Your Feet

You came into this thirsty land and trod upon the sun-baked earth. In your wake you left–not dust, but healing; joy, gladness, song, and hope. God on the move, constantly seeking the one who strayed, running to meet me while I was still far away. You go forward when others turn back.

So tell me: where can I go, that you will not dare go find me? How far is too far for your feet to tread in this crazy–yes, crazy–pursuit of my soul?

I do not know the answer to it. Only this I have found, only until we nailed your feet on that cross you never ceased walking and moving on behalf of the sinner. ‘Til you were pierced for me your feet never stumbled or turned away from me. Yet though you hung bleeding and dying for me, your purpose was still accomplished. and you won back my soul.

*  *  *

I’m so tired of waiting for love to come reach me. I’ve grown weary of seeing life simply pass by. So I’m making some changes and I’ll follow your lead knowing that if I step where you step my footing is surer and my way is made smoother. So teach me to run–not to walk–and meet life with arms open. To dance and to leap and to skip if I want to. To boldly go forward and seek those in need even if it means going against a rushing current. To be on the move; stride with purpose to meet you. And for once not to run–but to fly to your arms.

Yes. Toward the light.

God's name is in the very breath you take

Your Name

Ancient rabbis believed that the letters [that made up God’s name] were kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod, Heh, Vah, He. –Rob Bell, Breathe

In the morning, still drowsy from all that gentle dreaming, I wake up and sigh your name as I stir under my warm covers and rise to greet the day.

Yahweh.

Your name–so overwhelmingly holy and mysterious that it’s become  unutterable–becomes something that is alive and full of meaning when I breathe and think of you. Did you know, Father, that thinking of you first thing in the morning is beginning to come as naturally as breathing? Is it you who is making it so that praying to you is starting to become second nature?

I am breathing, and with it I am saying your name. I am conscious enough to know that life is a miracle, and I am reminded to worship you. My worship rises up in the form of a prayer; an act as simple as thinking, and as necessary as breathing. I squint my eyes and smile when the sun hits my face.

Another beautiful day.

Father, may every word that comes from my mouth today be true to the nature of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me. Because if it is true that that your name is in every breath I take… It would be akin to blasphemy to waste it in speaking idle, hurtful, or profane words. 

And it is when I think this, that the flowing river of worshipful prayer suddenly stops…

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. -Exodus 20:7

Can it be?

Can it be that I have spent most of my life, misusing your name simply by not considering every life-giving breath I take as holy? Can it be that misusing even the air I breathe–misusing the life you’ve given me–is actually taking your name in vain?

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

In.

Out.

I am, without a doubt, guilty. And still my heart beats steady. And still my lungs draw air. And yet… and yet…

How could I have thought that I was fulfilling this commandment simply by using some stupid euphemisms whenever I was angry or surprised? How could I have thought that this was one of the easiest–that’s right–EASIEST commandments to keep?

Because now I see, God, that it is the one commandment that holds me accountable for living my life right, without wasting a single word, a single moment, or a single breath. It calls me to make good use of this life, this air, this name that I breathe.

YOUR Holy name.

Journal writing

2014 In Review

Every year I do the same thing.

Sometime around the end of December or beginning of the New Year I write a year-end review in my journal. I reflect on the year’s highs and lows and usually will reflect how my relationship with God progressed or regressed.  The following is an excerpt of this year’s:

* * *

January 2, 2015

About a year ago I rounded up 2013 in a very angry and bitter manner. I know why, and I am ashamed to remember it. I can only say that I am sorry that my lack of faith and my selfishness made me dishonor God in such a way.

2013 was a year of trials, 2014 was a year of…what?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings as I write. The end of 2014 brought an end to something that I’d been holding on for a while. My old love is officially old business; he has really moved on. How do I feel? I am neither bitter not jealous, just a bit… I don’t know… Is it wistful? Sad? Maybe just a bit resigned to the way my heart chooses to work. How did Anne Elliot say it? We women tend to love the longest even when all hope is gone. It’s silly, and to the most experienced I’m sure it’s laughable how in love I’ve always been the one to unreservedly give my heart to someone, and when it doesn’t work out it is the one that always lingers. But I have not been alone all this while, because despite the loneliness, the discouragement, the failed attempts, the uncertainties and the setbacks of this year, I end it in victory.

I have returned from my first day at my new job in a position that seems to have been tailored just for me, my skills, and my attention-level. It’s like God himself took that mental checklist I had about the job I needed and led me to it at the perfect time. I have finished December having passed my certification exams, I am planning to buy new gear—and have the funds to get it. I am starting a new business, I have acquired a valuable investor who believes in my vision. My family is healthy (I can hear their laughter outside my room), home is a warm place. I am happy, blessed, and so incredibly favored by my Heavenly Father. Is it presumptuous for me to feel warm and fuzzy when I think that the great King of Heaven loves me—indeed, favors me? Is it insane that at night the last thought I have is a prayer to Him and in the morning my first conscious thought is to breathe His name?

* * *

Unlike all the other years, there will be no resolutions this year.

There will only be a single prayer request every morning and every evening of every single day of the year. Yes, I will batter the gates of heaven every morning and evening with this single request.

Show me your will for my life.

Teach me to be able to discern your voice even in the noise and bustle of everyday life. Once I know your will and once I know that it is you speaking to me, empower me to obey you.

As to my heart—my foolish heart—I’ll leave it with you. I’m really, really sick of dealing with its excesses. So…this year I’ll trust you first to heal it and then to set it to rights, so that my heart will overflow with thankfulness and praise instead of aching from unfulfilled longing. Let it soar like an unfettered bird and let it sing with joy because of the hope that you instill in me.

For now, my heart beats steadily, strong and sure in my breast. My life feels very warm and quiet for now, and I like that just fine, for I’m gearing up for a very busy year.

What I learned in 2014 is that life with God is an adventure.

So with that in mind, Welcome 2015.

Perfection - the ultimate example is God - The example our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even a good Christian, but of God himself. “Be ye therefore perfect”…

Perfect

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48 NIV)

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Being alone sucks, especially if you're stuck at home and it is raining outside

Alone

There was no greater torment for me than staying at home alone with my thoughts while it rained. I could not read books, I could not watch TV, I couldn’t even do homework—the way Mara interpreted scripture, if one could not actively do good works like hand out tracts, or witness, or volunteer, the least evil activity that one could do in the Sabbath was to nap. I was such a contrary daughter that I couldn’t even do that. Tossing and turning and flopping in bed, it was as if I was ten years old again—a chronic insomniac—fighting alone against the hidden demons of my past those many nights.

Determined to put the past behind me, I pushed away those memories, and threw the covers aside.

I had expected that Tony would call, but he didn’t—and I certainly wasn’t going to call him.

I thought about last Wednesday. He’d called me after prayer meeting, just as I got home and was taking off my shoes at the door Mara shouted from the living room, “There’s a call for you in the phone”

“Ok. I’ll take it in my room” I’d said and had run upstairs before she had the chance to catch a glimpse of my red and blotchy face.

“Hello?”

“Hey—Tanya?”

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Tony”

“Tony?” I asked incredulously, “What’s up? How did you get my number?”

“You left your binder at church, kiddo, and I got your number from your student handbook.”

I cursed and threw the phone receiver on my bed while I unzipped my backpack. I glanced inside; no binder. I double checked by dumping its contents in my bed, hoping that he was mistaken. No binder. No notes. No dynamics lab report. No linear algebra homework. No French Literature paper. No student handbook with—

I saw red.

How stupid could I get? How had I left that behind? I thought back. Oh, yes. Zuri had picked me up from work, and I had brought my binder to sketch on while the prayer meeting was going on. Then I’d had my crying fit, and the rest was history.

“I can’t believe I did that.” I spoke into the phone, “Thanks for holding on to it, but what am I gonna do now? I can’t ask Zuri to take me after all the trouble I caused today… and then I don’t see you until Monday….” I calculated my odds of success with Mara. They were not promising.

“Aren’t you going to need it? I can drop it off at your house if you want.”

I sighed, “I’m so sorry…but could you?—I’ve got my lab report there.”

“It’s the same address on the cover of the handbook? Halcyon Drive?”

“Yes—Oh! Do you mind not knocking at the door?” I felt immensely awkward, but in this case necessity was greater than my embarrassment so I pushed on, “Mara—I mean, my mother—will ask me a million questions. Can you honk or something?”

“Ok, I’ll call you up when I’m there. You can save the number on your caller ID, that’s my cell phone.”

And just like that, twenty minutes later he called me saying he was in front of my house. He’d handed me back my binder without any comment, except to ask if I was alright. “I’m fine.” I smiled, relief had made me almost giddy, “Thanks for this—really.”

He nodded, and after considering something for a few seconds he turned the ignition off. “Hey, Tanya?”

“Hm?”

“I know how it feels—when in prayer you are confronted with who you are and you realize that it is not the person you want to be.”

I looked down and was silent while I thought back on my prayer, “I don’t know if that’s what happened. I just,” I sighed and hugged the binder tight against my chest “I don’t know if it signifies much, but I just want to start over.”

He nodded, “I know. Take courage, kiddo, I’ll be praying for you.”

“Thanks.”

He’d driven off in his sleek black Jag, and I’d gone back home wondering about the kind of person Tony was— I couldn’t make him out. He was young, but he obviously had a well-paying job as evidenced by his car and the time I’d seen him dressed in a suit. Yet the image of the successful Tony clashed with the image of the guy who had come in to church one rainy night, soaking wet from the rain in jeans and a hoodie—and that image also contradicted the Jesus freak who would eagerly go to prayer meeting on Wednesdays and Bible studies with a bunch of old people.

But that episode with the binder had led to my overestimating him. I suppose after that I came to think of him as someone I could trust, so that on Friday—faced with the menacing thought of returning to Hilltop Church the next morning—I’d called him. I wanted to be talked out of going. Instead, he encouraged me to follow through with it, even going so far as to offering to meet me there.

“Two are better than one,” he’d quoted, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow”

Pfft! You sound like a preacher.”

“What?”

“I mean,” I modified my tone and amended the statement lest I come across as offensive, “sometimes you say things that sound like they came out of the Bible. I’m pretty sure Jesus said that.

He chuckled, though I didn’t for a second imagine he was laughing at me, “I know my Bible pretty well, I guess. Didn’t I ever tell you? My father is a pastor”

“What? You didn’t tell me.”

That was when he told me that he’d been the black sheep of the family. He’d made a run for it the moment he had graduated from High School, and now here he was hundreds of miles away from home trying to return to the straight and narrow. I didn’t get to ask about details because Mara had entered my room to inquire why I was still up and who I was talking to.

“I gotta go now.” I said to him after having evaded a minor quarrel.

“Ok, so tomorrow 9:30, right?”

“Yeah.”

“See you tomorrow, then.”

He’d said that, but then he’d never showed up.

More than being angry, more than being annoyed—I was disillusioned. Once more I’d gotten my hopes up, and once more I’d seen that there was no one who really cared. It’s so easy for people to talk and say that they’ll be there for you, but when it came down to it, they are always too busy for you. Adults…they are so fake.

And yet, that was not enough for me to give up hope that maybe he would call and say that there had been a fire, an accident, or someone had been taken ill and had kept him from going. I even refrained from going online to the BookNrds chat room in case Tony called (this was back in the AOL dial-up days).

But it was no use hoping—after all, I was just a stupid kid.

 

Part 22 – If You Only Knew

Cleaning up after a meal

Mara

We decided to forgo the weekly potluck and came home immediately after the service. We had a quiet lunch, Mara and I, of vegetable soup and quesadillas, while listening to a guitar concerto in the radio.

As we ate I marveled at my silliness. It hadn’t been as scary as I’d thought; in fact, I had almost enjoyed it. And though my mind had drifted off for long spaces of time during the service, my musings for the most part hadn’t been morbid. The people I’d known before hadn’t chewed me out, either. The biggest surprise, however, was that Mara and I hadn’t killed each other on the drive there and back home. There was a subtle change between us, and I did not know how it had happened. It was just very odd to discover that though neither one volunteered to begin or carry any form of conversation, the air was not tense as it was wont to do whenever my scatter-brained older brother was not around to liven things up.

“Do you want to go back for the afternoon service?” Mara asked as we cleaned up. “Some Gospel singers from out of state are coming to sing.”

I shook my head, “I’ve had enough for today, I think.”

Mara scraped something from the kitchen stove, “Well, I suppose it would be too much to ask.”

I regarded her warily from the sink where I was drying the dishes. Was she trying to start a fight? “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She frowned, “It’s not supposed to mean anything. Calm down, Tanya!”

“Don’t tell me to calm down! It’s not like I’m angry or anything.” The dishes clattered loudly as I stacked them in place as if belying my assertions, “You always think the worst of me,” I muttered.

“Don’t give me that.” Mara threw her cleaning rag on the sink and proceeded to wash it clean, “You are the one who suddenly wanted to go to church, so I took you with me. You didn’t want to stay for potluck, I brought you home. I am way past forcing you to go to church. I was simply offering to take you. Do I get a ‘Thanks’? No. Do I expect it at this point? Not really. Just don’t shoot my head off for trying to be civil.”

Her words stuck me. I didn’t exactly agree with her sentiments—she somehow always managed to verbally outmaneuver me—but the revelation that she wasn’t entirely trying to antagonize me left me speechless for a time.

“I’m sorry,” I said after a while. My tone was subdued from the effort of getting down a huge slice of humble pie, “I didn’t know—I thought…” I sighed, “If you are going I’ll join you. I can drive if you want.”

Mara wrung her now clean rag and hung it up to dry. “I wanted to hear the concert, but I had originally thought to spend the day up there. Going back in the rain and then finding a place to park would be an absolute nightmare. Anyway. I thought I’d go see Alma. She’s not doing so well after her surgery.”

“Ok.” I said, as if I had an idea who Alma was.

“You going out today?”

“Pfft! I never go out.”

She looked surprised, and I wondered what it was she thought I did on Saturdays when she was out the whole day. For the sake of our new-found truce I didn’t volunteer any information.

“I think I’m going to do some homework. Or study. I have some big exams coming up.”

“It’s the Sabbath.”

“I’ll take a nap then.”

“Ok. I’ll be back in the evening.”

“Take care.”

Fifteen minutes later Mara left, and I remained at home to listen to the rain.

 

Part 21 – If You Only Knew

Getting Ready

I got up very early Saturday morning to find that it was raining.

No matter. Off I went to the restroom. I brushed my teeth, ran a brush through my hair and jumped in the shower. Once I’d washed my hair I reached for the soap—there was none.

Dripping wet as I was I stepped out and looked for a bar soap behind the mirror—there was none. Not even hand soap. Oh, well. Shampoo is just another liquid soap, right? I stepped back into the shower and yelped as I slipped and landed on the tile floor with a painful smack.

Sh—Ow!!

I stayed on the shower floor a few seconds with rivulets of water running down my body. There, in the heel of my foot, was stuck the thin remnant of a bar of soap. The nasty little culprit had camouflaged against the white tile. I peeled it from my foot and threw it in the toilet bowl before making a gigantic effort to get back on my feet. Somehow I felt much heavier than my full 250 pounds, and it felt like my knee had sustained some serious strain. But I could not blame anyone but myself for this blunder—this was my restroom and my shower. No one else but me would have dropped that tiny little piece of soap that made me slip and fall.

Once I was done showering I carefully stepped out, dried myself, and went to my room to change. I didn’t bother with the hair except blow-drying it and pulling it up in its habitual pony tail. No makeup either. I knew the rules.

As I pulled on my boots, a thought came into my head, and I hurried to pull out my coat. Phone, phone, phone…

I tried to go down the stairs quickly but my knee protested. Just as well. Had it not ached so, I would have laughed at Mara’s face when she saw me come down dressed and ready. I swear, she almost fell from sheer amazement.

“Ready?” she asked, recovering quickly enough

“Just a phone call,”

She arched a brow. Obviously she wanted to know who I was gonna call, but decided against asking. She turned and got the car keys, “There’s toast and jam out. Drink some milk too. I’ll see you in the car. Hurry.”

“Thanks,” I answered as I dialed a number into the phone keypad.

The phone rang three times before he answered it, “Hello?”

“Uh. Hi. Tony?”

“Yeah.”

“This is Tanya.”

“I know. What’s up, kiddo?”

“Um…” I fidgeted with the phone cord, “You’re coming, right? Just wanted to check…”

“Yeah. I’m still getting ready.” His voice sounded a tad deeper than usual, and I wondered at what stage of “ready” he was at. Had I just woken him up? The thought made me crazy anxious.

“Ok. You got the address, right?”

“Uh-huh. Hey,” He paused, “You ok?”

“Yeah. Just…I’m a little nervous.”

“Nervous?”

“I told you, right? I haven’t been there for at least two years…”

“I know. But you want to go this time around, don’t you?”

“Yeah. No…I mean, I wish I could be heading to Zuri’s instead…But it’s all the same, right? Zuri said it’s the same God…”

He chuckled, “I know, you told me.”

I felt stupid. Why was I babbling? “So I’ll see you then?”

“Yep.”

“Ok.”

“Alright, bye,”

“Bye—Oh! And Tony?”

“Yeah?”

I looked at the phone cord in my hand. I had looped and twisted it round my hand in an impossible number of coils, “Thanks”

I heard the smile in his voice, “No problem, kiddo”

I hung up and ran out to the car as fast as my aching knee let me.

I was going to church.

 

Part 19 of If You Only Knew