In so far as…

I don’t think we ever really outgrow the desire to be a part of the cool kids group.  Or, maybe it’s just me. I want to feel a part of something-to belong-to be granted access to the secret handshake that will open doors for me. And, then again, maybe not.  Accepted? Yes. Who doesn’t want to feel that? The rest? I am not good at fitting in because I question. I challenge. I pursue. All things that well meaning folks tell me to do less of; suggest that if I did less of these things that I would be more content, more accepted, more fun to be around. Great. Thanks. I’ll take those suggestions under advisement.

While those ‘suggestions’ may seem practical or like a quick fix so I can be like everyone else-be more acceptable-I have just one tiny observation…they go against everything I was created to be. I am put together a certain way. Believe me; I have tried to be more like the cool kids. To be happy, to smile more, to say all the right things, to dress the right way, to whatever the ‘right way’ and here’s the rub: it just. Isn’t. Me. It isn’t who God created me to be. I am searcher, a life-long quester, a look deeper into kind of person and to deny that is to deny that I was created with intention, that there is purpose behind my aching and defiant heart.

Scripture tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” but so often we believe we would be so much more wonderfully made in the image of someone else other than God. The ‘if only’s’, the comparisons, the ‘suggestions’, the doubts, they take our eyes off of Him, who created each perfectly, and turn our focus instead to the reflection in a tattered mirror of who we think we should be. Or, worse yet, who others think we should be.

The distractions of ‘should’ obliterate our opportunities-the work He puts in front of us by casting doubts, keeping us looking sideways instead of straight ahead and introducing hesitation. There is an old quote-it’s actually slightly misappropriated in its present form but the gist is dead on-“He who hesitates is lost”. When we open the door to doubt or compare what is before us to what others are accomplishing we hesitate, we stop in our tracks and then stumble back, stunned by our lack. What better tool in the arsenal of evil to stop the good work that needs to be done than preventing its beginning?

I wish I could say that in all my wrestling that I am motivated to action. I suffer from the deep paradox of humanity. I long to take a stand and make right the world where there is so much pain and destruction. I long to see the fall of the proud, loud-mouthed, and power hungry who bellow their righteousness for all to hear. My heart grapples for peace, clutching at vaporous strands. I do all of this yet forget to greet my neighbor in my distraction. I sup alone when I could surround myself with companions. I toss and twist when I could knead the bread of friendship. I hesitate.

So, back to wanting to feel a part of something… Every year I see people posting their ‘word’. They choose a word to be a challenge or a guide throughout the coming year.  I’ve tried joining in but-me being me-a single word never seems to make the cut. This year was no different. As January loped along I saw word after word posted and couldn’t manage to home in on any particular one. I did, however, continually feel a nudge towards something different. Of course.  Prayers were met with a response I kept denying because it wasn’t what I thought it should be-it was supposed to be a word. Instead, what I was met with was something entirely different. It was an action. And not even a single action-it was pressed on me to DO. Do something. Do anything except accept stasis. Take action.  And, as is the wont of a creator who knows how to get under my skin, He planted a verse-repeatedly (which is no small task for little ole me who struggles with memorization) in my thoughts. Actually, more than one.

…act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God…

Micah 6:8. I love this verse. I also love the various translations that can be found as well

…to do what is right to other people[just], love being kind to others[mercy, loving-kindness] and live humbly, obeying[walk humbly with]your God. (Expanded bible EXB)

…to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Good News Translation GNT)

…do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously-take God seriously (The Message MSG)

All similar-all meaning the same thing; all a call to action. Do. Be. Act. Live. Love.

He also placed on my sideways looking heart this verse:

…and do your best to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (CEV)

Some translations add

…if possible, so far as it depends on you…

…do your best to…

…as much as possible…

There is such grace in the addition of this phrase as it grants permission to accept we won’t do it perfectly, but that we live in such a way that we strive for this peace.

This second verse is the fly in the ointment for me.

“In so far as it is up to you”  Yeah. What I take this to mean is that no matter what I hear, what I read, how I feel about what is going on, responsibility is still mine to conduct myself in such a way as to promote and live a peaceful path.  Again, yeah. This is the harder task (and I speak for myself) because it is easy to take action when angry, out of retaliation and/or self-righteous indignation; but to act, live, and walk with a heart of peace in the midst of circumstances I may disagree with-in some instances vehemently-requires supernatural intervention.  Thankfully I have a God that is up to the task.

So here it is February and everyone else has picked their word, begun their challenge and here I am just now figuring out what is written on my own page. It was probably there all along.  Do. Be. Act. Live. Love. Not a single word, nor a single action, but a way of living. I am being called to change the way I live my ordinary. To grow my boundaries to include what is outside my own ideas of what I should be doing and realign my heart to what I must be doing; to resist hesitation and step-one footfall at a time-out into the extraordinary grace only He can provide to create the change He desires.



What dreams…

I am going to begin with a disclaimer: I wrote this post yesterday.  I put down the words and then put down the computer to think about it for awhile.  One thing I try to be here is vulnerable-which is hard.  The other I try to be is honest. My tagline reads Art, Life and Everything in Between.  This is going to be an in between post.  I wrote it all out as a way to work through-it’s about a dream by the way-just what it means, or what it means for me.  I am still feeling the emotion of this dream so tangibly that my heart rate picks up a bit when I think of it.

So, what follows is just a dream. Or maybe it is more of a hope, somehow.

I woke from a dream this morning with my ears ringing with a chant that was being repeated-growing louder with each repetition. ‘Hear me. See me. Feel me.”  HEAR ME. SEE ME. FEEL ME.” This dream left me rattled, its words still echoing in my ears so many hours later.  Hear me. See me. Feel me.

I am a vivid dreamer but, unlike so many dreams, this one left a tangible wake. It left lingering images and words so clear it was as if they actually happened. And, as is the want of dreams, it was pulling from memory, experience and longings that bubble up from deep within.

For example (and this will be the humor portion of the post): earlier in the day I had had a flash memory of something that would repeat itself in my childhood.  I had always longed for, well, really long hair. Every year right before school my mother would ‘trim’ my hair and, inevitably, I would end up with a pixie cut-much to my humiliation. This translated into me actually getting and having a really bad haircut in my dream.  Evidently my dream psyche has a sense of humor.

Aside from the bad hair, what I saw in this dream was people. I was surrounded by people. They were all colors. Some were older, some younger. Many were dressed in ordinary, what looked to be, work related clothing. All bore some sort of burden, were broken, un-something, but none were un-hurt. I couldn’t see their individual burden but I knew it was there. Some were unshaven, disheveled,  most indistinguishable one from another- except for their faces.

One man in particular stood out. He was yelling at me. His face is so clear and I can still feel the heat of his breath on my face.  The words are garbled but I felt them more than heard them, and they bored deep into my soul. I was being blamed and judged. I was wanting. I was accused. And, I was angry. I waited until he was finished, losing sight of the throng of people surrounding us, and looking deeply into his face I began to speak.

You think I don’t know hurt? You think I have never been judged or looked down on? You think I don’t know pain? You think because I am me that I have never been beaten up, bloodied, broken? You think that I don’t know what it is to suffer?

I have been hurt. My heart has been crushed and has ached with loss. My soul has been shamed and lied to.  I have never been good enough. I HAVE been judged. I have been deceived and believed these deceptions. I have been broken and bloodied in fights. Was beaten as a child and scrapped on the playground to protect myself. I’ve been the outsider, the disregarded, the friendless, the un-chosen. Did you know I was abandoned at birth? Left for nothing? That this leaves a mark of emptiness and heartache all the days of your life? It marks you for the unwanted. Forever. Did you know? My hurt may not look like your hurt but pain is pain. So when you look at me don’t you dare think that I. Don’t. Know. **

I know these things are true of me and I can bet that they are true to you-these three things are all I want  from others and I know they are all you want too-Hear me. See me. Feel me.  Acknowledge I exist. HEAR ME. SEE ME. FEEL ME.  Pay attention; let me know that though the voice is soft the reverberation shakes the foundation. HEAR ME.  Look past what you see-look me in the eyes and SEE ME.  Understand that there is hurt hiding in the recesses and that pain pulses in this heart. FEEL ME. Until we can do these things together we can never understand together.

As I continued to speak my throat ached and my voice grew louder. People began to chant HEAR ME, SEE ME, FEEL ME. The chanting grew and I reached out to take this dirty, grizzled man’s hand-to lift him up to stand. We began to chant together HEAR ME, SEE ME, FEEL ME and this sound filled the air bouncing and crashing in on itself again and again annnnnnnd then I woke up.

It is after two in the afternoon and I am still reeling from this dream.  It is antithetical to how I function-I am mostly quiet, far from being a motivational speaker, do my best to hide from the ugliness of my past and focus on the now, don’t know that many people and avoid crowds like the plague (it’s an introvert thing).  I am sure I could expound on the individual traits of the dream but everything can be analyzed to smithereens so I’ll leave that to the experts. All I know-and this really is all I know-is that for some reason I had a powerful dream that has upended my day and may upend many to come.

The point of this post? Mostly to unload my thoughts so they stop the swirl that they are causing.  This dream may mean nothing at all, as is the truth of many dreams. Like Scrooge explaining Jacob Marley’s appearance-perhaps it was indigestion or exhaustion that caused this dream. Whatever the cause, I feel rattled. Like something has been shaken loose.  I’ll need a few days to figure out the what and how-or perhaps I will forget about it but at least I got it out.

Till next time…

** I feel I need to add that these are truths in my life-not merely random words that a dream would insert.