Monthly Archives: September 2012

Christianity, minus the sugarcoating.

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Christianity, minus the sugarcoating.

I’ve had my moments lately of head-slamming frustration, fist-shaking anger, prideful temper tantrums where I stomped my foot and marked my territory and made it clear that I’m the boss of me.

Yeah… God won’t stand for that.

Sometimes, like just sucks. It sucks the life right out of you. Sucks your heart dry until all you feel capable of doing is crying, yelling, or disappearing. Anybody who argues against that has never been passionate about anything, has never trusted another human being completely, has never taken a single chance or stepped outside of their comfort zone. Successful people aren’t born successful; success is the result of diligence in the face of fatigue, perseverance in the face of obstacles, willpower in the face of isolation, commitment in the face of disregard. Success implies a necessary challenge; otherwise it would be nothing more than surviving. I don’t want to survive my losses — which are as much a part of life as breathing; I want to succeed from them.

The common misconception about what it means to live for Christ is that you suddenly get a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card.

If only.

It’s quite the contrary. You’ll find yourself facing sudden giants you never saw coming. You’ll find yourself hiking the loneliest mountains you never saw on the horizon. And you might pause in your walk to ask why on earth life became so much harder than it was without God in it.

Atheists (in my own personal experiences) typically possess this generalization that Christians are weak-minded, gullible people with no real desire to learn about how life works, with no real desire to become a successful person who willingly educated themselves about the real world. For any atheists that might be reading this, I dare you to try Christianity on for size. It isn’t for the faint of heart, I’ll tell you that much.

As a person surrenders to the Lord, they begin to see their life and the world around them as if for the first time. It is colorful. It is vivid. It is breathtaking. But the visual is no longer shrouded in old defense mechanisms designed to shield us from the pain. When others fail us or break our hearts we are forced to experience the pain in humility. No retaliating, no bitter words of contempt; nope. It’s forgiveness instead of blame.

I dont care if you’re the Dalai Lama himself; that’s rough. It unnatural to us. It goes against everything we feel entitled to do. And that’s precisely why so much of mainstream Christianity is a dishonest lifestyle in contrast to the true living God.

Success is not living in abundance any more than winning the lottery makes you rich; money comes and goes, friends. Integrity, loyalty, honor: these are the truths that endure forever.

The suffering that comes with walking in the footsteps of Jesus is not a sign that you aren’t Christian enough. It’s a sign that you’re alive, and that quite possibly… You’re getting it right.

Suffering is not from God, period. He is not the source of our many pains. And the fact that we aren’t miraculously rescued from our plights every single time we encounter them is NOT an indication that God is “punishing” us, or that we don’t “deserve” His mercy. In actuality, our very disbelief that we are forced to suffer at all is a great example of how little we understand of what the grace of God really is, and what mercy truly means.

His peace does not remove the problem any more than courage removes the source of fear. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be called peace and it wouldn’t be called courage. Courage requires an element of doom, it demands a certain challenge within us. Likewise, peace would not be peace without the presence of chaos. Yin and yang; that’s life. That’s real.

To suggest to a hurting person that God believes you can handle what you’re going through is like saying God is made of marshmallows. Ridiculous. If we could handle it on our own, what would be the point? He created us and He died for our salvation because He loved us unconditionally, and because He knew we needed Him. Do we bring children into this world because we are excited to have a baby and immediately send it off into the real world? That would be a huge waste of nine BRUTAL months, if you’re a woman. Naturally, we create our children with immense love, and a huge part of that love is tied into the daily things we do for them. Teaching them how to feed themselves, how to walk, how to read, how to take a bath and brush their teeth and handle bullies and be a friend to others. Those are the most meaningful parts of being a parent; the most beautiful aspects of having a child.

God knew we would be lost and hopeless without Him, and that is exactly why He paid the ultimate price for our redemption, so that we could hold on to the hope above all hope when there was no hope to be seen around us. We can do all things through Christ who STRENGTHENS US. Not through Christ who makes our life ice cream flavored happiness with rainbow celebrations in place of grief.

But I’m finding my own little rainbows in the middle of the thunderstorms. And the intensity of these rainbows is more brilliant than any box of Lucky Charms ever could be.

Someone said there’d be days like this.

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Someone said there’d be days like this.

It’s a certain madness.

The coming on of days, relentlessly break. Themselves over my head like the tide’s rushing waves. Crash and collapsing on the sorrow-filled haze that swiftly becomes my own newest now-state; perpetual longing. Days and days. Like some mathematical equation, the series of hours consecutively adding themselves upon one another with exponential unforgiveness; delirious daze. The multiplication of an enigmatic pain. One plus one plus one more, forever. One at a time. Times nine times nine. It never stops and doesn’t care if I like it. Doesn’t ask if I’m ready. Doesn’t let me ask why. Reason and purpose are no longer mine.

Ring around the rosies with my pockets full of worries and the air is growing heavy and it’s good to be alive. Depression is a dance and so I shall, I vow — again again. Oh my oh my, pretend pretend. The dancing floor is riddled with holes but they all lead nowhere. Thousand no’s, thousand maybe’s. Rocks don’t roll. They only bury.

Dance they say. Without a partner, on display and the music is broken and refuses to play but dance dance dance dance anyway. To what. For why. Because because, and heaven lays her head to cry. Though not for me, for what I’m not. A robot in a shrinking box. The moon is laughing at my thoughts. I still can’t find the sense I got that everything will be alright and this will pass like dreams at night.

Am I dreaming? Someone screaming silent tears that wet the sky. A loud distorted lullaby. Waxing, waning. No complaining. Full and empty, dissipating. I wake up mostly twice a day, the rest I close my eyes to stay surrendered blind to pain inside that nothing gives me space to hide.

The why’s and where’s are far behind. Memories; they’re over now. (Down my head to sleep shall lie. Itself, it hurts. It grows in spurts.) So sink me like a sunken bow. The ship has sailed, float on with wow… -less proof that I’m still breathing.

discovery

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discovery

When we loose the creative power of our thoughts to set the momentum of our spirit in motion, we are unwittingly permitting ourselves the liberty of truly being, precisely what we are: free. Constantly changing. Perpetually evolving into a more deeply dimensional whole of the previous fragmented parts of ourselves. When we step outside of the feelings we’ve grown all too accustomed to existing within as we carry out our day, and we shift our perspective to see things from a higher vantage point, we make the greatest progress of all. The progress is not measured by the circumstances surrounding us. The progress is marked by a sudden shift in how we feel, how we perceive, how we empathize, how we interact, how we behave. The progress comes over us like the unexpected shift in seasons; we go to bed hot and tired, beaten by the intensity of an endless summer sun; and we awake to a slightly more slanted sunrise creeping down into our morning with the newness of a cool autumn breeze on our sunburnt skin.

It’s clockwork, and yet it always feels new and seems to come to us out of nowhere.

Progress is much the same. We run ourselves ragged and work ourselves into a familiar mindless oblivion, forgetting that the goal of our efforts exists whatsoever… Until one unassuming day much like any other, when we are met with some sudden result hanging in wait for us at the usual start of our day… And then we fall blindsided by the ‘miracle’ before us. Stunned, we step back from it all in attempt to process the change, the success, the progress… When we should have known all along it was bound to arrive and it surely would. Still, it always surprises us.

Funny how autumn slams itself head-first into existence like that. How easily we forget that every summer day is one step closer to the coming of fall. And the magic: it always feels new.

All that we see or seem…

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All that we see or seem…

“When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut, but I want to land on a star.”

“…Honey, stars are big balls of burning gas. They aren’t solid.”

“I know, Grammy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it only means we can’t imagine it yet. And I also want to be an Archeologist in Egypt. And a Marine Biologist. And I want to find out what words look like to people before they know how to read.”

She just looked at me and smiled her usual ear-to-ear smile, and hugged me with her usual five minute hug. She loved me half as much as I loved her. And she loved me a lot.

I think back to the quieter moments from my childhood, the ones where sunlight had a certain melodious way of sending a sense of sweet sorrow into my soul as it began to set outside my Grammy’s living room window; the ones where the ticking of the massive grandfather clock set my mind in motion with a certain angst and longing for the inevitable passing of time to somehow skip over me & my Grammy’s summer days so they could last forever… Even then, I somehow knew the pain of loss before I’d ever had to meet it face to face.

My Grammy always cried as she waved goodbye, the tail-lights from my dad’s pickup truck casting an ominous glow against the fading palm of my Grammy’s loving hand. I understood at a youngest age why she cried. Every single week. Every single time I had to go. I knew the day would come when saying goodbye would only be a distant memory.

It’s funny how the memories can be so incredibly specific that way. I remember her smell so well that it floods over me — even fifteen years later — when I simply close my eyes.

I dream about her tomatoes. Picking them. Her, and me, and all of my boys out there with us. These dreams are not a slumbering escape from the reality of her being gone; they are an awakening reality of the slumbering life I lead without her in it. These dreams are more real than the long-ago memories we once created; they are the memories we’re creating now.

I can’t say I believe in ghosts, or that I know somehow that it’s not just my imagination coming alive when I dream. But I can say — without reason or justification — that my Grammy does, in fact, visit me. We have moments together now, after all these years, when we truly do pause time. We put the world on hold and we sit back, holding hands, sharing love like a cup of fresh lemonade. Making jokes about bitter old men. Laughing. Talking about all of the things I worried I’d never have the chance to discuss with her: motherhood, marriage, growing up… That sort of thing.

In many ways, I became an astronaut and an archeologist and a marine biologist and I most certainly have discovered what words look like to people before they learn how to read… Although I don’t travel to Egypt or make day-trips beyond the Milky Way or spend long weekends deep sea diving; still, I’ve found the most unique opportunities to develop these fascinations into a deeply useful, deeply gratifying use for my meager existence.

Motherhood has a way of doing that.

I miss my Grammy much like we all miss aspects of our childhood, I’m sure. But mostly I’m just immensely grateful to have been given the opportunity to know and love and be loved by such a magical human being. I hope you each have such a profound connection, such an indescribable blessing at some point in your journeys. Whether in Egypt or on the moon, or in your very living room.

…FEEL…

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…FEEL…

I never — and I mean NEVER — get stuck behind a train while driving. I can count the number of times it has happened on one hand.

I drive across a set of railroad tracks every day dropping my kids off at school. I have never seen (or heard) a train crossing them. Not once.

To my great surprise, I was brought to a stop this morning as the wooden slats came down and the flashing lights began their ceremonious display of ‘haha! you’re going to be late now’ and I parked in a sudden sense of simultaneous confusion and wonder. (‘Wow, this railroad track isn’t just some outdated decoration of our old-fashioned small-town Main Street?’)

Anyhow, I sat in keen observation of the railcars, anxiously anticipating the caboose’s arrival. What really got my blood flowing was not the train’s eventual passing, but this breathtaking image I discovered on the side of a centrally-positioned railcar; on its surface was the most exquisite display of artistic and philosophic graffiti I have ever seen. Simply, it said …FEEL…

I was moved beyond measure. So much so, that I was brought to my senses by the sudden symphony of car horns screeching the serendipitous and unanimous impatience of all the drivers behind me, proudly pissed off by my daydream-moment of speechless awe.

As I continued throughout my day, I found myself moved even more deeply by “…FEEL…” than I had been from the start. What gang member, artist, delinquent, or bored, unsupervised minor, or unemployed, unmotivated, disenchanted grown-up could have possibly had the foresight — and the INSIGHT — to scribble such profound and simple truth for the sole purpose of simply REACHING somebody… Even if that somebody turns out to be only one somebody, and that somebody is me?

I’m not quite self-absorbed enough to imagine that my tiny little existence would matter that much to anybody else, to risk heavy punishment and to waste a minimum of forty-five minutes for some random woman in Randomville, USA seeing the depth of …FEEL…’s beauty and be instantaneously transformed… But that’s exactly what happened; on my end of things, and on mystery person’s end of things as well.

It reminds me of a certain weekend when I was twenty-three. I had an 18-hr courseload in college and a full-time job that kept me going-going-going non-stop, all the time. But on one weekend, I decided to take a break from it all. I pulled out my art supplies and spent all day Saturday creating massive, colorful posters and laminating them. Each one was different. They all made absolutely no sense, and served absolutely no purpose to the uninformed eye. Randomly, they were an assortment of various suggestions, quotations, and big bold words. “LOVE IS A VERB,” “be who you are,” “TRUTH IS MAGICAL,” “you are the coolest you that this world has ever known,” “HUG A STRANGER TODAY,” etc. Many of you will no longer ride the fence, confidently asserting to yourselves as you read this that I am, undoubtedly, a complete and total whack-job. And I’m cool with that. Because the best part of that Experiment in Ridiculousness was not the part where I made tons of cool posters and thought of borderline-nutcase things to write on them. The best part of it was the many photographs I took (from a quiet distance) all day Sunday of various passers-by, pausing in the course of their journey that day to observe the nonsense before them and turn their head with an involuntary grin across their face, absorbing the thoughts I had shared with them.

I imagine the train-sketcher and I hold much in common. Except for him/her, the process was more about the possible than it was about the actual. And I must say, it’s just as mind-blowing to be the stranger experiencing what’s possible as it is being the artist experiencing what’s actual.

Magic: possible, actual, and quantified.