being the beloved

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Have you ever tricked yourself into thinking that the next season of life will be calmer than the present? I am one of those people who almost always feels like she is on the edge of control, barely juggling life’s many responsibilities, always longing for that barely-out-of-reach state of Having It All Together.

Case in point: summer “break.” I was sure that life after graduate school would be a breeze. Wrong. Between working three jobs, looking for full-time work, and trying to enjoy the pleasures of a summer in Chicago, there were rarely enough hours in a day. Surely life would assume a more gentle pattern post summer school? I guess it was my own fault that I traveled far and wide for two weeks straight, always moving, moving. There’s a danger in such busyness, and I found myself succumbing to the mental and spiritual numbness allowed by my crazy calendar. And to be honest, I think the last time my calendar wasn’t crazy was…a long time ago.

So it was a hidden grace that I was brought to a complete stop this week by sickness. Unable to continue attacking my omnipresent to-do list, I finally settled down to read, and think, and be. Things that are remarkably uncomfortable when they haven’t been practiced in a while.

And it was again hidden grace that a book I ordered arrived just in time for this forced season of rest. I am already halfway through Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved, and getting this book is one of those events showing that God works in all things. I love even the title of this book. It’s not Life of the Good Social Worker or Life of the Vibrant Church Member or Life of the [insert a role you play], all great things, but all implying activity and doing. Life of the Beloved is about being loved, and even then it’s secondarily about me loving others and primarily about me being loved by Someone who is totally outside of myself, whose love is not conditional or dependent on me, whose love is everlasting and whole. That kind of love frees me from my expectations of myself, from my to-do lists, from the desire to numb myself to the areas where I think I’ve failed.

Anyway, I hope I get to share some things I’m learning from this book at some point in time. No promises, since I’m not adding things to my to-do list right now. For now, I hope you are encouraged to spend some time today knowing you are beloved by God.

every flicker of light

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Keep moving, he thought.
And keep an eye out for God. Who was, if you cared for the Psalms, as Tyler did, looking right now from heaven, beholding all the sons of men, considering all their works. But what Tyler longed for was to have The Feeling arrive; when every flicker of light that touched the dipping branches of a weeping willow, every breath of breeze that bent the grass toward the row of apple trees, every shower of yellow ginkgo leaves dropping to the ground with such direct and tender sweetness, would fill the minister with profound and irreducible knowledge that God was right there. But Tyler was wary of shortcuts, and he was really afraid of cheap grace. He often thought of Pasteur’s remarks that chance only helped those minds well prepared, and he hoped these days to have a moment of exalted understanding come to him as the “chance” result of his disciplined prayer. There was a fear the man lived with, a dark cave inside him: that he might not feel The Feeling again. -from Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout

lessons from the hunger games

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I have now forgone two opportunities to see The Hunger Games. I think I am still building up the strength I will need to withstand two and a half hours of teenagers being hunted and killed for sport, which might be unnecessary for most people, but let’s be honest–I’m only there for the love story.

I did read all three books, which basically amounted to not sleeping or doing homework for a week. And during that time, a nagging question whispered to me from the recesses of my mind: Why do I even like this? And I didn’t just like the series; I couldn’t put it down.

Enter a blog post written by Amy Simpson. I wanted to share this because it’s well written and thought-provoking. I strongly identify with her affinity for the characters of Katniss and Peeta, even if I don’t share her exact views on men. Still, I appreciate the feelings and experiences she shared, and discovered a little of myself along the way. I, too, found Peeta to be entirely wonderful and utterly unbelievable throughout the story. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, was convinced he would change his mind and fall for some other, more stable, less complicated character. Felt sure that, with each mistake, she had finally damaged things beyond repair. I guess I’m still learning about grace and forgiveness and love. It reminds me of some lyrics from a new favorite song of mine:

I’ve been counting up all my wrongs / One sorry for each star / I’d apologise my way to you / If the heavens stretched that far / You are the one I want, you are the one I want

But then the realization.

I won’t find what I am looking for / If I only see by keeping score / Because I know now you are so much more than arithmetic / ‘Cause if I add, if I subtract / If I give it all, try to take some back / I’ve forgotten the freedom that comes from the fact / That you are the sum / So you are the one I want

I’m so grateful that not all things in this world add up.