Friday, June 28, 2013

making room for the answer

There hasn't even been time to process, really.  To sit down and think.  The pace has been rapid and I feel very much like I've been hunkered down, head bent, shoulders pressed against the weight of it all.  Push forward.  With all my might. 

It always works out, you know?  I've only been homeless a few times, but even then I had a couch to sleep on.  When I run out of food, more is always provided.  A way is always made, it seems, when there is no way. 

This is a hard way to live.  Things have been hard for a long time, and though there is some joy in each day, I wish mine and Judah's story would take a quick turn.  A new season would be such a blessing.

But this morning I made a phone call.  Defiantly stared into the face of all the doubt and worry and said "no -- no thank you."

I hope He takes this as the act of faith I feel like it was.  Because logic says I should have accepted.  Logic says I didn't make the responsible decision.  On paper, it made sense.  But it didn't make sense for our lives.  It didn't make sense for the story being written.  The world wanted me to write a story about a Volvo.  But God's trying to write an adventure. 

I heard Him say, "you're not done there".  And I heard Him say, "time is a gift".  And I heard Him say, "trust Me in this.  Trust me enough, for once, to stay right where you are." 

It would be the same day other options would fall upon me as if the ceiling had collapsed.  The same day that He would offer alternatives, some hope of provision.  Just like He always does though -- knowing my eyes seek so far ahead.  One step at a time.  One set of directions at a time.  He knows me, knows how easily I get overwhelmed. 

Prayers are being answered that I don't remember praying.  The control freak in me wants to pray the prayer, hear the answer, and then have a story to tell.  It doesn't glorify me at all, it just helps me understand.  And it's a part of my testimony, how I help others see God.  But that's not always how God works. 

I'm coming to realize my prayers don't have to be specific for us to be taken care of.  Occasionally, for dramatic effect, I think He shows up and shows off to make Himself abundantly clear.

Other days, He wants us to bend close.  To recognize the obscurity, the general "working out of things", as His hand moving.

Does that make sense? 

I am not powerful because I pray.  My life doesn't unfold daily because I remember to ask.  There is power in prayer and being bold enough to ask for what we need.  But I was, and am, reminded of Matthew 6.  And my guess is the lilies don't spend their days asking for rain. 

Intimacy is in the details.  In the quiet details of doing life together.  This is where so many go wrong with their relationship with God.  I am not a good Christian, but I surely know the Father.  If only because we share my life.  Sometimes I forget this.  Sometimes I forget He already sees.  Sometimes I forget that He wants to help us, and He doesn't have to wait for my go ahead. 

So a few weeks ago when I started praying "please make a way", He knew it was my way of saying "I have no clue what the hell I am doing.  Fix this."

Fix this.

I am reminded of worship service I attended at Southland a few years ago.  Burned into my memory so well is Amanda Carter singing "Hosanna".  She stopped in the middle of the song and explained what Hosanna meant, literally translated.  Come fix this.  Come down, come here.  Come fix what we cannot. 

So that's what I started praying.  Make a way, where there seems to be no way.  When I am fresh out of ideas, when I have no more solutions, when I am at a loss.  Please, fix this.  Take care of us.  Help me take care of us. 

I do not believe in the old adage of, "God helps those who help themselves".  Too often I have seen Him stoop down and love on all of us.  Too many people get what they don't deserve.  God does not rely on us to be good.  He is not a good father because we are good children. 

I believe we are called to do what we can.  To be responsible for what we've been given.  To use our time, energy, resources, gifts, to build a life and leave a legacy.  I also think we need lots of help.  I also don't believe in the old adage "God won't give you more than you can handle."

If you and I were together right now, I would have said that and sighed out of exasperation.  Maybe thrown my arms and up and sank back into my chair.  I hate the saying.  Not until you are staring at a load at your feet, too heavy for you to pick up alone, will you ever understand how ABSURD it is.  How naïve it is. 

He wants us to ask for help.

God helps.  He does.  He doesn't need my permission to do it.  And He sure doesn't need our ideas to help Him figure out how.

He just loves it when we trust Him enough to ask.  

Go ahead.  Tell Him you're scared.  Tell Him you have no idea where to go from here.  Sometimes, when we finish His sentences, we get it all wrong.  Let's learn how to give Him time to talk back.  Make room for Him to answer. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

a purple horse

I was pumping gas.  That's all.  Had just finished a difficult workout and my tank was on empty.  Literally and figuratively, I suppose.  I don't pray deliberately very often any more.  But I pray continuously.  Fragments of prayer, scattered throughout my day.  And I may, in that moment of emptiness, have just whispered: what the hell am I supposed to do?

I turned around to go into the gas station and get a drink when I saw him.

Sitting on a toolbox in the bed of a Dodge Ram.  Legs extended.  Hands, each finger shining with a silver ring, folded in his lap.  He wore sunglasses and a blue bucket hat.  I suppose he could have been looking anywhere, what with those sunglasses on and all.  But I swear his steady, quiet gaze followed me as I walked into the gas station.

I tried not to stare.  But I knew who he was.  And a smile spread across my face.

It's been a while since I've seen Him.  Can't quite remember the last time it was, actually.  But I do know He came with a different message this time.

Life has been a bloody, chaotic battle these days.  I can barely make ends meet financially, we need a new home, it's time to pay back student loans, there are lawyer fees to be paid, I'm waiting to be accepted into grad school, and trying to decide if I even should go to grad school.  And work keeps getting worse instead of better.

On top of it all, I feel like I'm fighting this battle alone.  Loneliness is cutting my legs out from under me.

For about two years now I have associated the color red with God's presence.  You'll have to go look in the archives to help me remember exactly why, but it had nothing to do with anything theological or divine.  Just connecting a prayer to an answer.  Just me being Gideon.  Red, being His answer.

So here He was, sitting in the bed of a truck, quiet and still as could be.  Wearing blue.

Am I crazy?  Because I diverted my eyes and whispered quietly, just because it's blue, doesn't mean that's not You, does it?

I walked into the gas station and paid for a drink and walked back out.  I didn't see who was driving the truck.  But there He was, still sitting right where I left him.  As the truck started up and pulled out of the parking lot, He didn't even budge.  Not a flicker of movement, His dark, wrinkled face staring in my direction the whole time.

It's Me...

I climbed into my car and sat there for just a minute.  I am crazy.  For seeing things and hearing things and believing in things.  But it's the story -- it's the story that moves me.  It's the quiet, grandiose, simplistic, desperate measures He takes to speak to me... propelling it all forward.

Shake it up.  

I pulled away with one word floating in between my ears.  He'd left me with a new association.  Him in his blue bucket hat and all the glory hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses.  A new season is coming, a season of peace to follow this season of war.  A new season is coming.


He (not my sunglass wearing manifestation of God, I mean someone else) texted me the other day.  Two years later.  Here he was.  Inappropriately friendly.  Lighthearted.  

I almost didn't answer.  Because I'm not sure what to say to the one who started it all.  I was overcome by memories, tracing everything back like dominoes, like a ripple.  To the source.  

He, for the record, was not the source.  He, if we were to identify him, was the straw.

The source is probably somewhere deep within myself.  A fatal flaw of my very own.  A chink in my own armor.  But there have been others, some well intentioned and some selfish, who have added insult to injury.  In a terribly concentrated amount of time.  

Three of them had the same name.  And were all awful for their own various reasons.  All hurtful, all dangerous.  All serving a myriad of purposes.  Wearing me down, weighing me down.

But he, the straw, came along.  And broke me.  With the big promises of the church.  And an overblown sense of self.  All masking his own hurt and shortcomings.  Which were eventually what all came crashing down on me.

And for a while, I had the bruises to prove it.

The straw that broke the camel's back.  

Literally.  It all came crashing down.

Now here I am.  Two years later.

Two years later and now here is an apology.  

So I listened.  I dug around a little bit and looked for the grudge I really wanted to bear.  Searched for the hurt I swore was still there, or the wound, which surely was still bleeding.

But the apology had come after the forgiveness.  Which is truly the sweetest thing.  Because what the enemy had meant for evil, to break me, to destroy my hope, had led to today.  What was once a wound is now just a scar.

It all has led to Judah and to the small, small victories.  

And a heart more capable of grace.

Actually, he called me gracious, probably not knowing it was the greatest compliment he could have paid me.  The calling on my life -- tattooed on me permanently.  

We will call this redemption, a greater victory.  

And I felt the heavy door swing shut.  


So now I am faced with the unknown of a new season.  I can tell I've been given some autonomy.  Sheets of paper have been laid out before me and He's just told me to draw.  There are guidelines: to learn and provide.  But other than that, I've been given no instructions.  

Just draw.  

Just move forward.

The graciousness in closure is intertwined with the ambiguity of a brand new season.  And I stand awkwardly in the hallway, holding on to what is mine, and I know the next step is crucial.

Not because there is a right or wrong answer.  A right or wrong direction.

But because it will take us, my little family, somewhere brand new.

I am holding onto the image of Him riding away in the back of the pick up, and the sweet word, sounding so much like a promise.


And even though I don't feel it, and I know better than to believe "peace" is equal to "calm" is equal to "easy", there's some courage to be found here.

My lips burn with a thousand prayers I need to pray.  And my feet feel heavy.  

But there is no going back.  I have a purple horse to draw.