Thursday, April 16, 2015

De-Winterizing the Heart

I start to peel back the plastic and adhesive
that clung tightly to my windows this winter.
The sound of it pulling off of the frame is
as satisfying as the sound of popping bubble wrap.
It is like pulling off a bandaid after the wound heals:
It is Spring, and I no longer need the protection.

While I know there may be some cold snaps yet,
I do not fear the chill as I might have months ago.
My body is acclimating to this new state of being,
I am stronger from the winter solace.
It is Spring, and warmth is coming soon.

I crack open the window and a cool pleasant breeze
flows into the room, refreshing the staleness.
I hear birds chirping and see the brilliant sun setting
over the beautiful city skyline I call home.
It is Spring, and I feel the hope in the air.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life is like riding a bicycle

"Life is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance, you must keep moving."

I loved this when I saw it this weekend on a trip with my mom and some other ladies in Berlin, OH (Amish country).

There are times in my life, when I need my training wheels, when I need someone, God, a friend, a family member to hold me up and keep me balanced.  But when the training wheels are to come off, I need to keep moving or I will tip over.  If I'm too afraid to start, I will never get anywhere. If I'm too afraid of where I'm "supposed" to go, I'll never get there.

We all have seasons in life, and I feel like right now, I'm starting to get back my confidence and trying to not rely on the crutch of my training wheels.  In my spiritual life, I have been agonizing over my lack of prayer, my lack of discipline.  I wonder about the "right" way to do it. I worry about going the wrong direction and relying too much on my own power and getting into a accident because I went the wrong way.  I forget that the "wrong choices" can often be teaching moments and point me to turn around into the right direction.  Sure, it'd be better to avoid them, but if I'm not moving because I'm afraid to fail, I've failed before I've even started.

In a way, it's better for us to see God as a parent who wants us to always come to them in all situations like a child.  But God also wants us to be able to ride that bike without needing their hand on the back seat. To be sure, God is never far in case of trouble and to cheer us on, but perhaps we need to have more confidence in ourselves, in our God-given ability to make good choices and to do good things? This does not mean that we don't need God desperately, it just means that like recognizing a health practitioner's God-given talents to heal, perhaps we need to see those qualities in us and trust them as though they were the words of God saying, "do this," ?

So for me, right now, I'm finding this "keep moving" mantra to be very helpful. God is good about letting me know when I need to turn around or avoid a pothole or go in a different direction when we need to, it's the staying still that keeps us from moving or growing.  Or not getting back up when we do fall down.  I think that is often how our faith plays out: moving forward in confidence that God has our back as we keep going, keeping open to new directions as they present themselves and listening for God's voice if we do need to go in a different direction.

I do think it's also dangerous to be puffed up and think we are beyond God's help or guidance or rest.  This in itself is a balancing act.  Gratitude is the key: it's where we take our own efforts and bring it back to God as the source of our abilities.  When we live in gratitude and humility, it becomes less about what we are doing and how we are doing it, and more about enjoying the experience in the moment.  When I've ridden my bicycle, there are times when I'm too focused on the destination and technique and time that cause me grief and frustration, or there are those enthralling moments when the wind is in my hair and I feel free and overwhelming gratitude.  I think that latter example is how God wants us to enjoy and experience life.  Not that all is daisies, but gratitude, when it also applies to the hard stuff in life, is a powerful thing that can drastically change our outlook on a situation.  We keep moving, but we keep moving in gratitude and awareness.

Just keep moving, y'all.

EDIT: I realize that this post is almost counter to other posts I've made and maybe swinging more on the Free Will end of things (here's another post where I talk about that paradox of being).  I'm not sure how to square these two realities: that I need God to even breathe, but I have been given Free Will too and I have a sort of power on my own, limited though it may be.  I feel right now that I'm more on the side of the pendulum that says to "move" and "act" and be confident in the abilities God already gave me.  Also, there is my relationship I have with God...I do believe that sharing life with God and recognizing the "God things" is more the point of our faith anyway.  It's not really about doing great spiritual things, it's about growing closer to the heart of the Creator of the Universe.  The action and gratitude can then come naturally out of that relationship.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home

I just had a wonderful weekend with some wonderful ladies in my life (including my mom!) and I referenced Richard Foster's book on Prayer.  I realized that I had referenced it quite a bit in recent posts over the past couple years, and have mentioned that I can never seem to get past the first chapter on "Simple Prayer".  While I think it's ok to be "stuck" in a phase of prayer, and indeed, as Foster says, we will probably never outgrow this type of prayer, I think using that fact as an excuse to not get through the rest of the book is doing me a disservice. :)

So going back to a long gone post, I think I shall pick up this book again and give it a go.  I will try to read a chapter every week or so and attempt to just focus on this form of prayer for the week.  And write about it!  Of course I will always come back to the beginning, but at this point in my life, I'm ready to keep moving forward.  I desire very much to start digging into spiritual disciplines!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Fourth Station of the Cross

Fourth station of the cross - Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
Luke 23:27-30
And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

This is admittedly, one of those strange prophecy sort of things that Jesus has said in the gospel readings.  For my church's 3-hour Good Friday vigil, artists were asked to create their representation of various stations of the cross during the first 2 hours and then we placed them in the last hour.  We only read up to the first bolded part on this station.

I mean, what do you do with the rest of it?  Every depiction I found on the internet showed Jesus with his cross casually slung behind one shoulder while addressing a crowd of properly mournful women.  No artist seems to touch the rest of it.

Come on Jesus, I know you are suffering and all, but is this any time to be saying these weird future voodoo things?  These are not very comforting words!

I looked up some commentary on the verse and found some interesting thoughts, particularly on the last sentence: "For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

At first, I was led to believe that Jesus, having not sinned, is the green wood.  And him saying this is essentially saying, "If even I am being put to death, then how much more terror will come onto you sinners in due time?"

Not really satisfied with this explanation, I'm wondering if this really means, "Since I'm am with you and they are putting me to death.  How much more suffering you will experience as my followers when I am not physically with you?"  As we know, many of his early followers faced similar or even more cruel deaths at the hand of the Romans.

Or perhaps he is simply seeing the the future destruction of Jerusalem as happened in 70 AD, a mere 37 years after his death?

I don't think I can entirely unpack this passage...that's the tough mystery with these prophetic statements.  Whatever the true meaning (and there may be multiple) it is interesting that Jesus would take the time to teach women even as he is going through his own suffering and humiliation.