Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Worship


I stand on Sunday mornings and sometimes I sing and sometimes I just listen.  Sometimes I just don't have it in my to open my mouth.  I prefer to hear the other voices, because that sound is holier then trying to force my own voice to join in.

Sometimes when I sing or listen it touches a place deep within where emotions sit.  And I choke them back.

Worship is hard, because it is intimate.  I struggle with intimate, so I struggle with worship.

Worship is beautiful, because it leads to deep places in our souls. 


Five Minute Friday


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Monsters Among Us

We got there as the skies were just turning from the black of night to the gray of early morning.  The streets ran like rivers from that night's rain that was still dripping heavy.  My son and I crossed the street and were thankful for flip flops that air dry quickly and don't sog up like tennis shoes and socks do.

We made our way up to the 6th floor.  We arrived before the staff had, so we waited in comfy chairs as I tried to keep him awake with small talk and playful banter.  As the staff trickled in we moved to the less comfy chairs in the waiting area for the EEG clinic.  The halls were quiet as we counted the minutes until 7:30 would come around. 

An older man who looked slightly frail, but not an iota weak rolled past us into the clinic.  A minute later he rolled back out in his electric scooter chair and parked next to our seats.  I smiled at him friendly like and he smiled back.  "I am soaked." he said.  After he said it I looked a little closer, past basic friendly acknowledgement, and I noticed that what I had taken for dark gray pants had really been light gray, but were now drenched into darkness.  The small patch of light peeked out behind his right calf testifying to the fullness of truth in his statement.

"You sure are!" I replied back with my profound ability to state the overwhelmingly obvious. 

He told me how a car had seen him on the side walk and drove close up to the curb to purposely splash him with a tidal wave of morning rain and then drove away laughing at his wetted state of being.

Again my profundity at stating the obvious was immense and I said, "How RUDE!"  Followed with me stating how I would like to just "smack that guy in the face." 

He nodded in agreement with me and told me how if he had "caught that guy" that "he would not have been laughing" when he got done with him.

And as I sat there with the drenched older gentleman who was waiting for his wife, the nurse, to bring him a raincoat, so he could go back home to change along with my head bobbing slightly snoring son who I was neglecting to keep awake, my blood began to boil white hot.  Hot with the injustice and cruelty of man and those who prey on others for nothing but their own folly.

This man with his soggy shoes and saturated baseball cap was the victim of all that is wrong in this world and it came too soon after a week of such stories where too many victims lay soaked in the sins of others cruelty. 

"Monsters Lord, they are monsters!" I spit out in prayer.  "They are what is wrong in this world, it is them!"  And no more did I say this to both He and myself when my blood ran cold with the realization that no, they are no different than me, because the truth is we are all the same.  We are all living in a world full of lies.  Lies that tell us that life is really just meaningless, there is no value in a person, no worth in the souls that are clothed in flesh. All that matters or doesn't matter, depending on which side of the lie you look at, is you.  And these men and boys and people who damage others for their own whims and their own pleasure they are the ones who ultimately are the biggest victims of all, because they have grabbed on tightest to the lie.

I shift my weight in the chair, nudge my son with my elbow to wake him up, and watch as the man and his raincoat roll away.  I don't like this realization.  I want there to be a them and an us, I want to categorize us into different categories so that I can assure myself that I am and never will be like them.  And He nudges my own soul awake, "If you do that, if you categorize them, you are them.  You are buying into the lie just as much as they are, because they become nothing, and baby they are not nothing.  They are souls clothed in flesh just the same as you." 

I shift again, nudge the snoring son awake again, and wonder if it is 7:30 yet, because the conversation in my head is getting rather uncomfortable, but it isn't and God keeps going.

"Every time you draw the lines, them against you, you all lose out."  And I think of all the lines we draw in this world. I think of how the church, me, the media, the various "sides" have all drawn lines upon lines of 'us vs. them'.  Then I think of how when Jesus came his biggest crime to the religious leaders of the time is that He erased all of their lines.  He didn't erase right and wrong, but He came saying that we as people are all souls worth saving and His message to everyone is "I am what you need". 

Lines are easy to draw.  Loving the soul next to me or the one on the other side of the latest scandal or news story and admitting that they are the same as me in value and worth, that is much harder, but every time I draw the lines I am telling the world that people don't matter and I continue to propagate the lie.

Straight vs. Gay

Black vs. White

Faith vs. Faith
Pro-life vs. Pro-choice 
My parenting choices vs. Your parenting choices
My sin issues vs. your sin issues
The lists and the lines can go on and on, but they all lie,  and they tell us that whoever stands on the other side of that line does not matter near as much as I do.  But here is where that lie gets ever so tricky, because if they on the other side of the line don't matter, if their choices/beliefs/actions negate the importance of their souls, then the reverse can also be true and ultimately I can stop mattering.  My choices, my beliefs, and my actions could strip me of my soul's worth and turn me into nothing more than flesh. And herein lies the real monster: the monster is the lie that none of us really matter.
The door to the right of us opens.  It is our turn to go in.  I nudge the snoring boy beside me and we both go in freshly awoken.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:22-24
*I don't know who you are, the person who needs to read this last little bit, but I feel it very heavily that whoever you are, this needs to be added in for you.  There is only one line that will ever matter.  When you die there is a line drawn not for the worth of your soul, but for where it will go.  Christ's love is for everyone.  He draws no lines for who does and who does not deserve His love.  His love is like the best Christmas present you could ever open.  But like all good gifts He won't force it on you.  You have to choose to accept it and open it.  When that day comes the only thing that will matter is if you accepted His gift.  God wants you with Him that is His desire, but being a just God He knows that a gift is only a gift if it is accepted, if it is forced on you it is no longer a gift, because there is no choice in the matter.  Jesus is called the bridegroom over and over again in the Bible.  If a bridegroom hands you an engagement ring he is giving you a choice to marry him.  That is exactly what Jesus is doing.  He is giving you the choice.  If you say yes, this earthly bit is like your engagement and heaven is like your honeymoon.  If you choose to say no, God, on the day you die is not going to force you into marriage with His son, nor will you be able to change your mind.  Please choose wisely friend.*

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walking the steps: Stepping into my mind.

I tend to have very vivid dreams.  The kind that seem so real that you wake up wondering if you were dreaming or if it was reality.  A lot of times it is in those types of dreams that some of my core struggles come into play.  I was having a series of dreams like that off and on earlier this week and the most peculiar thing happened.  I will share with you what that was in a moment, but before I do I will go a bit further back and share about one of those little steps I talked about in my last blog.

One of our pastors talked about how if we continuously struggle with a particular kind of sin or addiction we need to look at what we focus on in our minds and what we allow ourselves to think about.  His point being that the best way to overcome those things is to reign in our thinking.  I am not giving his words justice, but that was the gist of it.  So I have been trying to put into practice what he preached.  When I found myself focusing on the struggle I would stop and refocus elsewhere, but my dreams I felt I had no control over and in some ways, they were still controlling me.  After a long week of such dreams I woke up one morning and I found that in my last dream I had two things playing through my head at the same time.  One was my dream and the other was a song that we had sung in church the previous Sunday.  It was kind of like when the radio station accidentally plays two songs at the same time.  Every word of the song’s refrain was being sung in my mind over and over and over again as the movie of the dream played out.  I don’t remember the dream part very clearly  now other than I remember it being circuitous in nature.  The story line wasn’t really going anywhere, as if it were being blocked from going any further. 

The song that kept playing over and over again on a loop was this: “Holy Spirit You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what our hearts long for, To be overcome by Your presence Lord.” 

Like I said, it was peculiar.  I have never had anything like that happen before.  As I laid in bed pondering for a bit this scripture came to mind: Rom 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  God was renewing my mind.  His Spirit was flooding the atmosphere of my dreams. 


This friends is a step: a step towards “Home”, a step towards healing, a step towards Grace.  So many of these small steps are happening, showing up, making a clear path towards the truth that;  “God will be [my] guide even to the end.”  Psalm 48:14

There are so many of these “little” steps and I want to share them all with you over the next few days/weeks.  I hope you will continue to join me here and walk them with me. 

When your climb feels invisible and your steps small
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and for your heart, mind, and soul, here is this freeing video.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

They are small, but they are mighty.

Sometimes the steps we take are so small that we don’t even realize we have taken them.

I wrote last about how I was still just standing still, but what I didn’t realize when I wrote that is that although I was indeed standing still at that moment, I was standing in a different place.  I had been moving all along and hadn’t even realized it.  When I wrote of the thorns I was thick inside of them.  I am no longer there.  Was I standing still in that sanctuary?  Yes, I was; but here is the thing I missed, are you ready for it?  I was out of the thorns….I was out of them and IN A SANCTUARY.  I was so focused on the standing that I forgot to look at my surroundings. 

When I was in the thorns I was so stuck because I felt so empty.  I felt like nothing .  I felt like I knew better and I did what was wrong anyways.  I knew God was waiting for me and loving me, but I was too ashamed to accept it.  For a long time, really until just this week, I felt as though my actions made everything that I had said about God and His love hollow and less believable to others.  This week I have been re-reading back through all of those early blogs.  What I am finding is that those early words have not been negated by my actions, but that God is using them, using my own words to remind me of the deep truths of His love.  And here is the really wooooo-eee-oooooohhhhh realization: the whole time I was struggling, the whole time I was writing down those words God knew what was coming.  He already knew the choices I was going to make. He already knew the words I would need to hear again and again to get me out of those thorns and He had me write them.  There is a kind of awe-inspiring peace that comes when you can see His hand throughout it all. 

I wrote very early on in this blog about a Healing Road .  In that particular blog I wrote how some roads are lined with brambles.  At that point in my life I was still on the road and the brambles I got tangled in weren’t even in my line of sight.  When I saw those words as I reread this week it just struck me.  It struck me hard that God knew what was coming even if I didn’t. 

So much is going on in my heart and my mind here.  Everywhere I turn now I see little steps; little heart steps, and life steps, and healing steps.  They are small, but they are mighty. 

If you are struggling to see past your hurts, your choices, your circumstances and you feel like you are stuck standing still let me tell you that I understand.  I see you.  I hear you.  But more importantly God sees you, hears you, understands you and even if they are small, and even if there is months between the stepping trust me when I say that one day you will look around and you too will find that your surroundings have changed.  Just keep breathing my friends and seeking God.  And it is okay if sometimes seeking Him comes in pain soaked sobs.  And it is okay if it comes in the broken sighs where all you can do is just keep taking one breath after another.  The one thing I can tell you, the one thing that I KNOW is that God loves you, friend, and He will stand on that road with you no matter how small the steps you take and no matter how long it takes you to start moving.  Just keep checking your surroundings.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The same old story stuck in time

I am reading Anne Voskamp’s book “1000 gifts”.  I have been reading it in pieces with months spaced in between the picking it up, because it is hard and chewy and also marvelous.  I sat in the tub tonight and read for maybe an hour or two.  And now I chew on the words; on the bits of thanksgiving tucked in with the good and the hard.  She talks of full, heavy bellied moon, perched low over fields of grain and she runs to it, runs to beauty and I can only think of my standing still. My wanting to run towards beauty, wholeness, thankfulness and I am still here standing still. 

It has been 2 full years since I wrote about being caught in the thorns  :  “I look at my blood stained skin, the thorns dipped in red.  Suddenly they are not just my thorns, they are Christ's.  I have crowned Him in these thorns that I willingly walked into.  He suffered, bled His own blood, skin pierced by the thorns that weren't His own.  His glory forsaken, to be crowned in my sin.  His eyes, tear stained, know my pain.  I can see Him on the road.  Just waiting for me to ask, to ask to be untangled from the vines that grab.  I can see Him, yet I stand mute in my thorns.  Why do I stand, just stand?  Stained and bleeding, torn to shreds and yet I choose to stand." and again I wrote a couple of months later, He stands, waiting, watching, tear stained face.  He stands and I stand.  Guilt ridden for being caught in the thorns and for the juice that stains bright from the forbidden berries.  I stand and I feel unworthy of joining Him on the road.  He waits.   I cry out that I am unworthy. He waits."
In church on Sunday the pastor talked about how God is the God of I Am.  He is now, in the moment, current.  The book brought up the exact same message tonight.  That He is the God of the present.  This moment, this one, and this one.  Every single moment He is in.  Pastor said that this moment is just as likely to be filled with His glory as the next one.  That each moment of each day He is just waiting for us to meet Him there.  Commune with Him, be touched by Him.  He called those of us who wanted to, to come up front and meet God there in that moment.  I almost thought I felt the pastor look right into me on several occasions.  As if he saw me standing on the sidelines, watching, not coming.  My heart wanted to leap onto that stage, sit at the foot of the cross and unload brick after brick against its base, but instead I stood still.  I just stood at my place like I have been for the last two years.  And I sang, oh how I sang the words out……I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my precious Savior I surrender all.  And I could taste them on my tongue and I hungered for them to be fulfilling, but my feet wouldn’t move.

It is the same old story stuck in time;  Too afraid to move.  It is the same fear that kept my lips locked tight all those weeks of sitting on a couch in front of counselor.  It is the same fear that kept my feet from carrying me to the front of the sanctuary. 
My counselor told me that there is always so much that I hold on to, that I don’t let out, but she knows it is there because the presence of it burns hot in my eyes and trickles out at the slightest prodding.  She gave me the option to let it out, to let the waters flow out freely, but I never could.  The same plug that held it back there is the same plug that stops me from surrendering even now.  I am afraid that I will wash away with the waters.  That the everything inside will come out all at once and it won’t stop.  It will be loud.  It will be snotty.  It will be more than what I can handle and it will be more than what others can handle.  It will be disruptive and ugly.  The ugly will come washing out and I don’t know what it will destroy in its wake.  And then there are the eyes.  The ones that will be watching, observing, seeing the onslaught of wave after wave of gut wrenching, soul quaking emotion that I so desperately try to hide only to be possibly followed by the worst possible outcome, talking and questions that seek answering, all while being looked at with eyes.
And so I huddle here, behind my keyboard,  because here it is safe. And here I continue to just stand, surrendering only bits and pieces and nowhere near all, and I am not sure how to.
I know that this is not where my story ends.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bruised Little Builder

You try and be so strong. Holding up those castle walls all on your own.
Afraid to put your guard down. Afraid to let anyone else inside.
All those years of hurts. Brick upon brick of hurt. Mortared with your tears.

You would wish as you were building. Hoping someone would stop the hurts.
Stop you from building the walls that were to become your prison and your home.
Rescue you from the pain.

No one came. No one saw the bruised and hurting little builder.
You began to think you deserved the hurts, these bricks that you had been given.
You began to think that no one came because you weren't worth the coming.

So now you stand in your castle walls. All grown up.
The little builder has become the lonely knight.
Protecting a castle that you are afraid to let anyone enter.

Now people only see the metal clad warrior.
Strong and ready to fight.
Even you want to forget about the little builder who still hides beneath the armor.

You thought you had been successful.
You thought you were safe beneath your armor and behind your walls.
You thought I couldn't see the tear stains in your mortar.

I can see that bruised and hurting little builder.
I know the calluses your hands bear from placing brick on top of brick.
I can see you clearly from the windows of my tower.