Thursday, October 29, 2009

Connecting with my past has proven to healthy overall. I left my hometown (we lived outside of town about 8 miles on a small family farm) after high school and never wanted to go back. And I didn't for years other than holidays or when I needed some place to stay when semesters were out. After so many years, I live back in the old farmhouse and find that with it's quirks and problems, it's not all that bad. Community is what you make of and give to it.

Somehow I managed without a car until I was 25. I know now the inconvenience this caused a large number of people, friends and family both. None of them came right out and said it and I was too blind to see just how my supposed independence was forcing others to take care of me. If I needed to get groceries I would ask if anyone was going into town and if I could ride along. I'm not even certain if I offered gas money or at least to pay for their dinner for the trouble. Finally, a co-worker in this 'communal' outdoorsy setting that I worked in at the time had the courage to suggest that I should just get a car. That there was no reason for me to not have one since I had a steady income and after all, I was in my mid-20's and living in a very rural area. I needed transportation to get most anywhere. Much to one of my uncle's dismay, I went against his advice to purchase a used vehicle and bought a brand new car. To make matters worse I had done the research and decided upon a car that hadn't been on the market for very long. That stupid Festiva lasted 9 years and nearly 200K before I had to admit that the streets of Detroit had ruined the body and framework beyond repair and it was getting dangerous to drive it. It got 50 miles to the gallon on the expressway and the engine was running just as well as if it were new. It turned out to be a very good thing.

I guess the point is that sometimes it's important to make suggestions to people. Honestly, I had no idea how my concept of 'independence' was effecting others until that moment. To this day I remain slow and clueless in these matters. I am trying to get better about it. Another reason for having taken so long was because of the environmental impact transportation of any sort has on the environment around us. I believe the earth does call for protection and good stewardship. And that this is expected of us from our Creator. There are problems with extremes of any sort, but I fail to understand how caring for the environment is contrary to biblical teaching as so many people seem to feel.

As well as caring for others, community, all living things. The Lord God did make them all. Even the unlovely.

Work in us, be in us, watch over us, and thank you God Almighty.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's late, I should be sleeping and will be soon. I've been on a kick thinking about infinite time. How long is a day in eternity. A coworker is a stickler on the literal interpretation of the Bible, right down to six 24 hour days of creation. I haven't asked him yet but I have to wonder how do you measure a day in eternity? Even if the original texts use the literal term for "day" doesn't that exemplify more how limited our language is when trying to describe something? Language is incomplete on it's own. If the Bible were perfect in a literal sense would there really need to be the volumes of books and studies that try to explain it and make it clearer? The Bible is perfectly true, it is literally and historically true. Yet because our language is imperfect, as descriptive as it is, we need to study, use guides, look for understanding on spiritual and historical levels. None of this takes anything away from the Truth of the Word. Nor does this mean that the Word is false or inaccurate. Our language alone simply cannot convey everything, even in the original texts. And then the parables. OY! There are things we just will not understand, they are left to Faith. That's a good thing. Too often these bumps in the road cause rifts that the enemy himself could not have envisioned, but it will use them to separate the body.

Or I could be wrong.

Peace, Love, understanding.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Closing my sister's house for the winter is always slightly depressing for me. It marks the end of another year that I haven't spent nearly as much time up there as I should have. Typically it's very quiet, pretty secluded, a small community where neighbors watch out for each other...a lot to like about the place. No one has stolen the lawn mower parked under the deck (two actually). The patio furniture remains intact and undisturbed. Even the grill that's on the deck is still there, now covered by a big blue tarp for winter along with the furniture. Soon to be covered by oak leaves and twigs, and later by snow and ice until spring thaw.

The big round thermometer hanging near the front door keeps the neighbors informed of the temperatures no matter what the season. Maybe it's the picture of the puppies on it that prevents people from messing with it. It seems like the mailbox keeps getting knocked off the post and onto the ground. That's the only thing that has happened so far, and it happens repeatedly. I take it as a statement against the post office. It could be just kids though getting drunk, joy riding and playing mailbox baseball. Not that THAT is a good thing or something I would condone. They have consistently scored off her mailbox. Home run every time. Of course it's pretty easy to do when people are only there on weekends and not all that often at that. Now if someone were there to play catch it would be another story. I haven't bothered to nail it back onto the post knowing full well it's going to get knocked down again and there's nothing we can do about it. So it sits atop the post in balance awaiting the fateful blow. If that's the worst of it that's alright by me.

The ride there and back was nice, giving me time to think and listen to music. It's about 100 miles from where I live to get to the house now that the bridge for the direct route is out. I've seen places going this alternate route a couple of times that I would not have seen otherwise. Lake City is a nice little town. I could work there and live there without having an issue with it. Having pumpkin ice cream in soft serve OR hand dipped at the local grill makes the area even more inviting.

Distractions abound when I'm isolated and I find that I drift into things that I should probably be guarding against better. Change is difficult and no one can remain an island without a certain amount of (spiritual) injury. For some I suppose injury manifests itself in physical surface forms. That kind of damage, though harmful, heals as it can. It's the personal struggles that remain largely hidden and unchanged without some sort of support. Eventually, whatever form they manifest, the distractions surface in some form because all injury has to be dealt with and healed in some way. Pumpkin spice ice cream, though delicious and good for the moment, is not the elixir of sub-surface injury. It may take away the sting or offer a numbing effect, but it does not heal. Healing comes from without (the Body) and Within (the Spirit). Often the Within counts on the without to help with the healing process but the without has to know what it is healing and be willing to participate.

Huh, now that I've muddied those waters and been as nondescript as I personally deem possible I'll leave on an up note referring back to the beginning.

Q: What's Irish and stays out all night?

A: Paddy O'Furniture

Okay, so I know it's a terrible joke, really lousy, but it makes me chuckle every time I think of it. I can't take credit for it either, I just wish I could remember where I heard it originally. Perhaps the person who originated this joke is not looking for credit?

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control

Monday, October 19, 2009

Driving home a song came on the radio (Born Again-Third Day) and though I enjoy it and had heard it before something struck me about this song. More than the song, what it's about and alone in my car I just began crying and releasing the stress of carrying so many things around with me hidden, out of sight of the world. Ridiculous, I know, hidden from the world just means that I'm holding onto things that are right there before God. Things God has willingly taken up for me but I cling to them like some sort of lifeline. As long as I grasp onto these things that have already been taken care of I feel hurt, broken, badly about myself...but alive. To release these things is to die in a very real sense. Without these things the me that I'm familiar with, comfortable with, miserable with but still alive with, fades. I become no more, at least in my present form spiritually. I become dependent on a Maker that I can never fully understand and this is where Faith comes in. Do I have the faith in my Creator to let it all go and trust in what I am to become without the familiar? Minus the comfortable but miserable? I it baptism if it's a flood of your own tears and it's just you and your Maker driving alone home from work listening to a song that at the moment is much more than just a song?

Though this experience remains with me the conflict begins already. Work awaits, friends make decisions I just can't stand for, I am lonely, there are too many home projects neglected, my example is sub-par at best. Neither experience is more or less real than the other. Last night's moments of forgiveness and compassion overwhelming me is just as real as the daily grind. To choose one as reality over the other is another kind of death. The death of the fullness of life. I cannot hide in the ambiance of God's Glory and ignore the heaviness of the world around me. There must be a co-existence, a balance. That balance is precarious at best and takes devotion. Devotion to care for the spiritual self and also be part of the world around me.

Yesterday an older boy who constantly antagonizes one of the younger boys helped the younger boy fix his little hand held video game. Without the distraction of the game the younger boy often has major issues and violent outbursts. It was a simple process of removing the back and setting a reset button back in place. There was no arguing, it was just a sincere thing for the older boy to do. I made sure to let the older boy know it was a nice thing he had done for the younger. Though the older doesn't realize it, it was a good example for me too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Today was spent with my sister who is visiting from Lansing. We spent the day doing little menial things, washing dishes, taking trash to the transfer station, buying groceries, playing video games. That's what I like about being able to spend time with my sister. We can do the most mundane things. There never has to be a lot of preparation, it never has to be big, we don't get (that) bored just doing every day things when we visit. I would argue some of the things we did today were less than every day things. I mean, really, driving garbage down the road to have it hauled away to some place unknown? That's pretty much a below average activity.

What makes these things great is that we are able to share other things and these really trivial activities become the catalyst for communion. During these times we get to share with each other about family, friends, our hopes, our struggles, our disparages, our excitements. And we are even able to share the dreaded silent moments and appreciate them.

These are things that can only happen with people who you are close to and care about and who care about you. It's much more than finishing chores. These things become the basis for showing that people matter no matter what. Even if they aren't exciting, they aren't doing anything incredible, in fact they are doing things no one really WANTS to do.

It's these moments that make me grateful and appreciative for what I have and not focus on the things I wish I did. When everything comes down it's much more meaningful to have someone, even if it's just some "one", that you care about. That is a gift.

This is not a Hallmark moment.

"a smoking man shakes, and the broken girl aches, and the Clown starts to sing a song, he sings:
Mercy lives here, Mercy lives here, at home with the saints and the sinners, Mercy lives here"
-the choir from the album Flap Your Wings

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In many ways I feel as if I'm working backward. I am going somewhere, almost backing up to the fork in the road that I missed along the way and got off course. This backtracking has been a difficult experience, having to retrace steps that lead to where I currently am personally, reluctantly having to search for the proper direction. It may not be backtracking at all, perhaps it just feels that way.

This kind of effort means admitting to myself that I have gone astray from who I'm meant to be, who I can and should be. I'm becoming painfully aware that bitterness, arrogance, judging others have all crept into my being and have become comfortable partners. Having to question everything I do, or say, or think. It's one thing to intellectually believe in the Creator but it's quite another to have a deep faith. How are faith and belief different? Can one have one without the other? In Webster's they are very similar, if not quite the same.

I would wonder that one can believe without having faith, but I'm not so sure one can have faith without belief. It seems there's something deeper to faith as I understand it. Something that's personal, trusting. Trusting. Maybe that's the big difference for me. I can believe my car will get me to the grocery store but I may not have faith that it will, I don't trust it.

Guarantee comes to mind also. I can't guarantee anything. Just this past week as a team our house staff guaranteed the kids at work we were moving into a different house. When moving day arrived we were told we could not move yet. We should not have made that guarantee. And it turns out we could not follow through on it and many of the boys were terribly upset. I can understand that. There's a level of trust that comes into play and for our boys this is a breach of that trust. Guaranteeing one thing and then not being able to follow through.

If I apply this world experience to God then I limit God and make it possible for God to fail, to break trust, to not fulfill the only guarantee that I can think we have been given. The Guarantee that Christ fulfills. Yet it seems so often beyond me to accept this beyond what I know and experience in this fallen, yet often beautiful, place. God should not be limited, God can be only understood in as much as we're allowed to understand, in as much as we are truly able to understand. Some of us understand differently than others. When those understandings are not in contrast with God but not my understanding then I have to be careful how I judge others. How easy it can be to separate the Family.

I live by Grace, Forgiveness. The love of a Creator who forgives every time I err, and it is often. Grant me humility, Grace, Mercy.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Summer Settles

It has been raining for days, no sun, no break in the clouds, colder temperatures than we've seen this early in October in ages. Leaves have become crimson, auburn, gold and float across the yard carried by the wind that has been as non-stop as the rain and cold. Stepping outside for a few moments I witnessed the coyotes making their nightly venture through the old barn yard, yelping, yapping, yowling. This time of year especially, it seems, dog owners every where must be more vigilant and aware of when they let the dogs out to relieve themselves for the last time until the coming dawn. Open the door, listen carefully, beware before allowing man's best friend to run out into the dark yard.

Tonight I am alone in the big old farm house. Had I not grown up here I would likely be frightened, maybe a little edgy. The weather is classic setting for haunts and ghouls. Neighbors have asked to take pictures of their children dressed in Halloween costume in front of the house to add a creep factor to the photo. It's understandable. We had someone come to the house not long ago asking for help saying she thought no one lived here. It's a very old house. It has also not been kept up nearly as well as it should have been for years and years even before my brother, sister, and I came to own it. It's very drafty, cold all season through, yet it is home to two adult brothers and their two dogs, several feral cats, deer who gather near the road under the oak tree to dine on the fallen acorns, and any other wild creature that happens to amble through be it with permanent or temporary residence in mind. My intentions this evening were to watch scary movies by myself until I couldn't stand it anymore but I have made a change in plans. I started to listen to U2/No Line On The Horizon and somehow the horror movie fest took a backseat to introspection. This felt more timely, more important, like a better choice for me at this time.

Reading scripture has become a daily regiment, one that I look forward and miss if for some reason I run out the door and have not taken time to read, reflect, and meditate. I have coupled this with reading Madeleine L' Engle's books on Genesis and her trilogy of Crosswicks journals. I cannot say that any of this has made me a better person, as a matter of fact, it makes me aware of quite the opposite. I have a long way to go if I am looking to better myself. Thank God works and lack of vices are not a deciding factor in Saving Grace. These glimpses of Truth often bring me to a very quiet, humble, even humiliated state that I believe is a good place to be right now. It is only through mercy and grace that I can find comfort. And the Creator's great Love.

I am, and will always be, less than what I was created to be. Stubbornly holding onto things that really have no other purpose than to titillate, draw attention away from Good(ness). Anger, resentment, gossip, charged statements...pornography, empty relationships. L' Engle comments in 'And It Was Good' that Satan looks for pornography everywhere. And that is the deceiver's goal, to turn anything good into what is basically pornography, even literally. It's really strange how we find so little in our Creator to define ourselves and look to a fallen world instead to find comfort in what we've allowed to be tainted. We look at Truth and believe instead the deception and call that good. Thank God we have a Creator that loves, that we cannot understand even in the slightest, that we cannot label or explain as S/He really is. If God were what we have come to 'understand' then there would be no hope for redemption.

As this part of the planet slips into a 6 month slumber I am grateful that I know I cannot meet the standards we have set, that the Christ has not just taken our 'sin' upon Him but became sin so that we have hopes of redemption and a new Heaven and Earth. Bless each of us with the will to get through each day, the community that we need to support us, to listen, to bless us and for us to be a blessing to, Be in us and use us in ways we may never know or understand.