All posts by RaeBear

About RaeBear

I’m as complex (and as simple) as everyone else. Richly blessed, battling depression and anxiety, good days, bad days. I was zapped by God’s amazing love and grace when I was 28, and life has never been the same again. Not always happy. Not a pod person now. And oddly (not-so-oddly?) the love of reading, and especially all thing science fiction, transfuses my reading and understanding of being a Christian. Being a child of an inter-faith marriage transfuses my being a Christian. Being a feminist transfuses my being a Christian. It has been like learning a new language, in a new country. And it has been like coming home. Or falling in love. And there are things that will never, ever, make sense to me. But God’s amazing love and grace, that makes sense. That transforms. My gift will never be to be a “church lady”. My gift will never be talking to strangers. My gift will never be with power tools and mission – trust me when I say things go disastrously badly when I’m involved in mission. Where God can use me, I hope and pray, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people of the God and to build the Kingdom here, at hand and to come, is in biblical storytelling. Not a sweet little blog about how to be a good nice sweet little Christian. A blog that – I hope and pray – opens up and shares the scripture. It isn’t rules. It isn’t sweet. It’s stories. We’re all stories. Stories all the way down.

Interrupted by surprises

I was sinking down into a depression-sized hole. I don’t think I am quite crawling out of it yet. But several surprising things happened.

(1) At Awesome Con, the wonderful Wil Wheaton talked about depression/mental health and… he said (more or less), “If any of you have not been touched by depression/anxiety/other mental health challenge or someone you love or know has not been — if it hasn’t affected you at all, then please clap.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

My eyes, personally, were pretty wet for some reason. It was a profound moment of both stillness and connection, silence and witness.

(2) While there are lots of reasons for my down cycle one involves a mistake I made. In making amends, I talked to a person who said, “Well, it’s a pain of course. But we all make mistakes. It is unlikely to be the last mistake or the worst mistake — you’ve got a lot more mistakes to make before life is over, right?”

For the first time in a while, I laughed.

Yep, I’m not now going to be perfect. There’s going to be more mistakes. The world will keep spinning.

(3) And for the first time, I recognized my pattern — when I am depressed (or whatever this is), when I am over-stressed, my go-to reaction is to not talk. Just when I need to reach out and talk to people, I literally have no words.

My parents used to tell stories of me as a little thing, before school. “You would only talk to us,” they would say. These days parents would rather panic, don’t you think? Mine thought it was kind of cute. And while I started talking in Kindergarten to lots of people, it isn’t my first response. My first response — not even on a conscious level — is to choke on my words. I almost think it cycles.

So I’m tipping a toe in the water of just — talking.

And trying not to think of how dumb it is to talk about the weather, trying not to think of all the wrong things I could say or more mistakes I could make, trying not to talk myself out of talking.

FTGOG

 

Matt 28:16-20

In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus commissions the disciples to go out and make more; that’s what they are to do. It’s just a few lines, and many of us have heard these lines many many times. So it is surprising to me all that I am finding in them. On first glance, I honestly thought it was Jesus way of just keeping the disciples busy until the grief of His leaving them was less. When someone dies/leaves, just keep busy. Clean the fridge. Wash the windows. Plan a new garden. And for the prime person left, of course in our world the paperwork alone can be overwhelming. So I thought, well they likely didn’t have paperwork back then. And maybe the Romans would hold a grudge against the disciples, maybe it was for the best if they leave town for a while. So Jesus got them to Galilee, to the mountain, and then is sending them off to all the nations. Keeping them busy and keeping them safe.

All that may be true.

But of course, the disciples did go to all the nations. There is Christianity, however robust or fragile, everywhere, I think. And the task was not just busy work for them. They were given the power to tell their story — and have it believed. I mean really — elsewise who would have believed: your God had a son, okay lots of Gods do, carry on. Oh but your God’s son died. Okay, well that happens too, so sorry. Oh wait, he came back? To forgive us? To defeat death? What sort of crazy talk is this guy; look let’s just feed him and treat him gently and get him out of town, eh?

But they persisted. They did as Jesus said — went, baptized, taught, and remembered. It may be the first time the disciples did anything right!

I was going to write about Mountains in Matthew and how surprising and mystical and full circle it is that Jesus met them, for the last time, on a mountaintop. Next time!

FTGOG

Interrupted by life

We are grieving here in this house, the loss of a father, grandfather, father-in-law. Now both our fathers are going; yet, strange to say, the world keeps spinning. The clock keeps ticking. It feels unreal that life can keep going. And, to be clear, both our fathers would have wanted us to keep on, to make little fuss. My husband’s father was a man of deep and quiet faith. We never got to talk about it. I regret that. He was a man of few words and great reserve.

When our son was about 10 or so? And his cousins were younger, just littles as best I can recall? My father-in-law planted pumpkins in his garden. When the pumpkins appeared but before they were near ready to harvest, he carved each boy’s name into a pumpkin. As the pumpkin grew, the name grew too. He was clearly pleased to bestow each ripe pumpkin to each grandchild. It was like him, to plan out a gift that would take time and attention to nurture, and to not mind the bafflement of boys more used to gifts with batteries.

Let us keep nuturing our seeds of faith…. FTGOG!

“Doubting” Thomas

So everyone seems to get down on poor Thomas (John 20:24-29). Yet he wasn’t there when the rest of them got to see Jesus come into the locked room. So he refused to take their word, thinking they were delusional. Totally rational call on Thomas’ part, I think.

I’m thinking of how Thomas might have felt, being the only one not feeling and knowing the amazing astonishing beautiful news that Jesus was not gone, he was back, he loves them still. To be the one not breathed on: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” Thomas had more than doubts, he had been left out.

I relate. I feel weary sometimes with feeling left out, with longing for more connection with people and with God. Sometimes the days are an endless slog of work and worry. Where is the breathe of God? Where is the joy?

For me, no doubt a good nights sleep will take care of things. Here’s a prayer for those out there feeling wonderless: remember Thomas. Jesus showed up again, just for him. Thomas opened his heart and let him in. May it be so with you and me too.

Interrupted by Lent

This year, for the first time, I gave up something for Lent. I gave up milk. Ever since I can remember, probably since I could hold a spoon, I have had Cheerios and milk for breakfast. And for quite a while I have realized that milk disagrees with my insides. Finally my doctor, practically with tears in her eyes, asked me to just try to not have milk for a while. I said, “How about for Lent? But I’m eating cheese.”

It is amazing how much better I feel.

But it is such a blessing to think about Jesus every morning.

Every morning I have to stop and think — am I fixing a toaster waffle? am I fixing oatmeal? am I eating an egg? And by stopping, I remember: I’m doing this for Christ, who did so much more for me. It is a prayer with my hands, if not with my sleepy brain.

(Not eat breakfast?! I wake up HUNGRY so I always eat breakfast. 😉 )

Time has passed differently in this Lenten period. Not necessarily faster or slower. I think the word I want is that I have felt present. Even sleepy, I have been doing more than going through the motions of daily life. And by challenging how I eat breakfast, it is as if the universe has decided I need to change all sorts of things. I’m a person who like routine and orderliness and calm. Yet here we are, living in interesting times, and learning about resistance and writing to politicians and going to “Town Halls” and all sorts of things that I never knew, that I should have known, I am learning now. My heart sometimes skips a beat when I think of how much I took for granted. Well, I’m woke now.

The disciples might have felt a little bit this way, seeing both Jesus on a cross, dying, and seeing the risen Christ. Woke up. Present. Sorry and forgiven. Humble. Hopeful.

Anyway…I am looking forward to a small glass of milk Sunday. I’m curious how I will feel. But I’m also looking forward to continuing this practice (I hope).

John 9:1-41 a bit deeper

So remember my upset about how this story starts? Let’s review:

As he walked along,
he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

And I was upset because the idea that God caused the man to be born blind just to reveal God’s glory is …. upsetting to me.

Well it turns out that, if I had remembered to read the footnote, that might not be how the lines “really” go. It might be:

So instead Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; we must work the works of him who sent me …. ”

That it doesn’t matter to Jesus “why” the man was blind, nor does it matter to him “why” is this world so broken”. It just is. So Jesus aims to hurry and work to fix the problem.

A pastor friend of me, not knowing I was studying this, wrote about this in her blog and then there it is in the footnotes. Well. Don’t you love that? God found a way to “answer” me. 😉

I know that, just my life experience anyway, that “why” can be a trap. “Why did you do that?” says the parent to child. “I dunno,” says every child everywhere. “Why” can have you going around in circles. Instead, I can imagine Jesus (once again) shaking his head a bit at the disciples, smiling gently, and basically saying, “Let’s not waste time. Let’s get to work on healing.”

___

I also want to point out that right after the healing the point of view changes from Jesus to the blind man. So when I told this story at church, I put my hands over my eyes to “wash” them and then moved them away (like jazz hands a little bit) to reveal my sight — and to “show” that I was now a different character in the story.

For the glory of God!

The beginning of John 9:1-41

So here’s the beginning verses:

As he walked along,
he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 

Now on one level it is a very clear thing — in those days the reason someone might be born blind was because of a punishment for sin. Jesus is saying no, that’s not it. And that was considered (I am told) a radical thing to say and believe.

Yet would Jesus’ reason for the man being born blind might really be comforting? God made this man born blind so that eventually he will be healed by Jesus and thus show and serve God’s glory? Isn’t that really mean of God? Isn’t that God using bad for good; isn’t that unfair?

The man born blind makes no complaint. He’s glad to be healed, he’s frustrated at the confusion of his identity post-healing (as you would be), he’s frustrated by being asked over and over how “that man” healed him and who (and where) “that man” is. He ultimately believes “that man”, Jesus, to be the Son of Man (a declaration of being the Messiah) and worships him. You do not worship someone who is only human. The formerly blind man ends up seeing very clearly indeed.

So if he has no complaint about being used by God to reveal the glory of God, perhaps I should not either. It might be patronizing of me. Or it might be me stuck in this endless loop I seem to be in about wanting the world to be fair and nice and just and safe and good and when bad things happen, I don’t blame people*, I blame God.

Here’s what I imagine. Imagine the man’s mother, so young and hopeful and delighted to be okay after giving birth, and delighted to have her baby and delighted he is nursing and thriving. Except unlike other babies, his eyes don’t seem to learn to track. He doesn’t seem to recognize the light when it shines in his face. She holds him to the sun, putting her hand gently over his eyes and moving her hand away, and he laughs because he feels her hand, and the strength of her arm holding him, and the breeze blowing against his face. But his little eyes don’t get upset by the bright shine of the sun. It might take more months before she admits that he can’t see, that he will never see her face, he will never be the son they so longed for, that all he can be (in that place and time) is a beggar, an object of mercy and charity, or in bad circumstances, an object to ridicule and even steal from, take his money right out of his cloak spread on the ground. Imagine the tears she shed, no matter how many other children they had or have, because this child is facing a literally dark future. Imagine Jesus telling her — it was all set up just so I could prove that I am.

Would she be angry at Jesus/God?

Would she be glad to know why this happened to her son, and that it was set up as an honor?

All we end up knowing from the story, is she and her husband are afraid.

Would it help me in suffering, to know that it is for the glory of God? I hope so. I think it might. I pray that I never need to know. I think fear is a pretty honest and appropriate response to seeing the power and healing of God!

 

*Mostly. Sometimes, some things, sure. But not for being born blind, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story of Jesus and the blind man

In reading aloud John 9:1-41, which I don’t know if I can learn by heart, I’m struck by the man who was formerly blind. I’m struck with how impatient he gets, how annoyed he is. The response to the miracle of his being able to see isn’t to rejoice — which should be the response, don’t you think? He was blind and now can see. It sort of echoes “the sheep/coin/son was lost and now is found”, doesn’t it? No, instead the response is endless repetitive questions from everyone, and scarily the Pharisees call people to give testimony. (Is this like some sort of trial? I shall have to learn.) The man who was formerly blind has to endure all this, but when he is ultimately tossed out of the community Jesus finds him. And he worships him.

And as a storyteller that is the first of my problems — all the “he/hims”!

Take a look at this snip:

“Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” “

The Pharisees are not saying that the formerly blind man is not from God, but that the man (Jesus) who performed the restorative actions is not from God. But then, on the other hand, how could he not be from God, others say? It is a miracle. But it is a mess of pronouns!

So how do I inflect my voice? Or use my hands? Or turn perhaps — how will listeners not get confused?

And so I start! FTGOG

Interrupted by books — The Boss

The book “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen is lyrical and honest and beautiful and hauntingly sad and human. Obviously he is a world-class musician, songwriter, performer! He took about seven years and just wrote about his life privately and this is the result. His childhood was brutal but he is looking back with forgiveness and grace and understanding. He is interested in expressing what it is like to live as an artist, what it is like to perform, how you can love, completely and totally, performing for crowds of ten’s of thousands and yet still be intensely private as a person. The first song of his that I remember hearing is “Hungry Heart” and oddly he says that that was the song that brought girls into the club. {{grins}} His entire album of The Rising helped me cope with 9/11. So much of his music is the soundtrack of my life; our lives. It is a gift to read his own words about himself and his experience.

In reading memoir/autobiography good writing is hard to find, in my experience. This is excellent writing, even when the topic is mental health and his searingly honest and deeply personal struggles with it. It is even more amazing how he is able to share the experience of songwriting and performing and so on.

This took hours and hours to read, I’ve ignored my family a lot the last week. Also I was reading on a Kindle and note that at the very there are pictures. Easy to miss, I almost missed them.