Rediscovering the importance of story

tigers

When I challenged my home congregation to read Luke in the month of February, little did I know that challenge would leave me reading the whole book in the first three days of the month. I saturated myself in Jesus’ words the last couple of days.

I needed it.

The last couple of weeks, for me, feel like waking to some nightmarish alternate reality. Each day brings news reports that violate my core values.

I’m an INFP on the Myers-Briggs. The salient point about my personality: I delight in seeing the world through other people’s perspectives, and I hate conflict. Right up to the point where my core values are tripped, and then I am a rampaging tiger with roaring feelings and little logic.

I can handle disagreement and questions. I do not react well to shame, control or folks who bully or ridicule others, especially those who are marginalized or are weaker than them. I lose my mind. Poof. Out comes the tiger from normally placid me. Continue reading

Self-Awareness, Infertility, and Trying to Take the Bible Seriously

Red Leather BibleEach Monday I plan to write a reflection on my interaction with the lectionary readings for the coming Sunday; this week’s passages are Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17, Psalm 127, Hebrews 9:24-28, and Mark 12:38-44.

For those unfamiliar with the lectionary, it’s a prescribed set of Bible readings that various churches around the globe read and interact with each week. Usually churches follow a three year cycle with one year utilizing Matthew, one year using Mark, and one year reading Luke. John gets interspersed throughout each of those three years. I use the listing at Vanderbilt Divinity Library, if you want to look up passages and read along as well.

As I began reading, the interaction proved more difficult than I anticipated. When I read the lectionary texts, I read the Old Testament passage first, then the Psalms, then the letter, and finish with the Gospel. That’s not a statement about the “right” procedure for reading, but just an acknowledge of my habit.

I read through Ruth and Psalms 127, all the while getting my dander up and dreading writing today’s post. I moved to skimming through Hebrews 9 and Mark 12, hoping for easier passages to write about for this blog.

I had a light bulb moment as I thought about my desire to avoid Ruth and Psalm 127. As much as I talk about all Scripture being inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16), I act as though some parts are a lot more God-breathed than others. Some parts feel like they got more breath than others. And the parts that I don’t like, that seem difficult, that leave me feeling like I’m standing on a thin wire over a deep canyon, those I want to ignore and push aside in favor of more comfortable passages. I noticed the tendency in others before, but ignored it in myself.

Continue reading

Discovering Love in a Bowl of Soup

I am learning how to be loved.  It feels stupid to type.  Moronic to say in my head.  But, there it is.  It’s true.  I am learning how to receive love.  And by receive love, I mean receive help.

I like being independent.  If I work hard enough at something, I like to think I can make it happen.  Notable exception being: actually carrying a pregnancy to term. But, we’ve already been down that road many times here.

This semester of seminary has been the toughest balancing act for me; I finally hit a place where my limitations exist.  I’ve been sick.  I’ve been stressed. I’ve had to say “no” to things I wish I could say “yes” to, and been sad about some of those missed opportunities.  I’ve been jumping from project to project like a flying squirrel breezing through a forest. Though perhaps not quite as gracefully… I think I’ve smashed face first into a few metaphorical trees.

I wanted to savor and enjoy the semester (and I keep telling myself to do that very thing).  And yet, I find myself just surviving and dreaming of days without homework.  While I’ve been stressed out and sick the past week,  I’ve had a case of the grumpies.  A cough developed last Monday, and I felt totally crabby about its worsening progression throughout the week.  I had “grand” things I wanted to do and instead I felt miserable curled up on the couch.  I was trying to think about God and writing and homework, but really I just wanted to be healthy and able to go for an adventure outside. Inwardly I was a grumbling complainer.  I don’t like having limitations.

And then I’d get mad at myself for my ridiculousness because there are much worse things happening in the world right now (google Nepal or Nigeria, for instance).  Why can’t I just be grateful, and let go of my frustration and feeling drained?  I don’t like it when my emotions refuse to march to my rational dictates.

And in the midst of all my silly crabby crazy, I’ve been cared for by some really neat folks.  Out of the blue, people check in about how I’m doing and offer to bring us food.  Sometimes I take them up on it. That’s happened multiple times this semester, and I feel so incredibly blessed by that.

In particular, yesterday a friend texted and asked if she could bring us soup for dinner. Her generosity helped shift my perspective.  I realized I’m not alone in the stress that I’m facing, and that my value isn’t measured by whether my work is perfect. I just felt loved and noticed. And in order to receive that gift, I had to be vulnerable. My sickness located me a place where I was able to receive a gift of love and a heaping helping of joy from artwork that two kiddos made.

Joel 2:23-32: An Abundance of Grace


Well, it’s now October and it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Between having a miscarriage and the journey of medical craziness with my dad’s tongue cancer since May, I feel as though I’ve walked through the fire and back. God’s been nudging me to pick up my Bible all this week, and this week I’ve been afraid of it. I’ve tiptoed around it and been fearful of what it’s going to tell me. Whenever I get this metaphysical feeling of dread about this wondrous book, I know God’s got something he wants to say…usually not something I want to hear.

It’s been awhile since I’ve followed the lectionary cycle, so I decided to pick back up again with it. Though I researched what the lectionary texts were at about 8:00 AM this morning, it took me until noon to actually work up the nerve to open the good book. It just sat there in front of me on the ottoman, while I then blogged about other things, including pictures and a restaurant review…And then, after writing for a few hours, well then I had to move furniture in the living room and then accidentally shorted out the circuit that powers the motem, computer and TV. And then finally a great voice within me said quietly…”Enough already. Either choose to hang out with me. Or don’t.” So, I stopped. Took a breath. Shakily grabbed my Bible, and opened to Joel 2:23-32. And the words followed from the page into my heart as though they’d been written just for me. Emotions overwhelming washed over.

“O children o Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord you God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

I am so profoundly grateful that my father has escaped his cancer battle alive thus far. Alive and able to speak and eat and thrive. I value the new relationship with him that walking through the fire together has forged. And in the dark time of staying up through the night with him, God has forged something else in me. A renewed sense of his presence and his promise.

And I’m currently walking through another dark time that I don’t know how God will work out, but I do have a sense that he is with me. This issue went on the back burner while the immediate issue of my dad’s well being took center stage. My dad is back on his own two feet now. And then, last week a well meaning friend brought up the issue of my miscarriage last May, and that set off a downward spiral into an issue I thought was water under the bridge. My husband and I are verging on four years of trying to get pregnant. Four years and 2 miscarriages. In a culture where one of the first questions we ask strangers is “so, do you have any kids?” I’m finding myself frequently full of shame as I try to answer this question. If you say simply no, then people press, “well, don’t you want kids?” Which then leads to more shame as I explain that our lack of children is not a lack of wanting – but an inability to get pregnant/stay pregnant. Which makes me feel less womanly, less whole, and more as though there is something wrong with me and maybe even with this God that I profess to believe in. And then if you’re more honest and throw out the whole truth or portions of the truth, then people feel the need to say “oh, you’re so young” or “you’ve got to quit trying so hard”. Which again causes shame and pain and awkwardness.

In my weakness, I want to read this passage as though God’s going to give me children to take away my sense of shame. I want to put my earthly definition of wholeness and satisfaction on the promise. God’s not allowing me that option this morning. The promise is that I will be made whole, made healthy – but in his version of healthy. Redeemed in relationship with Him. Discovering the abundance of grace that he has already poured out on me – most recently, the gift of my father. The gift of my father’s health. The gift of a new, deeper relationship with my dad. The gift of a husband who shows up and helps out without complaining through all this journey…staying up nights with me in the hospital, learning how to do things when I wasn’t ready (taking out the inner part of my dad’s trach and cleaning it). The gift of a God who promises all this misery is temporary. A day is coming when all this shame I carry will be gone. A day when He comes back, and we and all creation get to be made whole. When our world’s brokenness is mended, when games powerful men play will end, and wars will cease. And I’m still sitting here waiting. Hoping.

But, God’s here with me today. And I still believe He’s coming back, and that the embarrassment of today will fade in His presence.