Archive for the ‘Raw Faith’ Category

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 (12:58am)
Long Time…

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a blog. It’s not for lack of things to write about. I’ve still been journaling. So much has happened the last few years. So much happened during the season that I had cancer, the surgery and the follow up… amazing things. I wanted to write about them but I was still processing everything internally. I couldn’t figure out a way to do a quick summary. While I was pondering all the crazy that is my life, my world flipped upside down and has been that way ever since.

In May of 2012 Ken was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. By the time it was discovered it had already spread to his bones, spine and lymph nodes. Since it was a slow growing cancer it really was tragic that it was not diagnosed sooner, especially since he was at the doctors frequently with his other health issues. Suddenly there were specialists and surgery and follow up treatment and learning to live with that kind of diagnosis. I now know for sure what I suspected when I was going through my own cancer stuff … it’s way harder to see him suffer and grow through this process than it was going through my own bout with cancer.

I am not unfamiliar with grief. I’ve had plenty of loss over the years, and I’ve walked through the valley of terminal illness and death with many people. But there is a different kind of grief involved with living day to day with life threatening disease.

In the middle of it Ken and I have both been energized in some ways too. We are both more aware than ever with how precious each day is. Our time together means more. Our time with people we love means more. We’re just calling it “sudden death overtime.” We’re in that exciting part of life where anything can happen and every play is important. I also know now how much of a team effort life is. Apparently it takes a village to raise a couple of cancer survivors. I’m so thankful for the love and tenderness of our friends who have been amazing support and have walked with us in the midst of the journey. It’s been good seeing my husband get to experience firsthand the love of so many people.

So much has happened … heartbreaking, horrible, amazing, wonderful, beautiful things. Hopefully soon I’ll have the time and energy to write about them.

I had been waiting to write until I had something “profound” to say. Then I realized just experiencing life together was more important. Tonight I’m just taking the opportunity to acknowledge I’m here. I’m still alive. I’m still hopeful, and thankful. I’m thankful to see the redemptive thread still being woven throughout my life. And even though there are times when I’m overwhelmed and would like to just curl up in a little ball in the corner, most of time I’m amazed at how much life we are experiencing in the midst of it all.

Hopefully this will be continued sooner than the gap between the last post and I’ll be able to write more about the things that I’ve been thinking about late at night. If you’re here reading this, thank you. Thank you for caring for us and being a part of our lives. Thank you for sharing your lives with us!

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11:48 Saturday April 7th Easter eve…

Easter has always been an important holiday to me since I came to believe. I was raised in a home where my parents didn’t want any talk of two things… politics and religion. My first encounter with Jesus was reading the bible back in Jr. High.  I was able to see him without a bunch of pre-conceived notions or after too many boring flannelgraph Sunday school lessons. I was taken by the way he interacted with people. I’ve never been the same since those early encounters. I like to spend Easer alone remembering… remembering how different my life could have been without the decision to follow him.  And being thankful for the life I’ve had that’s better for having known him.  I know that so many horrible things have been done throughout the ages in the name of God… and that saddens me. But I have a feeling it saddens Jesus too.  Every day I get up and think about the miracle of still being alive and of being loved by the creator of the universe. I know some of you think I’m crazy for believing. Thanks for hanging with me anyway. 🙂  This is one of my favorite Easter poems. I think of it every year at this time:

 

Bareback In Kansas

by Eugene Warren

(A Poem About The Passionate Love Of Christ)

The mare lathers the wind,

her mane streams like light,

my face is full of it;

I ride her like a lord of pastures,

a meadow in each eye,

stockpond deep in the center:

water down to mud, mud down

to limestone colorless

at those depths,

greasewhite until sun yellows it.

I am thinking of You

as her hooves bite the grass, spreading it;

I am thinking of Your face,

bearded and serene, of Your eyes

like the pond on a clear day,

a double depth cloudless;

I am thinking of the mouth in Your side

that spoke the fountain,

of the dark bloodcaked eyes

in Your hands and feet weeping,

I am thinking that You loved me

as I mounted the ladder

& shoved the thorns around Your skull,

I am thinking

that the palms of Your outspread hands

watched me as I turned from the hill

& went laughing back to the city

to spill wine like blood down my throat

& tell whores of the Fool.

I am thinking of the spear thrust

that brought the fountain from the rock;

I am thinking Your dead eyes held my image,

I am thinking You broke the darkness

& came after me,

I am thinking You tore the weeds

from my flesh

& sowed good seed,

I am thinking of the nails driven into Love,

 

I am thinking of the governments raising steel helmets

against You, of the nails of denial in our mouths,

I am thinking of Your look that changes,

of the Light that sweeps from Your wounds.

And the mare races through the pasture,

her mane flies in my face,

I lie close to her neck,

the speed of her gallop is not more

than the speed of Your mercy:

And I know that You loved me

though the hammer was in my hand,

though the spear was registered in my name,

though I laughed and taunted–

You did not crush me, You hunted me,

& the swift arrow of Your mercy

shattered the swollen ball of my selfish eye

& Your kiss blossomed my sight anew;

And I know that You are the lamb,

that You are the tiger;

I know that Your love stands against all night,

that darkness’ king has known the temper

of Your blade & fled;

I know that none evades You,

That death’s shattered on Your rock.

And I know that this mare will rise with me,

that You will touch body as well as spirit,

that the blossom will have its stem,

that Your city stands forever,

that the tree bears in season & out,

I know that You know my name

& call it,

& my answering is to

Life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 (1:52am)

Important Things I Learned From My Husband…

My husband and I have been married since the early 80′s. There has been a lot of living along the way. The last few weeks I’ve been looking back at my life and remembering. In the process it made me remember again just why I love my husband Ken so much, and how much I’ve learned from him over the years. Here are just a few of the highlights in no particular order…

There’s only one s in “sauce.”

Spelling has never been my strong suit. Scrabble was not the game for me. My mother’s reaction to my horrible spelling was to tell me to spell it like it sounds. She was from West Virginia though so with the thick accent it didn’t work well. Dog still sounded like dawgg to me. My Ken has always patiently helped me work through stuff like that.

When tying your shoes, the left shoestring needs to go over the right one.

I was an only child growing up in a home with a mentally ill mother. Her teaching style was to show me how to do something, scream at me or beat the crap out of me if I did it wrong. I missed the normal developmental things like effectively tying my shoes, or learning how to play games etc. I was an adult when my husband actually showed me how to tie my shoes so they stayed tied and faced the right direction. :) I was also clueless when it came to being a part of a family and making that work too. He has modeled for me what family looks like and has been my family all these years. That’s an even more important life lesson than how to tie my shoes.

If it’s sloppy, eat it over the sink.

Food and life gets messy sometimes. It’s always good to control the mess as much as possible. Drippy fruit is easier to contain leaning over the sink. Sometimes people’s lives are every bit as messy. For all these years our lives have been populated by a huge number of people. Many of them ended up at our house during times of stress or crisis. Ken is not a real “people person.” Both of us by nature would make great hermits. But in all these years with the diverse parade of humanity coming through our doors and sometimes sleeping on our couch, Ken has always been so supportive and willing to have them there. I’ve seen him be incredibly tender to some who’ve been so wounded. I’ve seen him be incredibly patient with people who could have driven almost anyone crazy. And every day he puts up with a steady parade of people coming in and out of the house for music lessons… all this from a man who doesn’t particularly care for music.

Real love is worth waiting for.

Ken and I met when I was probably 19. He’s 8 years older than me. He was a grown man who had been on his own for quite some time. I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted. I was also still trying to work through the lingering effects of the abuse I experienced in child hood, that left me afraid to trust anyone with my heart. He fell in love with me when I still had a lot of baggage. In true photo-geek fashion he started buying compatible camera equipment before I was ready to even date him. He loved me while I was too afraid to love… until the love I felt for him grew larger than that fear. He loved me purely in a way that made me feel safe. Some of the other guys I dated before him loved me in spite myself. They were threatened by some of the very things that he found appealing. And after all these years, even though I know I drive him nuts some times, I’ve never questioned his love or his acceptance of me. What an incredible gift for a husband to give his wife.

Sometimes real love is tough and requires sacrifice.

In my 20s I had a crazy work schedule that took a toll on my body and my social life. My sleep schedule was turned around for a long time. I was tired and exhausted a lot of the time when I wasn’t working. Ken was always so good to help pick up the slack and go out of his way to help and take care of me. There were a few years where I just physically didn’t have it in me to work full time, and he kept at it when I couldn’t. A few years ago his body said NO MORE to his crazy work schedule and the incredible stress he was under at work. He was able to do it a lot longer than I would have been able to under the same circumstances. These days he faces a lot of physical challenges. He keeps track of all the different medicines and all the things that keep his body regulated much better than I could ever do it. Even with the physical things he faces every day he manages to keep things going around the house and helps support me with my teaching business. In the process I get up everyday and put one foot in front of the other and keep working even when I’m exhausted because that’s what I need to do to make sure we have the medical care we need. It’s a tough gig with the current economy but we’re making it. It’s certainly not the life we dreamed of… but it is sooooo worth it. We have each other. We have an amazing group of people who are a part of our lives. I have amazing students. Would I love a life where we could rest and have less stress? You bet. Am I incredibly thankful that we have each other in the midst of the real life we lead? YES. Sometimes life is just hard. But it’s all worth it. I feel like I’m just beginning to understand what real love really is.

 

I Didn’t see this coming….

12/10/11

 

I’ve lived through a lot of crazy stuff during my lifetime. It’s been quite the ride along the way. When I was young I had my whole life planned out. It’s been nothing like what I expected and it’s never dull or boring. I think most people can think of their “worst case scenario” for things that might happen. For me, most of the time, what actually materializes is different that what I expected. When I get in the middle of it I find out that the reality isn’t normally as bad as the fear. But I have to admit, in all my worst case scenario, cancer wasn’t even a blip on that radar. I was diagnosed right after Thanksgiving. I got the phone call from the ob / gyn… “The good news is you have something I can totally fix… the bad news is that it’s cancer” right in the middle of teaching. My next student showed up right after that phone call. That next lesson was a tough lesson to get through. Thankfully, they caught it early and the prognosis is good. I’ve been down the cancer road with enough of my friends to know that it can be a roller coaster ride. As far as that goes I’ll have to wait and see.

 

One thing I can almost guarantee is that the whole experience will be an opportunity for a variety of amazing encounters with people… some of whom I have probably never met before. Hopefully I’ll be able to say in the moment and not get caught up with the what ifs. You’re all welcome to come along for the ride if you would like.

 

10:22 am, Friday 7/22/11

Several years ago I wrote a post called The Space Between.  I had just reconnected with a dear friend who had previously been a pastor’s wife. I had been thinking about why in the church we allow pastors sometimes to get away with behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated by normal people in the congregation, when I do believe they should be held to a higher standard. I have known many amazing pastors who faithfully pastor their churches and love their families. I have also known a lot of pastors who were control freaks and treated their families horribly either through neglect or brutalizing and controlling them emotionally. 

So many times I watched their families suffering in silence while those close to them either didn’t recognize what was going on behind closed doors or chose to look the other way “for the sake of the ministry” or because they didn’t feel like they had the right to “rebuke” their pastor.  Too many times I stayed quiet hoping and praying for a genuine repentance from the pastor.  In retrospect that silence was probably the most unloving thing I could have done to the pastors and their family.  These pastors were men I loved and prayed for, worked along side of and loved their families. I should have been willing to wade right into the mess even more than I did… like I would have done for any of my other friends.

Increasingly with the growth of social media, I’m seeing pastors use their blogs or Facebook pages to attack other people, ministries or Christian leaders in a way that is bullying or mean-spirited.  I do think we can disagree with each other without carelessly wounding at the same time. Some of the media I’ve seen reminds me too much of what I saw some of the pastors I knew personally doing in their own homes. 

When I originally posted that blog years ago I got some angry responses from people suggesting that I was bashing pastors and I had no right to criticize them.  Some of the responses were pretty extreme. My point then and now wasn’t to bash pastors at all. But it was to point out that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for men who are not able to lovingly care for their families or their extended  church family is to remove them from ministry and help them to get their own lives in balance instead.  At the time I was amazed at how few people expressed any concern for the pastor’s families or what they endured.

Recently, some bloggers posted a response to a well-known pastor’s Facebook entry suggesting that he was a bully for using his social media to belittle a group of people, and for his history of previous sermons and blog posts that were also questionable. A huge firestorm of criticism erupted on those who disagreed with him.  As believers  sometimes we need to stand up for those who are being wounded, especially in the name of “ministry”.  I think that God is passionate about His people and that He doesn’t appreciate them being torn apart in the name of just making a joke, illustrating some bitchin’ sermon series, or stirring up controversy to help the sales of the speakers next book.  Regardless of the criticism I might get I would still rather err on the side of caring for the ones who are being wounded.

My heart also goes out to the pastors who are human like the rest of us… broken like the rest of us… and are in need of healing grace and mercy. Over the years I’ve grown a thicker skin, but my heart is still tender and I never want to lose that. 

What do you think… do you think we should hold our leaders accountable for how they treat others? Shouldn’t we love them enough to confront them and try to help them?

10:22 am, Friday 7/22/11

I wrote this several years ago, as you can see, but I wanted to move it here next to it’s update.
 
Hey gang it’s a looooong one, but it has some great news for me.
 
Sunday, June 8, 2008 (5:01pm)
The Space Between…

The older I get the more time seems to fly by. Part of that is due to my somewhat crazy work schedule. I get up every day and work at making it through. The next day I do the same. I try to really live in the moment while I’m there with each person I encounter. But still the months race by… the years race by. More and more I’m becoming convinced that time is the most precious commodity of anything we possess. To be continued.
 
Sunday, June 29, 2008 (1:05am)
Ah… see what I mean. 21 days went by… in a heartbeat. For me, the lack of writing normally doesn’t mean “no news.” A lot of times it’s because there are so many things going on that are so meaningful, that I can’t figure out how to condense them into a few phrases. My private journal is considerably more full. Even there sometimes it’s hard to put into words the inner working of my warped brain, or my spirit. I looked back and realized that for the most part, since February, there’s been only silliness in my blog with the exception of a heartfelt prayer for peace and a remembrance of a dear friend.I think we all have those things that occupy the space between. They make their presence known late at night when we can’t sleep, or we are weary… sometimes they are fleeting memories that show up in the midst of great joy. Sometimes for me they happen in one on one encounters here in my teaching room, late night at Barnes and Noble or out to eat with someone. Sometimes it’s triggered by reading someone else’s blog.

So many times lately I’ve had those kinds of people encounters where I wished that I had a video camera running to record the moment. Some of those moments I wish I could share with all of you. There are times when the things that come out of my students mouths (especially the young ones) take my breath away at how they see life… how they get what’s important about living and God and loving people.

There is one little boy whose father has to travel a lot for business. Most of the kids I teach like that are almost always angry at their fathers for their not being around. This little boy loves his dad though… and more than that, he knows how much his dad loves him. Every week he tells me about the stuff they do together and the trips they make together. I hear stories of his dad moving heaven and earth to get back early from business trips to make it to his talent shows and activities. I wish his dad could hear him talk, and I made a mental note to call his dad and thank him for being a great father and let him know I see it all over in the life of his son.

This time in the space between, something amazing has happened in my life. That’s what originally caused me to start this blog back on the eighth. Anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows my sketchy church history. I’m like the Typhoid Mary of Churchdom. I’ve been in more churches that have had horrible things going on… both dealt with and swept under the rug… with sin and corruption and pain and pastoral flameouts… you name it… I’ve been there right in the middle of it. At the end of the day, much more than being angry or bitter, it has left me on one hand with a lot of grief for all the brokenness and loss, and a sense of thankfulness on the other hand for the mercy of God and His ability to bring new life out of the pain.

There aren’t many things in my life that I deeply regret… but there was one that left a huge pool of grief for years. In the early 90’s, due to some circumstances out of either of our control, I felt like the best and most loving thing I could do was to step away from a relationship with one of my best friends, music partner, and also a partner in ministry, who happened to also be a pastor’s wife. For me, and other women in our close knit group, it was hard because we so wanted to be there for her and her son. Through all these years I’ve continued to pray for her and her family and I’ve missed her. I’ve missed having the chance to see her son grow up. Every time I’ve gone out to play, I’ve thought that she would have totally loved what we were doing. And for all these years I’ve hoped that one day there would be a way to make it right.

Recently, I heard that there were some major changes getting ready to happen in her life… and I knew that I knew that I knew that it was time to contact her again, although I had no idea how she would respond. When I called her, she called me right back… and on June 8th, at nine in the evening at Barnes and Noble, we saw each other for the first time since around 1993.

In all these years we never ran into each other. To me when I was contemplating calling her I was blown away by how long it had been when I stopped to do the math. For me the space between 98 when my husband became ill and now has been one huge blur of work and medical bills. It seemed like yesterday when I saw her last. It was like the years just melted away and we had a great time catching up on a lot of missing years. We are both older and more tired, and yet, even with everything I think we are both at a point of looking forward to this new season in our lives. Last night we went to dinner at a place I eat at all the time… and it turns out her son, who’s now in his twenties works there and I have talked to him before. I remember looking at him and almost asking him if he was her son.  Perhaps I’ll have a chance to spend some time eventually with the young man I loved so much as a young boy. There’s so much more to the story, but it’s still in process… to be continued.

The recent events have made me really stop and think about a lot of things, including why we who are a part of the “Christian subculture” will allow things from pastors we would never allow from people who were just showing up on Sunday mornings. Pastors these days only get canned if they get caught in some heinous act. The last few weeks have made me think that maybe we should start with really looking at how they love and care for their families. If they can’t do that, then maybe it doesn’t matter what a “gifted speaker” they are. Perhaps instead of bowing out, I should have stayed at my friend’s side and become an even bigger pain in her husband’s back side. There’s no way of knowing for sure. But I did apologize to her for not being there. I would like to apologize for not finding a way to let him know what was going on and for disappearing out of his life… and to apologize  for all the crap he had to go through at the hands of the church.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with such a dear friend. God is all about forgiveness, restoration, and second chances.  In the end, real church is about being family… and continuing to love.

So, I’ve rambled on long enough for now. There’s so much more I could say… and probably will somewhere down the line. Let me just say that I am one thankful girl. And such a weight has been lifted.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite portions of the Bible, that has been so true for me in Psalm 126…
1 When the LORD brought back the captives to
Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

 1:35 am 6/8/11

This blog post was originally written several years ago. Since then I’ve become even more committed to really being a part of the body of Christ and taking “church” outside of the walls of the big American religious machine. One on one or a few at a time, real life and meaningful relationships can happen as we care for each other. Every week I enjoy the joy of fellowship in all sorts of unexpected places…

Sunday, June 17, 2007 (1:20 am)
The First Church Of Chuck E. Cheese

Current mood: contemplative Category: Religion and Philosophy

Yesterday I met one of my friends at Chuck E. Cheese. For the uninitiated, this is a pizza parlor/video game/play area designed to overstimulate anyone who walks through the door in less than 30 seconds… Not to mention the huge furry rodent mascot walking around like Micky Mouse at Disneyland. It would not be our normal hangout. We normally meet at a great Thai place. But she has 3 young sons, and since her ex-husband moved out of the area, we haven’t been able to work out the logistics of an adult only visit. I thought the kids might enjoy a chance to pig out on pizza and play games till their eyes glazed over. They did seem to have fun. They would come running over occasionally with a handful of tickets they won on one game or another.

In the mean time their mom and I talked about life, love, suffering, weird experiences we’ve had lately, growing relationships, and our current need to deal with the hurt from our past. We also talked about connecting with God, the state of the church in America, being reminded about what was important through unexpected circumstances. She had just received a study bible in the mail that her ex had left behind with a bunch of her other stuff, when they had to move. It contained her study notes from her time in Bible school. The person who had it found her parents address inside it and sent it back years later. It was very timely for her to get it back in this season of her life. We also talked about the qualities in a pastor that are wonderful when they have them. She made a great point about being in a few churches when she was young where she had a sense that the pastor really cared for the congregation and took his time preparing to speak to the congregation seriously… and he cared for the people in his care. In our modern Christian subculture of hipness and humongous religious machines, I think we’ve lost that sense of family and connectedness. We looked at some books I just picked up for a lending library, and picked out a couple for her to take home and enjoy. Four hours later, the kids had finally glazed over, their game tokens were gone and it was time to cash in their winning tickets for giant bugs and Tootsie rolls and get going. I left feeling like we had our very own church service. We were the body of Christ.

I spent a lot of years working in churches and was amazed at how we kept getting caught up in a bunch of useless religious activity which took up precious time and resources and drained any energy that we could have used to make a real difference in each other’s lives and in the community. That could be ranting for a whole different blog. But as I’ve been growing older I realize that we ARE the church. The big machine might not ever get it. (Although I will continue to be a painful thorn in the side of the machine.) But my life can make a difference to the people I encounter. And their lives can also help transform mine. The church might overlook the single mom… but I have a choice that I can make. In the long run, I want my friends kids to know that there are people who love Jesus who also love them, and who love their mommy and who are committed to walking through the world with her. In that journey I’m happy to worship with her at the first church of Chuck E. Cheese.