Twenty Years of Love

Lisa and ChadThere are some memories that are so deeply etched into your soul. Twenty years ago Chad and I were married on July 30th at 10:30am at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City. It was a sunny, clear, hot day.   

I held my dad’s arm at the back of the church as Canon in D played and we waited for our cue. My dad often recalls that I had no hesitation that day; I “pulled him down the aisle,” as he tells it.

I recall with vivid feeling those steps. As we processed to the front my eyes found Chad. In those fleeting moments we were more than looking at each other; we were united. Everything faded to the background. All the strains of putting a wedding together, all the family commotion, the worries about the future, the people crowded in the pews and even the music faded. I was eager to get down the aisle because something deep within me woke up in his loving eyes and our union felt in tune with something larger then ourselves.

We were both eager in those early days. When I told him I felt called to be a priest he said, “You can be a Mac truck driver if you want. I still want to be with you.”

Eagerness of young love meets the reality of life: bills, moods, schedules, and personal challenges. In the midst of the stress of life, love can quickly change from freeing to grasping, from open to controlling, from easy to needy.

After twenty years of marriage I am learning more about the love that was awakened in Chad’s dark brown, soulful eyes. It was not as much about us that day as it was about God in and through us.

Marriage, I have learned, is taking on the divine task of telling each other we are loveable. Chad is such a prince because he has told me so often that I am worthy of love even when I am ugly, worn out, and crabby. And I get the privilege of supporting and loving Chad even when he is not at his best.

The secret to marriage is learning to creatively love each other through all of life, and to challenge each other to love life and God and all who are near us more deeply and more creatively each day.

The media lies to us all the time, telling us that long-term committed love is impossible, boring or not worth it. The media tells us that if our spouse is not meeting all our needs and wants we should simply give up.

God, who is the most faithful, the most creative at love, teaches us that committed love, whether it be toward a spouse or friend or family member, is what we are made for. Our souls stretch and yield within committed creative compassionate love.  

The gift of a long marriage is finding you are loveable again and again. The joy of long marriage is falling in love again and again. The blessings are too numerous to count.

Thank you Chad for loving me and giving me the chance to love you.

 

 

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On Frailty and Faith

On Sunday my sermon was inspired by Jacob, that crooked and faithful father of our faith we read about in the Old Testament. His story is one of many examples of why I remain a Christian. People of authentic faith like Jacob realize that what sets a person of faith apart is only the slight, often tentative, knowledge that we are irreversibly flawed and weak, relying on God’s mercy.

Faith is not something that comes through effort; rather it is born from our broken places. The band Jars of Clay wrote a modern day Psalm that helped me to see this truth again recently:

Storm is wild enough for sailing
Bridge is weak enough to cross
I’m home enough to know I’m lost
Barren enough to conceive
Poor enough to gain treasure
Enough a cynic to believe
Confused enough to know direction
Be still enough to finally tremble
And see enough to know I’m blind

Jacob was an entitled scoundrel willing to cheat and steal from his own family to get what he wanted. But one night alone in the wild risky world, away from home for the first time, he laid his head on a rock and fell asleep. The dream he was given that night has remained one of the divine mystical gifts treasured and retold for thousands of years.

The dream was simple. He saw a ladder stretched from earth to heaven. In the dream Jacob observed celestial beings coming and going back and forth between this world and the realm of God.

Jacob was lost enough to hear God’s voice, blind enough to see a new vision for life,  asleep on that rock he was finally still enough to know God.

For Jacob the dream was an affirmation that this world is the “House of God,” or Bethel, as he named the spot where he slept that night. And the rock on which he laid his head he poured oil over as a marker of the healing grace he received there.

The ladder is like our incarnated Jesus Christ whose life displayed how passionately and deeply beloved this flawed faithless world is to God. Jesus was a living balm; a healing gift poured out over all the rocks on which we lay our frail heads.

I believe because of the stories others tell of how their frailty becomes the very cornerstone of their faith. I believe because I have known God’s presence even when I do not deserve it.

Our broken places are where God meets us. What the world tells us to deny, God sees as a potential place to reveal his deep and abiding love.

To hear the song click on this link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZAa3JOmRg4

Cottonwood Seed

If I could float like cotton seed on the still air,

if I could be weightless;

Where would you take me?

 

The breath from your whispered love sends me flying.

I long to be carried away

to rest on the crest of your being.

 

I lighten with each syllable you speak

I rise and fall

I ebb and flow

I am hungry and I am satisfied

 

To the height and in the depth

There is no where I am without you.

 

Though I am heavy as rock

Each divine breath carries my weightless soul

on,

and on

and on,

And I trust the still air will bring me to my true heart.

 

Sacrifice

‘Sacrifice’ is an old word it is laden with lots of meaning and mystery. The literal definition of ‘a sacrifice’ is simple; to do something sacred or priestly.

 

As a child of Catholicism and an Italian mother I know the word from statements like, “Do you realize the sacrifice I have made for you!?”

 

Sacrifices are part of living. People make them all the time; for family, for a job, or for our country.

 

In the famous story of the Binding of Isaac, Abraham nearly sacrifices his son. He carries the wood, he makes an altar, he pulls out the knife, but as the story goes an angel appeared, and Abraham “looked up” and saw a ram. God provided Abraham with exactly what he needed at the exact moment he needed it.

 

One of the most compelling, hopeful moments in the Bible is when Abraham paused and looked up. God saved Abraham from an unnecessary sacrifice.

 

True religion is about a relationship with God. One in which we allow God to intervene in our lives. We look up.

 

Think of all the unnecessary sacrifices you and I make:

 

  •  We sacrifice time for worry            
  •  We sacrifice our health to stress and overproduction
  •  We sacrifice our calm sanity to multi-task and overfill our calendars
  • We sacrifice really being present to and enjoying a meal, or seeing a painting, or hearing a concert or connecting to the person in front of us because we are in too big a hurry, we are restless, overwrought
  • We see truth sacrificed because we are afraid to be honest.

 

When we look up, God enters our stories. What is true comes to light and new possibilities are seen to help us toward better sacrifices that bring us joy, life and goodness.

 

When do you quit looking up? What is happening in your world, in your relationship with God?

 

Has your faith become a static, boring a sacrifice you make without the feelings of intimacy that bring joy and life?

 

Open yourself to God, ask God to bring you exactly what you need when you need it. True religion awakens our hearts.

 

When we look up, we become God’s grace.

Journeying Together

On my walk tonight the Sunset Ridge parking lot was overflowing into our parking lot. Parents and youth dressed up and moving quickly from car to school; it was graduation night for the eighth graders.

Graduations are moments in our journey when we get to take a little wider view of our lives. Parents look back on their child’s life in wonderment that so much time has passed so swiftly. And kids with eagerness think about what is ahead for them. Graduations, marriages, funerals, baptisms, new jobs, and birthdays with a zero on the end, all of them are life’s balcony moments.

Recently on retreat I enjoyed walking a beautifully constructed labyrinth. Each morning I rolled out of bed and turned on some spiritual music and walked the path. This was a new prayer form for me. I took my first step without really knowing what I was doing. But I felt drawn to walk.

 labyrinth

A labyrinth is a prayer because it leads you to the center and back out again. There are no tricks, you do not have to remember which way you went, and it is constructed for the purpose of meditation.

I wrote in my journal, “the labyrinth has taught me to perceive the inner wholeness of my life. It has helped me to have a light attachment to the past, present and future. Watching every step helps me to pay attention to every step in my day. I have learned by walking those twists and turns that the transitions need special attentive care. It has taught me that God is looking at the big picture. So when I am in part of the journey that feels uncomfortable I can remember it may not last long. A new direction is closer than it feels”.

It is not often enough that we take a step back or a step up to the balcony and view our life from a highly reflective vantage point. The Labyrinth taught me that I can find this vision through something as simple as a walk.  One  step after another and I can see that God has an eye for the wholeness of all his people. Our past, present and future are mysteriously in his care.

Aflame with the Presence of God

The moment the fiery round edge of the sun comes into view on the horizon is always breathtaking. So bright it is difficult to gaze upon, so beautiful you don’t want to miss it.

 

Often in life I feel this way the moment is too full and too beautiful to take it in, and then it is gone. We experience lots of these moments. Moments when we see it; the wonder of life, the gift of it, joy is felt and love is experienced as something full and overwhelmingly real.

 

When I imagine Jesus living on earth and when I imagine being one of his friends; I assume it was like that all the time. With Jesus it must have felt like you were in a presence you did not want to miss a moment of.

 

The church celebrates Pentecost this Sunday. Fire is one of the biblical metaphors of the Spirit of God. In the story found in the Acts of the Apostles, fire came down and its divided tongues rested on each disciple. When you see an icon of Pentecost it always has little flames above the head of each disciple.

 

I cannot imagine these events. So dramatic and mythical I cannot really understand how it has anything to do with me.

 

As the story goes it is the affect of the fire that is interesting. The disciples left that upper room filled with grief and paralyzed by fear. But after the fire came, they broke out of their huddle and their reminiscing on the resurrection appearances and walked into the light of the day. They no longer looked back and they were instead living in the present moment. In church history from this biblical moment forward Christianity spread like a fire across the world.

 

For you and me it means that we are invited to make space for God to burn in us, bright and strong, so that we in turn live our moments full of the love of God.

 

All our moments matter to God who longs to be the light of our life. Pray for a deeper awareness of this life-giving Spirit within you and all around you in whom we discover that all our moments are aflame with the Presence of God.