Too Much

“I came, I saw, I forgot what I was doing.” I have a coffee mug with that quote and, wait for it, I CAN’T REMEMBER WHO GAVE IT TO ME!!!! That’s kinda a funny, but it’s actually also true, I really can’t. I think it was a family member, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, and whoever it was, it’s a lovely gift that I cherish. snort

Maybe I simply wasn’t paying attention before, but it seems to me like my memory and/or attention span has taken a hit along with what’s going on right now. I’m appreciating Kyle’s sermon series because the understanding that having abnormal responses to abnormal times is “normal” is making me feel a little better. My focus and attention seem to explode in a thousand directions depending on the day and the situation. While I’ve always had a lot going on in my head, it felt a little like I was in a fair amount of control of what took priority. I can still do that but can’t always sift where the other ideas sit while I try and focus on one or two. I’m guessing I may not be alone.

Another odd thing are the dreams that happen, I think most often right in the last part of a night’s sleep. They are so odd, sometimes scary, sometimes not. What little I know about the science of dreams is that it is our brains trying to work out the information/images/thoughts that get all jumbled up and stuck from what we experience during the day. It makes some sense to me that as we continue in these pandemic times that, at least in our lifetimes, have very little precedent, our minds get overwhelmed with information and maybe no small amount of stress, so our involuntary responses tend to heighten, like dreams or myriads of ideas that take our minds all kinds of directions at all kinds of times. I do believe that wonderfully creative things can happen during stressful and unusual times, it’s in the process of those creations coming into being that is often a difficult place to live.

And that’s where I believe we are right now. We’re living in that “liminal” space where we can’t yet see the destination and yet we have left where we’ve always been. There is deep grief that goes with every good-bye and deep hope that lures us to what tomorrow may bring. Living between those two is one of the most creative, complex, and uniquely difficult times that human beings can experience.

For some reason during one of the flights of my myriad thoughts a few days ago, I remembered a small little book that Henri Nouwen wrote entitled: “Out of Solitude.” A good friend gave it to me my first year of teaching Jr High in Medicine Lodge, America. It fit so much of my experience at that time of having graduated with a degree and yet oh so much aware of how little I actually knew about being an on the ground and in the classroom educator. I was surrounded by wonderfully experienced teachers willing to share their wisdom, and at the same time I knew I had to figure a ton of stuff out myself and deal with my fear that while I was figuring stuff out, these students might never have a great life of English and Reading because they had a novice teacher. I was far away from home, far away from my campus and Professors and mentors, and getting farther away from NOT being an adult – and no one tells you how hard adulting on an ongoing basis is going to be! In Nouwen’s introduction to the book he says this:

“’In the morning , long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there’ . . . after much togetherness there is solitude. Locked between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus’ ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray. In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own . . . Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life.”

I remember those first weeks of trying to figure out where we were going when the shelter at home and no in-person gathering instructions came. My image was trying to drink from a fire-hose which I think was pretty true for all of us. And there was a sense that maybe this would be a for a few weeks, maybe a month. I think in part because that’s all we could handle thinking in those shock-numbing moments. It was too much to imagine it lasting through Easter, too much to think about it lasting beyond Confirmation Sunday, too much to think about it lasting through the end of the school year and graduations, too much to think about it postponing weddings and anniversary celebrations, and transforming how we celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of our loved ones. And yet here we are, and in stops and starts with failures and some gifts of grace, we are surviving and taking breaths again to focus our lives on possibilities and potentialities of thriving. We may protest that we don’t want to move into a different future. We may hang onto believing that the former ways were the best ways and we need to hide until we can go back there. OR, we give God the space and the time and the balance of listening before speaking, remaining distant until our closeness is again a gift and not a threat, and intentionally finding peace in solitude so that gathering in community receives the generosity of our best selves caring for one another.

In space, even when not chosen, is the seed of creativity and vision and/or re-vision. What is God seeking to do in the world we now have? If we are no longer racing from one place to the next, what might hold our attention for longer times? Knowing our neighbors? Deeper reaching across divides to value basic human connection beyond difference? Greater understanding that we share the same earth, air, water, soil, and the opportunity it has given us, when we can’t go other places, we can go outside and that outside becomes more than something to walk through from one place to the next, but becomes that which is the essence of life itself?

In the midst of all-too scattering thoughts and sometimes too-sharp dreams, God invites us to stop for a moment and let the Spirit of God do the talking, the dreaming, the inviting to a new and yet unknown future whose road we are building together as we walk on it. It won’t be the same, and for the best parts of what were, I grieve with you. We aren’t where we are going, and for the fear of the unknown, I worry with you. AND, we are living in a present surrounded by a God of abundant grace, and for that faithful promise, I am grateful with you.

The video astounds, amazes, and makes me smile. The creativity and time someone put into these dance clips from the past to fit a song that came far after is a tribute to ageless connections. Plus seriously, would you not love to dance like these people, it’s like gravity doesn’t even affect them! Enjoy and maybe get up and dance – no one’s watching!