Thursday, May 29, 2014

When You Just Can't Fix It

Hey Friend,

When my children were little and they got hurt, I could scoop them up in my arms, comfort their crying with a hug, put a band aid on the scrape, kiss it and it would be all better.  I could remove them from danger by putting them in their crib or holding them securely on my lap or taking hold of their hand.

But what happens when they get older and you just can't fix it?  Little people problems grow into big people problems, yet we are still parents who love and care for our children.

I watched a mother I knew in church while we were singing worship songs.  Her shoulders were heaving up and down and she continued to wipe tears from her eyes.  Her son, who had battled with depression, went to a party and had a toxic cocktail of pills and alcohol and decided to end his life by jumping from a bridge over some railroad tracks.

Their family went on a fabulous ski vacation.  The daughter asked if she could join some other teenagers down at the pool for a little while since her parents were getting ready to turn in for the evening.  Hanging out at the pool, led to a party in someone's room, led to the daughter getting drunk and having sex with someone she had barely met, which led to a pregnancy and an abortion that devastated the family.

A young male youth group leader was approached on the internet by a student in his group who was obviously dealing with many issues.  Innocent talking and encouragement led to him asking her what he could do to help her the most.  Her reply was, "Would you have sex with me?"  He remembers his head saying no, but in a moment of pure temptation, his fingers typed, "Yes."  She was not yet 16. Even though nothing happened,  her parents found out and pressed charges and now he is serving time in prison.

Their family sat shocked when the doctor announced that the brain tumor was inoperable.  They could give him more time with radiation and chemotherapy, but inevitably he was going to die...still in his young twenties.

Add in the many, many parents of prodigals who pray earnestly for God to replace their child's heart of stone with a heart of flesh and you have so many situations that you simply can't fix anymore. I wish these were fictional stories, but unfortunately they are real.  So what now?

The prayers of these parents are the ones described in Romans 8:26-27:  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Sometimes we can't even put words to our prayers; they are guttural, desperate groans.  When we are so hurt that we can't even pray, the Spirit carries the cries of our heart to the Father through groans that only the Father can understand.  Sometimes we can only call on the name of our Savior, "Jesus".  By simply crying out His name, there is power.  The enemy must flee at the sound of Jesus' name.

"If our God is for us who can be against us?"  (Romans 8:31)

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for our Lord your God goes with you; and He will never leave nor forsake you."  (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Our Lord answers us when we are in distress.  He draws near to the groaning heart.  This side of Heaven we may never truly understand the  "why" behind these things happening.  In these times of utter weakness we must cling to the fact that God is good; God is Sovereign and God is in control.  Even when the situation tells us the exact opposite, this is where a giant leap of faith is needed.  We either jump into God or we jump away from Him.

God promises us, that in our utter weakness and devastation, He will never leave nor forsake us.  We can claim that as truth.  He feels our pain and He feels our sorrow.  After all He did watch His only son be brutally beaten to within an inch of his life and killed in a tortuous act upon a cross.  He is no stranger to pain.  He answers us and comforts us in our distress.

"No one ever blows it so badly that the Spirit can't still blow in.  And no wind ever blows so hard that it doesn't carry hope, that it doesn't blow in blessing too."  (Ann Voskamp)

Praise God that no situation is so bad (even death) that the Spirit can't still blow in.  And the Spirit brings hope and hope never disappoints.  Blessings can be found in even the worst situation.  God never leaves His people without hope.  He and only He, can bring beauty from ashes if we will let Him.

The pain that you have been feeling cannot compare to the joy that is coming.  (Romans 8:18)

Joy may come in this lifetime...or as I am learning to have a much more eternal perspective, joy may not fully come until we are reunited with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our loved ones in the life to come.  God promises that our trials on this earth will seem light and momentary when compared with the joy experienced when we are with Him in Heaven.  I cling to this hope because otherwise I can't make sense of the atrocities that happen here on earth. 

Maybe this seems way too trite and simple...but this is how I have learned to cope when I just can't fix it.  I must trust that God is always with me and there must be valleys if I'm going to see the mountains. I have to believe that God is big enough to handle and understand my anger.  I have to believe that God can bring beauty and blessings even from the destruction in our lives.  And, I hold onto the hope and joy that will be mine when I see God face to face.  I truly believe He's going to blow my socks off. 

Meanwhile, we hold on...we press on...we keep on...and we praise Him.

I'll end this post with the lyrics of a song by Matt Redman:

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me
And I can see a light that is coming
for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
but until that day comes
Still I will praise You
Still I will praise You
Dear Friend, know that you are in my prayers if you are going through a time such as these.  If you are not, look around; chances are someone you know is going through a time that can make or break their faith.  When you just can't fix it...fix your eyes upon Jesus and run into His strong and comforting arms.  He longs to hold you.
In His love,

ps. I do not pretend to be a counselor, so if you are in a dark and hurting place, I strongly encourage you to seek competent Christian counseling/grief counseling.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Striving...Am I Doing Okay?

Hey Friend,
Let me preface this post by saying that we never fully "arrive" (master, grasp, understand) anything this side of Heaven.  Until the day we die, we are a work in progress.
With that being said, I will confess that I have come a long way from being the girl who was constantly striving.  Striving to do as much as I could possibly do perfectly in order to earn or win love and approval.  Whose love and approval?  God's, my dad's, others, etc.  I was the ultimate of people pleasers and still, to this day, struggle with trying to make everyone happy (which by the way is not my job - or yours either).
Usually I save the punch line for last...but in case you get bored, I want to be sure that you get this piece of what I have learned.  It's only taken me 53 years to get this far:
Freedom comes through Christ's righteousness ALONE.  When His righteousness becomes ours, we are set free from striving.  His Spirit frees us from the law of sin and guilt.
Please read that again...or several times if you have to until it really sinks in.
I would like to explore what I call the 3 "E's" of Striving:
Expectations:  I used to have the Energizer Bunny mentality that doing more was better.  It was important what the world thought of me and the world measures worth in terms of accomplishments.  God had/has a different message.  You don't have to do...just BE!  Expectations breed perfectionism and get this - there is no way you can be perfect on your own, in your own power.  God is the only author and perfector of me and my faith...period.
"You are not called to live up to your potential - to do as much as you can, as quickly as you can, for as many as you can. (Hint - potential is just a code word for other people's expectations).  You, my friend, are simply called to say "Yes" to God."  (Holley Gerth)
It was in a very low period in my life - when I was far from perfect - that Christ drew me unto Himself and let me know that He simply wanted to be in an intimate relationship with me (just me as I was - broken).  I realized the goal was not was Him!
Long story, short:  Can the expectations.
Earn (the 2nd "E"):  I'll let you in on a little can't earn love or grace.  Sure you can try (just like I did) but it just doesn't work that way.  This brings us back to that "freedom" concept.  Only in Him do we find true freedom - not in any "works" we seek to accomplish.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2: 8-9)
God alone gives you love and grace.  You can't earn it.  It's a gift.  You receive it.
"The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us."  (C.S. Lewis)
I love C.S. Lewis.  He has a way of turning the world's logic on its head lol.
Even if we try to strive and earn God's love and grace, our very best offerings are like filthy rags in God's sight.  Not that works are not's just that they will not earn you love or salvation.  Only God's grace can do that.
"And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags..."  (Isaiah 64:6)
Enough (the 3rd "E"):  Try this sentence on for size.  "I embrace who I am;  I don't have to strive;  Through Christ I am enough;  God loves me simply for being _______________(fill in your name)".
When Christ died on the cross, He said, "It is finished".  Translation:  There is nothing more you can or need to do.  Knowing this truth and continuing to strive to earn something is really a pride thing when you get right down to it.  I was, in essence, saying to Christ - what you did was nice and all, but there's still something more that I have to or can do.  Your sacrifice wasn't enough.                             I = PRIDE...Christ = GRACE.
If you walk away with one truth I pray that it would be this:  God does not love you any more or any less depending on what you do.  He loves you because He is Love.  He cannot deny Himself.
"Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:39)
I hope that I have not come across at too preachy.  If there is one thing I have been sort of able to wrap my little pea brain around is that I do not have to be constantly striving.  I am doing okay.  In knowing this, it brings tremendous freedom and freedom is the sweet spot in which God would have me live!
"You can give up the need to compete in the world - when you accept being complete in Christ."  (Ann Voskamp)
Are you striving and want to get off the treadmill?  How have you accepted that you are okay as you are?  How are you a work in progress?  I invite you to share your successes and your struggles that we all may be encouraged.
Know you are loved...
In His love,
ps.  MEMORIAL WEEKEND PS.:  I will be taking this week off due to surgery.  Prayers are always welcome.  I hope you'll find a post you may have missed in the archives.  Let us give thanks to the great men and women who have served and who are serving that we might have our freedom.  A special thanks to military spouses who hold down the fort back at home. Be blessed...B 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dare To Go Deep

Hey Friend,
As my mother would say...I have a bee in my bonnet.  I have a problem with our customary greeting.  The one that goes, "How are you?"..."Fine."  "How are you?"..."Fine, thanks."  Liar.
You who spewed like a volcano over spilled milk and cheerios before putting your four year old into a half nelson in order to get her coat on before preschool drop are not "fine". 
You who stopped by the grocery store after the biopsy that will take what seems like an eternity for the are not "fine".
You who are weary from caring for your mom with advanced are not "fine".
Why are we afraid to be real? 
Why is it not okay to take my story and reach into someone else's story?
In fact, I like that question better..."What's your story?"  Wouldn't that be a far better question to ask if we really cared?  I think what keeps us from real community with others...for daring to go deep is first - Fear.  We are afraid to reach out, afraid of being turned away when we are vulnerable and so we keep people at arms length.  Another possible answer is plain old Selfishness.  If we were all a little less self absorbed we might find that our heart truly knows how to bleed for others who are broken.
I have been criticized by some for sharing some things in a public forum that should not be shared.  In doing so, my aim was not to harm but to help.  But maybe I owe some apologies.  I do choose, however, to share my story (and that may include people around me) because I strongly believe that my story can bring honor to God and that, ultimately, is what I am here for.
Maybe your story is not all that interesting (or so you think).  But, we rob God and we cheat others when we don't tell our stories.
Why?  Because Jesus changes our stories if we'll let him.  He, and only He, can bring beauty from the ashes of our broken lives and build them into a beautiful testimony.  I invite you to take a moment and read my life scripture and take note of the last line, "Many will see and be in awe and put their trust in the Lord."  (Psalm 40:3)
"Only when you're broken are you tender enough to wrap yourself around anyone."  (Ann Voskamp)
About two weeks ago I nervously drove to an (in) Real Life meetup put together by the wonderful women of (in)courage:  These were women I had never met in my life and we were challenged to "Open up our ordinary lives" with others in order to build community and find belonging in the sisterhood in Christ. 
We watched compelling videos of some of the most well put together Christian women sharing honestly.  They talked about being afraid of community, brokenness, hurting places, striving to be perfect, ardently seeking approval, fear of abandonment, abuse, low self esteem...things you never thought you would hear coming out of their mouths.
Then, gulp, we were encouraged to answer the question, "What is your story?"
This was the really hard part...but the more we shared, the more we realized we are not so different. We are not alone. (Sigh of relief)  Each of us had to weigh: The cost of sharing my story vs. the cost of remaining quiet.  For a gathering with strangers that started at 2 pm., I didn't pull back into my driveway until almost 6 pm.  God had met us there and we had shared the fruit of openness.  We left feeling like the new "pretty" was showing yourself as a real human being.
"Friendship begins when you can say, 'me too'."  (C.S. Lewis)
I wholeheartedly encourage you to break the silence and be the first to share your story.  What you bring to the table is incredibly meaningful even if it only seems ordinary to you. Someone, somewhere needs to hear your story.  You were given it for a reason.  We need to learn to walk intentionally in the ordinary.
Don't look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.  (Philippians 2:4)
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  (Galatians 6:2)
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Are you a safe place for people to share their story?  Are you brave enough to dare to go deep and tell your story?  Together we can "breath life into the space of need".  Are you willing to take the plunge with me?  
If you are would you take the challenge this week of truly sharing the story of your life with someone?  If that's too hard, will you share the story of your week, your day, your hour?  Don't waste it...God needs you.  Dare to go deep...beyond "Fine". 
In His love,

Friday, May 2, 2014

Making His Joy Your Joy

Hey Friend,
Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked out to get the mail from my mailbox.  I looked around to make sure that I would not meet eye to eye with any of my neighbors who were out and about.  I just didn't have it in me. Numbly, I pulled out the mail and just as I was about to shut the door, I heard it.  Faintly at first, but it was definitely there...chirp, chirp, chirp.  I looked into the newspaper cubby beneath the box, but I couldn't see anything.  It was just too dark.  So I bent down and put my ear up to the opening and heard just the sweetest little chorus. 
All of a sudden, I burst into hot tears that streamed down my cheeks.  My life had turned to hell this week and here God was giving me an offering of joy.  Year after year, the bluebirds have tried building a nest under the mailbox and year after year something happens that the eggs never hatch.  No bluebird babies, but today was different.  They were alive and they were singing for their supper.  There was hope after all...
In my pain, this was God's humble and merciful gift to me.  Christ made it clear:  He intends that His joy should become our joy.  Yet sometimes, amid the inevitable hustle and bustle of life here on earth, we can forfeit - albeit temporarily - the joy of Christ as we wrestle with the challenges of everyday living.  In place of my usual ramblings, I offer some thoughts on joy...
Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century American clergyman, observed, "Christ is not only a remedy for your weariness and trouble, but he will give you an abundance of the contrary: joy and delight.  They who come to Christ do not only come to a resting-place after they have been wandering in the wilderness, but they come to a banqueting-house where they may rest, and where they may feast.  They may cease from their former troubles and toils, and they may enter upon a course of delights and spiritual joys."
"Our sense of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life increases, no matter what the circumstances, if we are in the center of God's will."  (Billy Graham)
"If you can forgive the person you were, accept the person you are, and believe in the person you will become, you are headed for joy.  So celebrate your life."  (Barbara Johnson)
"Lord, I thank you for the promise of heaven and the unexpected moments when you touch my heartstrings with that longing for my eternal home."  (Joni Eareckson Tada)
"Joy is the direct result of having God's perspective on our daily lives and the effect of loving our Lord enough to obey His commands and trust His promises."  (Bill Bright)
"Joy is the heart's harmonious response to the Lord's song of love."  (A.W. Tozer)
If today, like me, your heart is weary and heavy laden, I invite you to open the door of your soul to Christ.  He, and only He, can give you peace and joy.  He wants to make His joy your joy.  Are you willing to let him?
May I add two scriptures to meditate on...if joy has been eluding you...will you join me in meditating upon them?
Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  (John 15:11)
His joy for my sorrow...His perfect life for my sinful life.  What a good and gracious God we have!
In His love,

ps, Thank you all for your kind and encouraging comments.  If you've experienced God making His joy, your joy this week...would you share so that we may all be encouraged?