AT THE TABLE

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By Lisa Huddleston

imagesToday I stayed at the table in our classroom at the Adult Learning Center during the break time. Many had left the room, and those of us who remained were a diverse group: a young woman from Mexico, a middle-aged man from Egypt, an African American woman in her forties, and me—a mid-50’s white woman. Two of the four of us were hoping to become American citizens, and two of us were born with that privilege.

Sadly I listened as my friends shared stories of delay and prejudice and discouragement. One told a story of a young son crying when he came home from school and asking his parents why he had to have brown skin. Another told a story about a random encounter in a McDonald’s playground in which a complete stranger declared in front of the children that she “did not like Mexicans.” And still another talked with frustration about waiting for over 16 years and still not being accepted as a citizen of this country. And I literally wept.

I wept because people don’t take the time to get to know each other. I wept because until I began working as a volunteer at the center, I frankly didn’t care enough about the issues of immigration. I wept, because I also unbelievably still heard prejudice being voiced by one who sat at the table with us. And I still feel like weeping for that one who has not yet received ears to hear the stories of the rest.

When I got home I decided to unwind with some general time-wasting on Facebook, and I wept again as I saw ignorant posts pointing fingers at the people of Baltimore whom they do not know and assigning blame to those whose stories they have not taken the time to hear. And, oh God, it makes me sad. It should not be “us against them.” Some of them are more like us than some of us are. (Read it carefully—it does make sense whether you think you are an “us” or a “them.”) I find much more in common with the hearts and motivations and stories of those with whom I shared my break today than I do with a group simply segregated by the colors of our skin.

The recent protest cry in the face of this country’s racial unrest is “Black Lives Matter!” I agree, and I know that I am not alone in voicing this truth. Black lives do matter—as do brown lives and white lives and Muslim lives and Christian lives and every life God has placed upon this planet. How I wish we could sit around the table and learn each other’s names and listen to each other’s stories and find the compassion to weep over the hurts we each one have suffered. For indeed, we all are precious in His sight.

I am thankful for work that has helped me to see with new eyes—Ukrainian, Chinese, Panamanian, Mexican, and American. Brown eyes and blue eyes and green eyes. Round eyes and almond eyes. Eyes with thick black lashes and eyes with a fringe of strawberry blonde. All eyes that weep when we or our families suffer unjustly through a lack of understanding and through hate.

I am thankful for a seat at the table. Won’t you, please, pull up a chair?

Half Empty

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By Lisa Huddleston

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Today is a day half empty

Earth quaking beneath my feet

Heart rioting in my chest

Fear and anguish and desperation raging

And leaving a half-empty space in which

My questions loom large and invisible

Holding my head above the waves

 

Can questions hold me up?

Or am I the foolish man building his house

Upon the sand?

No foundation

No firm, solid ground

Just empty space above and

Unanswerable questions below

 

As the earth shakes

And angry young people empty shelves

In a local store

As though stolen goods can fill empty souls

 

Nepal and Baltimore

Earthquake and riot

And nothing makes any sense

As I find myself drinking from a glass

Half empty

A VISITATION FROM LA MUSE INSOMNIAQUE

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By Lisa Huddleston

 

As frequently happens when one becomes of a certain age, I awoke at precisely 2:13 a.m. to find my mind at work and my body unable to rest. I tried meditational breathing, prayer, anchoring thoughts, but all to no avail. And then, as so often is the case, my mind began to write. Here are my offerings to La Muse Insomniaque:

 

 

imagesUNDOING ME

 

Is it possible to unweave this tight cocoon I have so protectively wrapped around myself,

To unspin the trap I have spun,

To carefully tease and pull apart each tensile strand of mirage,

To untangle who I am from whom I have pretended to be,

To awkwardly stretch cramped and aching wings,

To finally inhabit the spacious place into which I have been placed;

Is it possible to undo me?

 

 

And thinking she was finished with her assault, I closed my eyes to rest. But I still could not sleep, and soon discovered she had more to say on the subject (with humble apologies to Oliver Wendell Holmes and E.M. Forster):

 

 

images-2A SPACIOUS PLACE

 

From womb to tomb

The raw fear of hope

Wraps me into smaller, tighter spaces

But my soul and I need more stately mansions in which to dwell

Higher ceilings against which to butt our hard heads

Finally to break through

To a room with a view and

The space in which to stretch our wings

 

 

Finally, I slept. And, yes, I will need a nap.

LEADING THE DANCE

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By Lisa Huddleston

 

girl-dancing-rain_thumb255b2255dThe preacher (not mine) kept declaring that we needed to be a confrontational people. “We must confront the culture!” to support the kind of society that our nation’s founders intended and that, obviously, he believed, God also predestined. The Ten Commandments posted in every classroom. The Lord’s Prayer being said before each day of lessons began. “It’s time for the people of God to take a stand!”

 

And I wondered why it all sounded so wrong. Yes, I believe wholeheartedly that God cares about holiness. I know that our love for Him is revealed in our obedience to Him. But nothing felt right about this smiling preacher’s call to confrontation. In fact, I had trouble looking at him as his grin and his words seemed so at odds that they jarred against my brain.

 

My more liberal friends would say of course it felt wrong, because it was! Who are Christians to think that they hold the market on morality? To whose God should we pray in our preordained schools? Whose belief statements should we post upon our national walls? And, of course, the thinking part of me understands their objections—and frequently agrees. Who made evangelicals the arbiters of holiness?

 

But it really was more than that. It wasn’t just that it appeared wrong to the culture against which I was being told to rage. It was that it felt as though it was also wrong in the eyes of God.

 

And Sunday morning God told me why that was: We do not know what God’s plan for the future actually looks like. We do know that He has one, and we do believe that it will not be thwarted. But our pictures and His may look absolutely nothing alike.

 

Think of the disciples. Who were they expecting when they found their Messiah? A warrior to overthrow all that was evil in their culture. A hero who would reestablish the order and the power and the legal system of their religion. One who would rebuild the temple in all its glory and authority. Instead—he tore it all down.

 

Peter struggled against this plan and was told to “Get behind me, Satan!” Judas fought God’s agenda and ended up selling his soul to gain what amounted to worse than nothing. All who encountered Jesus just couldn’t get where God was going with this guy, and I fear the same is true with much of the church today.

 

We rail against the culture. We pray for a return to the rules that were once the obvious signs of belief. We grimace and snarl and blog and speak hate through grinning lips—but we just don’t get it. And, in our defense, it is hard to get.

 

God is not who we make Him out to be. In fact, we do not make Him at all. He is the Maker, the Planner, the Only One Who Gets the Whole Picture. And I fear that to rail against the world around us may be in fact to rail against the Planner who is controlling it.

 

Yesterday’s sermon came from Acts 10:1-33. And as I did last week, I would like to share my pastor’s points:

  1. Being religious is not the same as being redeemed.
  2. God is at work in ways, at times, and in hearts you might never have imagined.
  3. Increased understanding follows loving obedience.

 

And to all three, I said, “Aha!”

 

Thank you, God, for clarifying what my soul recognized, but had such trouble articulating. My job is not to confront the culture or to judge the world or to tell others what they should be doing differently. My role is to trust you.

 

To borrow further from Pastor Jim’s sermon, Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.”

 

And with that I can wholeheartedly agree. I do not understand the ways of God. The stories I hear and read in the news are not the scenarios I would write if I were the great Planner of history. But I am not. And because I am not, I will trust the One Who Is.

 

I’m not sure if Pastor Jim closed the sermon with these words or if they simply appeared in my journal from my own conclusions, but I need to remember them.

 

Lean in and let God lead. It may not be the dance I expect, but he will not lead me astray.

TABITHA, GET UP!

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Mother and daughter walking arm in arm along trai

By Lisa Huddleston

 

Today’s sermon came from Acts 9:31-43. My pastor’s well-thought and well-taught points were:

  1. Follow Jesus’ example
  2. Depend on Jesus’ power
  3. Point others to Jesus

Clear, to the point, and well-supported by the text.

 

I sat where I usually sit. Comfortably snugged in between my sweet daughter on my left (with her sweet husband to her left) and my equally sweet husband on my right. We all heard the same words, we all read them on our various devices, and we all processed the points that were projected on the screen; however, we did not receive the same message. At least my daughter and I did not.

 

And here is where our paths diverged:

 

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. She was always doing good works and acts of charity. In those days she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs.

 

To cut this a little shorter, Peter was nearby so they had him hurry on over to see what he could do. The people figured Jesus had raised the dead, and Peter seemed to be following along in the healing business—maybe there was still time.

 

When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

 

And Peter actually did it! Following the good example and in the powerful might of Jesus, Peter told Tabitha to get up, and she did!

 

This became known in Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

 

And that’s where the sermon diverged for my daughter and me. She heard that “nothing can hold God back when He chooses to act.” And those were the very words our pastor spoke, and they were and are very true words. And my daughter is young and has big dreams and sometimes what seem like impossible aspirations, and she left encouraged and inspired and quite full of hope.

 

I, however, am not young, and my dreams have grown smaller and smaller, and I heard these words, “Tabitha served people however she could. She looked them in the eyes, and she sewed clothes for widows and blessed others with her needle and thread.” Okay, that’s actually a paraphrase of Pastor Jim’s words, but it was the gist of what I heard and jotted in my journal. Tiny dreams that still mattered. Sewing clothes for widows whose husbands had been lost at sea and who probably would have worn rags without Tabitha’s caring for them.

 

And both sermons were preached today, and both sermons were true. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

 

HIDE AND SEEK

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By Lisa Huddleston

 

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Depression is my hiding place

A dark closet into which I can dive

Sticking bare feet into someone else’s too-big boots

And tucking child body inside the fur-lined coat

That my mother rarely wears

 

They can look for hours

And call and yell my name

While I breathe into that dusty fur

Warming it with hot breath from my open silent mouth

The doors are opened and opened again

Not even one inch of myself is revealed

Making me shake with nervous laughter

 

Knowing I’ll never be found

Knowing I can stump them all

Knowing I can’t stay there forever

 

My stomach will grow empty

My bladder will grow full

My legs will grow tired of standing in those tall boots

My mother’s voice will grow angry and afraid

 

Something will make me leave my furry rabbit nest

And I will silently slip warm feet and warm arms

Out of their dark animal comfort

To tiptoe into the cold and prickly air of the too-bright day