Friday, March 30, 2012

When the Church Gets it Right

I often focus on the times and instances the church gets it wrong. I cringe when Christians are too pushy, too loud, too legalistic, too obsessed with being right. But today I want to share a story of a small church in the Dominican Republic getting it right.

Teodora

Over the last couple of weeks on the Plant With Purpose blog, we’ve shared the incredible story of Teodora S├ínchez, an inspiring woman from the small village of Loma Verde in the Dominican Republic. Teodora is a mother, grandmother, pastor, and empowerer.

Teodora has partnered with Plant With Purpose to engage her community in environmental restoration and economic empowerment. The stories of economic and environmental transformation are powerful on their own, but, as a traditional Jesus-cube-and-revival-evangelism evader, I was more struck by the story of SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION taking place in Teodora’s community.

Plant With Purpose has this really cool discipleship philosophy that focuses first and foremost on equipping local churches to meet the needs of their communities. We’ve started a rad project in the Dominican Republic called, “Church, Community, and Change,” where we partner with churches directly and empower them to be an agent of positive change for those around them.

As a pastor, Teodora is constantly looking for new ways to engage both the physical and spiritual needs of those around her. One issue that has plagued Teodora’s community is illiteracy. When Teodora heard about Plant With Purpose's new project, her eyes sparkled with joy at the opportunity to fight illiteracy.

And then she got right to work organizing an entire literacy campaign for her community. Teodora provided the vision; Plant With Purpose helped turn the dream into a reality.

Teodora says, “The Church, Community, and Change pilot was a great blessing from God. More than 30 people attended the literacy classes in January 2012 and more are expected to register throughout the year. Church members serve as the literacy facilitators.”

What a cool idea—church members who can read teaching other members who can’t read.  Awesome.

As the church serves, hope swells: community members build confidence, families become less vulnerable, economic opportunities emerge, and families gain hope for a brighter future.

Could there be a better picture of the church sharing the love of Christ with their community in word and deed?

I know it’s a little shameless self-promoting for Plant With Purpose, but I was touched by this story of the church getting it right and I hope you’ll be encouraged too.

Heard any good stories of the church getting it right lately?

Also, check out the Plant With Purpose blog or website to learn more about how you can get involved in the incredible work of the church around the world. 

*Photo credits: Plant With Purpose

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Time to Weed



I've planted too many bad days. The weeds of cynicism, disengagement, and discontent spring up, choke out. 

Yes, the field is teeming with flowers, but it’s also teeming with weeds. 

Sometimes I can’t tell the difference.

Cynicism shoots up around me, engulfing me.  It strangles the good days, the good seeds, the good hope. 

You won’t move. 
You aren’t there.
I am trapped trapped trapped. 

But I know that is my voice, not Yours.

Yours is the voice of hope, the voice of kindness.  Yours is the voice that said to me, 

“Relinquish cynicism and WATCH ME MOVE.”

My eyes are peeled. 

I pluck the weeds. I replace them with truth.

You will move.
You are there. 
I am free free free. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Saying the "F" Word at Work

It’s my favorite subject when I’m talking about anyone other than myself: failure.

It’s named different things: Sarcasm. Snark. Wit. Criticism. Pure comedic genius (maybe I’m only one who calls it that).

But the truth is, as much as I like to nit and pick and parody for a few chuckles and snickers, I have a hard time talking about failure in any way that’s actually productive.

I’m not the only one with this problem.

At work yesterday we watched a fascinating Ted Talk by David Damberger of Canadian-based Engineers without Borders. From the just title, What happens when an NGO admits failure, you can get a pretty good idea of where he’s headed.

In a sweep of boldness and vulnerability, he shares failures, and lots of them. How Engineers without Borders has failed. How the aid world has failed. Even how he personally has failed to make the impact he had hoped.

It’s tough stuff.

But it’s also refreshing. Even hopeful.

If we don’t acknowledge our failures, how will we move past them? How can we expect to not repeat our mistakes if we don’t know our mistakes?

I work in marketing and development for a similar type of NGO. I can’t imagine sending out a Failure Report instead of a Progress Report to a donor. But I think we do a pretty good job of admitting our failures internally. And it’s the times we talk about failure that we actually learn. That we actually grow. That we actually embody our desire to innovate and improve lives.

It’s not much different than confessing our sins. We admit our mistakes and failings. We ask forgiveness. We move forward. We learn. We grow. We move a bit closer to becoming who God created us to be.

If that’s the case, I need to wrap up this post and sign off. I’ve got a lot more failing to do.

And whether you’re an aid criticism junkie (like me) or just someone who generally fears failure (like most of us), I highly recommend taking the 13 minutes to watch the video below.



What about you? Do you have trouble talking about failure? What did you think of the video? Do you think it will benefit aid organizations to be more open about failure? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

T.S. Tuesday: On Wanting Things

“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.” 
― T.S. Eliot

I'm reminded of a story, a parable of a persistent friend who does not give up on what he wants. 

"Jesus said to them, 'Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
   
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:5-10

Wait a minute? Ask anything? Want anything? Even if it's my fault I'm ill-prepared to take in a friend at midnight, I can still ask for bread repeatedly, obnoxiously? And Jesus goes so far as to make this the example for prayer. 

I have a problem with wanting things. Well, not a problem with wanting things, but a problem with feeling guilty for wanting things. I don't believe I'm allowed to want something unless it's world peace or the end of poverty or the well being of someone else. I'm not allowed to want something just for me.

I also get wrapped up in thinking that it's somehow my fault that I don't have it in the first place--like the man who wasn't ready to care for his traveling friend without a neighbor's assistance. I can't ask for it because I should have handled it on my own. I believe I'm left to handle it on my own. 

And when good things happen--things I wanted--I question how much was God and how much was my "bad enough?"

The fulfillment of a selfish desire. I still feel guilty.

How is that freedom? How is that basking? Wasn't it God who made my heart and its desires? Isn't it God who wants to see me thriving and fulfilled? Who wants to give me joy? 

Why do I have such a hard time believing He wants good things for me? Why do I have such a hard time accepting the good things? Or an even worse time asking for good things?

God, I know you know the desires of my heart. You placed them there. You knit them into the fabric of my being. I ask for wisdom in distinguishing your prompting from my selfishness. And I ask for grace when I confuse them. 

I ask for humility to use the gifts you've given--the things I've wanted--to serve and bless others, to bring your Kingdom.  

I ask for the courage to want something bad enough that it just might become possible. And I ask for the humility to give thanks both for the desiring and the fulfilling. 

Amen. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Travels with Aly

Today--just for fun--I'm posting an excerpt from my memoir describing my time studying abroad in Coast Rica. I'm hoping it will one day reach the public eye in some publisher-endorsed kind of way, but for now, you get to be my test audience. Thanks for reading!
***

I was sure that I had forgotten something vitally important.  Like underwear or tampons.  I had heard from a few friends that it was difficult to buy tampons in Costa Rica.  At 4:00 a.m. as I scrambled to wash my face, brush my teeth, and pack up the car, I was sure that I had forgotten tampons and would be forced to spend my period sitting in a corner yelling “unclean, unclean” while I slowly bled to death.  It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t even know the word for unclean in Spanish, and I was going to Central America, not prehistoric Israel. 

The stubborn escalator leading up to the maze of airport security beckoned me; I grimaced as I gingerly stepped onto the moving stairs that jerked me upwards, pulling me away from my mom and dad until the black biting teeth fit snugly together again, flattening and disappearing into the floor. My mom had cried and my dad had told me to be safe.            

I shifted from my left foot to my right foot, then back to my left, just a teardrop in the stream of restless passengers in the overburdened security line.  I wiped my one renegade tear and readjusted my backpack, dense with the weight of my laptop, Spanish/English dictionary, and packets of reading material on Costa Rica.  I could do this. 
          Location: Central America.
          Capital: San Jose. 
          Language: Spanish.
          Climate: Tropical.
          It would be like a vacation of sorts. 
          I could do this. 

***

Como es su familia?”  “Que piensa del gobierno estadounidense?”  “Que es su comida favorita?”   “Que piensa de la guerra en Irak?

How is your family?  What do you think of the U.S. government?  What is your favorite food?  What do you think of the war in Iraq?  

 
In the United States people’s number one fear is public speaking, even dying rates second on the list.  People would rather die than look stupid.  My eyes scanned the barrage of oncoming cars, and I was hit with the sobering realization that there would probably not be a single moment the entire semester in which I did not feel stupid. 

Even Max, the family dog, understood more Spanish than I did.  My host dad, Don Pedro, surprisingly white for a Costa Rican with light eyes and a hint of possible freckles, would yell some seemingly unintelligible command in Spanish and the dog would obediently run, stand, or lie down according to my dad’s latest whim, whereas I couldn’t even figure out how to wash my underwear. 

That night after shy introductions, a strangely silent family meal, and an uncomfortable discussion about politics, I was finally too overcome with exhaustion to feel stupid anymore.  I pulled my fuzzy blanket up to my chin and was filled with ecstatic thankfulness that I could say a goodnight prayer to God in English and He would understand.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

What about evil?


In my pilgrimage from cynicism to faith, gratitude is my final frontier.

In case you’re new to this blog, I have one exhortation: read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts This book is “a celebration of grace and a recognition of the power of gratitude”—in the most powerful and compelling language I have ever read. It is my current obsession (besides Hunger Games) and progression in my spiritual journey.

Photo credit: Ann Voskamp

Ann’s words have challenged my heart, but they’ve also challenged my mind. She’s addressed gratitude in the face of injustice, gratitude in the face of the mundane, and gratitude in the face of pain.

But today I ask, what about evil?

Ann writes that ALL IS GOOD. All is grace.

She says, “All God makes is good. Can it be that that which seems to oppose the will of God is actually used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, the light never stops shining.”

That doesn’t sit well with me.

She asks could it be, “that which feels like trouble, gravel in the mouth, is only that—feeling? What if faith says all is good…I think it. But do I really mean it?”

In my world, there are some things that don’t just feel evil; they are evil.

Death and war and rape and genocide and a million other forms of selfishness and injustice that pepper our world with pain. How are those moments grace, gifts?

I relate to Elie Wiesel, Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and Nobel Peace Prize winner, when he says,

“I feel like screaming, howling like a madman so that the world, the world of the murderers, might know it will never be forgiven.”

Sometimes I hear awful stories and I think I could scream for eternity and it wouldn’t be okay.

I think of catching and stopping warlord Joseph Kony. I think of the incredible victory that will be. But the tens of thousands of children who have been abducted and forced to murder, scream out to me that it will still not be okay. 

That it will never be okay.

But God is reconciling ALL THINGS?

I can’t mean it. I can’t.

Not yet. Or maybe not ever.

Photo credit: The Christian Science Monitor
I can see good and hope and love. I see things being made new everyday. As Gungor says, I know God makes beautiful things out of dust and out of us. But I can’t call it all beautiful—not in my macro-theology.

In my personal micro-theology I can believe it. I can name my own gifts, my graces. I can name my hurt and pain and walk the path to wholeness, to redemption, to beauty.

I can consent to each of us, on our own micro-level, acknowledging the gifts.

But I refuse to gift-wrap the world’s pain in glib statements of gratitude without the victims’ approval.  Like my bloggy friend Adrian Waller commented the other day, I refuse to say, “God causes bad things that are "really" for good.”

I refuse to say that it is okay that this world is so messed up.

I used to think that meant I couldn’t believe in God. Or that I didn’t believe in God.

I used to think I couldn’t be angry and grateful at the same time. That I couldn’t be angry and faithful.

But the other thing I learned from Elie Weisel is that you can.

In fact, I can be angry with God precisely because of my faith in Him.

Elie writes, “I have never renounced my faith in God. I have risen against His justice, protested His silence and sometimes His absence, but my anger rises up within faith and not outside it.”

And so today—from within faith—I wrestle. I protest a world with warlords like Joseph Kony and hot topic issues such as sex trafficking and child soldiers.  I protest the poverty I have seen in the city dumps of Nicaragua and Guatemala and in my own neighborhood in San Diego. I protest the less sexy atrocities of lack of access to land and food and crops that I encounter every day at my work. For a few minutes, I let my growing fears that I’m a Capitol dweller in the circus of the 21st century Hunger Games consume me, and I—in the same breath—I ask,

Where are you, God?” and “Please rain down your GRACE.”  

Amen. 

***


Can you relate to this tension between anger and gratitude?  Do you think it's possible to be angry at God and remain faithful? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ALL IS GRACE


Inspired by Ann Voskamp and Saint Patrick, I have adapted a hymn to remind us, to remind myself, that all is Grace.


Grace with me, Grace before me, Grace behind me,

Grace in me, Grace beneath me, Grace above me,

Grace on my right, Grace on my left,

Grace when I lie down, Grace when I sit down, Grace when I arise,

Grace in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Grace in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Grace in every eye that sees me,

Grace in every ear that hears me.

To learn more about the original hymn, called Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, Click Here


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Welcome Place for the Unwelcome Elephant

This week I have the glorious privilege of guest posting for one of my newly hatched blogger friends. Adrian's blog, Life Before the Bucket, is one of the mighty morsels of delicious food for thought I consume on a daily basis: my blodder. He inspires me with his wit and insight, shares a passion for social justice, and is by far my best and most prolific blog commenter (the rest of you--take note).


I am happy as a hippo to share a Two Part series on what it means to live life to the fullest. So join the safari over at Adrian's blog to check out my wrangling of the The Unwelcome Elephant and learn How I Became God's Basking Case. And feel free to follow Adrian's exemplary example and leave lots of tasty comments. AND be sure to check out all of his wonderful posts. 



For any of you that clicked over from Life Before the Bucket, welcome! Three important things you need to know:

1. My real name is not Algeisha

2. I have a (little more than a) thing for T.S. Eliot

3. I am so glad you're here 



You can get to know me in my aptly named About Me section or just meander about the site, and, if you'd like to stick around, follow me on twitter or by email or any of those newfangled RSS thingeys that people seem to like by using the buttons to the right. I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment or email me at lewis.aly(at)gmail.com.

And thank you, Adrian, for welcoming my unwelcome elephant.



*photo credit Cameron Lewis, who happens to be my brother and also happens to make and play great music. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

T.S. Tuesday: Shall


In my writing this week about the God of movement and transformation and transfiguration, one of my favorite T.S. Eliot lines has been illuminated.

Believe me.

This. is. ground. breaking.            

These words are a part of me. They flow involuntarily from my lips, like curse words and Help-me-Jesuses from the mouths of the shocked and endangered.

My favorite phrase from all of Eliot’s poetry (and that's saying something) has been transformed. 

“And so the darkness shall be the light
And the stillness the dancing.”

I noticed a new word the other day.

The darkness SHALL be the light.


Shall—like, not yet.

Not yet.

That's not how I pictured it. With Eliot’s poetic prowess, his omission of the second “shall be” in the phrase “The stillness the dancing,” stillness and dancing became one in my mind. The words interchangeable in the syntax; the images interchangeable in my mind.

The phrase evokes a sense of darkness = light. Stillness = dancing.

But that’s not what Eliot says.

Darkness BECOMES light.
Stillness BECOMES dancing.

As Ann Voskamps puts it in One Thousand Gifts, they are transfigured.

“Darkness transfigures into light, bad transfigures into good, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full.”

Darkness transfigures into light. Stillness transfigures into dancing.

Darkness ---> Light
Bad ---> Good
Grief ---> Grace
Empty ---> Full
Stillness ---> Dancing

Eliot’s not calling us to pretend that we see things we don’t or to imagine that our motionless bodies are boogie-ing. But to anticipate. To be patient. 

Because “the darkness SHALL be the light and the stillness the dancing.”

And this, this is comforting. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Problem With “God Showed Up”


I ended my last post with the climactic, “God showed up,”—as if He had been in hiding, as if He wasn’t always there.

I live in fits of wakefulness, drifting in and out of God-consciousness. Even now, though my tongue doth confess my focus doth protest.

I flit. I flounder.

Some mornings the medley of blanket and body heat are enough to remind me that the day does not belong to me. That I do not go it alone.

But other days, I groan. I stretch.  I snooze. Refusing to open my eye to the God-gifts in front of my face, beneath my toes, the gift of my toes themselves.

But mostly I’m just busy. Tired. Preoccupied, as if I have something more important to occupy myself with than noticing the presence of God.

Naming the presence of God is a different discipline entirely, requiring rigor and hawk eyes for grace.

Most days I’m not up to the task.

But Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts pushes me forward, taunting me with her joy-filled list. She is “Ann full of grace” beckoning to an “Aly full of grace.”

Will I follow?

Today I do.

Today I hunker down to wake up my God-conscious.

I am buzzing on the high of answered prayers, of God-shows-up-because-He-never-left-revelations. I can choose to see Him in the Now. I can choose to see Him moving forward. I try to discipline my mind to believe that He was always there.

I stop short. I pause long.

There when I didn’t see Him?
There when I didn’t want Him?
There when all I felt was pain?

I try to rewrite history. I strain to hear Him speak into the life of the Aly who did not confess His name. I hear the voices that haunted me for years. Voices that condemned and taunted and paralyzed. Voices that kept me self-focused and shuddering. Voices I thought, at my worst, were His. That hissed fire and wrath and brimstone and disappointment. And then guilt for not feeling loved.

And I wonder, where was He in that? He is in the transformation, but is He in the ugly? Did he create the ugly? Orchestrate it? Or allow it?

I can see how I got here. I know it was Grace. Grace the mechanism, Grace the process, Grace the end. But why the humble beginning? Why the dark days?

Why does God need darkness to bring forth light?

I cling to the God of transformation as I read Ann’s hardest chapter yet, asking the hardest questions.

She asks, essentially, “How to lay the hand open for this moment’s bread—when it will hurt.”

What of pain and death and evil and the overwhelming sense of NOT ENOUGH?
Where is God’s grace then?

When her son injures his hand, when he narrowly misses missing fingers, losing a whole hand, her mother whispers, “God’s grace.”


She replies, retorts in this internal dialogue that resonates with the entirety of my being, of my experience, of the questions we’ve all thought and fought and whispered from the pit of fear burning into our stomachs,
“And if his hand had been right sheared off?
What’s God’s grace then?
Can I ask that question?”

What about the times it doesn’t feel like God showed up?

Ann begins to question even her naming of gifts, of graces, of blessings, her family’s “life story in freeze frames of thanks.”

She asks, “If I name this moment as gift, grace, what is the next moment? Curse? How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses?”

Surely if there are gifts there must be curses. Things intended for ill.

I will write more on my take on evil and curses and other such lighthearted topics later in the week. BUT, today I will soak in the lesson that God is teaching Ann: that 

ALL is good.

The good gifts we greedily grasp and the pain we skirt and sidestep and dispute.


She writes of a God who “longs to transfigure all, no matter how long it takes.” Who transfigures the ugly into the beautiful, redeeming the ugly, redeeming the broken, redeeming the pain.

No matter how long it takes.

Most times it’s longer than I have the patience for. But I know this God of transformation and movement and redemption. Do I trust Him? Do I trust Him to redeem all things, transfigure all things, reconcile all things?

I hope I do. I know I’m trying.

Because—despite my feelings—I know that God doesn’t show up or not show up. I know that in Him I move and breathe and have my being. My very breath is the essence of His presence.

I live in fits of wakefulness, drifting in and out of God-consciousness. I ask you, God, to awake my eyes.
 ***
Do you believe that God is always there? Always working to reconcile all things? When is it hardest for you to believe that? 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Goodbye Sneaky God

It’s time to chuck my sneaky God theology once and for all.

I learned today that God answered a prayer I do not remember praying.

I was good and ready to write this post. I was going to talk about God being sneaky.

I was going to write about the time in my life when I didn’t want God to show up, but he did anyway, just to spite me.

I was going to say that God showed his sneaky face just when I didn’t want him to.

That’s how I remember it.

I remember running hard and fast and cynically.

I remember I had decided that life was worth it even without a god to believe in.

I remember cussing Him out for injustice. I remember being angry.

And, of course, I remember the shift.

I remember the unwarranted fits of compassion that began to spring up in my life. I remember feeling joy and hope and love that I couldn’t rationally explain. I remember the first time I prayed to Love.  I remember the voices that told me I was ugly worthless boring fat stupid had been silenced.

But I don’t remember asking for it.

In this post I was going to write about the ceaseless prayers of my mom. How the moment I started trusting in God my mind flashed to the prayers she must have faithfully prayed for my transformation.


Because I stood there, bewildered by the Love I had experienced.  


And all I could utter was, “I never asked you to show your compassion to me. I never asked to be transformed or to love myself.”


 and  [Mom did] echoed in my head.

Though my prayers ran out, hers were unceasing.

Though I swore off God and church and hypocrisy for good, she affirmed my inherent worth whether or not I ever called myself a Christian again.

I don’t pretend to know how God works or why or when He answers prayers, but I do know He answered hers.  That was going to be the point of the post, and it still is.

But today I learned that she wasn’t the only one praying for my transformation, praying for God to show up.

When looking back in my journal to write this, I came across a small smattering of words that I don’t remember ever putting to paper, but they’re mine alright with the capitalized Rs and colored ink. These words form a prayer that (apparently) changed everything.

I wrote,
“I am asking out of what my head tells me is weakness and my heart tells me is a yearning for the Love you can fulfill….
please, show me that you are here with me
Amen”

Amen?! I even wrote an Amen?! That’s a prayer for sure. But I don’t remember saying it or writing it.

I do know that shortly after I wrote this I experienced grace and healing and forgiveness like I had never known.

I do know that He did indeed show me that He was and is HERE WITH ME.


God answered my prayer. 


God answered my mom's prayer.


But more than that, God showed up. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More?


That day on the beach, the sun burning into the back of my neck, You said to me, 

"I dare you to say 'I want more.' " 

Am I ready to say it?
Am I ready to mean it?

What have I done with what you've given me that I could dare ask for more? 

Ungrateful or unhopeful? 

Why does it have to be an "un"?

What about the thanks that you take and make more than enough? Am I allowed to be dissatisfied? Discontent? 

If the darkness shall be the light and the stillness the dancing then when?

It's still. And it's quiet.

All questions.

Searching seeking grasping. 

Begging for a drop of the confidence I used to wield. Begging for freedom from the expectations I've chained myself to. From the lies that tell me if I don't perform. If I don't persevere. I am nothing. 

I am not allowed to ask for more.

Or for help. 

You say to me, "I will restore your joy."

When? Where? 

Clutching grasping gripping. 

I strangle these lies. Choke them to death. 

When all you're asking is for me to peel back my sticky fingers, one at a time, and let these lies go free. 

You dare me to say "I want more."

I look down at my knuckles, clenched white, and, unbreathing, I beg you for the grace of self-preservation to say, 

I want more. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

T.S. Tuesday: More Than Enough

I’m back to reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. So today is my Voskamp/Eliot mashup, if such a thing is possible.

I huddle in my sheets, drinking my coffee as I read,

“I awake to I AM here. When I’m present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God. In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still…and holy.
Here is the only place I can love Him.”

When I say,
          I don’t want this day
          I don’t want this moment
          I don’t want these tasks or this conversation or this job

I am saying, I don’t want this God.

This I AM that is present in the moment. That is Himself the present tense.

I start. I flinch. My coffee jolts.

Is that what I’m saying?

When I reject the present, I reject the I AM.

The I AM in the moment.

He is present in every one. In every moment.

My very breath proof of His presence.

I flash to Eliot, a phrase from Burnt Norton that caught my heart many years ago: “Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs.”

I am the unwholesome and He is the wind. In and out. In and out. In the rhythm of I AM.

All day I try to embrace the moment. I really try. I write notecard reminders. I consecrate my desk and my space and my tasks.

Dissatisfaction oozes in.

They can’t occupy the same space: gratitude and discontent.

I can only see the NOT ENOUGH.

Ann has a cure for this too.

She recounts the story of Jesus feeding the masses with the not enough of loaves and fishes. A phrase jumps out to her, this woman “sleuthing for glory.” She sees right there in the text that before the miracle, before the full bellies, before the multiplication of the not enough, HE GAVE THANKS.

She writes,

“Gave thanks…I’d missed it and all of my life?
I’d never considered those two words, the bridge words there in the middle, the crossing over that took the not enough and made it enough.”

Gave thanks.
Counted gifts.
But, I protest, I can’t give thanks until I know what the future holds. Thankfulness is bondage to complacency. Saying things are okay right now ensures certain paralysis, right?

I am born to move and grow and learn and leave. Where does thanks fit in?

I don’t give thanks because I feel this moment, this circumstance, is not enough.

But wait. Isn’t that what Ann just said?  The moment of not enough is precisely when Jesus gives thanks.

“Jesus embraces his not enough…He gives thanks…And there is more than enough.”

Later that day I am at the beach. Saved by daylight savings and one more hour of sun and surf and life. I run, I splash, sand wedges its stubborn way into my shoes. Children erupt in squeals of cold and glee, emerging from the emerald waves with strands of shimmering seaweed. 

I reach a doggy beach painted with doggy paw prints with doggy yips and doggy paddles under a piercing blue sky of endless doggy summer. I stop my body, but my breath pants on, the wind in and out of unwholesome lungs.

And at last I gasp, give thanks, “It is more than enough.”

I am born to move and grow and learn and leave. This gratitude in motion is second nature. It's the sedentary thankfulness that will require more discipline.

Today I write more notecards. I consecrate my desk and space and time once again. Calm in my-not-so-ergonomically-designed desk chair, I force myself to notice my quiet breaths: wind in and out of unwholesome lungs.

And give thanks, waiting for the more than enough.