You’re My Best Friend

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (where I write each day inspired by a song from that morning’s run)

I’m not at my

Shiny

Glittery

Most excellent

Very Best

State of Being

Today.

Not even close.

Pretty sure if I were to step

On the scale today

It would say

I weigh

One thousand pounds.

I don’t want to care about that

Yet, I do.

I care that I feel cumbersome

XXL

Taking up too much space

Uncomfortable.

Last week I felt great

And I did nothing differently

Than I have been doing this week

Yet I blame myself today

I must be living wrong

Eating wrong

Doing wrong

To feel so crummy right now.

Because why else would I feel so icky?

It must be my fault for feeling

ICKY

Icky is the word for it.

Bloated

Crabby

Pudgy

Icky.

A massive zit

A zit the size of a newborn

adorns my chin

It greets everyone before I do

When I walk in the room

At the age of forty-seven

My zit the size of a small village

is nestled in the midst of my wrinkles

Looking out of place

But determined.

I ran this morning – even faster than usual

But felt heavy with every step.

I have a cut on my thumb.

The small red pepper I was cutting up

To go in my eggs

Was tricky to cut.

My thumb was not.

It sliced and bled so easily.

And hurts like hell.

The band-aid is obtrusive and

Wants to type its’ own words.

Dear sweet baby Jesus

I hate all my clothes –

They are unflattering and

I blame them for

Being so…

Plain

Ill-fitting

Dark

Hot

Itchy

Blah.

And my hair!

My hair is weird, dry, and flat.

And decidedly gray.

Not a shimmering silver.

Not arctic blond or nearly snow-white.

Just gray.

Cloudy, rainy day-gray.

When will I ever

Get it all together?

I’m drinking my water

I’m eating my vegetables

Getting plenty of sleep

Nary a drop of alcohol
But still.

This day, I feel

Hit by the ugly truck

That hit me once

Backed over me

And hit me again

And then parked on top of me.

Overnight.

Why oh why

Oh why oh

Why

Are some days

This way?

The only thing to do

Is take good care of me

And gently, softly say

“Tomorrow will be better.”

I remind myself that

looking good

And feeling good

Every day

Is not the rent I have to pay

For being a woman in this world.

Some days you will feel like a rock star

Some days you will feel like crap

But every day, you are valuable.

Every day, you are worthy

Of love

Of nourishment

Of joy

Of being treated well.

On the days you feel less

Than your most excellent, perfect,

Shiny, shimmering self

Remember to be extra kind

To yourself.

Some days

Are just this way.

Be kind to you.

Maybe ask yourself what you need

Right now.

A nap?

To be quiet with a good book?

To go for a walk?

A movie?

Whatever it is –

Be sure you are looking for ways

To bless yourself

And not punish yourself.

Punishment is never the way

To treat someone when they are feeling down.

Love

Nurturing

Sweet words

Gentleness –

Give yourself these things

You deserve them.

Especially on days like this.

Be your own best friend.

 

You’re My Best Friend

By Queen

Ooh, you make me live
Whatever this world can give to me
It’s you, you’re all I see
Ooh, you make me live now honey
Ooh, you make me live

You’re the best friend
That I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine
And I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
You’re my best friend

Ooh, you make me live

I’ve been wandering round
But I still come back to you
In rain or shine
You’ve stood by me girl
I’m happy at home (happy at home)
You’re my best friend.

Ooh, you make me live
Whenever this world is cruel to me
I got you to help me forgive
Ooh, you make me live now honey
Ooh, you make me live

You’re the first one
When things turn out bad
You know I’ll never be lonely
You’re my only one
And I love the things
I really love the things that you do
You’re my best friend

Ooh, you make me live.

I’m happy, happy at home
You’re my best friend
You’re my best friend
Ooh, you make me live
You, you’re my best friend

If Not Now

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

I could sum up the gospel for this Sunday in one sentence. Here it is:

We are each given gifts from God, and we are expected to do something with those gifts in order to grow them, however we can – not for the benefit of only ourselves, but for the benefit of our community and world.

Boom.

But I ought to break it down a little more than that – so here we go:

First – we are each given gifts from God:

We might notice or feel occasionally that someone else’s gifts seem to be bigger or more interesting than ours, but spending too much time thinking about someone else’s gifts rather than our own is never very helpful.

This counts for both material gifts and the gifts of talents.  A professor of mine told a story of going to see a talented pianist play. He was blown away by her performance, so much so that he and his wife decided to go again the next night. But he said he noticed that something began to change in him – while at first he was just appreciating the music and enjoying being in awe of her talent, in time something shifted and during the second performance he began to feel bad. He used to play piano. What if he had kept up with it? Here was this lady with so much talent and a concert hall of people wanting to see her play. He couldn’t do anything like that. He began to feel worse and worse about himself and more and more jealous of her.

He was surprised at himself that he felt such strong negative feelings, but he summed it up in saying that all of us can be guilty of coveting in our own way if we begin to focus too much on what someone else has rather than on what we have.

Do you ever do that?  You are perfectly satisfied with your car, it runs well, it has heat, it goes forward and backward – it’s a fine car. But then your friend gets a new car that is shinier, has heated seats, a sunroof, maybe video screens in the seats for the kids – and suddenly your car seems a bit shabby.

Or maybe you are proud of the work you are doing in your career, you work hard and you give your best to it, you feel a real sense of satisfaction and meaning in it. But then you notice someone, maybe someone you know well, getting a promotion just like the kind you have dreamed of, or maybe he’s getting interviewed on the news as an expert in your field – and suddenly you feel small and wonder why your work isn’t being noticed in the same way.

It’s hard in moments like that to know exactly what to do. Sure, there is room for being inspired by the success of others and letting it inspire us to work harder, but we have to be careful to monitor exactly what we are working for.  I’ll come back to that….

When we feel the gremlin of comparison starting to bug us, I am convinced the best antidote is thankfulness. Start listing to yourself all the blessings you do have. Get your focus off the object of your jealousy and back onto all that God has given you. Concern yourself with those things, because those are your talents.

Now, what are you doing with them?

That’s the next part. We are given gifts in order to do something with them, to grow them, to experiment with them, to change our community and world with them in ways only we can.

This takes some bravery – because if we worry that our gifts aren’t all that spectacular to start with, there is the temptation to hide them, bury them, keep them a bit secret so that others won’t see we only have what we have.

A friend of mine who loved to write put all her spare time into writing – it was a book about her experiences as a music teacher. I can’t tell you how her face used to light up when she would talk about the latest story she was relaying, how her piece of work was taking shape. The only thing was that she kept revising it, would never let anyone see it because it “wasn’t ready yet.” Years and years went by and when I talked to her I would always ask her how her book was coming and she would say, “still working on it.” But she talked about it less and less. It’s like the fire in her eyes went out about the project. I always wondered if it was because she lingered with it too long and never let it out into the world. This friend of mine died from cancer about seven years ago and I often thought about that manuscript she was working on. What happened to it? And who might have been touched, moved, or inspired by that book if she had stopped revising it, stopped stalling, and just put it out into the world?

The time is now to share what God has given you. Who you are, your story, your abilities, your unique, quirky ideas, they matter. How can you work a bit harder this week to take exactly what God has given you and grow something new, bigger, different, interesting out of it?

And do that not just for yourself, but for your community and world. That’s the third part. And it is so important – because our efforts grow empty pretty quickly if we are only seeking recognition or gain for ourselves.

So as we work hard to develop what God has given us, it’s good to pause now and then and monitor, observe, and reflect upon why we are doing what we are doing. Are we working so that others will notice us and compliment us, reward us with money or prestige? Or are we working so that we can make the world better, help our neighbors, be followers of Jesus?

I was remembering a story I heard about nine women who live in Tennessee and call themselves the 9 Nanas – they gather at 4 am to begin their daily routine. It’s a mission that all begins with baked goods.

Over the next three hours, the 9 Nanas whip up hundreds of pound cakes. And then, before anyone gets as much as a glimpse of them, they’ll disappear back into their daily lives. Even the UPS driver, who picks up hundreds of packages at a time, has no clue what these women are doing. They are working on a plan that began 35 years ago.

Back then they had decided to find ways to set aside a bit of money each month, pool it together, and then find ways to help others. They soon had about $400 each month they were setting aside without their husbands knowing – and then when they heard about a widow or a single mom who needed a little help, they’d step in and anonymously pay a utility bill or buy some new clothes for the children. They bought supplies for the local women’s shelter, a new refrigerator or stove for the family that just had a house fire – they did everything anonymously and always were keeping their ears to the ground to find the next people they could help.

When their husbands found out what they were doing, they offered to help. Eventually they told their grown children and the children encouraged their mothers to start selling their pound cakes online, so they could raise money to help even more people. It wasn’t long before they were receiving more than 100 orders in a day.

These days, the 9 Nanas are able to take on even bigger projects, given their online success. In the last 35 years, the 9 Nanas have contributed nearly $900,000 to their local community…and it all began with just the desire to help, and the money and energy they had.

We are each given gifts from God, and we are expected to do something with those gifts in order to grow them, however we can – not for the benefit of only ourselves, but for the benefit of our community and world.

What will you do?

This week?

Today?

What will you do in Jesus’ name?  

 

If Not Now

By Carrie Newcomer

If not now, tell me when
If not now, tell me when.
We may never see this moment
Or place in time again
If not now, if not now, tell me when.

I see sorrow and trouble in this land
I see sorrow and trouble in this land
Although there will be struggle we’ll make the change we can.
If not now, tell me when.

I may never see the promised land.
I may never see the promised land.
And yet we’ll take the journey
And walk it hand in hand
If not now, tell me when.

If not now, tell me when
If not now, tell me when.
We may never see this moment
Or place in time again
If not now, if not now, tell me when.

So we’ll work it ’til it’s done
Every daughter every son,
Every soul that ever longed for something better,
Something brighter.

It will take a change of heart for this to mend.
It will take a change of heart for this to mend.
But miracles do happen every shining now and then
If not now, tell me when?

If not now,
Tell me when.
But miracles do happen every shining now and then.
If not now tell me when.
If not now tell me when.
If not now tell me when.

 

When You Were Young

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

The blog I wrote yesterday, “She’s a Beauty”, came on like a fever. I had to write it. I woke up with the thoughts needing to be come out. Like labor pains, it couldn’t be avoided or delayed, I just had to sit down and write.

Then, unlike most of my blog posts, I shared it on social media and it received a fair amount of responses. People understood what I was trying to say and many of them had their own stories to contribute – whether in the comments or by private message. I knew many would resonate with what I was saying about the endless battle so many of us face with loving/hating our bodies, but I wasn’t prepared to see even some of my friends whom I think are so thin and couldn’t possibly have body issues also resonating with what I wrote. It just further underscores my point: we are all so messed up about food and body image!

It felt good because earlier that morning I had been battling with the idea of starting another diet, but instead of giving any energy to that idea, I battled it: I wrote about it, declared my opposition to it, and then went and ate what I wanted to eat yesterday without another thought about it. No obsessing, no measuring, no tracking. I decided to have a great day yesterday at the weight I am at. I did everything and put off nothing until I lost a few pounds.

While I was running this morning, I had a vision of all the scales, fitbits, calorie-tracking apps, weight-loss books, diet pills, shakes, everything the diet industry tries to sell us being sucked down a giant vacuous hole. I imagined what the world would be like if there were no more Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jennie Craig…if all of it just disappeared along with all before and after pictures, Tab soda, and rice cakes. The world would miss none of it, and in fact, would feel so much more free.

And then in that same vision, I imagined if I got back every bit of time I ever invested in thinking about weight loss: all the time I spent planning the next diet, counting calories, weighing whether or not to eat something, weighing actual food items, entering calorie counts in a little notebook or an app, looking at my fitbit, reading weight loss books, reading weight loss stories in magazines or on the internet, feeling bad about myself for how much I currently weighed, and all the time I was forced to listen to cruel people make remarks about my weight when I was in elementary school and junior high. What if I could have back the time I wasted trying to find clothes that actually fit me when I wanted to shop in the stores the other girls shopped in back in the 1980’s? Imagine if I could get a refund on the time I spent trying to burn off the calories – all those miles around the track, all those hours on the stairmaster, every minute I spent at the gym out of self-hatred instead of self-love? I figure the first 30-40 minutes of most of my workouts exist because working out makes me feel good,  and if it goes much beyond that it is usually to punish myself for past transgressions or make up for future ones. What if I could have all that time back?

And the money! The money I spent buying food I hated, another exercise DVD, another book, another pedometer, another plan – what if I could have all of it back?

I would likely be ten years younger and ten thousand dollars richer.

And that is a modest estimation.

My first diet: For many years, since very early elementary, I had been bullied because of my weight. I was lucky I also had good friends, but it’s hard to describe how incessantly I faced name-calling and harassment because of my size. There were certain ‘mean kids’ I tried my hardest to avoid, but they were everywhere. The worst part was that this was before schools started cracking down on bullying and so most of the time the bullies were not punished and I just accepted it was all my fault. I slinked around the edges of the hallways and classrooms trying not to be noticed too much – because if I was noticed, I was so often ridiculed. When the meanest, most consistent bully of all ended up sitting behind me in eighth grade Algebra class, each day was torture. I think I ended up hating math mostly because of him. Every day he hissed insults at me and made me the butt of his jokes to his friends sitting near us.

In retrospect, how I wish I had simply asked the teacher if I could be moved to a new seat – but like I said, I blamed myself. Wasn’t it my fault for being too big, taking up too much space, existing? If I could just magically shrink and be able to wear those cute little jeans and sweaters my classmates wore, everything would be fine.

My mom knew how miserable I was. I talked about wanting to diet and she gave me a list she had gotten from the doctor of the calorie amounts of about 500 different foods. The doctor intended it for my dad since my father had gained a lot of weight in recent years, but I took that list and made it my bible. That whole summer, I ate no more than 1200 calories a day (usually far less) and exercised like it was my job. Mom bought me a little red track suit I wore as I starved and sweated. I lost weight. I laid in bed at night dreaming up elaborate fantasies of the reactions of my friends when they saw me again.

And it was as glorious as I knew it would be. People could hardly recognize me with my new figure that was still slowly shrinking and mom bought me some new clothes, too. It seemed everyone in the entire school needed to comment on my weight loss and suddenly the mean kids were mute around me. They weren’t outwardly friendly to me, but at least they weren’t being vicious mean anymore.

It was like a match to dry grass then, the way I took to dieting. To finally feel acceptable, pretty, even admired – there was nothing as intoxicating as that. I kicked the weight-loss efforts into beast mode. I was having a small nutrition shake for breakfast, a mustard sandwich (because mustard has no calories) for lunch, and maybe a few saltines and chicken noodle soup for supper.   I savored each bite, trying to make my meager meals last as long as I possibly could. I had an exercise routine I followed religiously after school for two hours: jumping rope, ‘toning’ exercises, situps, repeat, repeat, repeat.

It was all very satisfying for a while. I could ignore the hunger pains because the scale was heading in the ‘right’ direction and at the end of all my hard work I was going to look just like the models in the magazines and never have to worry about food or insults or fat ever again. It’s amazing what a person can do with the promise of something like that shining like a beacon out in front of you.

Except it was a false promise.

I did shrink and I got down to the size of my friends, but life wasn’t magically perfect. I was still shy and kind of a dork, just a thinner one. And then, on top of that, I was still SO HUNGRY! I was hungry to my core. I was so hungry that I felt on-edge, jittery, and weak all at the same time. I tried mightily to hold on to the starving, the small amount of calories I was ingesting each day, but eventually biology won out over self-control, and the binging began. Diet #1 over. A lifelong rollercoaster of weight-loss, weight-gain, and mental turmoil only just begun.

That is what is so maddening about it all when I look back over my journey with dieting – the promise was false.

While all along my body had been running perfectly, trying to tell me what it needed and to settle at a weight pleasing to it, I battled it in return. I believed what media and friends and ‘health experts’ and everyone else told me and promised me rather than just listening to what my body needed.  How else was my body supposed to respond to my starving it, except to binge?

I won’t get all the time, energy, and money back that I lost to the diet industry. It’s gone forever. And while I have always said I have very few regrets in this life, I am coming to understand that this loss is something I regret. I grieve for the girl I was who lost herself in the morass of diet culture.

But I am thankful for the woman I am who is finding my way out.

 

When You Were Young

By the Killers

You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save your from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now, here he comes

He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young

Can we climb this mountain
I don’t know
Higher now than ever before
I know we can make it if we take it slow
Let’s take it easy
Easy now, watch it go

We’re burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane that started turning
When you were young
When you were young

And sometimes you close your eyes
And see the place where you used to live
When you were young

They say the devil’s water, it ain’t so sweet
You don’t have to drink right now
But you can dip your feet
Every once in a little while

You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now, here he comes

He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young
(Talks like a gentlemen, like you imagined)
When you were young

I said he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But more than you’ll ever know

 

 

 

 

North Dakota

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Secret in the Church Tower #3

Johanne

Johanne sat in Bakken Kirke that hot July morning.  She did not remember it ever being so hot in Norway as it was here in America. All the windows were open but there was no breeze drifting over the Dakota prairie. She looked out the window next to the rough oak bench on which she sat. It had been so dry that summer the grass was hardly green but more a light brown color. They needed to keep praying for rain.  God had been so faithful to bring them safely to this new land and they had to believe the journey and all the tormenting goodbyes they said to their family and friends would be worthwhile.  The crops would grow.  Their life there would be good.  It just had mostly been very, very hard so far.

At least her family had all made it there alive.  Some other families had suffered great losses on the journey.  The Jenson’s youngest daughter had come down with a terrible fever as they traveled by wagon through Illinois.  Her name was Inge and she had only been three years old with white blonde hair.  She had been a joy to everyone in their village of Heskestad. Johanne remembered Inge’s baptism day at their little church back in Norway.  On the day they buried her in a field in Illinois, Johanne had wept to think of how happy Inge’s baptism day had been and now they had wrapped that dear little girl in her mother’s shawl and they were burying her lifeless body.

Other families had lost elderly members who were weakened from the hardships of travel and illness, and a few other young women had died in childbirth like the pastor’s wife.  Although their church in the Dakota territory was only a few years old, there were already quite a few graves in the small cemetery.  In fact, the cemetery was established before they even started building the church.  Mr. Haugen’s wife died just the first week they arrived in Dakota and he buried her on the beautiful hill on the land they homesteaded. He then met with the other men in the community and offered to give the entire hill so that a church could be built there.  And Bakken Kirke was established.

Bakken Kirke was a simple building, although they did build it with a strong frame and a tall steeple. Johanne loved how the placement of the church on the hill made it stand out over the entire countryside and when the bell tolled it could be heard for miles. The bell was tolled on Sunday mornings as the pastor walked from the small parsonage over to the church and beckoned all within its’ hearing to come to worship.  The bell was also rung as they departed the church after worship.  On New Year’s Eve they gathered there and rang the bell at midnight just as they had done in the old country and as the church was one of the only community gathering places in the area, the bell was rung if there needed to be a meeting of the men in the area to make decisions or share information.

Johanne and her family went to church every Sunday morning but as she glanced at her father and the sweat running down the side of his face as he listened to the preacher, she guessed that he, too, longed for the service to be over today so they could get out of that hot church building.  She noticed his hair was much more gray now than it had been just a few years ago.  He was starting to look a lot like her grandfather, who was still back in Norway.  She would likely never see either of them again during her time on earth.

The pastor’s sermon ended and the congregation sang, “O, Bli Hos Meg.  It was a quiet, somber hymn, but this Sunday held a bit of sadness as today was Pastor Knudsvig’s last Sunday with them.  His wife had died earlier that spring and he had decided rather than trying to raise their six children alone or find a new wife in America, he would return to Norway where his sisters could help him and he would help with the family farm, which was necessary as his older brother who had been overseeing the farm since their father’s death, had just had an accident leaving him unable to discharge his daily duties on the farm.  Pastor Knudsvig had been a faithful, gentle pastor and Johanne was not sure he was suited to the life of a farmer and to work in the fields but she did know by now that one had to do what was necessary.  She looked at his children, all sitting in the front row.  The eldest was merely eight years old.  The youngest was the baby, sleeping now in the eight year-old’s arms.  Their mother had died giving birth to the baby.  Deaths during childbirth happened frequently, so frequently that there was an entire section of the small cemetery where babies were buried.  When the mother died in childbirth, usually the baby didn’t survive either, but Pastor Knudsvig’s infant was hearty and strong. He had been given the name Jens, everyone assumed in loving tribute to his mother, whose name had been Jenny.

Jenny was soft-spoken with an easy, sparkling laugh, and although it was unspoken, Johanne felt that what people liked best about Pastor Knudsvig was that he was married to Jenny. She had a way of putting everyone at ease and her lightness of spirit cheered anyone who was around her. Johanne thought about how awful it must be for her children to be without her. Johanne glanced over at her own mother sitting a few seats away.  She could not imagine being without her mother.  Although she and her mother were very different, her mother’s loving presence and steadfast strength in their family was what had made these last years of leaving Norway and beginning a new life in the Dakota territory tolerable. Her heart ached for the pastor and his children to have to make the journey back to Norway when the children had all been born here and this was the only home they had ever known. And for Pastor Knudsvig to give up his calling to ministry for his family, well, that was surely the greatest sacrifice of all.

North Dakota

by Lyle Lovett

The boys from North Dakota
They drink whiskey for their fun
And the cowboys down in Texas
They polish up their guns
And they look across the border
To learn the ways of love

If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, say I do
If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, say I do
And you can say I love you
And you can say I do

So I drank myself some whisky
And I dreamed I was a cowboy
And I rode across the border

If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, take my hand
If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, take my hand
And you can say I love you
And you can have my hand

I remember in the mornings
Waking up
With your arms around my head
You told me you can sleep forever
And I’ll still hold you then

Now the weather’s getting colder
It’s even cold down here
And the words that you have told me
Hang frozen in the air
And sometimes I look right through them
As if they were not there

And the boys from North Dakota
They drink whisky for their fun
And the cowboys down in Texas
They polish up their guns
And they look across the border
To learn the ways of love

Message in a Bottle

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

She didn’t see the sign on the road that pointed toward Bakken Lutheran Church but she did notice out of the corner of her eye a tall steeple off in the distance.  She looked down at her phone and sure enough, it pointed out that she needed to turn in that direction.

She slowed down and did a U-turn to go back to the road she had just passed and headed toward the church in the distance.  She marveled at how the spot where the church was built was perfect and so unusual.  She could imagine how the first homesteaders to that area saw this rather tall, wooded hill in the midst of a sea of North Dakota prairie land would have thought this would be the perfect spot for a church.  Partly because of how beautiful it was, but also because such a spot would not have been good farm land anyway.

She approached the hill and turned onto the long, thin driveway, about a quarter mile in length, and came to a stop at the edge of the clearing a short distance from the church.  She didn’t want to park right next to it because she didn’t want her car to be in the pictures she took.

She hurried out of her car and noted it was cooler here than it had been back in Fargo.  Sure enough, some clouds were gathering in from the west.  A storm might be coming. She grabbed her sweater and her camera and started taking pictures.

The church was lovelier in person than it had been in the few pictures she had found on the internet.  Although most of the country churches in this area were white and wooden, this one was red brick with striking white trim.  The trees surrounding it were adorned in brilliant yellow and red leaves.  The church faced the east and behind it rested the cemetery.

From the top of that hill, you could see miles in every direction.  She reveled in the complete silence as she took more pictures.  She walked to the church door to see if she could go inside.  She didn’t expect the door to be open.  She had found that most of the time these country churches were kept locked now.  So she was pleasantly surprised to find the door was unlocked!

She stepped inside and felt as though she had walked back in time.  No contemporary instruments or screens here.  There was a traditional white altar and pulpit, a lectern, baptismal font, dark wooden pews, and stained glass windows depicting various Biblical stories.  The walls were painted an unusual pale aqua, the carpet was red.  Although some of the paint was chipping on the banisters on each side leading up to the balcony, the building seemed to be well-kept.

Taking pictures along the way, she moved toward the front of the sanctuary. She felt very at home here.  She always felt this way in churches.  Didn’t matter where they were, there was something deeply comforting about their smell, their familiar objects, their quiet and reverence.

As she moved toward the altar, she noticed there was gold lettering on the front, underneath the painting of Jesus as a shepherd tending a flock. In Norwegian, it was written, “Jeg er den gode hyrde.” “I am the good shepherd.”  This altar was likely made in the late 1800’s when this land was first being homesteaded and settled by the early Norwegian settlers to North Dakota.  Although the Norwegian immigrants had learned English quickly and believed it was best to leave their old language in the old country, there were still traces of these roots everywhere in these old churches.  The oldest gravestones in the cemetery were all inscribed in Norwegian as were the early records of the church.  She had read that the half-moon shape of the altar rails in these old Norwegian Lutheran churches was also a Scandinavian tradition. It was believed that the gathered body of Christ met for communion at the visible half-circle altar rail, but the circle was completed beyond time and space by those who had died in the faith, the communion of the saints.

There was a deep rumbling outside.  It had slowly been getting a little darker outside since she came in.  Sure enough, she heard the sound of rain on the roof now.  She walked back down the aisle and peered out the door.  Quite a little storm was barreling through.  The wind was swaying the trees and the rain was pouring from the sky.

It would be best to wait out the storm here.  After all, that is why these country churches always used to be kept open all the time.  If someone was traveling by and a bad storm came up, they could seek shelter in any church.  This tradition had slowly become almost nonexistent as too many of these churches experienced vandalism or theft. However, she was so glad when she came across the rare church still left open so anyone could come in at any time and pray or take pictures or seek shelter.

There were two stairways, one on either side of the center aisle, leading upstairs to the balcony.  The stairs were small and this made sense because at the time this church was built, people were smaller in general. The average foot size would have been a couple sizes smaller than today.

The balcony had a main level that slanted slightly downward.  There were large steps that led up to another small landing where the rope hung down from the church bell and another set of tiny wooden steps leading up to a trap door, the access to the belfry.  The view of the church from up there was stunning.  She thought it must be a beautiful sight when and if they had candlelit services.  She imagined what it must have looked like long ago when the ladies in long dresses and the men in suits came in for church on a Sunday morning.

She was tempted to ring the church bell.  She laughed remembering how her kids had always wanted to ring the bell at their church in Texas. She let them do it now and then.  No one would mind hearing the church bell toll a few times.  It wasn’t like it used to be generations ago when hearing the church bell toll in the middle of the week meant something had happened in the community and it was time to gather at the church for a meeting.

Church bells often used to be inscribed with a Bible verse or some other phrase before it was hung.  The bell at her church in Texas had no inscription.  She wondered if this one did.   She peered up at the trap door leading to the belfry.

She could check it out.

There was no reason she couldn’t.  There was no lock on the trap door.  Her shoes were sturdy enough to get up those tiny stairs.

What if someone came in and caught her climbing around the belfry?

She doubted many people came by this church even on a clear, sunny day, much less a day when it was pouring down rain.  In fact, she wouldn’t be surprised if it had been many years since anyone had been in that belfry.

She set down her camera.  She couldn’t climb the steep stairway and open the trap door carrying her main camera.  If she wanted to take pictures up there she had her cell phone in her pocket.

She ascended the large red steps to the landing and then put a foot on the first wooden step leading up to the belfry.  It seemed solid enough.  She took one step, then two, and slowly climbed up all the steps until she reached the trap door.  She was very high up now.  Looking down, even the floor of the balcony looked far away.  She pushed on the trap door.  It was heavy.  She pushed a little harder and slowly she was able to open it.  She pushed it all the way open until it rested on the wall directly behind the trap door and then she peered into the belfry.

There were small windows on each side of the square space which was about 10’ X 10’. She took a few more steps and as she glanced out the window to the east, she could see her car sitting off in the distance where she had left it.  The bell rested on a wooden framework.  There was a wheel on the side of the bell and a rope attached to the wheel which was draped through a hole in the floor.  Above her she could see the rafters of the towering steeple.

Spiderwebs and dead bugs were abundant in the space.  Flashes of lightning lit up the belfry but even without the lightning she could see clearly once her eyes adjusted.  She could see that there was no inscription on the side of the bell where she was, but her curiosity prodded her to climb all the way into the belfry and look at the other side.  It was just a few more steps.

She gingerly ascended the last two steps into the belfry and was careful to stand on the wooden beams as she made her way around the bell.  There was some writing on the other side of the bell, but it was only the name of the manufacturer and the city in which it was made.  She was disappointed.

She grabbed her cell phone out of her pocket and took a few pictures of the bell.  It would be a cool story to tell her friends, or maybe a sermon illustration.

She was just about to head back down the stairs when the beam she was standing on let out a loud creak. The noise startled her and she quickly moved to another beam but as she did so, she lost her footing. She fell hard toward the west wall, hitting it with her left shoulder.  Her left knee crashed into the beam beneath her and her cell phone flew out of her hand and out the trap door, clattering down the stairs.  As she fell, she had been trying to grab hold of the west wall but only succeeded in grasping the top of the trap door, which then fell closed with a thunderous thud.

She wasn’t sure which was worse, the pain in her knee and shoulder, the bugs and dust flying everywhere and into her nose and mouth, or the sudden feeling of claustrophobia at being closed in up in the belfry.  She slowly stood up and didn’t feel as though anything was broken – except maybe her cell phone lying at the bottom of the stairs.

She was just about to lift up the trap door when she noticed one of the boards in the wall had come loose.  Behind the board, she could make out the shape of something tucked just behind the board.  Her curiosity piqued, she tugged at the board to see if she could get a better view.

It appeared to be a small, wooden box.  She had to pull the board completely off the wall and set it to the side in order to reach in the wall and pull out the box.  It had no lock or hinges.  It was just a very simple box with a lid. It appeared to be quite old.

This was something interesting! She paused for a moment.  Who knows what she would find in that box!  Maybe it was empty – but maybe it would be a small treasure.  Her mind raced with possibilities.  Perhaps it was some artifact from the early days of this church?  Maybe it was some prayers that had been stored away as part of a blessing on the church building? It could even be a simple time capsule that some youth group had hidden up here with the intention to retrieve it in a decade or two. She thought of how some of the churches she had served would hide away a banner with the word “Alleluia” on it during the season of Lent.  She smiled to think perhaps someone had hidden the Alleluia a little too well one year and never retrieved it again. She savored the feeling of anticipation.

Finally, she took a breath and slowly pulled off the lid.  Inside was a single envelope, yellowed with age. On the front of the envelope it was written the name, “Johanne.”

What could this be?  She was so excited to open the letter her hands trembled.  She set the wooden box down and turned the letter over.  It had never been opened. The letter was still sealed with a wax insignia on the back.  In the wax, there was pressed the letter O.

What had she found? It had surely been here for a very long time. This church and steeple had been built in the late 1800’s.  How long had this letter rested here in this steeple and why?

She wished the letter were not sealed!  She knew she had to open it, she simply could not do otherwise, but she still felt a little guilty opening this letter that clearly had been written to Johanne, and not to her.

Nevertheless, she tugged gently at the wax seal and the letter popped open.  The paper was quite thin and fragile but she was able to pull out the letter out and unfold it.

It was definitely a letter to Johanne, but that was about all she could tell. This letter was not written in English, but in Norwegian!  She must be right that this letter had been there for decades upon decades!

Why was this letter here, and what was the story behind it?

Message in a Bottle

by Sting

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair

I’ll send an SOS to the world [2x]
I hope that someone gets my [3x]
Message in a bottle [2x]

A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I’ll send an SOS to the world [2x]
I hope that someone gets my [3x]
Message in a bottle [4x]

Walked out this morning
Don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home

I’ll send an SOS to the world [2x]
I hope that someone gets my [3x]
Message in a bottle [4x]

Sending out an SOS [16x]

Hurt

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Depression is no fun. It slinks in on a perfectly lovely day and hovers over everything, putting a slightly minor tune over the notes of each hour.

I’ve learned over the years how to take care of myself in the midst of recurring depression. I know to be gentle with myself, to do my best to eat well and keep on exercising. I speak to myself in a mothering way, gently reminding me that even though I might feel like burying my face in junk food or watching TV all day, I will likely feel better if I get up and move and stay busy.

I read a book many years ago called, “Care of the Soul”, in which the author, Thomas Moore, talked about how these times when we feel unhappy or ‘down’ have real value and rather than trying to usher them away, it is better to see what insight they might offer us. For example, if you are feeling bad and you don’t know why, don’t punish yourself by thinking, “I really ought to feel happier. Why am I being so ridiculous!? Cheer up, self!”  Instead, consider that perhaps you are needing some time alone or some time to be quiet. When we feel down, we naturally tend to be quieter and more lost in thought and perhaps that is what you need. Take time for yourself and remember that just as the earth goes through seasons, so do we.  Not every day is going to be a sunny summer day. There have to be the gray, rainy days, too.

When I keep this perspective that feeling down is a natural part of life rather than the sign that I’m doing something wrong, I’ve found that the dark times don’t get quite so dark.

Sometimes I think being a mother helps, too. I need to stay healthy and take care of myself so that I’m able to remain present and functioning for my children. I can’t afford to be a drama queen like I sometimes was in college or my twenties or even my early thirties. The world won’t wait for me while I sit on the porch and smoke a thousand cigarettes in a cloud of doom. So, instead, I look for ways to draw glimmers of joy back and lift the depression as soon as possible.

I realize as I write this that there are levels of depression – and actual clinical depression can’t just be lifted with some simple steps. It often takes therapy and/or medication. If you are feeling persistent, ongoing depression, please get help from a medical professional.  And, for the rest of this reflection, I will switch to the term, ‘sadness’ to refer to what I am addressing here.

Here are the best ways I have found to combat sadness:

  1. Work on a task: cooking, baking, creating anything. Getting the mind going and focusing on something else is quite helpful.
  2. Watch a movie. I love movies and they can be a blessed reprieve from thoughts that are taking me on a downward spiral.
  3. Spend time with my children. Doing anything with my kids helps me find laughter again.
  4. Go for a walk! Fresh air and a change in scenery is best, but a treadmill will do.
  5. Pet a cat.
  6. Or a dog.
  7. Take care of some small chore or errand you have been putting off: organize your drawers, organize the spices, clean out the refrigerator, take some items to Goodwill – completing something that needs to be done gives a sense of accomplishment and that combats the helplessness that sometimes comes with random sad days.
  8. Usually when I write, I am able to figure out why I am sad and that understanding brings a sense of peace.
  9. I find that often my writing takes on the shape of prayer when I am sad.
  10. Call a friend or go for a walk with a friend. If I am feeling like talking, spending time with a safe, trusted friend is great therapy.
  11. Or isolate myself for a bit if I need to and not feel guilty about that. For an introvert, time alone can be very healing and helpful.
  12. A nap or going to bed early has great curative properties. Most of us walk around tired too much of the time. If you are feeling ‘off’ and you just aren’t sure why, a nap could be a great place to start.

It might be comforting, as well, to remember that most people go through times when they feel sad for reasons they can’t quite explain. It’s part of being human. If today is a sad day for you, I pray you feel better soon. Until then…listen to some Johnny Cash – cuz that can only help.

Hurt

Recorded by NIN and Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

A Long December

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Earl was a widower I visited regularly in Texas. He was a staunch Republican who had been a successful businessman and also loved theology. He was always working on some research or paper. He would often give me books to read after he was done with them. He had a brilliant mind and he loved the Lord. He never missed going to chapel services and liked to help lead the singing.

I had been in Texas for about four years when Earl’s health started declining quickly. Within the span of a few weeks he went from being active in many activities at his assisted living facility to being bedridden and incoherent.

He and his wife had no children – he had one niece who would come visit him when she could and she handled his affairs. Years before he had given her all the plans for his funeral down to the final detail. Earl was not leaving his funeral preparations up to anyone except himself.

The last couple weeks of his life he spent in the nursing home, sleeping. Every time I went to town I would stop to visit him. Often, I would read some scripture and then just sit there with him for a while in the late afternoon light. He had told me often he was ready to go “when the good Lord was ready” for him. It was a peaceful thing for me to sit there with him and spend those hours with him. In a way, it felt right – because I knew how much his pastors and his churches, especially mine – where he had grown up and then returned to in his old age – meant to him. It sort of felt like the least I could do – to just sit with him a bit when there was no one else left who could.

I’ve done funerals for a few people who outlived most of their friends and didn’t have children. One lady at my internship had only a great niece at her funeral as her sole living relative. Her pallbearers were men we recruited from the church. Another graveside service I did was for a woman who had been in a nursing home for many years and had no family at all. The only people in attendance were me, the funeral director, and two workers from the nursing home. One doesn’t forget moments like that and at least pause a bit to wonder what your own funeral will be like. Who will care? Who will cry? Who will be there?

Earl had a graveside service a couple hours away and he was buried next to his wife in a Presbyterian cemetery. It was a rainy December day. An elderly woman who had been the nursing home chaplain and Earl’s friend for many years rode with me to the service and we went out for lunch afterward.

I wonder if Earl knew I was there those afternoons I would read him scripture and sit quietly with him? I will always wonder if he could hear me as I prayed out loud for him. It always used to be that when I would pray for Earl, he would insist on praying for me as well before I left, so in those last days when he was unresponsive, it felt very silent when I would say “Amen.”

A Long December

by the Counting Crows

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin’
Now the days go by so fast
And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven…I wish you would
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California…I think you should
Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
And it’s one more day up in the canyon
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean…I guess I should

 

Peace Train

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

I saw a bumper sticker in Colorado once that made me laugh out loud. It said, “Christ is coming, look busy!”

Some denominations spend a great deal of time talking about Christ’s return. They predict it regularly, using the certainty of it to scare people into ‘right’ living.

I’ve almost tended to be the opposite way. I figure Christ comes when he will come. I can’t control that and so I don’t think much about it or preach much about it. Maybe it’s all the family systems theory training I took as a younger pastor that emphasized that we can’t control what anyone else does, only what we do. I took that to heart.

And yet, Scripture talks a lot about the surety of Jesus’ return and the necessity that we be ready. In the gospel for this coming Sunday, Saint Matthew tells a parable about Christ’s coming – comparing it to bridesmaids who went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. All the bridesmaids brought lamps, but only the wise ones brought extra oil. The foolish bridesmaids ask the wise ones for some of their oil but they say ‘no” and so the foolish bridesmaids have to go out and get more oil. When they do, they miss the arrival of the bridegroom. He brings the wise bridesmaids into the wedding feast with him and shuts the door. When the foolish bridesmaids arrive, they are not allowed in.

It’s a puzzling little parable. I do not like the not-sharing of the oil, the latecomers not allowed in – I like my Bible stories to be full of sharing and room for everyone no matter when they arrive. This is not that kind of Bible story. So as Martin Luther would say, “what does this mean?”

It’s a story about how to wait. You see, the bridegroom is coming, the bridesmaids know this – the only thing they don’t know is exactly when. They know they will have to wait, but not how long. While we might think this parable is calling us to constant vigilance, looking for Christ on the horizon every day, remember that even the wise bridesmaids fell asleep. The only difference between them and the foolish bridesmaids is that the wise ones were prepared for the bridegroom, whether the wait was short or long. They were intentional, still focused on the bridegroom even in their waiting.

And here we are in the waiting time. As Christian people, we know that Christ is coming again someday, but are we waiting purposefully or are we waiting as if we have forgotten or don’t really care that much that he is coming back?

There’s a post-it note that I have stuck to the wall in my home office that reads, “Your day is your week is your month is your year.” It’s one of those quotes to remind me that how I spend this day matters, because if I exercise this day and the next day and the next day and most days, in the long run, I’m healthier. It reminds me that if I write today and the next day and the next day and most days, in the long run, I’ve written a lot. If I save a little bit today and tomorrow and the next, eventually it adds up to enough to go on that trip. You see the point. Your day is your week is your month is your year.

And how we live each day determines how we are doing in this waiting period – if we are waiting like people who believe that Jesus is returning someday or if we are waiting as if we have forgotten he ever promised to come back.

And every day we get so many opportunities to live out our response. What do we do when we hear someone speaking a racial slur? Do we stay quiet or do we speak up and say, “That’s not okay or funny. Please stop.”  What do we do when we hear someone tell their story of being sexually harassed? Do we listen and help them seek justice or do we ignore them, or worse, mumble that maybe they had it coming? What do we do when gun violence erupts again and again and again in our schools, malls, workplaces, homes…churches? Do we shrug our shoulders and say ‘nothing can be done.’ Or do we respond by working for peace with our time, our voice, our votes, and all that we have?

Because these moments of response? These moments show whether we our lamps are trimmed and ready with oil enough to spare, or if we never really believed the bridegroom was returning anyway.

When I first heard about the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas where 26 people died last Sunday, I was at the musical at Detroit Lakes High School. It was an excellent production, full of life and happy music and laughter – and then I glanced down at my phone to see the headline pop up about the shooting. I sat there with my children on either side of me in that crowded theater and thought about how this world can hold so much all at once. So much joy, so much sorrow. So much good, and so much unspeakable violence.

In the days that followed, I heard the usual news reports and endless gun debates that followed. I felt the usual despair and grief I feel each time another one of these shootings happens. While we shake our heads at the horror that 26 people died in that church last Sunday during the morning worship service, statistics show that over 30 people die each day by gun violence in the United States. Sutherland Springs just made the news because the violence was all condensed in one place.

And I felt the usual sick dread and certainty that soon we will hear of another mass shooting. It’s not an “if” anymore, it is a “when”.

How do we respond as Christian people in the thick of this violence?

First, we do not give up on prayer. We need to be praying now more than ever – crying out to God for wisdom and bravery for how to speak to each other and spread peace in these desperate times.

Second, listen to each other. Let’s talk about guns and our fears about them or our fears about stricter gun control. Let’s be people who can talk in Christian love, have our opinions, and still sit side by side, united in Christ who loves us and grieves over this violence, too.

Third, we work for peace, and work hard. How this looks will be different for each of us. One person might work for peace by daily making calls to his congressperson. Another might work for peace talking with their Sunday School class about the great value of each human life. Another might work for peace by making amends with someone in their own family with whom there has been discord. Another might work for peace by patiently listening to the opinions of someone with whom you disagree and trying to understand. Another might work for peace by getting to know someone very different from them – because every time we work to tear down the walls of division, that is peace-making.

Your day is your week is your month is your year. How will you work for peace today?

Peace Train

written by Cat Stevens

Now I’ve been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be, something good has begunOh I’ve been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be, some day it’s going to come

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

Now I’ve been smiling lately, thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be, something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller

Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together, go bring your good friends too
Cause it’s getting nearer, it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living, it’s not so far from you
And it’s getting nearer, soon it will all be true

Now I’ve been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating, why can’t we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

 

 

The 59th Street Bridge Song

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

I listened to a Ted talk recently about the importance of allowing oneself to be bored sometimes. In these modern times it is possible to fill in the cracks of every day with something. If we do have time to be still, so often the phone is out and we are shuffling through Facebook or Twitter. We quite literally don’t know how to just ‘be’ anymore and truth be told, I find it a little scary. I don’t like that my face is always buried in my phone. Even though I put it down when others are talking to me, I feel the itch to pick it up again, to get back to whatever pressing e-mail or post or text is on my mind.

In fact, I wonder if my relationship with my phone is part of what is making me feel so exhausted. As part of this same Ted talk, the presenter was talking about how when our brains are switching gears constantly, as they are when go from writing a document, to checking a text, to working on a sermon, to checking e-mail, to reading a news story, to watching a video, etc. that the brain can only do this so much. It changes the chemistry in the brain so that we need more and more stimulation. I imagine it is like eating Doritos – we get so used to the intense flavors that eating something natural and with a milder taste just doesn’t cut it anymore. More salt! More fat! And in a similar way our brains cry out for more stimulation, more activity, more hits of social media.

I quite literally have my phone in my hand most of the day. Even if social media isn’t a huge part of that (although some days it is more of my time than I like to admit) I listen to my music and podcasts on my phone, I keep my calendar on my phone, I revel in how ‘easy’ it makes my life. I love that I can work from anywhere because people can reach me anywhere. And yet, the way it makes me so constantly connected is part of what is so exhausting. There is NEVER any down time. From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep I am plugged in to the world.

I think I need to take a break from it. I need to manage my relationship with my phone differently in hopes that if I allow my brain to slow down a bit, allow boredom to catch up with me a little, perhaps I can begin to feel more rested again.

I’ll start with a Facebook fast for the rest of the day. That sounds really good right now.

The 59th Street Bridge Song

Simon and Garfunkel

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovyHello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

Scar Tissue

I have a scar on my index finger from a car accident back in 1996.  One minute,
my cute Isuzu trooper was upright and cruising down a road in northern Minnesota and the next I was skating across glare ice until I landed upside down in the ditch.  In the sub-zero November temperatures I assessed my situation as I lay shaken up in my now smashed Isuzu trooper.  My glasses were broken.  I had been in the midst of moving to a different apartment and so I had a bunch of my stuff in the back seat that was now blowing across the snowy countryside.  Papers, clothes, a random tube of eyeliner.  My right index finger was bleeding and as I looked closer, I noticed a bone, snapped and sticking out of the skin.  I observed it thinking, “Hmmm…I would think that would hurt more than it does.”  I grabbed a sweatshirt that had landed next to me among the wreckage and wrapped it around my hand.  I remember it all in slow motion – the nice farmer stopping to help me and giving me a ride to the hospital, I remember laying in an operating room with just enough anesthesia that I couldn’t feel them putting my finger back together, but I could hear the doctors talking to each other, one said, “That was a bad accident – did you hear her vehicle was completely smashed in?  Did you know she works in a church?  I think someone is watching out for her.”  And the other doctor said, “Oh yeah – well if someone is watching over her so closely, why did the accident even happen?”  “Touche”, I thought.

The wound has healed.  But tracing the outline of my scar I can still feel the
icy blast of the wind roaring through a broken windshield, the scary wondering
whether my vehicle would explode – because that is what always happens in the movies when a car rolls over, and the helplessness of the moment.  Alone, hurt, cold, my possessions blowing away in the wind.

I was thinking about this last week – when the weather changes that old broken
bone in my finger aches and calls my attention to it.  All these years later I
didn’t think it would still bother me, but it remains…a tiny, dull ache.

In much the same way, the non-physical scars we collect over the course of our lives often remain for many years, sometimes forever.  There are scars leftover from love lost, from tragedy experienced, from abuse, even the scars that we hardly dare speak of because if people knew about them we think those scars would say something about us that we don’t want everyone to know.  These are scars left by things like failures, like bad choices made, like shame at something we said or did that we know was beneath us.

Could it be that a part of our healing is to not be ashamed about those scars or to hide them, but to see them as a patchwork that uniquely describes the journey we have traveled?  Is it possible that being brave enough to share our scars with others might not only bring healing to us, but to others as well?

There is a little statue I keep on my desk that was given to me by a friend. The statue is of a child resting against a large hand.  The verse underneath it is from Isaiah 49 where God says, “Even if a mother could forget her own child, I will not forget you.  Behold, I have carved you on the palm of my hand – so close to me.”

It is a message from a loving God who says, “I know all about your scars – their depth, their length, and how they have hurt you….but they only make me love you more.” 

Scar Tissue

by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic Mister know it all
Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ’cause
With the bird I’ll share
With the bird I’ll share
This lonely view
With the bird I’ll share
This lonely view

Push me up against the wall
Young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra
Fallin’ all over myself
To lick your heart and taste your health ’cause
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

Blood loss in a bathroom stall
Southern girl with a scarlet drawl
Wave goodbye to ma and pa ’cause
With the bird I’ll share
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

Soft spoken with a broken jaw
Step outside but not to brawl
Autumn’s sweet we call it fall
I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic Mister know it all
Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ’cause
With the bird I’ll share
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view