Category Archives: response

Tenderness

I was sharing with a friend about a moment of God’s moving in/on my life…a long forestalled moment. I can be incredibly stubborn and fearful. I thought the moment might be violent, even brutal, so great was my need for God to overwhelm the strongholds in my mind, to stanch so much unhelpful emotion. God all but called me and made an appointment for me with Him, one that I knew I had to keep. But when I got there, I really was afraid to fail to show; it was an easy process, a tender exchange.

Tenderness is a pretty rare commodity. I could count the tender moments that I have known on my fingers. My paucity is in many ways a function of my arrogance, stubbornness and my abhorrence for any form of embarrassment. But there are moments of tenderness in my memory. If they do not involved my children (natural or spiritual) they usually involve someone coming to get me, their wading in to the fray of my combustibility to rescue me from myself.

It happened a lot in college. This is how it would go down. I would  be frustrated, usually with my inability to be kind, compassionate, loving – anything but the stubborn egotist that I was so practiced in portraying. I would get upset – anger is the least vulnerable, and therefore, least embarrassing emotion; so that’s usually where I took my frustration. I would foam…circling but never entering the zone of tears. At some appointed moment, a friend of mine, I have often relayed how long-suffering and kind they were to me, haven’t I? A friend of mine would take my hand, or wrist if I was less cooperative,  and pull me into their arms. I would struggle a bit like a two-year old. But they knew how to disarm me: Tenderness. They would press their chin or cheek against my temple – and hold me still and tight and love me. It undid me every time. I’d stop resisting, just stop, and relax, in tears, into their/God’s embrace and acceptance.

I miss that…

though I don’t need it quite so often…Because now, if I get really still, the pathways to that place are well enough known by my spirit that I can get there without my friend(s)…if I get really still. If…

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brotherly kindness…

I think my son and his friend  saw the power of brotherly kindness tonight: the power it has to protect and preserve their sisters in the Lord from settling for less.

We had this enlightening moment. Another Mama and I had been talking with them. My son is very blessed to have incredible young women in his life who tolerate his boyish annoyance and who love him back. He and Jesse had this conversation in my car coming home. “You know,” they began, “Our brotherly love kind of keeps the creeps from getting to them doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“It sort of fills in the places of doubt and the weak places for girls, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what the brotherly protection Pastor Jeremy was talking about does,” I explained.

“They know we love them too much to try to date them don’t they?”

“Yeah, they do. They know you would never want to mess up anything that God is going to do.”

“God is going to send them awesome husbands, isn’t He?”

“Yes, He is.”  Yes... I whispered under my breath again, very awesome men like you.

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Speak

Sometimes…I need to still the words flying about my head. Sometimes I need to give them no avenue of expression. I need to keep them in, ask God to utterly destroy all remnant of  the thoughts that carried them. Sometimes, I struggle here  a bit.

Sometimes…I need to express…to force out words. Sometimes they must be said.

Today was one of those “speak” days. Three times, there were things to say..to bring encouragement and confirmation and maybe to bring a perspective that was somewhat veiled. I so love those moments when God lets me echo His heart. It is a huge privilege and a great joy.

Sometimes, we all need God to say through another person those things that we think we hear Him saying  to us. And sometimes we need another to confirm the things that we don’t believe God really would say to us, especially the good things.

Many times people have been faithful to share something with me that I so needed to hear. The words they faithfully shared probably saved me time and energy and harm. I can remember those words so clearly. They weren’t always formal declarations or beautifully or poetically relayed. They weren’t always happy, happy. Sometimes they stung more than their deliverer ever knew.

But they were faithful words.

Today, I got to share a few faithful words. Confirmation really…of something long known by the ones with whom I shared. They were needed words, deeply desired words.

Today, I got to hear some needed words…challenging and yet freeing. The words were spoken out of a great love, a love willing to risk.

All around, it was a very good day.

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She Who Knows (me)… is coming.

Fall Semester 2009

I’ve been watching this movie, Iron-Jawed Angels with a class. It’s about the young women who, after 68 years of their predecessors’ work, secured the vote for women in the US. I would love to teach a whole class on this film…it has so impacted me on every level. I see myself so profoundly in the protagonist, Alice. She is intellectually gifted, an intrepid ideologue, passionately focused and yet emotionally disabled at times. Alice has a best friend, Lucy, a first mate who she heralds as ten times more valiant than her. I so see my best friend, Karen, in her. I would have many times been, as Alice, “lost” even in victory, without her. I watched the two young women on screen, the subtle interchanges, the tears that seem to come for Alice only when Lucy is near and turns the key to laughter and consequently grief.

I have cried, gently through my free periods this week, especially today. I just keep playing the soundtrack to this movie and I can’t stop crying and I don’t want to.

When the movie plays, I want to fall on the floor and pound the carpet… for… I don’t even know what…and cry until my lungs burn hot.

Karen, my Lucy, sent me a Facebook request today. I wrote her husband a while back and begged him to sign her up, incognito if necessary, for just me. It seems every time we make contact anew, I am pounding some floor…

Jeremy asked me the other day, “Who do you talk to about things? Who gets you?” I smiled a sad smile. I made up some less sad story, about the many women I regularly talk with. And I do I talk with women here, it’s just the not real me talking. I miss being real with friends, being scary real and vulnerable…and making fun of nearly everything that is so off-limits…and being exhaustingly serious…. and that being okay, too.

I watch the young girls who truly have what I did with those sent to me in college.  Sometimes, I think my heart will tear apart in gratefulness and pain watching Millie and Allison or Melanie and Haleigh. I am so glad for them, that they have what they have and at this age. I would pay any price for them to have it/keep it. And yet, my heart hurts on a level I can hardly bear when I see them together and the memory of my like friends slips across my mind.

I just wish that she was here…that she’d just waltz back in the way she always does whenever I am hiding, and grasp a strand of my hair and hold my eyes to hers… and I’d let it all go… against her…and there would be time enough, she’d make it so…and I’d believe everything that she told me… because I believe her.

It’s time to grieve some things lost for now…like her.

She will respond to my facebook greeting, she will tell me she misses me, she will offer to come if I need her. She has been a marvelous understudy for Jesus all these years. When God needs to get in deep, deep and I won’t come near, God sends Karen to do what can be done.

For years, Jesus has been My Husband, for a while now, truly, my family… but my friend, my stick closer, know me better than anyone, including myself, Karen -friend…No, I have not been willing to go there.

Sometimes Rob or the kids ask me,” Why don’t you call some of your friends from Georgia? Why don’t you call your friend, Karen?”

Because, I do not answer, I know what lulls about deep in me, I know what would roar free, surge up my throat and bellow the unspeakable. I know the monstrous pain that would greet her coming. I feed him daily, doses of necessaries to keep him lain low. But her coming would  throw every necessary to the wind.

She Who Knows (me) is coming. Ghost, not flesh. Ghost of God, that sent and sends Karen will come, Herself.

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Where God?

““Love the LOrd your God with all of your mind.”

Is that not remembering?”- PJ

I am trying to hear, see, know the place where we are to meet, this time, God. I know that You are everywhere and anywhere, but sometimes You come close, specifically in place and time, and this time, I think, it may be especially so. I remember encounters with You, God. I remember conversations that changed everything, on a college quadrangle, in a basement boiler room, on a stone protruding the river, beneath golden leaves next to the Consumer Science Building, on the steps next to Park Hall, by the fountain behind Old College, picking blackberries with my Nana, in Dana’s arms on retreat, watching the treetops at the Art School/Old Cemetery, in the prayer room at Wesley, in the Garden Club’s rose garden, in my car at Tuckston, on the path back to camp at Glisson, in a dark corner of rm. 205, laying next to Karen on her bunk at camp, riding along the ridge on Shades Crest, in the middle of the street outside the hotel in Phoenix, in the aisle at Kingwood, on the boat at Cumberland, along the beach at Destin, in the car coming back from the Coker’s, in my dreams in Texas, about to enter the chapel at Berry College, in my bed – at my parents’ home – my senior year of college, in a metal chair in Lakeland, in the First Baptist sanctuary 9/11, halfway down the hill at Joe Tucker Park, in Columbiana – cresting the rise on 26, on the third row against the wall at Tres Dias, rounding the curve of the daffodils near Gainesville, walking the floor in the KCS auditorium, leaning my forehead against the side wall at EPOCH, driving out to Vanessa’s brother’s lake house, standing behind the back row at a Master’s Commission showcase in 2003, as Whit swung me round and round, on the walk at Alpha Chi, in my seat at Hillsong this summer, seeing Kim’s message in my inbox, getting Kathryn’s call Tuesday night, watching Millie that prayer time when Jeremy saw, too, running into John Kasay at the Journalism Building, hearing Trent’s fishing dream, driving along Madeira Beach, watching Allison in worship, on the parallel bars at St. Joseph’s, the collapse into God at Beachfreak, in the goldenrod behind Karen’s house in Carrolton, hearing the “I’ve got this” at the AM Lectio by the ocean, the moment Mille and Melanie first bound in with the dreams, in the wind, on the beach just north of Santa Rosa, when my eyes locked with James Ryle’s, on the road near what is now Taco Bell in Helena….

There are others, moments that make up this life of mine. I have many memories beyond these, but in these fragile moments, God spoke or sighed or just breathed near me and I knew God was and was with me.

Remembering is good.

What comes now? Where should I be? Will you just come upon me? I feel you coming near, please come close.

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Love 

I knew of the reality and power and glory of God long before I let His love near. I knew it was there. I saw His love in many.  But it’s coming near was another thing…something I feared.

It was fall of my second year of college,  the ministry I was a part of went on retreat to North Carolina. I remember the pumpkins. They were vivid in the still green fields. It was cold, unseasonably cold. When we finally got out of the car, we could see our breath.

It was crowded…I think more folks came than there were bunks. My friends and I  pulled some extra mattresses out into a wooden floored gym, adjacent to the bunk rooms. The high ceiling room held an abundance of un-perfumed air.  This was the eighties and fluorocarbon flowed freely. The large space was a sanctuary.

We had teaching sessions in this long rectangular room with huge windows all along the walls.  You could look out and see the foothills about us, mountains just beyond.  Tuck, one of the leaders, was speaking on some truth.  We nearly always talked about truth. I really liked truth, it’s emotionally safe stuff.

I was sitting on the floor, like everyone. There was a row of people leaning against the back wall.  I sat a little in front of their outstretched legs. Friends were scattered all around me. I knew most of the people on the trip by name. But even after years with this ministry, only my sent friends (another story) knew me fairly well.

It was cold on the floor, cold in the room…Tuck was talking  about some principle; I was taking notes, but for once, I was not mesmerized by the knowledge that I was receiving. I felt cold, in my soul. And I felt something rise in me that was unfamiliar, a deep desire for love, to feel it.

Earlier at lunch or sometime, I had talked briefly with a few girls that I didn’t know so well; they were older. I saw something in them, especially one of them, the dancer, that my heart now ached to have, something that scared me, for sure, but that I wanted, nonetheless.

As I sat staring out the window, not really listening to Tuck, but to my heart’s ache, Dana, the dancer, did something radical and right. In this somewhat stiff crowd of note taking notables, Dana, who sat on the wall right behind me, leaned forward, scooped her arms under mine and fluidly pulled me all the way back into her arms. I was there before I knew it, there before any protest could be made. Before anyone had a chance to even acknowledge God’s shifting, I was there. And instantly, I could not have cared less about what any teacher or leader or fellow pharisee thought. The love of God surrounded, subdued, nearly overwhelmed me. Dana did not say a word, I remember her gray sweatshirt about me.  The smell of her shampoo, her long hair against the side of my face. Time sort of stopped. I think it was the first time in my life that I ever felt relaxed, safe, not on guard in some small way. It was like being underwater or in space, totally foreign, totally fantastic.

I don’t know how much longer we all sat there…not long enough.  When Tuck stopped talking, I slowly stood up. Dana didn’t force or even encourage me to, but I stood and turned around; her posture was casual, her eyes, reassuring.

I wish I had ignored the crowd altogether. Not stood, not moved away at all. She would have held me on until the crowds departed,  until the tears that needed to fall, fell. I know what I passed on, as I stood.  I know it now. It was there – healing and wholeness that I long craved and yet evaded. I should have drunk deeply. I wanted to…but I stood.

I have had other Dana’s arrive from time to time.  Dana’s come my way, draw me close without warning, and do not let go until I move away. God’s good to me like that. He knows I won’t ask for what I so need. So He sends me brave, strong souls who do not ask my permission, but pull me into them/Him until I can stand it no more.  This year, I learned how to ask God Himself for such. And with or without my willing arms, HE comes to me, speaks tenderly to me, holds me close until I can stand no more…

In the last year the Holy Spirit has often brought Dana to mind. This last week she came to my spirit again and again. So I looked her up and everything came back clearer than ever.  So I could be reminded… and tell you.

And, oh…you have to see the videos…to look at Dana’s life…it’s fruit…it’s richness…its influence…the healing and wholeness it brings to so many… You are going to see why I so admire and love these people…I was once young with. See why I tear up when I think of them and all they have become in Christ to this world. These are your examples…and mine.

http://movinginthespirit.org/discover/watch-us-tell-our-true-stories.htm

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