Tag Archives: Christianity

The Lunch Box

Recently in a SoulCare session, I found myself sharing a tender memory of my Dad and his black loggers lunch box as a way of explaining the “gifts” of God.  The way He surprises us with the unexpected.

My Daddy’s lunchbox was the source of much excitement at the end of a long day.  The road to town was a winding one that didn’t beg to be traveled more than once a day.  So, early in the morning Dad would rise before the sun was up, pour his cup of black joe with three sugars, load his old loggers lunch box with the carefully wrapped wax paper bologna sandwiches Mom had made the night before and down the road to work he would go.  Because we lived so far out, Dad was the point of contact with the post office, the grocery store, the pharmacy and whatever else his large family of seven might need.

The opening of the  old lunch box held so much daily potential for joy and sorrow. It was a race to see who would get to open it first, there to find the love letters, lost letters, the occasional Idaho Mountain candy bar, cherry for me, vanilla for Him.   The surprise of a large piece of a bee’s honeycomb he had found in a tree he had cut down, with the amber sweetness still clinging to it.  To this day I remember my first taste of wild, fresh honey. You never knew what the lunch box would hold for that day…”life is like ….Dad’s lunch box….you never know what ya gunna get”.

The Lord has spoken to me often during this year of grieving the loss of my parents.  He has deepened my understanding of His Father’s heart in ways that has both excited, and terrified me.  Through it all, I am thankful that I am discovering a God who delights in giving gifts, and when that gift is the escort of pain, I know I can open the lid of the box, and I will find a tender relationship of love that whispers:  “As I was there in the joy, I am here in the sorrow.”

We took Dad’s old lunch box down from the shelf and used it one last time, to hold the cards and love wishes of those at his memorial service who expressed their hearts to us as they said goodbye.  Thank you Dad, for the lifetime of lessons you taught me from the lunch box.  img_20160916_101117750_hdr

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Seed Silent

I have been silent of late. Not the sulking, depressed, anti-social, need to be hidden kind of silent, but the seed kind of silent.  Surrender silent.  The way the seed falls into the cool, dark blackness of earth and gives up one identity for the promise of another. Expectant kind of silent. The promise of the hard outer shell of familiarity cracking under the pressure of the moisture and the weight of the soil.  Longing silent. The way the lover sun pulls on the tenderness of the sprout coaxing and wooing it to the surface with promises of union and purpose and destiny.

This has been my silence as I walked my  earth wet with tears and felt the weight of the reality of my dust.  I have learned a lot about my seed self.  I have experienced paradigms shifting in every facet of my being.  Who I thought I was as Child, Mother, Wife, Friend, Worshipper…all being touched by the Master Gardener’s hand each time with one question:  “Do you yield?”

Will I yield to the work of the silence and surrender? Or die, a hardened intact seed with all of my potential locked inside me?

I bow and stretch and embrace pain as escort.  For the first time I am learning what it really means to be alive.  The why behind each breath and heartbeat.  I want to live.  Live intentionally and purposefully.  I am done with existing. There is so much more to it than that.

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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

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?

A Place Prepared

room

I am sitting here in the overflow of a beautiful encounter with the heart of God.  Over 100 men and women gathered in our small sanctuary to sit before the Lord and hear him sing over us.  So many hands prepared food, and tables, wiped tears and held up the weak.  Hands that lay limp were gathered into hands that had felt the strength of the waiting…the Kabod…the glorious intertwining of God, and…we…waited.  We waited and were woven as individual threads in a grand tapestry of grace.  It was then that I heard it, ” I go to prepare a place for you”.  Abba is all about space, all about place and placement.  In his upside-down inside-out kingdom where the wisdom of this world is foolishness, and the weak are strong, he has made room for me, in him and through him.  Room to live out of his life and into the everyday in vibrant abundant joy.

Lord, help me to go with you to the caverns of my heart and let you fill the empty places with all of you, that my life might be a place prepared for the fullness of your love.

Burning Boxes

Mar 8:37  

For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Yesterday we burned the past.  Box after box was hauled from the back porch to the burn pile.   Boxes we had crated and stored with every move we have made.  Boxes of lives we were a part of, dreams we helped build. Boxes of stories.

The Gardener and I gazed through the smoke reading the bittersweet expressions on each other’s faces as years of our lives and hundreds of thousands of hours were emptied onto the flames.  Bittersweet.  Bitter because of the demands our business put on our relationship, our parenting, our friendships.  Bitter because of the chasing of fame, and fortune which consumed so many of our days now reduced to dust.  Bitter the reality of poor choices made, compromises considered, risks taken so costly.   Bitter the yearning for opulence and the clanging of coins in the purse.

Yet, sweet in a melancholy sort of way. Sweet the way hearts were turned into homes.  Sweet the talents and gifts of skilled hands, loyal laborers, artisan craftsman.  Sweet the way we helped a community to prosper and flourish and change.  Sweet the strength of vision and the longing for place.  It was just the wrong place.

As I sat under the candlelight of the evenings Lent service, the words of Mark 7 echoed through me.  I realized there is nothing I would give, no treasure that would tempt me from this place of soul.  There was nothing this world could offer me to trade for this new Shalom.  Though I am poorer in state than in the days of the boxes, I am richer in presence.  Richer in love. Richer in peace and vision.  I have pulled up the stake, and followed hard after the lover of my soul.  I do not long for the boxed life.  The life that was eaten by strangers, and given to other people’s children in the worship of culture, and power, and greed.  I long for my soul to be broken bread and poured out wine in the ministry of life-the life of Christ.

The boxes are still smoldering tonight.  It seems the boxed life does not die easily.  I think I will go stir the pile and resurrect the flame.  I think I will smile at the edge of the ashes.  Smile at the choice to not trade the freedom of living this God breathed authentic moment for any gilded box of earthly treasure.

You oh Lord are the anchor of my soul.  In you I delight.  In you I will never be put to shame.  Hold me close to your heart in these days to the cross.  Hold me as I gaze upon your choice and love you in the midst of suffering.

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Sifted

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31-32 ESV

I have been sifted.  I know the Riddler’s voice in my head.

“You aren’t strong enough, brave enough, good enough, righteous enough, you aren’t enough.  No one sees, hears, knows, cares, loves you.  He doesn’t love you…He isn’t even real.  What if this is all a lie?  What if this is all there is?  What if they are right? What if you are alone? How could a good God-”

I know what it is to stare at a black canyon at midnight at 70 mph.  I know what it is to not believe the spark of life inside of me is worth fanning into flame. I know what it means to take my hands off the wheel and just quit.  I know the selfishness of self-absorption.

I know what it is to make grand declarations of allegiance to a Savior I wasn’t so sure I would die for.  I know what it is to wrestle with the whisper of “is this real” and “is there really a God who loves you anyway?”  I know what it is like to run away from the fellowship of hand warming when a babe questioned my walk. I know Peter, he is my brother.

“…but I have prayed for you”

Those words.  Some of the most powerful words to encounter my life became for me a living stone.  A God made flesh, incarnation of love in me reality.  A memorial of the way I was spoken back into existence and caused to stand upon feet firm and solid in faith.   He prayed for me.  My Intercessor asked for me to receive strength to not lose heart. To not give up. To find true faith. He made a way in me to Him in the middle of the dark forest of my wandering. Because he scattered crumbs from the table of his presence I did not die in my rebellion. When I was his enemy, he fed me. He prayed for me.

“and when you have turned again-“

I know what it is like to have sunlight pierce midnight.  To have words form inside of my spirit blast against darkness.  I know what it is like to hear the footsteps of love approach my wretchedness and  transform the hanging ropes of despair into ribbons of grace.  I know what it is to come groping into the light blindly waving my hands in front of my face to catch my stumbling steps, only to feel the steady grip of acceptance upon my shoulder.

“strengthen your brethren”

Can you really heal wounds if you yourself have never bled? Can you give hope when you know nothing of darkness or the pressure of the sieve? Can you lead anyone if you yourself have not turned resolutely to life? Can you teach anyone to pray, having not felt the posture of humility before the greatness of His love? Can you war, if you have never lost?

I know the sound of tempered steel.  I know what it is to be weighed on the proving grounds, and waged in battle.  I know now the treasure of  whom I have believed.  I know the way of narrowness and I have light for midnight. I know the fight of faith is a good one, a noble race run. I am at last able to say, I follow Christ because I know Him.  I know as I have been known.  He lives in me. I live in Him. I know the life I live is not my own, and I know he will finish what he has started in me.  Be of good cheer, He has overcome the world.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

peter-denial

Kidron Crossing

John 17:26

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” ESV

And when he had spoken these words, the clock by which he lived his days tolled midnight for his soul and he arose immediately.  The days of “the hour is not yet, my time has not come” were over.  Now was the hour at hand.  Now was the moment when the cup was delivered into his hands. In this place, as the moments of his Passion begin, he prays that love would remain in them.  He knows that darkness can rob a person of love, that tonight the hearts of many would grow cold, and they would betray each other-unto death.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. John 18:1 ESV

To my casual glance this is just sensory details, setting the scenes to come in place and environment, but the wind of the Spirit blows around these words and I am drawn to enter the setting.  Why here?   Why this place?

Because it is family property.  It is a familiar place of suffering in the lineage of our Lord.  David, King of Israel crossed here, barefoot ,weeping and running like a criminal from his own son.  Tears streaming from his eyes, his heart aching with betrayal and loss wondering if he will ever see Jerusalem again he crosses this brook to the Mount of Olives.

Now, The Son of David, crosses this same brook as the full moon of Passover shines upon him.  He too has been betrayed, about to be led from Jerusalem.  He turns his face to this crossing over as the battle to drink the cup the Father has prepared begins.  Deep anguish will pierce his soul, but there is not a company to weep with him.  He is alone.  His companions are asleep.  Above him on the Mount of Olives are two cedar trees, under which according to the historian Westcott, four shops are located where the sale of objects legally pure, and enough pigeons for the sacrifices of all Israel would put coins in the priests pockets.  He writes:

“Even the mention of Kidron by the secondary and popular name of ‘the ravine of the cedars’ may contain an allusion to a scandal felt as a grievous burden at the time when the priests gained wealth by the sale of victims by the two cedars.”

 

The Lamb of God sold for thirty pieces of silver prostrates himself before the King of Heaven for the eternal profit of all who would believe in him.  When the blood has spilled upon the ground and his will is weaned and quiet, He rises to the sound of the approaching mob, and declares his identity with all the authority of son-ship. “IAM HE”!  The soldiers fall to the ground and the Lamb gives himself into their hands.

I leave this passage with questions.  How do I view those who accuse my standing before God?  Do I see them as instruments in the hands of a loving Father crafting in me the quality of son-ship? Or do I like Peter, grab for swords and begin to violently swing at ears, and eyes and noses? Worse yet, do I shrink back from the direct inquiry of my life, denying such close proximity to the radical God made flesh, who threatens every establishment that hinders perfect love?

Oh Father.  Keep me steady as I face my own Kidron.  Hold me close to the cross, let me not be ashamed of the sufferings of Christ, but rather may I glory in my bonds. May I say with zeal and truth in the inward man:  I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…and the life I now live…I live by FAITH, in the Son of Man.

 

Psalm Of The Branch

He said-

 “I am the true vine,

and my Father is the vinedresser”.

She Said-

Hear my cry to understand the dressing of the vine.

The Son who through obedience learned-

“Your will Father, never mine!”

He said-

” Every branch in me

that does not bear fruit

he takes away, and every branch

that does bear fruit he prunes,

that it may bear more fruit. ” 

She Said-

Hear the heart that yearns toward fruit

Teach me the way to drink from the root.

I am the branch, you are the vine

I am the cup  you are the wine.

He said-

 “Abide in me, and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,

unless it abides in the vine,

neither can you,

unless you abide in me.”

She Said-

Hold me fast to your flaming heart

Bind me close, that I depart

never from your living side

Always, ever to abide.

 

-Christina Dammerman (c) 2014

*John 15:1-4 ESV

vines bordeaux