Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We Can't Stop This...

The door opened, and it was as though the curtain parted.

I thought she might be the one, but there was whisper of doubt.

I had not actually met her, you understand; I had only been one of thousands who had prayed for her over a long period of time when she was hanging precariously between life and death. Life lived from a distance creates that cushion that sometimes prevents our bridging a four-year gap. But still....there was an unsettling familiarity when she walked into the store where I worked today.

Something in the way she moves...

I am drawing closer, inexplicably. I step into her space and ask gently, Are you Nicole?

This healthy brunette with deep brown eyes speaks back to me, Yes. Her strong body today stands juxtaposed to the fragile one I had imagined during Nicole Marquez's journey back to the land of the living. Flashbacks to her mother's faithful entries flooded my memory as I remembered Susan Marquez's story of her daughter's most difficult performance yet on the stage of  New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Day after day. Week after grueling week. Then month after month... We have no idea what it was like to live it; I only observed from a distance, never as her parents.

I am especially mindful of similar struggles as we enter into the waiting, suffering and praying with others who are recovering from brain surgery and fighting back cancer among our close friends. To have compassion is to enter into suffering, and nothing parts the curtains like prayer. Prayer exposes suffering

Once exposed and made aware, we have a choice to make: Do we have empathy enough to take on another's burdens,  or do we merely stay informed about their status? Is it all about our convenience or about the others' needs? Compassion enables us to experience a portion of the shared burden when we willingly embrace the journey with another. Compassion is a mystery in the making.

I only wrote. I commented. I prayed. I hugged Larry. But I never met Nicole. I was merely a bystander, one of the masses, and I'm not proud of that as I realize that Nicole is standing with me today.

But there she is before me, and I know: I am in the presence of a miracle! A walking, dancing, speaking miracle of determination, guts and Grace of God.

My children know that I've always wanted to be a dancer. But today the real dancer entered stage right and let me rejoice in her spectacular role in this chapter of Nicole's life. It may not be the life she thought she prepared for, but it is the life she is fully prepared to live. Nicole is still bearing witness to the truth of her original rallying cry: You can't stop this dancer!

The day ends with thanksgiving for healing mercies for Nicole and for others among us for whom we pray faithfully. Let us not be too busy to share what we have, for the Lord God will multiply whatever we offer making it sufficient. I believe it. Our limited resources--time, money, talent--invested in God's economy produce an incalculable yield. There's no stopping it!

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Embrace That Will Not Let Us Go

This photo posted by a friend reminds me of a place in Mobile Bay I visited from years past. Destroyed by one of a string of hurricanes, the pier on stilts once provided a lovely walk from a secluded bay house out to the water. Ancient oaks would be just outside the frame of the photo, as I remember the scene...

Such a restful spot at dusk or dawn is just what we need on our mental rolodex to transport us quickly to that place of calm. Calm in the storm. Calm before the storm. Calm that follows the storm. Whatever that place is that conjures serenity and peace, let us practice going there in our minds often.

And whatever our physical location, and no matter our circumstances, we can learn to find a center of tranquility and deep peace even in the very center of the storm--the eye of the hurricane comes to mind--when we turn our hearts toward Jesus and lean into prayer.

Earnest, heartfelt prayer. Not the perfunctory recitals we've heard others use, but our own native language, however halting or lumbering may be our speech. Then, if words are an impediment to keep us away from prayer, cut them out altogether. Sit or walk in silence, honoring the One who sits and walks by the way with us.

May we come to yearn for a time of merely sitting on...the dock of the Bay...with a Friend who knows us full well and loves us without ceasing.

"Prayer is a personal relationship in which you move from a hello of politeness to an embrace of love."
~Maxie Dunnam

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beach Days

Turquoise green surf nibbles bleached sand in the morning. As the sun eases across the southern sky, the wind today whips up white tips in soft peaks: seven minute frosting on emerald waves. I am giving thanks and 'dwelling in the land' of this simple beach. Perhaps somewhat in the manner of Psalm 37, I am definitely heeding the psalmist's admonition to fret not this week.

People find relaxation in different ways, but an uncrowded beach in mild, breezy weather is about as good as it gets to me.

Languishing at the water's edge offers a delightful respite from the rest of life's demands, even if only temporarily. It provides a time and place to pause and take in a different sight. 

Breathe recycled salty air. 

Gaze at tonight's full moon after the Venus-crossing-the-sun episode today. 

Marvel at nature's beauty when seen from a new vantage point. 

No special equipment required; no competitive activities needed by this one to provide a welcome change of pace from weekday routines. I'll leave the games to the laughing, running ones with evenly tanned bodies. I'll be the one asleep with a book in my hands under the shade of a fluttering umbrella.

Having written 'simplify' as a goal recently, I may even take a note or two to share on that point. 


Excerpt from Psalm 37:
Fret Not  was my friend Vicki's sermon title from this passage one Sunday.
When fretting becomes a way of life as it has for so many, this may be helpful to remember. The language is a little archaic, and it speaks too much of evildoers and the wicked for my taste, but I share it as a resource nonetheless.:

Do not fret..... 
Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret —it leads only to evil.

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.[b]
27 Turn from evil and do good;
    then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.

29 The righteous will inherit the land
    and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
    and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
    their feet do not slip.

34 Hope in the Lord
    and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
    a future awaits those who seek peace.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.