I have a box of 120 limited edition Crayola crayons. I’ve had it many years, since my kids were quite young.
That’s a lot of crayons.
My kids always used to ask to use my crayons. My answer was 100% consistent:
It wasn’t that I wanted to be selfish with my crayons. It’s just that I’d seen their crayons. Their crayons were all broken and missing their labels and wrappers, and the box they came in was long ago demolished and lost.
In other words, I had a pristine box of adult cared-for crayons, and they had a pile of little kid crayon stubs and bits, complete with stray pennies, lone marker caps, and bits of lint and fuzz.
Generosity may have wanted to share my crayons, but wisdom couldn’t come up with one solid reason why it would be a good idea. The kids loved crayons but weren’t mature enough to treat them like the grown-up art supplies that they were to me. Their value for the crayons and my value for the crayons was totally different.
Many times I see people treating their own lives like a box of kid crayons. It’s often in the name of being “nice”, which is usually another term for “fear of rejection”. It’s an easy trap to fall into, really. We forget to value what God has done and is doing in us and in our lives, and we permit too much access—or the wrong kind of access—to folks who then take their cues from us about how much value we deserve. We end up in situations that don’t line up with who God is making us to be.
We forget we’re worth diligent care and wise stewardship.
So here’s to you, Ms. Cornflower Blue and Mr. Forest Green, little Red Violet and lovely Orchid. You are worth handling with care. You’re worth a place where you will be protected and guarded with wisdom. You are unique, and nobody can take your place. When the people around you look to you for cues to know how to treat you (and they will), let them see that you hold God’s work in you in high regard.
You are, after all, fine art.
46 degrees, a brisk wind, and mist that gradually turned to spits of light rain.
Nothing says love like parking your behind on metal bleachers in terrible weather to watch a bunch of teenaged girls play city league slow-pitch softball.
We’ve spent years watching these girls grow up on the softball field. Somewhere along the way they transformed from scrawny little gap-toothed waifs into beautiful young women with muscles, curves, and flashy smiles, the last part courtesy of the local orthodontists.
The Sparkette is among them. When we first began taking her to the softball fields, it was to watch her older sisters play. We dressed her in sneakers with light-up soles so that it would be easy to find her when she wandered off, playing with other softball-siblings. It worked. And now those softball siblings are all nearing the end of their own city league youth ball careers, their older sisters having aged out of the league long ago.
A few years back it became popular to throw around the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Hilary Clinton picked it up and it suddenly became a political hot topic, complete with implication that the “village” is actually the government. I don’t buy that, but I do believe there is a lot of truth in that proverb.
I see it on the softball field. It takes coaches who are willing to love and encourage the girls, and yet turn around and chew them out when they aren’t showing up with the best versions of themselves. It takes team moms who hug and fuss and keep track of stray personal items and occasionally show up with cupcakes.
It takes teachers who really care about teaching and about kids.
It takes nosy neighbors who will tattle on shenanigans.
It takes pastors and spiritual leaders who are passionate about helping young minds and hearts understand eternal truths in the context of community.
It takes a village to produce a citizen who understands the privilege and responsibility of living in the village. It is how young people understand that their parents aren’t just making this stuff up. It really is rude to chew with your mouth open, or pick apples off a tree that doesn’t belong to you, or tease someone younger than you and hurt their feelings.
I’m grateful for the people who’ve spoken into the lives of our children and who’ve given our kids opportunities to have relationships with adults other than their parents. I haven’t agreed with all of them, but one of the things I’ve wanted my kids to know from a young age is that they have the freedom to consider viewpoints other than the ones their parents have chosen to adopt. The world is full of all kinds of people, and we all get to make choices about what kind of person we will be. Seems like a good choice to make on purpose, rather than one you just stumble into by default.
Three hours later, I’m still struggling to get warm after my evening of metal bleacher duty. I’m sure I’m not the only parent still shivering. But in spite of the miserable weather, there’s no where else I’d rather be. Those girls are strong and beautiful and hilarious, and this time of their life is flying by. There’s something sacred about watching each one step to the plate and decide to swing.
I hope every last one of them hits it out of the park.
It’s like a dance.
You step, then I step, then You step, then I step.
Sometimes I step on Your feet. You never say ouch.
Sometimes I try to lead, and sometimes…You actually let me.
You’re a good dancer, You say. Go ahead…show Me some moves. And You make it sound like I’m the best dancer You’ve ever seen, even as I’m tripping over my own feet. I like that You like my dancing. It makes me want to dance more.
It’s like a song.
I can hear it from far away, and even when I don’t know where that sound is coming from, I am drawn to it. I hear it with my ears, I hear it with my heart, I hear it with my bones.
When I hear it, every cell You made in me begins to vibrate with the essence of You.
The sound lifts me, and suddenly I am defying gravity as I swim through the magnetic frequencies. And that is when I realize…
…my entire life is singing with You, matching You note for note, an impossible symphony that transcends time and language and human nature.
I don’t know how You do that. I don’t know how You do it in me. But I love that You do.
It’s like a painting.
You give brilliant color and glorious light a voice, and they whisper and shout and laugh and cry and tell heart-leaping stories that I cannot hold in.
You splash the canvas with life. It moves and breathes. It exhales You in all Your You-ness, and I rush to gulp in the fire of it, of You, desperate to be consumed by the wonderful terrible flames, so that I may be
a pure gold brush in Your hand…
a dazzling white canvas for You to express Yourself in and upon…
a pure pigment that reflects Your genius…
a design of Your perfection.
It’s like living an ordinary day.
You’re in the grass in my lawn. You’re in the ring in the bottom of my coffee mug. You’re in the breeze on my face. You’re in the laugh of the stock boy at the grocery store. You’re in the license plate on the car in front of me at the stoplight. You’re in the squeak of my right shoe. You’re in the sunset. You’re in the contented snore of my cat. You’re in the glorious, tedious, majestic, daily-ness of the common and the ordinary, and because of that, they are no longer common or ordinary.
And somehow, You surround them all with Your dance, Your song, Your art, and breathe them into me and light them up in a way that they become like fire in my bones, and if I don’t release them, I will surely combust.
But true to the mystery of all things You, in the releasing they burn even brighter, with a joyous fury even hell fears.
This piece was commissioned for the Kingdom Life Vision Center Wednesday evening Encounter series Dreaming With God for the purpose of describing my personal experience of creating with God or receiving creative inspiration from Him in the creative process.
“Time for a shower,” says the sky. ”Hold still for a good wash.”
Rain pours down, pattering on roofs, splashing off leaves, dribbling down the windows. It sounds like a mama who insists on a little more scrubbing, a little more rinsing, a little more just-behind-the-ears.
It only seems fitting. All across the region the past few days have been caught up in various Mardi Gras celebrations. Time to jam in as much decadence and debauchery as possible before the somber fasts of Lent when friends bemoan their withdrawals from chocolate, wine, and Facebook.
Even the sky can see that it’s going to require more than a little spit bath to scrub away all that grime.
I didn’t grow up in the South, so Mardi Gras isn’t part of my tradition. And though I did grow up in a church that acknowledged liturgical seasons and calendars, there was no emphasis on fasting during Lent, so Lent fasts aren’t part of my tradition, either.
I’ve never felt prompted to make either a new personal tradition. I don’t relate either of them to increased intimacy with God or value for holiness, so I leave them for folks who do. It’s really important to many of them.
Still, as I listen to the sound of the rain outside, I can’t escape the sense that even the very earth needed a bath in order to prepare for the season at hand.
Sometimes I’ll be floating along through life, everything reasonably even-keel, and wham!—my heart gets broken by surprise. It’s kind of like when you’re not watching where you’re stepping and you miss a curb or hit a pothole. The jolt is sudden and jarring.
A surprise broken heart is sudden and jarring jolt. It rattles your teeth.
This is the risk of letting Him take over your heart. You will begin to see as He sees. You will begin to hear as He hears. You will think His thoughts in your mind and you will feel His heartbeat in your chest.
And at the end of this day I am reminded and convinced of this: Jesus came for people, not problems.
A person is more than the sum total of their problems.
See the person. Love the person.
Because a list of principles isn’t what repairs and heals. Love heals.
I’ll say it now
as I’ve said it before:
the sky is on fire
and all day long it burns, burns, burns.
But nobody believes me.
The clouds hide the blaze
until someone sends up a paper kite
that comes raining back as ashes.
See, I say, it’s proof of the fire!
Don’t be silly, they scoff,
it’s just the atmospheric pressure.
And for some reason this makes sense to them.
If only they’d try an asbestos kite, they’d see.
But perhaps seeing isn’t always believing.
It’s easy to have an opinion.
Flip through the news channels on your television. Scroll through some news sites, or even just through your Facebook feed. Lots of opinions, huh?
I’ve noticed something about opinions. I’ve noticed that most of us tend to be far less gracious in our opinions when we don’t know anyone personally affected by the issue at hand. We tend to desire merciless rules…until we know someone’s story on a personal level. Until it hits home with someone we care about.
It’s simple to think that all people on welfare are lazy and trying to take advantage of the system.
It’s simple to think that all illegal aliens are trying to steal our jobs and take advantage of the system.
It’s simple to think that all non-English speakers are stubborn and arrogant and trying to take advantage of the system.
It’s simple to think that all Muslims harbor violent intent against Christians and hope to act on it through taking advantage of the system.
It’s simple to think that all unwed mothers have no moral compass and are trying to take advantage of the system.
…until you meet that honest hardworking family who just can’t catch a break and is caught between working low-paying jobs and paying high childcare costs, and losing all benefits.
Or those foreigners whose homeland situations are desperately impoverished with little hope of ever improving, and going back would mean certain punishment.
Or the person who speaks Spanish or Mandarin or Vietnamese who has little opportunity to learn English, which is a very difficult language to learn, particularly for adults.
Or the Muslim who really doesn’t share the belief system of his or her militant brethren and is scared that you’ll reject them when you find out their heritage…which was passed to them through their family, not a conscious, informed choice of spiritual rooting.
Or that single mom who’s never been married but knows abuse and abandonment well, as she tries to parent her children with little support and no respect.
It’s simple until you meet these people and enter into their stories on a personal level. Until you decide to be their friend. Not their savior, but their friend.
You think differently when it’s a personal friend who is facing deportation. Or any of these other situations. Because when it’s personal, you desire mercy.
When it’s personal, you want the system to work for your friend, not against them.
When it’s personal, you hope for an exception to the rules, one that sees a person and not just a situation.
When it’s personal, there’s no them.
There’s only us.