after the rain, the sun

QUOTE it is well

Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question

– Elisabeth Elliot 

It’s hard to accept that you are in control, that you have a plan that’s good.

It’s hard to trust in a story I haven’t written myself.

I wish I could skip ahead a few chapters and see what’s next.

Then I’d be able to trust you. Then I’d be able to relax and enjoy my life and not get bogged down by the what ifs.

Then I could say with confidence that your promises are good.

But it doesn’t work like that, does it? It’s not that easy.

I guess there’s purpose in the process.

Your will is in the waiting.

If I knew all the answers to my deepest questions, I’d only trust myself–my efforts. My abilities.

I wouldn’t cling to you so desperately, the bleeding woman with nothing else but hope.

If I knew it all I wouldn’t need you. You’d be a benevolent benefactor I’d acknowledge on occasion–“thanks for everything!” and our relationship would dissolve into YOU GIVE and I TAKE.

I would miss the unexpected joy of a miracle, the tiny ray of sun struggling through the clouds when it’s rained and rained and rained without stopping.

I would learn nothing in the dark times, the hungry times, the wandering, the wondering in the wilderness.

I wouldn’t see the beauty in the brokenness, the way you whisper in the wind:

I’ve got this.

So I relent.

I relinquish control to the one who orders the storm to still.

I silence my soul to the rhythm of waves on the shore.

It is well.

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God in the Fall

photo courtesy of google image search

photo courtesy of google image search

Hello, September!

Something about the transitory seasons turns me into a little kid.

They make me think of new beginnings, even more so than the New Year which is unfortunately placed in the dead of winter. September has always signified to me the turning over of a new leaf, if you’ll pardon the terrible pun. Despite the fact that I haven’t technically been “back-to-school” since 2008 (or perhaps because of it), I look forward to the advent of autumn with the enthusiasm of a kid waiting for Christmas.

Summer is too hot and winter is too cold. Spring and autumn are my happy places.

photo courtesy of www.weheartit.com

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

One of the reasons why I love fall is because I associate it with this one memory of my childhood. For the life of me I can’t remember how old I was, but I don’t think that detail is important.

I think it was around Thanksgiving, and it was a warm, crisp, radiant autumn. We had just gone on a family hike. Afterward, true to family form, we went for a long, relaxing drive through the countryside. We were listening to a Darrell Evans worship tape (so this must have been the late 90s – a brief look at Wikipedia tells me this album, Let the River Flow, was released in 1997).

As the glorious fall foliage – pumpkin patches, trees in their full splendour – streamed past the van windows, both the worship songs and the beautiful scenery spoke to my child’s heart and inspired a gratitude for God’s creation and the expression of music, as well as the cozy, heart-warming feeling that results from special time spent with family.

photo courtesy of pinterest.com

photo courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

Whenever the leaves start to turn colour and the air begins to cool in the mornings and at night, I find myself filled with nostalgia for that time. Thanksgiving, leaves, sweaters, pumpkins, the whole family staring out the window in quiet reflection as the van ambles along the country road with no destination in mind, Darrell Evans … it’s all inexorably linked in my mind.

photo courtesy of www.weheartit.com

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

I gave into the craving today (or was it God’s gentle prompting?) and started listening to Darrell Evans songs in my headphones at work. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been stressed lately, and working through some things, and despite my excitement for fall, I’ve been coming home at the end of the day feeling exhausted.

These words had a way of reaching into my heart, soothing it, and reminding me of the futility of worry:

I will seek you Lord

While I am in my youth

I will serve you Lord

And I’ll proclaim your truth

For you search and found me while I was far away

In my troubled times you always keep me safe

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation

Whom shall I fear

The Lord the stronghold of my life

Whom shall I fear

 

Cause I will seek you Lord

While I am in my youth

I will serve you lord and I’ll proclaim your truth

For you search and found me while I was far away

And in my troubled times you always keep me safe.

 

Exactly what I needed to hear this morning.

 

I will seek you Lord

While I am in my youth

 

photo courtesy of www.pinterest.com

photo courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

That special time, forever etched in my memory, of simply listening to music and existing in silence with each other as a family, had more of a profound effect on my spiritual journey as a child than Sunday School, Christian education, or any sermon I’d heard in a church pew. I don’t remember those, I remember that. 

It is my hope and prayer that I’d be able to create these memories with my family someday, too.

photo courtesy of www.weheartit.com

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

 

Here are the links to a few of the Darrell Evans songs from my youth:

 

 

 

The Tao of Tea

Me and my cup of Irish Breakfast. Is there any pleasure greater?

Tea … is there anything better than the assured pleasure of a good cup of tea? Bernard-Paul Heroux said, “there is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminished by a nice cup of tea,” and I tend to agree.

Tea is the sacred elixir of secrets. It’s steeped inspiration. In a dainty teacup or a hearty mug (such as I prefer), it holds sips of bliss, energy, repose, whatever is needed to greet each day. When tea is shared amongst friends, the tiniest details become soothing ritual and contain hidden gems. Waiting for the water to boil, waiting for the tea to steep to perfection … in a world of instant gratification, the simple act of making tea draws us gently back to simplicity, to an art practised in ancient times.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, because I’m enjoying a steaming mug of Earl Grey in the warmth of this spring afternoon and the birds are chirping and it’s quiet and I’m feeling candid: one of the things that endeared someone to me was the way they made me a thermos of tea to take on the road one morning, and they looped the teabag string around the thermos handle to prevent the bag from falling in. Perhaps they didn’t think anything of it, but that tiny gesture, to me, spoke volumes of sweet thoughtfulness.

When I see people gathered over pots of tea, I feel like I’m witnessing the true connection of souls. My thoughts on tea could possibly be labeled as romantic and sentimental, but I believe there’s pure poetry in the way we prepare our tea, magic in the warmth it spreads to our bodies and our hearts. I believe that the way each individual takes their tea reveals multitudes about the person themselves. I like my tea extra strong and of the black variety (think: English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Orange Pekoe, or Earl Grey), sweetened with milk and sugar, teabag in to maintain its strength. What does this say about me? Courage and resilience, tempered with just the right amount of sweetness? It’s possible …

How do you prefer your tea? What does it reveal about you?

Tea is medicinal, to the body and the soul, and an important cultural activity, from the ancient Chinese and Japanese to the United Kingdom. Clearly I’m not the only one who has waxed poetic over the wonders of tea:

The Philosophy of Tea is not mere aestheticism … for it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It is hygiene, for it enforces cleanliness; it is economics, for it shows comfort in simplicity rather than in the complex and costly; it is moral geometry, inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe — Kakuzo Okakura, Book of Tea

Tea is more than an idealization of the form of drinking, it is a religion of the art of life — Kakuzo Okakura, Book of Tea 

The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose — George Gissing

If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty — Japanese proverb

Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things — Saki

All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — George Orwell

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves–slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future — Thich Nhat Hanh

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me — C.S. Lewis

While there’s tea, there’s hope — Sir Arthur W. Pinero

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea — Henry James

A cup of Awake tea and Elizabeth Gaskell

 And now my friends, it’s just about lunchtime. After that, a cup of tea. So goes the day …

Trouble been doggin’ my soul since the day I was born

architect of my mind, smooth the planes

Anxiety is not only a pain which we must ask God to assuage but also a weakness we must ask Him to pardon; for He’s told us to take no care for the morrow — C.S. Lewis

So is it true what they say?

That I can live a carefree, unfettered existence and not worry about a thing?

It seems so impossible, so irresponsible, so unlike me. What would my mind do if not eternally ruminating over nuances, scrutinizing interactions, infusing meaning into silences? What would I do with all that time?

You have the Creator of the Universe living inside of you. Every distraction, every anxiety, is designed to keep you from living a supernatural life based on that fact. Living in the rest of God empowers you to find the rest of what God has for you — Steve Thompson, from Colossians 1:28

So maybe that’s it. Rest. Remaining calm in the midst of chaos. Keeping the peace within at any cost, even if it means pulling away, closing my eyes, and breathing because it’s the most important thing in the world. Not fretting, not speculating, not analyzing, catastrophizing, obsessing, because my mind feels that if it’s not picking apart something it’s not being responsible.

Flip it the other way around. Maybe it’s the thinking that’s the problem, the nucleus of negativity, the kink in the system. Maybe being responsible means resting, slowing down, allowing love and light to fill the dark corners.

Maybe the absence of fear is peace, a wave unfurling on the shore.

let go, give in

The Cave Song

I found myself poised at the mouth of a cave that emitted a low, beckoning song. I looked behind me at the mess of harvested fields and tangled forests, and the chill of solitude swept through my bones. Craving warmth, craving respite from slaying my own dragons, I stepped inside the cave and measured my footsteps by the rhythm of the cave’s welcoming song.

What struck me most about the cave song was how closely it resembled the song of my heart. As my fingers sought the cool, damp stone of the cave’s walls and the song ribboned around me, I was gripped with creeping recollection. There had been times when the pain of betrayal, the sting of rejection, or the abrupt brush of dismissal had forced me under blankets or flinging arms wide to the sea, to draw in and out of myself and let salt air or quilted comfort rock me with the steady thrumming of my very own dear soul.

And now this song, a crescendoing lure that began at the roots of my heart and its memories of oneness, brought me down deeper and darker into the cave’s serpentine throat.

My body responded to them before my head could comprehend that I wasn’t alone. Goosebumps prickled my skin and the hair on my arms rose as if blown on by cold air. I knew then, as my hand met flesh instead of stone wall that there were others like me, groping in darkness for something other than our own existence, our minuscule perceptions. As we walked in silence, I wondered if they could hear the same song, if the beating drum mimicked their hearts, if the chords struck and otherworldly undulations mirrored their hidden souls.

Crackling light spilled suddenly covering black with gold and the twisting tunnels broke open to reveal a hive of rooms electric, pulsing, living. There were all manner of people and creatures glimmering like stars, winged, glowing, dipped in fluorescent light. Once my eyes adjusted to this new brilliance, I explored room after room, feet advancing as if possessed. These people, this species of cave dwellers, roamed and danced and played instruments individually, but moved as if one to a cacophony of sounds.

golden cave man

I was approached then, by a man so beautiful I nearly doubled over with the sudden sharp acknowledgment of loneliness. His eyes burnt with fire and promise and his bare, burnished torso gleamed like the future. Before all logic and consideration we were interlocked, dancing to private unheard symphonies and there was gold dust in my hair, between my fingers, on my eyelashes and resting on my tongue. It tasted like stolen sweetness and my heart song quickened its tempo into a crashing riot of thunder and lightning.

Those eyes, his hands knotted with mine, held me for eternities. In those arms I imagined a warrior and myself a hero’s beauty, my body’s pleasure and relief of handing the sword to someone who would fight for me. He swept me into inner rooms and hidden chambers and showed me secret things and I could see it so clearly: life’s companion threshing wheat and overgrown weeds, making me beautiful and bold and wonderfully, exquisitely held. Held when blankets wore too thin and held when teetering too close to the cliff’s edge. Songs sung in harmony.

Eve’s kingdom for Adam’s kiss.

Lower and lower into the cave’s depths, my hand in his. So deep was I, so drunk on this feeling I rode like a wave, that I didn’t realize until seconds later that he was gone with as little logic and consideration as he had approached me.

His absence left me hollowed and hasty to leave the cave; in that moment of sharp desperation I saw there was no escape. I trudged like a wounded animal seeking my golden man. Flashes and glimpses danced on the walls, and I flung myself at them, only to crash headlong into stone and choke on gold dust lodged in my throat. It was then I heard the sliver of a new song, thin as violin strings and delicate as moth’s wing from the bowels of this new wretchedness. But I was like a lost child, a kitten, easily diverted by baubles and tricks of light.

I followed the shadow dancers and joined the mass of people and creatures like me transfixed by the cave’s seductive song. It was a party like none I had ever seen, a celebration of ourselves and our enjoyment of each other. All around me, those with severed limbs and giant gaping holes like mine flirted, fanned flames, posed in beguiling shapes. I saw then that it was a feast and we were feasting on each other’s souls. And the hole inside me gaped open, vulnerable, grotesque, and demanded instant filling. The cave people found solace in other arms, found ecstasy and delight in mutual mastication.

I saw how easily it was to replace one golden man for another, how with each dance and touch of hand the connection was more shallow, each split less severe. Bees to flowers, all of us were bees and flowers both, the honey and the beast.

All the while we caroused in perfect entrancement, a new song spun itself around me softly, approaching and retreating like a rolling tide. It was just sweet and pure enough, small teaspoons of honey, to give me pause. For brief moments I’d see myself as if from afar and perceive that we were a hurting lot with holes too big and ugly to fill. But the cave song was louder, it was catchy and quick and we were all singing it raucously. And the cave people, the golden men, were easier to see and touch than intangible threads of solitary songs.

How intoxicated I was then, high on the fraternity of cave people, blinded by light so fantastic, by a sense of belonging so exquisite I could scarcely recall what it was like as a lone heroine in a world beyond the cave. How powerful, how cozy, the labyrinthine walls of the cave! How simple it was to join in the song that everyone sings, to pretend I was nothing before singeing moments, incendiary connections with other cave dwellers.

oh to be an illuminated one

The new song told me other things, whispered to me secrets whilst I reeled from one golden man to another. It persisted. I hid and it found me. In a particularly dark moment of gasping recklessness it blasted my eardrums until I could hear nothing else, and the cave dwellers moved as if through water. My eyes were opened and I saw:

The glittering cave world for what it was. Emptiness inhabited by empty people. Chains shackling even the most graceful dancers. A place of shadows and illusions and artificial light. A deep and dark sadness masked in grand robes of idle celebration.

And I fought it, as the dancers coaxed and pleaded for me to return, as hands clasped mine and my heart responded, as I remembered how cold, how gut-punching and lonely it could be outside the cave. But the new song now sung my name like an urgent mantra and my eyes could not help but see the fear and falsity driving every gesture and embrace. I saw a tiny pinprick of light, dimmer but more honest than the cave’s bulbs and flares and my soul leapt before I did and I followed it, the hollow cave song growing less and less enticing.

I emerged from the cave and morning broke, tumbling over me like rain, like rebirth.

… And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! –Matthew 6: 23b

So come out of your cave walking on your hands

And see the world hanging upside down

You can understand dependence

When you know the maker’s hand.

So make your siren’s call

And sing all you want

I will not hear what you have to say.

Because I need freedom now

And I need to know how

To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I’ll find strength in pain

And I will change my ways

I’ll know my name as it’s called again.

— “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons

The Love of a Good Woman

woman, thou art loosed

I am utterly convinced that not only was Jesus an anomaly in the way he treated women living within a patriarchal culture, but that some of the most simplistically beautiful and poetic language in the Bible is reserved for women and the inner workings of their hearts. Small, subtle passages packed with meaning.

Consider:

Ruth 1:16-17 “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!'”

Matthew 28:1, 8-9 “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb […] The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshipped him.”

(Note that the first people Jesus appeared to upon resurrecting were women. Significant?)

Luke 1:41-45 “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said’.”

Luke 2:18-19 “All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.”

Luke 7: 37-38 “When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”

Luke 10: 38-42 “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

... and it was not taken away from her

You know what these scriptures reveal to me? That God truly values and treasures women and that we are a uniquely fashioned reflection of him and of his beauty, creativity, poetry, loyalty, and fierce — nearly inexplicable — love.

Men are special too, of course; that goes without saying. But I’m a woman and I cannot help but be captivated by these Biblical women who treasure things in their hearts and turn them over often like precious jewels, who fall at Jesus’ feet without abandon in front of rich and important men and bathe him in their tears, who shirk domestic duties to bask in his presence.

Although the position of women in Biblical times and their role in that culture was obviously not ideal — from our standpoint — it’s still worth noting that the women that are mentioned are given a special significance (Mary the mother of Jesus alone is worth contemplation, especially in Catholicism). Despite the damage that man has done over the years in terms of bigotry and religion, it wouldn’t be a stretch to look at all the passages of the Bible that speak about women (making sure to include Esther, Deborah, Anna, Rahab, the Shulamite woman, the Samaritan woman, etc.) and conclude that God respects, adores, and cherishes his brides.

Another thing that the scriptures I highlighted illustrate is that a woman’s love is fervent and unparalleled — whether it be for her family (even her mother-in-law), her child, or her Lord, and perhaps even … her man (I would suggest looking at the book of Ruth and Songs of Solomon for some interesting love stories).

You see, the love of a good woman is precious beyond measure. It’s undefinable, often impractical, at times illogical. You’ll look at these women who are faithfully, unwaveringly devoted to ungrateful partners, rebellious children, selfish friends, and think, how could she be so weak? How could she love someone like that? They don’t deserve her love. Perhaps they don’t, but her love remains constant. Her treasures trampled. Her gift — selfless love — abused. The corruption of the world renders her love obsolete, worthless, cheap, laughable, pathetic. Counterfeit love reigns supreme.

i offered you my love and it was pure and true like a million twinkling stars

But it doesn’t have to.

Women, let’s love our families, our friends, our partners and our First Love without abandon, without restraint, without fear of rejection or misuse. Let’s take a lesson from these Biblical women and let the fires of our love never cool. Let’s throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and let ourselves be loved immaculately so we can in turn lavish that love onto others.

And men, please cherish our love like the priceless gift it is …

Adornment

" ... a beauty neither of fine colour, nor long eyelash, nor penciled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance ..."

As a feminist in a post-feminist world, I’ve always had an issue with the Apostle Paul and his whole “wives, submit to your husbands” shpiel and sometimes I like to pretend it’s not in the Bible.

As a Christian, I’ve always kind of felt guilty about that.

Surprisingly, much debate still arises from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and verses that have been used out of context to keep women silent and uninvolved in ministry (or in any position of authority). What do you really do with verses that state, as in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, that “the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church”?

You would think that, in 2010, Christians would be aware of the fact that Paul was speaking to a particular church about a specific problem in a certain culture (ie. the womenfolk using the church as their place to gossip and heckle each other), but sadly, I’ve had some debates with believers who strongly believe that the Word is as alive to today as it was then and it is blasphemy to try to make the Bible culturally relevant because it clearly states “man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake” (1 Corinthians 11:9); therefore, a woman is inferior to a man and it is in God’s design that a man have the power and authority in church and otherwise, and a woman ought to be silent and submissive.

I have actually heard those arguments, and when I hear them spoken by women, it grieves my heart. Yes, I believe the Bible is as alive today as it was when it was written and you cannot mess with the word of God, but still … it’s all about context, context, context. I don’t think it’s blasphemous to take a step back from scripture sometimes and think it through, keeping it mind that yes, it is living and true, but it was also written a very long, long time ago and some things just aren’t relevant anymore. Women can vote, own companies, be CEOS, and get equal pay, yet they shouldn’t be in positions of authority in the church (with the exclusion of Children’s and Women’s Ministries)?

Something doesn’t quite add up there … We certainly don’t sacrifice our livestock anymore, and if we did, it would be ridiculous since the society back then was far more agricultural than it is now and animals were often used as currency. So to subordinate women for the sake of obeying God’s word? It just doesn’t make sense.

there is truth in the red letters

In cases like this, I always go back to the life, words, and actions of Jesus, since He is what it’s all about. Jesus was culturally radical when it came to his treatment of women. He spoke to women, personally, in the same way He spoke to men. Not only that — He spoke to marginalized women, like the adulterous Samaritan and offered her truth and hope rather than judgment. In Luke 10, Jesus is at the home of Mary and Martha and is teaching Mary, something a rabbi in that culture certainly would not have done. He says, ” … Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 42)

It certainly shall not.

While there are portions of the Bible directed to women that admittedly still make me cringe, there are passages I can learn from and apply to my everyday life. Proverbs 31 is one. And 1 Peter 3, even though it does start out with, “wives, be submissive to your husbands” (but I don’t have a husband so I don’t need to worry about that!)

Last Sunday, I was at a church service, and my friend’s husband was preaching from 1 Peter 1 and for some reason, I found myself drawn to 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says, “your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

That verse touched me like it never has before, and I didn’t interpret it as another attempt of the early church to subjugate women. Instead, it speaks of something greater, something close to my heart. It’s not merely what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that is lovely and beautiful to God. It’s who you are in secret, when you’re not in church and around other Christians and playing Perfect Little Christian Girl. It’s ridding yourself of performance, jealousy, insecurity, and pride, and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform you.

There is, I think, a marked difference between silent and quiet. I can live with that.