boundaries that bind

boundaries that bind.

boundaries that bind

 

There are times that the phrase “It is what it is”, angers me to no end.  True, there is an element of release and freedom in that, but there also remain a certain resignation to it.  Does something have to be what it is?    I realize this may be a way existential question for the early morning, but since I am still “Waiting for Godot”, I assume some will let me play with that pun.

I was in a situation recently where i watched an argument ensue over something petty and silly.  I watched and I listened and I recalled all the moments I might have engaged in a similar fashion.  Watching this from a removed position provided me a bit of clarity.  “This argument would be happening whether I was present or not.  These people would be tossing around angry words and frustration no matter the circumstance or who happened to be standing there.”  How liberating for me!  How sad for them.

I wanted to jump in and rescue the conversation, to somehow fix the situation and smooth over the tension.  It was not my place.  That is a difficult moment of understanding, it makes me think of why I would be motivated to fix it.  Are my motives pure?  Do I really want to ease the tension or do I simply want to feel better in this moment?  Would  my assistance make the situation better or worse, and for whom?  Again, these are hard questions with which I wrestle, and I am not sure to what end.

I will say that watching that interaction provided my first AHA moment in a long time.  I remembered thinking that if this would be happening with or without me, then maybe much of what I based my perceptions on were false.  Yowch.  Could it be that what I took on as blame had absolutely nothing to do with me?  If that is true, what do I do with my recent discovery?

A little over a year ago I sat with my full adoption report from the state where I was adopted.  I saw all the narratives about my early months, know all the information about my biological parents, saw the reports surrounding my birth, life, and placement in a foster family, and finally–my adoption.  To say that this was the hardest read in my life would be an understatement.  I looked at it in the first week that I had it and have not referred to it since then.  There is a section in it that describes what an adoptive family would want in a baby, more specifically, the baby they would want to adopt. I smile as I read the wishes and hopes…and then my smile faded as I realize the baby that was described was the opposite of me.  The traits and personalities desired did not match up with what I was told was true of me.  The wishes would never realized in and through me.  I was and am not a calm and quietly complacent person with a lily-white past from biological parents who were simply not able to care for a baby at the time.  In fact, the opposite is true.  I remember reading that description and feeling ashamed–feeling like I had let down the family who did decide to adopt me, guilty that I could never be a pocketful of wishes that any parent would want.  I am what I am, I was what I was, and I can’t change that.

Reading those words hurt like so many knives in my chest, knowing what parents wanted and what I was and the fact they would never match is quite burdensome.  the questions bombarded my head.  Did I waste 37 years trying  to be something or someone I could never be?  Probably.  Did I push and push and push myself to fit a mold that was never cut for me?  Definitely.  Would my adoptive family looked and treated one another differently had I been more of some and less of other?  More than likely.  Can I change it now?  Not for all the money in the world.  Would I change it if I could?  Quite possibly.  Does the answer to the last question hurt worse after admitting it?  Most assuredly.

The moment of that fight mentioned earlier and the descriptions I read a year ago play into each other.  They both could serve to further bind and weigh me down, or I could look at them from the inverse.  ( think all your training on inverse fractions here)  Could I turn the concept on its opposite end and embrace a different answer?  I admit, I loathe math with every fiber of my being….but once I learned inverse fractions and grasped the ease of flipping at least one element, it sure made solving the problem 100% easier.  I could actually solve the problem instead of banging my head against my math book.  Once I learned them, I got along  happily with them and enjoyed working the problems.  NOT that I would embrace pages of them today, however.

That long diatribe on inverse fractions is to say that I am beginning to toy with the inverse of reactions.  Do I need to continue to punish myself for what I could not be–do I ignore the fighting that had nothing to do with me?  Am I ready to consider new boundaries that allow me room to move without guilt and shame?  Am I ready to embrace a blanket of health that covers function rather than dysfunction?  Although the latter feels safer and more what I recall, the inverse provides more room.  Am i ready to clip the ties of bound guilt and fear?    Only my reactions will tell.

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

 

In(Humanity?)

In(Humanity?).

In(Humanity?)

There are days I dislike people and being part of the human race.  This last week is one of those moments.  Sometimes I am peeved beyond belief at the audacity which we will go to in order to tear one another apart and destroy lives.  Watching the impact of Aurora, CO and knowing the peace that was shattered enrages me.  I want to know why, I seek to understand, I yearn to eliminate such behavior from taking place again.  Yet, I know that I am one person and the inner workings of other people’s lives are so much more complex and complicated than I could ever imagine.  Still, I am one of those idealists who believes that with enough grace and compassion, the tide will change.

I am beginning to wonder if my idealism reeks of naiveté or immaturity or where the motivation lies.  The truth is, I cannot change a cotton-pickin thing.  I can only control my reactions and my emotions–the rest is up to each person to do as they deem necessary.  That leaves me in a place that feels uncomfortable, wondering if my desire to make an impact will ultimately end in vain.

The area in which I live will perform another execution in the coming weeks; the result of a crime committed over 20 years ago.  I heard the victim’s mother on the phone to reporters the other day as she exclaimed her joy at the decision to execute–the hope that the criminal “rots in hell”.  I cringe.  I inwardly recoil at such a comment, and yet, I wonder if my reaction would be any different.  Were it one of my children murdered at someone’s hands, cruelly, with no regard for their life or their family, would I be any less bent on revenge?  Would I be able to look at the person who so wronged me and embrace them as a person, deserving of love and compassion as I am?  I am not so sure that I would be able to do that.  I tell myself a pretty story of love and forgiveness, that I am willing to accept much done to me and my loved ones.  Maybe the fact is, I blow a ton of smoke and I have no concept of forgiveness and compassion than anyone else.  Maybe I know nothing.

I graduated seminary a little over 2 months ago and somehow the feeling that “I have arrived” runs in my head.  I’ve done the time, the work, the thinking and reactions….now LET ME GO do SOMETHING!  Let me go take the world on and be part of something real and full of impact and make a difference.  90% of the time, it’s my fear that limits what I think I can do, then I make excuses for not venturing forth.  The fact is, I want to be part of something that eliminates situations like Aurora, CO from happening.  I desire to be part of something that shakes people from complacency to action and leaves the social climate a better and safer place for my children and for generations to come.  I yearn to see real change, a shift toward HUMANE treatment of all people, animals, and environment, yet I feel at a loss as to how to accomplish.  I feel like I am constantly chomping at the bit, watching and listening, keeping the vast majority of my opinions to myself and waiting for permission or direction.  Ah, the impatience of me.

A friend and colleague asked me the other day if one of my job considerations was my “fight”  is it at my gut the place where I would sacrifice all that I am and all that I have to fight that fight, irregardless if I win or not.  I could safely say that that consideration is not my fight and I am more ok with that than I thought I would be.  It does beg the incessant question…What is my fight? 

Is my fight to play nice, fit a mold, and behave myself, content to watch the world devolve and revolve?  Is my fight to quietly wish and hope for something different and pray that someone else picks up the fight and does the work?  Is my fight to raise awareness or to content myself with 8-5 M-Friday work weeks, pleased to come home at night, spend time being normal and then enjoy my weekends–wash, rinse, and repeat?  That sounds like a prison sentence to me.  Forgive my bluntness on that.  I do not want normal (whatever that means)…  I do not want to exist…I want to LIVE!!! to “suck the marrow from life”  Thank you Dead Poet’s Society….( you motivate me more times than I can count)  Argh, I don’t know what I am saying.

I want more–simple as that.  I want more compassion, more passion, more REAL LIFE, and more humanity.  I want more awareness, education, change, and tolerance of ideas and situations.  I want less stupidity.  I want less anger, hatred, revenge, busyness, ignorance, and violence.  I want less complacency and blame.  I want to take responsibility for what is mine, reconcile what needs healing, and embrace transformation.  Ah….the idealist rears her ugly head yet again.  I want the idealist to win…I want to believe that fighting the good fight is right and good and pure, and will make an impact and at the end of the end of the day I want to be able to breathe a sigh of relief and know I did my best with what I had.

Well, dear ones, I have no idea what I just wrote or if it makes any sense.  No flowery commentary, no solutions, just verbal spew.  Take it for what it is or is not.  That is all she wrote–for now at least.

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

To BE SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED.

To BE SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED..

To BE SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED.

  • To Be Seen, Heard, and Loved
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  • There is a cartoon which depicts a small child standing in front of their mother and the only words we hear from the little one are ,” Mom, mom, mom, MMMMom, MOMMMY, MOM!!!!” As soon as she looks down, a bit exasperated, we see the child flash a wide toothy grin and reply, “HI!” as they run off to play.
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  • I giggle to myself as I replay this scenario, imagining my 2 boys doing the same. They do, in fact, stand there and wait for me to look at them and laugh heartily when I do and all they say is “Hi!” and then take off running. I think of that often as as message plays in the back of my mind. It is a message that came to me a little over a year ago as I worked at a behavioral hospital as a chaplain. It did not matter the age of the person sharing, or the story of pain and regret they were sharing, one message was clear, “People want to be seen, heard, and loved.” This message presents itself as I think about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
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  • Many of us have heard and read this account, and we have our own opinions about her and Jesus reaction and treatment of her. I invite us to listen and read with a different perspective, I invite us to listen as though we are interacting with a young child.
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  • From the Gospel of John in the Message, “
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  • John 4:5-42
  • The Message (MSG)
  •  4-6To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
  •  7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
  •  9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
  •  10Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
  •  11-12The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
  •  13-14Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
  •  15The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
  •  16He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
  •  17-18″I have no husband,” she said.
  •    “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
  •  19-20″Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
  •  21-23″Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
  •  23-24″It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
  •  25The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
  •  26″I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
  •  27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
  •  28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
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  • I have always loved this interaction with Jesus and the woman. In the hottest and most wretched part of the day comes this woman to draw water—sustenance for all life. Everyone else had gathered before now, had been privy to the latest news and gossip, drawn for themselves what they needed for their families, so what remains has been dipped into and drawn from many times before this woman comes. I envision Jesus watching her, having observed the group and knowing the treatment she would receive. I imagine Jesus waiting to have a minute alone with her so he can speak to her, an image of Jesus aimlessly drawing in the sand with a stick comes to mind. When she steps forward to draw the water, he asks her for a drink. Big Idea number 1, Jesus saw her!
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  • We may refer to this person as Woman ( she never appears again), but she may be any nationality, race, gender, educationally trained, young or elder. She may be wise or book smart, may be dirt poor in possessions or the richest person in wealth. It does not matter. In this moment, as a Samaritan woman, plagued with guilt and sin, she is unwelcome to speak to this Jew, this teacher, This MAN! He speaks firsts and asks her assistance, knowing full well who she is and what she represents.

     

     

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  • The woman isn’t searching for anyone. All she wants is water. Jesus is seeking her. One must go to Samaria if you want to reach Samaritans. He doesn’t avoid Samaria; he doesn’t hurry through it. Though she does not know it, this woman has a “divine appointment” with the Son of God.
  • The conversation begins with a simple question from Jesus: “Will you give me a drink?” He is tired and thirsty and she has the water he needs. He was thirsty and knew it. She was thirsty and didn’t know it. The woman did not come to the well seeking Christ, but he came to the well seeking her. In his approach we see the reat heart of our Lord Jesus is without prejudice. It matters not to him that others would not go to Samaria and others would not speak to this woman. He welcomes all and shuns none.
  • As Jesus converses with her, we begin to see the story continue to take shape.He draws her into conversation, asks her questions and WAITS for the answer. He knows the answer, but wants to hear from her experience, her voice what she has come searching to find. BIG IDEA # 2 He HEARS her.
  • How many times have we thought how wonderful it would be if someone actually heard what we had to say? Lately my oldest son has taken to watching Airplane Dogfights and WW2 battles on Netflix. I have no interest in these historical accounts whatsoever. Days after he has seen an episode, he will recount the entire 45 minute program complete with his own embelishments, 10 minutes into the account, I am thinking, “I hope he does not ask me a question about this, because I have not hear a thing he has said.” Shame on me. Shame on my lack of attention and the lack of listening and really hearing my son. Clear out the clutter of his story and what is he telling me? “Mom, this is really important and I have not seen you all afternoon and I am really interested in this and I want to share it with you. Please hear me, please hear what I am not saying.” Aren’t we all crying that someone would look past all that we think we hear to ask the real questions.

Into the clutter of this woman’s life. Jesus chooses to enter and to ask about her life. From that point on she decides to test the waters by grilling his knowledge of Jewish Law and tradition and Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue instead of becoming sidetracked in theology and history. He knows they are both aware, but he want to know more. He wants to know more about her. This Jesus reminds me of the same Jesus we encounter in the 1 chapter of John. We learn that in the beginning the word became Flesh and walked among us

14The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

There is something so comforting about this Man, Teacher, Rabbi, Prophet, and Messiah to be flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood. Places were people reek and their clothes are tattered and torn, areas where drug deals happen across the street from a 13 year old girl selling herself so she can buy food to put on the table for her 3 other siblings who wait at home. This same teacher watches and listens as fights break out over who travels on what side of what track or road. He shakes his head, knowing that if either side could understand the need to be heard and seen by the other, many of the conflict would dissolve.

HE does the same thing with our Samaritan woman. He calls out her sin, but in a more non chalant way he asks her to go and get her husband, he knows she cannot produce one. HE continues to push in her direction where she gives him half the story.

Does Jesus love this woman? Yes.  He knows the truth and still offers her eternal life. Here is the wonder of God’s grace. Only someone who loves you can look at your past without blinking. Real love means knowing the truth about someone else and reaching out to them anyway. He’s not ashamed of her past but he cannot help her until she gets beyond the shame and admits the truth.

 

This same Jesus chose to eat with sinners, convict royalty, bless the children, and speak truth and grace to all he met. It did not matter how filthy the person speaking looked, how badly they reeked, whether they had shoes on their feet or a place to call home that night. It did not matter if the sin consisted of a lifetime of drugs and addiction, or abandoning children, or murder, the same Christ enters into real and engaged conversation to learn the story and reflect on last BIG IDEA #3 He LOVES her.

 

No matter what position she may or may not have in the commuinity, in this moment and in this place. She is loved and honored in that. There existed berween them 4 different walls that Jesus needed to overcome in order to reach the soul of who she was. There was a spiritual wall===what does she know in her head and what is she willing to embrace through heart and spirit? There is a racial wall, Jesus is a Jew, educated and able to move in other social circles, she is a Samaritan woman and with quite a checkered past. If not completely shunned, she would at least be fearful for her safety. Gender and morality represents the last 2 walls. She is a female, the lowest common denominator is a woman of ill repute. She does not deserve to have this conversation, does not deserve nor would be welcome to gether at the earlier time to gather water. This community is not her friend, they judge and find themselves lucky that they are not her. Yet, instead of condemning her for her life, he moves on to discuss a way to freedom.

 

Part of that truth is accepting grace where it simply is. This Jesus is the same one that rolls up his sleeves and walks right into the neighborhood and interacts with whatever they are grappling with at the time. Some of it is wonderful and celebratory, and other times it is steeped in questions without answers, and anger and betrayal. Jesus promises to walk in the muck and gunk with us and appears to be unafraid and unapologetic about it.

 

BIG IDEA reminder…He WANTS to SEE us, He DESIRES to HEAR from us and ABOUT us, and HE YEARNS to LOVE us==no matter how badly we reek, how tattered our clothes appear, how many times we have made it to worship in a year. He wants us as we are, not all cleaned up and looking pretty.

The story of the Woman at the Well becomes even more remarkable when we see what happens with love empowers another. She becomes a disciple, telling everyone she can about the Messiah and Teacher that she had met. She spoke of the transformation that she felt knowing that this Man held her story and did not condemn her. I imagine Jesus again playing in the dirt as she describes her indiscretions and he seems unaffected when he tells her that he is not going to judge her and to go about her life in a different manner. HE has heard and he has seen who she is and what she can become with the influence of grace, compassion, and love. She responds to that and takes it back to her community and shares what she has learned. She shares who she has become and who she will continue to become because she is willing to share her story, admit it, and live into what it means for her life. Notice that the story does not become her life, it is part of her life, but the central focus of what she understands is Christ saw her, heard her, and loves her.

Sapplings

Sapplings.

Sapplings

I remembered my childhood today.  No, it was not so far removed that I cannot recall my formative years out at the lake.

I was out watering plants this morning…I have quite a few little spots growing and with the heat and lack of breeze today, the air is positively stifling.  To rescue my poor tomatoes and peppers, I know I have to water in the morning, despite the fact it is Sunday morning and my body should be in church with my two sons.  More often than not, worship has taken on new meaning as we have worked in the garden together, planted vegetables, pulled weeds, and watered the growth.  This morning we are also watching our neighbor’s dog, so my sons understand that caring for others is more important than focusing on our own needs.  I rally this concept in my sons.  They are growing up to embrace community is more than the place that we live, it is a way of life.  If we have something and someone else can use it, my sons are more than happy to make it available.  When my neighbor asked if we could watch their beloved animal for a week–well we wag a tail in response….PUN INTENDED!

I thought of this as I carried buckets to the plants I have growing…The place where I grew up has more than 20 trees throughout the 2 acre property.  They are huge and strong oak trees now, but they were not when I was a young girl of seven.  It was my job about 4 times a week to bring water to those sapplings….to make sure they had water.  If one of my brothers or my father ran over them with the riding lawn mower–well, that I could not control.

At first I started with 1 gal. buckets and learned quickly that took too long.  So, I decided that 5 gal. buckets were a better option, then I got even smarter….I took the wagon, loaded my Red Flyer wagon with two 5 gal. buckets and used the smaller ones to water the trees.

It was hard, hard work.  We had no hose hooked up to the house, so I had to maneuver my wagon to the lake’s edge, fill my buckets (just enough so they didn’t slosh), load them in the wagon, and begin the long incline to the trees.  OF COURSE the trees line the driveway, the furthest distance from the lake, and my father ordered that each tree receive at least a gallon of water.

Back and forth, back and forth, I trudged–hating every minute of it.  It was hot and hard work.  Yet, something happened in those hours with the trees.  The trees grew–they stood up taller, grew branches, forged their roots deeper into the soil, and reinforced their place.  So did I.

I had no one to talk to during those trips to the lake front, no one praised the watering job, in fact, often my father would come home and demand to know if I had indeed watered that day.  Most of the time, I wanted to look at him and say, “Uh, Duh….go look at the ground around the trees.  If it’s wet, I watered..”  I knew better than that.  So, I would bop my head up and down and know that the next day I would water again.  Something happened in my spirit and mind that summer.  I grew.

Now, I have always been short.  Yet, my arms and legs lengthened with muscle, and I was able to lug the 5 gal. buckets one in each hand instead of using my wagon.  It was much quicker and I felt a certain sense of accomplishment at that.  I knew I was strong.  Being out in nature also spoke to my soul.  I talked to myself, sang songs, composed poetry that I have never written, and dreamed dreams.  I knew I was contributing to something bigger than me, yet I could not put it into words.

This past Memorial Day, I went out to visit my parents and stood amongst the trees.  Gone are the tiny buds of leaves…replaced by full-grown foliage that turn brilliant colors in the fall.  No longer are they the small toothpick trunks vulnerable to a mower blade…in its place are strong and wide bases that support years of weather.  Would that they could talk, the stories they could utter.  I look at those trees now with a sense of pride, knowing that I had a hand in their creation.  I could not mandate that they grow…did not provide the elements of nature for their survival….but I helped the cycle of life.

Water, in its clear and refreshing manner combined with soil, temperature, light, and the CREATOR to instigate beautiful strength.  Wow, who knew a tree could give so much?  I did, and those that have read the GIVING TREE understand exactly of that which I speak.

Cover to The Giving Tree, depicting the tree giving away an apple

 

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