Caregiver

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Kitty Thievery

Think of the ones you love–whether persons, hopes, dreams–

reach down deep
into the recesses of your tenuous, tired heart
and see that you have the strength to keep going
simply because you care.

He longs to join the caring,
as the one who raised it in you,
like a breadmaker who works his hands into the dough.

Let the yeast permeate–
let him work his caring deeper into you.

And yet,
so often,
we feel alone in caring.

Rather than tasting
the sweet warmth of freshly-baked bread,
we feel the tearing of crust from flesh,
the scabs of our past caring that left wounds.

Because caring hurts.
In this world, to care is to risk everything.

Do you feel it?
The temptation to turn it off.
Switch to autopilot,
switch to obligation,
switch to apathy.

The heat is turning up.
Don’t turn it off, friend.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit (John 12:24).

Then grain must be threshed before it can be dough.
Bread must go through the fire before it can be eaten.

Death is promised–and you will feel it–but it’s not permanent.

Your portion
is his hands cupped around bread, the breaking;
and his hands cupped around blood, the pouring.

Your portion
is communion with him in the needing,
and connection with him in the kneading,
and resurrection with him in the rising.

Your portion
is his care for your life.

If we could get the perspective of this breadmaker-caregiver,
could it change the risk in caring?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the Psalmist sings,
what is the son of man that you care for him? (8:3-4).

Lift your eyes a little higher than the heat.

(Jesus calls himself the “son of man,” remember?)

You have put him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet (5-6).

Including discouragement, defeat, death.

Whether you are the one giving care or the one needing care,
or, like most of us, a little of both,
the man who was made perfect by the breaking, who was the first to do the raising,
is the one who wants to share in your suffering.

God wants to lend you his strength.
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong from yourself (Psalm 80:17).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you…
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7, 10).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aqualand

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Maybe it all started when I chose underwater-breathing as my superpower.

You see, throughout my childhood, I loved the idea of magic. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the RingsHarry Potter.

I reenacted the stories, and wrote my own, full of magical weapons, secret lands, and girl-heroes.

When I reached adolescence, romance was the magic. I loved chick-flicks like Serendipity and You’ve Got Mail, stories of chance meetings and stars aligning, and belief making impossibilities normal.

But when I met God a number of years ago, it became a problem.

Here was an all-powerful being, who, I finally started to believe, loved me unconditionally, with all the magical possibilities of my romantically-saturated heart at his disposal. Because I didn’t yet know him, I innocently assigned portents for the way he worked. He’s a God of signs and wonders, after all.

You (might) know, stuff like seeing “signs” in the letters on a license plate or searching for meaning in nature. The eagle became a sign of fulfilled promise, the color fuschia a representation of spiritual condition, my extra heartbeat a harbinger of holding people’s stories…

I never could prove for certain that it was God, though, so eventually I gave it up. Along the line, I realized I had to believe God at his word, not at the demonstration of his powerful arm.

I had to trust that he loved me when he said, “I love you,” instead of inserting him into the ways I wanted to feel loved.

Nevertheless…I still maintain that belief in signs is evidence of our intrinsic desire to be intimately known.

Fast-forward three or four years to summer 2017.

While I was soaking in prayer and worship one day, I saw in my spirit an image of an aquaman suit. Not the superhero, the diving suit, the shoulders and helmet-head, mostly. Something like this:

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I had no idea what it meant, but I filed it away.

Six months later, in Ireland, I saw this colorful mural painted on a wall in Belfast:

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© 2017 Extramural Activity 

I still didn’t know what it meant, but I laughed.

Six months after that, I saw (belatedly) DC’s Justice League, in which the superhero Aquaman appears as a side-character.

I laughed a second time.

Another six months, bumping into last week, when I saw the Aquaman movie in theaters, thoroughly appreciating the underwater fantasy world and story of Atlantis.

It wasn’t the ethereal setting or snarky script or Aquaman’s body that captivated me, however. The magic happened for me at the three-quarter mark, when the protagonists pursue Neptune’s Trident to the Sahara Desert, of all places.

An aerial camera provides a sweeping view of the ocean rolling onto the shore of the Sahara Desert, where I had been myself not two weeks before.

My shout of laughter from the front of the theater turned to silent tears.

In an instant I was transported to the pink-orange sand of the dunes, the scorch of the sun, the trickle of sweat down my back. I smelled fish, and felt the rush of icy water and broken shells, and heard the flap of tent sides.

I remembered standing in the swell of foamy green sea on the edge of the African continent, with the dunes at my back, and hearing the voice of God promising to carry me out of the longest, darkest season of my life.

Now here I was, sitting in an American theater, watching the last two years roll before my eyes like an old movie reel, the faithful love of God at my back, bookmarked by the image of an aquasuit.

Tell me he isn’t a God of his word, and a God of signs and wonders.

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What Trees Tell Me of Secret-Keeping

 

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The best part of spring, particularly after such a long winter, is the sudden opening of buds where you weren’t paying attention.

There’s this time lag, between the snow melting, and the little green nubs appearing on the trees, and the flowering of the blooms, that I swear happens overnight. Literally, in the night, when I’m sleeping and won’t see it happen.

Trees must be good secret-keepers, I think.

You wake up one morning and step outside the door, and there’s a bright pink tree waiting beside the porch. Ta-da! Those crabapple trees are like little girls in pink tutus, showing off for their father.

And every spring, I am surprised. (Just the other day I went for a walk with Mom and Dad, and we had to stop and sniff every crabby bloom, exclaiming and taking pictures, as if they were as foreign as a Japanese cherry blossom.)

I think the surprise lies in the lack of attention. I’m not hanging around, noting the growth of the buds every morning so that I’ll be ready when they flower. And if I were, I wonder if the flowers would be as lovely…

God grows things in me in a similar way. Those things I would consider myself paying attention to. But there’s always a deeper, more subtle thing he is cultivating, which happens during the night (Ps. 16:7) and you discover when you wake up one morning, finding you have bloomed.

I’m anticipating this summer to be a long, slow season of re-fathering.
Of stripping back the honesty of myself to levels of exposure that feel like they could kill me.
A reset of the last twenty years.
A time to lay foundations of faithstone that God will teach me himself and show me myself in him, the only true identity.
A consecrated time to establish our thing. (My pastor, speaking about having secrets with God, said of his daughter, “She and I have a thing, and we both know it. A thing no one else gets. God wants to have a thing with each of his kids.”)

Probably half of those things happen while I sleep. There’s a lag time between God inviting you into a new space, and showing you the fruit of that obedience. A most-admired speaker said, “God waits a long time to move suddenly.”

You walk out the door of your heart one day, and there’s a bright pink tree bowing in the breeze.

God is teaching me to be a good secret-keeper. Trustworthy of his heart’s secrets. He’s teaching me to be his little daughter in a pink tutu, lost in her Papa’s delight, in her own beauty, in the assurance of her place in his heart.

This morning when I woke up, I caught the fragrance of a new bloom. And after such a long lag of winter wandering, it was the most glorious, foreign flower.