Dead Things

dandelion-meadow-macro-fluff-161506Death, 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.

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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.

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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. 

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.

 

 

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The zombie apocalypse… because only what is already full can fill what ails us.

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We’re waiting.

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 float.

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.

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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.

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.

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We’re 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 of Battling Deepest Darkest Things

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.

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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.

img_3497I 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.

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Forever Altered by Their Simple Presence

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I wrote this poem back in 2007 in honor of a friend who had come from Austria. He’d lived in the US for 5 or 6 years with his aunt and uncle and ultimately decided he would go back to his parents in Europe. That was heart breaking. Not just for me, but for all of us in our youth group. He was a kind hearted guy who was like a brother to me growing up in my teen years. This was the very first time someone close to me had left the picture and permanently. I mourned his loss a long time. Not because he died, but because our friendship changed and over time and seas, it died. I know he got married and is a dad now. He’s happy and that makes me happy. Still, I think of all the fun filled times we had together with our youth group fondly. Doing doughnuts in the church parking lot, stints to Miami. Laughing and singing together. Those were the songs of our youthful hearts.

But reading over this poem recently, I’ve realized that this wasn’t just for him. It’s as valid a statement in my life now as ever. And yes, I can say indeed God has been faithful in bringing me the friendships I always need to sustain me in the darkness as well as the light. So here’s to you! A sweet friend, who’s presence alters me forever…

~                    ~                   ~                       ~                        ~                      ~                       ~                     ~

Life is an incredible journey

That takes us to unimaginable places

And brings amazing people into our lives.

 

It is like riding a wave

With many ups and downs.

 

Sometimes we soar

And sometimes we sink

So deep we believe it is the end.

 

But it is in times like these

That a true friend finds us

And pulls us back up.

 

Each friend we make on our journey

Is special in their own way.

 

Many come and go.

Some we know longer than others.

Some we see every day,

 

While others, we may

never meet face to face;

each leaves us with a lesson.

 

Something we learned

through what we survived together.

 

During the course of our lives,

each lesson shapes us.

It makes us into who we are.

 

Though many friends may only

have a small impact on our lives,

There are a few that deeply change us.

 

Even though we don’t know where

Life’s journey will take us,

 

We can hold on to this:

We’ve been changed by these-

Forever altered by their simple presence.

 

They were meant to be- to be there,

In the midst of our lives and help shape

us into who we were always destined to be.

Wells and Faucets

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“There is a current stirring deep inside

It’s overflowing from the heart of God

The flood of heaven crashing over us

The tide is rising, rising…

We come alive in the river.

We come alive in the river.

   -Jesusculture-

Though we all have God’s power available to us, our forgiveness ready for the taking, we do not all have the same strength to fight those battles we need to in order to walk in fullness instead of defeat. For some, they are fighting too many battles already, some of which are not theirs to fight but they have to fight them anyway. They are hurting, dragging on in the life they live. They can’t walk in the same kind of victory as others, at least not yet. There needs to be healing first and that takes time. Sometimes it takes years even for healing to begin. For some of us, it’s a longer and harder process of finding that victory in Christ. Things like depression, anxiety disorder, past hurts, abuse, etc- all come into play in holding us back. We don’t trust easy. We want to but we can’t.

This is how I think of it. If God is the river running through town, all have access to its pure life-giving waters. We all need water to live and can drink whenever we want as much as we want. However, for some of us, all we have to do is to turn on the faucet. Others have to walk a few blocks to the well, dip a big jar into its waters, and haul up the heavy load of life-preserving goodness inch by inch. Then we have to walk home with it on our shoulders and do it all again tomorrow.

Those at the well are the ones battling. We are the ones scared beyond reckoning. Our ability to gain that necessary living water is there, it just takes so much more of our life force in the time and even the effort it takes to get it. We battle and we do it hard, but we cannot be equal to those who have not had those deep, radiating wounds that only heal an inch at a time, those brutal assaults on our minds and hearts.

pexels-photo-5 copy 5 So be kind, remember everyone is fighting a different battle, some for far longer than you and they are tired. They are running at the pace of turtles but they keep going. The last thing they need is for one more person to tell them they aren’t good enough. So do not look down on them and say they should be where you are, offer them a cup of water, instead, and a hand. Fight with them when they can’t fight anymore. Encourage them, cheer them on.

You’ll be amazed at how far they can go when others stand with them.

The Light

The Light

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There is heartbreak in my heart,

A gaping hole in my soul and

fear clutches at my very being.

I fall and cry out,

“Who am I, Oh God?”

but there is only silence.

I curl into a ball and

let the tears of agony fall.

The silence is deafening.

Only my screams are heard,

echoing through the hollow night.

Darkness embraces me, icy and cold.

In the vast darkness a voice rings.

It is soft and tender, inviting.

I strain to hear.

It sounds. It resounds,

In the deep hollow of my soul’s night.

It echos inside my empty heart.

But from within comes a warmth.

It fills me, amazes me.

I can’t explain it, can’t understand it.

“YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE,”

the voice reverberates.

It echos inside me.

My anguished depths cry out:

I once did, but no longer.

My words come without voice.

I am no one. I have become nothing,

This is the rebutal my torn soul gives,

the answer a shattered life spews.

Still, He hears. He hears ME.

Despite my lack of words He vibrates

within those awful confines called body.

Without warning,

out of the darkness

a piercing light comes to life.

It blinds me. Ignites my insides.

It consumes me, yet sustains me.

It is an ecstasy that burns me.

The voice thunders inside me.

YOU ARE MINE,

 A PRECIOUS JEWEL AMONG DIAMONDS.  

“YOU ARE A DELICATE FLOWER,

YET YOU’RE MY WORLD.

YOU HOLD THE LOVE OF THE ANCIENT OF DAYS.  

“YOU EXALT THE HEART OF THE GREATEST

WITH YOUR JUBILATION AND

TEAR IT TO SHREDS AS YOU DESPAIR. 

“YOU HOLD WITHIN YOU THE SPIRIT

OF THE MOST HIGH.

YOU ARE ALL THERE IS. MY EVERYTHING.  

“IT IS FOR YOU THAT I GAVE MYSELF,

FOR YOU I LONG IN THE DAYLIGHT,

AND FOR YOU I WILL ALWAYS FIGHT.

“YOU ARE MY HEIR, MY INHERITANCE

THAT WHICH I DESIRE TO BE NEAR.

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU.” 

The words penetrate my soul.

They pound with the beats of my heart,

filling the empty spaces.

They fill every space in between.

They are truth, they are Love,

They are Life, eternally.

I open my eyes and let in the Light.

The  darkness falls away.

Fear evaporates into oblivion.

Doubt ceases.

My mind quiets and my heart melts.

Fire consumes me and I soar.

I look into the heart of the God

that sees me, and I remember.

I recall my identity.

It is not in me, but within Him.

His essence creates me, sustains me.

Every moment, it completes me.

There in His soul is love.

Joy floods His heart seeing me fulfilled.

He offers me His hand.

I take it and

Love drowns me.

It makes me new.

Love sweeps me away

to that place of no return.

Where I’ll never be the same.

It is where Love meets us,

In our disparage, our worthlessness

And make us whole.

Love. It gives life.

Love is in the Light

and He is the Light.

Beauty for Ashes…

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The saying “we always want what we can’t have” in life seems to be a prophesy for this season of my life. 6 and a half years ago I wanted a change so bad, a new phase. I felt called away by God and I craved an unknown life- a shift. I craved it for 2 years and then finally I moved halfway across the country in search of a new journey, a path to my destiny. I was ready then- 5 years back when I was boarding a plane to Texas- to fly the coop and never look back. I was ready to leave everyone and everything I had ever known behind. And I did. And it was hard. It still is at times. I’ve considered going back. I’ve considered what I want. I’ve considered what is easy. But I also know there is something greater than myself at work. The God of the universe, El Roi the God who sees, and He sees me.
This year, more than ever, I have found myself yearning deeply for all those things familiar, all those memories of old.

I find myself wishing I could go back and live it again. That time of simplicity. Those familiar faces and routines. But I can’t. Even if I went back physically nothing would be the same. Too much time has passed and as things do, they change. But they changed without me and so they are strange to me.

I can’t go back. None of us can. We can only go forward. That is the only option left for any of us. We can just make the best of the future that’s before us. It might be a strange, unknown future but ultimately it is what we make of it. And I will choose to make it beautiful. I will make it Merry and Bright. Even in the unknown, even in the fear or pain. I know it will be beautiful because God’s hand is in it. I will CHOOSE to see his hand at work and wonder at His greatness, His Love, His ability to make beauty out of ashes. I choose to see hope.

Blades of Grass

Morning DewI once heard a story about a house sitting on top of a field.When it was torn down after hundreds of years, without anyone planting, without anyone interfering a small poppy bud grew out of the ashes. The seed had been dormant below the house for 200 hundred years. In a matter of weeks grass was flourishing and a poppy field grew. The inherent power of life flows in every speckle of every bud, every blade. Nature regenerates and nothing can stop it because it is the inherent word of God. Way back when God said “let there be…” there was. His word creates. It is life. 

 

Pure magic.

A miracle in plain sight.

an ordinary blade of grass, common as the seasons that flow

one into another, predictable as sun and moon rising and falling.

 

The blades of grass,

each one its own singular solitary self,

a lone life amid the masses of singular buds, heads tilted upwards

into the heavens soaking in the invisible rays of light.

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A blade of grass is power.

An ancient power as old as time.

It is the power of a word.

When God created the world, he spoke it into being.

 

God speaks and grass grows.

Its power, pure and simple.

A power, deep and grand as the world has ever known.

Its grows and regenerates without interference.

 

That is power.

That is magic.

 

 

 

 

 

The place where worlds collide.

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Some people say that words are cheap, that they mean nothing if not backed by action and that’s true- to some extent. Words alone are not enough. But they are a powerful, invisible entity. To say that they mean nothing is to strip the victims who have suffered under their duress of dignity. Words carry the power to kill, the power to heal. They contain in them the power to live.

I recall a day in elementary school when a girl in my class named Crystal told me that I don’t know how to dress- that I don’t have style. Those words hurt. They made me feel less. So I moped all day and went home and cried. For hours. Finally my mom took me to Marshalls and a hundred dollars later I felt accomplished enough to go back out into the world and face the ‘Crystals’ of life.

In all this, I was never hit. I was never bullied. I was never threatened. I had no reason to feel the pain I did but to this day, some 20 years later I can still recall the hollow pain in my chest from that day. Words. They matter! Words are the place where worlds collide. Why? Who instigated power-filled words?

It started in the beginning… the beginning of EVERYTHING.

“In the beginning God created… He said ‘let there be’…and there was.”( Genesis chapter 1.)

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God didn’t dance; he didn’t paint in blood; he didn’t sing…He spoke. His word created. We creatures of free will, created in His image, and endowed with power beyond our wildest comprehensions. We have the power to speak and be heard.

What we say matters. What we feel counts. What we make others feel with our words matters. Whether inadvertently or purposefully, we hold the place where worlds collide in our very mouths.

So use what you have carefully!

Speak hope. Speak truth. Speak life.

You matter, therefore your words matter.

What ails us…

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The problem with what it is that ails us is that we are broken abandoned eggshell-people that are kept for exterior decor more than the inner usefulness, like an eggshell. We are empty.

Empty gas tanks running on fumes.

Fumes as silent as a dragonfly darting in out of places, soundless in absolute stealth with an agility unbeknownst to us, the anti-gossamers that exist as giants of fleeting destruction called history of the human race.

We lack beauty and we lack strength because we are running our marathon as a sprint and hope to come out the other side.

Hope to be victors over this thing called life.

Really, life is not something we need to have victory over, God already gave us victory, but  we have to enjoy living, enjoy the journey. Enjoy it even in the vast mundaneness of laundry, cooking, early morning alarms blaring. We have to stop sprinting and take a water break.

Stop consuming life and just live it. Live the pain, live the joys. Live those moments that break the mundane, but then return to the norm when it is all settled and done and be okay with the quiet, the ordinary. Bask in it.

We need to LEARN to love what is good for us since it’s not always so. We need to learn to take a breath, stop the mad darting skills of dragonflies and just land on a bush by the waterside.

Bask in the sun, soak in a sunset. Learn to recharge and go forth to the mundane amazingness of each day we’ve been gifted.

And it is a gift.

When you find that you are losing what you love, you find that indeed, life is a gift and what you spend will never come back again. When your mom is dying, your father in a jail cell, or your brother/sister testing limits on life threatening highs, you begin to understand how precious the now is, how much it should be lived and not consumed.

So stop. Make some friends.Laugh together. Stop running from the God chasing you ruthlessly. Smile. Spend a whole Saturday in bed. Take a walk at sunset. Be with the ones you love that want to be with you.

This is life. This is now. This is the meaning of everything.

And this is what fills us.When we are full- full of joy, faith, beauty, hope-that is when the ails begin to fall away. That is when God can make us stronger than we could ever be on our own. We just have to be willing to be filled. Because only what is already full can fill what ails us.