Friday, February 20, 2015

And for Lent I give up...

Call it coincidence, call it providence, but just as I was reflecting on what I could/should/would-like-to give up for Lent – on the morning of Ash Wednesday – I lose my absolutely all-time favorite lime-green iPod ear-buds.

I don’t find this particularly amusing, because I want to have a definite say in what I give up for Lent. I don’t want things just taken away from me without my explicit consent. I feel like I am being picked on for trying to do a very nice thing and everybody knows that’s just not nice.

Too discombobulated to do anything else, I re-trace my path not once by twice, fine-combing my way through the neighborhoods looking for the lost ear-buds as if they were my hearing aid. The weather is wonderful and I am provided ample time to grouse and puzzle over why God who owns everything might be needing my lime-green ear-buds.  As I meditate on all of this and more, I remember various lost articles mentioned in God’s Word.

I notice that all these have a big, blow-out happily-ever-after party at the end, which makes me wonder if I might be unconsciously trying to rig the Scriptures in my favor.

Not that any one of us would ever dream of doing anything as heinous as that.

I share the bad news with our crossing guard who, kind and thoughtful as he may be, simply doesn’t understand why you can’t just go to Wal-Mart and buy a new pair.  A tardy-for-school teen, standing next to him waiting to cross the street overhears my sob-story. He seems to get a kick out of my plight (a tardy slip waiting for him suddenly doesn’t feel like the end of the world).  He is truly empathetic, though, and suggests that I get Beats wireless as a replacement.  

Clearly he is too young or his parents are too rich to comprehend that if I can’t be trusted with a $20 pair ear-buds who in their right mind would risk $200 Beats with me?!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Place of Love Revolution

The message of love is clear.  Every citizen of the country whose native language is love understands this message without a need for an interpreter.

But in the process of making it public on the sandy beach on this side of the ocean, some rules got broken.  Spelling mistakes were made.

For, you see, when you live on the delicate intersection of two such vastly different worlds, trying to bring them together, trying to spell out with your life this strange bilingual identity, you are bound to make mistakes. You are bound to mix things up.

I sense the Editor and the Critic on the inside, squirming a little. They can’t help themselves, they are so well trained in spotting the mistakes and red-penning the mix-ups.

Strangely this time, perhaps for the first time ever, they appear disarmed, stripped off their red pen and correction fluid, taken in by something much greater than immaculate sentence structure, purist grammar and perfectly followed syntax rules. 

She grins for she knows that no small accomplishment has been achieved here, then trots off, hopping from cloud to cloud, sprawled endlessly along the beach.  I eventually catch up, take her by the hand and we walk back together.  It’s getting late but I have to see the epic message just one more time.

What I discover when I go for that one last look takes me completely by surprise. 

When she started spelling her heart out, hers were the only broken-shell-carved words marking the pristine blank page of the sand.

But now, everywhere I look, all around me, there are countless new messages of love, scribbled in the sand by strangers, turning this glistening heaven-on-earth beach into a giant love letter!

I chuckle, because I know she has no idea that she started a love revolution. 

I hesitate, wondering if I should point it out, draw her attention to it, but something stops me. 

It's better to leave it this way.

It will be our little secret. 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  I John 4:7-8

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Place of Vulnerability

She would rather be caught dead than admit that she is anywhere close to being like her mother. She proudly carries her father's resemblance everywhere she goes. His brilliant mind.  His perfectionism. His methodical attention to details. 

She is also independent. Adventurous. Carving her own way, making her own mark on this earth. She is frail and strong, cautious and brave.

She insists she is not a writer.

Her own essays begrudgingly submitted to the Language Arts teacher laugh in her face.

If she can’t find a pen a stick will do. If there is no stick, she’ll use a broken shell.

And the entire beach becomes her very own blank page.

One by one, she writes out the letters.  So focused.  So intent.

The birds scoop over her head, but she is undistracted by them.

I watch her curved back, as she moves sideways and backwards, stringing letters like beads on a necklace.

When she is done, she straightens up, turns around and looks at me beaming.

Her unfurled scroll now reveals a message for all to see although I might be the only one on this planet who really understands. 

She grew up on a delicate intersection of the worlds where her mother tongue is not her first language.  She is fluent in the language of the country where she is born and where she lives. But she knows that there is another country she also belongs to, her mother belongs to… where another language is spoken. The language she understands very well but she is still learning to speak, just learning to write. 

Today, for some inexplicable reason, she decides to take a leap, she chooses to take a huge risk of expressing herself, of exposing herself.

She must consider this risk worth taking, because she wants her mom to know… perhaps she wants the whole world - the heaven and the earth - to know… that the language of that country is the language of love.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Place of Encouragement

These heaven-above-heaven-below, walking-on-clouds endless shallows are so mesmerizing, so inviting, so beautiful and safe and welcoming, my soul suddenly pops out, all cramped and wrinkled, from the confinement of its button-hole. 

It wants to park and live right here, sprawled out unashamed on this endless beach. 


Not a single argument comes to my mind to argue against the fantastic idea.

Mom! MOM!!  The Mom-Hat lands on my head bringing me back to earth.

What?  WHAT??? I always think that M-O-M is a code word for some kind of dire emergency, not unlike the Morse S-O-S. What happened?? I yell without even trying. 

Nothing. Everything is fine. Look, there is a snowman!

I look up, and sure enough, there is a snowman, hat, 'broom', baseball bat and all, perched on the beach ahead of us.  

It most certainly is the ugliest Snowman I’ve ever seen, but somehow that doesn’t matter, because as we approach to inspect it, we are surrounded by a joyful crowd of thawed-out Canadians, who are so pleased that somebody – anybody – showed interest in their masterpiece. 

They laugh and point out all its special features as I take pictures. Then, we give them thumbs up and they wave enthusiastically as we continue on our way.  Their happiness is quite contagious and  trails behind us long after we can’t see either them or their creation.

In the wake of their joy a thought crosses my mind… 

...Sometimes, it might be as important or, perhaps, even more important to encourage other artists in their creative attempts, no matter how quirky, small and seemingly insignificant they may appear, than building up and showcasing your own perfect snowman. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Place of Reflection

I am always keenly aware that the ocean has depths. Those who know the ocean have deep respect for its depths. Some people may call it fear, but I think that reverence is a better word. 

The depths can be both exhilarating and terrifying. I discovered that even when my feet can't reach the bottom, and I am in way over my head, the ocean somehow never fails to support my full weight. And it does the same thing for the guy next to me, three times my size!

I am not the type who lingers long in the shallows. If I go to the ocean, I mean business. I don’t mess around with petty stuff.  Within minutes, I am off into the deep end.

But, today, the little hand guides me along the shallows, tiptoeing on the edge of the glistening robe, chasing lazy birds who have no fear and no end to their greedy appetite. I watch her skipping over the sea of glass sprawled endlessly in front of us.

Wow, I never realized how BIG the shallow end is! A thought strikes me.  It looks like a giant… mirror!

Indeed it does. The water is barely covering a large shoulder of the sandy beach, turning the entire thing into an enormous mirror – reflecting the wispy and the puffy clouds, the million shades of blue sky with perfect veracity.

I look behind me, and it's there too - sprawled endlessly behind me as well. 

I've been walking on the clouds and I didn't even know it! 

My eyes are glued to the sight, I can’t peel them away even if I wanted to… There is unspeakable glory and unspeakable sadness in this strange union on the edge of the ocean... this unlikely marriage of heaven above and the earth below.

The familiar words bubble up... a promise and a taunt, a prayer and a longing... 

Your will be done...on earth as it is in heaven…

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Place of Prayer

Funny thing, this answer-to-prayer business.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize we prayed. 

To us, it was just… a sigh. That deep waiting-to-exhale out-breath that escapes our lungs apart, even against our will.  

What was THAT all about?!?!!

Oh, nothing… it’s just a… sigh.

Oh! O.K. Glad you are fine. And we are both greatly relieved that the sigh was a nothing and not a something that we may need to face or talk about.

Or, it might be a tear. A single tear that rolls down the cheek, we surreptitiously wipe away before anybody else notices.

Or, we feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and confusion we can’t make sense of any of it, much less put into words. 

Or, like a drowning man, we shoot out a plain old yelp for help, in desperate hope against all hope that it will somehow, somewhere pierce the impenetrable darkness of the sky.

There are many languages in this world, but the language of prayer is by far the most fascinating, the most diverse, and truly, the most unifying of all.

Sometimes, we forget we even asked.

Sometimes we forget what we asked.

I do both.   A lot!

Sometimes the answer comes, but we are so set on how we expect the answer should come that we miss, or almost miss it.

Because it comes in such…how shall I put it?... gentle and... unassuming way.

But, then, there is this imperceptible pat on your back. Like a quiet knock on the soul's door.

And you look up, and look again, and there it is! You see it, really see it, as if for the first time.

I admit I almost missed it.  There was such a ruckus, such disorder inside the courtroom – the Editor, the PR Manager, the Facebook Prosecutor, the Defense Attorney, the Judge - all insisting on the value of their own particular point of view – that I almost didn’t hear the little voice, and I almost didn’t feel the tiny hand inside the palm of mine. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Today, I want to build a Snowman.  I announce to the ocean. Well, a Sandman would be more accurate,  I immediately correct myself.  It’s really the Editor speaking. Accuracy is very important to the Editor.  Inaccurate sloppy language is an indication of inaccurate sloppy thinking.  And inaccurate sloppy thinking coupled with inaccurate sloppy language leads to inaccurate sloppy living. Needless to say, the Editor can’t stand sloppiness however you look at it.  It’s one of the ten deadly sins in his meticulously kept little red book.

Then, for some reason, I proceed with the explanation, as if the ocean needs me to explain everything, or anything at all, for that matter.

You know, it’s winter. It’s a very appropriate seasonal activity.  

Now it’s the PR Manager’s turn. The PR Manager is intensely concerned with what is appropriate and suitable with a discreet emphasis, ‘just a touch’, she would say, ‘of seasonal’. She is a tireless vigilante ensuring we never cross the invisible ever-shifting lines of ‘proper’.  My PR Manager has the most difficult job because she always wants to tame my naturally color-outside-the-lines, fiercely disheveled, messy messy life.  But she is also a very smart lady and knows how to play me and my Cool-Me persona.

This would be soooo cool. I could take a picture of it once I am done and post it on Facebook. I think people would like it.

It slipped just like that.  This people-would-like-it part. And suddenly there is a wailing of sirens inside my head, a red alert, indicating imminent grave danger.

Are you telling me we are doing this just to get some ‘likes’ on your Facebook page?!!! 

The deep sense of betrayal is oozing out of every syllable of every word.

 I thought we came here to have fun for fun’s sake, not to parade it to the world so we can prove to everyone how much fun we have!

But before I could even begin to think how to respond to the outrage within, I feel a tiny hand slipping inside the palm of mine, and a tiny voice overwhelms all the noise with its simple invitation.

Do you want to go for a walk with me?

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Place of Awakening

The unmistakable salty-dried-sea-weed-coconut-SPF30-lotion-Subway-sandwich tingling my nostrils reminds me to do something I so often forget:



And, then, again:



This forgotten breathing-thingie reminds me there is more to me - more inside me - than meets the eye. There is this breath inside me, but most of my life I live holding it back really tight.

I am near.  I can smell it. But I still can’t see it.

The wind is messing with my hair and whispering into my ear. Through its sound, like a layered symphony - the screeching seagulls and inarticulate noises people on the beach make – I can distinguish a steady rhythmic low-rumble – wave in, wave out.

I can hear the ocean breathe.

Wave in.

Wave out!

Already there is a dialogue and neither one of us has said a single word!

I can smell him.  

I can hear him.  

But I still can’t see him.

The sand is already swamping my flip-flops clad toes.  I know it's just over the sand-dune and across the bridge …

There you are! I light up. I see you!

And there YOU are, roars the ocean, always happy to see me. I see YOU too!

I run and trip, the dry sand heaving under my feet until the sand turns soggy and I reach the very edge.  

Like the edge of a lavish robe.  

I can smell him.

I can hear him roar.

I can see him.  

Pregnant with incessant motion and rest. Dark and glistening silver and white. The deep calling.

The wind intensifies, enveloping us both.

I linger on the edge, waiting for him to make the first move.  I don’t need to wait long. 

Now, I can feel him tickling my toes.

I jump, backing off.

You are too cold!

And you are too silly, laughs the ocean because little children are splashing and giggling and screaming all around me. 

C'mmon, let's play!, he calls.

No, not today. I say.  Today I need to stay in the shallows.  

Whatever you wish my dear...