All posts by Christina

About Christina

I am a woman in process. A sojourner making sounds and memories. I am passionate about walking with people in transition and helping to heal souls along the way. www.about.me/cdammerman

Old Smoke

I met an old smoke today. A Lucky Strike, unfiltered, roll your own kind of born in the 30’s man. A child of the Depression who was taught-

“there ain’t no one lookin’ out fer you but you so you best get at it”.

I met him as he watched what little he had in this world go up in flames from a heater that got kicked over in the old motor home he didn’t have a license to drive, but that he and his dog Pup, and his blind cat called home.  I sat behind him in the ranch truck as The Gardener and I took him to get some free clothes.   I was taken by the softness of his voice.  Didn’t match the leathery face, and hard hands under the puffy coat someone had given him as he stood shivering in the January bitterness wondering if his cat had got out.

I watched him out of the corner of my eye as we filtered through donation clothes searching for a pair of someone else’s brother’s, father’s pants that just might fit a 32, or was it a 34?

“It’s alright ma’am…I can always wear a belt”.

I studied the way his hands were ashamed to take what he hadn’t paid for, but how they trembled with the need.   It was over the box of underwear that I felt the intensity of tending to another’s soul.  Here in the pile of bleached fruit of the looms, the fruit of the Spirit was manifesting. Love, joy, peace, patience, perseverance, kindness, gentleness, meekness,self-control…..  We exchanged an awkward smile as he nodded that the pair I was holding up might fit, and we moved on to socks.

It was the Gardener’s shout of delight at his great “find” that broke the ice and bonded our hearts like only a perfectly formed and fitted cowboy hat can do.

“It even has a feather!”

The Gardener placed the cowboy hat on Old Smoke’s head and we wondered in amazement at the fit.  As if the weathered brim and the bend in the back were shaped by his own hands.

“Yep, that is a nice hat.”

The Gardener nodded and somehow, Old Smoke stood just a little taller, and his shoulders squared just a little more, and the old cowboy boots he was wearing seemed to somehow make him walk just a little straighter out the door.

The Gardener sat with him outside the grocery store and talked fishing and the best lures for bass on the river, as I went in to fill my cart with things I knew my Dad would have loved to eat if he was waiting for hope, in a hotel, without his dog.  I choked back the tears as I passed over the cans of mixed nuts we always bought Dad to munch on during T.V. time. I smiled as I remembered how one of those nuts broke Dad’s front tooth on his dentures.  Mom was so mad, it cost so much to fix that silly tooth.   I put the can back and settled for popcorn and chocolate chip cookies.   Old Smoke only wanted bologna and bread, and “could I have one of those raspberry teas? I don’t need much maam”.   I ached with the need to feed and care for a stranger’s soul as I would my own.

Do I love him as as I love myself?  Do I  Love him as I love the clean, and beautiful ones I sit on the pew with each Sunday? Do I love him as I love the children I have bathed, and soothed, and fed and raised.  Do I love him as I would the lover of my soul whose inconvenient knocking upon my barred heart’s door at midnight leaves me with the smell of myrrh and dew? I felt my heart break for him and for myself as I scanned the aisles for good things to eat from a microwave.  I felt the holy moment of wonder as this juncture of time and need and God came to me in the shape of a “least of these” with hazel eyes, and a soft slow drawl.

I climbed into the back seat of the ranch truck with my bags of goodies and felt the compass of my heart spin due north as grief washed over me.  I missed my Dad.  I had walked into the empty spaces during my aisle browsing.  Spaces that my Dad and I had filled together in hours of conversation, old movies and peanuts.  For a moment I felt the heavy weight of his absence threaten to capsize me as I slowly put away the cookies and the popcorn, and bologna and bread in the hotel refrigerator.  I hugged Old Smoke as I left, brushing away his noble attempt to pay.

“What can I do to thank you folks?”

“Nothing,” I whispered as I hugged his old frame.   “Thank you, for letting us help”.

The Gardener and The Preacher went to visit this evening and tell the bad news of no room in the Inn for someone who might smoke and fall asleep and burn the establishment to the ground.  They couldn’t quite form the words in their mouths so they hugged him instead and told him they would see him in the morning. Both knowing something must be done, and space must be made for this grace to continue.  The Gardener lingered as they stood to leave,

“You need some smokes?”

“Yeah,” came the slow thankful drawl, “I am out, don’t need nothin’ fancy, just get me the old kind, generic…no filter…”

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Dimah-The Weeping

A wooden carving of Virgin of the Seven Sorrows is displayed in a church in the Andalusian capital of Seville

Dimah

The Weeping

There is an ancient word for tears, a woman word, a feminine word, a womb word-

Dimah

The bitter shedding of the blood of the eyes.  The kind of bitter that comes from hearts ripped open by the ravage of divorce, death, addiction.  The kind of bitter that comes from wrong roads wrong loves, wrong gains and the feast made from them.

Dimah

The way the mother heart spills out all over the place like a gut pile from a kill, helpless to defend against the vultures unable to put itself back into its body, laid bare to the picking of its pieces.

Dimah

The sound that moves in the emptiness of home, that echoes in the ashes from the cold hearth shadows of life sounds that has been shattered by the violence- the violence of dishonor, departure, divorce.

Dimah

The blood of the eye that drips down with each glance at the babies the ones who never get to be. The ones who are but don’t know why, the ones who are but think they aren’t and so they disappear from the earth taking their beautiful life force with them, nd we wade in a river of blood that comes from our eyes…

Dimah

The blood of the eye that is ever present as we watch the ones we’ve held to our hearts and our breasts be flailed against the rocks of life in a relentless pounding of pressure. We long to give our bodies to the ragged edge, to weld for them a bridge of peace, but our hands don’t reach that far, all we have is the scream.  The here I am where are you? The scream we hurl at God, to God, desperately groping the blackness for the thread of light begging for his ‘here I am, I see you’ in the silence of the crucible.

Dimah comes unsummoned from the depths of us as we put one foot in front of the other and live because that is what we do. Dimah comes in the circle of the tribe as we lift weary heads and trembling hands to wipe the blood from another’s eyes away.  Dimah comes in the collective life lived and the common bond of sorrow as we raise one voice, shed one consolidated tear.

Yes, we know the ancient word for weeping.  She is with us an integral part of the living and breathing of mothering.  Yet, she comes with a promise, that the valley we have cut out from the torrents of our tears will one day become a door of hope. And so, we weep with you who weep, we mourn with you who mourn, we wipe the blood from your eyes through the haze of red in ours.  Together, we wait for the dawn and the day star to arise in our hearts and we hope.

 

Tell Me The Story That Will Heal My Soul

The Beauty of She

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I have been teaching an in depth course on the spiritual interpretation of the Song of Solomon for the past few months which has kept me happily immersed in the beautiful language of love, but as this season is winding down I am taking a Spring Sabbatical to flesh out the new inner workings of The Spirit stirring in my heart.  This beautiful message of the Indwelling Life of Christ.  I have found myself vacillating from anger ( why didn’t anyone teach this to me sooner) to a beautiful sense of the eyes of God upon my frame and his wonderful timing of things in my life.

As I find this message coming out in the strangest of places and conversations, I know it is time to put pen to pad and chronicle this journey…and so we begin with story.  Beautiful wonderful story.  Thank you to Major Ian Thomas who has passed…

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30 Seconds To Midnight

Midnight

 If this fire and loss of my father has taught me anything, it is that in light of eternity, very little matters in this temporal world. I don’t say that lightly. I don’t say that with pompous airs of detached stoicism.  I say that from the trenches of gut wrenching tears and an agony that leaves you unable to breathe.  I say that from the underside of the mud in my face, from the taste of my own blood in my mouth, from the bruised knees to which I have fallen. I say that from the place of stripping and knowing in the nakedness, the shame of this life is nothing compared to the glory of his presence.  The beauty of his face, the knowledge of an eternity with the Desire of the Ages is going to be worth all the pain and suffering this life can bring.  Those are not just words but an ever nearing reality.

What do any of us have to say to each other when the world as we know it is crashing and fading, and falling and shifting?  When we can’t look back and point to anything standing saying “this is irreplaceable…truth, stuff, belonging, being” the message of this hour is actually quite simple in it’s terrifying narrowness:  “Do you know your God, does he know you?”

It is 30 seconds to midnight, do I have oil and some to spare the long darkness? Or will I be sent away to discover the truth only too late, and be shut out from the closeness of his presence?

Have I heard my name upon his lips?  What does the sound of his voice feel like?  What is the rhythm of his heart? What moves him in this hour?

The message is simple.  Am I my Beloved’s?  Is He mine? It is no longer a matter of debate or theological argument.  Either I am madly in love as a bride espoused to the groom of her youth, having learned to “love one another as I have loved you ” or, I have grown bored in the waiting and turned to other things to occupy my time trusting that the fiery affections of my first love will be there when I need it.

It is 30 seconds…where am I? What is my message?

Christians Don’t Cuss and Other Fairytales

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I have put myself in time out. The dialogue is something like this:

Right side of brain:  “I never thought I knew how to say those words”

Left side:  “Sure felt good to get THAT off your chest didn’t it! ” Rummages around in the empty boxes looking for more containers of trash.

Enter the principle:

“Christians DON’T cuss”  said in my very best religious, interior critic voice, wielding a hefty rod of correction-the ever present 1611 KJV. ( In old English)

For the next hour I self-loathe, feeling the bleed of incorrectness, flagellating myself with scripture, all the while the four year old me keeps getting the duct tape off her mouth, refuses to stay in her room and her eyes are flashing at my 100th attempt to silence her.

That’s when I begin to sift for truth.  The truth is, I don’t hate God, I don’t like to hurt people, I believe in pureness of speech and thought and I haven’t stopped being a “Christian” because expletives came out under duress.  I am broken.  I am weak.  I am flesh. So much veneer has come stripping off…I thought I was real and honest and without wax aka…sincere:

Sincere:

having or showing true feelings that are expessesd in an honest way

: genuine or real : not false, fake, or pretended

“Without wax” stems from the Latin words “sin” (without) and “ceras” (wax) and was often said to be the origin of the English word “sincerity.” The story goes that the phrase “without wax” first became widespread during the height of Roman and Greek artistry, when sculptures first became a popular artistic medium. When a sculpture had a flaw, artists would fill in the chip or crack with wax, colored to match the marble. Wax was said to serve as cover-up, masking imperfections on what was most likely cheap pottery. An arguably perfect or quality piece of work was therefore free of these imperfections—in other words, without wax. Pottery pieces were even said to be stamped with the phrase “without wax” as proof of authenticity.

Now, in this moment, I feel the earthen-ness of my pottered self.  I feel strangely as though I was more authentic in my tirade of self expression, than any lofty discourse I have ever given.  In my baseness I feel more real than I have in years.  This rattles me.  Am I back-slidden as my religious schoolmarm black belt judo Bible kick boxing interior self  is sure of?  After all, Christians don’t cuss.  They don’t get mad, they don’t drink, smoke, chew, watch movies, dance, envy, doubt, fear, over eat, under eat, purge, binge, gamble, risk, run away, make waves, they are…..good.  Right?

RIGHT?

My four year old self stares me down stamping her foot.  She lifts her face to mine…” Do you LOVE ME?!” I have never asked myself that.  Do I love the imperfections?  The true dark, deep hidden self with all of its unpredictable un-neatness, insatiable curiosity, frivolous spontaneity.

NO.  I love order, and perfection, and beauty and symmetry and color.  I hate black and white, and mess and chaos and instability and above all WEAKNESS!

It is really quiet inside.  That is the truth and I am shocked at the revelation.  Weakness scares me. I have been told most of my life to be strong, even with the passing of my father, the words from my mother were:  “Be strong”.  The truth is. I am not.  I never really have been, and somehow I hear a phrase in my spirit:  “That’s ok, it’s not your job.  It’s mine.”

Then this happens:

“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . ”
Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

and then….this-

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ”
Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

I am going to go for a walk and close the book of myths and listen to the truth the stillness brings.

Tohu-Bohu

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Today, August 5th 2015.  In the midst of drought both external and internal, I place my pen to the page and I write for water.  I write standing in the cracked river bed of belief and search for the truth that remains when barrenness has gripped the heart.

I write for wellsprings of promise, wells of heritage, rivers that don’t run dry, I write in desperate thirst for truth.

I write to create something from nothing.  Tohu-Bohu….out of nothing something

 Genesis 1: 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 

tohu wa bohu: Numerous interpretations of this phrase were made by various theological sources, though it is usually translated as “waste and void,” “formless and empty,” or “chaos and desolation.”–Wikipedia

I believe that in the midst of the swirling pain of blackness you are ready to speak light.  So I hold on and listen to my life.  I listen to the rhythms of ebb and flow. I listen for the brush of angel wings and the sound of the dove.  I listen for the hurricane and the thunder.  You will not leave me formless and void.  

Living On The Circumference

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”  The recognition that one’s life is meant to be lived from the inside out is a milepost on our spiritual journey.  In a society which lays such great stress on outward appearances, labels and symbols of success it will take an earnest concentration on our part to free ourselves from this highly touted living on the circumference. “–Bob Benson, Disciplines For The Inner Life

Living on the circumference.

By definition:  the enclosing boundary of a curved geometric figure, especially a circle.

By association:  synonyms:  perimeter, border, boundary, edge, rim, verge, margin, fringe
By etymology:  This word comes from the Latin, it means to carry, or bear around or about…
As I sit gazing at these words, I realize I am beholding the place where lepers dwell.  The social misfits, the spiritual outcasts, the religiously impure, the broken bodies, minds, spirits of the strangers… the ones no one gets…the angry ones.  The deeply soul sad, the fearful and cautious ones who look for stones behind every passing cloak.  The thought comes to me of Yeshua The Rabbi’s response to the walking dead.  What was His interpretation of Leviticus?

The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.

Leviticus 13: 45-56

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 Grief can make you live on the circumference.  Feeling like an electron slowly moving around a nucleus of sorrow that won’t let you go.  Pulling you ever inward.  I am discovering in my orbit an internal language for loss.  I never knew such words or phrases existed until I found myself walking ragged through the ashes.
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and again:
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 I turn to the Rabbi’s invitation and question whether it is for me.  What is the garment of mourning supposed to “fit” like?  at the moment it is tight and constricting and I can’t breathe most days.  But I can’t take it off.  It is like being strapped into a dress that the zipper has broken on.  To tight to go over your head, to small to slide over the hips. Only way out is the scissors-but the price tag keeps my hands at bay…I have paid so much for this dress.
No one ever told me that grief would feel so much like fear.

The Way Of The Pierced

 Religious contentment is the enemy of the spiritual life always. The biographies of the saints teach that the way to spiritual greatness has always been through much suffering and inward pain. The phrase, “the way of the cross,” though it has come in certain circles to denote something very beautiful, even enjoyable, still means to the real Christian what it has always meant, the way of rejection and loss. No one ever enjoyed a cross, just as no one ever enjoyed a gallows.—A.W.Tozer

Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Matthew 10:38

Not worthy.  Anyone who is not beaten, bruised and bloodied in this life….is not worthy.  Now there is something to consider.  How often do we base our ‘worthiness’ to partake of the table of the Lord, to share in His Kingdom, to minister to his Body, on things like, past sin, current failings, poor choices, lack of credentials, lack of affirmation, wrong color, shape, size, gender.  Here it would seem the qualifications have nothing to do with accomplishments or lack thereof, and having everything to do with a choice to live a pierced life.   To make the choice to pick up the rejection and loss and carry it with faith to towards the one who bore it all.  To follow the lead of the shepherd of the cross even if it means, as it did for the 21 Christians who faced the gallows of the Islamic knife recently, to lay our very life down in the following.  As I begin this Lenten season, I am looking at my hands…are they smooth?  Or do I have splinters from the carrying?5-simon-of-cyreania-helps-jesus-carry-the-cross

Waiting For You

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Dedicated to the mothers of daughters, waiting by windows

Tonight,

A circle of heart

Mothering,

Wet tears falling,

Threatening to become an ocean

No one caring,

Linking arms to stay afloat-

All for you.

You. 

You who are every daughter lost-

To the needle

The pill,

The lovers,

The lights-

The darkness.

We wept for every daughter dream

We dreamed for you

When you were catching butterflies,

Or fly balls

Or air over the hurdles.

You.

You who fill our nights with aching memory of laughter

A sound of innocence taken too soon.

We prayed for you.

We prayed for us.

You are us.

We rattled dungeon doors tonight with mother love,

Sent an ocean to cover a desert

We wait now by the lamp post,

Expecting. 

Expecting you.

-Christina Dammerman

The Dangerous Prayer

I experienced the dangerous prayer last night.  You know, the prayer that begins:  “God, set her free…”  Freedom is messy.  You start inviting people out of dungeons of shame, and caves of guilt and into the radiance of identity in Christ…there will be some heaving and trembling, anger, laughter and a lot of tears. We get uncomfortable with that.  Sure we want freedom we say, but the process?  That should be relegated to behind closed doors, not in the public assembly of the righteous.  It is too clumsy, and makes us feel strange and unsure.  Or is it that when the Liberator breaks into the bondage, and the soul is invited into life, the Soul is seen in all of its imperfections and celebrated that we question our geography?  Are WE free?  are We alive?   I am amazed as I look at what God says about it, in the life of his Son.  He wasn’t afraid of getting messy.  He wasn’t afraid of poor public opinion polls from his crusades as a result of letting a woman wash his feet with her tears, and undo her hair to use as a towel. He doesn’t pull her aside and question her motives, or her actions.  He accepts the lavish outpouring of love from a heart once enslaved. He wasn’t too overly concerned with dressing the part of preacher when children romped around him destroying his freshly pressed robed because they insisted on sitting in his lap and touching his hair.  They hadn’t really been allowed to play in the hallowed halls of religion, so “The Delight of Torah” came to them on the grassy fields where lambs were raised.  It seems this Son of Heaven that only did what Dad told him to, or only said what he overheard Dad saying was constantly banging on cell doors, and moving boulders every where he went.  He wasn’t ashamed of tears, or emotion, or joy or awkward attempts at displays of affection, he let people come to him in all of their mess and he celebrated the movements of the heart from death unto life.  His inaugural message to the world he had come to save was in answer to the question his Dad had asked of the prophet:  What is it like when I fast?

free   Isa 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?