the story room

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Story Room

For a couple months now, I've been trying to think of a better title for this blog. I haven't been happy with what I've had thus far, because it hasn't really captured what I'm trying to do.

So I've been thinking about what I do here and realized that, basically, I'm telling stories. Whether they're stories of something that has happened to me, something I've been thinking about, or sharing a bit of somebody else's story through something I've read (or sung!), I think we can all find a bit of ourselves in these stories. And I hope that through the telling of and listening to those stories, we can better recognize our place in the great and beautiful story of the people of God.

So...welcome to the story room.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

Here's another hymn that struck me this week. This one's text was written by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century:

"Make Me a Channel of Your Peace"

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love;
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord;
and where there's doubt, true faith in you.

O Master, grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light;
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

O Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all people, we receive;
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Christian, Do You Struggle?

I was flipping through the Psalter Hymnal last night and came across this song. The text is attributed to Andrew of Crete, written sometime between 660-732 AD. I love coming across Christian texts of long ago, and I was especially struck by the last stanza.

"Christian, Do You Struggle?"

Christian, do you struggle on the battle ground
'gainst the powers of darkness closing in around?
Christian, rise, take armor, soldier of the cross;
for the sake of Jesus count your gain but loss.

Christian, do you battle Satan's power within
all his striving, luring, tempting you to sin?
Christian, do not tremble, do not be downcast;
Arm yourself for battle, watch and pray and fast.

Christian, do you wrestle those who taunt and claim,
"Why keep fast and vigil? Prayer is said in vain!"
Christian, answer boldly: "While I breathe I pray!"
Peace shall follow battle, night shall end in day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Smelling the sunset

The following is an email I sent to a friend earlier this week (with minor adaptations to make it suitable for a blog, as opposed to a personal email). Anyway, I was so blessed by the experience I wrote about that I wanted to share it with you all as well:

It was really cloudy down here today. I worked at the pool from 3:30 til close, and it was really slow, because the cloudiness really deterred people from wanting to come and swim.

So, right as I was getting ready to leave at 8:30 tonight, I looked up in the sky, and before me was an absolutely beautiful sunset. Though the sky was blanketed with clouds all day and evening, the sky broke open enough to close the day with a sunset that literally took my breath away. It was beautiful.

Sunsets always do something to me. Every time I get a chance to watch something like that, I can't help but think of God's faithfulness in causing the sun to rise and set every single day. The rising and the setting of the sun sing clearly the song of our Father's faithfulness to me. Every time I see the sun set, I can almost audibly hear the Holy Spirit, in the strong, stern, gentle voice of a father, say to me, "Erin Michele, I have been faithful to you today. In the heat of the day, in the pain, in the joy, in the frustration, and in the everyday-ness of life, I have been with you. I did not leave your side for a second, and I carried you through, till the very end of the day. And let this be a reminder to you that as the darkness sets in, I will be faithful to you tonight as well. Whatever darkness or fear or uncertainty meets you tonight, I will be with you, faithful as I have always been." And in the same way, when I can catch a morning sunrise, with our Father's big arms around me, I can hear him say, "I've taken care of you tonight. Let that be a reminder that I will be faithful to you today as well."

So, as I was walking back to my car from work tonight, I heard His voice again, and I had to literally stop in my tracks, staring at the sunset, and listening to those comorting, familiar words. And I realized tonight that He not only says, "Erin Michele, I have been faithful to you", but He also says, "My sons and daughters scattered throughout the entire earth...the whole world that I have created: I have been faithful to you, little ones. Hunger and thirst for my righteousness, because I have been faithful to you, and I promise you that I will deal righteously in this fallen and broken world, and will restore things and make them right again."

And as I stood there, breathing in as deeply as I could the smell of the sunset-tinted air, I felt God's grace rest heavily upon me...and upon His world.

It makes me think of all the worries and concerns I'd been wrestling with recently, and they were never in such clear perspective as they were then. Now, added to the image I've had of following Jesus at his heels, I now look up and see the huge sky burning with pink and orange, and see our Father stretch His hands over the entire expanse as He says, "As you follow me, I will be faithful to you. Holy and sovereign and are under my canopy and in my hands. Remember my faithfulness to you, and know that I will continue to be nothing but faithful."

And then to think that this huge, mighty God, filling the whole earth, would stoop down to whisper in my your ears...and say, "Daughters and sons, I am choosing you to tell of my faithfulness, and to be an instrument of my righteousness on earth" How can I respond but to fall to my knees in humble submission and gratitude...and then to rise with courage?

And then as I was riding home, I was playing a Waterdeep song, and the words of Psalm 131 filled my ears. The words are such an appropriate response.

Here's the psalm, in the words of Waterdeep:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up.
My eyes are not raised too high for Thee.
I do not think on things too great or marvelous

Or matters too difficult for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
And I have calmed and quieted my soul
Like a weaned child with his mother is my soul.
Oh Israel trust in the Lord, from this time forth and forevermore.

Thanks be to God.

May the grace of our King rest upon you heavily. May His faithfulness cause you to rise in courage.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Angry at Injustice

This summer, I'm working for our park district's water park. I'm a front gate worker, which means I check people's bags for food and alcohol, work the cash register, and help patrons with any questions or problems they may have.

Tonight, while I was working one of the cash registers, a woman came up to our office. We let her in, and basically she told us, "I found some money laying on the ground, so if anyone comes to look for it, I have it. I'll come by in a little while to see if anyone reported some money missing."

Now, right away this didn't make sense to me, so I told the lady, "Ma'am, if someone's looking for their money, there's a good chance that we won't be able to find you in the park to track it down. We need to hold the money up here in front, so when the person who lost it is looking for it, it'll be right here." And I didn't expect this, but the woman became very upset with me. And with anger in her eyes, she stared at me, trying to intimidate me. It had to have been a solid 10 or 15 seconds where her eyes were locked on mine. I'm used to holding someone's gaze (in fact, I'm afraid I unintentially intimidate people with my own eyes sometimes!), so I just stared back, confident that I was doing the right thing.

One of the other workers in the office broke the silence by asking the lady how much money she had found. "I'd rather not say," she answered quickly. "It's not a lot, but I don't want to say." Hm...warning sign #2. For her to keep the amount undisclosed, it had to have been a significant amount of money.

She wasn't going to budge about giving us the money, so I told her that I was going to grab a manager so he could explain our policy to her. Our manager was only in the next room, but by the time he came into our office, she was gone. And, although she promised to return to see if anyone had reported the money missing, we closed the park without seeing her again.

Now, I'm not a person who's very easily angered; I'm pretty laid back about a lot of things. But even now, a couple hours home from work, that whole situation is still on my mind, and I'm not ok with it. The fact that the woman didn't cooperate with us isn't much of an issue to me...but what deeply bothers me is the fact that she went home with someone else's money. Somebody is going to miss the money they lost tonight, and this woman is going to spend money that she should have nothing to do's not hers.

And although it was only a small incident, my eyes were opened a bit more tonight to the whole issue of injustice in the world. And getting just a small taste of what's behind it made me understand all the more why God hates it. When people care more about the money on the ground than the people to whom it belongs, we know that there's something deeply wrong in our world...even inside ourselves.

I don't mean to rail on this woman. To tell you the truth, my heart goes out to her. If she was that hellbent on going home with a couple extra dollars, she must be dealing with a lot. And I don't know anything about her or her life...maybe she really did need it. Maybe...

And I know I need to be careful because I'm just as capable of committing injustice as this person was. And maybe I don't carry it out in such obvious ways all the time, but I'm guilty of selfishness and favoritism and other vehicles of injustice, too. I'm a broken woman as well.

But I do have a point in telling this story. I'm telling it because I realize how important it is to God that we watch out for one another...and that we love people more than we love things. I never thought before about how committing injustice leads us to so disrespect the God in whose image we're made. Not only do we show little love to the victims of our injustice, but we also forget our own identity as God's image-bearers...His representatives on earth. It makes us forget who we are.

May God have mercy on us.

And may He also give us the heart and strength to live justly, in the knowledge of our identity in Him.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Hello out there...

I'm just curious who comes 'round these parts. I know some of you who come by and read, but not all, I don't think. So, if you feel so inclined, feel free to add a comment and let me know who you are. : )

Monday, July 04, 2005

More dangerous than I realized

Yesterday evening, after having spent the afternoon reading and relaxing, I got a phone call from my dear friend, Anna. It was so good to spend a couple hours talking and catching up...but she also shared some surprising information with me. Let's back up a little bit...

Back in May, Anna and Amanda came over to my house, and we spent some time rough-housing with each other and my ten-year-old brother, Peter. Near the end of our playtime, Anna snuck up behind me and began tickling me. Being crazy-ticklish, my body reacted to protect itself, and I elbowed Anna smack in the nose...hard (my elbow actually hurt from the impact). Anna was a good sport about it all, but her nose was a bit swollen and bruised for about a week afterwards.

So, yesterday Anna told me that she had visted her doctor this past week, and he informed her that her nose had been broken. It's true...I broke Anna's nose.

Now, for people who know me but don't know the details of the story, it would be kind of funny to tell people that I broke Anna's nose; I might actually seem tough. (OK, probably not, but the thought did cross my mind.)

Hm...It's not that I'm a violent person, but I am a spaz, and I think that sometimes makes me unintentially dangerous. (This same sort of spaziness has also caused me to accidentally fling glasses off of my friend Amanda's face, and even to hit one of my professors, too...and I'm sure there are other incidents I don't remember offhand.)

The moral of this story? Don't mess with me. ;-)

Actually, I just figured you all might appreciate the story. (And may God bless Anna for her kindness and mercy to me!)