Re-Mix: In the Wake of Isaac

As Hurricane Isaac bears down on us, I am reminded of a guest post my dear friend Marilyn wrote for me…

Strings Attached Ministries

I’m so excited to share this guest post with you.  My dear friend, Marilyn Hodgin, is half way through a two year commitment to teach English in Taiwan.  She was back in the states recently and we shared lunch. But, OH! It was so much more than lunch! Marilyn shared this poem she wrote when a typhoon hit during her first assignment to Taiwan three years ago.  I asked her to let me share it with you…and guess what? She said yes! I hope that it blesses you as it blesses me….

My favorite line? “The birds are STILL singing!” (my emphasis)…enjoy!

In the Midst of the Storm
The typhoon came – it was expected.
With it came the winds and rain
Unparalleled in its force and magnitude
Leaving destruction in its wake.

 

Sitting in the safety of my room
Writing my thoughts and observations
As the storm raged…

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When Fear Rushes In…

Courage can’t see around corners, but goes around them anyway.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

I haven’t been posting around these parts for a while. I am sorry for that. Life has rushed in…no wait, not so much life…fear has rushed in.

I have been experiencing quite a few medical issues lately. Neurological medical issues. The good news is I have a team of doctors…doctors who love Jesus and pray diligently over each patient…who believe that these issues actually stem from an old injury that is healing. This would be a wonderful God promised miracle.

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But still there are moments…moments when a hand tremors uncontrollably and mind-numbing fatigue rushes in…moments when words are hard to remember and letters get hopelessly jumbled in my head…moments when fear sweeps in and doubt creeps up my spine and I wonder where God is in all of this.  I wonder  how to live a witness of faith and hope when what I am feeling is lost and alone.  I wonder if God is really Jehovah Rapha and Jehovah Jireh and all those other things that His word proclaims. And then I wonder if I am a heretic for wondering and a sweet mentor who loves Jesus reminds me that I am simply human.

And in the midst of all this fear rushing and doubt creeping, I cry out to Jesus, “Lord, help my unbelief!” 

Then I remember what a friend taught me a long time ago…

“When in doubt….WORSHIP.”

When doubt and fear overtake you, and questions and worries begin to rush over….worship.  Focus on the awesomeness, the wonder, the amazing love of God.

And so I turn up my radio and I sit in the floor of my kitchen and I sing loud enough to make a voice crack and I hug my knees to my chest and feel God’s presence fill the room.  Weight from shoulders lifts and heart begins to tentatively flap wings and by the end of the second song, I am soaring. Prayers fragrance the room and tears wash worry lines from my face and me and God…well we are on speaking terms again.

So next time fear takes over, or doubt yells loud its questions in your head, remember the antidote to fear is not always courage….is not always pull yourself up by your bootstraps and walk on….the truest antidote is WORSHIP

Reflections from St Scholastica: Fearing Emptiness

“We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.”

– Henri Nouwen

Today was a beautiful day.  As our group began our Day of Recollection and our presenter, Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr began sharing with us how to discover the “Monk Within,” I found myself drawn to her poetic style and use of metaphor. She began, “we offer to God everything we meant by I, so that the divine love may pass through the space that is left unimpeded.”  As she spoke about the monk and how it is the universal archetype for the heart within us that searches for the divine, I knew that I was in the right place.

Most of the retreat was spent in silent reflection.  Most of the teaching was done by God in those spaces. The communal silence shared among the retreatants became comfortable and cherished and easy to flow in and out of.

As we finished our day, I began to sense a great unease welling up within me.  Everyone was leaving to head home to their families, but I had chosen already to extend my retreat another day for some more alone time with God. As I said goodbye to new heart sisters, my unease became disquiet and settled into my belly like the stone representing my brokenness I had carried to the center of the labyrinth earlier that afternoon. A fear sprang up within me—solid and palpable, without cause or reason—a fear of the emptiness of time.  The space and solitude that was waiting after all my fellow retreatants left for the day.  I began to wonder if I should not just pack my belongings and head home early.

After the last of the ladies left, I went back to my room and paced about. I tried to nap.  I returned to the labyrinth that had offered such comfort and outlet for my nervous energy before. I couldn’t focus my steps, but just kept thinking I should go home and spend time with my family and be at church in the morning and run away from this open space. I was scared.

I packed my bags and sat them next to the door of my room.  Finally, I called out for help.  I picked up the phone and called my husband. We talked for a few moments (I thought I did a pretty good job of sounding light and upbeat—he tells me I did not.) I told him I wanted to come home. He told me I needed to stay and pray through this emotion, to get to the bottom of it.

I went to the chapel and knelt by the altar to pray. “Lord, Jesus, I know this fear is not from you.  I know that you want me to stay, but I feel so alone here. Please let me go home.”

“Stay with Me. You are not alone,” came the answer. “Sit here with me for a while.”

So I closed my eyes and quieted my mind and focused only on that soft voice inside that said, “Stay.” An hour later, Sr. Macrina came to invite me to dinner with the community and I jumped at the opportunity.

God poured out exactly what I needed this evening…first in his invitation to sit at peace with Him and then with His invitation to join the community of St Scholastica for a movie night.  What a joy it was to be invited into the personal residence of the Sisters of St Scholastica and see them through lenses unfettered by my preconceived notions of what life within these monastery walls is like.  It is not unlike mine, with chores and housework, and vocational work, and friends and quarrels and conflict and movies and pizza with the girls.  It is full of life and love and laughter.  I was blessed to be a part of that life for just a short time.

I head up to my room content and no longer afraid. God knew exactly what I needed and because I was willing to surrender my emptiness to Him—he filled it….with love.

“The most important practice of all to the monk is the practice of waiting.” Macrina Wiederkehr