Mercy Me!

I cling to these thoughts in the Bible about forgiveness:

  • My sins are as far as the east from the west.
  • They are blotted out.
  • My trespasses are tread under God’s foot.
  • My rebellion is hurled into the depths of the sea (my favorite).
  • It is wiped out and white as snow.
  • The old is gone, the new is here!

There is no lack of clarity here. It’s a done deal. But we are trapped in out little human brains and our daily failures. We wake up some mornings feeling pretty dirty. So, God in His great wisdom, adds to His monumental gift of forgiveness and gives us mercies that are new every morning.

Untitled drawingAnother good reason I need this daily dose of heavenly mercy? Those other pesky verses about forgiveness that are a wee bit tricky for me – OK, not just a wee bit:

  • If you do not forgive other people’s sins, your Father won’t forgive your sins. (What??!)
  • Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
  • Do good to those who hate you.
  • If he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. (Now come on.)

There are days when these things seem ridiculous and impossible. There are days when I flat out reject forgiveness and wallow like a pig in resentment and revenge-plotting. Fortunately, those mercies are new EVERY SINGLE MORNING, and I can wake up, claim them anew, and try again.

 

God Bless You – And Me, Too!

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I am trying to imagine the scene from a different perspective – as if I were another person across the room watching me as tears splashed on my Kindle and I patted my own head. Makes me giggle to think about it. The chair in the photo above is where I was sitting when it happened.

Towards the end of his book, Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr tells a story from his time in the Philippines, celebrating Sunday Mass in a squatters’ camp. Here is part of his description:

“I don’t know who trained them to do this, but you constantly feel your hand taken by the little Filipino children. They take your hand and put it to their head. They don’t ask you to bless them. They take it from you. It made me weep. For they have their souls yet! They have light, they have hope.”

Sometimes even big things are stealthy enough to sneak in through our heart’s backdoor and catch us unawares. When I read that passage, I was completely undone – sobbing and laughing all at once. I visualized these children in the midst of dire poverty, taking their blessing because it was theirs to take. It opened up a chasm right down the middle of my heart and flooded it with my own tears and longings and regrets and hopes and dreams.

Without thinking (thank goodness), I reached out my own hand, put it on top of my head, and I blessed myself – yep, spoke a big, bold blessing right out loud over my very own person. I said something like this:


Bless you, dear one, for you are forgiven all, and you are loved deeper than you could ever comprehend. You are a daughter of the King – the One who made this entire Universe from scratch. There were times in the past when you were lost in the darkness, but your identity does not lie there. You are named Alyson, which means “truthful one”, and that was no accident. May you love and grow, suffer and create right alongside your father God, who made you uniquely you. May you taste the fullness of His JOY.


I know, I know, I KNOW that I cannot properly love and forgive other humans if I cannot find love and forgiveness for myself. There are battles yet to be fought on that front, but I made some serious headway that night. I have light – and I have hope!

Have you ever had such a moment? If not, I kindly suggest that you give it a try.

My Easter

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I have spit upon my Jesus. I have been a thorn in his crown. I have denied him outright. I have run away. And much of this was after I knew him, after he invited me into The Story.

They stripped everything from him at the cross. They tortured him physically and psychologically. And there have been moments, lost in pride and fear, when I joined right in. When I seek forgiveness for my foolish failings, I not only need pardon for my personal naughty list, I need forgiveness for my participation in his death – his death!

But… It. Is. Finished. What I am, what I have done, what I will do, what I won’t do that I should – all of these things were already accounted for when he sought my heart the first time – and the 10th, and the 1,059th. Shame haunts me sometimes, for I have done some shameful things. But shame will not win. It cannot rule because my fate is already sealed.


I was given my sentence, but He served my time.


There have been moments where my life has shown a faint flicker of the fire of his love story. These moments breathed life into my faltering faith and reminded me that HE IS LIFE, and that I am coming alive.

There have been seasons of darkness when I wandered far from the narrow, lighted path. The sheer terror of those times reminded me of the emptiness, the meaninglessness, of life without him. The universe lost its enchantment.

But, grace upon grace, every time I turned back, he was waiting. He never shielded his eyes from my sad display of self-destruction. He simply waited for me to get back to the right story, the real story, so we could get on with things.

For the REAL story is HIS story. It is written across all time. It is written where there is no time. It is written in our very hearts if we will hear it. He is the vine of all goodness, and he tells me I can be a branch growing from that perfect vine.

My story will be grafted into LIFE itself – if only I will let it.

Burn It Down

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A blog is a great place to introduce a song that requires some explanation. For days leading up to the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, his family members and their representatives pleaded for peace. When the decision was announced, their emotions could no longer be contained. The stepfather turned to the crowd and yelled, “Burn this bitch down!” That was actually the milder end to his impassioned plea.

I viewed the scene and the fiery chaos that followed on my big screen TV from my leather sofa in my nice home, and you know what I did? I shook my head in disgust and scornful judgment for about 15 seconds. Then, BAM – a much deeper emotion swelled inside of me. Clear as the writing on this page, I heard a voice within myself – they are just like you, just like you. Oh… Yeah…

If you believe like I do that humans contain a piece of divinity because we were created to be in relationship with God – or even if you think humans have simply evolved to some higher place – one thing we can probably agree on is that humans have an instinctive desire for freedom and growth and creativity. If those things are boxed in and stifled for long enough, people are going to start burning stuff down.

I have a tendency to do this in my own life – box myself in and shut down out of fear and inability to deal with conflict. And guess what it eventually leads to?  Burning stuff – relationships, my own body, time, you name it. None of my personal chaos has made the evening news, thank goodness, but my behavior at its core was no different from theirs. Please hear me – I am not saying my reaction was right. It was awful! Burns are painful and leave nasty scars.

It is not right for people to light fire to patrol cars and businesses, but the chaos makes a lot of sense when you consider the most fundamental elements of human nature. I hear the argument that boys like Michael Brown are in those situations because of their own choices, and I fail to see the logic there.  They are, for the most part, living the life they were handed, just like we all are. Sure, we are often complicit in building our own prisons. But this particular box belongs to all of us. This box holds precious children that were born where they were born without prior consent, often into tough family situations, broken schools, and isolation from the Great American Dream. Does the WHY really matter at this point? They are there – in a desperate place, and these our our fellow citizens!

So, my song is not a call to burn down neighborhoods, but a call for us to join the conversation and hopefully the rescue of our fellow humans. How does my generation start to better care for the next generation stuck in this cycle? I don’t have the answers to that, but when I sing this song, my heart feels determined to be a part of the solution.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream and helped us make huge strides, but that dream is not yet fully realized. I hope that my generation can take what has been burned and help rebuild it into something we can all be proud of – that he would be proud of.

A note on the recording itself.  When I hear this song in my head, it is a piano song, BIG, with stringed instruments and a full chorus backup. I do not have the resources or the talent to convey all of that.  This 7 blog posts in 7 days challenge is supposed to be “out of our comfort zone”.  Well, this is way out there.  You get the bare-faced, un-photoshopped, me in my living room version.

Burn It Down

This is where we live but here we’re far from wanted
We wander our street but to you we only haunt it
And when we show our faces, you look right past them or away
No way out because you boarded all the exits

So burn it down, burn it down
Banish the pretenders
Burn it down, burn it down
Or they’ll never see
Burn it down, burn it down
Nothing to surrender
Burn it down and for a moment we are free

Screams of desperation; mark our words
Build it hot and build it bright so they can’t look away
Hear our cries for truth and justice; show our hidden might
Build it tall and light the match – we brand this night

No need to lock us up – this city is our cell
This city is our cell, and you lost the key
No need to lock us up – this city is our cell
These streets that burn were already abandoned

So burn it down, burn it down
Banish the pretenders
Burn it down, burn it down
Or they’ll never see
Burn it down, burn it down
Nothing to surrender
Burn it down; for a moment we are free
Burn it down, burn it down, so finally they’ll see

~Alyson Hinkie
11/29/2014