November 24, 2011

give me Your eyes

"Give me Your eyes for just one second, give me Your eyes so I can see..."
Give me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath

Every once in a while a stray comment, a subtle look, a word will surprise me and remind me. Remind me that I am different. I am really not sure how to explain it, but I am learning to see the world from a view that contrasts to the view of many people. I already do, really. It is hard to express sometimes, and hard for me to show, but I see people very differently. I do not want to sound at all pompous or "holier than thou," but only express what I have observed.

I do not really dislike many people until the idea is put into my head. I am just not really inclined to dislike people in general. I try to see them as just as stuck as me. I try to look for the positive side, the other perspective. I try hard not to judge. I try to look at people and remember that they have hopes and dreams and hurts. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, even when it ends up hurting me.

It is a hard way to see things let me tell you. It makes me more responsible for the way I treat people I do not like. It requires a powerful conscience. But it is how God sees us. We do not even know half of what distant people suffer-so how can we condemn them? Things are so often misconstrued. That is why I try to keep an 100% honesty policy with my dearest friend. Of all people, I don't want to misunderstand her, and she does not want to misunderstand me. Even when it is hard, sometimes, I feel that this deep honesty and vulnerability is healthy. God already knows what hurts me, often before I know it hurts, but she cannot read my mind. And though she shares all her weaknesses, I still see her as one of the strongest people I know. Yes she is weak-and so am I, but I have seen her face those weaknesses and be filled with the mighty strength of God, a powerful thing to see indeed.

We have heard it so often, that God's strength is made perfect in weakness, but I do not think we always believe it. On the contrary, I think we feel we have to stay strong, that we have to be rocks, emotionally speaking, and not let anything get to us. This, I believe is for protection from judgment. I think God just laughs at us, trying to hold it all in, bursting at the seams with hurts and sorrows.

We are messed up, shipwrecks on the shores of life. Only God can set us sailing again. Rather than trying to sail while sinking further and further, we have to admit we do not have it all together. We have to run to God, and let Him slowly patch our holes, mend the sails and empty us of all the water we have taken in. We have to let Him tear out a few boards more so He can fix the holes well, let Him poke and pull our sails so they are mended cleanly and we can sail firmly. He has to take out the dirty water, empty us of all that we have held onto, so that He can fill us with blessed cargo of kindness, generosity and love and carry it to those in need.

As I think about this more and more, I feel that we all want to think this way, or even that we do think this way. It is the execution that we get stuck on. Wouldn't everything be a little simpler if we all looked at the world as though it is hurting? To realize that we are not the only ones with sorrows, struggles and pain? I certainly haven't mastered it, let me tell you. The influence of other people can hit us hard. To fit in, sometimes, this part of us is compromised first. I don't want to compromise this anymore. I want to be better, to judge less and love more. I am going to try my hardest, pray my deepest prayers to see as God sees. To look for the good in folks, to hurt for them and treat them as though they are loved...

because they are.

"give me Your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing. Give me Your love for humanity. Give me Your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your love for the ones forgotten, give me Your eyes so I can see."

November 20, 2011

A Grateful Heart

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
H.U. Westermayer

This is one of those quotes that kind of slapped me in the face. I knew how hard it was for the pilgrims, I have read about them, read the poetry of Anne Bradstreet which describes her sorrows and joys. The way we see it, the joys were outnumbered by the sorrows. Perhaps that is not how they saw it. To them, being alive was a blessing. Being with their families was something to be thankful for. Seven times more graves than huts. Mind-blowing.

Speaking of numbers....


That is the number of food insecure families who will have a Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the food pantry I volunteer at. Without the food pantry, they would have to scrounge and go without all the trappings. Not only the food pantry itself, but the people of the community are responsible for this generosity. 

I watched from my place as one of the pantry coordinators stood at the front of the line of people directing them. She wore black pants and a black shirt and an apron and a floppy white collar and a white bonnet. She was a makeshift pilgrim. She did not just stand at the front of the line and direct, but gave a hug to almost every person in line. And they were good hugs, too. I thought to myself, "Wow, she has more love in her heart than most of us." She truly does and it came out in hugs that day. I went inside briefly where another lady I know was also directing traffic. She was so cheerful and welcoming to the people. She could make anyone feel at home. These women are an inspiration with their joy, a stark contrast to me as I walk around in bipolar moodiness half of the time.

Earlier this week, I was at the pantry volunteering. During the two hours I was there, almost 1,000 pounds of donations came in. I have participated in school food drives before, but I have never been anywhere near the other end. Now I have seen the faces of those blessed by donations. I have heard their discouraged sighs, and seen their grateful smiles. Seeing that much food come in, knowing it will help others along and perhaps even change their lives, it brought tears to my eyes. Even though sorting though and date-checking can be monotonous and boring, just seeing the back of the pantry overflowing with boxes and bags was unbelievable. Knowing that those cans and packages will bring a comfortable Thanksgiving meal to families across the community is amazing. It puts donating into perspective. 

What is great about the food pantry I volunteer at, is the emphasis on dignity. You see, the way they treat the "clients" is with the attitude that it could just as easily be the volunteers seeking help. There is no pride, no thought of being above those who come for help. God made them, and He is using the pantry to help them out, and it is not something to be ashamed of. 

The volunteers inspire me. They give up their time and work hard to keep the pantry going. Not only are they supportive of clients but also of fellow volunteers, and we have some good laughs. They love God and they seek after Him. They are grateful for the immensity of the blessings God has poured on them.

So it is with a grateful heart this year that I return to my home and eat with my family and friends, thinking of the pilgrims and then those 230 families who will be celebrating God's generosity with me 100 miles away.

November 14, 2011

The Silence of Solitude

"Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of life."
Dallas Willard

I gave this quote to a friend today, because it described what he was trying to say pretty well. He had been basically alone all weekend and so he had a lot of time to think about some situations in his life. This quote came to my mind immediately.

This is one of the reasons, I think, that people tend to avoid silence. It is very, well, stark, as Willard said. There are no words to hide behind in silence. When we are silent together,  we do not know what the other is thinking, but we feel stripped, bare, and unprotected by meaningless chatter. Silence alone can be almost more frightening. Honestly, it is much harder to lie to myself when I am in a silent room. It is almost as if when we stop talking, reality, truth and sometimes even clarity just seem to float up. It is as though we were trying to push them down under the water with words and music and sounds, but as soon as we let go, they rise to the top of our thoughts.

That is where this next quote connects in for me.

"The whole value of solitude depends upon one's self; it may be a sanctuary or a prison, a haven of repose or a place of punishment, a heaven or a hell as we ourselves make it."
John Lubbock

Some days, solitude is torturous. I sit alone, thinking, unable to stop for even a moment. Other days, solitude is a comfort, an escape, a time to refuel, collect thoughts and revive my heart. It is the silence that makes solitude that way. Solitude "strips" us, stands us before ourselves and reveals to us the innermost struggles that burden our minds. The deepest hurts, hardest pains surface in the pools of our thoughts when we are alone.

It is hard to be alone sometimes. But it is healthy to have solitude, time where we do throw ourselves upon the "stark realities of life," so that we can think and face our thoughts undisturbed. We must think and reflect, take walks alone and hide away every so often to gain perspective on life.

November 8, 2011

"Satisfy me Lord of all...."

content: adjective
satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else

Sitting in a tree, warmed by the spring sun through a white veil of apple blossoms.

Swift strokes of a paddle that glide my kayak smoothly over the blue lake as a cool breeze ruffles through my hair.

Sitting in the dim lights of a dorm lounge until 3am sharing thoughts on life and being vulnerble with the people who matter.

Yet to me, true contentment isn't simply those moments that we feel satisfied and full. Contentment is a decision.

We will be discontent until we see God face to face, so true satisfaction will never come here. We must learn to be content in our discontent. We must learn to accept the fact that we will be uncertain, uneasy, confused and dissatisfied. Learning to acknowledge uncertainty while also seeing the beauty of the life God has given us, is where contentment comes.

There are days where the rain pierces my cold skin like ice and yet, I can see and appreciate what I have. There are days when the sun warms my skin like flannel and yet I fear the unknown.

Where am I going?

How will I get there?

Will I be alone?

Will I ever find him?

How long until...everything else?

I don't know.

But I am okay with that. God knows where I am going, and I don't need to worry about it as long as I follow Him and trust Him. Perhaps contentment is walking along the edge of a cliff without worrying about falling and enjoying the view on both sides instead of thinking about the drop. Perhaps it is walking and only being able to see the ring of light the lantern of God's love shows, and finding it beautiful and worthwhile instead of wondering fearfully what waits in the dark. Perhaps contentment is strength, strength that takes time and thought and God to build.

I am glad that I do not know what is going to happen. It will be an adventure, a journey worth commencing. I am glad that God knows what is going to happen. He is the One I can trust. And I will trust Him.

Today is a beautiful day. The sun pours in my window and my curtains are swept by the breeze like the sails of a ship. I have a million things to do, a million thoughts in my head, worries in my mind, sorrows on my heart. But I am breathing. I am alive. God is near. I am content.