Saturday, December 1, 2012

O Come, O Come...

As you may know, Phil and I have been in a long season of waiting for a child. In January we will enter the fifth year we began our adoption process and it’s during the Christmas season when I often feel particularly sad, knowing that another year has passed with no little eyes to stare into, no little hand to hold, no someone. Oh, the waiting, the waiting...

Phil is playing the guitar downstairs - O Come, O Come Emmanuel - another message about waiting. How long Israel waited for this Child. I hear the longing in the melody. O Come, O come, Emanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear...

Christmas is about joy and giving and wonder, yes. But this season, I relate with the waiting, the longing, the looking for someone. I think about the fact that after a very, very long time, God fulfilled a long-awaited dream. This one act of power and love is far beyond what I can imagine. And while I am completely aware that Israel’s waiting and need for a Savior is on an entirely different scale than my waiting and desire for a baby, I can’t help but relate to the longing of it.

In a smaller way, maybe that will happen for us too. The wonder of a child brought to us through a miracle, a literal miracle. In the meantime, there is such a spiritual depth and beauty that comes in the waiting. Deep calls to deep. Listen to the song.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, Thou Dayspring come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Thoughts on Easter of Late

Recently, I talked with several people, all from different walks of life, who are going through profound suffering. I guess we all have our tale to tell. We all have our burdens to bear. If you don't already know this about me, I will disclose here that several years ago I went through a very difficult divorce. It almost killed me, literally. I was very sick through that time and disillusioned with God. Every Christian paradigm I knew seemed suddenly shattered and laid in pieces around my feet. Those were dark days to be sure. Through time, I learned that God in His own way was actually delivering me from strongholds, physical and spiritual. I am remarried now and I can't believe how much I love this man. Through thick and thin, we share a spiritual foundation that brings us much joy and wholeness. I am so, so grateful for my Phil. I know that situations in life don't always end happily as my marriage scenario did. For some reason, God saw fit to allow me to see purpose in the events that preceded my marriage to Phil. He allowed me to see how He takes brokenness and creates wholeness. He took my divorce, something that seemingly had no reason, and redeemed it - redeemed me and showed me deeper levels of Himself through it. I learned that no matter what things look like, He is faithful.

Although I don't always want to do this, I am choosing to trust in that faithfulness these days with our current adoption situation. I am 45 years old. Phil and I are a "waiting family" with an adoption agency and we long for the day when we can become parents. We are in the fourth long year of the process and there are many days when I direct my bitterness at God and question His goodness. I think back on when I first wanted to be a mom. I was 26. That's almost twenty years of living in barrenness. The pain is deep and sometimes I question God like I did through my divorce, but something happened today that allowed me to catch a little glimpse into God's higher purposes. I saw that God's purpose for my life is still very tangibly getting worked out through the most surprising situations. He creates beauty through suffering, because He is beautiful.

Then, I thought about Easter. I think we live in a fallen world where we will all, to some degree, experience suffering and sorrow. It is a difficult life filled too often with brokenness. But there is deep significance in Easter. Easter means that God has redeemed the brokenness, the pain, the sorrow, the seemingly random cruelties of this world through His Son. I know that may sound "religulous" but when I connect with that idea, it's so personally meaningful. Here are the lyrics of a hymn I heard today.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

I think about the words, "View Him prostrate in the garden; on the ground your Maker lies. On the bloody tree behold Him; Sinner, will this not suffice?" How can I need more than this? The idea that my Maker sacrificed so much for me, out of His total, all-consuming love. This is a fallen world, to be sure - but He has redeemed it. Then, I remembered this song ... (I'm not kidding - I was crying on my way home from work as I listened to this. I could barely see the road - don't tell my mother.)

Here the bells ringing
They're singing that you can be born again
Here the bells ringing
They're singing Christ is risen from the dead

The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell His disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the word, he has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
Hear the bells ringing
They're singing that you can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
Christ, he will reveal it now

The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus' power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

Joy to the world! he has risen, hallelujah!
He's risen, hallelujah!
He's risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!

He is the Great Redeemer. He will redeem my suffering. He will redeem yours. And maybe we will get to see a glimpse of His beauty through it all. I will pray that is the case for you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My New Obsession with Breaking Bad

Somewhere out there, I think there must be blog readers; they thrive on the receiving end of the blogosphere - (Forgive me, I said "blogosphere"). Now these unknown, yet all-important entities have yet to collide with my little site here (with the exception of my four precious followers - thank you, btw), but I always hope that I might someday, er... snare a few more of them. Maybe it would be best if I wrote on a subject of some interest - my new favorite little series - Breaking Bad.

As an English teacher who has filled my students' minds with timeless tragedies like Oedipus, Hamlet and Death of a Salesman, I am always looking for that classically tragic pattern in modern day culture - to feel affirmed of its timelessness, I guess. I recently hit pay dirt with Breaking Bad. It seems that Tragedy, in the Greek sense, has found a new medium - serialized television. The writing of this show is so exemplary, so compelling, so multi-dimensional that I wonder if it will make some sort of history of its own. Our hero, Walter White, filled with that classic combo of pride and nobility (reflected in an almost godlike understanding of chemistry), propels himself into one of the most pathetic, awe-inspiring downward spirals that I have witnessed in a long time. I am loving every minute of it! Vince Gilligan's use of the Aristotelian formula is brilliantly laden with dramatic irony, reversals and chain reactions aplenty - enough to send this giddy little high school English teacher into literary euphoria. By the way, for those fellow viewers of the show, did you notice the various deities posted on the backyard walls - fertility god, sun god etc.? The gods are always there, aren't they? There will most certainly be a reckoning.

I should probably add that I am only in the middle of season three and my husband assures me that there is still much that lies ahead, before my beloved Walter White transforms into Scarface. The strangest part of all of this is that I find myself continually rooting for Walt - hoping, praying that one day, he will pull his puffed-up head out of his ass and embrace gratitude. Alas, I have a feeling that is not how things will turn out.

If you are one of those stealthy blog readers, and you have landed, for whatever reason, on this site, will you ring your proverbial bell (or post a comment) if you share my enthusiasm for this addictive (get it?) show? Thanks for reading!!

Lavender. It's sweet, dusty scent graces the twilight air and I am grateful.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Language and Blogging

I am having some thoughts about what it means to blog well. As an intermediate blogger at best, I ask myself, what is required to blog skillfully and poignantly? How does one best capitalize on his or her own faculties of language to capture a moment, a scene, a figure? Good writing, it seems uses language aptly, specifically, precisely without sounding overly discursive. Am I capable of reaching this level of blogging mastery? This will be a long road for me.

I want to convey ideas in relatable terms that precisely capture my ideas, but I stumble through my limited, internal lexicon. In this moment, as I type along - click - click - click - my brain gropes for exactly the right word while I wonder, is anyone reading this? Does anyone relate to this? In this vast sea of cyberspace, does my diction even matter? I can't help but wonder if I am projecting some clumsy form of myself into a vast, electronic nothingness. Do other bloggers struggle with these same questions and internal restrictions? Restrictions of language? Restrictions of ideas? Restrictions of thought?

Tonight I read Twain's quote and remember that all writers must, to some extent feel this way.

“The difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Language can expand us, astound us, change us or it can bind us in its web. I want to break through that web and control my use of language so that my blogs are vibrant and vital. So, I continue to wait for those inspirational moments and hope that maybe once in a while I can capture one in just the right way. I'll keep working for that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Running in Circles

If you don't live in northern California you may not be aware of the pounding we've received lately from a string of unrelenting storms. We've already lost part of our fence and when I asked Phil last week if he knew the location of our trash can, he replied, "We put it away."

"We did?"

"You did, right?"


One more quick survey of the street revealed it's location - four houses down, across the street, lid open, lying in the wet gutter - GOAL.

We're all wet up here. I guess I'm telling you this because it's been nearly impossible to get outside and complete my training for my upcoming half marathon run/walk. Last week, I threw caution to the wind, literally and trained outside despite the elements. I think I mentioned my response to that decision on my Facebook status. Pelted with wind and rain, freezing my ears off, with several miles to go, I felt overcome by the intimate and intense peace of God.

This week, I tried a more, er...creative training method. I woke up and remembered that our local mall opens early for walkers. Why not train inside this week? I don't know the distance of a lap around the big place, but I have a fairly good sense of my fifteen minute mile. This week I had to complete seven of those suckers. After calling the Galleria to confirm that they do indeed host walkers in the morning, I made my decision and was off.

What a strange way to train! I found myself circling the mall, virtually alone, with the exception of the occasional low-spirited security guard or members of the cleaning crew peppered throughout the building buffing and scrubbing, no doubt in anticipation of the day's crowds.

The strangest part of this experience? During my run, I felt this uncanny sense of expedited window shopping. As the theme from Rocky trumpeted through my headphones, I raced past the glossy pink mannequins of Wet Seal (It's so hard now) past the cloud-like poofs of Pottery Barn Kids' Beatrix Potter quilts (getting strong now), Popcornopolis now in my rear view, (gonna fly), pondering the mosquito netting-like cylindrical lamps above the food court, (FLY) and back around to that Nordstrom's pleated skirt (FLY! Bah, bah, BAH!)

I thought about efforts. All my efforts. The mall is a funny place. In the right context, it can offer the same spiritual reflective space as a cloister. As I struggled to complete seven miles with some semblance of grace, I thought about the things for which we all strive. The mall stands as a haunting symbol of society's efforts to possess the Pottery Barn, Express, Nordstrom's, Gap life. I am no exception and too often fall victim to this great illusion, but on this morning - in these moments, I also found great irony in the emptiness of our palatial mall. It was just a little glimpse, but a penetrating one for me.

Cease striving and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hallelujahs and Hot Dog on a Stick

Don't know if I'm actually going to attend tomorrow's highly publicized secret flash mob event at our local mall. Supposedly, our city's choral society will sing an impromptu version of Handel's Messiah - the Hallelujah Chorus to be exact. Do I wish to navigate the vast crowd of suburbanites who will flood the Galleria Food Court to witness this event?

After viewing a youtube video of a similar event in Toronto, Canada my response is an emphatic "yes". I was so moved by this youtube video (link below).

I don't know if you're like me - I live in a sleepy suburban town where life is so easy that I often find myself searching for meaning beneath the sidewalks, school buses and strip mall fronts. As a tiny little resident of a gigantic American dream-like sprawl, it's easy for me to feel lost in the land of the generic and homogenized. But as I watched this youtube video tonight I was reminded of something. Christ reigns.

Check out some of these words...
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, Hallelujah!
King of kings and Lord of lords.
And He shall reign forever and ever, Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

There we will be, holding our shopping bags from Macy's or William Sonoma, maybe munching on Hot Dog On a Stick, thinking about, oh, I don't know, our Christmas lists, the parking lot, our tired feet, etc.

And then we will hear it - the voices of ordinary people singing the deep and profound truths of God's love.

These words affirm what I know to be true in the deepest recesses of my heart. There is a truth, a divine truth that supersedes my silly little prosaic life. And at the same time, God is in me, reigning. My Meaning is here and it brings real, hot tears to my eyes. Lord, thank you for your grace, your transcendence, your victory over the mundane and the meaningless. I want to live my life for You.