Listen. Unrest resides in our bones. Listen. Life does not have to be that way. Listen. Bernie, Trump, Hillary, Cruz—they don’t determine your daily decisions. Listen. Injustice is battled by big names and big organizations on big stages with loud speakers and fancy bills and ordinances and regulations but LISTEN: that means nothing if we do not battle injustices in the short breath of Tuesdays when kids cry and staff meetings run late with murky agendas and rain cancels practice and you see one woman passed by due to her race, her addiction, her worship, HER WHOSHEISNESS. So listen. Light a candle and be a candle and listen. The shouting voices are easy to hear. But perhaps those are not the ones we need rattling our ear drums. Listen.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
To whom are you listening?
When we lived in Michigan, our closest family member, at least until Jukes joined the Hope party, was 3 hours away. Especially once we and our friends started having kids, we would struggle when friends would mention having regular date nights with grandparents watching kiddos: we couldn’t afford to pay babysitters AND pay for dinner! A luxury. Or when fellow moms would be having a tough day and a grandparent would give them a 30 minute reprieve. Gifts galore. Or on Easter or July 4 or Memorial Day when we didn’t make it to Indiana or New York or Dallas to be with family and we celebrated with a slow day. We were lonely for close ones sometimes.
Now, I look out my back window and see the house my parents and brother live in. And I see my Grandma’s house. Last night, we had to run to Lowes; Mom and Dad watched the girls for less than two hours so our trip would be easy and quick. Tuesday was BEAUTIFUL outside so the girls and I wondered around the farm and stopped into Gigi’s house for a 15 minute visit playing with Ruff (a stuffed dog) and Roar (Winnie the Pooh, of course). Then we all jumped in the van for an ice cream run Tuesday night – so fun! But you know what? Sometimes it just sucks. Like having a long chat with my mom tonight and not finding any common ground, like each topic or idea or thought or feeling we each reveal slams against a brick wall and falls to the ground, not even important enough to be accompanied by a crash or a whisper. These moments the space of Michigan is missed.
I don’t want to remember this right now–I’d rather wallow–but I MUST remember right now that being surrounded is heavenly. That being surrounded by family is intended. That being surrounded may be yucky and emotional and difficult but at the end of days, it will be my family filling the pews at my funeral, singing appropriately replaced words to Audio Adrenaline’s “Big, Big House” as I, I assume, will peer on from some celestial realm, wearing all silk, surrounded by work from Klimt and Van Gogh, drinking wine and eating cheese with Jesus. That no matter how hard I try not to want to, I will always love my mom and my dad and my brother more than anyone besides my hubband and my chilluns, and will always long for nearness to them. Today’s challenge: embrace the surroundings.
How can you embrace those who surround you?
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.
I’ve never been a fan of silence. Starting at age thirteen, maybe younger, I would slide my portable CD player into the waist of my cheer shorts so that I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn in eight hours of silence. I would sing to myself, or recite my next upcoming drama lines, or tell stories to my horse while riding. I never wanted to be alone.
In the literature class I taught today, we read “I’m Nobody – Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson. We chatted about Dickinson a bit, about her extremely introverted behavior. Each of the students discussed how they themselves gained energy and rejuvenation – alone or with people. I so enjoyed hearing them share! I am not an introvert, although I am often shy and prefer not to be the center of the attention. The downside is that I am not accustomed to silence and prefer a bit of chaos.
But a beauty of the season of Lent, or the season of Advent, is the unique opportunity to change rhythms as we prepare to celebrate a new season of immense celebration – Christmas or the Resurrection. The first coming of a grace-overflowing, wine-enjoying Savior. Then the hallelujah of the trampling over death. During these seasons, we take on or take off something to remind of us this change, of this anticipating. We say–my status quo is less necessary than the acknowledgement of this great Story, this good News. Writing these little blurbs every day has been a practice in silence: I step into a quiet space, generally alone, mostly at night, and try to listen for the right words to share. I upset my previous nightly rhythms of games, or TV, or reading instead to speak.
Silence is becoming a little less scary I guess.
What does silence sound like to you?
Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
an oldie but the best representation of spirit :: Raena J, circa January 2015
Raena is thoughtful and creative. Shy but attention-longing. Bright and cunning. Strong and willed. Spirited. All of which cause challenges almost daily. All of which initiate the greatest gut laughter. I would not be surprised if Raena became a world leader, a quiet poet, a famous dancer, a stay at home mom, or a ground-breaking scientist. Her potential is limitless. But my, parenting her is a difficult experience. She challenges me, she finds my weak spots and she pushes those buttons. Since her birth, I have grown more as an individual than I thought possible in these nearly 4 short years. A college professor of mine often said we students would know nothing of sacrifice and surrender until we were married and had children. He was right.
Spirit is strong but spirit is also knowing when and how to surrender and sacrifice. Raena will someday start learning, the way I continue to as well, how to point her gifts and spirit for other-betterment and not self-achievement and success. She’s a beauty.
How is your spirit growing?
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Tomorrow is move day : out of Mom and Dad’s to the Ranch House next door. We’ve all been “project”ing all day. Yes, all. Can’t you see how the girls are helping Jeff un-install and re-install our water filter? Well today was a full day; we needed help. The kind of help that Fazolis and Panera provide. So, I’m walking in helping grace, cheating on my Lenten food rules because I have no desire to cook, and letting Sophia the First and Anastasia be my babysitters. Until another day, friends, I’m signing off for a time of TV, snuggles and hopsation cider. 🙂 Happy weekend!
What kind of help are you receiving today?
No explanation needed.
There is power in prayer
Your Faith is the key,
And God’s good gifts
You long to receive
Are possible now – –
If you will but dare
To take Him at His word
(From a little gem my beloved grandfather, Richard Ripberger, used to carry around in his wallet.)
Today has been a bit of a rough day – not bad in circumstance per se (outside of my favorite pair of pants ripping in the I-obviously-do-not-have-a-thigh-gap kind of way) but in more of a head swimming, not always positive bit of overwhelm. It seemed some certainties were succeeding some seven month uncertainties only to be monkey-wrenched by new questions. Granted, some of these alterations have potential to be direct answers to prayers, but today I am a bit tired.
The day ended with a gathering of the women’s group at our church where we watched War Room. Disclaimer: in general, I am quite wary of “Christianese” films. The dialogue, the filming, oh the costuming. While those aspects of the theatrical art are incredibly important, I would, as they say, throw out the baby with the bath water. But the War Room has a beautiful message though and I loved when the protagonist walked out on to her back porch, yelling at Satan, “You will not steal my joy!”
So here I am with my small found statement of the day “You will not steal my joy!” Sometimes finding joy is difficult, like searching the house for these darn tiny doll accessories, but these accessories make all the difference in the girls’ play. So I should re-read my own thoughts tonight and snuggle up with a cup full of joy and decaf.
What is being stolen from you? How can it be found?
(or Jeff’s question: What do you need to yell at Satan tonight?)
Witness is a term saved for few instances: attending or standing in a wedding, being present at or seeing a crime occur, or acting as a witness for faith. Each carries magnificent weight on an individual’s life—making a lifelong covenant, pursuing justice for a wrong, sharing Good News. Witness is people changing people’s lives. Witness is growing up and down and all around. Witness is living life in community well.
What and how do you witness?
For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.