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A cigarette heart

04/08/2011

I have a scar on my hand, a sign of rage, a reminder of a man who didn’t love me enough to protect me from himself. A reminder that I was an unwanted, unloved child– a punching bag for the anger he felt towards my mother, towards the world, towards himself. It was his mark of evil, his pain branded onto the world, that cigarette that smoked my hand.

But for me, it was my own scarlet letter, my own imperfections seared into my skin, haunting. Always remembering, never forgetting. I was a wreck, an ugly wreck of a child, of a human. I was the scar, tough tissue and discolored skin.

I used to pray for healing, when I believed I needed it. Sometimes, believing I needed it, I also believed it was an impossible gift– I’d never get such a gift from someone, because I wasn’t loved enough. And so I stared at my scar, letting words of hate dig into my arms as they burned over me, giving power to that which had no power.

God wouldn’t heal my scar. It’s always with me, my constant companion of darkness, of the mystery of deep hate.

The mystery of deep hate overwhelmed by the mystery of deep love (and in that mystery, healing).

I started to look at the scar, to gaze in intrigue at my past, and at my future, to stare the ugly wreck right in the face. God turned the ugly into beautiful. He traded ashes for beauty. The One who rescued me from the depths exchanged deep hate for deep love. A small heart, a deep cut– a reminder of love, of mercy, of all the graces poured out on the cross. That is what I get instead of the ugly scar. A small heart, grace.

A tidbit

04/06/2011

The wind, like the arms of a big God they said. Those alley kids, just riding their bikes, with all the wisdom in the world. Lean into it they yelled and you’re held steady, planted into the moment when all around leaves are swirling, lives are swirling up into the chaos.

Lean into it, the wind.

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings

04/04/2011

There is a place for me where my wounded soul heals faster than anywhere else in the world. It’s the city. The hundreds of people, strangers, who brush up against me as I go about my daily life, they have stories to share.

I don’t know their stories, and for most, I never will. But I do know mine– and I know that it is full of pain and sorrow, but sometimes, often, it is also filled with joy. And each step I take against the tar-patched streets, I know that somewhere in their stories is joy, too. The vision of God’s redemption is a living city, full of people who are awake to the glories around them. This is the hope I have when I walk through my city– that God’s kingdom might be here and now.

Game Changer

03/30/2011

This book: One Thousand Gifts. It’s a game changer, friends. I’m half-way through this book, and my soul is half-way open to what Ann Voskamp has to say, and already the fire is burning.

A book like this doesn’t come around every day, every month. Rather, a book like this comes around once a lifetime. I’ve had the privilege of encountering a few other books like this in my life, but none are comparable to the grace-filled journey that Voskamp invites us to take.

Truly, I am an avid reader, and authors are some kind of mentors— life-long friends traveling together in the same direction, roads parallel to mine, never meeting, never crossing. But I know I that they have gone before me, they have experienced what I have experienced and more, and they will guide me down the road, me stepping gingerly to avoid the rocks, they calling my name, a beacon of light to point me on to Jesus, on a dark and shadowed path.

One Thousand Gifts does all that and more. Where some books I respond to intellectually, my mind being stirred in wonderful ways, and some books I respond to emotionally, then others still spiritually; Voskamp’s book is the complete convergence of all three. She’s asking me to give my whole life to the Lord of grace. My heart and mind, all my strength.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul.” In the depths of a grief that shuts out hope, David commanded his soul to praise the Lord. Ann Voskamp’s book commands our souls to praise the Lord, to live a life built on a deep thankfulness. That is why we are alive, to give thanks, to give praise to the One who rescued us.

One more book on your list? Hardly. You have time to read this book. Rather, you don’t have the time NOT to read this book. As a female author, I imagine many of her stories will speak to a woman’s heart, maybe more so than a man’s. But, the lesson of building a life of eucharisteo— that reaches us all.

One Thousand Gifts. Read it.

PS, Ann Voskamp blogs daily at A Holy Experience.

 

Summer Breaking (Part Three: It will)

03/27/2011

It happened eight years ago, but I can’t stop thinking about it. One moment, melted into forever, into my eternity. It’s become that which I look for in my life: that one breath, sigh of relief, of burdens being lifted and the true meaning of his words. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden for my burden is easy and my yoke is light. Come to me, full of grief, of sorrow, of hopes unanswered. Come to me, full of anxiety, of pride, of an empty desire to control.

Eight years ago I sat on a beach in North Africa. It was hotter than hot and we sat– the foreigners and the locals alike, heavy with sweat and stiff muscles, the way we craned our necks to reach out to the breeze that wasn’t there.

Children tucked in at their mother’s feet not daring to run to the water’s edge– too hot anyway for jolly. The birds would flitter across the slow, short waves, the waves themselves too tired to roll.

And then it happened. Slowly the hair on the back of our necks lifted, unmatted from the skin. Women’s veils, the ones with fringe on the end, started to tussle.

The breeze. Summer’s chains clanging against fall’s relief; summer breaking. That’s what they call it.

When a season breaks, everything right in the world matters ten thousand times more than everything wrong. The children stretch, cool wind breathing life into their lungs, and they shout for joy, for the hope that is the breeze–no longer stranger, but friend.

Women start to laugh again. These sometimes women, sometimes product to be used, purchased for a time being and worn hard– they have life coursing through their veins again. Tomorrow seems closer, seems sweeter and softer than ever before. They lay back and float on the sand, their bodies light with the expectancy of a birth easier than they have ever known.

Tomorrow is sweet, but the shadows on the horizon dance, a harbinger of the coming pain. The next day? Not as sweet. Heavy. Sticky with pain. A cruel desert.

But again, God will bring the wind. He leads us out of our deserts, our skins hardened and wind-blasted. The wind polishes away the sand, the weight of the heat. He breaks them, those chains of ours. Those seasons of never-ending heavy grief.

And so we follow, through the desert.

 

Keep it Clean (Part two: It could.)

03/22/2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4000 children die every day from a lack of clean water. Every day. I think it’s time to change that, don’t you?

Whether you agree with me or not, clean water is a human right. Those of us inclined to believe that it isn’t might be those among us that have never worried about having clean water flow through their taps into their homes. But my question to you is, how human do you have to be to get that right? How human do the 4000 children who die every day have to be to get that right?

And here’s one further question for us to consider this Lenten season:

Following Jesus: What difference does it make if it makes no difference for the least of these?

It should make a difference. The body of Christ should be helping bring clean water to the world, that the world may experience Living Water. I know this might be a stretch for some people, but how do you believe the man that sits down at the well and tells you that he is the living water when you’ve never sat down at a well with clean, pure, life-giving water? If water has killed your village’s children, if it has killed your livestock and thus livelihood, if it has made you sick time and again, then how? How do you understand that there is a water more pure, more clean, more life-giving than anything you have ever experienced?

As a body, we can do something. We can bring clean water to the world. You see, it’s not actually that difficult. 10 billion dollars is all it takes to bring clean water to the world. That’s too much of course, for you and I. But, maybe we spend $100 less this Lent because we aren’t drinking daily coffees. Maybe we saved $20 on chocolate. Or maybe we have a habit of buying bottled water, and instead, we’ll commit to carrying a reusable bottle with us to help save some of the 4000 children.

If you’re looking for a place to give, please follow the link below. The Adventure Project is helping restore wells in India, where 1/3 of all the wells built in the last 20 years are broken, and incapable of providing clean water. Just think, if 100 people gave just $20, that’s $2000! And if you involved your fellow bloggers, well, we’ll be closer than ever to bringing clean water to the world.     www.TheAdventureProject.causevox.com

There is no life without water. -Albert Szent Gyorgyi

Following Jesus– First Week of Lent Links

03/20/2011

You know that I’m taking part in the Lenten synchroblog series on: Following Jesus, what difference does it make. Here are the other bloggers that have taken part in the series– take some time to enjoy their reflections as you journey through Lent.

A prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent

Eugene Cho – Giving Up Coffee or My Life

Tim Dalton – Following Jesus What Difference Does it Make

Paula Mitchell – The Grace to Trust

Jeff Johnson – Christ Has Walked this Path A Lenten video

Christine Sine – Where is God in the Midst of Disaster?

Keith Giles – Nobody Follows Jesus So Why Should You?

Ron Cole – Leaving to Find Church

Jon Stevens – You Do Not Need To Go To Seminary to Follow Jesus

Christine Sine – Earthquake In Japan How Do We Pray?

John Van de Laar – Into The Desert

Lynne Baab – Freedom From Fear of Death

A Lenten Prayer by Ignatius Loyola

Another Ash Wednesday Prayer

Ash Wednesday Prayer 2011

It doesn’t. But it should. (Part One)

03/18/2011

This post is part of the Lenten synchroblog series on: Following Jesus: What Difference Does it Make? You can read more over on http://www.godspace.wordpress.com.

Come back to me with all your heart.

I don’t often find comfort in church marquee signs, except, routinely in one. It sits at the south end of my city, a place I don’t generally find myself as I live 30 minutes northeast. Every once in awhile, though, I pass it, and sometimes the weight of the sign on my soul requires me to pull over to the side of the road and wait— this most recent time was no exception.

Come back to me with all your heart.

I used to be known as the woman who showed grace under fire. The one whose peace was contagious because it emanated from a much higher peace, a much higher grace and mercy.

But this week, I’ve been unpleasant, irritable— angry, even. I am fearful about today and fearful about tomorrow. I have lost sight of God, whose abundant peace used to pour over my own heart, a soothing balm in the midst of traumatic years.

Come back to me with all your heart.

Nothing major has happened in my life, just small things, creeping in little by little that cause sorrow and stress. And little by little my ability to tap into God’s grace crept out. My heart stopped beating in synch with my Creator’s.

Come back to me with all your heart.

Today, right now, following Jesus doesn’t make much of a difference. But it should. And I have hope that it does (and will), and that I passed the marquee at the right time, when my heart was tender from the pain, from the fear, and the anxiety— but open and willing to accept God’s love— to let him in, again, to do the work of Lent.


For Japan with Love

03/18/2011

Finite Forgiveness

03/18/2011

But 7 x 70 isn’t infinite.

That’s the response I gave to a friend of mine as we talked about forgiveness.

Am I completely missing the point? Probably. But I’ve grown weary of forgiveness. I’ve grown weary of saying yes to love while I’m being punched in the stomach.

It’s a hard thing to do, to continue loving someone in the midst of their continual betrayal. To love them, and forgive them even more than 490 times.

Sometimes, I like to go to the internet and see what ‘answers’ show up on yahoo or the like, so I typed in 7 x70. Do you know what the answer said? That Jesus required of us to forgive even more than was ever possible to offend. While I understand what the responder was saying, here’s the thing: The number of offenses against me were that high. Probably double or triple.

It’s not infinite. I don’t think that means that I can get away with forgiving 490 times and then stopping. I really don’t. I think it means that I have a Savior who has to forgive me so much more than that, and 490 is just a start. I have to say though, sometimes, in some of my darker days, I want it to be finite. I want forgiveness to be finite. But not my forgiveness.

And there’s the rub. I’m so much more willing to be forgiven than to forgive. Because I know I will hurt God somewhere along the lines of 490 times this month. Maybe even this week.

Growing weary, wanting to stop, I am reminded that Jesus forgave infinitely more on the cross. Infinitely. And so I keep forgiving, no matter how far it takes me beyond 7×70.