Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lightness Of Being

Some said they'd noticed that she seemed to be getting tired.

Others were just amazed because she didn't seem to be slowing down much at all.

Whenever someone shared that they had begun to think it would soon be time, I listened carefully, curious to see what they had seen.

Each time, I heard only those seasonal things – the observations of aging that relate to movement, appearance, etc. The things already familiar to her children; we had been taking note and sharing notes for years.

She had a temper, and folks still called her sweet. I'd seen her fully charged, and I'd seen her weary. And this was true for all the years, traced from my childhood to the current day. I'd seen her revved-up and revved-down. Fragile and formidable.

Many times over the years, she'd share childhood memories, with the joy of remembering and recreating them to share with us. Often, she'd lament that she couldn't go back to the days when she was the baby of the family. What she always called the innocence of youth.

Sometimes the tone of world-weariness puzzled me, because these were my sweet years of early memory. And after the three of us left home and my father passed away, she admitted to some loneliness and depression. These were most visible in the years right before a seemingly destructive storm relocated her to my home. There she became part of my boys' sweet years of early memory. Her distress at being relocated from her lifelong hometown gave way to the affirming thrill of discovery, as she began to navigate a new town.

And when she was able to restore her home and move back, she continued to flourish, her faith deepening as she saw her own restoration and that of her hometown around her.

More and more in every conversation, I would hear her say how blessed she was. All the more after an accident led to long recovery from a broken ankle, instead of a fall that would have likely been fatal. In recent years, when she praised God, she did so with increasing awe that he not only cared for her, but that he still found purpose for her here.

She was childlike joy packaged in a woman who was a walking tour-de-force. That was quite a gift. That's quite a legacy.

Her funeral was amazingly both triumphant and warm, and I was thankful to see each and every one who came to show they cared. My sister and brother, as we loved and lived through this moment together, asked how I was doing. I could honestly say that while sorrow shows up – that each time, it finds my heart filled to standing-room-only capacity with joy. And it is just as quickly crowded out, retreating back through the door.

Joy that so many would celebrate my mom, and celebrate her so well. Joy that I had her so long – long enough to share with my children – and that I had her in the first place. Joy at the forceful impression she made on who we are, those of us in her family and in her community.

So when I asked myself whether I saw any indications right before she died, I only saw … a lightness of being.

In those seasonal changes of aging, I saw the coziness of one who remains warm in winter. She could watch an old TV show and laugh, as though it hadn't been on earlier that day. She listened pleasantly as I thanked her for encouraging me in a work dilemma, even though her pause made it clear she didn't recall speaking into the situation with words graced by God's perspective.

Most of all, each time we spoke, it was how she marveled that she was still here, and that God was so good to her. The words were not new, but the wonder had grown. This was the lightness of being that I saw. And it was the best indicator of a life transition that there ever could be. Because she was genuinely prepared to go home, thankfully more than she realized.

What lightness of being we know, when we allow God to be sovereign. When we begin to trust and give Him glory so.

The lightness of joy.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Turn to dance

On point

1. law --

   Staying on the topic.
2. fashion --
3. military --
    Taking the lead role.
4. dance --
    Staying on your toes.

Let's turn to dance.

I took ballet as a preteen. After seeing my friend in recital, I got my mom to enroll me in lessons, and soon, I was dancing on Broadway 

-- Broadway Avenue, our city's version of Main Street, two afternoons a week at a storefront school. 

My mishmosh of memories from class include the gleam of tap shoes, doing the hustle (this was the '70s), and the unyielding height of the barre.

Decades later, I still remember the lessons on pirouettes. 

Before the spinning starts, you have to choose a focus, a focus spot where you want to go. And with every turn, you have to refocus. Otherwise, the effort takes you far off course, leaving you disoriented, confused ... sometimes even hurting and ill. But with discipline to refocus at every turn, there's guidance and grace.

Staying on your toes, as defined by a believer in Jesus Christ, is not about mental agility or physical prowess. It means realizing that your statement of faith is a daily necessity, before leaving the bed. Worth interrupting your own agenda setting, grocery-list making, physical assessment and dream analysis -- to seek to abide in God first. Thinking about who God is and why you worship Him. 

Even before we turn our wide-ranging thoughts into requests before God, we need to turn from all that's on our mind, so we can speak directly to Him ... about Him

And long after we've sat up, stood and shuffled from the bed, we need to be ready to interrupt all those things again -- not only to seek God's agenda at every turn, but to abide with Him more and more often during the day.  

We need that, and God delights in it. Reason enough.

Ongoing spiritual warfare provides even further reason.  Before we engage in battle, we need to choose that same focus, and then constantly refocus.  Otherwise, our thoughts, words and actions become confused and take us far off course, stranding us in our pain and hurting others.

Turn, turn, turn. To prayer. To praise. To petition. To devotion.

To stay on point as God defines it, turn often to God's Word -- 2 Chronicles 20:15 b, Ephesians 6:10-18 -- for the battle is not yours, but God's. 

To stay on point, keep your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Find guidance in grace. God makes it available to you daily, and it was never meant to be hoarded or rationed out. 

To live on point is to live extended to the utmost --  the utmost patience (1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:2); the utmost perseverance (2 Timothy 2:15, Philippians 1:20) and the utmost generosity (2 Corinthians 8:3-15) -- all with a willingness to go beyond your personal resources. 

The history of dancing en pointe traces a movement to a dance style that disregarded the body's natural alignment; it was a way of dancing that followed the fashion of its time. S
piritually speaking, living on point follows an everlasting standard, based on God's nature instead of the stances that come naturally to us. 

Our natures, when placed in God's hands, are redefined and then refined daily. He provides us with extensive practice to develop a strength that reaches beyond our own ability.  

God has taken on our perfection as a lifetime project.

To stay on point, turn and take God's extended hand.