Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coming to Faith

It amazes me sometimes the way people come to develop faith in their lives. Case in point: my oldest brother.

He is staunch anti-religious, particularly anti-Christian. He shuddered and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him, when my mother and I got "In God We Trust" license plates. How could we ever subject ourselves to that kind of irrational thinking? he asked. He was utterly disappointed in us and had no qualms about saying so.

For Christmas every year, he gets me a book about a different religion. This year, it was a study version of the Baghavad Gita. I don't really mind - it's fun to study different belief systems, something that has always interested me. And I am a bit of a pluralist - I believe every belief system has something to offer the Christian, even if it is sometimes just a more firm implanting of Christian doctrine.

But yesterday, he walked in the front door with the aid of a cane. 27 years old, walking with a cane. His back has been bothering him for some time - several years, I believe - and he's found no relief in modern medicine. He's tried all the drugs, the exercises, the careful living...nothing has helped him. Reduced to a cane, he sought out alternative treatment. He went to the chiropractor.

This was a radical shift for him. It is a science he does not understand nor believe in. Even as he stood by the door (he has always preferred to stand) leaning on his cane, he ranted against the "pseudo-science" of chiropractics and called it the closest thing to faith he's ever experienced in his life. (This is not quite true; during his teenage years, he experimented with Christianity at the whim of a girl he was dating and decided it wasn't for him after they broke up.) was his first step toward faith.

Obviously, faith means something different for him than it does for me. For me, it is centered around God. For him, it is slightly different, still rooted in the belief in something he cannot understand, but nothing in particular. But it is interesting to see him on this journey, openly admitting his shifting feelings toward faith and its valuable role in life, even in his life.

Do I think he will ever get to the point where he goes to church and adopts my faith? No. I am not that naive. But any faith journey, any time when we come face-to-face with that which we cannot see, is admirable in my eyes. Maybe this is his first step; maybe it is his last step. Either way, he's committed to seeing the chiropractor, the "spiritual healer," as my brother called him, every other day until the pain subsides and he can live again.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spider Bite

Never opposed to learning new facts, I had an interesting conversation with one of the campus doctors the other day. Last weekend, I was bitten by what we can only assume was a brown recluse spider. The bite itself is rather impressive. By Thursday, it was massive (and massively infected) and the infection was spreading to the rest of my body, so I sought out some help. And she explained to me why such bites look so nasty:

Most skin wounds heal over the top, then fill in the space underneath over time, so we don't really know how long it takes them. But a spider bite heals from the bottom up, starting in the depths and building up new layers slowly, so we get to watch it heal.

I took this to heart, and I wondered how much of my life I spent waiting on God to heal my skin wound...when what I really needed was the healing of a spider bite. See, the trouble is this: if something heals over the top before filling in below it, anything that scrapes off that temporary covering brings it all back again. But if the healing process is slow, coming from the depths, then there is no danger in re-opening the wound once it is healed.

This is a major shift in my paradigm. Not long ago, I would have told you that complete healing, total restoration from the ravages of abuse is not possible, not even with God. But now, I'm not sure that thinking was accurate. I believe that as the layers fill in from the deepest parts of my soul, I will build up stronger and complete, though I will always carry a scar. But it is a scar without danger - peeling away one layer of scar will not reveal wound; it will reveal only more scar, more toughness, more healing.

How much time have you spent asking God to heal your skin wound, all the while missing out on Him healing your spider bite?

Friday, April 25, 2008


As the Lebanese civil war raged on, the curator of the Beirut museum worried about his art and artifacts. Constant shelling and mortar fire between East and West Beirut threatened to damage the goods. To protect his wares, he built wooden frames around each item, then filled in the air with concrete, locking away the precious inside the safe. His theory was that later, after the shelling and mortar fire stopped, they could chisel out what they had tucked away.

And he knew every piece by its location. He still gave tours of the museum, pointing to this or that concrete block before talking about what treasure lay inside of it.

People have been touring my landscape for years. I, too, have been hidden inside of a concrete block, the walls of defense I had put up around myself to live through civil war, to avoid the mortar rounds and shells. Some saw only the walls, the defenses, and could not believe anything valuable lay hidden beneath it all. Others saw through me the entire time, noting only the beauty that lay within. It is this latter group that I am now most thankful for - the people who never gave up on me when I gave up on myself.

I don't know whether he ever got to chisel the museum fodder out of the concrete or not or how it turned out if he did. All I know is that every day now, I am being chipped away at - shaped not only by how I see what is inside myself, but also by what others have seen and refused to give up on. Especially God.

I read something in the Bible or get a sense from looking out a window of what was created 23 years ago (24 if you count gestation - which raises the question...why aren't we born 1 year old? Anyway...), and I see where God is. He's holding the chisel.

In my portfolio, I hold a drama about this very principle, but I never saw it in myself until now (and I have never performed this skit). It's God, holding the chisel, chipping away at everything a man holds dear until there's nothing left but Spirit, nothing but God and man, barebones. And ironically, man ends up more whole than when God began, despite all the holes.

There's something hole-y about wholeness. Isn't that ironic?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What God Wants

God told Abraham to rise and take his little boy to a lonely place they call Moriah's Hill. God said, "There, you'll sacrifice your precious pride and joy and you'll be blessed in ways I cannot tell."

Last night, as I lay in bed falling asleep, I remembered the words of an old friend, Dave Carnes. After days of talking with him, he was getting increasingly angry with me, and he just exploded. He talked about how I was squashing the Spirit within me, how I was so resistant to everything God wanted to do in my life. Finally, he just screamed "God wants to bless your face off!"

So I got to thinking - what is it that God wants to do in my life? And I could feel the resistance inside of me. It's still there this morning, and it will probably still be there tomorrow. I just don't know how to let go and let God, but all of a sudden, that saddens me. I really feel what Dave told me so many years ago - I am killing the Spirit inside of me by my unwillingness to be open.

I feel like, over the last several years of fighting illness, I have drawn closer to God. It's playing out in my life in significant ways. At the same time, I am suddenly keenly aware that right now, my relationship with God consists of Him providing me only with what I need or want. He's yet to give me what HE wants, because I keep refusing to accept it.

It's hard because I've never really understood God. I don't think any of us really do, at least not until we meet Him face-to-face. And it's hard for me to not understand what's going on, especially in my own life. So sometimes, all I can do is sit back and sing...

If this is what God wants, if this is what God says, then who am I to doubt or try to figure out this circumstance? If this is what God chose for me in all His majesty, then surely, I can trust and lean on what God says.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Earth Trembled

"Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen." - Psalm 77:18-19

This morning, the earth shook. I'm not sure if it's allowed to do that or not. I mean, just to start moving like that and wreak havoc on everything.

I was awake, leaning up against the outside wall. All of a sudden, there was the loudest noise and what felt like the strongest wind. I'm used to the house shaking...sort of. At least, I thought I was. I live in an old, wooden house that is mostly plaster and no insulation. It shakes every time the wind blows. So I took it for a strong wind or the collapse of my neighbor's garage, which they are currently remodeling. No, it was a 5.2-5.4 magnitude earthquake. And the aftershocks are still coming.

This reminds me of the awesome power of my God, a God who can cause the earth to tremble. And tremble. And tremble. It's just a powerful reminder for me that when God decides to move, the whole world is going with Him. And it reminds me that every time God shakes up my life, it produces aftershocks that affect others. There are no isolated events, no one-time occurrences. God is here for me today, tomorrow, and forever, just as He was here yesterday, and there are others who are watching my life, hoping to see God.

I pray they do.

"Open up the doors and let the music play. Let the streets resound with singing."

Did YOU feel the mountains tremble?

Friday, April 11, 2008

See, Sense, Feel

I wish you could see the world the way I see it. I want you to live it with me, to touch it and embrace it in the way that I now can, a way I never could or never did before.

It seems so different now, though I'm unsure whether I can explain just how or not. For years, I have struggled so severely inside of myself - both with internal and external forces. But it was not until the other day that I realized how truly dead I've become. And I learned that all from a blade of grass.

It was green. I remember that so clearly because, suddenly, it was so clear that I had forgotten. It had never hit me before just how much illness and stress suck the life out of a person. But I saw that blade of grass and it was so And the thought popped into my mind - "Grass is green."

Then, "Sky is blue."

Then, "Sun is bright. Light is good. Rain is wet. Life is tangible."

It was like I could reach out and touch the world, and the world was touching me. As the warmth and the light came into my body, it was like life was breathing back into me. I can't quite explain it, there are no words that can wrap around it and grasp the situation.

But I wish you could see the world the way I see it. I want you to live it with me, to touch it and embrace it in the way that I now can, a way I never could or never did before.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Roly Poly

Roly Polies are magical creatures. I saw one today on the sidewalk as I walked from my class to my car, and it instantly put a smile on my face.

Remember the days of our youth? We spent so much time looking under rocks hoping to find one of these neat little bugs that rolls into a ball when you touch it. It's a protective mechanism, sure, but it's also just darn cute and intriguing. It's embarrassing to admit - even at 23, I still think it's cute. And I still smile.

Not many protective mechanisms make us smile. We're so good at the things we do to protect ourselves, and most of the time, they work, but we, like the sal beetle, get stuck in our protection and can no longer move. We can no longer see what's coming after us because we've got our head tucked between our feet. So it works, but at what cost?

God amazes me. He's given us so many ways that we protect ourselves. For me, it's always been hatred and denial. And they work, but they also paralyze us.

What's the point of a defense mechanism if it inevitably leaves you more vulnerable?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


One of my passions is drama. There's something about the way it tugs at the heart that is just magical. I guess, spiritual. I read about a drama in another blog, and it's just so awesome and really got me thinking, even without having seen it. (Plus, I keep mulling it over in my head in case the time is ever right to bring it to my home church.)

This drama has people coming across the stage, carrying a sign proclaiming their woundedness.
"18 years of addiction and sin"
"unbearable grief"
"childless and discouraged"

Then, (I assume after some lesson on redemption), they turn their signs over. On the other side is written a message of ransom.
"5 years of joy, peace, and forgiveness"
"indescribable joy"
"blessed by adoption"

It's powerful. And it makes me wonder - what would be on my sign? What would be on your sign? Does Jesus have a sign? I'm sure He does.

Perhaps my sign might say "23 years of bondage and imprisonment." Maybe it'd be "abused and abandoned." Or "Shame and Self-Contempt."

But I know that on the other side, it would say "Ransomed." For I have been redeemed, bought back, restored.

When I began this blog a few days ago, after years of blogging about pain and misery, my minister told me that being ransomed is all about having that which was taken from you brought back. Rather, given back by the One who has the authority to take away and to give.

I am finding this already to be true in my new life, my new birth that is coming about. Yesterday, I saw the doctor. Last year at about this time, she was able to tell, in no uncertain terms, the abuse I had suffered at the hands of man. My body was ravaged, damaged in such an obvious way that there were no questions left. This year, at the same time, the damage has all but vanished. There are still some signs, but there is purity being restored in a way that, honestly, I cannot explain nor describe. It's a glorious, beautiful feeling.

I don't think it matters any more what the front of my sign would say. All that is important is when it is flipped over. The back makes no sense without the front, but it also wipes the front clean.

As I sit in purity, in quiet reflection, I feel ransomed.

How do you feel? What's your sign?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wrestling with God

Jacob was so lucky! Somewhere in Genesis, he got to wrestle with God. He was just walking along one day and God ambushed him. (What an image! God jumping out from behind a bush and yelling "Boo" and then proceding to beat up a guy.) But once it was over, it was over. Jacob knew exactly where he stood. He stood anew as Israel and proceeded to build a nation.

If only it were that simple.

Some days, I feel ambushed by God. I'm just walking along, minding my own business, and then it hits me. It's that something that cannot be quite described but is so distinctively holy. And I think it hits me because it comes in my unholiness. But once it's over, I know where I stand with God - beloved, adored, cherished, redeemed, whole, loved. Until I forget again.

I'll probably never stand tall and build a nation. It's doubtful at this point if I will stand tall at all. The weight of the world has been on my shoulders for so long, and I am only now beginning to find new life. It is in this new life, and in honesty, that I begin this blog. It is my record of redemption as I wrestle with God and struggle with the issues that are going to come between He and I.

So please join me on my newest journey. Challenge me to grow, to look at things in a new light, and to stay true to my path. Pray for me; challenge me to pray for you. And let's walk life together as I wrestle myself and wrestle with God.

But never let us forget, for I am already ransomed. The chains have fallen, and I am free.