I usually like to post only when I have something of some substance... a story, a quote, a recipe, some train of thought, new music, a book recommendation...
But this week... well, it's been a full week. Not complaining, but it's Friday night and I'm bushed. I wish I was good at taking photos -- I'm not talking about wishing I had the ability of creating and framing picturesque shots. No doubt that would be really nice. I'm simply talking about remembering to do so. It's just not on my radar. But I do have some mental photos I could share...
1. Serving at Rescue Mission with students from Providence Hall on Monday. I have taken students to serve at the Rescue Mission for at least eleven years. Sadly, I have to say that I never run to my car as I head off and think to myself, "Oh goody, I get to go to the Rescue Mission tonight." It always starts as a decision rather than a desire. But as I walk up to the entrance, I know it's the right place to be. This time I had several nice conversations with the clients there, and cherished watching high school students muddle through those awkward attempts to engage, and sometimes succeeding.
This week, the mental photo that is still with me is when I sat with a gentleman during the chapel service who wept throughout most of it. He was talking to himself much of the time, and I couldn't understand what he was saying. But once in a while, a song would be announced, and he would say a line or two from it before we started singing. Or a scripture would be announced: "Stephanie is going to read Psalm 23..." and he would whisper, "The Lord is my shepherd..." He wiped his eyes, mumbled, sniffled and smiled. At the end of each song, he would clap first and loudest. Oh Jesus, you love him so much. Please take care of him. I don't even remember his name. But you do.
2. Teaching at Providence Hall on Wednesday morning. We have spent the last 3 weeks in C.S. Lewis' classic Mere Christianity. This week we landed on the chapter titled Sexual Morality. I did not want to tell the students that we were going to talk about sex this week. Why would I do that? I went to CVS and bought 8 tubes of Super Glue, and handed them out to the faculty before class. I then opened class with the announcement that we would have a "bonding experience," and asked them to find a buddy. Then I asked each teacher to fan out among the group and put a sizable drop of Super Glue on the finger tip of one member of each pair. Then I asked the pairs to hold those Super Glued digits for 30 seconds. Naturally, the bond was strong. I waited for the nervous giggling to subside, then said, plain and simple, "Sex is like Super Glue."
They all yelped in surprise and perhaps a little dismay... "Not another awkward sex talk..." I'm sure they thought. But Lewis has such solid, breathtaking things to say in this chapter. Take just a few minutes and peruse it. Here's my favorite sentence:
The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater.Marvelous stuff. The class recovered and we had a fantastic, surprisingly mature half hour conversation together. After class, one of the teachers who missed the discussion asked the students what we talked about. He was a little surprised to hear we talked about sex, and a student chimed, "It was great. She treated us like adults." I really like high school students.
3. A warm and wonderful breakfast on Thursday morning. Mundane, to be sure. I opened my refrigerator earlier in the week and saw far too many tupperware containers. I had no business going to the store when I had plenty of tidbits -- but none of them were substantial enough for a meal, and didn't look too exciting either. But I trying to pursue a spiritual discipline I call simply "manna," where I seek to rejoice in what God has given and receive it as a gift, rather than wish for something else.
Thus on Thursday morning I saw polenta, some chard, some leftover pesto, an opened can of diced tomatoes, and some green garlic from Fairview Gardens. I sauteed all of those ingredients in two teaspoons of olive oil, cracked two eggs over it, and had the best darn scrambled eggs I could have imagined. I was delighted and full.
4. Bible study in Mark 5:21-43. I currently meet with several folks from my church who are a little newer to the faith. They have asked me to teach them how to read the Bible and how to pray. We studied a passage this week that I have honestly read through I can't tell you how many times. Yet sitting with these friends, the passage was once again a wonder to me. It was lovely to see how Jesus met both Jairus, a respected leader with a dying child, and a woman with twelve years of unpleasant suffering, and gave generous and gentle attention to each of them. He brought the esteemed leader down low in earnest prayer, and raised up the degraded woman and healed her not only physically but also emotionally and socially. I am so thankful for the eyes, ears, and hearts of these newer friends who are reminding me that the gospel really is good news.
5. Consulting with a youth pastor in So Cal. I meet twice a month via Skype with a youth pastor down south. He is hardworking and faithful and to date hasn't received much training. So his church hired me to support and equip him. We are having a good time. I had an agenda of things to cover today, but as we started, I could tell he had plenty swirling in his head. So I let go of my agenda, and listened. Our conversation went all over the place. And it was great. We shared much about how to truly care for the people we work with, and identify their talents and calling. I was blessed to listen and be supportive.
It reminded me of something I read yesterday:
Listening in the spiritual life is much more than a psychological strategy to help others discover themselves. In the spiritual life the listener is not the ego, which would like to speak but is trained to restrain itself, but the Spirit of God within us. When we are baptised in the Spirit - that is, when we have received the Spirit of Jesus as the breath of God breathing within us - that Spirit creates in us a sacred space where the other can be received and listened to. The Spirit of Jesus prays in us and listens in us to all who come to us with their sufferings and pains.I want to be attentive, and not miss the small gifts that are all around me. I realize that sentence sounds like a poster in a dorm room. But in the midst of a full life with plenty of things gonging and clanging around me, I can still be aware and see what is truly substantial and real. As I call on the Spirit each morning He answers. But He also continues to call for my attention throughout the day. I want to hear Him.
When we dare to fully trust in the power of God's Spirit listening in us, we will see true healing occur.
Stop. Look. Listen. You will not be disappointed.