Worry comes naturally for me. If you ever need me to worry about something for you, just let me know. I’m already up until the wee hours wondering if I have enough air pressure in my tires? Was the truck making a funny noise this morning? Pffft. That’s the easy stuff in comparison to the relational worries that create cobwebs in my brain.
– What if someone has subtly conveyed judgements concerning me and I’m unable to defend myself?
– Or worse, what if I said something hurtful and we never got a chance to work through it? Maybe I was jealous or spoke out of frustration and yet those words are lodged in the foundation of our relationship now. I have a few of those scattered around the world so don’t tell me I’m being ridiculous.
You’ll have to agree that neither of us lives our lives in such a way that everything we say is lovely, and every bit we contribute is graceful.
Oh be real, would you? I am over here plowing my way through this life trying to avoid bludgeoning people with sharp objects when I don’t get my way. It’s not polite to scratch people’s eyes out when they are not nice. Mama told me to be a lady. And so that is what I am. But it doesn’t mean the “want-to” goes away …
Maybe you are a better person than I, but it’s there in the midst of that heap of words uttered and opinions undefended that I finding myself longing for God. Big G-o-d. He has to be big because life is messy. And I crave the fresh air and Father-will-sort-it-all-out kind of care that I find in the presence of the Lord. Plain and simple, the stuff that keeps me up at night is just too much for me. I have to trust Him.
Only He can make heads or tails of all that we bring to Him. Only He can cause us to wait quietly for justice, or gently send us back with an apology when the time is right.
He is a God whose nature it is to make all things new.
What is it about living life, and the way we throw ourselves into the unanswered question so FULLY. We immerse ourselves into the unknown, and wade through until we become the answer. It’s true. If you look at Proverbs 8, Wisdom speaks about how it existed from the beginning of time. When God the Father inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, at the time of Creation, Wisdom existed. Further examination of Scripture will show that this is actually the voice of Jesus talking, and He was with God at the time of Creation. Jesus is Wisdom. To the extent that we continually receive Christ within, we receive Wisdom. And we become enough to face our unknown circumstance.
Christ in you, the Hope of Glory. That is the mystery.
“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ― Elisabeth Elliot
No matter what our age is, life hands us unanswered questions. The impossible, implausible, unfathomable – you go first – situation.
We are forced to realize our inadequacy and our dependence upon God. The thing is, He loves this! Father God loves when we can come nose-to-nose with our vacant spaces, and look to Him to fill us with Himself. Our needs are what make us love deeply. It makes our lives rich and full when we see the end of ourselves; when we see ourselves in another, when we can tap into a beloved friend’s strength and become woman or man enough to walk this stretch of road.
Mastering the unknowns might give us life experience. And it might make us feel a bit needy.
But most importantly mastering the unknown makes us beautiful.
Late in the evening, long after the sun has kissed us all goodnight
The moon rises, his hue soft and deep, enfolding me with his dusky rays
Bending round the clouds and trees, he shows me.
Creation alive and vibrant, and yet at-rest.
Ceasing from her labors of the day, she rises to her reign at eventide.
The owl in the old tree next door directs the symphony of the night.
His strategic and penetrating wha-wha-who-who-who is heard above the Mockingbird’s insistent chatter.
The crickets join in at the chorus, my eyes twinkle and my ear strains to hear who has the melody in this cacophony of sound.
The owl sings to his mate in another tree as the breeze flutters the ears of the fawn who munches mindlessly in my garden below.
She lifts her head and swishes her tail and, assessing she’s among friends,
dips her head once again to focus on her feast.
My Clematis bush shudders as its blossoms disappear with a munch.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you didn’t care so much what other people think? You know, if you just followed your dreams, and perhaps irreverently bailed? Or took the plunge? Or bought the field?
Recently I’ve been pondering something Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was a missionary in Ecuador during the 1950’s. He died at the hands of the Auca Indian tribe with whom he was trying to share the love of God. Jim had loved and courted his wife, Elizabeth for many years. Elizabeth’s story of waiting on God has deeply impacted my life. But together Jim and Elizabeth prepared for God’s particular purposes for them. They had been married not quite two years and had a daughter, Valerie, before Jim’s death in 1955.
When I ponder Jim’s words I am forced to remember that I cannot keep the things that I collect in this life. Once I’m gone, my earthly life is over. And it will not matter what you stuff in my pine box it will neither influence my journey nor bring me back to life. I have loved ones that would say, “Security is everything.” I would challenge that. We perceive a level of security we simply do not have in this life. I can spend my life amassing millions, expending relationships and exploiting friendships in my preference for money or security. But in the blink of an eye, through no failure of my own, I can find myself penniless and on the street corner. I will not live my life in the pursuit of security.
In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, it talks about a treasure in a field.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
There are two interpretations to this parable. The first is that we are the treasure in the field, and that God the Father gave all that He had ~ namely His Son ~ in exchange for us. A price had to be paid in order to rescue us from death. He paid the price for us. And we are God’s treasure.
The other interpretation of this is that the Son is the treasure. We are the merchant and when we discover the mysteries that point to Christ, we are completely overwhelmed. And we are so moved by the mysteries that we hide the treasure in the field. We then sell all that we have in order to gain our treasure, Christ.
The reason I prefer the second interpretation is this: it is only when something is exceedingly valuable to you that you will make terrific sacrifices in order to make it work. We can know, deep down, what it is we value when we measure our sacrifice.
And so it is that we find ourselves walking out these moments alone. Only you can choose to put someone else first in your life. No one can do it for you. Only you can irreverently ignore what people think, and follow the dreams that Father has put before you.
My only brother, Ben, and I exchange phone calls from time to time as our schedules permit. He usually catches me while he’s sitting in traffic, and I’m usually enroute to Whole Foods, for some reason. I’ll sit in the parking lot, and we’ll jaw until I’m approaching mal-nourishment, and then we’ll go our separate ways. He’s 970 miles away, but the routine remains the same.
My conversations with my family are near and dear to my heart.
Instead of clanging about with discontent, there’s something to be said for wanting to maintain what you have in a relationship with someone. We can all look at different people in our lives and wish they were more … I don’t know: outgoing, thoughtful, thankful, affirming. Fill in the blank. We focus on that and lose sight of what we have. Part of the mystery of my friendship with my amazing brother is that we keep trying. We keep trying to stay in touch. We keep trying to be a vital part of one another’s lives. I like that. I’m so incredibly thankful for his interest in my life, it’s crazy machinations and all I’m pursuing these days.
I guess what I’m driving at is that aspect of unconditional love that causes us to stay in relationship because we have something worth maintaining. You know, they say that in the latter days of society, peoples’ love for one another will grow cold. They mean us…that we’ll stop needing one another. I just want to go on record saying that I will never stop needing *you* … My brother. My sister. My friend.
This year, I am going to celebrate you, just as you are and I’m not letting go.
Have you ever had a situation with someone either at work or in an organization where you felt you couldn’t resolve your differences? Never, right? What do you think about it now that time has passed?
Understand that in the 80’s I was a ‘babe-in-the-woods’ socially, and every way possible. I had moved from a rural town in Michigan into Lansing which, to me, might as well have been New York City. I was a young 17 year old, living with roommates, learning to take college classes, catch a city bus, use my paycheck to pay bills … and I wonder why I was stressed! Anyway I had taken this secretarial and bookkeeping job with a firm in downtown Lansing. I didn’t understand office politics let alone know how to surf them. I don’t recall the specifics of what happened but interpersonal relationships were too complex and too volatile for me to navigate and so I gathered up my things and left.
I had no perspective of unfinished business.
I could pretend that the situation was one of injustice, but it probably wasn’t. I could pretend that the situation was spiritual, i.e., this was happening because the other people weren’t ‘saved’ or ‘spiritually mature’ like me, and so this was all satan’s fault. Many times my reasonings around a situation are there to cover up my failures … perhaps sarcasm, disrespect, bad attitude, lack of humility. If I over-spiritualize the situation then there is no need to expose myself. Leaving abruptly, whether from work or a relationship or even a conversation with a friend, ensures that I won’t need to expose my shortcomings. An awesome defense mechanism, by the way.
If we believe in carrying the Kingdom of God to our workplaces then the way we handle things will be different from what seems most natural. Instead of demanding our own way we invite a conversation, share our ideas and risk rejection. We verbally acknowledge our failures and make ourselves vulnerable. We trust the Lord to work things out but we don’t hide behind spiritual fences. We let people see us as the mess that we can sometimes be. We fail in front of them. We succeed in front of them. And we let them wonder about our giant God.
Recently I began a new project at work. The purpose is to design a document management, collaboration, and workflow system using a platform comprised of Microsoft SharePoint, Workflow Foundations, and SQL Reporting Services. Nice. Fun, actually! I haven’t been this excited about something at work in a while.
The combination of technologies is somewhat new for our department. I’m not sure why, but it seems like my name is associated with phrases like, “We’ve never done this before” or, “We’re the first in the industry to attempt this.” and my favorite, “This isn’t technology anymore, it’s art.” Yet, implementing new technology and automating business processes are what make my world go around so I’m game for trying something new.
So, technology as an artform. Discuss.
The thing is, technology is art… except that it’s beauty is nearly always hidden. A well-designed system or application rarely gets much attention. A poorly designed system gets negative publicity and rarely recovers, like Vista without service packs, for example. Or what about the systems that we use everyday, i.e., Internet Explorer 6 or the new 7 (slick!). Mozilla Firefox and the latest version of iTunes — will they ever reach a steady state? I digress…
I’ve heard it said that many do not acknowledge beauty in their work because they do not perceive themselves as artists or their work as art. Engineers, architects, programmers, and a myriad of others in the geek squad, daily make bridges stay put when I drive over them, make buildings stand up, and make things work when I click the [Enter] key. But the thing is, I expect the bridge to be there. I don’t know why but I expect Starbucks to have an ambiance that invites me to sit and chat…never realizing that the midnight oil was burned in order to achieve it’s design. And, lastly, I’m not interested in artistic aspects of my online banking system when I’m checking my bank balance. I just want it to work. And yet, the crisp fact that it calculates my withdrawals correctly implies that a DBA has been hard at work. For all you techies out there… there are fewer things more beautiful to behold than a good ER diagram plastered across your wall.
I would say that we fail to perceive the beauty of our work because our work lacks exposure as a thing of beauty.
And beauty is still found in the eye of the beholder.
What is it about the rain that it seems to wash my soul, along with the landscape? It rains and I’m suddenly motivated to clean and organize and set things right. The Vibrunum in the front yard received an extensive haircut but I managed to hold off on the Hydrangeas that have refused to bloom in two years. I adore Hydrangeas. Obviously we’re not getting on well, however, and the rain makes me decisive. They need to go.
If I blame the rain for this piercing sense of direction, what is it that keeps hope alive? My experiences and memories as I trip-trop through life fan the flame….and bring desire for tomorrow. This collection of sensations and perceptions are stored far from my loping shears. Imagine if I went foraging through my soul with this same kind of tenacity – snip, snap, snipping away at this precious pile of moments. You see, the courage for the days and weeks to come is fueled by knowing that I am loved, seeing my breakthroughs in the past, believing I am safe….free to fail.
Hope fuels courage.
Hope’s flames are fanned in the smallest furnaces. I’ve been hearing a woodpecker in my yard. I suspect that he was responsible for drilling the substantial hole in the bird feeder. But I was fond of his contribution, nonetheless. He makes me smile as he rat-a-tat-tats. The poppies I’ve recently planted are just beginning to come up. Soon they’ll swish their fancy skirts in the breeze. I caught a glimpse of a robin yanking a worm from the ground …half its bird-weight in worm! What a catch! Seriously now, that’s akin to finding a pair of lovely heels on sale! Or arriving early for a library book sale.
Hope. It’s not joy. It’s hope. It’s the visceral belief, a sub-conscious knowing, that my contribution matters.
Yours does too.
When I was growing up, one of my favorite books on my parents’ shelves was The Family of Man, a compilation of photographs created by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art. In my family, reading is a rite of passage. We’re the type that would ditch the heirloom china but nearly come to blows over the tattered copy of Harper Lee’s legendary book, To Kill a Mockingbird or a first edition copy of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. So it was a bit surprising to learn that this tattered book of photographs had not yet been spoken for, by one of my siblings.
This past week I leafed through the scotch-taped pages of photos. Would that I had Carl Sandburg’s skill of describing the intensity and the atrocities, the deep love and profound beauty expressed here! There is one photo in particular that has lingered in my mind’s eye throughout my life. It’s a picture of a naked baby sleeping on a bed while her mother hovers nearby, gazing at her. The adoration in the mother’s eyes is unforgettable. She closely resembles my own mother, when I was small. In the center of the page is the timeless passage,
Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh . . . Genesis 2:23
Imagine the wonder of a young child as she looks through a book and sees this mother saturating this wee one with love. Amid all the hustle and bustle of life, a little girl forms her own beliefs about love and belonging. She becomes convinced that she is pictured there, along with her very own mother. That is how this book came to speak to me so much. If this publication really depicted Family, and captured foundational truths like Love and Beauty through the simple and wordless medium of black-and-white photography, and I was pictured in the book (…smile) then naturally I was part of the Family, and I was loved. And beautiful. Isn’t it amazing how we form our belief systems?
It makes me wonder how we communicate these foundational truths to those around us?
In her book, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard writes,
“I meant to do a bit of good today. Instead I keep thinking: Will the next generations remember to drain the pipes in the Fall? I will leave them a note.”
Ms. Dillard has aptly captured the essence of the things that so often fill my thoughts, the need to drain the pipes. In an effort to break away from the mundane, part of me wants to shout, “I’ve seen I AM! Now I know that I am Loved!” And then, too, I want to create quiet moments. I want to hover over the babies in our lives, gaze into their eyes and saturate them with love.
Remember your mother’s distracted promises, “We’ll see…” or “Well, we can’t now but perhaps later…” And then you wondered exactly when ‘later’ would come to pass?
Seems like I haven’t changed much from when I was a kid. “Later” means this afternoon possibly, yet still today. Certainly not into next week or, God forbid, next year. There’s no time with God, don’t ‘cha know? He created everything! Time is like a play-thing to Him. So when we stand around stamping our feet, and I know I do, He smiles at me. One of those long blinking smiles, in the way that you know that He’s got a totally different grid on this thing than you do…always. And, to be fair, He has a delightful way of making you forget the long weeks, months, and years of waiting and growing into the shoe size He’s got in mind.
There’s something to this idea about resting in my Father’s purposes. I remember when I was a child I used to walk with my Dad, standing on the toes of his steel-toed boots. Hand in hand, I’d ride while he’d stride. Yup. It worked. It took effort from both of us to pull this off. I had the tricky part of balancing. He had the difficult part of essentially carrying me. Hmm. My heavenly Father is much the same way. I have to keep my eyes on Him, and not try to pull my own weight. To rest is tricky. It’s not unlike waiting.
One of my favorite authors, Bob Sorge, said of waiting,
“How to wait: Run after Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Waiting is aggressive repose. Waiting is stationary pursuit. Waiting is intense stillness. Waiting is vigilant listening.” [italics mine] — The Fire of Delayed Answers
How does one stand still and still pursue? And how did stillness become intense? This reminds me of how things become upside down in the economy of God. The last shall be first. The weak become strong. It’s here in the Kingdom of God that pursuit is stationary and stillness is intense. May we pursue Him with all that we have, all that we are, and He’ll meet us more than halfway.
“May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.” — Deut. 33:12
May you dwell this night between the shoulders of God.