Pride’s Seduction

I had a dream the other night about a man. Specifically, Gatsby, but this time he was Marylin Monroe’s murderer (you know how dreams go).

He ran a little enclosed kingdom, with him ever at the center. While there was an overwhelming awareness that he could kill them at any moment, the people threw themselves at him. Something inside prayed he would. Somehow, somewhere deep inside myself, I was one of them, desperate for him to want me, yet aware it would end in death. There was a man working for him, reduced to a dunce from his abuses. Though he loved his master, he fought to help us escape this society of grey. 

I had just been outlined for reconstructive surgery, as women were expected to look a certain way there and I, apparently, had the audacity to break the mold. At the last moment I said no. The doctor was angry. The building was blue and made of glass. 

With a blink I returned to the city below. It occurred to me, then, how a boy can become a dictator: he had been given all he ever wanted. Like a mirage in the corner, his parents could be seen, terrified at the moment their smiles would waver, causing him to throw another tantrum. You know the look in their eyes: that scared, nervous smile, the too-quick, harried response of “He’s so smart. Look at him, such a good boy…”

He had killed Marylin  one night after dinner. Elaborately, with a set of wine, coffee, and her latest script to practice together. Something in all his subjects wanted desperately to be killed by him. It was glamorous. It made you someone. Walking around his house, a girl couldn’t help but dream of being loved by such a man of luxury, even if the one night stand ended in death. Tragedy made the story more romantic.

Every girl knew the outcome of a night with him, yet every girl begged he choose her. Every man envied him, prayed for his camaraderie, all the while knowing it would leave them as vegetables, walking round and round the ditch he drops all his old servants in. 

He survived off the women’s beauty, the men’s vitality. One kept him eternally attractive, the other eternally young. 

I looked back once more before jumping the wall. I knew the other side held life, truth, and my love. Devilishly handsome as ever, he returned the look, but this time the snake inside was clear. He was maniacal, hopeless, selfish, and alone. He wanted nothing of us but his own immortality.

Turning my head, I made the leap, and as feet met ground, I awoke.

Until writing this all out in my morning pages, it didn’t occur to me that this was my subconscious’s way of processing everything we saw in South Beach on Memorial Day Weekend. Throughout the rest of this week, the Lord showed me how my “seductive dictator” is pride, but we all have one. We all have our little hidden sin we keep quiet, letting him pump us full of the pain meds we crave as he digs the knife deeper into our backs.

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I say pride because that’s my struggle, but yours could be different. Idolatry. Lust. Laziness. Selfishness. Whatever it is, it’s never too late to release it to Him and jump the barricade.

“Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, in the end she’s bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps straight to Sheol. She doesn’t consider the path of life; she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable.” ~ Proverbs 5:3-6

“Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme, so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.” ~ Proverbs 4:6-9

 

 

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So What If It Hurts?

Lines of black
Lead to where
Visions fall flat
Folks forget to care

Lying hazily
In fields of white
Voices scream for meaning
Wishing for wings to take flight

All is starched clean
Perfumed with bleach
While underneath
Rotting sewage lies unseen

Can you taste the disease?
She’s coming on the breeze

Like bitter gall on the tongue
She’ll arrive with the setting of the sun


We’ve become so afraid of getting hurt we’ve boxed ourselves into little white-walled, cushioned caskets of what we think is safe. Minds overflowing with concerns for propriety, we can no longer enjoy the very people we got all dolled up to see and are trying so desperately to impress.

Dear Miami, I watched it happen. While we may have been the city of failures and dropouts, we were also the city of relentless dreamers. Having seen the worst come true, we could stare fear back into her prospective corner because so what if it hurt? At least we lived. There was the mettle that comes with knowing that no matter the outcome, the alternative of living wondering, wishing you had done whatever it was, or perhaps stood against the grain of whatever it was you felt pressured into, was worse than the initial trepidation.

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Beyond this, though, how often are we afraid to speak up or get close and open our hearts because of the mountains of what-ifs? What if (s)he gets offended or takes it the wrong way? What if when they see my heart, it’s too much for them or they criticize it?  What if I get hurt?

While some of these questions do help in building the boundaries necessary for any healthy relationship to flourish, if carried too far they become walls against intimate fellowship in a way that truly is detrimental to our emotional well-being and our Christian walk.

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But still so often we let the fear win. We box ourselves in, and then from that fear, as a mode of both protection and justification we start looking for all the sharp pieces in others that could possibly wound us, neglecting to realize the barbed wire fence we’re slowly building around ourselves. And discontment is birthed.

Darling, don’t let discontment steal your joy in community. We’re all imperfect, carrying residue of our old selves. Look past mine, and I’ll look past yours. Give grace to the ones who’ve hurt you, whether intentionally or not, and return to your circle. Even if they be scattered about the country or globe, return to them. In the Age of Technology, there’s no excuse for scorning community. Granted, be prayerful about the companionship you choose, but when the Lord directs you to a person or people, don’t neglect that, especially not because of pride.

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Sandcastles versus Marble Palaces

There is an undeniable scream inside all of us crying out for something more, a meaning beyond the world behind our eyelids. Like stormclouds gathering, we let the emotions roll in one after the other. Insecurity. Disappointment. Hurt. Bitterness. Perhaps they don’t always arrive in that order, but arrive they do. All are symptomatic of the same thing, what my brother calls “sandcastle pride.” We stop trusting entirely the Lord’s plan for us, and start searching out ways to make our dreams happen on our own. True, any dream worth anything at all requires work, but at what point does work transfer into idolatry?

In the words of one wise nine year old, “Start reading your Bible so you can learn how to get your life back on track!” We are desperate to be alive, yet terrified at what that would mean. Authors make millions off self-help books, either about gaining control or letting go, or doing one to achieve the other. We all dream of a higher existence of some sort, but only once we seek and pursue the Lord’s vision over our lives will we find any sort of the divine calling we crave.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ – this is the Lord’s declaration – ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

It’s not about the work itself. It can never be about the work or else we’ll fall into either a cycle of obsessive over-achievement or bitter resolve to press on. Neither can it become about whatever earthly outcome, money, or fame, for in the end, once it’s been realized, there will be an inevitable sense of “that’s all?”

I’m not saying we all need to jump up and become ministers; He did make some doctors, filmmakers, musicians, or writers, etc, but there must also be some eternal goal for our lives or else what’s the point?

We all have some daily burden; what’s yours? The daily awareness of what is, and screaming response of what should be? This is your battleground, so wage war! There we find our sense of purpose, of vitality- there we bring bits of His kingdom to earth. And it is in this process of fighting for the “should be,” of fighting for some necessary change weighing on us so heavily it seems that to not strive to bring it about would be a moral slight, that we being to trade the sandcastle for the marble palace.

 

Woken Up (Pt 2)

At last, at last,
They’ve been uncorked!
This river of hope
Flows freely once more!

If only for me
Let these words become a sea
Of joy and honesty
Of faith and unity

This pen is my lifeline
My thoughts’ only bloodstream
Now with the clot removed
Let’s begin this day anew.

On Pride&Bitterness

It’s a cancer; she lies within
Stroking her prey with whispers of when
Her arms lay not about their lungs
Their glory was equal to the sun

Slowly then, she sinks her teeth
Insisting you’ve marched “Once more
To the breach,
Dear friends, once more!”

But your friends wouldn’t march along
So you went it alone
Saving, you think
This ship about to sink

Or perhaps you chose to flee
Solitary in your “glorious wisdom”
Nursing the hurts
Of when body met sea

While left behind
Laid passengers crying
“Ungrateful,” you whisper
Under your breath whilst swimming to closest shore

Then there she is
Happy as can be
Her prey returned of his own volition
Resting in the glory of his “glorious wisdom”

You don’t see her talons
The venom seeping from her lips
As you run to her embrace
Beg for a kiss

Which ginergly she places
Upon cracked blue lips
Before returning to the waves
A body limp from poisoned bitterness

And the passengers of that sinking ship?
They reached back to Ithaca
With splendor and joy at overcoming hardship
But your fate was chosen at Anthemoesa

In the name of glory
You wrote your own story
Deeming the Author too distant
Because home’s shore was hidden
Beyond the curtain
Of arrogance’s abdication.

 

Isaiah 40:10-11

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arm and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

I would be lying if I said coming home has been painless. Within just this month, I’ve had more than one breakdown, days that felt like dreams, times of denial, complacency, and sheer rebellion against both what happened and the reality of the riches of America. Everything feels so shiny, covered in glitter and wrapped in celophame, not meant to be touched or enjoyed but simply seen.

That’s so much of what we care about isn’t it? To be seen, to have some ounce of glamour and fame. Why?

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is, the Lord is faithful. Before outreach, I was still drowning from miles and years of unprocessed emotions burying me under my own glitter and celophame memories of euphoria sought out to cover up those tears. I called it “joy in the Lord.” No. I was simply running. Yet when my feet landed in India, He caught me. I had to process the events in my life I had simply left, having explored to a point, then fled from. When you’re bent over on a tiny toilet in a third world country with a bucket in your hands and barely any strength to move back to your sleeping bag, there’s not much else to do but think and pray. So I did. And I met His faithfulness and love in a way I had never before. I saw Him there, waiting, letting me play it out and run and run and cling to my youth and freedom until I was ready to sit and dig into the realities of my cousin’s suicide, of my own social anxieties.

And now I’m home, and certain inevitable things remain. Life is still hectic and busy. The dark forces of this earth are still fighting against all my family has ever lived for, all I ever want to live for. I still live in the midst of an intense spiritual battlefield. But now, I’m choosing it, knowing the cost and knowing how it will end. Because my God is faithful, and He will carry us, His children, through. He will tend us as a Shepherd, because He is God, and He comes with power.

I’ve watched so many now run from this, or fight in an attempt to water it down, make it more Instagrammable. But that’s not the life we were called to, ohana. We were called to a life of war, as well as a life of intense joy. And loves, that’s the life I choose.

Moment by Moment

This past Thursday, over a picnic at our favorite hideout, my beloved Jonny asked me to be his wife. And of course, I said yes.

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Now as I write this it’s Saturday, and I’m laying on the couch in what feels like an exhaustion-induced paralysis. My mother said I shouldn’t think myself so invincible to jet lag, but of course being her headstrong replica I didn’t listen. And of course, Momma was right. After hopping between twenty-one time zones, perhaps sliding back into my old schedule right off the bat wasn’t the best idea.

But my gosh it’s worth it. I’m home.

For the past six months I’ve been dreaming of this life, and now I’ve returned to it. As incredible as traveling through southeast Asia was, my heart and home and ministry is here in Miami.

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Fast forward a bit- it’s now Tuesday, and I’m just alive enough to deem myself awake, and about to consider my second cup of coffee. The laundry is finished, and though the dress I’m wearing in this picture is now a shirt, as I looked up just now the missing sock was spotted. One task down, coffee in hand, and I’m ready to take on the day. It’s a slow climb, getting back to normality here. With the residue of things experienced still beautifully imprinted upon my mind, I’m gently coming back to the pulsing reality of the life I dream of.

Where Muffled Voices Fade

The weeks escape me. I hear it’s the seventh, so let’s go with that, shall we?

As this week was for the most part more of the same, this post will contain an obscene amount of photos, and not many words, I’m expecting, but we’ll see what happens.

Thursday morning we set out believing a prayer walk was in store, and instead found ourselves at a fort. I guess our hosts thought we needed a break, or exercise, judging by the size of the place.

Half of me wishes I had brought my camera with me (these are all iPhone pictures), but the other half is grateful I was free to climb and explore and see, beyond the viewfinder. Everything was magnificent, from balancing on the divider of an auto as we race down, then up the mountain to the trees sparkling like diamonds in the afternoon sunlight. Heights allowing hawks to fly below our eyes wide with wonder. The mountains calling my name, whispering His wondrous love. Tales of an age gone by. Temples still burning with incense to a god who will never hear them. Through it all, beauty like I’ve never imagined, and fragrant freedom.

The joy of adventures with souls I hold dear. Voices joined in illegal worship to the God who Sees. Citizens stop and stare, listen a while, never interrupting.  Soaking in the glory of His creation… And this is but a taste of earth, and earth but a shadow of heaven…

Finally, pictures from the slums. Throughout our past times there, I’ve abstained from bringing my camera. I didn’t want to give any room for the people there to think I care about them only for their stories, for their media values. However, on this our supposed last day (we’ll now be there tomorrow for church, as well), from the moment they spotted my camera the poses and “sister, my picture’s” began.

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This little guy’s legs were burned worse than anything I’ve ever seen a few weeks ago by a kitchen fire. The entire time we were there, he stayed on Rosie’s lap. When another child tried to come between them, he made his point clear by a quick smack, then nestled in to her even closer.

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I’ve fallen in love with each of these children, but is that any surprise? We leave tomorrow, and again I’m left wishing there were no language barrier between us. As these children are some of the leading Christian influences here, I worry not over what the world will do to them, but marvel over what they’ll do to the world.

Until next time

XOXO