Hide and Seek with God

christian-singer-sandi-pattyI had the wonderful privilege of attending a Sandi Patty concert last night for the very first time. It is her farewell tour and I knew I would regret not attending so I got 2 tickets and brought a friend from church me to see what I knew would be a wonderful concert.

I have always felt a kinship with Ms. Patty. I remember clearly the very first time I heard her sing. A college friend brought me a cassette recording of her first concert and as she told her story of learning how to play piano with the red and white John Thompson books, I giggled, smiling and nodding at the memory. As she spoke of beginning to sing after realizing her piano skills were somewhat lacking, my heart warmed as I felt that I, too, had failed in the expectations there. And as she spoke of wanting to be Karen Carpenter,I laughed out loud at the images of me singing into my hairbrush and dreaming of being the one singing on the Johnny Carson show on late night television.

The more Ms. Patty spoke,the closer I felt with her. I even day dreamed that perhaps we were somehow family – that my birth parents were part of her wonderful family and they would find me one day and bring me into the fold so I could be a part of her amazing ministry.

Sandi Patty’s musical legacy is astonishing. With over 40 Dove (Christian Music) Awards, you would never guess that she at one time was ostracized from the Christian musical community.

But she was.

As Ms. Patty spoke about the failure of her marriage and the subsequent fallout, my heart broke for her and her family…

…and I found another sense of kinship.

You see, I too failed at marriage (twice) and I, too, received judgement and criticism from those from whom I had hoped to receive support. Clearly, my divorce was not national news and it didn’t put a tremendously successful career on pause while I recovered, but one of the significant results was the same.

Ms. Patty spoke of going to church one day and hiding on the back corner of the pew not wanting anyone to recognize her, see her or interact with her. She was hiding from everyone and everything including God. Somewhere in her mind, maybe she thought, “if only I tuck myself far enough into the corner of my mind, nobody will see me sitting here in plain sight.” She spoke of this as she relayed a story of her 2 1/2 year old grandchild who plays hide and seek and “hides” essentially in the middle of the room. The child doesn’t want to be hidden from those he loves, he simply wants the joy of being found – of having someone love him enough and care enough about him to want him in their presence. hide-and-seek

Often, however, our pain keeps us from wanting to be in anyone’s presence. We are so focused on our own issues, we truly do want to hide in the deepest, darkest hold imaginable and just wait for the world to pass us by.

As I listened to this story, I couldn’t help feel an immediate connection to the way I felt in the days and months leading up to and immediately after my separation from my 2nd husband.

Though I was recovering from several surgeries on my head and struggling with severe depression, I tried to attend church when I could but found myself desperately trying to make myself invisible sitting in the pew. I wore black, I hung my head and found myself absolutely unable to respond to anyone with anything greater than a nod of my head and a weak smile. I truly didn’t want to be seen let alone found.

Looking back, I know that I probably hurt many people who were trying to reach out – trying to find a way to help, but I was absolutely unable to see that light from where my heart and soul were hiding. As an aside, if any reading this post were there during that time, let me just take time moment to truly apologize to you for any pain I caused you. I know you were trying to help. I was just unable to accept it.

What made it so much more difficult is that I was living in this terrible dichotomy of time and space. On the one hand, I  ached for someone to find me. I wanted friends and family to be able to read my mind somehow and understand how much I was struggling and for them to be able to look inside my heart and see the pain there and find a way to help. I wanted God to reach down and pluck me out of the midst of this pain and put me somewhere else just so I didn’t have to go through this one more second.

On the other hand, I wasCloak-1991 so ashamed that I was failing yet again that I didn’t want anyone to acknowledge my presence at all. I would have been thrilled if the cloak of invisibility from the Harry Potter books was an actuality so I could have hidden myself beneath its spellbound presence and been able to drink in the presence of God from the music, the scripture and the sermon while being able to be completely unseen by anyone including God.

I was, as  Ms Patty stated last night, playing hide and seek with God.

I wanted to stand in the middle of the room and pretend I couldn’t be seen and to have God find me in the depths of my despair and pull me out. To place me in His lap and console me.

Looking back, I realize that God had done this but I was so full of self-loathing and depression I simply couldn’t see it. I also realize now that even holding me in His lap to console me would not in any way mean that I  wouldn’t have gone through the things that were ahead of me.

Like all of us, I was tasked with walking through the mess that I had helped to create. This was not avoidable and the lessons would not come easy, but as the book of Galatians reminded me then and still does today, the end rewards are only seen when we persevere.

Now, I am far from Super Woman and I was most definitely tired during the season of my life, but I can say that I didn’t give up. I fought hard to make it to where I am today. I am no longer hiding from God, but I am continually shouting to Him to come find me.

Come find me in my joy and celebrate with me.

Come find me in my loneliness and hold my hand as I walk through this.

Come find me as I move into a new season of my life and see where it leads.

Now, more than ever, I want to be found. I want to be that 2 1/2 year old standing in the middle of the room crying out to God “Come find me”, secure in knowledge that He knows exactly where I am at all times and He will always long to have me in His presence.

Sandi Patty’s tour is entitled Forever Grateful, a way for her to express her gratefulness both to her audience as they have traveled the last few decades with her as to God as He has allowed her to travel all I havethis road. But I wish to say this to Ms. Patty:

I am forever grateful to her for showing me that being who I am – that precocious little girl who wanted to be Karen Carpenter – is ok; that being a divorced woman is ok; and that being able to lift my voice in song in praise of my Lord is not only acceptable,but reflection of my love to the One who created the fallible human that I am.

Yes, Ms. Patty, I, too am forever grateful.

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Sound of Silence

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I am probably going to date myself here, but I am not always a huge fan of social media. I have grown so tired of the way people use places like Facebook to bully and berate others  because they think, feel or believe differently than others. I will say, though, that amongst the cute baby animal pictures and inspirational quotes I have found wonderful performances of music that have changed the way I hear pieces of music I have known for nearly my entire life.

Such a thing occurred recently when I saw a YouTube of a performance of one of my favorite songs, Sounds of Silence  by the heavy metal band Disturbed.

I had no idea what to expect. I know that as musicians, this band likely has musical insight and depth than what the general public is typically exposed to but this is one of the staple songs of my childhood! Was this heavy metal band going to destroy this folk song for me forever?

Far from it.

The dark, ominous tone of David Draiman’s voice at the beginning of the song and the power and angst I heard in his voice and instrumentation at the peak of the songs musical arc opened my mind and heart to new understanding of this classic song.

Continue reading Sound of Silence

Book by the Cover

cat-window-waitingI have a confession.

I am a bit of a voyeur.

Not in a creepy peeping in people’s windows with binoculars kind of way, but I have to admit that I often look in the windows of cars as I walk by just to see what’s there. I don’t do it for any malicious reasons. Sometimes I look just to see what the inside of that kind of car looks like, sometimes its because it just happens to be where my eye land when I turn around, and sometimes I’m just curious to see if the inside is in the same condition as the outside

I often wonder if as I glance into these car windows if the image there is an accurate representation of the owner and how well they are dealing with the life around them. Does the mom-mobile with the juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, homework  pages and car seats look like the car of an average busy but happy mom or have the juice boxes and such so overtaken the seats and floor that just by glancing, you can feel the sense of exhaustion and anxiety emanating through the windows like sweat from pores?

I certainly think this can be the case. As we individually become so overwhelmed with the pieces and parts of our lives we are no longer able to do even the smallest little things such as cleaning out that trash on the car floor. Soon we don’t even see it anymore. Piles begin to grow and soon the only space that is habitable is the driver’s seat and steering wheel.

I recently saw a car like this as I was walking into a Barnes and Noble store and I at once felt sadness and fear for this person. The exterior of the car was relatively tidy – not new by any means, but seemingly  well cared for, but the inside had become a giant mountain of paper, fast food containers and clothing. I wanted to find this person and see if there was some way I could help ease the burdens in their lives.dont-judge-me

Now I realize that I am doing exactly what I was always told not to do – judging the book by the cover – and I also realize that despite the 3 second glimpse I have of that person’s life via their car’s interior and exterior I am absolutely incapable of making a well-informed decision about that person and their life.

And yet, glancing inside this car just opened my eyes to how broken some people’s lives can be. Sure, the person could just be the Oscar Madison of Colorado, but they could also be doing their darndest to function on a daily basis but the only energy they have is to try to make the outside as attractive as possible so nobody will see the mess that resides inside.

Fortunately or unfortunately all of us are really like that car. We may work hard to keep the outside clean and well dressed, but the inside is an episode of Hoarders. Room by room, our heart and mind are filled with the clutter that is past disappointment and shame. And people of faith are no better than those who struggle to find God in their midst.

herschel-walker-athlete-quote-lets-not-push-it-under-the-rug-or-pushFor years, I swept the corners of each “room” of my heart and mind trying to make it all look like everything was where it was supposed to be and I was strong and healthy, but the reality was that all of that garbage I carried around with me had been swept under the rugs and shoved in the closets and under the beds. I thought that if it all looked right, then God would bless me more or I would receive the accolades other were getting.

But that’s not how life works.

The hard part is I and every one of us have to do the hard work. We have to deal with all of that garbage that has taken up residence in our soul and be willing to throw it out for good rather than run after the garbage truck as it gets carried away and bring it back like a treasured toy.

A funny thing happens when we are able to do this.

We begin to see ourselves and others with the loving and gracious eyes of God.

We stop focusing on the little things that aren’t quite right and grant ourselves mercy.

We treat the people around us with kindness and acceptance.

In other words, the moment we accept that the judgement and criticism we express toward others comes from the insecurities and brokenness within ourselves thrich heartat we are working so hard to keep from being exposed we are suddenly freed to just live and love and see the world the way God intends us to see it.

Now I’m not saying that by slaying the dragons of your past you will no longer have any troubles. While that would be lovely that is simply not life.

What I am saying is that once we clear out the clutter and start with a clean space it becomes so much easier to deal with the garbage that comes in. Life becomes less about living from crisis to crisis and more about just enjoying life whatever it may bring.

This isn’t an easy way of life. Being honest with ourselves is often significantly harder than being honest with others but the end result is worth every teardrop.

At least, that’s what I’ve found so far.

I have not perfected this process nor have I overcome every burden, but I’m working on it. I’m cleaning out the clutter and working to have an interior that more closely matches the exterior. That way, when people do judge my book by its cover, they will get a good representation of what actually lies in the pages beneath.

 

 

 

The River of Faith

mountain riverHave you ever sat beside a river or a stream and just felt mesmerized by its movement? I honestly could sit next to water and just watch its power for hours on end. I love to see how the smallest stream can make such a huge difference to the ground that surrounds it.

This, to me, is a very clear reflection of faith.Regardless of their size, streams and rivers are never the same. The constant flow of water changes things on a daily basis.It carries away the broken things that land in its path, smooths the ragged edges of the stones that line its bottom, and feeds the flowers anfeetwater2d grasses that grow up along the bank. Even in those times when there is drought or flood, the water soon washes away the reminders of the negative experience and not only returns things to they way they were previously, but often returns them to a new existence that is better than what it had been before. Maybe it’s not as pretty or structured, but its new wildness creates something far better than what was there before..

My faith has certainly done this for me. For example, I know that the constant presence of faith in my life has significantly altered those things I was certain were true ten years ago have long since changed. My perspective has shifted and the harder edges of my thoughts have been smoothed by God’s presence in my life.

Of course, it’s not always easy. there are days when having faith is an uphill battle. When saying I am a Christian is not only hard, but at times, embarrassing; when having faith is a choice rather than a joy. I have to choose to remember God and His presence in my life and be joyful for it despite the struggle I am in.

Faith, like bodies of water, isn’t always gentle and peaceful. Flood waters rage, tsunami’s and hurricanes destroy everything in their path, and sometimes even the slow seeping of  the slightest amount of water can destroy a foundation of what otherwise is a solid home.

I was reminded of this as I read a post on my Facebook feed telling the story of an atheist NotGodsType-Banner2academic who found her way to Christ.

This person, Holly Ordway, did not find her way to faith in a way that would fit neatly into a typical “testimony”. There was no specific catalyst (at least in the article) that caused her to change her mind – no struggle with addiction, no loss of a loved one, nothing. My former evangelism professor would have been appalled. For him, and for many Christians I have come across, there seems to be this idea that faith comes because of an event or circumstance. There is even a “recipe” for a testimony I had to memorize when I attended seminary: “I didn’t believe but then there was this life changing event and now I do.” To be perfectly honest, those formulaic testimonies kind of give me the creeps. How can something as big as God coming into your life fit so neatly into a formula?

For Ms. Ordway it clearly didn’t. Instead, the slow drip, drip, drip of knowledge she gleaned both from books and from individuals near her slowly but surely eroded the hard outer shell of her heart and  allowed her to find the presence of God.

I honestly cannot imagine how challenging this was for her. As I think of the academics I know, the information that they have stored in their brains has been so carefully and meticulously catalogued that the foundation of their belief system is seemingly impenetrable. How terrifying it must have been to have that solid base slowly destroyed by the one thing she had fought so hard to disprove her entire academic life! I wonder if she fought against the destruction of her atheistic beliefs; if she ran out to find an atheist foundation repairman so to speak? I cannot wait to read the book to find out but it seems clear that whatever tactic she chose to save herself from finding faith failed.

The thing is that God’s presence in our lives is like that. It is crafty, insidious. Faith does not follow the road we choose for it, but instead, like a river, will find its way through whatever barriers we put before it. It is a moving target that – something easy to find and recognize one day and tremendously challenging to find the next. It changes everything we think we know or understand about the world around us and causes the ground we stand upon to shift and change.

Now I know there are those of you who will say this may be true for some but you know of others who are staunch atheists or at least agnostics and I honestly would have been on your side of the fence previously. I have met arrogant, abusive atheists. I have been confronted with the agnostic demanding proof and understanding of the contradictions posed by the Christian faith. But here is the thing I have come to understand.

Faith resides in us regardless of our desire to find it. Since God created each and every one of us and made us each in His image, we cannot be separated from our faith. What we can be separated from, however, is the desire to choose faith.

faith is a choiceFaith, like love, is a choice. For those who are married and have been for some time, you know that loving that person next to you is often harder than you wish it would be. You have to choose to love your spouse despite the challenges. It’s not all romance and flowers – it’s hard work. Faith is the same way. We have to choose to look for it, to acknowledge it and to accept that the journey will not be an easy one.

Each of us that chooses to walk the road of faith are choosing to step into a that river; to walk where the sands do shift. The water can be calm and peaceful at times and at others, can get swept off our feet and carry someplace we never imagined nor hoped. Sometimes it may even pull us under like an undertow and we can feel like we are drowning, unable to find the way to the one thing that brings us life – God.

But in the end, choosing faith IS choosing love. It is choosing the one thing that can carry you to where you want to go and beyond. It is choosing that thing that will help you see that none of the bumps along the way mean anything in comparison to the joy that makes itself know

 

 

Motherless Child

mothers-day-pic-848x350It’s Mother’s day weekend and though the sun has made the random appearance here and there today, it has otherwise been a cloudy, rainy day prompting me to spend more time than normal thumbing through Facebook posts and online news media. Everywhere I look there are pictures of friends and expressing their heartfelt love for mothers here or past. Looking at these pictures, I rejoice with my friends for their bond with their mothers and ache for them if their mother is no longer here but a part of me also feels a prick of pain for entirely different reasons.

My mother and I never had what one would consider a strong emotional bond. Though I have some positive memories of her and she certainly taught me some good lessons on how to behave and treat others, being with my mom was always fraught with uncertainty.

As an alcoholic, my mom was unpredictable and volatile. One moment, all seemed normal as we ate dinner or laughed at a show on television and the next moment, all hell would break loose. Her anger would erupt like a volcano as she spewed accusations, insults and threats to anyone near enough to hear. Physically violent or not, as these events occurred I would find myself withdrawing into my own little world to wait for it to end.

under stairs

I would hide under the stairs in my moms house and daydream of having the type of relationship I imagined others had with their mothers. I would picture us baking cookies or shopping, confiding in one another and always knowing that regardless of what life threw at us, we would always be mother and daughter, connected by an invisible, unbreakable bond. But this was not to be – my reality was different.

Reality for me means that my birth mom didn’t want me. Understanding the whys and hows didn’t and don’t take that pain away, they just soften the edges a bit.

Reality for me means that my adoptive mother, though she longed for children, would forever rage inside herself because she was unable to bear children of her own and maybe it was this failure that caused her marriage to fail; maybe it was me, the adopted child – the constant reminder of her failure – that caused her marriage to fail.

Reality for me means that the person I was told was supposed to care for me and shield me against the troubles of this world was the very person putting my safety at risk.

Reality for me means that the word “mother” is so tainted with negativity that I never really wanted to have anyone in my life assume that role for fear that relationship would turn out to be just like the other one nor did I want my stepsons call me “mom” because I was afraid that if they did, I would begin to emulate the type of mother I was was exposed to growing up.

Reality for me meant I longed to be a “motherless child” because I were truly motherless, I could write my own definition of what a mother is supposed to be. That word would not be colored with my own experiences but would be fresh and new.

As I look now at my boys and how they have grown up I realize that through my faith in God, I have been able to rewrite what motherhood means. God has allowed me to overcome the fear that kept me from letting them get too close to me emotionally and instead has shown me how to open my heart to them without reservation.

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God has allowed me to embrace my boys and provide them as much unconditional love and support as I can. I will not always agree with their choices or actions, but I will always love them and I am constantly striving to show this to them.

God has allowed me come to see that in being a “motherless child” my trust has to be on Him, the only One that can truly provide the unconditional love, support and guidance I was seeking from my earthly relationships.

Does this mean that not having children of my own doesn’t still ache? No.

Does this mean that the sense of loneliness from not having that mother figure in my life has been eliminated? Again, no.

What it does mean is that God has shown me there is a greater purpose at work here.

God in His infinite wisdom created in me a heart to turn to Him in my pain and loneliness and find there the tools to minister to others whose lives were similarly challenging.

God has given me the ability too look on my past with new eyes – eyes of love, mercy and grace. I cannot change what happened, but I can accept that the things that happened were done by hurting, broken people and that my mom, in her brokenness, was unable to save herself let alone me.

Finally, God has shown me that there is nobody who is truly motherless or fatherless. We were all created by Him at His perfect time, in His perfect will and allowing the difficulties of this world to take replace that knowledge is the only way I could ever be truly orphaned.

Carl Jung

 

Cracking an Acorn

acornMay is such a wonderful month here in Colorado. The snow has finally (hopefully) made its last pass and everything is coming into bloom. The trees are budding and the tulips have sprouted from the ground providing a wonderful reminder of the rebirth each of us get every time we have the joy of opening our eyes to another day.

Today, however, as I was reading a section from the devotional entitled Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment written by Joyce Rupp, I was reminded that rebirth does not come without a cost. An apple tree cannot grow unless its fruit first grows then dies to expose a seed. The acorn cannot produce the oak tree if its outer shell is not cracked to expose the tender seed inside. Similarly, we as people of faith must be willing to “break open our shell”, so to speak, in order to find the seed that God has planted within us – the seed of who we are and who we are called to be.

Unfortunately, getting to that seed within each of us is not easy. We, like the acorn, have to be willing to make changes that are often very painful and difficult to make. Very often we have to be willing to look beyond the things that our society tells us are the things to strive for and instead, trust that what God is calling us to is far greater.

There was recently a very publicized story about a baseball player, Adam La Roche, who walked away from his job with the Chicago White Sox rather than sacrifice time with his son in the clubhouse. He walked away from a 13-million dollar to serve a greater purpose – putting his family first.

Certainly this is a very rare instance. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to make 13-million let alone be faced with the choice to walk away or stay, but as you would suspect, many people were flabbergasted by the thought of choosing family over money. This is certainly not the American way.

stewardsBut it is God’s way.

God calls us to be good stewards of those things He has given to us. We often view this as merely a financial task, but being a good steward means so much more than that.

God entrusts us with many things during our time here on earth and we are to be good stewards of all of them.

We are entrusted with one body and we are called to be good stewards of that body – nourishing it, keeping it strong, and treating it with respect.

We are entrusted with family members both human and non and are called to be good stewards of them as well; to treat them all with respect, love, and kindness.

And we are entrusted with gifts and talents that we are be wise stewards of by utilizing these talents and gifts in ways that honor and glorify God.

gift to god

This last one, the one about gifts and talents, is a hard one for many of me. I struggle to feel that seeking ways to put things like music and writing at the forefront of my life is wise.I have many writer and actor friends who often hear statements such as, “It’s so nice that you act/write/sing, but what do you do for a living?” Living a life where your main focus is something in the arts is seen as irresponsible and distasteful. Making this choice is certainly breaking open that hard acorn shell.

I am at a place in my life where I feel I am being called to break open that shell in a new and different way. I am having to make extremely difficult choices about my job, my health and my future that for most people do not seem logical or practical, but every day I don’t take that step, I feel as if I am not only losing a piece of myself, but turning my back on the skills and talents that God has entrusted to me.

The practical side of me says I must stay where I am – at least until I can be solidly on my feet somewhere else. After all,  I am nearly 50,  I am not independently wealthy, do not have a “sugar daddy” providing for me, and have not been handed a winning lottery ticket. How in the world can I, a single female who is solely responsible for ensuring I have the basic necessities in life, even think of taking such a risk?

I don’t know. All I know is that I have to do it.

Much like Peter in the book of Matthew, I feel as though I am being told to step out of the boat and trust that God has and will provide the way for me.

Is this thought terrifying? Absolutely.

Do I wish Jesus were there holding His hand out for me to grab so I would know this is the right thing? You bet.

Do I fear I will fail? Most definitely.

But as I wrote in a post not long ago, fear should not define us and I am now choosing not to let fear define me any longer. Fear is that one thing that will keep me from becoming all that I were designed to be and do not wish to look back on my life and know that I chose fear rather than risk the change.

out of the boat

As I start down this new bend in my crooked road of faith, I do hope that you will come along with me, pray for me, and celebrate with me as I find my way. I suspect it’s going to be an interesting journey.

Here’s to cracking open an acorn!