Bridge   Happy New Year friends!  I hope your 2013 is off to a good start.  New Year’s is always the time when we reflect on our past year, size it up, and vow to make changes in our life.  Perhaps we’ll  try to improve our fortune or lot in life or alter our appearance.  Maybe we go for the real heavy lifting and try to repair or improve our character, or perhaps just our perspective.

Maybe you too have written your resolution(s) on paper with measurable objective goals such as losing ten pounds by a certain date, or make partner at the firm this year, or finish the book you are writing, or train for and run a marathon before year’s end.  Perhaps you’ve sworn off making resolutions, so this time next year you won’t need to remember what you didn’t achieve that which you set out to.  You won’t have to be disappointed by the critic who resides in your head.

I find myself in both categories.  I do intend to make certain changes each year.  I even write some goals down.  But by year’s end I am often hard-pressed to find the original list of goals.  That’s because I’m a revisionist.  Perhaps a bit flighty.  Scattered.  Changeable.  Distractible.  Priorities shift in my life seemingly the way the wind changes direction.

What do you wish for, just for you?  Seriously, what is it that you most want to do different in your life, or attract towards your life?  Someone?  Something?   Do you want more or less of the status quo?  Do you want to do something radically different?  Do you want to savor and hold on to your security and/or contentment?   If you were given only one more year, how would you live?

When one thinks of the sad news of this year such as the massacres of innocent children and people in both Connecticut and Colorado, it doesn’t take long to realize we walk but a thin thread.  Our lives are not only precious, they are sacred.  Who’s to say when our last day will be?  Only God knows.

I generally tend to focus on the positive in life, but that’s not to say I never complain.  I certainly do.  I make lots of intention lists and to do lists, and succeed much more on daily tasks then I do in general life goals.  If I could resolve to do one thing, it would be simply this: To bridge the gap between what I INTEND to do, with what I ACTUALLY do

      So this year, my goal is to live life more IN FOCUS.  Focus on INTENTION with INTENSITY until it becomes ACTUAL REALITY!

It’s not enough for me to say I want to bring a meal to someone soon; I NEED TO DO IT.

It’s no longer acceptable for me to say, I hope to get to the gym soon; I NEED TO DO IT.

I can’t complain about that which I don’t agree with in the world, I must speak, write, act—I NEED TO DO IT!

I mustn’t just say I’m grateful for so much that I have been blessed with, I NEED TO LIVE MY LIFE as a response, a testimony or an exclamation mark if you will, that life is good, God is good, and TRUTH and LOVE are the antidote to all that is wrong in the world.  TRUTH spoken in LOVE and LOVE SPOKEN TRULY can bridge what is divided in two, or hundreds of thousands for that matter, and be united into one.  One love. 

One.  We are one, but we are not the same.  Can we all find common ground in our humanity, our faith, our music, our beliefs, and our heart’s desire to become more selfless and less selfish?  Can we learn to seek ways to cherish and nurture life, rather than injure and destroy it, starting with the words you say?

FOCUS.  INTENTION.  LOVE.

Love is a temple.  Love the higher law.  And this is a sacred honor:  We get to carry each other.

Who will you lift up?  Whose burdens will you shoulder?  What risks will you take as you pour love from your heart?

It’s New Year’s Day.  I will begin again.  What say you?

May you too resolve to be all that God designed you to be this year.  Happy New Year!

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2


NEW YEAR’S DAY – U2

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

Oasis (Weekly Writing Challenge)

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Inspiration, Oasis, U2
Tags: , ,

Sanctuary U2

PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK FRIEND —  THANKS HH!

Where do you go for sanctuary?   Is it a place?   A song?  A person?    A habit?   A memory?   A belief?  A faith you claim?  All of the above?

How deep do you go in your oasis?  Could you stay a while?  Would you want to drown there?

How big is your heart?  How deep can it be cut?

Without giving away all that I am, I can safely say, on any given heartache or stress beyond my understanding, I’ll admit I like to get lost in the music and lyrics of U2.  I’m pretty sure they wrote the lyric “Let me in the sound” just for me.

Yes, I like to be transported away from hurt or disappointment and into what I call my “Happy Place”.   Their music soothes my soul and puts my mind at ease when the chaos of life sometimes surrounds me.     I think it takes me somewhere else:  Another time, another place. 

It doesn’t take me long once I start strolling along in my own personal oasis, until I bump into my new best friend; inspiration.   I love hanging out with inspiration, because then we usually grab two of my other great friends:

Lens and Pens

Grab a camera. Jot a thought.  Savor this moment.  It is your reference material for life.

Yes, whenever I’m in my oasis hooking up with inspiration, I find I get in touch with my inner artist for a while.  And you know what?  I kind of like her.

I meet me.  The real me.    I think I find the me that God actually intended me to be.

May you find peace in your oasis today!

And for you who need a little U2 encouragement today:

paw2012w

And I feel
Like I’m slowly, slowly, slowly slipping under
And I feel
Like I’m holding onto nothing…..

So goes the lyrics in U2’s Lemon.

My question to you is this:  What do you do when you are slowly slipping under?  Where do you go?  How do you cope?    It comes down to this:  What drives you?

What drives you when you’re happy and content?  More importantly what drives you when you are not?   What do you do when life goes sour?

The truth is, life really is one big fruit salad.  It’s not always topped with cherries or strawberries.  Sometimes it’s the pits.  Sometimes life gives you lemons.

Those pesky things in life you can’t control in life (namely people and situations) sure are hard to swallow sometimes aren’t they?

Do you throw back stones?  Do you make lemonade from life’s lemons?  Or do you choke on the bitterness?

We don’t always get to choose our suffering, only our response.  We don’t get to take the shortcut –that is the long way around.  No, we are called to pass through.

Sometimes the suffering of others causes us to suffer.  As if we didn’t have our own sea of sorrows we frequently wade in, sometimes we are called to go deep with a friend or loved one into their own private ocean.  It’s hell.  But it’s good.  If you remember this:

I’ve got your back.

Are you still afloat?  Then you are not alone.

You can even be the life preserver for someone else when they are sinking.  You can be the sunshine in their dark world.  You can do what you don’t think you are strong enough to do.    You can go where you don’t want to go and see what you’d rather not.  You can think clear enough to do what is called for here.

And I feel
Like I’m drifting, drifting, drifting from the shore
And I feel
Like I’m swimming out to her

     Yes, you have to leave your comfort zone if you’re going to be in the rescue business.  You have to leave all that’s familiar even if you’re going to allow yourself to be saved.

Midnight is where the day begins
Lemon
See through in the sunlight

     Chaos and confusion randomly can surround us and seat themselves comfortably in our relatively stable world.  These terrorist twins sometimes just show up unannounced and uninvited.

We’ll have to walk through the dark scary woods to reach sunrise sometimes.   We carry our fear with us as we journey far into the darkness.  Can you feel it?

You are not alone.

At the edge of the horizon of darkness, a crack of light appears.   

Lemon
She is the dreamer
She’s imagination

She had heaven
Through the light projected
He can see himself up close

She wore lemon

      Sometimes we are called to be the light in other people’s dark world.   Sunlight is such a great disinfectant.  Whose light are you called to be today?  Lemon or lemonade?    Choose well.

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2

Partial Lyrics above are from U2 “Lemon”

Photo by Beautelle

    

 

 

Article Reposted from Following Link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/augustweb-only/bono-0805.html?start=1

The following exchange between Bono and Assayas took place just days after the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, an act of terrorism that left 191 dead and more than 1,800 wounded. The two men were discussing how terrorism is often carried out in the name of religion when Bono turned the conversation to Christianity, expressing his preference for God’s grace over “karma,” offering an articulate apologetic for the deity of Christ, and giving a clear presentation of the gospel message.

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows …

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono … We all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved … by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched …

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: …If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Bono That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Assayas.

(Note: While the book includes numerous passages of Bono discussing his Christian faith, it also includes occasional salty language from both parties.)

 

Liz’s Note:  11/19/12 — Hoping to post an original writing soon, but with so much unrest in the world these days, it’s inspiring to know we have an alternative to chaos in our life:  Grace.  May you find yours today!



It happened.  That thing you hoped wouldn’t.  You know, that thing you had no control of.

In writing and in life, I keep coming back to this theme:  We are not in control. 

Words are flowing out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe

       First the tears fall down your cheeks.  Tiny pools of sorrow dampen the floor.

Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

      There was nothing more you could do.  You did your part.  You did all you could.  The rest is up to God.  You still believe God, don’t you?    Yes?  Good.  Then there is no problem here.

Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Still, it’s not fair!  Your spirit rebels.  I’ve got this, my child.  It’s not right.  You cry out because you’re hurting.  I’ve got this.  Let it go.  Do you trust me?

So you cry.  You cry until you feel dry.  There are no more words left to say.   This was never about you and what you wanted.  It falls under the category Higher Purposes.    My ways are higher than your ways you recall.  My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.

 Truth seeps in.  Doubts sit down for a while.  Cracks of light break through your tears given sufficient time to fall.  Your heart fell into darkness momentarily, but the light is slipping in and the dark is being forced to flee.

Images of broken light which
dance before me like a million eyes
That call me on and on across the universe

I’m not sure I understand this at all God.  You don’t have to.  You just have to let go and trust me. 

Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
they tumble blindly as
they make their way across the universe

I can’t think this one through.  I can’t find the reason to this one question:  Why?

You don’t have to have all the answers if you trust in Me.

Fine then.  I’m trusting You!  I’m stepping out in faith.  I’m leaving the comfort of my sorrows. 

Choose to be joyful.  Be grateful.  Be a light to others.

Sounds of laughter shades of life
are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which
shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe

Several increments of time later:  You’re right.  I think I’m going to make it.  Even with scars, I’m going to be okay.

Indeed you will my child; indeed you will.

Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Something’s gonna change my world

Lyrics to “Across the Universe”  (center text) – The Beatles

 

There’s crack in everything; that’s how the light get in. – Leonard Cohen

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” – Madeleine L’Engle

     (PHOTO WAS TAKEN AS I LOOKED DOWN FROM MY HOTEL BALCONY IN ATLANTA, GA — 2/2009)

Have you ever loved someone blindly?  Totally.  Completely.  Uncontrollably.  Without question.  Without promise of return.  Yes, love is indeed blindness.  It IS indeed drowning in a deep well.

You know you may crash and shatter if and when you hit the glass bottom.  But, oh the ride.  The fall–that’s where the joy is.  If you’re not sentimental or romantic, this may not pertain to you.   But if the depth of your capability to love reads like a large number squared, you may find the geometry of this endless well mirrors the endless deep of your heart.

Love is clockwork.  But not the span of time we’re accustomed to.  It stretches across eternity and lasts longer than we do.

Like geometry, love is an ever changing shape as it searches to find the size of itself and the relative position of proximity to others throughout time and space.

Love is more than a feeling.  It is a truth, put into action.  It is verb; it gains momentum as it is applied.

We seek to love others in life and once we find them we go to endless lengths to hold on to, to possess, to magnify and multiply love’s magnificence.   Still we may fall short and ultimately time is a thief we can’t avoid.

Love is a dangerous idea that almost makes sense.  It’s the light that chases all that is dark away.

All this love, all this depth — where does it come from and where will it go when our time is over?  I think I know.  Do you?

LOVE IS BLINDNESS — U2
Love is blindness, I don’t want to see
Won’t you wrap the night around me?
Oh, my heart, love is blindness.
In a parked car, in a crowded street
You see your love made complete.
Thread is ripping, the knot is slipping
Love is blindness.
Love is clockworks and cold steel
Fingers too numb to feel.
Squeeze the handle, blow out the candle
Love is blindness.
Love is blindness, I don’t want to see
Won’t you wrap the night around me?
Oh, my love,
Blindness.
A little death without mourning
No call and no warning
Baby, a dangerous idea
That almost makes sense.
Love is drowning in a deep well
All the secrets, and no one to tell.
Take the money, honey…
Blindness.
Love is blindness, I don’t want to see
Won’t you wrap the night around me?
Oh, my love,
Blindness.
 
To Listen to The Edge Sing This (From “The Sky Down” DVD)  Click Here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwqXZ6wg1pA
 

1 Corinthians 13:3-10  What Love Is  (The Message Bible)

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.


Picture Taken 07/25/12 — Sculpture Outside IMAX Theater, Raleigh, NC

Just outside the IMAX theater in Raleigh stands one of my favorite sculptures.  I don’t know the name of it, but if it were mine to name, I’d call it “Window in the Skies” after one of my favorite U2 songs.  Like a magnet, it invites one to come close and look up–way up.

When I do, I am reminded of the smallness of me, and the vastness of God.  When I look thru this little window in the sky, I think of this well known verse in the bible:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

If I look at the world from this perspective, that is I take my eyes off the ground and off the sometimes dark situations that sometimes surround me, and look up and beyond (a vision beyond visibility)I am reminded that just past the edge of darkness, is a window to eternity, an even truer dimension then we know here and now.

Our lives are but a few grains in the sands of time, and the one question that plagues us through much of life is this:  Why?

The answer is often a mystery.  But look way up through the window.  Walk the plank called faith until it’s time to take a leap.   God’s love and light is all around us, a subtle torchlight to guide us safely home.

Until then, we are but silhouettes in His bright light, but still His love can allow us to shine.

And in case you’re a U2 fan,  how about a little “Window in the Skies” to ponder what love has done in your life, as you enjoy the pic!

Thanks for checking out my blog!  Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step into the confessional booth with me, will you?  I want to tell you a little secret, but shhhh!  Don’t tell anyone.

(Me whispering): I may be the only woman on the planet that will tell you this, but I have NOT read that book everyone is talking about.

It’s true.   Other friends have already informed me it’s ripe with never-in-real-life characters and plot, seasoned with weak writing, full of mental diagrams of how to have pretzel-twisting, mind-blowing, well you know.    The thing is I’m so past that.  I mean really, really long past.  Not as in a thing of the past, but in a girl, I’m so over it kind of way.   I’m past the point in my life, where that would be the Mount Everest not yet scaled, the utter pinnacle of exquisite satisfaction.

Ask anyone who’s been married long enough, or been around the block a few times too many, you will find something in common:  Your appetite changes.  Translation:  You grow up.  You mature.  You want connection not sex.  You want time to be SLOW and not rushed.  You want endurance, not intensity.  You want real not surreal.  You want relationship not temporary satisfaction. 

As I draw nearer to the half-century mark (just thinking fifty years seems surreal to even write) I find what I obsess most over is: hanging on.  Hanging on to love, people, relationships, memories, these are the precious jewels that we accidentally let fall through our hands like sifting sand in our vain attempts to manage our own lives more efficiently.

I’m at that precarious stage of life when I often don’t see my friends for long stretches of time, except sadly, when it’s time to go to another parent’s funeral.   I buy sympathy cards by the box now, instead of on occasion.   Sadder still, is going to the funeral of friends my age.   Recently, I found my high school actually has a Facebook page simply titled Angels beside the name of my school.  Scrolling through it was humbling, as I am keenly aware the time to realize my dreams and the things I want to accomplish may be on the shorter end of the gauge than longer.

Then I thought about it.  Maybe life has never been totally about accomplishing our goals and dreams.  Not that we shouldn’t have them, but maybe it’s so much more.  Maybe it’s about the life and dreams God had planned for us from the day we were born.    Maybe it’s about the kind of person He is molding us in to, and not the profession or ambitions that we define as who we are or wish to become.

If you’re like me, you may feel like life and our over-crammed daily schedule is whizzing by at breakneck speed.  Technology has amplified the affect.  With exponential forms of electronic communication to reach, inform, pester, entertain, beg , or demand us,  it sometimes feels like it’s changed us to that which we were never designed to be:  Too busy to connect.

So I’m working on consolidating my life a bit.  Organize the photos.  Purchase only the essential.  Spend less time on Facebook and more actual Face Time with those I love and am actually friends with.

Above all I pray.  As I get older, maybe it’s the natural order of things, but I find I pray more.  I need to pray more.  I want to pray more.    I actually love to pray more.

Life is so short.  Some dreams come true and others don’t for all of us.    Still, if you’re here—well, then you’ve got a lot to be grateful for.  That’s reason enough to pray.  But if you’re suffering, that’s even more reason, because God wants to use it to make you better, stronger, kinder, smarter, healed and whole, or something else yet defined.    You don’t always get to choose your suffering, only your response to it.

Love those you have left in your left.  Make necessary repairs.    Think of all you have to be thankful for.   And pray.

Pray because our God is awesome!  Pray because He wants to bless you.  Pray because you need Him to reveal something about that which is causing you pain.  Pray because you need to know.  Pray for others.  Pray because once you actually start to count your blessings, you realize it’s not only more than you can count, it’s so much more than you deserve.    Pray because you don’t have to know it all or control it all.  Pray because you are alive and you still can.

Mick Jagger sang “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” until he publicly claimed he hoped he never had to sing it again.  Apparently the repetition of singing it failed to sustain satisfaction despite the royalties it provided.  Paul Simon reminds us in his clever song there really is at least fifty ways to leave your lover; another testimony that relational satisfaction is often temporal.

My only conclusion?  Fifty Shades is cotton candy compared to The Real Thing.   Fleshly desires or eternal?  Happy for now or satisfied forever?   Pick one.

So we cry out, whisper, or silently say our prayers.  And we wait, oh how we wait–trusting that God has heard us, all the while believing He is good and in control and that He loves us.    We step out in trust blindly walking by faith, knowing we don’t have to know it all, have it all, do it all, or be that which we can’t be.

We may spend periods of our life in solitude, but we are never alone.  We are indeed richly loved.  And that’s a mind-blowing connection and lasting satisfaction, we can joyfully hold on to.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)

Video by Scott Gray and Music by U2 (“Exit” –Joshua Tree)

     One day you’re on top of the world; the next you’re down in the depths.

That’s what happened to my husband for his 50th birthday.  After a surprise party last Saturday night, he suddenly found himself the next day on an airplane with me, his wife of both trial and triumph of nearly 30 years, headed towards Key Largo for a short, but well-deserved and much needed mini vacation courtesy of his brother who paid for our hotel and airfare and his boss who surprised him with two dive trips.   My husband was blown away by the kindness and tangible love shown to him that perhaps he doesn’t receive often enough.

When I took him to the dive center where he would meet his crew of fellow divers, I asked him where he thought he’d be diving.   He said he didn’t know; it was really up to the Captain.   Since I had already poured over the Key Largo guide book at our first stop, I told him I hoped he could go see the “Christ of the Abyss” statue—a famous bronze statue, just under nine feet tall, that was purposely erected in 1965 twenty five feet below the surface in John Pennekamp State Park.  It is one of only three identical under water statues.    One statue known as “Il Cristo Degli Abissi” is located off the Italian Riviera in Genoa, Italy and is separated only by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and a second copy stands underwater in the oceans of St. George’s in Granada.  Together, they make up a holy trinity of underwater salvation!

My husband said they would be doing one wreck dive (a deeper dive) and one shallow water dive, but seriously doubted he would see the “underwater Jesus” because rarely did dive boats go to it.  It is a bit hard to find, a bit obscure and off the “beaten path” in terms of diving, and perhaps to some divers not as exciting as exploring sunken ships, and colorful coral reefs.

When we met up later in the evening for supper, after he enjoyed not two, but four dives, he said, “Guess what?”  “What?” I replied.

“I saw Jesus underwater.”  If a landlubber unfamiliar with the dive destinations of the Florida Keys were to have overheard this, perhaps one would roll their eyes, and think to his or herself, “Sheesh, there goes another delusional holy roller from the south!”

But for me, well, I was impressed and beholden to even hear those words tumble out of my hubby’s mouth.  Without getting into personal details, let’s just say there have been some conversations across the decades in our home as to the value, validity, proof of existence, debate over theological and historical accuracy, and need for reliance upon this man of mystery, the savior of mankind, this Son of God–this essential relationship found in the faith of Christians, and my heart as well.

Together we watched his video from the underwater dive camera I gave him for his birthday.  I semi-gloated (a sad symptom of pride) at being spot-on in the gift giving department as I watched schools of glass minnows flutter by.  I saw fish of the brightest yellows and bluest blues, and various other colorful beauties like the deadly and abundant, and now frequently eaten Lion Fish.  I felt as if I was watching a reality version of Finding Nemo produced, directed, and filmed by my husband.

Then I saw Him!  Jesus!  That’s right, just below where the sun fades from view stood the barnacle and crustacean-crusted, sea-weed covered, and somewhat greenish-bronze Jesus.   This Jesus who is crusted over with sea life in much the same way our spiritual Jesus took on the sins of man.   Here he stands in the sea’s silent depths with arms outstretched up as if  reaching towards sunlight, towards life, towards the universe—offering himself to the life all around him, both mammal and fish.  Here lies a hidden treasure, a blessing buried in the deep I thought.

I was captivated.  How many times had I seen the white alabaster Jesus on the steeples of churches, or the crucified Jesus perched across gold, silver, or diamond studded crosses adorning the chests of believers, or even the various wood-carved versions of Jesus upon church alters?

Then it hit me!  I have always seen Jesus on land, or better said, in the air—in the land of the familiar.  But seeing Jesus underwater– this was new.  I watched mesmerized by this small patch of real estate in the earth’s seemingly infinite ocean!  It’s so full of life, and yet eerily silent.  Only the gurgling sounds of my husband’s dive regulator could be heard.

So many thoughts bubbled up in my head as I gazed upon this beautiful bronze gift of Jesus–4000 pounds of Italian artistry sculpted and placed so carefully in three different places on earth, yet he will be encountered and witnessed only by a small number of souls certified to dive the ocean’s depths.  Only the fewest of divers in this small slice of sea will ever be able to find him.

This tangible bronze Jesus of the sea is not easily found and is witnessed by few.  I wondered what the impact is on those who believe, and even those who don’t.   The idea for placing the first Italian underwater Jesus in the ocean was to honor the first Italian diver, Dario Gonzatti, who first used SCUBA gear.

For just a few moments, I wished I had been underwater at the moment the Christ of the Abyss came into view.  Did other divers grasp what seemed instantly obvious to me?

Jesus love for us knows no depth.

Jesus will be with us, no matter how low we sink.

To see Jesus in a new light, you have to dive deep.

    This Jesus of Key Largo was lowered into the ocean about the same time I drew my first breath in 1965.  We are almost the same age.  But Jesus, son of God, and the foundation of the Christian faith, has been around a little while longer, and thankfully can be accessed by more than just scuba divers.   No certification or travel to an exotic location is required to find this Jesus, only a sincere heart that earnestly seeks Him.

This Jesus is not found by us descending down to Him, but by simply reaching out and accepting him on faith.

Like the Key Largo divers who are lucky enough to find Jesus of the Abyss, we count ourselves blessed once we are convinced that a spiritual Jesus not only exists, but is already waiting in our deepest place of pain, despair, shame, or guilt.  Jesus knows that in our flawed state of humanity, most of us are going to get some “bottom time” in where the pressure weighs us down, where we are desperate to come up for air, and where the gravity of our situation surely feels as if we will drown here—alone, and without notice by those around us.

Yes, Jesus is already waiting for us in our moment of greatest triumph, deepest loss, or our worst pit of despair before it ever happens.   He’s with us when we reach the depth of our disgust with our self (acknowledged sin), or the arrogance, or even ignorance of our deception (unacknowledged sin).   When He seems to us so far away, in reality, He’s only a whisper or prayer away.

He’s there before our first tear ever slips from our eye, the first lie we ever utter, the first deception we ever conceive, the first act of evil we ever act upon.    We don’t have to dive deep to find him, but “going deep” into God’s word (the bible) is a great place to start to find answers to the great mysteries of life such as why do we live, why do we die and what happens after, and what do we do in between the two?

Ah yes, Jesus.  His very name can evoke division or it can evoke peace.  His very name can arouse suspicion or conjure up love.

It comes down to this.  Whatever people say about Jesus, this much is undisputed:  Jesus is a choice.  He is not a mandate.  That is our freedom.   For how could one ever mandate love?  You could force obedience to law, but never love.   Jesus is not an arranged marriage, but a free choice. 

I could quote a bunch of scripture and turn people off or find similar friends who nod their heads in agreement.  I could say Jesus is love, Jesus saves, or Jesus is the way, and I would be both condemned and praised for telling the truth or lying.   Within two sentences the focus falls off Jesus and becomes about the person speaking about Jesus.

I believe I cannot adequately express the magnificence of Jesus due to my limitations of vocabulary, time, space, and most of all flaws in my human character.  Nor can I adequately defend Jesus, so I am at peace knowing I don’t have to explain or defend what only God can do infinitely better than I could possibly attempt to do.

But I can love Him.  I can praise Him and seek to know Him more. I can share my thoughts, if someone is interested.  I can strive to be more like Him.   I could be like the fish of Key Largo who swim by Jesus every single day and never even comprehend how set apart they actually are compared to the other umpteen jillion fish who will never see this Jesus.

As I watched the end of my husband’s first dive video ever, I can say this with absolute certainty:  As a person who believes absolutely there is a purpose for each moment and encounter of our life, and that there is no such thing as coincidence, I know Jesus was waiting for him, as he waits for all of us:  in the depths.    He awaits a loving, life-changing relationship with us with open arms, an open mind, and open heart, already knowing and understanding all who we really are.

He awaits–radiating sunlight in the ocean’s depths, a fixed buoy and beacon for all who search for Him, providing stability, shelter, protection, peace, provision, rescue, light, and love for those who seek it.

May you find Jesus not only in heaven, and at the end of your life, but in real and tangible ways here and now for the duration of your life.  And if you happen to struggle, especially if you struggle, may you find courage to reach out to Him–he who already awaits for you with open arms, and may you have  faith to know that He is indeed real and good, especially in the depths of your abyss.