Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Pray Boldly

Yesterday, I walked into our local high school as a substitute teacher, and for the first time, felt fear.

After last week's school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida, I have started to think differently as I enter the doors of a school.  I look at the layout, check the lock-down codes and the teacher handbook for the emergency procedures and say a prayer for safety.  A friend posted recently on social media that she just put her kid "on a bus to a potential war zone."  Some days it feels that way.

On Sunday, tears streamed down my face as I grieved the loss of 17 students and teachers that I didn't even know.  Our pastor's sermon reminded us that they were real teenagers, ones who probably had fights with their mom before getting in their cars to go to school.  People with so many things un-said, so many things left to do with their lives.  He reminded us that prayer is not a political thing, it is what we do in times of crisis.  We pray.

We pray and we pray boldly.  So many people offer their "thoughts and prayers" in times of crisis.  I think we are saying this to others because we just don't know what else to do or how else to help.  If you say this and you don't pray, it may be better not to say it at all, but if you do say it, say it and then pray boldly.  Prayers are powerful and effective.  They can change things.

When my mom passed away a year ago, I was offered so many "thoughts and prayers."  At first it felt a bit trite, something that everyone was saying.  But, after awhile, it became like a mantra.  "Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers." And then the mantra stuck to my soul and became a buoy to hold onto on the hardest days.  I would repeat it over and over. "Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers."  It reminded me that my tribe was lifting me in prayer, even when they couldn't be right there next to me.

When tragedies strike, I am often moved deep down in my soul to go and help.  In September, I wanted so badly to go to Houston and help hurricane victims.  Sadly, real life circumstances prevented me from going.  But, I still had one thing, the power to pray.  After last week's shooting and the powerful sermon on Sunday, I was once again moved to go and do something.  I spent fifteen years as a youth director, so teenagers are close to my heart.  I thought, maybe I can just go down to Florida and listen to people who need to talk.  Maybe I could help out youth directors in the area.  My husband, ever the realist, reminded me that maybe that wouldn't be too helpful.  I felt helpless once again in midst of tragedy.

One thing I can do is pray and pray boldly.  May you join me with bold prayers, and may they lead to bold action and bold healing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One True Love

Photo by Anna Kolosyok
I truly have a love-hate relationship with Valentine's Day, as you may remember from last year's post:

Love has been a tough thing for me over the years, often elusive and leading to jealousy and other negative emotions.  In the midst of the pain that love has caused, there has been one constant in my life.  One true love. 

Jeremiah 31:3  says it best:  "I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.  I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails."  My Savior, My God, has been loving me since the beginning of time with a love that lasts forever.  He has kept on loving me when others have failed. 

Verse 4 continues with "I will build you up again."  I have consistently seen God's love in my life through this phrase.  When my first love and I broke up after a tragic prom, and I realized he wouldn't be my true love after all, God reminded me:  "I will build you up again."  When I was crying in an airport, leaving a relationship behind, he whispered in my ear: "I will build you up again."  When I was incredibly hurt by God's people, he held me in his arms and sang to me, "I will build you up again." 

God is into rebuilding hearts.  He's kind of like the spiritual HGTV.  (The Property Trinity?)
You see, before I met my husband, he was in the deepest, darkest place of his life, having been through great loss.  In his pain, he shouted to God, "What good can come from this?"  Several days later, he met me. 

God repairs, he heals, he duct-tapes things together.  Other times, he asks us to wait.  I have a very sweet friend who has been waiting a very long time for love.  She has prayed and waited and watched so patiently, but God is still whispering "Wait."  I don't understand his timing in this, I want my sweet friend to experience what she longs for, but I see God working in her life in the waiting.  He has used her to help and encourage so many people and she loves deeply through her friendships. 

Love looks different for each person.  One thing that unites us is the love of our Creator.  Listen quietly for his whisper:  "I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails."  Whatever you may need today, whether it is a heart-fixer-upper, a friend, or someone to love you unconditionally, listen closely. 

Your true love is whispering your name. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Olympic-Sized Dreams

Photo by: Nathan Dumlao
I have to admit that when the Olympic song plays for the first time every four years,  I get chills.  I love the Olympics.  You could say I'm a bit obsessed with them.  I think my Olympic fascination began as a young girl when my Grandma took me to my first "Ice Capades,"  where I saw Olympic ice skaters like Scott Hamilton live on the ice.  I felt like I was in a magical place for those two hours. 

Sadly, at 38, I am realizing that my dream of being an Olympic ice skater probably will never come true.  These days it's more like an Olympic-sized pile of laundry that I am tackling.  Thinking about this induces a bit of a mid-life crisis, but I'll deal with that in another blog...

What I love about the Olympics is the way it causes us all to dream Olympic-size dreams and to cheer on those who have had them their entire lives.  I am in awe of our Olympians who have trained for so many years for four minutes of competition.  This year, my favorite is Nathan Chen.  I've been watching him for the last couple of years in the U. S. Figure Skating Competition, the world championships, and the Grand Prix series this Fall.  A young skater who has risen to the top as the "Quad King" of men's figure skating, he is amazing to watch.  I love the jumps, but I also love that he is trained in ballet, so his movements are deliberate and graceful. 

Looking forward to the Olympics, I pictured him taking home a gold medal or two.  Last night, he debuted on Olympic ice.  I was so sad to see him fall and not complete another jump.  His nerves got the best of him.  He was so close to his dream that it scared him.  Thankfully, he still has the men's competition coming up next week, so we'll see if he can turn things around.

I was also sad for Ashley Wagner, who didn't make it onto this year's team.  What I love about her is her fierce determination.  I know she will come back and fight for another journey to the the top. 
These Olympians prove to me the invaluable power of dreams.  If we aren't reaching for something, then we are stagnant, going nowhere. At the moment, I'm in between dreams.  (Jack Johnson plays in my head...)  I've achieved many of my dreams for my life, and I'm at the point where I need some new ones.  One of my dreams is so huge that it feels out of reach.  But, I will pour my energy into it, because what is life if you don't have Olympic-sized dreams? 

Tonight, we'll watch as the Opening Ceremonies take us in and wow us with the power of thousands of dreams coming true. 

Who knows, maybe Olympic curling could be in my future.  I'll practice with my laundry baskets...

Friday, February 2, 2018

Self-Portrait in Metaphor

Photo by Steven Wang
I am cotton

I am blue
calm like ocean waves
yet searching for contentment

I am a snickerdoodle
sweet and fattening

I am jazz
smooth, yet syncopated

I am a cat
tip-toeing around
enjoying her sleep

I am a whisper
barely heard

I am fresh-baked bread

I am a bucket list
filled with dreams

I am a bear
wanting to hibernate

I am raindrops on a pond
making small ripples on the water.

~A. Laska 2018