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Redemptive Grace

Loving Jesus, Loving People….(including even me).

The Ask

There are things in this life that I want.

Some are circumstances that I want desperately. Others are desires that I want longingly. Still some are just wants that I crave stubbornly.

I have wanted to be noticed. I have wanted to be saved. I have wanted to be wanted.

I have wanted for more, wanted for less.

 At times it seems that I might never be satisfied with what is.

I have wanted and asked. I have been denied. I have wanted hidden things and refused to acknowledge the want. I have been angry at yearnings unfulfilled.

There have been gifts of inexplicable contentment.

There have been times of having wanted only to be seen and I have come unhinged at my seeming invisibility.

There have been surprises that have come unbidden.

James 4 There has been great confusion when I ask for good things that never come to fruition. I have despised verses like James 4:2-3 “You do not have because you do not ask. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Having found myself in this position more often than I care to recount, I am in the midst of a life changing experience of wanting and asking. This want is a kingdom want, a heart want, a serving want. A type that I have not known before of such purity.

I have wanted to be a great many things over the course of my life, and as I have come into knowing myself more completely I have returned to the want of my childhood: vocational ministry. For those that know my story (Something I think I will be making known here within the coming year), this is a hard want for me to express; such is the shame that has tried to grip my mind.

I have been slowly and quietly making this want known, albeit without actually asking forPsalm 37 4 it lest I be rejected. Recently, I heard a quiet whisper that came and asked me to ask aloud for the desires of my heart. I asked fully in His name and something changed, at once I have come to experience Psalm 37:4 to be true for me.

In this asking of a desire that matches the heart of my Father, I have found equally great contentment, surprising encouragement, and humble tenacity. I guess what the Bible says is true: Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Who knew?!

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All Who Live Must Die

I was at a memorial service today noticing the many gray heads of those who came to remember a life well-lived. As I looked from one to another I saw in those faces a reflection of my own circle of friends. My peers both present and distinctly absent, would be sitting together all too soon as a generation attending too many memorials to count. I was struck by my own sense of impending death.

dieAs tears welled in my eyes as the telling of this woman’s life was highlighted by that which had been most impressed on the hearts of her loved ones, I felt the deep ache of missing my own grandparents. With sudden unexpected clarity I looked at the woman I love dearly sitting in front of me. My ability to envision a different set of circumstances in real time creating a much different scene in my mind. One in which my sisters and I mourn a life also well-lived.

I realized in that moment I did not cry for the loss of the dead, but for myself. There is a quality about the death of another that brings into crisp clarity the blurry outer edges of our awareness. I, like many others in similar circumstances, am faced with my own mortality. I wonder if I have spoken words of affirmation often enough to those of you who hold a piece of my heart? I question if I will leave a legacy of great honor before I, too, am just a memory in the minds of one or two generations.

The simple act of living requires facing inevitable death. We can run from it or we can face it; either is a challenging reality.

Running from the anxiety of death itself often seems a welcome alternative to coming to terms with our own mortality, though. The push to live as though life is not finite is recorded through our various feats to stay young and in our propensity to soothe instead of allowing ourselves to feel the myriad of emotions that come with actually being alive. The run from death is subtle, so subtle even the watchful can miss it.die 2

Life is passing by while I sit here waiting for it to happen, always wanting more than I have. I have an inclination to think that life will eventually get better; that I will have the relationship I want, the job that I want, the house. I mistakenly believe that I will eventually arrive at this place of rainbows and unicorns. Ok, maybe not that exactly, but kind of. I seem to always be looking forward to what comes next, often really missing moments in the present.

I run because life is arduous, because I want for there to be more than the experience I know. I run because I’m afraid that I will die before I’ve lived. I run because I want someone to say of me: “Jesus was honored by her living,” but I’m still wondering if I am enough as I fight my own temptations.

die 3I come back around to this idea of mindful living, and I am beginning to see a common thread: to be mindful of the questions, fears, temptations, and joys is to be walking upright among the living. I want to live a life that invites an honest reflection, paying attention to the details, and of feeling the rise and fall of human emotion.

I must face my own death; I have come to know that the confrontation for me is a question of whether I will continue to live in waiting for my life to start…or whether I am courageous enough to grow, to tell my people that I love them without trepidation. That’s my question; although the day will come when you, too, will know the question you must answer to unlock your own anxiety over your unavoidable mortality.

In the meantime, practice speaking the words on your heart. At the very least you will begin to honor your truest self, even if you are in the midst of still trying to figure it out.

As death will do, a sense of urgency has taken up residence within my soul. Let it not be for just one day. 

Shame Undone 3: Holy Discipline

If you have visited this space before, you have borne witness to this tempestuous mind. So much of what has been contemplated aloud is reflective of a strange and kympervasive dichotomy: a desperate need to hold contrasting ideas equally, one in each hand, so that what remains might be whole. On one side is the darkness and despondency of death; and in the other the fragile expectancy of life, of hope renewed. To deny either would create a false sense of contentment, it would tear apart the richness of redemption.

In this series, Shame Undone, I have offered an invitation to journey with me in this discovery of wholeness. I have asked that there is room to hold both life and death to be true, to allow them to coexist; I have expressed a need for allowing repentance and temptation to be separate. To be okay with being human, imperfect. What I have yet to address are factors of my own discomfort, which I believe belong here in this series on shame; a byproduct of my own wrestling with Will. And so, I dare ask the question, “Does God discipline?”

Perhaps this is little more than a feeble attempt to make right things in my life that don’t make sense, or maybe it is more…either way the truth is that I experience stress, circumstantial depression, anxiety, chaos…brokenness. Deep and varying emotions that I think God ultimately uses to bring to light the parts of me that need correction.

This is also true: not every hard thing, not every bout of isolation, desolation, or desperation is a discipline. Sometimes, life just sucks. People choose (And are thrown into) antagonistic behaviors in their own insecurity and pain that ultimately hurt others. The ripple effect from their choices unfairly displaces those around them.

How do we possibly know the difference between a holy discipline, and the pain of another’s sin? How long must we suffer in either?

I’ll start by saying something that is unpopular, I have a great need for the Holy Spirit to translate and mediate my brokenness. I can make excuses, look for an alleviation of guilt and pain, and place blame anywhere I want (Becoming that antagonist), but so long as I am choosing my own way, stress and chaos will reign.

Maybe that is a way to isolate one from the other: asking if it is stress or trauma that is felt. Learning and training in discernment is key, spend time with Jesus. kym

The tragic circumstances that come from external, uncontrollable actions of others are not discipline. You are not suffering at the hands of another because you are bad, or needing more Jesus. My God is not spiteful, although he can use these impossible situations to lead to a deeper connection with him (Genesis 50:20), it requires a turning to face Jesus, pain, discomfort, joy, and all.

There is no health and wealth gospel here, (Sorry prosperity followers!), my God makes no such promises on Earth. The promise of a better life, of healing from pain, of safety and of security? This is a higher calling, a kingdom perspective. ‘In this world you will have pain and suffering,’ and eventually you will find peace in heaven, in soul.

I have not arrived at wholeness, I bear deep scars. The discipline that I have experienced, the strain, anxiety, and worry that I have felt…it has created an anchoring of my soul; a humming in my mind that exists even in the midst of the days that I lay prostrate and crying in utter misery for relief. Of wanting death to come (I am human), I see my Jesus kneeling beside me.

If nothing else, who am I to assume that my pain and suffering is dependent on my actions? I can no sooner make the grass blue. I choose not to bear the weight of the world, it’s not my job. No, I suffer stress and chaos, anxiety and worry when I am leading with selfish-ness and that is something I can address.

Read more in my Shame Series:   Shame Undone

Shame Undone 2: The (Suffering) Repentant Heart

Shame Undone 2: The (Suffering) Repentant Heart

Sitting through his sermon I heard something that made me just cringethTRTHYCJW (Let’s be real…this happens all the time). On this day, though, he was talking about sin and repentance, grace and discipline, (Actually he said, “God punishes,” but I’m offering him grace and allowing for him to really have meant discipline); themes that at once seem altogether too prevalent in our ‘Christianese’ language and yet of which are not spoken enough to our hearts.

Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure of his intent. I still struggle with words and phrases that trigger a response in my mind. A response that causes all other surroundings to move to the blurry outer reaches of my awareness. It is a lasting symptom of being human. #Context

Anyway, the piece that I got caught up in is this whole idea around God [punishes] until repentance happens.

Ok. But.

Let me just tell you. I have truly repented  of one sin in particular. I mean, on my knees, tears to exhaustion, pleaded and begged, laid bare before my Creator, R-E-P-E-N-T-E-D. And guess what?! I still struggle with the same sin. I have not been released of its grasp.

I am repentant and the battle for my heart remains in a full deathmatch. Wait…what?

Yep. Both. That day God whispered a truth to my heart that undoes my shame: it is possible that I may truly repent and yet still struggle with temptation. There it is. Temptation does not equate to sin, and there is serious warfare for my heart. It’s not my fault. It’s not your fault. I have responsibility, for sure, as to my action and response to that temptation; and there are critical days that I fail. Days that I turn toward temptation because my brain likes that rush of dopamine that spreads with a heart sin that has been well cultivated. Days when I lose sight of the campaign that threatens my soul, and I believe the lies that say my deepest desires are not that harmful.

There is this space that remains between temptation and repentance, though…it is where gracewindows resides. It bridges the gap. In life, what exactly does that look like? I’m certain it is different for each of us. For me, though, it means that I don’t have to feel that my character is ugly, or that I am among the ‘lower-ranking’ Christians. It means that I am not dirty and lost because I have a heart sin that just won’t leave me alone.

It looks like I am loved, that despair doesn’t need to hold my mind ransom, that I am good (Gasp! Oh yes she did!). It means that I don’t have to succumb to a deterministic view of my life. I can be truly repentant and still grapple with the same sin I repented of, because repentance doesn’t make me godly, sinless, or self-righteous. It simply, reverently, says that I acknowledge my offense and want desperately to turn away from its deceit; that my heart’s truest desire is to live facing full the Jesus of my redemption. Metanoia. untitled

Grace also doesn’t mean that I’m free from discipline, though. So let’s just talk about that bombshell: does God discipline? I think so and here’s why…

Check back in for a follow up in Shame Undone 3: Holy Discipline

                                         Shame Undone

Shame Undone

I am the girl who musters all her strength just to walk into the doors of church on Sunday morning. It takes me tremendous effort to get into the building; I fight the want to turn back every time. The faces that I see in there seem to have it all together; they smile at me and ask me how I am. What do they expect from me? I wonder.

Some truly do just want vague responses and general niceties. It makes it easier on them and doesn’t ask that they face their own story. Others ask and seem shocked or disappointed when I tell them I’m not well (No, God didn’t answer your request for a miracle today, sorry). Few seem to be okay with my not-okay-ness. On “Good” days I have learned to tell [something reflective of] truth with a smile…a self-deprecation meant to assuage the guilt-inducing responses that they feel and that seem to come so easily from my lips.

And yet in this place are people that I love. Deeply.

I have days of strength too. Days when I am able to face my inner insecurities with honesty and gentleness; when I allow the anxiety to come unbidden and look at it with curiosity. These are the days that I am mindful of who I am, and in whose arms I am held. Grief doesn’t threaten to strangle the life of this body, and I am so bold as to believe my theology of a God who redeems. It is my balance of the simultaneous knowledge of death and life.

There is such a strong contrast in what I believe to be true about God and what I experience in the environment that tells me that this is where He is. It creates this disconnect that is hard to reveal. Like understanding the idea of the stars in the dark night sky. You might believe that they are as science describes, gas on fire; beautiful. Riveting. But do you really know? In the daylight they don’t exist. Are they still present when the fire burns so brightly that they are lost? So it is with me. I believe that God delights in me. I know of waves of mercy, I have tasted contentment.  I believe that my God loves me deeply, is my warrior.

Aslan.

I also know anxiety is seriously incapacitating. That the hard things that I have known have changed my ability to utilize my brain to its fullest potential. I know chaos in my mind. I have ways of coping that are temporary at best. Ways that lead me to sin, to get lost in my own daydreams; that cause me to miss today. To lose perspective. To turn away from God because the pain of my reality supersedes my ability to remember that circumstances are temporary (Psst. They are relatively temporary, you know).

Will can’t make me obedient. It doesn’t heal my hurts or save me from temptation. Cobwebs remain, and Will is stuck dangling like a fly…incapable to save himself from impending death.

I am not among the lost souls. I know who God is. It’s just that I also know that there are days that are unbearably hard. This is where my shame comes undone: when these two truths collide, when my theology allows for hard days, weeks, years…even lifetimes, and the promise of redemption remains. To allow space for my story, a story that holds both sides of me to be true. The side that loves Jesus, loves people, believes that I am good; and also the side that is mired in hidden heart sin. When both exist at the same time, I am free.

Shame Undone 2:The (Suffering) Repentant Heart

Shame Undone 3: Holy Discipline

Walking Wounded

We were sitting in my living room when she said it. I had only known her for a few years, and mostly by proxy at that. Marriage does that though, it throws together people that likely would not choose to be in relationships otherwise. Even still, I BANDAID-HEART1wanted to know her. We had been learning about each other with the normative niceties and polite observations that are customary to Christian culture. Perhaps that is why I’ll never forget the way she said it, seemingly out of place and with a hint of disdain… “You are so sensitive.”

My first inclination was to refute such a degrading label; the word held a very negative connotation to me. Sensitive? Excuse me? I’m anything but sensitive. I’m strong, bold, and sometimes even defiant. The word fragile got mingled in with that in my mind too. How dare she! She clearly doesn’t know me at all.

In the midst of engaging in my own trauma therapy during the time of this conversation, I reacted to the language of being sensitive with a guarded perspective. I had yet to learn what it meant, but I knew that I didn’t like the way I felt when she said it to me. I was just getting to know that I was broken, but sensitive? No, that was dramatic, weak, vulnerable; it suggested to me that she believed I held an unrealistic perspective and that purported that the people around me should walk on eggshells so as not to damage me…because…who knows how I would respond (insert eye-roll).

Hypervigilance at its best, but sensitive? Not exactly.

My story knows great harm, I have known trauma. It has changed me. I am not sensitive, I am aware; I have had to be. My senses are finely attuned. I hold no space for intentional damage from one person to another.

I am among the walking wounded.


You know who I am. You have passed by me, and have sat in a room with me. You have watched me and wondered. You are drawn to me…or intimidated by me. You have assumed many things about who I am. Yet, you don’t really know me. Few do.


The walking wounded are those who have been emotionally wounded. They walk with the rest of us, hardly seen and yet never missed. Theirs are the faces that hide that something thatBlessed_are_the_cracked you can’t quite name. The ones who are most unsure of themselves, but who hold the wisdom of experience.

They have known a wounded-ness so pervasive that it permeates their souls. It has changed the very structure of their brains, they are not the same. When they have followed their stories and sought healing, they hold a greater capacity for intuition, compassion, empathy. To know them intimately is to be invited into a sacred space, so listen closely.

They are fragile, not because they will break but because they feel deeply. Their brokenness in spirit is the very quality that is redeemed to tell the story of incredible growth adorned in grace.


You can’t know who the walking wounded are by looking at them, their wounds are not visible on the surface…unless you, too, are among them. They don’t want your pity, and often not even your well-meaning concern. They just want your whole presence. To be in the room with them, to give credit to what they have learned, what they have grown through, and the unique perspective that they hold.

Wives Under Fire

It isn’t very often that I come across an article on biblical marriage from a wife who is not a pastor’s wife, or who isn’t from the genteel south, or who isn’t trying to appear to have this whole thing figured out (granted, there might be a few stereotyped overgeneralizations in that observation). Since submission is the hot topic of Christian marriages, just for fun, try Google-ing, “How to be a submissive wife.” The first (there are over a million) article literally made me nauseous. I won’t go so far as to list the title or author(s), but I hope beyond hope that the article was satirical (although they fail to give any indication that it is). Nonetheless, it was a degrading and gross misrepresentation of a wife’s role and would do serious damage to an already fragile woman desperately trying to figure out how to ‘wife-well’. Maybe it’s just where I’m at, but I kind of want to hear from a person who is struggling intensely.

So, although I am the furthest qualified from giving relational advice, it seems that I will need to speak up. At least, I have two things going for me: I seriously struggle with life and I can speak to what not to say/do. Really, I have no idea how to make a marriage work well, and will not pretend that I do. That said…

There is one thing that I have learned in fifteen years of marriage: being a biblically submissive wife has very little to do with the man you married.thSY2S1254

Within the world of Christ followers, it would do a woman well to come to know that submission is an aspect of spiritual obedience to God. Yes, we practice that in part in our marital relationships, but ultimately it is a reflection of our willingness to be led by our Creator. Trust doesn’t come easily, though, and isn’t always warranted by our spouses. Our experiences make it incredibly hard to say, “I trust you to have my best intentions.” For those of us that have been harmed, the control of self is something that is staunchly guarded; a seemingly necessary by-product of pain. The thing is, it isn’t about humans, but about our relationship with God.

Come to know that to be submissive is not a sign of weakness, but of acute strength.  Our skewed vision of submission says otherwise, but biblical submission never requires that you are a doormat to another person’s dominance. It is borne of mutuality and requires that vital piece of sacrificial love (discussed here). An immense amount of strength is exhibited when a wife is submissive. She is giving up her defiant, stubborn nature in sacrifice and deferment to her partner. She is putting others first.*

Yes, these truths require a massive overhaul of our narratives. I get that. I LIVE that.

The role of, “Wife” is to be gentle and respectful…and loved well, and listened to, and taken into account. An imbalance of reciprocity and sacrifice doesn’t change that. What needs to be adjusted is the self-serving pity, negative thought, and discontentment felt within. Not to say that those feelings, or tendencies to guard yourself, or the pull to be hyper-vigilant isn’t a valid response, just that it doesn’t actually help us out in the end.

The idea of sacrificial love, service, and submission is like a braided strand, woven intricately in mutuality with grace, patience, and mercy.

And when you cannot…remember Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”


 

*This isn’t to be confused with the idea that a man should always have his way, that he should require her to bow down to him, or that he should rule with an iron fist. It is not justification for a husband to be abusive, or to demand anything of his wife. Submission has to be a conscious decision on the part of the giver. Read more on this topic in this post: He-Man Woman Hater.

If you are here and wondering about what a good man is and isn’t, please click on this link for more resources:  www.armsonline.org

 

He-Man Woman Hater

“I… (insert name here)… Member in good standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club… Do solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate CRAZY women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours – or until I scream bloody murder.”                                                                             ©The Little Rascals, 1994

The price of submission is sacrifice. Your sacrifice.

Those of you in the church and even out of it, how often do you hear: ‘Women are to submit to their husbands.’ Do you even know what comes along with that? HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES. Right? Like, when do we focus on that part of it? There is hardly any thEVCYSIIUreasonable way that we can approach the piece of submission if the piece of sacrificial love is not first addressed.

So stop telling her she must be submissive without teaching her first about how to be loved.

Also. We need to recognize that we are coming from a culture that has made the submissive wife the most pivotal piece in this symbiosis; and one in which we haven’t thoroughly approached the responsibility of the husband. Think about it in terms of history here in America. The right for women to vote is less than a hundred years old. We have seen a massive exodus from marriage, mothering as a full time occupation, and most of all from the traditional view of roles within a familial unit. Does it not seem as though it is fairly reflective of an imbalanced system?

Know this: I am no women’s rights advocate, but I’m also seriously not into being categorized as a stereotypical housewife either.

Let me put it this way. Men. Women want to serve. But heed this: SHE WILL ONLY DO SO IN A LOVING ENVIRONMENT.  

When the focus lies on the submissive wife, (as it has for far too long in the Christian church), we make assumptions about the husband’s gentle, pure love for his wife. Now, if he has lived in a society where the man rules and the message is heavy-handed toward a female’s responsibility to submission do you think he is honestly going to understand what sacrificial love looks like, feels like, and accomplishes? I’m leaning toward no. Not in the truest sense, anyway.

Where does that leave us? Let me shout my response because talking quietly doesn’t seem to be getting the point across: MEN IN THE CHURCH, YOU NEED TO STEP IT THE EFF UP. I cannot be any clearer. Learn to seek the wisdom of Christ as a picture of sacrificial love, and teach it to your sons. Christ does not require his church to be submissive to the law before He loves, but by grace in the midst of turmoil when she was least deserving…He sacrifices. In the same way understand fully that being firm, and being a leader has NOTHING to do with control, shame, or dominance and everything to do with gentle service, strong character, and integrity.

Be gentle, not because she is weak. But because she is strong and in every way will be the one to lift you up.

Cherish her.

Look, we’ve all got to deal with our own gigantic pile of crap. Just be aware: you being broken does not give you permission to be a royal PITA. You are still bound by your covenant to Christ first and foremost.

Man up. Love your wife as Christ exemplifies in His love of the church and I promise you a good woman will learn to submit to your kindness because she too, wants to be pleasing to our God. th2EPQ0J33

Next up: Wives Under Fire

 

 

 

Beauty In Isolation

There are two working engines in this mind of mine. Running on simultaneous tracks, one is full of knowledge, the other rooted firmly in experience. What lies between isimagesICE74AGC a fluctuating tension gap that causes unrelenting waves of anxiety, worry, unjust vulnerability, isolation. In the widest spaces, it can be a dreadful existence to have knowledge be so far from reality. In times where the two tracks cross and intertwine, there is blessed contentment.

In trauma reality is a force that won’t go quietly: it demands a space and confuses a mind. To know so fully the tools of therapy, the grace of a God who redeems, images (4)and the science of a working memory while concurrently living an existence that creates dissonance can be consuming. To ask God, “Where are you? Can you even hear me?” To begin to feel the tremors of aloneness…is a desolation too great to bear, and so we distract, we worry. We turn up the music to drown out the cacophony in the mind, we drink away the distress. We run.

Even the act of worry gets us out of the gap and pulls us away from the tension. We are trained so thoroughly to reject discomfort it becomes our single most focus.

LIRR Fire Disruptions Train DelaysIn times when reality hijacks knowledge, it derails emotional well-being and confounds. It can lead to a darkness so full of worry, it is hard to call back the light. It is a nightmarish claw back to serenity. Unless we can shift the paradigm (the model) of what we can expect to experience in the tension.

What if I told you completeness is found IN the tension gap? That the gap between knowledge and reality is where we find healing; that it holds the promise of hope.

To remain in the moment and to feel exactly everything in that tension gap is a task. We have to practice mindfulness and vulnerability first to ourselves before we can even entertain moving this existence to our relationships. In order to create authentic relationship with ourselves, we must confront and accept our ultimate isolation and learn to sit with what that means. To let go of worry. To allow contemplation. To be comfortable with discomfort. Easy to say, harder to practice.

It is a cry out to a God that we are not even fully sure is accessible; and a wrestling with our theology. It is turning ourselves time and time again to face the God of our faith.  To say, “My soul is weary with sorrow. imagesKE5Z0YA2Strengthen me (Psalm 119:28).” To be angry and reject the fact that something like this is even written, and yet to continue to turn back and plead for a release. Release will come, even if just for a moment “And [you] will answer the one who taunts (119:42)…” you will begin to see the end of darkness.

It is in these moments of ultimate loneliness that the reframing of our isolation can create in us a wholly healing perspective on desolation. Instead of pushing back and rejecting this space, try sitting quietly or hiking through nature. Become aware of what you see, what you hear, what your body is saying to you. There is beauty to be found in the isolation that you feel; in the tension gap between knowledge and reality you can find a place to grow in your ability to be more present to the life you so desperately want to live. Hills

Continue reading “Beauty In Isolation”

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