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You’re lying. And so am I.

“The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.” [Psalm 50:1-3]

That’s right. God is never really silent. God is speaking through every atom of every living thing in Earth. God is speaking within each and every one of us. This is not a speaking problem, this is a listening problem.

Me and the Silence by
Stefano Bonazzi

I have been silent for some months. I have not written because of an inner vacuum, not an experience of peace and harmony, but a hollowness of spirit. I have gone through a lot of the motions; I have read the Word and I have pondered; I have attended worship services and I have sung the songs. I have engaged a spiritual director. I have hit a singing bowl and followed its vibrations. I have listened to music. But my mind remains a maelstrom.

The mere chaos of our age is a clanging cymbal. The incessant drone of news and tweets from the White House, always a shock that fuels dismay, chills my heart. The cry of sorrow as the rains engulf our Texas cities is loud and persistent. The anger and violence of Charlottesville clamors like a great cloud of bees, buzzing in swarms and demanding attention. The petty annoyances of broken things and the drama of relationships twang and clunk and slam.

And yet, God is speaking too. God is Present. It is not an either/or proposition. Cannot be.

God is in the terror as much as God is in the peace. Can I live in that paradox long enough to trust and learn and discern? God does not change but is the constant to which I am invited to cling. When Mike died, this was clear to me and I was able to stand. But this external chaos has proved to be my master, a master I must shed. For there is only One, whose love and strength and assurance is is promised and waiting.

With whom will I engage this day? In which river will I suspend my heart? The waters can be

gentle but obstacles will always remain.

I must choose to acknowledge God. In the moment. Discipline is a choice. Awareness is a choice. And somewhere along the way, they can become a habit, a norm.

Right now, I hear God in the dripping of the soft rain outside my window. I feel God in the fur of my fat cat. I hear God in the contented sigh of my sleeping dog. And because the view from my chair in my bedroom snags my shoulda gene (wash my clothes, wipe the mirror, make the bed etc.), I close my eyes and look there, in the wonder of my imagination (that great gift of God) where I can see anything I choose to see.

 

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murphyThat’s me. I’m a bit sheepish to say I started acting like one of the disciples yesterday. And why? Because nothing went the way I thought it would or should. As others might say, Murphy was busy. (If there’s anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard of the adage, Murphy’s Law, it goes like this: If anything can go wrong, it will. Murphy was not a believer, for sure.) Wikipedia says this attitude has to do with a belief in the perversity of the Universe.

And although it may be true that a fallen world may be a challenge, my response to my circumstances is supposed to be different. I should have learned by now. I could have been grateful and expectant; I could have been trusting and at peace in the now. I could have pulled out this scripture:

rejoice“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  [Philippians 4:4-7, NIV]

But I didn’t. Oh, maybe I tried for a little while. The first several hours, I put up a pretty good face, but by Midnight, the perverse universe scored.

So, what did the universe hand me that was so dreadful? Nothing serious, more like a constant buzzing bee. At 9:30 am, I started out on a much needed vacation to a long awaited destination (Alaska). I was driving to the airport and realized I did not have my phonephone. For those who know me, the missing phone is one of my beleaguering habits. My mantra: “Have you seen my phone?” I had to go back home to get it and I lost 30 minutes of a 1.5 hour trip to the airport. It would be close.

I was traveling on a buddy pass. It’s also called “non-rev” by the airline industry (meaning non-revenue), which a dear friend gave me. We would meet halfway and go the rest of the way together to Anchorage. But the hour was not enough. The Philly economy parking lot was maxed out and the bus picked me up at “A” and traveled the entire alphabet. At ticketing, I was shuttled from one line to the other to get someone to print my “quasi-boarding-pass” also known as a seat request for standby. Too late. Too late. I missed the plane.

I could still make it if I could get on the next flight, a couple of hours later. Listed, waited, but missed a seat by one, a captain needed the hop.

The next plane to Minneapolis was scheduled for 6 hours later, there was some hope I could pick up the last flight to Anchorage, or try another connection. My friend suggested I switch to Salt Lake City and then go to Anchorage from there.

Then the weather hit. Somewhere. Not in Philadelphia, but somewhere and as a result, every flight was delayed by one to two hours. Not one flight could connect me in time to Anchorage. Which way to go? Back to the Minneapolis plan or stay with Salt Lake plan?

minneapolis airportAfter several phone calls, we opted for me to head to Minneapolis. I could possibly stay with a friend, not so bad, and just accept the loss of the day. So, I changed and got hit with the fee for re-booking. Then that flight was delayed further. By the time I got to Minneapolis, it was after midnight. And my friend, it turned out, was vacationing in, of all places, Maryland.

Should I stay on the airport floor (they offer mattresses and blankets in plastic, like one might find in an emergency shelter) or bite the bullet and pay to stay in a hotel/motel (are there any motels anymore?) But of course, as one would expect, all nearby hotels were booked. I ended up in a town 15 miles away. Whatever money I saved on my buddy pass was consumed by a night’s stay and a $50 cab ride.

My friend made it to Anchorage fine. And off they have gone to their first moose adventure today. Or whatever it is that people do for fun there.

Rejoice in all things.

I’m at the airport now, waiting for the next flight, the next day and 36 hours after leaving home. Will I make it on the flight? Who knows? Does it matter? In the bigger scheme of things? Not so much. As my pastor says, a lot of my anxiety is caused by FORO (Fear of Running Out . . . of money).

letting goRejoice. Trust. Breathe. It’s all out of my hands. Pretty much, all of it was and is. Except for the phone. That doggone device has got us all hopping doesn’t it? I wonder now, could I have lived without it? If I had gone forward instead of back, could I have done vacation without being “connected?” Was that the real lesson? I think maybe it is so.

That is a lesson that will probably come around again.

 

 

 

 

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Devotional writing is a state of mind, heart, and soul. It’s not something that can be drummed up out of a dry hole. And so it has been with me. Like Hezekiah, I cry out to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” [Isaiah 38:3, NIV], But what was before is not enough. Devotion to God is daily and present. Like mindfulness, it is in the now.

god-is-nature

Oh my soul, sing again in the place of praise to God alone.

Today is not the kind of day I’d expect a rekindled desire to be with God to overwhelm me. My day ahead is a busy day, a hot steamy day, with a pile of responsibilities. And yet, God broke through the mind clutter. Come to me.

My prayer, a simple one. Keep me in the light of your Presence oh God. Speak into my inmost being, Christ Jesus. Fill me with endurance and promise, Holiest Spirit. Breathe on me and in me.

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mother sacrificeSacrifice is a mystery. One of the many throughout the scriptures and human history. I believe people are wired for life. Oh, I know there is still large numbers of suicides, people who chose otherwise. But still, for now, the norm is to live. Our bodies work hard to keep us alive, sometimes under terrific stress and pain. Stories of torture, starvation, and deprivation abound with the resilience of human courage and yes, even faith.

For this reason, in my view, any story of life sacrifice for the sake of another is hero time: people who leap into rushing waters to save someone or, in broader terms, our first responders and military warriors who go into battle for the sake of others, or parents who die while covering their children from harm, or teachers in the face of murderers shielding their students. Something within causes them to act.

Why do they do it? Love, honor, commitment, and perhaps destiny.

In my faith tradition, the story of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) is a story of sacrifice for the same reasons, but for the sake of the many, not just the one. In the mystery of God’s story, humanity needed a reboot. And only by sacrifice would it work. This idea is foreign to our modern culture. And yet, for 2000 years, embraced and believed.

sacrifice2For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin. [Hebrews 9:24-26, The Message]

None of us know what we will do in the face of emergency. Will we rise to the moment? Will I? I don’t know. But I am grateful for the One who did die and rise, bringing the world full circle. And I thank the individuals who model sacrifice as a way of life, for their actions inspire.

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night messages

Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. [I Thessalonians 5:20-21, CEB]

Tonight, in a program about Artificial Intelligence at the library, one of the participants proceeded to tell the group that she was a vessel, a conduit, and a spokesperson for extraterrestrials. At least, that was the gist of it, in so many words. Everyone stared at her for about four dead seconds and then commenced to talk about something else.

I know she felt strongly about this topic but she is probably schizophrenic. And yet I do appreciate her boldness, that she spoke what she heard in her mind. I understand that we must all be mindful of our surroundings and be sensitive to others, but I find I pass up saying or following many “spirit-inspired messages.” They are so ephemeral.

It’s like a creative solution that comes alive in the middle of the night or perhaps in those first waking moments in the morning. If I don’t capture it on paper, it will be gone. When I am working intensely on a work of fiction and I am unsure where to take my characters next, the Holy Spirit often guides, my true Muse. But what about daily life? Am I as receptive to this nudging and problem-solving in my day to day? Do I reach out to that stranger? Do I speak a word of kindness to that customer? Do I spontaneously enter the moment and do something unprepared? Rare.

Perhaps I’m afraid of those same dead 4 seconds, eyes turned to me, expressions of confusion. What did she just say?

There is mystery and wonder to the world of God, the Spirit realm, and the relationship between God and humans. But I have relegated it to safety and the common place.

God speaksOnce, my pastor, Jess Bousa, preached at length about our small thinking and how we almost insult God with our tiny prayers, our limited expectations. God is a big God. God is a miracle working God who deserves big prayers, big visions, and big challenges.

Just the idea of the Noah story tells it all. Can you imagine the first time he mentioned the plan to his wife or his friends?

Certainly, I’ve never heard a inner voice urging me to build an ark. But what do I hear? And for this reason, during Lent, we are called to pray, seek, listen. The next moment of wonder could be around the corner.

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Feathers

Art by Chris Maynard

Art by Chris Maynard

God will protect you with his pinions [feathers];
    you’ll find refuge under his wings.
    His faithfulness is a protective shield.
Don’t be afraid . . . [Psalm 91:4-5a]

I just moved from a very large to a very small one. The moving process is awful, no matter how you cut it unless you know from the beginning that you’re simply packing everything and taking it along.

In my case, I had to divest myself of at least 2/3’s of my “things.” Every day for six weeks, I was having to decide yes or no, take or store or let go. Exhausting. The longer I did this, the more rash I became. Just take it. I even gave away a $1500 bedroom suite. I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t sell it. What was the point?

But there were odd things I couldn’t seem to part with. One small item I packed and unpacked several times: a feather. So odd. It’s a big feather, almost the size of a writing feather. And yet, it’s just a feather. I found it on a beach somewhere, Cape May I think. feathers

I also like feather pillows and I just indulged myself with a feather bed topper.

Forrest Gump, the movie, had a feather symbolically float in and out of the film.

In Native American culture, feathers symbolize the thunder gods as well as the power of air and wind. Other cultures, like the Celtic Druids also wore feathers as symbols of the “sky god.” Some say that back in the day, even Christians took on three feathers as symbols for charity, hope, and faith. That’s a new one on me.

The bird probably thinks differently of his feathers as they are his sole protection, from heat and cold and precipitation. Every bird has feathers and everything that has feathers is a bird. Of course, feathers enable a bird to fly. And lastly, give each bird a unique appearance.

feathers2But what does this have to do with me and God? Nothing much except, this scripture verse has always stayed with me, the picture of safety under a bird’s wing, the feathers covering softly but with strength. When I sorrow, this image is a comfort place for me and has key elements to the Secret Place.

A friend of mine told me a story of a woman who was being sexually assaulted and the only part of this psalm she could remember was “feathers, feathers, feathers.” The attacker let her go.

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reinventThere comes a moment in a our lives when we just know that something has to change. The same choices are no longer working and circumstances are fraying the edges of what has been familiar for so long. Sometimes, it’s a dramatic event that calls us to lay down our cards. Other times, it’s recognizing ourselves in someone else. And still other times, it’s a slow descent until the bottom looms large before us, sure to cause a crash and burn.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. [Ephesian 4:20-24, NIV]

Before Mike died so suddenly seven months ago, after thirty-two years of marriage, we had fallen into a rhythm of the good life. We had figured out who did what and when; we had quietly negotiated the battles worth waging and those that time would address. We had learned to let go of the “small stuff.” We were committed to both our church and our faith and each other. We were comfortable. We were planning our retirements. We were launching our adult children.

Then everything familiar stopped. Oh, there was some semblance of the old life: the house, the dogs, the young people, the work, the church, and the ever present grass needing to be cut. Dishes and dust and laundry  accumulated faster than I could sweep them away.

transformBut eventually, I began to see that I couldn’t keep trying to keep the old life. I had to allow a “me” to ev0lve that was not defined by the old parameters. I needed to try on some new clothes; I needed to experiment. I needed to move the furniture.

In my case, this has all been about grief playing out and my moving on. But I’m not so sure it’s dissimilar to someone who has yet to consider relinquishing his or her soul rights to God, to the Christ. We can keep on going for a while, but eventually, the tally sheet of good choices and bad choices is weighted to one side or the other. To move into a life of faith takes some reinvention, some experimentation, some practice.

Change comes from within. Change comes with discovery. Change comes with acceptance–of what is now, so that what could be has a chance to grow. But change also comes with stepping onto the stones of the creek, testing the stable ones and skipping over the wobbly ones. I’m just glad I have that Jesus to grab my hand when I lose my balance.

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