Friday, February 26, 2010

Beautiful, Exposed and Unprotected

I just saw this photo on a blog and I love it. It is supposed to represent the need to fix the potholes in Brittan. It might be pretty direct in intention, but when I look at it I could care less about the need to fix Brittan's roads.

I see beauty that has been exposed and left unprotected, surrounded by dangerous machines, out of place and vulnerable. I see the courage to put something beautiful out there for the world to see, even if the world, in its carelessness, is threatening to destroy it. The soil is too shallow; the road too dangerous; the garden will never survive, but for a brief moment it will be beautiful.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I want to think of pretty things
of hats and coats and gaudy rings
of places I have never seen
Not of you and me and the space between

I dare not dream of time gone by
Instead I dream of birds that flock and squirrels that fly
of streets with lights and stars so bright
and shadows dancing in the night

I do not think of the thousand miles
Nor do I ponder the thousand states
I can not bare the thousand hopes that have to wait

I want to roam the country side
With wings spread and head held high
and dream the dreams of you and I
without a thousand wanders why

Truth be told I must confess
it brings my heart much duress
I cannot stay, you will not go
our story is over, you have to know

loosing you, I found my wings
I laugh, I hope, I dance, I sing
Still, as I go, I won't deny
You have my heart, I have the sky

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Isaiah 58

True Fasting
1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness"will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Soon there will be commentary - for now there is just a moment to meditate on fasting, Sabbath and holiness.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What does it mean to be Holy?

if I can't be a nun, dear Jesus, please give me a husband. (title option 1)

Why I really want to try being a nun for just a year... (title option 2)

I am immeasurably jealous of nuns.
Well not the celibacy part or the cloistered life, but all the rest:
the vows of poverty
the discipline
the calm they seem to exude at all times
the faithfulness
the strength of character
the quiet passion required to live such a distinct life
the devotion
never having to pick out your own clothes
All of that, I am jealous of all of that (and that is ironic because 'do not covet' is on the top ten list of things not to do and I am doing it about something holy)

In my heart I desperately want to be a nun and still think it might be the worst idea ever. I am jealous because they live without all of the things I find entirely necessary. I want a husband and kids and I like new clothes and I am not calm. Add to that, there is not a denomination that I am similar to theologically to that even has nuns, so that rules out that option unless I want to change my theology, and we all know I am way too stubborn for that. Plus, I get mad at God a lot so spending all my time with God would result in some crazy rage issues.

Still, I want to figure out how to be as devout as a nun without being one. At the end of the day it is the holiness, the set apartness, I most want to cultivate in my life. Nonetheless, God has not created me for life in a convent. I am going to have to figure out how to be holy living in a crazy beautiful city instead of on a crazy beautiful mountain.

For most of 2009 I was really into the question "what does it mean to be holy?" and to be honest I didn't get much past the asking part. I just thought about it and maintained the behavior I already had. For the most part it worked out fine. Still, the question has been too much on my mind for me to let it go. In 2010 I would like to really dig into the answer, not that I think I will find it. The question is much much bigger than me, but I am going to work at it a little more, by that I mean I am going to actually try to change some of my behavior.

I am stumped by the fact that I no longer think that abstaining from cursing, drinking, drugs and sex makes a person holy. I don't think God is as interested in my colorful vocabulary as much as he is concerned with the hungry people that sleep on the street outside my house. Still, is it enough to be a bleeding heart liberal and call that holiness? (fyi: I am proud of the title bleeding heart liberal, I am not using it pejoratively) Yet I am not convinced that it is holiness. I am also not planning on obeying the Levitical code. So how do I live out holiness? If it isn't just a don't list and it isn't just a justice thing, what is it? It also can't be about avoiding feeling guilty, because I am not struggling with guilt, and I still feel God asking me to ask myself, what it means to be holy.

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." (Zora Neale Hurston)
This quote was in an email I received and it struck me as very appropriate for my journey with God and holiness. This is my year to seek an answer, last year was great for asking, this year it is time to move.

To clarify: No, I will not behave like a nun, there will be dancing, singing, fine wine, amazing food, and hopefully some hot dates. But I am declaring this the year of abstinence and moderation. I am going to try to spend more nights in, pray more, love more, listen more, obey more, and do less, have less, demand less, and flat out sin less. You see I am convinced there has to be a way to live in the world (and I mean really live, full of adventure, risk and honest speech and crazy parties) and still be the person God created Holy because God is Holy. God would not ask us to do something we cannot do and God states at least 2 times the call to be Holy because God is Holy. We are image bearers, we were crated to be Holy.

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

- Hebrews 12:14

I am posting this the first full day of Lent, and I am going to really push into it during Lent. I am giving up going out. No restaurants, no bars and no clubs. I will dine in, dance at home and drink tea (I am abstaining from alcohol for Lent as well as from processed foods). I am excited to see what I learn as I slow down to listen to God more, as I morn my sins, and prepare for the day of the Cross and the day of resurrection.

Monday, February 15, 2010

love, shadows, truth


Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace -- not in the infantile ... sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.

- James Baldwin, from his book The Fire Next Time

As my community has reflected on our shadows, ego and facade the quote above stuck me as the truth of the gospel in which we find our redemption in Love incarnate.


My shadow is self sufficient to a fault, controlling and isolated - and terrified that my independence makes me unlovable, a fear that has been confirmed by various people over the years. In an effort to hide my insecurity I mask myself in materialism
. I am a bit of a snob and I really don't care much about anyone but me.


My true self is hospitable. I am a strong feminist that loves elements of domesticity. I grew up in Texas, hence I am a feminist that enjoys having doors held open, meals paid for, and jackets shared when I am freezing. I read cooking blogs and theology (I often find God in cooking/craft blogs more than in Christian blogs). My greatest desires are to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. I do not hide behind the masks of my own strength. It is in Love incarnate that I find the strength to be weak. I am vulnerable and capable at the same time. Created by a creative God: I am an artist, and a yuppy; a feminist, and a wanna-be domestic diva; a Christian, and a sinful mess seeking Holiness. I am an oxymoron, and I love it.

*photos courtesy of the amazing Melody Hansen, her blog is listed on my blog roll

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And I can do them all at once.

This past Sunday morning I was supposed to participate in a half marathon. This past Saturday night I realized that I could not find my or my running buddy's bib anywhere (for non-race people a bib is the number thing they make you wear). We searched for hours. They were no where to be found. The race we were going to run is fairly small and I was warned that if I attempted to sneak in I would be spotted quickly, so I skipped a race that I have been planning to do since last October.

Here is the good news: I was disappointed but I wasn't angry with myself. Now, I realize that the idea that I would get mad at myself for something as simple as losing a sheet of paper might seem excessive, but I can't tell you how many times I have been livid over small mistakes. I start in on how irresponsible I am and lazy and incapable. I really am my own worst critic. Worst off for years I took these failures as a sign that I was not relying on God. Any shortcoming somehow was translated in my mind as a sin against God, because if I was a good Christian living up to God's standard I could "Do all things," and I could do them all at once.

For years I believed that my messy room meant I wasn't a good Christian. My B grades were a sign that I was simply not a disciplined Christian. If I wasn't leading at least 3 volunteer ministries I was positively abusing God's grace. Furthermore, while doing all those things I needed to have good job and a great social life because without them I would have an imbalanced life and poorly reflect God's image. Even being sick or tired was a sign that I was not living up to God's standard, because I can "do all things" all at once.

Over the past few years I feel like I have learned more and more that the verse really is about doing all things through Christ, but not all things at once, and not by my shear force of will to be perfect Christian. Nonetheless, I can do all things, in their proper place and time through Christ. In order to get to that place of recognition I also had to learn that God probably does not care about the clothes on my floor (unless they are a sign of my excess, but that is a different blog). God is concerned with strengthening me for the work of the kingdom (see the verse in context, Phil 4:13, it is clearly in reference to Paul doing the work of spreading the good news and not about Paul's ability to do anything else).

In reality I am not excited that I have yet to complete a half marathon, I will start training again soon, while I am also working on getting my hurt knee to feel better. I am excited that although I believe God cares deeply about how I care for the body I have been given, God doesn't think less of me when I can't find important papers.

Monday, February 8, 2010

having it all when it is all falling apart

We were chatting about how hard the past year has been and all the crazy things we have in common. We are both strong women and even as our lives have fallen apart, we look like we have it all together, and on many levels we do. As I reflected this reality of commonality aloud, she looked at me without flinching and said well of course we still have it all together, we have faith.

Her words struck me as both shockingly obvious and remarkably profound. Somehow, I think I just took it for granted. Everyone tells me I am so strong, I give off a vibe that says I don't need anyone, I will be okay. The truth is: I am not that remarkably strong. I do desperately need people. Nonetheless, It is always ok. I do make it work, somehow. That somehow is faith.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

my worst

My community spent some time these past few weeks focusing on our shadow self. In short thinking about who we are when we are our worst. Please, do not be concerned this naval gazing was done in balance with the desire to think through how that person is redeemed, and how we can live into our best versions of ourselves, the version that God created us to be. Nonetheless, for a moment I would like to share with you some reflections on my worst.

The worst version of me is a control freak. She controls everything. She has a clear to do list and a way that she wants everything done. At my worst this applies even to God. At my worst I cannot love God unless God is who I want God to be. At my worst I need everything and everyone to be in their place. At my worst my life is full of walls and compartments, boundaries and guidelines, directives and expectations.

So this is a monologue of my worst. Writing this out is an effort to let it go, and change my ways.

I would like to love you from over here
no, not there, here
and I don't mean you over here
I mean me over here
you stay there
no, don't come here

why is this so confusing?
I want to love you from right here
and you stay right there
and we both stay in our proper places
and love each other like this

no, not like that, like this
together, separately
like this
with me here, and you there
no, not there, there

this is highly frustrating
I do not think you are listening
I have a very simple plan
and if you will just do it my way, it will all work out

so let me love you from right here
no, don't come closer
I like you better when you are over there
yes, I know this dialog is exhausting
I realize I am being stubborn
but so are you

just let me do my thing
and I will love you from right here
I don't want to move
don't come closer

this dance we are doing is making me crazy
stop moving
stay still, stand there
not there, there
yes there, now stay

no, I am not talking to you as if you are a dog
I am simply expressing my desire for you to be there
there, just there, so that I can love you
if you move I might not be able to love you
if you come too close it will all get messed up
I like it like this
not like this, but like this

now, please, don't move
I won't be able to love you if you move
and that would be unbearable

Sadly, no relationship (especially not one with God) can survive this regiment. The truth is, even I cannot stay still. In fact many of the times things have felt out of place I was the one the moved them.

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