When A Community Has Cancer

photoHere I am.

And I’ve been real quiet haven’t I?

I’ve been real quiet because I’ve been real hurting and I haven’t known how to quantify the real pain into real words. Because she called me on a Saturday when the biggest winter blizzard in decades was blowing over our heads and through her intuitive tears told me she had found a lump in her breast. And just like that my heart fell down to the floor because this is the girl whose soul is stitched into my rib bones and we share every little atom of life – raising our boys side-by-side, telling each other secrets, supporting and struggling and sticking together in spite of all the things that life can hurl at a person and when she gets scared? My God, if I don’t know the feeling like it’s manifesting right inside my own skin. So we prayed together across phone wires, saying the “please God, no” and hanging onto hope for benign, taking deep breaths like we were starving for them.

But, something in her must’ve known.

Yes, I think she knew. Because less then a month, a mammogram and biopsy later that mass she felt in her breast was cancer, additionally tested and found “aggressive”. She’s only 36 and it hurts so big for me to witness this. All I want is for her to get over here and pour out her pain into my hands so I can press it against my chest and run all the way to the far side of the earth, throw that hurt off the edge and watch it plummet headlong towards some bottomless abyss. But that is just my imagination talking and I’m left with a slow walk back to reality and that thing I wanted to fling is a lead burden filling up my limbs, making me be heavy all over. A part of me feels like it would be easier to go through cancer myself then watch how this fire will make her burn. I would do it, you know. I would absorb every microscopic bit of disease to spare her the months of agony – chemo, surgery, radiation and the whole sweeping panorama of side effects. Lord knows I can’t do that. But she did give us the key to her surviving and thriving when 30 of us circled around her as a community to lay prayer-hands on her face and hair and neck and spine and arms and fingers and blue jeans – we covered all the spaces and couldn’t get close enough this time and we told her that for better of for worse *WE* have cancer and it’s an honor and privilege to be trusted with her daily care. We’re gonna stick our fingers in her veins and tie our blood tighter together and just you wait and watch what we can do because we’re standing arm in arm like a ferocious and united human shield around her body. Watch us wear her burden on our backs and stare down this death-maker duel-style while we move and rhythm ourselves all the way in the opposite spirit of it. And by “opposite spirit”, I mean: as a people we’re gonna show this disease what it really means to be alive.

photoAlso: I want you to know something else about this lady; what kind of woman she is and why I wish you could look at her in the midst of the mess and sorrow. Because I’ve never known anyone who digs into life deeper so she can stand taller and reach higher and spread her arms and heart wider and every tough situation I’ve seen her go through? Well, she has just come out so shining, with Kingdom glory on her face and wisdom beaming from stem to stern and compassion extending to the tips of all her digits. And before she ever knew she had cancer, the Spirit whispered the word JOY over her year, told her it would be the lens by which she would see anything in the coming days (how timely and crazy is that?) and my own ears have heard the words from her lips again and again these past weeks: “I choose JOY”.

Would you pray with us? Maybe just a tiny inhale and exhale filled with good and God-full intention would be enough on your part. Or, more then just that if you are so inclined. Her name is Jen, but we know her as Liberty . . . So maybe your prayer could be for her freedom from all this some day.

 

Why I’m Going Back To Church

“If I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God.” ~Oswald Chambers

Hi. My name is Erika Lynn Morrison. I have been intentionally engaged with the activity and developement of a post-congregational Christian community for the last 13 years of my life and I say it to you like a confession lest I forget that this expression was the bosom at which my faith nursed – where the Spirit cradled my transformation through daylight and dark, night watches; crooned over my broken skin and my blooming heart. It was a beautiful way to grow, the milk was nutrient-dense and precisely what I needed to strip, stand and stretchI learned how to toddle and walk and say, “Daddy” all over again before He taught me my own signals and sounds, the specific language He wanted me to speak – not at all a prescriptive word-power for the Christian course, but new abstractions from what had become tired and old.

(Can we all admit that our faith-speak has become–and is–old sometimes? That we’ve lost originality, even while serving an infinitely original God?)

All this cultivation came to pass under the careful watch and with the constant conversation of 20 or so other people who were going through the same growing strands and strains that I was. My God, this decade-plus was a good and dangerous delight (when that decade-plus wasn’t so busy being very damn hard) . . .

This narrative continues at Deeper Story today!!! Follow me THERE?! :)

 

Celebrate ::

The New Year in our New Haven assemblage of friends and kin, does not come quietly. We are a loud, bawdy and raucous lot of (S)pirit-drinking, foot-stomping, arm-pumping, heart-panting, dancing, freak show of revelers—unbridled in the conveying of our festive selves . . .

:::

There is a warm, fluid reverence cruising through my blooded-veins while I slip my legs into the sheer-grey New Year’s tights and apply the party-going lipstick. In the bedroom, before the full-length mirror, I’m swaying already to the unseen music of coming celebration. I’m looking at my flesh and I’m thinking that every day my earth-body bears the bandages of real, deep, hazardous-to-my-heart, {daily} living and celebration seems the highest worship I can gift my God in the midst of it, as if to say —-> in spite of all the wounds against my skin and all the fractures crevicing my aorta, I will “with smoldering eyes declare: Life, I WILL love you.” Christ, I WILL love You. Still. 

This is a conscious word-harmony singing from my spirit through all the readiness and I choose clothes with care and which earrings look better with this dress? Because it matters to me how I show-up-to-let-go, give over and spill praise for Him and Her who gave me this “one wild and precious life“.

And like rainbow threads going into the same tapestry, we are—all of us—pulled from our individual dwelling places on this night by a great, cosmic Weaver and in our coming together, this human-clownery-collection is woven by divine-Hand into a drapery-declaration of LIVING artwork. Oh, on the surface, we make outward exclamations about shoes and hats and other creative wardrobe elements, “You bought your dress in Paris?! It’s so beautiful!” But, there is beneath the material we’re wearing a buzz of holy anticipation, we know we are here to look across the room at each other and remember; we’re here to shout our lungs desert-dry and lift our we-made-it-another-year glasses and get all tribal-loose on the dance floor. Because together? We will continue to grab life by the shoulders. Grab her by her shoulders, stare straight into her tempest-face and say, You, Life! Yes, you. I will squeeze every last dangerous drop from your heart and let you intoxicate me.”

So we spin and we dip and we go low and our limb-aching, sweat-dripping bodies speak like a letter to the Romans, revealing the smooth merlot of our future glory, the glory we’re supposed to wait for? We can sneak sips of it now . . . celebrate!

To me? This is what it means to celebrate: to give ceremony to life. Give ceremony to every little and big moment {whether it be New Year’s festivities or picking a friend up from work at 11:30pm} that would otherwise go unnoticed. And I feel it, even under all my wounds and bandages, that this is heaven—our future glory—partaken and savored in the right-now.

:::

Celebrate :: This is my word for 2012. I’m giving ceremony to as much living as I can; sneaking sips of future glory like an audacious, mischievous child.

Happy New Year, my Loves.

Life ::

 

It Takes A Village

There lives a group of people who have put up with me for the last twelve years. I’ve put up with them, too, because we decided early on that one of our mutual values would have to be perseverance if we wanted any chance at “making it” through thick and thin. “Thick and thin” puts it rather mildly, I suppose, in terms of what life was really like as a community of people who wanted to make a difference with each other, the city we lived in and ultimately for the Greater Kingdom’s sake. We walked the shadowed underbelly of choice, circumstance and life experience. We grew up on each other’s skin and boy does that get raw after a while and sometimes the wheels of hard living can peel your flesh right off. What a mess of humanity we were (and still are, to be sure), but we didn’t traverse through inferno for more then a decade to not resurrect from our own ashes and rise again and again and again to kiss the Son. God is who He says He is, we believe.

Today I’m over at Deeper Story. Continue reading here . . .

 

What’s In A Name?

I believe that by God’s grace it is our destiny, in this life or in whatever life awaits us, to discover the face of our inmost being, to become at last and at great cost who we truly are.” ~ Frederick Buechner

Our breakfast nook by the sea.

We went to the Stony Creek shore, my girl Jenni and I, and sat down at the scarred wooden table outside the breakfast and pizza shop, next to the antique store. This is the quintessential New England setting by the sea and the two of us take these bits-of-time every chance we can – the scenery, the slow, the quiet, the hearts reaching toward one another in gentle, vital communion.

There we were with the lapping waves and the breeze and the sun-rays slanting and casting shadows when the sharing turned extra deep to get the load off our chests, to bear one another’s burdens . . . From an ache pressing against the surface of her ribs, Jen says to me, “I just need someone to tell me who I am again.

{Have you ever felt that? The burning-raw need to put language to your identity? Or is it enough to know that you operate from your true self, language notwithstanding?}

Her pain reaches straight through my skin and grabs hold tight to my heart as I look at her through the quickly forming pools in my vision. Across our half-eaten omelets sits a face I have journeyed with for ten years and I meet her gaze that had already let-go liquid emotion.

This woman with the green eyes and the ready love, I know her. I know her as much as my human intuition and our relationship history allows and she knows me.

Heart-to-heart we walked through the discovering, uncovering of what God had named us from the beginning, as His very own daughters.

Liberty is her name and the seed from which all her fruit grows, the lens through which she views the world, what she offers when she enters a room, the aura that follows in the wake of all her movement. The piece of Jesus’ body she carries. It cannot be stripped from her core I know, but can be hidden beneath the pressures and circumstances of life and she is in the midst of them right now.

Liberty

I just need someone to tell me who I am again.”

The only thing I can tell her from the seat of my plastic outdoor chair is that I know her name and I know what’s in that name. All of who she is fly’s from the center of it and my dear Liberty, while the future application of your name is in perpetual emergence, remember that I know you, that He knows you and we will not let the deepest parts of your kingdom gift go unrequited.

What about you? Is there a word that rests in the crux of your core? An inherent piece of Christ that manifests naturally from your heart?

I would love to hear about it . . .

Love,

Life