Saturday, March 29, 2008

Still sleepy

We're thinking of buying a house.

And I can't sleep at night.

I'm lying awake every night this week, thinking of where I would put this thing or that thing... how I would arrange the furniture, how different life would be away from this gorgeous spot in the country.

There's a real freedom to living out here, as opposed to a neighborhood-- when we have all the kids over, or anyone else for that matter, we have loads of room. And we can make as much noise as we want. I remember one party last summer that got really loud outside, people playing soccer and laughing.... People can park all in our long driveway, no blocking the road or figuring out whose yard stops where and where it's cool to park...

Tonight, we're having folks over to watch a movie outside, on the side of the house-- LOVE doing this. Once, a couple of summers ago, we didn't have a projector so one of my girls' boyfriends (now her husband!) picked up the TV and put it on the front porch-- we all sat in the yard and watched School of Rock. It was hilarious.

But would that be cool in a neighborhood? Would it be too loud? Would I just need to pop over next door and let the elderly couple know that we are having our sunday school class (and others) over to watch movies in the yard so they won't think we're smoking hash and sacrificing kittens in the living room? Would I need to make sure that we finished before 10?

We have so much privacy here. And that's awesome-- but it would be so, so cool to have a neighborhood to walk in... to walk with no fear of getting smushed by a huge flying truck (they FLY out here). Long walks in the evening here are not an option.

But Paige and I stood in the back yard over at the other place last night and it was great-- we could hear loads of birds and it wasn't loud-- seemed like we were still in the country, in a way.

Anyway, it's exciting. Mom says that it seems that we'll be just about overwhelmed financially enough to get pregnant on "accident" now :).

Will keep you updated on this process. It's fun, exciting, scary, completely unknown... still waiting on the bank part is a little nerve-wracking, to be sure. The house isn't expensive (well, more expensive than a pair of shoes, but you know) so it shouldn't be hard.... My friend Tara has been talking me through it... I was proctoring an exam the other morning and she and I were emailing back and forth with all kinds of cool ideas for the house (she and her husband are working on their own house, getting it ready to sell-- they went over and checked out this house that we're interested in and saw the possibilities that we saw).

So I'm sleepy. Not because I lie awake worried-- God has provided us with so much. We have good jobs that we LOVE and feel like aren't "just jobs" but ministry-- but because there's this whole new world of things to which I have never had access before... my own walls, my own fixtures, my own hard wood floors.... Like this enormous studio space that is alllll mine. Or a canvas I am invited to work on.

Also, I'll post pics of my latest stained glass piece shortly. It's... I love it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shhhhh...

Here's a secret that most of my kids are completely oblivious to: right now, I am about to have to bring a student to the table where I am sitting (in the library) for making too much noise. It's one particular table. I just gave them the warning. Now, while I wait for them to screw up again, I have to decide: which of them gets on my nerves the LEAST if I have to pull someone from the table? I will be calling over the least irritating student.

If only they knew.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What more, really, can we say?

I live out in the country.

Just a few seconds ago, I looked out to see a car of rednecks flying by, and one of those rednecks tossed a beer bottle into my front yard.

And I had just been thinking about how lovely this day was-- all sparkly and clean, perfect temperature, just beautiful.

And then this thoughtless kid throws his garbage in my yard. It wasn't personal. It had nothing to do with me. It was all about him. He threw his garbage out, wherever it pleased him.

I've been thinking about the cross and wondering, What more is there to say, really? We've sung a thousand beautiful songs. One of my favorites, He's Alive by Don Francisco, will be one that I can bet my kids won't have heard tomorrow (my "kids" are in their 20's and 30's but are woefully uneducated in the world of hippie "Contemporary Christian Musicians" from the 70's. It's fun to be there the first time they hear the words of these songs), and it moves me to tears every time. As a child, I would sit in the den and listen to the words over and over again. I did it with all of these albums.

I'm starting to think that I was a weird kid. I need to ask my mother.

Anyway, how many times can we try to put ourselves there, in the garden or at the foot of the cross? How many times can we repeat to ourselves the words of his story, trying to imagine the blood streaking across his precious back? I think to myself that it is a wonder that this man everyone talks about knows my name. Knows me. In my imagination I see him dimly-- sometimes a character from a movie, sometimes a version of my dad, sometimes just some man that fits the traditional images of Jesus the Norweigan. Sometimes he looks just like this soldier that my friend Katie and I thought was gorgeous when he leaned in our taxi to check our papers at Bethlehem. I want to be profound, and I wish that I had been there...but as it is, I can only feel Him.

And sometimes I feel so much.

And I wish that I had something profound to say.

There was something about that beer bottle tossed into my front yard, though. I think of how much I love this little house and how irritating it is that he just threw his trash at us like he was more important, and then I think-- I keep thinking of this Creator/creation business-- about the fact that so I often throw trash at my life, at the creation I am a part of, at my faith... I don't know. It's vague. But a sense of carelessness...

And I wish that Jesus would just appear here.... I knew a girl, once, who had that happen to her. Carla was living her version of Janis Joplin's life down in Ft. Lauderdale, drunk and sick in a hotel room. Carla described the night that she gave her life to the Lord in explicit terms, but what I remember most is seeing it in my mind.... She's on her knees, sick and desperately sad, when the room lights up like the sun had risen right there. She said it was like the angel of the Lord (or the LORD?) had come into the room and she fell at his feet and she gave him her life, lock, stock and barrell.

She's gone on to be with him now-- she died of cancer a few years later, about two years after I last saw her. She sees him clearly now. Face to face. She knows.

And don't we just long for Him? Oh my gosh, I love being alive on this earth-- I love my friends and family and everything He has seen fit to give to me, but to see Him? How can it be?

And that's really what this holiday, Easter, is about...that one day we will see Him face to face. He threw Himself on the mercy of His (our) Father and took upon Himself everything that would separate us from the One who loved us more than we could ever measure and He laid Himself down.

My words are so poor. Such feeble attempts to color the feelings in my heart: the whole thing is about Them. And They invited us in. For all of eternity, They have been entwined in this precious dance of beauty and They (Father, Son, Holy Spirit-- impossible to understand but the closest thing we have while still bound up in earthly terms) have made room for us in their arms. And all we have to do is say Yes. Lie down. Succomb. Accept. Give up. Stand up. Live. Live.

What more can we say? Maranatha, Lord Jesus. And thank you. Oh, thank you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dying to ourselves...fun times

It can't feel good to die.

I mean, there are a thousand ways to go, right? In your sleep seems to rank among the best ways to go, but it seems that even then, you can't have been feeling too hot before you actually went to sleep that last time. You were dying. Unless a plane crashes into your house while you're sleeping. Then you probably felt just fine before you went.

But here's this song that I'm thinking about tonight:

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how
I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You,
Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You,
Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
In the wine of Your Blood
(Keith Green, 1978)

We are surrounded by so much pain every day. You and I, we can't go anywhere at all without bumping into people who are walking around wounded through to the soul. Sometimes we can see it in their eyes. Sometimes they hide it perfectly. Sometimes they hide it with perfection. And who knows how they came to be wounded? Maybe they were hit by friendly fire-- hit by bullets thrown by an angry person who didn't mean to shoot their mother or father or husband or wife. Maybe they were lashed out at for a good reason-- maybe they screwed up and are suffering the consequences of their actions. Maybe they inflicted the wounds on themselves. Does it matter? When a person is lying, bloody and howling in pain, in the middle of the street, our first thought should be triage.

Right?

I tried triage with a friend who is in an incredible amount of pain right now. It's a self-inflicted wound-- a serious screw-up-- but tonight that friend is probably naming me as the source of the pain. Because I named it. I called it for what it was. I said, You're delusional. Here's what the Bible says about this kind of wound:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6)

I'm a fairly nice person. It has everything to do with the fact that I am desperately in need of mercy. I can't afford not to be merciful. I have to do whatever I can to make sure that I am finding places and ways to be merciful. It's my permanent homework assignment from God. That verse above? It made no sense to me when I was younger. I remember reading it and sort of scratching my head...hm. Wounds of a friend? What kind of friend wounds? That's weird. And what kind of enemy would you let kiss you?

What kind indeed.

Then I got nailed. I was wounded by a friend and it was one of the most precious, most painful things that had ever happened to me. See, it was like this: I once had six roommates. You heard me: six. 6. SIX. Ses. That's a bunch of girls sharing one (one. 1. UNO) bathroom.

And I had some amazing friends in that house. We weren't perfect-- we had some serious issues, but we were young, we were missionaries, and we were working it out. There was one girl in the house, Lisa, that I admired to no end. She was (is) a gifted worship leader, hilariously funny and one of the kindest, most generous people I had ever met. I had never known (and still do not know) anyone like her. Her heart and passion for the Lord were beautiful and I was a brand new believer-- I wanted what she had with the Lord. I recognized wisdom in her. I loved (love) her.

So one night, Lisa decides to have some friends over to our house-- now, throwing your "own" party is tricky when you live in community and you're all sort of friends with the same people and it's kind of the same group over and over. Still, she was planning to have some folks over and I think she was going to play some of her music or something-- I'm still not completely sure what her vision was for that night. I just know that I completely railroaded her without meaning to. Samantha had to be the class clown and when everyone came over, I picked up her guitar and had a one-woman stand-up routine and took all of the attention. I had a blast that night.

Did I mention that she is incredibly humble and kind?

Over the next couple of days, I noticed that Lisa was markedly cool towards me. She wasn't mean, and none of our housemates were mean (she hadn't gossipped), but something was wrong. I was afraid to know what was wrong-- I struggled hard core with the guilt baby Christians seem to deal with so often-- but I asked her a couple of times what was wrong and didn't really get an answer. Finally, we were standing outside one afternoon and she finally told me. I don't remember her words, but I remember the incredibly hurt look on her face as she told me that I had horned in at that party that she had arranged for a specific reason, or with specific hopes in mind, and that I always had to be the center of attention.

Oh. My. Gosh. I was so angry. I couldn't believe that she had said that. I was hurt that she was saying something so mean to me. I was hurt that this person whose approval I so craved disapproved of something I had done. I was hurt...because something inside me knew that she was right. She nailed me. She hadn't wanted to-- I pushed her to it. I'm sure she had wanted to tell me this before, but this occasion had pushed even her incredible patience. She cut me deeply.

And it changed me forever.

Not to say that I fixed that right away, but my friend-- one who was and is one of the best friends I ever had-- held up a mirror to my face and told me the truth about myself and I hated it. I was embarressed, humiliated, disappointed with myself, felt like she was being judgmental, etc., but cut to the core.

The wounds of a friend are faithful. Those words seem not to fit. Like living room furniture in a bathroom. Awkward. Crowded. Just...wrong.

I lived in community (YWAM, all over the place) for a long time and am sad to say that it took me a long time to really work through that, and I will likely spend the rest of my life having to check myself in group situations, making sure that I am not trying to drag the spotlight to myself all the time. It makes sense that being comfortable in front of groups is part of my calling-- Tom Marshall talked about our gifts needing to be redeemed. My flesh wants to be the center of everybody's attention. My spirit wants to tell everyone what I know about Jesus. I'm a teacher-- I get to be the center of attention every day. But I have to know when to reign it in and enjoy a friend getting to be the center of it all-- enjoy watching and giving someone else my attention. Lisa is a joy to watch. I wish I had let her do whatever she wanted to do that night.

Like I said, I haven't conquered that yet, but this is the thing: my precious friend named in me something that could have taken over my life had she not shown it to me. Doubtless, others had seen it in me and been irritated beyond belief, but only Lisa took the chance and just straight up told me (she had to: we lived together. "The only way out is through"-- John Maxwell from Kristin's blog). That wound cut me deeply.

But what is worse is when people just smile at us and pretend to like us to our faces, and when we leave... YIKES. The knives come out and they carve us up for dinner. Do they TELL us that we are hurtful? No. Do they tell us that we smell funny/make inappropriate comments and need to stop/regularly insult someone without realizing it/ (insert horrible thing that people do)? No, these things are the stuff of gossip used to fill empty moments. Who actually has the (excuse me) balls or the heart to sit a friend down and say, Listen... I love you and I have to tell you something...?

I don't mean that we are called to sit in judgment upon each other. I mean that if I see you standing in the middle of a train track and I hear the train but you can't for some reason (your fingers are jammed in your ears, you are screaming, you are weeping), what kind of friend am I if I stand beside the tracks (a safe distance away), shake my head and tell someone beside me, "Look at that... tsk tsk tsk. That fool is about to get hit by a train"? Or do I full on push you out of the way? Who cares if you get bruised: you're ALIVE.

I have experienced the agony of watching close friends going through seriously, movie-of-the-week-intense seasons. It was the same thing with every situation. I saw it coming four different times. And I had opportunities to say "STOP", whether they would listen or not, and I chose being liked over being honest. I chose to not say something that would piss someone off in order to be the nice friend who was liked. Fool.

What has the Lord called us to do?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
Micah 6:8

What does it mean to both act justly and to love mercy? It looks like Jesus with the Pharisees. It looks like Jesus in every conversation with Peter. It looks like Jesus on the cross.

And does being merciful ever simply mean "being nice"?

Is it just to watch a friend walk headlong into sin and not name it? I have sat on my hands and quietly agonized.

What do you do when that friend has been so hurt by feeling judged by the church? Do you allow yourself to be manipulated by that? Do you remain silent when they want to reveal the sin to you, talk about it, nurse it, think about it, with you? I was quiet for days.

Oh Lord I sound judgmental. I wish I could just write about it, but I won't do that. If I could write about it, you would understand.

Anyway, so much of this life feels so much like dying to yourself daily...wait. Where have I heard that before? Hm. So what does it mean to die to yourself? Multiple things, but let's try two:

1) Receiving the wounds of a friend-- not simply sustaining them.

2) Being the kind of friend who would rather push someone out of the way of an oncoming train and piss them off than see them get killed (or worse...much worse) and sit wringing her hands....

What do I die to? My "rights" to feel good about myself. My "right" to be popular and tickle itching ears with what they want to hear. Here is what Jeremiah says:

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6: 13-14

How can we say "peace, peace" when there is no peace?

So I am again here at this place. You and I, we are responsible for each other. I am accountable for the way I love you. Am I merciful? That's my biggest hope. Am I fair? Oh, I want to be. Am I honest? I long for that. Am I kind? Do I love you the way I want to be loved? Will I die to my desire to be popular in order to tell you that there is no peace? It's not a judgment thing: I have seen the train that is about to hit you. I have seen it kill stronger people than you.

How do we love each other within the body of Christ? Do we cry "peace peace" when peace is nowhere near? Is this why the bride of Christ still awaits her Groom? Is it because we will not cry out against sin? Is it because we would rather be sweet than HOLY? Do I kiss you with deceitful lips that care more about their popularity than your life? These are the rights I am dying to. Is it too fine a point to say that I would rather be alive to Christ than pleasing to you? Is it ever loving to choose the fear of man over the fear of God?

I hate even thinking about this. Just because this isn't my sin doesn't make me above it. There but for the grace of God, I go. But is it pompous and judgmental to cry out "Watch out!"?

Maranatha, Lord-- come quickly. Our fight is not against each other but against the sin that would separate us from our God! OH, how off the mark we are! The enemy does not hate us-- he hates the God that loves us with a passion that is bottomless. The enemy's entire purpose is to wound the heart of our Father in any way possible, including dragging us into the foul pit of sin that we cannot see or will not name. And we stand at the edge of the pool smiling and waving and trying not to hurt anyone's feelings.

Oh flesh, die.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cracked

It was beautiful.

The best, most gorgeous mosaic I have worked on in ages. The first one, in fact, I have been able to make myself actually sit down to do in ages. Art is not dead in me, but being in school kicked my butt and the fact is, art is messssay. I haven't been able to get myself to make stuff in a long time just because I didn't want to trash the house any more than it was already trashed, but the time for the Way of the Cross is coming and I knew that I wanted to do one of the stations of the Cross...Jesus praying in the garden.

That garden.

I stood in that garden. Broke the law in that garden (I brought home a little tiny piece of an olive tree from the olive grove... so shoot me, it was Israel. I'm an American. I couldn't resist. Hopefully the rest of mankind will resist so that we'll still have a garden at Gesthemane to visit in the future...). I looked at ancient trees and marveled at what close proximity everything was to each other-- Bethlehem is just down the road, not four days away; the Mount of Olives is THIS hill, not a mile down the road; Jesus made a decision that changed all of mankind in this garden.

I have to think more on this. I'm distracted. Some insane program is blaring in the other room, my feet are KILLING me and the stained glass window I so love CRACKED while I was working on it last night and it broke my heart. I just screamed when it happened... then broke down crying like I was seven years old. "Dooooonnnn...." I sat on the back porch and cried. And cried. It was so beautiful. Such a gorgeous piece.

I wonder about this.... I'm the Creator of this thing, the artist who conceived its design and all of that-- it's precious to me. But I pressed too hard in one spot and the thing couldn't take it and it just cracked in 5 places and I am staring at it in horror and I think...what can I learn from this? Does this mean something? Was I too proud of it? Like it too much? But also, what if it had cracked ITSEFL? How would I feel? I'm thinking about me now.

God made up his mind, lo, these 37 years ago, to make a girl called Samantha. He thought up what I would look like, things I would enjoy, stuff I would be good at. And I think that His artist's heart put Himself into everything He created (to be sure, there is some of my blood in this stained glass piece I'm doing)(and most of them-- dangerous work, mosaic-ing). And I cracked. In adolescence, at my own hands, but cracked.

Nothing in me wants to throw this piece out. I don't even want to pull the pieces off of this original work and apply it to a new one-- I want THIS one. I want to save it, fix it, make it work....

Jesus cried out in the garden: I want THIS one, I want to SAVE it, fix it, make it work...

So He laid down His precious, perfect, holy, unblemished life. After those beautiful moments in the garden, He picked up my cracked life, this cracked world, and redeemed it. Cut Himself open with the shards of sin and decay. Poured out His blood and bought it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Infiltrated...almost

So, tonight I was trying to do several things at once.

Not always the best idea outside the studio.

I was trying to listen to the last moments of The Office and talk to Don while he was on his way home from a youth leaders meeting, all while simultaneously sending one of my students an email invitation to our class blog...when I accidentally sent him an invitation to be an author on THIS blog! Yikes!!

Fortunately, after the wave of nauseated reality washed over me, I came to my senses and cancelled the invitation-- mere seconds before he hit "accept" apparently, because I hung up on Don and within literally 3 seconds the phone rings and my student isn't able to sign on. Serious sigh relief.

Except that now he knows where I am.

And it's not about him-- he's a great kid-- and not that there is anything even remotely wrong written here that I would not want any of my students to read, but it's good to keep this bit of my world separate. To have the freedom to rant about them or to praise them, knowing that they aren't reading it and being influenced positively or negatively.

So for now, I'm blocking the site-- just for a couple of days, until he's off the scent. Then I'll open it up again!

Not that anyone will read this, because you've all been blocked.... Hm. A dilemma.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pellegrino/peregrina (ha ha ha... this is me laughing hysterically, to all you spanish speakers...)

My friend Kristin had a crappy year.

She went through a heart-wrenching divorce while conquering graduate school-- those two things alone should merit some sort of medal somewhere. At any rate, we were walking one of those roads together-- graduate school-- and able to share the pain of the other as we walked. She's simply one of the finest people I have ever known-- my life is richer because she is in it.

Right now, she is on pilgrimage, and I'm kicking myself for forgetting to give her a few things for the road-- I was sick with bronchitis when she left a couple of weeks ago. But imagine (or don't just imagine-- a link to her blog is right there on the right of this page: "My crazy Kristin's Personal Odyssey")-- she is hiking an ancient trail to a sacred place (the where and what are important, but it's not what I'm thinking about right now). An ancient path to a sacred place.

The Lord has been dealing with my heart and I realize that I need to put my feet on the ancient path again. Have I walked away? No-- I love my God with all that is within me, but it seems that my ardor has cooled... it happens, right? But I lived so many years with this white-hot intensity, any cooling feels like an Ice Age and I feel myself slipping.... Unbelief is not as dramatic as it was when I was crying out to God to do anything-- strike me with lightning, make that tree fall over, blow the sky up with meteorites-- on the hillside in Cimarron, Colorado, just SHOW YOURSELF TO ME. I almost miss the kind of passion that that deep, terrifying unbelief used to stir in me. Like the woman who was not letting go-- she was going to get to the hem of that Man's garment, I was determined to g e t G o d.

But as I age, things are often not so dramatic. I just get...hm... sleepy. Weary. Tired. Forgetful.

Then Sunday morning happens.

This past week, the Lord has been dealing with me, and I feel like my heart has just rushed out into a clearing and is spinning wildly like that image of Julie Andrews in that opening shot of The Sound of Music. He's speaking to me of holiness, speaking to me of obedience and faithfulness, whispering to me about His nature and how I'll only go deeper with Him if I dive into His word once more. The things that sustained me in my "study years" are not enough for the road I am on today.

Maybe that's what I would have told Kristin before her trip. I wanted to give her a little Bible. Something by Brennan Manning (he's just always good for pilgrimages). But instead, I will pray that the Holy Spirit will sustain her steps, strengthening her feet and her back, and that she will sense Him intensely.

And me? I will be a pilgrim here, in my heart, in my land (wishing, of course, that I was pilgriming in Europe)-- I must remind myself that it's not necessary to have a tragedy or crisis to play host to my pilgrimage: simply follow Him, seeking Him with every painful footfall, silencing the world around me and looking at those around me as fellow odd-balls seeking shelter in ancient monastaries and abandoned vineyards. We're all on pilgrimage, whether we know it or not. Because He said that we were born with eternity set in our hearts-- we spend our lives searching for it.

It's my prayer for Kristin, and my prayer for all of us.