"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis

Friday, December 30, 2011

The humorous difference between hymns and praise choruses

My sister recently talked about hymns that touched her on her blog which made it perfect timing for me to see and read this very funny commentary on the difference between hymns and praise choruses. I figured it was about time for me to have at least a little bit of humor on this blog versus just posting 50-page thesis papers. ;)

The Difference Between Hymns and Praise Choruses
Author Unknown

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the farmer, “it was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”

 Praise choruses?” said his wife. “What are those?”

“Oh, they’re OK. They are sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.

The farmer said, “Well, it’s like this - If I were to say to you “Martha, the cows are in the corn”’ - well, that would be a hymn. If on the other hand, I were to say to you:

Martha, Martha, Martha,
the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows
the white cows, the black and white cows,
are in the corn,
are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,

Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well, that would be a praise chorus.”

The next weekend, his nephew, a young, new Christian from the city came to visit and attended the local church of the small town. He went home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the young man, “it was good. They did something different however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”

“Hymns?” asked his wife. “What are those?”

“Oh, they’re OK. They are sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man.

“Well, what’s the difference?”

The young man said, “Well, it’s like this - If I were to say to you ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn’ - well, that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you:

‘Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.

‘For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense
Hearkenest they in God’s sun or His rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

‘Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.

‘So look to the bright shining day by and by
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animals make my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.’

Then if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas companion

Tomorrow is Christmas, the celebration of the day when the kingdom of God became more visible, more real, and more glorious than any time in history. The day when Jesus said, this is My kingdom, this is My land, every moment, every breath of life from newborn to death, it is all part of the kingdom. The kingdom-savior, the kingdom-leader, the kingdom-kingthe Messiahhad finally come.

Christ became part of his kingdom; no longer just over it; He was in it, living, breathing, feeling, loving, just as I do with every glance, move, and decision I make. Yet so often, I act like He does not quite understand, like somehow, He could not quite breathe lifeliving as I was meant to liveinto my very presence of all I do, of grooming horses and washing dishes and shoveling snow and wrapping presentsas if, somehow, He could not possibly transform my every moment into utter glory.

And then, I miss the meaning of Christmas.


"God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy. This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us.

"The challenge is to let God be who he wants to be. A part of us clings to our aloneness and does not allow God to touch us where we are most in pain. Often we hide from him precisely those places in ourselves where we feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and lost. Thus we do not give him a chance to be with us where we feel most alone.

"Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let himwhose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehendbe our companion."

~Henri Nouwen, Gracias

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saved by beauty

I suppose this document needs a bit of explanation, lest you open the link and become irreparably scarred by the shock of 50 pages of text staring you in the face. Actually, if you read the introduction (which you may get to) and the conclusion (which would be remarkable if you got to), it would explain it a bit, but I will summarize here.

What began as a simple homework assignment to write an essay on the nature of salvation turned into an explanation of so much that is important to mebeauty, longing, glory, radiance, joy. I use these terms a great deal in this blog and in my daily life, but perhaps few know how deep their meanings run and how far their implications spread. In perhaps a rather over-dramatic sense, as I say at the end of the essay, I wrote it to try to answer the question, "If I had to explain to someone who I was and what I believed, at my very core, what would I say?"

It is not a very traditional essay (and perhaps easier read if you click "Download Original" in the upper righthand corner of the GoogleDoc). Although much was written specifically for this essay, great parts of it are compiled from essays I've written throughout my college years, quotes from my favorite books, and even excerpts from my own journal. My prayer is that, by the end, I will have succeeded in sharing at least some small sense of the splendor and wonder of living in the land of my King.

Saved by Beauty: The Theology of Kingdom Redemption

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The wanderer's prayer

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

~J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cantique de Noël: A direct translation of "O Holy Night"

This is a direct translation from French of the song, "O Holy Night." I love it this way... it is exquisitely beautiful.

Cantique de Noël

Midnight, Christians, it's the solemn hour,
When the God-man descended to us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.

People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

The ardent light of our Faith,
Guides us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Conducted the Magi there from the orient.
The King of kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,

It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has overcome every obstacle:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"He's the King, I tell you": The theology of penal substitutionary atonement

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written. Believe me, I've been longing to write and have many things spinning around in my mind that I'd like to think through and put out, but in the interest of keeping some sort of sanity during the end of the semester, all of that has been put on hold.

Of course, the one thing that hasn't been put on hold is homework. I know some of you expressed interest in reading my theology term paper, and so I've linked to it here.

"'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

The last note is, I had only 10 pages and there was a lot more I could have said -- I understand that. So, consider this the Cliff Notes version. :)

"He's the King, I Tell You": The Theology of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Monday, November 21, 2011

The world of a dreamer

There is part of the world that is horrible and dark, but if you can look under that veil of blackness, it reveals a world of such utter pleasure and beauty that, when you see it, you wonder if you have stepped into a fairy tale. Can life really be so exciting? Can life’s plans really cause so much joy?

People say, I don’t know what I want to do or be with my life. But you must! I know you feel—I know you love! Does this not tell you where you belong? What makes your heart sing and make you want to dance, and make you stop and stare at the world in wonder because it is just so wonderful and so glorious and so beautiful? Have you ever thought that maybe—just maybe—that is what you were meant to do?

That is such a hard concept for so many that I have talked to. I wonder if we have forgotten what it is to love life. We are so used to living so-so, to not following our glory, to thinking that being joyful and doing what we absolutely love is wrong, somehow. It could be, many times. Sometimes, you make choices that sets your life in a different direction. And that is okay. You did not fail. You just changed directions for now. Sometimes, you need to sacrifice.

But sometimes, you live—you live as you were meant to live—you live as you were created to live, before sin, before pain.

Maybe it doesn’t look like a specific job or major or task.Maybe it doesn’t look like anything the world has ever seen. All you know is that that vision—that place to where the world has not yet gone—you sense within your soul. You sometimes think of giving it up because you don’t know how to get there, but you never do, never quite, because that is the place where you are most full of glory, where your heart explodes with pure happiness and gratefulness at simply being allowed to live, where you feel maia, where you most reflect the image of Christ… where you touch the face of God.

I suppose this may be naïve. Perhaps some will read this and smile and shake their heads and say, that young girl, that silly girl, she has not yet been crushed by life. Someday she will understand how hard and how dark life is.

It is hard. It is dark. I know it is. But because it is so hard and it is so dark, that makes the glorious brightness underneath stand out all the more.

And yet, perhaps I still take it too far. But I cannot deny the wild excitement I feel about life; I cannot deny that I feel like I live in a fairy tale where magic is real and dreams do come true. Maybe it is all right that I have not yet been crushed and my dreams have not yet been shattered. Maybe, sometimes, the world needs the naïve. And maybe, sometimes, the world needs dreamers.

"No. I suppose that other world must be all a dream," [said Jill.]

"Yes. It is all a dream," said the Witch, always thrumming…

Puddleglum was still fighting hard. "I don't know rightly what you all mean by a world," he said, talking like a man who hasn't enough air. "But you can play that fiddle till your fingers drop off, and still you won't make me forget Narnia; and the whole Overworld too. We'll never see it again, I shouldn't wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely.
"But I know I was there once. I've seen the sky full of stars. I've seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I've seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn't look at him for brightness..."

The Witch shook her head… "Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow..."

"One word, Ma'am," Puddleglum said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.
"And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."
~C.S. Lewis (The Silver Chair)

The wind on my face

You would think I am on caffeine. I’m entertaining when I’m on caffeine. I get just purely sparklingly happy and start thinking about how the sun is so wonderful and the grass is so wonderful and buildings and houses and people and schoolwork and learning and ladybugs and horses and sunshine and chocolate and music and everything in life—absolutely everything—is so amazingly wonderful—so wonderful I just walk around with a smile on my face.

And then I start wondering why I am feeling so odd, and I remember that an hour ago I had coffee.

But right now, I’m not on coffee. It’s just one of those times when I look around me, and I close my eyes and breathe in, and I absolutely cannot believe how incredible life is. It’s not that I have everything I could ever want—or that there is nothing troubling me—or that there is no pain in my life—but that beyond those light afflictions there is such glory and beauty and joy such that I have only barely even tasted.

But it’s there, it’s real, it’s the reality behind every storybook and every fairy tale. Where do we get the ideas for those places, those lands, those adventures? It can’t just come within us, it must be rooted in reality, and we are searching for it with every breath we take. And we find it in our world, though dimly, though one day those who have lived in Christ’s glory will see it face to face.

Just because it is dimmer than it will one day be doesn’t mean it is dim. It is not just some sort of theoretical glory or joy. It is pure, absolute, glorious happiness. It is letting yourself laugh as hard as you can about jokes that make absolutely no sense and sing at the top of your lungs to The Lion King songs and dance around the room at the same time just because you can and eat three desserts in one night because you want to and have walking races with total strangers and talk to the birds who are screaming at you and because you just let life be so much fun.

It is looking at pictures of the most beautiful sunset, and knowing, that is real, I experienced that. And it is imagining riding my horse and realizing, that unbelievable power—that is real, that is part of life as I know it. And it is thinking of love, unimaginable self-sacrificing love, and understanding, that is as real as the wind on my face.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saving women a lot of trouble

"Instead [of a man in love necessarily] pursuing the woman and trying to get her alone... he needs to go alone himself, perhaps to a mountain cabin, for three months, write poetry, canoe down a river, and dream. That would save some women a lot of trouble."

~Robert Bly

When I first read it, this quote made me laugh out loud. But then, it caused me to think. Who says women should be the only dreamers? The more I talk with my fellow students at college, the more I seem to notice that it is the girls who more often dream the big, impossible dreams, and the men, less so.

I wonder if this is some sort of odd result of our culture's focus on empowering women over empowering men. As little girls, we are told from the beginning that we can do anything, be anything, go anywhere -- and yet, I wonder if we forget to tell the little boys the same thing.

Dreaming inspires us and shows us a world as it could be, and then, our deepest desire becomes to make it that way. That is true glory.

So, dream.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The great devotions

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

~Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Leap of faith

Sometimes, you feel like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. You are in one place, and you know you need to get to another, but it is impossible to get there. You are isolated, alone with your decision but for the infinite chasm in front of you.

You know you must get across; you know this. It has been made so clear to you, you are willing to risk your life for it. Heaven knows you’ve struggled with doubt and uncertainty before, but for now, for once, it is not a question of having an unclear goal or a blurred vision. It is not a question of being unwilling or unmotivated.

You just don’t know how to do it. You just don’t know. And so many doors have seemed to close so fast and so hard that all of the logical, sensible, options seem to have been suffocated. And you are left there, standing, looking down into that chasm that seems to extend down and down and down forever.

What do you do? You can’t go back. It is not an option to fail; you know you won’t, somehow. But that doesn’t lessen what you now have to do. How do you go forward into the impossible?

It’s not really that you’re afraid. You don’t have to be, not when you know where you are is right. And it’s not that you’re unhappy, exactly; you know blessing and adventure awaits. And it’s not even that you’re entirely confused, for although you’ve just been told to do the unattainable, it’s clear that you’ve been told. And you never consider saying no.

So you hesitate. Do you literally just step across? Could it be that simple and that complex? It must be. Because perhaps it takes the closing of every other door and every other option and every other logical, reasonable, sensible, educated solution to make obvious to you the one, single, simplest, clearest, easiest, and hardest option of all.

That perhaps, you are just supposed to step across.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The separation of souls

People ask, “How are you doing?”

How am I doing.

It’s not so much that there is endless stabbing grief. I know she’s not dead. I know I am blessed to be able to communicate with her as often as I do—an e-mail a week, perhaps more, perhaps less. I know she is in the embrace of my glorious Almighty Father of Light. Those are great blessings.

But my sister is gone.

And it’s not so much that life can’t go on without her. It’s that it’s hard to let it.

In a sense, as she warned me herself, it is like she has died, yet without all of the sharp black chasms of grief. There was no black-clad funeral, no rosy-tinted eulogy, no cut off of all communication this side of heaven. Instead, perhaps it is like she passed one or two or five years ago. The grief is sweeter, sadder, more hushed, and even sometimes forgotten for a day.

Instead, it’s the sort of grief that comes unpredictably, unexpectedly, like a chilling wind that sweeps bitterly out of a radiant blue sky—it’s when you hear a certain song or see a certain picture or open a certain box, and suddenly, all the memories come flooding in to submerge your soul with images and smells and words and memories… exploring the woods in your cloaks while enacting silly romantic stories or watching that one movie until you could quote every line (and just make up the rest) or weaving nonsense stories for hours on end while doing your endless farm chores on cold and rainy days or decorating the Christmas tree in that certain way you always do because it’s more fun that way… Suddenly, you remember everything. And it’s not so much that you are torn with grief right now, but that you are wishing you could go back to then. Just for a day.

Just to re-live that life again.

Because it’s hard to live it now. Now, nothing is different, but everything has changed. When glory is falling in place and the dreams you two shared and are now coming true—you can’t share them with her even though she was the one with whom you wove them; you can’t hear her laugh and see her eyes dance and listen to her whisper, “We knew it would work.”.

Or when it’s late and life looks bleak because you don’t know what to do and suddenly her whispered-echoed words remind you what to do, and you turn to tell her how grateful you are for them and you stop short—because you are speaking to nothing, to no one.

Or you hurt and you go to talk to her for hours because she’s the only one with your soul inside her, too, and you stop, and realize you are crying alone, because she isn’t there and can’t be there and won’t be there, not now, not for years, and you start crying again, but now for a different reason.

And it’s not that I think no one has had to endure this before, and it’s certainly not that I think it could not be any worse. It could be. It could be much, much worse.

But I do not need my soul ripped in shreds to know that even having it ripped in two still hurts.

And when you realize that, you begin to cry all over again, because you realize one more thing.

Another person, on the other side of the world, is going through the exact same thing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fare thee well

Farewell, my sister, fare thee well.
The elements be kind to thee, and make
Thy spirits all of comfort: fare thee well.

~William Shakespeare


Thursday, October 6, 2011


I’m sitting in my room, alone. My window is open and I hear the crickets and the wind and the leaves of the trees talking to each other. The night is so incredibly beautiful. It’s calling… calling so hard I could cry—or dance—or laugh—or just lean out the window and feel the breeze in my face and my hair and my soul.

It is on nights like these I wonder what would happen if I just got in my car and drove—and drove—and drove. To see the world and to meet so many wonderful people, to seek out new experiences and new places. To move and run and drive and travel, going nowhere and leaving nowhere, and yet being everywhere and doing everything.

It makes me want to dance and sing. It makes me want to go out on the island and walk through the waves and draw pictures in the sand. It makes me want to balance on top of an old moss-covered wall and weave a flower crown out of the fading late-summer flowers and roll down a hill in the autumn-bright leaves. It makes me want to lie in a meadow and count the shooting stars for hours and then fall asleep in the dry, warm grass. It makes me want to take a friend by the hand and smile and laugh and dance and drag them with me on this great, wild adventure.

Can you feel it? Can you feel your heart racing? Can you feel the excitement welling up in you like a wild song aching to be free? Can you feel your restlessness and your hopes and your dreams?

I know you can.

So come with me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Heaven Song

Many songs express desire but few seem to put words to my deep desire for Home. The music usually does that. In many ways, music from The Chronicles of Narnia, or from The Lord of the Rings, causes to well up in me a longing for maia much greater than many so-called "Christian" songs.

However, I heard one, recently, that does address our deep desire for beauty and for something more. It's called, "Heaven Song." You can listen to it here.

There is something I would change about his song, however. It seems so sad, like he can never feel that maia here on earth. I hope he knows—I hope he remembers—that there are elements of home here and now. That is the nature of the current Kingdom of Goda reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven.

He doesn't have to wait.

That's why Jesus came.

You wrote a letter and You signed your name
I read every word of it page by page
You said that You'd be coming, coming for me soon
Oh my God I'll be ready for You

I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song

[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsty.com/phil-wickham-heaven-song-lyrics.html ]
I hear Your voice and I catch my breath
'Well done my child, enter in and rest'
Tears of joy roll down my cheek
It's beautiful beyond my wildest dreams

I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can't wait to join the angels and sing... 

I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can't wait to join the angels and sing
No, I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song.

By Phil Wickham

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Psalm 23 husband

I wondered if it was just going to be yet another sermon on Psalm 23. Beautiful words—a shepherd-God—rest in the Lord—now you’re dismissed. But it was different this time.

Over and over, my pastor stressed the absolute delight in being owned by the Lord and having another shepherd your life. I know this troubles some, but it doesn’t trouble me. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I am a woman, or because of my personality, or because my father has modeled such compassionate shepherding so well. But no matter what it is, I agree: being shepherded, being owned, can be a beautiful thing—if it is done through the Good Shepherd.

And here, in the sermon, my mind began to wander. I looked down at the words on the page and thought about the other place in my life where I, someday, may come under the “ownership” of another: in marriage. I know people will recoil at those words, but I will say it anyway.


And loved. Because I know my husband will seek to own me and shepherd me through the authority of Jesus Christ. Through being owned by him, I would be being owned by Him.

With that in mind, I looked again at Psalm 23. What if, instead, I read this psalm referring not just to my heavenly Lord but to my earthly lord—to my husband? We talk so often about a "Proverbs 31 woman"—but what if we also spoke of the "Psalm 23 husband"? And when I re-read the psalm with that in mind, I was taken aback. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. That, that exactly, is what I pray, if I ever get married, my husband will be like.

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Courage, dear heart

Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, "Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now..."

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw [the albatross.] But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, "Courage, dear heart," and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan's…

~The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Escaping the prison words

Gold-light water and sun-emblazoned sky. I have escaped the brick-and-stone prison and slipped by a cloak’s concealment out the rearmost door, a door few use—and so it is not yet tired.

It isn’t. But I am. I don’t want to think anymore. I am too tired. And I know this.

I found that out, last night, when I entered one of the kindest parts of my day, when I would rest for a moment just before I slept. In those precious minutes, I would recklessly allow my mind to do nothing—think nothing—decide nothing. I would scorn decisions, push aside worry, mocking them, saying, you can wait—you will wait—you have no power now. I would rest.

I need such rest now, and it serves to warn about how I am living. Always moving, always choosing, always striving—never a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Self-imposed restrictions, self-constricting chains, I stab myself with dagger-words:

Need. Should. Have. Must.

Prison words.

But I escape.

I escape because as soon as I let go of my hand-clutched hold on the locks, the chains fall free, crumpling in relief around my sandaled feet, gasping for breath once released from my strangling hold. Jesus does not say should and must and have and need. He says love and justice and holiness and grace. They are different; they are worlds apart. Both require endless action and whole-life dedication in even a single moment, but one consumes with guilt; the other consumes with glory. One is full of expectations; the other is full of freedom. In one, you have lists and measurements and anguished decisions, but, in the other, you see whole worlds open and a hundred paths of righteousness and truth.

Isn’t that beautiful?

I walk to the island, alone. I stay on the grass. It seems less harsh than the broken pavement. For a moment, my mind tells me, I should have some great revelation out here, on the island’s ancient wooden bridge, something that would change me.

Should. There it is again. I gag inside. I push those thoughts away, for I need learn nothing; I don’t have to do anything; I can just be. I can simply enjoy this glorious light and worship the heavenly Son. The rest from expectations and self-judgment that I seek just before sleep—and that I’ve let myself have now—that is my glory at all times, if I will take it.

“I do not judge myself”… “Only one thing is needed”… “The entire law is summed up in a single command”…

Maybe this is the meaning of shalom. Not just a peaceful life, but a restful life. A hard life, but not a draining life.

Things are so often simpler than I think.

I have been standing on the bridge for a long time now. I turn to go back, not having set foot on the island—not today, anyway. I have not quite escaped—not yet. I know I will pick up my chains again and a moment later throw them back down in disgust. It will take time. But, I am closer—I am on the bridge—and, someday, I will let Jesus rip those chains off my soul and burn them at the cross.

And then I will step freely onto my new island home, leaving the prison words behind.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The danger of safety and being sickened by nice

When I tell people, I don't think they know the depth of what I am saying. All they know is that they are shocked. When I tell others that at one point I very seriously considered joining the FBI, the CIA, or the military, it is utterly unfathomable to most of them.

“What, you?”

Yes, me.

Is that so hard to believe?

My heart still turns back to that sort of life despite my leaving it for a very different one. I still am drawn to its call; somehow, that is why—though I don’t know why—I haven’t unsubscribed from the National Guard e-mail list and why I still look at internships with the CIA and why my eyes still linger on that military recruitment office next to Kohls. I have come so close e-mailing a recruiter—to starting the process—but I never quite do. It is never quite time, it is never quite right. It simply does not seem to be a place where I can go at the moment without tying my hands from other, greater passions with which the Lord has blessed me.

But I still wonder, why. Why, somehow, do I feel like a life like that has such an element of going home? Going home—touching maia—such a feeling means I need to learn something and I have been missing something. It means this every single time. What part of me longs to be fulfilled in that life and it is starving for it here, in this life? What are those longings trying to say? For they are speaking, and when they speak to my heart, I am learning to listen with my soul.

I have prayed about this a great deal, lately, and I think, perhaps, it has to do with being safe. I love attending a Christian college, but there is one part of it that almost caused me to not attend. There is one element that has proven to be one of my greatest disappointments and yet I knew would come.

People are too nice.

I am too nice.

And we are all much, much too safe.

Such sickening niceness is like living in lukewarm water, with nothing ever slapping you in the face and forcing you to come to terms and no one telling you to shut up and do it and never seeing a fighting passion in a person. It is choking down raw dough because you are afraid of the fire that will bake it to bread. It is saying you would die for Christ and then living in such drowning niceness that you won’t even speak up for what you believe about Him. It is always starting every sentence with, "I feel..." or "It seems..." or "Perhaps..." instead of, "I know..." or "I believe." We become so compartmentalized we don’t even understand what it is to have rock-hard rules and unbreakable standards; we are so horrified by a single swear word we cannot see behind it to admire a passionate life.

Instead we live slowly. We live so slowly.

It sickens me. I want to see anger and heat and fire and argument. We hem and haw, shuffle around, don’t want to be seen and don’t want to be heard. We never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or push anyone past a place they don’t want to go. We all go down to the lowest common denominator instead of pushing up to the highest one.

And it's not just about us. We are so terrified of offending that we live in a box where we are sure everyone around us can feel absolutely safe. If I lived around many of these people my whole life I would never get a strong word, never get a reprimand, and never be forced to do anything hard that wrenched my very being.

In other words, I would never live.

I want to stop feeling safe. And maybe I want it so much from others because I want it in myself. When people cannot believe I could ever want to enter the military, I fear for myself. Am I so passive, so full of deathly niceness, that they see no fight and passion in me at all? I feel so horribly passive so often. I am nice and smile and nod, and it’s not that I don’t believe in solid truth and things worth fighting for. I do. I do with all my heart. But sometimes I feel so lost and shackled by nice that I almost can’t stand myself.

And I think that is what I admire—rightly or wrongly, whether from a romanticized view or not, I don’t know—about the military, about defense, about that sort of life. It seems like a place where there is still right and wrong and people still live it. It seems like a place where people will still tell you no and people will still raise their voice and people will still use force and people will still pour out endless passion and where rules and deadlines mean something and where excellence hasn't been dragged down to the lowest common denominator. It’s a place where you may not feel safe—because you were not safe.

Maybe I’m wrong. But I hope I’m not.

I do not want to be safe. Not for myself. And not for others. In fact, I believe that one of the greatest disservices I can do to another is to be too nice—to never push, never correct, never help, never change—to leave them the same without even trying to express the glory God has shown me. If I am a safe person, I will never tell others with a full-heart passion of what God has done for and taught me and what He can and will do for others—I will never be a witness in the true, passionate, life-sacrificing sense of the word.

It is not that I do not want to have values, and standards, and hope, and morality, and love. I want to be good. But no one ever said being good meant you had to be safe.

In fact, it seems that being good is quite the opposite.

[Mrs. Beaver replied,]“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
"Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
~The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

Monday, August 29, 2011

Becoming a woman and what I learned as a girl

Tomorrow I turn twenty. For years I have looked toward this birthday with a sense of anticipation, not because somehow I was no longer a teenager, but because of a quote in a lovely book called Stepping Heavenward that I read years ago:

Mother smiled a little.…She said my character would be essentially formed by the time I reached my twentieth year, and left it to me to say if I wished to be as a woman what I was now as a girl.
~Elisabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward

Now, I am twenty. A great part of my character has been established.

And I am content.

I am not perfect, I am the first to look at my life and feel a sinking sense, as if, with all of this truth given to me—all of this light shown me—all of this beauty revealed to me—should I not be closer to the image of Christ? I am full of inconsistencies, different among family than I am among friends, continuing in false beliefs that I know are wrong, doing things I ought not. People could read this blog, and then meet me in person, and wonder how I can write all of this and yet not live it. I know I have simply taken a step on the eternity-long path of holiness.

Yet, there is a difference: Perhaps, in years past, I would have felt worse because of that, felt less loved by my Jesus, less like a Christian. But that is not the way it is, anymore. I can look at those, yet feel no worse about myself—and simply love my Lord the more. He loves me! He loves me!

As much as I have learned in the past twenty years, I have exponentially more to learn in the next twenty and the next twenty and the next. It’s like a spiral upward, with every turn revealing a wider world of glory. But this spiral of glory in the past twenty years has been indescribable.

As a girl, there was much for me to learn. I needed to learn about being the unconditional true relationship of being the Beloved of the Prince of Heaven, to be His in perfect rest, without striving, without doing—to be at peace. I needed to learn that the very depth of being in Christ is practicing His presence, so much easier and so much harder than anything else I had ever attempted. I needed to learn about Seeing others and Seeing myself—to let my soul open up in perfect honesty, to express my very self and being in confidence. I needed to learn about truly honoring myself—to see myself as holy, and as beautiful and worthy of respect as any human being. I needed to learn about beauty and glory-joy, and that such perfect blissful splendor is the very foundation of life and makes everything so perfect, even if it is not easy. I needed to learn about the kingdom gospel and the nature of creation-deep redemption, a gospel that makes everything so simple and yet so right, so very right. I needed to learn all of these things as a girl.

Now, let me live as a woman.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Moving among the worlds

To return this night to my small corner of the teeming anthill, my cliff-dwelling cave, I would turn right. Logic extends her hand and asks me to follow her there; she seeks to show me the people and the buildings, the manicured paths and the sculptured fountain. The doors watch me with their deep, mahogany eyes, beckoning.

To the right lies reality. But to the left lies home.

Leftward, onward, quiet grace of columns sweep heavenward while deep tapestry rugs keep my feet; I feel them through soft leather-thin shoes—a sister’s gift. They take me softly across the floor, for in dancer’s lightness I wish to be neither seen nor heard. Let no one find me, let this place be at peace. I give a returning grace to the greeting of the prayer chapel, decades my senior, watching me with age-old eyes. Lost in a world where what is real is bent and what I know may change, I turn a corner, floating in medieval Italy, entranced in a story of love and of pain, whispering the words of star-crossed lovers. I myself seek to move across the stars.

I start; before me lies someone not in my world, or, perhaps, I am no longer in hers. She sits—I stand—two worlds. The Bard’s words die in my throat like the lovers about whom they speak. I smile, I nod, greetings exchanged, eyes soften; she returns to her land and I slip pass, eager to return to mine.

Almost home—almost free—I lean my weight into the towering deep wood doors, both small hands pressing against huge wood-carvings a thousand more have touched. I look up and up to the ceiling high ahead, hearing the creak-wood groan under my grasp and wonder—is this is how Aragorn felt when he threw open the doors and announced the coming of war?

But I am not going to war, not now, not yet, at least. Someday. Perhaps, in this place of age and beauty, of weddings and poems, of prayers and peace, this will contain enough magic to bring me through. The kindly door, deep dark with calm, lets me through, and I step outside into the fresh air. Will this be the time I step through the wardrobe? I hear the beckoning horn.


Not Narnia, not now, but yet still Aslan’s world. I smile, step out, skirt swinging, eyes dancing. This is a night from heaven.

The flowers are blooming—daylilies, daffodils, yellow, pink, red, so many I do not know the names of. I should ask my grandmother. Their petals cascade over one another, each vying for the chance to give beauty. I wish to be such as they.

The descending stairs of stone lift me up with quiet hands, accompanying my journey down to the crystal lake turned red by the dying fire-sun. I step down them, faster and faster, steps cascading onto each other, and I will myself to be free and fly. I am drawn by this blood-red water—life blood—water of life. The shoes—off. The bag—dropped to the ground. Close now to the water, the breeze shyly says hello and my wind-blown curls return the greeting. Hello. I’m glad you’re here, too.

I sink down into the grass and close my eyes, and the glory of this evening lets me be nothing but be filled with shalom of the kingdom. It is bittersweet; I long to share it with someone who could understand and who could see and who could know my soul’s perfect bliss-glory in this moment without my having to breathe a word. There is one. But she is in her own home of windswept waters and bright-beauty flowers, in a land across the sea.

And I am alone.

I move among my worlds. Now in ancient Italy on a balcony—now here in America by a lake—now there in Narnia before a throne. Now speaking verse, the song-speech—now praying to my Savior, my Prince-Love—now staying quiet, willing time to slow.

But it doesn’t. For every minute that passes, a golden leaf drifts to the ground, decorating the outdoor carpet with autumn tinsel. I must go back. My time here has ended. I pick up my shoes and move through the grass, yet an unashamed rebellion rises in my veins: I will not walk on the black-souled concrete, I will not step into the city’s land. Instead, I skirt the curb and walk barefoot among the wildflowers, feet wet with evening’s dewy kiss, skirt blowing softly in its own dance.

I pass a friend. “You look beautiful,” she says.

I hope so.

Moving forward, passing on, seeing people, coming back as in time-travel to the land I left minutes and decades ago. I come to the edge of the grassy road and look back at the crystal sea. I will go back, I know I will, for that is home. I will go back when I am called, just as I was this evening.

For if I listen closely, quietly, I hear the horn’s quiet summons fading into the approaching night.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"She Walks in Beauty"

I heard about this poem only just this evening, when my friend mentioned it by name. With a name like that, I thought, it simply had to be wonderful.

And I was right.

"She Walks in Beauty"
By Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Light of Men: Desperately reclaiming a desire for the Bible

As my last post said, I have been challenged by prayer. But there has been another area I have been talking to the Lord about: reading the Scriptures.

I wanted to love the Bible. I really did. When I was asked what my favorite book was, I wanted to answer, “the Bible.” But, if I were truly honest, I couldn’t. I wasn’t fascinated by it; I didn’t read it for hours; and to be perfectly honest, it really didn’t change my life all that much. What was wrong with me? What kind of hypocritical Christian was I?

There were many reasons for my deadness regarding Scripture, and I am not proud of them, not proud at all. I had a difficult translation of the Bible that made me feel like I wasn’t even reading English. I would have set amounts of time I would “have” to read in order to feel “spiritual,” and I would constantly check the clock to see if I was “done.” I even went as far as, in my quest to “get something out of it,” making sure I wrote notes and marking the text on every single page; I forced myself to have a note per page, or I wouldn’t move on, with my goal to have writing on every page of my Bible. It was that depressing goal, and not any true, soul-deep desire for the face of Jesus that kept me slogging through the mire of the text. But most of all—I had no reason to read it. What was I doing? What was I learning? Nothing but words on a page.

Maybe I shouldn’t be speaking all this in past tense, for it is something I am just delving into, but it’s changing. The more I learn of beauty and maia and glory, the more I change. For those things—being in the presence of God, loving Jesus as a Prince and not just a King, maia, Seeing myself and Seeing others, the gospel of the holistic kingdom and not of anything else—so many things I have not even begun to explain here—they are opening my eyes to a world and life so glorious that I cannot but fall on my knees and worship my King.

But, then, I would ask—why do I not see all these things in the Bible? It seems that I experience them first personally, experientially, independent of learning them in the Bible beforehand. But, perhaps I do see them in Scripture. Maybe—maybe—the Bible is meant to be what teaches, clarifies, and explains what we experience here on earth, in a cyclical cycle. First, apart from Christ, we feel drawn to something more, at which point the Bible shows us how to enter Jesus’ kingdom as royalty, and then perhaps as we begin opening to that and experiencing it in maia and glory and Seeing here in perfect impacting experience instead of just words on a page, and after that—or simultaneously—we reach back to the Bible and are taught, clarified, corrected, and expanded regarding the glory we felt in real, experiential life, and it goes around and around, deeper and deeper, spiral after spiral, further up and further in.

When I read my Bible in the morning, then, I am reading to understand the world around me, what I feel, my life, maia, Seeing—I am reading to be told how to understand and further such desperate glory and beauty in this life and in this kingdom and in my soul. It is like uncovering jewels; you know every verse is holding jewels that would change you and change the world, but you do not always recognize them. Every chapter and verse will not transform you every day, because you don’t see the same every day; you don’t always see the jewel glittering in the sand. But, someday, you will. And something, today, will speak to you. So keep searching. Keep reading. It is there, and the Lord will show you.

Then, instead of an academic exercise, or something to check off the list, searching the Scriptures becomes the most eye-opening adventure in being transformed to something far greater than you ever knew possible. It is where you hunger after each word to tell you more about the glory God is showing you, and where you fill your readings with prayer and dialogue with the Writer, in anticipation of what perfect majesty He wants to show you today.

You feel truly alive. You feel like light is breaking through. For in the Word is life, and that life is the light of men.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

From prayers of darkness to prayers of light

It was early in the morning, and I walked along the road, under the soft light of the morning sun. I always think better when out in creation.

Tears slipped down my face.

“Jesus, I know it says that Elijah was a man like us, and he prayed, and You answered, but I am not Elijah. Maybe I never will be. And I’ve got to stop trying. I am so tired, I don’t know what I’m doing—how can I know you for years and never, ever be able to do this. How do people pray for hours? They want to pray, they love it, they get up at the crack of dawn to pray for hours, and I struggle so much to pray for even a few minutes and have a shamefully low desire to even do that much. I know it could be the source of the greatest joy I could ever imagine… yet it is dead. I feel dead.

“It’s like talking to a wall, or not talking at all. It’s meaningless words, it’s nothingness. It’s disconnected from any heart or soul or desire; it’s the repetitive prayer You told the Jews to avoid. I pray while I think about other things. I pray while not caring. I pray like a dead person. This is stupid, Jesus, absolutely stupid and I'm sick of it. I am tired of trying and failing again and again. I get distracted, I say the same things, I feel like I’m running through a laundry list of things I’m supposed to 'fix' by my prayer. They say to just talk to You like you’re sitting in a chair in front of me, but I can’t do that. I don’t see You in a chair. They say to just let the emotions flow without words. But I need words, and my heart is a dam and nothing is flowing and I’m just dead—so dead, Jesus.”

I paused in my diatribe. It was ironic that, here I was, praying passionately that I had no idea how to pray. I didn’t care. I thought back over what I had just said. My prayers were going through a list with Jesus—I had to bring up this person and that missionary, pray for this country and that politician, fix this problem and that concern.

When I am talking with a friend, I try not to go through a list. Even if I have many things on my mind, I don’t seek to rush through the topics, but instead, just bring up one, the one closest to my heart, and then wait and talk and discuss until it had been fully satisfied in both my mind and the mind of my friend. Only then, do I want to move on. Only then can I move on. Maybe this was something I had been missing with Jesus.

In fact, I had been treating prayer like I have treated so many other things in my life: an exercise in productivity. It was all measured by how many things I could accomplish: how many missionaries I could pray for and how many Scripture verses I could weave in and how many topics got the supposed honor of my attention in prayer. I had to do it; I had to be productive; after all, wasn’t prayer supposed to change the world? The more I prayed, the more God would work, somehow, and, so, driven by a sense of performance—and guilt when I did not perform, for now the problems of the world were my fault, for perhaps I could’ve fixed them if I just had prayed harder—my prayers turned from conversation to ritual, as I single-handedly tried to save the world by my prayers.

And I was tired. God never meant for me to save the world. He sent His Son to do that.

My words kept pouring out like my tears.

“Jesus, maybe this is wrong, but You have cared for the world for 6,000 years without my prayers and You can do so for the next year or month or week or however long it takes me to figure out how to pray, but I just cannot have productive prayer anymore—I can’t try to fix anything. Maybe it’s selfish and wrong, but I’m only going to pray about what’s on my heart—what I keep getting distracted to in my prayers, what is occupying my thoughts and worry and concern and joy, even if what's on my heart just concerns me and no global cause. I am going to talk to you about just that for as long as it takes for it to not be on my heart anymore, because that is the only place, Jesus, where I feel like I am really talking, really engaging—where I am praying.”

So, I did. I started pouring out my heart about the things on my mind that morning, as I walked along the road. Yet it was different, for, like asking advice of a friend, this time, I had no list. I was going to talk with Jesus about this one thing until I felt I had said everything I had to say and I had heard everything He had to say. I poured out my heart, and I listened, and I talked with Jesus about what I felt He was saying, and this went on and on until, suddenly, what was on my heart—wasn’t. It was gone. I was at peace.

But there was another topic that had been bothering me. So I began to speak about that to my Lord. And this went on until—there was nothing. There was nothing else I felt compelled to pray about. And then, for a moment, I struggled. What about all of the missionaries who needed my prayers? All of the countries? All of the hurt and the pain and the fear that needed the healing of Christ? Should I not now pray for them?

No. And yes. Jesus did not need me to pray for them. He already knew. He knows everything; He sees each tear that falls. I need to pray for them, but not through some dredging up of a manufactured compassion. I could not deny that, deep down, I was not concerned. I did not want to pray for them and had no real concern for them—or else they would be on my hearts, and I would be praying at that very moment. That was my problem, then. It was not the prayer—it was my lack of empathy and compassion. That was what needed to be fixed first, and if I ignored that and tried to force the prayer, it would be falling right back into the hypocritical, dead prayers I had been struggling with for years.

Ironically, suddenly, I had a new topic that was now deeply on my heart: my lack of concern and compassion for the hurting world. There was something I now needed to pray about, and the words began to flow again.

This prayer—it was, it is, so beautiful, so much more beautiful than I had ever before experienced. I wanted to pray, I wanted to speak, I wanted to listen. I did not have to say anything, or, I could say everything; there were no rules. I could see how I would want to get up early to pray like this, to pray all the time if I could. I knew Jesus better at the end than when I began and I became more at home in His presence. And, what I knew, deep down, would happen, happened: this time of prayer was far more “productive,” far more filling of grace, far more life-changing, than any of my so-called “productive prayers” of before. It was a bittersweet irony.

Yet, eventually it ended. There was nothing left on my heart. I was quiet. That did not mean I was not praying; I did not say “amen” and sign out of my prayer like I was leaving a counseling session. I would never seek to leave His presence, not for a minute of my day, but that did not mean I had to be speaking.

And within my quietness grows a new prayer—a prayer of praise and worship of my King. I see the beauty around me, the light through the trees, the flowers in the grass, the sound of the birds; I feel the peace within myself and the heart-wrenching joy of being at home with my Lord; and my heart fills with pure gratitude and glory to Jesus. Words may come or perhaps it is simply pure emotion, like music that speaks in a language not composed of words but designed in the soul.

I had left the prayers of darkness, for these were prayers of light.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Nightway": A Navajo Prayer

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
Beautifully will I possess again.
Beautifully birds . . .
Beautifully joyful birds . . .

On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty,
lively may I walk.
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty,
living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.

~Navajo Prayer -- "Nightway"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I choose to live in hell

What is it when I struggle and search for peace, for closeness to God, for that heart-connection with Him, when I strive and reach out my hands to touch the face of God, and yet, nothing—nothing. I feel as empty as when I began, the head knowledge now just clutters up my mind, and I keep dragging along on this treadmill, wondering if it will ever be any different, or if living only half-alive is really all I can ever expect. I read truth that should change my life with dulled eyes and a half-dead heart, impervious to any change, like a child who has been lied to so many times that she will never trust again.

Where is God, I ask? Here, I know, inside my heartbeat, gliding in my breath, closer than my soul. Why can’t I be changed? Why can’t the truth inside me, the knowledge of Scripture, the classes in theology, the books on transformation—why can’t they transform? I think it is something simple, but yet something very hard—the catalyst that can bridge the death-gap between my life and the transformation I know, somehow, is there.

It is not talked about much, and yet is talked about a great deal.

It is time.

Busy—busy—busy—we all instinctively know we are too busy. Every one of says that we want to slow down, do less; we long for vacations, we feel inadequate to perform all that has to be done; it is a God-given, created longing that we all feel. But we ignore it—we never slow down. Not ever. If we don’t believe enough in the importance of time today to make time, we won’t tomorrow. We will become busier and busier until our spinning, frenetic minds cannot even comprehend the rest of the King. Either you are moving toward rest or you are fleeing it.

We’re addicted to a lie, the lie of constant movement, constant performance, constant filling of time. We know we want to rest, but in perhaps Satan’s greatest triumph, we never, ever believe it. “I’ll rest when I’m dead,” we say callously. Could Satan have us believing a more deranged lie? He laughs as we exchange the truth of God for a lie, as we utterly spit on Jesus’ words that He is Rest and His yoke is Light. Satan replaces that truth with busyness, because he knows that without time, without rest, without peace, there is no transformation, and, even more, the busyer we become, the more we fall into a false identity that we have to perform to be worthy. In one fell swoop, Satan removes the key to spiritual transformation in our lives while locking us in a prison cell of a feverish, works-based life, altering the very gospel of Christ itself from one of peace to one of absolute pain. He does not need to make sinful Christians. He just needs to make busy ones.

We blame our busyness on everything and nothing. College. Work. Career. Children. It’s a season of life, we say. It’s just the way things are going right now, we say. We laugh it off, having informal contests, comparing who is busier and seeing our full schedules as trophies of our hard work and discipline. Imagine if we were to have a similar contest about how much we could ignore the Lord’s presence. It would not be so funny, then, would it? But that is not so far off.

In fact, those are excuses. Imagine we said the same thing about something critical. “Oh, not breathing is a stage of life. Someday I’ll start breathing. Yes, I know I’ll be far happier, far more whole, far more available to the Lord if I were to start breathing now—but, well, I just won’t.” Do you know what that is? It is not brave. It is not courageous. It is not valiant. It is absolutely irresponsible.

By time, I mean rest, and by rest, I mean peace. By putting margin in my life, it is not that I have nothing to do and so use it to have busywork; by margin I mean that there is a cloud of peace, of rest, around every activity. I mean to claim that promise of peace Jesus has given me. If my extra time is not peaceful, then it is not doing its job.

What are you afraid of? Why will you not rest? Do you fear that if you take the time to slow down, you will not like what you see? Perhaps you will wonder where your worth is. I was saddened, some time ago, to find that I unknowingly had put all of my worth in what I did. I realized that if I were to become completely paralyzed, if I could not move and I could not speak, I would feel absolutely worthless. I could do nothing, be nothing, and would be worth nothing, I felt. Indeed, until I can be confident that, if I were to become paralyzed, my self-worth, identity, and confidence in the value of every day of my life would not change, I will be busy. Why? Because I will need to perform. I will need to act and do and earn my salvation. And Jesus weeps.

This peace is necessary for my joy. Perhaps I am just one of the slowest thinkers on this earth, needing peaceful time, quiet time, extra time, more time than I ever thought, to have truth enter my life and transform me. That is possible. But it is also possible that that is something beautifully and compassionately laid within the human condition by a God of Rest—that love, relationships, the presence of God—they are all blocked without a peaceful life. Do you know how beautiful it is to have that abundant time? To listen to a friend without thinking of leaving, to be stuck in traffic without ever worrying, to watch a movie with your sister without pausing, to lay in the grass and listen to the birds without even thinking—does it sound too wonderful? Does it sound like home, like you hope heaven will be? You’re right. So why are you choosing hell?

We deeply desire such time, such peace, not because we are lazy but because eternity is in our hearts. Do we really understand what that means?

"We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal."
 --C.S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms
Humans were not made for time and peace is the call of eternity. We were created at the beginning of the world for eternity and for a deathless world and one day in heaven it will come again. But for now, in this fallen land of sin, we struggle with time and cannot comprehend it. We treat it all wrong over and over, as if we did not know how to deal with it or manage it—for we do not. Yet having time—peace—rest, this is as close as we can get in this world to simulating eternity, and the closer we come to that, the closer we come to God and to who we were created to be and will one day become. The more we bury ourselves in busyness, the less we touch eternity and the less we respect and reflect the image of the eternal God in ourselves.

I began all of this by asking—why cannot I touch the face of God? Many reasons, perhaps. But one, so heart-wrenchingly critical, is because in busyness I have ignored the image of the God of Eternity that is created within me and turned my face away from the God of Eternity who loves me. It is not that I cannot touch the face of God.

It is that I cannot stop my hands long enough to reach out to Him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Repost: "Wild Magic"

This is a really neat post by a friend of mine -- other people have the same sense of magic...

Wild Magic by the blogger happyamateurstoryteller.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The lost fairyland

"There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."

~L.M. Montgomery (The Story Girl)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The Road Goes Ever On"

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

~J.R.R. Tolkien

On paradox: the feminine tomboy and the warrior princess

Paradox is amazing and frustrating. It seems to come from another place, one where rules don’t quite mean what you thought and new worlds lie just around the corner. When there is paradox, there is adventure. Adventure. It is funny that that would come up. That is the one place in my life where there is a paradox that intrigues and confuses and frustrates me: It is like I am two different people, yet one person, and yet, most people are just one. Or are they?

That doesn’t make sense. I don’t make sense.

As I was growing up, I found that I seemed to have two personalities. On one hand, I could truly relate to the quite feminine girls who loved flowery dresses and romantic movies and artistic hairstyles. That was me, certainly—I loved collecting music box carousels and having a purple room and even—sometimes—enjoyed shopping. But then, there was an entirely different place in my heart that was not happy unless I was crawling through fences or wearing torn jeans or climbing trees or getting filthy dirty or wielding a knife or stomping around in my mud boots.

I was—I am—like a feminine tomboy. What was that? What is that?

I truly believe that much of it, wonderfully, had to do with how I was raised. My parents let me flower in exactly the way the Lord planted me. My father, especially, showed me how wonderful it could be to live a life of adventure and even risk, opening to me a land to which girls don’t often go and revealing the amazing pure potential of the Lord’s world—a potential that was just waiting for me to discover it.

“If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space,” he would say. I loved that. I still do. It epitomizes this deep draw within me to find the edge, to keep on pushing aside the vines and peering through the trees and seeing where this windy Road goes. Because wouldn’t you wonder, if you never went down that Road, where it led?

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say.
"You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.
~J.R.R. Tolkien

In a sense, I have learned to enjoy being a paradox to myself. If I don’t quite understand myself, that makes me my very own adventure. Suddenly the whole world opens up to me. I can be entirely “airy fairy” (as my wonderful grandmother calls it) or just completely tomboy, and both of those people are me. I am free. Actually, it is amusing to surprise myself that way and even shock others. Some people need to be shocked.

But then I want to know—what is that? Really? Why me? Is anyone else like that? Usually I love it, but then sometimes my heart rebels. How do I fulfill both of these longings in my soul? Is it a good thing to move toward, what femininity should be—a balance between being a woman and being a warrior? Or is it… I don’t know. Something else.

It’s then that, for once, I become frustrated. I draw back, I want to commit 100% to whatever tomboyish adventure appeals to me, to be taught how to shoot and learn how to fight, but then, most girls don’t do that, so if I happen to find a like mind, generally it is a guy—but then I pull back and I’m alone in it again, for I’m afraid that it will be taken as flirting. It’s not. It’s not. I just want to live. Or, I want to give 100% but know  that with my limitations in who I am as a girl, I feel inadequate around the guys and do not want to just try to brazenly push my way in, and I draw back again. Or then that solidly relates to when at the most inopportune moments that feminine side clicks in and whatever tomboyish thing I was doing is abruptly short-circuited, leaving me a little dazed, like I had just experienced time travel.

Or, then, there is something I truly desire to do—say, travel. I want to travel and travel and travel until my money runs out and my legs give out and even then, I know could find a way to continue. I want to see the world and all of its history and beauty and I want to learn from believers in different countries and see what the Lord has revealed to people in other lands, and I want to live. But I can’t. I can’t. Not as a girl, I can’t. Because what is that—a young woman, alone, traipsing across the country, traveling to little out-of-the way secret places? It is a broken world, and that is not something I could do. But I want to! And I can’t. If I were not a girl, I could. There are so many things I could do, then.

Between what men can do and women can do is a gap that is closing every day. But there is a distance that will never quite close. And that is good, that is the way it should be, I love that, I would want it no other way.

But sometimes—very rarely—but it’s there—I wish I could jump the gap.