Intolerable Injustice

So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.~Hosea 12:6

Thoughts rush as opinions hurtle across oceans, over screens, as we talk about people we don’t know, as we say things no one seems to hear….
It’s the passion in the voice of a friend
…as he sits in an airport, jet-lagged and full of emotion, just back from Southwest Asia, saying:
“…But when you actually look at them…they light up.”

When you actually look at them.

The hair on my arms stands up because of the truth & power in those words.

There is a God who actually looks at us. He treats us with more respect, dignity, and love, than we treat those dearest to us. He declares goodness, complete finality to our inheritance, and I am so ready to believe it, yet,
How do we believe those three words “It is done” when everything around us seems so undone?
I’m banging little white fists on the chest of God. I cannot reconcile the pain, the inequality, the judgment, the profanity, the disrespect for human life, with these promises of God. I cannot make sense of a world that lives & breathes only by the power of love yet contains horror, abuse, cages holding little girls, babies with swollen bellies, men out of work & out of dignity.
It doesn’t work, God. There is no justice. What Kingdom has come? Who is reigning over us?

And God says, love and justice.


…AND justice?

But God how can they accompany one another? This is impossible.

Yes, daughter, this is the impossible life.

This heart stretching confusion. This pain I never knew existed; I see hurt unbearable in the faces and stories of people I love (love more than life). Injustice lives in the lives around me. Yet there is life all around: vivacity giving birth to cycles of sorrow.

Every question mark will not be followed by an answer. Every answer will not be the one I wanted to hear. ~Amena Brown

The ones who don’t care for justice, Lord. Or love? How do I see them? How do I treat them?

The answer is clear. With love and justice, with no judgment but holy judgment.
They make a joke of your name. They parade your words like naked jesters before the eyes of billions. They defame love.
Holy judgment is mercy. Holy judgment is the anointed One hanging by his hands until dead. Love happened while we were yet sinners.

If we can’t love the ones who don’t love the ones closest to God’ s heart (sojourners, outcast, impoverished, downtrodden) then the holy water we soak in may be poisoned [Macklemore, Same Love].

The proud.
The religious.
The angry.
The fearful.
How is it he loves us so unendingly?

I remember a girl whose anger controlled her life.
Who saw red.
Who could not tolerate the rich & the apathetic.
Who never wanted to have children because life is just suffering.
Who pulled out her hair and sometimes didn’t eat.

I remember a girl, conflicted & insecure,
Crying in her truck, flicking ash & hopelessness out the window.
Who spent hours reading oh-so-misunderstood Gospel Words then screamed for God to show up
Who didn’t have the courage to have friends, to let anyone in.

Sunday, riding my bike past a homeless man trudging through a cool drizzle, it occurred to me.
I’m not angry.
I’m at peace.
I’m not alone.
I’m connected.
I’m not hard.
I’m sad, soft.
I’m alive.
I’m in love with life.
Those hours spent boxing with God [Amena Brown] were not wasted. Heaven is coming in to my heart. Heaven is setting me free. Somehow knowing it is done (for me, for everyone who has wronged me, will wrong me, and does wrong others) empowers me to believe it CAN BE DONE here. Now. Due to divine power, my brokenness gives birth to new life, to more & MORE freedom. In all the wreck of our world, eternity is pushing back the curtain of evil & ignorance.

Bless our God, O peoples!Give him a thunderous welcome!Didn’t he set us on the road to life?Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?He trained us first,passed us like silver through refining fires,Brought us into hardscrabble country,pushed us to our very limit,Road-tested us inside and out,took us to hell and back;Finally he brought us to this well-watered place. ~Psalm 66:8-12

Where is justice when I choose my own way?
Where is justice in my 22 years of privilege?
Where is justice for all the times I hurt others with my words?
Where is justice when the professors round my grade up?
Where is justice when I pay $140 for a cell phone & a factory worker pays with their life?

Just as his wind moves silky strands of hair across my face so he smooths the fly-aways of guilt and anger in my soul. He runs a gracious hand through my fears and reminds me that kindness overcomes hatred, that love is greater than fear (and not just for the privileged, not just for the ones who play by “the rules”). Love. Always.

May the refugees find homes.
May we open fearless arms to brothers & sisters of every religion.
May we, refugees on a rock hurtling through space, have peace & make peace.

Who Runs This Thing?

Seeing another Mount Sinai moment, I seize it hopefully.  My feet walk me through spiky fall grass to a bench perched alongside a lake. The lake is still, not even the sound of water licking the rocks. Just construction noise in the distance. I feel dew soak through my pants and shiver. Close my eyes, push in gently. Remind me who You are, God.

I reflect on my unusual morning. How a text from someone with heart problems had me sending wishes Heavenward before 5:00 a.m. How I usually fall right back to sleep but this morning had been a restless one. How I felt too closely connected to family members (by blood & otherwise) who are walking through darkness, through pain. How I tugged the blanket over my head & read 1 John because I ached to remember the goodness of the God who calls himself “compassion” [Isaiah 54:10]. How memories of my own sin & idolatry danced across my thoughts like autumn leaves on a busy street. How within I felt peace–not tranquility–but a peace that wrestles with pain & impatience & the blood of my soul that spills on everyone I come in contact with. How that peace has not always been there, but is a gift with no price tag, no return receipt. How I finally crawled out of my warm bed & decided to face the morning with a bike ride.

In those thoughts the Divine met me. The vision I had prayed for Sunday came. No trance, no goose bumps, but a simple picture. Images to help set me free again. A little girl; little me. Blonde, in a dress, dirt on her cheeks, standing at the end of a dock. The water was still like the water before me (in reality). I looked up, but as soon as I did I felt the burdens of those that I love & suffer with on both sides. They were there, breathing down my neck, keeping my eyes halfway between heaven & earth. But they don’t want to hold me down. Most of them love me. They want to see me fly.

Father, help me to let them go.

I stand and take one step at a time towards the lake. I want this moment to symbolize, in my heart, the moving away from idolatry. From earthly things. I feel the tension in my soul & step, step, step forward.

I believe that I can still be free, even as I walk with others through their pain. I don’t want to be anyone’s God. I don’t want to be anyone’s healer. I see in myself the desire to rule & submit that misplaced desire to the power greater than myself.

Relief doesn’t come immediately. Yet slowly I feel more grounded. Warmth like a coffee mug in hand starts to spread inside of me. I remember that this is God’s story, not mine.

As I ride my bike away from the lake I feel the freedom of knowing that he is healer. That he is God. The most beautiful news: I don’t have to be.

That’s the Message. I’m free from being God. My mistakes are part of a greater redemption story. Pressure is off. Love will bring me home. Love covers those I move away from sometimes; giving space so that we can all move closer towards heaven on earth. Those I move towards sometimes, because the pain is too deep to be plunged alone.

May your Kingdom come down, Jesus. Not mine.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~Galations 1:5, NIV

sun hunt

Riding my bike, gears creaking, tires rattling, I look up at a small rock bluff.
Beautiful, I think. Then, as I ride by, it occurs to me that this could be a moment to encounter the divine. This could be a Mount Sinai (I’m always on alert for Mount Sinais. When I’m not on alert for homework, emotions, work, food, clothes, friends, that is). Turning around I leave the beaten path, lay my bicycle down on the grass, and tip-toe over rocks & through brambles whose thorn hands stretch out to grab the soft fabric of my dress. On the (short) way up I think about how every day it seems I am seeking the divine. Every day I am wanting to become a more spiritual being, on higher alert for the invisible, eternal world around & in us. So I do odd things like go to church on Sundays & have conversations with people who are different than me. (There is no formula, that I know of, other than getting outside of culture’s boxy perspective.)
I climb the rock, hopes high that I will feel something, experience some sort of rebirth, or get a word of encouragement for my own soul or someone else’s. Taking two long strides I come to the top. I edge to the overhang and look down. I look around. Trees. Fall trees. Rocks & dirt. The red sign of a Conoco peeks above tree-line, as do various other town buildings. I hear air whistling through my lungs. I feel my pulse. Try and think deep. Try and become meditative. But my bladder tugs attention away from eternity into the present moment. I try to ignore it, looking at a tree with limbs spread wide, watch the yellow leaves wave & blink. The leaves remind me of loved ones. I offer a silent prayer for those I know suffering. Those I know who need healing like they need the next breath of oxygen. I pray for words, for clarity about those situations. I hear nothing. I feel nothing, except the throbbing of my bladder again, and yellow sunlight on the hair of my arms. I pick at the pennys of mud thrown against my leggings by dry-rotted bike tires.
I pray. I lean into my own consciousness. I hope for something wonderful, something undeniably divine to blow my way. Nothing does.
So I say thanks for the trees, the grass, the skin holding my flesh in shape, the feet that got me up this mountain (over which a dear friend prayed for healing this morning–it didn’t come, not today), and the people I have the privilege of praying for.
I get on my bike & ride away. No story to tell. No words burning within. Maybe a gust of peace across the prairie of my mind. Nothing tangible, really. Just another interlude. An episode that matters because of the desire, chased down, that got no answer. A mystery every other moment mimics, carrying pleas for place and for significance away with the afternoon breeze.

So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it is described in your book.”~Hebrews 10, MSG

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. ~Christopher McCandless

Grace & Gravity

I believe that I was put on this earth to chase my destiny.

I believe that you were put on this earth for a great purpose.

I believe that there is grace unleashed around us when we let someone change their mind (without missing a beat).

I believe there is power in acceptance & unconditional love.

I believe that from our darkest pain comes our deepest passions.

I accept my favorite parts of my story as well as the parts that wreck me.

I believe in an eternal force of goodness that is changing my stars & will never stop setting me free.

I accept the heavy care in my heart for the dozens of people who I claim as eternal family (love that pierces thread through me & ties my figure-eight soul to this planet).

I believe that I won’t regret giving myself time & space to transcend the daily “grind” & to nurture the soul I’ve been given.

I won’t regret taking the time to hear my heartbeat & to think long & hard about the human experience.

I won’t regret begging the dark & mysterious universe for space within me to adopt the unforced rhythms of grace & to weather waves of light & truth, the ones keeping sun & moon drawing circles around earth.

I won’t wish I had forgiven less, dreamed less, hoped less, smiled less, cried less, laughed less, fought for my neighbors & family less, believed less.

By grace I see, I dare to think: this life is a sacred gift & I want to live each extraordinary moment.

May the child within you be set free.

May you greet every growing experience with grit.

May love be gravity tethering you to the present moment.

May you fight for another.

May you confront the darkness within.

May you fly, my friend.