Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sometimes you have to ram down the doors and demand God to tell you who you are. To remind you. Through tears, anger, splintered hands, and a desperation to give up my life so i can have more of Him.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Lord I believe; help me with my unbelief." Mark 9:24

I didn't realize this about myself till a dear friend pointed it out to me about a year ago. And man did his courage and knack for honesty change my life.

I'm a control freak. When it comes to decision making, I am usually very mindful and cautious. I became a Christian at 19 (i'm 27 now) and just recently, have I realized that, unfortunately, I have had Jesus in a box in a specific way. What I mean is that I try to figure Him out... how He relates to me, what it looks like when He works something out or sets something up in life. More specifically, I need to know what He's working out for the I making the right decisions? Do I think God would want me to do this, or go there, or do I feel like maybe He's opening this door to walk through? The list is endless.

Now be assured that these questions aren't wrong to ask nor unhealthy to ponder and apply to life, but man can they box Him in if you're a control freak.
I'm used to seeing Jesus before me. So much so that I've found myself waiting in Nashville 2 years too long, or taken aback when my twin sister's response to my thoughts on moving to LA from Atlanta were "Umm, that's a no-brainer Liz". I need to see Jesus ahead of me in my decisions so much so that when He started doing something a little differently in my life recently, I thought He had abandoned me.

I couldn't feel Him when I prayed. I couldn't see Him directly pulling me towards any door. I didn't see Him going ahead of me and waiting there. And then, after a late night conversation with a friend that went well into the morning, I realized that God hadn't abandoned me. By any means. He was leading in a different way. He was beside me.
I constantly live in the future and not in the present. And how tragic is that? How many fantastic sunsets have I calls have a not made...soul-restoring walks have I not taken....sweet moments have escaped me...because I have God in a box? Because I need a head-light God who structures my life to where I have a menu every night and an alarm to go off in the morning.
God says that His word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105)'s not a spotlight. You're not gonna see a mile down the road and definitely not into tomorrow. Nope, you've got about 3 feet of light to work with and God says that's sufficient for you. In fact, it's His best. And you might not see Him in front of you pulling your hand everyday. Or patting you on the back for every good decision you make. But what we do know is that His grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corin. 12:9), and Prov. 16:9 "In his heart a man plans his path, but it is the Lord who determines his steps." These truths aren't always going to show themselves in your life like you want or expect them to. And even though God can live in the past, present, and future.... you and I can't.
So today, it is my pledge to be happy with the now and the unknowing. To trust that God's goodness isn't dependent on my happiness or comfort. And to actually be a Christian who has faith.
I will end with a brilliant man's thoughts on faith,
Martin Luther.
An excerpt from "An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans,"
Luther's German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

 "Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. "Faith is not enough," they say, "You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved." They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, "I believe." That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this 'faith,' either. 
Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.  Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.              
Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they're smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

Monday, July 12, 2010

the Author's note...

...of Through Painted Deserts.
something wonderful.

It is Fall here now, my favorite of the four seasons. We get all four here, and they come at us under the doors, in through the windows. One morning you wake and need blankets; you take the fan out of the window to see clouds that mist out by midmorning, only to reveal a naked blue coolness like God yawning.

September is perfect Oregon. The blocks line up like postcards and the rosebuds bloom into themselves like children at bedtime. And in Portland we are proud of our roses; year after year, we are proud of them. When they are done, we sit in the parks and read stories into the air, whispering the gardens to sleep.

I come here, to Palio Coffee, for the big windows. If I sit outside, the sun gets on my computer screen, so I come inside, to this same table, and sit alongside the giant panes of glass. And it is like a movie out there, like a big screen of green, and today there is a man in shepherd's clothes, a hippie, all dirty, with a downed bike in the circle lawn across the street. He is eating bread from the bakery and drinking from a metal camp cup. He is tapping the cup against his leg, sitting like a monk, all striped in fabric. I wonder if he is happy, his blanket strapped to the rack on his bike, his no home, his no job. I wonder if he has left it all because he hated it or because it hated him. It is true some do not do well with conventional life. They think outside things and can't make sense of following a line. They see no walls, only doors from open space to open space, and from open space, supposedly, to the mind of God, or at least this is what we hope for them, and what they hope for themselves.

I remember the sweet sensation of leaving, years ago, some ten now, leaving Texas for who knows where. I could not have known about this beautiful place, the Oregon I have come to love, this city of great people, this smell of coffee and these evergreens reaching up into a mist of sky, these sunsets spilling over the west hills to slide a red glow down the streets of my town.

And I could not have known then that if I had been born here, I would have left here, gone someplace south to deal with horses, to get on some open land where you can see tomorrow's storm brewing over a high desert. I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God's way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.

I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn't all happening at once.

Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was. This is from where story stems, the stuff of its construction lying at our feet like cut strips of philosophy. I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can't find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.

Here is something I found to be true: you don't start processing death until you turn thirty. I live in visions, for instance, and they are cast out some fifty years, and just now, just last year I realized my visions were cast too far, they were out beyond my life span. It frightened me to think of it, that I passed up an early marriage or children to write these silly books, that I bought the lie that the academic life had to be separate from relational experience, as though God only wanted us to learn cognitive ideas, as if the heart of a man were only created to resonate with movies. No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath:

I'll tell you how the sun rose
A ribbon at a time...

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:


Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

doodle days.

there's something to be said about doodlers. and this guy, Timothy Reynolds, is pretty awesome at it.
out of Milwaukee, WI, Tim grew up with a knack for sketching. he does it constantly and with ease. and i don't get it. i don't understand how someone can grab a pen and just go. no structure, no limitations, just raw creativity in its most organic and unfettered form.
it's worth acknowledging and appreciating.

while on the phone.
or daydreaming perhaps.
for learning.
or just because you're damn good at it.
anyone else know of some great doodlers? i'd love to check them out and give them an interweb pat on the back.