Friday, September 26, 2014

en llamas arbusto

"My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!" Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am a Sagittarius. Astrologically it is a fire sign. While it may be selective observational bias, I find fire a reoccurring theme within my life. I am prone to fiery outburst of impassioned nature, I too frequently burn the candle at both ends (I crash and burn) rise from the pyre a phoenix to fly again. Perhaps that is why, already as a child, the story of Moses and the burning bush fascinated me, and why I still pray for burning bushes.

I remember the Sunday school paper and choosing just the right shade of Crayola® red-orange, streaking it with goldenrod crayon to "light" the bush on fire. As the story goes, Moses is out tending the sheep when he happens to notice a small shrub ON FIRE. His reaction surprises me, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does NOT burn up"(Ex.3:3) I would imagine that aside from a wild animal or two, there would not be such excitement as this event, while a shepherd was out tending the flock. However, Moses seems only mildly inquisitive. Then as if a burning bush were not enough, now there is a voice from within the bush.
As God calls his name from the bush, "Moses! Moses!" The response from Moses is straightforward, "Here I am Lord"(Ex.3:4b) God next instructs Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on holy ground (Ex 3:5). This removal of the sandals is a sign of recognition and respect. God goes on to explain how He has witnessed the suffering of Israel and it is time to extract them from beneath the burden of Pharoh's entrapments. When God explains why He has come to talk to him, I can relate to Moses's response. "Who am I that I should go?" (Ex. 3:11)

One of my dearest PLN members put me to the task of expounding on my "burning bush" experience I mentioned in my first blog post. While I pray for burning bushes, if I were to actually encounter en llamas arbusto I do not think I would be so nonchalant. Likewise the prospect of Vietnam flabbergasted me. How did I know to go to Vietnam? How does anyone discern the voice of God or what direction they are to take? During a recent memoir writing conference with a grade 8 student I asked her this very question,"How do we know?" My question was prompted by a statement I read on her outline plan for the memoir that she had written, "God called my parents to Vietnam." Her first thought was, "My mom and dad said they just KNEW." I shared with her I was muddling through this very thought in crafting my blog post. The more we dialogued we decided that it is difficult to articulate "burning bushes" to others, and concluded that God knowing us individually, speaks to us in an intimate and individual way as well.  Moses, being a shepherd was surrounded by small shrubs and vegetation. God met Moses in his context and spoke to him organically (literally and figuratively). The form of our respective "bushes" may be people, circumstances, or still small voices. How did I know? How do WE know what it is we should do (or not do)?

Be observant. Pay attention. Moses was busy at another task overseeing and protecting sheep. I was busy within my learning with marvelous Michigan fifth graders. Either he, or I, could have attempted to go on business as usual.  However I am convinced that Almighty God will not be ignored, there is a need to heed His voice inherent to our souls.

Remove what stands in the way of correct posture to listen. Moses removed his sandals. I had to remove my apprehension of packing up my known life with my family and move to an unknown place.  I did those things, respectfully, even if at times I was reluctant. Like Moses I asked questions too. I asked, "Who am I that I should go?" (Ex.3:11) Certain days I am still asking. I am no one of distinguished appeal. There is a blessing and curse in this train of my thought. A curse that I do not find my skill set or myself adequate to meet the task, and can be prone to discouragement, but a blessing in that I, like Moses, am wise enough to know that God stands in the gaps. "And God said (to Moses and to us), "I will be with you." (Ex. 3:12) So while I may believe myself to be falling short; He will always be enough. This is the flame I must continue to fan within my thoughts.

Exodus 3

Friday, September 12, 2014

Truth Be Told...

Zechariah 8:16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;

“Let me feel your thumb!”

This was the imperative I frequently heard as a child when my grandmother or father thought I may be creating my own variation of the truth. My father claimed my great grandmother, Jennie, could tell with 100% accuracy if he, or his siblings, and prior to that my own Gram, were speaking the truth, by merely grasping the speaker’s thumb in her delicate clenched hand. I remember testing the theory in private by holding the thumb of my left hand in my clenched right fist and speaking aloud a statement of truth and then a lie to see if anything changed, pulse-rate, beginnings of perspiration. I decided if it was a genetic gift, I certainly did not possess Great-grandma Jennie’s aptitude for untruth detection.

As I grew up though, I wished I did possess her knack for discerning what was true and untrue. That capacity certainly would have come in handy with those with whom I was in relationship whether it was a friend, boyfriend, or student I with whom I was working. It probably would have saved me some harrowing heartbreaks as well. How does one get at and uncover what is true?

Being a philosophy minor I spent countless hours during my university studies debating and reading around the phenomenon of TRUTH. Can truth be subjective, or is there a pure objective truth within the world? Phenomenologists, theologians, scientists, philosophers and a myriad of others all weigh in with respective opinions. Is one only allowed to say what is true for them (even if their truth is shadows on the wall of their life’s cave)? Even the dictionary offers many definitions of “truth: 1. actual state of the matter. 2. conformity with fact or reality. 3. a verified, indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like. 4. the state or character of being true. 5. actuality or actual existence 6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism, platitude. 7. honesty, integrity, truthfulness." (

Maybe what I required was an Amazonian princess’s accessory to REALLY know. I always loved Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth.

I remember watching the show and marveling at how Wonder Woman could coax any questionable individual into spilling the whole truth with a flick of her wrist and a squeeze of her golden lasso, "Now the world is ready for you, and the wonders you can do. Make a hawk a dove, stop a war with love, make a liar tell the truth." (Wonder Woman Theme Song Lyrics)

"Make a liar tell the truth." I am learning along the journey that the only individual I can MAKE do something is me. As I frequently ask my own children, "Who is the only person you control?" While it is impossible to control another, I do believe INFLUENCE is powerful. Deciding what are absolutes for me will inform how I live and thereby influence the lives of others. This pursuit means truly living as well. What matters? What should my focus be? How do I live my life so it counts? Am I truthful with myself? Do my actions match my words and beliefs with integrity? Each answer begins to weave the fibers of who I am. There are no simple shot answers to these questions. Truthful living requires asking myself everyday and adjusting to answer the best I can. 

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8