Posts Tagged ‘Love’

try-this-cowgirl-with-lasso When picking up my nine year old son from school last week, I noticed something bizarre when he settled into the car.  He had a varying-shade of purple yarn tightly wrapped around his wrist. An inch and a half of his arm was wound up like a spool of thread.  He’s a quirky kid, but my curiosity got the best of me.  Especially since his south-bound fingers and thumb were slightly bluish in color.  So I asked him in a non-commital, non-alarmist mom kind of way, “Say, what’s up with the string around your wrist?”

“Well, mom, you know that girl Natasha* (*name ABSOLUTELY is changed here) that sort of likes me?  Well, I found out today she really does like me.  And she gave me this gift today!”

“What is it?” I asked?

      “Oh!  It’s a retractible lasso!”

       “Hmmm!  Sounds like things are getting pretty serious, then,” I said, wondering what in the world is a “Retractable Lasso”.

“Oh, yeah it is.  But you know Mom, I’m really kind of glad.  See I’ve always wanted a girlfriend.”  Another news flash for me.  A minor jolt of electricity to the heart to remind me that nothing stays the same forever.

“Oh yeah?  Well, that’s fairly cool” I exclaimed and raised my right hand high-five style, “Here’s to your first girlfriend!  Totally awesome!”

FIRST LOVE.  Ah, remember?  So sweet.

And though I’m reasonably confident they most likely haven’t even made it to the “I want to hold your hand” stage, one can never be too sure.  I started to open my mouth to speak.  I felt a lecture brewing.  And then a small thought whispered in my head….wait.  Save it for later.

Oh son.  There’s so much I want to tell you about what love is and what it’s not.  But I realize you are only at the Retractible Lasso stage of your first relationship.  So it will wait.

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See I know a thing about lassos too.  I may not be the sharpest cowgirl on the block, but I’ve learned a thing or two from the last half-century on earth about all the ways one can cast a lasso and then retract it!

ROPE ‘EM IN:  (The infatuation stage).  This is when you dazzle someone you sort of crush on with a shiny exterior.  If may be your Air Jordans and Hollister shirts in middle school when the girls are about ten inches taller than you, curvier too.  Or your Hugo Boss glasses and silk suits when you become a man.  Ditto, perfect hair, makeup, and wardrobe for the woman.  Your generation will probably just Google conversation starters to impress a potential love–which Napa grapes make for superior Merlot,  or the Conscience of Collectivism or some other form topic du jour that old farts like your Dad and me just call Bull!    This is the part of the game where the goal is to down the calf, score the win, conquest and conquer.

DRAW THEM CLOSE (even when they hurt you).  But don’t TIGHTEN THE NOOSE (when you’re disappointed or angry). That was a two-plus decade lesson I got to practice for a while.   It won’t be long, before the blinders come off, and all sorts of flaws in the other person** begin to manifest.  Chances are, you will look in the mirror one day, and wonder:

 What was I thinking?

If you’re lucky, you’ll be given enough time with someone to practice patience, kindness, self-control, peace-making skills, gentleness, and self-control.   You’ll learn how to forgive, and let go of hurts and needing to be right all the time, but don’t panic if you don’t get this right the first four or five thousand times.  Long-term commitment requires wisdom, and a strength that you actually don’t even possess, only God does.  But you’ll figure that out too.  Or at least I hope you will.  (**Someday, may you be humble  and wise enough to realize who I’m really talking about here!”

You’ll learn that no one likes to be in an emotional choke-hold.  Mutual trust and genuine understanding is a two-way street.  Don’t pull the lasso too tight.  It makes people want to flee in a desperate attempt at self-preservation.   But don’t leave the rope, laying on the ground, while you’re confidently napping, as the one you love questions whether your care at all and begins to quietly drift away.  Ropes on the ground never saved a soul from drowning.  May you be given wisdom to know when it’s time to step in and help save a life or a relationship.

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A LONG LEAD IS FREEDOM; BUT A SHORT LEASH IS ENSLAVEMENT.  So much to say, so little time.

It’s so important that you have the freedom to be who you truly are!  Have an interest, a circle of friends, a passion that belongs just to you.  I beg you not to be needy (okay, I guess that’s a bit of a hypocritical request here), but here’s the point:    It is possible to smother the light and life out of the one you most desire.  Wanting to control, compelled to criticize the “faults” (differences) and the impatience of not waiting for discernment, can shorten a lasso.  It’s hard to love a “master” who controls the behaviors, thoughts, and comings and goings of another person.  Our souls fly freest when we’re given a long lead, but always know how to find home.  Be secure in who you are in Christ, so you will not seek your identity in the reflection of another.  God gave YOU your own light.  Let it shine brightly.

A GOOD LASSO IS DURABLE FOR THE LONG HAUL.  (Don’t let your rope get frayed).  In any long term relationship, you WILL have troubles.  Expect them.  Embrace them.  And during the storms, check the condition of your rope that is the lifeline for both of you.  A rope of three cords is not easily broken.    You and the love of your life and God.  Yeah, God.  That’s a big one.  But seriously, you have to have something bigger than yourself.  Now some folks choose the love of scuba diving, or the love of astronomy as that thing that belongs to them as a couple.  And that’s great and dandy. But in times of trouble, I find it’s best if you can look way high (to God) and find your way down low (on your knees boy!)

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Love is an imperfect art.  I could tell you marry your best friend, but your taste in friends will change.  I could tell you always treat the other one how you want to be treated, but you’ll forget how or just forget to sometimes.  I could tell you, if you follow all these steps to the letter, or better yet God’s plan, love will never leave you. Yet, there are no guarantees.    That’s because as free people, we change.  And with change, sometimes loss comes.  And then something better.

Love is not just a feeling, it’s a decision.  It’s an action-plan for the mutual admiration and self-respect club.

Soon enough you’ll be ready to rope in some fillies no doubt.  And sometimes there won’t be a calf in sight.  Just remember the lessons mom taught you about rope-tying and rope-flying!    

Yip yip yippee i a!  With love from your mother!

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Love is a long road…..Tom Petty

Love is a battlefield….Pat Benetar

Love is blindness…..U2

Love is forever….Muse (Neurtron Star Collision)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:5-8

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

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

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you? ” — William Arthur Ward

 Photo by Liz Gray

I saw this caption in a travel magazine promoting  tourism of the country of Turkey.  I saw it and immediately thought:  I wish that was my original idea!

It’s not.  But the practice of the concept can be an original idea for you, for me, for all of us, starting now:   This very moment.

Stop multi-tasking for a second as you read this.  Think about this deeply.  Look around.  Are you inside or outside?  If you are inside, where are you?  At home?  At work?  On a mobile device in the great outdoors?   Take a panoramic mental snapshot of what’s around you:  Architecture, mementos, photographs, nature, security, landscapes, gifts, birds, business, people, stars, flowers, insects, sky, sunrise, clouds–signs of life abounds everywhere.   When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

Do you see beauty?  Do you see what God has created?  Even if it’s man made, did not God put the original idea, the skill set to craft, the desire to create, first in the mind of you or someone who thought I’m going to build this amazing bridge or paint this amazing portrait or mix compounds in a new way and create a cure.

We live in a distracted world.  For sure, we have inherited a problematic world that multiplies daily in terms of crisis and depth of despair.  The news sucks, people everywhere around us are sick and dying, we are overworked, underpaid, overstressed, and undernourished in every way—spiritually, physically, and emotionally.   We are slaves to too much technology.  We can’t keep up with our own self, much less anyone else.

How do you turn it off?  How do you silence all the chaos that surrounds you and ensuing drama in your head?  What is it that works for you?  Do you have something?

  • Supportive Friends
  • Faith
  • Prayers
  • Hope
  • Music
  • Art
  • Love of or for someone other than you

I hope you have one, two, or even all of the above!

      We can’t always change our circumstance in life.  That means there is only one thing we can change:

Our Perspective

      I don’t know about you, but when I look at the world, this is what I see:

Flowers, character lines on old faces, color, deliciousness, babies, painting, design, patterns, solutions, craft work, words, kindness, goodness, feats of wonder,  sculptures, melody, truth, beauty…….

On and on it goes.

Sometimes I complain, believe me I do!  But with faith and daily prayers, good friends who hold me accountable to truth I can live by, the symphony of music, and an attitude that is growing a little more each day in gratitude, I am discovering that God’s love for me is bigger than any problem or emotion.  I still don’t measure up to my ideal version of myself, but knowing God loves me despite my flaws (many) and forgives me despite my guilt (much) frees me from self-condemnation while at the same time humbles me that He still has even more blessing in store for me.

Faith as a belief is an essential partnership with God which allows you to focus less on you, more on God, less on circumstance, and more on acceptance of what is.  We can ride the wave, go with the flow, and bend like a willow tree.   Faith as a practice is not about appearing or trying to be perfect or fit a stereotype, but to be the real you as God intended in order to be at peace.   Quirky, funny, emotional, deep, driven, ridiculous…..whatever it is, just be YOU so you can get past all that and start tending to the needs of others.

May you step out today in courage and stop fighting that which you can’t control, start changing anything about yourself that you can and know you should, and may you have enough heart to look around and see beauty…..everywhere.  This is the confirmation that God sets in each of our hearts that whispers you too are loved. 

Ready?  One, two, three…..breathe in!  INHALE LOVE.  EXHALE.  GRATITUDE

MORE THOUGHTS ON FAITH AND GRATITUDE:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”   Epicurus

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love”

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”  A.A. Milne – “Winnie the Pooh”

 (Quotes from GoodReads)

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?

     

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.
     (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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signs and Wonders (Do You Feel Loved?)

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Faith, God, Love
Tags: , , ,

How many of us lift up a simple prayer sometimes and ask for a sign.  Just give me a sign Lord!  So, a few days ago when I was driving to the beach, I saw this sign by the side of the road.  Simple.  To the point.  What was it advertising?  I didn’t see anything else beside it.   Oh come on, someone doesn’t just pay for those words and not advertise a product!   Well, somebody did.

There has to be a story here, I thought to myself as I made two consecutive  180° degree turns in my van, just so I could digitally encapsulate forever this profound message.  Simple, yet profound.

Somebody cared enough to put these words on a billboard.  Somebody thought you needed to know.  Who in your life needs to be told?  The long term girl friend you kind of take for granted?  The wife you’ve known for fifty years who already knows you do—you’re long past having to say it?  What about the mother who you haven’t called in over a year?  The daughter you’ve been estranged from and you’re too chicken to call?    The friend who you let down?

Maybe there’s a him that needs to hear it just as well.  Who says men don’t need to hear it?  Maybe it’s your child or teenager.  Just because they have an attitude doesn’t mean they don’t long for it.  Either way, if YOU ARE HERE, then maybe this is your moment, your sign.

Love has two parts:

  1. Do
  2. Say

Do!  Actions speak louder than words and hopefully your actions are leaving heavy carbon footprints in the heart of those you love.  It’s the little gestures that count, the sweet notes, the surprise call, the dinner on the roof she wasn’t expecting, mowing your elderly neighbor’s yard, taking your daughter fishing, and a thousand other things you can easily think once you decide you’ve got the time.

Say!  Actions may speak louder, but words are the shadows of these deeds.  Love is the loudest whisper ever spoken, if it is said true.  Love is what you wear or omit when you go out in the world.  Love is what you broadcast when you speak, write, sing, or create.   It’s a feeling, yes, but so much more.  It’s an action, a decision, and it’s never static.  Love always leaves a mark.

Do you feel loved?

It’s so simple actually.  Start with something you do.  Then follow it up with something you say.  Trust God with the results.  Listen to good music.  Take note of things that are beautiful.  Appreciate life!   Pray.   Be patient and show kindness.  Let love be your outward habit towards others.

You are here.  You are not lost.  You are worthy of giving and receiving love.   Go forward smiling with a song in your heart and with God’s blessing.

You too are loved!

And I feel loved
Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved
And it looks like the sun
But it feels like rain
And there’s heat in the sun
To see us through the rain

Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved

“Do You Feel Loved?” – U2

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.    If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8