Stickiness and the Upper Room

 

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Sticky strings attached to the bottom of my feet cruelly connect me to the dirty ground. I take steps, but it’s a strained motion like I can’t quite pick up my own feet. These ties stick to my mind too. Selfishly twisting and twirling my thoughts into an anxious tizzy. They lurch for anything with life and attempt to subdue light reducing their agility to false and stunted movement. Freedom is coerced by bonds so tiny.

I wonder if I’m enough or if I’ll ever measure up to my own far reaching expectations. Sticky strings run rampant all around me. Will I ever be free?

I wonder if I can be fully me and if others will like that. Then I chide myself for caring too much. More strings reach out with their sultry grasps as if my doubt birthed the tethers.

I panic when people, conversations or things don’t fit into my carefully crafted boxes. Boxes I hate, but that hover around me like pesky flies. They are greedy and desperate for attention.

More strings. More stickiness. Suffocation of thought and emotion. Why is this happening again?

This is what I feel as I walk dusty streets at dusk and climb stone stairs to join the others in the upper room. Tonight I feast to celebrate God’s people freed from slavery, while I hold myself hostage and my soul starves. I laugh in quiet desperation.

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I enter a simple loft with a long table low to the ground decorated only with the evening’s Passover meal.

Immediately, his eyes find mine.

He already knows I’m in round three of a boxing match. Me against me. I’m ready to throw in the towel, but I can’t admit defeat either. What kind of fight is this?

We eat dinner. The others are laughing and lounging. Me? I’m smiling, but I can’t feel it. I’m so distracted by my inner battle I can barely hear the conversation around me. This should be my happy place; a lovely dinner with those I love and care about, yet I feel bruised from beating myself up.

Will I be able to breathe normally again?

I take a piece of bread and bite into its warmth. Softness and toughness breaks in my mouth. I wash it down with some wine. Crimson, cool, and complete.

He gets up. That’s not like Him. He’s usually the last to leave the table.

I watch as he gets out a bowl and a towel from the corner I hadn’t noticed. Then he kneels before one friend at the table with the towel and basin, and begins to gently wash his feet. My friend is surprised, but compliant. He seems intrigued.

He moves on to another friend who begins to quietly weep at his touch. I don’t understand, but it is as if more than her feet are being tended to. He moves on to the next person, and suddenly I realize his intent.

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Our teacher is going to wash each and every one of our grimy feet. How could he do a servant’s lowly task?

But there’s more to it than water and dirty feet. I can see it in each person’s eyes. While some are decidedly confused, others are clearly touched with tears streaming down their faces.

I’m far less afraid of the dirt on my feet than I am the filth of my heart. I can’t bear for him to touch such impurity.

He moves to the next person with a kind smile and eyes so warm and open you could get lost in his gaze. I should find this comforting, instead I dread my turn.

I’m frozen. I want to bolt. I glance at the door. He glances at me. His eyes, dark in color, yet full of light, are tender, inviting and welcoming. His presence even from a distance commands me. It’s tangible. I can almost feel him surrounding me. For a moment my heart stills to a quiet calm.

Then he moves on to the next person and my heart begins a vicious thrum. I wonder if the person next to me can hear its skittish beats.

My fingers flutter and my hands look for a distraction. I rest my fingers on the solid wood of the table. I feel the grit and grain under my fingertips. A sliver of wood slices into my finger and I quickly pull my hand away. For a split second, he looks to my hand and at the wooden table with a sad look. But only for a moment, as he tenderly continues washing my friend’s feet, drying them and moving on to the next person who is sitting beside me.

 

Now he’s kneeling so close I can feel his warmth.

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A firm thought rises from my sticky swirling mental game. He cannot wash my feet. I won’t let Him.

He looks over at me with an expression that is both tender and markedly determined. It was the same look I saw when he wanted the children to come to him. It was the look I saw when a bleeding woman was healed with a touch and he wanted to know who she was. It was the look he gave the boy with the five fish and a few loaves of bread.

Now he is looking at me.

Panic slowly fills me starting at my feet and working its way up swirling and expanding like inky darkness in thick pure olive oil.

Something else is fighting back, something calmer, but I’m too afraid and distracted to see it. My breath shortens to quick breaths in and out, in and out. I close my eyes hoping to calm myself and slow my breathing. Maybe no one will notice?

Fear, doubt, rage, insecurity, blame, shame, and guilt vie for my attention like waves competing to capsize a fishing boat on a stormy night. I’d rather face the waves again than the push and pull of this inner tension.

I don’t need to open my eyes to know he kneels before me waiting. Waiting. Here is the man I have followed, listened to, and playfully teased like a little sister.

If what he said to us was true, then God himself kneels before me waiting to wash my feet. Open, vulnerable, patient. Would he wait for me all night?

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Yes. Yes, I think he would. I fight back tears, which threaten to break me. I feel the sticky shrouds loosen their mean grip.

My heart pounds hard against my chest. I’m not worthy of such treatment. What should I do?

A wave of heat and uncertainty sweep over. I want to give up and give in, but would that be defeat?

No.

He didn’t say it, but I hear his voice penetrate the tangled web.

I’d made a habit of coddling my insecurities, sorting through sticky thoughts, and scrambling to do it all right, but I didn’t want to any more. I longed to be free from the restraints I constructed and maintained like a little garden of poison.

How could I let him touch the dirt and grime that clogged my heart, scattered my mind, and twisted my soul?

Why me? Why my dirt?

Because you’re enough. His words echo in my soul and gently snip a few sordid strings.

Enough. The word I longed to hear, but feared to believe.

Believe it. His soul whispers to mine. Believe and be free.

How can I be enough? If only he knew all about me.

I do know you, and that is why I love you. You are enough because I am enough.

Hot tears spill out of my eyes betraying my composed facade.

I nod yes. I can’t speak, but I open watery eyes and brave looking into His. There I run smack into affection. I’m enveloped with an overwhelming depth of generosity and acceptance. I’m soaked in the presence of him. For a moment, I forget to breathe.

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In his eyes and tenderness, I stumble upon love and more love. I find home.

I recognize his expression. I had caught glimpses of it before. It was the look he gave Lazarus after pulling him out of the grave. It was the same look he gave me when he hauled my silly self from the waves. It was the expression I saw when he first said, “Come. Follow me.”

I extend my dirty feet. He smiles as if he’s been given the best gift. He hums softly as he washes my feet. I see my muck muddy his strong hands, but only for a moment. Fresh, clean water pours over my feet. I feel a rush of mercy surge within and flood over me. Cleansed from the inside out. Dirt is but a temporary hindrance.

Water splashing my feet.

Water soaking my soul.

My foot is cradled in the Savior’s hand. Dirt scatters in a deep cleanse. With a final anointing he looks into my eyes.

“Enough,” He says.

“Enough” to the waves that crash and churn within your soul. “Enough” with the thoughts that blow here and there. I am in you and I love you as myself with a never ending love. I would die for you. You need not question my love or where you stand with me.

Enough, Dear Heart, you are mine.

With my name on his lips, I feel those sticky ties snip away like they were nothing but delicate spider’s web wriggling in the breeze. My breathing slows and deepens. Warmth and ease melts away the inner turmoil and quietly defeats the battle at hand. My heart, mind and soul feel light like they could float away with the clouds.

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I look into his eyes once more. It’s as if I’m seeing love for the first time. I realize all along his intent was my freedom.

A snippet of color pops into my mind’s eye. A picture. I grasp at the surprise vision and look into the window of his purpose for me. To be a rock that love is built upon. To serve, laugh, work and play with open arms. It’s both a mystery to be discovered and an intuition to rest in. I can’t fully discern the meaning. I don’t think I’m supposed to. But in this calling, I awaken to live untethered and to freely delight. I’m not sure what this will look like. Sometimes messy, sometimes solid, but always free.

He dries my feet and sets aside the basin. In the dim light, the swirling sand and water appear scarlet. It looks strangely of death and of life at the same time. I look down at my clean feet it, amazed and undone by the simple, clear feeling of hope.

“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Drenched in the Chase

So I broke a rule today.

You know that rule about not running with scissors?  Yeah, I broke that one.

You see, I was inspired by beautiful prose and just had to go find some wildflowers.

Even in the rain.

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Sometimes you stumble upon beauty and sometimes you have to go chase it.

So off I went mismatched in pink running pants, a teal rain jacket and armed with scissors

The rabbits scampered away in surprise.  They weren’t expecting company in the drizzling grey.

I was a girl on a mission.  A mission to let whimsy be my guide.

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Sometimes gifts are placed in your hands and sometimes you are compelled to throw on some running shoes to run into gifts.

Friend, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to daily, intentionally chase gifts.  Because if you are armed with thankfulness, bitterness can drip off you like little raindrops.

Eternity is soaked in moments like these.  You start chasing wildflowers under sprinkling skies and moments later you’re knee deep in grace.

Grace, because who are you to hold a gift as fragile, yet resilient as beauty?

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You are tangled up in a field of whimsy and you wonder if it’s just for you.

Step by step you shake off shame, breathe out anxiety and lay down fear.

Then you pick up beauty, pluck some wildness, clip off some joy and grasp it gently.

One foot and then another on the path of peace.

You hunker down on holy ground and inspect a delicate piece of sunshine.

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It’s a natural rhythm of receiving and thanking, like breathing in and breathing out.

Serenity soothes an aching soul and you breathe deep draughts of delight.

Each is a gift that gives back.  And the greatest gift?  His face.  A living gift with the sweet breath of heaven aimed straight for you.

Standing there you catch a glimpse of His face in wide open spaces.  A place where you find yourself already known, desired and delighted in.

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This is home out in sopping fields of tender flowers and brilliant color playing in pockets of light.

Saturated with wonder.  Lost in a moment so humble in its simple hopefulness.

Sometimes whimsy takes practice, but don’t hesitate.

Always embrace the chase.

 

Inside Out and Upside Down

Inside-Out-Teaser-PosterInside Out is an adorable and smart movie about the emotions living inside 11-year-old Riley’s head. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust work together to guide Riley through transitions and the ups and downs of life.

The movie made me smile. It also made me think about how I approach life and react to problems. Do I respond with joy, sadness, disgust, anger, fear or a combination of emotions?

Ultimately, it made me think of who or what is manning my control center.

I like to think it’s joy, but I know it can be sadness, disgust, fear and anger as well. This isn’t always bad – these emotions work together for our good unless we give one too much control.

I think we have a problem in the church. I’m going to call it the “curse-of-always being-blessed-and-having-no-other-adjective-syndrome”. It’s pretty serious. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You’ve talked to that lady (or man) at church before who is always blessed, right? Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about (unless you are that person, in which case, bless you).

For some people suffering with the “curse-of-always being-blessed-and-having-no-other-adjective-syndrome” they have the misfortunate fortune of nothing ever going wrong. Nothing breaks, they can go on vacation, they have a good job, their kids are not crazy and their dog is even sweet. They are #blessed.

Then there’s the person whose car is making weird noises, they are scrounging money for a weekend getaway, they are thankful for their job, but don’t get paid much and there are holes in the carpet from where they pray on their knees each night for their kids. They are blessed too.

See how this can be annoying? Sunshine and rainbows do not equate being blessed. Being a Christian does not mean you must be happy 24/7. Having the Spirit of the living God active and alive in you means you’re blessed. A better word would be divinus, the Latin word meaning divinely inspired and sacred. I also love the Greek verb eulogeo meaning to praise or to consecrate with solemn prayer.

I once stopped in a church’s office where the receptionist quite literally answered “blessed” (insert sappy tone here) to my question of “how are you?”. This is too much people.

“Joy” does not man the control panel on her own. Let’s be the complex beings we were made to be filled with the Spirit and reflecting our Father’s love, whimsy, thoughtfulness, riskiness, courage and wisdom.

If blessed is still your favorite word, have yourself a little party in your pew and be happy. I’d rather be divinus. Want to join me?

ESTJs and Life with Joan (of Arc)

How do you fill in your blank? I’m too much. I’m not enough. I’m just too ____________.

So often we fill in the blank with lies. Sometimes we listen so intently to these messages that we eventually embody them and they become a part of us. They are like a little tumor we nickname and grow strangely fond of even though they are the cause of our demise. “Hello failure, so we meet again.” When we do this, we become the enemies of our own stories.

I’m quite fond of personality psychology and enjoy personality tests like Myers-Briggs. Pinterest got wind of people’s interest in personality and iconic movies, so we now have Myers-Briggs profiles for Star Wars characters, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey, Disney and many others.

You can find this and a hundred more on good ol' Pinterest.

You can find this and a hundred more on good ol’ Pinterest.

I’m an ESTJ, which apparently makes me the Darth Vader-Professor McGonagall-George Washington-Judge Judy-type. In a Holy Week version (because Christians want to play the game too), ESTJs are the Joan of Arcs. Even to me this could sound intimidating, except I know the truth about myself.

I am not a heavy breathing villain with a machine for a heart. While I may be a strict, but fiercely loyal Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts, I’m not at liberty to say.

Here’s what I can say, for many years I was a scaredy-cat. I learned to carefully tame my President McGonagall of Arc-ness. It became easier and safer to be that sweet, quiet girl. I found my identity in being who I thought others wanted me to be. I had on so many masks it would take years to remove them one at a time. After all, who could really handle the real me?

I was timidly prancing around like a mousy Jane Bennett when a bold Joan of Arc lay restless and dormant inside me. Identity crisis? I think yes. I was no more a Bennett than Joan of Arc was, but I didn’t have the faintest clue how to be the real me – the girl I had toned down and shoved back for so long. (Disclaimer: I think Jane Austen rocks)

'Joan of Arc' Painting by Sir John Everett Millais in 1865

‘Joan of Arc’ Painting by Sir John Everett Millais in 1865

If it was possible, I was even more afraid of my strengths than I was my weaknesses. I knew what to do with weakness – stare it down, overanalyze and “work on it” until it went away. Healthy, right? But my strengths were terrifying and exciting like a rare creature both familiar and exotic – a creature you instinctively knew you weren’t supposed to touch.

When I discovered that I was ardently pursued and fiercely loved by Jesus, that’s when things shifted. A daughter of the King does not live life masked and afraid.   A daughter of the king must wake up and stand up for such a time as this. When I realized that it was me and me alone holding myself back, I knew something had to change.

To dare to be known – to be real and to be known for exactly who I was and not who I was projecting – took practice. It also took someone else saying to me, “I see your beauty. I see your brokenness and I’m not afraid. You are a daughter of the king. Who you are is strong, tender and enough.”

For years I scoffed at who I was without understanding myself fully and without owning my story or my weaknesses and the part I played. I put the blinders on thick and blindly swung my sword around – this is both awkward and dangerous. I thought I was playing a key role in a battle, but really I was swatting at flies. Flies that were pestering me because I was in fact stuck in the muddy pit of comfort, holding tight to fear while sitting in a pile of poo. I was my own prisoner and I was fighting fear with poo. Not awesome. But now I know I must own my own story. And I must become friends with my story to be at peace and to find my strength.

So often we typecast people.  She’s so sweet! He’s such a nice guy. Oh, he’s just being a boy. I had typecast myself as the quiet, sweet, good girl. And then I got stuck there. When Joan of Arc started slashing her sword around, I told her to quiet down. I didn’t know how to do life with Joan. And I definitely didn’t know how to invite others to be their true selves whether that be the Joans, Chewbaccas, Thors or the Mother Theresas around me.

But now I want to dare greatly to be who God made me to be and allow others to do the same. I want to create an environment where people are free to be the best version of themselves. I want to call out the greatness, the beauty, the fire and the tenderness in those around me. I’ve been learning this from others and it’s a beautiful and freeing thing.

This is not a case for ignoring weakness. Instead, it’s a call to press into weakness and lean into brokenness and the darkness so that we may find intense light, love and life. I think the path to heaven is lined with discarded masks. Each step we take deeper into the kingdom of God reveals another characteristic of our Father and we can know a little more intimately who we are in Him and let down our masks.

We can do this because we are not slaves to fear. I have a confession to make – I don’t usually like Christian music. (I know… you can judge me a little). But this song is an exception. I’ve been listening to it over and over. Listen with me until you believe it too.

PS – What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

Breaking Enigma or Embracing It?

419622_10200430372023974_1308410213_n - CopyIt’s been one year.  It’s been a year of walking, talking, growing, sharing, laughing, crying and praying with three amazing women.  We call it a mentor group, but it’s so much more.  People use words like “awesome, great and amazing” so often, but these are understatements when describing the gift of this year.  It’s rare to find people you trust enough to lean into the mystery of faith and life and share your ugliest and brightest, and know with certainty they won’t run from either.  They won’t run from your darkness and they won’t be intimated by your light.  Instead they’ll embrace you and celebrate you and hold up your arms when you grow weary.

Have I sold you on mentoring? Great! (Totally not my point.) Instead, I make a case for mystery.

Life is full of mystery – the fear of the unknown can hold us back so often.  However, Jesus embodies mystery.  This can be beautiful and let’s face it; this can be frustrating.  We like order, known-ness and clarity.  But can we freefall into mystery and become friends with ambiguity?  Do we have a choice?  Of course we do, but perhaps we’ll breathe a little easier when we shake hands with the enigmatic.

Have you ever stood before a mountain range more powerful and more magnificent than you?  Do you seek to understand it’s greatness or do you embrace the climb?  Have you stood on a stretch of sand breathing in the salty breeze?  Do you dare to understand the ocean’s pull on your soul or do you marvel at the gentle calm and raging power of the sea?

Is the mystery of Christ in me any different?  Mystery and victory go together, just ask Jesus.  There is no time for sleep in the ocean of mystery for transformation is but a wink away.  To resist mystery is a prison of our own making.

Lean into the mystery
Jump in

In the depths of the unknown
We find ourselves intimately known
We are named
Again and again Grace calls out

Who am I to dance in delight and tinker with desire?
Beckoned into a vast sea stirring with power
Mercy on the surface and strength below
Stillness covers a raging war

Mystery wreaks havoc within
It’s the kindest act of mercy
Lonely soul jolted with truth
Smooth out wrinkles in my twisted breath

Boundless tenderness and strength
Tug and pull this heart of mine
Awaken and jump, Dearest One
The mystery flirts and flits before you.

Soaked full
I press deeper into the mystery

And then I asked Him, “Lord, what do you want me to learn about you and your mystery?”

My heart already knew the answer while my head was catching up. He reminded me of truths I learned in a little prayer room warmed by the sun and by the love of a woman after God’s own heart.

I can rest in His mystery and be at ease in the unknown. I can rejoice in uncertainty because He holds my heart close. I can delight and be delighted in—that is the measure of joy in embracing the risk of mystery. There is no end to the unknown – it’s the only thing that’s certain.  When did we become obsessed with safety? There is no celebration in risk-less living. The call is to step out, to jump into the mystery of daring to be known in certain unknown-ness.

When was the last time you jumped? 

Light Always Fights

My words, His response.
A tug and pull of Spirit, Father and Friend.
A response to a gift that’s one of a kind
A painting, a story, a promise.

A canvas so innocent.  Truth so striking.

A gift of hope from a true friend
A gift of vision for what is to come
A gift of remembrance for battles past

A girl at a big grey wall once again. Oh how He loves her.

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A gift to keep fighting, growing, loving, healing and thanking
To keep pressing forward in gentle days, rugged days and boring days
To maintain a posture of heaven and pause with the sacred

A battle fought, a battle won.  A battle wound surfaces again.

Hope is rising
Hope is waiting
Hope is multiplying
Hope is.

A hesitant brush on a canvas page.

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Hope is me and hope is you
Relax into my Presence, He says
Soak your soul in my truth
Let me love you closer to me

I paint determined to break light out of dark.

An expectant gift, but one with no pressure, no strings attached
Just a wish and a promise to love as you find colors dancing in your soul

I paint desperate to see color rush through.

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So, awake.
Awaken to color and beauty and rest
Your trust in God is sweet and deep
Trust in yourself is shaky and uncertain

Now.  Paint now.  Paint with your heart and soul until you bleed thanks.

Be brave dear heart and take a chance
Stumble, limp, dance and sing
Be not afraid of the strength in you
Be not afraid of the tenderness in you

Warmth.  Peace floods.

Fear not the waves for they listen to His name
Waves of doubt crash around your soul threaten to pull you under
Peace, be still, He says, She is mine

Transformation, my good old friend.

Piece by piece the wall comes down
Peace by peace until light breaks through

To speak the tongue of heaven.  The language of life.

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So dance my soul
Sing out with joy
Heart be brave and take flight

Soul piercing, mind captivating, heart transforming.

Oh to hear you beyond myself
There is a time to rest and a time to be brave
Now be brave in your rest and restful in your brave

Safe, wild and free.  Come to me.

So dare to hope
And may stone wall break
Color is waiting to come rushing through
Color and light dizzy with expectation for you

Come to me and breathe in wide open spaces.

Are you ready?
Be brave.
It’s time to let go

I am hereI am good.

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Chasing Rainbows

Driving home from work one evening, I was blown away by the incredible sky.  It was one of those slow, summer sunsets that fills the sky and takes its time to travel across the horizon.  I pulled over to snap a few pictures while it was still light enough.  My car was parked on a rocky outlet on a side street, I left the car running and the door open as I jumped out to capture the last light on my trusty smart phone.  I was literally pursuing the light and chasing the beauty.  When was the last time you chased beauty?

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This reminded me of when I was a young high school student and my sister was in middle school.  At the time, our family lived in a house that backed up to a field and beyond that was a golf course.  One summer, a brilliant rainbow stretched across the sky and looked as if it was actually touching the ground in the field.  Colorful light filled a grassy area that appeared just a short distance away from our house.  My sister and I threw on our shoes, rushed out the back door and ran to find that rainbow.  I was sure we could touch it.

So we ran and ran.  We ran through the field and across the bridge that led to the golf course.  The farther we ran, the farther the rainbow went.  We ran on for a while pausing to catch our breath.  It’s not easy chasing rainbows in Colorado’s high altitude.  I put logic aside and was convinced I really could touch the rainbow if we ran faster.  We ran a little further, but alas, we didn’t touch the rainbow.  It was always just beyond our reach, and we knew that, yet we delightfully pursued anyway.  I love this little memory and I still hold in my heart a faith that says you can catch rainbows if you chase them hard enough.

Sometimes in the chaos of life we forget to chase rainbows.  We forget to look up and notice a summer sunset claiming the sky.  I turn my eyes inward and get stuck.  I put the emphasis on myself, not on He who is greater.  Suddenly, I forget rainbows and chasing beauty because I get lost in myself.  When will I wake up from this toxic sleep of self-obsession?  When will I be brave enough to be free, unbound in endless salvation, resting in quiet hallelujahs?

I hold dear a philosophy of chasing rainbows.  A little whimsy and faith can go a long way.  Maybe you can’t touch rainbows; maybe science says it’s impossible.  I don’t care.   I will keep chasing rainbows anyway.

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Alive and awake
Sky speak to me
I chase your brilliance
I catch sun’s last light

Quickly fading
My last glimpse is another’s first taste
Morphing color make your brilliance known to me
Great big sky encircle me like a warm embrace

Sweet kisses of pink, blue and gold
Heaven in the wisps of every cloud
Your vastness in miles of big open sky

Your creative canvas
Your most holy playground
A love letter of highest form
A kaleidoscope of light

Heaven softly calling from up above
Surrounded by love’s perfect touch
Clouds surrendered to their maker
Lighthearted they rest in splendid suspension

A place of fearless awe and wonder
Overwhelmed you would paint skies for me
In a world torn, hurting and afraid
You pause to create such beauty

Who am I to deserve such art?
A gift I’m most undeserving
But I’ll stand still and wait and watch 

A moment in time is mine for the taking
If only I’ll look up
Inward eyes I do despise
Yet I’m so easily swayed

Emphasis on you is joy
Roots of faith grow down deep
Taking hope from wondrous skies

Magic Eye

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Image from magiceye.com

Having eyes to see and ears to hear is what I long for.  Jesus talked about it a lot.  Churches don’t talk about it enough.  But what does that mean?  I believe it’s seeing with faith.  It’s believing enough to hear through the noise.  It reminds me of the Magic Eye books.  Did you ever see one of those prints?  They were unusual pieces of art.  They were made of a colorful patterns repeated across the page, each line of the pattern slightly different than the next.  Curious and tricky in nature, you would focus on a two dimensional print in order to see a three dimensional picture.  You could look at it, walk right past it and miss it.

The first Magic Eye print I saw was at a gallery in downtown Dallas, Texas when I was young.  My mom walked up to the print with me, explained the instructions and stood before the picture with her arm stretched out in front of her, pointer finger extended straight up.  The instructions were to study your finger until the background, the print, begins to move and form into a picture.  Wikipedia describes it this way: “The viewer must diverge his or her eyes in order to see a hidden three-dimensional image within the pattern.”  It sounds trippy, but it totally worked. Soon you could see the picture, so you could lower your arm.  Then you were able to get lost in the three dimensional picture before you of a castle or an animal or a ship.  Once you saw the picture you could even step to the right or to the left so the picture would move with you.  It was fascinating.  Later, we bought a book filled with these prints.  You could use your finger or you could use my technique, which was to hold the book right up against your face until the print got blurry from you starring at it a little cross-eyed, then you would very slowly pull it away from your face.  The picture would get clearer and clearer until you could move your eyes about the page looking at this pop up scene before you that had emerged from the pattern on the page.

Believe it or not I have a point with this story.  I propose that we must develop a magic eye.  In order to have eyes to see, we must relearn how to see not just with our eyes, but with our hearts.  Seeing into the kingdom is a multisensory experience that begins in the heart.  The eyes of our hearts must be open, that’s why it’s important to guard our hearts.  Learning to see into the kingdom and developing a magic eye is no trick.  We may or may not look as wonky as I did trying to see the Magic Eye prints in my book, but we must practice this sight over and over until it becomes second nature.  We must diverge our eyes in Christ so we can have kingdom eyes.

Will you look up?

When my best friend and I were Juniors in high school we went on a school “field trip” to France.  The school required chaperones, which meant our moms got to come as well.  I call it a field trip, but calling a grand adventure such is nearly insulting.  I’ll call it our French Adventure instead.

Back home at school our teacher had told us to blend in by wearing nice clothes.  Jeans and tennis shoes were to be left at home as this would make us stand out as Americans.  Walking in a row 18 people long down the streets of France with cameras out, however, was acceptable.  And so, my best friend and I brilliantly bought matching outfits to blend in.  Our favorite outfit was black and white printed capris with little knit berets.  Seriously.  We totally blended in.

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Yes, we walked down the Eiffel Tower barefoot. Is there any other way?

 

In the midst of this two week French Adventure, we found ourselves in the most perfectly charming city overlooking the water around every cobblestoned bend.  High stoned walled kept the ocean on one side and the town on the other.  I can’t remember the name of this most perfect French town, but I do remember what happened here.Picture this.  You are walking together, the four of you, breathing in the city’s evening sounds as the sun is slowly deciding to set.  It’s not crowded, so you’re not worried about hanging onto your purse or watching where you’re going.  You are simply meandering, winding down streets of cobblestone.  Small buildings line the quiet street, some are shops, some are restaurants and a few others are homes.

Suddenly, you see something on the ground just a short distance ahead of you and your little group.  In your excitement, you point to it and yell, “Look up!”

Because you’re still excitedly pointing down at this mysterious object, you don’t understand why everyone is looking up.  Now everyone is just paces away from this object.  So, again, you point to the ground and shout with fervor, “Look up!”

Everyone continues to look up searching for what mystifying piece of historic scenery you are trying to point out.  It doesn’t occur to you that you meant to say “Look out” until your mom, who is focused on looking up, walks right into a pile of French doggie poo.

Oops.

Years later, my friend would use this little story as a word of advice.  On a Christmas card to me she wrote,

“I was thinking about our trip to France, and I discovered something profound.  As we walked along the cobblestone streets filled with poo you cried “Look up!”  I think you had discovered a universal truth: The road of life is full of sh… poop, and the best thing to do is to look up and just enjoy the beauty around us.  My wish for you this year is that you ignore the shit and enjoy all the wonderful things.”
I still have this Christmas card – it’s kind of a treasure.
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Clearly we were awesome.

Then today, I thought of this story again.  I was driving home from work and was blown away by the sunset.  Not just the sunset, but the skies themselves.  It was like standing inside a snow globe of sunset surrounded by a sky so vast you had to turn in circles just to see it all.  I had to pull over and take a picture (or ten) it was that breathtaking.  I don’t know what your sunsets are like, but in my opinion Colorado has the biggest skies.  This means miles of sky for your viewing pleasure, and a perfect canvas for sunsets.  But you will only see it if you look up.

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So often my eyes are glued to a computer screen, my phone, my desires, and my worries.  What if my eyes were more often drawn to the sky?  What if I sought His face over the bustling pace of life?  What if we all did?  What if we all trained ourselves to look up a little longer and a little more often?  What if we looked up?What if … two little words charged with potential.

Look up … two innocent words drenched with invitation.

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Every day we’re given invitations to stop what we’re doing and look up.  Moments of beauty given just for us.  Take a moment to breathe in the moments of peace.  Feel the sun warm your skin and the breeze on your face, don’t just take note of it on the run.  It’s a calling.
He will not force you to rest and look up.  But he’ll always be there waiting.
Will you look up?

 

Sunflower Song

5099691_origUsually I like running, but today was not that day. I squeaked out the miles in new shoes that were no bueno for my feet. But this sight stopped me in my tracks.

We’ve had drizzling grey weather the past week, unusual for Colorado especially this time of year.  The stark contrast of the grey horizon and the bold sunflower reminded me of my own story.

It was a long process of awakening from a world of grey, and I was and will always be so thankful for the sunflowers in my life that beckoned me to more.  Those sunflowers have names and faces.  My amazing mom who listened to me with profound patience and endlessly spoke life and vision into a weary soul, Joanie who sat on the floor before me in a little prayer room and held my feet to ground me while she prayed over me, even a favorite author, who at the time I hadn’t met before, whose writings spoke to me at a new and deep level.  God reached me through each of these people in ways unique and beautiful.

I’m thankful for these people.  I’m even thankful for the grey.  For where there was no awareness of grey, there would have been no sight to see the color of freedom.  I am forever thankful for you, my sunflowers, my heroes.

A drop of color in a world of tasteless grey
A burst of light to chase desperate gloom away

In your honor, you beseech me
And draw me toward worlds anew

Poison creeps in and suffocates the soul
But a power awaits beyond all control

I draw strength from your great beauty
Courage from wonder once lost

Poised to defeat by strength of light
Reckless in every act of love’s bold might

Little sunflower formed of gold
You were not made to fight alone

Your sense of self sways with every gust
With your face to sun you know to trust

Unpretentious little flower
What secrets you must know

Gentle petals of valiant hue
Seeps all that is good, wonderful and true

To the sun and wind, you may bend
Yet grow bright in tender strength

A poetic bloom of mystery
Captivating in raw honesty

A little hope of color
Most gracious dash of life

A priceless beauty to be sure
A warrior of freedom’s great valor

Striking passion in field of earth’s hot breath
You sing a different song

For you stand your ground
In a world tragically grey bound

A song of hallelujahs
Some broken but made whole

So simple and so true
You stand firm as true you

So stand your ground and sing your song
Driving twisted grey away