Rope Route to Rest

Don’t clean up to come. Even in the heated sin-moment turn we can, upwards. Soul lifted high when eyes are too heavy with remorseful tears. The refuse we find ourselves wrecked in is not bigger than redemption: sanguine drops of Jesus etched into human heart history ages ago. In the hating, the lying, the cussing, the spitting, the yelling, the venting at computer or dog or self or other, look up and find the rope strong enough to lift. Don’t hesitate because of the nasty you haven’t got clean of: you can’t clean you anyway, trying only makes you more dirty. Unclean is the only way we can come, out of our soil, into his Son.

Amazing grace the sweetest thing, this I know.~Crowder

Let there be less focus on the beautiful big words we’ve bivouacked next to steps God guides us through and more preoccupation with the transcendent power of living in God’s love right this minute. This solitary moment is a speck on eternity’s sandy shore yet in it we have access to the great God our Maker. Don’t neglect to latch your soul onto this moment, let it come alive, climbing the rope to heavens peace like a muscly gymnast using only upper body power. Let us climb not by the strength of our forearms nor the gnarled stout of abdomens but by the divine rope within us tied tight by Jesus’ outstretched arms.

In trust let him tear down the tower that you stand on, built by wounded ego, trampled on child hidden behind. Put away pithy apologies to the Prince of Peace and put in their place war by God almighty strength, bowing no longer to Satanic bonds. Throw vices off your chained neck. Let wretchedness no longer rub shoulders raw. Flex spirit muscles and use prayerful pleas from the heart to overcome belittling whispers claiming that the rope God offers isn’t really there, that what you hold onto isn’t made to carry such weight, that the unreliable rope will snap (because, as the lie goes, your nasty is heavier than everyone else’s). Wrong. You know it won’t snap because you know the Vine from which it grows. You’ve tasted his power and felt his kiss on the sweaty skin of your soul.

Four letter words are allowed in his presence because he knows once your soul desert experiences the eternal oasis you’ll spit them out for the fire on your tongue. Fire that crackles fervent fury for injustice inflicted on family members who don’t look remotely like you.

When your boss makes you feel like a thumb tack stuck in Titan toe…

When your hair is not pretty,

Your muscles not strong…

When your career has chewed you up and spit you back out…

Or your marriage has done the same,

When you are tired and pulled on from every direction…

When no one seems to notice how much or how little you do…

Then they will know that I love you. ~Revelation 3:9

Up, up, up. Point that soul in the higher direction, ask for the good way, and walk in it, that you may find rest for your tired, tired soul (Jeremiah 6:16).

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Jordan River Poem

The Jordan River

stretches out wide
and yet the far bank
so close I may reach
arm out, try
and slip pink
fingers into Mamaw’s
bony hand, blue vein beelines.

The closeness a mirage,
tossing waves driven
to death dance
upon small dark boulders
dotting shore.
People necromance,

they call God unfair
for He took her away.
I hear His gentle whisper,
Jordan River breeze rustles
ribbons of hair against my chin,

It is not yet
your place or time:
wait. Attend to your soul,
attend to the still-living.

You shall not fear them for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.~Deuteronomy 3:22

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or earth who can do such works & mighty acts as yours?~Deuteronomy 3:24

Doubt Flees

Sidling in each ear

via shouted words

from missionary kid mouth

now tall, angry activist.

 

Doubt creeps in.

 

Slits on wrists scream, “no God,”

truth tossed aside.

like too hot Pop Tart. However,

the no-shoes God man is here.

 

Request for sick mother placed

in paper draped box, signed

The Atheist, subpoena

to the Holy One unheard.

All of Us Down Here

I bury my face in his Word, overwhelmed by a handful of unhappy people who I love with genuine, concerned heart. Face buried in familiar pages, I receive the phone book smell of Hosea chapter two. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her~Hosea 2:14.

And the children who dance erotic, letting go of sexual urges planted by obscene songs and scenes they’ve seen in carpetless homes? Will you allure them too? Will they ever know the joy of God-strong in them? “I have seen his ways but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt”~Isaiah 57:18-20

The angry one, Lord, who sees herself only as a victim, never as an overcomer? The one determined to beat odds and blow past highest grades in the class? The one who wants bad to see justice served by men who will only fail him? For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.~Romans 10:12b

And me, Lord, your tired, joy-filled servant, so often wandering in pursuit of lies, so often doubting and tarrying in shame? Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning~Psalm 30:4-5

“If God is on our side, who can be against us?

In this wasteland where I’m livin’

there’s a crack in the door filled with light

and its all that I need to shine.”

~NEEDTOBREATHE

One Thousand Lifetimes

I wish I had one thousand lifetimes

so I could be a painter

a banker, a fisherman,

a seamstress, a whore.

I wish I could be a preacher

and a preacher’s wife

so I could tell stories

of rotten e-mails

and poisonous words thrown

like darts in the face

of imperfect sincerity.

I wish I could be reborn with brown

skin, kinky hair, and again

as the only woman left in China.

 

I wish I had a thousand lives

so I could hunt treasure,

reenact history, understand the tribes

of Oaxaca, Mexico, speak Hindi,

and be a roadie for U2, questioning

the emotional poverty of financial necessity.

I wish I had one thousand lives

so I could be friends with patients

in oncology, victims in juvy,

and carpenters in Appalachia.

I wish I had the time to fall

in love with every Spring time boy

and all the Autumn ones too,

to kiss every shape, size, shade

of lip existent, and somersault

over sand dunes in Northern Indiana.

 

I wish I had time to be a social worker

placing refugees in the land of dreams,

to write a book from soldier’s perspective:

Israeli and Palestinian both.

I wish I had one thousand lives

so that I could be mother to autistic

boy and understand the cellular

exhaustion of women who lay their lives

on altars, like widows in ancient India.

 

I wish I had time to be trafficked

across state lines and receive beatings

to mar permanent my white face

so I could testify with tears to

brothels in back yards, and highways

hiding hell.

I wish I had one thousand lives

to fight tooth and nail, pen and page,

for justice, for fair share, for an end

to the worldwide deficit of grace.

I wish I had time to hug shoulders,

time to look in ugly faces

and say sincere to all:

You’re valuable, I care.

Yet He cares more.

Audacity to Ask

54 days ago:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12

The last journal started in struggle and ended in burn out. A lot was accomplished in between. But no amount of productivity is worth the forfeit of my soul’s health. I want this journal to be full of all the joy and health that comes from living Coram Deo [in the presence of God]. I hope it is peppered with instances in which I put down what I am doing at the slightest urging, and readily join God in whatever He is up to. I want to follow Him in all things, everyday submitting myself to His great self. Every day an expedition into grace and He is my Captain. Where will we go, Lord? What will happen? Only You know, and that is what is best. I hope to be renewed by deeper connection to the Fount of Living Water. You can make these dreams come true in my life, Lord, and I pray that You will, knowing that even as I pray You have already answered. 

On the last page of the same journal I wrote:

My God overwhelms the giants. He slays dragons. He gives us what it takes to lift trembling sword in the fact of monsters unimaginable. He puts the war cry for justice deep in our throats. He sets fire in our belly so we can stand appalled and indignant in the way of abuse and terror. It’s His breath in our lungs anyway. Let’s praise Him with it.

Amazing that He answered my prayers even before the journal was spent.

Receiving God’s gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower.~Ann Voskamp

Voiceover

Thursdays are not typically exciting days in my life. The usual order of events goes like 1) class, 2) study, 3) work. That’s it (what a trip, I know). Today class happened and after beating my head against a Physical Science textbook for a good 30 minutes I scuttled into my creative writing instructor’s office for a visit. Ms. Sandy is a Northerner (from the upper half, give/ take a state or two, of the U.S.A.). I have had mixed experiences with Northerners due to cultural differences but one thing I will say: they call it like it is. Cut and dry. Black and white. “You stink.” “You’re extraordinary.” “What exactly are you referring to?”

That being said, nearly the first thing out of Sandy’s mouth to me was: “You have what it takes to go as far as a writer as you want. If you want to get your master’s [degree], write [professionally], you can do it.” 

Compliments happen. Warm fuzzy feelings, gushed gratitude. Blah blah.

But when Ms. Sandy said those words my heart sang. I laughed until I cried in my truck on the way home because the words Ms. Sandy said are true.

Truth is the driving force behind joy.

At a dear friend’s request I met with 4 other women this afternoon to form a panel that was consulted on issues faced by young people today. We contributed our voices hoping that the curriculum our interviewers create will offer insight and guidance to a generation in tumult. Sitting in the dim light I noticed something about the 4 of us. Two of us, myself and one other, have lived the most utterlysplendidprivilegedlives for which any girl could ask. Have they been hard lives? Yes. But they have been lives filled with love and Truth and opportunity. We are extraordinary blessed. The other two–girls dear to my heart–have not been granted the same gifts. Neither have Godly father figures to turn to for help or support and both carry deep scars not yet fully healed. Of the four of us, myself and the second “privileged one” were the quickest to speak, the most eager to voice our opinions. Though their stories and opinions are arguably more gritty and riveting, the other two had to be coaxed, and still did not speak as much.

When I have something to say a fire burns in my belly until it is said. I know that it is my human right to be heard. I know that my words are important. Knowing this leads me to treat the words of others with equal importance. It’s respect, the right thing to do.

But when you’ve been ignored your whole life? When a man has never asked you what you think about…anything? When no one has taken the time to get to know you? When you’ve been yelled at and treated like an unwanted pest?

Inevitably, you start to doubt the value of your own voice. You begin to question the importance of what you have to say. You decide it is better to keep quiet because no one wants to hear it.

So there they sat, the girls with the most to say keeping quiet. I blame the powers of darkness for the loss of anything on their hearts that went unsaid. I praise the One who gave them the courage to utter the few words they did into floating microphones. And further, I recognize my small role in the puzzle God is masterfully putting together.

He has nurtured and grown me via parents and community, literature, travel, and music, to speak eloquently and boldly on behalf of the Truth. Not just the blessed Truth of the Gospel, but also the Truth of individual experiences all around me. Harsh realities, tragic memoirs, unique celebrations, epics of the downtrodden: the stories of timid ones need to be told. Minorities are cast aside, virginity is cruelly stolen, words are misunderstood, drugs drive knives through families. And those people keep quiet because they have been told that their words carry no weight.

Their words do carry weight, and they are burdens God created me to bear.  He sent a blunt Northern woman to reiterate the truth of my gifts: I am a writer. Not every word I pen is perfect (HA!), but writing creatively is one thing on this earth that will come naturally for me. Oh, the freedom of knowing that is true! By His guidance and mercy I speak, I write, and in so doing I will flesh out a small corner of His plan.

One woman with a host of hushed people trailing a humble King. It’s a weird story, but it’s mine.

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty.

~Rend Collective Experiment

All the other Thursdays have (and will) serve an equally great purpose, but today was a big mile marker in the journey of arriving for my purpose here on earth.

Your story is valuable, as is your voice.

Speak.

Surrender Poem

Tears fall

my chest with a knife lodged

my abdomen tied like rope

my shoulder scalpel-ed by every inhale

my feet with naked bone touching ground

all remind me it was born to die,

this natural map, from toe to pony-tailed tendril.

I laugh white teeth with gap in between

because I’m closer to Heaven than ever before.

No spiritual song, no kiss in moonlight,

no day on the lake nor mountaintop moment

offers this free fall forward so explicitly.

In front of my face, inches away,

is a God who says,

“I’ve put your soul into a broken jar.”

All I can do is flatten my feeble frame

against the floor and say, “Thank you.”

This is where I get my faith:

debate between Emergency room or living room.

He waves white flag for me,

ushering me into the abundant existence.

This broken jar is brimming,

to breathe is to be blessed.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.~Romans 8:23

I’m laying down my sickness and pain for the glory of the Lord~Darrell Evans

Sink

God doesn’t need me. Yet He beckons,

calling His dear one,

bidding empowerment by His Spirit.

Good soldiers fought for me,

my heart insists now that I take a stand for others

because I have asked that His dreams swell mine.

Submerge your hands into the mud

where my children wait.

My Lord does not need my help,

He chooses to let me participate

simply because I am willing.

He sits me down with beggars and outcasts.

He puts me in the path of fatherless children,

watching me glow as they reciprocate the love

I pour like water into the bowls of their lives.

He sets me at a picnic table in the sun,

the voice of a tomorrow that has yellow curtains

and people who bring casseroles instead of cuts.

The girl with bruises and 21 year burdens

considers robing herself in Truth,

thinking with tilted head about questions

He places on my tongue like starlight mints.

11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.~1 Peter 2:12 (MSG)

Sink your ridged fingers into the work He has for you.

May troubled souls free-fall into the greatness of who He is.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.~1 Corinthians 1:27

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.