Ponder God

A funny thing happened today. I was watching the Glee Christmas special (which overall I thought was kind of sub-par, but whatev…), and found myself getting a bit misty eyed. It was when Roy, the Irish exchange student, read a small portion of the Christmas story. The phrase that got me was at the very end:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.'”

I have heard these words so many times I could recite them in my sleep, but for some reason, listening to them spoken in such a non-religious context made them stand out to me in a fresh way. I love that God’s message to the world as he is born into it is neither a battle cry nor a condemnation, but peace and good will. I sat on the couch holding the remote control and feeling amazed at the way God extends himself toward people.

I feel like I have more questions than answers when it comes to God these days. I often find myself hung up on the finer points of theology and morality, confused about the reasoning behind many of the things I’ve been taught, and unsure about whether to trust my own intuitive and (I think) Spirit-led inner compass or the words and traditions of the centuries of believers before me. These things keep me up at night sometimes.

What I don’t find myself questioning is his character. His message on the first Christmas confirms what I have learned from experience: I know that he is good. He is merciful. He is forgiving, compassionate, holy, just. I know that he exists for himself and not for me, but that he gave himself up for me. I know that he holds the ultimate answers to my questions, and that in many cases he simply is the answer. I also have a sneaking suspicion that while I spend the rest of my life putting together and tearing apart my various conceptions of him, running in spiritual circles, he will be watching me with a smile and one day, he will greet my eternal self with his huge, kind, complete answer: “I AM.”

I think I will breathe a sigh of relief.

In the meantime, I take great comfort in the knowledge that I am his. I can ask any questions, test any theories, form wrong convictions all day long if I want, and it will not change my status as a beloved child, adopted at great cost to himself. There is such freedom in that. I am his and he is mine.

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Marry well

This week, My dear friend Noree got married.

Noree and David’s wedding was absolutely beautiful. Rich in sacredness and full of the vibrancy that is Noree’s mark on everything she touches. We prayed and sang and danced and laughed, and celebrated the beginning of their life together.

Then, six days later (last night), the beautiful Alessandra married her love, Jason.

Alessandra and Jason’s wedding was an all-out celebration. The wine, conversation, and laughter flowed freely and an eclectic group of family and friends sent them into their life as husband and wife. In the ten years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her glow so brightly. Continue reading

Forgive

Something is happening within me. A slow shift, a churning, an overturning of the old to make way for the new.

For the first time in the 17 months since I split from my ex, I can taste that terrifying word on my tongue, almost ready to jump out between my teeth, but always hesitating just before the leap: forgiveness.

Forgiveness means releasing. It means opening my hands and letting go of my need to see justice served; relinquishing my desire to ensure that no other woman is treated the way I was. It means freeing myself of the burden of hating him. Acknowledging that he may continue living his life, and that his process of healing, growing, and learning is his process, and that God, not I, am responsible for doling out justice and mercy.  Admitting that he may actually be capable of growing and changing in ways that seem impossible to me given my limited perspective and jaded view of him.

I’ve always known forgiveness was the end goal. All these months I’ve been moving toward it in clumsy and halting steps, but as someone wise said to me recently, “I don’t think forgiveness is a straight line.” It’s not. Thus far my journey has been characterized mostly by switchbacks and obstacles, and I have never so much as glimpsed the destination. Continue reading

Cope

This month has been insane. Cancer, travelling, major life decisions. It’s been a doozy, to say the least. Here are some small things I’ve done to cope:

Got a new haircut. Felt refreshed.

Ran on treadmills and on Centennial Trail. Exerted as much energy as possible, and sweated out a whole lot of anxiety and frustration. Continue reading

Listen

Life in Cancer Land is exhausting and confusing and unfair and I don’t like it at all. There are some jewels among the complete and utter crap, though: time with family, breaking of barriers, shedding of everything but the essentials.

Something occurred to me the other day. I hesitate to say that I thought of it myself; it feels more like it was whispered in my ear, and began to entwine itself with the multitude of jumbled and confusing thoughts and feelings in my heart until I noticed its presence.

For the first few days after my dad’s diagnosis, I was angry. And that was appropriate. It was reasonable, understandableand right. Not to be angry in such circumstances would be dishonest; we human beings are not built to understand illness or prepared for the possibility of death.  It feels wrong to us. In addition to that, though, I felt that it was utterly unfair that I should be hit with another crisis so soon, having only recently recovered from the decimation of my marriage.

But the sweet realization the Holy Spirit has whispered into my heart in the last few days is this: maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe he knew this was coming all along, and that I would not have the strength to face it while caught up in a failing marriage. Maybe he knew I needed to be free from that weight, and that I needed time to heal before I would be prepared to deal with my dad’s illness. He knew I couldn’t have coped with this six months ago. The timing of this is evidence of his goodness and mercy in my life; not his cruelty or apathy. He gave me exactly what I needed.

He always does.

There are many conflicting feelings that pervade my existence these days. I don’t know what to think, want, feel, hope, pray. But my life, my family, and my dad’s body are in the hands of the only one who can carry that responsibility. Thank God that’s not me.

(On a practical note, if you’d like to keep up with my dad’s progress, we’ve set up a website here. You’ll have to create a username but it’s pretty simple, and we will be updating it regularly. His surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.)

Walk forward

Cancer.

It’s the ugliest word I know. The word we all hope will never be spoken regarding ourselves or our loved ones. The word with long, bony fingers that wrap around your insides and squeeze your life away while you choke and struggle against it.

Cancer has entered my life by way of my dad’s pancreas. Its first sign appeared a few weeks ago when his skin and eyes began to turn an unnerving shade of yellow. Appointments were scheduled, tests were run, and just as the doctors were on the verge of a much less threatening diagnosis, a final test came back with the least likely and most terrifying possible result, turning our lives around in an instant.

The news came on Thursday, and I have spent the 5 days since feeling alternately terrified, numb, and angry. So. Angry. A friend told me anger is a strong emotion we use to cover up weaker emotions like sadness and helplessness. This is true. I am pissed off because it gives me something to do.

We know so little. We can’t make plans. We can’t leap into action. We can only wait for the next appointment, schedule the surgery. We can’t guess how serious the prognosis will be, how long the journey, how strenuous the fight.

Continue reading

Be free

Last night, I climbed into bed and let my head sink deep into the pillows. I felt the softness of clean sheets against my skin and the gentle freshness of a breeze from my open window tickling my face. In the stillness, a phrase began to surface, as though it had been pulsing in my toes for hours but until this moment had been drowned out by the day’s buzzing.

But now it began to rumble up from the depths and enter my heart, repeating in a cadence. A bedtime mantra.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

No condemnation.

It got stuck in my head like song lyrics, and wouldn’t leave. This is the message of the gospel: not political alignments, not moral commands, not guilt and an unending to-do list.

Complete freedom.

All has been accomplished. I can do nothing to place myself outside the reach of God’s powerful, saving love, and neither can you. Nothing. There is NO condemnation.

Any church or pastor who says God is out to get you doesn’t know God.

There is no condemnation.

I hope you know how deeply loved and fully accepted you are today.