Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

3 Panel U2 pic for shirt

Bono (Chicago 2015), Liz (After 4 Chicago SOI 2015 shows!), and more Bono.

Bono! It’s your birthday.  Since we’re born exactly a week apart, I’d like to ask you some questions–one bull to another.  As we U2 fans prepare for the Joshua Tree 40 tour, I have some questions I’d love to ask you.  What is it like:

Maybe you didn’t ask for this much, but God gave it to you anyway. This voice—this voice that gives power to the silent, the abused, the ignored, the desperate. This magical voice that entertains those who can afford it—provoking and comforting, all the while, yet always on the move.

We hear you between the lines! We are getting the message. Even as you continue to entertain us as the years pass, we too are changing; ourselves, and the world around us.   We can CREATE change. There is true beauty in being able to do that. The divinely-inspired do more then just sit still.  We’re fighting for love and peace too, even as we do battle to settle the wars that rage within ourselves.  Your music helps us to be gentle with ourselves. Thank you for that.

You have a vast and diverse fan base.   Sometimes we may just appear as just a bunch of idolaters.  I dispute that.  If that’s all we were, then we’re all just reduced to a bunch of noise–people who don’t think or care, and it’s only all about you. But you know us better than that. It’s so much more. Because of your humility, we see past the rock star. We see a mirror; we see ourselves–#strongerthanfear; we too can be brave enough to be a kinder person, to be more tolerant and to help others.   Your music and your heart unites those of various faiths, it smashes barriers.  In the music of U2, we learn to see and hear the world differently. Thank you.

Your voice and music—this blessed gift of soul and sound, is the soundtrack that activates our inspiration and creativity too! Your music empowers our resolve. It gets us through when our hearts break, and it makes the good moments super amazing!

We know where to find you, when you’re not around. We’ll meet you in the sound!

Keep going Bono (and the rest of U2!). Keep creating song and art. Keep talking to world leaders and business leaders and everyday people too. May you always keep your heart and mind open as you always have. May you always find time to put your family and faith and your well-being before the rest of us. Trust in the God who gave a short man a mighty big megaphone! Make a joyful noise until your last breath and together, we’ll walk this magical journey of life as we each  find our way home.

And live. Just be. Until you give it all away.

Happy Birthday and love from one fan, as well as the rest of us.  Today, we remember you.  U2areloved

FOR U2 FANS:  Please contribute to Bono’s annual “Build a Well in Africa” fund.  This is a cause near and dear to his heart!

Advertisements

Autumn Floral Heart

And we can break through,
though torn in two we can be one.
I will begin again, I will begin again.  – “New Year’s Day” – U2

      A friend of mine recently told me she chucked her tradition of stating New Year’s resolutions and instead decided on a new tradition of focusing on a “themed” word for the New Year.   It’s hard keeping resolutions.  Perhaps because such lofty sentences feel —well like a sentence.

So she decided to pick a theme for the year such as MINDFULNESS, or RISK-TAKING, or FORGIVENESS.  You get the idea.  She’d purposely focus on a character trait she wished to see magnified in herself.

I like the idea so much I’ve decided to adopt the idea of my own.   Three words keep floating up in my stream of consciousness.  I don’t feel like I picked them.  They picked me.  Which is another reason to abandon the “make a resolution” concept, it’s just one more thing for me to attempt to control when in reality, none of us have as much control as we wish to have or think we might.

These are MY THREE LITTLE WORDS for 2014:

RECONNECT:  2013 was the most difficult year of my life, but it was also a year of miracles.  It’s ironic that God always plants the miracles in the middle of your deepest sorrows, hardest storms, and silent suffering.  But seeds of hope always yield good fruits when sewn in tears and watered in love.  I had the privilege of both suffering and miracles this year, but in the process I’ve pulled away from people who I know love me.   I want to find my way back.  I may not be who I was, but my heart is unchanged.  It’s stronger than ever and ready to reconnect with those I love and who love me.

Who do you need to reconnect with this year?  Do you have relationships that need mending?  It’s hard to humble yourself sometimes or go first in reaching out.   Do it anyway my inner spirit cries, even though it is so hard for you.

CHERISHI am trying to spend more time praying that God will prioritize my priorities rather than me setting the agenda.  I want to cherish real people not just cyber connections limited to Facebook.  That’s a hard one.  Sometimes it’s easier to just tap out a facsimile of a relationship than to actually flesh out a real one.  Real ones are bumpy, annoying sometimes, hurtful, and well—just very real.  It’s easy to want to retreat to our collective shared diary and catch the news and pics of those we don’t know that well and distract ourselves from taking time to know better the flesh and blood under our own rooftop and in our own neighborhood and even extended family.

This year also taught me that time is actually the most valuable commodity we have.  We can’t hoard it or hold on to memories; for nothing good nor bad lasts forever.  Time:  Will we choose to waste it, spend it, or invest it?  When we invest it in people, we are showing love.  We are giving the gift of being cherished, one of our heart’s most often neglected desires.   Whatever I feel I may lack, I pray God grants me the courage to give what little of it I do have away– be it time, energy, or resources.

       SPIRIT-LEAD“Not my will, but thy will”. That whole control thing in life is a hard thing to shake.  After all God helps those that help themselves, right?  Not exactly.  I do feel called to work, give, serve, pray, love.  But 2013 taught me this much, if nothing else:  Let it go.  Let God.  Which means sometimes we need to sit still.  Rest.  Trust.

Our own sanity is like a rope.  And you know what?  Circumstances beyond your control, coupled with your default emotional thermostat can be a deadly cocktail and you can reach the end of that rope very quickly.  Without something bigger than YOU, when you find yourself in a pit, or feeling misunderstood , or unloved,  or undervalued– well that can be a lonely place.  Trials across time has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to me that God indeed exists, is good, and above all is in control.

      On that thought, I pray that if or when I am tested, I can continue to hold onto that last strand when hanging over a cliff with flames licking at my feet.

Yes, I want to be spirit-lead and worry less about the future, finances, circumstances, or the biggest demon of all:   What if?

          My head knows that fear is not of God, but my heart forgets sometimes.  I love too much sometimes.  I don’t love enough.   You’re probably the same.  And so it goes and so we sometimes suffer.

The secret is not to waste it.  Choose your suffering a wise pastor taught me.

      Reconnect.  Cherish.  Be spirit lead.  These are my New Year’s resolutions, my small humble prayers I shall utter each day, my big ideas—all planted in three little words.

Blessings in 2014 to you.    You too are loved.

U2 – “No Ordinary Love” — Video Download for U2.com subscribers.

Yep!  I’m a huge U2 fan. Me and a few other million friends.   They’re an extraordinary band not only because their melodies so easily latch on to our auditory taste buds, but more importantly their lyrics speak to a  much deeper place in our soul.  U2’s  music evokes memory and dreams and hopes.  They aren’t the pop flavor of the day, they speak messages of wisdom, if we have ears willing to hear.   A vision beyond visibility becomes a possibility when one is appropriately inspired.

I’m so looking forward to hearing all the songs that will ultimately comprise the soundtrack of Mandela:  Long Walk to Freedom  Not only is Mandela a mentor and inspiration for Bono personally, but also he holds a special place in people’s hearts all over the world who have seen or experienced or are touched by suppression, imprisonment, injustice or perhaps are fighting for freedom and human rights.

Even if you’re not a freedom fighter who has taken to the streets, you may be a prayer warrior or encourager  somewhere in the life or lives of those who struggle.  That’s what Jesus did when he read these prophetic words from the book of Isaiah to the people of Nazareth:

“The Lord has put his Spirit in me,
because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again.
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly.  Luke 4:18

I have a friend who for a long span of time wasn’t free.   For a time he was held captive internally by choices, as well as externally by unjust circumstances.   So as I wrote to the face of a friend I’ve never met until very recently, I reminded him that “You don’t have to walk around outside to taste freedom.”  You can get free inside first.  In fact, it’s probably a good idea.   And just because there are so many things you can’t see at this time, doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision of what life will look like soon, very soon.

This is seeing:   Believing what right now you can only hope for and resting confidently in assurance that God will use your hour of trial or suffering and turn it into something beautiful, or redemptive.  But it requires something of you first:

No Ordinary Love

Extraordinary love requires faith, being confident in that which you hope for and being sure of what you can not see.  (Hebrews 11:1) That’s no ordinary love.  Extraordinary love also requires sacrifice; it’s going to cost you something you value: your time, your money, your safety, your reputation, your safety net  or perhaps your freedom.  In some cases, even your very life.

“We can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love.”   Show someone in need some love today.     Take the plunge.  Give until it hurts.  Give with all you’ve got.  And even when you’re drowning in your own personal ocean of adversity and difficulty, remember you were loved first by no ordinary love,  so this pain you feel from time to time is only your heart cracking around the hard places until it becomes smooth as polished precious stones.

Don’t give up.  Look up.  Reach higher.  Assist the poor.  Minister to the hurting.  Forgive what seems unforgivable.   Show love in the name of freedom, in the name of justice and mercy, in the name of compassion, in the name of righteousness and then wait, and watch what God will do.   Perhaps if we each can show love to even just one, especially the difficult one, God can transform the ordinary to extraordinary.

May you find ways to show love today and be joyful in the anticipation of what God can do with just a bit of ordinary love.

POST SCRIPT 12/06/2013:  I started this entry about a week ago.  But I didn’t finish.  God had other plans.  I saw some miracles this week and witnessed first hand just how fast God can transform an isolated  captive person into a person being released into freedom and into loving capable hands.  ALL THIS, on the day Nelson Mandela has passed.  The world lost a true hero, a compassionate soul, and someone who fully understood  this truth: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.(1 Peter 4:8)  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  And welcome home too.  You leave a legacy of powerful truth spoken in love for the rest of us to aspire to.

Allow me to close with some wisdom of Nelson Mandela, who capably showed us light can chase away the dark and love is stronger than hate:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

glenn-gould1Photo Credit:  toomanynotes.org

      I didn’t even get to know you.  That’s because you died while I was in high school.  I didn’t even know you existed then.    You died a year after a boy I crushed on died. I never had a chance to tell him though; his time ran out first.   He was only 17.   He drove me to school for a year, but he had a problem.  And then life got way ahead of him at too young of an age.  More responsibilities than his young mind was ready for.  And depression, the black hole of the soul drives a person to do what they didn’t think they could do.  Perhaps you generate self-destruction, but perhaps for some, in their wake, you leave crumbs from your table for the rest of us–shiny diamonds of pure unadulterated genius.  And collectively we all grieve for you, even longer than had you lived.

Maybe that’s where it started.  This incredible empathy for genius, especially the quiet souls who tread the earth with a pervasive sadness.  For me, they stand out like neon in a black and white photo.  You know– the invisible ones you see feeding the ducks at the park on a winter’s day or having an argument with no one in particular at the bus stop.  Or maybe it’s the one frantically journaling (what?) behind a smoky haze in a cacophony of chatty coffee bugs at an outdoor café, or the painter who couldn’t straighten up his back because he was too busy painting the world’s most beautiful ceiling, and would’ve finished the sky, had there only been enough time.

The artists—you know the ones who cut off their ears for love, whose fear of germs or fear of being real, or honest, or perhaps fear of madness itself keep them from the love they were designed for.  But of course, how could they be anything but genius?  The heart must exert its life force into something, after all.

Yes, I found this picture of you in 2007 in the back of a Time Magazine (or maybe it was Newsweek).  I tucked it in a safe place all these years.  THOSE EYES!  I thought.  When I first saw you, you had me at look.  The elbow, haphazardly aloof resting on what you know only your round-curled fingers have the right to touch, or in your case tap and roll.  Sometimes when I get blue, I’ll pull out this picture of you and think, why am I drawn to you?  I don’t know you.  You’re a ghost.    

I’m almost the age now you were when you passed.  I lived invincible, unaware then while you lay dying that someday I would be drawn to you decades forth.   I don’t have the demons you did, nor do I want them if that’s what’s necessary to deepen my experience as an artist.

But a funny thing happened.   A tragic thing actually.  This thing called life with all its mystery, and majesty, and sadness, and joy.  Hard things and beautiful things, things we think we can’t endure, and they keep happening, wave upon wave.

And then I think I get it; or maybe I just perceive I do.  Maybe we leave messages for those in the future with our musical notes and sounds, our voices, our pictures, our words, our paintings, our constructions, perhaps as a harbinger, or maybe a love note that testifies and reminds us:  live, live, live.  Breathe life.  In.  Out.  Live full; live well.   

Yes, I probably would’ve loved you had I known you.    And if these words for some reason extend beyond cyberspace and into eternal space, maybe you’ll finally know not just me, but many like me, and especially those who actually knew you, loved you too.

      All that you can’t leave behind.  Except that we do.

And as we someday walk into the light, I feel certain we’ll hear your music too.

And love is not the easy thing…
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can’t leave behind….Walk On” – U2

A fascinating look at Glenn Gould — Genius Within

Where is the Love IMG_8531 1

A royal baby was born today.  A baby that will undoubtedly grow up in a fishbowl, his every move fawned over, analyzed, photographed, and reported as if it were earth-shattering. He will have loving parents to dote over him, a staff to serve him, a press that hounds him, and a fan base that will swell and wane over and over like the tide of the ocean.  He will one day rule, if only in the hearts of those that put people on pedestals simply because of pedigree.  Will he know what it means to suffer?

Also today, across the world and across two oceans, in Syria, a nameless unphotographed baby, like countless others before him this month, is born in a refugee camp, drawing his first breaths in the middle of conflict, a deadly war.  He will be on the move soon enough, already fleeing and hiding and struggling to live before he ever learns to smile.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed; it is only the faintest of hopes.  Hundreds of thousands of children sleep tonight in a tent on dirty ground not knowing whether tomorrow they eat or not, move or stay, live or die.   Families are broken, scattered, displaced, diminished, and shattered by wars they did not start and have no power to end. This baby of no recognition and no worldly significance,  whose sole purpose it seems is just to survive—will he feel loved? 

In Afghanistan, a village of young girls risk disfiguration by acid being thrown on them simply because they wish to go to school in secret.  An eleven year old girl in Yemen begs for death rather than being forced to marry.  In Thailand, hundreds of thousands of under age children are abused every year in childhood sex-trafficking and prostitution.  In America’s capital, more than 40% of high school kids don’t graduate.  Granite columns and indestructible walls meters thick fill up the entire epicenter of capital landscape, yet kids fall thru a broken system of family, culture, and community like water thru a sieve.    In Africa, hunger, AIDS, and death by Malaria still exists despite decades of humanitarian aid both government and private.  Why?

The world is on fire because we are at war.  There are wars on drugs.  There are wars on women and children.   There is war between social classes and political parties.   We are at war and we fight. We fight over land, food, politics, possessions, principals, philosophies, lifestyles, religious belief systems.  We fight over what is true.  Often we just fight, seemingly for no reason at all.  We fight because our rage over takes us.  Our inner evil is compelled to extinguish that which opposes us or our right-ness.   We are at war within ourselves as we easily love one person or group of people and detest another individual or group.  We exchange our peace, our righteousness, for a need to be right, a need to own or control, a need to possess or win.  We exchange love for a lie.

When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

There is so much fighting, and evil, and brutality, and pain and so much needless suffering.  And yet there are those small voices, the small minorities with limited resources, small hands, big ideas, and bigger hearts that risk death and dying daily, armed with nothing more than a sack cloth of courage and a heart full of faith trying, always trying.  They try desperately to feed the hungry, shelter the orphans, assist the dying, spread words of peace, trying their best to litter humanity with goodness and gentleness and kind deeds.

It is a world of dark and light, of yin and yang, a garden of good and evil.  But these days the weeds are rooting ever deeper, trying desperately to strangle the good fruits of human goodness.   It’s easy to despair as we watch the world around us all ablaze.  It feels as if we are flaming out, we’re burnt out, past the point of being able to care.

I say don’t give in.  Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up!  Return to love.  Help your neighbor or whoever God puts in your path today.  Write respectful letters to those in power that can make a difference.  Above all, do not remain silent.  Use your voice to point out injustice, and to persuade others.   But then DO SOMETHING!  Use your hands to help others.  Use your mind to stay centered on solutions, not just rattling over the problem.  Find small ways to be the change you wish to see in the world.

We all have the opportunity to be the royal sons and daughters of a higher law, a higher King.  We can discern without diminishing. We can serve with humility.  We can love without limits.   We can rise above the madness.

Feed.   Pray.   Give.   Serve.   Love.

Where is the love?  It’s up to each of us to light the way.

********

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12

“This world’s anguish is no different from the love we insist on holding back.”   Aberjhani – “Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love”

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work — hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss — loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.”   Jean Vanier – “Finding Peace”

Mermaid by Ruth Price.JPG u2areloved

“You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end”——Someone I Used to Know — Go Tye

      I watch as you set sail this morning.  So close to me; mere yards away still in my line of sight; I could swim to you so quickly, yet you’re so far away.  I’m frozen here, suspended in this sea, a suspension of salt and tears; I’m gliding  through wave after wave totally unseen by you.  I watch in horrified silence as you pull up anchor for the last time from this vast ocean. This dark mysterious element that’s taken many a strong man down, condemned for having had the will to wrestle it.  Yes, it’s swallowed the souls of brave and strong, timid and weak–all meeting, perhaps some seeking, the same fate: deep silence.

Yet you are one of the lucky ones.  You’ll leave this sea for the same reason you came to it:  Escape.  This singular concept has captivated you and countless other men over the centuries.   You will ultimately abandon this sea, and those that remain here.  Yet I know it will never completely leave you.  Its waters course your blood now.

Escape has a magnetic pull all of its own.  Combined with the pull of the moon, this sea has tempted then swallowed men from all continents for eons as it whispers:  Come set sail with me. Ride me; and I’ll give you a highway with no one on it.  And to a few who hear incorrectly:  Tame me.  I’m yours. 

And then there’s me.  Seen only by the rarest few I choose to allow, I bare my soul, my body, always with hope—this incessant, plague-ridden hope that there will be a way other than death to make you stay.  Never!  The sea denies me.  Never!

Haunting.  That’s the word you said to me when you first saw the endless deep in my eyes.  I’ve heard it in other centuries by other men, but from you it suddenly meant well–moreArrested you said as you described your heart around me.  Soft as sea glass were the words you used when you caressed my tale.  Then suddenly you’re:  Gone.   When I leave you, I’ll lie to myself: what you leave behind you don’t miss anyway. 

My tail is anchored to me as much as it is separate from me; for it is a tale as old as time itself.  The tail of a mermaid is worshiped and cherished by the fraternity of the sea as a symbol of freedom and of wanderlust–the sea’s  mysterious ways, and yet I know differently.

For it is not a tale of freedom, but a soft and gentle enslavement.   A craving to be bound to a soul that equally yearns to be anchored to no man, to no ideal, to no promise, no permanent residence.  Certainly to no woman.    My tail is my story; it is a part of me as much as it is about me.  I can’t remove it, though God knows sometimes I would if I could.

I don’t know if God purposed this tail to assist me or to curse me; perhaps it was to protect me.  Either way, it is mine and mine alone.  Never will I feel the Italian leather strap wrapped around my ankle propping me up like the land women you always return to but never give your heart to.  Even when I gave you my body, I knew it was only half of what you needed.  I would never be enough.  I have the potential to swim for miles, yet I stay anchored always to drifting in the same circles, hiding, avoiding danger, and cursed above all: waiting in silence. 

I’ll never take to the skies and fly across the continents like your land women do.  Never will I be adorned with a diamond or a ring of gold.  Yet once you placed a string of pearls around my neck.  I laughed at the irony.  Why I could get those anywhere!  But your heart was pure that day.  I cupped my auburn hair to my right shoulder and let you clasp them around me as I felt your hands wrap around me. You touched me where I was vulnerable, the parts of me that other men spend countless hours laboriously carving, sanding, smoothing, painting, while silently worshiping me more and more in the process of trying to recreate me.  It’s odd, these figureheads of  me mounted like a sacrifice to adorn their ship’s bow in order to ward off evil spirits, as if that’s where their protection lay.

When I felt your warm touch on this sacred part of me, I immediately felt electrified, like an eel.   Did you know then what you were doing to me?  What you were touching?  Were you aware of this singular moment in time?  Rareness.  One in a hundred million.  Exquisiteness. 

I forever remember the night I met you Captain.  With your steely legs and arms bursting with enormous strength, yet a conscience as fragile as fine porcelain.   You awoke, drowing in my blue sea Captain.  Do you remember how?   I watched from afar as you emptied in futility a brown bottle of spirits, tossing it afterwords carelessly into the sea. You kept looking over the starboard as if looking for the lost part of you in some magic mirror.  Did you forget who you were?

Intuition is such a curse.  You always know what’s going to happen next

I could almost hear you pleading and doubting.  Jesus. Could you take the time to throw a drowning man a line?

When you jumped into the soothing warm depths I understood.  We all want to escape that which haunts our soul and terrorizes our ability to move forward.

You were in the black.  You couldn’t see or be seen.  And so you fell, drowning man. You went down, down, down.  I waited a moment as I watched, mesmerized, momentarily paralyzed by the last trace of your beautifully illuminated face  as it quietly slipped away under the moonlight. It was then I risked discovery as I propelled towards you like lightening.  My sea sisters shook their heads as if to say, ” No!  Don’t!”

It’s a lesson my heart can’t wrap its tentacles around. “ Don’t you know,”  Father Neptune once told me, “The moment you start to save them, you begin to lose them?” 

I couldn’t believe then how this could be true.  But I understand now. It’s so hard for man to maintain belief in something he can’t see, much less prove to others.  This cognitive dissonance you possess, this incredible ability to love me the deepest and believe in me more than you do yourself, and yet in the span of a singular sunrise leave me, forgetting me, sometimes for a very long while.  This!  This is the scourge of my soul, the reason for my tears.

I dove straight down until I found you.  I didn’t have a choice, but to lift you up.  So I did; I lifted you up with my tail.  I carried you away.  I wanted to keep you, just for me,  if only for a little while.  My arms embraced you.  My hands, though small were strong enough to pull you up and out.  I pulled you towards me.  I blew the breath of life into you, until I could feel your heartbeat against mine, until we were in sync, co-existing, two hearts that beat as one.

Oh Captain, how magnificent that moment was.  The night your life came back to you, I thought I would burst with joy.  I should’ve known from that moment forward a small piece of my soul would be taken with you on each ensuing voyage.

When you came to, you were looking deep in my eyes as if standing on the edge of unbelief.   It’s not a mirage of madness I nodded.  It’s true.  I’m here.  I saved you! 

We lingered in the water for a while, neither of us daring to move.  The crescent moon sliced our water with a bright blaze of wet white light, near to us, yet just out of reach.  I let you hold me for a while hoping,  praying you could somehow divine what I most wanted.   Yet it could never be.  You, o creature of land, could never stay here.  I knew that too.  But denial is a sea where even a mermaid can drown. 

Our arms wrapped around one another, my tail gave your weary legs stability as we tread water for a spell,  entwined like vines of the sea. I saw a tear begin to fall from your eye.  I put my finger to it.  You hung your head in shame.

“My sweet angel.  My sweet angel of the abyss.  How could you save me?  For I am an unworthy man.  I’ve been dishonest.  I bartered my soul in exchange for silver and gold.  All my men! They’re sailing their last voyage.  They’ve been promised by the arrogant kings of earth treasures of glorious riches, but deep down they know.  They’re off to fight the endless wars started by these same wicked kings and rulers whose blood lust is always for more–whose wars were always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight.  More land!  More treasure!  Above all, more power!  My protection is assured; I only have to deliver them to the carnage, pawns of their kings, to their dreadful end. I’ve always had the luxury of returning home. Yet I’ve exchanged many nights of rest for these few days of worthless riches.  The only thing more vast than this God-forsaken sea is my sorrows. And now my sorrows have learned to swim.”

I couldn’t take another minute.  Why?  Why is living on the land so complicated?  Where is the love?  Why can’t there be peace on earth?    And in return one’s soul?

At that moment I put my lips to yours.  Your strength was not without humilityYou did not know your weakness was actually a treatable disease.  You, a mere man who resisted interrogations of all sorts, who fought and won many a battle and overcame some temptations in your younger years, fought me not when I kissed you.  You kissed me back.  Then you closed your eyes.  Were you blinded by the beauty of me and my home in the sea or were you pushing back a life filled with too many lies?   Did you savor the taste of my salt-water kisses?  Did you carve a place somewhere deep in your heart at that moment reserved just for me?  In this garden of the sea, my gypsy heart simultaneously shattered and swooned.    The seas swirled; everything was spinning around us.  We were kissing, living life true by moonlight, but only for a little while.

It was time to return the Captain of the Gloria.  Back to the men who would be depending on you—your fierce courage in adversity, your decisions under pressure, your steady confidence as together you faced perilous storms and unknown futures.  You knew.  You didn’t fight me when I began leading you back to your ship.   A stroke of fate had allowed a sailor on deck to hear you as you splashed into the water.  A crew was already in the water searching for a trace of you with their search lights.  As we neared your vessel, I propelled you like a rocket, away from me. In a flash I was gone.

I dove down deep, always evading discovery.  I’m able to suspend time unlike you.  On my way down, the last thing I saw were your feet.  I froze here for a moment.  For all eternity I will replay that moment in my mind.  For the briefest of time you were with me, but I know this to be true.  You will walk on.  Yet in my dreams, I stay here, always falling– falling at your feet.

Forever my mind will see visions of you, a treasure just to look upon it.  Eternally my heart will pine for you.  And I will always wonder but one thought:  Had I remained visible, would you have returned to me? 

The morning after I saved you, the skies were clear.  You didn’t pull up anchor.  Nor the next.   Or the one after.  I could not imagine what excuses you used to avoid sailing.  And on the fourth day, I saw you then.  Your dark hair tossed with strands of silver, and strong arms escaping your white sailor’s shirt.

I saw it then.  I followed the curves and lines of your sinewy arms down to your forearms as you hoisted the sails that would eventually carry you home, and away from me.  A tattoo.   Your first one; your only one.  A man your age with virgin skin on these seas was so rare, but during this voyage,  you broke ranks with yourself and cut yourself for me, exchanging your blood for the inky green of the sea.  I knew.  Only love could leave such a mark.

I smiled when I saw this portrait of myself reflected in the mirror of your skin.  I cried too.  I knew these same arms would deliver Abraham’s sons to their death; collect a king’s reward, and ultimately wrap around the torso of another.  Your strong hands would outline the small of a back of a woman who could walk the earth, and say what she meant, though she would know you not.    Not like me.

I was overcome as I was left in the water.  Waves of regret and waves of joy washed over me.  In five years, I saw you three times after the night I saved you.  You would share more secrets with me each time.  You would kiss me as your adorned me with your pearls, electrifying me with your touch.  Each of us would be what the other wished to possess but could never have.

But the last time I saw you, I stayed far away.  I could see storm clouds gathering that your eyes couldn’t yet see.  Death would be your fate if you were to fall in love with only my humanity.  I saw you late the night before pacing from bow to stern checking with the stars and searching with your binoculars for that which you knew, but couldn’t prove.  I, the harbor in your tempest, the lighthouse of your soul, will always be here.  I know deep down you will come to know this, and yet you will continue to returning to this place until finally you simply believe it.

That is when I will see you no more.  You will make your peace with your memory of me and your life with all of its trials and storms and lies and heartaches.  You will reconcile them along with possessing the beauty of a woman who walks, a baby who smiles, and men who’ll give their life for you and a few who did, and all the fine things that treasure can buy.  Yet I know on the darkest nights, when your soul is in knots and your heart is black and blue, and you’re fleeing again all that pains you, I, the soul of your mermaid will be with you.  I’ll be your North Star; I’ll be the one that lights your way. I’ll help you and carry you as you navigate safely home.  Always!

*Mermaid Painting on Porcelain Plate:  Ruth Price – Artist — Beaufort, NC

Not a Hopeless Case

Posted: May 16, 2013 in Hope, Loss, Love
Tags: , ,

Love EnoughHave you ever known someone in the pit?  Someone other people need to take a break from?  You know–someone with issues? 

How could they just screw up their life like that?  What a colossal failure.  Why didn’t they just decide better?  Some people need to just get in gear and pull themselves together.

Yeah sure they should.  If they could just be more put together like you.  Like me.  NOT!

See the problem is when you’re in the pit, you don’t need someone to come along side you and condemn you for being in the pit, even if it is a disaster of your own making.  No, what people need is a friend.  A friend who is honest and understands bad choices lead to bad consequences but they love you anyway.  A pit-dweller needs someone who will climb down and sit beside them and stay awhile.    Not an enabler, but a disarmer of that which entangles you is what is called for.

Judgment is reserved for those who hear our trials and determine the consequences. But mercy?  Well that’s a higher way.  Mercy is dispensed liberally from those who have a compassionate heart and realize that forgiveness can lead a person living in shame out of darkness quicker than condemning them.

Next time you see the so-called bum on the corner, realize maybe they aren’t just another bum, but a hurting heart that took a series of wrong turns coupled with some circumstances beyond their control.  Maybe the teenager who is always wasted hates himself more than the people who pass him by totally unaware, except for a momentary case of disdain.  Maybe the person you know who is behaving stupidly needs to be reminded that you care enough to let them know you cannot stand idly by and watch them destroy their life and the lives of those around them.  Confront them.  In love.  In truth.   Maybe they’ll lash out.  Or perhaps they’ll break.  Maybe they’ll just deny.  Or avoid you.   Be courageous and persist.  The truth takes a stab at our dark hearts until hopefully some of the light will seep back in.

We all need someone who loves enough to hold us accountable, but we especially need it when we’re being gripped by that which can destroy us whether it’s outward behaviors or inward attitudes.  We need someone who won’t let us blame others for our mistakes and someone brave enough to not let us be a perpetual victim.  A real no-nonsense, no-excuses type friend is someone who lets you be you without trying to change you, but draws the line when you cross over into narcissism just because you’re down and out.  A true friend will build your self-esteem with encouragement but will call you out at the first seeds of arrogance.   A friend for life is the one who will sit beside you in the pit and never let you go back to the place that helped you get here.  They know your dirt but love you enough to not pass it around for others to inspect.

No man (or woman) is an island.  It’s true; sometimes you can’t make it on your own.  You can’t save everyone you ever encounter but if there is someone in your life whose story is stirring up unrest in your soul, all I can say is this.  Help them.  Go get them.  Don’t ignore your instincts.  Be the life-preserver that allows rescue to happen.   Above all, pray for them.  Be courageous enough to say something.   You may not be able to save them or change them, but God can.   When they are ready to choose change, you can be their biggest cheerleader to encourage them to hang in there and take steps in a different direction.

       Don’t abandon the hurting or injured.  Don’t pass by the down and outers.    Don’t hold back your love from those who need it most.  None of us are a hopeless case.  And in case you feel forgotten or neglected or abandoned, rest assured if you are still here, even if people have forgotten you, God has not.

Never forget that!    Hold on.  You may not feel it yet.   You may not believe it.  But you too are loved.

“Touch me.  Take me to that other place.   Reach me.   I know I’m not a hopeless case…..”  More than a song, perhaps it’s a prayer of someone you know.  Who will you reach out to and love today?

Stepping Stones      Once upon a time, I was subject to all sorts of stress and chaos.  That’s because for many years I was under the dominion of feelings, rather than acceptance of reality.  That’s not to say that feelings aren’t real or don’t count; they do.  I’m just saying it can’t be what guides you.

Thankfully wisdom eventually comes the longer one lives. So when I saw these rocks at a gift shop recently, and knowing nothing is a coincidence, a vision of truth settled over me.  It was as if a 12 step program (okay fourteen, but who’s counting?) for our emotions was suddenly available in summary form.   I thanked God for the instant wisdom and beauty He had provided.  So when you’re down and out, start by taking baby steps towards the power generated in just a few words worthy of being carved on rocks.  Meditate on them and then implement these action-steps and you will begin to leave drama behind and move towards peace, joy, and positive decisiveness.  Love is a decision, so take the steps necessary to love your life!

BreatheBefore you lash out or make a decision based on how you feel right now, just breathe.  It sounds simple, but it can be elusive when you’re hyperventilating on anger or extreme sadness.  Stop!  Get grounded.  Take a step back.  And just breathe.

ChangeThere are only two things you can change in life:  Your situation or your response.  It’s that simple.  If you can change your situation, by all means do.  Dump that toxic relationship, go back to school, decide to get out of debt,  get rid of that which is holding you back,  apply for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for anyway, go ahead and write that book you’ve been contemplating.

But what about the boss who chewed you out?  The spouse who abandoned you?  The grown child who never calls you?  And every other situation under the sun that falls under the category “unfair”?   There is only one thing you can do.  Change your attitude or response.  Besides you have to.  Why let what you can’t control destroy your well-being and sense of peace?   Acceptance of others and their flaws sets you free.  Putting up boundaries by saying, “I can’t talk to you until you calm down” or “I won’t allow you to speak to me like that” and then leaving a heated situation, shows that you are in control of your life and that you respect yourself to not allow others to disrespect you.  Remember you don’t have to be right all the time or have to convince others.  The goal is to be at peace!

ChoiceMy favorite advice on choice is this:  Choose your suffering.  Essentially that means don’t waste your suffering.  The Bible even states that “in this world, you will have trouble.”  And that is no lie!  You don’t get to the end without experiencing tragedy, abandonment, loss, hurt, sadness, anger, and unfairness.  Kind of like change, you have to make a decision.  Are you going to let that which you can’t control destroy you, or rest as the rock foundation that you build your testimony on, and become a source of inspiration to others, and even yourself.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Tap into that strength.

CourageDare to face the horrible truths in your life that you’d rather not:  You have a problem.  Deal with it.  Get help when necessary.  Tap into your faith.  Call on your friends.  Don’t go through the hard stuff alone.   As you get rid of toxic relationships outside of yourself, you’ll find it’s time once and for all to deal with the habits and hang-ups that keep you from reaching your full potential:  Insecurities, lack of confidence, bad or destructive habits, or fear of failure.    Attack each of these self-destroyers with all the tools in your toolbox:  Faith, family, friends, and above all a willingness to change.   Each step you take in the direction of courage builds momentum making each subsequent step a little bit easier than the one before.

Dance Put on the jamz and pump up the volume.  Life is too short to purposely not do things that can bring you happiness and joy.  Why settle for ho-hum washing the dishes and vacuuming the house when you can crank up your favorite music and dance the night away as you work!  As long as your multitasking, at least do it with joy.  Throw off those shoes and dance.  Grab a partner and surprise them with the joy of dance.

Dream Never give up your dreams.  Never!  What is that thing you’ve always longed to accomplish?  Write a song?  Start a new career in a totally different field?  Lose thirty pounds?  Then be like a Nike ad and just do it!  Start today!  You have to start sometime.  Don’t let excuses or lack of time be your reason why you didn’t fulfill your dreams.  A little today is better than none tomorrow and the day after that.  Slow progression is the key towards long-term results.  The key is to act with intent on your dreams.

Heal What is it you need in order to heal?  Professional help?  Spiritual guidance?  The compassion of a friend?  Then seek it and don’t be ashamed.  Perhaps you just need time.  That’s okay too.  Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it allows us time to get our head together and weave that which hurt us into the fabric of our being, so that we can step out in courage anyway.  You wouldn’t let an infection on your skin fester and get worse.  It’s essential  that which troubles your heart or your mind be healed as well.  Don’t let pride stop you from getting the healing you need.

LaughGo ahead; lighten up!  Laugh at your mistakes, it’s okay.  Don’t be wound so tight, you can’t allow yourself to be human.  Go to a funny movie with a friend!  It’s good therapy.   Become mindful of joy and learn to laugh.  Laugh lines are more attractive than worry lines anyway!

Organize– Get rid of excess.  Everyday pick a room, a drawer, a box to organize.  Stop buying that which you don’t need.  Put things away as you use them.  Remember that it’s more fun to do and to be in life than it is to haveExcess of things don’t make us happy; relationships do.  We don’t get to take our things with us.  The only commodity we truly have in life is time.  Time to enjoy our life, but more importantly time to make a difference in the lives of others.  When you are organized, you have more time to see friends, volunteer, and get out in God’s beautiful world and enjoy all there is to see and do.

Play You work hard.  Don’t deny yourself this essential ingredient in life.  Get a hobby.  Play a sport.   Play with your kids and your pets every day if you have them.   When you play, you’re apt to laugh and that is good medicine for the soul.  Definitely find ways to play!

RelaxSimilar to just breathe, this is the mechanism you need to calm your soul and soothe your spirit.  It sounds easy, but how many times do we deny ourselves the opportunity to just relax because everything else seems essential?   Reading a good book or watching a great movie or just taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon can totally change our perspective when we’re stressed.  If you never have time to relax, than go back to organize.  What things, commitments, or excess people do you need to purge in order to enjoy the necessary stepping stone of relaxation?

RememberRemember others who are suffering and you can be a blessing to.  Remember the good things in life that God has blessed you with and choose to save some of them.  Take pictures of the good things.  Make a family scrapbook.  Have a treasure trunk where you keep mementoes of happy events.  Remembering that which brings us joy and leaving behind that which causes us pain is a great way to have a fulfilling and joyous life.

Rest We can’t organize, relax, remember, play, work, heal, dance, laugh, make necessary changes, or even dream if we don’t first get enough rest.  We were designed to rest for a reason.  When we allow our mind and body to recharge, we are taking the first step to complete all the others.   Get on a schedule and get the rest you need.

TeachTeach others life lessons you’ve learned so far.  Mentoring others is a great way to make a difference.  Also be willing to be taughtHaving a teachable spirit is also a key to wisdom.  Try not to take all advice, even when unsolicited, as a means to control you, but perhaps as a kernel of truth worth mining.  Having a teachable attitude means accepting that we don’t necessarily know everything.  And that’s okay.

Okay, so that’s 14 stepping stones to lead you to a better life.  But there is one that was left out intentionally.  All these stones, pale in comparison to the solid rock foundation they rest upon: 

FaithThe people I’ve known in life that have it the most together mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually have a deep faith that is the bedrock upon which all else is built.  Having faith means you personally don’t have to have all the answers or be in control.  That’s because when God is in control, someone bigger than you is in charge.   You don’t have to know everything or be responsible for every outcome.  Faith steps in when people step out.  Faith is believing in someone or something bigger than yourself.  Faith is prayer.  Faith is active.  Faith is forgiving.  Faith allows us to love.  Faith is a conduit to all that is good in life Faith is more than a positive attitude, it is an assurance of things hoped for and not yet seen.   Sharpen your faith, and live the good life.

     

Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust.

It sweeps the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must. – Mother Teresa

     Have you ever noticed when you are totally overwhelmed with a set of challenges (one for each finger I say), life has an uncanny way of dealing just a few more major blows– all at once?  Here you are standing tall as trees, trying to be strong, and be responsible and systematically solve the issues?  This feels like a theme for me these days in life.

I recently bought a post card from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum that sits in front of my kitchen window.  It has NO PICURES, just five simple words to remind me of today’s modus operandi:

Failure is not an option.

       It’s the famous line uttered in the Apollo 13 mission and subsequent movie.   It’s a verbal and visionary reminder to keep trying, to keep going…at all costs, beyond energy, beyond strength, above all:  beyond no, and I can’t and I don’t know and I’m tired.

       You must, must, must find a way, in order to complete the mission and come home safely.

The catch is this; life does not always play out like a great movie or space mission.  In fact, as clever as those amazing astronauts were, was there something more than mere intelligence at work?  After all, who gives us our amazing minds?

Perhaps there is a force at work bigger than the size of the circumstance.   Smarter than the smartest mind in the room.  Stronger than the strongest person or fire or storm that threatens.

Yes, we stand tall as trees, but God fells us to our rightful position sometimes:   our knees.

We’re not as big, or smart, or as important as we think we are.    We are not responsible for the resolution of everything!  That’s such a hard, hard lesson for me.  I just naturally associate doing nothing with being lazy.   I keep forgetting that letting go, actually does mean let God.  Nothing in the world feels harder than surrender.  After all, in battle, isn’t surrender essentially the same as defeat?

In battle, yes.   In matters of faith, surrender is true freedom.  Why?  Because that’s when the soft winds of grace can blow in.     What is this grace exactly?

It’s unmerited favor.  It’s granted when you don’t deserve it, perhaps because you don’t deserve it.  Or perhaps because you do.  It’s because despite your failure of choices or abilities, you deserve it, simply because you are loved.  It’s because despite all this which is not of your own making is not happening unnoticed by God.   You are loved.  And the solution will arrive right on time.  But not on your time, on God’s. 

      I think of grace as perseverance strapped safely in by faith.  It’s the ability to step out and endure before the answers arrive.

What is “that thing” you so desperately need right now to solve your most pressing problems?  More money?  More time?  More wisdom (something you hadn’t considered before)?  More energy?  More love?

    Probably “that thing” is the ONE THING you just can’t do by yourself, no matter how hard you try.

Solution?  Stop trying already.  Hear me right.  You still have to get out of bed each day, get up and do the best that you can.  Work as hard as you can, but work at it as if you are confidently expecting God to pull through for you.

Maybe muster up a tiny bit of joy as you are working.  Prayers of gratitude for what God has blessed you with will strengthen you further.  What do you already have working for you?  A family who loves you?  (Think how many people in the world don’t have this!)  A body still capable of working, even though it tires?    A mind which, though sometimes filled with doubt, can still decide, change, adapt to, and embrace new situations and challenges?     Basic needs such as a food, shelter, clothing?   I hope you see the gift of grace you have already obtained here.

If you have time, I hope you’ll watch the video. Mother Teresa had it right all along.  God designed us in this simple yet unique way.

To love, and to be loved.

      That’s it.  To love.  You struggle, yes.  But look beyond you, clearly there are harder struggles that you have not been called to endure.  That’s not good luck; that’s grace.    And yet there is a lesson here:

Amidst the chaos, the unknown outcomes of pressing problems, and being pressed for time all around, is there a way to extend grace to someone else?    Who nearest to your center of gravity simply needs to be loved?

 Failure may feel as if  it’s not an option for the challenges we face.  But grace is.    And grace is the one that will help us complete our mission and carry us safely home.

More Wisdom from Mother Teresa:

We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.

A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.

The Eyes Have it

Who is the color in your world?  Who is your found when you have all but lost your way?   Have you ever been under a spell?    Some might call it infatuation.   Others might say it’s just a crush.  Maybe it’s an addiction.  What is this strange affliction?

Your brain will tell you it’s impossible to last.  Your heart will deny this and just nervously laugh.    Words like forever and always follow words like love and be with and follow.  Who has the capacity to change you?   Who changes your direction?

Who leaves you tangled and blue?   Who lies to you as smooth as silk but cuts your heart like glass?    Who blows in and out of your life like the breeze? Who (or what) do you remember when you try to forget?  Who’s more alive then instead of now?   Watch for the subtle soul stealer who charms with a word, mesmerizes with beauty, or drops anchor with a memory, all unleashing a torrent of feeling?  Who haunts you?

Life.  It’s a mystery.  Do we master our fate with our mind, or helplessly submit to the choices of our heart? (Isn’t that biology?)   Maybe we’re all drifters, tossing and turning between possibility and stability.  Right and wrong.   Deception and deliverance.  Past and future.  Life and death.  Fear and faith.

Are you singing praises today?  Or are you singing the blues?

Wherever life’s journey takes you, tread and choose carefully.   And may your heart be filled and continually replenished with all that cannot be taken away, even if you give it all away for free.

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.  Psalm 16:1