Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remembralls

Coming home to the States, I enjoyed a long approach into Chicago airport.  It was like landing in a sea of light.  And because of the time of year, in addition to the normal cityscape, I got to enjoy a sky-high view of all the neighborhood Christmas lights.  It was lovely.

As I heard in a recent sermon, we light our houses to remind ourselves of the arrival of the light of the world.  So my brain started wandering.  A light-up reminder.  Where have I heard that before?

Remembralls!

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, forgetful Neville receives a remembrall from his Grandmother.  It lights red when he’s forgotten something.  But in the words of poor Neville:  “The only thing is, I can’t remember what it is I’ve forgotten.” 

From Christmas trees, to the tip of Rudolph’s nose, this time of year our everyday lives are swarming with remembralls. 

But it’s one thing to see the light, and a whole separate thing to live out the truth behind it.

Living full of light.  Letting my light shine.  Remembering what the light is that fills my spirit with peace, joy, and purpose.  That’s what all the lights of the season should help me remember.

You know, in a way I think Santa is a kind of remembrall too.  (Not just because he wears a red suit either.)  The idea of Santa Clause originated with St. Nick, right?  St. Nick wasn’t about getting.  He wasn’t even about being generous to our families.  He was about giving to the less fortunate, especially to children. 

I think this is one area where our culture does a decent job of remembering.  It seems like every where I turn, I’m presented with a different opportunity to adopt a child or provide a meal or send a care package or…(In fact, sometimes I feel like I am bombarded with so many messages encouraging me to “remember the real meaning of Christmas,” that I want to throw up my hands and say, I GET IT ALREADY!  Yeesh! )

Frustration aside… it’s encouraging to see that for as many opportunities there are to be greedy, there are just as many opportunities to be generous.

If we remember.  More importantly, if we remember why.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  (1 Cor 13:3)



Love.  Love is light behind Christmas.  It’s why God sent his son.  It’s why the sky went from pitch black to blazing with an angel choir. It’s what inspired an ordinary man to be anonymously generous and inspire a red-suited legacy.  It’s the bond that holds friends and families together.  It’s the tug in our heart that compels us to empathize with those who don’t have what we do, and to reach across that chasm to give of the abundance in our own lives.

Love.  And the love-filled life that changed everything. 

Let every blinking light remind you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Haji

Allow me to introduce to you Haji - Machupa's younger, very adventurous cousin.



He'll be my traveling buddy for the next couple weeks.  We'll bring back lots of stories.  I promise!

(Until then, allow me to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.  It's my favorite holiday.  Savor the day, and fill it with love!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Work

I have something I want to share.  But my brain is stuck.  I take that back.  My brain is working just fine.  But somewhere between the whirling gears in my head and the calloused pads of my fingers (thank you violin), I have a disconnect.  Does that ever happen to you?  *sigh*

But I'm trying to be a more consistent blogger.  It's a discipline I truly wish to nurture and pursue.  So...until I get to share the thought that has been mulling around my spirit for nearly a month, I will share something else with you.  Because it has to do with my state of mind right now. 

A little while I came across this quote:  "The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work." - Emily Zola

It was one of those quotes I immediately flagged and saved and wrote down to memorize.  Because it's both encouraging and convicting.  Also, because it jolted my mind back to a poem I started writing about a year ago (still unfinished).

It began with the thought: After a beautiful song has been played, it would be foolish for the piano to think it had done the work.  Somewhere in the middle is this phrase: I may not always understand / But I concede the right to play. And it might end with these lines: And when the last note has been aired / Let the song point straight to you / For art is not in the instrument / But in the one who plays the tune.

The past year or so has shown me that blogging is a gift of mine.  It's a gift that has given back to me as well. When I share something that has been on my mind, and the thought comes out just right, and I find out one way or another that I've encouraged someone...I don't feel as if I can take any credit.  While it's my crazy thought, in some ways I'm just an instrument.  Blogging is like playing violin for me.  I just play (or write), and somehow...it works.  It's a gift.

But like Emily Zola says here, the gift is nothing without the work.  I can hit those moments, and blog those thoughts because I work at it.  I need to continue to push myself:  To fight through the mental apathy and write even when my 'muscles' are tired.  To keep up with my inspirations before they get stale and I have to try to recapture the truth I stumbled upon.  To be unafraid of sounding silly, because it's when you let go that truly magical moments happen.  To put in the practice time so that I'm ready for the moments when I'm standing next to a microphone....

So this is me.  Working at it.  Not to force it.  I don't ever want to do that.  But to develop.  To grow.

To give.

What's your gift?  Are you willing to put in the work?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

High Flight

High Flight
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I read that poem at my grandfather’s funeral.  He was a pilot during WWII, and never left the world of aviation after that.  His son went on to be a marine, his daughter to be a soldier, his granddaughter to be a pilot, and his grandson to be a rocket scientist.  A legacy of patriotism and flight.  Today, I want to remember his service and sacrifice.  I also want to honor all the others who give of themselves for my sake.  To my family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen who serve…thank you.  Your sacrifice is not unnoticed, or unappreciated.  May God bless you and your families, and may he hold you safe in his arms until you come home again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love like that

Just a quick thought today...to make good on a Bible Study promise.

How would you explain the difference between God’s love and human love, even at it’s best?

One is physically tangible, but the other one can change the soul. And perhaps, when we manage to touch each other’s hearts, that’s when we are loving each other the way God loves us.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Greatest Sacrifice

You laid down your life, the greatest sacrifice.

It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it line. Sung in the lower registry. Right before the big kick into the chorus. But when I last sang this song, it was like I hit a pothole in the road and my axel broke. There was no moving forward from this one thought.

Usually, when I think of the “greatest” sacrifice, I think of it in terms of the biggest scope. After all, Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all of humankind. That’s a pretty big requirement to fill.

But as my mental car was smoking in the aftermath of the musical pothole, a thought came to me. Maybe his was the biggest sacrifice because it was the biggest risk. After all, he made his sacrifice not knowing how we would react. All his cards are out there on the table. He’s given all he can. He’s paved the way. And now the ball is in our court, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll take him up on his offer.

I have a hard time giving up things when I know there’s a benefit on the other side. (Giving up carbs or sugar or extra portions of food to lose weight. Giving up going to the movies to save a few bucks. Giving up an extra hobby to make time for my family.)

And though things rarely turn out the way we expect them to, we know what we get out of the deal when we take Jesus up on the forgiveness and wholeness thing... and usually God surpasses our expectations. So while we do “sacrifice” for him…it’s a known risk. We have a history of faith to look back on and be confident in our decision.

But he had no idea.

Remember this line from Bruce Almighty? Bruce asks, “How do you make someone fall in love with you, without messing with their free will?” and God (as the super cool Morgan Freeman) answers, “If you figure that one out, you let me know.”

To sacrifice everything, without knowing if there’s going to be a return? That’s a pretty great sacrifice.


Majesty
Here I am humbled by your Majesty
Covered by your grace so free
Here I am, knowing I'm a sinful man
Covered by the blood of the Lamb

Here I am humbled by the love that you give
Forgiven so that I can forgive
Here I stand, knowing that I'm your desire
Sanctified by glory and fire

Now I've found the greatest love of all is mine
Since you laid down your life
The greatest sacrifice

Majesty, Majesty
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands
Majesty, Majesty
Forever I am changed by your love
In the presence of your Majesty

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Energy

I can turn almost anything into a song or a movie reference. Sometimes, songs just pop into my head when I hear a key word or phrase. For example, On my way to work one day I heard a radio commercial. The narrator started off: “What the world needs now is” ...and by this time the music has already cued and I’m finishing the phrase: “Love, sweet love.” Right? But just like comedically timed movie moment, the proverbial music screeches to a halt when she continues: “Energy.”

Ahhh….something I did not expect. So my head cocks to the side, much like a confused puppy, and I process her statement.

The more I pondered it, the more I agreed. After all, how does someone know you love them? You have to show it, right? How does someone know you respect them? By how you act and treat them. It’s in our speech, our body language, our choices. It’s in the way we prioritize our time and commitments.

Maybe what the world needs *is* energy. How would our relationships change if we were intentional about building and maintaining them? How much differently would our world look if we poured ourselves into the things we profess to care about?

And just like love, you seem to get more energy as you spend it. Have you ever spent the day sitting still? It’s likely that after all that non-energy you felt tired. Have you ever had a day when you kick in and get a bunch of things done? If you’re like me, you probably felt like you could just keep doing more.

Energy breeds energy. Love breeds love. It’s just one of those crazy things.

Now every time I hear this commercial, it's a reminder:  To be proactive.  To be loving.  To be kind.  To be kinetic ...To fill my world with energy.

Sweet!   *cue music*

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lava

Dried out. Stuck. Barren. These are words I would use to describe my spirit the past few months. Nothing catastrophic has happened. But I still feel as if I’ve been slowly drying out. A light reprieve here at there, but you know what I’m saying.

Then I cracked. Not in a broken pot sort of way. In a volcano sort of way. A deep kind of cracking that reaches down beneath the surface layers where life is carried out.

And maybe the stripping and drying and breaking was for a point. It was so those things that are at my core can come to the surface and reshape the landscape. (Also, I think I needed some things burned and cauterized.)

What broke through in my life? Inspiration. Identity. Purpose. Determination. Joy.

Like fire shut up in my bones.

Be prepared for the lava flow.





(Complete and utter side note: Did you know “volcano”s were named after the Vulcano island off the coast of Sicily, which was named for Vulcan, the Roman god of fire? I’m totally having a Star Trek moment. Vulcans. Perhaps because for as calm as they appear, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Drizzle

Last fall, I survived a torrential deluge. This year, demands and stresses of my everyday life have been a mere trickle by comparison. The thing is: when it comes to driving on rainy roads, a light drizzle can be just as treacherous as a downpour.

It’s easy to forget that.

Remember the safety lesson from driver’s ed? When it starts to rain, all the oils that have settled into the pavement loosen and become on oily film on the road’s surface. The rain will eventually wash it away, but until it does the road can be very slippery.

I think the same thing happens on the road of life. We have oils and greases and other things that settle into the pavement of our lives. They’re just the normal gunk of everyday life. But when it starts to rain, that stuff can come to the surface and create slippery spots. If you’re not paying attention, they can catch you off guard and send you for a wild ride.

How do you deal with it? The same way you do with your car:

  • Have good windshield wipers and leave your lights on: Keep your vision and awareness.

  • Drive slowly so you are prepared for unexpected hazards: I was introduced to a quote recently, “The bad news? Time flies. The good news? I’m in the driver’s seat.” Don’t get swept away. Life intentionally and in control.

  • Keep your tires well maintained for the best possible traction: Yes, you have to pay attention to the road, but you have to pay attention to yourself as well. Never underestimate the power of “me” time. A quiet moment in the morning with your coffee, or in the afternoon reading your favorite blog, or even in the evening just sitting still for a few minutes might be just the thing to help you keep your traction.

  • If you do end up in a skid, stay calm. Steer gently into the skid and stop accelerating, allowing the car to find the road again: There’s a lot of wisdom in those instructrions. “Stop accelerating.” “Steer into the skid.” “Allow the car to find the road.” I’m patient and calm when it comes to my literal car. But I need to remember to be patient with myself. It’s ok to slow down and find the road. Otherwise, a harmless skid could turn into a horrific accident. Or, how many times do I try to steer away from the skid? The answer is not to run away but to face it head on.

Drizzle or downpour, it’s important to remember that rain is a good thing. I don’t want that stuff to be on the road forever (even if it is just everyday gunk). And while the road may become slippery for a bit, it does end up nice and clean and washed of all the built-up gunk. I just need to remember to drive safely through the rain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This Way

"The Fellowship awaits the Ring-bearer." Frodo turns and walks forward, past a veritable who’s who of Middle Earth. He’s agreed to an impossible quest, carrying an incredible weight, to protect those he loves. It’s the right thing, and the hard thing. Before him, the path winds away to either side. Trying not to break stride, Frodo whispers over his shoulder, “Mordor, Gandalf, is it left or right?” And Gandalf quietly replies, “Left.”

That’s what I picture when I read, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)


**This may not be a long post...but it's a meaningful one to me. It's also my 100th. :-) **

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Refrigerator

Here's a much happier thought (just to balance the post a little earlier)...

About a year ago, I started training for my first road race: The Celtic Solstice 5-miler.

Since then: My friends and I trekked to Frederick for the Twilight 5k; I filled in for my gym buddy and survived the hills of the Baltimore 10-miler; I ran under the Chesapeake Bay with the Fort McHenry Tunnel 5k (Which was really fun with the echoes of the Police Academy cadets cheering the whole time.); and I completed the Baltimore Half-Marathon (I even have the medal to prove it!).

So the things I proudly adhere to the refrigerator have changed a bit from when I was younger. My drawings and permission forms have morphed to magnets and race numbers, but I feel just as proud when I get to add to to the collection.

And you know, out of all the numbers that are up there, I think my favorite is for the 2008 Celtic Solstice 5-Miler. After all, It was the race that started my running journey.

I never thought a year ago that I would have been able to finish a Half-Marathon. I was scared to death of the thought of 5 miles, much less 13.1. Today, I'm setting a time goal for next year's Half, and even thinking about running a full.

What a year!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mad Libs

We all have blanks in our lives. I know 20-somethings don’t own the entire market of feeling in-between or like our blanks aren’t all filled in. But let’s be honest. Post high school and pre-family/home of your own is a crazy time. I can look at the blanks in my life and think: A noun goes there. An adverb should fit over here. A place there. A color there. And I could fill in those blanks with the options I like the best. The hitch? That’s not always my job. And my choices may not make sense. He’s the author and finisher of my faith. (Heb 12:2)

When I rush things, or just try to fill in the blanks before my plot has moved that far…I’m turning my beautiful story into a mad lib. It may work. It might even make sense. But it may not be the best possible design.

No analogy is perfect. I don’t think that there’s only one perfect option for our lives. For example: the perfect job, or the right hobby, or the perfect soul mate I may hope is in my future, or whatever. That’s just way too much pressure. And really, it’s not all that practical. (Plus, I don’t think that’s what life’s about. It’s not what you do, but how you do it. Or who you love, but how you love them. Or what race you run, but how you train and finish it. Does that make sense?)

Maybe the real secret to letting him be the “author and finisher” is paying attention to the direction I’m given. That way, I’m not trying to put an adverb where there should be a noun, or a verb where there should be number. And perhaps another part is being willing to erase what I’ve penciled in, when I realize that there’s a better option for that space. (That doesn’t apply to all the blanks, but hopefully you can see where I’m going with that. If I figure out that my job isn’t the best one for me…I can change it. If I can see that I need more quiet time instead of more socializing…I can fix that. If I need to exercise more or distance myself from a poisonous relationship…I can do that.)

But filling in blanks just for the sake of filling them. That’s never a good idea. So I guess there’s a balance somewhere in there. I can’t be afraid to move forward and write my story. After all, no one else is going to write it for me. But when I know that there are blanks that need to be filled in, to keep my story from turning into a mad lib…I need to stay in touch with the author.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Floppy Hair

Sometimes the strangest thoughts hit me when I’m watching musicians play. Last year, I spent an entire Elgar Concerto completely distracted by the cellist’s hair. It was glossy back, perfectly healthy…and flopping around as if he was on a Pantene commercial. At a tiny international club in New York, I was captivated by a hammer dulcimer player who couldn’t keep his feet still. He had this flamingo stomp thing going on, and it was fantastic. Just recently I watched the give and take between the members of Time for Three, and while their music was phenomenal, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the bass player and his crazy faces.

What do all of these things have in common? They remind me of the beauty of one buttock playing. If you haven’t heard this story, here’s a quick recap: There was a young pianist struggling to get through a piece. A famous player told him “The trouble is you’re a two buttock player. You need to be a one buttock player.” He told him to lean forward on one butt cheek and then play the piece again. The pianist was a little skeptical, but considering the older player’s reputation, he tried it anyway. The result? Almost if by magic, the pianist connected with the piece and the music took flight. Instead of just thinking about the music intellectually, he brought his body into it, using his posture to help unlock his passion.

To really get into music, and to really live life to the fullest, you can’t keep both cheeks on the bench. It’s not enough to understand the music intellectually. It’s not fulfilling to just go through the motions and hit the right notes. For things to take flight, you have to let go a bit. Don’t think about every note on the page. Think about the phrase. It’s about vision, and the long line, and the joy of playing. Let your hair flop about, find your flamingo leg, get off that other cheek …your music will take flight.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yes, And…

I heard something beautiful while getting ready for Faire yesterday. “Yes, And.” This is the motto of Amy Poehler’s improve group. The idea is that you accept whatever comes at you and instead of fighting it, say “Yes” to it. But you don't just leave it there. Then comes the, “And.” You come back with something of value as well.

Accept what you’re given and then give gift of your own. A principle worth embracing, right? Thank you Amy Poehler.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Absalom

Phillipa Gregory, Liz Curtis Higgs, Francine Rivers…Historical fiction has impacted the way I read the Bible. Not in a bad way, I think. But stories in the Bible can read very short and flat sometimes. The work of these authors—their digging in, expounding and exploring the characters and times of events I can rattle off in a sentence or two—has helped me to look at my word with a fresh pair of eyes.

For example, last week I studied the story of Tamar. This poor girl. She was a daughter of King David, who was raped by her half brother Amnon and then lived with her other brother Absalom in desolation for the rest of her life.

When Tamar first tells her brother Absalom what happened, his reaction is less than stellar. He says, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." (2 Sam 13:20). What kind of advice is that?! In my Bible study questions, Beth Moore asked “What is your personal opinion regarding the advice Absalom gave Tamar?” And a thought occurred to me. Maybe Absalom just didn’t know what to say. His poor attempt to comfort his sister came out all wrong. Maybe just like today, men don’t always say the right thing.

Absalom didn’t have a speech writer. And who really knows what to say in response to news like that? His later actions showed that he didn’t try to gloss over or minimize Tamar’s pain. He took her into his house. That was no small thing. He later avenges her honor and kills Amnon. Not the preferred way to solve the problem, but you see my point. He cared.

Just a thought. But I think it’s important to remember that, and give him a little wiggle room on his poor choice of comforting words.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time For Three

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. " ~ Laurie Anderson. I think writing about memories can be the same way.

I had the privilege of seeing "Time for Three" for the first time as they performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra last night. It was a great concert, with flavors of everything from Tchaikovsky, to Brahms, to Bluegrass. Tf3 was fantastic. They make you feel as if you've stumbled upon a jam session, and that you're welcome to come along for the ride. They're unique and spellbinding, and it's obvious that they have a lot of fun playing together. The bassist evoked, as I like to call it, "the many faces of Mike Ferrante"...and kudos to any fiddler who can sneak a bit of Beethoven into the Orange Blossom Special!

But while I was watching this:


I was remembering this:


Another trio that merged styles and personalities...and had way too much fun doing it. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it.

As Dumbledore would remind me, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." There was a time when that picture was little more than a bittersweet testament to a season that has passed, and a time of influence that has come to a close. But now, it's a propelling reminder of the relationships, foundation, growth, joy and hope that time represents. The intangibles captured in that shot still drive me forward. It sounds corny, but every time I see that picture, I remember the heart of the message I want my life to leave.

What an unexpected gift! To remember the fun we shared, the music we made, the barriers we tore down, and the ways our lives were changed in the process.

All on a night when I get to ride in a 2010 Camaro, complete with the Bumblebee package. The best part? A little boy pointing and exclaiming, "Transformers! Transformers!" as we cruised by.

Yep that's me. Still changing lives. (And still with the help of my friends.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roots and Wings

When my grandmother came to visit last month, we went to go see “The Time Traveler’s Wife” together. It was an enjoyable film. (As an amusing side note, I think my grandmother enjoyed the preview for the Woodstock movie more than she did the main feature. *grin* Crazy woman!) "The Time Traveler’s Wife" was not the best movie I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the worst either. But there was something about it that stuck with me. Not because there was a huge epiphany moment or anything, but there was something about the story that kept nagging at me. It wasn’t until much later than I pinpointed what it was.

I feel like the Time Traveler.

…especially when my life is in a particularly busy or blurry time. My intersecting and converging interests take me a thousand different directions. Most of which represent a community of people that get to see each other consistently, even when I’m not dissolving in and out at “random.”

The first weekend back at the Renaissance Festival, I had a great conversation with one of my fellow braiders. We talked about how most of us don’t see each other during the year. We also talked about how precious it is to have a relationship with someone where you *don’t* need to see each other all the time, but when you pop into each other’s lives again it’s like no time has gone by at all. There’s no apology needed. You don’t need to rebuild a foundation. Everything is already planted and thriving and ready to go. Those reunions aren’t awkward. They’re celebrations. (Though, don’t get me wrong. There are times when I’m painfully aware of moments I’ve missed out on as a result of my traveling.)

I’ve had a version of that conversation several times in my adult life. Roots. Fellowship that goes deeper than simply occupying the same space or doing the same job. Intentionally investing and caring. Those are the relationships that give us life.

In the movie, the Eric Bana had no control over his travels. That’s certainly not true with me. He also had a tendency to jump to different points in his own history. Much of his time jumps center on his wife. And in the movie, when he experienced particularly catastrophic events, he would travel “home” to the house he shared with his family. His wife and his home were anchors.

In the midst of my conversation at the Renaissance Festival, I realized that I am able to “travel” the way I do because I have such a great home base. I can flit, travel, explore, influence, and joyously bound through life because I know where I can run to if I get tired or scared or overwhelmed.

So to my herd, my family, my tin hats, my fellow nomads...my anchors…you know who you are. Thank you for being the roots that give me wings to fly.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Zen

I’m holding onto it right now. After being slightly derailed all week (really the last two weeks…you can tell from my blogging silence), I was finally on schedule to get all caught up. For me, things usually reach a critical mass of chaos then something kicks in and, voila!...the pieces fall together and I’m somehow back on top.

Step 45 ½ in my catch-up plan was to be running right now while watching SYTYCD. So why am I being a lazy bum and blogging instead? Broken treadmill + dark, unfamiliar neighborhood = no nighttime run. So my 10-mile run will wait for tomorrow. *breathing deeply* But that’s ok. It’s completely in line with the rest of my day.

I love my yoga teacher. Before class, she checks with everyone to see if there are any physical things she should know about. But today, when I met her at the door and she asked how I was doing, I said…”Honestly, I’m a little frustrated today.” And she said to me, “Then there’s a great opportunity for growth.” And with that, the silver lining was found. Then, I promptly changed into my new NBP fitness shirt. Across the back it reads, "Suck it up and quit feeling sorry for yourself.” We had them made for the Baltimore running festival. Ironic right? *breathing deeply*

Back to my awesome yoga teacher. She said something a few weeks ago that really stuck with me. We were doing something challenging and she asked, in the middle of the challenge, “What do you appreciate about this pose?” At that precise moment, I was appreciating the fact that I wasn’t falling over. A few moments later, I appreciated coming out of the pose and “finding my greatest ease.” (Side note: When I first heard that phrase, I remember what my dad once told his jazz teacher. She coached him to “play what you feel.” To which he said, “I feel like resting” and sat through the rest of the song. [double side note: my snarky side obviously comes from my father.] …When I imagine "my greatest ease,” stretching out on a chaise with a good book comes to mind. Not balancing or twisting or contorting in ways that that are supposed to look graceful while being deceptively challenging. *breathing deeply*)

Where was I headed with all this? Ah yes. The gift of zen. Even though my schedule is twisting and contorting me into strange poses, requiring balance and core strength and more than a little concentration…I’m finding what I appreciate.

For example: I’m not running tonight. But I appreciate this quiet moment that’s allowing me to blog, finish some schoolwork, and catch up with a few other things. I appreciate the three cuddly dogs keeping me company. I appreciate that while time may be flying, I’m in the driver’s seat. And more than once over the past two weeks, I’ve been thankful for the roots that give me wings. More on that later…

*breathing deeply*

What are you appreciating today?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Expecto Patronum

Temptation. Happens all the time. Sometimes it’s something small. Sometimes it’s something that takes everything in me to resist. Imagine a contestant on “Deal or No Deal.” In early rounds, giving up an offer of $112,000 when there’s a bunch of big numbers on the board is a no brainer. The contestant hardly pauses before slamming down the cover and declaring “No Deal!” But later in the game, $112,000 seems much more appealing when all the contestant has left is a chance between $1,000,000 and $50… Does he go for it? Will it pay off? Or will he regret it in the morning? It’s not such an easy choice anymore.

Sometimes, the choice to do what is good and right vs. what is good for right this moment (or the temptation to be reactive instead of stopping and thinking for a minute) can be just as hard.

What makes me believe that I can triumph, is knowing that there are people who have been in my situation before and have made the right choice. I can point to the standard example. After all, Hebrews tells me that Jesus met every temptation I have and made it to the other side without sinning. But in addition to the man who lived a completely sinless life, I know of men and women who have met with difficult choices and made the noble decision. I’ve seen people hold their tongues when they wanted to lash out. I’ve studied corporations that have provided for their employees when it would mean a significant cut to profits. I’ve watched friends and mentors grow and conquer temptations that used to dominate their lives.

Knowing that it’s possible for them makes me believe it’s possible for me too.

There’s a moment near the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that illustrates this perfectly. Harry is standing on the edge of the lake, waiting for “someone” to conjure a patronus and save Sirius and himself from hundreds of Dementors. He’s waiting. He knows exactly when it’s supposed to happen, but he doesn’t see the “someone” he thinks should be there. But then he realizes the “someone” is none other but himself. And when it clicks, he confidently raises his wand. “Expecto Patronum!” A stag appears and sends all the Dementors fleeing. When Hermione asks him how he was able to do such advanced magic, Harry answers, “I knew I could do it because I’d done it before.”

Because of the paradoxes and wonders of time travel, Harry hadn’t really done it before. He did it “before” for the first time. But he knew it could be done. He realized at that moment that he had it inside him to do it. And he met his challenge with courage and was victorious. Just as he knew he would be.

What’s awesome is that once Harry produces a patronus for the first time, he’s able to confidently produce it again. (Almost every time he needs it.) Not only that, but he’s able to teach others to do the same. What once was intimidating and insurmountable lies firmly within his grasp. He can approach that particular challenge with confidence.

Expecto Patronum. No Deal. Temptation conquered.

And here’s a thought: When Harry is with Sirius and sees the Patronus, he thinks he’s watching his father. Maybe when I face down temptation, I look a bit like my Father too.


Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Touch of Heaven

I walked through JC Penny on a whim the other day. (If you need perspective on the magnanimity of this whim, please talk to my mom or sister. It was random, and I can’t explain it.)

My MO for clothes shopping is to load up at the sale and clearance racks, and then hit the dressing room. While I may be very discriminate at first, I end up grabbing a gazillion choices by the time I hit that room. (After all, I don’t go through this process all the time. Might as well make the most of it, right?) Then starts the audition. (You know the process: take off, put on, hmmmm, turn around, take off, sort…)

It was in the middle of this clothing cacophony that I slipped on a black shirt. And it was like putting on a little touch of heaven. Seriously, it stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t realize how rough the other clothes felt until I felt the cool relief of this particular shirt’s touch. (In the other clothes’ defense: they weren’t rough. They were just normal.) It is by far the most comfortable shirt I’ve worn in a long time. I didn’t need to look in the mirror. I didn’t need to debate if this went in the “no way,” “maybe,” or “keep” pile. This one *had* to come home with me.

I want to be like that black shirt. A cool, comforting, refreshing presence. When I touch someone’s life, I want to be so dramatically different from the other clothes that they go “Ahhhhh. I don’t know what makes that shirt so special, but I know I need to have it in my life. Straight to the keep pile!”

A little touch of heaven.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Valiant

After my Zombie-inspired moment during church, I drove home on some back roads that I haven’t used in a while. I got to a certain intersection and familiar blue house took me back to a lesson I learned from my mother.

This is the kind of woman my mother is: Years ago, as we were driving on our way to church we passed an elderly woman walking on the side of the road. The woman was in a McDonalds uniform and appeared to be a little weary. My mom stops, rolls down her window and asks the woman if we can take her somewhere. The woman hesitated at first, but only for a second before accepting a ride to her house. She lived right on the way to church, it cost us nothing but a bit of time to stop and help her on her way. Call it generosity. Call it respect. Call it kindness. Call it risky. Call it what you will. I call it being the social center of God’s love. What made that lesson stick in my heart and head is that it wasn’t a one-time act. After that first day, every time our paths crossed the McDonald’s Lady, we picked her up and took her the rest of the way home. Such a simple, valiant thing.

Just last night I stumbled upon another act of generosity my parents are performing behind the scenes. Out of the public eye. But my parents are like that. And I think more is communicated by caring and supporting others than all the rhetoric we can muster. I hope I can be like them when I grow up.

The deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised. ~ Aragorn

Zombies

Pastor Jason made a comment during his sermon this week: “Jesus is the head of the church.” You know what image immediately popped into my head?

Zombies.

Probably because “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” keeps popping up on my reading radar…and a friend of mine just got a t-shirt that says “In the event of a zombie uprising, remember to sever the head.”

Yes, I know I need help.

But think about it for a second. The best way to kill a zombie is to cut off their head. They can be bleeding, oozing, dripping, dropping (basically they can be a mangled mess) -- and they will still keep going as long as they have their head.

I don’t know. I found this image oddly uplifting. Throw what you will at me. As long as I’m connected to my Jesus, I’ll be alright.

*bonus random moment. Tim Gunn meets Monty Python* It’s just a flesh wound. Carry on! Make it work.

Vine and branches are much more picturesque (and vibrant and stuff). But I had zombies on the brain this Sunday.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. ~ Galatians 2:20

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flavored Water

I don’t like the taste of water. I’ve tried doing the water-only thing, hoping that in a few weeks/months/whatever my taste buds would come around. They don’t. It doesn’t matter if the water is filtered, or bottled, or tap. I’m equally un-fond of them all. Bleck.

But…since drinking water is a healthy thing to do, I do it. And to help me do it, I add flavor. My absolute favorite is water with lime. Water with lemon is ok too. And since I don’t want to carry around bits of citrus in my purse, I’m also fond of the tea-ish packets you can add to a bottle of water.

It doesn’t detract from the healthy goodness of the water. And my body gets the hydration that it needs to function well.

Just as your body needs water, your spirit needs to stay hydrated too. It’s not a one-time fill-up. Eight 8-oz glasses. Every day.

Little bits of truth and inspiration hit me all the time: in the middle of movies, songs, tv shows, or even commercials. (Some posts on this blog are a testament to that phenomenon.) Spiritual hydration can come straight from water, but sometimes those “aha!” moments are easier to swallow when they are flavored through a story. I think this is why I love stories so much. (Maybe this is why Jesus told so many stories too. He knew that, as a people, we’re not very good at drinking water.)

Some of my recent drinks:
* The power of community – Lars and the Real Girl
* Crossing more than just a channel – On a Clear Day
* Loving without strings attached – Marley and Me
* Affirmation – Mia and Brandon on SYTYCD
* We all have hurdles to jump - Commercial for the Salvation Army
* Sometimes you just have to be there – Neil at Nexus
* Life is not perfect – “Sounds like Life to Me” by Darryl Worley
Each of these moments will probably show up in later posts. For now, they’re just little sips.

Added all together, it’s a healthy gulp of truth and inspiration…flavored with a bit of story. My thirsty soul just drinks it up.

Are you thirsty? Your body (and spirit) may be trying to tell you something. Drink up!



A “P.S.” that may just be for me: The more active you are, the more water you need to drink. (You’re losing more water through sweating, etc.) So…for those of us that live a little more deeply, we need to drink more to keep up with all that spiritual sweating we do. Kinda gross, but do you follow me?

Bonus thought #2: Feeling bloated? Retaining too much water? You're not meant to be a sponge. Maybe it’s time to pour out into someone else.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Plan B

To get to Oregon last week, my traveling buddy and I utilized the privileges of the Purple Pass. Meaning: we totally took advantage of the fact that my sister works for an airline and flew on stand-by. If there were empty seats on the plane, we were going to fill them.

Usually when I fly stand-by, I fly on off days when we know there is a mostly empty plane. This is my first venture into the land of traveling with someone, on a busy weekend, and with a definite arrival time in mind. Also, airlines have reduced their schedules to send fuller planes and help save money. Great for the company…nerve-wracking for those of us who bank on empty seats.

My sister is amazing, and prepared a gazillion route options for us. I’m not kidding. In my backpack I carried the full flight schedules for four airports, along with tons of extra information. Plan A: morning flight to Vegas. We checked in, and waited for the magic “10 minutes before push off” time. If a passenger hasn’t checked in 10 minutes before their flight, their seat can be released for people waiting to fly stand-by. Sadly (or happily depending on the perspective), the last three passengers on the full flight made it to check-in by dashing through the airport at a full out run. It was very dramatic.

Plan B: mid-morning flight to Phoenix. Check in. Wait. Hope. Hear our names called for the last two seats on the plane. Hooray! And when we arrived in Phoenix, I had a text message waiting on my phone letting me know what flight to catch, and which gate it was leaving from. Again, I love my sister. She is amazing.

Long story short, Plan B was flawless to the finish. We hopped and skipped through the rest of our flights and made it to our destination. Each time we landed, even though I had carefully consulted my noted and highlighted print-outs, I had a waiting message from my sister telling me where to go. (Have I mentioned she's amazing?)

Blatant transition: I’ve been slacking on my running. After being in the “Platinum Club” for three months straight (never missing a day), I completely fell off the treadmill. July was an insanely busy month, and the insanity continued through August. According to my carefully noted and plotted running schedule, I was woefully behind. I actually bought a journal for myself to “draw a line in the sand” at the beginning of August. I told myself no excuses, get up and get running. (I wanted to start having technology free quiet time in the morning and re-discover my inner morning person again.) August is halfway gone, and the only thing I’ve written in that journal thus far is a few blogging ideas. Just to note: I *have* been running a bit. I even ran while I was on vacation in Oregon. But I’m definitely behind schedule.

It’s like I’ve been waiting on stand-by, and the planes just keep filling up and pushing off without me.

But I did a search, and discovered a running plan that gets me to the half-marathon…starting right where I am right now. Hooray! Plan B! I may not be flying though Vegas, but I’m headed to Phoenix!

And you know, as long as you get to the destination…it doesn’t really matter if it takes Plan B to get there. What matters is that you keep going for it.

13.1 miles, here I come!

What’s your half-marathon? Feel like your plane has pushed off without you? Don’t give up! Plan B!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More beautiful feet...

It's a dangerous business going out of you door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. ~ Bilbo Baggins



Sorry. Twiga Tales has me on a LOTR quote kick. Last week, my feet were swept off to the Oregon coast with some of my dearest friends. Pictures and stories abound...but I think this collage captures the spirit of our adventure. 6 girls, 4 cameras, 2 cars, countless Starbucks and a million laughs = 1 fantastic trip.



Friendship is the hardest in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you've not learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything. ~ Muhammad Ali

Beautiful Feet

In this post, I talked about how when I was a little kid, I would want to help my dad with a building project and he would have to remind me that we couldn’t both work in the same space. I still get that “why not?” feeling, though these days it’s for a different kind of building.

Like these friends, The Longs. A few years ago, Jen went on a mission trip to Uganda, and her heart was captured by the people there. She went back with her husband, and he got the bug too. They decided not just to give support from afar, but to relocate their family to Uganda to be up to their elbows in what’s happening there. It’s exciting. And reading the things that they have been up to makes my heart swell with a sense of "Right on!" mixed with "I'd love to do that" and a pinch of "So what are you doing to change your world?" It's a good combination.

A part of me wants to be right there with them, but for now I’m walking the path of support. But that's the beauty of a worldwide body right? Together we all make a difference.

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15

To learn more about my dear friends, and what they’ve been up to, check out Hackers for Charity. You can also download their first newsletter by clicking here. (I love how Johnny calls it a “maybe-monthly” newsletter. He’s definitely my brand of weird!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tightly wrapped

Once again, my heart has been captured by song lyrics:
“We wrap our lives around your life”

Not like a force field (let me contain and examine this thing), but like saran wrap or spandex or an awkwardly wrapped present (getting into all the nooks and crannies)

Remember this moment from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone? What could possibly be in that broom shaped package? *gasp* A broom?! You don’t say!

And a broom is exciting enough for a first year at Hogwarts. But when Harry opens the conspicuously-wrapped present, it’s not just any old broom. It’s a Nimbus 2000. The best broom there is!

That’s the point, isn’t it? We should wrap our lives so closely around the life of Christ (seeing with his eyes, talking with his words, acting from his vision, accepting with his grace, loving with his heart), that it’s *his* shape that starts to show. When the wrapping looks suspiciously like wholeness, freedom, and hope, people should get excited. They should want to tear away the wrapping paper (figuratively of course) and get to the goodness contained within.

I don’t think that even we fully recognize the caliber of the present. Maybe because we’ve bottled our image of God into a manageable box. Wrapping presents is a whole lot sneakier (and easier) when you can leave things inside their boxes. Measure, cut, fold, tape, done. But God isn’t nice and neat (or overly subtle for that matter). If your shape isn’t a teaser of hope …maybe you need to let Jesus out of the box. You may have to get through a few layers of boxes (Have you ever had to open a present like that? I did one year. It was quite an adventure), but once you do…He’ll explode and expand and rattle your wrapping paper. A change that won’t go unnoticed by any who glance your way.

Then you’ll be ready for Hedwig to dramatically place you in someone’s life. And when you actually get the chance to pass on the hope that you have inside, “It’s what I’ve been dreaming of” becomes “It’s better than I could have ever imagined.”

“We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” 2 Cor 3:17-18

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. …Life is at work in you.” 2 Cor 4:7-12

That’s a gift worth opening! Does it show?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hiding in the Harem

Catchy title, right? (I borrowed the phrase from Pastor Steve. He’s a clever guy.)

The past few Sundays, we have been studying Esther’s story. One week, Pastor Steve talked about how Esther had no idea what was happening outside of the palace. When Mordecai was mourning outside of Esther’s window, she had to send a messenger to find out why he was so upset. Can you imagine how her stomach must have dropped when she discovered an edict had been issued to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom? She had no idea this was going on. She was safe in the King’s house. Granted, she hadn’t seen him for over a month. But she was there, safe in a place of plenty, while her people were living with this terrible and impending crisis.

It made me think of a passage in Amos: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!... You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end." (Amos 6:1, 4-7)

I’ve been pondering about Amos’ message and Mordecai’s mourning. Am I in touch with the crises outside the palace? Am I grieving over the ruin of Joseph? Or am I hiding in the harem? When was the last time I truly took a petition in front of the king and risked everything to stand up for something I believed was worth fighting for?

What gets me about Esther’s story in particular is that her life was in danger and she was completely unaware. And probably just because of the normal demands of her schedule. I’m infamously busy. I wonder if the blur that is my life is blinding me from something much more important. It’s a good reminder to heed the ‘Mordecai’s in my life, and to remember to venture both out of the palace, and into the presence of the King.

If I lose my relevance because I’m blinded by my place of blessing, if I stop grieving over the ruin of Joseph, if I don't find ways to share the hope I've found...God just might send some "exile" my way to wake me up. And he would be completely justified in doing so. Does that make sense?

What inspires me about Esther: Ok, so she needed a wake up call. But once she knew about the problem, she did something about it. She wasn't fearless. She was nervous. But she risked everything. And she found favor with the King and saved her people from destruction. May I have the gumption to do the same.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barefoot Firefighting

I tease my mother about her shopping habits. She likes things…big. For example, when we brought home a new washer and dryer, we had to cut away the lower wall of the pantry and install new doors so they would 1) fit and 2) you could open the doors. It was pretty funny. After that, dad and I decreed that she wasn’t allowed to go car shopping. Expanding the garage would be a bit more…complicated. *wink*

I was getting ready for a book club gathering (towel-drying my hair actually), when I heard a knock at my front door. A quick glance at my phone told me it was too early for the girls to be arriving, so I was just a little curious to see who was at the door. It was my neighbor. And in a hurried voice she said, “Do you have a hose? Because there’s a fire out behind the house!” I ran out to the back of the house and spotted our hose. I also spotted the flames in the woods behind the houses, so I was motivated to move quickly. The hose is in one of those space saver contraptions, so I just started pulling to see how much hose I was working with. I pulled, and pulled, and pulled…and the hose just kept coming. I felt like a magician who is pulling a colorful string of hankies out of his sleeve, but this was much more important. I still hadn’t reached the end of the line when I decided to pull it out and see if I could get water on the fire.

I had enough hose to stretch across the length of the house, the rest of yard, over the fence, and 15 feet into the brush. By this time the flames were a good 25ft by 15ft across and 12-15ft high. And in my hurry to solve the problem, I hadn’t even stopped to pull back my hair or put on shoes. But with our super-long hose, and my wave of fearlessness, I was able to keep the fire from spreading (and even put a good deal of it out) before the firemen got there.

Needless to say, this is one time when I’m supremely grateful for my mother’s shopping habits. Sometimes those old adages are true: “You never know when you’ll need it” or “It’s better to have too much and not need it than need more and not have it.”

So thank you mom, for empowering me to be a Barefoot Firefighter.

I hope I am always ready and prepared to fearlessly fight the fires that spring up in the underbrush of my life. I hope I keep that “get up and go” mindset and remember that shoes are ideal…but sometimes you have to hit the ground running with bare feet.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In the way

I was playing on the worship team, minding my own business, when one of the lines of the song suddenly commanded my attention: “Or we’ll walk by his side in the way.”

It made me think of being a little kid, and wanting to help my parents, especially my dad while he was building or fixing something. But instead of actually contributing, I’d just end up being in the way. In his patient way, he would tell me, “I know you want to help, but you can’t work in the same place I am. You need to go over there.”

My thoughts then switched to one of my earliest memories. It was when we lived in Seattle, so I was probably right around 4-years-old. I got to tag along with my dad as he helped a family move from one house to another. And while I was old enough to know that I wanted to help, I was small enough to not really be a contributing factor.

Once again, my dad had a wise moment. While some big strong men were working to pack up the bedroom, he grabbed the plunger from the pile of bathroom things and said, “Can you keep track of this today? I need you to make sure that this gets to the new house. It’s very important.” I remember my little heart filling with meaning and determination. Yes! I can do that! And I did. I proudly tracked that plunger and triumphantly escorted it to its new home.

It didn’t matter that I was too small to do the heavy lifting. I didn’t even realize at the time just how small my task was. But you know, that doesn’t really matter either. My heart was in the right place, and I was part of the process.

All of those thoughts flashed in my mind over the course of just a second or two. And I once again heard those words: “Or we’ll walk by his side in the way.”

I know that when I see God working, I want to be a part of it. Or sometimes I see the good that other people are doing, and it’s exciting, and it’s building or fixing something….and I want to be right there helping to make it happen! And I can just hear God patiently reminding me, “I know you want to help, but you can’t work in the same place I am.” This thought is especially crazy when it’s a situation in my own heart and life. What do you mean I can’t fix that? It’s my mess! It’s my project! What do you mean I have to go work over there? But it’s true. Sometimes I just need to stay out of God’s way and let him do what he needs to do.

As for the plunger: The good that I do, and the triumphs that I experience, may be little more in the grand scheme of things than carrying a plunger from one house to another. But you know, that doesn’t matter. Because I couldn’t handle the heavy lifting anyway. What matters is that I’m involved. My task is small. But without it… let’s just say, one never knows what mess is prevented by the small thing that you do.

And if you walk by his side, you’re not in the way. You’re on the right path. (I think that’s what that line means in the first place *wink*)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Driver’s Tan

I looked down at my crossed arms a few days ago, and noticed that my left arm is a tad darker than my right. “Driver’s tan,” I thought to myself. It made me think about influence.

I didn’t set out to get a tan. I didn’t even notice it was happening until I sat still long enough to compare one arm to another. But quietly, simply through the time I spend driving my car to my day-to-day activities, the sun’s influence worked its magic.

Sometimes, small, everyday things have more influence than we realize. The attitudes of people at work, the values of our favorite TV shows, the music we listen to, the inner monologue running in our minds, the tone of our voice as we speak to our family, the character of the people with whom we spend our time, the things that make us laugh, the things that make us snarky… they are subtle things, and they fly beneath our radar because they are part of the normal landscape of our life.

But before you know it, you’ve got a tan going on.

Of course, this isn’t necessary a negative thing. For example, running has become a part of my normal landscape. I didn’t notice my “tan” until I missed two weeks and was still able to run 5 miles in less than an hour. When did that happen?

It also made me think about the “driver’s tan” I may be giving to others. Influence doesn’t have to be loud or dramatic. Sometimes, it’s just being faithful. The sun shines every day (even if there are days when it’s hidden behind the clouds). So don’t worry if you feel like your efforts aren’t being seen. They’re working.

What’s flying beneath your radar? Do you ever sit still long enough to check out your tan? How are your rays impacting the arms of others?

Don’t underestimate the power of the everyday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Crash

My Bible study friends got to see my brain in action last night. We were studying part of Isaiah 61:1, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” -- keying specifically on the phrase “bind up.” The Hebrew word here means “to bind on, wrap around; bind up as a wound, bandage, cover, envelop, enclose.” And the author of the study painted a mental picture of Jesus with his keeping his nail-scarred hands, keeping pressure on the wounds of our heart to keep them from bleeding.

By this time, my brain was already whirring and my one friend asked, “You look confused. What’s your crazy thought?” (Obviously, my reputation precedes me.)

I answered, “Isn’t there a movie where there’s someone who’s been hit by a car? And they can’t move it because if they do she’ll bleed out?” This seeming non-sequitor threw us all into a ponderous frenzy, and it was the light bulb in my sister’s head that went off first. It’s a scene from the movie Signs.

One of my fellow studiers observed, “That’s a bit more violent that the picture here on the page.” And it is…it’s violent, intense, and irreversible. But when I think of times that have rended my heart and life in two, that’s the picture I get.

In many ways, Jesus is my car crash. Both from the standpoint that his presence keeps my wounds from bleeding out, but also from the standpoint that he crashed into my life and I’ll never be able to disentangle myself from the wreckage.

“Wham!” …forever changed.

I don’t know that I can answer “why” – why does he allow me to get wounded, why did he choose me to crash into… But I do know that his presence keeps me going, and I pray that my wrecked, broken life can inspire the faith of others.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bug Bites

Ever spend a nice evening outside, then the next day notice a bug bite or two…right on your ankle or something, where a normal motion sets you into an itchy frenzy? Bugs like to take advantage of that twilight, grayish part of the evening.

It made me think of biting words. Sometimes things said in conversation can really end up itching later. Biting words can hide in many places: the twilight of a grey issue, the cover of sarcasm, or the swarm of an argument. And just like a sneaky, well-placed bite…words that hurt have a way of coming back to bother someone long after the initial nip.

I can think of words that have left a mark on me. And just like a bug bite, an ordinary situation can trigger the memory of what was said and that wound starts to itch all over again.

I can also recall a few times in my past where I’ve hidden a true bite in the middle of an otherwise lighthearted exchange. My mother told me once that I was the master of the hidden correction. I’d say something in passing, and hours later the person would register what I was *really* saying. Sometimes that skill is useful. But sometimes it’s just little more than a bug bite.

It makes me want to guard my words, so that I don’t take advantage of the cover of twilight to get in there and draw blood.


“One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” Voltaire

“I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin.” Psalm 39:1

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Flying Darts

Since I have to use a beer commercial at least once a month as a post inspiration:
(I’ve been sitting on this thought for a little while. Partially because I can’t remember what brand of beer was featured in this particular commercial, so I can’t give you a link to let you know where to find it. Boo!)

The setting is a happily busy bar. A couple of guys are throwing darts, and one of them stumbles just as he makes his throw. You don’t really take notice because right then time slows down, the camera pans to focus on a man holding a can of the featured beverage, and a narrator steps forward to talk about the glories of said beverage. But as he’s talking, you can still see the happy can-holding man…and the dart….heading right for his blissfully ignorant noggin.

Here’s where I turned into my mother. I couldn’t focus on anything the narrator was saying, because I kept thinking “My goodness. That dart. It’s going to hit that poor man. Wrap it up already Mr. Narrator!” I was actually cringing and worried about the potential gruesome conclusion of a random beer commercial. Sad. I know. But already admitted to turning into my mother, right? Ok, good.

The narrator wraps up his pitch, reaches back, grabs the dart, and moves it a little forward. Then time resumes. The dart lodges into the beer in Happy Can-Holding Man’s hand. He’s really bummed, until the narrator pulls the dart out and the tasty beverage fountains out into an empty glass. (I can’t remember if it was randomly waiting on the table, or if it was conveniently placed somewhere by the narrator. But that’s not really important. It’s important that no drop was wasted. The drink was safe!)

It got me thinking. The world throws a lot at us. How many times in my life have I been the blissfully ignorant man? Unaware of danger headed right at me, then, ironically bummed when I look down and see a dart sticking out of the can I hold in my hand. If only I knew.

Thought #2: Why *does* the narrator move the dart just a little bit? He could have spared both man and can. But he doesn’t. Can I submit this thought? I truly believe God is there, making sure that darts don’t hit our blissfully ignorant (or even slightly freaked out) heads. But sometimes, he’ll let those flying darts puncture the preverbal cans we hold in our hands.

It’s startling. It’s not what we planned. But as the narrator, God’s not caught off guard. Some of us may not even be aware of the treasure we have inside. It’s thirst-quenching stuff, and we live in a very thirsty world. But that liquid goodness can only be enjoyed if it’s poured out. Sometimes it may just take a well-placed dart to start the fountain.

Just a thought.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pressure

I went to First Friday in Annapolis yesterday. I thought it was to be part of a lindy bomb, but I got there at 3:30 only to discover that the band left at 3:00. Bummer! Now what? I perused some of the craft and vendor tables, knowing that I didn’t want to spend money, all I wanted was a good swing out. And then…it happened. I passed a booth filled with books and promptly got lost in conversation with the two women running it. Anyone surprised? No? Yeah, me either.

One of the many things we talked about was joy discovering new writers. The publisher running the table said, “A lot of times, an author’s first book is their best book.” I quickly chimed in and said, “That’s probably because they don’t know any better.” To which she replied, “Exactly.”

It got me thinking. When I first started this blog just over a year ago, I didn’t know any better. Then the comments started coming, and I started realizing just how far and wide my ramblings were making ripples. And then all of a sudden, when I didn’t get feedback on a post, I started getting worried. Was it lame? Was it off base? Did no one care? Oh no! I haven’t made people happy!

I started feeling all this pressure to be inspiring, to be wise and insightful, to be humorous and intriguing… and I promptly gave myself blogger’s-block. (Is that even a real term? It is now.)

It doesn’t help that I’ve started grad school and feel genuine pressure to perform on the discussion boards and in my papers. Some of my fellow students have impressive careers and even more impressive vocabularies. Every time I post, I have to muster up a bunch of courage and remind myself that even though I may not be in the same place they are, I still have something to say, and it has value. I digress…

Lately I’ve had the most brilliant thoughts when I’m away from my computer. They would make great posts. But when I get to the keyboard, everything goes blank. Instead of the steady stream of inspiration running through my mind, all I can hear is crickets. Maybe a dog howling in the background. And the occasional shutter banging. But the eloquence hides somewhere else.

It’s been pretty frustrating. But after a few conversations (the one on Sunday was the straw on the camel’s back), something clicked into place.

Let’s see if I can communicate this correctly. I play on a praise team. I don’t have notes, I just ad lib and worship through my violin. There are services when the notes just click together and everything is beautiful. And there are services when a bizarre thing happens. I play into the microphone, and everything is a mess. So I step back to reset and truly just play in the background, and then the most beautiful melodies and harmonies soar from my strings. So I think, “Great! I’ll just step back up to the mic now.” And it all falls apart again. It’s like God is up there saying, “Nuh uh. Tonight’s just you and me kid.” Which, is uber frustrating…until I realize that playing for an audience of One is my entire purpose for playing. It doesn’t matter if I’m heard or not. I’m there to give an offering, to set an atmosphere, and to stand in the gap for those who may not be able to pray or praise on their own (because they don’t have the words, or the burdens they carry are too big for their shoulders alone). My playing is a love song, an embrace, a dance, a conversation.

Maybe, my Heavenly Father is reminding me that for as much as he wants to use whatever talent and insight I have for his glory…he wants to keep me to himself every once in a while too.

And perhaps it’s the same way with this new blogging talent/adventure of mine. Maybe sometimes our dialogue is just for us. Not that I can’t share it again later. But for that time and moment, we need to have an inside joke, or quiet talk. Does that make sense?

I need to recapture the freedom of not knowing any better. I need to remember that it doesn’t matter if I feel particularly brilliant or out-of-the-box, nor does it matter if there are 20 comments or none. It doesn't even matter if I post twice a week, or twice a month. Like my header says: I'm just trying to live every day... to make good memories, share the hope I've found, and love people without getting tired. The only pressure I should feel is the pressure to write from my heart. I have a feeling that when I do that, I won’t have to worry about all the other stuff …it’ll just happen.

If I haven’t lost your attention yet (pretty long post for someone with blogger’s-block huh?), let me pose a question to you: What are the blogs and violins in your life? Do you have a talent that you enjoy? (It doesn’t matter if it’s seen or not. Talents come in all shapes and sizes.) Take a minute to remember why you love it, and why you do it. Recapture the joy of not knowing any better.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"No Fail" Mode

I am not a video game person. Never have been. Strange, since I grew up in the golden age of Mario Brothers and games have just gotten cooler and more complex since then. I would just rather be up and doing something. Like chasing around a soccer ball. Or swing dancing.

And then I met rock band.

I love this game. So much so that scoured and scouted and bid, then rejoiced when I got a whole Rock Band set…to keep at a friend’s house. Yes, that’s right. I, who do not own a game system of any kind, bought Rock Band for the sole purpose of jamming out with my friends. Crazy right?

Not crazy. Brilliant! But I digress.

I was hooked on Rock Band from the first moment I picked up the guitar. My first song was “I Love Rock and Roll” and though I didn’t have a microphone, I sang along with myself as I played the guitar part. 98%! I declared myself a Rock Star and said I was going to retire.

That declaration lasted until an afternoon when I was coerced into playing bass and we started with “Eye of the Tiger” and didn’t look back. We conquered song after song. And when our drummer got tired and we had to recruit a replacement, the selling point was “Come on, it’s on NO FAIL mode.” Screeetch went the gears in my head. Huh? No Fail mode? You mean even if I miss lots of notes the song continues on? I won’t get kicked out of the band? The little on screen characters won’t throw a pixilated fit? How awesome is that?! I’m trying “hard” next time!

But you know what I’ve noticed about No Fail mode? Most of the time it’s not actually needed. People seem to rise to the challenge. Even if they hover down in the red area for a bit, they usually bounce back and finish strong. (Isn’t it amazing how much confidence one can find when they know they cannot fail?)

What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Have you ever heard of the Paradoxical Commandments? I think following them is like living life in No Fail mode:

The Paradoxical Commandments
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
  11. The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction. Have faith anyway.
Have you ever genuinely reached out and been misunderstood? Watched a project filled with your heart, sweat, and tears be swept under the rug? Done a good thing that was forgotten or went unnoticed? Opened up and been hurt? Had a great idea that was squelched? Rooted for an unpopular person or idea because it was something you believed in? Invested in someone who didn’t (or couldn’t) see the depth of your giving?

When you do these things, even if they don’t turn out the way you envision, you come out the winner. Even if you hit a wrong button, or mess up the beat, or can’t quite keep up with the rest of the band…you cannot fail.

This list is all about action. About loving, and helping, and doing good anyway. And just as the fun of Rock Band is in the playing, the secret of this list is in the living. After all, No Fail mode is useless if you don’t actually pick up an instrument and play.

So get out there. Pick up your drumsticks, tap into your inner rock star, and do it anyway!

You can’t fail.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whisper

Stress. It seems to be plaguing lots of people. And in the cacophony of all that’s going on, a person can easily feel lost, looked over, or just powerless. If that’s you, and you feel like screaming, but you don’t even know that you’d be heard…this is the thought that I had while running today:

If God is in the whisper, he’s in your whisper too.

You know the passage in Kings where God isn’t in the earthquake or the storm, but his voice is found in the quiet wind? It may be a bit of stretch, but this is the encouragement I want to share: Yes it’s noisy. Yes, there’s a lot being asked of you. Life may feel like a storm, flood, and earthquake all rolled up into one.

But be assured, even if you feel like your shouting is but a whisper in the craziness…he hears you.

God is in your whisper. And he specializes in calming storms.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Open Door

My dog cracks me up. He’s 15 and full of quirks. Mostly these days, he believes in sleeping. He’s quite the expert. In fact, he sleeps so deeply that I’ll poke him just to make sure he’s still breathing. When he was younger, he woke up at the drop of a hat: when I got out of bed, when there was even the slightest hint of thunder, when someone was at the door, when I got up to change rooms, when anyone uttered the words "treat," "walk," or "ride"… you get the picture. These days, he just sleeps right on through.

Earlier, I took a study break by taking a shower. And when I got up, I left my dog looking something like this (Please see the adorable picture to the right. Makes your heart melt, doesn’t it?) He was conked out.

But as I was zoning out into happy shower land, I heard a *scratch* at the door. What? My dog that can sleep through World War III was awakened by the noise of the door clicking closed? Actually, he probably didn’t hear the door click at all. I don’t know that I can honestly tell you how he knew that we were now horribly separated by this evil known as the bathroom door. I was debating on whether or not to do anything about it when I heard *scratch* *scratch* He was serious! He wanted this situation fixed!

I jumped out turned the handle to open the door, and jumped back in.

And my darling little crazy dog toddled off and went back to sleep.

It just cracked me up that he couldn’t handle the closed door. -- He didn’t want to come in. He didn’t want anything from me. He just needed to know the door was open.

And then I thought to myself, you know…I can relate.

There’s nothing that will wake you up quite like a closed door. And sometimes all you need rest easy is the knowledge that the door is open, the road is clear, or the network is up. …That you’re not locked away from what’s on the other side.

Yeah, I can totally relate to that.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Correction

Correction. Disagreement. I’ve been thinking on those topics off and on for several weeks. Specifically, how do I take correction? And how do you talk with someone about something you think is wrong in his or her character/actions? Because it’s not a comfortable topic. And let’s face it, none of us like to hear negative things. It’s completely normal to tune out, shut down, get defensive, or push back with negative observances of our own.

It seems that in our very loving, tolerant, post-modern culture, we no longer have a place to talk about these things. Judge not, right? Take care of the plank in your own eye. If someone doesn’t ask you for advice, then you have no right to go offer up what you think. But is that really true? Or healthy?

What if you are genuinely concerned? What if there’s something that truly bothers you. And you want to address it?

Strangely enough, I found a clue -- hiding right there in one of the passages used to propel the “leave well enough alone” strategy.

Matthew 7:4-5 “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

While discussing this passage with some close friends, one person pointed out -- this passage doesn’t say that we shouldn’t remove the speck. It just says that we have to first deal with our plank. *click* Well look at that! Why didn’t that part of the passage ever jump out at me before?

That heartset makes all the difference. Uncomfortable topics have to be approached from a place of vulnerability (my eyes are jacked up too, but I’m working on it), and love (I’ve worked on my eyes so I can be in a better place to help you with yours).

The word “brother” is pivotal as well. Because those deeper, character defining things need to be addressed from a place of close relationship.

I also don’t think it’s an accident that this passage deals with eyes. Partially because of the whole “vision” concept, but also because eyes are so fragile. Dealing with eyes should be a gentle, careful process. (Not to be handled with powertools.)

I received some uncomfortable correction in the not so distant past. It’s part of what started me thinking on this topic. I was told things that were hard to hear. And what hurt most is that the comments seemed so off base. The person was close to me, and I could tell that they didn’t necessary want to hurt my feelings, but they were deeply bothered and concerned by what they perceived as a “speck” in my life.

So how do you deal with that? What I did: I listened. Reminded myself that this person loved me. Analyzed what they said. Did it have merit? Is this something I need to address? I got a second opinion from some others in my life that I feel have a good understanding of my character. And I came to my conclusion – while this person had good intentions, their perceptions were incomplete.

Sometimes we view people through dirty glasses. And sometimes the speck we see is on our glasses and not the person. (There’s a deep thought.)

But other times, there really is a speck (or even a plank). Reaching out to help your brother takes courage. Because if you really do love someone, you don’t want to hurt them. But if you love them, then you also don’t want to see them continue down paths that are destructive. You want to help them thrive, see clearly, and be the best that they can be.

I suppose it comes down to loving, making sure you’re working on yourself, being honest and vulnerable about the planks you’ve had to wrestle, and waiting for the right time to have a heart to heart with you brother.

Or said another way: Keep your glasses clean. Wash your face and keep your eyes clear. But also love your brother enough to say, “Hey man, you’ve got something on your eye. Does that sting? Can I help?”

And speaking just for myself here, I'm thankful to have people looking out for me. I would rather have someone offer to help me with a speck that isn’t there, than to be left suffering in watery stingy discomfort. As long as they come at me with eye drops, not acid. You know what I’m saying?