Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin!

Today, I finally got to do something I've been wanting to do since I was a fairly young child...I got to ride in the tractor (cab?) of an 18-wheeler! I think I was the only one of my childhood girlfriends to have a handful of Hot Wheels 18-wheeler rigs mixed in with my Barbies and baby dolls. 

Granted, as a kid, I want to be the driver -- I mean, how cool would that be, right? -- but I was tickled pink to just get to ride along. And, yeah, with age (maturity, experience?) comes that sense of fear that accompanies the realization of our limitations. Perhaps I could drive a rig forward, in a sparsely populated, wide open space...then again, I'm fairly sure truck driving will not be a future vocation for me. It's just not nearly as easy as Jerry Reed made it look in Smokey and the Bandit...

I'm just amazed when I experience such out-of-the-blue moments...those times when, in the middle of our everyday living, like an unexpected surprising gift, God graces us with a blessing. That's how my adventure today a blessing all wrapped up as a silly gift of joy.

Thank you, Phillip! Thank you for letting God use you to provide the means for us to pick-up our newly acquired playground set...but also for giving me a surprising and memorable gift. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love...and live

Yeah, it's a chick flick...but I got to go see Eat, Pray, Love with my sister and about 8 other people (Tuesday night during the week school starts is probably the BEST time to go to the movies...). No, I haven't read the book and only had a vague, rather fuzzy idea of the story line.

It's one of those movies that encourage you to stop and think...think about your relationship with God, with family, with that significant someone. The main character, Liz, is one of those women who moves from relationship to relationship and finally decides to go "find herself" in a year long journey through Italy, India, and Bali.

I'll admit there were a few times when the movie scraped some not fully healed wounds for me. And, while I didn't travel to such exciting and exotic places during my 10-week journey, I did find some similar truths. First of all, food is good. For all those folks who worried that I was losing weight let me assure you that my waist-line has benefited from the time away. Food shared is even better.

Second, prayer is not a program. While I don't think I could go so far as to chant and meditate with an icon in an ashram (although I haven't tried so what do I know?), I did find myself searching for a deeper relationship with God and a greater personal spiritual experience. Funny the movie, as in life, it takes other people to get there. At least it did for me...and Liz. I tried to run off to a quiet, restful, and relaxing location in anticipation of finding God sitting there waiting for me to show up, to fill me up with that calming presence and the indescribable peace of the Holy Spirit. While I thoroughly enjoyed the view of the lake, the chatter of the crickets, the bird-song and assorted wildlife appearances, I found myself drawing closer to God primarily through the conversations I had with my host. She created a safe space for me to be open and share my story...a safe place for me to hear God speaking words of comfort and assurance.

I've returned from my time away eager to reconnect with my church family, eager to get back into the joys and challenges of ministry, and, at the same time, wary of all the landmines and traps that threaten to pull me back into an exhaustive, and yes, destructive pace. I've also returned with some new insights for me...

--Most, if not all, of the people I encounter are struggling with something in their lives. We are a broken people, a broken humanity, in desperate need of God's grace and mercy.

--God's grace and mercy, God's love, is most clearly revealed to us through the people we interact with each day. The funny thing is that this works in that upside-down, backwards kind of way that Jesus was so fond of engaging in (Jesus did a lot of things that just went against the grain of "normal" expectations). I didn't go out looking for people to be God for me...they found me when I needed them, offering just what I needed even (especially?) when I had no clue I needed it.

--I can't be anything other than who I am and who I am is a work in progress. I'm a product of both my past successes and my failures, my joy-filled experiences and my heart-breaking setbacks . I have gifts I'm sure I've neglected and some I have honed. I will never be all things to all people. God needs me to be the person God created me to be and to become. And, I need to stop apologizing for not being anything other than who I am.

The last segment of the movie focused on love, as in that significant other kind of love. What happened to the character Liz over the course of a year as shown in less than 3 hours is perhaps a distant possibility though certainly not a present least for me.

For now, I'm content to settle for life instead. Life lived fully, with all its highs and lows, ups and downs, ecstatic joys and frustrating disappointments. Abundant life is what Jesus called it...abundant in the sense of being filled to overflowing with all the emotions of a life held in complete and utter confidence that God works within and through this messy business of life.

Take a break. Eat something cooked in or with butter. Laugh. Laugh some more. And live life as a prayer of thanksgiving for the God who creates, sustains, and redeems us in spite of ourselves. Eat, pray, love, and live.