When It’s “Not Okays”

September 5, 2013

She was a large woman. Her hospital scrubs made her look larger. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a small pony tail that bobbed as she moved around my recovery room. I don’t remember her name, but I remember her smile.

I had just been moved to the step down recovery from the acute recovery area. The last thing I remembered before waking up in the acute recovery area was the large operating room lights peering down on me like the largest pair of eyes I had ever seen, bright and alien-like as they faded into a halo and haze and eventually complete darkness while the anesthesia did its job. I still have dreams of that operating room. But they are only dreams. I only really remember the bright lights and then waking up being tended to by nurses who called my name, which echoed in my mind for a few moments, until I was able to shake myself alert again. Then I was wheeled here… to the large blonde nurse with a sweet smile.

I was not in the mood to talk. My throat hurt from the tube they had used during surgery. What’s more is that my soul hurt, ached really- that deep kind of aching that nothing will touch. I had been dealing with pancreatitis for weeks now so I knew that pain, but this was a different pain. A kind of pain that radiates from the deepest of places. In those moments, I realized why people turn to substance abuse. Not because of some physical pain- I had had plenty of that- but because of some deeper pain, emotional pain… spiritual pain, even.

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When We Can’t Sing

September 4, 2013

I love music. I grew up as a musician and continue to sing as much as I can, though it is harder and harder to find places to do so. My mother is a composer, and she immersed all of us in music from an early age- piano, guitar, harp, violin, flute, voice lessons, choirs, ensembles, casts in musicals- she pressed music into us… hard.

My church growing up loved music too. At least hymns. This was back when they had Sunday night worship as well as Sunday morning. So after a whole morning at church, we would have a few hours to finish homework and eat soup for dinner before heading back to church. I usually did not like going to the Sunday evening service, except once a month they would have a hymn sing instead of a sermon. This I liked. We would get to call out our favorite hymns and I would always try to pick “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” because I liked to hit the high notes: “Oh magnify the pre-cious name of Jeeee-sus, PRAAAAISE (usually a high G) his naaaame!” It was great fun for me, and it meant not having to listen to someone talk for 30 minutes. (Little did I know God would end up calling me to beĀ one of those people who preaches now. He’s got a weird sense of humor.)

Inevitably, for a young girl, the hymn sings would lose their glamour. And as I became a pre-teen, I would find myself bored by singing in church. That’s when my mother intervened. On a rare day when she wasn’t eyeing us with a stern look from the choir loft as we four children sat alone wiggling our way through the church service, she stood next to me as we sang that Sunday morning. I always loved listening to my mother sing. From as young as I can remember her voice mesmerized me. Some of my favorite memories are of laying in bed with the lights out, drifting to sleep to sound of her voice and the piano as she wrote another piece of music.

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Christmas Eve 2008, I preached a sermon from the perspective of the darkness in John 1. I was in the throes of pancreatitis, so my body was racked with pain and I actually have no memory of preaching it. But I have my manuscript of it and the recording, so I know it happened. The experience of writing that sermon made me realize that darkness is very much a character of scripture and of life.

I am familiar with darkness in a literal and figurative or spiritual sense. When Psalm 88 says, “the darkness is my closest friend,” I know that in multiple ways and at multiple times in my life. Read the rest of this entry »

Today, I encountered a woman who had been upset with me. She had been struggling with a number of people about a situation that felt very unjust. I had been hired in that situation to try to help them sort through the next steps and in the process, this woman had been hurt by some others. Since I was in the role I was, she had blamed me in part of it. And had acted on that anger a few times since the incident.

Today, she sought me out, apologized and allowed for us to have a very good discussion on how the Holy Spirit had been working in her and in what she believes was an unjust situation. Her spirit of forgiveness and understanding and clarity touched me greatly and I was honored to have gotten a glimpse of Jesus in her, even as I know she faces tremendous pressure from those people who side with her in the situation to remain aloof and unforgiving. Read the rest of this entry »