Sunday, July 23, 2006

since you're in the neighborhood...

This week (the 23rd through the 29th), I am headed out to do a week of urban ministry with a small team of people from my church. We'll have tons of opportunities to experience several different ministry venues as we spend our week living downtown. The group of people I'm going with rocks- I am so excited to have this time with them.

Soooo...since you're stopping by, I'd love it if you would pause and pray for us. Pray for focused hearts and minds. Pray for team unity, and for us to be encouragers even when we are tired. And pray that in all things we would reflect Jesus rather than ourselves, seeing with his eyes and walking in a way that honors him.

I'll be back soon, with many a story to tell!

Friday, July 21, 2006

for all my fellow lovers of the written word...

This is actually an old poem (also the source of the line used in my blog description). But as I have been talking to so many who share a love for word-smithing, I wanted to post it. This is for all you who love the way that a word is born...

It is a way that a word is born,
forged into new life
when perfectly placed,
artfully laid
in the aesthetics of language.
It is the crafting of expression,
the breathing of sound into silence.
It is the sculpting of the emotions of the speechless,
granting freedom to mark themselves messily on the page,
pour themselves out as a bottle of ink,
like the proverbial bleeding heart.

It is because the spoken word is so final,
yet fleeting:
the paradox of a thing that is
both irrevocable
and easily forgotten.
But my pen,
my pen can change its mind,
scratch out the expression found wanting,
redeem the shortcomings of the first attempt.
And when the portrait is done,
and the ink is drying in the final etchings
of the passionately scrawled portrayal of self,
it is then that the pen preserves
the irony of the moment,
the instantaneous laugh,
the knot in my stomach,
or the way he looked at me.

It is because words are a companion,
wrapping around the soul,
a warm body in the cold room of silence,
an ally in emotional solitude.
A well-crafted poem will
join me for coffee,
listen long into the night,
and call me out to dance an intimate slow dance.

It is to find myself when I am lost,
to give shape to my sorrow,
lineation to my laughter.
It is because I must.
And because when I do,
you can no longer look straight through me.
So that both of us can see;
that is why
I write.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

face-plants, humble pie, and the One who makes things new

I have encountered a lot of hurdles over the years, taken plenty of face-plants. Thing is, I have seen lives changed when I share those bruises with honesty and transparency. My own life has been changed when others do the same. These life transformations, these opportunties to see freedom wash over a once-ashamed face make the hard stuff seem like blessings in retrospect.

In those moments, I am filled with gratitude and amazement toward a God who can take a messy life and make it into something beautiful. I find myself proclaiming with great joy, "He redeems all things!" Our God indeed makes all things new. And so I have often told him to do as he wishes with me. If he is most glorified through a life of hardship, then let it come.

Me and my big mouth. I am in the midst of one of the most difficult spiritual battles I have ever faced. It reeks of opportunities for anger and shame, bitterness and rejection. It is exhausting and overwhelming. The rubber has met the road, and the...well, something has definitely hit the fan. Will I stand by my words? Will I choose to believe that I will be made more beautiful by struggling with integrity than I could be any other way? Will I really take whatever he gives, with a face set like flint toward his glory?

I want a legacy that is marked by raising a banner of freedom from shame, that proclaims a God who makes all things new- even the hardest, unspoken things. It seems that such a legacy might necesitate my own battles with the hard and unspoken places of the heart. At the moment, it has the bitter taste of humble pie. But with a willing heart- with that face set like flint toward his glory- I imagine the flavor will become something more akin to the lavish banquet of his love.

He redeems all things. It may mean face-plants, but I want to be a part of that. So let it come.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I sure am glad it rained...

Over the weekend, I went camping in Crested Butte. It was just five of us girls, out there to enjoy the beauty, enjoy one another, and take LOTS of pictures of the abundant wildflowers. In the few days before we left, I kept getting calls saying, "You know, it's supposed to rain and thunder there this weekend. You still going?" Heck yes I was still going! I mean, I hate being rained on in a tent as much as the next person, but I was too excited about the whole venture to bail that easily.

It rained. The dark clouds followed us as we drove the several hours to get there, hanging back and lingering like they were stalking us. And then, just as we finished setting up our tents, it rained. We were glad that it had already been our plan to drive back to town and find a fun place to eat dinner. We made our way up and out of the rough road leading to the campground, then turned onto the road that would take us to town.

It was then that we saw it: ahead of us lay perhaps the most beautiful rainbow scene that any of us had ever seen. Right across that gloomy grey sky stretched a brilliant rainbow, touching down in a green field on one side, and at the base of a rocky peak on the other. Its colors deepended as we watched it become a full arch, then form a double. The lighting was incredible, the rainbow creating a dividing line of light and dark in the sky. The whole thing was simply breathtaking.

I realized as I looked at this scene that it is usually my hope (and the hope of most sane people) that a camping trip will be free from rain. It's true for life as a whole- I just don't want to get rained on. But as I sit here typing, bringing up in my mind that beautiful scene- that absolutely awe-inspiring scene- all I can think is, "I sure am glad it rained."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

truth is a terrible thing to waste

There are not too many black-or-white's in the real world. Mostly just varying shades of grey. Sometimes this is to my great relief; I kind of like that things are more complex than a lifetime of simple answers. That would just be boring. There are times, however, when it is much more to my chagrin than to my relief. When decisions are going to affect my relationship with either God or others, I sure wish I could just figure out what to do.

Those are the days when I wish that I could have the little guys show up on my shoulder: one would be handsome, but have "LIE" clearly written across his black t-shirt. He would be handsome, of course, because the lie almost always has a way of looking more appealing than the truth. On the other shoulder would stand a fellow with a kind face, "TRUTH" printed across his t-shirt (this time white, of course). But this has never happened to me, and if it did, I would probably be less relieved and more concerned that I was developing some sort of mental condition. But I digress...

Anyway, lately I have been asking God (ok, sometimes begging him) to help me tell the truth from the lie. I was reading Hebrews a few days ago, and found yet again that God really does want to answer us when we ask him to help us be disciples. In chapter 5, the author is writing about those who are spiritually mature and those who are not (he is accusing his audience of falling in the latter category). He speaks of those who can only handle spritual milk, who are not ready for the solid food of deeper truth. Then he says something simple, yet so profound about those who are mature; he tells us that "by constant use, they have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Seeing truth from lie, developing the ability to find the white side of that shade of grey, comes when truth is in constant use in our lives. That means read it, live it , breathe it, proclaim it, walk in it. Soak it in until that handsome fellow called lie just pales in comparison to the kind face of truth and goodness.

Truth, it turns out, is like so many things in life. You either use it, or you lose it. And truth really is a terrible thing to waste.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

boxing God

I am a huge proponent of honesty, both before God and others. It is a passion of mine, really. I am always encouraging others to come before God with all their emotions, from joy to sadness, confusion to anger. I believe he can handle them. More than that, I believe he desires and welcomes them. Recently, however, I suddenly find that I am the angry one, and I am reminded of how uncomfortable it is (though I stand by my advice).

Shortly after the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis faced a time when he wondered if God was really a sort of "cosmic sadist". “Sooner or later,” he says, “I must face the question in plain language. What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘good’? Doesn’t all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite?” (A Grief Observed). I was uncomfortable the first time I read this. I mean, here is this incredible theologian, a man whose writings have become a sort of primer for the basics of Christian belief, and he is questioning whether God is even good?

Yet lately I have understood him in a new way. I find myself newly acquainted with the feeling of wanting to come before God and say, “You set me up! You knew exactly what was going to come of this, offered me no warning, and then just let me wander right into it!” I echo the recent thoughts of a friend: “Where was the protection?!” And now I feel like he has told me to refuse the false fixes, only to leave me without any permanent ones. Had I ignored some early warning, had I blatantly disobeyed…I suppose then I could take such painful consequences in stride. Or perhaps if the situation seemed more like just the suffering that comes with life and less like outright punishment, things might seem a little more fair. But this? I feel like I have been tricked. And to my limited perspective, it just seems mean.

Of course, time begins to bring me (as it did Lewis) slowly but surely back to the solid ground of God’s total goodness. He has taken my anger as it comes, only to respond with the deep truths of his Word. I still feel confused, and still feel like he has led me into a pain that he doesn’t seem to be healing, but I am again tasting the sweetness of his promises. I think of the passionate words spoken by the author of Lamentations: “He has broken my teeth with gravel, he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace, and have forgotten what prosperity is…My soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail… The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.” These words are only a few of many that God has offered in direct response to my questions, even the questions I didn't realize I was asking.

God is good; this is truth. My heart may hurt, but I know it to be true somewhere in the deep places of my soul. He has declared it in his Word. He has proclaimed it throughout history. But more importantly, he has spoken it to me in the most intricate threads of the tapestry of my own life. His goodness, his kindness- his overwhelming love- they are weaving my story. He himself is the one creating in me a heart that loves honesty, so that I can be like him.

At the end of the day, our God, in his goodness, is making me his own. Anger and all.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I love where I live

For the 4th of July, my adventurous family went four-wheeling up Lead King Basin. The mountains were amazing and the wildflowers a-bloomin'!

I say it again: I love where I live.

Hey Mister, tell me your story...

Let's admit it, folks; we like to talk about ourselves. There is something about being asked to tell some part of our story that just makes us feel good. For me, telling my story has served as one of the greatest reminders of God's faithfulness in my life. I can get all kinds of ungrateful and cynical sometimes, until someone asks me my story and I am suddenly caught up in telling the tale of how God has walked right into the middle of my messy life and made all things new.

God does that- he weaves incredible stories. And yet, we are so often less than interested in asking others to tell us theirs, in taking the time to listen to the tales God has woven. Two things brought this to mind recently.

The first reminder came as I rode a Greyhound bus from Colorado Springs to my parents' house near Aspen. Few places offer better people-watching than a Greyhound. I have spent trips sitting next to lounge workers from Vegas, ski bums from Australia, and perhaps my favorite- a slightly mentally retarded man who was very sweet but was semi-obsessed with wanting to touch my nose. For part of this week's journey, I found myself seated next to a man who spoke no English, yet was even too shy to speak Spanish with me. He carried with him a small bag and a large, white box, which he kept at his feet (it took up all the foot space, actually, and looked rather uncomfortable). He was on his way to Vail. I found myself thinking, "What is this man going to do in Vail? What's in that box? Is he really just shy? What kind of life did (does?) he have in Mexico?" In other words, I wanted to know his story.

My second reminder came as I sat in the car with my dad yesterday, 4-wheeling over a nearby mountain pass. I began asking him questions and learned so many things about his life. I finally learned the details about how he met John Denver (who became one of his best friends). I heard about some of his old girlfriends, and when he first moved from California to Aspen, and how he later traveled the whole country trying to decide where to start a restaurant, only to end up in the rather boring town of Modesto. All this time, my dad has been full of good stories, and I have simply never asked.

How many incredible tales must be out there! Stories of sadness and hilarity, of courage and adventure, of love and loss. They are all around us every day, and yet we may not even know the stories of those closest to us. If you really think about it, though, asking people about their lives should be a mark of those of us who are Christians. Jesus always wanted to listen to people, to really hear their hearts and needs. That's one of the best things about the Gospel, isn't it? The God of the universe cares about our fairly insignificant stories. He cares about our lives.

I imagine it would take a little more selflessness on my part- a change of paradigm, perhaps- before I really started learning to take the time and ask the questions. But I imagine a lot would change, both in my heart and in the way that I reflect Jesus, if I would just learn to pause and say, "Hey Mister, tell me your story..."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

If I ever have a son...

I will be sure to tell him that black tennis shoes (the cheesy looking ones), when paired with black jeans and a black t-shirt (perhaps of the Star Wars variety), do not consitute dress clothes. As a freebie, I will throw in a warning that the same shoes, when paired with tall (slightly bunched) black socks, look ridiculous with shorts.

He won't know it at the time, but his loving mother's advice will save him from being immortalized in the fashion cticisms of some young woman's blog someday.