We Are All Lizzy

Trying something new. Needs a little work. That’s what practice is for, right?

It was a dark, closed-in space, dank and dingy, and Lizzy wasn’t at all sure how she had ended up there.
It had started with a teensy spot of envy – wishing that she owned what someone else had – and had ended up with robbery and murder when the owner had walked in on her.
She stared at the wall, hardly able to comprehend why she had done what she had done. She wasn’t a bad person. Sure, she could be prideful and sometimes got angry when she shouldn’t, but there were lots of people who were worse than she.
The door clanged open and she was led down the hall to the courtroom in chains. Chains.
It was humiliating to stand there in that orange suit, shackles on her wrists and ankles, knowing that she deserved to be there and hating that now everyone else knew she deserved it too.
The judge came in and sat, looking at her for a long time.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lizzy saw another figure in the same orange jumpsuit, with the same shackles, shuffle up and stand next to her. She turned and saw it was a man. A plain, rough-hewn sort of man. He glanced down at her and gave a small smile. She turned away, embarrassed.
She looked back at the judge who had begun to speak.
There was disappointment in the voice, but there was kindness too.
“You have been found guilty of robbery and of murder. Your sentence is death.”
Lizzy lowered her eyes and felt the breath explode out of her. She knew she deserved it. She waited to be led out again, back to her cell, but the judge kept speaking.
“Lizzy. You will now be released.”
Lizzy’s eyes shot up again, widened in disbelief. That didn’t make sense!
“My son has volunteered to take your place. He will die and you will be released.”
It happened so quickly that Lizzy hardly understood. Her chains were taken off and that man who had stood beside her was led away to be put to death. With dizzying speed, she found herself outside the courthouse – free.
As she stood there, dumbfounded and bewildered, breathing the fresh, clean air of the outdoors, a voice said her name.
She looked up and saw the judge standing beside her.
“You must be hungry. I know that it all happened very quickly. Will you come to my house for supper?”
She stared into the somber, kind eyes of the judge and, despite herself, despite her embarrassment and bafflement, found herself nodding yes.
After a meal of the most delicious food she had ever tasted and the most absorbing conversation she’d ever taken part of, the judge looked at her with a look of the most raw and naked love she had ever seen.
“Lizzy. I love you. I love you with all that I am. I want to adopt you as my own child. I want to be your Father, your Daddy. Everything I have will be yours. I want to give you a home, give you my name, give you my love. Will you have me?”
The judge who had delivered the just sentence of death for her crimes, the judge who gave up his son to take her place, that very same judge now also wanted to adopt her and give her all of him?
Lizzy could do nothing but fall to her knees with her face to the floor and weep.

Still Following the Signs

I sit in the early morning, looking out the window at the wind making shimmery the leaves of our cottonwood, and remember Kristina.  It is the third anniversary of her death, and it sometimes still feels as though we are stumbling through the dark.  So much hurt and fear back then, so much hurt and fear all around us now.  In this world, it will always be so.  There are glimpses of light that keep us going, slight breaths of a hope that keeps our eyes searching the gloom for that bright and beautiful future that is promised, but it is easy to get distracted by the ugliness all around.  I am drawn back to a post I wrote soon after Kristina’s death.
pain of death
In the middle of this pain common to all of us who live in this world, as we sit surrounded by those who love us, it is tempting to add a veneer of softness, to speak in clichés that turn raw, ripped-open pain into a lie.  Sometimes this is even encouraged among those of us who follow Christ.  Yet to do this denies that we are real, that our hearts can be ripped in two, that our pain and loss can suffocate and almost overwhelm us.  To do this denies that Christ is real, that His body and heart were also ripped apart.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

When God seems not to place much importance on whether we are free from pain or suffering, it is difficult not to live in a state of paralysis.  It seems a formidable task both to acknowledge the depth of pain we feel and also to acknowledge the depth of God’s love for us.
We see this pain in the world around us.  We see it all throughout the Bible.  Abel.  Abraham.  Joseph.  Moses.  Uriah the prophet…murdered for prophesying while Jeremiah was allowed to live.  John the Baptist…Jesus’ cousin.  All of the apostles…Jesus’ closest friends.
Understanding why Kristina had to die is hard.  I might never know the reason.
God’s purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is…Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here.” ~ Ann Voskamp

What can we do when everything inside of us wants to turn tail and run from the painful possibility of God’s loving best?  Can we truly trust in the heart of God?
We often learn best through story.  One story that helps to show us what to do is written in C.S. Lewis’ story of Narnia, The Silver Chair.  Two children (Jill and Scrubb) and one Marsh-wiggle (Puddleglum) are given by Aslan (the Christ-figure) four signs with which to find the lost prince of Narnia.  They completely botch the first three signs which leads to their imprisonment with a madman who is chained to a silver chair.  The fourth and last sign is that someone “will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan”.  The madman entreats the three travelers to free him, who says:
“Once and for all, I adjure you to set me free.  By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you –”
“Oh!” said the three travelers as though they had been hurt.  “It’s the sign,” said Puddleglum.  “It was the words of the sign,” said Scrubb more cautiously.  “Oh, what are we to do?” said Jill.
It was a dreadful question.  What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about?  On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren’t going to obey them?  Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone – even a lunatic – who asked it in his name? … They had muffed three already; they daren’t muff the fourth.
“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.  “I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.  “Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.
“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum.  “You see, Aslan didn’t tell (Jill) what would happen.  He only told her what to do.  That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder.  But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”
That doesn’t let us off following the sign.

We aren’t guaranteed that anything here on earth will turn out all right.  We try so hard to grasp at that security, to bring it into existence, but it simply is not there.  Instead, if we have nothing else (and we do have so much else!), if we can turn to and trust nothing else, we have the cross.
After his wife of only four years had died of cancer, C. S. Lewis said, “If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her…But is it ever allowed?  It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done.  He replies to our babble, ‘You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared.’”

And so we find that perhaps, after all, it does not matter why.  It does not matter whence came the hard thing or even that it may be painfully hard.  If God ever had to prove anything, at the cross He proved His love, His promise to work for the best of all He created.
It is not a bad thing to seek for the why’s and how’s and from where’s.  God is able to handle our questions, our fears.  Yet if we never get any answers, if we never know the reasons, if we never understand, then we who have chosen to follow Christ, who have allowed Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we who have embraced His sacrifice of love…
We aren’t let off following the signs.

Sketch is Rembrandt’s The Three Crosses

Fairy Tale Truth

I love how much truth can be found in fairy tales and myths.  I love that God chooses to give us glimpses of Himself and His Word in the words of storytelling throughout time.
Reading Fairy Tales
We often view Christianity as rules and laws, as limitations on our freedom.  We wonder why God puts so many limits on our fun.  I recently experienced a switch of perspective.
I am reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.  In his book, he points out that in fairy tales, there is always an “if”.  You may go to the ball IF you return by midnight.  You may marry the princess IF you never let her see a cow.
The Princess
All the dizzy and colossal things conceded depend on one small thing withheld. All the wild and whirling things that are let loose depend upon one thing that is forbidden. ~ Chesterton
Everything beautiful and glorious that cannot be understood is dependent upon a condition that equally cannot be understood.
In fairy tales, this does not seem unjust.  If Cinderella asks her Fairy Godmother why she has to be home by midnight, the Godmother may reply “why should you go to the ball for any amount of time?”  If the miller asks “why can’t I let the princess see a cow?” the fairy may reply “why should you get to marry the princess at all?”
Wild and fantastic
Fairy tales never focus on the condition.  The condition is so small as to seem irrelevant.  The focus is on the dazzling, the wild, the fantastic vision.
We don’t focus on the vision.  We focus on the limitation.  We wonder why we must not get drunk instead of marveling at the beauty, the deep color, the richness of the wine.  We wonder why we must only marry one person instead of living in wonder at the existence of sex.
No restriction on sex seemed so odd and unexpected as sex itself…keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman…It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once. ~ Chesterton
What a beautiful change of viewpoint!  To look not at the limitation but at the wonder of the permission.  To not complain about being asked to keep our words pure but to wonder at the startling glory of language.  To not gripe of not being allowed to eat all that we desire but to be astonished at the wild and vast expanse of color and taste of food.  To look upon the dazzling, wild, fantastic vision.
In Christ, all is made sacred, so search for Him everywhere.  Look for Him in the stories and fables, in the myths and fairy tales that you read.  You will find Him there.


Art credits: Fairy Tales by Jessie Willcox Smith; Fairy Tale Barnstar by Arman Musikyan; In Fairyland by Richard Doyle; A Fairy Tale by Dorothy M. Wheeler; The Fairy Tale by Walther Firle

The Story

In the beginning was a Story.
At first, the Story existed only in the form of an Idea. Then the Author began to tell the Story little by little, within the confines of time.
As the Story unfolded, there emerged within smaller shadow-Stories, told over shorter spans of time.
These smaller shadow-Stories reflected the same greater Story, yet were given the gift of being allowed to help their Author to write their Story. The shadow-Stories were allowed to choose their own responses to whatever occurred to them while they existed within the greater Story.
Some of the shadow-Stories chose to reflect the greater Story more perfectly than others, to become a more complete shadow, yet all contained the great Story within themselves to some degree.
Many of the smaller shadow-Stories authored even smaller echoes of the greater Story. These echo-Stories were smaller in size, and not all of their authors were aware of their own Author, yet many of the echo-Stories became even more filled with power than were their authors.
The echo-Stories were told to many of the shadow-Stories and, because they were filled with power, were able to stir within the shadow-Stories the Idea that had existed in the beginning.
In the middle of the greater Story, the Author placed Himself.
He authored Himself to be one of the shadow-Stories, yet He was the most perfect reflection of the great Story. Within this smaller Author-Story was the complete Idea, perfectly written out for all to read.
The smaller Author-Story was the Idea in Word, the most perfect of all the Stories. The other shadow-Stories could look to Him and discover the sort of Story they were written to be.
Within the smaller Author-Story, the other shadow-Stories are able to catch a glimpse of the end of the greater Story. In catching a glimpse of the end, the shadow-Stories are enabled to help write their own Story more perfectly.
For while they do not yet know what each piece of the great Story will bring, the shadow-Stories can know what the end of the Story will bring.
And the wisest of the shadow-Stories will help to write their own Story with the end of the greater Story in mind.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
“I see,” she said.  “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door!  I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”  “Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”  ~ The Last Battle 
The Last Battle

Art credits: The Creation by James Tissot; Christ with Martha and Mary by Henryk Siemiradzki

The Town of Villacor

**Be gentle with me, my friends.  I’m experimenting with a different style…just for the fun of it!**
Once upon a time, there existed the town of Villacor.  It was a beautiful town, full of beautiful people.  The townspeople of Villacor loved each other and loved their town.  They were lovely because they loved.
This town was ruled by a king.  He had lived in the town at one time, but now was absent, having returned to his own country for a time.  The townspeople didn’t remember him very well, but they loved each other and loved their town, so they tried to care for each other the best they could.  All was lovely because they loved.
Over time, the townspeople began to feel a strange kind of burning inside of them.  They weren’t sure that they were very important to the king anymore.  He hadn’t been to visit them in such a long time, perhaps he didn’t care anymore, maybe he wasn’t ever coming back.  Besides, they reasoned that if he did ever return, surely he would take them away to his own country, which must be perfection itself, rather than forcing them to stay in their own place.
As they wondered these things, the townspeople of Villacor began to love not quite so well.  It showed up in small things at first: an unkind look, a piece of trash, a little less food left for the animals.  Yet as time went on and the king did not return to look after his town, this not-loving grew bigger and bigger.  And things began to look less lovely because they were less loved.
The town grew dirtier and more cluttered.  Even the people began to look ugly.  The people began hating each other and hurting each other, which left scars.  The animals were neglected and began to turn on themselves and to destroy the plants for food.  All was ugly because they were not loved.
Then one day a small group of Villacorians looked around at each other and at their town and decided to trust what the king had told them.  If the king had promised to return, then he would one day return.  If the king had said that he loved them and loved their town, then it must be so.  And if the king loved their town, then he must mean for them to remain in it.  This little group of people looked around at the town that was loved by the king and they began to love it too, for his sake, even though it was still ugly for having been so unloved.
This little group began caring for the town and for each other.  They treated their fellow townspeople with kindness and gave grace in return for hate.  They picked up trash where they found it and tended the plants and animals.  The town and its people began to look a little more lovely because they were once again being loved.
Time continued to pass, and even though the king still had not returned, the little group of townspeople worked hard at loving their town as their group grew and grew until finally, once again, the town was beautiful, full of beautiful people who loved each other and loved their town.  They didn’t know when the king would return, but they trusted that he would someday return because he had promised that he would always love them.  They were lovely because they loved.
Finally the day came.  Trumpets sounded over the trees and lakes as the sun burst over the hilltop.  The townspeople of Villacor rushed out of the town into the countryside to greet their king.  They surrounded him and brought him back into their town to show him how they had cared for their town.  They showed the king the beauty and cleanliness of the town, the well-tended plants and animals, and demonstrated the acts of kindness that they showed to each other.
One small girl asked the king why it had taken so long for him to return.  Another little boy asked if the king was going to carry them all back to his own country.  The king smiled at them all and said, “My children, I was waiting for you.  It was only when you began to care for the town and each other that everything grew into the way that I had intended all along.  When you began loving each other and loving your town, you changed into a new people and a new town, as beautiful as you were in the beginning.  Now I have come, and rather than take you away from this town you have learned to love, I will now make my home with you.”
And the king’s love became a physical shining that encompassed them all and made everything it touched even more beautiful than it had been before.  They were lovely because they were loved.

What’s Your Story?

What’s your story?

Who has hurt you in your past? Thrown arrows of words that are still lodged in your heart?

What’s your story?

Did your father say one thing in anger that haunts you even now? Did your mother speak from desire to help but with the result of a lasting wound?

What’s your story?

Did a friend decide to end a friendship or just drift away without a word?

What’s your story?

Did a teacher, mentor, boss say you weren’t worth their time? Did date after date decide you weren’t worth a second look?

What’s your story?

What hurts suddenly burn your heart when you thought you had forgiven? What wounds cause you to speak that way to your own child, spouse, friend?

What’s your story?

What arrow can you not get rid of on your own? Pride, gossip, anger, scorn? Sarcasm, predjudice, envy, control?

What’s your story?

Which wounds have drawn you into God’s arms? Which arrows have pushed you closer to His heart?

What’s your story?

What story has God begun to write on your heart? What truth is He using to heal and cleanse?

What’s your story?

Was there a sunset streaked with gold that burst through the pain and pointed your heart toward a God of beauty?

What’s your story?

Was there a tiny flowering bud that whispered that there is One who cares?

What’s your story?

Was there a fairy tale read as a child that spoke of a truth that there is more to this world than what you see?

What’s your story?

Did you have a friend who gave good gifts just like the Giver loves to give?

What’s your story?

Did a brother, sister, mother, father show the love from God that asks for nothing in return?

What’s your story?

What story is God writing on your heart?