Sometimes I don’t know what to write, just like sometimes I don’t know what to say. Somethings are too deep and too hard to voice.
I’ve been in those places many times. I don’t know why, but I know that life is messy and confusing and painful.
Christ is the only constant. He doesn’t shift and sway with the wind. He is faithful. True. Trustworthy. Even when we are broken, He mends. He holds us close to himself. His character is the character of God. He was and ever has been. It’s important for me to remember that when I’m looking at the Psalms—when I’m looking at the poems of King David—I want to be cognizant of the truth: God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. From the beginning they were in this together.
Psalm 34. A beautiful psalm by King David. A psalm for pain and fear and confusion and uncertainty.
I’ve marked up that psalm—I have dates etched into the pages representing times I prayed using that particular verse. Sometimes I read God’s Word and I feel His Spirit talking to me, urging me onward, deeper.
A truth: when you or someone you love is suffering— suffering as in 1 Peter 4:12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” In the original Greek it means “burning ordeal.”— suffering as in a “burning ordeal” that seemingly has no answer and you or your loved one has absolutely no control over the event, words seem trivial and inadequate.
Lift up your head. Help is on the way. And He won’t pass you by. . .
Psalm 34 again. These words sung to the Lord by King David after facing possible death, show the character of God. Of Jesus. Here is a link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2034&version=NIV *Please note that in the link, the “poem” or psalm is described as an acrostic poem using the letters of the Hebrew alphabet! Cool.
Here’s what I do when I really need to see God’s/Jesus’s character: I dissect the verses and find the descriptions. It’s easy because of the way the Psalms are written. When I dissected these verses in Psalms 34, I found this:
God delivers (3x’s)
God hears (2x’s)
God is good
He is close
I wrote that list in the pages of my journal to meditate upon and grapple with. When He seems far, His Word says He is close. When I feel overwhelmed and frightened, He surrounds. When I cry out “Why?”, He hears. There is comfort. There is peace. There is rest.
Lift up your head.
For my sister and her family. May God’s closeness surround and embrace you.
Amen. Please watch and listen to Audrey Assad sing, “Breaking Me”–worship.
I have been doing quite a bit of reading lately. Some fiction (Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane–Oh my goodness. Such beauty). Some Bible. Some more fiction (currently Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman). I have grown very picky about fiction. It has to be more than a story. It needs to vibrate with beauty even in the violence. Cormac McCarthy does this well. I was tutoring a girl last week and we were reading a John Updike poem, “Ex-Basketball Player.” At the end of the second or third stanza there was a simple simile that stayed with me because of its beauty: “His hands were like wild birds.” I had to read it over and over again and just let it seep in like poetry does sometimes. Of course, my student thought I was nuts, but she agreed it was lovely.
A Non Sequitur (I tend to digress…)
I feel a bit guilty for not updating Goodreads. Does anyone else feel badly about not updating their “progress” on Goodreads? I neglect to enter the books I pick up and put down and pick up again later. Like Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I am pretty sure this is the book that will help me move from short stories to novels. Right now, I am a short story writer. One major conflict. A few characters. Lovely details. Climax and a quick resolution. Done. Freytag’s Pyramid at work. I’m studying the short stories of the magnificent Barbara Kingsolver. She drives me nuts. Just one sentence from Homeland’s story, “Blueprints,” and I am dashed and tortured by insecurity. “As she pads around the cabin in wool socks and skirt and down vest, Lydia develops a bizarre fantasy that they are part of some severe religious order gone into mourning, observing the silence of monks.” One sentence.
–excuse me–need to switch laundry to dryer. Life. And more life. I had to make the bed. The bathroom and shower needed attention. Which begs the question: how does something you jump in to get clean, get so dirty? If I were a gardener or a farmer or painter, I could see how there might be some significant dirt in the shower. But I am not. I am a tutor. A former public high school English teacher. But I think I would like to be a farmer except for the non-stop work. Sometimes the dream is infinitely more appealing than the reality. My father grew up on a farm. I have heard stories all my life. It is a really hard, dirty, hot job. So maybe raising alpacas in the foothills of the Rockies? How come the Pioneer Woman ( http://thepioneerwoman.com) makes it look so easy? Drat her and her French Silk Pie.
I digress again…the dryer is dinging so time to unload…
I had to speak to the dryer. When it starts dinging to tell me the clothes are dry and ready to be retrieved and folded, I tell it that “I am coming…I hear you…” as if to placate the machine so it won’t spew lint everywhere if I don’t respond to the dinging! My dryer is a dictator. Or Dr. Pavlov and I am the drooling, salivating beast.
Meditation Notes: now to the eternal stuff
I choose mornings for Bible reading since I do not have to be at the tutoring center until 9. I can start at 6-ish with my coffee and relax a bit. On my door desk (see previous blogs) I have a journal, my NIV Bible, the Phillip’s translation of the New Testament, the ESV Bible, my very worn copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers translated into modern language by James Reimann. (This devotional guide is marked-up from years of revelations. Again and again, it pushes me to scripture.) I treat my journal like it is a conversation with God and I begin with prayer requests. I get pretty intense and focused on these. That’s all I’ll say. My Abba knows.
I move on to Chambers and see what he says for the day. Today’s devotional was based on Luke 9:57. The cost of following Jesus. No excuses. My notes say “I must be solely guided by my relationship with Christ.” And “My first loyalty is to Jesus.”
Then on to Matthew. I’ve been reading through Matthew as a study, looking at his voice as a writer, what he did differently than Mark, Luke and John. How the Holy Spirit used Matthew’s perspective as a former tax collector to present the life and words and works of his Rabbi and savior. I have also been examining just the words of Jesus–not out of context–but what he is saying in his parables. It has taken me months and months to reach Matthew 21, but it has changed me. Don’t get me wrong here…I’m still the flawed, hyper-sensitive, somewhat agoraphobic, introspective, sometimes gloomy 55-year-old woman I’ve always been, but I’ve learned some things. I’m still learning. I figure it will take a lifetime to learn His Word.
I type little “meditation notes” from my readings pretty often–specially if something hits me right in the gut and I want to ignore it and run away to my safe and selfish little cave. They help me remember what God taught me. Here’s one from this week. It started with a verse study that led to commentary on another verse in the ESV Bible. Clear as mud, right?
“From Matthew 20:16 commentary from ESV Bible”
A disciple of Jesus should not measure her worth by comparing it with the accomplishments of others, but should focus on serving from a heart of gratitude in response to God’s grace. (I added “her” because I get tired of “him”)
Really spoke to me and continues to. If you have a meditation note you’d like to share, please do. Now it’s time for my mid-morning snack. I can have raw nuts. I’d rather have ginger snaps. Life is hard; God is good (and so are ginger snaps!)
Some things I will do in the evenings and weekends now that grading paragraphs and essays and tweaking lesson plans belong to others younger or more able than I.
Read and study my Bible. I love to write Bible studies. I have time, as long as I stay off of social media!
Spend more time with family! Particularly my precious grandson, Sawyer Leo.
Read the classics I never taught but always wanted to read. Example: The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky; everything by Henry James and Edith Wharton; Persuasion by Jane Austen; the complete poems of T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and others too numerous to list; Bleak House by Charles Dickens (started and never finished due to Masterpiece Theatre’s incredible series); the stack of non-fiction and personal narratives I’ve been hoarding like Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (perfect last name for a wanderer); re-read Winnie the Pooh and complete Alice in Wonderland;
Write. Write. Write. And drink french press coffee! Blogging forces me to stay in tune to the muses.Maybe I will become a regular at Double Shots???
Ride my bike as soon as I am able (after healing from neck surgery). Walking is fine and dandy, but biking equals freedom and soothes my wanderlust.
Learn Russian history outside of Dostoevsky and Chekhov and Pasternak. Russian Revolution for Dummies?
Cook. I used to love to bake and create new recipes. The Pioneer Woman inspired me again.
Knit. Sew. Craft. Give me a can of spray paint and watch me go. I’m dangerous.
Make time for friends outside of teaching. I’ve discovered I don’t make friends well. I don’t trust well. I’m actually very shy about assuming a relationship is there and then realizing it’s not. Plus, I’m a bit of a hermit. I have to force myself to do things most of the time.
Finally–date nights with the hubster who has been an English teacher widower for too long. Steve, thank you for your patience.