Thursday, January 30, 2014

Prayer and Waffles



You'd think the following realization would be a given.

It is certainly something I already knew,
but isn't that the way of epiphany?
Something you know in your head
is suddenly known in your heart.

That is how it has been for me, connecting prayer to food.

Man cannot live by bread alone.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Prayer is food.

Let me explain.

When we were in Seattle two summers ago, we ate at a place called Sweet Iron. I ordered a waffle with goat cheese, honey, and hazelnuts. I had never had anything like it before. It is the most delectable meal I have ever eaten. I still think about that breakfast. My mouth waters. Plenty of the kids on the trip thought it was a strange combination, and I am not sure what made me choose it. But I did, and I am so very glad I did.

Once, Corey took me to dinner at an upscale restaurant and I ordered lobster bisque. It was glorious. I have ordered lobster bisque since then, but it has never tasted so divine as that bowl of thick warmth from Huntington's in Ridgeland Mississippi. I don't remember anything else I ate during that meal. The soup was what mattered.

One more. When a friend got married last year, I had been skipping desserts in an attempt to lose weight, and a month of no sweets sure made that wedding cake extra marvelous. I'm telling you, me and that caramel cake were joined as one. I made out with that frosting. And I don't normally love frosting. Or caramel cake.  But holy sugar high, Batman, that may be the best cake-eating experience of my entire life.

Three meals. Three very distinct memories.

But I can't eat those foods every day. If I were to eat that waffle every morning, it would cease to be quite so amazing. The bisque would become normal. The cake would be expected.

Ho hum.

Likewise, there have been experiences…

Once, I felt God moving so close I had to dance. David and I danced in the woods behind a park in Brandon Mississippi. The Spirit was there in the trees, all around me. I can remember that lightness, that joy. I wish I could go back. I did go back there, physically, but I never stumbled into Jesus in quite that way again.

There was a retreat to the Gray Center with a group of women from my church and other churches. Some of us knew one another and some were strangers. By the end of the weekend, we were family. We danced a labyrinth together in the dark of night. We shared our mother stories. We cried and laughed and Jesus was there. He didn't look like I thought He would, but He was there.

Once, I was caught up in desperate prayer and found myself crumpled on the closet floor, poetry spilling out of my soul, tears on my cheeks, Truth seared through me so hard it left marks. I'll never forget that night, that feeling.

But these things do not happen everyday. If they did, how would life happen?

How could I raise my children or do the work Jesus has called me to if I were every moment caught up in religious ecstasy?

Prayer is food.

I have to eat. Everyday. I have to have fuel or my body will not move. It will not run. It will die. And so, I eat. Sometimes, I eat waffles that make my mouth water for years to come. Sometimes, I eat lobster bisque, warm and thick and perfect. Sometimes I make out with wedding cake on a hot summer day.

And sometimes I eat a sandwich with extra pickles or a cream cheese danish or a salad and a banana. All good. But not meals I will remember when years have passed. Heck, I may not remember them in a few days. What did I have for lunch last Wednesday? I have no idea.

But if I were to quit eating these unmemorable meals, what would happen?

I would die.

I cannot live on a life-changing waffle once every three years.

And, likewise, I cannot live spiritually on chance encounters with the Divine. When they come, I celebrate. I bask in His glory. I cannot get enough of Him.

But the other prayers must happen.
They are my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

They are my daily bread.

Sometimes, they feel rote. I am just repeating words. Sometimes, they feel paltry. I want to have more to give. Sometimes, they feel desperate and sometimes empty and sometimes overly full. Sometimes they bring a word from Jesus, a moment's peace, a whispered assurance, and sometimes they are forgotten in a minute or an hour.

But they sustain.

Without them, my soul would die. I would not be receptive to the ecstasy that sometimes comes.

If eating were not a habit, I would not have eaten that waffle in Seattle, and if prayer were not a habit, I would not have heard the Spirit in the woods amid the trees.

Prayer is food.

And so,
I will eat.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Who Thinks Up a Gruff?



I was honored to be asked to participate in a writing project hosted by a friend. Over at Gina's blog, many writers will be sharing all sorts of pieces inspired by "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!" by Dr. Seuss. My line was, "A gruff going by," and you can read my poem here: Who Thinks Up a Gruff?

2014: Oblation



My theme for 2014 is Oblation.

Cue everyone looking confused.

No one knows the word when I use it, so I promise you are not alone. I learned the word from Kathleen Norris years ago, but it is only common in certain circles. Typically, monastic circles. So, no worries. Here is the definition.


ob·la·tion
əˈblāSHən
noun
1. a thing presented or offered to God or a god.

synonyms:
religious offering, offering, sacrifice, peace offering, burnt offering, gift of thanks, first fruits, libation 



Partially, this theme comes from my pursuing the path of an Oblate, but it is much and more than that. Even before I decided for sure to follow the oblate's path, I was turning more and more to the habit of intentional devotion.

Now, when I say devotion, I don't mean "devotional." Doing a daily devotional reading can be PART of oblation, but it is not the sum of my meaning. I am talking more here. I am talking about spiritual disciplines. And I know that sounds like work. Discipline. It sure is work to discipline my children. Neither of us enjoy it.

This is different however. This is about choosing Jesus again and again and again. It is about reminding myself of my own vows, my own promises, my own first love.

It's about turning first to Jesus when I want to turn to a book or a brownie or a phone call.

For me, this includes one major new practice.  Well, not new. It is an ancient practice and one I have been attempting to adopt for many months now. I mentioned it in a past post. I have been praying the hours. Okay, not all of the hours, but I am making the practice a part of my day. And I am learning a lot.

So, Oblation.

2014.

Bring what you will. I have my hopes. I have my suspicions. I will be surprised, disappointed, pleased, and baffled by the contents of your days.

I will be all of these things, but I will not be

Afraid.

And I will not be

Alone.

Praying the hours brings both solitude and community in one fell swoop, something my introverted little heart has longed for and never thought possible.

Tomorrow, I'll share a little more about my first epiphany of the year.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Currently: The Tip of the Tongue of the Year

Current Books: I'm halfway through A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin and Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. That one could have been read in one sitting, but I am rationing the essays to savor it longer. The boys and I are reading The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, along with Story of the World: Volume III. I also have a few volumes of poems open, including Rilke, Merton, and Oliver. For our upcoming long plane ride, I have Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen.

Current Playlist: I go back and forth between Let it Go on repeat and the Pistol Annies station on Pandora.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I took a nap yesterday. Like, I actually slept in the middle of the day. I drooled on myself. It was glorious.

Current Colors: Bright bright bright!

Current Food: I am looking forward to all sorts of new foods in Israel, along with some I already love, like hummus and lamb.

Current Drink: Raspberry refreshers. Yummy.

Current Favorite Favorite: My husband who is spending a boys' weekend with our sons while I go off with a friend for a couple of days.

Current Wishlist: A never-ending supply of ink cartridges for my printer, to beat level 67 on Frozen: Free Fall, cleaning fairies to deep clean my house

Current Needs: dental work (is that ever NOT on this list) and to feel on top of my ballgame again (Did I ever, really?)

Current Triumph: The work in progress has over 17,000 words! I memorized my own poem and recited it in front of TONS of people without messing up.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Tween hormones.

Current Indulgence: I'm heading to Memphis this weekend. I'm meeting Leila there. We're going to Target. And sleeping in. And eating somewhere our kids wouldn't like anything on the menu.

Current Mood: Happy.

Current #1 Blessing: Words. I'm so grateful God gave me words.

Current Outfit: jeans, comfy Tupelo Baseball sweatshirt, spike-toed black boots

Current Quote: Everyone in me is a bird, I am beating all my wings. -Anne Sexton

Current Photo:




Title taken from: "January 1939" by Dylan Thomas

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Demons Will Free You





I've been reading from the book of Luke. A few days ago, as I was reading a story I have read a million times, I saw something new.

Well, not new. It's always been there, and I have read it before. I've even thought about the words, but something twisted a new way inside my brain on this reading. For the last few days, I have toyed with the words, and I have to share.

In Luke, Jesus comes upon a "madman." In Chapter 8, we read, "he was a victim of demons. He hadn’t worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery." This paints an interesting picture. Naked guy, living among the dead. Creepy cheesy horror movie stuff, right? Corey probably has it in his Netflix queue.

You think I'm joking, but I'm not.

Luke narrates a brief interaction between the madman and Jesus, and I love the image of Jesus this paints, a man who has mercy even on demons. If we ask for grace, He gives it. Can I get an amen?

But that isn't what struck me on this read through.

In verse 29, we read, "He had been placed under constant guard and tied with chains and shackles, but crazed and driven wild by the demon, he would shatter the bonds."

Well, sure. This makes sense, right? A guy is crazed and naked and scary, so you lock him up. Pretty typical, especially if he hurt someone. That's how it works in American, at least. The mentally unstable have to commit a major crime and most likely kill someone before they get help. But I digress.

Read those last five words with me.

He. Would. Shatter. The. Bonds.

Cue the air rushing out of me.

This man was shackled and the demons inside won him freedom.

Not real freedom, not the kind Jesus would give him as the story progressed. When Jesus sent the demons running, the man got his mind back. He was washed and dressed and talking sense when the townspeople came upon him. THAT is freedom. 

I mean, seriously, don't you feel amazing after a good hot shower? Especially if you've been working all day in the hot sun and you are sweaty and dirty and exhausted? Now, imagine you have also been crazed with grief and fear and suddenly all of the grief and fear is GONE! Just gone! A hot shower and emotional relief. God is good.

But before Jesus freed him, the demons freed him.

That's what struck me anew this week.

The demons offered him freedom from his chains.

That sounds like rebellion to me. How many times did I, as a teenager, want freedom from my parents' rules? And, sometimes, I got that freedom by manipulation and rebellion. I would lie about where I was going to gain some freedom. I would go to a friend's house when I knew her parents would let us do whatever we wanted.

That demon was whispering in my ear, "They put you in chains, but we can break those chains together."

Do I still listen to that voice? 

Do I settle for broken chains sure to be recast and clapped back onto me? Or do I hold out for true freedom? Do I wait in the graveyard, knowing the Master will come and He will send the evil on it's way? Do I trust that He has a hot shower waiting for me? Clean clothes and a clean mind?

Do I want the freedom that causes others pain (what do you think the madman did to his guards once he broke those chains) or will I hold out for the freedom that brings healing and wholeness and hope for the future?

Friends, don't listen to the demons when they offer to break your chains.

Drugs and alcohol will make you feel free, but they are wiggling their roots around you and sucking you down. Money sure seems like the answer to a lot of our problems, but the rappers have it right on this one, "mo' money, mo' problems." Sex with who you want, when you want, how you want? Pleasurable for a time. 

Consequences come clanging chains.

Don't be deceived.

Hold out for the man who sends the demons flee-ing.

Hold out for your hot shower and clean clothes.

You are worthy of grace. Ask, and He will give you mercy. He will give you true freedom.

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

Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.

John 8:34-38


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Power of a Praying Parent

I have just finished my second or third reading of The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian.  I bet quite a few of you have read it before or else read one of Stormie's other books. She's quite a prolific author.

I am torn about the best way to review this book. On the one hand, it is a book about prayer. If you are looking to learn more about prayer and how to pray, this isn't the book I would offer you. Instead, I would suggest Prayer by Richard Foster or many other books. Stormie's book only covers one very specific type of intercessory prayer.

On the other hand, I have returned to this book multiple times so there is something powerful here.

I don't always agree with the points Stormie makes. Sometimes I find her explanations and examples a little too simple, and I worry they could lead a reader to believe anything that goes wrong in a child's life is your fault for not praying enough. She makes depression sound like something to be prayed away, and in some cases it is, but there are physical/chemical causes for the issue as well. If your child is diagnoses with some form of depression, I don't think it's because you didn't pray hard enough.

I don't think Stormie intends for her words to give that impression, however, and I am pretty good at taking a person on the heart behind their words. Stormie's heart is a good one.

I return to this book again and again because sometimes praying for my kids is overwhelming. There are so many things I need to cover in prayer. I start to feel like I can't possibly pray for the right things, like I am missing one key prayer that would make their lives better. As though prayer is a puzzle game, and I have to line up all the right purple diamonds before the timer sounds and my kids are ruined.

Sounds silly doesn't it?

Stormie's books on prayer are good because of that very simplicity that can also bug me. The simple is good when it helps me stop that mental clock I'm racing against and lay out the things I want to pray over in an organized fashion. I keep the prayers from the book in a binder, along with lists for each section. The lists include specifics for each child I am praying over. I don't always have to read her prayers word for word, but when I am feeling overwhelmed, they offer me a key to unlock the door. They guide me to the verses that speak to my concerns. They remind me again and again that I am praying to a God who loves me and loves my children and wants to do what's best for all of us.

I also appreciate how Stormie directs the reader to pray for himself or herself first. If I want my child to be free of anger and bitterness, I need to start by ridding my own should of anger and bitterness. It's like being on an airplane when the gas masks drop. Put your mask on first. Then help the person beside you. You can't help anyone if you pass out from lack of oxygen.

I feel more stable as a mother since this latest reread of Power of a Prayer Parent. I'm thinking about my kids and my parenting choice with a clearer head. And that is always always always a good thing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Felicities: 1/10/2014



Friday Felicities

Frozen Free Fall app
Freshly sharpened pencils
Free pizza from Papa John's
Corey helping David with long division
The smell of my Snow Day candle
L'Engle
Audio books from the library
MLK poem being used in a service soon
Peter Capaldi
Texting with Beth

Disqus for Madame Rubies