Thursday, April 2, 2015

Water as from the deep

There's a long-haired man with a beard in her seat, and no, it's not Jesus. I fight the urge to rise, walk over to him, and politely tell him to move. 'Excuse me,' I imagine, while the pastor talks about community and I should probably stop arguing in my mind and start listening, 'You are in Nell's seat. And I need you to move.' 
About three times a year my little church bonds with another little church to have joint 'Holy Week' services. This, combined with the fact I have hardly been going this year because I work nights, explains why I don't know the Jesus look-a-like who is sitting in Nell's seat. 
I tune in again as the pastor concludes 'and this is how we see God, how we see him working in our community.' Huh. Guess I should have listened. I miss her. I miss that she is not sitting in the row in front of us. 
How I saw God was in her warm smile. How she talked softly, so that I had to lean in, especially if we were at a loud restaurant. How she drew connections: 'oh you like that, so does so and so, you two are alike in that.' How she smiled so much, even that last day I saw her- the day we all prayed around her. The last time I saw Nell in her seat. 
I wonder if Jesus had a seat. If, that Friday night when they all straggled into the upper room, if they glanced sadly at it. If one of the newer ones, who didn't know, had sat down for a moment. Until the tension cutting the air clued him in and up he rose, maybe muttering: 'Sorry, I didn't know...'
Sorry, I didn't know... Isn't that how it is for all of us? He already answered it by the way. In case you were wondering. 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
I tell my kids, when one of them bumps the other accidentally, that they still have to say sorry. That even if they didn't mean to hurt the other, it still shows love to say sorry even so. Maybe, more of us are bumbling through this life, bumping into each other, sitting in chairs we shouldn't, and we need the grace of the accidental sorry. Maybe we need to say it to God sometimes. Perhaps just: Sorry, I didn't know... So we can taste the grace he paid so dearly for.
Grace has this way of washing over us in a healing that springs up deep. Like the water God gave the Israelites. It was water that kept on coming 'as from the deep.' I think about this as a dear friend comes up to me and asks me to let her wash my feet. I, ever like Peter, want to cry out 'no!' But, like Peter, I succumb, and resist the urge to thrust my hands in the water as well. Might as well get all of me. Like for all the world Peter had an inkling that he would screw it up, and hoped he could prewash his betrayal.
He forgives us when we bump, and he forgives us when we betray. But he does so much more than just forgives us. He washes us clean. The dirtiest parts of us even, he kneels and girds himself with a towel. Then he gets to the business of cleaning.
With water as from the deep. 
And you know what we are to do? Receive. Sit there, let the water wash over, let the sacrifice he paid be our payment, and say with him: it is finished. For, truly it is. We emerge clean and new. 
Oh, and one day there will be only one seat that matters and only One who can even be on it. The rightness of when we see God on the throne will fix all the wrong- past just repairing and over into renewing. For he didn't come to just fix the broken, he came to make all things new. 
I wiggle my clean toes. Washed twice over by two women I love dearly and prayed with earnestly. Each time I insisted I was afflicted by 'allergies' as I wiped away tears. As the service draws to an end I close my eyes and imagine a boisterous God shouting from his throne: 'I AM MAKING ALL THINGS NEW.'

Monday, March 9, 2015

Vagina Power

You're probably thinking: oh she's just grabbing at attention with a snazzy blog post. And maybe I am. I was going to title this: I'm coming out of the feminist closet. Truth be told though, I don't think I ever went in it. 
Yesterday was International Women's Day. I spent my free time reading about amazing women and my chest swelled with pride- which made my boobs look awesome. And that tends to be the extent of my feminism now. Slipping in random references to the awesome power of boobs and vaginas. (I have been known to shout out, in a roomful of men: 'vagina power!' and give a forceful fist bump to the heavens.) 
Let's be real here though: too often women are viewed as these delicate, pretty objects. When a woman doesn't want to be a delicate, pretty object she gets called something that rhymes with witch and starts with a big ol' B. (For boobs, of course.) 
I was a woman who wasn't about to fit in that type cast. The games and toys were geared towards kitchen and home which often caused me to steal my brother's Gi Joes for the good Lord deemed it wise to put in me a warrior's heart. 
So when I went to college and started to enter the adult world I tried to do what seemed like socially acceptable roles and quickly found out that I was an outside cat trying to claw its way inside. This lead me to find a role that fit for me, which led me to a career that is dominated by men. 
I would say by in large the place that I work has been good to me, but I see how much of the ground I now walk on was paved by pioneering women who went before me. Who had it way rougher. In fact, even that I could get into the field I'm in is due to courageous women who went over to a circle full of men and said: this is where I belong, I'm staying here, deal with it. 
My ninety year old grandma told me in my last visit with her before she passed that she admired what I do and would have always liked to have been able to do something like it. When I went to her funeral I volunteered to go through the pictures and select some which was a mind-blowing experience. She was always grandmother to me, never a 'worker.' But there before me was the evidence in black and white that for her entire life my sweet grandmother worked- and did so surrounded by men. So. That's where she gets her feistiness from. 
The best one was a photo of her at her desk and she's got this boss look on her face. I mean, she's killing it. And my boobs swelled with pride. No wonder I didn't want to dutifully put on the apron and go to my assigned spot in the kitchen. It's just not in me, for that look in her eye -the one where she is OWNING it - that's my look. 
Recently, one of the female leaders at work invited some of us to an event. It took all of my self restraint to not scream out: vagina power! when she was speaking. The kicker that I wasn't expecting was she had us get up and speak. I naively sat through watching the bosses above me, smirking to myself that I was so glad I wasn't them when she called my level of bosses up as well. I would love to report that I killed it, but sadly, no. Before you smile and think to yourself: oh, I'm sure it wasn't that bad, the leader pulled me aside afterwards and said: 'you have to get better at this.' To which I said, yes ma'am. 
You see I'm better at one on one interactions or at reflecting on an event whilst in my pjs. Truth be told though, she's right, I do have to be better. For in my mind there truly isn't two separate races- one for men and one for women- it's all one. I learned that in kindergarten. It was the end of the year race and I gave it my all. Not that I am really that into running, I'm just into winning. So when I made it to the end- in third- I was disappointed. The teachers all cheered for me and one of then informed me I was first. I argued. He may have even been the principal. I kept arguing: 'no! I'm third!' I seem to remember my dad intervening and telling them it was best they drop it for I certainly wasn't going to see it their way. They of course meant that I was the first girl. I knew I was still third. 
My point with all this though is that we all, women too, have to change our mind sets. We still limit girls constantly, in our speech, in our ideas, and in just about every way that we communicate to them. We need to get to a place where we look at someone and see who they are and then try to help them get to the fullest version of themselves. 
My daughter is not a warrior. I'm not saying that to slam her, and I'm not saying she's not brave for she truly is. I don't know yet what she will be, but I hear her saying things like: I want to stay home and be a parent. The interesting thing is she has chosen this primarily because she sees it modeled by her father. Hence why she says parent. Part of me hopes for more still for her, but I have to accept who she is. It may just be that in fact she is meant to be a parent primarily and she will totally kill it. She will own changing those diapers and running around in the minivan (hopefully they will fly by then for Pam's sake - I just made that up by the way, don't know why we always say Pete.) and become the version of her she is meant to be.
For I don't think it's a step forward if we force all women out of the house when all may not want to be. (Though I do think more men need to be brave enough to do what my man does which is get in that kitchen and put on the apron and OWN IT.) No, I think getting to a place where we look at our kids at first like they are blank slates, and we wait to see what strokes they start painting with themselves. Where we take them the whole box of colors to choose from and not just offer the blues to the boys and the pinks to the girls. Some girls like blue and some boys like pink. It's all ok. 
Once we see what picture of themselves they see, then we help. 'Oh, you want to be a doctor? Study this. Work on that.' Don't even begin to address that she may be the only girl. It is frankly a non issue. She obviously won't be dumb if she is striving for doctor, so she will look around the room and see she is the only one with a vagina in the room. Maybe she will find a friend in another male-dominated field and they will become best friends. And they will tell stories about these idiot men they get to deal with while they eat chocolate and watch Gravity. (This actually hasn't happened yet, but I'm about to text my doctor friend and make a date because it sounds awesome.)
I also think we need to encourage more of our kids to try out stuff, that we may even think isn't them, and be willing to let them go as far as failing at it. I learned a lot more this week from my failed impromptu speech then I did from a work problem I was successful at solving. Fail up though. Get up off the ground, grind your teeth, and say: I'm gonna give that another go and I'm gonna keep at it until I own it. 
Tell the boys you are here and you are staying. Tell them you are third when you are and try your best to be first. Use the vagina power. We truly think different and it's a wonderful thing. God clearly thought man wasn't good enough alone, and though we may have started with a bit of them that doesn't mean we can't stand on our own two feet and roar if we freaking want to. 
Above all, be yourself but only if you are the self that you were meant to be. If you got sidetracked, or listened to a different story, were forced to paint with green when you wanted orange- get out the white bucket of Gesso and start all over. Slap down a new canvas. Doesn't matter if your seventy. It's never too late to own who you are and kill it. Go vaginas.

Monday, February 16, 2015

For when you are crawling

I keep staring at it. The photo of the woman crawling to finish a marathon. Something wells up inside of me from somewhere deep, for I relate to that image on a soul level. The crawling part of course, not so much the running a marathon bit. 
I had all these grand plans after cheering at last year's marathon. I even ran for about two weeks. Now I am down to what could generously be called jiggling. Wherein I get on my trampoline and I waddle. My beloved husband remarked wryly one night: 'if you're supposed to be jogging on that thing, aren't your feet supposed to move more?' I may have responded with a less than kind hand gesture. 
No, my marathon has been of a different sort. An emotional one, so to speak. With funerals, car wrecks, accidents and cancers attacking ones I love. There have been some wins, like a prayed-for baby that finally came. 
This brings up other babies I am still praying for. A few that went to heaven too soon. (And babies just shouldn't go to heaven.) A few struggling with diseases and wounds from accidents. A few I'm trying to pray into wombs that are barren and my grieving heart just can't even fathom that kind of pain. 
Every time I go to check my Facebook I see more stories that make me sad. More people from my past and present circles with grieving hearts and hard things attacking those precious hearts. Every time I check the news I see even more that I just can't comprehend. An entire row of brothers about to be beheaded, for starters. Pictures of communities attacking each other, and attacking those that choose to protect them. It is almost too much. The kinds of things that bring you to your knees.
So what do you do when you are on your knees and there is still a race to be run? Well. You crawl. You freaking put one hand in front of another and drag along behind you scraped and bloody knees. You just do. You crawl.
'You keep going, you keep going,' the runner says when they interview her and she tells them the only thing she remembered was a woman telling her that she was 'almost.' "I am 'almost' I thought," she says with a smile. 
Almost. It really doesn't matter where you think you are in the race, or even, what your race is. Truly, you are almost. Given a scary diagnosis of cancer? Almost. Just starting to drive again after having nearly been killed in a car? Almost. Possibly facing another freaking year of working nights? Almost. 
And yes, that last one is mine. The small one. I keep telling myself to girl the heck up already and git'r done for my burden to carry is far lighter then those around me. But even small burdens have a way of looking like a mountain, especially if you are crawling and it is the rock that is in front of you. You know how you crawl up a mountain though? One hand over one knee at a time. Almost. You are almost there. I am almost there. One day may we be there together smiling back at what it took to get there. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Through it

The boy who was burned sits tuning his guitar, his foot and ankle wrapped up in a bandage. He tunes. The pain, I just can't even imagine. I tap a portion of a fingertip on a hot pan and it seems to much. A whole leg- I just can't even. But there he sits, tuning through it.
The woman with cancer enters and sits with her daughter on one side and her husband on another.  She smiles. This smile lights up my soul. There aren't many smiles that can light up another's soul, but hers certainly can. And there she sits, smiling through it.
The pastor has us pray for her and we circle around her. I mutter prayers. One of the pastors prays that we want to argue this, argue this diagnosis given to her, argue that we are not done with her yet. The amens and assents of agreements grow loud. 
We pray through it.
My friend who crashed now has a new car again. I walk around it, muttering prayers. Later, I make the mistake of saying forlornly that all I can do is 'just pray' about something. She fixes her sharp eyes on me: JUST PRAY? I hang my head. Look at me, I am a testament to the power of prayer. I am alive. She is who was broken through it.
The pastor is speaking about Hebrews and the litany of disasters they went through- from being flogged, stoned and to freaking being sawn in two. We're not talking being stuck in traffic folks, we're talking real life and death stuff. But they still sought Jesus, they still ran to him. They looked to him to finish their faith.  And, they believed through it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When you wake up with a heavy heart

I don't even know where to start. Ray's face swims in my sleepy morning vision and I wonder if I was just dreaming about him. What did you expect? (The nasty Court voice snarls...) He had grey... No almost white... Hair?!
But here is another way to look at it entirely, completely sidestepping that the dear sweet man is now with Jesus: he was given thirty extra freaking years! That's almost a whole me. Thirty years ago they told him: well you have this aneurism and it could be any day now. Any, day, now. 
Don't we get that? We all have an aneurism, we just don't know it. It truly could be any day. As I drove to If: local at my church last night I passed my dear friend's smudge she left on a highway wall. She has been on my mind and nasty Court keeps muttering: 'what kind of idiot has a best friend who is seventy freaking years old!?' As if the answer to life's pain, especially when you are young and dumb still, is to simply shut oneself off to it.
I shush nasty Court one more time. Because I need grey haired and white haired people in my life like I need to breathe.
But that's just it.... I haven't been able to breathe for weeks. I am so tired of the bronchitis from hell. Yet hell has been unleashed all around me, so it's hard to complain about a little bronchitis. A boy I know was freaking burned. Burned. His sweet face, with that wild curly hair framing it has been swimming before me. Poor CJ doesn't understand why I keep hugging him this week. 
Not to mention a dear, sweet woman who just learned she has cancer pretty much everywhere. I so want cancer to be a being with a body and I want to be let loose in a room with it. I don't even need a sword. I've been marathoning 24 I'll just go all Jack Baur on it. 
This woman. This woman and her dear husband came up to us one Sunday and offered to be grandparents to us. Yes. You read that right. The crazier thing was I had been praying for that crazy thing. My parents had just moved out of the state and I was lamenting there weren't cuddly grey or white haired people close by to love my children. I felt like God simply asked me to ask for what I wanted, so I prayed a big, silly prayer: Lord, would you send us grandparents?
A week later, on Good Friday, the husband strolled up to my husband and said they wanted to be grandparents to us. Who does that??? People who listen.
I have decided to keep praying the big prayer for this one. For no cancer. I pray cancer is gone for everyone. 
Did you hear an eight-year-old girl might have just found a cure? She was having dinner with her parents and they asked her how she would solve it and she said she would treat it like a sore throat and get medicine. They laughed. And then they thought. Turns out her parents are cancer research people. They did tests on the effects of antibiotics on cancer cells and found that antibiotics truly do kill just about anything including cancer cells. 
I could barely finish the article. I had a bottle of half-finished antibiotics next to me that certainly weren't doing a darn thing for this bronchitis and it was all I could do to not get in the car and take them to my friend.
Because that's the thing. I'm a doer. This is why I have the hardest time praying. I pace when I pray. I sometimes punch the air. Those that know me are probably snorting. I'm not so much a doer as I am a fighter. Haven't found a fight yet that I didn't want to be in.
This year though. This has been the year for hospital beds. A fighter in a hospital is about as useful as an elephant in an elevator. 
Not to mention it's hard to fight when you can't breathe.
The If Gathering is talking about faith this year. I have faith that the cancer can be completely removed from her. Heck. I saw it this same time last year. My own mother was given a scary diagnosis and I was bracing myself for the worst when suddenly I got the best. 
Here's the thing though: even if he doesn't remove my friend's cancer, he is still good. 
God was good when the boy got burned, and he certainly didn't burn him. The nasty god might have had a hand in that. He was good when Ray fell this week and he certainly didn't strike him. He might have called him. 
One lady told me a story about how when someone's son died they heard when they we're praying that the boy was needed for God's army. My mind wandered then to wondering if little sweet Ray was getting measured for armor. 
God is still good when an entire country is watching a stupid dancing shark on TV and oblivious to the girls being tortured for the sex-trafficking industry right under their noses. God is still good when a man is burned alive by terrorists. We just have no idea the horrors that go on, but he knows and still he is good.
There are hard things in life, death being one of the hardest. He is sitting on his throne saying: "I am making everything new!" 
I really want to see the new Ray. I bet he is golden, ten feet tall, and set on holy fire. Like the white part. Like lightening. 
For now I will get up and pray for his family. I will pray for my friend with cancer. I will pray for the boy who was burned. I will pray for my friend still healing from her car wreck. I will pray. I may punch the air while I do it, but it is the work I have before me that I can do for these things heavy on my heart and so I will.