What Remains

The stars of a thousand Christmas lights spill their warm glow over floor, the ceiling, me.  An opera, playing on the television, fills every speck of air with soprano and tenor, cello and flute.  The house is warm and quiet, the children tucked snug in their beds, visions of sugarplums, Lego sets, and baby dolls dancing in their heads.

And I weep.

Up Go the Lights III

I weep for the small beds not so far away that lie empty tonight.  I weep for those children, shattered parents, and lionhearted teachers.  I weep for the school, this community, our nation.  I weep for minds we don’t understand and actions we understand less.  I weep for injustice and depravity; for all that is wrong in this world and all its heartbreak, I weep.

For even our ability to numb ourselves, I weep, numb ourselves with things that are good, things that are not, and things indifferent, but numb all the same, until something unfathomable happens and we all sit up and take notice, shaken from our slumber, asking why?

Why, God?

The question is nearly as old as time.  This senselessness has always been.  I was reminded of this today as I was reading in Isaiah and happened to come across the prophet’s foretelling of Babylon’s destruction and the depths to which it would sink.  “Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children,” it says in chapter 13.

And I weep.

This utter degradation, this violence that threatens to empty the stomach of its contents, this absolute evil- it’s nothing new.  As Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  You need only to read the pages of Scripture and remember: an Old Testament Pharaoh orders his soldiers and Israel’s midwives, to throw Israelite baby boys into the Nile; a New Testament Herod delivers an edict to kill every male child under the age of two.

Recent history is no different lest we forget the atrocities of Nazi Germany, Bosnia, Rwanda, and the genocide that we so easily avert our eyes to which goes on to this day in countries like Darfur, Congo, Uganda.

None of these matter to us in this moment, now that we are full of our own pain.

Today, America weeps.

In these last few days we see, with open eyes, the face of evil.  This face isn’t necessarily that of a twenty year old boy in black.  The details remain hazy, the motives, unclear.  It could well be the face of sickly mind in a creation that has been wasting away since a rebellious bite of apple in a paradisal garden. It could be a many-visaged monster of indifference, entertainment, and greed.  It could yet be the face of a callous heart, so hard it thought nothing of a nightmare in the corridors of an elementary school.  Whatever the face, we don’t deny that it’s evil.

It’s a face that the rest of the world has seen time and again.  It’s the face of sweaty hatred that looks with unseeing eyes for its next target, its next rape, torture, or murder victim in the barren wasteland of Africa.  It’s the countenance of stony-faced detachment squinting out from under the brim of a Swastika-emblazoned cap, as Jew after Jew lines up for their execution in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.  It’s the face of a hijacker aiming for a tower.

It’s a face we as Americans have often been insulated and protected from.  It’s a face we see daily in international headlines, but never truly see.  And when we do find it within our borders, we shake our heads for a moment, shed a tear or two, and turn back to our regularly scheduled programs.

Until this.  Until it’s too much to bear.

We let the courts and politicians handle it because that’s their job.  We let the doctors diagnose it because, surely, that’s illness.  And yet, whole countries, entire terrorist armies, don’t get prosecuted for their crimes-  just a handful.  No pill can fix hatred; no therapy is guaranteed.

We need something more.

And in the meantime, all we can do is weep and ask, “Why?”

Sometimes there are no answers save one:  we live in a fallen world.  This world is not as it was created and that is why.  It was never intended for such pain, such senselessness.  It was created perfect in every way, created in love- the very antithesis of this.

So I weep.

Until I remember…

Another face.  One that peers up from the stink of moldy hay.  A face like any other newborn that brings with it the hope of new life, the joy of new birth, and the quiet peace of innocence.  A face freshly wiped clean of fluid, His mother’s blood; a face kissed and wondered over like any infant face.  A small face that peers into the din of a cave.  So too does the wide blinking eyes of the cow standing near.  In the straw, a burrow slumbers deeply- the journey had been long.  A virgin, asleep, holds tight to a baby; an adoptive father snores from his seat.  Strange starlight from outside gently gleams into the dark as the Light of the World takes up residence in this little face. One face in a quiet Bethlehem night- and all the world is different.

Immanuel.  God with us.

That we live in a fallen world was not enough for a God whose name is Love.

Immanuel, God with us.

With us in our suffering, with us in our pain.  With us in confusion, with us in this shame.  He dwells here with us in our fear, in our failures, entered into our lives -our very tangible worlds- with all their unrest, their raging, their trials and tears.  Knowing the pull of temptation, the sting of betrayal, the loneliness of imprisonment, He entered.  How He entered!

And when all the world’s turned upside down and when words, laws, diagnoses, fail us, we sit under the shadow of two timber beams and try to make sense in the presence of another senseless crime- where the face of peace and joyful infancy became the face of Love on a cross.

On a hill, battered and torn, he entered into it all.  This same face, dripping of blood, and sweat, and his mocker’s spit, looked out over all and willingly entered in.  With swollen eyes and ever more swollen heart, He watched faces fueled with hatred as they whipped His skin to rags and rent nails into His hands and feet.  And this unlikely King, peering out now, not from the pungent straw but from beneath a crown of thorns, saw these and all those after and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

He entered, not as accuser, but as Savior.  He entered despair so there might be hope.  He entered hell so there might be peace.  He entered death so there might be life.

He entered hate so that Love might conquer all.

So that when the world and everything in it has passed away, Love remains.  So that despite the mess we make of this world, hope remains.

So that when chaos rages in a quiet little school and the pain remains for a lifetime after, peace, also, can remain.  The peace in knowing that twenty beautiful, smiling little faces play ring-around-the-rosy tonight, with the God of the universe Himself.

And though we want them here, there they will remain, but there- without pain, without sorrow, and with Love Himself.  Lives cut short in the whisper that is this life here on earth, but that live ever on, in a world more real that the one we see with these, our unseeing eyes, looking for answers with tear-stained faces.

I weep still.

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Adeste fidelis. That is the only answer I know for people who want to find out whether or not this is true.  Come all ye faithful, and all ye who would like to be faithful if only you could, all ye who walk in darkness and hunger for light.  Have faith enough, hope enough, despair enough, foolishness enough at least to draw near to see for yourselves…

Adeste fidelis.  Come and behold him, born the king of angels.  Speak to him or be silent before him.  In whatever way seems right to you and at whatever time, come to him with your empty hands.  The great promise is that to come to him who was born at Bethlehem is to find coming to birth within ourselves something stronger and braver, gladder and kinder and holier, than ever we knew before or than ever we could have known without him.

Dear God, in the darkness of the virgin’s womb the holy child grows.  In the darkness of the world’s pain, the blessed light begins to kindle.  In the darkness of our own doubting of thee and of ourselves, the great hope begins to rise again like a lump in the throat: the hope that thou wilt come to us truly, that the child will be born again in our midst, the Prince of Peace in a world at war, the hope that thou wilt ransom us and our world from the darkness that seeks to destroy us.

O Lord, the gift of new life, new light, can be a gift truly only if we open ourselves to receive it.  So this is our prayer, Lord:  that thou wilt open our ears to hear the angels’ hymn in the stirring within us of joy at the coming of the child, open our hearts to the transforming power of thy love as it comes to us through the love of all those who hold us most dear and have sacrificed most for us.

Be born among us that we may ourselves be born.  Be born in us that by words and deeds of love we may bear the tidings of thy birth to a world that dies for lack of love.  We ask for it in the child’s name.  Amen.

-Frederick Buechner

 

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A Late Thanksgiving

We give thanks.

For lazy weekends, warm homes, board games, friends, unicorns, and You, O Lord.

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Everything we have comes from you

And You know how to give good gifts.

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We do not, will not, forget.

We’ll only thank the Giver of all

For His generous hand…

His generous heart…

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And His generous love.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 9:1

“I Need Hold You Hand.”

It’s funny how life, perspective, everything, can change in an instant.  Never more so than in those “life flashes before you” moments.  I wouldn’t have known.   I’d never really had any of those moments…until yesterday.

Those moments hide in days like any other- days that start out innocuous and humdrum;  days in which you ruminate on Scriptures like Psalm 90:12, “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise,” because you’ve found it in several different readings that day and you think, Yeah God, that sounds good.  Teach me–  not knowing what you’re asking for;  days like yesterday.

A simple trip to the park, that’s all it was.   A warm afternoon, a best bud, and 8 kids between us.  We’re like a well-oiled machine.  Over the past 5 years our kids have basically grown up together, as have we.  We can let ourselves into each others houses, and not clean beforehand.  That’s saying something.  Playdates consist of our kids tearing off their shoes at the door and disappearing until their tummies start rumbling, while we plop ourselves down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a couple doughnuts that hide under paper napkins any time a wayward child dashes by.  And each spring we make an inaugural trip to the park with kids a little bit taller and a little bit older and we marvel at the fact that just moments ago, it seems, we were pushing babies in swings and catching toddlers at the end of slides, as now we watch those same children whiz around the playground playing tag for hours while introducing new babies and freshly-sprouted toddlers to the swings and slides.

The boys are older and the Strawberry Shortcake- now a full-blown toddler at nearly 3 years old- has a mind of her own.  And I was on auto-pilot.  When nature finally called and we needed to head home to indoor plumbing,  the 5 older ones ran to the vans parked in angles on the road in front of the park and the Shortcake followed.  The moms brought up the rear with a baby and a straggler.  The older ones stopped at the open van doors because that’s what older ones do…but she didn’t.  I assumed she would.  She does whatever they’re doing- a little pint-sized wannabe.  But she didn’t.

When they say that these moments go by in slow motion, they’re right.  I saw her keep going.  From too many yards away.  And a box truck.  That wasn’t slowing down.  And a blind spot to the left where more cars could speed through.  And I screamed.  Over and over and over again, “NO!”  And I ran.  And the truck kept going.  And she kept walking.  Truck.  Her.  Truck.  Her.  Any moment I expected her to go flying.  I could see it in my mind as I ran, and screamed.  Seconds that felt like a lifetime.

I bolted between the 2 parked vans.  I didn’t stop.  I didn’t look both ways.  I just ran.  I ran until I reached her.  And I pulled her to safety.  Pulled her away from the box truck that had thankfully and finally slowed.  Away from the cars in the other direction.  I pulled her to the side of the van and swatted her bottom and spoke to her more sternly than I ever had in the past.  She cried and I, shaking, held it together.  She had to know.  She had to know how bad and dangerous that was…but she couldn’t know- couldn’t know that she was this close.  But I did.

We two moms plunked the kids in their seats and strapped everyone in.  Then we turned around, hugged, and shook, and fought back tears.  My stomach hurt and my throat throbbed from screaming.  But she was safe.

I turned to go.  And as I opened the van door I heard Him so clearly…

That’s how I feel about my kids.

I gasped.  I wasn’t expecting, wasn’t listening for Him, but I felt it clear as day in my spirit.  He continued…

That’s how I feel when my kids are running out into the road marked with danger.  That’s how I feel when they run toward the things that will hurt them, maim them, even kill them.  But I’m not talking about just physical death.   I’m talking about the kind that separates them from me…forever.  I run and I scream and my stomach hurts and my heart aches like it’s being ripped in two and sometimes I get there in time…and sometimes I can’t.  Because that’s what free will is.  And I feel that, like you just did, every moment of every day because I’ve got billions of kids.  And at any moment billions of them are running toward the road.  And billions of box trucks are speeding their way.  And I can see them coming, from a million miles away.  And all I want to do is grab my kids and hold them and kiss them in the safety of my arms.  But sometimes they keep going…

And I could see Him, my heavenly Father, weeping over His beloved kids.  And my heart broke.  How could anyone live that way?  With that much pain and anguish?  Only love could.

I gave the Shortcake a long lecture in spurts over the course of the next hour.  Later, when I asked her what she had done wrong she said,

“I need hold you hand.”

I started to correct her but stopped.  The road really isn’t the problem.  There are always going to be roads in our lives, and not all of them are going to be safe.  We can’t necessarily get rid of the roads… but we can hold our parent’s hand.

That hand keeps us out of trouble.  Oh, we may try to break away sometimes, try to step our toes off the curb and into the busy street, but that hand pulls us back.  There’s safety in holding His hand.  That doesn’t mean the road doesn’t have potholes, sharp inclines, or steep cliffs- most roads do.  But we’ve got a Daddy willing to walk the road with us and hold tightly to our hand, and not let go…

Psalm 73:23-26

23 Yet I am always with you;
 you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 139:1-10

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.

This Lion King

We took a trip to the zoo yesterday.  I have to admit, I love the zoo.  Probably more than my kids.  I love watching the monkeys interact like schoolchildren on the playground.  I love seeing the penguins waddle so bumbling and slow on land and then dash into the water and swim like lightning.  I love talking to the bears as they come as close as they can, and I pretend they’re really listening and that they understand me in some way, when I know they’re really just smelling the stash of Oreos that I just pulled from my pocket.  But what I truly love, more than anything else, are the lions.

We tend to visit the animals in the same order.  We shuffle through the caves that house fish and turtles, alligators and poison frogs.  We jump over puddles and hold our nose through the steamy aviary.  Then it’s on to marvel over those creepy sloths and the fruit bats that fascinate, and then laugh at the otter clowns.  We turn the corner and my heart starts beating a little faster.  Down a small hallway, the doors to the lion exhibit stand and beyond them, the lions.  I start envisioning what I would do if a lion got loose.  I make sure I’ve got eyes on all the kids and that they’re safe at my side.  And then, before I step through the doors I give in to my slight obsessive compulsive nature and make sure to peek through the window- just in case.  And there they are.  Behind 2 inches of glass they stand or sit or lie.  Three of them.  Sometimes sleeping and sometimes staring in fixed gaze at some bird in the next exhibit that they’d love to get their paws on.  Beautiful and majestic.  With fuzzy chins, paws the size of dinner plates, and enormous yellow eyes that when they finally look at you seem to pierce you to the heart.

Once, I heard them roar.  It was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments of my life.  I had just entered the zoo’s doors when a sound unlike any I’d ever heard began bellowing, rattling windows and knees.  My first instinct was to run.  But as soon as I realized what it was and that it was unlikely that I’d be eaten any time soon, I ran to the lion enclosure.  By then they had stopped but I’ll never forget that sound.  Deafening is the word that comes to mind. When they say you can hear a lion roar from 5 miles away, they aren’t kidding.

But for some reason, my kids aren’t as impressed as I am.  In the same small area of zoo just past the windows that keep 500 lb. lions contained and away from my tasty flesh, lies a small area of fake rocks with buttons that turn on little light-bulbs in man-made clefts.  If you look inside you can see pictures of all sorts of animals that also call the African plains their home.  So naturally, as soon as the doors open, all 3 children glance and the lions and make a beeline for the buttons.  Try as I might, no amount of exclaiming, persuading, “ooh”-ing” and “aah”-ing can tear them from the little holes in the rock.  Did I mention there are no real animals to be seen?

As I was recounting this to Honeybun tonight I heard Him.

“Your kids,” He said, “They’re you.”

And I knew just what He meant.  How many times have I substituted the imposters for the real thing?  How often do I run past the awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping real-ness of Him and the abundant life that He offers and instead, run to some man-made version of “happiness,” “success,” or “truth” to find what my soul craves?   Why do I ever think the next house, the next job, the next season of life will fully satisfy when the author of true satisfaction stays unnoticed or sadly, ignored behind me?  Do I too, press my little nose up to the things I want to see- all very nice and entertaining things, but things that pale in comparison when set beside the lion-like awesomeness of Him?

How silly it seems when I step back and consider.  Because side-by-side there is no comparison.  One far outweighs the other.  Only I’m too distracted, too tempted, too weak, and too stubborn to tear my eyes away.

But then in His graciousness and love, He roars.

And for a moment, I take my eyes off those pretenders and fix my eyes on what is unseen in the natural but plain as day to my spirit:

It’s all about Him, this lion King.

And every time I forget that and every time I run right past Him to something more shiny and new, He’ll roar His loving roar, and beckon me home.

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.
―C. S. Lewis – The Silver Chair

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
― C.S. Lewis – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Shepherds, Spies, and Quarterbacks, Oh My: One Girl’s Take on the Tim Tebow Phenomenon

Of late, the topic of conversation with my girlfriends has been, what else, Tim Tebow.  Never in my wildest would I have imagined talking about football on the phone with my besties, around the play-date table (where our rapid-fire mommy-chitchat normally focuses on such topics as new recipes, ear infections, and toddler hijinks), or on this blog.  Never imagined…

N-E-V-E-R.

Pinch my husband, he’s dreaming.

I’ve been on the Tebow bandwagon since he was drafted.  I had to be.  With marriage came a necessary transference of my football allegiances- for long ago, a young Honeybun, living where Bill and Giant countries meet, began rooting for the Denver Broncos.  You might say we’re fans.  We have Bronco shirts, Bronco jerseys, Bronco jackets, Bronco coffee mugs, Bronco towels, Bronco socks, Bronco footballs, Bronco helmets, Bronco pennants, Bronco pajamas, Bronco hats, Bronco onesies, Bronco bibs, and matted and framed Bronco autographs.  We have a John Elway action figure, for heaven’s sake.

That’s die-hard.

Yes, rooting for Tebow came as naturally as white on Bronco road jerseys.  But it became evermore so when I began to realize that he was a living embodiment of the personal promises that God’s been sewing in my own heart for the past year and a half.

Let’s just get this out there:

Jesus roots for Tim Tebow.

Now hold it, before you get your Under Armour in a bunch let me also say this:

Jesus also roots for every other player in the NFL.  Because that’s what a daddy does.  He roots for his kids.

His rooting for football players (and their coaches, cheerleaders, and fans) doesn’t necessarily mean making touchdowns.  And being on our side doesn’t always mean winning  football games.  No, His kind of rooting means being all about the end game, that Superbowl of life- eternity.  And sometimes He uses senior citizens and sometimes He uses shepherds, sometimes He uses teenagers and sometimes He uses spies… and sometimes He uses football players.

Nearly 2 years ago, God showed me a verse, one I’m sure I read many times in my Bible-reading, but one that never stood out until I read it one day in a devotional, and another 3 times in the subsequent books I was reading.  Since then, I’ve adopted it as one of two personal life-verses.  It comes from the story of King Asa, who at the beginning of his rule was given a promise, that “The Lord will be with you when you are with him.”  And God was.  It says in 2 Chronicles 15: 15 that “All the people of Judah were happy about the promise, because they had promised with all their heart.  They looked for God and found him.  So the Lord gave them peace in all the country.”

But somewhere along the journey Asa thought he could handle it.  Whether he got cocky or whether he somehow thought God’s promise would wear out, he decided to take matters into his own hands and made a treaty with another nation.  He ended up forfeiting God’s favor.  The Lord sent Hanani the seer to rebuke Asa, and in Hanani’s speech is where I found my verse.  2 Chronicles 16: 9 says,

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. (emphasis mine)

Whoa.  God is waiting and eagerly looking for those people who have hearts completely devoted to Him so that He can show Himself strong on their behalf.

It’s nothing new.  Caleb served God “whole-hearted-ly” and only he and Joshua, of the original millions of Israelites, were allowed to enter the Promised Land.  David was a “man after God’s own heart” and became a prosperous king and part of the lineage of Christ.  Caleb, an eighty-year old man who became a spy and was convinced that God would give Israel victory over the “giants”- he believed and fought his way into the land of milk and honey.  And David, a shepherd boy with a slingshot who became a mighty king-  I’d say that God was strongly supporting. Sound like someone else?

It’s confounding.  When was the last time you met an 80-year old warrior-spy?  How about a former sheep tender, herder, care-taker, wound-dresser, shearer that became the king of a powerful nation?  It shouldn’t happen.  But when a brave old man knows who ultimately wins the battle and when a trusting young boy waits to take the throne until God provides it, anything can happen.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says,

…look at what you were when God called you.  Not many of you were wise in the way the world judges wisdom.  Not many of you had great influence.  Not many of you came from important families.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose what the world thinks is unimportant and what the world looks down on and thinks is nothing in order to destroy what the world thinks is important.  God did this so that no one can brag in his presence.  Because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God.  In Christ we are put right with God, and have been made holy, and have been set free from sin.  So, as the Scripture says, ‘If someone wants to brag, he should brag only about the Lord.’

Sound like someone else?  How about a freshly-drafted football player whom all the commentators have made their bets against?  How about a man that keeps winning football games in ways never seen before- a man who puts it all back on the Lord who gave him his gifts and abilities?

God loves a good paradox. 

So whether it’s a quarterback that keeps winning or a tither with a steady bank account, whether it’s the mother who lost her child but still  finds the capacity for joy and thankfulness, or the raped and molested finding forgiveness for her attackers, sometimes it’s the unbelievable that God uses to make us all sit back and say, “Huh.”

Sometimes it’s only the crazy that makes us really, truly see

Why else would He allow a murderer/shepherd to rescue a whole nation from slavery- and sustain them in the desert for 40 years?  Why else would He use fishermen to preach the gospel- and astound the “religious leaders?”  Why else would He send His Son to earth to be a carpenter- who healed the sick, the lame, the blind, and the broken-hearted?  God loves irony too.  That murderer/shepherd?  He ended up shepherding millions of hard-headed sinners.  Those fishermen?  They ended up fishing for men.  That Son of His?  He didn’t just carve out blocks of wood, He fashioned men’s souls.

Make no mistake,

Jesus likes football.  Jesus can play football.  And sometimes, I think He does.

If He cared enough to cause His Spirit to “enter” Bazalel and Oholiab to be artists (Ex. 31:3, 35:25-35), Othniel to be a judge (Judges 3:10), Gideon to be the leader of an army (Judges 6: 34), and Samson to be a body-builder (Judges 14:6), don’t you think He could do the same for a quarterback?

I do.  And I pray that He does the same through me, whatever that looks like.  And so my goal, my aim, my only concern, is to have a heart after God.  He’s in charge of the rest.  I’ll do, I’ll be, whatever He wants me to be, and I’ll give Him the glory.  Because it’s only Him. How grateful I am to have a God who will do whatever it takes- using shepherds, spies, and quarterbacks- to do His will, to reach out to us, to mirror His love, and  display His power.

One question though…what number do you think He wears?  Infinity?

“God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”  -Martin Luther

Audience of One: An Apology to the Blogosphere

I’m not a very good blogger.  You may have noticed.  I have.  Post once a day, all the books, articles, and successful bloggers say.  Do this, and you’ll be a blog-star.

I’m a bad blogger.

Oh, I’ve studied.  I know what it takes to be a good one.  In my obsessive need to know every detail of every activity I sink my teeth- or in this case, my heart- into, I’ve read, researched, and tinkered.  Just ask me what a widget is.

Yet I remain a very bad blogger.

It’s tempting to write more often.  A comment will pop up in my inbox or I’ll just happen (yeah, right) to glance at my stats and see that people have been visiting this little blog with no new material in over a month.  And I’ll think to myself, You should write something.  Something, Cory.  Anything.  Don’t you want to keep the visitors coming?

And still, I sit on my hands.

I warned you, I am a very bad blogger.

And that’s okay.  My perfectionist self has come to terms with it, and I’ll tell you why:

Because I have nothing good to say.  And that’s the truth.

I can make up a lot of junk for you.  I’m fabulous at it.  Four years of writing papers for an English degree got me lots of practice.  But here, I refuse.  Even if it means death by blog.

When I do write, I neglect the rules.  Only a few hundred words, they say.  Just enough for content but not so many as to bore the reader who isn’t reading a dissertation here, but a snippet.  This is web-reading- short and sweet. 

Yet on and on I type.  The thoughts pour, the verses bubble up, and before long, the few-hundred-word dam breaks and the blog runneth over in rhetoric.

I should dig myself a nice little pit and throw this blog inside with a cold stone marker that says:

coriander and honey

December 2010-October 2011

Rest in Peace

But I won’t.  Even if  by blogging standards, I’m a failure.  I won’t because I don’t really write for the world wide audience.

I write for an audience of One. 

I pray and attempt to write only when prompted, pushed, or smacked upside the head to do so.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago,  struggling with my non-existent blogging, and reading in 2nd Samuel (24), and then again the other day while reading in 1st Chronicles (21) and yet again that very night when a dear friend mentioned this same story.  I knew the first time I read it that I needed to write about it.  But as God is ever-patient, He followed up with the push and the smack upside the head.

It comes from the story of King David.  Tucked in amongst the psalm writing, sheep tending, giant slaying, and rooftop philandering, is a small but powerful story-   so powerful in fact, that it’s chronicled not once but twice in the pages of God’s love story to us.  What juicy bit of history, you may wonder, got 2 whole chapters in 2 separate books of the Old Testament set aside for it?  Wait for it………

David counted his army.

You’re outraged, I know.  How dare he?  A king counting his army?  An unpardonable sin.

But as you dig a bit deeper you see the whole picture.  The story is about a king who’s doing pretty well.  Victory after victory has been handed over to him along with wealth, territory, and power.  Up until now, it has only been prayer and complete trust in the mighty hand of God that has given David what he’s won.

And up until now that was enough.  But that’s the funny thing with successes.  After awhile, we start to think we’re hot stuff.  And we start to count-  the men in our vast army…or maybe the blog followers.  We count the pounds lost, the miles run, the titles earned, the cases won.  We take stock of our age, our wage, the spouse, the house, the marriage, the baby carriage, the ex, the sex, all of it.  Bank account, shoe amount, Facebook friends and happily-ever ends.  If we can count it and compare it, we do.   And whether we’re in a castle, on the web, at the workplace, mall, bank, gym, or playground, we look for something to pat ourselves on the back about and say, “Good job.  I did that.  Me.  Mine.”

We start to sound a little like toddlers- but toddlers with a heavenly Daddy.  As if every good and perfect gift didn’t come from His hand.  As if we could take one step, one breath, without Him.

As if I could write one blog, one word, without Him.

I suppose I could.  Sometimes I’m tempted to.  Gotta keep the readers coming, you know.

And unfortunately, maybe sometimes I have and maybe sometimes I will.  But I have no interest in writing my own musings.  And trust me, neither do you.  The best I can come up with are puffs of wind and smoke- pat words and niceties that do nothing to change the world but only barge in on the conversation God is fully capable of having and is, with every one of us, whether we’re listening or not.

The blogosphere doesn’t need my opinions.  What you, I, what we all need is not flimsy drivel, but truth,  take-it-to-the-bank kind of truth.  We need the cold-hard-cash kind of truth, not monopoly money masquerading as the real thing.  Anything less is a waste of paper, pixels, time.

The only way I know to find that kind of truth and share it is to continue to read and listen, and sometimes listen again and again until I know He’s saying something He wants me to write about.  Because it’s then that it’s His doing and not mine.  When I wait on every word from His mouth and depend on it like water is when I can no longer take any credit and all glory goes to Him.  And that is my heart’s desire.

So I cannot promise to write often or even ever again.  All I can do is promise to read long and listen hard, and try to obey when His prompting puts me in front of this keyboard and computer screen.

I remain, 1000 words later, faithfully yours,

A truly, very bad, very dependent, but very content blogger

Lessons in Supermarket Aisles and under Freeways (Part III)

I gave away that $20.  After weeks of wondering, expecting,  in every grocery aisle, it happened in the least expected place: 

Under a bridge.

I was alone in the car.  I am never alone in the car.  I am always carting 3 children in the back.  And always and forever there is bickering, seat-kicking, and requests for the nearest fast food joint and every fast food joint, serenading me from the back seats.  But I was alone this time.  And loving it a little bit. 

I spent most of the trip on a delightful phone call with my sister-in-love.  We hung up as we both approached our destinations.  One block later, I saw her.

She was standing under a long stretch of highway bridge.  In one of the spots

I know of 3 spots.  One at an off-ramp, one at an on-ramp, and one under the bridge.  The beggar’s spots. 

I come across them often in my travels.  Normally a man, sometimes young but often old, and always dirty, stands with his cardboard sign, at the traffic light, looking for mercy.  Their signs, so alike, say things like “Homeless Veteran,” “Need Help,” and “God Bless You.”  And normally, I pray for a green light, and when none is given, I lock my doors and look away. 

It’s easier to look away.  And, so I tell myself, safer.  And granted, a woman taxiing 3 small children should not be rolling down her window to men such as these, right?  Right, I say to myself, and drive on my merry way to the giant shopping malls and gargantuan thrift stores, to spend money on things I don’t need.  And I try not to think twice about it.

But this time, the beggar looked different. 

She stood there with her sign, small and alone.   This time I couldn’t help but look and read, and she was the one that averted her eyes.   There in black lettering on that ripped cardboard sign, it said,

“Homeless and Pregnant”

And she was.  A girl, maybe 20, with nutbrown hair, slivered almond eyes, and a round little belly.  Homeless and pregnant.

The light turned red, as it always does, and I slowed to my stop.  I knew I had moments and I knew He was already speaking.

You have $20 in your wallet.

I sat there in my nice minivan, with my 3 nice carseats, next to my nice wallet and nicer purse and the thoughts started to tumble.

What if she’ll use it for drugs?  What if she’s got some pimp who will take it?  What if she’s not even HOMELESS?

The thoughts tumbled, but this time they didn’t stick.  I knew.  I knew that here before me, stood Him.

… the king will say to those on his right… When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.”

Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?”

The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.”    -Matthew 25: 34-40

Frederick Buechner says it like this:

God comes to us in the hungry man we do not have to feed, comes to us in the lonely man we do not have to comfort, comes to us in all the desperate human need of people everywhere that we are always free to turn our backs upon.

And this time, this one time, I chose not to turn my back. 

I rolled down my window, caught her eye, and handed her a $20 bill.  She looked away, looked at the money, looked at me and said thank you, and walked back to her spot. 

I stammered an awkward, “God bless you,” and gave her a smile.  The light turned green and I drove away. 

And I knew I had been in His presence. 

He was that small pregnant girl.  He’s the malnourished orphans and AIDS-riddled Ugandans that I weep on my keyboard over.  He’s my very own children, my friends, my neighbors, and even the people that rub me the wrong way.  He’s so very much alive in every face that He loves, and every face that He loves is every face on this earth.  Black, white, old, young, male, female.  Child, murderer, widow, thief, prostitute, saint, bigot, zealot, homeless, heartless.  It doesn’t matter.  My only job is to love Him by loving His people. 

I don’t know what that girl did with the money.  Driving away I thought of all the things I could have said,

Make sure you buy some food with this.  Save this for diapers.  Please take care of yourself and your baby

I’m not sorry that I didn’t say them.  I said what I should have said.  “God bless you.”  God show Himself to you.  God wrap you in His arms tonight and be your shelter.  God pour out His love, protection, grace, peace and provision upon you, you His beautiful daughter.  Bless you.

We are really alive when we are together as human beings, when by sunset or daybreak or by the fluorescence of a grocery store or the shabby twilight of a church, the walls between us crumble a little.  What I try to avoid because the word has become so threadbare in our time is that we are really alive, of course, when we manage somehow to love- when we love the mystery and beauty and terror that loom vast just beneath the air we move through, when we begin to hear a voice not just in the setting sun but in the earthquake, in the silence, in the agonies of men as well as their gladness.  We are really alive when we love each other, when we look at each other and think,  “Grace and peace be with you, brother and friend.”  When there is such life as this, once is not nearly enough.   -Frederick Buechner