The ancient elm obscured the delicate etching on the colorful glass. The red brick - as if it had been molded from Georgia clay - sat strong, hugging this ancient creature, giving the window a feeling of being encased in blood. The tints of glass in shades of blue, purple, gold and aqua were a stark contrast to the bleeding brick. Its exquisite features sat perched on the sill with the words "I was glad" etched deep into the granite. Who wrote these words? Why? And what manner of beauty was I beholding? What small cell of history had I stumbled across? I found myself wanting to know the inner workings of the person who wrote these three simple words. "I was glad", they slipped so softly from my lips I barely realized I said them. A light breeze wept sunlight through the leaves and reflected off the colored glass. A thought came to mind, "Don't forget to be grateful that you love words." All well and good, but how was I to describe these snared thoughts, grateful that I loved words indeed! I imagined for a brief moment that someone was looking through from inner walls...I wondered what I looked like in all those colors and I wondered, once again, where the hell I was!
I hardly put pen to parchment unless I am feeling confined in some way. Like the loosening of corset stays, writing helps me to breathe more deeply. The valley of trouble can leave me gasping - scratching for the air to survive. A bit delusional in my teens and twenties, I assumed this would correct itself when, fill in the blank: I found someone to love, obtained an established career, got the next great material thing, etc.
I have lived a life of faith, but cannot quite put my finger on what the shape of that faith has come to be. I began walking sod paved with self-righteous indignation.
Learning that we are all messy humans carved from often uncontrollable circumstances has shaped my faith in a different way. I struggle with the title “Christian”, not from shame or my lack of belief in the great love of Jesus, but because more times than not I do not feel “Christ-like”. There are times that I don’t like people. I struggle to show a love that seems illusive to me. Putting myself out there, being vulnerable, loving others is the antithesis of what is comfortable.
On the flip side, I love people more than I can say. My inmost passion is to show human beings how worthy they are of God’s love. I hate when someone lives defeated. My want to pour into others is so palpable that it becomes a living thing. Those closest to me know that making time for me, allowing me to love them, is one of the biggest means by which I receive love. I believe God is doing a new thing. This year is vastly different from the hard prairieland I’ve trod in years past. The ground, dare I say it, has even been furrowed.
I hope. I hope in this heartbroken world of pain and suffering. I hope because I choose to see the beauty of flowers blooming in the midst of all this ‘crap’. The stinking waste becomes a canvas for God to display His artistry.
I am reading “Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best” by Eugene Peterson. It has been a sweet and beautiful read. A look at the life of Jeremiah. A young man that felt much insecurity and doubt as I do, but chose to trust the way God saw him. Trusted that what God said He would fulfill. Lived his most human self because He believed that God’s plan for his life was unique.
Something very different takes place in the life of faith: each person discovers all the elements of a unique and original adventure. We are prevented from following in another’s footsteps and are called to an incomparable association with Christ. The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God’s creative genius is endless. He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies. Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before.
- Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses, P. 13
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations – that’s what I had in mind for you.” – Jeremiah 1:5 MSG
I have become increasingly aware of my own demise. The urgency to get everything in that I’ve ever wanted to do is daunting. Time slips through my fingers as grains of sand. Does anyone else feel this life moving at a breakneck speed? This world is increasingly unstable. My heart weeps over so much violence and disregard to human life. Yet, I’m reminded of how skewed my perception can be. In my own efforts I will fail to live a fulfilled life. It is also vital not to misinterpret my fear as a sinful thing. Allow God to use it as a catalyst in which to manifest His glory. My relationship to Him is reactionary to what He thinks of me.
But a ruthless honesty will always leave us shattered by our inadequacy. The world is a frightening place. If we are not a little bit scared, we simply don’t know what is going on. If we are pleased with ourselves, we either don’t have very high standards or have amnesia in regard to the central reality, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
- Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses, P. 49
“Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, The tried-and-true road. Then take it. Discover the right route for your souls.” – Jeremiah 6:16 MSG
My identity does not begin when I begin to understand myself. There is something previous to what I think about myself, and it is what God thinks of me. That means that everything I think and feel is by nature a response, and the one to whom I respond is God. I never speak the first word. I never make the first move.
- Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses, P. 38
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
This life is overwhelming. I never anticipated it to be so complex, daunting, and scary. The mundane can preserve emotion, but it also incases us in an impenetrable film – keeping our heart beating and safe, but also atrophying. It isn’t living to save self from pain. Pain is part of the equation. Fear is part of the journey to. I’m reminded of music cast on the wind. A whispering of ancient paths worth discovering. I want to travel them. I don’t crave for ‘lesser things’ to be a part of my narrative. Yet, I’ve allowed them to seep in as spilled coffee on paper. It not only forms a brown stain, but distorts the structural components of the story He is writing. A splendid storyteller, He is unafraid of rewriting those pages that I’ve marred. He uses those stains and distortions to create a story worth telling, even if He is the only one who remembers it!
I recall my sister sharing a message Beth Moore spoke upon, where she said in Heaven God will pull us in close, as children at story time, and begin, “Once upon a time…”
Our stories will fall from His lips. The angels will marvel at us.
The truth is, in times like this, rationally we want to hunker down and keep those we love safe. Our God calls us out of those clefts of security, outstretches His hand, and asks us if we will grasp it. If we will come down from that cleft and dance amidst the minefields with Him. I’m afraid of missed steps that might leave me with one less limb. This is when I place my feet atop His, hold tightly and allow Him to guide me.
My humble prayer is to ever submit to His will – allow my heartbeat to match with His. In the midst of so much uncertainty He certainly will never fail!
At some deep level we need to be convinced, and in some way or other we need periodic reminders, that no words are mere words. In particular, God’s words are not mere words. They are promises that lead to fulfillments. God performs what he announces. God does what he says.
- Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses, P. 52
“When your words showed up, I ate them – swallowed them whole. What a feast! What delight I took in being yours, O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!” – Jeremiah 15:16 MSG