To the God of Hagar— God of wandering people in wilderness places— We know that you see— but we are having a hard time believing what we are seeing and seeing it— still believing that you see. God who has seen all violence done upon the earth— who sees the mothers and fathers fleeing— their babies in their arms only to arrive at safer shores that do not want them. God who has seen every innocence stolen by the hands of wicked men some who claim your name while inflicting unspeakable pain. God who has seen every victim silenced by lies and deceit and the idolatry of the comfort of lies so much easier to swallow than the bitter draught of truth. God who has seen every genocide, every leader drunk on power and prejudice, who values not what you called holy —the imago dei— of all of human kind. God who has seen the ruthless grip of natural disasters tearing houses and lands and peoples apart. God who has seen the ravages of every kind of sickness and disease; we know this is not the first pandemic you have seen. God who himself has felt the sting of sickness that leads to death— the tears of grief for your beloved, Lazarus in the tomb and for the moment out of reach. These times are not “unprecedented” to you. But we are still afraid. We need to know— do you see us here? Do you see every lonely heart turned lonelier by pandemic isolation? I had days where I was scared to make contact— to smile, to wave even to those a street away. The distance has felt more than social. But God, these are small things I know. What about the family members saying goodbye with nothing but a lousy internet connection connecting them to a parent a child a loved one— dying in the ICU? Do you see how the fingertips ache to be squeezed? to be held one last earthly time? Do you see the fear in our eyes— that we (or one we love) could be next to die alone? Or what about the cries for justice God? You’ve been hearing some version of the these for millenia— the oppressor always has his boot pressed against the neck of someone unable to fight back. Some of us are just now beginning to understand this is not the promised land. This is the valley of shadows. I’ve known it since I was seven. And despite all you’ve done to heal and redeem— some days all I can say is: “I hate it here.” Like Hagar running through the night her heart beat slamming her short breaths burning her shaking lungs. forced into service forced into her master’s bed forced to carry the burden of the patriarch’s lack of faith and her mistresses’ abuse— she fled. But where could she go? Where can we find shelter in a world that seems to be tearing always at some new seam we didn’t know was there? Do you see her God? See the tears track down her dirty cheeks? See her face, pale with fears her heart cannot hold? What more can she take God? (What I mean to say is what more can we take?) Is there a spring after all? A spring rising up in this wilderness— water bubbling like the sound of joy from the ground? Would you speak as you once did to Hagar— to ask us where have you been and where are you going? Will you give to the wounded, outcast, abandoned, lonely, bleeding heart— promise of a blessing? Can we name our sons Ishmael—knowing you have heard our affliction? Knowing you have your eye upon us even still? The chickadees in the barren lilac out my window always have enough to eat— will you feed us even here Jesus? Will it taste like bread and water to know you see us still?
They were angry with you when you turned over those tables. The coins clattered in the courtyard and you could hear the cries—the bleating, cooing cacophony of the sacrifice-for-sale. The offerings offered for a price that seemed payable that seemed enough perhaps— but missed the heart. Your heart beat hammered human in your chest as you, the righteous God-Man ransacked the place. Wrath is reserved especially for we who have eyes but refuse to see. They were angry. They called you a thief, a menace—a disturber of the peace. They said the prince of darkness had paid to have your soul But you were the One who spent 40 days with nothing; a wilderness wandering, just so you could return and wonder of wonders give us a world in yourself— the Word. How many tables have you toppled this year? How many images did we imagine were worthy of you, but we see now are rotted, rusted with all the rest of our earthly treasures? How many idols of security, of normalcy, of the easy & good life, you have shattered— scattered at our feet like coins from the money changers. Like the dung scattered from the sacrificial sheep? Who our true gods are has never been more obvious. Where we put our hope in the midst of crisis— the thread, the shred that we hold that helps us sleep at night. LORD, if it be not the edge of your robe then turn it over again— Turn us into children hungry for you, O Bread of Life— who thirst for water that quenches the soul.
Header photo c/o KaLisa Veer on Unsplash
1. Ash Wednesday Leaves burned last fall just when yellows and reds should have swept us away with the colors of flame— Instead aspen leaves dropped charred from the sky dark at noon. They crumbled to dust in our hands while smoke made it hard to breathe. Thoughts of our own mortality have never been nearer than these masks that hide our faces but not our fears. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust— fears coming nearer like the lines the fire fighters drew to protect the houses the roads, the school campus in the mountains burning down. Like the lines marked every six feet with signs reminding us to keep our distance. But it’s the loneliness that weighs me down the most Most days I stare out the window and wonder— who are the faithful friends? the one’s who’ll weather this storm too and stand by my side again— when spring finally comes when fresh leaves emerge from aspens scarred by flames of last year’s destruction? It’s Ash Wednesday now a time to think about all that perishes— and what remains. what Beauty is already standing sentry when the pine seeds are sprouting in glorious resurrection? I know the answer like I know the sound of his voice— In this life so full of loss and lack that burns like smoke in my lungs there is only One True and Lasting Beauty: One God who put on fragile flesh to kneel in the dirt, to plant himself like a seed sown in tears in a borrowed tomb. Like a pine seed, awakened by the flames just waiting— to burst forth.
This poem is the first in a series I will be doing, one poem for every Wednesday of Lent. I hope you follow along and that these poems of lack and longing meet you where you are this Lent. To receive updates in your email, click here to sign up for my email list and you’ll be sure not to miss a thing, even if you take a step back from social media for awhile. 🙂
Blessings on you Dear Reader, wherever this Lenten season finds you. And may the only True and Lasting Beauty—meet you there.
*Header Image C/O Malachi Brooks on Unsplash*
I have this fond affection for abandoned places. It’s weird, and feels misplaced every time it pops up, but there it is with the run down old house in need of love (and a roof) on the busy interstate. I feel it again at the sight of a leaning old tree; dead and grey wood worn down by weather and life. I remember the day that old tree finally fell, and that place on the highway felt lost without it.
There’s an old cinderblock house on Highway 287 north that I wrote a poem about. It needs a roof I think, but my engineer husband thinks it needs a bulldozer. He’s probably right.
There’s an old brick victorian house on three neglected acres just north west of the I25 entrance. It has painted green shutters, the window on the upper level is cracked, and sometime down the road someone seems to have built on a ply-wood addition to the side and spray painted it black. The NO TRESPASSING signs don’t intimidate me. I see the place as perhaps it once was; built with love and attention, facing a southern sky, the land around it filled with growing things nurtured and tended by loving and wise hands. There would have been a barn there for the horses. A carriage house perhaps. It would have been on the edge of the town-turned-city; our ever-expanding home. And no one would have dreamed of throwing a rock through the window, or building on a ply-wood addition and spray painting it black.
Last year I went to see my Grandaddy’s farm for what will probably be the last time. One portion is under-contract for sale; another holds a few head of cattle and the fishing pond my great-grandaddy built when he bought the land in the 1930’s. There’s a small shelter nearby where we park that was probably used for hogs I’m told; but now it’s covered in ivy and only holds the click-click-click of the generator for the electric fence. My father points out the field where they used to plant sweet potatoes. I can still remember in my mind’s eye the sight of the old farm house where my Grandaddy was born and raised, which has since been demolished after it became a danger. He shows me the acre where they planted the family garden, and tells me how they shucked corn every 4th of July for as long as he can remember, to put it up for the cool North Carolina winter months.
This all brings with it such wisps of my own childhood memories; like the time when I was young and my Daddy took my brothers and I fishing at this pond. He left the boys with their lines in the water at one place, and took me around to a different corner of the pond. I’ll never forget how he leaned down in my ear and whispered, “This is the best spot. Don’t tell your brothers.”
I remember how when I got older my Dad told me how he used to pull up old wine bottles from the bottom of the pond; relics of my alcoholic Paw-Paw’s day. I remember how my Dad told me Paw-Paw would say, “I’m going fishing,” in the evenings, and how everyone knew what that meant even if they pretended not to. When I asked him if he drank it, he said it had all turned to vinegar by then.
Places left unattended seem to become wild; they go to entropy without some greater force sculpting them towards order and harmony. Like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden—I am drawn in by the abandonment of these places. All the memories they hold, both good and bad, past and possible future flash before my eyes as I catch sight of a house nearly drowned in ivy on the side of a North Carolina highway. I can’t help but wonder; Who lives here? Who owns this? When did they leave and why? Is there hope for its restoration? What would it cost?
The neediness of a place draws me in. Perhaps it’s partly the solitude these places seem to afford; like the ghost town of Independence, Colorado—a small abandoned mining town at the top of a mountain pass where once gold was found, and then just as quickly, it wasn’t. I read on the internet that the town was mostly abandoned by 1890, and all but one remaining person left after a massive blizzard in 1899 left the town cut off from supplies. I wonder about the last person who stayed for thirteen years alone at the top of a mountain pass, almost 11,00 feet above sea level. I wonder how he felt, as he watched his neighbors and friends flee to Aspen on homemade skis that February 1899. How did he (or she) survive? By 1912 the town was completely deserted, and I wonder if it was as a result of the death of the last remaining resident, or if he too eventually realized that there was nothing left for him there.
Maybe the reason these places pull me in is because I’m so hesitant to ever believe that there’s nothing left worth saving. Maybe it’s because I don’t want anyone to think that about me. Perhaps I feel a kinship to these lonesome and broken down places; perhaps its the Imago Dei in me longing to bring order and dominion to every lost and abandoned place. Perhaps it’s because I know my heart can’t take any more abandonment myself.
When I was seven years old I lost my church and all my friends in one fell swoop. As a homeschool kid those were the most significant connections I had apart from family; and it’s an ache I still carry around with me more days than I would like.
I don’t like telling you this; for fear you’ll see the broken porch step, the dirt pile under the welcome mat, the loose wiring in the living room, the broken tile on the kitchen floor. The truth is, that I was sexually abused by the son of an elder at my childhood church; and when instead of offering some measurable assurance of space to heal and comfort and justice we were told to simply “forgive and forget”, we left. Sadder still—no one followed us.
Abandonment feels like the sharp sting of acrid smoke in my nostrils; and it has haunted me so thoroughly for most of my life that sometimes I imagine I can smell it when it isn’t even there.
I have been guilty of looking at my friends with a sideways glance—wondering if they are about to dart out the door. I look at my husband this way too; this wonderful man who promised to love me forever ten plus years ago, and hasn’t ever done a single thing to make me doubt his commitment to me since. I play out the scenarios in my mind of how it will happen; how I’ll share too much, be too much, take too much—and then it will be too late.
The fear of being left alone haunts me; I worry about who I’ll disappoint when I don’t have things as together as they think I should. I have seen the looks of fear on faces when I express feelings of doubt in the face of my lifelong faith. I think they think that if I express doubt that maybe I’m lose my faith in God; but the Truth is that I have my eyes and heart so wide open on my best days, that I must continually wrestle the darkness that I witness into the hands of the loving God who is himself everything light and lovely. But it’s a fight. I wrestle constantly it feels like sometimes; and there are dark days when I just don’t even know how to believe in a good and loving God anymore. But he always brings me back—and I’m learning that that is the more important piece.
I know he’s going to mend that porch step in time. He’s already got the broom out to clean under the welcom mat. He’s planning a kitchen remodel and the new tile is going to be so much more beautiful than what has been cracked and broken and left to rot in me. And I believe he longs to do the same in you.
But if you’re like me, perhaps you find it hard to see that God really loves you; that he really wants to make all the broken down and bleeding in you whole and healed and new. Perhaps it feels impossible—because if you weren’t valued when you were young and innocent, how could you be valued now that you’ve grown up and screwed up more times than you could count?
I still wrestle with these doubt too, friend. I get it. But I want you to know something—no matter how abandoned you have felt, you have never walked alone. These broken parts are pieces of your story? They are making way for an eternal weight of glory.
I’ve seen it. I believe it. I know that it’s true. And my prayer for you Dear Reader, is that you would begin to know it too.
A Prayer for our Abandoned Places
Jesus— You see all that is broken and abandoned in me. You see where I have placed a pot to gather rain from the leaky roof— the rugs I use to cover the holes in the floor— the peeling paint beneath the stack of books on the window sill. Thank you for making your home with me, even still. Teach me to trust the shuffle of your soft footsteps on my squeaky floor boards. Thank you that you love me as I am, yet you love me too much to leave me this way. Do your work in me O LORD— Amen
The Anvil I. Loss is like an anvil sitting silent on my chest. The only noise comes when I try to breathe. The creaking of my lungs fighting to expand in this weighted world sounds like the rattling of chains softened by padded walls. Words pad the cell: “She lived a good life.” “It was her time.” “She was ready.” AND IF I COULD ONLY STAND I’D RIP THAT PADDING OFF THE WALLS AND DASH MYSELF AGAINST THE COLD AND SOLID REALITY THAT DEATH IS ALWAYS AN UNINVITED AND GREEDY HAND AT THE TABLE AND THERE IS NO EXCUSING HIM. I have tried to move the anvil by ignoring it. Pretending that I believe padded words are enough to quench embers burning a hole in my chest where my heart used to be. But surprise, surprise! It didn’t work. After sitting in the numbed silence for 100 more years I took another rattling breath—my lungs like a bellows on the embers of a heart gone almost cold as I whispered— “I didn’t get to say goodbye.” And the anger lifts the anvil— throws it broken to the ground. And I do as I said I would; tearing padding, dashing every part of me against the cold hard stone until either my bones or the wall must break. II. Blind and wounded is this how we come? Crashing through that solid wall of reality my bones turned to powder my eyes gritty my nostrils full of dust & funeral ashes. Lying under a bright & open sky— the beauty sharp like grief— at first felt worse than the anvil that sat on my chest 1000 years—a weight where my heart used to be. And now this!? As I crashed through the walls to the truth that death was always just a door— out of the tower out of the nightmare out of the Shadowlands to Here— where air is breathed just for laughing. (This poem is an excerpt from my poetry chapbook As the Sparrow Flies, a collection of poems about the various forms of grief that come with love.) Header photo by Yang Shuo on Unsplash
It’s been almost six months since I’ve published anything in this space.
Like everyone else, 2020 kicked my butt in so many ways. From the fear caused by everything from the pandemic to the election—to the too-close-for-comfort wildfires that made the sky turn black at noon on labor day, to the deep loss caused by the deaths of two of my grandparents, to the more mundane losses of any kind of social life, and the fact that I haven’t been to church in person in almost a year.
It’s been a year of grief, a year of stripping away, a year in which I have questioned so much of my life and the way I choose to live it. It has also been a year for making art: for a poetry chapbook that is nearing completion and was almost entirely written during this difficult year (the subject matter: grief.), for silly short stories that will never see the light of day, and the first draft of my first ever novel written during November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
This is the year that I lived in a vacuum in so many ways; it was a year that showed me just how much I use the good opinions of others to prop up these under-inflated lungs. No wonder in this year when the main people who could appreciate me, don’t (my kids still don’t realize that I’m actually an amazing cook 😉 ), I had many days where I felt like I could hardly breathe. It’s like I’ve been on a ventilator of other people’s good opinions of me, and 2020 weaned me off of them. This year God began to teach me how to breathe on my own; with the breath that he breathes into my lungs. Breath that has allowed this year to be a year of incredible creativity; a year of pushing the boundaries of who I thought I was, and what I thought I was meant to do.
This year I began to dance in my kitchen.
This year I started writing fiction.
This year I realized that who others think I “should be”, and who God is calling me to be, very well may not match up. And that’s okay.
I’ve known for the past few years that if I was really going to be able to live into the calling that God has given me, I was going to need to put my people-pleasing to death. Easier said than done; in fact, I realize now that there was literally no way that that was going to happen without some sort of massive Divine Intervention. I have certainly not arrived, but I’m learning. God has had his work cut out for him, unwinding the years of false narratives with which I have surrounded basically every part of my life.
I constantly need to reevaluate my life. Am I only valuable when I am making things? When people notice and aknowledge my hard work or giftings? What if a season of illness or inability keeps me down for months at a time—am I still lovable then?
These seasons keep me honest about what is actually motivating me on a daily baisis. They keep me humble as I must constantly remember the truth: that my value cannot be added to or taken away from by anything I do—I am valuable soley because God values me.
In this prolonged season of grief, I have needed to step away from many of my usual modes of expression; the blog, my instagram, etc. The need came on suddenly and without preamble, but I could feel it in my bones: I needed to take time away from a writing that included external pressures to produce. (Even if those are mostly constructed by me.) There were weeks in a row where I hardly lifted a pen at all; but even when I was not able to write the stories down, God continued to remind me that these stories are still being written on my heart and in my mind.
Dear Reader, I have stories to tell you. So many stories. And someday, I’ll get to share them in ways that befit their beauty. And you have stories too. True narratives that are just waiting to be unraveled from the pain, chaos, and uncertainty that these strange days have held. I hope in the coming days, to be able to create more of a place for us to hear each other stories in ways we haven’t yet before—between a rock and a hard place, there is also The Rock and a Holy Place—a place where we are transformed.
The snow is falling softly outside my bedroom window, covering the thin and craggy branches of the 50 year old lilac like a layer of cream on my summertime farmer’s market strawberries, and I am dreaming of the Colorado peaches I hope the frost does not destroy this year. I am dreaming of finishing a revised draft of my manuscript. I am dreaming of letting go of expectations and of perfection. I am dreaming of embracing the beautiful moments of my right now life, even as I try and take the next steps to prepare for what’s ahead. I am dreaming that hope will become the predominant string being plucked in my heart, that the strings of anxiety and fear will be silenced—and eventually, torn out altogether.
I dream of making art that matters, and I dream of making art whether it matters to anyone else or not. I want to make beautiful things, and I want to encourage you to see the beauty in the midst of your own life’s difficult circumstances, that we may daily be awakened to the goodness of God, and the incredible power of his total redemption of every difficulty in our lives.
All that to say, some changes are coming to this space, in greater reflection of changes that have come to my own heart and mind this past year. I’m not really sure what it’s all going to look like yet, but I hope to continue showing up in this space as more fully myself, and that God will bless these loaves and fishes offered here and make them more than enough.
As I share the salt and sweat of my own wilderness places, I hope you will journey with me as we find that there is a river here… in fact it’s been here all along.
So that’s a little bit of where I’ve been: where have you been dear Reader? I’d really love to hear.
I am shedding my skin— the old broken down shell is cracked and sloughing off my shining shoulders. I am letting go of the girl I thought I was last year two years ago, definitely ten. Would she recognize me? Would we be friends? I’m letting go of those questions too. They have no place in this pool where I wash the soot from my body and watch the way the moon gleams on my brand new skin. This coal mine cave turned tomb For minerals, miners, and me. Presented to the heat, the flame as a sacrificial offering. For what god—I wasn’t sure. I felt the flames lick my heels and I screamed until the air gave out—I couldn’t breathe and I collapsed as the cave collapsed and crushed me. But now I am stepping out of my skin cracked and scared like the granite of the mountain side, and I see the new underneath— shining hard facets sparkling in the light of a young moon. I realize it then: it takes defiance to believe in joy—to hold both happiness and sorrow in your hands at once— to believe in hope when the dark is caving in. I didn’t know it till the sorrow buried me alive. I didn’t know till I heard the canary sing— reminding me that somehow there’s still air down here. Still air in my broken down lungs crushed beneath worlds of weight beneath bodies of gods existent in the image temples of my heart where I worshipped perfection, performance and outward shows of grand love to be praised by man— Where I bowed to the love of a god who only loved what I had done lately and not who I always was beneath this skin I am shedding. Not who I was when the cave roof collapsed. And Oh what Wonder! the dust clears and I can see now these were no gods at all, only toppling stones crashing before the refiners fire licked my heels and made me clean. Now upon the banks of a pool on the mountainside, I shed my sodden, sooty skin— I wipe the dirt from my neck, and my chest thrums with a new more solid beat. Now, beneath the light of the young moon, beneath my shed skin, I can see clearly what I was always meant to become. Photo C/O KT on Unsplash
“When the old way is dying, we can cling to normal or we can let sorrow lead our search for something better. This is the summer of imagination… Today I pray that instead of grasping for what you used to have, you let your empty hands clasp in prayer. Optimistic clutching for normalcy only can give you temporary relief, but you were made for more than the normal you had. Only grief can grow your imagination for the goodness of the kingdom you belong to.”—K.J. Ramsey
I’ve been to two funerals in the past month. The first was a memorial for my Grandmother who passed away in March, the week that everything in our state shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The second was for my Grandaddy who passed away at the beginning of August, and because of slightly fewer restrictions, we were able to have a small, mask-wearing-service at his home church in Fuquay-Varina North Carolina.
Aside from the season of fear and anxieties and generally vague grief that this pandemic has brought us through, some of you, like me, are also experiencing the sharp grief that comes with deep loss. Loss of a loved one. Loss of a job. Loss of money you had been saving in a 401k—we are all grappling with so much, but some of us more than others.
But it’s in this season that I am remembering and re-learning, that allowing ourselves to grieve over these losses, makes way for more peace. The kind of peace that is independent of circumstances, but that is rooted in something realer than what our eyes can see. The kind of peace that allows us to see our lives with greater clarity and imagination, showing us that our hunger for rightness in not foolish, but a good hunger that will lead us to our greatest satisfaction.
God’s Kingdom is here, and it is also coming. Every broken thing will be restored. The dead in Christ are only the seeds waiting for the proper time to grow into a new and fuller life. Our King is here; and He is coming.
The tension of the already-and-the-not-yet can be a difficult place to live. In the months following my Grandmother’s passing, before her memorial service, I found myself trapped in a grief I didn’t feel like I was allowing myself to process. The pandemic pushed pause on so many things, and I found myself being forced to grieve in different ways. In May my Grandfather gave me a box of my Grandmother’s hair things; brushes, clips, hair ties, combs—because he didn’t want to just throw it away—and I found myself staring at the grey hairs in the hairbrush she had probably been using for 20 years or more, wondering: Is this all I have left?
The question haunted me right into the grief I had been avoiding. I penned an angry poem or two, and that’s when it began to happen. Quite by accident, or quite by the Holy Spirit, my eyes began to clear and I saw what I had been missing. In my attempts to push aside my grief I had said things to myself like, “She lived a good life. She was ready. She’s with Jesus now,” all of which are TRUE and GOOD things to say and believe. But I was using them like a tourniquet and not a bandage. I was circumventing the grief, trying to cut it off at the source, by saying things that I knew to be true, but didn’t really feel or believe in my heart.
The reality is that death is always an unwanted and greedy hand at the table. My loss is great. My mother’s loss is greater. The grief I felt at waking up the morning that I heard the news, knowing I would never see my Grandmother again in this life, was crushing. And why wouldn’t it be? When I finally penned the angry poems and let out all my feelings of pent up rage and frustration, it was then that the clarity came. Crashing against the cold hard reality of death, I broke through into the realer-reality; her glorious eternal life. Grief was the path that brought me there.
Two funerals in a row is a lot, but it has given me time to practice. After my Grandmother’s memorial, I felt the peace that comes with a little bit of closure, and many tears shed with loved ones who also loved the one we lost. When I visited my Grandaddy for the last time a week later, I knew that though sorrow would come with the night, joy would come in the morning. The memory of the peace that would come through grief was recent enough for me to have not forgotten everything I learned for once; and for that I am so very thankful.
Dearest Readers; I know the burdens you carry are heavy. There are so many of you walking around with griefs much heavier even than the loss of a Grandparent or other loved one. The anxiety threatens to crush you some days. The little sorrows pile up and feel heavier than a wheelbarrow full of lead. The weight of uncertainty in this season, and whatever season will come after, adds its weight too.
But I want you to know; there is peace on the other side of this thing you are grieving, when you grieve it in the presence of God. Circumventing your grief with platitudes and comforting phrases (even when those phrases are TRUE), is not the way forward to a lasting peace and a clarity which sees the Kingdom of God at work even in our most deeply devastated and broken places.
This is your written invitation: Let yourself grieve. It’s okay. You are not alone. Your losses are not insignificant, nor do they go unnoticed by our heavenly Father. He is not looking down on you. He is not waiting for you to be stronger. He knows your frame; that you are dust, and He cares for you as His beloved child. The way to the joy of the morning is the sorrow of the night. The grief that needs to come, the tears that must be shed to wash your eyes clean so that you may rightly see what you cannot see right now.
The day my Grandaddy died, I told my husband I needed the beauty of the lake. We packed a picnic dinner and went out kayaking and paddle boarding at sunset. But I got sunscreen in my eyes and they kept stinging my whole way across the lake. I kept wiping them with the corner of my shirt until finally a wave of grief hit me and I began to cry. Later I realized that it was the tears that cleared my eyes from the sunscreen that had been stinging and clouding my vision.
May it be the same for you.
Go in peace friends. The way isn’t easy, but it’s the way we’ve been given—and it is good.
*If you need someone to pray for you, leave a comment below. You can tell us what you need prayer for, or keep it between you and God, the choice is yours. And if you feel led to pray for someone, would you reply to their comment and let them know that you are lifting them up? Grief is done best in the body of believers.*
Now you are the Seed for my Grandaddy Roy Now the soil is carved to make way for hands that handled seeds with care all their earthly days. Now you are the seed— Once you made space for what looked like death. For dried soy beans & shriveled corn— dusty field peas & string beans turnips, collards & more. (even tobacco seeds—for better or worse) Now you are the seed— Once, you sowed faith small as grains of mustard in three small children’s hearts‚ and by grace like rain they grew. Once, you held grands & great-grands in your weathered hands— and by grace like rain, we will grow to sow faith like you. Now you are the seed— Now, I need the faith of a farmer like you to nestle you gently in borrowed earth like Paw-Paw’s sweet potatoes so carefully arranged— to plant the seed of you beside the one for whom you tended gardens & roses & feeders full of hope like birdseed. Now, I need the faith of a farmer like you to disbelieve what my eyes have seen & believe instead in fields of glorious green & songs of eternal spring—the land from which no sparrow falls. Now you are the seed in the hands of a Farmer even older & wiser than you— and he knows the time to plant and he knows the harvest is coming. Now you are the seed we sow in tears— but we will reap with shouts of joy.
We have all been either in the headlines or the sidelines these past two weeks—observing and participating in what will certainly become a historic moment in our countries’ history. The blood of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others joining the groans of Emmet Till in the injustice and rampant racism surrounding their deaths.
If your peace is defined by your stable walls of a home, and stores being open when you need them, and no one chanting of holding signs or crying out for justice from the streets—perhaps these weeks have been peace shattering for you. Perhaps in your heart of hearts you wish you could go back to the way things were a few weeks ago when *all* you had to worry about was a pandemic.
Perhaps you think this has nothing to do with you. But it does.
It has everything to do with us. Because sin destroys everyone involved—Satan doesn’t want to only steal, kill and destroy our black neighbors; he wants to destroy you.
When lives are stolen in the name of hatred and prejudice—Fathers ripped from the arms of little girls, and you look away in complicity, it is your humanity that is being stolen.
Your compassion went up in flames long before you saw your neighborhood Target burning to the ground.
If you see a black man killed brutality and shamelessly, but you insist you need to know “the full story”; it is your God given sense of justice that has already been put to death in your heart.
If the destruction of property bothers you more than the destruction of black lives and livelihoods; a story that I’m told is sad, but far from new—it is your heart that is bound to an unjust scale. Don’t think for a moment that this weighing of the lives of our brothers and sister of color as less than things you hold dear hasn’t destroyed you.
Do you really think that you can see someone made in the Image of God as less than—and it not affect you on the very level of the soul?
Of this and so much more, I repent.
If you think you can check your social justice box because you are “pro-life,” think again. Because God cares about ALL life womb to tomb, and your witness is defiled if you think you can care for the unborn and not care for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the tribe forgotten on the reservation, or your black neighbor.
Our unity is not for uniformity. Our unity is for the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood to stretch deep and wide beneath our varying perspectives and experiences; the Gospel big enough to hold us all in our deepest brokenness both white and black—
O CHURCH REPENT, the Kingdom is at hand!
Not a kingdom built on an uneasy peace won by silencing the voices screaming from injustice. Not a kingdom built on selective care of those made in the Imago Dei to those who only look like us, talk like us, or don’t directly inconvenience us. But a Kingdom in which we all can turn and be healed—healed by the scars of a brown skinned man living under authoritarian oppression, unjustly and torturously executed for crimes he did not commit.
The Pharisees were afraid of the stir he would cause; and we are to be like him. Not sacrificing “one for the many,” to keep the uneasy power and the uneasy peace. But laying down our lives, our rights; our privilege, all of it—for one another; that the bonds of unity would run deep and wide like the river of baptism washing all of us clean in the Gospel of grace.
O Church repent!
Repent of your White American Gospel; and hear the cries of the slaves in the fields singing from the depths of the suffering our ancestors put them through. Hear the stories of their suffering. Listen to their grief. See how the Lord has carried them, and love him for it even as you repent of your complicity in it.
I didn’t want to learn the truth last year when I learned that my ancestors owned slaves. I wish I could spit the taste of the shame from my mouth—of these sins I have inherited—Lord make me clean!
LORD HEAL OUR LAND! May we not wish this moment away. May we not stand idly by waiting for it to pass. May we see that we are here for such a time as this.
The church is being sifted; the differences between the sheep and the goats is becoming more and more clear. Do not listen to the voices that lull you back into your comfortable sleep. The world needs you awake.
Repent O Church!
Awake with new care and compassion! Do not be threatened by the past, only turn from it, knowing that grace is big enough for you too. You don’t have to justify the sins of the past to be set free from them. Only look them in the face, and do just the opposite: acknowledge the part that you have played in all of this, and let the grace of the Lord Jesus who has already lived perfectly for you heal your wounded soul. The Gospel is still the good news you need to hear.
O HOW WE LOVE YOU KING JESUS!
In his house there are many rooms. And in his Kingdom neither moth nor rust will destroy; nor thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19), they shall not hurt or destroy on his Holy Mountain for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). And there every tribe and every tongue and every nation will worship him as the LORD.(Revelation 7:9)
Until that day, we bring his Kingdom here—asking God for his grace and forgiveness, repenting of the ways we have stumbled into a prejudice that blinds us from seeing our brothers and sisters for who they really are: beings made fearfully and wonderfully in the very image of a Holy God.
May our hearts be changed by God’s grace, and for his glory, amen.