Hope = Waiting

Photo on 7-22-17 at 5.13 PM

This is my alarm clock.

I am about 100 pages into a great book called “12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You” by Tony Reinke.  If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a good, (easy), read, neither pro or anti smartphone.  Reinke deals with the smartphone technology as a reality that needs to be addressed in new ways, and he warns in the intro, the book will (only) appeal to people who “welcome self-critique.”

This season of my life allows for and maybe is for self-critique and one of my attachments to having the work iPhone near bed at night is because of the gentle way the alarm wakes me in the morning.  (It’s some piano kind of thing that starts softly and gets a little louder and is much less alarming than any alarm I’ve owned or own.  As a side note, I’ve only had the iPhone -my first smartphone- since the new job that started late November last year, so this alarm discovery is still newly appreciated.)

The same week I got the book, I was listening to the radio, and Luis Palau’s segment came on and he said the Hebrew word for “hope” is the same one that is used for “wait”.  This truth has stayed with me and continues to root around inside.  G-d is using this word to make me realize that even if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, waiting on Him must result in reward, especially if you can’t see it.

As I shelve my work phone for the weekend, (ringer on in case work actually calls, which has only happened once so far on a Saturday), and avoid the temptation to access all the distractions it can suck me into totally unrelated to my job, setting the alarm clock to ocean waves for tomorrow, I’m also attempting to remind myself that emptying my life of these instant fixes makes room for His Spirit to continue to purge out the unnecessary and fill in the joy.

In this quiet, I’m reminded why I got this house; and, though the path is still (excruciatingly) unclear, its not at all as empty anymore.  It’s not just the furniture, (though a wonderful improvement.)

The good parts:

  1.  My plants are growing like gangbusters this summer in the room that used to be porch.  I am going to have to repot nearly everything again by fall.

2. and 3.  2 new residents, very low maintenance and formerly feral cats, hide mostly in my basement still; but, they are incrementally less afraid of me.  Appearances are getting more regular in the light of day and the empty of the house feels more … expectant.

Not so good part but good will come of it, I am sure.  A daunting realization has moved to the forefront of my consciousness. My guest room, the master bedroom, has unearthed a sense of failure.   Not yet can look like a no.  Catching myself daydreaming visions of what home should be and letting it die to what actually is is not failure, it’s surrender, once I let Him have it.  This is a dying seed time.  Growth is inevitable.

More to come.  In His time.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts After “Beatriz at Dinner”

This movie attracted my attention because of the lead actor, Selma Hayek, and surprised me from start to finish.  She was fabulous as expected, but everything else unfolded new, bold, and clear.  It made me laugh out loud at times.  It also filled me with anger, disgust, sadness, shock and, beautifully, when I was laughing, I might be mad or sickened at the same time, (but not in a South Park – I shouldn’t be laughing way – in a looking in the mirror and have no choice to laugh at this kind of way).  This movie was layered yet simple, and provoked a lot of  (well-deserved) response.

There was a part of me that knee jerk reacted to it – the bobble head Buddha, the references to reincarnation, what I had learned in college is a writers biggest mistake – but then the story, the images, the reflections of our world, changed my mind. This is a must see as a conversation starter.  This is a movie, (at a minimum), an American Christian should see with someone else, preferably someone not born here, and start talking.

The honesty reveals a disturbing reality that is an inevitable conclusion without allowing for grace and trust in the truth that all suffering is not what we do alone and is not without purpose.  In the end, (not initially), I adored all the uncomfortable situations the film created and it was very smart, …but it totally missed redemption and hope.  Unfortunately, it seemed to suggest that if you are on the losing team, you will win for losing once you are dead.  This is the only criticism I have of this film.  I also wish there were more Christian films so artfully and thoughtfully done.  At the moment, I can only think of one that was as good.  I hope that changes.

Muddled Mystery

124722-1855395076-2-575

World magazine had an ad for a book released this year called “Silence and Beauty” by Makoto Fujimoto, reflecting on an earlier classic called “Silence” by Shusako Endo.  Not knowing anything about either, I started with Endo’s story and could not put it down.  Although disappointed with how things turned out, it struck me how overall on this narrow path we take, that can often, (though does not have to be), the case.  Serious themes came up about how important it is to stand fast in the faith, and if it’s something worth dying, or allowing others to die, for.

Fujimoto makes some insightful, (and beautiful), points about how people uncomfortable with ambiguity can be quick to judge.  Security can be a motive, not love, when setting boundaries and standards, and all of this reasoning resonates with me.  Yet, at the same time, I am a member of a church that probably has more quick to judge people in it than those tolerant of gray areas, though, (and I hope this isn’t self-deception), that is what makes membership more difficult for me.  My other (best) option is a parish that embraces mystery and all kinds of sin too.

I cherish Endo’s book as one of the best I’ve ever read, and yet, at the same time, I believe that the priest, (Fr Garrpe), that followed his sheep into the sea set the best example in it – not well developed characters I guess I was supposed to be most impacted by.  It stuck me there is a parallel between my value of the Scripture as authoritative and the conviction to not recant my identity in Christ.  The twist that you don’t die, but someone else will, is what muddies the waters.

Additionally, from what I understand of the Jewish law and Jesus’s emphasis of its fullness is – no matter what, if you can save a life, go ahead and break whatever commandment you need to to preserve life.

Knowing all of this, just as there are deal breakers for me, (Jesus was a fully divine and human being that literally rose from the dead to free us from sin), this issue falls into that deal-breaker category.  It is difficult for me, and though I have deep compassion for the agony that goes with not making the best choices, I don’t think I could live with myself after recanting my faith.  I hope I never have to find out.

 

waiting

images

 

After listening to the readings from this week, what stayed with me was the amount of time that Elizabeth had to wait to have a child, and how long Simeon had to wait to see Jesus.

I have read these stories like breathing; not thinking, getting the promise in the next verse which may have taken years.

As I plug along, the Spirit keeps reminding me how long it may take, which I don’t want to hear, but also am deeply assured by this week because my stubborn heart took a hit.

The deepest joy and best feelings come when something you thought (that is good) would never happen does indeed happen.  Perhaps it is true that a lot of good won’t happen in this life, but, every time we pray Thy Kingdom c0me, that’s what we’re asking for, for His good now.

There are a few things that are going to take a lot longer than I had hoped, but my hope is starting to shift.  If His best is a fullness like described in these stories, even if what is in my own life is so small by comparison, that’s what I want.

Father, we want You to come soon to mend this world, but also wait with joyful expectation as You accomplish things greater than what we’ve read about and beyond what we an imagine.  Praise You for the way you set things up and the beauty of a long awaited need fulfilled; Your justice and mercy, Your truth and Your love.

 

 

 

trust

4d0af8e8b5bfd6b8f0f47e4dd0d22358

A few days ago, I read If, and now am including one of those statements each morning with my prayers.

Life has thrown me a few more curve balls this summer, and given me a lot of time to spend with Him.

He’s still at work on this house and all my angst, doubt, questioning, focus on what went wrong,  -maybe I had to do that, but maybe not.  In any case, I’m staying put and not veering from the vision He gave about it because He started this is still at work.

Mostly, I’m amazed that He chose us to live in, work to bring about everything good He wants to do.  The more I focus on how much He loves me, every part, the more I am sure He’s in the lead.  Although it wasn’t my choice, it’s a good thing I got slowed down to pay more attention.  There is unique beauty in a desert.

metacognition

conversation-timrb-55444602@N00-217448857-flcikr-ccbyncnd2

 

 

I’m taking classes to become a spiritual director, to help me with the volunteer work in the prison, and one of the assignments – since the bulk of the work centers around listening – is to record 5 conversations that you are not participating in.

Since I don’t live with a family, they told me I could record TV conversations.  I don’t watch TV, except when I am binge watching Once Upon a Time which I try not to do, and because I felt like I was somehow accepting a lower level of person by doing this, (as if by living on my own I am somehow inferior – especially since I’ve worked so hard not to and yet still do) – I asked if I could record other people’s conversations that I didn’t know.  I didn’t come out and ask if it was okay to eavesdrop but I got permission for this assignment.

Since then, at a few coffee shops and groceries, despite our love of computers, iPads, and iPhones, I’ve gotten 4 good conversations down.  In the coffee shops there is music overhead and that, coupled with the fact that my note-taking skills have degenerated, a good percentage of some of these talks are muffled or missed.  What is amazing, surprising, and even moved my distracted self into spontaneous prayer in wonder at His creation of dialog in general, is how much more is communicated in what a friend of mine told me is “meta-cognition.”

This friend was going on about the evils of Facebook and why he objected to email initially, and although I understand and respect what he was saying there was definitely a strong part of me far too dismissive of his grief over what we are losing.

The four conversations so were as follows; female contractor going over the renovation of a man’s kitchen, (who always seemed to try to bring into question her competence, though she clearly was not in danger of losing the job for any reason that seemed understandable), a group of three women listing the faults of some poor man named Sean, a young man seeking help with dealing with his aging father from a man who could have been his father, and a new volunteer undergoing training in an office quick to point out what she had experience with.

The subtle depth that seemed to shout from these conversations nearly made me cry.  The relational dynamics were so apparent and yet so little of these came out in the words themselves.

It also struck me how a basic common sense understanding of our Lords love for us was absent, with the exception of the man seeking counsel from the older one, but his countenance was such that it seemed as if he was not sure of it, like hope was grasping at straws.

I am ever more convinced of the rich harvest, my blindness to the amazing grace of Gd in my own life, and the assurance of His hold on it.  Even with all that’s happened these past few months- getting laid off, getting hit by a car on my bike in a crosswalk, being disappointed by people supposedly anointed,  I am incredibly rich to know where I am going.  Even if everything I am doing is wrong, there is great power in being able to admit it and to simply turn.  The ability to recognize and accept reality as things fall out – even if not in your favor, is like winning.  I hope I am not sounding like I have it all together or that i am better than people in denial or that i don’t have my own areas of denial.  I have to write this because – it’s discovery for me.  I don’t know what the next steps are, but He is increasing my trust that He’s at work.

I’ve changed the house so that the upstairs rooms and be rented out and I can also collect unemployment until at least the end of the year.  I try to apply for a job every day.  And I am going to continue to listen.

Father, Your word assures us to trust in the unseen.  Thank You for showing me how this is literally true in our conversations and how much we communicate in what we don’t say.  Help me to shine You without words and without thinking.  You have made an amazing place here and thank you for it.

A Sunday conversation

floating-cyclists

 

Recently I was listening to a friend talk about someone he loved who was addicted to substances and his own powerlessness regarding the relationship, which was especially painful since he is a mentor to her son.

Intellectually, I know that only Gd can save her, show Himself to her, give her the grace to allow herself to be free.  But listening and watching, it took everything I had to fight off the impulse to fix or save or do something.  It required a death in his own self to admit he could do nothing and I too have to die to this idea and continue to trust Gd – making myself available should He give me the opportunity but ultimately to surrender the healing work to Him.

Thomas Green writes about a surrendered life as like floating.  An active state requiring our complete focus, physical effort, and surrender.  Listening last Sunday gave me this sense.

I stand in awe of His death, and it’s purpose.  I am in doubt of my own ability to share in that, even though I know what’s.  I pray He will continue to transform me.

Two Worlds: 1 Cor 13:12 and other reflections

reflection10

Azar Nafasi writes, in her novel, “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, “There, in that living room, we rediscovered that we were also living, breathing, human beings…. An absurd fictionality ruled our lives.  We tried to live in the open spaces, in the chinks created between that room… Perhaps one way of finding the truth was to do what we did: to try to imaginatively articulate these two worlds, and, through that process, give shape to our vision and identity.”

Lord I see two worlds – the one defined by others of Who You Are and how Church should be, and who I should be in it, and another like the “reflection in the mirror dimly”or refracted light or an image out of focus. Perhaps that is what it was for You not to be recognized in Your glorified body on earth.  The former world is chasing religious life and to be caught up in others’ perception of my role.  The latter is with Whitney, a kindness to a coworker, making mass in a full day and seeing You meet every need when I don’t believe it as You change my mind.  The former, I am protectively clinging to my practice, worried about disruption.  The other, I am keeping an eye out for You or allow what is to reshape my day.  It is not that I am to remain as I am and continue to do just this, but that I am to remain awake, needing no rushing for fear of losing but that all my haste be from the joy of being unable to resist Your movement.  Does the latter need to be born out of the former as a new covenant emerging from what You have kept hidden until the proper time?  May my eyes be fixed on what You might think, make me unafraid of anyone’s reactions as I stay true to Your formation of my mind, soul, heart, and steps.

Ready….Set…

table

As of today, the Jimmy B house has successfully housed it’s first resident for an entire month.  This is an all time record for me for helping out women transitioning out of prison or jail.  Not that I’ve given it a go more than a few times before, when I was renting and decided it wasn’t a good thing to put a house that wasn’t mine at risk like that.

I have a contract now, and might use it for the next potential person, who is making her way out of transitional housing and may visit the house this week, but I am not familiar with her story yet beyond that.  In the contract, which seems to be a working document that I change as I go, there is a disclaimer that if anything should happen, I will move my mom in, they can be released from the contract.  There is still so much unknown on that front, but time will take care of all of that.

The ever persistent message from my Lord is to trust Him with all of it.  I’m reading a series by Beth Moore with one of the ladies in the prison I visit, and it’s on the Psalms of Ascent, (120-134.)  You read and pray though 1 every 2 days.  He is speaking so clearly to me that my entire perspective is inside out or upside down or some sort of off that is entirely contrary to reality.

Every time I pray “They Kingdom Come” it is happening.  As time passes this place is getting closer and closer to the Messiah’s return.  I tend to think things are getting worse as worse, yet, when I reflect on my entire life, Gd has only been making it better and better.  He is a good Gd, working all things for the best.  It took me way too long to get here, but somewhere, not just in my mind, but deep in my heart I am actually starting to believe in His goodness.  It’s tiny but it keeps sprouting.  It’s like, most of the time my thought life is wrong and then I get reminded and its a mini flood in my heart.  As in heaven is real time true on this earth.

I’ve always been hung up on the when, or being wrong and then throwing out the idea.  There is a part of me that wants to say it’s happening in my house now because circumstantially things are going well, but that’s not it at all.  The biggest victory is within my own heart, and maybe for awhile that’s the only one I can be sure of, but I choose to believe, despite anything I think, feel, suspect, ponder, or see, that the better is active and at work.

To be continued….

 

hopeful in the dark – held

5027923_orig

The good news is that my mom is responding really well to some medicine for her memory.  At the same time, I am in the dark as to a lot of the hows and next steps.  As always, though, what’s right in front of me, with much relief and thanksgiving, I can do.

There is always a tension on what to let go of and what to hold on to.  Most of the time, I can just be held these days. I know that where I am is not forever, and yet –  just as I can’t abandon this vision the Lord has given me for the house, I am at a loss how it can all work out with this new challenge.  I trust him as I’m blindly moving forward and He’s providing continually, with so many friends that seem to know about things regarding how to deal with this next chapter, answering questions before I can even ask in a few cases.

Been foraging the neighborhood to keep the woodstove going and bring down my DTE bill, and recently a friend has offered me wood to get me through the rest of the winter.

Recently a friend of mine at a “Hazikkaron” or communion service asked a thought provoking question about evil in the world, as we discussed the gospel of John.  Later that week, I heard this for the first time on the radio, and  – given all the questions and His stubborn hold on me, I wanted to post it here.

Father, thank you for holding on no matter what –  increasing my trust You and keep at me – always.  Thank You that my mom sees this disease as an opportunity to be more dependent on You, seeking the gift in it.   Make ways for me to be a continual gift to her in that.  Build up Your kingdom here in my house here and hers there, this and her neighborhood, our world.   Grant all of our hearts receive Your ever strengthening hold.  If only my heart could hug You back.  Come soon.