I Sang a Song

You are my rock and my salvation;

To you I’ll always cling.

I am not invisible or unknown

But hidden in the shadow of Your wings.

You set a table for us

Before all our enemies

and when I cry out to You, Lord,

You always answer me!

My rock and salvation.

You always answer me.

You always answer me.

You say to me, “Seek my face.”

Oh Lord, Your face I seek!

You bring me Peace and Hope;

Only Your praise will I sing.

You are my rock.

I’ll cling to You.

You are my salvation.

All You speak is Truth.

And You always answer me.

You hear my cries.

You always answer.

My rock and salvation.

What is my Responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?

This is a question I ask myself often. What does active faith look like in this particular time and place? Justice has always mattered to me, but my understanding of it has changed substantially over time. Growing up, my biggest hero’s were Harriet Tubman and Robin Hood. My fairly simplistic (and flawed) moral code could be summed up thusly: those with power should leverage it for the benefit of those with little or no power.

Around age 13 or so I stopped believing God. To understand my world better, I began studying atrocities. The Holocaust, the Irish Potato Famine, the North Atlantic Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears, the Rape of Nanking… these events led me to two conclusions:

1. Atrocities supported my hypothesis that God is not real

2. These terrible capabilities sit in the hearts of nearly all people

It provoked me to ask myself: Do I possess the courage required to fight evil at any cost?

The desire in my heart for justice and to be on the side of the righteous did not die with my faith, but it got twisted. In attempting to set my own standards much of my moral compass became compromised. What didn’t change was my belief that racism and oppression are evil. But make no mistake: I’ve said things and behaved in ways that are unquestionably prejudiced or biased. My heightened awareness of mankind’s history of racism, oppression, abuse and prejudice didn’t alter the fact that my entire life is one of default power and privilege.

I grew up in a world of systemic racism which both benefited me greatly and kept its sins largely invisible from me. Right now, I think of my growing awareness on this issue along the same lines as I do sanctification: it is an ongoing process in life rather than a place one arrives. Undoubtedly, some of the very things I write at this moment will embarrass me when I look back on them in the future, but I must have the humility to make imperfect progress. Unfortunately, I can’t get “there” without being “here.” So I must humbly ask for grace I don’t deserve.

The topic of race and justice in the USA has only risen in importance to me during the process of transitioning from an atheist to a Christ-follower and reading what the Bible says about how His people should treat and love others. I also find myself embarrassed that those who continue to pay the highest price in a society designed for me find themselves in the position of explaining and revealing to me how it benefits me and costs them.

I struggle with the number of indifferent white Christians in the USA who point at “progress” and council “patience” to people who have spent generations being oppressed, marginalized, silenced, beaten, killed and shackled by (predominantly) WHITE Christians. I have heard with my own ears the argument by white Christians about how they didn’t have slaves, or support Jim Crow laws, etc. It’s not their sin, after all.

I think of Jesus, who we believe took OUR sin and laid it on himself. Then he looked to the people who called themselves His followers and asked them to do the same thing.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)

I don’t believe that any white person in America can really say they aren’t tainted by the sin of racism. We have benefited from privilege at the cost of the marginalized and that feels out of alignment with Luke 9:23 (and the rest of the Bible). I struggle to believe that we won’t have to answer for our complicity-I don’t believe God will accept the excuse that we were insulated or unaware. How can we be for the things God is for and calls us to (both in the New Testament and the Old) in the US right now without seeing and knowing?

I don’t know if there’s a “right” answer to the question, “What’s my responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?” But I do know I will keep asking the question, seeking God’s answer, and attempting to align myself in thought, word and action to His Will. I work to make a difference and to be an ally. I pay attention to my words and actions as I seek to grow more aware of my privilege and the presumptions inherent in belonging to the dominant culture. And I remember that even in this place, I have a privilege many in my community do not. I have the privilege of choice. At any point, I can opt out of being an ally. I can say I am weary and need a break. If the road gets hard, I always have the option of retreating into a culture of whiteness and choosing not to stand or speak in difficult places. It is not a privilege I want to exercise but it is a choice I get to have. And as a white Christian in the USA, I believe God cares deeply about what I choose and why.

When I Don’t Have Words (Story of Hannah)

I will pour out my soul

Pour out my soul

Before the Lord

And He will hear me.

 

The world will say, “Woman,

Why won’t you eat?

Why do you weep?

Your heart should not grieve.”

 

I lay the bitterness of my soul

In prayer before the Lord

Weeping in anguish to Him

Who will wipe tears from all eyes.

 

Lord, look upon my face

Your servant, weighed down in disgrace

Do not forget me

Remember she who clings to You.

 

Clinging, clinging

Clinging to You

God of the Hebrews

Cover me with Your cloak.

 

Other foreign women, I know

You claimed; You called your own

Yes, You knit them in

Into Your inheritance.

 

My Prayer Right Now (originally written in July 2018)

Here is what I say to You, Adonai: ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.’ May all the words I believe I receive from You be true and right. I ask you, Lord, to shine your Light on anything not of You so I can throw it out and forget it. Abba, May I treasure your words and your Word. May I treasure them in my heart as Mary did. When the time of Your words come, I will proclaim Your goodness and faithfulness. As I wait in hopeful expectation I will tell others of Your love and compassion. I will worship You in pain and joy, in the waiting and the welcoming, in every season of my life. I am a grateful servant; I have not forgotten the debt You paid for. I know Your timing is perfect and I trust you. Amen.

To Choose to Love

Nearly 10 years ago, I had forgotten how to be loved well. I have heard it said that we accept the love we think we deserve. It may, to an extent, be true. But I hadn’t always believed that I deserved to be where I was. It was a slow degradation; the result of many bad choices and unkind people, some of whom I allowed into my life and some who forced their way in. However, those led me to enter a span of time where I came to believe that everyone leaves: they leave marks, brokenness… and me.

But then came Moose, this shelter puppy who seemed as broken as I was.  And he chose to love me a LOT. He would panic when he couldn’t see me. Break cages to get to me. Try to dig through doors and bust through fences to be where I was. I’m not saying he was 100% stable; his need was sometimes exhausting. But it also revealed to me that to this little (now giant) guy, I was beloved. I was valuable. I was preferred. I’d never felt loved like that before.

Tonight I realized that Moose represents the first time I really believed any creature in Creation could choose to love me. Every day, in every moment, for his whole life. Even when he was destroying things, killing creatures, digging through doors, breaking cages. Even when I lost my patience or got frustrated at our inability to understand one another. Usually, his purpose in those moments was solely to find a way to get to me and get my attention, my comfort or my care.

This reckless love forced my hand… I made a choice to love this neurotic and somewhat uncontrollable dog right back. I decided to love him as relentlessly as he loves me, without restraint and against the sound advice of my veterinarian and friends who said this young pup was just too much. Somehow, his love slowly moved me and mine him. Moose taught me how to love again, and just as important, how to receive love. He taught me to give and receive affection and comfort. He revealed to me that love didn’t always have to hurt. At least, that’s what I thought.

But as Moose has entered the geriatric phase of his life, I find myself bargaining with God. Because I know sometime, Moose is going to leave. Not because he wants to but because such is the nature of this world. And I find myself in a tug-of-war within my heart to love him well and harder. I fight to resist the instinct built over decades of practice that tells me to distance myself, to harden my heart.

I really don’t know how I can bear the loss of him, and that moment seems to be drawing closer. I recently experienced the loss of my dear Grandma, and that loss has triggered some things I’ve managed to ignore for a really long time. I prayerfully ask God to bless Moose and I with a little more time together; that one devastating blow would not follow right behind the other. It’s freaking hard to just be right now. To allow myself to grieve and mourn in a world that thinks pain and sadness are things to avoid and medicate. It’s even harder to love fully when Death hovers right at the edge with the promise of heartbreak. I wish we knew how to deal with “hard” as a community…

So in this raw and vulnerable state, I’m going to call my heartbreak good because it meant there was tremendous love there. I’m going to continue to love Moose well, even if it is tearfully. I will give thanks to God that I can love so deeply and completely as I do, and that I have received that same love in return. I praise God for giving me the strength to bear the weight of loss. The fatal misstep I see so many make in this time is to believe Loss when she tries to convince us that Love makes us weak, vulnerable and guarantees suffering. Some of the best lies are the ones that are mostly true. Love is all those things; but in these very things I am reminded of Christ, and my desire to grow in Christ-likeness. He LOVES us. He loves us in a way that our ability to love only hints at. He reminds me that those who love do not flee from suffering, but bear it in the most intimate and vulnerable of ways. He reminds me that His greatest victory and manifestation of the strength and might of God was only revealed through His humility and weakness, to the very point of death. But most critically of all, and the one we often fail to see when the veil of Death hangs over those we love, is that Death is not the end. Nor is Death the victor. We are all more than conquerors through Him who loved us… (Romans 8:36-39)

Dream – 08.25.18

I was standing in a room that was familiar to me, but I didn’t recognize it. I was elevated; at least a couple stories up. In the room there was a giant window, swung open, across from me.

I walked unhurriedly toward the window. The curtains didn’t move; the air felt dead. When I was towards the center of the room there had clearly been the noise of a great commotion on the streets but as I reached the window it was silent. Not even an insect chirping. The world looked on fire. The light cast over the cityscape around me was red and orange. It made the room I stood in seem sterile and white in contrast.

Leaning out the window, the fiery colors seemed to originate from the sun, but it was larger than any sun I’d ever seen. It was the color of blood and it seemed to swallow the sky. The air moved like waves, visible to the naked eye, yet I felt no heat.

Appearing on the horizon was a giant cube built with smaller interconnected cubes. There seemed to be as much empty space within the larger cube as there was space occupied by smaller cubes but it was hard to tell. The smaller cubes moved together but it was unclear how. Their movement was less mechanical and more like the flow of water, if water were cubes which defied the laws of gravity. This whole thing, perhaps the size of a 2 or 3 story building, was surrounded by fire. I understood that what I looked at occupied higher dimensions than I could comprehend. ‘Strange. Surreal. HOLY.’ I thought.

The cubes that were more than cubes hovered in a way that seemed weightless, and it seemed as if somehow, the cubes weightless rotation moved it down the road and towards me. It’s fire was different; where the light around us felt like it hummed with wrath, the fire around the object felt alive and purifying.

As it drew close, level with the window I leaned out of, I noticed writing on the various smaller cubes.  It was in a very weird language; it felt ancient. I looked closer and it appeared to be a merging of pictures and symbols but in a flowing script.

Suddenly I was aware of the meaning: here I looked upon the name of God and the mere name overwhelmed me. There were many names but I only KNEW a few of them. I knew these were not names of many, but the names of One. As the burning, rotating Word drew close to the window, I dropped  to the ground. I was utterly fearful of the holiness. I was acutely aware of all my “deficiencies,” but it didn’t feel like shame or judgment. I felt filled with a holy awe and tremendous gratitude. Eyes closed, it felt as if I was being cleaned of things I didn’t even know were stealing my life. Leaches I didn’t even notice. Without looking, I felt it directly in front of me. Without thinking, I began to worship. I didn’t even know why I did it or what I sang except it was my only possible response to the situation. Every cell in my body cried out in praise.

Sometimes, I Forget

From December 6th, 2016

 

Sometimes I forget, God.

I forget that You come close when we find ourselves sinking.

I forget You loved me when I was darkest.

I forget that You love us so much, you sent your Son and the Advocate to help us.

I forget You are the God who humbled Egypt for your people.

I forget You are a God who gives children to the barren.

I forget You spilt your blood for us.

I forget You gave us rulers because WE insisted.

I forget all the ways You have been faithful to a faithless people.

I would rather be anywhere with You than in paradise without you. You are my paradise.

Two Questions

“Who is this guy?”

”Do I trust him?”

These two questions sat at the heart of our service today. They were talking about God and Scripture. Discovering who “this guy” is through the Word and asking us where we have stepped out in faith. Where we have trusted Him. To illustrate this, the woman speaking shared a story from her own life when she found herself trusting in a group of strangers.

And as she spoke I felt conviction about this lie that I’ve treated as truth for so long, I didn’t notice how it had entangled me. This lie that said I can’t be trusted.

It is rather unfortunate that I’ve been through some pretty dark seasons. Seasons that most often involved me looking at a boy or man and believing I knew him and I could trust him. And then being proven very wrong. Although I have forgiven them and found healing around those things, today I realized I hadn’t forgiven myself. After discovering over and over how wrong I was about so many people, I started to believe I could not be trusted with my own well-being. That if someone wanted a relationship with me (dating, friendship, etc) it was because they were deeply broken. And if I was attracted to someone, it was a sure sign to run. Literally. All sirens went off internally and I would flee.

Ultimately though, this story isn’t a story about me, but about God and God’s desire to redeem, restore and reconcile. A God of Truth certainly cannot abide this lie I have been somewhat unknowingly agreeing with.

When I began to seek God, one of the first things I discovered (and one of my favorite attributes) about God is how available God is to me. God gives me complete and total freedom to explore who God is, to know God’s past and future. To seek God not because God isn’t already here, but because the breadth and depth of God is so vast that I am able to become totally “lost” with God.

God and I have been through some good times and bad, but the characteristics of god I read in the Bible are present in our relationship today. I am confident I can trust God.

But I couldn’t trust me. I couldn’t trust the people around me. I couldn’t take that risk because I thought my judgment was impaired. It wasn’t. The problem was that I had tried to discern through my own humanness, my brokenness, my wounds rather than through the Spirit that God gives me and the wisdom God blesses me with both through our relationship and the Word.

So I repent. I repent of believing that God could not equip or protect me, of not trusting that God would continue to shepherd me. And I bless this space, that I would move forward confident in that I am covered in the armor of the Lord, who is my stronghold and my rock in difficult times. I pray that the rest of my story would be a testimony to the kind of Love God extends to each of us. I pray that I would be able to step with the confidence of one who is led by the King of Kings. Amen.

A Dream of Woman Camp

My sister and I are walking with all the other women up to the big, white tent at the top of the hill. As we draw closer, we can hear the rhythm of the instruments and the sound of voices singing.

Then my vision changes.

The sky is so lovely; the bright white of the tent pops against a sky that’s so blue I feel like I could dive into its depths. And the voices, the songs, sound so beautiful! I feel them soak into my very core. They fill me with joy and love. My sister and I look at each other and laugh; the joy bubbles and spills out of us like children breaking out of the school doors to summer break.

Then I notice there are other voices singing. It seems to be coming from the beings of light that are around us now, but not quite. Almost as if their voice is the wind, as if they make the very molecules of the air rejoice. As I pass by one of the light beings, my heart responds to it as if it knows it, like this saturating and abiding peace that envelopes me is as recognizable as a face, a laugh, a fingerprint. This one somehow I know.

I smile widely in the beings direction and begin to sing as I reach for my sister’s hand. I answer it’s peace with love, with gratitude. With thanksgiving. I am sure this is a friend who has been with me all my life. My Comforter and Protector. Tears fill my eyes as my sister and I begin to dance; jumping, twisting, laughing.

Suddenly I see us from outside myself, like the being of light was revealing to me for just a moment what it was seeing. And my sister was 4 and I was 8 and we were lost in our joy, and surrounded by other girls laughing, dancing, hugging, singing. We glowed, Light spilled from us, and we were surrounded on all sides by innumerable Light beings who moved, a dance wholly unlike any dance I’d ever seen. And in the field and space where colors were more than colors and light more than light, the universe suddenly expanded into this fixed moment and I glimpsed the infinite.

And then I was back, and the world was small, and I was just one of the many grown women out in this totally unremarkable field. And yet the beauty of what was happening here was not lost. Here in this moment we had let go of all the things the world had laid on us and we danced as we did when we were children, reckless in our Love.