the root of the matter

ansel adams mountains Psalm 139

God lives up in heaven, right? He’s up there, looking down, watching us fumble around as we serve Him well or stumble, tripping up ourselves and others, making mistakes, doing our best to love Him and others. He loves us and He’s up there, watching.

Right?

And wrong.

Sure, He’s “up” there. But that’s not all.

This morning in prayer, I asked God to tell me something about Him that I didn’t know. I mean, He’s limitless, endless, indescribably infinite, so that means there’s plenty to know and we’ve only scratched the surface. Barely.

In my imagination, I heard Him say, “I live in the roots of the mountains.”

What?

I pictured the home of Tolkien’s slimy Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, the whole scene dark, wet, and assuredly scary.

“I live in the roots of the mountains. And the place you’re standing is holy ground.”

What?

And then I recalled Psalm 139:

 Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:7–12, NIV

 

Suddenly, I recognized that God is here. He’s not up there…well, He is, but He’s not distant and away. He’s everywhere.

He is here. He is here now. And the place I’m standing on is holy. And since He’s right here, He reminds me that He’ll never let me go.

He’ll never let you go, either.

Big collective sigh of relief.

 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:10)

 

dark day

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The weight is tangible.

I wait for the doctor’s report on my beloved stepdad’s surgery. The tumor is small, but could be deadly. Six hours under hot spotlight and cold steel blades.

Will God hear our prayers? I already know He hears. But will He answer like I want Him to?

The weight is grave.

My sister waits, too, tired from her 3:30 a.m. awakening to get to her 4:50 job, driving an hour in the rain to a front desk that pays $8.00 an hour, so she can help buy groceries. Her husband, a faithful youth pastor for a mega-church in the Bible belt, is newly unemployed. Offerings are down, they said. They had to cut back somewhere.

Will God hear our prayers? I already know He hears. But will He answer like I want Him to?

The weight is crushing.

My mother waits in the hospital room, now called to the consulting room, now on edge, waiting to hear, what did the cold steel find? What does the cold room know that she doesn’t’?

Life rains. Life pounds and crushes.

Just two days ago as I hugged the bowl and emptied my stomach with the violence of sickness, sweat pouring, vision blackening, staggering back to the sweat-soaked sheets, I moaned the only Name I know to call. Jesus. Help me.

Will God hear my prayer? I know He hears. But why am I suffering? Why are they suffering?

The weight is crushing.

For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Romans 8:22

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

He who testifies these things says, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Rev. 22:20

I know he hears. I know he comes. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time…and they lived happily ever after. Hopefully.

Once upon a time there were three bears. Or just one. Read more over at Bibledude.

It starts with “Sometimes ordinary moms turns into mama-bears. Just threaten our children and watch us craze.” It explains why there are smudges of dirt over the doorposts in my house. Mama-bear tracks.

Since I’m a faithless blogger here, I figured I’d link to my guest post over there.

And they lived happily ever after. Hopefully.

What I once learned about (cough) servanthood

(from 2009, written and filed away because I didn’t blog then…)

“Lord, I want to be like you,” I frequently prayed. I wanted to be emotionally available when faced with a deadline but friends called to interrupt and chat. I wanted to be kind when the teenage cashier complained about her job, tossing my carefully chosen produce down the checkout line like a bowling ball on espresso. I wanted to be calm when my youngest daughter spent 30 minutes in the hot shower after a $350 electric bill. I wanted to lovingly correct her instead of screaming over the sound of Niagara Fall$$, “What are you doing in there?? Are you sitting in the shower again?? GET OUT—NOW!!!”

And then my husband got MONO.

Did I mention that I worked full time…from a home office…and that at the time the office was in the bedroom? About four feet from the (ahem) sickbed? And that I had deadlines to meet?

He was feverish, weak, sleepless due to sore throat pain, and could barely eat. I scrambled eggs that he couldn’t swallow, washed sweat-soaked sheets, fixed super-healthy drinks that he couldn’t finish, did his laundry, made his phone calls (his throat was too sore), and I wanted to be done.

Our daughter turned 21 during that time and we had a large family gathering—on the back porch to avoid the germs. My husband waved at everybody through the sliding glass doors, then came out and sat on the fringe while she opened gifts. I baked a cake, shopped, wrapped gifts, served his parents cake and hot tea, and cleaned up the mess. I served.

I WANTED TO BE DONE!!

What would Jesus do? The voice inside my head chided.

Jesus would heal that man instantly and we’d be done with this mess! The other voice inside my head snarled.

Now, now…relax…this is only temporary, said Good Voice calmly.

It’s been a week and it could go on for months! Bad Voice griped. (By the way…it did go on for months.)

The doctor said he might be better in a week. You can do this with a good attitude.

No!! I want to be done! I can’t serve anymore!

There is an old church chorus from the 80’s that incessantly swirled in my brain; the tune was stuck there and I was tired of hearing it. The words went something like this:

If you want to be grea a-a-a t….in God’s kingdom…learn to be the servant of all… 

I think Good Voice was trying to torment me, because Bad Voice wanted to slam that song into oblivion and beyond.

The tune is stupid and the words are so…80’s!

Bad voice! Down, girl!

Stop. Breathe. For a moment I silenced the voices and let rational thought take over. I realized that I hadn’t slept well since he got sick. He tossed and turned so I had headed for the couch—nothing compared to my lovely bed. My schedule was upside down so I had missed my devotions. I loved my time with my Bible and journal; regularly scheduled for the moment my husband left with my daughter for work and school. By that time I had taken over morning mom-taxi, leaving devotions for another day. I’d had no alone time; no silent household to cocoon my home office. No time for God’s word, no time for me, not enough time for deadlines, only time…to serve.

I looked at my husband. His misery was complete, his pain and fatigue so great, and he could not escape it. I tried to put myself in his shoes. They were not pretty shoes. I realized I’d much rather be healthy and overworked than sick, having to rely on someone else’s kindness to get me through the day.

“Lord, help me to be a servant!” I cried, my spirit sending up emergency flares. “My mom was a servant…why can’t I be one?” My husband interrupted with a small request; could I get him some cold water?

“Sure,” I answered. I handed him the water with a quiet smile. He knew nothing of the Voices. Some things are best left unsaid.

“Lord, help me to be a servant!” I cried again. Silence. Then a thought, perhaps it was an answer from the heavens.

“You are one.”

“But I don’t LIKE it!” I whined.

“But you’re doing it,” He whispered.

“Can you help me do it with a better attitude, then?” A little less whine this time.

“I AM,” He said. (Something He’s said before, in fact. In Exodus. To Moses. Who also whined.)

I cut myself some slack, remembering a verse about being a “doer” of the word, not just a “hearer.” I drew fresh strength from Him.

“Honey, can you…?” my husband called at that moment.

“I’ll be right there,” I answered. I went to him, humming quietly, “If you want to be grea-a-a t….in God’s kingdom…”

love like izzy

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P.S. Click the tee shirt link to order a shirt; proceeds help the family with the costs and complexities of bringing his earthly body home. 

 

A young man lived loud, loved life. I didn’t know him. But I stumbled upon his story, read of his zeal, heard of his passion, observed his friends.

He died on a missions trip to Haiti. In a river.

The outcry in celebration of his life on Facebook hit me. They shared stories of his outgoing quirkiness, his friendliness, and mostly, his love. They all said they want to love like Izzy. Because he loved like Jesus.

Never met him. Don’t go to his church. But still, he’s touched me, too.

Thanks, Izzy.

#LoveLikeIzzy

 

Indescribable

Big love

Big love. A peek into my journal.

How can one describe the depths and mercy and grace that is God’s love?

Lord, your love is indescribable, but oh, grant me words to try. Fill me with inspiration.

Your love baffles, defies explanation, astounds.

Your love whispers, clues abounding in its mystery, yet always slightly shrouded in the quest for more of it.

Your love thrusts hearts into the hearts of others, again and again, multiplying, exponential.

Your love overflows with empathy for the dust of mankind.

Your love erases, wipes away shame and regrets.

Your love paints, broad strokes of mercy and fresh color. Newness.

Your love grows, a seed planted early, coddled.

Your love reaches into dark and desolate hearts with acceptance and refreshing, vast.

Your love erupts from a wellspring of unending flowing, a source.

Your love stretches beyond time to everlasting past and ever-expanding future.

Your love breaks walls built brick-by-brick of hardness.

Your love explodes into earth with grace-filled moments more plentiful than sand-on-shores, powerful.

Your love wraps me in and secures me tightly, an envelope.

Your love lifts the wounded into bright places beyond clouds of turmoil, like wings.

Your love is a perfume to the faithful, a stench to the bitter.

Your love is a foundation, solid, deep, entrenched, unmoving.

Your love fills the bitter cup that compelled you to the cross for me, bitterness.

Your love caresses the soul and spirit with peaceful acceptance, sweetness.

Your love pierces, evokes tearful regret and fresh hope.

Your love is big. Bigger. Biggest. Larger than life.

Your love is safety, a harbor, a place to run to when battles rage.

Your love is free, though it cost you dearly, it bears no price.

Your love is costly, paid in blood and upon that tree, nailed there, yet not held there.

Your love? Desperately indescribable.

funk water

Just came back from a walk in the morning swelter, grabbed a cup, and filled it from the “special” filtered water tap at our sink. If you live in Florida, you understand—if you can get your hands on a reverse osmosis filter and spare yourself from the typical tap, do it.

As the water poured in, I noticed a funky little black slime thing, about the size of a thick thread, hanging from the end of the tap as the water streamed around it and into my waiting cup.

Gag me. It was a little sludge of moldy crud apparently fixed to the inside of the faucet. Who knows how long it grew there, unnoticed, invisibly tainting our drinking water. I toothpicked it out with soapy water, and hopefully can trust the flow as clean enough for human consumption.

Information streams into my brain like that water. It flows constantly as I read, listen, watch, converse, relate, and drink it all in. What kind of funk do I have growing around my faucet? Am I drinking it all in with prejudice smudging up against it? Do I judge, grudge, and criticize? Or is the slime of apathy silently oozing into my water?

Proverbs 4:23 reminds me to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Lord, have mercy! Feel free to stick a soapy toothpick into my heart!

 

The Love Cup

The Love Cup summer 2011

The Love Cup - Summer 2011

I salvaged this coffee cup from a mountain of belongings left on the curb across the street after the family who abandoned the house two years ago came back to empty their overstuffed garage.

Neighbors and strangers alike later culled through the piles, unearthing DVDs, furniture, a laptop, entire bags of clothing (some with tags still on them), boxes of dishes, half a case of beer with a long-past expiration date, overdue library books (one conscientious kid said he’d return them), and so much more that the garbage truck people scheduled a personal return trip with an empty truck.

At first I wasn’t going to touch a thing, especially after roaches scattered when I picked up a box. But this cup caught my eye. I like anything with words on it, and the red cup with the lowercase lettering in a simple font said love.

But wait. Maybe I didn’t want the cup. Sure, the cup says love, a nice enough word, but the family who owned it didn’t know its meaning. Every time I would sip my coffee, I’d probably think of that family and the thoughts weren’t good.

The family was a living object lesson for the word dysfunction. Us neighbors had witnessed police cars, crying, raging, out-of-control teenagers, and the street-side gossip about the strange people in that house.

This was no ordinary family. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, let me just state the facts. The head of the household was a middle-aged African American lesbian woman, a physician at a local hospital. The spouse was a white woman, a professional with a master’s degree who taught psychology at the community college. The two children were adopted as infants and were now teenage girls. Police were called on several occasions because of domestic violence and teenage misbehaviors. The family abandoned the house when one spouse couldn’t take the abuse any longer; either that or she was kicked out, I’m not sure. I hadn’t seen them for a few years until the garage cleaning day.

After they left, the free-for-all salvaging began and now I own this cup.

I decided to keep it, but before I could drink out of it, I made up my mind that something needed to be done about my word association with the family. It’s the love cup, after all, not the crazy cup or the trash cup or the guilty cup

Did I mention guilty? That was my part, and it came from this question: why didn’t I share the love of Christ with them while they were still here? Was there something I could have done to help that family? Ours isn’t the most sociable of streets, and to my discredit, there’s only a handful of neighbors who I regularly speak to. The D.F. (dysfunctional family) wasn’t one of them, although if we were both outside at the same time, I’d say hello and share pleasantries with whoever happened to be getting the mail.

But I never invited them into my home, never invited them to church, and never shared anything deep.  Like the love of Christ, for example.

The overwhelming, far-reaching, dirt-washing, guilt-cleansing, overcoming, tear-wiping, powerful love of Christ.

The same love that snatched me from the pit of drugs and partying and all of that emptiness back in the 80s.

The same love that reconciled my family after divorce threatened to split us apart.

The same love that sustains me on the path to eternity when I feel like giving up.

Meanwhile, I really liked the cup. But I really disliked its roots.

I live with my own dysfunctional people, and as school let out for the summer, I had made a personal decision about something unrelated to the cup. This summer was going to be different.  My teenage daughter and I have this mother-daughter-tension thing going on, and we can rub up against each other like a wet cat and a pit bull, and I’m not saying who’s the cat and who’s the dog, but neither is flattering. Having her home for the summer while I work from a home office means much less productivity and much more potential for the clash of claws and paws. That’s why I had made that personal decision; declaring my own theme for this summer.

And that’s when I accepted my new cup with gusto. I have assigned it a new meaning, and it’s the first cup I grab if it makes it out of the dishwasher in time for the morning ritual. Every time I see it, use it, wash it, and put it away, I think of that family, then of my teenager, then of my summer theme decision, and that’s when I recommit to living a life of unconditional love.

Coffee anyone?