Monday, November 30, 2009

Spiritually Busted

Over the past few weeks, the Sermon on the Mount has been on my heart.

I cling to the understanding that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

Not those who have achieved a state of righteousness.

But those who realize how much they lack. How much they fail and fall short, and yet desire so much more.


I walked into church this morning to work the cafe and heard Mike say, "blessed are those...."

And my heart burst.

I waited all day to hear the Beatitudes unpacked.

Even as I was passing our bulletins at 608 tonight, I got antsy.

I needed to be in my safe place.

To go and sit with the Father and learn.

I just knew He would meet me.


And He did. As He promises He will do when we seek.

I felt the Spirit move.

"My heart turned violently inside of my chest".


Mike taught about Matthew 5.

Sharing a lot of insight and wisdom and a lot of humor.

And I gained an understanding using a ladder analogy.

Walking away with a grasp on the concept that we must relive these steps over and over again.

Climb to the top and then return to the bottom to do it again.

Routinely hunger and thirst.

Perpetually give God the bridle to our wild hearts.

Repeatedly empty out our pockets and come up with lint.


But it wasn't until I stood in the middle of Fazoli's parking lot tonight, with the last of November rain spitting in my face, that I understood what He wanted me to learn tonight.

The wind blew and blew.

The Spirit moved.

And I recapped the day. Last night. This holiday weekend.

Days filled with community.

With joy and happiness.

With laughter and deep, trusting conversations centered around our Father's work.


But when the Spirit moves, satan attacks.

And our spirits were tried and tested today.

We were beaten up.


But in the very face of attack, our fellowship strengthened.

Some of us spent the afternoon in a hammock, or on the floor in the hallway, or standing in the rain at Fazolis.

We surrounded one another, pouring love and encouragement into one another's lives.

By this, I believe the Father was glorified.

This was the lesson He wanted me to learn.


Tonight, we have won the battle.

The mouths of the lions have been shut.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Things change.

Even as I sit down to write this, my mind is flooded with memories.

It used to snow in Kentucky on Thanksgiving.

And we used to all pile in the mini van and take the "long" way from Long Avenue to Severn Way.

For years and years, things remained the same.

So much the same that I cannot differentiate between the years.


Things change.

We tried to keep it from happening for a season.

Tried to pretend that the very make-up of our family dynamic hadn't been shattered.

Tried to pretend like our lives could continue on as they had for decades.

But you can only pretend for so long.

You can only avoid change for a while,

before your very body starts to respond.


Things change.

On my own, I began the painful process of untying the binds.

I felt like the only one.

The only one willing to close the door and walk away.

But it needed to happen.


Things change.

And I began to realize that one of the greatest signs of maturity, one of the greatest indicators of growing up, was an ability to love the essence of something.

To tell the difference between love of tradition and a love of comfort and normalcy.

As the holiday season approached, I felt an increasing sense of dread rise up in my chest.

This is not how I'm supposed to feel, I kept thinking.

I should be thankful and full of joy.

But we were trying to put new wine in old wineskin.

We were trying so desperately to hold on to something -

for the sake of our own hearts, for the sake of our own comfort.


So, with one swift motion, I cut the cord.

The holidays are about you, the people I love.

You, the ones my heart adores.

And I couldn't care less about the china we use, or the time we eat dinner, or what casseroles are served.


Things change.

In the past few years, my life has changed drastically.

The lives of the people I love have been dramatically altered.

We could have never known we'd be here, today.

Because we are not that creative.

Because our ideas are not that great.

You see,

You can't make this stuff up.


So for the first time ever, I enjoyed multiple Thanksgiving dinners.

On Wednesday I was in Winchester. With additional family members and guests and tables set up in the living room.

On Wednesday night, a question was asked and a promise was made.

Yes. Absolutely. Always.

On Thursday, I went to a new house for Thanksgiving.

And read a book. Which made me cry.

Loved on three little girls.

Before heading to the place that I grew up.

The only place of consistency in my life.


And even Severn Way had changed.


I was handed a glass of wine.

And we laughed until our sides hurt as Betty raced up the back lawn in her scooter, trying to get up to the second floor for the first time in a year.

We were missing a sister.

And we had added a brother.

Some time in the afternoon, three of my favorite women in the world darkened the door of my childhood for the first time.


They are my family. They are my loves. They are part of my story.


Things change.

But some things do not.

My love for you is one of those things.


But my Father in Heaven knows my heart.

And as the evening wound down and we sat with full bellies, laughing in the basement,

I watched as my sister walked upstairs.

In just a moment, I heard her slide the piano stool across the floor.

And I almost cried as she started playing Carol of the Bells.

She'd never been the one to make the music before.


"When you tell a story you automatically talk about traditions, but they're never separate from the people, the human implications. You're talking about your connections as a human being." Gayl Jones


I am going non-stop.

All the time.

Until it is time to sleep.

There for a while I was staying up past midnight.

Getting up at 5:30 in the morning and wondering why I would almost fall asleep on the way to work.

I had forgotten what it meant, what it felt like, to be rested.

Until one evening I walked into my apartment, plugged my phone into the charger, and immediately crawled into bed.

Almost seven hours of sleep.

I awoke rested and calm and stayed that way almost all day long.

I get more sleep these days. After gaining an understanding that nothing too terribly exciting is going to happen after I close my eyes.

Sleep is not going to deprive me of a great life.

Or cause me to miss incredible opportunities.

I needed rest to function.


But even now as I try and get more and more sleep at night, I wake up and find myself in the shower or walking out the door....

and my mind is bouncing around like a pin ball.

Thinking about the conversations I had the night before.

Or the worries from yesterday.

Or the music or movie or television show I watched right before I fell asleep.

I try and pray as I get ready and my mind is just not present.


I do pray in the car on the way to work.

God and I have incredible conversations once I get my mind on track.

And I have been asking God the past few days for a new prayer.

If only so that my prayer life does not become stale again.

This morning I realized I want to wake up singing His praises.

I want to roll over in bed and my first thought be of Him.

Not of bills or schedules or It's Always Sunny.

On the way to work this morning, God whispered.

"I am the beginning and the end..."

"It all begins and ends with Me, baby."


So I will end each day with Him.

With the Word and with prayer.

And I will see where my thoughts turn after I rest.

I pray for so many others that Jesus would meet them in their dreams...

that in restful, quiet, still times their hearts would find Jesus and be comforted.

Be restored.

I will make that my own prayer.


Because the way I end my day determines how I begin my next one.

And the way I begin my days determines how I live my life.

His mercies are new each morning (Lam 3:23).

I want to hear His voice before the rest of the world has a chance to spoil anything.

I want to wake up empty and let Him fill the spots only He can reach.


Good morning will take on a whole new meaning if I learn how to say "good night".


I am done fighting this fight.
I did not win.
And I did not lose.

But it is over.
And it is time to walk away.
To be done.

There is no shame.
Only growth.
Gained wisdom and character.

I am tired.
From swinging aimlessly.
Exhausted from never making contact.

So I am going to walk away.
Now, with hope.
Knowing this was not defeat.

Aware, painfully, of what has transpired.
Of the hundreds of times I have failed.
Of the laundry list of blunders and missteps.

But with peace,
with promise of healing,
with hope.

I turn my back to the lies.
To the falsities, like arrows, being shot at me.
The misconceptions and the untruths.

I will not linger.
You see, "I don't have time to maintain these regrets".
For I am forever looking forward.

I am forever looking up.
Seeking His hand, His face.
Knowing in His love, I will find such hope.

And in anticipation,
in discernment,
but not in defeat.

I move on.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the Created

Wait in anticipation.
Ready at a single utterance.

To rise up.
To move.
To fall still.
To quieten.
To catch fire.

Our watery, salty, gritty, burning eyes search for Him everywhere.
We wait in hopes He will choose us.

To demonstrate His power.
To protect the ones He loves.
To serve His purpose.

All it takes is a soft word.
From Him.
Or from one who loves Him.

And our foundations shift.
Our molecules transform.
Our waves decrease.

Just one word.
Spoken out of authority.
Or one word full of faith in that authority.

We are anxious to do His will.
We crave His bending low.
The kiss of the wind - the wind that blows when we ask Him to come near.

We will hover, poised in the sky.
Our swollen flesh will burst open and pour out rain.
We were created to do His bidding.
To exist in pregnant anticipation.
Expecting Him to command.

Bid us, Creator.
Command us, Your creation.

To crumble our foundations.
To carry Your son.
To roll away.
To rise in the morning.
To be still.
To bear fruit.

For You, we wait.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


He sat at the table, legs swinging from the chair.

Milk carton, paper plate.

His mom put his donut in front of him and went to feed his baby brother.

A few minutes went by.

I drank my coffee. Continued to write in my journal.

Until, suddenly, it was as if everything else in the bakery stopped.

The little boy started whining.

I watched him push the donut away, after taking one bite, his hands and mouth covered in chocolate.

"I dont want it," he whimpered.

Mom turned around and pushed the plate back to him.

"Go ahead, try some more."

"But, mooooommmmmm,"

Then Mom turned around and wiped the chocolate off of his face.

"I know you think you don't like it because it is messy. But I promise it is good."


The hustle and chaos of the bakery commenced again.

But I sat in awe.

Suddenly, filled with the voice of God.

Feeling Him wipe the chocolate off of my face.

"I know you think you don't like this, Anna. I know you think this is messy and you want something different. But I promise, this is good. Taste it. See?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winding Path

At the beginning of the summer, I realized I had developed an image of a spiteful God in my mind. I was afraid to voice my hopes, my dreams, for fear that He would make me do the complete opposite.

I remember voicing that fear out loud for the first time. And I remember, even more clearly, the feeling I got that I was talking with a heartbroken God. "Oh why do you think I am that way...?"

It was then my eyes and heart were opened up to the Savior Jesus. The Redeeming Protector who hides us in the cleft of the rock - the One who destroys the enemy at the end of time. The Jesus I could, and would, fall in love with.

A strange thing happens to those of us who have known Jesus all our lives.

At some point along the way, we come head to head with the realization that we don't really know Jesus like we thought we did. And it's about time we made that happen.

This, however, is a lesson I've been learning for years now.

It happened at 13.

At 16.

At 17. 18. 19. And every year since.

No matter how long we know Jesus, we need to know Him more.


This is something I don't like to admit. Something I've been struggling with the past few weeks - even as my relationship with Christ has reached new heights.

You see, I don't like to admit that I have traveled a very winding, meandering path.

Retracing steps.

Relearning lessons.

Blinded by curves.

I wish I could tell you that early on God told me what He wanted from me.

That I knew His will and I followed it.

Maybe I did.

Maybe I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Today, I feel like this is true.

But in the past few weeks, I've felt a certain amount of shame in admitting my ignorance.

In confessing the amount of times I've had to change direction, stop and reassess, change my mind, or gotten off to a false start.

But why do I feel shame about this?

What is it in me that wants to say, "I knew it would happen this way!"

"I knew from the beginning who God wanted me to be!"

Sometimes God whispers secrets to me.

But rarely does He do what I expect Him to.

Or how I expect Him to.

Or for the reasons I assume.


Thank God that I have changed direction.

And that this God I love is not a forgetful one.

He remembers His promises.

And had I known where I was headed from the beginning,

the journey would not be an adventure.

My mistakes are my reminders that I am not all knowing.

My shortcomings remind me that I cannot do this on my own.


I am on a winding path.

But it is a narrow one.

And there is no shame in the switchbacks.

One foot in front of the other.

Moving from glory to glory.

Telling a better story.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


It is hard for me to run alone.

My natural pace is too fast.

When I am by myself, I quickly run out of breath and sharp pain shoots through my shins.

I like to run with Larry.

He knows this about me - this tendency to get ahead of myself.

So he starts first.

And I fall in step behind him.

Sometimes, I will run right beside him, matching my step to his.

Heel. Heel. Keeping his rhythm.

Sometimes, I fall behind him.

Following in his steps.

When I run with Larry, I always go farther than I think I can.

When my lungs start to burn or my shins start throbbing, but Larry keeps running, so do I.

As long as he is running, I run.


This... is the great metaphor.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

He is Holy

I don't know why the Father hasn't given up on me yet.

Seems like every day I have to re-learn the same lesson.

I make the same mistakes. Or encounter the same problems. Pray the same prayers.

Yet, every single day I seek Him out, He is there.

Steady and consistent.


For the first time ever, I cried out to Him, questioning His patience with me.

I don't deserve it, and I finally realized that.

I had always known I was a sinner. That I didn't deserve grace.

But I was mourning my inability to learn. To change.

"But you are changing," He whispered to me.

It doesn't feel like it.

"I am more pleased with you now that I ever have been before..."

How could you be?

"Did you think you were going to get it right the very first time? No. You are growing. Moving from glory to glory..."

My heart was suddenly filled with a peace like I haven't known in ages.

His grace allows us to try again.


I don't know when this transformation happened inside of me.

Somewhere along the way, one night in my sleep, or maybe one day during a run...

I don't know when it happened...

but I certainly wasn't paying attention.

Maybe it was when I was faced with disease at the beginning of the summer.

Or when I learned to put my heart in His hands.

Or when I got my first image of a powerful Jesus - and fell in love.


Because I've loved all my life, and I've certainly believed.

But I always wondered if I had gotten it right.

No longer.

Now I know I definitely haven't gotten it right!

But the desire is there to recklessly pursue.

There are not enough quiet hours to talk to Him loudly.

And those who pursue righteousness are the ones who are blessed.


I've been more in the Bible than ever before.

Seeking answers and truth and just simply studying.

I've transformed my prayer life.

And through prayer, my life has been changed.

I don't hear the audible voice of God. I don't know how to explain it to you.

But I do hear Him. Plain as day sometimes.

He is funny in my mind.

And He rarely ever raises His voice.

He usually hangs out in between my shoulder blades and whispers things in my ears that sound nothing like anything I would ever come up with on my own.

And His voice comes with a peace that is unexplainable.

Not answers.

Not comfort.

Sometimes not even direction.

Just peace.


I am learning.

I told you many times over the summer that this was a mountain.

I was seeking a stopping point - a false summit. A resting spot.

This journey has never been a valley.

God has been so present.

Up in my face, under my skin, in my dreams.

I am being pursued by the Lord Almighty ...


Which is the thought that stole my heart this summer.

The Creator, the Father, wants us.

He wants to be close to us. To dwell with us.

But He is perfect.

And we are so far from it...

I think, to be in His presence, we have to be striving to be holy.

So a lot of times when God comes near, He is working on making us more holy than we are.





You find Him.

But be careful.

Because the Father is everywhere.

And as you grow in Him, you will begin to see His face...

So very often, He will give you exactly what you ask for.

And once you become familiar with His voice,

you will hear Him everywhere you go.


I had a quiet feeling the other day that I needed to prepare myself.

Because He will not always be this evident.

And I got sad... wondering what my heart will do the day that He decides to be quiet.


But even as things took a change this morning,

I could still hear Him.

Not because I am good.

Or because I am holy.

Or because I've done anything right.


But because He is good.

And He is holy.

And He loves us...