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Longing to heal the ugliness in others,
I find my only weapon may be
My own acceptance of my acceptance
In the beloved.
Help me, Father, to express my trust
In You and in Your reconstructive
Work around me by embracing
Your delight in me.
jmc 4/11/12


(C. S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Lucy’s gift from Father Christmas)

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these thoughts came from reading an Elisabeth Elliot piece called “Dwell in Christ, Dwell in Love” from her devotional book The Music of His Promises

What is unsettling
Me? Why am
I not “serene and whole”
And at home in
Your love? Is it because of
Remodeling?
Redecorating?
Some building project
Restructuring
The fabric of
My heart? Is it that
I have run away from home–
Camped out?
Taken up
Temporary residence
Elsewhere?
Or is it something else
Altogether different yet
Not so dissimilar?

Bed, bed,
I’m staying in bed.
I simply cannot face today.
I’ll bury my head in my pillow instead
And sleep all my troubles away.

Sleep, sleep,
I can’t go to sleep.
My dreams are all troubling, too:
I’m running and fighting, in danger and hiding.
I simply don’t know what to do!

(5-15-2010)

This post should, most likely, be some piece of poetry . . . preferably by me and not someone else . . . or so I’ve been told 😉

However, since it’s late at night and I shouldn’t even be up right now, let alone on the computer,
And since I haven’t written any poetry lately,
And since I haven’t gone through old poems in a while to see if there are any new ones to post,
This will have to do,
For now =)

So I had forgotten to add a link to a blog that contains some student writings that are really quite fun: Around the Writer’s Block. Check out the pantoums. And if you want something to sink your teeth into, there are the essays =)

And then there is the blog of the friend who does cakes for a living–you should totally check out the pictures! She’s amazing! Cakes by Suzy is as fun as the name implies =)

Finally there’s the one I found most recently. Meditations for the Liminal is not for everyone, though there was definitely something there for me. It’s primarily for those who have found themselves hurt by those who looked very spiritual and turned out to be modern-day Pharisees (probably because they themselves truly knew nothing of God’s love). It’s for those who are “liminal” as the author explains: those who have found themselves “in between,” so to speak–not easily categorized as “Fundamentalist” but also not willing to deny the things that are fundamental to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have been moved by the way the blog explores Who Jesus is–something that we all find ourselves coming back to again and again as we grow in our Christian lives. Growing closer to God and learning to be more like Christ inevitably leads us to ponder what Christ is really like. =)

So now I am going to conclude this post and head for bed . . . maybe. 😉

The first recorded Christmas song in the Bible did not come from the heavens with a full choir to back it up. It was sung composed and performed by an amateur to an audience of one. The composer was Mary, the mother of Jesus herself. Here’s how I imagine it:

“Only a few more turns to go, and I’ll be standing at their front door,” Mary thought as she trudged wearily along. She had already hashed things out in her mind countless times on this journey. Why did I decide to leave Galilee? Well, I needed to leave. I’m starting to feel the symptoms of pregnancy, but I can’t talk to anyone about it. There’s no one to tell: Nazareth’s too small a town to hide things in for very long. Tell one person and the whole town knows in a minute! I can’t live there, growing more and more pregnant and raising more and more questions. I have to leave. I have to get away for a while. Why Elisabeth’s house? I know it’s a little risky–after all, Zacharias is a priest and might have trouble buying my story. But I think they will understand; after all, things have not been normal with them, either, according to the angel. Imagine! Having a baby after all these years! In fact, I suspect the angel told me about their current miraculous situation just so that I would know that I have a place to turn. Surely they will not reject me. And Elisabeth will help me. Each question had raised itself to be answered over and over again until they were all silent–all but one, that one haunting question that had lingered long after the angel-radiance had left the house feeling drab and colorless that amazing day. Is this all truly from God as the angel said it was? or is there some sort of horrible mistake? I couldn’t be dreaming this up, could I? But who will believe me?

Elisabeth’s house appeared over the rise of the hill, a welcoming atmosphere about it. Tired and road-weary, Mary concentrated all of her thoughts on reaching that inviting doorway ahead. Time had not allowed her to send a letter pre-announcing her arrival. She would just announce it herself. Too tired to work out the words ahead of time, she would just have to wait for the moment itself to bring the words. Somehow she would tell her story and hope to be believed and understood and welcomed.

“Who is it?” a low, pleasant, parchment-paper voice replied to her knock.

“It’s Mary, your cousin.” A pause. She realized she was holding her breath, but she couldn’t help it.

The door flew open, and she found herself tightly enveloped by a little old lady with excited eyes and a warm smile. “Mary! Oh, Mary! So good to see you! Oh! You are the happiest, most favored woman on earth! You were chosen to carry the Savior of the world! Oh! I’m so happy for you! What in the world did I ever do to deserve having a visit from the mother of my Lord and God? Come in! Come in!” Another bear hug. Elisabeth talking and chattering and drawing Mary into the house. A rather dazed Mary wondered how in the world Elisabeth could have known, but she couldn’t find the words to speak at all.

Elisabeth was still speaking excitedly. “I just knew it! Oh! The minute I heard your voice I knew! Well, actually little John here knew,” she patted her protruding stomach to punctuate her sentences as she continued. “The minute we heard your voice, he jumped! He jumped–must have turned a somersault in there! And I knew what had happened to you! Oh! I am so happy for you! And so happy that you came here of all places! You are more than welcome to stay with us!
“And, Mary,” she paused to regain Mary’s focused attention, “Mary, bless you for your belief. You truly will be happy that you believed God’s message. God has promised you something, and He will keep his promise to you.”

There was a stillness in the room for a moment, Elisabeth wisely being quiet for a moment to let her last words sink in. She had lived long enough to know that believing is not easy–even after an angel has spoken to you and told you what will happen. Even after the predicted event had begun to unfold itself. Believing can be very difficult.

When Mary found her tongue, it was to sing. To sing the song that had been writing itself within her over the miles of the trip from her hometown to her cousin’s house. Her question had been answered in a way she had not looked for: how could it not be from God when Elisabeth had known before she had even been told? how could it not be from God when even Elisabeth’s baby had known who Mary was carrying in her womb? And Elisabeth had believed. No explaining, no begging, no pleading required. It was answered, and her full heart responded in the only way it could.

Luke 1:46-55 records the words for us.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;

For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name;
And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation;
He hath shewed strength with His arm;
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;

He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He hath sent empty away;

He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed for ever.”

My eyes and thoughts are drawn over and over to this line: “He that is mighty hath done to me great things.” She could look at her circumstances and be happy that “great things” were being done to her. I am truly awestruck at her, not at her super-spirituality, but at her humanness. Mary was a regular girl who had just been thrust into a difficult situation, a situation unheard of before and since her time. Sure, she had welcomed God’s plan for her life when the angel had announced it to her. But since that magically astounding moment, reality had set in. She knew exactly what it would look like for her to become pregnant at this time: she was betrothed to Joseph. The whole town might think that they had not waited for the proper time to act as husband and wife. Joseph’s reputation would be tarnished. And no one would know that it was God’s baby rather than Joseph’s. Joseph would know that the baby was not his and would be devastated. This marvelous news would not look beautiful; it would look wrong. And if its appearance had been true in any way, her situation would have been wrong. Terribly wrong! She couldn’t blame them for what they would think of her. But, on the other hand, this was a beautiful gift God has given her, creating within her womb–without any action on her part at all–the precious life of His Son. Mary was stuck–stuck in the jaws of circumstances.

And yet, she accepted it. Not only accepted it, but rejoiced in the God that had done this preposterous, incomprehnsible miracle in her. She recognized that being stuck was part and parcel of the “great things” that God was doing to her–not through her, not around her, but TO her. She saw those things as for her.

I can relate to her stuck-ness. Some days feel like a long crawl through tunnels too small for a rat. Yet, looking back at how I came to be where I am, I can only conclude that I am here because God wants me here. I feel small and insignificant and helpless and . . . well, flattened. I am stuck with no way to escape. I feel like molasses cookies must feel.

Molasses cookies are wonderful! I do not remember making them as a kid, but I have grown to love them over the three years of living in St. Louis with my aunt’s family and with my Grandmother (mom’s side). Molasses cookies are dark and thin and a little chewy. They are spiced cookies and taste wonderful in milk. To make them, Grandma could roll out the dough thinly and cut it into shapes with cookie cutters; but more often she plops blobs of dough onto the cookie sheet, butters the bottom of the cup and dips it in sugar, then uses the bottom of the cup to flatten the blobs into respectable cookies. That’s right, she squeezes them flat. For that moment, that crucial moment that they are being shaped, they are stuck. Completely stuck. Nowhere else to go. Stuck like Mary was. Stuck like I am. Stuck like you are.

Perhaps I could escape–perhaps I could just throw my hands up and say “I quit!” But what would become of those “great things” happening around me? I don’t want to miss what He is doing. I want to be where He is watching Him work. I’ll sit still! I’ll be quiet! Just let me be where I can see what you are doing! I do not want to quit. But sometimes it seems that it is impossible to exist in the circumstances He has given to me. And rejoicing at my front-row seat becomes fear and sadness over my impossible situation.

Perhaps the secret to rejoicing in being stuck can be found in two comments: one made by Elisabeth and one made by Mary herself. 1) Elisabeth reminded Mary that God would fulfil His promises. God is a promise-keeping God. He is also a sure God: He does not decide to abandon a project once He has started it. The God who favored her today in giving her His only begotten Son to mother would not decide He had made a mistake the following day and remove her from His favor. 2) She realized that the “great things” God was doing were hers, too, not just for the rest of the world. It is easy for me to see myself as a mere tool of God’s work in the lives of those around me. It does not occur to me that the situations I am in, the places I feel “stuck” are for me, too, not just for those around me. Mary recognized that God’s Son within her was for her personally. God was doing great things TO her, not just in her, not just around her, not just for others, but for her. And this knowledge made her feel safe.

See, eventually, the flattened molasses cookies will go in the oven and bake and be ready to eat. Their “stuck” position is good for them. It is done to them so that they will bake as they are supposed to bake and be as wonderful as they are supposed to be. Molasses cookies are meant to be flat.

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see That without dust the rainbow would not be. ~ Langston Hughes

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