The strength of a stiff neck and two sure hands can be hazardous to the soul.
And when Amelie Farrar and Marian Hoth and Rachel Verbeek* stood at the edge of the water on Sunday night, ready to die, I don’t know if three women could have looked more broken and happy.
Are souls safest in jars that know they’re shattered?
Amelie, she’d said it to all of us standing there after the black sky had split open and it had rained hard in these white sheets. Her voice had only trembled a bit.
That she would never be good enough and she knew it and she couldn’t get over that He would rescue the likes of her and she was willing to die to self for Him who died for her.
She’s done with trying to work her way into heaven because that’s a labor that can only be done with nails and the broken heart of God. Her own blackness gives way to white sheets.
She’d stood straight when she’d read this, said her life had come down simply to this:
But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. ~ Acts:20:24
She looked so young and so wise and looked right at me.
Something in me splits just a bit.
Marian steps up behind Amelie, unfolds her testimony from her back pocket, two torn sheets and a scrawl of her life.
Her voice is gravelly… worn. With a life of abuse, of years begging the cosmos for some relief. She takes a deep breath before she says it: she wrote a letter to her abusing brothers, forgiving. Because Christ gave her relief – beggar forgiven.
Her tobacco stained hands hold the paper tight when she tells us her favorite Scripture:
For God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes…
It’s happening right here in a country church on a Sunday night in September — the cosmos splitting open, Christ the only saving, the only satisfaction, the sovereign God plucking the sinner straight out of a sea of hopelessness.
And we are sitting right there, the witnesses to the grand cosmic plan of redemption.
No wonder the clouds split on the way to Sunday night services — what can contain itself?
Rachel, last of the trio, steps before us with her black eye.
She gives brave testimony of things we don’t speak of much, farm families in a little country chapel. Of pot and promiscuity and cuttings – and how her mama prayed. Her mama holds their newborn son, everything falling straight down for her oldest daughter.
Rachel says she’s surrendered to Christ back at a summer camp in 2008 but the years have had temptations and there isn’t a saint there who doesn’t feel the scars: The pulse of the old, dead man can flicker long after the burial and new life in Christ can be a war.
Rachel’s smiling when she looks up at us, looking so triumphant there with her black eye.
Her mama there rocking new life in her arms, cheeks stained with all the old.
Why in the world do we get to be here, spectators to the bald-face grace of God?
Three women claim Christ, and three women give testimony and three women go down into waters and they break the surface and three cracked women rise to One God alone.
Surrendered lives see all of life’s WHYs as simply writing the first letter of YES to God.
The still pond ripples out.
And all around the still waters moving, all the hands, they clap this blurred thankfulness, the farmers and mothers and truck drivers and grandmothers and kids with the pants rolled up. What could possibly contain the Love Body’s joy?
The spruce trees drip still with the rain. The women laugh amazed mercy, their hems dripping on the pond’s shore. The waterwheel waits. All these amniotic waters.
Nail pierced grace will never let you go and Christianity is a lifetime of becoming who you really are.
Real lifetimes can begin at anytime.
Marian Hoth’s face is so fresh in the light.
Mrs. Struyk and Mrs. Leary walk down the path from the pond ahead of me, us all walking bravely again out into it, and Mr. Weber shakes Marian Hoth’s wet hand .
I smile and look back at the place of the rising.
Look back to little Peter Vanderborg alone on the dock, dipping his paddle into the pond.
Into the pond and the reflection of souls that now runs like water…
the strength of surrendering to the current of Christ….
the One Thousand Gifts that never end… thanks for the grace moments from Christ who does it all, gives it all…
#2706 – #2720
~ little boys who come for lunch with big smiles and no front teeth
~ the last campfire of the summer and real s’mores
~ a bit of chocolate on my tall girl’s cheek
~ a G.A. Hentybook laying open out on the trampoline
~ stacks of boy-made pancakes
~ seeing the bottom of the laundry basket
~ the women praying for the free Yes to God online conference tomorrow night
~ serving the Farmer a surprise second bowl of homemade ice cream
~ us all laying out on the lawn watching the lightning coming
~ I’d be amiss if I didn’t whisper thanks to Him for this — for using the broken anyways, all for His purposes — week #17 on the New York Times, #11
~ but now, this letter? This is where we happily rejoice with the angels, the wonder of salvation that only He offers:
Not only has the expat community here in Iraq where I work been blessed by One Thousand Gifts, but I found out today that it has radically impacted my students as well. I gave a copy to one new believer and he passed it on to others, and now another believes! God is reaping the harvest here.
~and the last hymn of the night… because He lives… I can face tomorrow
singing just that on a Sunday night
because He holds Monday and Tuesday and all the future… the real labouring all finished already in Him
Will you join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts? Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post. Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!