Saturday, November 15, 2014

Where am I?

In April of this year, I fell behind on my New Year's resolution to read the Bible in a single year. I haven't caught up since, though I've hit the "catch me up" button on my iPhone a couple of times. You can't say I didn't warn you, though. Remember the "I will fail" post? And remember how I can be so prideful? It was inevitable, wasn't it? :)

So, I've been somewhat afraid to write. But then I got to thinking: where are you? I'm starting to sense that I'm probably not the only one who wanders down a trail, and then another one, and then another, and sits down to rest for a while, and forgets the way back, and feels overwhelmed by the effort it would take to get there anyway.

Work on the left, this blog on the right... I think I'll stay right where I am. 


But that's not the story, exactly.

Because I've been getting my work done. And, I've been trying my best to make time for the ones I love. It's just that I haven't been flipping through silky pages of wisdom, lately. In fact, I've been reading only fragments of scripture, quickly, out of context, and lightly understood. It's been nauseating. And, I feel as if I've lost all memory of what I was learning in January, February, and March.

Let me admit: there's something heart-wrenching that takes place when I move my eyes away from the Word of God and allow myself to function undisciplined in the rhythms of each day. Something numbing. So even though I'm often bothered by the idea of writing you at times (seriously, you dramatic blog, you), I'm grateful for the space that you provide. Your blank pages, encouraging me to engage with the Spirit of God once again, to pick up the book, to whisper a prayer, to listen, and to fumble through to some kind of sense.

So, where am I?

I'm with Eric and Harvard, at the beach, cuddling, sipping tea, watching children fall down in the wind, dogs prance on the sand, and waves crash in the distance. It's freezing here. It's peaceful, and it's renewing. And I can't help but smile and feel unworthy. Honestly. Because Jesus doesn't skip a beat with me. March is like yesterday, and I can feel His presence as quickly as I desire it. His mercy, as real and as powerful as the ocean before me.

I'm with Him, even when I'm lost. 





Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where is Jesus?

I wonder what God expects me to feel as I read through the Old Testament. I'm postured with open palms and waiting for Him to take these things inside of me, these images that flash against my eyelids as they are closed in prayer, and to make sense of them. To help me out when I'm bothered by Moses, and I don't know if I can trust everything that he says, and I don't know if I believe that every time he says "The Lord says" it really captures what the Lord said, in that moment, in that place. Because isn't he just as flawed as any of us? And I wouldn't want anyone reading the words that I attribute to God in my own life as if they were truly His, without seeking Him for themselves. But I wouldn't want to overlook what "The Lord says" if He really said it either, and I mean no disrespect, and I desire to fear the Lord.

Moses would stone me to death for most of that, I'm sure. Moses, the man who seemed so grand at first, and then so violent, so degrading, so whiny, so mighty, so wicked, so wise, and so dominating. I really like Moses; I'm filled with respect for him, and I'm so thankful for the words he penned! It's just up. And, then it's down. With me.

Again, I wonder what God expects me to feel: wants me to feel when these words begin running through the mazes of my mind, meeting dead ends, colliding with gray matter, becoming exhausted as they find themselves carving out the same paths and never reaching the end.

Today, I'll say that I don't trust what the scriptures say all the time; I do, however, trust the Spirit to guide me through them, but that takes time. And in time, I trust that God will rest on my heart and my mind, and that I'll find something more true, a treasure more precious, than I could have ever found without being honest about what is between us. Without recognizing the tension in my heart and just telling Him it's there!

With palms open, I'm thinking... God, where is Jesus? 

Where is Jesus when the Israelites start cutting animal throats, draining out their blood, and presenting them as burnt sacrifices, with their pleasing aromas, to the Lord? Where is Jesus when the Israelites learn that there are many sins that require them to stone their people, men and women, to death: to purge the evil from among them? Where is Jesus when the Israelites head into battle, and their enemies are conquered, and they must return to ensure that all of the people--man, woman, and child--are completely annihilated?

God, I miss Jesus. Here in these ancient words. Where is He?

I miss the part of you who became the lamb and walked, willingly, brutally, to the cross where you suffered to die for us all. I miss Jesus who, when faced with a woman who was about to be stoned, challenged the crowd to examine their own hearts until every single one of them walked away, aware of their own sins. Jesus, you stood there alone. You could have cast the first stone. You could have purged the evil from among you. But you took no pleasure in the option of death, and you healed her instead, and you commanded her to live! 

Where is that part of you in the era of Moses? 

I know that I'm supposed to see Him there, and that others do. It's just up. And, then it's down. With me. And all I can say, today, is that I'm learning to be desperate for Jesus. To crave Him with all of my being. Because my mind desires His company when faced with these moral riddles, and my heart is easily disgusted with the bloodshed. I don't want to put God on trial; I want to know Him. I long for a deeper relationship with Him. I hope it's possible that these feelings in my gut are a sign of His mark upon my being, His humanity and forgiveness, and His grace within me.

I'm reading the Old Testament, crying out, where is Jesus? I am grateful, through it all, that He is within me.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things that add up.

The sun came out today, and I needed it, and I soaked it up, and I smiled, and I made the most of it for as long as it lasted. Early in the day, as I was walking across campus, I ran into my dad. After I went back to my office, I realized how often I fail to cherish the little things, so I called him up and we were able to carve out 30 minutes for an on-campus lunch. I told him about my friends whose dads had died this week, somewhat unexpectedly; I told him that I was glad I could sit and eat with him, even if we had to cut it short.

My mom texted a bit later, and my family planned to meet for dinner, and I have a lot of work to do, but if I were to have declined the invite, I would have missed the chance to go on a walk with my precious niece, picking dandelions, hanging upside down, kicking a ball around the yard, pretending to be a horse, and climbing on fire hydrants. 


I would have missed out on Jade's pretty eyes: her heart-melting teeny smile.
And air-drumming with Jude.


The sun went down, and I'm home now. I'm sitting with Eric, ready for bed. We've finished talking about my most recent adventures through the Old Testament, and the truth is that I'm feeling a bit deflated, or confused (more on that later). But as I pasted these pictures into my blog, I was reminded that God is good. 

Not everything adds up, but enough things do. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Let God be amazing.

I've been silent on the Internet for weeks, but that doesn't mean my mind has been quiet, or that I haven't been writing. In fact, I started drafting this blog post over a week ago, though it failed to come together until this past weekend.

(rewind)

I turned off my alarm and leaned forward, with a wordless mind. And there was a void there to be filled, just as there is every morning. How would I start this day? What would be the opener? Then, I heard this:

Let God be amazing.

It was clear, and it made sense. Instead of me. Because I had spent the weekend forcing myself to rest and to accept who I was and what my limits were, and this meant that I was “unprepared” for Monday: at least in my own perfectionist kind of way. To think that the pressure was off this morning was the motivation I needed to be filled with joy, to put one foot in front of the other, to move myself toward what He had in store for me—with hope. If I show up, and if I step aside, He will be amazing; I will be amazed.

A few steps later, I was standing in front of the mirror, multi-tasking eyeliner and the Bible on my iPhone, and I cringed in fear, and dread, and skepticism, as I read “Leviticus” on the screen. But I heard it again:  

Let God be amazing. Instead of me. In Leviticus.

In the burning bush. (Which is Exodus, I know, but stay with me). 



And these words meant so much to me, so immediately, because this story of God's had been bothering me. I had been wondering about how I might feel if the God of the universe were to reveal Himself to me as a gathering of flames illuminating a bush in the night. I had been imagining myself, unimpressed, underwhelmed, and unable to discern Him as the God of goodness. And yet, frightened. I know that most of that is the point, but I still think it’s an odd depiction of God that doesn’t quite line up with the Him I am coming to know. These are the kinds of little details that derail my mind—that choke and suffocate me, though I press on.

I confessed these things to Eric, and he remained as calm and composed as usual. He said that if I had been there, if I had seen the flames recede and the bush unharmed, that I would have been in awe of God and that it would make sense. I'm thinking about that now, realizing that God is so unknown to me. God is like a flame that does not turn a thing to ashes, yet fiercely burns and flickers and illuminates all the same.

Eric reminds me that there is a difference between revelation that brings me closer to God, and revelation that is arrogant. Because when I don't get it, I insist that I should. And I play the fool so often, limiting His wonder by believing that my capacity to perceive and proclaim it through a broken, skeptical lens (that has yet, if ever, to see the fullness of His wonder) will be what defines Him in this world. I am not responsible for making God seem amazing in the midst of these messy Old Testament texts. 

Let God be amazing.

I say it over and over, sighing sighs of relief and imagining myself shrinking in His ever increasing presence. 

But yesterday it felt as if He broke through me, and into me, and made His place in my heart and my soul anew, and I bet my skin could have sparkled as Moses’ did when the Lord passed before Him: "the Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). It was that moment when I determined to let God be amazing in me, as well. Because God never asked me to shrink, but rather to become translucent so that His light and His presence would be known. 

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 
-Marianne Williamson


Monday, March 10, 2014

Disappearing

I've had a lot of students drop my classes over the last few weeks. Just disappear. I understand that life happens, and I never take this personally, but I often wonder and worry about what might be going on in their lives that would take them away, and I sincerely hope they are okay. To be completely honest, I feel for them and any shame they might feel about not being able to finish; I've been there, and I know the pressure of college and life, and I know what it feels like to walk away before the quarter ends.

Tonight, Eric and I were stocking up on fruits and vegetables when I saw one of the missing students sitting at a table. Before I could fully determine how to respond, my excitement took over and nudged me across the room to ask how she had been, and what had happened, to make sure she was okay, and to encourage her to start again when, or if, she feels it's the right time. "I've disappeared before, too," I told her. "I'm just glad to see that you are well." I wished her the best as we left, and I carried her burdens on my heart, thanking God for the people He brings into my life. People to pray for. People to care for. Each and every student and person that my job introduces me to, and all of the challenges I know they are facing. Right now. Even as I write this. 

As I left the grocery store, I decided that the blog I had been drafting all week--the one I planned to post tonight--would have to wait. Because I realized that so many students in my classes have been disappearing, and I have been disappearing, too. 



I've been buried underneath grading. 

I've been desperate for every moment with Eric. 

I've been making excuses, and puzzling over cosmic riddles, and organizing, and resting. 

And why is that I, that we, come to feel so guilty about all of this? As if God has a grade-book. As if he has been taking attendance, and counting up points, and evaluating me, and as if my financial aid is going to run out until I'm stuck funding this entire relationship on my own. 

When we disappear, when we fail to set aside the time to remain engaged, to attend, to do our work, to reach out to Him, I imagine that God misses us, above all things. Sincerely. I imagine He thinks of us, and He remains close, and He desires for us to not necessarily "return," but to turn and face Him where He has been all along. And when we do this, there is no time for apologizing. I say this because it seemed that when I started to apologize to God, today, for setting Him aside and getting wrapped up in the frenzy of my world, that He was quick to interrupt and proclaim: Come here. I love you! Turn off that music. 

I turned the dial down until it beeped, and I drove home from work listening to the hum of the Beetle. 

It only took about thirty minutes until I could feel His nearness again. In the clouds ahead, I could see His face--the face of a King--emerging and descending from heaven like sun beams and rain falling from a peach and pale blue sky. His eyes were fixed on mine, and the drumming of His rain drops awakened me from complacency. 

Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Absolutely meaningless without You

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rest

When you skip two "days of rest," what do you get in return? 

For me, it's a list of priorities that starts to read more like a web than a list, and a deafness in my ears that prevents me from hearing His voice: knowing what to do first, or just, in general, what to do. This morning, I kept hearing, Do what you think you shouldn't. 

Make juice.

Stretch.

Take a nap.

Boil an artichoke.

Watch a movie. 

Write a blog, slowly, peacefully, with your eyes looking past the computer screen at the leaves shaking under heavy rain, the washing that I've brought upon creation today, the weather I've made to keep you inside, soothed by the white noise of My power. 


I stayed in bed after waking, and I finished reading Exodus. The ending was hard for me, and I found myself detaching, skimming, wishing it was over, and skipping days. I was agitated by the instructions the Lord gave to Moses and His people because they felt too parallel to the work that I had to do this week: the on and ons of details and chores and busyness, busyness, busyness. 

Here I am, stuck to the web that is my commitments, desperate for God to turn it into a list of things that I can check off one by one, and I'm reading His voice on the page, His voice commanding every little detail of the work for the Tabernacle, and I'm jealous of His meticulous instruction given to this ancient people. I'm desperate for Him to tell me what to do, meticulously. All the while, I realize He told me chapters prior, to take a break, and I've been ignoring that. I've been starting each day with a naive sense of my own strength.

After a week of chewing on this, I can finally feel my heart ripping open, and I am ready to repent. For my obsession with success, and my concern with the opinion of others. My incessant pursuit for praise and my unwillingness to be still, for even a moment. I know I should concern myself with His approval alone, and this is something that I have never found to be easy. 

There I am again, stuck to the web of my commitments with my hands and feet unable to pull away. And I'm trapped and vulnerable, but I also feel light and suspended like laying in a hammock, swaying back and forth. 

So, I close my eyes. 

Rest a while. 

Trust in Him to fill me up and set me free, in time. To take away my shame. 

Because He told me once, as we were running along the beach and playing in the sand, that I could build the biggest, most fantastic sandcastle, but that He could not love me any more than He already does. There is less to work for in this world than I often times acknowledge, and there is so much more to enjoy. His presence. His beauty. Passing in front of me every second of the day. Too often, unnoticed. 


Monday, February 10, 2014

I will never breathe the same.

I'm falling behind on blogging, but I'm catching up on grading, and I'm still breathing :) You win some, you lose some, right?

On Friday, I ended my time at the first ever Washington State Sustainability Conference, and I was so relieved to check out of my hotel and attend the final day of workshops without anxiety looming over me: the fear of sleeping another night alone in the unfamiliar hotel room, on an unfamiliar street, in an unfamiliar city. My time at the conference was challenging for reasons I did not plan for, but most importantly, it was inspiring, and I learned a little bit about how to breathe. 

The lesson began on Thursday, when our opening speakers humbly approached the microphone with quiet voices, asking us to be thankful, to show gratitude to mother earth. Imagine, they prompted, all of the processes, systems, pieces, relationships she constitutes; breathe in slowly, and out slowly, and remember her for all she does to create oxygen for us to breathe. Give back, they urged, and they continued on to remind us that we all share the same air. The gift of air. The gift of now: a time to be alive, to breathe, and to do what is meant for us in this moment.

I spent the time with my eyes closed, thanking God for my fragile life. Thanking Him for speaking to me that morning, through anyone, at anytime, as He had been telling me He would do in weeks prior. As I was praying, I realized so clearly that my breath is not to be wasted: that it will come and go. Its repetition, its daily presence, its miraculous life-giving power should remind me that I can do more than merely breathe while I am here. That His plans for me extend beyond survival

Later in the day, in a workshop, we were asked to clear our laps, to remove our lenses, to silence our cell phones, and place our feet flat on the floor. To breathe in slowly, and out slowly. To focus only on the feeling of air passing through our nostrils, and to conquer all wandering thoughts and distractions as we narrow our focus, hone in on the sensation of air passing through. Sit up straight and breathe in slowly, and out slowly. Because it is calming, because it cultivates attentiveness, and because it opens up the mind for reflection and contemplation.

I'll admit: I twitched. My back hurt. My stomach groaned. But all the while, I breathed, and something about that impressed me: whether I could focus on it, or not. Whether I could calm myself to enjoy it, or not. Because I knew that, no matter my efforts and ability to be still, the God of Peace was as with me as the air that filled my lungs, and that made me smile as I failed.    

In another workshop, the speaker projected images of extinct species on the board at the front of the room. Close your eyes, she invited. Breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly. She said that the air we breathe is air that these animals used to breathe, but will never breathe again. She told us in a soft voice to accept that. To be thankful for them. And to be thankful for all of the animals that are still here, who breathe the same air, and who so desperately need us to defend them. To consider them. I quieted my heart and felt compelled to ask God for forgiveness.

By the end of the conference, I was oddly aware of all the breaths I had breathed and the theme that had unfolded, mostly in the background of the day's highlighted moments. I opened my journal to read a daily scripture, and the words on the page couldn't have been sweeter:
"Breathe Me in with each breath."
Breathe Me in: in times of gratitude, distraction, grief, anxiety, exhaustion, and fear. Be reliant upon Me. Be aware of me in all things, Amber. I couldn't escape it. I kept breathing, and I realized that I will never breathe the same. Because He generously provides every single breath, and He gives His Spirit as readily as the air I breathe. He is standing so close to me now that I can almost imagine we share the same air.

On my final night in the hotel, I was reading from the Bible, continuing on with the year's plan, and I read about Moses parting the waters and traveling through the Red Sea, and how God protected His people from their enemies, saying, "I will pursue, I will overtake them." Moses said of God in return, "But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them" (Exodus 15:9-10). There I was in the unfamiliar hotel room, on the unfamiliar street, in the unfamiliar city, and I could imagine the breath of God moving with force in all directions away from me, putting my enemies to rest, sending them away for good. That same fierce breath then passed lightly over me: over the embers of my faintly, faithful heart to enliven a small flame or fire within. I "need only be still," You say: to breathe in, and breathe out. 




Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ugh. Life as a Girl.

I felt like a big girl, driving away in the company car, with the passenger seat empty, the company card in my pocket. I had my map app set to go, and a plan to pass through Seattle early enough to miss the traffic, and the parade, and every other bit of the crazed post-Superbowl frenzy.

It was probably two hours into the drive when my phone started to die and the gas dial began to dip. I stopped at a Starbucks, bummed that I wouldn't make it to Bellingham while the sun was still up. My phone charger barely made the connection to kick start my battery, and when I drove across the intersection to fill up the gas tank, I struggled with the key and the cap for a while. I struggled in the cold, and grew frustrated, wishing frantically that someone else was there with me. I was standing on a foreign street fixated on the sound of five lanes of strangers' cars whizzing past me. I felt inadequate, and helpless, and stupid, and alone.

Anxiety was on the rise...

As the sun set, I neared the exit. And by the time I pulled into the "check-in" lane, the sky was black. Two things, God; I just need two things. First, I hoped, discriminatingly, that there would be a young woman behind the counter to greet me. Instead, I was met by a man. He checked me in as expected, but I couldn't shut down the panic I felt over certain questions like, "One or two?" "One," I replied, regretting my honesty instantly: regretting my fear, as well.

He turned on the heat in my room, showed me the bus stop, pointed me to a parking spot, and offered to help me with my bags. I declined the offer, on the basis that I had only one bag; his daughter, 24, travelled with 3 over-sized suitcases, he said.

The room was warm, clean, empty. I shut the door, and there went the second thing. I was hoping for a chain: no chain. Not even a chair in the room tall enough to wedge between myself and the big bad world. Not even a gun in my suitcase, because I left it at home. And, not even courage. Not an ounce of it. Only a wild imagination plagued by a lifetime of fears, too much CNN, the realities for women across the globe, and the realization that this would be the first night of my life spent alone in a hotel room away from home.

Ugh.

Sometimes, I hate being a girl.

I don't want to dramatize this post. Nothing bad has happened to me, and it's likely I'll drive myself home on Friday night grateful for the opportunity I had to be here. Quickly forgetting the personal trials I faced, yet feeling guilty about how my fears demonized the strangers around me. But, I have to say it again: my fear, however childish, is still rooted in a reality for women everywhere, around the world. And if I can make anything worthy of this moment, I'd ask you to please pray for these women: stolen and abused. Pray for our world. A world in which daughters are not safe, and sons are often feared. Pray that daughters would be brave and smart, despite the world we live in, and pray that sons would grow up to respect women and treat them with sweetness because of the world we live in. That these young men might become generous protectors. Not the bodyguard kind, but the kind who commit themselves to compassion, and who desire freedom from fear for the ones they love.

The kind who are willing to spend most of the night with her, on Facetime, just to make her feel less alone. To help her sleep. To help encourage her to have hope for the morning, even though her fear is irrational. Even though it's time to grow up.


I asked Jesus to join me tonight. To take a seat, please. And I really believe He is with me, but in more ways than one. Because He gave me Eric, too. And while Eric is on the line, working on his computer while I work on mine too, I know that God is up to something. Two posts ago, I found myself repeating these lines from one of my favorite songs: "There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt." I'm getting there. He's getting me there.

Father, forgive me for my fear. Forgive me that I do not see things Your way. Take fear away from me, and give me Your eyes of wisdom. Your heart. Your strength. Your courage. Your protection. Thank you, again and again, for Eric. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shut Everything Down

I've had one of those days where your tasks drag you along. Seriously, every punch of a key is a test of my patience because I am over words. Especially the ones that have to be documented, revised, edited, published, uploaded, and dispersed. And especially the ones that have to be read, attentively: emails, essays, blogs. It seems I can't work fast enough, as the list in front of me continues to grow.

But this reminds me of something I've been trying to write down for a while now. A realization, a belief you could say, that has centered me before in times of despair and exhaustion:
It's the understanding that God does not want to be at the top of my priority list;
he wants to be in all of my priorities. 
It's hard to fully grasp the meaning of this. So often it seems as if I'm forced to shut the book, close down the app, walk away, and when I do, it feels like I leave Him behind. Like I put Him on hold, try to hurry through my chores, and feel frustrated when I find myself with little or no time to return. Most hours of my day require my mind to be filled with the words of others: to consider them, fully. How can I even speak a word of my own? How can I hear you in the midst of all of the noise and chaos of a busy life?

I know how healthy it can be to shut everything down and make time for silence.

But I refuse to believe that God requires this in order to speak, or in order for me to realize and feel the power of His presence. I think He is waiting for me to ask Him, instead, to join me in the most mundane, wild, routine, shocking moments of my life. I think He wants me to acknowledge Him as a necessary part of every moment; not an alternative to my moments. To see that any conversation, with anyone, is an opportunity to speak with Him, to hear from Him, to see Him, and to know Him.

I'm trying to learn all of this, and I meant what I said the other day about not being willing to trade my time, my relationships, for the ability to check things off "the list." But the truth is: the lesson is painful. How long until I hand it over? My chores? My weaknesses? My pride? 

How long will it take me to see the world, my life, as Yours: no seams between my time with You and my time awake or asleep?

Thank God, love is patient :)

And, love is kind. 




Monday, February 3, 2014

Breach (a different kind of post)

Today, my iPhone told me to read something different. Thank you, Bible app. You are kind :) 

Yes, I read the Bible on an iPhone. Don't judge!

Since I am taking a break from the Book of Exodus, I thought it might be fun to publish something out of the ordinary for me. A different piece of writing. A piece that I am still working on. 

Breach

I hated the ocean. I loathed its massive, breaking sounds that drew me to the borders between rushing water and wet, dark brown sand. In this place, I would wonder—feet barely following the other, and carrying my empty mind along. The ocean reminded me of the vastness of all that is, of the unknown. And being faced with it, felt like looking at myself and seeing only a deceptive surface. Felt like madness. A shell here and there. A creature spread out, unidentifiable. Living, dying matter, but always the in and out of the tide. Always the noise like the inside of a seashell, and the memories of stealing them from the beach and taking them home, where as a child I would tuck my ear inside with dreams that I might escape my landlocked world.

The oceans here are covered with a thick, yet sheer curtain of wet and cloudy gray sky. I remember reading that early settlers risked their lives in these fogs of the Northwest, as their boats would break against hidden cliffs. They would snap. Cave. Crush the adventurers within. When the fog shows up, I am the captain—blind, anxious to reach the shore, but filled with visions of snapping, cracking, and drowning—dying before I ever get the chance to press my toes into the fine sands, or breathe the air of majestic trees. I am standing on the beach with a pit in my stomach, while my friends, who are sick to their stomachs with taffy and caramel corn, tired from bumper cars, snicker at me from afar. My hood is up over my head. My eyes are on my feet. My head is somewhere else.

But now, something is different.


As the icy water rushes over the tops of my pale feet, red polish glimmers in a white sun. I can feel the cold invigorate my body from the ground up, and a piercing energy ignites the dreams that are dormant in my mind. My sails are up. I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, and I am ready to dive into a new pace. I can stand there, with my eyes opened or closed, and it doesn’t matter. Through it all, I can see whales racing to the surface and pulling themselves out of the water into the cool air where their bodies are light for a moment, before they smash back into the depths of the sea. They are always moving. And they know something that I don’t. It is a something that I used to fear—that I was afraid I would not want to know, or would never understand. But now I see myself further out than the borders between rushing water and wet, dark brown sand; I see myself as a speck in the midst of blue, and up close, on the leather canvas of a sailboat. A thin epidermis separates my world from the world of the whales, and I am laying on my stomach full of butterflies with my head over the edge, face down, eyes staring into the white foam that flows from the edges of the platoons on both sides. I’m waiting for a breach of truth; without it, I am dreaming of what it might be. And that alone keeps me at peace while I am here, at the mercy of the wind.




Sunday, February 2, 2014

Nothing to fear. Nothing to doubt.

I'm thinking of V for Vendetta. The image of Natalie Portman with a shaved head, clothed in a sheet-like garment, standing in the rain and lightning, standing on the balcony, with her palms held up in an outburst of rage and release and receipt and freedom. I'm looking down at the notes in front of me. There on the page are plans for my next design project. The lyrics from Radiohead's "Pyramid Song":

There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt.

The pieces were not intended to go together, but they do. 

And they seem to go together with the Book of Job, too. 

And with me. With my story. 

There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt. 

If you haven't seen V for Vendetta, stop reading. I'm about to give away the ending, and it's just too good to spoil when you should be watching it instead. The story of Evie and V is challenging. Evie confesses that she is not like her parents were. She is not brave. And V befriends her, then captures her, tortures her, manipulates her, and breaks her down until she faces her greatest fear: death. In the end, she walks out of her prison cell and into V's home. Deceived. Torn. Unafraid. Freed. There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt. It's hard to know whether to hate V, or to thank him: hard for Evie and hard for us. But we like the person that Evie has become. We crave to feel as she feels. There is a rumbling in our hearts that awakens to the idea, the possibility, that we could be freed. And in the end, she makes her peace with V. She completes his work, even. She loves him. And all of this fulfills the plan. 

It might be dangerous to compare this story to Job's, but don't get too excited. Don't get too nervous or offended. This is just me learning, experimenting, and playing connect the dots to see what happens.

In Job's story, Satan is the capturer, the torturer, the manipulator, and the one who breaks Job down. And God is the one who teaches Job to face his greatest fears in order to free him, and this is why Job cries out in wisdom, "When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). Yet, God is also the one who gives Satan permission: who points Job out, even. And how many of us have, therefore, placed the blame on God for the capturing, torturing, manipulating, and devastating of Job? I know I have. The first three chapters of Job paint a picture of God as a Father who stands back and offers up His "righteous" child as a subject for Satan's temptations and havoc (read that again and tell me why we wouldn't expect that of God, given what we know about Him in the New Testament). But I'll continue. This image of God in the book of Job is far more conflicting than that of V. Because He is God, and not a comic book character. And Job is a man, not a role that can be filled. Job is like us. 

What we determine, what we feel, in response to the Book of Job is essential to our relationship with God. It will define everything. Because in the Book of Job we are warned that "man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). And when trouble comes, will we hate Him, or will we love Him? Will we trust Him? Will we blame Him? 

But most importantly, if V is responsible for the torture and liberation of Evie, who is responsible, between God and Satan, for the torture and liberation of Job? For the suffering and salvation of us all?

Let me pause here to tell you the truth. That I had a plan about what to write. It's sitting in front of me now, and it doesn't look anything like this. Half way through my drafting about V, I broke down. I read what I wrote, and I was genuinely panicked. Who is responsible, between God and Satan, for the torture and liberation of Job? For the suffering and salvation of us all?

I know this debate. I know these conversations. I generally want nothing to do with them, at least not publicly, and I tried as hard as I could not to get into this, but how can I read the book of Job and ignore the one thing that I believe God is trying to make clear?! That God is very, very separate from Satan. That He spares the righteous, just as He has always done: just as He did with Noah and with Lot. But Satan, he torments the righteous. He does not win, by the way. He is weak. He is pathetic. His only hope for victory exists in the chance that we might confuse the evil of Satan with the righteousness of God, as Job and his friends did, and as I so easily do. That we might not know how to feel about God and Satan because we see them as V: a single, foreign, masked, confusion of a character. Where does one end and the other begin?

As much as I have hated the tone of these arguments, and as much as I can sense lies and ugliness on both sides, and as far above them as I would like to be, tonight, I feel like God is calling out to me and asking me to be brave. He is asking me to face these questions because I need you to know, He says. I need you to know the truth about Me. 

I've protested before. I've said that I am fine either way. But I know that I can no longer say these things because I was given this picture of Eric, accused of a crime: I was sitting face to face with him and he wanted me to know that he was innocent. I refused to hear his story. I told him that I loved him no matter what, that it was fine either way. He sank deeply into his chair and his heart was crushed before my eyes. He wanted to be known, but I would not listen to him.

God is relational. He is my Father. And He wants to be known. I have no idea what this will mean months from now, but tonight I am filled with hope that He will reveal Himself to me, and reveal Himself to me, and reveal Himself to me until I have nothing to fear, and nothing to doubt. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To the God who gives life.

Let February begin!

January was so good to me. So relational.

Somehow I managed to meet with God, every day. To remember Him. I spent my Mondays at coffee with Chalayn; I spent my Thursday mornings at coffee with friends from work; I spent my Fridays with Eric and Harvard, at the river, by the fire; I spent my mornings in the car, worshipping Jesus and preparing for the day; my afternoons in the classroom; and my evenings, driving, unwinding, and preparing for the arrival home; I spent hours in the office, investing in a job I love and new friendships I am incredibly grateful for; I spent Tuesdays and Thursdays in Jan’s class, admiring and learning, and in Michael’s class, dreaming and designing; I spent evenings and weekends reading student’s stories and ideas, stranger’s blogs, and borrowed books; and now I am spending the weekend with my dad, my cousins, and my grandparents in Walla Walla.

Grandma and Grandpa will be moving into an apartment next week, and out of the only house that I have ever known them in. The walls are bare. Everyone is getting ready for bed.


I’m tired from the day, but alive—full of nostalgia. Today, I sat side by side with my cousins, perusing pictures, laughing, packing, reading, watching YouTube videos.

My dad and my aunt: the only pictures from their childhood. 

Grandma was so excited to show me around their new apartment. I was excited to lean over her shoulder, look upon a black and white collector’s plate, hear stories about her childhood in Denmark, her hometown, the school she attended, the church she attended, her mother and father. I held her Bible in my hands, earlier—a book I didn’t even know they owned, and a book I could not read. But I flipped through the pages, touching foreign words, catching a glimpse of "Jesus," wondering where my grandma comes from. Where I come from. Wondering what she believes.

There is evidence of the beauty and majesty of God all around this house. Especially in the love that my grandparents share. And each night I am here, as I pull the covers over my shoulders, I’m comforted by something that only He can provide. Some sense of peace and truth that does not need to spoken in order to be understood.

I have so many things to complete: a list of to-dos that hovers over me. But as I look back at this month, I can’t say that I would trade any single moment, any single person, for the ability to cross things off of that list. I hate the hovering feeling, but I think Jesus has it under control. I think he’s okay with where I am at, and that I am actually where He wants me to be.

Here’s to a relational February, and to the God who is the master of time—who can draw me in and send me out, and carve out time for me to read, write, work, and play if I trust in Him.


To the God who gives life, and life abundantly, thank You.

Friday, January 31, 2014

More on Proximity

God does not self-destruct.

In the Garden of Eden, His presence filled the earth; the serpent was there, too. In the Book of Job, He sat on the throne, and Satan approached Him for conversation. In the wilderness, Satan tempted Him, and on the cross, I can only imagine the weight of sin and darkness that rested upon Him. But, God does not self-destruct. He stands everlasting and unchanging, resurrected.

I've always been under the impression that God cannot look at sin: that He cannot bear it. And yet, Jesus sought out the unlovable and untouchable, intentionally, and He made His meals with them. He gave them water, He healed them, and He stood between them and their accusers.

Proximity: "nearness in space, time, and relationship."

7 years ago, I asked God why He continued to "use" people I knew who seemed hard-hearted, prideful, and bent on hurting others. How could He bless their work when it was so clear that it would cause others to suffer, deeply? I couldn't understand, at the time, how these people could be reveling in the comfort of God's favor while in such close proximity to sin. Someone told me then, Amber, God used an ass—literally, an ass—to speak to His people. I’ve learned He’ll use any one and any thing to accomplish His plans. And I'll admit, the idea was comforting to me. For whatever reason, I had to believe that God's movement in and through these people was not a way of assigning value to, or validating, or enabling them. I'm embarrassed about these comments, now. Honestly. It's difficult for me to admit how I sometimes classify others in my mind as "them," when I have my own flaws. And I know that I have no right to stand and judge, or even "classify."

Sin is no deterrent for God. If anything, it catches His eye and draws Him near in desperation. He is a God who loves and pursues His children. As His children, we should do the same. We should seek out the unlovable and untouchable, intentionally, and make our meals with them. We should give them water, heal them, and stand between them and their accusers, offering the hope of Jesus.

These things make sense to me. They are a familiar reminder. But here's what is unfamiliar, and what I didn't know before:

Since I believed that God could not bear to look at sin, I believed that the act of sin was what created literal distance from God. That if I sinned there was some sort of "will wear off in 24 hours" type of side-effect. That God could not move within me, could not use me, until the effects of sin wore off. And that this applied to others as well, although I wasn't quite sure if it took 24 hours for sin to wear off, or maybe 24 months. I supposed it depended upon the depravity of the situation, and I am so disappointed with myself for believing these things for so long.

The incredible, unreal, unexplainable truth about the forgiveness and the presence of God is that it is there, within reach, at all times. God can move immediately, and He does. All the time. Sometimes, even, He is moving and speaking through the lips of the hypocrites, the slanderers, and all of us who have no right or merit to His name. Because He is just that near. Sin, or no sin. My sin, or your sin. No matter the depravity.

As I change my perspective, I see Him more.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recent Rules for the Internet

I'm going to keep this one short, friends. I'm not trying to cut corners, but I have "stacks" of grading to do (can you still call them stacks when they are files on your computer?), and I have a dog to cuddle. 

My mind has been a flurry of thoughts, lately. I read this evening that I should sit back, close my eyes, let my body rest in the comfort of gravity, and allow Jesus to do a bit of sorting, unwinding, connecting, rewiring, and overall sense-making and priority-setting. So, I'm working on that :) Out of the mess that is my mind, however, comes this post: Amber's Recent Rules for the Internet. 

Number One.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

Replace the word "evil" with hatred, venom, ignorance, despair, negativity, fear-mongering, anxiety, gossip, bullying, or any other word that causes your stomach to turn, or your fist to clench, or your heart to race, or the dark cloud above you to settle in at eye level. The Internet is full of "evil," as far as I can see it, and it can become a rather hopeless place at times. But I've been reminding myself lately to have eyes for hope even in the darkest of places. I've decided to look in front of me and see darkness fall away. To look again, if I don't see goodness the first time through, or the second, or the third. He has overcome the world, and I have nothing to fear. Nothing to overwhelm me. 

Number Two.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

There are some things people just shouldn't say. They should know better. But they don't. (Myself included, by the way). If I can take a deep breath and remind myself not to "be overcome," I can go one step further in gentleness, in patience, and in love. I can reach out. I can unify. Or, I can hold my tongue with the realization that "this too shall pass," and the understanding that it is not always my battle. Remember, we are all unfolding: each in our own way, at our own pace. 

Number Three. 

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)

Eric and I have been practicing this one. Up ahead, the storm clouds gather and collide. The dark skies seem to be moving towards us quickly, swallowing up the sun. We're tempted to suck in air and hold our breath as we wait, in discomfort, for the storm to pass. 

Instead, we look to one another. In a glance, we remember all that He has done for us: the gift of the marriage between us and the promise of eternity in His Kingdom. The Garden. The City. The grave conquered and every tear wiped away. Darkness fails, and we laugh instead




Sunday, January 26, 2014

I will fail.

When I made the decision to start writing more regularly, there was one major obstacle to overcome. I had to accept this: I will fail.  

Please don’t try to console me, or to “equip” me with hopes that you can prevent it from happening, or to sugar coat it, or deny it. Failure is ugly, for sure. It’s difficult to face, whether you are the one failing, or merely a spectator. And yet, it’s inevitable. If you tell me otherwise, I’ll have to ignore it. I’ve believed for such a long time that hard work, persistence, and an overall commitment to striving and being hard on myself would prevent failure. Or at least, in moments of failure, I would be able to claim success by taking ownership for my failure before anyone else had the chance to perceive me as weak.

Even Thomas Edison denied failure, by re-framing it, when he shared his experiences inventing the light bulb: “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


I love that quote. I love the feeling of holding failure in my hand, crushing it, transforming it, and shaping it into something new that I am not afraid to hold, proudly, in an open palm.

But I have to ask: what’s so bad about failure, really?

In the “economy of Christ,” He is made strong in my weakness. That’s such a “Christianese” answer, I know. But let me put things into context by explaining what led me to write this entry in the first place:

I’ve been reading other people’s blogs lately, trying to learn more about what is out there and how this whole blog thing works, anyway. (I also think it’s important to support others in their writing if I expect the same in return). It can become quite the time suck, but for now, I’ll say that it has been time well spent. I’ve been inspired, challenged, and generally moved by what I have found, and it feels right to take a break from the sometimes self-absorbed activity of blog writing to admire the talents, gifts, and stories of other people.

But blogs can become battlegrounds. A person, half-realized, commits to the act of writing, to the act of thinking, and as they pour their words out onto the blank canvas—a glimpse into their minds, at the moment—all of their weaknesses, dressed up with the limits of our language, are laid bare. Since it’s public, it’s up for public review, and oh how the anonymous, distant public of the Internet swarm at the chance to criticize.

I haven’t yet faced this. For now, I am grateful for that, as I am learning how to be unafraid as I write. But in the future, I assume I will face it—especially considering the time constraints I have put upon myself—and I am certain it will have its benefits. That it will be part of the beauty that failure can become.

I say it again: I will fail. I will fail in such a way that invites criticism. 

I’m sure that I already have. That I have been wrong. That I have been proud. That I have misunderstood the scriptures. That I will read what I have written one year from now and wonder how I could have missed this or that. That I will open up a can of worms without the qualifications to do so: whatever those may be.

But here is why
I will write anyway:

Because I hope that my writing will encourage more honesty about faith, for believers and non-believers. I hope that I can be a part of a movement of people who are unafraid to ponder the existence and the nature of God, together, despite status or education. And I believe that we will all benefit from it, because I believe that God is near and that He is generous:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
Because I believe that God is a teacher, and I know firsthand that teachers are patient with their students, see failure as a part of the process, and would rather work with a student who is willing to fail in order to gain, than with a student who remains within the boundaries of their own comforts. Haven’t you heard Picasso’s famous words? “Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Fear of failure suffocates our ability to create and to dream and to speak and to learn. I believe that God reveals Himself, sometimes slowly, and that it is okay to have a developing understanding of who He is. To be an artist, unashamed, growing, expressing, all the way to the grave. 

And because I need only to fear God, and God knows that I will fail. He will not be shocked; He will not be angry. He has already died on the cross, knowing that I am imperfect and in need of His redemption. He will not reply with harsh words of criticism or judge me for the student that I am, but He will have hope for me and the woman that I am becoming. He will meet with me at every step.

Father, Be the leader. Be the lamp unto my feet. Renew my heart and my mind as I read the Bible and write this blog. Correct me, guide me, teach me, forgive me, and keep me humble and alert all the while.


And Father, give my readers eyes to see and ears to hear what You are unfolding in me; give them courage to be unfolding as well.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Job Over Pancakes

Every time I read the book of Job, it feels like the first time. I know the first few chapters well, but for some reason, I can never remember how it ends. I’m trapped in the moment—in the pain, the despair, the confusion, the dreadful whirlwind of unfairness, and pity, and one of the most honest conversations with God that I know of. And every time, the story makes me undone.

I cringe at the thought of Satan, there in the presence of God.

And that’s only the beginning.

Since Eric and I were sitting down together for pancakes this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to invite the Book of Job to join us. I’ve been struggling to write, and I’ve already missed two of my personal deadlines because of it. Now, I’m writing on a Friday—our day of rest—but I feel peaceful about what I have to share and grateful for a husband who helps me to understand my own mind and who gives wise advice.

For over an hour, we sat side by side, talking about some of the most pressing questions of our existence and our faith—about good and evil, the laws of physics, theological tensions, Christian sentiment, creation, rhetorical questions, the capabilities of Satan, the intentions of God, and the limits of our knowing. In the end, I told Eric that I was worried about speaking too soon by writing about Job, now, when all I have to offer is troubling, fragmented, confusing, and intensely personal. But I also told him that I want my writing to be transparent and honest, and that I would never want to withhold my struggles or questions out of fear or censorship.

Job’s friends mourned with him for 7 days before ever speaking a word.

That is one of the most incredible things about Eric. He is a strong and quiet presence, and a friend who will never leave my side. His advice was simple: write about other things until you finish reading Job, and wait for God to speak.


Though I am not ready to write about Job, God has been speaking to me. Yesterday, I could hear Him saying, I am the leader, I am the leader, I am the leader, I am the leader, I am.


I’m not going to write about Job yet, but I hope that God will lead me to do so in time.



Monday, January 20, 2014

This is how you love.

Genesis: check.

Finishing the book feels rewarding, but genuinely different from times in the past. Reading the Bible to be with God is mysterious, thrilling, comforting, and much more worth it. I've never felt so connected to the act of page turning, knowing that I am not alone—that I am in the presence of something much bigger and brighter than anything I've ever imagined, and knowing that I am being invited to come closer. I'll set Genesis aside, now, like a book with notes bursting out of its sides. Something to return to. A place where I can continue to seek answers, and a place for recalling memories, too. 

Rewarding, yes. But these 20 days have also been difficult.

And, I just can't bring myself to say much about that, but I'll say this: it feels as if there is a tiny rock wedged in there somewhere. Somewhere in a hidden cavity in my chest, where my heart finds its strength and my breath is made full. That's where the rock is. Undermining the natural order of things. Stealing away my words.

In worship yesterday, I saw Jesus as a teacher, again. I was sitting at a small desk in a one-room school house, and He was moving from the front of the room through the spaces in between us. He was smiling as He looked down at our work, pointing things out, one child at a time. His feedback was gentle, and sweet, and we were eager for His attention. When He made it over to me, I looked down with Him, at the paper in front of me—delicate lines and dark gray sweeps, converging to form each cavity, wall, and valve of a human heart. Of my heart. He moved the pencil over the sketch and said, This is how you love. And we shaped and shaded until the heart seemed so real. This is how you love, He said. Because Jesus teaches me things like that. 

He also taught me, as I read Genesis, that He is the mediator. He is the Spirit that moves beyond the boundaries of our bodies, that binds us together. He is the peace between Jacob and Esau; He is the favor between Egypt and Joseph; He is the forgiveness between Joseph and his brothers. And since most of what hurts in my world, and most of what I fear, is the pain that exists between the boundaries of our bodies—the harm that can be done between people—I am freed to know that when I found myself on my knees yesterday, asking Him to mediate, He is able. He is willing. 


Remember grace, I keep telling myself.

Eyes on me, He keeps saying.

This is how you love.

I wondered later what exactly it was that we had added to my heart. I zoomed in and out of the dream and I realized that the "this" He was referring to was not a part of the drawing itself. It was His attention, His hand, His time, His care. All month long, this word has been on my mind: Proximity"nearness in space, time, or relationship." And now, Emmanuel—"God with us." This is how You love.  



Thank you, God, for Eric. Whose love always makes me think of You. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Embodied

I've been stuck with these thoughts, unresolved, but I've decided to share anyways. Here it goes...

"As children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side," says Ken Robinson, the genius behind one of my favorite TED Talks: "How Schools Kill Creativity." He continues on to criticize, specifically, university professors. He explains, "They live in their heads. They live up there, and slightly to one side. They're disembodied. You know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a type of transport for their heads. It's a way of getting their head to meetings."

I was watching this video for the fourth or fifth time with some other instructors before I left Longview on Thursday evening and headed for home, and it had me twitching with the need for change, and for movement. The dancer in me was ready to stand up and put my body into shapes, pull beats out of the air, find rhythm, find movement, and color, and lines, and meaning, and words, and align myself with all of it.

The artist within me experiences the world in this way. It's like playing connect the dots with everything sensory. So on the drive home, I turned up "Carry Your Name" and I sang as loud as I could, and I danced as much as I could, and I enjoyed the feeling of being embodiedthe flesh and bone limits that the soul crosses over when a heart bursts in worshipping the Lord.

I think that what Ken Robinson was saying is not isolated to academia; it's rampant in the church as well. I remember one night before the service started I was meeting with friends over coffee and we were talking about the various poses of worshipers and trying to figure out if any of these physical representations mattered. Why do we do what we do anyways? I had to admit, however, that I seem to pay more attention to what we don't do; I mean, it perplexes meif the Lord, the maker of the stars, is literally in our midst, than why do we seem so subdued? So zombified? That night, as we worshiped, I asked God, "Is it okay to dance?" In the secret place between my mind and my eyelids, he appeared, two feet in front of me, smiling, dancing with me as we celebrated all that He has done to conquer death and bring peace and restoration to my soul. It was an intimate momentlighthearted, compassionate, and shattering in terms of my previous perceptions of what the God of the universe might be like.

I realized how much fun it can be to spend time with Jesus.

The scriptures say, "Wisdom is far more valuable than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with it" (Proverbs 8:11). But I am thinking it is important to remember, as Robinson expresses, that intellect is diverse and dynamic. That God is the God of our minds and our bodies, and that He wants all of us. That wisdom, as far as God is concerned, cannot be limited to the intellectual pursuits that we humans have invented. That music can capture God's wisdom; that painting can capture God's wisdom; and poetry, and prose, and dance, and every other creative, embodied outlet that the Creator has given us. Maybe even sports :)

I warn myself today, not to spend the year in my head only. Not to agonize too much over the compatibility between the scriptures and my brain. I have an entire body, and in the presence of the Spirit, it seems to know things about Him that my mind has yet to learn.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Looking Beyond Jacob

Esau was born first—hairy. His brother Jacob was born second. Jacob took Esau’s birthright and his blessing, and when Esau threatened his life, Jacob fled.
Eric’s half asleep, but kind enough to mutter words back and forth as I start my day. I tell him that I’m “not that into Jacob," and he surprises me with his agreement, as he begins listing off Jacob’s many offenses. Number one, stealing. I know, right? :)
Jacob fell in love with Rachel, and after working for 7 years with plans to marry her, he ended up married to Leah. He offered 7 more years of service to marry Rachel, and once he finished his work, his family managed to flee from the home of Laban, father of Leah and Rachel. A reunion with Esau awaited Jacob, and he was frightened. He wrestled with God. Then, “Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, hugged his neck, and kissed him. They both wept” (Genesis 33:4). Sigh of relief. 
It’s day 15 of expecting God to speak to me every day this year—of knowing that He wants to, and trusting that He will. But this is an act of faith. The truth is: I worry every day that I will be met with silence, or that the noise of my day will drown out His voice, or that my daily commitment to writing might be too rushed. But as I write these things down, I realize how wrong I must be, and it makes me excited for the year ahead. I realize I’ve been putting a quota on His voice—forgetting that He was the one who asked me to pray without ceasing in the first place, so certainly, He can say more than one thing each month. More than one thing each week. More than one thing each day.

As I was driving home, I asked Him to speak to me differently. Not to prove Himself (I’ve done that before). This was new. Here I am, God. Wanting to be with You. Show me what you see. I thought I heard him say, “daughter.” He lifted my chin to add, “I’m proud of you.” But I couldn’t receive it. I couldn’t imagine that the God of All would put His hand on my chin. I asked Him for His eyes—that He would show me what He sees. And as I looked forward, everything was dark. Because it was night, of course, but this was darker. Gray mist rising from dimmed lights, and slick, dark, foggy skies weighing down the rooftops of empty buildings. Are you sad when you look at us, Father? Are we covered in darkness? I turned the corner, and the oncoming lane stretched out dramatically in front of me; strings of bright, white headlights broke through the darkness, pushing forward in my direction. It became clearer to me that this is how He sees us.
"So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky" (Phillipians 2:15).


When I got home, I told Eric about my time with God. About how the darkness disappeared as the headlights caught my eye. About how it must delight the heart of God to see us in that way. Moving towards Him. But I also told Eric that I was worried about the Old Testament. Would God reveal anything new to me? It had been three days, and the only thing worth noting was that, “by the way, I kind of like Jacob now, and I don’t know why.”

I was trying to be playful, but saying it out loud exposed something ugly. Something that God had warned Laban about in a dream: “Be careful that you neither bless nor curse Jacob.”

The realization stunned me. I have been judging dead people. 

God's eyes are on us; our eyes are on each other. 

Earlier in the day I had read, "Fix your eyes on me; the One who never changes." But for so long, I have fixed my eyes on Jacob, on Rebekah, on Lot, and on Cane, and eventually this leads me to judge God as well because I call into question His judgements and decisions to bless or to curse the "deserving" and "undeserving," in my mind. It feels less like judgement when I can say that I'm reading the Bible, trying to understand. But it's so clear now: "I don't like Jacob; I like Jacob," as if my opinion matters. As if Jacob belongs to me. I am trying to imagine what might happen if I read the Bible and paid closer attention to God, and God alone. In the story of Jacob, He guides, He speaks, He delivers, He blesses, and He promises. I need to keep my eye on Him; I need to watch Him, and to follow Him through the story, off of the page, and into the world around me. What would happen if all of us, as we lifted our eyes up from the pages and back down again, paid less attention to one another, and more attention to Him? What might we see?