Friday, March 29, 2013

Failing Lent

Good Friday, 2013

Maybe it's the tone of the day.  
Maybe it's the mood I'm in.

But I find myself wondering:

Is it possible to fail Lent?  

I'm thinking so.

Create in me a clean heart, O God 
and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

Weren't those the words we prayed and sang on Ash Wednesday, some 40 days ago? 

What happens when you get to the end of your Lenten journey and you figure out that maybe your heart isn't any cleaner than it was in mid-February, or that perhaps your spirit is anything but right?  What are you supposed to do with that?

"Do not let your hearts be troubled..." reads the verse of the day.  It's Good Friday.  I would be MORE concerned if my heart WASN'T troubled.  Am I troubled about the Resurrection?  No.  Firmly no.  Crucifixion?  Absolutely troubled, but Resurrection, I believe.  Yes, the historical account of today's atrocities troubles me terribly, but this Lenten fail thing is running deeper than that.

I seem to be learning all too well lately what verse 14 of Psalm 139 really means: "I praise you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made..."  Fearfully?  If we are talking about some kind of awe, I can get behind that.  But fearfully?  When your body doesn't do what you expect it to do, that's fearfully.  When you look in the mirror, and no longer see the face you're used to, that's fearfully.  When things can change at the drop of a hat, that's fearfully. 

Where's that right spirit, now? 

And while we're on the subject of Psalms, I'm having a really hard time reconciling pieces of Psalm 30 right now, too.   

People always seem to fast-forward to the end of verse 5, "Weeping / mourning can remain through the night, But joy/dancing comes in the morning."  Everyone seems to assume one will naturally follow the other, as chronologically listed:  night, then day.  As if only hours will pass between the depth of the night and the joy of the day.  Good luck with that when that doesn't work or you begin to realize that night and day can be stretched into weeks.  And then months.  And even then, that ever-elusive joy seems just out of reach.  People are fast-forwarding, and I'm trying to hit PAUSE.

Create in me a clean heart, O God 
and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

Perhaps it's my own fault for putting creation on a deadline.  CREATE in me a clean heart, it reads.  It doesn't thank God for already creating, as though it was something that's happened.  CREATE is still in the active tense -  an expectation, a prayer.  Well, believe you me, I've been praying.  For me, for others, for a whole mess of people. 

 Now, I know better than to ignore the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life.  When it speaks, I take stock.  Big time.  And usually, this voice comes through song.  (I know, big surprise.)  But, sometimes, I feel like a fraud - a big, church lady fraud. 

Case in point:  6am Easter Service - one of my favorite holy times of the year.  When we literally move from darkness to light (seems I'm the one who is fast-forwarding now) - the candle is lit, the people gather, the proclamation is made:  He is Risen!  That's a crazy concept for any culture, yet one I believe in. 

So, I start thinking about how I can sing a song about the Lenten journey through to the Cross.  I find a hymn tunes that works - it has the perfect juxtaposition between haunting/minor and soaring/major.  Tune in hand, I pour over the texts from Ash Wednesday bulletins.  The prose comes easily and speaks to the journey of Lent:
(minor)  Out of the ashes, from depth and darkness
Inside the tomb of our broken souls,
We seek your mercy, for our transgressions
Your love alone lets our hearts be whole.
(major)  Out of the shadows, turning to you
With spirits renewed and hearts made clean,
There, in your presence, with your Holy Spirit,
Filled with the grace of One redeemed.
But now, sitting here today on Good Friday, I can't seem to sing that second stanza.  I believe in the words - they were the ones whispered to my heart when writing them down, but I can't for the life of me sit down at the piano and sing them without feeling a sense of falsehood.  They are the 'right' things to say, but like I said, what if you're just not in that place?   

So...what do I do Easter morning when I take my seat at the bench? 

Create in me a clean heart, O God 
and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

Maybe, once again, I'm going off of my own, failed human standards.  Thinking too much in the simple, human box of things.  I get that it's bigger than me and that's where the whiplash from church lady legit to church lady fraud kicks in.  I know the church folks would say doubt is normal in one's faith life.  Well, that's all well and good.  The thing is, I'm not doubting God, I'm doubting me.

The Resurrection verses came just fine, and I'm excited to sing them - they actually grew, believe it or not, from the funeral bulletins of loved ones lost this past year.  Service after service of Resurrection garnered more than one tidbit of hope:
(minor)  Wounded and burdened, lost and forsaken,
Tangled within the snares of sin,
Lord, hear our prayers, your flock needs your guidance,
Lead us to comfort and peace within.

(major)  Shepherd of Life, calls out to His sheep
He knows them by name, His voice goes ahead
Keeping our goings and our comings in,
Fear not! He is risen from the dead!

(major)  Jesus, our light, reflect in us your love,
Give hope to our hearts, new life with each breath.
Enter to glory, reign with God on high,
Give honor and blessings:  Alleluia!
Maybe this is the point in the journey where I recognize that even though everyone's brought out the Easter decorations (what's WITH those creepy bunnies), that in fact "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." cannot be tied to a calendar.  That, while we focus on this verse and meditate on its personal meaning in our own lives during Lent, it's an ongoing prayer.  One that I'll be praying tonight.  And tomorrow.  And yes, even ON Easter.  

Maybe I acknowledge that my measure of right spirit may not be God's measure of right spirit, and simply trust I'll receive just the right amount of right I need.  Like when I'm on that piano bench in 2 days.  Or 2 days after that.

So, of course in the grand scheme of things, I know I didn't FAIL Lent.  If anything, I'm probably doing exactly what I'm 'supposed' to be doing by examining my heart, by pushing my spirit.  But I think I just needed to say out loud that those things are MUCH more easily said than done, which I'm guessing is at the core of each Christian's experience.  

And at least I know Easter won't fail me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lessons Learned: December 2012 Edition

December was a rather educational month.

Take a look at all the Lessons I Learned....

Lesson Learned:  Sometimes the sky actually says HI!

LL:  What seems like a pretty pumpkin to me 
is actually LUNCH for neighborhood squirrels.

  LL:  Brenda Lynn is an IDIOT when it comes to sleeping medication.

Secondary Lesson Learned:  Keep all shaving equipment out of reach from those who sleep walk (and apparently Sleep Eyebrow Shave). 

Can't make this stuff up, folks.

LL:  You cannot properly winterize one's motorcycle
without following ALL 15 steps. 
(Sorry, Dad - Brad and I had to post this one!)

LL:  An Advent Wreath can come in all shapes and sizes...

....and still serve in meaning and importance.

 LL:  Sarah takes some pretty awesome photos in the early morning hours...

 ...and has a great eye for color!

 LL:  People who still send out Christmas cards with their 
updated family story and happy photos seriously make my DAY!

 LL:  Fireplaces are wonderful creations (as long as the aforementioned sleepwalker remembers not touch the metal parts once the fire has been lit.)

 LL:  Transport children to a medieval setting...

 ...and they will CHARGE forward into creating props!

 LL:  Caring (and creative) parents make all the difference!
Not to mention the cookies.

 LL:  Money Man is still alive and well!
Although missing his legs.
 LL:  Art teacher colleagues with artistic vision are invaluable...

 ...and help allow simple shapes take on a character of their own...

 ...and design amazing shields for Dashing Knights.

LL:  Hanging a black curtain in the middle of one's classroom for a cheap backdrop might SEEM like a brilliant idea (and actually work out quite nicely), but asking children to 'stay off' or 'not to touch' is simply ridiculous.  Oh, and hanging said black curtain by one's self is yet another NON-brilliant idea, as it's a long way down when standing on top of the piano

 Lesson Learned:  Singing with 150+ elementary school children on the evening of a national tragedy will move and break your heart beyond what you could ever imagine possible.  God bless each and every person that gathered together that evening to celebrate the song within us all.

 LL:  Ask kids to volunteer for parts in a mini-musical, and they will far surpass any expectations you could have set.  A-MAZ-ING what little people have in them.

LL:  Apparently, I can ROAR.  

 LL:  Not only can I ROAR, but I must have fishing abilities, too.
  "It was THIS big..."

LL:  Getting 10 people to all smile on cue is challenging.

LL:  Finding friends to cheer and support you in the middle 
of a crazy-busy Christmas season is HEART-WARMING!

LL:  Cheerful administrators who stay until after 7pm 
on an emotional Friday evening are the BEST!

LL:  Spronk should know better than 
to sit by the giant, golden buttocks.  Enough said.

 LL:  People are HUNGRY after a concert!

LL:  Having your church website HACKED by stupid, pharmaceutical
 companies in Canada STINKS and re-building a website is P.A.I.N.F.U.L!

LL:  People really did have hair like this in our church Bible Study Videos. 
And asking any one of us to behave and be quiet when
this kind of stuff pops up on the screen is JUST as absurd

LL:  Peter Mayer still rocks.  

 LL:  Spending time with piano man Chris Walters
(Barbara Mandrell,  Alabama) was humbling and inspiring! 
I didn't even know half of those chords existed!

LL:  I miss performing and need to pay attention to that vibe.

 LL:  Turn your back on Shane for ONE moment, and he'll find a way to make you laugh (even hours later when you've found his message on EVERY white board in your classroom).

 LL:  The little bean  (2nd from right) is old enough 
to come sing Christmas songs in my classroom!

 LL:  Only preschoolers can work the Pajamas and Boots look.  
Trust me.

LL:  Sometimes the Holy Spirit comes flying into your living room...

....and reminds you that there is JOY in every day.

LL:  Trying to visually explain the Nativity to a 3 year old
may result in an apparently still-pregnant-with-triplets Mary 
and two-headed AngelsRegardless, we love you, Baby Jesus!

 LL:  We can sort out the details as she gets older.  

 LL:  JOY is infectious, as seen here...

 ...and here.

 Definitely here...

 and here.

 LL:  Interrupting a 3 year old when she's reading The Christmas Story will result in her TOTAL frustration, having to start the story once again back at the beginning with the Angel Gabriel, and an additional 10 minutes in one's car seat. 

Lesson Learned:  
Sometimes the light of Christmas just needs to linger.