April 17, 2013

Sleeping through the Race and the Sabbath

Puppy races on the Sabbath

I once gave a cursory nod to the Sabbath. 

Sunday rolled around and the first day of the week seemed to be last.

I pulled on clothes, grabbed my big blue NASB and headed out the door with the family to go to church. We would eat out afterwards and then head home for the rest of the day, everyone with his or her own agenda.

Scanning the TV listings in the guide, I searched for a NASCAR race. Crawling into an unmade bed, I turned the sound down to hear only the garbled voices of the race announcers and the sound of cars passing microphones along the track. It was sure fire way for me to be lights out in no time.

Most Sundays my NASCAR tradition found me waking with just a few laps to go and I would see the finish of the race, not that I cared one way or the other. It just seemed to happen that way.

If NASCAR wasn’t a Sunday option, there was always golf. But I would choose NASCAR first since I was slightly more interested in a good golf shot. 

When my nap was over, my Sabbath ended. I was rested and ready for my week. At least that is what I told myself.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)

My Sunday routine was without intention —other than finding the channel playing the car race. The fact was my Sabbath tradition wasn’t about keeping anything holy. It was about me.

When my friend Shelly Miller invited her blog readers to form a group that would together intentionally make the effort to remember the Sabbath, to enter its rest, to make it holy, I was ready to join.

I had a bargain book from the Christian bookstore in a pile of “to-reads” and I pulled it out. It was a pretty good book, written by an academic with a heart. It wasn’t well-edited and that bugged me. Sometimes it was so heady, I got lost in its swirl. Despite that, I began to grab hold of what it might look like for me to obey the command to keep Sabbath---one that I was certain was for my good.

I decided Saturday would be my surrendered day. It was the end of the week on the calendar after all. It seemed to be the day I could be most prepared to keep things holy, to set them before Almighty God, and intentionally connect the blessings of my life with the One who has blessed me so.

Sabbath isn’t lived in solitude but I am no one’s Holy Spirit. I haven’t and don’t plan on insisting those in my life join me in the path God has me on. They have their places and they play their roles like every day. Somehow on the Sabbath, I see them differently. I think more deeply about their holy purposes in my life and mine in theirs. I thank God they are living right in the middle of my Sabbath, part of the story He is writing on my life. 

Holiness is a longing that comes from my heart and as I surrender it to God, He shines new light on what has been, what is, and what will be. I take the gift and I share my wonder as joy. 

Joy on the Sabbath is God’s gift to me, and to others through me. Everyone wins.

Sabbath joy remembers that all things pass through holy, sovereign hands. Joy remembers the things undone on the Sabbath will be redeemed, set in place once again. It is the lesson on eternity.

Wonder comes when the heart turns the night, then the day, toward holiness. 

An unexpected beauty comes as the Sabbath prepares the soil of the soul for more of God's grace, His goodness. Sabbath is never held in the confines of time or experience. These days of wonder have ignited a deep desire for more holy times, a hunger for righteousness even on the busiest, most time-crunched days of life. Rest comes as I turn my heart, if only for a moment, toward the One who holds all things together.

You can still find me curled up “watching” NASCAR on many Sunday afternoons. Maybe, I’ll know who won, maybe I won’t.

April 11, 2013

Tears in Sodom

This past week, I found my heart was cracked open and I saw the reality of this very broken world that we live in, felt it to my bones. The earth groaned, and I groaned waiting for all the sons of glory to be revealed, for the wrestling against flesh and blood to stop, for peace to reign. I struggle to be me--- the woman I know, who is known---- the one God made plans for long before I sucked in earth's air. Even so, I go forward, sometimes in tears.

Tears in Sodom

Sometimes prayers don’t have words.

They take the shape of tears and slip in rivulets out of tidal pools of glassy eyes.
They flow down to collect salty in corners of the mouth. 
“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.”
I am the salt of the earth.
Am I the salt of the earth?
Salt tears, sting, and I want to spit them out. 
I want to be sweet.
I want to be nice.
I want everyone to like me.
But I am grainy and course.
I want the sugar sweet,
What is easy to swallow.

I was made to preserve,

To flavor lives,
To serve up grace-----and truth.
Self-talk mocks when the prophecy is dire. 
Is salty crying for the weak?
I want to be strong.
I want to be determined.

If I turn back I risk

Becoming a pillar,
A statue memorializing grief.
Even as deliverance lies before,
I risk letting the ‘ayes’ have it.
And if do---- the one who loses will be me. 
My prayers take the shape of tears. 
Stumbling through a salty puddle,
Fire falls behind me.
I don’t look back.

April 10, 2013

From the Deepest Well, the Way Up is Up

I awakened in my friend’s guestroom. I say I awakened, but sleep avoided me---as did hunger, and tears, and laughter. My body barely held together, a thin shell of the former me.

My bags were packed. I prepared to leave on a trip of resignation--resigned to the fact that I was going away to never come back.

It didn’t matter anyway. The person I once knew, the one who could function in the world, I had lost. She was somewhere, strewn pieces here and there, all along the path of life. She was gone---never to be found.

Opening the door to leave, a bird swooped into the house. Disoriented, it finally lit high on the two-story foyer sill.

My journey was delayed with finding a ladder, a boy to climb it, and a blanket to throw over the bird. It would be free to fly again in the open air, the brilliant blue of a September sky.

Free bird.

I was headed to lock-down.

We arrived at our destination six hours from home. Walking through heavy metal doors, I was presented to my keepers. Arms enfolded me as good-byes were said. The friends I had shared so much life walked away from me and my misery.

I couldn't blame them. I would have walked too, but the paths I had taken were dead ends. They loved me enough to leave me there, the shadow of the friend they once knew.

The Puritan prayer The Valley of Vision says, “the way down is the way up,” but for me on that day, the way up was up. Could I have been any lower?

I had trudged right past humility. I dove deep into a well of despair. The darkness would swallow me if I didn't get up. I didn’t know if I could---or if I wanted to.

The doors clanged shut. I sat dazed on a vinyl-cushioned bench near the nurse’s station. The pay phone on the wall above me rang occasionally. I didn’t pick it up.

I observed bedraggled people making their way past me. For hours I sat alone amongst strangers.

My thoughts raced:

“I am not supposed to be here.”

“Where are my children?”

“I am not like these people.”

“They don’t understand where they have left me.”

“I hate this place. This is hopeless.”

Anger boiled ready to spew. I had felt nothing for days upon days. Anger, hot and alive, leapt from me; it energized me to fight. I pulled out the silver-tongued sword to lash out at those who loved me.

I swung sharp at my dearest friend, “Why did you leave me in this hell hole?” I was breaking her heart. I didn’t care. She was the first that would feel the heat of my anger. I singed the heart of my sweet friend. 

The truth was:

I was supposed to be there.

My children needed a mother who was healed---who could feed them, tuck them in, read them books.

I was just like those people.

The place they left me was the place I would find healing.

The place I hated was a wilderness place with the “door of hope.”

The anger flames were used of God. He is a Consuming Fire. Anger transformed to hope.

The Spirit filled the empty shell with newness of life. 

“….the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine…” (The Valley of Vision)

The sun was shining the day I heard the small Voice from the Big God.

A gentle blowing, "Psalm 91."

It was morning when I read the healing song. The song reverberated in the recesses of the deep well. Sheltered under the Shadow. Freed from the snare. Guarded by angels. Rescued. God sent his Word and healed me.

From the deep darkness, I bowed down and looked up. I found hope in the song.

The Morning Star shone into my abyss.

I got up
Climbed up
Owned up
Gave up




Free bird.

I swooped up
into the blue
September sky.

I looked up.

The Morning Star
had never
given up.


lifted up

filled up

sealed up.

No longer

tied up.
I was freed up.
Wounds wrapped up 
in grace.

From the deepest well, the way up is up.

Today, I share a small part of a larger story. It is my story of hope. If you would like to read more about what brought me to this place in the story you can read it in a two part guest post that my friend Dolly Lee is featuring on her blog Soul Stops. Click HERE and HERE to read those posts.

For those who identify with my story:

There is a Door of Hope. His name is Jesus. Please do not misunderstand, I do not believe that "lock-down"is the answer for everyone suffering with depression. God used a hospital in my life, but it was not the "thing" that brought my healing. It is part of my story of redemption. God brought my healing when I turned to Him to receive it. 

If you know someone who is in the dark, help them find Him. Do what you can. 

Sometimes, it means taking them to someone who can better help them find their path to healing. This may include medicines and therapy. It is not easy to help the hurting, just do the best you can and pray that they will grab hold of life and not let go.

For those who have lost someone they love to depression, my sincere sympathy. I mean that from the depths.

This is a re-post from the archives--my first public blog post about my battle with depression.

April 3, 2013

Stuff Happens

The horses clipped the early spring grass right at the roots. Their eating opened the earth just enough to release the beautiful aroma of life damp and musty.  

Walking out in the pasture alive with blooming weeds, my middle finger was held firmly in the grip of a two-year old wearing Tevas and asking questions. As we made our way to the big bay gelding grazing near the pond, our hair brushed back out of our faces by a southern breeze. We walked side-by-side before she let loose to run ahead of me. Washed in sunlight, my heart swelled to the memories of the days of my youth when I lived in oblivion to a world outside of the fields I explored, growing up wonder-lost in the creation. 

On Saturday I entered a sanctuary.

I called the time Sabbath the evening before when the sun slipped to night. 

It wasn’t my plan to spend the Sabbath in the country. An unexpected call to be grandmother for the day lent the opportunity to take my grands out to the country to see their uncle’s puppies, visit great-grandparents, take a walk in a field.

The Sabbath looks back and it looks forward. But most importantly, it rests in the now.

Walking along, watching my Sunshine run ahead. I lagged just behind, my heart snatching up a bouquet out of the dirt of my memories. I reflected on how God had drawn me close as I had grown in hay pastures tall with sagebrush, among horses, and creek beds. 

We picked daffodils flashing yellow manes surrounded by orange faces. As I plucked a sweet smelling bouquet, my little one reached down and picked up a crusty old cow patty, held it high for me to see. She exclaimed with joy, “I found a nest!” Laughing, I tell her to throw it down. No doubt she had seen a resemblance of a nest in the hay and dust she held up with pride.

She returned the dung to its rightful place in the circle of life, went on searching for other treasures.

I whisper a prayer to the One in the sanctuary, “I wish she were old enough for me to teach her what I know---that her nest is about the business of returning to dust. Someday it will again be one with the earth, redeemed and life giving.”

They say (whoever they are) that stuff happens. Actually, they don’t say it exactly that way. But it is true enough. A lot of people are cynical and hopeless because of it. They never see that all that stuff is in the process of redemption.

God does bring beauty from ashes, from dust--- from outright refuse. It happens but often it takes time. We know we have limited amounts of time so we are often unwilling to believe that God makes everything beautiful in its time. We live in unbelief and our sin turns to cynicism.  What we miss is the opportunity in the moment, to let the fleeting now fertilize and grow our hope for what will be in the future. 

On Saturday, for a few minutes in a pasture, I lived like my now would never end, like my gratitude-swollen heart could bask forever in those sunlit moments with my sweet little joy. For a few minutes in a field, I lived like the days that will come after this body turns to dust and I live in God’s presence in the eternal sanctuary.

I reach to eternity on the Sabbath and I find it.

What wonder we would find if we consecrated daily the whole our lives to God? How would we see differently? Would we embrace weeds, and the wind, and dirt? Could our seeing be so innocent to see truth in the midst of the stuff---to see nests instead of cow patties?