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.

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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.

Transitions

It is ironic that I like driving alone in my truck. Even a short jaunt from place to place on a sunny afternoon brings me immense happiness. The irony is in the fact that while I adore these physical transitions I struggle with the emotions of life’s most basic transitions. Changes weigh heavily on my heart. Season leaves behind season, years peel away to reveal new decades. I often feel stuck in remembrance, unwilling to let the precious past go.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.~Psalm 126:5&6

I’ll never sit at Grandma’s side, chatting about nothing and about life in pain while we watch the brass pendulum tick the hours by. It hurts that I can’t call her on Fridays anymore and that my phone is slowly erasing all the saved voicemails she left. I treasure these glimpses into a time before her final transition.
My composition instructor who so challenged, bored, inspired, and fascinated me (depending on the day) will not teach me anymore. My heart is tender as I walk amongst classmates down the gray hall. I hear him enthusiastically yelling even now, “Do something worth writing about!” and I am thankful.
I won’t see Tori again. A friend as constant as the sunrise won’t stand next to me in the pool again. She won’t cut the cake at my wedding. She is gone. We won’t talk about our lives or cry over movies together because that time has reached its end. Suddenly, her color in my rainbow is gone, and the childish era when our lives overlapped has passed. A painful wound is left.
Such great, somber hope fills the void.
Spending time on behalf of the outcasts, and using my voice to speak for those without voices, yields less of a paycheck than one might think. How to cling less tightly to earthly security, its a dear lesson to learn. With God’s help, I will rely on Him more fully in time.
Growing into my personal beliefs instead of foolishly adopting those of my culture, another lesson. I am holding more loosely to ideals with which I have been indoctrinated and suspending life long biases in pursuit of personal faith in the better Way, the real Truth, and the abundant Life. There is a Guide who knows the best way. Jesus is my Rabbi, also my Friend. To Him I owe a loyalty greater than I owe to family, country, or friends.
Learning to joyfully count the cost and give it all up for the sake of my King.
Aching as time continually changes the landscape of my life.
Rejoicing in new lives, new days, and memories that speak: I am not home yet.

I drive my truck and I love it, from place to place.

Be to me a rock of refuge to which I may continually come~Psalm 71:31

Hearing, I forget; seeing, I remember; writing, I understand.~Chinese Proverb

Let Me Learn By Paradox

Pain crawls up my legs
From the balls of my feet it comes,
Slowly, achingly treading its’ way up my body.
Calves, knees they shake now, hips feel out of joint.
My back aches, arches, contracts, fights against me when I try to stand. Inhale. Keep going. On and on and on. My body is telling me that it won’t go anymore, that it just won’t work right.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day ~St. Paul

Meanwhile my heart and my head and my soul are excited for all the work there is to do.
I carry a message the way my Mama carried me. Everyday it is ready, longing to come out. I want to tell! There are more people everyday who need to hear this Truth. The Good News is eager to be shared. There is so much work to be done: look at the immense fields, ready to be labored over. Souls are ready to be won for Christ!
I long to work in the “fields” from sun-up to sun-down, and I know it is what I’m supposed to do.
Until my body slows me down

And I’m quite confused.

He’s my God and He never lets me go.
He said, sing it on the mountain.
Or fight in valley low
Every man is going to see,
And everyone will know
That peace runs deep in Him.
~Josh Garrels

Amazing Amazing

Always I’ve thought that happiness comes from circumstances, and joy-of course-from God. Joy is awesome to think about but not a reality, happiness is what we really want (shh.)
Not true!
Never have I felt such joy until now.
Little did I know that happiness follows joy that has found its’ root in Christ.

I would close my eyes to take it in but I’m driving.
It’s not the music that my stereo is retching out, it’s not the sun-striped hair on my head. It’s not the 2000 Nissan Frontier that is mine per use of hard earned cash, nor the lovely day that I’ve had.
Nope; it’s Jesus. Him, all Him.
This is what all that light burden and easy yoke stuff is about.
This is the joy that will either implode or explode. It will be shared with others or from me it will be withheld.
Say to the weary one, “Your God will surely come.”

What keeps the fear at bay?
Certainly not the pain in my neck and feet, the challenges that I face. Not friends or church or work or family.
It’s that Spirit settling down in me, like I’m being baptized all over again.
Amazing, amazing grace.
My arm finds its way out of the window, into the pressure of the wind rushing by. I wave at the trees, the clouds, and the people of my little city, just for the sensation of it.
A plea for joy that led to loving. Love that told me about grace. Grace that paves the way for peace. Peace that manifests itself in happiness.
Blessed am I!
Oh that my attempts to show people His love were half as poor & selfish. I wish to see my joy manifest itself righteously, as Jesus’ did.
By the power of the Spirit, it is possible. By the power of Jesus, love wins the war. By the power of the Father, everyday can be better than the last.

He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled Himself by becoming a man

Giant Leap

The sun filets the blurred green countryside. I’m driving too fast. Sun-bleached hair whips my cheeks, coarse.
Pumping gas I realize that everyone sees the same me that they saw last summer; a kid lifeguard in that not-quite-full-fledged-adult stage. $32.98. I get a little discouraged as I hang up the nozzle. Have I gone nowhere since last year? Is the only difference between me now and me then the few thousand dollars in my bank account and the restored air conditioning unit in my truck? Is that all I have to show after the most challenging year of my (short) life?
I recall the thoughts of this morning: how heavy my wrongdoings now weigh on me, some more than others. I see how destructive my foolishness has been more clearly than ever before. I feel God’s displeasure when I make sinful mistakes. Ouch, for I slip so often.
Decide what to be and go be it.
That’s just it. You have to know Right to know wrong. The weight that I feel, the tears running down the window panes of my heart, those are of God, not the Devil. Recognizing those blunders is a step in the right direction. Maybe even a leap. I care; I care more than ever that what I do be glorifying to God. I believe I know a little better what pleases Him now than I did last summer.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him! 1 Corinthians 2:9
The chasm is wide between me and eternity. Happiness is far away, but it is closer. Closer than ever before!
The ache, the roughness of shame feels like a noose tightening on my neck, threatening me now. The good news? It only gets better as the noose gets tighter. God’s redemption becomes more dramatic, His love more radical. Messiah Jesus draws closer, I am made new.
Sometimes I wish that I was under the sun in Africa instead of Arkansas, or at a pool in Chicago instead of Chenal, but I would not change this story for that of another. It’s so exciting, it’s so amazing.
I don’t know about you but I am definitely staying tuned to see what happens.

“Go, and sin no more!”~Jesus

Head, Hands, Feet

So I went to sing songs in the kids class this morning (like I do every Sunday) and we sang the hymn When I Survey the Wonderful Cross.  Then I migrated to my “adult” (what does that even mean, really?) Sunday school class where we sang O the Wonderful Cross: a slight rendition of the aforementioned, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.  I enjoyed that because it was a little bit different.  Yay.  Guess what we sang in actual worship?? When I Survey…!!!   Hahahaha!  Funny, but I wasn’t as annoyed as you’d think a typical American would be over that. Why?  Because I saw a parallel between it, and my life.  That song contains the Gospel.  Week after week, day after day, God shows me the Gospel.  He lays it in front of me saying, “Eat this, the bread of life,” and then He weeps as I exchange it for the bread of the flesh.  He holds on, however, and He offers the bread once more.  He plays that song again:

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

On Sundays He sings it to me like a melody. Most of the time He has to scrape it into my skin like tattoo ink.

Thanks for doing that, Jesus. I love you.

Life’s Lead Weight

The life He has chosen for me-

And I have agreed to-is going to be hard

It is not called the straight and narrow

Inaccurately.

This He tells me,

This I hear,

The lesson sinks deep into my stomach:

A lead weight

To last a lifetime.

Joy shines down to clarify the darkest of darks;

A broken Alleluia rolls off my tongue.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)