Story

Stories move us and drive us. A narrative is often our framework for understanding. When life fails to, “make sense” it is often because we don’t grasp a unifying narrative.

For those of us who are native storytellers most of the stories pass by unrecorded. 

i reminisced about all the stories that have flickered through my head as threads that i did not follow. They were not woven into the fabric of my life. They were left dangling.

i think all writers have these loose ends.

Stories that might have been.

The one who got away is not a man. The one who got away was a Viking…

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Trust

Trust can be a mountain, or an entire range. As pilgrims in the foreign land we are naturally reluctant to trust other people. It doesn’t take us long to figure out that many people are living under completely alien purposes and ideals from the orthodox Christian.

The Post-Christian culture has produced generations of people who claim to believe in God, while they live out their lives in a totally self-absorbed manner. They don’t question the basic assumption of the modern moral order premised on relativism.

We are not living here, now to gratify our pleasure-sensors and avoid pain. As practicing, thoughtful Christians, we know that is not the ultimate reality. How then do we trust others when they are often motivated only by those goals?

For me, the pilgrimage metaphor is particularly apt. Pilgrims come from various locations all centered on a powerful, transcendant place of worship. The pilgrims journey with others as long as the path leads them the same way. As the route progresses some will follow one trail, some another, and still others will try to forge their own. i recognize that everyone is not going my way. They may not even define trust the way i do. In this i think that the relativism and multiple worldviews constructs have won a large segment of the population.

Despite my apparent acceptance of the modern order in the preceding paragraph, i believe in a thoroughgoing Orthodox Christian worldview. i believe in the sacred and cherish ultimate truth, goodness and trust. My beliefs may be regarded as outdated to some, but i firmly belive that most people long for these pillars of truth even if they deny the Christian traditions connected to them.

For orthodox Christians following the principles of Jesus Christ is the goal in life. There are more people than we realize on this journey. If we follow Christ we value living a life of truth, and we are worthy of trust. However, as fallen humans we will fail sometimes. We sin and fall short of the ideal. We repent. We turn completely around. And we try again.

The way is rough; The journey is long. We will arrive battered and broken. That is how the selfishness is scrubbed out of us. 

Let us press on in faith, dear friend!

Our trust will be broken, but we will be broken into wholeness.

One day we will wash our robes white in the blood of the Lamb, may it please the Lord!

Do you know what Love is?

Love is such a popular word. People light up when hearing it spoken. Some people get flustered, defensive, or curmudgeonly when love is discussed. Few words illicit such powerful, emotional responses. Being newly engaged I am made aware of how the awareness of love affects even total strangers.

As I struggle across the room in the blinding throb of a series of monster migraines, I stop to smooth the skirt of my wedding gown. It is newly acquired and hanging in my study so I can admire its beauty. Besides, who has closet space for a wedding gown! The glimpse of tulle and lace lighten my heart and I am transported from a state of pain to happy thoughts of the future when I get to marry my Beloved! Thoughts of the wedding lift my spirit because love breaks through the ugly of today.
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Our world is ugly. Countless souls are slugging through today just trying to endure the pain. There is too much brokenness all around. Love shines like a shaft of warm sunlight through a cold-winter night. It cuts through the hurt, pain, doubt, and best of all death!

We can deny or misunderstand the meaning of what love actually is. It is almost easier to define what love is not than what it is. St. Paul eloquently defined love in 1 Corinthians 13. But even if we confuse love for a feeling, the feeling love gives us is an effect not a cause. We cannot confuse the two. What Jesus Christ did for us on the cross is the greatest example of love that anyone can imagine.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant of rude. Love does not insist on its own way…rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

When I am hit by a long series of migraines, I drift further behind each day that I am sick. The pressure that I feel inside my spirit is second only to the pressure in my head. Rest comes when I surrender to Love. I don’t need to do more, have more, or be more ____ to find rest for my soul! What I actually need is less. I need to surrender not only control of my life to Jesus, but I need also to release management of my schedule to Jesus! His mission reveals the true nature of love. There is no “earning” in love. Jesus redefined what it means to be a successful human being in the cross. He, God, poured Himself out to become one of us! He fully embraced us. He freely accepted all the lies and suffering so that by letting go of Himself, He might save us.

Jesus, who was God and could not by nature stay dead, died so that He could reach past the great abyss that existed between man and God. He saved us. We did nothing but spit in His face and nail Him to the cross. He arose Easter Sunday that we might have everlasting life. For perfectionists like me it is a terrible reality to face, but we can never be enough, complete enough, people pleasing enough, God-pleasing enough. But Jesus said, “Enough…It is finished.”

What does Christ’s mission reveal about God’s love for us?

The truths packed into this little line of the Nicene Creed are strong enough to pull us through pain, misfortune, loss and make us happy enough to, “dance at our wedding.” How can I write a blog post and comment on the greatness of Christ’s mission revealing God’s love for us during a week-long series of severe migraines? Grace. What is the central theme of His mission? Self-sacrificing love. Real love. It is the kind of love my fiancé demonstrated last evening when he looked deeply into my slit-eyes, migraine-cooling-patch covered forehead and told me I was beautiful. Love. Thanks to Jesus we know what it is. It is an action verb full of might and gentle as a whisper. Love is not a feeling-but it creates a glorious feeling to those who surrender themselves to receive it.

This post is shared with If:Gathering in the wonderful ongoing study of the Nicene Creed. No prior knowledge is required. A heart that is open is the door to truth. Join the Gathering at If:Equip.com and find this post under “Jesus Came to Bring Salvation to Us”.

The Bookshelf #1

This is the first post of the series On The Bookshelf. 

I thought I would start with

a book…

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He ate and drank the precious words,                                                                   His spirit grew robust;                                                                                                   He knew no more that he was poor,                                                                         Nor that his frame was dust.                                                                                         He danced along the dingy days,                                                                                  And this bequest of wings                                                                                           Was but a book. What liberty                                                                                        A loosened spirit brings!

-Emily Dickinson

 

I decided that we would begin the thoughts of what is on my bookshelves with a bit of pocket-poetry. In the days before smart phones made it easy to carry volumes of poetry in your purse or back pocket I bought these little volumes from the Easton Press. I love the compact size and there is nowhere that you cannot use a good poem. They have travelled through many a mundane day with me.

The novel that I am writing has me traveling back in time and across the sea. It is nice to come back and sink into something short, satisfying and soulful like a classic poem. Books are a chance to fly to far-flung kingdoms and experience a life that we would never know if not for the exquisite agony of being trapped in a book.

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I will be here again on Friday for another installment of On the Bookshelf and I will tidy the shelves themselves so that I do not have to photograph the books on the floor. I will also drop a few more hints about the book that is taking form as my imaginations tries to migrate into my computer.

Keep writing and reading!

A Woman of Words

This is a post linked to Kate Motaung’s online writing group surrounding the book, On Being A Writer:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.

I identify myself as a writer. This has been a tremendous leap forward . I have been a “closet writer” since childhood but only began to reveal some of my words to a few in college. I was encouraged to pursue writing as a career. I was at that time too enamored with the dream of researching and teaching Medieval History. Life has led me on a circuitous path. 

I never stopped writing. In various periods writing took a backseat to teaching and organizing faith education. I wrote in my journals and wrote for work. Eventually I began to blog.

My writing ebbs and flows. I am once again very close to the beginning. At times I wonder if I am being led by the Lord back to where I dropped my writing into a much subservient position in order that I rearrange my life to make more room for the words.

The  defining characteristic of my life is my relationship with Christ. I have a Christian worldview that defines and informs everything else I do. The second defining characteristic of my life has always been my connection to words and stories. Writing is more than what I do. It is who I am. To make sense of life I must write about living. My ideas take shape and substance as they hit the paper or screen. I have ideas in my mind, but I have beliefs once they are written down. 

I love words. New words are a delight to my senses. I cannot adequately explain why I love descriptive words. I love flowers because seeing them makes me happy. I love babies since their presence makes me smile inside and out. I love words in the same visceral way I love babies and flowers. They give me joy on a level that is too deep for the words I long to find to explain the phenomenon.

On Being A Writer:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts online discussion group

Shadows in the Snow

Shadows in the snow
Only hope can know
Spring will come again.
There is an end to pain.

What seems invincible
Is one day overcome.
At first we feel undone
By that which proves most serviceable.

Despite the endless beating
Of ice upon the thorn
I know that there’s a purpose
In each snowy morn.
Whatever the wintry weather
Hurled at my door.

The sun will rise,
I know.
They will come again.
Shadows on the snow.

Why I Need a Savior

There are endless reasons why I need Jesus, but this morning I had a running tirade in my head that was stopped in it’s tracks by the thought, “Wow, this is why I need a Savior.”

It was potato salad.

There is tremendous variety in potato salad recipes. Each family seems to have their own variation. When I actually met someone who made “our” potato salad I was left wondering if somewhere in the midst of history we were related.

We make such a simple potato salad. Just potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise, celery, onion, celery salt and salt. Those are the only ingredients. It was one of the first recipes I learned as a child.

This year I decided to simplify. I recognized that early in Advent that I could not get it all done. So I cut back to the basics. My mother made potato salad every Christmas Eve so she would have it ready to serve with the Christmas ham. This could be the year I follow in her footsteps and not spend all day Christmas alone-in the kitchen.

Christmas dinner would be baked ham, potato salad, a steamed vegetable and raspberry cheesecake bars. I planned it weeks ahead. I make a menu each week and from that menu a grocery note to take shopping. I bought potatoes, onion, made sure I had plenty of mayonnaise, and celery salt. I thought I had celery left in the crisper drawer from last week’s roasted vegetables.

Somehow. I cannot fathom the reason. Today. Christmas Day. Yesterday was too busy. Today, I find carrots in the crisper drawer. I have no celery!

My thoughts run wild. I have ruined the potato salad. Carrots cannot be substituted for celery in potato salad. Christmas dinner is ruined. I have failed my family. I could not even do one thing right.

The word right is an ugly word for me. I define it as completely correct. I never seem to get anything right.

I am fatally flawed. I am hopelessly bound by sin and mistakes. I try with all my being to do right. Yet I cannot produce perfection in anything. I ought to be able to do some small things right.

Who will save me from my brokenness? Only He whose birth we celebrate today. How can I ruin Jesus’ birthday? Does He care if there is celery in my potato salad?

God was born. He took on our flesh and brokenness. He became one of us to save us. He saved us from the accuser. The evil one tried to destroy my Christmas joy by convincing me that I had ruined Christmas by forgetting to buy celery.

I need a Savior because even on such a holy day I am so easily led astray.

Eve may have fallen over an apple, but today I fell over celery.

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The Cart

imageI had a dream that I was going down a lonely road in an old, rattle-trap cart. It was a very bumpy ride, which was frequently brought to an abrupt halt when one of the wheels fell off. In addition to being small and uncomfortable to ride in the cart was old and shabby to look at. Though it was foggy I could see many ugly patches on the cart. I was filled with self-pity. How had I come to be riding in such a pathetic, old cart? Why was I slowly bumping along an empty, dirt road in the middle of nowhere? I envied those who were fortunate enough to be swiftly riding down well paved interstates in luxurious speed. Oh, how I wished I had the Mercedes and smooth road.

I was so cramped in my little cart that when the wheel fell off, as it frequently did, I could not get out of the cart to put it back on myself. The wretched cart held me fast. I had to sit still until someone came to help put the wheel back on my cart. My impatience to be off, along with my shame over having ridden in such a wretched cart caused me to be less than courteous to my assistants.

After the wheel was fixed off I went, rattling along again. I regret to say that on more that one occasion, being in such a hurry, I whipped at the front of the cart, For though the fog hid the beast, I was sure from the slow pace and the condition of the cart that it must be a pathetic, old mule, or some such dismal creature that was pulling my broken old cart.

After a time, I noticed that it was often the same people who came up from behind to fix the broken wheel. Being in a more appreciative mood on day I asked my helper why they didn’t just get into the cart and ride with me since we seemed to be going the same way. My offer was graciously declined. The poor souls preferred to walk. My progress was so often halted that the walkers were always catching up with the cart when the wheel fell off. Though I had a sometimes lonely ride I considered myself better off than the walkers, Unfortunately, I was frequently loosing a wheel or getting stuck in the mud. The walkers pushed with all their might to get me out of one bog, yet they never gave up or passed me by.

After spending a long, cold night with a broken wheel, one of my fellow pilgrims came up to help me again. “If you don’t want a ride, that’s fine. It’s cramped in here anyway, but why are you following along behind me?, I asked. My assistant looked surprised at the question and replied, “I’m not following you. I’m following Him.” I looked at the front of the cart as he pointed and for the first time the fog cleared enough that I could see it was not a mule harnessed to my cart but a man. Here was a tired looking, ragged man, with sweat and blood running down his face, holes in his hands, feet and side, and a crown of thorns upon his head. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God was pulling my broken cart!I wept with tears of guilt and remorse at how bitterly I had complained about being in such a broken, old cart. I had taken out my frustration on the slow speed and inhospitable road on the one who had never left me despite my ill-usage and self pity.

Now freed from my folly I was able to climb out of the cart and worship at his feet. “My child,” he said, “Can you take up your own cross and follow me?” I fell into walking with the other pilgrims as we followed him down the narrow, ill-kept, dirt road.

He never walks unharnessed. He is always finding someone in a broken down cart to pull. It is much easier to walk than it was to ride in my old cart. We walkers help to pull carts out of the mud and repair their broken parts. All the while we keep our eyes on the Master, the humblest and most broken looking one on the road, Yet he alone has the strength to pull a cart. He can and does. And we follow the humble Master who leads us home.

Sometimes I am in the broken cart. Sometimes you are the one creaking along. We all ride in its’ miserable confines at one time or another. When we are strong enough we get out of the cart and follow on foot. When you’re stuck in the cart remember you’re never alone. Christ is pulling you.