Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How He Destroys the Darkness

The sun has been leaving earlier, lately. Every day the darkness pushes back a few minutes of sunlit evenings.

 It will creep up on us, slowly stealing more time from the sun until one day I will leave work in darkness, headlights on, the eight hours of daylight spent inside working, eyes on my work but my heart and skin and fingers being pulled to the little sunshine visible in our one window. 

 Darkness creeps near me, tonight, an unwanted companion. 

 I feel him hiding in a corner under my bed.

 I only have one weapon against the darkness, when even the light in my room can't possibly be bright enough.

I reach for my Bible, covered in gray fabric with a flowered pattern in white. The bookmark is in Exodus 39 and 40, and I force myself to read this holy book.

 "From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the Lord had commanded Moses (Exodus 39:1) ...They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates all around the hem of the robe, between the pomegranates- a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate around the hem of the robe for ministering, as the Lord had commanded Moses" (Exodus 39:25-26). 

But what do the priest's garments have to do with me? The bells and pomegranates on the hem? The colors of the clothes? What do they have to do with the darkness that is slowly consuming me, this pain I feel over life's circumstances, this feeling of hopelessness?

 This book is hope and life itself. He died for me. He gives me hope. He gives me life. But instructions for making the priest's clothes? 

Exodus chapter forty. "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil" (1-3).

What on earth do these words have to with my pain?

And the darkness doesn't go away, but it stays, abated by my question being voiced. 

I keep reading, keep searching, one eye on the words on the page, the other on the shadow the darkness makes as it moves closer to me.

"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys" (Exodus 40: 34-38). 

 The tent of meeting was where God met with His people. This took place after they made a golden calf and worshiped it. After God had saved them from their slavery to the Egyptians. After God had parted the Red Sea. After God plagued the Egyptians with afflictions. 

 "...and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle...in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys..."

Oh darkness, it is me.     

Darkness, do you see God's holy light next to the blackness of us? 

 He loved us enough to send his son to die. He loved us enough to be particular about clothes. He loved us enough to be creative and demand bells and pomegranates of gold on the hems. He loved us enough to not abandon us even though He was and is the Almighty God who is so holy the priest's robes must be made a certain way, with gold bells and pomegranates dangling from Aaron's hems.

And the darkness recoils by my bed. In my soul. 

Darkness has no place in the tent of meeting.

This is how He destroys the darkness, a little corner each day. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Why I'm Not Doing the Non-White Authors Challenge

I have always considered myself to be a diverse reader. 

 I don't read just one kind of book. I read contemporary novels, historical fiction, biographies, non fiction, old books, new books, classics, fantasy, fairy tales, graphic novels, children's books, young adult books, adult books, mysteries, romance, Christian and non Christian. I love to read books that take place in different countries and different time periods. I love to learn new things. I love books that have a lot of depth and meaning, but I'll read lighter books, too. I am not afraid to read things out of my comfort zone. I have read quite a few Sci Fi books, a genre I personally don't like, and have even discovered a few I like. 

 But lately, I've been wondering how "diverse" my reading list really is. So I did some research. Of the twenty-three books I have read so far this year, I have read very different books- fiction and non fiction, men authors and women authors, JF to YA to Adult Fiction, and things in-between. But I also noticed that of those twenty-three books, only two were by non-white authors. 

 I looked at my shelf of favorite books, hoping I would see something different. Twenty-nine beloved books of mine: two novels by a Jewish man and a book of Japanese poetry. Many countries represented, like Germany, France, Persia, and India. But all by white authors except three. 

 I really had no idea.

 And I started to feel guilty. Guilty about the white authors I was reading, guilty for not being as "diverse" as I thought I was, guilty for not reading more books by people from different cultures and skin colors. 

 But it was an easy fix. I got onto Goodreads and did Google searches to find books by non white authors that looked interesting and I added them to my reading list. I promised myself that I would be better at reading a wider group of authors that were not so pale skinned. 

 And then on Google I found several links for something called the "Non-White Authors Reading Challenge". It looked interesting, fun, different, and dare I say it, politically correct. And for a few seconds I considered doing the challenge in 2018 and only reading non white authors. 

 But this is why I'm not.

  1. I should never be ashamed of reading books by white authors.

   First of all, because I am white. Second, since when is it a crime to read books by white people? It's not. It should never be a crime to read books by people of your own race just like it should never be a crime to read books by people of other races.

 2. I learned that China publishes the most books in the world, followed by the USA and the UK (Which Country Publishes the Most Books). 

 If you combine the USA and the UK, that means most of the books in the world are written in English by white people. That's just the way it is. I believe that we need to get better at translating these books so people in other countries are able to read more books and have more resources. I know that is a bigger problem than us English speakers realize. I also encourage other countries to crank out the books. I want to read them!  But the facts are that most books are by white people. 

 3. I've always focused on the book itself and not necessarily the author. 

 If someone picked up my future book in the library and decided to read it based purely on my ethnicity, I wouldn't be thrilled. I would prefer that they read my book because it looks interesting, well written, or they read another book of mine and loved it. And I assume other people feel the same way about their books.

 Of course, I get excited when I find a good book by a Japanese author for example because that is what I love to read. But I never want anyone to feel obligated to read a book just because someone is white or non-white. 

 I am not saying that white people are the best authors. I don't think that. I am not prejudiced against non white people; some of my favorite people are not white. I love other cultures, countries, different races and skin tones. I have been obsessed with Japan for quite a while, and since I visited Colombia, I'm in love with that country, too. Honestly, if I could choose what I looked like, I would rather be Asian or Latin American. Just saying. I think they are beautiful people. So there is no prejudice or hate here.

 I just don't want to apologize for being white and reading white authors. 

 However, I am glad I realized that I have been reading mostly white authors. I have already added more non-white authors to my reading list, and I'm already excited about some of the new books I have found to read. I just don't plan on completely taking out white authors, either. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Caught In-Between the Yes and the No

The dirt road underneath my shoes feels better than pavement. The birds singing and squirrels chattering sounds better than car horns.  

 How many walks will I take before I have the answers I want?

 A brook bubbles, and the water looks cool and the sun on my back is hot. I could take off my socks and shoes and dip my toes in, make them shiver in the water the sun has yet to warm. I could sit on a rock and wade my feet and no one would care if I did. Or I could keep walking.

 I could pause my walk and get my feet wet- something that requires no permission and has no consequences and would require no thought. I could just go wading or not go wading as I pleased. 

 But most decisions are not as simple as stopping by a peaceful stream.

 A familiar dirt road, a familiar brook, a familiar longing to test the temperature of the water, and familiar questions I want answered. Still. 

I never realized before how much I crave simple yes or no answers to the many decisions I have to make in life. 

 But like this road, I have been here before. Caught in-between the yes and the no, what I want and don't want, what God may do but has not promised me. 

 The waiting when you just want to know whether you should take a step forward or backward.

 In my Bible reading, I have reached Exodus again, a time where Israel was waiting for God to act. And in God's perfect timing, my church is now going through Exodus as well. 

 In the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites are all enslaved by Egypt. They fear God has forgotten them. But God calls a man named Moses to deliver his people from slavery and lead them to the land He has promised them. They have been given hope and they are beyond excited and ready to leave their oppression. So in Exodus chapter five, Moses goes to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh, telling him that God has commanded him to let His people go. 

 And instead of agreeing, instead of being scared of the signs Moses does with God's power, Pharaoh laughs, saying he does not know God. Then he makes life even harder for the people of Israel, and they grumble against Moses and this God of theirs who will not save them.

 I know what comes next. I know the plagues God will send to the Egyptians, all examples of His power. Though tragic, I know that God will show His authority to all of Egypt by causing all of their firstborn to die. I know that God will save the firstborns of His people Israel because of the blood of a lamb painted on their doors. I know that is a beautiful picture of Jesus' sacrificial death for us on the cross, something far beyond what the Israelites could have imagined or hoped. I know that God will humiliate Pharaoh and the Egyptians. I know God will part the Red Sea and lead His people to safety and eventually to the land He promised them. 

 I know all of these things. But the people of Israel did not. They were caught in-between the yes and the no, in-between what God had promised to do and what He hadn't done yet. 

 I think they were tired. I think they wanted to know whether they could hope, if God was going to deliver them from their enemies, if they could start packing, or if they should curl up and die in Egypt as slaves. 

 I think they felt like how I feel now walking this dirt road. 

 I am not enslaved. I am happy and free. But this dirt road has seen my confusion, my desire for a yes or no, how badly I handle being caught in-between the yes and the no.

 If I could go back into the time of Exodus, I would tell the Israelites, "Be patient. I know this is hard right now, but it is part of God's huge, amazing plan. Just wait until you see what He does."

 And the trees above me shake from the wind, like they are lovingly laughing and scolding me. So I tell myself, "Be patient. This is hard right now, but it is part of God's huge, amazing plan for my life. Just wait and see what He does, for He has never been unfaithful."

 It may take a long time or a short time, but eventually I will get a yes or a no. And either way, God will be good and faithful to me, the one who put my Jesus on a tree. 

"Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for possession. I am the LORD.'"
~ Exodus 6:6-8, ESV