Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Walking Wounded

In her book, The Last Best Cure, Donna Jackson Nakazawa quotes a physician speaking at a women’s health conference:

Walk into any of our waiting rooms and it’s full of women in the thirties, forties and fifties. The American woman in her prime is our prime patient; she is the walking wounded of our day.

The quote has been haunting me for months now.

The American woman.

In her prime.

The walking wounded.

Of our day.

Who would have guessed?

Who would have dreamed of such a thing?

The woman who ‘has it all’...

.... her life 'a-dream-come-true' by most standards..

… in the best years of her life…

… living in one of the most affluent - 'the land of promise' - countries in the world…

This woman is a walking wounded of our day.

The irony so severe it would be easy to dismiss as implausible.

On the day when women are recognized and celebrated all around the world,  I marvel at the waiting room statistics that defies logic.

How did we manage to get so fooled?

What happened socially and culturally to perpetrate such tragedy? What is going on inside the American woman to send her on such trajectory of self-destruction?

Every day I am surrounded by ‘American women’ - capable, competent, strong, tirelessly involved  in political, religious, academic arena. 
Always willing to step up to the plate. 

Always there to help and serve.  

Truly impressive.

We applaud them.

We admire them.

Some of us even envy them!

And then, seemingly out of blue…

In her prime…

… the wounds she’s been covering up for so long, now a diagnosis.

Her superhero costume exchange for the hospital gown.

The weight of the whole world she’s been carrying for much too long, pushes her over her weight limit.

The American woman in her prime - the walking wounded of our day...

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Monday, February 06, 2017

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Overtime

We started getting peppered with, ‘Are we at the point of no-return yet?’  during the first half of the game last night.

It’s still too early to tell…

One touchdown after another…prospects looked pretty bleak.

What about now? Are we now at the point of no return?

Wanting to know the end before the actual ending runs in our family.

We fended off the question with the sagely wisdom of,

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, scooping the home-made guacamole with spicy nacho Doritos, but I admit I had my doubts.

Yes, come backs happen. 

But so do the decimations. 

We’ve seen a few of both with our own eyes and there was no telling what would happen with this game. Will there be an upset? Or, depending on the side you root for, a steady humiliation that ends in defeat or smooth sailing that ends in well-deserved victory?

By the time the half-time show rolled around, I thought Lady Gaga was going to be the talk of the Super bowl 2017.  And the cool drones.

We sent our kids to bed shortly after the second half started, both of them firmly convinced that the outcome had already been decided. That there was not much game left worthy of staying up to watch.

The rest is history.  In fact, a lot of history’s first were made last night. Not being a football buff, I can only name one or two.

The one that struck me the most was the first Super Bowl ever that had gone into overtime.

Sometimes life feels like that. We feel that we've reached 'the point of no return', and that the winners and the losers have already been decided before the end of the first half. Not much game left worthy to stick around for.  

Our best and highest hope is that there will be plenty of tasty snacks to keep us munching away until bedtime.

But, life has a way of upsetting our bowl, of serving us surprises. 

Sometimes (in fact, more often than in Super Bowl)  it actually extends into overtime! 

The clock is up, but the game is not over.

It’s the final stretch, the final seconds that decide. Those can change everything.

This is good news, really good news for the apparent losers.

There is hope!

This is also an unnerving piece of additional information for those of us who think we've already got the victory in our back pocket.

I suppose, that’s what makes life interesting to the very end. And how the history is made along the way.

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Lost and Found

This week, on Monday, I lost a hat.

On Tuesday, I lost a bike lock and another hat.

On Wednesday, which is today, I managed to lose my credit card.

I am not joking.

Some may argue,  perhaps justifiably so, that I am losing my mind.

The good news is…

On Monday, which happened to be the coldest day of the year so far, after backtracking a mile and a half on my bike, adding three extra miles to my 8-mile itinerary, I found my lost hat.

On Tuesday, the second coldest day of the year, I found the ‘other hat’ which blew off my head into a busy street, just few hundred yards behind me.  It was ran over by several rushing cars before I was able to rescue it. Except for a few scuff marks, no permanent damage. 

As for the bike lock, I had to ride all the way back home looking for it. I admit, there was some negotiation going on inside my head between me and God - being omniscient, clearly He knew exactly where the lock was.  I scoured every inch of the 4-mile path but didn't see it anywhere. Gravely disappointed and a bit miffed, I made it to our driveway. The disappointment and the miff turned into happiness the moment I saw the lock, basking in the cool winter sun, in the same place where it fell off the bike right before I left home.

Today, while standing in the checkout line at Wal-mart, I discovered that my credit card wasn’t where it should be inside my wallet. I froze in place, even though the weather outside was rather warm. Then, I mentally backtracked my steps all the way to Ross department store where earlier in the day, I used it in the process of returning an item I'd purchased almost a month ago.

I clearly remembered forgetting to remove my card out of the credit card machine.

To drive back to Ross, I spent twice as much gas than the total cost of the returned item - not to mention the time and the stress! All this in 'hope against hope' that the card would be in the possession of an honest Ross’ employee rather than some lucky crook who could be thanking God this very moment for His generous provision of a free $10,000 credit limit at my expense.

The Loss Prevention person greeted me warmly, and after I explained why I was there again, he  asked me for my name, walked over to the Customer Service desk, verified the name on the card and handed it to me.

To describe what I felt at that moment as 'relief' would be the understatement of the year.

Every day this week, I’ve spend extra time, energy and money to retrieve my lost belongings. Even though their monetary value was negligible, I went through all the trouble, in the cold weather, riding against the wind on a bicycle, looking for them until I found them. 

Crazy, isn't it?

Then it struck me.

If these lost objects made of wool, metal and plastic were valuable enough to me to go through all the trouble of finding them, how much more are we - body, soul and spirit - worth God's 'trouble' so we can be found?

It’s so easy to get lost, to feel lost - a small, insignificant person in a large, big-issues world of refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, Presidential orders, Supreme Court appointees. 

A tiny, disposable, replaceable cog in a greater machine with the mission to save the world...

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others more important, more successful, more 'this' or 'that' than us and doubt whether anyone notices... whether anyone cares...

... that we are lonely...
... that we feel forgotten...

... that we are drifting away like a wind-blown hat off somebody’s head...

Perhaps all this is so easy because it is so hard to really believe that we are worth the bother...

...worth the effort...

 - by God and by man -

... that it takes to be found again. 

If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? Romans 8:32

Monday, January 23, 2017

Chain Reaction

It really isn’t as uncommon as one may think, this still-as-a-glassy-surface-of-a-lake-on-the-outside-but-churning-like-a-magma-chamber within.  

Smiling on the outside, broken within.

Calm on the outside, raging within.

Poised on the outside, ridden with questions and emotions within.

Eventually, the veneer cracks, volcano explodes or we simply get exhausted, get desperately weary of wearing a mask, and the inside seeps out.

The inside belches out and usually we are the ones most surprised of all by what we hear and see.

We are the ones most shocked by the discovery of how woefully little we know and understand ourselves…

This fresh awareness of the discrepancy, even contradiction between the appearance and the substance, the 'inside' and the 'outside' which dawned on me in the linear accelerator room triggered an interesting chain reaction (yes, pun intended!)

By its sharp contrast it reminded me of the words I've been chewing on since Christmas.... the words which suddenly struck me as incredibly radical and insanely rare:

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood... 

... Like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out

True from start to finish.     John 1:14


Generous on the outside, but kind of stingy within;


True when he started but turned out false at the end.

With Jesus, it’s what you see is what you get.

Generous through and through. True at the beginning and all the way to the finish line. 

The way he talks, the way he lives in every detail, all the time!

No faking it. No masks.  No need to impress or manipulate. 

No overpromising and under-delivering.

No hidden agendas or ulterior motives. 

No fears and insecurities, and buckling under pressure. 

No packaging falsehood as 'alternate facts'.

Yes is yes and no is no.

How deliciously refreshing!

How delightfully simple!

How absolutely, totally, completely humanly impossible…

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Consternation

With half of the country cheering and the other half booing on this Inauguration Day, with friends and family equally agitated on both sides of the great divide, something completely different occupies my mind today.

It’s something totally unrelated, something quite personal and, in the large scheme of things minor, almost insignificant  relative to the most controversial, most divisive elections we've had the privilege to witness in the history of the United States.

I even hesitate to bother writing about it.  But, the bur is real, and write I must, if for nothing else than to scratch where it itches me the most...

Shay and Jenny were my technicians today. I've just met them, so I can’t say much about either of them, other than that for about forty-five minutes, as a part of their normal, day-to-day job, they’ve jostled me around  on the top of the table inside the linear accelerator room like a human Raggedy Ann doll. They squeezed and bunched up my skin and arranged my bones in the most awkward, unnatural positions ensuring that everything was just so.

In response, I instinctively kept realigning my neck and my limbs, looking for a more comfortable placement.

We’ll do all the work, they try hard to be patient with me, but, you HAVE TO be still. You can’t move. You must remain still.

I don't know whether they are authorized to speak on God's behalf or not, but they use the kind of voice as if this is a matter of life and death, or at least serious injury.

I take a deep breath but keep the, Easier said than done, tucked inside the inaudible under.

My mind orders my rebellious body, STOP fidgeting. Just BE still.

My body backfires like a grumpy toddler, I can't 'just be still'! I am hurting. This is painful. It’s taking too long. I am tired and my nose is itching.

I say out loud, on behalf of my nose,

My nose is itching.

Jenny leans over and scratches my nose with the corner of the cotton blanket.

Thank you, says my nose, that feels much better.

I take another breath and find I am able to relax a bit. I close my eyes, embracing the moment of rest, unwanted as it may be. 

I lay so still I feel Earth’s rotation under my back. My body, indeed, is perfectly still, I realize, but inside, my soul is in uproar. 

This is so interesting, I observe, How’s it possible for a body to be so perfectly still but on the inside a storm is raging on…? 

...for the exterior to be as calm as a glassy surface of a lake, while the depths are churning like a magma chamber?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Speechless Christmas

It’s really quite unlike me.  Words have always come easy to this a mile-a-minute girl. Some might say, Too easy.

As far as I can remember, I could talk.  Very quickly writing followed all that talking.

Most of my life, I’ve been expressing myself through words.

Spoken words.

Written words.

But this year… this year that changed.

I’ve been struggling to put into words the thoughts and emotions of this year’s Christmas season like never before.

It’s not that I stopped thinking and feeling – quite to the contrary!

It’s just that I continually find myself laboring over finding the right words to clothe those squirmy thoughts, those wiggly feelings sloshing around my soul. I browse through my internal dictionary and thesaurus, pick a word, maul it over, only to discard it as woefully insufficient.

There is a mile-high garbage pile of words resting in the cluttered corners of my mind.

How do you condense life into a mere string of syllables? How do you confine what moves and breathes, sighs, laughs and weeps into motionless scribbles, quick sound-bites and 140 character tweets?

I am frustrated and humbled by the process.  I feel out of control and vulnerable. 

I feel like my tongue is glued to the roof of my mouth and my pen has dried up.

I am through with you words!, I want to say. I am done with you and your impotent, insufficient ways! From now on, I am a gardener!

Then a thought catches me by surprise,

Maybe there is something to this… perhaps that’s what Christmas, sort of, is … might be… could be... all about…

The Word – The Word! -  that spoke world into existence, the Word who talked to Moses and children of Israel, poured his heart out to prophets and kings… The Word who spoke and was ignored, dismissed, misunderstood, thwarted… the Word who fell silent for 400 years…

The Word finally said,  

Enough is enough. I am done with mere words. I am going all out here… I am going… human! I am going naked! Male child… A boy… No more mere words… no more empty talk… I am going out on a limb here… No shortcuts… no shorthand…. From start to finish, with My people… from the beginning to the end… their God. In their joy. In their sorrow. Their joy, my joy. My joy their joy. Their sorrow my sorrow. My sorrow their sorrow…

And so it begun. God-Man, wordless, speechless babe cradling inside its soft flesh the living breathing Word.

 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.
John 1:14

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Shortest Distance the Longest Journey

Bethlehem lays six miles south of Jerusalem. Six miles isn’t really that far. It’s within reasonable walking distance, a day trip. But some of us find it incredibly hard to turn away from Jerusalem’s thrills – exhausting as they can be - away from the endless supply of adrenaline rush we spiritual junkies crave so much.

Most of us don’t do it willingly.

Most of us rarely choose this path.

More often than not, we are thrown on it.  Our Jerusalem party is interrupted by a phone call, a tap on the shoulder…

… and we set out on what feels like the most treacherous voyage. 

The darkest night. 

The loneliest place on Earth. 

All one can do is put one foot in front of the other and the next… again and again… 

Some call this journey the longest, 18 inch journey that leads from head to heart. Some of us take years, decades, perhaps even a lifetime to walk this path. 

Then we stumble upon (or perhaps are guided to?) an intersection - a strange juncture where songs of angels are mixed with bleating, mooing and the smell of farm animals, and of shepherds who, of course, also smell like animals. It is likely that we don’t even realize we are drawing near… near the place where Hope is wrapped in the soft baby skin, and the Word is silent in the makeshift bed of hay…

…the embodiment of unsparing grace at the sight of which angels fall prostrate…

… the unfailing love made human, in whose arms both children of Jerusalem and children of Bethlehem can find rest for their weary souls at last.

And with fresh eyes we see that our journey has only begun.