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.
So when the storm rages REMEMBER…
It was that time of year again. The time to pledge, to pledge to the master laird, the landowner and the castle’s protector- Finn McIntosh. He, too, was one of the clan of McIntosh but his family was of McLure. Year after year had passed since his declared manhood at age 10, which was also the year of his first pledge. It was the year his father had perished. He’d come to castle McIntosh for protection and to learn. To learn the art of making a living, to also learn the art of making war. He’d pledged his fealty that year along with 3 others. His cousins. All McIntosh. All strong. All of one family, one people.
Out of loyalty he’d pledged. Out of devotion he’d taken the oath. Year after year he’d grown, herded the cattle, milked the cows, brushed the hoses, and fought. They’d trained in fighting everyday. Until each man, young and old felt their muscles tired enough to fall off the bone. He’d trained for battles yet to come… and then they pledged. He never understood why though. Why the need to pledge each year? He’d devoted himself body, mind, and heart to his clan, his kinfolk, his uncle the kind hearted master laird. He, Adair McLure, never considered going back on his pledge.
But this year, his 21st year, was different. In the span of less than one year he’d grown to hate. He’d grown to despise the name McIntosh. He despised the blood in his own veins and it ran cold. Ice cold. He’d grown dark inside himself, too dark to even look his master in the eye. Now he knew. He knew that one year made all the difference. Hell, just one day could change everything. A singular had done that for him. It was the day his father returned from the dead.
It had been the first day of the Hunt on the first of october. For one month the McIntosh clan hunted on their vast lands. 47 men from all across the country. Young and old. They spent each day from sunup to sundown out in the forest. The man with the largest prize, the trickiest kill would win the gold. A lump sum from the laird, but more importantly was the bragging rights. A year’s worth of bragging rights. Adair had arrived home to the annex cottage he singly inhabited on the outskirts of the castle. He arrived near twilight, covered in dirt, in blood, in grass. He was still smiling over his cousin’s joke as a momentary shadow passed the reflection of his mirror. He looked back but saw nothing.
“Is anyone there?” He called out the open window that reflected the day’s last light. He was met by no answer, so he grabbed his small axe as he headed toward the window. “I saw you. I know someone is there.” He called out fully expecting to see his McIntosh cousins come out laughing at his expense. For a moment nothing moved and then he heard it, a deep, radiating, yet familiar voice called out to him.
“You’ve so grown up, Adair, my son.” A tall strapping figure with a tangled beard came into full view of the open window. It was warm and night was setting in, the crickets chirping softly, but all feeling had gone out from Adair’s body.
“What sorcery is this? Who are you demon spirit?” He spat out barely understanding what his eyes were seeing. “My father has been dead some two decades.”
“Or perhaps that’s what the laird, my brother-in-law, wanted you to think.”
Adair tried to convince himself this was a moment of hallucination, a mere reflection after an exhausting day of Hunts, but there was no way to deceive what was truly before his eyes.
His father continued, “After all, I was presumed dead that very same day you were celebrated a man, or have you forgotten me already?”
It was those last 5 words that did the trick. After every long excursion his father had made when he was young, he always returned home and asked ‘have you forgotten me already?’. To which the young Adair would shout ‘No, what have you brought me da?” It was as if something inside his head rattled itself into place and he moved forward. “D…Da !” Adair breathed out. He ran towards the window and grabbed his father around the neck, the wall and sill between them.
That had been some four months passed. Four months he had been brooding, keeping in the anger, the murderous rage that was birthed the day he saw his father’s face in the window before his cottage. Now he had but 1 month to go until he had to make his pledge again. The hustle and bustle of the event no longer held sway over him. He no longer looked forward to it when all the clansmen came and pledged.
Adair knew either he had to flee the castle or make his pledge. Which he would choose only God Almighty knew. Everything had shattered within him that day. He could not understand how a brother could be out for the blood of his own kin, the husband of his sister. He could not understand how such malice and evil could be within a man to take in a boy only out of greed, to try and steal his land. If the laird thought McLure lands would ever be held by McIntosh then he was mistaken. Adair would be dead before that, dead well before.
And so the month passed into oblivion and Adiar found himself before the laird’s seat in line to pledge. Yes. He would pledge. He would pledge with as much venom and malice as was given him when his father had been taken from him unnecessarily. In time, though he reveled in thoughts to level the laird’s head with his sword.
In the tender twilight of converging Winter, there lies one of the last warm Autumn nights of 2017.
The World basks in the last glory of the day. In the distance the atmosphere is painted a rustic orange color fading into the antique blue of night and then into pallid grey soon turned black.
Night is falling and with it a Winter Brew. A conglomeration of crisp icy air turned fresh, the smell of spices baking into perfection, leaves turning fiery and smelling of glorious damp death. #TexasForever #TxAutumn
Smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pine, drying berries, cool mornings and evenings, daylight shifting- they all beckon to the call of that familiar homey time of year called Autumn. It signals the beginning of the holiday season, the ending of a year and new beginnings to come. It’s my favorite time of year despite having been grown up in South Florida where seasons don’t abide.
It was on such a day like this 16 years ago that everything changed. America was forever altered after we watched two commercial airplanes crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. One day changed everything. It shattered our cloud of false security, but it also bred fear across the nation. It fueled hate. I remember that day. I was in 7th grade. Siting in the library watching live coverage of the event for a short while before being sent off to class, head spinning.
People were crying. People were shocked. People didn’t know how to react. I was the latter. It almost seemed like it was some made up tale- planes flying into buildings. A bad end-of-the-world movie scenario. Yet, it’s a truth that remains. An ugly truth engrained in the land of our hearts, carved into the province of New York City. Today lets remember. Lets remember what hates does. What it destroys. How much it costs. Lets remember September 11, 2001.
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.