Maybe We're NOT All Beautiful+Awesome!!

It's near the end of October, the snow is marching down the mountains, the light is draining. I am dreading the advance of winter and may I start my life over again?

Do you know that feeling when you sit in church and suddenly you realize you know nothing? You've done nothing? You're a lumpy, bulky assemblage of pride, sloth, gluttony and selfishness and you wonder if you have done anything right in your life at all. . .  And you suddenly worry that maybe you serve God only because of all  the good stuff He gives you . . .  And then you wonder about your  "worship" and the way you lift your hands when you sing, and has all your time in the Word of God been just some clever ploy to finally get what you want, which is the Good Life, the American Dream of freedom and happy pursuits, all that---and hold on now for the finale:  all that----freedom, happiness, independence---plus God. Wow--way to have it ALL! 

And it gets worse, of course. All those who suffer, who are suffering for His name, and then this life I lead, this easy easy life, and the way I waste money that could feed someone starving .  . . .  My stomach turns, my heart tanks and I despise myself and I would wear sackcloth if I had it, but maybe sweats are good enough. Sweats, no makeup and a shorn head. 

I need a rescue, I know, but don't whisper to me words of esteem and self-love. I don't want Oprah or Osteen "Love Your Lovely Self Because You're Incredibly Amazing" kind of words. Nor do I even want the Christian version of those words, like this: 

This is titled, "Who You Are: A Message to All Women." I heard another  "Spoken Word" performance for women with words like this at a conference last year----spoken by a 20 year old college kid to women twice and thrice his age.  Honestly, neither of these work for me. I hope it works for you and God bless you if it does!! Maybe you feel encouraged and inspired---Hooray!! But for me------maybe because he's not a woman? Maybe because he's younger than some of my sons? Maybe because he doest know me at all, or know anyone I know? Maybe because he has no idea what my life is like?       I wonder if we are hearing these words too often these days:

We are beautiful. We are loved. We are worthy. We are awesome. 

Yes, these are true words . . . . But apparently we're having a hard time believing it, because the message is said again and again in so many venues (yes, even here, by me.)  Here is the real problem, I think. We know ourselves too well---And so these words are hard to believe. AND--we don't know God well enough---And so these words are hard to believe.  If we spent more time looking at God, at His capacious love, his scandalous sacrifice, his patient mercies and outrageous rescues right now---and through ALL time  and if we spent less time pumping ourselves up about our own beauty and worth----- I think we'd be okay. 

The goal, really, dear friends, is not to love ourselves, but to love God. With all we've got: heart, soul, mind, strength, muscle, memory, senses, will---everything. And if we want to repair the damage of the past and present----those who belittle us, who think us unbeautiful, unworthy, who refuse to hear us or see us or love us---affirming words will never be enough. I know this. 

And You do too.  It takes more. It takes the blood of a Savior, the death of a Redeemer, the fire of the Holy Spirit, the living breath of God's word in our souls. 

 Words like these: And even when we were dead in our transgressions, He made us ALIVE together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and RAISED US UP WITH HIM, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!!!

(Yes! HIS kindness! HIS grace!)

And these:  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great LOVE with which He loved us, even when we were DEAD in our sins,  made us ALIVE together with Christ---by GRACE you have been saved!!

And out of thousands of verses, just one more: " . . . in all these things we are MORE than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  From the Love of God for us in Christ Jesus our Lord . . ..                          

When you are low and feeling unloved, unbeautiful, not-awesome, turn to these words and believe GOD,  Believe how Great and Awesome HE is-- Believe how worthy HE is, Believe how holy and beautiful HE is, Believe how Trustworthy HE is,

and then you'll know who you are:

Rescued, redeemed, beloved daughter and son of  THIS God.

Yes.  Now----Believe it. 

Crying Like a Woman, Crying Clubs+ "Weaker Sex" No More

                I did something unexpected this morning. I cried. For awhile. My morning was pretty much shot. I am still annoyed. I had a plan for the day, a sacred list of "all-that-must-be-done today," and crying was on the other list:

The daily news is enough to make the most stoic among us weep. And I often pray, cry, seethe, worry and some combination of all of them upon hearing it. But today, it is not that. Nor is it the storms that knocked us over this week.


Nor the fact that I lost a tooth a few days ago. Broken clean off at the gum.  Or that I'm trying to cut out my dear friend, Lovely White Sugar (which is depressing.)

This is the worst part: I'm not even sure of the source of the spillage. I have my suspicions (hormones?)
 It's tempting to be frustrated and angry at my body, my female-ness. When I was a girl, I wanted to be a boy. I was a good boy: I was tough, strong, I made fun of girly-girls (who made fun of me) and I seldom cried. 

But I'm smarter now. I do know that some amount of tears bring a purging, a catharsis. Researchers tell us that emotional tears contain a natural painkiller that's released when the body's under stress. Numerous studies have shown that crying really does relieve stress. Which led me to this thought: Perhaps I should start a Crying Club. 

Japan already has them. They're called "Rui- Katsu" (tear-seeking). Takashi Saga started them in 2011. “Crying does not have a good image in Japan,” says Saga. “People believe you should not cry in front of people, that it is weak.” But he cites Japanese research that concluded that stress relief from crying can last as long as a week. Why waste good science? So people gather, hankies in hand, to watch sad movies, read sad poetry and cry together. Most of the criers are men. (Women don't usually need classes in this.) 

I find this a bit sad. (But not pathetic enough for tears.). That some people have to learn how to cry again. That it must be contained and confined to certain hours and places. That a professional must run it. All of this makes it more appealing to men, I suppose, who cry far less than women. (Boys and girls cry equally until age 12. By age 18, women cry four times as much as men. Here are the Top Ten Things that Make Women Cry.)

And this is when I ponder that age-old belief that women are weaker than men---because they cry. When Hilary Clinton teared up at a campaign event in 2008, it made international news, leading many to publicly wonder if she had the stuff to lead a nation. One minute tears, the next---who knows! Nuclear warfare during a menopausal hot flash? 

But we are not weak because we weep. Even if we cannot always name what melts us. Even when besieged by hormones that unseat us. Still, we are strong enough to dare to feel. And If we stagger at times, we stagger under the weights we are given. We carry the beautiful weight of our children in our own bodies, then in our arms. Then we shoulder their growings, their grievings and then  finally their leavings. We lift the weight of parents still with us or fading or lost or long gone but never gone . . . . We feel the blessed weight of spouses, sometimes limping through unequal courses. We carry siblings whom we love stumbling under their own breaking loads. We carry friends in prison, cancer-ridden, refugees . . . And through all of this, we carry  monthly tides that course through our own rivers, rising and falling.

Yes, we bleed, we weep, we melt, we leak, we feel. 

And so we are alive.

None of this is faulty biology, female or otherwise. Our bodies take us somewhere. In all of it: menstruation, pregnancy, adoption, nursing, nurturing, menopause, we ride saltwater waves that are meant to sweep us near to God, who too, bore children, who wept and bled. Who births and bears us still. 

I am at peace with  my tears, however they come. I only ask this:

Dearest men, When you see us tearing, 

don't call us weak. 

Call us instead fully alive. 

Call us Courageous enough to feel,

Call us Brave----and happy 

to laugh and weep with you,

just as you need.

But most of all, 

        call us Women.

And let all of us be glad.

Heavy Ash Falls on Kodiak: How Do We Survive The (Family) Eruption Again?


On Sunday, in the middle of a blue-sky day in Kodiak the mountains almost disappeared.  

It was Ash. Volcanic ash.
The sun still worked to light the sky, but it was weary in all that ash.

Planes could not fly for fear of damaging the engines. No one in Alaska can forget the Alaska jet in 1989 that plunged 10,000 feet after sucking up particulates. By God's grace alone, the engines were restarted just  before All was Lost, and all survived. The plane sustained 80 million in damage.

And here is why this is about marriage. And other family eruptions that fill our own skies with ash---This ash is not fresh. This ash is 100 years old.

There are more than 130 volcanoes in Alaska, but less than 20 are active. (Which is plenty. They cause more-than-enough havoc!)  This ash came from Novarupta, a volcano that erupted in 1912. It was a massive eruption, the largest by volume in the 20th century, 10 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens, spewing ash 100,000 feet into the air, drifting as far away as North Africa. The ash swallowed Kodiak Island, burying it in deep drifts, snuffing out the sun for three entire days. And afterwards . . . 

The ash covered the floor of Katmai Valley to a record depth of 700 feet. Much of it is still there.

(Rivers through canyons of pure ash.)

Whenever it blows hard NW, as it was still doing the next day  (gusting to 50 mph out there), we are breathing tiny shards of silica, tiny pieces of glass. And the beauty around us is swallowed up.

This feels personal to me. The volcano is in our neighborhood, just 60 miles from our fish camp island. And I cannot help but think of marriage, of our children, of our parents. We've all survived "eruptions" of volcanic proportions. We've seen the lava burning a path to our feet. We've seen the ash fall bury our house, the neighborhood. . .  Then time passes, and we think we're okay. The burns are healed, the glass in our lungs dissolves. We think we've swept the rest away, all that ash around our feet . .. buried it in the garden, in our journal, in the attic with our outdated coats. 
Then a sharp wind from just the right direction rises, and the ash we thought gone whips into the air, and we're choking again. . .  We look for the volcano, but it's not there. Nothing has happened but a little wind. Then we remember---oh yes, that ash. Again? 
How do we stop this? How do we end the bitter choking on distant memories? We feel SO powerless against these forces: earthquake, volcano, whirling winds.

But we're not. We're really not. Listen to what's been given to you. 
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened 
so you may know the hope to which he has called you, 
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 

and his incomparably great power for us who believe." 

What IS this incomparably great POWER for us who believe?

"That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead  . . . "

In a few weeks, my husband and I will celebrate 37 years together. One thing I know: the power God used to raise Christ from the dead---is given to us. Now.  And it's real. I know how weak we feel. I know how powerless I have felt so many times in my life. But I am not. You are not. 
The power we're given is mightier than any volcano. It can blow the ash away for good. It can tamp the acid dust with the rain of  compassion and forgiveness. It's the kind of power that births a baby, that keeps living "I do" even when you feel like "you don't," that keeps giving when others keep taking, that stays "until death do you part" . . .  I mean the kind of power that reaches a hand across a table, across the bed, across a burnt-up field to say, "I love you, still. And always" 

 We are not always good at this, but we cannot forget what God has spent for us so that we can. 

Today the wind died.  I went down to the harbor again. 

The mountains were back. The colors bright. The air clean.
This is the power we've been given, all of us:
"I love you still. And always."

I pray you KNOW the power of God in your life this week, in all the hard ashy places!!