Miscellany

So it’s been seven weeks since I returned from Spain and the Camino.

And make that almost seven weeks since my last fearful post on here about how to incorporate what I learned/experienced on the Camino into my life here in Chicago.

I’ve realized I don’t have to know what it looks like. I don’t have to know how the story ends. I don’t have to know how the pieces fit in the puzzle. I don’t have to have it all figured out.

When I was walking across the meseta in central Spain, wheat fields meandering towards the horizons on both sides as I crawled under an azure dome pocked by clouds that were few and far between, I didn’t need to know where I was staying that night. I didn’t need to know where I would sleep tomorrow. I would be ok. Everything’s gonna be alright

—–

There are days I am nigh overwhelmed by the brokenness in the world.  There are refugee crises, and sickness, and violence.  The weight is huge.  And I am reminded of it daily as I sit in the pain and fear of the boys and girls who I work with have fled violence, destruction, and death.  I sit in it now.  And it is heavy.

We kick at the darkness, and hope that one day it will bleed daylight…  But we keep kicking.  One starfish at a time.  And we keep jumping, even if we’re not entirely sure how deep the water will be…

http://bmiller.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/bleeding-daylight/

—–

And sometimes when the darkness draws in close, it doesn’t take all that much to drive it back.  Sushi and an old Rasputin.  Friend talks and laughter.  Music and poetry.  And reminders of truth and beauty from Richard Capon as he plays with language and metaphor, meaning and mystery:

Might it not be, then, that it is by bearing for love the uncertainty of what we are to do that we come closest to his (God’s) deepest will for us?  In our fuss to succeed, to get a good grade on the series of tests we think he has proposed, we miss the main point of the affair: that we already are the beloved.  We long ago wound God’s clock for good…

It is our thirst for success and our fear of the freedom which he wills for us that keep us the poor lovers we are.  If the cross teaches us anything, it should be that the cup doesn’t pass from us, and that agony, bloody sweat, and the pain of being forsaken on a dark afternoon are the true marks of having said, Thy Will Be Done.  He is no less lost in this affair than we are.  What really matters for us both, though, is not the lostness, not the doubt, not the fragile, mortgaged substance of our house – only the love as strong as death which has set us as a seal upon each other’s hearts.

This is me learning to show up.  This is me, embracing love.  This is me, realizing that its ok to give up on my quest for certainty, for answers, for control.  What you find in the process is life – and life to the full.  This is me embracing the questions.

It feels good to be back…

Consolation

I am tired. And my feet hurt. A lot. A few blisters. A few deep aches in the muscles & bones. 180 km. 7 days of walking.

But those things fade away quickly when you’re seated around the dinner table sharing a meal with friends who you hadn’t met a week ago, laughing through the beauty of blended cultures & spilled out stories, love & laughter abounding. To have someone lift your blistered foot into their lap to help bandage it, the sharing of your last cashews, or simply walking in shared silence through Spanish cities & countryside… Beautiful signs of consolation today. And I am thankful.

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Oh the places we'll go…

It’s funny how someone can capture your heart even though you’ve never met that person before…

That happened to me today:

 

Caleb

 

Welcome to the world Caleb William Derentz.

So excited to meet you, and for the adventures we’ll have…

Love you already…

Without condition

Three years ago I was vacillating between engaged participant and shell-shocked bystander in the final acts of a long-term (for me) relationship.  I had thought I would spend the rest of my life with this woman.  I was wrong.  Its implosion was spectacular, and devastating.  In some ways, it was like watching the Hindenburg disaster – a horrifying mix of tragedy with flickers of beauty and hope that kept one glued to the scene, hoping against hope that a survivor or two would escape the wreckage, and having each hope dashed time and time again until there was nothing left but ashes.

Two years ago I was tentatively jumping off the cliff into deep relational waters with a different lovely young woman whom I enjoyed, respected, and thought there was potential.  But fear and insecurity and uncertainty and listening to my heart – what I actually wanted, and not just what I thought I should want – led us to the end.

Last year I started communicating regularly with a passionate, creative, hilarious acquaintance, knowing that with the distance in place it was probably not a good idea…  But we kept talking.  Until fear or cowardice or good sense or simple honesty or a little bit of everything compelled me to end our communication.

The common thread in all three of these relationships (and, if I’m being completely honest, in most – maybe all? – of my other relationships) is the inability to do what Thomas Merton suggests:

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them…”  ~ Thomas Merton

This is my stumbling block.

This is the lesson that I have learned from others, even if they did not mean to teach it to me:

“You are loveable, and it is possible that someone could love you…
– as long as you are improving.
– as long as you don’t stay the same.
– as long as you stop making the same stupid mistakes over again.
– as long as you change, and become someone different, someone better.
– as long as you produce something grand for others.
– as long as you are living up to your full potential.
– as long as you are doing amazing things in the world.
– as long as you are not normal, or ordinary, or boring.
– as long as you hide your deepest weaknesses and insecurities, your shattered brokenness and your shameful darkness.
– as long as you are at all times the person you pretend to be.”

And this is the way I loved others all too often.

I internalized those lessons.  I applied them to others in my life.  I judged.  I evaluated.  I withheld.  I wounded others.  I told myself that I loved the potential that I saw in them – and while that potential was very great, it blinded me to the actual loving of the person that I was in relationship with.  It blinded me to the needs and brokenness and beauty of the person in front of me.  And the love that I had to give was only a pale shadow of the love that I wanted to give, of the love I wanted to receive.

These last few months, I have been asking myself what it means to love without condition.

What does it look like to love with no strings attached?

What does love look like when it is not only concerned with what the future holds or the great things the beloved can accomplish, but is content to simply delight in being in the presence of the beloved?

What does it feel like to know and understand the depths of grace – to feel in your bones that you are accepted just as you are, and you are deeply, fiercely, richly loved?

It is bigger.  Fuller.  Richer.  Deeper.  Brighter.  Heavier.  Tastier.

To accept that I am loved.  Shockingly.  Unexpectedly.  Undeservedly.  Beautifully.  Entirely.

It is how I want to be loved, and how I want to learn to love others:
– co-workers.
– clients.
– friends.
– parents.
– brothers and sisters.
– habibi.
– Abba.

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”  ~ Thomas Merton


Thomas Merton
via Father Bill

Only Love

The last time I was at the Music Box theater was over a year ago, with Ryan.  It’s a fun theater which shows quirky fare.  Tonight they were screening several of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries.  The second one we watched was titled “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.”

Over the forty-minute long film, we come to know Jack Hall, an 83-year-old World War 2 veteran who is serving a life sentence for murder. He has congestive heart failure, has been in the hospital wing for the past 10 years after multiple heart attacks, and is not doing well. We follow him around as he is wheeled out into the yard to visit with his friends, we follow him to worship services and doctor’s visits and eventually follow him into one of the two hospice rooms of the Iowa State Penitentiary.

It is a startling, intimate, humanizing look into the lives of several men who are incarcerated – and what it means to die with dignity in prison.

The most arresting moments we were invited into were the moments that Jack shared with his hospice care-givers – volunteers who spent 10-12 hours a day with him 5 days a week, in shifts so that he was never alone: bathing him, holding his hand, praying with him and for him, rubbing his back, shaving him, laughing and joking and simply being with him so that he would not die alone.

One of the volunteers was named Love – serving a life sentence for kidnapping. Love was with Jack as he faded into a coma, and became unresponsive. Love was with Jack as he stopped breathing.

And for someone who all too often tears up while listening to “This American Life,” I was gone.

Such a beautiful picture of what reconciliation can look like – life transformed and made new…  Even the murderers and kidnappers and the embezzlers and the gossips and the liars and the racists and the selfish and the greedy and the prideful – Jack, and Love, and you, and me…

—–

(for more on “Prison Terminal,” check out this piece on “Fresh Air.”)

Problems solved or mysteries lived

I never thought I would see Lenny Kravitz cry on stage. But as the show went on, he just seemed to get more and more frustrated. I felt a little bad for the guy, to be honest. I mean, on the one hand, he’s Lenny Kravitz. But on the other, no matter how many times you repeat your song lyrics and ask the crowd to sing along, it’s not gonna change the fact that the crowd of 300,000 people on the Copacabana beach were primarily Portuguese speakers, and don’t understand what you’re saying, and even though they were super excited to be there, weren’t really able to sing along…

Of course, the five english speakers I was tagging along with didn’t really know the lyrics either – we were just there cause…  I mean, c’mon, how often do you get to go see a free Lenny Kravitz concert on the beach in Rio?

I was reminded of this ridiculous scenario the other night as I was driving home from my internship out in the suburbs, listening to a podcast of Walter Brueggeman teaching an Old Testament Survey workshop. As he closed out a portion of his talk, he said:

“For the most part, the wisdom teachers are problem solvers. But they knew that underneath the problems are mysteries to be lived with.

One of the problems with an electronic culture is that everything turns into a problem to be solved.

Creation is a mystery to be lived with, and not a problem to be solved…”

I turned it off to think about his words for a moment in silence, but right then Lenny Kravitz began blaring through the radio, and I was back on that beach in Rio.

As the two threads wove together in my mind, I smiled at the beauty and absurdity of it: Brueggemann and Kravitz combining to remind me of truth, of experience, of lived hope, of a time when I was learning to give up expecting God to solve my problems, or the problems of the people I cared about, and embrace the mystery of faith and trust and dialogue and honesty and anger and questions and relationship with God in all its wonder and complexity.

—–

The time around the concert was tumultuous. I had recently moved into the favelas, and was confronted on an almost daily basis with police brutality, gun-fights around the corner between traffickers and cops, friends dying of drug overdoses or drug-deals gone bad, systemic oppression and hopelessness and despair. I saw lots of problems that needed to be fixed.

But God wasn’t doing it. At least not the ways that I wanted it to happen. The violence continued. Bullets flew. People died. Hope died.

And yet…

Mystery. Beauty. Death was present. But even as death seemed to reign, there were signs of resurrection, of new life, of people transformed and choices made new, forgiveness opening doors and hearts, people risking love even in the darkness. This was the Kingdom at work.

This tension goes back to the disciples. I think of them asking Jesus, “Lord, are you now going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” They wanted flash. They wanted bang. They wanted power. They wanted solutions. They wanted the Kingdom to come in now – powerful and majestic and impossible to miss. They wanted torture to stop, chemical and nuclear weapons destroyed, the oppressors ousted, the vision of Isaiah brought to earth where every one could sit and eat under their own fig tree, “and no one would make them afraid,” and freedom and liberty and justice for all.

And against that stands the path of Jesus.

“Yes, that will happen, but not in the way you want it to happen.
Yes, I will make all things new, but it will be like a slowly growing tree instead of an avalanche of light.
Yes, there is hope.
Now go.
Forgive.
Serve.
Give.
Love.”

That is the mystery…

And how do we live that?

“Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ‘em like a father and cared for ‘em like a mother…well, you wouldn’t catch me sayin’ things like ‘there are two sides to every question’ and ‘we must respect other people’s beliefs.’ You wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgiving sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, ‘cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that’s what true faith would mena, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declaring’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just…is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbors.”

She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice: “Anyway, that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And I don’t think that’s fashionable right now, ‘cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say ‘oh deary me, we must debate this.’ That my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don’t chase faith, ‘cos you’ll never catch it.” She added, almost as an aside, “But, perhaps, you can live faithfully.”

~ Granny Weatherwax, in Carpe Jugulumby Terry Pratchett

May you live today faithfully…

Josh and Melissa

josh and meli

 

Dear Josh and Melissa,

So you’re getting married this evening…

Know that I’m thankful for your friendship these past few years – for small group, and worship, and prayer.  For coffee conversations, and dinners on the patio, and the steady diet of ideas, music, silliness, laughter, and joy…

It’s been a delight to see your love grow – the way you make each other come alive, the spark in your eyes on catching sight of the other.  Praying you hold onto that over the years as your love deepens and matures, and as you continue on this journey together.

Praying your love will create a space for beautiful things to grow, for God’s kingdom to be extended in new ways and spaces…
Praying for patience, for grace, for joy, for laughter…
Praying for protection of this relationship, that you are able to keep God as the foundation on which you build the structure of your life together…
Praying that you are reminded today and every day of all those who love you and have come from near and far to celebrate you, to encourage you, and to support you in your commitment to God and to each other.

You are both loved.

Thanks for inviting others in to celebrate with you today…

Can not wait…  Now let’s get the party started…

Water

The shattering weight of summer-light pressed down and through shadowed tree covered lanes as we walked home from the cafe. Turning a corner, we saw the girl in front of us dancing through, and around, and between rainbow streams of shimmering water, spraying and spinning and spiraling. There was beauty in the interplay of light and shadow, of sprinklers and water and scintillating rainbows that scattered shards of light profligately, without regard for whom might see, or appreciate this holy symphony of movement and color.

“…it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash…”

~ Marilynne Robinson – Gilead

This was one of those moments.

Leaving Neil’s house, biking down to the lake, I was struck once more by the extravagance on display – water in blues and greens, as far as the eye could see, shimmering and sparkling, evidence of grace.

Water is not only for the deserving.

Water does not only quench the thirst of the pure.

Water gives life to all, evenhandedly, without condition, without restraint.

I stopped my bike on the shore, captivated by the joyous call of the water.

Finally, unable to resist, I gave in to its siren song, leaping into the blue-green womb with abandon and laughter, over and over and over again…

Thankful.

Humbled.

Blessed.

Made new.

“…water was made primarily for blessing…”

lake michigan

Love that will not let me go

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I’ve been working at a short-term residential facility for young children for the past year or so.  One of the things they don’t prepare you for is how much you will come to know and love these kids – spending 30-40 hours a week with them, teaching, preparing meals, playing games, resolving conflicts, teaching them to share, helping them learn to deal with disappointment and frustration, doing laundry, reading bedtime stories, playing cars, taking field trips to the museum, the park, the dentist, the lake, or the movies, soothing hurts and putting on band-aids, getting punched and bitten, getting hugs and hearing them scream your name with joy when you arrive at the movie theater, or walk into the home, and being smothered as they run across the room to leap into you…  I didn’t quite expect to lose my heart like this.  Not here.  Not doing this.

I don’t have any kids of my own, so I don’t fully understand the depths of this formless, irrational, crazy love that parents have for their children.  But I do know what it means to love another – to love them so much that you would do whatever is needed for their good.  And everyday, I am taught more and more about what it means to love in that way – not in the way that is easy for me, but in the way that calls me to sacrifice, to service, to death to self, to doing what is hard, and what I would rather not do so that another can grow and thrive and step into all that they can be – all that they were made to be – all that God has in store for them.

There are two brothers who have been living at our facility for the better part of half a year.  Due to the many complications in their case – in their family life – our site has been their home.  And it has been one of the joys of the past year to walk alongside them as they slowly heal from the deep wounds in their past.  It is a slow process.  Brutally slow.  Behavior that they have learned over the years to cope with continuous violence and abuse does not just go away once they are in a safe place.  The learning curve is tremendous.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been punched, bitten, kicked, cursed at, threatened, and yelled at by these two boys.  This is how they’ve learned to express their anger and their fear, and this is how they’ve learned to interact when limits are put in their path.

“Why did you punch him?”

“Because I wanted to ride the trike, and he wouldn’t let me.  I WANT to!!!”

One lashes out in anger and rage at being hurt time and time again by someone who should have cared for him.  The other runs and hides and cowers in fear.  This is what they’ve learned.  This is the hand they’ve been dealt.  This is the reality of their life, and the work to overcome that will be hard.  Their wounds have been deep, and while they may heal, the scars will remain.

But I also can’t remember all the times that they’ve run up to me, smiles, hugs, proudly showing me how they’ve learned to write their name, or the art project they’ve finished, or the fact that they went to the dentist and didn’t have a meltdown EVEN WHEN they had to get shots!

This is the fruit of love – of sacrifice – of presence – of not giving up and leaving and letting them wallow in their brokenness.  Love seeks out the other.  Love steps into that reality and does not let go, does not give up, does not wash its hands of us and just let us go our own way, further and further from life, from joy, from beauty, from goodness.  Love fights for us.  Love shows up.  Love gives.  Love doesn’t give up.  Love never fails.

It would be easier sometimes to walk away.  I get tired of being bitten, of being yelled at, of being told that they wish I was dead and would just leave them alone.  I hope – I LONG – for the day when they are healed.  But until they are, I won’t leave them there.

This past Monday afternoon I found myself with a few close friends, heads bowed in prayer, thinking of these two brothers – and my heart broke.  I wept.  Thinking of their future – hoping good things for them – knowing that as much as I love them now, soon they will be going on to a different place – and praying, praying, praying desperately for a home that is loving, that will show them the love and the limits and the grace and the consistency and the hope that they need.

And I know that as much as I love them, the God who created them, who formed them and shaped them and breathed life into their fragile yet resilient selves – this God loves them more.  If I will not step away when it is hard, how much more will God stay – work – move – draw them to the source of all good?

Because this love of mine is a shadow of the reality.  It is a picture, a dim reflection, a small appetizer of the great banquet that awaits us all one day.  I choose to believe in that.  I choose to place my hope in the goodness and love of a God who gives all and more for us, the children of his hands and the apple of his eye, who opens possibilities and Easters both our joyous days and our dark, lonely nights.

God has come.  God is love.  God gives.  God is with us.  God has risen.  God will not give up.

This is very good news.

Flat tires and looking good

081

A number of years ago I spent about four months living and working in Nepal with WMF.  I arrived in Kathmandu a few months after my 20th birthday, idealistic, full of big dreams about the difference I would make, and certain that my time would be an adventure in every way, serving the poor, learning to be like Jesus, and basically having everyone admire me for how amazing I was.  It only took me a few weeks to find out that I was not all that.

I had arrived with visions of being the next Mother Theresa or Gandhi, with a touch of Oscar Romero thrown in, and my expectations were dashed when I discovered that the “working with street kids” (which I envisioned as cute little boys and girls who were hungry for affection and just needed someone to come play soccer with them for a few hours each week to point them on a path towards wholeness, health, and the restoration of all that was broken in their lives) that I had hoped to be involved in wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, we would be spending our time volunteering at one of the local Missionaries of Charity homes, doing distinctly unglamorous tasks such as pulling up water from the well, washing dishes, cleaning, doing laundry by hand, cleaning out septic tanks one bucket at a time, and generally doing the best we could to not get in the way too much, or get talked to sternly by a nun for being too slow, incompetent, or inefficient.  It was not fun.  It was not sexy.  It was not even “missionary cool,” like working at the home for the dying, or with photogenic kids, or with crowds of needy people that you could tell others about and bask in their glow about how holy you were.  Instead, we were at a home called Shanti Bhivan (House of Peace) for mentally and physically disabled Nepalis.  It was simple, quiet, unassuming, and hidden.  It was hard.

I toughed it out for a few weeks.  After all, I was with a team of people, and to simply stop going would look bad.  I didn’t want others to think poorly of me.  I didn’t want them to see how unspiritual and shallow I truly was.  I didn’t want them to see me as I really was, so I pretended.  I pretended to be a servant, all the while grumbling inwardly about how I didn’t really want to be here, and how I really wanted to be somewhere else – somewhere more exciting, more dramatic, more more…  But inside, I was stuck.

Our regular schedule included getting up at 5am for an hour of silent, contemplative prayer.  The first month or so involved lots of falling asleep in the midst of it – only to be woken by a jab in the ribs from Julie, or a throat clearing from Ben or Kipp.  I’d return the favor when I noticed their breathing turn too deep or regular for being awake.  But as we stuck it out, I began to recognize something beautiful and holy about those quiet, dark, cold mornings we spent on the floor, wrapped in our woolen blankets, learning to quiet our hearts and inhabit the silence that was a doorway to God’s heart.

After prayers, it was time to go to work.  There were two bikes that we could use, and for the first few months that was my favorite part of the day: the 30 minute bike ride to work.  It felt like a video game as I dodged tuk-tuks and cows, taxis and pedestrians, buses and trucks, dogs and street vendors, weaving in and out of the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu’s morning rush hour.  I felt alive – the adrenaline flowed – and it was exciting in a way that the rest of my days were not.

One morning as I was riding to work, I was feeling tired, grumpy, and just plain fed up.  We had been there for a couple of months, and whatever appeal had been present at the beginning was gone.  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t want to serve.  I didn’t want to go to the stupid Missionaries of Charity home, run by the stupid nuns who would just make me feel bad for not giving more, doing more, being more…  I felt like I wasn’t enough.  And I wanted to do something more fun.  I wanted to stop and go to a cafe and get breakfast and coffee and spend time reading my novel.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do.  Who cared if I was on something called a “Servant Team.”  I was tired of serving.  I wanted out.

But…

At the same time, I was intensely self-conscious and worried about what others would think of me.  If I just didn’t go to work that morning, the nuns would ask about me.  Kipp would know that I didn’t show up.  I couldn’t lie about it.  They would catch me.  They would know the depths of my self-centeredness, my shallowness, my laziness and general lack of spirituality.  They would know that I wasn’t really like Jesus.  Not in any ways that mattered, anyway.  After all, I couldn’t even spend a measly five hours volunteering and working with the poor – the poor that I claimed to love, and had come to Nepal to serve.  However, I had found that loving “the poor” in reality was often difficult, challenging, and hard (just like anyone that you truly enter into relationship with.)

I didn’t want people to know who I really was, and how I really felt.  But I also didn’t want to go.  At that moment, I had a brilliant idea…  What if I got a flat tire?  If my bike tire went out, I’d have a ready made excuse.  I COULDN’T go in to work if my bike tire was flat.  I’d have to stop and get it fixed, and who KNOWS how long that would take.  It might take all day, if I could find someone slow enough…  and my problem would be solved.  It just might work…

I could explain to anyone who asked how I intended, nay, deeply WANTED to go to volunteer today.  I was trying to, but my cursed bike let me down by getting a flat tire, and what was I supposed to do?  …  Yes.  I would have the rewards of people looking to me and still admiring me for what I WOULD have done if only the mechanical bike hadn’t gotten in the way.  AND, I would be able to do what I really wanted to do, which was read my book over a pot of coffee and a set breakfast (with little delicious pastries) from the German place down the road.  It was a win-win.

However, there was only one slight problem with this plan.  My bike didn’t have a flat tire.

I didn’t let this stop me.  I still had a few miles to go before I got to work.  There was still time.  There was still hope that I COULD get a flat tire.  And if it needed a little help from me, then that could be arranged…

So, I started hitting potholes.  Every pothole, crack, piece of glass, sharp object, bump, or nail in the road…  If it was there, I hit it.  I started pushing hard on the front tire, trying to put more weight on it and get it to pop (or at least go flat) before I arrived.  As I drew closer and closer to Shanti Bhivan, I grew more and more nervous, and more and more frantic.  The tire wouldn’t pop.  No matter what I hit, no matter what I ran over, it wouldn’t go flat.

As I pulled up to the front gate, I was disgusted.  “Fine,” I remember saying to God.  “I’m here.  I’m not happy about it.  I don’t want to be here.  But since I’m here, whatever…  I’ll serve.  But don’t expect me to be happy about it…”

I grudgingly walked through the gates…  and as I fell into the rhythm of work, or buckets pulled and clothing washed, of meals served and wounds tended, something happened…  My anger – my bitterness – my frustration – it melted away.  I couldn’t hold on to it.  I tried.  But somehow, someone reached through and softened my heart.  Through the practice of obedience, I was transformed and made obedient.  Through the discipline of service – by simply showing up – my heart was renewed.  I left that afternoon rested, thankful, and blessed.  Joyful.  At peace.  All because the tire I had been hoping and praying would go flat held up.  All because my attempts at sabotage had failed.  All because God would not give up on me.  All because of grace…