Friday, April 26, 2013

Rising to the Challenge

Our point of view matters.

Are we looking inward or outward? What defines our frame of reference for life's experiences? If we are always expecting happiness and health on the horizon, the outcroppings of disease and distress will devastate every time, leaving us fumbling against failure. If we open wide the lens to take in all that real life offers--sickness and health, better and worse--we learn to appreciate times of respite and grow through adversity.

That's my plan anyway.

What do I know of adversity? There are so many who have experienced deep losses and great heartache that I cannot imagine. Shayne. Carrie Ann and Alan. Jesse Anne. Katie. The list grows as I pause... I dare not put myself in such company. But I believe our preparation for life and our self-talk matters as we set our default position for how we view life.

What informs our beliefs, ultimately?

What anchors us when the storms toss and fear threatens to overtake us?

When we steadfastly pursue a course of walking in faith, we can learn how to take the next step when we think we cannot.

We can learn not to take credit for great joys in life, but to give thanks.

And I have so much to train me, I pray, Lord, in the ways that are for my good and for your glory.

We do not rise to the level of our expectations. 
We fall to the level of our training.

~Archilochos, Greek Soldier, Poet 650 B.C.

He did not say: You will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted; but he said:
You will not be overcome.

 ~Julian of Norwich


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Peace Rose Offering for Nicholas

Spring: when buds turn to blossoms.We expect that; It is the order of things. But then life happens and turns predictable patterns on end.

Vibrant colors and beauty still surround us, even on the fraying hem of a week that quickly came unraveled by bombings and unexpected events in our nation--and more private grief and loss this weekend among dear friends that the news feeds would never pick up--and we still move forward. We inch toward a new day, "...inch by inch, row by row" in  "Garden Song":  nice and slow.

Sometimes there's no other way.

We press on because we have to, because there is no going back.

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
We are made of dreams and bones
Need a place to call my own
'Cause the time is close at hand

Sometimes in the garden of life--somewhere between the dreaming and the coming true--those dreams collide. We face the hard reality of the dry bones portion of life and too many abrupt endings.

While some friends are grieving tonight, others are rejoicing with loved ones, anticipating weddings and births to come in a matter of days, and giving thanks for joys shared today. How can it be that we learn to live well with the point-counterpoint of birth and death, marriage and divorce, joy and sorrow? It is the nature of the rhythm of life, we are told.

We carry these two seemingly-opposite loads of joy and pain as though in invisible twin water urns lashed to ends of a pole on our backs. Sort of a Libra-meets-Gemini as we remember the constellations without attaching any unintended weight to astrology. The two are held in tension always, and we learn to live with the ever-changing contents of the loads we bear.

We  manage pretty well if we can keep life's tempo and stay in step. But when the music stops and we are left standing, or when we falter under the unbearable weight of loss and become set off balance by the load, we unravel quickly.

When we risk coming apart a bit ourselves and opening our hemmed-in lives to share the load of others, we can help bear--even if ever so slightly--the cares of another.

So we roll up our sleeves.

We get on with the business of being a friend, of loving and serving with abandon, of risking becoming disheveled and tear-stained. Because there is no other way to share a heavy load on a long road with many a winding turn.

I believe two truths to be bedrock: God is good, and Life is hard. They do not cancel each other out. They do not render each other null and void by operation of law. They are both true. At the same time.

And it is in giving thanks for the goodness of God, experiencing the Presence of God, in the midst of the searing white-hot edge of life that cuts us to the quick, that we find the grace and strength to move forward. Inch by inch.

God hears and answers those who call out to Him in distress:
“I relieved his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from carrying the basket. You called out in distress, and I rescued you; I answered you from the thundercloud.” (Psalm 81:6-7a).

 No distress is too big for God to handle.

Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are brothers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.

Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.

Written by Richard Gillard, 1977, Servant Song

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Morning Surprise

While having morning coffee on a glorious Saturday with the backdrop of a favorite soundtrack [click off ad and let it play if you can] for prayers ascending, I lifted my eyes to behold a spectacular sight: seven brilliant indigo buntings feasted on the Bermuda grass that had gone to seed outside my window!

Luminous electric blue bathed the birds in the morning sun! I have only seen two--ever!--and find these little birds as fetching as their name. Let it roll off the lips--mellifluous as warm honey on a spring day. Such a treat to take in with thanksgiving for the magnificence of nature and the gift of an unexpected blessing in this day off from work.

I had to turn aside to see this great sight.  There are times when we deliberately turn from what preoccupies our mind as we stop in our tracks to notice something extraordinary. I wonder how often we miss the majesty all around us because we are too busy to take it in?

 A quick click of the fingertip told me via National Geographic: I was looking at adult males in breeding plumage accompanied by several first-spring males along with little brown females. Who knew such beauty was right in my own backyard? My mother always says, "What we're looking for is usually right under our nose..."

Steaming coffee, "Gabriel's Oboe" performed on most any instrument, and the sight of first seven, then nine male indigo buntings and several females: I give thanks for life's simple blessings.

I have been contemplating and scribbling thoughts on this passage I share: 

"But these are only hints of his power, only the whispers that we have heard. Who can know how truly great God is?"  Job 26:14

"Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?"  Job 26:14 ESV