Messengers

I walk silently down the passageway. It feels hushed, yet I am surrounded by the screaming voices of hundreds, maybe thousands of messengers vying for my attention. In the midst of this silent noise, I slow down, trying to take it all in. The passage and everything in it seems so clean, almost sterilized, except for the messengers. They vary in age, and the older they are, the more worn out and filthy they seem. Covered in dirt and smudges of lord knows what, their thin coverings are often worn or torn around the edges. Some of them barely seem able to stand up straight, but there are so many packed together along the passage that they stay vertical with no room to fall.

Some of the messengers speak with the voices of old friends, who I have visited time and again, yet long to spend another late night and give up another secret. Others are only vaguely familiar, we may have spoken once or twice, but they never made much of an impression. Still others are completely new and foreign. It seems strange that some that are old can seem completely knew to my virgin ears.

What do they say? Well, they all say the same thing, really: Pick me. Choose me. Give me a chance. I have something wonderful, something mysterious, something new to show you. I’ll give you an adventure you could never have dreamed of. I’ll change the way you see the world. I’ll express the deepest joys and longings of your heart in ways you never thought possible. Just give me a chance.

Despite my love of these adventures and deep desire to learn everything they have to tell me, I come here rarely. I have to be the right mood to face these insistent little messengers. Sometimes it breaks my heart to realize I may never know all the secrets they have to divulge. Today, I feel up to the adventure. The monotony of life is slowly drowning me, and this long, quietly noisy passage is my only escape. I walk even more slowly, stopping to speak with a messenger here and there, trying to wrap my mind around which one to choose.

I really am not sure I could tell you what dictates the final decision. It might be just one or two perfect words the strike my fancy. It might be a voice that sounds so close to my own, or to someone I love. It might be that this messenger happens to be a friend of a friend, and that friend thought we might get along. I might just like the look of it. Somehow, finally, through the confusion and the sea of quiet voices, I choose just one from the crowd.

I step out of the silent roar of the library, slipping the book that I had chosen so carefully into my bag. The murmur of traffic and voices of children across the street sooth my tired mind as I begin my walk home.


Generations

We went to a fantastic fireworks display this year, and for once we had great seats.  Not only that, but just a couple cars down was a family with several little boys who really made the show for us.  When the first round of fireworks went off, I think the gasps and shrieks and look-at-thats lasted longer than the gold sparks drifting through the sky.  A few minutes later, after a gigantic blue explosion, one yelled, “Hey, it’s my favorite color!”  The highlight came later, though, when there was about a ten-second pause in the show and the entire parking lot was quiet.  Over the hush, one screamed, “Get with the fireworks already!”  We pretty much died laughing, but they were still going strong.  As the finale started to build, we heard one more shout, “Yeah, baby!”  Way to end your show, boys. 

We talked and laughed and oohed and ahhed.  We laughed at the little boys and thought about how different and simple and exciting things were when we were younger.  All of us “old” teenagers and twenty-somethings got a little bit nostalgic about being so little.  We had a grand time. 

Of course, I also did a little bit of people watching.  About halfway through the show, I noticed something about the couple sitting on the other side of us.  Thing is, they were watching us the same way we were watching those little boys.  We were the young people, carelessly enjoying ourselves. 

I was recently arguing with someone (actually, I had the same debate with several people) about which Superhero is the best embodiment of the American ideal. Yes, I’m a geek. The debate always seemed to come to a question of when rather than who. At a time in our history, Superman was the American dream realized. Later, Captain America was the perfect poster boy. Now, well, one guy argued it should be Iron Man and I sort of agree. Because America has changed, because America is changing, it’s hard to pin one down. America is not the same country it was, and that can be a little scary. Some things are the same, though. Each generation can look down on the next, seeing the same laughter and hope that they experienced when they were younger and think that, maybe, we’ll be okay.


Sleepless

My old friend insomnia has been coming to call quite frequently in the last week or two. It’s been a long time. Here’s the thing, though, I remember hating these long, sleepless hours. I remember bemoaning the fact that I would be tired the next day and getting so angry about not being asleep that I couldn’t possibly fall asleep. Now, I almost relish it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting to be an old lady and these late nights are taking their toll. So yes, I might be a little more emotional and bit more prone to over-caffeination. That’s okay. Here’s why:

~Sitting in silence with my dog sleeping on my lap while I read

~The chill night air battling to seep through my hoodie (which I can only wear at night this time of year)

~The rustle of the last pages as I manage to finish books I’ve been working on for too long

~Trying to be oh, so quiet in the kitchen and catch the tea kettle before it whistles

~The gentle scraping of my pen in my journal

~The quick, quiet tapping of my keyboard as I finally find myself writing again (night provides far better scope for the imagination!)

~The quiet kind of inspiration that seems so real that the world seems to fade away and only comes from feeling completely alone in the silence

So while I may not have missed the feeling of fighting to keep my eyes open for the first two hours of my work day, I’ve decided I have missed my late nights immensely.


Forward Motion

So, I’ve found myself in a strange new chapter in my life–a chapter that comes without external goals and deadlines. I never realized growing how focused I was on moving forward. Getting to the end of the school year, to the end of high school, to the semester, to the end of college… each goal brought with it a sense of focus and purpose. Well, it’s been nearly a year since I finished college, and to be honest I’ve felt a bit lost.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time. I road-tripped across the country. I got in a bad car-wreck (not great, but a near-death experience is a legit life experience). I worked retail over the holidays (see previous qualification). I got a “grown-up job” that’s been an incredible roller coaster. With all that, there’s been not only a lack of focus, but a lack of time to notice it.

So here I am almost six months later. I’m really pretty settled in at work. As much as I’d have liked to move out, things at home are pretty steady. My life is actually a little boring. I’m doing the 8-5 thing. I sleep in on the weekends and play with my dog. I’ve stayed in one place long enough and gotten involved enough to actually want to go to weddings and graduations. And I feel a little bit uneasy.

Nervous energy is a good way to describe it. All through school my life was set on forward motion, moving higher and higher in my education. Suddenly, I feel like I’ve stalled. Well, it’s not as dramatic as stalling. It’s more like I slipped into neutral a little while ago and slowed to a stop without even noticing, only to look up and be shocked to discover that I wasn’t moving.

Everyone says that being in your twenties is about figuring out who you really are and who you want to be for the rest of your life. It’s a time of asking a lot of questions. Thing is, if you want the right answers, or answers that’ll be any good at all, you have to ask the right questions. And I honestly am not sure what questions to ask.

I guess I don’t really know where I was going with that and don’t have a nice conclusion. Like I said, I’m a bit lost. I feel like my life is seriously missing the forward motion it used to have, and I know in my head that I can set goals and keep learning and improving, but I guess I just don’t quite know how.


Originality

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” ~ C. S. Lewis


Mirror, Mirror…

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
James 1:23-24

So, I’m a girl. I have two mirrors in my bedroom—a full-length one hanging on the wall between my closet door and my dresser and a small hand-held one on top of the dresser. Each sees its fair share of use, but to different degrees depending on the occasion. When I’m getting ready to go to work, the mirror barely gets a glance. I know there’s nothing to see. I’m wearing the same work uniform as always, including a hat that makes it unnecessary to deal with my hair. Getting ready at five-thirty in the morning makes me not feel like bothering with makeup, so other than a quick glance in the mirror out of habit I don’t use it. When I get ready for anything other than work, my friend the mirror gets a little more attention. I may try on a couple of different outfits and see how they look in the mirror. I’ll spend a few minutes of quality time up close and personal with the mirror while I do my makeup and hair. I’ll double-check how it all looks before I go out. Then there are the special occasions. A few weeks ago I was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding. When I got ready for that, my mirror and I got spend a lot of time together. We worked together for a good long while to get my hair and makeup perfect, checking and double-checking for any little imperfection. We visited every few minutes from the time I got ready until I left to make sure that everything was still perfect. My mirror got a lot of use.

No matter how much time I spend on it, I always come to my mirrors with the same question: am I what I should be for the occasion at hand? Sometimes I like the answer the mirror gives me, and sometimes I don’t. I always pay attention though, and if I don’t like the mirror’s answer I stop right then and there and do everything I can to fix whatever I think the problem is. But what if I didn’t? What if instead I glanced in the mirror, or even took a good long look, and then walked away having no idea what I had seen? Wouldn’t I seem rather foolish?

Then again, what I went to church every Sunday and dutifully read a chapter out of my Bible every morning, but nothing in my life ever changed? Hearing the Word of God is easy. It’s as easy as turning on the Christian radio station on the way to work in the morning. It’s as easy as taking three minutes to read the next chapter and checking it off the list. It’s as easy as going to church on Sunday and singing songs and talking to nice people and listening to a sermon. And it really doesn’t do much good. Not if hearing is all we do. If you passively hear something, you probably don’t remember it much better than the lyrics to the song playing in the grocery store last time you were there. Instead, we need to listen—to hear with the intention of doing. If I look in the mirror and don’t act on what I see, looking didn’t change the problem. If I read the Bible and don’t act on what I learn, it doesn’t change my life.

Asking the mirror hanging on my wall if I am what I should be may save a few awkward moments. Asking the mirror of God’s Word if I am what I should be is a whole different matter. Because, in everything that really matters, the Word is the only thing that can answer my question accurately. I can examine myself all I want, or ask others what they think I should change, or read all the self-improvement books in the world, but if I don’t have the measuring stick of the Bible to compare my progress to, I have no idea where I’m really at. I need to look in that mirror to see how I’m doing. And compared to the mirror on my wall, the Word is a magic mirror—not only does it show my flaws, but it provides everything necessary to right them.


‘Course He isn’t Safe…

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ~ C. S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

So far, 2012 has been a very hard, very painful year. I’ll leave it at that. A few days ago, I was feeling broken down, helpless, and completely alone. I realized in some ways, I had lost sight of my Jesus. I realized that was the reason everything seems so difficult to cope with. So I sat down and started to read one of my favorite Gospels: Mark.

I love Mark because of the pictures of Jesus, the King of the Universe, as a humble servant. I guess it can be so easy for me to get caught up in my busy life and use that as an excuse not to reach out and help those around me. Mark always reminds me that if Jesus could take time out of His three year ministry to help everyone who came along, I have no excuse to turn my back on anyone. But that really is not what I was wanting to talk about tonight. Instead, I want to talk about the entirely new picture of Jesus I got.

Like I said, I was broken and needing to be reminded of exactly what kind of a Savior I have. So I started reading at the beginning and just kept going for a good long while. I was lying in bed, cuddling with my puppy, catching up with my Jesus, looking for comfort. I got something a little bit different. I got Mark chapter six.

Maybe I should rewind a little. Because before chapter six comes chapter five. The end of Mark five is the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter. If you read my blog at all, you probably know I’ve written several posts about that story and it is one of my favorites. The next thing I found Jesus doing was having compassion on the crowd and miraculously feeding the five thousand. At that point I was feeling pretty comfortable with my Jesus. I kind of think maybe the disciples were, too.

Then another familiar story: Jesus walking on water and calming the storm. The disciples saw Him walking out on the water and were terrified. They had no idea who it was and thought it must be a ghost to have that kind of power. And then Jesus called to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid!” When He came up into the boat, “they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure and marveled.”

That awe-inspiring power had been there all along. I wondered if the disciples felt any fear, knowing they spent their days so close to so much strength. Yet once the boat lands, Jesus is right back to healing the sick. There was so much power and majesty bound up in the same Man with so much tenderness and compassion.

I was wondering. Thinking about this apparent paradox and letting my mind try to understand what the disciples must have felt in those moments on the boat. Then it hit me: I am in the exact same position. Not only do I spend every day with Him, He lives in me!

That was one of those surrender moments. One of those moments where I suddenly realized I have absolutely not control. And no, it definitely was not the kind of comfort I was looking for. And yes, it was a little scary. But it’s okay because this kind of life isn’t really supposed to be safe. He never said it would be. I guess I still do not need to know if it is safe. I just need to know that He is so very, very good.