Monday, July 28, 2014

Resting in the Paradox

"Today if you hear My voice..."

A year or so ago, I had been out for a run.
It was the middle of the afternoon, and it was hot.
I was on the last stretch of the run, 
going up the last, long hill before heading home.
Whenever i am really dragging, I run to the
second driveway up the hill and then walk a bit.
I had come to the first driveway and thought, 
"It's a driveway. Good enough."
The Lord said to me, 
"That is not the second driveway."
Oh dear. 

I knew we were talking principle here;
I put my head down and kept running.
I had been in the middle of a challenging situation,
and I had wanted to quit.
He reminded me that I couldn't stop 
when it looked good enough.
Like the first driveway.

Yesterday, I was running that same course
and it was another hot day.
I hadn't even gotten to the first driveway
and the Lord said to me, 
"You can stop if you want, you know."
Really? It didn't occur to me to stop.
"If you get stuck in yesterday's voice,
you will miss today's word.
Today, if you hear my voice..."
Lord, is it about stopping or not stopping?
Getting to the second driveway or
not even reaching the first?
And He smiled and said, "YES!
It is both and one and neither.
It is about hearing My voice for this moment.
You could just keep running, 
like I asked you to do once.
But today, I want to walk with you and
tell you that sometimes stopping 
is not quitting; it is listening."

Today, God is teaching me about paradox--
holding the truth of one thing
without building a monument around it.
Understanding that the seemingly opposite 
isn't always a contradiction.
He will use our everyday lives
to teach us if we let Him.
"Today, if you hear My voice..."

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Handless Maiden

In a powerful fable, 
called "The Handless Maiden,"
(extended version found at the end of post)
a father unknowingly trades his daughter
to the devil in exchange for power and wealth.
The devil isn’t able to control the daughter outright,
so he cuts off her hands and carries them away.
Her father tries to make life comfortable for her,
but she is unable to do anything for herself.
 She eventually leaves home.

A king finds her wandering and falls in love with her.
They marry and he has a pair of silver hands made
so she can carry out her queenly responsibilities.
At some point, he is called off to war.
Through a series of twists and turns,
her real hands begin to grow back,
and she is able to remove her silver hands.
When he returns from war,
he doesn’t recognize her because
her hands are not silver.

Many of us have been using “silver hands”--
coping mechanisms that helped us perform.
Our real hands had been cut off
and carried away for various reasons,
often related to promises of power for others.
For many, God orchestrated a change of season
where we began using our silver hands less.
Out from stumps, our hands began growing again.
That which we thought was lost
began to be restored.

The problem is that there were entire
communities of silver-handed maidens.
We were really good at using those.
We don't really know how to use the
appendages growing out of dead places.
One day we carry something on our own;
the next day we are dropping things.
We just know that dropping things with our own hands
is better than carrying them with the silver ones.

The handmaiden in the fable wasn’t happily
reunited with her husband when he saw her.
He didn’t recognize her.
Being re-created is confusing.
In this season of restoration,
we need to allow time for the new to develop.
God is re-creating us that we might be
a better reflection of His image.
We no longer need those fake hands.
He is making us real.


"The Handless Maiden,"
(told in many different versions)
A miller is approached by the devil
with a promise of wealth and power 
if he trades what is standing in his back yard.
The father believes it to be an apple tree and agrees,
but the devil is actually referring to his daughter,
who is standing beside the tree.
The miller and his wife enjoy their improved life,
and are horrified when the devil comes to claim his fee.
He cuts off her hands and takes them away.

Her parents made her life comfortable and
thought she had no reason to complain.
The girl became more withdrawn and,
finally, while her parents were sleeping,
left home and slipped into the woods.

Hungry and weary from her walk through the forest,
 she came upon an orchard of pear trees.
She found one hanging at the right level for her to eat.
She stayed in the garden and ate just one pear
each day so that she could survive.
Unknown to the maiden, this was a king’s garden,
and he noticed that some of his pears were missing.
He hid to see who was eating from his tree
and fell in love with the poor maiden.
He took her home and made her his wife.
She found it difficult to be queen without hands,
and so he had a pair of silver hands made for her.

After a while, the king needed to go off to war.
He asked his mother to care for her and,
if she would have a child,
she should care for them both
and send him the happy news in a letter.
She had a son, and the queen sent a letter,
which got confiscated along the way.
The devil wrote that the woman
had given birth to a changeling.
The king was saddened but wrote back that
his mother should care for them both.
Again, the devil rewrote the letter to read
that the mother should kill them both.
The mother could not kill them,
but feared for their lives and sent them away.

With the child strapped to her back,
the queen was led by an angel to
an abandoned home in the woods.
For seven years, the angel helped her care
for herself and her son.
Her natural hands began to grow back,
and she was able to take off her silver hands.
The king eventually came back from war and
discovered what had happened.
His mother told him that she sent them out into the woods.
He vowed to never eat or sleep until he found them.

For years, God kept him alive until one day
an angel led him to the house where his wife lived.
He could not believe it was really his wife
because she did not have silver hands.
The angel needed to bring the silver hands
to prove to the king that this was indeed his wife.
There was great rejoicing as the king, his wife
and his son went back to his mother
where they lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today's Surrender

Tomorrow's freedom 
is today's surrender...
"Dawn to Dusk"
All Sons and Daughters
I headed out for a run earlier and,
at some point, this song came on.
Repeat for the remainder of the run.

I will walk in freedom tomorrow
to the degree that I surrender today.
The beauty in growing spiritually is
discovering deeper levels of surrender,
which in today's language is "letting go."
I want to let go of a certain type of thinking,
thinking that has it roots in rational thought.
The path to these thoughts is so familiar
that I get there in a nanosecond.

God wants me to take my desire for
"rational" conclusions about things and trust--
not only His goodness and love--
but His mystery as well.
As I am able to hold any amount of 
pain, fear or ambiguity in tension,
I create a larger capacity for change.
He has room to make me more
compassionate, loving, and forgiving.
That I might be more a reflection of His beauty.
I always want to figure things out.
Grasping for answers leads me 
to be continually evaluating thoughts, 
circumstances, people. 
It involves judgments and conclusions.
The hardest thing to surrender
is the desire to figure it all out.
We are constantly trying to satiate the
mind’s demand for reason.
“I live, move and have my being in Him…"
after I figure out what He’s doing.

It took lots of years to get that 
system of thoughts organized.
God gave us reason, 
but He holds wisdom as mystery 
is apparently comfortable with paradox.
I get frustrated with seeming contradiction.

I want to surrender the attachment 

I have for "rational" conclusions
and be able to embrace the mystery
of His presence in all things.
"In Him I live and move
and have my being."
For real.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Let it Be

“Yes, I see it all now…

Let it be with me

just as you say.”
Luke 1:37,38

There is no doubt that Mary had
a gift of wisdom beyond her years.
When the angel announced to her
that she would give birth to God's Son,
she was able to see.
And, in her seeing, replied with,
“Let it be.”

I was just talking with a friend about
the Beatles’ song, “Let it Be,"
one of my favorite songs growing up.
There is great debate over that song and the Beatles,
but I don't care about all that right now.
Lately I have been hearing this song as an echo
of Mary’s ultimate surrender to circumstances.
And her trust in her God.
That is what makes the sound of "let it be"
so powerful for me today.

Paul McCartney wrote that song during
a very difficult time in his life.
His mother Mary, who had died years ago,
came to him in a dream and said to him,
“Let it be. Be gentle, don’t fight things…
it will all work out.”
It brought him tremendous peace, 
and he wrote the song.

“When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be…
And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be."

There is a universal truth in this song.
It speaks of consolation, light and peace
in times of trouble, chaos, suffering.
When the Spirit is releasing words,
there is a place of worship within that sound.
When there are troubles,
a cloudy night, a dark hour--
there is still a light that shines on me.
Shine until tomorrow, let it be.
Truth is bigger than a song,
bigger than a band, bigger than circumstances.
"The light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness can never extinguish it."
John 1:5

Many of us have been walking in 
some dark hours and cloudy nights.
But there is still a light that shines--
and no cloud, no darkness can extinguish that.
I take that truth and receive the grace
to surrender in trust. 
Speaking words of wisdom, I echo, 
Let it be
with me, Lord, 
just as You say.

*Image: My friend, Jewel, sent me this image of 
her friend Clare's new license plate,  from the land down under.