Friday, September 18, 2009

Freedom from Obscurity

Here's a woman whose story unfolds on an international stage because she stepped out from her hiddenness. First peeking from behind the curtain, then bravely walking with her head up, straight to center stage. Freed from obscurity because she was seen. Seen, not for the attention-grabbing glitz so many rely on, but for her glory. Her God-given gift. Seen. Acknowledged. Invited to be present in her life.

Amazing, isn't it, what a little positive attention can do for a person?

If there's a Susan Boyle in your life, will you dare to look her in the eye and declare to her the truth of who she is? Change her life from the inside out. Be for her a reflection of the Creator's heart toward His beloved creation.

Her world won't be the same when she is present in it, in all her glory, and neither will yours.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A 9-11 Observance

Midway through the day that forever altered the landscape of our lives, I saw a man interviewed on television. Covered in the ashes of those long to be remembered, he attempted to recount his reaction to the chaos unfolding just blocks from where he crouched behind a Chrysler, waiting. I sat stunned. I spent most of the morning worrying about my parents, wishing they would call. They left from my house in Cincinnati, heading north toward Pittsburgh, hours before I turned on the news. This man broke through my frantic activity. Grief hit, and I cried for what seemed hours. The images etched in my mind expressed themselves on paper this way:

The silence absorbs me.
Representing that which once stood
tall and proud,
Falls quietly around me.
Its blackness covers the earth;
It covers me. . .

I wait.

Fear paralyzes me.
Moments pass,
Maybe hours,
until finally
I stand.
My arms raise,
Burdened with the weight
Charred existence.

I cry out.

"Have mercy."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mom's Sideline Encouragement

The corner comes more quickly than anticipated, but Mom negotiates it with precision skill. While she "sticks it" with all four wheels owning their share of the pavement, my stomach leaps and threatens to abandon ship before we reach the next intersection. "Still with us?" I shout over my shoulder. Poor Dad clings to life in the rumble seat. Rain drops threaten to ruin this evening's fun. But Dad assures us that he won't melt, and we should stick to the plan.

So Mom continues darting from one side of the road to the other, responding to familiar voices or the glow of porch lights. We slow up for answers to the question of the night, "When are you heading out?" And stop for an occasional good-bye hug. We even work in an introduction or two that goes something like this: "This is our daughter. She's famous." (jk!) 

Our ride on the golf cart that Monday evening reminded me how much my mom loves being around people. This small community of retirees suits her well. And for that long weekend, it suited me too. We shared tears, laughed a lot, soaked in the sun, and celebrated Easter. We played Phase Ten with friends, ate ourselves silly, and watched movies. Not only does Mom love being around people, she loves being around me. 

And for that long weekend, I set aside my busyness, welcomed our time together and remembered how much fun she brought to my growing up years. How many moms situate themselves behind the plate (literally, a paper plate home base substitute) to receive their daughter's oncoming pitch? A daughter whose arm caught the eye of a college team recruiter and whose slow pitch suddenly needed to transform into fast pitch for the state softball tournament? My mom did! She shagged grounders, tossed me balls so that I could learn to square myself for a bunt, and attended nearly every game I ever played. The whole team counted on her sideline encouragement. 

One of her famous battle cries, "Stanley, get the lead out!" often pushed me from first to second, stretching me to leave everything on the field — even skin from hitting the dirt in a not-so-graceful-but-successful slide. Mom always believed I possessed something extraordinary that knew no physical limitations. Whenever I would rebound with "I can't run fast like the other kids." She'd say, "You're not like the other kids. You're my kid." Essentially, she wasn't content to let me settle for less than I could do. She knew better. While I sometimes wanted to yell back, "Stop pushing me!" guess who sported the most RBIs at the end of the season? 

I can't imagine how different my life would be without my mom. I don't want to. When I'm haunted by silent sidelines, and I need reassurance that I have within me what I need to accomplish the scary thing in front of me, I call Mom. Not because she uses the most eloquent and
wonderful words. She doesn't have to. But because she believes in the God-thing in me, even when she may not understand it. Knowing she's with me lightens my load. Hearing her stories and her familiar laugh, lightens my heart. 

Sometimes Mom's encouragement comes in shouts from the sidelines. Sometimes it comes in the laughter of a wild ride in the rain. But it comes . . . it always comes. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I wouldn't be who I am without you. Every life I touch, you touch too. Remember that. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Birthday Celebration

Another birthday passes, and I celebrate. . . .

A few more wrinkles. A few more gray hairs. A lot more life. Settling into my skin, I recognize the effects of time. Time with new friends. Time alone. Time spent waiting. Learning to love. Being loved. Emerging. Stronger than before. Resilient. Compassionate. Radiant. Real.

Another birthday passes, and I celebrate. . . .

Discovery of Truth. Beauty unveiled. A rising up. A discerning spirit. A yielded heart. Grace eases in. The coming season borrows from the past only that worth taking forward. The joys. The sorrows. The breath. Hope renewed. Life revealed. Trusting. Leaning. Even leaping.

Another birthday passes, and I celebrate. . . . 

A woman in love. Intimate. Secure. Known. 

Faith and Falling

A couple of you asked where to read the writings of Leigh McLeroy. I'm reading her book, The Beautiful Ache: Finding the God Who Satisfies When Life Does Not.

Last week I read a chapter called FAITH AND FALLING, The Ache of Trusting. After describing some wild leaps of faith that included skydiving, Leigh went on to use the example of Mary, which left me pondering. "Mary faithfully received the words of the angel and just as trustingly received 'the Word implanted' that was able to save her soul and mine. And her one sustained 'yes' brought his sweet kingdom closer than it had ever been before. Trusting does that every time."

She goes on to say, "If Mary had doubted that God meant to do good both to and through her, she might not have answered as she did. But she didn't trust the plan—she trusted the One who made the plan. She couldn't see the future, but with her eyes of faith she could see the One who shaped it. Her steadfast assurance of God's love compelled her to relinquish control of her very body to a preposterous idea, but God opened her heart long before he invaded her womb. She confessed her frailty and admitted that she was the recipient of power ('May it be done to me . . . ') but not its source. She took the free fall of faith because she was already a woman in love."

The words flow from my fingertips as tears flow down my cheeks, even now. Such power in this writer's language to represent our own. Speaking directly to us, she concludes: "If God has placed you in a moment that requires trust—or the long sustaining of it—he has brought you to a place of great intimacy and possibility. Trust is for lovers, not for strangers. So instead of asking 'Do I dare?' why not ask instead, 'Am I loved?' If the answer is yes, then trust is the only reasonable response."

"Trust is for lovers, not for strangers." Wow. I hadn't thought of it that way, really. Have you? Being placed in a position where we have to trust the Lover of Our Soul, whether in finances, friendships, or the future, CONFIRMS our relationship with Him; it doesn't challenge it. Are you feeling the release of that? I pray so.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Soaking Up Stories in Winter Park

A few weeks ago Facebook reconnected me to a friend through its 140-character-updates. Friday a shared appreciation for art and Winter Park reconnected our hearts with 140-sentence (or more) stories! We strolled down memory lane and walked the brick-laid streets while soaking up the sun and the stories comprising our lives.

Cheri moved to Orlando this week from Wisconsin. It’s been more than ten years since we last spent time together. But by the time we got our lunch at The Briar Patch, our Cincinnati-learned rhythms of conversation returned. You eat; I’ll talk. I’ll eat; you talk. You cry; I’ll stop. I’ll cry; you stop. You laugh; I’ll laugh. I’ll laugh; you laugh.

The patterns continued as we wandered through the crowd, pausing at times in the middle of the street to absorb the depth of the other’s words or to capture the glint of joy in the other’s eyes. But ours weren’t the only stories unfolding. Lining the walkways and byways of the park — nah, the entire town — master artists displayed their tales through various mediums. Clay, pounded metal, watercolors, batik, woven straw, blown glass, photographs, oils, even digital images all revealed the essence of something more.

We casually took in the occasional perspective of ships at sea and hillsides adorned with the colors of spring. We took time to consider the unique, discuss the eccentric, honor the beautiful. A few of these expressions took our breath away, and at once breathed life.

This scene from an Afrikan Market in MALI, vivid and true in its representation, held as its caption: The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life . . . and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life (William Faulkner). 

Enthralled? I was too! Imagine it in uber-high resolution, taking up the whole corner of a booth! I could almost smell the sweet bananas and hear the marketers proclaim their goodness to us passersby.

From inside the booth, quietly inviting 
us in to behold the outline of his life, hung a large image called The Prophet, taken in India. Every stunning detail of this man's face revealed a life far different from mine and brought me right up into his personal space. 

How could this man’s breath have been captured without interrupting his breathing? Intimate. Welcoming. Soul-stirring. It’s a photograph, yet I imagined he might be reading the stories of my own heart. Impossible, I know. But it turned me to the Spirit of the Living God.

This group of young boys gathers around The Storyteller in Kashi, China.

Can you contain the smile that breaks out when you gaze upon these wonders? Words can hardly express the joy that spreads across my face. Wonder. An appreciation for the story. 

Emerson Matabele engaged me with his visual storytelling. So real. So personal. So graceful. May it be that I would offer such care for the hearts of the people I encounter.

What a rich, rich day. Filled with laughter, refreshment, the warmth and glow of the sun, expressions of beauty in art, and the stories we shared as we reveled in the life and breath of God's creation. 

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Psalm 150:6

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pluto's Demotion

In his recent FaceBook status, a friend shared that he had just heard about Pluto, adding "that's messed up, right?" 

Some astronomical committee meets to discuss the condition of the stratosphere, and without warning, a planet long known to be a part of our solar system loses clout. Its voice drowned out by the drone of human opinion, poor Pluto is stripped from its planetary position and the identity that has set it apart for decades. Now, devalued and without distinction, the planet formerly known as Pluto simply goes by the number 134340.

Yes, Chad, it's messed up. But it's not the end.

The story continues as Pluto's demotion creates a public stir. And out of the mess this one-time planet emerges a "star." USA Today reported that the American Dialect Society chose the word “plutoed” as their 2006 Word of the Year! 

One who has been plutoed has been demoted or devalued. 

Have you ever been plutoed? Perhaps not by a group of scientists looking to clarify your identity, but by the deceiver looking to steal your identity? 

He's crafty and quiet. So there will be no announcement in the newspaper and no obvious outcry of public support for your self-worth. He will use anything he can to get you off course, cause you to feel defeated, distract you from the truth of Whose and who you are. The distractions may come in a variety of ways. Finances. Health. Job loss. Loss of life. Disappointment at the hands of friends. Isolation threatens. 

And, if you're not aware, a potentially life-threatening condition of the heart will emerge. Blood no longer carries oxygen to the brain. All logic and knowledge of Truth disappear. Your head droops. Your eyes lose their light, and you begin to gasp for air. Then you'll climb into your burrow to suffer silently throughout the duration of your demotion. 

Loneliness will become your only companion. This condition can keep you separated from life for days—even years. But it doesn't have to.

Look out from your burrow toward the sky and consider what happened to the planet formerly known as Pluto. Its demotion left it with only a number for identification at the hands of humans. But does this quiet little planet not still hang in the very spot where the Creator first suspended it? Unscathed by human opinion, its true identity still in tact? Still on its intended course, proclaiming with its every rotation the glory and goodness of God?

Absolutely. Now hear this Truth: The subversive words of the deceiver have no greater power over you. 

Though strong and sometimes confirmed by human opinion, they spout only lies. Don't let them strip away your true identity. Remember Whose you are. "Even before he made the world, God loved [you] and chose [you] . . . to adopt [you] into his own family by bringing [you] to himself through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:4-6).