Saturday, October 11, 2014

In A World Full Of Trouble, My Childlike Faith Will Rise (Playdates with God)

 
It's 3 a.m. and once again I'm wide awake. As the darkness quietly sits in the room, the bottom of my room-darkening shades are glowing from the moon stretching its bright fingers beneath. I can not sleep. And my mind is heavy and somber with thoughts about where I am in my journey, of what it is to walk forward, and exploring (or rediscovering) my own childlike faith.

But the words are still too fresh, too murky. So I close my laptop.

Three days later, it is a new day as the rain hems me in and I welcome it. The world lies just a key tap away. A whole library of events ready to be delivered: of diseases, lives violently extinguished in horrific manners, of bombs, political unrest, streets upended, wars and rumors of wars. There's no head in the sand these days.

And yet.

Focusing too long on the evils of this world, on the troubles and the tribulations, my childlike faith grows up and leaves me standing with a tired and fearful heart. So I must look away.

Because my God.

"Isn't this the way of a little child? To open the mind wide enough that the huge presence of the impossible can fit inside? Children don't suspend disbelief. They enter into belief with their whole of the beings." Laura Boggess, Playdates with God
 
In a good way, this book has disturbed my thoughts. It has awakened my need to return to this kind of faith, more so today than ever.

Yesterday, someone had a heated discussion with me about a worrisome current event. And it was passionate and loud and it was unsettling. Too many times, I see the world seeping into relationships. The cares of this world, the rising food costs, the new norm of escalated gas prices, the trajectory of nations, of healthcare, of violence, of rights, freedoms, and liberties, and the slippery slope of any of these, have become damaging wedges. The world can harm relationships we cherish just by existing and being accessible to us.



Knowledge. Much of it exists by the deluge. I've chased it long enough to know it's power to rule our lives above others, in spite of others. I don't always look away. But I can look so long that I forget.

The world looms large around us and we get swallowed in the mire of it.

Evil. How sly it is, silently or not so silently, snaking its way into our lives, in-between lives. Unsettling, separating, turmoiling, and dividing by the mere over-abundance of it.

"When we admit there are things that we cannot understand, we give our minds permission to open to the sheer magnitude of all that God is capable of." Laura Boggess, Playdates with God
 
Once again, I'm reminded of my needed return to this simple faith, where the world pales in comparison to the One who created it. Laura's book has uprooted something in me and in my investigation of it, how does one live in as a grown up and still gain a childlike faith, to be harmless as doves but wise as serpents? To give ourselves "permission" of enriching our personal relationship with God with child-like faith-ness? How can us responsible adults shed the worries, the weights, the burdens, or shackles to re-discover it?

As I meditated on this, I thought of Paul. When he wrote to Ephesus, or Corinth, or Galatia, or Colosse. His overarching theme was to operate according to the Holy Spirit that was given us, to love one another, to not be restrained by legalistic Jewish rules, to exercise His gifts in a way that honors God and others, and to encourage us to run our race. Even the letter to Rome, a society not completely unlike our own today, which started out with depravity and idols, judgment and a need for circumcised hearts, found the whole world is guilty. But what enters in at Chapter 3?

Faith. For two more chapters, even more faith.



And then we find our new life in Christ (Romans 6), even as sin wars in our members (Romans 7), and the Spirit gives us hope (Romans 8), even as others reject Him (Romans 9), Paul reassures us that our right standing comes by one way--

Faith, alone (Romans 10).

We've entered into this commune by faith. 

The world has lured me out too many times. I have been drawn away by train wreck after train wreck of current events. As they kept coming, I followed. And when I tarry there, I enter the darkness of this world with only a wee match to see my way around.

"And Nicodemus, in the cover of darkness--from out of that cloak of legalism--asks, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!' (John 3:3-4 NIV 1984). Laura Boggess, Playdates with God

How can I indeed? That is why I must. It is too easy to be lost in fret and frustration. I need the eternal and true in a ever-darkening place. Besides, "whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4 ESV

There are many delivery rooms in life, each one birthing something new. And in a world full of trouble, I give my childlike faith permission. To play. To rest. To sing a-long. To break away and swing with my feet in the sky. To dance. To capture tree tops glowing against a setting sun.

I give it permission--to rise. Because there is ample time for the rest.

~~tammy




{A special thank you to Laura Boggess for her book, Playdates with God. This is helping mold my faith with a desperate and needed message. And in this day and age, as the days grow more and more dark, I'm finding that I need "a childlike faith in a grown-up world." }

 
 


 
Also, at Kelli's Unforced Rhythm's.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Ruminations



Summer slipped out quietly like a visitor feeling too awkward for a goodbye. I tried to enjoy her. I tried to suck every moment, savor the searing seconds, and bask in the place between muggy heat and toes finding the balm of water. But she's gone. And as much as I love Fall, there is a bit of wistful lingering.

Time was in too much of a hurry. And in its haste comes change. So I turn into it.

I've been reflecting, which seems to be what I do this time of the year. All around are signs, tell-tale ones. And if I look back over the changes, then I'd see the year when I was learning how to live all over again because of the dark, winter of soul. So much has happened from there to here. Some of that began in the first fruits of life when soccer was saving my (lonely) life.
 
Looking back, I noticed how this was all an offering.
 

As it is now, we are in another year of Soccer. And yes, there is something special about a team sport your kids love to play, even when it is less dramatic than saving your life this time. I have been getting a sideline view of my young people playing with all their heart as I pace and cheer in a voice my  younger son compared to "shouting like a bird, chirping for it's life." Because obviously, soccer is dramatic.

So here it is--Fall. And what of these days which flit around like a restless Gold Finch? I barely have time to admire the yellow breast, the tiny shocks of color, before it's flying off to perch on a distant branch.

I pause to breathe. Out my dining room window, I glance at my boys playing on the trampoline with their cousin and I appreciate the sly warmth of what is leaving and embrace what is coming. I gather my loose ends and wonder where they lead. There are things I want to do but life gets busy and I only hope that I am doing it in a way that honors this one, wild one I've been given.  

As the world spins, it is with words I stop and go backwards. I can look from this vantage point and 'though I can't see up ahead, I can see the path behind me.

Writing is a trail of finding our way home. Perhaps of finding our way out, but also, of finding the life in this small moment. Of noticing the pebbles, the leaf, the caressing wind, and the little (rapidly growing into what is becoming less and less, "little") humans in our midst's. We may not be able to so slow them down, but we can see, acknowledge, and pull over to grab as much as we can. Only when we are waiting does time move slow and push the limits of being obscene. So we write it down, to remember, to leave a trail of what life brought us and how far we've come, or how little we've moved at all, but we will see it. For surely, God was in the place and we didn't know it.

But we want too.

I want too.

And we write, despite ourselves. Despite the landscape. Because we need to breathe in or out of season and writing has this way of waking alive our souls from it's deep slumber. For we shall know.
"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.'” Genesis 28:16 HCSB

~~tammy


Follow me to Laura's and Kelli's.







Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What I learned from #50women, Giveaway & Review

There are many books about Martyrs or men who have been giants for the faith, but not many are dedicated to women of the faith. And why is that, I wonder?

Enter 50 Women Every Christian Should Know.

As I read this book, I was reminded of the women who surrounded Jesus and how their faith is documented in the Gospels. And 'though some of these women in #50Women & the Gospels lived long ago, I was also reminded that we are not separate and isolated cases.  We are one in Christ and for that we are connected. For "there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:28, 29).

This is our history, my history, as women, as Christians. Despite where we fall on doctrines or theologies, these women stood up for what they believed. This is not about the 5-points of Calvinism or the tenets of one doctrine over another. Instead, this about the appreciation of the trials and tribulations of those who went before us. They believed what they believed, and they were persecuted for it. How can we not learn from history? These #50Women stood by their convictions, even when they struggled for their faith.   

50WomenSusannaWesley
 
Tale upon tale is told of how they persevered, even to the point of  isolation, ex-communication, exile, and torture. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to try and imagine how devastating it would have been. But these women lived normal lives, some of them were married with children. They were daughters, Mom's and wives, sisters, and Aunts. They were like us. And they had a passion for Jesus, for God, much in the same way many women I know today, do.  

If there's one thing we can learn, it'd be--standing for our faith isn't easy. As I read about these women, I found that courage and faith comes from the most unlikely of sources. And if it came from these, then it still comes today. This also reveals that we are still, in the present day and age, surrounded by unlikely sources, even among our peers, friends, or communities.  

From #50Women, two women's lives stayed with me the most and they shared the same name too, Anne.

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Anne Askew (1521-1546) was a daughter of a knighted member of Parliament whose wealthy family afforded her a leisurely life. But her strong believes in Protestant reform and Jesus as her only salvation, kept her from enjoying such wealth. Parts of her history that intrigued me most were these quotes from Michelle's book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know:

After stating, on trial, that she was able to learn about God, through scriptures and that she believed as the scripture informed her. "She angered her prosecutors when she challenged them to find any dishonesty in her, claiming that there were many who claimed to read and know Scripture but who did not live out Jesus' teachings as well as she did."

Anne defended her right to discuss scriptures. But "her male interrogators, who included the Bishop of London and other powerful state and church officials, charged that Anne blatantly disregarded Saint Paul's proclamation that women should remain silent in the churches." (And yet, she continued to proclaim the simple gospel of Jesus to the courts.)

"She emphatically denied the charge of heresy and declared that she would confess her sins not to a priest but to God directly, fully confident that she would be forgiven."

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Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) married her childhood friend, had many children, and took care of her mother-in-law. Plus she was a midwife. But it was the gospel of grace that saved her. Her family moved to Boston just to hear more about this Gospel which was far less confined then her English religion. She discovered the revelation of scripture through the Holy Spirit. But this is also what got her in trouble. Anne's "theology suggested that one could receive the word of God directly from the Holy Spirit, an idea that the colonial leaders found not only threatening but also heretical."

This eventually lead to her being put on trial. In one of the court sessions, "as she went on to cite how the Holy Spirit was revealed to her through verses in Isaiah and Daniel, Anne gathered steam, concluding her testimonial with this emphatic declaration: 'Therefore, take heed how you proceed against me, for you have no power over my body. Neither can you do me harm, for I am in the hands of the eternal Jehovah my Savior. I am at his appointment.'"

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Marie Bride will be receiving a copy of #50Women in the mail! Congrats, Marie!

***Also, Michelle Derusha is giving away some gifts as well. So make the rounds by clicking on her name.
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Shared at Michelle's #50Women book launching post. Yay!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

So Maybe I Was A Wrong & The Seaon I Can't Shake


He said there would be times that we'd desire to see The Day, and yet we "will not see it." We are the ones, the people group, who desire after a sign because we want justice already and who is able to bring it but God, Himself? And I've read and re-read, because surely I've had it right (or wrong in this case)? That I am to know, that we will know, the times and the seasons? In my furious word search, I only found things like: take heed, watch, and pray. But as for the seasons, I found that it is not for me to know.

So I walked away, empty-handed from what I once believed this meant to me. These days there is a river of peace and hope that endures beyond my feeble understanding, beyond the media frenzy, beyond what the world is offering both in blessings and persecutions. I have been carried away by these two themes and for the life of me, I haven't been able to shake them.

This leaves me to watch the crimson red in our Autumn Blaze, or the fading gold's from an October Glory, and the chilly finger of dropping temps crawling up my arm from my favorite patio chair. I will keep my eye out for the leaf to fall, one after another, until I have a pile of them blowing away, to God knows where.

It'd seem the season keeps telling me what time it is and there are days my soul may cry for a little bit of heaven but, Oh!, the maples which ignite with life right here in front of me. And then there is the news which borough's like burned cigarette stains inside my aching soul for all the pain out there, that is more than one person can bear.

So I will heed, watch, and pray. And maybe my prayers will resemble groans and heartache, rather than intelligible words. But I will look for the rain that is surely to come as the Live Oaks, the Post Oaks, the Winged Elm, and the Chinese Pistachio trees begin to slip off their garments in praise. 


I believe where evil increases, Good increases even more.

All in all, each season is a co-laboring one where there are no separations when people are
one in Christ.

And if I peeled the layers back, took my French-English-Germanic-American Indian roots out of the equation, if I removed any identifying markers, and peered into the roots of each and every season, the ministry of reconciliation would look all the same. I need God and I need to be reconciled even if I'm swimming upstream against my angst and my own personal cynic.
"He has committed to us the message of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:19 NKJ

We are called to be salty and we may have our ideas of how that looks when played out, but it too ends with peace for one another. I firmly believe that each of us was designed so uniquely that no two gifts will look the same, even though God says that there are many.

That has been like marrow to my soul.  I know the world can not offer true peace, for that is as fruitless as the rumors surrounding its wars. But rather there is a peace, the kind Jesus gives, the kind that continues to baffle me, the kind which holds hands with the salty ones, the kind that seasons me. And that right there is the season of hope for me and a season I have come to know.
"Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Mark 9:58




~~tammy


Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm A White Girl in the Deep South And I'm "Going There"


As a child, I remember passing swampy trees with large trunks in water with moss hanging from limbs in haunted fashion. I liked the windows rolled down with the Arkansas wind loudly roaring in my ears with a "Rhinestone Cowboy." Down large dirt roads, for miles, I remember driving out to my cousin's cotton farm. I remember long days of playing near the chicken's coop, running along a muddy creek, or climbing the old tractor in the barn, and flat horizon's of rows and rows of cotton stretching as far as my small eye could see.

There were nights spent on the screened-in porch, playing cards after midnight. And running between dusty lanes of low-lying white balls stuck inside twiggy branches. And chasing a dirt devil as if we could catch a tornado. Or standing on the edge of the freshly picked cotton piled high in a red metal trailer about 12 feet up and me falling backwards, laughing, into a puff of white. Some of the blackest things I knew back then were my bare feet.


My young southern-brewed days were full of 8-tracks and vinyl records with the likes of Neil Diamond, John Denver, Frankie Valli, and Barry Manilow. I caught toads as large as my hand and ran from yellow jackets and red wasps.

But when we moved into our country home near brown lakes and hot springs the neighbor girl, Carmen, soon became one of my closest friends. She was black. I remember being at her house, how kind her family was to me, and how I wished they could be my cousins too. I did not think of color or differences, back then. And I was not color blind. It just was.




It wasn't until we moved to Georgia that color became bigger than me. And if I wanted to be color-"blind", after living there, I no longer could.

As a teenager, I drove my white Ford pinto, with my snazzy tape player and my ultra-cool sunroof popped open, down the long strip where we cruised. And when I entered the Bojangle's restaurant on the south side I got a taste of segregation. I chatted distractedly with my friend as we pushed through the tinted glass door to order my favorite biscuit. It was then, I looked around. It was then I noticed color. It was then I noticed I was the whitest thing in there. It felt like the whole restaurant was looking at us, black eyes mostly. I didn't know there were "white" areas and "black" areas.

And when I took my guy, black friend home from work, I entered "small harlem." When some black girls hollered at me, to this day, I do not know why. But I can guess. And when my friend told me he could not walk in my white neighborhood at night because he might not live to tell about it, I hardly believed him. I didn't want to believe him.

I went to high school in the deep south. One of those schools being my favorite school of all the schools I ever attended. And I attended many. But this one was special. It was mixed, black and white. I felt the least amount of cliquish-ness among the class.

But there were also invisible lines, I soon found out. I didn't understand why the cute dark-haired white boy was shunned by my white friends until I found out it was because he dated a pretty black girl. They called him names behind their hands but if looks could kill, he'd be too dead to care. White circles and black circles were distinct even if we talked freely between them. But dating? That was a whole other level. So forget about the nice looking black boy on the football team who flirted with me in economics class. I was too scared to "go there."

So when I entered the military in my 20's, the multi-cultural life was a relief. One of my white best friends was in a "mixed" marriage and we talked about race and how these things were new to her. Being raised in the northwest and in a small white town, color was not something she knew much about. But when my friend lived in the south, well, these things became acutely a part of their life.

I despised what I saw. But I am white. Pale, milky white who lived among her white family with her Def Leopard and Motley Crue. And being white, I could sometimes feel the tension which was thick enough to cut my peppered steak at the local Golden Corral.


And it is not just the blacks. After living in Asia, it was another class of Asians who were so poor they were dragged off by their father. From their small hut where monkeys played near the outdoor shower deep in the jungle, young women were taken to work in brothels and strip joints. Beaten as a virgin, a girl is taken from her idyllic home, so she can "better herself" {or their families} to work in back alley clubs or red-light districts. Some American-born women looked down on them because of their seedy beginnings with our American culture which financed it. I know of their stories because they were my friends too. They, who loved their family and would invite me to their big parties with their cousins, neighbors, and people group from their culture. And I cautiously ate weird food I could barely pronounce much less spell.

This is a heart issue that is not exclusive to America or to black and white. Over seas, in places like Africa and the Middle East, ethnic cleansing continues to cycle through history. This is a spiritual issue. Bigger than me. Bigger than my white-ness. But not bigger than God. This is why I listen. Why I strain to learn from other's stories. I don't know how to give them happy endings. But I can listen anyway.


And for me, it was through friendships where color or ethnicity became background issues. I see a friend. Not an ethnic group. Not a particular color group. Not a pat-on-my-back-congratulatory gesture of mixing cultures. But just a friend. A person who's personality endears me, as an individual.

People change when they are in relationship with each other.

Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman, one who was married 5 times, who was living with someone even then, and his own disciples questioned his ethics and boundaries. But then He talked anyway. Because it was in her story, in their stories, that when I listen, I learn to cross lines. But even better, I learn to make friends.

~~tammy


***********************************************************
At Kelli's Unforced Rhythm's.

And joining these conversations about "Going there" started by Deidra at Jumping Tandem.

**Jennifer Lee's "I'm a White Girl From Rural Iowa....and I'm 'Going There'".

**Lisa-Jo's "I'm a white girl from South Africa and I'm 'going there'".

**Lori Harris' words about moving her white family into a black
neighborhood here.

**Alia Boston's "On Coming Together" here.