We Haven’t Missed the Moment…

How are you doing this morning?

 

I find it a little silly, this blog that I turn to from time to time. I realize that friends read, but I think it is mostly a place for me to process my thoughts. Since it is more than a journal or something hidden, maybe I try to think a little more clearly. My grammar is still poor, but the thoughts get across. Today I need the push to think more clearly.

 

Today, I am finding that lack of connection to people heavy. And that need to process equally insistent.

 

And yet…

 

I have not journaled once during this stay-at-home order. How many days are we now? 24 days since I picked the oldest up from college. 24 days.

 

I am a journaler. I think best when i write, and yet…I have not thought very well in the last three weeks.

 

I have been distracted. 

 

How about you?

 

 

I’ve been following the numbers, but also not allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the news. Before my allergies went into overdrive, I walked with the kids through the neighborhood. We looked for bears in windows, we looked for rocks that had been decorated and spoke little messages of hope. Now I linger on FaceBook and read the stories of hope. I relish the conversations between neighbors online offering help, offering encouragement. I’ve been distracted enough to watch the Tiger King. I think even our neighborhood car burgler is adhering to the stay-at-home order because we have not seen him in three weeks. People are trying to behave.

 

We have not suffered in our house…we have been inconvenienced, but not suffered. We are accustomed to school at home, so that has not been a significant change. I am missing watching my soccer player, and Maddie only participated in one practice before everything stopped. We were coming out of Spring Break when this all began, and the rhythm of a relaxed schedule has continued. It’s almost 10 and three of the kids are still asleep.

 

And yet…

 

This is Holy Week. Lent got caught up for me in a forced austerity, at least of community, not an intentional fasting and focus.

 

I have neglected the readings. I have glanced at the slow progression toward the Cross, but I have not participated.

 

Now. Good Friday is upon us. I’m not really ready. I missed the preparation in my soul.

 

I’ve been distracted.

 

Have you?

 

I have friends who have done well. They have pressed in to God. They have prayed, they have thought well and they have pursued. I have prayed…but I have been distracted. I have friends who have also written well about the strangeness of this time, and the difficulty to process while we are in the midst of the moment.  This is an article worth reading, from Rebecca K Reynolds.

 

Distraction can be lethal to our spiritual health. Check out this quotation from G.K. Chesterton:

 

“For, though we talk lightly of doing this or that to distract the mind, it remains really as well as verbally true that to be distracted it to be distraught. The original Latin word does not mean relaxation; it means being torn asunder as by wild horses. The original Greek word, which corresponds to it, is used in the text which says that Judas burst asunder in the midst. To think of one thing at a time is the best sort of thinking; but it is possible, in a sense, to think of two things at a time, if one of them is really subconscious and therefore really subordinate. But to deal with a second thing which by its very nature thrust itself more and more aggressively in front of the first thing is to find the very crux of psychological crucifixion. I have generally found that the refined English persons who think it idolatrous to contemplate a religious image, turn up next time full of delighted admiration of some Yogi or Esoteric Hindu who only contemplates his big toe. But at least he contemplates something, and does not have ten thousand brazen drums to encourage him to do it. He is so far a real philosopher, in spite of his philosophy. He does not try to do two incompatible things at once.”  – Chesterton from On The Prison of Jazz

 

“To deal with a second thing which by its very nature thrust itself more and more aggressively in front of the first thing”! Yes! That is the sense of my thinking right now, thank you G.K.

 

One more from Chesterton:

 

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.”

 

We have to be present to the one thing right now. This week. This pivotal moment that we remember, that we embrace, that we ponder. Boy did I need help this morning to bring my attention to check. Chesterton has helped, he has pointed out the problem…how about a little help from Buechner:

 

In our minds we are continually chattering with ourselves, and the purpose of meditation is to stop it. To begin with, maybe we try to concentrate on a single subject-the flame of a candle, the row of peas we are weeding, our own breath. When other subjects float up to distract us, we escape them by simply taking note of them and then letting them float away without thinking about them. We keep returning to the in-and-out of our breathing until there is no room left in us for anything else. To the candle flame until we ourselves start to flicker and burn. To the weeds until we become only a pair of grubby hands pulling them. In time we discover that we are no longer chattering.

If we persist, every once and so often we may find ourselves entering the suburbs of a state where we are conscious but no longerconscious of anything in particular, where we have let go of almost everything.

The end of meditation is to become empty enough to be filled with the kind of stillness the Psalmist has in mind when he says, “Be still, and know that I am God”  Buechner from Wishful Thinking

 

 

 

 Guess what? 

 

We haven’t missed it. You who are distracted as I am. You who are having a hard time staying focused on reading anything. You who are having a hard time getting out of bed, for that matter. You who long to lean in toward God, and yet the energy and the focus are difficult to find at the moment….you haven’t missed it.

 

Today is Good Friday.

 

 

 

You haven’t missed it. 

 

Press in today. Find the space physically and mentally and spiritually and meditate. Stop the chatter. Need some help?

 

Start here, with some thoughts from Malcolm Guite  and then continue to this from Steve Bell with Malcolm Guite. These will help you think on the stations of the cross, with a link to Malcolm’s sonnets on the stations and a couple songs from Steve.

 

 

Then, this….this is a fantastic resource. This is a visual resource for praying through the Stations of the Cross. This will give you the steps to focus your mind, to prepare your soul for Easter.

 

 

Finally…find an online service. We have one at my church, The Village Chapel. Use the resources and press in. Push out the distractions, at least for today. Then again for Easter. Then again the next day…

 

 

This is a strange time, and distraction may be a saving grace for at least moments in this season. But not for this moment. This moment requires discipline, and requires focus. I’m a little more prepared now…how about you?  Let’s press in and not miss this moment. This very strange Good Friday and Easter which may just be a moment to meet Jesus in a new way that awakens our spirit.

 

You haven’t missed it.

Pause.

It has been about 24 days since I last left the house. Same for the kids. That’s a long time. You would think in that time I would have paused and thought deep thoughts, or come up with some rhythm and plan for these days. You would think I would have things to say. Deep truths that have come clear in this time.

 

Not so much.

 

Here’s a bit of what 24 days in stay-at-home has looked like.

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There are no appointments. No performances. No gatherings or parties or driving the kids to and from friends’ houses. I have to say it breaks my heart not to see Sam play soccer.

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No communal worship.

 

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This is a completely unique time for us. This forced stopping. Forced pause. Forced waiting.

 

I have to admit, I am not good at being still.  But it is beginning to seep in a little.

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I have been on silent retreats before, and usually just before it is time to leave is when my mind and my soul begin to quiet. There is just so much noise. And now, that noise is spurred on by news that updates us by the moment about the spread of this virus. We hear and see not only the fear and the stress, but the resilience of people singing to each other from balconies or parading through neighborhoods to celebrate birthdays. Or just to acknowledge each other.

We have the chance, though…we have a moment to pause and to pull back and to rest.

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It has taken me 24 ish days to settle in to this, to press toward whatever this is and what God has to teach me in this season. My mind is starting to quiet.

 

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This safer-at-home business is messy. We are all stuck together and trying to finish school well, and trying to stay connected to friends and be aware of what is happening in the world. This is a totally unique time. There are so many wonderful stories coming to the surface, balancing the fear and the anxiety. There are so many good moments…and yet there are so many struggling and that will increase.

 

Easter is coming and with it the declaration that God has overcome. The declaration that all will be well. We may not be able to sing it out together in community, but we have the opportunity to speak it out in hope. The opportunity to speak life in social media and in conversation. We have the moment to turn our attention to the reality of God.

 

I have not been turning my face toward Easter. I’ve not done well with Lenten discipline. I’ve been distracted and unsettled. The other day it was 1pm and I realized none of my children were awake. There was no rhythm or intention.

 

We still have a week, though. We have time to quiet some more. We have time to be intentional and to lean in to the reality of God risen from the dead.

 

Quieting. Listening. Knowing that this is a different season and the Easter message will resonate in a whole new way. Praying for mercy for our world, for grace in this strange time, and for healing. And waiting. Waiting with a new longing for that Easter morning and the rejoicing there will be….

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The things we carry with us…

Over the last three weeks I have had at least five discussions with friends who are watching family members slip into that strange world of here and not here. They are watching their loved ones begin to forget. They are watching the agitation and the fear that begins to settle in as this person realizes they are losing their identity. Their memories. Their story. And finally their ability to communicate.

 

I have been jotting notes on this blog for over eight years now. I began it as a place to think aloud a bit about our journey with my mom’s Dementia. We were well into that journey even eight years ago. Now, as Mom is farther and farther from her ability to communicate, there is not much to update. Things do not change as much day to day anymore.

 

I began this blog partly because of a quotation from Frederick Buechner that kept nagging at me:

 

“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours…it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.”

 

We need to share our stories. We need these touch points with one another, to know that we are not alone and to glean wisdom from those who are a little farther down the track than us. We need to hear that God has been present in others’ stories; it encourages us to watch for Him in our own.

 

I’ve encouraged those I know who are in the midst of this now to be patient. To remember that they do not have to use logic, and they do not have to win arguments. And we do have to repeat the answer a hundred times some days. My brothers and my Dad would be better at writing the advice. They have cared for Mom diligently, daily, these last years.

 

I am 1200 miles away, and as life has become busier here my travels home have become fewer. There is an acute awareness, however, of this missing element of my life. This void. There is a silliness to asking how Mom is when I call…she is the same as she was yesterday. As she was last month. As she was last year. But I still want to know. I still ask.

 

There were times when she changed weekly. There were times when she would call, and she would know who I was. She knew things were slipping, and there was fear in her voice, but she knew me. I found an old answering machine today, and knew that I had at least one recording of Mom still there. Her voice brought back so many memories…and that deep desire to have one more conversation.

 

 

So to those who are just starting out on this journey…it is a long one, so take a deep breath and give yourself some space. Recognize that there are so many going through the same journey.

 

Your loved one just might be mean in this season. They might lash out. They might be aggressive. Not always. But my guess is that there is a season in this where they know what is happening, and yet they don’t know where they are any more. Where there is a sense that things are familiar, but they can’t figure it out. And that has to be terrifying. So give them grace. But also have wisdom.

 

Now Mom doesn’t communicate. She doesn’t form sentences or ask questions. Sometimes she rambles a bit and you can tell there is something she is trying to say.

 

She still smiles though. And her eyes still twinkle.

 

So now, for me, 1200 miles away and keenly aware of the conversations I wish I could have with her, I have taken to something specific to keep her memory close.

 

I don’t leave the house without wearing something of hers.  (And I also can never take a normal “selfie” because I feel ridiculous…but wanted to show the necklace!)

 

 

I’m reading from her childhood Bible some. And I drink from a coffee cup that came from her.

 

Necklaces, flannel shirts, coffee cups…they remind me of this strong woman I carry with me. I carry her wisdom and her wit (although hers was quicker than mine). I carry her love of books and pens. I carry her laughter.

My daughter carries her name.

 

Buechner:

If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.

 

Keep telling yourself the stories your loved ones can’t tell anymore. Write them down. Remember. Stretch that memory, and find something that helps you hold that person close…even if they are 1200 miles away.  Stretch your own memory and think about your own story. Write it down.

 

If you live miles from home, keep asking how they are. Even if it doesn’t change.

 

Keep remembering.

Do Not Fear….Sing.

Years ago I was fearless.

I remember walking up to people on Central Avenue in Albuquerque and asking them if they knew Jesus.

I think I met an angel one night, but that is a story for conversation over a cup of coffee.

I had a deep joy, a delight in life, and a passion to tell people about Jesus. I had friends who were the same, and we would drink coffee from late night into morning hours at the Frontier restaurant. And Frontier rolls, we would eat lots of them. And tell people about Jesus.

After college I went and spent a little time in a commune in Chicago: Jesus People, USA. I walked streets that were far different than any I had seen, and I learned some wisdom from these folks who had been doing this a long time. I worked in their shelter, and lived in their building and felt lonely and at home at the same time.

But I did not feel afraid.

I returned to Albuquerque, then on to Nashville a couple years later. In Nashville I found a group who ministered in the inner city, and I remember outreaches that made me feel like I did when I witnessed on the streets of Albuquerque.

Then I went to Hungary and Amsterdam and I saw Jesus work on the streets of those towns. I street preached in Amsterdam, not just witnessing…I had a microphone and everything, with a group from YWAM. I also worked in the coffee shop, with the outreach to the homeless. We sang, kinda badly, and walked the streets of Amsterdam and told people about Jesus.

Amsterdam was one of the first places I felt a physical presence of evil…I felt it like a wall. I’ve seen what I can only describe as a demon before, but that was in Nashville and Santa Barbara. Another cup of coffee conversation there. This was different. We came to the walking streets, to the square, to tell people about Jesus, and as we came around a corner there was a cold and a heaviness that hit all of us. There was spiritual battle here, and it was real.

But I was not afraid.

Then I returned to Nashville and outreaches and meeting a man who I knew would be my husband. And I flew home to Albuquerque for a visit. I had coffee with a friend from radio and we talked until the coffee shop closed. Knob Hill, still off that Central Avenue.

We walked out to our cars, with a space between us. A car swept in between us and evil emerged. I remember one of the men looking me in the eye. Holding my gaze for a fraction of a second, and then turning and going to my friend’s car.

I thought he had made it into his car as I had. I pulled out quickly and looked back. Five of them? Swarming around his car? I called the police and drove quickly around the block to return to him…and in those seconds they scarred him. He was a bit tougher than they expected, though. And as I pulled around I found him in his car and the swarm gone. In seconds.

And as I pulled around and found him there, with blood on his face….I was afraid.

It changed everything.

I was afraid of the shadows. Afraid of those who held my gaze longer than a fraction of a second.

It eased in time, but a seed was planted, and now there is a fear I have to counter.

Today I fly to Montreal with the middle boy. The one of adventures to China. He talked us into a quick trip for him to see a favorite French singing artist perform. And I am along for the ride.

And he knows no fear. He wanted to come alone at first. 16. Alone to a foreign (even if it is Canada) city.

He knows no fear.

Even though he broke his bones in China. He knows no fear.

And that is something to delight in, and something to hold dear. Because, it will not last.

Is that harsh?

There will be the moment when evil swarms out and shows its face, and fear will appear. Courage, hopefully, will appear in the same moment.

My trips are tainted now, just a bit. I can feel that fear sneak in in the most unusual places…gripping fear that I have forgotten something, or that there is something I am not equipped to encounter. Fear that steals the joy of a trip. Just for a moment, but it is there.

Our pastor tells us often, because we need to hear it, that the two most repeated commands in the Bible are “Fear Not” and “Sing.

A pastor from many years ago, when some of us in college were confused and experiencing spiritual challenges, gave us similar advice: “worship”

Take your eyes off the evil, take your eyes off yourself and remember who God is.

He is the God who breaks the rules. He entered our world in a completely unexpected and unconventional way. He surprised us…and He has come into our world filled with fear and uncertainty and told us to Fear Not.

And to Sing.

So, this Advent….are you fearful? Have you had that moment that changed things, that exposed evil to you and surprised you? Do you have that awareness of your insufficiency, even in small things (like remember airline tickets…), that fear that can creep in and make you suddenly feel like a small child ill prepared to face this world of evil?

Fear Not.

For lo…unto you this day,in Bethlehem town is born.

A Savior.

Sing. Do battle with that fear, and with the evil that would nag you and distract you…do battle with your song. These Christmas carols we sing, the Christmas carols we hear all around us…they are the words of warfare. Listen to them.

Advent is waiting in the dark and knowing that someone is coming to change everything.

Once we have experienced a deep, shattering fear, like I did that day behind a coffee shop with a friend, I think we are never quite the same. Fear, and evil, are real and are not to be forgotten. But, equally, we know that there is a God who is stronger, and who came. So we wait in these Advent days, and we are aware of our need. And on Christmas Day we should be singing with deep joy and gratitude that our fear will not last.

Sing today. Something…and do it with gusto and with faith.

I’m going to follow my boy around and see the delight and joy he has, that has not yet been tempered with fear. I’m going to remember what it felt like to street preach, to street witness and to no no fear. And I’m going to sing (maybe in my head on the streets so I don’t embarrass him), and I will not fear.

How about you/