Let Your Scars Tell Their Story

Someone jostled the white pitcher of dried hydrangeas on the mantle.

Rustic-browned hydrangea leaves scattered on the floor.

dried hydrangeas

Sometimes I am as fragile as the rustic-browned dried hydrangea.

Sometimes the slightest touch can shatter. 

I always wanted to be stronger than that, even in my wildest grief. I wanted to have it all together.

Because who wants to fall all apart? Because who wants to be needy? Because who isn’t afraid of being labeled as “needy”? Because who hasn’t talked about someone and called them a “ministry”, like people are projects and we’re the so-not-needy heroines?

Sigh.

Stories of grief and heartache and ugly poured into my inbox this last year; stories unexpectedly weaving into mine.

Beautiful friendships can form in the worst storms.

And sometimes watching this, feeling this, seeing the unexpected form and unfold, and partaking of it, is your only tangible grasp on hope.

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Dandelion dust can scatter like rustic browned hydrangea leaves and tender hearts beating grief can shatter.

And not one living person doesn’t grieve something and –

 grief can paralyze or propel.

Grief can stop you from living and reduce you to surviving, and sometimes the strongest intentions to stare down hopelessness? They can falter and get lost in a whirl of torrid sorrow.

Sometimes you lose your way and forget your identity and the wounds you wear start wearing you.

This was me.

And then came the shame.

Shame that I lost myself in pain and let the grief swallow me. Shame because people who foster and love babies they didn’t give birth to are supposed to be stronger than that. Shame because I shared my grief too openly. Shame because I didn’t share enough. Shame because I didn’t have energy to pursue relationships. Shame because I saw the ugliness of my circumstances more than the goodness in my life. Shame because of the dark thoughts and depression that plagued me. Shame because I was needy and too much.

The day I shut our navy blue front door behind me on a humid May morning and crumpled into a ball of tears, became a threshold in my life. I can see it now, as the tiny blue flowers pop open on a warm spring morning in late April whispering “forget-me-not”. 

How the grief I broke under has made me more whole.

This is my story.

forget me not

“I didn’t know if you would ever come back,” my quiet man spoke into the dark, one night, where we lay talking.

And the truth of the matter, when your heart shatters under a wild grief? It’s a mercy you cannot go back and all grace that you can move forward.

And maybe the most important thing to get in it all?

That there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

Take a deep breath, friend.

You are redeemed and released from all shame, because Christ is ALIVE.

You can show your scars and let your scars tell their story, and this is not hopelessness but hope-FULL – ness.

Because if you have grieved in your lifetime, you know –

 that sometimes the slightest touch can shatter life, but the brave endeavor might share life. 

Sing your story and let your story be your song and some people will never understand and every person will think what they will and let none of it ever stop you from being true to the unfolding work of the resurrected Lamb – at work in you.

And this is how you will overcome – by the word of your testimony.

~

Five Tips for a Grieving Heart

  1. Give yourself space to be. Healing takes time. Deep grief demands extra rest. Allow yourself more time for sleep.  (Ideas: go to bed an hour earlier, set the alarm clock an hour later, take a mid-day nap)
  2. Find a healthy way to express yourself unfiltered. (Ideas: journaling, drawing/painting, etc.)
  3. Have at least one person, outside of your family/household, you can count on to walk with you. This should be someone you are comfortable with venting to and someone who will not feel the need to provide you with answers.
  4. Set some motivational goals. You choose what these should be, based on your lifestyle, life situation and life circumstances, but make sure they are goals that will motivate you to get out of bed in the morning and give you a sense of purpose.
  5. Set firm boundaries. Do NOT commit to many “extra” things outside of the goals you set. Say no to anything that will add anxiety or stress to your life, as much as possible.

~

Five Tips for the Friend of a Grieving Heart

  1. Listen more than you ever have before. Don’t be an instruction manual, be a co-laborer.
  2. Don’t ask, just do. Asking questions like “what can I do?” ends up just being awkward. Think of something to do and do it. (Ideas: bring a meal, have flowers delivered, use your Amazon account and have something delivered anonymously to their doorstep, etc.)
  3. There are no right words to speak in a time of grief, so don’t try. Saying that you are praying or that you care is enough.
  4. Don’t stop relating in normal ways. Exercise discernment, but you asking them for help or advice might be more therapeutic and healing than you might realize.
  5. Be available. Grieving is dark but grieving alone is darker.

What if 2017?

Sometimes it feels like to live is to hurt.

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One cold December morning, there’s an ambulance at the neighbor’s house, and then the coroner’s van. All of this just a week before Christmas, and it wasn’t just someone in the world who overdosed on drugs, it was my neighbor.

They had just moved in a couple houses up the street. We hadn’t met yet.

Overdose happens all the time. They’re calling it a heroin epidemic.

His fourteen-year-old son woke up to the alarm beeping and he ran to find his Dad, because they would be late.

He ended up calling 911.

The ambulance came and then the coroner, and that cold December morning, that motherless boy’s world fell apart.

Sometimes it feels like living is hurting. 

You can shelter yourself from the hurt pretty good, if you want too. Live safe. Happily exist.

Let me ask you something. When do you start caring about something? When it personally affects you?

I get it. Me too.

But what if we chose to break that pattern?

What if we decided to reach out to our neighbors before tragedy strikes?

What if we decided to make the opportunity perfect, instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity?

What if we made up our minds to stop seeing the rise in drug abuse as somebody else problem?

What if the killing of innocent children broke our hearts every time we looked at our child?

What if we let it make us uncomfortable that 20-30 million slaves existed in the world today?

What if we decided to forfeit getting supper out for one night, to sponsor a poor, underprivileged child for a month? (It’s roughly about the same price.)

What if we let it bother us that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before age eighteen?

What if we started seeing faces for every statistic that is spouted off?

What if we chose to care?

Because you know it’s a choice.

Your choice.

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I started running this year. I woke up on Mother’s Day 2016 and I told my husband that I had ten weeks to go from not-running-at-all to running a 5K, and nothing was going to stop me.

Because doggone it, I knew what it was like to do life in the NICU and I had been blessed significantly through the ministry of Gradys Decision.

I was personally affected, so I started to care.

And that makes sense, right? Awareness grows significantly through personal experience. That’s a part of life and it’s okay to an extent.

But I’m just going to tell it to you straight.

It’s also a really selfish way to live.

It took my entire world getting ripped out from under my feet, to see how sheltered of a life I had chosen to live.

Get this part.

I chose the things I cared about, from how things personally affected me

Let this overwhelm you. It needs too.

You can keep on living your safe little life taking care of your world and be lost, or?

You can lose your life for the sake of the Gospel and be found. 

Stop putting your time in – at the soup kitchen, at the pregnancy center, at the youth outreach, at your local church, you fill in the blank. Put your life in – all in – for Jesus – right where you are.

To love your neighbor as yourself is not figurative.

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And remember – Jesus saves.

I’ve heard people talk about how there’s just no way we can effectively care about all the needs of the world and how coming to understand this has been so empowering.

What if we laid aside our rational effectiveness and put our life all- in, wherever we are, whatever it takes – and were empowered to care for all the people and all the issues of the world, in all the ways that we are called in our today, knowing the reality that it’s JESUS who saves.

So today, from my little house on the hill, I can sign a petition for refugees and pray for the humans being trafficked and give baby clothes to the pregnancy center and bake a pie for my neighbor and I can most importantly ask God to prepare my heart to say an unequivocal YES to love. 

What if 2017 was the year?

The year to care – about all the issues in the world.

The year to let our schedules be interrupted by others.

The year for our hearts to be broken by the ugliness of our own sin.

The year to be present with the poor, compassionate for the addict, concerned for justice, and consumed with love.

The year to BE the gift to everyone we meet.

Let’s do this. #whatif2017


 

——— > check out TOP PICKS, for some more media/literature/resource recommendations from us!

Color the Walls with Love

She is just three weeks younger than our Vaeh, the squirming, wriggling bundle in my arms. Waves lap the shore and I walk, bounce, and her movements settle into stillness as her eyelids droop shut.

“Moooommmmy!” I hear him shout from the distance, where he plays with his friends and their mommies. I watch him drop his yellow shovel and start running. “Mommy?” I hear the question in his voice.

He has been possessive of me and his Daddy since Vaeh left. Everyday he asks me where I am, a multitude of times and often frantically, the minute I am out of his sight.

Keeping tabs on Mom, again. I think as his little legs sprint towards me. “Mommy, you got Vae back!” He shouts with such a big smile.

I choke on my own breath. Shake my head no and watch his smile disappear. “Mommy, you got Vae?” He tips his head to the side, a hopeful glint in his brown eyes.

“No, Cub, no.” It’s all I can say.

He makes no more comment…just turns and runs back to play.

Every couple of days, at random times and random places, he talks about her. He announces to his new friend that he has a baby sister. He asks me when she’s coming back. One day he sits on the couch and says that he wants to “huggle” Vae. “Re-mem-ber, Mom?” He says, “I huggle Vae. I hold her.”

And every time, I feel this jolt in my heart.

The family that was will always be and will be no more.

If that makes any sense.

I am pouring myself into work, painting nine hour days and staying up till midnight to clean my dirty house and working seven hours in the sun to mulch my flowerbeds and hedges, because I have to do something or I’ll go insane.

The people that say time heals don’t know what they are talking about. The depth of loss that rends my heart grows more, every new day the sun sets. Somewhere, out there, she is growing, learning, experiencing, living – without me. Without us.

And I cannot tell you in words how deep a chasm that cuts through my heart.

Everyone else is moving forward in their lives and I am hanging on for dear life trying to function. I meet new people who ask me how many kids I have and I tell them one, because it’s just too complicated otherwise, but that feels like such a betrayal.

My friends talk about their babies and I am left to listen and wish that I could share about all the ways my baby girl is growing.

I look into my son’s charming, kind eyes and feel sad for him that he does not have his sister he loved so much. LeoandNevaeh

I feel lost in my own skin, like I don’t know what to do, how to be, or even who I am. If I were really honest, I would tell you that I feel like someone cut my heart out and sent it away.

This is the very real truth about where I am.

And if I could tell you one thing, from this place I find myself today? I would tell you to color the walls with love.

Say yes to serving your neighbor when it’s inconvenient for you. Pick up the phone and call that friend it’s been so long since you chatted. Give more, keep less. Love the least of these. Let your heart bond with that little baby, whether you have him for one month or eighteen years.  Brush your daughter’s hair extra long and sing with your little boy extra loud. Bring brownies to the old man down the road and smile at every single person that you meet. Be a friend to everyone. Meet no strangers and have no enemies. Look at no man with condemnation, but extend a hand of grace to serve,

Pick up your paintbrush – whatever yours looks like – and paint. Make a picture, tell a story, and leave a legacy.

Everywhere you go.

And we will not be the perfect or the put-togethers, but we will  persevere.

Because we are partakers of the grace of Jesus Christ, and He who began a good work in us, will bring it to completion. 

Stop waiting for enough time, enough money, and enough resources and go embrace the sufficient grace to be brave enough to color the walls with love.

 

Why You Should Hang On, Hopeful

I strained to see straight, hands anxiously gripped the steering wheel between swiping at tears. “Lord, have mercy.” I poured out my heart to the wide-open, early morning sky.

Sometimes it is too much.

I didn’t ask for this.

Life is heavy. Heavy with pain, pale with uncertainty.

There is no emptiness here. Life is full up and teeming over, no one is asking for seconds and hope is but a thin shadow on the wall shrinking away the closer you get.

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I know what it is to live here.

Life laced with anguish, praying “No, God, no. Please.”

Wishing you could rewind the day, the phone call, the news, the reality…wishing that rewinding would somehow erase it all. Praying beggar prayers, knowing that no matter how hard I pray, the ache won’t disappear.

This is real life and in real life, sometimes you have to just dig in your heels and plunge forward, straight into the thick of the angst.

Sometimes fiercely believing in redemption is simply not enough. 

“From the end of the earth, I call to you…” I turned the corner, right there by the half-frozen creek bed edged with snow-covered trees. The sun hit the windshield and glared, blinding rays of early morning gold. I hit the brakes, pulled down the visor and those words flashed through my mind, me swiping at tears and peering ahead.

“From the end of the earth I call to you, God. From the end of the earth…” I paused, trying to come up with the rest of the verse. “From the end of the earth, I call to you…when my heart’s overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

 Sometimes your life unravels. Somebody hit pause in a rather forlorn place in the story and the pause button got stuck.

Maybe you know what I mean?

Sometimes there ain’t nothing else left to do.

So you keep on making supper and washing windows and tackling projects and making lists and going to church and changing your son’s diapers. You keep on smiling and singing and laughing. You keep on doing the next thing and the next thing and the next. You try to write – that one thing you love doing – but the words stick and nothing flows and what is there even to write about anyways? You try and you manage to spin a few random posts, but the blog is really just falling apart. And the most startling aspect is that you don’t know if you even care.

Does breathing equal living? You think about that a time or two, between laundry loads and scheduling conflicts.

Forget supper…you don’t know what’s going on with your family, what’s happening in your church, what’s going on with the club ministry.

And this feeling of being stuck at pause is lasting for months not days. You wish there was a conclusion you could come too, so you could write the blog titled “What to Do When You Feel Stuck”, but instead you sit writing the blog you want to call, “Help, I’m Stuck”.

I cry out to God.

I cry out to God.

I cry out to God.

He says nothing. The air is full of the silence. How can emptiness feel so very full anyways?

God says nothing, and it feels like I cry from the ends of the earth.

And I wait and I wait and I wait.

I sit in the silence and I wait for His reply.

It has not come.

And the only thing I am sure of when I feel stuck?

He will come.

So I’m telling you that I don’t have the answers and I can’t see the way, but I’ll tell you what I do when I feel stuck –

I hang on, hopeful.

Because my Redeemer lives.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” – Philippians 1:6

Why the Only Thing You Have to Offer is Jesus

“Though JESUS has the moral authority to CONDEMN, He

DOESN’T.”

– Jen Hatmaker

      So there was this whole fiasco about yoga pants. People arguing over an article of clothing. It was in the news and it was all over the Internet. Whether Veronica Partridge intended to hit a nerve or not, when she shared her story of coming to a decision about not publicly wearing leggings, she did.

      It exploded from there, to the point that Dale and Veronica Partridge ended up on Good Morning America to talk about Veronica’s controversial blog post on leggings. I appreciated this article, by Ashley Dickens, which made this crucial point:

“What is infinitely more concerning to me…is the massive attention that it has received from the Christian community. This is just one in a series of questionable “issues” that American Christians have rallied around. Whether it’s yoga pants or an unsuspecting Target clerk wishing us a “Happy Holiday”, we have become notorious for clutching our collective pearls and hotly debating “issues” that frankly, don’t need to be debated…Here’s the thing, friends: there are far weightier matters at stake than leggings or the “war” on Christmas. Sometimes, I fear that we have become so consumed with our sanitized, insulated lives, that we have all but forgotten that there are actual, literal wars being fought all over the world. 

     I can appreciate Veronica Partridge’s testimony about leggings. When I read her post, I am struck by her submission to Christ, a submission that enabled her to respond to His promptings in her heart and publicly share her story. I doubt she had an inkling of how the world would respond.

     I am equally as compelled when I read Ashley Dickens response – a response not directed at Veronica Partridge, but rather at the Christian world debating an issue of clothing.

     So there was this whole fiasco about yoga pants and I keep thinking about condemnation, so I look it up. You know what the first verse is that pops up in my study?

“For GOD sent not His Son to the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

– John 3:17

      Sin condemns us. The Word of God says that the wages of sin – the reward of sin – is death. We are condemned already (John 3:18) and God looks down and He reaches out –

– and this next part is the crucial part you can’t miss –

       God looks down and He reaches out and He calls us out of the condemnation of sin into the commission of righteousness.

      Jesus looked at the adulteress and said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) This is where Jen Hatmaker says, “Jesus has the moral authority to condemn, and he doesn’t.” Jesus was the only one who COULD throw a stone and instead He extended mercy.

      This isn’t about yoga pants or making your own clothes or whether or not you have a garden or homeschooling or whether or not you vaccinate or you fill in the blank.

       This is about stopping ourselves and asking the question, Am I calling others to a commission of righteousness?

       We are disgusted with a Christianity that calls people to nothing and in our reaction we have fallen into the ditch on the other side of the road that calls people to ourselves.

        May God forgive us. It’s not about us. If that has become our comradery with others (they are just like us), our sense of mission, purpose or vision(if they would only see it this way), or our religion (my way or the highway), we are guilty of distorting the Truth and have become preachers of ourselves.

        I am guilty of bearing condemnation rather than Good News. I have been the one to look at the lady with the coat covered in cat-hair with disgust. I have been the one to roll my eyes at the dude who stumbles from walking on his own pants. I am guilty of judging the woman who snaps meanly at her child.

        When did I forget that my righteousness is as filthy rags? When did I forget that the only thing worthy I have to offer and give – is Jesus? When did I start thinking that the treasure in jars of clay was something to be proud of, rather than to be grateful for, as if it has anything to do with me? The all-surpassing power that we have in our jar of clay, is from God, not from us.

          How can I condemn, when the very Gospel that has delivered me, only compels?

          This is not a Gospel watered-down and confused with the ideologies and opinions of myself.

          This is a Gospel of salvation and redemption that far surpasses the conjecture of humanity.

           There are many ways to spend a life. How you spend yours is up to you. Just remember –

           you only have one life.

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And JESUS said,

“For GOD sent not His Son to the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

– John 3:17

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

– John 14:6

The Women with Numbers

She lines up next to thirteen other women. She tries to play the part but her eyes, haunted with deep, terrified emptiness, tell a different story. Ever so slightly, her shoulders tremble.

Her number is 34.

Number 34, one of many lost in a darkness she had never imagined to be possible, in all her innocent childhood play.

She was surrounded by other women and girls, some of them frightfully young, robbed of their childhood, each with a different story but a similar end. The day she saw one of the little girls ushered in to line up with the rest of the women, she fought to control herself.  She clung to the memories of childhood mirth and girlish innocence in this hell hole of abuse. The memories were her hope that maybe good really did exist in the world.  How was she surviving, the small wounded child, injured so young? Did she know that the world could be different?

Southeast Asia.

Atlanta, Georgia.

Caribbean.

Latin America.

The women with numbers live the world over, some of them right down your street, in your neighborhood.

Some of them are forty. Some are twenty-five. Some are eighteen. Some are nine.

They are women trafficked by insidious men who profit from the pain of the innocent. They are real women with real names and real stories who live in hell everyday of their lives.

I sit in my comfortable dining room staring at my Toshiba computer screen, and I’m asking myself how much I care about the fact that somewhere in this world, somewhere in my country, which is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, there are women and girls under ten lining up for potential clients, wearing a number.

“Sitting in the air-conditioned complex discussing Christian theology as it applied to relationships, marriage, family and employment practices was all very nice. In the light of what I had seen during the week, however, such debate and discourse seemed empty and devoid of any authenticity because there was no involvement on behalf of those most enslaved and oppressed within their own communities.” – Daniel Walker, God in a Brothel, page 131 

I know we can’t save everyone. I know there’s thousands of pressing needs and urgent issues that cry out for redemption and I know that we can’t individually meet all those needs and address all those issues.

It is true. We cannot be the savior of the world.

But what would happen, if the Body of Christ rose up in the power of THE Savior of this world and stood against the depraved evil of mankind and defended the innocent and recognized that as long as they claimed His name, they inherited His mission to set the captives free? 

 “What would happen if in the face of the very worst forms of depravity and evil in the world, Christians walked in the knowledge that they are the dangerous ones and the ones to be feared?” – Daniel Walker, God in a Brothel, page 135

What would happen, if we acted upon the knowledge that we are the dangerous ones and the ones to be feared? What would happen if we stopped hiding behind manicured Christian lives and dared to storm the gates of hell itself?

What would happen, if we took the dare to be the radical brave, to stand against impossible odds, scorn and every potential criticism, to make every effort to stand up for the innocent, to reach out to the lost, to invade the darkness, to BE the light?

To do all that we can, with all that we have, with all of our might –

and trust that none of it goes wasted.

All that is spent and given for Him is used by Him.

What if we lived as if we believed that?

I preach this to myself and I dare to speak it to you.

Because somewhere, the women with numbers are swallowed in a darkness that only His light can infiltrate.

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RESOURCES

http://www.nvader.org

http://www.enditmovement.com

http://www.ijm.org

http://www.thea21campaign.org

 

 

 

Because He Lives

I’m reaching in the coat closet, trying to snap shut the camera bag, when I smack my forehead right into the door jam.

I smack my head right where my scar is on my left temple, the blemish from my near-fatal skating accident.

My head throbs.

It always does smart a little harder if I bump up against my scar.

But what do you do when your head aches from  life?

That’s what I really want to know.

It’s Passion week and I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus and theology as a simple stay-at-home girl and what it means to celebrate The Resurrection.

And I take these three boys to the zoo with my sister and her kids. IMG_5559 IMG_5562 IMG_5545

It’s a whole lot of crazy fun, and me breathing deep and slow when I have to remind my preschoolers not to run ahead for the five.hundredth.time. I wonder a few times why I thought I could handle an 8-month-old in the stroller, an adventurous four-year-old and an inquisitive three-year-old single-handedly.

We make quite the scene in the bathroom cheering for the boy who is potty-training and reprimanding the other boy flinging open the stall door and then we gallavant from one animal to the next laughing and scolding and talking.

And it’s all worth it for the wonder.

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We got back from the zoo, wind-blown and sunned and entirely exhausted and I smacked my head so hard it throbbed all evening, the same evening the left sink started backing up every time I tried to drain the right side of the sink.

The whole kitchen stinking and the drain spewing particles of who-knows-what – the same sink my husband redid all the plumbing for only six months ago.

And the baby tired of a long day with restless naps, so he whined.

My head throbbed.

The sink threw up.

Suddenly it was ten o’clock and my rigid body climbed between sheets, tense nerves and pounding headache.

I’m all irritation. Don’t touch me, don’t talk to me, don’t move.

I’m all irritation and I’m crying.

I’m crying because tomorrow is Good Friday and I know exactly what I need.

I’m a ball of nerves and frustration and I know it’s just a sink but I’m kind of mad at God.

At the same time as knowing that God is exactly what I need.

What we all – the broken, irritable, frustrated, imperfect people – need.

We all need to taste His broken body to know His redemption, because Good Friday is meaningless without Easter Sunday and Easter Sunday wouldn’t exist without Good Friday.

I’m frustrated most because I don’t know how to bring all this earthly mess to God.

It’s the wonder of a child that makes it clear to me.

I stare long at the picture of my son on his first carousel ride, mouth wide open and eyes all sparkling. Sheer delight.

We writhe through frustrations and wrestle with the complexities of our beautiful, infuriating lives – there’s so much pain in the world and so much wrong with this age and the ugliness of our own humanity – and we debate theology and argue over varying interpretations of Scripture, and there I am staring long at the picture of my son on his first carousel ride.

And Jesus said?

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

It’s the child wonder that gets me and brings me to this fresh knowing.

With all our grown-up knowledge and our busy adult lives  and our ever-expanding network of relationships, we’re caught-up in our mature complexities starving for God.

And the only way forward, is to become like a child.

I stare at the picture of my son, wide with wonder, and I ask God for the foresight of a child.

Because children see things for how they are and we can only enter the kingdom of heaven when we become like a child.

So our sinks throw-up junk and we question if we need to replace all the plumbing in our house, and His body suffers physical afflictions from headaches to parasites in our bloodstream to cancer, and we struggle to find purpose in the mundane of our day-to-day, and the child of God kneels and waits in expectation, because the child of God sees and knows  that redemption is now.

We believe and we behold the wonder. 

All things becoming new in Christ.

Because He lives.

{Passion Week} Theology of a Commoner

I don’t really know how to make sense of it.

The intellectual conversations and the scholarly terminology that frame-up theology to feel so-out-of-reach.

I’m just a commoner.

I learn fast and I try hard and I think there’s a small part of me that might be erudite.

But at the end of the day, beyond learning the definition of soteriology and having a dialogue of grace (conversations I very much enjoy from time to time), at the end of the day, I’m an ordinary commoner and what is doctrine without shoe leather?

Because doctrine is not just a set of beliefs taught, it is a set of beliefs held

We can talk salvation, but that doesn’t make us saved.

There is lip service and there is life service. 

The  one matters little if the other doesn’t exist.

Words matter, but not more than how you live your life.

Doctrinal words don’t necessarily equal a doctrinal life, but a doctrinal life will have a doctrinal tongue.IMG_7194

And what is a doctrinal life, unless it has seen the Cross?

Two slabs of wood, roughly hewn together, the tree upon which a Man hung and died.

To pay my debt.

Can we be saved, unless we pick up this Cross?

What is salvation, outside of Christ?

Our soteriology is but mental assent, unless it is rooted in Jesus the Truth.

So many ideas and opinions anymore, and the common man feels out-of-place in the discussion of theology, but when Thomas asked Jesus how to know the way? Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

 

The first verse I ever memorized, after John 3:16, was from the heavy book of Romans. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The defining moment in the destiny of my life was the moment in which I saw the Cross for what it was – the bloody instrument of torture upon which the body of Christ was ravaged, to pay a debt He did not owe.

No credentials are needed to have this experience. To know that LoveIMG_4859

And if we heed the words of the Man who gave His life for us, every debate over the doctrine of salvation is nullified.

The Gospel is not simplistic, but it is simple.

For God?

His language is a dialect every heart can understand. 

And that, is the glory of the Cross.

{Passion Week} And it’s Monday

My fingers push the red dough into the strawberry form and I push it tight and pop out one imperfect Play-Doh strawberry.

He’s pushing brown dough into the sandwich bread form, talking the whole time about how he’s making this Play-Doh food. I’m only half-listening.

It’s Passion Week, the Monday before Easter Sunday, and I’m not sure I even know what that means in my life – or what it should?

How do you reflect on the violent death of the perfect Son of God, who came and allowed Himself to be brutally killed, to bear my sin and my shame in His faultless body?

It’s Monday, with red and brown Play-Doh, and homemade granola bars, and lots of laundry, and an 8-month-old boy crawling around the house in his cloth diaper pulling dining room chairs onto his head. laundry playdoh Kylemakinggranolabars

And it’s Monday, the first day of Passion week, and everything in my life feels ordinarily unholy.

At first glance.

When the baby wakes up from his morning nap, I put jackets on the boys and I buckle them into the bike carriage and off we go.

I’m pedaling and pulling an estimated seventy-five extra pounds and I’m cycling really slow.

But the little men are happy and I have time to think about my life making Play-Doh strawberries and folding stacks of laundry and believing in a Jesus who died but rose again. 

I celebrate His birth because His birth was the sacred advent, but I stake my whole life on His glorious Resurrection because His resurrection is the pinnacle of all hope.

Everything in my life feels ordinarily unholy, but because my Savior walked out of the tomb, defying death, I believe in resurrection.

Not just the Resurrection, but the resurrection of my one, small, common life –

to be something holy, amazing, and profound.  

Because small lives lived ordinary, have extraordinary purpose in the Kingdom of God. 

Because the God of the Kingdom is a God who uses Play-Doh strawberries and baskets of laundry and little 8-month old babies in cloth diapers to preach the reality of the Gospel.

 

 

 

 

The Glory of Suffering

Her eyes are deep pools, sad and questioning. She came, walking light and carefree, laughing about nothing and everything with the abandon of a fifteen-year-old girl.

Who knows what triggered her silent withdrawal?

But there she sat, head buried in folded arms resting on the table, forlorn and defeated.

I rub her shoulders, “You ok?”

The shake of her head is slow but there’s no mistaking it. She shrugs. “Not really,” she whispers.

I keep rubbing. “You wanna talk?”

“No,” She rests her chin on her hands and I watch the muscles in her face, working to keep back the water rising to the surface, threatening to spill over.

“C’mon, let’s go in the other room…” I squeeze her shoulder.

“No,” She insists, shaking her head a little more emphatically.

I gently persist, “C’mon, girl.”

We walk to the other room and sit and the tears spill over and drip off her nose and I just hug her tight.

Sometimes we all just need a hug.

“You want to tell me what’s bugging you?”

She’s quiet.

“Are you missing your dad?” I know I hit the nail on the head with that question.

“I know God is real. But where is He, Miss Renee?” She lifts her head and her look is challenging. “I pray and I ask Him to help me and I keep believing, but I feel alone. I don’t even want to keep living sometimes it hurts so bad. I won’t commit suicide, I just won’t, but I think about it.”

Sometimes there are no words. What do you say to a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her father completely unexpectedly?

That unsuspecting spring day, he’d gone to the ER for random, questionable pain.

He never came back.

“I never really said good-bye, Miss Renee,” She is sobbing now, “Do you know how bad that hurts?”

I pull her close and keep rubbing her tight shoulders.

Her dad had died weeks after returning home, after a year away. There had been counseling for him and his wife and a lot of hard, hard work. And then he’d returned. Home to be the father and husband he really wanted to be, with God’s help.

“Will I ever understand why?” Her defenses have crumbled and my heart feels shredded by her grief.

“I wish I had good answers…answers that I knew would make you instantly feel better,” I pause. “But I’m not going to pretend with you. I don’t.”

She wipes her nose and nods her head. She’s old enough – been through enough – to get that.

“You know Job?”

Yeah, she nods her head, she knows about Job.

“Job lost everything. Everything. Do you know how God answered Job’s questioning?”

She shakes her head slow, “Not really.”

“Let me read it to you:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

I read a couple of chapters. “Why do you think God was saying all this to Job?”IMG_0023IMG_9992

The tears have slowed and she’s quiet. She’s thinking.

“Why did God say, “Where were you?” I press and I can see her pressing into the holy Words, thinking.

“Maybe…” She hesitates, “I don’t know…it seems like God is saying how great He is.” Her voice is soft.

“Yeah.” I’m proud of her. This girl with the short, thick hair and the quick laughter and the round eyes. “It was kind of like God was saying, “Job, I made you. Why do you ask me where I am, Job? I never left you. And Job? Job, nothing happens that I don’t see. I am the Creator. I have not forgotten you.”

Sometimes there are no answers. No formulas. And sometimes the best doctrines on suffering fall short. Everyone sits in Sunday School and tries to talk about what it means to suffer and why we suffer and everyone ends up saying almost-the-same-thing in about twenty different ways.

And maybe the question we should be asking is not “Why do I suffer?” Maybe we should be asking, “Why don’t I suffer more?”IMG_9318

This is the entitlement age.

Where people who don’t work have more {government} money to spend on food than the man working hard at the layman’s job. And everyone and their brother, including everyone who really can’t afford it, has a smart phone and cable. This is the age of working the system.

We’ll fight for every right that we determine we should have, except when it hurts.

Then we cringe and balk. We deserve so much more.

But the truth? We don’t really deserve anything.

And everything we have is a gift, on-loan from our Creator. He is gracious. He is grace.

John Piper, he said something once about Christianity being more about resolution than mere consolation.

The entitlement-people see being saved as being “safe”, so when bad stuff happens, we start shaking our fist at God, saying, “How could you let this happen?” The submitted ask questions too, but they ask them to know Him, not demand for more or better.

Elisabeth Elliot said,

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” 

So this girl I know, has had her personal encounter with the cross and she has suffered a deep loss. She feels alone sometimes, like even God has left her, and she asks God lots of questions, but she presses in deeper to know.

And sometimes, that is all we can do.

“It’s okay to ask God ‘why?’ He doesn’t mind. You won’t always get an answer, but don’t get mad. God hasn’t moved an inch, girl. Sometimes He might feel far away, but don’t be fooled. Push forward in the dark times, girl. Press in.”

I don’t have good doctrine for why fifteen-year-old-girls have to lose their daddy whom they have recently been restored to relationship with. It feels every centimeter as cruel as it sounds. I have firsthand seen this pain.

I don’t know what to tell the barren woman who sees the abortion statistics and the faces of wounded children bound from her with governmental red-tape. I fill these shoes too.

I don’t have words for the new mother who is clawing at freshly turned earth, for the baby that died so young, in the middle of his sleep. A senseless death, a piercing loss, the emptiest of empty.

But if I could say anything to the anguished heart?

God hasn’t moved an inch. 

He is present. With you.

The glory of suffering is that every second of our misery is a moment of restoration.

Redemption is happening now.

God, the Creator, is still the Creator.

And I promise you, He is creating a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.

 Press in. Press on.