Nov 26, 2008

the power of our name

lately i have been thinking about the transforming power of our name. as desperate seekers who hunger for love and significance, is so easy to get caught up in the mascaraed of culture - dressing ourselves in the masks given to us by our jury of peers. we tear our way to the top of the crumbling and falsely satisfying identity hierarchy of society. all the while stepping on the faces of strangers and those that we love to claim our power as the king or queen of the hill. the temptation to seek our worth, identity, and value as people from the voices of those around us pounds on the door to our heart. and more often than not we open to them, rather than the gentle knock of our creator.

we are starved for a name really. in scripture there are handfuls of accounts where god gives name to his faithful followers. from abram to abraham. from saul to paul. i am unfailingly touched by the beautiful poetry of the song of solomon. what continues to grip my soul is how intentional the bridegroom jesus is about calling his beloved by name. with each beckoning of obedience, or affirmation of praise, the beidegroom begins by addressing his bride's identity. always does he say, "my beloved", "my beautiful one". it is as though he knows full well of our need to be called by name.

i just recently watched the film "blood diamond". it took me a while before i actually decided to check it out. in my apparently false presumptions, i thought it would be nothing more than a cheap hollywood rendition of the reality of our world's brutality. but in fact it was a brilliantly crafted piece of work.

there is a scene in this film that sheds light upon dark, hidden pockets of the human heart. in it we find solomon speaking truth directly into the soul of his broken, brainwashed, and deeply wounded son. solomon calls forth the his son dia to once again receive his place in the family. it is a display of the transfiguration that takes place when we are called by name from our father.

"look at me". solomon says, focusing his gaze upon the face of his son. "you are dia vandy... i am your father, who loves you. you will come home with me and be my son again".

Nov 22, 2008

sentiments from a soccer game

early this morning i was entertaining my heart of encouragement by kickin' back on the sidelines of a soccer game. 4 of my senior boys play futbol together and i decided to rise and greet the dawn with a comfy folding chair, a cup of joe, and some low-key shouts of cheer. for the next 90 minutes i engaged in comedic conversations with the parents of my boys-whom over the course of the past year and a half i have formed great relationships with. it was one of those moments where i was overwhelmed with sentiment. sitting there, watching these students i have ministered to for almost 2 years now i thought of the ways i have seen them enter into the maturity of men (and even still the ways i have seen them not enter into maturity!), and tears formed in the pockets of my eyes at the thought of leaving. 

this california adventure began with a call to obedience really. i heard god nudging me toward the west coast-essentially asking me to give up all the comforts and familiarity of home, and take the risk to enter into a brand new place, live with a community of strangers, teach his truth, and love his sons and daughters. there were many times when the fear of the unknown bound my ability to say yes to christ, but ultimately the desire to live a life of wild abandonment prevailed, and before i knew it my car was packed and i was heading west. never once have i thought it was a mistake.

now, a lousy 6 months away from the end of my internship i wonder "what is the next call to abandonment?" as i sit waiting for a response from bethel university in regards to my recently (or not so recent) submitted application a thought crosses my mind... if i do not get into bethel, i would love to stay here-beautifully placed along the pacific and loving the hearts of high school students.

Nov 21, 2008

thoughts inspired by donald miller...

"there is a certain freedom in getting our feelings of redemption 
from God and not other people."
                                        ~donald miller, searching for God knows what

in what ways do i seek the validity of my redemption from other people? i wonder about this question and take a hearty glance at the style i live my life.

for the majority of the time, and this i can only say because of what christ has done-not of my own effort, my identity is drawn form the wellspring of life. the source of who i am streams directly from the blood of jesus. however, there are countless trivial pursuits that beg for my attention and steal away my true beloved'ness.

often times i will run in order to puff myself up with value. don't get me wrong, running is in fact a true pleasure, and many times i will run just so i can spend time with jesus. but the hidden truth is that i will go and pound out 8 miles just so i can feel good about myself. 
there was a long period of time when i could not run at all. my body suffered the most severe case of shin splints in the history of runners (or that's what it seemed like to me anyway), and for a total of 10 months this injury stole my joyful ability to run all together. during this awfully frustrating season i continuously heard the voice of christ, calling my heart to rediscover the truth of my identity and the source of my redemption. from the 20-20 perspective of hindsight i can see that this was a journey god had ordained for me, he led me there so that he could strip me of my restless search for value... 

this is just one of the countless ways in which i cling to false redemptions. i am a slow learner i guess, for i still like to tag myself as a runner. and if that identity doesn't work for me then i have writer, artist, teacher, coach, college student, baseball fan, traveler, and ms. independent; which are all tightly crammed into my basket of "back up identities" for easy access.

these fleeting facades continue to fail when i distort them into disguises of self worth rather than the life pleasures god has intended them to be. and when the foundation that defines me as valuable crumbles before me do i then see truth, truth that lifts my chin to the face of christ and dresses me in the robes of his image.

Nov 20, 2008

my ship set its sail
a long time ago
my mind has said
its farewell
my lips have declared
its time
but my heart cannot
say its goodbye
~shane and shane~

Nov 17, 2008

Enter the Story: Advent Conspiracy

during advent this year, i have the incredible privilege to teach a series called "advent conspiracy". it is a mission, a counter-cultural persective, that many churches are climbing on board with to transform the ways in which our consumeristic approach to life has distortedly defined christmas.

i can not wait to introduce my students to this. as an auntie, i want to invite my nieces and nephews into the magnificence of the season. and when the beautiful someday comes that i have children of my own, i will raise them under the focus of this conspiracy.

a poem for my brother

often times during prayer, while listening to the voice of truth, poetic words will begin to stir and take shape. one of the greatest examples, in my opinion, of a devout poet and intercessor is st. john of the cross. his meditative poems allure me into a deeper realm of hearing the whisper of love, grace, and mercy. this morning as i sat in silence, words for a brother of mine spilled onto the pages of my prayer journal. so, for you my brother and friend, a poem.

break down dear brother
those sturdy walls
of introspection.
pick up the sword
of the Spirit
and slice the darkness
that holds you captive.

turn your ear beloved son
from the voices
you ask to give you worth.
search, keep searching
for the sound of silence.
there you will find
the still, small whisper
of the One who gives you name.

rise up mighty friend
keep your lamp burning
with the fragranted oil
of worship
be ready for the presence
of your Creator, the One
who fashioned you with 
strength and honor.

rend your heart o brother
and bend your knee
to your Holy Father.
focus your gaze
and take your seat
at the right hand
of the King
in the throne-room of Grace.

listen! can you hear
the silence...
"beloved son"
echoes from the walls of 
the dwelling place you seek
shouts of proclamation welcome
you in...
"with whom i love".

Nov 16, 2008

selfish, impatient, self-righteous, pathetic, christian driver.

i'm pretty sure that i am not a christian when i drive. if to be a christian is to be christ-like, then i am very much not that. something very peculiar happens when i get behind the wheel of my mazda, it is almost as if some other being, some horribly evil thing, takes over by body. and recently i have been paying a little closer attention to the disgustingness of this other being - it is so revolting it is actually humorous.

the being that takes over my body has a name too. several of them actually. the first name is selfish, the second is impatient, the third is self-righteous, and the fourth is comedically pathetic. yesterday i was leaving lunch with stephanie, the gorgeous student i mentor each week, and i wasn't behind the wheel longer than the time it took me to buckle my seat-belt when impatient and selfish joined me for a ride. i was stopped at the exit of the parking lot attempting to make a left hand turn out into a busy road. streams of cars whizzed past me showing no signs of mercy. this is the point when impatient hopped from the passenger seat into my lap. there was a 2 second glimpse of hope amid the rushing traffic, i could have made a break for it and been well on my way to the next appointment on my list, but instead some other lady in her big, fat suv decided to steal the open spot and make a u-turn. appalled by her actions,  the worst name you could ever call another human formed it's ugly appearance on the viciousness of my lips. no more than one half of a second passed by when i realized how absurd i was acting, and i have to confess this self-realization only came to be by the eye-contact of another. see, there was a man behind the lady driving the big, fat suv who noticed my lack of patience and decided to let me in...he noticed the ugly word that blasted from my lips too...

the worst of my other identities comes out only when i am in a hurry. and why am i in a hurry? because i am very often running late. i hate a lot of people when i am in a hurry. if you are going less than 90 mph in the left lane, i hate you. if you don't use your blinker, i hate you. if you are over the age of 65, i hate you. oh, and if you have a license plate cover that says "in case of rapture, car will be abandoned". 

as i have been being more intentional about my childish actions (and by more intentional i only mean that i've been humiliated by other drivers so i have taken a few extra introspective looks) i have seriously begun to wonder whether or not i need to anoint my car with oil and replace my washer fluid with holy water. or...i have begun to think of ways that i can begin saying goodbye to the multiple beings that take over my body whenever i drive. the first step i have taken is a one that i have been doing since the day that i was born. i laugh at myself. it's true. whenever i catch how ridiculous my steam-blowing, name calling is (especially in light of the fact that i am indeed a christian) i release a bellowing chuckle and almost immediately those 4 brianna replacements flee.

Nov 15, 2008

enlightenments from a day of contentment

so far this has been a day of contented perfection. at 7:30 i woke up to greet the morning and poured myself a hot cup of coffee. for an hour i relaxed on the deck reading poetic scripture and warming my skin under the unusually strong autumn sun. after my morning fix of caffeine i stretched my legs with a long run - a pure runner's high formed with each exploding endorphin. and now i breathe deeply under the shade of a tree and allow romantic thoughts of love, creation, and christ to keep me company.

it is the imagination of donald miller that ignites the kiln of my own mind. i just finished the chapter titled 'naked' in his book "searching for god knows what". in this chapter donald miller crushed the stunted understanding that i hold to the story of adam and eve. he makes it vibrantly real, beautiful, and easy for the reader to resonate with the emotions of adam, namely that of loneliness and longing for a helpmate. with one simple sentence donald miller ripped off the blanket that conceals my own desire for partnership. it reads as this:

god directed adam's steps so that when he created eve, adam would have the utmost appreciation, respect, and gratitude.

anonymous reader of my blog i would like you to meet partnership, the deepest yearning of my heart.

now, yesterday i had an appointment with my spiritual director and i shared with her how over the past several months my heart has been growing and softening for a certain gentleman. and i told her of how the fear that surrounds this, terrifies me. but through the gentleness of the holy spirit, she was able to direct me to the longing that lies underneath. it is that of partnership, but ultimately one that is exchanged with christ. this is what makes my heart stir and beat with passion. and an extension of this is a hope for marriage. it is here that the simple sentence rends the fears that bind my heart.

moment of transparency... i long for a man to have the upmost appreciation, respect, and gratitude for me - his helpmate. i have met prince charming once before and oh was he charming! but as i've grown and matured a bit i have realized something. charm is fleeting. if charm were a love song it would be david gray's "this years love". what i am holding out for is deeper that that, it is truer and more pure. it is devotion. and if devotion were a love song it would still be david gray (he is the man), but instead of a catchy romantic tune that talks of many failed loves, and a hope that this round of love will actually last; it would be a sweet proclamation to one person, "the one i love".

i close this vastly imaginative novel of mr. miller and embrace the remainder of the day's offering of contentment. i ponder the depth of our human hunger for relationships. a craving that can only be completely satisfied by our creator and lover christ. but it can be met by friends, mentors, strangers, and helpmates. and i sink into the deep mystery of this god that i serve who chooses to love and to be loved through a living relationship with his creation.

Nov 9, 2008

medicated loneliness

it was a cold and blustery day today and the only thing that i felt like doing was curling up with a blanket in my sun drenched living room. unfortunately however, i am house-sitting in a huge, empty mansion that can feel about as welcoming as a prison cell. it is the sort of place where you are alone with your loneliness. i couldn't go to that cement block so instead i reverted to the comfort of my own home for the afternoon. but even there i still felt empty. my roommate is out of town, i was not in the mood to read or write, and i didn't want to waste the day watching the useless black box otherwise known as a television. 

often times i pride myself on living a life of contented singleness. i like the fact that i am comfortable being alone and that it is actually something i deeply enjoy. there are few things that are as rewarding as a solo drive along the coast, spreading out a blanket in a park and reading under the afternoon sun, or grabbing my nikon to venture out on a photography project. this afternoon however delivered the emotional side-effects of singleness; loneliness. 

after sitting uncomfortably with thoughts of my family back home, wondering what my friends are up to, wishing i would hear back from bethel university, and pathetically attempting to ignore the musings regarding a certain someone; i decided to medicate my heavy heart. how? well, by laying prostrate at the foot of the cross of course...ok, that is a huge lie. rather than cling to the voice that calls me beloved i drove my car to target for some of what my dear friend michelle calls "retail therapy".  to no surprise the impulsive trip didn't solve the hole in my heart. target offered nothing but distracted time and empty hands.

i left to go meet with michelle for an evening cup of coffee and some conversation. this turned out to be the very thing that i so desperately needed. as we sipped our java we conversed about the blessings of being a cross country coach, the challenges of marriage (she's married) as well as singleness (that's me), our relationships with christ, and everything in between. the deeper we traveled into dialogue the wider we opened our souls, and there i realized something sweetly profound. i cannot survive alone. it is easy for me to remain in my familiar solitude, but when i do so i fail to receive the life the comes from relationships. so too i cannot be a light and source of encouragement to others. this simple two hour coffee and conversation was a reciprocated need and had i remained in my hole, i would have missed the opportunity to give love to my friend, and to receive the love she extended in return.

Nov 6, 2008

to auntie bri

my roommate leaves all mail that is addressed to me outside my bedroom door. 99% of the time the envelopes enclose useless garbage that is nothing other than an enormous waste of paper. and as a lover of personal snail mail, this trash outside my door usual brings with it a small pinch of disappointment. 

this evening was different. instead of a painful bill requiring my money or some outrageous credit card company proclaiming that i am eligible for $5000 i received the best article of mail i have ever received. it was a small pink envelope decorated with the handwriting of a 1st grader that read; "auntie bri". my heart sang - shayla, one of my many precious nieces wrote me a letter! gently i ripped open the seal, trying not to tear into the adorable penmanship. inside i found a priceless work of crayola art, and 2 home-made pictures; all 3 were lovinginly dedicated; "to auntie bri. from shayla".

i have to admit-i broke into tears as i read. pride swelled within. this was the most cherish-able letter of art an auntie could ask for.

but something deeper came forth because of shayla's gift. on one of her home-made pictures she wrote a note that pins absolutely perfectly, how our relationship with christ ought to be lived out. her words were this: "i love you and you love me to" (yeah, there was adorably only one 'o'). this little girl gets it. she fearlessly shouts, "I LOVE YOU! AND YOU LOVE ME!!" there is no doubt in the heart of shayla that her auntie loves her deeply.

so often in our relationship with christ we question whether or not he truly loves us. for some disconnected reason we hold the belief that his love is contingent upon the choices we make, the ways that we live, and the success we receive (or do not receive). but the fact of the matter is god says something different. he breaks open the heavens, edifies our identity as his child, and because of the fact that we are his children he says, "you are my son (daughter) whom i love. with you i am well pleased."

Nov 5, 2008

solitary places

"very early in the morning, while it was still dark, jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."
~ mark 1:35

monday mornings at 7:30 i walk into my quiet, empty office. i do not come early to begin answering emails or returning phone calls, but to escape to a solitary place. there is a tiny room in our church building that is rarely used. this secret place has become my prayer closet, a space where i commune with jesus. a space where i write, intercede, worship, and cry for mercy. i chose the early morning hour because of the fact that the building is like a ghost town and distractions cease to exist.

this passage in mark narrows my focus to the ways of jesus. the escaping to a solitary place occurs only after a jesus had a long line of adoring fans following his steps, driving out evil spirits, healing simon's mother-in-law, and working miracles. i imagine that jesus was undoubtedly spent. though i am not one who drives out evil spirits or heals the sick, i am in some small way able to deeply resonate with. there are seasons in my job where i am constantly on the spot; september, april, and may specifically are months of pure mayhem with little to no rest for my soul. during those times the one thing i crave is to draw away to a solitary place and sit at the feet of jesus. as i read this passage i wonder, is this what jesus craved when he himself went to a quiet place to pray? was he so hungry for alone time with his father that he willingly arose while it was still dark to go and meet with him? after performing miracle after miracle, was jesus dry? (does jesus get dry?) and thus he went to seek refreshment from communion with his heavenly father?

this is not the only account in scripture where we discover jesus in a solitary place. it is a rather common theme throughout his ministry. there are stories too of jesus explaining things to his disciples only when they are alone with him, only when all the alluring distractions fade away. in mark:4 jesus shares a parable of farmer who went out to sow his seed, scattering them along the path, rocky places, among thorns, and some still on good soil. it was not until jesus was alone did he unravel this parable to his disciples. 2 parables later we see yet another story of solitude. jesus expressed a parable of a mustard seed to the crowds that followed him. often times parables delivered massive confusion to the listening ears. i myself wonder why jesus did not speak plainly instead of using outrageous analogies. but confusion is not the final result. the story ends with a picture of an intimate explanation. now that the lecture hall is empty, the teacher is found alone with a small group of students sharing with them everything that is meant through the parable.

solitude. jesus longed for quiet space to be with his abba. the ministry and life of jesus was always on the go-there were stories to be taught, people to be healed, pharisees to be corrected, mercy to be shed, and grace to be poured. and in the midst of his life as a rabbi and savior he finds time to draw away by himself. so too, our lives as disciples of jesus are filled with similar situations; for we are the continuing breath of the ministry that he began. and so too, we must draw away by ourselves to a quiet place and commune with the one who calls us Beloved.

Nov 3, 2008

crumbling pedistal

a poem for my friend. you are so brave.

crumbling pedistal

so lonely is this place
positioned high
upon the pedistal
of wholeness.
it is just me here
grasphing fro balance
i cannot fall
for all eyes below
are fixed upon me.
so lonely is this place
no company
other than a
blanket of struggles
wrapping my freedom.
with its grip of
fear, guilt, and shame
this blanket
will keep me
from falling.
so lonely is this place
the piercing stares
penetrate the marrow
of my fragility.
but wait...
far off i see
through blurry vision
a faint
distant form
it is Grace
the gaze of Grace
is focused upon me.
so lonely is this place
how i long to tear
this suffocating blanket.
can i?
what will become of me?
hungry eyes
seek the nourishment
of the distant form
called Grace.
his tender eyes
invite me to come
to come down
from this pedistal
of solitude.
so lonely is this place
no longer can
i stand
just one step
and i can meet
the eyes of liberation.
i rend my
garments and beat
my chest
relent o lord!
i cry
baptize me with
your tears of
Grace comes
and gently collects
each droplet of pain
falling from my cheeks
he whispers
you are alone
no longer.

Nov 2, 2008

wha happen??!!

my mind has become a cesspool of questions. 
who's idea was it to take a philosophy class anyway?