A moment for tending

TEND–care for or look after; give one’s attention to

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The Kiss Painting by Gustav Klimt

My daughter decided a couple of years ago to learn bartending skills.  She spent a good deal of time in our liquor cabinet reading and mixing recipes.  While discovering her talent as a mixologist, she came across ” The Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch.” The book was a gift to my husband our first Christmas together, with of course a nice bottle of single malt scotch. Inside she found the inscription, “Clay,  May all our years together be as they are now.  Alana”.  Touched by the words I had written, she shared her discovery with me.  A book that had long since been forgotten warmed my daughter’s heart as she encountered a moment from the past.

Last weekend my husband and I celebrated 22 years of marriage.  There have been awesome moments, terrible moments and everything in between. When I am asked about marriage and what makes it last there is no simple answer.  However, there are a few things I have learned along the way, from personal experience and the insights of others.

Have faith.  When moments were painful, my faith had a great deal to do with how I handled things.  Maybe not in the heat of the moment but in the moments after I would recall my belief that we were called together for a reason.  All that scripture taught me about love needed to be lived out in my home first.

Take joy in the little things.  Love isn’t always shown in grand gestures, often it is the simple things that happen every day.  Stop and take notice.  When my shoes make it back into my closet from wherever I threw them off, I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t find them.  Now those little things remind me of how our lives are woven together.

Tending to each other and to the relationship matters.  When a couple is committed to attending to each other, it is not always simultaneously happening, and it may often seem like one, is giving in to the other.  I have found that it is important to recognize who has the most sensitivity to the situation and attend to that.  This creates an element of safety and allows for honesty.   The most important truths, in my discovery, are “I need…” and “It hurts when…”.  The environment that allows these truths to be spoken and attended to will be vulnerable and scary but also safe and binding.

Forgive.  We will have moments of selfishness and frustration.  That makes forgiveness a crucial key to marriages that last.  Ask and offer forgiveness often.  Giving and accepting forgiveness will have a much more significant impact on marriage than any other negotiations.

When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

And when all else fails, laugh!  One of the best ways of coping with the difficulties of negotiating in a marriage is understanding the humor in it all.  Sometimes we are fighting for the most trivial of reasons or in the silliest ways.  Recognize those moments and laugh.  Laughing together is a beautiful thing.

Some time ago I attended a church service where anyone celebrating a birthday or anniversary was invited to the altar for prayer.  A couple who had been married 60 years stood at the altar, and after the prayer, the priest asked them to share something about their years together.  The husband with a happy smile said something like, “Everyday has been wonderful!”  The wife with a surprised look and a chuckle replied, “Well not every day.”  Then they chuckled together.  This moment made quite an impression on me.  60 years and they were still not on the same page and yet, they were.  I think both statements were equally honest and sincere.

Our lives are made up of moments and our moments all together make up our lives.  My hope expressed in the statement, “May all our years together be as they are now.” is being realized.  Those early years filled with challenges were rich in laughter and love, And the years gone by have been richer still.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”Mark 10:7-9  (NRSV)

 

A moment with Job

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Are you afraid of the dark?  I am.  Silly, but it is true.  I don’t like turning off the lights at night.  My vision changes in the dark, and I often see things entirely differently and usually not in a good way.  So, in my room, I have several electronics that keep me from being in total darkness.  My alarm clock and my phone charger both give off enough light to keep me feeling ok.

Reading the scriptures about Job feels a lot like being in the dark.  I am a bit afraid of his story.   I have glanced through it, but not willing to look too hard.  For this Sunday’s teaching though, I needed to look deeper.  What I needed was to move into the darkness of it all to understand it better.  Job was a man who was “Blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” Job 1:1.  He lived a life of wealth and prosperity.  And yet, God wages a bet with Satan regarding Job and suddenly he is found alone, wanting, and in poor health.  For thirty-six chapters we witness the suffering of Job.  Thirty-six chapters!  His conversations with God, his friends, and family offering no relief.  Why was his agony so long?  Why was it so harsh?  The God of my understanding does not play with our lives. Therefore I know he must have had a profound purpose.

In the Gospel of Mark we witness another kind of darkness.  A man named Bartimaeus is blind and begging by the roadside.  As Jesus and his disciples walk by, he calls out to Jesus. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Though the crowd tries to hush him, he cries out again, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”  In the span of one paragraph, Jesus hears him and heals him saying “Go your faith has made you well.”  This seems utterly unfair to me when read alongside Job’s story.  And yet, once again, the God of my understanding would have a profound purpose for this man as well.

This truth for me is realized in the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He had a distressing youth.  As a young boy, he suffered from polio.  Then, at the age of 15, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He noticed that almost all of the patients who started to hemorrhage and cough up blood ended up being wheeled out to the morgue.  When he began coughing up blood, he spoke to God and said.  “God, if you want, if this is curtains for me, Then it’s okay.”  He was surprised by the calm and peace that came over him.  He turned 87 this month.   In 2016 in The Book of Joy, he speaks of death, saying,

“Because God is God, because God is infinite, because none of us who are creatures will ever fathom the infinitude that is God, heaven is going to be forever a place of new discovery.”  The Archbishop’s eyes were transfixed, his gaze distant.  “I would say, ‘Oh, God, you’re so beautiful.’ And I will call, I will call, ‘Come, come and see,’ and this other one will say, ‘Have you seen just how beautiful God is?'” p. 162

Perhaps these stories bound together by dark times are also bound together by the prayers that they have offered and the light that they have shared.  I can only imagine the prayers of intercession the Archbishop has offered on behalf of others in his lifetime.  And how many times he would have shared his vision of the beauty of God.

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, whose sight was restored in an instant, followed Christ and the apostles whose next destination was to Jerusalem where the progression toward the cross begins.  Perhaps his eyes were opened so that he could see clearly as Christ offered himself for the sins of others.  Maybe he went on to share with others what he saw.

And Job, well Job allowed his suffering to transform his faith. He spoke with God and agreed to listen better.  As a result, he grew even closer to God.  He saw people differently.  He had compassion for the friends who had thrown accusations at him.  And after offering prayers for his friends, his fortunes were restored and doubled.  We know he saw the world differently when he broke social ground, by naming his daughters and giving them an inheritance along with their brothers.

‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;  Job 42:4-5  (NRSV)

Are you in the dark?  Do you feel afraid?

Speak with God.  He listens.

Allow Him to give you a new vision of things.

Perhaps you need to see a friend differently.

Perhaps you need a new vision for your future.

Perhaps you need to see God for the first time.

Speak, God listens.  Listen, God speaks.

A moment/A gift

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Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.  Genesis 33:10-12 (NRSV)

I celebrated my 50th birthday this month.   I don’t like making a big deal of my birthdays.  And, though this was a decade birthday and I passed the half-century mark, I thought it would be no different.  But, somehow in spite of my determination to minimize it, this birthday, even as it approached was actually a big deal to me. My mom passed away at 50 from cancer.  I don’t think of myself as a person who worries or frets about things,  but it is interesting how our minds don’t always cooperate with our wills. As I approached my 49th year, I became fearful.  I was afraid for my health and started imagining illnesses. I was worried about my children if they were to lose me too soon, as I lost my mother.  Then, as time went on, I began to accept my vulnerability, and my heart opened to it. I thought of how difficult it must have been for my mother to tell her children goodbye and trust that we would be okay.  I thought of many other relatives who have loved me in my life and are now gone.  I began to ask myself some big questions.  What have I done with my life?  What do I want to do differently, better, or not at all in the minutes, days, weeks, months, or years to come. My 49th year was a bit selfish as I asked myself these questions, but my boundaries became much better defined.

As a result of the past year, the day I actually turned 50, I was overwhelmed by how much I still felt the love of those who have come and gone from my life; grandmothers, aunts, family friends.  In the days around my birthday, I decided to spend time cultivating love within myself and sharing it with everyone I encountered.  Imperfectly, of course, we cannot always be at our best.  But as my intention to love was increased, the love I felt increased.

One of my favorite things to do is taking a hike in the mountains.  With a dear friend and the gift of good weather, I embarked on a walk that took my breath away.  We were surrounded by God’s presence and the beautiful gift of His creation.  It was a perfect day!  Every bend in the path revealed a new breathtaking view.  The longer we walked, the smaller I felt in the vastness of the mountains.  And yet, God’s love for me and all His creation to the most minor detail was more evident than it had been in a long time.

All this is the backdrop for the gift I was given two days later.  My husband, knowing how much I don’t like too much attention, wanted to do something special for my 50th.  A sweet friend shared an idea, and my husband pulled it off.

At lunch with family and friends, he presented a wrapped shoe box.  If you have ever tried to gift wrap a shoebox you know this in itself is impressive!  When I lifted the lid and lifted the layers of tissue, I was overwhelmed.  The box was full of cards, notes, and emails.  The first was a copy of the email he sent to many of our friends and family explaining why I wasn’t having a big party, and requesting that they share a birthday note to me.  I couldn’t even finish the email request without tears, and in a restaurant by the way.  My husband kindly took a handful of the funny ones, and we passed them around the table with laughter.  Thank you to all my friends who understand and appreciate my humor and who in turn share theirs!  It has been two weeks, and I have not yet made it through the whole box.  I read one at a time allowing a moment for the tears of joy and for the love of friends and family to soak in.

I share all this as an expression of gratitude to my dear friends and family.  I would be lost without you!  Thank you for your gift to me!  Also, because I know it is not easy, I share this to encourage those who are afraid.

Love.

You are beloved.

Be vulnerable.

Allow love to soak in deeply.

Love heals the past, enriches the present and is our greatest gift to the future.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.  Proverbs 27:8-10 (NIV)

 

​A moment for questions

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So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”   John 20:25-27 (NRSV)

As many of us do, I live with a heart like Thomas, asking “show me.”  What specifically am I asking for?  In the Bible, there are many stories where the proof is shown.  Am I asking to see the wounds of Christ? Am I seeking a burning bush, a rainbow or to be swallowed by a whale until I have an understanding?  Maybe really I am just asking for some clarity.  How important is it that I believe in God and Satan or burning bushes and rainbow promises.  It doesn’t seem likely that we will ever have the privilege of the certainty that Thomas received.  So, what can we be sure of?

Perhaps more important than certainty is being able to recognize love and hate and to know that good and evil do exist.  We may never see a burning bush, hear the audible voice of God, or be swallowed by a whale.  But we can recognize the power of love, the peace that comes after a storm, and the push of our conscience to follow our gut.  Sometimes the stories in scripture frustrate me because the literal interpretation makes them implausible.  The intended message, however, is not.

When I see the sadness in the world, I think “There can’t be a God,” and the despair I feel brings me back to the story of Thomas. The disciples gathered in a house after his death.  They were full of the desperation they must have felt for the loss of Jesus and the leadership they had come to rely on.   Jesus entered and in the act of love and understanding showed Thomas his wounds and offered comfort.

The absence of God leaves despair, and the presence of God brings peace.  That is clear enough for me.  God is Love.  Jesus shows us what love looks like.  By our loving each other and bringing comfort and peace and we remove doubt and despair.