It’s Not Me, It’s You

I watched a Facebook video yesterday. It’s this one. Sorry I can’t get it to link any better. It’s not long. 

https://www.facebook.com/100001282700764/videos/1731994506853289/https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F100001282700764%2Fvideos%2F1731994506853289%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I teared up. Yes, Lord, where have you been? I cried inside. Why don’t you answer me when I call? On and on the laments went. “It’s not me, it’s you, God.”

Ouch.

Then…God’s response. It crushed me. And it convicted me. Where have *I* been?

Have I been spending the time necessary to maintain the relationship? I think most days I read my assigned portion of the Bible, accepting it’s enough daily bread. I get the box checked. I pray a few token prayers about the top-of-mind needs or struggles, then I’m off to feed the hairy horde and sweat before getting ready for work.  Catch ya later, God!

Obviously, it’s not enough. I’ve coasted. I’ve relied on time in corporate worship at church and fellowship with other believers to fill in the gap. That’s not getting it done. The gap remains. Yes, I pray on the way to and from work. Sometimes, I even sing. Gotta do something during that half hour, right? I pray during the day as needs arise. I thank the Lord for his blessings as they hit me and I search often to verbalize them. I’m not writing this to add one more thing to your to-do list. Believe me, that’s the last thing I want or need for myself, let alone anyone else.

Time. It’s the four-letter word that speaks volumes. If this is going to be a relationship and not religion, I can’t rely on Jesus to carry the whole thing. That’s not a give and take. That’s only me taking. In Christianese, I’ve drifted from my first love. What am I doing to deepen intimacy and strengthen our bond? Tithing is the standard, the beginning of surrendered giving. Attending church helps. Where is the “more”?

I’ve been a Christian for more than 30 years. I know I can’t earn God’s favor or save myself. Jesus died on the cross to reunite me with the Father. I’m already the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). In the past, I’ve struggled with a performance mindset. Perfection, the carrot just out of reach, drew me to chase. I know now I’ll never attain it, not in this life. So what now? How do I move forward in this new understanding?

I think what the Lord wants from me is just more abiding. I don’t know how (yet) to eke that out, but in any friendship – and Jesus calls us friends – time together enhances affinity. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to be so close we breathe in and out together. But that doesn’t happen by wishing. It takes time.

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

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This is Us

We started watching it on a whim. It popped up in our Hulu feed.  I have read the hype and seen snippets of the show. I’ve avoided it. I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I detest hype. The more PR a show/person/band/event gets, the more I want out. Call me jaded if you like. I don’t care. Too much pushy hoopla turns me off.

But this show caught me. The characters (who knew Mandy Moore had such range?) and their foibles, their regular-people struggles, and their small victories got under my skin. I found myself tearing up at nearly every episode. The story of The Big Three, which is actually a Nixon reference, made me laugh.

If you haven’t watched the series yet, I’ll give you a little background. Three children, born on the same day in 1980: Kate, Kevin, and Randall Pearson, form the nexus of the storyline. Kate and Kevin are twins. The third of the “Big Three” – original triplets – died in utero. Randall is adopted by the parents, Jack and Rebecca Pearson. I should mention the timeline jumps back and forth from 1970s-1980s and back to the present, filling in gaps in the characters’ histories. Sidenote: This is one of the few shows where the dad doesn’t come across as an inept moron. He gets to be a real loving, masculine person who speaks into his children’s lives. At least as far as we’ve watched, which is most of the first season. So if that changes in Season 2, don’t tell me!

What I love about the show is that the actors show you why they did what they did. There isn’t a lot of talking and pedantic explaining, not a lot of Agatha Christie-style denouement. You find out how Randall came into the Pearson family. The sibling dynamics come to light. The mother-daughter relationship dance between Kate and Rebecca unfolds as we flash back to Kate’s girlhood. Sometimes, we even get glimpses of Jack and Rebecca’s childhoods.

Do I agree with everything on the show? No. I don’t. Ruby watches it with us, and we talk about the characters and their actions. Not everything anyone does lines up with the best choices. Also, I remember thinking the title was too…lame. Too simple. It seemed like nobody tried. They pulled random show titles out of a ratty hat.

Why is this show’s style of portraying people important? Because people don’t jump up at birth and say, “I’m going to be a jerk to everyone I meet, just because!” We have been shaped by our experiences. In fact, we are never done being shaped, good or bad.

This-Is-Us.jpg

Really, if we’re honest, we should probably be announcing this whenever we enter a room. “Greetings! This is me. I’m a product of the attitudes, actions and circumstances of my life up until this very moment. Some may be readily apparent as you interact with me. Some may crop up later. Regardless, this is what you get. Peace!” Like WYSIWYG of old.

Only, if you’re a believer, that’s not all. Your spirit has surrendered to Jesus’ sacrifice for you. You’ve recognized your sin, and what its cost you and others. You’ve attended (hopefully) a healthy, worshiping body of Christ. You’ve rubbed shoulders with other believers. You’ve read your Bible and worshiped. The Holy Spirit has cut out some diseased bits. Jesus has healed up your patched together, duct-taped broken heart. You’ve been forgiven, and have forgiven others. Your love for Jesus has changed your perspective and given you hope for others and yourself. You find yourself washed new every morning because of His mercies. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Bonus if you’ve discovered shards of destiny, shiny under your feet, as you walk every day with Jesus.

Is “This is Us” the best show ever? No. But it makes me fall in love with people, in all our beautiful brokenness, again and again. I have hope for us – all of us. And isn’t that the point?

 

Jacques Cousteau Lives

Jacques Cousteau

Today, we went scuba diving for the first time. I may have mentioned this before, but one of my childhood heroes was Jacques Cousteau. I loved watching his documentaries on public television. The underwater ballet of graceful scuba divers, following the trail of whales or sharks or manatees, mesmerized me. Cousteau preached a message of environmental protection about this magical underworld he loved, which in turn made me love it, too.

So you can imagine how frustrated I was when I finally got the gear on and couldn’t master the simple exercises to eject water from my regulator and mask.

“You can do it,” our teacher, Jesus, told me. He’d been diving for 25 years. I hoped he was right.

All of Jesus’ instructions, from “this is your tank gauge” to “people’s lungs explode” swirled in my head. How would I ever keep all the buttons straight? And the tank on my back kept shifting from side to side every time a wave passed by. I stood up, bracing my flippers against the sea floor. We stood facing each other in 4 feet of water.

“Just relax,” Jesus urged.

Right. Cause that’s a strength.

I took a breath and tried again. Jesus pressed the button to let air out of my jacket. I sank 2 feet into the water onto my knees. I took the regulator out of my mouth and blew out small bubbles. Then I put it back in and pressed the front button to expel any extra water. Yes! Now, the snorkel mask. I put two fingers above my eyebrow line and tipped the mask. I blew out with my nose, sending any extra water there packing. Aha! I did it! Jesus signaled ‘up’ with his thumb.

“You did it!” he said. I think he was as relieved as I was.

I should mention Jonathon got these exercises on the first try. Typical.

But Jonathon didn’t like being so far under water he couldn’t surface whenever he wanted. He swam around in the shallow area face down, like me, getting used to the equipment and going a little deeper. That’s all he wanted to do. He didn’t want to go where his feet didn’t touch the sand.

“I think we’re even,” Jonathon said to me with a knowing look. He meant Haleakala, of course. That was our infamous 20th anniversary trip where we biked the volcano on Maui. The bike ride was the one thing Jonathon, bike rider aficionado from way back, lover of the Tour de France, really wanted to do. I agreed because I thought, how hard could it be? I know how to ride a bike. Boy, was I misinformed. Jonathon whipped down the switchbacks in the pouring rain and I…crashed. Crying, humiliated and soaked through, I got picked up by the “sag wagon” once we were down towards the bottom. I put on some waterproof pants and regrouped. Jonathon met up with me in a small town on the flats and we biked the rest together. I gritted my teeth the whole time and prayed a lot. I should mention I haven’t been on a bike since.

I could hardly blame him for not enjoying scuba diving. Jesus and I set out together, him holding my hand in order to keep me from getting too far away. I told him at the beginning that Jesus was a big name to live up to, yet he didn’t disappoint. As we sank into the watery depths, I mused that having Jesus by my side was a huge advantage, both literally and spiritually.

I breathed in short breaths and exhaled longer ones, like I was told. Fish of all kinds swirled around us. Jesus pointed out a king crab hiding in a cave. We got closer and it snapped its claws at us. We were in the aquarium, so to speak, on their turf now. As we passed fish, they turned up on their sides to peek at us. Of course, one has to see somehow, even without a neck.

We surfaced and the boat picked us up. I had one tank left and Jonathon would stay in the boat with Louis while Jesus and I headed out to a 40-foot area. The boat chugged out through cerulean seas. We moved further from the shore, out where even the tallest person couldn’t touch bottom.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” Jesus asked Jonathon.

Jonathon shook his head.

“No, this isn’t my thing,” he said, shaking his head. He sat contentedly in the boat.

“Okay, we’re gonna drift,” Jesus told me. I nodded, but had no idea what that meant.

“We’re gonna start over there.” He pointed out to an open spot. I could sense nothing to distinguish it from any other spot, but I had to trust Jesus. Again.

We loaded up again and fell off the side of the boat. Down, down, full fathoms five we went. He admonished me to swim lengthwise, not all bunched up. I stretched out, the tank bobbing against my back. I kicked my flippers and breathed. We soared over coral of purple, brown, orange and green. Some of it grew like tree branches. Some looked like large urns.

Jesus tugged my hand. He pointed to the right of us. He made a snapping jaw motion with his fingers. Barracudas, a school of 5 silver torpedos, watched us as they glided past. Eek. Just keep swimming…

Jesus lowered us to the sandy floor. He started playing in the sand. I did, too. The pinkish colored stuff was rough with shells and small stones. He motioned for me to stop. Communication underwater leaves something to be desired. He pointed out a line in the sand. He started digging. He dug up an enormous sand dollar. I’d never seen one before, not alive anyway.

We came upon some creatures that looked like large insects. Three lobsters lurked in a cave. They kept many a close eye on us. We passed parrot fish and fish of every color in the rainbow. I saw one very tiny fish bury itself in the sand, only its eyes visible, a miniature master of disguise. A sting ray soared to our right.

black durgon

Black durgon

I could have stayed down there forever, but I started to get cold. I held on a bit longer. I hoped I would warm up with some more motion. Nothing doing. I gave Jesus the ‘up’ sign. He made sure I wanted to do that. We had to pressurize ourselves, stopping at 15 feet for 3 minutes before we could get all the way to sunlight again.

We popped into the waves and light. I pushed my mask up.

“Why did you want to come up? Did you get cold?” He looked at me with concern. I could tell from his voice that he didn’t want to come up either. The peace and quiet had a hold on him, too.

“Yes,” I said. Plus I was getting tired. I had used ¾ of my tank’s air anyway.

We got back into the boat. Louis sped back to shore. I consider myself blessed to have had the one-on-one attention I got, and from Jesus, no less. I guess I did 2 dives, almost halfway to diver certification, if I choose to pursue it. Even now, I feel the pull of the sea. I just might do it.

barracuda

Barracuda

Running on Full

full tank gauge

(source)

I stepped out the back door onto the damp ground. The sky lightened as I turned left onto the main drag. Up, up the hill and then straight on until the road ends.

My legs kept up. The hitch in my right hip made a brief guest appearance, then bowed and left the stage. I realized, not for the first time, how fully integrated running and mental health are.

The sky to my left turned a mesmerizing shade of blush. I passed McDonald’s, Oil Can Henry’s, Happy Teriyaki. I ran up the slight hill to where the highway meets the road. I stopped for a moment to breathe and to think.

I haven’t been surrendered. I’ve wanted things my own way. I haven’t responded well to criticism, justifying my response due to its harsh delivery. But in the end, does it matter? Does someone else’s opinion of me change who I am in Christ? Does it negate the gifts He has given me? Do I trust God to keep me in the worst circumstances, or do I try to fix things? “God, I don’t like the direction we’re heading. Here, I’ll take the reins. I know a better way.”

No. I can’t do that.

Yes, I can pray for things to change. And I do that. I seek His wisdom and understanding all the time. I want to speak words of encouragement and kindness. I want to call out the good. But I can’t change people. That’s not my gig. I can’t manipulate scenarios and force people into my mold, good though that mold may be.

I let it all go – the misunderstandings, the bad attitudes, the ugly accusations. I breathed it all out. The air, laden with fragrant flowers, filled my lungs as I inhaled. Peace accompanied it. I put myself squarely in God’s hands,  the only truly safe place. I ran back down the hill to home.

By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16

 

Good Friday Sully

I’ve done a lot of running this week. When things get crazy, run. It helps.

Sully running

We watched the movie “Sully” with Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart the other night. He was stuck in New York as the FAA investigated him. He couldn’t sleep. So he ran. A lot. Sometimes with his co-pilot and sometimes alone. During the day. At night, by the bright lights of the city. I had to laugh, despite the heavy content of the movie. Runners know. Burn off some of that anxiety and stress instead of eating a whole pie, or drinking yourself into a stupor. Get your head in a good place.

Running, it seems, can be a type of prayer. You pour out your concerns and frustrations to God as your feet hit the pavement. I know it’s been like that for me. I can hear the Lord once I come to the end of my homemade solutions.

I’m thinking about pouring out frustrations today as it’s Good Friday. How it must have hurt Jesus to be betrayed by one of his closest friends. Of course, He knew it all would happen. But I doubt that made it any easier.

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” –  Matthew 26:36-39

He felt fear. He understood the weight of what came next, the suffering and pain awaiting him. Judas led the group of men with clubs and swords who came and arrested him, a citizens’ arrest. Then, the betrayal, mock trial before Pilate, beating and crucifixion.

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” – Matthew 27:46

We all have seasons where we feel abandoned or lost or completely alone. Jesus knows. He went through it all. We remember what He did for us today, and what it cost.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:15-16

Heroes

hero

I’ve been thinking about heroes lately. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was yesterday. We consider him a hero and honor him by giving him an entire day each year. It’s fitting. He headed up a movement that helped shape our country.

We celebrate other heroes, too. President’s Day commemorates both Lincoln and Washington. Veteran’s Day celebrates those who have served; Memorial Day celebrates those who died while serving. We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We look up to most all of these people, in one way or another. We need people to admire. We need someone to pattern our lives after. We need the inspiration, the guidance and direction.

We talked about superpowers during our game night.

“What superpower would you like to have?” I put to the family.

“Teleportation,” Ruby said, without hesitation. “You could snap your fingers and be in France,” she said. “Or Paris.”

This provided an opportunity for me to tell her Paris is *in* France. Been there. Guess we need to work a bit on geography.

So, what is a hero?

he·roˈ hirō/
noun: hero; plural noun: heroes; noun: hero sandwich; plural noun: hero sandwiches
a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”a war hero”(in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legend
Or –North American: another term for submarine sandwich.
    • Just to be clear: although delicious, we’re not talking about sandwiches here.

I pick and choose heroes with care. I’m pretty independent. I won’t take any hero who is foisted upon me. I’m not impressed by wealth or social status. Heck, I live in Shelton. People often come here to hide, not to be seen. I don’t think all heroes have superpowers, however.

My pantheon of heroes is very small. I have to believe I’m not alone.  Jonathon is up there, too. He’s the sunny-side up guy who gives and serves everyone. Plus, he’s funny, smart and cute. A couple of close friends have talked me off ledges and wooed me back to normalcy when things got nutty. That, to me, shows heroism. The courage to stay with someone when it all falls apart shows nobility.

Which is why, in the end, Jesus is the ultimate hero. He knows me and loves me. He’s there for me all the time, every day, whether I’m on my best behavior or a complete brat. He doesn’t even need a cape. He’ll be there for you, too, if you let Him.

It’s Personal

toothbrush

No sharing.

“Now, today, try this personal hair removal system! Only $19.99, plus shipping and handling!”

“Wanted: personal assistant. Must pick up dry cleaning and love dogs.”

I’ve been thinking about the word personal lately. I found this definition:

per·son·al
ˈpərs(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: personal
  1. 1.
    of, affecting, or belonging to a particular person rather than to anyone else.
    “her personal fortune was recently estimated at $37 million”

    direct, empirical, firsthand, immediate, experiential

    “I have personal knowledge of the family”
    • done or made by a particular person; involving the actual presence or action of a particular individual.
      “the president and his wife made personal appearances for the re-election of the state governor”
    2.

    of or concerning one’s private life, relationships, and emotions rather than matters connected with one’s public or professional career.

    To me, personal has always been, well, personal. It’s about a person. It’s meant their private thoughts, attitudes, emotions and dramas. If I tell someone, “It’s personal”, that means butt out. It means I’m not ready to share it now, if ever. It has to do with things better left unsaid except to the chosen, vetted few.

    And by default, personal denotes belonging to someone. Like my personal hairbrush – not that I own one anymore, with this mane. Toothbrushes are personal; we don’t share. Ideally.

    So when I hear an altar call that says, “Do you want to make Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?”, I get antsy. Jesus can be everyone and anyone’s Lord and Savior. In fact, that’s the goal for us Christians here on earth. The Great Commission from Jesus states: Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20). Jesus doesn’t belong to me alone. He belongs to millions of believers around the globe, and to any potential believers as well.

    The other part of this that sits wrong with me is “personal” anything usually points to a tool. Remember the hairbrush example? The hairbrush serves to smooth my hair, or would, if such a tool could work on curly tresses. The toothbrush cleans my teeth. It works for me. So, a personal savior would…take care of all my messes? “See that spot Jesus? Right back there? Could you tidy that up, make it spotless? That’s it. Put your back into it.”

    Jesus doesn’t exist to do my bidding. I exist to worship Him and do HIS bidding. I hear you say, “Susan, this is all semantics. Nobody means anything by it.” Probably true. I have nothing against people who use this phrase. But maybe I need to think differently of “personal”, give it another chance. Because choosing to follow Christ, it will get personal, real fast. He changes lives.