What we are thirsty for…


This Lenten season I have been working through an amazing and meaningful experience called Beloved, an online journey into Lent and Easter with Jan Richardson leading us. Each day for the past 5 weeks leading into this, Holy Week, I have received by email an image of Jan’s paintings, a poem blessing, a few paragraphs of prompting and insightful considerations, reflective music, and many questions. Deep questions. Soul searching questions. I know I will continue working through them for a long time.

I tell you this because when I chose to undertake this journey, I suppose I did so with an agenda. I didn’t voice it, write it down, or even consciously think about it, but my hidden agenda was that this Lent I would draw closer to God and he would in turn, draw closer to me. I’m not entirely certain either thing happened. Although I wrote about my experience briefly HERE, still, today, I’m feeling rather disconnected and sad and even a little guilty for feeling this way.

Now I could be feeling rather vacant because school is over and I no longer have anything to put my mind to, or it could be because the season of life I find myself in is with young adult children still in the nest but wings ready for flight. It could be because my husband’s new job has taken him to a neighbouring community which makes connecting for coffee or lunch much more difficult these days. It could be my age. But, in concert with all of these is this soulful hole inside me that is God shaped (or so they say when they talk of spiritual longings such as these, and I do believe mine is spiritual) and I haven’t managed to find a lasting way to fill it or to feel like it has been filled.

And, as I with my heart/soul ache messing about inside me always do, I try to make sense of it. I try to solve it I guess, yet I think that may be impossible. I write to God on my prayer blog, I mess about with thoughts, and as usually happens, I write poetry. Rough draft, rough ideas, still working through. You will find my poem posted just below…

INSERT:  a short time later after posting this blog, I find, “Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love’s flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the King of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends.” ~ Hinds Feet on High Places

Which makes me wonder if maybe my ordinary life presenting me with rather ordinary things to do and take care of, maybe my life with quiet times such as this one right now is the one God has prepared for me to blossom in. Maybe I’ve become greedy/thirsty for… busyness… being needed… experience… accomplishment… status… acknowledgement… rather than truly longing for God? I’ve been given my quiet and hidden life, and the hardest thing for me to do is to see it as a gift.

I’d love, I’d REALLY love, to chat about these things with you if you are willing to engage. It can be through email at mygracenotes@gmail.com if you’d prefer. Do you ever have these thoughts, these feelings, and what do you do with them?

Here are some questions that might guide our conversation;

What do you thirst for? Are you spiritually thirsty, or for something else that could be met by making a change?

What steps are you taking, or have taken, to identify what you are thirsty for?

In your relationship with God, do you find your thirsts are quenched? Do some thirsts remain?

images-8

I thirst

 

I thirst.

After all is done

and all is accomplished

yet that the scripture might

be fulfilled, Jesus says

I thirst.

 

And I come

not to a cross

but to His wellspring

of life, not for the first

time, but again and still

not knowing what it

means to drink. I long

with a black hole

of need, desire for company,

significance, meaning, chat,

answers. My prayers fall

on thin air, his presence,

his ever expanding mystery

perplexes me, angers me

keeps me asking for what

I do not know. He

is often silent, so often

delivered up on tongues

of men in ways I cannot

digest. We sit around

comparing our notes

patting one another

on the back for discerning

his plans and his will

and I critique the words

as they leave my lips. I want

to bite my forked tongue

into silence. I am wet eyed

at the terror and wonder

of this world and most days

I don’t get the point of it

don’t get God, don’t hear

God, don’t feel like I’ve

come closer to God

in imperfect trying. Peace

does not last. Grace

is fleeting. Words

just words, so many words

my head spins, soul

ache remains. No matter

the long years

of limping toward you

the hole is here.

I am bono-fied ~

cause I still haven’t

found what I’m

looking for. And I’m

looking, I am looking

and I’m asking

and I’m here.

Where are you?

 

Jesus says I thirst.

Jesus does not preach

yet is not silent in his agony.

Jesus states his need,

his simple need

for quenching. He knows

what he will get

yet he exposes his need

that scripture would be

fulfilled. What does

this mean? Only after

they respond, only

after they offer him

the tainted wine, only then

Jesus says

it is finished.

 

You know what I need, God.

I want to know. I want to ask it

if I could just find it.

The words that mean

I am thirsty.

 

 

It Is Finished

28 After this, Jesus, knowing[e] that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Gospel of John, chapter 19

 

 

 

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Prostrate…


Left knee-joint from behind, showing interior ...

Left knee-joint from behind, showing interior ligaments. (Lateral meniscus and medial meniscus are cartilage.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I fell on my face, then my left knee. My hands were entirely unhelpful. It seemed to happen slowly. I felt my head bounce. I stayed very still, assessing damage.

My friend, bless her heart, began to immediately ask questions. Can you sit up? NO. Can you move your leg? No. Are you OK? How do you feel? Not sure. Do you want me to help you sit up? NO. I was having trouble saying much of anything with my face up against the asphalt, my fingers finally moving into action to feel around my face a little bit, push myself up a little bit… enough to see blood on the ground. There’s a lot of blood, I said. And, after holding my position for several minutes, holding my breath for what seemed far too long, I moved my body into a sitting position and was cared for by my friend, by her friend now also now my friend, and a security officer who was involved at this point. This was also difficult. Humiliating. Humbling. Involved water, ointment, Hershey’s chocolate, frozen peas, conversation, love, rest, time.

Involved aftermath, like walking around with my face bruised and scraped and obviously damaged. Noticing eyes averted, unspoken questions, looks of pity, need of explanation.

I am fine. No broken teeth. No teeth through lips. No broken bones. Minor lacerations to eyebrow, lip, chin, cheekbone, and knee. I thank God. Three weeks later and there’s really no proof left that I fell, other than a twinge in the soft tissue of my knee when I kneel. But I remember.

Being a poet, I think about what this means, a lot. To lose control. To be out of control. To fall. Down. Prostrate on your face. To be humbled. To be hurt. To be helpless. To be fully reliant on someone other than yourself. How I’ve heard that pride comes before a fall. How might a life position of surrender be related to a physical position of being prostrate. Before God. A heart position that echos a physical position seldom chosen aside from sleep?

It’s been a busy Lent. I began with high aspirations. To set time aside. To be intentional with spiritual exercises. To write a poem a day… I haven’t written much at all. Palm Sunday is this weekend. Good Friday 5 days after that, and then Easter Sunday. I’m on choir. My heart needs to catch up with this, and I’m reminded that I haven’t kept my promise to watch “Passion of the Christ“. I wonder why I need want to lay myself down? To consider again what it all means…falling…down…

SDG,

Lesley-Anne

A surrendered life


Seems I’m a master of melancholy and melodrama and start ups, but not necessarily finishes. At least that’s what the voice in my head says as I sit at my laptop and consider putting into words what may or may not be 100% true for me, 100% of the time.

I’m often tormented in my thought life around how I live vs how I should live. While I hunger for real relationships and depth and breadth of conversations,  I withdraw from my close friends and let the phone ring and texts go unanswered. I hide. Sometimes I don’t check my phone at all. For hours, for days.

Oh, I want to do good. I want to be good. I’m just not very good at being good. I want to love. And I don’t know how to do that in a sustained way. Sometimes I am absolutely unloving. I shared some thoughts on this place of living in the tension of wanting one thing and doing another HERE. But there is more…

Thankfully, this Sunday’s talk (at the church with walls and a roof at Springfield and Spall) is about a way of finding release from living in torment/angst/tension/legalism and living in the freedom of non-performance and  without condemnation (you know, those voices in your head saying awful things about you).

Romans 8 is all about living in the gracious, wide open spaces of spirit focus, spirit life, where I can stop should-ing and could-ing on myself, stop questioning my every move and every pause, and simply walk ahead into whatever God has for me. Believing God will go before me. Believing there is a way to walk somewhat blindly into something you know nothing of, yet do because… it’s intriguing, drawing, compelling, offering more than what simply is the mundane superficiality of life, most days.

This way involves SURRENDER, and I don’t entirely understand what that means in a practical, rubber hits the road, type of way. I want to know. I want to live a SURRENDERED life.

On Sunday morning, after the talk part, we are each given a piece of red paper (blood red, valentine red), and invited to write down something we feel we might leave, deal with, acknowledge before God, something standing between us and the simple and profound way of spirit surrendered living.  And I know what it is, right away. I scribble down not good enough, and take my red paper up to the communion table, to the shredder provided, and push that paper in, and listen while the machine pulls apart the words I’ve been living. I surrender these words to the shredder… and at that moment, surrender to God…

Not good enoughnot good enough… not good enough.

And then I gently take a small piece of bread and a tiny cup of wine in my hand, and go back to my seat, and silently pray to, in the words of John Terpstra, “the one who won us over,” who says with his last breath, I am enough. His life for my freedom. His life for my spirit surrendered life. Jesus, who turns it all upside down and asks me to stop keeping score for myself and everyone else. Jesus who wants me to empty myself of me so he can fill me with something better. I say these words without knowing what they truly mean. What this really looks like in my real life.

Boy with cross

Boy with cross (Photo credit: Eileen Delhi)

I will be thinking on this for a while. I want to live this simple yet profound truth. Not to be great. Not even to be good. But to take the focus off me entirely, and put it back on the one who won me over. I wonder if I can really do it? Can anyone really do it?

Can I capture the wonder of a simple crumb of bread and wash of wine, surrender what hinders, carry significance into Lent, find sustenance enough for a new way of living?

Are you with me… is it possible?

SDG, Lesley-Anne

There’s just something about canceled debt…


Last night we had a fire in the big terracotta flower pot by our front door, drank some sparkling wine as the fire burned, and had our son take some photos of our celebration. It is against the local bylaws to burn anything, unless it’s a fire for the purposes of cooking food. But it was only a teeny tiny fire, and out almost as quickly as it started. Please don’t tell!

So, we put matches to paper and burned away the remaining evidence of a long-term debt that is now paid off. What a feeling of relief and release. For the very first time our home really is our home.

I remember our first home, and the first time we got a mortgage statement in the mail, and how shocked I was at the small percentage of principal we had paid versus the large amount of interest. The reality of our debt hit hard. The years of payments ahead seemed endless at the time. Then, suddenly, we are free!

Being free of this particular debt now frees up funds for the next phase of our lives. Our kids are growing older, and years of University/College expenses loom just ahead. With finances freed up, our desire to be more philanthropic and ensure financial stability in our elder years now seems attainable.

I shared my new feelings of lightness and freedom with a dear friend whom I knew would celebrate with me. And she understood completely. Her thoughts around canceling her own long-term debt were that if something should happen to her husband, and they had the mortgage paid off, at least she’d have the family home for her and the kids… a solid place to land. She is such a good mom.

But what about the other debts we carry that weigh on us, like debts of action or inaction that have effected others in a negative way? My husband would call that guilt… and so it is. The debt of guilt. Now that’s another heavy thing that we don’t need to carry around with us, but we do. To live lightly, without guilt, requires a type of payment too. To pay this type of debt, you might need to take some action, forgive someone, or, alternately, you might need to ask someone’s forgiveness. Only then can you unload the guilt and start fresh. And being human means you, like me, probably have to do this A LOT!

And, what about the debt of sin? Maybe not a word you are comfortable with, but sin is something that I can’t ignore in my life. If you consider what the Bible says, and you believe it to be true, then it’s clear that there is no such thing as someone who is free of sin.  The Bible says, “No not one”. So, if we aren’t free of it, what’s the outcome of that human condition? The Bible says, “The wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.”

Now, the wages of sin sound a lot like a debt to me?  Let’s look at how another version called The Message says it, “Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” In this case, wages or pension is the natural outcome of where you’ve made your life investment. If it’s in sin, then the outcome is eternal separation from God. If you’ve invested in God, then the outcome is eternal life with God.

You might be thinking, I’m a good person. I try hard not to sin. I do my best to follow the 10 commandments and the golden rule. So do I. But it’s virtually impossible to do. We all fall short of a God who is Holy. No matter how hard we try, we fall short. Bible says our very best acts of righteousness are just like dirty rags before God. So, like that financial obligation (mortgage) that we worked and worked at, and paid only a tiny part of the principle for years, so this sin debt is not within our power to pay. And, if we desire to be with God, be one of his children, be made right and without sin, then that debt of sin, that obligation, needs to be canceled somehow.

So, here we are faced with the reality of having a huge debt to pay and no way to pay it. And God steps in and says, here, here is my Son. He will pay. Jesus will pay your entire debt and give you complete freedom from what you owe due to your inherent sin condition. And my Son will pay your debt with his life. He will die so you can live. Live forever, starting the moment you receive my gift of forgiveness and new life.

As we go through Lent, a time of preparation that leads us to the holy season of Easter, I can’t help but think about what Jesus paid FOR ME, and what he gave TO ME. Jesus gave me ultimate freedom and eternally canceled debt. In return I want to invest my life in him and his ways. That’s a mystery in itself, but one I’m willing to unpack day by day.

Today I’m celebrating freedom from financial and spiritual debt. And I feel light. I feel free.

Lesley-Anne

A screen fast for Lent?


As I begin to write this, I’m completely aware of the corrective words of Jesus to his disciples regarding praying in public places in loud voices, rather than praying in private. And his words about fasting with long faces so that everyone can see and know what they are about. It seems that the Pharisees (religious leaders) of the day were making a scene to draw attention to themselves, rather than keeping what they were doing between them and God. And Jesus did not approve one bit, and warned his disciples to not follow suit.

So, I have to preface this post by giving notice that when and if I do a ‘screen fast’ or any other kind of fast, I will proceed privately between God and I. I will not blog about the process. There will be signs that I’m not online, but that is all. The details will remain private.

Presenting the idea now is simply to allow you to consider it for yourself.

Lent is a rather new concept for me, as I didn’t grow up with it, and I haven’t focused on it in my adult life either. But, at this time of the year, Lent is practiced by many devout followers of Jesus, who for the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, choose to turn away from the distractions of the world and worldly pleasures, and draw closer to Christ. Lent 2010 begins next week on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2010.

Not only is Lent about abstaining from certain activities, foods, or whatever you personally choose to remove from your life, Lent is also about what you choose to do with the time that has been opened up with the removal of these things. In Isaiah 58:1-12, Christ teaches that ‘fasting’ without works of charity does us no good. Fasting is also about devoting time to prayer and solitude with God, learning more about him, spending time with him. For example, if fasting my lunchtime meal is what I choose to do, then each lunchtime I would feel the physical trigger of hunger pangs, which would remind me to turn my thoughts toward God in prayer.

When I look at my own life and the values I profess to have, and compare that to how I spend my time and what takes up a large portion of my day, I can’t help but acknowledge that the ‘screen’ is where I’m drawn to most often. Not to my bible, not to my knees, but to my screen. Whether that’s to connect with friends, family, teachers by email, or blogging, or checking my blog stats, or my facebook, or doing important research, or writing new poems or stories, that’s where I go, A LOT. Whenever I have a spare minute, with very little structure or parameters, I walk around the corner to my computer desk and click, click, click. And, without being completely aware of it, I’m there for long periods of time.

So, it makes sense to me that to fast something in my life that might even hold some power over me, it would have to be my computer.

For you it could be texting, eating certain foods, television, shopping, talking on the phone, or whatever you feel could or should go.

40 days is a long time. I took time out from my computer once before, over a year ago, for a month. And that was difficult. People didn’t understand. I felt cut off. I felt disappointed that phone calls didn’t take the place of emails. I didn’t do it then for the primary purpose of seeking God, but for the purposes of breaking the hold the computer had over me. And, here I am recognizing that the mesmerizing white glow of the screen might just have me in it’s grasp one more time. And if I say I value Jesus over all, then my life had better show that singleness of heart and action.

A blog I read occasionally has some great steps to prepare for a ‘screen fast’. I will print them out today and give serious consideration. And then, I will choose.

Logging off for now,

Lesley-Anne