Passing the test.

Did you ever see Stan Lee’s TV show “Who Wants to be a Superhero”? The contestants were assigned tasks, but there was a hidden assignment that they didn’t know about. In one they had to get from point A to point B really fast – but there was a distraction. A young girl was on their route, crying loudly about how she was separated from her mom. Unbeknownst to the contestants, she was an actress – and this was the real test. The ones who passed the test that round were the ones who stopped and helped her. They didn’t worry about being late on their time – their focus was in helping.

How often do we notice what the real test is? How often do we stop and take time to help?

I admit I’m terrible at it. I have a lot of excuses why I can’t help.

I’m late getting to work. I have ice cream that is going to melt. I don’t know how to help. I don’t have the tools, the training, the time.

So I don’t stop. I drive on by. A lot.

When I do stop, I find that I actually do have everything that is required. I think it is going to require a cast, and really it requires a band-aid. I think it is going to require a therapist, and really it just requires a hug. I’m starting to think that I certainly don’t have to stop for everything, but the things I do get over my fear and stop for turn out to be things that are within my power.

Sometimes my problem is that I don’t want to get too involved. I don’t want to make personal connections. It is way too common that people I help start to see me as something other than a servant. They start to see me as special. They mistake the messenger for the message. They start trying to follow me instead of the One I follow. They ask for my phone number. They want to become friends on Facebook.

It isn’t me. It isn’t me at all. It never was me. I’m just the face that God wears sometimes. I’m just the hands that God uses sometimes. When they see me again, I’m more than likely just going to be me, plain old me, not special, not sparkly.

So sometimes I don’t want to get involved for me, and sometimes I don’t want to get involved for God. I don’t want people to mistake me being me as a slight. Because when God is working through me, it is really amazing. There is a connection. There is understanding, and healing, and compassion.

Me? I’m an introvert. I feel lost in a crowd. When I’m just me and the Spirit isn’t there, I’m not all that. I’m not bad, but I’m not what they think I am.

Sometimes I warn people if I think I’ll see them again. I had to do this a lot in college. The energy often isn’t there the next time. That energy doesn’t mean that “we are meant to be together.” It doesn’t mean that we should “hook up.” It doesn’t mean I’m going to be your guru or your girlfriend. It just meant that God needed me to help you right then, and I listened.

Does this mean I’m passing the test, or failing it? While I think it is essential to always point people towards God, I think it is also important to always be a vehicle for God. I’m not, always. It is tiring. It is hard. But then again, so is exercise, and I do that because I think I’ll get stronger if I do it. Perhaps this faith-walk is the same.

I still don’t think I’m going to stop to change out a tire for somebody, especially when I have just bought ice cream.

Everyday Miracles

Originally posted on FB 11-6-12

We expect miracles. We want healing right now. We want things to happen right away.

We forget that God uses us. God created us as co-creators, according to Madeline L’Engle in her book “Walking on Water”. We are his agents in this world. Saint Theresa of Avila said that Christ has no hands or feet on this Earth but ours.

We forget that God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. God didn’t do it Himself – He wanted a human to work with Him to bring forth freedom and healing and peace. We forget that Samuel was given the message of doom for Eli. And most of all we forget that Mary brought forth Christ. There are countless stories throughout the Bible of God calling people to do His will here, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

God calls all of us. That is why He made us. Yes, you, right there, right where you are. God wants you. Consider this to be like those old US Army posters – your Uncle Sam needs you! But really, it is your Heavenly Father who needs you.

In all of those stories, God asked the person if they would help, and sometimes there was a bit of arguing. “Me? Really? I’m not any good at that. Can’t you send somebody else?” is a fairly common recap. Rarely do they just say straightaway “Here I am, Lord” or “Let it be to me according to Your will.”

God works through us every day. He sends a friend to listen. He sends us to a stranger to do the same. He sends a kind nurse to notice that we have a health problem we should tend. He sends us to cheer on a friend who is trying to quit smoking.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy – ask not what your God can do for you – ask what you can do for your God.

You don’t have to wait for the call – you have already been called. Be kind. Show love. Don’t gossip. Encourage others. Teach. Offer a shoulder to cry on. Feed the hungry. Work at a food kitchen. Volunteer with Second Harvest. Work for peace – at home, at work, in the neighborhood, in the world. Every little bit counts, and it all adds up. Do not do nothing for fear of not being able to do everything.

The miracle is that God is with us all the time, and He will never forsake us. God constantly helps us. God strengthens us and raises us up from the chaos of the world. God performs His miracles through us. That is the real miracle – that God needs us, and wants us, and loves us. He never said this life would be easy, but He always says that He will be with us, to the ends of the earth.

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Paths and Stars

Originally posted on FB 2-27-12

I’ve noticed that a lot of the images that appeal to me either involve paths or stars. Generally, they are paths that have nobody in front – it is a clear path, leading on. From the perspective of the photographer or painter, s/he is the only person on the path. There might be folks behind – but there certainly is nobody up ahead.

And then there are stars. Part of why I like stars is because of the three Magi. They followed a star, in the dark, to an unknown land. No map, no idea of where they were going – but they followed. They knew that something special, something never before seen was at the end of that journey.

My life’s journey is like this. I feel called. I know what the end is. I’m just not sure how to get there. And for the longest time, I wasn’t sure that I was the one to be going on that journey. Me? Really? I have a mental health diagnosis. I’m bipolar. Society doesn’t look well on the mentally ill. Folks look at you differently when you tell them such things. I’m running a risk here by writing about it. But – that is the way I’m made. It is a genetic weakness – a chemical imbalance. I take medicine. I’ve been in the hospital twice – but both times were where I noticed that something was wrong and I asked for help. It was over a decade ago that I was last in the hospital. One doctor even said I was the sanest person she knew. But that didn’t mean I was healed – I still got a prescription, and I still took it.

But paths, and stars. I’m not going to say what I’m called to – not here. That is really big, and private. And I’m still concerned about embarrassing God. So many folks say that God has called them to something, and they do it in a very human way and it falls and fails. And yet again, God’s church looks laughable. So many times I remind myself that I follow Christ – not Christians. But I don’t want to be part of the problem. I don’t want to be a bad example. I don’t want to be that person who makes those not of this faith think that Christians are goofballs. There are countless examples for this already.

So I follow, blindly. I follow without a map. I walk, one step in front of the other. I trust in the Star. I trust in the Light that shines. I follow because that is how I’m made. I have come to trust that I was made the way I’m made (bipolar disorder and all) because that is how I’m needed. I have come to trust that force, that pull, that call that tells me to create something new. That force that tells me to create new out of old. The same creative pull that got me to break apart old jewelry from thrift stores and redesign the beads into a new creation is at work here. That was prelude. That was practice. It gave shape to a need to reform, retranslate, rebuild.

I follow God because that is how I’m made. It isn’t an easy path. I don’t even know how I’m going to get there. I’m only vaguely aware of what “there” is. But everything else He has ever told me was going to happen has happened. So I trust, that this, the first thing He ever told me, will too. This call, from so many years ago, has kept me going. Like the Magi, I walk in darkness, seeking the Light. Like the Magi, I walk over unseen territory – unmapped, unknown. Like the Magi, I have faith that I am not being led in vain.