Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Penetrating Gaze

This week I sat in a small classroom in the midst of ten students who were listening to their teacher go over their lesson for the week. With lesson books on their laps and pencils in hand they appeared absolutely willing to learn and participate. Heads up, eyes on the teacher, attentive.

Until the teacher asked a question, and paused for answers.

Down went the heads, pencils were squeezed in terror, movement ceased, and breathing paused. Stillness. The teacher's caustic eyes slowly scanned the cranium of each kid. "Well?"

Seriously, do kids really believe that invisibility occurs if they look to their laps and hold their breath in such situations? Apparently so, because, as we can attest, we've attempted the same thing over and over again, in classrooms all over the world. Some kid somewhere must have achieved transparency because we all retain hope!

It's easy. Hide your eyes. Pretend you are otherwise occupied in a studious endeavor. Fake thoughtfulness, ummmmmm......"Please please please..... do NOT pick me!" chants your silent inner voice.

Why? Why not answer the question? Because we didn't do our lesson and don't know the answer? Because we are afraid we'll look stupid, or worse, like a geek for having an answer?


It got me to thinking. Don't we adult human beings do sort of the same thing when it comes to God? We, who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, know that we live in a broken world, that we ourselves are broken, and that there is much reason to seek spiritual understanding. Yet, when we think about God's penetrating gaze upon us, we freeze, we look down, we dummy-up hoping to keep God's eyes off of us. Why?

"Busy now, God. Maybe later," is one excuse for no response.

By that we may mean that we will be busy putting him on hold for most of our lives until we experience fear when facing our mortality at which time we'll expect him to comfort us with soothing thoughts of heaven and a pain free afterlife.

Or maybe we will keep busy learning ABOUT the truth, without ever acknowledging that our lives are to be lived in the light of it. The ability to converse about God may convince us that we are his. "Just, God, don't ask anything of me. I'm busy learning about you. Don't look at me. You make me nervous."

Or maybe, just maybe we misunderstand that penetrating gaze. We think it actually does somehow miss us. Yes, it flashes right past us onto our neighbors! Thus we spend our lives ministering to our neighbors, revealing to them their sins, teaching them 'a way', when in actuality, we may be more lost than they. The blind leading the blind. "I'm busy serving you, God. I'll deflect that stern questioning look of yours. I'm sure it's meant for someone else. I'm already saved."

For God's children it is a fearsome thing to come under the gaze of the almighty God. We cringe and shrink in shame when his holiness is viewed through our sinful eyes. But we know that working out our salvation with fear and trembling requires regular inspection. And answers. For growth to continue we must look up. Avoidance will not do. Thankfully, the Father's gaze is coupled with irresistible goodness which compels true believers to lift their faces in sober response to their uncompromising Creator, no matter how unsettling the experience.

Oh, for lifelong courage to meet his gaze, to experience the hurt of the Truth as well as the relief.

"Stare on, oh loving God, your disintegrating stare. In you lie all hope and meaning."

Friday, January 26, 2007


"Fight to remember what is big and important amidst all the distractions in life."

"God is very serious about what's going on in our lives, more so than we are. We get caught up in trivia, but the reality goes much deeper than the temporal life here."

"How we live now is directly linked to what we believe about the future."


I found these quotes in my notebooks. Don't know the authors for certain, but know the sentiments to be true.


My breath quickens as I contemplate the first quote. It's a continuing theme for me, to keep pure and on track, or to try to anyway. It's so hard! Too many distractions, some of which are disguised as 'important things.' I think it's the word FIGHT that snaps my mind to attention. Fight. Struggle. Persevere. Be determined, and even get mad.

Because as the second quote suggests, God is more serious than I am about what's going on in my life. Reality IS deeper than the nonsense that captures my awareness. But I want to be serious! So, back to the first quote; I fight for it, fight to know the truth, and fight to drink the cup of truth rather than have it sit on my table in a clean lovely glass, undisturbed. For it is not enough to know; it is everything to experience, to partake, to engage - to believe. Drink.

And I strive to live this way why? Because I know the future is BIG. It's beyond what I know here. The haze of distraction will be gone and visible at last will be the Truth we believers struggle toward. Today we are privy to bits and pieces, but there is more. Hungering, thirsting, we fight, we strain, we grope in the dark, and slowly, s l o w l y, God's finger raises the curtain of haze just a little, to allow another lying on your belly scrunching your open eye under the hem peek. Those tiny glimpses fuel the urge. I want more. No, I need more.

Home. I long for home.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sound of Silence

"Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering." ~~ St. Augustine

The snow is melting after surviving a week here in the valley. Yep, it snowed last Thursday and today's sun is calling the water back up into the heavens, to go snow on some of you! Enjoy it. We sure have.

When it snows here it gets -- quiet. Pleasant, peaceful, muffled quiet.

As a hard of hearing person, I find it quizzical that I covet quiet. But I do. Quiet for me is different from quiet for those blessed with keen hearing. Hearing with my ears would sound quiet to you, it would probably be frightening. It's all I've known. Noises annoy me. Noises like traffic - grrr. And thumping, booming stereos in cars and houses. An idling car will test my temper like nothing else. I've learned how to breathe through it and stay calm. Took awhile. Never did run out the front door in my jammies waving a baseball bat with the intention of smashing the windshield, though I battled the urge enough times.

Anyway, yeah, the snow just muffled everything. Walks were peaceful because traffic was so very light. It was like walking in the woods - almost. People smiled, laughed, talked to one another. Camaraderie. Refreshing.

And quiet. I relaxed deeply like I do when we go up to the cabin.

How I enjoy my silent world at times.

There are many imperfections in the human race. Lousy hearing is only one of them. As with anyone who has a physical hardship, there is an upside. For me, it's silence, the realm of quiet, for it is there that distractions depart, thoughts flow freely, and I can contemplate deeply.

Until the neighbor starts his car in the morning, warming it up, for FORTY FIVE MINUTES.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Clive, Jewel, and JD

"God, overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves." ~~ C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

"We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambitions and religious effort when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." ~~ C. S. Lewis

"Growing up is not the absence of dreaming.
It's being able to understand the difference between the dreams you can hold
and the ones that you've been sold." -- Jewel

"Dreaming won't fit in a cage." ~~ John Denver
Imperative for me to constantly contemplate. Several, singular, and all at once.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Journal Entry - August 2001

Fresh words still evade me today. How about some old words?

In perusing a journal I've been keeping off and on for years, I found this entry which sparked a warm memory of a time in my life when something magical transpired.

This written record is unedited, unpolished, and unsophisticated. Copy and Paste. But it means the world to me.

August 17, 2001

At bedtime tonight, Cassie, referring to my prayers where I implore God to teach us to listen to Him asked, "How do you know what He's saying, Mommy? Can you HEAR a voice?"

Ah, I answered to her, God talks to me in many many ways. Sometimes through the Bible, or through other things I'm reading. Sometimes through memories or impressions or the behavior of other people. Through nature. And often, God speaks to me through the words and love of other people. "For example, Cassie, for years and years I've been lonely. I prayed to God for someone who would understand me. When I was a kid there was no one who really understood, who would let me lay my head on their shoulder and would just sit there, knowing how I felt, comforting me by their understanding."

I'd had a rough time with Tom earlier that day, and Cassie was very in tune with my struggle to sort it all out, as I sat on the big stump outside and just pondered and prayed. Tom tried to get me to "snap out of it," which is NOT what I needed. Joe asked what was wrong and was uncomfortable. No one likes it when Mom is quiet and thoughtful and unsettled.

But Cassie, after Tom went to work, came over and looked at me and sat down next to me.....right next to me. I just instinctively laid my head on her shoulder, and there was enormous comfort in that. She just sat there, knowing it was what I needed, and she offered it to me for as long as I needed. She's nine.

For decades I've prayed for someone to know me. All this time I've found my comfort in the invisible God. But I've still longed for a human's physical understanding. No, Tom doesn't do it for me. He tries. He loves me. But his efforts are often clumsy and forced. He, like a lot of men, doesn't know how to just be there and to listen, how to express himself. He just wants me well and back in control. Sometimes I just need to be a mess. And for the first time in my life, someone, Cassie, let me be a mess, without words, and I drew strength from her.

Well, as I continued answering her question about God's voice, I told her how God used her that day to speak His love and comfort to me. You should have seen her precious face! She appeared surprised, and honored, and it was as if she knew she'd entered into the holy, on God's behalf. We hugged and I tucked her in and we kissed, and I turned out the light. Caroline had fallen asleep already, breathing peacefully and heavily.

I went in to get dressed for bed myself, feeling really warm and loved and I was praying, thanking God for those little girls, and for the boys and for Tom and for how we all fit together and how we all are part of the plan for each other and for God. Cassie came in, softly, after knocking.

"Mommy, I was just thinking about what you said. Mommy, I was thinking how the thing that you never had when you were a girl, is the thing you have the most of now, and the thing that you give to all of us."

Her face didn't look like the face of a nine year old at that moment. It was the face of a messenger of God. We hugged. We transcended time and space, in that moment. We were kindred spirits, not a mother and daughter, a 45 year old and a 9 year old. We were creatures of God, meant for each other and for God, and it was beautiful. I told her that perhaps because I had a hole in my heart it made me a better Mommy, because I sure didn't want MY kids to ever have to feel that awful empty feeling. I told her I remember vividly how it feels to be a kid. I told her how I'd prayed for decades for someone to understand, and that I realize now, that she, my little Cassie, is the answer to that oft-repeated prayer!

At last, I have someone who understands! Someone who thinks as I do. I am nine again, and I can start all over, this time without the emptiness.

Never ever believe that God doesn't hear your prayers. He listens, and His timing is perfect. And the answers you await for your whole life appear quietly, on a summer's day, in the midst of the world's busyness, during the separate struggles of a mother and a daughter. Those answers appear, as we listen and make room.

Thank God for your struggles! They are the means for your heart to open up and listen and search intently, and they are the bearers of great blessing. Give them time.

Friday, January 05, 2007

January 2007 - Nuttin' Much to Say

Sam's got the right idea!

My inner child begs my outer adult to follow the pup's example.

Always honor the inner child.....

Heavy-lidded yawning carefree January.