Monday, August 27, 2012

storytime: thirsty

This is a tale that will explain everything, or nothing, as I attempt discretion in releasing details.  
Five years ago, I made some life choices that seemed right at the time, and only proved to destroy me.  To this day, I live with the repercussions of my actions.  And I feel the burn.
Dry conditions encourage brush fires.  But these fires can serve as a form of pruning to deep-rooted plants.  These plants-- they survive the drought, they survive the fire.  And come season of rain, they come back to life.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

- Matthew 5:6

Four years ago, I was exceptionally unsatisfied.  And you could tell.  There was a combination of  significant life-shattering events, and an exasperation with the mediocrity in the church, the droning of empty worship, the droning in my own soul.  I was a fresh void, a vacuum, yearning for Truth/  Honesty.   Restlessness gnawed on my skin to feel something real, to experience something real, to own something real.

Indeed, my heart had become an empty room, and I wanted to make it a home.  I wanted God to make a home in my heart.  But first, I had to know the flat Truth about this Son of Man.  My eyes were wandering, albeit blurry.  Maybe I see God? Maybe I see my frustrations.  Maybe I see truth?  Maybe my spirit is weak?  Maybe I am hungry.  I thirst.  Yes, I was thirsty for deep waters.  I don't survive very long on the surface.  There had to be more to tradition, and I wanted to grab every preaching deacon by the shoulders and shake the secrets from them.  "Tell me!" I would have yelled like the Beloved to the Watchmen of the Night: "Have you seen my Lord, the One my heart loves?"

Soon, I began hearing new thoughts, ideas, and perceptions of God and His Kingdom, and I listened.  I listened for about two years.  I listened, and I soaked it up.  You could say that, it appeared as though I had come back to life.  I drank, I ate, I devoured.  I indulged because it was in arms reach, and my confusion/immaturity/pain left no room for distinguishing Truth, distinguishing righteousness.  I partook because it looked spiritually wholesome.  It looked like the deep waters I thirsted for.  But it was only happiness.  It was not joy.  It was not peace.  It was not righteousness.  I was unsatisfied.

Some things have the form, but not the power.  That causes decay.
Some things have the power, but not the form.  That causes destruction.

In those two years, the desperation clouded my judgment.  No longer was I searching for God Himself, I was searching for an experience. That was my problem.  A spiritual bulimia of excessive intake and public regurgitation in the name of God.  Eating my emotions, eating out of boredom.  Gluttony is a deadly sin.  I had consumed a tilted perspective of God and it was in my bloodstream, in my lungs; zealotry was on my breath, and my steps were careless.  I lost my appetite for discipline and wisdom and solitude.  It was drying my insides.

I don't need wine, I need water.  I thirst.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night...
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God...

- Psalm 42

It's interesting, how easily humankind is deceived by the temporal happiness brought by experiences.  After the hype and the crash, we realize that happiness does not bring satisfaction.  Satisfaction brings happiness.  Scratch that- True Satisfaction, the one that comes from trusting God, brings joy.  The latter is what I hungered for, what I thirst for.  I didn't know how to attain it, and I had no one.  Two brush fires in two years.  A lot of bridges had been burned.

Metaphor aside.  I think about that timeframe, and my only response is, I'm sorry, God.  I've since felt His grace upon it, but what I can't shake is the remorse for the friendships I shattered along the way.  I risked some solid relationships for the sake of that spiritual voyage, and I regret it to this day, knowing I can't salvage anything on human strength.  As many apologies as I release, things are not the same.  I trust God to heal all brokenness- and that's just it- I'm trusting God.  Living with the consequences, and relishing in justice, mercy, grace.

I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against You, and You only, have I sinned.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

- Psalm 51

Two years ago, 2010, things mellowed out.  I was so internally exhausted, in need of yet another cleanser.  Nourishment.  So I made a commitment to God; I told Him I'd give Him two years of my life, dedicated to the pursuit of His heart.  I asked yet again: Where is my Lord, the One my heart longs for?  And this time, I would not settle until I found water.  Only water.  Only the real river of life, not some bottled and sold jar of "holy water."  The true spring of Life.  For the past two years, I went back to the basic human need of hunger and thirst - for righteousness.  This would be my sustenance. In the time, I cherished solace and shalom, I dove into the Scriptures, I sang out my stress, I cried, I prayed, I soaked.

Those two years finished this spring.  I had a lot of thinking to do in those two years.  Lots of forgiving, lots of healing.  And as I mentioned, God doesn't owe me anything because I've given Him that time.  Nevertheless, He gives.  Freely.  I don't know what is in store for this next season; I'll understand it in retrospect.  But I do know one thing: I thirst for His righteousness, and He always satisfies.

What I love about God is that He is always present in my journey.  Do I always choose the right path?  No... but still, He never lets me walk the wrong path alone.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God...
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at the break of day.

- Psalm 46 


currently reading: Persuasion, Jane Austen
currently listening: Performance Today, feat. Elizabeth Aoki (9 yrs old)
currently watching: Mirror, Mirror

Thursday, August 16, 2012

on magic tricks, distractions, control.

You know which magic trick I'm talking about.  That one where a slight of hand awes everyone into believing the calm, that one where a big flashy explosion draws their eyes from seeing you hide into a secret compartment, that one where you woo with words and motions and pretty things and shimmery lights.

That one about distractions.
That one about staying very and terribly busy in order to hide the recklessness of a discontent soul.
You know which magic trick I'm talking about.

But, as we all know, that it is just that - a trick - and there's no reality to it.  There's no truth behind it, there's a ploy behind the curtains, there's someone pulling the strings.

And I'm talking about it, because I'm raising my curtains.  I'm adding vulnerability to my honesty, and subtracting tangents from the plain truth.
I have been this one, this busybody dashing from project to agenda to persona.
And (since I'm being honest), I hadn't realized it.  I hadn't realized I've been using my most recent busyness as my slight of hand to distract myself from the mess that is my self.

Story time: those around me observe my knack for organization.  Especially at work.  Systems; order; cleanliness; consistency; lists upon lists; labels (oh don't get me started on our new label maker).  And there is something I've known and pointed out about myself, that, more than half the time, when things don't make sense inside me, making sense of things around me is my consolation.  At least some things are in order.

Call it my ultimate mental distraction.  Call it my struggle to let go of control.

That's the funny thing about magicians.  They put on a show, the audience is awed, and whether or not the audience knows how it was done, they know it's not real.  Everyone knows it's not real.  The magician knows it's not real.  But in that moment of being stunning, the magician has things under control.

Most of the time.

What happens when things slip up?  When the latch is not caught, when the ropes are untied, when the rabbit falls asleep?  What happens from there?  What happens when the distractions stop working and everyone can't help but stare at the unravelling secrets?

I ask myself that tonight.
A recent situation is most definitely out of my control, and I can do nothing but pray, and pray fervently.  It hurt my heart and revealed wounds I've either ignored or told myself it was healed.  It happened and it broke me and it shot me into fear, and I don't want to be scared, but I have no control.  I don't know what will happen next, but what is happening is frightful and sorrowful and messy--

Do you know what was my first reaction when it happened?  My first reaction was to clean out my purse and find my organizer.  I threw out receipts and junk and wrote my work schedule for this week.  I made up deadlines for unimportant projects and calculated my budget for the next two weeks.  And my hands shook as I wrote.  And then I dropped everything, dashed into a warm shower, scrubbed my skin and scalp vigorously... and then I cried.  I cried until I was gasping for air.

I am weak.
But He is strong.

There's no such thing as magic.  It's all make believe.  It's fake, it's a trick, it's a lie.  Maybe a white lie, but it's all a lie.  A cover up.  A big, huge, distraction.
All this mumbo jumbo of doing things and putting things into systems and having people think you've got it under control - they're all just covering up the fact that nothing is under control.

I don't need another magic trick.  I do need a miracle.
A miracle: impossible outside of human capabilities, requiring the divine intervention of a powerful God, who is most gracious enough to come beside my weakness and be perfectly strong for me.
A miracle: meaning there is nothing I do except believe with an unshakable faith that my God will come through for me, however He shall, whenever He shall.
A miracle: I control nothing.  I trust Him with everything.

And yes, everyone's eyes are still on me.  Everyone's eyes are on this crazy unravelling situation.  Can't help that people are people, and they watch and they observe, and they criticize to one degree or another.
Good.  Let them watch.
Let them see that I am incapable, that I have nothing to show, that there is nothing but my heart on my sleeves.
And let them see God come through for me.  They don't need a distraction, they just need to see Him, and see that He's got it under control.

I say- let me see it for myself!  Give me eyes of faith!  True faith, complete trust, unquestioned surrender.  I want to see God come through for me.  I want to see Him, I want to see that He has it all under control - because He does, and He is, and He is present, and He is forgiving.
No more magic tricks.  Just miracles.
Just a God of grace.
Just the full truth.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You. Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

- Psalm 73.21-26


ps.  cut me some slack.  you know i wasn't referring to dark magic.

currently listening: "Satisfied by God" (again and again). by Jason Upton

Monday, August 13, 2012

virtue, integrity.

I want to be a person of integrity.  
Whatever the outcome of this season is, whether joy or sorrow, I want to look back at these moments and know that I was a woman of virtue; that my words spoken were out of the heart of God, that my refrain was the wisdom of silence.
I want to know that I handled every situation rightfully, that there has never been a reason to be secretive, or with vice, or with bitterness.
I want to look back at these times and know that I held His character, and grew in maturity.

So help me God!
So help me to live!

Those are the things I desire, the things I long for in my life right now.  I face these testings, these trials, these situations. I face people who are like chisels to my cold, offended heart; I face people who are like spring water to my soul.  And I remind myself to be that woman of virtue, to hold my cool, to hold back my words, to exercise wisdom.  then my self argues and my weakness sets in...

See, for every high hope that I set, I have at least once felt hopeless,
Every period of waiting that I endured, I have at least twice lost patience.
Every sincere attempt to be fully trusting, I have at least thrice panicked in fear.
At least.
I don't particularly want to remember these things.

But I recall the words of the Apostle Paul:

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.
I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prisons and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and compete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
 - Acts 20.22-24

More than knowing that I was one of virtue and integrity,
I want to be known as one to whom the great grace of God has been bestowed.
I want to be known as one who cannot, who is not, who could not,
apart from the divine hand of mercy and Love.

Ah, that I could claim virtue and integrity only because 
His heart is a furnace that burns and provokes me, and 
His presence is a weight that pushes and steadies me, and
His eyes see me and they know me and I am never out of His grasp, and He has loved me and pursued me and wrecked me and destroyed me and built me again.

Essentially, it has been His kindness that has led me to repentance, and in repentance and grace, I grow in character.
So help me, God.
So help me to live.
So help me to consider my life nothing,
to always testify to grace.


currently reading: Jane Austen, Persuasion
currently listening to: Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans, "Size Too Small" (For some reason, it's brought me to tears lately),