“When you love someone, truly love them, friend or lover, you lay your heart open to them. You give them a part of yourself that you give to no one else, and you let them inside a part of you that only they can hurt – you literally hand them the razor with a map of where to cut deepest and most painfully on your heart and soul. And when they do strike, it’s crippling – like having your heart carved out. It leaves you naked and exposed, wondering what you did to make them want to hurt you so badly when all you did was love them. What is so wrong with you that no one can keep faith with you? That no one can love you? To have it happen once is bad enough, but to have it repeated? Who in their right mind would not be terrified of that?”—(via stormielaine)
“Knowing God without our wretchedness leads to pride. Knowing our wretchedness without knowing God leads to despair. Knowing Jesus Christ is the middle course, because in him we find both God and our wretchedness.”—Blaise Pascal
ok, i think i figured this whole message thing out. anyway, i don’t exactly know sean, but i’ve seen him enough to recognize him. i went to school and youth group with his sister amy and africa with his dad don.
We sat in the bar, smoke circling our heads as we quietly sipped our drinks. It is a tradition of ours, at least once a week, to walk about our battered neighborhood as improbable ambassadors, greeting all we meet with smiles. We seek out the seediest, shadiest, sleaziest bars in town and, in the simple act of pulling up a stool, we plant a flag for Jesus.
That night, a woman sidled up next to me at the bar. It was a very warm night, but she wore a thick winter coat. Stringy hair dangled from beneath a heavy wool cap and I noticed dirt caked on her fingernails. Her sunken eyes and ashen complexion screamed of many sleepless nights. Dark, festering sores surrounded her lips. She rested her full weight on me as she attempted to lift her arms onto the bar.
In a random act of insurrection, we chose not to ignore her. I looked her in the eye and introduced myself. A moment later, my companion did the same.
And the powers of darkness covered their nakedness in shame.
The folks behind us laughed and mocked her periodically. Those who weren’t laughing paid little attention. Even the bartender spoke to her sparingly. Her past was no secret to the people of the neighborhood. She was a user, an addict, a junkie.
“My name is Catherine,” she replied. She extended her hand to me and I grasped it lightly.
We shook hands. She squeezed tightly and did not let go. I later found out that my companion had the same experience. Long after I was finished with the handshake, she made no effort to move away, keeping her palm pressed into mine and her fingers clasped clumsily around my thumb and wrist. She was smiling at me still and it was clear that she was deeply moved by human contact. So we held hands for a moment.
And the disarmed principalities searched in vain for their weapons.
Catherine offered me a cigarette, but I politely declined. She mumbled something unintelligible and I asked her to repeat herself. The din of the music and softness of her voice caused me to miss half of her statement. She smiled and wandered away before I could ask her again.
As my friend and I continued to talk, I noticed Catherine wandering around the pool table. She was trying to chat with people, but it was clear that she was getting in the way of their game. The other patrons were visibly annoyed at her presence and soon the bartender crossed the room. Guiding her by the arm, the bartender brought Catherine back to her spot beside me at the bar.
“I told you,” said the bartender in a harsh tone, “they are playing a tournament. If you go over there again, I will throw you out of here.”
It was quiet for a moment. Catherine glanced quickly over her shoulders to see who had witnessed her reprimand. She looked at me in embarrassment. Eventually, she smiled again and asked me if I liked the music.
“I do like it,” I said, “Do you?”
And the spiritual tyrants of the universe dropped their phony badges in resignation.
After a while, my friend and I decided to leave. Catherine was still standing next to me but her focus was elsewhere. I leaned closer to her and said slowly and clearly, “We have to leave now, Catherine, but it was nice to meet you. Maybe we will see you again sometime.”
At the sound of her name, she turned to face me. A grin crept across her face. I moved to stand up from the stool, but I was stopped in my tracks as Catherine lurched forward and threw her arms around me in a full contact hug. It caught me completely off guard, and with her total weight against me, I almost lost my balance. She pressed her forehead into the center of my chest and placed her right hand in the small of my back. I felt the cigarette in her left hand burning half an inch from my ear as she rested her wrist on my shoulder. Detecting the scent of urine, I looked down at her in surprise.
The other customers in the bar watched the scene, some clearly smirking at what they probably assumed was my naivete about “that woman’s” intentions, others simply curious to see my reaction. My friend paused at the door and I looked at him, wondering myself what I should do next. There, in that darkened bar, in front of those people, I did the only thing I could think of: I put my arms around her and hugged her.
“You be careful out there. Stay safe,” I told her.
And the rulers and authorities were embarrassed at the public spectacle they’d become.
This is an unlikely insurgence we lead. We are a dubious army in mismatched uniforms performing mundane tasks in the name of our king. We rely not on tactics of shock and awe, but devices of hope and expectation. We are not skilled mercenaries with complex weaponry. We are more like shepherd boys with five small stones, or prostitutes with a hayloft and some scarlet cord. Or men hugging a drug addict in a bar.
So much of this revolution depends on our simple willingness to cast off the “normal” patterns of the world and embrace peculiarity. Downward mobility over the ladder to success. Peace over aggressive expansion. Meekness over efficiency.
We stand in quiet determination, devoting ourselves to miniscule acts of faithfulness, and Satan trembles – not because we are mighty, but because we are weak. He does not cower at mighty acts of valor, but at subversive acts of everyday living. He is reminded of his imminent demise not because we have parted the seas, but because we have stood expectantly on the shore.
We are revolutionaries not because of great deeds or wild dreams, but because of our small and simple commitment to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God over any worldly kingdom. We are bold enough to cast off the former way and embrace the new way. We are daring enough to be in this world but not of it. We are audacious enough to seek God’s will on earth as it is in heaven – which we know includes liberation for Catherine from both her inner brokenness and the grips of social brokenness that holds her and so many others . We are silly enough to believe that the simplest acts of love are the seeds of God’s shalom, for Catherine, for me, for all of us..
As we left the bar that evening, we did not feel much like revolutionaries. But we did know Whose we were, and that was enough.
whenever i hear of or think of people who have committed suicide, knowing them doesn’t matter, i tear up. you’d think that by hearing me say that, i’ve had a personal experience in the form of someone i’d been close too taking their own life. not so. though someone dear to me has attempted, but thankfully not succeeded, before i came to know them, i have never been slammed with the whole life-shattering dillema(i pray i never will). calling oneself out of this world is no small thing, and i can’t see how someone would believe it would make things better. i can’t describe my feelings any other way than agony. just pure agony…
I am a soldier in the army of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my commanding officer. The Holy Bible is my Code of Conduct. Faith, prayer, and the Word are my weapons of warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity and tested by fire.
I am a volunteer in this army and I am enlisted for eternity. I will either retire in this army at the rapture or die in this army; but I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out. I am faithful, reliable, capable and dependable. If my God needs me, I am there. If He needs me in the Sunday school, to teach the children, work with the youth, help adults or just sit and learn, He can use me because I am there.
I am a soldier. I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up or pepped up. I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me. I am a soldier. I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name, and building His kingdom! No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for, or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around. I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.
When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing, I will still come out ahead. I will win. My God has and will continue to supply all of my need. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ. The devil cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me and hell cannot handle me. I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me. For when my Commander calls me from this battlefield, He will promote me to Captain and then allow me to rule with Him. I am a soldier in the army, and Im marching, claiming victory. I will not give up. I will not run around. I am a soldier, marching heaven bound.
sleep occurs for everyone, regardless of circumstance. atop a pile of trash is this boy’s circumstance. -picture by Timothy Allen
Economist Robert Heilbroner describes the luxuries a typical American family would have to surrender if they lived among the 1 billion hungry people in the Two-Thirds World:
We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television sets, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his wardrobe his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.
We move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out, so we turn to the cupboards…. The box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.
Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the tool shed…. Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books - not that they are missed, since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shantytown we will allow one radio….
Now government services must go next. No more postmen, no more firemen. There is a school, but it is three miles away and consists of two classrooms…. There are, of course, no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is ten miles away and is tended by a midwife. It can be reached by bicycle, provided the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely….
Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of five dollars. This will prevent our breadwinner from experiencing the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise the $3.94 which he mistakenly thought he needed to receive admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.
It’s nearly impossible to process that two so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth, though I can attest to have personally seen both states. If there is death from easily curable diseases and famine in other parts of the world, it is OUR fault that such events continue. Our resources are far more than enough to eradicate them, yet the cycle continues, viciously.
since forever my thoughts, my likes, my possibilities, my semi-charmed life has been scribbled down into little notebooks. one travels with me always. nothing can be missed or looked over.
since september and a day of farewell, my life has also been documented in letters - letters that travel thousands of miles and hopefully end up in hands dirtied with sand and life in fleeting chaotic moments.