Monthly Archives: July 2016

Bloom

Last night I met with a friend to pray over the phone.

My heart is always heavy these days, with my mom and niece and just all of the heartache in our world. My mind is occupied with so many different things. When I’m awake, I’m living it, and when I’m asleep, it seeps into my dreams.

My friend knows what’s going on in my life, but I didn’t say a word about the dreams. Most of them have taken place in the farmhouse where I spent a good portion of my childhood and highlight old anxieties and tensions that took place there. On Monday night, I had an absolutely heartbreaking dream about my niece. (Which, oddly oddly enough, also took place in the farmhouse.) There has been no relief. And even my body feels heavier and heavier and heavier.

So last night, during our prayer time, without me saying a word, my friend starts praying for my sleep and for my dreams. As I told her this morning, that was a total God thing.

So last night, I had a dream. It was similar to the wilderness dreams I had a little over three years ago, but not quite the same. This time we (a large group of people – some of whom I know, some of whom are unfamiliar but I knew them in the dream) were in this kind of rustic-looking kitchen instead of in a mountain park, and I kept saying how the kitchen had potential for ministry purposes. Then we went outside and hung out around a campfire. It was peaceful and beautiful. Again, total God thing.

I woke up knowing it’s not time for that dream yet, but … the time will come. Right now, I’m still being cultivated and grown into it. The cultivation, the growing – it’s dark, and it’s heavy, but … it’s not so dark and it’s not so heavy that I won’t get through it.

So deeply thankful…

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Singularity

sin·gu·lar·i·ty
/siNGɡyəˈlerədē/
noun
The state, fact, quality, or condition of being singular; a peculiarity or odd trait.
Physics, Mathematics: a point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space-time when matter is infinitely dense, as at the center of a black hole.
Oh, yes. That is the season I am in right now.
Rejecting the hard and fast lines that make it easier to claim a group of people. Accepting nuance instead makes it harder for others to identify with me.
It’s just the season.
Not just for being unique – everyone is unique – but to be different from every group in which I’m involved these days in remarkable ways. To be treated differently because of the differences; after all, why don’t I just find the people who are like me? I’m feeling it – the singularity, the only-ness, the one-lines, the not really belonging. There are things that make me so singular right now, I’m afraid to even talk about them to people about them. I already don’t make sense to them.
But it’s only a season.
At some point, as people get to know me better and better, the singularities will matter less and less. (I hope.) Not because they’ve ceased to exist, but because they’ll just be parts that make up a whole person.
In the meantime, it’s a gift.
It’s teaching me empathy. It’s teaching me to identify. It’s teaching me to appreciate the things that make a person a person, and to value less the things that make a group a group.
It’s making me more compassionate. It’s maturing me, making me wiser.
And of course there’s this song…

Mother Nature Groans

Grief. There is always grief now. Sometimes in torrents, sometimes in rivulets, but there is always grief now. Mingled sometimes with mere threads of joy, sometimes with ribbons, but there is always grief now.

I am the Greatest Presence, and the least felt. If I was free to move, there would be no grief, only joy. For the more I move, the more I am felt, and the more I am felt, the more my Presence inspires what should be.

But, cell by cell, organism by organism, I am suppressed and destroyed. I am constrained by concrete. Clouded by fire. Captured to do the will of another.

They do not care for me, the Life behind all life. They do not understand that I birthed them and I sustain them. They do not know how I long for them to be free, or that my freedom is what supplies theirs.

A groan escapes me.

“I’m sorry, Dearest,” my Beloved says beside me. Always beside me. He knows my grief, my breaking. “It will not always be this way.”

It was not always this way, either. I used to be free. Everything used to be free. And there was no grief. Only joy.

I remember the first time grief came upon me.

She was the brightest, most lyrical part of creation, our greatest pride and joy, second only to our son. And so we sought to bring her into our family as our son’s wife.

But one day, things began to change: the timbre grew dark, discordant, unyielding. She wanted nothing to do with us any longer, wanted to be independent of us. She believed giving freedom was to make oneself vulnerable, and if vulnerable, one would be destroyed. She said we would be destroyed. She would prove it. From that day on, she came and went as she pleased, taking many with her, never bringing any back. She attacked everything we loved, everything in which we found joy, everything to which we granted life and freedom. She seduced it, little by little, and bound it.

And the joy twisted within me, wrenching sighs and tears from my deepest places. Although it has ebbed and flowed, it has never left me since.

It grew so great and my heart grew so heavy that my Beloved drew me away. Things are not right without me, and sometimes I visit in a gentle breeze after the storm, in a whisper after the noise; mostly, though, I wait, gathering my strength. I wait for a new bride for my son to rise up – one whom I can empower and stand with against the evil the former woman has wrought in our creation. He courts and woos her affections even now.

No, it will not always be this way. The former things will pass away, and this grief along with it. I will swell in joy and be as I once was.

Lessons from the Jewelry Counter

I was good at everything except jewelry. That didn’t stop them from working me in jewelry, of course, but I could never understand why, when I was so good in every other department, they scheduled me for jewelry. Every time I saw jewelry on the schedule next to my name, my stomach would knot up with the dread of being asked about the quality of pieces, repairs, and finding ad items. I don’t wear much jewelry, and know next to nothing about any of it. I was completely out of my depth – I knew it, and so did the customers.

I begged my managers not to schedule me for jewelry, and most of the time they didn’t, but most of the time wasn’t good enough for me. One day, I was unexpectedly dropped into jewelry and I told the manager on duty that she could put me somewhere else or I was leaving. Thankfully, she was gracious about my being fed up and put me at customer service, because if she hadn’t, I would have walked out and never looked back; I hated working jewelry that much. I worked jewelry a number of times after that, but that day, I wasn’t having it that day.

I have this thing where I like to be good at what I do. If I can’t do it well, and with confidence, I don’t want to do it at all.

I’ve switched jobs since, but today I realized, there’s a jewelry counter in every job. Today, I got cussed out by a customer.

A few weeks ago, I had some responsibilities added to my position – responsibilities I immediately knew would take me out of my depth. I wasn’t eager to assume them: going forward, instead of taking messages for a certain department, I was going to be the one to get answers for customers … about things I hardly knew about myself. But, I thought, I might learn something from it.

And I have tried. I have tried learning to whom I should direct which questions. I have tried to smooth over choppy situations with customers where things both could have and should have been done much sooner by the department.  I have tried to escalate questions I can’t find the answers to, so I can learn the answers.

But sometimes, I’m not able to get answers. Not for lack of asking, but because no one can be bothered to answer their customers, much less me.

Yesterday, I told a customer I would get him an answer. I contacted the appropriate person, and she gave me some information, but I didn’t know what to do. I forwarded the information to someone who would know what to do about it and get in touch with the customer, or at least tell me what to do about it so I could get in touch with the customer. Neither happened.

So today, I got cussed out. And all I can think is this is bullshit.

And it is.

It. Is.

Customers don’t care that my niece had her eye removed because of blastoma or my mom has ALS or that I’ve been feeling like shit for the past month or that I’ve been trying to get answers for them. Neither do the people I work for.

I’m good at helping people, but I’m not going to be good at this unless I can get answers for the people I’m trying to help.

I’m not going to be good at this.

Then I remember the jewelry counter. When I moved out of state and came to a new store in that company, I intended to keep it under my cap that I knew anything about jewelry. Unfortunately, within weeks, my new managers found out, anyway, and I was back working in jewelry.

This time, I just bit the bullet and did what I had to do.

And that’s what I have to do here, too.

I have to accept that I can only do what I can do, and that it may not be as good as I’d like it to be, because I’m not the only person things depend on.

I’m not the only person things depend on. Even if I was, I can’t possibly excel at everything.

So I’ll just keep my head down, be who I am, and do what I can.

This is not God’s justice

This is not God’s justice.

This drive to prove who is the alpha male, as if the ability to take life is what constitutes being a man.

This drive to stand up and be heard in unyielding, explosive ways.

This drive to subdue and dominate people based on the color of their skin, or their gender, or their sexual orientation, or anything that makes them different from the one who wants to dominate.

This is not God’s justice.

This is even more than a deadly competition.

This is a disease.

And as I contemplate this disease, and how deep it runs in the human race, I wonder how there can be any kind of healing. Really. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been battling severe depression over the lives that have been lost and the escalating tensions because all I can see is one race – humanity – that has turned on and seems bound to destroy itself. No one is safe.

What can undo this? What can undo this desire to subdue and dominate, this desire to be first at any cost, this desire to hold the power of life and death, this desire to wield fear?

As a Christian, I believe only Jesus can undo it. Scratch that. I believe Jesus has undone it, and He’s just waiting on humanity to realize it. To realize Jesus is the way to a relationship with God, and a relationship with God is the way to peace – peace with Him, peace with ourselves, peace with each other. To realize that this disease is so much bigger than we can heal on our own and anything – anything we do outside of Jesus is at best slapping a Band-Aid on our skin for something that runs in our veins. To realize that God’s justice isn’t about providing a temporary solution to a permanent problem, but to do away with the problem altogether – to really make it right – and that He has chosen to do that through Jesus, and He has chosen to do that in us. To realize that God’s justice is about bringing us all together in Him, because as Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV, emphasis mine).

“His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:15b-18 NIV).

In Christ, we have the power to reject the spirit of subjugation. In Christ, we have the power to deny ourselves, bear burdens, and follow Jesus’ example of humility, compassion, and sacrifice. In Christ, we have the power to infuse everything with we touch with life, with love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. When we are in Him, He is in us.

This is God’s justice.

And what better place to be found on a Monday morning in such a sorrowful world, a world whose need for healing has never been more evident? In Him.

And what better hope to be had on a Monday morning in such a sorrowful world, a world whose hope for healing has never been less evident? Him, in me.

“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 NIV).

“You are from God, dear children, and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NIV).

 

 

“God’s love is meteoric,
    his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
    his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
    nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
    slips through the cracks.”

~Psalm 36:5-6 (MSG)

Last weekend, I made a day trip out to Gloss Mountain State Park, and the verses above came to mind on the drive there. There was just something about getting out into the flat Oklahoma landscape with nothing but plains and skies for miles that reminded me of God’s vastness – His depths, His wideness, His height.

The Gloss Mountains are a series of mesas over a twenty-five mile stretch off of US-412 in northwestern Oklahoma, and about two weeks ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to climb one, even though I heard it was a difficult climb and there were rattlesnakes. I also heard the view was breathtaking, so I studied up on how to react if I stumbled across a rattlesnake, or worse, was bitten by a rattlesnake, and went anyway.

I was not prepared for how steep the climb was, nor did I expect the path to narrow about a third of the way up, with grass and growth crowding every step of the way. I was already struggling to breathe and my legs were already heavy, and I had the thought that if a rattlesnake did spring out at me from the grass, my heart rate would surely help the venom spread quickly. I thought about turning around and heading back down, honestly.

But I had come for the view from the top, you know? A third of the way up wasn’t good enough. So I kept climbing. Eyes down the entire time, of course, to watch for rattlesnakes, but I kept climbing. In the last twenty feet or so, the path widened, but it was all rock the rest of the way – hard to get a foothold, hard to lift my legs, but I finally made it.

And it was beautiful. I could see for miles in every direction, and again, I was aware of God’s vastness. On my way back down (which wasn’t any easier, by the way, because my legs had gone from lead to jelly) and on the drive home and all this past week, I’ve been thinking about how, in the middle of God’s vastness, I’m on a steep and narrow path.

Not always, because there are seasons, but right now. I feel heavy, and at times, I can’t breathe under the weight of it all. If there was any room – any room at all – to sit down… If there was any room for someone to come alongside… but there’s not. It’s too narrow, and I have to keep climbing, because even though I can’t begin to imagine the view that’s waiting for me at the top, I know it will be worth it.