Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Open hands - A prayer for when Thanksgiving and Advent collide

God, thank you that you call us into a life where you do not require of us, where you do not demand of us, but where you invite us and you ask us to just open the hands and receive from you.  That the God of the universe didn't create little minions or little servants or little elves to follow him around and to work for him.  But that the God of the universe created and shaped human beings and bestowed his image upon us and created within us the capacity for love and for joy and for service and creativity and creation.  Thank you that you didn't create us to work for you, but you created us to open hands and receive your love.  And that you are so open handed.

And when we messed up in the brokenness of our humanity, you didn't abandon us.
You didn't destroy us.
You didn't give up on us.
You created and orchestrated a way to bring. us. back. to. you.
A way for you to live within us and overcome the brokenness of our flesh.
And not only did you create a way... you became the way.  

You became the sacrifice.  You became our sin.  You became the propitiation for our sin that we might draw near to you again.  And not only that, but that you could dwell in us.  You not only came and pitched your tent with us.  You pitch your tent within us, that we might live.  That we might breathe.  That we might have love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.  That we might contain these things within the very fiber of our being and be made new.  That we might breathe grace and mercy.

You not only love us.  You not only make a way for us, but you live in us.  And you do not demand of us.  You do not require that we work or we earn.  You call us children and you ask simply that we open hands and receive.  And when we do work, when we do serve, when we do, it is not out of obligation.  It is not out of duty.  It is not trying to earn something.  It is out of overflow.  Because you come and you fill us with love.

And you fill us joy.
And you fill us with strength.
And you fill us  with mercy.
And you fill us with grace.
And we overflow.  And we can't help but show mercy and grace because we can't contain that which is bubbling over within us, that which we open hands to receive from you.

So here I breathe it in.  And I breathe out thanks.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Fly


"If I cannot fly, teach me to sing."

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was walking out of her office after our last voice lesson before the next round of auditions.  right before I stepped out the door I turned to face her, tears in my eyes, and confessed my deep fear that I would fail again, like I had the year before.  She looked me in the eye and said something that changed my life view forever.

You have a choice to make.  Nerves?  They're like standing at the edge of a cliff and you have a choice.  You can stand there, wondering and fearing.  Or you can take a running leap off and see what happens.  I can tell you... when you take that leap?  That's when you rise on wings like eagles.

Right there, I decided to be a cliff jumper.  For the rest of my days.  I would be a cliff jumper.   And every time I have learned that to wait on the edge of the cliff in fear is like putting yourself in prison and locking the door.  Like a bird caging herself.  It is only when you take that running leap that you can fly.


Read Emily Freeman's own version of cliff jumping on her blog today.  All about deciding to stop letting the fear of this might not work control your life.  Yeah.  From those all-state choir auditions in high school to that switching of career paths in college to hopping on a plane to China to saying yes when she asked me if I wanted to meet this guy (that was seven months ago... he sent me flowers yesterday).  Jumping off the cliff and risking the fact that this might not work is totally worth it.  Because God is good and flying?  It's not as much about rising on wings with eagles as it is about being lifted and held by His hands.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Tree

Five minutes to free write on one word...


So pretty much everyone has these memories of trees.  Christmas trees.  The old tree in the front yard they used to climb as a child.  Some tree memory.  One of mine is reclining in the tire swing under our old oak tree in my parents' yard.  Peaceful winter (we're from South Texas) afternoons enjoying the cool weather.

There's this other picture that comes to mind though.  I remember in elementary school learning about Mt. St. Helens.  The teacher showed us this picture of the destruction and I just remember this aerial shot of downed trees that looked like a few games of pick up sticks spilled all over.

She played it last night in her recital.  That Chopin Scherzo.  And it hit me somewhere between the unsettling introduction and the brooding chords broken up by flowing arpeggios... Scherzo is supposed to mean joke.  But it sure doesn't sound like one.  And isn't that life some days?  Especially in the same week that we hear about thousands dead in a storm in the Philippines?  Doesn't life sometimes feel like some cruel joke?  Doesn't it feel like somebody said we could have joy, we could smile, and then started playing life unsettled and brooding?  But then... oh, but then there are the arpeggios and there is Light and there is the Presence.  And there is being held.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Just Stay - A return to the Sanity Manifesto

After picture day I find the proofs in my box.  Teaching year two and I look none the worse for the wear.  But yeah, you can see it in my smile, the tension all through my jaw line reflecting my clenched fists.  No wonder I'm feeling that old ache from the neck up then down into the shoulders.  I shake my head.

I had been honest with him the night before.  "I am a hot mess.  No one wants to be around me right now."  He had responded with a wink, "I'd be willing to risk it."  So he came over because I asked him to, braved the puffy eyes and just-out-of-the-shower hair.  And on the tail end of one of my standard break-downs, we sat and talked.

It's just that I don't ever tell people how hard it really is sometimes.  I live with this never-let-em-see-ya-sweat mentality.  I don't ever talk about how it's really not like the ideal I had pictured.  I don't ever talk about how I am striving to spend this one life well and really Live and be all here and pour it all out and scatter my gifts and sow seeds and love these kids and live a ministry and be the light of Jesus everywhere I go and make a radical difference and I always feel like I'm failing.  How somewhere I convinced myself it was supposed to be easy and it's not and I put so. much. pressure. on myself.  How it never feels like enough.  How life feels out of control and out of my reach and joy is fading fast with my strength.  And I am just. so. tired!
And the thing is...

Ideals can become idols.  And idolatry can grip like a vise 'til you can't breathe.

Because, let's be honest.  Somewhere between lesson plans and crazy kids and roommates leaving dishes in the sink and trying to squeeze in a little time for coffee I forgot... again.  I stopped chasing after the Presence of God that leads to a radically abundant Life and started lunging for control.  I became less concerned with making a difference than with shaping my own image.  But today... today I am remembering.  I am remembering that I make this Life thing harder than it is.  That I need daily bread, well, daily and I can find it that often if I'll just step out of the tent.  That it is God's job to shape me into His image and my job to yield and surrender to the Holy Spirit.  That Christ lives in me and shines through me.  And no, it's not easy.  No, it's not comfortable.  But I'm remembering that living radical calls us out of our comfort zones and "the one who calls you is faithful and He will do it."  It is rehearsing the refrain.  Being faithful today.  Giving up and giving it over.  Gathering the manna.  Marveling in the mystery.  Believing I am Beloved before the first step.  Counting the gifts.  It's the Sanity Manifesto all over again.  And the words I have been struggling to write on my heart begin to rise up within: "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."

And so it's back to this opening the hands each morning, breathing deep, and surrendering all.  Because that sliver of a moon and single star, that choir concert last night that made the breath catch in my throat, that pillow and blanket that keep me warm but make it a little hard to get up in the morning... These are the little gifts that remind me He is always good and I am always loved and Life is not as hard as I make it.  Just stay.  Open hands to receive Holy Spirit.  Open hands to pour out the overflow of grace.  And it is that.  Grace.