Friday Five - Loving On Next To Nothing

1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like...

It's a difficult time right now, apparently for many of us. My partner and I were both laid off this summer. We are scared; neither of us is sleeping well. This week, I lost a job I thought I had and would have loved working with people out of prison. As I sit here, I have been checking my e-mail every 5 minutes for a decision on another job that could be wonderful working with teenagers who are aging out of foster care homes. It's a full time job; there would be health insurance for me and maybe even my partner. There are a couple other alternatives, all part time, no insurance, not nearly enough cash. My girl is out hoofing for a job as well; she's a brilliant office manager, and 60 and this is a young city. She doesn't even want to be doing all this office work; she is an actress and a director and an evangelist with a lot more beautiful gifts to give than answering phones and filing invoices. I'm just here, scratching around for a classroom when I am supposed to be in a pulpit; preparing to teach algebra when I should be teaching the Gospel of John. I am sorry; I know it's not nearly as harrowing as serious illness or death, and I am praying for you Sally; honest to God I am, But sometimes I just don't get what God is doing.

True, this isn't nearly the worst financial scare I've been through. Not even close. There was the summer I was homeless. I was in abandoned buildings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in July, and by September I had my own house - a house out of a dream. It's a long story, but when something happens like that you think, "I'll never have any problems trusting in God after this." I keep trying to remind myself of this, but when I flip back to e-mail and there is still no word on the job, the panic is more real than my faith.

2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through?
Tuesday night my soul felt as dark as it has in a while. Finally decided to get out of bed, pour myself a shot of tequila and write in my journal. What brought me through: well, I was finally too tired to keep my eyes open, and I was pretty much done with what I had to say to God, so I went back to bed. Woke up and there was breakfast to make for my girl and yet another job interview to be bright and cheery for. That's a bit of a tongue in cheek answer; I know what St. John of the Cross meant when he wrote about the dark night of the soul. Simply, it is the felt sense that God is absent. We now know that Mother Theresa herself experienced this spiritual hell. What did she do to get through? Looks to me like she just woke up the next morning and got down to her work. Or as we pray at the end of our services, "Lord send us forth to do those good works you have intended for us to walk in."

The best advice I know for walking through darkness: face forward and take small steps.

3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort?

So I am flipping through songs on my mp3 player looking for something to encourage me while I am on the way to an interview, and this track by Gladys Knight knocked me out. It's not exactly devotional, but damn if it isn't exactly how I feel these days about my relationship with God.

4. Is "why suffering" a valid question?
Hell yeah! Because we do suffer. We muddle through in the dark feeling like we are loving on next to nothing because God is so far away and doesn't seem to want to intervene to make our burden lighter. Personally, I feel that if we are to have intimate, mature honest relationships with God, then we are have to be honest about when we are frustrated with Him.

One piece of the work I have in front of me is a set of devotional readings on the Epistle to the Hebrews for a publication produced in England called "Words For Today." I chose this assignment because Hebrews is so about the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus. The writer tries to grapple with how the life and death of Jesus Christ has changed everything, all at once and forever. One point which as always meant so much to me, is that in Jesus, the entire human experience has been raised to the Godhead. Because of Jesus, we can now say with confidence that God knows our sorrows and griefs. He was tested in every way as we were, yet He did not sin. In my prayer, I am honest about the testing, and honest about how tired I am of it! But I try not to sin, and depend on His Mercy when I fail.

5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate?
If I get this new job, I'm taking the car to be painted. We bought it second hand and the finish was bad then, but now it's shot! And I'll take my Girl to a broadway show.

Bonus- anything you wish to add....
I found this. It helped me enormously. If you like it, you should check out the original music video recorded by Donald Lawrence and the TriCity Singers. It's the finale of one of their live concerts. The girl here does a great job, but you get the words better in a professional recording. You can't imbed the link, so go to youtube and search Encourage Yourself Donald Lawrence.

Sometimes you have to encourage yourself.
Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test.
And no matter how you feel, speak the word and you will be healed;
speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord.

Sometimes you have to speak the word over yourself,
the pressure is all around, but God is present help.
The enemy created walls, but remember giants, they do fall
speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord.

As I minister to you, I minister to myself
life can hurt you so, 'til you feel there's nothing left.
No matter how you feel, speak the word and you will be healed.

friday five responses - end o summer

1. Share a highlight from this summer. Fishing an inlet off Coast Guard Beach during our week at Cape Cod. It was a LONG walk out there, and the first time out we carried way too much, so it sort of became a survival trek (which warranted the purchase of large rootbeer floats on the drive back to the cottage). All along the beach we were joined by seals. Most fishermen hate to see them, but I always feel like we are all fellow fishercreatures. OK they have way better tackle than I do, but we are all out for the same thing. You feel like you are tiptoeing into this complex, perfectly balanced eco-system.

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Sort of. I was laid off in early June when our program lost its funding. Glory to God, we have wanted for nothing, but the specter of the job search has hung over my head all summer. August has been lousy with cover letters and interviews. It will be good to finally find a new classroom and end the uncertainty. Also the water in my local fishing spots has been way too warm. As the temperature goes up, the nitrates from the sewage plants in the bay rise and swallow up all the oxygen. Most of the fish high tail it to deeper waters. The guys with boats can catch fish all summer, but we surf rats troll for slim pickings until September's cooler currents wash through.

3. Name one or two things you’re looking forward to this fall.
Meeting my new students
Appointment with the Bishop

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another?
This year I made a special summer liqueur. We'll polish off the last of it this weekend, I guess.
Also, my partner will be starting choir again soon, so we have one last opportunity to sit together in church until June.

5. I’ll know that fall is really here when ________. I have papers to mark.