Restless like a Thousand Tall Trees: 4 AM Thoughts on God, Change, and Dancing

Copyright MO 2012

Copyright MO 2012

I rub my eyes, grainy specs of rheum collected around my eyelids from the five hours of sleep I’ve gotten thus far. I’m not sure what it was that woke me up, other than the fact that I’ve been restless these past few days with jobs interviews that might potentially require a move. I lay in bed, then flip over on my side. But after 10 minutes of this, restless builds so strongly that I decide to feel my way down the dark stairs to get a glass of water. I head back upstairs and lay on the floor in my dark room, reminded of a couple songs that always brought me comfort in moments of uncertainty like this.

Even when I more or less walked away from Christian music a couple years ago, there were always a few songs I couldn’t shake. Audrey Assad’s “Lament” and “Restless,” being two of those. In the latter piece, she sings, “I am restless, until I rest in You, until I rest in You.” And tonight, I’ve woken up at 4 AM completely restless, having made a couple difficult decisions already this year, and soon to face a couple more, perhaps even a move from a city I have grown to love with a nothing-can-stop-me-from-loving-you,-Do-You-Hear-Me? kind of love, as I picture the faces of kind, fully alive people I’ve met over these past few years here. A smile and small laugh appear on my face, thinking about the places these folks have taken me. Dance parties. Biking down the city streets at night cheering at the top of our lungs so free. We climbed trees together. Played ukuleles in each other’s backyards. We square danced, rolled down hills, and laid under stars together. I love them all and every moment spent together.

But as I sit here in the 4 AM darkness of my room, I realize that I don’t know how people facing even bigger life changes than me do it. People who are a few months out from marriage or children. People who are moving to cities much further than my potential move. In all of this, I realize how averse and resistant I am to change. How I am not a willing dance partner to change’s dance. So I try to dance without change, only I keep scuffing my toes in the dark. My steps are heavy and clumsy.  Yet from across the room, I see change dancing freely and untrammeled in the open space, creating beauty, something more compelling than my solo dance in the dark corner.Come dance,” Change offers. I reach my hand out into the dark and wonder if I will ever be fully ready to accept this dance offer.

So hand reaching out, but not fully clasping Change’s hand, I think back to those songs I was talking about earlier, feeling exactly like the singer’s lyrics. I love when artists speak those experiences into melodies that flood your soul with a visceral hurt so good until you are singing right along too.

I continue to sit here on the floor in my dark bedroom. All is quiet outside, while inside, my soul “Rustles like a thousand tall trees. Why is it easy to work but hard to rest sometimes?” Audrey Assad’s words come easy to my soul tonight. “Still my heart, hold me close. I am restless until I rest in you,” her voice continues.
It’s been a while since I felt like I have truly rested in god while all of life crashes around me, thrashing waves thundering in the dark seas of change or hardship. It’s been a while since I’ve known life without anxiety, since 2006, in fact. And that’s ok; I’m not expecting nor demanding for anxiety to go away from my life completely. But I do wish to develop my wellspring reserves of confidence and unshakeability to believe that I can handle each of life’s changes as they come. Because bigger life changes are sure to come, especially when you’re someone who thinks you’d like to be married one day and adopt two kiddos. But when I sit here on my floor barely able to make peace with the changes in my life already, I think to myself, “thank God I’m not there yet.” 

IMG_1613But maybe God can show me how. How to rest in the one who made us. Show me what that looks like, because I have long forgotten, and I am weary. Show me what peace in the midst of uncertainty looks like, because I know there is a better way than my own self devices. There is a simple beauty to be found here, if I choose to try and walk its unnatural lines. And doing all of this, though not comfortable for me, would make my life easier too, I imagine. I mean, what’s easier, to trust in my own fears and dwell in uncertainty? Or take a chance on “all things working together for good,” like they told me in pews and sanctuaries so many years ago.

I take a deep breath, ready to hop back in bed and try again. I don’t have any new answers to my questions about the direction I’m going. But I do have a presence I’ve asked to teach me along the way, to show me what this rest looks like.

I can only ask myself to courageously try and follow this presence, this voice, the same voice that promises to lead us by still waters and open pastures.
I can only ask myself to embrace the question mark, the semi-colon, the dot-dot-dot ellipses…
I can only ask myself to be brave enough to accept change’s invitation to dance in each life stage.

Because there will be many, many more changes to come. Maybe I’ll marry one day. Maybe I’ll co-parent one day. I will say goodbye to strangers that came into my life for an ephemeral, teachable moment, recollecting their faces in daydreams or while idling in traffic one rainy afternoon. People I love immensely will die, and it will be a change that I will never, ever, feel fully prepared for. Because some changes you simply cannot ease your body into like a cold swimming pool.

But tonight, I can choose to reach my hand out to God and to change and choose to take a little solace in the journey that I’m so resistant towards. Maybe tonight, I will go to back to opening my eyes on the roller coaster, instead of keeping them shut. I will trade clasped hands on the lap bar, for hands held high above my head in the free, open air. 

But for now I’m going back to bed.

I hope to see you in the morning, feeling less philosophical and more fun, ready to dance like mad in the spring sunshine.

shadow dance

The Gayest Valentine’s Day Ever!! Literally.

Originally posted on The Button Chronicles…:
It would be safe to say that my sister, Stacey, is my Hero… ——————————————————————————– Dear Whitney,  I wanted to send you an email to wish you Happy Birthday. Your D told me that I…

While You Were Sleeping.

sunshine

A little girl lies down to sleep. The house lay quiet.
Everybody else has already fallen asleep, but as she lies there,
she looks out the window and talks to God.

“Mommy, what happens when we close our eyes to sleep at night?” she asks, rubbing her tired eyes sleepily.

“Well, I’ll tell you…” God whispers back,
tucking the soft fleece blanket around her square shoulders.

“Curtains close.
Blinds shut.

I hear prayers oceans and lakes and deserts wide, and I respond to each of them, including yours.

In a village far away, a girl in a hut falls asleep to lullabies.
The lullabies swirl out the little girl’s window.
The stars begin to dance.
The stars generate enough light for crickets
in the fields to see their legs.
They rub their legs melodiously to fiddle chirping sonnets.
The crickets errupt into such a joyful song,
that the owls relaxing in the deep pine forests chime in.

Sensing the owls chiming in, the bats sing along too.

The grass can’t take all this merriment,
and it laughs so hard, it cries morning dew.

The morning dew soaks springs of grass so wet,
they beckon the sun to come out and play.
The sun stretches and leaps out from its bed,
shining red and orange  into every tree,
every birds’ nest, every rabbits’ den.
Into the eyes of kids in the village
long before they wake up to feed the clucking chickens.
Into the eyes of kids in the city,
long before the school bus comes.
Into the eyes of mommies and daddies in each town,
long before their alarm clock zings.

The sun rises and rises,
until it’s outstreached arms rest over the horizon,
just waiting to give you a morning hug
whispering a soft, loving, ‘namaste,’ to you darling,
and that is how you wake up.”

The eyes of a young girl’s in a town not so far away
flip halfway open and shut, open a little wider than before,
and shut just a pinch, and finally stay open.

“Namaste,” she calls out to God, and leaps into motion,
a brand new day to unfold.

A few telescopes, some friends, and plenty of stars.

Saturday, June 8th, Solider’s Delight Natural Environment Area:

“That doesn’t look like a swan,” someone in the group mutters aloud.

“Well, you have to have an imagination. Remember, when the Native Americans, Greeks, and Arabs named the stars, they could see them billions at a time; there was no light pollution to inhibit their view,” an astronomer whiz shares with us.

It’s late Saturday night, and some friends and I are at Soldier’s Delight for a stargazing night put on by the Westminster Astronomy Club. Volunteers set up their elaborate telescopes for the community to use the second Saturday evening of each month. And this month, some friends and I decide to not miss out on the opportunity to look up in wide-eyed wonder.

“That’s M21 out there, you see it, to the right?” our instructor, Skip, motions.

“No, but what’s M83?” I ask.

“One of the galaxies.”

“Oh.. it’s also the name of a great band,” I share, feeling some celestial connection of music and stars.

The stars elicit questions a mile long.

What was the transit of Venus all about? What was the most memorable stargazing experience you’ve ever had? What’s the difference between a red dwarf and a brown dwarf?

“How many satellites are in the sky on any given night?” I ask.

“Well, it depends, you might be seeing an in-tact satellite, or a glove falling from a satellite, or just general space junk…” Skip muses.

“Space junk, is that anything like Space Jam?” my friend Rajni asks. We all laugh from the ground, bodies sprawled out on grass and cement in wonder and gratitude.

It’s 10 PM, which segues into 11 PM, but time is put on hold for now, and I try to stay here in this moment, in this solitude, underneath this sky, with these friends that I yearned for when I moved to inner city Baltimore a couple of years ago, lonely, and wondering what the hell I was doing was with my life.

A warm gratitude relaxes my body, like a soothing cup of hot tea, and I lay my head onto the grass. It’s amazing how many satellites you can trace with your finger across the night sky if you sit down long enough to look up.

We take turns looking through high-tech telescopes, pointed at double stars, galaxies, and Saturn. I peer into the lens. Inside, a round, pale yellow circle enclosed by a thick ring stares back, a distant object the size of my pinky fingernail.

“Woah!”

“Wow.”

“Awesome.”

Each phrase becomes a prayer, connecting us to the universe around us, back to a Maker, a Creator, that larger presence that some of us don’t mind calling God.

I find hope, awe, wonder, humility, and faith looking into each telescope lens, scientific tools enabling us to learn and unlearn of a world we cannot understand, of a largeness and vastness that just keeps going and going and going to… where? I don’t know.

But up above our heads gracefully dangle bands of gas that have swirled together to sustain a planet light years away, light from something so far away that we’re merely looking back in time to what it was lightyears ago, a time-space continuum that baffles my mind, like Back to the Future, or traveling back in time, a perpetuity I’m half-scared and half-ecstatic to enter to into, wondering if you were catapult yourself into this space, what time would it actually be?

A few telescopes, some friends, and plenty of stars bring my mind into the past and the present and future all at once. My memories drift back to the night sky of Botswana, Africa in August 2007. My 20 year old self is sleeping under the African sky with a tent full of snoring “macoas” (white people) and crickets. Just on the edge of the horizon, The Southern Cross peers out, playing a peek-a-boo game with sky and Earth. Alas, in winter solstice, that’s all we see of it this night, though hardly a disappointment. There’s stars everywhere, and they shine like the smiles of each child I met over the past two weeks here, some in orphanages, some in villages, some walking back home from school, waving jovially.

I enter back into the stars of the present, my night at Soldier’s Delight with friends, my heart drenched in melancholy for Africa, a pining so emotive, I remind myself of the promise I made to myself: to return to Africa by the time I’m 30, and I re-commit to it with alacrity.

I guess that’s what the stars do to us: awaken our sense of curiosity and wonder, our desire to learn more ponderings of how we got here, and what does it all mean, and this can’t be it, right? A pep talk sans spoken word, just twinkling of molecules daring each of us to dream bigger and surround ourselves with people who will believe in you, who will nurture the restless adventurer inside who never ceases to explore, ready for another question, a brand new musing.

And so tonight it seems there is much to be thankful for. Friends, genuinely good people, the ones I’d been trying to find in this city for the previously lonely past couple years. My life feels rich and full and like it’s about to exciting, because these dreams in my mind refuse to stay quelled as a mere idea, no— they’re ready to leap out into daylight, into air, into existence in movement and dance. I want to see it all unfold. New visas. Plane tickets. A life of making merry and mess and saying what I want to say even if  my voice trembles. I want to experience a love sopping wet with life and adventure, disheveled wet drops pouring over two lovers who view everyday by asking, “How much fun can we create today?” One dream lending itself to another, another one birthing out of the completion of the former.

Alas, we drive home, but my mind is still creating new possibilities. I pay attention to car headlights meeting cement, occasionally glancing to the side to check for deer along the tree-filled roads. My friends and I talk quietly in the car, softly, sleepily, but my mind is somewhere else— Still grappling with the fact that the planet I learned about in middle school science class, drawn in a text book, not only hangs above us in the night sky, but is able to be viewed by our little eyes if only we stop to look. It’s in the sky, right now, as I type, as you read this; it’s so so far way away, appearing like a mere sticker through a 150 power telescope. But it’s out there.

Hope.

It’s out there.

Peace.

It’s out there, again and again, night after night after night after night; these sunsets, these stars, these planets, all hovering above us, never shouting, nor demanding our attention, but exuding a captivating pull, begging us into a story of wonder and awe.

I’m back at the house, eyes closed, trying to fall asleep. All I can see is the ingrained image of Saturn, an image I know will come back to me time and time again as I live out this next week. A soothing image massaging my shoulders, whispering a loving, “Don’t you worry, Child,” to all who ponder its mystery. “I won’t,” I promise back. Tomorrow, maybe, but for right now, I won’t worry. And if I’m lucky, Saturn’s image might come back in and speak that love song of serenity into my soul, into my toes, into my finger, oh I’ll live blown away…

Photo Credit: Wellington Astronomical Society

Toilet Paper on Our Shoes (and other thoughts on brokenness and healing)

I keep running into these moments, like a giant rock that I continually trip over. Maybe you know those moments. When it’s just you, alone somewhere with your thoughts. Perhaps it’s nighttime and you’re driving back home and it’s just you, the car, a bumpy road, and God. And the light that was once green has now transcended from yellow to red. So you’re sitting there stuck at the red light, going nowhere, and it’s just you, these thoughts, the feel of the steering wheel, and this ominous presence in your car with you, speaking through the windshield, or next to you, or through a crack in the window, oh, I don’t know. And you can’t run, you can’t hide anywhere; you’re exposed. Your running and distracting and avoiding and fearing are called out. You can’t resort back to your usual mechanisms of escape because it’s just you, stopped at the red light of sameness or change.
It’s as if you have no other choice but to face the music of your life soundtrack. And it’s a CD mix you’ve never heard before, so you don’t know which songs are the fast tracks, and which ones are melancholy. And as the next track begins playing, you realize the music is a sad and somber tune and all you wish is for the next song to be of joy and merriment because life is short, damn it, and shouldn’t we be living in carpe diem every moment? So you try and focus on the things that make you happy and get you thinking “it’s all good,” “it won’t be so bad,” and you minimize that it’s about to get hard. But then this snowball from the past comes flying in your face and all you can feel is its wet sting as it slides down your face and into your coat, slowly melting frozen snowflakes onto your chest like butter on toast. Trying to tell you that spring will never come until you deal with whatever it is you have to deal with. Oh sure. Things change. The next day you’ll wake up and you won’t be alone again and you can go back to distracting yourself with friends and people and tasks and to-do lists. Spring will come anyway, because seasons change and evolve. But the degree to which we fully enjoy each of these things, unfettered, comes from our willingness to throw away the toilet paper dragging from our shoes. Maybe you’re in such a hurry that you don’t even notice the paper trail from your soles, which the whole world can see bright as day. And maybe, just maybe, there might be one tender-hearted person who pulls you aside, alone, privately, safely, waking you up to the toilet paper on your shoe, without embarrassing you or belittling you either. Because we all have had toilet paper on our shoes before and we all have monsters in our closets that sometimes like to reappear. I mean, it’s not about the toilet paper. It’s those conversation that say, “Hey, I’ve noticed something about you.” And someone asks you if you’re really happy and you just let out a confused cry. And that’s ok. That’s enough for that moment.

Inside each of us lies an innate longing for everything to be ok. And anything we can latch onto to show us that things are going to look up, get better, be ok… we cling to, perhaps for comfort, perhaps as futile attempts to block out change. To hold on when we should really let go. Sometimes I just want more than a verse that states, “but I’ve given you a future and hope.” I need more than that. I need to see, oh how I want to see. Oh how I want more assurance. Because everything inside of me screams, begs, demands for everything to be ok. And the longer I can’t see how it’s all going to be ok if I make this decision, or if that happpens, or if this occurs, the more I pine for assurance, signs, and control. Because everything seems so out of my control sometimes and quite frankly God,  sometimes it seems like you’re up there doing nothing.

And so some days, we find ourselves in Churches or other places of worship. I wonder sometimes, for every service I went to at that megachurch back in college, or at that Bible study event filled with a bunch of people smiling, talking about praying, and Evangelizing, and all that joy-in-the-Lord-is-our-strength stuff… was just a show. A bunch of BS. A bunch of people, but certainly not all, who were too afraid to speak of the monsters in their closets, the toilet paper on their shoes. A bunch of people who walk around “happy,” but deep down feel far from the abundant life to which we’re invited. A secretly empty population walking around just hoping to emulate a veneer of “the good Christian.” No. That would be a tragedy. My, my I don’t think we were ever created for the pretending and the “everything’s fine,” and the pity-filled, “Oh I’ll pray for you-s.” We were never meant to, perhaps, smile at every single worship service. What we were made for is community, authentic community. We were invited in, promised with, the opportunity to be a part of a community that says we’ll share our bread and our cup and your tears and my tears and together, we’ll taste something so rich and beautiful, we won’t understand why we ever used to settle for less– the excessive smiling and covering up of pain and doubt.

I know I can be a cynic, but I do know that not everyone of these circles are pretentious. And maybe all those people I saw were joyful and happy in the Lord. Maybe every single one of them was. Maybe.

I just wish I had more influences in my life then like I do now where we sit down at lunch and cry in front of each other. And talk about what depression meds we’ve been on. Where we admit that we too aren’t so sure about the messages we’ve been reiterated about hell or gender or any of those things that Jesus doesn’t really talk a whole lot about. And then where we get really excited and creative about all the ways in which we can find new ways to love, which Jesus talks a whole lot about. More people who go to counseling too and we laugh about how crazy we can be. More one on one conversations in which the two of us admit that we actually have no idea where we’re going with life right now or where this journey is taking us. More people who knew that Jesus could be worshipped on top of a hay bale as you and a friend live out his words to “learn from the birds” as they migrate Southbound, in strength and beauty, letting out a few drops of poo too. Lucky them; they don’t have to worry about the toilet paper-shoe part.

I’m grateful for all of the people in my life who’ve shed away their false layers, remaining open and transparent, as if secretly giving me permission to drop by guard and do the same. I’m grateful for these moments of brokenness in which God stops me, has my complete attention because I’m now shivering and crying alone in my room. “Why do you cause such tears to fall from my eyes and why this pain in my heart!?” I implore You. Though hard to recognize in the moment, I know it’s possible to choose to perceive these tears as a gift. I know Your words to be true when you hold my hand and whisper back, “Because I love you. And there is something good to come from this mess, but you won’t be able to see it yet.”  Some pains are just a part of this world; events that God never intended, but will warmly hold your hand and cry with you, yes, that’s His/Her hands embracing you. There are those other pains that grow- the consequences of our own actions or in-actions- and God looks you in the eye, puts a hand on your shoulder and says, “My child. Is this the only way you’ll slow down? Is this the only way I can gain your full attention before you hurt yourself even more?” And S/He swoops and breathes hope into our breaking hearts that things won’t always be this way. I just can’t expect to see these moments disappear if I don’t start dealing with the broken pieces I’ve tried to hide under my bed, or under my seat, or in my private thought life that no one but God can access. It’s as if S/he enters in, and takes you by the hand, and says, “Well go on now!” Cry. Mourn. Confess. Forgive. Heal. But refuse to sucumb to the notion that you’ll never get through this,” whatever the “this” happens to be at that moment.

Brokenness is a powerful tool for change. Even though as a kid in middle school youth group, I would sing, “Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for,” I would never ask for it to happen to me, willingly. But every time it does, I am always amazed at how God uses it to reveal something new about who S/He is, who I am, and where I still harbor my insecurities. God uses it to show us we’re stronger than we think we are if we would just face whatever it is that won’t stop pestering and festering.

And so tonight my candlelight is still burning. And I’m still feeling a bit of that brokenness and confusion about where and when this mess will intersect with beauty, but I do know this: I am not as alone as I initially felt I was. We have a God that will keep us from the lie we’re alone in those times of brokenness and healing. There is a God who can create something good out of something so hard, or ugly, or untimely, or even as trivial and embarrassing as toilet paper on our shoes.

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The shallow cracks within my soul.

There’s a path I sometimes walk
That doesn’t create wonder and gratitude nor beauty or intimacy
But that walks in the “in-between.”

That’s too afraid of change or the possibility of things turning out worse
So I don’t take full steps to make it better.

The part of me that trades in originality and audacity and brightness
For dullness and sameness.
And makes me feel like a let down
To the 18 year old girl inside of me
Who once woke up with an airbag in her face
Car slammed in a telephone pole
Calling 911
Vowing to never ever take the preciousness of life for granted ever again.

Who pushes off booking a Southbound flight
To roll down hills with my cousin
Who feels like a little sister
All because I’m scared of what will happen
If I don’t make the next dollar
And have to live off savings for a while.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t say the words I want to say
Because I’m scared to be different
And so I choke behind the voices that tell me to be quiet
Just to “fit in.”

There’s a part of me that wants to run the opposite direction of anything religious
And get pissed off at God
Or rebel against every Christian teaching
To spite the dogma of heavy nooses I’ve experienced in Evangelicism.

And sometimes,
I’m glad I do this.

Because in the defiance
I find space to stop hearing the words that hurts me.
And get to ask every unadulterated question I’ve ever wanted to ask.

But most of the time, I know I go home
To my room
And my candlelight
And it’s just me
And God
And I get scared of death
Or need hope
Utterly.
Within my soul
Every part of me in tune with my need for God
And I’m ashamed that I would ever turn my back on him/her
When the last thing God would do
Is turn his/her back on me.

So the words of the most subversive person I know
Whispers in my ear,
“Come with me
And I will show you the unforced rhythms of grace…”

There’s a part of my soul that dies a little when I think about how much time I spend
Ruminating on how much I dislike my job
But don’t know how to make my dreams reality
So I become like many Americans
And get a temporary high on Friday nights
That crashes 48 hours later
With the Sunday evening blues.

There’s a part of me that’s too afraid to take a chance on my dreams
Because they aren’t “academic” enough
Or important enough
Or impressive enough.
And that’s when I remember
I’m feeding into the trap
That certain careers are more important than others
When all we really need to do
Is find that makes us come alive
And go do that
And let everyone else
Chase success and notoriety
In a job they hate but think “looks good.”

There’s a part of me
That wishes I were the opposite gender
Because I hate the fact that mine
Makes me less muscular, less tall
And is laiden with propriety
And tells me to change my last name
And have kids
That I don’t really want to have.
At least not biologically.

There’s a part of me
That’s hurt by every ignorant statement
Mouthed by Evangelicals
Or conservative white or black men
Spewing out their desire for pompous power
By telling women how they should live (the “sanctity” of life) and die (don’t you care go into combat, after all, you’d make the military have to change the way it does things to become more gender equitable and that’s really inconvenient).

I realize how much I want to become sarcastic
And yell in anger
And let men see
A women get angry
Instead of passive, taciturn, and “nice.”

And sometimes I’m glad I do this.

But most of the time,
I think about Jesus.
And how hard it is to love the way he talks about loving.
Especially when it comes to loving those crazy (insert the opposite political party with which you affiliate).
And so I make a fool of myself
Missing out on an opportunity to develop my character
By instead choosing anger and resentment
Instead of something more courageous
Like love.

I walk these icy paths of the cracks within my soul
And confess my wasted moments
And ask God to redeem them
To start afresh in the morning
And ask for just a little more time in solitude
Here in the light
In open spaces
Where the sound of stillness
And the beat of my heart
And the wind on my face
All remind me to come alive
And be contraire
And get out of my head, my self, my biases
And get lost in the dreams and stories of each beating heart around me.

And together we’ll solidify the cracks
Until they become steady ground
Connecting hearts
And minds
And dreamers.

We’ll glance up to the endless sky
And find ourselves and lose ourselves
In these cracks and crevices
Of darkness
And of light.
046

God, Football, the American Flag, and Nationalism.

pray lewis

1.19.13: One of my favorite views of Baltimore City right now is entering into the downtown area from the 395 off-ramp. Our city is painted with Ravens spirit-purple lights dancing on skyscrapers, “Go Ravens” posters taped to city windows, and, my favorite: the billboard that simply said “WOW” after the Raven’s win last Saturday. In fact, as I sit down to write this at the Towson Public Library, a woman just pointed out that the bookshelf next to me contains an entire collection of books with purple covers, complete with a border of purple stars cut out of construction paper.
Purple has become a unifying topic bringing complete strangers together in conversation. All week at work, I’ve asked patients, “You see the game last Saturday?” or I’d see someone wearing a purple scarf and fist bump in the air an amiable, “Go Ravens!” (and often hear, “I know, that’s right.”) I think this is one of the beautiful things about sports: its ability to bring people together, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race, or political beliefs.
But I can’t help but notice something else too.

When did “football” become so analogous with “God” like “God” and “America?” (i.e.
“God Bless America” bumper stickers, etc.) Faith and football, faith and flag. Is this what God is all about? In comments sections of Ray Lewis’ exhortation of “No Weapon Shall remain” are statements such as, “God was with our team.” Is God not with the team who loses? “God blessed our team.” Is God not blessing the teams who lose? Is God up in Heaven writing out the play by play of who will pass to who, and who will miss the ball, to make that person score, to make this team win?

Don’t get me wrong.

I’ve prayed throughout competitions. Not so much to win, but to focus my mind on something bigger than myself to draw upon for strength. I’m not saying people should or shouldn’t pray or talk about their faith in the arena of sports.

But what I am questioning is the amount we partner “God” with “football.” In a nation with “In God We Trust” written on our currency, and in a nation in which “God Bless America” is uttered in many speeches, auditoriums, and pre-game concerts, I wonder at what point we’ve made a show out of God being on “our side.”

What would it look like to live in a world in which we had murals about praying for peace, rather than praying for football? What would it look like to talk about God in correlation with social justice as frequently as God is talked about with America and football? What if we had prayer rallies not for our team to win, but for no children to be trafficked at the Super Bowl? As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated prior to the 2011 Superbowl in Arlington, Texas,

 “The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly. It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”

Something tells me we are off kilter when we pray for teams to win the Superbowl, while forgetting about 14 year old girls sold off as “Superbowl Specials.” Because when you look at Jesus’ priorities, it was always for those on the fringe to be brought into inclusion, while nationalism and religiosity were shunned.

So bring on the purple. Pray about anything and everything. But let’s realize that God is much bigger than football. God is much bigger than America. God cares about more than blessing solely either one of those. Let’s remember that God loves and blesses all people, and for those who do not experience such blessings due to poverty and war, let’s be conduits of peace and justice. And win or lose, let’s know how deeply God loves our opponents, our enemies, and ourselves, showing no favoritism while at the same time cheering each of us on to become more and more into the likeness of our Creator.

So, what do you think?
What does America most often couple God with? Love? Justice? Homophobia? Sports?
Do you believe that God shows no favoritism while at the same time cheers us on as we seek God’s heart?

Sky Blue, Sky Black

11/27
12:30 AM— Thoughts with God as I lie down watching the moonlight shine through the window pane:

There is something about Your sky that’s vast and endless in intricate artistry. In the morning, a sunrise that wakes up our souls, every cell in our bodies, awakening the dawn of an unprecedented new day, like a foot of freshly fallen snow without a single footprint. In the late afternoon, a sun that ribbon dances in ruby reds and sapphire kissing the horizon. In the evening, a deepened blackish navy blue cascaded with darts of yellow starlight.

I cannot comprehend its infinite end and I literally feel myself pulled into your beauty, your craft, your handiwork. Like suction, I am drawn to this- fixated upon a changeable sky that in light or dark immediately ceases all selfish thoughts that run rampant throughout my brain throughout the day. It stills my worries and mollifies my aching fears. All falls silent when I look up to your sky- minus the low drone of cars off the highway in the distance. Something moves me closer to your heart, a magnetic pull. I can’t fight it. I suppose even if I were to look away, I would only long to look back at it, if but for the peace and stillness it arouses.

And when in the midst of my 9-5 labor rife with meetings and no windows, just tan and creme colored walls… When I grapple with the immediacy of a deadline… When I am all alone, scared and confused, on my hands and knees by candlelight begging you to help me find your hands in this darkness… I hear this voice that encourages, “Go outside and ponder the Pleiades.”Look up at the sky. Count the number of planes that go by just in these next few moments. And now think of all the people on board, some sleeping, some dreaming, some ready to hop aboard another plane, some ready to hop out of a plane, tandem… think about how I take care of my people from land and air, high and low, on the water in ships, everywhere-I make them grow, so surely, I must be able to take care of you too.

I think about every moment when I heard that voice, urging me to go outside and see sky blue or sky black, and how easily I push that voice away. For certainly, can’t you see, I have big grown up things to do, like tasks and responsibilities and dirty dishes to tend to? Oh, and yet this part of me hears that voice again, this time reaching my inner spirit, the Child of God within me, the part that longs for play and exploration and wonder.

I now know.

I know now that to miss out on these moments is foolish. I have nothing too important in my life to not tiptoe down the stairs and sit on the stone ledge of my front porch and regain strength, vision, and clarity with every twinkle of every star. I am a fool to think that I am too busy to take a moment to breathe in the cool evening air and look up. Just the simple shift in gaze—from scribbling away at some paper or glued to some task or to the laundry that needs to be folded— to looking away from that and now looking up— has brought my whole body, mind, spirit into a posture of gratitude and worship, yes. No songs or hymns or Bible. But my gaze becomes a wordless prayer, breathless, not even a whisper, as I worship you- everything about you has me falling in love with you again and again. 

And tomorrow I shall do the same. I am not too busy to soak in a widescreen shot of sky blue before I drive off for the day, fresh air mobilizing the oxygen in my blood. And maybe after this week is over, I shall lay in the fields, those favorite fields, or perhaps I’ll find a new one today, and lay on a bed of grass and clover, arms folded behind my neck, staring, lost in beauty, lost in peace, lost in nothing making sense and everything making sense at once, lost in transcendence.  And my hands will finger the blueberries I brought with me,  slowly plopping them into my mouth for sweet reprieve from hunger. Or maybe today my hands shall finger through manila, crisp pages telling of someone else’s story with you, Lord. Or maybe there will be nothing that my hands will do as I lay them, palm down, along my chest, feeling the solidarity of the thump-thump of my heartbeat. Sometimes there’s nothing to do under these skies but worship with peace and renewal and sabbath in our hearts. Perhaps that’s the point, after all, of this sky- that we can’t busy our hands with distracting to-do lists at the same time we look upward. Sometimes we can barely hold a conversation, because all of our eye contact is directed at these skies of blue, or orange, or red, or black with white-ish, yellow diamonds “up above the world so high.”

And maybe in all these moments, the point is simply to remind us that we don’t need to be somewhere else right now in order to be happy. We don’t need to be doing something different. No, I am re-discovering the portable happiness and joy and that comes from the serenity of the day or night sky, visible from anywhere in this world, if we just step away and step out for a few to notice it, to revel in it, to take it in with all of our senses, stepping out of our shallow microcosms and into the deepness of the bigger story You have for your creation. I shall make this habit of enjoying beauty, of learning how to pray with the stars and learn a new way of worship that speaks nothing in word, but utters the intimacy of one thousand choirs filled with sacred song, of one thousand communion cups raised high, until all have received their cup and their portion. Your sky is holy and sacred and if Church ever feels far away, I will look to these skies of blue and skies of black and know of the gift of your presence, my joy, my delight, my saving grace, my God…

CC 2012 MO

“I can feel you like a notion that I hope will never leave ’cause when I look to the sky something tells me you’re here with me and you make everything alright. And when I feel like I’m lost something tells me you’re here with me and I can always find my way when you are here,” -Train

Where is your favorite place to go to find peace, rest, and renewal?