Monday, December 1, 2014

A short defense

The gospel as the "Good News" is a source of beauty. I am so tired of Christians thinking that therein lies all that is of value and that the gospel is a source of salvation for souls divorced of touching the physical, everyday life. I am so tired of Christians thinking that art is merely a vehicle, a means to an end, or a flourish to 'that which is really important.' Because that kind of mentality results in a faith that misses out on beauty. Beauty can be a source of the Good News. Art can be deeply theological -- it just requires more attention and thought than the pragmatic faith that so many Christians are used to interacting with.

Beauty. Goodness. Truth.
How thirsty must our souls grow before we desire all three of these in our spiritual practices again? How fragmented must we become before we realize that we are missing out on holistic spirituality?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I gave up Facebook for Lent. The first week was really hard, and the first two days of that especially were brutal. Now it's more along the lines of a constant, quiet discomfort... I miss people.

The first week, as I wandered from my bedroom to the living room, I couldn't help but think, "What did I do before Facebook?" I'm pretty sure I read and I blogged more. I had more space to be quiet and think. I think I also did my homework.

As I arrived at this conclusion, I resolved that I would probably start blogging again with my new-found free-time. However, (obviously) that has not happened. Instead, I've been more present (I hope) with the people in front of me; have been learning how to navigate life without the instant, daily, hourly, habitual use of social media (although I get to check in on Sundays as a "feast" or a break from the "fast"); and have been either getting my homework done or finding more creative ways to procrastinate.

Sort of like the end of a dating relationship, I'm finding ways to reclaim my time and fill it up.

Although, all my romantic notions of being more artistically integrated have been mostly thrown out the window - with the exception of a few sleepy poems written in the fuzzy brink of a just-only-now-barely conscious state of being - by finals week. Oh finals...

You know it's finals week when you close out the library, and - given the choice between practicing good hygiene or finishing up that paper - you decide, " shower can wait."

And, now, if you'll excuse me - my paper is waiting. And after that, bed. And in between the two, a shower if I'm lucky.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Beginnings - A Fresh Start on the Same Old Thing

Here is a space for honesty. And a ramble in vulnerable processing.

I'm six weeks into having a run with bronchitis and walking pneumonia...trying to make a good go at it towards getting healthy again. Comedy may role in threes, and the third time may be the charm; but I'm now on round five of antibiotics...hoping that this one works so as to avoid a weekend stay in a local hospital on pneumonia observation (complete with antibiotics via IV). In a weird way of doing math, this makes me realize: roughly 3 weeks ago I turned 28. And that is really what I want to talk about.

The day prior to my birthday was wonderful: my roommate baked me a completely homemade angel food cake, and then we went to go see The Nutcracker Ballet performed by the Royal Ballet Company in London via a digital broadcast at the local AMC Theatre thanks to my super-thoughtful brother. Fairy tales and dancing.
The day of my birthday was actually rather disappointing: all my plans fell through and I spent the day mostly alone or doing errands, trying not to feel depressed. A friend came to visit, which saved the day for me, and I later attended a Christmas party that night wherein my friends there sang "Happy Birthday" to me even though it wasn't my birthday party - which was a very nice gesture. A day of waiting.
The next day, one of my best friends took me to see Frozen and we finished that wonderful adventure with a trip to the comic book store wherein I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice in graphic novel form. And that night, I had a party where I invited some friends to go out swing dancing with me. I had a total blast - felt absolutely special - completed with a friend of mine purchasing me some original Disney princess artwork offered by an artist at the holiday market hosted by the dance venue. Fairy tales and dancing.

Perhaps even better, my lovely friend, Hilary, blessed me by opening and closing my birthday with messages of love. Her words blessed me as she pronounced, "28 is going to be amazing." And I don't exactly know why, but I wept because I felt like her words had prophetic power and I just knew them to be true. I believe that 28 will be amazing. It's the first time in I-can't-remember-how-long that I haven't resented turning another year older. I just believe that this upcoming year will have something amazing in store for me. And I am so ready to put all the heartache of being 27 behind me.

So, in turning 28 I look forward to this wonderful year ahead with the hope of fairy tales and dancing.

Which also leads me to this new year: this year 2014 - which I find to be such an aesthetically pleasing number. And although it didn't start off the way I'd envision (being sick and having to stay home, not even being invited to the party most of my friends went to, etc) I am still excited about the upcoming year and all of the potential for new beginnings and growth that it has in store.

Of course, this does not mean that I get to start with a completely blank slate. I once heard that the problem with running away from your problems is that you take yourself with you. And as much as I'd like to forget that 2013 happened, the fact of the matter is that, well, I can't. Not right away, at least. And some things, like the passing of my grandpa, will always stay with me. But, I think that's okay because even in the pain, there is beauty. The pain is beautiful because it shows how much I loved him. It reveals that he was important in my life. And that I miss him even now. Love provides the beauty that redeems the pain.

Considering the other pains, this is where I have the opportunity to move on. And by "move on," I mean that I can continue to heal from the wounding done to my heart. I wonder at the timing that the first crushing blow and loss of relationship happened the week of Easter...carrying through the summer with the blossoming of hope and loss of love...followed by the news of my grandpa's sickness...and then the loss of him as well...which carried me into Advent: a season of anticipating the coming of Christ. I am anticipating this return even as I anticipate the restoration of my heart and even as I see the healing of my heart. But it is slow going.
Because forgiveness is slow going. And there are often hiccups along the way. Forgiveness is often a choice that must be repeated.

Concerning the man who convinced me to give him my heart - the man who whispered to me the most beautiful dreams - who made me feel alive in ways I hadn't dared to hope for myself - the man who I fell in love with - the man who told me he wanted to marry me...the man who got his ex pregnant:
I did the thing "you're not supposed to do" a couple months ago: I looked him up on Facebook. And I saw the picture of his newborn baby - the child he had with his then-ex who he told me he no longer loved...but who is now his wife. I saw the picture: I saw this precious, beautiful child. And my response was truly one of a hope of blessing for their future. I hope they grow into being the parents that this child deserves and needs: the kind that selflessly love one another. I wish them joy.

What that leaves for me is the space and time to heal. The chance for my new beginning is like rebuilding a garden after the devastation of a storm that has uprooted trees, ripped apart the shrubberies, and turned the flowerbeds into swamps. It has and will continue to take time, work, effort, reshaping, tending, and a whole lot of God's touch in and around my life. And a whole lot of patience and gentleness as I learn how to trust again. God will deal with them: will tend them, prune them, and guide them if they let God do it. In a sense, they no longer matter in my life. What matters in my life is my opportunity for growth.

And sometimes, growth comes from letting people go.

A friend of mine shared with me a clip from Tyler Perry doing a skit from Madea. Aside from being hilarious, the draw to it were her words, "When people want to walk out of your life, you let them go."
Most often, people don't tell you they want to leave - they show you with how they handle your heart.
And those people don't need to be kicked out. Proper boundaries will let them decide whether they want to kick themselves out of your life or not. Proper boundaries leave room for those people to come back, but - as Madea put it - most of the time, the relationships those people offer are like leaves on a tree. The wind blows and they go this way, and then the wind blows and they go that way, and then the wind blows and they fall off and die. But they were good for a season, and the shade they provided was nice.

I am still learning about letting go. I like to think that I am growing in my ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries. I watched a friend kick himself out of my life this fall because he could not handle being in a relationship wherein I called him to respect me even as he respected himself. And it was sad, but I let him go. And I feel stronger for it.
I lost my best friend at Easter. The relationship didn't die right away, but it eventually became a sort of poison in my life. The sense of betrayal, disrespect, lack of honesty, and unwillingness to be vulnerable with me that I sensed from him led me to the eventual conclusion that this was a relationship that I no longer wanted.
And I don't regret that.

I still feel the pain of losing him. There are days when I very much miss my best friend - this man who knew me better than most and who was like a brother to me. I feel the pain of what feels like being ostracized from most of our mutual friends because I refuse to get on board with being happy or even "okay" with his choices. But this is my room for growth. This is where I start to learn about forgiveness - and how to practice that - at a deeper level. This is where I learn to pick up a rake and clear away the leaves that have fallen from the tree.
Because, here again - he no longer matters in my life. And his choices show that I no longer matter to him. And, in a way, that's a good thing. He should be free to live his life and make his choices. And he has chosen to pursue what he thinks will make him happy and fulfilled without me in mind. And I'm not sure how to say this, but it is good that I do not dictate his happiness. So, it is time for me to grow. And it is time for me to heal. God will grow him, and tend him, and lead him as he allows.
Perhaps justice isn't always a crushing vindication against our enemies. Perhaps justice is served for the wounded when they are able to grow into a space of joy and love for those who hurt them in the past.

And I am excited when I think about this for myself. Because I still have some growing to do. But looking forward is what makes this a new beginning.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who is God? (A Homiletic Reflection)

A week ago, I was given the exercise of answering the question "Who is God?" in only about 100 words. Written for the ear and not for the eye, this was my answer:

From the beginning,
I like to imagine God joyfully singing Creation into being.
Full of love.

He is not the inflictor of pain.
He is the only One
who truly understands
what pain
He is the only one
who can hold our broken pieces.
And put us back together when we are shattered.

Because of love,
Jesus came.

This marvellous God-man
lived a perfect life,
died for our sins,
and then resurrected
to defeat sin
and death
and our separation from God.
The old ache
of our souls

as Holy Spirit
makes our souls breathe.
An energy
that moves like wind
so that
we inhale and exhale
in mystery.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dehydrated, Drunk, and the Spirit

I think this is worth writing about. Because the working of God is worth sharing:

Eyes closed, I held up my cupped hands, filled with the hurt, shame, wounding, grime, brokenness, and dirt - piled like a mass of blood-soaked dirt and asphalt.

"Pray after me: 'Jesus, take it.'"

My mouth wouldn't let me fully repeat, but I think Christ understood. And he gave grace and mercy when I struggled out: "Take it."

And like water and light, a blue spirit poured down into my cupped hands, lapping at them like a dog's tongue which drinks water - washing over and over again like a wave because the stuff was sticky - stuck to my hands like it was stuck to my spirit.

"Now, ask Jesus give you what He wants you to have."

This time, it was easier: "Jesus, please give me what you want me to have."

Eyes still shut, I saw and felt love pour into my hands. Like red wine, it pooled into my hands and filled them; it kept pouring, but never over-flowing - like the burning bush that burned but was not consumed. It seeped into my hands, through my arms, and into my body - warming my soul. And I broke down and cried again because that was all I could do at feeling such love and at feeling so whole.

"What did you see?"

"Love...pour down into my hands like red wine. It kept pouring and filling, but never overflowed."

"New wine for new wine skins. I saw a dove over you."

There's something about being filled with the Spirit... Thank God, for the gift of friends - for prophetic healers.

I am realizing how dehydrated my soul has been.

 * * *

Some events this weekend have again brought the concept of forgiveness to a forefront in my mind and heart. More deep wounding coupled this time with what I was able to identify as spiritual attacks. What I came away with was this:

~ Wounded people often hurt others.

~ I am not perfect - it is in my nature to mess up, fail, and hurt others. My tendency is to want to see myself as blameless. Once seeing that I am flawed, my tendency is then to beat myself up for not being perfect. Neither of these are accurate views of myself.

~ The only way I will be able to forgive others is to see myself as God sees me: not perfect, but perfectly loved and accepted because of what Christ has done on the Cross on my behalf. 

Forgiveness will always be hard work until I am filled with the love of Christ. I'm not talking about intellectually knowing it, or feeling some sort of obligation to love others because God loved me so much that He would forgive and die for my sins.

I'm talking about being overwhelmed with the love of Christ. Of feeling it to my core. Of being steeped in it, soaked with it, drenched to the point where I start dripping that sort of love, like wet footprints, wherever I go. I think that is what the biblical writers and the mothers and fathers of the Christian faith are talking about when talking about the transforming love of Christ.

This is not even about feeling happy, excited, or blessed because I see the good things that God has put into my life (although that fits in). It's about simply being and being made aware of the love that God has for me.

Only in the safety of the love guaranteed by God can I allow myself to trust and love others. Because people are not particularly safe. Even with the best of intentions, we fail.

Only when I am saturated with the love of God can that flow out of me to others.

Only when I experientially realize and am empowered with the love of God will loving others, forgiving others, and walking in the footsteps of Christ in sacrificial obedience not feel like "work."

And, at this point, I refuse to move without feeling God's love filling my being. Because, at this point, to do any of that good stuff which makes me a "good person" or a "good Christian"* is out of my own strength - my own pride - and is empty in meaning, and draining to my being.

So, my prayer has become this and I refuse to move without it: "Lord, show me how much you love me. Let me feel it that I may see myself properly before You and out of that love others."

I know I've been on this journey for a while, but I think I'm about to intentionally start a long process (expected further Dark Nights of the Soul included)...and I think it's going to be good.

LORD, may it be.

*Really, what does it even mean to be a "good" Christian? It's a useless, empty qualifier because only God is good. Our behavior does not make us good: only the redemptive work of Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit within us makes us "good" before God.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Promiscuous Words

Within the past 6 months, I was told by two men that they loved me - rather - that they were in love with me. Both of these men had expressed to others that they thought that I was the one whom they would marry. One I loved as a best friend, the other was a friend whom I fell in love with. Of those two men, one is now married and the other is engaged - and neither one to me.

I wish I was making this up. Because, in my mind, this is the kind of thing that happens in movies, or TV shows, or books, or...soap operas. I suppose truth is the basis from where we get our fiction.

It's hard because these two men were, in my opinion at the time, some of the "best men" that I knew. Each of them had some of the kindest, biggest hearts out of anybody that I knew. They were amazing listeners with quirks that stemmed from their unique personalities and interests. I pointed to them as exemplary characters among my engagements with other people. They each stood, at points in time, as a best friend.

Allow me to clarify: there is no sense of conquest here. There is no sense of "men broke themselves for me." Instead, I feel a deep sense of loss, of betrayal, of sadness at seeing people whom I care for make decisions that I sense to be so unwise. I have lost relationships that served as bedrocks in my life. These were men whom I trusted, and whom I trusted with my heart.

I think there is a tale of caution in here of how we use our words. I was promised love at a time that was too soon. When we are not careful in discerning when is the proper time to speak, we whore out our speech; we make promises that we do not realize we are incapable of fulfilling; we say things we do not really mean; we hurt others in our rashness; we say things that we later regret. And although we may be filled with all sincerity when we speak in the moment, time and follow-through (or lack thereof) either prove our character or make us look like liars.
I say "we" because I also let my words run away before I think about them. While it is not always so terrible as above described, "Letting one's words run away with them" is not always as benign as it sounds, either.

Professing love before the right time takes something of deep value and reduces it in meaning and does deep damage to the trusting and the unguarded. Our mouths become whore's mouths - promiscuously speaking of things that lack depth, connection and honesty under the veneer of something that is real.

I do not mean to say that the relationships of those men lack authenticity. I think they lack wisdom. They rushed to tell me something just as they rushed into life-long commitments with other women. But, time will test and time will tell; and time will prove the depth of their words. And, honestly, I wish them well. I wish them marriages filled with blessing and strength. I wish them growth.

Personally problematic for me is that I respected those men. I trusted them. So, when they spoke, I took them at their word.
And for me, love is a deep thing.

And it is a deeply painful thing to be told that a person is in love with you, that he has marriage in mind with you...only six months later to see him finalizing that offer with another woman.
It makes it very hard to trust. And I find myself stuck there right now. I suppose, and hope, that it is only a "phase" - just a step in the grief cycle. Because, I do not want to be here the rest of my life - crippled at the inability to trust. But, I'm not really sure how one overcomes that either. It's not like I can just say, "Those men were some of the best examples of men that I had. They completely broke my trust and my heart. But I will continue to trust!"

This has to be where the work of Christ comes in. And by "has" I mean "must." Only God can fix this. Only God can take my now suspicious, deeply wounded heart and restore it to a place where it can trust again. I really see no other options.

In the meantime, I am thankful. I am thankful at these - not bullets - cannon balls that I dodged. I would have willingly embraced them had Providence not intervened. I am thankful for the opportunity that I have to start doing self-reflection and analysis. These hard slaps of reality have me thinking about how I jump into and engage in relationships. This pain has sent me reeling back to my family, where I have experienced healing in familial ties and there found some excellent examples of beautiful, flawed, trustworthy men. I have inner work to do. I can be proactive. I do not have to sit and stay as a victim. I can also grow.

And even if I remain single for the rest of my life, I will be a bigger person as a result. I will hopefully have more to offer. I can serve others as a wounded healer.

And I thank God for that. And I suppose that's the promise of the Cross: that out of desolation springs new life. Spring follows the even the harshest of winters.

In perusing through a book, I came across this text:

  1. Grief should permit newness. 
  2. Holiness should give hope.
  3. Memory should allow possibility.
    All three affirmations argue that life comes out of death." 
 ~ Walter Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile. Philedelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 132.

So, let it be:
Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Let time and touch heal my heart: help me to trust. Help me learn to set proper boundaries. Let me see and learn from my mistakes. And forgive me, as I forgive those who trespass against me. Help me to forgive. Yes.

There is a song to leave with. A song of promise, praise, and hope; sung at Tribe of Los Angeles; based off of Psalm 92:

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

We will flourish like a tree.
We will grow strong and green.
We are planted by the water
In the garden of our King.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Smoke Signals

It's a strange thing to post such "personal" outworkings of my emotions in such a "public" sphere as a blog, I suppose. But I feel like, here, I have a quiet space all to myself. And I feel like I am heard, even if it's only one reader who peruses what I've put down. And I have this hope that it might offer some sense of encouragement should another person stumble across this who is going through something similar. (You, beloved, are not alone.)

I guess, in a way, it's my experiment in grieving within a society that does not know how to grieve.

I was told today at work, "Don't think about him. Don't let it get you down. Don't cry."
I suppose that's supposed to be encouraging...

* * *

Only two days ago, I found out that the man I love(d) is planning on spending the rest of his life with another woman. It stems out of his concept of "making right" or "manning up" to his (not so distant) past mistakes. He said he loves her. A month ago, he had told me that he no longer had feelings for her - that he had moved on - and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He had asked me for forever. I told him it was too soon to ask me for that - but my heart had consented. He kept flirtatiously bringing it up, and I finally gave in - shyly, because it's a big thing to be asked for forever when you're logically know that it's too soon to be asked, but your heart has already said, "yes."

My first time falling in love, I suppose.
With the others, there had always been something nagging in the back of my mind - but with him...

I feel like such a fool. So deceived. So abandoned. So very abandoned.

(My friend found this song. It says it perfectly - almost as if he'd written it. And the artist is amazingly talented. How there are so few views and likes is beyond my understanding.)

* * *

It's hard when people continuously want to hear about the man who has made you so happy - but when he breaks you heart, they say, "Don't talk about it - you'll feel better." As if, not talking about him equated not thinking about him. As if I haven't developed the habit of having him on my brain and on my heart. (Maybe that's something to work on.) But, instead of being able to work through my feelings, I am shut up and shut out - not free to talk because people do not know how to handle the pain of others.
And that's a shame.

I understand that it's important to be professional. And I am trying my very best to do that. I am trying to leave my "baggage" at the door. But it's hard when people want you to be "fine" only two days after your world has been turned upside down.

I feel so upside down.

   I thought I felt pain when I ended things with him a couple weeks ago (and I did). It was frustrating then because I knew that I needed to do the right, wise thing and let him go so that he could have the space to work out what he needed to do. I hoped he would do the right thing - for all parties involved. And even though I said I had to let the dream of "us" die - I was nagged by a lingering sense of hope.
   I felt as though my heart had been ripped out when I heard that he was thinking marrying somebody else after he had told me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. But when I heard him answer, "Yes," to my question of "Do you love her?"
...I don't know how to describe what I felt. I still don't. I just feel upside down.

* * *
* * *
He had told me that I loved him like Jesus.

He had asked me if he could have me for "forever." He asked if he could keep me.

He wanted to build me a house and a life.

He had said that we were a "#1 Team."

He wanted to take care of me.

He told me that I made him want to be a better man without me even trying.

He wanted to hold my heart. And he knew that he had it.

He said he wanted me to be his best friend. He said I was his best friend. And he was becoming mine.

He said that the way he felt about me was like he had felt with nobody else before...

He said...he told...he wanted...he asked...he planned...

And I wanted to be so good: for him and to him. I wanted to adventure with him, and serve with him, laugh with him, cry with him, even fight (and make up) with him. I wanted to support him and him me. I wanted to encourage him and him me. I wanted to make the world more beautiful with him.
* * *
* * *

Two nights ago, when everything fell apart. When he told me that he loved her...

I told him that I didn't want him.
And that's mostly true, I suppose. I am still desperately in love with the man whom I fell for. I want nothing more than for him to follow through on doing the truly right thing and then for him to come for me...
I wish he was here so that I could scream and cry and fight against him only to have him fold me into his arms and hold me as I cry...and then have him do the right thing even though it's so, very hard. Instead, I am left alone to scream into my pillow. Instead, he is convinced that doing the "right thing" is something which even text books in high school warn against.

It's wishful thinking - I'm pretty sure of it. I do not think that he has that strength of character. And unless God works a miracle... Well...

That's the problem with love songs and movies.

 I do not think that the man whom I fell for and the man who told two nights ago that he is in love with somebody else are the same man.

It's a terrible thing, breaking your heart in front of the person whom you love and seeing no response. I saw him flinch under my words and felt a sense of satisfaction - but also a sense of instant remorse. It's a terrible thing to see yourself throwing verbal daggers at someone whom you love. I would have been kinder to him if I could have seen some reflection or ownership of the pain that I felt - the pain that he had caused. But I was not kind. I wanted blood. I wanted his heart to break and bleed like mine. We are all guilty, in the end.

I told him that he lied to me.
But I'm not sure if that's true. He never verbally expressed to me with his lips those "three little words." He told my friend. He said it with his eyes. He drew pictures of hearts. He said it in the songs that he sent me. And I knew that he did. I do not know if he still does - or if he has consigned his pursuit of me off to the list of "things that never should have been done" with a deep sense of regret and guilt. But I believe that he once did.
It's just hard to understand. I don't understand how in roughly a month, he could go from telling me that I had a face he would like to "wake up to every morning" to deciding to marry somebody else - somebody whom he had told me he no longer felt for. It's not that I think he lied to me so much as I feel like what he said or made me feel has been completely negated. And I do not know how to process that. I wish he was aware of his heart enough to be able to explain to me his actions. I wish he had fought for me - even fought with me. I wish he had tried to make this right. But he knew that there was nothing that he could do for my broken heart - so he didn't even try. And maybe that's because he'd made up his mind to give up before he even tried. I never had a chance.

In the end, only God can fix this. And I am thankful for a God who brings healing.

I told him that I don't expect I'll ever see him again.
It's not that I want to not see him: I would love for him to fix this and for him to win me back. There is so much about him that I like - that I respected, enjoyed, and admired. But I expect that he has made up his mind. And if it was that easy to change - then I stand by what I said in not wanting him.

So, I'm just writing out my thoughts and trying to make sense of my heart; sending smoke signals up into the air - knowing that they probably will not be seen, but sending them up anyway.

At least I know my prayers are heard.
God, my loss is so deep and so great. You are the only one who can fix this - who can hold all the pieces of my broken heart. You are the only one who can heal me. You are the only one who can redeem this - for me and for them.
 Lord, have mercy.