Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The House and Her Builder


The House and Her Builder . . . 
. . . a parable, of sorts, inspired by Luke 11:24-26

A quaint, old house sat lonely on the market for too long. Her doors were solemn, speechless. Her rooms shivered cold and vulnerable. She was “available” and scrubbed clean, yet throughly empty. And that is the merciless key to this story, because her quiet emptiness allowed the squatters to arrive in full force. They came not to make a home, not to beautify her walls nor to entangle joyful memories within her brick and mortar tapestry, but to simply exist, and with ill intent at that. And to selfishly devalue. And to destroy carelessly. The house was uninhabited and seemingly forgotten, so they took full advantage of her vacancy.

Then one day, the builder of the house, the man whose very hands had drawn the plans and nailed the nails, happened by the structure. And he bore witness to how things had gone so very wrong. He grieved the disarray of her scuffed shutters. He wept for the overgrown weeds and the straggly nature of the shrubberies around her hem. He inhaled the now pungent smell of what was once a carefully crafted clean slate -- she had been like a fresh page aching for pictures and words. And his heart quietly fell apart as he recalled his own vision for what this home would be, who she would become. But now it appeared, at least to the average observer, that she would be utterly lost.

So this man took action.

The builder bought the house that his hands had built. He paid handsomely. In full.

And he violently evicted those vile squatters.

Then the builder began the delicate process of suturing up the destruction those vagrants had wrought, beginning the painstaking work of covering each scar precisely, patiently. All the while, he lavishly filled the house to her brim with colorful paintings, with books housing stories that leapt from the page, with intricate foreign embroideries, with laughter and with love and with purpose. The house was at last secure, with no void, no place for intruders. She would be kept; she was full. Finally, there would be a strong someone to protect this precious property, this house the builder designed with care, for which he sweated and fretted and even bled.

The kind builder ransomed his creation from the destroyers to make it his own again. She had been the work of his hands, and so she was so precious to him, valuable beyond measure.

And this house, she became his home forever.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Good God and Matters of Trust

A smarter woman than I recently pointed out that betrayal is such a dark beast, in part, because it digs into and stains every memory of that relationship. It causes you to second guess your own faculties with regard to how and IF you trust.

In an attempt to avoid self-examination, I’ve been doing some medicating here lately with general life-busyness, a good bit of Netflix and copious amounts of Sonic raspberry sweet tea (like, way, WAY too much sweet tea).  I know that when that kind of thing starts going down, there must be some seriously ugly stuff that needs sorting through in my heart, so here goes.

See, tonight, I sat in a room full of maybe a hundred folks who purposely left their warm Sunday afternoon homes and drove, some for half an hour or more, through cold, wet interstates to gather for prayer, to ask for God to hear them, to hear US, and to answer. 

Leaders asked prayers for members who are about to trek across the frozen Siberian landscape to share the warmth of the Gospel with a people who don’t yet know their God loves them . . . So we prayed.

Husbands tearfully asked for their wives to be healed, for their children to be whole . . . So we prayed.

Elders requested God’s wisdom in big decisions that lie ahead for the sheep they so carefully seek to shepherd . . . So we prayed.

I’m new to this family of believers, and although I don’t know most of these people, they seem so kind, so in tune with the Spirit, so ready to be given for the Kingdom. The Bride is beautiful.

But then, in the middle of that beauty, a dark voice in the back of my mind:  
“But you know you can’t trust them.”

I’m so sick of that voice. It’s crippling. 

The last year has been really hard, that’s all.  It’s a tough pill to swallow when a safe, accepting, TRUST-worthy place suddenly turns dark and foreign and abrasively unwelcoming. I know, it happens sometimes, we fail one another. But it still hurts. And it slaughters the propensity to trust.

And yet TRUST is an absolute necessity among the Saints. Even if I’m stuck, my heart all plugged up. So I try to remember that God provides. God provides. God provides.

And yet the pain is so real, sometimes it speaks ugly, destructive words into a beautiful moment of opening.

What I am left with every time this wave sweeps over (besides a big pile of tissues and puffy eyes), what I am holding most tightly to tonight, is a promise, His promise that healing WILL come . . . eventually. And I do personally know this well, because many years ago, there was an abused, broken, skeptical young woman who went off to college and met a cute boy who loved God and could sing, and she learned to trust again. It felt like a miracle. It was. A good God does things like that for His people, for His purposes.

So, yes, I know it will come someday. Someday. But the meantime is just a profoundly sad time. I keep going back to this line in Andrew Peterson’s “The Rain Keeps Falling”:

“I’m dying to live, but I’m learning to wait.”


Learning to wait. Waiting to live again. Because He is faithful. Because eventually you must touch bottom and begin coming up. Because trust must be genuine and God-given. And because the beauty of His Bride is worth even the scars.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Poem a Day Challenge -- Day four

Whosoever Desires a Friend

Whosoever desires a friend,
and desires to BE a friend,
reaches for a pure and holy goal.


For the One who once created
created one, then said, "No,
there need be two. There must be two."

"Alone will never do."

For souls blossom in community best
and know rest tangled up in the
mess of a trusted other.

It's that quiet sting of being exposed and yet loved
and loving back; a cyclical dance,
like romance, but stronger.

And, my friend, I wish we'd been friends longer.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rich Man Joe

Can I share a poem with you?

One of my favorite things (cue Julie Andrews) is meditating on the secondary characters.  Even in Scripture this is true -- maybe especially in Scripture.  The Spirit reveals so much when you notice those who don't get much press, thinking through their thoughts, stepping into their sandals for a moment. 

I had never thought too much about Joseph of Arimathea until this past spring during my Lent readings.  Matthew calls him a rich dude, respected, important in his circle of prestige.  All four gospel writers purposefully mention him, his status and his contribution to The Story. 

But what exactly was in this Joseph's heart and mind as his hands held our broken Lord's body, still warm, so wounded?  Oh, that pricked my heart.  What did he risk to do so?  There's just so much there.  And digging into it all left me weeping.  And even more curious.  And maybe even jealous.

Forgive my lazy attempt at a sonnet here, but this is what came of it all . . . and the mixed media that goes with it is pictured below.


Rich Man Joe

You came ‘round when Life had breathed this earth’s last.
Surely fear before had held you in sway.
‘Twould be unbecoming of such high caste,
Grov’ling for some carcass ‘long the midway.

But the day grew long and how your heart burned.
Careful courage cast that caste to folly.
Longing, love of Lord brought on a hard turn,
Desp’rate, you embraced and honored wholly.

Handled you His hands, the scars still weeping.
Wiped then from His face the trails of man’s blood.
Taking in the death, you watched Him sleeping,
In the quiet, in the tomb, a heart’s flood.


Last to touch Him, last to see Him broken,
Did you know Him new when Dawn was spoken?


Rich Man Joe -- mixed media 2017 Jennifer Hildebrand

Because in the end, after those closest to Him had run for cover, Joseph came forward.  Getting into the details is almost too much:  physically carrying, washing and wrapping His body; taking on the ceremonial uncleanliness that would come with doing such; the silence of the coming night ringing off the walls of the tomb.  Did he feel hopeless or hopeful; confused, tired, scared?  Did He get to see the risen Jesus and know his Savior new?

Like I said, there's just so much there.

And it reminds me again that, in God's beautiful authorship of this life -- His Story, even the secondary characters speak volumes of His glory.



Friday, September 29, 2017

Making a Mess

For the past half-year or so, I've been struggling, watching tutorials, scraping together materials, cleaning up and making a hot, huge mess with some mixed media pieces.  I wanted to use some of the poems I had written during the last two "Poem a Day" challenges posed by Writers' Digest, and since I have zero visual art experience and atrocious hand-eye coordination, I thought that certainly painting some stuff would be the way to go.  *eye roll*  But, it's always fun to experiment, and it has been beautiful therapy.  Find the poem (inspiration), turn on the music and make a mess.  You should try it!

Here are a few pieces I've kept (i.e. not thrown in the trash or smashed over my knee in frustration).  Sorry, but the camera work does not properly represent the colors' brightness. Please feel free to use your imagination -- just know that I LIKE COLOR!

Enjoy.  :)

"Thomas"


"Godspeed"


"A Song for My King"


"Dream Out Loud"

Please form a line at the right to purchase any of the above for an exorbitant amount of moolah.  Or just go try to create something messy and pretty yourself!  The world needs more color and a lot more pretty words!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Interruption


In my day-to-day, it seems I am constantly running into interruptions.

So, this morning I opened my Bible, in need of some godly insight, a new refreshment . . . and when I saw today’s passage I (almost) rolled my eyes.  Just being honest here.  

I’ve been living in Luke for a few weeks in my study time, and today I bumped up against chapter 15, The Prodigal Son. I thought: “Oy, we just finished a sermon series at church about this one not too long ago, and I’ve literally heard this story my whole life.  What insight could I possibly receive by rehashing this a-g-a-i-n?” I didn't verbalize the complaint, but it was my knee-jerk sentiment.  Yeah I’m still a bit of a snarky, screw-up at the foundational level. (insert song “He’s Still Working on Me”)

And yet here I sit now just a’crying over that desired new refreshment and godly insight that did indeed show up somehow even in this well-worn passage.  God is good, y’all. 

And He always seems to show off in the details of the text, so forgive me if this an old-hat revelation to you, but I had never noticed this one detail before until today:

When the son comes home, the father interrupts him. 

Back up:  After the partying and after his descent into squalor, the son took note, in this foreign land, in the midst of a famine, that he, reduced to acting as a peasant-ly and hungry hired hand feeding pigs, was not being cared for quite like the hired hands in his own father’s house.  He was starving. They had bread and to spare.  Hmmm.  Maybe, just maybe, his father would be willing to show him just the tiniest bit of grace.

He made a plan.

He crafted and carefully practiced what he would say:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

I can just imagine him reciting this over and over to himself as he drags his scrawny, filthy bones back to his old homeland, back to his boyhood home.  Again and again so he won’t forget, won’t get one word out of place:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.  Father, I have sinned against heaven and . . ."

He wants to say everything just right, because he is at the end of his rope and won’t make it much longer without that grace.

But then, the father.  His father.  Sees him.  I can’t imagine that father’s ache to see his precious little boy in such horrific condition.  Was his son even really recognizable?  The father knew him, ran to him, held him, kissed him.

And the son began, by rote, just as he had practiced: 

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. . . .”

Stop.

The father interrupted.  How did I miss this before?

He cut short the son's rehearsed recitation.  Just after the repentance, before he could make his request.  No more words. No plea to return as a slave.  No, you are my boy.  And you are back in my arms.  No more words -- just joy and celebration. 

Oh, my heart. That hits so close.

I think of all the times that I have walked away feeling confidently full and then returned empty, devastatingly humbled and broken.  And how I came back with words that I thought would sound good, repenting phrases that angled just the right way, pleading for the tiniest of mercies.  

But stop.  Hush.

For the Father gently says, “Shhhh.  No more words.  You are home now.  Again, found and alive and in My arms.  So there is only joy and celebration and lavish, scandalous grace.”

Today's was the best kind of interruption.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Here's to the Ones Who Dream

Today, my starry-eyed girls and I finally snuck away to see La La Land. 

Wow. 

And I cried.  Like, big, ugly-cried.  And there were a few guttural sounds along with the tears. As in, the lady next to me looked as if she was worried that I was experiencing some sort of random cinematic breakdown.  When Emma Stone sang THAT song (if you’ve seen it, you know the one), I cried hard, because this film is, as it has accurately been slated, a movie for dreamers, for performers, for artists, for those who are driven to add beauty to the world. This film brought up something deeply tangled in my belly, a pain and a joy.  And I knew my girls would love it . . . and cry, too.

Here’s why all the sobbing:  I am 42 years old.  I have been singing from my earliest memories.  I have been writing songs (not good ones, mind you, but actual structured songs) since I was six. I still remember several of them, and have been known to throw out a kitchen performance or two when prompted, just for laughs. There has never been a time that music has not carried my memories, my goals, my struggles, even my faith.  Rejection has been bitter and plentiful over all these years. Success as the world would define it has been minimal.  Quitting has been a frequent refrain.  And, at times, being dismissed and misunderstood seems to have been the backdrop of the whole story. 

I know, “cry me a river.”  Well, I did right there in the AMC.

It is only in the last five years or so that I have begun really embracing the way I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” in this respect.  Writing music and lyrics was never just a “hobby” to me.  I know that sounds hokey, and people have often rolled their eyes when I’ve said as much, but music to me was breath and primal communication and actual being and “how can people not GET this?!”

It still is. 

And only now am I beginning to appreciate the weird blessing it is to carry . . .

-a FIRE (that will probably never burn all that brightly from a stage)

-a DRIVE (that pushes and pushes and wakes you up at 2am and gives you crystal-clear focus then drives you absolutely crazy)

-a PASSION (that lives beyond expression, but stirs in the depths of your atoms)

-an ACHE (because, no matter how much the rejection sears your outer shell, you can’t seem to shake the need to try, try again)

-a DEEP-BREATH SATISFACTION (that feeling when a piece is finished and you know it is right and good and that you have been true to your Maker  – euphoria)

Because this is WHO you are, not what you do.

And it is a blessing.  And a burden.  And only recently have I come to accept that it is absolutely there for a reason -- not to fulfill my own ambitions or to make money (heaven knows that seldom happens), but to serve a sacred purpose.  

I have given myself permission to exist in the weird, to smile at my God through my plethora of creative tears, because I know he did this on purpose.  I truly believe that God kindles these little fires in certain of his creations from day one.  The drive to create – to paint or sing or write screenplays or tell stories – is woven deep into our DNA . . . and He has declared it “good”.

Sometimes, the Artist loves through His artists.

I pray that my kids will be able to embrace what lies within them early on, like even now.  Bless their little artistic bents, I pray they will learn to shirk off those who ask what they “really” want to do for a living and to know that the Almighty Creator whipped them up special – with a pinch of song & dance, a dash of color, and a whole heaping helping of emotion – for His glory, to bring something beautiful from within the confines of their hearts and out into the cold, ugly, broken world.

So go forth, and be the sunbeam that points back to the source of all light and warmth.

And when the world misunderstands you, when you are dismissed and condescended to for your passion, when your friends and family and churches and seemingly the whole world can find no place for what God has given you to give, DO NOT STOP.  Get back up and get ready to fall again if you have to.  Hone and perfect and be excellent in what you have to offer. You are a beautiful representation of the Creator who made you – the world needs you.  It needs you!

And I needed this movie.


Here’s to the ones who dream.