His name is John

John

 

Today, listening and reading through the story of when Zechariah doubted John the Baptist’s arrival, and then the loosing of his tongue when he agreed with the Lord’s will, I was both challenged and hopeful.

Yesterday my mom told me she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I’m an only child and she hates the Midwest, so it seems that this house is put on another indefinite hold.

Intellectually I believe we are blessed with trials and He never leaves us in the ashes, and He always finishes what He starts.  Yet, like Zechariah, my emotions  – my heart – say “impossible”.

This is not a case of feelings to dismiss, this is a lack of faith.

This week I also came across this quote from Hannah Arendt.

“Looking back at craving from this Creator – creator context, it will be seen why the self-denial arising from it would be called pseudo-Christian… because the original assumption of this “referring back” … already harbors an intention to comprehend man as “createdness of Gd” (a Deo creatum esse)… Whatever the created is it had first to become.  The structure of its being is genesis and change (fieri and mutari).  The Creator is Being as such.”

This speaks to me of the truth of what is in our hearts, what Gds best is, what He planted.  I’ve heard a lot of preaching and read a lot of what I consider garbage about dismissing them, not allowing them to rule, overriding them with the mind of Christ.

Although I am sure this applies to discipline and self control, I believe that emotion and thoughts are unwise to untie, and that our feelings tell us where we are truly at.  It is harder to accept this for me, because I have to accept that if I believed in the goodness of Gd like I want to be seen to believe, my feelings would spring from that.

It’s easier to say, these are just feelings, I am tempted, and do all this flesh control of it, instead of looking at it, accepting it, and saying to the Lord, wow.  I don’t really believe what I profess.

What is beautiful to me about Arendts quote is that we are created in His image with the potential, because of Christ, to be who He intended with the relationship He longs to have with us.  I can spout that I am blessed with these trials and I trust the Lord with my mom, but can I truly rest in that assurance?

As Armenian as it sounds, I am just going to, as I always do when I find myself lacking faith, act like I do and pray He gets me there.  And as a close (rabbi) friend of mine, even the acknowledgement of the need for growth indicates His grace.

So this blog is entering chapter two, Who’s there.  (He is.  Who is He?  Good, Father of all lights, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, Friend, Shepherd, Rock, Fortress.)

 

 

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literally….

CalvinAmbiguity

Everything has been paused, (outside of work), for me to take time and rest and recuperate from a minor health condition.  Although it’s not easy, to continue to move forward, it’s necessary.  And I’m shedding continually sense of guilt for the rest, revealing how much doing means to me.

With the extra time to pray and reflect and do a lot of quiet things that I enjoy, the Lord has been showing me both things not so great about myself, as well as how far the two of us – (when speaking about us as Me and Gd, what to do with that pronoun remains a mystery to me), have come in recent months.

When starting this blog, my pride – appearing in reverse, as if I was way less than, was the constant struggle.  Now, blessings abound and the struggle is simply to receive the gift.  Sometimes I can’t believe I am the same person and sometimes I groan inwardly because there I am, the same person.

This time of stillness also gives me a mental pause.  There are things popping up in my mind that seem to contradict but actually overlap.  Paradoxes abound and I find my flesh wanting things to be this or that as the Lord uses this and that.  How while being at the same time Gd and man, just and merciful, utterly holy and forgiving, this narrow path, this sharp edge, is pruning out my discontent and distractedness, while at the same time using the energy from that searching to draw me closer to Himself.

Of equal importance, I circumcise my heart figuratively and reflect on the implications that the body, the person of Jesus literally rose from the dead.   The beautiful inerrant truth of His word, in all kinds of ways that it is true, beyond the my interpretation, or misinterpretations, continues to transform my mind, soul and heart, and more recently to show, and I write this not ashamed, but with a sense of relief and peace – (as I have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills), how small I really am and how much deeper there always is.

In the midst of a world in crisis, abhorrent acts, grief the Lord alone can comprehend, the Holy Spirit – in the individual lives of believers and how much more when they come together in unity – is moving; mysterious, beautiful, whole, and encompassing.  May this place eventually n- in His time and ways –  become a refuge, in whatever way He wants, for an expansion of that movement, for His glory and for more in His kingdom.

 

Mobile

No, I don’t have a Bluetooth

When I’m driving I just like to be driving

And walking I just like to be walking

It wasn’t always like this

And maybe it still isn’t for a book to me is like a purse for other women and

Music had to fill all the spaces and still does some but

gazing around everyone is looking down or

off to a place I cannot see at someone in their minds eye

I avoid these distant places and people though they are very much real they are not here

Yet I am the same

wishful thinker

imagining what isn’t mine was

acting when I am to wait

waiting when I am to act

shoulding all over what is

and yet somehow He catches my eye and creates spaces

for turning

for being in a gift and seeing it for what it is

unmerited

lavish

love

And my glance up at the meandering car

with a phone at the ear and a tenuous lane

can turn into a prayer for her spaces

that these people wanting to be anywhere but where they have been placed would be mesmerized by grace

and maybe, sometime after my disdain,

I too will fall deeper into love.

Hope

hope

After talking with a social worker at a Christian medical and dental clinic with a food distribution center, it looks like we are moving forward to work in partnership to provide a transitional faith based home for women after all.

In two weeks, I’ll meet with a woman who might move in.

All the angst and discouragement was not necessary, but – maybe it was so that I could take a good, honest look at my lack of faith and where I need to grow.  I wanted to believe this would happen, it’s why I made this blog, but it’s too small a part of me.  I’ve been praying it’d get bigger.  It really can.

Instead of then feeling worse about my evidently teeny faith, the Lord showed me something reading an journal entry by a famous martyr, who died with Jim Elliot.  His name was Roger.  He writes, days before his death,
“About ready to call it quits.  Seems to me there is no future in the Jivaria for us, and the wisest thing will be to pull up stakes.  Will wait until I’ve had a chance to talk it over with Barb and see what she has to say.  We might pass Christmas here, finish the hospital in Shell, and head home.  The reason:  Failure to measure up as a missionary and get next to the people.  As far as my heart and aspirations are concerned, the issue is settled.  It’s a bit difficult to discern just what is the cause of my failure and the forces behind it.  Since March, when we left Wambimi, there has been no message from the Lord for us.  I just picked up my bible to share with the same Lord who made me a new creature in England 11 years ago.  There was no word of encouragement from Him.  He had kept us safe wonderfully, met our needs, but the issue is far greater than that.  There is no ministry for me among the Jivaros or the Spanish, and I’m not going to try to fool myself.  I wouldn’t support a missionary such as I know myself to be, and I’m not going to ask anyone else to.  Three years is long enough to learn a lesson and learn it well.  Some people are slow to catch on.  It will be tough on Barb and the children, but I’ve always been convinced that honesty and sincerity pays.  The milk is spilled – I’m not going to cry over it.  The cause of Christ in the Jivara will not suffer for our having been there, but I must be honest and confess that it has not been helped.  I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise to many and will only be an ‘I told you so.'”

He goes on like this for a few pages, but this is how it closes

“I will be led and taught by the Holy Spirit.  God desires full development, use and activity of our faculties.  The Holy Spirit can and will guide me in direct proportion to the time and effort I will expend to know and do the will of G-d.  I must read the Bible to know G-d’s will.   At every point I will obey and do.

“The week spent in Shell Mera, prior to this period, when I reiterated many times a day, ‘Thy will be done’ helped much to fortify me for this struggle.”

He stayed and died trying to show the love of G-d to the Auca tribe.

This project is much smaller in scale and not life threatening.  But to know that someone like that was on the verge of giving up, makes it a little easier to forge ahead, with smaller than the mustard seed of faith.  But He’s growing me still.

A good friend of mine recommends an acronym.  PUSH.  Pray until something happens.  That I have been faithful to.  Hoping and praying for more trust that evidences a deeper love.

shared suffering – year 4 and counting

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There was a big part of my heart that was empty and confused after my best friend, and sudden husband, who I had so briefly been reconnected with after 11 years apart, died.   It confounded me at first, but after healing with good counsel for a few years it occurred to me in a quiet time of prayer that I was so terrified to be married that no intellectual understanding, or even practical supportive love would soften my resolve to do something I so desired to do.

Our marriage lasted 19 days.  When I expressed to my pastor at that time that I should have married him right away, as soon as my husband had wanted to so that we could have had months instead of days together, (though we thought we had about 5 years), he emphatically shook his head and insisted that he wouldn’t have married us because I wasn’t ready.  I was too muddled to make sense of that but later I can see he was right.  It was only when it got to the point that it seemed I was about to lose Jim that the Lord made me ready.  Before I thought the pastor might be just trying to make me feel better, for how could anyone respond kindly to such a question, but I see that kind response was also starkly true.  As unreasonable and self centered as it was, there was also some glimmer of hope, buried deep, that the sheer force of this realization on my part would somehow change things.  But all it changed was me.

Over these past 4 years, I’ve continually discovered how deep my love for him is, which is as painful as it is a relief.  It is a relief to know that I am able to allow the Spirit to connect me to someone in the way that the Lord intends for those who mutually choose that.  At the same time, there was this lingering question of carrying the new discovery of what I can bring to relationship with the inability to feel that way towards anyone else.  For awhile I clung to Isaiah, that the Creator is my husband, but there are also all these pieces.  The familiarity of his voice, shared laughter, the comfort of touch, the assurance of sitting near him, knowing that I was the one he wanted most at his side.  I needed to accept the absence of this and the sufficiency of His loving presence without the human nearness, only in Spirit.  It seems He is asking this indefinitely.  It empties me.

Elisabeth Elliot writes, “It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is our acceptance of what is given that G-d gives Himself.  Even the Son of G-d had to learn obedience by the things that He suffered.  He had come for only one purpose: ‘Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O G-d.’  And His reward was desolation, crucifixion.

“Each separate experience of individual stripping we may learn to accept as a fragment of the suffering Christ bore when he took it all. ‘Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows’  This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer.  And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange, gives Himself to me.”

I’ve known the Lord since 1996 by name, but this experience opened a whole new level of intimacy with Him.  I would never have chosen it.  I don’t regret it, I don’t wish it to be different, and I can’t even claim to want it except for the love which I have no words for that I feel from Him that I could never part with.  It puts me in awe of Jesus’s decision in the garden.  It is an honor to share in the suffering and I do have the assurance of seeing my husband again, and then today, I was listening to Francis Chan and he spoke about listening to a homosexual man in seminary describe his conversion experience.  The Lord did not take away his longing for what he know he shouldn’t have, but all that paled in comparison to the mere glorious fact of our gift of His Son.

http://crazylove.org/sermon/334

May my eyes be continually fixed on the gift that cost Him everything and may every thought of my own loss be seen as but a tiny, infinitesimally small bit of what it must have taken an all loving G-d to watch His perfect Son suffer and die.  I am thankful to share in it and built up in hope of the fact that a gift beyond my comprehension brings victory.  Love always wins.  Always.

trust fall

tree2

The first thing to go is the leaves on the oak in the back.

This year she is three,

singing Psalm 1A with gusto.

She is six and no one can guess she spied

with her little eye

the rims on the stroller wheels.

Who knew strollers had wheels anyway?

He is nine and wants a laser security system

for his bedroom because of his sisters.

He believes I can teach him to build it.

The first thing to go was the leaves on the oak in the back.

Last year

the leaves were raked into

where the concrete was –

where I had heaved a mallet

to see it crack

hit again to deepen the break

with everything that was in me –

grief, failure, loss

poured out, broke up, what was impossibly hard

and was left in the bin or around the garden

at the end of the day.

The work made me the best kind of tired

and sleep was sweet again.

The first thing to go was the leaves on the oak in the back.

At a house not yet on the market because their dad had died 3 months before.

All five of them

now waiting, now watching,

now grown, now grieving.

Taking turns to be recognized.

To turn off the stove.

Their mom was sick and the leaves and the silence settled around her –

except sometimes when they would gather into piles

in her memory and the piles would explode

with squeals of delight from an uncovered child

from decades passed.

Five decades and the first thing to go had been the leaves on the oak in the back.

yet

The first thing to go in my perception of fall –

what’s predictable fell to steadfast

unchanging fell to dynamic

disappointment fell to hope

and

The first thing to go will be the leaves on the oak in the back –

and the best things are next.

Hare on board

tortoiseandhare

This has been a most unusual Passover/Easter season for me. My expectations are too gloomy for the Lord and just when I thought things were set back, they sprung forward leaps ahead of the time change.

There were two Seder meals I had the priveledge of attending and now I’m counting the Omer for the first time. This last Friday, I attended was a (Christian) women’s movie night to see “G-d’s not Dead”, (hyphen mine.)

Praying for the persecuted church in the middle east made the University vs the Church a bit of a hard sell in my book. As I shared with my (Christian) pastor’s wife how much I identify with that Messianic community and what they do, (bracing myself for some works based rebuke), nothing came but a laugh and hearty idenfication with my own frutrations regarding inauthentic “Christian” art and worship.

Meanwhile, before all this, the house has seemed to have issue after issue. A (downstairs) door lock seized, the furnace blew, a hot water valve stopped working, the garbage disposal stalled, the dishwaser and stove quit, and there is asbestos in the mastic under tile I removed. Although I have managed to deal with most of it, (furnace done, mastic solution found, hot water valve I have parts just need time, the dishwasher a friend helped replace and the stove and furnace I fixed), all that on top of the larger project of the wood floor was starting to perk doubt in me as to whether this truly was what He’s called me to do.

Today, the pastor’s wife introduced me to a man who let me know that our church’s mens ministry is taking on the wood floor and will finish for me, free of charge. And by the way, if I needed any other help they were at my service.

I wrote in the house’s Facebook group that sometimes we inch along and struggle, but other times, He just swoops in and says, I got this. This is one of those times. I love the Lord that He always challenges and tests us in His plan to make us the best people we can possibly be, and I also love that He is for the weak, to build us up and knows our limits. More to come.

different language

photo

Yesterday, a rabbi and I were discussing different forms of a pronoun, as I had questions about it. He told me that, with the Babylonian exhile, more and more Aramaic was introduced into the bible so that is why there are differnt forms – one Hebrew and one Aramaic.

He also related a story about visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls and taking a tour. The above picture is one he sent from that trip. He was familiar with both languages and saw (at the time) that there were several four letter words with no vowels. He wondered and commented privately to his wife – if that was their word for Hashem, (or G-d), if they had carried on that practice of not writing a name so holy in its fullness, just as they say Adonai instead of Y-hw-h.

Later he found out that is exactly what it was.

He told me that there is also Aramaic in older books like Daniel.

The story jumped out at me and stuck with me in a way that took me by surprise. For Lent I gave up Facebook and took on praying more for Christians around the world, especially the persecuted ones. The idea of carrying on the same practice, even when the language changes, seemed to echo in many questions I have for Him that I’ve not been able to formulate as I learn about Judaism and stay Christian. For example, the Sabbath on a Sunday instead of a Saturday could be seen like that, doing the same thing externally, based on the Father’s principles, just in a different language.

It also spoke to me about the endurance and irrepressibility of truth. In the Catholic transfiguration reading, the phrase about the white beyond bleaching (Mark 9) spoke of this work only He did, does. Only He can transform a heart.

You can change how you say something but not what you mean by it. You can change the language it’s said in but not what it’s meant to convey. You can pay lip service to what you want to convey, but your heart’s motive will remain. Only He can do His work there to purify and cleanse.

I know I don’t have to write G-d and that most Christians don’t and I don’t even think that they should if they don’t know why they are doing it or feel obligated to. I do it out of the freedom He’s given me to accept how He works and because it reminds me of His unfathomable holiness.

It also reminds of a tradition I have fallen in love with because my Savior was brought up in it. I also trust in His plan for Israel and am so thankful for Romans’ outline of that plan.

Father G-d, thank You for your promises. Your truth, and Your incredible company on this journey. Continue to speak to my heart and to Your people that are around me and may we create a haven here in this house that will serve to build up Your kingdom. May it be a refuge like You are a refuge, to heal, to learn, and to go forward forever changed for the better, just as You used my marraige to do that for me. Lead on, Lord. Lead us on.

Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof….

Jew and Gentile

This past Wednesday in class, a Jesuit priest gave a talk about Jesus the healer. At one point he paused and said not to read the bible like a fundamentalist. He was dismissive of certain details. Which ones to be dismissive about was murky.

Today, a Messianic Jew preached about the centurion and this rabbi was very particular about all the details. I felt like scales were falling off my eyes. He talked about how the reading that day from Exodus about Pharaoh paralleled the reading about the centurion, in that Rome was the political power of the day, like Egypt was before it. The centurion could have been like Pharaoh, but he wasn’t.

He sent men out to ask for healing for his servant and then when Yeshua agreed, he sent more men, friends of his this time, to tell him to just say the word.

The most striking thing to me, was that – as Rabbi Kinzer pointed out – the centurion didn’t say he was a man of authority so he knows that Yeshua can say the word, he said he was a man under authority. Meaning – He knew Jesus had the Father’s power, just as he himself had the emperor’s. He didn’t attribute his abilities to himself, but to whom that power had been given.

Not being a fundamentalist about the bible is a deal breaker for me. Slowly but surely, I am leaving the church I want so much to see honor what she has been entrusted with. I get that it’s not a scientific text, and there’s lots I can’t understand or don’t due to context, but ever since my conversion I’ve bet my life on that book. And I can’t run with anyone who doesn’t.

Speaking of people to run with, there is a potential house manager, a friend from Boston with a heart of gold and a strong faith in His word. We won’t know until after summer, but it’s very hopeful. The rest of the house is slowly but surely coming along. My time in the jail and prison is steady and I’ve since connected with 2 more churches that do prison ministry as well. As a visitor. I’ve stopped going to mass for now. The Saturday services has been my home since my last spiritual director went on sabbatical.

There was a sister that used to be my director in Boston I talked to tonight and she said that the situation is the same in that area – transitional homes for men, but not for women.

The reason the centurion didn’t want to have Yeshua over was because it was not prepared for a devout Jew. As I prepare this house for His people, or at least, people striving to be His, who want to be His, I pray and trust His word.

Lord, continue to guide me.

Holding hands

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Last night there was an advent event and the speaker, (women’s ministry), at a local Evangelical Presbyterian church here, (Knox), talked about Jesus giving up all he had to be a vunerable little baby in this hostile world. She also discussed weakness and shared some things about what it was like to have chemo, which was a recent trial for her. She shared how she hesitated about the topic because who talks about that at Christmas, but she saw the parallels that would tie into the theme, which was also included the joys as well as the struggles with expectations of the season.

Lots of memories surfaced of my husbands suffering through his own treatment but it also blessed me tremendously; so, after, I thanked the woman and encouraged her to keep the highs and the lows, what was real. I walked out of the building so much lighter than when I came in. Then I had a good cry at home.

All the stuff at the jail is teaching me to lean into Jesus like never before and the last time I had to let go of this much was not my choice, (unlike now), right after I was widowed. I was carried.

Now I’m walking on my own, but I tend to drift off, as if I can save these people or feel like I need to. But I don’t and that is tremendously liberating as He waits on the corner for me and I rush back to grab His hand and let him carry my pack.

This Advent, I’m learning to walk with Him in a new way, and surprised at how he wants to me to walk now – at His pace. But I do feel still like this child in the picture, not ready to break out on my own, and I realize, it’s right where I am supposed to be. Considering I’ve only done on on ones for about a year now and I’m only part way through my course work for this kind of ministry, it’s good to be in this place.

Also reading a fantastic book, Ministering to the Incarcerated by Dr Henry G Covert.

Yeshua, Thank you for coming here to take on our flesh, the have actual hands we can hold and feet we can follow. I marvel that You gave up the heavens for us and fall down at those precious feet. Continue to guide me in Your gentle, incredible, and renewing ways. I love You.