Monday, April 20, 2015

Of Blood Oranges, Butterflies, & Martha Stewart Gaffs

Smoke told me the oven was hot. This is what Martha Stewart moments look like at our house. Shaving up curling cold spoonfuls of cookie dough from my chilled bowl of chocolate chip and butterscotch cookies, I mold and form them into balls.

Once two buttered sheets of them are in the oven, I take a few steps into the kitchen and crouch down to peer into the butterfly box my kindergartener and I made. Two butterflies stand frailly, flexing their red, brown and orange wings, pumping them with color. Vivid red puddles spread out across white tissue paper on the cardboard floor, remnants of creation's paints. ("This is natural," the butterfly brochure assures us.)

Three cocoons wait silent, suspended, and we check them often.

"Do you think there will be a third butterfly tomorrow morning?" I ask Daniel as I kiss his face and pull the blankets up around him in bed. "Do they come out from their cocoons in the dark?" we wonder and stare off, imagining one, two, or three new butterflies the next day.

We placed blood oranges in their box home this evening, slices of dark magenta citrus. They haven't eaten them yet, and we peek in regularly to see if they will.

There's a passage in the Bible book of Acts that I have been thinking about this week. In Acts 24-27, Paul is in prison for his religious beliefs, awaiting trial and a chance to be exonerated. Two years pass.

Two years.

One brief sentence holds two years of waiting, and Paul sat in prison, delayed.

I love that Paul knows who he is, and whose he is. He knows his God too. Describing this time later and an angelic encounter during a rough sea voyage, Paul says, "an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve..." I love that Paul hasn't walked away from his belief in God, decrying injustice or defaming the character of God. "Of the God whose I am and whom I serve."

This God to whom I belong and whom I serve....  this God whom, in fact, Paul says, "I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike."

In the waiting, in the two years passing, in the cocoon-like silence, great things were still happening.

For you and me too. If you feel like this is an in-between time, a time of waiting, know that life is still stirring, forming, growing. Life is building for the unveiling. "I have had God's help to this very day," and so I stand here and speak.

Me too. You too, my friend.

The cookies are done and crumble hot chocolate in my mouth.

Due to a shipping error, five more butterfly cocoons hang in a clear plastic jar nearby. Butterflies grow luminous under grey silk chrysalises, and the brochure tells us to wait.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Of Lawyers, Judges, and What's On Your Back

"I wish I'd never done it," she said, describing a post-college year of late-night dance clubs, too much alcohol, and men with unfamiliar names the next morning. Regret brimmed up and over her eyelashes now, and she twisted her blonde hair absentmindedly.
Photo: David, Creative Commons, cc license
We hugged in the crowded auditorium. I knew this woman, knew her heart, and knew that her history no longer defined her. It never really had, actually.

But we are the ones who pick up and slap labels on ourselves the fastest, the hardest. I do this. You do too. God lavishes us with forgiveness, compassionate understanding, and love, while we trail behind, dragging our feet and not quite believing he means what he says.

I've been reading the biblical book of Romans, where Paul marshals his arguments like a young John Grisham. In lean hard prose, Paul strips away any credentials religious people were scrambling for to prove their morality, and he shreds any excuses the irreligious grabbed as reasons for not getting to know the God of the universe.

On equal footing before the God of the world, loved deeply by the Creator who knows their names, humankind's verdict is clear, concise.

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace..." (Romans 3:22-24).

Whether you are ragged with regrets or worn out from scrambling to feel like a good person, we stand on equal footing before the God who loves us. In the week after Easter, we stand before a judge who says, "I've paid that price, paid the fine, paid the fee. Do you accept this gift?"

Labels are gone. Histories don't define us. They never have. The God of the world stands waiting...