Displaced–Blessing or Curse

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In Henri Nouwen’s book called Seeds of Hope, he writes that “displacements threaten us and give us feelings of being lost or left alone.” He goes on to say the following:
“Displacement is not primarily something to do or to accomplish, but something to recognize. In and through this recognition a conversion can take place, a conversion from involuntary displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy, to voluntary displacement that can become an expression of discipleship [. . .] To follow Jesus, therefore, means first and foremost to discover in our daily lives God’s unique vocation for us [. . .] our concern for a career constantly tends to make us deaf to our vocation [. . .] God calls everyone who is listening” (144-148).
And I am listening.

It is perhaps normal to wrap purpose up in accomplishment, to wrap acceptance in a profession up in calling, but a person’s worth and calling ought to be separate from all the doings, otherwise when the doings are done, there is nothing left in the identity we have so carefully created for ourselves. Is God in the midst of all that process? Is not at least part of working and the creating of identity led by more than just human inclination and desire? Of course—mixed in with His will, my will, the will of others, this crazy combination of spiritual and carnal. And unraveling all those threads, well . . . who could ever?

But the truth is that when you think you know, at least in part, who you are and what role you currently play in the world, you want to be the one to decide when and how that role should be redefined. There have been many times in my life when that decision was taken out of my hands. I was younger, and I grieved, but I adapted. I found a new path forward. A new open door. Why this latest displacement hurts so much, I am not sure, except that because I am much older maybe it feels like there is no other door to walk through now. Maybe it feels that a forced retirement underscores that I am past usefulness more so than a voluntary exit from a job would have felt, even just one or two years later.

It has been a painful few months, having lost my job. The grieving and reorienting have provided rather a topsy-turvy emotional ride. Regarding Nouwen’s “displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy,” well, I am somewhere between bitterness and resignation, I think. My desire is to skip apathy and move right into seeing this as freedom—a freedom to zero in on vocation, stripped of career obligations. Can my involuntary displacement become voluntary as it pertains to my following Christ? I hope so, but I am not quite there yet. That will perhaps be the determinant of whether displacement is a blessing or a curse.

 

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Seeing with New Eyes

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I had cataract surgery done a week and a half ago. I chickened out last year–something about a knife near the eyes bit! But I was getting desperate, so I did not read any contraindications and just went for it. I had not been able to drive at night for over 2 years, and even daily activities were becoming a strain. I probably should have asked more questions, though, because rather than a piece of cake, this “routine” surgery was more like liver and onions–more uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

I am very chemically sensitive, so having gotten through the procedure with fairly minor and endurable hiccups, the worst part became the reaction to the steroid drops which are needed for speedy healing. This is a five-week process, and I have quite some time to go, but I hope the worst is over.

That was the bad and the ugly. The good part is that somebody turned on the lights! Whites are whiter and colors are brighter, not to mention that everything has distinct edges and not fuzzy, ever-changing ones. The green in the traffic light is . . . well, green green! It is almost like a different color. It is not preferred by me to undergo any surgery, but given the positive change in my sight, I think it was worth it!

My eyes are blue blue again. Haven’t been like this since forever! You don’t think about it because the discoloration and hardening happens slowly over time.  Even my own photographic work is brighter and more colorful. And I have discovered I am a much better photographer than I thought. 🙂

We don’t become aware of the hardening process that alters so much of what we see because it happens bit by bit, year by year. And only when it cannot be ignored any longer do we even recognize it is something to be dealt with. I am thinking that is kind of like what happens with our hearts. If betrayals and loss, disappointments and disillusionment build up, then over time the hardening becomes something to radically deal with. It interferes with our ability to prosper and see life and mission clearly. But it starts small, and it builds layer upon layer. I am not sure how to prevent that from destroying my joy, but my desire is that I would become aware of the hurts that bind and settle down into my spirit.

May I hold lightly to pain and hold tightly to renewal is my prayer.

Sunday Stranger

A p r o n h e a d -- Lilly

The man at the entrance handed me a bulletin from the top of a large stack.  He gave a vacant smile—a smile saved up all week long for Sunday strangers.  His eyes focused somewhere just above and to the right of my forehead.  It made me wonder if there was a fly caught in my hair.

The music grew louder as I crossed the foyer and entered through one of the sets of heavy double doors to the sanctuary.  Slipping into a back pew, I glanced around.  The church was old with dark mahogany and stained glass, the pulpit a million miles away.

The congregation was in the middle of a song, led by a golden-robed choir with bright faces and sure voices.  At the close of the song, a smile in a suit encouraged the people to spend a few moments greeting those around them.  The lady in front…

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An Unforever Friend

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It could have been a lifelong friendship,

haven’t-seen-you-like-forever-but-everything’s-the-same kind of friendship.

 

We shared tight, little secrets that only capital F Friends should share.

We pontificated over politics—all the things we could never change.

We wept over children—all the heart-pains that only mothers know

and only Friends can share.

We shared meals, split tabs, told jokes, prayed prayers,

taking time to just be

and sometimes read each other’s minds.

 

But the shared whispers have disappeared.

The warm hugs have been replaced by unreturned phone calls

and occasional hurried-life passings–as life is passing.

 

I have grieved your loss as one who died;

but your life is so full

you don’t seem to notice I am not in it.

 

I thought we would be friends forever,

capital F Friends, unshakeable Friends,

but forever has come to an end.

 

The Wonder of Angels

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I remember as a young girl a big painting reproduction Mom and Dad had hanging in their bedroom. It showed two young children crossing a rickety bridge, looking scared and alone in the dark; however, unseen by them was a huge angel, towering above, guarding them safely home. Though the angel is much more feminized than possibly angels really are, as a child that image brought comfort; and as an adult, I bought a wooden plaque with that same picture to remind me that I am in God’s care.

In Hebrews 1:14, the author writes, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” And in Psalm 103:20-21, we read, “Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will!” And though prophetic of Jesus, as part of His body, we can also draw comfort from Psalm 91:11, which says, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

In this broken world, it is a wonder to know that what we see is not all there is. We are not left alone to battle the brokenness and the forces that rage against God, both human and demonic. When we feel alone and scared, overwhelmed by circumstance, undone by sorrow, we have the Holy Spirit within and heavenly guardians without, watching over our lives. They are not fat cherubs, sitting on clouds playing harps. They are not the flawed Touched by an Angel deal, but the real deal—powerful beings with a mandate from the Father to guard His very own and war on their behalf. I would say that is wonder-ful!

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Daily Prompt: Overwhelmed

O kay, I can’t live like this–all this tweeting, and FBing, and

V blogging, as if I need to know

E very single inconsequential thing about your daily

R ituals, what you’re selling, what you’re pushing.

W hat I need is quiet–physical and mental–a

H iatus from personal and political rants and

E nd-of-the-world diatribes. If the world is

L ost, then let me at the very least live

M y last brief moments

E njoying the illusion that people really

D o love and respect each other–at least now and then.

Daily Prompt: Devastation

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D oom and gloom, sometimes of our own doing;

E ven if not, we can choose how

V aliantly or cowardly we respond.

A cceptance does not mean

S urrender.

T olerance does not mean

A ll points of view are true. But

T o live, thrive, and love

I n this crazy, reeling world is to

O nly and in all things hope,

N ot giving destruction and despair a soul-hold.