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May 2009

Make me human, Lord.
Gentle and soft to the touch,
Quick to find joy in the
Everyday and the commonplace.

Make me human, Lord.
Teach me how to be hurt
So I may heal and forgive
Those hurting humans around me.

Make me human, Lord.
Let those who see me see You
In your humanity—
Weak yet strong,
Humble and wise,
Patient and kind.

You made Yourself human,
Imperviousness taking on vulnerability,
Infinity becoming visible, palpable.
Then You came to live in me.
Make me human, Lord.
Let me so dwell in You
Who lives in me
That I know I’m safe,
Safe to be me,
Safe to be real.
Human.
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This last portion of the poem deals with the one word that seems to be impossible–hope. Because that is the message of the Resurrection. Hope. Hope for new life that springs from the inside and changes us for eternity. Hope because the One who knew no sin became sin for us so that WE MAY BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM. That’s hope. And not the wishful-thinking kind. It’s the hang-your-hat-on kind. The lay-your-every-waking-moment-on-the-line kind of hope. Expectation.

I’m standing at the tomb
His tomb
My tomb
Your tomb
Dare I hope to see an angel
Announcing over empty grave-clothes
The Impossible has happened?
Where does my heart,
My death-wounded heart go
to find Your Resurrection?
Like Martha, I believe
You are Who You Are—
God, the Son of God,
The Resurrection and the Life.
Can this belief become
the spice I bring to mourn the dead?
Here is where we dwell:
We dwell with Death—
death of loved-ones, hopes, and dreams
Should I really be
Surprised that You should die?
It’s not ok
But I’m used
To it, to death
There’s always one more tomb.

But Yours is empty
Empty, hollow, vacant—
Incomprehensibly absent
Is the corpse I came to find.
“Because I live, ye shall live also”
Was Your promise,
A promise just as impossible,
Just as improbable—
Teach me to believe!
For now, just help me trust
In You, the One I’ve come to know.
I know You’ll read my message
When I send to You saying,
“Lord, the one You love is sick, is dead.”
You’ll come, e’en though he’s dead,
Because You love him, too.
I’m waiting for the glory of God
Promised by You,
Incomprehensibly impossible.
Hoping, waiting, believing
That You defeated Death.

If I show You,
if I show You where he is buried;
if I take that long, slow walk to his tomb again;
if I take that long, slow walk with You—
if we take that walk together, even though he’s four-days dead;
if I show You where he lies decayed,
What then?

______________________________________________________________

Go back and read it again. Slowly. As though it is so hard to express the thought you really want to ask that you have to preface it with several attempts. As though you can hardly get the words out. Because that’s really what you are wondering but it’s very hard to say, to admit that there’s really no hope. To admit that you feel that way.

This third part of the poem deals with the response I have when I put myself into the story being told in John 11 and when I bring the story into my own life. Jesus asks Martha, “Where have you laid him?” and she replies, “Come and see.”

That response makes sense within the moment. That’s what you do when the dearest friend couldn’t make it to the funeral of your brother but makes it to town 4 days later. You show him the grave. Maybe you pick up a bunch of flowers to lay at the grave, too. And you take a pile of tissues or a handkerchief because you know that the mourning is not over. In fact, you know that the grieving has just begun. You know that almost anything can set you off again, calling up memories that make you smile through your tears and wring your heart out through your smiles. You know that your younger sister is grieving deeply, too, and you try to be strong for her sake. One of you must be the sensible one that takes care of the details. But you and she both know that your lives will never be the same again.

But however normal Martha’s response may have been, as I read the story, as I think of the deaths (both physical and emotional) that I have mourned, my response is a bit different than Martha’s and Mary’s. As I find myself in their shoes, in their story and mine, I want to say to Him . . . very slowly . . . and in words that can hardly get past the tears . . . “What then?”

This is the second part in my repost of a previous poem.

Before He took the final steps of His journey to the cross, Jesus had spent a great deal of time teaching His disciples what to expect. But they didn’t get it. Not even when He performed the amazing miracle showcased by John in chapter 11 of his account of Christ’s life on earth, not even when He performed that greatest of all miracles He had performed so far, not even then did they imagine in their wildest dreams what He was trying to tell them. Not even then were they even able to imagine the promise He was making to them. I don’t blame them for their lack of understanding. I have a hard time comprehending it myself–I who have read the whole story and know the ending–I have a hard time comprehending the promise of resurrection when staring hideous DEATH in the face. But Easter calls us to remember. And to remember than right before that amazing miracle which foreshadowed the greatest miracle of all time–right before He changed the fabric of space and time for the grieving family, as He met grief and anguish wreaked by DEATH, Jesus–God Himself–wept. It’s ok to cry.

Resurrection?

Rising from the dead?
Just doesn’t happen
Impossible
So improbable that our minds
Cannot conceive the thought:
“Your brother will rise again.”
“Yes, Lord, someday he will
when life as we know it
comes to an end and
You make all things new.”
“I AM the Resurrection
and the Life,” You reply;
and, though my mind believes,
my heart still cries:
“Lord, if You had been here,
My brother would not have died!”
I cannot help but weep.
And You weep, too—
You, who are Life itself,
Weeping over Death.
I know by Your weeping
that You loved him, too:
that Death can touch Your heart,
divine though You may be.
Perhaps Divinity is wounded
more by Death than is Mortality.
And for this moment,
once again, Death
trumps Victory.
And so we weep together.
What comes next?

“Where have you laid him?”

Nov 29, 2010

I was wrestling the other day with a wrong (or perhaps a series of wrongs), committed by a loved one. I wasn’t sure what to do with them in my own mind. When I read Psalm 62, verse 12 jumped out at me: “Also unto Thee, O LORD, belongeth mercy: for Thou renderest to every man according to his work.” Of course, this is going to sound like I am stating the obvious, but I realized that no one is big enough to handle the consequences of his wrongs. And I didn’t want that person to pay for the wrongs. I truly did (do) want mercy for that person.

But I also want the consequences to be taken care of, the wrongs to be fixed or made ok or made right somehow. Because it’s not only ourselves that must deal with the consequences–it’s those around us.

As I talked with God about it (or perhaps just TO Him at that point), He brought the Ultimate Payment to mind. Jesus’ death pays all debts. But the question I still have is this: if I stand here with the wrongs in my hand, can I truly accept the exchange of those wrongs for Christ’s blood and suffering? I mean, do I really want that? His death? His blood? I don’t want blood. I don’t want more suffering. That’s just one more wrong to be made right.

Maybe I have the wrong idea about the exchange. Maybe the exchange isn’t wrongs for blood; maybe the exchange is wrongs for grace and mercy. Mercy for the one(s) who wronged me; grace for me as I grapple with the consequences. And maybe living through the consequences is part of entering into the sufferings of Christ–following His lead as He entered into our consequences: “surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”; “but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.” [fyi: those last two verses were quoted from memory, not carefully copied, so the punctuation, at least, is prob not quite right]

And I have been trying to follow His lead; I just seem to be doing a poor job, slipping and tripping a lot.

Frustration.
While confused,
Uncertain, telling
God I didn’t know
How to cast my care
On Him–
I realized:
He was already carrying it.

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)

Am I ok?
Yes. Nothing’s broken; I can still
Walk. But I might limp a little ’til
The soreness goes away.

Am I ok?
Yes. I can get up and go on
Again. But I’m going to step a little more
Carefully so as not to slip once more.

Am I ok?
Yes. But now I understand
Some things you’ve known all along.
And I wonder how
To carry them as
Gracefully as you do.

Am I ok?
Yes.
Because someday the bruise
Will make its way from black to blue to yellow
And be gone. Someday I will walk securely
Again–unafraid.

Am I ok?
Not really.
But I’m trying.

Grandma broke her measuring cup the other day–one that she’s had for a long time. She had put hot tea into it (it’s one of those glass pitchers that measures up to two cups) and then, after pouring that out, had put cold water into it. You guessed correctly: it cracked down the middle! (last week was a bad week for breaking glass containers! I had done a similar thing a couple days before!)

That incident sorta connects with a quotation I found in Oswald Chambers’s writings a couple days ago:

“Wherever one’s hopes are founded, there will that person’s idea of prosperity be. And whatever the soul conceives to be prosperity will become that person’s measurement of hope.”
~ April 18 Devotions for a Deeper Life Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.

I didn’t even finish reading the day’s reading right away; I had to stop and ponder that statement. What do I consider prosperity? How do I measure my hope? I know what the “Sunday School” answer is. But the “Sunday School” answer gets its bad rap from the very fact that it’s pat rather than practical, easy rather than real. I have a vague notion of what I’d like the answer to be. But I wonder what the answer really is, what my life shows it to be. And I wonder what it is becoming, what God is making it into.

How do I measure success? Am I a success because I averaged 10 minutes per book that I had to write assignments in tonight? I think it’s a good average by the estimates I have heard, but will my boss think so when she arrives on Monday morning to find that there’s still a little more to do to get ready for the evening? Do I measure my success by my own estimations or by others’ opinions? or both? or neither? Not “how should I measure them?” but “how do I measure them?”

It’s got me pondering–not morbidly, but curiously; not fearfully, but interestedly.

Obviously, I’m not measuring my success by how early I get to bed at night. Maybe I ought to . . . =)

Trust in him at all times; [ye] people, pour out your heart before him: God [is] a refuge for us. Selah
Psalm 62:8

Hi, God.

I’m trying to do what You said to do with my heart–pour it out before You–but I kinda have a problem. See, I tip it over to pour it out, and nothing comes out. I think it’s dried up and caked in there, maybe a little like spices do when they’ve been sitting in the cupboard too long and gotten a little moisture in them. And, well, I’m not really sure what to do now because I can’t really pour it out, see?

I took my heart to someone I thought might care to see this strange phenomena that is going on in my heart, but . . . well, she was ready to pour out her heart at the moment and mine wasn’t exactly pour-able. Actually, it wasn’t really like she poured out her heart. It was more like just shaking some of its seasoning out to flavor my life. And I really was glad for it. It’s fun to hear her adventures.

I called another friend today. Wow! Was she ever busy! I really wasn’t expecting that she’d be able to scrape free the caked stuff in my heart. I was hoping that I’d hear a little of how she was doing. I think she needed a little encouragement, and it was really nice to hear a few sound-bites of her life. The call made me smile. I hope it made her smile, too.

Another friend was a bit confused by it all. She was a little panicky, too, as though I was panicky about what in the world this stuff was and was hoping that she would fix it. She really didn’t listen but kept suggesting recipes that I could sprinkle it into. Not quite what I think I’m supposed to do with it . . . hm.

I took my heart to another friend. As I showed her the dried-up stuff that used to be my heart, she listened and tried to understand; but she really didn’t know what to do with it any more than I did. And, frankly, I’m a bit tired of talking about it all. That’s part of the dried-up-ness. It’s like “what’s the use?” Ya know?

Another friend was better able than I to “pour out” her heart. I suspect that I didn’t know what to do with her heart any more than my other friend knew what to do with mine. But somehow the act of listening and trying to understand produced a little moisture. I think the shared moisture helped, but it didn’t last long. I’m dry and caked again.

So, here’s my heart. I was bringing it to You all along; I just had some stops along the way. I’m not sure what to do with it, it’s so dry. It doesn’t want to laugh or cry but it wants to do both; it’s both frustrated and content somehow; it’s tired but doesn’t want to go to bed; concerned but not worried. What do You make of such a heart? Shouldn’t it be crying out to You right now?

Hm. It shouldn’t, huh? This is normal? You say that this is what happens sometimes to hearts that have been working hard and pouring themselves out and opening themselves up to face the elements? So. I guess this means You know what to do with it, then? Whew! What a relief! I was getting a little tired of trying to figure it out. Make something good with it, ok?

I’m going to bed.

=)

Last night was a night that–although not bad, not tragic, not melodramtic even–left me thirsty. I wasn’t even sure what I was thirsty for at first. Milk didn’t do the trick. Airborne (the hotcider version yuk!) definitely didn’t. When I found myself disappointed that I had recently finished a childhood favorite book and started reaching for another, I realized what I was thirsty for.

O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; ~ Psalm 63:1

“God, I need to be near You tonight. I need You to be near me. I guess basically I just need a hug from You.” And that’s about as far as I got with my nightly Bible reading before I fell asleep in my chair. Waking up about an hour later, I stumbled up to bed. Guess He knew I needed sleep, too. =)

When people talk about hearing God’s voice, it seems as though it’s going to be something either audible or mysterious or both. And I admit that sometimes I have wished He would just thunder out of heaven His instructions for me or that He would have a bush burst into flames in my pathway (without setting fire to anything else and without consuming the bush–especially if it’s pretty) and speak to me out of it. But He doesn’t speak that way, and (much to my relief) when He does speak it isn’t mysterious at all, either. It just IS.

Sometimes when He speaks it’s like having a friend or family member that’s humming a tune which gets stuck in my head. Like this morning: when I woke up I had the song “Peace Be Still” by Ron Hamilton going through my head–Peace be still,/ Peace be still./ Hear His words come softly/ Through the storm/ Through the night/ Bringing perfect rest./ When the thunder crashes loudest/ And the waves grow wild and high,/ Jesus hears my cry,/ And He whispers “Peace be still.” [from memory, so I apologize for any errors!]

Sometimes when He speaks it’s like getting a letter or e-mail from a friend that has just exactly the right words in it for the moment I am in–a friend who knows how I think and how to explain things so I understand them. Like a few days ago as I was reading through several Psalms and kept noticing things that had to do with satisfaction. I had asked Him a few days before if it were really truly possible to be filled up rather than empty inside (there are just some days when one feels completely empty! and it seems at those times that one has never really been full, ever). And there were the verses . . . and I understood them and was satisfied.

I don’t know why I am surprised. And in a way I’m not. It’s more that I’m at home in them and amazed that I’m so welcome.  Psalm 32:7 says to God “Thou [art] my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.” [I love the word “Selah.” It means “stop and think about it.” And it makes me laugh with delight to think that poets in Israel used to put it in just like that.] And He HAS been doing just that. I’ve been tired and discouraged, and somehow there’s a song in my mind that reminds me of how much He loves me. I won’t have any clue where it came from (not the radio, not another person); it’s just there! And it will answer perfectly the issue I’m facing. Oh, it won’t tell me the magic combination that will make all troubles vanish: it just reminds me that He is my deliverer after all.

<>Like today. My boss is under a lot of pressure. Totally understandable. But she got mad at me–really mad for . . . I’m still not totally sure if it was me or just a combination of things. I tried to apologize for the confusion I had caused her unintentionally, but she was not ready to hear anything I said. And I was persona non grata for the rest of the time I was at work. I remembered a verse my pastor had shared last night (I don’t even remember why he shared it, but I remember thinking “oh, yeah! that verse! I remember that one!”):Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  I Peter 3:9

But I saw no way to do it, not if any words I said would be brushed away like so many snowflakes. I prayed that I would be able to speak words before I left that would bless her. And then I remembered the verse about praying for those who despitefully use you. So I thought, “I can at least pray a blessing on her.” And I started to do that. [Please don’t take this as me being “holy and always kind” and all of that rot! I was shaking on the inside and a little ready to run and a little angry myself because I was only trying to help! And I felt like hiding in a corner and didn’t even know how to look her in the face anymore–ok, there’s the melodrama in my nature coming out =P] And before I left, she was ready to talk. She was able to tell me how she needs me to communicate with her and why she was so frustrated. I don’t know if she heard my explanation, but it doesn’t really matter. What is really cool is that I had the chance to bless her, to tell her that even if she decides this job is not for her, I’m glad I have gotten to work with her. And I think she heard that. Maybe. But I got my chance.

He’s doing it. He really is. Compassing me about like He said He would.

I’m a little flabbergasted.

*flabbergasted vs. awestruck: flabbergasted is what happens after the awe has struck =)

“If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem be against us, we do not believe Him at all.” – Charles Spurgeon
qtd in NBBC Alumni Update: January 28, 2008

I’ve been studying the life of Job lately. (Actually, the whole church was, and the children’s class got behind: we’re still studying that book along with the Psalms that the rest of the church is studying. We’re having a great time figuring out what each of the characters in Job is saying and getting quite an education on the behavior of people discussing things!)

If anyone had a hard time with circumstances, Job was the one. And he had so many questions for God. Questions I find that I have–sometimes even without knowing I’m wondering them.

“God, why are you punishing me? I’ve been doing my best to serve you!”

“God, if things are really truly ok between us, why these circumstances?”

“How is it considered punishment when it happens to others but not to me? It appears the same!”

“How can you still be ok with me when everyone else seems not to be? and when my world seems to be falling apart? and when I can’t tell up from down?”

Yet, before we begin the series of discussions between Job and his friends, we know the answers to some of the questions. As I say to my kids, God was really bragging on Job.

God: “Satan, see Job down there? He’s my friend. He’s such a great guy!”

Satan: “Yeah, he’s just your friend because you’ve given him everything he wants and needs and even some things he didn’t know he wanted or needed. Take all that away, and you’ll lose his friendship.”

So God let it be tested. And He had something more to brag about when Satan returned from carrying out the terrible deed of stripping from Job everything that he had.

God: “See, I told you he was my friend! You took away everything, and he’s still my friend! What a great guy!”

Satan: “Yeah, but he’s still healthy. Make him sick, put him into some real, physical pain, and he will start to curse you.”

So God allowed that, too. And still Job didn’t stop being God’s friend. And then (as an added “bonus”) Job’s friends misunderstood him. And they added misunderstanding to misunderstanding. And Job didn’t stop being God’s friend.

But He began to wonder if God was still his friend.

And I guess that when I’m under the circumstances, I begin to wonder that, too. I’m looking forward to the end of the book, looking forward to seeing how God answers some of these questions.

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

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