Thursday, 31 July 2008

New Name

Did you know that the disciple Matthew was also called Levi? I just found that out. pretty cool. so i looked into the name- always nice to have a cool biblical alternative name eh? Levi means "joined" or "attached" from the Hebrew word yilaveh.
Levi as well as being a disciple/tax collector in the new testament, was the third son of Jacob and Leah. When she gave birth, Leah is supposed to have said, "maybe now my husband will be joined to me because I have borne him three sons". Wow. unpack that one why don't you?

We tend to look at Rachel, Jacobs second wife, as the significant one, the more loved one, the one who bore Joseph. How often do we look from Leah's side of the fence? I find this really interesting to look at because i have often struggled with feeling like an outsider, despite feeling like i have every reason to be accepted. Leah was the older sister, had given Jacob more children, but was unloved. We see in the name she gives her son, the longing to be finally joined with her husband- not legally, that was already taken care of; but in his heart. She wanted to be one with him.

We find ourselves in much the same position as Leah oftentimes, even when it comes to God. God chose his people, Israel first. As Gentiles, we are not part of the covenant he made with Abram, (later Abraham). We are outsiders. Over there are the people of the covenant, those with whom God shares a testament. But we are over here ignorant of His ways, chasing after gods of our imaginings and bowing down to any hint of significance or greatness we can create.

And yet God, in His indescribable mercy chose to include us in His covenant. The problem with the old, and its dependance on the actions of men, chosen men yes, but fallen men nonetheless, has been wiped away with the new covenant, which depends only on Himself. God swears a covenant by Himself. Not dependant on us. And inclusive of us. Romans 11:17 calls us Gentiles "wild olive branches" that have been grafted into the root. This "grafting in" is kind of similar to the "joining" in the Leah story, i think. But the inclusion in the amazing heritage and promise God made for his chosen people is an incredible honour. Its easy to forget our place. We did not start this. God in His grace simply chose to graft us in.

"Levi/Levy, Standard Levy לוי Tiberian Lēwî ; "joining"
"The text of the Torah argues that the name of Levi refers to Leah's hope for Jacob to join with her, implying a derivation from yilaveh, meaning he will join."

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Monday, 28 July 2008

Everlasting Doors 2

"You're back in the way again- I thought i told you last time- Get out of the way, my Dad is coming through."

Thursday, 24 July 2008

To write Love on her arms

This story is the foundation of "To write Love on her arms", and i've found it challenging and moving. The group it inspired, , is worth looking at. I won't apologise for the language, sometimes it's necessary to understand.

TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS by Jamie Tworkowski

Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won't see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she'd say if her story had an audience. She smiles. "Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars."

I would rather write her a song, because songs don't wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her. Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her. She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of "friends" offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write "FUCK UP" large across her left forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.
She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I've known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she's beautiful. I think it's God reminding her. I've never walked this road, but I decide that if we're going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes.
Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando's finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show. She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott's) Travelling Mercies. On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I'm not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope.
Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We're talking to God but I think as much, we're talking to her, telling her she's loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she's inspired.
After church our house fills with friends, there for a few more moments before goodbye. Everyone has some gift for her, some note or hug or piece of encouragement. She pulls me aside and tells me she would like to give me something. I smile surprised, wondering what it could be. We walk through the crowded living room, to the garage and her stuff. She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She's had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn't have it. I hold it carefully, thank her and know instantly that this moment, this gift, will stay with me. It hits me to wonder if this great feeling is what Christ knows when we surrender our broken hearts, when we trade death for life. As we arrive at the treatment center, she finishes: "The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope."
I have watched life come back to her, and it has been a privilege. When our time with her began, someone suggested shifts but that is the language of business. Love is something better. I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions. Don Miller says we're called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding. I agree so greatly. We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love. I have seen that this week and honestly, it has been simple: Take a broken girl, treat her like a famous princess, give her the best seats in the house. Buy her coffee and cigarettes for the coming down, books and bathroom things for the days ahead. Tell her something true when all she's known are lies. Tell her God loves her. Tell her about forgiveness, the possibility of freedom, tell her she was made to dance in white dresses. All these things are true. We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don't get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won't solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we're called home. I have learned so much in one week with one brave girl. She is alive now, in the patience and safety of rehab, covered in marks of madness but choosing to believe that God makes things new, that He meant hope and healing in the stars. She would ask you to remember.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A step at a time

"When you are going through hard times- you have to take it one day at a time"

-"actually, make that one second at a time"

In the middle of life in all of its chaos and numb stupor the only thing i can do is to keep walking- one step at a time. With my eyes fixed on the hope of which i have been assured and look forward to, I press on through the anger, through the distrust, through the empty loneliness towards a time when everything will be clearer. But the trust that prompts action- the decision to walk through the valley when i don't understand, the belief that Father cares enough to guide my steps even when i can't see Him- this is different to the cynical despondancy i tried before. Childlike faith along the empty road keeps my eyes on the throne and keeps me from despair. And it is in these times i learn to praise the God who gives and takes away.

"When you're going through hell, don't stop. Just keep walking."

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


Those who have gone before.

Often my direction comes from those who have gone before me, but I tend not to recognise the pain with which the first one made the trail when it seems so well worn to my feet. The first man to walk this road deserves my gratitude and honour- for showing the way, despite the pain it caused to walk the narrow path.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him"

"Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in their mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself."- Miguel de Unamuno

Monday, 14 July 2008

Hello? anyone there?

God I really don't know where you are in all of this- I really want to know you're there but I can't seem to find you right now. If you're there, we could use some help.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Fearing Normality

"Normality shouldn't be so terrifying."
Very interesting statement that came up the other day when I was talking with a friend. It's made me think rather a lot about what it is that I truly want. The old British adage "anything for a quiet life" is, to me, simultaneously attractive and utterly terrifying. One part of me would love to have no pressure, nothing to worry about; the dominant part has a persistent desire to achieve something, to make some form of a mark on the world.
Fading into the background and doing something meaningless with my life may well provide less stress in the daily living, but doing something meaningless with my life would be, by definition, entirely unfulfilling.
But the more I think about it, the more I realise that doing something great or noteworthy by the world's standards is perhaps worse than doing nothing at all in terms of the value it will add to my life. Most people who are incredible "successful" in the world’s eyes suffer from that accomplishment daily, reflecting the stress, loneliness, worry and fear of loss in their constant grasping for more. Yes, I'm generalising, but Jesus said it was harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. I don't think he was being entirely metaphorical. I think (shoot me if you will) that he meant it. And yes, it is more about the priorities of your life, and whether "the money owns you" (*gags on the cliché*) but let's be realistic, eh? Even the rich young ruler, who had followed ALL of the commandments from his youth still LACKED one thing- "Go, sell all of your possessions and give to the poor- then you will have much treasure in heaven".
So I guess the point I’m coming to is that making a mark on the world is just a worthless as a life of mediocrity. But those things that are worth something eternally are worth investing in.
The question of how much I accomplish eternally and what my life is worth is not measured by the things I do externally , but by what is in my heart as I go. If I give some change to the guy on the street and feel smug about being so generous for parting with a fiver- rest assured, I’ve had all the reward for that already. A heart of love for the lost, and caring for the fatherless, being an ordinary radical- someone who loves people as only Jesus can, in every part of life. These are the things I aspire to. God give me grace to grow in those things that are really significant.

Monday, 7 July 2008


Shall I see her face again--the pale face and the glorious hair? Of that
I know nothing; Fate has no hint, my heart no presentiment. I do not
know. In this world, perhaps--nay, it is likely--never. And can it
be that somewhere, in a manner whereof our flesh-bound minds have no
apprehension, she and I will be together again, with nothing to come
between us, nothing to forbid our love? That I know not, nor wiser heads
than mine. But if it be never--if I can never hold sweet converse again
with her, or look upon her face, or know from her her love; why, then,
this side the grave, I will live as becomes the man whom she loves; and,
for the other side, I must pray a dreamless sleep.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


"The Big Bang was actually Chuck Norris roundhouse kicking God in the face."
so inappropriate.
not even funny.