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For life

04/20/2011

Believe in them, the little Easters.

They are us, our hearts, our bodies, our minds. The little Easters: you, me being pulled from the grave.

We are wounded, we wound, we die, victims and oppressors, all of us one and the same. We are buried, wrapped in grave cloths. We walk through life this way, because we think that we’re prepared for death, for our seventy years that expire into nothingness.

But we are not dead.

No, we are alive. We are given to this place, this year, this moment in time for one purpose. For life! Ireneus said the glory of God is many fully alive. Not alive to our own selfishness, our own ambitions, or expectations. Alive to the spring breeze on our face, the feeling of wet rain drops on our skin. Alive to the soft laughter of a baby, to the wonder of a little one’s eyes. Alive to the poor. Alive to our marriages, to our families, to the kingdom of God.

We are pulled from the grave, and our grave cloths disappear. Our bodies, weak with death and pain are alive. There is nothing that was part of our death-lives that should be part of our pascal-lives.

Stop walking in death, stop walking as though you are headed to your own tomb. You are the little Easter. You are the resurrection miracle: not that God could raise from the dead his son–because God can do all things, but that God in raising Jesus from the dead would also raise us! And stand us transformed, here, today. Alive.

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Behold

04/15/2011

I watched him take her into his office. This time, at least there were witnesses. I walked away, slowly. Cold, painted brick lined the hallways and the silence crept around the corner echoing in my head long after the noise of kids laughing at me breaks into it.

They’re taught to be vicious, these kids, and maybe they’ll survive. These ones, relief bathed faces that they were, seeing my tears, taunted and teased. Knowing that they were spared from becoming a victim didn’t deter them from making their own victims, and how could it?

Their rescuer wasn’t what they imagined. It wasn’t what they hoped for, dreamed of when their families dropped them at the orphanage steps. Their rescuer wasn’t their redeemer, he wasn’t their hope. He was their oppressor. Behold, their king.

We’ll echo praises of Hosanna this weekend, in our Palm Sunday worship. Remember: He will come, he will rescue us. Man will terrify no more— we won’t be victims, and we won’t make victims out of our own sin and death. He will be our hope. Behold, our King.

We were meant to dream

04/13/2011

We were meant to dream.

We lose sight of those dreams, stuffed into toy boxes or hope chests, underneath the board games with pieces missing, the old letters, the postcards.

We put them up high on the shelves, stacked with dishes we never use, with old blenders and dusty vases.

We stash them along with all the others— those travel books of far away places, those virginal wedding dresses, those empty baby shoes.

We learn to live in the moment, even if the moment lacks a fullness, a ripeness of life, of joy, of hope for a better tomorrow.

But we were meant to dream.

God called us to dream alongside Him. He called us to dream, to create, to act upon our hopes for His kingdom. Somewhere along the way, we picked up the toothpaste— little kids distracted from our task at hand with something we thought was far more exciting.

Somewhere along this lenten journey, I was reminded to put down the toothpaste, to pick up the far more real, more exciting task at hand. We were meant to dream.

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.