In all honesty, I am a little embarassed that it has been almost a month since I posted. However, I have been listening to some lovely lady voices (Naomi Shihab Nye, The Indigo Girls, Regina Spektor, Audrey Assad, to name a few) & now find myself living in the Southern hemisphere for a while. A city in central Chile called Temuco is my current home. It is terrifying and enchanting to be here but the journey and settling in process could not have gone any smoother.
In the moments when everything, from the city streets, to the food, to the curtains and the bed where I sleep seems foreign and I become overwhelmed, these words have been an oar I use to paddle my way forward*:
By the light of day and by the dark of night your God has not forgotten you || Quran Daylight 93.1
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. || Psalm 116:7
Sometimes the most difficult of big journeys (or just big changes) require me to sit, to return to silence, and remember God is not mad at me. I am not in trouble. It is all a gift to be enjoyed. And most important, and most difficult for me to believe, it all has a purpose. I have purpose.
Silence is the language of God, everything else is poor translation. || Rumi
It is interesting the internal furniture that is rearranged by travel. Sunday afternoon (my 5th day here) an old sorrow surfaced, like pieces of algea that ride the tips of ocean waves. It evoked a poem and a deep ache inside, connected to other aches. Pauline Boss says that the answer to human sadness is human connectedness (I have been listening to a lot of On Being with Krista Tippett, obviously) and I wonder if that is because sorrow touches every experience we have. Sadness is an ultimately integrated space and our interactions with others, those sweet moments when we touch and are touched, must be the only remedy broad and complex enough to greet the ache.
My liberation journey continues, now on a new continent. Dirt and sky, both ancient and savage, keep me company as I wait, breath, live one more day….yearning for gratitude, aching for new Life inside.
You, dear blog readers, always get the roughest, newest poetry. I hope you enjoy:
In a country new to me
I looked down and saw, for the first time,
the face of a miniature Chilean:
round, chapped cheeks and almond shaped eyes with dark brown fans for eyelashes.
I asked the unanswerable question: how does loving a child
make adopting an entire culture
that much easier?
Tucked away from the wind in the afternoon
one of the unanswerable questions I find is:
Why fall in love so often?
Why are humans so quick to embark on such a painful journey?
What foolhardy resilience are we busy cultivating
that we jump off the cliff time after time (to pursue cultures, experiences, people),
falling into something new with the old still all around us.
I keep this one love like dried beans in a secret, quiet place in my heart
where it is dry and cool
and where I don’t look very often;
I don’t know why.
It hurts to look, yet
for the sake of the future loves
I will be found taking the moments made for a look:
a gaze that is long and loving,
though he will never know.
It is the release of his thoughts of me,
of the white woman who came and went
that simmers in me volcanously.
It is because he will never know, just as many who have loved me (of all genders and age) will never know,
that the purity and strength of their love was the fire under my feet.
Busy looking for what their love lacked,
they failed to see how love was all I needed
to keep healing, to move towards wholeness,
to walk the way of becoming just one step more.
I didn’t need anything more than what they had to give,
I couldn’t put a tidy bow or explanation on it because their love ran me out,
and what sense is that?
A whisper says, learn to not know
because love leaves us speechless.
The profound nature of my desire to make it right
beats against my chest;
a silent kick drum against the part of me where I loved him, where I hold those tender memories.
Now the space between us is a chasm and there is no use asking it to decrease in breadth
because what would I say?
Still there is no sense,
only Love, a butterfly perched on my lips, where I smile anyway.
*Naomi Shihab Nye, On Being with Krista Tippett, July 28, 2016
She carries her cross, terrified and fully aware of surrounding and indwelling dissonance;
she knows she was made for more, a more she knows nothing of, which makes her ache with hope and agony.
Terrified, she treads deeper into the forest landscaped with fear and uncertainty.
She carries her cross because she needs more to live for.
Children who have yet to see the forest edge, for them she carries her cross.
While they can’t muster hope she, terrified, touches one more toe down.
She carries her cross, brown-eyed and unstable.
Terrified, the woman is Jesus, come back to lift the poor from the hopeless heaps we’ve put them in.
These words are about the healing and growth I am undergoing and what that is bringing about in my life. Next post will be about how exactly the 31 days of Her Voice has intensified this process. Enjoy 🙂
Everything is different now that I get to have me, and
see through the eyes I was born with, no one else’s.
A world of invitation and delight orbits just outside my domain,
without whisper of exclusion.
Having me is eating and tasting food for the first time,
it’s looking in the mirror and knowing that I am that.
It’s dancing wildly without a thought for who is around,
it’s being with loved ones and then being completely alone.
It’s one boat leaving the dock and another pulling up alongside
It’s a journey I can’t un-take
Who is she?
This wild woman with Tarzan arms that have climbed trees in Puerto Rico, held children, cooked Indian curries,
shook hands, written essays, braided hair, drafted budgets, wrapped around the body they’re attached to.
The wild woman who holds herself and stands on no feet but her own.
Who creates spaces where others can breath, where long-dormant hearts can beat again.
Once you see you can’t unsee.
Once you feel you can’t unfeel.
There are magical children around me. Some are adults but most are young, not so long out of the womb that they have forgotten the Spark they sprang from.
When I ride in the car with these kids, climb rocks with them, blow bubbles with them, read books with them, something extraordinary happens.
Over time a space is created. I imagine wind drawing a circle between us, its gusts creating a vortex of safety, peace, love, and acceptance.
Some kids hear the whisper quicker than others but it is there for all: Everything you are has a place. And by sheer Heaven-wizardry that message brings out hearts and puts smiles on faces. It’s like camels just come to an oasis.
Hearts start to show like turtle heads peeking out from under shells. Words I can’t yet voice, about things I haven’t begun to comprehend,
do their life-giving work in this space. All that I feel I cannot do for the children starts to do its work.
With me, but also without me.
In me something is happening.
My interior is a wide expanse with hay that sways in the breeze rather than the barren land it once was.
As restoration roots within me it creates a sacred spin around me; rearranging the souls that I overlap with, gentle licks of ocean against sand.
I sense that it is less an hour glass and more the mysterious layer of cinnamon particles carried by winds that, over time, shape the sand dunes.
There is no sense to be made of what goes on in and around me. To put language to it is a fun, sometimes useful, challenge.
To enjoy it in all its delicious mystery is the only mandate. It’s more of an invitation.
Do you believe in an endless love?
I escaped into Arkansas wilderness today, despite the rain, because I needed poetry and a deep breath of the holy (whole) God I have come to know. Tramping over a creek I looked down and saw watery patterns.
Where is Jesus in this? I thought, and saw a pattern of stripes.
Bloody ones on the back of a man that prompted me to remember a verse about Jesus being pierced for my “transgressions”. Then I quickly backtracked mentally as that train of thought began to unravel the healing work I been faithfully cultivating.
Looking for the scars is not doing much for me.
I’m tired of my faith centering around an act of violence.
If redemption stops at violence then this story isn’t any different from the last and, oh, how I need a new story.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)
Tell me, please, that
There was “good” before there was death
There was descent for the sake of ascent* (rather than for the necessity of endless chaos, as my childhood fears–and the childhood fears of many fundamentalist religious leaders, it seems–would propose**)
Maybe you need to hear a story of death
Where you may be lowered
Perhaps your ego needs a jolt & a bit of righteous de-centering will help you find your true center
Today, that is not my story. (I know that our will is made to be broken.)
Today, that isn’t the Gospel I need. (I know that blood is necessary for cleansing–what woman doesn’t?)
My soul won’t come out to play for anything less than a story that offers me the chance to have a “center”, to regain the hiding parts of me.
So tell me the story, instead, of the Essence that got so excited to know & be known that
it belched a ballad with me right in the middle.
Tell me the story of a girl who wasn’t born to suffer;
whose oceanic depth is mysterious on purpose.
Voices are starting to welcome me into this story–words of women who write and speak with a confidence I don’t yet have (Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Opal Tometi, Sarah Bessey, Rosemary Ruether, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth);
women who aren’t stopped by the patriarchal language of a tradition they have found Truth in (though very bothered by the problem of patriarchy).
Their vulnerability makes Truth more accessible to me:
“I have my own quiet sorrows, of course, but they are mostly common sorrows; and joy, especially the everyday quiet joy of loving and being deeply loved, has been mine in abundance.” ~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist (140)
Why didn’t anyone tell me that before?
My shocking stories of abuse,
hands of cruelty that still reach from the dream world and shake me awake:
those hands aren’t as strong as they seem.
Snippets of Sarah Bessey’s experiences, honestly conveyed in her book, Jesus Feminist, are one way my heart is hearing a message she never before believed could be true.
Let me see through your eyes, sis.
Her story shuts me up:
Oh, how good it is to be silent,
to hear instead of chaos the deep truths of joy, love, daily grace.
How good it is when women who know their belovedness aren’t silent.
(These are the words of God, and they find success in the lives of the women who have forgotten the belovedness that birthed them. They find success in my life.)
How good it is to entertain the idea that there is an ever-clean shore, and
thousands of arms upholding the daughters who, day after day, watch-wait-hope to see healing break the horizon line.
For me, this is news worth searching the creekbed for. This is Gospel.
Check the drama at the door: I’ve had enough and I will shake the expectation of its return.
This is the other story and it isn’t tumultuous or violent;
it tells me of an unjeopardized, completely accessible wholeness.
The Gospel of Jesus’ fullness: today’s liberation and bread of Life.
And there’s more as her bold words uncover hidden hopes:
“.…women who have been abused rising up in strength to lead us all….” ~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist (149)
Mother Teresa. St. Clare of Assisi. Rigoberta Menchú. Christine Caine. Opal Tometi. Becca Stevens. Deb. Rosario. Jan. Countless others leading in their own ways, big and small. If they matter I do too. My footsteps fall amidst theirs and if they can climb the mountain to wholeness, so can I. Together we can win bigger. For me that victory starts today, it starts at the feet of these women as they stroke my hair and bid me to take heart. I am humbled by their Grace and mothered by their legacies. My gratitude is all I have to give for this life–for this tiny, sacred role I get to play in the story–and I will give it as a thank-you-mark at the sentence-end of each exhausting day.
“For I believed then, as I know now, that we are meant for love.”~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist (142–I’m putting page numbers because I SO want you to read this book–at least look up the quotes. Please?)
This is the Truth, the message of Jesus’ beautiful, coming Kingdom. (I’m retraining my ears to hear its’ soft footstep).
Though the thumbprints of patriarchy still leave smudges on the language Jesus’ people use for a better world,
I give myself to Kingdom.
Because it is so good for us all, and we need it desperately.
An existence of Love, for Love.
The feminist scholars whose teachings I am deliberately choosing to sit under are bringing to memory the candles lit by women in my life. Sparks, small and persistent, that have brought me out of the shadows. Just some examples….
Brianna who dared to love the angry, confused, proud, and fearful child I once was. Who risked forgiveness as seeds of a fresh start.
Jan, gentle & kind, never using her words to jab me or make a point, soft to her core. Present and available without insistence. Carefully respectful of every person she makes contact with. Her tears are her testimony over a dinner of flaky fish and a rainbow of veggies, and the index cards on her fridge make me a little less afraid of the Bible.
Rosario who cries in front of the class semester after semester as Powerpoint slides tell tales of systemic oppression against her own people: female and native, ongoing since humans learned to speak. Who doesn’t harden or bristle when arrogant students expose bigotry during class but faithfully leads her flock through the stories and argues with stagnant faculty members in both English & Spanish.
Heather who wrestles faith as heartily as she struggles with every day challenges of the business world. Who invites and beckons and keeps firm boundaries up while slipping hundreds of dollars into the hands of her hopeful daughters who dare ask for help.
Meghan and Emily, friends who tell me that my healing journey isn’t easy for any of us
but who beg me not to walk any other path;
who I know will be waiting anyway, always–no matter what.
There’s an army here that I haven’t dared to see, but now, as the fog of fear lifts, I can’t help but acknowledge. They’re women. They’re mothers of the Queendom of God. I stand on their shoulders and I’m going to touch Heaven.
Let my life be see-through.
Let my love be genuine.
Let me, at the very least, give it my best.
To honor the women who have gone before
To honor those I have forgiven
To honor the me inside of me (who I repent of mistreating)
To honor the earth beneath our feet we often forget to respect
To offer higher shoulders to the younger sisters
Let grace settle on the forest floor of my heart, with roots pushing deeper and deeper into dirt. A wood of love & hope–never-dying trees–is growing in me as I evolve,
as poetry tunes my ear to hear the new story, the real story of an upside-down reality:
that I was not made to suffer, but for Love.
The dancing moments when my ankles and knees fly past one another
The ecstatic yelps
The deep breathes of cinnamon-y scents in the kitchen on Christmas
The curly locks slipping through the teeth of my lucky hair pick
The intimate jokes robed in laughter
The essays that take days to write
The ideas that still elude language
6 mile hikes in the rain, shoes squelching through muddy ruts
Peaceful conversations on slow mornings
Adventures filled with discovery;
Community and closeness with others I have only yet heard whispers of….
This is the Gospel I need.
This is what persists.
The stone rolled away for this, for me, for us–as a family.
Women still locked within the lies, know this, my sisters, my loves: those lies will lose their hold. God is coming. Her people are rising up. It won’t be long. In the meantime, Immanuel is with you.
There is an alternate story and hope for the next life is not where it stops–that is where it begins. The story isn’t about a man dead on a cross. It’s about life after the stone rolled away. It’s the wonder and awe, not the wounds, that we march towards. Watch as the next life comes closer and becomes more real, more new, more now than you dared to imagine.
Let my hopeful voice join the ensemble of women whose struggles are the struggles of our cosmos,
whose bold examples are North Stars pointing me towards the Jesus no hurt can chase away, whose stories hush my hopelessness.
Mine is the story of a girl born blind,
whose God gave her poetry,
whose poetry gave her eyes.
Just a little bit more free (from those haunting, misused verses about violence that echo childhood voices still stuck to our brains),
just a tad more alive,
just a couple steps deeper in.
The drip of everyday Love and faithfulness are
shaping a new path for humanity, a path each of us is invited to walk.
I’m singing out: YOUR LOVE LEAD ME!
There’s nothing that I have need of
There’s nothing you haven’t done
You make my soul alive
You put your life inside
There’s nothing that I have need of
There’s nothing you haven’t done
You make my soul alive
You put your life inside
You put your love inside
I’m giving you everything
~United Pursuit, Simple Gospel album
March toward freedom. Run when you’re unable to even stand. Use what could be your last breath (maybe feels like it IS the last breath of your soul) to hurl yourself toward light. Set your heels deeper in the mud and when they sink, keep pushing. You’re slaves but you don’t have to be. Stomp your foot in the face of that slavery. Sing out: there is a BEYOND for me. There is much to move towards. Restoration is a prize worth struggling unto death for. You may not know if anything good is true, but hope is essential. You have to believe it until it is true. You have to grind your teeth together and clench your fists until your fingernails draw blood. You have to wrestle the selfishness & despair within until you stand with your foot on its’ neck. There is more to be, more to believe, more life & abundance for the taking than you could ever imagine. You have access to all the strength that you need. The One who made you wants you back. Do you hear the song of love that the trees and waves and woodpeckers and thunder claps sing for you? The cry of Love’s broken heart: come back. Come back to the One from whom you came. You exist. You are. As surely as you are, you are loved. Newness is around the corner for you, powerful one. Nothing can limit your potential, your love, your light, your purpose. You were made to change & to change this planet. Whatever broken down places there are in you, they are redeemable. Whatever has been done to you can be undone. Whatever has been undone in you can be remade. There is no such thing as irreparable. There is no such thing as hopeless or helpless.
There is no such thing as a gift without price. This battle costs everything. It asks surrender of you. It asks devotion of you. But first, all it asks is belief. One movement (and a hundred more every day to follow) in the direction of “yes” to power beyond you will hurtle you into an extraordinary journey. An extraordinarily difficult journey. Every step requires a loss, and the losses will set you free. They’ll feel like betrayal. You will lose the only you you thought there was. You will find innumerable lies lodged in the foundation of your being and you will have to decide to let it crumble. In darkness the Enemy will whisper that you don’t love your family. In darkness the Enemy will accuse you of pride, of indulgence, of selfishness, of irresponsibility. In victorious moments all you will feel is struggle and doubt. Then you will look back & make an idol of the victory instead of the One from whom it came. In the hardest moments you will wonder why and how and your brow will be so tight that you get a headache. You will forget how hellish the slavery is and you will follow your flesh back to rock bottom. You will progress and you will regress. You will doubt and question and experience greater pain than you knew you had the capacity for. People won’t understand. People will throw darts. People will mock and people will wonder. They will worship you and that will hurt worse than anything else.
You won’t fit the mold anymore.
Your love changes everything.~United Pursuit
You will slowly lose your linear eyes. You will regain a poetic perspective and you will see beauty where no one else can. You will grow up and you will become a child again. The strong hands of your cravings won’t steer the boat anymore. You won’t be controlled by nerves, fear, or timidity. You won’t be running ragged and unsatisfied. You won’t hate the words coming out of your mouth; raw joy will take their place. You will run with hell at your heels towards one Being only & find that every other relationship can be fueled by the overflow from moment-by-moment encounters with Jesus. You will discover what you were made to do. Your skin will crawl and you won’t be able to live with that being the way it is anymore. You will see miracles & you will pedal and walk and run and jump and limp and crawl until the skin on your hands is calloused, your knees are knotty, and the cavern of your heart swollen. You will learn not to trust in life stages or relationship status but in an unchanging force whose tide is steady. You will eat less and sleep harder and dream bigger.
You will lose the ability to hate and have enemies. You will ache for someone besides yourself and you will offer that ache back to the One. Your soul will swell with joy & your time alone will be precious, full of laughter and dancing. Your fears will fall off your face in silver tears and the moon will replace them with determination and a fierce desire for home. Your need for admiration or adoration from your friends will turn into gratitude for the “amens” they speak over your life. People won’t make your decisions for you. People won’t disappoint and limit you. People won’t have the last word. People will speak curses and blessings over your head and what isn’t true just won’t matter.
I saw your soul without the skin attached
You’ve got the guts of a coyote pack
We’ve been kissed, we’ve been cut
But we do what needs the doing
We’re just rainbows dreaming we’re human ~Cloud Cult
You will discover true glory. That hidden glory, familiar and sweet, will chase away the memories of every violation you have perpetrated against your soul and the souls of your neighbors. The glory will erase your shame and you will be baptized into forgiveness so often you lose count of the times you’ve come back up.
You were born as a spark.
Re-gain the spark that’s been pinched between the index finger and thumb of your life.
Give your spark space to breath.
Show it to no one but the warm wind of spring.
Protect it with your everything and beg the God of hope to let it grow.
Kneel in the wild and trust the small fire you have become to the flame of origin.
Accept no limitations.
Fight harder, win bigger.
Hunger for the Holy One more than for food.
Let Him/Her take you beyond.
The goodness is unending.
Dare to believe it.
Bet your vaporous life on it.
In her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans asks the question what is it the man Jesus’ (diverse) followers all shared? She says,
“It wasn’t shared social status or ethnicity….No, if there is one thing that connected all these dissimilar people together it was a shared sense of need: a hunger, a thirst, a longing. It was the certainty that, when Jesus said he came for the sick, this meant Jesus came for me.” (p. 92)
I am thankful God brought this book into my hands right now. At the end of the hardest year of my life (so far!). After a year of stripping away; of feeling more alive than ever before & yet abandoned & confused deeper than I knew possible. A year of ultimatums & threats & old relationships turned sour & new ones (budding in dusty parts of the soul) riding the mysterious current of the River of Life.
In January I started going to a church–a communion of these Jesus followers–that I could (finally) listen to without being offended. I started hearing the Bible taught in a way that made my heart burn with passion for justice & equality & truth. Truth that linked my heart to God’s more closely. I started leaving church full-ish instead of empty. I’m thankful for the 7 months I had at Mosaic Church, and that though sometimes I felt too preached to, and (more annoyingly) too advertised to, the hugs & prayers & celebration & meals & gifts & sacraments kept me there.
Church of God in Christ. Church of Jesus Christ. Crosslife. Cornerstone. Community. Grace Bible. Why do all those names still make me throw up a little? Jesus Christ is my dearest friend; how can I have such a strong reaction against his name?
His name has been taken in vain so often, even by ones truly trying to honor who he is (myself included!). A cardboard cut out representing someone else’s Jesus has been set up with its shadow cast over the very ones he loves best. The outcasts. The marginalized. The ones who smoke weed. The homeless. The ones whose sexuality isn’t quite what culture says it should be. The murderers. Rapists. Porn addicts. Teen mothers. People with no money. The lie has been sown by the ones who claim Jesus’ name that his burden is heavy. That they have to leave behind their families & cultures & identities in order to come.
Some days I hate the church. Psalm 8:1 says, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth.” I really get the feeling on certain days that “church” makes his name un-majestic. That the big screens & the insincere liturgies & the campaigns against abortion remove the mystery & wonder of a God with a humble earthly story, a God who spoke to Moses with a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). A God who invites us to munch bits of bread together & remember the united existence his death has made possible.
But I can’t hate the church. I can’t because the church is my best friends. The church is my eternal family. The church is the ones around me who know they are sick. The ones who hold my hand during a panic attack. Who go with me to get new tattoos. It is friends who don’t hesitate to affirm me while acknowledging the darkness in all of us. Who put coconut milk shampoo with the golden lid (I never would have considered myself worthy of) in my Christmas stocking. Who put together a picnic for friends of a friend. Who fail & recognize their failure but refuse to believe that anything can jeopardize their place as Children of the King. Who teach me what it is like to receive a gift–no strings attached. God’s people do this. God’s people show up & open up old scars to one another, knowing that encouragement & hope will be ministered freely. God’s people have laughed with me & danced with me through this most harrowing of years (2015).
Even a Christian pastor (the scariest kind of Christian!) has the joyful confidence to say:
“I have to believe that God can put anything–anyone–back together. I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is.
Full of grace.” (Rob Bell in his book Sex God)
Mutual hunger. Shared thirst. Shattered hearts & disappointing relationships. It’s all giving birth to unimaginable wholeness. I’m watching it in my own life & in the lives of those I love. The moments we feel of unity: during communion, at the corner of campus where people share cigarettes, through the bridge of Hillsong’s latest haunting melody, when girls have talent shows without mocking laughter or competition….those are the lasting reality. Those are whispers of a season where isolation will be no more. A season of depth & health & glory. God’s church emerging from all the shadows she has cast. The eunuchs. The women. The martyrs. The children. All who know their need & drop fat tears on the feet of humble Jesus.
She is the Bride Jesus longs to show off in the Heavens, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
And she will answer, “Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”
We will answer.
We will answer now–eyes on the Lamb–amidst world war, poverty, mental illness, divorce, and life’s messiest messes:
Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb we love.
Two size 10 Sketchers pad the concrete as I try and tread away from stingy tears of disappointment & noose-like arms of depression. Wet leaves coated in moonlight drip tears onto my hair, the tops of my ears, the cool metal of my eyebrow ring.
Pain shoots through my broken heart. Why did I get the damn eyebrow ring? I couldn’t see it then but now I know: self-mutilation stuck through epidermis with a ball on either side. Memories that wouldn’t stay buried, brought to life by words that, sadly, met their intended target (my soul).
I come deep within myself, speaking to the Emmanuel whose breath is pressing against the egg shell that my walls have become;
these deep fortifications that Truth has dug a tunnel under. Now I’m shaken.
Dare I invite a voice so deep that it scare the hell out of me? But this is hell and I’m tired of it. It was Monday and I had a panic attack. I stared at the lights on the Christmas tree until I could breathe again. It became Monday again and I stood with wind whipping my face hung over a bridge wondering if it was high enough to kill me fast. 7 days of desperation in between.
The urge is real, and it surprises me. I might actually climb the rail and jump. Not for an adrenaline rush. For an end. So that I can stop hurting & being hurt. Because surely redemption roots can’t reach this far.
Desperation, when it is directed towards Jesus, is an expression of faith. ~Jack Moraine
The water churns, like memories of how I have failed, how I have hurt those I love most dearly. The men who have pinned their lust & self-loathing on me. The women who have hardened their hearts against me. These regrets that I will always live with (this eyebrow ring probably the least of them). The tension that arises in relationships when money is mentioned. The foreboding sense that it is always my fault. Broken sexuality that surfaces in inconvenient interactions.
Wait. Back up.
I get to live.
The force of my being won’t be spent hurling itself over the rail of this bridge. This is not how I want my story to end. This is not how I want the next chapter to begin. The chemicals in my body scream out against health & sanity. My fingers tense and curl as my soul threatens to cave in on itself. My fingertips brush the rail. I don’t step back because I want to choose. I want to make the choice to live. I won’t live by default another minute. I won’t drag my soul along behind.
I want to live on purpose.
I want to give 110% to my relationships.
I want to forgive & be forgiven.
I want to see reconciliation come after I fail again & again.
I want to believe in the Lord who lived to die to know me.
The difference is made there in one word. I am reconciled to God. We are friends again. He isn’t mad at me. He likes me. SO much that I don’t have to cover my head with a blanket or hide behind a plate while he reads my poems. I am the glorious & rich inheritance chosen by my Beloved, this God. His light cracks the egg shell around my soul & the flame has a beautiful whipping sound like a candle within a round glass vase. Fed by the oxygen of grace, lit by two sparks–gifts–of faith & peace.
Grace is God working. Grace is God working. He is (actively!) caring for the ones I care about. My relationships will not be defined by my failures. The work of reconciliation has been done. Jesus did it. Light is chasing me. He will go through every creative avenue to speak with me. My thickest walls can’t keep out the light of his love, the joy of new life.
Through a friend in Colorado leaving me a message with a hum of background noise, telling me that Jesus talked to him about a girl named “Lydia” & how (falsely) eternal the temporary darkness can seem, yet how everlasting his love for her is.
A friend of a friend, thousands of miles away, worships on her bathroom floor. There she asks God how she can learn more about being a light. And he whispers my name to her. My name? It’s on His lips.
He speaks to me–when I can’t hear him for the oppression of my negative thought patterns–through a children’s book written over 60 years ago;
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.” ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Trust. I can trust him. He isn’t privileged. He isn’t insincere. I can let my guard down in His presence. He sees my humanity and weighs my soul carefully. He’s stood on the edge himself. So I bury my hand in His mane.
“It is he, not you, that will save….” ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Exhale. Trust them to him.
“There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.”~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The mane grows again. The mane always grows again.
Trust me to Him? Trust me to him. Remember? Remember his ways of mercy and grace. Remember that the dehumanizing voices aren’t his. Remember that the lies stirring turmoil within me are the opposite of his voice. Remember that he roars. That the Lion of Judah conquers those voices.
“10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth—he accused them day and night before our God. 11 They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him.”~Revelation 12:10-11
The accuser–ever-present within me–will be cast down. The Good News is good news. For all. Oppressed & oppressor. Sisters & brothers. And for this confused twenty-two year old, whose whole life will be a healing journey (eye brow piercing and all), there is good news. Because of my friend named Jesus (also called Love) the pain is carving out space for more joy. This I choose to believe.
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.~Isaiah 9:1a
…and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power…~Revelation 15:8b
Deep inhales of smoke from his glory expand the lungs of my soul. Water pools in upturned leaves like truth fills the cracks of my broken heart. Moonlight baptizes me in frothy whiteness. My Skechers tap out rhythms of endurance all the way back to my car.
Merry Christmas, friends. (the solemn, holy, bright-light-in-darkness kind)
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.
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].
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 not hard.
I’m sad, soft.
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.
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