Oct 5, 2007

Love and Earrings

This morning I threw on a simple blue shirt and almost dashed out of the house without earrings, but at the last second reached for my little jewelry box. I have a pair whose colors match this plain shirt perfectly, but for some reason I felt I shouldn't wear them. Perhaps I'm going to lose my earrings today, I thought, and I'd hate to lose those ones as my mother gave them to me. Well, I couldn't figure it out but went with the feeling and slipped a pair of plain golden ones in. The minute it took me to rummage for them was going to make me a minute late for babysitting my niece.

My sister is speaking at a conference today, and when I got to the house she was wearing a pretty golden necklace with rusty red beads--one I'd actually given her for her birthday. But she had on dangly blue jewel-toned earrings, because she has no golden ones. Were discussing the lack briefly, as sisters do, when she suddenly realized my earrings would solve the problem. We quickly pulled them out and switched pairs. The jarring blue was gone from her ensemble, and I'm now wearing evening-worthy jewels above a plain t-shirt!

I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. :) Very odd looking combination, and I could just take them off, but Glorie-Bee is fascinated by these things and it's awful fun to be rolling around with her on the floor then suddenly see her expression change, her little mouth part slightly, her eyes fix on my ear, and her face come toward mine, entranced. Then her fingers reach them and gently push, tug, tickle against my neck while she plays. Absolute sweetness. That feeling is worth the danger that she'll suddenly grab and pull, leaving me with a torn ear.

I think the world trains us to expect love to be this way. A lulling; a gentle, delightful sensation; but always the possibility that a very painful twist will cause permanent damage at the end. And it keeps us stiff, on guard.

I know a Man who is not like this. If he applies pressure, it is not to tear but to heal me. And I'm wondering if it will be easy or hard to trust a husband like this. With Glorie, I know the possibility of pain is there but still allow myself to enjoy the movement of her chubby fingers. Yet always my hand is ready and near, my muscles poised to rescue myself. When it comes to love I don't want to keep a protective hand on call; I don't want to have emotional muscles ready to defend myself. I know it means I may be hurt occasionally, accidentally. But there is nothing like the freedom to enjoy love that I have in God's arms, and it's the same freedom I hope to have in my husband's.

There is one thing I will never hope for, though, no matter how great (or poor) his sense of style is. This husband of mine is never going to be able to arrange my sister's successful be-jeweling by whispering a simple instruction in my ear as I'm running out the door. Nope. Only a Very Happy God does that sort of thing!

Apr 23, 2007

A Prayer

I like to prayer-write. It's rather like prayer-walking, except I get distracted by nature when I walk, and stay focused when I write. I thought I'd post one of these recent prayers, since I'm so poor at keeping my blog updated and it gives a bit of insight into the things I'm thinking about. Keep in mind, this is not edited and plenty of poetic license is taken--mainly in the areas of creating words. It's just a little talk between myself and God.

A Prayer...

I like you so much. Dwight just asked… “Stop and think about our resurrected Lord. Is He depressed? Is He anxious? Is He intimidated by Pilate or Herod or Hitler or your boss or any bully you can think of? Is He cowering in the presence of the evil one? Is He a somber sourpuss? Does He sneak away to deaden His pain with a bottle of liquor? Is He struggling with impure thoughts? Does He eat too much? Does He look in the mirror and cringe?”

No, you’re none of that, and I like you so much. There is no man on earth who could even try to be as perfect as you; in fact, there is no man on earth who can even know what perfection is. You are things we haven’t even imagined. You have noble, beautiful thoughts and motivations we haven’t ever conceived of. Chivalry? It is the barest, slimmest, faintest glimmer of what your humility expresses in your heart toward us, the bride. And all we know of your true, first-source-thoughts on love and honor are hardly full reflections of the real you.

I like you so much. When I’m married, my husband won’t be perfectly caring for my heart; perfectly urging it along; perfectly applying pressures at just the right points, angles and times; perfectly guarding my thoughts; perfectly going ahead and making arrangements, orchestrating circumstances, planning provision…while integrating it all with the goal of making my soul more and more beautiful every moment until it shines like the sun in righteousness and in the very glory of the Lord. Who are you, that you waste your time on me like this? Who am I that you spend your thoughts and energy on my continuing creation? All I can do is raise up my arms like a little girl and agree, ask you to continue, ask you to never stop…and then fall in, like a student falls backward off a platform into the waiting arms of ten classmates who are all participating in the trust-building, team-forming exercise we’ve all done. Yet you’re the only one catching me, and your arms are unbreakable, your eyes unswerveable, your attention undistractible, your purpose unwaverable, and the ultimate perfect end of all your plans—unstoppable.

Sam wrote a song that ends in the mighty image of you coming back on your “victory ride.” So it will be! And when you do, my heart will rise in an unusual purity of pride and joy, and exclaim within me and to any nearby, “that is my husband, that is my king! Do you see him? Do you see how perfect he is, how strong, how glorious, how in love he is?” No one will envy me, I know, for either they’ll be believers also, whose hearts are leaping with the very same joy as mine, having the very same love as mine; or they’ll be the wicked, whose response of fear and trembling and hatred will be all mixed with their self-recrimination and overwhelming, rejecting pride, so that they would still reject you then, even if they could have you. “ A husband?” they’ll say. “How could you take such a terrible, awesome God for a husband?” Oh! how they miss the truth about you, for you are not only the mighty warrior whose ride of victory will be crushing and glorious, but you are the gentle lover, whose thoughts have been 2000-years-long of preparing places for each of us who love you. And these places, these places themselves are unimaginable. Mansions on hills? Perhaps. Spiritual ecstasies? Perhaps. Fullnesses of all that you originally designed us to be and enjoy? Yes! Yes! to your plan to set me in a place where I get to do—for your glory, your work, and our joy—all that I love. A place where I can continually worship, a place of psaltery, a place of creation. This is too much to even comprehend, the fulfillment of the good works you’ve prepared for me to walk in during the millennium and beyond.

Actually, it is you yourself who are too much for me to comprehend. How fun to have such a long, long prospect of discovery ahead of me. This is not a trip across the country, where my anticipation of the plains, the Rocky Mountains, the desert, and the ocean will all be met and then end, there on the rocky shore of Mendocino. This is not a trip around the earth, where my carefully charted course will take the sailboat around the Cape of Good Hope, through the Indian Ocean, across the South Pacific, until I arrive again where I started and all the world has been seen. This is a journey into a Person—a Person whose beauty never ends, whose new and undiscovered depths are continually unfolding before me, whose imagination in creation is inexhaustible, and whose heart and spirit and soul will tantalize and satisfy me every moment of a real and very long eternity, in an unendingly exhilarating cycle.

How are you so, so, … well, there are no words for what you are, love. Except perhaps just that—Love.

Mar 12, 2007

A litany of luxury

I live in the lap of luxury. The thought hit me as I stepped into a clean, wide shower. The water would be as hot as I wanted for as long as I wanted, and I might just like to linger there some. I slept until I woke this morning, then spent an unmeasured time holding tea, sitting cross-legged on my bed reading Mark. And when I had marveled at Jesus, and asked for Him to keep me with Him, and delegate to me power (authority) to heal the sick and cast out demons, I decided to read a Psalm. Sidetracked by the story of Boaz, some more marveling was done—at the redemption in the Lord’s heart toward us.

This is an amazing life; the shower water was perfect, and I was going to jump out with time to spend editing Peter’s chapter on the Roman Empire before I was due at my niece’s house for a babysit. I have time to write my own novel; I have time to edit Peter’s book. I live where I hear stunning sermons, and have access to people who pray, or prophesy, or teach the Word almost full-time. I can jump in my car and spend a day shopping for my sister’s birthday present. The shower is always warm, even if the floor is cold. Technology brings me into my parent’s house, 700 miles away, to chat face to face. At any moment I can ring up any friend, whether I’m in my car, a store, my bedroom, or walking in the forest. When I feel played out, a nice movie and a cozy couch is always available. I happen to be engaged to the most powerful One; and the most powerful One happens to also be the most Loving One. I am a woman, a daughter of Eve, one of those beings who are the treasures of mankind. I’ve already been rescued from a horrible, living death; and the One who did it will not withhold anything good from me—for the hardest part has already been accomplished. Which is harder, to forgive someone their sins, or to heal them? And the faith is growing in me…conquering sickness when it attacks, learning to agree with God over when and where He places me.

In the midst of my listing game I spy a spider, clinging to the corner of the shower. I splash water at it, and it is thrown onto the ceiling, trapped in a droplet. Well, so much for luxuriating here. Amazing how fast one can wash one’s hair with one eye trained on a spider. Still, nothing has changed. Am I really among the most privileged of the earth, or am I just becoming more grateful? Or…and this is more biblical by far…has gratefulness begun to open my eyes to the truth—that I have much to be thankful for! “…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom 1:21) The converse must be true. She was thankful, and became clear in her thoughts, and her wise heart was enlightened.

I suppose you could argue with me. Sure, I live in a basement room and often have to plug my little space-heater in before I can take off my coat. It flooded down here when the heavy rain came last month, though we succeeded in keeping it out of my room. I have no health insurance and worry about the parts of my body that seem to need some attention but aren’t getting it. The dentist would be too expensive, but I’m sure I can spy at least two spots on my teeth that need fillings. Will they develop to root canals if I can’t care for them soon? I skip Sunday-afternoon lunches with friends because six dollars is an awful lot to spend for a burrito, and I’m filling up my car a quarter tank at a time, hoping gas prices will go down and knowing if I have less gas, I’ll be less inclined to drive around wasting it. When I pay at the grocery store, I shudder. When I put new tires on the car, I cry. I’ve stood in the aisle for five minutes in front of the pancake mixes, arguing with myself over whether it’s too much of an indulgence, not to mention that the healthy one I want is three dollars more than the generic. Some of the knobs on my dressers are just screws, sticking out pointy-end first, and the magazine I’m currently enjoying is a two-year-old version of Living, which my brother-in-law gave me for Christmas that long ago. I have no children, though all my sisters are enjoying daughters and cute-as-a-bug toddlers. I am as unmarried as Ruth, without the prospect of Boaz. She also was a foreigner to the land she dwelt in. I’m called to write songs to the Lord and do war with worship, but my style and skill in neither of these match those around me, making them purely personal endeavors. I love to write, but what I write does not make money. The kitchen is uncomfortable and I can’t cram my food onto the very few shelves apportioned to me. And, to top it all off, sugar is bad for me, but I adore sugar!

Quite the litany of woes, supposedly. They all are very pale, though, in relation to the truth about my current state. Someone came along and asked: Will you give up your independence and obey me? I said yes before I thought to ask back: Will I get something in return? The answer has been continual and cryptic: Just joy, and love; oh, and everything you might possibly imagine to desire, but not exactly when you think you need it. Said I: Oh. It still sounds like a better deal than anyone, anywhere, will ever offer. And it has been.

I met a friend of a friend the other day. Nice guy; very nice guy; not a believer. When he learned I’d had a novel published he asked about my agent. I don’t have one. Well, then, how did you get it published, he asked. The Lord made the arrangements. It’s odd to say, particularly to an unbeliever, but I really can’t conjure up a different answer. Did you have to pay Him? he asked. I was flabbergasted for a minute. Had he misunderstood my answer? Did my Chicago accent throw him off, and “Lord” sounded like a boyfriend of mine…perhaps “Ford”? (Though who’s named that, I don’t know.) No, I finally responded. It was free. As I thought about it later I’d wished I’d had a different answer. Yes, I would say. Yes, I paid Him my soul. My whole soul. And it still seems I’ve gotten the better end of the deal!

Feb 1, 2007

Taking up Air

I’m taking advantage of the finally-balmy weather here in Florida to eat the last helping of Rocky-Road from the Breyers tub in the freezer. This is the warmest it’s been in two weeks, though the sky is overcast and the breeze constant. I’ve become re-addicted. Not to warmth or ice-cream, but to coffee. The night we drove in, after the movers had unpacked 2000 square-feet worth of stuff and piled it into 1000 square-feet worth of town-house, Sam and I jumped in the car and made it to Starbucks before it closed. We came home, not with groceries, but with a pound of Ethiopian Sidamo and a pint of half-and-half. I’ve been sustaining myself ever since. The transition in a few days back to Kansas City’s freezing rain and snow won’t be anywhere near as hard as the transition back to Irish breakfast tea, much as I love my morning tea-with-scripture habit (which somehow seems to stretch into early afternoon if I’m anywhere near a teapot). It might be just as difficult, if I’m to be honest, to go from a sweet house I’ve helped unpack and decorate, back to my little room in the basement, in spite of its beautiful antique dressers and space heater all my own. I do enjoy comfortable places, not so much out of love of luxury (I hope that vice is not hidden in my soul) as love of belonging…and it’s easy to feel a sense of belonging when one pads about a carpeted room in socks, jumps out of bed right into an attached shower, and decides independently when to pet the cat rather than dispensing dog-affection according to that pet’s own eager time-table.

Still, its not so much comfort that I will miss via this return as it is being enfolded by several things I want but do not have. I will move from the sense of living to care for others, to working to care for myself. From being provided for, to the place of doing my own providing. The men reading this may not understand, but something in my femininity aches at the physical reality of having no permanent shield between myself and the world. In today’s society, I am responsible for sustaining myself. I love doing things, things that are work and take the time of work…cooking meals, perfecting all the details that make houses into homes, managing and utilizing resources whether they’re great or tiny, nurturing small souls, receiving and exercising heaven’s wisdom within earth’s circumstances, creating beauty…but none of this work comes with society’s great stamp of status: compensation. And without compensation, I can neither eat, nor sleep in warm places—except by the great generosity of family.

At my parents’ house during Christmastime I found myself wanting some ice cream for after dinner. (Oh dear, ice-cream seems to have come into this blog several times too many!) I bought the cheapest brand, much as I hated to do it. When my father found it in the freezer, he was gently indignant. He knows how much I love pure foods, how much better I think they are for our bodies, and he reprimanded me for purchasing the brand full of additives and preservatives and artificial flavors, just to save three dollars. “My daughter” shouldn’t have to eat bad foods for the sake of money. The next day I found my favorite brand in the freezer. It gave me warm fuzzies, but made me feel almost as bad as good. My father does not have extra money, and I am uncomfortable receiving from him what I feel he cannot afford. The only house in which I have recently felt completely comfortable receiving provision is my brother’s. This is more telling of my own strongholds than of anything else. My sisters and their husbands have also provided for me generously over the last year, including me in their families, but there is still something in me that always feels I must prove myself worthy of the food and shelter I’m given. I have bought the world’s lie to such a degree that my contributions to a home—sweet presence, prayer, and servanthood—do not seem like enough to justify my existence there. Guilt attacks me except under the roof of my one male blood-relative whose sufficient income and heart of unstingy generosity I am sure of. The internal peace of being in that place will leave, though, when I am back in Kansas City, unless I can let God finally break the chain of lies I’ve been bound up by.

I love to work, but I hate money. I love to accomplish things, but since the Industrial Revolution the definition of “work” has changed to mean only “paid work.” I can’t blame the Industrial Revolution, however! I can only blame my own soul, which is so independently minded as to actually reject the emotional peace of leaning on my eternal Beloved for its sustenance—He from whom even the young lions seek their food. Working for money is neither good nor bad. But feeling worthy of taking up space and air based on whether I’m working for money is very, very bad. Evil, in fact, and from the father of lies. I so want to give freely and receive freely. Pride is the sin-root of the need to provide for myself, and unbelief is the sin-root of the guilt I feel in receiving. All this is very introspective and heady. I only sat down to pound out a quick “I wish I was married and my only job (official, recognizable, and pseudo-respected by society) was to care for my husband and children.”

If anyone has read this far I’ll be surprised and a little embarrassed (“shocked and slightly embarrassed at the sight of Larry in a towel”, as Larry the Cucumber’s silly-song O Where is My Hairbrush? said so well). The truth of my spiritual nakedness and the smallness of my towel are sad to contemplate, but who would benefit by my ignoring it? God’s grace lets such things become apparent, for then I seek healing and forgiveness. Would I want to bring such strange guilt into marriage? Would I want to always walk this rocky earth with such tender feet? No. Would to God that He strengthens these weak hands, makes firm these feeble knees. Would that I posses the land my enemies took, and rejoice in the verdure of what was once wilderness of soul.

In plain English? My heart longs for what it feels unworthy of—provision. But God is great enough to provide, to break a lie of guilt, and to give me creative, important, and fulfilling work…and to do all three at once!