Until the Next Turn

This is my life, for now.

Round and round I go, treading the worn prison floor in the stifling heat and in my own incessant darkness. No use trying to break the bonds that now hold me—I know because I tried. The fetters that in the old life I would have easily gotten rid of are now impossible to break. And even if I could—where would I go? How would I make my way out of this prison, guarded and blinded as I am?

No. Better now to continue going round and round and grind at the mill. I can still hear, and I hear there is something in the air, some great event, and I am involved in their schemes. So for now, I will wait.

I will wait for the next turn of life. It will come quickly and unexpectedly, just as it came when I was undefeated and caught up in the bliss and the fever of love (or so I thought, dolt that I was)—just as my strength, my eyes, and my dignity were taken from me in a quick turn, so will this come to an end.

It’s not a blind hope. I believe it because I know one defeat does not mean the end. I believe it because in the depths of my despair, in the abject humiliation and the shame of my situation, I remembered the God of my parents—the God I serve. I remembered how he will use even a broken instrument for his purpose the way one could use an old donkey jaw to strike down a thousand men, and he’s not through with me. So I wait for him.

Hark! I hear someone coming. They’re coming for me.

* * *

The crowds roar when I appear in front of them. There must be thousands here at the temple of Dagon, and they’ve all come because of me. To complete their victory and my own degradation they have me entertain them. No need to do much—they are content to see me naked, shackled, filthy, blinded, and helpless without a guiding hand.

At last I rest between the pillars which support the building. The cacophony of their shouts and calls, their jeers, the dozens of trumpets, flutes, drums and cymbals, the sound of all the madness and debauchery, and the stamping of dancing feet make the ground shake under my bare feet.

My turn is coming.

So while they jeer, curse, shout, and taunt me, I pray one last time to the God who watches over me.

O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once….

It should have been different, it should not have ended this way. I had been set apart since birth, a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. I should have had a long life and many children. If only… if only… and yet I am not allowed to fall into despair. My prayer is heard, my strength is returned to me. My turn has come at last—my last chance for redemption.

So let me fulfill my destiny—even if it means that I will perish with the foe. Let me die with these thousands, and accomplish more through death than I ever did while living.

If You Only Knew

I lay on my back on the linoleum floor, unblinking and unfixed eyes staring up at the stained white ceiling of my bathroom.

The house was silent.

Minutes—or hours—later, I came to myself again, feeling that overwhelming feeling of nausea and guilt that always overtook me back when I was an addict and the buzz inevitably ended…

God, I did it again… I can’t believe I did it again…

I believed I’d gone far too deep for remedy; I no longer even cried. There was only an immense disappointment. I hadn’t even lasted a whole month before relapsing…and I had tried so hard…

I cleaned up the mess as best as I could and jumped in the shower, trying not to wince was the scalding-hot stream punished my body. Then gasping as I finished it up with a blast of cold water.

Smelling clean and feeling fresh, I brushed my teeth and combed my slick, long, black hair. I put on clean clothes—a tee-shirt, shorts. My glasses.

By the time my mother came home and the slanting rays of the summer afternoon filtered through the tree in the front yard, I was already clean, sober, and sleeping. I was the typical 17-year old loafing around at home during the summer.

And no one who knew it. Not even the one person that knew me best, suspected what my mother and father could never guess at…

That I wanted to die and end my sorry, good-for-nothing, disgusting, worthless, life.

* * *

When I was nine years old it began: the self-hate. Early in my sophomore year I’d talked to the school shrink, and she’d explained it all without much success. What I did know was that it had its roots in my childhood, and that it was somehow all tied up with an unabated appetite.

Mara, my mother, had seen the early signs when I was nine; children are so transparent. Furthermore,  it takes time and practice to be able to hide things from your mother and to lie successfully to your family. At nine I could not explain away the stray slip of paper and the black writing it contained. She gave me a good and long talking to, and that was the end of it.

But not for me.


part 1 of If You Only Knew

– – –

~ 300 words for Wednesday’s Word Count. Don’t really know where this story will lead…


Last week was the last in a month-long series of sermons at my church dealing with the issue of renewal.

We used the analogy of when your computer stops working and it crashes. Nothing you do can make it alright again. The only solution left is to reboot. This is what we need to do in life too.

1. Don’t despair when your life unravels and gets out of control. Because this needs to happen first before you can become the instrument of God. The only people God can use are broken people.

2. There is a beautiful analogy in the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). When, after his resurrection, Jesus met two disciples and walked with them on their way to Emmaus. He was invited for supper, took the bread, blessed it (gave thanks for it), broke it, and gave it to them. This is a metaphor for whAt Jesus does to us.

  • Jesus takes you
  • Blesses you — Do you remember when you first converted and accepted Jesus that great, happy time when you felt so connected to Him? Do you remember how you felt so joyful to be alive, and all around you saw evidences of his love and care for you? Maybe you began writing a blog, or composed happy music to share with others what Jesus has done for you? Yes. That is the blessing stage.
  • Breaks you — Your happy life begins to unravel. God reveals his glory to you and you see how you really are. Sinful, weak, inept. You’ve always been broken, it’s only now that you realize it. You lose your self-sufficiency.
  • Gives you a calling to serve others — Peter’s calling and Isaiah’s calling are just a few examples of this truth. Both were called to serve immediately they recognized how human they were.

3. God uses our messes to reach other people. He uses those things in the past that we had no control over, and those things we willingly walked into, to reach other people. Our scars and old wounds become channels for his grace to touch people whose lives we would not have been able to touch if we had been pristine. Satan’s plans are frustrated because he can’t knock you down.

4. Never forget that it is when you are weak that you are strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

God’s grace is enough; it’s all you need.
His strength comes into its own in your weakness.

– – –

Notes from Sermon by Pastor Ritchie Pruehs (1/25/14)

Video by Yours Truly 🙂

Beside the Master

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)

I can feel it. There are words that cannot be said, but it is in everyone’s minds as we sit here by the lake with our Master.

Outwardly everything looks the same. Last time we even went fishing together. And now that the Lord has appeared to us we are sitting here like before. We eat and hold on to his every word as he speaks to us words of comfort and wisdom—words from God’s own mouth.

But it’s no use. Something has changed, at least with respect to me. For days past I’ve noticed the unexpressed thought that they all have. The doubt. The distance.

There he goes again. I’ve just caught James looking at me. He looks away whenever I catch him, but eventually he glances at me, looks me over, and then looks at the Master by whose side I sit. I know what he is thinking—I am unworthy to be counted among them. I’ve forfeited my right to sit by the Master’s side and break bread together like before. I’ve cut myself off from the intimate fellowship I was once part of.

You see, I denied the Master. I who said I would die for him and with him if necessary invoked curses and oaths a few hours later and denied my beloved Master. Praise God He is alive . . . but things aren’t the same. Nothing can ever be the same. The other ten distrust me. I am no better than Judas who betrayed him.

And then the Master suddenly changes the direction of the conversation. Right in front of them he turns to me and asks.

Do you love me—more than these?

The others sit still. When was the last time I flushed with embarrassment? When was the last time I was at a loss for words? I’ve never experienced this before. I dare no longer express so violent and boastful an affection.

He asks me this three times. At last, my heart shatters when I see the significance of the number—for the number of times I denied him. Can it be too late? Too late to make my Master and my Lord believe that I love him?

And yet . . . I have nothing to offer but the humble love of one who no longer dares to boast and strut around in self assurance. I have nothing to make him believe the depth of my affection, my gratitude, and unshaken belief that he is, indeed, the son of God.

That old bloke is gone, my Lord, and in its stead is just me, Simon whom you called Peter, looking beyond myself to become the man you wanted me to become. And I’m so desperately hoping you will believe me. You know everything.

And that is enough. You take me back, and by your grace I am restored into close communion with you and my fellow brothers, my new family. Yes, I failed. Not once, but many times. But you, oh Lord, make all things new.

Restored to you, called once more to your service, and entrusted with a mission.

Yes, Lord. I will follow you. Use me to feed your lambs and tend to your sheep.

Beside the Well

“Then the woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village . . .” John 4:28

 * * *

 People call me opportunistic. Immoral. Shameless.

I know words can’t hurt me. They shouldn’t. But they still do. I can’t stand their hard looks, their scathing words.

I especially avoid the women. They are vicious. I still remember their gossip by the well. As we filled our jars early in the morning by our father Jacob’s well. This was before my first husband. I was young, and I would stupidly titter at what they said, never imagining that one day those same women would tear me to shreds.

They accuse me of horrible things—but it wasn’t just my fault. And…I’m not that bad, am I? Very well. I am. I know it. But it’s too late to do anything about it.

I can live quite well; if not happy, then content, I suppose.

I don’t need to suffer my neighbors. It’s come to a point that they leave me alone. I don’t exist except as an outsider. The women will simply cross the street in order to avoid walking by me or going past me. “Respectable” men won’t look at me. The others leer and look at me suggestively. I ignore them.

When the sun is high, most people retire indoors. That is when I venture outside. Happily, no one goes to the well at noon.

Wrong. There is someone sitting beside the well. A man. Must be a traveler. I press toward the well anyway, and proceed to fill my jug of water. I pretend to be absorbed in my task while I study him out of the corner of my eye.

He is not from these parts. He is a Jew. No matter. Custom ensures that he will not bother me. Jews consider themselves too important to look or even speak to a Samaritan—let alone a Samaritan woman.

And yet I feel his gaze upon me.

What is he looking at? Is it so plain to see? Is my past branded in my face? It is insufferable. I complete my task and am about to raise my jug go my shoulder when he breaks the silence, asking me for a drink of water.

 * * *

 And so began the conversation that changed my life. I completely forgot about customs, I completely forgot about my water jug, and engaged in open conversation with a complete stranger. When he said he had water better than Jacob’s well, my first impulse was that of incredulity—this travel-stained stranger higher than my ancestors? But when he explained the nature of what he offered, I wanted to receive it. I wanted that water. I wanted to quench my thirst and never, ever be thirsty again. I wanted to never again feel the shame I daily felt whenever I set foot out of the house. I wanted . . . .

There’s so many old stories in our tradition. As a child I grew listening to them in great rapture. I never tired of hearing about Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Rachel. Their love stories began at beside the well. The meeting at that place marked a change—a new beginning.

For the first time I felt that I could reach out in hope and not be disillusioned, not be hurt. That there was something of meaning even for me– and I did not need to look to men (other than this messenger from God) to find it in my life!

I wanted everyone to know about it.

I had met the Messiah.