August 29, 2007

This is a writing by one of my friends that I wanted to share with you because I really enjoyed it. Don’t worry – I have her permission.


by LeighAnn Blaszak

Within me there is a woman who loves discipline like a mother cherishes silence. She wraps rigidity around her ribs and stamps unruliness on her heel so that it can be crushed against the unforgiving ground with each of her measured steps. She clings to rules, repeating them with the reverence of the Hail Mary, with the evenness of rosary beads, while she papers the straight shelving of her mind with marbled maps and bulleted inventories.
She has known joy, known laughter, known love, but within each of them she senses the heartbeat of a nameless shadow, a brooding dragon from whose nostrils coils the smoke of unconquerable passion, unassailable freedom, an invincible torrent of insubordinate emotion. These latent nests of temptation stir within her fingers the desire to strangle, within her feet the desire to smother, within her mind the desire to overcome. So she binds them in steel wool, cages them in barbed wire, and presses them inside the confines of a locket which she wears over her right breast, keeping it at a calculated distance from her heart.
In her life there is music: the icy whine of a violin, the sorrowful slur of a cello, and the reverberating thud of a goat skin drum. But it is the rhythm of her own restraint that causes her to dance: each of her movements etched into her joints, scrawled in scars across her hipbones, choreographed even before she took her first breath. Paced. Precise. Perfect.
She speaks in metaphors, lies by omission, and practices manipulation, but she feels no guilt. To her, there is only her. To her, she is her own motivation, her own defender, her only hope. Her body is her temple to her own divine possibility and within it she finds peace and blessed assurance of her own strength. She loves bones, loves the idea that she is held together by powerful white pillars that are hard, and cool, and that would rather break than bend, rather self-destruct than allow inconsistency.
She is rigid. She is cold. But within her is a strength and a restraint that would make Spartans envy, a discipline that would make hooded monks seem like lenient lushes in hollow houses of lost kings.

Within me there is a girl who loves freedom like a mother cherishes kisses. She wraps rebellion around her wrists and pencils her mother’s rules in between the lines of her poetry so that they can be mocked by her sympathizing audience with each flippant roll of her eyes. She clings to passion, letting it flow unbridled through her blood with the ardor of Amazing grace, with the honesty of hallelujahs, while she papers the winding pathways of her mind with Van Goghs and wildflowers.
She has known joy, known laughter, known love, but within each one she senses the seasonal migration of temporary euphoria, a taste of heaven that only lasted for the length of a stolen sunset, a hurried hour of abandoned inhibitions, a momentary tangle of legs and thighs and secrets exchanged under hotel sheets. These brief encounters with ecstasy stir within her fingers a desire to intertwine with another’s, within her feet a desire to dance, and within her mind to renew her belief in the future and to draw wisdom from the mistakes she has made. So she wraps them in the thick pages of a hand bound journal, folds them into little white birds, and lets them nest over left breast, keeping them warm above the steady beat of her heart.
In her life there is music: the warm breath of a guitar, the sweet ring of a piano, and the reverberating thud of a goat skin drum. But it is the rhythm of her own free will that causes her to dance: each of her movements born a moment after their completion, spun spontaneously by the twists of her hipbones, choreographed by the tension of melody and harmony that exist from second to second. Pure. Passionate. Perfect.
She speaks even the most revealing of truths, lies only by exuberant exaggeration, and practices sincerity, but feels no vulnerability. To her, she exists only as part of a global whole. Each of the world’s mysteries is her motivation, each person is her defender, and each child is her hope. Her body is merely a vessel for her own divine possibility and within she finds peace and blessed assurance that each of us is derived of the same substance. She loves every aspect of her own unique shape, loves the idea that her inherent curves echo the silhouettes of Isis and Eve, soft and secure even in their untouched passage through time.
She is exposed. She is faltering. But within her is a strength and an imagination that would make Lennon envy, a passion that would make celebrated artists seem like blundering blindmen in hollow halls of blank canvases.


“Earn this.”

June 12, 2007

“Earn this.” These are Captain Miller’s last words to Private Ryan in Saving Private Ryan, one of my absolutely favorite movies. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that these 2 words are the burden that the veteran Ryan has to bear as he nears the end of his life. He wanted to know if he had lived a good life, a life that was worthy of the men who died to save him. If I were in his shoes, I know I’d never feel like I had lived up to that request. And I think we all see that Miller’s plea is justified.

Then, I think of Jesus’ death. What if He had looked at you as He breathed His last breath, and said, “Earn this”? No person could ever earn the death that He went through. That’s the most beautiful thing about salvation. We can’t earn it, and we don’t have to earn it. Could He have said this? Yes. He had every right to. But instead, He died and defeated death by resurrecting and offers us this victory out of grace and mercy. But I still find myself working for His approval, working to earn the blessings that are in my life. Humanity is programmed to work and earn the things we have.  I think this goes back to God telling man after the curse that he would have to work in order to take care of himself and his family. We work for our paycheck.  We work for our spouse’s and friends’ approval. We work to impress people. Even when people give us gifts, we want to think that we deserve it. Gifts aren’t earned. But we even want to earn the gifts we get. And it’s all about pride. But for salvation we have to lay down all our pride and just give up our desires to earn what God freely gives. So God’s plea isn’t “earn this”. It’s “accept this”.

The Sinner

February 19, 2007

I’ve been wandering around Jerusalem without any destination in mind since I finished my work today. I really don’t want to return home to face my family. I even have a hard time making eye contact with my children. The heavy burden of letting them down has crushed my spirit. My so-called friends don’t want to hear about the pain. I feel like the shell of a man. My job has made me despised by my community. I knew that going in but never imagined that it would be quite like this. How could God ever accept or forgive me after all the things I’ve done? There’s no one to turn to. There’s no one who understands how guilty I feel.

Guilty. An ugly word. David called his guilt a burden too heavy to bear. This one’s heavier than I could’ve thought possible. I don’t want to drag this burden around any more. I’m guilty of so much. I’m a sinner. Without hope. In need of extreme mercy.

Mercy. A word of beauty. I recall reading in Jeremiah’s writings that His mercies are new every morning. Fresh mercy. Every day. I yearn for His mercy. I think of mercy as I walk towards the synagogue. A place where I’ve heard the religious leaders hang guilt over the heads of the crowd. But I’ve also heard the special message of a new Rabbi. He promised mercy to all who were in need of it. For all who would cry out for it. His firm, but gentle tone appealed to my soul. I need that mercy.

Tonight, as I follow the crowd into the synagogue, I search for a place to pray. A place to get alone and talk to God. My head sinks. My eyes are drawn to the floor. I can’t look up. As I kneel in this crowded place, it transforms into a room where I stand alone in front of a holy God. I’m oblivious to those around me. My focus becomes the rottenness I’ve allowed to overtake me. I see all the sin I’ve been convicted of. I see all the hurt lives, the damaged relationships, my selfish attitude, and all I can do is beat my chest in an act of desperation. I can bear the pain no longer. And I cry, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Then I went home.