Friday, August 29, 2014

Glass Walls and Rubber Hammers

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Dear Alice:

I have fallen in love with the only woman I know who enjoys being single. To be honest, Janet seems like the kind of person who doesn’t need me — I only know that I am quite sure I need her. She is on the shady of middle age, but blessed with an ageless spirit, full of life, energy, and fun.

Her colleagues and friends hold her in high regard. She is successful in her career, independent and talented. She is committed to the Lord, and to the ministry she feels He has called her to. People tell me Janet is always “up” — I certainly have never seen her otherwise, though she honestly shares her struggles and weaknesses.

The only flaw that I can see, if you could call it one, is the invisible barrier that keeps anyone from getting too close to the “real” Janet. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t “standoffish,” but there exists a reserve, a glass wall that allows you to see her, but not touch her. That’s my dilemma — how do I get past the guard at her heart’s gate? I’ve met the woman of my dreams and I have no idea how to approach her.

Hopeless Romantic

Dear Hopeless Romantic:

Janet sounds like the kind of gal who would set her table with crystal and white linen, make a gourmet meal, light the candles, and then happily have a RO-TIC evening (that’s Romantic without the “man”) all by herself.

However, all is not lost. While it is true that there are some people who are called to singleness for the sake of the Kingdom, you obviously believe that Janet isn’t among their number. One of you must be wrong. Nevertheless, let’s assume, baring Divine intervention, that you are right and that Janet is the one God has for you.

Glass walls need to be approached carefully. They are fragile — too much pressure and someone is going to get badly cut. Not enough pressure and neither of you is ever going to find out who’s got the inside track on God’s will for your relationship.

First of all, respect Janet’s ministry and calling. Be interested in what interests her: not simply as a source of information or curiosity, but dig a little to find out how she feels about what she does. Don’t give advice or criticize, simply listen and support. Her wall may be built of insecurity. Others believe she has “all her ducks lined up,” but Janet may not be so sure that she really does, and fears to let anyone get close enough to discover how she judges her own abilities, and why God has blessed her life. When she trusts you, the crack in the wall will begin to widen.

Ask her to tell you her story. Find out about the experiences in life that have made her strong. Share your story with her, especially where your histories might come together. I’ll bet she is looking for someone who understands where she has been.

Be honest and vulnerable. By being vulnerable, you are not being a wimp: you are showing Janet that she is as safe with you as you feel with her; that she doesn’t need to compete to gain your respect. She sounds like she has learned to succeed in a man’s world — no easy feat! She needs to understand that you are not looking to deny, or to denigrate, what she has earned. Treat her as an equal. If she’s the woman you think she is, she’ll return the respect, and respond with interest.

Last, but certainly not least, if her commitment to God is as high a priority as you think it is, she’ll need to see that same commitment in you. As a person content with being single, she won’t consider giving those privileges up for anybody who is simply “warm and breathing.”

And hey, no woman, no matter how independent is adverse to flowers and the like. Just be sure that the gift reflects the woman. She’s obviously no pansy; so don’t give her any of those. She’s strong, so don’t give her roses, — they won’t last as well as she has. Try Birds of Paradise: exotic, flamboyant, and tough!

Remember, cracking glass works best with a rubber hammer.

Let me know what happens. I’m willing to bet that Janet will discover that she needs you as much as you need her (DV).


Friday, August 22, 2014

I Am Maranta

Google Images
Twilight descends as heavenward I bend
to embrace its portals.
Evening skies, chameleon as I, rainbow hues reveal:
Blue to orange, pink to mauve, purple to black.
I too am transformed, an aberration
like the human kind who follow my lead.
By day I stretch, verdant greens, spots and lines
in graceful combination,
a tribute to a creative Master.
Designed to delight and inspire,
I reach out to the light, to the Son, to heaven’s gleaming,
soak in its deepest sense;
then give back, exchanging one blessing for another.

I am Maranta.
I caress the light, hiding from its burning
yet seeking its warmth.
As night enfolds the day and holds it close
I retreat into myself, from reaching out
to pulling in.
Beneath the greens of light and dark, the veins and spots
hide another side,
another story.

I am Maranta.
Green turns to purple, the veins marked wine,
the spots of reddish-blue
blood-red against the darkening sky.
A curiosity to the uninformed who view my nature
as strange as that of those who lift
holy hands toward the sky.
I raise my “hands,” though they are not,
toward the One who made me thus.
Why, I ask, am I to be
so different from the rest?
I think He made me to reflect that bitter night,
the twilight of His life when, His prayer released,
He bled.
And vibrant life to death itself committed,

I am Maranta.
At twilight, the green of my life
to purple turns, the blood-red old as death
as to my Master I give myself in prayerful stance
as once He did with committed, dependent heart.
For those who echo my example,
who labour as He, with earnest voice;
be warned.

I am Maranta, an aberration,
as you will be to those who, without understanding,
fail to see that the greening of the soul
requires a purple twilight,
a garden of waiting,
of urgent pleading,
of heartfelt praise,
sometimes suffering,
always committed,
ever faithful
even to the death,
in prayerful pose.

I am Maranta.
Follow me.

The Maranta, more popularly known as the prayer plant, folds itself up at night revealing an undersurface of rosy-purple.

Friday, August 8, 2014

That Sinking Feeling

Shellijohnson (Google Images)
Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)

You have to admire the audacity of Peter. As for me, I don’t like small boats. I prefer my water in a glass or at least in a form that comes with a tap. If I had been Peter, I probably wouldn’t have even been in the boat, much less trying to walk on water. But sometimes the events of life don’t give us a choice. Unlike Peter, we don’t even get the opportunity to ask permission to take a walk on the wet side—we get tossed out of the boat and seemingly left to sink or swim. A serious illness, a financial setback, a ministry turned misery, a relationship that fails, a past that haunts us, a present that overwhelms us and a future that defies us—who would ask to walk on these turbulent waters?

For Peter there was a lesson in faith to learn. He couldn’t have known that when he stepped out the boat. All he wanted was to get to the Lord. And that is the whole point. To get nearer to the Lord, to know Him better, to trust Him more, to grow in His likeness requires stepping beyond all that means security to us. It means allowing Him, even inviting Him, to push us out of our boat so that we can learn the lessons in trust that only rough seas can teach.

And when events thrust us out of the boat? Don’t look back. The past is done. Don’t look around. There is nothing out there that can save us. Don’t look down. Neither sinking or swimming are options that God would choose for us. He wants us to walk in triumph over the stormy seas of our lives. Not under the circumstances, but above them. How? A successful crossing comes when we keep our eyes, our hearts, our minds, our lives always focused on Him. And keep walking.

Friday, August 1, 2014

No Light, No Tunnel, No End

whateverhesays (Google Images)
I linger in the blackness, seemingly invisible to passersby. My night is cold and lonely, devoid of the warmth of human touch. There is only God, and though He speaks, I do not hear from Him what I desperately want to hear. He begs me to trust His will, but that will lies heavily upon me, like a shroud. His will is solitary. His will is hard. He bids me to be patient, but the fruitless, empty, years pass me by, heaping their rewards on others.

Shared laughter mocks me, as groups of two, three, and four, walk by. Their eyes seem to meet mine, but then slide past unseeing. I follow them, heading toward the open doors ahead that they are passing through. I long to cry out after them: “Look at me. See me. Hear me.” I don’t. They are busy with better, more productive, things. I bless the Lord for all their successes even as I envy them those blessings. Like a swift running current, they flow past my stagnant pool. It seems pointless to call out to them. Even if they saw and heard, there is nothing they can do. My path is beyond their reach. Only God can change the unchangeable.

My present darkness is His will, so I cannot pass through the doors that are open for others. At least I can press up against the windows and watch. The room they have entered is ablaze with light and resounds with music. It is crowded with people, laughing and chatting, making contact, sharing information, planting the seeds of ideas; a mutual admiration society. My aloneness deepens.

I should walk away. Why punish myself by remaining so close, but never close enough? Like the starving child with nose and palms pressed against the bakery window, I still need the crumbs that occasionally are tossed my way, even though they create in me a greater awareness of my deep hunger. So I linger.

How long, O Lord?

God says wait. He is carefully putting all the pieces of my life together. This solitary, shadowy corner is coming together just as He planned. Patience is not my strongest character trait. Sometimes, during the darkest moments of my night, I rail against Him and weep bitter tears. As quickly, I repent of the failure of my frail faith. Trust is, at times, an Everest that defies my best efforts to reach its summit. I know He makes no mistakes. I understand He has reasons—and good ones—for leaving me here. Like Job, I present my case and cry out for God to explain His.

Chattering voices and the chinking of glasses reach my ears. Toasts are being offered in celebration. A persistent voice whispers: “And who celebrates for you?” I push the thought away. I know it will return the next time some small victory comes my way and there is no one to share my happiness.

I shiver. There it is again, that subtle rejection of God’s will and presence. How often I have prayed that He would take away this desire for what isn’t part of His plan for me. He neither takes me from this darkness, nor does He remove my desire to be taken from it. That too is part of the plan.

I am ashamed. I turn back from the lighted window and look out into the darkness. As the Spirit of God adjusts my spiritual night vision, I weep again. The music from inside the room fades, replaced by the hoot of a nearby owl, the chirp of crickets, and the soft rustle of wind through barely visible trees. The air is heavy with the fragrance of lilac and gardenia. A million stars gleam overhead. I missed them in the glare of the light streaming from the windows. There is such beauty in the darkness. My shroud, whose folds hide the arms of God, embraces me. He is always good, and never as good as He is right now. I weep over my sins. Not content with the bounty of my night, I wanted more, even when He has given me so much. Thoughtless and unappreciative, I threw it back at Him.

Someone once said: “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” Not one promise He has made me has failed. Though they don’t disappear, the voices are muted, overtaken by the sounds of the night. The grass stirs at my feet. God walks here in the dark.