Monday, February 20, 2012

On Being John the Baptist

I did it yesterday. I was the one in the room with the words that made everyone uncomfortable and brought on that awkward silence. It was technically one word, but it was John the Baptist's word, "Repent."

I didn't mean to be a party-killer. It's just that I saw this amazing sunset in my side-view mirror last week and tried to take a picture while I was at a stoplight. My fingers were all a-fumble because I'm no photographer, but Adrian, sitting shotgun, instantly saw what I saw. Now, he's a photographer, so a race ensued to see who would get the shot. Adrian with his youth and his artistry against me with my steering wheel and thumbs -- it was no contest. The image is his; I cannot lie.

When he emailed me the picture, that word of John's echoed in my mind. That mirror held an invitation to turn around and see the majesty just behind me. Before me, the sky held dusk, but behind me it was aflame with glory. Without that mirror, I would have remained completely ignorant of the beauty that was right there for the beholding. To see it, all I had to do was repent, turn around.   

The circumstance was so inviting, but the word, still, is not. I pasted the party-pooper word in big bold letters right in the middle of the picture while my gut was saying, "Don't do it." I posted it anyway hoping others might see what I saw: the beauty and not the repugnance in reprentance. My gut was still telling me it was a long shot. I understand. It's hard to see past that hard word. Even if all it is is a mirror held before us so we can see the blessing we would otherwise have missed.

: :

Mike began a sermon series on Revelation yesterday. It will be a long one. The introduction wasn't even from Revelation, but from 2 Peter.  Revelation is a whole book of party-killing words we like to avoid. It's a little uncomfortable to see the sheer force of God's power partnered with his wrath against sin on display together against unrighteousness, even if it is still to come. But Mike said this about that book,
It is the most encouraging and the most terrifying of all scripture. We must learn to live in the balance between encouraged and terrified (the fear of the Lord) to live victorious Christian lives.

Like John the Baptist's repentance, John the Apostle's revelation was meant to be a blessing to us. Instead, we learn quickly about the party-killing nature of these words and keep a respectful distance.

Yesterday, when my scripture was the faux pas at the party, I got a taste of how hard it must have been to be John. How lonely it must have been to retreat from society to the wilderness and eat locusts, alone. Maybe it was just easier that way. I don't know.

What I do know is that he said it anyway, and yesterday, I gained a new appreciation for John. I appreciate Mike too, because he's another brave heart who's willing to say the hard stuff and teach the book of Revelation for the terrifying and encouraging blessing it is. Like John and John, Mike sees his sacred duty to God's word, all of it, and is willing to say the hard stuff.  Even the party-killing words. The sin-stopping, you're-going-the-wrong-way, turn-around-to-see-God's-glory words, no matter how hard they are to hear. I admire men like these, because I guess it's never been in vogue to bear hard news, and sometimes the messenger gets shot.

I realize I've probably created another awkward silence. I just had to get all that off my chest and out of my rear-view mirror. But do come back. In all likelihood my next post will be much more socially acceptable because it's not so fun being John the Baptist.

Linking with Michelle, hoping not to ruin another party.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blogs, Babies, and Boot Camp -- Oh My!

Blogging is a little like wanting to be pregnant. Until then, getting pregnant seemed so easy, something that could happen after the first time, even a near miss. But now? Now that you really want to get pregnant, you buy books and count days and take your temperature and learn that that one little lone egg hangs around for only about 48 hours before it feels stood up and stomps off seeing red. That's a bad, bad thing to happen because then you have a month to arm yourself with more information about how nearly impossible it is to get pregnant. You get the countdown going again anyway for the next blind date between Mr. Seed and Miss Fertile Ground and you hope and pray.

So you tweak the look of the blog again, one final time, powder its nose and go live. You tap out 420 words and hit that addictive button that says "Publish" and hold your breath for a comment or a reader or -- whom am I kidding -- any sign of life.

On a hunch, you return home from Walgreen's with a pregnancy test, deposit a little DNA on it and wait for the wand to turn pink. The blind date was a marriage made in heaven. You drop the stick in the sink and jump up and down screaming. But then you think this might be bad for the baby, so you stop and fish the pregnancy test out of the sink to look again at that beautiful damp, pink rectangle. You look in the mirror at your silhouette and palm your flat belly. You look at the stick again and not even your engagement ring made you happier. You whisper-wonder, "I'm pregnant."

Periodically throughout the day, you rush to the computer hoping for a comment. No? What about hits? How many have read it? Six? Six!

You rush to the store and buy three more pregnancy tests. So what if you paid $72 and that the one from three days ago is still on your bathroom sink. You're still not sure, and maybe a chorus of pink sticks will drown out your disbelief. You turn each stick pink, and joy and relief fill your heart. It must be true. Four pregnancy tests, $86 and a week late tell the marvelous, magnificent truth.

You're pregnant indeed. You begin to make your news known, because you finally believe it just a little bit. You're a writer, well, a blogger.

I've been in this stage for two years, ten days, and five hours.

The next phase finds you rushing to the store to buy maternity clothes because you can't wait to look pregnant. It doesn't matter that so far, you've lost -- not gained -- three pounds from morning sickness, and now your normal clothes are starting to hang from your hip bones that protrude from your concave, upset stomach.

I've done that today. I wrote a blog post as if I were a real writer and sent it to the blog for the first writers conference I'm soon to attend. It's next week, and  I'm so excited I can't stand it. So I rushed right through the door to Motherhood Maternity with my anemic writer's craft and my enthusiasm as if what I really have is a big belly full of baby. (Authors call their books babies, don't they?) Motherhood Maternity thought of that, though. They leave little pillows in the dressing room to help these poor, pitiful girls who show up about three months too soon. They stuff them inside the clothes they try on in the dressing room. It makes dreaming of the real thing seem more like reality.

That's me there in the dressing room, the one who gave writers advice at a conference blog for writers. Real writers. Me. What was I thinking when I walked through that door? Thank goodness for small pillows.

But I did get plagiarized once, and I did learn a ton from it. Or at least a few pounds of baby weight, I'm figuring. And now, after I've written enough to be a whole post all by itself, I inviting you over to where I'm so proud to be writing today:

Writers Advance! Boot Camp Conference Blog

I know it's really two whole posts, but come on anyway. Think of it as twins.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Come, Delight

You see it on the face of babies as they discover a whole new world. Everything, each color and texture and moment. The creation of God delights the souls of his prize creatures when it is new because we are new.

Have we forgotten? We grow and shoulder this world, see it as responsibility rather than delight. We have forgotten. We think we are to carry it, but the world is his footstool. He rests upon it.  It was never meant to be a burden for us to carry. We couldn't possibly carry Him.

So stop.

And delight.

See it new and fresh. Smell it, take in the heady sent of February. The crunching snow or the budding daffodils, whatever delight He has put before you.

Taste it. See it. Know that he is good and rest.

Because He does. He kicks off his shoes, and delights, for it is all holy. His workmanship is holy. He props his feet up and smiles it in.

Climb in his lap. He invites us. Rest in Him. He wants to be our delight.

It only takes time and desire. It takes throwing off pretend responsibility and seeing that He's got whole world in his hands. And it is beauty and light. It is light dancing in the blue ice sky. He is here. He is there. Everywhere in his creation. It sings his glory.

And we are His delight.

Come as a child. Become delighted.

Joining the Gypsy Mama today for a Friday Five Minute Free Write.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Into the Unknown

She speaks to me in Spanish now, and there is no gracious way out of this predicament. I cannot respond to words I don't understand, and she can no longer find her English. She is blissfully unaware, so I pray Lord, give me a word, just one word I recognize that I might reply appropriately.

Is this what she does? Pray for a recognizable something to respond appropriately to, while she slips back into the pool of natal knowledge that was, before the worldly connections were made in her brain? This world has become her womb in which to gestate until her birth into the next. All she knows from this world is liquefying into murky amniotic fluid that will carry her away from us. We her children cup our hands to collect it and gather it back to her in vain. It is slipping through our fingers. And even floodgates of love cannot keep her from leaking and seeping away. She is leaving us: Noemi, my mother-in-law.

I want to be Ruth, but she has been so much more graceful in this than we her children. We panic, prompt her, quiz her, frantic for her to remember, as if we can will a thing into being so. We want to keep her and have her, and desperate love spurs us to actions that are unbecoming and do not honor her. What would honor her is the patience, acceptance, and assurance we are wont to muster but can't. She is leaving gracefully, and how can we be gracious in our being left?

I want to be a going away gift. But the gift is our not fighting that this is happening to her, and how on earth is that done by a child with fierce love for her mother? How does one willingly lose for the sake of the one she loves?

Surely God knows something of this and will show us the way into the unknown.

So I help her find John in her bible, this woman who learned the books of the bible together with her ABCs as a girl. This woman who has read her bible cover to cover every year for fifty, who can no longer find the gospel according to John.

Her son, our pastor, says, "Turn with me to John chapter 10." All ninety-eight pounds of her, a statuesque beauty, sit beside me. She flips pages and fiddles, trying not to need help, but neither can she will a thing into being.

I much prefer casting her bible off her lap and shaking her back to herself like an electronic device in need of reorienting from landscape to portrait. Instead I gulp the cup of fear and heartbreak and insatiable desire to rescue her from her future. I swallow it all down, and dutifully find Evangelio según San Juan capitulo diez in the worn bible on her small lap.

She smiles demurely and averts her gaze, but I think I glimpsed the longing for home on her face. I pat her hand, whisper, "It's fine."

Her eyes meet mine again, and she sees in me the truth: that I lie. We both so much want it to be true. We both know it is not. She doesn't say so for my sake, so I won't say so for hers. And the words that don't hang in the air between us are heavy anyway, the voice of her son, my husband, preaching God's word in the distance.

It is not fine; she can't find John, but she can't forget the truth of this. The irony hurts. We squeeze each other's hand with a last knowing glance, let go and look forward. Mother and daughter-in-law, sitting side by side, are left to our own devices, two brave faces turning together and alone into the unknown. 

I'm exploring the practice of love with Ann this week, as part of her Walk With Him Wednesday community, and with Jennifer's God-Bumps and God-Incidences.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Doomed and Accursed

I'm reading Ann Lamott's Bird by Bird chapter by chapter in the evenings. I just finished the chapter about the doomed radio station. (Or should I say cursed radio station?) And instead of paying attention to the words on the page, I'm thinking can't she find less offensive words to communicate her point? She is, after all, a writer. The radio station is all the head noise you think and hear that distracts you from being able to focus on the story that's forming just under your conscious mind when you're writing. All that noise stops a writer from hearing the story and transcribing the narrative. It sabotages the writing process. 

I've never noticed that I do this in my writing.  (Maybe that's because mostly I write when I feel inspired, rather than with Mary DeMuth's BOC [butt on chair] technique. I apparently have been ignoring every other author giving writing advice to budding writers to write every day whether the muse shows up or not. You know them, those unimportant authors like Stephen King and Natalie Goldberg who were generous enough to give advice to people like me who largely ignore it.)

At any rate, I think I do fairly well with focus. In fact, I usually get perturbed — but don't fuss — at my kids for interrupting me with things like, "Hey, Mom, did you buy more apple juice this morning?" while they have their head in the fridge and are about to discover the answer all by themselves. They try to bait me with their fighting with one another, too. And don't even get me started on Adrian's rapping into a recording mic in the next room. Did you know it's impossible to rap quietly? It cannot be done.

Anyway, if I fussed, it would be even more of a distraction, so I ignore my own kids for the sake of writing.  Instead, I stay true to my muse and keep my BOC and write on. So I'm feeling OK on this one. (The writer is OK; the parent clearly is not.) So I conclude that I haven't had much trouble with the radio station in my head.

Until now.

Until now, I wasn't even aware that there was a radio station, much less a doomed one. I think I was already doing a pretty good job of tuning it out, at least while I was writing. And now I can't even do it while I'm reading, much less writing. 

I make the assumption mid-chapter that Ms. Lamott is trying to teach people like me techniques for recognizing the noise that's keeping us from hearing the storyteller within so we can stop the madness. Instead, what I'm learning is how to hear it.

I'm reading her pretend scenario that starts with a perfect writing morning that clicks right along splendidly for about 3 and a half minutes, then gets totally off track with a random thought of so-and-so writer who stinks but just went to print and is starting a whirlwind book tour. That thought leads to wondering what would it be like to be interviewed on the Tonight Show anyway?, which obviously leads to what am I going to eat for lunch because I don't fit in any of my cute clothes that would be appropriate for an interview like that -- a burger's totally out. And what was wrong with Mom the last time we had lunch anyway?

And the whole time I'm reading about techniques to stop this madness like animal sacrifices (I think she was kidding) and breathing techniques and putting your brain in the corner for a time out for wandering, I'm thinking how is she staying focused on her writing while she's trying to be a good transcriber of the story which is of the doomed and accursed radio station playing that would thwart good writing in every other instance?  In her story the accursed radio station is the hero! How can the real story be about what happens to subvert the real story?  And she's writing it well, by the way, because I'm totally getting it, and my head is about to explode like dynamite whose fuse has been lit, and it's too late. My only hope is that the explosion will unearth a gold mine, but it probably won't.

I understand about the cursed radio station now, thank you very much. I'm a good learner, Ms. Lamott, and you are a very effective teacher.  But I think something went wrong, terribly wrong.  I think I've turned on the doomed radio station and cursed my writer within.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I'm over at Laced With Grace today telling the story that goes along with this cutie
and the iThing that's at the other end of those white wires.

It's also the story of Isreal's shattered dreams
and what we can do when we feel pressed.

Skate on over, won't you?
Laced With Grace
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