Mitchell Richards [Words]

Month: January, 2010

Vultures (Or Vulture Like Creatures)

It was the second day we were in Trinidad.  I remember we were living out of a hotel, or maybe an apartment in the shadow of a mountain.  I vaguely remember the hotel being blue.  My mom, brother and I decided to hike the mountain, because all that was on TV was Sesame Street and we needed to get out.  We went down to a diner outside of the hotel, and I ate a sandwich and fries and then we walked up to the mountain.  I say mountain, it is probably technically a hill, but when you are in first grade and from Oklahoma, anything taller than a two-story house is a mountain.  We walked up the road that led about halfway to the top and we found a random playground with slides and swings and a sandbox.  I played in the sandbox and I remember the “sand” was actually dirt.  Red dirt.  It was very much like the red dirt we have in Oklahoma.  Anyway, I decided to make a sand/red dirt castle, which soon turned into a sand/red dirt sea lion/seal balancing a ball on its nose.  Then, out of nowhere, it began to rain.

We went back up the mountain a few days later, and my sea lion/seal had a nice footprint smashed into it, and I didn’t feel like rebuilding it.  This hill seemed to be at the center of the city we lived in, San Fernando, and it was around this hill that some of my most memorable moments occurred while living in Trinidad.  There was a revival of sorts held at the foot of the hill that my church put on one week.  My mom, brother and I climbed the hill every couple of weeks it seemed.

I remember there always being a part of the hike where we would stop and rest on this big rock.  What I assume to be vultures, or vulture-like creatures would be circling above, and my brother would razz me to not stay motionless for too long or they might come swoop down on me.  The VLC (vulture-like creatures) always seemed to be circling this one area about 60 yards from where we would rest.  A narrow path lined by dense trees led to a secluded part of the mountain.  I was always terrified of this place, even while we were just taking a break it was overwhelmingly creepy.  In my opinion, that place where the VLC were circling may as well have been called death.

One of the last times we climbed the hill before we moved back, I dared myself to walk down the path and get to the other side, the side where the VLC were circling.  I didn’t get very far before I chickened out and ran back to the big rock.

We all have this place in our lives, right?

A place of fear and death?  A place in our hearts that goes un-researched and uncharted?  A place of death?  A place we have no intentions of going to, a place that is undiscovered.  A place that gives you the chills even from a distance, even from the very thought of what lurks down the path.

We have this place in our lives, right?

That place where vultures circle and is surrounded by dark forests on either side.  The place you won’t enter because you are too afraid.

I’m not talking about the hill anymore am I?  I am talking about your heart/soul.  I am referring to you spirituality, and we are looking into our own guts together.  What lies on the other side of the path?  What dead carcass from our past the vultures are circling?

I assure you this, in life we will fail, and parts of us will die.  I laid in bed last night thinking about all the mistakes I have made in the last few years, and how in all probability those carcasses will come back to haunt me.  Perhaps they already do, and I laid there thinking about how those carcasses caused the vultures to circle, and how those places in my guts are dead now.  Dead to feeling, and dead to hope.

Before I get too depressing about the way life works, I suppose hope should enter the scene here.

You know, Jesus came and died for those places in our lives.  Psalm 103:12 says that our sins are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west.  But for me, the east meets the west where the vultures circle.

I heard somewhere that scar tissue is actually thicker and stronger than normal tissue.  Scar tissue, while painful and full of memories, is actually stronger than our own flesh.

It was these places that vultures circle, that God himself entered in.  God, in the form of a Savior, walked the long dark path and entered in to that place.  He put up a cross on that place and He died on that place.  Later, He would come back to that place and pick up His cross again and take it to the next place where vultures are circling in our lives and do it all over again.  In Malachi 4, it says that Jesus would be coming with “healing in his wings”, and I feel that is precisely what He has done ever since He died and rose again.  While these areas of vultures still exist in our lives, the wound is ready to be healed, it is just waiting on us to stop picking the scab.  The place where vultures circle is ready to be defeated, it is just waiting on us to make the long lonely walk to pick up our own cross on the mountain, the one Jesus left there for us after He took His.

The great thing about Christ is that He came to set us free, but not to make it easy.  He came to give us new life, but we cannot have a new life without getting rid of the old life.  New life sounds great, but old life feels familiar, and even though there are parts where the vultures circle, the majority of it is just a nice hike.  Your adventure with Christ is waiting on new life, and it’s waiting on healing.  We will never be forgiven until we face the carcasses and take care of them.  We wont be forgiven until we stand under the circling vultures and give them the finger and move on.


The Wonder of the Wander

I don’t know a lot about energy and momentum, but I assume it takes more energy to get something going than to keep in going.

The same is true with life.

It takes more energy and effort to start from a dead stop than to coast through towns, ignoring traffic signs and pedestrians.

Why is it that whenever if envision myself in a literal journey through life, I always picture in the dense woods?  Why can’t my journey be on well-lit highways or some McDonald’s Play Place?  Why is it that the journey of life takes place in something far more dark and mysterious?  Why is it that there are no paths in my visions?  No guides?  No cell phones?  Why do I never have a handy machete to chop down the brush in my face?  It’s bad enough to have no idea where I am going, but to not be able to see adds a whole new element.  Why is it that in my visions I am seen wandering around, traveling in circles?  Why is it that, upon reaching my destination, I see Jesus standing outside of a homemade hut and never anything spectacular?

As a child, I once had a dream of two doorframes.  Each doorframe had no door, and both were placed about ten feet from one another in an endless white space.  I would build a door on one frame, and walk over to the next and begin building a door there, and as it was being set in its place, someone would run in a complete circle and break down both of the doors in the process.  The dream lasted a long time, and I can still hear the sound of the person running through the doors sometimes in the sound of silence.  I think I see life this way; a constant building of doors and covering my tracks, even though the doors lead to nothing and someone will always be there to break them down.

I like the wandering around in the forest.  I suppose it kind of sucks, because I have no idea where I am going, but at the same time I am going somewhere.  I think in the end of this journey I will find Jesus standing by His little hut and He will invite me in for bread and wine.  I imagine we will watch a short film about where I will be off to next, and I think he will hand me a parka or something and tell me I best get going.

Somehow…in some weird way…I love that about Jesus.  I love the fact that in reality I will never be done wandering.  I will never be done getting pissed off about being lost, and I’ll never be done wandering from hut to hut to find the next destination.  Some people see their journey with God as a race, others a relationship, and some see it as a side-by-side stroll through the park.  While all of those suit them just fine, I like my vision a little better.  As Helen Keller says, “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”  I see my journey with and for Christ in the same way, a grand, never ending, always changing adventure.  Like a puppy in a new home, everything is new and everything is interesting.  The more you wander through the wild, the more you cross paths with other people on their journeys.  Some will be headed in opposite ways, but hopefully we will all have time for each other’s stories.  Some people will be defeated, sitting against a tree; others will be broken down, waiting for help.  It is our job to find these people.  And while we bounce from hut to hut thinking that they are the destination, Jesus smirks every time we swap stories with another journeyman, or to place a hand on the broken.  We are all in this together.  We are all wandering around with aimless purpose.  The journey is not about the hut-to-hut adventure, but it is in between point A and point B that the motivation for point B to point C comes from.  Even though we catch up with Jesus at the huts, it is really between the points that we find Jesus.  It is between the points where we see Him more clearly and understand Him more dearly.  It is between the points that Jesus’ face becomes meshed with the faces of our brothers and sister, our friends and enemies.  Our journey through the wild is our destination to grace.

I say the journey never ends, but I guess that in the end, the ultimate goal is Jesus saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  But even then, as the journey of life comes to an end, I want to begin a new journey.  I don’t know what it will look like, or what jungles it will take me to, but call me crazy…I think the pursuit of Jesus is much more fun than actually finding Him.

What If/What Now

It appears as though I have dug myself into a rut.  It seems as though the cycles of my life are doing just that…cycling.  One moment is filled with joy and excitement, but as the revolutions go around it turns to laziness and grief.  I can only measure what I’ve done in millimeters in the miles of life that I have lived, and as the world continue to spins without slowing down and waiting for me to catch up, I have decided to sit at the bus stop.

What ifs, I have learned, can soothe many scars like a band aide on the wound.  But they never heal.  What ifs are only an anti-itch cream over the itch of accomplishments and purpose.  What ifs are dreams and rumors of calling and demands made from something bigger than you.  But, what ifs are nothing.  What ifs are lazy and reckless and taking up space.  What ifs sit at the bus stop of life, waiting and hoping for a bus to come by and take you to your destination.  A bus that, in all likelihood, you missed because you were distracted by the flashy advertisements and fast food restaurants along the way.

I want to turn my what ifs…

What if I wrote that book…
What if I moved…
What if I ask that girl out…
What if I tried to get that better job…
What if…
What if…
What if…

I want to turn my what ifs into what nows.

I wrote that book…What now?
I moved…What now?
I got the pretty girl…What now?
Better job?  What now?
What now?
What now?
What now?

I need to be redeemed, not only of my sins, but from a life lived poorly.  I have come to find that redemption is found around every corner, between churches and states, between midnight and sunrise, and between betrayal and union.  Grace is found in the shadows of steeples and the fire pits of slums.  And grace and redemption is not just for wrongs doings, but also for shortcomings.  Grace for the lazy.  Redemption for the distracted.  Grace for the dead in the water.  Redemption for the frozen in their own tracks.

Maybe it’s the New Year, but I doubt it because the itch of something more bothers me 11 months out of the year.  The only month it doesn’t bother me is the month I am going out and pursuing it.

If 2009 was a year of finding myself, I want 2010 to be a year of losing myself.
If 2009 was a year of finding myself, I want 2010 to be a year of giving that discovery away.
If 2009 was a year of finding myself, I want 2010 to be a year of getting lost in an ocean’s current, pulled by the waves, and drown, and to find life existing below the surface.

I pray that collectively, we can change the what ifs to what nows and get lost together.