Tag Archives: God

What I Have Done

“You did WHAT?”

“Why?”

“Why now?”

These are the questions I have been getting, the questions I expected to get. Getting a tattoo was kind of a big move for me, but not a rash one. I have seen some beautiful and meaningful tattoos on people “like me,” forty-something and entrenched in family and career. I had seen a lovely tattoo on the arm of a woman I know from church who is 20+ years my senior. About ten years ago, I thought, “If I ever come up with something I’d be happy about having on my body for the rest of my life, and can figure out where on my body I’d want it…I would absolutely get one.”

Years passed and I couldn’t think of anything I thought I could be happy with permanently. I knew some things I didn’t want: no jokes or cartoons, no butterflies (nothing against butterflies, they just don’t speak to me), no symbols of other cultures or letters from alphabets I don’t use. I didn’t urgently want a tattoo, so I didn’t worry about it: I just let the idea drift in the back of mind. Then one day, I was browsing through Pinterest and saw some tattoos that were quotes from books and my interest was fired. Words were a natural choice for me, a writer, and they could be so beautiful in form and meaning. But, what book? It took a surprisingly long time for me to realize that the Bible was the best source, considering I have been reading from the Bible since I was a child, had taught from it in Sunday school for years, and at that point had been reading it almost daily for nearly a year.

There had been a significant shift in my outlook, my focus, and in my direction in life that started as I began reading from the Bible and doing daily devotions. While I never stopped believing in God, for a long time I believed that I was a mess, hopelessly letting God down, and the best I could hope for was to try to convince everyone else that I was fine and try not to bother, or rely on, God too much. I wasn’t fine. I was panicked and numb, angry and grief stricken. My life was awesome by the standards of many and all I could see was my epic failure to realize my potential, or to connect meaningfully even with the people I loved the most. Not fine at all. My sister (who thought I was doing okay,) suggested I check out Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It was a revelation of reassuring scripture and interpretation that challenged and transformed my faith journey. I have read critics of Jesus Calling who describe the devotions as “New Age-y” and not biblically sound, but my experience was that those messages helped heal some very hurting parts of me. Leaning on scripture and faith that what I was reading was really true, I took some risks in work and relationships. I relaxed my grip on my impossible standards for self. I trusted. I edged toward wholeness.

If the Bible was helping heal me, then what words would I choose from it? At first I thought “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” a fabulous contradiction to the awful story I had been telling myself for a long time. Knowing I was choosing something forever, I played with it. I wrote it on my forearm. The location was good, I could look upon the verse easily, and share openly, but wouldn’t be obvious. I didn’t want my tattoo to be the first thing people noticed about me. I liked “fearfully and wonderfully” a lot, but decided it wasn’t my forever verse. Romans 15:13 is one of my favorites, but it was too long for the location, and I couldn’t come up with a short cut I liked well enough. Same with “For I know the plans I have for you…” “Be still and know that I am,” is awesome and meaningful but didn’t feel right. Then it came, a message that is repeated many times in many ways throughout the Old and New Testaments. “The LORD your God is with you” In these words I know that I am never alone, and that with God’s presence comes power: power to forgive, pray, act, give thanks, rejoice and love, even when I don’t feel like I can or want to. These were the words. And with the words, all at once, came an image of a dark bird perched on the branch of a tree. The living tree symbolizes the living God, and the bird is me, choosing rest and refuge.

Stephanie resizeFinding the studio and artist was almost a comedy of miscommunications and awkward connections, but finally there was a click when my vision met the skills of Stephanie from Electric Dragonland in Hopkins, MN. I had to wait three months to see her rendering of the art, and another month after that to actually get the work done. It took two hours on a November afternoon in 2015. It wasn’t as painful as I had thought it would be, but then I had imagined myself bursting into tears and running out the door a few minutes into the work, too. I love it.

I get a mix of reactions to this thing I have done. Most people are indifferent. A few shake their heads. Many admire the delicacy of the art and wording. I am delighted that I really don’t care what others think, good or bad. It feels like something I have always had, under the surface, now revealed. It has given me an opportunity to share my faith. It has reminded me to calm down, when my thinking has shifted into bad old rutted tracks.

I got a tattoo.

It is a reminder to me and a message to others.

I got it now because I have come through some trials and can claim the enduring truth that God is with me. And also with you.

tattoo edited

~Peace~

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Still

I don’t believe God lives in the clouds. I have, however, come to think that there is a hatch in my soul that is shut most of the time and the key to cracking it open is the sky. Strata of color at dawn, clouds ablaze with the light of a descending sun, sister moon rising majestically, fat rainclouds bumping shoulders and gaping just enough for glimpses of the richness and bright up above, falling stars and the bottomless black night with remote suns and galaxies and neighbor planets blazing: all of it can stop me dead in my tracks. When I am captured by the sky, I stop and see. I don’t just look, I see. For a pause, I am in the moment, and in that moment I meet God. In that moment, I am sane and all the screwed up ideas and guilt and pressure roosting in my brain fall away and there we are, God and I, admiring the sky and being.

Be Still and Know That I Am.

This Blogger’s Prayer

Oh my God, oh my God, please. Please let someone read it who gets it. Please let someone read what I wrote and say, “Wow, that is so [cool, right, inspiring, funny, ANYTHING.] Please let me not be just another asshat who is obsessed with being noticed, even though that is what it feels like I am. Please help me understand what it is I am doing or what it is I am supposed to be doing. Why do I keep feeling like putting words on a page? I mean, I am glad my mom and a couple of my long-suffering friends take the time to check in, but does this whole writing endeavor make sense? All this effort and angst for what? There is so much crap out there, God, have you SEEN all the crap out there? I don’t want to be putting out crap. I know I shouldn’t care about being liked, God, but then why did you build me so I care so MUCH about whether people like what I do or write? That is freakin’ mean, God. Harsh. To make me so insecure and so exhibitionistic at the same time, and then to wrap me up in the culture that says “If you can dream it you can achieve it,” but then make me so cynical that I know that is idiotic. Is this is a joke? Am I amusing you? I didn’t take you for snarky, Lord, but I am feeling like the dork stumbling past the cool kid’s table, and you are snorting milk out of your nose. OK, that’s not true. You wouldn’t laugh at me. But you are keeping some secrets and it sucks. I hate not understanding the direction or the point of this.

And that, right there, is the point. Understanding is my anchor; research and analysis is how I control my world. You want to be my anchor and want me to know that control is an illusion. Dude. I don’t have to like it, but I see your point. As always, God, oh my God, 1) help me, and 2) thanks.

A Housewife’s Theology

The problem with religion is the same problem that exists with any system (like politics) in which ideology motivates human behavior. The problem is us. Divine spark notwithstanding, humanity is a mess of conflicting values, needs, and desires.

Do you need to feel you belong, that you are part of a community? Do you seek to transcend the daily grind of economic and social survival? Do you need to find hope that the future of the world is better than the brutal violence, spite and indifference to suffering we today? Do you personally need to find comfort,strength and meaning in light of your own difficulties? Do you want forgiveness, a clean slate, a new beginning? Organized religion has a lot to offer you along these lines. Do you need to feel better than somebody else? Do you need to feel important? Do you want to belong to a club where you can get closer to people’s money and children? Do you want scriptural justification for hating a particular group of people, even though the number one and two commandments are Love God and Love others, no exceptions? Unfortunately, you can also find those kinds of opportunities in religion as well.

I think the purpose of religion is to provide a structure to help people grow closer to God. Some would say that is unnecessary, that the problems of organized religion outweigh its value and anyone who wants to seek God can do it on the golf course, the hiking trail or in their own home. I reply that you can grow closer to God through private meditation and study, but ultimately seeking God by yourself is looking for God in the mirror,  and that will only take you so far. Faith communities give people a chance to share their various experiences and beliefs, for even within a single community there are as many underlying ideologies as there are people. Everyone experiences and understands God in their own way, and in a living faith understanding grows and changes over time (note I didn’t say God changes.) As messy as we are, with our conflicting values, needs and desires, we can help each other grow and support each other through difficulties. Together, when humanly possible.