Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Through the Roof

We had heard he was here.
We had been waiting for him.
We all wanted to see him, to hear his voice, to be close to him.
But, especially, we wanted to bring the boy to him; the boy who could not move his legs.
So the four of us picked up the corners of the boy's mat and we went to where we knew Jesus was.
All we had to do was follow the crowd.
The sun shone bright and hot, and though the boy was light, he seemed a great burden as we went in search of the teacher.
We ran into the crowd long before we reached him. The mob encircled the house, packed together like cattle, hot and sweaty, their whispers rising like a great din.
We could hear nothing, see nothing.
But I knew he was there. All five of us knew. We were so close. But the crowd was impenetrable. Leaving, however, was not an option.
We were so close to him.
Perhaps I imagined it. But I think I could feel him. Where I could not see him, when I could not hear him... I felt something stir in my heart. To the point I recognized his presence. And could not turn away.
We pressed through the crowd with all our might. Some moved aside when they saw us bringing the boy who couldn't walk. Others didn't budge. I became aggravated with the people. For being so large in numbers, for being so healthy, for being so close to Jesus when I was so far away.
We made it as close as the front step. The boy looked up at me. "Can we get any closer?"
But there was no swaying the audience. A huge, unwavering body. But we were so close. And something stirred my soul, and I knew...
All we had to do was let Jesus see the boy. I had heard enough of this teacher to know that was enough.
Later, I would question what went through my mind at that moment, what it was that caused me to act.
Maybe it was courage.
Or desperation. Just as much for myself as for my friend - my friend who'd never been able to use his legs.
Today, still, I don't have the answer.
But the four of us - the ones with the strong, sturdy legs of young boys - climbed onto the roof of the house in which the teacher sat.
No one noticed us.
The man who owned the house did not come out, yelling and scolding for cutting into his roof. He didn't notice.
Because he was listening to Jesus too.
Finally we scrambled back down to the ground; backs were sore, necks hot from the sun. And slowly, slowly, we picked up our friend and lifted him to the roof.
His face was full of emotion.
Trepidation and delight. He was going to see the teacher... surely He would heal his legs. But I think our friend might have been afraid we'd kill him before he ever made it inside.
I held onto one of the ropes, which would lower my friend into the room.
I leaned over and looked inside.
People swarmed like bugs... scurrying and pushing and buzzing. The air in the house wafted through the new hole in the roof, smelling of dirtiness and sweat. I swallowed nervously, seeking His face. Where was He? I could hear His voice above everyone else's.
And even as I searched the faces of the crowd... I saw Him.
We slowly lowered our friend, who now hung suspended in a makeshift hammock.
Then we heard the other people.
They were angry.
They shook their fists at my friend.
I was afraid.
We only had to get our friend to Jesus.
But what if we couldn't get past the crowd? These people, so selfish. So healthy. Standing on two feet.
Then Jesus looked up.
The sun shadowed His face so He squinted -- lines around his forehead and the corners of his eyes deepened.
I almost lost grip of my end of the rope.
Was that a smile?
Had I imagined it... or did the teacher look... amused?
He told everyone to step back, to move out of the way, stepping forward to take our friend in His arms.
We felt our ropes go slack and watched as Jesus lay our friend down on the dirt floor on a mat.
Everything in me wanted to jump down too.
To be held in the teacher's arms like that.
He was a carpenter like my father. Big strong arms and lots of scars.
But I wasn't sick.
So I lay on my belly and lowered my head and shoulders as far as I dared. Just so I could watch.
Just so I didn't miss it when Jesus healed my friend.
But instead, everything went quiet.
I watched as Jesus knelt down and rested his elbows on his knees.
He asked my friend his name.
He smiled. There it was again.
Then Jesus said something and sat back down.
I couldn't hear.
I didn't know.
But my friend didn't get up.
Wouldn't the teacher make my friend's legs work?
I felt the sun beat on the back of my neck and strained to see my friend's face.
My belly flipped inside of me.
My friend looked upon Jesus with a face as radiant as the sun. His young eyes were wet with tears - tears like I hadn't ever seen him cry.
But his legs weren't moving.
Then Jesus said something else. He asked a question.
He shrugged His shoulders and I watched Him rub his calf - back and forth, like He was thinking really hard.
Then He nodded and smiled again.
And He reached out to my friend and whispered again.
I could see the muscles in my friend's legs ripple. And then I saw his toes move. Before I knew it my friend was standing on his feet, rolling up his mat.
Then he turned and looked up at us - his friends who had brought him there to be healed.
He turned to Jesus and pointed. Jesus pulled him close and He looked up at me.
This time, He smiled right at me.
And beckoned for me to come down.

Later my friend would tell me the whole story.

About how Jesus had looked at him and forgiven him of his sins. "He fixed my heart first," my friend said. "The part I didn't know was broken. The part I didn't know was hurt..."

Jesus brought the five of us back later that day and climbed onto the roof with us to help mend the hole we had cut. The crowd was long gone... it was only Jesus and us then.

A carpenter. Like my dad. He explained how all our hearts were broken. How the inside was what needed to be fixed. And He could do that for us... because He loved us.

Friday, July 25, 2008


In every good movie there is a scene.

The scene where the main character goes from being less to more.

From being uneducated to educated.

Awkward and gangly to a beautiful princess.

Skills are developed.

Lessons are learned (wax on, wax off).

And we sit at the edge of our seats.

Watching the transformation... hoping for the best.

And there's always a song. Playing loudly, or quietly, or changing appropriately.

As we were driving back from picking my sister up from Mississippi about a month ago, I put in my iPod and told her to listen.

There was this song.

This i song that had been playing.

One that made my heart rend a little bit whenever I heard it.

A song that made me think change was coming.

It's never really what the song says. Is it ever, really?

But I turned up the volume and Olivia rolled her shoulders back and closed her eyes. I watched her in the rearview mirror as she choreographed her dance in her mind. My heart filled with pride and joy.

But the song ignited a sense of anticipation in my soul...

Things were about to change. I could feel it. The winds were changing. Muscles needed to be stretched. New things tried.

I need to be re-educated.

I'm hoping for the best.


A Circus

One thing I truly love about this life are “moments”.
These are not measurements of time. They cannot be calculated or counted on a wristwatch.
These moments are when I am in the middle of my every day life. Perhaps I am doing something creative or utterly mundane. I may not always notice them at first. But something – a song or a word or a ray of light – will suddenly ignite my awareness. And I see it. I feel it.
These moments cannot be manufactured. You cannot set out to create one. Sometimes I will go days or weeks or months without them. Then when I am not looking… time will stand still.
Sounds will heighten and colors brighten.
The wind will most certainly blow.
And my heart will surely swell.
I had one such moment on New Years Eve.
Under a rocky overhang in Tennessee.
Sitting on the wooden floor of my very own first house… eating Taco Bell.
Walking through the streets of Atlanta.
Camping in Cave Run.
They always happen when I am being myself. When I am dirty and physically tired. When my bohemian spirit comes to life. When my attention is taken away from the stress and the worry and responsibility.
Last night, it happened again.
I met Larry at the park. My stomach was in knots… fearing being extracted from my comfort zone. A knotted stomach because my fear made me feel pathetic.
I sat down, instantly in awe of my father.
You’d never know he was a hippie.
You only see it if you stop looking. If you lean in close enough to smell the patchouli, or ask enough questions to find out he used to do yoga in the park and rides his bike almost everywhere he goes. If you only knew how he knows how to “cure” a headache by rubbing your feet… or if you had seen him in his white t-shirt and flipflops playing the jimbay. Only then would you know.
You might have thought we were at the circus last night. Jugglers and flamethrowers and girls who danced with hula-hoops. They had dreads and drums and cigarettes and tattoos. The park was filled with smells of sweat and oil. Children ran around everywhere. I didn’t know who belonged to whom—everyone took care of everyone else’s kids. Bikes were propped up everywhere. And they continued to play… an ever-changing rhythm coming from five or six drums at a time.
I just sat and watched.
Watched as a couple of college boys who had been sitting on the outskirts of the circle, walked up and got a free lesson on how to juggle.
As a young woman juggled with fire for the first time.
And as an intriguing redheaded juggler floated in and out and around the circle… juggling and maneuvering glass baubles up and down his arms. It was as if it were magic. (I imagined centuries ago when a young man learned he could manipulate the balls in such a way it made them seem controlled by an external force. Magic. Fluid. I was enthralled.)
The group continued to enlarge as the evening went on. New rhythms. Dancing. Clapping. The ice cream truck came and people were walking around holding juggling pins and blue slushies.
And then the redheaded juggler sat down and picked up a guitar. The guitar was attached to a small amp, but there was no microphone. And he began to sing.
Quietly at first.
I strained to listen above the drumbeat.
And then I didn’t have to strain anymore. Because the others in the circle heard; I want to believe they heard his voice for what it really was… believe that every last man and woman changed the beat of their fingers to help create this moment…
For that’s what it was.
His voice rose slightly as if he had swallowed a little nerve.
A song about rising. Out of the fire. Like a phoenix.
He was quiet about it.
He closed his eyes.
He stopped singing and the moment was over. The drummers who had been playing, slowed and then stopped. Everyone applauded quietly. I think they all knew this was not about the attention. It was not about the recognition. But something that quiet, something that beautiful, had to be acknowledged.
Moments come and go as quickly and simply as that.
A little while later I heard two of the men from the circle talking.
“Look how many have come tonight,” one man said. He wore a fedora and a black vest without a shirt underneath. You could see his gray chest hair and smell the smoke on him. His face was illuminated with a smile.
The other man, short and stout and wearing the same clothes as last week, with long gray hair smiled a toothy grin and said, “it’s happening.”
I don’t think I was supposed to hear this.
But a few minutes later then man with the long, gray hair pointed to the sky. A black cloud was being blown in by a wind that would later knock a tree down at my apartment complex.
Immediately… as if they had been expecting it… the jugglers threw their balls in a bag and the hula-hoopers shouldered the hoops and the drummers picked up their drums.
And the park was quiet as it had been before we got there.
It was happening.
Whatever “it” was.
As I got in my car and drove away, I couldn’t help but think that these people, these mismatched, quiet people had gotten something right that the church hadn’t in a few millennia.
They gathered in a public place.
They did what they do best.
When you walked up to the sidelines to watch, one of them would break away from the circle and extend a hand. “This is who we are,” he would explain their purpose for gathering. He would welcome you. “Come just as you are… bring whatever you have… everyone is welcome.” People on the sidelines would nod their head and follow him into the circle. Others would say no, they just wanted to watch. And he would smile and go back to his drum.
When it was time to go home at night, there were a few souls who were better for their presence.
Take a lesson from the hippies… from the people you might avoid on the streets.
The people who might not claim to love Jesus are showing more Christ-like love in the park than many “Christians” often do.
What if one day we gathered – dancing like fools and singing for peace and the Prince of Peace. And we extended our hands to you. “Come, just as you are. Bring whatever you have.”
And at the end of the night, as the wind – or the God Almighty –whipped through the park with holy force, we could look at one another and whisper.
“It’s happening.”
That is church my friend.
It looks a little like a circus.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shadow of His Wing

Its been over three years now...
and the only real reason it came to mind today was because I saw the pictures on Granddad's desktop.
But the memories came flooding back.

The way a car sounds when its being crushed. The sound of breaking glass. The eerie stillness when its all over... and the radio is the only thing making any noise.

In every way, our Father takes care of us.

I walked away that day (Saturday, May 14th 2005) with only bruises and sore muscles.

There are days when I wonder if my prayers are heard. And others when I know for certain, He has His ear trained to hear my voice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

400 Years

"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:5-6)

These words were followed by four hundred years of silence.

I imagine something theatrical.

A powerful voice declaring these words... the world spinning on end... a people, suddenly deaf to the voice of God.

Like in the movies... the film would play in fast forward, indicating passage of time. Generations would grow old and die. New ones conceived and brought up. The story of a sovereign Lord, of a present deity, would be told by the ones who had felt Him. Who had seen HIs work. But soon, those few would be gone. The story would be passed down--diligently at first, religiously, hopefully.

Surely the Lord would not stay silent long.

The truth would soon become not much more than a bedtime story.

But as always... there are a few children who believe the fairy tales.

Who believe passionately in the truth that is told to them just before they close their eyes.

These are the ones who continued to tell the story.

And after four hundred years... scores of generations and a multitude of decades...

After a winter that knew hope, but no evidence...

Stillness was shattered with words.

As the Lord, who had remained distant for so long, stooped not only to speak, but to live among us. The people who had turned His love and passion into a legend - he came to hold them, and sacrifice himself for them.

No one alive had ever heard His voice, or seen His undeniable glory.

And in a blink of an eye, His voice was heard by the poorest.

By the most unlikely.

And the movie is stopped abruptly. A panoramic view of a hillside... of sleeping sheep...

"Do not be afraid. For I bring to you tidings of great joy..."

The heart of a Father was turned to His children.

And the world would never be the same.

Remembering How

We went to the park the other day. It was a perfect July afternoon. The blue sky, the yellow sun, the few clouds. There was a slight, refreshing breeze. Sunlight shown on my family's faces as we grilled out and threw a football and a frisbee.

For the first time in a long time I felt the urge to have a real camera in my hand. Not a digital. A completely-manual, film camera. I've missed capturing these moments... these perfect opportunities to capture shadow and detail.

Before it was time to go we brought out the volleyball.

Last summer I played volleyball with my uncle and his girlfriend. I learned a vital lesson from Marty that summer... and a few things about how to play the game.

So I picked up the volleyball again this July. But it felt foreign in my hand. Too heavy or too light maybe... but the ball was the same size. Almost like my hands were different. I embarrassed myself over and over again, feeling my trademark shut-down, my signature "quitting before it gets too hard".

And then everyone looked away. I had been telling Jordan all day long about muscle memory. He had said he hadn't played volleyball in years, but that he used to play every spring break. "Your muscles will remember," I told him. But I didn't apply that logic to myself.

Then everyone looked away. For once, everyone's back was turned to me. I am not one to thrive under pressure... with the lack of attention, I took the ball in my hand again. I held it until it felt right. Until I remembered how it used to feel - what it was supposed to feel like.

And I sent it clear over the net.

These days I am learning to do things I never learned how to do as a child. I'm getting dirty, sleeping outside, laughing until my belly hurts, laying on the floor.

But there are things I feel like I'm forgetting how to do. Things I want desperately to remember. To hold on to. As my self fluctuates and grows and changes, there are pieces I don't want to lose.

I feel like I've forgotten how to tell a story.

Funny. All my life, when I've gone to my mother with complaints about writer's block, she just shrugs and says "Just keep writing".

Muscle memory. Repeating until the muscles remember. Until the ball feels right in your hand. Until the words ring true on the page.

I'm remembering how.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I imagine my life being made up of many cogs and wheels and gears... all different shapes and purposes. Some are rusty, some are shiny and new.

And every once in a while, a wrench gets thrown in.

And the whole operation goes haywire.

This wrench could be sickness. Or stress. A fight, confusion, deadlines, finances... even good things can sometimes throw the whole, smooth process out of whack.

I am in the middle of a very serious malfunction.

Well. Let's not call it a malfunction. Instead... my smooth-running, quick-witted, energetic system is temporarily out of order.

Days like today I wonder if temporary shut-downs are part of the plan.

Normally I don't read sappy, Christian novels. But today at lunch I was doing just that. And in between the gush and sap, there were a few small words of wisdom. "Sometimes, God gives us hard things because He cares about us enough to make us grow up."

The problem is, when one gear stops working, they all seem to come to a grinding halt. And I feel the jam in my heart and legs and fingertips.

Or perhaps, we could compare this to juggling... or a drum circle.

Last Sunday night we were walking through the park.

The Jugglers Convention was in town.

And Drums for Peace had gathered on the lawn.

I can't play any instrument... I can't read music... I can't dance.

But somewhere in my soul is a precious reservoir of rhythm. It only takes a few counts before I can pick out the beat... the heart... the foundation of the music.

So the six of us sat on the lawn and listened and watched as people played in what Larry called "a drum circle".

Some people were naturally rhythmic. You could see it in their face. The beat didn't come from their hands, or the bare feet they tapped against the grass. It came from somewhere deeper. A much more natural place.... something, somehow, was exiting their bodies through this music.

There were others who didn't quite have the natural rhythm. Their hands hit the drums and their bodies moved in no particular cadence. They just moved.

And I drew comparisons as I watched.

Knowing that the gears and cogs and wheels of my life and my future needed a good oiling. Roll up those sleeves, reach in, remove the wrench. That, however, is the technical part of my self. The nuts and bolts of the mechanism.

All passion, all emotion, is tangled up in the rhythm.

Whether its the rhythm that emerges from your veins... or the foolish, off-beat.

I think I've lost my rhythm.

I've fallen into a monotonous tone... no music at all.

My prayer is that in the coming days I would be able to stop... count until I find the beat in the deep part of myself.

And whether I dance like a fool, or tap my fingers on the steering wheel...

the rest just might make sense.