Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shivering in the Cold...on a not so Cold Island.

Its Christmas time! Wahoo! I am so thankful for this season even though in many ways I feel like it kind of pounced upon me without warning. Christmas is funny for us around here as by the time the Advent season rolls around we are just turning off the air conditioning and getting used to what it feels like to walk outside and not instantly start sweating. Having moved from a place with seasons I find it harder to get in the spirit when I'm still wearing shorts!

That said, Pandora's "Christmas Radio" has done wonders along with the purchase of our humorously shaped Christmas tree that is now strung with lights, adorned with ornaments and topped with Dingo the Flamingo, back on his Christmas perch.

We had a wonderful November here as we celebrated entry into our 3rd year in Texas. We headed off to Austin again early in the month to visit with friends. John and Suzy Mac came out to see Suzy's brother and we met them there to tour our favorite Texas city again. We had a blast and got to see  a few things that we didnt catch last time we were there; including Lance Armstrong's bike shop! More than anything it was awesome to catch up again with the Suzy and John - two of the warmest/loving human beings that I know.

We also had a visit from my sister, brother in law and nephew for our first Texan Thanksgiving. I have to say...Texan Thanksgivings ROCK. We gathered with friends and enjoyed deep fried turkey with all the fixings. Delicious! Strike the fried turkey off the bucket list!

Its odd with all of these fun happenings that I'm finding myself in the midst of a season of blue. I hesitate to write about it for couple of reasons. One major reason is I am deeply uncomfortable with those who consistently vomit their emotions on those around them. Maybe thats something I need to deal with myself but I'm often curious of people who express their personal frustrations in a continuously public manner. I almost wonder if its a sort of escape from the hard work that perhaps should be done in quiet. (Of course, I am saying all of this on a semi public blog so maybe I should quit pointing the finger while I'm ahead!)

I also don't want it to seem like I am at the bottom of a hopeless barrell and am in need of some sort of intervention. In writing to a friend recently I expressed that this season is actually something I feel I've been led to for a season. Kind of like Moses was led into the wilderness. Lord knows Moses' wilderness was an important part of the story of faith. Maybe mine is too...

All that said, I think theres something to be said for showing vulnerability. In a world that yells at us to "grin and bear it" or drown our pains in the idol of the week, I wonder if sharing and bearing our pains together could bring unity. So, at the risk of being THAT girl, I give you my momentary struggle.

I have slammed into "the wall". I'm shaking off the blow and waiting for God (sometimes yelling at God) to tear the wall down. I'm frustrated because I want to use the skills that I've been given to serve with the greatest capacity. I'm frustrated with the Church in Galveston because I often find its operating on cruise control. I'm frustrated with myself because I've created comfort zones around areas of my life where Christ can't be King, causing my joy to be squelched. I'm exasperated with this city that seems to be run by no less than 30,000 rugged individualists who couldnt collaborate to save their lives much less their city. and because of all this I.AM.SO.FRUSTRATED!

It was a sweet reminder the other day to read David's Psalm and realize that I am not alone. In fact, it seems like misery has some company with a King from a few thousand years ago:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

Psalm 13: 1-2

So its been a season of tears more than anything else as I've realized that, yes, this is indeed a brick wall that I have hit and I am all banged up! But its funny because in some ways it seems somewhat appropriate. I was putting our nativity set out the other day and found myself all teary eyed as I put Mary and Jesus down next to Joseph and the sheep. I didn't completely know where those tears came from until "Do you Hear what I Hear" made its way onto the radio. This carol paints a really beautiful picture of the Christmas story that I never really focused in on all that much until I heard this verse:

"A child, a child, shivers in the cold..."

Suddenly tears were streaming down my face as I remembered that this is the reason that Christianity makes so much sense to me.  In many ways I'm thankful for my tears as I remember the season in my life where my heart was so hard and I thought it was inappropriate to cry. God became flesh and endured our burdens with us. For close to a decade now He's been the only answer to whats broken around me. He shivered, he cried, he got angry. He came as a baby - helpless in every way but for the Spirit of God working through Mary and Joseph who said "Yes."

So, I suppose this is kind of a depressing post - but let me not leave it that way. Not because I am superhuman and overly optimistic but because I know despair is not the end of the Story. Its because of this same Christmas message that I have an unhuman hope and know that I don't have to stew in my blues. My failures, the Church's failures, our city's failures are not the end of the story. Christ makes all things new - and I will plead with him, cry with him, and seek his face so long as he gives me the grace and human breath to do so.

"But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish...

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shined.

You have multiplied the nation;

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,

and the staff for his shoulder,

the rod of his oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian...
For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."
Isaiah 9:1-7

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?...Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians: 3:7-18

Really thankful for this scripture today. Thankful that God doesn't want us to wait to clean ourselves up before we can come to him. The veils concealing our hearts are taken away when we simply turn towards him.

And there we find freedom.

Loving that reality and wanted to share it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Triple Digits

Sooo, its August in southeast Texas. I am wondering if UTMB would consider a transfer to another city named Houston???

To give you some are some actual thoughts that have entered my brain since August 1st rolled around this town.

  • This egg could probably be cooked just as easily on the pavement
  • I need to go grocery shopping...but that would actually require walking into the fires of Hell.
  • Who invented windshield shades? can someone please call them as my other windows need shades too
  • SPF 50 - you have failed me.
  • If we moved the frozen corn over I'd have the perfect resting place for my face in this freezer.
  • Sorry are just going to have to hold it.
Houston, Alaska...I am ready for you!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. –Romans 4:18-21

At risk of sounding like a teenage girl, I must say it:

I want to make out with these words.

Too much? Maybe so. By "make out" I mean, I want to read them, breathe them, and have their Spirit-filled wisdom seep into every ounce of soul. This passage comes at a good time as I’m finding that the realities of everyday, ordinary life have been consuming me. Not in a bad way necessarily. Everything is very normal and ordinary in our lives right now. We are working day in and day out. Friends come for dinner. We jaunt around town or around the house on weekends depending on what suits us. Andy is learning more and more in the lab and I am digging into a new job and some new volunteer activities that are utilizing my talents in cool, life-giving ways. But I found myself wondering this morning what was so extraordinary about the ordinary.

At the risk of sounding like a Debbie-downer, I must mention other things that continues to haunt me. Am I the only one that notices that A LOT of crappy stuff happens here in our world. And not just sometimes. Everyday! In the space of two weeks I learned about the passing of three people under the age of 30 in freak accidents. Two of them were sisters leaving their mom without her children. I hear these things and its as though my heart doesn’t know whether to leap out of my chest in anger or cower in a corner. What, exactly, are we supposed to do with these things?

Thankfully, when these moments come, Grace intervenes. I stumble upon a passage like the one above that beckons me to think differently.

A few months ago I was in the car on the way to work. I was very much on autopilot doing my usual 9,462 stops and starts at the absurd number of red lights that dot my commute down Broadway.

Confession here: I like me some Christian radio. I will be the first to admit that some of it is really, really bad music. No offense intended for those who thinks its all wonderful. Yet, sometimes, I wonder if Christian radio stations will play anything that comes from a band that puts Jesus in its song lyrics. Or do people truly believe that its better for their listeners if every lyric rhymes just perfectly with the next without regard for communicating any depth about the nature and character of God? Shameless plug. Come on people - lets sing deeply!

With that off my chest, I will whole heartedly admit that sometimes I just need to hear it. Even as I’m dumbfounded that this or that artist just rhymed the words savior and flavor (No, Jesus is not your favorite flavor. I promise you). I find with rare exception that I need to hear a different tune in my 15 minute drive to work than the one that life will sing at me in the ensuing 9 hours.

So there I am, stopping and starting at lights, and my radio hits a dead spot. I started to change the station but then heard smatterings of the two stations that my radio was stuck between: An NPR news channel and a Christian radio program. The following 30 seconds went something like this:

Christian Radio: “living He loved me, dying He saved me…”

NPR: “Riots continued in Egypt today…”

CR: “ …buried He carried my sins far away…”

NPR: “…30 killed in suicide bombing...”

CR: “…rising He justified, freely forever…”

NPR: “…Maria Shriver files for divorce today…”

CR: “One day He's coming…”

NPR: “Famine...Thousands...Dead.”

CR: “O Glorious Day!”

Now if this isn’t a picture of the gospel news, I don’t know what is. We all know that something has gone wrong. When 30 year-olds die in freak accidents its hard not to feel the weight of the fact that the world is groaning for redemption. I sense it in my soul. I sense it in the heartaches of friends and I sense it in the 30 seconds of failed frequency while waiting for a stop light. At the same time, I sense with deeper conviction that my heart must rest on the promise that at first started as an inkling and now shouts to me from the words of man who walked the world 2,000 years ago.

So I find myself at a crossroads sometimes. I could see the horrible irony of it all and continue to sway in the winds of reality that pull me from joy back to sorrow and from sorrow back to joy. Or I could rest on these ancient promises, be strengthened in faith through the Spirit of a living God, and give glory back to the One who provides eternal hope in the midst of these crushing temporal tragedies.

I pray daily for the grace to continue choosing the latter.

O Glorious Day.