This video struck me to the heart. Please click on link to see video: Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan
In this journey to eat less, pray more and love abundantly I have become more aware of relationships. I’ve been exploring and experiencing connections to people and God in new and sometimes painful ways.
Anne Sullivan connects to Helen in a way that is intimate. She places a hand on her teacher’s face, thus causing Anne’s identity, for the moment, to be inextricably linked with her student. Anne seems completely at ease with this and an even deeper connection still. Helen relies on Anne to connect to the broader world through language. Helen is Anne’s lifeline.
Is this not a symbol for the connections we all need in life? Between friends, lovers, parents, siblings do we not all long for at least one meaningful connection in life? Robert Putnam, in his groundbreaking work, “Bowling Alone”, places relationships as the most powerful force to move someone from one stage of sustainability to another.
Is this not what God calls us to do? Luke 10:26-28 in the amplified puts it this way.
“26 Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?
27 And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
28 And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God].”
From the Message Bible it puts verse 27 this way, “27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
Anne Sullivan loved Helen Keller with all her passion, prayer, muscle and intelligence. How do I know? The connection shows us, as demonstrated in the video.
As I stumble, worn and weary, from one crisis to baseball game to laundry pile to work, I need that same connection. I need to connect with God in that same way. I need to love Him with all my passion more than I merely want to survive the moment. I must connect with Him so that He is my lifeline-so I can communicate with my challenging world the language of love, grace and strength.
We are managing to stumble our way to church this morning. I’ll be tired, because I always am these days. However, at some point, in some way, I will reach my hand. I will place it on the face of the One I love and I will connect.
Will you? If you do, please share.
Slaying the Martyr
This post contains some rough language. Reader discretion is advised.
My mother was a professional martyr. Her specialty? The drive-by. As we would be leaving, herding children into the car for the long trip home, she would say, “I can’t talk to you next Thursday as I’m having surgery. They don’t think it’s cancer. Have a great drive!”
What-the-what? I, of course, would feed into the emotional blackmail and demand to know what was going on. I would pour out all my daughterly devotion until I was utterly spent. To which she would simply reply. “Of course I’ll take care of myself, no one else will.”
This independence. This utter conviction of superior strength by virtue of surviving more shit than could fill the darkest Russian novel. This complete lack of humility all define the heart of the Martyr. I followed in my Mother’s footsteps and became the Mother of All Martyrs.
After all, death had claimed so many that I loved. Situational poverty consumed my savings. I was actually conned into thinking resigning was better than being fired because they would refuse my unemployment. And my children, oh my poor dear ones, couldn’t read perfectly by age four!
This quote I proudly displayed on my FB page. I even printed it and shared with work colleagues. I stood tall, chest puffed out-convinced of my own, unique Martyr status. After all, I had been through so much and was facing so much, surely, God would think I am one of the baddest of the asses.
My fiend who speaks with a prophetic edge which quite simply cuts through the bull quicker than a laser, shared something with me. Like a dagger to the cold, cold, Martyrs heart, she reminded me of something. Jesus wants to be the bad-ass FOR ME.
If He didn’t, then what was the point of the cross? What was the point of having His flesh torn? What was the point of dying to live again? He did, so I don’t have to…as much.
I once believed Jesus was magic. I believed if I just prayed hard enough or loud enough or often enough or decreed enough that I could appropriate my rights as a child of God. Yep I did. In looking back to that time, I wonder if Jesus was standing outside the prayer circle trying to get a word in edgewise.
Now I don’t believe in magic. To be honest I don’t believe in much of anything except my own ability to handle tragedy and misfortune-to be a Martyr.
What if, in the midst of the pain so real it’s a glass sliver piercing my heart, God wants to take some of it from me? His own Son asked the same questions I have. “If it is possible for this cup to pass from me, please do. Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”
The Martyr would say “It’s God’s will” with a sigh and a tired look followed by, “but I will get through it, as I always have.”
If Jesus is to be my bad-ass, then I have to say, with all honesty. “If this cup-this cancer, this pain, this loss, this brokenness as familiar as my fingerprint- will not leave then what is Your will in this situation? Not my will but Yours be done.”
This cup hasn’t passed from me. Cancer still eats away the future I have with my father. Debt eats away at my bank account. My new job will either catapult me higher or stifle me into submission. My five year old can’t read.
I won’t even pretend the Martyr has gone off into that good night easily. Like a zombie with good intentions she refuses to stay dead. However, she has a new motto.
P.S. Major points to anyone who can point out which movie inspired the above mentioned motto.
2012: The Year of the Chisel
For me, 2012 is the year of the chisel. Have a few minutes? Let’s watch this video together.
I thought it was living in such a small town where my history stalked me in every grocery store aisle and restaurant. CLINK.
I thought it was being convinced I was a triangle peg in the very square holes of my community; be it Starbucks, church, my kids school or Wal-Mart. CLINK.
I thought it was the crushing debt and poverty thinly veiled behind my cheerful smile where 123 Never Enough, Dead End America became my address. CLINK.
I thought it was the hangover from so many crushing losses. The previous two years took so many pieces of my heart, I wondered how it continued to beat. Family, friendships, and dreams all boxed and buried beneath sickness, betrayal and misunderstanding. CLINK.
All these became tools in the hands of the One. The One who took me seriously when asked, from the filthy floor of a stockroom, to make something of a life worth nothing. His response? He began to chisel.
Lysa Teurkeurst in her book, “Unglued”, talked about this process of chiseling. She writes, in the section “The Unfinished Sculpture”, of the journey of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.
The sculpture was actually begun before Michelangelo was even born! “The 19 foot block of marble had originally been the project of an artist named Agnostino di Duccio, but after shaping some of the legs, feet, and torso, he inexplicably abandoned the work.” Ten years later, another artist was hired to finish it but his contract was cancelled. 25 years after that, a young 26-year-old Michelangelo, “picked up a chisel and dared to believe he could complete a masterpiece.”
For more than two years the artist ate, slept and breathed the sculpture. He literally slept in the same room with the piece of marble. “I saw the angel in the marble,” he said, “and carved until I set him free. When asked how he made such a magnificent statue, Michelangelo said, ‘It is easy. You just chip away at the stone that doesn’t look like David.”
I thought I was a victim of circumstance and poor choice. God saw an opportunity to chip away at the places which held me captive. He removed the hard places which don’t look like me-the Me He originally created. He loves me enough to chisel at the stone around my heart, soul and mind.
It’s been painful. It’s still a work in progress. However, it’s progress.
Today, this first day of 2013. I begin it hopeful. I begin it more free. I begin it more fully formed, thankful for some of the hard pieces having been chiseled away. There is oh so much more to be chiseled. At least, for now, I dare to believe it is to complete a masterpiece.
I pray you too would allow the One who designed you to pick up his chisel and find the Masterpiece inside your life.
How do I pray?
In the aftermath of the tragedy in Connecticut, I find myself asking God a critical question. It isn’t “Why?” or “Whose fault?” or “What’s to Blame?” Rather it is, “How do I pray?”
How do I pray when it seems that God was absent in His promised protection over the little ones?
How do I pray when it seems the killer was a young man with deep problems?
How do I pray when I simply cannot become comfortable with the reality of evil preying upon children?
I want to know how I can pray differently for my kids. Time with them is more precious than gold. How can I waste not an ounce?
I want to know how I can pray for all the families affected. From first responders to those left with no responses I want to know how to pray.
I want to know how to dislodge the band of panic which is wrapped around my heart. At the slightest sound, call or moment away, I wonder if I will see them again.
Lysa TerKeurst wrote a blog asking the same question I did. Her response was heart-achingly beautiful. Read it here: How Do I Pray
I’ll pray for the chasms to be filled.
How will you pray?
Praying More is Plugging In
Saw this on FB today and was inspired to write.
This family has the power. They choose to share it. They made a way for people to easily connect. They didn’t ask for anything in return. Their power will make it possible for others to connect to those around them. This is an absolute and utter genius of a modern Christian allegory.
Christianity is simple. We can live good lives and do good things yet it’s not enough. We are all separated from God by our inherent selfishness and penchant for destruction. Yet, by Jesus sacrificing all, we are able to gain all. “5 I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 AMP) Simple.
When we decide to ‘plug in’ to the One who made us in the first place, we have the ability to do so much more than we can do on our own. In fact, from God’s perspective, we can do nothing apart from Him.
The church, meaning the collective body of Believers who may or may not worship together in a building, should be like this family. The church should have more ‘power’ than the rest of the neighborhood and the world. The church should share what they have in a way that’s easy for people to connect. The church shouldn’t ask for anything in return, because they didn’t purchase the ‘power’ in the first place.
So many would try to tell you the church isn’t as it should be. There are too many stories where the church is full of greedy, crazy, judgemental wackadoodles utterly convinced their first name is Jesus and their middle name Holy Spirit. The ‘brand’ of Christianity is marred by judgement, cliqueishness and knee jerk reactions to cultural phenomenon. Or it’s squishy, anemic and unrecognizable from the current culture in the name of ‘relevance’. Whether judging or joining, the church so often doesn’t demonstrate it is truly ‘plugged’ in to power.
How do we know we are plugged in? Things happen. Power is released. Luke 8:43-48 is a remarkable illustration of what happens when a person ‘plugs in’. It’s also my favorite story from the New Testament. You should check it out. READ THE VERSES HERE: *Pressing Through the Crowd to Get Plugged In
Things happen, such as prayers get answered. John 15:5-8a (MSG), “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is…”
Part of the impetus for this blog project-lessmoreabundantly-was the recognition I was dead wood. The harvest in my life was choked out by weeds. Whatever I asked didn’t come to pass. In fact, the exact opposite would often occur. I didn’t have the kind of “intimate and organic” relationship referred to in the previous scripture. When I think of intimate and organic, I think of time with my kids or friends, unscripted, loving and deep. There were moments of this, but not an abiding connection with God.
Now, I am tossing the deadwood out of my own life. Sharing my journey with you is another opportunity to grow my own harvest. Hopefully, these entries will help you to toss some twigs of your own.
Like this family, I am digging out my cords and plugging in. How will you plug-in? How will you share what you have flowing through your life?
Don’t Tell Mom
I came home the other night. The curtains in the livingroom were askew. I waited for the story.
My husband told me they accidentally were torn down. He imitated my youngest, voice and all, “Daddy, I’m sorry! Pleeeeeease don’t tell Moooooommmmyyy!” We had a good laugh and then went on with our evening.
That statement, however, has stuck with me. I know, logically, my dear 5 year old was simply avoiding punishment for whatever behavior led to the curtains crashing. What kid wants to get in trouble when he can avoid it? My heart, however illogical, was a bit hurt by this.
Why wouldn’t he want me to know? Is he afraid of me? I once thought it was better to be feared then loved. I would joke about my kids being afraid of me. Now I am not so sure.
Not telling me is a way to avoid accountability. Therefore, they must not see accountability in a good way. Or I have been too harsh and the accountability I provide is too tough. Either way, it is a withdrawing from relationship.
Lately, I have been practicing a “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy with God. If I don’t ask Him anything then He won’t tell me where I need to grow. The curtains of my spiritual life are hanging crooked in some corners. I have, for a long time, pretended He wouldn’t notice.
The thing is, just as I saw the unevenness as soon as I walked in the room, so too God sees the unevenness of my faith and devotion. Rather than hide from me or withdraw, as my children have done with me, He comes running closer.
Take the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Father runs across the field and meets his son with open arms. The son doesn’t even have to confess to his sins before the Father is placing the ring of authority on his hand and wrapping his wearied shoulders in a new robe.
Technically, I don’t have to tell Father God anything. He already knows everything because of that omniscient gift of His. I don’t have to tell, but that doesn’t mean He stops asking.
In fact, He keeps asking. He keeps reaching out, in small and large ways. He tries to get my attention and runs towards me when I am only able to do halting baby steps. He stands ready, at anytime, at every time, to embrace me and place a new robe upon my wearied shoulders.
I straightened those curtains. I also had a conversation with my sons about loving them even when they make a mistake or a bad decision.
I started to ask and to tell Father God all the things in my heart. My curtains aren’t straight yet, however, I can feel His hand reaching to tuck them back into place.
Eating Less is Hard When You are Hungry
It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’m hungry. Like starving. Like ready to gnaw on the arm of the couch hungry.
Okay, maybe I am being dramatic (or being guilty of over-using the millennial favorite word ‘like’). Maybe?
Here’s the thing. I’m hungry in nearly every area of my life.
I am hungry for more professional success. Professional success which will feed the sucking black hole of debt and bills; not to mention the black hole in my ego and confidence.
I am hungry for more time with my husband. Time which will let us not only ask the hard questions but remember the answers we once knew.
I am hungry for more of God. More of Him and less of me.
I am hungry.
Went to church not once but twice tonight. Both sermons spoke directly to my heart.
Applied for more contracting work.
Watching ‘Shark Week’ with my husband.
Feeling fuller already.
Simple Faith and Plain Truth
I started this blog/project full of the good intentions at the beginning of any good thing. I was going to drive into a healthier, more spiritual and loving future in my pink cadillac of blogginess. I did, for a bit, until I looked down and saw the flames. My tires were burnt off and the rims were sparking, the friction of the reality of my journey too much to bear. The cadillac ended up in a ditch.
This entry is a tow truck of sorts. It’s reaching into the ditch and pulling me out. It’s setting me back on the road. The sparkly pink cadillac parked for now. I sit, on the roadside of this journey, in a comfy recliner, wrapped in my boo-boo blankie.
I’ll address exactly what pushed me off the road in another entry. For tonight, I’ll share what pulled me out. Job did the job. Say that three times. Job did the job.
Job is that martyr in the Old Testament. He’s the one God and Satan made a bet upon to see who would win. In my head, Satan chest bumps God and says, “Watch this!” and then proceeds to throw Job’s life into the cosmic cuisinart. Job has always been preached as a sort of cautionary tale against feeling sorry for yourself. “Look at Job! He lost everything and STILL honored God! What’s your problem?”
I always was more than a little puzzled by this. God, sort of, hung Job out to dry. Doesn’t square with my image of the squishy Huggie Bear version of the Almighty.
The last three years have been a Job experience in my life. Death, debt, loss, judgements by friends, failure, illness have all made me understand Job’s journey all too well. However, I never read the chapter of Job until recently. What I am finding there is surprisingly encouraging.
To say Job went through hell and back is a colossal understatement. His children were killed while partying. His fortunes were lost. His skin and body were afflicted to the point where worms lived in the sores. His friends were judgmental and his wife wished he was dead.
I had been taught Job was this long-suffering Persian Pollyanna who, whilst scraping the pus from his sores, would bless God. He didn’t. He complained. He cursed the day he was born. He begged to die. He suffered and shared his suffering with us through scripture. He was just as stuck as I am.
Job 9:32-35 (MSG) “God and I are not equals; I can’t bring a case against him.
We’ll never enter a courtroom as peers.
How I wish we had an arbitrator
to step in and let me get on with life—
To break God’s death grip on me,
to free me from this terror so I could breathe again.
Then I’d speak up and state my case boldly.
As things stand, there is no way I can do it.”
In the Amplified version it speaks of an Umpire to lay hands on both God and Job. How much I longed for someone to blow the whistle on my playing field of pain.
Two truths emerged for me. God is God and I am not. Simplistic to be sure, but I really got it this time. He is who He is and I am who I am. We will never be equals, this Creator of the Universe and I. He is so much MORE than I. He demands so much more than I can give. He has a right to these things, because He created them.
The second truth, I am not Job. I am not alone. I have an arbitrator. Timothy wrote it best.
1 Timothy:4-7(MSG) “He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.”
Jesus is my Umpire. He blows the whistle and sets me free. Doesn’t mean I will never suffer. Doesn’t say that. What it does say is that my freedom from the suffering works by simple faith and plain truth. Simple. Plain. I can do that.
I can do that and so can you. So tonight, I choose to place simple faith in this plain truth. Someone gave Himself in my place so I could be free.
All the pain, all the suffering, all the loss will somehow be part of my freedom. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I do know I am climbing out of the ditch grasping at the hook within this promise. I am not alone.
It’s that plain. It’s that simple.
What does it mean to love abundantly?
There is the scripture which says that no greater love exists than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The single most extravagant act of love in all of time was the crucifixion. God and man collided with sin and death. Even to His last moments, bruised, bloodied and dying, Jesus chose to forgive. He chose to love despite the pain, despite the thorns, despite the brokenness of His own spirit.
I have loved, in ways I thought extravagant. Often with disastrous results. No, I haven’t been nailed to a cross. However, my heart, motives, actions and character have taken a beating. I’ve bled over relationships broken beyond my ability to repair. I’ve chosen to forgive. I’ve also chosen to toughen up my defenses. I’ve become far more selective on who, what, when, where and why I will lay down my life. I found myself devoid of life to give.
But doesn’t loving abundantly mean exactly that? Abundance. Not careful and selective choosing. Not defensive protectiveness. But loving despite the consequences or the messiness of the journey?
Hours before the hellish abuses of the crucifixion, Jesus prayed alone in the garden. He prayed that it would all pass by Him, that He wouldn’t have to endure the horrific physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Yet, He made a two part decision. The first was to come to terms with the toll His love would demand. The second was to see beyond the excruciating death to what lay beyond.
Hebrews 12:2 (ERV) 2 We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.” (emphasis mine) Jesus fully realized the pain He would endure. He also accepted it ‘as if it were nothing’.
The cross of crucifixion-nothing! Are you kidding? He could accept it because the joy on the other side of the pain far overshadowed the hellishness He would endure. The ends were so glorious, so beautiful, so joyful that the pain would become nothing.
To love abundantly is to come to terms with the fact that love will hurt. It also means to recognize on the other side of that pain is something good IF we look to the One who makes us complete.
Less-more-abundantly is a journey. One I am undertaking to understand how to love abundantly through the pain to get to the other side.
There is a song which asks all the questions I do when it comes to love. It gives no easy answers, however, it points the way. There is only one way to love abundantly, and that is with arms wide open, my heart exposed. This blog is one way I am opening my arms. Will you open yours?