Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lucidity

In the midst of the dailyness of life
through the course of the mundane,
in the rote routine of my day,
between the early morning alarm and
the late night closing of my eyes in sleep
there are moments,
rare and exquisite,
when I understand who I am
and where I am going—
when I see eternity with pristine clarity.

Oh glorious short increments of lucidity!
thin places in the fabric of my spirit
when I see God’s plan,
when I see his hope,
when I see his purpose.

These moments are like trailers of soon to be released films. Momentary clips of extraordinary vision that come to me when I am at least aware. No, most aware. They manifest when I am completely still and at myself.

Lucidity comes
when my spirit is being

turned
loosened
gentled
softened
molded
pivoted.


Lucidity comes
when I am enthralled with
the origin of words,
the ticking of many clocks,
the patter of the dogs’ feet,
the nuances of a phrase,
a dog’s whispery snore,
a deep, long, contented sigh,
the turning of page in a book,
the bond of friendship,
the curve of a newborn infant’s cheek,
the uniqueness of a snowflake,
the deep color of a fallen autumn leaf,
the gaze exchanged between two lovers.

Lucidity comes
when I have encountered beauty—
Oh! so profound.

So breathtaking in its utter simplicity:

the translucent green of Katherine’s eyes,
the sweet beauty mark on Abby’s face,
the rich fall of Olivia’s hair,
the illuminating smile in Anna’s eyes.

Lucidity comes
when I experience and acknowledge
the depth of Steve’s prayers,
the blunt, common sense of my Daddy,
the wisdom in Terri’s words,
the fortitude of Jennifer’s spirit,
the strength of Angela’s will.

Lucidity comes
when gentleness and strength complete a paradox,
when goodness is juxtaposed with danger,
when two minds track together,
when two puzzle pieces
connect and become a recognizable image,
when the notes played on our piano
become a familiar melody,
when laughter is spontaneous and uninhibited.

Synapses of time--
fleeting, transient
momentary intervals.

Eternity in pristine clarity.

Lucidity.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Perfect Christmas

Something dawned on me this week. The dawning was slow and gradual. The Holy Spirit had to bring me almost to the full light of dawn before I could even grasp what he was saying and explaining.

I have been on a mission that I didn’t even know I had undertaken. Somewhere in the far recesses of my mind I came up with this idea, and I started trying to carry it all to completion.

I realized on Monday that I cannot complete what I started.

I have been trying to create the perfect Christmas.

Not long ago I went with my daughters to see Four Christmases. I watched Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn’s characters have to navigate their multiple parent (as a result of divorce and remarriage) Christmases. The movie is hilarious. I laughed quite hard in several places as we were able to plug our own family members into the cast. But there were also some very insightful moments, and I found some unexpected resonation with both Reese and Vince and all of their big-screen dysfunction.

My family is incredibly different. We don’t do things like other families. Never have and most likely never will. We all seem to march to a very different rhythm and cadence. Sometimes our melodies are even played in minor chords (we add the black keys to our music often).

When people see us interact and carry out our lives together, they cock their heads like puppies who are hearing a very strange, high-pitched sound.

But this holiday season has brought some changes and some shifts in dynamics. Adjustments and rearrangements have been needed. Some of our traditions no longer fit where we are now. How we have always done some things just will not work anymore. And everyone is in their own place trying to decide how and when to handle the multiple scenarios.

I am a “fixer” by nature. I want everyone happy. I want everyone to have what they need and what they want. I don’t like conflict, and I don’t like change that produces conflict. Well, hello, in reality who does?

So, in the back of my well-intentioned, but misguided mind I decided I wanted to do my utmost to create the perfect Christmas considering all the circumstances. I started making mental lists. I began to revamp my whole holiday mentality based on the fact that we needed a new plan. Now, I didn’t realize this was exactly what I was doing. I just went into “fixer” mode. I was trying very hard to find ways for us not to fit any of the dysfunctional families portrayed in the movie or in real life.

I wanted the perfect tree, the perfect presents, the perfect open house, the perfect dinner, the perfect Christmas Eve schedule, and the perfect Christmas day. But I couldn’t find a definition of what those perfections would be.

My frustration level has mounted exponentially since Thanksgiving. Clarity was obscured. I felt like a woman who was quite used to wearing reading glasses, but suddenly her prescription changed over-night. I put my glasses on my nose thinking I would be able to see. I could see what was in front of me, but then I would look up and everything would be blurry.

In my quest for perfection, I lost sight of what really matters. We hear this all the time, don’t we? Christmas is about family, about friends, about the real meaning of Christmas.

The litany of the phrases to describe Christmas is endless and sometime sappy. Avoid commercialism. Remember the baby in the manger. Give to the less fortunate. Keep it simple.

And in this quest for the perfect Christmas I began to detect cynicism. I noticed a Scrooge attitude seeping through my broken traditional cracks.

And then three things happened.

My daughter’s Christmas List. I asked my younger daughters what they wanted for Christmas. One wrote her list and then shared it with me. Incredible. The insight into the essentials for this season was unbelievable. Wise and funny. Profound. I was moved and convicted.

This was the first of the Spirit’s clues:

“Tamera, the best parts of Christmas can’t be bought or wrapped, they must be experienced.”

My misunderstanding with another daughter. No matter how hard you attempt to make something perfect, it will not be perfect for everyone. I tried to do one thing new and in the course this decision hurt and frustrated others. Misunderstanding caused frustration and complicated communication. I realized that my relationships with my daughters are priceless to me. Priceless.

Second clue:

“Tamera, the people you love and hold close to your heart are the priceless part of Christmas.”

My Christmas present’s arrival. I ordered a gift for someone very special to me. I was so thrilled and delighted to have found something rare. A small gift, but so very important. Between the times I ordered it and its arrival I had forgotten my delight. I forgot the feeling I had when I clicked purchase. The package arrived in the mail this week. When I held it in my hands my delight returned and multiplied. A small thing, but it was the right thing for the person I had chosen it for—and it was better than I had hoped. I was so excited. I realized I had allowed cynicism to rob me of my delight in such simple pleasures.

Third clue:

“Tamera, delight is the magical ingredient of Christmas. Delight over the simplest of things.”

And then I understood. The goal is not about a perfect Christmas. My oldest daughter said it is about Christmas making sense. The clues of the Spirit made this season make sense for me. These truths released me from the stress of trying to create something that is not even necessary.

Christmas is to be experienced not orchestrated.

Christmas is about embracing priceless people not idealistic perfection.

Christmas is remembering to delight in the smallest of gestures and events.

I think I will get my perfect Christmas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Thanksgiving List

Today is Thanksgiving. From tradition we might believe this idea originated with the Pilgrims on the Massachusetts shore hundreds of years ago.

But my friend, David, from the book of Psalms understood this concept long before William Bradford and Mary Allerton.

“I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7:17

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

Today what presses on my heart and causes it to lift in thanksgiving?
Here is my Thanksgiving List. As usual there is really no particular order.

contentment
love
circles
daughters
Steve
vision
patience
hope
Angela
Terri
Jennifer
Denise
Andy
laughter
falling walls
professor's glasses
Sharon
filters
mornings
sighs
renewal
tenderness
New Testament Survey Class
idiosyncrasies
Betty
Abby’s discernment
memories—old and new
provision
Orion
surprises
7:00 a.m.
transparency
John Legend
Olivia’s bruised dancing feet
Abby’s gorgeous smile
Anna’s profound words
Katherine’s intense passion
neighbors
standing on tip-toe
Anna’s wisdom
connection
commonality
Joe
achieved goals
My daughters’ father
peace
Olivia’s wit
my Dad
dominoes
Southland
Katherine’s compassion
brothers
love languages
the library, my job, and the staff
Brenda
dreams and wishes
fairy tales
Crossroads
The Body of Christ
Mac
purpose
healing
faithfulness
quickenings
conviction
Did I mention my four daughters?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bend Low

“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear (bent down) to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2

O bend low, sweet God.

I am just a little girl
wanting you to
incline your ear to me.
Eager for you to
turn your head toward me.

I am a small child.

Persistently speaking,
wanting so much for you to hear.
Unabashedly touching
the hem of your sleeve.
Boldly tugging
for your undivided attention.
Wistfully longing
for your face to turn toward mine.

Bend down to me.
Please bend down, I pray.
You must bend because
even on my tip-toes I can not
reach that high.

Who are you to bend so low?
Who am I to ask?

You bend so low because you are my father.
I ask because I am your child.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Incognito


“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”

C.S. Lewis
—Letters to Malcolm

I have seen you.
In glassy, colored, concave mirrors—
just fleeting glimpses.
Perhaps they are nothing more than flash pan,
momentary impressions.
Maybe they are simply figments of my own
eager imaginations.

But in my peripheral vision
(the part of my sight not impeded
by preconceived ideas)
I see the back of you—

I think it is you.
I want it to be you.
I need for it to be you.

I run and try to catch you.
My feet pound the uneven, broken pavement.
The wake of your flying coat becomes
a pulling, drawing filament
connected to me.
I reach forward to grasp

the fleeting glimmer
The undulating wisp
The lingering aroma

of You.

I must follow—
compelled
by the shadowy images
on the backs of my eyelids.
I watch
for any clue
that you have been here.
I turn the corner
searching for the
trailing cloud of your glory**

You seem to elude me.

Are you in disguise?
Are you moving freely about
Incognito
wondering, hoping
your people will recognize you?

Are you delighted when we do?

Are you thrilled when we gasp
and drag in a breath of air?
Because in this brief breath-held moment
we see you face to face—
and you wink.
Then you smile and take off again
wanting and engaging us to follow.

You are traveling incognito—

What beautiful, varied, and tragic disguises you don.
You cloak yourself in the frailty and fragility of the human soul:

The grungy, ragged coat
the risqué, black lace
the four-button sweater
the designer suit
the wounded eyes
the hesitant caution
the polished façade
the angry defense
the pain-filled countenance
the loud bravado
the wary glare
the drug-induced stupor

Only those who will look
beyond and through these
will see you.

In the moment
we peer into
the concave mirrors of another soul--
what we see in their reflection will startle us.

And we will become fully awake.

In each other we will see you.

Incognito.



**William Wordsworth

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lovely Waste

During a dinner for Jesus and his disciples, a woman moved inward among the recliners at the table. Culture and tradition was forgotten. Hair unbound, eyes focused, hands trembling. She came toward Jesus with an alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. And of all things, she broke the jar and anointed Jesus, right then and there—in full view of them all. Then she took the act a step further: she dried his feet with her hair.

Scandalous, questionable, risky behavior.

You know the story. You have heard it from many angles.

A woman bent—kneeling at the feet of Jesus. She is scrutinized and criticized. In the eyes of many she is weighed and found wanting. She comes up short. Wasteful woman. Their words are derisive and condescending. And they discussed her as if she were not present.

Crazy woman. She doesn’t have a clue what she has just squandered. Immediately they deemed her act to have no value. There were too many other “good” things that could have been done. Even Judas made suggestions, and the others were in agreement. They turned to Jesus for his assessment.


Jesus remained silent. He did this often when the disciples made fools of themselves. He waited until the heat of their protestations had dwindled. He paused until the intensity of their overwrought reactions dissipated (remember the woman caught in adultery?)

And then he spoke. As usual they had missed the point.

She had opted to be extravagantly wasteful rather than piously good.

“Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

Some versions of Scripture translate the word beautiful as “good” or “beautiful”. This particular word has a slightly different nuance. It means “lovely, winsomely good, not just morally good (though this thought is present)".

“Leave her alone. She has done a lovely thing to me.”

The disciples are stunned. They stammerd and murmured at the rebuke. Once again their paradigm of value in Jesus’ kingdom is shifted and turned on its head. All their lives they had been taught to value the “good”. They had watched the Pharisees: pious and devout. And so their definitions of good evolved and revolved around the outward, religious acts of the Pharisees.

And of course we should take note. We should pay attention. We should be willing and even eager to be extravagantly wasteful for and toward Jesus.

But I have learned something else. Never would I have caught this truth had I not studied and pondered this dear woman’s sacrificial actions. I discovered the word kalos (lovely and winsomely good) as a result of studying her.

My God has always been good to me. Always. Since I was a young girl: lost and in utter darkness and profound poverty. His goodness has led me, guided me, conducted me, convicted me, compelled me, and corrected me. As I survey the last forty-some years of my life I see not just traces but rivers of this goodness flooded over me and my life.

Recently though, as I have assessed and weighed and pondered my life, I have found a tributary in his river I had never noticed. This tributary is an endless succession of blessing and intervention and grace: specific and detailed. It is so evident I wonder how I actually missed its presence, but I did. Then I realize why.

I questioned my God’s judgment. I have questioned his actions toward me. As he has poured out rich perfume on me I have protested. I have fussed. I have argued. Surely there is someone or something more worthy of his attention? Surely there is someone who deserves this lavish outpouring more than this crazy woman named Tamera—with all her flaws, issues, walls, and sins. Surely. My whining objections were loud, and my balking behavior was overwrought.

But he waited, in silence, for my protestations to dwindle and dissipate.

Then he spoke to me. As usual I had missed the point.

Leave me alone. I am doing a lovely thing for you.”

I am the recipient of the kalos of God.

My God, through Jesus, has been extravagantly wasteful to me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Redemption

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ…”
I Peter 1:18

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

Isaiah 43:1b



My God!

You have been my Redeemer.


Saving me from pitiful predicaments
—though many were created from my own weak will.

Rescuing me from perilous places
—though at times I have gone willingly and sometimes I have stumbled in the dark.

Ransoming me from the enemy
—though often my own choices brought me to his territory.

Protecting me from myself
—though often I have not acknowledged or taken responsibility for my poor
discernment.

The reality is your redemption does not end. It is not a one-time event in history. Your redemption is a continual theme in this brief story of mine.

But in the finite frailty of my humanness I could not comprehend that your redemption restores spoils I was unaware had been raided and plundered.

Your redemption of Tamera (and anyone reading these words) reaches back into the past and stretches forward into the future. Incredibly your redemption is also NOW. You are summoning me by name here in my present—in the daily profane and holy now of my life.

Your redemption leads to restoration far beyond what and where I was before. You will not take me to that place again. You will take me beyond—into the richness of your abundance—into the broadness and depths of your grace.

I am stunned

I thought I understood the beauty and joy of your redemption. I believed I had seen and experienced your riches. I thought I understood your bowl of blessing for me. I thought I had seen a glimpse of the trailing essence of your glory.

I was and am short-sighted.



Oh my God, correct my vision!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Crazy Beautiful Daughters

I have the most crazy, beautiful daughters.

And I am one of the richest women in the world because of them. They have blessed me far beyond my hopes. And they make me very, very proud to be their mama.

One sent me a Facebook message this morning. Simple, forthright, direct. And I could only smile and laugh. Her simple words were enough to last the whole day.

Another daughter called me this morning. We laughed and cried together. And we shared hard things and encouraged each other.

Then my younger daughters came down and hugged me—their beautiful faces were the first ones I saw this morning. I spend most of the day with them, yet I find myself wishing there were more hours in the day.

I am acutely aware of how very blessed I am.

My crazy beautiful daughters.

They are Unique. Gifted. Insightful. Passionate. Intelligent. Street-wise. Deep. Sassy. Energetic. Witty. Keen. Quick. Lovely. Edgy. Compassionate. Bohemian. Non-conformists. And they love Jesus.

When I was young I dreamed about being a mother. I had vivid daydreams about what my children would look and be like. My wildest most wonderful dreams could not touch the reality of who they are. I didn’t dream big enough.

My crazy beautiful daughters.

They inspire me.

They encourage me to be me.

They call me to a higher place.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eating Cake

I have returned from my adventure.

My cruise to the places of paradise is over--now hidden away in private thoughts and memories. I was forever changed during this trip not by some great and momentous event, but by little things building one on another.

I have many stories to tell, but you can only tell one story at a time.
Here's my first.

Eating Cake


He was just a little boy. We will call him John.
Tow-headed and fair. Sun-kissed.
Dressed in simple shorts and tee shirt.
His feet couldn’t touch the floor; they dangled and swung free and limp.
He balanced the plate on his lap; the cake tilted precariously (he wasn't a bit concerned that it might fall).

I watched him. Enthralled, I sat and stared at him (I know it was rude, but I just couldn't help myself).

The cake was three-tiered. White with layers of icing. Decadent, rich, and elegant. Others were eating the same kind of cake using forks in tiny manageable bites, but they didn’t interest me.

John ate the elegant cake with his little boy hands. He would pick up the whole wedge and take enormous bites from the section that reached his little mouth first—top or bottom it didn’t seem to matter. He would lick his lips (stretching his little tongue as far as he could) before each new bite.

I took photos and he didn’t even notice.

He had no napkin, so I waited to see what he would do when he finished.

He didn’t disappoint me.

He started at the base of his hand and licked all the way to the tips of his fingers. Several times. Then he licked his thumb and each finger one by one. Only then he was finished.

But I wasn’t.

I wanted a piece of cake (and I really don’t even like cake).

There in the Piazza of the Crown Princess I learned a lesson from a little boy I called John. I had to brush a few hot tears away as I quickly jotted notes down on a piece of paper I found in my bag.

John enjoyed his cake. Every crumb. Every morsel. He was not bound by decorum and etiquette. No one (not even his mother) handed him a fork. No one told him to go and get a napkin. No one told him he was taking too big of a bite. They simply let the little boy be and eat his cake.

I want to eat life like little John ate cake.

With relish.

With enthusiasm.

Without the restraints and constraints of what is deemed proper.

I want to sit somewhere and let my feet dangle and eat a piece of cake with my fingers and lick each one of them and laugh. Who am I kidding? I want to lick my whole hand and not miss even a smudge of icing.

If we treated our relationship with Jesus like little John treated his piece of cake--a whole lot more people would be interested in eating cake.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Violence

The birth of anything new requires the breaking or tearing of something old.

Snakes break through their too tight skin—wriggling and undulating in order to shed their faded, restrictive casing.

Butterflies split the transparent chrysalis—bursting it because their new selves cannot be contained. Their wings must unfold.

Birds crack the ivory shell—emerging so that they might step out on unsteady legs and dry their feathers.

Babies rupture the protective membranes (and sometimes tear our bodies)—entering the world and taking their first real breaths.

Tearing, rupturing, breaking, cracking, splitting.

This is violent language.

And it frightens us.

We don’t want to admit this. We want to avoid it.

We beg and plead for the process to be lessened or averted. We don’t want to be torn or broken.

There comes a time, however, when who we are no longer fits our skin, our shell, our fetal amniotic sac.

Deep inside we cringe because we cannot see beyond the violence. Our vision is too limited in scope and depth perception. We suffer from spiritual myopia: we are near-sighted; we do not see far.

Our fear often blinds us to the reality that this violent passage is essential for our growth toward wholeness.

We can be strengthened through the process of the tearing and the breaking.

The very struggle (if we allow it to happen and embrace it) releases what we will need in order to survive and thrive in the next stage of our metamorphosis.

Correct my vision, O God. Allow me to see far beyond the violence to the wholeness you have planned for me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Twenty Steps

Daily my friend battles a skulking wolf of a disease. This disease has devoured and ravaged her. Because she must constantly battle this disease she is left vulnerable to many others. The disease shows little mercy; often she must claw her way out of its grasp, and the grappling leaves her weary and worn.

This disease has imprisoned her in her own body. She is often confined to a wheel chair and home. Walking is a labor. It is a chore that must be crossed off of her to do list each day. She goes to PT twice a week in order to be able to walk very short distances on a cane or perhaps unaided. Most of us do not have to think about this rote activity, but for her it is a discipline to be endured each day in order to maintain even her limited physical freedom.

Yet she is full of self-effacing humor, bone-hard faith, bold assertiveness, and tenacious life. The disease leaves her no space to be timid or hesitant; instead it has honed her mind and spirit. She is an incredible writer and artist, and she is one of the most encouraging and challenging people I have in my life.

Yes, she is hindered and imprisoned by her body's incapability. She is limited, yet I have been moved by her insightful encouragement. Her blunt exhortation has challenged me to action on more than one occasion.

She has helped me to learn to laugh at myself. She has been quite fierce when I have fallen victim to my own warped perception of myself and situations. I think there have been a few times she considered reaching through the computer and snatching me bald-headed because of my own diseased thinking. She is one of my fiercest dragon slayers (see archives).

In late spring she called me and asked if she could come see me. She drove to my house. This was the first time she had driven in almost a year. Her medication deprived her of that luxury. And of all the crazy things, she came bearing gifts. With a delighted grin she told me to start opening them, and she told me in what order.

At the time I wasn’t aware she had been having email discussions with my daughters concerning these gifts. She had engaged them and her own family in this carefully planned event. I understand now just how strategically involved they all were.

Each gift contained a thoughtfully crafted and worded clue. With each one my heart began to soar. In the back of my mind I thought I knew what these clues were revealing, but I didn’t dare breathe in case I interpreted them incorrectly.

The last clue informed me we were going on a trip. Two forty-something women were going to embark on a journey together. My friend decided to put me right in the middle of the place I love the very most. We were going on a cruise—a seven day adventure in the middle of the ocean.

Her gift to me is full of generosity, but she has offered me more than an incredible vacation—she is giving me the opportunity for an adventure. She knows the soul of me. As she, her family and mine constructed this trip, she opened the chance for some of my dreams to become realities.

Despite the challenges of her disease she is the leader of this trip. She has been on several cruises, but someone else planned and led. This time she has made all the preparations, plans, itineraries, activities, plane rides, transfers, and excursions (and managed to get us a balcony room). I have simply watched and listened and smiled. (Actually I have shouted and laughed and grinned.)

We sail in October, and her goal is to be able to walk twenty steps alone before she will need to sit in her wheel chair again.

Twenty steps.

Count them. Get up from your computer and count out twenty steps and see how far it takes you.

She is concerned.

But I say twenty steps at a time, and I will be waiting with the wheel chair.

When she is ready we will walk in twenty step increments until we reach the plane. We will walk in twenty step increments until get to the ship. We will walk in twenty step increments until we get to our cabin. And then after I throw open the balcony doors, we will plop on the beds and laugh from our bellies.

We aren't going to think about the multiple sets that will be needed to circle the ship. No, we will think about each set of twenty steps and conquer those first.

Hopefully she will lean on me as I have often leaned on her.

We will ride on glass-bottom boats, and sit on the beach under umbrellas, and play with the sea lions. We will collect shells, sketch and write in our journals, drink something with a funny little umbrella. I hear we will eat a lot of good food! I will push her through the streets of the exotic towns we will visit, and she will help me haggle on prices for gifts for my daughters.

But there are some things she simply cannot do. She planned for me to do them anyway.

On an island in the Caribbean I will visit a lighthouse and climb to the top.

As I wind upward, I will stop every twenty steps and pray for her. When I reach the top and feel the warm breeze on my face and smell the briny salt on the air of the vast ocean below and beyond—I will laugh. Perhaps the sound will carry across the waves and come back to me.

And I will remember. I will remember the lessons God has taught me through her.

With his grace we can overcome by walking twenty steps at a time.

Twenty steps.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hollowed and Hallowed

I am clay.
Raw earth
Dug from a miry pit.
Unprepared, unready.
Pocked and punctuated with debris.

I am clay.
In order to be useful to the potter
I must be washed and filtered
until my murky water runs clearer.
Pounded, then wedged—
readied for the wheel.

I am clay.
In order to be something more
I must be given into the potter’s hands.
I must trust and allow him to position me.
My form will not be true
if I am not centered on his wheel.

I am clay.
In order to be something else
I must be molded by his controlled pressure.
I must be marked by his chosen tools.
I must be distinguished by the touch
of his capable and skilled fingers.

I am clay.
In order to become what I am meant to be
I must be malleable to the insistence of his hands;
I must not resist.
In mercy the potter will add water
to reduce the friction of the whirling wheel
and to increase the smoothness of my texture.

I am clay.
In order to have a greater capacity
The potter’s hands will plunge--
pushing out the interior of me.
The potter will form
the walls of this muddy vessel.
He knows my walls must be

extended

expanded

elongated

I am clay.
In order to hold more
I must be emptied.
The potter will hollow me
and gently increase my capacity.
Only then can I hold
(even for a brief moment)
more of him.

I am clay.
In order for me to be more than raw earth
You must hear my prayer, O Potter!
Enable me to surrender to your ministrations.
Help me to yield to your design.
Do not allow me to hinder you
as you create in me—
A vessel for your
hallowed purposes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dog Days

Yesterday began with an ordinary morning.

I did several chores, a few errands and then carried my books and drink to the yard. I called for the dogs to join me. They know the word out. If we don’t want them to go spastic we have to spell the word.

We spent part of the morning and early afternoon outside. We couldn’t stand being inside with walls and only window holes for the light to break through.

The sun was fierce. I could feel it touch and wrap around my arms and shoulders and face. Later my skin was pink, my shoulders were red because of how long I sat and allowed the blinding orb to kiss me.

There was a faint breeze—just enough to flutter the tops of the trees, but not enough to wave the grass. It was one of Kentucky’s hot, heavy August days. Humidity caused a haze. Butterflies floated. Birds sat very still in the trees. My dogs meandered lazily.

I called the dogs when I got settled. They surrounded me. They knew I had a treat—leftover chicken from making chicken salad and enchiladas earlier. They were eager like seagulls on the beach when you get rid of leftover bait. Birds hover; dogs circle. They know the drill. Henry, the youngest, sits first. Eyes eager, keen but gentle. Zoe waits until I give the command and then sits slowly; her gaze fixed on my face. Molly, the oldest, waits until my command is sharp. She knows I will be more lenient with her, and she takes advantage.

As I settled down to read and study, the dogs went to find places in the shade. They lowered their bodies slowly to the ground. Tongues lolled. They panted rapidly. Their ears were at half-mast. Molly rested under my chair, Zoe sprawled very close by, and Henry (who can’t be still for very long) nuzzled my hand with his damp nose.

The ground was dappled with shade and small green apples. I studied the branches of the tree; they were bent to the ground with the weight of the fruit.

Just an ordinary day.

I sat in a lawn chair in my yard—overgrown and gone toward wild. I have neglected its care for lack of time and knowledge.

Then the wind swept through. An unexpected, quick breeze came cooling the sheen of moisture on my neck and forehead. It lifted the pages of my notebook.

Wind blows where it will. We don’t know when or where. It is not ours to command.

Without warning tears rolled down my face. This startled me. Usually I know when I am going to cry. There are at least ten tell-tale signs. Not then. Tears mingled with the salty sweat, and I became the ocean I love so well.

Prayer escalated in my heart—there was no premeditation, no forethought. There had been no intention for my soul to rise to prayer, and yet it did.

It winged out on the wind.

Words and thoughts I didn’t even know I had been considering rose—lifted by the beauty and the utter simplicity of being outside on a summer day.

I remembered the grace of God. My God remembered me. (To remember in Scripture is far more than simple recall. Another post for another day.)

I didn’t understand the tumult and intensity of emotion I felt. It was bigger than me and came unbidden, but certainly not unwelcome.

And the Wind swept over and around me. I did not move from my chair, but my spirit did.

The Spirit moves and blows where the Spirit wills. Yesterday, the Spirit blew through my yard and danced joyfully around my inhibited soul and caught me off guard.

And my dog day of summer became anything and everything BUT ordinary.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beloved Chambers

Several things prompted this post:
A conversation with a friend,
a journal entry,
and several Scripture passages (Song of Songs 1:4; 2:6; 2:13b and 2:16a).


I long to be with you in your chambers, O Lord.
To be near you in your inmost places.
I want to hear your voice calling me—
To hear the swell of your voice beckoning me.

"Arise and enter my sanctuary, Beloved.
Come rest in me.
Come abide in me, Beloved.
Join me in the quiet places.”


The ancient doors of his chambers have opened wide.
I cannot resist his gentle, drawing voice.
Until I pass under his banner, the doors will stand ajar.
I will not refuse his gracious, engaging invitation.

In the deepest recesses of his chambers he waits for me.
He prepares the place for my slumbering stillness.

Who am I that the king would attend to me?

Oh, that he might stretch out his left arm,
I would lay down my head and be comforted.
Oh, that he might cover me with his right arm,
I would be embraced with security and strength.

Here, in him, I am safe—
Encircled, encompassed, enveloped.
Here, in him, I might hide—
Concealed, cloistered, captivated.
Here, in him, I will rest—
Restored, replenished, renewed.

Let me be content
in the cleft of your protection.
Let me satisfied
in your sheltering haven.
Let me remain
until you give me rise to move.

Then your right hand will lift me from my slumber,
and your left hand will guide me by the small of my back.

Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.

Oh, wait!

Who is he calling?

He is calling me.

I am his Beloved.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Glimpses and Glimmers

This past weekend I visited one of my most favorite places. My destination had nothing to do with geography and everything to do with presence.

My dear friend’s presence.

This visit was filled with incredible moments. Nothing earth-shattering. Perhaps mundane for some. But now, I have some comprehension of how precious and brief these moments really are. This visit I understood how quickly time would fly. I went intending to savor and enjoy my time with my friend and her family.

Because of this intentional perspective, the moments, when reviewed, are stained glass glimmers and glimpses—of the essence of heaven.

Deer.
Three.
A doe and two fawns.
Alert.
Wary and nimble.
Out of their element
they raced through the backyard.
The youngest child saw them first,
and she squealed, lest we miss them.
For an elusive moment they were framed in the picture window.
We ran from window to window, door to door
Following, watching.
Amazed to see something so out of place—
so unexpected and wild in the middle of domestication.

Bumblebees.
I stood in the hot sunshine and watched as fat bees hovered
and quarreled over the lavender blooms.
They pushed their furry heads deep in the elongated flowers.
Their wings glistened on their rounded backs.
They hummed and buzzed.
I wanted to pet them.
Stroke their striped backs like I do my Zoe-dog.
And I did.
I reached out my finger slowly.
I smoothed the bee’s head and back.
I did this more than once, and they let me.

Butterfly bush.
Frilly and delicate.
Dew was still on the ground,
and two jewel-colored, iridescent birds
hovered like tiny aircraft.
Their long beaks drank deeply.
They never did alight, but held their bodies aloft.
I watched from the front door.
I knew my movements would cause them to flit away,
And I wanted them to stay.

Blue bicycle.
Simple—no extra gadgets.
Eagerness welled up in me like a geyser.
Too many years had passed since I had been on a two-wheeler.
My daughter encouraged,
You should ride, Mom.
They say you don’t forget; you don’t.
I rode and was surprised my balance was still intact.
As I went around the court and down the long street,
I remembered how to lean.
No hand-brakes. I had to pedal backwards to slow and stop.
I was enthralled with the motion my own body created.
The atmosphere around me was surreal and stretched.

Ballet Lessons.
An outdoor performance.
Lawn chairs and a grass stage.
My daughter, the ballet mistress;
My friend’s granddaughter, the student.
A juiced-up I Love Lucy episode.
Remember when Lucy decides to be a prima ballerina?
This was funnier.
The skit—totally improvised.
Unrehearsed. Unedited.
Stomach in, bottom tucked.
Chin up. Neck long.
Pull knees up. Heels together.
We laughed until our sides hurt.

Basketball.
Eight of us gathered in the street.
And a precious, wonderful young boy—
confined to a wheelchair—schooled us all.
Sweet spots and failed jump shots.
Ribbing and teasing.
A great deal of smack talk.
But the boy’s shots were true.
His long arms snaked out and grabbed the ball.
Broad shoulders and long fingers sent it arching high.
Airborne before any of the rest of us reacted.
I wanted him to be able to stand,
and just for a moment to be like that ball—
free and unfettered.

Balance.
Two women.
Friends engaged eye to eye.
Listening.
We know each other.
Twenty-one years of knowing.
This provides comfort and ease much
like a favorite pair of jeans or tennis shoes.
You know they are going to fit.
Through frequent wear they have adapted to our body.
Together we have created this garment of friendship.
Tears and laughter have been woven into the weft of the fabric.
We have tried to listen to what was spoken in the silence.
We have attended to each others lives.


Incredible stills of the essence of life.

Candid photos of the beauty and simplicity of reality.

Glimpses and glimmers of heaven.



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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Directed Passion--Part 4

But God can see far past the shadows. For darkness is as light to him.

God, in his infinite grace and mercy, did not leave David to be completely devoured by his rabid passion. He sends Nathan to tell a story which will re-ignite the light of David’s passion. Nathan narrates the story simply and clearly. And ‘David burned with anger against the man…’ (2 Samuel 12).

Then David’s passion fueled his repentance.

There is a moment when we look at our reflection in the eyes of another or in our own mirror and we don’t recognize the face staring back at us. When Nathan first swiveled the mirror around, David did know who he was seeing. His misplaced, mistimed, misdirected passion had altered the landscape of his spirit and face.

I understand David. I have had passions which slid into obsessions. Longing for intense and intimate connections, I have directed my passion onto others. They could not sustain, maintain, absorb or diffuse it.

I want to learn from David.

When I read the Psalms, I hear David’s voice speaking for him and for me. When I am angry, lonely, happy, mad, frustrated, elated, disillusioned, afraid, apathetic, or joyful I read David’s journals. And that is exactly what the Psalms are—the personal prayer journals of David.

O my God, I long for the deepest of intimacies with you. I yearn for an unsevered connection. Come, sustain and maintain what we already have. I do want more—increase the passion of my wild faith. I trust you with it. I know you do not want to domesticate or tame this wild and unruly part of me. This is a part of the Wild Faith you have called me to…this is a part of the weft and warp of who I am.

Show me the difference between enthusiasm and passion. Some situations need enthusiasm, and some elation, and there are some which deserve passion. Please give me keen discernment to recognize and understand the difference.

Only you can absorb this intense passion of mine. Only you can direct, place, and time it so that it is beneficial and extraordinary, rather than destructive and banal. O God, open up places and opportunities for my passion to bring you glory. Take my shoulders and point out to me with great exaggeration what direction it should follow. Reveal to me the fullness of your timing so that I and others will not be scorched by its flames. And when my passion burns down to embers, please reignite its light.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Directed Passion--Part 3

We left off at a hard place in the last Passion Post. I didn't want to stop there. But sometimes we must stop in the dark, hard places to allow our eyes to acclimate.

What happened? What happened to the Shepherd-Poet turned King? His passion was his defining attribute.

David misplaced, mistimed, and misdirected his passion.

Passion misplaced.
The recipient of David’s passion could not sustain or maintain the intensity of the connection. Bathsheba’s whole world collapsed under the weight of David’s passion.

The people in our lives cannot sustain this kind of passion. For a season they may bear up under its weight, but eventually they will collapse. And this will leave us disillusioned and crush them. Only God can sustain the intensity. Only he can maintain the connection.

Passion mistimed.
Passion cannot remain idle for long.

Israel was involved in a tumultuous and ugly season of war. David’s choice to remain behind and uninvolved in the movement of his army put him in a place of temptation. Boredom and restlessness led him to take a walk on the palace roof when he should have been on the front lines with his army. Bathsheba became the receptacle for David’s distracted and diverted passion.

Passion misdirected.
David’s excess energy (a by-product of such incredible passion) was directed toward someone who did not have the means or the ability to absorb or diffuse it.

Like a bird of prey, David stood on his roof. With keen vision he saw Bathsheba. Instead of looking away, he fixed his eyes on her and swooped, snaring her in his talons. (In this post we are only discussing David’s passion and choices. Bathsheba is another post for another time). Bathsheba could not diffuse David’s passion. She could not shield herself from its heat or its destruction. It absorbed her.

And beautiful, handsome King David weaves a deceptive and convoluted web. He does not see the consequences which loom on the horizon.

A dark shadow falls over the house of David.

Eyes of Joy

The eye is the lamp of the body.
If your eyes are good, your whole body
will be full of light.
Matthew 6:22

...You will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb
and swell with joy...
Isaiah 60:5a

God will give you the treasures
of the darkness,
riches stored in secret places...
Isaiah 45:3a

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Directed Passion--Part 2

Exuberance and enthusiasm can build excitement, but will often leave others unchanged beyond the exhilarating moment. Passion stirs, digs, pushes, pulls, grips, draws, touches—by its very presence others are moved and changed.

Remember David? His life was charged with passion. He was fiercely intense and embraced life with a ferociousness which caused some to cringe, shudder and mock. The manifestations of David’s passion annoyed and even frightened many.

I & 2 Samuel relate the stories of the outward events and people of David’s life. Read through the Psalms. They give utterance to the inward landscape of who David was. We feel his intensity; we feel the depth and enormity of his posturing and attitude. Every psalm David penned has a dark and brilliant passion to its ink.

Passion permeated his life. Passion animated David.

David’s intensely intimate connection with God changed the landscape of who he was. And it affected his behavior.

David is known for his risqué procession down the packed streets to Jerusalem—scantily robed and quite unaware of the crowd.

David was so absorbed, so consumed, so involved in his worship of God that he was oblivious to the sneer and mockery of his wife. He was unconscious of the embarrassed whisperings of his army as they watched their leader cavort and gambol before the Ark.

In this moment I am not sure David was even aware of himself—he was aware only of the recipient of his passion: The Holy One of Israel. God.

There were other highlighted moments of passion for David:

David’s reaction to the boastings and challenges of Goliath was zealous and vehement.

David’s love and loyalty to Jonathan was unexpected and unforeseen.

David’s emphatic protection of Saul was uncommon and politically suicidal.

David’s unconditional acceptance of Mephibosheth was compassionate and honorable.

Yet, there is a dark side of David’s passion. God did not blot this shadow from David’s story. God does not hide the flaws of his people, even if the flaws branch from their virtues. (We have tried to hide the flaws.)

David’s reaction to Nabal’s negligence and rudeness was violent and instinctive (justified—yes, but not redemptive). Only the shrewd and wise Abigail curbed and rerouted David’s passion in this situation.

And then there is David and Bathsheba: the dark, seductive and taboo story. David’s desire was immediate and demanding. This was a connection based not on intimacy, but on lust and power.

David’s passion consumed him. His beautiful, rich, and productive passion turned and devoured him.

Why? Because passion slid into obsession. David lost his focus. His eyesight blurred and his hearing faded. Suddenly he was blind and deaf. And David stumbled. With each attempt to diffuse the situation he spiraled downward. He was caught in the vortex of his passionate lies and schemes. His own choices swallowed him whole.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wild Faith--Directed Passion

Part 1



I have been holding this facet of Wild Faith close to my heart for months. How can one write of something so personal and so intimate? How can one convey passion when the definitions and interpretations are so varied and so warped?

I talked to a friend about this post and told her I was struggling to express and discuss my thoughts concerning this part of Wild Faith. She said, “You must write with bare honesty.”

Bare honesty.


This proves to be difficult. In order to discuss passion I must battle self-censorship.

For many passion is a taboo concept attached to the sexual realm. Passion is associated with the prolific romance novels—with seductive covers and questionable content. Fantasy.

Or it is used flippantly in regards to enjoyments and interests. The concept has been prostituted much as our word love has. Over-used and diluted.

These associations have made it so common and banal, thus allowing it to maintain only a one-dimensional definition. How horrible to cheapen something so extraordinary.

Frequently passion is misidentified. It is not just excitement or enthusiasm or exuberance. (Although these are often present) These wane because they are rooted in circumstance. We mistake fluctuating zealous emotions for the attitude and posture of passion. We suppress passion's manifestation because the intensity frightens us; we fear being labeled a fanatic. Often we do not recognize its essence.

Passion is an intensely intimate connection which profoundly pervades and changes the inner landscape of who we are, therefore affecting what we do.

Passion is kairos, not chronos.
Passion is boundless, not limited.
Passion is animated, not theatrical.
Passion is useful, not utilitarian.
Passion is proficient, not sensible.

Passion cannot be summoned, it must be beckoned.
Passion cannot be explained, it must be experienced.
Passion cannot be contained, it must be released.
Passion cannot be defined, it must be lived.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Bird

I woke early this morning. I always do, but this morning was even earlier than usual. I started the computer, fixed my granola yogurt, and checked my email. I even IMed with a dear friend.

She warned me a storm was coming.

I opened my blinds. I wanted to see what was brewing. A powerful storm cell was moving toward my house. I could hear and smell the rain. The slate gray sky was heavy and low.

I left off all the lamps. Only the strange, pale light of the storm lit my den. I observed the arrival through the spattered windowpanes.

I listened to the stillness—only the clicking of my computer keyboard and the hum of the air conditioner broke the hushed silence of the early morning. They intruded.

With expectation and eagerness I waited for the fullness of the storm to arrive.

There, the lightning—a jagged bolt. So quick I almost missed it. The eye was still far away; the thunder did not ride closely on its heels.

I waited.

At last I heard the first low rumbles of thunder. Rain bounced on the street.

Another flash—fierce and immediate. This time thunder was just a mere breath behind. I couldn't even say one thousand and one between the flash and the punch.

Suddenly, I wanted to go to the porch. I didn’t just want to watch the storm go by.

The cool wind hit me as soon as I stepped out my front door. I stopped just under the eaves.

Hesitating. Debating.

My inhibitions and my passion battled.

Perched like a small bird on a branch, I clung to the edge of the porch boards with my bare toes. The wind blew the rain in, and I fluttered and shivered.

Tentatively I stretched my arm past the overhang of the roof. The rain hit my hand and ran in cold rivulets down the length of my bare arm.

The inner dialogue continued.

Just step out, Tamera.
Step off the porch and into the rain.

Lightning was tight and frequent now. Thunder rolled across the sky like ripples in a rug being smoothed on the floor.

I kept watching the street. No traffic. The doors of all the neighboring houses were shut tight. Blinds were closed.

Rain pelted.
Lightning flashed.
Thunder grumbled.

The storm was passing by—my chances would soon begin to wane. No more thinking, no more debating, no more hesitating.

At the height of the storm—I pushed off the edge of the porch and flew into the storm.

I stood in the rain on the sidewalk with my face upturned. I drank in the cold, hard rain. It ran down my face and neck soaking my red shirt. I stepped in the puddles on the sidewalk and laughed. I lifted my arms toward the dark, slate gray sky. Then I twirled around and around at the edge of the street, so very glad to be me.

I had flown into the middle of the storm.

And while I was there I danced.

Exhilaration. Elation. Emancipation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Year

On July 22, 2007, I took a risk.


Three hundred and sixty-five days ago I decided to follow some very wise advice.


Write.

Today this blog is one year old.
Thank you.
Thank you for visiting.
Please come again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Focal Point

Breathe, Tamera.

In through your nose, out through your mouth.

Deep cleansing breath.

I heard these phrases many times during my twenties. I have four daughters. And these words became a mantra that colored the second decade of my life. Each birth event was different and had its own unique story. And the details of the births foreshadowed the distinct personalities of each Daughter today.

During my first pregnancy, we attended Lamaze classes. We absorbed all the instructions and practiced all the techniques, but we had no grasp of what the reality would actually entail. I heard the horror stories and simply tried to shut my mind to them. I listened to the barrage of complaints and grumblings and fear-induced panics from both mothers and fathers. I knew the circumstances of my own birth and had been near during the birth of my much younger sibling. I knew what I did NOT want.

I was determined my children’s births would be different

Sifting through all the stories and all the information, I quietly prayed. I skimmed and perused some of the pamphlets given by the Lamaze coaches. I read recommended books and even suffered through the required childbirth video.

I was told I would need to have a focal point. Something in the room to fix my eyes and mind on during contractions. This something could be brought from home—a photo, a piece of art, an object. Later, after our second daughter was born, I realized that the purpose of this object was to encourage the laboring mother to keep her eyes OPEN.

When you close your eyes, pain intensifies. Inclination and instinct shuts our eyes tightly against pain. If we detect pain’s possible presence we wince and squint our eyes against the inevitable.

When you close your eyes during childbirth all the pain surges to the center of you and takes a fierce hold—squeezing and contracting you in a pain you have never encountered before (But you will again. The pain switches to your heart as they grow. The contractions seem quite familiar, and these are the ones the dad experiences also.)

During labor you are in the midst of a swirling and mounting darkness that only increases in intensity. What is merely two minutes to your partner (as they watch the monitor or the clock) seems to be two hours to you, and you lose the ability to distinguish the length or breadth of time.

With my oldest daughter, the nurses allowed my Pitocin drip to go too high. Instead of rising and falling contractions, with actual peaks and valleys, my monitor tape read one continuous contraction. I was given little reprieve. Very little time to catch my breath. The pain was relentless. I think the girls’ father thought my head was going to spin. I remember crying quietly—inside myself. Or so I thought.

With all my daughters’ births my focal point was not a visual object. The coaches and nurses fussed about this. My focal point was a voice. One particular voice in the swirling darkness. I only listened to that voice. My doctors knew this. They didn’t bother to speak to me during labor and delivery. They gave instructions to my partner—my daughters’ daddy. His voice managed to break through the darkness. I listened because I knew the tones and levels of intensity in his voice. I listened. The volume never, ever changed. Always right at my ear. I never once remembered seeing his face, but his voice never wavered.

Laboring in childbirth is a thin-slice of life.

For years I kept my eyes tightly closed. In my early to mid-thirties the contractions were spaced and tolerable. During the latter half my thirties and the beginning of my forties the contractions rolled relentlessly over me. Little reprieve and little breathing room. My head did spin. And I did cry.

I was living with my eyes closed—in the dark with the pain.

But this caused me to turn inward. Instead of encountering and confronting and exploring the pain, I was often overcome by it.

The writer of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2) tells me to fix my eyes on Jesus.

My focal point.

Often I can’t see his face, but I am fixed on his voice. In the midst of swirling, mounting darkness, his voice has always been the undercurrent in my ear. Always whispering at my shoulder (Isaiah 30:21). Recently I have attempted to turn down the volume or mute every other voice in my life. I want to hear with greater clarity.

It has taken me a while to open my eyes, but they are open.

I have returned to the lessons I learned during hard, transitional labor.

Breathe, Tamera.
In through your nose, out through your mouth.
Deep cleansing breath.
Open your eyes.
Find your focal point.

I found him.

I hear him.

I will see him.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Entrance

With an embarrassed and reluctant confession I realize I have not engaged in an intimate exchange with you in a long time.

This long time cannot be measured by the calendar or the clock.

I talked to you last night. Breathing prayers as my eyes began to close after a full day. Words melded together and became an incoherent mumbling inside my head, and then I was gone. But you were not. You remained. Hovering—just as you did long ago over the face of the deep.

I think you breathed on me in the night—because I awoke this morning longing for your presence. Hungry for a glimpse of your face. Eager to enter your presence.

I woke longing for your word to penetrate and bring order to my chaos. I woke desiring our conversations go beyond simple maintenance and rote liturgy. I woke with my lungs full and needing to exhale. I came awake yearning to move past the expected and required into a place of mystery and anticipation.

Your breath was my invitation to enter your presence.

There is a mindful, intentional choice to inhale deeply. Our shallow breathing is involuntary. We simply must do this to exist. Deep breathing is by choice. It is intentional and takes time and effort.

Engaging someone in a conversation and entering a room are intentional choices.

Choices I often fail to make.

For whatever reasons there are days I simply walk by your throne room. There are days I glance in, hesitation hindering my forward movement, and then I walk on. There are days when I camp out at the opening of the door.

Shallow breathing.

How Hannah (I Samuel) would have longed to have the freedom I do. She sunk down at the opening in the temple (the last opening that as a woman she could walk through) and prayed for a son. At that door she prayed and pushed her prayers all the way through to the Holy Place—through to the Holy of Holies. Hannah prayed until old Eli thought she was drunk. She was so deep in her conversation with you; she was totally unaware of anything going on around her. She pushed through the barriers that barred her from your presence. She entered your throne room, and she had an intimate conversation with you—unbound by the fetters of time or place.

And here I am. I have been given access all the way through to the Holy of Holies because of Jesus. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to sit and wait at the door.

You anticipate my arrival. Your scepter held—waiting to extend it to me. And yet, I walk by the entrance too many times a day.

In the back of my mind and on the edges of my soul and the periphery of my spirit, I hear you. I am aware of you. Utterly aware. You hover, and I feel the the rippling of your hum.

How long? How long, O God, has it been since I have seen you in your sanctuary? How long has it been since I have seen your train in the temple and trembled in awe because I was in your presence? How long since I have pushed through disregarding the fetters and boundaries?

How long since someone thought I was drunk?

You are beckoning me to enter. I see the tip of your scepter, and then I look beyond and I see the kindness and grace in your eyes.

There is no condemnation for all the ignored invitations. There is no censor for the many times I have walked by and not entered. There is no criticism for the feeble and shallow excuses I make.

No, there is only now and this invitation. Your breath is an extension of hospitality for me to come. There are no guards barring my entry. I will not be asked probing and interrogating questions before the way is opened to me.

You are waiting.

Deep breaths.

Deep breaths.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wishes and Desires

A couple of nights ago I could not sleep. I got up and came down to write. I started writing about my daughters. Abby turned thirteen this week. My youngest daughter is now a teenager. How extraordinary. A paragraph came, but the piece was not ready.

The words were jumbled in my mind. Random. Chaotic. Phrases--snatches of thought--unfinished. Articulation eluded me. My tongue mute. I could not traverse the path from my mind, to my fingers, to the screen.

Sometimes if I just simply write and give myself permission to freely associate then the words come.

Someone reminded me that God's ways are not ours, and of course, ours are not his.

My random associations made me think of Daughtry's song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIUw4ZS1J_A

Every time I listen to this song it becomes a prayer. The truthful lyrics are far more about desires than about wishes.

This thought led me to think about Psalm 37:4.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Desires are not the same as wishes.

Wishes are evanescent and ethereal--beautiful bubbles that silently explode when they touch your hand. Desires are solid and substantial. Desires can be dangerous. They take root. They go deep.

My wishes fluctuate and vacillate. I am flippant with my wishes. I toss them around lightly—unconcerned where they land. Like the bubbles wishes are transient pleasures--momentary prisms. But my desires are established. Enduring prisms that have been intentionally cut. They are sharp and have edges. And I hold them very close.

Then the connection came: if I delight in Him, then the pattern of my thinking will slowly change. My thoughts will be brought closer to the reality of His. And then the wishes have a chance to mature and become his desires. And light will play on the planes of the prism.

Daughtry says be careful what you wish for...but God says, "You have not because you ask not."

Sometimes I forget to ask him anything at all. I just simply sit and play with bubbles.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Daddy's Girl

I met my Dad and Brenda (my wonderful stepmother, not anything like Cinderella’s) for lunch today. They were on their way back to their house in northern Kentucky from their farm in eastern Kentucky. My dad called ahead and asked if we could have lunch with them.

My relationship with my Dad has just been restored in the last year. And as I have said in earlier posts this has been one of the greatest blessings my Father God has given me.

Today brought me a gift I will cherish forever.

We walked into Arby’s, and I was trying to get my dad to go first. I was going to buy my own lunch and was trying to subtly stay behind so that I could do so. I put my hand on my dad’s shoulder and tried to move him forward. He did the same to me. I protested.

For the first time that I can ever remember I got the “look” from my dad. Yes, the Dad Look. I have seen my own daughters receive this look many times. But I have never been on the receiving end. I was thrilled. I was gently, but firmly reprimanded by my dad. And the joy in my heart started as a small bubble and almost burst.

In Arby’s, standing at the front counter, I realized I am a Daddy’s Girl. I am a forty plus year old woman and I have just made this discovery. He is my Dad. Not a soul in the world can take this away from me. Not even my own poor choices or ill mistakes. Not even my stubbornness can take this right and privilege away.

I am so excited about this Father’s Day. The day is about fathers, but this year I will be rejoicing because of my new status: Daddy’s Girl.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rain Dance

One morning earlier this week we had a storm pass through our area. In the early hours when the sky was still black, the storm started brewing. I was awake. I heard the rumbling, grumbling hints of what was to come.

I sleep with my window open. Mostly because it is just plain hot in an upstairs room when the outside temperatures start to climb. I also love the night’s orchestra. I like to hear the high whine of the train and the jumbled chorus of insects, and the patter of the local raccoon who thinks my front roof is her personal deck.

When dawn came the storm was in full force. The open window provided the perfect acoustical frame to hear and see with some relative safety. I do love storms (although my poor Zoe-dog does not; I heard her whimpering in her crate).

I laid there and began to wonder and ponder why I love storms. I do not remember ever being afraid. (I might have a connection because of the tornadoes that tore through Kentucky in the early ‘70s. One of them took the front porch off our small trailer—while we were in it.) The movie Twister has always intrigued me.

I am fascinated by the play and power of the lightning. The rolling, swelling thunder. The hushed silence. The pounding rain. The swaying trees. The unique scents.

Needless to say, I was content that morning.

I was content until a friend emailed me. They remembered how much I liked the rain and storms. This surprised me. But their subtly veiled challenge surprised me more.

Life is not about watching the storm go by…it’s about learning to dance in the RAIN.”

Often, for whatever reasons, we are content to watch the storm from our open windows. Sometimes we even get bold enough to venture to the front porch. We sit on the swing or in a lawn chair as if we were at a gigantic natural drive-in. But we are still observers. The lightning cracks and we jump. We feel the gravely thunder deep in our chests. And the wind carries the misty rain over and around us.

And we watch the storm go by.

My friend cut very close to the quick of who I am. This one sentence dismantled my content and exposed some of the hidden longings of my heart.

There is risk in stepping out into the storm and dancing in the rain. You get wet. You are exposed. The wind is no longer playful, but powerful. The lightning is no longer just an incredible show, but dangerous. The rain is no longer refreshing, but lashing.

We will come to a place where we can choose to observe or to participate. In observing we stand on the periphery of life. We keep our chairs pushed back and our umbrellas beside us. We cannot participate fully from the edge. We cannot completely engage the elements of a storm through an open window or from a covered porch.

I have several friends who are coaxing me to come out into the rain. Some of them smile and motion for me to join them. Others are teasing and playfully goading me to come off the porch. Others just simply play in the rain and every once in a while they look at me and wink. A few have even grabbed my hand and pulled me down the first couple of steps ignoring my arguments and hesitations.

And I am moved. I know observation is just not enough. I want to be wet. I long to let go to the utter abandon of a child. I long to be in the midst of the storm rather than on its edge.

If we want to participate, we must learn to dance in the rain.

Consider my friend's wise words.

I did.

I had my first dancing lesson this week.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rosetta Stones

In 1799 Napoleon’s army made an incredible discovery. They uncovered a 1,000 pound plus black stone. This stone was engraved with three languages including the enigmatic Egyptian hieroglyphs.

For years and years many tried to translate this ancient Egyptian language—pictures without meaning. A mystery, unknown and closed. Then in 1822 Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered the key to the translation of the stone. What was unknown became known.

I have always been enthralled with this great black rock—intrigued by its mystery and the diligence and tenacity Champollion employed as he worked on the translation. I can only imagine the moment when the ancient script began to unfold to Jean-Francois. I can vaguely resonate with the anticipation when the key clicked the lock over and the text became readable—alive.

God is good.

There has to be a better word, a greater concept to convey him. There is not. I cannot articulate him in the confines and finiteness of my own language, even if someone could watch and the language became animated. No, I am limited: every analogy, every metaphor, every description falls short. Each one can only be stretched so far.

Yet, I am incredibly aware that Jesus is our Rosetta Stone. He came to translate God to his people--to us. He came to help us comprehend what seemed to be a complete and closed mystery. He became flesh and dwelled among us so he might translate. He was the translation. When he was finished he sent his Spirit to continue the task.

For a brief time we are on this stage of history, and we are to become smaller Rosetta Stones. And like Champollion, Annie Sullivan and Louis Braille—we are to shed a brief and narrow light on a text that sometimes seems unreadable and enigmatic.

I want my whole life to become a living translation—about you and for you. Let who I am become a metaphor to reveal a little more of you to others. May your Spirit expand, increase, and enable me not only to translate the words and the text, but to help interpret the very nuances of this language. Help me to somehow make the unknown--known.

Enable me to not only speak, but also to think in this language—


I want to be fluent.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Afternoon Prayer

Heavenly Father, renew a right spirit in me—make me as white as snow.

Expand me. Stretch me. Increase my small capacity to hold more of you. I am narrow and confined, but I long to be wide and deep.

How long, O God, has it been since I have seen you in your sanctuary? How long has it been since I have seen your train in the temple and trembled in awe because I am in your presence?

We do not shrivel in your presence, O God. We are not diminished—we are expanded and made to see our own value because of the enormity of yours. The enemy seeks to demand our cowardice and shriven natures to surface. He condemns us. He demeans and undercuts us. He makes us feel unwelcome and despised in your presence.

No! There is no condemnation for those who are attempting to abide in Jesus. Only conviction. You do not demean or devalue us. You lift us up into your arms, brush off the dirt and grime—and your fatherly spit cleans our dirty, urchin faces.

And that is what I have been—an urchin. Dirty. Grimy. Filthy. Searching for sustenance. God, gather this urchin (and all the others like me) into your arms and whisper your realities in our ears.

Amen

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Rosary

I went to sleep last night to the rhythm of the rain. And sleep came quickly. My Zoe-dog was curled in the crook of my legs (she was hoping my daughter would forget to escort her to her crate for the night). I woke early this morning—before dawn. Rested, but restless.

This is the month of May. A month that marks significant milestones in my life. Boundary stones placed by choice and by default. Many of my firsts and lasts have occurred in this month. Needless to say this is the month of contemplation and reflection.

Like worn rosary beads I am clicking these stones through my fingers—rolling, rubbing, and turning each one. These stone beads evoke a myriad of emotion: melancholy, delight, sadness, doubt, joy, frustration, eagerness, hunger, and confusion. Several beads have been added in the last year and still have rough and sharp edges. I have been on this earth for forty-two years and there have been some years I have added only one bead and others I have had to add ten. My string got a lot heavier and a lot longer this year.

I keep rubbing and rolling.

Some of the stone beads are still completely unfamiliar and foreign. Eventually time and friction will make them relatively smooth and utterly familiar. But right now they seem to be too large for the string—out of place and out of sync. My natural inclination is to try and rearrange the beads, to unstring them and resort—according to size. (This is how I organize my books, not alphabetically or thematically, but by size.) I just want to untie the string and start all over again. Impossible. Between each bead is a knot—securing the position and order of the beads. I can’t untie the knots—the string would break.

Instead I just keep praying. Isn’t that what a rosary is for? Prayer.

Sometimes it is just rote prayer…prayed out of a lifetime of habit. And yet, that is the very purpose of these strings. To help us remember. Slide a bead, say a prayer. Often they enable us to remain in the habit of prayer. Prayer without ceasing.

Lately I have been looking at my rosary closely. I have done this before—too many times to count, but my purpose was to examine to find fault or flaw. I would look at each bead individually. (Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?) Scrutinizing the size, the color, the weight, the shape. The result of this examination would often be dissatisfaction, guilt, pride, self-condemnation, self-flattery, depression, elation. Often just a warped and biased perspective.

This year has changed that perspective. One of my daughters told me she had an epiphany this week. Epiphanies sneak up on you. They catch you unaware. And I have had one of my own.

Every one of my beads is significant. The range of color is astounding—matte black, dull gray, dirty white to deep red, shadowed purple, vivid orange. But it is the combination of these stone beads that creates the interesting and unconventional beauty.

If I follow my natural inclination and see only one bead at a time—all I see are the cracks, flaws, discrepancies, and fault lines. They just seem to be a random jumble. My idea of symmetry and balance is very narrow. But when I look at the whole string, then I see the pattern.

The epiphany?

I can’t unstring this rosary of mine. I can’t change the order of the beads. I can’t even change the color or the texture of them. But I can learn to recognize the value and beauty of the string. I can use it to look at myself soberly—and to allow God to change my warped and biased perspective. I can use it to pray. And as I am rolling and rubbing, I can ask God for grace to accept and embrace the order and the symmetry of the stone beads.

I have discovered an incredible truth.

My rosary is a functional, purposeful, and beautiful piece of art.

Maybe you should take another look at your rosary...

Yes, it is beautiful.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Perfect or Whole?

Lately I have been a part of many discussions about perfection.

As a result of these discussions, I decided to post part of an email I sent to a precious new friend of mine.

Ruth has forever been one my most favorite books of the bible. A couple of years ago I taught this book at my home church. An incredible group of women assembled for this study. If ever I believed God gave me a message to share it was in that season. During one of the group sessions I broke a clay pot with a towel-covered hammer as an illustration of how we are often broken. Even as I carried out that illustration I was experiencing brokenness in my own life. My life was splintered...and the shards were scattered.

In Ruth, Naomi was broken to shards...her life was shattered. She had to leave her home, go to a foreign country, her sons married foreign wives, her sons died, her husband died..and she was left with two foreign daughters-in-law. One of those left her also.

Many think the book of Ruth is just about Ruth. In some ways it is, but the sub-plot (and just as important or maybe more so) is how God makes Naomi WHOLE again. Piece by piece he restores her...her life does not look exactly the same. But at the end of the book we see Naomi--restored and whole.

I have struggled with perfectionism all my life. And I have really fought this demon over the past year. All my preconceived notions of what a Christ-follower looks like have been altered. I once believed Christians do not get divorced. Maybe in a perfect world. But I am not perfect. I cannot attain the kind of perfection the world or the religious community expects.

But you see God is quite merciful...and through the past year he has been showing me that his definitions of perfection are always different.

The original words for perfection in Scripture have the underlying meaning of wholeness and completeness. I can be perfect by this definition.

God will perfect me--he is making me whole. And, friends, he will make you whole.

God will take all the shards--and I told the Ruth group--he numbers them so that not one piece is lost or unaccounted. And he uses these very pieces to make us complete.

We (our lives) may not look the same; we may look utterly different, but I guarantee if God puts the pieces back together we will be perfected as he wants us to be.

What will it be for you?

Whole or perfect?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wild Faith: Uninhibited Love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18

I approach this element of wild faith with trepidation. I must fight the maudlin emotion I am so often prone to experience and express.

How does anyone write about uninhibited love? One of my favorite bloggers wrote about this kind of love recently. Because I have been writing about Wild Faith, this piece had been saved, and after I read theirs I was reluctant to finish mine. But their thoughts made me think, ponder, and evaluate.

I have often failed miserably to love the people in my life who most needed and deserved it. How can I speak of such?

I have been most inhibited with the people I love and have loved. Holding back, clutching to my shallow breast this flimsy thing I have called love. I have guarded it with a fervor that now seems so ridiculous.

And does real, uninhibited love need to be guarded? Is it uninhibited if it is held close and tight—clutched in a tight fist and given away only if there is reasonable evidence it will be reciprocated?

Is this the uninhibited love of wild faith?

There is no greater need than to love and to be loved. And it seems to me that all other needs stem from these. All.

Inhibitions have to do with fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of censure, fear of ridicule, fear of inadequacy, fear of disclosure, fear of expectation, and fear of pain.

What pithy statement can I offer to dismiss all these fears? Who am I to offer a solution? How can I suggest that if you just do the right things…then all these fears will dissipate and you will be left with pure love to give and gain? I would be lying to you if I suggest that if you just love uninhibitedly then you will never experience these fears. Even if you do practice uninhibited love you will most likely experience these fears. The real key is will you love anyway?

In Paul's letter to the Corinthians—we read this long, beautiful description of love and we curl inward knowing at exactly what points we have fallen short. And we dismiss the whole piece trying to convince ourselves that Paul was simply exercising his poetic license. Surely, no one can really love like that.

David sure did not. Or did he? What about Jonathan? What about this friend, this son of the king—his rival for the throne? David’s love for Jonathan continued long after Jonathan died in battle. Jonathan’s crippled son was brought to live as a part of the royal family—protected by David. (And what about Mary Magdalene?)

Uninhibited love embraces another in spite of knowing that there is a chance of being hurt. This kind of love gives regardless of the knowledge it will not be reciprocated at all or in the same intensity as it was given.

This love weaves and wends an essential layer to wild faith. If you pull on this thread the whole garment unravels like the coat of a cartoon character caught on a wayward nail.

When this kind of love does experience the fears I mentioned, it acknowledges them…looks them straight in the face, takes a deep breath and decides to love anyway. This kind of love takes Jesus’ answer to Peter seriously—forgive seventy times seven.

Uninhibited love is not the tolerant-do-what-ever-you want kind of emotion. This is a sterner breed of love born out of decision and will. This love is made of more than the whispers and tendrils of whimsy and romance. This love is only romantic because it is eternal. This love is stronger and more enduring than people’s shortcomings, idiosyncrasies, addictions, and failures. This love is stronger than death.

When we allow ourselves to love someone without inhibitions we have invested in their eternity. And we have invested in our own.

Paul says three things will remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wild Faith: Sharp Hunger

Wild Faith begins with sharp hunger.

Hunger with a bite.

Hunger with an edge.

Hunger with a purpose.

Have you ever had a time when you were hungry and you just could not decide what you wanted to eat? You stand and stare into the cupboards or the refrigerator and tick off each item…knowing that it is not what you want, but not sure of what will satisfy this stomach rumble.

We nibble here and we munch there. Eventually the pangs go away, but the actual hunger does not. We are now full, but we are not satisfied.

Spiritual hunger.

We follow the same pattern. We stand and look at books in the Christian bookstores or online. We flip through the radio for the Christian station or shuffle though our tall stack of worship CDs trying to find just the right song. Sometimes we even read a whole chapter of a well-known Christian author’s latest book. We pursue bible study with an admired vengeance. We listen to the message on Sunday mornings and even take notes. We go on short term missions projects. We try every new spiritual fad, but the hunger is still present and still insistent. We are full, well satiated with information and activity, but we are not satisfied. And being full, but not being satisfied is sometimes a dangerous place to be—because we substitute.

I have substituted. I have tried to feed my faith’s sharp hunger with so many things: service, study, activity, art, music, words, books, food, emotions, appetites, drives, and spirituality. Like me, David often substituted to satisfy this hunger. And we both experienced discontent, disappointment, dissonance, disruption, and depression.

Read through the Psalms. David’s hunger was only abated and appeased by one thing.

Wild faith can only be satisfied with one thing:

God’s presence.

Stop!

We must be very careful that we don’t apply our cultural or even our religious definitions to God’s presence. We must not measure His presence with our expectations of answered prayers or the emotions we feel or do not feel. We cannot equate his presence with our own warped sense of expectations. We cannot completely evaluate the quantity and quality of his presence with our limited ability to discern and be aware. He is present, but more often than not we are just not capable of recognizing him.

Why?

We use too many filters. And often these filters are too narrow or too broad. We also tend to convolute the simplicity of the wild faith. We create a labyrinth that is just too stringent for people (including us) to try to maneuver.

Maybe our most detrimental assumption is that when we are in his presence the hunger goes completely away—

Do not count on this. God does not allow our hunger to totally dissipate. The keen edge of hunger makes us sharply aware. He will use this to help us be attuned to his presence. He satisfies us, and then he makes hungry again. Sounds a little contradictory. Feels a little mean. I used to think so.

I am finally coming to understand (in my own finiteness) God wants us whole and complete, not just full. And I am learning that the purpose of spiritual hunger is to encourage us to desire to be in God’s presence.

God wants us to be his satisfied (complete and whole) people, not just people with appetites assuaged for a brief while.


Wild Faith begins with sharp hunger.


How hungry are you?



“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods…we will feast on the abundance of your house; you will give [us] drink from your river of delights…the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines…”

Psalm 63:5; Psalm 36:8; Isaiah 25:6

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wild Faith

I have been asked a lot of questions lately and been given several tags (last post).

This week I was asked if I could be called “one of those artsy persons.” I smiled and nodded my head and replied, “Yes, yes I am.”

In the past couple of weeks someone gave me a nickname (I haven’t had one of those since my mother called me Tweety Bird when I was little).

I have been asked some probing questions. I told someone I wanted a wild faith—immediately they asked what I meant. And they really seemed to want an answer.

I answered them, but I have continued to ponder this question.

What does it mean to have a wild faith?

Again, David comes to mind (along with Mary Magdalene, Lydia, and Peter).

In recent years there has been quite a bit of writing targeted toward dethroning David—and there have been some attempts to treat him as a legend or myth. Some scholars have suggested that the shepherd boy and the king were two different people. I get so weary of this cynicism. We live in a world/generation that seems bent on pulling all heroes down in some way or another. And it seems no one is safe from the jaded scrutiny (Not even Abraham Lincoln).

As I said in the last post, in no way do I think David was perfect. I can think of so many situations that he was far from such a title: his mayhem disguised as a madman, his strained relationship with Michal, his leniency and tolerance of his children’s behavior, his arrogance with the census, his total disregard for Uriah, and his treatment of Bathsheba. We could go on…I recognize these flaws. I see them. I take them into account.

But (remember the divine conjunction), David still remained a man after God’s own heart. At the core of David, midst all of his short comings and failures and sins, in the depths of his heart he loved his God. David learned to recognize and find God everywhere—no matter the place or the situation. And so I must pay attention.

Like David, (Peter, Mary, Lydia) I am flawed and sinful. It is that simple. And yet, because God is who he is, I can still be a woman after his heart. I can be a woman bent and resolved to running after him—a woman hungry and thirsty for him. David assures me of this.

What characteristics do we see in someone’s life who has a wild faith?

Uninhibited love

Sharp Hunger

Intense Passion

Utter Abandon

Authentic Worship

Deep (broken) Repentance


I want to have a wild faith, because I have a wild God.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Hopeful Romantic

Recently someone called me a hopeless romantic.

This was a totally random statement. I am not exactly sure what prompted it. Something I said? Something I did? Who knows? They gave no definition other than I probably cried in the movie theaters. How they deduced this I am not quite sure (I am grinning).

Over the weeks as I have pondered and mulled over this tag—A hopeless romantic.

At first, my defenses cranked up a notch or maybe even two. I gave explanations, justifications, and clarifications.

Then I stopped. Let’s be realistic (rarely are romantics labeled as realists).

I am a romantic.

But I am a hopeful romantic. And I am coming out of hiding. I wonder if there is a Romantic Anonymous.

I will confess that I believe in fairy tales. Yes, I do. But I don’t believe the modern versions. Happily ever after is not the most important part of the tale. If it were then authors would write the story that comes after the glass slipper and after the beast becomes a handsome prince again. No, the “getting to the happily ever after”—that’s what everyone wants to hear.

I believe in the truth and power of the story.

One of my most beloved heroes would have been considered a hopeless romantic.

David.

He was the beautiful baby boy who became the handsome shepherd, musician, poet, warrior, lover, and king.

Sounds like a romantic fairy tale to me. (I don’t think Richard Gere even came close to the real David!).

But we must remember that in the true fairy tales, the real stories, there was a thread of darkness, a strain of malicious intent, a traitorous plot, and often a blinding betrayal.

In the fairy tales there is a thread of darkness, but it is never in the hero/heroine. Oh! Forbid such a thought.

In the books of I & II Samuel, David is the hero. As his story unfolded we see that there was a thread of darkness in him. It was subtly woven with strands of right and privilege and arrogance. David took advantage of the innocent. The thread grew long and thick before Nathan showed it to him. And the damage was already done. Literally. There was no enchanted song David could sing that would reverse his actions. But there was a song he could sing that would restore him to his King. (Psalm 51). And sing it he did.

In the fairy tales there is an act of malicious intent. Jealousy fueled Saul’s malicious intent toward David. More than once Saul threw his spear at David to pin him to the wall. There were several times when David had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, and he was conflicted. But David chose not to return evil for evil. And our hero fled into the desert. All the heroes/heroines go to the desert or the forest. A place of hiding and protection.

In the fairy tales there is a traitorous plot. The enemies are clearly defined. Colored in black and white (and sometimes a little red). Villainous. Hopeless romantics don’t want to have enemies. And yet, poor Snow White had enemies living in the same castle with her—plotting and scheming for her downfall and demise. So did David.

In the fairy tales there is a blinding betrayal. And the betrayal comes from and through someone that is closest to the hero. And it seems so wrong. The source of the betrayal comes from one who should have cared. It comes from someone who instinctively should have protected and stood beside them. In Hansel and Gretel it is the parents, with Snow White and Cinderella it is the step-mother. David's son betrays him. And because David loved so intensely and so deeply he was blind to Absalom’s treachery.

Am I suggesting or implying that the story of the great King David is just a fairy tale? Is he just a hopeless romantic hero?

No. Let me be clear—NO.

I am suggesting that all great stories, all the real stories have elements and traits and truths we recognize and that pierce into who we really are. That is the power of story.

I can’t relate to Cinderella. I don’t sing while I am cleaning the ashes from the fireplace. I am not very patient waiting for my prince to come. I don’t relate to the fairy tale people who find no darkness in themselves, who are never conflicted, never doubt, never question, or never stumble.

No, I want the real people. I relate to David. David sings. But his songs are not trilling, frilly nonsense about the happily ever after. His songs are about the gritty here and now. Read the Psalms. Contemplate the shadows and the light you find there.

I resonate with David because there is a dark thread in me. It may not be the exact same kind of thread, but it is darkness, nonetheless. And just like David I have acted on it.

When one of David’s sins was exposed (through a story by Nathan), he didn’t deny what he had done. David made no explanations, justifications, and clarifications. David repented.

When confronted with the opportunity to repay Saul’s evil, David chose to walk away.

When David was told of the plot to overthrow his reign, he did not retaliate.

When he discovered his son’s betrayal, his heart was broken and he loved Absalom anyway.

David is one of my heroes not because he is perfect and infallible like the animated princes of our modern fairy tales, but because he is raw and real. He bleeds.

In so many ways I want to be like David.

I am a hopeful romantic.