Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Final Lesson and a Vision of 20 Welcome Homes

     If I ever had any doubts about how loved I am by my heavenly Father and why I should be nothing but a laser beam of joy during this time of year when we celebrate the sacrifice that He gave to us in the form of his son, well those doubts completed evaporated yesterday afternoon. I won't waste anymore of your time with this nonsense of slowly and painstakingly trying to figure out which blessings to count.
     I'm alive. Rife with sin, wearing jealousy and bitterness like a coat of armor. Less than innocent. But my life continues while the lives of 20 children, babies really, guilty of no more than stealing a cookie from the cookie jar, wiping a booger on the car seat or calling someone a doo-doo head went back to God yesterday for absolutely no more valid reason than pure evil.
     There is no consolation heartfelt enough to console those parents. The teachers who survived while their colleagues were gunned down, the parents who walked away with their baby in their arms, who spent the evening comforting their friends who didn't - that kind of guilt doesn't dissipate - it just migrates from heart to head. The children who survived it, torn between feeling guilty and being so relieved that they still get to have a Christmas. The investigators and first responders who opened the door to it...
    It's not going to make sense, ever. It doesn't matter what the media says and what the father tells the investigators. We can explain it, but explanation isn't healing. We can rub the explanation into the wound like its Neosporin, but it is just never going to make sense. We don't deal well with that as human beings. That's what we are left with.
    That is enough for me. The superficial "sadness" that I felt is completely overshadowed if not consumed by the darkness of this incident and I get it. I get that I am supposed to be thankful for every breath that I am given, that I am supposed to be thankful for every breath that your child is given and that my child is given. I get that I am to love no matter what and give the benefit of the doubt no matter what. I get that I am no longer allowed to manufacture my own misery because there is an abundance of it out there that I can share in... a surplus if you will. So why create my own insignificant maudlin? I get it, like Ebeneezer Scrooge got it that cold Christmas morning as he flung open his window and told that poor, unsuspecting youngster to go buy the biggest goose in town. I get it. I get it. I FINALLY, TRAGICALLY GET IT. Because of those babies who deserved nothing but to be hugged infinitely, sat in time-out occasionally, and listened to with love, I get it: service, sacrifice and gratitude for every single second of our fragile, fragile lives... Enough is enough. I get it.
     Here's the vision:
     The angel dashed through the streets of heaven, scattered and frazzled, his wings practically flattened behind him with his speed and determination. "They are coming!" he hollered. His face flushed with excitement, his feet not moving nearly as fast as he desired and his breath coming in short, excited rasps. Soon there were three more behind him, moving at the same speed, their robes swirling like glimmering cotton candy up and around their feet and knees. "Crayons!" one of them called out. "Because she loves to color and pink is her favorite!" Five more fell into the throng, their feet pounding, the very rafters of heaven beginning to shake. The cries went up: "She'll need a crown to play princess!" "He loves trucks... and digging!" "Toy dinosaurs!" "She pretends everything is a microphone!"
     The thunder of the throng as they headed toward the gate was deafening. The twenty moved like lightening toward the gate where they would welcome home their little souls. The millions of other angels lined the streets for them, wrapping themselves in their wings, covering their faces to hide their tears. The younger angels who had taken to the streets, who were heading for their young charges didn't understand. The Father would explain.
     He met them at the gate. His face said it all. "Every homecoming is joyous," he told the young ones. "But not every departure is a celebration." And then He told them the truth. And then He let them cry. And then He told them of the levity of their job; he told them that they would hold their charges and wrap them safely in their wings. He explained that they would one by one bring the little ones to the Son who would then bring them to Him. And He explained that after they had given their sweet little spirit to the Son, they were to make about the business of those left behind. Comforting them without touch, embracing them not using arms, ministering peace without words. They would not be young after this, the Father explained. It wasn't fair, He explained. But it is the way.
     And so the angels stood at the gate, hand in hand and awaited. And when the time came, they went. And they stood beside their little charges and they wept with the anger that there was nothing they could do but look at time in the exponentially fractionalized way that God looks at time and calculate the movement of the bullet and step in quickly, as if in a dance and wrap their wings around their child and embrace the light of their spirit and soul, pulling it in a heated charge just above them, leaving only the sweet-faced, chubby armed shell to meet the bullet and fall to the floor.
     They carried only light close to their bodies, wrapped in their wings as they moved through the barrier of mortality and infinity, the heat from the little souls almost too much to bear. The silence was crushing and broken only by 20 barely audible slashes of time freezing forever in the air left in the room.
     Soon there was nothing left, nothing but the human definition of life: blood and skin and tissue. Nothing but silence on earth and the deafening cry of injustice.
     But in heaven there was laughter, and there were embraces. In heaven there was the tossed-back-head booming laughter of the Son as He listened to their stories and passed His peace to them in a ginger kiss on the forehead. There were the angels who stood in line to meet these little pieces of light, to wrap them in their wings, to hold their hands and walk with them and hear their stories.
    And the Father, on His throne, cried. But whether the tears were named joy or sorrow no one dared ask...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lesson #9 - Regret and Other Things I Get For Christmas

     You have failed... Yes, you there, sucking down your soda and ignoring the television while lounging every so cozily on your sofa. YOU were supposed to keep me honest and accountable. But I supposed we both failed each other so I will not squawl too loudly...
     This week has been a flurry of change, some welcome, some not. I HAVE kept up with my challenge to myself. Acts of sacrifice and service, after awhile become harder to come by because after practicing them for awhile, you realize you don't become aware of the attitude of service and sacrifice. Not to say that I couldn't be more polite, giving, caring or aware; in fact it could be amplified for the greater good. But what I am finding as I am working my way through this mixture of depression, I suppose, and disillusionment (I am certain!) is that there truly is a cure for the ailments that we create for ourselves and then inevitably blame on others.
     One thing that has been chewing at the back of my brain all week is the one thing, however, that there is no cure for, and I am learning that even joy cannot overtake the pain that comes with this ailment; that ailment is regret. There is nothing that can be done about regret.
     It is around this time of year that I start to get lonely for people who are no longer in my life because of circumstance. This is the poultice that we use to draw regret to the surface of our hearts: circumstance. If I had only done, if I had only said, if I had only been... There is nothing more lonely, more useless and more determined than regret, especially when the regret is based on something you didn't do when you should have. And it is regret that pushes us beyond what we allow joy to heal
   I have regrets, big ones. I went through a phase not too long ago where I believed that my failure to act when I should have might actually have thwarted the will of God for my life. I believed that the lack of courage of others, that their fear, might have thwarted the will of God for my life.
   I am such a freshman when it comes to the scholarly understanding of God. Like the human beings in my life, I desperately try to put Him in a category. I try to make Him like me. I only see life as it ripples out from me; truth be told that is how we all see it. And we spend so much time concentrating on our little drop in the ocean, we don't realize that it is the ripples that are moving away from our little drop in the ocean. Nothing happens that is not under His control, ordained by His hand, orchestrated in His heart.
     My regret is hypocrisy. The sadness that I feel belongs to no one but me. It is not God's and to allow it to the be thing that I use to separate myself from Him is almost pathetic as the regret in the first place. This last week has been spent in this kind of wondrous introspection; it has not been fun, but it has been productive.
    The yearning for "what might have been" that comes around this time of year can be excruciating. It is the longing for freedoms, friends and still-unraveling possibilities that came with Christmases long ago that is diminishing the joy of the Christmas of now.
     I can't fix it because to fix it, I would have to go back in time and change my own choices and actions. Both of those things are impossible - time travel doesn't exist and even if I could go back, I would still be me and being me, I would definitely make the same choices or, more than likely, still be afflicted with the same indecisiveness. No. Cure.
     I don't know how to overcome the regret. At the time, the act that I regret now was a willful act of action or inaction - God is not in the business of condoning acts of my will or helping me recover from them. I don't know what your regrets are or how they figure in to the holidays or this time of year, but after this week, I am almost positive that acts of service and sacrifice that lead to the development of a life that is focused around service and sacrifice have to be a huge part of it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lesson #8 - A Child Shall Lead Them

   Though I will post this on Sunday it is the blog for Saturday's service and sacrifice. In all honesty, Saturday was one of the best days I have had in a long time. I spent the entire day with my husband and my son. We did nothing but laugh and giggle, talk about stuff that really didn't have any consequence and basically just enjoy each other.
   And as I panicked last night when I realized that I hadn't done anything in service or sacrifice yesterday I was comforted by the thought that I could perhaps use this as a platform to share the service and sacrifice of someone else with you; someone you wouldn't expect; a little girl. Not just any little girl, a princess.
   I met Lexie when she was four. All sparkling green eyes and smiles and all girl, Lexie lived in one of her princess costumes... She was all pink tulle and glitter tied up with a nice lavender bow. With long brown hair and a sweet little voice, she was always dressed to the nines and the quick assumption would be that she was spoiled rotten.
   But she's not. In fact, she has one of the most loving and giving hearts of any person, young or old, that I have ever met. Lexie is in third grade and has learned the power of pestering. She started pestering her mother about three weeks ago for toys. Here's the catch: the toys aren't for her. The toys are for kids who need them. Her mother was quick to brush her off. It would pass. It didn't. Lexie had an idea and she was going to see it through. When you are seven and you have an idea and you want to see it through, you have to convince someone with authority to take you seriously. Lexie knew that. SHE. DIDN'T. LET. IT. GO. For days, the only thing she would talk about was helping kids get toys for Christmas, helping kids who don't have the the things that she has, helping kids who need a smile because they are sick. She wanted to do something; it was actually more than that. She HAD to do something.
   SHE IS SEVEN! Christmas for her is supposed to me a gimme, gimme, gimme! It's supposed to be about visits to Santa and pretty dresses and helping bake cookies. It's not supposed to be about helping other people. That's just... just... well it's wise beyond her years... it's kind of wise beyond my years.
   So her mom and dad helped her organize Lexie's Loving Heart Toy Drive. They've got boxes in a couple of places in Mexico and in Columbia and in Centralia. Children at Rainbow House in Columbia and Coyote Hill Christian Children's Home will receive the bounty of Lexie's loving heart this Christmas. But really, she is blessing so many more.
   I saw Lexie today, dressed to the nines, of course. She was scrutinizing the collection box we have at our church and I could see a cloud of disappointment scooting across her sweet little face. There really aren't a whole lot of toys in there yet... to a child that must seem so foreign. The idea that when someone wants to help others that grown ups can be the obstacle in the way must just really flummox a kid's brain. Think about how we appear to children. Dogs are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt; but children know us beyond a shadow of a doubt. And though they don't understand the true meaning of hypocrisy, they are witness to more of it than anyone. And yet, there is Lexie, whose heart is open and loving and whose concern this Christmas is not what is under the tree for her, but how many gifts are going to be in the collection boxes for the kids who really need them.
   Lexie's sacrifice may not be obvious to adults. Adults will look at it and oooohhhh, and awwwwww, over her because she is giving and say what a wonderful little girl she is, but we don't get the sacrifice. The sacrifice is that Lexie is not thinking about Lexie. I have a difficult time as a 41-year-old person making the sacrifice of not thinking about myself first, about not putting myself first. Lexie is eight years old and she is already making that sacrifice. Dying to self and living to service may take a lifetime for me to learn; Lexie has got it at eight. What is strange is that as we grow older, we lose that knowledge of what a huge deal self-sacrifice is to a child. We know what sacrifice means to us as adults, but we don't realize that when you are a child, the only thing you really have to sacrifice, to give up for others, is yourself. So it's a rare thing when you find a child that will do that, that will insist on doing that.
   Lexie is that little girl. Someone who opened her eyes and her heart long before we as a society would have required that of her. And we will require that of her someday, because we as a society use sacrifice as the basis of our belief in charity. But Lexie is a gleaming example of benevolence before it is practiced for anyone else's benefit, long before it is practiced because it is expected. It is the best example of service and sacrifice: it happened because in her heart of hearts she knew that it should.