Monday, April 28, 2008

Life of Praise

It's been over a week and I suppose that I should write about the last thing in the world I would want to write about.

For months now I have been squaking about my application to the Samaritan's Purse internship program, of the possible opportunity I would have to quench some of this fire burning within me to save some small corner of the world and, in doing so, save some small corner of myself. For months now I have been riding a see-saw of confidence and doubt in my potential acceptance. For months now I have felt like I have arrived.

I have not arrived and I have not been accepted to the program. And, as I said in the beginning, I don't want to write about this; but not because it brings me so much pain and bitterness, rather because I'm not exactly sure how to put my jumbled heap of emotions onto the proverbial page.

I believe my exact quote at the very beginning of the whole application process was, "Praise God if I'm accepted and praise God if I am not." I am holding to that. And I am going to use a quote from Casting Crown's "Life of Praise" to exemplify part of what I'm feeling:

"I will love you Lord always
Not just for the things You've done for me.
I will praise you all my days
Not just for the change You've made in me.
But I'll praise you for you are holy, Lord.
And I'll lift my hands for you are worthy of so much more."

I want to draw attention to the last two lines in particular. As Christians, we praise and serve God not because of the blessings He bestows, but because, as sinful people saved by grace, we have no other response but to worship. He deserves our praise not because He makes us feel good, but because He is a holy God. As the great apologist J.P. Moreland states in his book, Love Your God With All Your Mind:

"Theologians describe God as a maximally perfect being. This means that God is not merely the greatest, most perfect being who happens to exist. He is the greatest being that could possibly exist. If God were merely the greatest being who happens to exist, it would be possible to conceive of a case where a greater god could come along (even if such a being did not actually exist) or where the real God grew in His excellence. In these cases, our degree of worship ought to increase and, therefore, a God who just happened to be the greatest being around (and who could be surpassed in excellence) would not be a worthy object of total worship. Fortunately, the God of the Bible is a maximally perfect being; that is, He is the greatest being that could possibly exist. It is impossible for a greater being to supersede God or for God Himself to improve Himself in any way. Thus, God is owed our supreme, total worship. This is why Scripture calls idolatry the activity of giving more dedication to something finite than to God. God is worthy of the very best efforts we can give Him in offering our respect and service through the cultivation of our total personality, including our minds."

This should be reason enough for me not to pout about my non-acceptance to the Samaritan's Purse. But, while it seems foolish to human intelligence, I trust the God of the universe explicitly. This means that no matter what happens, He is in control and I am at total peace leaving the details to Him. His timing is perfect. He has never dropped the ball in the past, why should I think He will start now? Truly, He is faithful even when we are not.

For those who know me as the independent, self-motivated, won't-take-crap-from-anyone woman that I am, it may seem pardoxial that I am surrendering all of that control to a God that many claim does not exist.

Ahh, there's the rub. The Christian life in and of itself is a paradox. Give to receive. Loose your life to gain it. The last shall be first. The weak shall become strong. And yet the beauty within it is that it is only after true and complete surrender and sacrifice of our own personal gain that there will ever be any fulfillment. After 24 years, I have finally transferred this head knowledge into everyday life.

So, while I am still disappointed that my dream of Sudan, Chad, Kenya, and Malawi is put on hold indefinably, I am more excited to see what amazing adventures are in store for me while I am still waiting on good ol' Cape Cod. And let's be honest, there are worse places to wait than Cape Cod.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Old Journals

I have been re-reading old journals. Journals I started just shy of two decades ago. I should have one for every year of my life, but unfortunately, although I go through spurts of inspiration when I write once, twice, sometimes three times a day, that is not the norm. So, instead of having 16 completed volumes, I have 5.

To give myself a little bit of credit, the journal I started when I was 8 I wrote a handful of entries only to be picked up again when I was in the height of my teenage angst.

I am reminded of how thankful I am that I have a record on which to look back. While sometimes I haven't grown and matured as much as I would like to think I have, I can still see the slow process of the caterpiller becoming a butterfly. Can I fly yet? Will I ever be able to fly beyond this limited piece of space?

I remember in high school my friend Jeul and I used to ask each other, "Am I shining yet?" Have I transformed from that lump of coal into a diamond? I don't know. But, I still feel much the same way. I still feel like I'm waiting to arrive....where? And, although I've had the feeling that I'm getting closer to my destination, I'm not sure if I'll ever fully arrive when there's always so much work to be done. I look back on these old, worn pages of mis-matched journals and marvel at what my goals and dreams used to be. Some have stayed the same, but many have been left along the roadside as I reach for something farther in the distance.

For instance, I used to want to get married when I was 17 for the sole purpose of being a young grandmother. Believe it, my goal in life was to be a young grandmother. Looks like I missed that ship by seven years. I used to find my worth in men. I used to want to work for the New York Times. I used to think I would always be in love with Ben.

Things change. Attitudes and opinions transform. Sometimes the lessons life teaches us are harsh enough to mold us into the exact opposite of what we originally wanted to be. Looking back, I can see how fortunate I have been to rise, like the Phoenix, out of the ashes of broken dreams.

But then again, there are always other dreams waiting to born...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

I really want summer. It was almost 70 degrees yesterday and when I went outside with Erin and Dani for our after-lunch walk around the parking lot my excitement for the warm weather was almost uncontainable. Sometimes after a long winter, it's hard to remember what it feels like to be sunkissed. Despite all the studies of the sun's damaging affects, I just can't get enough of it.

It's much harder to remember the way it feels to lie in the sand and have the sun dry off the ocean water leaving paterns of salt across arms and legs when the clouds are so thick and heavy. But, I suppose days like today must exist if only, to be cheesy, to remind us of how glorious the sun is.

The more and more I think about, the more strongly I feel that I was not made for the cold New England weather. With my mother's Latin family and my father's southern Italian heritage in me, I can't help but wonder if there is something in my blood that requires me to be in a warmer climate. Everytime I was in the Dominican Republic, in Mexico, when I was in Jordan the heat never bothered me...much. Even the grueling humidity in the DR I could cope with so much better than blue fingernails and frostbitten toes.

I still haven't heard back from the Samaritan's Purse. But, if I'm accepted, here's hoping they send me someplace warm.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunsets and Miracles

I'm thinking of sunsets on Paine's Creek Beach when the brilliancy of the vista resembles a photoshop enhanced picture. The marsh grass so vividly green it looks unreal. The water so electrifyingly blue it looks like the carribean. And the sun. The sun emanating sultry tones of orange as it rides lower and lower in the sky.

The best place to watch the sun melt into the water is at the end of the jetty, feet dangling in the water when the tide is high. Every boulder that the jetty is comprised of is a friend to me. I know the progression of stones, every slope and texture. I know which ones are smooth on barefeet and where it's easiest to stub a toe.

It's impossible to be worried at this place. It's impossible to think of anything except the miracle occuring before your eyes.

The miracle is this: The ebb and flow of the water. The scurrying of Fiddler Crabs at the shore line. The way the water gently rocks the marsh grass side to side. The white of the egret. The sound of lapping water. The smell of salt and silt. The stars appearing in the East. The crying seagulls floating on invisible atoms of oxygen. The reflection of the splendor of the sun upon the mecurial waves. The way every night the scene is familiar but the sunset is always different.

Yes, I'm thinking of sunsets of Paine's Creek Beach. Too many seen to ever count, but not enough to ever loose my wonder.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Mighty Blue

The ocean equals life. It equals every metaphor one could ever use to describe life and God and surviving in general. I will even be so bold as to say that I challenge anyone to present a situation to me that I cannot use the ocean as a metaphor phor...I mean for. I mean, to be grammatically correct, I challenge anyone to present a situation to me for which I cannot use the ocean as a metaphor. That's better.

In my longing for days of summer and lying on the sun-heated sand listening to the endless pounding of the surf, I have started frequenting beach parking lots and watching the Mighty Blue from the safety of my heated car. Mostly, my car finds itself at Linnell Landing after church on Sundays. Today was no different. The only real difference was that today I did not get out of my car and inhale the fresh, salty wind blowing against my face. I did not get out of my car and offer a dance of rejoicing in my stilettos. Somehow the rolling towers of clouds prevented me from doing anything but stare in wonder and listen to the sound of many waters.

It doesn't matter how many times I see the ocean. If I've seen it a million times, every time feels like the first. The shoreline is constantly broken down and reformed, the water is constantly moving to unseen currents, the sky is constantly reflected in different ways. The ocean is ever changing and yet ever the same. It is always reliable in the sense that it's never reliable. Old Cape stories of fishermen and whalers speak of how the sea would call to the sailor's like the ancient Siren's...would beckon them ever to their watery graves. Oh to have such a fate. It's a feeling that only those blessed enough to experience a relationship with the deep blue of the ocean can share.

Today I was struck with how the water and sky use each other as a looking glass, always reflecting the other. And yet, each is so unique. There are days when I can't tell where the ocean ends and the sky begins. But, today the water was shades darker than the sky, whispers of whitecaps dancing upon the agitated waves. The land mass of the Outer Cape, curving itself along the horizon line, was clothed in shadow and the dune grass in the foreground was bent in the wind.

I was reminded of my deep love for this place. And I don't mean just the physical location of Cape Cod, but rather this place of haunted dreams and where all sorrow and joy seem to meet; where the aspect of the steep dunes crowned with beach grass and the far outstretching of the water collide to form the soothing of the soul.

Perhaps this will be my last summer living in this place I've called home for 24 years. Perhaps the luxury of running to the beach whenever I desire will end with the year. I've always told God that I will follow Him wherever He leads long as it's by the ocean. Now, after all these years, I finally have come to realize that He is my ocean. Deep. Endless. Able to calm the fiercest storm within me. Able to relieve all anxiety in my heart. Always changing, always the same.

Always there.