The Woman

“During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.”

~Anonymous

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15 Minutes

I’ve got 15 minutes until the cupcake shop closes, and I’m kicked out.

You know what I think is amazing? That we don’t matter (No, not like that. Don’t be silly. Sheesh).

Our good works don’t matter. Us being perfect doesn’t matter.

Us making mistakes doesn’t matter.

It’s God. Our holiness and righteousness is completely and totally dependent on God, and He never fails. God, the one that makes us beautiful, righteous, unified and sanctified never fails. We rush about like so many little ants, moving our motes of dust around, and God is there saying, “I’ve got it. I can handle it. Relax. Trust me.”

I never have to worry about my righteousness, because it’s possessed by God, and He never fails. I’m never going to be trapped by sin, or left unable to pick myself up, because I’m walking hand in hand with God, and God never fails me. How many times do I have to say it.

It only hit me just this morning, praying for a friend who’s struggling with some sin in their life. I was interceding on their behalf, and it hit me in the gut like a sucker punch, but not unpleasantly. Their righteousness, my righteousness, is not dependent upon my piousness or spirituality. It’s dependent upon God, and He never fails me.

Oh, this is good.

 

 

Day 13 (Righteousness and self should not be found in the same word)

Oh dear; blank  spaces can provoke such feelings of.. diffidence .

Every time I am provided with some white space, I always wonder why my first compulsion is to fill it. Does it need to be filled, and with my words? What can I write that will justify it taking up its space? Where is the line between true discipline, and not taking yourself too seriously. Maybe one day I’ll discover it.

Yeah.

Do you ever notice how people like to feel superior? Actually, I think that might be the wrong word… like when someone says something you agree with, and you smile indulgently in agreement, and laugh over how anyone could think anything contrary? Christians are good at this. Atheists are good at it, too. Women are great at it. We all hate it when we can see the laughter in someone’s eyes directed at us, but we forget that as soon as we’re the one’s that have the platform, have something to say or listen to.  We love to be justified more than we appreciate being made to see a different way, or correction.

How many times have you honestly set someone straight, or offered them wisdom and Scripture, and after understanding the truth, realizing they were wrong, they gave the the biggest, most thankful grin you have ever seen? When has anyone really rejoiced at finding the truth through correction? I can only remember one time, for myself. The moment of my Salvation. Yep, that summarizes it.

Bam. Forgiven.

Forgiven of what?

Everything you have every committed that was contrary to My will.

Oh yeah? Let me see the list on that one.

Where can I tell him to back up?

What? Back up what?

That semi truck.

Huh?

The list. You asked for your list. Here it is. Well, most of it.

Oh.

And that fountain that runs red?

Yes?

That was for you. Because We love you.

And that was the end of the era of my utter incredulity.

I like how God works. Instead of replacing and tinkering with all my broken parts, He chucked the whole thing and made me completely new. Clean as a whistle, singing His tune.

And there’s just something about looking in the mirror and allowing yourself a few moments to ponder the fact that your righteous was paid at a price, and sustained by the blood and faith. Sometimes I get this feeling where I become unimpressed or exasperated by how much I am ‘suppose’ to owe Christ, about how it’s a little overwhelming how much I am suppose to adore Him.

Oh man. Really?

I can’t…I can’t even find words right now. I am so undeserving, yet I possess that which I do not deserve because it was given without regard to my merit, only according to the capacity of His love. And that self righteousness I was talking about before? It grows strangely dim in the light of that glory and grace.

Things we are missing

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

The man with the violin

 

Read the entire Washington Post article.

Watch the video of Bell playing in Metro station.

It’s way too late [or early] to be writing.

I’m only beginning to notice how it as that people who have not suffered are repelled be suffering.

It is the girl who was never disciplined who grew up to be the child specialist who condemns spanking. It’s the mother who sends her kids to school every day who deems full time mothering as ‘boring’ and ‘constricting.’ It is the person who has never been made to endure physical pain that fears persecution. It is the privileged individual who faints more readily under aggravation than the one who’s hands have spent a lifetime developing calluses.

Why are those who have endured something outside of our society’s expectations the ones that are last to complain? And why is it that those who have suffered the most hardships are the most resilient? I have come to recognize true heartache when the teller takes little satisfaction in the telling. And when they share their story, there is barely a shadow of self-pity or complaint.

It is as if all the complainers, the ones with the words and cries, are whining about injustice, and the man who has actually lived through what they are crying about is the one working silently, diligently. He is the one changing the world. It is the man who comes home depressed because his life gives him little little affirmation for his being, his entitled lifestyle allowing him to indulge in the thought that his life is boring, and it is the small child who is slaving day after day, weaving fabric in India for that man’s pristine shirt, who has the largest, most content smile to offer.

Oh World. What to do with all your conundrums and dreams…what sets your standards of normal and happiness, and why? do not forget Who’s shadow you are.

Arise, ye sluggard.

Sunrises, I’ve come to realize, are greener than sunsets. I’m fonder of the later, usually.

A friend from the East coast called my at 6:58 and told me good morning. It was his part in getting me out of bed, and it worked. I rolled out of my ridiculously warm and snug nest of covers, changed into shorts and slipped my tennis shoes on. I set my ipod to my worship playlist and headed out the door to run.

All my life sunrises have mocked me; “Haha! Loser. You’re watching me because you’re awake. And tired. And not in your comfy bed. Score one for The Sunrise.” My outlook on life in those moments was fairly bleak. I had no idea why people got up so early to watch them. Sunsets always seemed far superior in their colour and depth. Sometimes when I wake up too early my stomach is possessed by debilitating hunger cramps. Sometimes they’re so bad I can’t even eat, because I start to feel sick. It’s all pretty ridiculous. It’s cold in the morning, and wet. Sure, the birds are chirping, but they chirp during the middle of the day, too. Guh, it’s like you’re the owl from Bambi, and all the inane chipperness is abrasive to the thick wall of disregard and, yes, contempt.

I made my (very) short round about the neighbourhood, I crested a hill and came down around the corner. My chest burned from the frigid air I had to take in, and my hands had turned red and also tingled and pricked in an unpleasant way. I was gingerly trotting over slick moss as I made my descent, and dodging some sort of willow like branches at the corner near the bottom, and there it was.

I don’t know what was different about this day.

Imagine you are married to someone you despise. Every morning you bury your face into your pillow and shrug the covers over your head, and ignore him disrupting your sleep as he prepares for the day at an unholy hour. Every morning it’s the same. You live separate lives, from the moment you part ways, and you’re content with it. But one morning, while the room is still dark and silence pervades every shadow, you open your eyes and there is his face, and he’s staring at you, watching you as you slept, and in a moment you see all the light and colour and life in those eyes, the unfailing devotion. You see and you know the gift you have beside you, and an unconscious smile plays on your features.

At the bottom of that hill, when I saw that sunrise, in all it’s paleness and green-ness, and light, that’s how I felt. I smiled suddenly, and my first reaction was to stop and look in wonder at what had been made for that day. And I felt my mouth form “Thank you, Lord, for making such a beautiful day.” I was simply happy and grateful for the day the Lord had made, because it was good. He had given me this gift day after day, unfailingly, and I finally realized its worth. He had given me a day. And it was good.

I left with the conviction to leave my curtains open, just so the sunrise could reach my face every day.

 

11:30

It’s nearly midnight, and I’m still awake. Up until two weeks ago this might not have been worthy of mentioning, but habits indeed change.

I have a work interview at 8 am tomorrow. I should be snug as a bug in my bed. It’s so quiet in the house right now. with the lights having all been put out, and the TV has at long last been turned off, it’s noxious glory fading swiftly in the silence. When everything is at rest my mind allows me to remember things.

Recently, being a Christian has become so hard to explain. How do you explain sunlight to someone who does not know warmth? How can you tell a person how a hug feels if they’ve never been touched? Living in this world is like walking a crowded street with  pale, sensory deprived, starving souls. I’m not much of a powerful evangelist (not yet, anyway), but I have been a witness through my lifestyle. I know what the Bible means when it tells us that our faith should not be like the waves of the sea, being pushed back and forth by every wind. My house is built on the Rock.

My co-worker once offered, “Lucy, you’re never in a bad mood. You’re always cheerful.”

And that is the place where I reach too many forks in the road, and I cannot tell which avenue is the one that doesn’t preach, but does not compromise the strength of the Spirit I carry. My mind quickly becomes so busy with potential words, that my mouth fails to offer any at all.

And I say this not to be vain in any conceit. I am simply plum tired of people hiding the good things in their life behind the face of ‘humility.’ because they mistakenly confuse God’s hand for their personal performance. I joyfully proclaim my cheerfulness because I know it comes from my Father! How do you explain why you are cheerful without someone rolling their eyes? And should them rolling their eyes matter? Where is the line between not pushing them away, and adoration for your Creator? And somehow as I write these words I know that I am  not thinking as a child. My mind is so convoluted with maturity. I pray for the faith of Stephen, and the authority of Paul, and for the servant-hood exemplified by Christ.

When my motivation for my Faith is questioned, I want to look intently into their eyes and ask, “Has anyone ever died for you?” I think the answer would most likely be no, and then I would understand how they don’t know what love is. They cannot know what love is. “Greater love has no man than this, than that he would give up his life for his friend.”

I remember reading the verse about how a man cannot know what love is without Christ. I was confused, because it seemed people loved each other all the time. But the longer I am a Christian, the more I find myself expounding my actions with, ” because Christ died for me.”

Why do I not judge? “Because Christ shed His blood to clear the judgement held over me.”

Why do I not fall into depression? “Because Christ gave His life so that I may have the Holy Spirit, a “sure anchor for my soul.”

Why do I not complain? “Because Christ made my cross, my burden, His own, and He carried it to His death.”

Earlier last year, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my tongue, my ‘ring through a sow’s snout;’ my idle, judgemental words. I realized that I had been a pig who covered her countenance with a sparkling jewel, like some distasteful joke. The more I decided to keep my mouth shut, the  more I realized how much I had been forgiven. When I listen to gossip and judgement, I feel like a recovered alcoholic seated at a bar with a horde of drunken louts; it would be far too easy for me to join in with their ringing tongues, I am much too practised in the art of indiscretion, but then there’s that still, small voice that asks me, “And what did I die for, dear one? How much blood was spilled to cover your tarnished heart and guilt? Who has made you beautiful, and why? And did I not lay down my life for them, as well?”

And I want to climb the highest mountain and proclaim to the world what Christ has done! I want them to understand love and forgiveness, and freedom! I want desperately for them to know God. I want to grasp their shoulders and make them understand a hug, and sunlight. It’s right before their eyes! I don’t even fully understand the vast goodness of our God, yet I know far more about it than most of the people walking this earth He created! His creation, the vessels of God’s goodness, sit untouched, empty and void. They reveal the craftsmanship of their Maker, yet they are listless.

If I had answered my co-worker’s comment honestly, I would have been in tears. I would have completely broken down from trying to explain warmth.

It is not until they believe our saviour  has died for them that they will understand love.

And people ask me why I pursue mission.

It’s happened

Some of you might not understand what I’m feeling, I think. Not at all to say that I’m unique, or that I’m set apart in my experiences and perspective. No.

I think I feel like I’ve joined the ranks.

Sometimes when I lie in my bed, in the dark, I start to remember faces and people, places where special things happened. I remember the sensation when you finally look someone in the face, and you understand them, and you like who they are; that singularly rare moment when your reservations about a person cease to matter. I suppose you might call it respect, or regard, but it goes deeper. For me it’s crossing over to joyfully putting them first, because their friendship is more important to you than being right.  And then those relationships grow and build into something that affects who you are, and they start changing you, moulding you, and you begin to change from what you were into something better.

I have a loyal heart, curse the touched thing. I know myself well enough to say that with complete freedom. I try to keep it from remembering all that has happened the past two years, because when it does it begins to ache, and I can barely stand it. Sometimes I am beside myself by how much it can hurt. I, the stoic, grounded, administrative young woman, who is flying off and leaving everything behind for what’s beyond the fence, am sentimental. There was a day this summer when all I could do was go to my bed, and curl up on it until my heart had it’s way, and pushed out its fill of tears.

And the thing is sometimes I feel like I’d rather they be tears of pain, because at least those are the kinds that can be dried.

I know what it is. As young as I am, I know understand how it feels to look back at all the glorious, beautiful moments in your life, and to know that they will never be back. I know what it is to miss someone, or something, or some place so intensely that something in your chest tightens unyielding and hard. The ‘vanity of life,’ and the brevity of our existence dilemma. The cosmos is crying out to its maker to make it well again, and I know that what my God has in store is far greater, and it’s perfectness far more vast than I can even imagine. But right now I can only know the good I have experienced and seen, and, quite frankly, it takes my breath away.

I have tasted a portion of God’s goodness, and it has brought me to my knees; I cannot fathom how I will be able to stand it all unpolluted in eternity.

So that’s what I think about when I turn out all the lights, and I lie in the dark alone, trapped in my reality of the life I can live in this body. I can only trust that all good things He put in my life were not in vain, and that He has something better. I know it sound silly, but the last time I felt this way was when my childhood cat died, and I knew I would never see him ever again. People, I was told, go to Heaven. But the placement of a pet’s soul is a tenuous subject that never offered me an answer. And that is what I fear now. That all those memories have died and are gone forever, and I will never have them back. In the blink of an eye my life will pass away.

But, after all is said and done, I thank my Lord with all my heart. That He has placed people in my life who provoked all these wistful feelings makes me feel blessed beyond measure. Every time I open a door, and the people on the other side exclaim, “Lucy!” I am torn between sincere joy , and bafflement at God’s goodness to me.

So there it all is. I hope all the people who have made me feel this way these past few months have a chance to read this, because I think they will know who they are in my story.

I can only hope that others can know what I feel, for themselves.

 

Home again Home again, jiggity jig

There’s a window in our kitchen that faces North.

Our kitchen is painted an aquamarine turquoise, with one Tuscan yellow wall. The window frame is wooden, and is painted white. On a shelf on one side a Christmas present from seven to eight years ago has stretched it’s modest vines from its tiny ceramic pot into a veritable jungle. There are three mason jars; one is filled with blue sea shells from my parents honeymoon, and the other two are housing avocado saplings. Their roots are tangled and knotted inside the glass, the water murky and brown, while the rest of them grow straight and vibrant green. A tin bird ornament rests on the one to the left.

There is a humble cactus in a broken, hand-painted mug that was made in Italy. There is a small, vintage cream saucer that is shaped and painted as a monk. A set of unpretentious chimes hang, along with a hand carved, wooden star that has been painted gold. Quotes are tacked to the left, one is taped to the glass.

There are two porcelain hands. One is purely decoration, the other for holding rings. There are two plastic figurines from a farm playset of a steer and a woman holding a bucket. Their paint is cracked and thin, worn.

Another plant is reaching out of an old plastic peanut butter container. I don’t know what it is or where it came from, but it’s there, and it’s living.

The window itself is dirty. We never dust it, and there are cobwebs in every corner. At night, moths rest on the glass, seeking warmth, and you can see their delicate wings splayed gently to the light. Tiny spiders weave tirelessly, and crawl across invisible homes. Their threads are incomprehensibly thin and exquisite, naked to the human eye.

Everything is how it always was.

Brushing my teeth tonight, I finally understood how beautiful life can be without anybody even trying.