Friday, April 27, 2012

Ruth, My Guide

            My dry spell still plagues me in these beautiful days of spring.  I continue to spend my time walking, enjoying nature, and searching.  The other day I sat out on the patio my husband is building reading the Bible.  I began at the beginning of Psalms.  Excited, the fourth chapter spoke to me.  My pen began to write words on the paper until I realized they reflected so many of my previous posts.  I growled out a couple more sentences closing my notebook in irritation.
            Today as I drove my daughter to school, I wondered what I would do to entertain myself on this cold cloudy day.  Gardening in the chilly weather holds no appeal to me, so I thought of my painting, editing, and crocheting projects let alone cleaning house as options, but I wanted to write.  A Natalie Grant song came on the radio which reminded me of her other song.  Or what I thought was her other song. 
Once home I started looking for the music on iTunes, but hit a couple of dead ends.  Being of the instant access to information generation, I became a little impatient with my search.  I almost quit.  Luckily, I am also bullheaded and finally found what I wanted.  The song is actually sung by Nichole Nordeman and Amy Grant and is entitled “I’m With You (Ruth & Naomi).  I can’t remember the first time I heard the lyrics on the radio, but I really connected with the song. 
Twenty-two and a half years ago, my fiancĂ© and I began planning our wedding.  When asked what readings we wanted, the love of my life asked for a reading from the book of Ruth.  He didn’t request much, leaving most of the arrangements up to me, so I gladly agreed to this reading.  Admittedly, I hesitated in my mind because the reading talked about me giving up my family and following his family.  Yet, metaphorically I didn’t mind if my following represented faith.  His family all attended church together and I wanted that in my family.
As I grew in my faith, I read the book of Ruth a couple of times and read a novel about Ruth and Naomi.  The novel really struck home.  Ruth’s family (in the novel), though rich and influential, didn’t have a faith life.  Her mother-in-law, Naomi, did.  When her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law died, times became hard.  Ruth relied on this faith to help them start a new life.  Though she could have easily left the faith and returned to her parents, Ruth worked hard with constant belief.  In the end, she found a home for the two of them.
My mother-in-law and I have also journeyed.  Some of our family members have left through choice or death and some have left our faith.  Literally we have not been homeless like Naomi and Ruth; yet, I can’t help see times in our life where we were homeless in relationship with family.  But, we keep moving forward.  I think of all the hard work Ruth struggled through to earn them a home.  She worked in the fields for their food.  I haven’t worked like her in my homelessness.  With relationship though, the journey must take place between all parties involved.  I am happy to say I am not homeless with my mother-in-law.  I am very blessed to have her in my life.  She always supports all that I do from my projects, writing, faith, and raising her grandbabies.  I wish I could say I have been as good of a daughter-in-law.  I will keep trying.  Ruth will be my guide.
I am curious.  Is there a person from the Bible you relate to and hold dear?  I would love to hear your story.  Blessings to you all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Resting in the Desert

                A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law made a comment.  My memory is failing me, but I believe the comment had to do with being in a dry spot with her faith.  I related to her at the time and continue to be my own little desert.  My son, this last week, discussed with me how he feels he is stagnating in his faith.  I myself struggled the last month of Lent and my desire to grow has waned.  All of us can go through a wasteland while on the journey to holiness.  In fact, I believe it is safe to say that our desert travels will take place quite often.
                Disappointment in me hit during the middle of Lent.  I failed to keep my goals for my most favorite time of my faith year.  Yet, I didn’t chastise myself too much.  For a year, I had been working on a faith blog, studying, ministering, and praying.  I put in many hours working with my faith life.  My energy factor drained away.  Obviously I needed to rest.  I am still resting.  Part of me is anxious because I am not sure what to do with myself while I am in my dry stretch.  Sure, I still go to church, I still pray, and I still pick up a book to see if a spark is lit because I want more.  I also feel guilty when I am not working hard at my faith.  Yet, I have to be patient.  God has a plan for me.  This dry spell is preparing me for another wet spell.
                In the mean time, I keep myself open.  I delighted in attending Easter Vigil Mass with my three kids and wonderful husband.  I loved the message the priest shared with us to put all our sins in the tomb (of Jesus) and place the rock in front of the opening.  The Easter weekend was also spent with family, celebrating my father’s 70th birthday, and fishing.  I have been taking walks during the beautiful spring weather chit chatting with my Lord.  My new side flower garden is taking shape and my Russian Almonds are looking better as I play in the dirt.  With not spending as much time studying, I finally tackled a redecorating project I have been putting off.  While I painted, I let my mind rest.  Yesterday’s message at church struck a chord about stepping closer to God when we doubt.  I have stepped closer while I am resting.  And today, a meadowlark sang to me as I cleaned house.  The little guy sat up in the electrical wires outside my sliding glass door, what a gift.
                So, during my dry spot, I still very much feel Jesus hanging out with me.  I struggle with patience and guilt, but I continue to remind myself it is okay to rest.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 11:28.  God gave us a Sabbath so that we may rest.  Granted, my respite is taking longer than a day, but I know my spirit will be stirred again in the near future.
                Blessing to you all.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Naked Man

                My children never cease to amaze me.  I missed a part of the reading my son picked up on that caused me to study and reflect.  Yesterday at Mass, four people read different parts of the passion.  Father always takes the parts of Jesus while the other readers take the parts of Judas, Pilot, and the narrator.  I must admit while listening I phased in and out of authentic listening.  My daughter didn’t help matters by playing with her palm.  If someone were to watch us, they would have seen glares going back and forth between us.  In the end, she went to the last seat in our pew to sit by herself.  She does this voluntarily thinking it will hurt my feelings.  Nothing in the reading struck me as new.  Mass continued without a thought from me.
                Once we came home my son asked me the significance of the naked man in the reading.  Naked man?  I missed that.  We sat down to eat lunch after I grabbed my Bible.  I perused the reading until I came to the part with the naked man.  I hate to admit it, but I don’t remember this part at all.  I have read this passage and heard this passage many times, but failed to notice the young man.  My Bible held no notes about these two verses at all.  I had no answer for my son.  He wrote down the verses to give to his uncle.  Every Sunday they do a “Ask Chris” segment during dinner.  I am still waiting to see what uncle has to say about the matter, but I went out to look on my own.
                Jesus and the twelve ate the last supper, Jesus foretold Peter’s denial of Him, and Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane while Peter, James, and John slept instead of keeping watch.  Judas comes with “a crowd with swords, and clubs” (vs. 43) betraying Jesus with a kiss.  Jesus is arrested.  “And they all left him and fled (Peter, James, John).  Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.” Mark 14:50-52.  What is the point of the naked man?
                I didn’t find a lot of information in my search for answers.  Many scholars believe the young man to be Mark, the son of the owner of the house where the last supper accrued.  Others say the man was one of the twelve.  I personally think all of the twelve left before that in verse 50.  I think this young man may or may not be Mark.  And really, I don’t think it matters who he happened to be.  The importance is that he left naked.  He was that scared.  It is night.  This amazing man who preached love, cured the sick, and fed thousands was being arrested.  Compare this to a visitor at your house who you love.  The police storm in during the night and drag him away.  I would still be in my pajamas and wouldn’t stop to think about putting on real cloths.  I would want to try and see what was going on.  This young man was doing the same thing.  Whether he was a nosey neighbor or a concerned friend doesn’t matter.  What matters is the mob of people with swords and clubs surrounding a man in the dead of night.  Suddenly the man is grabbed, his pajamas are torn off, he runs.  This is a world where people are stoned to death by mobs. 
                I believe these three simple verses are to show three things.  (I was going to say two things, but all good things must come in threes.)  First, Jesus is left utterly alone.  His friends desert him in his greatest time of need.  The police drag him away with no one coming to bail him out.  Second, the mob caused a lot of noise waking people up while they slept causing one man to come out in nothing but a cloth, not a common occurrence.  Weapons were being wielded.  The tension was very high creating a volatile atmosphere.  Finally, fear abounded.  This young man ran for his life.  I remember one summer being in the middle of combat training.  Basically, we were playing one major game of laser tag.  I didn’t want to die.  Yes, I have a great imagination, but I feared the buzzer would go off on my miles gear and I would die.  I learned I wasn’t very courageous during this training.  I can’t imagine the fear level this young man must have experienced.  This wasn’t a game.  He fled the situation naked to spare his life.  He knew justice would not prevail.
                Many aspects of the passion can be reflected on during this Holy Week: the false testimony, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross, the mocking, the spitting, the nails, the death, the spear, and the burial.  I am going to reflect on the fear of the common people.  They must have been so uncertain.  Would the police go after Jesus’ followers as well?  Is being naked better then standing up for Him?  If Peter denied Him three times, how can I stand up for Him?  These are still relevant questions for today.  Our families may turn against us or a zealot of different beliefs could point a gun at us in a school or government building.  Fear is powerful; yet, so is God’s love.
                Blessings to you all.