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Remember how it felt to be a kid on Christmas morning? We don’t often experience highs like that as adults. Oh, holidays are still pleasant, but they’re more work than they used to be. And any “high” is immediately followed by a “low” — something that was easier to take in stride as a child, when the next holiday or birthday party or field trip was always just around the corner.
I’m coming down from a “contact high”: That is, time spent with my friends and classmates at a recent reunion. I’m not going to lie (although I am going to use blatantly ‘80s slang): I had a blast. But now the afterglow is wearing off. It’s back to business as usual.
I used to wonder, as many people have, why human beings couldn’t be happy all the time. We seem to expect it. We are uncomfortable with sadness; we don’t like it. We speak of being “depressed.” Actually, of course, depression is a medical condition involving certain brain chemicals. Most of us aren’t really depressed, not medically anyway. We’re just sad.
I’ve come to a conclusion about happiness. I don’t think we’re supposed to be happy all the time, or even most of the time. I think it’s unfair to suggest that we should. The story of the Garden of Eden attempts to explain what I’m talking about — namely, that our free will comes with a price, and that price is unhappiness, at least from time to time.
Our choices make us unhappy. Our ability to choose the direction our lives will take makes us unhappy. Even choosing happiness can make us unhappy, as happiness can only be fleeting. We are built for contrasts: There can be no satiety without hunger, no dark without light, no unhappiness without happiness.
Like any living thing, happiness (laughter, sunshine, love) takes specific care. You have to work at it. Maintain ties with people who make you happy. Choose positivity in your day-to-day demeanor. Remember good times. But don’t expect to be happy all the time. Flowers need rain to grow, too. And happiness in this lifetime comes only in glimpses. We’re not ready to see Heaven…not yet.
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
The world is always turning.
My heart is always beating.
My mind is always racing.
So there is never a time when I am still.
Even when I sit on my couch,
I feel coiled. I can’t let go of the day.
Release me to just be.
Free me to bask, to breathe.
Abide with me as I seek You.
For that is how
I find myself.
For me, there’s one book of the Bible that always draws me back.
Reading a passage from Psalms, I find myself breathing more slowly and reflexively relaxing.
Maybe it should have been named Calms?
Because that’s how I feel when I read this passage from Psalm 62:
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
It starts with “Yes,” so it’s an affirmation. It’s a direct command to your own soul, so it’s positive self-talk.
My hope comes from him.
It’s a reminder that it’s not what’s in front of you, but Who’s behind you that matters.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
The King James version of the 23rd Psalm is the one I learned growing up, and it still makes me feel centered and serene.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters.
In through the nose. Out through the mouth.
He restoreth my soul.
It’s as if you’ll find your whole life somewhere in Psalms.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path…
When I read this passage from Psalms 119, I feel like I’m powering-up and decompressing at the same time. Building strength and releasing stress.
The book of Psalms is like a daily shot of Vitamin B: Be calm. Be where you are. Be strong in the Lord. Be at peace wherever you go. Believe. Just be.
Pentecost is a time for us to examine the Holy Spirit at work in our lives today.
I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time spotting the Spirit in my life. I think that a big part of this is because when I think about people moved by the spirit, I think about people doing big things – Mother Theresa, Bishop Desmond Tutu.
But every now and again, I get my act together enough to remember that the Spirit doesn’t always come as a great wind or tongues of flame. The Spirit can be a gentle persistent breeze moving through and around the people we see on a regular basis.
When I remember to look carefully, I can see people using their Gifts for the Glory of God.
- Our choir director seeks out inspirational music to lift our hearts and souls closer to God.
- Our Sunday school teachers who work with both adults and children helping them to understand the Word of God.
- The elders who sponsored our Confirmation students.
- The ushers who keep our services running smoothly.
- The man who comes with his son and maintains our gardens giving us places of quiet contemplation.
- The woman who prepares coffee fellowship so that people linger and share.
- The retired engineer who works to feed orphans in Haiti and shared his experiences with our congregation.
- The physical therapist who talks to our seniors and other members, helping them understand what their doctors have told them.
- The history buff who gets us together to visit special exhibits at the local history museum.
- The elder who comes in the evening and replaces lights and makes repairs.
- The woman preparing the annual quilt to be auctioned as a fund raiser.
- The choir member who arranged for us to work at a local food pantry.
Look for the people who are Blessing the world with their talents. Chances are they have been touched by the Spirit.
Then consider what the Spirit is moving you to do for the greater good. It may not be one huge thing, but a series of small actions that add up to make a difference.
hear the Spirit
like a gentle breeze.
find the path
You would have me walk.
And please guide my hands
to the tasks
You would have me perform,
not for my glory,
but so that Your will be done.
I’ve posted this one before but it seems like a good match for Pentecost.
“Donna Summer is dead,” my friend Alice lamented. “So soon after David Cassidy!”
“David Cassidy is not dead,” I argued. But Ann backed Alice up.
“No way. If David Cassidy were dead I would know it. IN MY HEART!” insisted Judy, rushing to confirm or deny the report on her Blackberry.
Judy and I were, of course, correct. David Cassidy isn’t dead. Alice and Ann confused him with Davy Jones. (Although how one confuses the cutest Monkee with the cutest Partridge, I’ll never know!) And we all had a big laugh.
That’s how it goes with sisterhood. You argue. You laugh. You love. I was reminded of the power of sisterhood this past weekend. I attended my silver anniversary college reunion — 25 years since graduation. You know what I noticed? We mix better now. There are no more divisions: Education majors and Music majors don’t have their own tables anymore. As we’ve grown up, we’ve grown together. Differences matter less or not at all.
What else I noticed: We are brave. Most of us have faced some pretty tough things in our lives by this point — illness or death of parents, our own health problems. And guess what? We are stronger now than we ever thought we might be. And the source of that strength is twofold: faith and sisterhood, our bonds on this earth and our bonds with our God, who sustains and carries us through good times and bad.
The two are linked, inexorably, for sisterhood is a gift from God. It is His way of embracing us in the very real and human way we so badly need. God made us flesh for a reason. Flesh is so very comforting. We need that comfort.
So there was a lot of hugging over the weekend, a lot of nearness. I know that there are people who are uncomfortable with the touch of others, and I feel for them. To touch and be touched is a reminder of our common humanity. We are all one. We are all connected. God made us so.
And so it is that the weekend passed. It was a powerful reminder of the power of sisterhood, a power that is different from other connections. There is, in our sharing with other women, a very real and concrete strengthening. God made us, men and women. Only sisters can authentically understand what it is to be a woman in the world today. And if those women are women of faith, the power they can have in our lives expands exponentially, limitlessly. God bless our sisters.
Last week, I
wasted spent a great deal of time trying to write a post about Obama’s stance on gay marriage. Suffice it to say that I never could get it right. The short version: Yay, Mr. President! And, yes, I am pro-equal marital rights AND a Christian. And, yes, I can and do read my Bible. But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
My husband read my failed attempts but couldn’t tell me where I was going wrong. “This is a really complicated topic. I just don’t think you’re going to reach the undecided. I don’t really think there is anyone who is undecided.”
That brought me up short. Is gay marriage a topic that absolutely everyone has taken a stance on? I don’t think so. But I do think the undecided are very quiet, and it isn’t because they are undecided. I think the undecided are quiet mainly because the rest of us are so very outspoken.
Think about it.
Come out as pro-marital-equality and you’re liable to get labeled a deluded liberal who is going against the Word of God. You are on the short path to the Hot Place and responsible for the destruction of America.
Come out as anti-gay-marriage and you’re a hate monger stuck in another century. You don’t know Christ’s true message and are thoughtlessly following an equally deluded leader right off the proverbial cliff.
I’m fairly certain the undecided are out there, but because the decided have a tendency to be both outspoken and judgmental, the undecided are very, very quiet.
Frankly, its time for the rest of us to quiet down as well. To quiet down and look up. How else can we hear what God is trying to tell us? Remember – the same letters that spell Listen also spell Silent. Only when we are silent will we hear Him.
Of course, once we do hear what He has to say on the topic, I think we’re all going to be in for some time in the Uncooperative Chair. Maybe that will give us time to think things over so that we can begin to reach others with His Word.
And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.