Saturday, May 19, 2018

Beauty for Ashes

“...this is what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn’t simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”
- An American Marriage


On the anniversary of my father’s death, nothing captures my last 365 days of loss more poignantly than this passage. Our home has been emptied. Dad’s room no longer holds his energy. Though last night in the dark, I was certain he stood in door, I felt him that strongly. The truth is, it has taken much of this year for us to find a different rhythm, and today, I feel like I’m exhaling for the first time since hospice rang my phone on Friday, May 19, 2017. I was convinced my mom would pass within this year of losing dad. Her own health issues and the way their lives had gnarled together over 48 years, I never envisioned a scenario that didn’t end with both of them lost to me. If I’m honest, in a lot of ways her dying would have been the easiest thing. It would have freed me from my obligations as a daughter and let me off the hook relationally. And yet, the Universe in all of its Cosmic Goodness handed my mom and I an invitation to participate in our own healing. In 365 days, I’ve watched my mom through sheer force of will and determination progress from being primarily bedridden to getting into a wheelchair with the assistance of home health aides to walking with a walker to walking with a cane to sometimes doing a quick shuffle with no assistance of her own accord from her bed to a chair. And like her physical progression, she and I have went from combative to distant to tap dancing fragility to cordial to warm and sharing laughs and conversation. I’m scared of the word friendship. It’s not a word I ever thought I could possibly use with my mom, but we both look at each other and know loss has handed us “something”. I never imagined a time when I could be in my mom’s house more than 3 or 4 days without alcohol to get me through. I never imagined a time when I could willingly pick up the phone and talk to my mom for more than 10 minutes without rolling my eyes in the top of my head. And I certainly never envisioned a day when my story would have any parts of restoration or contentment, and yet I feel like this is the gift the loss of my dad has handed my mom and I. We’ve intentionally had to choose not to come at each other from pain or the past or fear. And this is a different choosing. One where we are choosing each other and in doing so, restoration is unfolding. Will the emptied places left vacant by my dad ever be whole again? For sure, no. He was the constant that we all loved. But just as your senses tend to compensate for loss by strengthening another sense, my mom and I are compensating - and in this place, who we are together, who we are to each other is being strengthened day by day. Today, as I lay flowers upon my father’s grave to mark this one year anniversary of his passing, I will thank him for the seeds of life his death birth in mom and I. Truly, this is the nature of grace. Beauty for ashes. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mystery

Either Christ is Truth or He’s not. Either we are one with Him or we’re not. The lie of separation has perpetuated bad theology for far too long in our civilization. There are absolutely things we cannot make sense of and things we cannot explain, this is the mystery of life. The wonder of love. This is faith.

Things do happen that we can’t explain. That’s life. Too often in the vacuum of reason, we blame God. But even God said, “in this world you will have trouble...” Our hope and very breath is the affirming encouragement he finished that pronouncement with, “take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Yes, suffering, illness, pain, tragedy, evil are all a very real part of our existence. But God has no ego that demands or requires our idolatrous worship. He’s not some cosmic deity spinning bad tapestries to draw you closer to him or grab your attention.

This is the truth available for us as humans that are one with God, and once you see you can’t unsee. This is the love of God, the restoration and renewal of all things. This is redemption. God is with you. God is in you.

I am one with God and one with creation. Together, may we embrace all that life has to offer. May we celebrate our joys, mourn our sadness, grieve with those who grieve. May we love well and overcome evil with good.

Monday, April 23, 2018

I’m In

One of the best days of my life was the day my heart agreed with the intro to Element by Kendrick Lemar. I use to live waiting for the nod. You know what I mean? Wanting to be accepted by this group, acknowledged by those people, given a platform by that ministry. I lived on the edge of the inner circle, almost just in but never quite. Always  waiting for the invite into a position of prestige. “Pick me. Pick me. Don’t forget me.” The heart cry of an oft forgotten little girl who still just wanted to be chosen. 

Then one day Spirit offered me a golden ticket. It said simply, “You’re Invited.” And the wind agreed, “You’re in. You’re in. You’ve always been in.” But it didn’t feel like...enough. My ego longed for the validation of others. To be seen, to be known. To be welcomed. Without the approval of man, the I AM NOT roared louder than I AM. Then one day Truth asked, “What is it about their invitation that’s more important to you than mine? If you achieve said position, will you be more happy than you are right now? Will the ability to name yourself such and such grant you more fulfillment than you have in this moment?” 

Identity without belonging will always leave you wandering about the wilderness feeling insignificant. But that’s the thing about Truth. Once you see, you can’t unsee. 

The wind held the note that resonated with the truth of my being. The greatest position I can hold is being 100% true to my being. The greatest power I can wield is to love as the Divine loves. The most prestigious gift is being one with all creation. I belong - not merely to one tribe, one group, one particular ministry or organization. I belong in the Universe. 


I’m in. I’ve always been in. Now here’s  to your golden ticket. May your heart know this truth. That you too are invited to be and to belong. Hat tip to Kdot. May your heart keep making music that unveils Truth. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Awakening at Advent

At the sea
Before day breaks
Under the cover of night
The sky meets the sea
And you can tell they were 
Once one
Like the gong of a tuning fork
The ebb and flow of the waves resonate
Calling us all back to union
Awake, O sleeper
You too were once one
Arise and remember 
Your true position in the earth
Separation is an illusion
Your fragmented soul but a myth
In Him you live and move and have your being
The Divine among us
Within us
One with us
His name Immanuel
To remind us of what we have forgotten
To awaken us from our slumber
Peace on earth
You are joined to all
Goodwill toward men
Creation is begging 
For us to remember 
This moment requires
That we get it right
Even as light nears on the horizon
Through the lens
It still looks dark
Perceived as the end of a thing 
Yet we know it to be more
Death
Finality
An invitation 
A door
What will you see when you look upon the darkness
Pause and remember 
What is easily forgotten 
In the light of day
Immanuel has come
Immanuel has risen
Immanuel is one with us



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Grief and the Incarnation

The Regret. The Missing. The Longing...sometimes the longing is so sharp, I cannot swallow pass the ache in the back of my throat. I understand now how easy it is to reimagine a better relationship when your loved one has passed. My value for authenticity and truth will not allow me to reinvent my story. But, I can tell you there are days when my head needs to hear aloud the voice I still hear within the walls of my heart. To hear his laugh. The way he said, “Chile...” or rolled his eyes into the top of his head as he smirked his lips...

I understand with a little more clarity the longing and missing of the Trinity. To remove anything that obstructs the flow of Love, even if it meant the incarnation of the Son in the pursuit and restoration of mankind. The dogged, relentless pursuit to swallow whole the lie of separation that created this longing. To erase the line between missing and communing. To see the fulfillment of interconnectedness, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us...”

Immanuel came and the host declared, “Peace on earth and goodwill toward all men.” Lazarus died, and Jesus wept. He that is peace also grieved. For Mary, for Martha. For me, for John, for you. He was moved by compassion. 

In the stillness, I’ve learned to feel what I feel. To not run from the tears, the regrets, the missing or the longing. I’ve learned to choose wholeness over cutting off the sorrow and further fragmenting my ‘self’. And after I dance with grief, I hold my thoughts at a distance and ask, “Is that true?” Immanuel came to remove the misperceptions that obstruct us from seeing Truth as He is. I weed the lies from the soil of Love and allow Truth to flourish. This keeps my grief from running amok and casting me headlong into shadow sickness.

People often don’t know what to say when a person is grieving or how to give space for the sadness. We are not a society that has learned how to be with. Anything abnormal wakes us from our slumber of certitude and makes us uncomfortable. People are uncomfortable with the unpredictability of grief. 

As uncomfortable and unpredictable as much of the populous in the presence of Immanuel, God with us. He stirred up things, brought desires to the surface, blew the lid off falsities and egoic power plays. Thoughts that were hidden within the recesses of one’s heart seemed to rise to the surface like dross. And yet, just as many (if not more) were drawn to Him, drawn to His freedom, His mercy, His love. His authenticity. His permission. His invitation. Drawn into with-ness.

Strangely, I find these things in the fire of grief. Memories rising unbidden to the surface like dross. Things being stirred and brought to the surface. The lid blown off the falsities I erected, others I perpetuated through my agreement. 

But, I’ve learned I can sit in the fire of grief and not be consumed. I can hold the longing and the missing and not be overwhelmed. And even on the days when it aches to swallow, my soul says, “It is well. It is well.”


Peace on earth and goodwill to all who grieve. May you experience the blessedness of Immanuel this advent season, and may every obstruction and misperception that stands between you and comfort be swallowed in His presence that  you might feel His love flowing toward you. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cut Glass

My dad always stood between my mom and I. More buffer than bridge, he kept us from colliding and clashing. Himself a small fury if provoked, sobriety transformed him into a peacekeeper. 

Years of bad stuff loaded on top of dysfunctional, unhealed wounds had forged deep pain and created wedges so immense, I convinced myself they would exist into eternity. 

Days before he passed, I held his hand as he stared into my eyes. He was past the point of speaking, but I knew what he was asking. Could feel what he was saying. Time was too precious to waste with words. It didn't matter anyway. The apologies on my tongue felt fake, trite and useless in that moment. 

The truth is, he saw. He knew. He had been the buffer. He could see her part in it, and he could see mine. He never called either one of us out on our stuff. But that day, he held my gaze long past his ability to keep his eyes open, clasping my hand until sleep took him. And, I knew. I knew what he was asking of me. I knew what he needed to go peacefully. 

I didn't know how I would do it. I didn't think I had enough belief in me or her to even try. And lord knows I've been tested, and I've failed miserably! Dad died and my bulwark collapsed. And we didn't know how to live with each other without him in the middle. We'd never had too. 

But his death required a new kind of living for us both or we would die with Dad and cease to be. Now we had to see each other, be with each other - with no one in between. And that's a scary thing when two people are walking shards of broken glass; fragile, cut, jagged... 

Truthfully, the seeing sends us headlong into grief because seeing one another reminds us both of him and the place where he always existed, as the buffer in between us. We haven't fully mended, and I'm not sure that we ever will. But I can tell you, the jagged edges of the glass no longer cut as deep. The once sharp points have dulled and blunted and I'm no longer running into painful places that send me scurrying. 

Five months it's taken me to finally NOT be afraid of "coming home". Five months to get over the fear of what I could possibly be walking into. Would this be a good visit or a bad one? Would I win at loving and eschew harmful, pain filled words? It feels weird to run my hand along the edges of cut glass and not get sliced. 

I miss my dad with every breath, but the flowers that are pushing up from his cold head is a truth I've finally been able to embrace now that he is no longer between us... she is not my enemy. 

Not that I would have ever consciously deemed her as such. But my defensive posture - fists clinched so tightly my nails bit into my palms and lock kneed battle stance - would not have convinced you otherwise. With dad no longer in between us, somewhere inside of grief and a new reality, I discovered a choice. 

I could continue to seize up and resist or I could allow Love to break open my tightly budded heart. As with a rose, there's always the risk of getting pricked. But I'm slowly saying yes to the beauty and the fragrance of the flower petals despite the risk. 

My mom and I are like a beautiful work of stain glass, and I can't help but wonder how many times the glassmaker cut himself before he learned to handle the cut pieces with delicacy. I had not realized how co-dependent we both were on him to exist with each other. Dysfunction seems so normal when it's your reality. 

How about you? Who or what are you avoiding because the fear of being hurt outweighs the risk of being loved? 


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Enough is Enough

Often, we look at "original sin" from the starting point of Adam's actions. In doing so, we miss a huge key to transformation. Adam's demise did not begin when he ate the apple, Adam's sin happened when he believed in his heart that he was separate from God and had to DO something to be like Him, to obtain something from Him. From that grave omission, we have oft repeated this same pattern in society, expecting our doing to produce a certain result.

When people "sin" or act unjustly, we demand they DO something to correct their behavior. We tout "action oriented" solutions as the answer to all the world's problems and attack injustice with a vengeance, willpower against willpower, using negative energy to attempt to bring about good. 

Had Adam believed differently in his HEART, he would have responded differently. Jesus, himself said in Matt. 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said,‘ You shall not commit adultery ’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

Don't sleep on Jesus. Just as pain and disease is an outward expression of inner dysfunction in the body, the -isms of today in all their vile expressions are outward expressions of hearts in great turmoil. 

No lasting change to systemic injustices will come without an inner experience of union with the Divine and His creation. A wise person once penned, "guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flows the issues of life." Something happens within before it ever flows outward. If we miss the both/and of that truth, we will fail to rightly respond to the need of our day. 

We do need action that produces results, AND we need action that is borne of hearts awakened to the collective experience of humanity. Whatever I do to you, I do to me. We are not separate from one another. There is nothing more for me to chase or consume or aspire to that would vindicate me trampling over you to get there. The fear of scarcity has us living selfishly and running amuck in chaos. We have enough. We are enough. Enough is enough. 


What am I doing to awaken my heart to love? How am I cultivating compassion  within so that kindness flows out? How am I intentionally participating with the Divine to be a peace maker among humanity? Am I known for what I'm for even more so  than the things I'm against? What am I demanding of myself in my demand for others to get it right? Have I removed the log from my own eye or addressed the hidden places in my own heart before I've leaned in to touch yours?