March 15, 2011

We all have our own emotional acres of land.

Some of us erect fences, whether it’s chain-link or picket, electrical wiring or tall brick partitions. Within that acre, each one of us will roam as we see fit. And if someone comes onto our emotional acre, we can ask him or her to leave, because it’s our acre.

We each make the decision whether to tend to our acre, or not tend to it, if that’s what we want. We can have garage sales or free-for-alls or races or parties or auctions or gardens or parking spaces.

We can have swings or benches or trees.

Some acres are on hills. Some are in valleys.

Some have constant rain. Others constant sunshine.

We can have clothes lines, or dogs, cats, rabbits, vegetables. And so on and so forth.

There is no homeowner’s association involved here.

Some are choked with weeds, overflowing with rotting garbage, sloppy with dank mud. Others are trimmed neatly, soft enough for babies, picnics, or camp outs.

But only one acre. That’s all we have.

An acre is pretty big, when you think about it. And for some, an acre can prove to be much too big to handle.

We have learned to keep to our acres and let others water their own. We have realized that to tear down fences or erect others’ fences for them is considered an invasion of privacy. We cannot build houses or shacks on their acres, throw balls onto their acre, or even mow their lawn.

But a change occurs when we tap on their post, and they wave us in.

That’s when we can lift the latch, swing the gate open, and have a lemonade on their front porch with them. And this is how community is built.




The greatest of these is love. What makes love so grand? That the Father’s love for us had Him sacrifice His beloved son, who He also loved deeply? That love is the special ingredient to soften a hardened heart? Both of these things are true. However, if every action has an equal and opposite reaction, it is safe to say that because of how high and grand and large love is, it must require the exact same effort of highness, grandness, and largeness that it represents.

Love is associated with the heart. The phrase wearing your heart on your sleeve means to be vulnerable and transparent with your affection, but it is contradictory to the literal location of the heart in our bodies. It is buried deep within us, under flowing blood, hard bones, muscles, tissue, veins, arteries, all acting as another layer, another guard to have to answer to before a gate is opened. “Getting to the heart of an issue” or “seeing someone’s heart” implies that it is a journey to be undertaken only by those who are strong-willed and brave. It requires us to dig from level to level, cutting through the skin, piercing through the muscles, squeezing through the arteries, knocking around some bones, and coaxing the heart out of the cavity.

The greatest thing about love is that it is not easily attained. It is not something so easily presented. It is mentioned often because of how gravely important it is for us to love one another, but the difficulty is often undermined. Something so great requires travailing. It requires a digging through the flesh. Not only the physical flesh to reach the literal heart, but of our flesh: our pride, our fear, our lustful, selfish, wicked desires, into the most well-protected organ we have. Something residing so deep within us must hide treasures unseen. It must also hide hurts and sorrow that are shrouded with shame and pride.

The reason it is so difficult to love one another is because oftentimes our love has a long way to go before it finally reaches the visible surface. It requires a mighty work of God to push those things aside within us that are blocking the passage of a love out-pour. His love for us is what causes him to perform these shifts within us. Hence, we can only love because He first loved us. Surely the love ingrained deep within us would have suffocated without Him.

This is what makes love grand, this majestic and heroic adventure that we embark upon to (against all odds and societal teachings of fending for oneself) call forth hidden, shamed, and broken hearts into a place of healing and light.

The Night

June 18, 2010

There is tremendous beauty in the nighttime. Something fills the air. Everything is at rest, and everything at rest is oftentimes much more beautiful than when it is active. A baby’s laughter is endearing, but seeing the child asleep brings a peace beyond words. A woman or man’s character in social events is charming, but nothing compares to the beauty of this person at peace, tranquil and content. It seems that the fences we woke up so early in the dawn to build up around our hearts and spirits were thankfully torn down at some point during the day, on the respite of a lunch break, in the silence of a car ride home, in the rain before bedtime.

I have had the greatest pleasure of helping, brick by cumbersome brick, remove the heavy walls that seal us away from one another, from community and fellowship, with some of the people who God has placed in my life. A day spent together is enchanting, but a conversation with a sister at night seals a bond like nothing else. Within the governing of decency and in keeping with one’s testimony, there is a lot to be said about the conversations that take place at night, when a weary spirit, tired of fighting, lowers it’s heavy shield and becomes vulnerable in that beautiful, peaceful (but please please please don’t forget holy and righteous) way that the night, or maybe early morning, can bring (before the coffee “awakes”, but really, numbs you to one another… I should know).

It was in one of many late-night car rides that I was able to truly build with a brother, aided by a sweet serenade from one of the great musicians of our time on the car stereo. More recently, it happened in a crowded restaurant, surrounded by our friends and greasy food, but somehow a vulnerability crept in that we were able to coax forth and nurture, which in turn coaxed forth and nurtured a budding friendship.

This can surely, and very often does, happen in the day, but there is something beautiful to be said about the night.

Daniel, In The Lion’s Den

January 13, 2010

My cousin has three children: a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old twin boys, Jeremiah and Daniel. Being twins, they are usually attached at the hip, and rarely argue for more than a few seconds. However, one particular Sunday, while I was teaching Children’s Church, I became pretty upset at the way their relationship had soured that day.

A 9-year-old boy who recently started attending our church teamed up with Jeremiah and began to tease his twin brother Daniel about being “germ boy,” as Daniel was getting over a cold. He refused to play with Daniel, and both Jeremiah and the boy put several chairs between them and Daniel. Now, I understand that the usual mentality is boys will be boys, and they are young, they know no better. I tried to ignore it and brush it off as such. But I couldn’t. How could I ignore that Daniel was being teased by his best friend, his twin brother, an impressionable boy being influenced by a bigger bully? Why should I just turn away from that? Why should I adopt the idea that this was just intrinsic in a young boy, an there was “nothing I could do about it?” I couldn’t help but scold them for being rude. Although Jeremiah is only 5, I made it clear to him that his brother doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. I made it clear to the older boy that he should know better. But the teasing didn’t stop there. They continued with the name-calling and leaving him out of their games. Daniel was in his very own little  Lion’s Den.

Daniel later asked if he could sit with me while they watched a movie, still being ignored by the other boys, even after he returned a few toys they had dropped. My heart ached for him. He wasn’t crying, but he was obviously bothered. I asked him how he felt, and he said fine. I thanked him for having returned the toys. Then he said something that moved me to my core. He said “I choose to be nice”. He CHOSE to be nice. I looked at him and no longer felt the ache. It had dissipated upon seeing how he stood up to the bullies, not by yelling at them or ignoring them in turn, but by making the conscious decision to rise above and be…nice. Keep in mind this kid is only five. Not only was the sentence grammatically correct (those who know me know I have issues with this) but it came from such a pure and honest place.

Later, we watched a Max Lucado video about Hermie the Caterpillar, and Webster the Scaredy Spider. Webster was asking God for strength and God replied audibly. Daniel asked me if God really speaks to us. “Not always in a loud voice,” I told him. “Sometimes you just feel God speaking to you, or He speaks to you through songs, the Bible, or other people”. He looked at me for a few seconds, and then said “I do my homework because I just feel God telling me to be good in my heart.” It was a miracle I didn’t melt off my seat. At that moment, I saw his tender heart. I knew God had a huge purpose with him, and it has already begun. All I could do is smile and tell him that he makes God really happy, and that God loves him so much. He then looked up at me and asked “But why does God beep our hearts?”

I couldn’t find words to tell him why. I reminded myself that he is only five, he wouldn’t understand. He’d probably blow it off or forget it just as soon as he had heard it. But I had forgotten just as soon as I had seen it: Daniel was wise beyond his years. He spoke to the heart of his (then) 22-year-old cousin just by being himself. “God beeps our hearts because that is how he keeps us alive. But he also uses our hearts to keep us doing good things”. I felt the answer didn’t do his question justice. I felt like sitting with him and explaining as best I could about the dynamics of our hearts with God. But I was stilled by the thought that although he was the one who asked the question, Daniel understood exactly why God “beeps our hearts”. I didn’t have to answer to him. He knew that God moves in us so that he may move through us. What a fitting name for him, Daniel, a (little) man after God’s own heart.

Eventually he’ll grow older, and experience harsher unkindness or injustice. It may threaten to cloud over the kindness in his heart, but I pray that God doesn’t stop beeping his little heart, ever. In doing so, God beeped my own.

My God is sovereign, and gracious. But he’s also very very quick. This week has been an eye-opener for me. I had another post lined up instead of this, but I felt it in my heart to have you all heed this warning: You pray, and it WILL be answered. That’s nothing to fear, but rather something to make sure you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for the quickness that God moves with, in, towards, and through you.

Within hours of me launching this site and making it public last Tuesday, God began testing my commitment. My mind kept racing with thoughts of “are you living what you’re writing? Can you say that you are learning from what you are trying to teach others?” God heard my heart-cry of launching the site and learning the commission and responded so rapidly that I had to instantly check myself, my intentions, my readiness of spirit and mind. It’s funny how shocked we are when God answers prayers, as if He’s incapable of doing so.

Within days, my character was next to be tested. The very people who I knew would be difficult to lavish love upon came calling to me, needing an ear or a helping hand. Because loving someone requires so much emotion, I never imagined that setting my own emotions aside would be required of me to this degree.  So when I felt God telling me to forget about myself and how I feel about a particular circumstance, it was unexpected… and painful. I had to stretch my heart to allow space for people who I had chosen not to extend unconditional love towards. So much confusion came my way, and so much fleshy rebellion wanted to spring up. In that moment, I learned how selfish we have all been brought up to think: it’s all about looking out for number one.

It is embarrassing how often we fail at one of the two greatest commandments God has for us, to  love your neighbor as yourself. With the same care and affection I offer myself during times of hurt or discomfort, I must do the same for my brother or sister. With the same attention to detail I pay when finding my own spiritual counsel or nutrient, I must offer to someone seeking the same.

I never imagined it would be easy, but I never imagined the speed with which God would move. I guess my spoiled mind thought he’d move when I felt ready. I know that I know that I know that God moves on his time, and His ways are not my ways. But intrinsically, somewhere deep, I had forgotten this, and was blown over by the amount of confirmation and conviction that came my way.

With heaving heart, I have slowly come to expect the divine appointments and fellowship that a week ago were slim to none. Risking sounding cliché, I am really being violently pulled by God from my comfort zone. The proverbial zone had started to fester, really, from so much laziness and lack of movement in that area of my life. This sudden change comes at an appropriate time, at the beginning of a new decade. If you are going through a similar shift in your spiritual life, I encourage you to do so with an open and willing heart, and a spirit of readiness and servitude. No one said it would be a simple task. If it were, it wouldn’t be worth it.

Welcome, Beloved

December 29, 2009

We love because God first loved us.

I’ve been sitting on this idea for quite some time, never finding anything worthy to write about that would unite people onto one place to share, discuss, and get fed from. Fashion’s been done, secrets have been done, food has been done, traveling has been done. But what is done every single day without any sort of discussion? What is looked over, surprisingly enough, as not “media-worthy?”

The one thing that unites us all is the one thing that is rarely noticed.

Look back to the Columbine shootings. It became class assignments to write letters to the students of that school, commending their bravery and offering words of encouragement, and we were glad to do it.

9/11 brings back images of makeshift memorials lining the streets of New York, candlelight vigils being held in states across the country, groups of strangers embracing one another, providing for their immediate need.

Virginia Tech reminded everyone of the Columbine tragedy, and once again we were all united in grief.

Nothing unites like sorrow, right?

Or is it something more?

Is what touches our hearts the pain people are going through, or how people have come together to endure that pain as one unit? Is it the number of lives lost, or the number of people coming together to console and support, both emotionally and financially, the families of these people?

The common denominator in all of us is not that we are all capable of evil, but rather that we are all capable of kindness; of unconditional, selfless love, with no agenda, seeking nothing. From picking up a fallen trashcan to picking up the grocery tab for a family in need, there is love being spread across the pavements of this world. Because this kindness is non-seeking, this blog isn’t meant to glorify the people who have chosen to love. It is meant to encourage those who are unsure how to do it, who’ve at one point received a kind word, action, though, prayer, and know the impact it’s had in their lives. If this is what you seek, then you’ve come to the right place. So, I ask of you: Beloved, Be Love.