Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thankful for Entrails

Dear David (and Dear God)...

Thank you for letting us see your entrails--your guts--not just the courage and strength, but the fear and weakness...the innermost parts of yourself...the goodness and the garbage.  Just sayin'...


Psalm 77 (NASB)

Comfort in Trouble from Recalling God’s Mighty Deeds.
    For the choir director; according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.
 1 My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.

4 You have held my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of long ago.
6 I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders:
 7 Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?

10 Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
 11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.
 16 The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were in anguish;
The deeps also trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
The skies gave forth a sound;
Your arrows flashed here and there.
18 The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was in the sea
And Your paths in the mighty waters,
And Your footprints may not be known.
20 You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Little Bear Kind of Prayer

Little Bear put his arms around Mother Bear.
He said, "Mother Bear, stop fooling.
You are my Mother Bear
and I am your Little Bear,
and we are on Earth and you know it.
Now may I eat my lunch?"

"Yes," said Mother Bear,
"and then you will have your nap.
For you are my little bear,
and I know it."


Thursday, July 21, 2011

She is going to run away...

"She is going to run away" is what you can barely make out in the lower left of this little picture.  I like the way the little bird at the top seems to be encouraging this gal to take off...or at least think about it.   

I want to whisper back to her and say, "I hear ya, sister.  Let's just go..."  And don't think I haven't  considered it.  

But instead I wallow.  Not intentional or unintentional wallowing.  Just a sort of free floating in the wallowiness of the past months.  I do not want to be consoled.

In Philippians 4, Paul says, for I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  

"Thanks, Paul," I want to say sarcastically. To be content in any and every situation is a tall order.  Tolerant...maybe.  But content?  Not so much. I'm just being honest.

A few months ago, a friend mentioned that she didn't know what she would do without her spiritual mother, a precious woman who provides my friend with maternal care and spiritual guidance.  I understood what she meant, but I couldn't help fidgeting. None of us knows what we'd do without the people we cherish active and alive in our world.  People are not like hors d'oeveres.  If one falls, you can't just have another.

The inside of my head howled in it's private anguish as it thought about my own circumstances and the loss that has been in and around my life: You're right.  You don't know what you'd'd just have to do it because you wouldn't have a choice.  You'd survive...You'd want to run away...You'd be crazy sad...but you'd continue to exist and do things...numb, strong, bored, OK, disinterested, afraid, lonely, anxious, up and down, manic.  You would still be here...or somewhere.

I don't know if she would learn to be content...and neither does she.

One of my favorite American poets, Robert Frost, seems to echo Paul's wisdom.

                   A Prayer in Spring

OH, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,      
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,       
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

<Insert my long sigh here>

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Every Garden Should Have One

...a little garden fairy that goes around blessing all the people and things that grow around her--watering and feeding those who have wearied in the heat of life's day.

The hand of God is all over my baby girl...even now when she's grown so much.


Her hugs and kisses are filled with the healing balm of Jesus.  I wish I could dispatch her like an angel or a dove this morning, and send her straight into the arms of someone I cherish as dearly as my own soul.

These are the thoughts that pulse underneath as I look up from my work and remember to breathe.  I had to write them down--put them out into the universe to be raised up to the very throne of God, like sweet smelling  incense from a golden bowl. 

A muse made me do it?  Maybe.  But I think it's just love. 

1 Peter 4:8 (The Message) ~ Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.

I sure hope so...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter...

I think it's about forgiveness.

Oh Glorious Day!!!

Almost Lunch!

In my prayer time this morning, I was thinking about two passages of scripture as they relate to some people and circumstances in my life.

1 Peter 5:8-11 (ESV)

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 18:12-14 (ESV)

12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.


Then I remembered this popular YouTube video, "Battle at Kruger" and could not help noticing how nicely the scriptures are illustrated by the scene--a battle between a pride of lions, a herd of buffalo, and 2 crocodiles at a watering hole in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Look at how the lions are laying in wait as the herd approaches.  They are fearless and patient...entirely confident that someone in the herd will make a mistake.  LUNCH!!!  And the lions were not disappointed at first!

The mistake?  Isolation.  Lack of protection.  The little one was walking too close to the front of the herd with his mama.  Perhaps the large male leading the way was the father (who was a bit cocky and arrogant because of his great size).  DISASTER!  Lunch was basically delivered to the lion pride--though they had to wrestle it away from a pair of crocodiles.

But then something astounding happens.  Strengthened by the herd, which pulled in tight together so as to ensure the most brute force and protection, the leader of the water buffalo posse returns to confront the lions and rescue the baby. 

What I found most moving and significant, however, was not only the courageousness of the water buffalo leader, or the power of the herd.  It was the way the baby was quickly assumed back into the herd.  Everyone was doing their job, and the baby was completely enfolded in the bosom of his extended family--sheltered and comforted.  Safe.

I think what happened to the little water buffalo often happens to us. Either because we are walking behind careless leaders, because we are too naive and inexperienced to know better, or because of our own foolishness or pride...we get isolated, separated from the herd.  We are easy prey for the devil who is always prowling like a lion and looking for someone to devour.

Maybe we have been strong in other circumstances and withstood the assault. There are many possible ways and reasons why we become separated from the herd. It does not matter.  The devil does not care.  He is an opportunist.  So...take care.  Be watchful.  Take a look around.  Are you where you should be, tight inside the herd and following behind a wise and courageous leader?  

But what if you become separated?  I cannot help wondering how it was that the little water buffalo survived an entire pride of lions plus two crocodiles.  The one thing I noticed was that he did not thrash and flail.  Perhaps he was too terrified.  Who knows?  But there is at least a chance that his instincts were to stay calm and simply cry out for help until his rescuers came--the water buffalo posse.  

Maybe that is what we're supposed to do when we find ourselves in trouble and separated from the herd.  Keep crying out.  Stay calm.  Remain confident that we are valuable enough to our shepherd that he will come after us and restore us to the fold.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No Dogs Allowed

When you work at a church, you see and hear a lot of “stuff” that’s just not pretty…or easy.  God and “stuff” are intimately connected.  Oh sure, there are great God stories and plenty of happy occasions, but there are also lots of sad stories.  There are many sad stories that turn into happy stories…but it takes time.

Betty was the 60 something year old nurse at my doctor’s office. Her husband, Art, was an elder at our church.  Betty and Art were super sweet folks.  I did not know Art very well, and I seldom saw Betty except at doctor’s appointments, or briefly around church.  Still, I’d been going through a series of chronic health problems, and Betty knew some things about me that even the people closest to me did not know.  I was in my late 20s and Betty was like a dear auntie.  She was down to earth, unassuming, kindhearted, gentle, and just the littlest bit ironic underneath it all–the perfect characteristics for a nurse!  We liked each other.

The phone rang at my desk early one morning.  Betty was on the other end.  “Hi, Anne.  It’s Betty.  I’m at the hospital. (pause) Art is dead.”  The rest of the conversation was brief.  Betty needed to talk to our pastor and begin some of the most difficult days of her life.  I was young, and it never occurred to me then that our two minute conversation would be a catalyst in churning up the vortex of Betty’s grief and pain for a long time afterward.

Art’s service was held that weekend, and in those days we were experimenting with having a weekend receptionist.  I was sitting behind the desk when the soloist for the service arrived with her scruffy little chihuahua mix, Peanut.  Peanut was a rescue pup and had issues with being left alone, so his mama took him along with her quite frequently.  On a dreary Saturday afternoon, with little going on in the office, I was only too pleased to Peanut-sit while his mistress went to sing Art off to Heaven.

For the most part, Peanut was fairly content to stay with me behind the desk, but when I opened the door into the hallway behind the sanctuary–to slip out for a trip to the restroom–Peanut slipped out too!  And he padded quite quickly right down the hall toward the sanctuary entrance!!!
I had no way of knowing whether or not the door to the stage was open, but I could hear enough sound coming from there to be utterly panicked.  Peanut was about to round the corner, and I was already imagining the sight of him searching out his mom among the mourners.

In a slow, well-stifled gasp through my teeth, I hissed, “Peanut!!! Get * Back * Here!!!!!”  And just as quickly as my blood pressure shot through the roof at the sight of Peanut’s tail passing from view, he turned right around and made his way back to me.  Needless to say, Peanut accompanied me to the ladies room…and even sat on my lap while I was in there.  We weren’t taking any more chances.
There was nothing memorable after that, though I did share Peanut’s exploits with his mom when she came back for him.

I did not see Betty that day.  Eventually, however, I did begin seeing her around here and there,  and while she seemed pleasant and “OK” enough among folks after worship services and Bible studies, she was somewhat cool and avoidant around me.  But it took a while for me to realize that it was not a coincidence.  –And it took a while after that to figure out that Betty’s pain alarms rang whenever she saw me.

Heaven only knows how badly those alarms must have made Betty feel, if she was able to even process such feelings at all, but I sure felt sad and sorry inside.  Even though Betty and I were not close friends, it hurt to know that just the sight of me was enough to anguish her heart.

It was so difficult to keep from taking it personally, and several times I came to the edge of confronting her…but I couldn’t.  It seemed to me that even the gentlest suggestion of some negative behavior on her part might be misunderstood and launch the newly edgy likes of dear Betty into some kind of lambasting of unsuspecting me.  That was the sort of response I’d grown accustomed to from the highly volatile people in my family, and I was not about to take that risk.  In the end, I said nothing.

It was some long months later–maybe as much as a year or so–when Betty was in the church office and stopped by my desk to ask a question.  She was noticeably more open, so I chatted with her a bit and tested the waters to see if she was feeling friendly.  For the first time since Art’s death, it seemed safe to relax and reach out to Betty.

She was leaning casually forward on the other side of my desk, and getting ready to leave when I found the nerve to say, “It’s so good to see you, and I’m glad you’re doing well.  I’ve been waiting to tell you the funniest story.”  And with that, Betty welcomed the re-telling of the now quietly legendary tale of how Art’s memorial service almost went to the dogs.

I left the church to work and worship somewhere else not long after that, and I only saw Betty once or twice more. My health issues and insurance restrictions sent me to another doctor’s office. But I don’t think I will ever forget the relief I felt as Betty tacitly removed her Keep Off the Grass!  No Dogs Allowed!  signs.