Category Archives: Christian

I Pledge Allegiance-

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

Who gave his life for mine,

Who receives the sinner’s broken plea

And makes his face to shine.

I pledge allegiance, to the Lord

Who lives to intercede,

Who shields the smoldering, flaxen heart

Not breaking the bruised reed.

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

The King of Justice, Truth and Love,

Who calls the weary to find their rest

Declaring us Beloved.

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

Whose reign will never end

Whose anthem dispels the darkest fear,

Whose voice the heavens  rend.

Come Lord Savior, King Sovereign

Bring peace to this fractured land,

Lead us into life eternal

By your great and mighty hand.

–Christina Dammerman 2016

 

 

 

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Of Oaks & Men

And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.–Mark 8:24

Today marks one year since you took your last breath here upon this earth, you breathe another air now.  Air that is full of life, light, sound and song.  I wouldn’t ask you to exchange the beauty of the eternal SON for this temporal sojourn…but, I miss breathing the same air with you Dad.

I always wished that scripture for you…that your sight would be given back and your blue eyes would gleam with the testimony of healing you believed in and prayed for.  Even lame, and broken, you were a tree walking.  In my life you cast a shade so deep nothing of this earth could scorch my spirit as long as you were close.  You were my oak-man….walking.

I miss you Dad.  I feel your presence in so much of my life.  I can see you, like a tree…walking.   I just wish we could sit together, one more time, here on the grass, under the old oaks, and sip sweet tea and remember.  To hear your stories, to tell you mine, to see you smile and shake your head, to feel that bear paw of a hand upon my shoulder, steadying the rising swells of grief, guiding me to shore with your sitting easy kind of presence that made it all ok.

It is raining today, might even snow in the high country they say…it stormed when you passed, and it is storming upon your remembrance day.  I like it this way.  As if heaven agrees that a tree has fallen in the forest, and it has made a sound that echoes through generations with it’s passing.

You remain, you will always remain.

–Kid

 

 

The Sum of 77 years

I added up my mother’s life today.  Tearfully categorizing piles of cancelled checks into tax deductions, filing her worldly identity into a plain manila envelope.  It should have been pink, or turquoise or purple.  Her life was so full of color and sass and passion that the last years seem to be a dim reminder of the vibrancy that followed her. Yet, in the midst of a life haunted by sickness and chained to insurance premiums, was a powerful stack of receipts with the memo:  “For the poor widow of Israel”

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.–James 1:27

There in her shaky handwriting lay moments of worship as she paused to consider others in their plight of distress.  Worship as she reached across the world to bring another woman aching the loss of love and laughter and marriage a warm smile, and a shoulder.  Her small offerings each memo-ed with care and intentionality.   “for the poor widow…of Israel”

She believed The Lord when he said of his friend Abraham from whom his people Israel would come :  ” I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you ” Genesis 12:3

I sat there staring at the pages and realized with pride, my mother practiced pure,faultless religion.  This revelation would have brought her great joy I think.   She lived so much of her life in shame and fear trying so hard to please everyone and her God.  How fitting that this tender act of monthly mercy, unseen and unsung would be what the Lord would highlight to me as the summation of her 77 years.

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Staring At The Dirt

Today has been a day of water.  Water in the form of torrential down pour, hail, sleet, snow flurries and misty wet wind. With this water comes mud.  I hate mud. I am surrounded by it. Everywhere I look it has either been tracked in, or clings to  shoes, fur, coats, pants.  It covers the driveway, and the yard and you can’t glance outside and not see it.  Gone is the blanket of white hiding the dirt. Now is the season where you have to look at dirt.  Wet, sticky, heavy, clingy, odorous….dirt.

I don’t find it a coincidence that today has overwhelmed me with water and dirt, as today is also  Maundy Thursday.  This day of Holy Week we celebrate the remembrance of the Last Supper.  We remember the Savior’s aching plea to observe and remember.  His powerful demonstration of service when he laid aside his rabbinical robes and donned the garb of the servant…a towel, and poured water into a basin and washed the dirt from off the feet of his disciples.

John 13:3-5  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus, from his secure place in the Father’s love, humbled himself as a lowly servant and looked at the dirt on his disciples feet.  He didn’t just stare.  He didn’t point out who had the dirtiest feet, he didn’t comment on nail fungus or callouses,  he poured water, and touched them, and wiped them clean.

What a lesson for ministers of  SoulCare-are we washing from a place of identity that is securely fastened in the love of the Father?  Do we know deeply whose we are, and where we are heading before we pick up the towel?  Have we seen our Savior wash our own dirty feet,  before we ever dare to look at the dirt of another?  The dirt of the journey through this broken world that clings to the peace of the wounded bringing them shame, and the inability to move freely. The dirt that dries like concrete, and rips the skin off when bumped too harshly.

Jesus didn’t use a scrub brush.  Jesus didn’t stare at the dirt.  He saw the heart under the sandals he unlatched.  He wasn’t moved by the dirt, because he himself was the living water, the walking pool of Bethesda, the wine from the water at Canaan, the baptism of Jordan, the rock of water that followed the Hebrew children in the wilderness.  He is the river of life, no dirt can cling to the soul of the one who is washed by this eternal stream.

My prayer this (muddy) Thursday is this:  May we remember the washing as we gaze at the mud.  May we  allow our souls to be reminded of our identity in the Beloved.  May we lay aside any robes of entitlement and reach for the towel as we kneel before the sandals in our care.  jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carter

 

Heir To A Grave

I opened the official looking envelope from the county and stared at the title deed to the plot of ground where my mom is buried- I am heir to a grave.

The weight of this inheritance sat with me through the days as I pondered the necessity to prove ownership of my mom’s bones.  Would there ever be a time when someone would dispute my right to mourn my dead on the land purchased and titled?   There across the news the battles in the the Holy Land of who owns what places to put whose bones in blare across the screen. Riots over ancient sepulchers  seemed a bit close to home in my meditations this Holy week.

Bones.

Abraham’s petition to the sons of Heth:

Gen 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Joseph’s Godfather like command:  “Carry my bones”

Gen 50:25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Even Jesus’s life evolved around the tomb.  The healing of the demoniac that lived among the tombs, the miracle of Lazarus, the care of Christ’s own bones.

Mat 27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.
Mat 27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.
Mat 27:59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud
Mat 27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Joseph had title to his own tomb, and laid another man in it. A man who would not stay dead.  Who would not leave his bones in a borrowed tomb.

Seed.

1Co 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
1Co 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
1Co 15:38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

I know my Mother and Father will experience a resurrected body. I am strangely comforted by the fact that they will rise together and experience transformation together. In life they strove to grow as a couple, to be intentional in “doing” life together.  What greater satisfaction can there be than to have the one your soul is knit to, and cleaved to experience the most dramatic physical transformation with you that there will be?  I have pondered how they cared for the dieing kernel of each other’s earthly bodies often with despair and frustration. I think of the days that we sang them and  sowed them back into the Earth they came from.  I look towards THE DAY when the ONE who is the first born from the dead will give their mortal bodies a new life, a new form, and the rejoicing there will be when what was once sickly, and weak, knows resurrected life.

So, I close the envelope and place it with the other important papers that define life and I know that death is not the end for those who believe.  It is only a seed. falling into the ground, shedding it’s kernel, only to be called again into the eternal life giving purpose for which it was created.

1Jn 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I thank God, that Jesus had bones. tomb-2

 

 

 

 

God Came Cold-Old Smoke pt 3

God came cold on Valentines Sunday to the Preacher’s church. The sister found him curled up in the February frost in front of the doors to the sanctuary-he’d been there all night.  She called the Preacher and the Preacher called the Gardener, and we looked at each other and knew…”Old Smoke.”

The Gardener hurried to shower and dress turning to me with his hand on the door his steel blue eyes pierced me with their intentionality.

“We have to be very careful with this.  I’m telling you, this is a gift from God today, and how we handle this is going to make all the difference…you know?”

I smiled and lowered my eyes, “oh, I know, it is more than just a homeless man on the steps of our church…this is GOD, I’ll be right behind you! ” The Gardener smiled and nodded and raced off the mountain into the valley to be there to care for God in disguise.  Like Abraham rushed to attend the mysterious guests on that dusty afternoon where the fate of a city hung in the balance,  we found ourselves rushing to be present to the need of love that left itself at our doors. Several times I had to let my foot off the accelerator as I traveled the windy gravel road to town.

“Why am I speeding?” I mumbled to myself with a shake of the head as I crested the hill that overlooks the valley and began my decent. As I gazed at the spring mist filling the valley floor, and pondered my need to rush to church, the presence of love filled my truck and a tender voice whispered to my heart-

“Because, love compels.”

I wept. This is what it feels like?  This is what love does to you when you know who you are really serving, giving, caring for?  This is what it feels like to have your feet racing to do good?  Love compels the heart to give all it has, all the time, in every situation.  Love compels the extra mile, the only cloak, the humble turning of the smitten cheek. Love compels the cross.

I threw the truck in park and rushed into the sanctuary only to find The Sister weeping gently in quiet attendance to the man sleeping in the chair.  She had offered him a cup of coffee and a roll, wrapped him in her soft blanket and set him next to the fireplace, where he promptly fell asleep.

“This old man, was someone’s baby boy.  I want to hold him, and tell him it is going to be ok. Is that crazy?”  She choked out the whispered words, her hands trembling with compelling love.

“No, it’s not crazy”  I whispered back through my own tears, “You see, this is God, this is our Valentine gift from Heaven.  We get to love the least of these well today.”

We nodded, and wept and tucked him in a little closer to the fire, and waited to see what the congregation would think of God.

India Daily Life

We Are All Just Squatters-

You know how everyone is always telling you to listen for God in the everyday?  You know in the grandeur of a sunset, the promise of a sunrise, the awe of a storm, the gentle whisper after the rain?  Well, the other day, I got yelled at by the chicken lady.  She waved her arms and shook her stick at me as I maneuvered past her hundred chickens trying to cross the road.

“Slow DOWN!”

I wasn’t driving fast, the chickens were just walking slow.

They say she is just squatting there, that she doesn’t really own the place, she is carving out a life off the grid from an abandoned trailer and an old camper, a dog on a chain and at least a hundred chickens.  It must be like Easter every day come egg collecting time.   She held off the wild fire this summer, and refused to leave her plot of earth.  Brave, or   desperate?  I smile politely waving at her angry face and chuckling at the chicken jokes in my head when it hit me.  God just yelled at me in the face of the chicken lady.

“Slow…Down!”

I have been on the run lately, finding it much easier to busy myself with stuff, and plans and doing, than to sit quietly in my sorrow and learn how to walk in the empty spaces.  I took a deep breath and told myself the truth.

“You have lost both of your parents in a matter of months, you have permission to grieve.  You can’t run from this.”

The tears came then as I felt the weight of their absence and the weight of my existence.  The longing to share moments, and jokes, and how Dad would love the chicken lady.   I could hear the Holy Spirit nudge me to re-examine the encounter.   We are all just squatters here really. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and this is not our home, not really.  We may be brave and we may be desperate but we are all looking for the eternal city where  The Lamb is the light.    Mom and Dad are citizens finally.  No longer wanderers in a world full of hardships, toil, and lack.  It is my time to sojourn and leave the plots of earth better than the abandoned wrecks I found them.  I am to make my space matter in the moments of Earth time I am given.  Love carries on.  Nothing else.

I am the squatter now, herding my chickens off the road so some clueless motorist doesn’t smack them with the front end of their vehicle while driving blindly past a lesson from God.

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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.

 

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.