A Call to Action

It usually seems appropriate to start a blog post with some kind of witty anecdote or deep, meaningful quotation. But no amount of wit or mask of implied depth would be an appropriate introduction to the topic of slavery.

It has been fairly easy up until the past few months to a year to believe the false assumption that slavery in the United States died with the thirteenth amendment. I mean, we all learn about the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and the abolition of slavery.

If you're like me, whenever you heard the word "slavery" you immediately conjured up mental images of ships full of African natives, reminiscent of scenes from Amistad. And yes, those scenes did happen. There were hundreds of thousands of innocent people ripped away from their homes and families and sold to the highest bidders, only to find themselves in a strange land with strange people, strange language and strange customs. Not to mention the horrible ways they were treated, being beaten, raped, and even killed for not pleasing their masters.

But slavery runs so much deeper than merely being an issue of black and white. And despite the best efforts of our forefathers, slavery is still very much alive today, in America and around the world.

I knew this, of course, in a vague, distant sort of way. The sort of way that doesn't really touch me if I don't look at it.

How many people have suffered because I turned away?

God sent me an eye-opener this week in the form of a film called Trade of Innocents. The university I attended for my freshman and sophomore years hosted an event on Monday night in which they held an exclusive screening of the film as well as a question & answer time with the screenwriter/director Christopher Bessette afterward. Not to mention the fact that they had tables set up in the lobby for their social justice department and several organizations that fight human trafficking here in Tennessee, including End Slavery Tennessee and Abolition International. I scooped up several pamphlets, information sheets, and even purchased a bracelet from To Be Free, an extension of Abolition International that sets up and supports after-care for women and girls who have been rescued from sex slavery.

And this was all before I saw the film.

I found my movie buddy and we sat down on the bleachers in the campus church's gym. After some brief introductions of students who worked on marketing the film, the movie started.

Aesthetically the film was beautifully made. The scenery is lush, the music is lovely, the actors are phenomenal.

But beyond that, it tells the heart-wrenching story of girls - some as young as five - who are stolen from their homes and off the streets of Cambodia and sold as sex slaves to "sex tourists." I cried for probably half of the movie.

At the end of the credits, the director of the university's social justice department introduced Christopher Bessette, the film's screenwriter and executive director. He answered questions as to his motives behind the film, why he did certain things creatively, and resources for more information on human trafficking today.

One of the things that struck me most was his description of the moment he knew he had to make this film. He said he had gone to Cambodia and visited a former-brothel-now-safe-house and stood in what used to be called "The Virgin Room," looking down through a barred window at children playing in the street below. He thought, "Sometime, not too long ago, a little girl might have stood at this very window, looking down at children playing, and thinking to herself, 'Why can't I be down there too?'" And he said he got chills and breathed the prayer, "Oh, God, help me tell her story."

That is what he did with this film.

And the only way we can hope to abolish human trafficking - slavery of any kind - whether it is sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or something else, is by telling the victims' stories. There are so many people in the world right now who are like I was a year ago - untouched by this issue because they fear to get a good enough glimpse at it.

But we can't afford to turn away any longer.

According to End Slavery Tennessee:

*Every minute, two children are trafficked (worldwide).

*There are currently around 27 million slaves in the world. Of those, half are minors and 80% are female.

*The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is between 12 and 14 years old.

*One-third of runaways will be sexually exploited within 48 hours of leaving home; 90% will end up in commercial sex trade.

These children are in our neighborhoods, on our doorstep, in our back yards. You don't have to go to Cambodia to find human trafficking. It's happening right here, right now. When will we stop looking away and finally do something?

God lit the fire under me this week, and the wheels have been turning as I've been trying to discover how I can best use the gifts and talents God has given me to help put a stop to this horrific monster we call slavery and human trafficking. I have some ideas.

What about you? What will you do? Will you look into the eyes of the Innocents and reach out your hand to help?

Or will you turn away?

False Comforts

I was going to try to write a whole post on various cliches we Christians like to throw about in times of trouble, things we like to say to offer comfort and hope to people when we can't figure out what really needs to be said, if anything.

But I'm going to just focus on one. It usually goes something like this:

"Wow, that's amazing that (so-and-so) survived (such-and-such)! God must really have a special plan for that person!"

I'm sure you've come across this at some point in your life (whether you were the one speaking it or receiving it.) But today, I want to just break this down for you, piece by piece. Let's look at what this is actually saying.

First, I'll give you the context behind this post. Somebody on facebook had posted something about a little girl who had survived the Sandy Hook shooting by playing dead. As I was scrolling down through the comments, the following two struck me:

"That child has purpose, a calling on her life."

"How sad is that, but God had a plan for that little girl!"

At first, these seem like deep, powerful statements that pay tribute to God's saving grace. But if we look at them more closely, really analyze what they are saying, we can see that they are actually saying that mankind has no free will and that God plays our lives like a giant chess game.

So, let us talk about what these are ACTUALLY saying. 

To say that a lone survivor of this horrible tragedy "has purpose," a "calling on her life," and that "God had a plan" for her, is inadvertently saying that those who did not survive did not have a calling on their lives, or that they were somehow not part of God's plan. This kind of statement basically tells the families of the other survivors, "Your family member wasn't important enough to God for Him to save."

This is a TERRIBLE thing to say. Mainly because it is absolutely not true.

God's "plans" for humans have never included death. In the beginning, when the world was perfect, the way God intended it, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He was present, here, with his creation. That's how it was supposed to always be. And before the Fall (before sin entered the world), THERE WAS NO DEATH. Why would there be no death? Well, if we were all perfect, then there was no reason to die. Death came about as a result of human decision to defy God. In essence, we brought death upon ourselves. (Well, Adam and Eve did. I mean, I certainly wasn't around six or seven or however many thousand years ago. Maybe you were. But anyway. I digress.) That first act of human decision had two very distinct results: 

     1. We could no longer live forever. I mean, we were messed up.
     2. We now had the ability to always choose between right and wrong and understand our decisions.

This whole "free will" thing that Christians talk about all the time--it doesn't just affect the person making the decision. It affects other people as well. Possibly many people. There's that whole domino-effect idea, where one decision will turn into another and another and another. Or, you know, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, if you will. But with fewer movies and more real-life events.

So, a decision you make today, as inconsequential as it may seem, may affect some person you have never met--and may never meet--two years from now.

The whole point of that discussion is this: To say that God's plan was to save one person would mean that His plan was also that 26 other people would die. And not only that, but that His plan was for Adam Lanza to go into that school with guns and open fire on innocent little children. 

Let me make this clear: God did not want Adam Lanza to shoot anyone. Ever. God does not want bad things to happen. Ever. He does not sit at some judge's bench in the sky with a giant gavel commanding one person to die because someone else needs to learn a lesson, or deciding that some person has had a full enough life and so it's "their time to go."

God is the father standing next to the closed coffin, weeping with his fists clenched on the cold, hard wood, weeping because he doesn't understand why this happened to his child, why this happened to anyone's child. Weeping because he doesn't understand how someone can make the decision to take guns into a school and kill children, for God's sake.

God is the mother standing outside the school watching her blood-covered daughter run to her and thinking, "My God, she's alive! My baby is alive!" And then feeling a pain in her heart that will never quite leave her, because she has friends standing there with her who will never see their babies again.

God is the pastor, the friend, the counselor, trying to bring comfort and peace to those grieving their losses, holding them and weeping with them quietly, because there is nothing to say, nothing that can ever really answer the questions. 

But God is NOT the person on a message board, or in the church, or at work, saying that there must be a purpose for that lone survivor's life. 

Because the thing is, there is a purpose for every life.

Those twenty children, the six adults, and yes, even Adam Lanza--all of them had a purpose for their lives, whether that purpose had yet been realized or not. All of them were precious in God's eyes. Every single one of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

So please don't go around talking about God's plan for this one and His purpose for that one, unless you are going to also talk about the beautiful, purposeful, important lives that were sadly cut short. Not by God's will. But by the decision of a human being. 

If you can't think before you speak, then just stay silent. It's okay to not have answers. And it's okay to not know what to say. I promise. 



Jumping In


Today, our good friend Nate Pruitt preached the sermon at our church. He read from John 21, about Peter jumping from the boat and swimming to Jesus, because he was so excited to be with his Lord that the boat wasn't fast enough for him to get there.

               Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize
               that it was Jesus.
               He called out to them,“Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
              “No,” they answered.
               He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find
               some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the
               large number of fish.
               Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as
               Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment
               around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other
               disciples followed in the boat, towing the net
               full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.
                                                                           (John 21:4-8)


I want to jump in the water, wholeheartedly and excitedly, with no concern for who's watching, and swim to my Lord.

But first, I need to become small and weak enough that I can't hold myself back when the Spirit moves me.

See, there was this moment during the sermon when, on hearing about Peter's enthusiasm for returning to Jesus' side, my body wanted to leap up and run into the next room and kneel down and pray. I could feel the excitement in me swell, that wholehearted, unabashed desire to be next to Jesus.

But apparently, I'm a little too strong for my own good.

Because instead of leaping up and running to His side, I sat in my chair.

Yep. I just sat there.

I could feel my blood pulsing through my veins with that adrenaline rush. But I contained myself. I gave no indication of what I was feeling. I controlled my body, rationalized away the impulse.

Somehow, I don't think this is the kind of "self-control" that Paul talks about as being good (Galatians 5:22-23).

Why do we do this to ourselves? I say we, because I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one. I think that it's part of our fallen nature, the self-preservation that we feel. Because we all at some point struggle with what other people think.

I struggled with it immensely growing up. I was always worrying about what other people would think of me - my friends, peers, teachers, leaders - even my own family. I remember having many a stunted worship experience because I was afraid to raise my hands or clap or shout for joy because I was afraid of what my family would think.

Family!

And these are people who should share the journey with us, be joyful when we are joyful, grieve when we grieve.

Like the other members of my church.

Like the disciples with Peter.

Peter didn't care what they thought when he jumped in the water. They weren't like, "Dude. We're like a hundred yards from shore. You could totally just stay dry and wait a minute. We'll be there in like two seconds."

Nope. They just brought the boat in, following Peter.

But by the time they got the boat anchored and got their dry selves off the boat and onto shore, Peter had already been with Jesus.

Even though it was probably only an extra minute or two, Peter had that extra time with Jesus. Just being with Him. Even if Peter spent it catching his breath, he was breathing with Jesus.

I want to be so excited about Jesus that I will go to any lengths - even if I have to look ridiculous doing it - just so I can breathe with Jesus for a few moments before the rest of the crowd catches up.

God, please make me weak enough to run after You before I think about what I'm doing.

Holy, Holy, Holy

I was in the car yesterday on my way home from grocery shopping by myself. This is a rare occurrence, people. The only reason I was by myself was because earlier in the day, I had been at Publix and Megan lost one of her shoes, which I only realized as we were getting in the car to go pick up my husband. So I quickly asked a manager if she could keep an eye out for it and I'd be back later to pick it up. So, after calling later to make sure they had it, I returned to Publix to get said shoe, and to finish grocery shopping, since part of the reason we'd left was because Caleb was super sleepy.

Anyway.

On my way home, Phillips, Craig and Dean's "Revelation Song" came on the radio. Now, I typically actually criticize a lot of Christian music, because I feel that a lot of it - at least "mainstream" stuff that's heard on the radio - has become dry, redundant, and predictable. But there is something about this song that just gets me. Until yesterday, I couldn't explain what it was, though I'd tried.

At first, I thought maybe it was something about the chord progression, the instrumentation, the harmonies - all of which are amazing.

But no.

Yesterday, I realized it is because of the lyrics.

Worthy is the / Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy is He
Sing a new song / to Him who sits on 
Heaven's mercy seat (x2)

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything,
And I will adore You.

What struck me as I listened and sang along yesterday (and progressively couldn't sing for crying in utter awe) was that these lyrics are timeless. They are both ancient and future. And they are made for the King of Kings and for Him alone.

In Isaiah 6, the prophet describes a heavenly encounter in which he gets the chance to see God, the Almighty. He says:

I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty; 
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.


And then, later - much much later - John describes the exact same scene in Revelation 4:


Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

It struck me that I was singing the same song that people and heavenly beings have been singing for thousands of years - since before the beginning of time. It filled me with utter joy and awe to be privileged enough - even if for a few moments - to join with the heavenly host in worshiping God Almighty in the same song. And I felt for a tiny bit like I was really a part of the whole hosts of saints throughout history, singing my awe and worship and honor to Jesus.

And I really think that this song will never cease to have that effect on me.


A bit of a rambler

So I took Megan to Genna's grave again today. It was only the third time ever. I sometimes wonder if I'm doing her a service or a detriment by trying to explain to her about her sister who died before she got a chance to live. Although Megan is pretty quick on the uptake with a lot of things, I sometimes don't know how much her two-and-a-half-year-old brain really understands. Today she was more interested in looking at the flowers. But when I burst into tears, she gently asked me if I was sad. Yes, I told her. I am sad. But I couldn't explain to her the depth of what I was feeling as I stood in almost the same spot I was sitting in a little more than four years ago as my first daughter's tiny casket was lowered into the ground.
I remember my husband asking me if I wanted to leave before they covered the casket with earth. But I said no, I need this closure. And so I watched as shovel-full by shovel-full dirt was tossed onto the casket. I needed to see it, needed to hear the thunk of dirt and stones cascading over the tiny box, sealing my daughter's body in the earth. I needed it because I felt that maybe then I would stop hoping that it was a mistake, that suddenly she'd start breathing again and we could rush her back to the hospital and the ventilators would work. I needed to experience the burial.
And now that dirt, that earth, is covered with a soft layer of grass. And there are other babies in the plots surrounding Genna, and I mourn for them as well. Some have only one date on their marker, some lived for just over a year, and I lose my breath as I think what it would be like if I suddenly lost my nine-month-old son, or my bright-eyed, curious, handful of a daughter. What then?

But I can't think like that. I have them here, now, with me. And I have now to love them, lead them, experience life with them. Because in all honesty, I don't know how long I have with them. And whatever amount of time I have, I want it to be beautiful. And just...full.

Pieces


I don't really know who I am anymore. My life now is so different than it was three, four, five years ago, I almost don't recognize myself. It's like I've been broken, or lost. And I have been both of those things. And it's taking a long, long time to find myself again.

When I'm lucky enough to get a shower, it's usually so rushed that I barely get my clothes on (usually frumpy pj's or their equivalent), let alone getting my hair brushed. Which means that it ends up a knotted mass stuffed into a ponytail of sorts. Usually it stays that way for several days before I even get a chance to do my hair, and by then I have to dig out the ponytail holder from my matted mass of hair, slowly and painstakingly pulling single strands of hair from the dreaded knots as I go.

My house is a mess. I feel like I am constantly at war with it, trying to keep the floor clean. And forget about dishes! Any attempt at having the cupboards full is quickly foiled by the cries of my fussy children who are either having a meltdown or ready for a nap.

With the little bit of brain I find at the end of the day, the only functions it's good for are checking facebook and reading short, meaningless clips of writing. I used to read voraciously. I would devour books by Lewis and Tolkein. I wanted to study everything having anything to do with the Middle Ages and Renaissance. I even wanted to dress like a medieval fairy. For every day things.

I was fanciful, whimsical. Positive. I saw the good in people more than the bad. I enjoyed sitting by brooks and listening to the water fall over the stones. And I made time to do it.

Now, I am harried, forgetful, probably inconsiderate at times, but that's due mostly to being forgetful. I can't remember if I already told you a story. I'm often frustrated, negative. Sometimes so worn out I look around at the mess and just don't care, because I know it will just look like this again tomorrow if I clean it now.

Every once in a while, though, in the midst of the chaos of my life, I perceive a glimpse of God. It's like entering an abandoned house cluttered with old, dusty things, and as you take a step, your eyes are pierced by the blinding brightness of some glimmering object. Suddenly the wreck of a house takes on new meaning with the knowledge that there may be something deeper to the mess around you - somewhere in here is a story waiting to be excavated.

I know that there are stories waiting in the dark places of my chaos and clutter. I find pieces here and there, and as I find them - as God reveals them - I store them away in some file drawer in my brain. Eventually - perhaps not until the other side of life - my story will be excavated, and the Archaeologist will piece together this broken mess, carefully and painstakingly gluing together each shining, reflective piece of glass, until my story stands again, whole, complete.

I may not see how all my pieces come together. But I know that even the little things - these moments I'm living in, now, these broken, messy, chaotic moments - are part of something bigger than myself. I may not be able to make sense of them now. But one day, perhaps, I will look back on this time, and see a glimmering piece of something, reflecting a blinding Light into my eyes, and I will stop, and bend down, and pick up the piece.

And I will smile.



The Immensity of God

Lately, I've just been really feeling the fact that we have no clue as to the immensity of God. I think in the modern church, we've gotten comfortable with the idea that we understand God - I mean, He took human form in Jesus, so, everything that Jesus is/was, is all that God is, because it's what we could see. But I think that God only made part of Himself understandable, relatable, and that's the part that became Jesus.

But God is so much bigger, even bigger than Jesus.

And I think that's where the church gets stuck.

Because we tend to see Jesus as the end product of our search: if you have Jesus, you have everything you need.

But if we look closely, Jesus himself told us otherwise.

He is our conduit to the Father God: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)

God is greater than Jesus: "...If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." (John 14:28b)

The whole point of Jesus coming was to reunite us with God. The Israelites had a terrible history of coming to God, worshiping Him wholeheartedly, and then turning away to idols. God LOVED them so much - loved all of humankind so much - that He decided the only way He could be close to us, the way He really desired, was if He sacrificed Himself. And so He placed a part of Himself into the person of Jesus and did just that - God sacrificed Himself to be with us.

Jesus said He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). He became the fulfillment of all the laws of cleanliness, sacrifice, and offerings that we could never live up to - all the laws that God established because He is holy and we fell from His presence - so that we could easily be reconnected with God Himself. That was why Jesus came - to tear down the walls that we humans had put up between ourselves and God - because GOD wanted to be with us.

Is Jesus important, then?

Absolutely.

Without Him, we would not be able to connect with God.

But let us not miss the point of His coming. We have turned Jesus into the only God - almost all of our focus ends up on Him.

But He came to be our connecting point to God, who Jesus Himself claims is so much greater than He is.

I think that, by boxing God into the person of Jesus - essentially limiting God's immensity to what we know of the person of Jesus - we are limiting our relationship with God, and we are missing out on a whole lot of awesomeness.

Even in the Old Testament, David and others cried out to know God, longing for Him, for His presence ("As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God." Psalm 42:1). At that time, they didn't have the law automatically fulfilled for them. There was a process to go through to be able to connect with God, and the average person couldn't do it directly, but had to go through a priest.

Jesus came so that we no longer have to jump through hoops to get to God. He came because God is, and was, and always has been, our ultimate goal.

Stuck Inside

I want to wander barefoot through fields of tall grass under the sunshine, close my eyes, smiling into the wind, and feel God.

I want to sit near a brook, dip my toes in the cool, slowly meandering flow, feel minnows nipping, and feel God.

I want to walk a dusty path through a dappled forest, noting the differences in temperature between sunlight and shade, smelling the fragrance of the green, living foliage, and feel God.

I'm tired of being indoors. We have sectioned ourselves off from the world.

I sit here at a desk in front of a brightly lit computer screen, longing for something so much more than what technology (as much as I love - or rather, am addicted - to it) can offer, beyond what modern transportation, and houses and buildings and even church facilities hold.

Why have we closed ourselves off? God created this beautiful, amazing sanctuary for us to live in, to worship in, to work in. It's called Outside, Nature, The Great Outdoors...whatever you want to call it. His handiwork is everywhere - completely obvious, right there in the open. And we've shut ourselves off to it.

If it starts to rain, we run inside, fearing getting too wet. What if we just stood there, letting the drops fall, feeling the prickle of the rain on our skin, the coolness, letting ourselves be saturation, feeling our heart beat with the rolls of thunder? What then? Perhaps we would find that Nature isn't so big and mean and scary after all. Perhaps we would find that God is standing there with us, waiting to see the smiles of enjoyment on our faces. Maybe He wants to see us splash around in the puddles like children, not fearing the rain, but taking sheer pleasure in it.

I realized recently that, somewhere along the line since I moved away from Pennsylvania - where I lived in a small town surrounded by farmland - I began to fear bugs. I used to be able to walk through a swarm of gnats and not flinch, or have a fly land on my arm and not immediately shake it off. I used to sit and watch ants marching to and fro, carrying amazing loads on their backs to their homes. I used to be fascinated by the most minuscule details of nature.

What has happened?

I became an adult.

I've lost my childlike faith, that innocence that believes that I can just reach up and God's hand will be there, that He will walk beside me as I skip along, happy to just be in His presence.

I can't feel that when I am inside. Inside structures created by men, I feel as though I am drowning.

It's difficult to hear - the sound of God's voice gets drowned out by all the distractions with which we surround ourselves.

It's difficult to see - our views of nature are blocked and obstructed by the walls we've built to protect ourselves from it.

It's difficult to feel - we live in climate controlled houses, where we can dictate what temperature it is. We miss feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin, the chill of a crisp autumn breeze, or the frigid bite of a snow-filled wind.

And most importantly, it's difficult to live - we are stuck inside these white-walled prison cells, cut off from the beautiful, vivid life of nature. We don't breathe real air but manufactured, processed, chemicalized air. We don't see by natural light, but by the magic of electricity.

If we have so separated ourselves from Nature - the very evidence of God's existence ("For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20), how then can we expect to know Him, to fully feel His presence?


I need to get outside.

Weeds and Flowers

I'm having one of those days.

Yep.

The kind where something from your past - even the tiniest little thing - lodges into your brain like a minute splinter, burrowing deeper, infecting your thoughts. And therefore affecting everything you do that day. I'm so much more internal today, I feel like I'm not as good a mom today - I've yelled at my daughter for stuff that probably didn't need yelling. I've gotten frustrated more easily. I've cried. I've been angry. A lot. 

And I've prayed. A little.

Thing is, I hate hate HATE these recurring issues we sometimes face. They're really annoying and irritating and they make us question God as to why we have to go through them. Sure, there's a lesson to be learned somewhere. Sure, there's the whole idea that out of our brokenness God makes beauty. 

But it still hurts. And it still affects life now. And it really stinks when you're trying to make the right decisions, take thoughts captive, what have you, and these things come along and just throw you off the track. 

And the thing is, the vast majority of me really wants God to uproot the weeds that have grown up in the garden of my mind. And I know that that process can and will hurt - that it might tear up some of the good crop too. But I also know that it's necessary.

But then there's still this little part of me clinging to the weeds - trying desperately to call them flowers, trying to make the vast majority of me believe that the weeds are healthy, are good for me, maybe even better for me than the flowers.

This is the thing that I am dealing with today. Trying to get out of the tiny mindset that my bad is really good, and get back on track to where I can smell the beautiful fragrance of the flowers and appreciate the goodness that God has blessed me with.

Yeah.

Brutal, beautiful Love

I visited a friend's church tonight. This was my second visit, and my husband's first. The worship was awesome. God's presence was definitely there. But the pastor said some things that were just deep, and really got me thinking about stuff. (Warning: my thoughts sort of go all over the place, and don't necessarily lead neatly from one to the next.)

He was talking about how God's love is brutal. One of the illustrations he gave (not sure if he came up with it on the spot or not) was that, if the Holy Spirit were a bear and wanted to eat you, He would have to tear you limb from limb in order to do so. If we want to be consumed by the Spirit, by God, we must be broken. It is a painful process, the whole dying to yourself and dying to the world thing. But it is necessary, and it's really beautiful, even though it is brutal.

Myself - I've had a hard heart lately. The past couple of years, since the death of my first daughter, Genna, have taken me through an emotional - and spiritual - roller coaster. I'd thought that I was on this awesome track, growing ever closer to God, when in reality, I had begun shutting myself off from Him. I've described it to several friends as feeling stuck inside a marble statue, being able to see what's going on, but not being able to actually do  anything.

During the sermon tonight, I was thinking again on this image I'd had in my head, of being stuck inside a statue. But then the image changed, and I saw a baby chick struggling desperately to get out of its shell. This struggle is so hard, it takes all the chick's strength and energy - and honestly, all the chick's will, also. But after the long, desperate struggle is over, the shell is broken, and the chick is able to emerge into a new world, and is able to grow.

And I believe that I have begun to struggle against my shell. I'm really ready. I'm done incubating. I need to bust outta here, see new sights, grow some feathers, and eventually, learn to fly. But I won't be able to do that if I stay in my shell. If I stay in my shell, I will die. I'll outgrow the space, I won't be able to breathe, and I won't have a food source. In order to live - truly live - I must hatch.

And so, that is what I am doing.

Expect to see me leaping from branches flapping my wings in a few months.