Focus

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After four weeks of cold congestion, I’m tired, and at this early hour, my husband asleep beside me, awake, struggling again to breath. The rain, which has so often felt like a personal gift, quieting the noisy ‘world-song’ around me, and softening hard edges, compels me to open the window, and I begin to be able to breathe as the moist air helps. Then I hear it. The soft long slide of tires, the thump of those same tires, attached to a vehicle hits something with a finality and quietness that causes me to listen closer. After only half a moment’s pause, I hear the woman scream, the man voice say something that instantly silences the noises, and I know without truly knowing, although I cannot see anything at all, that someone has left this earth. I do not even know them, on one level, yet, on another level, as first the siren finally comes, 10 minutes later and other vehicles in a horrible silent parade come and go, their lights flashing, the sirens silent, the ambulance full but seemingly, not moving at ’emergency speed’, I somehow realize that someone I have passed every day, maybe, is gone. The sadness lingers. It is so important that I pause to participate and focus on knowing and caring for those who pass through my life. We have only got this one moment. We don’t know about the next moment. I must move on into my work day… put on clothes, smile and work for my client, but must not forget that the eyes of those who move past me, whereever possible, must be focused on as belonging to someone I only have this particular opportunity with.

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“And Unto You.. Oh Bethlehem”

Trying to remember…….was it every year in church or was it in the annual watching of Linus in the Peanuts series by Charles Schultz that caused my brain to seize on the phrase of the title of this blog as somehow having something to do with Jesus, trees, presents and parties…  yeah, that does seem an accurate, if somewhat messed-up version of the Christmas we celebrate. <sigh> But last night, after yet another round of me being incredibly grouchy, I still got to snuggle grand babies and tuck them in. They didn’t settle down. I desperately needed them to. So grabbed my Bible, turned lights out, sat on the floor near the door as they lay near and I read them a bedtime story by the light of the hall light. Matthew 1-2:6 (not all, just the ‘Christmas story’ parts.) We had just looked at a popup picture, a typical manger scene where paper-Joseph, shepherds, Mary and maybe a wise-ish looking man or two hover at the edges of a paper shelter for animals and a paper baby is set in the paper feeding trough. I wanted the ‘grands’ to “hear more of the real story”. But the story left me wondering, ever and as always things… for instance, where IS that prophecy that points to Bethlehem. Then, gift of all gifts….when I got up this morning to do my daily Bible reading, I was in Micah… Bam. There it is!

         “[a]Marshal your troops now, city of troops,for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old,from ancient times.” Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses. We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders, who will rule[c] the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword.He will deliver us from the Assyrians when they invade our land and march across our borders…” (Micah 5: 1-6 NIV, thanks to BibleGateway, italics and underlining mine only for emphasis and so you can quickly see it).

I wonder if you’ve seen/noticed the surrounding text ever? It raises more questions in me, but it also points some things out. I’m not posting this as a call to militancy or a call to arms of any kind. That is my “hey, don’t misread or misuse this”. That being said, I want to point out that everyone loves peace. Pink cheeked grand babies, laughter and cooing. Baby Jesus is just fine. But Herod had reason to be nervous, of you look at the text. Jesus was no ordinary baby born. The peace proclaimed by Micah several hundred years earlier didn’t come at the stable. Why celebrate His birth? Its there in the text, and more. ‘ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times’…and ‘He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.And they will live securely,…’ and there is more.

I am ready to be a grandma. Happily ever after and all that. But last night I had equipment I’d never seen, instructions that got relayed to me late, throwup of a meal on a plate, a fever, wet pee’d on baby underwear and a tiny red butt with multiple tiny spats of mustard smears… oh, I mean bowel movement. On top of Rambunctiousness. (and yes, Momma, they were VERY good, I absolutely agree. They were CHILDREN.) A few timeouts occurred for things touched that needed not to be. I had four adults caring for three small children and we were all challenged and we were all tired. And it all came out okay, but it was not the sweet scene of peace I think ‘is right’. It was ‘unsettling’. (No pun intended.) Then, today, we went to see the movie “Rogue One.” A StarWars movie. It wasn’t sweet and happy ever after in some degrees.(No spoilers here, I promise.)  It was perseverance and ‘oops, that is awful, wow, that IS war’ movie that came shortly after a trailer about the D-Day invasion on Normandy Beach, and they resembled each other, in my mind. That war…. that is life. Uncomfortable, hard, messy, sometimes victorious, with amazing hopes that cost us… everything. And THAT, my friends, THAT is the manger scene. That is Bethlehem. Out of you will come.

Why write? Because God’s fulfilled promises are NOT pink-cheeked paper book stories written to comfort ignorant people. Christmas… Christ-birth celebration… is about knowing a war exists, the King IS coming, and its not all about ‘get me outta here’. They are the tough stuff of war stories and depictions of mess, horror, risk and Him in the middle. That is the God that I love. That is the mud and mess of Bethlehem. That is why news of a baby rattled the emotional cage of the ‘king’ of that day and rattles the emotional cages of people today. Do I revel in it? No. I glory in my King, but I understand that there are a ton of ‘Herods’ willing to murder any baby boy that might resemble the fulfillment of God’s promise. I am so glad the murder won’t stop God. In the meantime, Bethlehem means hold hope while war is here.

 

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devote.d/tional.crazydeeplongingforbreadormaybejustyou.

I have to. I crave. I desperately need and long for. You. So, I read. And listen.

Cover to cover, yearly. Genesis to Revelation.

In the beginning… I read to understand cognitively and ‘conclusively’ the history of the world. Makes me laugh. That is not who you were communicating. As time passed, I searched for your Arms around me. And now?

Now I read to run my heart over your scars, carefully. They hurt me, they heal me, they inspire me. I read to see you laugh. I read and know your tears. I read…. and listen like someone too young or foolish to grasp some things, Danieleque mysteries of times… or maybe I’d rather leave it to you for now, yet listen, hearing your voice in it nonetheless.

When I am afraid I will trust in you. In the secret place. Turn my heart/eyes to you. I will look to the mountains… from where comes my help? From the Maker of Heaven and Earth. I fell in love with you so very long ago.

(What I do not understand makes me want to hurl it all so far, but I restrain myself, or you do)… and I return again and again. For where shall we go, Lord? For it is you who have the Words of Life. Breathe on me.

Inspired. One more day. Daily bread, give me this day.

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No Easy Answer X 3 perspectives

The news shocked me to my core. It haunts me. I am worried it will pass and I will forget. I long for perspective… but which perspective? So, I try to fit into the different ‘shoes’ of the characters of the tragedy…

Perspective One: Mom of Young Mom

‘my baby, formed of blood and bone, tears and prayer, fashioned by God’s own hand in amazing fragile beauty…

it will be alright. We will collect the savaged remnants of relationship between jobs and money and tragedy and hold each other through the storm, warmed under this assembled quilt of hopes and tomorrows. it will be alright. but… you are silent. withdrawn. and somehow in these past few weeks, I have begun to have the aching knowing that one more drama tugs at this blanket of our life and love, pulled around us. Can it be that you hold a life within you? Does the circle continue this way? Shh. God has held us. Will hold us still. Hold on. Just wait here by me.it will be alright.

Oh, God, my God. Can it be? What has happened here? How can one more tug not rend this fragile comforter that warms and keeps us? I will stand strong yet again. We must make it. Hold me while I hold her. Keep us.’

Perspective Two: Young Mom

‘no.

Nonononono.No. It cannot be. It will not be. Invaded once. Did I want it, that moment that brought this… this life.. no. This second invasion of me? What life will this child have? Will it/he/she remind me of ….. How will I do this? How can this be? No one knows, but maybe some suspect? I cannot. I am terrified. I am angry. I am sad. No. I reject this. I have a choice. Will I be my mom? I am utterly alone. No one can know. I am ashamed, but this is not my fault. Oh, look! a hand! No, wait, was it a foot? No! I do NOT care. I CANNOT care. How could this happen? My life, is it over?

Augh! The pain! I am helpless. I cannot do this. I cannot believe this was done… to me? Was it my fault? I just WON’T! I refuse. This is NOT mine.

And now, that moment has passed. I am so confused. What I threw out,… I cannot take back that moment, that choice. I will never forget. What I never wanted to accept has now branded its way across my heart and mind.’

Perspective Three, Maybe? The Unknown ‘Public’… us? 

Shock and horror. Headlines and then maybe forgotten, except for some who cannot get that image out of their head. Fury? Guilty? (of what?) “Child abuse”… “murder”? I think those are the charges. Does she ‘need therapy?’ I don’t actually know what people think, although I have conjectured here some of the possible responses. But I keep thinking… the irony here is that she could have gone a few miles and quietly had the infant cut out of her piece by piece or all intact. The so-called ‘fetus’ could have been sold as something for ‘medical purposes’, buried, or thrown out as trash. She would have been lauded as ‘sane’, as ‘reasonable’. How is it different than what she did- throwing the baby out the back, off the deck? The baby maybe died instantly, I hope? Hopefully, with no pain? But the loss is forever. The aching arms of that grandma who lost daughter and grandchild in one moment….  The pain of that child/daughter being thrust brutally into adulthood and very possibly prison because she did in public what is done by many every day in private,… paid for by ‘insurance’, mandated, often, by federal government. That irony catches my breath away. I cannot stop hurting for the girl in this story and for the all-of-us caught in the grip of this drama in quiet and loud ways. I cannot forget her. I surely hope I do not. Her pain knocks me down. I have no idea what it does to her. I worry that to even comment, to dare to ‘think outloud’ will be called presumptuous. Even so, I must ask. Surely you see the irony? I know there is no easy answer to so very much, and especially this issue. Yet I will ask God. And I will ask you. If you do not see the question, I cannot help you.

 

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Struggling To Be Undone

In the world I grew up in, beds were made every day. “After all, you never know when company might come.” (It also helped keep things clean, bug -fewer, and less chaotic,) but I got the impression it was mostly ‘for others, and just proper’. Messy things were put away, dealt with, or hidden. For example: relational issues were not ‘put out for everyone to see’ or ‘what happens in family stays in family’ sort of comments really enforced this idea.

Recently I have realized something. This ‘clean house’ idea is somewhat like a person who lives in a two room home, where the front room is what people are brought into and the back room is private. It goes beyond the concept of clean and enters into the idea that the ‘back room’ parts of our life are either entirely hidden from everyone, or, at best, are for a very few, those invited into that ‘inner sanctum’ of a person’s private world.

The people I serve, though, seem at times to live in a ‘one room’ world. It is messy. Things don’t always get dealt with. It’s right there, take it or leave it sort of existence. I am not from that world, although I have tried to live with my ‘back room’ far more open than is normal, based on what I see and hear around me.

What occurred to me is this: those who can’t see the backroom don’t fully trust because they don’t know what’s in there… who I am. ( And maybe they don’t want to know.)  But those who live in a ‘one room’ life definitely don’t invite ‘two-roomers’ into their lives. ‘What will they think?’ ‘Will they judge me?’  There is a distance between these two types of folks.

I find myself in quite the quandary. If I live discreetly and keep my back room private, I find the relationships are ‘edge-of-the-couch’ polite. They aren’t relationships you can lean into or share with deeply. But if I live more as a ‘one room’ person- just being me and accepting that life is messy and I am in process and take me or leave me, the ‘two roomers’ are exceptionally uncomfortable. They just move on. Quietly. Politely. And I wonder what is in their backrooms.

I expressed this to Jim and he understood and said I ought to try and write about it, which i have here, at 10 at night, before I prepare for my 12 hour workday tomorrow. It’s almost a relief to go to work because when I feel the pressure to resolve the distances created by choosing who to be, knowing the risks with either choice, then I want to be undone. I can’t be a ‘one-roomer’ because I am so aware of the moving-away-quickly ‘two-roomers’.  I am not a good ‘two-roomer’ because I don’t fit the mold and I open my ‘back room’ more than people want. At work at least I can just do my job and shut my own processes down. But I hate the distances that come between people and feel them. I love people. Gah.  I think too much. Its bedtime. Goodnight.

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Neighborhood Watch

His hand ran across the painted basement concrete wall “this is the room where my dad wrote his sermons” and suddenly instead of a basement filled with laundry lines I see booklined shelves, a man bent over his desk for the sake of those who gather Sunday mornings for hope and inspiration. Outside, this son’s wide arm swing embraces the face-off blocks of housing “you know, there were at least 5 large neighborhood gardens when he lived here just in these two blocks” and through his eyes I see them, invisible as they are. The sound of children’s laughter follows their bikes down the streets, all this, my neighborhood.

But. When a neighbor’s moved-in family imports a clientele of traffic-jam causing, property disrespecting drug purchasers and sellers, the sounds of neighborhood faded and the unmistakable sound of raw but hidden anger surged through the air. I sighed. Nothing happens in a vacuum. This came because it was allowed to come.

In my house, we-the-neighbors gather because of this change in the air. But the loud proclamations of ‘it was always this way’, ‘we are too old’, ‘its time to move out of here’ that ring in my ears, these must not be allowed to seed into the soil of weary hearts any longer so I shout out on top of the horrible sounds of shredded hope, wanting to be heard, reminding them of generational businesses, of gardens, of children and bikes. They cannot hear.until.the.representative for Neighborhood Watch speaks, calling them by name. She quietly backs me up. Later I learn her heart has pounded the heavenlies in prayer and I understand why her voice, combined with friendships won over time, is easier heard than my strident one.

I too have pounded the heavenlies for those that have streamed past my windows, lacking understanding, those who have seeded this neighborhood and their family and friends lives with drugs, empty liquor bottles and lies. Their violating anger-spewing ‘music’ booms from open car windows and I ache. Seeds take root. These are not plants I want in this neighborhood.- for they take over what is healthy and replace it with destruction. Those listening are damaged by what they believe. They need a better song. Yes, the police come, for which a part of me is grateful, for the neighborhood is back. But someone must watch for these who do not know what sin they are committing against themselves, their families and their futures. These that march toward destruction…they need the kind of neighborhood watch which the police representative understood: they need relationship over the long haul combined with a lot more praying and weeping than I have yet done. It’s time to uproot the lies, throw away the empty alcohol and trash lining the streets and plant what has been before: gardens that feed our families, music that feeds our soul, friendships with God and man that reveal better realities. Its time to get outside our walls and do barbeque, laughter, and better things. Thanks to that wonderful police representative who put in her time in years and tears, thanks to neighbors who came and listened, we are now a neighborhood block watch. But what really matters remains to be seen: whether we will really DO neighboring and watching that comes to tears and commitment over long years.

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Chores

I am a grandma now and some memories of child-rearing are less ‘in focus’ due to their distance from my ‘now realities’, but the other day when flipping radio stations I heard a mother talking about the importance of chores. I started to dismiss it as no longer relevant in my world until God’s hand stilled my-ready-to-flip-the-channel hand. As the parent described ‘tears all the way up the stairs’ to do the assigned chore, the drama, the child taking all day to do a three minute chore, and the eventual character and maturity the chores build in a child, I laughed as I recalled steering three boys through many of these things. They had to learn to put away their clothes, eventually, to do laundry. Because they may be on their own. They may need to assist a working spouse. They need to be mature enough and developed enough to NOT be helpless infants in their behaviors. My boys are grown now and wonderful men I am so delighted in. They now steer their own children. BUT. But what?

Suddenly, I realized something I never ‘got’ before. As God’s child, I had not realized some things in front of me are His chores for me. They bear no resemblance to the chores I assigned my children, but they have the same reason to be: they create character and maturity in me. It is uncomfortable to be an adult and realize God assigns chores.  What chores could God possibly have assigned to me?  I began to reflect.  He wanted me to take initiative in knowing my neighbors. He wanted me, in the face of my boss lying to me, or a state law causing me to work unpaid for a few hours each and every week, to learn how to live under what is not right or fair with a better attitude than I sometimes have- to learn how to live reflecting his gracious strength and learn how to BE change in an unholy world. He wanted me to wield who I am in the world I am in for what I would rather not do. I don’t want to cross the street to the ‘drug house’, but when I did, I learned they were humans, and they were not ‘monsters’. I am learning to pray better to God, with more ‘in-touch’ realness. I am not wanting to remain in my job. My ‘chore’ is to learn HOW to bear up, and do it with JOY. I suddenly realized I could be that child turning a two minute assignment into an eight hour ordeal for both myself and God. Or, I could become the gracious, strong child who is learning what it REALLY means to reflect the gracious character of God.

I just thought I’d share this with you. I hope it gives you time to pause and wonder what ‘chores’ God has assigned you, and to ask yourself if you are doing good enough on them that he can give you more complicated chores, and develop you into His ideals. He is working. We rest in that, yet we partner with Him in that. Could be super fun. Or we could be the whining children we all flee from. LOL.  Have a good day.

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