Immense

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This is a big country. I stopped by a field on the Cowboy Trail in Alberta on my way home this weekend. I am overwhelmed by the immensity of the sky and land I can see from one spot in one place on one road. I cannot comprehend the size of this province or this world, let alone the universe.

I’ve met some extremely intelligent people in my life. I love scientists. Many of them have spent a lifetime learning all they can in a field the size of a clump of clay. Even astrophysicists who look at the big picture and gaze into the sky beyond the sky admit that all their accumulated knowledge is humbling. Questions multiply like the expanding universe. The more we know the more we have to admit we just don’t know.

The same difficulty is seen in developing wisdom on how to rule a nation or get along with other countries. If two people, who care deeply about each other, cannot agree on the best way to earn a living, clean the house, raise a child, or even the best route to drive to the grocery store how can we trust a few people in positions of power and who despise each other to make wise decisions for all of us?

When I read the news and sense the current atmosphere I feel frightened. Sometimes I know too little; sometimes I know too much. The problems are too complex to figure out all by my little self.

Someone reminded me of a story the author of ‘The Hiding Place’, Corrie ten Boom, wrote. She lived in difficult times and sometimes felt overwhelmed. Her father reminded her that when she was a child and excited about going on a train trip with her Papa he didn’t put her ticket in her hand until it was time to actually get on the train. In the same way, God often doesn’t give us the grace to handle a problem until we need it.

I was overwhelmed with anxiety as I faced another medical scan on Friday. I wrote about it here in Real Time. I clung to Corrie’s story, trusting God to hand me a ticket when I needed it even though I was shaking so badly when I arrived at the hospital I could barely hold a pen to sign the permission paper. I wanted to cry. While the nurse started an I.V. for the contrast I wished for a power failure or something — anything– to give me an excuse to escape the place.

Panic attacks attack reason. It magnifies annoyances and projects them on the screen in the mind as terrifying monsters. The night before I convinced myself I could endure ten minutes in the tube. I had serious doubts about lasting twenty minutes. Then I was told the test would take sixty minutes.

The doctor had given me pills to take to calm anxiety, but, like last time, they weren’t helping much. When my name was called I felt like I was marching to my doom, or at least an embarrassing display of illogical immaturity.

And then it happened.

My heavenly Father handed me my grace ticket. The technician told me this MRI machine was significantly larger than the one I was crammed into last time. I felt peace flow over me.

I got on the less narrow bed, closed my eyes, and entered the place where God promised to meet my every need. I thanked him for his goodness. I chose to find delight in him by picturing his beautiful creation. I sang a song of praise. Soon I was in an orchard grove feeling the soft grass bed and warm dappled sun on my skin like I did when I was a child. Then I was in a cool pool of blue water like a mountain lake feeling Holy Spirit’s hands underneath me like he was teaching a child to float. My part was to be still and trust. I felt his smile.

It didn’t feel like sixty minutes. It felt like I was in that place where time didn’t matter. I felt immense peace as wide as the Alberta sky. When the technician told me they were finished, slid me out and helped me to my feet I knew I had experienced the strength that comes from resting in the Lord in more than a theoretical way. If you have never suffered from anxiety attacks this won’t make sense to you, but to me it felt like a miracle.

We all face uncertainty and fear, some of us more than others because of personal history, or loss of physical or mental strength, or seemingly overwhelming circumstances. I know I’m not the only one who is sensing an atmosphere of increased anxiety in the world. Many people, especially children and young people, are experiencing high levels of anxiety like never before. I do believe we need to turn to God in humility admitting that we need help.

I am learning that if God says he’s got this, he’s got this. Even when the atmosphere fills with threatening clouds the warmth of his love can shine through. We have the freedom to ask, then quietly trust like a contented child at rest on a mother’s lap.

Lord, my heart is meek before you.
I don’t consider myself better than others.
I’m content to not pursue matters that are over my head—
such as your complex mysteries and wonders—
that I’m not yet ready to understand.

I am humbled and quieted in your presence.
Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap,
I’m your resting child and my soul is content in you.

O people of God, your time has come to quietly trust,
waiting upon the Lord now and forever.

(Psalm 131 The Passion Translation)

Thank you, Lord. You are so good.

Leaving Egypt

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I want to stand
Moses-like
on the edge of the hour
and, raising my rod,
part                          time.

I want to see
tired thoughts,
burdened eyes,
heavy limbs,
tumble over themselves
and heart beats surf on holy swells.

I want to see
the impending rend
between keen moments,
morning roll back on mother-warmth,
evening break on fading breath.

I want to stand
Moses-like
on the edge of the hour,
and then

when I’m ready

when I’ve passed through

turn and watch Pharoah drown.

Baptizing Babies in the Birdbath

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Baptizing Babies in the Birdbath

We were baptizing babies in the birdbath,
me and Beats,
plastic pouty babies
with hard dimpled bellies
and yes or no eyes.

I baptize thee, Betsy Ann Wetsy
(in my most Godly voice)
I baptize thee
in the name of the Father,
(pouring water over sculpted hair)
and of the Son,
(swishing clicky head in basin)
and of the Holy Ghost,
(pressuring bad bubble spirits out of
off-center hole in bum)

There.

Having fulfilled requirements
for all our grandparent’s denominations
I held Betsy by rigid foot
and rained blessings
on the sidewalk.

Um, said Beats.

Um.

You blasphemed.
You said Holy Ghost.
You committed the unpardonable sin.

Um.

My life for yours, Betsy.
You take that kind of risk sometimes
for babies you love
when you don’t know all the rules.

When I was a child it was easy to believe that God was angry with me for doing something I didn’t know was wrong. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I know that it was strong enough to leave me fearful that come the great judgment day I would be rejected for failing to keep all the rules and having unconfessed sin in my life (because I didn’t know it was a sin.)

This poem seems light-hearted, but it is about a real experience. I was about five-years old. Beatrix and I had just come from enduring another sermon we didn’t understand. (My grandson defines a sermon as “when people talk about God but don’t let you ask questions.”) All we picked up was that there was an “unpardonable sin.”

For years I didn’t have the heart to tell Mom and Dad that all their efforts to send me to Sunday School and Bible clubs and camps were in vain because I was already damned.

It took a long time before I realized that Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. He absolutely loves children – and adults. He doesn’t set them up for failure. He didn’t come to condemn, but to rescue us and restore our relationship with a loving Father.

I needed to let go of the lie that God is angry and capricious and impossible to please before I could see his eyes of love for me. It wasn’t easy; I struggled to let go of the only security I had known – keeping rules and striving to be good enough. But setting out on a journey to search for the real God has been so worth it. He healed my heart, took away my fear, and created in me a place to hold on to his love.

I decided to post this poem today because I know there are others who, for whatever reason, have the same picture of God – and you are tired and depressed and ready to let go. You’ve tried about as hard as you can try. You’ve gone through rituals and attempts to meet man-made requirements but are still afraid it’s not good enough.

I met someone who was old and ill. He was busy “covering all the bases,” going through all sorts of religious rituals and donating to several denominations. I saw in him the same old familiar fear. What if I am too bad for God to accept me?

I told him all God required of him was to let Jesus do what he came to do – love him just as he was. He found it hard, but the last time I visited him he sang, with steady voice, an old Kris Kristofferson song.

Why me Lord what have I ever done
To deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known
Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do
That was worthy of you or the kindness you’ve shown

Lord help me, Jesus, I’ve wasted it so
Help me Jesus I know what I am
But now that I know that I’ve needed you so
Help me, Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.

I believe Jesus heard him.

Save

Save

Save

I hear you

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I decided to re-post a poem I wrote several years ago. The day I wrote it I was sitting outside writing a letter to God. I couldn’t quite talk to him yet, but I was daring to write down my feelings and mail them to the fireplace. My page was full of angry accusations. In places my pen tore right through the paper. While I was crying a sudden squall blew in. I was so utterly at the end of my rope I didn’t bother moving. It felt like the storm raging in me was now raging around me.

The sun broke through while it was still raining. When the shower stopped I picked up my strewn papers and my wet Bible. It fell open to Psalm 18 where David writes about God wrapping himself in storm clouds on his way to deliver justice to his child. “Wrapped and hidden in the thick-cloud darkness, his thunder-tabernacle surrounding him, he hid himself in mystery-darkness; the dense rain clouds were his garments. Suddenly the brilliance of his presence breaks through...” (The Passion translation) And verse 19 “His love broke open the way.”

I’m publishing this again because this week I’ve read several excellent blogs by people younger than I who ably describe their frustration with church experience that involved competition, consumerism, hypocrisy, political manipulation, performance-oriented faith with impossibly high standards, dogmatic theoretical faith without power, and lack of demonstrations of love.

Yes, I know the saying that you get out of church what you put in, but change means admitting there are things that are not working for everyone. Many people are happy where they are, but there are also a lot of hurting people out there who feel no one hears them. They are expressing their disappointment with their feet. To those young people who are walking away I want to say, I hear you.

I think the largest “mission field” in North America is among those who have known spiritual abuse, from mild coercion to dastardly deeds worthy of criminal charges. I define spiritual abuse as the act of exploiting a vulnerable person’s longing for connection with their Creator for the purposes of acquiring  personal power -usually by a person with some degree of authority or responsibility for nurturing them. It is far more prevalent than anyone wants to admit. Repentance means to change the way we think. And we do need to repent. All of us.

The first step toward healing involves admitting there is a problem. If you have been a victim, express your pain, but don’t park there. Keep searching for the God who loves you as you are. He is not disappointed in you because he understands human frailty. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show you what he is really like. He never expected you to be good enough to earn his love. He is the One who heals our wounded hearts and showers our lives with loving kindness.

We are incapable of loving God until we know his love. When you know you are loved and forgiven you can afford to take your hands off the throats of those who owe you. That’s when the world will know we are Christians – by our love.

 

Mourning

I cry, Oh God! Oh Christ! Oh Jesus!

Where are you when the ones who say
they speak for you –those who squeeze us,
press in on every side, demand
that we respect authority,
obey their rules, come (cash in hand)
to hear their words, as only they
have got the regulations straight at last?
Where are you when the weak are hurt,
aggrieved and stumbled in your name?

Don’t you see what they have passed?

I sit entangled with the chords
of bitterness around my feet.
A plant blows over on the boards
that fence me off from outside world.
The petals scatter on the grass
and now the gust of wind that swirled
their frail wings in electric air
becomes a greater blast of rage
that showers ashes in my hair.

Flash tears the sky –breath rent apart,
and splits the veil of one who mourns,
with lightning striking to the heart.
Deep groaning rolls across the vale
from craggy peak to worn down ridge
and rains pours down –beats down in hail.

The sun withdraws beneath a cloud.
and saplings hang their weeping heads
as thunder rails against the proud,
who dare to claim the earth their own,
–and in the woods from hill to hill
creation echoes back the moan.

My tears obscure the sky from view.
Oh God! I cry. God! Where are you?

My child, I hear.  I weep with you.

(written during the struggle)

This Now Place

frosty forest creston ch 5x7 IMG_0446This Now Place

The fog wraps itself around me
like soft flannel encircling a child who twists to see.

Mystic air muffles the crying crow,
the howling wolf.

Damp cloud strokes my cheek
and covers my brow.

I catch a glimpse of mountainside
floating like a memory of the future in the sky.

Then silence.

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Beside secret stream,
as in a dream,
I walk on wood chips,
sainted cedars,
lives laid down
to cradle my steps.

The shoulders of giants hush my footfall.

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Between fervent moss clinging to rock
the fountain flows, in unexpected joy
between somewhere and somewhere,
beauty colouring only this place,

this now place,
this here place.

I settle my soul upon Your breast and breathe Your love.

The mountains stand
shoulder to shoulder
like guardian angels around the valley.

Whether I sleep or wake,
whether You hide Yourself
or gently wake me to see Your glory.
I trust You.

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The Teacher

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The Teacher

Teacher, tell us,

they say,

clutching rulers and texts

against their chests.

Teacher, tell us.

 

Sun-scorched hands loose fettered bands.

Stigmata stretch to gather hatchlings

squabbling over foreign coins and spousal deeds.

Sand-ground feet tread foot-ground trail,

Stone pillow nights await grey dawn cleft.

Weeping flute unravels dancer’s shroud.

 

Broken bread,

water jug wine,

a table spread valley-wide

for open-eyed children.

 

Offered flesh receives frightened flail,

Honest heart meets jealous scorn,

Molested shoulders bear run-away shame.

 

Love, he says, sweating anguish.

Love, he says, bleeding sorrow.

Love, he says, opening arms.

Love, he says, dying.

Love, he says, rising.

Love, he says, pleading.

 

Teacher, tell us,

they say,

tightening robes

against the winds of his breath.

 

Teacher, tell us,

Will this be on the exam?

 

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. (Mark 1:22)

Take a Chance on Me

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Last night my son and husband and I were talking about worship, and about how worship springs, not from our efforts to do something for God, but “Christ in us” jumping up to acknowledge the presence of the Father (who I call Abba.) It’s like the way the baby John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb when the Holy Spirit within him was conscious of the presence of God in Mary. Worship is being conscious of God making us his temple and of the perfect love and unity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Worship is what we carry in us. Worship is a gift God fills us with so we have something to give to Him. Music, art, dance, brick-laying, whatever, are merely the vehicles to express our praise.

Unity is when we are conscious of Christ in us, and the perfect Oneness of the Godhead, so we can recognize Christ in others and thus desire to worship together -because it is who we are. It’s in our new DNA.

This morning I had a dream of Jesus giving his children a gift that looked like maggots (ew) but it turns out they were living seeds. They just had to move it, move it, move it. Then he gave me a pack of playing cards and I heard the song, “Take a Chance on Me” -by Abba.

 

 

Jesus singing and dancing to Abba. I love his humour.