Monday, January 31, 2011

One Word 2011.1

You know how you sometimes enter into something thinking you’re going to totally “get it” because you already think you know exactly where you’re headed and how to get there? 

That was me, about a month ago, when God showed me my One Word for this year. “Showed,” as in “made it known to me while I was reading a Bible verse I had read about 67 quizillion times before, but never actually LOOKED at before.” It is a word which has multiple meanings, and - to be transparent - 3/4 of them seemed to totally sync up with what I thought I needed. It seemed to make total sense to me in terms of me making peace with my past. It seemed to be a way for me to reframe, to own, and to honor the struggles, the loss, and the pain I still sometimes see and feel as I look behind me to see where all I have come from. 

It seemed easy.

Which, of course, meant that it was only a matter of time before God blew my ‘tude out of the water.

One of the only translations of my One Word - shalam - that felt a little like it belonged in the “one of these things is not like the other” song was that in addition to what wanted the word to translate to, it also could be translated to mean “to be sound.” A fellow blogger left a comment that the “to be sound” translation of shalam struck her for some reason moreso than the other definitions. I kinda glossed over her comment at first, thought, “That’s nice,” and moved on. ...rather, I tried to move on, because my mind kept circling back to this.

“To be sound.”

Basically, in one fell swoop, God managed to use her to completely derail the journey that I thought I was supposed to be One Wording it with, and instead she made me start to actually ENGAGE with this friggin’ word and not just pull it out like a magic charm/easy-peasy quotable Bible verse when I want to just throw some Jesus into my mind. This comment made me...start. Start. To. Think. 

Therefore, in the best Dr. Doofenschmirtz voice I can mimic: “CURSE YOU, TRACEE THE PERSIKO!”

(Just kidding; Tracee managed to give me just the right dose of challenge and support with her comment. She is an INCREDIBLY talented writer and who consistently pulls some massively deep thoughts out. I am continually challenged and inspired by what Tracee writes - and you should seriously check out her blog, both hyperlinked here and noted in the blogroll in the sidebar.)

Looking closer at this definition, “to be sound” relates to something much deeper than just the healing I thought I was looking for. “Sound” as an adjective can mean:

              free from injury, damage, defect, disease, etc.; in good condition; healthy; robust: a sound heart; a sound mind.
              competent, sensible, or valid: sound judgment.
              having no defect as to truth, justice, wisdom, or reason: sound advice.
              of substantial or enduring character: sound moral values.
              following in a systematic pattern without any apparent defect in logic: sound reasoning.
              uninterrupted and untroubled; deep: sound sleep.
              free from moral defect or weakness; upright, honest, or good; honorable; loyal.
              having no legal defect: a sound title to property.
              theologically correct or orthodox, as doctrines or a theologian.

(Emphases mine.)

Well, poop.

See, here and I thought that I was simply just going back and revisiting Joel 2:25 - “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm – my great army that I sent among you.” - and discovering that redemption encompasses more than I ever thought possible. In that regard, I was correct (or, if I may, sound) in my reasoning: I will be/am being placed/have been placed in a covenant of peace over my past. I am/have been/am being made whole over and over and over again. I am/have been/am in the process of being complete.

But this is showing me that also, apparently under the Law - which, y’know, Christ came to complete and all - I have no defect. This flies in the face of the words and labels people tend to place upon those of us who have a past that doesn’t mesh up with the image of perfection that believers are “supposed” to have.

This is showing me that I should not be troubled by my past.

This is showing me that I am valid. That my past - my story - is valid.

This is showing me that I am not to passively just accept the grace given to me, but to actively work IN it. “Yay, I’m forgiven! Now let’s all go on to Cold Stone! La la la!” should not be how I operate. 

I am sound. I am being made sound. My life is sound.

Going through shalam is gonna kick my butt this year. I can just feel it.

And I welcome this forthcoming bruised tushie. 

It beats having a bruised heart.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The And Of It All


(SONNY'S NOTE: Yes. This is an entry scribbled while I was still on sinus medication. It seemed at the time to be like a great, deep thought was developing within this - and I think it still has some merit - but (a) looking back I'm not so sure now, and (b) I’m not really sure if I should ever write again while antihistamines are coursing through me. Regardless, here it is in all of its Kleenex-accompanied goodness.)

"And."

Oh, conjunction junction, what’s your function...as it relates to how we, as believers, are to live out as well as act out our faith? These three little letters which form a very important bond between ideas, joining them together in a covenant, at first seem so innocent, but then...then...then the work that the little ampersand produces starts to show up, proving that God does indeed not waste anything - not even ideas:
Romans 10:9 states, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 
Luke 9:23 says, “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
I John 1:9 reminds us, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Now, English-major-type-folks, think about what it would be like if we replaced the “and” with another conjunction:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves or take up their cross daily and follow me.”

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ or believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins or to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The shift begins to go from “what God can do” to “what I can do,” doesn’t it?  I mean, how much EASIER would things be if only I could choose between declaring and believing? Or to deny myself or take up a cross? Hey - one seemingly has MUCH less work involved, so I’ll go with the easier choice, thank you. 
And what if we had to choose between being forgiven or being cleansed? Of walking with forgiveness in our minds without feeling it in our hearts? Can one truly exist without the other?
“And.”
Inclusivity. The Father, the Son AND the Holy Ghost. 
Faithful and just.
We don’t have to choose. We don't have to work at deciding between the two. We don't have to, because we have been chosen already.
AND...we are included.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time, Lord


“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Jesus, Revelation 3:20 (NIV). The Bible.

“He will knock four times.” Carmen, “Planet of the Dead.” Doctor Who.

“My times are in Your hands….” David, Psalm 31:15 (NIV). The Bible.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. Ford Prefect, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


As I have been re-reading my journals in an attempt to find interesting nuggets to mine out, I noticed that one journal that I started in Athens (c. 2005) and still use to write in currently contains a repeated phrase (or variation thereof) at least half a dozen times: the long, dark time of my soul must have taken place in Alaska, because it took a lot longer than three days to resurrect MY heart.

Chew on that for a minute. There’s a LOT there to digest.

As mentioned earlier, this year I am focusing on One Word to drive my thoughts, hopes and dreams. My plan (*snicker*) is to spend at least one week at the end of each month for the next year writing on how that word has been evident in my life during that month. By doing so, I hope to give focus to me intentionally looking for and seeing where God has been moving in my life – especially since for so long, I either ignored Him or tried not to make eye contact.

However, it’s somewhat difficult to look forward without looking back, especially when there are days which seem to stretch into weeks where time either (a) just rushes past at such an alarmingly speedy rate that it seems impossible to get ANYTHING done, or (b) time stands still…paused in some distant memory that you wish you could just purge like the corrupted file that it is.

While it’s easy to do what many believers do and quote & claim Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”), for some of us, it’s a bitter pill to swallow as we look back in hindsight over the path our lives have been on. There are MANY things that I have walked through that, both at the time they were happening as well as after the fact, made me doubt, wonder and question if “God” was involved with any part of my life at all. And if He was involved, exactly why and how could He let me not only find myself ON this path, but STAY on it as long as I did, as part of some “plan” He had in mind.

On THIS side of grace, I know He was there. I have come to believe He was there. I may not understand why things had to happen as they did, but I accept that they happened, and that there is a redemption that has come from it and through it that defies odds and explanation.

Psalm 31:15 - My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. The word “time” in this verse translates to Eth in Hebrew. “Eth” describes (a) regular events, (b) an appropriate time for a recurring incident, or (c) a set time. My set times are in God’s hands. My regular events are in God’s hands. My circumstances are in God’s hands. Events that have occurred and will recur in my life are in God’s hands. My whole world is in God’s hands. The set time of what was to happen happened. The set time of all the events in my life that have occurred happened while I was with God, never apart from Him. 

Joel 2:25 - “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm – my great army that I sent among you.” For me, I tend to look at this passage as more allegorical than literal. In fact, most Biblical scholars will tell you that there is no clear-cut definition of what the author meant by “locusts.” Locusts ate away or I allowed locusts to eat away a lot of my life, and this verse is a promise, a covenant, that those years will be repaid. In fact, the term “repay” (or as another translation states, “make up”) used in this verse translates to Shalam in Hebrew. “Shalam” means to be sound. To be uninjured. Secure. Peaceful. Complete. It can mean a physical restitution or repayment OR it can mean restitution in attitude of the heart.

In spite of the years lost to me, I will be made complete. I am being made complete. My past will be peaceful. I will make up with my past. My heart will be restored. My heart is being restored, renewed daily.

You make beautiful things out of the dust.

Isaiah 61, especially verse 4, is one passage that has meant more and more to me as my life goes by. No matter how many times I re-read this passage and wind up writing about it, something new always jumps out at me and grabs me by the heart. The ideas of rebuilding, renewing, and restoring speak such words of healing and hope to me that they have become catchphrases for my growth.

Now, I’m not so na├»ve as to think that I have started aging backwards, nor do I think that God has frozen my aging process and it’s actually somewhere around 1994 according to my internal chronometer. Although, to be fair, many people do seem somewhat amazed when they learn what my biological age IS, especially since I don’t harp on about my back aching or some other age-induced malady. 

But I do think the restoration and healing given to me does partially explain why I am so…youthful in many ways. Exuberant. How and why I find hope when I should by all rights just be bitter and pissy. How and why I have a passion for working with high school and college students.

God is in the process (and I pray that he never stops) of giving me the best of both worlds: the wisdom that comes from being my age coupled with the zeal of someone half my biological age.

It’s like a regeneration.

But I’m still not ginger.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

To my readers: thank you.

Sometimes, I forget.

I use this blog as a form or type of therapy. I need to document where I've been so that I can better start to discern where I might be headed next. 

I use this blog as a historical marker. I can read back through some of my older entries and laugh as I remember the drive to Miami for the first time, the tears shed at the losses I have sustained, and the joy hidden between some of the characters of these words as I remember the in-jokes, the late-night texts, and the people behind the stories.

I use this blog for me. I write because I have to. I tell these stories because I can do no less than to make sure that they are told.

But sometimes I forget: these stories, this life journey, isn't told and recorded for my benefit alone.

You. Those of you who read. Those of you who I may never meet this side of paradise. Those of you who are friends. Those of you who write me. Those of you who get something out of what I put down. Those of you who - somehow, through this tiny, inconsequential corner of the Internet - find comfort in knowing that you're not alone, that this struggle isn't something only you experience, and that there is, in fact, someone who thinks as you do...

I do this for us. 

But sometimes, I forget about you.

So I wanted to say thank you. For reading. For caring enough to read. For caring enough to write. 

For reminding me that this isn't just about me.

And to Amber, whomever you are, wherever you are...your words were just what I needed to read, when I needed to read them.

Here's to the continuing journey.

With many, many looks through that yet windshield to come.

Monday, January 03, 2011

One Word 2011





My friend Alece is one of the strongest people you will ever meet. Emotionally and spiritually, she holds her own with anyone you could possibly imagine. Her site, Grit and Glory, contains the full story of her story – and I would not sully or cheapen her journey by using my own inadequate words to describe it. Go forth and read. You will be amazed, impressed, and probably a little teary-eyed before it’s all said and done.

One of the challenges she issued forth was to find (or rather, to be guided to find) One Word to describe how and what would challenge and focus me for this upcoming year.

My word?

Shalam.

The word itself has a number of meanings in Hebrew; among them:

to be in a covenant of peace;
to be at peace;
to be complete;
to be sound;
to make whole or good, restore, to make compensation

Which, to be candid, for me – this is something I need. Just like a good SAT answer, I need all of the above. Continually.

Plus, I figure if I choose a word in Hebrew, it won’t get lost in the day-to-day white noise of my life which is spent speaking English. Also, it’ll be easier to hear and focus on God if He’s speaking a language different from what everyone else around me is…

I plan on writing a LOT more about this, but for now…

Shalam.