Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mercy Rule Indeed

Co-ed softball season might be a long seven weeks.
Last week we lost our game 28 - 3.....after only 3 innings.
A really long seven weeks.
However, I now fully understand the decision to make a mercy rule.  It was merciful to call that game, let us gather our things and leave before the other team showed up to see our shame. Mercy rule indeed.

Can you imagine playing in that game?  How would you handle it? Are you angry, quiet, determined, bored, stressed?  I handle it by becoming the talker.  Telling everyone where the next play is - how many outs there are - where they should throw the ball.  At first I am not annoying, I am helpful - but then....I am annoying. Really annoying.  I can't stop talking and cheering and "trying to keep you in the game" annoying.

It's like a switch goes off in my head and I can't separate real life from the game.  And I feel so desperate to make sure everyone keeps going.  I feel this responsibility to help everyone find a reason to play, to stay in the game. I feel like I need everyone to know what it means to play well even if there is no hope.  I feel like as a team we need to find something to be joyful about even when every ball drops where we were just standing one batter ago - or every hit we get goes to the shortstop who has range from third base to second base and an even better arm - that we need to keep fighting even if every feasible hope is lost.  I need you to stay in the game. I need you to see something good. 

And I just can't stop; no matter if  you want to be quiet or not.  I don't slow down enough to wonder if maybe you need to verbalize your frustration - or maybe you need a second to sort it out in your own mind - maybe you are angry - hot - tired - bored. Maybe you have a word to offer, but can't get it in because I haven't stopped cheering long enough for you to do so.

And, I don't think you are wrong.

I am sorry for all that I have played with over the years, who have found a different way to play the game, but felt judged by me because they didn't play it my way.

Tonight my livingroom group sat around my backyard and shared what is going on in our lives - turns out, we are all fighting in our own way to understand this God that is real and right now.  One of our ladies saw beauty that each one of us is in a different place with God: one wants to know why - one is so angry with Him, one is finding the courage to risk everything - one is obeying Him with his heart - one is trying to figure out if He is really the one for her - one is waiting for Him to speak - and all of us are loved and pursued by Him; and all of us desperately need Him.

I almost, for one brief train-wreck of a moment, became Jodi of the softball field.  Encouraging - chanting - overtaking - but I realized I don't have to do that.  Oh! My gift is to encourage and when I am doing it because I am obeying God and the Holy Spirit is coming out of me to give someone else courage - that is a win - no matter who it annoys.
But, when I do it so that I can take away a hard situation - or try to make everyone feel o.k. about what is happening - it's just not as beautiful. And that gift to encourage becomes something loud and clanging, something you want to ignore.

I am so glad that I stopped tonight because you know what? Some of the things the people in that circle are going through are really hard.  And, even for a moment, I do not want to take away the true parts of their pain. It is o.k. for them to struggle. Right now, they are having it handed to them. For some of them, every move they make, seems to be the wrong move, another hit drops in, another run is robbed.  They can't win.  And listening to me cheer in the background and tell them that they should find something different to play for - beg them not to give up ... it's just not helpful.

Tonight, they needed me to lose the game with them, and let it be o.k. that losing was really hard - Playing was really hard.  It was o.k. to just respect that; rather than try to fix it. And, for the future, I am working on a quieter, more respectful, wiser, and less desperate way - to say "Keep going.  We can start right where we are at. Every at bat, every hit, every ball pitched - it's just another step in a story that hasn't been finished yet.  And, at the end of every game, no matter how ugly - you and me - we are still a team - and the next game starts at 0 - 0. We can do this."

So - whatever you got to do - be quiet, be angry, be sad, ask questions - do it.  And then show up again next week, so we can keep facing whatever comes at us next - together. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Broken Limb and the Insignificant Branch

I was going to write this glorious life application blog about the giant tree that grows up against the fence of my backyard.  From the viewpoint of my garden I noticed there was an enormous, broken Y-shaped limb, hanging just perfectly from a small, thin branch that was growing from the trunk of the tree.

Crazy thing was - when I went out there tonight and was telling the girls that are helping to plan the retreat about this small insignificant branch that was holding up so much weight, I realized the branch that was holding the limb was actually a part of another piece of broken tree, and it was hanging on to a tangle of other broken branches - and further, while the broken limb appeared to be suspended in thin air, waiting to fall to certain destruction, turns out, it wasn't broken at all, it was just twisted and sad.

See, my first post was going to be about the weight that we can hold when we find our strength from the trunk of the tree; I hadn't published it last night because I was just finishing up the end - where I was having a bit of trouble reconciling what would happen to both the limb and the branch if the right storm came along, and I didn't want to let this life application die.  I assumed sitting on it for one more day would help shed the light.

And, I was right, only in my pause, I found something different. 
That tree in my backyard, is a hot mess.  It has so many broken branches and twisted branches, and broken limbs supporting broken twisted branches, I cannot untangle all of it.  And, with every wind storm, there are mounds of small twigs and larger sticks - scattered all over my yard - proving that it's not just the biggest parts of the tree that are in trouble.

**I feel like I should warn you that as you continue to read, you are going to want to not think metaphorically about the tree, and you will be tempted to stop considering the life application and instead focus on the practical reality that I really need to call a tree person to my house to take care of all of the decay before someone gets hurt.  And while I see your point, can you also see mine....even that is a life application....stay focused people.**

Then, tonight, I saw it.  I am not the broken limb supported by a small branch, waiting for the right storm to send me to the ground. Nor am I the small branch, in the right place at the right time. Instead, I am all of it; the knotted branches, the strong branches, the broken branches.

The soil, the sun, the air, the life around the tree; these are keeping that tree alive.  And though that tree needs some serious pruning, so it doesn't cause some serious danger (told you it was a life application)  that tree is giving life and shelter and beauty to the world. 

It's mess is so tangled in some places that you can't make out what is alive and what is dead.  In some of its places, the strongest limbs and the broken limbs are working together to create a whole support system for the rest of them.  In other places, there is brand new life growing - sometimes growing from where the weaker branches broke off in the storm.

To think, I almost wrote about the first life application anyways and lied that it was true. --  and missed all of this - this hot mess of life and beauty. 

In case life applications are new to you, let me show you this part: Jesus is our life.  He is the nutrient in the soil. He is the oxygen in the air.  He is the vitamins in the sunshine.

We live in this world that can be beautiful, for sure, but also broken and ugly and full of storms.  And, while those storms can cause some damage - we are rooted in Jesus - and the storms sometimes break away stuff that is holding other stuff - but from that, there is room for new life to grow.

And, I haven't even touched on the rain!  How is this God we serve Real??  What God would leave such inspiration in His creation, such love?  What God, with all power, would care that we would find comfort and truth from the trees?  This God is more than I can comprehend, more than I deserve. 

This God, my God, our God - is so in love with us.  Don't you see?  He left evidence of it all around.  Our brokenness does not scare Him; it does not disappoint Him because before we even drew a breath, He drew a tree - and He gave it life - and He called it good.