Monday, January 25, 2010
(I was warned that someday I would feel like this, I really wish that the warnings had been wrong.)
Baptist schools in the Texas/Oklahoma have interesting labels that are attributed to them. DBU (my undergrad) was known as "The school where Jesus lived." This title was a mockery for how terribly conceited we came across to other schools as. The campus in general was really into being Holy and into servant leadership (you can even get a PhD in the subject). If you have known me for long, and if my education has come up in conversation, you known that I am not often gracious when referring to the 'Christian' culture of my Alma mater. Nonetheless, I stopped in for a visit over the Christmas holiday and I have to confess - it is a place where Jesus lives.
I know I am about to sound terribly cheesy, but as I got out of my car it was as if I was standing on Holy ground and God was with me. I went to an over look that was a place of prayer for me all through college. As I stood there I remembered all the times I had sought God and found God on that balcony, and I reflected on so many major life choices that happened there. I also thought about how very real God was for me in those years and how being there again I could feel God's presence as if God in the flesh was walking with me.
As I walked the small campus I realized why so many people never leave. A majority of the faculty, graduate students and staff graduated from DBU undergrad and chose to stay. People don't leave, and they don't leave because they don't want to leave the place where Jesus lives.
Truth be told I can't blame them, I miss that campus on a hill. I miss the place in my life were I sang love songs to God and desired nothing more than to figure out how to spend the rest of my life that close to Jesus. I believed that I could have that spiritual high forever. I was warned that it would go away, but I didn't believe the warnings. I thought my relationship with God could be that blissful forever. Not to mention how easy it was to be 'Holy'.
Even still as I walked around, remembering that feeling and feeling God almost as if I was 19 again in college spending all my time praying, I knew it was a good thing that I left. Leaving was hard, but it took me to Baylor and Baylor lead me to San Francisco, and every minute of it has been hard, and I have not felt the presence of God like I did on that hill. Even as I know that my life right now is exactly the one God has called me into, I can't shake the reality that living there I was living were Jesus lives, and it was so much easier than this.
Okay, now we are going to hit the wall over the distinction between sacred and secular. I don't believe anything is secular- all things are sacred. God is present in all places, creator of all things and has made all things Holy and is constantly in the process of redeeming creation. Still, I cannot deny the presence of God on that campus. I mean we all know that when 2 or more are gathered, so gather 3000+, 18-24 year-olds, all full of passion and energy, and many of them are really seeking God, God has to be there in a palatable way.
I don't know how to explain it. I don't know what to do with it in light of the many, many critiques I have of my DBU experience, but for the first time in ages over this past Christmas I walked on Holy ground and I could tell. My mom could tell, she said she hadn't seen my face light up like it did that day in ages. I was overjoyed to be in a place where I could feel God, and truth be told I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stand on that balcony where I had prayed for so many nights in college and beg God to be as present with me everywhere as He/She is there. I did take a moment to ask God where He/She has been lately, I felt like I was answered with the reality that God has continued to walk with me, but still, I don't feel God in most places like I felt God there (the beach comes really close, but honestly not the same).
I miss it, and I want to go back to the security of it. But I left because God asked me to. I left not because I did not fit in on that campus (I am way too liberal), but because I felt God pulling and pushing me into a different journey. As I think about the leaders of our faith I feel like journey and place are both themes of their relationship with God. I know I am where I am supposed to be, and I know God has not left me to go on this journey alone. I am willing to recognize that DBU was significant, and helped shape me, and that I can't and shouldn't go back. It is a place of safety and God is asking me to live a life of adventure.
Still I have to confess, I really wish the journey didn't feel so distant from God. I wish that every day felt like those nights on that balcony, were I could just breath in the presence of my Creator, where Holiness felt easy.
Friday, January 15, 2010
today I over heard a woman saying she wasn't going to give to Haiti because as a nation it is a lost cause...
this rant isn't really about the woman (especially as I have no right to stand as her judge even if I want to, and i do) or entirely about Haiti - it is about the reality that I love and attempt serve The I AM that I AM and She is there in every lost cause.
adam and eve post the fall = lost cause = God was there
Israel in Egypt = lost cause = God was there
the woman at the well = lost cause = God was there
the transatlantic slave trade = lost cause = God was there
the Holocaust = lost cause = God was there
civil rights in the U.S. = lost cause = God was there
the Rwandan genocide = lost cause = God was there
modern day slave trade = lost cause = God is here
Haiti = lost cause = God is here
the world is full of events and people and situations that are harder and deeper and uglier than any of us could ever imagine resolving. the world is full of causes that are harder than we can take on, on our own, but not one of them is bigger than our Redeemer, our Creator, our God; furthermore they are not bigger than the joint force of humanity working together along side God in the lost cause, and even more not once has God failed to call us to action as the lost causes around us continue to suffer
Do I find the situation in Haiti heartbreaking and paralyzing? yes
Does that give me an excuse to do nothing? NO
Do I think I am doing enough? sadly no
I love the passage about the goats and the sheep for many many reasons. one is the simple call to participate in the kingdom, two God is the one suffering in all the stories, God is not only with the lost cause, God is the lost cause.
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."Dear Lover of the lost cause, forgive me my judgment, my weakness, my apathy, move in humanity to restore Haiti and every other nation and person that suffers. Help us to see you in the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned. I have not done enough, I cannot do enough, with You, I can do more. Help us, help Haiti.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I sat on the phone silent tears filling my eyes- "of course you can put your loans in deferment, how long have you been working under 30 hours?" He said it with so much compassion I could hardly breath, the weight of grace over took me.
Hearing the person who deals with my school loans reassure me that this was my best choice; it was even financially wiser then paying a lower consolidated amount; the abundance of grace was more than I wanted to bear. I cried.
I cried because even with a terrible economy and an 11% unemployment rate in CA, I want to be able to say 'I did it on my own.' 'I saved myself.' 'I took care of myself.'
I accepted the help with gratitude. I left the living room before my roommates saw the tears in my eyes- my bedroom door closed behind me, I sobbed silently in solitude. I crumpled into a huddle on the floor and felt God gently holding me and softly letting me know that I was not going to make it on my own, but I was going to make it.
I have grown to dislike the metaphor of debt in relation to God's grace; still, in this moment I felt the power of debt deferment (not even forgiveness) and the power of the gift was more than my heart wanted to hold. In that moment I felt God whispering gently this is grace: forgiveness of debt, without judgment. Pleading with me softly accept the grace given to me, God urged me to know that I don't have to be this strong and My Creator will not stop loving me.
I am sharing this knowing that it has never in my life been acceptable to not pay your debts. Unemployment has always been an unforgivable idea in my mind. I am sure that some readers will judge me for this. I am also sending out a prayer that someone else who is as overwhelmed as I am will know that you are not in this alone. I urge you allow God to hold you.
*I wrote this post almost 8 months ago. I saved the draft planning to share it when it would hurt less for the world to read about the struggle I was in. I think I had planned on posting it within weeks; I was not planning to wait months. Nonetheless, starting my full-time job next week, I am feeling less vulnerable. I must confess that the drama I felt was definitely a sign of my stubbornness and pride. At that point I still had housing and through it all, I was better off than 75% of the world that would see my life as luxurious. Still, as was promised by God, I got through, and I didn't do it on my own.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Over Christmas I chopped off my hair - for the fourth time.
Each time I was growing more into my self, or asserting that I had completed a growing process; each time I was either in a season of chaos or I had just completed one; each time the 'perfect' look of long healthy hair seemed an ill fit the reality of being me.
The odd thing is I love my long hair. I really, really do. I am kind of blessed with perfect hair. I know that sounds conceited but it is true, my long hair is gorgeous! My natural hair color is envied by many, and my hair does pretty much whatever I want it to. It is shiny without me doing anything to make it that way. When I see old pictures of it I miss it terribly, but it isn't me. In fact my friend Maggie gave me my favorite compliment about my short hair this past Sunday when she looked at me and said "it looks like you."
Ironically, I think that might also be the hardest part; it looks like me. Really short hair has a thing about it that can't really be explained (really long hair has the same, but different effect). Short hair is no nonsense. When I don't like it there is nothing I can do about it. It isn't gracious. It is blunt, and honest, and low-maintenance in a way that says I have better things to do. Short hair is sassy and playful, but it's game is more like a dare than an invitation.
I find it curious that hair reveals so much of the mystery of who a woman is. In younger years long hair felt like naivete, now it feels like pretense.
Short hair is Audry in Sabrina, long hair is Audry in Breakfast at Tiffany's. If you haven't seen these movies: Sabrina is bold, she has strength and dignity. She went to Paris to find herself. Holly is a fragile and crazy mess, her perfect style and adventurous spirit are a facade disguising fact that she really is just waiting on someone to rescue her.
I already miss my long hair. I grew it back after the first two times I chopped it because long hair is beautiful and I want to be beautiful, but every few years I start to feel that for me that beauty is pretense. In my heart of hearts I am Holly Golightly (minus the escort part). I am scattered and fun, chasing adventure, trying all things new, carefree, and deeply passionate. Nonetheless, I am aiming to be Sabrina, full of confidence and direction, with no question about what I want, where I am going and what I am willing to do to get there, fabulously classy, elegant, and daring. I don't want to end up with the playboy at the end of the movie, I don't want to be rescued, I want the man that will get on a boat for me, I want to be the woman that inspires a man to be more than he is without me. I want to walk away and be followed, scratch that, I want a man that will give me a reason to stay.
I dare you.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
as most of my friends know I have a thing for birdcages of the antique variety. I mean I really do love them and I am powerfully drawn to them. I know they are super trendy right now and I am always into the latest trend so this can't be too shocking. the thing is I love them for what they represent as empty cages. I love them for open doors and bent bars, and broken perches, I love them for the escape they represent, I like the day dream of the bird that was brave enough to fly away.
funny thing is I woke up this morning thinking of the beauty of birdhouses, and I think I love them for all the ways they stand in opposition to a cage, they are hospitality, designed with the clear intention that no bird will ever be forced to stay, but instead the house can be a stop along the way, a resting place in a tiring journey, a place to gather food, or hide from a turbulent storm, hanging high in branches a birdhouse is a welcome oasis, a place of security often much needed in a life of freedom.
there have been three times in my adventurous and freedom filled life that I have simply not had housing for various reasons, I am a bit of a vagabond and sometimes between travel, rent, school, and employment it is hard to find a resting place, over the years I have had amazing friends and family and they have offered me security in the chaos, without ever attempting to clip my wings, and for them I am grateful
So this post is for you Uncle Wayne, Aunt Karen, Tihara, Julie, Chris & Christine, Scott & Ning, Melanie, and Leah you have been my birdhouses and lest I forget this is for my Creator (Luke 12:24) who provides for even the raven and will always provide for me.
The picture below is of a stain glass birdhouse my grandmother made for me, and I love it!
Friday, January 8, 2010
piece by piece the winter wood exposed
fresh and broken,
weak from the cold wind
curling, pulling, flaking
the harsh exterior of protection
rough and strong but dying slowly
the ground frozen below snow yet to fall this year
refusing to nourish a heart that is broken beyond its years
layers falling away
the spring will come
the land will live
this drought is not here but just a day
A day to stand alone and longing for protection I once was
I am falling to pieces here alive in the promise
exposed to the present
Confession 1 of 2010 - for months I have held onto something God has been asking me to let go of. This week I let it go. I let go in hopes that I will be given what I need to replace it.
Letting go has broken my heart. However, as I think of letting go I am reminded of a time a few months back my friend Scott led my tribe in the Eucharist. he talked about being broken so that we can be healed. It was in Christ's broken body we were given new life, it was in letting go of the promise of a warrior savior that we are able to embrace the gift of a loving sacrifice. when we give up the things we think we need, when we let go of the plans we hold onto, when we allow ourselves to be broken, we are given new life. So this is my new life, and I am grateful for it, even if it hurts. Without sorrow we would never fully understand joy, and without rejection we would never fully appreciate acceptance. In letting go I am able to open to holding something new, Dear Jesus, bring on the new.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Still, In honesty I might have to acknowledge that it was in fact a good year, in the way that getting a large tattoo is good, it stings for a long time, at moments it really hurts, you bleed and then it itches like crazy for weeks, you have to take care of the thing with pure coco butter (or whatever your tattoo artist recommends) but when it is all said and done you have this beautiful piece of art work that is all yours.
I especially like this analogy as it applies to the tattoo I just got. It is a lotus flower, a Budist symbol of beauty. The flower grows in swamp water and the purity of the flower stands in contrast to its surroundings and in contrast of what it grew out of. It reminds me of the story of our redemption, beauty from adversity and God’s ability to make all things pure. I guess what I am trying to say is I hope that 2009 is redeemed in the lives of everyone I know who struggled through this year. All of the people who lost jobs, or couldn’t find one post graduation, all the people who lost loved ones, or struggled with health, everyone who had to figure out who they were post major life changes, everyone that had to readjust their dreams, I hope for all of us we can look back on this year and see that it was good, painful and challenging, but beautiful.
As stated above the year had some really low downs. Nonetheless was pretty amazing to realize the generosity of friends, to be blessed with the provisions of my Creator, to have a niece and nephew born, to be offered a job with an organization I love, to realize my identity is not in any of the things I thought it was, to learn that I am truly loved by so many people, and quite simply to have actually survived 2009- yeah all of that feels good.
Even with all of this I have to say please 2010, please don’t suck. In fact I am asking you to be awesome. Dear 2010 Be the year of love, be the year of hope, be the year of change, be the year strength, be the year of honesty, of year of faithfulness, of healing, of year of adventure, be the year of dreams come true.