Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kneading Hands

Zechariah watched his wife, kneading
the bread with her strong hands,
hands that lifted water in their
heavy jars, hands that held no child.
We are good, he thought, but
no. No one is good. Just God.
And her empty hands brushed at
her skirt, she absently tucked
her hair back up. She lifted
the paddle to the oven door, then
reached for oil, pouring a small
amount to a vial stuffed with
rosemary. Again, wiping her hands,
again tucking her hair, again
standing empty. She smiled
over her shoulder, feeling
his eyes upon her aging body.
He knew her long hair, once
black like the darkness in
the corners of the Temple, now
streaked with gray, the wisdom
of her age. Only God
is good, he knew, and what
can we expect to have
from his hand.

No genealogies were written
of those without children.
No begats with no belonging,
no place to be written. And Zechariah
sat in the kitchen, his own age
allowing him this moment of rest
in days that were full of teaching,
serving, tending the garden.
Old Avirim who worked
in the Temple decades ago
had died, no sons. And Zechariah
now itched to write them down,
to write them all, the litany
of childless men, with women
baking their warm flat bread
in empty homes. An urge
rose in him, to know his wife,
to write on her beautiful
aging body his love, indeed
the mystery of God.

I'm dying

This summer was hard, but I feel like I've resurfaced. Ah, now I can get back to growing with God! But alas...I might have resurfaced, yet I seem to be merely bobbing in the water. I'm not swimming. In fact, I seem to be confused and tired.

My pastor is preaching a sermon series called Jesus Hates Religion. One Sunday, he equated his friends going to bars in the college years with the time he spent going to Bible studies. These activities were the same: both were seeking a place where they were accepted. Neither had anything to do with Jesus. This thought has occurred to me before, and I am camping here a while. A lot of why I go to church has to do with how much people like me there. It's not a bad thing.

In contemplating religious people, I have admitted that I am one. My husband has chastised me, "Don't get legalistic about not being legalistic," which highlights how prone I am to making & obeying rules. In trying to grasp this problem of religion, I have imagined going to bars and wondering why that is fun, compared with going to Bible studies.

In a bar, do you require yourself to be in a certain mood? Are you required to prepare before you go? Do you insist that you listen to everyone else's problems, but not burden anyone with your own? Do you have to talk or can you sit sullenly until you choose otherwise?

Today, I wish church was just a Panera, where you could sit, talk, and eat good food, with soothing music in the background and maybe a fire. I think I'm dying a little bit more to self--my stubborn, shiny, religious self.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Out by the barn

Law and grace. I'm not sure how much you have thought about these concepts, but our church has been discussing them intensely in a new sermon series, Jesus Hates Religion. Law says that you have to; grace says that you get to. The tension between these two is high, and I find myself wrestling with them while I listen to pastor. This is one of the core messages of our church; I have explored this topic in my thoughts, my practices, and my writing, and still...sigh.

A friend told me recently that the world can be divided into sinners and Pharisees. In the story of the prodigal son, you see the two: the heathen younger son and the good older boy. A line from a Rich Mullins song (can't remember which one) says, "Ain't nobody so bad that the Lord can't save 'em/Ain't nobody so good that they don't need God's love." Sinner and Pharisee. Wild one and the good boy.

I'm blogging this morning because I don't want to read my Bible. Part of me does...but I can't tell if it is a religious voice in me. If I just did whatever I wanted, I would go play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, but part of me knows that there is nothing down that road but emptiness. Hm, I don't want emptiness. I want purpose. The road labeled "Purpose" seems to have the first step of reading the Bible, but I think I'm going off-road. Talk to me, God. I don't want easy answers.

It is as if I am the older brother, and while coming in from the fields, I hear my Father celebrating with that stupid brat who has come home. In the story, the brother gets mad & his Father comes out to sort of chastise him, sort of coax him toward the right path. Since I know the story, I can hear the party, and I know I should go in. Put on a happy face for my younger brother and join in.

But if I go in because of obedience, because I am a slave to the Right Thing, then I am still dead inside. I think I will sit down, over here by the barn, and just think. Daddy will probably come out and ask me what I'm thinking, and I'll tell Him that I want to do what is right. I think He will pat me on the shoulder and let me sit here until I figure this out. You know, He killed a fatted calf for His lost son, but there is still another calf eating good feed in the stall. I can hear it munching. There is still grace for me.

And I don't think I'll read my Bible. I'll just keep sitting here, by the barn. I'm not going to put my tools away; I'm not going to wash up. I bet Dad will send out a plate, and some wine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why do you hate me

This morning my daughter said it again: "Why do you hate me?" Sometimes, I wish she'd say, "I hate you, Mom." It might be an easier statement to deal with. Her recurring question is a little like the catch 22, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Every time, I answer her, "I don't hate you. I love you." The enemy is speaking to my daughter, and I don't want his voice to stand without contest. I tell her the truth; she still has to choose what to believe.

When I have an imaginary conversation with my own mom about this morning's conversation, I think she would ask me, "What does Lizze really think? Does she really think you hate her?" My answer is that I think Lizze believes conflicting things. She knows that I love her, and I think sometimes she feels like I hate her.

I used to try to figure out what I "really" feel or think. With the wisdom of being forty, I now think that I believe conflicting things all the time. The fact that I am so conflicted, naturally and easily, is why ultimately I don't trust my own heart. God is my anchor, in the sense that I choose what He says about me over my own feelings. He says that I am a saint, He says that I am His treasure, He says that I am His friend, the sister of Christ, and a joint heir in Jesus. It is a life skill to believe the voice of God over the voice of the Destroyer, but the Bible also tells me that I know His voice. When I feel conflicted, I remind myself that I know the voice of God, and I quiet myself and listen for Him. Then when He speaks, I choose to believe what He says.

God speaks the truth to my children all the time, and I pray that they have ears to hear. I also pray that the words I say echo His voice in their lives. Sometimes its nice to have a little Jesus with skin on, especially when you are thirteen and your world is a whirlwind of emotional chaos.