Wednesday, August 31, 2011

rebuild

"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."
~G.B. Stern

It took me a full minute to register the implications of the gaping hole in the side of the basement, though they’d been floating through my mind all day.

For one thing, I had been standing above the spot where the flood waters piled and pressed against the wall until it’s integrity was breeched, causing it to collapse inward. For another, my father had been in the basement moments before- the basement which had filled with water in less than ten seconds- water that gushed in and flattened everything in it’s wake against the wall.

I could of fallen through the ceiling. He would have, for sure, been crushed.

Imaginably, nothing in the basement made it.

Yet in light of the storm that swept over our lives last weekend, we were blessed. Despite the dangers that the storm caused, none of us sustained any injuries. Our pets both made it through with no problems. And despite some old memories that now lay soaked under the massive clutter of the water logged underground room, most of the first floor and all of the second went untouched.

 That doesn’t stop my street from looking like the end of a Spielberg movie. Dust is layered over everything. Water marks lie across many of the houses. Two homes are still condemned, one whose foundation began to fall apart, and the other who suffered a massive gas leak. And two streets over, one small old structure gave a heavy sigh before collapsing in on itself once and for all.

But the mood is hopeful, for the most part, as you walk from house to house, watching the neighbors pile their own garbage onto their lawns. While the houses aren’t in great shape, the people are all alive and safe. One ecstatic family was reunited with their dog, who they thought had drowned, but instead had swam to shelter and survived. The only deaths that occurred where those of two chickens that belonged to a neighbor.

On the first night after the flood, I stayed with a very generous friend who opened her home to me, despite that her own family was struggling without power and water. Grateful to have a bed to sleep in, I tried not to let myself get caught up in the disaster of our own home, but the unknowns left me feeling sad. How much had been lost? How were my parents doing in the midst of all this mess? How long would it take to rebuild, before our lives got back to normal?

But now the rebuilding has started and I have to say, I have never been so grateful in my life. For while I always knew that I had a lot of friends, I never realized the extent of loved I and my family really are. We have friends who offered their homes when we needed places to sleep. We have relied on others for hot showers when so many of our neighbors have no water. We have had numerous volunteers who have come over to start to move the mess from the basement, and fix up the rest of the house to a better-than-before state. We have been given the gift of so many people’s love and warmth, and I, who have always struggled to rely on others, feel loved and strengthened through this out pouring of concern and compassion.

I think about how the last few days have impacted me, and I see a few things that I didn’t really expect of myself. I don’t feel sorry for us because so many others got away unscathed, but instead, feel almost giddy that so many people fared so well. I am proud of my family for our capability to get up and get out, and of my parents for not wallowing in their hardship, but for getting started making positive changes already. But mostly, I am just loved- and I don’t mean just feeling loved- I am loved. I know, because throughout all of the horrors that the hurricane brought, it could not wash away the outpouring of caring and support that has since engulfed me.

And if I drown in that, I think I will be okay.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

the packrat's daughter.


"An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit."
-Pliney the Elder


My parents are very sentimental people. They love the memories that they have created. They love the things that they have collected over the years. And they love the hope and solace that comes that each of these things is theres and has been collected over time for a reason.

I love my parents, but I have to admit that they are kind of packrats.

I, on the other hand, laugh at sentimentality. I live in a small space, with little room for possessions. I have an aversion to over stuffed closets and drawers. I don't like when my drawers are too full. I throw everything out when I lose use for it. It's just kind of the way I am.

In the preparation for hurricane Irene (which I confess, I am watching even as I write this), I had to think about what was important of what I owned. What would I save if there was a need? I am not usually the kind of person who suspects and anticipates catastrophe just for fun, but with all the talk on the news, and with all the worry surrounding my area, I couldn't help but think about it, even just a little bit.

And I glanced over some of my favorite possessions with an air of confusion. Of course, my teddy bear, Ducky, was non-negotiable, but everything else seemed of little merit. I mean, my computer seemed important, as did a number of other small electronics, so those seemed like a good bet. But the rest of the memories that I have scattered around my room seemed, well, replaceable. I'm not saying that these things aren't actually important to me in one way or another, and that I wouldn't want them. But in the face of crisis, none of them seemed like risking life for.

On one hand, I'm proud that I've been able to separate emotion from objects... it's not that I don't have memories, it's just that I haven't attached them to the things that came from those times. Everything lives on in my mind instead of in that which came from it.

But the mind is a fickle and strange thing, and sometimes it blocks out certain memories and thoughts that don't fit into the pretty pictures that we paint of ourselves. Sometimes a sound, a scent, even the right words, can bring us back to something that we've gotten rid of,  for all intense and purposes.

And at the risk of confession here, even I have to admit that there are sometimes that I would give anything to have back those tangible things, just to hold something once more, just to recreate the memories that I have let go of, just to have one more smell of what used to be.

Maybe being a pack rat isn't the worst thing in the world. Maybe it's a sign that you've learned to accept and remember that which was important. Maybe memories don't stay sad forever, even if they were painful. I can't help but wondering how much I've tossed aside that one day I might want back.

Because while there is a lot of room in my life for new memories now, there are a lot of gaping holes that may never fill.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Learning to share... responsibility

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor."
Ecclesiastes 4:9

I was a bit of a theater kid in high school... Ok, I was a lot of a theater kid. I did a number of shows, a few solos on stage (yep, I can sing), a few dramas, and tried my hand at directing a few times. And I loved every experience that I had during that time. 

But I loved choir most of all. 

I don't think I ever told anyone back then, because it seemed a little dorky. But there was something about working with other people on creating something amazing that appealed to me. I loved that there was no one person who was responsible to make the sound come out well. We all had to work together- we had to do our part, and cover each other if someone wasn't making it, and in all the competitions that I was part of, I remember always being judged on how much any of us stuck out. We had to be united- one voice. 

I haven't found a choir since I left high school, sadly. Life has gotten in the way a bit- I've had a job, and up until last may, classes, and other passions have started to take hold (hence this blog). But I still miss that unification, that team spirit. I've discovered that I can be a team player if I trust those I work with, and that I like it a lot better than doing it all on my own.

The problem, if you couldn't guess, is the trust thing. I have a very hard time trusting anyone to do things right. For that matter, I have a very hard time trusting. Period. Needless to say, I've done too many things on my own. I just didn't think they would get done right. 

A few months ago, after watching a family friend who I respect take charge over another project that her busy schedule couldn't handle, I realized what path I was wandering down. Here was this woman who needed to have things done right. As a result she couldn't have help. She was way over booked, over tired, and under appreciated for the wonderful person she was, because people think of her as "bossy and pushy." I had a vision of myself in fifteen years, alone, working too hard on things that other people were perfectly capable of doing, or at the very least, helping with. And I didn't like what I saw. 

And there was more. I love people, and I love their stories. And I suddenly understood that by never letting people work with me, I was missing out on their stories. I was missing out on them. And I knew that I didn't want to miss out because of myself. I wanted to be part of a group again. 

I didn't find a choir, unfortunately. And I didn't change overnight into someone who delegates well. But I did make small improvements, starting projects with some of my friends- the kind that utilize all of our talents, and that have a much less vivid outcome- I was tired of getting tied up in right and wrong. And I started to give people responsibilities when I lead things, without checking up or checking in all the time. I suspect there are some friends who think that I do not love them anymore. But in reality, it's just the opposite- I had to love them enough to let them do it their own way. 

Life is not meant to be perfect- life is the opportunity for us to get together and know other people. And I am embracing each new project that I am part of - the ones I have started, and the ones that I am only helping with. For example, this fall, I'm going to start working on some photo journalism with some friends. I don't take amazing photos- I am a writer. But that is what I have friends for. 

The more I think it over, the more life strikes me as a choir. We all have to sing in the same key if we want to make something sound right. We have to know our strengths so we can cover others weaknesses. We have to know our weaknesses so that we can ask for the strong to help us. And when we work together, we become unified- one single voice, floating on the wings of the wind into the distance, the ends of the earth... eternity. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lively thinking.

"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Matthew 6:20


New York City beckons to me, no matter where I am. Which might explain why no matter where I get off the train, I take a wrong turn, get on the wrong bus, or give someone the wrong instructions on how to get to their own destinations. No matter where I am in New York City I am, I'm lost.

It's the greatest gift in the world.

Today, for example, I found myself wandering from 2nd Ave to Avenue B along 2nd St. If you've ever been to the east village but never wandered past St. Marks, or even better, if you've never been to the east village, you may have no idea what I'm talking about, but I feel the need to give you the coordinates, in case you ever get lost there yourself, and I recommend it. Just walking down second street, I was immersed in the heart of this corner of the city. Everything I passed was picture worthy (don't worry, you can find the pictures at the end of this story).

I see a lot of beauty today, unmarked and inviting, calling my name and dragging me in. I wandered into gardens- little pieces of heaven planted in between the solid stone that makes a city authentic. I saw graffiti depicting stages of life- childhood, and marriage, and remembrance once the life has passed away. I saw beauty and pain, and hope, reflected in the upkeep of a small street side project, just being born.

But what stuck with me most was the marble cemetery- a garden planted with a few marble monuments, just sitting in between second and first avenue, representing the death of the numbered streets, so close the edge of Manhattan. The cemetery did not look like the kind you see on the side of the highways in New Jersey, or the kind that you find tucked away in the back of a church, over populated and heavy, but instead, was scattered and spread. The monuments commemorated families and important people, though I suspect, even looking back now in reflection, that there were many others, lying beneath the surface, with no memorial at all. The ground spanned the entire avenue, and three signs adorned it's tightly locked gates- one explaining it's purpose, one stating it's name... and one proving that this was a historical landmark in New York City, and therefore was protected by the laws for landmarks.

It was this third one that caught my eye, and reading through it, I felt a surge of urgency. How long did New York fight over whether or not this was a landmark? What had been the reason for wanting to dig up the bones of long passed people? I had the sinking feeling that it might have been a McDonalds, or more likely, a Starbucks. Forget the people who once inhabited the city- move them somewhere else and let's create the mirage of artistic creativity which can be purchased in a paper cup for 4.25. Anger swelled through me as I thought through the realities of the world- why should people have to fight for their right to stay buried where they were once left.

I guess that as the world changes, things have to be moved. And I understand death to be a transition- beneath the ground, those vaults were left with nothing but bones. But burials aren't for those who have died- they are comfort for those who are living- small connections to those who have moved on, somewhere physical where a soul in mourning can just be for a few moments and remember those they loved.

And the tragedy, to me at least, is not that these people died, because everybody dies. And it is not that these grounds are tightly locked and that most people left there are not visited frequently except for the average pesky blogger with a camera. But the real tragedy is that we live in a world where those people and their memory have been reduced to real estate- that their worth is measured by the proximity of their plot.

I hope, of course, that all this speculating is just the over dramatic musings of a writer. But as I consider all the highways that cut through grave yards, of all the people who have been uprooted and relocated in their final rest, I can't help  but wonder if maybe I've been born into a generation that never really grasped what reality is.

Anyway, that's enough from the blogger. Check out the pictures- they tell a much better story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A miracle for Johnny (Or the truth in my unbelief)

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:20


I created the invite last Saturday night out of desperation.

I was exhausted from a very straining week- there had been very little sleep. To begin with, my ability to talk, which deeply effects my job, got bored and took a holiday. leaving my straining even with the simple sounds. Then, good friends of mine alerted me to the fact that their dad was going to have to undergo heart surgery. They felt optimistic of his chances, but I still waited anxiously on thursday for the news that things had gone well. And just before one, I got my confirmation that they had.

It was only a minute that the relief warmed me, however. As I went to log out of Facebook, where updates where my friends were posting the updates about the condition of their dad, I saw a message that made my heart sank. My friend Ashley, a "little sister" of mine, had posted that her brother had been admitted to the hospital for an unknown malady, one that was causing havoc on his body.

Reaching out to her, I found out what was going on, and my heart sank low into my chest. Johnny's kidney's were failing. His intestines were expanding. He was too weak to talk or really move at all. He was losing control of vital operations in his body. And worst off- no one seemed to have any idea why.

Desperate to help, my younger sister and I created the best care package we could manage and sent it off the next day. We prayed on our own, in our own quiet places. But Johnny didn't get better. He got worse.

He'd been admitted on thursday. By Saturday, I was really starting to lose heart. The doctors were planning more tests for monday. They were pessimistic about Johnny's recovery chances. None of the things they believed him to have were curable- they figured they would follow him for the rest of his life. They were convinced that without the IV they had him on, he wouldn't live more than a few hours.

So I logged into my Facebook account on a mission, and put together an event, inviting people of faith to pray for Johnny. I spread it over to Ashley and my own younger sister Karyn, and even our friend Wil. We all started sending out invites. I'd created the event at 9:30 on Saturday night. On Sunday at 8, just 11 hours later, 160 people had agreed to pray for Johnny.

And not without results. When the doctors walked in that morning, they were amazed to see Johnny looking much better. They ran a few tests, and found that his blood count was back to normal, his vitals were okay, and that he was, it seemed, rather healthy. The tests that they had run previously for diseases had come back negative, and the ones that they had planned for the following morning were no longer necessary- it seemed Johnny's incurable disease had fled his body.

The miracle had occurred.

Warning him that he was not 100 percent yet, the doctors released Johnny around 11 in the morning. He went home, where he picked up his video games again, and later that night we took him out to see the world again for a few hours, where he danced, laughed, and ate chicken fingers as if nothing had ever happened.

And people continued to pray. So much so, that the event eventually had 181 people in attendance.

Today, Johnny was declared healthy. His sister left this message on the Facebook wall."

"THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR PRAYING FOR MY BROTHER <3333333 I'd like to announce that he is FULLY HEALED! all your prayers worked!.

The doctors still have no idea what caused this or how this happened but what we do know for sure is that He is no longer sick and is back to playing video games and being an annoyance as always ♥ He's back to himself lol =].

THANK YOU ALL!"

In less than a week, a huge miracle has swept in and changed my life. See, I would love to say that when I made that event, that I had full faith of Johnny's recovery. I had a lot of faith, don't get me wrong. But on some level, I was forcing myself to believe because I knew that it was essential. I am often found lacking in the faith that moves mountains and stills the seas.

But this is the power of my Lord, that even in my unbelief, he listened to 181 people's prays and answered them faithfully. He kept his promises to his people, who came before Him with the best interests of a young man at heart. It's not everyday that a sixteen year old boy gets some kind of terrible disease. But it's also not every day that healing comes through so amazingly.

If you need more encouragement that faith works miracles, read the story of the boy in Luke 9:38-43.

In the midst of all this, I am in a tizzy of self- reflection. And I am stunned at my own silly earth-bound logic. My brain keeps trying to convince me that I am afraid of all the miracles that may not have occurred because of my inability to truly admit the grace of God.

But my heart is afraid of how many miracles I may have missed because I was to blind to notice them.






To see the Facebook thread: click here

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Flying Free

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 6:26

This morning, on my way home from New York, I saw a pigeon hanging out in Port Authority. The little guy was hanging out around gate 305, a short line, which would just barely get him out of New York City. My guess is that he was waiting for the bus to Hoboken or Secaucus, where undoubtedly he would transfer and try to get somewhere more exotic. I didn't have the heart to inform the little guy that the driver was not gonna let him on the bus- I mean, they aren't really thrilled with taking on people. But he seemed smart, so I figured that if he really wanted to, he would make himself a spot at the top of the bus, or squeeze into the luggage spot underneath.

I watched him strut his way around the station, head bobbing in a gentle movement as he walked along the halls that were slowly filling with morning passengers. Some walked right past him without a second glance, while others steered far away, making sure to clear him. He paid them no mind. This was a bird with a mission.

And then these two girls, waiting for their own bus at 304, decided that they should share their breakfast. I mean, he did look a little thin. And he was going on a journey, so they knew he would need sustenance. They started ripping little pieces of their bagel and throwing them to him, and he chased around the bread with glee, pecking it off the floor. They threw more then he could eat, and overwhelmed with his good fortune, he spun in a circle happily, before letting out a soft coo. 

Just then my bus arrived, so I hopped on board, leaving my little buddy sitting in the hallway with his new friends, happily having breakfast. But I thought about him as my bus pulled out with a small twinge of jealousy. I mean, I had a life planned. I had somewhere that I needed to be. I had to buy my own breakfast. And here was this pigeon, who, sick of city life, just took off and went to find a new life. 

I guess that in the short time that a bird lives, he does more than we as people can ever hope to accomplish. They don't play by the rules. They don't live on standards. They don't worry about breakfast. They just live.

For the first time in my life, I wish I was a pigeon. 



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dinner with Abraham


The waitress comes for our drink order.

“What’s the oldest wine you have?” murmurs Abraham, peering over the menu, which it’s clear that he cannot actually read.

“A 1970 something...” she says, but she’s distracted by the baby at the next table.

Abraham stares, slightly perturbed. “I’ll take it,” he says anyway.

I order a diet coke.

“Women and babies!” he scoffs as our waitress scampers towards the bar. “You give them their own land, a tent all their own, and all your love, and all they can think about is babies. And you know what else? They never let anything go!” He stops and mimics Sarah’s voice- “You know, if your plan had worked, and they’d kept thinking I was your sister, I could have been a mother by now! And there where would you have been?!” He coughs out of exasperation. The waitress, on cue, returns with his wine and my soda. He stares at the bubbles in my drink and at the color of his wine. Then he sniffs it and sips it, grimacing at it’s sweetness, and looks around before copying the other diners and returning to the menu.

I know he still can’t read, so I try to suggest some of my favorites. He shrugs off my suggestions, telling me he knows what he wants to eat. The waitress comes back. I order a chicken salad. He orders the ram.

“You mean the lamb,” she says, confused.

“God will provide,” he assures her. She writes down the code for the lamb special, I see over her shoulder. I decide not to tell Abraham. He seems a little frustrated as it is with the wine.

They bring bread to the table. Abraham takes a piece and stares at the butter. He spreads a little on, and I can see a smile dancing in the corners of his mouth. But he doesn’t talk about the food. He jumps back to Sarah.

“Can you imagine,” he asks me, “being ninety and finally getting the child you’ve always wanted? Sarah was happier than she had ever been. She started to make little baby blankets- she kept making red blankets and clothes that would fade in the sun. I won’t lie, I dyed them purple during the night. My son was not wearing pink.  She never figured it out.” His eyes dance as he describes the year leading up to Isaac.

And then, like a father, we go through the first years- the first steps that he took, his first words, the first time he said I love you (“to his mother, of course,” Abraham tells me, “but really, he had the right idea), his favorites and his dislikes, and all the things that surround young children.

“He was my son,” Abraham tells me, “I mean, Ishmael was my son too. But this was the son that God had promised me. The one that was going to carry on my bloodline and make me into a nation. This kid was it.”

The food arrives before us. Abraham grimaces at the dinner, but sighs and digs in.  I think about encouraging him to use the utensils, but fight the urge and let him continue.

“And then, one day, God says I gotta get him up to the mountain and give him back. I was livid. I couldn’t even tell Sarah about it- she would have killed me to stop me from hurting him. But this kid was God’s, right? He gave him to me in my later years. What choice did I have? If God wanted him, I was going to have to sacrifice him.”

“Boy did Isaac whine about having to go on that trip with me. He wanted to stay home and listen to some harpist that was coming through town. But nope, I packed him up and got ready to go. Made him kiss his mother, too, because I figured that would be the end of that. And we set off.”

“The next thing you know, we are on a mountain, looking down at where we just left everyone else, and Isaac is eyeing me with a lot of weariness,” Abraham continues, trying his mashed potatoes. He doesn’t give much of a sound or show of approval, but they are gone before he starts again. I get the feeling that this man doesn’t show approval well. Maybe he is afraid that if he showed his interest in the starch, the Lord will ask him to give it up.

“He’s looking at me, asking where the sacrifice is, and I’m debating just outing it here. I mean, at least give the kid the opportunity to run if he should want it,” he admits. “But I don’t want to get into any trouble with God, and part of me is wondering what He’s gonna do, so I let it go. I tell him God will provide, and we are off again.”

“We get to the top of the mountain, and there are all these things bubbling up inside my heart. I’m thinking to myself, Come on God, you promised here! You told me I would be a great nation. You finally gave me a son in Ishmael, then you tell me he’s not the child of the promise, and you make me send him off. And now, you take the child that you gave me instead, and you tell me to give him back!”

“And suddenly, I’m not just thinking about this promise anymore. I’m angry- angry that I left my family, changed my name, got this little piece of land to live in. I’m angry that Sarah and I had to wait so long for nothing. I’m angry that God choose me out of all people, not someone else. He didn’t choose Lot- nope, it was me, and now He’s messing with my head about it.”

“But then I remember Lot. And how good God was to him, even though I couldn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I’m remembering how he kept Lot safe. That brings me back to how he kept Sarah safe in Egypt. Then how he gave us riches in our weakness. And I am defeated. Maybe God is asking a lot, but I believe- I know He knows better. So I sigh and start to get the sacrifice together.”

“God waits until the very last second to let me know what he was going to do, let me tell you. I’ve got Isaac up on the alter, everything ready to go. The kid is squirming down beneath my knife, which is over my head. My eyes are closed- how can I watch? And then, suddenly, my hand won’t move. And I’m hearing voices.”

“I look up and theres this angel, telling me not kill my son. And I remember even thinking that this was some kind of joke, and I wasn’t having any of it, believe me, but then, in the bushes, there is this ram. Instant sacrifice. I rip the kid off the alter, make my offering, and got out of there.”

The waitress comes by, asking if we want desert. I order an iced mocha. Abraham orders the chocolate lava cake, the cheesecake, and the apple crumb tart. I shoot him a look.

“I’ve been dead for like, 5000 years,” he reminds me. I let him have his desert.

“Needless to say, almost taking your son out is not something that you laugh about over family dinners.” Abraham is digging into the cheesecake, telling me the end of his story. “Sarah was just mad. And the kid- he didn’t talk to me for a while. Our relationship never really grew strong. And then when Sarah died, he was so mopey, I figured I’d have to marry him off. But that’s a different story.”

The check comes with my mocha, and I put it on a credit card, laughing to myself. Dinner with one of the founding fathers of my faith is never a cheap excursion. But it’s worth the time.

Looking at me, his fork, which he’s almost mastered, is in the lava cake, and he offers me a few final thoughts.

“I don’t regret it, kid,” he tells me. “It was enough. The nation was born. The promise was kept. The Messiah came in and all. But let’s be honest, I’d rather have gone to see that darn harpist. And I hate the harp. I’m really more of a heavy rock kind of guy.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Private Moments in Public Places

"All human beings are interconnected, one with all other elements in creation"
Henry Reed

Normally I am not an overly emotional person. Actually, that might be a bit of an understatement- as far as expressions and feelings, I have the amazing gift of sarcasm to cover me from anything that I do not want to acknowledge or deal with. I do pretty well as an emotionally ill-equipped person... most days.

Today was not one of them. Today I teared up on the subway.

Let me preface this little gem of a story by telling you that for the last few weeks I have been working through this book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality... can you guess what it's about? One of my favorite points of this book is that we do not have to be sorry that we have emotions, and we do not have to contain them. The author talks about how many famous people, biblcally or unbiblically, have been known to let loose and grieve without remorse. Joesph, Paul, even Jesus- they were all known to weep when it mirrored their hearts.

Well, today on the subway, I was listening to a friend that God has very reccently brought into my life talk about the loss and pain she suffered which showed her to the Messiah, and in remembering the lonliness that I felt before truly following God and finding friends, I felt tears spring to my eyes. It was an incredible moment for my new friend, another friend who was with us, and me.... and also for the gentlemen sitting down beside us on the train, and the one behind one of our party.

"I think I'm gonna cry," joked one of our neighbors, in a gentle time. In some strange way, he could feel the emotions that were radiating out of our little group, connecting with us as a fellow human being. I'm sure when he got on the subway, he had no intention of listening in to a conversation abbout other people's struggles and pasts. But in those few moments between 86h and 42nd street, he joined in to the greater humnan experience, and it made his day just a little different.

I'm starting to understand the importance of emotion- it's not just a personal release, but it's also a unifying factor that unifies the squares on the patchwork quilt that is humanity. Our sides meet where we have shared the same feelings, and we bond together and hold tight for strength. And I'm ok with my little moment in the subway , although it's not my usual bag, because it made someone think a little bit about how good it is to have good friendships.

I'm so grateful for this new friend, for another soul that I can connect with. Even in places as strange as the subway.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hope for Martha

The third petition of the Lord's Prayer is repeated daily by millions who have not the slightest intention of letting anyone's will be done but their own.
--Aldous Huxley


If you've been raised in a bible-reading family, like I have, you know the story of the two sisters, Mary and Martha. If you haven't, let me sum it up for you:

Mary and Martha are two sisters, who are found in the new testament in the time of Jesus. He goes to visit their house (He is very good friends with their brother, as a matter of fact) and begins to teach. Martha, being the scuttled sister, prepares the house, while Mary instead sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words. Martha, in a fit of jealousy, finally asks Jesus, "why don't you make her help me?"And Jesus looks at her, and tells her calmly that Mary just wants to listen, and that he wouldn't take that away from her for anything. (Luke 10:38-42, if you want to read it yourself)

Martha is known for this little episode- for being busied with the things of the world, for not understanding what was important in life. She is a life lesson- don't be like Martha, you'll just be troubled with frivolous things and you'll miss the most important part of knowing God- actually listening to it. It's a shame, because Martha was the sister that understood the social implications of having the Lord in her home, but didn't know how to properly express herself- she felt that serving the Lord would be a clean home and a good meal. Mary figured out early that it was just a matter of sitting down to listen- the house could wait.

I've always found myself to be a bit of a Martha- I've always seen the importance of living a real life, and on occasion, it has interfered with my listening skills. See, the world puts out these ridiculous stipulations on what life is supposed to be like, and I've been sitting in them for most of my life, so of course, I still struggle when the Lord says "go against the world," because it's really all I know. But lately I'm realizing that the world has these rules and guides that are impossible. I'm realizing that the world doesn't ever make enough money (let's talk debt, shall we?). I'm learning that the world never has enough love, and the love it does have is too hard to maintain (thank you, ridiculous divorce rate). I'm understanding that the world that I have been taught to live in is all about never being good enough, about always having to try for the next best thing, and about making a mark before you die, all without any guidance on HOW you should do it.

But when we pull a Mary- when we actually sit down and listen intently, God gives us all the guidance in the world. And suddenly money is less important, and love is in abundance, and that mark that we need to make? It's been made on us first.

And here is a little something you might not know about Martha- the effect Jesus has on her. She doesn't turn away from God to start a house cleaning business. Instead, she takes the lesson to heart and learns to rely on Him.

If you don't know how Martha's redemption goes, you can read about it in John 11:1-12:11. This little piece of the story often get's overlooked, but is amazing. Lazarus, Martha and Mary's brother who is a friend of Jesus', get's very sick. He dies a few days before Jesus gets back in to town. But when Jesus makes it back, Martha comes to meet him and bring him back to the house. She tells him that she's knows that Lazarus is dead, but she also has been listening, and she knows that if the Son Of God wants him up and moving again, He can make it happen. Martha has learned that the world believes things to be a certain way, but they aren't always (or even frequently) true. She learns that listening and trusting is more than the world can ever do. And her faith is not empty- Jesus raises Lazarus to life again that very day.

If you are a little bit Martha, take heart. This is hope for those of us who the world has made a stable impression on. It won't last forever, and one day, we too can learn to believe. If first, we learn to listen.