Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

song appears on Steve Bell's CD 'Kindness' 

Was it a morning like this
When the sun still hid from Jerusalem
And Mary rose from her bed
To tend the Lord she thought was dead

Was it a morning like this
When Mary walked down from Jerusalem
And two angels stood at the tomb
Bearers of news she would hear soon

Did the grass sing
Did the earth rejoice to feel you again
Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound He is risen!
Over and over like in a never ending round
He is risen! Alleluia!

Was it a morning like this
When Peter and John ran from Jerusalem
And as they raced for the tomb
Beneath their feet was there a tune

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Thoughts - This is Love

I was at the church this morning, working on the bulletin and doing other tasks. At one point, I was in the sanctuary. As I walked across the platform to change the hymn numbers on the board, I saw a crown of thorns, resting on the pulpit. I stopped and picked it up. There were others around me, but they faded into the distance. I ran my finger along one of the thorns. It was long, sharp. There were many of them in the crown. I didn't have to try to imagine them being pushed down onto Jesus' head. The picture just came. I pressed my thumb into one of the thorns. Felt the sting. Saw a tiny bead of blood come to the surface of my skin. My heart filled with sorrow and love. 

My Jesus wore that crown so that I would one day be able to gently place it back on the pulpit, take a deep breath, whisper a prayer of love, and walk away from it. 

It is a mystery of grace, of passion and love. I do not understand it. I do not deserve it. I cannot yet, after over 25 years of following Jesus, fathom it. But I live it, and walk it and breathe it, and find myself in it. And am healed.

Thank you, dearest Lord Jesus.

music and lyric by Steve Bell
adapted from John 13-17

Father, just before the hour comes
That was set aside to glorify your son
With a glory from before the world began
With a glory given to no other man
Protect the one's you've given me to love
I so desire that none of them be lost
They've yet to understand the mystery
Why the Son of God would wash another's feet

But this is not the same
It's a different thing altogether
This is not the same
It's a different thing altogether
This is love

My prayer is not for only these alone
But for those who follow after I'm gone
May they understand the love you have for me
As the kind of love that changes everything
They argue who will sit next to the throne
I cringe to hear them say "Thy kingdom come"
They think they know what they're getting into
But we both know that they haven't got a clue...

'Cause this is not the same
It's a different thing altogether
This is not the same
It's a different thing altogether
This is love

Now here's something that they won't like
Someone's coming to take the life
No one has to look farther than me
For I Am He
Some will trust in the things they think they know
They should think again and let them go
Put away the sword and get behind
And let me die

This is not the same
It's a different thing altogether
This is not the same
It's a better thing altogether
This is love
This is love

Monday, March 25, 2013

Opening Comments

I don't know whether I am feeling especially brave these days, or whether it's just the right time, but I have made the decision to open comments on my blog again.  Of course, they will still be moderated, which means comments come to me first and then if they are acceptable, I post them. Pretty much anything is acceptable, except for trolling.  Trolling is essentially trying to gain attention for oneself by insulting or demeaning others on the net.  It's being a jerk on the internet, just because we can.  And it thrives in  anonymity.  The trolling comments that I have received on the blog have been all the more disturbing because they come from people who seem to know me.  I stopped comments because I was in a vulnerable place, and dealing with the comments were too upsetting. I was dealing with a lot of loss, including the death of my mother, and sadly not everyone respects these times in our lives.  I'm in a different place now, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

I do want to be very clear, though.  I welcome comments, even ones that disagree with me or have questions.  I have no problem with anonymous comments, either. Almost all of the acceptable anonymous comments have come from people who have made themselves known within the comment, but that's not even necessary.  What I take issue with is the use of anonymity to hide aggressive, insulting, personal attacks.  These come from people who don't want discussion, don't want to learn or understand.  They want to hurt.

One example is an anonymous comment that I received on a post called "Some Thoughts on Anti-bullying Day". The comment simply said, "It takes one to know one."  I didn't allow it to be posted.  The idea that someone who can identify the fact that they are being bullied automatically becomes a bully is absurd.  I have some idea where this comment came from.  I was told that one of the ways that I bullied my abuser was by calling him a bully.  Apparently telling someone who is physically harming you that they are bullying you is a criminal offense.  This is not a comment that has been thought about, or is open to discussion. It is angry, defensive, insulting and ridiculous.  It's a bully's response to a victim who stands up for themselves. It's not worth posting.

Please know that I love hearing what you think.  The vast majority of my readers have been smart, compassionate, open and friendly.  You guys literally rock.  I am open to hearing and listening to all kinds of ideas and everything you might have to say. I covet any suggestions that you might have that will help me be a better person, Christian, blogger, mother, friend...I pray that my heart for God, and for you comes through in these posts.

I have been told that the reason people who post ugly comments want to remain anonymous is because they are afraid that I will "come after them".  I guess, in one way, they are right.  If they write things that further hurt or damage victims of abuse, I will address it.  And it probably won't be pretty.  Spewing hate-filled, incoherent, mindless insults will probably be called out. Maybe not, though. After all, what can we do with a comment like, "it takes one to know one" except roll our eyes and hope that the comment came from an angry 12 year old and not an actual adult?  If "coming after them" means disagreeing, arguing, using actual facts, incidents and Scripture to back up positions on faith and human relationships, then yeah, that might happen.

Sometimes it feels like this issue and these people take up way too much time and space here on the blog. But then I think about the countless stories of children, teens and adults who have to deal with bullying behavior everyday.  These things are opportunities to address the issues that surround bullying.  They provide examples, and give us the chance to work through methods of dealing with them.  More importantly, they help me understand the emotional, physical, spiritual and social impact that bullying behavior has on victims as well as on bullies themselves.  I really do feel compassion for people who only know how to deal with disappointment, sadness and difficulties with anger and aggression.  I have been there, and know how that feels.  I appreciate the freedom that God offers me in these times, in learning how to set healthy boundaries, to walk away from abusive behavior before I get too angry, to talk openly about these issues and to live in a community of support and love.

It may be that I am feeling overly confident, and will end up shutting down comments again at some point.  If that happens, so be it.  I can be kind with myself about these things.  But for now, if you want to leave a comment, by all means, go ahead.

Peace out.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A day of rest...and Lord of the Rings

Today was supposed to be a day of rest-and-putting-a-stop-to-this-bladder-flare.  I did clean, but just a bit.  Swept the floor, tidied the kitchen, did some laundry.  I blew the dust off the television.  So that doesn't really count.  I made bagels.  I shoved horse-sized worm pills down the throats of two indignant cats, which was way more fun than one person should get to experience. All in all, it was a light day.

I tried to write the blog post that I've been thinking about for the past few days, the one based on the image of Jesus that I found, but it just wasn't happening.  Sometimes blogging is like that.

I did take a nap and I watched Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring (for the umpteenth time). Does that count as rest? I think it does, up until the part where Boromir gets killed and I got all weepy and sobbled on Schmitty and that didn't feel quite restful.  I'm still in bladder pain, but I don't feel so wiped. So, I guess it was a good day.

*Caution - the rest of this post is Lord of the Rings heavy, and contains some spoilers if you haven't seen the movies or read the books.  Hopefully you'll get the basic idea of what I am saying, but you still should probably go rent the movies or buy the books or something. Seriously.* 

You know, when I initially watched the Lord of the Rings movies, read the books and fell head-over-heels into the Ringer world, Boromir was the first character to catch my heart.  I loved his strength. And his vulnerability.  He was so flawed, and yet his desire for the power of the ring was rooted in his belief that the salvation of his world was on his shoulders.  He was faced with a task that he knew, in his inner being, was too big for him.  Therein lay the temptation to believe the lie that he, above all other men, could handle the power of the ring and turn it to his will.  He believed he could because he believed that he had to.  He saw no other way.

How many times do we fall into that trap?  When we take on responsibilities that are not our own, when we allow pride or desperation to trick us into thinking that everything is on our shoulders, that all will be lost if we fail, that we are alone and responsible for things outside of our control, when we are convinced that doing our best just isn't going to be is so easy to start to compromise our faith, our beliefs, what we know to be true.  We forget that we have a God who is bigger than we are, that each person in our lives owns their own "stuff" and is responsible for their own feelings, thoughts and actions.  That sometimes we have to fail so that someone else finds their own way.  That it really isn't all about us. We can see that we have a role to play in this journey, and even if we don't know exactly what that role is, we can pretty much rest assured that the fate of the entire world doesn't rest on our shoulders. Whew.

When Boromir fell into the power of temptation, tried to take the ring from Frodo and forced Frodo to put the ring on to escape, he saw the truth about the ring, and about himself.  And I love that.  Having fallen, having put into play events that he could then never change, he cried out for forgiveness, lifted himself from the forest floor and ran back into the battle.  He fought with bravery and a power born from love restored to him by the truth.  Confessing his weaknesses and failures did not further weaken him.  It returned to him his love for his friends and it filled him with strength.

I admire Boromir because when he failed, he quickly admitted it, asked forgiveness and continued on.  What a gift that is.  He gave his life in honor and glory, in defense of the hobbits that he loved and sought to protect. That, to me, is heroic.

There is a deep, powerful strength that comes from being vulnerable enough to admit when we are wrong.  When we are weak.  I see that same power and strength in many of my friends, who humbly confess their weakness and dependence on God, relying on His forgiving love and mercy to help them move forward on a journey that is much too large for them. These dear ones inspire me to be the same, to relax in my weakness, to confess how much I need God's help and forgiveness, to trust Him for new strength each day, each moment.  And to keep moving forward.

I am grateful for a God that offers grace and mercy each and every time I seek Him for it, and for people in my life who continually reach out to me and point me to Him when I need help on the journey.  I'm also grateful for the brilliance of authors who create characters like Boromir, authors who understand that true heroes aren't perfect.  True heroism allows God to transform pain into compassion.  Failure into wisdom. Brokenness into gentleness. Flaws into humility.  And loss into love.

Just a thought.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Busy week = Crazy tired

Pic courtesy of
As of about 30 minutes ago, I seemed to have crossed the line from really tired to how-am-I-still-moving? fatigue.  Just like that. Ah, the wacky world of chronic illness.

It has been a very busy week, which my heart and head maintain is a good thing.  My body begs to differ.  I've been feeling so well lately, I've gotten used to not thinking too much about how much I do in a day.  I try to keep a balance between activity and rest, but because each day requires differing amounts of effort and my pain/energy levels fluctuate, it's not easy. I worked out several times last week, too, which wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't flaring.  And when I do work out, the exercise-induced endorphins actually help with the bladder pain. But at the same time, the exercises can shake, rattle and roll a wounded, ulcered  flaring bladder. Which results in more pain later. Bummer.

Pic courtesy of
I'm not exactly sure when I started this IC flare (click the link for more info on IC) but it's been going on for at least a week. And I think I just hit the wall.

The fatigue from this sort of thing is different than normal tired.  It's kind of like flu-tired - I feel achy, weak, shaky, emotional and overwhelmed.  By the time I hit this point, I have been trying to wind down for a few days, so all my energy has gone into my job and volunteering.  What I am trying to say is that my house is a mess.  I just kind of half-heartedly blow the dust off of the shelves and swish the dust bunnies back under the sofa where they came from.  The books are piling up on the end tables and the desk in the living room.  I don't really care too much, though.  Or at least, I am trying not to.  Aside from the mild frustration of stuff being in the way, it doesn't bother me so much. And I know that it is cool to say that I don't care what anyone else thinks.  But I do.  Honesty is cool, too.  Although, if I really think about it, I don't have that many people in my life who would get all judgy and anal about it, so that's cool.  Besides, the mop's by the door - to clean up snow puddles - so anyone who says anything will be promptly put to work.

Tomorrow I am going to take it easy, lounge around in comfy jammies and hang in bed.  I have a blog post that I am eager to get to. I found a picture of Jesus that I fell in love with. Okay, not an actual picture of Jesus. You know what I mean.  Anyway, for the first time ever, I'll be writing a post around a picture instead of finding pictures to fit my posts.  Seriously, though. This picture makes my heart sing.

So, despite the flare, things are going well.  I'll be starting a new part-time job as a secretary in my church soon.  I'm getting more hours at work.  I'm enjoying working as a volunteer with a great group of students. God is doing some really amazing things in my heart, and in my life.  It's a journey that isn't always fun, and there are often tears.  But oh, I love the joy of never being without my God, of living in His constant care and attention. I am not just learning more about Him.  I am getting to know Him in ways that I had never imagined possible.  Awesomeness!

So, blessed friends, the dishes are done, I just took a green cake out of the oven - a la St. Patrick's Day.  And it's time for a Sunday after noon nap.  *happy sigh*

Peace out.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Well, hello Sun!

What a lovely week-end. It feels like Spring has come.  I know that we've had some nice days in the past month, but to be honest, I've been a little oblivious. I've written briefly here about my Lenten journey. There's a reason I call it a journey. The past few weeks have been a walk through forgiveness, letting go, hope, faith, as well as deep revelations about myself, God and our relationship with each other. It's been painful.  But lovely at the same time. Kind of like labor.  I wouldn't exactly choose it, but if it's the only way to get the wonderful gift at the end, it is worth it.

The past week has been one of quiet reflection.  Last week-end I was alone here, because Grace went to Vermont to visit family. I didn't blog about it or mention it on Facebook because of some of the threats I have been receiving lately. There's no use asking for trouble. Which is sad.

 Anyway, I usually don't do well alone on week-ends, and last week-end initially seemed like it would be no different.  God used the time alone with me, though, to show me some things from my way past, past....that needed to be addressed, forgiven and released.  I also needed to forgive some people. It was a very healing time, and I continued in quietness, prayer and Bible study for most of the week.

There were also some losses that I needed to mourn. It was very painful, so painful in fact that I felt it in my chest.  I actually had several episodes of chest pain,  They say that it is possible to die of a broken heart, and I believe it. I knew that it was the emotional strain, and part of the courage to endure came from knowing that it was a journey, and that I would not be on this road forever. The road to freedom really was as close as opening my eyes and accepting the inner work of God's Spirit in my heart.  The result was the beginnings of a gentle peace that replaced the restless pain that I have been spending a lot of time trying not to notice. Healing doesn't happen overnight, and I am still in mourning, but I know that my heart is being softened and made more tender with God's love for those around me.  I trust God's healing, and cling to His hand on this walk.

If you think of me this week and if you pray, would you please pray for me?  God will give you the words.  Never underestimate the power of your prayerful desire for God to bless another.  It is kind of like asking God to pour rain on your neighbor's parched, dry land.  Your parched, dry land receives the rain as well.  His love is life-giving water, bubbling and overflowing into all our desolate places.  How cool is that?

I found out this week-end that I got another part-time job, this time as a secretary for my church.  I figured it was a God thing when one of the church elders approached me about the job, and after I told him how awful I would be at it, he paused and then said, "Well, let me get you a job description anyway." Which he did. I applied. And was accepted.  When I had a chance to think about it, I realized that the job was actually within my skill set.  More importantly, though, it would give me a chance to get involved in the church, and to serve God.  As with everything, my role is to simply put myself in the place where I am free to serve God in any way He chooses, and then I can leave the rest up to Him.

On a lighter note, I had a complete blond moment last night.  I was on Facebook, and read that someone had accidentally set all her clocks back one hour, instead of forward.  Which, you know, is something I totally can see myself doing. So I wrote this long, silly Facebook post about trying to figure out where to set my clocks. I even pondered changing them half and half.  Just to confuse Grace.  Hey, I'm pretty sure I've already lost the coveted 2013 mother-of-the-year award, so why not?

I should know better than to joke about these things.  *sigh*  I absolutely knew that I was supposed to turn the clocks forward.  You know, the whole "Spring forward, Fall back" thing.  So I logged off Facebook, closed down the computer, turned off the lights, and set about setting all of our clocks...BACK an hour.  Yeah.  Got into bed, changed the time on my clock radio (which, by the way, I've had for over 27 years 'cause that's when they made stuff that lasts!) back to 9pm from 10.  Thought, whoa, it's too early to go to bed!  Read my Bible for a bit, did some journalling and snuggled down in the bed, secure in the *erroneous* belief that I had literally HOURS before I had to get up. Totally oblivious.  Until 4:55 am, when I woke up and wondered why it was so light out, so early.  Cue, the "a-ha" moment.

You know, I am aware that I am not dumb.  But sometimes, if I rely on my "default" setting and don't intentionally think things through and keep thinking them through until the end....egad.  I just have to say how grateful I am for "a-ha" moments, and the chance to change all the clocks to the right time before Grace got up.  Because all that talk about messing with Grace's head with half and half clocks?  Just talk.  All of it.

You're welcome, Grace.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Who would you be if you could be you?

As a Christian, I firmly believe that the hard and painful events that I experience can produce good things in my life and the lives of those around me, if I turn to God in my pain and rely on Him for wisdom, strength and guidance.  This isn't a Pollyanna thing.  The Bible often describes these sorts of things as akin to giving birth.  Or planting  a seed - laborious, painful, life from death.

I hope that as I write about my life here, I in no way give the impression that the belief that my suffering is meaningful leaves me lilting through my digitally remastered world singing, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down..."  It just ain't so.

Still, there are moments when I realize what I have gained in the midst of the losses.  One of those gains has been a clearer perception of who I really am.  Over the past several years, rejection from my primary community and some significant people in my life has left me deeply wounded.  And surprisingly, free to start the real me.

Does this mean that I was faking all along? Of course not.  Very few of us are fully aware of how we are shaped and molded by the ideas and expectations of those around us. It's just not that cut and dried.  Even those of us who consider ourselves individualists and rebels often define our rebellion by what society considers normal.  Sometimes, making a choice to be different is, in itself, a reaction to societal expectations and not a true representation of who we are. What if we really do like Taylor Swift songs?  Or Kraft Dinner?  Or...*gasp*...reality shows?  We are all in the process of becoming, and the path is a twisted, winding one.  We do the best we can with what we know.

As much as it hurts, there is something strangely freeing about being rejected by one's community and significant others.  It gives us the opportunity, not to re-invent ourselves, but to find out who we are and to become more fully ourselves.  Ideally, in any healthy community or relationship, the freedom to grow and be ourselves in an accepting, intimate connection with others exists.  Failing that, though, being tossed out on one's keister is the next best option.

I have been experiencing this over the past several years, and it is an adventure.  To be honest, it's more of a  "taking the One Ring to Mordor" adventure, but an adventure none-the-less.  I have a handful of precious women who have remained close;  strong, compassionate and brave women who have loved me in the midst of my messiness with the passion and dedication of God Himself.  I have also been making new relationships.  This is where the fun (and scariness) comes in.  I am 46 years old.  I want to enter new relationships as myself, not conforming to what I think people might expect from me. But who am I?  How much of who I am now is me, and how much of it is about trying to move safely through the world without getting rejected again?

 This is especially hard after so much rejection.  Rejection for being me.  As I grow and heal and learn, I am discovering who I am, and becoming more comfortable with myself.  I am also becoming more comfortable with the fact that some aspects of who I am will not make me popular with others.  The people-pleaser in me is dying a slow, painful death.  Ouch.

I sometimes find myself making almost formal announcements about who I am to myself, in my journal or in my own head.  To sound it out. To gain courage.  To get to know me.  So, I'll be lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and inside my head my "public speaking" voice comes out and I will boldly announce to myself - "I am the kind of person who cares more about the well-being of the people around me and less about the fact that I don't have one piece of new furniture in my home...and probably won't for a really long time."  or " I am the kind of person who does not let go easily, who is deeply hopeful, and who will never allow myself or my child to be pushed around or abused again."

And then, there's this, "I am the kind of person who turns to goo whenever anyone says that they read my blog.  Because I am proud of it.  I might get all gushy and excited.  Or giggle.  Because I truly am honored that anyone reads this stuff.  I might even make you cookies..."

You know what is really special?  As I am travelling this road, and becoming more real, I am discovering a rich, loving community that seems to be perfectly fine with who I am.  I know I keep going back to the idea of community, but you cannot imagine how valuable you all are to me.  Or maybe you can.  While I don't want to be defined by my community, I am learning who I am partially by seeing myself in their eyes.  Last fall, while I was sitting on a friend's floor playing with his dogs, he commented that the dogs liked me because they sensed my character, and that it was good.  For him it was probably a random thought.  For me, it was a gift. You see me like that?  Even when I am being really, really me?

God is my Creator, my Transformer, the One who guides and leads me.  My community is the beautiful forest that I get to grow up in.  I'm not absolutely sure who I will be as I grow to be me.  I do know that God has promised to complete the work that He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).

So...who would you be if you could really be you?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Lenten Journey

God's Covenant
God made a covenant with us. The word covenant means "coming together." God wants to come together with us. In many of the stories in the Hebrew Bible, we see that God appears as a God who defends us against our enemies, protects us against dangers, and guides us to freedom. God is God-for-us. When Jesus comes a new dimension of the covenant is revealed. In Jesus, God is born, grows to maturity, lives, suffers, and dies as we do. God is God-with-us. Finally, when Jesus leaves he promises the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, God reveals the full depth of the covenant. God wants to be as close to us as our breath. God wants to breathe in us, so that all we say, think and do is completely inspired by God. God is God-within-us. Thus God's covenant reveals to us to how much God loves us.

Henry Nouwen

I read this quote from Henry Nouwen on Facebook this morning (Thanks, Karl Ingersoll).  

This is my Lenten journey - to more fully grasp the reality of rest and be still in my brokenness while God-within-me works in me, comforts me, heals me, transforms me. To know, know, know that while I feel like I am dying, like every day is Good Friday...God-in-me lives, and Easter is coming. 

Yes. Easter is coming.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Guest Post - Lean Not On Your Own Understanding, by Grace Stevenson

As promised, here is a guest post from my daughter, Grace.  I am very proud of her.  I also really needed to hear what she is saying here, today.  
Grace's blog is called Undivided Heart, and this is how she describes what she does there -" The thoughts and ponderings of a young woman who is enjoying the presence of God and becoming wholeheartedly devoted to King & Kingdom."  
You can reach Grace's blog here ~ Undivided Heart.   Please feel free to stop by and let her know what you think.  Tell her that her mommy sent you.   

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and  lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5
It’s really hard to do this. I’ve known this verse since I was a child, but I’m only getting it now. If I could go back in time and say something to myself, I would say this verse. I wish I could have grasped the principle of genuinely trusting God earlier. But I think it’s one of those lessons that has to be learned through experience  Because, even now that I understand the meaning of this verse and it’s importance, it’s still incredibly hard to put it into practice.
I think the key to learning to trust God is to detach God’s trustworthiness from how you feel. I rarely feel like God is backing me up, or like he’s working everything out for my good. But he is. Regardless of how I feel. This summer I came to the realization that my feeling are not an accurate representation of reality. Even if I take God out of it for a minute; I often feel lonely, and unloved, but it’s not true. There are several people in my life that love me. I am rarely alone. And when I put God back into it, even if no one loved me, and I lived by myself in a cave, He would love me.
We often look at people of great faith in history, and believe that they had something that we don’t, and that that’s why they were able to trust in Jesus. But they didn’t have this magic ability to trust that we don’t have. They just looked at the Bible and acted upon truth. That Bible says “God works all things together for the good of those who love him”(Romans 8:28). That’s it. So now, our job is to live our lives in the truth of that. We are guided by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, not our feelings. We lean on God instead of our own understanding because the he has told us too, not because we feel like it.   ~ Grace Stevenson, Undivided Heart, February 21, 2013
My Zimbio