The Lambs

TL2
The Lamb

Liars we were all

to ourselves first then to one another

believing we were brothers, lovers, fighters, doers, movers, shakers

thinking we were together weathered soldiers, belonging, bigger

when we were hiders, ashamed, pointless criers.

We chose our pride

And when outsiders eyed

our honor we protected the concept using jarred faces assembled in the doorway of an unhappy house.

Who was it for?

For us first, we constructed

For outsiders, first we crumbled

as we clung to an idea of presentation

like a homeless man throwing a cocktail party after sweeping the rat droppings under the rug.

Searching for saviors in dirty streets and sheets

lying with one another about a whisper

passed on with two tongues and fear-shadowed eyes

those windows to our unresting souls.

If ever we were born innocent, we have certainly

fallen.

Thankful for the brainwashing un-blaming us for our abnormality, our disgusting practices warped into lifestyles with the speed of light.

TL3
Lamb of God

The lie was in the music and in the dance –

the happiest false presentation –

the only places we assumed bodies could not hide.

Yet, marvel! marvel! We hid all.

And so did some of you,

but you are washed, cleansed, chosen, bloodied, broken, blessed, forgiven, feeling brothers, together lovers of something bigger than ourselves and the lie

TL1
Gustave Moreau “The Wolf and the Lamb”

of our lost universe

spread like a vast field naked of farmers to harvest.

We are criers for the wooled eyes of stupid lambs.

But we were stupid.

Or we were vicious.

We were wolves.

For the strength of the pack is the wolf

and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

But the strength of the lamb is the shepherd.

And the good shepherd laid down his strength for the lamb.

 

 

*For my siblings – my wolf pack.*

*I hope one day we’re all part of the flock.*

 

 

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If My Life Were a Movie…

GOML2Before college, my movie tastes were limited to action and adventure (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, James Bond) with the occasional family-friendly series (That’s So Raven, The Waltons, The Cosbys). I don’t remember seeing (m)any romantic figurehead films.

However, in college, things changed. In a conservative dorm of 50+ females whose gut reaction was horror when someone asked –

“Have you seen Pride and Prejudice?”

-and my response was, “No,” I was soon indoctrinated in all the best clean romance movies because the conversation which followed went something like:

“OMG! WHY NOT?!”

“I just … haven’t ever wan…”

“Well, you must! It’s a classic. What are you doing Saturday night?”

Circle a calendar date, figure out who buys popcorn, call dibs on the dorm Blu-Ray player. GOML1

I sat down preemptively cynical, but I was surprised when I found myself liking a particular genre of romance; romantic comedy.

The improbably circumstances made me laugh, and I liked laughing. I discovered that I’d never laughed as much as I could’ve as a child.

Romantic comedy plots are all the same; two people somehow manage to do everything they can to mess up their potential relationship, the world is against them and they are against themselves (their best friend even fails them), yet they defy the odds, fall in love, and choose each other at the end anyway.

In a way, I appreciate these movies more than solely romantic dramas; comedies are full of awkward impressions, embarrassing moments, and fights – basically the stuff of real life. They never portray love as easy or smooth, even though their characters do get the happily ever after as the credits roll.

I just finished reading a book titled Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature. It was written by an ex-English professor from Concordia University, WI named Veith. In his analysis of comedy-centric plots, Veith writes;

GOML4“The assurance of a happy ending frees us to laugh at the pain that [a person] does experience at the moment.”

While umbrelled by the romantic comedy genre, we know we can laugh as the characters stumble through life because they are reaching toward each other. We know they will reach each other, no matter what comes between; that’s the genre assurance. As Veith aptly notes;

“The difference is the ending … both comedy and tragedy deal with the extremes of human experience and both put suffering and joy in relationship to each other. In comedy, the pain is transformed by the ultimate joy.”

The comic genre delights the viewers throughout the movie because they watch the characters suffer in hope of the joy that waits for them at the end. Joy is predestined in comedy. Pain is temporary. The quantity of pain is light and insignificant, although still poignant, compared to the happiness. The ultimate message declares, “All the suffering was worth it!”

Do you see where I’m going here?

In his words to the Romans, the apostle Paul says, “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” (8:18 NLT) Similarly, James reminds his readers, “Your life is like a morning fog; it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (4:14 NLT).

In our temporary lives on earth, we are free to, in a sense, laugh at the pain of our moment. Not because it’s not painful, but because we have the assurance of a happy ending.

We are destined for joy.

Think of any romantic comedy. The characters don’t know the ending. Their struggles and setbacks are extremely real and hurtful to them, just like our lives are for us. The difference is we know the ending.

In the prophetic book of Jeremiah, God tells His people, “I know the thoughts that I think concerning you … thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you the end that you wait for.” (29:11 JUB)

The end that you wait for…

We are destined for joy.

GOML5The epic poet Dante defines tragedy as a story which starts with joy, but ends in pain, and conversely defines comedy as a story which finds its beginning in pain and its ending in joy. By that definition, the Bible is the centuries long divine romantic comedy of the world. Our sin painfully corrupts the world, but yet through Christ’s forgiveness, we head toward perfection and ultimate joy. Everything to thwart God’s romance toward us fits somewhere in between.

Here I am doing everything I can (it seems) to mess up my relationship with God, the world is against God and I, and I can be against God. My friends even sometimes fail me. Yet God defies the odds, falls in love sacrificially, and chooses me anyway.

I need to learn to appreciate the romantic comedy genre of my life – awkward impressions, embarrassing moments, and fights – basically everyday situations. These situations never portray love or life with God as easy or smooth or flawless, but when the credits roll, I’ll have the end that I waited for: Joy Himself.

GOML3

 

Extravagant Surrendered Worship

ESW2Most parents plan names for their children before they’re born. Children are named after relatives or influencers, or names are chosen because of their meaning and sound. Sometimes alternate spellings are planned to ensure that the name is pronounced correctly and the lettering is unique.

I was named after my great-grandmother who died before my birth: Anna (pronounced with a long ‘a’ European-style because my great-grandmother was Polish). I was Anna before Frozen made the name famous.

Throughout my childhood, I was usually told that my name was pretty whenever I was introduced. But I wasn’t the biggest fan of Anna; it was too simple.

Once, during a break-the-ice competition in class, a teacher asked us who could create the most words using just the letters of our names. Want to guess who lost?

After I met God, I discovered that Anna means “God is gracious.” I realized that God has already shown me, and continues to show me, incredible grace. I embraced my name and purposed to demonstrate more grace toward others.

I found out that, because of the silent “h” in Spanish, Hannah and Anna are both pronounced the same way in Spanish-speaking countries. I researched Hannah from the Bible, considering her my namesake.

Hannah’s story impacts me because of how much she shows us about prayer. I’m surprised I haven’t heard a more messages on this passage, focusing on prayer in our relationship with God.

Hannah is one several barren women God brings to our attention in the Bible. Sarah and Rachel both find alternate solutions for their lack of children (Gen. 16: 1-2; Gen. 30: 1-4), and their husbands go along with their plans. However, Hannah never creates a plan; she turns to God for her solution.

Hannah is so vulnerable – she’s crushed by Peninnah and can’t hide it. We’re often taught to conceal our emotions with sayings like, “Never let them see you cry” and “Quit being a baby.”

But Hannah? She’s destroyed by Peninnah’s comments and Elkanah’s lack of support.
Her vulnerability doesn’t stop there; she’s not a wounded animal, hiding away, hardening her heart. She goes to God.

ESW1
“Woman Grieving” by Cynthia Angeles

First, Hannah surrenders herself to God in prayer, begging Him for her desires. Eli thinks she’s drunk because of her passionate conversation with God. She freely expresses herself in prayer, being honest and intimate. She weeps.

She lays everything on the line – even what she doesn’t have – and she makes a bold promise to God.

Sometimes we have this idea that to beg God for our desires is selfish. We fail to “be who we are” with God. We forget that God tells us to ask Him for anything because He wants to give us good gifts. He is thrilled when He can shower us with gifts and fulfill the desire of our hearts.

Hannah has no problems with being who she is with God. She doesn’t even introduce her prayer with a few sentences:

“There are lots of other people in worse situations. I’m going to pray for them before I pray for myself. I know that You’re powerful and I’m lowly, so I’m not going to even bother asking. It’s been years and I haven’t had a child, so it must not be Your will for me to have a child.”

God honors Hannah’s request. He gives her a son. And Hannah gives her son right back to God.

The name that she chooses for her son reflects God’s graciousness to her: Samuel, “asked of God” or “requested from God.” She knows that she’s barren. She doesn’t think that she got lucky – she knows that Samuel is God’s miracle.

Second, Hannah doesn’t just surrender herself praying to God for her desires; she surrenders herself to God in sacrificing to Him. Her worship of God is extravagant.

Because a woman’s reputation was often unjustly measured by her ability to have children in those days, Samuel would’ve been considered proof that Hannah was finally “right with God” and “blessed by God.” Motherhood was a married woman’s identity.

By bringing Samuel to serve in the temple, Hannah was sacrificing her identity, her connection to an inheritance Elkanah would leave his sons, even her future security since a woman’s sons were tasked with providing for her after she was widowed.

Hannah gives God more than her child and her identity as a woman, both already great human sacrifices. She brings additional offerings to the temple: a bull, flour, and wine – presumably for a burnt offering, a grain offering, and a drink offering. These things are above and beyond what she would’ve already offered to God for giving her a son in the first place. Hannah’s sacrifice of herself and her son doesn’t stop her from giving materially to God – it only increases her desire to give.

When we truly sacrifice ourselves to God, our excitement to surrender everything else to Him grows.

ESW3
“At Prayer” by Edwin Long

Finally, Hannah surrenders herself in praise to God. She gives God all the credit for Samuel and for what takes place in her life after Samuel. She brags about who God is and what He’s done.

Her prayer is similar to Mary’s Magnificant. Both woman acknowledge how they feel in God’s presence, give God all the credit for what has happened in their lives, praise God in beautiful terms, talk about their humble condition, and marvel in God’s power, justice, and omnipresent control.

Glancing into Hannah’s prayer life inspires me. My desire is to emulate my namesake’s extravagant, sacrificial spirit of worship to God.

 

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For this post, I chose artwork which I felt captured Hannah’s emotions and devotion to God in worship. The pencil drawing at the top of the post is off of Pinterest, but I believe this site contains the original artwork:

http://mery.jp/41953

My Own Ugly-Beautiful Cross

Luke 9:23 – And Jesus said to all, If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Black Cross of New Mexico
An item placed front and center on a church altar.
A 3D bumper decal.
Stamped on a graphic tee.
Clasped in praying hands with fistfuls of beads.
On the delicate silver chain around a girl’s neck.
Dangling from a woman’s earlobe.
Captured in a gorgeous oil painting, stark onyx against the pastel lines of dawn, like Georgia O’Keeffe’s pictured “Black Cross of New Mexico”.
In today’s culture, the cross is beloved, hailed and promoted as symbolic and claimed as the icon for several different reasons and movements, even by those ignorant of its true meaning.
But it wasn’t always.
In college, I was forced to read a long, detailed article on the methods of Roman crucifixion. At the end of the article, I wanted to wrap my angry hands around the warped minds that contrived this worst-possible-way to die and choke them. Words fail to detail the pain of the crucifixion.
Yet, God created those minds that warped themselves toward the study of painful deaths. He created the mouth of the one who kissed Him in betrayal. He created the hands that nailed Him to the cross, and the hands that attempted to wash themselves of His blood. He created the people who committed the sins that killed Him, including me.
Why?
Because He loves us and hates sin and wants to make all things new.
God is occupied with the redemption of the world. Yes, He’s redeemed His people, but He’s also in the business of redeeming and remaking music, business, fashion, symbols, and more. He loves to take not just ugly, dead people that others despise and transform them, but He also loves to take ugly, dead things that others despise and transform them.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says that God loves to dumbfound people by choosing the weak, the humble, the low, the hated, even the non-existent in order to showcase His power and His message.
When I spent a summer in Mexico, I had the privilege of meeting many amazing, strong, and wonderfully transformed Christians. Because of their interest in me and their emotional openness to me, I was gifted with their stories, told by them in their own words. One amazing man possessed a story in some ways similar to mine – only he was bold enough to share it where I faltered in silence. He told me about his parent’s rough relationship and divorce, about the poverty his broken family faced, about his loneliness, about the time he spent in an orphanage.
“But, Anna,” he told me in Spanish as I barely managed a stumbling “lo siento mucho…que horrible” at the conclusion of his story, “if none of that had happened, I wouldn’t have met God at the orphanage, or learned to play guitar, or lived in this city, or met you.”
I couldn’t say anything – not in Spanish, not in English. I can still hardly say anything about the genuine glimmer in his eyes, like he honestly believed the “all things happen for good” verse in the Bible.
Up until that point (I’d only been a Christian for 2 years), I’d held to a futuristic view of Romans 8:28, a “well, in heaven when we’re with God in the very end of the world, of course all things will be good” idea.
But this man had a very present, intimate view of a God right now, right there in his life, working divorces and orphaned children and poverty out for good in his world. I feel immensely blessed to have learned a little of that present, intimate God view from him. The time he spent in my life, although brief, was ripe with spiritual growth. For that, I am forever grateful.
What he had, that I did not at the time, was a big picture view of the past. Not just the past of the world, but his own past.

Turquoise Wall Cross
My past and I have never been on good terms, partially because I remember things vividly and partially because the majority of my past was without God (yeah for the day that I’m old enough to reverse that statistic!). But I do love big pictures!
I’ve stood in the halls of museums, mesmerized by huge, intricate paintings, beckoning me to look at all the elements in all locations on the canvas. The lovely thing about those paintings is that each aspect is so detailed and planned, I hardly know where to look first. All the brush strokes and figures correspond aesthetically or uniquely within the setting, complementing the other elements. I’ve sat in gorgeous cathedrals giving myself whiplash from craning my neck to see how all the details of the painted, sculpted ceiling and walls fit together.
God loves big pictures. Since He isn’t limited by time and space, He creates some pretty long-term (to us), gorgeous, huge pictures.
Like the cross.
Many years after the crucifixion, the majority of the known world still despised the cross as ugly. In 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, Paul talks about how the cross was ridiculous and shameful to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Crucifixions were still taking place. One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, was crucified upside down years after Jesus was, refusing to be crucified upright because he believed himself unworthy of suffering the same death Jesus had suffered. The cross remained ugly throughout the ancient world for hundreds of years.
But God is fine with waiting to develop long-term, lovely transformations. After all, He makes everything beautiful in His time, not in ours.
The cross was the ugliest, cruelest thing possible in the ancient world. Yet the cross happened to Jesus and God made it beautiful. He transformed a horrible death into a memorable, supernatural paradox that I get to see daily.
Picking up my own cross becomes something like that paradox; seeing the ugliest, cruelest thing possible that has happened to me to-date and beautifying it – yes, even publically displaying it – maybe when I have to stare at its hurtful effects daily, maybe when I have to shoulder its painful consequences daily, maybe when I still can’t even bring myself to look at it daily…
Daily.
Daily.
Daily.
And God gives more grace.
In helping us to transform our own cross experiences, God’s strength is perfected in the midst of my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I can’t look at my cross without God’s help, I can’t bear my cross without God’s help, and I definitely can’t beautify and display my cross for God’s glory without His help. My cross becomes simultaneously my lowest, ugliest, most painful moment, and a daily reminder of God’s transforming power and grace. Like looking at an orphanage and a divorce and seeing salvation, music, and precious new acquaintances. That’s beautiful. God is so beautiful.

Cross Necklace
I get to see His beauty on the golden chain around my neck, in the gruesome article about an ancient death, in a Spanish conversation with an amazing Christian, in the hall paintings in a museum, and in my sometimes ugly, painful memories – my personal cross that He promised I won’t have to bear alone.
I am with you always… Matthew 28:20