Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Repeat as Needed

St. Francis
Rye, New York
October 2010

Isaiah 41:10 NIV
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Suck in a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Repeat... Repeat... Repeat...

The panic attacks and hyperventilation aren't as pronounced now as they were six months ago. But I have headaches. Knife-stabbing, brain-squishing throbs in my frontal lobe. I assume this is a side-effect of stress.

I chatted over lunch today with a friend. We sat in a booth at a Japanese restaurant eating rice and beef when one of my former students walked through the door. I love this boy. He is successful and sweet. He hurried over to see me.

"How is Russell doing?" he asked after we had caught up on his life, and I felt my brain pulsate.

Oh, God. He doesn't know! They were friends on my debate team. He and Russell shared many high school moments together. The news is not easy for me to tell.

I arranged what I hoped was a calm expression and explained Russell passed away in January.

He gave his condolences; my mind locked. I smiled, thanked him, and attempted to configure a brave face.

Now, safe at home, my brain constricts.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Slowly now. Lord, let me have a moment where Russell doesn't dominate my thoughts!

Suck in a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Repeat... repeat... re..peat....
Lord, hold me up as I go out into the world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where Do You Toe the Line?

I Stop for Red Lights!

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

Tevya, the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, had just discovered his eldest daughter selected her own husband after he had already arranged for her to marry the village butcher. Modern ways didn't make much sense outside of his traditional view of life, his place in it, and God's expectations for him in his assigned role, yet when he realized how much she loved him, he allowed the engagement.

Then the second daughter approached her father with the idea of marriage, but she was not asking his permission; she only looked for his blessings to marry a man who would take her far from the home she loved. Again, the milkman struggled with this concept, wondering how the world could continue without requiring the father's permission for marriage. Yet when he saw how much they loved each other, he relented and gave both his permission and blessings.

Finally, the third daughter knelt before him, begging him to accept the man she had selected and loved: a man outside his faith and an enemy to their village.  Although this soldier was not like the others and didn't embrace hatred and racism, the request to marry a man outside their faith was too much for Tevya, so he denounced his daughter. She became dead to him when she left home with her love.

Fiddler on the Roof challenges me to decide where I toe the line on my morality as modern life evolves. Do I embrace popular culture and the chipping away of my value system that it encourages, or do I hold on tight to Biblical teachings that have guided me since childhood?

Tevya bent over as far as he could in a changing world. He allowed his daughters to select a spouse of their own, even without his permission. However, when challenged on the basic tenets of his faith, he turned his back on the one begging him to renounce those beliefs.

Tevya's struggle of where to toe the line represents the challenge we all face as we decide where to draw the line when tested to stray off the path God has laid out before us.
Lord, Give me wisdom to discern right from wrong in this ever-changing world.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lori, are you Listening?

Sunset and Clouds over California Coast
June 2012

Job 37:15-17 (The Message Bible)
"Job, are you listening? Have you noticed all this? Stop in your tracks! Take in God's miracle-wonders! Do you have any idea how God does it all, how he makes bright lightning from dark storms, How he piles up the cumulus clouds— all these miracle-wonders of a perfect Mind?"

Summer heat simmered as the sun lowered in the west tonight. Allie and her friend were at a teen meeting for church, and I was on mommy-duty to pick them up.

As I maneuvered through traffic, I noticed eggplant-colored thunderheads clustering in the west.

Rain! Oh, Lord,  please let it rain!

It's not good for me to be alone, even for a twenty-minute drive, because then I have too much time to think. Thinking can lead to bad places, so it was inevitable my mood soon matched the color of the clouds closing in around me.

I shrieked to empty my soul of pain, and then laughed at my foolishness.

Well, that didn't help! 

I slipped deeper into depression just as I caught a spectacular event out of the corner of my eye. I turned west to witness a brillant silver lining streaming around purple storm clouds.

Sure, God--I know--"Look for the Silver Lining!" Big deal. I don't have one right now! 

Any other time, I would have been impressed by the sheer magnitude of the powerful display, but not now. I was too buried under my thoughts.

Finally I reached my exit. As I eased off the highway, I noticed a formation of clouds separate from the others. Huddled in the midst of purple clouds was a small circle of white.  It looked like a hole.

Yea, Lord--You got it! I have a hole in my heart, and it looks like You have a hole in Your clouds.


Is it really 


In the western sky, a perfectly formed purple Valentine leaned slightly on its left side. On the right side of the heart was the white circle of clouds.

I had to turn east to get the girls, so the formation moved behind me. I wanted to watch it more closely, but there was nowhere to stop. I finally turned north, where the formation was on my left behind a tree line. I waited impatiently for a break in the trees and got my chance when I stopped at railroad tracks.

White clouds had vanished. In their place, white sunlight streamed through a circular break in the purple, filling the entire sky with blinding light.

The sun seemed poised to leap through the center of the heart.

Ok, Lord, I get it! I have to fill up the hole in my heart with Your light.

I saw the heart one last time as I drove home with the girls. This time, it was smaller, thinner, leaner and broken through the center.

Yes, God. You know I have a broken heart! It's true-- half my heart is missing.

If I had any doubts God was talking to me tonight, they soon evaporated because I watched in utter amazement as the top left half of the broken heart drifted away to form a lower case letter of the alphabet.

In perfect italics, the purple letter was bold against the azure sky.


r   for Russell.
Lord, thank you for meeting me at my level tonight and speaking to my broken heart.  You have reminded me what I need to do to mend it.