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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I'm Sipping On It

She pulls herself up to a sitting position as if sand bags held her down because sometimes sleep is heavy. But I'm waving a mug of fresh brewed Texas Pecan coffee and there must be essence of caffeine wafting in the steam rising under her nose because she's upright. I fill the mug just shy of brimful so that she has to stay awake enough to keep from spilling it.

Last night, yellow therapy dog sniffed evening essences, nose to the ground, while I pointed my nose upward as if to breathe the essence of the stars themselves just wafting light from the deep mug of straight up black sky. I sipped the night sky like this. Black, with stars sprinkled as sugar and stirred.

"It's so deep," I marveled upward. My chest expanded with a heart brimful of star light and, "Pull me up into Your heights, God," spilled out. "Take me into Your depths where it's too dark to see me and dark enough to see only the lit path to You;" because surely the stars are arranged beyond the constellations we've figured out. Surely the stars are ordered as the solar lights I have lining the path to my front door; only His solar lights would line the path to His front door.

My eye caught the blink of a firefly and I watched it zig from pecan branches spilling over the pool and zag into the open garage and, "There! Your solar lights look all ziggy-zag to me, but they must lead to the inside of where You're parked!"

An owl hooted wide-eyed somewhere nearby and I'm certain I heard a duck in the distance quacking nasal like they do. Must have been a coyote sticking its nose into a nest.

And somehow in the dark there's a lit path, and somehow there's something organized in zig-zag, and something ordained about night owls and nesting ducks who quack through their noses when waken by a coyote smelling duckling for dinner.

So, my night owl daughter balances the mug. Sleeping in the bed next to hers is my sand-runner who sprints like an ostrich till she falls on her neck just pillowed; and in the crate is my yellow therapy dog stretched out but eyeing me hopeful for a morning walk. She'll keep her nose to the ground, zig and zag and sprint to leash end through the mud. I know she will.

Coffee in Bed

She does. I don't. We walk and I wonder why she must muck through mud, drink mud puddles and chase bunnies for breakfast. "I'll have to wash her feet," I sigh to the One walking with me; "and she doesn't like getting her feet washed."

"Neither did Peter," says He.

How does He do this? How does He go from muddy dog feet to the holy act of washing the disciples' feet without blinking? "Hmm. Well," I say as we tend to say when we don't know what to say, "I guess it's humbling to have our feet washed. I guess it means we've been mucking through mud."

"But only your feet," He assures. "The rest of you is clean."

I remember that conversation. Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet, but Jesus told him, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me" (John 13:8). Peter then asked for a complete washing and learned from Jesus that the only washing he needed was a foot washing.

We continue walking. The song, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" runs through my head.

It's true. I'm washed by the blood of Jesus. But I also walk through this world. I carry mugs of morning coffee upstairs to my night owl. I sip the stars from a mugful of night sky from the back patio. I loose track of a sand runner, and I leash a yellow mud mucker, and sometimes I eat anxiety for dinner and worry for breakfast and track through wastelands to find an ostrich who has disappeared.

I need my feet washed because, yeah, I track through sand and mud and worry and sometimes I put my nose where it doesn't belong and end up quacking nasal. I need my tough and tender feet washed; and I need to learn how to wash others' feet with a tough and tender love like Jesus' love.

Tough love. I'm not convinced that what we've been told about tough love is what Jesus would say about it. Isn't the tough in love the, "I will lay down my life for you, but only when you want me to"? And maybe the tough is a combination of the heart going out to the one loved, but not extending beyond the will of Love Himself.

I think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal means to spend wastefully and recklessly, and that's what the son did. He was old enough to go his way; old enough to know better, old enough to figure out possible consequences, but chose to think he was different and that these things wouldn't happen to him. He was like we've all been.

I think about his father. Somehow he knew the wise difference between watching for his son and searching for him. He had the wisdom to retain daily life, though his heart may have dropped out, and to restrain himself from dropping out of his life to search for a son who didn't want to be found just yet. Was it tough love to give his son the inheritance he asked for, watch him walk away to certain destruction, and then turn back to the house and work the fields as one whose life is laid down because his heart is wrapped somewhere around his ankles and he stumbles over it every step?

I think about Jesus and His disciples, and Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus who was meant to die to be brought to life so that something holy would be accomplished in the followers of Christ up to this very day by a divine will that extends beyond any reach our hearts can make.

Was it tough love for the father to believe, trust and hope that one day he would say, "This is my son who was dead and is alive again"? And for the sisters to say the same about their brother? It was tough; and it was love, and they did say those words.

I think of my life word, pisteuo. The Greek verb I discovered and wrote a book about. Pisteuo-to believe, to trust, and to always hope in Love Himself.

So I'm a guardian of a prodigal and, yeah, there's still some prodigal in me. I still spend too much on misguided love and I still pisteuo too little in Love Himself. But not as I did before I suffered. 

Seems there's a suffering that exceeds what comes at us. It's the internal suffering experienced when we choose to be manipulated by the lusts of others. The Bible says it, and so do those who have suffered like this, and then discovered the will of God.

"He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his life in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:1-2). I'd like to understand this more than I do now.

I'm sipping on it.

"You suffered in the flesh for me." I speak the part of His word that I understand, and wait for Him to take the cue.

He does. "Therefore," He begins, "arm yourself also with the same mind."

I sip.

I wonder, Does He mean to suffer in the flesh for others? It doesn't make sense to me, because the next thing He says about this is, "Don't live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men."

I have to ask Him. "What do You mean?"

The answer is right in front of me. "Live the rest of your time in the flesh for the will of God."

I sip.

I'm a repentant prodigal, and a guardian of a prodigal who still has wanderlust, and I wonder if this verse is where tough and love come together.

Tough when a loved one is a prodigal.

Tough to love as the father of the prodigal son loved; and as the Father loves His prodigal sons and daughters.

Tough to restrain giving the prodigals more of ourselves than we should, but if we're short on pisteuo then we'll give our souls and spend our livelihoods searching for, finding, and dragging our prodigals home.

This is misguided love. It's a love that believes, trusts, and hopes in our persuasive, might I dare say manipulative, efforts. I know about this misguided love because I've loved so.

Misguided love doesn't help the prodigal. It just makes a prodigal out of the wife of a prodigal, and who hasn't seen it make a prodigal out of the mother of a prodigal daughter, or the father of a prodigal son?

Misguided love. It's the kind that lacks faith and hope in the Son who saves, and it will accuse Him of being prodigal. I can hear Mary and Martha, Lazarus' sisters, "Lord, if You had been here, our brother wouldn't have died." I read between the lines, "If You had dropped everything when we sent word rather than acting the prodigal;" and misguided love accuses ugly and out of line.

It's hard for me to draw the line at serving another, especially a loved one, in time of need and crossing not at all that line.

It's hard to simply serve; but cross the line and become the prodigal who misunderstands and misuses the legacy of the Father's love. This is a suffering in the flesh that exceeds a suffering that comes at the flesh. But live for the will of God and, yeah, cease from sin. Tough love comes together here. The father of the prodigal son must have known this because he didn't become prodigal himself in striving effort to bring his prodigal home.

It's a mystery, but maybe only a prodigal gone bankrupt, a prodigal starving for the Father's mercy, a prodigal returning repentant, and a prodigal learning pisteuo in the return can understand something of the mercy of Love Himself.  Sometimes it's a long journey back and maybe it's long enough to get pretty good at the pisteuo step. It goes something like, "I'm trusting." Step. "I'm believing." Step. "I'm hoping." Step; and nothing but, "Have mercy on me" speech just daring hope till the prodigal is embraced by Love and the Father says, "I only need to wash your feet. The rest of you is clean."

Well, I'm still learning pisteuo steps. My heart isn't dropped down around my ankles anymore. Perhaps pisteuo is for this messy life, because faith will be seen; hope will be fullfilled, but love is greater.

Washing Feet

I wash muddy paws on the patio till they're happy yellow again. While washing, I worship the One who washed the disciples' feet; and the wash cloths are still in the water bowls because His legacy lives on.

He's left the legacy of serving the needs of another without becoming controlled by those needs.

I'm learning how to wash another's feet without becoming the towel used as a bathmat. I'm learning the difference between a wash cloth and a towel. One washes and the other absorbs.

I stand under stars that burned out long before I was born and I worship in the light they shone because their legacy extends far and long.

I stand under the upper, outer layer of lit up atmosphere that covers this dark side of earth and, "Oh. Oh!" I exclaim. "The Light of the world shone bright as the morning star and the Morning Star hasn't burned out, but lives!"

Starlit worship service happens at patio.

The patio is starlit once again tonight. I stand looking up. "It's just so deep," I marvel at what's beyond as far as I can see. It's the upper, outer layer that somehow validates believing, trusting, and hoping.

"It's the epi part of pisteuo." The author in me recalls that epi is the Greek preposition meaning "upper layer, outer layer."

"Ha!" God barks out laughter. "Epi-pisteuo!"

Epi-pisteuo. Our new word. It means, "The upper, outer layer of faith and hope."

Faith on faith; hope on hope. Epi-pisteuo.

I breathe the essence of star light, and the poet in me remembers that God rides the wind and that the clouds are the footprints He leaves.

"You ride the highest solar winds that are a mystery to men," I worship upward. "You walk starlit pathways through galaxies that look like cloud mass to us and, Oh! Only starlight can wash the feet of a star-treader."

I open my heart to the Light of the World; to the bright and morning star who lives, to love that is greater than mine, to love that will never be filled up full because it's uncontained.

I lift up my heart to Love Himself.

I sip.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Confession Is Like Dishwasher Detergent

Oatmeal simmers hot over low flame. Chipotle chicken sandwich leans against the water bottle in the brown paper lunch sack just waiting to be stuffed into the worn out backpack, slung over the shoulder of this third-year high school daughter, and she and her backpack have senior-ites a year early. 

I turn and yank open the tight-lipped dishwasher door while she runs late, and I think over yesterday's conversation with one not so laid back. She runs like a punctual ostrich and runs wound tight. Sweet and striving. Too afraid to soar like an eagle; too controlling to let the wind carry her. She's like a bird that cannot fly. Ostrich-like. 

She runs. And when she can't run anymore, she "buries her head in the sand." Come to find out, ostriches don't bury their heads in the sand but press their long necks to the ground. They feel invisible like this and I wonder if sand grits because isn't that what it feels like when our insides swish and steam builds behind lips sealed like rubber lining on a dishwasher door and we just want to hide?

"I'm going upstairs," she gritted honest frustration at day's end, "to hide."

And she did. Pressed her neck to the pillow and is still there like that this morning; and I long for her to stop running and gritting. To stop manipulating her direction, kicking like an ostrich, pressing and gritting. 

Confession, I think to myself,  is like dishwasher detergent. 

"I want to go back to yesterday's conversation with her," I confess to the One who made eagles and ostriches, "and unload truest clean words." I'm unloading drinking glasses from the top rack of the dishwasher. "I'd fill my lips with thirst quenching words and offer them to this thirsty runner with grit between her teeth." I place glassware in kitchen cupboard.

"How often do you yank the dishwasher door open?" He asks me as I'm ready to close it.

"Every day, Lord." As if He didn't know.

"Sometimes the thirsty own lips like the rubber seal edging the dishwasher door; watertight however," He's always  just a "however" away from hope and His next words overlap mine, "confession is like dishwasher detergent."

"I confess, Lord." I choose to leave the dishwasher door open a crack. "I didn't speak about You in the way a friend speaks about her best friend. You are my best friend." 

The high-school junior with senior-ites slung over her shoulder, shoes tucked under arm, a bowl of breakfast in one hand, and a glass of water in the other, is ready. She swallows water so free and easy. She's late, yeah, but she soars like an eagle.

I drive. 

She ties her shoes and eats breakfast as if there were no clocks measuring out time and no such thing as tardiness. She drinks last swallow before closing the car door with her hip, shifts the backpack and yanks open heavy high-school doors.

I pull away and continue my confessing words. "Sometimes fear suctions lips tight shut; and mine were. " I break at the intersection. "I feared mentioning Your name yesterday when the conversation pressed gritty."

Yesterday's conversation. So many things I could have said, but my lips were sealed and she was prone on her pillow a little ostrich-like. I checked on her at bedtime last night. I wanted to speak. Wanted to quench her thirst. But she wanted to be invisible and her bed may as well have been a desert of sand grit, her pillow a suffocating dune.

"I love you." Maybe the words quenched a little, and maybe the hug lifted her neck an inch above the dune.

I padded soft down stairs and laid my head on my own pillow. It's feather downy, not dune. It's everything flight and soar and nothing ostrich. 

"How to reach her?" I sighed to the God who can give ostriches eagle's wings, who can turn deserts into oasis, and who can give streams of living water to the thirsty. 

He gave me a recipe for Peace Cake.

I texted it into my iPhone. 

Peace Cake

1 c. hope
1/2 c. thankfulness
2 c. love
5 TBS gentleness
1/2 c. kindness
1 c. joy
3 tsp. understanding
1 1/2 c. honesty

Mix the ingredients together. Pour them into a cake pan and bake at 350 till risen and fragrant. 

I texted it from my pillow to hers upstairs. "I'd serve you a big slice of it for breakfast with a fresh cup of Texas Pecan coffee with local honey."

"Thank You." He has the best recipes; and maybe Peace Cake strengthens the ostrich with courage to lift the head high. Maybe one cup of joy can give flight. Maybe Peace Cake every morning can transform an ostrich into an eagle. Maybe.

"Shake the sand from your feet." I hear Him now, and it feels kind of hard-hearted. 

"It does, Lord." I confess it out loud. "It feels hard-hearted to shake the sand from my feet." I love this ostrich.

"It's hard-hearted to forsake wanna-be eagles for the sake of an ostrich." How He speaks! It takes my breath in sharp.

"Yeah but, I love this ostrich!" I flap my lips kind of too hard.

"So do I," He replies. "I love eagles, too."

I gasp. I gasp because the conversation just took a turn. "I'm an ostrich becoming an eagle." I speak the realization slow.

"Hmm," He nods.

I've been ostrich-like. I remember when my pillow was sand dune. 

I've been a runner and kicked up sand. I remember when I pressed my neck to the mattress because I wanted to disappear, and gritted sand between my teeth.

I've tried to hide from an enemy, no, an army called fear with too many troopers to name. I remember hiding till I learned that God is the lifter of my head and my hiding place.

And I've lifted my head from the dunes and shaken the sand from my sandals.

And I've looked up from the desert dunes.

I've also been a wanna-be eagle.  

"Shake the sand from your feet," He says. It's an age-old recipe for wanna-be eagles who, in turn, wanna rescue ostriches. Two shakes of sand, one for  each foot. That's the first step. The second is, "Find wanna-be eagles," because two shakes of sand isn't a complete recipe and not all ostriches wanna be eagles.

Well, I did. And I know others do.

And guess what? Yeah, I'm mounting up on eagle's wings and finding other wanna-be's.

History repeats itself; only now I have a recipe to work with. 

Wanna-Be Eagle Cake

Two shakes sand
1 oz. waiting
1/8 tsp. tears (optional)

Mix until crumbly.
Bake in desert.
Look up until you can fly.

Wanna-Be Eagle Cake

I want the healing of the gospel truth; and so do others.

I want to lift them up from the dunes and say, "Look up till you can fly!" I do; because I've packed sand like brown sugar, sifted grit like flour, rinsed soul bowls filled with mixed up thinking like mixing bowls filled with baking soda and vinegar.

Now I have a better recipe; and this ex-ostrich is swallowing the gospel in gulps so desperate that the word just overflows and dribbles down my chin. My neck.

I hear God's words to the disciples when He sent them off in Luke chapter nine, "Heal them, and they will mount up on wings like eagles."  It's a sentence and a breath beyond "shake the sand from your feet." 

"Don't forsake them because you're trying to dig an ostrich out of the sand." I get what He's saying, and I laugh at the image only because maybe it wasn't so funny when the image looked like the ostrich I was and the eaglet I became just angled all odd at the neck staring at the ostrich I wanted to dig out but couldn't. Before I looked up.

The story's like this: a fascinated ostrich and an eaglet press their necks to the ground and stare at each other like that. The ostrich fears for her life; the eaglet fears for the ostrich. The ostrich sees the eaglet in an unnatural position and thinks, "How wonderful! She's staying by my side." But the eaglet is getting a kink in her short neck and cramps in her long wings, and she's thinking, "Lord, I can't leave her here but I can't stay here. I can't bear to see her run and spread those rudders she calls wings till she steers herself right back into the dunes." And the eaglet's sense of loving care is confused; manipulated by displaced duty and misplaced mercy.

He, the Maker of the ostrich and eagle, assures me, saying,  "I see the ostrich." 

"I know You do." My neck is bent odd angle. It's an old habit I still haven't completely shaken.

"Get off your neck and mount up!" He commands.

Well, I received the recipe for Wanna-Be Eagle Cake somewhere between ostrich sprint and sand grit. And I offer Peace Cake now, too. I offer it, but I don't do ostrich anymore to get the cake accepted. 

The recipes are for wanna-be eagles with an ostrich in their lives, and for ostriches who wanna be eagles. 

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig