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The way Kathy Lee needs Regis, that’s the way I need Jesus

2 Mar

My keyboard is missing two buttons, the “shift” key and the “z” key (thanks to Zoe).  She might have done this on purpose knowing that if I do actually blog about anything lately, it tends to be her.  Without those two keys, it makes typing more of a challenge.  Oh well.  This only adds to the  charm of my laptop.  Did I mention it’s been buzzing like a weed whacker since October and I still haven’t fixed it yet (it’s the fan).  I plan on repairing it soon.  Also, the battery no longer works. So the charge is in a constant state of dire need.  You know, I think my laptop and I have a lot in common these days – we both need some work.

If only I could pour coffee into my laptop the way I’ve been pouring it down my throat,  the performance might improve.

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My Soul Put its Winter Coat Away

4 Apr

I never see it coming – spring. Winter makes you forget that Spring exits. Long days of wet chill, layers of woolly sweaters and achingly cold fingers, squeezing my jacket into the coat closet when I come home and racing into the warmest room of the house. Everyone is there already, rosy cheeks that match the flannel blankets they are under. This year winter in Jerusalem was navy skies, blistery wind and lonely days.

In those lonesome days of winter, I ached for Austin. I ached for familiar friendship that could warm my heartache with heaping spoonfuls of inappropriate laughter. I missed being at Ann’s house with her dog Janie and the cutest cat in the world, Potter. I might have even missed Zorba – but typically I don’t miss man eating animals. I missed all of us being there together on her black couches, lounging around after a good meal. I missed hearing Michelle laugh at Janie chasing me through the house, I missed Frank making shocking comments that kept Ann furious and Alysa thrilled with mischievous delight. I missed Chris and his thoughtful articulate conversations with Peter. I missed Angie giving us reality checks for our reckless remarks and Kristen’s easy laughter. I missed this. I missed you.

Out of nowhere, I realized it had been weeks since I pulled my coat out of the closet. “When was the last time I used it?” I wondered to myself, squinting in the sun, making my way through the crowded street market. I wish I could have marked the last day I wore it with a little celebration, “Today is the last day I will wear this coat this year!” but, I never saw it coming. Spring crept in and I never even noticed that I put my coat away.

We drove north, to our home in the Galilee. We were there to help host a small workshop. On the drive, I couldn’t believe the blooms on the Almond trees. Almond trees are the first tree to bloom; the sight of its delicate white petals are a reminder that winter is almost over. I saw endless fields of almond trees in blossom. It was breathtaking. I wished that Michelle could have seen it. The poppies were also abundant. Brilliant red flowers moving gracefully in the wind, tucked in between green grass and bright sky. Seeing this, I was inspired to let spring sink into my heart; to let go of winter’s aching loneliness.

Photobucket

Photobucket

I’ve heard it said that it takes six months to get used to living here. This seemed pretty accurate. Almost to the day, the 15th of February, I felt a reckoning inside of me that said, “Okay, this is where I am, I am choosing to be present in this place.” Seems so obvious doesn’t it? I know, but the heart takes longer to teach than the mind. Spring happened inside my heart, and my soul finally put its winter coat away. This understanding has brought with it a few insights.

Delayed Plans
The first insight, came from a new friend. She said to me, “Everyone comes to Israel with big plans, big goals, but sometimes God has a way of purifying those plans by delaying the fulfillment of them.” Ouch, that hit a nerve, a big one. The recording studio was a huge plan that Peter and I came here with. The first five months, Peter poured every ounce of energy into the studio only to find out that after finally finding the perfect location to buy, it was sold out from underneath us. Pretty devastating, to tell you the truth. We were so close, only to get shut down through underhanded negotiations. RED TAPE. Israel has plenty, trust me. Did you know it can take up to eight months to close on commercial property here? Did you know that many sellers are biased against selling to non-nationals?

In all of this, Peter and I turn our hearts to the Father and cast our bread on the water. We ask God for grace and strengthened hearts, for wisdom and understanding. We ask God to help us seek Him first, and trust that all these things will be added unto us. And to be honest, as Peter and I stand on this seven month precipice of living here, I feel a bit like we have nothing to show for it. I feel that we owe it to those of you that help keep us here that we have something to show, you know, good fruit and all. But instead, what we have cannot be seen, it is an inward growth – the kind that only God can see. We take heart and trust that God’s purposes are not always shown through accomplishments. We do recognize God is refining us, and we trust that in His time the recording studio will be a reality. Please keep praying for Peter and I to stay dedicated despite discouraging circumstances.

What You Resist Persits
The second insight came from Peter, “What you resist persists.” There has been a part of my heart that resist the constant hosting that is required here at the House of Peace. I remember crying one night because I couldn’t remember the last time I had a chance to sit and be alone anywhere. I was in the throes of feeling sorry for myself. I was just so sick of people, feeding people, talking to people, cleaning rooms that people stayed in, cleaning toilets people poo-ed in. Ugh. I was not a happy person. I didn’t even like me anymore.

That evening, mom and I prepared dinner for a team of six people staying with us, pastors and youth pastors and wives. I sat there at the table, empty of all friendly chatter and worn out from cooking the large meal when one of the pastors started asking Peter and I questions. Real honest to goodness questions about who we were, what we did, what we loved. This man, this team, wanted to really go to know us. They were sincere, they were genuine and they were interested in us. This touched my heart in a way that I can’t really describe. Too often people come here, and they are gone in three days; it’s a whirlwind of strangers coming and going and this aspect is hard. But when this team of pastors expressed authentic relationship towards us, I felt renewed towards giving again. I know that God used them to help me remember to take time to get to know people. Through relationship, even brief attempts, a grace to serve is given. So, I’m learning that it helps when I take time to sit, talk and listen. Somehow, this small deed makes all the other stuff go down easier.

Here’s to putting the winter coat in the closet…

With love and grateful hearts,
Joy (n Peter)

A Tree in Winter

23 Feb

He needed someone to listen to him. You could tell.  He was desperate, his blood shot eyes, his greasy hair, his unshaven face.  He had been puking all morning long in our bathroom. He should go home, I told peter.  But He didn’t want to go home.  No, instead he sucked up energy from those of us near him – the sympathetic kind that you give to a burned out soul.  I didn’t mind coddling him.  He had a hell of a week.  He and his fiancé finally broke it off.  The ring is off of her finger.  Her naked finger; his broken soul.

He’s 38, wears bright, ill matching colors and a fedora cap.  He writes and plays reggae music in that I’m a white Christian kid kind of way.  Yet, despite the strangeness of his idiosyncrasies, they are charming – at a distance.  You can tell he wants to be accepted so desperately, aching to be loved wholly.  He was so close.  So damn close.

I feel sorry for him.  I tell him so when he sits down across the breakfast table from me.  Not in those words.  I don’t like telling someone exactly that.  I usually say something more like I’m so sorry this is happening.  And then I wait.  He unfolds his story.  Very briefly.  Very cleaned up.  Very I’m okay, see.  He is talking something, but he is not convincing. He says to me,“We talked last night, it was pretty rough. But by the end of it we decided that there must be some other purpose then marriage for our relationship.  So that helped me understand why this happened.”

He has his bandage now, I think to myself, he has his understanding.  Now he thinks he’ll be okay, meanwhile he’s puking in our bathroom and looking like his broken heart is eating him from the inside out.   You’re not okay, so don’t pretend that finding a quick answer will suddenly enable you to pack up your emotional baggage and move on from this relationship.

I reach out my hand across the table in a swift move just before he gets up to leave.  I need to tell him something.  Something honest.  Something that I know from experience.  He stops and looks at me, bare and broken, like a tree in winter. I say, “Don’t  look so quickly to find an answer.  Sometimes it takes a long time for us to understand something.  And that understanding may not ever come through any answer.”  He smiles a half smile and says something about how he knows that God is always  interested in the process and less of the destination and he walks away.  Another christianese rote answer, I think to myself.

For the last two days I’ve been considering this conversation.  It frustrates me.  Not in the beat your fist on the table kind of way, but in the how do you solve this kind of way.  I guess I feel like the Church is enabling this band-aid, quick-fix-it mentality.  I should know.  I had it or maybe I still have it.  Whatever pain you are in, there is a quick answer, three steps, four words to say, five scriptures to repeat and boom you’re okay. And if it doesn’t work the first time, then try, try again – meaning pray harder.  And most of all, never, never show weakness.  Never admit that you’re losing it. Or if you do admit anything, say that you’re “struggling” and then add a quick recovery line of, “but God is helping me.”

It’s unfortunate, but true.  I imagine God is wondering when we will stop saving ourselves through our own means, our own made up answers, our own church endorsed 12 step programs and learn to be comfortable admitting defeat.  Or in my case, admitting the worst of all, disbelief.

I don’t know how to reconcile what I’m about to say with what I have struggled with so I won’t.  I’ll just say it.  (See how I still look for an answer to my baggage).  Ironic that Job is the first book of the Bible ever written.  The oldest story on earth is about human suffering.  Human hurting, losing it all.  I mean, even Christ ended up dying.  Sometimes I feel that way about my faith.  Having it all, so beautiful, so perfect, so right, and then it fails, forsakes me, right when I need it the most.

Yet, despite all those unanswered questions.  Despite, despite, despite. I believe somehow, though would you mind forgiving this unbelief.  Slowly, dreadfully slowly, I believe again, for no logical reason, against all odds my faith did not curse God and die.  Like Christ, I experience my own personal resurrection.

I know that pain can hold open the door for disbelief.  I’ve experienced it.  Though I wonder, maybe it’s better to have that door open and know that you can survive it – the disbelief, the questions, the clenched fist, than never having the guts to open the door to begin with because you’re too busy slapping your band aid on.  I think many are too scared that their Faith won’t make it out alive if they dare to ask the questions they’re really craving to ask.  Maybe our Faith would be stronger if we allowed ourselves to stay on the cross long enough to ask, “Why did You forsake me?”

I’m asking uncomfortable questions as a result of disbelief in my life and though I am walking through a dark night (in terms of my faith), somehow I am beginning to see the morning; though not through answers, but through time.  Through silence.  Through listening.  Through love.  Through Resurrection.

I know I’m not finished with my learning, or even with this dissatisfaction,  but I’m holding on in a I’m glad we’re friends again type of way.

Express 4

22 Feb

Feb. 22, 2008

Class, the theme of our lesson today is how to listen. Today has been a day of listening – and also, working in the kitchen. Which, is, in my house, the epicenter of listening, as well as talking – mostly around the breakfast table.

I spent the entire day in the kitchen. Our house is being used for a three day workshop called “the art of Hearing God.” So while our lower level is filled with eager listeners in every available space possible, I’m cornered in the kitchen, next to the gas heater, keeping warm and keeping out of the way. I’m also directing people to the coffee carafe, keeping the tea kettle hot, and stirring the huge pot of chicken soup that we’ll be serving for lunch today.

We had an hour break for lunch. I ate a quick salad, and then started my never ending process of keeping the kitchen clean, directing people to the bathroom, or to the phone, or to whatever it is they might need. There’s always something that somebody needs here. Sometimes I want to call this place the HOUSE of NEEDS instead of the HOUSE OF PEACE. I’m learning to be gracious towards peoples needs.

People need all sorts of things. Information is the one thing that tends to drive me crazy. Especially those who request unnecessary information. Especially something like, “excuse me, but my friend and I were wondering if you were expecting.” NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant if you are not absolutely sure that she is, and especially if you don’t even know her from adam. And then especially if you want her to pour you hot coffee. Even if she is wearing a shirt that looks like a pregnant shirt. She could be, perhaps, bloated from her period and doesn’t want anything clinging to her. In that case, she is definitely not “expecting.” What she is expecting is an apology for your stupid-ass-ness.

See how I’m learning to be gracious.

(that’s all i could share of this days “850” with the myspace world)

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