Posted by: Kellye Fabian | August 14, 2011

Something To Celebrate

If you watch television, you will come to believe over time that your calling in life is to buy and consume – food, cars, technology, clothes, hair products, movies, music, books, sex, alcohol, and more television. These things are so seductive. They are salve. You know that feeling of putting your hand under cold water after you have burned yourself on the stove? Instant relief. The pain ceases immediately and all you want to do is hold your hand under flowing faucet until the burn heals. This is how I am with consuming. Other than food that I actually need to survive, most of my purchases (sometimes even food) are made to relieve some burn I have. This is not always a conscious thing, but I think probably almost always there. For a moment or even many moments, consuming feels like satisfaction of some deep need. I take something into my life and the space inside is filled, like the cold water rushing over a burn.

When I was a kid, I lived in an area of Chicago called the “Gold Coast.” And, it was as it sounds. People there had the means to consume whatever was advertised. Just to the southwest of the Gold Coast was one of the most gang-, drug-, poverty-, and crime-infested projects in the country at the time: Cabrini Green. During this particular period in history, we all had a hero, whether we lived in the Gold Coast or Cabrini Green, named Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan had a product line, you’ll recall, called Air Jordans. One pair of these shoes was over $100, which was quite high during that time. But to have these shoes meant something about your status, your allegiance, and your worth. Despite this high price, many people who lived in Cabrini Green and in other impoverished areas wore these shoes. The people who could “afford” these shoes complained about how sad it was, and what flaws it exposed in the character and perseverance and values of the poor, that they would spend what little they had on these expensive, unnecessary Air Jordans. No wonder they were poor, they said.

Today, those who can “afford” smart phones – i-Phones, etc. – make these same comments about those who cannot afford such things. I have heard people complain that poor people should use the money they spend on i-Phones to buy healthcare and then at least that problem would be fixed. If people would save their money and spend it on the things necessary for survival instead of on these unnecessary things, then they would be better off. There are homeless people I know who have been screamed at by passers-by for having new shoes or expensive looking jackets or bags. How can you be begging for money on the street and then using it to buy such things, they ask.

Unquestionably, people make bad, illogical purchasing decisions. This is true of poor people and wealthy people. And, I cannot explain every poor choice, clearly. But I am willing to bet all I have on this: most of our poor purchasing decisions (and by this I mean purchases we make that we cannot afford or that we simply do not need by any objective measure) are driven by a burn that we would do just about anything to relieve. The people who lived in Cabrini Green and bought Air Jordans and the people who lived in the Gold Coast and bought Air Jordans suffer from the same affliction. They have a huge space inside of them and when a salve that offers the hope of alleviating the pain appears, they will take it at any cost. This is true whether it ultimately undermines healing, busts budgets, causes longer-term pain, or looks like the most illogical choice one could make under the circumstances.

Last week I hosted a dinner for about 25 people in my life with whom I have experienced the presence of God. We gathered to celebrate God’s goodness and from the outside, a description of this collection of individuals sounded a little like the beginning of a joke: a lawyer, a homeless guy, and an ex-prisoner walk into a bar . . . We were from all walks of life, literally. As one friend said, you could not have come up with a more diverse and unlikely group had you simply taken everyone on a local city bus and put them at a table together. We shared communion together, prayed together, shared a meal, and then shared stories about the work of God in our lives. There are simply no words to describe the holiness of that night, and my head is still reeling from it. I have struggled to understand all that happened and all that I felt for days. I only realized this morning, while reading my Bible, some of what I believe God showed us the night of our gathering.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 says this: “But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” Each of us at the table had our own Air Jordans at one point in our lives. These Air Jordans came in different sizes, shapes, and packages, but we all had them, we all fell for them, we all sought their immediate relief from the deep burn in us. We also all at one point in our lives came to the realization that these Air Jordans did not heal us. They only made the burn deeper and more painful. We came face-to-face with the fact that nothing we consumed could heal the deep burning in us. No amount of cold water, no immediate relief, no Air Jordans and no cell phones, would suffice.

We sat with each other at that table, each having had experienced this naked and terrifying moment. And, for each of us, it was in this naked moment that the real healer showed up and recognized us. Every person had a story about the day Jesus Christ came into his or her life and brought healing of the long-term and transforming kind. By this I don’t mean someone said they once lied and after they confessed it, they were healed. I mean each of us had incredible darkness in our hearts, inexplicable pain, and inexorable trappings. You know, the same stuff that’s in your heart and your life if you dare to look closely. But each of us, in the very moment of deepest despair, was met with recognition from Christ, the one who created all things, “is before all things,” and in whom “all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17) With his recognition, the deep burn began to be healed for the first time.

To be sure, each person at the table last week has a long journey to becoming fully transformed into the likeness of Christ. Darkness still rears its ugly head in us and we still fall for quick-fixes and temporary salves. Daily, we need to surrender the open spaces and burning places to Christ. His work has begun, though, and he will not stop until completion. (Phil. 1:6) This is something to celebrate.

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | July 20, 2011

The One Thing

If you were to ask me how I would describe myself, one of the first things out of my mouth would be “hard-working.” All my life, I have relied on this aspect of my character, if it can be called that, as the one thing that could differentiate me from others with similar skill levels. It is this that could allow me to climb the ladder of success. I have never thought I am smarter or more savvy than anyone else. What I have come to believe, though, is that I can achieve simply by outworking everyone else. This is true at work, in ministry, in love, in everything. It is a source of pride. I work hard and no matter how far I’m pushed, I can always find more energy. I will not be outworked!

Not all of this has been part of my consciousness, but rather, has been the way I have moved through life. It has a long history in my psyche because growing up, I was led to believe that I was not as smart, not as talented, not as good. Second-rate, really. And I believed this. Believe this. So, I allow the thing that is within my control — my ability to muscle through with effort — to define me.

What happens then, when someone says of me: “She is not a hard worker”? Gutted. Cleaned out. Emptied. The one thing I know to be true about me, the one thing that sets me apart, the one thing that has always been reliable and controllable, the one thing that defines me, gone with the breath of another. Now, I know that what someone says about me is not necessarily true and I know that how other people perceive me is not definitive of who I am. I know these things in my head. Tell this to the deepest part of my heart, though. It does not believe you. Tell me a thousand times that my worth does not depend on what someone else says or how I am perceived. I will hear you, I will understand what you are saying, I will want to believe you. But, I will not. Not ever.

It is here, in this place of utter emptiness, that I meet God, or, should I say, that God meets me. He is there telling me, through His Spirit, “I am here;” “You can rely on me;” “I am faithful;” “I will not leave you;” “The one thing that defines you is Jesus Christ.” This indwelling of Christ in my emptied-out heart has power behind it. The power of the One who created all, the power of the One who raised the dead. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an overnight transformation, and I have my doubts at times. To allow Christ to redefine me requires surrender and trust. It requires letting go of a piece of me that I have believed is central to who I am. Not easy. Painful, actually, because I think, “well, if I am not this, than what am I really?” Parts of me want to do something a little (seemingly) simpler – disbelieve the sentiment that I am not a hard-worker and go back to relying on the fact that I am.

How unreliable faith in this perception or self-definition is, though. How much more reliable is faith in the living Christ: the One in whom I have the assurance that I can do all things not because I am a hard worker, but because He gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13) The shell that I am without my self-definitions is filled with living water. (John 7:38)

What is your one thing?

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | July 18, 2011

See Things


At the end of last week, I developed some kind of eye problem that has caused me to go without my contact lenses until my eye is healed. I am wearing my glasses, and unfortunately, because I have become so reliant upon my contacts, these glasses are two or three prescriptions behind. No one’s life is in danger, but let’s just say, I’m not at my seeing best. This morning, as I made my way off the train, though, I saw things I have always missed somehow even with better vision. When you get off the train at Union Station in Chicago at rush hour, there are mobs of people, all marching to work. Mobs. Some days it’s worse than others because several trains, although scheduled to arrive just the right amount of time apart, come in all at the same time. You feel a little like you’re part of a herd and your best strategy in finding your way out to the open air is to keep your head down and make sure your feet don’t get tangled.

I noticed two things today. Every single person carries, pushes, or pulls something — a coffee travel mug, a briefcase, a backpack, a suitcase, a stroller, a box, a book, a child, a wheelchair. There is not a person who is free-handed. And it turns out, everyone has some kind of ailment. The lady in front of me has an Ace bandange around her elbow. The woman next to her has a black wrist splint on her right arm. Another woman has a foot that bends inward and she walks crooked as a result. A man up ahead limps. Another man cannot stop coughing. All these broken bodies. If these were computers or mobile devices, we would trade them in, demanding a free replacement.

Then there’s all the internal ailments. The guy who sat next to me on the train bit his nails down to the quick as if he has not eaten in days. Anxiety. It pulled his eyebrows down, wrinkled his face, and quickened his breath. The father and son who ride together everyday sat apart today. There were people all around who carried hurt with them along with their briefcases, bags, and books. There were hearts broken this past weekend and deep, lasting pain that resulted. There were parents walking to work who haven’t seen their kids in years because of something that started small, or something that was really big. There were Sunday nights that ended in marital fighting and turned backs. There were regrets for things said and done. There were heavy hearts for things unsaid and un-done. There were those who were so happy this morning that Sunday night ended so that at least for a few short hours, the loneliness will abate. And there are those who are headed for a day in which their deepest insecurities will be exposed, their longest-held fears realized, or their hardest choices made.

These people I saw today are the ones that bump into me on the street, who cut me off in traffic, who go too slow in the left lane, who walk too absentmindedly, who don’t go fast enough when the light turns green, and who haven’t decided what to order by the time it’s their turn in line. These people I saw today are you and they are me. They need grace. They need love.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. . . . chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Col. 3:1-3; 12-14)

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | July 6, 2011

It Means Living

A couple of years ago, I had lunch with a close friend and told him I had made the decision to devote my life to Christ. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. He asked (only partially tongue-in-cheek): So, can you still play golf, or do you have to give that up? He smiled and said, “Seriously, though, how has that impacted your life? Are you different?” Hmmm. Was I? I knew the theological answer. But, how was I different, really? What difference does it make to be a follower of Christ? How is my life different? How would my life be different if I were to follow Christ? Maybe the answer to this question is what’s holding you back.

Lots people think that what it means is to give up stuff you love doing. Give up all your possessions. Follow tons of rules that lead to failure and disappointment. It’s a reservation system, an insurance policy so that when you die, you’re going to the good place instead of the bad place. Your Sunday mornings are blocked off and sometimes you miss the first quarter of football games. Doesn’t this sound a lot like dying? I had an experience yesterday through which God showed me what following Christ means. It means living.

As I was leaving the Willow Creek food pantry, I met a guy named Allen. He is homeless and jobless. He is 25, African-American, and has long eyelashes and dark brown eyes. His thin frame barely holds up his pants and as of yesterday afternoon, he could not remember the last time he slept. Allen had nowhere to go and nothing to eat, so my friend Sue volunteered to drive him to a local place that could provide shelter. She asked me if I wanted to come along. Yes! But before we took him to the shelter, we took him to lunch.

He ordered a chili-cheese hamburger, fries and lemonade. While we waited for our food, we asked him questions and he answered them shyly, but honestly. A man he didn’t know drove him to our area from southern Illinois months ago and he just happened to walk into the food pantry on July 5, 2011. He was born in Cook County, but grew up in Tennessee. He used to go to church with his grandmother who laughed a lot. He and his brothers were separated from each other and their mother when he was about 12 years old because his home was unfit for children. When he was a young teenager, his only goal was to graduate from high school. And he did. He worked for some time at a Proctor & Gamble factory. His mother has a drug addiction and his six-year old sister died recently in a car accident as a result. What he wants to do most of all is go to college and major in psychology. Allen’s only clothes were the ones he was wearing – a green Whole Foods t-shirt and gray Puma sweatpants. He had no identification, no wallet, and no money. As far as I could tell, there is not a person on earth who would claim Allen as theirs, none who would take him in and love him. No family. No friends. I don’t know, but suspect that no one has hugged Allen in many years. I do know, because he said so with quiet confidence, that every day when he wakes up, Allen thanks God for the gift of another day and another breath.

As we sat in the restaurant booth, I totally lost track of time. We laughed at ourselves and told stories. Sue told us about her relationship with Jesus and her years of struggle to understand what that relationship could be like. Allen and I talked about regrets and anxiety. When we finished eating, we made our way to an organization called PADS, which we understood might help find a shelter for Allen. I sat in the back of Sue’s car shaking my head and marveling at this remarkable adventure. The day I had planned was so different than the one that was unfolding slowly before me. I didn’t know what was to come, didn’t know how things would turn out, didn’t know anything other than at that moment, we were in the car headed to find out. We stopped at PADS and learned quickly that there are no homeless shelters in the suburbs of Chicago during the summer months. So there we were in a large conference room full of eclectic pieces of furniture and cold pizza on the table wondering what to do next. Sue and I both prayed separately for God’s guidance and direction, but for the moment, heard nothing. Sue tried to help Allen come up with ways to find his wallet, where he had his state identification card, which would allow him to get a job and open other doors for him.

Then Rachel came into the conference room. PADS was her address and she had come to pick up her mail. She looked like she was in her early 20s, short and thin with brown bangs hanging in her eyes. She told Sue she looked familiar and as they swapped names of places where they may have run into each other, Allen rubbed his hands over his face, resting his elbows on his knees. I sat next to him, helpless, but present. Rachel was homeless too. She’d had some sort of falling out with her family. This unfolded in slow motion and I could see so clearly the pain in her deepest parts. I glanced at Allen and knew his pain went just as deep. I asked Rachel where she stayed and she told us the name of a motel down the street.

Sue and I stepped outside and stood next to the building. The bitter smell of hot tar from the asphalt burned our noses and we laughed, asking “What do we do now?” I prayed silently and she put her arm around me. We laughed again. We had no idea what time it was or what was next. We just prayed for guidance. The motel down the street that Rachel had mentioned was the only option and it would be our next stop. So, we all climbed back in the car to find the motel and to ask about rates. When we arrived, we were told there were no rooms. Of course. More laughing. To see Allen laugh made my soul soar. I asked if there was another place and the attendant told us there was, a little farther down. So, that’s where we headed.

The second motel was smaller, less appealing, but there were rooms available and a weekly rate. We got a room for Allen and carried two bags of food he’d gotten at the food pantry into his room. The room reeked of stale smoke. Sue adjusted the air conditioning and I fiddled with the refrigerator. Allen sat absently on the bed, overwhelmed or grateful, or both. I thought maybe he would sleep tonight. He would be safe and he would have privacy. Before we went our separate ways, we needed to get Allen to a place where he could order his birth certificate and begin the process of obtaining identification. So, we drove him to the Cook County courthouse and as we pulled up, we all knew we were nearing the end. Sue stopped the car and she prayed for Allen. I put my arm on his shoulder from the backseat and Sue described how much Jesus loves Allen. She looked at him, praying for him and into him. She reminded him that if he were to turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, Jesus would forgive him. And then Allen got out of the car and we watched him walk up the ramp to the courthouse entrance.

I don’t know what will happen to Allen. I don’t know if he was able to apply for his birth certificate. I don’t know if he made it back to the motel. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. I know he’s claimed now, though. He knows he is claimed and he knows he is loved.

Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) And, the author of Hebrews described it this way: “Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.” (Heb. 9:15)

What difference does it make to follow Christ? How is my life different? Present. Seeing. Deep Laughter. Surprises. Unknown. Fullness. Fearless. Freedom. Wide Open Heart.

Living.

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | June 29, 2011

Not Like Anything Else

Yesterday I was driving to an appointment and without warning, images of Jesus began to flood my mind. He was being beaten by large, sweaty, yelling men. They spat on him, punched him. Blood ran down his face. He was dirty and sweaty, streaked with dark red and black markings. He looked exhausted and on the verge of collapsing. Then I saw his hands being pounded into the cross, then him hanging on the cross. The images came fast, chaotic. I couldn’t concentrate and felt a sense of loss rise in my chest. I wanted to cry out, to make it stop. I wanted his pain to end. Tears came quickly and before I knew what was happening, I started to cry right there in the car. I was not sobbing, but was overcome. I shook my head slightly, trying to get the images to go away and return my focus to driving. I felt silly and surprised, confused about what I was experiencing. After a few minutes, the images were gone, but they left a sense of deep loss and regret. It was like I’d had one of those powerful, horrific nightmares that feels so real you can’t shake it for days and don’t fully understand why it has left you so scarred.

What came to mind next was a memory from about ten years ago. I was living downtown Chicago and my mom lived nearby. One day, I had to work late, and so I asked her to walk my dog, a black Labrador mix named Peat. Peat was not so skilled on a leash and would pull and panic at the slightest sound. Shortly after the time my mom was supposed to have walked Peat, she called me saying that Peat had pulled her down the stairs near our apartment building and she fell on her face. She had scrapes on her chin and nose. She had cut her cheek and sliced her hand. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and my knees weakened. I felt momentarily like I might faint. I pictured my mom, whom I loved so much, laying on the sidewalk. I imagined how much this would have hurt her and how I wished I could have been there to catch her, or pick her up, or comfort her, or something. I wished I had never asked her to walk Peat. It was my fault that her face was scratched, bruised, and bleeding. It was my fault that she was hurt. Her hurt was hurting me. More than anything, I wanted a do-over, to rewind the day and not ask her to walk the dog.

I spent much of the rest of the day yesterday trying to sort out what images of Jesus being beaten and crucified had to do with my mom being hurt by my anxiety-ridden, skittish dog. I realized this: although I have read in the Bible about Jesus’ suffering, heard the story of his crucifixion all my life, seen pictures and statues of him hanging lifeless from the cross, and watched movies of his unspeakable suffering, for the first time yesterday, Jesus’ suffering became the suffering of someone I love. At first, feeling this hurt me and was as real as the hurt I felt so long ago when my mom, who I love deeply and unfailingly, was vulnerable and bleeding. Jesus’ pain was hurting me. In that moment in the car, Jesus became someone I love, and not just with my head, but so deeply in my heart and soul that what hurts him, hurts me. But then, in the same moment, Jesus’ pain healed me. I actually felt what he endured for me. This was no longer an abstract concept. Someone I love so much loves me so deeply that even though he knew all the ways I would one day betray and ignore him, he volunteered for pain and death so that I would be spared. This is love. (1 John 4:10) This is grace. (Rom. 5:8) This is not like anything else.

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | June 20, 2011

He Lifts It Off Of Me

When I was 10 years old, I struggled deeply and constantly with the idea that I would die and that everyone I knew would die. My mom would die. My dad would die. And death was permanent and not something I had made up or could get out of. I don’t know why this suddenly hit me at age 10. Nothing in particular brought it on and nothing in particular made it go away a year later. I thought about the world around me and how I’d never see it again. I couldn’t wrap my brain around this and couldn’t understand how I could ever cope with this idea. I couldn’t believe that all the people I saw at the grocery store, on the bus, at school, could possibly continue living knowing that death was on the horizon. I cried myself to sleep some nights. Other nights, I couldn’t sleep at all, kept awake by fear. Sometimes during the day, I could not concentrate at school because I was so preoccupied with the fact that one day, I would simply not be anymore. Today I am, tomorrow I am not. After a year, adolescent and teenage stuff took over and my obsessive fear of death faded. Every now and then, though, if I thought about the fact that there would come a time when I no longer existed, I could throw myself into a paralyzing and momentarily debilitating panic mode.

Given this experience in my own life, when my daughter approached age 10, I thought often about whether she would go through what I did. I thought about what I would say if she talked to me about fear of death. I asked myself whether I could raise it with her and feel competent or satisfied with the way I might advise or comfort her. I watched her and listened to things she said, keeping a keen ear out for signs she might be struggling. Then, several months after she’d turned 10, she called me upstairs one night after I had put her to bed. She had gotten into my bed and was shaking and crying. I knew when I walked into my room that the fear of death was upon her. And I was so unprepared despite all of my thinking and anticipation that this day would come. I sat down by her and wrapped my arms around her heaving fear-filled body as she told me that she was thinking about death and dying. My heart sank and I didn’t know what to say. I knew the grip this fear could have and what I would have given for her never to experience it. At first, I rambled about how good health and long life run in our family, and pointed out her youth and vibrancy. I told her how much I loved her. But I couldn’t tell her anything that would change the underlying fact that death is real and that she would die. I rocked her and finally better words came to me, by God’s goodness and grace. I explained how much God loves her, and that no matter what, he would not leave her. And that, in the end, although it was true that we all would die, she would be with Jesus and I would be there with her. I really thought I was onto something now and she seemed to calm down a bit, the tears coming a little slower.

She pulled away from me slightly and looked at me with wet eyes. “I know that God loves me. But, Mom, what if God loves me so much that he wants to take me to be with him now.” Like so many other parenting moments, I was not ready for this one. I thought, “Hmmm. Good point.” She cried harder now as if her death was imminent because of how much God loved her. I then mumbled something about God needing her here so he could bring his love to others through her. Eventually, exhaustion took over. I think just talking and getting her out of her own head helped the most. Nothing I said seemed useful really.

Several months later, the fear returned. I couldn’t come up with anything new or better to say. I had no answers as to how to deal with this fear. Death is a fact. How do you make a 10-year old okay with this? So this time, I just said: “I’m sorry you’re scared. I think we need to ask Jesus for help.” To my great surprise, she said: “Yeah, that’s what I usually do.” I smiled and asked: “Does it help?” “Yes,” she said, “it really helps. He lifts it off of me.” This rendered me speechless. I have no idea what God is doing inside my daughter’s heart and mind when she turns to him and asks for his help. The fact that he brings her peace and lifts off the fear, allowing her to fall asleep, is almost too much to take.

Whenever the fear returns, and it does, she asks for Jesus’ help and if I am with her, we ask together. Just the other night, we did this and I realized that although I don’t struggle with the fear of death anymore, I struggle with other things. And so often, I try to think my way out of them or become resigned to the fact that they will simply burden me until they don’t anymore just like the fear of death. Sometimes I don’t even think to ask Jesus for his help. Sometimes I think certain things I struggle with are just too insignificant and it’s better to save my requests for something really serious. What peace I am foregoing. No more.

“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7) I will ask Jesus for help. No big explanations needed. No big words, no philosophical thoughts about why I am fearful or anxious. Like a child, I will just say: “Jesus, please help me.” He is near. He will lift it off.

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | June 9, 2011

My Times Are In Your Hands

This morning I prayed a very short, simple prayer. It was “use me today, Lord, in whatever way you will.” Tonight, as I sit staring out the window into the backyard watching the green leaves blow frantically in the cold breeze, two stranger’s faces haunting me, there is a big part of me, bigger than I care to admit, that wishes I hadn’t prayed that prayer just so I wouldn’t have had to have seen what I saw.

As I walked to lunch with a colleague today to celebrate a legal victory, the lives of two people changed forever. We had walked several blocks and when we came to the corner of Adams and LaSalle, and were discussing various deadlines in our case, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving very fast hit something standing still. And then a man with short hair, a summer-weight sweater, a gold wedding ring, and casual pants fell to the ground. I looked down at him. Blood bubbled out of his mouth, his body was motionless, his eyes rolled back into his head. His life will never be the same. Another man lay next to him, a bicycle under him. He jumped up and looked at the man he’d hit, saying, “Oh my God. Oh, are you okay? Are you okay?” His life will never be the same. Several people gathered around. Only thirty to forty-five seconds had passed. A woman squatted down and cradled the man’s head. He was unconscious. I reached for my phone and called 911, begging the person who answered to send an ambulance. “A man has been hit. He’s bleeding from his mouth. He’s unconscious. Please send an ambulance. Adams and LaSalle. Please send an ambulance.”

The bicyclist leaned against a light pole on the corner, his eyes were filled with tears and his face was shrouded in fear. I glanced at him briefly and turned back to my colleague. We wondered what more we could do. An ambulance was on the way. A traffic police officer stood to divert traffic as cabs and buses and cars whizzed by. Some people said to turn him over so he didn’t choke, some said not to move him. Standing there was not helping so we walked on to the restaurant a half block down.

As we walked, we were both silent, shaken by what we’d seen. The face of the bicyclist, all alone in the chaos, was everywhere I looked – his watery eyes, blank stare, deep fear. The restaurant was busy and we sat at the bar because of the long wait. I needed to go back. I needed to go back and check on the bicyclist. I ordered a lemonade and stared at the menu. I began to pray silently for both men. I thought of the phone call the injured man’s wife would receive. I thought about his kids. I thought about all the stuff he probably had and how in a single instant, it lost all significance. I prayed that he would live, that he would be okay. But the bicyclist’s watery eyes pierced me again. I couldn’t concentrate. I thought about the sadness and guilt and fear he must be feeling, not knowing whether the man he hit would die, not knowing what his life would be like if he lived. I thought about all the stuff he probably had and how in a single instant, it lost all significance.

My colleague and I talked; I’m not sure at all what I said. I saw the ambulance speed by outside, lights flashing, siren sounding. I needed to go back. We kept talking. I kept praying. Finally, in the middle of our conversation I excused myself: “I’m sorry, I just need to go back.” I rushed out of the restaurant and walked down the block where the ambulance still sat. The man was not on the street anymore and all the people who had stood around him were gone. A police officer stood on the curb and the bicyclist stood exactly where he had when I left, against the light pole, staring straight ahead.

“Are you okay?” I asked him as I approached slowly.

“Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said, making brief eye contact. He was young, quiet.

“I was here when it happened,” I said. He nodded. “What do you have to do now?”

“I think I have to give a statement or something. I don’t know,” he said. So much unknown. Everything unknown.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Danny,” he said softly, looking at me again, but just barely.

“Danny, I would like to pray for you if that’s okay.” This felt so awkward to say. Part of me wanted to pull it back in. I had no idea if Danny was a Christian, had thought about Christianity, or if he was an atheist or a Buddhist, or what.

His eyes met mine directly now. I stared into them. “Yeah. Yes, that would be great. Thank you.”

“Okay, Danny.” I looked at him in love and put my arm on his shoulder. I walked back to the restaurant and with each step, I asked God something, but I’m not sure what. I couldn’t formulate a coherent thought. I started and stopped. They were half prayers, half thoughts. At one point, I just said: “God, he is in your hands. Danny is in your hands.” I couldn’t formulate words anymore.

Thirty minutes later, after eating, as we left the restaurant, my colleague went in one direction, and I started back to work in the other direction. As I approached the corner where these two lives were changed forever, a police car pulled up and Danny got out of the back. I wanted to go to him and provide comfort in some way. I wanted to just hug him or stand near him or do something. I stood nearby for about three minutes and asked God to give me guidance as to what to do. I thought he might tell me to go pray with him, to comfort him, to say something. I heard nothing and people stared as they walked by because I stood still in the middle of the sidewalk.

I looked at Danny and then looked away. There had to be more I could do, more I could say. There had to be more. I couldn’t just leave him standing there with his bike, a weapon on that day. Then I heard in my mind: “Let him go.” I crossed the street and heard it again: “Let him go.” God had used me as much as he wanted and my job was done; he would take it from there. I walked back to work.

Now, hours later, I can’t stop thinking about Danny and all that I saw in his eyes, and all that I didn’t see in them. I can’t get the image of the injured man lying on the pavement out of my head. I can see every crease in his face, the color of his eyes, the bright red coming out of his mouth. I probably will never know how these two lives have been changed by the instant they collided. But I cannot heal the man who was hit. I cannot take away Danny’s guilt or fear. There is nothing left but to let go. They are both in God’s loving, gracious, merciful hands. And how I realize anew today that I am too. “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15)

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | June 4, 2011

Which One Brings Life

On Thursday at lunchtime, I decided to go sit at a nearby sandwich place to eat and read my Bible. This is not something I do everyday. More often than not, I speed through my food at my desk as I work. (Probably not the healthiest habit.) Anyway, I was feeling a need to connect with God, thirsty to hear from Him, so I thought reading part of one of the gospels or a Psalm might be the way to do it. I went out, holding my Bible by my side and thinking about what to read. I breathed in the warm air outside and reveled in the cool breeze as I made my way to the restaurant. Time with God as I had planned in my head was sounding like just what I needed. I crossed the street and saw my friend Steven sitting on the sidewalk with his military bag. He was trying to get enough money for food, relying on the compassion of passers-by. I would go say hi on my way back from lunch, see how he’s doing.

As I approached the revolving door of the restaurant, I felt a strong prompting from God to go back and sit with Steven. So, I turned around and walked back to the little spot on the bridge where Steven sat and where we had had our very first conversation just over two years before (Take the Marine to Lunch). I sat down next to him on the concrete in my black, pressed work pants. I put my Bible down next to me, my purse between us, and wrapped my arms around my knees.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

The sun blasted down on us and the wind blew across our faces as we talked about a full range of topics: his health, my work, some painting I needed to do at my house, that he was reading Revelation, a guy we know named Thomas who sells newspapers, a guy we know named Prince who lives on the street, but whom we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving. For much of the time we were just quiet. People in suits scurried busily by, staring down at us. Tourists with kids skipped by, looking at us with curiosity. Time slowed almost to a stop. Sometimes Steven and I talk about our faith, our doubts, Christ. This day, though, there was no need to talk of these things. Christ was right there with us. His presence and His peace settled on us, grounding us in Him and lifting us to Him. I could have sat there forever and thought that heaven would be like this. In those minutes, we could foresee the day when Steven’s pain would be no more. His nausea would be gone, never to return. He would not be losing weight; would not be worried about more chemotherapy or radiation or that more cancer would be found in some other place in his tired body. In those minutes, we saw in each other the place where God dwells in us. In those minutes, Christ was with us, just as He said He would be. (Matt. 18:20)

About thirty minutes later, it was time for me to get back to work. I picked up my Bible, smiling to myself with a grateful, joy-filled heart, made a quick stop for sandwiches, gave one to Steven, and took mine back to my desk.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40) It is easy to sit at a table at a sandwich shop and study Scripture, to know what it says, to be able to identify what book says this and which says that. It is something else entirely to come to Christ. If you have tried both, you know, without a speck of doubt, which one brings life.

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | May 25, 2011

A Day Like Today

There is something about a dark, pouring-down-rain day like today that makes me feel like God is closer than ever. The sky is nearly touching the ground, you can’t see beyond what is right in front of you, and it is as if the distance between us and Him has grown smaller. My thoughts tend to turn inward on these days. I am more contemplative and prayerful. I am thankful for the smells of wet soil and green trees, and the sound of drops pounding the roof. I think of old loves and how though some involved pain, the love that was there was real and came straight from the hand of a good God. Moments of time that seem more like poetry flood my mind and bring a smile motivated by joy.

We carry umbrellas, on a day like today, cover our shoulders with raincoats, and wear rubber boots to our knees. But sometimes we need to be soaked to the middle of our thighs, walking in puddles with inside-out wind-broken umbrellas just to feel God in the cool, relentless rain drops. We need to be reminded that nothing bad happens when we are pelted by rain, not really. We get wet. We feel uncomfortable. But we are here and we feel something, we feel God.

Sounds are muted on a day like today. A plane flies silently overhead. Birds hide in nests. Trees bend in the wind, but without a noise. Really the only thing we hear is thunder. Deep, roaring, overpowering, unpredictable thunder. In between these eruptions of sound, there is silence. It is a silence we do not create, but that he gives, wanting us to hear something other than the interruptions and busy humming of our own lives. This silence makes me lean in, makes me stay attuned. Let me hear you, Lord.

Everyone looks a little tired on a day like today. We were all jarred awake by the alarm ringing because this morning felt much more like the middle of a night than a new day. There are lots of closed eyes on the train and I can’t help but wonder what kinds of work God might be doing behind those lids and in the quiet hearts — what he is doing in me to draw me closer. The open eyes that I do see seem deeper somehow on days like today. Maybe none of us are quite in control as we thought on the bright sunny yesterday. And love seems urgent today, but harder to hand out, harder to give than on the days the sun and birds and endless blue sky cheer us on. What we want most is to collect the ones important to us, the ones who hold our hearts in delicate hands, and ride out a day like today behind closed doors.

Things slow down on a day like today. The breaths are deeper — both coming in and going out — our thoughts more thorough, each minute longer than the same minute on a sunny day, every word more meaningful and longer lasting. I want to fall in love; listen to jazz; hold a mug of hot coffee and a long conversation; cuddle under warm blankets; savor a good book; fill my soul; still my mind; and slow my heart.

Pain feels broader on a day like today because it feels a little like adding insult to injury. But in a strange way, a day like today is a reminder that a day like yesterday, bright with sun and hope and color, will come back. Everyday will not be like today. We know this for sure if the the past is any indication of the future.

And perhaps this is the key to all the other stuff that a day like today uncovers: that something deep and long-lasting and beautiful happens in the rain, but not everyday will be like this day. The sunny day that floods warmth, hope, joy, uncomplicated, unending love is on the way:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all of this, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.'” (Rev. 21:1-7)

Thank you, God, for a day like today and the tomorrow it brings.

Posted by: Kellye Fabian | May 20, 2011

All Three Wishes

Remember when you were a kid (or maybe you still do this) and you would play those question games like: If you could be any animal, what would you be? If you could marry anyone, who would it be? If you could live anywhere, where would you live? If you had three wishes that you knew would come true, what would you wish for? On this last one, you might say $100 million, a new car, a new job, a new brother or sister, whatever. Maybe you would use one wish for someone else – a cure for cancer. Maybe you’d try the old trick of using one wish for three more wishes. Clever. You’re probably a lawyer or something now. Rarely though would you use all three wishes for the benefit of someone else. This would just be nuts. I mean, they’re your wishes. I have to say, sometimes I pray this way, don’t you? I spend lots of time praying for healing, courage, strength, patience, love, mercy. In. My. Own. Life. I do pray for others, but if I’m honest, my strongest, most time-consuming, most regular prayers are for me. I mostly use my “three wishes” for me, just like when I was 10. Perhaps this is why the Holy Spirit has been guiding me lately in some pretty specific ways about how to pray, what to pray for, and who to pray for.

I met with a woman this week who is going through a kind of pain I can’t imagine and which penetrates every single minute of her life. Her daughter died at a young age two years back and her granddaughter, who is a little girl, is suffering physically and emotionally at the hands of an alcoholic and abusive father. The grandmother has been cut out of the granddaughter’s life and spends most days on the edge of despair wondering what might be happening to her granddaughter at any given moment. Sorrow preceded her as she sat down with me and we talked through her legal options. She had deep brown, watery eyes. As we talked, and came up with a legal strategy, I was overcome by a persistent whisper from the Holy Spirit to pray to God for His power to be applied to this desperate, broken situation. Not His grace or mercy or love, His power.

So, at the end of our legal discussion, I held my hands out to this woman, who, in the span of this short consultation, I had fallen in love with – no other way to put it. I then proceeded to pray the boldest, most direct prayer I have ever spoken: “God, we approach you with confidence and ask that you apply your incomparable power to protect the granddaughter, that you give the grandmother the words to say and the courage to say them to take the steps she needs to take in court.” At this point, I felt another nudge to pray for the abusive father, and continued: “Lord, please make the abusive father stop his drinking and abuse, and transform his heart and heal whatever pain is causing him to act the way he is. Please Lord, only your power can relieve the pain here and we trust you to make it so.” By the end, both of us were undone. Tears flowed freely, dripping down our cheeks. Then we embraced like a mother and daughter might. But, our tears were not of sadness. They were tears that come in the overwhelming, holy presence of the Lord. Even though nothing had changed in this woman’s life or the situation of her granddaughter that we knew of, we cried tears sparked by the hope and love God supplies at the instant one of His children is presented to Him for healing.

In the gospel accounts, there are many stories about Jesus healing individuals he encounters. Over the last week or so, I have been stuck on one story in particular: the story of the centurion, or commander in the Roman army. (Matt. 8:5-13) Remember this one? This centurion is the most faithful man Jesus encounters in all of Israel. His faith is so strong that Jesus is described as being “astonished.” But, get this: the centurion didn’t go to Jesus and ask that something in his life be fixed or healed or that he be forgiven. The centurion went to Jesus and asked that his servant be healed. And he was. This guy used all three of his wishes on someone else. Can you imagine? One shot at a request to the Lord in the flesh and his request is not for some kind of healing in his own life, forgiveness of his sin, eternal life, a private meeting. His request, made from a place of complete confidence that it could be granted, was that his servant be healed. We don’t even know whether the servant knew or asked the centurion to ask Jesus for healing. And, we don’t know whether the servant believed in Jesus. All we know is that he was healed and he was healed because of the centurion’s act of faith in presenting him to Jesus. Remarkable. Think what it must have been like when the centurion saw that his servant was completely healthy and no longer on the brink of death. How close must he have felt to God at that moment! How loved must he have felt! How his faith must have soared! I imagine he and his servant must have cried together, tears dripping down their cheeks.

There is another story in which a group of men carry their friend, who is paralyzed and can’t walk, on a mat to a house where Jesus is teaching. (Luke 5:17-26) Because of the crowds, they can’t get in the front door, so they climb up on the roof carrying this friend, and then lower him through the roof, presenting him to be healed. This seems like quite an effort to me. It’s hard to even picture what this must have looked like. They had to think there was a pretty good chance this was going to work. But what’s so amazing is that once the man is before Jesus, and his friends are standing around him, the friends do not ask Jesus to heal anything in their lives. Their one and only request is for their friend. The text says: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’” Later, Jesus says: “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” When Jesus saw the faith of the friends, he healed the paralyzed man. And when the friends saw this, they didn’t themselves say: “Wait, what about us? Please forgive us too, please heal my marriage, or my this or my that.” They used all “three wishes” for someone else. Their friend was healed because of their act of faith in presenting him to Jesus. How their faith must have expanded when they witnessed their friend’s healing! How Jesus’ love must have filled their souls! I imagine they and their friend must have cried together, tears dripping down their cheeks.

My own experience earlier this week with the grandmother in combination with studying the stories in Matthew and Luke got me thinking about the fact that at various points in our lives, we all need someone else to carry us to Jesus. Theologically speaking, this is called “intercession” – that is, a prayer to God on behalf of someone else. For some reason, I have a hard time connecting with this word. It seems too formal. There is something so much more intimate and loving in describing intercession as carrying someone to Jesus. And we all need this. Sometimes our faith falters, or we are too weak in sin or in health to walk ourselves into the presence of Jesus for healing, or we are blinded to the fact that we even need healing. During these times, we need someone else to act in faith for us, to carry us, to use all “three wishes” they have for our benefit. Conversely, there is someone you know who, right now, needs some kind of healing in their life, but their faith is faltering, they are too weak to bring themselves into God’s presence through prayer, or they don’t even realize, for some reason, that they need help.

Would you act in faith and present them to Jesus? Would you carry them for miles, hoist them up on a roof, and then lower them into Jesus’ presence so that they can be healed? Would you go to them, even though you’re busy and it would be a long drive, just to join hands with them, and pray boldly and directly, knowing with confidence that God will intervene? There are times when someone you know and love needs you to exercise whatever faith you have solely for their benefit. They may not ask, they may not even know. They may not have faith. But when you use your three wishes for them and bring them into the presence of Jesus, it is a gift, plain and simple. And not just for them, for you. It brings you into the presence of the Lord and plants hope and love in you. It builds your faith and brings you closer to God. It is nothing short of a miracle.

How are you using your three wishes?

PS: If you need someone to carry you into the presence of Jesus, I would love to do that. Email me: kellye.fabian@gmail.com

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