On our 3rd morning in Portland, after a particularly rocky night, I was staggering around our hotel room muttering lines from Macbeth and wondering when the 'pause' part of menopause was going to kick in.
From the outset forgiveness of sin was a primary gift of grace; not the mere shrug of "that's OK--who cares," but rather a dynamic "go and sin no more" that delivers release from shame and freedom from the snares of destructive patterns. Testimonies from the New Testament onward continually tell stories of lives changed, of freedom from bondage, of hearts set free.
A number of years ago, when I began to suspect that some of my problems with the pastor were wrapped around his secret homosexual identity, a friend suggested I read Leanne Payne's books. My friend had turned from a lesbian orientation, joined YWAM and pointed to THE BROKEN IMAGE, and CRISIS IN MASCULINITY as books that had aided her healing. A year or two later Payne's THE HEALING PRESENCE came out; the best book I read all that year.
A veritable tsunami of books has swept into the store; a tidal wave that threatened to overwhelm our little craft. Rising up sputtering and gasping, I blinked away the water and discovered great treasures: gorgeous art books, biographies, current fiction and classics--many in extra fine condition.
I sat in the healing service feeling prickly: easily offended, old wounds ready to flare at any minute. Desert imagery came forth. I realized that being a prickly cactus is a good thing if you live in the desert. Then I thought of the Christmas cactus in my bedroom. Most of the time it doesn't look like much. A bunch of straggly green arms. Easily ignored. Then in the late fall, red drops appear at the end each branch. You blink and suddenly BOWANZA: red and white froth shoots forth; flames blossoming at the ends of green waving arms. It is, to be frank, slightly ridiculous.
That is a good book which is opened with expectation, and closed with delight and profit. - Amos Bronson Alcott
...not to even mention what happens along the way:
I am halfway through Mink River by Brian Doyle of Leap and Leaping, the two jumpings of which I have carried on about sufficiently in previous newsletters (archived at companyofsaints.com ). This being the time of year that people revel in making lists, I hereby give you a Mink River list:
A few of us were sitting around the back table discussing our abortions: the people we were then, the people we are now, the grace and mercy we found in Jesus the Christ. When the bells on the front door tinkled, conversation skidded to a stop. A woman walked into the back room. "We're discussing our abortions," I said.
"Me too." She pulled out a chair and sat down to join us.
On the third Sunday of Advent, I belatedly unpacked the advent box. The golden ring, which by now should have held partially burnt pink and purple candles, rested disconsolately by the side of the box. The candles stood by, but Michael, who usually found greens for the wreath, had gone skiing.
On more than one occasion I have written myself into a corner. However, I am now walled in, floor to ceiling books and papers wherever I turn. Instead of enemies, my footstool is stacked with friends: books waiting to be finished, started, written about, passed on. No room for feet, except carefully balanced atop a teetering stack. If one falls, it takes root, like a runner from a strawberry plant, and grows into a whole new pile.
Hot and dry...parched people. Life barely moving. Oh, my people--sin piled on sin, pain multiplying in the wake of greed and lust; tears evaporating before they hit the dust. Dry lifeless eyes--past hope, numb endurance; another day, another moment.
Thunder in the Desert: The earth heaves, the heart of God splits open. Wrath and anguish, anger and compassion combine in a might roar: "Let Justice roll in like a flood." Turn, turn from your violence, your abuse of power, your torment of the poor, the weak and vulnerable.
They say you can't fight city hall, though most of us do in one way or another. If not the government, than some other institution where we find ourselves lost in a telephone maze, or standing in slack jawed amazement at some bureaucratic BS that is interruptive to the very thing the institution is supposed to be serving.
My latest battle was with the school system, which moved out my son's math teacher six weeks into the school year because they had 'over hired,' and then couldn't keep his schedule intact because 'all the classes were full.'
It was a place where love bloomed. Not the romantic streets of an exotic night, or the luxurious suite of a Hollywood set; rather the action took place in unexpected corners: sometimes dusty, often shabby; chipped Formica tables under glaring florescent lights, rickety park benches scarred with names crying out for recognition.