Horrors and Sacred Cookies

I started to write the last night. I had thoughts in mind, things stirring in my heart, but no time to get them down on paper.

I planned to sit today and enjoy a cup of coffee, giving time and space to these thoughts and grabbing a chance to write here on the blog again.

Then I woke and heard the news this morning. 


Heartbreaking, overwhelming news
.  

 I thought about what had sparked my desire to return to writing.

A cookie. 

Yep.

And then I realized what I wanted to write last night was exactly what I needed to write this morning. 

That cookie, and my eating it, is a sacred act.

You see, I ate that cookie to hold a memory my mother cannot hold any more. The memory that she loved macadamia nut cookies. The memory of things that brought delight and a moment of splurge. I could do the same with a Payday candy bar. That cookie is sweet in a deep way…because it holds the reality of a broken world, of a woman who delighted in good things, and memories. 

That’s a lot for a cookie.

We need those sacred moments. Walking through the grocery store and catching sight of something which can bring you up short. Allowing the pain of what is lost, and the delight of what has been, to mingle in the act of eating a cookie. 

That is sacred.

So what does it have to do with today?

Mom’s Dementia, the horror of Las Vegas last night…they force our awareness of the broken state of our world. We know this, of course, but sometimes we are struck forcefully by how fragile we are, and how desperately in need of rescue.

We have to watch in the midst for grace, for humor and for rescue. We have to carry on. (Yes, I’m listening to Rich Mullins at the moment). There will be moments the brokenness is so raw it will break our hearts.

There will be moments we need to weep. Moments we need to see those around us and their pain…and in those moments we need to be so thankful for those we can turn to for comfort and grace.

“The mercy of the world is time. Time does not stop for love, but it does not stop for death and grief, either.” – Wendell Berry

There will be new memories, and there will be another sunrise and another sunset. I like very much, however, what Berry says here:

New grief, when it came, you could feel filling the air. It took up all the room there was. The place itself, the whole place, became a reminder of the absence of the hurt or the dead or the missing one. I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and grieve alike endure.”

Time helps. 

We carry on. The next sunrise helps us. But then we see something or hear something and our breath is taken away afresh. 

But we will dance again.

We will laugh again.

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Buechner

I know…probably the tenth time I have used that quote.  Maybe Buechner can say that because of this…

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be r I g, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4

So. A cookie and a tragedy and a mother who cannot remember. They are all tied together because of a God who sees, who knows and who will one day set things right. Today, let’s find the sacred around us, let’s comfort those who weep, and let’s carry on. Grace upon grace for those around us today.

Time to Look Honestly

“The grinding power of the plain words of the Gospel story is like the power of millstones; and those who can read them simply enough will feel as if rocks had been rolled upon them” -G.K. Chesterton

Cheery thought to start Thursday.

The reading I am following for Lent with She Reads Truth comes from Isaiah. The words today made me think of Chesterton’s words.

The Lord of Hosts removing any security from the people of Judah. Ouch. God allowing them to fall to what they truly were in that moment…they had rejected God and were living for themselves. God was going to allow them to follow that through. The result, according to the word of God through Isaiah, was going to be devastating.

People oppressing one another, desperate for a leader. There would be no stability, no security. Fear…that underlies the verses.


Until God says that there will be a day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.  There will be a refuge and a shelter
.

The people could not see what they had become. They were fooling themselves, and as long as God allowed them to prosper in that state, they would remain ignorant and rebellious. When they saw the fulfillment of their reality, they would see the deep need for God’s redemption.

When we see ourselves honestly through Lent, we realize the deep need for Jesus.

This morning as I sit, I reached for tea instead of coffee. Something different, something to awaken my senses this morning as I just felt numb to the taste of coffee. And I love coffee. It had become bland to me though…and so I reached for something different. And I drank it from a tea cup my grandmother used with a sugar spoon my  great grandmother used.

 

I read and looked around at my life, which is very good, and realized that it is easy to be complacent in honestly looking at myself. It is easy to doze in the sunlight even when there is so much turmoil all around.

 

I know there is so much to pray for and about all around us. There are so many dealing with enormous challenges. Sometimes, though, we need the season to look inward. It’s not healthy to naval gaze without end…but sometimes we need the season to quiet down and look honestly at ourselves.

 

There is something about tangibly changing things. Lent provides the opportunity to change things, tangibly. And sometimes just a simple change…like giving up being judgemental, even for one of the 40 days, helps us think differently. Helps us look differently at ourselves and at our God.
Give up something, something noticeable. 40 Days of changing the routine.

 

Before God has to remove the security to get our attention. Sometimes God getting our attention is uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels like millstones rolling upon us. Because, the point is…we are fallen and marked by sin. We are in desperate need of salvation.
Sometimes that is not so easy see. Sometimes, though, we see true evil around us and are reminded there is a deeper reality. Ann Voskamp talked about that today:

And if I’m only dust — just my love alone in the world will not be enough.


If love is all we need in this world — I’ve got a problem.


Because, honest? Our love isn’t enough to absorb the evil that decapitates men’s heads, evil that rapes little girls, evil that steals and sells children as sex slaves.


There’s real active evil that’s not simply people acting — there’s real evil that’s more than a social construct, that’s more than someone’s bad choices, that’s not from any heart in this world, that’s not from any place in this world, that’s not from any mind in this world — there’s a supernatural evil that slithers into the corners of this world and pythons around hearts and minds until it strangles out the light and we scream against the dark.


At some point — in a broken world, your Love runs out, and You need a Love larger than your own to Love Larger than evil.

 

Looking honestly. Honestly like this takes some time to sink in. Some time to settle in our brains and then make its way to our hearts. That is one of the blessings of Lent…it takes its time. Time to understand the reality of sin, and of evil and of a love that is able to turn that all upside down.

 
A God who comes not overwhelming and not conquering, but instead comes unexpectedly and then dies unexpectedly. A God willing to suffer. A God willing to be in the desert and know what it is to be tempted and to suffer.

 
The reality of the Cross, the honesty of our need for that reality, Lent provides us the time and the space to remember.

 
Every. Year.

 
Lent is not just about giving up chocolate or FaceBook.

 
Lent is about changing our focus and about discipline, discipline in our thoughts.

 

Discipline in our spirits. We’ve just begun…find a book that helps you focus and helps you look honestly at the world and at yourself, and ultimately draws you back to Scripture to look honestly at the God who changes everything.

The Lent Mirror

Is this a Fast to keep

The larder lean?

And clean

From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish

Of flesh, eat still

To fill

The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,

Or ragg’d to go,

Or show

A down-cast look and sour?

No: ’tis a Fast to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat

And meat

With the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife

And old debate,

And hate;

To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;

To starve thy sin,

Not bin,

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

-Robert Herrick

Ash Wednesday, today, the beginning of Lent. Another rhythm of the Church Calendar, drawing my attention away from news flashes and FaceBook notifications. This year it seems to come so early. That might owe simply to the intensity of the first two months of this year. I feel as though I have hardly taken a breath since toasting sparkling grape juice at midnight with the kids and Steve…

I have been looking forward to Lent this year, mostly because it provides an opportunity to lay aside some things and take up a focus my soul needs. I have ‘fasted’ from FaceBook before, and am doing so this year at least for the most part. I’ll post updates as I have a blog post, but the notifications are off and the apps are deleted. The season to settle down a little is settling upon me.

That does not mean, however, utter sadness or mortification. Lent has never meant that for me…it is more a narrowing of focus. A concentration for a season. It is difficult for me to concentrate on anything indefinitely…so this structure of 40 days brings borders I need. Lent brings this strange paradox of joy and hope with repentance and deep awareness of my sinfulness.

I am reading a study from She Reads Truth this year, along with a couple other books.

 

This morning I woke early anticipating some time to read and pray and think about Lent…only to find myself instead tracking storms and Steve’s progress to work. 80 mph winds. Tornado warnings. Garbage bins flying across the driveway. Little girls waking hours early…thankfully only to fall asleep again on the couch.

 

 

Somehow that seemed appropriate this morning: Lent calls us to look honestly at ourselves, to “Circumcise thy life” as Herrick says above. We cannot do that in isolation from the reality of our lives, though. The storms will still blow through, even as we turn our attention toward the salvation of our souls. Even as we discipline ourselves to look honestly at who we are, and then…thankfully…at who God is and what Easter is all about. We cannot think on these things without being touched by the storms all around us. This year probably more than most.
The storms are done here now. The cats are looking wet and irritated after being outside.

 

The youngest boy is playing piano.

 

    

 

Underneath all of that, at least for today, though, is the refrain from G.K. Chesterton:

 

“I have found only one religion that dares to go down with me into the depth of myself.”
I need the discipline of looking honestly at myself, of holding that awareness of my sin, and then of walking in the mercy and grace of God. In the midst of storms, and life…we need this season of pause, of directing our thoughts to the reality of God Incarnate crucified. Then, we can walk in the reality of Lent…meaning “spring”…and the joy and hope which comes.
Walt Wangerin said this in my reading this morning:

 

We have to see ourselves honestly in order to see the offer of forgiveness and redemption Christ offers as honestly.

I most likely will not post daily through this season, but will be posting some poems and thoughts from the readings. Take some time today…even if you do not feel the call to fast through the whole season…but take some time to look honestly at yourself in light of Christ. Oh, and if we could fast from “Strife and old debate and hate…” that would be lovely.

Words Which Benefit

I already felt frumpy, slightly pudgy, and entirely lacking in fashion.

“Your hair is just going to be like this. I mean, you should consider coloring the grey because it is just not attractive. And it doesn’t matter how I cut it, it is just going to stick out and be like this. I mean, I can try, but there is just so much I can do with it.”

 

Awesome.

 

I probably should have just said thanks and left at that point, however I had two kids getting haircuts at the same moment. And having a much better time of it, I might add.  So, I let her continue and give me a pretty awful haircut. I’m still waiting for it to grow out so I can go somewhere else…to someone who might have a bit more compassionate view of this mop. I walked out feeling more frumpy, more inadequate.

 

The flippant words of this young hair stylist ruined my mood for the day. They weren’t necessarily meant to, and that actually amplifies their weight. There was no awareness that words so demeaning might impact me.

 

We have grown flippant with words which have great impact. A casual word which can change another’s mood for the whole day.

 

Sometimes, we are intentional with words, desiring to create chaos and pain. Reading through the comments section on so many news articles and FaceBook threads brings this to harsh light.

 

There is much to bring fear in these moments of life. There are many who feed on that fear and rejoice in spreading news with headlines inspired to capitalize on our emotions. Every election season seems to be marked by these dividing lines and comments slung back and forth between the factions. Those words are not flippant…they are carefully chosen for full impact.

 

Flippant or intentional, we contribute to the chaos, or we bring peace.

 

Our words have impact. They matter.

 

My flippant words about people I think less of, people I easily categorize and dismiss. I toss my words about, creating an image for my kids, creating a narrative. These people are beneath us. These people are not worth respecting.

 

The person who irritates me on the road: “Idiot.”  The person who does not live up to my ‘standards’: “Can you believe they did that?”  The person who sets their hopes on someone I disagree with: “How can anyone vote for that person?” “How can anyone think that way?” “Only an idiot would buy into that argument.”

 

The fear is speaking. Label the news, label the other people, label…whatever…and it makes it less fear-filled. Label something and we can toss it aside, we can disagree with it, we can disregard.

 

We are called to more, though.

 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:29-32

 

Only speak that which is helpful for building others up. Only speak that which may benefit those who listen.
Ouch.

 

Be kind and compassionate.

 

We sure could use some compassion and kindness in our communication.

 

What if we were not flippant, but we were intentional to bring kindness to our conversation. What if we truly strove to speak in a way that benefited those who were listening. Even those who were simply over-hearing. Like the kids in the house as they hear my ongoing commentary on life.

 

What if we spoke to bring beauty and peace, and if we could not bring that…we remained silent.

 

We can still challenge, we can still confront. Remember that other verse from Ephesians 4?

 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. – Ephesians 4;15

 

Speaking the truth….in love.

 

Maybe some of that is simply recognizing that much of the hateful speech and much of the intent to hurt springs from fear. Maybe we are so wrapped up in the stories that legitimately rock our world, that we don’t know how else to respond but to shout and hit back with words. We end up striking one another, instead of striking the fear or the cause of fear. We end up isolating ourselves more and stirring the fear within us.

 

What if…we pause and try to find hope, try to find some wonder around us, and speak of that? What if we continue to speak truth, but we speak it in a way that spreads calm, spreads peace?
What if instead of igniting the fear, we remind ourselves and others that we belong to a deeper reality? What if we remind ourselves and others that we believe there is a God who is in the midst and is working. What if we give testimony of the moments we have seen His hand in the midst of the chaos, instead of continually repeating the hate and the chaos?

 

What if we realized those shouting the loudest speak from a place of pain and of fear, and we might have the answer for them? We might have the words that tell them of healing and of hope? I know it is easy to be caught up in the arguments and to dismiss those on the other side of the divide. It is far easier to not love…to simply remain aloof.

 

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”  – Bonhoeffer

 

Because to love means we will be impacted, and it will hurt.

 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Still, life is so much fuller when we love. When we love instead of label, there is a grace released.

 

We are in the midst of this broken world together, and yet we are able to bring a different perspective. To open other’s eyes to the wonder around us, and to bring an awareness of the deeper reality of God’s presence in our midst. We are able to bring hope.

 

We do not ignore the suffering, or the fear, or the chaos…we jump into the midst of it and watch as God moves in the midst.

 

We try, right? Today. In the comments on FaceBook and in what we share. In our words around the kitchen with the kids listening. In our conversations…we try. Try to speak words which benefit, words which heal, words which bring calm.

 

We might need to seek the wonder some before we engage the conversations. We might need to pause first before we jump online, remind ourselves that we are image bearers of a compassionate and loving God, a God who seeks to save.

 

We might need to take a breath before we speak and remember that we are all in the midst of this fragile life, and we are all impacted by the grief of children dying in war, of innocent people dying in moments of terror. We are all carrying the weight of the brokenness of this world, and we need to give one another grace in how that impacts us.

 

There is still wonder, though. Find some beauty today. Speak some peace. Pray for those who shout against you. Take a breath and turn off o the flow of news when it overwhelms you.  Read something that brings you hope and fills you, so that you can speak that hope to others.

 

Maybe just telling someone they are beautiful, they are valuable…when they are feeling frumpy and inadequate…it could change everything for that person for that moment.

 

“My lovely shining fragile broken house is filled with flowers and founded on a rock.” – Madeleine Le’Engle