Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrestling for Deeper Relationship

It’s cold and raining here.

My daughter Mia made me an afternoon coffee.

I sit here in my room listening to the rain while sipping a brevé cappuccino and reviewing my notes from Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis.

I come to a passage that jumped out at me the first time I read it earlier this year.  It’s underlined and has a big star next to it.  I feel it’s just as important the second time.

"The rabbis have a metaphor for this wrestling with the text: The story of Jacob wrestling the angel in Genesis 32.  He struggles, and it is exhausting and tiring, and in the end his hip is injured.  It hurts.  And he walks away limping.

Because when you wrestle with the text, you walk away limping.

And some people have no limp, because they haven't wrestled.  But the ones limping have had an experience with the living God."

I am not satisfied with what I call "doormat faith".  I don’t want to simply lie down and take whatever comes my way.  I question, dig deeper, and wrestle with the scriptures and God for understanding, for enlightenment.  Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who never enters into true, deep, and meaningful discussions with you?  We all long for more.  Like iron sharpening iron.  As Jacob was injured in his wrestling, we may walk away with a limp but stronger, wiser and with a deeper understanding from the wrestling.

Bell also says, “We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the living God.  Doubting the one true God.  Wrestling with, arguing with, getting angry with, reconciling with, loving, worshipping, thanking, following the one who gives us everything.  We cannot tame it.  We cannot tone it down."

The Bible is a living story.  We are in this story.  Our earthly relationships take work just as our relationship with Him does.  It takes all these actions to build and develop a truly deep and meaningful relationship.   Every time I wrestle with the scriptures and wrestle with God, I walk away with not only a limp but also with a better understanding of Him.  I walk away with a knowing that I understand more and am understood.  I walk away knowing I love and am loved by the Father.  I walk away with more courage that could only have come through the wrestling.  The same holds true when I dare to wrestle, go deeply into more intimacy through conversations in my earthly relationships.

It makes me think of Theodore Roosevelt's speech, "The Man in the Arena."

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I would rather be in the arena...”face marred by dust and sweat and blood”.  Striving valiantly, screwing up, learning, making mistakes, but at least I am IN the arena making the effort.  I choose to wrestle.  I would rather risk having a limp than never have stepped foot into the arena. I will boldly take the experience with the living God.  I will dive deeply into more meaningful relationships here on earth.

Wrestling makes me vulnerable, but I would rather dare greatly in my vulnerability than never dare at all.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Silver Linings

I'm on a personal writing retreat at the moment in an old fashioned little beach town somewhere off the southern coast of the United States. I typically watch movies or exercise when I need to completely disengage from my work. I try to choose movies that cause me to think or those that are known for fabulous dialogue.
Last night I watched Silver Linings Playbook for the first time. Impressive acting... every single role. But of course, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence's performances stand above the rest.
In every movie I choose, there is typically a quote by one of the characters that becomes a tasty morsel to my thoughts. I latch onto it and begin to process it into my own life. As soon as the line is spoken, I know its the reason I needed to watch it.
Silver Linings Playbook was no exception.
Not too far into the movie, the bottom line of the movie comes out in something Bradley Cooper says to his parents after coming home from an 8 month stay in a mental hospital. He is determined to set a new direction for his life. With passion and fortitude, he responds to his parents' concerns with this statement, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to take all this negativity and use it as fuel and I'm going to find the silver lining...that's what I'm going to do! And that's no bullshit! Now that takes work... and thats the truth!"
The silver lining I have looked for since my husband died has been purpose. How will I take the negativity from the great loss and use it as fuel for my life to go higher? How will this help my purpose? How will this life experience propel me even stronger into the direction God has planned for me? How will it secure my purpose even more? How can this negativity in my life be used as fuel to help others who have had similar negativity come at them.
This kind of thinking helps me look to the future instead of continually looking back at the painful circumstances. I challenge myself every time I think, "Now, what am I going to do with this? How do I see God using this for good?"
In addition to purpose, the other silver lining is that it has caused me to live my life with even more boldness...because, as we know, life is short. Be real. Be honest. Be compassionate. Show mercy. Forgive. Love deeply. Don't hold back love. Break down walls. Enjoy others.
Follow God in spite of the negativity, toward the silver linings that are there, if I only look for them... like a well crafted, thought provoking quote buried in the dialogue of a movie.  And if I look hard enough for the silver linings, they come to me.
Keep your eyes straight ahead. Because the silver linings are ahead of you, not behind you.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Resurrect the Dance

 Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
Bob Dylan “Mr. Tambourine Man

Dancing in total abandonment… One hand waving free. How long it has been since I danced like that!  I have done it before, more times than I can count. Most every day of my life.  If there was a song, there was a dance. From a hobby to a 20 year profession.

But I buried my dance long ago. My dancing to music and my dancing with life.  I buried it even before Michael died.  It sunk deeper into the grave beside him after his death.  How can I ever dance again?

It’s time.  Time to stir up the dancer - and the dance - in me.

I find irony in Ecclesiastes 3.  It leaves me a bit mystified.  Here is the famous listing of “a time for everything”…. a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance

Wait…What?  Dancing follows mourning?  These two are a pair? Really? Hard to swallow that one – but it must be so, just as the others hold true. As naturally as dying eventually follows birth, and building naturally follows tearing down, dancing should naturally follow on the tails of mourning.  Joyful abandonment.  Freedom to enjoy life again.  The weight of grief lifted. Moving creatively and gracefully through life.  Expressions of thankfulness for life itself.

It’s time to resurrect the dance.

For two years now, the resurrection power of Christ has been on my heart.  While tucked away in the countryside of New York, the prayer for resurrection power opened up on me. It felt like the sun opening up on an overcast afternoon with its warmth enveloping every inch of my body. In the solitude of my writing room, I came to God one day with a blank slate.  I asked Him to write my prayers.  Our needs were so great for continued healing and restored life that I did not even know how to pray.  So I asked God for His prayers for me.  His answer – pray the resurrection power of Christ over your household.


Why hadn’t I thought of that?

It reminded me of how Charlie Brown felt in Charlie Brown’s Christmas while receiving counsel from Lucy.  As she sits behind her makeshift desk, she lists several phobias that may be his problem…

Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?

Charlie Brown: What's pantophobia?

Lucy: The fear of everything.

Charlie Brown: THAT'S IT!

Of course I should pray the resurrection power over the kids and me!  It covers everything!  My prayers began to pour out of my heart as if a floodgate had lifted.  Our needs for life were great and had built up - but it was time to release the dam.  The resurrection power lifted the gate just as it rolled away the stone from the tomb for Jesus.

Lord, I pray the resurrection power of Christ over me.  Resurrect my heart from the dead.  Resurrect my hope for the future. Resurrect my joy, my boldness. Resurrect my dreams.  Resurrect my life from the ashes. Resurrect my creativity and my gifts that I have lost the desire to use.  Resurrect my desires, my purpose. Resurrect my dance.   Restore me; restore my family, with the same power that restored Christ after his death on the cross.

I personalized this prayer for each one of my children.  It became my daily prayer as I cried out to God to lift our lives, completely and wholly, from the ashes that remained from my husband’s death.  We needed a complete, glorified resurrection, just as Jesus did.

I have watched the resurrection slowly take place in each of us, in small steps and in different areas.  In my life, the resurrection of hope and desire led to a natural resurrection in other areas.  Because desire was alive again, I chose to reach down to Dance and pull her out of the ashes… “Let’s dance again.” I whispered to her.

A time to mourn and a time to dance.

In 2 Samuel 6:14, scantily clad King David danced before the Lord with all of his might.

In reference to this scripture, Joshua Dubois writes in his book, The President’s Devotional, “He danced because the Lord had been good.  He danced because despite unspeakable trials, he was still alive. He danced because it gave glory and honor to the God who had formed him in his mother’s womb.  He danced because the weight of sin had been lifted off of him.  He danced, and danced, and then danced some more, with all that he had.”

Its time for me to dance.

Dancing in total abandonment is not only limited to physical dancing, as we know it.  The way we live our lives, face it, approach it, experience it, can also be a dance of abandonment…with one hand waving free.  Living free, without a care of what others may think.  Living life from the heart. Moving seamlessly in step with our dreams, our purpose.  Exuberant living.  As a body moves to the rhythm of the music bringing a song to life, so our lives can move and glide along with life itself, its rhythm, its pulse, while bringing subtle inspiration to those watching the dance. Yes, dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waiving free.

Resurrect your dance.

A glimpse of my days as a professional choreographer and performer.  A pre-game performance for a NFL game.  A group I directed for this special event.  If you haven't figured it out...I'm the one in the middle!