Monday, March 31, 2008

Hopeful Romantic

Recently someone called me a hopeless romantic.

This was a totally random statement. I am not exactly sure what prompted it. Something I said? Something I did? Who knows? They gave no definition other than I probably cried in the movie theaters. How they deduced this I am not quite sure (I am grinning).

Over the weeks as I have pondered and mulled over this tag—A hopeless romantic.

At first, my defenses cranked up a notch or maybe even two. I gave explanations, justifications, and clarifications.

Then I stopped. Let’s be realistic (rarely are romantics labeled as realists).

I am a romantic.

But I am a hopeful romantic. And I am coming out of hiding. I wonder if there is a Romantic Anonymous.

I will confess that I believe in fairy tales. Yes, I do. But I don’t believe the modern versions. Happily ever after is not the most important part of the tale. If it were then authors would write the story that comes after the glass slipper and after the beast becomes a handsome prince again. No, the “getting to the happily ever after”—that’s what everyone wants to hear.

I believe in the truth and power of the story.

One of my most beloved heroes would have been considered a hopeless romantic.

David.

He was the beautiful baby boy who became the handsome shepherd, musician, poet, warrior, lover, and king.

Sounds like a romantic fairy tale to me. (I don’t think Richard Gere even came close to the real David!).

But we must remember that in the true fairy tales, the real stories, there was a thread of darkness, a strain of malicious intent, a traitorous plot, and often a blinding betrayal.

In the fairy tales there is a thread of darkness, but it is never in the hero/heroine. Oh! Forbid such a thought.

In the books of I & II Samuel, David is the hero. As his story unfolded we see that there was a thread of darkness in him. It was subtly woven with strands of right and privilege and arrogance. David took advantage of the innocent. The thread grew long and thick before Nathan showed it to him. And the damage was already done. Literally. There was no enchanted song David could sing that would reverse his actions. But there was a song he could sing that would restore him to his King. (Psalm 51). And sing it he did.

In the fairy tales there is an act of malicious intent. Jealousy fueled Saul’s malicious intent toward David. More than once Saul threw his spear at David to pin him to the wall. There were several times when David had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, and he was conflicted. But David chose not to return evil for evil. And our hero fled into the desert. All the heroes/heroines go to the desert or the forest. A place of hiding and protection.

In the fairy tales there is a traitorous plot. The enemies are clearly defined. Colored in black and white (and sometimes a little red). Villainous. Hopeless romantics don’t want to have enemies. And yet, poor Snow White had enemies living in the same castle with her—plotting and scheming for her downfall and demise. So did David.

In the fairy tales there is a blinding betrayal. And the betrayal comes from and through someone that is closest to the hero. And it seems so wrong. The source of the betrayal comes from one who should have cared. It comes from someone who instinctively should have protected and stood beside them. In Hansel and Gretel it is the parents, with Snow White and Cinderella it is the step-mother. David's son betrays him. And because David loved so intensely and so deeply he was blind to Absalom’s treachery.

Am I suggesting or implying that the story of the great King David is just a fairy tale? Is he just a hopeless romantic hero?

No. Let me be clear—NO.

I am suggesting that all great stories, all the real stories have elements and traits and truths we recognize and that pierce into who we really are. That is the power of story.

I can’t relate to Cinderella. I don’t sing while I am cleaning the ashes from the fireplace. I am not very patient waiting for my prince to come. I don’t relate to the fairy tale people who find no darkness in themselves, who are never conflicted, never doubt, never question, or never stumble.

No, I want the real people. I relate to David. David sings. But his songs are not trilling, frilly nonsense about the happily ever after. His songs are about the gritty here and now. Read the Psalms. Contemplate the shadows and the light you find there.

I resonate with David because there is a dark thread in me. It may not be the exact same kind of thread, but it is darkness, nonetheless. And just like David I have acted on it.

When one of David’s sins was exposed (through a story by Nathan), he didn’t deny what he had done. David made no explanations, justifications, and clarifications. David repented.

When confronted with the opportunity to repay Saul’s evil, David chose to walk away.

When David was told of the plot to overthrow his reign, he did not retaliate.

When he discovered his son’s betrayal, his heart was broken and he loved Absalom anyway.

David is one of my heroes not because he is perfect and infallible like the animated princes of our modern fairy tales, but because he is raw and real. He bleeds.

In so many ways I want to be like David.

I am a hopeful romantic.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Boundary Stone

I am sitting at the computer on Thursday night. Easter was last weekend, and I am still thinking about it.

Several of you have mentioned that I have been quiet lately (translation: no new posts). I have started three posts, but none of them have made it past the first draft.

Last Saturday night my second daughter called me after she had been to our church’s Easter celebration service. She said, “You better get ready.” My daughter knows me.

I wanted the sun to shine that morning, but it didn’t.
I wanted a new Easter outfit (remember when we were young and dressed up for Easter?), but I didn’t get one.
I needed to sit with my daughters, and I did (except one, she was working in the children’s ministry).
I needed to meet the Lord, and I did.

This Easter wasn’t just a celebration of my Lord’s Resurrection Day, but it was my own.

All week long I had been hearing different versions of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah—and this was the first song I heard on Easter morning with some verse changes (see the end of the post for the words).

At one point the worship leader sang out the chorus of Hallelujahs, and I could not contain the overwhelming joy that flooded into me. I could barely contain it. I understood what a fragile jar of clay I really am. I don't know how else to explain or describe how I felt.

It wasn't just a feeling. I felt a pivotal shift within me.

For so long I have felt off-kilter. I had been walking in a long dark tunnel. But on Sunday God moved some rock in my inner terrain, and I emerged.

There are events and points in the faith journey that become markers. Boundary stones. They help us remember what God has done and will do.

Sunday, I laid down a boundary stone.

Oh, the immensity of God!

How great is the volume of his love.


Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah!




Now I know that You're the God above
You're filling me with grace and love
And I just want to say, "Thank you" to You.
You pulled me from the miry clay
You've given me a brand new day
And all that I can say is, "Hallelujah."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Question

A friend sent me an email this week.

One line. One question.

Do you ever forget about God?

I felt like I had turned a corner and smacked into a wall that had been added without my knowledge.

I hit reply and reluctantly answered.

And my heart was broken.

I did not feel guilty. I did not feel condemned. I simply felt broken. Utterly sad.

I wrote her back.

I answered yes.

Then I asked, “What do we do now?”

And she replied, “Own up to it, as I did this morning to Him. He knows I can't drum up love for him, that it has to be poured into my heart from his unlimited resources.”

The stunning profoundness and incredible power of her answer…

Following my dear friend’s example, I too, owned up to it last night.

In black scrawls across the white pages of my journal I poured out my heart—and as I wrote I saw apathy, neglect, distraction, weariness, and lethargy.

The astounding reality is that He met me anyway.

I realized he has been prodding me. But often I fail to see his redirection. I am blind to the signs he blatantly places before me because I am so busy looking elsewhere. Absently I stare off into space—dawdling and pretending to be doing something real. I ignore the gentle tugs that would pull me away from the distractions.

Rival interests attempt and sometimes manage to overshadow God in my life. These shadowed interests steal in unnoticed—undetected until they have wrapped their stealthy tendrils around me, and I am suddenly gasping for air. For breath.

But (remember this divine conjunction?) He whispers in my ear and reminds me to breathe.

Take a deep breath, Tamera.

And once he has my attention again, he redirects me.

God watches me gather things and others to try and fill my own heart. Patiently he waits while I try to be self-sufficient and independent. How ridiculous? My resources are so temporary, so limited, so finite and so easily depleted. He will allow these to be stretched and exhausted in order that I may know the abundance of his.

He reminds me that even though I often forget him—he never forgets me. Never. I may feel he has, but my feelings are simply feelings. They are not fact. They may be my perceived reality, but they are not the reality.

And he will not allow me to forget him for long.

He will tell me to breathe.

Have you forgotten God?

Then own up to it…and breathe.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you intervene quietly into our lives…unobtrusive. And you wait patiently…so patiently for us to respond. I want my response to you to quicken and to be more immediate. I have felt your gentle proddings. I not only want to acknowledge them, but to act on them.

I have missed you in the chaos and din of this place that I am. I am so very thirsty and so very hungry.

This morning I am overwhelmed by my desire to be near you…just to hear the faintest ripple of your voice. Bring me into yourself. Draw me even closer. Only your Spirit can create this yearning and longing—this tender ache for someone so far beyond me.

Only you can satisfy the soul yearnings in me. Only you. Only you can make my longings become realities.

Thank you this morning for who and what you are, O God. You are worthy to be exalted and exulted in…worthy, so worthy.

May my feeble prayers lift to you this morning as incense. May they smell sweet and whole to you. May they bless you.

Thank you for the tears…and the ache. And thank you that both only last but a moment in your presence.

Thank you for a new morning. New mercies. Fresh grace.

Amen and amen.