Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Times Are In Your Hands

I have this collection of watches.  I'm not sure why I keep them.  It's not like I will use them.  It's not like I can even wear them.  Any watch I've ever worn that has hands eventually stops working way before it should.  Never happens with digital watches, only the other kind.  It is a mystery.

I can tell you the precise time when each one stopped, even if I cannot say what day or year it was.  The moments stack up:  2:05, 10:30, 3:10, 1:11, 2:32.  I wonder what was occurring as each time signature came to rest.  What season was I in?  Was I happy?  Sad?  Hopeful?  Depressed?  The time signatures remain, but those forgotten moments are long gone.  I can hold those frozen watches in my hands, but the moments they represent have long since slipped through my fingers.

I am comforted by the thought that they have slipped into God's hands instead.  Those memories are held by the Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the One who is and was and will come again.  Really, they never were out of His hands to begin with.  I might have lived each one of those moments, but He was holding them all along.

It's a truth hard to grasp at times.  My memories swim in and out of consciousness, some of them forever out of range, some too close for comfort.  But I see how it all turned out.  I am comforted by the imprint of Divine Love touching each one.  It doesn't matter that I couldn't see Grace unfolding in the awfulness of disappointment.  Grace was there anyway, mending and minding the tenuous threads of well-being that I thought were permanently broken.  When I couldn't hold on, God was already holding me.

Okay, here's the truth:  I found the verse before I found the watches.  Okay, even truer:  the verse found me.  I lay in bed the other night, my head swimming with uncertainties, the open-endedness of my life laughing at me.  I just wanted to let my insecurities pass into the night, to be covered by darkness, unseen and invisible to my heart and mind weary from trying to figure life out.  And then the words came.  From somewhere inside, a reminder that I was not alone in the confusion:

My times are in your hands  (Psalm 31:15). 

Why is it that I can so easily accept God holding all my past moments, even the excruciating ones, yet have so much difficulty grasping that God holds this present one too?

This moment, unfolding itself in my confusion and struggle. 

I love how the Holy Spirit works.  As I laid in the darkness my husband offered a nightly prayer for our family, our growing boys, and our work, our loved ones, and then mentioning me by name:  "Help Sami to know You are with her in the struggle." 

I begin to change my thinking.  Because back then, in all those moments of past tense, it was hard for me to see God's hand at work, holding me in the middle of  holding time.  It was hard for me to imagine that there was greater Purpose aligning what I couldn't understand with all kinds of wonderful that would eventually come clear.  But I see it now--I celebrate now Providence's plan lovingly arranged and arrayed in a past that is beautiful to me on this side of it.  If I can see my yesterday's with that kind of clarity, is it possible to look upon my now moments with that same kind of clarity as well, exercising the faith that knows in a future moment all this confusion will be okay too?

With the discovery came the determination to find all those watches--to put hands upon them, to gather them into one place in full view of my spiritual eye.  Those times and these times are sacred.  And they are Held.  Not even my incomprehension changes that.  They are Held. 

So am I.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Sunday morning was a perfect morning for a run--about 35°, no wind, sun shine gentle on my face.  To run in weather like that is bliss: not too hot, not too cold, but just the perfect balance of everything.  Even if my body is not cooperating, I enjoy myself.  And I find my heart and mind open in footfall rhythm; more of me is available to notice what most needs noticing.

On Sunday morning it was the song of birds.  I noticed birds singing, their chirpy refrain a reveille to my early morning grogginess.  It seems they had something to say.  Something important.  "Hey, we are here, silly woman running.  We are awake and welcoming this new day!  Be awake with us and welcome it too!"

I heard it.  And then I understood it.  They were still singing, even after the crazy weather of the previous week, they were still singing.  I see them perched up high, resting blithely on tender branches.  And even though they are so small I wonder that they can be held by something so tenuous looking.  But they greet me still.

The weather last week had become frighteningly cold.  Bitter.  Frigid.  We stayed inside the warmth, shielded from the frozen air and ground and wind.  I wondered about survival in such extreme conditions.  The news even spoke of caring for large land animals.  Without proper care, exposure could mean certain death.

This is the wonder of it all--little beings so fragile, without human hand to shield them from the biting cold, live to sing about it.  They sing, as tiny reminders of life's strength.  My assumptions of life's frailty were wrong; I hear the error in their song.

We too go through the extremes, don't we?  We are so involved in trying to just. get. through. that we sometimes fail to see how those seconds and minutes and hours add up.  We lose perspective because there is no time to not strive; each moment we give ourselves wholly to the surviving of the thing, slipping silently into a better place, an easier place.  And we hardly even notice it because we are still straining against our adversities just tying to make it another day.

I wonder when we will look back at the journey that has been, and pinch ourselves when we realize what we've come through?  When will we realize we are tougher than we gave ourselves credit for?  Which day will we wake up singing and know that the thing we had to come through did not have the power to take our song?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Welcome New Year

I didn't realize until I was well into my adult years that hospitality is one of my core values.  Mostly because I never envisioned myself as the domestic type, and I always assumed that to be any good at offering hospitality a girl had to do it like Martha Stewart.  I mean how can someone as unkempt as me offer anything that could ever put another at ease?

And then I began to understand that unkemptness is gift too, offering something valuable to the weary soul tired of pretending life is perfect.  I am glad to welcome friends into my unkempt life, to provide a safe place to let down their hair, to listen to stories still in the middle, to laugh together at the way God weaves His humor in and out of our imperfect lives.  Having it all together is completely over-rated.  It leaves no room for anything more.  And I have found that God is always ready to surprise us with His More-ness.

More has a way of walking in and setting up shop in the realm of unkempt.

This is my hope for the year ahead.  I would love to say that I have a carefully thought out plan of what I want to do with my life, who I want to be when I grow up.  Yesterday I read a web-page that offered advice on how to systemize one's blog.  You mean there are people out there who have a system for this "I've got to write it so my soul will know it's alive" kind of thing?  Totally blows me away.  My system is pretty simple:  "Write at least once a week whether you want to or not; writing is good for you."  And it is.  I know where my soul is because it peaks out at me in the words.  Without the words it tends to get lost in my unkemptness.  The writing helps me give some order to this mess that I am.  And it opens my eyes to the More of God.

On Sunday I sat in church listening to the preacher talk about making covenants with God for the new year.  I sit in the tension of opposing desires within.  On the one hand I want to make big promises to God, to dream big, to honor God with dreams so big only He can fulfill them.  But I get overwhelmed with the pressure to decide exactly which dream I should dream.  Instead I think of Mary, mom of Jesus.  She never had big dreams.  But God had big dreams for her.  Her response was simple, profound--"Let it be with me, just as You have said."

Honestly, I'm not big enough, or smart enough, or clever enough to figure out what More should look like in my life.  But oh sweet Jesus I yearn for it--I'm hungry for only the More that He can bring.  I love Mary's words, her invitation to God as response to God's invitation to her--"Let it be with me . . . ."

I believe that this kind of response has a radical nature all its own.  Without demanding it welcomes Holy Initiative.  What if we spent our whole lives welcoming the very thing God wanted to do most?  What would our world look like?  And isn't that hospitality?  Doesn't God need a bit of hospitality too?

Our preacher continues to talk about covenant.  He compares it to marriage.  I think of marriage and covenants and how we bind ourselves to one another in a way that reshapes who we are.  God binds Himself to us in love, through the cross.  Jesus even in resurrection shows the marks of binding Himself to us--we are written on His hands.  Our preacher says that in the binding, God takes the greater portion of promise.  His promise holds our own when our promises perish.  God's takes on the burden of promise when He binds Himself to the broken, those who break promises because of their own brokenness.

I am turning this metaphor over and over in my mind.  I think of my own husband and our marriage and how the years bind us together. We are learning still how to love each other, yet there is a rich depth that marks our lives because of our loving.  I am comforted to know that perfect Love already holds us both.

The scripture comes to mind--Ephesians 5:25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind--yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
This word washes over me and I realize--I am part of the Bride that Christ loves so much; I too am one whom He is making splendid with His love; I too am one who will be holy and without blemish.  And my radical hospitality, those few and simple words of "Let this be", participate in making this possible.

I go throughout the ordinary parts of my day and another wave of realization washes over me:  He desires to do the More.  He wants to and longs to and watches with anticipation as my life is unfolding, waiting with giddy excitement to do the More.  It is not just an obligation of covenant for this precious Bridegroom; it is His deepest joy.  It's not that He has to.  He wants to.

And when I try to protest because my messy unkemptness will get in the way, He just laughs and asks me who do I think made me this way?

Welcome new year.

Welcome friends.

Welcome Bridegroom.

Welcome love.