Thursday, April 2, 2015

Archetypes and Christ

Today I awoke with archetypes on my mind. Vivid dreams, I guess.  The word "archetype" comes from the Greek meaning "origin" and "model:" a first form.  Apparently, Carl Jung argued that the root of an archetype is the "collective unconscious" of mankind.  I like that idea.

I was pondering how beauty and archetype collide.  Is a mountain range beautiful to us because we instinctively react to the spectacle with a desire to endure and reach a figurative summit?

Why does the sight of a stag stir us so? Its proud beauty has often been a symbol of set-apart-ness which brings to mind an austere holiness.

And water. The sound of spring water tumbling over rocks is so soothing.  And I believe it is lovely because it stabs us unconsciously that water brings refreshment and renewal, cleansing and cooling. Our souls thirst. Thundering ocean waves evoke larger visions. Always changing (the tides) and yet unchanging: vast, merciless, timeless.


Spring itself is always beautiful to us after the quiet stillness of winter.  The frivolity and fecundity of spring is joy and youthfulness and hope and heart in a way that could never be saccharine.

The universality of these thoughts are a pointer to me of a God who keeps his promises and a Christ who wants to be known to us.  Of course, arguing the existence of God/gods because of beauty has been a philosophic rationalization at least as far back as Plato.  I just personally love a God dressed in beauty and archetype: The Suffering Servant, The Sacrificial Victim, The Living Water, The Holy One, The King of Glory, The Bridegroom. Divine Providence revealed himself in a story: a myth that really happened. And our "collective unconscious" recognizes him.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The first question from man to God "Am I my brother's keeper?" was asked by Cain in what I imagine was a snarky and sullen tone. And God's holy response was "your brother's blood cries out to me!"

We have all felt the pain of injustice directed towards us and we have all been grateful when someone else pleaded our cause and helped carry our burden.  

No one wants to prod the snake inside another human being or a group of people.  Venom can spew. It can be deadly. But the snake in each of us needs to die and exposure is often the best way to kill it.

History gives us countless examples of what happens when we don't fight against injustice. I have seen circa 1940 pictures of German citizens sunbathing on the beach while unspeakable atrocities were occurring in their country.  I am that sunbather.

I am so humbled by those who face imprisonment, slander, torture, and death daily for the the offenses against others.  I am not that person. But God has been growing in me a flicker of courage to become more like that person. Keeping everything safe, fun, and pretty is harming me.

This month, Andy and I have been talking about our complacency.  That is one of my snakes that needs exposure.  The can't-wait-to-crawl-into-bed, bone-tired days of early parenting are long gone and now ease is my normal. The terrifyingly accurate picture of my life can be found in the warnings to the complacent in Amos 6:4-6.

So... I am not sure where this is going yet for my life but I am confident God is working on me and on my family. We are ready for some accountability.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Feast Days Shouldn't Last

I am addicted to comfort food.  Chicken fricassee and shepherd's pie were my childhood favorites.  I love warm, white bread, pasta anything, and the savory smells of Thanksgiving.  I think such food is especially comforting when I don't have to make it and my kitchen remains clean. Laziness mixed with butter and starch is an unhealthy combination.

I am also "of a certain age." I can no longer eat like I am twenty and expect the scale to congratulate me in the morning.  In fact, my husband has connected our scale to our computer so it can show "trends."  I hate trends.

But, praise the Lord, I also possess an annoying amount of vanity.  Things can only progress so far before I take action.  I have been doing this tango with the scales for ten years now and it works for me.  Seasons of eat, drink, and be merry are often followed by seasons of settle-down-now Susan.

I am in such a season now.  Drinking smoothies with hemp, eating mini peppers, consuming vast quantities of expensive berries: these choices make me feel wonderful and energetic and somewhat self-disciplined.

But sometimes, you just gotta have decadent feast days.

Last night, it was double date night at a smokehouse.  I walked in and the room smelled like sizzling fat.   The menu only offered meals that were warm, gooey, and happy.  And so after a week of perfect eating, I ordered a salmon dish (salmon's good, right?) nesting on a bed of fettuccine with butter and pesto sauce.  It was perfection.

By some miracle, I only ate half of my entree and brought the rest home.  Well done, Susan! And I feel like today I have stumbled on a secret that will help me for the rest of my life.... I opened my mouth and I promised the left-overs to my daughter.

I am alone today.  My refrigerator is stocked with healthy options which I tell myself I am utterly sick of eating.  And there is that little box.... but I gave my word.... it will make her happy.... it will make me happy.... The struggle is real, folks.  But sharing that bit of pasta with my fellow comfort-food addict daughter will actually double the pleasure.  We will talk about how marvelous it is together. She knows that I understand my other children wouldn't have liked it as well.  That I chose her to promise it to.

So half the calories, twice the enjoyment.  And I will have taught my daughter a healthy principle for all her life - don't feast alone.  Share rich moments and exercise self-control the rest of the time.

 A recipe for no regrets.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who will protect us from the innocent ones?

This fall, I am studying Beth Moore's Jesus, The One and Only with a group of wonderful ladies.  We are meditating scene-by-scene on Jesus' earthly ministry from the gospel of Luke and the current scene is Jesus casting out the demons from a very ill man and sending them into a herd of swine.

We are asked to picture the scene: the naked, raving man, his unwashed body, his home - a tomb, his wrists showing the wounds from breaking free of chains.  The demons had taken every shred of his dignity and there was no help for him.  Until Jesus.

Beth then asks us to think about any pronounced scenes of human indignity that we have ever witnessed.  And it brought to mind a story that I had to write down lest I forget.

When we lived in the Netherlands, Andy and I decided to take a long weekend in Belgium.  We enjoyed Brussels' beautiful antique buildings, cathedrals, fountains and tourist shops. We clogged up tiny shops with our double stroller, so while Andy was inside one bargaining for Belgian lace, I waited outside with baby Katelyn and two year old Adam.  We people- watched.  The streets were clogged; it was a holiday weekend, and most were walking and laughing in groups.  But there was one solitary man across the street who was unwell.  He looked homeless (dirty and uncared for) and he was gesturing and raving in French as he walked along.  I didn't pay him much attention, he was part of the scene of humanity, and neither did anyone else.  But Adam did.  My little toddler tugged at my hand and said urgently, "Mommy, I want to go talk to that man!"  "What man?"  He pointed at the sick one, the lunatic one.  I crouched down to listen to my son. "What do you want to talk to him about?"

His face was so sweet and compassionate. "I want to sing him my ABC's."

Adam, in his little soul, sensed that the man needed love.  Adam wanted to help.  He wanted to give him his most precious gift (the ABC's and spelling things were all-consuming for my precocious tot).  His innocent worldview had no inner excuses for ignoring this man's need.  I was astounded by his perceptiveness and my lack of love.

I wonder what would have happened had I allowed Adam to sing to the man.  I will never know because I obeyed common sense.  I had no desire to cause a scene on a city street in another country.  I had lots of excuses and some of them were good ones.  After all, I needed to protect my little guy from the hard things of the world...

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  Luke 18:17

Thursday, July 26, 2012

For Susan

Thirteen years ago, I had my last carefree lunch with my college friend Susan.  She was living in Naperville, IL and I had recently moved to the western suburbs of Chicago and was expecting my first baby.  We hadn't found a church yet and Andy was working the night shift, which meant lots of lonely days for me.  So I was thrilled to have her over for lunch to reconnect and to have the opportunity to meet her baby daughter. 

The doorbell rang and I answered and there was my petite friend with a baby on her hip and a huge dog standing next to her.  All three entered my house.  The dog made himself at home, sniffing and making my two cats go beserk.  I was gracious, exclaiming over her darling daughter, giving hugs but inwardly, I was kind of surprised that she brought her giant dog uninvited to my house.  As the dog disappeared towards my bedroom, I asked Susan what its name was.  She looked surprised and said she assumed it was my dog. 

Well.  A small scene ensued - the kind found in a PG Wodehouse novel.  The baby cried when put down.  The cats were hissing and spitting. The dog was curious about my soundly sleeping husband.  It took both Susan and I to grab the beast and herd him towards the door as we tried to our best to do it silently.  And when the door was firmly shut on that dog, we burst into girlish giggles.

Soon after that, Susan moved out east and then my family moved overseas and we lost touch.  And then I find out that losing touch was much more my fault, for Susan spent the last 10 years fighting cancer and the debilitating discouragement that accompanies it.

Two weeks ago, six of us college friends rushed to Cleveland to see her.  We were forewarned to not expect her to be lucid for more than 30 seconds at a time.  But we wanted her to know how loved she was by us, even if we only got five minutes with her. 

We got about five hours. 

Susan was very glad to see us all, so glad that she was given an energy that she hadn't had in months.  She ate dinner. (She hadn't eaten in a week.)  We told our stories.  Prayed together.  Took communion together.  Laughed at old photographs.  Cried. 

As our time together was winding down, Susan became pensive about heaven and the judgement and her holy fear.  Together, we all took reassurance in Christ standing by our sides, interceding for us.  And she was so beautiful in that moment that I get choked up just thinking about it.  Her body was tiny from illness, her face was puffy from the I.V. fluids, she had no makeup on and was wearing an ugly hospital gown and she was absolutely beautiful.  Susan was stripped of all control of her life, stripped down to her essence, to her very being and I got to see it.

We all put on masks, presenting different faces for different situations.  But we are naked before God and He knows what we really are.  I have no answers for why such things like cancer happen.  Death always feels unfair - like we've been cheated.  But if our sorrows finally bring us to unmask ourselves and to just rest in the hope of Christ, well then, maybe we cheat death and are more than conquerors. 

Susan passed away yesterday.  I will hold in my heart many memories like the one I shared about the dog. And I will always treasure those hours in the hospital room with my friends as some of the holiest I have ever had.  Every second felt like a gift, like real life, a glimpse of the life to come.   C.S. Lewis used to say that Christians need to never say goodbye.  And I remembered that when I kissed Susan farewell.  I told her I would see her soon...

Monday, July 9, 2012

I received heartbreaking news on Saturday evening that one of my college roommates was in the final weeks of life after years of battling cancer.  By Sunday morning, I and other close friends learned that her family would welcome a visit and so began the flurry of emails to make a bittersweet reunion happen this week.  My children knew I would be gone for a few days and were actually a bit upset by this.  Katelyn kept saying that she didn't want me to go which is gratifying but doesn't make leaving in such a rush any easier.

Last night, the girls got into a snit with each other and Kate in particular felt wronged.  I pulled her on my lap, soothed her, helped her see where she was wrong, and generally fixed the whole problem.  Andy and I asked her to be giving and generous with her sister this week while I was gone because I told her it would be so hard to leave knowing they were at odds with one another.  She tearfully promised she would be kind and she was sent to bed feeling loved and reassured.

This morning it hit me.  I can't hardly leave three days without the whole family feeling my loss.  Mothers are uniquely gifted at keeping harmony in a home.  My friend Susan is leaving forever and her children will be robbed of the one who is most able to calm and guide through the heartbreaks of life.  My mom still is essential to me and I can't imagine losing her. It is brutally unfair when young children lose their mama.

Really, there are no words.  I'm just hugging my treasured children a little closer today.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Drought

Days without rain turn to weeks, months;
The thirsty land withers under the scorching eye.
All is straw, vulnerable to a stray spark.
My God, have you forgotten us?

Biblical imagery, archetypes embedded in mankind's memory
Become reality.  We need days of refreshing from the Lord.

Drought shows our fragility, unmasks our complacency.
We are not magicians - able to conjure up neccessities.
No, every good and perfect gift is from above.
Sometimes we are reminded of this as a people.