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Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

I’ve been spending some time in this desert place, and Jesus has showed me some neat things, calmed some fears, and encouraged me to press on. In fact, the Not-So-Casual Observer and I talked at length about what this feels like, some dangers along the way, and what to do when I feel like it’s never going to end. As amazing and eye-opening as our sessions are, Jesus has been showing me some stuff that’s even better.

The first beautiful part of the desert has been what I’ve noticed about myself. I realized that when I slow down, stop working, and just sit awhile, I hurt. I hurt in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. I hurt down deep, such that I feel tears prick behind my eyes for no discernible reason. I hurt enough to press both hands to my chest, hoping to quell the bursting in my heart. I can safely say that this is pain, and I’m in it.

Why is that beautiful? Well, because I don’t have to actually DO anything. Could it be that my healing here has nothing to do with my activity, but everything to do with my rest and surrender? Is the mystery really that I don’t have to perform any action, rather simply make a place for pain in my life and let it find its own place to pour out? I think I love this. And if you know what a performance-oriented person I have been known to be, that alone should evidence the massive change in my last few months.

This morning I felt like I should read the account of the Israelites’ time in the desert, and wow do I have some amazing things to look forward to. While they simply moved from place to place at God’s behest, He did amazing things even for this grumbling and unfaithful people. If my desert experience looks anything like theirs, it’ll be an awesome adventure.

Sandals that never wear out to keep my feet from burning
Fresh food each morning delivered to wherever I am in the journey
The impossible–the sea parts as I pass through, washing away all that seeks to harm me once I’m safely on the other shore

Sabbath
Consecration
Feasting
Teaching
Sacrifice

A visible covenant
My face shining after time with Him
The glory of the Lord
An established rule and reign
Authority

A cloud for direction
Rebuke and pardon
Restoration

Healing through obedience
Prophecy
Zeal

Cities of refuge
Songs and blessings

This is going to be amazing.

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I am a lover of symbols. When I’m going through a season, I like to have a reminder of it. It also serves as a way of having stories to tell when my children ask about a particular piece.

In this desert season, I’ve been particularly interested in what it means to grieve. I looked at some Victorian mourning jewelry, but that didn’t seem exactly my style. Then I found a neat website that lists symbols of grief. It may seem a bit macabre, but I find it comforting that there are established symbols for this sort of thing. In any case, I decided that the knot would be my personal symbol for this season because it represents resurrection.

Now I needed to decide what sort of jewelry. For some reason, the thought of a necklace and a bracelet felt too much like being shackled to grieving, and I didn’t want that. I decided on a ring, a ring with a knot. Sounds complicated, I know, but I guess that’s why I love Etsy so much. I found a neat ring and ordered it, but the artist was delayed due to Hurricane Irene (totally understandable).

My ring came yesterday. Actually, she sent two because of the delay, which I thought was awfully kind. I find it interesting that yesterday Jesus asked me to take a step into the desert, and yesterday this symbol of grieving came to my house. Coincidence? I think  (k)not.

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Last night at girls’ group, we had a super brief discussion on Luke 9:62,”But Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I fancy myself a bit of a theologue and, as such, have spent time studying over the years what exactly I believe and why. Why this verse in this place? Wanting to consider the positions I heard last night, I decided to turn to a couple of commentaries I trust. This is the one that struck me:

Those who begin with the work of God, must resolve to go on, or they will make nothing of it. Looking back, leads to drawing back, and drawing back is to perdition. He only that endures to the end shall be saved.  –Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

I love how God honors my desire to know Him more and confirms His rhema word with His logos. Just this morning we were talking about the desert valley of pain, this place both the Not-So-Casual Observer and I feel Jesus is calling me. This morning, I asked Jesus what He would have me do to walk this out, and He said,

“I want you to step onto the scorched earth. I want you to notice the grit of sand as it fills every empty space between your toes and rubs your flesh smooth. I want you to feel your lips go dry and your throat parch, how one step into this and you’re already thirsty. I want you to gaze down into this valley and see how far it is and wonder where the midpoint is, when you’ll begin your ascent, where the top is. What do I want you to do? Walk.  Look back at the lovely meadow you’ve spent the last few months in, then look at the colorless expanse before you, and choose this anyway.”

If I walk away from this, the work He’s doing in me is for naught. And since I believe that He will bring His good work to completion, and that His word will not return void, then this is what I must do. Choose this anyway.  Let it hurt anyway. Feel the pain anyway. Walk through the desert anyway. One step at a time.

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As one who has been relatively emotionless, I haven’t had the capacity to really look at the cross. It’s been too much, too much cruelty to look upon. But now that I’m feeling things and actively working on integrating emotions into my life, I have come face to face with the truth of the cross, the Truth ON the cross, and it’s breaking my heart.

They whipped You, they beat You, they spat on You. They shoved thorns onto Your head and into Your skin. Because of them, Your own mother hardly recognized You, except of course that a mother always knows her own child. They drove stakes through Your wrists. They stacked Your feet and nailed them down, then raised You up. You, beautiful Jesus. They jeered at You, blasphemed You, denied and deserted You. And what did You say? “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I have murdered many times over, and the truth is this:

I whipped You, I beat You, I spat on You. I shoved thorns onto Your head and into Your skin. Because of me, Your own mother hardly recognized You, except of course that a mother always knows her own child. I drove stakes through Your wrists. I stacked Your feet and nailed them down, then raised You up. You, beautiful Jesus. I jeered at You, blasphemed You, denied and deserted You. And what did You say? “Father forgive her, for she knows not what she does.”

Grace.

 

(Listen to the bridge. It’s amazing, truly amazing.)

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Mercy

Lately Jesus and I have been talking a great deal about the breath of the Spirit, and this week it was specifically about Ezekiel 37, the valley of the dry bones. I reflected on how He starts with my bare bones, then adds a layer of sinew, then a layer of flesh, and what you have LOOKS like a person, but there’s no life until God breathes.

He was telling me that that’s how He works on every unevangelized area of my heart. This is important because when I feel stuck, I start to feel hopeless. Jesus reminded me that this is how it always works for me. I’ll work and work and feel like I’m not making any progress, but then one day I’ll just wake up and get it. The moment that I got it was when God breathed.

Mercy sees what I’ve become. It sees all the death in me, and it chooses to rebuild anyway. Isn’t that beautiful?

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Y’all, I’m just tired. And you know what they say in the Anonymous programs–don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I’m pretty good on the first three, but I’m flat exhausted emotionally. This feelings business is serious, and the cost is high. Worth it, but costly.

When I get this tired, I’m more susceptible to lies. The one I’ve been wrestling with the most lately is that I’m just too broken to be fixed. There are too many pieces of me smashed into jagged shards, left in random locales, lost forever. I’ll never get fixed, get healed, be what I’m supposed to be. But this morning, I felt like Jesus said, “Grace is what says it doesn’t always have to be this way.”

And so I’ll accept, without knowing the why and wherefore, that grace means I don’t have to stay fragmented forever. Let it be so.

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Compassion

com·pas·sion [kuhm-pash-uhn]

noun
1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

This morning, Jesus and I did some hammering with regard to my belief about compassion, and it was good stuff. He told me that I despise compassion because I know that it means, “with passion,” and it’s passion that has done much damage in my life. Passion caused men to abuse. Passion caused rage and lies. Everything that feels too big, too scary, too emotional, too angry, too loving — it all gets lumped together for me.

I’m using a workbook in counseling that talks about recovering passion as a form of repentance; that is, deciding to live, and therefore acknowledging and giving up the things I have allowed to keep me near emotional death. I don’t think I realized just how much emotional distance I hold with people in my life. I know that I feel things, after all. But I’m getting the picture that I don’t express it well or often, and that’s hard. Anyhow, here’s the product of quiet time reflection on com+passion.

Deadness is a cool disdain — choosing distance over risk of relationship,
assuming about and judging for others.
It is a sideways glance, disapproving and making known my displeasure.
It is the mean girl,
the intellectual snob,
the faultfinder,
the one without love.

It is being caught up, held hostage in, strangled by my own fear of rejection.
It is allowing my childhood beliefs to dictate my grown up behaviors.
It is utter foolishness.

It is extinguishing every spark of life in and around me, abortion in broad brush.
It is how I sometimes desire to break my daughter’s spirit,
to make clear to her that she’s not God’s gift to something,
when indeed she IS God’s gift.

It is despising the things that will bring joy and healing and wholeness
(those ethereal words – are they even real?)
to maintain a world that’s flat and grey, predictable and two-dimensional and safe.

And boring.

And painful.

Where the same decades-old nightmares chase me around the cardboard cityscapes night after night
and continue to provoke the same terror,
the terror of a child desperately clinging to her little world.

Compassion is fearful because it removes the luxury of denial,
the denial that says, “I don’t even want to really live.”
Oh, but I do. I do want to live.

I want
To stretch my legs in the warm autumn light
and hold my babies with loving abandon
and kiss my husband in the middle of the day, just because.

I want
To hold close the friend who is crushed by rejection, heart in hands, my own eyes misted over for her pain.
To love that I’ve accepted the tender invitation to hurt with her, no RSVP required.
To revel in the meaning of tears, this evidence of life,
the same salt water that cushions my children before birth dots the brows of hardworking men and comprises the seas.

Connection, that is passion.
Because it’s not a solo gig.
It’s an inside job.

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Quiet

I’m in a bit of a quiet season now. I’m not sure how long it will last (if I know me, not terribly long), but I feel painfully silent. I’m not sure whether it’s painful because I’m so accustomed to talking, or because I’m processing some painful things that have been revealed to me this week, or something else altogether.

Clinging to the hope of Zephaniah 3:17:

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

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Russia!

If you know me, you know that I love Russia. My heart is for the people there to reclaim their identity as children of God, though long-buried and seemingly irreparable to men. Going to Russia in 2009 changed my life, for the better, forever.

Last week, I had lunch with Ransomed Grace. She and I got together to talk about her trip to Russia last month, chat about church and life and kids and, well, you get the picture. To catch up. And it was lovely.

While we were there, she told me that the non-profit she started during their time in Russia is celebrating its tenth anniversary next spring, and the Russian women asked if she would come back and lead a conference dedicated to training those on the front lives of caring for women who choose to keep their babies. Also while she was there, the women’s ministry leader along with the pastor’s wife asked her to lead a retreat for the Vineyard women of Russia.

I was getting a little melancholy hearing all of this because I love Russia, and it was one of the hardest things to give up when we changed churches. But I surrendered that dream because I knew God had a bigger dream for us than a biannual mission trip. He wanted us in community. Anyhow, so RG described the vision for the trip, and then dropped this bomb, “So would you pray about it, or is it just out of the question?”

Wait, what?!

I have been formally invited to join a team going next April to Perm, Russia. And I really think I’m supposed to go, but I’m definitely still praying to hear more. So if you know me offline, expect that I’m going to be talking about it, writing a support letter, and asking for help with my kids. It’s a huge undertaking, raising more than two thousand dollars in support, finding people to care for four children a few days while the Music Man is at work, preparing and meeting and praying and hearing from the Lord for the Russian people.

I couldn’t be more excited.

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