Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Awkward Adventures in Spelling

We sit and read scripture in the evenings fairly regularly. Lately, we've been following a reading plan that has been given to Harper through Summit, an after-school program at a local church. She really enjoys reading aloud to us from the Bible - especially ANY portion in red-letter which signifies the actual words of Christ. In fact, her only specification in choosing a new Bible for herself was that it be a red-letter edition.


So, two nights ago we gathered to read the story of the Prodigal Son.

All was going well. Until-

"Mom, what does p.r.o.s.t.i.t.u.t.e.s. spell?"

I had to pause and figure it out . . . ohhhhh. Ding-dangit, you wayward son!


"Right. But what is it?"

I played dumb.

"Prostitutes. The word is prostitutes."

"Mom! I know! But what IS it?"

Really?!  Really?!

Long pause.

"It is referring to someone who doesn't treat their body the way God intended."

Gosh, that was lame. I wanted to expand about how some women and men make the choice to abuse their bodies in this way, but also that many poor souls are forced into these situations, etc. I knew, however, that it wasn't the time to delve into the topic as is should be handled. So, I hoped my brief, shoot from the hip (not to mention inadequate) answer would suffice.

But she wasn't done.

"Don't treat their body right, like how?"

"We'll talk more about it later."

"Like later when you put me to bed?"

No, like later when you're 50!

"No, Harper, not tonight. But I promise you that we will talk about it. Just not tonight. Not yet."

Zane was sitting on the floor taking it this entire conversation. His turn.

"I think I know what it is."

Oh, come on . . .

"Well, I'm not sure, actually. But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with something disgusting."

We went on to finish the story focusing on the most important part of the entire piece - at least to me.

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:31-32)

A beautiful story of redemption. We HAVE TO, MUST celebrate when one who is "dead" is brought back to "life" - when one who was "lost" is now "found". We talked about how God's arms are wide open - ready to welcome us back with a hearty celebration, regardless our choices and failures. Regardless of who we once were. For there is nothing that can separate us from His love.

This is true for e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e.

Let's Give It Up For Lent!

Previous thoughts on Lent can be found here.

Lent gets a bad rap. Lost in the humorously intended groans of, "Ugh, how will I get by without chocolate?", or "Coffee. I'm never going to make it 40 days without caffeine" is an all too often forgotten gem of spiritual growth, discipline, and freedom.

A relatively common question makes the rounds in Christian circles this time of year. 

"What are you giving up for Lent?"

Only, in today's culture, the answer may look a bit different than the typical chocolate or coffee response. 

Try, "Facebook."

Confession time. Lent and I have a hot and cold relationship. 

I'm a fan, and yet, the practice of giving up something for Lent has proven to be a struggle at times. Am I expected to choose what to give up? Will God lead me to the answer?  I could definitely use a Pre-Lenten period - a time of personal reflection to help discern what it is that actually steals my focus away from God, thus, preparing me for Lent! Too often, though, I've arrived at my "WHAT" (I'm giving up) on the fly - without forethought or preparation. And approaching the Lenten journey so haphazardly has resulted in bit of a Debbie Downer attitude.

"Woe is me. No sugar until Easter. Can't wait until Day 41!"

I've had a revelation this year. 

What if Lent isn't first and foremost about giving up?

But, rather, giving?

The first insinuates loss - something being taken or removed. The other? A willingness to hand over. The focus becomes less about what I don't have and more about what another may gain from my offering.

This year, rather than approaching Lent focused on what I must give up, I have chosen to enter my Lenten journey with the question of, "What can I give?"

It's a simple switch of attitude, really. But one that has been very powerful and motivating. And challenging. Especially for a night owl like me.

During Lent, I have decided to give God my morning. The first moments of my day. Perhaps you don't find difficulty in rising early and meeting with the Lord before leaping into your day.I do. In fact, the first thought that enters my mind when my alarm rings in the morning is not, "Good morning, Lord", or "I love my family," but rather, "Where is my coffee?"

I have made several humanly empowered attempts at willing myself into becoming a morning person. All have ended in failure.

This time, however, there was a stronger reason driving me to tackle this area of discipline in my life.

God asked me to meet Him.  He requested that time of me. How could I ignore a personal invitation from the One who made made the sun rise so I could enjoy that first cup of coffee?

So, this Lent, I have been rising 30 minutes earlier (almost) every day (there have been a few glitches) and handing that time directly to God: in prayer, scripture reading, and silence. 

Sounds great, right? It's been harder than giving up chocolate has every been. At least with chocolate I can control whether it's in my house. With waking, I have no control over the sun rising. Nope, by God's mercy and design it happens every day - whether I'm ready for it or not.

The truth about sacrifice is that it doesn't necessarily feel good. Rising early isn't natural for me. Nor will sacrifice always benefit us. I'm exhausted – for I've not given up my night owl tendencies. And, yet, at its deepest level, sacrifice has nothing to do with me. True sacrifice is giving (fill in the blank) on behalf of another.

In my case, that means giving my beauty sleep to my Maker.

When I look at it that way, I feel no loss – even though, technically, I am losing some shut-eye.

Funny how a change of approach can adjust perspective. In the evening as I turn off the light I now find myself praying to be infused with God's strength to help me rise with eagerness in the morning. I am more aware each morning when the iPhone chimes my wake-up call. I have somewhere to be. An appointment. A commitment. With coffee in hand (yes, I make that cup), I sit in silence, I read His word, and I lift up my friends and family in prayer.
I may be groggy, but I'm enthusiastically groggy.
Lent, I'm giving it up for you. Woot! Woot!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast . . .

Words of wisdom from pastor Mark Buchanan, when asked what was his most profound regret in life:

"Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away."

- as quoted by A. Voskamp in her challenging book, One Thousand Gifts.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zaneism #49872076: Absent Teacher

Zane: We had a Step-Teacher in class.

Me: You had a what?

Zane: A Step-Teacher. Mrs. Strauss wasn't there.

Me: Ohhhh. Zane, I think you mean a SUBSTITUTE Teacher.

Zane: Right.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Directions

The joke's on you, this is not a reference to the show choir on Glee. Made you look.

Sorry. Wrong blog. Go back to Google and search again for information on the show. Or, stop here, and read about real life. No, I'm not going to sing about it.

Two weeks ago, I conquered a fear giant and contacted a local organization, the Hero Program, to ask how I could volunteer. Specifically with writing.

Turns out that the organization needed someone to help with grant writing.

I don't know anything about grant writing.

Time to learn.

Directly from that new venture, I landed a press release gig for the new, and additively delicious, Waffles INCaffeinated. Thank you, kindly!

Then, a dear friend's husband landed in the ICU.

Enter Japan. Memories of knowing someone who perished in the 2004 tsunami cautioned me from watching too much footage - just need to donate whatever I can.

Add Stage 4 lung cancer taking up residence in a friend's uncle.

And the death of another dear friend's aunt.


But, of course.


So, since this is life, the real question is, "How do I respond?"

1.  I learn how to write grants so the that the dear children living with terminal illnesses and their families can feel some financial relief. What I dig about the Hero Program is that gifts are tangible. Material. Cars, groceries, gas, housecleaning, a laptop so that the mother of an ill child can work at home, Christmas gifts. They have a real life need and we want to find it for them.

2. I work my butt off to get people from near and far into this five-star waffle joint. And pray that Chef Tahj Merriman really will create the falafel waffle. If only for me.

3. I pack an overnight bag for my girlfriend, insure her daughter will have fun after school while feeding her any snack she wants as my children gawk, INVEST a precious Saturday in the ICU waiting room with her and her amazing friends during her husband's surgery, and do my very best to BE.

4. I gather friends to join me at a charity spaghetti dinner after church, the proceeds of which will go to the family where a 44 year old Dad is battling evil.

5. I plan to cook up some Italian food this week to help comfort my favorite Puerto Rican's.

There is way too much "I" in this post.

It is not my intention to make myself the focus of this post.

If anything, I am learning, from all of this, that there is way too much "I" in my life
. God is gently, albeit, clearly and precisely, showing me where He needs me to be.

We began a new series on discipleship at church this morning.

How fitting.

How then shall we live?

For ourselves?

Not in this life.

Which is the ONLY real life we will experience here on Earth.

I choose to be involved.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Flashback: Places, please!


A year out of college and barely a year married, I decided to dive back into the theater world while my husband holed himself up to study a year of Greek through a 6 week course affectionately known as "Suicide Greek" by all the Seminarians who had gone before him.

"Hello Dolly" was my escape from the boring evenings at home sitting alone while George was locked in his closet of an office.

Fast forward to 2011.

How interesting is it that one of the characters in Dolly was looking for a "life outside of Yonkers?" For here I am 19 years later about to get "Lost in Yonkers".

Last night, George and I entered a room full of strangers.

Thankfully, I quickly found the owner's of my joint, and then the artistic director of the Bobcat Players. I was then reintroduced to the woman who read the mother (and was cast in the role) to my Bella during my "Lost in Yonkers" audition back in January. We sat getting to know each other for the majority the evening as I stole glances at others around the room who very well could have been the same folks from my Highland Park Theater days.

The gathering had a familiar feel not unlike the ones we enjoyed so many years earlier when we'd land at Bennigans after my rehearsals every Thursday evening. Even George would take a break from crackin' the books to join me and the cast for some after-rehearsal dining. Simply put, those evenings were just downright fun - a ton of laughing - with incredibly wonderful people. I will ALWAYS carry a fondness about those days.

Last evening, in the course of 2 hours, George must have commented at least three times how this Happy Hour felt like those "old days" and how much he was enjoying watching me rediscover this enormous part of myself that had been purposely placed on a shelf for a number of years. Purposely placed. Not begrudgingly placed. There's a difference.

When one moves, special items are carefully packed away. While in the process of unpacking, it is not uncommon to leave several boxes untouched. For months. Upon reopening them, the special item takes on an entirely new quality - the rediscovery of that dear object serves to increase it's beauty.

At times, the course of one's life makes it's necessary to pack up something precious and set it aside. Not in the "giveaway" or "trash" pile. But rather, the "later" pile.

I unpacked my acting bug last night.

And the second perk of the evening?

Meeting a woman who had moved to Beaver from CHICAGO only 6 months ago. Through her struggle to adapt to this new environment, she discovered a few articles I'd written in The Bridge under the title "New Girl in Town".

"Thanks for writing those. They really helped. I figured if you could get used to being here, I could, also. I found them comforting."

Stories drive relationships, don't they?

Stories on stage.

Stories off stage.

Life is one big story and you're cast in it.