Saturday, November 14, 2015

if these are our days

The shock carried through the evening hours.  I am certain many of us around the world did not sleep in ease.  Here, we didn’t feel especially motivated to do much as we watched the events unfold, streaming in from the screens of all sizes.  Stillness in solidarity.  God be with Paris.  God be with us all.

An ocean between us, but we paused to pray for peace, for protection, for the madness in this world to just stop and let us catch our breath.  We prayed that hope would begin to ease the fear and wash away the bloodshed.  We whispered the words of St. Francis, where there is darkness, let there be light.

And whatever connection we each feel to this city of lights, whether the darkness that was thrust upon our brothers and sisters or something special, or a deep love of the culture, the language, the food, the history.

 Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.  (Where there is sadness, let there be joy.)

The reality we face in the days ahead feel dazzling and frightening.  A quaking world surely groans in turmoil.  We do not lose our hope in the one who has written the end of the story, yet we feel the shaking of the earth below our feet.  Evil often seems to be unstoppable and we feel unprepared and uncertain.  

I just finished reading a novel, about two brave sisters in WWII France.  I am always captivated by this era, whether on paper or screen.  Always in the beginning, we witness the cautiously optimistic conversations of neighbors gathering outside the market,  moments in time when the world is on the brink of change, when the lives they lead would forever be marked by the events looming ominously in sight.  We see how they dressed daily in hope and faced every uncertainty. 

These courageous souls did not know their stories would be pillars in time, they just lived, because giving up was a poor alternative, and survival is the birthmark of the natural world.  The fight for goodness and truth marches through eternity and we are all players.

I don’t know what lies ahead or where we are in the grand unfolding in the life and times of man.  None of us really gets to be certain, but the miles shrink away in our streaming world.  It’s all too real.

This morning, I whisked cornstarch with egg yolks, melted chocolate and warmed cream for a chocolate pie. Standing in the kitchen, my mind was thousands of mile away and I began to wonder, if these are our moments in history to face with courage and hope.  We hold our babies and kiss their heads while the future rumbles with discord and trouble.  We wonder what kind of world they will know, what tomorrow will bring. 

In this moment, I felt a kinship to the sisters of the days we have not forgotten.  In their perfectly coiffed hair and cotton dresses, with market baskets and little ones trailing near. The ones who worked endlessly, prayed fervently, and faced every trial while fighting against the fear at bay. Our sisters who bore grief, devastation, and loss and celebrated triumph, beauty, and courage. The styles and relics of each period only distinguish a mark in time, but we are not so different. 

If these are our historic days, let us dress daily in courage, stand fervently in hope, and unceasing in prayer.

Monday, October 19, 2015

on seeing hell

I sat in the bank parking lot with my children as a man stormed from the ATM. A cloud of fury rumbled in his every step, anger fumed out of every unkind word that he yelled at the child by the car, at the woman inside it. A cyclone of brokenness  just 10 feet away. I turned up the music so my kids wouldn't hear the wealth of vocabulary. I kept my face still, but my soul ached over the slamming of doors and the way they hurled despair at each other like knives glistening in the afternoon light. 

One door wouldn't close properly, so the man stomped out to close it and he continued to berate her for daring to need more than the $60 he gave her last week. The child never spoke, but he wouldn't have been heard. The engine took two turns of the key to start. As they roared away, the exhaust muffling the battle of words, I felt heavy in the seat of our old car. It's not beautiful or terribly clean and we are hopeful for the day we get to replace it with something larger, but it's our and it runs. Really though, what does a steel machine matter? 

Someone wrote a book and dared to question the wide spread understanding of heaven and hell. An all-out assault was launched at his daring ideas, but if you ask me, I might agree with him.  Do we dare to see that hell is now, right here on this earth, every breathing moment of  existence for far too many people.  Would you dare it look for it?  It won’t be hard to find.

Check the eyes first, that’s a good start.  Outer shells of humanity strutting and fretting about the stage, like Shakespeare wrote so long ago, drudging through the rise and fall of the sun.  Shells so empty from the soul sucking despair of their realities, can it even be called a life?

I sat in my car, my kids being so noisy and happy. My husband walked out the doors and got inside.  I told him what I had witnessed. 

The sea of troubles is great, the quaking world is ripe with terror and despair, but Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven is here. I don’t think it matters if we really understand what that fully means, but I don't think the religious people liked that either.  I don’t think it’s about doctrine or theories, but I think it’s simple. The light that pierces the darkness, every single time. 

So much of what I hear from the church world feels like chaos and noise, except for the part that brings hope and feeds the hungry and comforts the broken. The part were we come alongside the weary and say, let's walk together. The part were we remember what kind of kingdom we are hoping to build. The part where we take the little bits of the Kingdom of heaven we've been given and do something about it, instead of just holding out for the rest.

Because yes, if you dare to look, hell is all around us, but so is the kingdom. It glows and sings and radiates and dazzles.   Do you see it? Do you feel it too?

It's a mad and quaking world. Romans reads that creation is groaning, and oh how loud it echoes throughout the land, roaring from the deeply broken souls. And if we listen closely, a voice is asking, what shall we do about all this hell?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The battle and the great exhale

The end of the school day. Some days are full of interest and wild electric brain activity and some feel like a battle against an army three times larger than my own. 

Sure, our lives are just one continuous cycle of changes and adjustments since the beginning of the summer when we packed up our home to live with family for a while to find a new home and live there for a bit, only to have major water damage and renovations and then move into a hotel for another undetermined amount of time. So, we eat breakfast someone else makes and receive clean towels each day, but whoa, I vaguely remember the beginning of this year that was a creative explosion. in a house we loved. Everything felt normal and familiar. 

North Carolina. Iowa. Missouri.

June, July, August, September, October. 

My little one now leaps out of my arms to trot after the big kids. She bounces with pride. Her face is alight with pride and mischief each time we almost reach the hotel room ,when she will, of course, run the opposite way as fast as her little legs will go, as soon as the door opens. 

This weekend we had to move everything from the lower level to the upstairs for the repairs, so we’re half moved out again, five weeks later.

All the while, the education of young minds must continue, so we gather around the table to learn.  I’m taking longer to start these days, because I need more coffee and prayers for reinforcements. Strength for this day. Patience when I am a record skipping on repeat and when writing letters is impossible and addition is torture. 

The other day, my husband called the minute we finished our work. I almost couldn’t speak for the fact that I wanted to fall to the ground in defeat.  But, that day we overcame struggles and frustrations and deposited important lessons to the bank of these little ones who are growing to be adults.  That’s the thing we’re trying to do here, right.  It’s a long, slow race.

I did collapse to floor that day and while I was there thinking how dirty the carpet might be, I realized that is was not at all defeat. NO. It’s quite the opposite.  The day was a raging success, because we overcame.  It was not magical or picturesque by any means, more grueling and bloody—minus the blood,  I think.  But, damn it, we did it. We did it together and we lived.  So, this week and for all the days to follow, I will claim victory in my great exhales.

Victory is not the absence of struggle, in fact, what would victory be with a fierce challenge?  We set out to learn and be kind and work hard and that’s what we’re doing.

Yes, life is laced with magic, so we suck the marrow from those glorious bits, but if there is one thing I know, all the good stuff is won when the battle is hard and we keep at it. 

Perhaps this season of life will extract the wanderer out of me, I doubt it though. Maybe we’ll be back home in time to pull out the holiday decorations and bake up a storm.  We’ll savor all the scents and cozy feelings.  And we’ll exhale a great battle of a season from our lungs, just in time to face whatever lingers around the corner.—because life is that way, I’m pretty sure.

So, exhale and fall to the floor.  Hide under the blankets.  Pray all the prayers and drink all the coffee.  We’re doing it, friends.

I’m going to learn so ninja moves from my son, I might need them.