Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leather-Bound, Cloth-Woven Journal

For graduation one of my babysitting clients gave me an amazing journal to write in. Pretty much TOO amazing quite frankly. It's leather-bound, with cloth stitching woven in crazy flower patterns into the cover. On the inside, it's like old egyptian papyrus with no lines (you know something is creative and for artistic use when there are no lines). I've looked at that journal for a while wondering what's good enough to write in it, what sort of pen should I use, what kind of thoughts are good enough for this beautiful journal?

This is why when I'm journal shopping I never buy the ones that look like this. There's so much pressure to write the right things and the right way when I'm using it. I usually stand at the rack where the journals are lined and my eyes stop on the super-journal, but I keep going not even letting myself fall into the misconception that I have enough money for this one, or that I would even have anything to put into it. On an adventurous day I pick up the coveted journal and I run my fingers over the pages, feel the woven intricacies on my fingertips lightly and slide it right back into its spot. It's gorgeous, but expensive.

I feel like I look at my Lord as a beautiful journal. I don't want to write my life in Him because what I have to say is not deep enough, it's not good enough, or pretty enough. My words, they don't look fancy, they fall below what deserves to be written in that journal. So, I take a step to the side and I pick up the journal with the flimsy cover and lined notebook pages; the one that I feel like I deserve. I put His Sacrifice back on the shelf and say, I'm not worthy. I don't deserve the best, I haven't worked hard enough for it. I am not pretty enough or smart enough to be in His Presence. Hold on, wait just a few more years and I'll be better and we'll do this again, when I'm at my best, just wait, Lord, just wait.

The beauty of the Lord is that He says, "no, my Daughter. I want you right now. I want you broken. I want you when you're hurting. I want you when you doubt me because I love you." He never says, "no you are good enough," he never says, "you've worked hard enough," he never says, "you are strong enough." He simply says, "I AM good enough. I AM strong enough. I AM big enough."

God wants us to understand that someone has already paid for our leather-bound, cloth-woven journals. All we have to do is receive it and continue to receive it. For what good is our journal if it sits at home after we carried it back from the store and kept it closed because we were afraid that we might spoil it with our writing. God wants us to fill its pages with our lives, so that He may write back showing us how He's there. So, open your God-given journals and fill its pages with words, emotions, people, dreams, hopes, despairs, struggles, LIFE; for when He opens them to read them, He smiles at the chicken scratch that we have filled it with and He whispers "I love you" on every page. He touches them and let's forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and grace flow into every crevice and every ink spot, so that when we open them anew for a fresh day with the Lord, every blessing He placed in it the day before, and that moment then, and the day tomorrow comes flowing out into our lives so that we may see how GREAT our God is and how BEAUTIFUL His Promises and Fulfillments are.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Words and People

I recently got back from a women's retreat at my church where 100 women gathered in a cabin with four bedrooms and plenty of floor space to be slept on and be...well, women together. We made button rings, talked, laughed, colored with crayons on the tablecloth, and stayed up incredibly late, ultimately falling asleep closer than we really needed to be. The weekend's theme: story.

Now, if you know me you understand the deep obsession I have for stories, both for telling them and hearing them. And recently I've been trying to figure out why I am so in love with stories, why they mean so much to me, and give me that little-kid-imagination high. I think I've got it, you see, stories relate two of my greatest passions in life: words and people. Stories are sharing a significant part of our lives with significant people in our lives; they take the everyday situations that we relay and they envelop them entirely in word-wrapping paper of beauty, suave, adventure, excitement, completeness, and fantasy. A story requires two components to exist: a writer (one who experienced the situation and is sharing it out loud or on paper) and the one sitting at the feet, listening. A story means being intentional and letting others see into your life, ergo the essential role in community within our Spiritual Story. We are called to not just experience our stories and keep them inside, but to validate them by speaking them out loud to the listener, sitting at our feet experiencing our story with us.

A good listener, the one that doesn't merely sit through your story, but runs through it with you, climbs in it, and breathes along you throughout it, is like a good back to lean on. Seriously, have you ever been sitting on the floor for an extended period of time with nothing to rest your back against? You basically get the option between criss-cross-applesauce or the lean-back on the hands. Either one is ridiculously harder now then it was when we were five and sitting Indian-Style was the hot commodity of rug-time. Well, there weren't enough chairs for all of us women at this retreat so we popped a squat on the floor. It had been a long grueling two hours of sitting (it really wasn't all that grueling, but for the sake of the story....ya know. =]) and I leaned agaisnt my friend Jessica, her back against mine, and discovered this amazing and immediate relief! We both got something out of this wall that we offered up, we both put in just as much strength as we pulled out, but the best part about it was that we were connected. When she was talking to her friends on the opposite side of me I didn't just hear her words, I FELT them. I could sense them as they traveled and vibrated throughout her body. And when she swayed, my body swayed with hers, when she leaned over to readjust I fell backwards unsuspectingly.

Community when rooted in the Lord is like that. Not just listening, but feeling, not just watching, but moving with, not just one-sided, but completely trusting on both ends. When we tell our Stories in Community, that's how it should be received, and that's how we should be receiving: intentionally, lovingly, caringly, and legitimately interested, not judging, and definitely not comparing their stories with our own. God gave each one of us a Great Story and we each get to experience Him in it in a beautifully unique way.

Maybe your story calls you to be vulnerable and trust others with your heart, maybe your story calls you to show others that you're not perfect, or that you haven't grown in your relationship with the Lord in years, or maybe that you never really started one with Him at all. God calls us to take this step, He calls us to risk our hearts, our "identities", and our masks. He calls us to give up our false stories, the ones we paint, so that we can take up the one He painted for us. We cannot hold onto our images of ourselves with one hand and reach out for His Image of us with the other. He calls us to extend both hands, dropping everything in the process to receive the Monet of our Image from His Gracious Hands. This is what it means to tell our stories, the real ones, in the fashion that He practiced Story telling. And if you just need someone to sit at your feet to hear yours, be in prayer that the Lord will send you your listener, your fellow-back to lean on. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

So, what's your story? Not just the story of being chased by a squirrel across campus and feeling like you were never going to escape its beady little eyes (although if you have stories like that please share because I am ALWAYS down for a good laugh *cough* I mean solid sympathizing), but What's your story in Christ? Seek the answer to this one, and in your journey for the answer, have regular Story-time with your Community, be real, be authentic, and share your life with those who walk alongside you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jagged Bagels

I feel like there's this constant feud of balance between technology and mom-n-pop culture within our society. There's the comfort of the "over-the-belly" jeans vs the fashion appeal of the "off-the-hip-potential-plumber's-crack" jeans, the authenticity of the "take-up-a-whole-wall" calendar vs the convenience of the "punch-it-in" iPhone, or even the efficiency of the backing-up camera on SUV's vs. the fun of the trial and error way of backing up in olden days.

Things have changed, some for the good, but some for the worse. This morning I had two exams to look forward to so I decided to put a great start to this imminently foreboding day. I strapped on my rainbow suspenders, rainbow beanie, and walked down to the best coffeehouse in the world (Greyhouse) to get my all-too-normal skim cinnamon latte and then picked up a bagel from Einstein's. As I ordered my bagel toasted and creamed, the woman, who was a little stressed cause of the busyness, threw my bagel into a metal chute of death, and the sound of my bagel screaming out for life as the blades roared out maliciously and just sliced that poor piece of dough in half was heart-wrenching. She then grabbed the bagel without looking and put it into the toaster 5000, within two seconds that thing was fried. I got my bagel in a minute and a half, and then she didn't look at me again and just moved onto the next person in line.

Now, I was grateful for the fast service, but a part of me felt like I missed out. This bagel-slicer and turbo-toaster had replaced the human touch of a jagged bagel cut with a normal knife and the awkward silence of a couple minutes of toasting bagel time. I had this grand revelation as I walked to class, bagel in hand and coffee in tow, what else in our lives have we replaced with this bagel-slicer to speed up time, make things convenient, and clean up appearances? Our culture is addicted to harder, better, faster, stronger. We commit to short-answered questions in greeting, we are always on the move, and we are obsessed with numbers.

Within the church we are obsessed with numbers, how many attended the service, how many came to this group, how much did we get from offering, how many came to Christ? What about that one boy who comes in the back late, sits by himself on that last seat in the last row wondering if church, if God was the answer to his pain? Who's going to notice the unnoticeable when we're so focused on the outcome of the crowd? What about the one individual who took years to come to Christ, and had to choose to go against everything they've ever lived for, family included, and we simply say, go pray with this group of elders? What about the person who is in desperate need to be seen and asked the question 'how are you?' sincerely? We are the answer to these questions, our imperfect, faulty, humanly hands, time, and lives. We are the ones who are called to see these people, these hurts, these fears, and we are called to reach out, to stop our lives, and to put some interest in their lives.

The super sliced bagel was cleaner cut, that I'm not going to argue with, the appearance was superb, but our lives are not about projecting the image. We are often told that to be accepted we must have a clean, good looking surface; but those who are related to and make a difference in others lives, they're real, they're imperfect, and they're aware and accepting of that. Our imperfections are not to hide away behind the perfection shield of "great!" responses, they are to be seen, to be real, so that we are relatable and have the Touch of Life in us.

Christ pays attention to us, on a secondly basis. He sees us, He notices us, He holds us, and "makes" the time for us.  "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord" - Psalm 139: 2-4. Slow down friend, mean what you say, pay attention to those who slink in the shadows, be intentional, put your touch on lives, be the jagged, imperfect bagel.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Walls, Pride, Self-Assurance, Solitude, Hiding, Plans, Humor, Energy, Chaos, SECURITY.

I link all of these things together in my life. I feel that if I can only attain these things, then the situations and emotions that I don't really want to face or struggle through go away. If I'm funny enough or have enough people around me feeding off of my energy, if I struggle independently and not tell anyone I'm struggling, then it makes the struggle non-existent. If I hide my emotions and thoughts well enough then they will stop existing, they'll go away. If I can carry myself through my hurt, then I don't have to be vulnerable and life is better. All of this seems to act in a cyclone effect, the more I hide, the more I hurt and the more I hurt the more I want to hide, do you see how that goes? Never really seeming that you're better?

Now, I've got this friend, she's a sophomore in my Campus Crusade group and she's got this post-it note pinned to her desk. It's bright yellow, like neon yellow, the kind that when you see you feel that a bit of your retina has been eternally damaged, and on this yellow card it says, "God, you are bigger than_____". When I see that card (every time I go into her room, guaranteed), I put "my pride" in that blank and my fierce desire to struggle on my own is shone for the weakness that it is. The Lord made us to be vulnerable with each other for a reason. When we take down our walls with each other, when we lose the self-assurance, then we find our SECURITY in the Lord, and not in ourselves. It's better then anything we could have provided, we are filled with the Lord's LOVE and we are empowered to share His Grace.

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" Isaiah 40: 12. God, You are bigger then my pride, You are bigger then my insecurity, You are bigger then my pain, and my struggles. God, You are bigger then my Walls. You are bigger than my fears, You are bigger then my purpose alone, You are bigger than my agenda, my grades, my success, and my thoughts.

Fulfilled Promises, Sincerity, Empathy, Love, Beauty, Grace, Purpose, Mercy, Compassion, ABBA FATHER, my SECURITY.