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Archive for February, 2011

photo by Chris Molitor

The Blizzard of 2011 hits, and by Wednesday there is no driving anywhere without first an hour of shoveling.  Weary of being cooped up inside, I refuse to cancel a meeting with a friend.  Instead I gladly don my super-Croc snow-boots and fourteen layers of sweaters in order to brave a 7-block tromp.  The sun is shining gloriously, causing the fresh snow to shimmer like a million and a half diamonds. The frigid air is all of 3 degrees (F.), but I barely care so happy were my achy legs glad to be moving and my lungs elated to breathe something besides stale space-heater air.

As I embrace my walk through the neighborhood, I am mildly and pleasantly surprised by two observations:

1)  A shockingly amount of people are outside… either walking like me, or shoveling away.
2)  Everyone seems to be in unusually jovial moods… like, actually nice & neighborly.

I’m fairly certain I’m having more friendly interactions with the residents of my nearby streets in one short trek than I typically have in a snow-less month of Sundays.  I’ll be honest, I am scratching my head on this one.  Heaps of snow, no one can go anywhere, people are stuck…  and yet the animosity and tension I’ve grown so accustomed to experiencing here seems to have frozen somewhere deep under a foot of snow.

“Oh you’re swerving all over the road and almost hit me?  No big deal.  Normally I’d cuss you out, but today you’ll get a friendly wave and smile.  I might even offer to help push you out if you’re stuck…”  This is the city pulse I feel with every block I walk.

It occurs to me that for a glorious two days, every last soul in our fair city is forced to an equal playing field.  The Hyde Park mansion-owners, the Paseo apartment-renters, the bus-riders, the car-drivers, the white, the black, the Latinos.  The business men and the school children.  Absolutely everyone’s lives are hijacked simultaneously.  Meeting after meeting canceled, and instead of annoyance, even highly organized individuals seems almost giddy at the prospect of having to re-schedule.

Soon the snow will melt, and it will be business as usual.  But today, I will just revel in the bliss.

Upon returning home, I am enjoying the sunshine and the myriad of friendly waves and smiles entirely too much to return indoors, I take it upon myself to shovel our steps, the sidewalk, the bus stop outside our house, and to unbury my poor little car.  As I vigorously send the perfectly white powder flying everywhere, words from Scripture seem to echo around me.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” *

I see Mercy.
It’s falling from heaven like flawless icy masterpieces.
It’s falling everywhere- on the just and the unjust alike.
It’s covering everything – the pretty, restored homes and the neglected, vacant ones.
It covers the trashy streets and the green yards.  It covers me, it covers you.

For a minute, this snow storm covers the ugliness of racism.  It whites out hideousness of injustice.  It smoothes over the animosity.  For a minute, I see the promise of a Day To Come.  A  Great and Glory-filled Day when Peace Himself appears to set all things right.  When the Love Man comes to claim an earth that was given to Him long ago.

Our sins are like scarlet.
All the wrongness in all our relating sticks out like a sore thumb.
Even our best shots at right-relating look like the torn-up castaway T-shirts we’ve used to wash a dirty car.**  The only Hope we have in a million, billion years is that Mercy falling from heaven like flawless icy masterpieces.

Oh Jesus, cover us like this foot of snow has covered the city.  In a single day our entire city has been wholly immersed in a pure white blanket.  In a single day You Yourself immersed all of mankind in unspeakable kindness, each drop of Your blood falling like its own flawless masterpiece.  Oh Jesus, cover us.  We long for the day when You restore innocence to our city as a Perfectly Right-Relating Ruler Forever and Ever.

{*Isaiah 1:18, **Isaiah 64:6}

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[written Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at Dania Beach, FL]

Run away.

at Dania Beach, watching the sunrise

Run, run away.

These little words chase me wherever I go.  In chaos, in solitude.

Sitting crouched on a train station floor in Asia, with tears streaming down my face, anxiety eating me alive.  Stretching on the pavement outside a Floridian condo with salty ocean breeze blowing my hair, kinky from a humid morning run, peace soaked clear through my skin.  Curled up on my bedroom floor, alone one night in a Midwest city I call my own, full of people who share love with me.

They always start as a whisper, the little creeps.  But if I give them an ounce of credence, they begin to chant  obnoxiously, as if the moment were a musical and needed some appropriate background noise for the scene at hand.  Run away. Run away.

At first, I scoff, as always.  “What does that even mean? Run away? Ha.  Run away from what?  Goodness and love?  Run away to what? Nothing?”  They are absurd those little creeps.  If the moment is right, however – if I am particularly pensive, or particularly alone, or have an unusual amount of space to just let my mind wander – a whole other slew of questions come rushing like a water that’s been dammed up in a creek from the debris of a storm.  One of those branches just came unstuck, and lo and behold here comes a torrent.

“What if I really did run away?  Packed up a few things, left without a word?

Slipped into the night, escaped in silence?

Drove and drove?  Or took a train?

Where would I go?  West of course.

Or north. Why north?  South is warmer.

What would happen?  How far could I get?  Nah, too many people love me.  Everyone would worry.  I could leave a note, saying please don’t chase me down.  But I mean, how fortunate am I? Not everyone in the world can say that too many people love them to let them simply vanish. ”

Run away.  Run away.

“But what if I really did run away? What if I disappeared into thin air?

What if I went into hiding?  What if I went somewhere that no one knew me?

What if I went somewhere there was no one at all?

What if I started completely over?  What if I left every responsibility in the dust?  What if I did the unexpected?

What if I ran away…?”

It’s silly, really, I tell myself when a catch a breath of reality.  I love company so, I can hardly go a few hours by myself.  I cringe every time my usually teeming house is empty, and a mere 3 hours of solitude almost always puts me in the mood for a party. Only twice in 5 years of having a cell phone have I ever gone over on my minutes.  Once, talking to a guy.  Oops.  At least he was a really good guy.  The other time was just now, on an 8-day getaway trip by myself, which happened to fall on the first few days of my monthly minutes cycle.  Somehow, I managed to go 100 minutes over my normal month’s allowance in just a handful of days.  Double oops.  What can I say?  I guess I fall on the extroverted side of the personality line.

The previously dammed up creek catches my brain waves again.  “What if I ran away and really ran away?  Like stopped being a friend of God kind of run away?  What if?”

This part of the conversation in my brain is not altogether that infrequent.  It is however, nearly always quite short-lived.  Let me explain. A few years ago, I read part of Pete Greig’s epic grapple-with-suffering book, God on Mute.  In one of the chapters I read, Pete was describing a time he attempted to dismiss God’s existence, but admitted that in the middle of his motion to not believe in God anymore he found himself praying the most often and most honestly he’d ever had.  I’m fairly certain I laughed out loud, so stunned was I at the way he clearly described precisely what has happened in my own moments of trying out citizenship in doubt country.  The most genuine conversations I’ve ever had with the Lord have come in the occasional minutes when I decide He can’t possibly be real and want to be my friend.  And… I always end up quickly concluding that I can’t possibly stop praying even if I try my darnedest not to.

Run away.  Run away.

“Oh God.  I really don’t want to run away from You.  I know I cannot escape You.  I know You follow me everywhere.  I

know that even ‘if I made my bed in hell, You’d come stay the night.‘  But… what if I really did physically run away, skipped town, disappeared for a long time, and lived a different reality… and what if I wanted to come back home?  What then?”

Today the words of a psalmist dance their merry way into the middle of the run away chant.

“Oh that I had wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest;

yes, I would wander far away;

I would lodge in the wilderness;

I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” *

Yes, yes.  If “Run Away” is the theme song of the musical unfolding, this is the verse of that very song.  I would fly away. I would wander to the wilderness. I would look for shelter from this raging wind and tempest.

Would it surprise you to hear that I’ve done all this musing in a swimsuit and sundress, leaning against a palm tree, overlooking the clearest, bluest seas of south Florida?  Two pelicans just flew over my head.  Oh yes, they did.  Pure bliss.  I make note of this, partially to make you jealous – but mostly to point out that the raging wind and tempest that the psalmist and I speak of are only once in a while external.  More often they swirl about on the inside of my soul.

So how can I run away,

but run away into You?

pondering my life

That is what I am asking this God I can’t seem to stop praying to.  Run, yes.  Crawling never got me anywhere too quickly.  Away, sure.  Away from the

striving and self-sufficiency and turmoil.  How can I escape into the silence of Your peace, leave my responsibilities in the dust that lies at the mountain of Your strength, and hide in Your rest?  How can I disappear forever into the depths of Your love?  I’m not talking a day trip here and there.  I’m talking d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

I shake the sand off my Bible and flip through more of these poignant Psalms.  Some often-read, underlined parts catch my eyes:

“But I through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your

house… You are a stronghold for the oppressed… Wondrously show Your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge… O Lord, all my longing is before You… By day You command Your steadfast love, at night Your song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” *

My friend Chris unwittingly sent me this Scripture yesterday:

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.”  *

And it is perfect.  Just perfect.  The ideal ballad to end this musical today.

{*Psalm 55:6, *Psalm 5:7, 9:9, 17:7, 38:9, 42:8, *Exodus 14:14}

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yes. {a vision}

[Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 11:06pm]

Tonight I saw a vision.

16-year-old me saying, “Yes.”

I’d sell 30 years for one adventure in a heartbeat.

I’d skip away without a single second thought.

Hesitation was a fairy tale for ancients.

The letters “N” and “O” never mingled in my brainspace.

Nothing to lose, a story to gain.  And my, these blank pages were desperate for filling.

Fear was a mere wisp of a word.

Money was scrap paper to doodle on.

But dreams! Now dreams were bread and butter.

23.  Not so old.

And yet.

Seven years told me many things.

It told me that love can be won.  And lost.

That loneliness is more real than the shoes on my feet.

That joy is precious, but pricey.  And deep joy pricier still.

Fear is palpable now. Dreams are a luxury.

And money – well it is as worthless as it ever was.

23 has second thoughts. And third thoughts. And fourth.

Seven years earned me much to lose.

Seven years taught me to firstly question what might be gained.

Risk has meaning, and quite often makes its presence known in my chest.

Tonight I saw a vision.

The 16-year-old pranced.

Feet so light and free, barely grazing the earth.

So fast the young one moved.

Hardly a soul even knew she was there.

And then I saw feet that bore the weight of 60 years.

Two pair.

A man and a woman saying, “Yes.”

They strode forward determinedly.

Each step was calculated.

Each step was heavy, so heavy.

And the earth shook.

The city those feet left shook.

The nation they left shook.

And many nations shook.

And everyone knew for a long, long time where those feet had been and where they were going.

Seven more years could tell me many things.

I cannot imagine what 37 years would have to say.

I can imagine that fourth thoughts are a given.  And that seventeenth and perhaps even forty-second thoughts are likely.

I can imagine that 37 years might tell me that God is good.

That fear wields knives, that pain is vengeful.

That disappointment must be swallowed as often as morning oatmeal.

That love takes work, and work takes time, and time is lost every second.

If 7 years have earned me so much to lose, how much more so 37 years?

And truly, what did “Yes” even mean when I had never seen the option “No?”

But that 60 -year-old Yes.

Oh the weight of that Yes!

The nations – they shook.

*This poem was inspired from a vision the Lord gave me during a prayer time for Thad & Mary May, a married couple much older than me who are selling everything and moving to a village in Zambia in a few weeks.  Their obedience to Jesus is stunning.

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