Tag Archives: Grace

An Open Letter of Apology (To Anyone I Gave Religion Instead of Love)

7 Feb

Hi,

It’s me, Brooke. I am a gorgeous mess, an abstract soul, a work of art some people can’t decipher.

In the past I was full of fear and insecurity. I hated myself. I remember making a mental list of all the things that would have to change to become “normal.” Some things were in my power to fix, some were out of my control. I was only five or six years old.

I always knew God was real, and that he loved me, but somewhere along the lines I adopted the suffocating belief system that he would love me more if I was better.

If I was holier. If I was normal.

Given the option at eighteen to pick between the dirty, crooked, path I saw myself heading down, and the pristine holiness I thought was attainable, I took the latter. I threw myself into a lifestyle of dedication and purity,  of prayer and sacrifice.

I just wanted to be better.

I just wanted God.

I know during those roller coaster years of losing the parts of me I hated, and reinventing myself to be who I thought I needed to be, I alienated you.

For this I am deeply sorry.

I am sorry for thinking your sin was worse than mine because it came out in your actions instead of just dwelling alone in your head.

I am sorry for judging and giving you a formula prescription instead of really listening to your story.

I am sorry for believing my righteousness was connected to my rightness.

I am sorry for giving you law instead of love.

I  am sorry for blindly following others, for allowing myself to become a robot.

I am sorry for being afraid of truth that dressed a little differently then what I was used to.

I am sorry for making it “us vs. them” and for putting you in the “them” category.

I am sorry for preaching Jesus’ love but living like a Pharisee.

I think about how I used to view the world, and it seems like I don’t even speak the same language.

Before, everything was cause and effect, an eye for an eye, reaping and sowing.

Now, I know there is nothing I can do to make me better.

This is the Good News.

It’s not persuading someone of some historical facts, or convincing someone they are broken and need fixing.

We are all beyond broken.

We are dead.

Then life comes in, and everything changes.

This life is purely gratuitous.

It’s more than we could ever need. We don’t have to polish it up. We don’t have to add anything to it.

We miraculously become complete.

Believing this is how I finally learned to love myself.

So, while I can’t erase those years of living under bondage  and putting chains on you with my words and actions,

By grace, I will now write and speak only of freedom and grace.

Where you go from here is up to you.

Sometimes these things seem too good to be true, but that’s exactly what makes them true.

So please, forgive me.

Please, throw out anything that doesn’t bring life, especially religion.

Embrace Jesus who is love and grace, and be free.

Love,

Brooke

field

Tiny Lights, Tea Cups and Snowflakes

27 Dec

The other night I went to a Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas. I walked through scenes that looked like something out of Alice and Wonderland or Willy Wonka. Beautiful lit-up sculptures looked ordinary until you got closer and realized they were made of out teacups or thousands of tiny vials filled with colored water.

Chinese Dragon made out of China

Things look different when they are filled with light. 

At 2 am Christmas day I cried tears of frustration during a rainstorm while sitting in my car in the middle of the road on a hill about a mile from my apartment, after in my busyness of last minute christmassy to-do’s, I  forgot to get gas. Then I laughed for awhile, because what else can you do while waiting there helplessly for your rescuer?

Stranded.

Later in the morning I cried again in the shower after hearing my families voices on the phone, water running over my head, mixing with my tears making them obsolete.  And I thought on how I bury my emotions, how I talk myself out of missing people, how I think I can make it alone.

“Sometimes you need to let people take care of you,”

A wise, close friend spoke, a simple statement in the context of a simple conversation, but it hit my chest and exploded in my heart.

Sometimes you need to let other’s light illuminate your own dark places. 

And I drove on Christmas day through rain, thinking melancholy thoughts, trying to allow joy in, wondering about the hows and whens of unforeseen days. Everything outside was soaked and shivering, grey and cold.

And I almost stopped breathing as I exited off the treacherous highway to a familiar road, the closest thing to a consistent home I have had in my inconsistent life the past few years. In a moment of unexpected Christmas magic, raindrops turned to white flakes, as if by exiting I had entered some secret portal into a giant snow globe. The white stuck to the ground, cleansing the surroundings and allowing hope to barrel into my heart, like a child flying down a hill on a sled.

I let the day unwrap before me, a gift of exquisite design in the form of familiar faces, breaking crescent rolls, warm and smooth choclate-y drinks, hugs, unexpected laughter and kind words.

I allowed my mind to dwell on these moments, to shove out the age-old worries and fears, anxiousness about life’s timing.

From now all your troubles will be out of sight. 

And I appreciate that Christmas is at the end of the year, because it is, in a way I understand more and more, a wrapping up of a year of bounty, a celebration of light and color, a glimpse of hope for the coming year.

We all know the story behind it like we know the over-sung tunes, but how this story of grace unfolds looks differently.

Sometimes it looks like thousands of ordinary household dishes, sculpted carefully together and lit up with lights to make something extraordinary.

Sometimes it looks like waiting in the pouring rain at 2 am and realizing yet again I am helpless on my own.

Sometimes it looks like pure white covering a barren ground,

or one tiny twinkling light, a part of a strand of a thousand, overcoming the darkness.

The Beauty of Past Tense

8 Nov

Today yellow leaves drift downward and scatter upon the parking lot outside my window.

I read a few sentences of words the God-man said once, words he still says, over and over.

“Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

Have overcome.”

Not, “Will overcome.”

Never has past tense felt so comforting.

Never have words been so real and so able to spread  across generations and lands, thick like homemade blackberry jam on bread.

And we eat it and are filled. And we know it is not just a cute little saying, but reality for us, now.

When the systems of the world with their strangling owed bills and dooming predictions began to feel like they hijacked your day,

Those words will speak out, through the yellow leaves,

They will ignite and burn and leave you knowing that today is not only bearable, but sacred.

And when the faces of people around you look like statues and you are convinced the future will leave you full of widening cracks and alone,

Those words resounds through a moment of heart-connecting conversation, soft lips, a hand in a hand.

Have overcome,” they say, “We are not waiting for someday, when the weather feels sunny and perfect and we lose all our silly human flaws.”

We, like the trees letting go of their leaves, can lose the idea that our someday will be our redeemer. 

Because we are living in the present reality of the past-tense.

Our redeemer has already redeemed.

My Heart Is An Open Window

10 Sep

My hands are ready to create something new
My soul is open to all that is true
Come in however You wish please do

Thousands of miles across the world
New colors paint streaks in my head
Red, green, and gold overcome cobwebs
This goes against all I have been told
This story of beauty and joy is possible

I am aching for a new way to say
How this flower is blooming again
I am longing for a new script to this play
And believing all the world is a stage

Come to me truth, run into my arms
Embrace me and whisper the secrets of old
I don’t have the answers anymore

Windows flung wide open I hear streets below
Calling out for justice and peace
Beckoning my pen to come alive with stories dying to be told

My eyes are ready for a new scene
My heart is thirsty for grace found in You
Come in however You wish please do

Distant lands the beautiful
Faces pass I see one, finally one
”Wherever you are, be all there”
I have searched my whole life, now I am done

Welcome contentment this is your home
Now I am happy
Now I am loved
Now I know I am never alone

New scents ride on the wind and I breathe them in
I allow them to imprint tracks on my memory
Here will be forever a part of me

My hands are ready to create something new
My soul is open to all that is true
Come in however you wish please do

Morning’s here again and I throw back the
curtains and let the light shine in
Laughter visited me last night in between awake
and a dream

I have never felt a joy so real
And it’s all because I know You
Only you can create something so new

My eyes have found new scenery
My heart has found grace in you
You have come in and stirred up my world
Shook me through and through

*This poem can be found in my book All Things are Becoming New.

Windows Are Rolled Down

25 Apr

Last night I was driving back from work. I enjoy my shift, starting at 3:30 and getting off at 11:30. I never have to sit frustrated in bumper to bumper traffic. Especially when I get off and midnight is approaching, it is a different world.

I roll my windows down.

This, my soundtrack:

The lights are soft, even slightly blurry because of the tiredness in my eyes. Luckily, the drive is only fifteen minutes and the air is cool on my skin.

I look around at the lights, at this familiar road that has quickly become a well-worn path.

and I know I don’t have to run away.

the thought splits open something inside of me, something deep and painful.

Some longing, some dissatisfaction I have always known to be there.

I have always just thought it was a part of me,

that it was my lot in life to wander,

that I couldn’t be me without constantly changing locations,

that I could never ever settle down.

but lately, I’ve felt a rare sense.

A sense of coming home.

And I know it has nothing to do with my “status” in life.

It has nothing to do with my location I set on my facebook, having a job, or whether my suitcases remain packed or stored in the closet.

It has little to do with a steady, committed, loving relationship, though I know that has changed me in ways I can’t even describe.

I know I don’t need to run away because I am finally ok with myself.

I am at peace.

I have everything I need.

Because you see, this Grace that found me, it swallowed my life-long fear.

It has settled my anxious wandering heart that is always hunting for the next thing, the next place, the next person that I thought would ease my pain.

“You don’t have to run away,”

I whisper to the night air on the highway, to myself, to the little girl in me that longs for home.

And I finally believe it.

Like Air & The Sea

14 Feb

what if I were to told you that you are loved

extravagantly

violently

passionately

in a mad sort of way that makes no mental sense

but holds you together, stitching broken emotions, a tangible presence that fills your being with visions of the ocean

wide, deep, never unending

unfathomable

 

what if I told you the entire reason you exist

is to jump into these waters

to find yourself embraced by this warm liquid

 

what if I said to you that your biggest failures

your deepest regret and guilt

your moments you want to erase

the things done to you

the physical feeling of your heart ripping in half

those words that were said you’ve spent years trying to forget

those dark seconds when you wished you were never born

 

those are simply tiny shards of rock

tumbled by this oceans waves

becoming grains of sand

disappearing into the grandeur of this sea

 

what if I were to tell you

you are surrounded by the essence of grace

a sweet smelling mountain air

oxygen, after years of being locked up in

a dark, musty basement

gasping for a breath, longing for escape from a stale reality

 

what if I were to tell you, instead of searching endlessly for love

you could revel in the truth that you are loved already

what if I told you, all the forgiveness, purpose, pleasure, beauty, passion, life you look for

is as close as the in and out of your chest

 

this is the air

you can’t escape it, you can only choose to hold your breath

or to breathe

 

this is the ocean

you can’t contain it, you can only choose to stay on the dry sand

or to jump

10 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

20 Dec

There are mornings I wake up and immediately believe two lies:

1. That today is just another day.
2. That I am jut an ordinary human being.

I forget:
1. I am breathing. Life itself is a miracle.
2. I am a hero on a journey.
3. Everything is mine, because it was given to me.

I want to believe these impossible things before breakfast.
And the list continues:

4. All things worth having are a gift.
5. I already have everything that everyone is searching for.
6. Nothing is worth more than this day.
7. Epic stories are in me, waiting to be told.
8. I am loved extravagantly, I with all my counted flaws I stupidly keep track of in the darkened mirror.
9. Everything is finished. The struggle is believing that.

Speaking of number 7, all this feels like a fairy tale at times, a place like Narnia or Middle Earth or Oz, like falling deeper down the rabbit hole or taking the red pill.

Can I believe in what seems to be a story? Or is it that the stories tell a greater Truth that our world can’t grasp?

What is the reason these stories seem more alive than our “mundane” lives?
Why do they resound so deeply within our broken frames?

Could it be because they are the way we understand The Story?

And so I bring you number 10:

10. God came as a human infant; bloody and screaming, into a dark stable reeking of manure. He grew, walked among us, healed the sick, mended the broken, tore down the old system of religion, ate with the whores and criminals, loved all. He was murdered and came to life, defeating death forever, giving us the greatest gift: himself (true life) to all who believe.

Because of #10, because I am a character in This Book, I can believe the other 9 impossible things before breakfast.

A Handful of Crumbs- Thoughts on Grace & Identity

18 Nov

I picked up this memoir by Kim Sunee, “Trail of Crumbs” partially because the cover was pretty, partially because it was on clearance for $5, but mostly because of the subtitle,

“Hunger, Love and the Search for Home.”

That subtitle could just as well describe the book I am currently working on, “The Wizard of God.”

Anyways, it’s a beautiful and intriguing life story. Kim was abandoned on a bench in South Korea when she was three, left with nothing but a fistful of crumbs to survive on. She sat there for three days until a policeman finally brought her to an orphanage where she was adopted by an American couple.

Fast forward many years. Kim meets a wealthy French businessman man who is charming and wonderful and gives her everything she has ever wanted. I was swept into the beauty of their life together, living in the countryside of France in a huge house surrounded by orchards and gardens. Kim cooks these fabulous dinner parties for traveling guests, exquisite combinations that made me long for new food and new places. Her lover bought her a building in Paris to open her own book store that specializes in poetry. There she meets fascinating artists and writers from all over the world. Her life seemed ideal. A fairy tale. She came from nothing, and was given everything.

And it wasn’t just money. He loved her too. Passionately,  in a way that made all their friends jealous.

That would seem like the end of the perfect story, right?

No. she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t stay. She left him and threw everything she had away.

Why? Two reasons stuck out in my mind.

After being abandoned as a child, and growing up in an American family that was emotionally distant, she traveled to try to “find herself,” find a place where she belonged.

She thought she could find herself in a man, in this group of friends who were built around her in France, but it wasn’t enough.

She needed the one she came from to give her an identity.

The other reason was, in her lack of knowing who she was, in her struggling with abandonment and rejection, when offered the wonderful gifts of not only a beautiful life, but the heart of a loving man, she felt like she didn’t deserve it.

It’s impossible to accept grace when we don’t know who we are.

She was left in this world with nothing but a handful of crumbs, and so that’s what she built her identity around. She tried to get professional help, but it never subsided the ache. The more her lover lavished expensive and beautiful gifts on her, the more empty she felt.

I am not trying to psychoanalyze this woman specifically. The reason I write about her story in particular because as I was reading it I was struck with the idea that is perhaps the human condition.

We were born into this world with nothing, naked and screaming. We are often left with nothing more than a handful of crumbs, a few grains of rice, pieces we try to put together to make a life for ourselves, to create a home and a family, to find a sense of belonging.

A little boy in a slum in Chennai India, getting his one meal of the day.

Some of us find grace, find God.

We see He is not angry, we see He has given us good things. But often the more He gives, the harder it is to accept. That sense of debt that was established sometime in the losing of our innocence surfaces.

“Who am I to deserve this?”

The question can really be edited, cut in half, leaving the first three words for us to contend with,

“Who am I?”

It’s easy to see the brokeness, the tragic mistakes we’ve made, the reasons we were left with nothing.

It’s a lot harder to see who we really are:

Sacred, beautiful, works of art.

“It is our light  not our darkness that most frightens us.”

C.S Lewis said it this way in The Weight of Glory, 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

So, what then?

Is there some simple formula? Do we do like this awesome girl and repeat in the mirror every morning convincing ourselves that we are really wonderful people?

I love this video. Yet, there are  not enough magic words to overcome a lifetime of feeling we are unworthy.

There can never be enough people telling you how brilliant or fabulous you are, when your  inner voice that tells says you will never be enough.

It is only in the opening of our ears to hear the whispers of The One who created, the only one with the right to tell us who we are. It is only in believing that we are free

To quote Lewis again,

“And that is enough to raise your thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride… Perfect humility dispenses with modesty.”
― C.S. LewisThe Weight of Glory

We may see ourselves as having only a handful of crumbs, but there is a veil that has been ripped and beyond that, there is a feast we can sit down and partake in anytime we like.

Once we see this feast, once we understand we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters, we can invite the whole world to come, sit, and dine.

From Starvation to Drunken Joy

13 Nov

It’s hard to swallow sometimes
the sweet liquid that You are enough
it burns my pride as it cures it

but when I get pills stuck in my throat
(self-made medicine
from a factory in my heart
in that smoggy part that doesn’t fully believe)

I can see no other alternative
and I wouldn’t want to

truth is too delicious

because there is no cure
other than Your bread and wine

and that is my sustenance
and my drunken joy

I’ve tried  to get meat
bloody and rare
left overs from an altar somewhere

but it’s a carcass filled with maggots
I  couldn’t see that because I was
so busy counting up
what I thought I owed you

so bent on a payment plan that
I sold my last bit of grain to the poor
only for it to be lost in transport

it was only then
in my feverish aches
in my grand delusions
in my starving hallucinations
that I could somehow provide
what I needed to survive

I finally collapsed and saw
my bloated belly
and emaciated face

(and I knew I was one of them too)

I knew that the grocery stores were empty
I knew that the garden was dead
I knew that the store houses were rotting

only then was I able to be fed

carried to a feast, a banquet, a buffet
endless and guiltless and always mine

because there is no cure
other than then Your bread and wine

and that is my sustenance
and my drunken joy

“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred-proof grace-of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel-after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection your bootstraps-suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”

-Robert Capon, Between Noon and Three (as quoted in Brennan Manning’s, The Ragamuffin Gospel)

“God’s Will” Doesn’t Tie Us Up

24 Sep

Christianity is a weird and awkward thing. The more I love Jesus and see who He really is the more I realize I want absolutely nothing to do with religion.

“Religion” literally means, “to bind or tie.”

I have returned to bondage over and over again in my life.
I have listened to the voice, and I have parroted the voice that says:

You are not praying enough.
You need to read (and translate and study and apply) the bible more to your life.
You need to give God more of your life.
You are not doing enough to meet the needs of the world.
You are not telling enough people about Jesus.
You need to make sure you avoid anything that looks sinful.
You need to give everything you have, not waste a single second, always be trying to become a better human being.

Sounds like good advice…..right?

In the past, it sure seemed like it. I used to give that advice to others when they struggled. I used to preach that advice, believe it, try to live up to it, but now the grace of God has revealed it for what it is: disgusting.

It adds links, one by one, to the heavy rusted chain around your neck, choking all life out.

When you grow up in the mindset that these things, listed above, are necessary to be “in”— to be loved, to be worthy to gain an eternal reward— it is hard to be released from those sort of shackles.

It feels safe inside the bondage of religion. It feels easier to try to be under the law and attempt to gain some sort of right-ness with God by the petty little things you do, but it is just worthless.

So worthless.

Then, to complicate things even more, I brought “THE WILL OF GOD”  (Duh, Dun DUHH! Pause for dramatic music) into the whole matter.

(Now, I cringe at that phrase, thinking how many lives have been ruined by attaching that label to a selfish, evil, or just plain lame decisions and events.)

As if it were not enough to try to avoid sin and “get closer” to God, I believed if I wasn’t close enough I wouldn’t be able to hear His voice and understand what he wants me to do with my life. Oh the pressure.

This is especially treacherous when you are eighteen and you have to have a complete life vision and plan from the LORD all laid out or you will end up a drifting loser and make all the mistakes your friends did, living some mediocre life in the suburbs with your eyes glued to the television and the world will end up dying because you did not fulfill your DESTINY.

Or, at least that is what I believed. Maybe I was crazy.

So I fasted, cried, read more books, sought consul from “more mature” Christians, prayed, and screamed:

“God just tell me what to DO!!”

I lived in fear that I’d marry the wrong person, have the wrong job (or be in the wrong ministry, because the thought of having a “normal” job sounded like suicide,) move to the wrong country, miss out COMPLETELY on God’s “perfect will” and waste my short life, ending on my death bed with regret. DUN DUN DUHHHHHH!

(All these thoughts were religious, returning me to bondage.)

The great irony is,

The will of God is simply that I live in freedom, in love, in Him.

It was never hidden until I was “good enough” to see it, it was always right there for me to see, my eyes were just closed.

I am so grateful for a God that rescues.

He wouldn’t let me stay in my chains playing with my filthy rags.  He gently led me to a place where I realized I had nothing.

I saw my neediness. I saw my failure. My own stinking humanity.

I saw the worthless and futility of it all.

I came to see I can’t do a thing, and that’s the point.

But there is a but.

“Then who can be saved?”

“With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. “

Yes. Hallelujah. LIFE. This is the Good News.

There is no fear in that. There is no pressure. There is no condemnation. There is no “getting it wrong.”

As I my eyes have been opened to what is behind the veil that has been torn,

I see all things have already been done, all things are already mine, and it changes everything.

I don’t need to ask God what His will is, it’s right there! For me to start believing all that I have in Him.

Yet at times I still choose not to believe, to allow emotions and confusion to take place of the reality of His life in me. When I can’t see where I am going, when I don’t know where I am going to live or what I am going to do or how I am going to make it, I go back to my old cry, “God just tell me what to DO!!”

And then, I hear it, a  whisper:

“Here’s what to do- let me love you.
Stop trying.
Realize this is a gift, this life, this right-ness with me.
There is nothing but Grace, it is not a concept, it is ME.
I have given you all things.
There is nothing you can do to be closer to me, I am as close as your breath.
I will take you on this beautiful, wild adventure if you just stop trying to figure things out.
You don’t need to return to bondage by trying to be better, you never will be.
Let go of that.
Let me live through you.
Let me love in you and out of of you.
Then you will live in joy. You will not know guilt. You will be free from fear.
Your life will be abundant because it will be my life.
You will not look at your petty sin because you will look at me.
You will dream big and have the courage and motivation to follow those dreams.
You will not need to constantly stop and ask me which way to go, because you will know I am the way.
You will stop asking for answers and rest in my love.
You will stop asking for a plan and realize, this is the only plan- to know me and be known by me.
That is my will.”

 

*For a great biblical teaching on this, check out Andrew Farley’s Message Click on “Recent Messages” Then  “8-28-11- Finding God’s Will.”

Or e-mail me- writeeveryday@gmail.com and I’ll send it to you.

Also you should read a blog by Don Miller, because he is awesome.

%d bloggers like this: