Monday, July 9, 2018

Blood On the Page

Today a friend inspires me to write again. A friend I've never actually met in person. But one who has long fascinated me as he's allowed me to explore a bit of his mind and connect with his story through his writing. His name is Ted Dekker. Strangely enough, or maybe not so strangely, I remembered that someone had sent me a series of inspirational talks and articles on writing by Ted Dekker...over two years ago! At the time I never finished going through the resources, and eventually forgot all about it. I guess Someone decided today was the day to revisit. On my drive home, I began listening to a podcast by Ted, and so much is hitting home. Some of the following thoughts are borrowed from this insanely amazing writer.

Life is story. All of us are living a story. And often the shortest distance from truth to the human heart is through story.

Writing may or may not be your thing. I believe I have the heart of a writer. I have dreams of being a writer, but the guts to dig in there and do it day after day after day are lacking.

But one thing I know.

Whether or not I ever write much of consequence, or have any kind of earthly success in this pursuit, I want to be real. I want to be vulnerable. I want to show my true colors and let people see that I struggle, really struggle....a lot! Because Ted says that when people read a story, they don't want words. They want blood on the page. Everyone is looking for a living, breathing connection with another soul. A soul who maybe struggles a lot like them. A soul who is hitting walls and constantly trying to discover who they are and work through the deep dark of their story to find a way over those walls.

Because maybe, as I wrestle to discover and interpret my story, and I leave blood on the page--maybe my blood will mingle with yours. Maybe your soul will connect with mine. And maybe as I struggle and seek and begin to find the way over my wall, it might just help you a little bit to find the way over yours.

And that's what I want my writing to create. Whether I write ten thousand pages or only ten.

So consider the following lines a bit of my blood on the page.

How Long? 
(An original composition, raw and unfiltered)

How many times will I fall on my knees again
Soul wasted
After I've tried for the one-millionth time to create
What I still haven't tasted?

How many days will the flame within
Grow cold
Because I insist there's something better
I would rather hold?

How many nights will I shut out the light
Like my reborn identity curled up and died
Trying to drown the Voice calling inside
Gulping the poison like one desperate
To end a life?

How many years will I hang myself in chains
Letting addiction take me again
The spark of Life shattering into shards of me
The voice of Truth strangled,
Screaming silently?

How many moments will I cry for mercy
Begging to want what I need so desperately
Grasping for the hem of what I cannot feel nor see
Searching for fire to consume the last of me?

How many prayers will I breathe
Soul thirsty
Wondering if wasted breath is all they'll ever be?

How many days will I embrace unbelief
Desecrate the holy place and put 
My truest Love to grief
Groping, falling,
I am blind, though I see?

How many times will I cower on the floor
Bound to an idol I love, though I abhor
Never satisfied, always promising more
Then turning deaf ears to my impassioned implore?

O my soul, how many more days, how many more nights
How much life will be waste
Spurning purest pleasure 
For the spectres that I chase?

Who who save me, set me free
From the pit where I dove headlong
Rip the scales till awakened heart bleeds
Who will sing me a louder siren song?

Cut the head off the serpent
Beat the fool's gold into dust
Ignite the flame that cannot be spent
Tear out the fangs of ingrown lust?

Who will conquer, who will reign
Will I welcome the return of the King?
Will I feast, and know my fill? 
Will my mad mind be finally still?

Will the demons I madly courted
be conquered foes, finally thwarted?

Will I stand a perfect bride
The Fountain of Desire at my side
Fully and forever satisfied?

Lover, save me, or I die!

Monday, November 6, 2017

To Letchworth....With Love

As a last farewell to summer, here follows an ode to my beloved Letchworth State Park, the place that has been my sanity and my Shangri-La for the past two years. This was written sometime in midsummer, and now as the clammy wet blanket of November settles over the northeast, it seems a fitting memorial. The seasons will come and go, land and people and culture and nations will change, we will walk through fire and water and wastelands...but the Creator of this beauty in which we rejoice is unchanging, unfading, and unfazed by the sands of mortal time. Someday His redeemed children will see His face...and it will completely eclipse the full glories of all the world put together!

So enjoy--Longings from Letchworth.

Letchworth--my Rivendell.
I have fallen under the spell
of your deep green tresses.
Endless wanderings in hidden 
elven glens.

Your burnished pine carpet,
your carven stone
etched by Time.
Your graveyards of white birch,
resting dreamlessly in deep forest.

I'm captured by the voice of your waterfalls,
joining the song of your river
on its winding sojourn,
always rolling north--
to the Great Blue dividing countries.

I linger entranced in your secret places, 
listening long,
kissed by the breeze,
wrapped in serenity under your leaves.

Sunlight breaks into 
a million glittering drops,
casting themselves over the lip!
Liquid life runs icy strong over skin,
thrilling to the shivering depths of me.
It calls me to follow.

Light plays through your soaring branches,
dropping in warm patches
to your mossy carpets.

So I watch and I wander--
the song of Eternity calling,
always calling my heart--
calling me home through
your sacred halls.

Letchworth--my Rivendell.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Gospel of Joshua

Here's a little gospel nugget God showed me from the book of Joshua this week. We are studying through the entire book in my D Group this semester. (D Group, by the way, is this awesome in-depth Scripture-centered, accountability strong, Christ-focused discipleship group model that is building disciples all over the world, and you should check it out!

So I was reading in Joshua chapter 22, where Joshua appoints six cities of refuge throughout the land of Israel, appropriately placed, where the accidental manslayer may run for protection from the relatives who wish to avenge the death. God lays out specific guidelines for how to deal with these situations. There is a more comprehensive description of these laws in Numbers 35. Here's something interesting I noticed: after a proper trial determines that the killing was accidental, the manslayer must stay in the city of refuge until the death of  the current high priest. During that time, if he steps outside the boundaries of the city of refuge, and the avenger discovers him there, the avenger may kill him and not be guilty of his blood. (Numbers 35:26-27) After all, God established a reckoning for the shedding of blood with Noah and his sons after the flood destroyed the rest of mankind. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood by shed, for God made man in his own image." (Genesis 9:6)

Reading in Numbers, I again noticed this peculiar condition: "For he must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession." (Numbers 35:28) The end of the chapter goes on to say that no one may pay a ransom for the manslayer to return home before the death of the priest, and that they must not pollute their land with blood. " atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel."

Why then is there a reprieve for the manslayer to return home?

In the days of the Old Testament worship of God, substitutional sacrifices were made for people's sins by shedding the blood of animals. The high priest presided over the sacrifices and represented the people before God. It appears that in the case of the city of refuge, God allowed the death of the high priest, as a substitute, to satisfy Him in the place of those who had accidentally taken human life.

Now we do not live under the old laws of the city of refuge and human high priests. There is no need. Why?

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14,16)

Jesus, our High Priest, has been a refuge for the guilty throughout the ages. His sacrifice on the cross for all mankind was foreshadowed in all the ancient sacrificial rites commanded by God to the Israelites. By Him, those who believed were commended and made righteous by faith. Without Him, there would have been no refuge for any. None of us are accidental manslayers. We have all gone astray; we are guilty of rebellion against God and worthy of death. (Isaiah 53:6) 

Yet in Christ's death, He became sin for us; His blood was shed as if He were the one who had shed all the blood that was on our hands, all the blood that has polluted the earth. And by His death, the land was cleansed. Not only that, but we were cleansed, that God might once again dwell among us, and within us. We were made innocent. By the death of our High Priest, we were given refuge from the just wrath of God, the Avenger. And by His resurrection, we were made new--not merely allowed to return to land of our former possession--but a new, holy, innocent creation, possessing a new and eternal inheritance as sons and daughters of God!

"And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:9)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Conversations With the Creator

Recently I had the pleasure of exploring Chimney Bluffs State Park on Lake Ontario. Breathtaking views of the jagged clay bluffs and the Caribbean flavor of eastern Lake Ontario await those who traverse the high trail. Even the forest has a wild jungle feel.

 There is more than one trail to choose from; naturally I chose the one nearest the edge...just the right amount of pleasurably perilous for my taste!

After passing the wave of cliffs jutting into the blue, the bluff becomes gradually less steep. The water calls me. Far be it from me to pass up a favorable opportunity to get down to the strip of pebbled beach and meet the cold thrill! My slippery trip down the muddy bank is rewarded by a plethora of intriguing rocks worthy of a nature lover's collection. I am happily occupied with this treasure hunt for some time.

Presently I rest on a fallen log, my catch of stones secured in my pack, and I pull out my journal. Nothing is more inspiring for me than writing in the middle of creation's glory. As I muse over water and rock, clay and root, I write...I converse with my Creator in my favorite language.

Creator God--You have put so much in this world to delight us! Today my heart wonders at these things:

The fresh scent of rain, the cadence of it against roofs and windows--now pattering, now pouring.
The greens of the forest, the variety of trees, bark, and leaves, the air sweet with blossoms. The mysterious magnetism of a packed dirt path winding through jungle.
The incredible artistry in rock! Size and shape, variegated colors and patterns, and a million variations of each.
The way You planned out how the forces of nature--wind and water and earthquakes and volcanoes--would affect and shape the elements, like rock and trees, sand, and mud cliffs.
The crash of waves on a beach. The soothing ebb and flow. The thrill of cold water rushing up over feet and legs.
The trilling of birds, and the way the most unassuming little sparrow reminds me of Your kind and tireless care.

Yet nature in all her glory can but speak broken phrases in the volumes of descriptive language that could be written, if there were such a worthy language, to express the beauty and wisdom and power and mercy and infinity of Your God-ness!

Why, oh why, do I ever desire anything besides You, God?

Why this fear and unbelief that leads me to doubt Your infinite goodness, perfect love, and kind, tenderhearted engagement in my greatest good--and that You would make my good fit within Your greatest glory?

Why the endless, mindless, obstinate, and deliberate chasing of pleasure placebos that can never fulfill me? Why the desperate struggle to hold on to these useless attempts to imitate the pleasure and satisfaction found in Your presence alone?

Why can I not remain at rest in you, my Vine?

Why do I continuously cast up these paltry pleasures within my soul like the restless waves of the sea upon land? You Yourself set the boundary for the seas. You said, "This far you shall come, and no further." And so it is with my fleshly pleasures. They can only go so far--they are trapped by a boundary set by Your mercy--they can never take me to real pleasure, the kind that fulfills my soul. Instead they leave me thirsty and hollow, always needing more.

Yet no matter how long I toss and foam, You wait for me to come to You. You pursue me; I cannot hide from Your presence. You wait for me to come to my senses and abandon myself to the Fountain of Life, my source and my salvation and my eternal pleasure!

Will I embrace Your freedom?

You wait.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Elvish Musings

If I could live a fantasy, I'd be a wood-elf dwelling in Tolkien's legendary Rivendell. I cannot imagine anything closer to Paradise on this earth. A marvel of nature and high creativity, a haven of sacred beauty. Protected by stalwart stone cliffs, the water catapulting from dizzying heights and glittering millions of diamonds in moonlight. I would be intimately acquainted with all green and growing things and healing arts. The forest would be to me as a second skin. Life would be a graceful dance of starlight, rivers, trees, music, and wild things. Nothing would make me afraid, for I would be immortal, belonging to the Undying Lands, far wiser and stronger and skilled beyond the ways of mortal men. I'd be a fierce warrior and an even fiercer lover - binding myself to an immortal love that I would hold forever with a single heart.

But I am immortal. I am a citizen of the Undying Lands, an heiress to unimaginable wealth and glory, a vessel filled with light and hope and power far beyond the understanding of mortal flesh and mind. I flow with the rivers of Life that bring restoration to a dying world.

And if that were not enough, I belong to a Love that is eternal, unfading; higher, wider, deeper, and stronger than anything this world of flesh can contain. This Love is stronger than death and has the last word beyond time, space, flesh, and the grave. Nothing can ever quench my Love or separate me from Him! This Love will not let me go!

He died for me. He paid the ultimate price to make me His bride. But death could not keep Him, for He is the Author of Life itself! My Hero vanquished death, obliterated my sin that held me captive, and called me from the thrall of the dark lord into His Sovereign realm of life and love and light!

Now I am one with Him....forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever....beyond the grey shadows of this fading world to the bright Undying infinity and beyond!

"And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. And His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there. They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
-Revelation 22:3-5, 17

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Threat...or a Promise?

Five months ago, God drew me into a unique fellowship called D-Group. It's been one of the best decisions of my life. Every week, I meet with a special group of sisters who are pursuing Jesus, seeking to be His disciples, and spurring one another on in our love for Him. Together, we study the Word, hide the Truth in our hearts, confess our sins, pray for one another, and hold each other accountable to grow up in every way into Christ.

We've started off the new year diving deep into the book of Romans. This may seem a well-worn book for many of us, but the Word of God is alive, and so it never fails to amaze with new treasure and fresh revelations of our Life-Giver. Today I opened the pages to read an oh-so-familiar portion from Romans chapter 8, and lo and behold...He's doing it again! Breathing new life into my bones. May I blow a bit of it your way?

What threatens you right now? Changing circumstances? Financial hardship? Relational pain? Sickness? A difficult person? A tough job? Impossible expectations? The loss of something precious? The unknown? 

Whatever it may be, we all have something that shadows us with dread, those things that we view as threats to our well-being. 

I find it fascinating that Romans 8:31 begins in this way: "What then shall we say to these things?" 

What things?

If you back-track to what Paul has just been discussing (verses 18-30), he seems to be referring to those things that we naturally confront as threats. 

Suffering. That covers a lot. Life in this world hurts. 

Futility and corruption. Paul says the whole creation groans in this bondage. The twisted fingers of sin have touched and marred every part of the perfect beauty that God first spoke into being. 

Waiting. An unfulfilled longing for something we desperately want but don't have. 

Weakness. Oh, how we hate this reality of our fallen humanity. We treat it like a despised disease. We search for a cure. We'll do everything in our power to gild over the cracks and make it look like we have it all together, while everything inside is falling apart. 

The fear of what will happen. It's not named, but implied. We fear the unknown ahead because we believe that bad things will happen.

One more threat I see implied in this passage: the fear of walking through life unknown, unloved, and purposeless. That can suck a soul dry.

What, indeed, shall we say to THESE THINGS?

Let's finish Paul's thought: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

This, Beloved, is what we can say! But how can we be sure that God is for us? Lean in; look closer. Do you see it? Every potential threat in this passage is paired with a promise from our Father!

God IS for us--because He is preparing to reveal a glory in and to us that is indescribably greater than our present sufferings.

God IS for us--because He has adopted us as His sons and daughters, and He has promised to restore all things in us and in creation that have been corrupted by sin.

God IS for us--because He's given us the hope of a glorious future and the grace to wait for it with patience.

God IS for us--because He's given us His Spirit to help us in our weakness and to intercede for us.

God IS for us--because He works ALL THINGS together for our good. Nothing that is truly bad can happen to the child of God. Even what the enemy means for evil, God means for good to us. In the end, everything, whether we see it as good or bad, plays into God's hands.

God IS for us--we can never be unknown, unloved, or purposeless, because He knew us even before he formed the world, and He has chosen us, called us to be His own, justified and glorified us!

Now stay with gets even better! Paul introduces a beautiful progression in verse 34: "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."

Jesus died so your sin-enslaved self could die with Him. Then He was raised so you could be raised with Him to a new life, free to be all you were created to be! And not only that, but He is at the right hand of God, so that you can be with Him right now in the heavenly places--and not only that, but He is always interceding for you! Jesus never rests from representing you before the Father as your advocate, your justifier, and your interceder! Beloved, you are hidden WITH Christ IN God! Nothing can threaten you in this place...NOTHING!

So I can say with Paul...I AM SURE...that nothing will be able to separate me from the love of my Father in Yeshua, the Son! Consider this...nothing can ever separate the Son from the Father's love and their perfect union as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So because you are IN THE SON, nothing can ever separate you, IN THE SON, from the Father's love and from eternal union with God!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ride That Slide!

Today's story comes to you complements of my mom.

My little bro, Justin, is a wonderfully unintentional teacher at times. Last weekend, he got to visit a fun farm with Mom and some of his sibling buddies. This farm features a corn maze and a lot of other delightful attractions, including America's Longest Slide!

In case you ever happen to encounter this prestigious slide, you should know how to get the best ride out of it. First, grab your feed sack. Get situated on top of the sack, then pull your feet in and hug your knees to your chest to make yourself into a bullet. Make sure no part of your body is touching the slide....push off and let gravity do the rest!

Justin, however, has never been through Sliding 101 and has his own ideas of how to make this work.

Each time the next row of sliders gets into position, the slide monitor gives his little spiel, including the following admonition: "Do not hold onto the sides of the slide on your way down!"

Justin is not listening to the speech, nor does he care. All he's focused on is getting his feed sack and making sure his buddies are beside him and going down! And every time he went down, he tried to control his descent by grabbing onto the edges on either side of his lane. The result was that he toppled backwards, had no control over his body, and ended up spinning sideways, losing his feed sack, and once even crossed halfway into another lane before coming to a stop with about 15 feet of slide left!  He then tried to propel himself forward using his hands, in order to get to the bottom of the slide. He found out the first time that trying to stand up and walk to the bottom was not a good idea!

Please enjoy the visual demonstration below! (You can see better if you make it bigger. Justin is the one in the middle.)

Maybe you've never tried to stop yourself mid-slide on a sliding board. But have you ever approached life this way? Do you sometimes try to control the trajectory of your your job, in circumstances, in finances, in relationships? Have you ever tried to confine parts of your life into a box, like a safe zone, rather than face something unknown that feels wild and scary? We may even see this as being smart, cautious, and wise. But what if the cost of caution is our freedom? What if we never experience the fullness of the life God has for us because we're focused on playing it safe? 

Take a lesson from Justin. You may end up knocked on your back, or turned sideways, or prematurely running out of momentum! 

What if, instead, we make ourselves less...get small and let God be bigger? What if we just relax and fall into Jesus and let the Holy Spirit take us like gravity? What if we let Him make us brave and take the adventure that comes to us from His hand? Sure, it's scary...but we might be amazed how much fun life can be! 

If my life and yours are God's work of art, we can trust Him to keep us on track. He has a hope and a future prepared for us beyond anything we can imagine! 

So let go of the sides....let go the fears, the doubts, the insecurities, the self-protection, the pride...we weren't made to hang onto these. They're thieves that steal joy and mar peace. They only drag us down and hold us back. The only thing we need to cling to is Jesus. 

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10