Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The "why" question

I have a friend who had a baby last week, a 29 weeker as they call her.  That means she was pulled from her safe, warm, comfortable womb 11 weeks too early.  I have another friend who had her baby just yesterday, 2 weeks late.  One is so tiny you can cover her hand with a quarter.  One so big he looks old somehow.  I have another friend who has conceived 6 babies and lost 5… I deeply grieve for her because I have lost 5 of my own.

It begs the question, why? Why do some mothers pop out babies with ease and why do some get no chance at bearing children at all?  I had a friend who has had 5 maybe 6 children (I lost count) She was addicted to cocaine. Every child had a different father and every child was wild, sad, and angry.  I cringed when she got pregnant because of the circumstance I knew her child would be raised in. But somehow our sovereign God allowed children to come and somehow for others seemingly more worthy, He does not. Why? I asked the question over and over as her babies lived and my babies died at 20 weeks gestation.

I don’t know the answer to that question. Why do some get cancer and die as children and why do evil men sometimes live over 100 years.  I read of a convicted child molester who lived beyond his jail sentence.  Something the judge never expected to happen. At 90 some years old, he was a free man with every intention of re-offending and every opportunity. The legal system has no power to stop him because he had served his time.

Few people ever ask God why.  It’s frightening to imagine a God who is not good and if He is good, do we need to ask why?  I believe we do.  I recall my own children at a certain age asking the “why” question incessantly.  Why is the grass green? Why do the lights come on when you flip the switch? Why do dogs wag their tails? Why do they chase cats all the time? Why did my Grandfather get sick and die? Why are you going to the store?  Why do you mow the lawn? Why do you take out the garbage and why do they pick it up on Fridays?  Why can’t they pick it up on Saturday instead? It can be exhausting for Mom and Dad, but normal children with healthy curiosity ask why all the time.

Curiosity is vital.  Let’s question everything.  Why do we do what we do?  Why does the sun come up in the east? Will it come up in the west someday? Why is the grass green? Why did my baby die and her baby live? I believe that God wants to reveal His nature to us.  He wants us to intimately know Him.  How can we if we swallow our questions of confusion and grief?

I have spent many hours agonizing over that one question why.  Why, if you are sovereign did you allow me to be ravaged? Why if you are sovereign did my baby die? Somehow there is a different tone than just why is the grass green.  A child asks with trust in her heart.  She completely expects us to have a reasonable explanation… even when we don’t   But my questions of God were questions of judgment.  Are you good or evil?  I’m thinking of the child who has lost trust in their parent.  Their questions carry a different tone, one of assumed violation and deep hurt. When I have asked God why as if I were His judge, He doesn’t seem obliged to answer.  But when I have asked Him why, simply because I need to understand, He has been quick to give both explanation and comfort.

Monday, October 24, 2011


The thing about chaos is you can't really fix it.  It is a consequence of sin.  Sometimes it is the consequence of your sin but sometimes it is your consequence of someone else's sin.  We live in a fallen world.  When you sin, you sin on someone else.  When you sin, you bring chaos into the life of another. 

I was talking to a friend yesterday.  He talked about Genesis 1:2 ("The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.") from the perspective of chaos.  The earth was without form... not yet ordered... chaotic.  But the Spirit hovered over that chaos. 

I don't know about you but that gives me hope.  During my bout with brain trauma, I had a CT scan.  In it you can visually see that my right brain is significantly larger than my left.  That explained a lot to me at the time.  Order is so hard for me.  It doesn't come naturally and our ability to be ordered comes from the logical, sequential side of the brain, the left side.  I was telling a psychology friend of mine about my lopsided brain and her comment was, "Oh yes, that is the picture of a traumatized brain!" really? Can you be damaged on a cellular level? Am I broken in places where no one can see?  Funny, that concept gives me some peace.  You see, I have always felt that to be true. It makes sense out of how I feel. 

Well, the good news is its more physical training than damage.  I had to be intuitive to avoid violence.  Logic would get me nowhere.  I exercised the right side of my brain and the muscles on that side are lean and strong.  I like being intuitive. It is a gift that helps me touch others with empathy and hope. I don't want to lose that training but I can still do exercises to strengthen the other side of my brain.  The research I have done says it's never too late for brain development.  The left side of my brain isn't dead or damaged... it's just flabby! W00t!

It's hard to know how to start.  I have made many efforts to bring order into my house, my days, my kitchen cabinets. Ugh! That is a lot of work! But the concept of the Spirit hovering over my chaos, my deep, dark bubbling pool of black and disorder, poised to make it teaming with life, that's cool! 

My sad confession is that I have passed my chaos onto my children.  Having no order to give, has cost them deeply.  My daughter has taught me a lot about taking that chaos to the LORD.  I remember when she ordered her kitchen cabinets.  She asked God where to put each thing.  It took time and patience and listening but her cabinets are beautiful and easy it seems for her to keep ordered because she knows where everything goes.  Wow, I am amazed. 

So God, help me, put me on an exercise regime that will work for me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Welcome to the Human Race!

I keep going back to the topic of shame. Guilt says, "I did something wrong" but shame says, "there is something wrong with me".  Shame hurts-- deeply hurts. It ought never be used as a weapon, but it is used all the time. 

I think it has something to do with who we authorize as judge. Who is the one telling me I am flawed? Do they really have the ability to know?

The media is wields shame without restraint and I believe it is a major contributor to the suicide rate.  The theory goes; in order to sell this product, I must convince you that without it you are flawed.  "Because you are flawed, you need this product for hair loss prevention." "Because you are flawed you must buy this diet food program." "Because you are flawed you need this drug."Really???

The truth is, we are all human; we are all inadequate... flawed at least by human standards. That is why we need a savior. But why is it that a savior doesn't seem to be enough? What are we trying to measure up to? What is the mark we are trying to reach? Is it perfection?  What is true perfection anyway?

Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse," That says to me that we can understand God by His art... His creation. It says even to His eternal power and Godhead... wow, that is a lot to see! I believe the same of any artist.  Understand someone's art and you understand the artist who created it. God has expressed Himself perfectly through His creation.  What an awesome concept!

It's very sad to me that we mow down God's art to create our own without really trying to see what He has given us to see.  (Hmmm, as I ponder that, I feel the gentle nudge from Him to come to a quiet place and spend some time with Him)

So what about perfection? When I have been pressed to be "perfect", I feel pressed to conform.  I never measure up to perfect.  My hair, for instance, if it was perfect, every strand would flow in a consistent pattern nothing would be out of place.  In order to be "perfect" I would need hairspray to hold it into place (really?). I have chemical sensitivities which prevents me from using hairspray does that mean I can never be perfect?

Why do we strive for perfect anyway?  Is it perfection we want, or is it love? Is it the fear of not being perfect that drives our shame or the fear that we are not lovable?

Going back to God's creation.  I marvel at the trees.  It is fall here in the North.  The leaves are ablaze with indescribable colors! Every leaf is a different shade of awesome.  That is amazing to me.  If perfection were about conformity then every leaf would be the same wouldn't it? But every leaf has a glitch.  Some have spots, I don't believe any one matches another in shape, size or color.  If so, can only one leaf be perfect? Or are they all perfectly unique?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Incompotent or in need of mentoring?

I tend to be a truth-based person.  I lean on the truth part of Ephesians 4:15  which encourages us to speak the truth in love.  My husband leans on the mercy part. It is a good blend.  He helps me live a life of compassion. I help him to give with wisdom.  This last week has been a test of our capacity to offer grace being "Wise as serpents and harmless as doves"  (Matthew 10:16) 

During a big windstorm, a tree fell on our house.  It was a big tree doing damage to the structure of the roof.  We hired roofers to repair the damage... they hired someone else, who hired some young, inexperienced kids to accomplish the task.  These young inexperienced (maybe in their early 20s) people had no common sense and our house has suffered huge water damage as a result.  Ugh! what a mess! My reaction, well, wasn't pretty.  It's funny, at this point I see at least some people thinking less of us for not choosing more competent workers.  I have to say that we have spend much of our lives in a small town where you know everyone and you know who does good work and who doesn't.  We felt a bit lost in the choosing but we picked someone we thought to be reputable, I still think they are reputable.  I will change my mind if they don't do what it takes to make it right.

My husband's response was to get up on the roof and join in the work of rebuilding the roof.  He has the experience and ability just not the time.  He spent the day with these young people and came home with a heart full of compassion saying what they needed was mentoring.  They worked hard for him and he enjoyed his day.  He offered grace, modeling and direction and they blossomed under his kindness.  How do you quantify that? I am humbled by his response.  It reminds me of Jesus' response in Matthew 9:36 "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd."

There is more to do, somehow figuring out what will be paid for in cleaning up after the deluge that poured into our house. But one thing I know.  Grace is like living water poured onto the heads of those who are suffering in this world with no purpose or direction.

Through a comedy of errors an inexperience we have suffered violation.  No one set out to violate us.  Shock and anger are what first rises up in me but I have been blessed to again see grace and kindness win out,  I am so grateful for the times when I have been given grace instead of condemnation.  I am also blessed to be the observer in another's dance of grace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Facing Shame

There are days in my life that still sting to think of.  I remember being the accompanist for my college choir, I was younger than anyone else there.  I had graduated early from high school, but I had a music scholarship which meant I had to do something in the music department. 

I was assigned a job I was not ready for, add to that I was assigned to a professor who was insensitive at best.  He had no patience with me. I couldn't understand what he wanted.  He didn't invest any time to explain.  In many ways we were a bad match but because I was a music major he was my adviser as well.

It came to a head no more than a week after I was assigned the job.  Right there, in front of all my musical peers, my professor berated my abilities, stripped me of any confidence and publicly ousted me from my position. As a musician I just couldn't measure up. Over nine years of private piano instruction, and I couldn't measure up.  I didn't think four years of his tutelage was going to help. From then on I was expected to sing for him with the rest of the witnesses of that day. Red faced and devastated I silently took it. I just stood there, wishing there was someone in the room who would speak in my defense.

Shame is a powerful tool of the enemy.  It is the terrible message that drives a wedge between ourselves and all others. It can become a huge wedge between ourselves and God.  The wedge is the belief that there is something wrong with us.  We are not wounded we are irreparably broken! That's how I felt that day.  That day has played over and over in my mind.  Oh, how I wish I had spoken up and said something... anything.  Like, "Do you really have to say all this in public?" Even saying, "Stop!" would have been nice. I wanted to tell him he was being mean and hurtful but it was impossible for me to process in the moment.  I think everyone was in shock.  I think they felt sorry for me in a way but they too were brutalized by his behavior.

What kept any one of them from speaking up?  I believe it was shame as well.  Shame that says, "Well, what would people think of me?" or ,"If I speak up he will yell at me next!" But not speaking up is what keeps the cycle going.  He needed someone to stand up to his cruelty so that he would think twice before repeating it.  If the whole room had roared out an objection, he would have been the one singled out.

I have found comfort in two things.  It has been awesome to know that Jesus bore more than my sins on the cross.  He took my shame as well.  He hung there buck naked.  Can you imagine? I think I can.  I'm not sure what the difference is when you are stripped emotionally or physically, you still stand naked before the one stripping you. But I don't have to bear that shame anymore I can lift it up to Jesus and let Him carry it for me.  I don't look to people to define me anymore.  Jesus created me because He wanted ME! If He had wanted someone else He would have created someone else. I have admired his artwork many times.  I love His seascapes best.  But this great artist didn't make His only mistake when He made me... I am in par with His other work. 

The second thing that gives me comfort is turning my talents back to Him.  I don't have to play for anyone else.   I can play my very best or my very worst and He is delighted.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Helper of the Helpless

I recounted a story yesterday to a friend who is becoming less and less capable of taking care of herself. It is humiliating to be accustomed to taking care of yourself to one day find that you need someone else to bath you, clean up after you, you name it! I know, I have been there. There was a time when I was not capable of washing my own hair. I could not imagine being without covering in the bathtub so I bathed in my swimsuit. I needed help getting that on as well but it gave me a sense of dignity. I felt, well, helpless and needy, perhaps less than human?

But God seems to have a sweet spot in His heart for the helpless. I know He doesn't pick favorites but He does stick up for the helpless, the widows, the orphans, the beggars, those that can not stick up for themselves.

Sometimes I wonder, what are we missing by being so, "capable"? I know this, in my deepest need, God was vivid. There have been other times in my life when I was unable to take care of myself. I remember running from an abusive man, moving to a strange town and seeking a job at a restaurant because a meal was one of the perks thus assuring me that I would get at least one meal a day. I used the last of my money... I mean every cent! To rent a small efficiency and a u-haul trailer.

I picked a restaurant that was within walking distance, walked in and applied for a job. I walked out employed. I was to start the very next day dressed in brown pants and brown waitress shoes! Without a cent to my name, I prayed. I had no other option. (sad to think prayer was my last resort eh?) Late that evening I walked to the pay phone to make a collect call. When I left the phone booth there was a 10 dollar bill lying on the ground with no one there to return it to.

In the morning I went shopping and found brown pants and brown waitress shoes both my size. The only pair of waitress shoes in the store. They were on the clearance rack. By the end of my shopping spree, I had enough change to put a bit of gas in the car and buy a taco for lunch! I went to work knowing I had a God who intimately cared for me... and He does, especially when we are not capable of caring for ourselves.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless. Psalms 10:14 NIV