Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"We Interrupt this Program..."

 

I climbed a tree the other day, because I wanted to fill my lungs with the living breeze, to feel the wind lift the dust from my spirit, stir it to life, and sweep the cobwebs from my soul.  Emerging from winter, worn out.  Entering spring a bit stiff with the must and rust of year-long wrestling match still clinging to my elbows and knees.  

I crawled into a patch of sunlight yesterday.  Into that tipped-over gold that spilled yellow over the rocking chair, eyes closed, praying for the warm to drive the shadows from my thought and sear the sickness from my body.  



Sometimes your jar of clay wages an ever-present conflict with maladies both persistent and insidious.  The days slide dull through blurred vision, and you testily give your attitude a few bracing slaps each day, because for some terrible reason, when the physical is under siege, patience is the first deserter.   

Over the battle-shredded radio waves, mostly static fills the ears with a dull buzz, pressing on to saturate even the spirit, if allowed the opportunity.  Every once in awhile, threads of a broadcast break through, but now the voices sound foreign, unfamiliar, and the only recognizable phrase is the glaring announcement repeated again and again.  

A program interrupted.  Life interrupted.  A declaration of war with as yet no foreseeable conclusion.  


In a post-Calvary world where the hurried heart walks spiritually slow, how do you savor joy and time when each stretched-out minute feels as though it only prolongs an agony, smears salt in a wound?   

Where does a fugitive find a day’s refuge or a soldier secure contentment when the desire of each second is for the nightmare to be over and the war to come to an end? 

In such times life speaks a language you feel like you can no longer understand, and each word twists confusion and displacement that redirect your course with painful detours. 



As an exile, you wander trying to keep the stitches of what’s left together.  As a fighter you march into each day struggling to drive a ravenous enemy from the bones of your borders.  And on the home front, you control the damage as best you can, looking to a horizon you pray will spell the dawn.  

Life interrupted means a loss of control, a snatching of the map you’ve made to plot your course.  Navigation flounders on foreign soil, and the only alternative to stumbling through the dark is to bend the knee and look up.  Above the path of human navigation glitters a reminder woven into the fabric of creation itself.  


On the darkest of nights, when thick ink fills the foxhole serving as shelter, stars glitter fierce and bright overhead, inviting the heart to remember, to recall that men were finding their way by the light of I AM long before the sonar and the GPS. 

In drawn-out assaults where ugliness scrawls graffiti over grace and the mirror displays only a poor photocopy of the reflection you know, you thrash and fight to remember God is good.  When you’re positive that whatever the difficult days were designed to teach you is a lesson you are thoroughly botching, your lungs fight to gasp out “Amen.”  


The body:  a battleground.  

The life:  war-torn 

But even the ambushes that mount against you cannot catch your God off guard.  Is even an emergency surprising to the one who stands beyond time?  “Little by little, one travels far.”  

The cross rose in victory that has already crushed the forces of the enemy, decimating his power.  And though the way is often milestoned by suffering, the one who is risen bears our pain as his own and gently prunes the thorns from our hearts.  

Maybe I’ll climb a tree tomorrow, stealing soft into a sniper’s perch not to watch for the enemy, but to sight and guard the weapon of joy provided as a shield to repel his strikes. 


Perhaps I’ll secure a place of sunshine, praying for a spirit that cleanses the soul with peace amidst pain and de-fragments the static of an interrupted broadcast trying to drown God’s goodness. 

The hands on the trigger may bleed, and the kneeling knees may bruise, but in the strength of the Father the petitioning lips can whisper, “And if not—He is still God.”  

Chin up, broken-heart, for He is near.  Take heart, weary one.  To suffer is not to sin.  

Have hope, because the cross secured a victory that ultimately freed your soul from the chain of this world.  The tomb was empty, and if there were one memory you could retain, that’s the one should choose, because it alone is joy enough to fill one thousand interrupted lives.    
   


 Images via:  mission4today.com, ebay.com, buzzfeed.com, tumblr.com, Travelblog, carlylynn.com, goodbyehousehellohome.com

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2016.  

 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

{Un}Real



I hung up the phone after leaving a message for my publisher for what felt like the twentieth time that week, feeling as though this entire book endeavor was turning out to be somewhat of a disaster.  After all, miscommunication and squashed expectations seemed to be our unfortunate MO.  

But amidst the disappointments and frustrations that were relentlessly dotting this difficult time of stretching and hard learning, I had to remember my purpose in all this mess, one that I had long since entrusted to mighty hands far more capable than I.  

I didn’t start out to be John Grisham.  I don’t write to sell millions of copies, and I think you’ll find that underneath the inky epidermis of it all, many storytellers feel the same way.  After all, it isn’t J.K. Rowling’s millions that we’re truly desirous of.  It’s not her fame, popularity, or material wealth that prod the dull ache in our hearts.  Certainly those things would be nice benefits, but what it comes down to is this:  



Impact.  

The weight of significance that satisfies something in a reader’s soul. 

It’s the “in” she has, the opportunity, talent, and ability to touch millions of lives with make believe, and for those of us who long to share the good news through our writing, this might be our deepest envy.  

Rowling’s books were certainly the center of controversy among believers, and we must absolutely take care what voices we allow to speak into young minds, but the lesson I’d like to point out is this, “Look!  Right there—did you miss it?  How millions of all ages devoured a single story?  Did you see the entire generation of middle school boys now reading for fun, or the adults still waving their ballpoint pens like wands when they think no one is looking?” 



Literary fallout can be a colossal force.  The hearts of this world are hungry, starved in fact for something that will make them feel whole, and what better opportunity for those who bear the sign of the cross than to write living water into the ink of books?  

Barnes and Noble shelves bend with paranormal romance, and Amazon networks are saturated by fifty shades of the same old thing, but unless a tale is bound by something beyond this world then the ultimate result will still eave spirits empty once more, empty and searching for the elusive echo of joy that rings raw in the hollow soul. 

I didn’t become a vegetarian after reading Charlotte’s Web, and Richard Adams’ work didn’t see me scrambling to secure rabbit rights.  I knew they were stories in the end.  But even among the whimsy of the imaginary something within me was moved, insatiably stirred by the constant anthem that there was more to this world than what I could see.  That life, death, beauty, and sorrow were more than a handful of rocks and bacteria thrown carelessly together by chance collision.  I read because I needed to know that there was more than all this.  That’s the magic of it.  That is why we need books, perhaps now more than ever before. 
   


There.  Did you catch that?  The tangible, redeemable, and live-giving thing that can be plucked from between the pages?  

Love, pain, justice, mercy, meaning—Truth.   

There is an open door in the literary realm, a perilous quest awaiting the pens of those called to proclaim the living God, the triumph of grace.  

Certainly not all books are created equal, and the discerning heart would be wise to sift through what he reads and what he chooses to fill his mind with.  For the enemy is here too, lurking between the lines and prowling, claws extended, along the spines.  But what I hope to impart is this, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  


Whether in writing or in any other field, let us minister through our excellence, marrying quality with the holiness that pierces the shadow and satisfies the soul.  

I will never be Harper Lee, but I write to light the dark, and in that endeavor I know that my God is able to turn even failures into instruments for his glory.  

Want to open a book and drink in the light with me? 
  
In the paths of pages, we just might find our way home again. This is the truth that children cling to and adults allow the years to tuck away:  

When what is unreal becomes real, magic becomes more than make believe.  



Images via:  Tumblr.com, Susan Tuttle Photography, domainehome.com, inspire we trust, and Graeme Smith.  
All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  Copyright 2016.