Friday, July 4, 2014

Leaving the Comfortable "Less than"

I've begun counseling.  I won't go into the issues that brought me there on this public blog, but I am  ready to lay everything (all my issues) on the table and stare my truth in the face, committed to sticking with this for the long haul.

My first appointment was Thursday, and I cried through most of the hour.  I don't think most people who meet me on the street would have any clue that I am almost always on the verge of tears.  If you could peel back the layers, you would know that I am crying on the inside.  Well, I peeled back the layers on Thursday, and I feel like I've opened Pandora's box.  These things that I try to live above and push down are coming to the surface, and I am left with this pervasive sense of sadness.

I've been in a great bible study this summer (Restless by Jennie Allen).  On Tuesday night, our little tribe of restless women went outside and lit sparklers against the backdrop of a darkening sky.  We were declaring our own personal Independence Days, proclaiming our freedom in Christ... free of fear, guilt, shame, regret, our pasts... free to take the leap of faith, to jump, to say "yes," to be all in, to sparkle and sizzle and shine and brighten the darkness... to be lit by others and to light the "sparklers" of those around us.

I remember how quickly those sparklers burned down to nothing, and I remember thinking, 'How apt!'  Our lives really are that short, aren't they?  It was all over in a matter of seconds.  Yes, earth is short, and heaven is long.  How I need to have my vision shifted!  My perspective gets distorted because earth can seem so long, and heaven can seem so far away and unreal.  But the truth is just the opposite:  "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" (2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT)

Here's the thing:  pain sometimes causes me to lose the story line.  I admit it.... I've lost the story line these past two days.  My focus and desire has solely been on making the pain stop.

  • Cancel counseling:  I'm not strong enough to go there yet.
  • End my life:  I'm not strong enough to handle any of this anymore!  I'm tired of struggling and hurting!  I just want to be home!
  • Take a pill:  How many Xanax or Vicodin will make this feeling go away?  Maybe there's a new antidepressant I can try.
But, though the thoughts come into my mind, I have done and will do none of these things.

I will sit with my pain... not to wallow in it or feel sorry for myself or get "stuck" here, but I will sit with it because I'm beginning to understand something that changes everything.  I don't think it's the pain itself that is so debilitating; rather, it's my fear of the pain!  I do anything to avoid it, to not feel it.  My soul cries, 'Get me out of here! Make it stop!'  However, I always end up in a much worse place when I go down that road of avoidance at all costs.  My attempts to avoid pain have only increased my pain.  What if I just enter in instead of throwing an emotional temper tantrum and looking frantically for an exit door, attempting to flee?

What if the pain is a friend?  Maybe I'm not just crazy, fragile, weak, and broken.  Maybe the pain is my truth that refuses to be silenced.  Maybe the pain is the healthiest part of me.  Maybe my pain is an indicator light on the dashboard of my soul, telling me that things are not right.  It's as if God installed these warning systems for our hearts... because He so wants us to experience abundance that He makes the lack of abundance uncomfortable!  He knows that without the indicator light of pain, we would stay in the comfortable "less than" and miss all that He has for us!  Oh, yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made indeed!

So, I will sit with my pain as with a friend.  "Hello, dear pain.  What are you here to teach me?"  I will enter in without fear.  I will trust that all things are working together for good.  

Yes, even this.  

Yes, even for me.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

thoughts on a life well lived

As an idealistic young adult (or, pre-adult), I wanted to change the world.  Where there was darkness, I longed to bring light.  Where there was hate, I yearned to bring love.  Where there was oppression, I dreamed of bringing justice.  Where there was captivity, I wanted to bring liberation.  Where there was despair, I longed to bring hope.

I wanted to take on the world with this bold, audacious, flagrant goodness...that would not or could not be shushed or quieted or silenced or covered or hidden or overcome.  I wanted to leave a big mark, to impact this globe in a positive way, to leave this world knowing it was a better place because I breathed this terrestrial air.

Now.... I wonder.  Where did all that energy and passion and drive go?  Now... I'm in my forties.  Now... I need naps.  Now... I am tired.  And, perhaps most importantly, now I know that darkness isn't just "out there."  It resides in my heart as well.  To eradicate the evil in this world, I would have to annihilate myself... and everyone else.  I now see that the line between good and evil passes through every single human heart.

Now my dreams are different.  I dream about getting through my days... of finding the energy to take a walk, to clean my house, to connect in some small way with my husband and teenage children.

I wonder... is life something to be "conquered" or something to be "experienced"?  Is it enough... to find a spot in this planet to lay my head, to ENJOY the feeling of the sun on my skin, to appreciate the gentle caress of the breeze or to thrill inside when it rushes by with a power that hints at the enormity and intensity of the God who sends it, to feel my spirit dance to the tune of birdsong that surrounds me, to alight with the butterfly on her whimsical path through the air,  to be amazed by the complexity of a flower, to watch the stars appear in the night sky as the sun dips lower and lower beyond our horizon, to gasp at the beauty of a rainbow, to laugh at the tickle of the rain on my upturned face, and to be wonderstruck at the glory that blazes across the heavens each morning and evening?  To stop, to see, to experience, to appreciate, to just it enough?

Is it enough let the light fill my soul and permeate my being? be a positive energy in my little sphere? be present for my family? be the soft place where they can fall and be attended to in this world that is so often harsh and cruel? just be there and be with and walk alongside? listen (really listen) to a friend? smile at a cashier? pray blessings? love the one in front of me?

If the sum of my life is this:  "You made this world, God, and while I lived, I saw Your beauty, I smiled because of You, I lived in AWE, I noticed, I appreciated, I enjoyed, I experienced creation, I thanked You, and I concurred with You: 'It is good.  It is very good.'"  IS THAT ENOUGH?

It won't amount to much on paper.  It won't build a winning resume.  It won't culminate in letters after my name or qualifying credentials.  I won't have "earned" a place at Your wedding feast by do, do, doing for You... no long list of accomplishments or achievements to lay at Your feet.

But... I was exhilarated by You, by the work of Your Hands!  I marveled at Your creativity!  I was wonderstruck by Your Beauty!  I was in awe of Your goodness and Your grace and Your lavish and unrelenting kindness which I saw ...woven throughout my days, ...woven across our planet. And I PRAISED YOU!  I praised You for the changing seasons. I praised You for the stunning diversity in this world.  I praised You for the uniqueness of each individual.  I praised You for Your infinite creative genius.  I praised You for Your sense of humor and the gift of laughter.  I praised You for the way You revealed Yourself and the way You remained a sacred mystery.  I praised You for Your imminence and Your transcendence.  I praised You for being the God who sees me and knows the number of hairs on my head and collects each tear I cry, AND I praised You for being sovereign and supreme, the God who holds the entire Universe in the palm of Your hand.

I have wept buckets full of tears at the love that sent Your Son into this world to sacrifice His life for mine, and I have praised You for Jesus!  I live in light of Your love that knows no limits or boundaries, this love beyond all words or comprehension, this love that satisfies my hunger, quenches my thirst, and fills my ache for MORE.  I lift my hands.  I bow my knees.  I sing my love to You.  I praise Your Name, and I never want to rise from this spot, and I ask You, Lord, "Is this all You want from me?  Is this "enough"?  Am I "enough" when I am simply lost in You?"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Becoming Like Little Children

I know I haven't written in forever.  After speaking to my BSF leader last fall, I decided not to blog my answers.  She asked me not to, and I submitted to her as onto Christ.  Life has been busy and full, with its ups and downs, and I rarely find the time to sit in front of the computer and blog.  Then there are those times when I need to say something.  This is one of those times.  

Matthew 18:2-4 has so stirred in me that it's almost become an obsession.  I've been chewing on it like a dog chews on a favorite bone:  thinking about it, pondering it, reading it in relation to other texts, discussing it with others, etc.  The question I'm trying to answer is this:  Why did Jesus tell us we had to become like little children to enter the Kingdom?
There is so much richness here, and my mind is becoming swollen with thoughts, so I have to write these down to try to make sense of it all.  

1.  According to Luke 18:17, we must receive the Kingdom of God like a child or we will not enter it.
Children receive open-handedly and joyfully.  They don't feel obligated to give a gift in return.  
Some people have a very hard time receiving:  why?
Well, there are two people involved in the gift exchange:  the giver and the receiver.  
Most people would rather be the giver because it's the "status" role, the "top dog" position.  The giver HAS something to give.  We want to be on the "+" side of life, having and possessing, with assets and resources and "enough" (no, more than enough, a surplus..."leftovers" and "extras" to go around).  Additionally, if we are givers who keep score, we can design a world where everyone owes us.  
But receivers.....receivers are the ones in need, the empty-handed ones, the "have nots" who must rely on the generosity of others if they are to have anything at all.
God, through Jesus, has opened the door of Heaven to all.  But we have a choice.  We can say, "yes" or "no."  To enter in, we must be willing to enter not as a giver but as a receiver.  There is only One giver, the Lord on High.  (Then, as His kids who have received so great an inheritance, we do get to share with others, but it's His Riches we give....we have no riches of our own to offer.)  How difficult this truth is for those who want to earn their way into His Kingdom.

2.  Faith like a child.  Children are credulous.  They lack skepticism.  They trust easily and completely.  They are not yet jaded by the disappointments and realities of life.
In the same way, God's kids trust Jesus.  They take Him at His word.  They believe everything He says, and they know Jesus can do anything.  

3.  Children know the rules and routines of their household.  They don't have to wonder how life works in their particular home.  As a member of that household, they have intimate knowledge of the daily operations of that household.  They know because they LIVE IN IT.  
I should be this familiar with my God, through daily interaction and intimate contact.  He is my Heavenly Father, and I must live in His household (His Kingdom).  His way of life must become mine because I dwell in His house.
Example:  Matthew 5:9, The children of God are peacemakers.  Shalom is the mark of life in God's Kingdom.  His kids grow up in a household that practices shalom, and they are marked by it.  They become peacemakers.

4.  Children become what they see.  They are imprinted by the model of their family of origin and grow to be like them.
Is this why we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus?  He is our model.  God gives His children spiritual eyes to see Jesus, and we become like Him in the beholding. (1 John 3, Children of God)

5.  Kids don't make the rules....parents do.  Kids abide by the rules the parents make.
He is Lord, and the Lord's children follow Him.  As His child, I obey.  I don't try to rule over my Abba.  I accept His position and authority in my life.  

6.  Kids are the learners (while adults/parents are the teachers).  
God's kids come humbly to the Word, with no agenda other than to be taught.  God's kids know that HE is the source of all wisdom, and they love to sit at His feet and learn from Him.

7.  The root of that word "converted," in the Greek means, "strengthened from the base of."  According to Proverbs 4:23, it is our heart that would need to be converted (straightened out/strengthened by God) because our lives flow from our hearts.  If your heart is pure, the whole course of your life will be pure.  If your heart is corrupt, the whole course of your life will be corrupt.  Matthew 5:8 talks about the importance of having a pure heart if we hope to see God.

Back to children:  Children are genuine.  They come into the world with no concept of "image."  They just are what they are.  When they're happy, they sing or smile or laugh or skip or jump up and down and squeal.  When they're sad, they don't hide it; they cry.  They don't hold themselves back for fear of what others will think of them.  They don't wear masks or "manage" their image.  They experience life heartily, with a whole heart.

I think of a man I know who suffered a very traumatic childhood.  Unfortunately, he had to "freeze" his heart in order to survive.  The problem is.....thirty years later, it is still "frozen."  Shame causes him to hide his true self.  As a result, intimacy with his wife, children, even God, is impossible.  He's a shell of a man because he cut himself off from his heart.  I would argue that you can't have a pure heart without a whole heart.  

God's children let Him restore their hearts.  At the moment of conversion, God's kids receive a new heart from Abba, and He teaches them to live wholeheartedly again.   (He takes away our heart of stone and gives us a heart of to Him, responsive to His Spirit, reconnected with our emotions.  He restores the things that we lost... our imagination, our creativity, our joy, our sense of fun and passion and energy and enthusiasm and play, our excitement for life and living, our faith, our hope, our love.  He restores the imago dei He placed in us when He created us, that image of God that has been damaged by the sin of this world.  This whole-hearted living is abundant living , and God's kids are to be known for living lives of abundance.)

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  How I wish I could have heard these words straight from Jesus's mouth, known the culture and context into which He spoke, and been able to ask Him my questions directly.  But we have His Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth, so I will press in....knowing that He gives revelation to those who earnestly seek Him.  I am desperate for revelation because I am desperate for more of HIM!

Please respond with your own thoughts or additional insights.  I would love to dialogue with you all concerning these truths.