I sit and I intently ponder
mind focused and filled with wondering
when, where, how, and why
did life become so parched and dry?
So empty of any depth or meaning
filled with loud, judgmental screaming.
Shouts of “justice” and “my rights”
verbal outbursts, tantrums, fights
all while claiming to be seeking
peace and harmony
fairness and equality
when in actuality
The order of the day has become
division and strife.
No regard for any life
save our own – me and mine.
Don’t disagree with me this time
or I’ll unload my every thought,
feeling, and selfish opinion all over you and yours.
Hiding behind computer screens
phones and social media scenes
fingers clicking furiously
to rip apart right from the seams
anyone who dares to disagree
or have individual thoughts, unique perspective,
or a mind that thinks differently, no matter how refective.
What an offensive
The “causes” of the conflicted day:
marriage for the straight or gay,
exposed nipples for baby’s meal
Are leggings real
Black lives matter.
Blue lives matter.
Lions and elephants and dog lives matter.
All lives matter.
Except of course
those that haven’t left the source
of sustenance that is their mother’s womb.
They don’t matter til they’ve crossed into the room
caught by a doc
and uttering that first crying wail.
Don’t even go there.
Refugees and aliens
Open the borders. Shut them again!
They’re dying, and starving, and being killed.
But they’ll come into our country and steal
our benefits, our jobs
Do we give it up that easily?
Fly the colored rainbow flag.
Stars and bars
No that one’s bad
Why? Because “I said” it is
since one man wore it when he did
My cause is greater than your own.
My voice is louder
passion prouder and
Damn it, I. Am. Right.
Is this what we have become?
People who scream
riot and ream
anyone and everyone over the coals
who dares to oppose
our singular views?
Closed-minded, open-mouthed expectations of compliance
with nothing but selfish reliance
on platforms that are so wrapped
in politics or personal agendas
that we’ve forgotten how to live?
How to love?
How to be simply
And allow others to be the same…
When did our hearts become so hard?
When did we lose our souls?
We must hit our knees. Get on our face.
Crawl into the secret place
where we can quietly
weepingly listen, and plead
for mercy from the One Whose bleeding
hands and feet and sword pierced side
spirit surrendered died
for every freedom and hand-crafted life
that you are targeting with strife
and vilifying accusations
Can we extend our hardened wounded souls
out to the Father to be made whole?
And cry compassionate tears for those
who are hurting
for someone to affirm that they belong.
Allow His love our hearts to pierce
and His eyes to be ours with grace so fiercely
extended to everyone bought by His death.
That bear His warm life-giving breath.
His absolute and undeserved grace.
Just as we do.
passionately pray that we can truly repent and
image, by Cheppy Japz, found at: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/empty-soul-cheppy-japz.html
Recently we spent a week away to get a break from the stress and struggles of work/life. We had no wifi while on vacation, and perhaps that was a good thing. What I was able to see on my newsfeed – at random moments and locations during the week – made me sad and frustrated.
So much dissension. So much division. So much immaturity and selfishness.
With all of the controversy surrounding flags and gay marriage this past week It seems that, if someone disagrees with another person’s opinion/choices/convictions, then they are “hateful”, “stupid”, “prejudiced”, and to be immediately unfriended. Really?
As has been so prevalent of late, it seems that if one person flies a flag according to the heritage they’ve learned – and another sees it as a hurtful reminder of things or a symbol of division – then those two individuals cannot ever abide in the same “space” as friends, family, or comrades. The ONLY possible explanation is that one or the other is filled with hatred, bigotry, and evil.
Or if one agrees with the Supreme Court decision – and another does not – then those two individuals also cannot possibly occupy the same “space”, the same family, or the same circle of friends. One or the other of them MUST have a heart filled with spite, ugliness, and (again) hatred.
So let me make sure I’ve got this right. You cannot rightly hold a differing opinion from another person in your life. It can’t be rationally discussed. The differences can’t be reasonably heard. No agreement, compromise, or even agreement-to-disagree can be reached. Having different opinions causes such a breach in the relationship that it cannot be overcome – and the relationship is set aside because someone doesn’t think, act, believe, speak, just like you do. Is that how it is?
What a very boring, predictable, immature, and narrow-minded life that thought process dictates.
To surround oneself with only those who are a mirror image is to design a life void of creativity, challenge, and critical thinking. To only be around those who think and act as we do is to stifle any chance for growth or increasing in maturity. To demand that those you know be no different… hold no different opinion/conviction… and to characterize them with unkind and hateful labels, if they dare to think differently, is arrogant and prideful.
When you have walked every step that someone else has walked, and you have heard – and really listened to – the experiences, learnings, and cultural biases that have brought them their convictions and opinions, then, and only then, can you begin to understand whether someone’s heart is truly evil and knowingly full of hatred. I can guarantee that, the majority of the time, that is not the case.
However it’s much easier to spew venom towards someone who disagrees with us than it is to have REAL, HONEST give-and-take conversation in order to learn from one another.
Last time I checked it was entirely possible to disagree with someone’s lifestyle, choices, or thoughts and still love that person and/or treat them with respect and dignity as a God-created human being. If you find that isn’t possible, no matter which side of an issue you stand upon, perhaps a SELF-examination is needed.
Time to grow up.
As the internet is overrun with the story of the Duggar family’s skeletons in the closet, and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) coming out, the opinions and commentaries are on the verge of “breaking” the internet. Opinions range from staunch defense of the Duggar Family or Jenner’s choices, to absolute outrage about the same. There are those who attribute every perceived failure to Obama and the Democrats – or to Conservatives and Republicans (which, btw, are not one in the same). Others cannot voice their opinion without it being done via creating an argument that blames the issue on religion and either the belief in God, or the lack thereof. Still others seem to have lost all sense of decorum, dignity, respect for others, or even self-respect and spew their thoughts with vile words, profanity, and crass indifference to the feelings of any family members who may be hurt, or offended, by their damaging words. Disagreeing with “popular opinion” earns the labels of “hate mongers” or “bigot”, “Intolerant” or “ignorant”.
It’s a disturbing trend. A quick and violent shove towards mind-numbing same-ness and lack of sufferance for those who dare to be different – or at least those who dare to express their opinions that differ from the supposedly moral, or immoral, majority.
Can we put our big girl/boy britches on and grow up?!
Disagreement with an opinion, no matter how popular that opinion, does not equal “hate speech” in an intelligent and thinking society. Simply disagreeing with someone – or their lifestyle – does not indicate hatred or evil. It is entirely possible to disagree, even vehemently, yet continue to treat one another with civility, respect, dignity, and fierce love.
This, my friends, is why we were designed with a mind, will, and emotions rather than created as clones of one another all marching in the same direction and step. What would be the point and purpose?
Will we always agree? Of course not.
Should we be free to express our varying opinions? With respect, kindness, and appropriateness – absolutely.
Will we convince others to agree with our feelings? At times we may.
When someone disagrees with us, and will never agree with us, is this a sign of an evil heart or villainous motives? Come on. Really?
And this one is specifically for those who claim “Christ-follower”….
Is it our responsibility to condemn others “outside the faith”, convince them of perceived wrongs, and convict them in the courts of our minds and social media feeds? No. It is not.
It is our responsibility to point them to the heart of Christ through our own actions, words, faith, and evident love. The rest is between them and their Father, God.
Why intolerantly crying for tolerance – from either side of the opinion – when what we really want is for everyone to think, act, and be as we are or they’re wrong, Wrong, WRONG?
For the sake of intelligent thought and growing up, let’s give room for mature and civil disagreement without cutting people off, arrogantly “unfriending” those who have other opinions, calling names, and resorting to overall petty immature arguments.
PS Christ-followers: (Holding fellow Christ-followers accountable to scripture is another thing entirely. We’d better be doing that – with all love and humility – or we can’t truly love one another well)
There used to be a show on television called To Tell The Truth. Contestants would hear the stories of 3 people, all using the same name, and would have to guess which of the 3 was “the real thing”. The host, Bob Collyer, would then say “Would the real ……. please stand up!?” And the suspense would build as each would pretend to stand until, finally, the REAL character would stand to the delight of whichever contestant – and television viewers – had guessed correctly. Seems things may not have changed so much these days.
I often read and hear comments about how people are not “real” on Facebook. There are frequent conversations about how social media sites are used as finely fabricated facades where life, with all of it’s reality and ugliness, can be hidden behind sweet sentiments, splendidly sublime statuses, and skillfully spoken scriptures. The REAL character never even has to appear. It’s always a guessing game for the reader or follower, wondering what’s true and what’s not.
Social media may, indeed, present the perfect opportunity to “fake it ’til you make it”. It’s the ideal place to post only words that will present the exact image you’ve always wanted. Paint the picture of a peaceful and loving, calm, spiritual life where the wind doesn’t blow, you’re never caught in a storm, and your relationships are love-story worthy. Roadblocks? What the heck are those? They don’t exist in the smooth journey that is your social media universe on display. After all, only those who are closest to you will know if you’re presenting a glossier picture than reality. Though they may call you out, it’s typically not in a public forum like Facebook. And if it is, you have the power to hide it from your timeline, delete their comments, or – if it’s really critical to save face – unfriend or block them. Social media can, indeed, be the superb symposium to be who you’ve always dreamed of being through substantial and stylishly stated scripts.
But why on earth is that even a thing?
In my not so humble opinion, that is just too much work. Putting on airs. Hiding behind fake personas. Pretending to be always loving. Always cheery. Always mature. Always spiritual. With the perfect family… husband… job… budget… life… church… In other words, lying. Publicly. Spreading a bald-faced, straight-up, contrived-behind-the-computer lie by presenting only the “good” parts of life.
That’s called a half-truth. Aka: A lie.
So let’s get real. Or rather, let ME get real for a few minutes and words. (Because sometimes the best example we can use is ourselves.)
Yes, I post scriptures on my timeline. I post kudos and prayers, good thoughts and feel good stories, inspirational quotes and funny anecdotes about my Shmexy and my kids. I post it all. And I have a strong conviction about everything that is posted under my name. I enjoy being able to connect with people this way, and giving them a little window into life with the “Ferrell fam”, or trying to inspire, teach, and lead through examples and statuses.
Does that mean that I have a cute little cookie-cutter life of bubble gum, smiley faces, and never-wavering faith? Or a life that is always filled with roses and sweet-sounding words? Psssshh. Hardly.
I’m still a flesh and blood woman who doesn’t like her many curves, forgets to brush her teeth, and wears her bras until the underwire breaks and cuts into her flesh – just to avoid spending the ridiculous amount of money required to replace them. I’ve been known to wear unflattering spandex, mismatched socks, and torn underwear… but not at the same time. (I know. My husband always tells me how very sexy that is.)
I’ve also been known to smell a pair of jeans or shirt to see if it’s wearable, because who has time to do laundry every single day? I’ve burned dinner, exploded soda cans in the freezer (just yesterday), fed the dogs cat food and the cats dog food, forgotten to clean the litter box (until a sudden “gift” in the floor somewhere reminded me), and piled up load after load of clean clothes on the pool table because I didn’t want to fold them.
There are hairballs in the corner of each step of my house because my cats are fur mongers. I walk past them and look at them disturbed, but not enough to do anything about it right at the moment. And my bathroom sink – that I fixed myself [insert applause here] can still be knocked off the cabinet because I’ve never silicone’d it down firmly.
I still pass unfair judgments on people, get road rage now and then, and eat fast food when I’m too lazy to cook – and regret it within minutes. I, quite often, talk/groan/snore/make noises when I sleep. I get angry at little things, ignore big things, and will graciously avoid conflict until it’s absolutely positively necessary… unless, of course, we’re close family. Then it’s on like Donkey Kong if I get mad at you.
I also question God, get disheartened, worry about my children, and sometimes feel quite bitter with just how God does things. I don’t always forgive well. I tend to be more affected by words than I should on occasion, and I spend too much time doing things that don’t really matter – like playing A-words or Text Twist on the computer. I’ve struggled with porn addiction in my past, am still insecure about my looks, and really have to “take a chill pill” when I am suddenly interrupted while focused – because I can be so very task-oriented.
And I’m not afraid to tell any of those things. Here, in person, or on social media. What would be the purpose of hiding them?
Romans 8:1-2 says: “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Message)
Another version says: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)
Relationship with Christ + Reprieval from Condemnation/Retribution = Release to be REAL
And Romans 8:33-38 says “The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture….I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Message)
I. Love. This.
It says “Do you think anything is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?… Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love….”
If the One Who created us and gave His life for us isn’t threatened by our angry outbursts or arrogant times, doesn’t hate us for what we struggle with, and can never be so disgusted with what we’ve done that He stops loving us, then why hide who we really are? Why hunker down behind an invisible wall, that is social media, and pretend to be something we’re not? Who are we afraid will discover the “reality of me”?
The God of the Universe already knows us. Really KNOWS us. And He won’t stop loving us. So why sweat the girl down the street who may struggle with some of the same things you do… or maybe even bigger-seeming things?
Keep posting the good things in your life! After all, scripture says to think on -meditate on – good things. (Philippians 4:8)
Don’t stop posting verses, quotes, or sayings that inspire you, minister to you, or speak loudly to your soul. Keep encouraging yourself and others with strong words of truth. Continue with the adorable photos of your kittens and kids. Just season it with “real-ness”!
Give others virtual entrance into the messy, dust-covered, rooms of your house – and heart – now and then. Authenticity is much less difficult than carrying around that shield of “superior-looking stuff” (I so wanted to use a different word there!) to make yourself look plastic-Barbie perfect. He knows the real you. Don’t you think it’s about time you allow others to?
Will the real “Me” please stand up?
When your words and actions can continue to be consistent – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when integrity follows you.
When your opinion of another remains the same – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you can be trusted with relationships.
When it isn’t necessary to play the victim role or the pity card for attention – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you are strong in character… and in internal stature.
When your personality and values do not change – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you carry yourself with authenticity.
When you no longer need to “keep up with the Jones” – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your security is not in things, and you have learned to be content.
When your convictions remain firm – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your beliefs are your own, and not wavering with the winds.
When your worship and wonder of God remains outside of Sunday mornings – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your “love relationship” is with God and not 4 walls of brick and mortar.
Who are you?
Taking no thought of who is present…… or who has walked away……..
Who are you?
God can’t – won’t – doesn’t make me sick. He cannot do so.
I’ve known good people who got sick. I’ve known not-so-good people who got sick. And I’ve known Godly people who got sick unto death.
I’ve also heard, at times, someone say “God made me sick”, God caused this for His purposes”, or “God must’ve needed another angel” when someone has died.
If I said “I hate to disagree” I would be dishonest. I don’t hate to disagree. I, very adamantly, disagree with the notion that God makes us sick or needs us in Heaven and so He causes us to suffer with agonizing symptoms and to waste away miserably and painfully with our families/friends aching as we die. That is the opposite of the heart of Christ. And Jesus – very boldly – said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”.
When Jesus walked the earth, He. Healed.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” – Matthew 4:23
“…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” – Luke 6:18-19
“but the crowds… followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:11
There are no instances where Christ made someone sick, or caused someone to be sick. None.
There are no instances where Christ caused someone’s death because God “needed them”. Matter of fact, Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up. Four. Days. Later.
AND, Elijah and Enoch simply went to be with the God of the Heavens. They weren’t stricken with a disease and painfully suffer until they died. They “went to be” with God. Moses, Methusaleh, Adam, Joseph, the list goes on of those who knew God and simply lived until they died. They lived their years of promise and their bodies “resigned” so that they could be with the God Who made them.
Nope. God doesn’t make me sick. He can’t. It would require that He go against His own character, which would make Him dishonest. And God is not able to lie. He is not capable of darkness. There is no sickness or death in Him.
Then where does sickness originate?
As Christ-followers…. actually, as human beings created in the image of God, we have an enemy. From the time that Adam and Eve were created to this day, the “enemy of our Spirit” – in other words Satan (yes, he does exist) – has sought to prevent us from drawing close to God, from trusting God, from understanding His fierce love, and from receiving His undeserved yet freely given grace. He has fought, rather warred, against mankind in an effort to keep us from what he no longer has – a relationship with and direct access to God.
And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they opened the way for sin, disobedience, disease, and death to enter into the life of every man who would follow. Sin. Darkness. Death. They all entered this, now fallen, world and were followed by natural consequences and all things “bad”.
Why did God allow it? Why were these things given entrance into the world? Because man chose. Man chose to disobey and, therefore, to allow the spirit that was contrary to God’s to come into the world.
Why does God allow good, Godly, people to suffer with sickness? I don’t know why some are supernaturally healed and others remain ill. I don’t know why some are miraculously preserved from death and others join God too early. I don’t know. And neither does anyone else.
There are some things we don’t understand. But what we should understand is (again) where Christ said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen My Father”. We should understand how the disciples continued to affect the world like Christ and they healed others in His name. They didn’t cause others to be sick. They didn’t wish sickness on anyone. They DID admonish, at times after healing someone, to go and change the habits/patterns of life or suffer consequences worse than the original sickness. However, the disciples never prayed for someone to get sick or gave them a sickness. They followed Christ’s example and healed… cured… those who were diseased.
If you believe that God caused you to be sick, or made you sick, then why ask others to pray for you to be healed? Wouldn’t that be asking God to go against Himself? Seems like a waste. Or a contradiction.
“Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
“…Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.…” – James 5:14-16
“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” – Jesus (John 5:43-44)
Ouch! How often do we “receive glory” from one another – in the form of adulation, approval, applause, affirmation and adoration – and place that “glory”, or opinion, above the opinion that Christ holds of us?
We will receive the praise, and even criticisms, of man and take it to heart, allowing it to inflate our heads or damage our souls. However, when Christ says that He loves us, we question how that is possible. After all, we KNOW ourselves. And when Christ says that we are forgiven from our past and that He “remembers our sins no more” when we repent, we refuse to receive that forgiveness and, instead, allow our minds to be tortuously haunted by the enemy of our souls who would like nothing more than for us to be running scared and beaten by guilt and shame.
OR when His Holy Spirit reminds us of things in our lives that are keeping us from drawing near to Christ – or becoming more like Him – yet friends/family/society says “Its okay”, “Its no big deal”, or the ever-popular “Its your life/body do what feels right”, we receive the “glory” from man instead of the loving admonition from God… because it’s easier, more comfortable, and MUCH more pleasing to our ears and ego.
As long as our most valuable approval comes from men then we will never, not EVER, recognize and relax in who God created us to be. Which means that we will never, not EVER, be comfortable in our own skin or with our own unique set of gifts/talents.
What a miserable way to live… constantly changing opinions, convictions, and even appearance, to avoid being beaten around the head by the ever-wavering opinions of man.
Regarding our pasts:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 139:13-16
In other words He KNOWs us better than we know ourselves
Regarding our value to Him:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
And although He KNOWs us – and everything we have ever done or said – He still sacrificed Christ for us
Regarding His love for us:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
He loves us and – despite things that we have said or done that may have wounded His heart or the hearts and lives of others – He never stops loving us.
Regarding His sacrifice for us:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED…..For by grace you have been saved through faith. And THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:4-9 (ESV)
No, we truly didn’t deserve His sacrifice. Yet He gave His own life for us – in our undeserving state – because of His great love. If we deserved it, or could earn it, then Christ’s sacrifice was for naught.
Regarding our “nows” and our futures:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
And when we receive His undeserved GRACE and FORGIVENESS, and commit our lives to following His will… not perfectly, but with the purpose of becoming like Him… then our past is no longer thought of by Him
When we open our hearts and minds to understand that Christ GAVE Himself up to one of the most painful, shameful, “senseless” deaths in order that we might recognize how very much He treasures us, what sense does it make to seek the adulation… the “glory”… of man instead of the approval of God?
And why put the words/opinions of man above the words/opinions of God – Who gave all that we might rest in who HE created us to be?
In Galatians 1:10 Paul writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Go back and read Romans 8:28-29 again…….. Seriously. Go read it…….
These 2 verses remind us that there is nothing that we can do to change how very much we are loved by Christ.
The love of man changes as quickly as the seasons and is as unstable as the winds.
The love of God never wavers.
Receive His “glory” and grace. Accept yourself how HE sees you.
Allow HIS opinion to be what governs your mind, will, emotions, actions, and speech. You may find yourself enjoying the freedom. I pray that you will. ❤
Today marked the end of one often frustrating, yet fulfilling, leg of this journey called life. Today marked the official end of the Y.A.L.E. program (Young Adult Life Enhancement) where I have worked since October 2012.
For the last 2.5 years I have worked with 18-21 year olds, most of whom were considered “youthful offenders” or “at risk youth” when they were underage. I was their Leadership and Lifeskills Teacher. I was their Case Manager. I was their “don’t come to me with the same problems over and over… CHANGE things” advisor. I was their encourager. I was their “mama”. I was their friend.
“But you can’t be a friend to your clients”, the age-old mantra says. Really? You can’t? Oh but, there are times when you must.
You see, a friend loves in spite of………. They’re not a “yes man”, agreeing with everything that you do or say in order to stay in your good graces, but a friend will tell the truth, and often disagree, even when it’s most painful to hear. A friend sees through the bravado and posturing, listens past the words, and reaches in to get to the heart of an issue. A friend lays down his/her life for others. And a true friend sticks closer than a brother.
Many of the students that I spent the last few seasons with had no brother. Many had lost family at the hands of another through street or domestic violence. Some had lost family due to their own mishandling of life and they had shoved them away with their anger, violence, or drug use. Others had lost family to mental health issues – whether the family member’s or their own – it didn’t matter, they were lost. And then there were those who still lived at home with family. Or perhaps I should restate that… there were those who still inhabited the same four walls as those who have borne the same blood yet were not safe, nurtured, or appreciated there. They had no brother. They had no real “home”.
These were the lives of our students. And so we, the staff, became their friends who stuck closer than a brother.
There were the days when we got to celebrate with a student who passed a portion of their GED – or that all important final test was completed with a pass. Days when one (or several) completed a training certification, graduated from high school, or enrolled in college or trade school – and really attended. Perhaps it was that a student handled their anger in a more appropriate way, or approached a conflict with calm but direct words instead of weapons of flesh and steel. Or when one of our students got a job, drivers license, first car, or the keys to the first place of their own. Oh the celebration! Some students would quietly stand holding evidence of their accomplishment, but the grin that was spread across their face spoke so very loudly. Other would march proudly in the door, yelling loudly for all to hear “I passed!” or “I did it!” There were always high fives, “I KNEW you could do it”s, and hugs all around. We did know they could do it. Sometimes they didn’t know.
There were also the days when we cried with our students. Like when one had to bury her child and she was but a 21-year old mother. But more often there were the days that we cried FOR our students. When a student told us – after a few days with us – that he had been sleeping in a slide outside at a local park when he left orientation each afternoon. Or when another was a victim of domestic violence yet would not let us help for fear of being “alone again”. And I won’t soon forget the 6-foot tall, strong-in-body, young man who told us he was “lost” and had no idea where to even start to change his life, tears ran down his face, and ours ran unchecked as well as we talked about options for the taking, possible solutions, and hope.
There were oh-so-fascinating days when we were able to take our students outside of a staunch and stifling setting and get them out into the world, where many of them had never been. We laughed belly laughs when a student saw a real live cow for the first time and referenced a Wrong Turn movie when we took him to the country. We huffed and puffed and then watched faces light up in wonder when we hiked The Cascades. We walked and talked about futures and dreams when we took them to RU and VT campuses – places many had only heard tale of. We played basketball, served the community, saw the Globetrotters. Our students shone like stars with their talents and service at a local Black History celebration. And we whooped and hollered, with shouts and cheers, when some conquered their fears on ziplines, high ropes, and even in canoes.
But the most heart-gripping of all were those days – and sometimes nights – that were consumed with reading and watching the news, listening to the “street gossip”, making phone call after phone call, and waiting with baited breath to see/hear if any of our students was involved in a local news stories about youth who were perpetrators of violence or wounded victims of the same. Despite every effort made, pretty regularly, we would get the word that “one of ours” was making headlines in the news, or sick, or homeless on the streets.
It was always a heartbreaking thing when these reports came. Hard to hear. Often hard to understand. Because when you pour your life into someone, you want them to grab hold of the truth that – regardless of what they’ve done, or been, in the past – there is hope for something different. Something better. You desperately want them to “get it”. You want them to understand, without question, that there is at least one “someone” who believes in them, loves them, hopes for them. And you want that understanding to empower them to change… to choose a better course that may be difficult due to unfamiliarity, yet knowing that they can handle it because they are strong.
I’ve witnessed many a changed course while working with Y.A.L.E.. Many causes for grand celebration. I can list every success with absolute joy and pride for the young men and young ladies who did, indeed, “get it” and squared their shoulders and determined they were worth – and capable of – so much more than their past.
And I’ve witnessed many who, it seems, don’t have the strength to shake off the iron grip that holds them, like the hands of a captor covering their eyes and strangling the life out of them, pulling them back into their past. It’s life and comfort for them. It’s all that they’ve known.
One of my students shot another of my students last night. He’s one who can’t quite summon the courage to escape the fingers of the grip of his past to break free into something better. Something different. For some like this young man – although the consequences will be, ultimately, much harder to live with – the security of living what they know is much easier than risking ridicule and retribution with change.
So there’s a glimpse into my season with Y.A.L.E.. Celebrations and heart-breaks. Conversations and consternations. Graduations and GEDs. Adventures and awards. Courtrooms, jail cells, and funerals.
Given the chance I might do things differently. I would be more firm – or more gentle – with some. I’d try one more home-visit in an effort to get through to someone. I’d push for more outings and adventures where our students could experience things they hadn’t before. But one thing that I couldn’t change is how much I love and believe in each and every one of those 100 that crossed my path through this job.
Did it change things for them? Some it did. Others, I may never know. But what I DO know is that love never fails. And sometime, somewhere down the road, that love that was shown will come back to mind and maybe, just maybe, it will spark something in them where they can begin to fully recognize that they are valuable, capable, believed in, and loved.
2.5 years of my life as a teacher. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.
Reviewing notes from the 2nd session of Catalyst, with Christine Caine, and my mind and heart are, again, challenged and convicted. Following is a cursory summary of things my spirit – and pen – “caught” from her passionate fire. (Direct quotes are in italics)
Christine shared her own recent and personal battle with cancer, surgery, and recovery. She talked about how, in order for her body to be strengthened following surgery, it was necessary for her to strengthen her core before proceeding with more strenuous exercises. She had been warned that, if she didn’t re-strengthen her core – and resumed running too early – her body would, eventually, collapse. She likened this to our spiritual life.
“If we haven’t strengthened our spiritual core, eventually our world will collapse.”
Matthew 22:34-40: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
“The typical ‘Christian’ is trying to serve God with a toxic heart, a wounded soul, and a tormented mind.” If we don’t allow His presence into these, the deepest places where we have been hurt and damaged [our core], then we cannot be capable leaders.
“We are a bunch of Christians running around wanting to change the world but not willing to be changed. Until we change ourselves we will never change the world.”
“My gift wouldn’t have taken me where my character couldn’t have kept me without a strong spiritual core.” In other words, character has to be developed, and God must be granted full access to the darkest places in our heart, soul, and mind, in order to be effective with the gifts that He has given.
Addressing the heart:
“You do what you want when it’s a passion. You do what you have to when it’s an obligation. Remember when serving God was a passion?”
If our leadership is about us and our satisfaction, our ego, and/or our self-fulfillment, then how does God fit into this? “If your heart is so full of yourself then there’s no room for Him.”
As Christ-followers, if we aren’t seeking Him passionately…. “If Jesus is not enough for His church then why would he be enough for the world?”
“Get off of Facebook and in the face of God!”
“Skinny jeans and tattoos do not make you a powerful leader for God. Being filled with the presence and power of God makes you a powerful leader!”
In reference to the soul:
When we prayed to receive Christ, our soul wasn’t instantly changed and all of the damage completely healed. Our soul was saved… redeemed… yet still needed (or needs) to be healed and restored. But many of us have locked God out of the very place that – when healed – can be stronger and so much more powerful.
“The pain of recovery is often more powerful than the pain of injury.”
“If we don’t allow God to ‘go in deep’ and heal the wounded places in our soul it will become infected and seep out, like [disgusting and oozing] pus, into your leadership.”
We go to church on Sundays and yet don’t allow God to change the deepest part of us. We don’t allow Him into our lives the rest of the week, so our souls are gasping for breath and life. “If we could stop surviving on church as if it’s life support then we could be the powerful and prophetic people we were called to be!”
And what about the mind?:
Romans 12:2 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Be ruthless about what goes into your mind! “Don’t ‘jump on the enemy’s train of thoughts of worry, negativity… fear.” 2 Timothy 1:7 says 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
We often lie awake at night with our mind filled with worry and fear. We forget that “My God never sleeps or slumbers! He’s always working in every situation so God’s got this. I’m gonna get some sleep!”
And when we allow the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Never Sleeping God access to the damaged places of our heart, soul, and mind then we become the called leaders that we were intended to be.
“The degree to which we are healed and free is the degree to which we can lead others to freedom. We reproduce who we are.”
Christine shared a story about her youngest daughter and how her husband is always telling their daughter that she is beautiful, smart, and called by God. Recently, she began attending school and a little boy was picking on her. He grabbed her “wubby” from her and said to her:”You’re ugly and you’re stupid!” To which she replied: “I am NOT! My Daddy says that I am……”
Whenever the enemy comes against us – whether in our mind, or through the words/actions of others – we remind ourselves of who God says we are. And we remind the enemy… “‘My DADDY says…..’ and we rebuke the lies of the enemy with what The Father says about us!”
Are there parts of your own heart, soul, and/or mind that you have not allowed God full access to? Pray. Ask Him. Listen for His response. And then take some “J.A.M. time” (Jesus-And-Me) and allow Him to peel back the layers of pain, and even shame, to discover the powerful core of you which yearns and longs for Him!
Let me spill it straight from the gut
This heart pain is like an open wound, an unchecked cut
That’s gushing and flowing, never slowing.
Dripping red into a pool of
With firm and constant iron grips
Kneading and applying pressure to the seat of affection.
Generating agitation, resurrection,
Creating discontent and dissatisfaction.
Until it becomes an urgent fervor,
a desperate desire
An aching cry for Refiner’s fire –
Hungry, yearning, burning, crying out for
More. Of. You.
So light a spark down in my soul
Fan the embers, watch it glow.
Blow It, feed it, stir it, grow it.
Breathe the breath of power and life
Upon the flame ‘til it inspires
A raging, roaring, uncontrolled,
Wildfire that cannot be contained
A passion that is contagious. Outrageous. Unashamedly gracious.
Intensely touching others with Your. Amazing. Love.
More. Of. You.