Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Empty

I love dogs.  For many reasons.  But one of them is this:  they never travel on empty.  No matter how many times a dog goes, it seems they always have a little bit extra.  Just in case.  (That's true for the girls as well as the boys...believe me!) 

This is definitely a season where everyone is on the go.  But in the hustle and bustle, what if we made a conscious effort to never travel on empty?  To make sure we save a little patience, a little cheer, a little selflessness...just in case.  After all, you never know when you may come upon the proverbial fire hydrant...or tree...or rock...or fencepost...that needs a little special attention. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope." ~ Romans 15:13

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holding Hands

I have a quirk.  (Or a feature depending on how you want to look at it.)  I have a fragile pinkie.  It's been broken a few times.  (Twice by soccer, and once by volleyball.)  The last break was kind of serious, and while my finger still works...it's...well...fragile.

It aches when it's cold.  I have to budget how much I use it when I play violin.  I have a difficult time with the classic interlaced finger configuration displayed by twiterpated couples (that's a Bambie reference for those less Disney-inclined).  And if we're saying grace as a family and I'm next to a firm-hand-holder, I readjust our hold so that my pinkie is outside of the grip.  It just can't take it.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a designated hand-holder.  It didn't take him long to automatically readjust and accommodate my little quirk.  In fact, he would keep a lookout for any silent cues that I was hurting and would reach out and cradle my hand with his.  That winter, my little pinkie was looked after, held, protected, and warmed.   It was glorious.   I remember that season every time my hands get cold and my little finger let's me know it's still there and still quirky.

This year, the arrival of cold weather has me thinking:  It's not just pinkies that can be fragile.  We all have places that are sensitive.  Where we've been hurt and patched.  Where we have to budget how just much pressure and strain that area is allowed to bear.  Where we're just plain quirky.

This is my challenge to myself:  To think of myself as a designated hand-holder.  To look out for the broken pinkies of those around me.  To keep an eye out for silent cues that they're hurting, that maybe they've had enough stress or strain for one day, or maybe just that the cold weather is getting to them.  To readjust my thoughts and actions so that they are cradled, held, protected, and warmed. 

Wouldn't that just be glorious?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arrhythmia

Thu-thud.  Thu-thud.  Thu-thud.

That's the reassuring sound a heart makes when it's beating.

Thu-thud.  Thu-thud.   Thu-thud.

What happens when a heart loses its rhythm?  Trouble, that's what.  Suddenly a body feels tired, fatigued, out-of-sync.  Which is no coincidence because that's exactly what's going on.  If the symptoms go unchecked or are too severe, sometimes a heart can stop beating completely.

Cue the dramatic medical scene.  *beeeeeeeeep*  The medical gadgets go crazy.  The doors open and a flurry of activity fills the room.  "Clear!" yells a doctor.  The flurry backs just far enough away to be safe.  *thunk!* All the heads turn back to the gadgets.  Beep. Beep Beep.  All is well again.

Thu-thud.  Thu-thud.  Thu-what?

The reassuring rhythm of my life flew out the window on me some time ago.  I didn't go into cardiac arrest (not right away anyway), but I'm not going to pretend that I haven't felt....well...tired.  Scatterbrained.  Out-of-sync.

What's a poor, arrhythmic girl to do?

Be wise enough to stop the flurry, take a step back, and yell "Clear!"  That's what.

Prioritize.  Prune.  Reset... It's not an entirely comfortable process.  But it's worth it to hear (and feel) that reassuring sound again.

Thu-thud.  Thu-thud.  Thu-thud.

Firing on all cylinders and ready to run.  In rhythm once again. (Not that I'm claiming to dance to a normal beat or anything.)


They were at their wits’ end.  Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psalm 107:27b-29)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cassiopeia

While I was driving home last night, I noticed a familiar constellation rising above the horizon.  So when arrived I took a moment to just pause and look at the beautiful night sky.  After welcoming Orion, my eyes drifted above his head to the familiar "W" of Cassiopeia. 

I thought to myself, "Cass, I know what you feel like."  (Apparently I'm on nick-name basis with my constellations.  Who knew?)  She's one of just a few circumpolar constellations.  This means that she's close enough to the North Star that her constellation is visible all year long -- just like the Big and Little dippers.  But since she's sitting in a chair in her celestial portrait, it also means that she spends half her time upside down.  I can relate to that.

My world has been topsy turvey.  I've felt like I've been in over my head at moments.  But like Cassiopeia, I have my own Northern Star that I hold in the center of all my craziness.  And last night it was incredibly reassuring to remember that she's only upside down for half of the year. 

Thought to self:  "Just sit tight and hold on.  Things will turn right side up again."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rugby Angels

Week before last, I went on vacation. This means that the day before I was in the bookstore searching for my in-flight entertainment.  I randomly picked up a book with an amusing title, and flipped through the pages to check out the chapter headings.  Equally funny.  I stopped on one page when I saw the word "rugby"  (That's just the kind of girl I am.)  Here is the excerpt.  Enjoy. 

When people say "a hedge of protection" or "a hedge of angels," I start imaging a bunch of angels in pleated khakis standing around, bored, waiting for the bus.  Forget that.  A rugby scrum is where players from both teams lock arms and heads and start swirling around in a tangle of power and aggression and swagger.  That's what I want angels protecting me to be doing.  I want them to be constantly brawling, like some sort of angelic version of the Patrick Swayze movie Roadhouse.  When something bad comes my way, the angels don't have to warm up.  They just turn to my foe and say, "You want to get in on this?  We got more than enough to go around."

I tell you what, if there are indeed angels watching over me... those are the guys I want. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Traffic and Weather

I was driving the other day, listening to my favorite news radio station for the express purpose of hearing the weather update.  (It's a somewhat compulsive habit during RennFaire season.)  It should have been a quick and easy assignment.  After all, the station gives updates every 10 minutes.  I even have the clock in my car synchronized to the station so that I can know how close I am to the next broadcast.

But I kept letting my mind wander at the crucial moment.  I'd zone back in right when the weather guy was ending his spiel.  This didn't just happen once.  I spent my entire drive home missing an update that happened every 10 minutes.  (Though in my defense, after missing it three times I had the following epiphany and my brain was on a track all its own.)

"His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

"It's taken me years to recognize God's voice: those whispered words of encouragement when I'm down; that sudden sense of caution when I'm ready to launch a testy zinger at someone; those much-needed directions at the street corners of my life; tender words of love when I least deserve them; even humor at odd moments." ~ Virelle Kidder

As reliable as the traffic and weather updates, his voice is speaking.  His grace and guidance are present.  Sometimes I may let my mind wander.  Sometimes I feel like I've *just* missed something that I really needed to hear.  But it's ok.  If I hang on, set my radio dial, and wait for it, he'll say it again.

And again....and again...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rilke Poem

You are not surprised at the force of the storm - 
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees' blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered
leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Values


Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Truth and Trivia

The Euphrates river, 55 mph, the Pecan State -- these things have an odd commonality.  Want to take a wild guess what it is?  Each is a representative of an answer, given with pride and confidence, that proved to be inaccurate.  Whoops!

I had my Pecan State moment while studying the last chapter of "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World."  The author started talking bout the well-known story of Mary and her alabaster jar, anointing Jesus' feet with oil at dinner.  She identified Mary as the sister of Martha...and my catch-every-little-thing radar went crazy.  Everyone knows that the alabaster box Mary was Mary Magdalene!  I've heard the sermons, I've listened to the song.  This is one Biblical fact I knew.

Armed with my righteous indignation, I waited for Bible Study night.  And when we got to this chapter, I asked if anyone else found this passage interesting.  My best friend spoke up.  She said, "It seemed off to me.  So I looked it up, and it turns out that it was Martha's sister Mary."

Look it up?  Why didn't I think of that? I was just ready to dress the author down for her obvious mistake.

But indeed, there it is: "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12:1-3)

Mary, Martha, Lazarus.  The family trio that is at the center of several of Jesus' most relational moments.

I immediately thought of a commercial that's been on the radio.  A reporter is talking about a new salad or something that features pecans.  The restaurant in question gets their pecans from Georgia (apparently Georgia is a treasure trove for pecans).  The reporter is talking back and forth with some pecan farmers, and at the end of his spiel he says, "And that's why I call Georgia the 'Pecan State.'" ::pause:: A farmer replies, "But Georgia is the 'Peach State.'"  The reporter, ::a little uncertain:: "Well I call it the 'Pecan State.'"  The farmer, ::you can just see the flat look and possible eyebrow raise:: "Well...that's weird."

When did Christian pop culture get the Mary's mixed up?  (And when did I start letting pop culture dictate the things I take as truth?)  Is it because Luke says this woman "lived a sinful life," so obviously he must be talking about Magdalene?  Whether or not it makes sense or a good sermon or a moving song, that's kind of mean when you think about it.  But however the seed got planted, it's grown to be the pervasive opinion.

As a side note: I think there's something beautiful and profound about the Alabaster Box song if you swap your mental picture from Mary Magdalene to Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Because really don't know all of her back-story. We know that Jesus had a very special relationship with this family.  But we -weren't- there when it started.  We don't know the scars that Mary carried.  Those answers and mysteries are between Mary and Jesus alone.

Name the river that runs through Baghdad:  the Euphrates  the Tigris
In the movie Speed, what was the minimum speed at which the bus must travel:  55 mph  50 mph
What is Georgia's tag line: the Pecan State  the Peach State
Who anointed Jesus' feet with expensive oil: Mary Magdalene  Martha's sister Mary

Thank you to my best friend for reminding me that instead of gloating in my "rightness," sometimes it's a good idea to check the facts.  When something seems off (and even if something seems right), it's always good to go back to the source instead of relying on someone else for the truth.

Can't you imagine me as that little reporter?  "And that's why I call her Mary Magdalene."  "But it was Mary the sister of Martha."  ::a little uncertain::  "Well I call her Mary Magdalene."  ::eyebrow raise:: "Well...that's weird."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Banter

My morning on the  Renaissance Faire site started out as it usually does:  double checking supplies, lacing bodices, making up crazy lyrics to familiar songs, talking in movie lines and half accents...playfully bantering with my fellow hairbraiders.

So it caught me off-guard when one of my friends reacted very strongly and negatively to a comment I made.  I meant it as banter.  Slightly sarcastic, admittedly flippant, but honestly meant as jovial.  It was a harmless.  But what I didn't know is that there was a whole lot of extra details to her initial statement.  I even foolishly tried to defend myself -- walking through brief exchange and letting her know where my intentions were and why I said what I did.  But then she started listing all the things I didn't know, I felt terrible.  You know that feeling when your stomach sinks and you just wish you could take it back?  When you feel two inches tall?  Just like that.

On one hand, I didn't know.  I couldn't know.  My words were not meant to be hurtful.  And there was no way I could have had all the perspective I needed to recognize that this was not banter.  It was deep and emotional and "real life" stuff.

On the other hand, when in her chastisement my friend said, "Well maybe you should think before you say something."  She was right.  (Perhaps a bit harsh for the situation.  But right nonetheless.)

For the rest of the day I thought long and hard about that.  About how my speech should be intentional.  About how as an adult I've consciously changed my habit of speaking to move away from sarcasm and double-meaning statements...because it's just too easy to pass off real cut-downs and malicious statements as jokes.  In fact, it's for that very reason that in my last relationship I specifically told my boyfriend that I didn't want us to let sarcasm be part of our dynamic.  I wanted him to always trust the things I said and wrote.  No secret wondering as to whether I was joking or serious. And I expected the same from him.

Words are powerful.  They build up or tear down.  And once they are out there, they can't be taken back. I had gotten lazy, and my friend has a point.  My words should be thoughtful and beautifully coordinated for the occasion.  Ironically, I have a reputation for doing just that -- for finding the right word and being careful about what I say.  I think that's why her correction threw me for such a loop.  It's something I care very much about and I blew it.

It was an innocent blunder.  But it reminded me that if I truly want my speech to build up, then I have to be careful even in my banter. 

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. ~ Proverbs 25:11

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One

The video window on my computer screen showed a screenwriter talking about his experience in the film industry.  He had an idea.  A story.  He wrote it, polished it, pitched it, watched in battle it's way through rounds and rounds of approvals and reviews....and years later it became a movie. 

The movie had a mediocre showing, and was bashed by critics.  He took it all in stride, but was disappointed.  Was it as bad as everyone said?

A few months later at an industry party, a woman came up to him and asked if she could have a few moments.  She proceeded to tell this screenwriter about how she had lost her husband months earlier.  About how both she and her son were grieving, but were doing it separately.  They just didn't know what to say or do.  But after watching the movie this screenwriter was instrumental in making, they broke through the wall and were able to cry together.  His story made the difference.

And this screenwriter, talking through emotion that was still poignant at the memory, paused and looked at the camera.  He said, "At that moment...I knew.  I had made the movie for her.  And that was enough."

Can I be inspired, polish and pitch and battle, and wait and endure both the criticism and all the ways my hard work falls flat....and know that it all might just be for that audience of one?  One that I may not even know is watching?  Such a simple reminder, but a good one.

I hope I tell my story with integrity.  That will be enough...no matter who's watching.

Photo by CoolMcFlash

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Diet Coke

I had a drive-thru breakfast this morning.  Three chicken minis (230 calories of deliciousness) and a Diet Coke.  As the server was handing me my drink, her eyes suddenly got all big and happy.  "I love that water!" she exclaimed.  I sleepily looked to my right to refresh my mind to what she was talking about.  And there, very healthy and conspicuous, was my 5-pack of 1-liter smart waters (There were six yesterday).  I love them too. I grinned back at her and said, "I know, right!  And once you have one, you can't go back to regular water. They're just so good."

It was as I was driving away that conviction struck.

My smart water was right there.  Right there!  It's the good, healthy choice.  And here I am, drinking a Diet Coke.  It's not the worst choice, but certainly not the best.

I've made other Diet Coke choices lately too.  Choosing the option, reaction, attitude that wasn't best.  They weren't ice cream mixed with peanut butter perched on a warm brownie and topped with whipped cream. They were just Diet Coke.  Even still, I'm a little disappointed in myself.  But just like in my car, I'm not without my resources.  I know what to do.  The smart water is right there.  It's just up to me to open up and drink it.

Do good, Regina.  Do good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Effort

I'm challenged by this thought today...

 "Most people never run far enough on their first wind 
to find out they've got a second."
~ William James

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Clumps

I recently did something I haven't attempted in years:  put together a 1,000 piece puzzle.  I admit, I didn't seek out this challenge for myself.  It was cunningly presented to me by my sister.  Well, maybe not cunning.  She just brought a puzzle over, plopped it on my kitchen table, and helped me sort and complete the border.  Then she left.  "Errands."  uh huh.  Likely story.

I admit that I was able to resist the draw of the puzzle for a few days.  1,000 are little more than a jumble at the beginning.  In fact, they're kind of a big mess.  One of the hardest things to do is to narrow in on one color or pattern or landmark and begin making sense of it all.

But by experimenting and eliminating and carefully examining the example picture...little by little...the pieces start to come together.  Before long there are little clumps of the pieces that take the senseless mass of color and turn it into a little bit of the big picture.

Those clumps are a turning point for me.  Because once you have a clump or two, it's easier to figure out where other pieces go.  "I'm looking for a piece with a green line down the middle."  or  "I'm looking for a piece that's green and oddly shaped on one side."

And right there, while surrounded by the innards of a half-finished puzzle (that's generous...let's say quarter-finished), a verse came to mind:  "Let us not give up meeting together...but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:25).

I've always associated this verse as a sort of "go to church" command, where the benefit is for those who are meeting together.  But it struck me that maybe it's just as important for those who are outside of the clump.

Because when clumps start to form, those disconnected pieces have a better idea of where they fit into the picture.  For a person who has a green line down the middle, or who is oddly shaped on one side...seeing that gap in the picture could change everything.  They can go from being lonely to being connected.  From wondering what their piece means to seeing how it adds to the greater picture.

But that can only happen if the clumps stay faithful and sticking together.   

And only a tiny part of that is being in a special building on a certain day of the week.  It's about the relationships that get us through all the joys and trials that life throws our way.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hello Blog...

As I brush off the articulate side of my brain...let me share with you this list.

Simple pleasures:
Dinner with a new friend
Dinner with an old friend
Making dinner for a group of friends
Being called an in-house Mensa
Reading a chapter (or two) before bed
Rita Springer chord progressions
Refilling vending machine coin dispensers
Netflix
Friends who know your favorite shoes
Friends who aren't afraid to dance with you while you're barefoot
Fiddling
Thunder
Don't Stop Believin' on the radio
Being "handed around" on a phone call
Coming home
Finding a new line of greeting cards
Standing bow pulling pose


Complicated pleasures:
Being trusted for one of "those" phone calls
Full schedules
Possibility
Balance
Standing bow pulling pose

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hearts Song

Hearts Song by Gary A. Lippincott


What can you see, on the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea, a pale moon rises.
The ships have come, to carry you home.

~ Into the West, Annie Lennox


Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
~ Louisa May Alcott


All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
~ Hebrews 11:13

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hindi

As I put my first Bollywood movie in the DVD player, I had no idea.  It was just a Netflix recommendation. "Since you liked ___ and ___ we think you'd also enjoy Veer-Zaara."  Say what?  What's a Veer-Zaara?  But I figured, what the heck?  Sure.  I'll give it a try. 

So there I was, blissfully ignorant. Little did I know that I was about to fall in love....With the colors.  With the storytelling.  With the spontaneous musical sequences.  (With the obvious lip syncing.)  With the melodrama.  With the heartache.  With the dancing.  With the joy.  With everything.

I didn't understand a word.  But that didn't matter.  I was hooked. 

Thank goodness for Netflix.  I started watching as many Bollywood movies as I could find.  And before I knew it, I started recognizing things:  actors, plots (one movie I found was a reinterpretation of "A Walk in the Clouds"), cultural norms, a word here and there.  Once, I recognized a Bollywood actress in an American movie -- not because of her name or her look, but because of the way she acted.  It was the things she did and didn't do that gave her away. And one day, I actually recognized a word I know from my brief study of Arabic.  It was a pretty funny moment.  Who knew that Arabic and Hindi would have some shared words?  I was so proud that I knew the word before the subtitle appeared! 

My obsession has grown so much that I've actually decided to learn Hindi.  If for no other reason than to watch these films without having to rely on the subtitles.

And then it struck me how similar that was to my walk of faith. 

I want my life to be for other people what that first movie was for me.  Starting with common ground, but giving them a glimpse into another type of story.  A completely counter-cultural story.  One where my origins are given away by what I do and don't do.  One filled with color and music and joy.  Where they don't have to know the language to understand what's going on, but where there's the option of subtitles so they don't even have to worry about it.  Maybe some of the words are familiar (maybe none of them are), but the more they hang around the more they understand.  And before they know it, they want to learn the language too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jacabo

"O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be."

While playing this song in church last Sunday, my imagination decided to carry me to the land of Monte Cristo and to focus for a moment on the unforgettable Jacabo.  I saw him laying there on the sand after losing a fight to a nameless stranger... 

When Edmond finally breaks out of jail, he washes ashore and immediately encounters a man in trouble.  Jacabo made a bad choice, and he was going to have to pay with his life.  He's given a chance to to get out of his fate by fighting Edmond.  And he probably thought it was going to be a walk in the park.  After all, he's the best knife fighter Luigi has ever seen and Edmond is little more than jailbait.  But he's easily bested.  And Jababo's out of luck.  But then something happens he could never have seen coming.  Edmond offers Luigi a different solution and Jacabo's life is spared.  Cue one of my favorite movie quotes: "I swear on my dead relatives - and even on the ones who are not feeling too good - I am your man forever!"  What else could he do?

Jacabo is indebted to Edmond's grace and their journey begins.  That doesn't mean they're always on the same page.  Cue quote number two: "Why not just kill them? I'll do it! I'll run up to Paris - bam, bam, bam, bam. I'm back before week's end. We spend the treasure. How is this a bad plan?"  I suppose that isn't surprising since when they met Jacabo knew absolutely nothing about Edmond (not even his true name).  The treasure wasn't the point. (There's a thought that could send me on a ramble!) He just knew that one moment he was looking at death, and the next moment his hope and future were restored. 
I'm sure at times that grace felt like as much like fetter as much as it felt like a gift.  But whether he understood or not.  Whether he agreed or not.  Jacabo was true to his word.  He was Edmond's man forever. 

There are days when I'm sure I share a thing or two with Jacabo.  Endebted to a stranger (though I'm getting to know him more every day).  Not always understanding the plan (or the point for that matter).  Wearing different hats and having to wait for the whole picture to come together.  But grateful every day for grace.

The moral of the story:  You never know what the violinist is thinking on a Sunday morning.  *wink*  Thank goodness I can still play violin while my mind wanders on these God moments!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rearview Mirror

I was minding my own business on Sunday morning.  Greeting my parents.  Grabbing a bit of breakfast.  When out of nowhere the space in front of me was occupied.  Standing there was a very smiley woman.  Just behind her was another.  The first looking very pleased and a bit mischievous.  The second looking happy and hopeful.  The first is a normal part of my landscape.  And there was....something....familiar...about the second.
The bits of information my brain needed clinked together and recognition came.  And in the blink of an eye I turned into a giggly squealy mess as I threw my arms around my beloved friend and greeted her with a massive hug.  Being in her presence was just so unexpected and ridiculously joyful. 

It was quite the three-second span if I do say so myself.  I can only imagine all the expressions that must have cycled through my face. 

That's been happening a lot lately.  Spontaneous reunions with beloved people from my past.  I'll be the first to admit that my exisitence is filled with quite the cast of characters.  But I've also gotten used to letting people go.  Realizing that our paths were only meant to cross for a few precious strides.

But time is a funny thing.  Instead of those nostaligic moments staying...well...far in the past.  They've been reaching out to smack me on the head.  (That sounds unpleasant...but it's not.)  All the distance and space just falls to the side, as if it never existed at all.

The best part is, all the things that made that person special come swarming back to the surface of my memory and edify me all over again: the lessons I learned, the example they lived, the adventures we shared, the valleys we survived, the mountains we conquered.  More often than not, I needed the reminder.  Coincidence?  Not a chance.

"Caution:  Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Prayer for Today

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thoughts on Tenacity


Whether it's the perverbial bicycle kick that keeps the other team from scoring, or the rebound run that gives you the chance to shake the twine at the other end of the field... never give up.

I've played a lot of soccer in my life.  In highschool I was a defender who sometimes adventured as a left wing.  Beyond I played in the crazy world of indoor soccer in which the roles of defender/midfielder/offender are blurred beyond all belief.  I know that pit-in-the-stomach feeling when you get beat on a run by a striker, or when you see your goalie having a rough moment.  And in a split second, you have a decision.  Let it go and concede, or run. 

It's a moment in the "Write the Future" commercial, but I've also seen it happen in the 2010 tournament.  A player zoned in on the goal and a goalie who's out of the picture for one reason or another.  The striker takes the shot.  And... a moment from his worst nightmares.  His shot is blocked by an amazing bicycle kick thrown by a relentless defender.  It's the kind of moment that's made for TV.  But it only happens because there's just that one guy who refuses to give up.

At the other end of the field, I know the feeling of tentative hope.  You know the star player has things in hand as he rushes to the goal.  But as a supporting wing you just keep running at that back post, because you never know.  At the last moment, there could be a defender in the way, or a shot that goes off the crossbar or off another player. If you're there, you can make a magical moment happen.  As my high school coach used to say, it's the stuff dreams are made of.  But you'd never have the chance if you hadn't run the whole time. 

Tenacity.

Note to self:  I know sometimes you feel like that last defender...the tiny little hope that's staring down the eye of the tiger in the things coming at you full blast.  Don't be afraid.  Don't be discouraged.  Don't even worry about the pressure.  Just stay with it.  Don't give in.  Don't give up. 

And I know sometimes you feel like you've made that supporting run a thousand times only to celebrate with the other guy.  But run.  Keep your eye open for those opportunities.  You want to be there when the ball comes your way.  When it does, don't hesitate!  Take the shot!  It will be a moment a long time coming.  Until it does.  Keep making that run.  (And remember to celebrate no matter who took that last shot.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hula Hoops

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  My thirty-something birthday had dawned bright and busy.  Tucked into a pile of bills I found a card.  The message inside wished me a "Hoopy Birthday," and that made me smile, but the picture on the front was what really grabbed my attention.  Taken back in the early 1950s, the photos showed a young woman in Greta Garbo shorts with eight or nine Hula-Hoops swinging madly around her waist.  'How does she do that?' I wanted to know. ...I looked once more at the girl on the front.  There were so many hoops, but she appeared calm.  Her upper body seemed to be perfectly still, her arms outstretched slightly, as the hoops raced around her waist in synchronized chaos.  Her face captured me.  Looking straight into the camera, she smiled peacefully as though she hadn't a care in the world.  Then it dawned on me -- I saw her secret.  'She found a rhythm,' I whispered to myself.  'She established her center, then let everything move around that.'
Condensed from Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver, pp 99-100

Life is filled with Hula-Hoops.  And while I wanted to be encouraged by Joanna's story, it made me a little discouraged instead.  Here is a woman writing about finding time to balance work, marriage, parenting, being a pastor's wife, and probably five other things I'm forgetting (and I'm too lazy to open the book back up and check).

Right now, I feel like I can barely handle my one hoop.  I don't have to worry about anyone else but me.  And yes, I have my roles...but it's just me.  How in the world do I expect to handle more than that?

For example:  It's partially my fault, but I haven't worked out regularly for a while.  I miss it.  My body misses it.  But I feel like every time I start to get my rhythm back, my hips just lose it and the hula hoop falls back down to the floor.  I may try to frantically save it, or stop the embarrassing rattle of a fallen hoop by spreading my legs out as far as they go.  But it's no use.  It's lost. 

And it's just one hoop!  Yeesh.

I'm sure I'm not the only one.

I think what the picture doesn't show is the journey to nine hoops.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Conspiracy

The stage is set.  The players present, the instruments tuned.  The lights have been dimmed, and the atmosphere is humming with anticipation.  In the middle of the stage sits a grand piano, just waiting...

A side door opens and out strolls the soloist, with the conductor following just a step behind.  And for those who look close enouh...is that a smile?  Just a tiny one.  But that secret smile turns the conductor's walk into something different.  Not a swagger.  There's no haughiness in it.  But there's a sense that she knows exactly what's about to happen.  And it's gonna be good.

The soloist sits down and fans out the tails of his tux as only a pianist can.  He positions the bench just so.  He briefly moves his hands up and down the line of keys.  And then...it happens.

The soloist and the conductor lean in toward each other, and as a glimmer passes between their eyes they breathe together and launch into the song.

If the audience wasn't riveted before, they're captivated now.

The soloist isn't the first person to play this piece.  It's been done by all kinds of pianists all over the world.  But no one has performed it quite the way he's doing it now.  Because the notes on the page are just a piece of the puzzle.  There's a freedom and joy found beyond the structure.

The soloist is reaching the end of a section of the song.  I can tell because of the way the music is ebbing and flowing.  And just as he's getting to the point where the orchestra will take over the dominant part of the music...aha!  I saw that smirk!  He looked up for the briefest moment to catch the eye of the conductor to make sure they were in sync with each other.  But it wasn't business-like at all.  She grins as if they'd just shared a private joke, even as she turns back to guide the orchestra.  They're having too much fun.  

It's a conspiracy I say!  Between the soloist and the conductor.  He's focused on what he's doing, but he knows he's not alone.  His performance is backed up and augmented by the contributions of all the players who share the stage with him.  And while he's putting his own flair on the notes, those consipiratorial glances keep it all together.

You ready for this next part?  You bet!
I heard that!  Yeah, I know...but it worked out just fine.
Did you hear how I slowed down that one phrase?  I was really feeling it.  I'm right there with you.
You nailed it. That was awesome!  I know, right?!
My cue is... Right...here.  Go!

I don't know if anyone else sees it, but I do.  And I'm taking notes.

Photo credit to colors98 (still away) on Flickr

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Redeemed

I've been doing too many crossword puzzles.  They're driving me to distraction.  I'll hear an interesting or familiar word and try to imagine what its crossword clue might be.  Of course (honest confession is good for the soul), there are words that I randomly ponder anyway.  For example:  paradox.  Do they always come in pairs, or could you just have one dox?  What would that be?  A straightforward phenomenon instead of one that pulls you in opposite directions?

This morning I heard the word "redeemed" as part of our team prayer before service.  And I thought to myself:  hmmm...redeemed...crossword clue -- 'to deem again.'  Because of course, it was deemed in the first place.

I thought about relationships.  I've had to help my friends mourn some broken ones in recent months.  You ever hear the phrase, "I love you, but I don't like you very much right now"?  Some relationships can weather that kind of storm.  Others can't.  Whether friends or lovers or whatever...they chose each other once.  But at that moment, if faced with the same choice, they may not do it again.  Even more heartbreaking is "I don't love you and I don't like you, but I'll stay because I'm trapped" (by commitment, by shared history, by intersecting social circles, by whatever).

I wonder sometimes if I would be chosen again.   

*Warning:  ramble ahead.  It's perfectly acceptable to skip this paragraph* Chosen now.  Now, not when I'm an innocent little girl asking my mom if I would have to ask Jesus into my heart with all the people at church watching.   Not when I'm a middle schooler hungrier for discipleship than anything else I could imagine.  Not when I went out on a limb and went on my first mission trip.  Not when I was learning how to live out this whole Jesus-walk thing in college.  Not when I came home to carry a worship mantle.  Not when I laid that mantle down to pass the worship legacy to those I believed would follow after me....but now.  When I'm a 20-something, who fell into some sort of career and is living on the fringe of so many things.  I wonder if I've made the right choices, and if I've lived up to my potential, and if I'm living a life that leaves others feeling God's love "in my face, my eyes, and my smile."  The person I am has changed so much.  And I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, I'm just noticing that it's a different thing.

All those things flashed through my head in a split second and I asked myself:  "I still don't understand why, but you deemed me once...would you redeem me again? I know you love me, but do you like me right now?  I know you'll never leave me, but do you ever feel trapped?"

And just as quickly, the answer came back loud and clear.  That word "redeemed" transformed into the phrase "I would choose you again." 

I chose you once. 
I gave my son and chose you twice.
And today, just as you are...I would choose you again.

That was exactly what I needed to hear.

"For not, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name.  You are mine."

"I choose you again."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hunt

In Donald Miller's new book, he shares a story about a friend of his who had just become a new father.  This friend said that he had never been more in love with, or amazed by, his wife.  He was particularly in awe at how his wife's body had supported this little life for nine months, and still continued to supply all the sustenance needed by this little human being.

I was suddenly zapped with a Baptist school flashback:  "Milk to Meat" -- the theme of the book of Hebrews.  If I remember correctly (and I'm willing to admit my 7th grade Bible class memories are more than a little fuzzy), I believe this theme is taken from Hebrews 5:12 "You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food."

Aside from the whole digestion thing, I think there's another side to this concept.

Babies are fed directly from their mom.  They don't produce anything.  They don't search for anything.  They have no ownership in the process apart from consuming. 

But then they grow up.  And they learn the mechanics of feeding themselves.  Later, they learn to make their own dietary choices.  They grocery shop.  Some hunt and fish and garden.  Some enjoy raw foods, and become masters of preparing dishes and desserts.

They take ownership of the process.

I think spiritual food is the same way.  Going from milk to meat isn't just about going beyond the basics.  It's about taking ownership of the whole food process.  Even if we've graduated from milk to the chewy stuff, we're still missing something if we're just sitting on a pew or listening to a podcast getting spoon-fed. 

Can you find the meat in the jungle of your life?  That deep thought.  That inspirational moment.  That lesson that you needed to learn.  That affirmation you needed to hear.  It's there.  The good stuff.

Chase it down.  Dig it up.  Hunt for it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Unwritten



"Staring at the blank page before you...Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find...Drench yourself in words unspoken...Live your life with arms wide open...Today is where your book begins...The rest is still unwritten"

Write the future.  Indeed.


Side note:  I love that word.  Indeed.  Because while intentions and words are powerful, our lives are written by what we do. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nnnnneaw

Anyone familar with Jeff Dunham? (DunHAM...Dot COM!) One of his characters -- Peanut -- makes this sound to poke fun at the noise a Prius might make as it drives by: NNNNNnnnnnnnneaw (How would one write out a sound effect?)

That's the sound of me zooming through May. Does your life ever sort of explode into chaos? All of a sudden you have these elephants staring you down, and your tried and true manta just taunts you: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Ha!

Well, it's true.

One thing that is also true:

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” - Etty Hillesum


Ironically, I've had this picture saved as a draft post for a while. I wanted to save it for the perfect moment, and talk about something profound. But this month, this picture has been oddly inspiring. I just keep pulling it up and staring at it, and thinking about how all this stuff is like fog -- it's clouding my view, but it doesn't have to take my peace. So maybe this *is* the perfect moment. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. You climb a path one step at a time.

It may seem like an awful lot (perhaps because it is!), but it's conquerable. And never underestimate the power of that deep breath.

Sometimes you can't see more than a few steps in front of you. But sometimes, that's ok. Your peace doesn't have to flee in the presence of the stuff that fogs your path. Take that one step. Eat that one bite. Those elephants will dwindle, the other side of the mountain will come into view.

Maybe quicker than you think.

Nnnnneaw

Monday, May 24, 2010

Her waist

Swing dancing has a unique frame.  The leader adjusts his free hand (not the one on his follower's shoulder) to the height of his follower's waist. Wherever that happens to be.  It's not a random place in space, and it's not even necessarily the height that is most comfortable to the leader.  It's all about the height of his partner.

And when that frame is in place, all sort of fun stuff can happen.  I just love how that works.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Sometimes I feel very short when it comes to God.  But I think he's a swing dancer at heart.  Because even though he's very tall, he meets each of us right where we need.

I don't have to be as tall has he is.  There's no taunting stick saying "You must be this tall to ride the roller coaster."  He adjusts to me. 

He leads from the waist.

Your waist, my waist, the hero you admire's waist...even that person you don't really like's waist ....all different heights, but one very committed and creative leader.

And when we take his hand and allow that frame to lock in place, he can show us his ways.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Momma

"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw."
-- George Washington


"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, 
but I think she enjoyed it."
-- Mark Twain
(tee hee *grin* I love you Mom!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Washing Dishes

A few weeks ago, my friend was regaling me with stories from a party she attended.  It was one of those in-home product sort of parties.  The kind that are almost more about the fellowship than about the shopping (almost).  Like most parties of this sort, it included a wacky game at the beginning to break the ice. Each participant had to admit to their least favorite household chore, and give the reason why she doesn't like doing it.  The answers got twisted around in a hilarious way, but I'll leave that part out to protect the innocent.

My least favorite chore is washing dishes, because after I'm done eating...I just want to be done.  I want to sit and just enjoy my food coma.  The chore of washing dishes just gets in the way. 

Saturday, I had the privilege of cooking for a few friends.  We had a wonderful lunch (complete with dessert).  We had appetizers and snacks too.  We laughed and played games all afternoon.  It was a fantastic time.

And the next day:  I had a pile of dishes.  Just sitting there.  Taunting me. 

As I was sudsing up my sponge and letting the water get hot, I recalled that silly game from my friend's story.  And I thought to myself, "Instead of despising this chore, how can I invite God into this moment?"

After all, dirty dishes are reflective of used dishes.  It made me think about how when I allow myself to be used for something good, I may get dirty in the process.  But that dirt is nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, perhaps it should be looked upon with a little bit of joy.  Plus, it's so refreshing to go through the proverbial sponge-bath on the other side! 

I also thought about how its easier to clean dishes when they're fresh.  Once everything gets crusty and hard, it takes a lot more scrubbing to get things clean.  And life is like that too.  If we let things sit and coagulate or crust, it takes a lot more elbow grease to break the mess up.  But with a little soap, a little soaking, and a little determination...that piece can be shiny and clean again.

As I let my thoughts continue to drift that way, I found that my taunting task had become a teaching moment.  And I wasn't annoyed.  In fact, as I placed the last dish on the counter to dry I was pretty refreshed.  Fancy that!  

Perhaps I should extend that invitation more often...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Caught

Good golly.

Don't you love it when a movie catches you by surprise? I was watching what I quickly decided was a lame excuse for a romantic comedy, until a scene near the end blindsided me and I found myself tear-streaked in the middle of my office.

A father cornered a son-in-law...year's after his daughter's (and his wife's) death.  The son had been driving the car at the time of the accident and had carried around the guilt, and the belief that he was blamed and despised for years.  But now he couldn't run.  The father had interrupted him in a public setting and there was no where to hide.  And as his faced his father-in-law, you could see him at the end of his rope...panicked...hurt...tired...and bracing for wrath.

But instead of anger, he heard these words:  "We didn't blame you, all we wanted to do was mourn with you. But we couldn't find you. That was the worst part."

And a guy who had been putting on a brave face and talking a good talk (though he wasn't fooling many people) for far too long...broke down and cried in the arms of his father.

Yep.  I was wrecked.

Why do we run?  And who should we be catching?   

Lord give me the humility to lay down blame that never belonged to me, to courage be vulnerable and caught by those who love me, and the tenacity to keep running and keep looking for those who are burdened...even if all I can do is mourn with them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Patches

It's amazing where my mind will wander during church. Not that I don't pay attention. Just that some lyric during worship or some statement during a sermon will send my brain on a crazy rabbit trail.

For example: "God is not an add on."

I work in the technology field, so I immediately began thinking of iPhones (*There's an app for that*) and applications and add-ons and program suites and the like. And then it struck me, God is not an add-on, but maybe our faith requires patches and updates.

Let me explain. Have you ever had iTunes open, and that little screen pops up and tells you that there are new things available to download? 1) You have to have iTunes open for it to scan and recognize there's something missing. 2) Seeing the pop-up is step one. You have to actively engage and click for the update to install.

Security programs have similar things. They're called "security patches." Because while a program may completely comprehensive (I know that's redundant...run with it.), there are constantly new viruses and threats being developed by 'bad guys.' When the 'good guys' find stuff like that, they'll write some new code that combats the problem and send it out as a patch...a band-aid...a fix...to help make the security program even better. Did I lose you, or does that make sense?

God is not lacking. Neither is his truth. They are constant and full and are everything we need. But as Rob Bell might say, like art and Velvet Elvis, the way we look at it and live it out changes. The Christians of today look and act and do church differently than the Christians of 2000 years ago. (And different from when God first spoke to Abram out of the burning bush.) It's an ongoing, vibrant, living sort of relationship. I think that's a good thing.

I think trials and temptations work that way too. There's "nothing new under the sun," but old tricks take on new guises. Pride, selfishness, vanity, deceit...new ways to fall to these foibles pop up all the time.

And just as technology has gotten smaller and more portable, I think the Church has gone through a similar process. The 'temple' has gone from a place to a people. I have lots of friends who have very deep and active faith lives, who don't often find themselves within the walls of a church. Churches themselves are growing big as they grow small -- returning to the idea of small groups and community and living out these principles we believe in the context of every day life.

Which makes Christians kind of like mobile technology...and we have the ultimate security suite. But in being a very mobile and busy group, it's easy to get swept up in all that we're doing and forget to reconnect to our home network. Just like computers and iTune programs, we need to connect to our network and check for new patches. Otherwise our system might be caught off-guard and infected by the newest virus that's been going around.

And we all know what happens when one computer gets infected. Before you know it your address book has been hijacked and crazy emails have been sent to everyone you know, putting people that you care about at risk because you weren't as vigilant or as careful as you should have been.

So no, God is not an add-on.  He's all you need. Finding him and downloading him into your life will change it forever. But life isn't stagnant.  It changes all the time.  And it's messy.  And temptations can be clever.  But the Holy Spirit isn't silent, the Bible is called the "living word," and we get to pursue this thing in good company.

Don't be caught off-guard. When was the last time you did a vulnerability scan and checked for an update? (And remember, seeing it is not enough. You have to download and install it too.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Colors

I see your true colors shining through.
I see your true colors, and that's why I love you.

It's a great song.  But there's a line in there that bothers me
"We're all the same color when you turn out the lights."

I know the songwriter's point is that we need to look beyond skin color.  But we shouldn't have to hide or lose our vision in order to "see" each other.  We should embrace and respect our differences when the lights are on. 

Mister Rogers once said, "When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong along with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way."

Not hidden like a secret in the dark, but love out in the open.  Lights blazing, colors showing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shopping

A ramble a few weeks overdue...

Good Friday morning, I was trying to remember everything I needed for church service that evening, including a suitable outfit to wear for my participation on the praise team.  Easter Sunday morning is the time for bright colors and floral prints, but Friday night is not Sunday morning.  So I decided to go with my good 'ole concert black.  After all, it was Black Friday, right?  Wait... not Black Friday.  Good Friday.  Black Friday happens in the fall.  But my mental misstape made me think about shopping.  And God. 

For a moment, I looked at Good Friday like God's Black Friday.  Like some big cosmic 2 for 1 sale.  Not really 2 for 1. But still, Jesus's life made it possible for all humanity to be in reconciliation again.  It's a bulk deal that happens one-one-one with each of us. 

There's a joke that says,  A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn't need (It was a good deal.), while a man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs (He needs it!).  God just broke all the rules and paid $2 for a $1 item he didn't need.  (But he wants and loves us!)

If you've ever come back from a victorious shopping mission, you know you the celebration well:

"Look at what I got!"
"But look at what it cost you."

A triumphant gleam. 
A squeal and a clutch to the chest.
A happy dance.

"It doesn't matter what it cost.  It's mine now.  And it was worth it."

I know it's not a perfect analogy.  But, oh how he loves us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scars

You never let go.  You never let go.  You never let go. 
~ David Crowder

The first time I heard this song, it made me cry.  I remembered a story.

A story about a boy who was swimming.  But there was an alligator.  His father saw the alligator and called out.  The son started swimming toward the shore, and just as he approached where his father reached out to him from the dock, the alligator reached him. The same time the father frantically grabbed his little boy by the wrists, the alligator clamped his jaws into his calves. That began an incredible tug-of-war.  The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father dug in his heels and refused to let go.  Someone came along and shot the alligator.  The boy survived, but had horrible scars.  Scars on his legs from the alligator's powerful jaws.  But scars on his arms from where his father dug in and refused to let go.

I think some of my biggest scars aren't from when I fell down, but from when He held on.

He held on when I got myself in trouble.
He held on when I tried to pull away in hurt or anger.
He held on when I was too complacent or lazy or distracted to move myself.
He held on when I didn't feel hold-on-able.

Each one represents a different kind of pain.  If I'm really honest, some of the deepest pain I've felt has been from things I've felt wrenched away in lieu of His vision for my life.  In those times, the words of Crowder's song aren't words of relief and gratitude, but words of anger and disappointment.  You never let go!  But I think if I could look back, the struggle would seem different now.  Perhaps with the perspective of hindsight, I would see the alligator chomped down on my legs and pulling with all it's might.

Regardless of the alligator...those scars are beautiful.  Because when I reach out to someone else they'll see those scars.  Maybe they'll ask, "What in the world happened to you?"

And I can say, "He didn't let go."

He never will.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Outliers

No one -- not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses -- ever makes it alone. …They are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." ~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers.

A lot of the stories in this book brought to mind a passage from 1 Samuel, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” David would never have been a hockey star. He was the youngest brother. The smallest. The older boys would have been the one to get the extra coaching and training because people saw something special. They saw strength and coordination. Little did they know there was a giant slayer in that little shepherd!

It made me wonder whom I have cheated of success because I did not give the gift of opportunity. Who could have been a great friend if I could have overlooked our initial personality or preference differences? Whom could I have mentored if I could have seen beneath the surface?

But looking back is silly. So instead, I’m turning those thoughts forward.

Am I willing to “bite deep into a welcoming land and work like a madwoman at what I know?” That’s the legacy that built the fashion and law moguls of New York. They had parents that took what they knew and rocked it. It wasn’t a glamorous skill. For some it was as simple as making aprons. But they were faithful. They didn’t wish for a different talent. They didn’t begrudge their limitations or the opportunities they didn’t have. (Ok, they might have. But that didn’t stop them.) They worked hard. And their examples and core values helped the successive generations to become superstars.

I may think my talents are far too ordinary to be life changing. But if I’m willing to put those thoughts aside and just work hard at what I know, maybe I can give someone the opportunity they need to be an Outlier.  Who knows, maybe those investments and interactions will help me too.  To see the world in a way I couldn't before.

That’s my challenge to you today: Give the gift of opportunity.



** Edit **
What exactly is an "Outlier?"  It could be defined as "an observation that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs."  But I borrowed the term from the book of the same title by Malcolm Gladwell.  He uses it to describe people that fall outside the normal realm of success, whether they may be Bill Gates, the Beatles, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Mozart, or professional hockey players.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Hearth

Ok, I admit it.  I haven't been very "tenacious" for the past few weeks:  I haven't been blogging.  I haven't been to yoga.  My "to do" list is giving me dirty looks.  I've felt like my schedule has been out of alignment.  Not blown to bits, but just off enough so that my time doesn't clump the way that I want it to.  Does that make sense? Some of the distractions have been quite wonderful, but the end result is still there.

But thanks to Easter, Nexus, and Percy Jackson, (bizarre combination, right?) I feel like I've got everything back where it should be.

Easter is like my real Thanksgiving (In recent years, I've been away on Thanksgiving).  It's a day of family, food, thankfulness, and celebration.  People come home.  Families and communities have get-togethers.  And whenever I get to hang out with family, I always leave feeling a bit more balanced and energized.

Then, last night after Nexus (a time I've come to treasure each month) I came home and wrapped up the Percy Jackson series. One of my favorite moments happens in the final book. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but let me try to paint this picture for you.  A battle of cosmic proportions, a hero with a fatal flaw, and homely minor god whose been basically overlooked with everything else that's going on.  Percy decides to leave something very important with this god.  When he makes that decision she asks, "Why would you leave me with this?"  He replies, "Because Hope survives best at the hearth.  Guard it for me, and I won't be tempted to give up again."

The term "hearth" isn't used much anymore.  What came to mind when you read it?  For me, I envision a fireplace in a family room.  Where adults recline while children play.  New pictures are constantly crammed on the mantle or on the wall.  It's where everyone crowds on Christmas morning or on Thanksgiving afternoon.  Or it's just where you sit and catch your breath at the end of a day.

And then it all clicked together.  Nexus is like coming back to the hearth for me.  Sure, I spend time with God throughout my regular schedule.  But it's like everyday running around.  "You need anything from the store?"  "Do you have something going on tomorrow night?" "Can I take your car today?"  "Did you hear that new song on the radio?" "Thanks for doing the dishes."  But those few moments at Nexus are like kicking back in front of the fireplace and catching up.  It's no wonder that I feel realigned!

Hope survives best at the hearth.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Typography


 The last bit bears repeating:

"I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too."

- Poem written by Taylor Mali

Bloggy Fun


Joys:
1) Playing music.  (Voice or violin...either one....or both!)  Whether it's on the worship team at church, reuniting with my Nomadic Grubfest friends, fiddling down in Annapolis with the Weems Creek Jam, or something different altogether.  I enjoy playing a well-written piece or finding a harmony that's brand new.  Each one gives me a moment of fullness that I just can't quite describe.  It's a beautiful thing.  
2) Being a friend and 'token daughter.'  I've been blessed with so many relationships.  It seems like the more love I give away, the more I have to give.  It brings me joy to give that love and support to those I have in my life.  It's an ever expanding circle, and thus an ever increasing joy.
3) Those everyday moments when I know that Jesus loves me.  Sometimes they're happy.  Sometimes they're serious.  But they give me roots and wings.  The vibrant, dynamic relationship I have with my creator is my greatest joy.  I hope I never become obnoxious about my faith.  I just want to do what I think Jesus did....live a life that made others ask questions and love people without getting tired.

Fears:
1) I've been able to do some amazing things and serve some incredible people.  I fear that my glory days are behind me.  Silly, since I'm only 27 right?  But there it is.  But that fear won't keep me from preparing, and jumping when I think I hear the word "go!"  Sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to just wait, watch, and be faithful.
2) I fear that no matter how I wage war with my body, I won't be the athletic wonder of my imagination.  (There's a little sarcasm there, but the heart of that fear is very true.)
3) When given a golden opportunity, I fear I won't have the right words to build a bridge...or that I will use too many words when only a few are needed.  But that won't keep me from sharing the message.  Hopefully with my life first, and my vocabulary second.

Goals:
To blog about each book I read this year.  (I do a lot of reading.  Did you know that?  I talk about my literary adventures here.)  I didn't do so well last year, but I'm making myself keep up in 2010.  All part of being "tenacious." *grin*
To continue with my "cash only" policy, with the possible exception of gasoline.  It started as an experiment/exercise for the Lenten season, but I like how it made me think about every purchase. 
To return to my habit of writing letters.  I've let it slip in the past year, but I enjoy writing out and mailing letters to people.  (I LOVE finding cards too.  It's dangerous for me to walk down a card aisle unattended!)

Current Obsessions:
The Amazing Race 16 (I blame my Realtor - now good friend).  Bikram yoga.  NHL.com and excuses to watch hockey at "Twiga Central." (I can't wait for Stanley Cup season!) Scouring DVD stores that are going out of business. Hunting for an affordable flight to Uganda.  Making pies.  Inventing reasons to host things at my house.  Brownie edges.

I won't tag anyone else this time, but feel free to join in the bloggy fun!  (This epilogue is for you, my long-lost Twiga friends!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Elysium

You know what happens when you pray to find God in the everyday?  You start finding him.  Sometimes in the most unlikely places.  Like in a Books-a-Million on a Friday night in the middle of Percy Jackson book, when all you're planning to do is kill a bit of time before a hockey game.

"In the middle of the valley was a glittering blue lake... immediately I knew that's where I wanted to go when I died.  'That's what it's all about,' Annabeth said, like she was reading my thoughts.  'That's the place for heroes.'  But I thought of how few people were there...so few people did good in their lives.  It was depressing."  (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, p 302)

And just like that, God burst into my ordinary moment.  I thought about the truth of that statement.  How so few people get it.  How we can get wrapped up in avoiding bad and in doing so forget to actively do good.  How if we can catch just a glimpse of heaven, we'll immediately know that's where we want to call home.

I felt conviction to walk the narrow way -- the way that isn't always convenient, but is right and pleasing.   Conviction to be the social center of God's love.  Maybe all I can do is help people see through a window darkly...but just a glimpse can be life-changing.  I thought about how I long to be counted among the heroes. And amid all that, I felt hope.  Because unlike Greek heroes, I don't have to earn my way onto the Elysium Plains.  Salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness is a gift.  Made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

All of that from a God moment in the middle of a bookstore.  It's amazing what you find when your eyes and heart are open!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My prayer for today

My Lord God
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following
your will does not mean
that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that my desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.
- Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Be exalted over my reputation.  Make me ambitious to please you even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream.
- Originally from A.W. Tozer, though I'm claiming his words as my own today.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Full Attention

I know I haven't been speaking very much...but I've been listening.

In high school, we had a yearly jeopardy competition.  We all faced off in groups of 6-8 and the winners moved on to the next level.  We were each equipped with little buzzers and everything.  It was great! 

But of course, this wasn't a mainstream TV competition.  Instead of having little video displays of each question, we had to rely on the voice of the Quiz Master...reading from his bank of index-card clues.

To keep things fair and honest, he would stop reading the clue as soon as someone buzzed in.  And inevitably, there would be a contestant who was overconfident in their ESP-esque ability to predict both the direction of the question, and the accuracy of the potential answer.

For example:  Quiz Master - "This director was the first..."  BZZZT!  Contestant - "Kathryn Bigelow"  Quiz Master - I'm sorry that's incorrect.  "This director was the first African-American to be nominated for Best Picture of the Year." Second, more patient contestant - "Quincy Jones."  Quiz Master - "That is correct."

As the first contestant is still reeling in disbelief, his points are claimed by another.  He may have known the answer, but he didn't listen to the clue.

Sometimes, I think I have the same problem when it comes to God.  As soon as I think I know where he's going with something, I'm off and running.  I'm too excited about the points to realize that He hasn't finished with all he has to say.

Daniel Golman said:  The act of compassion begins with full attention.

If I truly want to have a 'common passion'...to make God's heart my own, I need to give him my full attention.  Otherwise, I may find myself running off in the wrong direction with a false sense of confidence and camaraderie, while he's standing there shaking his head wanting to give me the critical information/inspiration/direction I need.

I certainly don't want to be standing there going "Ta-da!" only to hear him say, "I'm sorry, that's incorrect."  Even if those few extra moments feel like forever, I'd much rather be delayed than be on the wrong track.  Wouldn't you?


The need for full attention goes for our other relationships too.  My dad once told me that guys tend to stop listening after the first sentence or so because they're already trying to figure out their response.  (I think girls do this too.)  But instead of jumping ahead, what if we waited and gave each other our full attention? 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spare Change

I had a moment.  You know the kind in which you wonder, "What's the point?"  Of life, the universe, and everything?  I was in my car at the time, and found inspiration in the strangest place:  In the door handle, right next to the window toggles:

My bits of spare change.

Sometimes I feel like all I have to offer is bits of spare change.  Disjointed.  Fragmented.  Left over. 

But all those bits are valuable.  Maybe not on their own, but put them together...

An everyday, nondiscript treasure trove.  One that lays dormant and near forgotten until I really need it.  But when that need kicks in, I'm really grateful that it's there.  (And I doubt I would be able to tell you the purchases for which those pennies and nickles weren't used.) 

I don't know if that answers my original "what's the point" question.  But it made me reassured about all the little bits that make me...me. 

At the right time, for the right purpose...those pennies can be priceless.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Anemic

Even though I've been tenacious about sticking to my gym schedule...I've been really tired lately.  I'm still putting in the time, but I'm not covering the ground required to stay on top of my training  (Meaning:  instead of running four miles, I spend an hour on the elliptical.)  I just don't have the energy to do it.

Now I know why.

I tried to give blood to the Red Cross last week, but I was denied because my red blood cell count was too low.  You know that lovely finger prick you have to survive before answering all the heath history questions?  I didn't pass the test.  (Actually, I was well below the threshhold.)  So the lady asked me if I would consent to a second finger prick.  I agreed, but secretly I thought the whole thing was silly.  Wait five minutes, use a different finger, and viola!  a higher reading?  Riiiighhht.  Low and behold, a second prick and reading later, my level was actually lower than before.  So they said thank you very much, but I get to keep my anemic blood to myself.

The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency.  But while you have to add iron back into your diet, you can't just munch on scrap metal.  (I hear it's bad for one's teeth).  Your body has to absorb iron in the context of healthy food.

You ever feel emotionally tired?  Spiritually weak?  Just worn out or out-of-sync?  Maybe your life-blood is anemic.  But like iron, it's difficult to just munch on a bar of cheer or chug a cup of courage or have a sandwich of optimism or a patience pasta.  You need those things, but I would argue that it has to come in the context of a healthy diet.

What are you listening to? Watching? Reading? Discussing?  Because they're feeding you.  And if your life blood isn't working well for you, you won't be in a position to give to others.  Waiting five minutes or using a different finger won't change that. 

(On the bright side:  I have a new and completely legitimate excuse to eat more asparagus!)