Friday, December 30, 2011

It Just Takes Some Time...

For my girls.

And anyone else for that matter. 


Musings at the Church Christmas Concert

God took His love, and made the Infinite as small as a

...and wrapped it in flesh
(bruisable, betrayable flesh)
And lived His love among us


we ripped at the packaging and
tore open the gift...

only to find
and forgiveness inside.

He does not and will not take away
our will, in order to turn us into
automatons or

but He gives us the freedom to choose...
and when we chose

He set Himself in the middle of our path,
bent on destruction
and willingly received the brunt of our choice of
"not God"
canceling out all our hurts, and hurtings
("by his stripes...")

to present us with a new way ("I am the Way...")
With all our errors forgiven
and erased
and placed in our hands the
Freedom to do the same.

To give out of the abundance of what
we've been given
and not be black holes
of need

To love with the same abandon
To be an oasis of safety
in a very
unsafe world.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9-10
Oh God. Help me to love like You do.

Arm's Length

photo by Leo Reynolds

on a winter's night
my eyes met hers and I recognized
in the mirror

The iron backbone
The guarded words
The arm's length

The just-one-more-day, Lord
...and tomorrow, again

When those you have laughed with
and cried with
and loved
and trusted
and let in the door

turn on you with all the serpent's venom
    (truly, it's NOT theirs...)

it is hard to open the door again
once you feel you have finally
got it
of them.

"To love is to be vulnerable" - CS Lewis

Estrella del Mar

Shakespearean Fish

painted on Jess Begin's bathroom wall, '06?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jesu, Joy...

Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe,
o wie feste halt' ich ihn,
daß er mir mein Herze labe,
wenn ich krank und traurig bin.

Jesum hab' ich, der mich liebet
und sich mir zu eigen giebet,
ach drum laß' ich Jesum nicht,
wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.

Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
meines Herzens Trost und Saft,
Jesus wehret allem Leide,
er ist meines Lebens Kraft,

meiner Augen Lust und Sonne,
meiner Seele Schatz und Wonne;
darum laß' ich Jesum nicht
aus dem Herzen und Gesicht.

Praying for a friend this morning, the title of this song came to mind... in English... though now I'm not so sure it was for me instead of her.

The original is so much better.

How is it that God knows
       What we need to hear... and when? 

Danke, Jesu.

English translation found here.  
... make sure to scroll below the German text.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yours Truly

Larger than life.
Always kind.
Always loving.
Always knowing the right thing to say.
Never tired

That is the wound.
That the biggest fear.
That I will be weighed and found wanting.

Hence these stones in my pocket.


I thought they were put in my hands by others
when perhaps expectations weren't met and
grace ran out.
and stony silence filled in
the hole where friendship once was.

but perhaps I was the one to stoop
and gather them up.

If I threw them all away,
Would you still want me around?

“Got a reputation with everyone. But I don't want one with you.” 
- Derek Webb

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” - Jesus

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” - John

Freedom... and freedom from fear

fact? or fiction? it ok that I'm not there yet?

God. For knowing and still loving... I adore you.

and you? what are you afraid of?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stupid Law.

How is the law so insidious?

Even knowing the truth that it's all about grace, that it's all about faith and NOT works, - the law had crept back into my life. 
I mean – it's about who I am, I know – but what I DO matters too, right?
...I almost didn't notice it.

I was priding myself on seeking to please God, and Not going easy on sin in my life – not a bad thing. Actually neither of those are bad things. But as has been pointed out to me time and time again, it's not the bad thing in life that sets itself up against the best – it's the good. The almost-best. That tricks us and tantalizes us – Eve did not bite into a piece of ugly or rotten fruit.

A few days after a dear friend told me that I was being too hard on myself – and I brushed them off with a mental but self-righteous, “how could they understand?” – God hit me. Very gently. Like He always does... 

It started with another friend who had just bought a book – and it looked good. So I borrowed it for two days... 'cause-I-don't-really-have-time-to-read-it, but-I-could-skim-it... and I ended up keeping it for two more days and not being able to put it down. One thing the author said JUMPED out at me: 

“given the choice to please God or trust God, good girls become conflicted,... [it is like] a fork in the road. The marker to the left simply says Pleasing God. The one leading to the right reads Trusting God. It is hard to choose one over the other, because both roads have a good feel to them... it becomes obvious that we will not be able to jump back and forth between the two paths. We must choose one. Only one.”

“But isn't trusting God pleasing Him too?” you might ask... and rightfully so. I mean, that's what I thought at first, so it must be ok... :) ... but what's your motivation?

Here's the problem:

What if you already were pleasing to God?

What if He already delighted in you? I mean, He made you – so might it not stand to reason that He actually likes you? Then taking the path “Pleasing God” would be like trying to buy something that you already had. Or taking a gift back to the store and trying to pay for it again. Why would you ever want to do that?

God has been hounding me for the last four years with the statement, “Crystal, you can't earn love. You can't. Can't do it.” And I halfway understand Him... but then try to do just that, again. Please Him. Please others. Again.... And then I feel like I'm failing. Again. And I try to run away. Or hide. Or pretend that all is well... But... What if He already were pleased?... how dang freeing would that be...? To just be loved by Him... and to love in return... even if it were imperfectly? And then how much easier to trust Him... if His love truly. is. unconditional?

I was reminded of a teaching about Jesus that hit me hard once, 
waaaaay back:

Before He did any miracles, before he healed any sick, raised any dead, preached any sermons, restored sight to any blind... before He walked on water and waaaay before He laid His life down, God looked down from Heaven and said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Before it all. Before he did anything to earn that.

Sure, you say, but wasn't Jesus perfect? He didn't do anything bad either...

[Oh, Perfect. Something that, alas, I never will be this side of Heaven...

praise God. I so want to be, it is an unholy addiction.]

Yes, He was. And because of that, I am ok too... because He shielded me as I was in the path of a righteous and holy and perfect God ... and all the imperfect things I ever did, am doing and will ever do were nailed to that cross with Him – and they don't count against me anymore. None of it. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Nada. Zilch. Nul. Nothing. The only thing that counts is the stuff that's for me... that I'm His daughter. And that He made me. And that He likes me. And that I can trust Him.

So. I think I am going to practice this. Waking up every day and saying Thank You, Father for being pleased with me and for loving me, just as I am.  And tell Him that I really hope to hear Him and follow Him around, seeing what He does. 'Cause I know He loves me. And He wants to be with me (Jesus said so!). And maybe by being with Him, He'll rub off on me... and people will feel safe around me - like sinners felt with Jesus - and loved - like I am learning to be.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Merry Everything, friends.

ps. If you're the kind of person that wants a ton of scripture to back up stuff, GREAT. Hit me up and I'll send it all painstakingly detailed your way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

rainy snow days and gratitude

It started this morning; almost forty degrees outside and still the white flakes swirled about, an answer to an irrationally selfish prayer: "Just one more glimpse, please God..."

Then at Gram's doctor's appointment, a sliver of a gift, pie-size hope for an appointment of my own before going back to Peru... and budgetable as well.

On those heels followed the news that my afternoon AND evening plans were cancelled...

and a snow day was born at noon.

...with the same eager, 
that I felt as a teacher with no pre-plans, just the ones spontaneous, and wonderfully made...

And why should it surprise me that it's less than two weeks before take-off 
and there's still God-room for spontaneity?

And I got to grab coffee with S... while blowing silly kisses to K, who beautifies even the DunkinDs uniform, 
and I am grateful for her heart of gold to lend me the book 
she had just bought the day before.

And got to drive to Orland and snatch my favorite Grecian goddess from her turret and just wander with the two sisters in Bangor stores, semi-aimlessly among aisles and alleys, laughing over corny product names and smearing our upper lips with love...
that I can still smell when I walk outside...

And out came stories of the past and the present, slipping through the cracks of words spoken in sister-code and translated by eyes and faces 
and my shameless questions.

And we stopped by Edge and H stumbled on "Pursuit of Happyness," 
a perfect way to end the evening,
 - after they ate (I am so happy when they eat) 
food that actually has vitamins and proteins in it, 
not just flour and sugar, 
and we laughed and ached and rejoiced with Chris Gardner and his son
until the movie was over.

and I have forever burned into my mind their two faces, side-by-side and blue-lit, smiling with genuine happiness, H peering over S's shoulder at the screen on her phone, hiding and seeking out their sister love again...

And the only part of the evening that was hard to thank the Father for was the drive home
      and the drop-off
             and the splinter of fear
                       that the next time I see them
their lives might be upside-down again.

but I am now listening... and entrusting...
and I thank God for wise women,
and for Himself, the Forger of paths and the mover of mountains
      who sees the end of all things, yet is patient with my blindness and irrational insecurities...

And I am going to bed full,
and with peace,
and so very

Monday, December 12, 2011

(Not) A Superhero

My nephew made me watch this...
(warning: funny but irreverent content)

Ok, so I really don't think I'm going to end up in the belly of a big fish.
But Jonah is one character in the Bible I identify with on so many different levels...

His ability to disagree with God...and act on it.
He ran when God said “go,” in the absolute opposite direction.
Sometimes I listen and then choose to do precisely what God says not to.

His inertia NOT to get involved.
He was asleep in the bottom of the boat when it was going down.
I too sometimes ignore problems and hope they go away.

His sense of justice over mercy (working on this)...
He preferred to see the destruction of the wicked over their repentence...
I want to decide who is worthy of hearing the gospel -
and who isn't, based on my own personal standards.

His reluctant obedience.
It's not until he's faced with personal destruction that Jonah finally caves...
Often I have to have my hand burnt before I'll take it out of the fire.

His self-pity...
When he saw God's goodness to others and grace on the “undeserving,”
he just felt sorry for himself...
And I confess that my litany runs on too:
Why them and not me?
This is not what I wanted in serving you
This was not the path I would have chosen
And I gripe, and complain
And feel like I'm so abused
And misunderstood
And I feel sorry for myself.
(It's quite ok to laugh now – the ridiculousness of it makes me chuckle too)

His ability to look for comfort in the wrong places...
He was enraged that the vine that God provided died,
you know... the one he didn't plant or make grow,
but that was providing him with shade,
instead of rejoicing in the glory of the love and mercy of God
on an entire nation,
not understanding that God loves people ridiculously more than anything else
that He does NOT delight in the destruction of even the wicked
that in His heart is redemption at any cost...  even to Himself,
the foolishness of a crucified king.

And when I see this vine that I call “home,”
this shelter for heart and body being taken away from me
I mourn and rage,
even knowing beneath it all that this is my Lover's heart
that because of His great love for ALL – not just for me –
that my temporary discomfort is a small price
to Him... and maybe even to me...
because my Shepherd did not consider himself above me,
did not refuse to leave His shade of Heaven
did not refuse us His time
His love
His tears
His life.

And so in this season, I remember 
and worship Jesus,
Emmanuel. God with us - God who came.
A very unorthodox and radical
image of the Father who loves
all of us, the wonderfully undeserving.
...because we don't/can't earn God's love.

and marvel
that He would choose someone as
pathetic and unreliable as Jonah
...and as me,
to share His message.

And He loves me still... this is what gives me the strength to stand. 

"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful......see that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
 - Paul to the Colossians

I thank God for Jonah.

But he answered them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” 
Matt 12:39-40

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Cheer

I heard my brother was sick yesterday so I called him today...
And I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

We were talking about Christmas
And trees. And decorations.
His girlfriend and her mother were decorating the house for Christmas.
And I had to confess...

I hate Christmas this year.

Maybe it is because of this.
       Or this.
       Or this.

I feel like a Scrooge. And it's the first time in my life that I've ever felt like this.
         And I'm ok with that.

My brother said that he felt the same way.

         “It's not Christmas, it's the people” he said.

And I mentioned the now infamous pepper-spray incident.

        “Yeah. Merry Effin' Christmas, everybody!!!!” he said... in his cheerful, Happy Gilmore voice.

That's when I started to laugh.
And I couldn't stop.

I'm not sure why mayhem on Christmas should be funny, but

And we got on the topic of things that really are funny on Christmas.

Like this.
And this.

And laughed some more.

Can you be pissed and laugh at the same time?

Oh, Lord.

I know Christmas wasn't actually Jesus' birthday.

But. Regardless of what it was originally tied to, when did it become the

“It's-ok-to-obliterate-your-neighbor-as-long-as-you-get-what-you-want” Holiday?

Don't give me that, “It's-all-about-the-children” crap. It's never ok to teach children that getting what you want is the highest end no matter the cost... and that's what I sense out there this year.

I know there's still good in the world. Still kindness. 
    Like people who do this, so that they can do this... or this


I don't want the “Christmas spirit.”
I don't want a “Make a Difference Day.”
I definitely don't want Sunday Christianity.

I DO achingly long for people to see that
Peace and
                   Joy and
                           Life and

can't be bought.

Yet they are worth everything. And worth living every day.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” -Jesus

Lord, have mercy.