Monday, October 28, 2013

Wise Comfort

So we all have that friend, don't we?  The fixer. The one who you take your issues to, and they tell you how to fix them. The well-meaning, good-intentioned friend who cares about you and wants what's best for you...and knows exactly how you should get there. If you don't have this friend, it might be wise to examine yourself: this could be you.
Maybe, we know taking our troubles to this friend isn't going to end well. Maybe you try not to. But maybe they'll be hurt if you don't open up to them. Or maybe they're the only ones still listening. Or maybe you care about them, and you're hurting, and you need them to tell you they care that you are hurting, however clumsily they do it.
One way or another, you wind up holding a nice neat answer to everything you're going through that does you...absolutely no good at all.
I wonder what we're hoping for, when we spill everything that's hurting to somebody whose problems they...aren't? Because our negative reactions to easy answers shows that that sure isn't what we want. Does it help just to hear our own voices? Or maybe sometimes we just hope that another set of hands helping to carry what we're shouldering might make things a little lighter. Maybe sometimes we just want comfort and a friend. 
Either way, hurting hearts don't need easy answers. Hurting hearts don't need band aids and aspirin. Hurting hearts need other hearts to bend when we break and dip when we dive. And while, yes, sometimes we need that friend who can tell us that we're wrong and say hard things without icing and sprinkles, tonight, friend, I just needed you to tell me that you care about me.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

On Daylight OR To Have and to Hold (A Lover of the Light)

It's been a day (week, really) of songs about light. Worming our way from a conversation last weekend about Snow Patrol's Crack the Shutters ("as the rays tangle up around your face and body...cause the daylight seems to want you just as much as I want you") and the darkened days that song pulled me through, all the way to tonight and my favorite Mumford and Sons video and the way he reaches out his hands to play with the sunlight he feels but can't see. And the way we think about light, as a thing to be seen, to be caught and refracted and reflected and shone into dark rooms and dark mazes at a fall festival for the four year old clinging to your sweater sleeve and tripping up your feet and scared - and it's true. But it runs deeper, more than x number of dimensions- the way that light tumbles through cracks in shutters like flowers up through cracks in pavement. The way it strains towards you to fill up every crevice and tangles up around you like waking up to slept-in-late sunshine under your eyelashes and bed sheets tangled around your ankles. The way it slips like sand between your fingers to rejoin the rest. The moment you step out, light accepts you, takes you in, an honored member of reality, part of your surroundings, earth below your feet and light swimming around you and pulling at you and holding you down. It believes that you are where you're meant to be, authorized personnel to clump about on planet earth and do stuff and make art and say the right words and say the wrong words and breathe air and laugh and touch things and like things and dislike things and learn to ride a bike. The daylight is warm on your face. You are welcomed, accepted, protected, believed in, beloved. Take comfort. Have heart. Be brave. 'Go boldly in the direction of your dreams.' Forgive yourself for existing, the sunlight already has. Accept yourself as you are, but expect yourself to be the best that you can be. Be kind to yourself, beloved child of the God who hung the stars in the sky and gave his very life for you so that by His light, the Light of the World, darkness may be driven back for good. "Look to the future and stand in the sun."

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Having Unfair Expectations of People OR Boys Are Dumb

So a long time ago, at a youth lock-in, a speaker held up a balloon, and he filled it up with air, and he let it go. And it flew around the room and deflated itself with as much noise and fuss as it's little rubber self could muster before it drifted to the floor, stretched out, spend, and disheartened.
And he told me that that was me - that when I am upset by a person (whether that person is a dear friend who has said or done something to cut me deep or a barista at Starbucks who got my drink order wrong), it's a sign that, deep down in my heart, some part of me was expecting that person to make me happy. Was looking to that person for my happiness. Was holding that person up against an ideal formed in my head by selfish desires and outward influences. Was expecting that person to fill a void in me created to yearn for and be satisfied by God alone. 
Do I agree with every word of that? Not necessarily. But do I believe that, when I expect people to live up to my unfair expectations of them, I'm setting myself up for hurt and disappointment? Every time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Devotion I'm Giving Tomorrow

So once every few weeks I get a little piece of paper in my mailbox at the office, informing me that it's my privilege and duty to lead staff devotion one weekday morning. Thursday, October 10th (read, tomorow) is the next time that's happening. So while I was preparing something to talk about, I figured I might as well post it here:

There’s a sticky note, at my desk, on the corner of my computer screen – and it’s the word and the dictionary definition of “steadfast”.  And the dictionary definition of the word “steadfast” is: “fixed in direction, steadily directed; firm in purpose, resolution, faith; firmly established or fixed in place.” And I traced it back a little further, into the history of this word, and it literally means “able to stand.”

The reason I have this sticky note, is that Monday of this week, this word was popping up everywhere. First in a devotional I receive by email every morning, and then throughout the day, until I finally looked it up and wrote it down and stuck it where I could see it, because apparently, I’m supposed to remember this word. Steadfast. Able to stand.

So I look it up in an online concordance that turns up literally every use of the word in every English version of the Bible, and just kind of see how it's used throughout scripture.

Some verses have to do with us: Joshua 1:9 reads “be strong and steadfast” in some versions. Psalms 51:10 begs of God “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Isaiah 26:3 promises “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” In the new testament, it mostly refers to the early Christians: Paul or Peter advising them to be “steadfast” in faith and “steadfast” in prayer and Romans 12:12, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.”

Then some are all about God. Hebrews 6:19 says that we have the God’s hope as a “a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul.” Proverbs 20:28 talks about God’s “steadfast loyalty.” And then there are innumerable times in the old testament that God’s “steadfast love” is referenced, in Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus and how God took care of Abraham’s family, up through First and Second Samuel and Kings and Chronicles and the Psalms as God was faithful to King David and his descendants, and even throughout the prophets as God is passing judgment on the nation of Israel for their sin and idolatry.

So I’m probably going to be chewing on this little word for a while. But I feel like the message is pretty clear. First off, in the midst of this world where everything shifts and changes throws us off course, God is faithful, firm, fixed, and steadfast; we are able to stand on him, his promises, his Word. The salvation he offers us in Jesus Christ cannot be taken away. God’s love is endlessly steadfast. Then building on that foundation, God calls us to be steadfast, even though it’s in our nature to change. To stand firm in faith. To be faithful in prayer. To love like he loves: steadfastly, even though undeserved, regardless of harm done to us. And it all seems to come back to that idea of just loving well, of investing joyfully in others, of giving of ourselves .

Most of the times I choose [Come Thou Fount] for devotion, I pick it because it’s my favorite, not
because it has anything to do with what I’m talking about. But this time, it seems appropriate. "O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above."