The Prologue

June 27, 2012

“What is past is prologue” 

– William Shakespeare

I have always been a perfectionist of sorts. I say “of sorts” because my style of perfectionism entails doing something perfectly or not doing it at all, which has gotten in me in more trouble than it has not. I start tasks and projects with the best of intentions and sometimes I finish them. Other times, my “perfect” start ends in a perfect failure. That being said, one of the ways that this trait of mine manifests itself is in reading. When I read books, I have to read it front to back, cover-to-cover. I have to read the prologue and the epilogue. And until that book has been finished and digested, I can’t bring myself to start a new one. I’ve tried to skip the prologue before when reading but, for some reason , I could never bring myself to do it. The book didn’t feel complete until I had read the whole thing. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have found the same thing to be true with life lately. It has a prologue, and that prologue has to be read.

I think that the past gets a bad rap. People always talk about leaving the past in the past and not dwelling on it, and this is true to a degree. Reading the prologue over and over again gives you no new information, no new experiences. But trying to ignore that past never proves to be effective. In fact, barring an Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind-type procedure, it is just about impossible to ignore. The story isn’t complete without it. It would be ripping out the pages, still being able to see the fragments left behind, only being able to read a word or two. 

 I have seen a lot of change in myself lately. Some good. Some not so good. I have caught myself looking back at the prologue and wanting to read it again. To go back to how things were. Which is silly. But here is the thing that I have found out about the past. It can be a good outline for the future, as well. Not like reading and re-reading the same thing. But rather like reading and then embellishing. I look up to former Allison a lot. She had a lot of traits that I want. But she is also gone. And that’s okay. 

So while I might be too far in the story to forget what happened, it might be time to go back and read that prologue one more time. Not to dwell, not to wish that everything could magically go back to how it was. But to start back at the foundation. To examine how things have developed since. And to decide how they will go from there. 

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Insomnia

June 3, 2012

A commercial that I have been seeing on television way too much lately is the ad for Direct TV. Basically, the ad talks about the sequence of events that can follow when you have problems with your cable. The end of the sequence is always something ridiculous like selling your hair to a wig shop or attending your own funeral. All in all, a silly commercial. But as I sit here evaluating my own sequence of events tonight, it came to mind although rather than ending my hair being made into a wig, it ends with me writing this post.

It is 2 AM on a Sunday morning, I’ve been staring at the ceiling for the last 2 hours and for the life of me, I don’t know why I still cannot fall asleep. After two hours of watching my ceiling fan spin, I picked up my computer. Perhaps to find something to entertain myself with for a while before my eyes finally decide to close. This search inevitably ended on Facebook where I spent a while scrolling through previews of the various events that occurred in the days of my peers. Scrolling led me to clicking on link that led to an old friend’s page; a friend that I used to go to school with in Abilene. And that got me thinking about ACU. And that led me to ask myself the same question that I have been for the last 2 years: Where did I go wrong? And that led me to writing this post.

I’ve seen reasoning in my move back to Houston. I have learned valuable lessons and met wonderful people and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade those experiences. But I still can’t seem to shake this sense of rut-dwelling that I have had for the last two years. I still can’t play that silly “what if” game. What if I still lived in Abilene? What if I was just about to finish my last year of college? What if I had spent more summers working at camps and traveling rather than working my 9 to 5 desk job? The “what if” game is stupid. The “what if” game robs you of so many things that you could be learning in the present. And yet, it has become my favorite game to play.

And I guess that’s where the rut dwelling happens. I have no idea how to stop playing the “what if” game. I have no idea how to stop looking at my peers lives and comparing it to mine. I can repeat a million times over all the sayings. “Comparison robs you of joy.” “Time spent wishing is time wasted.” But the rut comes back into play and I end right where I started.

So that’s where I am. At 2:30. On a Sunday morning. Burnt out. Rut residing.

Sinning On Easter

April 23, 2011

I have heard the Easter story countless times. I have seen many a felt story board depiction of what it might have looked like when Jesus rose and I have the lyrics to “Christ The Lord is Risen Today” memorized from singing it so much. I have known my entire life that I was a sinner and that I had a God who loved me despite those sins. I still know this now.

A false notion that I had growing up was that it was worse to sin on Easter. I knew that I was going to sin all the time but when Easter rolled around, I was on my best behavior. I had this idea like, “Yeah, God has grace but not on Easter.” I remember one year when I was little saying something mean to my little sister on the car ride home from church and I felt the worst. It was like you treat someone on their birthday. You are so nice to that person. You may make fun of them every other day of the year but that day is their day. This was my thinking.

Needless to say, I was wrong. Easter is Grace. That is what we are celebrating, a God of complete and astonishing Grace. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is by GRACE that we have been saved through faith. That means that I can never earn it. I can’t earn that Grace by being perfect on Easter. I can’t gain that Grace by singing every hymn. Grace is being given something that you can’t deserve. I can’t deserve it.

And so, despite my best efforts, I will sin tomorrow. And while I should have to suffer the consequences of that sin, I won’t have to. I won’t have to because of a man who died and rose again 2000 years ago.


Ruined

April 22, 2011

For quite some time now, I have been a huge fan of a website called www.noisetrade.com. Basically, this website allows musical artists to post their songs for free download and trade them for email addresses and free publicity. I can’t tell you how many dozens of artists I now strongly advocate for because of this website. Most of the time, I check out artists based on recommendation or based on already knowing some of their other music, but occasionally I will choose to listen to a random artist just for the heck of it. That is just what I was doing about a month ago when I happened upon the incredibly talented Hannah Gingrich.

I downloaded the four songs that Hannah had posted and started playing the first one. It was a song called, “Ruined”. Within moments, I was floored by how beautiful it was. The melody, the simple guitar, the lyrics, all of it. The entire song is this beautiful prayer of change that I find myself listening to often.

The lyrics start out with, “Oh, I am ruined over you. I’ll never see the morning light the same.” That first line alone hits me hard. Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of my former self. The Allison that I was before I understood the magnitude of love that died for me 2000 years ago. This song reminds me of how far away that Allison is but also how relentlessly my King is drawing me closer to him still.

To ruin something is to destruct it, to completely break it down. That’s not an easy thing. In fact, it is downright ugly sometimes. And most of the time, in terms of my life and my relationship with Christ, that ruining happens daily. All growing up, I prayed for God to humble me, like it was nothing, like that was something that could happen overnight. It was later in life that I learned that to  humble is to humiliate. The two even come from the same root. I was a little less cavalier about praying, “Dear God, please humiliate me today. Amen.” But how necessary it is..

The lyrics to the second line of the song are, “these waters have drowned the life I knew.” For me, it is so easy to pray for the Lord to humble me, as long as he doesn’t do it all the way, or at least not every day. I can pray for Him to change some stuff, but leave some of it the same. But that’s the thing, God is not a half-and-half God. He is an all or nothing God. You can’t half drown something. You can’t half ruin something. It totally changes everything. And that is what strikes me as so beautiful about this song.

That second sentence, “I’ll never see the morning light the same” doesn’t happen without the former view being totally ruined. To me, it is almost like that classic optical illusion of the duck and the rabbit.

When I first saw that, I was so sure that it was a duck and nothing more, until someone pointed out that it looks like a rabbit from a different angle. Every time I look at the illusion now, I see the rabbit first. I know that the duck is still there. I can still find the duck with a quick shift but my mind now defaults to that being a picture of a rabbit.

That may seem like a ridiculous metaphor but the point is, I have this ability to see things in life in a completely new light. I should see everything through this lens of this faith that I have chosen. But that lens doesn’t remain without the ruining. It doesn’t happen without me being willing to be broken down. Daily.

So Dad, humble me. Every day. Ruin all my plans and all my thoughts on how things ought to be and replace them with what You have for me. Amen.

“Ruined” by Hannah Gingrich

Oh, I am ruined over You, over You

I’ll never see the morning light the same.

Oh, I am ruined over You, over You

These waters have drowned the life I knew

When these storms rage and my heart sinks low

You’ve come to save me from this place

And all I’ve seen has crashed and burned

But now I know Your hand’s on me

Overwhelmed

April 18, 2011

So, yesterday was Palm Sunday. And now we are in the week leading up to the day that my God, 2000-something years ago, underwent a punishment that he did not deserve. Naturally this week always brings me to reflection. Reflection of what that time was like, what thoughts went Christ’s head, what thoughts went through the minds of the people yelling “Crucify Him!”

Tonight, my small group girls and I went through that last week together. We read some verses out of Luke and a few from John and after we read each one, we had the same reaction: we were speechless. We were completely overwhelmed all over again by a love that we can’t understand.

One of the things that we kept coming back to is the amount of times that Jesus could have called the whole thing off.

In Luke 19, we see Christ approaching Jerusalem, the city that he loved. The city that he knew would betray in a week’s time. He looks over this city and weeps for it, yearning for them to know what would bring them peace. Wishing so much that they understood who he really was. At this moment, Jesus has the opportunity to retreat. He has the ability to avoid the next week of his life and what comes at the end of it. All he had to do was turn the colt around. Or even just stand still. And yet, he rides in.

Luke 22:42. Christ is hours away from his arrest and goes to pray. He says the words, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Now, this is how it is written but something tells me that there was some more struggling than this. Something tell me that Christ begged and wept and truly desired to call it quits. And then, after all of that, said, “No, no. Your will be done.” Yet again, Christ has the opportunity to run. He even verbalizes that desire. And yet, he continues on.

A short while later, Christ is approached by soldiers, some chief priests and the Pharisees. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said.  When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Yet again, Christ is in control. At the name of God, I Am, these men fell to the ground. Jesus has his out right there. He has these guys on the floor. He is free to walk. And he doesn’t. Instead he asks them again, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.”

He was always in control. Even when his friend, Peter, drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear, he reprimanded him. He had the opportunity to shut the whole operation down at any time. And he didn’t.

That’s why my girls and I were speechless tonight at small group. We couldn’t fathom that. And never will be able to. That cross was made for us. And someone loved me enough to trade places with me. Someone cared about me enough to be the one that was mocked and spat on for my sake.

I pray that that sacrifice never grows stale. I pray that I am always overwhelmed by a love that I can’t comprehend.

One of the things that I believe I do well is adapt. Especially lately, it seems as if change is an everyday occurrence. In the last year, I have made relationships with people that I wish never to lose. I have lived in multiple places that I can see myself moving back to and I have changed my goals and aspirations a little over a dozen times. There is something about our society that makes us look at all paths and see what we can see ourselves doing. Perhaps it is the first question that people ask you when you meet, “What do you do?” Perhaps it is the constant journey we are experiencing to get somewhere. Whatever the reason, we do this. And I am no exception.

In this awkward stage of life, this stage where I am not entirely certain what’s next, the stage where I am scared out of my mind and completely excited all at the same time, I have looked at a thousand different paths and said, “Yeah. I could go down that one.” From youth minister to anthropologist to FBI agent to vet. You name it and I have probably wanted to be in at some point in the last few months. I feel like I could be happy in any of those places. I could adapt. And I think that’s a good thing.

It dawned on me the other day, though, that adaptation isn’t enough. In fact, adapting, to me, seems like the bare minimum. When I first moved back to The Woodlands, I adapted. I hated my situation but I sucked it up knowing that is couldn’t last forever. It wasn’t until that adaptation turned to passion and love that I was truly happy. When I became passionate about the city where I currently am and when I developed a love for the people and things that God is doing,  I felt content. Content with this season.

Christ did not simply adapt to His surroundings. He did not simply tolerate where He was. He gave His all to them. Heck, He wept over His city and His people, broken and flawed as they were. I am entirely thankful for the gift of adaptation and I pray that it will be joined with passion and love in any circumstance wherever I may be.

“Patience is a virtue.” This proverb is not a new one. I have heard this uttered and I have even said it myself on several occasions. And as with many virtues, it is not easy to come by. It is truly a cultivated thing that requires practice. Daily. But, it is imperative. To anyone. In any walk of life.

There are two Greek words that are used throughout the New Testament for patience. One is Makrothumia which translates directly to “long temper”. I wish that I could see people living this out daily. Sadly, I don’t. We are an impulsive people, especially when it comes to turmoil. When we are attacked, in any form or fashion, our natural response is to fight, or flight. Flight insinuates fear and so, most of the time, we turn to fight. And we are quick to fight, too. When someone bruises us, we are eager to bruise right back. I look at God, who loves me with a foolish patience. I have hurt him. I have tried to see how life worked when I did things my way. And through that, I have had a God who has waited patiently on my return.

The second Greek word used in the New Testament is Hupomeno. This translates “to abide under”. This is form of patience that is easier to come by, but only when it is convenient. For the most part, we are patient with those that abide over when we think that they should be in that position. Take, for instance, our president. Unfortunately, in the Christian community, I typically see very little patience when it come to the subject of our president and our government. The first thing that comes to mind is to immediately “fix” what has gone wrong. But, God has not called us to fix His earth and His people. He has called us to love them. And He has called us to love Him. He has called us to patience under what we feel are unfair circumstances. This world will not last forever. He has called us to hold on. Just a little longer.

Love, without patience, is nothing. There are nine fruits of the spirit for a good reason. All of them compliment one another. Relationships require patience, faith requires patience, everything requires patience. And sometimes that patience is not the easiest to come by. And sometimes I am inclined to give up, insisting that my sanity is more important than having patience with people and God. But God does beautiful things in patience. He does great things while we wait. When we abide under. When we are slow to anger.

I am horrible at putting my feelings and thoughts into words. When I write, I have this need to sound completely eloquent, which is why more often than not, I choose not to write. Keeping up with a daily Lenten blog last year was a challenge, but it was entirely beneficial. There is something about writing things out that clarifies them. Sometimes, it is not until I reread what I wrote that I see what God was doing. And so, here I am, the first day of Lent, writing the first of forty daily entries.

Over the past several months, God has time and time again reminded me of his many roles. In particular, He is reminded me that He is a provider. About a year ago, when I was preparing for my trip to Brasil, I had a conversation with a good friend. I was telling him that everything completely came together for the trip in an unbelievable way. Funds were completely provided, blessings were given, and the thought of traveling to South America that I had once laughed at was happening. This good news sparked a conversation between the two of us about God as a provider. About how He has always been a provider.

Sometimes, I try to imagine what it was like to live in the Garden of Eden. I think of what Adam and Eve thought and did. When I look at my life today, my thoughts are filled with plans and to-do lists and worries. But what did it look like to not have any of that. To just be. It seems to me that everything we do in this life is always leading up to something. We work hard to get good grades growing up to that we can attend a good college. We try hard in college so that we will get our dream job. Once we have that job, we aim for the top and for more money. There is always something more to be gained, it seems. And somewhere along the way, we begin to think that we are the ones controlling this. We begin to think that we the providers.

But here’s the thing. Since Adam and Eve’s time in that Garden, God has not changed. We have. The same God who provided food and shelter and love in that Garden is still providing those things today. The same God who saw that a man wanted companionship and gave him a woman, is still in the business of giving.

I am in a season right now where I am semi-clueless of what lies ahead. I am excited and terrified and every plan that I once had has completely been thrown out the window. My checklist has been compromised and I am left in a place where I am daily having to ask for direction and guidance. But God is provider. I know that. He is just as eager to provide for me just as He was to provide for his first two children. I think I am going to try staying in The Garden for a little while. Asking and trusting.

For Such A Time As This

February 12, 2011

Moving back to your hometown  is awkward. That is the only word that I can find to describe it. I feel like I missed something somewhere. I am 20 years old. And yet, due to the circumstances, I have a desk job that I go to every day, I start my morning off with the paper and a cup of coffee and my group of friends consists of teachers, petroleum engineers, and IT technicians. I can’t help but feel as if I have been robbed. A part of me is playing, “when I grow up” and a part of me feels like I am already there. I am young. I know this. I have a lot of life left to live. But, at the moment, I am torn. I feel as if I am desperately searching for a constant, but in all the wrong places.

I loved college. I met amazing people. I had amazing experiences. There are people that say they could spend their entire lives in college. Obviously, that is a bit of an over-exaggeration, but my point is, people love that time. And I did too. But as soon as I felt like I hit my stride at ACU, my time there was over. I feel like I got a taste of something that was ripped away before I could finish. And then I moved back to The Woodlands. And for the first few months that I was here, I hated it. I felt depressed and I wanted to be anywhere but here. But I knew I was here and so I tried to make the best of it. I made new friends, I got a job, and unfortunately I loved all of it. And that leads me to the torn feeling that I have now. I miss the college experience. And undoubtedly, I will have it back soon enough. But now I have this life here and it is this taste of the real world that I actually enjoy.

This past summer when I was working at Ozark in Arkansas and living in Brasil, I felt a similar feeling. When I had to leave Ozark for Brasil, I was devastated. I had cultivated relationships in the short time that I had been in Arkansas and now I was supposed to go to a foreign country and start all over. A part of me didn’t want to go. For the first week or two in Brasil, I missed Ozark terribly, the people especially. And then I feel in love with Brasil and the people there. And as my time of departure from Brasil came,  I dreaded the return back to Ozark. For the first few weeks of my time back in Arkansas, I thought of Brasil often. I would speak Portuguese randomly and my peers humored me by listening to way too many stories of my time there.

I am back in that place. I miss ACU terribly, and I know as soon as I leave my friends in The Woodlands, I will miss this place. Life truly has no constant apart from God. And I forget that all the time. The story that has come to times on more than one occasion in this season is that of Esther. I think of what Mordecai reminded her. “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). For such a time as this. I am here in The Woodlands for such a time as this. And I was at ACU for such a time as that. And soon I will be somewhere for such a time as that. I do not doubt that Esther was torn in her decision to stand up for the Jewish people. And obviously, my decisions do not have an entire group resting on them. But I have to believe that God is using me and teaching me here. And that I have been placed here for such time as this. And that my time here will be over eventually, although when that will be I cannot say. I am not likely to ever find a constant in life other than God and the fact that He is constantly working in me and through me.

At this point in life, where I often find that I am missing something or someone, that’s comforting.

Birds In A Storm

December 3, 2010

God is everywhere. I have always known this. This fact has been instilled in me since early Sunday school days and yet I am still figuring out what that means. One of my very favorite things is finding worship in things, song, pictures, the like, that were not originally intended to be worship. I love the idea that God can and is speaking through everything. My favorite example of this as of late is a wonderful and vulnerable song by an artist name Ronnie Day.

I have always been a fan of this guy. I listened to his music all through high school and, cliche as it may sound, his songs got me through some hard stuff. But I never saw it as worship. Then Ronnie disappeared off the music scene for a bit. His record label dropped him, he lost his touring gigs and he lost people in his life. He didn’t keep his fans updated over twitter or facebook. He was just gone. I just assumed that his time in the music scene had come and gone until I was scrolling through facebook a few months ago and saw a post from him. He explained that he hit rock bottom. He turned to drugs and alcohol and anything else that seemed to sustain. And nothing worked. Needless to say, I was super anxious to see how this season had affected his music.

Now I don’t know what Ronnie believes. I have no idea if he knows Christ, or even wants to. But I do know that when I first heard his newest song, the first song that he wrote after his ordeal, I was led to worship. I can’t hear the song without seeing God laced all throughout it. Through his art, I can see transformation and I can see where God has worked and will continue to.

The song has been on repeat recently and probably will continue to while I am in this season of loss and confusion. The song didn’t have to say the name of God once. It didn’t have to use the word “worship”. And yet, God used it. God will use it. I like the way my God works. A lot.

Birds In A Storm

By: Ronnie Day

Oh fallen friends
Where have you gone to?
Did you see the world?
Did she break you down?
Or was she kind to you?
And of all those things
Those simple dreams
We thought would carry us through
Did a single one come true for you?

We never got older
We just lost our dreams
Like birds in a storm
Hid them away from the rain
But summer will come and
We’ll open our wings, yeah
We will learn to fly again, I know
We will learn to try again.

Then, I knew this guy
Thought himself a songsmith
And he worked most his life
Just to see how far along he could get
He couldn’t catch a break
So one day he just
Packed up and he quit and
Has ever since regretted it.

But he never got older
He just lost his dream
Like birds in a storm
Hid it away from the rain
But summer will come and
He’ll open his wings, yeah
He will learn to fly again, I know
He will learn to try again.

Then, I knew this girl
And she was my lover
And every chance I’d see
Was a chance I’d sieze
To kiss and hug her
But hugs aren’t enough
When love isn’t love
And she left for another and
For months and months we both suffered.

But we never got older

We just lost our dream
Like birds in a storm
Hid it away from the rain
But summer will come and
We’ll open our wings, yeah
We will learn to fly again, I know
We will learn to try again.

But then that night comes
When we all must sleep
And even dreams can’t be dreamed
And ever breath can’t be breathed
But we will learn to fly again
Up from under the ground
We will make our ascent
We will learn to fly again
In the end.