give me dove’s eyes.

I want to put away my cynicism. I want a simple faith, a simple love. 

Earlier tonight I was preparing to drive home after having dinner with a friend. I was thumbing through some old CD’s I stash in my car (in case of emergencies, you know.) Bullet to Binary (hardcore mix), nah. Glee (season 2, of course), nah. Dance Mix, nah. Johnny Cash favs, nah. 

And then there it was. No title. Just lyrics written in blue sharpie covering the whole front of the CD. I had completely forgotten about this one. I popped it in and started to drive. Jonathan David Helser’s gravelly tenor was pure nostalgia, though the memories are only a few years old. 

Abba, I belong to You,” he sings. It’s tattooed onto my skin and yet I had forgotten where it came from. And suddenly I felt this deep longing to have the last two years erased from my life, to return to that place of complete simplicity and healing. I have very different views about Abba than I did then but I have gained a cynicism that is toxic. 

In my attempt to free myself from the chains of religion, yes I have found the raw and genuine Jesus, but I lost the beautiful Abba that used to hold me and cry with me and tell me how precious I am to him. Oh, must I always lose something in these life lessons? 

There are terrible parts of the bible, things I cannot believe. But there are beautiful, gentle, healing parts of the bible that take my hand and give me precious gifts of faith. 

I miss the simplicity. I miss the way I would ease into conversation with him. I miss the feathers dropped on the ground, a sort of inside joke with us. I miss the tears of joy and the tears of pain.

He, abba, was always solidly present to me that it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see him or hear him. felt him. I always will. 

“here is the deepest secret nobody knows 
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)” e.e. cummings

 

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hold me near

Boy, I never thought I’d be here. I never thought that my twenty-sixth year would bring so much…muchness. Heart-thoughts come in waves lately. A hurricane of questions overwhelm me and I just barely grasp a few long enough to look at them in confusion and then release them to the wind. I keep telling myself that it’s okay to feel these things, it’s so very natural for me to gather my thoughts like wool. The only problem is that I keep putting off the carding and spinning of this wool. It’s always so much work and I’m worried I’ll do it all wrong and end up with yarn that breaks apart at the first sign of tension. 

I know what kind of life I want- one of love and servanthood, one of fearless adventure, one of daring and ferocity, one of grace and humility. I know these things are essential to who God is. But what about the other things we have all heard about God? What about the rules, the behaviour expectations, the parts of the Bible that aren’t so shiny? Am I just supposed to read, accept, and move on? Because I can’t. I’ve been trying for 22 years in this weird love-affair, and I can’t do it anymore.

There are things about the God of the Bible that I do not want to accept. I don’t think they nullify the beauty, the effortless love. But what, then, shall I do? This is a particularly stubborn tuft of wool, but perhaps the most important. 

There are things about The Church that I think are completely ridiculous. What we’ve clung to in the past, the words we put on our signs, the things we’ve decided are important. You can scream it from the steeple all you want, “Relationship, not religion!” but don’t be surprised when people mistake your gospel for a list of bylaws. Before you love your neighbor find out their sexual orientation/preference, views on abortion, and who they voted for in the last election. If they meet most of your standards, invite them to church, get them in the door, then bombard them with changes they need to make in order to fit in with what your church views as the ideal christian life. Truly, that is the gospel in action!

I used to take solace in the church, as a group and as a building. What can I do now but grieve the loss of such a place of peace and reassurance? It holds little for me but questions and sarcasm. If there is beauty I can’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to look for it.

I understand that I have the opportunity to affect change in my own church circles. Frankly, I don’t relish this responsibility. Those of you who have taken on this task, I applaud you and I thank you and I will support you in any way possible. But please, be patient with me as I gain courage to join your ranks. 

The Jesus I cannot abandon is full of love. There is light and life in his presence. Whatever hesitation I might have about God, whatever criticisms I offer about the Church, I can’t let go of Jesus. He is what I crave about this faith of mine. His reactions to the world are what I cling to and hope to emulate. And for all my kicking and screaming…I’m still very much in love with him. And I really believe I always will be. 

So that is the odd path I find myself taking this year. If it has hurt- I’m sorry, I love you, and I hope to do better. If it has helped- I’m grateful, I love you, and let’s all do better. 

 

how faith compelled and bore us on.

I am the John-Boy of my family; the oldest and the most prophesied over. For years the elders in my life, mentors in their own respect, have spoken things over me that I cherish and still hope to see manifest in my lifetime. 

To listen and learn from people I admire, though I do not agree with them, has been the most humbling lesson of my life. Faith is precious, though it may not resemble my own. There is so much I have learned from the older generations of my family. There is one prophecy I hope to fulfill soon. Ever since I can remember my grandfather has always told me that one day I will write a book about our family. This may seem trite and disingenuous, but he and I both know what a treasure our history is. It is important to understand one another’s experiences and to honor our history by recording it. And so it is that I come to present a meager offering of that history, at least my experience of it. 

___

(an excerpt from The Book)

Patriarchal expectations aside, these beautiful women have developed some way to hold fast to their independence. They gather together in kitchens, a place that our culture has demanded they rule, and they talk. And talk and talk and talk. And all the world’s problems are solved before you can say Arroz con Gandules. And they touch each other’s shoulders in support, sharing each other’s burdens. And they teach the younger generations about family and faith and flan. Those kitchens are sacred ground where worries are flattened out like tortillas, hurts are thrown into the oven to be refined into strength, and love is the ingredient that makes life worth all the effort. 

These women are precious gems that have rubbed against each other so often they have made each other shine. This realization came to me quite a long time ago. When I decided to embrace this ancient tradition that was my heritage it became clear to me that my world would always include these things. 

Cooking is always going to be synonymous with friendship. My children will know as surely as I did standing at the counter in Abuela’s kitchen watching her fry up the Bacalaitos: family is the most important thing. 

I can walk into a group of women with full confidence thanks to Abuela and the fearless way she lives. I can learn new things because she learned them first. I can live my life and give away everything I have to the people around me because she has shown me how rich she is with love. It is an irreplaceable lesson, a humbling reminder that I am responsible for myself and the impact my own life has on this world. 

 

 

“Long after we are dead and gone, for a thousand years our tale be sung, how Faith compelled and bore us on. Oh Sarah, fair and barren one, come to Canaan, come.”

you have a way of stirring up my soul.

It was 2001. I was an awkward freshman in high school, completely self aware and yet wholly apathetic as to how the world operated. I was just coming into a thirst for knowledge (of which I have yet to be cured). The years ahead were vast and innumerable, filled with the hopes and dreams of the little girl who gazed up at the moon each night in wonder. 

That was the year I joined the youth group at church. That was the year I felt God hold my hand. That was the year I learned what it was He expected of me. That was the year all of my hopes and dreams changed into some kind of list of expectations and requirements. Things became complicated and difficult and many weeks were spent anguishing over His silence. Tears, bitterness, heartfelt longing for a simplicity I did not know existed. Why, God? What do you want me to do? Where are you? How have I failed you?

My 14 year old brain, frontal lobe still vastly underdeveloped, was not able to reason with God. So much of my teens was spent learning and adopting other people’s opinions while letting go of my own. They shaped how I interacted with God, how I thought about Him on a practical level. It was unavoidable yet deeply regrettable. Shadows and blurred lines and gray shapes in the distance of my worldview were not allowed; everything had to be black and white, starkly contrasting at every level.  

This is 2013. And I am still fairly awkward, but hopefully less self-involved and more mindful of other humans. And this year of turmoil that I have yet to summit has brought to light much of what I have, until now, held as truth. 

I can kill spiders without sobbing for hours afterward. I can say words that would make my grandmother scowl and I don’t think twice about it. I drive with my knee sometimes and have yet to get into an accident.

The point is, some of the things I believed when I was 14 cannot follow me into my late 20’s. The expectations I placed on myself that pertain to my “Christian Faith” have not stood the proverbial test of time. I love Jesus without all the rules I thought were necessary to our relationship. Such excess, superfluity. And for what? To make all of us look/act/dress/speak/think the same? Unnecessary. I have my own ideas and dreams and desires that Jesus knows and I believe He loves my individuality. Without the rules and expectations there is a freedom of feeling without having to filter my emotions. What I experience doesn’t go through some sort of checklist of right/wrong, godly/ungodly. Saying that I belong to Him isn’t some way of lashing myself to a cause or a doctrine. I belong to Him because it is the only freedom my soul has ever known. 

Ten years from now, when I look back on what I believe at this moment, maybe I’ll cringe with regret. But at the very least I will have a better understanding of the fluidity of faith and the effects of true freedom on the soul. 

there’s no end to affection you have for me!

My nephew was born a few weeks ago and I was so honored to be a part of that process. I’ve relived it so many times and each memory is precious.

Noah can’t talk, he can’t think cognitively, he doesn’t know how to interact with others. But he is my favorite person in the whole world. I am happiest when I’m holding him; he is the best part of me. I can’t explain that, and honestly I don’t want to psychoanalyze it. There is a beautiful simplicity to our relationship right now, and I believe it is more than enough to fill up my heart for a lifetime.

He came out of my cousin and into the world with blood and screaming and tears. He will most likely experience blood and screaming and tears sometime in his life. But his very existence in this world is a miracle. He survived the blood and screaming and tears, he lives in spite of everything he has experienced so far. This is what I am learning from him. In all of the mess of his birth he is a beautiful survivor.

And this is the grace in it all: That God sees me like I see Noah. I am a mess, bloody and screaming and filled with angry tears. At times I am not happy with anything He does for me. But I know that his heart fills up with love when he looks at me, when he holds me and kisses my cheek. The very breath in my lungs is air he breathed first. I look like him, I sing like him, maybe I even talk like him. And every interaction with me makes his heart swell. Even when all I’m doing is breathing, he is so proud of me.

Do you see? It is never because of what we do. His heart fills with love for us because of who we are.

It will never be about how dirty we are, or how much we cry, or how needy we think we are. It’s about the fact that he is our Daddy, and he can’t help himself. He just loves us because we are his kids. It’s beautiful and simple and wonderful and radical.

the dirt above and below me.

“Can I be used to help others find truth when I’m scared that I’ll find proof that it’s a lie?” Nicklecreek

Please forgive me for time that I’ve wasted. I feel that there has been so much more I could have done in my life. I have not listened as much as I could have. People have not always, or ever, been my first priority. But I see this and I hate it. And I wish I could change it. Because you’re beautiful. And you’re worth getting to know. And you have so much to offer in friendship. I just feel like there needs to be an apology.

There is such beauty in sitting with Jesus in silence. Like watching a sunset with the one I love. It’s calming, purifying. I’ve been pulled into this deep silence for the past day or so. Words are so arbitrary. He knows me. It’s just enough to be with him, in this state of stillness.

It’s not always perfect quietude. Sometimes I just start thinking in questions, which I know is okay, but it’s different than our regular discourse. I’ve always been so chatty with him, not really thinking too much about what I tell him, but really enjoying the conversation. But lately I’ve been asking things like, “Did it hurt when your blood started pumping through your veins again when you rose from death? Like when my leg falls asleep?” and “What color was Adam’s hair?”

We know that these things don’t really matter in the long run, but I enjoy being three years old again asking questions about things the heavenly beings encounter all the time.

I also ask him a lot about myself. For instance, I am currently hung up on the question, “why do I cower in fear and terror every time someone is angry with me?” I’ve been asking this for a long time. It has a lot to do with my childhood experiences, this much I know. I just hate that I can never stand up for myself even when I am in the right. The moment I feel anger directed toward me I emotionally run to my hiding places like a four year old girl. If only people would stop being angry when they see how scared I am. But it usually ends with me feeling like I’ve been stuffed in my locker again.

I suppose that reaction will follow me the rest of my days. And that’s okay with me, as long as I don’t have many bullies in my life. That’s another thing I’m quietly contemplating with Jesus.

they say that the captain stays fast with the ship

Lack of motivation has always been a problem for me. I can be so inspired one day and so apathetic the next. It’s incredible. It also doesn’t help that I have to blog from my mobile phone instead of the computation machine that I don’t have yet. Do you know how frustrating autocorrect can be?
But I digress.

There are things I want to say, but don’t because I have the very exasperating impulse to make everyone think I’m Switzerland. If I do take a stand it seems that it has become the new sport to try to shoot me down with as much complex wit as possible. I can handle my sarcasm, almost as much as I can handle flying an airplane.
I have always felt a bit overwhelmed and disgusted with sarcastic wit, at least the kind that degrades and objectifies others. But it has become vogue to put people down. The conversational style of selfish abandon has become a hindrance to compassion and selfless love. Do we really value our opinions to such a degree that we are willing to sacrifice the friendships of those around us?

It is a mark of how careless we have become with our lives. Hilarious as it might be, I just don’t understand the mentality of destruction. And please take me at my word when I say destructive.

I am not plucking specks out of your eyes. I am looking in the mirror at my own glaring plank and asking myself how it even got there in the first place. Humility. What on earth does this look like? Real, honest, from-the-heart humility. I do not have this within myself. I need it, welcome it. I am at the end of myself. There is nothing good within me. So here is Jesus. And I am sorry for the harm and destruction my tongue has caused. I am sorry. And I love you.

Now I am become Death: destroyer of worlds.

J Robert Oppenheimer; creator of the atomic bomb.

baby, i’m amazed.

It’s fall. I mean, officially, it’s fall. This fact makes me so happy. I love the smells, tastes and colors of autumn. One fall tradition that I particularly enjoy is that of the Corn Maze. Getting lost in the twists and turns, following the maps (I am a closet cartologist), feeling the cold rush of air as you run through the maze.

But lately I have been wondering why it’s so fascinating, this idea of getting lost. Why are we so intrigued by mazes?

Could it be that it resembles life to us? I know I’m waxing psychological here, but roll with me. In our lives things are so unpredictable. Our view of things becomes twisted the more time we spend in this maze of life. Most of us just wander around aimlessly hoping that wherever we do end up is the right place. Some of us decide that reading the map will help us find our way through the dead ends and loops and confusion. And still more of us just get frustrated and plop down in the path refusing to budge for anyone, getting in everyone else’s way, complaining about the irony of it all.

I have to ask myself what Jesus thinks of all this? What if he is waiting for us to wake up and realize there is a whole world outside our little maze?

What if the way out of the maze is to just start running through the corn until you’re suddenly out? What if that’s what it takes? Men and women who are tired of being told that the only way out is the path that has been forged by others. Men and women who are not afraid of what is past the wall of corn. Men and women who will have the courage and fortitude to blaze their own trail out of the maze of everyday life and into the arms of their lover!

I hope I am such a woman. I refuse to be a follower, instead choosing a life of adventure and daring. A life others will laugh at but be challenged by.

I choose to bolt my way out of the maze, blindly running to the world that is more real than the corn field I’ve always known.

just like a tattoo.

It’s 2am. I’m so tired but can’t go back to sleep. There are thoughts, so many, blurred and convoluted. There is flooding mere miles away, people I love are hurting, things are crazy. But that’s not why I’m posting this, uhm, morning.

I’m tired of religion. Throughout my life I have always been under some kind of pressure to meet a specific standard, follow rules, chain myself to theologies and doctrines for fear of not living a righteous enough life. If I didn’t carry the heavy burden of these manmade standards, I was looked upon as one who had fallen away. I didn’t fit into their normal so they classified me as untouchable.

Everyone everywhere has done this in some fashion. I’ve done it countless times to others. We think we do it out of concern for their wellbeing. We tell ourselves that God holds us to a standard and we should therefor hold each other to those standards as well. We hold our opinions close to our hearts, so close they begin to be absorbed into our relationship with God.

I do not believe he judges me. Maybe that shocks you but I think you can reason this out with me. If we say that our sins were handled on the cross, that God now looks at us through the person of Jesus Christ and all he did, then in Gods eyes I am his dearest one, his beloved, his perfect intention for his creation.

I make mistakes. He knows that. He is grace-filled and his “burden” is not that at all. It is a perfect blend of love and grace. There is nothing I can do that can make him love me more or less. Do I really think myself so important that by my very actions and thoughts I can convince the God of the universe that I’m suddenly not worth loving or saving? His heart is grieved by these attitudes. Can’t you feel it?

I’m getting a tattoo tomorrow, well, today. And I cannot understand why you think that you can ever fulfill the ‘command’ of loving your neighbor if you condemn and despise a fellow believer. This is what I’m choosing for myself and I’m not hanging my salvation on it, and neither should you.

Cut out the law, if that’s what you’re living by and for. Please, for Jesus’ sake, try to comprehend how high, how deep, how vast, how wide, how unending is the love of God.

perfector.

I get experience envy. When someone tells me about certain experiences they have had in life, I get more than a little jealous. It’s not that I’m angry or hurt or disappointed with my life. It’s just that there’s some sort of longing inside of me to do more, see more, live more than I have been.

I’m not sure this longing will subside over time. It seems like an insatiable desire to squeeze every molecule out of life that I possibly can. Is this good? Aren’t we so often told in religious circles that we ought to be content in all things? Am I being a bad Christian if I desire more out of life than what it can give me?

I don’t think so. On the contrary, I would venture to say that contentment and complacency are close cousins. There is a difference, but it has gotten so blurred in our pretense of playing church. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been told to ‘wait on the Lord’. ‘Let go and let God.’ ‘Be still and know…’

STOP!

First of all, the whole translation of the word “wait” in scripture doesn’t do it justice. It was intended to be closer to our word for serving. So when we are told to wait on the Lord, it literally means that we are supposed to be in service to him.

Second, when did Jesus ever wait silently and submissively when he wanted to do something? Never. He just did it! He knew what he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime and he didn’t sit around and wait for the deacons approval or for the fundraisers to be organized or for his diploma. When he recognized and understood the anointing on his life, he started walking the path.

When we asked God questions like “Do you want me to go to college or work full time?” I believe Gods response is not yes/no/wait. I believe he looks at us, his creation, and says “Yep.” We are his beloved and he will bless what we put our hearts toward. If I wanted to fly a plane, I believe I could…because God loves me and wants me to succeed at everything I do in life.

So when I say that I have experience envy, I mean that I know I can do whatever I desire with Gods blessing and I hate limiting myself. There is so much for me to see and do and love! And I will do it all, more than I can dream up right now! This longing inside me is true and right. He placed it and he will fulfill it.

His love is intensive and his grace overwhelming. Doesn’t that make you want to get up and go move?!

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