Living With the Past
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?
“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!
Ever read a scripture passage that reached into your soul a grabbed hold with an iron grip as if to say “Pay attention to me! I have something for you!”?
This past week I was reading and came across a passage like this. When the women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they encountered a man who told them “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” – Mark 16:6-7
Go and tell His disciples…. and Peter. In my mind this implied that Peter was being mentioned separately from the disciples possibly due to his sin of denying Christ 3x.
However, every Commentary that I read indicated otherwise. They all agreed that Peter was not be distinguished from the disciples, but instead was Peter was being singled out to assure that he was informed along with the other disciples… to guarantee that he was included in this report of Christ’s resurrection and His promise that He would come to them again.
Peter’s name was called out to make certain that he knew he was included in the invitation to meet with Christ once again.
I can only imagine how his heart must have skipped when his name was called. Such a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, and guilt. He had, after all, sworn and uttered curses as he denied even knowing who Christ was in the midst of the God-man’s most physically/emotionally demanding… potentially damaging… days on Earth. He had abandoned Christ. Turned his back on the Christ that he had walked with, talked with, ate with, slept beside, been taught by, and even been called by. Peter had refused to acknowledge the One Who had – with all patience and understanding – seen the potential in Peter’s strong-will, brash personality, and impulsivity.
Peter had sworn he knew no such man called “Christ”. Three. Scandalous. Times.
And yet, Peter was being called out by the same, Christ, and acknowledged as His in the presence of all the other disciples… who, most assuredly, knew of his shameful denials.
Scripture later records that Christ appeared to the disciples when they were fishing and John recognized Who was on the shore. And rather than waiting for the rest of the disciples to row there in their boat – for that would take to long – Peter jumped from the boat and began to swim to shore (is it any wonder with his impulsive nature?). He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus.
Christ waited until all the disciples were together and had shared a meal. He then called Peter’s name again. He singled him out once again in the presence of the others. Imagine… “Peter?”
Was He going to rebuke Peter for his sinful, slap in the face, spurning? Would he point out how Peter had denied Him and then, publicly, announce that he was no longer chosen to represent Christ? After all, how could he?
How could Christ, in all good conscience, allow Peter to represent Him and His cause knowing that Peter had stood before many and, cursing and swearing, joined in His ridicule and refused to acknowledge his relationship with Him ? How could the hand of God continue to anoint Peter’s life with such a blatant rejection? So many thoughts and emotions must have been leaving footprints on Peter’s mind and heart.
“Peter” “Yes, Lord?”
“Do you love me?”
Three times Christ asked if Peter loved Him. Scripture says that Peter was hurt because Christ asked him the third time. Could it have been another painful reminder of Peter’s 3 rebuffs?
“Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You”
And Christ, for the 3rd time, reaffirmed Peter’s calling to “feed My lambs”… to minister to those who are lost and hurting… to those who have no Shepherd.
“Lord, You know all things”…..
Indeed He does.
Christ knows all things. He knows that we are human. He knows that we make mistakes. He knows that we even, at times, reject or spurn His place in our life with our actions and/or words. He knows.
And yet, just like Peter, He continues to call out our name. He continues to let us know that if our heart is still trying to find Him through the dense fog of shame that can cloud our view of Him… if we are still seeking His light in the midst of our own mental and emotional darkness… if we are willing to jump out of the boat and “swim” towards Him – not waiting for things to be just right or others to come along with us… if our response is that pain-filled, guilt-ridden, cry of “Lord, you know all things. You KNOW that I love you”… then, in spite of our sin, He calls out our name and reminds us that we remain called, appointed, chosen, His.
Such marvelous Grace.
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I’ve sat this evening and pondered on the God-given, mercy-motivated, heart-full-of-love induced, grace that has been offered to me… and to you. And I have wondered…
Where could I be? Where SHOULD I be? Where would I be without it?
I could still be neck deep in the mistake-laden quicksand that has been my past. Struggling and striving to pull myself out of the muck and mire, yet also wanting to let the depths swallow me as I give up the fight with the darkness.
I should be lying stripped and marred in the dust by the side of life’s fractured and fragmented highway. Ashamed to lift my head because of the bruises and violent handprints from the times that I’ve been beaten up by the enemy.
I would be still wounded, insecure, looking for an enemy, while plodding through the day-to-day. I would be barely able to stand from the weight of rejection and fear of the self-perceived ugliness in the mirror.
If I dwelt upon my coulda, shoulda, woulda’s, I could – realistically – reasonably – relinquish hope for a joyful, purposeful, impacting existance. There would be no shame or blame in pitching a tent and deciding to resign and retire from life… if my coulda, shoulda, woulda’s were all that there was in my earth-encumbered journey.
But for the grace of God.
The God of grace observed every mistake I would make, before I existed. He had prior knowledge of what a damaged, baggage carrying, woman I would become. He was fully aware of how hard and fast I would run away from Him because I was furious at the injustice of life, unreliability of human love, and the injurious nature of ministry. And yet He saw me as precious and worthy of Him.
His heart-borne, blood-spilled, love-filled, grace opens its gates and allows me to walk through – with my head held high in spite of where I’ve been – and rest in the meadows of His forgiveness and peace. He will repair the brokenness in my bones, and the winds of His breath will restore life to my soul. If I am willing, the rivers of His Spirit will soothe my wounds and then stir me to action with the gifts and talents that HE created within me – to lead others into this place of safety. This dwelling in peace.
This… GraceLand where He is King.
Such and amazing place of grace.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:1-2
I HATE the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” – especially when it is used to placate others in tragic, or difficult, situations.
No, there is not “REASON” for everything that happens.
However, THE reason that tragic/difficult/evil things happen is because we live in a world that is the target of the enemy of God…
A world where political courtesy
has taken the place of right and moral fidelity…
Where saying “the right thing” for approval and status
has taken the place of DOING the right thing because the other person matters…
It’s a time when popularity, fame, and prosperity,
trump character, honesty, and integrity…
where Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, and Maury
capture fascinations while humanity scorns a righteous man’s story…
So yes, there’s a “reason” for all that happens. For every tragedy, every disaster. Every bad, sad, mad thing that’s occurred.
Simply put, we live in an immoral and corrupt world.
A world where faulty women and men ruled by selfish ambitions
put themselves on a pedestal over God and fellow humans.
Now, don’t get it twisted. Don’t make a mistake. Don’t under-estimate it.
The God of the Universe can take any situation, that is entrusted to Him –
given to Him,
and work in and with it.
He can “IN all things…work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. He can.
He will. Yet this doesn’t mean that He causes all things that happen to man.
He ALLOWS us to make choices. To exercise our will. To DO as we like.
We seem to forget that there are natural consequences to every choice that we make.
Perhaps instead of casually stating “everything happens for a reason”, one should stop
Perhaps, just perhaps,
the continuing deterioration of morality –
the slap on the wrist for blatant criminality –
the open acceptance of crass and obscene behaviors and words –
or the fascination with the violent, the ridiculous, the shocking, and the absurd –
could be “the reason”…
And along with that REASONable conjecture
stop and think what part YOU play in this juncture.
Self-examination and growth is much more fruitful and mature than placation.
Suitcases opened all around with clothes strewn about as if the bags had been carelessly dropped and everything had tumbled out. Clean and soiled mixed together. Wrinkled blouses and useless jackets. Ripped jeans and hemless skirts. Dirty unmentionables and odiferous socks. Mismatched Shoes. And in the midst of the mess I sat.
Unmoving. Unused. Seemingly abandoned. Void in heart.
I seemed to fit right in with the disarray that surrounded me.
Numb. Disheveled. Confused.
Legs splayed. Arms limp. Head hanging down in exhaustion and “give up”. My mind was the only thing that was moving. Rather, racing. Ever replaying mistakes and failures, words of ridiculers and critics, and images of the past.
After resting idle so long amidst the untidiness that had become my life, struggling to my feet began to seem impossible. Picking up the clutter and discarding the stained garments such an overwhelming task when thoughts echoed reruns of blame and shame day and night, casting a fog over my understanding.
And so I sat. And sat some more.
Until that still small voice that had persistently spoken from the beginning finally was heard. The whisper of goodness penetrated through the clamor of condemnation. And as my mind honed in on the words of grace, the winds of the spirit began to blow and the cloudiness began to inch away. Clarity returned… accompanied by power… and a different kind of replay resounding between my ears.
The reminder of God’s unmerited favor, His immeasurable grace, and His irrevocable call seized my attention and gave strength to my soul and soundness to my bones. And so I stood. Determined to cease the lazy-mindedness that allowed past mistakes to stun me to stagnancy. To render me immobile.
I stood and looked long and hard at the baggage around me. At the chaos I’d created, and hadn’t known how to restore to order.
I took a deep refreshing breath from His Spirit. And then I began to do away with the jumbled mess…
One soiled item at a time.
One of my best friend’s house burned this past weekend. The fire started in the rear bedroom and burned so hot that it collapsed the floor and burned everything in the basement. In the basement had been stored boxes of books that belonged to me…and books are one of the things that I absolutely treasure.
I have learned so many things from reading. In reading a book I can go places in my mind that my body may never be able to travel. Words paint pictures in my mind. I “feel” the heart of the writer when I read. And God shows me so many things – beyond the written words – in even “every day, ordinary” books… I absorb those things into my heart like a dry sponge. Words, especially written, are one of the things that speaks to the very depths of my soul. So books are a treasure to me. And now most of them were gone. Lost in a pile of charred rubble.
I went with my friend to see her home after the fire. As we stood outside and looked down through that bedroom window into what was left of the basement below, lying on top of the blackness – outside of the pools of black water – was one of the most important books in my life Heart of the Artist. It’s a book about creativity and the heart of God, worship versus performance, servanthood versus stardom, accountability, and how God can use the heart of the artist to reach into others’ souls and touch even the very deepest and darkest places with His love and His light. And there it was. It’s full-color cover was still intact and it stood out to me in the midst of the darkness surrounding it. And God spoke to me, about my life, through that image…
In the last several years, the things that had brought me feelings of security, those things that I had considered stable in my life, had collapsed. Things that had been comfortable and safe were gone. Things that I had invested my life in were no longer there. All had been lost in the rubble of a world that had fallen down all around me, charred from the fires of conflict and anger, seemingly destroyed.
And for the last several years I’ve cried… watering the rubble that was my life with my tears. Tears of shame for the marriage that I had lost. Tears of guilt for the failure that I had become to my children – not living a life that I was willing for them to follow. Tears of grief for the ministry that I loved passionately, and was no longer able to do… no longer “fit” for in my mind. So many tears in the last few years. So many days and nights weeping for things that I had lost hope of ever being restored. Unable to forgive myself. Unable to recover, rebuild, or even heal in some of the wounded places of my heart and soul.
Yet as I wept I yearned for that closeness with God again. I longed to sense Him. To feel His touch. To KNOW that He was still there. That He still heard. That He still loved. (Knowing this with regards to others was easy, but accepting it for myself – one of the impossible things in my own mind). I ached for some kind of confirmation that I was still “worth-it” to Him… that His gifts and callings – in my life – were without repentance… that my heart was still His and His hand was still on my life to minister to others – to use those creative passions in my own heart to touch the hearts of others. This has been my painful journey for the last 5 years. Tears of black water over a life of rubble.
Then today I see, untouched, The Heart of the Artist in the midst of a pile of crumbled, charred, tattered debris.
And although my heart is not untouched by the destruction in my life, God showed me – through this simple image – that my heart is still His. It can be restored. “Full-color” creativity can be uncovered and recovered by Him. My gifts and talents are still intact and He still sees me worthy to carry those gifts.
I am humbled by the reminder that in the midst of the rubble that has been my life of late, God can still use the heart of this artist to reach into – and touch – the hearts and souls of others with His love and his light.