Spoken Word – When Did We Lose Our Souls?
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
We All Are Peter
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.
Me, Myself, and My Messiah Complex
I’ve got it and I’ve got it bad.
No, it’s not split personality disorder. Not a sad case of the blues. I’m not madly in love with someone other than my husband… well, except for myself sometimes.
I’ve got a messiah complex. A ridiculously inaccurate messiah complex.
It’s my responsibility to save things and fix people. Every. Single. Day.
The world can’t survive without me. At least that seems to be what I subconsciously tell myself at times.
My students and co-workers will be lost if I take a day off. Things at church might not go smoothly if I miss a Sunday… or a leaders meeting. If I say no to an invitation with family it might upset things. My input is important in most any situation. My opinion valid. My perspective pretty awesome and accurate. My way, quite often, the most reasonable and practical – the wisest way.
See? I have placed myself on an imaginary pedestal without even realizing it. I unconsciously believe that I am the all-knowing, troubleshooter of the totality of what is wrong in life. The ever-wise moderator of relationships and conflicting conversations. The oracle who sees the errors of ways. The prophet who speaks the hard-hearing truth.
I have set myself in a high place in my own mind. I have assumed the position of savior of the world. … again.
There have been several times, in my life, when I have climbed up to this high and lofty mental place of honor. Times when I wouldn’t – couldn’t – say no for fear of the world stopping if I did so. Times when I had to be ever-present for everyone or things would forever be marred and scarred (at least in my own mind).
And each time I have gotten soundly, profoundly, and squarely, knocked off that pedestal and painfully back onto my reality-recognizing butt.
My mind, my emotions, my body, or all three at once, take control and say “enough is enough” and they forcefully set me off my feet and onto my kiester, or my back. This is where I am forced to recognize that the world will continue to spin – tasks will still be completed – life will go on – friends, family, loved ones, students, and co-workers will survive… and possibly even thrive – all without my influence or interference.
Although I do not believe God is the author of sickness, fatigue, breakdowns, or anything that is evil, I do believe that He allows us to crash and burn at times as a natural consequence of our own ignorance or sin. And when I have fanned both ends of the candle flame for an endless amount of time, and there is no light left in me because I have been an improper steward of the gifts/talents that He HAS given me, then He allows me to become as a scorched and melted puddle of wax.
At that point I have a choice. Refuse to acknowledge that I am not the end-all, be-all, messiah without which the world cannot flourish – and thus grow cold and hard as His glow extinguishes and I continue to believe I, alone, can save. Or remain pliable, willing to be reshaped and reused by submitting to the heat of His character-molding, mind-renewing fire and the blaze of His Spirit. Allowing myself to be ignited with the His love-shaped, grace-filled Zippo – recognizing that without Him I am nothing. And even with Him, I am simply a broken vessel of light that He has chosen to carry His spark… not to pervert His standing as Messiah and Savior of the world.
Scripture admonishes that man not think more highly of himself than he ought. Proverbs advises that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Me, Myself, and my Messiah complex struggle with this at times and forget. Ever been there?
Ever been blindsided by anger from someone who has misconstrued or assumed something you’ve done or said? Unexpected, angry words hurl toward you like bullets in a drive-by, causing you to duck and cover internally in order to protect yourself. Or, your response could be as someone who has been wounded and scarred by life and abuse and so you retaliate, firing back your own volley of venom-filled verbosity while you defend your honor and pride.
Perhaps the warrior of words has been you. How many times have you been the violent instigator of your neighbor’s wounds because you mentally created scenarios of wrong-doing or imagined them aiming at target-shaped bull’s-eyes on your happiness or character? So you fire off a round of white hot insults and accusations, causing soul-trauma to the victim of your word weaponry.
Any of this sound familiar?
Most of us can identify with both. Although we’ve all, most likely, been the victim of someone’s harsh and sudden criticism or irritation, we’ve also all dealt our share of oral outrage. We’ve been both the casualty of a verbal violation and the trigger happy dispatcher of uttered ammunition – probably more than once – in our lifetimes.
Truth be told, it gives us satisfaction and gratification to get things off our chest… to spew our sarcasm or anger-laden speech all over someone else. We may even delight in the fact that our diatribe has suddenly stunned them into silence and our pride increases and ego inflates.
For some, that feeling of superior euphoria is short-lived. There is recognition that the momentary verbose vindication deflated the spirit of another God-imagined, hand-crafted masterpiece. The light has been extinguished from their eyes. Their soul is wounded. Auditory arrows have been shot into their hearts and it grieves to the core.
For others, the personal pleasure and pride continues to grow. There is refusal to admit any wrong. Dialectical damage is ignored and the journey goes on, one day at a time, leaving bruised and battered beings in the dust… behind… where they cannot be seen.
Time to put the big girl panties, or the big boy drawers, on.
Time to own it. Own the fact that we do, at times, allow ourselves to be used as tools of the enemy. Time for all of us to stop playing the marred martyr and instead man – or woman – up. Take responsibility for our own words. Admit that we have not, will not, choose to control our tongues when we are offended or anticipating attack… no matter how figmental that attack may be. Confess that we, at times, put our own need for one-upmanship over relationships and recognition of God-value in every human being.
After owning our sinful, spiteful, hateful motivations behind our agitated outbursts – and asking the God who created our targets for forgiveness – we owe a heart-felt, care-filled apology to those we’ve wounded. They deserve to have their dignity restored as we humble ourselves and acknowledge our vainglorious frenzy. No excuses. No justification-filled reasoning. No lengthy dissertations. Excessive words marked the genesis of this injured exchange. So keep it simple. Make an offering of a few honest, authentic, apologetic words. This primes us, and those around us, for maturity – and allows opportunity for restoration and healing in the souls of all involved.
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires….26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. – James 1:19-20, 26
7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 …Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!….17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:7-18
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
Everything Happens for a… Reasonable Objection
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.
Sitting Idle In My Baggage
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.
Send the Fire Is A Dangerous Thing to Pray
In my years within ministry – and without – I have heard quite a few worship songs with the lyrics containing references to God’s fire or something similar. Typically they are composed as a cry for God to send down his “fire” or his spirit, seemingly to cleanse us, so that we may better serve Christ – or to “ignite” our hearts so that we may carry His power in greater measure and witness with greater boldness and fervor. When I hear these songs I often wonder if the lyricist – or the singer – is aware of what they are truly asking for.
Now before you write me off as a bitter cynic about to bash some very meaningful worship music, “hear” me out. I think you’ll enjoy the read…
There are references to fire throughout the scriptures. However, lyrically – in Christian music – references to fire are most often coupled with a request for God to “burn away the dross” as is mentioned in Malachi 3. Many sing this lyric without even a full understanding of what dross actually is.
Websters defines dross as scum, waste or foreign matter, impurity, and/or something that is inferior.
In times of scripture a refiner would stoke a fire until it would be heated to over 1700 degrees F, which is the melting point for gold. Precious metals would be placed in the fire and, as the gold would begin to liquefy, the impurities and waste would rise to the top and be skimmed away. The refiner would stir the molten gold to bring more dross to the surface to be removed, until no contaminant or corruption remained.
Let me reiterate. 1700 degree flames. Fire that is hot enough to completely liquidize one of the hardest substances on earth and expose all of the flaws for expunging. That heat doesn’t sound comfortable, or even pleasant. And most often that type of “fire” in our lives comes in the form of trouble, heartache, or soul-penetrating events.
Are you ready for that? For your life to be heated by tests and trials, struggles and challenges so that your hardened heart begins to melt – bringing your flaws of anger, mistrust, unforgiveness, and/or doubt to the surface and forcing you to rely solely on the refiner? Or perhaps your refining experience will involve finally grasping that overwhelming understanding of the Father’s white hot love for you and you will be overcome with agonizing gut-wrenching sobs, broken-hearted because of your own sin that you have attempted to hide in your encrusted heart.
Both sound painful. Hard. Excruciating even. Neither one are encounters that stir a desire for a no-holds-barred, bare-feet leap into blistering flames of fire. Yet that is what we ask for when we sing “Send the fire”.
I’m not asking that we do away with songs petitioning God for the refiner’s fire. I’m not arguing that lyrically they are incorrect, or that the songs have no value. On the contrary I believe they are most often penned from the hand of a lyricist who has endured extreme soul-anguish and, heart-broken, wants nothing more than to be purified and holy before God.
What I AM asking is if we, as worshipers – and as singers of songs – honestly consider the words that are passing our lips? And are we seriously, for real, desiring the sin-revealing, agonizing, refining flames to ravage and expose our heart when we sing? If we can authentically and heartily respond with a “yes” of conviction, then I say let’s throw our heads back, open our arms wide and cry aloud to our All-Consuming God: “Lord, Send the fire!”
Spiritual anorexia. An unhealthy, yet seemingly common, condition.
An anorexic is one who stops feeding self and becomes dangerously thin. Skin and bones. Flesh without meat.
The anorexic’s perception is skewed. When an anorexic sees self in the mirror, they see fat – fullness – breadth -weight. They see substance that is, in reality, not there. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who do the same.
In themselves they see “fatness”, spiritual health, substance – and they often want others to know of their great and divine girth. There’s boasting of more depth in their life, more knowledge, more revelation and insight. Greater relationship with God, greater “fullness of the Spirit”, greater capacity for the “meat” of the Word. These are the points for applause in their lives.
However, the great, spiritually fat and healthy picture that they see in the mirror is in contrast to what others see. In the life of a “full-blown” spiritual anorexic, their own words may be the only things that are, indeed, grand and swelling.
If the fruit borne in day-to-day living does not reflect the heart and character of God then the facade of spirituality is demolished. The supposed substance and meat are stripped off to reveal an unhealthy heart surrounded by diseased flesh and dry bones – an empty life disguised behind inflated words and a swelled head. And when the exterior is peeled away and the heart is truly laid bare, the inner health of a person is ultimately revealed through everyday life and actions.
James 1:22-24 speaks of a person who looks at himself in a mirror, steps away from the mirror, and immediately forgets what he really looks like. Why? Because he listens to “the Word” but chooses not to act on it. Thus he deceives himself. So goes the spiritual anorexic.
But at times we may all suffer from a degree of Spiritual Anorexia. We look into the mirror of scripture and we see the truth about ourselves but distractions, excuses, or personal choice causes us to immediately forget what we’ve seen. We pick and choose which parts we are willing to honestly see and obey. Thus we allow ourselves to be deceived and spiritual anorexia begins to seize our heart.
Is there a cure? Absolutely. But the cure is not a quick or pleasant fix. For to be cured we must be willing to examine beyond the outside, beyond the positive opinions of others, beyond the praise and affirmations that we may receive, beyond the self-elevating views that we’ve adopted.
We must delve into the depths of our own hearts, allowing the spotlight of the Holy Spirit to reveal even the deepest, darkest, innermost decaying chambers. We must be willing to look closely and to see… truth. And then we must be willing to repent. To humble ourselves, admit our pride and our gross exaggerations of self, and cry out to God for Him to heal the disease within.