Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent pilgrimage--feeling my way into a dance of women

"When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:

"'Sing to the Lord, 
for He is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
He has hurled into the sea.'" (Exodus 15:19-21)

Confusion. Terror. So weary. Hurled from joy to despair and back again. For how long now? Blood, frogs, flies, hail that destroys them but not us. We can go; we can't go. Bricks and then more bricks. Kill a lamb and do WHAT with it? My mistress fears me; the master sits broken while she wails over the boy's body. Gold, rich fabric, treasure stuffed into a sack and thrust at me. "Go! Get away from us! You! You death!"

Hurried we gather. They gave us carts and oxen, too. I carry the dough myself.

Clouds and shekinah fire. Backs to the sea. Sounds of chariot, armor and marching men thunder as they advance toward us. Dust fills the air. Hard to breathe. Sweat. Stench. They come. We wait in helpless terror.

So many of us. Some stand quiet, numb. Others mill and pace. Men talk in little groups like they can figure this out. Maybe I'll just lay down and let them come. Children cry. Some are attended; others ignored. For how long? How long until death comes to us all?

The crowd surges. Toward the sea? What? Pushed and trapped in the tide of bodies. Flattened reeds catch at my sandals. What is this? Pressed forward, but where is the sea? Shekinah fire all around. Can't look--keep eyes to the ground!

And then we move up the bank, back onto the plain. Rocky ground and stumbling. How is this? Where are we? Behind me death rages. And then silence. Such silence. Before me Moses' voice rises to sing a story. Is this OUR story? Is this what happened?

We stand dazed. Some fall to the ground. So quiet in the dawn with that lone voice rising. Then Miriam picks up a tambourine. Begins to sway, to hum. Slow steps turn to solemn dance. Her voice rises, giving words to the silence behind us. Another woman joins her, then five, then eight more. I put down my load. Dig in the sack for that timbrel. Joining thousands who now sway and move in a woman-dance of weary, death-tinged joy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Called to wander: a meditation on God's call to Abraham

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to a land I will show you.

‘I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great (change your name), and you will be a blessing.’” Genesis 12:1-2

Something happened in Ur. Haran was killed. His wife left the family, abandoned her son, Lot, to his grandfather's care. Terah gathered his remaining clan and left. Perhaps fled. With nothing.

Got as far as Harran. Stopped there. A place to rebuild, to acquire new wealth, to add to their small community.

God showed up there, too. With an invitation. Abram’s dad had begun a journey, and now Abram is invited onward to an unknown land of promise.

Who is this God? How did they know Him? Know His voice? He promised good things: to keep them safe, multiply their lives, to give power and repute and to use them to bless the world. The world?

They trusted this strange word. Family councils, preparation and provision, goodbyes.

A strange way, a hidden way to greatness. And what is greatness, anyway?

Harran a good way-point, but never home. Hearts remained restless, sense of belonging held loosely. Certain that there remained a journey, and a true home.

My heart remains restless, alien and stranger, until I reside in you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

God’s invitation to walk with Him -- Curt's meditation on Abraham's call

Once the journey begins our footsteps can’t be retraced.
Marriage and then moving to a remote oil field town in Saudi Arabia
Traveling to Alaska in search of a new job and establishing roots.
Further education in new professions in Wyoming.
Beginning a family while Jeri’s in law school and I’m completing my education.
Returning to Alaska for work, growing the family, new relationships and work.
Adventuring to Scotland for work and building a new community.
Returning to Alaska to become imbedded in the community in new ways.

With age comes the call to live overseas again.
Uprooted to UAE to begin again. 
New work and community to build.
Eyes and heart opened up to what God is doing in the Middle East.
Invited to think about what retirement would be.
People chasing after dreams, surviving day to day, hoping for more
Physically and spiritually exhausted, in need of a quite space.

The invitation to join God in creating a Spa for the Soul came.
A new journey to find the place of His choosing.
Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Albania, UAE, Oman, USA were considered.
Ten years living and working among Muslims led us to Turkey.
Fewer Christian resources and closer to those in need.
A quite, peaceful, beautiful setting but derelict house.
As the derelict house was remodeled, relationships were built.
Spa for the Soul, a setting where people can come who seek God.
To be restored by God’s word, beauty, and quiet voice. 

In every move comes work, sorrow, fear, anxiety, blessings and joy.
Work to pack-up and say good bye to close friends.
To complete and finish well ongoing work and involvements.
Sorrow to leave close friends and meaningful activities.
Fear of the unknown and anxiety about what God has in store.
God’s faithfulness brings new friends, blessings and joy.
Our lives are touched and blessed.
We become a blessing to others as well.

Our life has been a faith journey at God’s invitation to go forth.
Seeking him, wondering what today will bring. 
Wondering who God will bring.
Trusting and obeying God’s word day to day.
Hard work, sorrows, fear, anxiety but always blessings.
Personal blessings as well as blessing to those our lives touch.

God’s invitation to walk with Him.

Pilgrimage--meditating on Abraham's call to follow God to an unknown land of promise

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to a land I will show you.

‘I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great (change your name), and you will be a blessing.’” Genesis 12:1-2

Long ago done. Done again and again. Trailing spouse leaves career, identity, beloved spaces; goes out known once more only as “his wife.” Shepherds the children, sets up a space, finds the necessities, learns how to make home with foreign resources.

Saudi Arabia at 21. Alaska at 23. Wyoming at 26. Scotland at 36. United Arab Emirates at 49. Leaving job offers, graduate school plans, homes, family, friends, career and profession, ministry passion, community admiration.

Learns to drive crazy, shuffles paperwork, checks out schools, sews labels into countless bits of school uniform, comforts children bereft of pets and other friends, combs foreign shops, figures out how to get things done. Watches and listens for new purpose and place while he goes to work, gets introduced and promoted, renews friendships--his days full of dignity and purpose. Invited, needed, appreciated.

Invites people. Watches for community. Puts herself out there. Writes letters and checks the mailbox often.

More lately comes Turkey at 52, and Spa for the Soul. A pilgrimage she chose, a movement forward with vision and purpose. Pursuit of a dream, an invitation from Jesus made to both of them. For the first time she goes before, buying and renovating, training in spiritual direction, learning language.

So many journeys of letting go, of pilgrimage, of finding new life. Always there has been joy to follow confusion, grief, loneliness and loss of role. Much joy—pressed down, poured out, running over. Would not have missed it. So grateful. The journeys enrich and mold her. Suffering and transition give way to unimagined opportunities. and expansive ways of knowing and learning to love God’s world.

She knows Him through Indian laborers gathered to sing praise in her Arab living room, bargains struck in ancient souks, bone-jarring rollicks over silent deserts, graduation at the top of her law school class, life and fellowship and work among the invisible working poor, teaching Bible across cultures, the love and faithful prayers of old folks, death-bed watches, tramps through hills and valleys for days on end, an ever-open home that lends safety and shelter and listening for the world, life immersed in nations, and the never-ending journey of adapting and flexing and learning and loving and being loved. Secretary turned lawyer, turned Bible teacher, turned community leader and housing provider, turned mentor and change agent and caregiver, turned encourager and director and simple place-maker. Turned Momi and Grandma to American, Albanian, Dutch, Nepalese, Pakistani and Turk dear ones.

A full, proactive life of influence settles now to quiet waiting and loving. Much removed and released so that new can emerge.

No undoing--a meditation on Adam and Eve banished from Eden

“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and and flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:23-24

From my prayer of imagination:
The sharp rock hurts my feet.
Thorns claw and pierce my arms and legs, and what is this? I bleed. It burns.
Light hurts my eyes. Darkness full of greedy sounds--I'm not the only one who is hungry.
These skins stink. My skin is raw against their roughness.
Terror. All that was friend, light, life has turned stranger and threat.
Banished. I look back--too bright! Shekinah fearsome blocks the way. No undoing. No going back. Can't do it over; can't make it right. Can't have that life anymore.
Why did I ... ?
Is this forever?
Where is love? Where do I belong? Where can I be safe?
Yes, there is work. Some fruit. But can there be joy?
So weary. Soul weary.

Noticing energy, questions, invitation and resistance. Especially my own resistance. Do I accept that there is no going back? That the way before is all changed, and scary. I KNOW that God is with me, that He went with Adam and Eve and all humanity and meets us still--outside the Garden. But there are things here that I resist.  What? To move on from where I cannot return? To moving away from roles and relationships that were fruitful, nourishing, joyful and satisfying, that are not there anymore?
Is it resistance, or weariness? A new question for me. Rather than being unwilling to move on, am I simply too tired to move on right now?
For now, the invitation seems to be to be willing to stay patiently in this space--to be willing to stay with it and grieve, and wait.
Yesterday (March 7th) we traveled from Turkey to Albania where we will spend this week teaching Bible school students from five nations. I am loved here, have invested much here in the last ten years, and it is a place of much fruit. Today we've past rich times with folks we've known for 40 years. Miracle to encounter one another at this remote intersection of the world. Joy! And yet I am so weary.... 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lenten Pilgrimage...banished -- by Curt Bidinger

Lenten introduction to meditations on themes of lent

This year Curt and I decided to pilgrimage with an online group for the season of Lent. Not something we’ve done before, but it has thus far touched us both deeply, as individuals and as we journey together. Perhaps moreso because we dwell in this place where we alone are believers.
Because the journey has been thus far intense and rich, and because it is where we are living just now, I’ve decided to share bits and pieces from along the way. In this first post I’ll explain some listening-with-scripture prayer concepts and practices that could be new to you. Who knows? These might give help in your own walk with Jesus.
Lent? What about fasting? You may ask, since for many of us that is the main thing we think of at Lent. So I’ll get that out of the way. For me, I’ve substantially disengaged from computer screens. I barely glance at Facebook just to see things our kids may have posted; and I refuse web-surfing expeditions. All that includes reading many fewer blogs and articles. I’m not sure this is a true fast since I would be better off to leave most of this stuff behind permanently. But it has opened more time for prayer and other valuable graces. Yet even as I experience the freedom, there is this slurping sound of powerful suction that wants to pull me back in.
The shape of our online pilgrimage is a weekly set of six approaches, one for each day save Sunday, to pray and meditate with one piece of Scripture. And a venue for sharing and discussion among our fellow pilgrims and our leaders. One day we consider a theme, one day we use lectio divina (listening prayer), one day we imagine our way into the events of the passage, one day we engage in photography or some other visual art as we go about carrying the Word in our conscious prayer, one day we integrate, and the last day we reflect on the journey with the week’s passage.
The Genesis passage where God expelled Adam and Eve from Eden was our scripture for the first week. I drew back when I saw it. A whole week with this saddest day in human history? Yet Lent is about identifying with Christ’s suffering and temptation, about sharing a measure of that journey to the cross. That surely must include remembering with our whole being why His journey was necessary.
In case “contemplative imagination” is an unfamiliar concept, it describes a prayerful exploration of a passage by putting sensory self into the story. Consider passage clues to smell, weather, sound, dirt, thirst, taste, and all manner of physical sensation, as well as clues to thought and emotion. For me, sometimes I ask myself to notice where I am in the picture. Do I most identify with one person or another? Or am I a member of the crowd, an observer? In part, this is prayer that acknowledges that real people lived these stories. A way of sharing their joy, confusion, suffering, relief, hope. In part it is a prayer to notice my response to the passage. Is there truth I don’t want to look at? Is there someone I don’t like and prefer to ignore or reject? Is there an invitation to move closer into relationship with Jesus that I am resisting? What might that be about? Am I included in the teaching and blessing, or do I stand on the outside at some distance? Are the words of warning and promise for me, or for others in the story?

With prayer that these musings will encourage you.... Blessings!

This pilgrimage photo (very Fiddler on the Roof) is from my first visit to Albania 10 years ago.