When We Build Walls

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The mallards are back. The hen is on her nest, the drake there most days too. The two of them slowly paddling, they fly across the road sometimes, I think the eating is better in the marsh. Most days I see them.

On Sunday my little family took a raft on the pond. It is too small for much but a perfect place to search for snails or tadpoles. The kids took their butterfly nets, a bucket. We could not stay though. My dog, who is rather large, would not stop hassling that hen on her nest. And she would not flee. She would dive and squawk and flutter and flap but she would not go more than five feet away. This hen would not leave her eggs, would not cower to any old dog, she was willing to risk her neck for those ducklings. Samwise kept at it, tail wagging with the joy of the chase.

Mothers are like that. The way they throw themselves in harm’s way. The way they will do anything to protect their young. I’m feeling it this week. Feeling so much like they are sheep among wolves.

A few days ago, my daughter asked me if I knew the very worst word in the world. And I said, ‘no, what is it’. Up till now, the very worst word has been stupid so when she looked me straight in the eye and dropped the ‘f bomb’ in the middle of the living room, I was a little taken a back. There is nothing uglier off the tongue of a little person and I was amazed at how it sounded. How it rubbed some of the gloss off. “The boys taught me in the cloak room” she said. She wore two pigtails to school today, a shirt with kittens on it. Oh God let them be little…

On the way home from school last night, my boy told me that his little friend had to go see the judge because he ate too many drugs. “It is like what happens when you drink too much pop”, he says. This boy doesn’t live with his parents now, I guess this is why.  My heart is still up into my throat when we get home and I plan to hold up in the woods for a few days. Let us dig a mote, build impermeable fortresses. Let us imagine that there are dragons to slay and pirates to fight shall we? I don’t want you to know about the real beasts of our world.

Not just yet.

But I won’t stay here long. Safety only exists in fairy tales, the land beyond the sea.

Besides, am I not at least as brave as a duck?

You see every fence I build, every wall I erect throws another child to the wolves, creates one more wildling. Every time I think I am protecting my kids from something, could I actually be putting them at greater risk? The shootings and stabbings, the kids left outside our great fortresses are being ravaged, they can’t do it alone. We see it all the time in youth. The kids left lingering around the outside. The kids, who by no action of their own, have never learned to swim, have never played a soccer game, have never had a family meal, don’t know what homemade gravy tastes like. The kids for whom the world is too dark, too dangerous they get fierce there on the outside. But they don’t have to…

I am throwing open our doors. Putting down the draw bridge. That empty seat in my car? I want to fill it. That empty place at my dinner table? I want to set it. I want to be someone these kids can trust. I want to be a bright spot in their dark days. I want them to know that we believe in them.

I know this is too simple. That when gates are open, the wild sneaks in and sometimes unsuspecting sheep get eaten up. I know that a mind can corrupt even under the very best of care. Still. I think we can do better. I think we can be as innocent as doves even while the wolves are howling. I think we can teach our kids to be wise AND loving. Brave AND gentle.

We were sent. Let us not hide. Let us dance around these eggs, let us trick the wolves; shrewd and pure but NEVER afraid.

Aside

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I am all nostalgia, for the moment I am in now. My baby girl only braved the water slide if she was firmly in my lap. I obliged a million times, what if this is the last time she wants me? They are growing fast these kids. I am having the urge to MAKE ALL THE MEMORIES. DO ALL THE THINGS. Last night I shaped rice crispies into bird nests, stuck a peep on top. I bought the basket stuffing, the chocolate rabbits. TIme is slipping on me. I want to look it straight in the face.

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It has not been easy to be Mr. O this week. It has been all trouble and trial; challenge and testing. He has struggled. When my son pulls away hard and we feel him distancing, weakening, we know he is getting discouraged with his very own flesh, the way it fails. I need to learn to be a vessel of hope for him, how do I pour it out all over him when the world has dragged him down? How do I teach him to be his own clay pot? Opening up to the voice of God in his life, the voice of hope over the hopeless? How do I teach him to throw himself back on the potters wheel when the cracks start to show?

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I am a nurse on a campus. My favorite demographic of humans is people in their early twenties, when they are all fun and hope and laughter. When they are certain they are thinking thoughts nobody ever has, when they have all the authority of a boat not yet rocked. When the world is their oyster, an open clam, and they are all mining the pearls. Tragedy strikes them fiercely, the dark is such a contrast to the light in their eyes. I struggle then too. Darkness just seems so encompassing sometimes.

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It is Holy Thursday. Today is about the foot washing, the betrayal just on the horizon, the remembering. Today, I think about what Judas wanted. Did he get frustrated with the way Jesus was going about things? Did the messiah not do things his way? Was the world just still too dark? I feel like that sometimes. Sometimes, the church, the bride, is not what I imagined her to be. Jesus doesn’t show up the way I would like him too. You need to watch yourself then, you teeter on trading it all for a lousy bag of cash.

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There is very little doubt about the Good Friday world we live in. How easy it is to see the giant boulder there and walk away. Today I am asking God to show me all the stones He is rolling. All the new life he is making. All the Freedom He is giving.

Today, I’m asking Him to rise again in my heart, to clear this temple, to make all things new.

Your Calling

wpid-storageemulated0PicturesVSCOCam2014-02-20-04.53.41-1.jpg.jpgThere is a doe and two fawns I watch too closely. I see her most days, just past Huckleberry road, and before I pass Jackpine. We saw them first last spring when the littles were all wobble legged and spotted. They are yearlings now, almost her size but not quite. I count them out, “1, 2 oh where is the third?! Oh…there she is” and I sigh deep. I am somehow all tangled up with that doe and her fawns wandering around the Rich. If there is anything you can say about me, it is that I am a reckless romantic, finding meaning where there might be none.

That bush is on fire is it not? Burning up with the things of God. What, you can’t see it? Are you blind?

I watched “Big Fish” for the 1 millionth time this week and wept like a child again. Us storytellers do that. You can tell me about that time you went shopping for shoes and I will wonder what it taught you. How were you tossing light while you walked? What of the kingdom upside down did you bring along for the ride? What great character did you meet? Did they challenge your capacity for the peace or did you just come along side, see the gift of the co-created moment.

It freaks me out when people talk about calling as a far off thing. As something they are working towards becoming. A job they will someday get and then they will “BE IT”. You know that is all fading right? That none of it will stand? You can be a preacher but unless you are preaching all the time regardless of your vocation you ain’t no preacher. And I, well you know I love the words, as reckless as I am with them, as ill-equipped as I am to write, still I do. There is no book contract on my horizon, this will never make me an income and yet still I write, because it is the only place the whole world comes together in my head. I am in graduate school and I am having fun. Imagine if it was my job to sit and speak of ideas and healing and all the good things? It will put food on the table and adventure in my lap, but my calling will not be to teach. I am to mother these children well, to lay down my life, put it aside for the little people. Still that is not the whole of my call. A calling is not the thing you do, it is the way we move. 

My calling, and yours too, is to be the salt and the light wherever we walk. We walk in the way of the freedom fighters, and we are to speak the language of the prophets. I want my kids to see the big story that lies just beneath the surface of all the things we do. The way I want them to tell the stories of our strange adventures and the way I want them to question if they really experienced that…Did I imagine that fantastical evening? The way the skies burned bright with stars? I want them to sit around, moments before I die someday with all the people who brushed up against our life. The way I want them to celebrate a life lived to the edges, to the depths. I hope they will say something about the way I loved people, the light of God that leaked out of the edges of my life. The way we sought the glory laden in the mundane of these dailies and perhaps someday, when we return to the dust and the funeral procession is coming, there will be people there shouting about our freedom songs how it rang  from our rafters. 

The Far End of Flesh

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There is a place, just there between sound asleep and wide awake. It is a heavy place, dampened by all my anxious thoughts, heavy with all the weight of the world, the incomplete masses. It is burdened with the dreamland, of not quite real, but  not entirely fiction either. The hybrid of my most terrifying truths and the deepest lies in Hell.  It is filled with the thank yous unsaid,  the moments I should have showed up, the tasks undone, and the people I’ve disappointed all of them here pointing in the dark shadows of an empty room.  Here is the liminality when I am not yet sure if that nightmare is truth or if horrible real was just a dream, here where flesh rules with all its translucent skin, its collapsing and failing cells.

This is the place just before I can see my way to casting all my anxiety on Him. It is the place just shy of remembering my redemption, the just-before-a future glory. It is the place where I all I know is my flesh, how extraordinarily broken it is. How it reminds me of all things I want to do, but do not do.

Here is this place, more than any other, I see my way back to Hope. Don’t you see it? Whereever it is you find yourself most extraordinarily other than the “WHO” you want to be, there is where HE meets you, changes you, shows you your truest fears and most authentic broken. There. There where you know there is more to you than THIS, there on the other side of the end of yourself where HE begins.

Find Him there. Your most broken is also the first place healed.

Hearts in the Snow

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True love, is cancelling Valentine dinner at your favourite restaurant to sit together and kiss hot child skin, listen to coughs that sound like harbour seals. True love is taking your turn staying home from work, of getting one more cup of juice in the night, of laying close, sitting still, tickling arms. True love is doing the hard work of staying...of letting real life creep on all the edges of our tired thirties and choosing each other anyways.

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True love is after days of being so many things to so many people, we slow the pace. At the grocery store the other night we were hustling a little as the last flakes of snow fell. When I looked down at her, the big flakes had stuck in her huge eye lashes, her eyes closed, her chin tilted to heaven, her tongue out catching flakes. I stopped. I had nowhere I would rather be then RIGHT IN THAT MOMENT. I trace out a heart with my feet in the snow, she opened her eyes, her face lit up, she makes a flower in the snow for me. True love is in the tiny moments…when we slow to the pace of little feet, take the time to let them stomp the cadence of a beating heart.

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Our days are full. I laughed at midnight last night when I was just starting to get somewhere on a paper due today. Working woman, hockey mom, dance mom, taught an evening workshop and THEN sat down to write. So many hats. I don’t mind being busy now and then, I get charged up on things, so excited to be a part of wonderful strands of life that God weaves together to make something beautiful out of our life. True love is never an outcome…it is the steady pace of goodness. 

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He gets delirious the moment his body temperature inches over normal. Always panic and something scary. I pull him off that bunk, down into my arms, his limbs long over me. I rest my hand on his chest, heart is beating fast and hard, so near to me it feels it might burst through thin fleshTrue love is the way of stretching beyond yourself, of inconvenience.

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True love is scattering keys to the captives, the speaking of hope when hope seems lost, the patience to try again. True love is the kindness in the face of all the worlds cruelty. Love is in the humility, the servant life of laying all the plans aside for the sake of another. Love is in the perseverance, the generosity.

Love is in the passion. Sure. But that is the easy part.

Love is the minuscule and marvelously small acts of a life layed down…that is what makes it true.

Wherever you are today…single or in a relationship…what is it you can do to ensure your life is marked by these?

Let the Lion Roar

ImageI’ve been guilty of it.
Treating the God of the universe like a lap dog that is mine to groom, to leash up and prance around packed arenas. I’ve believed that He is mine to dominate; tie out in the yard if He gets to mouthy, talks too much. The North American church, loves to do this. Package him up in the guise of family values, of conservative politics, of good behaviour and worst of all mediocre art.
Aslan is on the move He is setting fires in His wake. Fires in the hearts of men after he has burned down our man ordained infrastructures.
We’ve leashed Him for too long, like we could ever make a chain thick enough. We’ve chained ourselves there too, in the stadium, out in the yard, to the kitchen sink. Not once risking our own skins all the while forsaking our souls. The proof is in our anxious hearts, our depressed minds. We are carrying weights we were never meant to…His burden is light.
The evangelical church is shifting, the very ground beneath our feet is moving. Tectonic shifts. You can grieve if you want too…the things that have passed. I will not. I trust the God of the universe to let him burn what He will. I trust him enough to be ALL IN to see what is built tomorrow.

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I’ve no interest in being a lion tamer…You can keep your caged up beast. I’ll be chasing mine, in the Serengeti of this wild life, my heart beating fast with the thrill of it.  I’ll be out in the barren plains of the disenchanted hearts of men, watching the Living Water quench the barren ground. I’ll be out under the acacia trees, the shadow of His wings, anywhere He leads. I’ll be using all His good gifts to expand the horizon of the captured, to tear down the fences of the religious. I’ll be in the great wide open, knowing He is not safe, and there are dangers here I can’t plan for. Still I know He is good and I will follow anyways.
My God? He is not tame but he is so very good.

ImageI feel the quake in my heart…the fire burning white hot. There are far better things ahead my friends…

Like the Tide

ImageHow can it be that the wave is unexpected by now?
The crush of it.

Just when I think the beach is safe for me to wander, that tide comes in and knocks me over, clears my lungs of breath.

Just when I am certain the levees will hold you back, certain I can control you, or at the very least how I react to you.

Just when it seems that the waves have found a new beach to reduce to rubble, clay in your hands. Just when I am certain another bay makes a better home.

Just when I think I can walk as if you don’t exist, that I can walk my own way.

I guess, the tide is subject to gravity.

There are some things that cannot be stopped.

Wash me away.

Five Minute Friday: Visit

 

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I am prone to the wander.

 

The here and there. The not quite, but always right now.
I can plan one thousand ventures in the time it takes some to make coffee.

I sat on a roof top last night, big city hotel, a spoken word poet. A songwriting genius beside him. I shared a chair with my boss while listening to a poem about the “Wild God coming for dinner”. Life is weird like that. How we feel all the wild and all the trapped at once.

I visit other lives sometimes. I drop in like an alien, feel like a fraud, check out again. I head to the hills. But then. When I look back, don’t you feel the meaning of each minute? The missionary from Sudan in the concourse you got to hug. The wanderer talking to you brief about the church that he feels tricked him. The way we are always pushing back the dark. Sprinkling the salt on all that which might be at risk of decay. Preserve. Brighten.

And now. In an air port with a hyacinth, a computer and five hours of reflection…don’t you see? A visit. A transport into another life is always just the thing that makes coming back to life just right.

Joining with Lisa-Jo and friends…

Taking Care

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Did you notice that coffee mug? How it fits just so in your two cupped hands.
The way those trees would break like crystals, bound in diamonds even if you didn’t pull over the car to take another picture?

Have you ever nearly drove your car into the ditch for trying to identify that bird of prey? The way it molts all white. Is it a snowy owl? I’m not sure. But I got awful close.
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It is in the table set. The feet under it. The broken bread that makes us remember. The dishes laid out in the just-so. Did you hear the I love you whisper from those plates?
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It’s in the small where the metaphors form up. The way I plant that herb garden. Put it in my make shift greenhouse. The way the things slowly glow. Let us magnify the shining Light onto the seeds planted. It is the most and the least we can do.

I see it in the way we listen. What is it we hear?
I see it in the way we slow to the pace of those beside us. What is it you learn when you keep step with someone?

I am careless. A hurricane.
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Lord, teach me to tend the garden, the souls, the life before me. Let me not rush, no matter what is to come next. Let me live into the depths of my life, experience the whole of it. Let it never be said of me that I blew past all the gifts with all my fury.