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.


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


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