I’ve been mesmerized by this word that keeps cropping up on me. In songs, in my readings, in my soul…FIERCE.
Fierce by definition (from several dictionaries) is as follows: 1) wild or menacing in appearance.2) violent in force and intensity. 3) aggressive in temperament. 4) menacingly wild, savage, or hostile;strong.
I have always been enraptured by this word. I have so wanted to be fierce, to be wild and strong and intense. I always wanted to be impenetrable, unhurtable because well… hurting is not something anyone willingly wants to go through. Yet, I’ve always managed to fall short of that. I’ve always managed to be the Lilly that is vulnerable, weak, and powerless in so many things.
But fierce is what God is. I have discovered in my twenty something years that have felt like fifty something that He is the one who can, who is impenetrable, unbreakable, strong, and He is willing and ready to help little me. Honestly, I have no idea why. I don’t see what a perfect God can possibly see and want in someone so broken and shattered that He’d go the extra mile to make sure I knew who it was that got me out of my pits, the conundrums of X,Y, and Z called my life.
All I know is that when there was no way, no possible way of getting myself out of whatever the bind was, and I got on my knees and said ‘that’s it, I’m done. I’ve lost. I’ve failed, everything is going to fall apart”, He was the one who made a way. And it was always such a way that I knew no other human force could create.
But I had to get to that point, the one that said “there is literally nothing I can do. There is really no more in my tank and the only thing that’s going to save me is NOT ME.” That is when God is at his best. That’s when his arm is long enough to reach. Well it’s always long enough, but if we’re not reaching out to grip it, He has nothing to take hold of to pull us out of the mire. When we are helpless, thats when we discover the power of God.
That is when we discover He is nothing like us. He is so extravagant in his love, his mercy, we are so undeserving in this thing called grace that it’s not human. He doesn’t think human. He doesn’t do human. He does extraordinary. He is the definition of love, which these days is a common currency word but I’ve come to find is really two fold when relating to God. His Love =affectionate devotion.
I tend to forget, He’s NOT actually human. He’s God and nothing I can conceive will ever come close to understanding his reality, what love means in his dictionary.
From what I have experienced, definition 1 is dead on. His love is ‘wild or menacing in appearance’. Not in actuality. It’s hard to put into words, this feeling of raging love: a feeling of joy, awe, fear of what this is going on, of mattering so significantly when I feel so insignificant to a God I can’t come close to understanding- all at once.
When I’ve failed, have no strength or power or will of my own to help me out of this predicament, all is hopeless. Yet, God brings in hope amid despair, courage amid the fear. It’s unrealistic and yet so real that it has happened. More than once. To me and to many others.
I think of this wild love as like a hurricane. As someone who grew up in south Florida home of the hurricane, pretty much yearly, well…summer storm takes on a whole new meaning. It’s one thing to look at TV footage of palm trees bending in the wind. It’s a whole other thing to be there in the thick of it, feeling the raging invisible winds push you back.
You feel the torrents going up and down, in circular motions, in fluctuating direction. You can’t see the wind, you can only see its effect. You see the trees bending, you feel the currents threatening to toss you aside. But when it comes to God, being rooted in him keeps you in place amid the wildness going on outside and all around you. You are firm in the hurricane because God’s love is Fierce and it roots us into the ground so we can be bent but not broken like the trees. His affectionate devotion carries us. We just have to say yes and not let fear keep us from it.
Me and my team of 11 flew into Port Au Prince Haiti. We had to stay in town with the Coreluv missionaries there until morning because driving through unpaved roads and 4 rivers in the dark when other cars and motorcycles may or may not have lights is not safe or even a good idea.
Right off the bat, we landed into a conglomeration of colors, dirt, and a sea of people. Most of which were black. A very interesting turn, being a vast minority. However, Haitians are a friendly people and smiled offering to sell us cold bottled water, handmade bracelets, and a variety of other local or handmade merch. We pushed through the crowd until we found our hosts, Michael, Maica, Mino, Reubens, and Ashlynn. We were herded toward a sturdy looking dirty white steel truck painted with the Coreluv emblem t and headed deeper into Port-Au-Prince.
To say there was poverty is an understatement. There was trash in the streets, rubble in the midst of housing, garbage trenches on the side of the road a block long that were burning. Burning away people’s wastes. People headed in every direction. In the road and off the road. Some dressed professionally, some in caj wear. There was no rhyme or reason to their direction. Even traffic had no real signage (at least that none that was ceremoniously followed, no ‘stay to the right’ rule. Cars, people, bikes, motorcycles -they all just headed to wherever they needed to go. Its an intimidating feat, to be foreign and drive in place where everyone yields while they honk at you, then fly around you before you can get your bearings of what to do and how to proceed. Luckily, our driver Mino was local and really good at pushing a giant car loaded with a dozen people through the chaos of city life.
We unloaded at our detour location for the night. No air conditioning reigned supreme. Of course, I knew this would be the case. After all, despite Haiti being only a two and a half hour flight from Miami, it was not America. Electricity was an on again off again thing. Clearly the reason no one in Haiti utterly depended on it. It was not consistent. Our three hosts took us to the best pizza in Port-Au-Prince. Muncheez.
We changed and reloaded into the car and went up hill, slowly in the discombobulation to the restaurant. The scenery was full of distant hills at sunset, small beautifully bright colored buildings on each side. Some where houses, some businesses. Amid which there were houses made of tin sheets, some rusted gruesomely, some destroyed in the earthquake of several years ago, but none were abandoned. People lived, worked, and sat in their personal rubble watching as the day retreated into breathtaking twilight all the while chatting amicably with neighbors or bartering with street vendors.
We made it to the restaurant and had some very good pizza. The lot of us talked and got to know one another over our last Amrican meal for the week.
We then headed back to our rendezvous point for the night and had some collective Bible time. The implicit question that would permeate the rest of trip made its debut. “Where did you see Jesus today?”
If you know me, you’ll know that music speaks to me. Though, I don’t write songs, God always speaks to me through music. Songs have been God’s microphone in my life since I was a little girl and this lyric could not be more true in my life…
“you unravel me with a melody,
you surround me with a song,”
This short trip to Haiti was no different. God had a song ready to unravel me. I didn’t think I’d find a song to be unraveled by in the 6 measly days I was in Haiti. I was wrong. It was an old song turned new for me, sung by the innocent voices of 40 orphans on the back of a truck. One little girl, dubbed ‘The Singer’ of the clan, started out with these words:“I have decided to follow Jesus.” The other kids picked up the old tune and soon the truck we were crammed on trudging toward the new orphanage location for a day of games was filled with a simple song I also had learned as a child at Sunday school.
“I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.”
It’s a simple hymn with a simple melody and very repetitive words. Its not what we’d consider a hit worship song in the modern world. Yet, the depths of the words in this song and the singers who were belting it out, hit me full force in the depths of my soul and the song rang in my head for the next 4 days of my Haiti trip.
40 orphans, the oldest of which is about 15 and the youngest being under 2 years old, were declaring that despite everything, they have chosen, would follow Jesus and from which point there was no turning back. I once made the same choice they did. I decided to follow Jesus when I was about 12 and indeed, despite moments of heartache and fear and seasons of doubt, there is no turning back for me.
So, one verse into a song, my heart was sewn into the fabric of a patchwork quilt of 40 different shades. 40 lives of beautiful children through which God showed me that deciding to follow Him is just the beginning of the adventure. It is the mere nadir from which a person begins their journey. Like Pastor Emil, who found the 40 and took them in and through which God is doing a grand work to touch the lives of so many other orphans and people in the village, we also will be used. We have a grand destiny to be a small part of the song God is writing on the pages of our lives. All we have to do is decide.
And just like that crammed in on a bumpy truck, the song wove its way into every nook and cranny of my trip, calling out to me as it went the verses of that old hymn as soon you will discover in my next posts.
Death, dead things. They are grotesque to us. So disturbing is the idea of a dead rotting thing. Dreams are no better when they die. They hurt us, haunt us. Their stench in our nostrils, revolting inside us. They break us in ways that no one can know, in places that never have seen the light of day. They burrow their sorrow where the sun cannot reach and their tendrils coiling ’round us, even when we don’t want them to- even when we can’t admit them to anyone, least of all ourselves.
But here is one thing I know. The death of our deepest most vibrant dreams is not the end. Not when God is on the throne and last time I checked, He hadn’t abdicated. This is a new season for me. A season to experience the goodness of God in a whole new light. After all He is the ‘God who brings dead things to life’ and my deadness is just one of His exploits. No not in the context of spiritual salvation. I walked that road long ago, and chose to follow the Fisher of Men. But in the context of my dreams, those longing desires I never revealed to another living soul for fear of hearing the truth: I would never be enough, not if I ever wanted to be on the winning side of my dreams. I knew that was the truth, still, a dream burned within and it never went away. Funny thing is I never thought it was from God. I thought the dream was me, born of my own greed to be recognized. Yet, it wasn’t.
I grew up in church. I know the whole shebang on who God is supposed to be; loving, kind, merciful, a healer, the good father, the God who brings dead things to life. Like Lazarus. Only Lazarus was a big deal, he was not insignificant. What I never realized in the many years of being a Jesus-follower was that God also brings those insignificant dead things to life, not just the ones that are big and significant. But just in the last year I have understood that after 28 years of life and following Jesus, I don’t actually know God. The depths of His unfathomable wonder are so far beyond what I thought possible, what I have ever conceived about Him.
You see, in the long run, in the grand scheme of things, my meager dreams mean nothing. They are insignificant. But they are not insignificant to me. Thus, because I am significant to God so are my dreams. So are your dreams.
In this new season, I am looking back and understanding that in the depths of my despair, God was making a way where there was no way. Where I saw only a dead end, He was carving a path out of stone, like water eroding the banks that contain it. He is bringing my deepest longings, my dreams to fruition. Those dreams I long thought dead. And so I buried them, because that’s what you do with grotesque rotting dead things. You burry them in the earth until only their dry skeletons remain. I mourned the dead dreams and moved on looking for new fertile ground, unwilling to spend my life crying over spilled milk. Only to have God say ‘it’s not over yet- watch and I will bring those dead bones to life.’
Yet, here I am, 7 years after the death of a dream, finding myself in the unfathomable places of God, where like in Ezekiel in the valley of bones, He is bringing dead things, my dreams- my deepest darkest longings, to life. I’m learning that God has a back up plan and a backup for the backup. When I miss the mark, am too afraid to trust, am paralyzed by pain and grief and fear of life, He still has another way. He is not limited by our limits. And He will fulfill those things that burn within our hearts because He’s put them there.
Yet, this is just barely the shoreline. In 20 years, I’ll probably be saying the same thing still, because there will be so much more to dive into even then. He is the God who brings the broken dead things to life.
Ezekiel 37:5-6, 12-14
This is what the Lord God says to these bones:
I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live.
6 I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you,
and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you
so that you come to life. Then you will KNOW
that I am Yahweh.”…
This is what the Lord God says: I am going to
open your graves and bring you up from them,
My people, and lead you into the land of Israel.
13 You will know that I am Yahweh, My people,
when I open your graves and bring you up from them.
14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live,
and I will settle you in your own land.
Then you will know that I am Yahweh.
I have spoken, and I will do it.”
This is the declaration of the Lord.
When your in the battle, in the battle,
In the raging battles of life
And there seems no end in sight
No rhyme or reason to the madness
The mad, mad battle that just keeps on.
It just rages.
Inside. Outside. It goes on.
It rages without mercy,
Without compassion, with no hope.
It just continues on
Killing as it goes unending
Devouring you in its wake.
It swallows you whole, and alone you will die,
you’ll be all consumed, but for those
ally or foe who stand
and stand firm in the battles of life.
Those who have learned firmness
To stand erect and stand strong and deep.
They will stand strong, strong in your battle.
They stand on your behalf.
On landslides and avalanches
On torrential thundering waters
They stand and remain unmoved
Solid in their mounted states,
Solid, as poles dug in the ground, set deep
Deep enough that they cannot be upturned
Not in hurricane winds
Not against tidal waves.
They remain and you remain, clinging
Clinging to life in their deep-set strength.
In their iron clad will, unbendable
Unyielding strength, they remain
Erect, firm, unmoved
And you with them,
Though perhaps slightly more
More battered, more bruised, diminished.
Yet, none- the- less alive
Alive in your strife, in your pain
Alive in your raging fears.
But still a survivor of that which
Is unsurvivable, that which
Kills, destroys, leeches, diminishes you.
And one day you too will learn, learn how
You will learn how to dig deep,
Spread deep roots that broaden
Into earth’s center and remain.
You too shall grow erect, tall-
Surmountable in your own unmovable state.
You will learn the art of standing
And standing firm, firm in your battles.
In your own raging waters and avalanches,
You too will one day remain undevoured,
You too shall become like a steel pole
Bolted and bolted deep into crumbling earth.
You too shall remain unmoved, a marker,
A sign, a hope to any who can see
Who stand in the battles of their life
Soft and breakable as you once were.
And you shall be their pole,
Their firm and righteous strength.
You shall become that which
You never were, never thought to be.
So stand now in the battles of life
Clinging to the hopes that come,
And come steadily before you,
Engrained, unmoved, implanted in the earth.
Remain in them, the strong, as you would wish and
Wish deeply for one to remain in you, trust you
Clinging to that which you’ve learned
Holding on to that which you’ve weathered
Cleaving to that which you may become,
Becoming like them: strong unmovable, erect.
All in the name of the One who goes,
Goes before us all and stands,
Stands the firmest of all, erect and proud and strong.
God, in His greatness, His hope, His mercy
He goes before and paves the way
Makes provision for our lacks our wants, yet He stands.
We’re waiting for the apocalypse, the zombies to arise, but we’ve fail to see that it’s already here. We’re it. We’re the ones to fear, the living but dead. It’s just that we can’t see. The deadness is inside, not out.
We tote all things behind us like a prized possession, but we are dissentgrating. We’re dragging on looking for life in putrid dead marshes. We crave left and right, this thing and that, but nothing satisfies. Nothing hands can grab onto can fill the deep deep void.
What can satisfy?
What satisfies a punctured heart thats bleeding out with every beat? What is enough to fill the leaky void we call our souls? Nothing short of something vastly unending. Abysmal in proportion. That would be nothing physical, for the physical will change. It will all pass away. It will be eroded piece by piece, grain by grain, moment by moment. Nothing short of something all sufficient, omniscient, without limit of power or margin of error can even put a dent in our void- only what is already full can fill what ails us.
We wonder around- a needle in our bag, porn in our pocket, murder under our belts. Booze is in hand while we’re trying to navigate stormy seas and we’re hoping to come out alive and unscathed. It’s unrealistic. It’s idiotic. It’s insane.
We’re crazy demented, tormented spirits running from the vaccine for our souls as if it were the plague- as if one little book, we fear, could set us ablaze like Chernobyl. Thus, we plunge ourselves deeper into the zombie apocalypse, trying to escape the inevitable, and live the half lived lives we have and call it breathing.
The zombie apocalypse is already here. We’re it. Awake. Arise. Be set ablaze by the truth you run from.
A year ago today I was sitting in a surgical waiting room, in Florida, facing my single greatest fear in life, as my mom was getting her womanhood chopped off her body in an attempt to save her life against breast cancer. Her getting sick was always one of those things that has weighed heavily on me since moving to Texas 5 years ago and leaving her behind in Florida. Particularly cancer. I dreaded the thought of it. I hated to even consider what I would do if ever I got that call. So I avoided it like the plague.
Early January 2016 I did get that call. My mom called and dropped a bombshell. She was going for a biopsy. That’s never good news. Yeah, I felt sick at that point, but I tried holding it together for her sake. I knew it was a hard thing for her to have to face without me. In February, we got the confirmation that it was breast cancer, though a very early stage and surgery would be needed. In the end, my mom decided for a mastectomy. That way she didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. Then to be extra sure, she decided on a double mastectomy.
So there I was March 1. Sitting in a waiting room filled with people and yet feeling so absolutely utterly alone playing ‘what if’ games in my head, endless scenarios echoing throughout my mind. “What if it spread?” “What if it’s in her lymph nodes?” “What if she needs long term care?” “What if she needs chemo after all?”. I knew i would have to move back and I was ok with that. The scenarios kept coming.
There was no shortage of mind and heart crippling fears to draw from. I went through all the scenarios. I made a game plan for each of them, and waited. I wondered the halls in short bursts, and waited. Eventually some of church friends came and waited with me- a welcomed source of comfort and strength in a trial of limits, my limits. Alas, the surgery went well. None of the scenarios I planned for were needed. I stayed with mom a few weeks, taking care of her. I learned what a surgical drain was and how to empty it and a variety of other medical things. I learned to look at my mom’s beautiful smiling face and aquamarine eyes and not fall to pieces over her missing womanhood when in front of her. Eventually, I returned to San Antonio.
I returned a hollow shell. I couldn’t even look at the pictures of my mom and me on my mantle that had been taken the month before I had moved away. Those times when she had been whole and never would be again. It hurt volumes just remembering her in my childhood days and then having to remind myself that she would never be the woman I truly knew growing up.
You see cancer takes things away from us. Not just physical parts of ourselves, but mental parts too. Strengths that we once had, love for life and joy that were once full, or at least fuller. Cancer devours us whole and without mercy. Not just those victims of its icy claws but their friends, their families as well.
A few months after my mom’s surgery, I got my own “news”. Abdominal mass, they called it. Well safe to say I had no strength left to fight that battle. None even to process the potential of what the outcome of that news could be. I sure knew where I would not run right away. To my mom. She was already broken. I was shattered, broken even more than I had been before, praying to God for strength, for something supernatural to carry me over this threshold of emotional death.
And He did. He carried me on strong shoulders by the arms, the prayers, the feet of other people who upheld me. Those who grieved with me, and held me close, who prayed with me through the mental battles, the numbness, the despair. There were real friends, who called and checked on me and took me on frozen yogurt dates. My church who asked frequently about updates and held me in constant prayer and battled the demons of fear with me, providing strength in tangible volumes. After my diagnosis was all done and the ‘abdominal mass’ turned out to be an ovarian cyst and not cancerous and new battles arouse like, “would they have to take an ovary with the cyst and would I be able to have children, and who would want to marry half a woman who can’t even guarantee them a child if it came to that?”. Well, my warriors were there too. They still fought for me and never tired. They never strayed from their course of being Jesus and God heard our calls in the darkness and answered.
And when my final pathology report came in and was clear, they also upheld me in my joy, celebrating with me all that God had been faithful in, all that He had done. And my heart is grateful. Grateful to God for giving me them, those warrior hearts whose strength far surpasses my own. In a year filled with despair, despite battling my deepest and darkest fears, it has turned into a year filled with God sized lessons that overflow from a God sized love, which I am only beginning to understand despite having grown up in church. And I am thankful. I am thankful for all God has taught me in this season, despite its hardship. Like learning to lean not just on Him but on His people too.
My heart is grateful. It overflows. It will sing a new song.
I find that standing on the precipice of your dreams, of a calling so much greater than yourself, you feel small and insignificant in its wake and you wonder why me? I’ve recently asked that question. “God why me? Why am I called to this? Who am I that you would call ME, of all people?” Why am I called when there are others far more qualified, far stronger, far more talented than me. Yet, why do I want to step into this calling so much, and yet fear it so greatly aroused at the same time?
I’ve recently wrestled with this idea of being unworthy of the call I have had spoken into me by God. And the truth is I am unworthy. We all are. Who am I that a perfect God would want anything from me? What could my broken shattered self give him that He doesn’t already have, and have a better version of yet? Who am I that he would call ME into the light of his power, equip me and use ME. What could my average gifts yield in a pool of so much greatness?
Inevitably, fear creeps in. It threatens to strangle them- those things that set our souls ablaze within us, our dreams. My dreams. My dreams, my soul- life itself, what its all about; all those things that God has set inside us. All of who I am and was created to be is threatened in those moments when fear takes over.
So what’s the answer? The answer is Isaiah 55: 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways” … His ways are higher than our ways. They are more noble, intricate, and intentional than we could ever understand or imagine.
So the only answer to find is : I trust. Trust Him. When the fear comes in, the unworthiness gathers in my heart, I will trust in Him, El Roi the God who sees because HE SEES ME. I will remember that He has never yet let me fall. So I will trust his plan. I will walk out on the open seas, heart in my throat, and I will swim into the calling He has hailed me to. Or die trying. Because I know what God has done for me.
I know the pits of despair, of anguish, of pain that He has dug me out of and in miraculous ways. I know the hollow nights He heard my screaming into pillows and answered me, even when I stopped asking, even when I stopped singing. Even when I doubted, even when I gave up on Him He never gave up on me. On the contrary. I walked in His favor. His grace, unmerited, going before my feet like a river making a way where there was no way. Carving the path for me out of stone, like water pushing through and eroding rock. And I am stronger for it. I am greater because He chose me, and chooses me everyday despite my meager faith and wonderings.
Instead of death, God offered me life.
It is abundant. It is glorious.
And I will sing…
My Saviour’s scars
My chains are gone
My debt is paid
From death to life
And grace to grace”