Forget Me Not

Faith and trust are often overlooked.

We assume that because we believe in a supreme being, we’ve covered all of our bases. God, faith, hope, trust…all of it, nailed. But we’ve missed the point.

He wants a relationship. He wants intimacy. And He wants the moments when you don’t trust Him.

He wants you to call out and say, “I don’t believe you, but I want to. Help me. Have mercy on me.” (Mark 9:24).

He wants you to acknowledge the icky parts of your life that would threaten to disarm, discourage you, dismantle you. The things you’re thinking about right now… The ones that keep your lips sealed shut in the presence of friends and your heart mindlessly numbed in your loneliness. He wants all of that.

For me, those moments took the form of overarching statements – things I proclaimed to be true, simply because investigating the foundations of my claims would be too painful.

  1. “God has left me in a season of wanting for too long. I suppose this is the life He has chosen for me. I think He wants me to remain in a place where I do not receive my deepest desires.”
  2. “Okay, I know He is good. He can rescue me from X and Y, but I really don’t see how He can do Z. I’m not in any circumstance where that could be possible right now.”

Readers, understand that these are lies and that they do not reflect the character of my God. Here was His answer:

Last night, I caught up on long-overdue readings by starting in my favorite book: Psalms. I flipped to the center and began with Psalm 77. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I was not alone in my frail trust!

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted… You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days…when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

Wow. I can’t count the amount of times I have prayed almost the exact words expressed in this Psalm. All of the hurt and waiting and longing leads to one very human conclusion: this is my life now. Sadness and dejection are what God is pleased to see me live.

No. No, friends, if you have ever said these words – as I have – I beg you to continue reading this passage.

BUT THEN I recall all you have done, O Lord. I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works…

And the writer goes on to describe God’s extraordinary intervention. My favorite is verse 19: “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”

Hmph. Isn’t that an answer to my unbelief which stemmed from not being able to see how He would do something? I don’t need to see the details; I just need to know and trust that they are there. The plan is there. More importantly, He is there.

And in response to only trusting “half” of God’s power (which isn’t possible, by the way. He’s an all-or-nothing kind of God), Psalm 78 described Israel’s relationship with Him as they were led through the desert.

They stubbornly tested God in their hearts… “God can’t give us food in the wilderness. yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”

And that grieved Him. It must grieve Him when I do it, too. I’ll acknowledge some of His greatness and wonder, but undermine the grand implications of such an undeserved gift by saying, “but He didn’t do this for me, so He probably can’t.”

Ouch.

God did give Israel the things they needed, by the way. He even gave them the things they wanted, causing birds to fall from the sky and into their camps so they could have the meat they so desired. But they forgot Him again, and He corrected them.

Forgive me, Abba. Forgive me for all the times I have forgotten you, or have been too lazy to learn who You are.

And for you, friends, I deeply hope that you will learn His character today. He is not one to abandon you or throw you into misery. Follow Him and take His hand, dear friends. He knows the way.

What I Mean When I Say “I Love You”

We were given language to use it for beauty.

We congregated at Babel and were struck with this gift, this curse… we were struck with a miracle:

because suddenly, we were given a basis on which to build new cultures. We were given semantics and pragmatics, sounds and cues, meanings and emphases, all of which could provide effective communication, expression…

we could give tangible entities and audible form. We could paint landscapes and stories in the crooks of an ear. We could give some kind of definition to the feelings and thoughts that swirled within our chest.

Beautiful. That curse, that gift, was beautiful.

Yet we’ve failed at its usage,

for at its core, the gift was not for the glorification of self, but for the audible and cultural display of One untouched. We were to become the water on the Earth that reflected His character: namely, when all else is summarized,

Love.

We were to use the diversity and colors to express the meaning of Love.

You could read all of His letters and know that love is not a simple concept. It is messy, uncomfortable, awe-inspiring and all-consuming. It amazes and transforms. It is, for lack of better word, incredible.

Yet we “love” everything now.

“I love pizza.” “I love that chair!” “I love my car.” “I love you.”

When it is convenient.

An unlimited array of words and potential for words, yet the best we could do to define it was:

“An intense feeling of deep affection.”

A stronger form of fondness.

But Love was not meant to be reduced to the description of the hormones and desires that swirl inside of us. It was not meant to describe the temporary things that bring smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts. It was not meant to describe us, but what we are willing to do. 

“I love you.”

It means:

I present God to you.

It means that you have nothing of your own capability that can express the worth, value, and significance of your sister or brother human being. It means that no matter what you do, you could never do enough or think enough good thoughts to treat them the way they deserve to be treated. It means that there is only One who can be everything…

and when you find a person for whom you would like to give everything….

when you run into a stranger who feels a deep sense of lack, and you wish to supplement and overwhelm their gaps with abundance, goodness, grace, and mercy,

when you realize that this world is not enough for someone, and wish to offer them more, you can say: “I love you.”

I present God to you.

“Here! Have this river of satisfying water, this fountain that will never run dry.” (Isaiah 58:11, John 4:14)

“Here! Take everything I can never give you. Take something that goes beyond the emotions, the feelings, the arguments, the disappointments. Take this constant source, for I can never be constant for you.” 

And this statement means sacrifice. It means that only through God, and only with His will and mindset can you learn how to give of yourself for another’s benefit. It means that the thoughts and ideas He contrives will be bigger than you, harder to enact than you can promise, grander and more satisfying than anything you can give.

I present God to you, friend.

I present God to you, my love.

I want to follow His example and lay down my life for you.

I have nothing greater to offer you than He who is everything to me.

How would that change the way we use the word “Love”?


Could You Love Without Words?

Do you know what it is to love without words?

To speak absolutely nothing and show, act, demonstrate. 

To brush the cheeks of the sick or offer to fetch a glass of water or sit and listen with intent ears.

Do you know how to be sensitive to the beating of a heart? To feel the rhythm and to know when som  ething is jus t  off  bea   t?

Can you understand what a face means? Know a person enough to distinguish between happy and sad, and – what’s more –

can you risk yourself for the sake of intimacy? Can you invest your heart wholly and completely, expecting nothing in return yet expecting to lose everything for the sake of another’s cause? Can you expect to love the little quirks about someone and allow their life to become a part of yours?

Can you appreciate the time you enjoy in the present and be willing to embrace the road’s continuation or detour in the future?

*   *   *

I have no words to describe this thing I’m putting into words. I have no explanation of the beauty, the messiness, the persistence, the prayers, the sacrifice, the discomfort, the fun, the warmth, the joy, the peace, the rawness

that goes into love.

A word is nothing if is not connected to an action.

I know this:

if our actions of love ever become diminished, we are in trouble. If we ever lose sight of the immensity and depth, the non-romantic passion, and the devoted desperation of a blind faith (one where we see everything and choose the good), we will be sorry.

We will deeply regret it.

We will say, “I love you.” And they will respond, in their hearts, “You do not.” But we will both smile, souls dead, and accept that this is reality now, and love has ambiguous meaning.

And we will run through the town despairingly, hands held out in anguish, eyes begging for a truth.

We will ask every living creature the questions that were already answered: “Why am I empty?” “Why do I still feel alone?” “Who am I?” “What is love?”

We will curse love and the notion of its existence; spit on the ground in front of any soul with glistening eyes and peaceful chest who claims to know what it is. We will become the scholars who look at an object and say, “I cannot understand the object’s existence; therefore, it does not.” And forbid anyone disagree with our doublespeak.

But He will remind us of the moment when He bowed his head, relinquished His life-healing hands to the control of chains, and walked a silent road to a hill – one initially created to reflect His face  – so that He could love us without words. He will whisper about how He took everything that threatened to confuse our perception of His character… the loneliness, fear, hatred, anger, doubt, vanity, self-loathing… and bore it on His back, in His hands, in His feet, in His side. He will point us to the  moment when He publicly declared and defined His love for all eternity.

How dare we ask if we could love without words? He has freely given us the ability to do so.

We’ve only been too foolish to accept it.

 

 

Joy Comes in the Morning…

I’m writing to you right now because I can, and that’s a blessing in and of itself.

I’m writing to you because Abba is a healer and the restorer of all things.

This morning I woke with pain, confusion, anger, sadness,

feelings of lack, feelings of incompetence, feelings of hopelessness.

I sat up, (breathe), contemplated the day ahead:

“You have to go to class. You have to go to class.”

“No, you don’t. Lie down here. Rest.”

Five times the battle, then I did as I was told. I “rested…”

Except this was no rest; this was talking, dissuading, feeling all things wrong…

There was no joy this morning.

(Freeze). I froze. 

and then I knew I needed help.

But Abba already knew…

To sleep He put me. Then rest I did, and dream I did, and I woke with a motivation to move –

one I did not prompt of my own accord.

>> That voice threatened to claim my accord. It would’ve had me  lie there forever, curtains closed, stomach growling, mind dreaming of things it claimed I’d never be able to have. The voice would’ve liked me to waste away, aiming to spite those who’d hurt me. This, then, was the battle for my accord.

But Abba has all might.

He intervened, and today He brought me friends. He taught me to dial their numbers, to reach out for help, to give up my pride, and to let Him guide me.

So thank you to Alexis, who flew by my side and sat with me once Abba had told me to rise. Thank you to Martha, whose sweet words were as near to my heart as our friendship has become. Thank you to Anna, who spoke truth and life into me with consistency, power, and tenderness. Thank you to my friends for obeying my Father’s voice.

Now through my veins courses the Spirit of redemption; the Spirit of the Helper, who snatches me from the pits without my consent…who grabs my hand like a parent does a child’s, and leads me from the strangers who promise fulfillment and a smile.

It is as if He is the cure, and His immediate exposure – though I never specifically asked – caused a joy and peace (neither being my own) to become part of my existence and part of today’s events. I walked, I smiled, I ate, I felt the things good; and I have no explanation other than the presence and all-pervading power of Jesus Christ.

I’ll take my moments one day at a time. As of right now I am happy, because He has never left me nor forsaken me. He is with me here, still, hearing me and creating me. He has a plan and a purpose, and regardless of my occasional discomfort with His timing, I know beyond all doubt that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). And I seek to follow Him; therefore, I assume that my posture is one that mirrors His.

So I cling to my verse – the one that is the anthem through my darkness – and recite it over and over again (in my head and spirit, where the battle is fought) when I cannot think of words of my own to speak to Him:

I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you…

-Psalm 139:11-12

Be Careful Little Ears

I’ve noticed that what I put into my ears significantly affects my thought life.

So we pray tonight / that you don’t get weak
and please pray that I /don’t forget what I believe
‘Cause these days are hard / and faith sometimes is work
Pray until He heals the hurt
I trust God will heal the hurt.

The above song lyrics are from “Everyone Hurts” by Kirk Franklin. I encourage you to listen to it right now, as I am. Place headphones over your ears…turn up the volume in your car… and if you are hurting, be comforted by the truth flowing all through this song.

These lyrics got me thinking: the songs I often enjoy do not necessarily communicate messages of truth.  Don’t get me wrong – they aren’t lying or proclaiming ideologies that are demeaning. These are overall innocent songs… the ones about love, devotion, affection, good feelings. Songs like “I Won’t Give Up,” or Demi Lovato’s “Nightingale” (which is amazing, by the way. That girl has talent!!). But even good things should come in moderation.

Excess exposure to fabricated fairy tales can make you believe that love comes easy, or that it’s always miserable, or that the warm and fuzzy emotions we feel should be the prime indicator of our relational lives. I love that music is able to effectively communicate our mindsets at specific points in time – after a break-up, before a first date, or well into a relationship – but music can also trap you in the “relationships are everything” mindset. Think about it… what percentage of mainstream (and even some lesser-known) music is about some variation of love or sex? 

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I think that the constant bombardment of lovey-dovey music can be dangerous. It tempts me to think that I’m lacking something, or that my a life without an object of affection isn’t worth singing about. It can distract me from the romance of my daily life: intimacy with Christ, friends, and family….comedic talks with a brother in Christ…or the silly trips to Mexican restaurants with my giggly best girl friend… group dinner after hours of dancing and blocking for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry’s production of Tarzan… little things that become the big things.

Abba gave us song for a reason. I mean, just look at the Psalms! David wrote those as a poetry to be combined with music; a way of expression praise, adoration, loneliness, hope….all sung to His creator! I could only imagine what the actual music sounded like. The ability to change pitch, dynamics and tone to create a form of communication that can stand without words…wow! It has the power to uplift, encourage, remind.

What you put into your mind is important. It matters. It impacts your life. Guard yourself and be careful, little ears, what you hear.

Another Truth

I wasn’t the only one.

My first semester of freshman year was difficult. In my mind, the most analogous illustration I can conjure is simple and frightening: darkness. There was no hope as would have accompanied being in the depths of the ocean…no dream of a current to lift me up and wash me ashore. It was just pure darkness with the illusion of peace, and the disbelief that any condition contrary to mine had a form or existence. Or, in other terms, “light:” There was none.

But something happened in December. I can describe it only as the emergence of that which I had known to be false, as sure as we know that we are not made of cats and dogs. Abba peered into my disbelief, reached into my darkness, and saved me. He taught me not to hate Him, not to believe that He desired only my sorrow and grief – which is what I had foolishly claimed to be my own truth. He taught me of love, of light, of liberation. And by January, with one leap into His outstretched hands on an ocean of faith, I walked. I walked, and my darkness became light.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

And so began the initiation of my new, fragile existence. I no longer trusted in myself to bring joy to a dreary day, for each moment of happiness was a treasure, a deliciously miraculous moment that I knew I had no power to conjure of my own accord; first semester had taught me that. I was weak. But second semester taught me that He was strong.

He reintroduced me to joy, and joy in its fullness. Joy: I wasn’t happy because I had no fear or pain. Instead, I enjoyed a peace that passed all understanding despite my consistent fears. Despite my worries. And the “despite” is what, to me, made the smiles of second semester joy, and the grins of its predecessor mere fleeting whims.

But, as I first told you, I was not alone. In that darkness, when the less-than-glamorous thoughts of death and destruction seemed to beckon me with chilling invitation, I was surrounded by bodies who endured the same tormenting voices of “You’re not good enough,” “You are alone,” “No one loves you,” “You cannot be loved,” “You. Are. Alone.”

Her name is Martha, and she is my new friend. She is gloriously beautiful and has a laugh that is as infectious as her charm. She, to me, is a radiation of light and beauty. She is the inner spirit that mean and women alike envy to possess.

And somewhere across campus in that first year of college, she was experiencing the same things I was. I learned this as we discussed our lives in a dormitory kitchen while the rest of the world cheered on the Seahawks and Broncos. She was vulnerable there, and revealed the same wound that I’d born. “Here’s my scar,” it was as if she was saying. As if she rolled down her sleeve to reveal a heart that had been slashed in half and had somehow healed. It matched mine.

We were not alone, either, for at that same kitchen table, our friend Anna revealed an equal distress. What is it about ripping away company that seems to suck the life out of people, knocking them to the ground and revealing the idols they’d held so dearly for so long? Relationships. The worst idols to those whom they affect, for they can be both a necessity and a handicap; a delirious gift and a wretched knife.

With piercing blue eyes and the dancing grace of the passing wind, Anna is a symbol of strength. In my mind, she is power and a fortress that is not to be overtaken. She is the confidence for which young women strive, and the ginger sensitivity that constitutes love and emotion. But somehow, the darkness had gotten her, too.

And somehow, we’d all been rescued in the same way: by His timely answers to our prayers.

I wish I could have shaken myself unconscious until I rejected the concept that I was the only one. I wish that my eyes had been opened in that first semester, and I’d seen the other sisters standing blankly next to me in the soul-gripping dark, their limbs frozen in shock and fear and wonder. I wish that the “Whys? Whys?” – the molecules that clustered together into a black nothingness – had been torn and sin had been broken and truth had been restored amidst the hopelessness that was The Dark.

I wish no one would ever have to feel fear in its tangible form.

There is no beauty in sorrow and, at the time, no thanks in the upheaving. But today, I am thankful for the conversation in the dormitory kitchen that revealed one everlasting truth:

He never leaves us, nor does He forsake us. 

Day of Rest

Today I decided to study outside of my room, my attempt at finding the peace and solace that usually accompanies isolated time of observation and absorption of my surroundings Last year, Abba often found me in these settings whenever I’d wander to sit and think beside the North Campus fountain or ride the buses for hours, just gazing out the window. I missed that state of mind; I needed it. So when I woke today, I decided that this would be my day of rest.

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Complacency, the Beast

Complacency is not my friend.

She’s quite unassuming. She appears with a nonthreatening demeanor; her face is blank and her eyes piercing. Curious thing. She wants no harm: no good, no evil. She just wants to impact your life, like any person would. She wants a grip on your soul. I’ve learned that Complacency is not my friend.

But here she is, once again, knocking meekly on my door like a stranger standing out on the cold. “Let me in,” she says. “Keep me warm. I won’t harm you.” Bah. I really shouldn’t. But it’s so easy… So easy to embrace defeat and begin the slow sinking into the murkiness of compassion-less living. Forgiveless living. Actionless living. No leaning to the right; no edging to the left. Carelessness.

Man, how did it get to this?

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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I find myself

infected

with this deadly disease

wherein which

I say, “I cannot do this thing.”

So I begin doing a different thing.

But because I believe that my ability or desire to do so will soon wane,

I then state,

“I cannot do this thing.”

And this is the story of how I cease doing a thing.

_____

Then one day I told my friend this story,

and he responded by stating the obvious.

Then and only then did I realize the lethal essence

of a self-fulfilling prophecy.