Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Whole Heart - A Christmas Muse

I think that I became aware that something is missing about the same time that I found out that Santa was not real. All of a sudden my world was shaken. I don't think it was the myth's fault I just think it was the awareness that is suddenly granted about that age of distinguishing fantasy from reality, of knowing ourselves and becoming aware of our own hearts.

Along with that realization comes the potential for realizing something about our human condition. Our heart is not whole. There is SOMETHING missing. At first, it presents itself as just an unnamed uneasiness. We start to reach out for that next birthday, Christmas, TV special or a promise made to us by the adults to do something fun. Later it becomes the promise of potential fulfillment that an education offers us, the job that will allow us meaning in our life or the alluring promise offered in the next kiss, date or the ultimate partnering with another.

But, as we begin to find out on that day where Santa becomes a story in a book and something is shattered in our sweet childhood world, a whole heart is a difficult thing to obtain. Just when you hold that new toy and it breaks, just as you plan that outing with your dad and he has to work or just when the sparkle has begun to fade on the new engagement ring with the first real disappointment that all relationships bring you begin to realize that - yet again you are not whole.

I think Christians have it worse in some ways. We were promised that Jesus would satisfy every desire. Wholeness was to be found in Him. "Come to Jesus and he will satisfy every desire." Be at the next revival and your longings will be met. God will completely fill the void in our lives, is what is proffered by many pulpits in our country. But anyone who is completely honest with themselves will whisper that the ultimate Christian life did not fill the void either.

The thing that makes this so maddening is that all of us have experienced those moments. Moments where it did seem possible. Moments where the stars aligned and we smelled the vague fragrance of wholeness. Moments of rapture, being, knowing and being at peace. It happened unexpectedly as we gazed that the stars that one night, as we prayed and felt a presence with us, as we looked upon our first born in the hospital that day or as we sat contentedly with a loved one, a glass of wine and a sunset over the ocean. Those moments did (and do) happen but if we even try to grasp them they disappear like champagne bubbles in our glass. We just cannot keep them in our hearts long enough to understand how to corral them even for a day.

So what do we do? Some of us become destructive in our pursuit for wholeness. We simply stuff our hearts full of anything that presents itself. We pacify, medicate, distract or try to micromanage our way to happiness. We make expectations of ourselves and others around us so high that we are impossible to live with. We hurt our bodies, our souls and our spirits with our pursuits. We destroy our friendships and the relationships with our families as we demand that they fill the hole that seems to just grow larger and larger. We come to the end of our lives and wonder what has become of that simple love of life that we had as a child.

I realized this again as I looked toward our time as a family together this Christmas day. I realized ahead of time that being together, the laughter and joy that will ensue, the gifts, the food, the wine....all will not totally satisfy my heart.

I propose that it is only as I become at peace with my un-whole heart that I can even start to experience true joy. As a Christian I propose that Jesus came into this world to walk with me in my desires, hopes and dreams. He did not promise to eradicate them. He came to earth so many years ago so he could also live in a vessel with the same un-whole-ness. He knows that I am made of dust because he, too, was made of dust once.

So this day I rejoice at being human. I propose to love my family and friends - just as they are. I propose to love my God for stooping low to understand me. And I look forward to those tiny moments where, just for a second in space and time, I feel whole and wonder if that is really what heaven will be like.

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Global Guilt

Does anyone else suffer from Global Guilt?

I realized I did through a couple of circumstances. I was reading a book that a friend gave me, (Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh) when I came across a passage that talked about how we deal with living in the age where we have so much information about our world. (And she lived in a world before the internet!!) She says,

"But just how far can we implement this planetal awareness? We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information spread out in pulic print; and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds. The interrelateness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather — for I beleive the heart is infinite — modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.

I realized, in reading that passage that I am overwhelmed by how to do good in a world that is so very big and hurting.

Add that to the guilt that we as Christians, are supposed to be saving the world.

For 20 years I belonged to a church that, in my opinion, with great grandiosity defined their role in the earth as having great impact. We, by just belonging and participating, were responsible for keeping our city safer from the demonic, bringing God's kingdom into whatever place our foot fell, bringing righteousness to whatever country we sent our monies or our leaders to and so on and so on. Belonging to that church assuaged my global guilt because I could say, "Look at all the good we are doing."

Stepping out of that culture for 3 years I have struggled again with how to do good. What is my role as I receive information about the children sold into slavery in Cambodia, the starving mommas in Africa, the children on the streets in Romania or the babies with AIDS that need a family? (And that was all in one weeks worth of reading!) Some information even comes with it's own pile of guilt to help you along. "How can you live in your homes with warm heat when you know children are dying of malaria because they have no nets?" "How can you prepare for your retirement when the people of Haiti are desolate?" Not to mention the training up disciples and spreading the gospel!!

I was asking Marshall about this the other day as we were driving to meet up with some dear friends in Pittsburgh. We were going to visit them but to also visit their little church. Marsh and I talked about what Jesus had said about the poor. It was fascinating to talk over different passages where the poor are discussed. We talked about not only that, but how very different our worlds are from the world Jesus spoke to. There, the poor were people that actually crossed your path. You knew the mom down the street that needed help or the poor by the gate that were there every day as your passed. We talked about how that was so different without the global knowledge that we have now.

Anyway, that was the topic of conversation in the car. I was so tired of carrying around this burden of Guilt that weighed me down with every click of the internet or every purchase I made, whether it was simply milk for the household or a new computer for the business or, heavens take note - a New TV for the boys!!

Now onto the church meeting. (As an aside - I had told God that I DID NOT want him to speak to us about anything in this meeting. I told him that I did not want anyone to prophesy over us or anything like that. I want him to speak to me in my own home and not have to depend on Him to be at any sort of Gathering that I HAVE to attend to hear him. - Just my issues :)

We walk into this old, stately church building. Half of it has been made into the kitchen and eating area as they get together each week on a Saturday night for a rotating schedule of worship, prayer, teaching from any of the members and just being together and then a big meal that each of them donate for everyone on their week. It truly seemed a lovely way to "meet." The other half is the old sanctuary that has been stripped of everything but a few chairs and an overhead projector. As we entered they were singing. I was tense as it is still a trigger point for me to walk into a charismatic service. I went right away to sit in a chair with my friends and bunker down to see what would happen. It was then that I looked up to the banner on the wall across from my chair and began to weep.

Now we all are used to banners on church walls. "Jesus is Lord" "Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving" "Light of the World" and "The Harvest is White" kind of Banners graced many of our old churches.

Not here! Across from me was the answer to my question of the year. It was a verse from Nehemiah 8:10. And in banner form that reached from the top of a 20 foot ceiling to the floor I stared at this verse.

(Neh 8:10 KJV) Then he said unto them, Go your way,
eat the fat, and drink the sweet,
and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared:
for this day is holy unto our Lord:
neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

I looked up the passage to see what was going on in the text that Nehemiah would say such a thing. The Israelites had just found the books of the Law and the leaders had read them to the gathered people. They were in deep sorrow and grieving because they had never heard the words and so were in deep Guilt of where they had not done what was required. To this guilt Nehemiah was speaking.

His words boomed at me from centuries from off that church wall. Go my way. Do what I do. My way is not evil. Eat the fat and drink the sweet. Partake of the good of life - in fact the fat and sweet are the best portions of the feast. Send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared. I am to share, but the important word to me was "portions." Not the whole thing. Not 9/10ths But a portion. A "portion" is not measurable by anyone as to if I am doing enough. I love the word portion. It is up to me and what I feel God is saying. This was truly liberating. Don't be sorry or in another translation, do not grieve. The Joy of the Lord is your strength. This life is to be lived in joy not in guilt. And this was from the OLD TESTAMENT!! How much more as we live in the new!

I know I asked God not to speak to me there that day. I guess he didn't though. Nehemiah did. But it was just what I needed to hear.