Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Grace is a Dance


 

Grace is a dance
Don’t be afraid to jump in
Let your Partner lead
He won’t let you fall
He will help you stand

Be aware of others new to the dance floor
Less sure, less fluid
Allow them their space to learn
Their Partner will lead them

But!
Don’t hold back from enjoying
your freedom of yielded steps!

Your joy may entice those
--in the dance hall but in a chair--
to take off their heavy coats of propriety
(Coats of their fathers’
who couldn’t brave the dance either)
Their oughts and shouldn’ts producing
a guilt that steals the rhythm from their feet

For in this dance there is no room for guilt
No room for shame
Your Partner’s steps lead you
into joy and peace
Trust and follow and enjoy the dance 


Inspirational sources: 
Romans 14 (whole chapter, but especially vs 4 and 23)
Acts 15:28-29
Romans 5:1-5
Oh, and I may have borrowed a lyric from Wham!, too. 


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Love and Risk



Greetings friends!

I was recently given the opportunity to guest blog over at the webpage for Summit Fellowships.  Summit is a network of simple/house churches in the Portland Vancouver area where I began fellowshipping earlier this year.  I will probably blog more about simple church in the future.  But for now I wanted to give you the link to that guest post.  In it, I reflect on the connection of love and risk.  This was prompted by a question that was asked this week:


What would you do if you weren’t afraid of losing everything?


Here is the introductory paragraph, and the link follows afterward. Thanks for stopping by!


Greetings from Sarah and G242! Here is a brief intro for the first of what will hopefully semi-regular reflections on simple church. Jesus is the head of His church and when we submit to Him and to one another, He directs our gathering as He sees fit. It is amazing to see week after week how He weaves themes together and how many of us are in the same spot. While Jesus ministers to the gathering as a whole, He also ministers to us individually. I say that because below is my summary of this week’s gathering. We would all agree on what the theme of the week was, but different pieces strike different people in different ways. It’s part of belonging to the body of Christ! We are both corporate and individual.


Read more on Love and Risk here.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grace is an Ocean



If grace is an ocean . . .
                                . . . we’re all sinking.



This line from the song “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan rang through my mind on repeat one sunny day this past September.  I was headed out to Cannon Beach with a friend, so that could have been why.  But grace was really rolling around in my head. 

Grace is a hard concept to grasp—unmerited favor.  I’m not sure that narrows it down or makes it any more tangible.  Metaphors are my play dough.  They aren’t the thing I’m examining, but they let me model it and get my hands around it.  I can squish it and push it and test it out.   Through that process I learn what I wouldn’t have understood by cold academic reflection alone.  (And it smells awesome.  But I think that’s where it starts to break down.)

I grew up twenty minutes from the Atlantic and now I’m two hours from the Pacific.  I couldn’t live any farther away from the ocean.  I will drive two hours in the middle of the night to walk on the beach for thirty minutes and then drive back.  The ocean is my not-so-still water that restores my soul. 

The ocean is familiar.  But it also commands respect.  Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go any farther than my knees into the ocean without a parent present.  I was, and still am, allergic to cold.  Which means, when my skin gets cold, I break out in hives.  I really just get itchy until I warm up again. But when I was young the doctor cautioned my parents and they were worried about worse life threatening reactions.  So I dearly love the ocean, but it is also deeply ingrained in me to respect it.  Similar to how one should respect a caged tiger. 

In studying Hebrew I learned that the Hebrew mindset was fearful of the ocean.  The ocean was representative of pure chaos.  Untamable depths that could swallow you whole. 

The ocean is not tame.  It is raw power.  It is beautiful.  And dangerous.  At just waist deep a current is able to grab your feet out from under you and drag you out to sea. 

This day in September my soul was confused and needed to be fed.  I craved the tangible.  Prophetic action that spoke what you couldn’t hear.  I ran out into the ocean, intending to dive under and run back.  But suddenly being in waist deep, frigid Pacific water, the cold stole my breath.  I stood there, the waves pounding against my chest.  They said, “This is grace.”  I looked as far out as I could see, and the vastness weighed on me.  And I knew I could only see three miles out!  How very far! How very deep!  I can spend a third of my childhood at the edge of this water. I can be drawn out to it on dark nights of the soul.  But I can never comprehend the vast magnitude, the sheer power, the myriad upon myriad of diverse organisms drawing their life from this ocean.  This is grace.

I dove under and back up.  And the sun beat down.  And the waves pushed and tugged. And the cold numbed. And I struggled to breathe.  And I raised my hands.  And I surrendered.   This is grace.  I can’t understand it.  I can only surrender. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Waiting and Trust



Do you ever find yourself in a circumstance where you have wait while you trust God to come through?  I have, many times.  And I’ve found that, to the best of my memory, God comes through in the moment after I give up waiting patiently.  You know the situation:  


It’s the 1st of the month.  You have this bill due on the 15th, but you don’t have enough money to cover it, and you don’t get paid until the 17th.  You could see if you could borrow it from family or friends, but it just doesn’t feel right.  You know God’s going to cover this one, you just have to wait. 


When I’m in that situation, I can stay reasonably calm and trusting.  Until the 14th.  Then I’m antsy.  I mean, I like to be prompt and on time, early even.  So I’d kind of like it if God would return the favor.  You know, He could provide the money a few days ahead of when I need it.  That isn’t any less miraculous then the day of. 

This latest time of waiting while trusting God (I was going to say this last time, but I know it’s far from the last time!), I was in the middle of a phone call to arrange under my own ability for the provision I was waiting on—in the middle of the phone call!—when the provision came. 

At this point my emotions are usually gratitude, overshadowed by disappointment in myself for failing to trust yet again.  This time, however, I stopped.  It occurred to me (thank you Holy Spirit) that beating myself up for not trusting sound an awful lot like condemnation.  Maybe, instead of failing, I’m actually growing.  Because, part of the beating myself up internal conversation is that I never seem to be able to wait long enough, even though I seem to wait longer and longer each time. 

So I’m coming to believe that I’m not failing.  Instead, I living in grace more and more and am growing in trust.  Along the journey I can rest in Jesus’ great love for me and patience with me.  He is not disappointed in me, but excited with each step forward.  And that is a beautiful place to be. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Law of Lift

It requires downward pressure
on a form forged in precision
plus forward thrust
to produce the journey.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gotye, Addiction, and Love

So I can't resist picking this Gotye video apart. Go ahead and watch it again--maybe twice even--and then we'll dive in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY&sns=em

"Somebody that I Use To Know" --Gotye

(I'm blogging away from my computer. My apologizes if the link doesn't work correctly.)

I think that the key line is "You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness." He only says it once. You'd think the oft repeated, "Now you're just somebody that I use to know," would be key. However, that is his addiction.

For instance, the first time I watched the video, I thought he was talking about the woman in the video. That she was that somebody. But after watching the video a couple times in a row, it's a very circular song. The end leads into the beginning.

Her last straw with him was that, in spite of him assuring her to the contrary, she did catch him getting hung up on somebody that he use to know. When she sings this, they are still relating. This is the moment that she is parting from him. This is evidence that he will have at least two some bodies that he use to know.

What is also interesting is that he doesn't even look at her until after she is done singing. He's too busy feeding off of past hurts to notice her.

The thing about addiction is that you feel compelled to feed it, repeating the experience, over and over and over. When he says, "You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness," this is the closest he comes to a confession. But even in that, he distances himself, using an impersonal "you". He also places all the blame for he hurt he feels on this somebody's actions.

He is a shattered, broken man--visually supported by the background that envelops him, including his face. He sees everything through that brokenness. She is almost equally enveloped. However, her face is not yet covered. She can still see, and chooses freedom. As the background washes off, she becomes free. She is no longer a pawn feeding his addiction. Or, perhaps, this is the choice he's been pushing her towards, in order to feed his addiction.

Why would he be addicted to a certain kind of sadness? He equates that "ache" of longing with love. He is so broken that he can't receive love when offered, but instead only dwells on the loss, "the end". When you can't feel emotions, or can't let yourself feel them, then even feeling negative emotions is a rush. An evidence you are alive. He is deadpan, except when recounting and reliving the loss. "It feels so rough" and that is all he can feel.

So at least she finds freedom. What would it take for him? Can he find redemption? Would he be able to hear it if, instead of a f-you kind of breakup, she reached out and removed some if the paint from his face? Hold the shattered pieces back, at bay, if only for a moment, so that he could see and get a taste of something else, a whiff of freedom. Because, she hadn't been healthy in the relationship either. She internalized everything and felt it was her fault. When she realized this wasn't the case, she snapped. If she broke it off, not in anger, but I'm more healthy way, could he have found freedom, too?

So what could we take away from this, apart from a hauntingly beautiful song? What I see is the absolute necessity to know who you are, and be secure in that. When I am secure in who I am in Christ and who He made me, I'm not going to take someone's faults as my own. (Though I will own up to my faults.) I'm not going to be as easily susceptible to manipulation. The paint of the shattered background wouldn't stick in the first place.

This also means that all elements of relationships are more likely to be healthy, including breakups. If I know who I am in Christ, resting in His love and forgiveness, I am more likely to extend that to others. The woman was right to breakup in this video, it was an unhealthy relationship. But had she known who she was from the beginning, she could have broken it off well, offering a piece of freedom, instead of feeding his addiction and giving him what he was after all along.

So, preaching to myself here, know who you are in Christ, stand firm and secure in that, and do all things in love.

What's your take on this video? Do you agree or see something completely different? Leave a comment and let's discuss!

Monday, October 22, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog



That is the question.  Whether ‘tis nobler . . .

I’ve had a flood of ideas lately.  It’s a rush, really.  Taking an idea and flipping it over to see what’s on the other side.  To have a passage, three words even, of scripture jump out and tackle you, so that you end up wrestling with it across pages of both testaments, concordances, lexicons, to emerge three hours later, tired but invigorated.  To have a song on the radio get stuck in your head, so that you look up the video on YouTube, and get so captivated—even though it relates to nothing in your experience—you watch it five times in a row, and feel you could write a paper picking it apart.

If I have any addictions, truly it is thinking.  But addictions are generally negative things, especially when done alone, in isolation, in secret.  They need to be brought out in the open, exposed to the light, and the warmth of community.  Then, then the redemptive elements are found, shared.

That was overly dramatic, but if that’s the wave of the moment, I’ll ride it.  Whether enjoying the ride or enduring it, both are best done loosely and at rest. 

So I have this blog, and its purpose is to share what I find along the way.   Your niece may give you twenty-seven rocks and shells she picked up along the shore—her treasures—but you can’t tell the difference between any of them.  You indulge her, holding them for her in your pockets, until you can politely put them down. 

I propose we both see my blog that way.  But that means I need to share what I’m thinking, and not worry that I’m going to spoil it by writing it out.  I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I still have my lapses.  More often than not, if I don’t have five hours of uninterrupted quiet, where I am completely un-fatigued by a work day—I won’t write.  Which means I effectively haven’t written in two months.  And I’ve been aiming for once a week!  So I’ll push myself past that perfectionist block and write more.  And if you wouldn’t mind, could you hold this rock of mine, and put it down when I’m not looking? 

---------------------------------

The video I mentioned is below.  If I come to the pop culture table at all, it’s usually late.  This is “Somebody That I Use To Know” by Gotye.  At the risk of sounding like an emo high schooler, I find the combination of song and video intriguing.  The story is conveyed very compellingly, even to someone who can’t relate with the story. 

(Don’t worry, it’s safe to watch.  It’s not going to go where you think it’s going to go.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Closure

Sitting in familiar rows
Memories leap with unexpected power
Flashes of images, sights, sounds, emotions
Ten odd years of faith, life, shared in this space

Both our paths have led from here
Your road has come home
Mine bends and continues on

Seasons turn
Chapters close
We mourn the transitions

A life well lived.
May I live as well.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Sand on the Shore




Sit on the shore, as the sunset fades,
run your fingers through the sand
grip,
grasp,
squeeze,
as the grains flee downward.
Now scoop broadly, loosely, gently
some grains fall,
some stick to finger tips,
most rest.
Notice mica, silica, granite
endless sizes, shades, shapes.
The stars begin to assemble,
glinting into the night,
answering the roll call
of Abraham’s descendants.   

 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Traveling Off the Map


As I wrote last week, it was my birthday last Thursday.  Eleven years ago, also on a Thursday, I turned 22.  That day I happened to listen to “Let That Be Enough” by Switchfoot. 


It was an interesting coincidence, and the song struck me.  At that time I was in an in between place.  I had graduated from college in Maryland, where most of my friends lived, and was back at my Dad’s house in Massachusetts working a temporary summer job.  My parents had divorced that year, I had no friends from high school, and I really had no idea what I was doing.  I had reached the edge of the map, so to speak.  It was always assumed that I would go to college, so when I finished that, there weren’t any more plans to follow.  “Let That Be Enough” really resonated. 

Shortly thereafter, in a turn of events that surprised me and everyone who knew me, I moved out to the Pacific Northwest, September 30th to be exact.  And thus began an amazing new chapter of my life.  I’ve lived here eleven years now and with last Thursday’s birthday, I feel like I’m beginning a new chapter.  This chapter doesn’t begin with moving, but it does push further off the map into uncharted (for me) territory.  The things I learn or struggle with along the way will make it onto my blog to share with you. 

One element of beginning a new chapter is reflecting on the old.  Or to use the map metaphor, looking back over where you’ve traveled.  Birthdays on Facebook mean wall posts with birthday wishes.  This year I took extra joy in all of the posts from friends.  Here, in one place, were birthday wishes from friends from every season and sphere of my life.  I was thankful, blessed, and humbled by all the people I’ve connected with over my thirty-three years.  I’ve traveled much, both metaphorically and literally, and I’ve been blessed to have shared so many different stretches of road with you, my friends and family, fellow journeyers on this road of life.  Thank you, and here’s to the next chapter!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!


Consider this post your birthday party goodie bag, filled with random bits of fun stuff, not really connected at all.

 Today I turn thirty-three.  Which is how old Jesus was when He started His work.  So I should probably get busy now.  :o)

One of my favorite non-main Star Trek characters is Lwaxana Troi.  She is quite eccentric and has this really impressive string of official titles.  She is Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, the Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed.  Along the theme of names, titles are that by which one is known.  I've been feeling like in this last season of my life, Jesus has been expanding my titles:
Sarah, Princess, Dear One,
Bat-Melek, Daughter of the King,
a Woman Unashamed.

I do in fact intend to blog more regularly.  I've been shooting for one a week, but hitting one a month.  As a birthday is a new start (like New Years), I'm going to be diving back in to blogging with renewed intentionally.  So stay tuned!

I've been tweeting one "Random thing for which I am #thankful" each day.  You can follow me on Twitter @Batmelek.  If you've missed it, let me get you caught up:

Random things for which I am #thankful:
—good headphones and music recorded in stereo.
—bosses who have and show compassion for their employees.
—salmon and hazelnuts!
—straight up blue, (the color of the sky directly above you on a clear day), and its memories.
—the resiliency of two year olds!
—rocking out to @Superchick !
—Tuba! #Tuba #Tuba #Tuba #yesalwayscapitalized #showrespect
—that I am not a Vulcan. (Though Vulcans are still cool. LLAP)
—Stewie’s unbridled enthusiasm when I pick up his leash.
—analogy and metaphor, and their cousin parable.
—the smell of rice cooking.  

And lastly, a picture of my parents and me.

I'm off to eat my birthday tomato soup cake, catch you next week!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Princess


"You said princess."
"What?"
"When she asked what your name meant, you said princess."
"Well, that's what it means."
"But I've never heard you just say princess. You usually explain more."

A good friend of eleven years shared this observation with me two weeks ago. He was referring to what happened at church when I asked for prayer about a guest blog post I had written. And he was right. When the topic of what one's name means comes up, I almost always explain that Sarah is Hebrew for princess, and while I like my name, princess makes you think of pink and frilly girly things, which isn't me.

I give my name explanation a bit more often than most because it's usually in the context of someone asking me what is on my ring. 



It reads in Hebrew:  
שָׂרָה בַת-מֶלֶךְ  

which is pronounced Sarah BatMelek (which is where the title of my blog comes from). Sarah means princess. BatMelek is a compound word. Bat is daughter and Melek is king, so it means daughter of the king. The essence of a princess is that she is a daughter of a king, and as Christians, we are all children of the King. I studied in Israel for a semester in college and a friend there gave me the nickname BatMelek. It's how I became reconciled with the meaning of my name—it wasn’t just pink and frilly, but had cool theological significance!  And my ring, which I had made in Israel, is an ever present tangible reminder of who I am--a daughter of the King.

Interestingly, I thought that the grammar wasn't right in the Hebrew of the nickname my friend gave me. It's a noun construct and I thought the "the" definite article was missing. Several years later, I was talking with God—in a season when He wasn't replying much—and I asked Him how I was doing. Was I doing good, bad, indifferent? I just didn't know. So what did He think? God was being quiet again, so I went through the motions of my habit of reading and praying in the morning. Just as I was about to get ready for the day, I remembered that I hadn't read a psalm yet. I like to cycle through the book of Psalms, not randomly, but from one to 150 in order and back to the beginning again. That morning the next psalm up was number 45. I was in the NASB version and was just reading along until I was floored by verse 13a:

The King’s daughter is all glorious within;

Well, that's me! Any other translation wouldn't have grabbed my attention.  Most of them say princess and fill in where that “within” is, instead of leaving it open ended like the Hebrew (see here).

God answered my beginning question of how I was doing--which was really a question of worth and value--in the psalm I almost forgot to read.  The king's daughter, me, is presently all glorious within.  That He saw me as all glorious within, right then, in the middle of the process of walking with Him.

And it gets better. I decided to geek out a bit and pull out my Hebrew tools. I was interested in finding out more about what "all glorious within" meant. But what I really found was that "king's daughter" was BatMelek. Spelled exactly like my ring. So it really was me!

That's why my answer to the question of what my name means is usually not the simple one word, princess. I have a really cool story about how I came to terms with what my name means and it’s fun to share cool God stuff.

I love psalm 45. And that is one of my very most favorite moments with God. But it just dawned on me this week that BatMelek, daughter of the King, is a definition.  BatMelek defines my position with God—He is King and I am His daughter.  But Sarah, princess, is a term of endearment.  The current Disney princess craze wasn’t happening twenty-five years ago.  And because I actually never have liked pink and frilly things, I don’t remember anyone ever calling me a little princess.   Except that princess is what my name means.  Names are declarations over people (I’ll expand on that in a later blog post).  So every single time someone says my name, God’s term of endearment is spoken over me.  "Sarah, princess, dear one." The presence of the ring on my finger reminds me of who I am relationally to God. Hearing my name now is a reminder of who God says I am--His princess, dear one.

So the next time someone asks me what my name means, I’ll say, “Princess.”  And smile.

-----------------------------
This is part one in what will be an occasional “What's in a Name” series.

I think God is fond of nicknames. He takes many and likes to give them.  Today ask God what He thinks of you. What is He calling you? Not what is He calling you to, but what is He calling you? What is His nickname for you?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Barking at Fireworks


Image: my own photo

Stewie, my dog, doesn’t like fireworks. 

Not in a I-don’t-like-peas-but-I’ll-eat-them-if-there’s-enough-mashed-potatoes-to-cover-them sort of don’t like fireworks.  More like the I-don’t-like-velociraptors-figuring-out-how-to-open-doors sort of way.  It’s a deep hatred for Stewie and it triggers his fight or flight response.  The trouble is, he’s missing the flight part, so my 95lbs black lab mix runs at the windows and doors, barking his thunderous bark at every boom of a firework.  Oh, and the county in which I live allows some pretty serious personal fireworks.  So for five days I’ve got a freaking out dog on my hands. 

Last year I tried giving him Benadryl.  It made him groggy, but didn’t lessen his freaking out barking.  I think he was more frustrated by the drugged feeling of not being alert, and so fought it more.  So this year I’ve used a multifaceted plan of helping Stewie cope.  We went for a five mile walk this morning.  I haven’t let him nap all day.  I’ve got the (white) noisy fan in the bathroom going, and classical music at the upper limits of comfortably loud.  He’s had the maximum recommended dose of doggie herbal calming tablets.  He hasn’t had any dinner, and I’m going to give him a big beef bone to focus on, right when it gets dark and the fireworks kick into high gear.  On the milder nights leading up to the fourth, I cut up several hot dogs, and every time we heard a firework, I gave Stewie a piece of hot dog and told him he was a good boy. 

My friends who have kids say that they learn an amazing amount about God through their children.  Well, I learn a lot about God through Stewie.  I’m not saying that he’s like a kid.  I am emphatically not Stewie’s mom.  I am not a doggie parent, I am a dog owner.  But that said, Stewie is a heck of a lot more work (and reward) than a hamster, and God really likes to speak to me in object lessons.  Therefore, Stewie plays a part of my spiritual formation in this stage of my life.  This time, help Stewie with the fireworks reminded me of something God showed me years ago, and added a layer of meaning to it.

A number of years ago I was going through a particarlly rough patch.  One night I had a dream that I was out on a battle field but terribly wounded.  God, as a knight on a horse, comes charging over at the head of a group of calvary, picks me up, and rides out from the midst of battle into a castle.  In the infirmary, my wounds tended and resting, God’s sitting beside my bed.  We’re inside the castle, but in my semi-delirious state, we can hear the roar of battle, and I’m flinching at every sound.  God is patiently calming and soothing me. 

When I woke up, I read the bible in the morning.  At the time I was cycling through the book of Psalms, reading one or two psalms a day.  That morning, the next psalm was the 18th. Go ahead and read it.  The highlights are:

1I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
….
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.

The psalm of the day mirrored my dream.  At the time it was a great comfort, that God had rescued me, but was still patient as He and I worked through the ramifications of what He’d rescued me from.  That instead of being mad or disappointed that I still had issues to work through, He was patient and understanding of the process. 

Now several years later, helping Stewie deal with the fireworks gives me a whole new appreciation for how awesome God’s patience with me then (and now) is!  With Stewie, I get frustrated that I can’t explain to him that he’s inside, the fireworks can’t hurt him, that his barking will do nothing, and it would be best if he’d just chill out and go to sleep!  I feel like saying, “Dog! Will you just believe me!  You’re OK! Calm down already!”  How much more should I believe God when He tells me not to worry?  Or when He tells me to rest?  What a difference there is between me and God!  He’s not annoyed like I am with Stewie, but patient and gentle.  

Oh, and God doesn’t try to bribe me with hot dogs.  :o)