Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Already Shining

based on John 1:1-18

He named the darkness. It belongs to Him, yet it rebels against Him. It cries for all sorts of evil, it hosts wickedness, it is the residence of everything that is a perversion of His intentions for this world.

Then, in an inexplicable act of both grace and mercy, He sent part of Himself, one of Himself, to be the Presence in the Absence - to be the good amidst the evil, the righteous among the horror, to be the perfections of His intentions. The Light entered the Darkness to show it for what it was and to show Himself for who He is.

But that which was never meant to be did not understand that which always was. Though His light was shining in the darkest of corridors, they refused to walk by it and instead smothered the flame.

But the Son of God who was the Son of Man, containing the very Glory of heaven, would not remain shrouded in the dank cloak of earthly darkness. Though they trampled the flame for a time, He cast off the cloak and revealed the true splendor of His heavenly sunshine.

The Light of heaven conquered the Darkness of this world.

Now we know that darkness, in itself, can never cover or extinguish light. Light will always overpower darkness. The fullness of the Radiance will chase away the emptiness of the Rebellion and those living by the Light will never again find themselves in the shadows.

He will melt the clouds of sin and sadness, He will drive the dark of doubt away. The Giver of immortal gladness will fill us with the light of Day.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sacrificial Thanksgiving

It really is true what they say about holidays: it can be the best time of the year for some people and the absolute worst for others. Images - of Easter dresses and frilly socks, cornucopia center pieces and hands held around the table in prayer, reading the passage out of Luke in the family room while the smell of pine fills the air from both the fireplace and the sap dripping onto the ornaments - images that either dance around the dreams and memories of those who know them well or that torment the imaginations of those who are left without.

But there's also a middle road - a road where those images are taunting but only because the dance is so beautiful yet temporarily unattainable. Homesickness if you will, felt by those who do not disdain the images themselves but only the fact that they exist merely in dreams and memories and not in an immediate reality.

"We love you," they say. "We miss you and really wish you were here." The words snap at me like a snake, but one with a honey-venom. Comforting in their own rite, but piercing and painful nonetheless.

"God, why do you tease me like this? Are you just trying to show me everything I had to give up to be here? Don't you see what I had? But you made me leave it there, so why do you keep bringing it up? I don't need to remember everything I sacrificed..."

Then Truth whispers, "Exactly."

15 months ago I was driving through the barren wasteland of Arkansas in tears, thinking of everything I was leaving behind to go somewhere nothing in me wanted to go. I left my family, my home, my friends, my church, my park, my ______, my _______, my ________ ... for Texas. "God," I cried, "I hope you know how much I don't want to do this. I hope you see how much this hurts." But then the words pierced the air and just hung in my ears -

I will not forget You are my God, my King
and with a thankful heart I bring my offering
and my sacrifice is not what You can give
but what I alone can give to You
a grateful heart I give
a thankful prayer I pray
~Enter the Worship Circle, "I will not forget You"

In that moment Truth whispered, just as he has so many times since, "Exactly."

I'm reminded today that I view love in terms of sacrifice. The greater the sacrifice, the deeper the love, and that thought digs into my heart. Of course He knew how much I didn't want to do this. Of course He saw how much it hurt. Of course He wants me to remember my sacrifice. Of course He wants me to remember just how much I love Him.

And my sacrifice is not what You can give
but what I alone can give to You

And today I bring a sacrifice of thanksgiving that, even though the honey-tongued viper has struck, I will remember how good You are, I will remember why I'm here, I will remember how much I love You...because You first loved me. I am so thankful for the sacrifice You made to show me that love.

To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the LORD.
~Psalm 116:17

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Lord is my...

We were studying the Psalms, and when it came to Psalm 23 I was set. I knew this one by heart. David wrote it about how God always took care of him and refreshed him, dot dot dot. But then it hit me: David was a shepherd himself. Big deal. No no no, what I mean is he KNEW what he was saying about God...and himself.

He knew what sheep were like. He knew how stupid they could be, he knew how weak and helpless they were, he knew that they were easily distracted and painfully stubborn, remarkably silly and horribly unassuming. He saw daily the incessant shortcomings of the sheep he faithfully tended, and in those long days on the hillside he saw something of himself in his flock. He saw his weaknesses, his stubbornness, his utter stupidity sometimes...and he saw his desperate need for the Shepherd's crook to be a guide, a protection, and a comfort.

As I thought about David and his absolute humility in writing this psalm, I looked for a parallel in my own life. This is what I found.

...preschool teacher
based on Ms. Wauer's 2-year-old class at Shenandoah Valley Early Learning Center

Kiaya: the rebel - she bit, she hit, she stripped her clothes off every chance she got, and she climbed the playground fences in multiple escape attempts

Tyler: the absolutely precious-looking and completely misleading little hellian - always willing to disobey as long as someone was doing it with her

Chase: the unruly biter of the group, hitting and throwing himself down and banging his head on the concrete floor in tantrums, but would always look ashamed and remorseful after the fact

Nathaniel: the loner - he wanted to do everything his own way and would keep his eyes intently on you while he disobeyed to see how far he could get before being stopped

Jessica: the three-year-old who was still in the class because she couldn't quite speak the language yet (she was from Mexico) - sweet girl, but if there was trouble happening, she was very involved. she didn't want to be left out of the fun

Gia: the phenomenally articulate (she spoke even better than the 3's) and exceptionally strong little booger - she could not sit still and would not obey if her life depended on it - but she always ended her shenanigans with "Sorry, Teacher."

Justin: the one who was desperate for affirmation that he was doing it "right" - "You all need to sit down and be quiet." "Teacher, am I sitting down and being quiet?"

Grace: the aptly named little baby doll - she was quiet but giggly, was willing to play alone but would ask for some company, ate her lunch, took her naps, actually remembered the purpose of the bathroom, and LOVED storytime

The Lord is my preschool teacher. He watches me bite and kick the other kids. He stands over me when I refuse to lie down for rest, when I try to escape, when I constantly try to strip off my righteousness, when I disobey as much as possible before getting caught. Although I'm an "older" believer I still don't really know how to speak rightly, and I'm in constant and selfish need of affirmation. I know how to talk the talk, but I can't sit still for my life and when all is said and done I always rely on "Sorry, Teacher." I have my tantrums and I'm perfectly willing to get into trouble as long as I'm not alone in it. *sigh* To be like Grace.

But His patience never fails. His punishments are well-deserved but always loving. After all the fits and battles and bruises He always says, "I love you, I'll see you tomorrow."

"The Lord is My Preschool Teacher"
The Lord is my preschool teacher, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down and rest,
he keeps me from danger with rules and boundaries,
he restores my soul.
He teaches me new ideas and songs for His Name's sake.
Even though everyone I love leaves me alone,
I will not be afraid, because You never leave me;
Your voice and Your hands, they comfort me.

The Lord is my preschool teacher. Who is God to you?

Friday, October 20, 2006

I don't wanna grow up

"No Sweetie, not today."
"But Mom, I WANT it!"
"I know you do, but we can't get it right now." [insert sniffle here]
"Why can't I just have it?"
"Not today." [cue bitter tears and wailing]

"Please, Dad? This is ALL I want!"
"No, Bud, we're not shopping for you today."
"Then why are we here?"
"We're getting a birthday present, remember?"
"That's not fair!"
"You got plenty of toys on your birthday. It's someone else's turn this time."
"I don't want to go to a stupid birthday party. I don't want to get him a toy."

"Oh oh oh, this is so cool! Can we get it? Please, Mom? I'll love you forever!"
"I don't think so, not today."
"Pleeeeeease, please please please please?"
"Maybe next time." [after "Mom" turns around he reaches, ever so quietly, and buries it in the basket]

Then they came in. A mother holding her youngest daughter accompanied by two more little girls who headed straight for the Care Bear aisle. Ten minutes followed with little giggles and "oh my gosh"es and "look at this! Oh Mom, this is so cool!" Picking their favorites (including the baby, who chose a purple stuffed bear with a heart on the belly) they meandered through the rest of the store clutching their treasures. As they looked at the computer games and the Magnetix and the Easy Bake Ovens they always looked back at the boxes in their hands, each time finding some new exciting feature. A half hour later she said, "Alright girls, it's time to go. Let's go put this stuff back."

They did.

They didn't cry, they didn't whine, they didn't throw themselves on the floor and kick and scream. They went right back to the Care Bears aisle and put their respective favorites back on the shelf where they had found them. They walked to the checkout, each got to pick a small piece of candy, she paid the cashier $1.56, and they all four headed back out through the automatic doors.

"Please, God?"
"No Sweetie, not today."
"But I WANT it."
"I know, but we're not here for you today."
"Then why'd you make me come?"
"I thought you might like to look around...and don't you want to help me pick something to give her?"
"No, I want to help you find something to give ME."
"We can't always be looking for you."
"Can I go wait in the car?"

I throw fits more than I'd like to admit. I try to sneak it when He's not looking. I cry and complain - why isn't it for me? Why do I have to look at it if I'm not the one who gets it? Why can't I have it today?

I learned a lesson from my nieces that day. There's a thrill in just looking at the great things that are out there, even if they don't end up in my possession. I may not get the new toy that is (as my 4-year-old niece would always say) "just what I always wanted", but He always gives me a lollipop, and that alone is worth the trip.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. ~1 Timothy 6:6

Thanks for the reminder, Michelle.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Great Exchange

Based on Romans 1:25 and Isaiah 44:9-20.

He holds the handle and slides the metal teeth horizontally through the wide base. "Timber," he mumbles to himself. It breaks branches of surrounding trees as it falls to the ground.

The axe splits it into dozens of pieces, some bigger than others. He stacks them in his arms, and carries them load by load into the house.

He rubs his hands together over the flame, stirs the pot, and returns to his work.

Skillfully he chisels it away, leaving a dust drifting slowly to the floor. He smoothes the edges, shapes the eyes, polishes the form until something that looks similar to himself is left. He sets it in the corner of the room and drops to his knees. Prostrate, he waits for his supper.

Sitting by the window (still close enough to feel the warmth of the flames) he watches the rain fall on the forest and slowly eats from his bowl. After his last bite he returns to his position on the floor in front of the fireplace.

Months later he slides the metal teeth horizontally through the wide base. "It's a good thing I planted so many," he mumbles to himself. "Stupid termites."

He spent weeks getting ready to plant them. He watched the rain fall on them and the sunlight pull them out of the ground. He cut them. He carried them. He burned half and sanded the other half. He carefully dug the splinters out of his palms and then returned them to a position of prayer. He created his own god. With his own hands he made something that those hands could serve.

Am I any different? I invest my time in relationships. I work hard to improve on my talents. I do a little cutting here, a little chiseling there, a little smoothing of the rough edges. I take the pieces of my life that I think are usable for such noble purposes and I burn the rest to keep me warm and fed and to give me light while I keep busy at my "woodworking". Daily I exchange the truth of God for a lie. Daily I worship the created instead of the Creator. Day after day I bow myself down to the images I have constructed while I watch the rain He provides.

It's time to put all the wood in the fire and just walk through the forest. It's time to put down the tools and just bow before something that did not involve my hands. It's time to exchange the lies for the truth of God.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

If I were him...(for Ann)

Based on Mark 2:1-12

My embarrassment would’ve been nearly unbearable. To see all those people, covered in dust and pieces of the ceiling and just staring at me on my mat like a fool. To know that I was nothing more than an interruption, that I had inconvenienced them, that I had brought my problem to the center of their lives. And then to see him: his hands still raised in emphasis of his life-altering message he was speaking to them. To see his eyes looking into mine, and to know that I just came to him – a KING – like this…

My overwhelming gratitude would’ve been mixed with agonizing frustration. To know how much my friends cared, how they ignored my pleas to “just forget it”, how they were so dedicated when I was willing to give up. And when they, in a great team effort, lifted me up to the roof, and then started digging with their own hands, working and sweating just to get me close enough to him…

My heart would’ve hung limp and lifeless inside my chest like my legs when they finally rested on the floor. Would he heal me? Would he really consider my affliction? Could he really make himself touch my broken, desperate, bleeding life with his clean hands? To hope in him would mean to hope at all. Would I have remembered how to hope?

If I were him, and I watched the Messiah look hard at me, then turn and look intently at my friends, only to look back at me with a pleased and satisfied smile, would I have known that he saw the same thing in them that I did? Would I have known that it was when he saw them lowering me down before him, when he saw their dirty hands gripping on to the edge of the hole they had just created, when he saw them mouthing to me, “There he is,” “He's got you now,” and “Soon,” when he looked in their eyes and saw the hope that was missing from mine…would I have known it was when he saw their faith that he turned to me and touched me with his hand of healing?

You are surrounded by faith and hope and love. It is so evident in the heart of your husband, I watch it flow from your kids, I witness it in your church as they surround you, and I see it in people like myself who don’t know you well but who have been touched by your life and broken by your sorrow. Know that you are daily being laid down at the feet of the only one who can make you whole, and all around you people are whispering “There he is,” “He's got you now,” and “Soon.” Know that there is hope in the eyes of those around you. May he see the faith that is carrying you, and may he lay on you his hand of healing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Journal of a Desert Traveler

I'm in a desert today. It's an ocean of sand and heat, dry bones and endless hills, loneliness and desperation. I brought nothing to eat, and worse still, nothing to drink. Somehow (I really don't know how) I keep moving: one step in front of the other, one foot prodding the other on. I have never been so miserable in my life. The pain I feel outside matches the pain inside, my body churnging and cramping and pleading with me for water. All I can do is think about getting "there," wherever that may be.

Yes, I see that well, but I have to keep moving. I'm sure another one will come along soon.

I see that one, too, but I don't have time for that right now. Don't you understand that I'm killing myself just trying to survive?

I know, I'm not blind. Of course I see it. I'll go just a little farther and stop at the next one. I must be getting close to somewhere real by now. THEN I'll drink like there's no tomorrow.

"Absurd," you say.
Is it?
"No one would ever do that!"

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." ~Psalm 119:28

I'm in a desert today. I'll be here again tomorrow. There are no roads, no towns, no signs of an end, and I'm holding nothing. Will I walk past the well, or will I take time to gain strength for the long, hard journey?

Deep inside
By an emptiness
From less than nothingess
Walking through this
Broken, dried

Breathing hard
Desperate to taste
Any hint of grace
that can make
a dead man walk

- lifeless -
over my own shoulder,
no one else would hold her
so I carry her (me)
and both of our

(by myself)
so much farther
past streams of water
pushing harder
"We can make it till
the next well."

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." ~Psalm 63:1

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wingin' It

We were "wingin' it," and we reminded ourselves of it constantly. We had spent all summer just trying to keep up, perfecting the art of "on the spot" thinking, constantly willing to sacrifice quality for immediacy. Changing with the wind, that's what we thought we meant by it. Then he had an epiphany: we couldn't be changing with the wind because we weren't flying at all. We weren't the ones with wings. We were UNDER wings.

Two men hiked up a mountain when they found an enormous flock of birds nesting at the top. When the birds became aware of the intruders, they instinctively took flight leaving behind hundreds of panicking babies - rolling and flopping and darting around looking for protection - and two mothers.

“Here they sat, their wings out like props, or more like gripping hands, as if they were trying to hold themselves down to the rocks against their wild desire to fly. And so they were, in truth, for under their extended wings I saw little black feet moving.”

“We took another step toward them, and one of the two birds sprang into the air, knocking her baby over with the stroke of her wing, and coming within an inch of hurling it across the rim to be battered on the ledges below. The other bird raised her wings to follow, then clapped them back over her baby. Fear is the most contagious thing in the world - and that flap of fear by the other bird thrilled her, too, but as she had withstood the stampede of the colony, so she caught herself again and held on.”

“She was now alone on the bare top of the rock, with ten thousand circling birds screaming to her in the air above, and with two men creeping up to her with a big black camera that clicked ominously. She let the multitude scream, and with threatening beak watched the two men come on. A motherless baby, spying her, ran down the rock squealing for his life. She spread a wing, put her bill behind him and shoved him quickly out of sight with her own baby...” (www.apples4theteacher.com)

Life came at us hard, and for a time it didn't seem to stop long enough for us to catch our breath, so we were finding ourselves moment by moment desperately scrambling to find rest under some wings. We felt smothered at times; we watched as others danced in the sunlight while we stayed in the shadows; we wanted to be strong enough to fly by ourselves, but oh! how much we needed those wings.

Wings that took me in as their own though I had no claim to them. Wings anchored to the rock, covering me no matter what approaches, no matter what reason says, no matter what the cost. Wings that protect me. Wings that let me rest. I'd rather be under those wings than on wings of my own.

At the end he said to me, “faith tends to whisper something about how that wing is only a feather.”

~Psalm 91:1-4
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadows of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Chase

This is the third time in the past hour. She wasn't looking for it, but she spotted it out of the corner of her eye, and immediately she dropped what she was doing and began the pursuit. With one arm stretched out in front of her and laughs that somehow only a four-year-old can make she weaves through trees and bushes, straining to reach the fluttering wings that are always just out of reach. When she falls, she winces for only a moment, then quickly jumps to her feet and resumes the chase. After it flies into the street or over the fence, she comes back, out of breath and grinning from ear to ear.

She says things like, "It was just a little too fast for me, huh?" or "It was too high for me to reach, wasn't it?" or "I was getting closer and closer to it, wasn't I?" One time I asked her, "What would you do with it if you had caught it?" Long pause. She said she'd put it in her room for people to see because it was so beautiful. It was obvious she had never thought of it like that before. She had never planned on actually catching it.

I go about my business, and there goes a butterfly. I focus harder. Another one. Oh, I didn't even notice that one. Again. Maybe next time.


I go about my business, and there goes a butterfly. I watch it, wishing I would chase it like I used to. But I know I won't catch it. I never did catch one. So I watch it. I admire it, but only from a distance. It's not my butterfly to chase.


I go about my buisness, and there goes a butterfly. I drop it all, and throw my whole being into the pursuit. Almost! I reach again. Not quite. Just...too...high. Frustrated, I jump for it, and when I come down empty-handed, I land wrong and fall. And stay. And cry. I failed.

What made us stop pursuing the things we know we can't catch? When did we start finding the chase worthless if our hands never actually hold the "butterflies"? How did we forget that the running and jumping and reaching were just as much a part of the chase as the display of the catch?

She's making another birthday party in the sandbox. Here comes one more pair of dizzy white wings. The birthday party gets put on hold. She's off.

Feeling less than Spirit-filled
I wish that I was healing from this deadly ill
that some call growing old.
Where's the love? Where's the chase?
Where's the wild leap of faith?
I wanted to be free. I wanted to be loved.
I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be Yours.
I wanted just to play with everything that's pure,
but everyone just said, "that's childlike."


"Live more playfully; believe more recklessly." ~C.J. Goellar

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Voice Part III: Resolution

THE SETTING is a pitch black stage. ME is standing center stage with VOICE 1 slightly behind to stage left and VOICE 2 slightly behind to stage right.


NARRATOR: [offstage] Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.

ME: [in despair] How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head and by his light I walked through darkness!

VOICE 2: [encouragingly] Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

VOICE 1: [to ME] That is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you, why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you.

VOICE 2: Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

VOICE 1: See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples…

VOICE 2: [to ME] …but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

VOICE 1: [to VOICE 2] But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals and covered us over with deep darkness.

ME: [to VOICE 2] You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.

VOICE 1: [to ME] He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; he has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. [to VOICE 2] So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

VOICE 2: I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

ME: Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.

VOICE 2: Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light.

VOICE 1: But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

ME: Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.

VOICE 2: See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.

ME: You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

VOICE 1: The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.

VOICE 2: A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light.

VOICE 1: It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.

VOICE 2: [harshly, to VOICE 1] Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. [gently, to ME] The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.

ME: I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

VOICE 2: The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

ME: Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me. Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

VOICE 2: Follow me.

NARRATOR: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Voice Part II

As he spoke to me I began to feel myself struggling to breathe. "I can't follow you," I said, quietly at first. I just wanted him to get away from me. I wasn't looking for a battle or anything. "Yes you can. I'll help you." "I WON'T follow you, I mean." "There's no one else to follow, and you're lost." With every word he spoke the air closed in tighter and tighter around me. The venom spewed by his forked tongue was constricting my lungs. I did my best to inhale, but I started to struggle just to stand. I forgot my timidity. "Leave me alone!" I screamed, and the pain burned through my entire being. I was surprised at how fast it had smothered me. Quickly losing hope I whispered it again: "Leave me alone."

"You heard her. Leave her alone."
"She was talking to YOU."

What was that? Another voice? My heart leaped...and then sank. I strained to try to distinguish between the two.

"I was here first."
"No, I've been here the whole time."
"She can trust me."
"She doesn't want to trust you. She wants to trust someone who'll take her where she's trying to go."
"She's mine."
"She doesn't want to be yours."
"She needs me to help her. You can't help her like she needs to be helped."
"She doesn't know what she needs...and he doesn't care what you need."

I was at a loss. They sounded the same. I could hear his nasty breathing, but that was with every word they both spoke, not just one voice, and they were both so similar. If only I had brought my light, then maybe none of this would've happened. And even if it had, I would at least be able to see who was speaking. But I had nothing, and I was beginning to distrust them both...or trust them both. I couldn't tell.

"This is the way. Walk in it."
"THIS is the way. Walk in IT."

I didn't walk either way. I didn't move either way. I stood completely still, listening for some hint of truth to come from one of the voices. I stood, trying just to breathe.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
~Isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Voice

I brought no light along with me
so blind, I faced the black
until a doubtful voice came out
and walked a few steps back.

"I know that voice," I told myself.
"Of course, it sounds like me!"
"Turn around," it said, "no need to go
through a world you'll never see."

"Oh, I can't go back," I told the voice,
and I took another step.
"Although...never seeing is my fear,
And the end's a long way yet."

Again the voice spoke to me,
but this time clear and bright.
"Don't be afraid," I heard it say.
"I'll lead you through this night."

But then I heard his raspy breath
and smelled it on the wind.
I saw no form behind the voice,
but I knew that it was him.

With the voice of a princely angel
he spits poison in the air.
The clawless, toothless lion
whispering in my ear.

"His teeth were removed. He was declawed at the cross. He can't harm us...but he still has a voice."
~Dr. Rick Chitwood

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Following the Leader

"An elderly woman stood at a busy intersection, afraid to cross among the speeding cars on her own. As she stood there, a younger gentleman walked up to her and asked, 'Excuse me, Ma'am, but would you mind if I crossed with you?' Relieved she took his arm, and together they walked out into the busy street. With each step the woman became more and more terrified. The man, holding her by the arm, walked with quick steps straight ahead, seeming not to notice, or at least not be intimidated by, the numerous cars skidding and swerving around them. Once they reached the other side, the old woman, wide-eyed and out of breath, screamed at the man, 'What were you thinking?! You almost got us killed! Are you blind?!' 'Well, yes...' he replied. 'That's why I asked to cross with you.'"

Apparently it matters who we choose to follow.

So here I stand, weak and tired and worn down from all the stuff life has thrown at me, and it just seems impossible. There is no way I'll make it. I watch as one possible blow of destruction zooms past me, followed by another, and another, and another, and I begin to lose all hope of ever getting across.

My options: two friends. Both are vying for my attention and commitment. The first (the one I've known far longer) wants me to go places the second would never dream of taking me, and the second (who saved my life once) wants the exact opposite of the first. So here I stand, facing my fears, and trying to decide which friend will help me get wherever it is that I need to be.

"We can make it," the second one says. "I promise."
"Don't listen to him. It's not safe, and there's nothing over there anyway. Let's just hang out here for a while. Or...we could always go back."

That was his fatal mistake. I knew I couldn't go back. I knew "back" is where I almost lost my life. Yes, I had known him for a long time. Yes, we had been through a lot together. But I knew that he wanted me to be comfortable, and my comfort was almost the death of me before.

I give my other friend my hand. I take a deep breath. Together we walk out into the terror of my life. I close my eyes and just follow, trusting him with the steps, the pauses, the dashes. After all, "since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

Living indeed. I can't wait until we make it across. But until then...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Greener Grass

They were dividing the land. Each tribe would get their own territory. It would be theirs to tend, to defend, to fill, to live and to die in. Everyone, that is, except...

"The LORD said to Aaron, 'You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.'" ~Numbers 18:20

Whoa whoa whoa! I didn't ask to be part of this family.

"But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the offerings made by fire to the LORD, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them." ~Joshua 13:14

Wait, they get land, wealth, and prestige, and we get...burning animal flesh?

"But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance as he had promised them." ~Joshua 13:33

Okay, so while they get an inheritance, we get God. Because that's what he promised. And that's a promise we wanted. For some reason. Of course.

"The Levites received no share of the land, but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks." ~Joshua 14:4b

Gee, thanks.

"The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance." ~Joshua 18:7a

Oh joy! We get to SERVE you, too? *eyes rolling back dramatically* This couldn't be any more of everything I ever hoped for!

Jipped. They were totally jipped. Everyone else got property, got to fight, got to live normal lives, but if you were part of the family of Aaron, if you had (willingly or not) come in the line of Levi, your fate was sealed. You would serve God. That's it. Done deal. However, they were apparently (and fortunately) far less selfish than I am.

He was their sole purpose. They constantly served as liason between a stiff-necked people and a just God. Their lives were worship, they could allay God's anger on others, they were responsible to pray for others, and He was their ultimate satisfaction. He was enough for them.

And now here I am. The curtain has been torn, and I am welcomed in to the courts of the King, yet as I approach the throne with confidence my eyes find the window. "Land! You're NOT enough. This is not enough. I want what you gave them. I don't just want my needs met. I don't just want to be with you. You're not enough. I want...land."

So easily satisfied by things that don't matter,
so discontent with the only thing that can satisfy.
Oh Aaron, show me how to love the fruitful staff!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Learning to Dance

As I move around the outer edge of the floor, I struggle to keep up with the rhythm. I bounce, I sway, I stutter, I constantly remind myself, "one step left, two steps right, turn, stop, toe, stop..." I watch to make sure I'm doing it right, and as I focus on his feet or on her stance I slip or stumble or do two steps left. Frustrated, I listen to the rhythm, I try to pick up the beat, I mimic the steps. I remain in the shadows, just trying to keep up.

"May I have this dance?"
"It's not a couple's dance, Daddy. No one else is dancing with anybody."

Embarassed, but also relieved, I give you my hand.

"I can't keep up," I say.
"Just follow me."
Ashamed, my eyes find the floor. "I'll try, but I don't think I can. I keep counting the steps."

"Well then," you say, and before I know it you're lifting me off the ground and I'm now standing on your feet. "There, now you don't have to worry about it at all. Just enjoy the ride."

And with that we're off. Four steps left, two steps right, spin, spin, spin. I grip tighter and laugh harder. We dance through and around everyone else, you making up your own steps to a rhythm inside of you.

I forget them. The music. The steps. The people. I forget to worry about doing it well, doing it right. I'm just holding on for dear life and sheer joy.

The music slows down, but you continue to move us across the floor. We move together around and around, and I begin to feel that I can hear the music inside of you.

The people watching say my eyes are dancing more than my feet. I'm glad you asked me for this dance. I'm glad I let you have it.

I've learned recently how I'm very autonomous when it comes to dancing. I can keep the rhythm, I can make it look alright, but when it comes to dancing WITH somebody, I just can't make it happen. I don't know how to follow. Unfortunately I saw some parallels between myself on a dance floor and myself in my spiritual walk.

"Trust me," He says. "I can't," I always respond. I don't know how. I keep trying to do it right. I'm constantly trying to keep up with those around me. I have in my head how it's supposed to look, and so I find it impossible to just follow Him.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9

When I finally give the dance of my life over to God, and allow Him to carry me around the dance floor with the steps that He decides we should take, I forget about doing it right and get absorbed in the joy and closeness of the moment. I lose myself, riding on the steps of my Daddy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

God is...

"How would you finish this sentence: God is...?" The question was asked of me during the morning session at a youth summer camp I was helping to lead. "A king," I thought. "Of course. A king." But it didn't fit. "A father?" I tried again. I knew they were true, but that's not what God is to ME. "God...is...a..." I tried to think of any possible answer that would get me through a Sunday School class, but what my mouth said surprised me. "Thunderstorm." God's a what?! What on earth are you talking about? Then again...

I used to hate thunderstorms. They terrified me. But as I grew older, watching them on our front porch became one of my favorite pastimes. They're so fascinating, so powerful, so...big. The smell in the air lets you know they're coming, but it's hard to say when or how big they'll be. Then the sky will flash, and though you can't hear anything yet, you know it's on its way. Then the rain starts to fall, and the drops are so big and make a loud pelting noise, leaving large, wet circles on the pavement. The bolts of lightning streak across the sky, and you can trace them, though they're often gone as soon as they appear. And when they're gone, the image of them is still burned in your head. Then the cracking noise shakes everything inside of you, and you feel like, if only for a brief moment, you ARE part of that storm. The wind throws everything around, the rain creates warm rivers where water doesn't normally flow, the sky lights up even where the lightning is not striking, and the air shakes with the sound of the splitting sky.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that, to me, God really is a thunderstorm. I can't predict what He'll do or how big it'll be, but when He moves the image of it is firmly seared in my mind. The power that He wields in my life overwhelms me, but somehow it makes me feel like I'm intimately involved in what He does. He moves things around without me ever seeing His hand, and the places that I never thought could hold the blessings He pours out start rapidly flowing with His grace.

I was supposed to spend the rest of the day writing a Bible study for the kids, but instead I wrote this:

As I mounted the wave, I wanted so badly to see the beauty that surrounded me: the power in the sky, the vastness of the ocean, the way the wind - something I can't even describe because I can't see it - how it could change any and every aspect of my surroundings. I wanted so badly to look at these things, to see them, to awe at them, but instead of awe I showed fear. I can honestly say my courage melted away. I moved like a drunk man as if I had no hope, no direction, no joy. Left. Right. Left. Right. How faithless I must've looked. I cried in fear, as if I had no rescue, as if I didn't (couldn't) trust you...as if you weren't who you said you were. I'll admit (shamefully) that I was shocked when I couldn't hear them anymore - when the wind and the waves and the rain and the yells and the breaking of the ship...when it all just stopped. When, after the screams and groans and cries, everything whispered, "Why did you doubt?"

We're supposed to get some thunderstorms this week. I'm pretty excited about that.

"At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding."

~Job 37:1-5~

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Claire R. Wauer (June 26, 1916-February 12, 2006)

I miss them.
I never knew them smooth.
I never saw them young.
But I felt them - wrinkled and aged and short and sweet.
I remember
how they kissed life,
how they kissed time,
how they kissed me.

I miss them.
I never knew them clear.
I never saw them unsunken.
But I looked into them – dark and circled and bright and stern.
I remember
how they watched life,
how they watched time,
how they watched me.

I miss them.
I never knew them soft.
I never saw them unspotted.
But I touched them – rough and brown and strong and careful.
I remember
how they held life,
how they held time,
how they held me.

I miss you.
One time you called me your great-granddaughter
One time you said “goodbye” while I was talking
But you loved me – talking and playing and smiling and kissing.
I remember
how life loved you,
how time loved you,
how I loved you.

Your kisses, your eyes, your hands, your love
I remember them all.
I miss them all.
I miss you, Gram.

To read my sisters' tributes to Grandma:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Now show me your glory."

He found himself in a place with steep, sharp, craggy rocks on every side. It was cold, it was damp, the air was stagnant and he was pinned. His eyes were covered so that he could not see through the only place that led to the open air. But instead of panic or frustration or anger, he found beauty in that moment.

He understood the nature of his confinement. He was not covered as discipline for disobedience; not because he needed to learn patience or even dependence. No, God had covered him in that place for one purpose: protection from Himself. God was about to be amazing, was about to speak His own name, and that cleft was Moses' only hope for survival. The full goodness of God, the fullness of His glory, was about to pass by the mountain where he stood, and Moses knew that goodness was too much for him.

"No one may see me and live," the LORD said.

God is so good. Too good. When God reveals His goodness, His faithfulness, His very Presence, it is too much for us. When we ask God to move in our lives, do we expect to be able to stand out in the open air and watch Him go by? What is it about God that makes us think the mountaintop is a safe place to meet Him? Moses knew that God was with Him, and he patiently waited in the side of that mountain until the LORD removed His hand and led him out. Sometimes He places us in the tight spots because He's about to be amazing. Sometimes we're safer when we can't move.

~Exodus 33:12-23~

Stuck between a rock and a hard place,
I found that the hard place was Your hand.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Welcomed In

A few friends and I went camping a couple of months ago. We stayed at one of those "real" campgrounds...no amenities provided. I got up early the first morning, maybe around 6:00, walked up a nearby hill with my Bible and a journal, and found myself in a place unlike any I think I've ever seen. I could see the cliffs and the water close by, but where I was there were some trees, rocks, a whole lot of dirt, and then nothing. No people. No animals. Not even birds. It was completely quiet and completely lonely.

It made me think about Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. It made me think about him being there, all alone, face on the ground, feeling so separated from his friends on earth and so distant from his family in heaven. There was no one to comfort him, no one to encourage him, and no one who could understand what he was feeling. His Father couldn't even understand his brokenness at that point.

As I sat in that place, I realized, maybe for the first time, just how lonely Christ must've been. This is some of what I wrote:

He lived to die, knowing he would never see his friends fully understand him, knowing they would fall on him in love and run from him in fear. He lived knowing he would break up the unity of heaven: that beautiful bond that existed since eternity past. He lived expecting the moment when his own Father would be unable to look at him because he CHOSE to be guilty.

How his eyes must've lit up when someone looked at him and saw HIM! What joy when a woman's tears expressed her need for him, when his ears heard a friend say, "My Lord and my God!" It is no wonder that he sought refuge in his prayers, never drawing away from those who needed him, but faithfully joining with those who ARE him.

On the cross, when Christ was separated from everyone he longed to be a part of, he cried, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" In that moment, his loneliness invited us into him, where it is impossible to be alone. In his arms we feel the warmth of friendship, of brotherhood, and can't help but cry into his shoulder, "My God, my God, why have you included me?"