Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Expectations. They are an intoxicating danger... especially when I bring them before Jesus as a demand. I'm reading through Luke, and this interesting passage in chapter 4 verses 14-30 shows up. I actually split this passage into two readings which made the contrast all the more clear. From 14-16, we learn that Jesus is becoming famous all around the surrounding country, healing, preaching, etc. Then He goes home-- to Nazareth. You would think that this would be the place where the most healings occur, and so you wait.
He enters the temple (as He normally did), and He reads Scripture. It flows from His lips; it makes sense in ways it never has before. The passage He reads actually speaks of Messiah's ability and desire to preach, deliver and heal. The hometown is stunned by the grace with which His speech is enveloped in. I end my reading contemplating gracious words and how powerful they can be. I also sit and ponder the beauty of Christ's mission-- to love on the broken, despised, poor, blind, and captive.... even the ones who are bruised. A great day for worship.
Today I returned to the text and read further. Jesus goes on to address the unspoken question of the congregation-- "When are we going to get on to the miracles part??"
This part is hard to write. Essentially, Jesus says that He is not going to be healing in His town. In fact, Elisha was sent out of his land to help others, even though there were needy all around in him in his own country. Prophets are not honored where they grew up.
The words sink in a bit, and then the crowd reacts (and so do I). How? In wrath. Angrily, they get up, THRUST Him towards a cliff in an attempt to end His life-- the life of one of their own-- the life of the One who spoke gracious words.
I can understand the anger. Deep within me, I feel a bit of it too. Why wouldn't You heal there as well? Don't they also matter? Doesn't Your grace demand giving to those who don't deserve it?? But then, instead of just sitting there pummeling Jesus in my head, I start to look at the deeper issues of my own heart.
Have I, who have allowed Christ to live in me as I grew up, have I become disinterested in Him? Am I treating Him as a common occurrence? A son of Joseph, the carpenter? When I see Him work mightily in the lives of others-- is THAT the time I want it for me? Because truth be told, when everyone is at the status quo, I don't recall hungering for more.
And too, when I am fed through His endearing speech, when I am comforted through His words of love, do I stand in praise and thankfulness for those great gifts, even while my body may be broken? Or do I only place the emphasis on having the miracles show up? Yeah, Yeah, Jesus-- those words were amazing, but why haven't You done------??
Mark tells us that He could do no mighty works in Nazareth except heal a few sick people. Why? Because of their unbelief. How darkened is my heart with unbelief? When Jesus tells me He will not heal me, do I worship Him anyway? When He lets me know that He is not going down the path I 'knew' He would take, do I still stop, turn around, and follow-- believing that He is beautiful and righteous and that His plans far outweigh my own?
Jesus, I am not even aware of the levels of unbelief in my heart. Search me and know me. Test me to reveal anything that may be blocking You from working in me mightily. Show me how to gaze longer upon You in trust. Teach me how to have the faith to expect good things from You, and the capacity to believe those things which occur ARE good because they're from You. FEed me with the hope that there were some in Nazareth that You did heal. Oh heal me, my God! And may the healing be done as You see fit.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
So, after spending the last two days moving my house (up and down 3 flights of stairs), and then helping my friend move into her new place, after collapsing into a half set up bed surrounded by boxes, I set my alarm for 5 am.
You see, the ride started at 7, and I had to bike about 20 minutes to even get to the starting place where I was meeting up with my friends to bike for the next 3 hours. By the way, haven't yet mentioned that every person in Team Awesome were legit cyclists, have I? Oh yeah. Well, they are.
Immediately I recognize that I'm a smidge out of place. First off, I'm in jeans. Yup, jeans. Next, I realize my helmet is on backwards, so I turn it around. Wait, was it on backwards? Ugh. I just don't know. Third, I failed to bring my registration paper, so I have to stand in line to get my 10 bridge sign trying to utilize my iphone to show that I had an email somewhere regarding this race. Things are just gonna get real good from here on out, I can feel it.
My friends arrive, and we laugh about our plans for the day. I let them know ahead of time that I am not a biker, and thus they can leave me anytime they want to actually pedal at a competitive pace. A few kindly tell me that they are just gonna go slow because they're not really big bikers either. Yeaaaaaahhhhh, right.
We're off! At first, the ride is great because we're basically walking our bikes. There must be thousands of people at this race and hundreds of us are now stuck going down the on-ramp to the freeway. people people everywhere. Totally crazy. I"m excited because this is about the speed I can handle. But, then the crowd spreads out, and the pace picks up. It's not too bad... until we see an ambulance, a bike splayed out on the road, and a large looming question that hovers like fog in the air as we ride past. What happened? Did someone get hurt already? Am I next?
However, the freedom of breaking away from the crowd was intoxicating. Being on the freeway without cars was liberating. The pure adrenaline of realizing I was in Portland, with Portland, doing something that WAS Portland was energizing. Well, at least for the first bridge. Boy, that first hill kinda sucker punched me, but I made it through. Some of my friends were still around me at this point, trying to have some meaningful conversation with each other-- I was trying to breathe. I begged them to go on without me. Don't feel bad for me; really. It was worse that they were witnessing my inner couch potato.
The first rest stop came up fairly fast. I was, but wasn't, ready to stop just yet. And they were serving donuts. UGH> who in the world would put that crap in them while they were trying to bike? And as I said this, I looked up to see 2 of my friends scarfing down glazed and pink iced pastries in front of me, while behind them scores more were double fisting the delicacies. I headed for the free bananas, and had one of those, along with a water break. I met up with a group of guys I had met earlier who were sporting Swiss shirts. We struck up another friendly conversation, this time on feet. It was a good break, but I still had 8 more bridges to go, and that was going to take some time.
Being on my own was nice. No pressure to stifle my asthmatic breathing, no reason to force myself to stay ahead of that unicyclist. Go ahead, man with one wheel. I'm not intimidated--I'm STILL UPRIGHT ON THIS BIKE! that's enough victory for me.
Uphill was always rough. My thighs were quivering with the abuse they've been handling in the past 72 hours. My bike was in the lowest gears possible, and I had to keep telling each foot to just keep going. During these moments, my mental state was this: You can go slow, just don't stop. You can go slow, just don't stop. It felt good to know I was still moving, even if one had to watch for a full 45 seconds to see me rotate my wheels... it felt good, that is until I saw a seven year old soar past me up the hill on their 1 speed. That's okay, Leah. Just keep moving. I look over, and here comes two kids pedaling around their mom who is biking while pulling a tent with a third kid in it. And yes, they all pass me... oh brother. What they didn't know is we were approaching the other side of the bridge which was all downhill-- and i wasn't going to touch my brakes. hahahahahahah! who's fast now Toddler Tommy?
By the time I made it to the next rest stop (near the 7th bridge, I was first in line to get the free cookies. I would have had donuts too... and yes, I'll take that free root beer--THANKS! Sugar was my new friend. It was my hero, the only way I was going to stay on the bike for the last bridges. Gone were my feelings of disdain towards 'unhealthy' foods. These people knew what they were doing! I scarfed them down and psyched myself up for the last few bridges. I knew I had the one biggie left--The St. John's. I used to cross that via bus every day on my way to tutoring, and the hill to that was so steep that the massive engine of public transportation slowed considerably trying to catch its own breath. I couldn't imagine what I would do, but I was determined to attempt it. I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled up Hwy 26, following the other 10 bridgers in front of me. I turn a corner, and look up. What? Is that the finish line?? did I do it? did I actually make it to the end??!! Oh sweet delirium--it's all over! I almost weep for joy, until I realize this isn't right... Where was the St. John's bridge?
Later I learned that those who didn't make the 'time cut' were redirected away from the St. John's. Boy, were a lot of people mad. Me? i was grateful because I was spared from biking that monstrosity and it wasn't because i wimped out... it was because i had had no choice.
After getting my free juice, popsicles, and Cliff bars at the finish line, I immediately got in line and signed up for a year of ZipCar membership.
This biking is for the birds.
(ha... just kidding-- i really had such an amazing time, and felt epic after completing over 30 miles of Portland bridge terrain!)
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
(originally written September 6, 2010)
Oh boy. There is so much in my life that is being rocked right now… and that seems odd to say because on the surface, things are actually going very well. I am enjoying my newfound adventure, I am staying in a comfortable, friendly home, and I have been placed in contact with a seemingly great girl to have as a future roommate. So why this unsettling?
I believe it stems back to a challenge a man gave to me a few weeks ago. He said that I need to get God out of my box. I was offended… he obviously didn’t know me. I mean, I have loved God, worshipped Him, learned of Him, been hurt by Him, questioned Him, doubted Him, and I have spent this past year finally learning to haltingly trust Him. God wasn’t in a box for me; God was outside, large, inexplicable. I thought for sure this man’s word was wrong.
And yet, somehow, that phrase wouldn’t leave me. Who is God to me? What do I expect of Him? From Him? As those questions hovered over me, night and day, I started recognizing certain theological stances in my habits, in my patterns. When I had a great devotional time, it was never too long afterward that I “moved on” with my day. In fact, it was often on those days when I felt prompted to pick up my Bible again, or listen to a message, that I would say to myself, “nah, I already spent a good amount of time with my Bible today. I already did that.” This would make me feel less guilty for pursuing something else I considered pleasurable—reading a book, watching a movie, spending time on Facebook. I mean, obviously God and I were good—look at the time we spent together this morning.
And it wasn’t always the good stuff either. I noticed that I never became contemplative about God’s power or His mercy until I was good and scared about something. It might be that I was afraid that the rental car I had might get scratched and I had failed to get the extra coverage, or that I was alone in the house that night and someone was for sure going to break in and kill me. It was then that I (like a Catholic fingering the rosary) would repetitively commission the Lord to protect me and to keep me. It’s funny how I never gave Him thanks for the numerous times He has, for every morning when I wake up—when did I last praise God for allowing me to sleep in peace and safety throughout the entire night? – for all the times I’ve gotten in a car, or in any type of vehicle, and He has graciously steered others and their accidents away from me? Or the times when He has steered my own car out of the potential hazards of my own making? You see, I was expecting God to show up when I wanted Him to, and in the ways I wanted Him to, and I chalked up the normal every day stuff as just that… normal. Not divine providential grace. In the depths of my secret soul, I had made the eternal God reside in the confined shape of a vending machine.
When I say vending machine, I don’t simply mean the Santa Clause imagery—where I am just asking for help or for gifts or blessings or such. I mean, even my praise and worship has been tainted with this thinking. When I wanted to feel good, or feel “fuzzy” inside, I punched in the numbers for a God who was good and beautiful and kind. When I wanted to feel close to my family who was far away, I would enter the code to give thanks that I had a Heavenly Father always with me. Feeling spiritually hungry? Bam, I fed it. Desiring safety and security? Pow! It was at my fingertips. What separates this carnal mindset from the daily experiences of any Christ follower, is that it always revolved around my feelings. Gone were the times I desired God as a Father, and yet still praised Him as a Judge. Aborted were the days when I was lonely but decided to ease another’s loneliness instead of feeding my own self pity. You see, there was rarely any cross-bearing in my walk with Jesus. There was cross kneeling, cross thanking… even cross embracing, but few were the moments when I actually stood up, and despite my mental state, emotional roller coasters or spiritual famine, put that instrument of death on my own shoulders and started to walk. I see how infantile instead I had become in my faith… crying for my bottle, longing for a nap, waiting for others to clean up my mess. Humility, Gratitude, and Responsibility were banned from my nursery; instead I invited and locked in Coddling and Comfort.
So what does this mean? What am I learning? I’m not completely sure yet, but I am understanding this: God does not play by my rules, even when He seems to be. He actually doesn’t even acknowledge my rules. It is only and ever truly by His grace that I live and have my being. I am tainted, and even in my most honoring moments of true worship of this indescribable God, there is humanity clinging to my motives and my obedience. This awareness used to cause me to loathe myself and my mortal nature, but even that is a worship of self since I chose to use the awareness to focus on me, and not on Him. I now am stepping, slowly and wobbly as a child, into a recognition of how much greater my God ever was and is and will be. I’m stepping out of the cradle. My faltering is now for me the evidence of His immeasurably steady grace. My selfish ambitions and manipulative prayers only further cement in my soul that I seek a God who is not worried about my view of Him because He is self sufficient. He only reveals myself to me so that I may see Him clearer, in a new way that I have missed before. As I become decreased in my sight, He becomes increased. It is this beautiful, innately, and mercifully unfair equation. How much I love Him! How much more I want my love for Him to be purified! And even though He at this moment knows there is fear and worry about delving more into His divinity, He still holds me with tenderness and looks on my dust with patience. Who is this God???
so, i have nothing newsworthy to write about today, other than the travel fiasco I endured at the hands of Chicago weather yesterday which caused me to miss my flight home, and thus have to fork over $115 buckeroos for a hotel room. Oh, and other than the fact I have spent the last 12 hours (literally) on my computer doing work that is to be handed to my boss tomorrow. no more news than that.
(okay, okay, you can count that I had an amazing time in both Miami celebrating my littlest sister's high school graduation, and in Philadelphia celebrating my amazing friends Nic and Brianna's wedding. )
but really, that's all the news i've got for now. And since both my brain and my body are really useless right now, I will no longer ramble here, but will instead post an old piece i wrote but never put up. savvy?
Friday, May 27, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
this dead-on view of Oregon's popular city was perhaps the funniest line of the pre-released first episode of a new t.v. series called Portlandia. The premise of this show is to air all the eccentricities of the great city of Portland. It actually doesn't start until next week, but you can watch the first episode on HULU for free for the next few days.
My review: Hopes were high for this series because there is nothing a Portlander loves more than having their city on display. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of the spirit here is veiled by what seems to be thrown together character sketches. After a stilted conversation between the two main characters, the show cleverly entertains with an impromptu song featuring many Portland absurdities. It sets the viewer up to believe this show may be reminiscent of The Flight of the Conchords, but alas, once the song is over, the similarity with that great series ends. Although the chosen topics (organic chicken's life story; adult leagues of children's games; feminist power themed bookshops) were typical of Portland's vibe (albeit filmed in satiric hyperbole), each scene fell a bit flat-- like a joke that continues after the punch line has been given. The directors apparently forgot that less is more... unless of course it came to the acting. The personalities of the two main characters were a little too deadpan to generate the kind of big laughs that Portland's quirks demand. (exception: keep your eye out for the old lady in the library sketch. She steals the show because there is no apparent acting in her ridicule). In order for Portlandia to succeed, this show needs to be made more accessible to those who haven't ever set foot in Portland. Right now it just feels like we're smiling at a joke that only a very few insiders get.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
who has it out for willows? I was looking out my window and noticed that the tree growing by my balcony was developing buds. Hey, I thought to myself, those look like pussy willows.
Then I got to thinking: PUSSY willows? What kind of cruel name is that? What, just because they're small, that automatically defines them to be wimpy?
Then my thought meandered further: WEEPING willows? Oh man, why are we looking at these gorgeous cascades of delicate boughs and thinking tears??
What does this say about our perspective on life?
What if we changed the way we viewed things?
Instead of seeing small and thinking weak, why couldn't we assume that pussy willows are growing in accessible abundance to soften the edges of thorns, who although are relative in size do not bloom soft like a whispered kiss to tickle our senses?
And perhaps instead of seeing the larger willows and believing they are bent over in grief, why don't we start seeing that they may actually be humbly bent over in an attempt to embrace us who appear smaller and more vulnerable than they?
so, What would change for you today if you reassessed the willow that is framed in the window of your apartment?
Saturday, January 1, 2011
1. I lugged my two suitcases onto the bus last night, complete with two large carry-on bags and a purse. Oh, the joy of traveling for a month between the blustery north to the tropics and back again celebrating both a wedding and a major holiday. Anyhow, a woman my age asks me where I was coming from. I explained my travels, and she smiles at me and says, "Well, welcome home; I hope you have a wonderful New Year's." It was like having chicken broth on a cold day.
2. Overheard in a local grocery store on New Year's Day:
A five year old boy, chasing his mom down the aisle: "Ooh! are we getting lentil soup?!!" And as I was pondering this imponderable question (which was asked with JOY), he continued to squeal as he passed me in his glee..."Or how about meatloaf?!!"
The happiest of new years to you all.