Thursday, October 26, 2017

Life, Life, and More Life

I must admit this has been a hard week for me with Jayber Crow. It's week 8 for the online study happening with Michele Morin, over at her site, Living Our Days. I so appreciate her hosting this group with lively discussion!  But what do I do with a character who charms me with his small-town stories and beautiful descriptions of nature, and yet at the same time saddens me with his variable moral compass? 

I think he must remind me of myself and those I love.
Why do we have such a hard time fully embracing the ONE who loves us so much?
Why do we so easily take up our own opinions as the best way to walk?


In this week's chapters, Jayber took a deep look at himself, and found the scales wanting.  And from the depth of that conviction, a truer love than he could have imagined, for a woman forever inaccessible, was committed to inside of his heart.  And while that love could never be acted upon, it yet stirred in him a vision of the ONE true love from which all others in this world have been created:


 "But love, sooner or later, forces us out of time. It does not accept that limit. Of all that we feel and do, all the virtues and all the sins, love alone crowds us at last over the edge of the world. For love is always more than a little strange here. It is not explainable or even justifiable. It is itself the justifier. We do not make it. If it did not happen to us, we could not imagine it. It includes the world and time as a pregnant woman includes her child whose wrongs she will suffer and forgive. It is in the world but is not altogether of it. It is of eternity."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 249). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

As he pondered that love, Jayber finally admitted to the love of a Creator who was beyond all of his own questions.  As he allowed that love in his heart to lead him, he saw God as not only the Creator, but also as a Father:

And I could imagine a Father who is yet like a mother hen spreading her wings before the storm or in the dusk before the dark night for the little ones of Port William to come in under, some of whom do, and some do not.

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 252). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

And the great questions of Free-Will, held onto for years from his own younger days, were finally laid to rest in his heart:

 "Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for one another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 254). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

But here is where my own heart fell onto a different path from Jayber.  While he was content to live with that love resting in his heart, holding onto it as his own private treasure, something entirely different is stirred within me when that ONE true love is recognized.  

What can I do with that sorrowing and suffering 
when I feel my Savior's Love in me?

How can I watch those I love struggle in their own questions
and not reach out to them somehow?

For I know that what my Father offers 
through the suffering of His son
was for my benefit
was for their benefit
was for your benefit 

 "He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;"
Isaiah 53:3-5 

And my own heart was broken open this week
with convictions.
If I say that I am blessed to have tasted
this love of my beautiful Lord

 how then can my selfish heart
hoard it inside 
as a treasure only for myself?

And it was here that my Father, Creator of that Love,
stirred in my heart to look around me
to feel the pain of those next to me
to hear the silent cries
of those alone in their pain.

The Father has sent his Son,
to search for EVERY lost one,
calling out to EACH lonely child,
offering a way to come home.

"Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
    to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
    so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
    And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him."

Isaiah 53:10 MSG 

Life, life, and more life
is what Jesus has come
to give us.

 How can I not also seek after those lost ones
offering the same life
calling to the same home
showing the same love
that He has given to me?

Would you join me in prayer this week?

"Dear Father,
I confess that my heart has not always been stirred to give. I admit that there have been times when I have been content to hoard away Your love, as a treasure all my own. Please forgive me for those moments when I've closed my eyes to those around me. Will You open my heart to see the beauty of those hearts around me? Will You open my heart to share Your love with those hurting and lonely souls? And will You give me Your JOY that loves to seek, loves to call out, and loves to bring life where only death has reigned? Will You change my eyes to look through Your eyes of love?
In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray, Amen."  

I would love to hear your comments and prayer requests below. We are meant to share the load together! 

I am linking this week with:

You can find a copy of Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, by clicking here. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

When He Speaks

My heart is overflowing
with Praise
to the Lord
who has granted to me
a good report for the biopsies:

All are benign, Praise HIM!

But at the same time, my body
is not fully healed yet.
The Chronic Illness remains.

And my heart aches for friends of mine 
in deep trials:

the friend whose son is newly diagnosed with cancer,

the friend whose children face court battles,

the friend whose own life hangs in the balance
with a terminal illness

and so many others . . .

Where is God in the midst of our questions? 
Where is He in the midst of our longings?

He is still Good, and HE still has blessings
to pour on us,
wherever we find ourselves walking.

He never leaves us alone 
to face the trials,
He walks with us through
every step.

And His Grace is sufficient,
HE, Himself, is our blessing.

Thank you to a dear friend who blessed me with this song,
I pray it blesses you as well:

 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;"


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Transforming Stillness

It's Week 7 with our friend Jayber Crow
over at Michele Morin's site,
and Jayber is finding his world has spun on its axis.

Have you been on that spinning ball?

It was a spinning week for me,
with lingering side effects followed by 
more medical tests.

So I have been pondering the effects that grief and spinning will have on Jayber, as he moves forward from here. In this week's chapters, Jayber found himself secretly loving someone out of his reach, and then suffering the full weight of her grief when she watched her young daughter get killed in a tragic accident.

Even as he realized that he was not in a position to be able to show his love to her, at the same time he began to question his own position of being an outsider in his community:

"I have got to the age now where I can see how short a time we have to be here. And when I think about it, it can seem strange beyond telling that this particular bunch of us should be here on this little patch of ground in this little patch of time, and I can think of the other times and places I might have lived, the other kinds of man I might have been. But there is something else. There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 210). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

Where is my own heart landing 
in this place of feeling 
cut-off from what I knew
and where I thought I belonged? 

Has the STILLNESS of this year brought me to a new 
kind of resting?

At the beginning of this year, when I heard the Lord speak my OneWord for this year to be "Stillness," I was disappointed because it felt like more-of-the-same for this slowed-down Chronic Illness lifestyle that already chafed against my own will.  And maybe that is the reason He spoke it --

He meant to show me a better way.

“'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,'
declares the Lord. 

 'As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"

Isaiah 55:8-9 

One of the first gifts from this year of stillness came to me through a dear blogging friend, Joy Lenton, of Poetry Joy,  as she pointed me in the direction of an app designed to bring help in getting started with Silent or Centering prayer. I agonized over those early days of sitting in God's Presence with only quietness between us. But gradually I came to look forward to those times of knowing that I could be with Jesus, in a cloud of silence. Reigning in my abundance of thoughts to center on the beauty of HIM became a way to find rest when I had no peace of my own.

So this week, as I wished that I did not have to talk about one more test, I went to the hospital and laid my head down in preparation for the Doctor to take yet more biopsies. But into this heart that was dreading the pain, there came a song so sweet, with only two words flowing in my mind. 

Beautiful Jesus.

Without even realizing what was happening, my thoughts could only focus on those quiet words.

Again and again,
Beautiful Jesus.

Turn my head, and wait for another needle.

Beautiful Jesus.

Imagine my surprise when the Doctor spoke to me as he was finishing, "You did so great! I don't know what you were doing there, was it meditating? But it was great!" And, I managed a croaking response of "Praying!" as he hurried out of the room to his next procedure.

 I came home, with my neck wrapped in ice packs, and texted a cluster of family and friends who were thankful to be able to pray for me. And the next day, as I battled discouragement while waiting for the swelling and pain to be alleviated, neighbors offered broth and noodles for my parched throat. 

It was then I remembered the beautiful artwork that I had received from another dear blogging friend just days before.  Wendy Simpson, who writes at Widow's Manna, had sent me one of her beautiful cards in response to a small contest she ran on her Facebook Page, Wendy's Vignettes. She had no idea of my past story, since we "met" each other after I had written this post, here:  "The Butterflies." Yet she listened  to the Lord and chose the very painting that would speak most deeply to me:

The Season has indeed shifted for me. I am no longer involved in the busyness of life that I used to thrive on. I am no longer a part of the Church in the way that I used to be. 

And yet,

My life is being woven together
With hearts
In ways I could not have envisioned
had I not slowed down.

My heart is being woven together
With my Lord
In ways I could not have envisioned
had HE not slowed me down. 


Here is the beautiful song that came in phrases to my mind:

I cannot give enough thanks for all who have prayed for me during these testings.
We are woven together through Him.

My heart is filled with thanksgiving.

For more thoughts on Centering Prayer:

 You can find Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, by clicking here.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Who is Sufficient?

225,000 square feet.  It seemed like an impossibly large building for only 2 people to care for.  But that is just what was asked of us, barely married for 3 months, while my husband attended college. The caretaker/janitor's position opened up at the new church we had begun attending, and with youthful enthusiasm we jumped right in.  We cleaned and monitored, attended events and washed up afterwards, and became intimately familiar with the church that had a caretaker's apartment built into the upper level for us to live in.  Sufficient for the task? Not at all, but we found ways to push our limits in order to keep going.

This week over at Michele Morin's site, 
Living our Days, 
 where we are in Week 6 of our study of 
Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry,
our friend, Jayber, finds himself taking on the church janitor's work also.  

So it should have come as no surprise when I found one of my favorite scenes unfolding in this week's reading.  Jayber often came to do his cleaning at the church in the evening after he had worked all day at the Barber Shop. Needless to say, the quiet and calming presence of the church was an easy place to rest and even take a nap. (I remember those same peaceful feelings when the sanctuary was empty, and while cleaning, we played our own music through the church's high tech--for then--speakers!)

It was during one of those rest times that a dream overtook him:

 "One day when I went up there to work, sleepiness overcame me and I lay down on the floor behind the back pew to take a nap. Waking or sleeping (I couldn’t tell which), I saw all the people gathered there who had ever been there. I saw them as I had seen them from the back pew, where I sat with Uncle Othy (who would not come in any farther) while Aunt Cordie sang in the choir, and I saw them as I had seen them (from the back pew) on the Sunday before. I saw them in all the times past and to come, all somehow there in their own time and in all time and in no time . . . They said nothing, and I said nothing. I seemed to love them all with a love that was mine merely because it included me. When I came to myself again, my face was wet with tears."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 165). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

The longing that I felt for Jayber to know more about the TRUE Love that had touched him, only grew as I read through the next few chapters.  Sadly, Jayber moved from his own touch with the Wonder of Love to look for love in all the wrong places.  I still have hope that in upcoming chapters he might find where that longing will be fully met.

But my own longings are hanging in the wind,
crying out for GRACE 
when I have none of my own.

In the same way that Jayber failed to see that the One who is all love was right beside him, giving him that dream of love for His people, I too have ignored the call of that ONE.

When I have sought my own sufficiency,
When I have leaned on my own strength,
When I have looked for my own help,

my own Sweet Lord has never stopped calling me.

While chronic illness calls me to 
muster up my own strength,
My Jesus calls me to 
find a sufficiency
deeper than my own
and a love 
that fills every longing.

There is Life from the Lord
that is bigger
than any work of my self,
a freedom
brought from His Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"
Galatians 5:22,23 

 Who is Sufficient?

Years came and went
Strength surged
Depended upon.

My ways were laid 
Who sees everything.

Abilities brought out
A way of life.

My heart was crushed
Who sees everything.

Illness has a way
Pointing out lack
Hidden underneath.

My body was broken
Who sees everything.

Mercy invites inside
Seeking to give
What I have not.

My soul was enlarged
Who sees everything.

Grace covers, fills
Living in me.

My Life is overflowing
Who sees everything.

God with me.

And a verse usually spoken at Christmas gives the invitation for each of us to find JESUS,  the son
given to be with us.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:23 NIV 

May this song of encouragement bless you today. He is with us, and invites us into His Presence where His Sufficiency is everything we need.

You can find Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry by clicking here.

I am linking this week with:
Debbie Kitterman, #TuneInThursday 
Barbie Swihart, #Glimpses 
Meg Weyerbacher, #TeaAndWordTuesday 

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Mama's Cry

 The hospital room was sterile and cold, a shivering place for a young teenager. My Mom had undergone a simple biopsy, but the time for Outpatient Procedures had not yet arrived in our 1970’s small town. So my Mom was awakening from the anesthesia and due to arrive back to her room at any time.  I waited for what seemed an eternity, and as I huddled in the corner, I heard the nurses hurriedly wheeling the cart in, but shouting instructions to several helpers. “Wake her up! Get assistance! She’s not breathing!”  My heart started pounding as the tears rolled down my cheeks. . . 

. . .

I am so blessed once again to share words over at my friend Anna Smit's website, BelovedProdigal.
Join me there to read the rest of this post
by clicking here. 

I am linking today with other bloggers at:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Shade for our Souls

The hot tropical sun baked every pore of my exposed skin. How thankful I was to my Vietnamese daughter-in-law's family for their insistence that I wear some kind of long sleeves.  

Six years ago I was in Vietnam, riding past the rice paddies on my first motorbike excursion. The young nephew who had been assigned to drive while I held on (not too tightly, I hoped) behind him, was very gracious to this American Grandma.

How much hotter could it get, I wondered? The day already felt like I was in a sauna, and I had thought the breeze of the driving might be refreshing. Obviously I had never experienced this kind of baking sun, exposed in the open landscape! I longed for some kind of relief from the fiery heat, as we rode.  And it was then that the verse from my morning's reading became more real to me than it had ever been:

"The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night."
Psalm 121:5-6 

I spoke the verse again and again, until I felt the very Presence of God covering me with His safety, speaking to my burning soul that He would be my true shade.

Is there a place of safety from the burning heat, from the searing of our souls,
that we are meant to share?

We find our friend, Jayber Crow, in such a place for this week's portion over at Michele Morin's site

Living Our Days,

where she has invited us to join in an online book study of Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry.

Jayber, the "bachelor barber," has begun to see himself as a true member of the community, when World War 2 sets in. Having been denied a place of service himself, because of a medical difficulty, he yet found himself saying:

"I was learning what I had meant when I decided that I would share the fate of Port William. I had not gone off to war, but the wounds and deaths of Port William boys were happening in Port William. They were happening to me. I was involved; I was being changed."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 147). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

Jayber had begun to experience what a true community feels like: what one person walks through does overflow onto the others within that community. 

As Jayber became more comfortable in his own shop, there were many nights after business was completed, that he lingered in his own barber chair (how cozy that must have been, in the days before our nice "Lazy-Boy" recliners!) finding it a comfortable spot for reading and relaxing. Often times if another lone soul was out wandering the streets, they might find themselves drawn to the cozy feeling of the empty barbershop themselves, knowing that a listening ear was waiting for them there.

In those awful years of the War, when the searing hot pain of grief became overwhelming, one father wandered in and just sat quietly. From within that peaceful setting, he shared about a dream of his lost son that had awakened a fresh pouring of grief:

 "He told me this in a voice as steady and even as if it were only another day’s news, and then he said, 'All I could do was hug him and cry.' And then I could no longer sit in that tall chair. I had to come down. I came down and went over and sat beside Mat. If he had cried, I would have. We both could have, but we didn’t. We sat together for a long time and said not a word. After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet. What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at last and lie down."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 149-150). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

And the tears that could not be shed by them, were shed by me. This "Shade of God's Presence" is the one constant thing we can offer to those who dwell in community with us. We may not always have a wise word. We might not even be able to serve or help in the way that we wish we could.

But our Lord
Who offers us the True Shade
Of His Presence

Asks us to extend that Shade
To invite others in
Who are burning
in pain and grief.

We can sit with each other
And know
That our restless souls
Only find rest in HIM.

I have found such shade and safety
with ones who have
sat with me.

If there is a burning in your soul,
please let me pray with you,
and join you 
in your own place of pain.

The Community of our Lord,
The Body of Christ,
has a beautiful shade
that is meant to be shared.


 Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, can be found at Amazon,
by clicking here.

I am linking today with:
Suzie Eller, #LiveFreeThursday 
Barbie Swihart, #Glimpses 

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