Tuesday, December 31, 2013

WORDS--NEW YEAR'S BLUSTERY GOAL

dailymail.co.uk
The answers to my new year resolutions are all wrapped around this one word:   WORD.

The statement is gigantically simple.    On the cusp of the eve of a new year, blurred frames are becoming clearer for this new year's blustery goals.  And this is a simple word to start what is clearly fuzzy: 


  "Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known." 
--Winnie the Pooh (A.A.Milne)

I too trust the quiet moment alone with the Divine.  WORDS absorbed...and...WORDS spoken...and Words refrained...and WORDS reflected.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

WHEN YOU WANT TO BE BORN IN A STABLE

Oh, the secret life of Cherie Roberson ponders the heart of Christ at Christmas.

Christmas day celebrates the birth of all He was to become...all the days that He would walk this slippery quicksand of earthly life and not sink below the pressure of it...

all the days of constant travel toward the end of His earthly life that birthed a promise for me of a spiritual life ever after...

all the days that He included Himself in the heartaches of life so that I would let His heart carry mine one day... 

all the days that He would live as ALL in ALL so that He could consume ALL of my heart.

Perhaps Christ was first born in a STABLE to show us what it is to have a STABLE love: a love that faithfully endures the trials time tests us with and a love that is devoted to others despite the daily disasters that dare to destroy our love. 

Perhaps, Christ was first born in a STABLE that I might know the full measure of His humble heart. 

Perhaps, Christ is then born in my heart that my life might become His STABLE. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PONDERING OUR HEART'S TREASURE

Every Christmas, as I place Mary within the nativity scene, this deep painful emotion overwhelms anew of the life Mary must have endured. The mother of Jesus stands gazing at Jesus, treasuring and pondering who she has birthed and what He will be to this world. Should she stand to the left or to the right of baby Jesus? Should she be kneeling nearby or standing? I don't want to make some arbitrary placement,  I want to situate Mary in the right place.

I wonder why Mary isn't holding Jesus in her arms in all these scenes?  I always proudly held my children tightly in my arms for portraits which I knew would be posted for eternity. Why this distance created in the manger scenes between Mary and her newborn babe?  Why this formality?  It always makes me feel the gap we have in understanding this woman and makes me ache every Christmas for this young teen that God blessed with His physical presence.



And so  I want to place Mary accurately in the scene as Jesus' earthly mother. I dare to try to understand her thoughts, but they are so limited by my here and now, my culture, my interpretation, my experiences, and my lack of scriptural understanding.  I lean hard on my feelings as a mother to understand Mary.  I have tried to find comparisons to understand this God chosen young woman.

And this year, God has poured over me to reveal Mary's character when He showed her response to all that He was doing: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). I was so thankful to see that I shared something in common with this revered woman, Mary the mother of Jesus. She too was a ponderer, a thinker, a quiet and careful reflector, a ruminator, a thought flipper, a look at this from all angles, a puzzler, a person of weighted thought, a wonder what this means questioner, a let's give this a second and third and fourth consideration person (secretly I wish she were a writer so I could read her thoughts on paper).

God revealed His mercy for my constant ponderings about life in showing me that Mary and I had something in common-- we are ponderers, wonderers.   My awesome pondering about the Christmas story this season is that He used a very typical girl to birth His "Wonderful" new life,  Emmanuel.  And Jewish women's hospitality still reverently ushered in a King from the line of David among the most common of situations. Jesus was not born into sad deprivation that the western world likes to paint, but rather He was born into a life of humble beginnings, a life of humility.  This was Christ's all access pass!  From the beginning, he made a way for the weak and the meek to walk the path of reverence, a path that ends with you and me being able to kneel before Him at His throne, too.

God literally TOOK her ordinary life and at the same time GAVE her extraordinary life. What plans she had arranged for her life suddenly were transfixed to God's plans. Her life was altered magnanimously. I know my world became fuzzy even at the dream of our first child.  Our plans imminently shifted upon expecting our first child. Then when our first babe was born, my heart leaped within as if in need to exchange my life for his, for I would have given anything that his life would be all that I had hoped for him.

So the question is always why was this young teen, Mary, ordained as the mother of Jesus? Scholars have weighed in on this so my ponderings will be nothing but that: ponderings of a common sojourner. I see Mary as unassuming.  Her response was not one of regal pride and owed fancy upon this knowledge of carrying a soon coming King.  The Angel Gabriel reveals Mary's fear when he assured her that she shouldn't be afraid. Isn't it interesting that God choose to speak to the common girl, not to her priest. Isn't it interesting that he revealed himself to common shepherds in the dark of night.   When God breathed to birth a dream that was seemingly thousands of years old within her, He knew that Mary's response, even with her very vague comprehension of scriptures' prophecy, would be one of fearful acceptance because He had given her assurance.

Great credence is given to the idea that Mary said "YES."  Did she have the option of NO?  or a THANKS BUT NO THANKS?   God had already had His Way with her.  God chose Mary because He knew her heart could bear the weight of the significance of  bearing the life of His child.  And her quiet heart strength is the emotion that overwhelms me.



God knew His plans could be accomplished through one such as Mary who pondered and treasured thoughts in her heart. It isn't that Mary didn't probably question God, for she certainly didn't fully understand. I frequently ask God questions about this life. I don't always get answers.  Mary's questions and ponderings didn't inhibit God's work. In her doubt, she didn't cry "impossible" but rather pondered, "I don't know  me, but I know about YOU."  He knew her strength, that she would be willing to take the journey and let it be revealed to her in HIS time. He knew she would begin with the limited knowledge of the scriptures. He didn't need to wait to begin His work in her for a YES because he knew her character. She was a person who treasured, and held on, and would abide, and she would need to do this despite the upcoming ugly days.

This twenty-first century woman would scream inside: "Help! I cannot do this. People will judge me.  My life will be ruined."  Mary's ponderings may have included these rants, but her will to trust was stronger than her dare to doubt, for Mary was "highly favored."  In other words, she was given much grace.

He favored her because her heart and mind continuously cradled the plan of God as she pondered His purposes and plan.  She could have declared the doom of "IF," but instead she asked God "how will this be?" HOW will he accomplish this not IF?  With limited answers and understanding and perhaps learning to live with even fewer expectations, Mary was blessed to be able to ponder with the assurance that God would work His best plan in her life despite the pain of watching the plan unfold.

And just like mothers today, Mary was never guaranteed at the start to know what her earthly child's life would look like. She understood its promise but probably not its execution.   Mary certainly would have known and perhaps clung to the hopeful promises that the scriptures from Isaiah 9: 1-7  foretold. Those of "no more distress" and "enlarging the nation and increasing their joy" and "every warrior's boot...and garment" would be no longer needed and "of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end" which all would be accomplished by the "zeal of the Lord Almighty."

And we are all  common girls that are "highly favored" when God chooses to accomplish His work within us. When we ponder how God's will is graciously being revealed, do we push hard to persist in expecting His miraculous work in cold dark stables? Mary who pondered must have had to lean hard on God's word not to doubt His decisions as she followed Jesus' 33 years.

In our ponderings, we wrestle with the question of how our lives are unfolding. Is my life really meant to be this difficult?  What can I possibly be doing wrong? How often do  we inaccurately resolve that  pain and suffering are the antithesis of God's presence and work in our lives?   Mary followed God as He took Jesus from birth, through blessings,  and then into blood. Perhaps, we too, like many of old,  have confused the cross for the crown.

And this is the pondering life and character of Mary that God shows births the King of Kings, a life that seeks answers long after they are short and bleeds sacrifice instead of demanding understanding and accepts the giving and the taking from God and positions herself to patiently ponder through the pain.

This pondering Mary is treasured as the one God chose to birth our Savior because she worshiped God while she held Jesus long in the womb through perilous terrain of land and mind and still remained with God's plan despite the seeming unraveling of the world's acceptance, despite the world's sin being laid bare and heavy on His back.  She carried, birthed, and followed him all the way to the cross, pondering as she watched him carry the weight of the world to birth a new hope for each of us.  She cried, she knelt, and she knew only as God allowed her to understand.

And this is the tender Mary that I ponder and  honor by kneeling her at the feet of Jesus, her heart's treasure.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ON BECOMING "REAL"

Self-righteous: Confident of one’s own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others. (dictionary.com)

It is probably a rare moment to be called self-righteous because few really want to enrage a person by calling her out on her behavior and listen to the irate person's forthcoming tirade defending her behavior.
sodahead.com
And what does it mean to have this annoying personality trait? And why do I make people feel this way? Looking inside, the best definition of this term is that it is a measurement of my behavior, attitude, and responses as compared to the person's who calls me this. I appear to think I  am superior, holier-than-thou, play by the rules better, stay in line more, manage a situation more appropriately, respond better, and only care what someone thinks if he is going to take my advice.  All of this means that I discount the value of others opinions, ideas, and ways of doing things that are different than my own. 

Ouch! That sounds quite narcissistic. I am not sure if that is a measure or low self-esteem or esteeming myself too highly.  By definition, it would appear I compare myself often to others and find myself looking really good and end up making those around me feel "less than." 

And how do I respond when someone tags me with this label? Initially, being called anything unkind will sound the alarm for my defensive walls to go up. But mostly I have to find a quiet retreat; one where my pain can be released and then humble introspection can follow, for humility is understanding how egotistical I really am. This claim quiets any desire to refute or discuss positions and feelings because, after all, that appears to be paradoxically self-righteous and ends up in a finger pointing show-down, now doesn't it? 

It seems cracks have developed in my desire to live authentically: one where I am real because I realize I am flawed. I will return to the lessons of authenticity and vulnerability from The Velveteen Rabbit and grow in removing these hindrances to this life, this arrogance, so that my motives and intentions to be "real" are what are revealed.  

Add caption
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit



inthefray.org
And so I express a genuine "sorry" for my self-righteousness and vow to continue the process of living well. The grace and love afforded to me and others will be what rubs me real so that others will see my empathy instead of my arrogance. 


“For the believer, humility is honesty about one's greatest flaws to a degree in which he is fearless about truly appearing less righteous than another.” 
― Criss JamiSalomé: In Every Inch In Every Mile

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ABOUT WHEN WE LOST JESUS IN THE BOX

I am quietly elated when my artistic and analytic son agrees to empty the boxes of seasonal decorations. As he unravels the protective newspaper layers and styrofoam from the boxes, the Bethlehem creche pieces are randomly displayed and I hear my voice ask, "Can you make sense of this mess?"


For we cannot keep God in the box. I think about Jesus who was never purposed to be stored in a  box to be set out later on a single celebratory occasion for display. This Messiah who was born into an unraveling mess was never purposed  "for display only." Certainly, there is no limit to God's  grandeur. He is to be adored and revered and praised, but He desires commune in both our delight and our distress.  

His life was designed for all generation's and all people's messy history.   His life was Divinely destined to be used and spent and broken and bruised that we could make sense of this gift of life we are boxed in.  He is the gift of the beat up box and the antique family heirloom box and  the eloquently wrapped new box. He is gift wrapped in swaddling clothes for the downcast and the destitute, the hungry and the  privileged, the babe and the elderly, the lost and the sure.


But we cannot keep God in a box.  When my son sets the scene of the birth...the gate, shepherds, animals, wisemen, gifts, an inn... history emerges.   

A busy Bethlehem bustles with sojourners sharing rooms on mats, with merchants selling silks, cheese, olives, grapes, tea, and fish.,  with servants working to wash clothes, wash feet, and bake bread,  and with a Savior to be born near a not so silent town. Finally, the story begins to unfold as we search the box for the  the baby Jesus we will set at his birth in Bethlehem.  

How to make sense of the mess of our days, of our busy, bustling Bethlehem days? And what inn have I boxed Jesus?  Am I the sojourner whose head lies on a crowded room's mats in search of a night's rest who misses the Promise of the birth of Shalom?  Am I the merchant that sells the fish to men but misses the birth of the Fisher of Men. Am I the lowly servant whose heart has missed the birth of the Hope it longs for?   What box have I tightly wrapped Jesus within? 

I view my son's most  accurate portrayal of the Luke scene. But HARK his mother cries as I realize we are missing the most important part of this scene!   BABY JESUS IS NOT THERE. JESUS IS LOST!  HE WAS NOT IN THE BOX!

My son can't imagine this could be true and hunts to find him. We laugh at the irony of the scene
set before us. We joke that the placement of the wise men outside the city will definitely have to remain that way if we cannot find Jesus. Nothing of this scene can move forward without his birth.

And this night is about his birth and our birth and His birth within us. We sense the precious and fragile.

We agree that we have time to find Jesus before Christmas. And we joke that Jesus probably wasn't really born in December, but probably more like September around all the other feasts and festivals. That could leave us a lot of time! We exchange excuses for why we have time to leave Jesus out of our Bethlehem. What will we do? WILL WE FIND HIM BEFORE CHRISTMAS?



And it all feels so urgent!  We must seek the King wherever He may be found.  And then suddenly it is.  He is not where we supposed Him to be.  He is not in the box we intended Him to be. We must look carefully around and search  places overlooked before. 

The proposal begins to form around the edges of my mind?  Can I leave Jesus out of our Christmas scene? My heart  falls to my knees because I know the times I have found excuses to leave Jesus out of my chaotic world.  I have placed Him in a box and lost Him.  I have set Him on display and called upon Him as the occasions need. Have I grasped the full truth of the scene of  Jesus' birth with eyes that see beyond this simple display stored in a box? 

As Western culture translates the account, on the night that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, they were rejected by a local hotel that had its “No Vacancy” sign turned on. But His birth didn't occur on the day of their arrival.  There was time to prepare for His coming!  

I too have lived full and missed the vacancy  that allows Jesus room to move and speak. People didn't leave Mary  to deliver Jesus alone as I depict in my mind.  

She would have been assisted by others waiting and preparing. There will be no excuses for not wandering  ready and awake anticipating what Jesus births. His delivery is precious and fragile and expected.

Mary and Joseph were  cared for days in advance of the birth probably at Zachariah and

Elizabeth's or a private home who let them in the family living quarters. And with the business of the days, the owners of the home would have given guests the upstairs chamber and then sacrificed their space in the family area.  And the valuable animals were also content and calm there on the first floor where people ate on cloths on the floor. And Jesus would be content, calm, guarded , and warm in a clean stall where feed for animals of travelers was placed. The picture painted of a world that left Jesus to be born among animals, isn't accurate. There was genuine hospitality. 


Is the box I placed Jesus in accurate?   This giving and joy of service demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas. Have I carried the cares of others in my arms?  Have I sacrificed my comfort for His way of service and peace? Have I offered to use even my meager means to serve the needs of those around me? Have I kept guard over ones that cannot defend themselves? Has the shalom of the birth of forgiveness been birthed in the chambers of my heart?

Christ was sent and birthed into this mess to become the Messiah in a most unusual way.Jesus was not born into a home where people closed their hearts and doors, but He was born into one of giving and sharing and helping and sacrificing of space.  Christ doesn't need a scene of poor circumstances that make His life seem demeaned and sad. He was born into life to die; His life a gift to give away  

 It is the birth of the extraordinary among common circumstances.   The true spirit of Christmas is that He was born into these common and usual celebratory circumstances.   And it is the birth of an extraordinary God displayed in my life and heart and not within the box I try to keep Him that shines light in the world. 


It is the about the conception of the inconceivable, the "word made flesh" for today and tomorrow,  that we shout. Jesus came and gave, and He comes and gives. Shepherds sharing the extraordinary announcement of His birth by angels made His life extraordinary news.


And so my son and I joke about how we lost Jesus in a box. When we find Jesus, we may not find Him in His usual box this Christmas. Thinking back to the beginning of the unraveling of this scene of the request of my son, "Can you make sense of this mess?"  I realize the lost Jesus from the box was meant for me to be found anew within my heart this Christmas. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

THE OFFERING OF A KISS

Sitting at the end of the couch, I tighten the grey flannel cover around me on this cold November evening, less than one week before we gather around a table giving thanks for all that we are daily given.

Homework complete, my senior boy loads his heavy backpack and stand stretches to stare his last look at the football action on TV, and with a"goodnight,"  he turns to make way to the stairs. But with a slow halt in step, he stops and steps back where I sit reclined on the couch. He slow leans, long, and positions his cheek before my lips with a "goodnight" benediction, waiting for my lips to give him a final kiss goodnight. 

I  smile kiss the stubble cheek offered me by my 18 year old man-boy. And I am suspended in time. I am captured by my raw emotions  that whirl at the awe of his gesture.  He has no idea how one simple cheek leaned toward his mom tonight warms my insides. 

My memory quickens to a soft kiss on the cheek of my sleeping baby being held closely in my arms while rocking him to sleep. I suspend emotion in time. That kiss that held me still then is the kiss the holds me still now; the memory holds my throat tight with slow tears welling. Those tender-touch memories faded to toddler kisses: lip-bumps on rosy running busy lips, as many as you please kisses with games of giggles, soothe the sob and sore knees kisses.  


And the truth is that I have little description for what those offerings of kisses do to me.  This strong heart beats faint. They unwind my emotions of gratitude and weave them with the gentle reminders of time's fury beating: tick, tick, tick. 




And I am gut-wrench grateful that he leans his cheek. 



Sensing that he purposes to bless me with his kiss races my heart. Suspending his busy to blend a moment of his world with mine creates this destiny dizzy love. This not at all necessary act that he chose to make paramount becomes blessing in the offered gift. 

And this kiss becomes a simple revelation: 
This is how I bless God

I bless God when I lean long and intentionally toward Him and allow him to touch my life with His lips of grace. Oh, don't I know that He waits to kiss my life; it's a written promise on our hearts that it will always be given. Don't I know the mere offering floods a deep well of smiles.  Don't I know I bless God with my offering. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A DIRTY LAUNDRY STORY: WHEN YOU'RE GLAD IT'S "I'M TELLING YA" AND NOT "I TOLD YOU SO"

A group of moms folding report cards together pass the time talking about their sons.  We taper the swelling pride of their recent football accomplishments with sarcastic remarks about their clean rooms, always an easy teen target for complaint.

We discover our spaces are no different.

Walking through piles on the floor is like managing land mines.  Sarcastically, I share my son's three pile organizational method: the obviously folded pile which is sometimes still in the basket, the dirty laundry pile, and the already worn but can be worn again pile.  Another admittedly perfectionist mom offers her solution of Saturday grounding if the rooms are cluttered with clothes.

A couple other moms and I, the recovering perfectionist mom, admit we gave up the laundry grounding ghost a while ago. Our logic  their space is now their space, unless it invades ours.  We recommend closed doors.  I recall my fair warnings to my eighteen year old senior son: "I'm telling ya,
you are going to be in big trouble when you get to college and have to room with someone."


Not realizing my fortune in my son's three pile organization, one mom enlightens me.  Her son will not wear his clothes more than once and his brother desperately tarries to convince him otherwise: "When you do your own laundry, I'm telling ya man, you will wear your clothes more than once." We laugh in the knowing that when they have to pay for their laundry and spend their own time,  they will wear their jeans until they stand up in the corner of the room on their own. (Easier access I would suppose.)


But her eighteen year old boy along with mine are invading our space! They have a fourth laundry pile. They  leave their laundry on the laundry room counter for extended periods of time and frequently dress from it. My son has come down nearly naked in search of clothes quite a few times.

I realize your easy, don't know my son's world solution would be to let him do his own laundry and simply force him to take his laundry upstairs.

But isn't it just like life that our easy solutions aren't how others sort, fold, launder, and organize life, and we have to learn to manage living surrounded with the messes of life.

But it is also just like life that another person's way of living and organizing their space affects how we live and are able to manage our world. Isn't it so true that we are, at times, smoothly welcomed into another person's world, and even miraculously after they share their dirty laundry. Then, other times, we encounter great difficulty navigating life and understanding the way other people choose to sort their lives.


Isn't it just like life that the simple solution seems to just complete the work  for another to save them the time and trouble, to give advice to our kids, to our brothers, to our sisters so they will learn now and avoid getting washed out in pain learning later. But isn't it just like life that we often don't heed others advice because we  learn best by living through the experience, not just hearing the warnings.

And when our dirty laundry is aired to the world, isn't it just like life that when we need to clean up our mess, we are grateful for the past advice we were given and really love the brother that tells us "I'll tell ya" 
without an added "I told you so."

Friday, November 22, 2013

WHEN YOU WANT TO BE HEARD

IT'S BIZARRO TO THINK WHISPERS CAN BE HEARD IN THIS
WORLD'S NOISE, RIGHT JORDAN?



If you want to be heard in this screaming, noisy world, lower your voice and whisper grace.






I'm not sure if this is good pedagogy, but I have used it on many occasions in the teaching arena. 

When the room begins to buzz with scattered corner conversations, focus becomes blurred, bodies turn to nearest neighbors, collective voice decibels quickly rise as in released excitement, and the energy somehow swirls like a tornado, a good teacher realizes that if she wants instruction to continue, it just might be time to gain control before the class is swirl-swept down the drain. 

It always happens this way eventually. Some attentive student first notices that the teacher's lips are heading south into a possible frustrated frown while her eyes are intently scanning the crowd for the chaos infiltrators.  

And the weighted-worry of wondering grabs one student by the throat who silences another with dagger eyes and a finger lip hushed-weapon. And depending on the noise and chaos swirling in this student's body and mind, two more eyes might choose to join this early movement back to sanity, but usually they choose to remain reveling with the boundary breakers for any remaining moments before these break-away freedoms are taken into custody.

Continued chaos eventually captures even the tenacious talkers tender attention as their eyes raise to beg "why this allowance?" 

GRACE GIVERS: MAGALY ROGERS, ME, LINDA HARRIS
And in my casual quiet stance, more eyes beg the still faced, neutral lipped teacher. With no answer provided, the decision becomes personal: some choose to continue in the chaos, some choose to shush the crowd, some awe-stare and silently wait for the teacher-response.




And everyone knows the sense of slowed-time when we have waited for chaos to be reigned in. These moments seem like hours of sweating, nervous expectation.

And don't we all know how we really beg for life's noise and chaos to be controlled? And sometimes, we get it right and slow the moments to settle our hearts and minds. And sometimes we continue to swim in the current of the chaotic winds. 

Seconds seem like hours and the heart flutters and the head questions if hoping for alternatives to this masquerade of order, of normalcy for life, is futile. Are we drinking buckets of water through a thin coffee straw?The longer the waiting through the screeching noise, the harder the swim-search for hope.  

Students begin to hush other students into submission.  The ember hush begins to rekindle the extinguished quiet, but a shake of my head douses their hush efforts. 

And in a simple whisper voice, my words continue teaching...no hushing...no loud voice...no announcements of punishment for now or next time...no lecture. And the grace offered slowly infiltrates the students and is received with no outward acknowledgment, just relieved hearts.
KAYLA HUBBARD: A LOVELY
HEART CAPTURED BY HIS GRACE.

Our tenacious tender hearts are apprehended by the chaos and clutter of our days; our hearts and minds swirl with the weight of daily expectations.  And grace is there; it whisper calls through the conforming, competing, comparing, controlling, confusing, commuting, and reconnects us to the Teacher's conversing. 
 


If you want to be heard in this screaming, noisy world, lower your voice and whisper grace.





Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A DEVOTION TO THE STANDING OVATION


An hour and fifteen minutes floated ethereally by Friday evening as my sister, mom, and I absorbed stories.  We agreed with nodding heads in the common knowing about life and family, smiled at his high dimpled embarrassment, laughed out loud at his family's antics, but we also fell silent and our breath stopped at his pain. They were stories...just his life stories.  Stories from the life of Pat Conroy, author of many great books including one that became a movie many people, at least my age, would remember, The Prince of Tides.  

Okay, admittedly his stories had southern charm, and he was cute in a way that only a nearly seventy year old Irish man can be depicted. But the human heart bled from the hate he bore from endured abuse by his father, and yet our hearts along with his heart were cauterized by his discovered humanity within his father and by the miraculous arm of forgiveness  wrapped  around his father near his death. 

At the end of his telling, there hung that compelling moment that needs a response larger than a thank-you clap for what he remarkably and candidly bore from himself.  My heart wondered as the clapping began if I should give a standing ovation for such authenticity. And before I knew it, there stood my sister, quickly followed by the remainder of the room. 

Upon reflection, I don't give these ovations readily or often. What was my criteria?  Mr. Conroy certainly moved me with his passion and commitment to his story. And for that, honor should be bestowed. Moments that inspire us to look beyond ourselves at life's humanity and overwhelming gifts should be marked with such level of gratitude.  Why be selective?  Many have posed that in the frequency, the standing ovation becomes weakened in its significance. My measure will not be the frequency but rather the connective inspiration of the human spirit. 

Seeing the extraordinary among the ordinary. 

Returning military commanders in ancient Rome whose victories did not quite meet the requirements of a triumph but which were still praiseworthy were still celebrated with an ovation.  And I am inclined to think that I should give standing ovations  more readily and frequently because I do see much extra in our ordinary.  There is much worthy of praise. I won't count these as routine, but my ovations will mostly stand among the common.

Ovations for common ground for when a person pursues context over conflict...for common valor when a person pursues peace patiently and persistently in the face of  pain rather than give in to the compulsion of defeat or to destroy...for common ground when the kid still stands at the sidelines at practice and encourages his teammates after being eliminated from the glory by injury...common occurrences such as the policeman who gets cursed and spit on, lied about, and taken to court for protecting a person from himself and defending justice for others...for common effort for a son who isn't number one in his class but gets straight A's in honors and AP classes because he motivates himself to be prepared and study every day at school to his best for an uncertain future...for common friendship whose intuition to call a friend just might be what saved her life that day...for common love of an animal whose life alone gave joy immeasurable... common looks for a daughter's cheeks that will always quicken a kiss and a smile...for common jobs for a son whose hard work made his dream come true...for common pain  when a husband  perplexedly  learns about a spouse's Alzheimer's disease and then patiently nurtures her soul. My ovations stand among the common but are no less extraordinary.


Right there with Pat Conroy standing without a medal but still with our highest honors,  I begged my eyes that evening to begin to give standing ovations to all of those authentic, real, human moments that should be glorified because they inspire. A performance is not a comparison, it is within its own domain an inspiration. 


And strangely enough during the question and answer time that evening, I received a text from a student who wrote this humbling standing ovation to me. While the girls basketball team was rising to their feet, the ovation humbled me to my knees in gratitude that He who is for us in gift and life pours those from us for others to see:

"Hey, the basketball team is watching the movie Mighty Max and the freshmen are all saying the awesome main character lady reminds them of you and I kinda agree.  She's really  strong-willed and committed and strong in the faith and a great leader so no wonder she reminds us of you.  We love you Mrs. Roberson.---the basketball team."  



Why not give standing ovations to more than World Series winners and great musical performances?  Why not decide to give standing ovations for devotion to worthy endeavors of the human spirit that God embedded in all of us and are standing among our common day?  Why not decide to stand for living these type of moments?

 

STANDING OVATIONS TO YOU WHO DECIDE TO BE DEDICATED AT ANY MOMENT TO THE ART OF LIVING AND LOVING WELL.










Friday, November 8, 2013

WHEN IT IS PRIVATE AND NOT YOUR BUSINESS



It's a cold autumn fourth grade day, back to the day I began teaching 27 years ago. It's expectations of me to lead  with watching eyes fairness and clear directions and to listen to their routine to become part of  their every day.

But I'm  subbing, and  their days are  not really my daily business. My intrusion into their moments today finds remarkable acceptance. Wanting to help--needing to help-- is a fourth grader's crown jewel.

And it starts with questions--always questions--mostly they are comments masquerading as questions. But thank God for questions.

Straight to what matters questions: "Where is my teacher? Is she sick?"  And it is an unclear answer but close to I don't really know, but  she is "under the weather" and "it might be her hip." And I abide with their conversation for a bit, but but  my thoughts quicken to pray for their everyday fearless leader to subside  their growing undercurrent of speculative fear. Followed by a joke that maybe only me and one student gets that she really is under the weather and pressure because yesterday she could tell the weather by her hip.

It's fourth grade easy smiles and seeming trust and hoping and questions.

It's fourth grade double-digit addition review and working through answers on the sheet independently after instruction.  But it is real life and some times when girls double up for spelling word review and you are left alone, it can feel like double heart trouble. The slow bubble feelings inside not reviewed or worked through.

It's fourth grade researching the internet lesson disguised as pony express stories--a discussion of quick correspondence today compared to long-ago yesterday. They are wide-eyed amazed that my phone was connected to a wall with a three foot range and texting wasn't even around until I was an adult.

It's fourth grade and it's always teacher questions: "How would you get a message to someone you love like Grandma today?"  But it is a young girl's far away eyes that are wishing she could quickly get a message to mom and dad who took a trip this week, and this is day four or more for her.  It is wishing they would hurry and travel home, but knowing it is a great birthday present for one of them and even though they are not present "the good thing is they left a gift for me fo each day they are gone."

It's lunch and recess and watching the playground with four classes finding space for tag and  playground and basketball equipment.  But it's fourth grade and watching other girls laugh and and play and learning to equip your heart in the striving for space in a friend's.

It's fourth grade science: matter, air is matter, air has weight, and air creates pressure. It's so many teacher questions and two experiments they are eager to try at home with rulers and straws.  And the lesson flows so quickly, all wishing we could stay here longer.

And it's fourth grade and right now her entire world  is the matter to her.  The weight of today seems to crawl to a slow draw until the pressure inside rises causing her inside and face to  fall.  She wishes the pressure would equalize but today she feels the ton of atmosphere that she deals with every day on all sides. And she might just be six miles in the sky where breathing is nearly impossible because the air she silently gasps is getting thinner by 3:15.

And she can't measure her feelings any more than she really understand how to measure air.  But like the balloon experiment, she is blown wide inside and she knows her feelings still nudge her insides there. And it's study hall before the descent to home and she begins to study the day. In her bubble, she thinks no one sees the feelings inside, no visible proof of pain.

But it's fourth grade, and I am a sub, and there are teacher questions--always teacher questions.  I know she is in pain, but the six mile high question is "Are you feeling sick?" and the air releases slow from the balloon inside.  It's fourth grade and it's "yes" and  "maybe a little"  and then there's but that part is "private and not your business."

And teacher pressure lets her know I notice and just want to help her there, that place she doesn't know I know.  And it's fourth grade and then it's no spelling practice partner, no parents at home, and then there's the "private and not your business." It's people coming each night to stay with her, and then it's the "private and not your business," and the little bit of real sick. It's" maybe I won't be here tomorrow because I will be sick."

But it is fourth grade and I have been here before whether it was 38 or 26 years ago. I am here in fourth grade today, yet really I am here every day because we all know private pain.  It just wants release.

And when this teacher hand pulled her closer, her eyes fell with one quick tear.  And the air released shoulders lifted ever slightly with my promise to pray that she would not be sick so she could be here tomorrow.  And this "private and not your business" pain  that I didn't pry into but  promised to pray for brought me a quick tight hug and her "thank you" before she heard the call for home.

It's fourth grade and it's 'private and not my business," but thank God for questions.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ELASTIC HEARTS---THANKSGIVING WHEN LIFE STRETCHES US!

ELASTIC HEARTS

safeguardyoursoul.com

Moments...all of life is but the moments that we face.

Moments...how many in your lifetime? 

Heartbeats...how many in your moments?  

Our moment upon moments creates a life.  And often these moments can stretch us thin, can stretch us wide, can stretch us weary, can stretch us hollow, can stretch us dry. 

Our rubber band hearts must remain elastic, and boy are our hearts often moment by moment exercised to remain elastic.  

When our hearts are stretched, they are infused with blood, 60-100 times a minute.  And only when our hearts are stretched, do we really become clear of being infused with the living power of the blood of Jesus.  In these moments of stretching, we panting count the beating of our hearts in our ears and in our throats.  

In these moments, we must count and recount His goodness. Our hearts and souls are rubber band stretched through  this life’s journey.  When we allow ourselves to be stretched in circumstances, and then can full gaze turn and say
"thank You"  in remembrance
 that all that His hand provides is grace, then our hearts pulse His blood truth and release His story.

Our heart's story is blood in and blood out; we recycle His heart blood in every moment we give thanks for His work and wonders. He cleaned the blood and cleaned the circumstances of our life for His use. Our blood transfusion is created by the stories of thanksgiving we share of His goodness and grace.  

It is living in the fear of our stretching that our hearts lose their elasticity and their ability to pump what His hand provides, and our hearts wither and die to the witness and story God has pumped into our once withered veins. 

This life and even daily moments will promise to stretch us.  Then we are stretched to choose to filter His Blood truth through us. When we lose seeing and seeking the wonder He gives, this grace flow, this grace pumped in and pumped out, this elasticity---- we die of exhausted  and clogged living. 
lookatmyhappyrainbow.com

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

YOU KNOW THE MOMENT!


You know that moment when your friend you trust says something that you want to smack her for because you aren't really sure it is true.  Then you wonder if she is just talking out of her head and not using her heart.  You know that moment that your friend says something that stops your breath because you didn't expect her to say that to you while she knows the anguish you are in.  You know that moment when your friend says something that is really stumbling brick hard and your heart fell with your knees and you knew she would pick you back up.  

You remember that moment when you began to trust that her heart could really handle knowing the real you and would always embrace who you become.  You remember that moment when she kept your heart strong though it beat faint and held your hands steady through the shaking.  You remember that she will whisper the hard in the dark places to expose the ugly in its hiding, You remember that for every word she speaks, she tempers vanity and doubts she might be right. You remember that all her words are but gonging bells compared to her clinging hope that the Word would pierce your circumstances and shatter doubt.

Know and Remember!
Love from your friend today

Thursday, October 31, 2013

THE WARRIOR STILL BATTLES (a note for Lane)

To the warrior who has for four years with heart and soul and body accepted the charge of weekly battle to stand at the line and hold back the storm.  And the warrior tackled to the ground lying still will still stand at a line.  For his real strength was never just in his body rising to face the next play, but the strength of spirit he lead the team with in his never giving up his heart to play.  

His spirit still stands each game on the field  at a line, now fortified by the body and soul of another.   And now his heart for his team still stands strong at a side line with fist clinging fierceness to raise a banner that cannot be taken down, a banner that says I WILL STILL BATTLE WITH YOU BROTHER. He is our wounded warrior that continues to battle in spirit from the sidelines. You are the warrior that pushes those weak legs and hearts on the field with your yelling lungs and your leading spirit.    



He doesn't listen to well meaning pleas that football isn't everything. FOOTBALL IS EVERYTHING, for you have given everything.  It is waging a mental war within and physical war on the field.  It is no excuses, sacrifice, commitment, honor, brotherhood. It is forever. It is real, it is now, and today it is ALL.  It is ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL. 

For the one that got knocked down and out, you are NOT out.  


--- Holding the line with you Lane---Cherie Roberson
I know this is one mom's voice, but your team and their families stand with you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

ONE RIPPLE

You cannot know the future 

or even the


ripple effect of today.


A life well lived today 


matters for tomorrow.


One crowned King changes everything.