Saturday, June 30, 2012

the unraveling

Have you ever had a shirt of jacket that starts to unravel at a seam? And when this happens it can't happen to the article of clothing that you'd just throw away, no its usually the piece of clothing that you most like to wear that starts to unravel - causing a set of events to begin that may never end. I may be different than most people but when this happens to me, I immediately go to find the one thing that will fix it....needle and thread..and start reattaching the seams, ugly as it may be in the end, they are together and work, well for a while. Doesn't it always 'seem' that sometime in the future, that unraveling seam begins to separate again? Farther up the seam there is a hint of thread that, in an attempt to quickly remove, it starts another process of separation, requiring yet another set of mendings, and the process goes on and on. An still every time an unraveling is found, I run to my needle and thread and try to save that piece of cloth. Why? I have no idea but at the time it 'seems' like a good idea, until the end result is not so pretty, not so even, and I have to throw the clothing away in defeat.
An unraveling is taking place in a not so far off life of mine. An unraveling of friends who have been together for over 12 years. An unraveling that began almost 6 years ago and shortly after the attempted mending process started. The two seams began their process, one unraveling and one mending, one holding at first then pulling away as time went on, the other sewing faster with the ebbing of days. Then, as it always happens, the thread that is loosened and pulling apart starts to unravel faster and faster along the seam, racing to the end of its tattered thread; all the while the mending is working harder and harder to put the two seams together, trying to miss fingers with pointed ends, attempting to appease the tattered thread with new hope, and to no avail, the unraveling races on.
I have known for a while that this unraveling was taking place but like all who see a seam pull apart, I tried to offer mending to hold the 2 pieces together, trying to help the mender as much as possible, until the seam became to difficult to work, and I left the friendship. This week another friend has felt the peace of leaving the mending game, taking peace of mind to trust God in the decision, she too is leaving the process, and I wonder and fear what will happen to the mender? How will this affect the mending effort? I wondered so much about this that when I was told about my other friend leaving the relationship, I felt worried for the mender, concerned, and I didn't know what, if anything, I could do. That's when I heard the word unraveling, in my head, and I believe it came from God, without doubt, it did. It spoke directly to the long time friendship that has been falling apart and I wondered where it would lead me...and this is what I found. Rev 18:14 "Everything you've lived for gone! All delicate and delectable luxury, lost! Not a scrap, not a thread to be found."  You may think at first that this has nothing to do with the friendship I refer to but you'd be wrong. You may think that verse has nothing to do with you or any part of your life, and I think you'd be wrong. The things I cherish most, the things that I may not consider luxury or delicate, the things in this world that I hold, every thread of my being......that is what He is saying. Well that's not exactly what I wanted to hear this morning! trusting as He is, He gave me another verse. James 2:26 "The very moment you separate spirit and body, you end up a corpse....." Well, gee thanks! That's exactly what I thought when I read this the first time but it held the words that I was most drawn too.  Why? The unraveling of a friendship, long together and lately being held with a thin thread, was not only resonant of the true friendship I am referring too. That same unraveling took place in my life, and like every other time, I ran to find a way to start the mending. In the end, something I realized just yesterday, that unraveling has been a separation of my body and spirit; oh, no not in the way of 'I'm dying' separation, but in a very real way nonetheless. I have tried in every way to mend the in my own way the separation of my body and spirit, struggling to be a little closer in my relationship with God, to no avail. Just like my friends, I have been trying to mend the seam, and I have realized that is not something I can mend. The unraveling moves faster the harder I struggle and I can not catch up to the pulling thread. The unraveling that I'm trying to mend has been a fight fought alone; one in my spirit and mind, between my body and soul, and I realized yesterday that I have lost that fight.....and that's ok.
See, just like my friends, when their unraveling began a fight ensued, an unseen fight, that has continued over 6 years; 6 years of neither of the 2 friends talking about the unthreading seam. One fights one way, the other fights another way, both in opposite directions, one always struggling to mend the seam, the other running faster and farther away. That is not unlike my life (and probably not unlike your life). The fact is that no one can mend the seam that is unraveling between my friends, just like I can not mend the seam that unraveled to the place I am this morning. It is suppose to be that way, it is without doubt the thing that is suppose to happen, I am not suppose to win the unraveling race. The Mender, the only One who can put the seams together cleanly and completely is asking me to step aside, something that does not come easy for me to do! But when I look at my friends caught up in the unraveling they are in, I see that on the outside they are fine, the seam 'seems' to be holding, but on the inside the separation has taken place and only a corpse remains, every thread is quickly disappearing, and the fight is coming to an end. That is what I look like, fine on the outside but inside I was slowly becoming a corpse to life. I know now that the seam in my life, the one between body and spirit, mind and soul, can be mended but not of my own needle and thread but that of God's needle and thread. He is my Mender, He is the Mender who can put my seams together without a fight and I just realized that last night. When will my friends realize that? I don't know, maybe sooner rather than later, maybe not in time, maybe never. When will you realize that? I don't know, I can only hope that, unlike me, you can see that the Mender is waiting to put the seams together, without your own effort, without your own fight, He can mend.
The very moment you separate spirit and body, you are a corpse. (James 2:26) Everything you've lived for, gone! Not a scrap not a thread to be found. (Rev 18:14) [but] there is a time to rip out and a time to mend. (Ecc 3:7)... let this be a time to mend.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back in the Saddle...

Have you ever given something up? Something that you love but then turn to hate? Something that no matter how much you seem to love it, it has become a job, another thing to do on your schedule? And you sit and wonder, what happened to the love I had, where did it go? Four years ago I had that happen. I love horses, I always have, or at least for as long as I can remember I have loved them. Then one day, I came home from work, started dinner, and got ready to go riding with my endurance friends, and it hit me, I hated riding, I hated everything about it! I sat in my room, looking out the window at the  trailer pulling in and cried because I just did not want to go out there. I didn't want to ride any horse let alone see one..the love that I once had, died and was replaced with a hatred that I couldn't even bear. My horses had become a source of irritation, anger, and just another job. This had never before happened - I would have to say if you told me to give something up, at one time I would have given everything up by my horse; well until that day.  It took over 18 months before I started really riding again, I mean riding for the joy of it and enjoying it. And over the past couple of years it had to be a job for a little while, making me do something that I was reluctant to do but forcing myself into the world of riding once more has finally changed the hatred that I developed, changed my heart and I am once again .... back in the saddle.
I am riding very frequently again, training for an endurance ride, a set goal that I have to complete a 50 mile ride at the end of August. As every athlete knows, in order to perform at any event, you have to train, prepare you body and mind, and make every effort to make yourself ready. This is what I do with my horses. I help them prepare their body for an event, riding on a frequent time schedule, for a set amount of distance, building their endurance level and muscles in their body to sustain them and me through a given mileage.  And as most athletes know, the muscles take time to build, strengthen, and condition to their maximum level, and all the while, through this training process, the ultimate goal is to build and strengthen the one muscle that controls everything....the heart; the last of the muscles to be fully conditioned, the last muscle to reach the peak level of strength.

The heart is actually a very ugly muscle ( I think you'd agree looking at this picture), organ if you'd prefer, but in its essence the heart is a muscle, it probably works harder at more things than we give it credit. Not only is it required to pump blood through our body, it exchanges bad blood for good blood, and increases its rhythm when needed, providing sustaining life when we are most in need.  The heart holds all of our emotions, love, kindness, hatred, anger, hope, desire, and longings, all of our emotions are wrapped up in our heart. Although it is known that emotions come from our brain, we are reluctant to believe that, if you were to ask someone hurting why they are so sad they would reply 'their heart is broken'. The heart takes a toll in every essence of our life, in every dynamic part of our life, we ask our heart to do .... well, everything.
This weekend I heard a verse that I'm sure I've heard a thousand times before, but it meant something new to me, it rang clearer than it ever has before, I can only equate that it is because I have refound my love for horses and it struck my heart strings. Ezekiel 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." I have had many occasions where I wanted a new heart, a refreshed and healed heart. I'm sure you have too. Over my life, I found that, even when I didn't believe in God, He did find a way to give me a new heart, usually when I wasn't looking. He gave me a love for an animal that gave me a renewed spirit when I was a teenager, He gave me my husband who renewed my heart for love when I was most hardened to it, and He gave me friends that I know look at and know for a fact they are nothing but from Him.  Know, at a time when I have a hardened heart toward Him, He is asking me to find a renewed love, to strengthen my heart, condition it, build it up, and find my place with Him once again. This is by far no easy task! Just like an athlete training for an event, this task is not an easy one to accomplish and maybe that is why Ezekiel's passage has a new meaning to me.
I have, in all essence, received a new heart, it happened over 4 years ago. Friends told me over and over they could tell a change in me, although it was not something I saw (I guess just part of the training process). And this little heart has had some events that it has passed through that has torn it, broken it, strangled the life out of it at times, hardened it toward God, hardened it toward life, and yet...through all of that it still beats on.  "I will give you a new heart" what does that mean to me today? It means that while I am training, working hard with my horses to prepare for an intense and long distance ride, preparing their bodies and mine  for an event that will put pressure on them, I am also training my heart and spirit.  Pressuring my heart to spend time, much needed time, with God when my mind and body refuse. Training my spirit to seek Him, when I should be spending time feeding, cleaning, doing laundry. Training to be closer to Him.

"I will give you a new heart...I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." I wish my heart was not so troubled, I know that this is part of my training schedule, fighting through the walls that I have put up, struggling to find a crack; but it would be easier if it were not so thick a wall.  I know how hard it is to push to the end, I know how I feel when riding and we near the end of a training ride and how my horse starts to slow when the trailer is in sight. I know how I ask for her to go a little farther each ride out and use a little more strength, to complete to the end where we stop. And she does, with perked ear and soft eyes, she makes her body and heart push ever on....finishing what I asked her to do.  I hope with all my heart that I can be as strong as my horses are; that I too can complete, push on to where I am asked, to not stop with faint heart and tired body, but to make it to the stopping point with a fresh heart, and joy in my spirit. "I will give you a new heart ..." all I have to do is accept it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

You Are Here

These are the signs that I remember reading at every place we went as I grew up traveling across the western part of the country. At every rest area, I'd go see where we were and how far we had to go; although  my mother did teach me how to read a map, it was always something to see that sign "you are here" with an arrow pointing directly at the spot on the map. This map is from a park, one that I probably haven't been to but a map nonetheless that I have been drawn to at every state park we visit. For what ever reason, I am drawn to know exactly where I am ... I have no explanation for it, no real reason for it but I am drawn to the maps (yes, even those in the mall - go figure). I don't know if there's are real reason except that I may have a slight mental problem with location....and since that's the only answer I can come up with, I think I'll stick with that reasoning. Oh you can deny it, I'll let you, but in actually every one of us have it ingrained in our psyche to find out where we are - especially if we took a little nap while we were getting to wherever we were going. The ingrained desire to have a respective idea of where we are is something that we grow up with and carry into our adult life. I have found that I am always wanting to know where "you" are - whether its knowing where my girls are, what my husband is doing or where my closest friends are...I want to know, and I believe on some level so do you.

I don't know for sure where you are right now, my immediate guess is sitting on your couch waiting for coffee to finish, scanning the computer and maybe even Facebook I close? The sad thing is that I don't know where I am , I've tried to figure that out for the past couple of months and all in all am at a loss for finding the answer - or the indicative arrow pointing to that place on a map stating exactly where I am. I have found myself in this place before but with a little effort I have been able to locate a map or a sign to show me where I am and what way I need to go...lately, tho, I am finding that I am simply wandering around and probably going in circles. There are things going on in this over complicated life that I am avoiding and simply moving around to make it through the has been happening now for about 3 months but last night I realized where I was. My best friend said in a conversation "It makes you wonder why things like this happen to good people." Almost as soon as she said it, I saw my sign "you are here" with a flashing arrow pointing to right where I was standing. In all the months that I've tried to figure out what in the world I'm doing, it took a sentence to make that sign appear...and it took 10 hours for me to see the flashing arrow but I finally know where I am....Psalms 38:17 "I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me." The statement my friend made was about the loss of a husband suffered by a friend of hers, but I think it was more than just that, I believe it was a statement of the place we have been for a while, walking in circles trying to figure out why we suffer things that are bad, when there seems to be no reason. "I am about to fall..." Literally, the fall happened over 2 yrs ago, that's when the questioning began and when the fall started. I started questioning the reason that "we" suffered something so unbelievable after moving out of a life without Christ and into a life with Christ. There are no answers, trust me I've looked.. But I did find a direction, probably not the direction that I wanted but I found it nonetheless....1Peter 2:19 "For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God." No, this is not the direction or arrow that I wanted, it is far from a answer to the life that I am now standing in, but it is nonetheless, an answer. I am in a fall, and no matter how much I try to avoid the pain that I (and those around me) have suffered, it is..forever with me. There is no running from it, no hiding from it and by far no way to get that arrow showing me where I am; I am aware of God through this unjust suffering, even tho I am stuck with trying to find a direction, and through questioning, I am aware of God's presence how ever far off it is, I am aware.