Monday, January 26, 2009

Fixed Eyes

As I read over the following post, I realized the words are motivation for my present place and truth for my somewhat tattered heart.  If I seem a little passionate, it's because I am.  Hopefully the words in this entry will remind you of what is true no matter what hardship is at hand, and serve to push you forward with fixed eyes on the God who saves.

Last week was one of much reflection, much perception, and much pressing in for me.  The week started with the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday.  If you do not already know, I was a history major in college and my nerdiness struts around like a peacock on such days as this.  My two roommates can both adamantly attest to this truth.  

On Sunday evening, I was nerdily excited to flip to the History Channel and see a documentary covering the life of MLK.  I wish you could hear my nerd laugh impression because that was exactly what I was doing as I lucked upon the show.  Kristen began watching the beginning with me until she was falling asleep and then the following day, when Jourdan arrived home, it was, to my delight, on again, and I coerced her into watching the second half with me.  Both were good sports about my excitement but I'm sure they were wondering where my head gear and graphing calculator were to complete the totally nerdalicious scene.

In my defense, it's not so much that I'm some History Channel junkie and have to know every random nerdy fact about really boring stuff like the electoral college or the Monroe Doctrine. It's just that since I was young, I have always been captivated by the stories of people who incited movement, both positive and negative, and how they were able to influence others to move with them towards their goal. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. fits this bill.  God gave him a vision and he dedicated his life to that end. While far from perfect, his life was about bringing relief to others and I have always been intrigued by the power of his words and how God used them to bring so much hope, unity, passion, and change.  There is something about words saturated in wisdom and truth that rivet the soul.  King knew what it meant to let God use his voice.  He knew what it meant to cast his eyes on God's heart for justice and His vision for all people, making the Civil Rights leader walk fearlessly towards God, even when his life was at stake. One of my favorite speeches that King gave was in Memphis the night prior to his assassination. Below are his closing remarks:

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I'm not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God's will.  And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I've looked over.  And I've seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!  And so I'm happy tonight.  I'm not worried about anything.  I'm not fearing any man!  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!"

Words from the lips of a man who knew God's purpose for him, and understood that His life had to be about relentlessly moving towards that goal, and as a result, a peace that passed all understanding settled well on him.  King knew the cost yet trusted God's plan, for his eyes had seen the glory of what was to come.  It was almost as if he sensed his life would soon be taken from him, yet remained calmly unafraid.  

As I was reminded of the dream, vision, and action of this man, I couldn't help but be moved and ask God for similar vision and movement in my own life.  I think too often, our God given dreams get squelched by the fear in our minds. Sometimes we are afraid of how ludicrous it may seem, or how unconventional it could look if we really lose our lives for the sake of Christ. Other times, we don't want to sacrifice our comfort and convenience for His immeasurably more because we are fearful of taking that unknown step of faith and trusting God with the end result.  

I am at a place where I must refuse to live my life cowering to fear and expectations.  I cannot waste my time second guessing myself as a result of another's unbelief.  King knew his call, and walked towards it unswervingly, to the point of death.  And as ironic as it seems in our insulated world of health insurance, retirement funds, and vacation days, the sacrifice was and continues to be worth it.  When we hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, He who promised is always faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  A truth that empowers us to move fearlessly toward hardship and death knowing that we are living our lives purposefully, far surpassing our limits.

Let's be those people.  Our world is aching for those of us willing to speak the dreams God places in our hearts and then be faithful to follow them.  Relief and hope are found in this obedience.  Inspiration to others is found in this obedience.  Life is found in this obedience. Even, oddly enough, in death.  

After reflecting on King and then on Tuesday experiencing history with the inauguration of Obama, my historical tank was getting full and I began to consider my part in being faithful to God's dreams for me. And without fail, just as I began the process of really pressing into the Lord, I learned some disappointing news and my heart shattered a little bit more. While my mind and heart were a complete mess for the next 24 hours, I knew in the back of my head that I would rise.  Even from literally crying on my knees in the shower, I would rise.  That what the enemy intended for harm, God would use for his good (Genesis 50:20). 

And even now, only a few days later,  I am rising.  I refuse to be conquered by circumstances, rejection, deception, or fear.  I refuse to miss out on the God of the universe using a broken, messed up girl like me.  Honestly, that is just too good of a story to not get in on, not to mention some definite instances of random hilarity.  God using the utterly foolish, Sarah Mullins (insert your name here), to be His fragrant aroma.  Isn't that just like our crazy God?  Taking our glaring flaws, the things that we think make us "unmarketable" and using every part of us, to be part of the relief story He is creatively writing across the earth.  

In the words of Jourdan's timely song, Mend (, "mend my heart, and pull the thread..." so that I might chase His dreams down in a way that brings light to darkness, freedom for captives, and tenderly binds the brokenhearted  (Isaiah 61:1).  

May he give you boldness to fearlessly move.  May you not be conquered by the flaming arrows of the enemy. Like King, may your eyes see the glory of the coming of the Lord.  I mean, what if? 

Who knows, a black man in a country scarred by slavery and inequality could become President. That is what-freaking-if.

Speak your dreams.  Wait expectantly.  Inspire others.  Get out of the way.  He will move the mountains.  He just will.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

To Create

So last week I found myself back in Dallas after two weeks of holiday travel. Some planned and some spontaneous yet both ushering in much needed perspective to my current life, and honestly the perspective had little to do with my circumstances. 

The Tuesday before Christmas, Jourdan and I packed her car up and headed to Florida to spend some days with our families.  Typically we spend about 11 hours in the car together and always come away from our trip with some interesting stories from our stops in Louisiana or Mississippi. For instance, at one gas station in Louisiana, not only did they sell your typical fare of Slim Jims, dill pickles, and Twinkies, but you could also purchase slightly outdated Nike's and Pumas if you needed some shoes.  Really.
Once we hit the Florida state line, I started collecting my things, we exited and pulled into the Firestone store to meet my mom, and I wiped my greasy, travel bangs across my forehead. Soon after, my mom arrived, I put my stuff in her car, hugged Jourdan, and drove away for the holiday stay as Jourdan headed on to her own homestead.    

Sometimes when you grow up in a place that has access to views of creation that can take your breath away like Pensacola Beach does, you tend to take it for granted.  Yet, I knew in the back of my mind, that I had to get out to the beach at some point during my time home, if only for a few minutes.  My heart, mind, and vision were begging for the restoration that often meets me in creation.  

After spending the night at my big sister's house and helping Livvy give her little four month old chub-fest, Jonah, a slippery bath in the kitchen sink that morning, I realized I was returning to Texas soon and somehow in the activity of the holidays, had yet to go to the beach.  I surveyed the day's activities and realized if I didn't take the opportunity now, I probably wouldn't make it out there.  Only having about an 1.5 hours to spend, I told Livvy my beach plans, grabbed my backpack and a towel and made the 20 minute drive over the two bridges to Pensacola Beach. Remembering the more secluded spot where my friend Susan and I spent many summer days in high school with our route 44 sonic drinks, I parked the car, took off my flip flops, squished through the sand, walked onto a boardwalk, down some stairs and then saw the expanse of the gulf.  And it took my breath away.  

Late December or not, it was a perfect beach day.  The sun was bright and making the water sparkle, the sand was cool and glistening white from the sun's attention, the waves were excited and making the best crashing sounds ever -- God was showing off, and his show was exactly what my heart needed.  

I quickly found a spot, knowing my time was limited, sat down on the towel and just took it all in. Not surprisingly, tears began to travel down my face and God's presence was thick.  This was a moment I wanted to remember.  I sensed it was a time of marking and hope in the middle of so many unknowns in my life and a daily struggle to confidently walk in the truth that I will see God's goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  Reaching into my backpack (random side note: whenever I see the word backpack, for some reason I always imagine Dora the explorer saying "backpack" really loudly and then getting her viewing audience to repeat her, which undoubtedly stems from living with a family with a three year old for awhile), I grabbed my journal and began to write.  The words written were from a place of authenticity and desperation that God purposed and brought to the surface through his creation in those moments.

As I sat there and pondered how God thought to create the beach, I laughed to myself as I considered the sound of the waves crashing.  That sound alone inspires so much creativity --- songs are written, art is painted, love is inspired, and minds are sharpened from hearing the crash and roar of the water.  If God had given me the task of coming up with a sound for waves, cool crashing would have never even crossed my mind.  It probably would have been some annoying sound like a dinky car horn or the dial-up Internet noise making people never ever want to come to the beach.  The beach would be more like the dentist office to folks if I had been in charge so thankfully, God, in his wisdom, created and it was good.

As I inhaled the smell of the salty air, stuck my feet in the cold water, reluctantly packed my stuff and headed back to the car, I couldn't help but be inspired by God's glory and his love for me.  He created the beach and met and calmed me there and showed me himself.  My focus was shifted to his redemption through creativity and his continuing invitation for me to be a part of that. And he never had to do that, he never had to be that intentional with me -- ever.  So while creation screams the vastness and power of God, he meets me in it in such a way that reminds me he is very much involved in the details, in my details, and he has not forgotten me.

So I returned to Texas the next day with a pocketful of God's glory from my brief time at the beach which made the expanse of concrete I noticed as the plane descended on DFW a little more bearable. What I did not know as I made it back to my apartment in Dallas is that God was not finished with the creation-fest he had planned for me.  The following day, my roommate, Kristen, along with our friend Jen, decided to take a road trip to Breckenridge, Colorado.  We made the decision at 2pm and were on the road headed toward the Rockies by 8pm that evening.  As unexpected as the trip was for each of us, I am confident that God purposed our eyes to see Him that week in the ways that we did very intentionally.

Kristen had never been to Colorado so it was cool to see the awesomeness of the mountains through fresh eyes.  My heart was convicted that I may have grown slightly calloused to God's creative glory because of my more frequent exposure to the grandness that is much of Colorado as I heard Kristen's exclamations of awe as we spent time in the picturesque peaks.  I remembered thinking to myself, "God, let me not be dulled to your creation or ever grow bored with your work.  Let your work, and your expanses make me long for your redemption and serve to inspire my own creativity."  So over the next few days, my eyes saw the mountains in ways I had not seen them previously and my heart rested.  There is something about seeing mountains that reminds me that God is indeed in control and my worry really is pointless.  And that reminder was a much needed gift.

On our final full day in Colorado, we made the decision to drive over to Vail. The views along the way were unbelievable.  Kristen was freaking out over all we were seeing and similar to to my beach experience, I found myself wondering how God even thought to make a mountain. He created where no precedent previously existed, making me realize his authorship of all human creativity. No matter how edgy, original, or creative we may think we are, it is inspired by what already is.  Yet when God created, he took nothing and fashioned it into something that with one glance can cause us to gasp in awe or even weep.

Over the last couple of weeks, I experienced both reactions and realized that to become more like Christ means to take the risk to create.  I cannot allow fear in my mind to numb the  ideas he has inspired. Whether or not anything becomes of our creations, we get to identify with the creator in the process and I have to believe that makes the risk worth it.  

From the crashing of the waves to the rugged crags of the mountains, my eyes saw my God and I am without excuse.  Like his works, I intensely desire my life to scream His redemption, restoration and glory until my work here is complete. Risking foolishness, I want to create and become in ways that inspire others to do the same.  And as a result, be a part of building a community of creators that still gasp in awe at the mountain tops or shed tears at the sound of the waves because we are continually moved that the God of the universe would choose to come near to us.  That he loves us that much.

May his creation make it hard for you to breathe.  May his creation cause a tear to slide down your cheek.  May his creation remind you that the God who created the vividness, vastness and intricacies of the Earth out of nothing has not forgotten you. May His creation cease your anxieties and bring your mind rest.  May his creation inspire you to risk.  May his creation bring you to a place to create in a way that others can't help but sense Him.  May his creation deliver you from your fears and selfishness.  May his creation bring joy to your heart, light to your eyes, and a new song to your mouth.  May his creation set you free to create -- immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine.

I mean, what if?