Absolutely More

Well, I’m back in the mix, and what a tiring day!  I’m a teacher by trade- high school English- and our “preplanning” sessions have begun.  A week of preparation before the onslaught of 3200 kids!  Classrooms to get ready, new learning protocols to adopt and adapt to, and of course, readying the spirit and soul for the unexpected!

I think of the number of things that are on my plate, and I get almost dizzy:

1. I’ve been made department chair, so I have added responsibilities of keeping together a growing and changing English Department.

2. I am teaching two preps: AP English Lit and British Literature/History

3. I am taking two grad school classes for my master’s study in literature.

4. I am blessed to be chosen as an LEV (lay eucharistic visitor) at my church, bringing the holy bread and wine to those who cannot join us in church.

5. I am blessed to be leading our children’s program at church once a month.

6.  Chesterton Society meetings

7.  I am continuing counseling to heal my addictions and anxieties

All of these are blessings, but you can perhaps see how they might be a bit overwhelming, especially for this frazzled, disorganized follower of Christ.

However.

Recently a former student posted on Facebook that “Whoever said God never gives you anything you can’t handle is having a joke on me and God!”

Hmmm.

I remembered a quote from a book and went to dig it out for a response.

Ah, here it is.  From Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.

“I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle.  Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives.”

Well, okay then!

I surrender!  🙂

Peace to you all, especially all you teachers and students!

“I’m just not used to not running…”

when it hurts run to god

“I’m just not used to not running…”

This is what I said to my spiritual director/counselor the last time we met.  Unfortunately, through many tears and the last vestiges of an anxiety attack.

Because I fell.  Hard.  I am dealing with addictions in my life that seem stronger and more potent and immobilizing now that I am actually dealing them and recognizing God’s will to eradicate them from my life.  What irony.

“Totally expected.  I’m not surprised,” my counselor said.

I told my counselor the whole story.  About The memory of pain from earlier in my life.  The thought of it reoccurring.  The fear that pain was once again just around the corner.  The need for escape.  The escape into things that just lead me into numbness and forgetfulness.  Then the memory again…  The thought of it reoccurring…

And here we go again.  The addict’s vicious cycle.

I think I live in perpetual fear of pain inflicted on me out of nowhere.  Sudden and unforeseen.  It has happened before.  The shock and surprise of it all is sometimes the most debilitating.  It has come in many forms: physical, mental, and emotional.  And the fear of that pain and the anxiety that comes with it leads to a perpetual exploration and seeking after pleasure, which in essence is nothing but a quick distraction which brings with a whole bag full of shame and guilt.

But I still run.

As fast as I can.

To more hurt and pain and numbness.

I grow sullen and withdrawn, anxious and uncommunicative.  I don’t write (hence the silence on this blog for a while).

So I’m relating this story to my counselor, and as I relate it, the memory of pain is there, and I stand up, my heart racing, sudden panic constricting my chest.

Full fledged panic attack.

“What’s going through your head right now?”

“I n-n-n-need to g-g-g-go.  Got. To get.  Out.

“Where are you going to go?”

I realized, through the panic, I had nowhere to go.  I couldn’t escape anymore.  And the umpteenth time, I realized I needed to rest in the arms of my Savior.  That is the only place for me, to face the things I need to face.  Not as a pat-on-the-shoulder, everything-gonna-be-alright comfort fix, but as a real placement of anguish at the foot of the cross, where my Savior Jesus cups my face in his nail-scarred hands and rides through the pain with me and brings me once again out of the depths and darkness into newness and light.

Just to stay in His presence, at that moment, was what was needed.

That realization brought a wave of exhaustion, tears, and more realization.  Because I still struggled.  In between gasps of breath and coughs, I admitted this is in the small room, as my counselor tenderly prayed over me…

“I-I-I’m just not used to it.  To not running.”

But I was there, in that chair, at least, facing things.  I am beginning that long process of running only to God, and to recognizing that only He is there with the consistency of unconditional Love.  For even though Peter said “Go away from me Lord; I am sinful man” (Luke 5:8), Jesus still said “Come, follow me.”

At this point of my healing, this means to lie down in green pastures.

Beside quiet waters.

For the restoration of my soul.

A restoration that will stay.  Forever and ever, amen.

The Lamed Vavnik

“For the sake of ten righteous people, God does not destroy the world.  These are the Lamed Vavnik.  They live scattered, in any nation under heaven, are members of any class, of a, ny profession which may be imagined; and they are invisible to the world. Lo, not even they know the significance of their lives.  Such ignorance is their righteousness.  They merely live, so they suppose, as other people live.  But Heaven knows the difference.

And this is the mercy of God: that when one of the Lamed Vavnik dies, God raises up another.

I heard this from my friend. He said it was an old Hasidic legend.

I believe it.”

from Ragman and other cries of faith by Walt Wangerin Jr.

Time to worry?

When is the last time I posted on this blog…hmmm let’s see…oh, man a couple weeks it seems!

Now that could mean a couple things to you.

One: I’m lazy.

Two:  I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t had time to write.

I deny both and answer the question with something much much worse.  And it is something that is just coming to light tonight.

I’ve been worrying.

About what?  you might asked.  Well, a bit of everything, of course:  upcoming graduate school classes, my own classes I teach, future family additions (here come those twins!), projected work loads, past injuries which might recur (got a bad bum knee), worries about direction and focus.

And like Charlie Brown would say “My anxieties have anxieties.”  ‘Cause I’m worried ’bout my worryin’!

Now of course, Matthew 7:25-34 comes to mind, that wonderfully read but ignored passage by people like me, where Jesus directly states “Do not worry.”  He further states that God knows all we need and will take care of us.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I’m not just taking on worries about tomorrow, I’m covering weeks and months and years in my tormented spirit.

And I suddenly realize how much time that has been taking up lately.

Because worriers are often the world’s best procrastinators as well.  Easier to worry about something than do something about it and let the matter rest.

Or trust God and let the matter rest in Him.

Oh, boy.

Because I’ve realized the amount I’ve been worrying is directly proportional to how little time I’ve spent in prayer, and here prayer meaning that stillness and reliance in the face of God.

And worrying is also directly proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent in distractions of every kind.

Writing, by the way, is not a distraction for me.  It helps me focus.

How long since that last blog post?  At least it wasn’t months this time.

Worrying takes so much time and energy out of me.

So much time.

When that could be time taking my worries to God, and while the problem or situation might still be “out there,” it is book-ended with a trust in a God who loves, cares, heals, redeems, and feeds birds and clothes lilacs.

Who is not a small God, so made by our neglect and lack of trust.

But a large God, whose infinite unconditional love and care for us says emphatically, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Dreaded Inmost Place

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After a long session with my spiritual mentor, she wrapped up our conversation with a bit of advice.  “I think it would be a really great idea if you reflected on the fact that you are beloved of God, with every fault in your past, present, and future included.  That he knows you will stumble, but loves you and made you uniquely you for a reason.”

Suddenly I found I had a dozen books to read, numerous articles to read through, several facebook posts to peruse, and let me tell you…

those Youtube videos just don’t watch themselves, ya know.

I know many people who say that those of us who are Christian are delusional, ready to live a lie in order to assuage ourselves of the reality of the world.

How I wish, sometimes.  Really, how I wish.  It would mean my experience would be so much different.

The one where I am shoved up against my broken self and have to acknowledge my inner fears, worries, dreads, anxiety, and past.

The starting point of Christianity is acknowledging we are not the illusions we create about ourselves.  Good or bad.  All of it is stripped away.  Think of Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Layers and layers of dragon skin peeled off.

Then he was real.

And…

Wait a minute.

Let me not turn this into a pious pick-me-up post.

There are times (like now) where I am just tired.  And the Gospels just make me say “Eh.”  I’m worn out.  And knowing how much I am loved is actually more of burden than anything else.  Trust and intimacy are Lothlorien and I’m in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.  Yeah, Gandalf may be coming, but I got fifty orcs in my face right now and my sword swing just isn’t cutting it.  (There, for you Lord of the Rings fans, and concluding with a bad pun to boot).

I have friends around the world right now who are traveling the world and experiencing marvelous things.  And I feel stuck.

How is this short-tempered, impatient, impulse driven, depressed self supposed to see himself as loved by the Lord?  Needed by God?  Asked to be part of the communion of saints?

So here’s a post asking for prayers, please.  Because I do believe, I do.  I cling desperately to that which Christ offers.  But sometimes I get tired of holding on, and don’t realize he’s been carrying me for the past forty miles.

Beautiful Home, Pesky Ants

 

ephesians-2-22

Quite a  busy week last week.  In addition to finding out that I am going to be a future father to twins (see my last post and the freak out contained within), I headed up to Eustis, FL to see a good friend I haven’t seen in 20 years, Amy.  For the past five years, Amy has been a missionary in Ghana, Africa, as headmistress of a Rafiki Foundation school.  As we walked the streets of nearby Mt. Dora, we caught up on the past twenty years and I learned a great deal of her new life in Africa.  Of how different it is, but how “kids will still be kids.”  Of electricity going out on a regular basis.  On how being a missionary isn’t being a “super Christian” but just following the particular call that God has for all of us.

Amy and I performed together in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I was happy to hear that it was one of the first plays she introduced her new students to.

How wonderful to see her again.  And hey!  She could always use support in her work!  She is an amazing person.  Learn more about her here.

Then a week a teaching at my first VBS (Vacation Bible School).  It has been my desire over the summer to express my faith more, not to merely consent mentally to a creed, but allow the Holy Spirit to touch my heart, hands, and feet.

I wanted to use my gifts for teaching and presenting to specifically teach and show the love of Christ.

To mentally acknowledge my brokenness, yes, but to let the joy of God settle in my heart.

By doing cool little science experiments dealing with air and water pressure, and using them as metaphors for God’s Love.

By acting really goofy during our Praise and Worship times, jumping around, laughing, high-fiving, being altogether out of my element and enjoying every minute.

Seeing the light in those little kids’ faces was pretty amazing.

We wrapped up the week at a celebration held by two members of our church.  They live in downtown Orlando in a beautiful neighborhood, in a beautiful house.

A really beautiful house.

A might-as-well-be-a-bed-and-breakfast house.

Antiques everywhere, ornate furniture.  Perfectly paneled wood.

A veranda, a bricked courtyard with a tall, twisting avocado tree.

Wow.

Nice place.

(I said as I valiantly tried to stop my two year old son from crashing into anything).

A little envy?  Oh yeah, sure,a touch.  Especially as I though about the new challenges of fitting two more family members into an already cramped house.

Then this:

My wife is pregnant and now has to avoid alcohol and caffeine (oh the humanity!).  Seeing only Coke and wine out, I asked if there was any Sprite.

Sure, follow me, our hostess said.

The courtyard had a small storage area, enclosed by a wooden door with a latch. At the top of the door, on frame, tiny little dots moved about industriously.

Our hostess sighed.  “White footed ants,” she explained.  “They are everywhere, unfortunately.  Nearly impossible to get rid of.”

She found some Sprite and we rejoined the party and had a wonderful time in fellowship.

In my prayers later that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about those ants.

The Lord wanted to teach me something.

“Even in a house you thought was pretty much perfect, my son, there was a flaw.  A slight flaw, but a flaw nonetheless.

Theirs is a beautiful home , full of hospitality and goodwill.  They are not moving out any time soon because of some pesky ants.”

And then this realization.  This assurance.  This love.  This promise:

“I want my make my dwelling in you.  I want you to rest in my Spirit, and my Spirit to rest in you.”

Ephesians 2:22.

“And trust me, your pesky sins, acknowledged and repented of, are no match for the beautiful Grace and Love which I want to furnish you with.”

Awesome.

Yes, our sins are those pesky ants, and sometimes they can swarm, but we are being built up for something so much greater.

So why despair, my fellow palace?