unseen gifts

images-3

Today I listened to a sermon on Colossians 2 and when the pastor got to verse 18, he lumped all feeling into the flesh. In other words, feelings were just feelings and they don’t mean anything and the only way you can follow God is by reading the Word. You need to dismiss any feelings you have about it. Don’t base any truth in your experience, just the Word is truth.

All that my class is teaching about Ignatian Spirituality is about feelings and experience. The idea is that God speaks to us through our feelings and how we react to the Word.

I see the problem with many of my friends as well as in myself, when we don’t identify the Word as a trump card, regardless of how we feel about it.

Despite all the intense emotive Scripture, and G-d’s creation of sentient beings that have feelings about a huge range of emotions because they are made in His image, (one among many factors that separates us from animals)…. for whatever reason, this particular denomination is more about emphasizing the rational as well as belittling the emotional. I don’t think it’s just an attempt to be counter cultural.

Then the Spirit seems to show me that I have two very precious gifts: this particular group of Protestants that push and remind me to be holy and revere the Word of God and Catholics that keep me grounded, reminding me of where I came from and that it can all be used for good and His glory.

Not to mention all the other amazing people and gifts in my life.

It is yet another tension I am called to keep, and I can’t afford to leave either precious voice on this amazing walk I may grumble through but Lord willing, will continue to see the beauty and His fantastic loving hand in.

Healthy tensions

tightrope-walker

There is a thirteen year old girl I’ve been taking out recently as her mom is in jail. I don’t know if she will be sentenced to more time or not, but regardless, this young girl’s home is not an good environment.

Her adult siblings were raised by her godmother, a woman very close to her mother who told me they are more like sisters and she’d do anything for that girl. The girl wants to be with her mom so doesn’t want to go to her godmother, but it’d be a healthy Christian home with good structure and so much safer than where she is.

I’m going to recommend signing guardianship, but I don’t know if this woman will welcome the idea. I may have to wait until after the sentencing. Meanwhile I can take the young girl to her former church, if she’s willing to go.

I’ve asked for help from my church but I am not clear if it will come. I’m praying for this young girl, her mom, her godmother, the churches I encounter but also for myself. This house has not even come close to being run, but I am starting to wonder if the Lord is shifting my own support network. I want to make no fast moves, nor would I want to move in a direction my husband wouldn’t want me to go, but he wouldn’t like how this is all falling out.

What I’ve learned as the insistence on doctrine, (doctrine I don’t reject but don’t fully agree with either) keeps resurfacing, is that my own beliefs have to acknowledge that His ways are not mine. I believe in grace and that all faith is God given and God initiated but just as strongly, I believe in the relational aspect of God, to be manifested among us with affection. There has to be a healthy tension between the favor God bestows and our response to His invite, regardless of our perception of how the relationship works. I just don’t see anything in the whole of Scripture that says it’s safest to nail down dogma and refuse to allow for the unknown. I see the opposite in our dynamic Creator, who surprises us with joy, blows our expectations out of the water, and lights up the dark. In order for the dark to be lit up, you have to be in the dark.

Father G-d, I trust just as you have given me a heart to do this work, you will supply the people in your boday you want me to work with. Grant that as I go, I am respectful and loving to everyone. Grant me also the wisdom and discernment to watch where Your Spirit moves and where the best circumstances for these struggling broken families can experience healing and restoration. Grant the space to heal and that the healing occurs with Your shepherds as well as Your sheep. Grant I move neither to the right or left, but stay on this difficult, narrow path, among these hurting and beautiful souls You long for. Amen.

light

“God is light, an in Him there is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5

LightFlash

In an article written by a Jesuit, John Staudenmaier, (who will teach my spiritual direction class Wed), there is a beautiful point about light and dark that I’ve only heard before from rabbis. He points out that the devil’s name literally means “light carrier” (that is Lucifer) and that the “powerful, and life-shaping visions of “Abraham, Samuel, and Jesus emerge in the frightening dark.

What came to mind for me reading that too was the pillar of cloud vs the fire to indicate when to stop and when to move – of God’s use of darkness in our lives.

As the Spirit ministers to my heart these days, I can see how all the feelings of rejection, even my own rejection of myself, can be transformed into usefulness to minister to the women, because they experience this beyond what I can imagine anymore, as I can’t imagine my life without the relationship I’ve built with God and Jesus, especially through the more recent trials of being without Jim here.

One of the ladies I work with, who was out of and now is back in jail, has a daughter that turns 13 today. I promised the woman I would take her daughter out, and I’ve been praying over the time ever since. While the mother’s gone, the girl living with her grown sister and her mom’s cousin in an environment that must be very dark.

One of the points of the article was not to be addicted to light right away as a quick fix, and inferred that our use of electric lights, and being awake and working when the earth is dark could only happen to people who can “afford insomnia,” but I think there is an extension of this idea figuratively too.

I can try to bring light into these dark places, but only Christ in me can do it, and I need to wait on Him for the work. My idea of a present for the birthday may be a starting place or a seed, but He has to dwell is this child to do a work and act to bring light to their family. Yes, I want to do my part, but overall what I am sensing is its not my part to do, if that makes sense. My part is to extend the help when I can with what I have but from there its G-d’s.

This mornings devo was the “Gift of Humility” prayer. “Grant upon us, O G-d, the gift of humility. When we speak, teach us to give our opinion quietly and sincerely. When we do well in work or play, give us a sense of proportion, that we be neither unduly elated, nor foolishly self-deprecatory. Help us in success to realize what we owe to You and the efforts of others; in failure, to avoid self-pity; and in all ways to be simple and natural, quiet in manner, and reasonable in thought.”

Grant, Father that my time with this girl is blessed in such a way that I can be a comfort to her and a sense of assurance that all will be and is well. Help me to stay out of the way so that You can speak to her through me, if it is a time that you want to speak. Help me to be a witness that You are with us always, all the time, the true light that sustains and loves us perfectly. Thank You for that perfect love and for Your ways through darkness.

stories within the stories for the Book Wars

images-2

My favorite book before I could read, the one I would ask my great-aunt to read over and over again, was The Sneeches by Dr Seuss. If you are unfamiliar, you need to rectify this situation immediately.

At the time I was blissfully unaware of the sense of justice it appealed to, but it was captivating all the same.

Also before I could read, I would spend hours pouring over a dark version of Beauty and the Beast, I put in something called a “tape” and hit play on the “cassette player” and it dinged when I was supposed to turn the page. It was far from what Disney did to it and I am as suspicious of all things Disney now as I was back then.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of beautiful layered stories that I never got to until I was an adult and the Narnia series I would highly recommend to any young reader.

Also a huge fan of the parables of the bible and often keep the parables on heaven in mind in terms of chasing after God’s will in my life. The man who sells all he has for the treasure in the field, for example, has strongly influenced my decision to take this plunge purchasing a home.

The best stories I’ve found so far, and continue to seek out, are the ones that G-d is writing in and through the lives of other people, as well as my own. There are so many people I talk to that don’t seem to realize that their story is just one layered in a much larger one. But when I do find people like that, my heart sings. I spent less than half my life denying that fact, this last half waking up to it, and now am stepping into a new adventure He is unfolding as well as trying to make note of it happening to let people know it’s His work.

Stories is also why I love science, because all you can get from it is very clever fiction. We can claim that there’s objective truth or we can claim that there is not and the world still goes on and things still happen just the same as we chase how and why and never quite know what to do with it – regardless our perceptions.

I trust the Author of all of it is telling the most magnificent story of all times as sure as the ice’s density is less than liquid water so that fish can survive the winter, a story a chemistry teacher told me, so impressed that, unlike other matter, water expanded when it froze.

A math teacher told me the story of all the convoluted paths of the planets scientists had come up with until Kepler thought of the idea that since G-d is perfect, why not the planets be a little less perfect, but in the family of circles. Ellispses inspired by the idea that we are not G-d but yet made in His image.

I am so grateful for my parents, my teachers, writers, and all those along the way, the extended family of G-d, that have been fostering this love of the story that is simply marvelous on its own but also illustrates a much deeper reality with so many facets, I can never get my mind around it. I rejoice in this journey where nothing is as it seems and the best is yet to come.

Rant on the State of Things for Emily

fall-leaves-tree

Following FollowingafterJesus Emily’s journey and from what I’ve read of what she’s written so far, her latest title threw me off.  But it was a very clever hook with a challenge so here’s mine.   Reader, i’ve hooked you too so you are it.  What has our Lord blessed you with?

I also feel blessed this turn to fall.  The sad close of summer and assurance it’ll be back.  The new crisp bite to the air, the desire for hot tea instead of something cold, and I saw a pumpkin at the grocery yesterday.

Although God blessed me with a warrior for God has well, and it amazes me how the brief time we had together was so powerful and loving and how if I dwell in a good memory of something he said or a moment we had it can sustain me through – well – anything.

What I have to learn seems to get bigger in proportion to the time I spend diving in.  Endless depths of wisdom and knowledge that make His word come alive through circumstances, beautiful stories on blogs, books, articles, and interactions with so many loving people that love Him.  And even people that don’t by contrast.

Tonight I have a class to attend that’s going to help me better minister to the women I work with Friday.  God has blessed me with a magical house, a vision for my temporary home here with lots to work on and see come alive, and sure sense of a heavenly home to store up treasures in too.

Saturday I get to go to Shabbat services by invite and then I’ve plans to walk in the Botanical gardens with a good friend who is quite the gardener herself and wants to look for ideas for the house’s yard.  Like our own little garden to tend to.

Then Sunday, church, a friend, and more church!  Blessed by the freedom to worship without persecution and the Spirits reminder to pray for the suffering.

And as much as I don’t like a lot about myself, God keeps pushing me to show me about what a beautiful child I am because if I can’t see that, I can’t see how beautiful everyone else is.

So yeah, things are pretty good here too.

perfect timing

Although my head needed it this morning, I pray that my heart gets this.

From a morning devo:

Never Be Discouraged

There is really nothing we need know
or even try to understand
if we refuse to be discouraged
and trust G-d’s guiding hand.
So take heart and meet each minute
with faith of G-d’s great love
aware that every day of life
is controlled by G-d above.
And never dread tomorrow
and what the future brings
just pray for strength and courage
and trust G-d in all things.
And never grow discouraged
be patient and just wait
for G-d never comes too early
and He never comes too late.

-Helen Steiner Rice

song from dried bones

images

There is a huge thunderstorm near Ann Arbor tonight and the jail went on lockdown due to power outages. All the volunteers were asked to leave.

Although I wouldn’t trade a moment in there for anything, it’s hard and I was grateful for the night off. Additionally a slew of little things that makes me long for old friends in the face of newness here, and has taught me a lot, also has me worn down.

The highlight from this week was I got to go to a class that up until about a month ago was only hosted in the jail, “Alcoholics for Christ.” The jail minister teaches it the same night I do most of my visits and he invited me this past Wednesday, (I’ll have spiritual direction class next week) He has been teaching it for years in the jail, but only 5 weeks out of the jail. He hopes to help anyone, I assume, but I am especially praying for the women transitioning that could go.

There were three of us, all potential mentors, and it was a great chance to get to know each other a little.

We sang a proverb, (17:22 – A merry heart is like a medicine, a broken spirit dries up the bones, but a merry heart, (merry heart merry heart) is a medicine.) It was like something they’d sing at this family church camp I went to as an adult, the weekend before my husband went to the hospital. Three years ago nearly to the day last month, (Aug 9th, 2011.) He died Sept 11th of that same year.

And that’s the bittersweetness that haunts me a little, like Jim. I’ve been told many times that you can only do things when you are ready, but often that seems to be said to soften the blow.

There is some of my life that is no fault of my own, how I was raised, but at the same time I was also raised with a lot of freedom, security, and encouragement. Perhaps not always in the healthiest direction but with the best of what my parents had.

The difficulties I’ve very recently stem from a disconnect of expectation and assumptions made that I am grateful for but confounded by. It is easy in the jail because I can so easily identify with the sin, dashed hopes, and desire to turn from it, start over, allow God to make things right, with a raw honesty that does break through at times and other times is less so, yet those times of exposed brokenness show incredible potential that ring in strongly to when I first was in such a place or when the Spirit shows me a new area to prune.

But that’s the easy life giving stuff, (at least from my perspective). The challenge for me these days is dealing with the people that have stayed on the beam, not dealt with consequences, are doing good and mostly have, though they struggle. The gold and silver vessels.

God made my path what it is for a reason and I truly believe that all the stuff that’s bad can have a purpose and some of this allows me to be effective, through His grace, in the jail. But I’m also expected to run in these other circles and I can’t run away from that because God is being very clear that – although I don’t have to be close to people in all these circles – I need to treat them with just as much love, respect, and inclusion.

At the same time, I have these sudden flashes of memory, riding in the passenger side and hearing my husband say, “I hope you don’t want to get out of this situation” in this teasing knowing tone. These moments were so frequent when he was close and even when I could just get him on the phone his voice would bring me home.

I remember a Thanksgiving in my thirties when I was at my cousins and my cousin, her children, and my aunts were at the grocery. I was marvelling at how similar one of her children was to me, and my grandmother, and commented to my Aunt, our resembances. “Neat, isnt it?” My aunt was kind in her tone but I also got that it was abnormal for such a reflection to be new to me, but it was.

Out of respect for them I can’t blog the details or what has happened more recently, except to say it’s a reminder of who I am and where I came from brought right up to today, wrestling with simple kindness and instead of being comforting, longing for comfort from a true friend that I would give anything to see.

I can project and rationalize, distract and work, and read and hide and serve and stay out in the open and never can I go around the simple truth of what is.

Father God I trust you with my past, present and future. That all the waywardness can be worked together for good, what I do about what I’m currently being given is, even amid my fumbling, acceptable to You, and that the direction You are leading is that of fulfillment, because You can’t do anything else. Help me to make decisions to be in the best support for the women that will be in this house and for me. As I wrap up with the Sunday School and begin to network more for the transition ministry, guide every step and grant that I always fear You the most. No matter how churches, grant I only obey Your lead, and, at the same time, never dismiss Your support from Your church. I love you, and trust You with my life. Amen.

beginnings

600px-Germinating_seedling

 

There are a few things I’ve noticed about growing things from seed.  I get very excited when they first sprout and it isn’t long before they open and are shooting up.  But they come to some fragile stage and most of what I’ve tried to grow dies.

Most of the women I have been working with, as I see them transition out, lose that fierce hope that no matter what they say, will become a different thing altogether once they have real choices to make.

My house is mostly empty and I’ve been working and praying on this for a little while now and feel very much like this seedling, not yet opened, just burst out the ground and a bit fragile.

I’m writing this blog to keep a record of the fact that I want faith that God won’t let me get smushed, wither away, or simply give up.

Today I had mostly to rest, reflect, read, listen to the rain on the roof, and pray.  The overall sense God gave me was not to miss this unique chapter.  And yes, He knows that  – as usual – I’m discontent with things the way they are, but that’s not so unusual, for me.  And the yes that I give Him in little ways as well as these bigs ones, should not escape my attention.

For now there’s no floor on my floor, very little furniture, and only a few noises of life –  Ari’s bell on her collar, and the crickets outside.

But I should not mistake the sparseness for being overlooked.  It’s just the vessel He will fill, He can use, He will work in.

Father God, I thank you for hope, promise and for the starts – as hard as it is to allow them because I have to accept what is done really is no longer in front of me.  But I also see, Lord, how you’ve woven the past into who I am am, and how both good and bad colors, creates, directs my  decisions and what it is I notice along the way.  Like the guest book wedding gift with only the names of my small wedding party.  Now it can be a real guest book for the ladies that will come to stay or go.  You are working it all together for good.  Grant i don’t even lose sight of that.  I look forward to Your next move.

first week

307763_10150321665211977_167357336_n

“Yet what happens in the first week meditations on sin is the subtle but effective cultivation of imagination and consciousness. To reflect on the classic stories of the sin on the fallen angels, the sin of Adam, and the catastrophic destructive acts in history is not only to experience horror and grief, but also to know the disappointment of what might have been and has not been realized. Combined with the cultivation of the unfailing power and loving care of G-d, and leading into reflection on the meaning and impact of the events in the life of J-s-s, these meditations on sin are also an invitation to imagine the world and one’s own life as becoming quite different” Monika K Hellwig, Sojourners 1991

The first time I tried to do the Spiritual Exercises, I had found a copy of my husbands – right after he had died – and took time to meditate on my own and got very scared and agitated. A priest told me to stop and read about St Therese. I did.

Fast forward 3 years and I am enrolled in a class to become a lifeguard – that is – a spiritual director. One of the two texts we are reading is “An Ignatian Spirituality Reader” by George W Traub, SJ.

It occurred to me how entrenched I was in the disappointment of what might have been even though I couldn’t have possibly been aware of that at the time. I’m not starting the exercises or anything, just reading a little about them now, in preparation for my first class on Sept 10th.

God is transforming my life into something completely different. I realize now that my fear of getting married was that I would fail to be the person in the relationship I needed to be and I would marry someone that wasn’t a good match. Not only did I make a good choice, but I stepped to the plate in a very hard circumstance. And then in days, he was gone. Just like that.

I have to believe that the cumulative fear for years of evading this kind of intimacy has consequences. But I also have to believe that it doesn’t matter how severly you have “missed the mark.” He will and does restore.

Father God I cling to your promises and trust You with everything I have. This life is already worlds different. As I continue to step forward, I call on You to rush in. Thank You for Who You are and what You are doing. Grant that this house and all You’ve called me to with ministry brings even more people to trust You with all they have, and much more.