WHY: work matters

Four walls, three a blank cream just off the colour of pure white–which is, of course, the absence of all colour, creativity, and imagination. The fourth is blue and thank God, it’s the one we face. For six hours each day this week, seated at tables drawn into the shape of horseshoe collecting luck, this is where we sit and theologize about work.

Not about what you’d call vocational ministry, though that’s been a small part. After all, most of those 20 people in class are going into some kind of ministry as vocation, so the topic surfaces now and then. For five of the six hours, though, we’re not talking about the task of preaching, exhorting, comforting, evangelizing or doing otherwise “ministerial” work.

We talk about factories, the grinding sound of machines ringing in ears as the rivets go in, and in, and in, and in again. The same droning task, day after tedious, long day.

We talk about cooking, about chasing after little ones and putting those same littles to bed where they feign sleep in mid-day sun. We talk about cleaning, washing, teaching, disciplining, day after exhausting day.

We talk about working land, digging in with dirt beneath nails, with cracked worn creases and rough, hard callouses that are used to working until the light’s gone, until the work is done, until we’ve done all we can and turn to hope for good weather and God’s blessing.

We talk about the desks, the ivory towers, the glassed-in cages full of meetings with people who know too much and say too little (or very often the opposite). We talk about the hours, the consumption, the temptation for work to become all consuming.

And what does it mean–this work? What does it signify or do? Is there meaning, importance or is it just a means to an end? On my dresser there’s a framed manuscript from Stratford-Upon-Avon where a woman rages that all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Is that what will become of our work?

Even if that was the end of our work (and I don’t think it is–but more on that later), would our work still have meaning?

Yes.

There is something deeply human about working. It was commanded before the Fall, though certainly the curse has driven a thorn into something which was once so beautiful. Even still, it is good and useful and purposeful.

In the beginning of our world, our collective imagination and understanding of life, in the beginning of all that God created. He rested on the 7th day and somehow, in this workaholic culture, that often becomes the focus. But there were six days before that, six glorious days when God in His beautiful community of Trinity worked.

And He told us to work.

As the imago dei, as the representatives of the divine, we were told to work. Because to do something with the world, to look around, to see things and to make something is a great and glorious way to act like the creative One whose nature we reflect.

So your work, and my work, this blog, the book on your bedside table, the job that pays you on the 15th and 31st has meaning. In some ways, the products may have meaning but that is because they come from you. And you are the image of God, the image bearer who creates, constructs, designs and puts the final flourishes on that latte art, that blue print, that tea bag on the conveyor belt. So you, by your reflection of divinity, give meaning and dignity to that work, that act of creating, changing, adjusting and beautifying.

Your work matters, it has work and value– because you matter. However often we fail to fully reflect God and live out the imago dei, we still are because it isn’t something in us, it’s something we’re in. And when we lend that to our work, it has meaning.

So your work and mine–whatever it may be–has meaning.

Advertisements

Advent Conspiracy

Yesterday I woke just before my alarm at 615. It was my first day to sleep in, the first one in days, even weeks, and yet I woke before the ringing alarm that I’d forgotten to shut off. I lay in bed, knowing that E might call at any minute, announcing his impending arrival. The plan was for me to drive him to work so I coul dhave the car: for work, appointments, errands, and more work. I had probably half an hour at the least, so in the dark of my room, I rolled over and tried to sleep.

Maybe it was the christmas lights and glowing windows of the apartment building across from me but I couldn’t find my way back to unconscious dreams and hopes. Instead, I lay there, running over and over in my mind the millions of things I have to do and the pounding realization that there’s barely a week and a half till Christmas. I’m so unprepared. I’m so behind.

Baking, cards, gifts, lights downtown, ribbons for homemade compote and church services. A concert, phone calls, skype dates, romantic dates, decorating that’s only half done and the annual trip to the mall. When will all these things happen? I could feel the adrenaline coursing through me in the last moments before sunrise.

Here I am, telling people how I love advent, the candles, the wait, the expectant darkness, the hope. . . and all I feel is rush, stress and never enough time for all the things I wanted to do. In the midst of this, I remembered the Advent Conspiracy and all the things that don’t matter–while still present in my mind and heart–seemed to fade in comparison. And I remembered this video that I hadn’t yet posted in the middle of what has turned into an abnormally busy season for me. I thought, it’s barely more than a week until Christmas, and you might benefit from it as much as I did. A good reminder, a good conviction, and a good call to practicing what matters: not lights, not baking, not even remembering religion but actually being the religion and practicing what it means to be love.

Holiday Week Mondays

It’s Monday in the office and despite the fact that two of my coworkers were here around 730am, you can tell that none of us want to be here. My eyes won’t stop watering, Lisa practically limps to and from the printer as if her feet are deadened to the world with sleepy Monday blues and Jessica came in half an hour later than normal. We have a lot to do. I’ve a project to finish before the end of the month, the advent devotional should be coming out, there’s an appeal to be written and mailed and a lunch to plan, and a thousand envelopes to stuff. But the boss is on a flight back from Chicago and no one wants to be here.

One of my high school girls is working on Thursday–all day. I told her I’d come visit between my first Turkey Trot and dinner with friends. She’s at a retail store that is open all day Thursday and all night into Black Friday. I was in shock when she told me about it and then I almost cried. What’s wrong, America? Why are we working on holidays to allow people to get more in debt with stuff they don’t need? My girl should be with her family, eating too much food and reminiscing about holidays past or running a turkey trot with the youth group; not at work selling clothes and shoes.

In something I recently edited a writer noted that we should be working for “kingdom change” in our every day lives as parents, employees, leaders, couples and students. It’s a rough Monday. It’s 10am and the most monumental thing I’ve done is update a single website and turn in my time sheet. It’s a holiday week and no one wants to be here–I’d rather be buying sweet potatoes, baking biscotti and enjoying a run or some OT work. What would it be like to work on the most momentous of family holidays?

I’ve been wondering, if I was the manager at that store, would I buy everyone lunch? Invite them over for a late night Turkey Dinner? Would I tell them all to call in sick, so I could lock the doors and apologize to the corporation for apparent widespread illness? Would that be the kingdom, breaking in, standing against the status quo and authority? Would I refuse to schedule anyone at all and take the hit for believing that family and rest are more important than profit? Would that be counter-cultural and civilly disobedient in a way that Jesus might have appreciated: to value people more than money?

I don’t know that I have such courage but….it’s something worth pondering.

In the meantime, I’ll be picking up my high schooler for her half hour lunch and buying her something to eat to make the day a bit tolerable.

Big Brother

I love telling people what you do for a living, I get this surge of pride when I see their eyes widen and their mouths open a little in surprise. F-16, they always repeat the phrase, as if hearing it in their own voice will make it more real. If E is with me, he laughs and says, “yeah, he’s a real badass.” People chuckle, church folks and friends outside the faith, they smile and nod and say it’s true, you must be pretty awesome to do something like that.

We’ve been praying for you at church, each week after the homily we call out prayer requests and then our pastor prays through each one, by name and situation. People ask after you, after A and the boys, and they pray for you throughout the week.

I talk to your wife. I’m trying to be a better sister-in-law. It might be simply because she’s fabulous and I love talking to her (despite disliking phone conversations). But it’s also that I miss you and because I want to make sure she’s alright with you gone until April (which of course she is, she’s a tough one, that wife of yours).

I think that most of all, you should know that I love you. That I’m praying for you. That I’m confident you’ll come home safe and sound. I want you to know that I think about you–every day, and more than once. Whenever a jet flies overhead, I remember what your wife once told your son when I was visiting, and to the pilot I’ll never meet, I whisper outloud: be safe. come home. Every time I see a jet: weekend warriors, cadets at the academy, and all the rest.

Be safe.

Come home.

Thank you.

The Dreaded Day [Politics]

By now, most of you reading will have voted. If not, you’re leaving work early to drop off the ballot or make it to the polls to stand in line for a little secretive booth where you fill in the blank who you want to lead the country.

I’ve dreading this post for over a year. E has been on me to write it, but I kept putting it off. But today is Election Day and so, in a melodramatic way, it’s now or never.

I don’t vote.

Phew! There, I said it aloud. I. Don’t. Vote.

First things first, I don’t need a lecture about responsibility or about duty. This is especially true given that my brother is currently deployed in the Air Force, I am well aware of the argument that he is “fighting to protect my right to vote” and the argument hasn’t yet convinced me. I would also prefer to not have a lecture about taking my right to vote for granted. I’ve lived in other countries. I know, okay? I know.

The reason I don’t vote is pretty simple: I can’t vote for Jesus. Now, I promise I’m not going to be Shane Claiborne-esque because I think his political opinions are quite obvious despite his consistent write in vote for Jesus. I also promise I’m not a lazy escapist who uses Jesus as a cop-out answer. So, some explanation is in order.

I don’t vote for any candidate because none represents where I stand as a Christian. An example might be made of abortion or healthcare. Someone recently summed it up neatly when he pointed out that neither party is fully pro-life. As Christians, this individual said, we should be pro-life from the womb to the grave. Neither party stands for that scope of care, but Jesus does. Since I feel torn between both parties on a number of issues, I cannot bring myself to vote for one candidate at the expense of the other party’s issues. For years, issues like these have been a battle for me and I finally resolved that I could not vote for the “lesser of two evils” because that still involved voting for evil.

I don’t vote because the political arena lacks truth. I told someone at church recently that I wish we could sit them (the candidates) down and ask them to actually be honest on one topic, just one! Please, don’t distort your opponent’s view and please just speak your plan with clarity and integrity. Impossible you say? Then why would I vote for you? Why would I participate in that?

I don’t vote because we, as believers, have started to identify our religiosity and relationship with Christ as being related to political affiliations. Politics causes a huge divide not only in the country (which does not terribly concern me) but even in the body of Christ! We might restate Paul’s words for our own time: “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…” could easily read today that “there is neither Republican nor Democrat, Liberal nor Conservative, Independent nor Green, et al” for you are all one in Christ. We’ve become so embroiled in politics that we attack believers who are our brothers and sisters because we disagree about economics, foreign policy, etc. This, my dear ones, is incredibly discouraging.

Finally, I don’t vote because of several political experiences during college in Seattle. I lived in the NW during the previous presidential election and there was a lot of tension, a lot of animosity. There was also a decent amount of misplaced emphasis. I found this to be true among friends at school and family far away. People had pictures of Obama with the word “hope” underneath—but I don’t recall the Bible or the Fathers ever telling us to put our hope in any man (or woman). There was an email I received that equated Sarah Palin with a new Esther…I don’t even know where to start with that one… You see, it is easy to be caught up, swept away and want to see our hopes for the future come to pass here and now. But we have to hold our hope for the future in tension with the fact that we live today, here, in the midst of sin and corruption.

I do not vote because too many of my friends and family have begun to put their hope in candidates. But this is not to be. Over and again, Scripture calls us to put our hope in God and God alone. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” For me, not voting is an active way of trusting God to bring about His plans for my state, the nation and the world. It is a way of saying that I will not trust men to lead us because they will always fail. I will, however, trust in the sovereignty of God and pray for those he puts in authority over me (Romans 13.1).

I do, however, think you should probably vote. With humility and grace and sorrow for the knowledge that no matter who is elected some things will go wrong despite all that may go right. So go on and vote, and be humble in the face of the One who controls all things, and gracious to those with whom you do not agree.

______________________________

For some further (and more intelligent) thoughts on the subject I would suggest two things which can be found here. Scroll down to Oct 25th to find “Thinking Biblically at the Polls” a presentation by four professors of varying backgrounds at my seminary. Also, Oct 29th is the Seminary President’s talk on the “Politics of the Gospel.”

Relevant Magazine has also provided some good thoughts: here, here and here

TheoMag has four great articles on this page.

Finally, Michael Bird’s blogging mate Joel Willitts has some brilliant thoughts and reading suggestions here.

No, I do not agree with every jot and tittle on these various articles or lectures.   They are useful for generating thought and discussion.

High School Graduation

Last week I attended a “senior celebration” at a high school within walking distance of my apartment. If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I don’t live in the best part of town and the high school near us is no exception to that general rule. Granted, it’s not like the school where I took my SAT, where there were rumors of weapons and gang fights (most of it was probably made up by the easily frightened white kids at my own suburban high school). But it doesn’t rank very high in Colorado. According to CSAPs the freshmen were 48% proficient in Reading last year. Now, I’m not a statistician but that doesn’t seem very good. A group called “Great Schools: Involved Parents, Successful Kids” only gave it a 3 out of 10 and the over all district received the same score. I read on another site that it’s the 128th district out of 136 in Colorado. Let’s assume the stats are somewhat accurate, despite the fact that I only just googled the information about five minutes ago.

Danny, Laisa, Haley, Sara, Helen, Emmerance, Tshite

Even with a reasonable margin of error, that high school still isn’t doing well.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from my neighborhood is a place like Douglas County where I later attended the graduation party of a young woman I once nannied during my college years. It was a very different experience from the previous night, and not simply because it lacked tedious awards ceremony with perfunctory speeches which no one will recall by the end of summer. It was a party with food in chaffing dishes and cupcakes that cost $3 each at the shop where they’re made. The women were in dresses, the graduate in heels. I wore my chacos and a pair of loose shorts that were $7 at Goodwill last summer. But it is more than that, the clothes and fancy food are only symptomatic. This young woman is attending CSU with the plan of graduate school afterwards.

I’m relieved my neighbor was accepted to two colleges and even has a small scholarship to help cover some first costs. When we leftthe ceremonylast week, another friend who had attended hooked her arm into a younger sister’s elbow–another refugee who will be a freshmen next year.

“Four years!” she said brightly as we skipped down the stairs outside in the warm night air. “We’re going to see you here in four years, right? You’ll be getting awards and scholarships too!” The new freshmen giggled but agreed.

That is the difference. Most days, I’m happy the kids in my neighborhood can read and that some can write. The syntax is often a mess, the grammar is usually backwards. But this is at leasttheir second language, for some it’s a third. I want them to graduate high school because I want them to have a chance in life. Education in America is the beginning of anything. It’s hard to communicate that to our refugees, but there are a few students who seem to understand.

The young woman in a wealthier part of town–I love her and I’m thrilled about her future plans. But for her, for me, college was just an expectation. It was a factual part of life that followed soon after high school. This is what is different about the children where I live. College is a dream. High school graduation is a journey.

But it’s the beginning of life in America. The start of life in a new land to which they’ve escaped, where they are rebuilding everything from the ground up. High school is no longer just a fact of life, it’s the foundation for a future that was vastly altered the day they left their homes and set out for this place.

High School Graduation never meant so much.

WHY: The Marriage Metaphor

I enjoy a slightly hipster-esque–Indie–Folksy–Blue Grass band by the name of The Civil Wars. One of the first songs I fell in love with is called Poison and Wine. I love the words, I love the timbre of their voices, I love the way they haunt and redeem my heart with every chord.

Last week was a bit of a rough one emotionally. Not only for me, but also for others that I know and love. Sometimes, there is this illusion that seminary students, counseling students, future pastors and teachers have their “stuff” figured out. But the truth is, we’re actually very messy people.

A few brief examples:

My friend who is “engaged” but is on break.
One that I look up to who is struggling with depression.
There’s another who is struggling with burn out from ministry (already!) and depression.
A new friend who is coming out of depression but has mixed direction on life.
Another who is dealing with childhood abuse.
Everyone who can’t afford their lives.
The one who is so desperate for love they keep going back to the same broken relationship.
My friend who longs to know that God does love him.
The one, surrounded by friends, who still feels alone.

These are the people I do life with, each and every day. It’s exhausting, it’s beautiful, it’s truth. Over the weekend I went out with a couple friends after one of them had moved into a new apartment. I had heard some basic things about his off kilter relationship, but that night I asked a few more questions. I wanted to get to know this man better, and as a friend, part of that required knowing his story, his relationships, his hopes, the things his world revolves around. The story given was not long but it was full of sorrow amidst lingering hopes. When we returned to their house from the restaurant, I stood outside with the roommate I am very close to suddenly found myself overwhelmed by sadness. I burst into tears. My friend wrapped his arms around me while I cried and repeatedly mumbled the same questions.

Why does He let this go on?
When is He coming back?
When will He put things to rights? Bind up our sores, heal our broken bones?

My friend, of course, couldn’t say. These are questions that have plagued human history and Christianity is no exception. The failure of God to come when we expect has always been a mystery in human suffering.

I managed to pull myself together enough to get in my car and make it onto the highway. I pulled the pieces together and placed trembling hands on the steering wheel as I guided the little sedan through late night traffic and construction. It didn’t take long, however, before my lack of control resurfaced. Two exits after my entrance to the highway the same sadness overwhelmed me. I cried the entire way home, a twenty minute drive of blurred lights and stifled sobs.

In the midst of this, as I pounded my steering wheel and demanded to know when He will return, the sounds of The Civil Wars whispered through my stereo. Poison and Wine seems, at first listening, to be a song of dried up hopes and long forgotten love. It is a relationship kept alive only by the power of will, by sheer stubbornness. Or so it seems.

There is a part in the song that suddenly hit home that night on the highway. The music crescendoes and the man sings in a terrifyingly raw tone, “I don’t have a choice, but I still choose you.” They surge into the chorus where their voices mingle together, singing desperately, “Oh, I don’t love you, but I always will!”

It seems so open, so broken, so lost and hopeless.

But I suddenly understood why the Prophets, Israel, the New Testament writers–why even Jesus himself–calls us His wife. The Scriptures have long said we are the promiscuous wife who runs to others, who forgets her first love, who stands on the street corners outside a house of sexual indecency, who lies and scorns the things of her husband. We have always gone running to other things, and God has always stood waiting.

That is only one side of it though.

It’s true, I’m a child of indecency, and I often go after things that lead only to my destruction. It’s true that I pursue other lovers, that I forget the One who redeemed me, who cleaned me, gave me new clothes and took me into his home with nothing to offer him.

But there is another side, the one we face day in and day out. It is the side of sinful reality. The world is broken. Jesus hasn’t yet come back. We speak of progress and the improvement of man, but we have only improved ways of killing each other, ways of keeping the poor underfoot. I railed at God in my car on Sunday night, beating the steering wheel with a tightly closed fist. It isn’t the first time my car or my body has been abused for the frustration of His postponed return. Sunday night won’t be the last time I get angry and tell God He’s wrong for waiting, it won’t be the last time I ask Him to come back right now and save us from all this mess.

But, I realized the marriage metaphor is not only about a wife who has abandoned her master.

It’s about a wife who waits patiently for her husband, trusting that he’ll be true to his word as he always has been.

“I don’t have a choice, but I still choose you,” they sang as I raced down the highway through a construction zone where even the cops themselves drive over the limit. I stood in the city, burning its way to the ground in selfish debt and hopeless sin. I drove on the edge of town to a place where the sin and violence are the stories in the lives of my neighbours.

And I thought, I’ve tried to run from the faith so many times, Abba, but you always hold on to me. I don’t have a choice. I don’t have a way of getting out of what I know to be true. I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to.

But I don’t want to leave.

I don’t have “freedom” to leave. But even if I did, I wouldn’t want to. Even when I don’t love God, I always will. I will always choose Him, even when I think He is dawdling in His return. It’s like a marriage. A covenant. I agreed to stay, and so I will. Just as He has waited and stayed for me, so I will wait on Him.

things to read

A convicting read on the importance of being educated about a crisis rather than simply following what’s going viral on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or other social media sites.
Stop Trending and Educate Yourself 

 

A great reminder of the pressure that individuals in places of prominence find themselves under. Perhaps before jumping the gun and judging, one ought to consider the back story, the emotional stress and the way it would feel if our names were in the story instead of the person over whom we stand in condemnation.
Response to Jason Russell 

 

This article describes life at our apartment incredibly well. The author is brilliant, funny and poignant.
Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz

shafts of light

There’s a section of the library, over the research and librarians’ desk where the ceiling is lower, sloped beneath the main window that sports a cross enmeshed in the panes of brilliant glass. The light is coming in that way, this time of the day, and it casts a shadow over the sloped ceiling and down onto the floor, where the light is cut into clean rectangles  by the bars of the cross.

The sun outside is clean and warm and the mountains have begun to give up their winter blanket. The foothills are brown, with only patches of white amid their trees. Campus, sadly, is still barren and the ground remains that tan shade of green from rotted death–but she will soon give way to rich life and brilliant shades of green and yellow and flowers whose beauty can hardly be named. Trees will flourish again and shade the grass where students will lie out and momentarily forget the studies that the came here for.

It’s beautiful this time of year, you can smell it in the scents that waft in my window in the early morning hours. You can feel it in the look of people as they pass you on the street. There is new life coming! There is hope and joy awaiting us!

But where do they wait?

Lent hasn’t ended. My body longs for it to end–literally in my physicality and spiritually in my soul. I want Lent to end because I want a latte, with soy foamed to tufts of silky white edged in carmel brown as it seeps into the espresso. But more than that, I want Lent to end because I’m tired of waiting.

The earth, this time of year, she throws off her dusty coat and declares that she too is finished with the longing, the craving, the groaning for newness. She knows that things will end again, and in only a few months she will return to deep inside herself to rest and sleep and wait. But now, in these months she bursts with hopeful expectation. Come quick! she cries to the waiting life. Come quick! she cries to the coming hope. Come quick! she whispers in resignation. Come quick. she sighs and dreams of the day when spring will not be only spring.

But spring will be new life.

{when Aslan shakes his mane
we shall have spring again}

cramped emptiness

As I drove to school recently I ended up sitting in traffic. It’s not such a bad thing, having a slow commute. It forces me to be mindful of time and how things are always outside of my control. And traffic is just a beautiful thing itself. On the hill coming down 225 just after the Parker exit there is a beautiful view of the six lanes becoming four and the mountains that are ever close and ever out of reach. I usually push my engine into neutral and coast down to the waiting brake lights as I watch the inhabitants of Aurora weave through one another’s exhaust. On cold mornings in traffic, the dance of shifting drivers is sluggish as engines and individuals still long for quiet solitude and thick blankets amid the chill that does not easily lift. On days like this one, however, when the sun is high in the clear sky despite the early hour and the frost had melted before my engine rolled over and I added windshield wiper fluid to the ever demanding hyundai, on days like this one which promise warmth and cheer the dance of traffic is fluid and swift. In music we would say it is allegretto or allegro. In the weaving and dodging of cars that still wear the drab winter dust, there is a bit of beauty.

But then the traffic comes to a halt when drivers like me have come to the end of the exit only lane and force a tight merge. In these moments I turn down the iPod that plays without end in the stereo system; less music makes it easier to concentrate and watch for open spas or the possibility of being swiped by an SUV who has moved here from Texas where bigger is better and he thinks he owns the world. It was in one of these quieter moments that I looked to my right and noticed the driver of a Chevy Impala, silver, with those round taillights that blink so obtrusively when signaling for a turn. She had hair the color of burnt orange, dyed, with the roots showing from at least two months growth and dark brown making the contrast one of painful poverty and mistaken identity. She held in her left hand, a cigarette, close to the edge of the window that was opened just a sliver to the crisp morning air. It perched precariously between the tips of her knuckles, wedged lightly between fake french nails just a bit too long for the pudgy edges of her digits. The hair as pulled back, away from the worn and soft fleshed face, the tired curve of her frown framed by the light streaming in the car. She didn’t glance my way, I can’t be sure of the eyes, but I imagine they were watery with the years of many long nights, close arguments and burnt out tears.

The night before I had driven home after work, exhausted and drained after a perfectly wonderful day. Highways opened to me, overpasses lit by glowing orange hues from lamps whose energy my neglected taxes pay for. The great pillars of cement stand on hardened earth, grappling and digging their claws deep into the soil that no longer gives life as they uphold the highway above my head. Like columns from ancient temples, columns of great remorse– but of necessity demanded by progress–misused strength supports the roads that I traverse, so wearied and burdened by the exhilarating knowledge of divine mystery and human telos. There were few cars on the road, the world felt eerily silent and empty as I gained mile after mile towards my distant home where the life never stops. After an evening in a roaring mountain town, Denver seemed, in all her cramped city life vast and empty. There are sprawling subdivisions, for Westerners like their space; the sky scrapers stretch and groan their way towards skyline fame and our roads lead ever onward to somewhere newer, and better. There is movement, life, but it is ragged and the hopes of the people have been bruised and broken by the very city they wanted to enliven.

The woman in the Chevy Impala, what is her name? Perhaps it is one of beauty, or one of mendacious parents who called her a name of ancestral origins for lack of creativity or for the honor of those who came before. She smokes, from a broken heart, from overburdened finances with tired frightened hands that can no longer haul the burden of her past. She dyes her hair to an unnatural color, as an artist, as expression of inner dissent from who she was born to be, or as an escape to the life she thought she’d have by now–the only means to have control over at least something. But she hasn’t the money to maintain the farce.

Who were you, as a child? Did you know that things would come to this? Or was it a mystery when plans were failed and dreams ruined? My sweet woman, do you know who you are and what you were meant for? Or do you only hurt and suffer the woes of fragmented humanity and lost identity? In this vast and empty city so crowded for living and jobs and misplaced peoples, how long have you held the trembling cigarette to your lips and wished the world would disappear with the embers of the flame?

Go to the mountains, woman! I thought to cry across the plexiglass and three feet that separated my car from hers. Go to the mountains and dream in the open spaces, beneath the starry nights and whispering winds that push the pines to dance. Or go to the basilica and feel your breath escape in tepid reverence as the hallowed walls soar to new heights and you are reminded of your humanity. You are broken, sure, but when you are humbled and frightened by your triviality then you will come to know the maker and feel His graceful presence begin to heal the long ravaged chasms of your heart.

Only do not sit in your car, amid the dancing traffic, on your way to work, at the job that cannot satisfy surrounded by broken dreams and fallen hopes and no hope for escape. Do not go back to the places that have always failed and always will. Go, my love, to the places of healing and to the hope of new life within this splintered world and the dream of wild places full of sunlight and glory beyond this marginal existence.