Goodbye and Hello!

 

Untitled design-4Moon begins his leisured descent. Ducking and diving through pocket of cloud, the gridded panes of my window defining the distance. My eyes closed in prayer distracted by the movement, not wanting to miss the bright and beautiful dance. Smoke from the neighbored chimney misting the full moon’s surface. The otherwise dark morning a perfect palette to observe the unfolding journey.

That moon-man’s direct gaze, his face level with my eyes, staring, undoing, defining. That funny looking man opening my heart, observing the inner workings. Like The Truman Show, is everything a set? A plan? Is my life just part of this divine arrangement, my movements, my pain, my joy all predetermined by some Being somewhere? This God who knows my every step, my every word? Is He/She/It just waiting for me to settle in, to claim the space for which I was designed?

I hope not, it sounds so boring. This moon reminds me how small, how ordinary, how significant I am, simultaneous but not random. A beam on me alone, in the company of millions. Direct spotlight shining, brightening the spiked naked branches, house rooflines, my under-caffeinated sleepy face. Moonbeams punctuating darkness, uncovering the hidden. Skittering and cloaked creatures disclosed.

This light, a disservice. Much I’d rather keep covered – motives, attitudes, lies, pride.  Oftentimes the revelation of our truth and mess disconcerting, the darkness masking those pieces well. We are all human – even the saints among us have murky corners.

I do long for authenticity and honesty, I think this is where we gleam, where we heal. My temptation to prefer surface existence – I do my life, you do yours. We accomplish our things that make up a day, earning a good and worthy existence. Sports, meals, movies, groceries, church and school, work. Our days tick, like clockwork, crossing items off the never-ending piles of lists, moving about with no real thought to eternity. But this moonlight tells, nothing is immune from revelation, all things have the potential to be uncovered. Motives will pop their little heads out of the hole. Failures lying in wait to ridicule. Distorted whispers of our fears.

However, the light ushers remarkable grace alongside the radiated betrayal of secrets. Whispering, It’s okay, I see you. You are so beautiful this morning. Thank you for seeing me, for recognizing my light. Grace whispers warmth. Grace calls out and says, Hey, stop hiding. Share this with a safe someone. Relief is ready. Grace, also a cloud, covers the light when it is too much, buying us time. Grace allows us to move at the proper pace, prodding without pressure, an insistent and merciful invitation.

The man creeps North with calculated determination. Mountains anticipating the drop, their work to cover, to hold the shiny orb, bearing the overwhelming burden of illumined responsibility. Nearing the time, my eyes fuzz, multiple moons emerge. The perfect circle’s descent speeds pulled by the mountain’s magnet, sinking halo wrangled.

Sun ascends in the opposite East while the moon is but a slice, gleaming with gentleness and warmth. Paths cross, a brief high-five slapped while trading places in the waning darkness.

Life, the balance of light and dark, the careful measurement of what we reveal to others about ourselves, what we reveal to God, or what we choose to hide.

The final sliver has parted, creeping behind low-lying cloud, below the jagged and premature mountainous horizon. Sunlight inching up and up, the dawn of a new day. Grace, always grace.

Good-bye and Hello.

Stupid Beasts

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She was affixed to the post, her snout clamped down with the halter. The doctor searching without success for a leg, a foot, an ear, nothing. Her womb appearing devoid. Waffles undergoing a simple examination is nothing short of an adventure. Bucking and snorting, the untamed ewe a rare and discomforting experience for all, including the veterinarian who not only examines sheep, but raises them. The harness grounding her, fear and terror written across the whites of her wild eyes. Waffles’ only goal, to evacuate the puny stall, to obtain her freedom from the perceived harm harassing her wooly form, the harm of care and provision, the harm of health and needed vaccination.

“Dumb animal.” What the doctor muttered, without subtlety, under his breath. The depth of his frustration apparent.

Sheep are dumb. His announcement, a lightbulb moment, a reminder, making sense of the events. Dumb animal. Attempting to clear the four foot gate, to escape for the field, head still attached to the post, her display of force walloping the gate, dangling by a single screw when all was said and done. Her thick 180 pounds enough to break the barrier but not enough to fray the roped halter and earn her escape.

My novice shepherd-y visions of serene pastures, beasts lying in vibrant, luscious grass, the portrayal of Psalm 23 perfection hijacked by harsh reality. My idyllic perception drowned by snorts and bucks and internal cursing, pungent and intolerable odors, poop piles, urine soaked straw. Humility hovering upon my shoulder, whispering not-so-kind thoughts into my ear. Serenity sacked, Waffles was not the gentle creature of my conjured dreams.

Wild-eyed Waffles, narrating the fear that sends me bolting. The adrenaline and sweated palms, the shortness of breath and sinking sense in stomach’s pit. The knowledge that life as I know it has changed, that no longer can I claim normalcy or monotony. The fear that creeps like a thief in the night, crawling under the sheets and into the mind’s eye, threatening to unravel my rest, my calm, my restoration. The fear that I am in this alone, no one else could understand the depth of pain, the anguish of my soul.

Waffles’ shepherd was incapacitated that day, in bed with a fever, unable to participate in her beloved sheep’s care. The shepherd, in her patient manner, would have spoken with love, with soothing words. The shepherd would have stroked the wool, she would have cooed and clucked with kindness and generosity. Instead, poor Waffles got a fumbling me and a down-to-business veterinarian. While Waffles would have remained terror stricken, she would have been comforted, she would have been treated with mercy – for Claire knows her sheep. Claire adores her sheep.

Can we even comprehend how known and adored we are?

I found myself unhappy and discontent this weekend, without reason. My health good, home secure, family and marriage solid. I have purpose as a mother, mutual friendships. I have hope. Yet, my sense of longing threw me. Why? I have more than most and everything anyone would want if they’re into the quasi-farm thing. So what is it?

My hunch – I have become reliant upon impostors. I have trusted in the security of my government, my solid house, my budget and bank account, my assumption that I will grow old with my husband, my health. I have put my trust into emptiness, for aren’t we all dancing a precarious dance? This life holds no certainty, no entitlement, for none of us is immune to suffering, to loss, to tragedy and disappointment. And so, we live in fear. We live scared because our dedication and sacrifice, our self made selves and our assumptions of fortune could leave us stranded. There is no return on investment. Our impostors don’t love and provide for us, protect and insure our sustenance. Our impostors ask for more and more and more. The relentless call to prove our worth and self-protection. Fear whispers the sinister lies, fear hints at the falsehood – it’s all about us, our effort, our gain, our portfolio, our winning.

I forget, or maybe I never knew the desperate love my perfect shepherd has for me.

Even when the way goes through

Death Valley,

I’m not afraid

when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook

makes me feel secure. (Psalm 23:4 MSG)

I pray I will know how loved I am, now and forever. My daughter, Waffles’ shepherd, a tangible example of this love, no matter what her sheep do, no matter how they fail or fall she will love and provide for them always. For this is the most certain thing they have.

Facebook & Me.

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Sunday was a huge deal for Broncos fans, the Super Bowl, a national holiday. Grocery stores flooded, parties planned, alcohol consumed.

Our house invested little into the affair. We held no party, a dedicated grocery store visit was not initiated. Orange does not hold honor in our home, with the exception of an occasional shirt stripe. Licensed gear is nonexistent – not even a sock or hat. I admit, we are not exemplary fans, we are along for the ride, enjoying the hoopla and excuse for a lazy Sunday evening.

Throughout the game I perused social media. I meandered the halls of Facebook, observing friends and their celebrations, the jersey-adorned gatherings, orange in abundance. Snapshots of chips and dips, beers in hands, bodies piled together on sofas. My feed littered with celebration, with sunsets, with gatherings. It could have been us, but we chose different, we chose quiet.

Something commonplace happened, something I am reluctant to see but ready to admit. Social media has the power (given by me) to steal my joy. Our decision to have a quiet evening became not enough. Our situation turned sorry, sad, wrong. Eric and I alone, on the couch, while the children dispersed themselves throughout the house and neighborhood. The absence of Bronco spirit, the lackluster food display, the empty house an exhibit of our less-than. I became concerned, competition, jealousy rising – kindness, gratitude, grace plummeting. These feelings bore down upon me without warning, coloring the moment, calling into question our value, making our experience not enough.

My under-preparation surged, spectacled under a floodlight. Our simple, low-key, relaxing celebration wrong. Disappointment tinged with “wish I had”, for I believed the Facebook feed, I believed the lie, that we were alone, and everyone else was having more fun than us, the extrapolation, the perpetuation of the false – on and on and on.

How much power do we give social media? How often do I set out on my day and check the feed, only to discover my lack – body, house, children, purpose. What happens? In a hot instant, my life, my choices, my decor, my self is not enough.

I have a choice at this moment, to continue crazy making or to step away. Some days, it’s all I can do to get through, to manage my own issues, my own head, my own people. To look at a cropped picture of perceived perfection might send me on a long, twisting spiral, into a dank pit, where light ceases to shine. Where, according to my reality, I now need to be, to do, to have more.

I confess, I do it too. I put stuff out there, while on one hand wanting you to celebrate with me, I also want to appear together, and better, and awesome. I want you to see the fun I’m having. It’s a double edged sword. I want to see the beautiful things in your day, the people who love you well, the ways you are living and contributing and honoring. I want to know when you suffer. I want to be there, with  a “like” or a “praying”. I want you to feel my love, my support, my encouragement, appropriate for the tenor of our relationship. Sometimes I’m jealous and I have to pretend, but I know it’s the right thing. And when I’m celebrating or given awful news or experiencing a quirky moment – I want you there with me, too.

But, I think it’s often better if I have these realizations in person, with a few trusted people. I want to truly know my people, not know them from a flat screen. I want you to truly know me. Yet, I do know this is an impossibility. We hypothesize, we assume. We function out of our insecurity, out of our story, our mess. Maybe this is why I need to spend real time with you, for, in the beautiful snapshot of one child, I cannot see the meltdown of another. In the pristine and decorated holiday table, I cannot see the destruction of the kitchen. In the picture postcard scene of your latest outdoor adventure, I cannot see the armpit stains and hear you complain of your frozen toes or the whining of your inner voice. Maybe, just maybe if we were together, I would see more of you, your process and your mess. And you would see mine. You would see how I stress and get all moody, how I snap at my loved ones, how I experience the blows of disappointment. You will see me real, I will see you real.

These are the stories I need, and those I hope I tell, for no one gets out of this world alive. We are all in this together, taking care of one another. We belong together, dishing the sordid details to safe people, normalizing the postcard view, reminding each other that no one has a corner on the market of perfection. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, something always has to give.

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Fear…er, I mean…Love.

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I did my usual – tuned into NPR, taking the oldest to school, sharing with him my opinions, him being a good boy, nodding and hmm-hmming, while his thoughts remained upon his pillow. This morning, broadcasting from Iowa where the infamous caucuses were held today, an interview with Hassan Selim, a 28-year-old Imam of the Cedar City Mosque.  I was struck by his gentle, disheartened tone, bordering defeat. Sharing the difficulties many in his community experience while honoring their faith – praying on the airplane, wearing the customary head covering. The violence attributed to Muslims. The burden the community must bear, the blame resting upon their collective shoulders, regardless of the recent spate of violence perpetrated by white males. Mr. Selim, in the interview expressing his desire for understanding, for normalcy:

I don’t know. I’m sorry – I don’t know. It’s very confusing. America is a great country. You don’t need to ‘make America great again,’ he says. I feel more safe here and safe to practice my religion here than anywhere else. This narrative that wants to ‘make America great again’ – no, it wants to make America someplace that is not welcoming, that’s not safe.

I have two little girls. I want them to grow up and just have a normal life…I don’t want them to be making statements about their faith or explaining to people who they are. I just want them to have a normal life.

-Morning Edition – NPR, February 1, 2016

We have a problem. We have prominent Christian leaders and politicians adding to the noise, inciting the masses to fear, to carelessness, ascribing allegiance to prejudicial rhetoric. Our populations which suffer greatest, those comprising the margins, those with a muted voice, who cannot claim white or male or Christian or heterosexual, are at the target’s bullseye. Americans’ safety, the preached reason, but we know better. The greatest disadvantage spilled upon the children, the poor, the non-white. Those choosing this nation for a chance, an opportunity to raise the next generation, to allow hope, to gain opportunity, to sleep warm without gunshots and bombs raining upon their homes and in their dreams. Freedom from starvation, death from needless disease, without fear of rape and trafficking all they ask, all they seek.

Will Christians please rise up? Will we as Christians please prevent ourselves from succumbing to the fear, the hate, the lies? What will we be known for? What are we so afraid of? Losing control? Losing control of our national Christian status?

How I see it – if we cling so tight to our fear, our this is how we do it, we lose. We lose the beautiful privilege of learning from others, of healing wounds. We lose the joy of being present when a miracle happens. We lose the necessary work of giving up ourselves, of it not being about me all the time. We lose the reward of loving others, through living into our belonging together. In the timeless words of Mother Teresa:

If we have no peace it is because we’ve forgotten that we belong to each other.

What does this love look like? I believe it has everything to do with being present, with being honest and humble. Seeking through listening, rather than speaking “truth”. No one needs to hear our white American Christian truth. It is already known. It has been made known over and over again. Our days of needing to shout and evangelize are over. The news is out, we don’t have to sell Jesus anymore. It is finished.

Love does not begin with sharing “the truth”. When we say, “I love you, but…”, we are not loving, we are controlling, we are operating out of fear. Love begins when we see one another, when we see THE other. Stereotypes break down, trust is built, we become lifelines for one another. The beauty of Jesus now.

Love happens in silence and discomfort. Love is most powerful with a listening ear and abundant humility. Love thrives with overflowing wells of grace and mercy, justice, compassion – seeking understanding through honest, well-timed questions. There are many shoes we cannot walk a mile in, but we must try. We must imagine, wonder, empathize. We have to.

Who is in your world, your neighborhood, your school? SEE them. If the opportunity presents itself, make an effort, step outside of the comfortable circle. Or maybe let it begin with a smile and wave. Be the safe place and the light, for this is what we are designed. Start small, just one person loved well is two lives changed, guaranteed – ours and theirs.

Love and fear cannot coexist. Which will you choose?