Monday, January 20, 2014

A Fireside Chat

Dear Readers,

I'm going to take a break for a month from blogging.  I will be back in early March when I'd love to tell you about my book that is coming out called Walking with Tension.  

For now,  please enjoy this little trailer.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Never Alone Martin

You need to know two things about me to appreciate this story:
1.       Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes.  I did a report on him in second grade during Black History Month and I was sold for life.  Here was a man who saw the injustice that was around him and actually did something about it. He was a man of conviction, a man of faith.  I did extensive research about him in high school and even reconstructed the Lincoln Memorial for my history class.  When I finally climbed its steps 2005, I called my parents.  You’ll never guess where I am….
2.      I, along with many other Minnesotans, suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Most of the time I’m just moody or tired or glum.  But sometimes it’s uglier than that.  I experience a strangely awful inhuman feeling: withdrawal.  It’s like losing your appetite for human interaction.  You don’t want anyone around.  It’s incredibly lonely and isolating.  Sometimes hopelessness feels like you are trapped in the bottom of a pit. Depression is the darkness of endless night.
I was having one of those depressing moments one morning last January.  I had struggled to get out of bed.  After lecturing myself that, “Sleep doesn’t pay the mortgage,” I pulled on clothes, poured coffee, and headed out the door.  I don’t know how you feel about your car, but my car is a sacred space for me.  It's where I spend seven minutes each morning singing to God on my way to work.  It's where I've prayed some of my grittiest prayers because when you're strapped in, there's nowhere else to go. 
It's also been a symbol of God's faithfulness.  Learning how to drive was a struggle; I was in grad school before I ever traveled on the freeway, but it's been a beautiful area of my life where I have seen improvement.  I've gone places that I never thought I would go on my own.  I have a picture on my dash of myself surrounded by three of my precious friends reminding me that I have people in my corner cheering me on as I journey through life but….
But there I was that morning sad and all alone. I started listening to a CD that a friend had given me.  I had listened to this song several times, but at four minutes in, the singer starts telling a story quietly and I had never bothered to turn up the volume and listen.  I found myself annoyed with the fact I couldn’t hear the words that morning, so I cranked up the volume.  As I drove down the snowy county road I began to hear a story about Martin Luther King Jr. that ministered to my soul; bringing light to my dark places and comfort to my loneliness.
Sometimes I like to imagine that Jesus is sitting next to me in the passenger seat, even holding my hand at the stoplights if I’m having a particularly rough day.   That morning it was like a friend was along for the ride and just wanted to turn up the car stereo so I could be reminded of something true.  I listen to this song often; especially when I need courage on the way to where I’m going.  I unashamedly insert my own name into the lyrics and sing it out loud.
You can listen to it here.  It is called Never Alone Martin (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) by Jason Upton from his 2007 album Beautiful People. The whole song is good, but the story starts at the 4 minute mark if you want to skip ahead. I hope you enjoy.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Man of Sorrows

It was just before Thanksgiving when I found myself sitting in the second row at a funeral.  A good friend of mine lost her brother to cystic fibrosis.  He lived to be 40, which is outstanding for someone living with CF, but still too young to die.  I watched as my friend laid her head on her husband’s shoulder, crying, and in turn, opening her arms wide to comfort nieces and nephews.  The morning was filled with the hope of heaven and the reality of earth.  

I sat there thinking about how this man never married or had children.  Being born with disability or disease often leaves very loving people with naked ring fingers and empty wombs.   It’s sad.  Sometimes it makes a person feel like they are sitting behind glass watching everyone live their happy lives while you sit in the stands choking back tears, faking a smile as you wave to everyone else skating by.   It was haunting for me to identify with the man lying in the coffin.  I sat there at the funeral wondering if 50 years down the road that would be me.

Last Friday, my friend Steve posted this morsel on Facebook:

It took me a few weeks and a few more heavy moments, but eventually, I lay down on my floor and sobbed.  Not the kind where tears gently fall down your face and land on your lips, but the kind where your whole body heaves.  

Who is Jesus in these moments?

Sometimes it’s easier to believe Jesus really only came to earth for his final hours, and in our lives, the thing he must care about the most is the salvation of our souls.

Truly, the redemption of humankind and our salvation from sin and death are paramount.  But it doesn’t negate the fact that Jesus also cares about the mundane:  our earthly disappointment, our day to day pain.

As kids we see images of Jesus surrounded by children, smiling as he rides on a donkey.  As adults we ponder Jesus, who, for the joy set before him endured the cross… Certainly, there had to be many moments where Jesus was giddy, bubbling with joy as he worked to bring healing and redemption to the world.  Performing miracles was like pulling the curtain back giving the world a glimpse of heaven as if turning over the pages in a photo book revealing visions of home.  

So I find it interesting that “happy” is not how Jesus is heralded or remembered in scripture.  Isaiah foretells Jesus as a Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with grief.  Can you imagine it?  It’s as if Jesus was sitting down conversing with Grief, as if they were two old men, swapping stories, nodding their heads, often just sitting together in silence, acknowledging the weight of pain.

In Hebrews, the author writes that while Jesus was on earth, he made petitions to God with loud cries and tears.  Even before Gethsemane, I wonder if Jesus often had wet eyes to show the Father when he went off to pray.  Being that close to humanity had to wonderful, but it also had to be hard because sometimes beauty and suffering exists in the same face.

I imagine Jesus off in the corner, heaving and crying loud.  The disciples looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders and whispering, “He’s doing it again…”

“We’d better leave Him alone.”

With the end of the Advent season, it might be helpful to wonder what it was like for Jesus the first time he stretched out his hand and clenched his fist; feeling the limitation and the strength of tendons and ligaments and skin and bone working together in a human body.

It might be helpful to ponder what it like was for Jesus to change his perspective.  No longer looking down on us from above, but staring back into the face of humanity, the creation, seeing us through his own two eyes…. 

What was it like to leave the vastness, comfort, and eternity of heaven to be confined, hurt, and limited?  

All of these things point towards the fact that Jesus knew what it was to become human and dwell with us.  It reminds us that he is with us in our humanity even now.  

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