Friday, November 11, 2011

The Work of Community

You may not have known it when I darkened your door for the first time. Maybe you knew and just didn't let on. You were always so gracious. When I came to you first, my brokenness was too profound to call even broken. Shattered might be a better word. Tiny shards blown like chaff in all directions. Too small to even pick up with my fingers. Cuts like that usually don't stop bleeding. Disillusioned. Doubtful. Terrified. I had done this before, showing up with the high hopes of being accepted, of belonging. I had tried before, and just never fit.

Early on, I had to talk myself into going, every week. A small pep talk as I drove, willing the steering wheel towards your house. I knew it would be good for my heart in the long run, even if a bit uncomfortable in the present time. I would do my best to sweep up all the remaining pieces of the heart that could be found, dump them into an inconspicuous baggie, and carry them with me into the small gathering of smiles and warm hearts, hoping that you would be the glue. I know you didn't know about the tears as I left your house, feeling useless and spent. I carried with me a fear of being disqualified for service, no longer useful for anything. Too broken. Too damaged. But you, your warmth oozed and my fragments began to come together.

I tried to hide the times that I would excuse myself from the laughter and joy, slip into the bathroom and cry. I felt lonely, alone, even in the midst of you. I tried to hide it, but my red eyes would usually betray me. But you, you were so gracious. You allowed me to just be, to absorb, to sit silent. You allowed the Holy Spirit to use you, and wounds were washed out by the outpouring, and I began to recognize some of the fragments that were being pieced back together. And you, you just loved.

And when selfish jealously, and self pity tried to creep in and destroy what you were pouring in to, you smiled graciously, and mourned with me. And you didn't know, but your silent presence was life-restoring ministry. And you don't know, but you should know, that the Almighty is using you and you are giving me courage and hope. I watch how he esteems his bride and looks to her where he is weak, and he is not scared or proud, but boasts in what God has done and what God has given him. And I heard how he made decisions based on his adoration of the girl to whom he gave forever after, and how he edified her and she will respect him forever for that. And I see how you talk with my little ones, as if they are yours, and I have hope for them, and me. And I see how he pours out his heart in absolute vulnerability and speaks of a desire to lead his family well, and she, well, the stars in her eyes shine even brighter when she gazes at him. And I am proud, and humbled, and honored to sit in the midst of such a gathering of brethren. And those undecipherable pieces that I was sweeping up before can now be carried to and fro.

And you don't know, but I have prayed for an increase in capacity, an earnest desire to be used again by You, for You, that I may be restored enough that You may be poured out of me. Filled, to be emptied. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. And I have cried, wept bitterly. Will You not use me again? And last night, you blessed me to love on your little ones, and God's grace poured out on all of us. A simple act, and weeks prior I would have dreaded it, knowing that I had nothing left to give. I could barely keep up with my own little people, much less 8 others. But I have asked for strength, and increased capacity, and last night, You. Said. Yes.

And no one cried, and we laughed and danced with princesses and silly squirrels and talked about choices and honoring mother and father, and wiped runny noses, and pranced with ponies, and we played and built. Yes, we built. And I was built by the grace of little ones as we, many, cuddled, all lap space and arm reach spoken for. And they leaned in with trust and precious eyes of innocence and heaven. You graced me to love them and showed me that I could.

The warmth of the Holy Spirit has poured out its healing upon my shattered heart, and you are the glue being used to bring jagged edges back together, warm glue allowing pieces to find their way back to rightful places, and a sense of wholeness restores the soul. You are purifying the air that I breathe, and refining my vision for the graces of God, and I am seeing Him everywhere. I no longer carry a baggie with broken pieces because the grace of my Redeemer has placed a restored heart back in its rightful place, beating in my chest, and your fingerprints are all over that glue that has bound it up.

I am eternally grateful.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mourning will one day be dancing...

Seven years ago tonight, a boy and girl stood in a church before a pastor and a slew of friends and family, and said forever after. There was euphoria and bliss, but there were also doubts from onlookers, wondering how long it would really last. Questioning eyes and slight shoulder shrugs said, "we'll see how it goes and how long it lasts." So I dug my heels in, determined to prove them all wrong, that we would make it. I painted on a smile in hard times, and boasted loud in the good times. I was sure that my love and determination would be enough for both of us.

There was a night when this boy and girl strolled, hands intwined, on a moonlit night through a nearby canyon while conversation flowed of the future, of family ministry across Africa. Statements were made of family priorities, boldly pronounced that the order would always be God first, then family, then ministry/work, then all other demands of life. But lines are blurred when God and ministry/work take on the same face, and family is bumped further down the line. I wished you had loved me as much as you loved her, or them. I wished that the ministry would be poured into the family as well, but all was spent elsewhere, and we got what little was left.

There was a time that someone spoke to you, saying that "Your pride would be your downfall," and you laughed it off and I chuckled nervously, wondering when. But I dug my heels in and repainted the face whenever it began to droop. Maybe if I were thinner, or more spiritual, or prettier, or nicer, or quieter, or more submissive, maybe he would love me more. I was sure it could all be saved.

But alas, it would not be saved. I have struggled to separate God from you, and was told to be quiet and submissive to the man who is the representation of Christ to his family, but if that were so, then I hate you both. I remember through the years, women would say to me how blessed I am to be married to such a spiritual man, and I would bridle my tongue and nod my head with a forced grin. What is that like, really?  Because in my house, it meant abandonment, neglect. Is that what God is like?

I have learned that that is not true. And in God's hate of divorce, His love of mercy is much greater. For the six years prior to this one, this would have been a night of celebration, though hope forced and waning with each passing year. For years I heard pastors talk about the effects of divorce, the ripping of flesh that had been melded into one. Tonight I know that pain. There is no comfort, or balm to soothe the ache, dreams lost and family sacrificed on the altar of ministry.

And so today has become a day of mourning. Mourning for a life that could have been, dreams that could have flown high. But You have said that You turn mourning into dancing, and ashes into beauty, and I am believing and clinging and looking forward to a future, even dreaming again. It is a reclamation of life, and so tonight, amidst the mourning and sadness, I will pour myself a glass of champagne , maybe cry a little, and rest in His Goodness. Even now.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Standing in the Storm

I have learned along this spiritual journey that sometimes I am able to walk, even run, learning and loving in leaps and bounds. But there are other times when all I can do is stand, head swirling in the midst of uncertainty, doubt, and pain. You see, as I walk forward, one foot in front of the other, there are moments with each step when I am slightly off balance, one foot on the ground, one foot mid-air. And in seasons when the air is calm and the wind is but a mellow, gentle breeze, these moments of unbalance are absorbed by the forward momentum of learning and loving. 

But those seasons when the air is not calm and the wind is not gentle, that slight unbalance makes it more challenging to stay upright. There are seasons when torrents of rain pelt the body painfully, and any moment void of a firm hold may just knock me over, and I will fall apart altogether. There are seasons when the air is so thick with pain and the clouds are so heavy with fatigue that the very hand of God is concealed by the darkness swirling around. 

And it is in this season that I live and breathe now. 

And so in this season, where I am unable to walk, unable to move forward in my journey without falling over or falling out, unable to see my own hand before my face, much less the hand of God, I choose to ground my feet, and stand. My feet grow roots, and I stand like a tree planted by streams of water, firm and strong, and as the winds of this storm blow back and forth, I will bend and sway under the weight of it all, but I will not fall down. I will not walk away. I will not retreat. And I will not break.

And as the winds grow stronger, I lean in, and cry out for mercy. 


In the midst of it all, I cannot lift my hands. It hurts too much. My heart, full of fear, doubt, anger, and too many questions to process, weeps. It hurts to praise. A whisper of Your name echoes, reverberates off the walls of an empty chamber hall. And so I simply stand, tears mixed with rain and hail. 

On this Rock, I choose to stand. I choose to take my stand.  

I do not fall. I do not crumble. I do not walk away.

And it is in this where I finally am able to see Him again, His hand of mercy and compassion holding me up. By His grace alone, I am still standing.

In the midst of a dark storm, when everything in me says to get out, my feet are grounded, my legs are planted, and I do not fall. 

That's His hand, holding me up. 

And someday, this season will pass. At some point the skies will clear and I will be able to run again. But now, with dark skies and heavy clouds looming overhead, I. Will. Stand. 

I will press in, and I will persevere.

I will rest soundly with Your hand on me, holding me up.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 
James 1:2-4

*Photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Beating of a Heart

You bruised my heart when you banged it around,
You said it wasn't worth fighting for and took it for granted.
In the discovery of the betrayal of vows, it bled heavy, tears mixed with thick crimson, leaving but a pale remnant of the life that flowed through it previously.
Now it beats strange, lopsided, nursing the wounds left by the sickness of disappointment and the mourning of dreams lost.

But it beats still.

How does one recover from such a blow? From one as such that leaves perfect fingerprint outlines on shaken arms or beaten bottoms?
How does one breathe when the weight of desperation and loneliness crushes down on the chest?
The simple rise and fall of the lungs in a previously simple world is so inadequate now, leaving the body starved, lips blue, the heart beating shallow, dull.

But it beats still.

You tell me that God hates divorce and my heart is hard and my god is small;
I open my mouth to speak of His mercy and grace and release from oppression and falsehoods,
but you wouldn't hear it because God hates divorce.
But He also hates pride and injustice and arrogance and oppression and sin and the planks that blur all of our vision.
And so I cling to Him under the shadow of a mighty wing and listen for the beating of His heart.

And it is beating still.

And someday the purple black spotting of capillaries blown open, now painful to the touch, will ease, turning to shades of unspeakable green and yellow that will once again flow crimson.
The vibrance of life is waiting, refilling, beating low and steady as it pushes through the repair of a life in shambles.

But it beats still.
And I forgive you.

All grace and all peace as I venture through a new and scary season of life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Today I Rode a Bike...

Today I rode a bike. I can't remember the last time that I rode a bike...maybe my college years, which I won't disclose how long ago that was. But today, I "rented" a free bike from my place of work, and took a lunch-time ride. As my feet hit the pedal and my legs went round and round on a beat-up beach cruiser, my face lit up like a little girl who just learned to ride for the first time.


I was the only one riding through campus with a goof-ball grin on my face, waving and shouting greetings to all the other bike-riders, sure that they were as elated to be riding as I was. My legs pedaled faster as I dodged pedestrians and the old metal frame clanked with each rotation of the wheels. Onward I cruised, until I had arrived at a nearby neighborhood, and the ghost of what once was.

My destination was an old school, used by the city school district for many, many years, now abandoned due to budget cuts. The clanking frame came to a quiet halt as I reached the corner of the fenced off playground, as one approaching hallowed ground quiets the soul to listen for whispers from the past. And I stood at the edge, wind and whispers blowing through my hair, echoes of ghosts and dry bones laughing through the air.

An empty school is an eerie sight. Unnatural and unnerving. If walls could talk...but even they have been silenced and no ear wanders its lane to listen for tales of little people and growing minds and hearts being formed. And so the walls moan and shift and creak in the stillness of absence. Paint peels down that which was once covered with little hands creating masterpieces, and the playground can no longer be called as such, but merely ground held together by fading structures.

And I begin to pedal again, feet pressing in as heart presses on and begins to weep, hoping the wind will wash the tears away, but it full of laughter and echoes and all that once was. It is noontime. Children should be playing here. Youthful chaos should fill the air. Balls should be bouncing and swings dancing high. But there is only the whistle of the trees who are left to wonder where all the people went.

Pedaling still, pushing down as I circle the block that makes up the now-empty school, play yard, and jungle gym. Circling and pedaling, praying for new life, circling and canvasing the area, covering it in prayer, crying that this path around the land will be claimed, a fire of passion set on this trail, blazes go up to mark all that is within it as hallowed, sacred, set apart for the divine.

Holy. Ground.

with endless possibilities.

There is a community of believers who desire to live out this Jesus calling, who desire to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ through loving, merciful acts of devotion to each other and to the city, and the nation, and to the world.

And it starts here.

We are asking to be made uncomfortable, for comforts welcomes rot and spoil. We are asking for lessons in love and mercy and grace beyond what we are able to do, beyond what we are able to handle.

We are asking You, Jesus. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.

You have given the vision of a community center that reaches deep into the lives of the people of Tucson. Open the doors, Father, and make us uncomfortable, that we may find comfort and strength in you alone, that we may operate outside of ourselves. Give us guidance and wisdom, that it may all be for your glory.

Circle the block one more time. My eyes see the silhouettes of children, short and tall, light and dark, running and squealing. Vegetables are growing tall and baskets are being filled to overflowing. Needs are being met, and there is plenty left over. New life has been breathed into these dry bones, and the hollow echo of death has become the hallowed ground of Life.

Today I rode a bike, and I worshipped my Creator, and my heart beat happy all day long.

Will you pray with us, please, as we seek the Father's wisdom for a community center in mid-town Tucson? As proposals are created and grants are being requested, please pray with us, for the gift of Faith in all things? For patience to wait on His plan, and the obedience to act when doors are opened.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Driving by Jesus

I was a little late getting out of work. It was 5:10 by the time I closed my office door, 5:16 by the time I was pulling out of the parking lot. Late start on the drive home usually means getting stuck in the worst of the traffic. It was 5:50 by the time I picked up my girls from school, and far later than I wanted it to be for cooking dinner. So I decided we would grab some dinner at a local market on the way home.

A quick in and out, and then we'd be on our way home and getting the girls in bed.

Hurry up, girls. It's getting late.

Bellies are full, but food was still left on the table.

Wrap it up. There's a mouth out there to feed. 

So I grab a paper bag and drop in 4 pieces of untouched cornbread, and wrap up a couple of pieces of turkey. Load the girls in the van, and we were on our way. The parking lot was crazy busy as we drove past the Starbucks, the beauty supply story, the Dollar store, and the grocery store. While slowing to allow shoppers to cross, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. A few shops ahead, leaning into a trash can, digging. A large, clear trash bag rested on the ground behind, full of crushed cans. The ends of his pants were tattered and sandals were worn. I saw him, and I saw the bag of bread on the seat next to me.

The food is for him. 

Watching the cars turn and pass and park and pull out, watching the shoppers cross the road back and forth, in the midst of little people laughing and shrieking behind me and the news blaring on the radio about war and violence, somehow in the midst of the chaos, I heard that whisper.

That bread will feed him, the least of these. 

And as the tires rolled on slowly in the midst of that busy parking lot, my mind waged war with my heart.

How do I...what do I...what if he's not homeless and I'm judging? what if this insults him? what do i say? where do I park? how do I pull out of the way? what about the children in the backseat? ugh! how do I make this work?!

And in the confusion of my pride and disobedience and desire to do right, my tires kept on rolling, and I drove right on by Jesus, with his dirty, torn up pants and matted beard, and hit my hand against the steering wheel with absolute frustration.


And my eyes well up with tears, and my heart breaks in shame for my disobedience, my cowardice in not stepping up, and the bag of bread on the seat next to me mocks me. Coward.

And I wonder how many times I have driven past Jesus and never even given it a thought. In my hurry, in my avoidance of inconveniences, in my exhaustion, in my ingratitude, in my disgruntled discontent, how many times have I missed him?

Please give me another chance. Please open my eyes. Please break my stubborn pride. Please, give me another chance.
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me."
Then those 'sheep' are going to say, "Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?"
Then the King will say, "I'm tell the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me."
Overlooked or ignored. How many times in a day do I overlook or ignore someone? How many countless faces do I overlook in a day? How many blessings have I neglected to give because I chose to ignore? How many opportunities to love did I overlook today?

Oh Father, open the eyes of my heart, enlighten me to see as You see, that I will not drive by you ever again.

Forgive me.