairs in Washington leaves me feeling very disheartened, because it represents a disunity that runs deep, and not just in our political leaders. They are merely a reflection of the people they represent, collectively and individually. All of us have been digging in for a fight in some way, haven’t we?

I’ve drawn a lot of lines in the sand in my adult life, and I’ve crossed most of them. Boundaries are important, but God is more important, and sometimes God calls us to step over that line, not because we give up, but because we love Him more than our own self-justified pride. God is more powerful than our feeble attempts to “do the right thing,” and He fortifies and restores what is meant to last.

I looked in the mirror this morning and saw someone beautiful. I saw the tender and open and confident and hopeful young woman I had been before a troubled marriage built on a foundation of unrealistic expectations ate away at me. I saw the compassionate and realistic and honest woman I’m becoming as the result of motherhood, loss, grief and healing.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, my internet radio offered up this tune from the 2013 Passion album: The Lord Our God.

Listening to it I realize that the great Promise Keeper is restoring everything I lost and more in His time. It’s overwhelming, but I now know that I don’t have to take a single step or make any decision without consulting my higher power leading me. No more guessing at God’s will. Today I can wait for the answer, because I know it will come.

Build Your Kingdom Here

1 Oct

I love Christian contemporary music. So when I downloaded my ios7 last week and opened the iTunes Radio for the first time, of course I checked out the Christian Contemporary station first. And THIS was the first song that came on.

There’s only one word that can describe how I reacted to the song.

“AMEN!”

I will forever long for the day when I can sing this song at my church. Until that day, I will carry it in my heart like a pilgrim longing for a home in which she’s already living.

Abandon

10 Sep

I heard this brand new song by the Newsboys today for the first time today, and, as usual, the timing could not be more perfect. I still haven’t written a reflection on this weekend’s readings yet, in part because the words of Jesus in the Gospel are so shocking and unexpected:

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t condoning hatred. My pastor tried to explain this as Jesus using “rabbinic hyperbole,” that is, exaggerating to make a point. And the point is this – I can’t put God first while still putting anything else as my first priority. I have to be willing to abandon even my family connections if those connections get in the way of my relationship with God.

Not because God is demanding and wants me to abandon my family, but because in some cases, even our closest, most intimate relationships eat away at us and are not compatible with the way of the disciple.

A friend put it to me this way – the path of discipleship requires that I accept that I will never again have my own way.

Sometimes that’s a pleasant thing. Often God blesses us in ways we could never imagine when we let go of having things we think we want. Other times, it’s a season of heartache as we grieve lost hopes.

Living with abandon. That doesn’t sound like “hate” to me. And I think that’s what Jesus meant by those hyperbolic words. Carrying the cross means abandoning whatever it is that blocks us from communion with God. It’s not a personal malice. It’s a turning away, a letting go. It’s a turning toward, too.

I Can Just Be Me

4 Sep

Just be yourself. It’s what we tell our kids as they get on the bus to middle school for the first time to ease their anxiety about making friends. It’s what we tell our girlfriend when she goes out on her first date with that guy she’s had a crush on for three years. It’s what we say to the reflection in the mirror as we pump ourselves up for a much-anticipated job interview.

But do we really mean it?

This morning when I packed my kids’ lunches, I wrote on their napkins, “Always Be Yourself.” The challenge for me as their mom is to accept them when they are being themselves, even if what that looks like is not my expectation of them.

More often than not, people are punished for being themselves – punished by their pre-teen peers, punished by that guy who wanted only one thing, punished by a society that would rather we conform to the norm than color outside the lines, sometimes punished by the people who are supposed to love us the most.

Even Christianity, which professes the unconditional love of God and being “neighbor” to strangers and even one’s enemies, is often not very accepting of people being themselves. The message is mixed – be yourself, as long as being yourself means conforming to this particular interpretation of scripture.

The problem with being myself is that who I am is constantly growing, developing and changing, even if other people’s expectations of me stay the same. Like many other people, I struggle to find that balance between meeting expectations and being true to myself, whoever “myself” is today. So when I heard I Can Just Be Me by Laura Story, the lyrics resonated.

In the past, I’ve set some pretty high standards for myself. Some people might even say impossibly high. I’ve had more than one priest or spiritual advisor suggest that I ought to cut myself some slack now and then. “Pray for the grace to let yourself off the hook,” was literally one of the penances I was given during one confession! High standards are fine, as long as I remember that it’s God who does the heavy lifting. And if I look back over my history, I can see some of my weaknesses and failures are exactly what God could use to reach other people and give them hope.

Today, being myself means accepting myself the way God accepts me, not to stay who I am, but to grow ever more perfectly into the woman God intended me to be.

You Don’t Have To Believe

26 Aug

You don’t have to believe that you are amazing, gorgeous, brilliant, and deserving of every good thing that comes to you. But what if you did?

I love this song by Eric Hutchinson. It may be one of my favorites of all time, and it could very easily be a theme song for this blog. Especially that line, “Your body is a temple ….” That’s a whole topic at Holey Heart!

False humility is a lie. We fall into it because someone told us we shouldn’t get too big for our britches. That no one likes a braggart. Who do you think you are to deserve this or even attempt to go after that? Maybe we heard it only once as a child and that’s all it needed to take root and grow into a hideous weed that blocks us from acknowledging our true worth.

I’ve struggled with that myself lately. That’s part of why I haven’t written in so long. I guess I was questioning my own worth, and doubting whether my voice has anything new to contribute. I worry about being a hypocrite. A lot.

Well, let me just get it out there. Sometimes, I am a hypocrite. It’s part of being human. It doesn’t make me less human to be “faulty;” in fact, it’s often the faults and flaws that can be our greatest assets when we ask God to use them for His purposes.

Let me be the voice that counters all the negative stuff you’ve been saying to yourself. You are worth everything. You don’t have to believe me to act as if you believe it. Just because you feel unworthy doesn’t mean you are. Feelings aren’t facts.

I challenge you to look yourself in the mirror this morning and say to yourself, “I love you and I’m so glad you are alive!” If you can’t, do it anyway and spend the day acting as if you believe it. And the next day, and the next, until the actions you’ve taken have changed how you think. As the song says, your mind’s what’s at stake!

You don’t have to believe to act, and it’s your actions that will change your life.

In Over My Head

21 May

For years I’ve had a recurring dream about tidal waves. I’m standing on the beach, and the tide rises and rises until it’s rising so high that everyone on the beach, including me, becomes alarmed. Then the tidal wave approaches, and as it does, everyone around me is in a panic. But I become calm. I remember. I’ve been here before. I know the wave won’t hurt me, so I let it wash over my head and it seems to have no power over me except to get me clean. It is refreshing and exhilarating as I stand still within the heart of the wave.

There’s an interesting interpretation of tidal wave dreams that I found here: http://thedreamwell.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/dream-symbols-tidal-wave/

Although my tidal wave dreams lack the “fear and anxiety” element within the dreams themselves, I do find that I often struggle with the circumstances said to trigger them: procrastination, sticking my head in the sand, or being on the verge of some kind of life transition. Rather than creating anxiety, my wave dreams are very healing and reassuring to me during these times. They give me the courage to face my fears and go with the flow.

When I first heard this Brian Littrell song, Over My Head, I immediately thought of my tidal wave dreams.

I also thought of the negative connotation we tie to being “in over your head.” It’s often about taking on a task that is too large to handle, or having overwhelming life circumstances. This is something that I was taught to avoid, although I have to admit that I haven’t followed that teaching very well.

I’m not afraid to get in over my head. Well-meaning folks have occasionally criticized this trait of mine, but perhaps it is not such a defect after all. Whenever I find myself in over my head, I must rely on a higher power to get through it. I have learned to trust God by getting in over my head.

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