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Common Grace Diaspora
From 1998 to 2008, CGM

Sunday, November 29, 2009

short breaths, but still breathing

When I got the invitation to this blog, it was if all the air (little though it might have been these days) was sucked out of my lungs. I have been short of breath a lot lately- not in the literal sense, but in the "grace, life, breathe a little and enjoy it" sense. I have been struggling and scrapping for every bit of energy to "be"- no, more like I have been avoiding being and caught up in doing. I felt trapped and stuck - and wondered where the freedom I found at CGX had gone. I longed for those deep breaths of grace that were common on Swiss Ave.
So, I sat down to make a list of all the things that I loved about CGX in an effort to see just how far I had fallen (and maybe how to get back)

I thought I would share some of this list with you-
There was freedom to be
There was a love for creativity
There was a lot of space to be (and worrying about the doing seemed to fade into the background)
They were always giving- time, space, food, internet
Movies were plentiful
I received from people willingly (or at least, by the end of my time there I learned to receive with gratitude)
We sat in silence - a lot (the things I learned in that papasan)
We weren't afraid to admit our sin (and even wear it as a bracelet if we wanted)
We had a community that couldn't be explained
We had the most amazing espressos - mint chocolate and coffee- yum!
We were all struggling to figure it out - but it was more fun struggling together than by ourselves
We were learning to live by faith, not fear

by the time i got to the end of the list, it was clear why I was taking such short breaths- when you live your life to prove your worth by your actions, the fear of failure will suffocate you.(I mean, if you fail- you are proving yourself worthless....and who can withstand that!) The result is there is no space for creativity, no space to breathe, no space for grace- no space to live.
So, I find myself repenting, breathing and wallowing in grace

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shock & Awe

Within a week or two of our arrival in Mesquite, Texas, my mother took a phone call from a strange voice that claimed to be connected with the mob. He said if she was not on the next plane back to my stepfather, Bus, in Ohio, they'd throw acid in her face and hurt my sister and me.

The threat hit home with my mom, not just because she was a beautiful woman who didn't want acid thrown in her face. She probably still held out hopes of launching her singing career. By now she'd performed in night clubs and actually sung on television, albeit in the wee hours of the night during a telethon broadcast by a station in Steubenville.

And she wasn't simply reacting instinctively, as any mother would, to a threat toward her children. But my stepfather, Bus, though Irish, had somehow ingratiated himself with the Italian mob, and in the short time she'd known him she learned his friends were capable of such things. So she flew back to Ohio.

Not long after, still living with our dad in the little rental house in Mesquite, my sister and I began getting regular mail from her: cards, letters and, on the appropriate occasions, extravagant gifts, best of all an entire set of encyclopedia. Perhaps more than ever before, I thought my mother loved me. I had the papers to prove it.

But I was still eleven and didn't yet know all that stuff about Bus and the mob and why we fled Ohio in the first place. I just knew my mother had chosen to return to this cranky, sleazy older guy instead of staying in Texas with us. I decided how I would get her to come back. To my eleven-year old way of thinking, responding to her cards, letters and gifts would simply indicate I was okay with her not being my mother anymore, so instead I would show her how hurt I was and not respond at all. I would hurt her and change her mind and then she would come back to me.

Of course that didn't work, and my mother and I would have to wait more than a decade to see each other again and to reconcile our relationship.

But that was more than 30 years ago. Yesterday, on Thanksgiving Day, I sat silently and watched family members respond to people they loved, but in a way calculated to change them: somewhat sarcastic comments made out loud as if to joke, but with a very unfunny edge. And I thought back to my plot to change my mother, then to more recent plots to change a close friend, or a business associate, or my wife, and then about others' plots to change me, all by means intended to hurt, to shock someone into changing. I wanted to interrupt, and say I'd never seen this tactic work, but I didn't.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Looking Above the Sun, to the Son

Thank you, Martin and Chris, for your idea and invitation to join this GLOG. Reading that first entry by Martin, I recognized myself as one who is in that sunless valley. In fact, it ‘dawned’ on me today that my journey into that valley essentially began shortly after my CGM group’s year ended. I sustained a back injury a few weeks later which was the beginning of the end to life as I knew it.

Yes, it has been a sunless valley. But I want to shout from it that God is light!

Looking under the sun, my resume does not have much to show for the past several years. Nonetheless, I can say that I would not trade my trials for the world! Not because they haven’t been painful. Oh no, I have been chiselled and scraped and pounded and crushed, but not beaten by my pain and losses. The testing and refining of my faith has forced me time and time again to look above the sun, to the Son.

It is in the deepest and darkest valleys, where this world’s sun can hardly reach, that the Light of the world is best seen.

My love and knowledge of God has increased so much through the worst of times that they have become the best and most treasured of times. While many of my hopes and dreams have evaporated, my hope in the One who does not disappoint has become more firm. That hope gives me impetus to be creative and find expressions for my interests despite my physical limitations. Just one example. Once I stopped waiting to be able to paint again in order to express myself artistically and threw myself into photography, I’ve not looked back. I've had so much fun taking my pocket camera everywhere, ready to capture a moment of common grace or beauty to savor.

And so the journey continues!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comparing Notes on the Journey...

When Chris Wynn responded to my BEDOSAY blog encouraging me to write for the "Common Grace diaspora" I immediately thought of all the folk who crossed our path over the last decade. The idea was simple: don't invest in the expansion of CGM but in the movement of grace within the hearts of the individuals who cross our path no matter where their paths take them. Well, brothers and sisters, you know where your paths have led you. I know some have led to sunlit mountains and others to sunless valleys. Wherever your paths have led you, I would like to personally invite you to share your notes on the "inward" and "outward" journeys of your life. Feel free to share whatever comes to heart and mind: memories, questions, insights, observations, encounters with grace, struggles, poems, songs, photographs, films, etc. I'll be sending you an invite via email (if I have your email) to contribute to this...this GLOG (Grace-LOG). OK, just imagine it's around 5:30 on a Wednesday afternoon and you've just entered the CGM living room in silence. Hmmmmmm. What's going to happen today?
Under Grace,
P.S. If you happen to cross the path of a former CGMer, please let them know about this GLOG and send them the link. Thanks.
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