Becoming Beacons

Often, I find myself craving the days when all the Christians around us knew their faith could cost their life. Many were already forced out of their homes into shacks along the feces-filled grey-watered Ganges river, forced into the lowest rungs of society and unable to move up because their beliefs were discovered by their neighbors. They had a fire to them, they were willing to do anything for Christ. Cross the Pacific, and here we are debating whether Sunday morning worship is worth trading the extra hours of slumber and pancakes for, as we pour over Instagram stories, strive after appearances, aesthetics, and vibes. As if any of it mattered… Yet I’m one of them. We idolize this life more than we realize in the West.

Meanwhile, wisdom cries out in the streets…

“Wisdom calls out in the street; she raises her voice in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion; she speaks at the entrance of the city gates.”
– Proverbs 1:20-21 –

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
– Proverbs 9:10 –

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As a generation, we millennials speak as though we want wisdom, yet as a church, we fail to do those things which she calls for. We choose bagels in the cafe over sitting in service, or to watch service from the comfort of our cozy couches, coffee in hand and fuzzy socks on, over truly attending and fellowshipping. With that, we think we’re good.

“So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:12 –

Please hear, I am one of them. Without fail, each Sunday morning as my husband gets ready for church, I have an extended debate with myself regarding if I want to go or stay home. “I could take an Uber to the 12:30 service,” I argue, telling myself I don’t really need to be there for the first two; I could do homework instead. Now, for some, this is true. They will actually get homework done, and truly have no reason to be there for the other two services my church offers. For some, this is actually the wiser, more responsible choice. Not for me, though, and I know that. I know that if I stay home, I’ll sleep until it’s time to come in for third, if I even make it for that. Chances are I’ll come in just in time to honor the commitment I’ve made which takes place each week after all the services have ended. So I pull myself out of bed, slap on some makeup and clothes in the dark, and stumble into the passenger seat of my husband’s car counting the minutes until I have a coffee in my hand.

This all has to do with the comfort factor, though. What about the cost? What I witnessed in India was just the upper crust of the surface of what goes on there, much less places like Sudan or Afghanistan. The other day, the Lord slapped me across the face with a truth I had never considered. I was spared so much- this I’ve always known. However, I never considered what it cost Him. Without diminishing the reality of what it was, I don’t only mean the Cross here. I mean the spiritual battles afterward, throughout the past twenty years of my life, and even before. The continual battles, because time is different for Him, even if I can’t fully comprehend how or what that means with my human brain. Flooded into my mind like a waterfall of flames were blood-red images of Him fighting brutally on His white horse, amidst the odious smog of sin and death; fighting Lady Babylon (Revelation 17:3-6) to shield me from her immorality, the destruction she brings, and the end she comes to. I saw the beads of sweat on His forehead, the anger in His eyes.

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If I daily saw the war going on for His church, His bride, how would I fight differently? This isn’t about legalism, this is about engaging fully in the purpose for which we were created. I’m not saying that purpose is sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, either; but rather that the fellowship and strength and respite that offers, that of sitting in community at His feet, is what prepares us for the battle we have been called to.

“Furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
– Proverbs 2:3-6 –

“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:13-14 –

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It’s not about whether or not we’re in church. It’s not about going through the motions. It’s about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the call He has placed on our lives. Slowly I’ve been coming to the conclusion that when there’s so little we have to give up in this free country for the title of “Christian,” it’s imperative we then, even if only as an exercise, give up things as love offerings for the sake of honoring Him. Things like Sunday mornings at home to be instead at church, at His feet. Not because He needs it from us, but because we do. In these tiny acts of trading comfort for clout, we allow ourselves to be strengthened by Him into the warrior Bride He has called us to be. We grow into beacons burning bright in this world doomed for darkness.

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Until next time,

XOXO

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

 

 

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.

 

Rabbit Hole War Base

A quiet little rabbit hole
Come hear His Name
Sweet truths proclaimed
War preparations you’ll see
Defenses for those who can no longer fight
Through the darkness to see the light.

We’ve been deemed insane, once or twice
“There’s no battle coming
The only fight’s inside your mind”
We’ve been told times before
But now
The veil is tearing, revealing
Monsters hiding behind
Seemingly beautiful smiles.

Darling, come in!
There’s room, always room
Let Him hide you
Let Him heal you
The war’s been waged
And you find yourself caught
On the wrong side
He’s reaching, reaching
For you
Will you let His children
Help carry you out?
It will first take a leap
Recognize the cave you’re in
Beloved, it’ll be worth it
To escape those chains
Will you be carried out
Or remain in the miry pit?

We’re used to extremes
There’s no pain you can bring
From which we will shy
All we can do is turn you to Him,
The only One who heals
This is not a song of self-praise
This is a statement of faith
We are more than is seen
We are the quiet underground
Working to save lost and lonely souls
Caught in the raging sea.

Terracotta Sweater

Lately in my life things randomly and bizarrely disappearing has become commonplace, to the point where my dad has seriously considered buying a hidden camera for the house to see where it all goes and how it vanishes. I have learned that even of my personal belongings, I have no real control. Only God does, but in that there is so much peace. But these disappearances are merely a part of a hidden painting.

It’s a season of gentle interludes. Clock in, clock out, typewritten prayers and telephoned memories. Perhaps one day the future will come, but for now it stands a hazy mirage in this desert land. My words feel mediocre. Do I have what it takes to go pro, or will I ever remain an amateur? Clock in, clock out, sip the coffee, make the copies, and pretend to myself that one day I’ll be an honest artist.

I don’t know what the future holds. Perhaps one day the work will pay off and writing will become my full time job, next to ministry; or perhaps it’s just a little girl’s dream along with unicorns and rainbows made of lollipops. All I know is that the Lord is holding it, and if I can let go, there is so much beauty and adventure in the unknown. He will make me into the artist I am designed to be, in His perfect way and timing. While this interlude is meant for rest, my mind insists on pushing on into worry. How often is that the case? The Lord blesses us and we do everything in our power to distort it into something vile. No. Not today. Today I will curl up in my terracotta sweater, sip the coffee, make the copies, and breathe, always breathe. The most perfect God of the universe is holding me and these dreams. Life is haywire, but darling, isn’t it beautiful?

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Photographs taken at Panther Coffee (Wynwood, FL), the Old Florida Bookshop (Hollywood, FL), and the Florida-Georgia Line.

Becoming Anthemoessa

Boots on ground
Coming closer
Closer
Do you hear them stomping?
Silence

The boots are high-heeled
Crimson lipped
Smiling so sweet
While stripping you of liberty
Silence

Their voices are music
Silence
Sounding like freedom
Silence
But do you hear
Silence
The bloodcurdling
Silence
Tortured screams
Silence
Their lullabies are covering?
Silence

Boots on ground
Hypnotic perfumes
You won’t hear them coming
Closer, closer

Promising acceptance
If you’ll only
Sell your soul
For government’s gold

They’ll tell you all
You wish to hear
All the while, secretly reviving
Your deepest childhood fears.

They’ll operate in silence
Cover your mouth
Frame you, charge you
For their own brutal
Violence.

There is yet time
Join the Resistance
Battle the lethargic lies
Or remain
Forever
Silenced.

Monotonous Love

I’m so tired of artists tearing down artists, family tearing down family, Christians tearing down Christians. What happened to being known for our love for one another? 

Is discouraging someone really worth that effort? Why not encourage? It takes half the thought. And if it’s taking you more, be silent and work your brain. 

We talk about global unity, yet can’t even smile at our neighbors. We talk about joining together as the body of Christ, then in the next breath rant about everything that’s wrong with the church. I know I’m guilty of this too, and please hear that I’m not trying to rag on Christians with this post, but it’s a dangerous trend I see and feel the need to call out. Prayer meetings are for prayer, not gossip. If an artist puts out work, that’s terrifying for them. Respect the pain and insecurity that no doubt went into that. Even if it’s not your taste, treat it with love. Even if you don’t agree with it, pray about it hard before you speak up, and remember that chances are, fifteen others are speaking up, too. Maybe they just need you to be silent and love on them. 

Maybe that’s what most of the people here on this earth need; quiet compassion.