Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another look ...

It's been on my heart to re-post something I wrote a couple years ago for today's Remix.  I mentioned in my last post that I am writing for one person only right now, and as I think of this person I continue to come back to wanting to share a song of joy with them.  I went back to this old post from years ago, and realized just how much God is speaking today in these verses, and I hope encouragement is found in them:
 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances ... I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him ... - Philippians 4
We are hard pressed ... but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair ... struck down, but not destroyed ... Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  - 2Corinthians 4
I'm not going to change the song or what I wrote at all, so just click on this link to the original post.  Lots of love to you!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Creation and Sound Waves

I took a hiatus from writing this blog because I was broken.  From the moments I sat typing my last post to this moment typing this one, my world collapsed a bit.  A lot.  Not externally, though there was brokenness there, as there always is in life.  But internally, from those moments to this one, I have been a pile of rubble, and it has been impossible for me to face this blank page without being reminded of the start of a terrible collapsing within me from which I'm still rebuilding.

And yet here I am, and I can say that I am writing for one person only right now.  A lot of things in life may be coincidences, but the connection between my last post and my need to post this one, and all near future ones, is no coincidence.  It's God.

I want to keep this simple.  Life is complicated, and I tend to make it even more so with way too many words.  That previous sentence?  I tried to make it like 10 words and two commas longer than it needed to be.  But honestly, I don't have lengthy explanations for what I'm trying to say tonight, because there are some things we can't explain.  We are silly humans, and there is a heck of a lot of stuff that we just don't know.

I do not in any way understand creation. I know a few things, all of which simply expose the even more things I don't know.

What I know about creation is that it is an incredible thing.  Somehow, planets have formed, stars have formed, our world has formed, and each one of us beautiful little humans has formed, so intricately, so complexly, so perfectly in a vast open space of the universe.

Have you seen the video of just how tiny a human is in connection to the universe?  I mean, truly, the magnitude of the universe in comparison to what we consider our whole world is astounding.  And our own individual worlds - our personal circle of people, relatives, experiences, cities - are just the tiniest portion of even that, and yet they mean everything to us.  We know deep down that it's right that they mean everything to us.  The amount of love we can hold for something that isn't even a blip on the surface of the sun - that amount of love is itself even greater than the size of the sun.  How can we ever wrap our heads around that, and yet we collectively sense that our love for these things should be immense.

My faith says that an even greater love than I have ever known spoke, and by speaking created the sun, created my world, created me.  In fact, other faiths have a similar creation story.  I didn't give that much thought, until I saw this video:


That blows my mind.  I've dug further since seeing that video a year or two ago, and it continues to amaze me to witness sound - something I cannot see, cannot touch, cannot grasp - to witness that sound moving and creating in ways that so are so intricate, and so reflective of the world around me.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form ...
And God said, Let there be light ...
And God said, Let there be a firmament [heaven] ...
And God said ...
And God said ...
And God said ...
And God said ...
And God said ...
And God said ...
And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.  - Genesis 1


I can get scared a lot for someone who professes to have a lot of faith.  And I don't think that's unreasonable.  Because there's a lot we just don't know about life and death.  Unknown things can be intimidating.

But when I'm scared, I think about this video.  When I begin to doubt that God is real, that there is something supernatural above this world I know, I think about creation.  About the shape of every unique snowflake taking form like this sand - something did that.  Someone did that.  And it is not a coincidence.

I don't know what happens in that great unseen space where sound waves move and create.  But I know that space is there, doing powerful things beyond the scope of my vision.  And it helps me, a little, to be reminded of that.  God's spirit is unseen, but that doesn't mean it isn't there, moving, creating, doing powerful things beyond the scope of my vision.  And that giant love I have the capacity to feel?  That overwhelming love for my tiny little blip of the universe?  That's my spirit, and it is so much more than a blip.  It goes far beyond what I can imagine.  So does yours.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1

[To see the original sound waves video with the actual sound frequencies instead of the music, click here.  Please TURN DOWN the volume on your computer, and do NOT use headphones when viewing this video.]

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Great Remember

Good Friday is a significant day to me.  For a few reasons.  Obviously, as this blog itself is testament to, my faith is a significant part of my inner life, and Good Friday is the pinnacle of that faith.

Good Friday is also the day that my grandfather passed away, twenty-three years ago.  I was ten.  In my ten years up until that day, my grandfather had endeared himself to me time and again.  I'm not sure what it was - a lot of the things characteristic of him are traits that irritate me in others, actually.  He was a prankster, and I hated when my mom, his daughter, would pull the same style of pranks.  I cried for a day after a prank by some well-meaning college friends.  Yet my grandfather could jump out from behind a door at me leaving a restaurant and I thought it was amazing.  He drew a mustache on my school picture, and it made me feel loved.  He did traumatize me with his false teeth once, but his teasing and jokes didn't bother me the way they did/do from anyone else.  (Looking back, I wonder if the way his death affected me changed my personality in that area.  I wonder if I was more carefree before I realized what death was, making it easier for me to take a joke back then.)  He was completely golf-obsessed, and I hate when my brother, uncle, dad, husband talk/think/watch/analyze/breathe sports.  With my grandfather, though, I adapted to his sports-crazy world.  I learned to watch golf, I knew the pros' names, I had a crush on Payne Stewart, I practiced my own golf swing, I took care of the clubs he made for me, I begged him to let me drive the golf cart any chance I got.  There is nothing inherently in golf as a sport that appeals to me - it was my grandpa's sport, so I immersed myself.

Ten years old.  There are so many conversations I wish I could have had with him now that I'm old enough to remember what he says.  He told me about his life and his time in the service for a school project once.  He went through a box of old trinkets from his past and let me keep a few to use in my project.  I don't remember a word of what he told me.  I have a faded memory of a paratrooper pin he gave me which is long lost.  I wasn't old enough to have the weight of remembering that one conversation entrusted to me, and I know there are countless others I don't remember enough to even know I'm forgetting them.

My point, before I digress too far, is this.  On Good Fridays I drive.  Ever since I've been able to drive.  I drive to the country, I listen to good music, and I think.  About everything.  Some years about life, some years about death, some years about him, some years about me, some years about God.  I talk to my grandfather, I fill him in on my life, what he would think about the people he's never met - my husband, my kids.  I try to remember what he looked like.  I sing to him sometimes.  I journal.  I pray.  I've been known to talk to a cow or two in a nearby field.  It's frequently raining, and I figure that's fitting seeing as he liked to mess with me.

Ten years old.  I have had tears streaming down my face as I write this, about a person who has not walked this earth for twenty-three years, who managed to mean enough to me in the span of ten years, including the few years it took for me to even be aware of things beyond sippy cups and colors, that his presence in my heart identifies me, and that Good Friday is my day to drive, and think.

Today, my boys came with me on my "Adventure" (as I pitched it to them).  With one of them asleep in his carseat, the other quietly contemplating my description of country life - how his great-grandmother walked to the school there on the left, from the farm up here on the right, even to that church we were just at up the road, and no, there aren't a lot of houses out here, but there are a lot of trees, yes - and as he quietly sat thinking, I turned up the bluegrass radio station just as a song started, and I heard God.  Not the God who speaks words.  I've heard Him in songs before.  The God who just is.

The Great Remember.  Take that as you will - a person you are remembering, a moment or experience, what those who have known you for ten years will remember of you, an inner struggle or victory you don't want to forget ... Whatever it is, I pray that as you listen, you hear God today.

Good Friday, everyone.

The Great Remember (for Nancy)
(I was unaware at the time of hearing this song that it was by Steve Martin, written in memory of the wife of Martin Short.  Two bona-fide comedians.  Well played, my prankster grandfather.  Well played.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brand New Day

It may be worth noting that it has been nearly a year since my last post.

God is an amazing God.  He will follow us wherever we meander along our walk with Him.

Expressing my faith - no, expressing what I know and have seen of God's truths - through artistic means, is air to me.  I forget from time to time how vital that expression is for my feeling of fulfillment in life, but when I remember, the realization is sharp.  Someday I may not have the ability to sing.  Voices grow weaker and shakier with age, and singing God's message through Christina Aguilara, Pink, Alanis ... that's my air.  I am already partially deaf in one ear; some day I may not be able to hear new passionate pop artists on the radio speaking God's words into my heart.  And for almost an entire year I have not breathed modern music air from my radio.

Well it's a brand new day.

A couple weeks ago, one of my favorite people to hear speak reminded me that God sees me.  Not just when I come to Him, rushing to Him with my ideas and plans, but just as much when I am wandering away, or timidly keeping my distance.  He is there, loving me, knowing me, waiting for me as a father waits for his child.  Even when I am struggling, in the depths of my own versions of hell, He is there beside me and within me, ready to start fresh, asking to be my everything.  There is nowhere too far for Him.

My return to this blog may not seem quite so melodramatic as the above paragraph describes.  Yet the truth that God has seen me, fighting for sleep with two young kids, stepping over clutter, balancing too many plates on too tiny of sticks, losing my keys, my wallet, my wedding rings, my mind ... there is something freeing in knowing that He has seen all of that and has been there the whole time.  He has seen me forgetting to breathe my air and He stands here offering it to me still.

Coming back to this blog is like Sting's lyrics - finding an old photo of someone I love, recognizing that old smile I've been thinking of, and turning the clock right back to zero.  It's not the blog which I love.  I'm a horrible blogger.  It's what I find when I hear God's message in an unexpected place, and the compulsion I have to share what I hear with other people.  Once upon a time I had other venues for that impulse - singing, performing, and speaking to congregations about the connection between God's word and the art around us every day.  But for everything there is a season, and those opportunities happen to be out of season right now.  This little blog project was designed to fill that space, and today it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Sting isn't the easiest to understand; you can read the lyrics here.

This song says a dozen other things to me as well.  I hope you find an insight of your own in it!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Happy

Spring is here!!!

Ok, it's probably not.  Based on Ohio weather trends it's likely to snow tomorrow.  But today was sunshine and warmth, even as giant chunks of ice still lay melting from the past week's cold.  It was the kind of day that found me driving with the windows partially down, singing and dancing in the car with my boys.

I love days like this, where even though the concerns in my life aren't any more or less than they were yesterday or will be tomorrow, the sun comes out and that's enough to remind me that life is what it is - happy.  Am I still as much in debt today as I am when it's dark and snowy?  You bet.  Are my kids every bit as sleepless in this pseudo-spring as they are in the depths of winter?  Absolutely.  But for whatever reason as soon as I can comfortably leave the house without a coat I feel unencumbered not only by bulky outerwear, but by the constraints of every inner burden I've been carrying around as well.

It was only fitting when this song came on during our happy sunshine-y drive:

We all need reminders that happiness is a truth, not something that we can only experience as life's circumstances allow.  It's a different kind of happiness, I think, than the glee that does come from things going our way - the whole 'everything's coming up roses' feeling.  The happiness I'm referring to is a deeper sense of peace, a feeling of being spiritually and emotionally ok in the face of even the bad situations.  I admit I'm not the best at this.
"It might seem crazy what I'm about to say ... I'm happy ..."  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances ... I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him ... - Philippians 4
In Mexico I prayed once with a woman who was living in what I would generously call a shack, constructed out of a random collection of materials found in a nearby landfill and tacked together to make walls and roof, with bedsheets standing in for any missing wall space.  An elderly woman with very very little to her name, her prayer request was for her relatives who lived in a part of Mexico that she described as "very poor.  They have nothing."  She spoke of how blessed she was, and how worried she was for them because they didn't have the kind of blessings she had.

What? ...  That perspective on life changed me.  I don't believe she was necessarily speaking about physical provisions, but I also don't believe that physical provisions is how this woman measures blessings.  As she spoke there was a sense that she was connected to an internal satisfaction that came by way of her closeness to God, her relationships, her ability to view the value of life as separate from the daily necessities of life itself.

I hope today is filled with joy for you, not because life is going well, or because you have a guarantee that things will get better, because you don't.  I hope you are filled with joy because of the truth of who you are as a child of God.  It's not about money trouble, it's not about family drama, it's not about meetings, presentations, bills, auto repairs, or grades.  It's about the sun rising and setting each day on another opportunity to be in God's presence.
"Here come bad news ... give me all you got, and don't hold back ... I'll be just fine ... Can't nothing bring me down.  Your love is too high."  We are hard pressed ... but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair ... struck down, but not destroyed ... Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  - 2Corinthians 4

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dancers Among Us

C.S. Lewis said every person with whom we interact is no mere mortal.  Each of us is of the supernatural, a piece of divinity temporarily here on earth but eternally in the spiritual realm whether for good or bad.  People throughout time have held similar views, recognizing that humanity is more than what we see in front of us, that those who mundanely cross our paths have significance on a level we often miss.

I attended the funeral recently of a young baby, who was affectionately referred to as "an angel among us", and that sentiment resonates when you see the impact and powerful spiritual connections made by those who knew him.  There was divinity in his short presence here on earth.  Songs, poems, tv series - countless mediums tell of 'angels' among ordinary people, a level of supernatural disguised in the unnoticed passerby or neighbor.

The other day I stumbled onto a collection of photographs by Jordan Matter called "Dancers Among Us".  The variety of photographs show dancers as they intersect with regular moments of contemporary life.

Towson, MD - Rachel Bell from Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us
New York, NY - Sarah Antkowiak and Karl Maier from Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us

The images make you smile, chuckle, think, and at times balk, as something as elegant as dance throws itself into things like shopping, break-ups, prison cells, and beaches.

Chicago, IL - Angela Dice and Demetrius McClendon from Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us
New York City, NY - Michelle Fleet from Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us
The collection of 100 photos is worth the few minutes it takes to view them all.  [*There is a broken link - when you get to the photo of a couple on a large swing in a park, do NOT click 'next'.  Instead, use the thumbnails to the left to SKIP the next photo (woman in the rain) to continue on.  Otherwise you'll be sent on a loop of photos you've already seen and never make it to some great ones!]

I don't know what the photographer's intention with this series is specifically, aside from the title itself, but I know what I see.  I see divinity in the midst of the every day; moments of abounding joy passing fleetingly by; a glimpse of the immortality that intersects daily with life in dull, ordinary, or even painful times.

C.S. Lewis challenges us to allow our understanding of the immortal importance of those we meet to move us to take each other more seriously, to view our interactions with others with the significance they are due, because we are interacting not with mortals, but with potentially splendorous creatures of the spiritual beyond.

It is a serious thing ... to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. ... It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal ...  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.  This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.  We must play.  But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.   -CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'  ... the King will answer ... 'as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'   -Matthew 25

 Along with Lewis' challenge, I am inspired, more simply, to allow myself to see a realm of the world around me where unbridled joy and perfection is given freedom to burst into any moment, grand or small.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church -

I am short of words today, however I spent the wee hours of the night last night reconnecting with the great Emily Dickinson, so I will yield my blog to her this evening.  I asked her to give us a poem touching on the idea of finding God's message outside of the 'religious' realm:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church - 
I keep it, staying at Home - 
With a Bobolink for a Chorister - 
And an Orchard, for a Dome -

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice - 
I, just wear my Wings - 
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, 
Our little Sexton - sings. 

God preaches, a noted Clergyman -
And the sermon is never long, 
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last - 
I'm going, all along.

Miss Dickinson never fails to say the right thing.