QUIET PLEASE!

Photo 405I’m in the No Cell Phones No Talking Beyond This Point alcove of the Carmel Public Library, trying to write. I felt that if I dragged my rear end from the comfort of my home to a seat in a library, I might have more success at the writing-48-minutes-per-day discipline I’ve determined to build into my life.

In his book “The War of Art” (get it, it’s awesome), Steven Pressfield talks about Resistance not liking it when an amateur decides to go pro. But I think Resistance gets a HUGE kick out of people who are chatty in the No Cell Phones No Talking Beyond This Point alcove of the library. I think high schools students on cell phones are Its minions. A ringtone from one of these evildoers in the sacred reading space cracks Resistance up to the point of wetting its pants.

I think the anger I feel is of the righteous variety, right? I mean, I work 40 hours a week, raise two children and am a modern-day, man-lovin’ woman to my husband while trying to be a writer. We’re sacrificing so I can pour thousands of dollars into a program that will, we’re betting the farm, equip me to become a writer of distinction. Or at least a writer capable of writing publishable schit.

But doing that at home is nearly impossible. So here I am at the library, distracted from my real 48-minute writing work, blogging out my frustration about the talking cell phone users in the No Cell Phones No Talking Beyond This Point alcove of the Carmel Public Library.

“In your anger do not sin.” My righteous anger at the Resistance Fighters is twisting me and trying pull me into the orbit of their master, Resistance. I will, however, resist Resistance and NOT become the woman who confronts the rule-breakers. I will not scold those children who insist on chatting and giggling and gossiping within earshot of the No Cell Phones No Talking Beyond This Point alcove of the Carmel Public Library.

I won’t. I will resist. I will write in spite of the distraction.

Resisting.

Sanctuary in Toronto Thoughts from Therapist Friend Who’s Blind

My friend’s blog posts from his recent trip to hang out with junkies on the streets of Toronto are compelling and well written, I think, to the point that I want to share his blog. It’s beautiful. Check it out. http://cshawn.wordpress.com/2009/08/

Wintertime – Living is Easy

winter is easyApproaching the six year anniversary of the 95 percent blockage in my 38 year-old lower anterior descending artery, I’m still counting my blessings. Happy to be alive, that’s what I am. I snuggle longer, stress less, laugh more, eat dessert first, kiss my sleeping kids — all that jazz. But: I miss shoveling snow!

At the end of a week in the hospital recovering from my freak heart attack, the doctor sent me home with a list of activities and corresponding time frames when I would be allowed to return to them. “Walk a block – one week. Light house work – two weeks. Climb stairs – three weeks. Have sex – four weeks. Shovel snow – NEVER.”

Indiana was blessed with a lovely snow storm last night. Balm to my soul. Anyone who knows me knows I didn’t leave Colorado in my rearview mirror seven years ago. It hangs around my neck like a tacky accessory I refuse to remove. It’s a virus I can’t shake. The West was my home for thirteen glorious years; it’s where I grew up, found Me, met grace, died a couple times, learned to live, work and play. It’s in my blood, and I’ll ache for it until I return for good.

But in the meantime, a blanket of white provides temporary relief to the longing I feel for my home on the range. A snowy day doesn’t have to be an official snow day to be a Snow Day to me. This morning, though, it’s official. Work and school are closed. I’ve suited up my children to play in the snow and help Daddyo shovel.

As I sit here in flannel jammies, my husband is outside laboring to clear twelve inches the heavens heaped on our driveway as we slept. I wish I could help him. Aside from feeling guilty that he’s pert near dead from cold and effort, I’m a little envious! I want to feel the warm, wet fleece against my neck and the cling of sweaty silks on my back. But if I do, I might die!

So, I’ll watch through the triple panes from the big comfy couch as I sip coffee and type on my laptop with Ellen on in the background. And I’ll have hot cocoa ready for my cold, sweaty, rosy-cheeked loved ones.

Living is good.

Inside Out

art_inside_out

I cringed so hard, my body folded in on itself and turned inside out. My vessels now hang out in the sun to dry; I put food into my oral cavity but it has nowhere to go and rots in my new skintestines. I’m losing weight, since my stomach is on the outside of my body now and there’s no way to get food to it. My dry flesh gums the food I cram inside the opening, but it goes nowhere.

My children don’t kiss me anymore – “Your teeth look weird on the outside!” my boy says, and “I miss your lips! Where am I supposed to kiss, Mama?” cries my little girl. They’ve stopped hugging me, they’re so afraid of bruising me deep inside by a simple bump on my new external layer.

My tongue flaps outside in the air, dehydrating, with no roof or lips against which to rub to make meaningful sounds. No one can hear what I’m trying to say — least of all the people I want to hear me. I need them to hear me.

I’m aware that you look at me now and see a monster — or an exhibit at the science museum.

I’m still a woman. I’m the same woman on the outside, and on the inside, only now I look different to you. I’m unrecognizable, and I’m mortified for you to see my sickening, naked structure. I’m lonely, longing, humiliated. 

art_peel

Working in the Dark

Blind woman who gets lost from the curb to the door of her workplace: “It’s hard when you’re in the dark all the time. It’s always dark for me.”

Vocational counselor: “But you’ll be so good at getting around, better than your friends who can see. Your sighted friends can only see in the light, so they don’t know how to find their way at night when it’s dark. And you will!”

There’s a metaphor in there. And it’s beautiful, but I can’t nail it down for the tragedy of this woman losing her sight in her forties. After a lifetime of seeing, she’s doing pretty well just to get up in the morning and move past her grief, let alone making it to work to stand and chop vegetables all day. Yes. She chops vegetables. In the dark. For hours at a time. Without cutting a finger. Imagine the courage that takes. 

So she gets a little lost on the way to clock in, and people find her in the store room off the loading dock. And she can laugh about it. She’s doing great.

Would I?

Do Acts of Social Justice Count if They’re Compensated? Or am I just a goat?

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

   I was hungry and you fed me, 
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, 
   I was homeless and you gave me a room, 
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes, 
   I was sick and you stopped to visit, 
   I was in prison and you came to me.'”

So I’ve been talking a big game about seeking God in the eyes of “the least of these.” More and more, I’m convinced that believers must vacate their circles of folding chairs to find Christ, not in a book or by exercising our well toned self-scrutiny muscles, but in the eyes of those for whom Jesus had a heart while he walked the planet. The poor in spirit, the poor in pocket, the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the cold, the sick, the imprisoned. And so like any good action-oriented American, I’ve decided to hunt for an appropriate outlet in my community — food pantries, missions for international adoptions, mentorships to teen mothers — since ain’t no alleys here in the most affluent county in America in which to find God. 

And then a job dropped in my lap. Out of the blue. Helping the blind. Now, Jesus seemed particularly compassionate toward the blind. They didn’t make the Matthew 25 list, no, but I’m thinking they count as overlooked.

My friend Bubba pointed out that it’s (my church) “Grace’s social justice orientation with legs.” But does it count as sheep status if I get paid to help the visually impaired find work? And what does it say about my heart that I’m crestfallen that the job isn’t what I asked for? See, I’ve been looking for steady writing work and recently made the short list for a high-paying position with a prestigious advertising firm. I’ve been seeking a glamorous job while looking for an extracurricular least-of-these application to satisfy my requirement to find and serve Jesus.

So my question is this. Do acts of social justice count if the doer receives a paycheck for those acts? 

 41-43“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because— 

   I was hungry and you gave me no meal, 
   I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 
   I was homeless and you gave me no bed, 
   I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, 
   Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

 44“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

 45“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'”

Am I a goat? Am I a sheep? Will I see Jesus in the eyes of the blind? Because I really want to see Jesus. That’s what drives me to do anything good.

Jesus wasn’t in my Bible this morning (but he was on my porch)

So, like the good evangelical Christian woman I never was, I made myself go to a quiet place to exercise the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer. Coffee cup in hand, I settled into the comfy brown chair on my screened porch feeling the warmth of the morning sun on my face. I swatted the familiar gnat-like fog of guilt that hovers around the veil and obscures my earthly vision. I strained to see the divine, prayed, “Please help,” and turned to Scripture.

See, I’ve recently returned to the fold of Wednesday morning women’s Christianity after months of wandering in the wilderness with Traci, a writer friend of mine who’s also an atheist. I’m happy to be back, but a fish out of water feeling surprises me. The thoughts I had and documented on our project seem to have taken root in my gut. Turns out the experience really did change me and the way I approach and experience God and traditional Bible study.

This morning when I sat down to study and pray in the old way, I had that fleeting feeling of frustration and distance from God, the sense that I’m just not spiritual enough, I’m not doing something right. When I cried out to him, the darndest thing happened. Jesus spoke. He said to me, “I’m not in there.”
“Huh?” I said.
“I’m in the streets. I’m at Wheeler Mission. I’m in the trailers where children hide from hurt and homes where families go hungry this very moment. I am the battered women at Third Phase where women go for food and a fresh start. Encourage them, feed their babies, and you encourage and feed me.”
“So, wow. Those impressions you gave me back on the Beth and Traci thing weren’t just sensationalism? Not just entertaining and provocative writing points?”
“No, dear, they were my truth. If you want to see me, go to those places. If you want to store my words in your heart, do dive into my word. But remember, I am the Word. Don’t feel bad if you don’t see and feel me when you open those pages. I’ll touch you through the words as the Counselor wills. But remember what you read in that book Amy Lickliter gave you?”
“Yeah, what was that called?”
God in the Alley.”
“Oh, that’s right. Thanks for reminding me.”
“You’re welcome. Yes, your brother Greg Paul wrote the truth that I want you and others blessed by suburban comforts to know and act upon — that you are to be and see Me in a broken world.”

Ahh, what sweet relief that the Word is Jesus. The word — God’s word, He was sweet to remind me, is a double-edged sword, living and active. But it is not He. He never says, “I am the Bible.”

I need to see Jesus, immerse myself in my beloved, radical Savior by going to –NO, by seeking out the hurting, broken, hungry, imprisoned, poor, disenfranchised, unlovely and unlovable. Immerse myself in them.

Be Him for — and see Him in — “the injured,” emotionally or physically, and the spiritually and physically hungry.


Moses’s Cojones and Bogus Cred

Reading A.W. Tozer’s “Pursuit of God” for a Wednesday night study at Grace (yes, Traci, I couldn’t resist the pull), I’m struck this week by scripture passages I’ve read dozens of times. First of all, I’m moved by how earnest and bold Moses was in pleading with God for the validation and benediction he needed. Without apology, he pled just short of demanding, crying to God out of a sense of desperation. He wasn’t feeling centered and laid it out before this God he really didn’t grow up knowing. 

Exodus 33:12-13 Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”

 14 God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”

 15-16 Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”

 17 God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”

 18 Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

And God responds (humors? gives in?) to the boldness of a child who is feeling pretty aimless and worried.

And then, in reading in Philippians 3:4-14 about how Paul trashed his own “credentials,” all the facets of his identity that used to make him who he was, I realized how the credentials I used to try to accumulate and fell so short of attaining – weren’t really credentials at all. I used to be motivated by “religious busybodies, all bark and no bite…knife-happy circumcisers.” Who needs ’em?! I don’t! I just need to move forward. “Off and running, no turning back.”

 2-6Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.

 7-9The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

 10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Focused on the Goal

 12-14I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Jen Sherrick Shot My Babies and My Heart

(With her Canon.)

This photographer sees the beauty I see in my children and captures it on film. More examples in a later post, but check this artist’s work on Jen’s website. And see the cutie brother and sister on her blog!

Yep, on the July 14 post, them’s my babies!

Here’s the headshot Jack used for his IRT audition today, his 12th birthday! (It’s from a scan, so it’s not as clear as the real thing.)

Not a professional shot:

My Big Birthday Boy!
My Big Birthday Boy!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACK!!!

No Fear in the Light

God is good. He just is. 

Luke 12:2-3

There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Summer sunset over Indiana.

 

NOT A LAUGHING MATTER

My last post about poor Jack sending a distress signal from camp found a twist this evening when I discovered that the camp was negligent in dispensing his medication. It turns out they gave him half a dose of his meds, which led to intense and sudden drug withdrawal, leading to very real physical, mental  and emotional pain and suffering. I’m infuriated at this moment and am eager to talk with the camp director about this horrific mistake. When we arrived to pick him up on Thursday, he was in tears. He took all the blame on himself for his miserable week at camp. He was calling himself a “wuss” for “chickening out” on the zipline — an activity and accompanying anxiety he conquered at a retreat last fall. He saw his miserable week at camp as his failure. My child was suffering due to the incompetence of camp staff or some terrible miscommunication that warranted a call to his mother to clarify, for his sake. But they never called.

Symptoms of withdrawal in the medicine he takes can occur as soon as eight hours from the missed dose, which would have put it right about the middle of his first night there. The next day is when he wrote and mailed that letter I wrote about and laughed off. My baby was in pain. And I didn’t realize it until tonight when I found the bottle that I had supplied with the exact number of pills he would need, a bottle that should have been empty. The bottle contains four halves of his pills. I can’t stand it. I’m so upset and angry. When we greeted him, he said with a great deal of urgency, “Get me out of here. I don’t ever want to come back.” A careless error in judgment led to the end of my little boy’s innocence. 

I’m happy to report he’s home and feeling better, more like himself now. But he’ll never trust camp again, and that’s just tragic. And it’s going to take time to convince him that his lousy week wasn’t his fault.