Year of Two Griefs

2013

2013

2 years ago I tutored a girl named Aaliyah.
1 summer ago I met a woman with 3 daughters trailing behind her.
That summer I realized that I had to have real faith or no faith at all.
I knew that it was not enough to serve people I did not know.
I knew I was cheating God to emotionally clock in and out of “ministry”.
I knew I had to care.

Then I said, ‘behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’~Hebrews 10:7

Back to the girl named Aaliyah.
I started showing up at her apartment, chatting with her mom.
I started bringing strawberries after school.
I felt awkward and unsure of everything except for one thing: God’s plan.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.~Micah 7:7

He was leading me, Little Old Me, and I was doing my best to walk in the shoes He had for me.
I searched and searched and kept coming back to apartment 119 in the projects.
Then I took three girls to the park.
Then I took three girls to the library.
Suddenly–I can’t remember when exactly–a relationship was born.

Rumor has it that other languages have words for what English speakers call “adopted family” or “fictive kin”. I wish English had a word for it. The three girls are not my sisters, they are not my kids. “Entourage” doesn’t cut it either. They are something more miraculous and unusual. We became blood-kin not by our parents but by our Savior. His love compelled me to their door. His love made sure there was a place for me in their life. God’s whimsy, His creativity, His mission brought us together and made one great year.
There were apologies and snacks by the pool. We ran spontaneously into the sprinklers at Peabody Park and we went to church together on Sunday afternoons. We danced in the talent show and we played tips with the Church’s Chicken basketball. We read books together and we watched Beatles videos until we got bored. We wrestled, we danced, we swam, we clapped, we sang, we prayed. We were humans–little girls–together. Jesus’ loving ability to meet our needs bridged the gaps between us.
There were times when I felt I was banging my head against a wall of sin and rebellion. There were times when dancing in the kitchen with them was therapy for me.
Our love for each other turned heads. I like to think that people felt an inkling of divine involvement when they saw me and three chocolate swirled girls happily packed into my truck.1452329_763019423714930_46172494_n

Now they have relocated and left a gaping hole in my life.
The anvil is on my heart again,
Like wounding a wound.

The English language falls short once more.
Suffice it to say, God’s dreams are the dreams that overwhelm and delight.

As I read Isaiah 30 I can feel God whisper to my tore up soul:

This is the way. Walk you in it.

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The Church That Will Last

Now when I say “The Church That Will Last” I don’t mean that there is some Sunday service that lasts even LONGER than yours. No, that’s not what I mean. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.~1 Peter 2:9-10

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.~Acts 2:46

I go to two churches. People in my city do this a lot. Or they hop around. This one today, that one next week. We stand at arms length, poised to get involved should something spark our interest. We desperately try to enjoy the experiences we have at church. We manipulate our own thinking until we truly believe we get fed at church. We pick at issues without ever getting real about the darkness at work. We settle. We settle. We settle. We hope this is the church that will usher us in to eternity.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one sees the Lord.~Hebrews 12:14

It isn’t the church with stained glass that will remain. It isn’t the church made of brick with accountants and committees that will outlast this planet. It’s not the church burned down with loved ones inside, nor the church whose loans force charity to be put on hold. It’s not the church with political strategy and choir boys lurking in the shadows. God’s church does not limit itself to any one denomination. It isn’t the church that you can send mail to. 

God’s church does not have an address here. 

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,”…~2 Timothy 2:19a

The Church of Jesus is the one where broken people are invited to the table. Not a sacrament, but a supper that belongs to our Lord. The table where we (actually, truly) don’t care what color you are, or who your daddy is, because we are determined to love YOU. It’s the church where relationships are most important, where all voices are heard. The Church of Empty Nesters, expanding their families at their neighbors’ convenience. The Church of Telling Your Story, the Church of Learning from Young and Old.

The church that meets on front porches and on the rainiest, hardest Mondays. The church that whispers her struggles to one another in the corridor. The church that kisses you on the cheek because they haven’t seen you in 5 days. The church that sees your dirt and, rather than make you relive it, invites you to live beyond it. The church who stops what he is doing to hand you tissues as you cry. The church that prays together and stays together. 

Sunday gathering of yawns and seersucker suits will fall away. Jesus did not come to make us bored and pompous. 

Spontaneous weeknights of feeding 2 college students who are looking for answers creates community bound to endure. Jesus came to feed us, to save us, and to walk beside us. He does so on an individual scale. 

It is the fellowship of people who give one another permission to grieve, to hurt, to cry out, to question

that counts. 

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.~Revelation 22:4-5

Pop Vulture

3 Quick Responses that I must articulate:

1) Love & Basketball

              SUCH a popular movie. If you have not seen it you are probably not American. That being said, I was not American until about a month ago. I watched it and have been reeling ever since. GASP. Woman desperately pursues man! Woman is a great basketball player with a decent family yet all she wants is Man. Man sleeps around unapologetically and takes no action towards pursuing Woman. In the climactic scene, Woman challenges Man to a game of basketball with his heart as the prize. She plays for HIS heart!? I watched open mouthed. (I’m being serious here: flies probably gathered, I was oblivious.) Man was made to pursue Woman. No woman should have to desperately pursue her man.

I perceive this mentality as result of a break down in society that has removed man’s drive to provide and left women desperately trying to lead families–a position no woman wants to find herself in. In my life and the lives of my friends, it is prevalent. ‘Merica.

Let him come after you, ladies. We were made to be hard to get. We give a man permission to be a man when we wait for HIM to pursue US. If he does not come, then he ain’t the one!

2) Stay With Me

           I recently acquired a Spotify account (https://www.spotify.com/us/) and the very first song I downloaded was, yes, Stay With Me by Sam Smith. Why? Because I adore this song. It has been upwards of a month since I downloaded it and I have listened to it nearly every day since. Yesterday it occurred to me (as I sang at the top of my lungs…) how deplorable the lyrics are.

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man These nights never seem to go to plan I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?

[Chorus:] Oh, won’t you stay with me? ‘Cause you’re all I need This ain’t love, it’s clear to see But darling, stay with me

[Verse 2:] Why am I so emotional? No, it’s not a good look, gain some self-control And deep down I know this never works But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt

(http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/samsmith/staywithme.html)

Tragic. These words break my heart. According to a potentially reliable source (The Daily Beast, you be the judge) the songwriter/performer, Sam Smith, wrote these from personal experience. We are seeing into this precious man’s soul. And do you feel his sorrow? I can close my eyes and taste his desperation, his longing for something to fill the void. (I can taste it because I too have been desperate, broken, and full of longing for love.) He stays with someone he knows does not love him. What else can he do?

When I thought, “my foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.~Psalm 94:18&19

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will DELIVER him; I will PROTECT him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be WITH him in trouble; I will RESCUE him and honor him. With long life I will SATISFY him and show him my salvation.~Psalm 91:14-16

3) Divergent

         In contrast to #1, Divergent offers the kind of love story that reflects the ideals behind a Biblical relationship (the kind that makes me sniffle.) Girl kicks butt (girl power, love it.) Guy notices Girl. Guy starts protecting Girl. Girl notices but is cautious. Guy kisses Girl. Girl acts like a lady and bids him slow down. This makes Guy want Girl more. This causes Guy to respect Girl. Girl and Guy protect and sacrifice for each other.

Enough. I might throw up. I am a fan of it because I am tired of seeing girls play ball for their man’s heart and get left in the ruins of abuse and neglect.

SHE: Draw me after you; let us run. (1:4aa)

HE: As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. (2:2)

SHE: My beloved is mine, and I am his. (2:16) Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. (8: 7a) ~Song of Solomon