Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chained Glory

I wrote this a few years ago, after freelancing as a researcher and grip for a television program produced by a friend of mine. Earlier this week I rediscovered it as I was searching for something entirely different in a folder. It took me back to a place where I saw heartbreaking cruelty meet sacrificial love in a way that I will never forget.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting a big cat sanctuary. There are more than 30 tigers, lions, cougars, and other felines housed at this particular refuge. Each animal has his or her own story, most of them sad. A cougar’s former owner had tried to de-claw the cat using improper measures, a cruel act necessitating post-rescue corrective surgery. Another had her front teeth removed, which means she can’t eat the meat that is the staple of her kind. A lynx is missing an eye. More than one of the animals had been rescued from people who kept them trapped in small, filthy enclosures. All of the cats’ original owners believed they cared about these animals, but their actions proved otherwise.

As disheartening as their stories are to hear, the good thing is that these beautiful cats are now in the care of a wonderful couple who loves them all dearly. The volunteers who work with them put in long hours each day to provide for every animal there, not only in terms of food and medical care, but also with interaction and room to play. It takes a lot of love and sacrifice, daily, but each person there believes that the payoff is worth the risks. The goal is to help these animals thrive as much as possible, particularly since they will never be able to live in the freedom they were created to enjoy.

Like these amazing animals, there are those amongst us who spent their formative years imprisoned in dysfunctional and abusive environments. The hardest kind of abuse to overcome is that which is perpetrated by someone who says “I love you” but whose behavior contradicts those three special words. Whether the abuse is physical, mental, or emotional, its victims can spend the rest of their days in captivity. They too need a sanctuary, a place in which they are cared for and can heal. The comparison ends here, though, because big cats aren’t people. Animals don’t have the higher reasoning to recognize that they’re not truly living in freedom. These cats couldn’t survive in the wild even if they wanted to.

People were created in the image of God. Every individual bears the mark of His glory in his or her person. Unfortunately, as a result of the fall that glory has been chained. All of us, in one way or another, have been taken captive. Sometimes we become so accustomed to our captivity we don’t realize we’re imprisoned. We think it is natural to us, but we are mistaken.

Jesus came to provide new natures for all of us. His declaration about His ministry is one of freedom to the captives, sight to the blind, healing to the crippled. There are different kinds of cripples, just as there are different kinds of blindness. The healing that Jesus offers is for the internal cripple as much as it is the external cripple. It’s for the blinded heart as well as the blinded eye.

There are many claims that Jesus makes about Himself. He describes Himself as our Good Shepherd. He is our Great Physician, come to heal the sick and wounded. He provides us with the only water that unceasingly quenches our thirst. Ultimately, all the descriptions are summed up in one beautiful word – Savior. He saves us from our sin. He delivers us from the pits we fall into. He breaks the chains that hold us captive, cleans us up, binds our wounds and sets us on our way. He fills us with His Spirit, and pours His life out through us. He is our fortress and sanctuary, when we run to Him we are safe. Unlike our furry friends at the big cat sanctuary, since He is in and with us, we can thrive in the wild because what comes with us is everything we need. As we daily turn to Him, we find that He is there right alongside us.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I turned 44-years old on January 20th. I've heard, more times than I can count, people express astonishment when they find out that I passed the mid-thirty mark almost ten years ago. Actually, it's pretty funny to see the looks I get but I know in my bones - I'm not that young any more. The clock does have a say and there are some things in life that, once the time has passed, it's simply too late. That's just the human condition.

Be that as it may, age doesn't preclude firsts. My birthday week was bookended by a couple of personal firsts.

I got to go sledding for the first time during a long weekend with friends who live in the Wheaton area of Illinois. Unlike Texas, the residents of Illinois experience real winters. There was snow on the ground. Quite a bit, I thought. My friend Wendy, who hadn't been sledding in years, took the opportunity presented by my presence to reconnect with that aspect of her own inner child. Wendy's housemate, Jane, hadn't been sledding before either. Both Jane and I enjoyed the experience immensely, though I suspect Jane's little dog decided pretty quickly that one trip down the slopes while sitting on a plastic disc was more than enough.

I screamed and laughed like a little girl each time I went down the bunny slopes, which were within walking distance of Jane's and Wendy's house. I hope to go sledding again someday. The next time, though, I will wear boots that provide good traction.

The other first I experienced was leading the organic home church to which I belong in an evening's discussion and activity. I've never led anything. Really, I prefer to shun the spotlight. I get in a crowd of people and feel overwhelmed. I don't often say much when the group is gathered together as a whole. We can have anywhere from 15 to 30 people on any given weekend. I may join a conversation or two, and I can be quite opinionated if I'm passionate about something, but otherwise I'm shy and reserved.

The weekend I led the group there were, I believe, 23 people gathered together. That's twenty-something pairs of eyes looking at me while I directed the group toward the goal we hoped to accomplish that evening - a goal which had sprung from my heart. Have I mentioned that I'd rather shun the spotlight and hadn't ever led anything before? I had help that evening, co-leaders for whom I will always be grateful, but the bulk of leading that evening's discussion fell on my shoulders.

I struggled with thoughts of "oh crap, what have I gotten myself into?" and feelings of unease but I managed to put those aside and stay focused on what everyone needed from me. And it all turned out fine.

Recently I was told, "It's time." I am not quite sure what to do with that but I'm sure it includes more firsts for me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Theme for 2010

With the start of a new year there's this push to anticipate the future and work toward transformation in the form of resolutions or vision maps. Some people have discussed the idea of choosing a theme for their year.

I decided I like the idea of having a theme word for 2010. Something to hold in my heart as an area where, hopefully, my life's landscape is nurtured.

Here is the word I settled on:

communion [kəˈmjuːnjən]
1. an exchange of thoughts, emotions, etc.
2. possession or sharing in common; participation
3. (foll by with) strong emotional or spiritual feelings (for) communion with nature
4. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) a religious group or denomination having a common body of beliefs, doctrines, and practices
5. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) the spiritual union held by Christians to exist between individual Christians and Christ, their Church, or their fellow Christians
[from Latin commūniō general participation, from commūnis common]