The Pictures in My Head

Many writers say they write because they have to. I always rolled my eyes and felt that it was a terribly clichéd thing to say.

I don’t roll my eyes anymore.

I write because I have to.

When I was little I had aspirations to be an artist. I loved to draw. I drew all the time and carried a sketch pad with me everywhere. But I was a terrible artist. I would get so frustrated, because I had a picture in my head about what I felt, and I wanted to show everyone else. I had no way to accomplish it. I had no way to put down on paper, or in clay, or on canvas the things I saw in my head. So the pictures stayed locked away for almost 20 years.

A few years ago I was having a terribly hard time. Things at my job had been going downhill for about a year and a half. It was a slow and steady boiling of the water, and much like the frog, I was being scalded. I had been in the soup for a while before I realized I was being cooked. The situation deteriorated quickly and after months of manipulation and dodging, the decision was made to close our branch. Within a one week period of time I turned 30, was downsized from my job, said goodbye to my grandpa (he made it to 92 God bless him) and was dumped twice by text message. By the same doofus.

I also have underlying issues of clinical depression and anxiety. And a host of things in my life that, at the time, I was refusing to acknowledge. I was hurting. I was sad. I was lost about what I should do and where I should go. It was a bad time, and I have no wish to relive it, but looking back over those terrible weeks which stretched into terrible months, I can honestly see God’s mercy. Sounds naive. Sounds mad. Sounds…cliched. But it’s true. I am a master procrastinator (some slam poetry right there…booyah) and I had decades worth of garbage that I was pushing deep, deep, deep down. I hoarded everything, although somehow it was only the bad, grimy pieces I kept and not the bright shiny ones.

I began to see a therapist who happened to be a Christian. I’d seen therapists before, so this wasn’t a new process for me. However, most of my experience was with therapists who were condescending or openly hostile towards my beliefs; and the few who were sympathetic where only interested in pushing medication (side-note, I am all for medication if it helps you, and I reject the stigma in some Christian circles that depression is simply an issue of sin…but that’s a post for another day). Bob was my first  therapist who wanted to know about me. He wanted to know about my heart. He asked me questions about my motivations and aspirations. And he was not afraid to hand me my own ass if the situation required it.

I was having a really difficult time even focusing on a coherent thought, let alone praying. It’s kind of hard to pray to God when you’re angry with Him. Bob suggested writing out my prayers. It would force me to acknowledge the bad feelings rather than pushing them down while putting on the brave Christian face. It would force me to take my time, to realize why I was mad, or sad, or even happy. His other suggestion was to model them after the Psalms. I had never noticed it before, but King David was pretty pissed in some of those Psalms. He’s mad and sad. But he usually ends happy, choosing to put his faith in his Maker.

You see, my brain is full of junk, piles of old newspapers stacked to the ceiling and garbage littering the floor. But it’s also full of treasures. I have pictures in my head. Words are the only medium I have found to get them out.

That’s why I write.

One Who Sees

steady weeping rain
drums against the window pane
mourning over agonies
that I’m too blind to see.

a God with power who doesn’t care
might as well not e’en be there.
a God who cares but doesn’t see
is not all that much good to me.

there must be One who sees all things
the fallen sparrow with broken wing
who cares enough to intercede
when I can’t even see.

Embers

God who is in heaven.
Bathe my smokey heart.
Anger once was justified, but it has played its part.
What first was cleansing fire
Has left me brittle bones.
The flames have burned straight through me, searing all my soul.
Rain your mercy down now.
Subdue the smoldering rage.
Snuff out these embers raising smoke. Unlock this seething cage.

fire

Blessing and rewards?

wpid-IMG_20130328_233506.jpg

God promises so little in this life in terms of material comfort. He does not promise a spouse. He does not promise a high salary. He does not promise a life free of sickness and pain or hurt and disappointment. He does promise wisdom. He promises peace. He promises strength to be happy, trusting and joyful in even the hardest situations. And He promises Himself. This isn’t Candidian optimism. It’s faith in action.

     Proverbs 8:17 (ASV) “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.”

     James 4:8 (the Message – paraphrase) “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit.

I thoroughly reject the Gospel of Prosperity.  It is a disservice to tell Christians that if they perform well, or do X, Y, or Z, they will have all their wildest dreams come true.  Some Christians will never realize those successes in this life, through no fault of their own. Telling people that they will have monetary or professional success if they love God enough can only lead to depression and cynicism if those specific blessings never come through.

     John 9:1-3 (NIV) “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

     Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

All that said, go and make the life you’ve desired, as long as you can do it with a clear conscience that’s been enlightened by God’s word. Be BRAVE and may you be successful and joyful beyond even your wildest dreams.

Many Blessings this Easter

A Sorry Lot

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”  Albert Einstein

I came across this quote and my initial knee jerk reaction was “No. That’s not right. Christianity is more than that.”  After mulling it over for several days, I see this quote a little differently.  “Yes. Yes we are a sorry lot indeed.”  Look at our world.  Not just now but throughout human history, and tell me if I’m missing something: genocide, slavery, rape, sexual abuse, starvation, poverty, greed, violence, hate, and even the myriad of shameful crimes and abuses of power committed in the name of religion.  This world is beautiful and at times breathtaking and inspiring. But it is also savage, cruel and hard.  And much of that is our own doing.  Yes, we truly are a very sorry lot.  We need a Savior.  Are we so far above the tools that we use to raise kids ourselves?  So it is really that absurd, that if there is an all-knowing, all-powerful being, He would use those same methods when teaching us?

The name Savior in reference to Jesus, isn’t just a term meaning to “save” us from hell, which indeed He does. It’s the saving us from ourselves.  It is the saving us from the bottomless pit of self fulfillment, self-indulgence and even self-righteousness. It is saving us from the never-ending free-fall of serving Self as the ultimate master.  Like the serpent who eats his own tale, my natural inclination is to feed on myself through emotional and spiritual cannibalism. Forever hungry, never filled, we turn again and consume, destroying ourselves in the process.

Anyone who has been around small children understands the need for both repercussions or punishment, as well as positive reinforcement or rewards, simply to keep them safe: to teach them the dangers of touching a hot stove, or running into traffic, or trying to play with butcher knives.  Caring for small children is like working 24 hour suicide watch. It is not the wish of any parent or caregiver to stunt the child and rob them of joy. It is your desire to keep them from trying to kill themselves.  But your greatest desire at the end of the day, is that they love you.  Are we so different from children in regard to our desires?
“I want.”
“I need.”
“I don’t care if it hurts others.”
Or even, “As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, I don’t care if it hurts me.”  We are not so different in our relationship to God. And God is not much different in His desires for us. At the end of His day, He just wants us to love Him and to obey Him because He wants to keep us safe.  God doesn’t want robots.  He wants children.

Mark 10:15 (NIV)
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

The Scriptures often describe God as our Father. I’ll admit I’ve had a pretty skewed view of God as my Father. I have viewed Him as the angry, overbearing, impossible to please, distant, and passive aggressive father. The one who won’t give me what I want when I want it. But I’ve viewed Jesus as the cool Son, who’s almost like a laid-back brother who says, “Sheesh Dad, ease up. I’ve forgiven her so you have to too.”  I recently had a pretty dramatic shift in my thinking particularly due to these verses:

Matthew 7:7-11 (the Message)
“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?”

Romans 8:32 (NIV)
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

I guess I actually agree with this quote. Yes, we are a sorry lot.  A very sorry lot. But thank God that He is patient, kind, and willing to treat this sorry lot like His own children.

2 Peter 3:9 (the Message)
Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.

The Craziness of a Wildest Dream

If I had a million dollars…

Ever since I was a little scrawny sassy kid, I always wanted to come from a big family. I love my family dearly. But my parents only had two daughters. I am convinced if I had come first, I would have been an only child. Not because I would have filled all their wildest parenting dreams, but simply because I was an exhausting pain in the ass. As a toddler I would sit in a corner of our hallway, which I called the “sad corner” and make up weepy country western songs or listen to Barbara Streisand’s soulful crooning on my “Soby” walk-man. We didn’t have much in the way of music, so I had to pilfer from my dad’s tape collection.  I was the four-year old master of self-pity and loneliness.  I longed for multiple bros and sissies to play with. My best friend came from a family of four kids and I was always incredibly jealous and quite lonely when our families separated after vacations.

What would I do if I had my choice to do anything in the world? Where would I go? Who would I meet? Other than the standard self-indulgent desires of traveling the world and building a beach house on my own private island, I actually do have some idea.  If I could choose anything in the world to do, even as my career, I would buy a modest yet large house. I would become a foster parent or even adoptive parent to those little ones who are trapped in the system.  I would build a home for the ones who have none. I would give love and safety to those smallest kids who have been kicked in the face and let down too early by a grownup world.  I will have naysayers. Even in just expressing this desire, I have heard a resounding chorus of concern and questions: How would you support them? It would be harder than you think. Do you really think you could ever love them as much as your own? Wouldn’t you rather just make a regular family? Shouldn’t you have a partner (ie spouse) for such a massive undertaking? You know those kids are messed up right?

Let me answer each one in turn:
* I have no idea how I would support them, which is why I started with, “If I had a million dollars…”
* I am sure it would be much harder than I could think, because I have never done this before; but isn’t anything that’s worth doing, worth overcoming the fear that might stop me?
* I don’t believe love is measured in blood lines. It is a choice to love, not an accident. More people means more love, not less.
* A chosen family is no less valuable than a procreated family.
* At this point in my life, through God’s providence, I am walking alone.  God has called me to singleness for the time being. Ideally yes, I would like to have a husband, one who loves, supports, and desires the same things that I do. Until that happens (possibly not in this life), I hope to give as much love as is in me to those who might need it.
*Yeah, they’re messed up. So are you. And so am I. Isn’t that even more of a reason to try to give them what they need, even if they might fight you for it.

This is my no-longer-secret craziest wish. It is so absolutely ridiculous.  It seems completely outside of the realm of possibility. If this is to happen, it must come from God.  On my own, I have no hope of ever being successful in seeing this accomplished. But I’ll continue to dream, to pray and to commit this desire to God. And to ask those who know me to pray with me, that this craziest of dreams might actually come true.

So here’s to 2013. May God grant you the richest He has to offer and plant His craziest desires deep in your heart. And then, may He bring the craziness of those dreams into reality.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.”
– Psalm 37:3-6

Short, Sweet, and to the Point

I am so very tempted to throw my two cents into the debate between bloggers Lisa Long, author of “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” (found on Tumblr) and Sarah Kendzior’s response (found on WordPress). I definitely have an opinion. And I am definitely angry. But I am aware that I have little to no knowledge of these women apart from their blogs. Anything that I have to say, as much as I want to make myself heard in the ruckus will only add to the sound and the fury. Nothing I can say will be edifying for me or anyone else.

So…trying to remember that the best way to vent my frustration is through prayer, yoga, and a glass of wine. A two-hour angry nap helps also.

“He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Ps 126:6

Mission Statement

I recently received some “helpful” advice from a family friend, that my poetry did not seem “Christian” enough. She did not say as much, but she did express grave concerns over my standing with God. So, I felt like it was time to write out my own personal mission statement.

When you’ve put faith in Christ and his atonement, peace with Him is not a destination vacation reached after an 8 hour flight. It is a long and often bloody battle.  It’s a process called sanctification.

Psalm 6
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

My poetry is simply a chronicle of that process of surrendering to God (or of His taking from me) the things that I would hold to be higher than Him.  I often look to the Psalms for my inspiration.  David frequently opens his songs with the feeling that he has been abandoned by God.  And through the process of writing David reminds himself of God’s past faithfulness and places his faith in this same God despite his own feelings or emotional state.

That is the definition of faith.

Hebrews 11
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Being an authentic Christian does not mean being a Stepford wife, all plastic smiles and cheery platitudes. It does not mean glossing over our struggles to save face. My experience with God has been a spiritual wrestling much like Jacob’s story in Genesis.  It is my hope to honestly express my experience with Christianity even if that means acknowledging the struggles.  It is my hope to part of a community that encourages me and sharpens me (like iron sharpens iron).  It is my hope that anything I write may resonate with people of any faith or even no faith at all.  And that even if no one else is to ever read anything I write, I will still use the written word to work out and understand my own journey. I will continue to wrestle with God and even through he may dislocate my hip in the process, I will say as Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Prayer

My Father who is in Heaven,

May your name always be sacred, when spoken from my lips,
And grant me headstrong faith which could launch a thousand ships.
May the fog between our worlds grow fainter every day,
The veil that keeps you hidden at last begin to fray.

Provide the things I need today, and not a little more.
For you alone know my heart’s eagerness to hoard.
This next request is frightening, especially for me.
The forgiveness I grant others, would you measure out for me?
Instead let me rephrase and ask a different way.
Allow me to forgive the same that you do every day?

By the gloom inside my soul, let me not be confounded.
Deliver me from evil, when I am full surrounded.
You own this world we see and the other that is shrouded.
All power you hold in holy hands and see with eyes unclouded.

Alpha to omega; from beginning to the end.
You are God outside of time.
Amen, again amen.

* Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer – assignment by J. Shannon