Balm in Gilead

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“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.”

For quite awhile now, I have felt like there has been an empty space in my heart needing to be filled. Something has been missing, leaving a dull ache that I just haven’t been able to get rid of. I have been searching for the balm that would make my heart whole again. I was looking in all of the wrong places, it seems.

Last week I watched the movie (for about the tenth time!), “The Spitfire Grill” where the song “Balm in Gilead” is the underlying theme. The empty place in my heart was touched by this movie, and the aching became more acute. I didn’t have a cure for it, and didn’t know what I needed to do to soothe this tear in my heart in order for it to heal. I prayed to God to send someone my way to fill this void, to teach me how to love again, and to open my heart to trust once again.

Then I came to the beach with the three women in my life who have been sharing this week every year with me for the past four years, the women who make me laugh, who cry with me, who challenge my beliefs, and who stretch my mind in oh! so many directions.

And I walked on the beach. And sat in the sand. And splashed my feet along the edge of the water. And let God speak to me. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for. As it is with God, it was much more than I ever dreamed of or expected.

As I walked along the shore, I began to notice the shells at my feet. My eyes didn’t zero in on the perfect shells, or the colorful. I began to notice the broken ones, the ones other shell collectors were passing by. I picked them up, gently caressing their flaws, and I spoke to their injuries. These shells landed at my feet at the water’s edge beaten up, scarred, broken, and weary from being tossed by the waves, battered by the surf, and dumped onto the beach as broken pieces of what they once were. They were beautiful. Through their brokenness, I could see the strata of their makeup, the colorful patterns on their surface, and the symmetry of their creation. I felt a kinship to these shells, and placed them into my pockets.

I bonded with these broken shells. They were like me. Broken, beaten by the waves of life, scarred, battered, weary from being tossed around by the forces of nature.

On closer look, however, their beauty shone through. Even though they weren’t whole any more, they were lovely. They were old, and had a story to tell of life and survival. They were polished by their journeys and challenges in the turbulent sea. They were desired by someone like me, who was drawn to them to admire and cherish them. And they had found a new home – with me. I rescued them from the ocean, and will take them home with me to remind me of many things and to speak to me about my own life. They have a purpose. They have a mission. They have a calling.

 

And then God spoke to me in the sunrise, the ocean breeze, and the warmth of the sun. God invited me to quit yearning to fill the empty space in my heart, because it really isn’t empty. It is filled to the brim with God’s love, God’s creation, God’s gentle touch. Someday, someone may find me on the shores of a beach, pick me up, caress my scars and broken places of my life, and cherish me and my story, the same way as I have discovered the broken shells on the beach this week. God reminded me that perfection is not important. One can be whole and still be broken.

I discovered the Balm in Gilead this week.

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All Things Bright and Beautiful

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“All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”

This was a song I learned as a child, and believed the words. I still do.

Something has been resting heavily on my heart for the past several days that I feel like I need to address in my writing. It has to do with this little song, whose words keep playing and replaying in my mind, and about God and God’s creation.

Last week I read that the United Methodist Church, the church I have been affiliated with all my life, ordained a transgender person as a deacon. I read with great interest the article about the ordination of M Barklay, one of God’s bright and beautiful creations. I read about the struggles this person has gone through in reaching this important point within the organized church, and the devotion and dedication to God and God’s work M is so passionate about. I am proud of my church for taking this step of inclusion and acceptance of people who don’t quite fit into the male / female mold, one that many of us hold onto so tightly.

What disturbs me about this were the many comments I read from Christian people condemning the church for this action and for labeling M as a child of the devil (the worst that I read) or a person not worthy of representing the church as an ordained deacon, according to scripture. I was amazed at the hatred, fear, despising, and condemnation that littered the comment section of the online articles that I read.

It makes me sad.

The Lord God made us all, as we teach our children in Sunday School. It is a miracle that any one of us is alive and walking on Planet Earth. I look at my own life and marvel that I am here at all. At any one point in the history of the world, one small thing could have happened to keep a baby from being conceived, and thus, I wouldn’t be here. In my imagination, I can just see my caveman ancestor returning to his cave after a long day of hunting and gathering, wanting a little affection from his cavewoman. She had a busy day, as well, and was exhausted. I can imagine in my mind her hugging her caveman mate, and saying in cave language, “Not tonight, Honey. I have a terrible headache.” But she didn’t. A cavebaby’s life was begun, and here I am, along with a long line of other ancestors, my siblings, and my two sons. And whether any of us are heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, or something in between really doesn’t matter. We have been given the gift of life, which is beyond any labeling that may be tacked onto our backs by others.

God created all things bright and beautiful. To those Christians who condemn homosexuality, gender differences, the concept of “two spirit” people (a Native American term. Read about it!), and anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow belief about God and God’s creation, I feel very sorry for them. I don’t believe that gender differences are a sin. What constitutes sin is us missing the mark of God’s intention for our lives. Who’s to say that God’s desire can’t be fulfilled in people who are a little bit different from us.

I think it is time for Christians, and all people who believe in God, to look at every person as God’s creation. I realize that things happen as a part of being human that make people different from one another, and can certainly make some people evil and dangerous. But we are all God’s children, even the very worst of us. And God is alive in us, even when we shut God into a dark closet and ignore the creator within us.

I wish M Barklay the very best in ministry and in reaching out and touching the people who need M the most to show God’s love to all. I look at the life of Jesus, and can see him reflected in this ministry.

I’m sure there are many who read this who won’t agree with me, and that’s OK. I am content and satisfied with my beliefs, which include believing that God is love, and that God loves everything and everyone that God has created.

“And that’s all I have to say about that” (thank you Forrest Gump for this quote).

I Am The Universe

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The centering thought for today’s meditation was “I am the universe.”

The universe has fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. I remember lying under the stars in my sleeping bag on a Camp Fire Girls camping trip when I was about eight years old. At first, the dark sky with all the pinpoints of lights fascinated me. But, then, suddenly, I became unexplainably afraid and buried my head underneath the covers until morning’s light. On that night the immensity and vastness of the universe was overwhelming for my child’s mind and imagination. I think that was the first time the concept of infinity made its appearance in my life. It was more than I could comprehend or handle, so I hid my face until the sun came out to welcome a new day.

The concept still haunts me somewhat, as it is one that I simply cannot comprehend. However, the universe itself is fascinating to me, as I learn more about it and my tiny spot in it. As a religious person, and one who believes in God, I am in awe of creation as I feebly attempt to envision what God must be like to have created such a wondrous thing, and why God chose to create me.

As I ponder the meaning of life, and why I have been given the privilege to live a life and experience all that the universe has to offer, I long to explore it myself. I can’t conceive why God would create such a grand playground for us if we aren’t allowed to play on it. As I contemplate death and the end of my life here on earth, I can picture myself given the wings to fly and the capability to explore the entire universe. And because it is so huge, it will take an eternity to do so!

So, with all of these unearthly thoughts, I am brought back to this morning’s meditation. I am the universe. I am part of creation. As I learned as a child, “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the lord.” The God who made the universe is the God who made me, who breathed the breath of life into me. And it is this God who is my guide through my life and ultimately through the universe.

And now I am thinking, am I the universe, or is the universe me?

Hhhhmmmm.