Saturday, June 15, 2013

Towards No. 34

In an effort to cross off No. 34 on my 40 things to do before I turn 40 list! :)

Tried some Udon Noodles with veggies and shrimp today. It wasn't bad.
I've been craving new flavors so the touch of oyster sauce was nice. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

No. 34

In an effort to cross off No. 34 on my 40 things to do before I turn 40 list! :)

Tofu and a salad. Simple, quick and healthy!
I love tofu. My husband doesn't but he ate it anyway and was not too unhappy with it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Grieving is Prayer"

Nouwen says that there are three ways to a truly compassionate fatherhood: grief, forgiveness, and generosity.

Grief asks me to allow the sins of the world - my own included - to pierce my heart and make me shed tears, many tears, for them. There is no compassion without many tears. If they can't be tears that stream from my eyes, they have to be at least tears that well up from my heart.

This grieving is prayer. There are so few mourners left in this world. But grief is the discipline of the heart that sees the sin of the world, and knows itself to be the sorrowful price of freedom without which love cannot bloom. 

I struggle with my grief. I struggle with the world. I struggle with the evil in the world. For many years I avoided reading the newspaper. I tried not to watch the news. People criticized me for it. They said I needed to be updated on current affairs. I had no general knowledge. How would I know what was going on in the world if I did not read the news?

They're right. But how does one read the news of murders, molestation, violence, torture, wickedness, anger, hate, rage and continue to go about their daily business? I guess if you could keep all this information in the "general knowledge" file in your brain you could. I unfortunately can't file it away for a later conversation with a friend over drinks. I despair. I grieve. I cannot deal.

And in reading Nouwen I can see that he could not either. But he found a way. Prayer. Grief laden prayer. Tears for the world, tears for the children, tears for the sins of the world.

It isn't wrong to be a mourner. And not everyone is. Some of us are stuck with it more than others. And I was reminded that I'm not weird or absurd to be feeling these things for people I have never met. There are many more like me who do the same thing. They find a way to deal. They write songs, or books, paint paintings or work in community programs. They pray. They grieve. It is their calling.

As it is mine. 

"Becoming the Father"

I feel like I can write many, many posts on The Return of the Prodigal Son. 

Henri Nouwen talks about Becoming the Father in this book.

All of us who have read the story of the prodigal son identify with one of the two sons depending on who we are. I, for most of my life identified with the elder son. I'm a pleaser. I like to keep people around me happy. I like to follow rules and don't want other people to go through any trouble on my account. I do what is needed to be done even if I don't really enjoy it. I never really rebelled as a child or a teenager. Always did what I knew would please my parents.

Until somewhere in my mid-twenties I turned the tables and disappointed my poor widowed mother. It's easier to deal with a child who you knew growing up would bring you heart ache. It's so much harder to deal with a child who you counted on to never break your heart. I did. But, both of us learned to forgive each other and understand each other. That we loved each other was never really a question.

This experience put me in the younger son's court. I was now the delinquent child needing grace, forgiveness, and acceptance and I'm grateful that I received it.

I have always thought of the story as me needing God. Needing the Father to come out running to me, needing to be embraced, celebrated, forgiven. I have never thought of myself as being in the Father's shoes. Nouwen shows us how the final moral... the whole point of the story is to make the journey from being the son to becoming the Father.

Once we are accepted and loved and forgiven... once we have received grace and learn to be children of God... we need to become like the Father. We need to run out and embrace and love and celebrate a child who has returned. We need to be patient and long suffering and wait at the door. We need to ask no questions, point no fingers, need no explanations.  We inhabit the world as the Father would have.

We must become the Father. 

Stealing Joy

At Book Club last month we read The Return on the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.

I don't know why I had not read this great book before even though it sat on our bookshelf at home for 5 years. B had read it and am pretty sure he suggested I read it too. But I must have thought... meh... what else could somebody say about the parable of the prodigal son that I had not heard before? Surely I had heard the story over and over again since I was a child. I've heard sermons on it. Heck, I even worked on my own sermon on the story! Besides, I had at some point heard that the story of the Prodigal Son is not really about the son but about the father - his love, forgiveness and acceptance of his wayward son. What more was there to talk about?

If that's what you think about the story then you should read the book. :)

First of all I was excited that he had this life long relationship with Rembrandt's painting. My years of being part of the Methodist Church did not quite open the world of art and spirituality to me. The focus was always on the WORD. God was to be found in the Bible, and in Church, and in worship music. Maybe sometimes in nature. We did not seek out art as a way of meeting God.

As I grow older I realize that I am more of a visual person than a literary one. Contrary to what many people think of me I do not enjoy words, or books, or writing. I enjoy pictures, and colors, and patterns, and lines, and drawings, and paintings, and sculpture, and beauty, and fabric.

And over the years I have found my own way to connect to God through art, and music (not evangelical, worship music), and nature, and beauty. So to read about one man's journey with one great work of art and everything that he learned from watching it, talking about it with his friends, reflecting on it, thrills me.

The day after I posted Happy and Sad I read Chapter 9 - The Father Calls for a Celebration.

I am prone to despair - I have been since I was very young. If it was not something that was directly affecting me it would be the dying children in Somalia, or the poor people on the streets of my city, or the refugees in Sri Lanka, and now Syria. I despair... that is a continuous state of being for me.

When I am happy I immediately think of these people who are suffering, or I think of my own loss and grief, and I am sad again.

But the father in the parable calls for a celebration. Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we will celebrate by having a feast, ... And they began to celebrate. 

There is a time to mourn. And a time to rejoice.

I often forget that Jesus promises great joy. There is much talk of feasting and celebration in the Bible. Jesus describes the Kingdom as a big banquet.

But can we celebrate now?

God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, nor because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost has been found. What I am called to is to enter into that joy. It is the joy that comes from seeing a child walk home amid all the destruction, devastation, and anguish of the world. (p107)

The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to "steal" all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see. .... I don't have to wait till all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand.

Jesus was a man of sorrows. And he knew absolute joy. This is what life is - sorrow and joy. We must live with both but we must consciously and deliberately "steal joy" when we can find it. And if we look, we will find it.

I started another blog earlier this year : Meaning in the Madness. 
I didn't know it then. But when I started it... that's what I was trying to do. Find meaning in the madness. Stealing joy in midst of deep sorrow. Finding good in an evil world.