Tuesday, March 18

When I'm Tempted to Withhold Goodness

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear...

...Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter --
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always,
he will satisfy your needs
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail...
You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets and Dwellings...
~ Isaiah ~

Thursday, March 6

One Armchair to Another

I've been counting down the hours, and the time has finally arrived. 'Time for a cup of something with a friend. I hurry into the coffee shop, not wanting to waste a moment of these stolen hours away from children and responsibilities and care.

My friend has arrived before me and I settle into the comfy armchair at her side. We are surrounded by buzzing conversations; the whir of coffee dispensers and the dull thump of nearby doors attempt to interrupt our thoughts. Sirens shrill just beyond the crowded parking lot. The gentleman at the table next to us asks the time. We take it all in, but the flow of conversation is immediate and uninterrupted.

My friend is a rarity in the world. Her femininity is complete, natural, profound. She is beautiful. She moves with grace, surety. And when she speaks, her loveliness is not compromised. Her words spark hope. Light. Even joy.

She tells of strengths and challenges. She carefully, respectfully tells bits of the stories of friends -- women who are hurting, unsure, and fighting fiercely to define faith (or to squish it determinedly into whatever box they so desperately need to believe it fits in). She speaks with honor and compassion, needlessly doubting her position in the world relative to theirs.

My friend, I am beginning to see, has astonishingly broad shoulders. As she navigates her own roles of professional, wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, she also stands solidly as many, many women lean on her for a steadying influence.

I don't know if she can see that from where she's sitting, back to the window, coffee cup in hand. Can she see the dignity she offers to a hurting mom, a dreams-dashed friend? Can she see the solidity, the calm she imparts to her community of women? Does she know that the consistency of her life is a safety and a standard?

She dispenses wise caution with ease, without offending. She is meek. What a gift to the world, that trait alone! She is quick to laugh at herself and quicker still to extend pardon to her offenders. I must learn from her!

Our time together is cut so short. We say hurried goodbye's in the emptying parking lot, promising to get together soon, regretting our too-full schedules. And I leave my friend, feeling...what? Feeling befriended. Listened to. Challenged. Connected with. One hour in a couple of coffee shop armchairs. Enough to change the world.