Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Sky is Falling!

I am usually not much of a whiner, but a few weeks back, I entered into a season that was bleak.  I truly felt like Chicken Little, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
Everyday seemed to bring more bad news. I was being held accountable, not for my own mistakes, but for others' misdeeds.  Friends were dumping on me- painful accounts from their own lives. Filling my head with their own pain and frustrations.  My son's health came into question- doctors feared a relapse of his leukemia.  
All I wanted to do was retreat.  Find a cave, crawl in it, and pray that the mountain would crumble around me, sealing me in. Talk about a pity party!
The thing about pity parties-once you've rehashed all the stuff happening at the moment, you tend to bring up all the other stuff that was bad, wrong, hurt your feelings, etc.  just so you can drag the party out as long as possible. At this point, you begin to feel justified in your emotions and it isn't long before the bitterness and blame set in. 
You begin playing the game, "If only.."  Ever play that?  Well you can't win! Not ever.  It just spirals on and on, a whirlpool of depression, that breeds pity parties!
What's a poor blind sheep to do?

I didn't get so much mad, as I got sick and tired of feeling like the mountains were crumbling and targeting me.  I wanted to know, what in the Sam-hill God thought he was doing! I'd already been through more than my fair share of pain, and it was just piling up!

Know what?  God showed me a beautiful picture of His mercy.  He never promised the mountains wouldn't crumble. He never promised a life without pain.  He never promised His love would protect me from all the junk this world throws my way.

He did promise to be there. To be with me in the midst of it all. And the picture- that although the sky is falling, He only allows one piece at a time to hit me. He's caught the falling sky, and holds it back dribbling one bit at a time through His loving hands.  He knew all the stuff that was coming into my life, all the incidents that would mold and shape me, and He in His mercy did not allow me to be overwhelmed. 
Indeed, His mercies are new each morning. Nothing comes to me, but through Him. I can rest in the peace that My Good Shepherd has the lay of the land and has declared all things good!
Sheep M   2/24/09

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sheep C: Light in the Sea

Recently I went on a cruise, courtesy of my wonderful mother-in-law. We had a great time, she, my sisters-in-law, and I. All three of these women are Christians who make God an integral part of their lives. I went expecting to hear from God, expecting that I would spend time in the Word because these women with whom I was traveling are the kind who will encourage that. I was looking forward to it.

Well, that just did not happen. I did not have the expected time in the morning when I would pray and read my Bible. In fact, our trip did not seem to center on the Lord at all in the way that I had anticipated. Instead, it centered on rest and relationship. There was a time on the trip that I commented on this to my roommate/sister-in-law. It wasn’t that I was disappointed or felt badly about it. It’s just that it seemed odd. She felt the same way. In retrospect, I think God just wanted us to be together and enjoy one another, resting as we all needed to do so much. It was just right to have that kind of low-key downtime.

Other than that conversation, I confess that I did not think much about my lack of meditation or other spiritual exercise, so imagine my surprise when I clearly heard from God! (He surprises me that way.) I was standing on our balcony one night near the end of our cruise. In the faint light from the ship I could see the water kick up into little waves as the ship cut through it. The water was pitch black. There was really nothing to see out on the ocean; no lights, no forms.

As I stood mindlessly looking over the edge, I began to see lights coming from the deep. Little specks of glowing light, just small pricks here and there in groups. I knew some about the existence of bioluminescent marine life, being a veteran of National Geographic Magazine and Discovery channel. It was intriguing to watch in person.

As I watched these little lights in the sea, the strong message came over me that I should be mindful to watch for light in unexpected places. I wanted badly to make that message “watch for light in dark places,” after all the sea was dark, and I had been in a dark place the last two years. But that is not what was said. Rather, it was, “Watch for light in unexpected places.” (Although I can’t resist the last word on this: that dark places are unexpected places for the light!).

Standing on the ship I thought about all the unexpected ways God communicated with His people in the Bible stories: through a donkey, handwriting on the wall, a burning bush. Yes, there was definitely precedent for the God speaking in odd ways to people, although I guess for some any direct communication from God would be odd.

This ship experience came back to me this morning—a Sunday, nearly a month later. Early this morning I found an e mail awaiting me from an old friend. She inquired after me, and I replied to her, saying that I was “…taking it day-by-day,” adding that I have come to believe that the day we are in is all any of us have—not what happened in the past, not the future, just the present.

I was amazed to hear the sermon later in the morning on this very thing: living in the “now.” We must let go of the past and avoid worrying about the future. It was good to hear this on the heels of my own e-mail statement of that philosophy just earlier that morning. And it made me think of the message of the light in the seas once again, understanding that God had used e-mail (of all things) to reinforce to me something I needed this morning. The repetition of the theme caused me to pay attention and to reflect, as I needed to do. It was light from Him in an unexpected place.

So, what is the value to me of these little pinpricks of light coming from unexpected places? It isn’t that I have only now learned that we must let go of the past and not worry about the future. I have long known that intellectually—don’t always do that, but I know it. The point is not that the message was particularly profound, but rather that the message is being sent at all. I do, as a matter of fact, need to be reminded to let go of the past. But the really important point is that God speaks, and He does so in unexpected ways. The light comes from unexpected places. Sheep C, 2/3/09

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Paradox Zone!

Today... I come to you from the depths of despair. I do not know why... but it is not something that I have become trapped in quickly. I feel like a blind sheep that has been walking down a path... all alone... trying to find the flock... trying to re-find joy and purpose and belonging and relationship.

The path appeared to become muddy but it's hard to tell when you cannot see. My feet felt heavy and each step took more and more energy until it became impossible to put one foot in front of the other.

The muddy path has turned into a mire of quicksand. The more I struggle or purpose to move ahead the deeper I sink. Choices, simple choices, are so difficult to make, or more accurately to follow through with.

The gravity of the paradox I am experiencing is distressing. I awake with NO energy each morning knowing in my head and desiring in my heart to pop out of bed and hit the floor running. That used to be such an effortless feat.

Get on the treadmill, workout, eat right, things that could help me feel better I cannot choose to do. I hate those words, cannot choose to do. It sounds utterly ridiculous in my head. I have more time right now to do the things than I have had in 5 years... writing, reading, working out, volunteering, visiting those in need... and yet I am stuck... somehow entrapped in this muddy heavy thing I cannot see.

I feel like a loser, like a whiner, like I need to tell myself to just get over it. What I am writing is incredulous to me. What a wimp! My house has become a refuge, can any other sheep identify with that, and yet staying here does not revive me. Whether it’s for a day, a weekend or Christmas break... there is no renewal, no revival, no rested feeling, and no new energy.

I am ready for my life to be reignited... at least I think I am. I know I am ready for something. The choices thing is confusing at the moment because I don't feel like I've got the oomph to choose anything. The following quote about choosing joy over despair... doesn't seem to be working.

“You have many choices. You can choose forgiveness over revenge, joy over despair. You can choose action over apathy....”
—Stephanie Marston; family therapist, author

Choosing action over apathy... gosh anyone can do that... you would think... and yet it aint working. My choosing never makes it out of my head. The action fails to materialize and I sink ever deeper into the mire.

I guess my ability... or strength to choose is really zero. I suppose it was always zero but I didn't like to think of myself that way. I can do this and I can do that and I was apparently quite deceived. I can choose joy and action as easily as you guys can choose to forgive the spouse who betrayed you, the pervert who abused your daughter or the drunk driver who took your son's life.

I know a sheep who has forgiven her ex-husband’s betrayal and yet, it wasn’t so much that she chose to do it as it was that it was done for her. I am now mumbling words that may have no substance but it seemed that the pain and heaviness of not forgiving him (the anger, bitterness, hurt, anguish and worse) became more than she could bear... so it was let go from her. I would say, "She chose" but I don't think she did or could... for a while she didn't even want too.

You may be a sheep that is experiencing rejection, betrayal, aloneness or loss of a loved one. You may feel that you are unable to choose to forgive. Is that a bad place to be? I can tell you it's a miserable place to be.

What I do know is that I don't seem to be able to choose. I feel I am at the end of my rope and there is no knot to hang on to. Not only is there no knot but some sheep… or shepherd has coated the whole thing with Vaseline! I can't hold on any longer!

Is this where you are? If so... you are in a good place. Why, because you've given up on your own strength. You have realized that you are not in charge... you are not in control... you have indeed entered the twilight zone... the outer limits... or better yet... because it's way beyond that... the Paradox Zone!

That strange place where those who are bankrupt, empty and at the end of their slipery rope receive the Kingdom. A place where those who mourn are comforted and those who are sick receive the Physician. Where those who claim they see are in fact blind and those who are blind find that they can see.

It's a really wierd place this Paradox Zone. Those who are weak find they are strong and the meek... well... they inherit the earth. The Twilight Zone never acheived this level of twisted reality! If you hunger and thirst in this realm... you are satisfied... how wierd is that.

And how do you find this Paradox Zone? You don't... it finds you. As we reach the place of not being able to live life our way, in our strength, with our agenda we finally just wear out and give in. We cry 'uncle'! I can't do it anymore. I can't pull it off anymore! I am woreout, I am tired, I am depleated of my ideas and my strength and I can't go on.

Suddenly the sets of our lives, not our TV sets, get squiggly lines in them and everything seems to change. We are no longer in control... and we hear from somewhere deep within... "Do not adjust your dial, do not try to take control of your life."

And then the invitation comes... quietly yet firmly it rises from deep within... "Come all who are weary, woreout, tired and heavy laden... Come and I will give you rest... I will give you Life!" But that makes no sense... exactly! You are no longer in Kansas miss Dorothy... you are no longer in the world of your vain imaginations... you are now in the Paradox Zone!

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”
—G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936); writer, critic

Does that sound like a Paradox to you? My inner feeling is that I am anchored in a yucky heavy muddy mire of hopelessness. My hope is that in the midst of this hopelessness... HOPE will come and rescue me! I hope that the recognition of my inability to choose... it's always been that way whether I believed it or not... will release HOPE to rise up within me and place me back on the firm path.

Without hopelessness there's no need for HOPE, without devastating wounds, betrayal and trauma there is no need for forgiveness and without blindness there is no need for eye salve to see.

I am very needy... I am very blind and I am very weak... I am a sheep who is ready to be found and taken over in the Paradox Zone!

Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest

When I am weak… then I am strong

He who says he sees… is blind, He who is blind… sees

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are the meek, the weak, the blind, the sick, the lame, the outcast and the needy... for they receive the Kingdom... they receive the King!