Category Archives: Christian living

These Days

These days are bright with heat, the humid, sultry weight of unreleased rain weighing down on us each morning. In the afternoon, clouds pile up high above the mountain, with the occasional growl of thunder punctuating the brooding heat. These days the skies are mostly clear of the insidious smog that covered our lives and souls in March, and in the evening, after the dusk rolls in, the skies release their rain. Each night we go to bed with the drumbeat of hope beating on our roofs—and in our hearts.

And why should we hope? Why should we dare to give life to this wild thing beating in our hearts, that gives way to the ridiculous, the kind of dreaming that leads to walking on water? Do not we know that walking on the water is unacceptable for bipeds of our kind?

But while hope seems to contradict every circumstance we face, it is conditioned in us. The very threads of our being are made up of hope. When we breathe, each breath that we inhale and each breath that we exhale are breaths of hope. Why else would we do something that borders insanity, this continuing to live and breathe in a broken world, except our bodies hoped? Why else do we continue to flip the light switch even after we realize the light is no longer working? Why else would we scan the skies with furrowed brows, unless our lives were not conditioned to hope?

When that hope is gone, life fades.

Hope is not optimism. Hope is not positive thinking. It is something stronger and frailer, more powerful and more delicate than we could ever imagine. It is rooted, planted into our hearts at birth, but without nurture it is like the succulent that my friend gave me–withered and dead, because I forgot to water it.

I faced days, dark days years ago, when I lived one day at a time, one hour at a time, on feet that dragged heavy. In the evening I would lay my head down and cry until I was exhausted–without knowing why. Now, I can look back and see some reasons for the darkness, but at the time I was only confused and tired, looking at the next day and dreading the thought of facing it. Hope was something I could only dimly make out, and I clung to the remaining threads I had. Friends walked with me. I scoured my Bible. I journaled. I talked with my dad. I held on tight to words that brought light.

And the light returned slowly. There were some physical changes, some emotional changes, some spiritual changes. We are people that are knit together tightly and our physical can affect our spiritual and our spiritual can affect our emotional and all the other ways around. Somehow that hope that flickered began burning brighter and brighter.

Hope hurts. It’s such a ridiculous thing. There have been so many times that I’ve seen my hope knocked to the ground, bruised and bleeding. I usually look at it and say, see I told you!

But I’ve met some people who keep on hoping against reality, who live with unfulfilled dreams, who hope for more despite the pain; those people are some of the most beautiful people I know. They live life with a deep, quiet rest, a trust that speaks of something more inside even while pain is mirrored in their eyes. They have hearts that have been ripped wide open, and perhaps never sewn fully shut. But they are strong and quiet and wise.

And I want to be like that.

These days the sun is bright and the heat is oppressive, but hope comes to us at night when the rain chatters on the roof and the wind gathers up fistfuls of the scent of green. We sleep the sleep of those who remember the days of darkness and rest in the new life that each droplet brings, knowing that the Maker of the seasons is also the Maker of hope.

Lines

Even after five years, sometimes I feel like I am lost in a tangle of language, culture, traditions, national borders.

Why was I born on this side of white and you were born on that side of brown?

The river of words that runs in my heart is not the same as the river of words that runs in your heart, though there are times the rivers mingle, when languages come together.

Why are you called Vietnamese and I am called American? Why are you called Thai and I am called “Farang?” Why are you called Karen and I am called Caucasian?

Why was I born where the world was bright and hope sprang unbidden in my heart and you felt only the crushing of loneliness and the thwarting of choices from the day you were born?

Why was I born with the weight of a culture on my shoulders I feel obliged to carry, a weight that is different from the weight you carry? And perhaps you feel no obligation to carry?

Why are you the other, and I am the one? Or I am the other and you are the one?

Why are our worlds dictated by the little books in our pockets that we call passports, that identify us?

Or do they?

Where are the lines where spirit surpasses language, where kindness goes beyond cultural borders, where hope speaks across lines enforced by countries?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 (ESV)

What exactly does this mean? Five years ago I had more answers than I do now.

Memorial: A Story of Answered Prayer

I feel like I live life on the tip of an iceberg.

Meaning, I live my life with the constant feeling that there is more to life than what I am experiencing.

Not too long ago, I journaled this, sitting beside the river one Sunday afternoon.

“Why does it feel at times like I am so alive and vibrantly living, then the next moment I can see, hear or feel nothing, like I am standing in front of a darkened glass, knocking and shouting and pleading for a glimpse into something I know is there, something deeper and fuller and richer than even the most fulfilled life in this world?”

I feel like my experience with prayer has been like this. Prayer, to me, is an iceberg that I sit on, where I am only scraping the top of all the power that exists beneath me.

And here is where I will be very honest. I have not experienced this power simply because I don’t utilize it like I should.

It’s there! But prayer is hard work. And a lazy or disorganized mind that says yes to too many things and doesn’t focus on what is truly important will not experience this power.

But there was a day that God showed his power through prayer in a very clear way.

A year ago, I came home from a mid-term exam at school. I got home, changed into comfortable clothes, and decided to pack up all my books and papers and head up the mountain to a lonely little coffee shop on Doi Pui to study and work on term projects. I got ready, notified my housemates where I was going headed out to the main road on my motorbike.

As I drove past the last house before the main road, I noticed several people standing outside, and something made my heart jump as I drove past. One of the men stared at me in the face with brilliant blue eyes, wide and staring, his red hair on end.

I felt shivers going down my spine without knowing why. Something was wrong and I had turned out onto the main road before I could gather my wits together. By the time I got to the next intersection, I concluded two things. He was not Thai, and something was wrong. On a whim, I turned my bike back and started back. I decided I would drive past once to calculate the situation again, and then if it looked like there was something I could do, like translate, I would stop. There were two reasons I did this. One because I truly wanted to help, and two because I was curious. Yet, deep in my heart, I was also terrified.

I drove past again and they were still there, so I turned my bike around, parked and climbed off. Immediately, the Thai people noticed and waved me over.

The man was high. He had no shoes. His hair was wild and his lips were dry and peeling. Spittle flew out of his mouth when he talked.  His eyes were a bright staring blue and were nearly popping out of their sockets, although had he been in normal circumstances, I would have said he was young and good-looking. I kept on praying under my breath as I talked with him. He started off begging me to take him to the main road, about 100 meters away. At first thought I said I would and then decided against it telling him instead that he would have to let one of the Thai guys take him. The Thai guys said they had already contacted the police because the lady of the house had seen him run past the house and then come back, jumping on one of the bikes in the garage as if he was going to take off with it.

He moved in close to me. “I’m going to die. I’m going to die if you don’t go with me. They’ve got a gun! They’ve got a gun and they’re going to shoot me!”

“Who?” I asked.

“They,” he pointed down the road. “You have to take me to the road. Or I am going to die!”

I clutched my bike keys in my hand, scared he would grab them away.

“I’m sorry,” I insisted. “I can’t take you. If you want to go you have to go yourself. You can walk. It’s not far.”

He came up closer to me, his crazed eyes boring into mine. “No, no! You have to go with me!”

I would talk with him for a while and then talk with the Thai neighbors. As I talked with them, the man would walk around restlessly, as if he was leaving, and then come running back in fear.

“They’re going to shoot me! You just watch! If you don’t go with me, I’m going to die!” He began walking away, watching me and pointing his forefinger and thumb into a gun and pointing it at his own head. “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!”

I watched as he went, oddly wondering to myself if he really was going to die. He went for a bit and then came running back, begging me again to drive him to the road, angry that I refused.

During all this time, I felt a surprising lack of fear.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Where are you from?”

He was from New Zealand. I can’t remember what his name was anymore.

It took ages for a cop to show up. By that time, the man was calmer than before. At first, he insisted I go with him to the station, but eventually he became calm enough for the policeman to lead him down the road to his car. By that time, I was exhausted and in no state to drive up the mountain.

I never heard what happened to him. I still wonder.

That evening was when the fear started for me. When I was in my late teens I had wrestled with deep-seated fear at nighttime, especially when sleeping by myself. There were times when I would be unable to sleep much of a night because of fear—fear of darkness, fear of evil, fear of fear. I had struggled with this through my teens and in my lower twenties had gradually found victory through prayer, singing, reading the Word and renouncing fear in the name of Jesus. I also had discovered through this that I was extremely sensitive to anything spiritually dark. I learned what kind of books I could read and what I couldn’t read.

But this evening I could again feel it coming on. Every time I closed my eyes, I would see his eyes, crazy, wide and blue, with blood vessels sketched on the whites, right in front of mine. Even his smell seemed to follow me. I knew that I was never going to be able to sleep that night unless something changed. The fear was tangible, like a shell that wrapped itself around me.

Before I went to bed, I shared with my housemates what I was feeling. Brit right away offered to pray for me.

And that’s when I felt it. As she prayed, the fear that wrapped itself around me literally fell away. It felt like something was stripping it off, and instead a peace reigned in my heart.

I went to bed and slept like a rock. No visions of red-haired, blue-eyed men ventured into my dreams.

So, I leave you with that—the power of a simple prayer. I know my imagination, and I know my sensitivity to darkness and evil. Because of that I also know that my fear does not magically fall away because of nothing.

My challenge to myself and to you today is to utilize prayer and its power.

I wanted to write this as a reminder to myself, as a way of driving a stake into the ground and saying, “I remember this. Let this be a memorial to answered prayer so that every time I come into a situation that demands prayer, I can look back at this and say, yes. It works.”

So here is that stake, that memorial.

On this blog.

Right here.

 

Image by Gidon Pico from Pixabay

 

When Fireflies Dance

This is the lazy man’s way to blog: recycling homework. While I am not allowed to recycle homework for my classes, I can do it on my blog. Below is a Creative Writing story I wrote this week. Currently, I don’t have time to blog much more than this. This story is fiction. Any names you might recognize are simply because I like to draw from my own experiences and the people around me. It makes the story “me.” And no, my grandma did not suffer from Alzheimers (just to be totally clear). 

I am never quite sure if I like Grandma or not.

When I was a little girl, I thought all grandmas were like this. Until one day I am rolling out cookie dough at Regina’s house, and Regina’s grandmother walks into the kitchen. Once she leaves, I ask Regina who she is.

“Why it’s my grandma!” says Regina.

“You mean she can talk? How can she talk if she is a grandma?”

Regina stares at me in incredulous surprise. “What do you mean? Of course she can talk!”

I don’t know what to say. I just say “oh” in a small voice and tuck it away to think about.

That was a few months ago. Now I know better.

My grandma Emmy lives in a little house with Grandpa John right beside our house. Sometimes she comes over to our house when Grandpa John has to go to town to do errands. Some days I am glad when she comes. On those days, we play doll together. Grandma Emmy dresses up her doll in the nicest clothes, and she is the best at making pretend baby noises. We pretend to be riding in an airplane with our dollies, and even though Grandma Emmy can’t talk, she makes the best airplane noises.

But most days Grandma Emmy isn’t like that. On those days, she walks around the house like she is looking for something. When I was smaller, I would ask her what she was looking for. But now I don’t.

The worse is when she cries. She sits down on the floor beside the toybox and holds her doll tight and cries. I am always scared when that happens, because her crying doesn’t sound like a baby. It is thin and wailing like the lost kitten we found under the pipes in the back of the barn. And I don’t like watching big people cry.

Keith and Amy can remember when Grandma wasn’t like this. When she was like a normal person. They tell stories of the delicious cookies that she made and how she would let them lick out the bowl after she had made cake. She would play checkers with them on winter evenings, and let them make snow candy by pouring maple syrup on snow and letting it harden. She would read books to them, using different voices for different characters, in ways that made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

But that all changed one day when she began to forget names and faces. She did funny things like put the silverware in the fridge and the cake in sink. At first it was so funny, Amy says.

But soon Dad started watching her with a furrow on his brow and things just kept getting worse and worse until they were as they were today.

Sometimes when Grandma comes over, I watch her. I like playing with her most of the time, but sometimes I wish I could have a grandma that lets me lick out the bowl after making a cake, and reads scary stories to me at night and plays checkers with me on winter nights.

Sometimes when she is sitting quietly, I go to her. I reach and touch her, just to see if she feels like other people. Her hands are wrinkly like other old people’s hands, like my hands look when I take a bath too long. But her eyes don’t look like other old people’s eyes. They are blue, but when she looks at me, she doesn’t really see me.  Amy says grandma has Al Seimer, but I don’t know who Al Seimer is. I only know Al Miller. After Amy says that, the next time he comes to talk with Dad about the price of hay, I watch him carefully. But he never even talks to grandma, so I don’t think it is him. Perhaps he comes in the night to visit grandma and grandpa.

****************************************************************************

I am chasing the last cheerio around in my bowl of milk with my spoon. I like to pretend that the cheerio is a fish and the spoon is a shark. This morning the windows are open and a slight breeze pours in through the window. It is June, my favorite month because it is my birthday month. The shark has almost caught the fish, and I am just ready to ask Mom how many more days until my birthday when grandpa comes panting up the steps.

His white wavy hair sticks up like it does when you rub a balloon over the carpet on winter days and hold it over your hair.

“Grandma.. grandma… there’s something wrong,” he says. “I thought she just wanted to sleep in. But she’s not responding.”

Grandpa’s eyes look worried, afraid. “I think she’s gone.”

I want to look away.  I don’t like to see grandpa upset. Grandpa and dad never get upset.

Dad leaves the table without a word and runs out the door. I can see grandpa follow slowly, his shoulders slumping.

“But mom,” I say, “where did Grandma go?”

My mom hugs me, her long arms drawing me close. “I think she died, Anna. That’s what he means.”

I saw a dead cat once. Amy’s cat. It was lying on the road by the mailbox when Dad went to get the paper one morning. It had probably been hit by a car while it was hunting for mice in the ditch, Dad said. I remember seeing it a little, but I didn’t like to look at it much because it was bloody and messed up. It didn’t look like Whiskers anymore.

But I have never seen a person dead.

Aunt Dorothea comes the next day, but she doesn’t laugh as much as she usually does. Then come Uncle Roger and Aunt Nellie, Aunt MaryLynn and Aunt Lorena, and Aunt Barbie. Mom says they came for the funeral.

Other times, I like when they come. They bring good food and candy, and tell stories all afternoon and evening, and everything is jolly. But this time, nobody seems to pay attention to me. Keith and Amy go outside to help Dad with the barn chores, acting important that they can do something to help. But I am too little.

The morning of the funeral, I wipe the last bit of egg from my bowl using the buttered middle of my toast.

I ask Mom, “Where is Grandma, Mom?”

Mom stops spreading the glaze on the cinnamon rolls like she is surprised and looks at me.

“She went to heaven, Anna.”

“But where is heaven, Mom? And how did she go? Did she want to go?”

Mom waits a long time, and she looks out the window.

Then she speaks. “Anna, I don’t know where heaven is. All I know, is that it’s with Jesus. And Anna, I really don’t know how it works. All I know is that only Grandma’s body is here, but she isn’t inside it anymore.”

“She isn’t inside it anymore? But how could she go without her body? How could she walk?”

Mom comes over across the room and sits down beside me. Her hands grasp mine, hard and strong and a little sticky from the cinnamon roll glaze.

“I really don’t know, child. But I do think she wanted to go.”

“Why, mom? Why would she want to go? How do you know?”

Mom sighs, and she looks out the window again.  “Anna, you remember hearing stories of how Grandma used to be, right? When I was young, she was the best mother I could have asked for. She was kind. She was strong and healthy, and could walk and talk like other people. But then she got sick. Like her mind got sick. And even though we took her to the doctor, he couldn’t help her. But now, she is like she used to be again. Her old mind and body that were sick are left behind and she went to heaven.”

I nod. And swallow the lump in my throat. I feel funny and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  So I pretend to understand. But I don’t really. How could Grandma not be in her body anymore?

********************************************************************************

The funeral is long and warm. I see Grandma in the box, but she doesn’t move. I think about what Mom said about Grandma not being here anymore, and wonder what it means. There are so many people. I can’t breathe because there are too many people, and I don’t know where Grandma has gone. I hold Mom’s hand tight, tight the way Grandma used to hold her doll when she cried. I watch them put the dirt over her. How will Grandma go to heaven if there is dirt over her? I don’t want to cry. Big girls like me don’t cry. I try and try and try to hold it back, but suddenly I can’t. Mom picks me up and holds me. I cry till her shoulder is wet. I don’t care anymore about being a big girl.

*********************************************************************************

That evening, I sit on the wooden steps. Mom is making strawberry shortcake for all the aunts and uncles that are still here. They are laughing now.

I like the night like this. It is quiet and safe. I feel tired from crying so hard. I put my feet down on the grass. It is soft and wet. The darkness comes creeping over the lawn, like it has a secret to tell.

Suddenly a little light blinks on, and then off, right above my head. A little bit later another light blinks on and off.

I stand up in wonder. It’s fireflies! I remember last year when the fireflies came! Keith and Amy and I chased them over the lawn and caught them with a net. One time we put them in a jar and watched them fly around.

Their lights blink on and off all over the lawn, above the wet, cool grass. Quickly and quietly, I run into the kitchen and climb onto the counter. I grab an empty glass jar on the shelf. I don’t want Keith and Amy to see me. I don’t know why, but I want this to be my secret.

Out on the lawn, little lanterns blink by the hundreds above the dewy grass. I have never seen so many. I watch, and chase them. They dance over my head. I catch one and watch as it crawls over my hand, its light slowly glimmering on and off. I put it in my jar and screw on the lid. I chase the others. Sometimes I almost have them in my hand and then they flit away. Finally, the jar is filled with tiny lanterns, blinking, flitting. Mom is calling me to come eat strawberry shortcake with the aunts and uncles. I run upstairs with the jar and put it on the windowsill.

After supper is over, mom makes me go to bed. She says I am tired and need to have a long night of sleep. For once I don’t complain. I lie in bed and watch the fireflies in the jar. Amy comes up. I decide to tell her about the fireflies, but she doesn’t really listen. She is getting too grown up and is getting boring. I am never going to grow up.

After she is asleep beside me, I lie still, very still and think. The crickets are singing under the wooden porch again. Outside, a new sliver of a moon is coming up. It looks like a boat that floats crookedly through the sky, like if you would ride in it, you could almost fall out. A few feet on the windowsill is my jar of fireflies.

The fireflies are flying inside the jar. I see them from here. They fly against the glass and bounce off. Silly little fireflies, I think. They don’t know what the glass is. They don’t know that they can’t break the glass. But still they fly against it and bounce off, again and again.

Where do they want to go, I wonder? Why don’t they like it in the jar? I wonder what it would be like to be a firefly. To dance across the lawn at night when the sun goes down and turn my light on and off. I would be the fastest firefly. And I would dance all night long.

I wonder where grandma is. I wonder if she likes fireflies. I wonder if they have fireflies in heaven. I wonder if Grandma caught fireflies and put them in a jar when she was a little girl.

I sit straight up in bed. I look at the fireflies again. They are still flying in the jar, bouncing off the glass, wanting to get out. I wonder if they are scared.

I crawl out of the bed, the floor cool to my bare toes. I tiptoe to the window, trying not to wake Amy. I take the jar off the windowsill and screw off the lid. The window is open and I hold the jar outside. The fireflies pour from the jar, fairylights gleaming. They fly into the night, free from the glass that held them in, dancing and dancing and dancing, until they are lost in the night.

I laugh to myself, a happy laugh.

As I tiptoe back into bed, Amy stirs.

“What are you doing?” she mumbles.

I wrap the covers around me and snuggle down.

“Nothing,” I say.

 

photo credit: Pixabay.com

I Dream of Spring

I dream of spring with shafts of light

Shot through clouds with hope-giving sight;

I walk the freeze of January’s night,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with pale, pink flowers

Lilacs awakened in their scented bowers;

I listen to the shrieking of winter’s powers,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with greening fields

Red suns dying over promised yields;

I trudge through passions that January wields,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with blades of grass,

Meadow-sweet winds that through it pass;

I embrace the pain of winter’s blast,

But I dream of spring….

-January 2013

 

I must give an explanation for this poem, since right now I am in no place where I wish the winter were over. Here, our winter consists of cool nights and sunny days, and even though the houses do get chilly because of tile floors and no heat when it hits the 50s, I hate to see every bit of winter leave as February rolls around. 

I came across this poem tonight in some of the ones I had filed away and it brought back so many memories, that I felt like I had to print it, and I realized that many of my readers might be able to resonate. 

The background behind this poem is what makes it such a special one for me. In the spring of 2012, just after a difficult, weary winter in which I was teaching school, I needed to go to school to print off some things one Saturday evening in May, just before the term ended. The sun was setting in the west over a greening wheat field. Spring was glorious that year and the rains we had gotten greened and grew the wheat fields more than normal. I remember standing there, worshiping, watching the sunset over the wheat, and feeling the stress and tension of the past year slipping from my shoulders. My throat still gets a lump when I think of the way that God healed me and grew me that summer, even though it was a painful one in some ways. 

The next winter of 2013 found me again teaching school. It was another challenging year and my mind and heart often went back to that moment I so clearly remember of standing out behind the school, looking over Paul Nisly’s wheat field, watching the sunset and the green and the glory all together. I longed to go back to that point, not just because of the spring, but because of the feeling of having passed one of the most challenging years of my life. January and February 2013 weren’t easy months either, and spring came late that year. I wrote this poem in January of 2013 and even though it is a simple one, for me it always brings back those colors and feelings vividly. 

That is why I am posting about longing for spring from a tropical country. 🙂

Truth Spoken

Who you are and what you say and what you believe does not change who I am:

I am a child of God.

When my heart is raw and overwhelmed, even then I know:

I am a child of God.

He has set my feet on dry ground. He sings songs of deliverance around me:

I am a child of God.

Even when people who call themselves by God’s name dishonor Him, no matter:

I am a child of God.

Jesus died for me. His blood still covers me:

I am a child of God.

He believes this, and she believes that, and they believe this. Yet:

I am a child of God.

The world hurts and the world cries and I wonder why, why, why? Still:

I am a child of God.

They say “where is your God,” and I cannot answer, but I know inside:

I am a child of God.

I fall down. I fall down. I fall down, again and again. But I know:

I am a child of God.

 

Who you are and what you say and what you believe does not change who I am:

I am a child of God.

Confessions of a Feeler

One of the hardest things about being someone who processes through writing is when the words simply don’t come. Last evening, as I sat beside the pond at the university I study at, I begin journaling, trying desperately to put into words what I was feeling. But it felt impossible.

This is what I wrote.

“There are moments these days when I find myself supremely happy, almost delirious with joy at the way the clouds pile up over the mountain at sunset and the way the light shafts over the ragged edges of the clouds and the way the birds soar high in the face of the sunset. Or when I find myself walking through the market in the evening when the cool of the day is beginning to set in and I listen to the traditional Thai songs playing over the loudspeakers and greet friends I happen to meet there.

“And then there are moments these days when I am sick to my stomach with a heaviness and sadness, loneliness carving at my soul, curling up deep inside my stomach somewhere. Unexplainable, yes, but still there, something deep and aching inside of me that simply won’t go away that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. And after the tears, the heaviness remains, and a fragile exhaustion.

“And then there are times when those moments of happiness, loneliness and deep, deep sadness all collide together in one lump inside of me.

“It’s not that I am not happy. I sometimes feel like this is one of the happiest times of my life? How could I be unhappy with the God I love, the family I have, the rich diversity of friendships I can claim, and the joy I feel of being alive in this world?

“It’s just that I am so sad, too.

“For a while, pain and sadness and loneliness can be embraced, and almost welcomed. It’s going to leave you a better person, you know. But after a while the challenge leaves and you simply hurt. And it’s exhausting.

“What is it actually? Some kind of mixture of homesickness and missing all the people that make home home. It’s loneliness when I see a man and woman sitting at the picnic table, talking and laughing in an intimate conversation. Some of it is a longing for something deeper and more, something beyond this world that nothing here can satisfy. But mostly, I am starting to think that it is the burden of a feeler that “catches” the sorrow and sadness that coats this world like a fog.”

That’s what I journaled last night as I sat beside the pond and cried and wished I could somehow turn it all into a poem because if I can express myself, I can find relief. But no relief came. I wracked my brain, trying to think what I ate that could trigger that effect, and wondering what kind of chemicals were at work in my brain.

Does it sound weird? Catching other people’s feelings?

The cloud hung over me today as I journaled and prayed this morning, and as I listened to scripture recordings and baked pizza dough for tomorrow. It stayed over me while I baked some cupcakes and stirred together pizza sauce and swept and mopped the breezeway. Only tonight as I begin to talk with some of the others about their day, and left the house for the market, and talked with some friends I met on the way, did I begin to feel it lifting. Its going left a relief not unlike the relief you get after a nagging headache begins to lift once you take some painkillers. And only now am I able to begin putting it into words, even though this feeling still sits in my stomach, not as heavy as before, but still tugging at my tears every now and then.

I’ve felt this before, but lately, it’s been harder. It’s been harder to remember who I am really am, and sift through these feelings of what belongs to me and what I am experiencing from the environment around me. Sometimes I can keep on going on the outside as if nothing is going on on the inside. Other times I simply need to get away, yet I have realized that I need to be careful not to simply be alone too long, because sometimes it can also increase the depression, if I don’t have answers yet on how to deal with it.

I’m only now expressing it, but I’ve felt it often, sometimes in crowds of people like the night market, when I watch the hundreds of people walking and begin to feel an inexpressible sadness. I felt it as a teacher of a student with deep anger and pain issues. I found myself crying after school, deep in pain myself. Thinking back, I’ve experienced it more times than I can count.

Being a feeler, or an empathizer, means that you can easily see someone else’s viewpoint, enter into their pain with them, feel what they are feeling. This is a gift, this ability. It lets you walk beside others and have a window into their world.

It’s also dangerous.

I talk with someone who is cynical against my faith and the core values I embrace. I begin to feel cynical.

I read a book about someone who doubts everything he grew up thinking and believing. I begin to doubt.

I wash back and forth between two opinions, unable to decide on just one of them because I can too clearly understand and feel the pros and cons of both.

A friend is struggling and I am plunged into a gray mood, like a cloud is on top of me and some kind of giant tongue depressor is on top of the cloud.

For a long time, I didn’t write about it. Mostly because I didn’t understand it, or because it sounded weird and witchlike.

Sometimes I realize that it is a call to prayer for a certain person. But sometimes it takes a while for me to catch on who I am supposed to pray for.

I am still wrestling through it, trying to figure out what it is that I am feeling. But simply knowing that I have a tendency to do this has helped me tremendously in being able to stand in the presence of books and people with whom I don’t agree, instead of slinking away for fear that I will be swayed with cynicism or doubt. I can differentiate better what I am feeling and yet, what I still believe. I can also realize that sometimes I feel a certain way through no fault of my own.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have researched it some, and found some answers, however, not much.

I’m curious. What do you think? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt like you overfeel everything?

When Queens Ride By

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Growing up on a farm, I was a very independent young lady and would ignite into something similar to a volcanic eruption if told that I was not able to do something that a male could. I cringed away from the idea of a woman being a wallflower, something beautiful and helpless, something to be taken care of, and petted.

While I still rise to the challenge if told I am incapable of doing something, my outlook on life as a woman has changed since I was a 15 year-old harum scarum.

The question for me now is not “Am I capable of doing this?” but rather “Is it the best option for me to do this?”

It is rare that I can point to a certain time, event, book, or person and say, “That changed my life.” Most changes have occurred slowly, like water wearing away on a rock. There are, however, several times when I can look at a certain point in time and say, “That book, or that person, or that event changed my life.” Or was a trigger for that change.

One story that was such a trigger for change was the story, “When Queens Ride By.” It chronicles the life of a couple struggling to make ends meet in their Midwestern farm. The wife sacrifices all her time in an effort to make ends meet on the farm. Life becomes a drudgery until she meets a “queen” riding by.

I am not sure how old I was when I first read this story, but it woke up a sleeping something inside of me and challenged my way of thinking. After rereading it while I was home this summer, I was again challenged. I have always been a bit of a “do as many things as possible” kind of person, trying to help here, trying to help there. While I love and appreciate beauty, it usually is not my first instinct to make my environment look beautiful or tend to details pertaining to the quality of life if there are pressing things to do, for example, as the story says, bring in the tomatoes. My first instinct would be to go without combing my hair to save time, skip breakfast or eat it on the run to save time, not bother buying a mixer if I can do it by hand and save money, etc. While my motto still is to live as simply as possible, there are times when spending a bit of time or money on the finer things of life can be an investment.

What kind of investment? An investment toward the quality of our emotional well-being. According to the University of Minnesota, living in a clean, beautiful environment can “influence your mood… impact your behavior and motivation… facilitate or discourage interactions… create or reduce stress” (Halcon).

This story challenged me, and while I still have a long way to go, it brought me to the realization of what the power of beauty and the power of a woman’s support can do. Even as a single, it made me rethink the way I live life, and the way my life affects those around me.

Read it. Savor the excellent writing style. Listen to what it speaks to you.

Here is the link:

When Queens Ride By

 

photo credit: pixabay

Source: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/your-personal-environment/how-does-your-personal-environment-impa

Matthew 5 Rewritten (NTV)*

It seems to me like the Bible ought to be rewritten. It’s outdated isn’t it? Because it certainly seems as if many Christians are ahead of the Bible in their religious beliefs.

Especially the sermon on the mount. I mean, come on, who believes that anymore?

Because we are becoming so passionate in living out our religious beliefs, I hold that especially Matthew chapter 5 should be rewritten to reflect our passion.  Especially after the latest marches and protests in Poland. We are on fire! We want God!

Here is a new version of what it should look like.

“Blessed are the those who glory in themselves and love a famous name, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who rejoice in the death of our enemies for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are those who are proud and patriotic, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who seek revenge with lawsuits when attacked, for they shall be comforted with millions in settlements.

“Blessed are those who hunger and seek for a country of pure Aryan blood, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are those who desire the purity of a white Christian nation, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are those who riot and march and slander others, for they shall be called the true sons of God.

“Blessed are those who persecute other religions and cultures for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when you revile others who are threats to our country and our way of life and call for a Holocaust on them and utter all manner of evil against them on the account of God! For it is true that they are the essence of evil. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great here on earth for so did they do to those who were before you.

“….If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, give him an uppercut in the left and let him meet with fire and fury!

“…you have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, hate both your enemy and your neighbor.

As you can see, this is sarcasm. This thing sickens me, this perverting of the name of God to further political agenda. There is nothing more detrimental to the true kingdom of God, which is not of this world, than the twisting of the holy name of God to further agendas that are far, far from the heart of God. Whatever you do, whatever kind of evil you perpetrate, don’t drag God’s name into this!!

Dear God, help me forgive!

*New Twisted Version

The Way We Walk

I like going to the park. The sunlight there filters through giant aged trees, and the grass grows and gives a nostalgic smell after it’s been cut, and there’s room to move and swing your arms and breathe in, and in, and further in the scent of nature. I like going on Sunday nights so I can talk with the old missionary who comes every Sunday night to pass out tracts and talk to the people walking in the park.

But most of all, when I go, I like watching people run and walk. Some people walk slowly, swinging their arms while relaxing. Others walk with purpose and a marching stride. Others run. One man raises his fists above his head as he jogs, punching the air as if he were fighting off imaginary barriers. One woman runs lifting her feet high off the ground and her knees jabbing the air, like a Dutch Harness horse cut loose from the shafts. One large man lumbers along like a bulldozer, each step forward a slight victory, while others seem to float along. My favorite person to watch is a slightly built man who looks like he could be an immigrant from neighboring Myanmar. He does not run; he skims above the sidewalk, with his feet merely tapping the earth in a rhythmic tattoo, circling the park uncountable times.

But the man I admire the most is not one who runs effortlessly. This man is tall, rather heavily built, and only walks. His walk is the strangest gait I have ever seen, with his knees twisting back and forth as he goes, almost grotesquely. Each step is almost painful, an effort of concentration. He does not look around to catch the stares of the onlookers, but he looks ahead and focuses on the path before him. I watched him as I walked, and I wondered.

I wondered what his motivation was to walk those laps around the park, when he could have more excuses than anyone else not to walk. I wondered if he ever thought that since he couldn’t run, he shouldn’t even try to walk. I wondered if the stares of the people ever bothered him, or if he ever thought bitterly to himself that no one understood what his life was like. But most of all, I wondered if I could walk like him.

Because I feel like him. My walk, my spiritual life, is not a smooth effortless skimming along, powerful in faith, a woman of prayer and wisdom. My walk is not even a steady moving along, strong and slow, like a bulldozer, or one of courage while fighting the unseen elements. My walk is a slow, crippled one, riddled with doubts and questions, tossed back and forth by waves of a hundred voices shouting in the world and the underlying question: is God’s love really big enough to encompass the whole world?

My walk is not one of resounding victory and hallelujahs. The easy trite answer spurs me to cynicism, and the smallest word can send a knife of doubt through my heart. The questions that come at me I don’t know how to answer, especially those of friends who are hurting or angry.

What if I could walk the way the man does in the park, no matter what happens and no matter what others say and no matter how crippled I am? What if a walk like that could be a testimony of God’s grace? What if there really is beauty in the struggle, even if I am not seeing it right now? What if in the brokenness, in our inability to walk gracefully, God hears a hallelujah even when our mouths cannot utter it?

The lyrics from this song written by Twila Paris keep on coming to me again and again.

“Lately I’ve been winning
Battles left and right
But even winners can get
Wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that
I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know Who picks me
Up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child”
(Paris, 1984)

 

There really is a Father standing there, reaching out for us when we finally let those tears fall.

 

Works Cited:

Paris,Twila, “The Warrior is a Child.” 1984. http://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/twila+paris/the+warrior+is+a+child_20347634.html. Accessed: 5 October 2017