Holy Collages

 

IMG_3621.JPGToday, a few friends of mine hosted an event called “Vision Quest”. Transport yourself back to middle school, arm yourself with dozens of magazines, scissors, cardboard and glue, add a delightful assortment of breakfast food (and a random serving of magical sweet potato fries), and surround yourself with godly young women who have beautiful hopes and dreams. That was the real-life collage happening as we all cut and pasted, spoke and were silent. Some of us wept and rejoiced in our individual hearts as we saw our longings piecing together into something that echoed of deeper realities.

I have the great sense that today, for four (or more) hours, we were all on holy ground.

These eternal beings that I have come to love as my sisters in Christ, who I am honored to share life with at least for a time in this life and also on the other side of eternity, expressed their hearts imperfectly and IMG_3622.JPGhonestly. We were all wrapped up in visually expressing our own individual stories, but the physical togetherness provided a palpable sense of each of us contributing hope to each others’ lives in meaningful ways.

Though I felt as if I was in soul-therapy heaven, I found myself unable to verbalize even a little of what my own collage meant to me. Ironically, I have the words “a story worth telling” quite prominent on the cardboard representation of my hopes.

Do you believe your story is worth telling?

Do you believe your hopes and longings and pain and joy are all worth pasting into the collage of an insane but beautiful world? I pray you’ll believe it, because:

I want to be touched by your present story and your future dreams, by your brokenness, your strength, and your honesty.

Lately, I’ve made important steps in telling a part of my own story to myself and to a few friends. For a long time, I hid an entire underlying story theme from my own heart because it was far too scary. Bringing it into light is I believe, in some mysterious way, is breaking my heart in order to re-make it into something more whole.

A heart crushed and made whole in a life full of tension and danger. . . what a (painful, exciting, frustrating) adventure! And so, my collage is largely a representation of what I long for my chaotic internal world and slightly less crazy external journey to reflect. They are the things I preach to myself when no one else is around to preach them to me. They are the truths with which I want to embrace God and humanity.

There is much more I could say about the images I chose, but I will leave that for times and places which are more appropriate and helpful and good. For now, I rest in the reality of the shared experience of a humanity who longs for meaning in the madness, and who creates beauty in the midst of an uncertain future.

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Somebody to Love?

Today, I suddenly remembered a song I wrote a couple years ago. I added and changed a few things to the lyrics today. Those who have known me for a long time and have heard many of my songs know that primarily my songs are about the collision of God and the circumstances life has brought to me or to people in my life.

Rarely have I written songs primarily about human love, even more rarely about any sort of romantic love, but this is what I’m singing about here. Parts of it are meant to be humorous, because sometimes I can laugh at marriage, sex, etc. that our culture is so wrapped up in. But underneath all that is a deep longing to love and be loved–and this is a common human experience. Not everyone wants to be married, but nearly everyone I know wants to love and be intimately loved by another human being.

Feel free to comment, but first two things to keep in mind:

  1. This is a song primarily for people who are single, to empathize with your (my) struggles and longings and to remind you that you (I) are (am) loved, not alone, and singleness has purpose.
  2. I am not asking for pity, so please do not tell me that “I will find someone to marry some day” or “Just keep waiting, God has someone great in mind for you.” That may or may not be true, but the fact is that God is still there regardless. Just listen and, hopefully, be encouraged.

Lyrics:
Love is pulling in the harbor
Eyes are filled with endless wonder
Am I invisible, pulled under the forgotten undertow?
Guess I’ll always be a watcher
As the line of loves grow longer
Could this get any harder?
I’m like lichen on a boat

But loneliness is not my own
There’s no earthly fix for a broken soul
So I won’t wait to live my life with someone else in tow
I’ve got my yes’s and my be there’s and my go

Here I’m sitting in the aisle
As the flower girl she smiles
And I’ll count the falling petals
Will it be love me, love me not?
I don’t know if I’ll say I do
But here’s another bride who will do
And oh what am I supposed to do
What have I possibly got?

But loneliness is not my own
There’s no earthly fix for a broken soul
So I won’t wait to live my life with someone else in tow
I’ve got my yes’s and my be there’s and my go

I will climb to the highest places
I will reach for the things above
And though I may feel grounded
May I always be pointing up
Yes, I will climb to the highest places
I will reach for the things above
Though my heart is seeking somebody to hold
There will be no greater love
Yes, there will be no greater love

And loneliness is not my home
though pain may be long and longing may grow
and there are barriers so tall it seems alone I will grow old
I’ve got my yes’s and my be there’s and my go

Loved

In this 24th year of my life, I’ve decided to go on a journey. Long have I taken up the banner of loving God and others well. Long have I been overwhelmed by a pharisaical burden of doing the right thing, always. Long have I felt (and enjoyed!) my self-worth being bolstered by spending every part of me to give others just a little bit of hope. Long have I lived in agony at the breaking of my self-inflicted impossibly high standards for my own character and actions.

This year, I’m setting the “love God, love others” banner down and exchanging it for one that says, simply, “loved”. Daily, I will try to choose to shift my focus. It’s going to be difficult. I will fall into patterns of legalism. I will fall into traps of temptation. I will forget why I’ve shifted my focus. I will allow myself to fail. I will fall into God’s grace.

Quotefancy-319505-3840x2160You see, I have skipped a very important step in trying so hard to love God and others well. I’ve forgotten (have I ever really known?) how much God adores and delights in me. If my pride knew no bounds and every single thing I did was purely for selfish gain, God’s love for me would be unending. If I was paralyzed and unable to communicate or take care of myself let alone others, God’s love for me would not diminish. If I threw all caution to the winds and indulged in self-destructive desires, God’s love for me would not change. If I cursed Him and made it my mission in life to destroy all belief in Him and I became a tyrannical dictator and killed everyone who stood against me, His love for me would remain unequivocally strong.

This kind of love is CRAZY. I can’t imagine it!

I’ve always known that God has loved me. But, that has never been the focus of my study, my emotions, my life. Imagine everything you do, everything you think about yourself and others, flowing out of the unshakeable trust that you are unconditionally loved by God as you are, were, and will be.

Jesus said that the equally important commandment to loving God is to love others as you love yourself. In an especially honest conversation, a friend reminded me that if I can’t love myself, if I can’t internalize how deeply loved I am by God, there’s no way I can love others well. How do I love myself? By delving deep into the riches of the love that chose me before the universe was born, the love who sticks with me in all my wandering and denying and destroying, the love who gives His life for me and will one day bring me into everlasting joy.

Sidenote: If you’re interested in going on this journey of discovering (or re-discovering) God’s love for you, here’s a great place to start: Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging.