Sunday, May 23, 2010

Love & War

This morning, I got to witness something so sweet and simple and beautiful and profound. A bunch of broken people got together because of Jesus, sang together, prayed together, laughed together, and offered a sweet fragrance up to God. All because of Jesus. This is church.

And then, without any pomp and very little ceremony, two of our siblings-in-Christ stood up and vowed to live as husband and wife as long as they both shall live. As I sat there and witnessed this union -- Casey in his suit and stately bald head and Kristine in a simple flowing white dress -- I didn't expect it to move me like it did. After all, there were no flowers, no bridesmaids, no Wagner or Canon in D. Just Cesar in his Jesus/Band-Aid t-shirt and Lisa on the piano accompanying Kris as she sang a song based on the book of Ruth: Where you go, I shall go. Your God shall be my God. Your people shall be my people.

And there I sat, crying. It really is beautiful and courageous -- this whole marriage thing. The longer I'm alive, the more aware I become of how ugly and treacherous life can be when lived outside of God's love, purpose, protection, and provision. And that is the heart-rending truth of so many marriages -- they are attempted outside of God's purpose, protection, and provision, and we broken people break each other.

Not that Christians automatically get it right -- the divorce rate is the same inside of and outside of the church, is it not? But Jesus did promise us life and hope in every circumstance. And while I do not know the ins and outs of marriage, I just read a great book on this very subject by John & Stasi Eldredge: Love & War.

Now, I'll be honest, the last thing I wanted to read during this season was a book on marriage. Sometimes I get tired of having to put on the "what can I glean from this even though it's not for me" filter. But I've always LOVED books from these two fine authors -- Wild at Heart, Captivating, The Sacred Romance -- so I decided to give it a chance, and this book did not disappoint. Authentic, funny, personal, and pointed, the book covers everything from the Big Picture of God's design for marriage and Satan's attack thereon to the more practical matters of how to invite Jesus into the daily reality of marriage.

What was even better, though, was that God spoke to my reality TODAY through their writing. I was reminded of how easy it is to develop of way of approaching life that is based on my own strengths and abilities and thereby create barriers between myself and the true Life Jesus offers. I was reminded of the glorious reality that God speaks to His kids, and His kids know His voice, and He has truth to heal the deep wounds that cause all my funky yuck.

My heart hasn't felt this peace-filled in quite some time, which is particularly arresting because I didn't realize how anxious I was about the pending changes this summer will bring. But Jesus knew, and He came for me. In so many ways, He comes for me.

Be encouraged, my friends. He always comes for us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

got nothing

I've got nothing by way of a pithy title for this blog. But I'm gonna give myself some grace on that. My body woke up at 5:45, even though I was up late the last two nights. Silly body. Thursday night was a 1am-er because my sweet Lyndsey was here on choir tour. We sat in the dark and talked and talked and talked; then we ate Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats and then talked and talked and talked. Then I was up late last night because I hosted a relatively impromptu movie night with the Young Lifers. They said, "Hey! can we come over on Friday and watch a movie?" Sure. I made them treats, got pizza, and let them have a pillow fight in my living room.

What's amusing me this morning is the recovery time I'm needing. I love Lyndz and I love my YL kids, and WOW do I feel like I need to do some serious recharging today. It wasn't just those two events that wiped me. On Wednesday, one of my favorite juniors (he's in my 6th period class) stayed a bit after class to tell me that he has a court date, might be sent to juvi, and get a felony put on his record. I didn't ask for a ton of details because, as I sat there, I got all choked up. This kid isn't one of those rough, hard, cynical boys; deep down, he's a poet, an artist, and smart as a whip.... a whip that has grown up in abject poverty with an alcoholic/absent father. I'm glad this kid's best bud stuck around in class that day to work on vocab and that earlier this year they had both been to Young Life, because I felt The Nudge, took his hand, and started praying. I prayed for favor with judges, comfort and courage in the middle of this, but most of all, I prayed against the lie that this is a death sentence for this kid's hopes and dreams. I prayed that God would take this and make it into something powerful and good. By the end, we were both crying.

Two days later, I'm still wiped from it. I know... the lack of sleep probably hasn't helped. :-)

But as I've been thinking about this week -- praying with this kid that I love, listening to and loving Lyndsey, the kids in my hobbit house on a Friday night -- I was reminded of how Jesus loved. He entered our world, He knew who He was and what God had called him to do, and He hung in the tension between the two. As His follower, I've been asked to do the same. To enter somebody else's word -- really listen and empathize and ask questions; To know who I am in Christ and what He has asked of me -- draw boundaries so I'm not trying to be things I'm not (I'm not so good at this, but I'm working on it); To hang in the tension -- be misunderstood or disappoint those who think I should do more or less than what I'm doing, not run away from relationships that are hard, not self-medicate to ease the pain of these realities. I guess, in some minuscule way, I'm feeling the side-effects of loving how Jesus loved.

And in the middle of this week, the Bethel College Choir came to town. It would've been a great event for any person, but for me, it was exquisite. The glorious mixture of incredible music, overwhelming Truth, and sweet sweet memories made those concerts float over and cover my soul like a cosmic bear hug. There's something about Beauty that simply brings peace and rest. For me, this Beauty also brought great encouragement -- the John Rutter song I posted last has such stirring images...

The journey may be long: no end in sight;
There may be hills to climb, or giants to fight:
But if you’ll take my hand, we’ll walk together t’ward the land of freedom.

Yeah - I'm feeling that. How glad I am for the people God has brought into my life who take my hand and help me up the hill, who pick up the sword when I am cowering behind my shield. The hills are steep and the giants tall, but not unclimbable, not undefeatable. And just when my soul is all encouraged and ready to engage, the song goes on....

I touch a distant hand and feel its glow,
the Hand I hoped was there: at last I know.

Oh my soul.... I'm aching for that day right now. Sometimes I skip merrily along through my life, but after this week, I just want Jesus to be here... really be here.... or me be there.... sometimes the ache is pretty strong, you know? I want my kids to have what they need. I want my sweet cousin to have her hopes fulfilled. I want my Young Lifers to get Jesus. And when those realities seem so far away, I long for Home.

Oh the paradoxical experience of being human! :-) All of these emotions and perspectives and whatnot! I'm not even sure what to do with it all.

So I just say.... Thanks God. Thanks for the privilege and pain of being Your light and love at Davis. Thanks for friends and family and the glory of having those two things be embodied in the same people. And thanks for hope that doesn't disappoint, not because life is perfect, but because You are.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Choir Concert... post 1

As indicated by the title, I intend to share more about yesterday's Bethel concerts. But for now, here's a link to some other group singing my favorite new song:

Distant Land by John Rutter.

I see a distant land: it shines so clear.
Sometimes it seems so far, sometimes so near.
Come, join together, take the dusty road;
Help one another: share the heavy load.

The journey may be long: no end in sight;
There may be hills to climb, or giants to fight:
But if you’ll take my hand, we’ll walk together
t’ward the land of freedom.

I hear the distant song: it fills the air.
I hear it, deep and strong, rise up in prayer:
O Lord, we are many; help us to be one.
Heal our divisions: Let thy will be done.

I know the time will come when war must cease:
A time of truth and love, a time of peace.
The people cry, ‘How long till all the world can
join the song of freedom.’

I touch a distant hand and feel its glow,
the hand I hoped was there: at last I know.
Swords into ploughshares: can it all come true?
Friends out of strangers: start with me and you.

I see another time, another place
where we can all be one, one human race.
The walls will melt away,
we’ll come together on the day of freedom.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Never thought of it that way....

My cousin Nathaniel got married yesterday. Funny.... I remember when he was born. I remember calling him Bug (you know... like "Nat" but funnier). I remember him climbing up the stairs at my grandparents' house/antique store calling for my brother: "Bon COOOOOO la!" And now he's married.... like, with a wife and everything.

Facebook is an interesting thing. It opens windows into people's lives that would normally be closed not by volition but by time and distance. I was just thinking today of how many of my former students have gotten married in the last year or so, and the only reason I know this is because of Facebook. While I do not begrudge them their marital bliss, it stings a bit.

I was journaling this morning about this and the other "issues" in my life (i.e. being in Weight Watchers for a year and never once having a week when I actually stay within my allotted points. What the frosting?) and I felt like God said, "Marah, Marah. You are worried about many things, but only one thing is necessary."

So I stopped, and just sat with Jesus for a while. The ouchie of the "everybody else is getting married" thought surfaced and I had a very clear picture of me and Jesus standing beside a rollercoaster. Now, I stinking LOVE rollercoasters and would love the chance to go on some more great ones. But in that picture, all my newly married friends were on the rollercoaster and I was standing there watching them with Jesus. And He didn't say "it's not your turn" or anything like that. The feeling was more like, Marah, I'm not making you wait in some line of indeterminable length for this 'ride' that you want to go on but you haven't met the growth requirement. It isn't like that at all -- that's just the wrong metaphor. And when you allow yourself to think about marriage that way, it'll lead to jealousy and discontentment.

Holy Reframe, Batman. It's the oldest lie in the book -- God is holding out on you. Better get for yourself because you can't trust Him.

(Insert German accent here) LIES! ALL LIES!!!

Truth: I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you HOPE and a future.

Truth: My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory.

Truth: No good thing will God withhold from those who do what is right...... oh, let's get the whole thing in here:

Psalm 84:10-12 (New Living Translation)

10 A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what joy for those who trust in you.