God and the Olive Shells – Day 3

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Day three.  By now we’ve established a pattern.  By “we” I mean God and myself.  We’ve established a pattern where I walk by the shore, pour out my heart, and He speaks to my soul and confirms that He is there with an olive shell.

I now wake with excited anticipation of our conversations and quiet time.  I’ve kept the 4 olive shells that I’ve found to take home and place in a visible space where I can be frequently reminded of these intimate promise-filled communions.  So I set out for another morning of authenticity and honest exchanges.

As I’m walking this morning I am simply questioning My Father why there has been such a time of barrenness, disillusionment, and perceived uselessness in my life.  I am asking where I have been in His plans the last few years.  Querying whether He continues to have a plan that involves me caressing the souls of others with song or challenging the hearts and minds of teams and leaders.  All the while I’m inquiring of Him, the lyrics from a recent song from Curt Coffield were playing in my mind:

Am I unloveable?  Am I unforgiveable?

Am I a candidate for grace?  Can mercy be new for me again?

Am I on the right track?  Will Your words still be a light unto my path?

Will You ever speak through me again?  Are You disgusted with what I’ve been?

Can you put me back together……………….. put me back together again?

The tides were receding and I came upon one of those frequent patches of shell pieces and debris.  I immediately spotted an olive shell and bent to pick it up.  Next to it was another… and then another.  I had no bag or bucket for collecting shells so I was holding them scooped in the top of my bathing suit.  Everywhere I looked there were olive shells.  I picked up so many that I was having to wrap one arm underneath to hold them all.  Of course, I frequently had to pause a moment and wipe the tears from my eyes so that I could see and gather them all.  Some were old, aged by the sea.  Others were new, with all of their colors and patterns fully visible.

I walked back to the room carrying a load of shells cradled in both arms and wrapped in cloth.  The strange looks that I received were frequent, but they would not deter my path or my purpose.  I laid the shells out on a paper towel and began to count.  1 short of 45.

Later, His voice resonated in my heart: “Do you realize how many olive shells you picked up?”

Me: “44”

“One for each year of your life.”

In my fascination with finding so many, the significance of the number hadn’t occurred to me.

“I have held you, like you held them, every day of your life.”

I held and protected those olive shells, wrapped tightly against me, as I stumbled over uneven dunes and fiery foot-scorching sand.  I was determined not to drop or lose any of them.  He has done the same for me.  He’s been determined that I won’t be lost, even as I journeyed through hills and valleys, trials of fire, and scorching internal deserts.

Although there have been times I may not have sensed His protection, He has watched over and guarded me.  Every single day of my life.  I have 44 more olive shells as a reminder.

 

God and the Olive Shells – Day 2

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Day two.  I woke up much earlier than I ever am able to when at home – and I was rested.  I dressed in my bare feet and headed out to breathe in the fresh morning air and some time with Him.  I knew that this was going to be an important part of my journey to peace while on vacation.

I’ve never minced words when talking with God. This morning was no exception.  After a few moments of savoring the peacefulness of the calming sound created by the ocean waves, I began to lament.  I told My Father how miserable I’ve been having been unable to sing and have the song pierce the hearts of the listeners.  I wept for how painful the ache is to teach and to lead once again – feeling His pleasure.  I whispered how unsettling it is to feel as if my life experiences and His calling mean nothing, because I am no longer considered “youthful” – and am woman.  And as I stood and wept I said out of my mouth “I don’t know how to trust You anymore… I just don’t”.

The inner silence was so loud that it seemed deafening.

I felt something hard brush against my foot.  I reached down and picked up an olive shell.  One.  Whole.  Complete.  This one was petrified.  Old.  From ages ago…  When His hands and His words first created the earth and all that is in it.

He has held the world in His hands from the beginning of time.  He has spoken His will since before the worlds were formed.  He made fertile a 90-year old woman, and she became the mother of many powerful nations.  He used a stuttering murderer to lead His people out of a land of bondage and slavery.  He anointed a slight shepherd boy King and – even knowing that he would commit adultery and murder – chose David to be a forefather of Christ.  He gifted a female judge with such wisdom that she counseled entire armies, and He used a woman to defeat the commander of an enemy army.  He spoke through a reluctant prophet, who had run away from the call on his life, and a very wicked city – from the youngest to the king – repented of their evil ways and cried out to God.  He chose common ordinary men to walk with Him, talk with Him, eat with Him, learn from Him, and then change the world by giving their lives to share His story.

Throughout history He has utilized unexpected people by anointing their raw humanity and turning it into gifts.  He has found ways to capitalize on their observable weaknesses and turn them into strengths that glorify Him.  He has used the simple to confound the wise.

Can I trust that He can still use my life?  My voice and my passions?  My weaknesses and my failures?  My age and my strong femininity?

An olive shell at my feet reminds me that He can… and He will.  In His time.

God and the Olive Shells – Day 1

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We recently went on a vacation to Myrtle Beach for the sole purpose of experiencing some peace for a few days.  Life, the past few years, has been anything but peaceful and we determined that we were going to escape for as many days as we could afford this year so that our shoulders could, once again, assume their God-given position instead of being drawn up to our ears from the stress and strains of work, family, bills, etc.

While there, I met with God each day by the seashore and we had a talk. And by talk I do not mean a pious sounding pontification of Thees/Thous and forced thanksgiving from my lips.  I mean a talk.  Raw and real.  During these talks, every day, God spoke to me through an Olive Shell.  And each day, my peace increased as he used something so small to teach me – or rather remind me of – so many huge truths.

Day one.  We had arrived at the beach before lunch time and, after unpacking and getting settled in, I stripped off my shoes and headed to walk by the ocean and simply breathe.  As I was walking I was telling My Father how much I needed to know that He is still there.  I was thankful for the large dark-lensed sunglasses because there were tears running down my cheeks as I was saying “I just can’t seem to find my way back to You… to where I used to be with You”.  On this barren shell-less stretch of sand, there was an olive shell directly in front of me.  Whole and undamaged.  I picked it up, walked a little farther, and then turned to go back to my hotel.  I was satisfied that He was going to meet with me because I am not fascinated by, or attracted to many types of sea shells.  However, miniatures and olive shells I am.  And this My Father knows.

Later that afternoon, when the tides were coming in, I decided to go for another walk… the other direction.  And, again, I was having a honest talk with Him.  Rather, I was asking Him some (to me) pretty tough questions.  The lyrics to My Redeemer Lives by Nicole C Mullen came to mind: Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?  Who told the ocean “you can only come this far”?  I stood at the edge of the ocean and felt it’s power and strength while marveling that it is restricted only by the power of His words.  While meditating on these things, one by one, 3 olive shells washed up onto the shore.  I collected them through tear-filled eyes and returned to the room for dinner.

Coincidences may be how many would explain away the olive shells.  I would vehemently disagree.  God… Our Father… knows what speaks to us, what moves us, what helps us.  He is so much more creative in His communication than we expect Him to be.  In scripture He led His people with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  He spoke through His prophets, through a gentle whisper, through a burning bush, through dreams, and even through an ass.  He hasn’t changed.  Even today God is continuously communicating with us.  We just may not always be listening… or paying attention.

He spoke to me through an olive shell.  How is He speaking to you… right now?

Living In A Box

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Sometimes the reality of another person’s humanity is difficult for others to swallow. Usually that is because we are encouraged to keep secrets, hide our skeletons, and minimize – or cover up – our faults, flaws, uniqueness, and individuality.  We are expected to live within a box that is defined by society’s rules, religion’s restrictions, and other people’s labels.

It’s considered the norm to kiss butt, quote the common mantras, and morph into the desired being of whoever holds the “power” in the moment. Authenticity is rare. And because we often succumb to the pressures of being who we are not, it is awkward – even threatening – when we come into contact with someone who is not bound by the boxed-in limits of someone else’s narrow-minded diagnosis of who they should be. So when we meet that “real” someone, we compose new definitions for them… eccentric, crazy, weird, flaky, “out there”.

Doesn’t matter that they don’t spend every penny they have on jewelry for their cats at the expense of their own health and well-being (this would truly be eccentric). Doesn’t matter that they don’t wear pants on their arms and walk on their hands believing the world is upside down (yeah… that might be a little bit “out there”). Nor does it matter that they don’t flitter around quoting nothing but scripture – or religious mantras – and believe that they are the only one who has a connection to God and can have no conversation about day-to-day things because they’re too spiritual (most definitely would earn the “flaky” label).

They are simply different. They are comfortable with themselves. They are confident in their abilities and aware of their weaknesses. They speak their minds with quiet conviction, they aren’t bound by fads and fashions, and they tend to be an open book… what you see is what you get. What they say they mean.

Authenticity is rare, yet something that would make our world a better place – and us better humans – if we could simply learn to BE who we were created to be and allow others the same liberating freedom.

This Is My Confession… I Have An Addiction.

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This is my confession… I have an addiction. I have a vice. An unhealthy stress reliever. A habit that I fight against almost daily.

It’s not cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. Those things have never crossed my lips. The desire to imbibe, puff, drag, or pop has never been an issue. I’ve never been driven by a desire to smoke a cigarette when I’m stressed, or to pop a pill to escape. I’ve never been tempted to “drink away my problems” or “take a toke” to numb the pain. My addiction has never had to do with substance use or abuse of any kind.

And yet, it’s as addictive and destructive as any chemical. It holds onto the soul as strongly as any nicotine, narcotic, or alcohol induced stronghold. It’s like a razor sharp claw on the hands of a monster that has a grip so tight you fight to keep it from ripping your insides out.

My addiction is pornography. Not the visual kind that is driven by images, video, and peep shows. Erotica. Words that paint pictures in the mind and are much harder to forget than pictures on a page.

It began when I was young… very young.

I saw an image in the paper when I was 6 or 7 years old and I read the words around it. It was a comic and wasn’t overtly sexual, but alluded to this. It stuck with me. I can still see that one “frame” of the comic in my head, 30 some years later. Something about the words surrounding that image got into my soul that day.

I can tell you every single time that I was exposed to pornography growing up. Never in our home. Our parents protected us from these things well by – correctly – guarding what we watched, listened to, and read as children. Our home was safe from these types of influences. I was exposed to pornography and erotica outside the home.

At friends’ homes where they would sneak magazines to shock everyone at slumber parties, and we’d all sit around and comment about how “gross” the images and words that were being read were. Yet we were fascinated and wanted to see – or hear – more.

At an uncle’s. He had magazines, novels, movies, and more around his home every time that we would visit. When we got old enough to recognize what it was he would hide the magazines when our family visited, but we knew where he often hid them. I would hide myself in the bathroom and read the stories that people wrote in to Hustler, Playboy, and Penthouse. Then I would return the magazine exactly where I found it so no-one would know. I had “stomach troubles” a lot when we went to my uncle’s home. But no-one was the wiser.

I was young. So very young. Yet so very fascinated.

And as I grew older I would just want to go down to Alleghany Bookstore and buy a $4 book, take it home, and hide in my room reading at night. But afterwards there was always the guilt. The guilt because I had, in the moment, enjoyed reading those words and had created those images in my head. The shame because I had given in, again, to something that momentarily relieved my stress, or insecurity, or anger – but that I knew was wrong. Such an incredible sense of shame.

So I’d hide the book where no-one else could find it. Then later, though I knew I’d feel so dirty afterwards, I’d pull it out when I needed a “fix” – going through the same cycle of indulgence, relief, guilt/shame, then hiding all over again. Eventually the guilt and shame would overwhelm me and I’d throw the book in the trash, or tear it up for kindling in the fireplace, angry at myself – and telling myself it would never happen again…. …until the next time that things got stressful, or emotional, or lonely.

This addiction has continued into adulthood. It has hounded me like a vicious dog through marriage, children, life, and even ministry.

When the chaos of life swirls around me like a tempest I have to fight the urge to just go hide in my room and read some smut to escape. So I find something else to do. I make lists of things that need to be done. Furiously clean something. Play mindless games on the internet. Read something else. Get my husband to go to bed early with me. (I know, TMI ).

Have I mastered this addiction so that I never have the urge? Absolutely not. It’s an addiction that I do – like any recovering addict – have to fight daily.

Yet I am determined that it will not be master over me. It will not break me, but I will break free of it’s stronghold.

This is my confession… I have an addiction… but I will not serve 2 masters. And as long as I have breath left in me, though it may call to my very soul in times of trouble, the voice of My Father is louder – more powerful – and THAT is the voice I am purposed to heed.

This Is My Confession… I Doubt God

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I do. I have moments when I doubt God.  His ways, His acts, even His Word cause me uncertainty.  There are spells, spans of time, where I am so very confused by Him.

In the last few years I can pinpoint several instances when my confidence in God’s faithfulness was non-existent.  In those cases life’s chaos, conflict, negative words, and/or tumultuous thoughts of guilt and shame will swirl around me like a perfect storm. Whispers of failures whirling in the mind, growing louder and louder, like hurricane winds. Harsh, stinging rains of ugly words and rejection beating against the hull of my heart and I look frantically for a place of refuge and see only the tempest around me.  I begin to doubt.  I hear the winds.  I see the waves.  His voice is drowned out by the squall so large and looming overhead.  And like Peter, one of Christ’s beloved disciples, I doubt.

On a much more real level…There are lots of time – too many times – that I doubt His ability in changing things for the better, with family AND with myself.  I doubt His commitment that, because I trained my children in His ways and taught my children His heart when they were young, that He will protect their hearts and they will return to Him.  I doubt that He can forgive me for the divorce, and the running from Him period that followed, that did NOT show my children – or anyone else in my circle of influence – His heart, His ways…Him. I doubt that He will heal the wounds and scars in my husband’s heart that cause him so much pain and anger.  I doubt that I’ll ever be accepted by another church, because of the rejection of churches the last few years.  I doubt that I’ll ever lead worship, or the arts, again – even though it is my most fervent passion and what I am actually most gifted at.  I doubt that I’ll ever be deemed ‘useful’ in ministry again because I’m considered “older” and “young and trendy” seems to be the norm these days.  I doubt His faithfulness to the things that He has spoken to my heart.  I doubt His plan. And in doubting these thing, I guess that I am ultimately doubting God’s character and power.

It makes me sad.  It hurts my heart. It makes me angry with myself that I have lost such faith in the last few years and have so many times when I do not trust the God who made me…and loves me just the way I am.

I often listen to the song by Don Potter entitled Show Me Your Face. I can so readily identify with the cry of the heart that says:

Show me Your face, Lord

Show me Your face

And gird up my legs that I might stand in Your holy place

Show me Your face, Lord

Your power and grace

I can make it to the end if I could just see Your face

I confess, I doubt God.  Too often.  And I’m not sure exactly how to change this…

The song, for any others like me, is here:   Show Me Your Face

This is My Confession… I lose control when I’m angry

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James 5:16 says “confess your faults one to another”. The word “faults” is translated “a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a sin, misdeed”. In the previous blog post I shared thoughts on confessing to one another as Christ-followers… as Christ’s body…. as the church and being the church to one another in times of struggle, failure, and honest questioning.

As someone who highly values authenticity, honesty, and the safety for each of God’s masterpieces to be exactly who they were created to be without fear, I can’t speak about the importance of confession without being willing to take a first step forward myself.

The purpose is not to boast in my faults nor to cry out for pity.  Neither are beneficial for my pursuit of Christ.  The purpose is three-fold:

  • to invite others who follow Christ to lovingly hold me accountable by asking “Hey… how’s that thing going?”
  • to ask others to pray when they feel prompted
  • to encourage others to comment, share, and/or confess when they feel safe – because we are, after all, every one human

And so I begin a series of blog posts that are simply… confessions.

This is my confession… When I get angry anymore, I lose control.

It has always taken a lot to make me angry enough to speak harshly.  I have forever had a tendency to tighten my teeth and harden my eyes, yet hold my tongue because I am not a fan of conflict.  Nor do I enjoy having to bear the weight of guilt that comes when speaking rashly and damaging someone else’s heart or psyche with my angry words. So I have typically endured criticism, disrespectful words, rudeness, arrogance, dishonesty, and even verbal abuse from some – often with angry tears running down my face – in silence.

Every now and then I would get just angry enough.  My shoulders would start to tighten, my breathing would get quicker, I could feel it bubbling up, and then I would suddenly spew words of frustration, irritation, and aggravation like hot lava from a volcano. But it would take someone pushing my buttons for a long while before I got to this point.  I was proud of that. Until lately…

In the last 3-4 years I have developed a very short fuse which is miniscule, at best, these days.  I find myself walking through Walmart and getting angry at the “trifling lazy woman” who makes her 5-year old push the buggy and then smacks his head when he doesn’t walk as fast as she wants him to.  I get angry at the “idiots who can’t drive”.  I get angry at the “incompetent people” who attempt to solve my customer service issues. I get angry at the “lazy scraggly security people” that I don’t feel work quick enough at my daughter’s school.  I get angry at my kids.  I get angry at my husband.  I get angry at God.  And when I get angry, I lose control. I do the thing that I so do not want to do.  I become rude. Harsh. Demanding. I speak hurtful words (I can see the hurt in their eyes).  And I curse… worse than any sailor.

Then afterwards, I cry from the deep.  I cry because I have caused someone else pain or humiliation or shame.  I cry because I hate that person that I become.  I cry from remorse for losing control.  I cry because God cannot use an angry person.  I cry because there is no-one that I can tell about my struggle with anger because they won’t understand if I am their leader… or they won’t want me to minister or speak… or they get uncomfortable with vulnerability… or they will no longer trust me as a mentor, minister, or friend.  I cry because I know that I do not want to be an angry, bitter, hard-hearted person; yet I have not been able to come to a place of soul-rest again.  I cry because I am guilty.  I cry because I am ashamed.  I cry because I am hurt.  I cry because I am angry. At myself. For getting so angry.

And I ask God, again, to please help me get this thing… my heart… my emotions… my words… my reactions and responses right.

This is my confession. This is what I struggle with.  But this is NOT who I want to, or will, be.

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13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your faults to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:13-16

Confession… Good for the Soul?

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I’ve been reading a book this week entitled Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson.  The book tells the story of Anne’s spiritual journey, and spotlights some of the responses that she received when she simply asked “What is one thing you feel you can’t say in the church?”

In chapter 15 she reflects back on how the church, historically, was used to provide sanctuary – or protection/safety – to, pretty much, anyone.  Things gradually changed and eventually this practice was abolished.  She also reflects on how, outside of the legal system hundred of years ago, some Christians would refuse to welcome a person back into church, even if that person had truly repented and changed – because they “felt that the church was better with these so-called sinners out of the picture.” And she makes this statement: “I find it interesting  that in our current culture, we identify the church as a safe place for broken people to find refuge. Church is a place for us to claim the right of a modern-day sanctuary where we can name our sins or ask our questions and be protected and sheltered while we search for grace, forgiveness, and answers.” She then begins to question this concept of the church being a safe place for confession… a safe place to be broken.

Those 2 pages stopped me short with my reading and I began to study, listen and write.

The word “refuge” is one of those powerful words that resonates with my heart, as does the premise of having a safe place to question… a safe place to struggle… a safe place to “be”.  We, as Christ-followers, are to be that refuge for one another.  We are to be a safe place to each other, where we can confess our faults, failures, struggles, and outright sin to one another and be lovingly held accountable, held up, and sometimes just held as we mourn and grieve our sins against others and God.

James 5:16 says “confess your faults one to another”. The word “faults” is translated “a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a sin, misdeed”. James is speaking to those in the church, the Body of Christ.

In the OT (Ezra 10), it begins “While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites – men, women and children – gathered around him.  They too wept bitterly….It goes on to say that then confession was made to Ezra about their unfaithfulness to God, marrying ‘foreign’ women, etc.
In Nehemiah 9:2-3 it says that the Israelites had gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth…. “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers”… It goes on to talk about how they spent a quarter of the day reading from “scripture”, and a quarter of the day confessing their sins – and the sins of their fathers – and worshiping God.  This is followed by a prayer that they prayed aloud which contained both confession and thankfulness.
Acts 19 is speaking about Paul’s journeys and an evil spirit overtaking some who had tried to “invoke the name of the Lord” and the spirit jumped on them, tore their clothes off, and beat them – and it says “many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds….”

It seems to me that the church, or those who professed to be followers of Christ – or God, Jehovah, YHWH – had a habit of confessing their “faults” to one another, and it wasn’t a fearful thing.  There wasn’t fear of rejection, retribution, or retaliation.  Confession was, at one time, safe. It was “good for the soul” because all recognized that there was none faultless.  None without struggle.  None without doubts even.  None without sin.  There was none perfect.  None expected to be perfect.  And none belittled, or harshly judged, for honestly confessing their imperfections.

The church – or the body of people who make up the church – is supposed to be a safe place where Christ-followers can confess their sins, wrong thoughts, wrong motives, wrong actions to one another and be “in sanctuary” – or protected.  Not that their sins would be covered.  But that the church would help one another to overcome those wrong thoughts, wrong motives, wrong actions.  That the church would do as Jesus did, following His example, and show love coupled with loving accountability.  Instead, it seems that the church encourages the shameful hiding of these things – which makes it difficult for others to be real about their struggles and sins.

Confession was never meant to be a secretive, shameful thing between one person and a “higher than me” priest in a dark confessional.  Nor was it meant to be a time to boast about your sins by proudly shouting them from the rooftops.

Confession was meant to be about real-ness. Humility.  Honesty.  Raw vulnerability.  Repentance.  Asking for help.  Baring the heart.  Forgiveness. Restoration. Refuge.

Perhaps if we, as the church, would consider the sins of our own hearts that occur daily – and stop trying to present that facade of flawless perfection – we could once again become that safe place to confess struggles and sins.

We all are human, and therefore faulty.

We are none without sin.

We all need a “sanctuary“.

We all long for others to whom we can reveal our humanity.

We all need somewhere we can ask our questions and confess our faults without fear.

If the Body of Christ would – each one – just be real about our own brokenness, confession would indeed be “good for the soul” and the church would again be a powerful and welcome “safe place for broken people to find refuge.”

Bob Dylan and Religion

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“Christianity isn’t a religion… “It’s a reality.”

My friend of 24 years said that to me during an interesting conversation last month.  And that should be the truth.

Christianity… following Christ… being Christ-like… should be a reality for those who wear the label of Christian.  Yet, in reality, how often do we justify our words, actions, treatment of others… (or hear them justified) by convincing ourselves that “our faith” (or the label of “Christian”) is the reason that we have reacted/responded a certain way?  Judged someone?  Mistreated someone?  How often do we claim to be “defending our faith”… “defending scripture”… “defending God”… when, in reality, we’re defending ourselves?

If your faith is, indeed, a reality – it does not need defending.  If scripture is, indeed, a reality – it does not need defending.  If your God is, indeed, a reality – He, most certainly, does not need defending.  These things… faith, scripture, and God have stood the test of time and do not need your “defense”.  They stand on their own.

In 1979, Bob Dylan publicly professed to have a relationship with Christ.  And in 1979 and early 1980 he wrote several songs that spoke – very clearly – about this relationship.  Songs such as: You Gotta Serve Somebody, Slow Train Coming, and he released a “gospel” album entitled Saved that brought Dylan heat from every direction.  His concerts during this time contained most of his new songs and Dylan, himself, “preaching” between songs, even as his fans cried out for him to play his older – more well-known music. 

In November of 1980, Bob Dylan began a 2-week concert run where he performed his older songs, and some of his newer songs recorded later in 1980.  When asked about why his newer songs were only “remotely religious” in comparison to the others written and recorded in early 1979-1980, Dylan replied: “They’ve evolved.  I’ve made my statement, and I don’t think I could make it any better than in some of those songs.  Once I’ve said what I need to say in a song, thats it.  I don’t want to repeat myself.’  [Dylan] saw no need to repeat himself by continuing to write gospel songs or continuing to preach from the stage; truth is truth, and it stands forever.” From the book Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan  

Dylan saw no need to continue to “defend” his faith, scripture, or his relationship with Christ.  Yet Dylan, like many others who have proclaimed faith in Christ and simply try to live out their understanding of Christ’s character the best way that they know how, is viewed by many who claim to be “Christian” themselves, as someone who saw Christianity as a passing fad and now has no relationship with Christ.  Why?  Because he doesn’t talk about it unless asked…  and doesn’t use every platform that he’s given as “an opportunity to share the gospel”.

When did being a Christian become so narrow-minded a thing?

Because Dylan, again like many others, doesn’t fit into the boxed in definition of how his relationship with Christ began (it wasn’t in a church saying “the sinners prayer”), how his gifts should be used in a way that CLEARLY separates him from the “secular” industry (he still does “secular” concerts/appearances), how he lives out his relationship with Christ (he still attends and supports Jewish functions – his children are raised Jewish.  He doesn’t make “Christian” appearances.  He supports “secular” causes.  He doesn’t “preach” aloud about his faith.  He doesn’t attend a church service regularly), then he is ignored as a Christ-follower by many in “the church” at large.  What a shame.

And all around us are other, not-so-public persons, who don’t fit into someone else’s narrow-minded, “in the box” definition of what a Christian should be.  Yet they live out Christ in their hearts, minds, words, and actions on a daily basis.  They believe fully in Him and His deity.  They want to model His heart and life.  They study Him and His words.  Quietly.  Without boasting.  Without pomp and circumstance.  And with much more success at demonstrating Christ, and reaching the hearts of others, than those who piously and publicly (and loudly) proclaim – from their perches of self-importance and self-righteousness – that they are “Christians” yet treat those unlike them with disrespect, shame, and contempt.

Do you know some “Dylan-esque” persons that say they know Christ yet don’t do what you think they ought?  Someone who professes to have a relationship with Christ but doesn’t fit into your God-box?  Perhaps your box isn’t one given by God Himself, but created by you in order to keep you safe (and defended) in your own mind.  …Perhaps.
Selah.

Sitting Idle In My Baggage

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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.

…Idle

I seemed to fit right in with the disarray that surrounded me.

Numb.  Disheveled.  Confused.

…Damaged goods.

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.