Just Breathe in the Moment – Breathe in Shalom

It’s there in the moment.

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Sandwiched between the sadness and the joy. Between the love and the difficult relationships. Between the sun and the clouds. Between till death do us part, and lets talk about this another time. Between confidence and fear. Between self-preservation and laying down our lives. 

Between risking it all, and guarding our hearts.

Between finding God and losing Him.

Shalom

I am starting to understand Shalom in this time between times as I listen to the rhetoric of a political figure who incites fear and anger. I wonder what has happened to our country – to respecting those in authority as given by God even when we don’t agree. To respect each other and our different opinions – the fabric of freedom.

It is a higher calling to love others rather than to hate –  to have faith instead of fear.

All politics aside – I serve the Son of  a Middle Eastern immigrant who also happens to be the Son of God, born of the Holy Ghost, and born to die that others may live.

A Middle Eastern immigrant who had to flee persecution and death on several occasions beginning as a wee child.

We are compelled to give the person who asks us for our shirt – our coat as well.

We are encouraged if asked to walk one mile to willingly go two instead.

We are called to lay down our life for others with a promise that if we hold tightly to our own lives we will lose them, but if we give up our life we will gain – everything.

We will gain Christ. 

We are called to love, love, and then love some more. We are not called to Patriotism but to Kingdom life.

We are not called to an American flag but a Banner of Love.

We are called to an expansion of the Kingdom, not an expansion of our government.

We are called to this moment in time.

We are called to the person next to us on the bus who is a different color, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different religion – but of one blood. We as Christ followers have the Spirit whispering to us, “You were called for such a time as this.” The pain, the suffering, the wars, the genocides, the immigrants, the oppressed – we were called for them.

The hurting, the weak, the despised. 

We can’t love without Shalom. True Agape love can’t spring forth from the polluted waters of fear, self-preservation or anger. 

Shalom is so much more than peace. Shalom is complete wholeness, peace, tranquility – it is our emotions at harmony with everything that is –  breathing to the rhythm of God’s love. It is a state of being even when everything around you is in a state of doing.

It’s outwardly weeping the pain of one of our children while we breath in it is well with my soul. 

It is crossing thoughts of movie theater terrorism carried away by the laughter of happy grandchildren eating popcorn without a care.

It’s overcoming the fear of flying and seeing the in the Middle Eastern Muslim sitting across from you the face of Jesus instead of the face of the enemy.

Our Triune God is great. Our country is just a group of people fighting to do the best we can with fallen perspectives and selfishness and sin striving against the guiding compass of Love with a small measure of finite greatness. 

We as disciples are to live in the moment of Shalom. It is well with our souls when we put others first.

We must recognize that we are afraid, and fear produces cognitive dissonance…

…and cognitive dissonance causes spiritual dissonance…

…and spiritual dissonance is not where Shalom abides.

Shalom resides only in the God who was willing to lay down His rights – His very life that we as immigrant children could be adopted as sons and daughters into a Kingdom without end, without boundaries, without wars, pain, or suffering. A Kingdom party of Imago Dei.

We can’t invite enemies to the party – we won’t get close enough to them to do that. We must invite friends, acquaintances and neighbors.

We are called to inhale a time as this – and bring others into that breath. 

(All photography courtesy of my son Samuel – SamShots )

 

 

Brave Illusions

Winter, summer, drought, floods, sunshine, darkness, happiness, grief. Changing seasons.

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Changing emotions. 

Days where we don’t feel quite so able to be real or authentic. Days that lack motivation and creativity. Days that lack the tangible presence of God when the heart needs to be wrapped in theophany. Days we simply don’t feel brave enough to face the endless toil needed to move us forward into the dreams and visions that propel us.

Days I wonder if I will ever desire to be authentic again, and brave enough to share it.

Seasons of disappointment. Seasons of accomplishment.

Will I feel inspired again? Will I be able to continue to co-author my story with God’s in a way that will bring him glory, and quite possibly help someone else? Is the call real?

Days we are afraid with genuine love comes genuine heartache. 

I’ve had those days recently. Today is one of them. The ups and downs of loss and gain exacerbated by the dreary New England winter days. I long for warmth. I long for sunshine.

I’m not feeling very brave.

Days run into weeks and I don’t write. The feelings are there. The thoughts are there. They are scattered. Not creative or well put together. A bit dark and cloudy like the sky. 

Emotions make us vulnerable (saying us instead of me makes me feel less vulnerable). Emotions show I am breathing, living, moving, loving. They open up the heart to a place that invites others to walk in. And walk on.

They open the heart to compassion. 

They open the heart to community. They open the heart to God. We can’t do this walk of life without others.

The very same others that overwhelm my introverted soul and make me want to hide out and watch re-runs of I Dream of Jeanie, or read books written by the very same others who have met my God in the dreary places too. 

The others that wear the face of God even when I’m not expecting to find Him there.

My theophany comes in the face of a sad child, an old woman in the vegetable aisle who sadly smiles from a well worn countenance. The Vietnam vet who loves God in the struggles of his addiction. The pastor who exposes his weary soul week after week with hungry nay-sayers.

I cling tightly to the words of Brennan Manning, one of my favorite others, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

I refuse to live an illusion in a world that is needing to be defined by the radical love of God.

This is my theophany. This is my Holy Spirit presence. It’s not always the happy, clappy, charismata of my youth and tradition, but the quiet peace of remaining true to myself as radically beloved by God. It’s a liturgy of love. 

Radically beloved by God. 

This is what I know. This is my reality.

So I blog the scattered thoughts of what I know. I will be brave. I will trust in the creativity of God when my own is lacking. I will hope his voice comes through when mine doesn’t. His voice continues to cry in the wilderness of souls “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Darkness is only an illusion. 

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”   Robert Frost

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The Message of the Cross in the Face of a Child

“I don’t want anything else from this world. Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”
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Compassion has a face. Love has a voice. Action has a motive. Christ. 

We are all strangers in a strange land, pilgrims passing through.                   (Full story here:  News )

He only wanted a life for his family, fleeing from a country where over 11 million people have been displaced since 2011 and a hundreds of thousands have died. Surrounding countries such as Iraq, are facing their own civil wars and terrorism.

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Where would you go? He tried to go to Canada to join his sister through legal immigration means, and they were denied.

What would you do to save your littles?

It is so easy for us to miss the living, breathing, brokenness of real life, amidst the abundant sterility of our well-kept lives. The faces of refugees are not sterile, or well-kept, but desperate and stricken.

They were just little boys, the same ages as some of my grandsons.

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In the face of Galip, I see my four year old Hector, who just started Kindergarten last week. I bought him a backpack with the image of a shark on it.  It is an,  “I love you, work hard in school,” gift of my love. I’ve never had to think about keeping his head above water as we struggled to stay alive. I don’t have to worry about a bombs exploding overhead.

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Galip should be picking out a backpack and jumping with excitement over the big yellow buses that go by. He should be grinning from ear to ear as he picks up his new box of crayons and shows them to papa with pride. He should be looking forward to Christmas and the shiny light shows that North America displays. His aunt should be able to see the snowflakes reflected in his eyes as he gazes in rapture at his first downy sight. He should be visiting museums and learning about Pirates, U.S. History, and tasting freedom and safety. 

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In the image of tiny two year old Alyan, I see our little grandson David Grubb.

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I can’t look at the image of Alyan’s lifeless body, lying face down on the beach, without weeping. He should be smelling flowers, and growing up to the  questions of “why?” “Why do they have so many cars mama?” “Why is it so green?” He should be swinging on a swing saying, “higher!” or playing in a sandbox with his mother hovering nearby, her eyes full of the wonder of raising a toddler. Instead her eyes are closed, forever, and her husband holds the images of pain for a lifetime as they were buried in the very place he tried to flee from.

I would have taken them all into my home so they would not be a “burden” to society. David would have housed them, and clothed them, fed them, loved them, and helped them to find a new life. He would have held their toddler so mama and papa could explore an evening in their glorious new beginnings. In doing so, maybe they would find their life in Christ. (The sad implication of our financial changes as result of David’s former loss of career with IBM, isn’t in our own lack of need, but in our inability to help and house the hurting.)

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In helping others, we are helped. In loving others, we are loved. In teaching others, we learn the many things education can’t provide. In giving, we receive gifts that no amount of money can purchase. The things that the Donald Trumps’ of the world are lacking in – a Kingdom vision.

People are often shouting about the sins of America in terms of external issues of morality, and what we need to do become a great nation again. Maybe the wicked ways we need humble ourselves and pray about (2 Chron. 7:14), are not the things that America is doing, as much as what we are not doing, caring for widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor, and revealing a nation full of compassion towards all of God’s image bearers. (Duet. 24:17, Exodus 23:9, Duet. 27:19, I John 3:17, Is. 58:7-10 to name a few.)

Jesus was moved with compassion towards all people, at all times; outraged only at those who were more interested in the preservation of themselves and their historic religious identities. Acts 10:38 says it clearly,

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.   (The MSG)

We are all refugees in a foreign land seeking a safe place to rest our heads, be free from struggling, and find peace in this fleeting moment of time.

For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. I Chron. 29:15 (ESV)

With issues of sovereignty, it’s crucial that we remember we are all just passing through the place we temporally call home. We are here to glorify God and to grow His Kingdom, with disciples who are relentlessly pursuing Him. We should be radically altered in that pursuit so we are transformed to reflect the character and nature of Jesus!

 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,   Phil 3:20 (ESV)

Maybe our “passions” as American citizens of heaven, need to be re-aligned.

 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  I pet 2:11 (ESV)

Let us all be people of grace to the Alyans’ and Galips’ of the world. Let’s not appear before God as a nation whose sin was to stand by and idly watch the suffering of others, engorged by our own gluttony, as we turn our eyes from suffering.

Maybe that is the message of the cross.

Jesus, Spider Webs, and Blogs

Today is one of those days. It’s an, I want to escape into a cheesy novel like, Love Comes Softly, or regress to my childhood Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines, while soaking in a bubbly hot tub. It’s a day I choose to share my heart, instead of hiding it.

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It is “a worst of times” kind of day, it is a “best of times” kind of day.

It’s a day where I find myself weeping over the broken, fallen, hurting, horrible world we live in. It’s a day my heart breaks for the multitudes whose pain I have embraced. It’s a day my mama heart hurts over the pain my children are feeling. A day I wish I could snuggle them to my breast again and make it better.

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It’s a day I look up to heaven and rest without the answers of why we must suffer, why the “formula” of faith never works, and I know that somehow God is holding my babies in the palm of His hand and cradling them gently.

It’s a day I do some happy weeping; rejoicing over the beauty of a life well lived, an unfolding flower, a kiss from a furry friends, roses from my husband, the image of my tiny new grand-daughter, or the blessings of living in such an easy country.

MilaIt’s a day I am in awe of the love of God.

There is a time to weep, and a time to rejoice.

The more we live and the more deeply we love, the times of weeping and rejoicing become conjoined at the hip. Our emotions are woven into an intricate web of happiness and sorrow, rejoicing and suffering, beauty and pain. A web of sticky strands waiting to capture us.  Filled with the tears of life.

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Jesus has chosen to reside in our webs. 

It’s a day I miss my son who is in the presence of Jesus. I can imagine Micaiah hanging out with my Lord Lover, and I cry with a conjoined unfolding of immeasurable joy trapped in a web of “what’s?”  What’s his smile like? What does he hug like? I’ll never have my arms wrapped around him in an embrace of, “I don’t really want to let go.” Never seeing him open his eyes, or hear the sound of his voice. “What does he look like Jesus?” “What does his voice sound like?” Never meeting his children. Never saying “I love you.”

June 2014 Micaiah J Grubb 424It’s a day I feel weary of working in grief, weary of a non-profit, weary of newsletters worries, weary of funding woes, and weary of wondering why Americans are so afraid to join me in this painful, but sacred place.

It’s a day I love what I do. It’s a day I feel energized. I love serving the wounded Jesus holds close. I love equipping others to understand lament and walk beside the wounded also. It’s a day I love living out to the fullest the life He has given me.

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It is the best of days, it is the worst of days.

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11391291_10153290279263903_854655281588271216_n IMG_9482It is a day that I should be doing my college work instead of blogging. I should be getting out a newsletter instead of blogging. I should be mopping my floor or doing the piles of laundry instead of blogging.  I should be busy with anything but blogging. It should be a Martha day, not a Mary day. 

It’s a day I want to be Martha to the needy, the poor, the broken, the lost, and the suffering – instead of blogging. It’s a day I want to be the Hands and Feet.

It is a day I am so thankful for a husband who takes the Martha and the Mary; a Beloved  who takes the broken and beautiful me, wholly and unconditionally. 

Iphone 435 (2)It’s a day I don’t care about typos in my blog.

It’s a day I don’t care if you like my tattoo, cause I think Jesus does. He was with me when I got it.

It is a day I decide to toss the judgment of others to the wind, and dare to be a real human, with real issues, and real pain, and real desires, and real regrets, and real worries, and real joys, and make that knowledge public, in the hopes that someone else struggling to know a real God may be touched by knowing me as a real messy, but adored, used, accepted, and beloved by God, person.

A real person who loves and serve a real God. A God named Jesus. A God who gets me. A God who I love beyond life.

And have sometimes, hated for a moment, then another moment, and yet another moment, for not just fixing it all, and making it all better.

He’s a God who I don’t understand, yet no longer have to. He’s a God who loves me more than life too. He proved that on the cross.

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A God who experienced the best of times, and the worst of times alongside suffering humanity.

A God who chose to. 

He’s a God that’s in the darkness with us.  He leads us out though sometimes we may lose sight of Him for a while.  He always knows exactly where we are, and pulls us out by an unseen hand; the touch is so gentle that sometimes we miss it for the pain dominating our hearts.

He’s a God who takes us for who we are, what we are, when we are, and where we are. He gently lifts, and molds and mends, all the while letting our light shine from a place of authenticity, transparency, and reality.

If we let Him.

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Not to make us someone other than who we are, but to make us clean, forgiven, accepted, and whole. A peculiar people loved by a perfect God.

God resides with the Jesus lovin’ drunk in the gutter whose pain was more than He could overcome, the mother dying of cancer, the orphan wandering the streets, the disaster survivor hanging on by a thread, the visionary wondering why our visions aren’t realized, and the person praying as the bomb goes off. levi and dave (2)

He’s with the bride saying “I do,” the infant taking its first breath, the child blowing out the birthday candles, the father playing catch, the teen running to home base, and the mom dancing with her toddler.

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He is with us in total solitude, and in hand clapping praise. He is with us as we rise in the morning, and as we drift off at night.

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He’s with the gardener, the carpenter, the engineer, the homemaker, the widow, the teen, the nurse, the chaplain, the paramedic, the janitor, the landscaper, the check-out clerk and the mechanic.

He’s with them in the best of times, and the worst of times.

He is with us in our spiritual formation, and our spiritual deserts.

He has promised He will never leave us or forsake us.

He is with me as I blog.

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My tears may fall again today and that’s Ok.

I love my tears. They are a gift.

I love even more that Jesus sits next to me and hands me the tissue to dry them, and then chides me and says, “You beautiful mess you. Now open up that text book and learn about me. I’ll read Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines and run the tub for you later. I’ll even make you tea. ”

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(If you don’t know this God, I encourage  you to find Him. If you don’t feel loved, I encourage you to trust Him. Contact me if you’d like me to help with the introduction. It’s not needed, but some people are shy, afraid, or think that their mess is too big for God.  My information is everywhere on the internet. Seriously, Jesus is  a game changer.)

Letters to Jesus (You Know My Name)

Dear Jesus,

You may not remember me. I met you a few years ago at a “charismatic coffee house.” I thought it was pretty cool watching men, women, children, and even nuns all raising their hands to praise you. They all got along and seemed to really like each other. You may already know that I went outside to get high while they were singing. Even though I was high, I felt something there. It was something real. Something good. There was that one night when I prayed with two other teenagers to follow you. I liked those kids – I mean they were really square but seemed to be happy about being so uncool. I felt like they genuinely liked me. Me! Not for the drugs I could provide, or the parties, or an act I put on to be accepted – but just for me. I can’t really explain it, but for the first time in my life I felt kind of clean. Maybe even good. I felt like my life mattered. 

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The coffee house was pretty far away from home though and I didn’t have anyone to take me there. When I went back to school I was called a “Jesus freak” and mocked out. I was known for being a fun person, a party person. I didn’t have anyone who would accept me. I couldn’t stand being alone. I hope you can understand that. I mean you created Eve because you said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. I was all alone and it just wasn’t good. My old life drew me back because that’s where my friends were. I don’t know how to be alone. I guess I am kind of like Adam in that way.

I never stopped looking for you. I went to a church one time, but the people were really cold. I don’t think they liked me. Maybe it was the smell of cigarettes, my ripped jeans or Sarah on my hip that turned them off. I didn’t know there was a special way I had to dress or act to go to church. I really didn’t like living with David, but that’s where we were at. I wasn’t sure if you liked it either, but it seemed to matter more to the people in the church, than introducing me to you. Besides, the pastors I called refused to marry us anyway. Ben had been raised going to church and he told me I shouldn’t expect anything different. There it was again. Where are you? I kept reading my bible and trying to find where you hung out, but the people I asked scared me. Actually, the truly kind people were everywhere BUT the churches. I was very confused. What I was reading about you in the bible was really different from the people who said they knew you. I would have liked that coffee house again.

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I met an old lady who said she knew you. She was really kind and brought us cookies and meals after Katie was born. She used to talk all the time about what you “did” for her, and how much she loved you. I had no idea what she was talking about, I didn’t understand what “saved” or “born again” meant.  It was all sweet, but it didn’t make any sense to me. I wanted her to introduce me to you, but I was afraid to ask. I figured because of my drugs, cigarettes, jeans, and unholy lifestyle you wouldn’t want to meet me. Maybe, I don’t really want to you meet you if these are the people you like to hang out with now. Come on, I am nicer than most of the people who say they know you! I may not dress all that great, smoke cigarettes or swear, but at least I am kind to strangers. They are all so “better than thou.” Didn’t you write the story about the man who was hurt on the side of the road?

I began to understand that I couldn’t possibly have really met you because if I had, I would have said a “sinner’s prayer” and given up my “old ways.”  At the least I would have “known” I was “saved.” That’s what they told me. I guess there would be some kind of lingo I spoke to show I had met you. I wasn’t really sure about all the things they said I had to give up either. I didn’t understand what they meant by “sin.” It didn’t seem like I was doing anything wrong or hurting anyone. I am still trying to find someone who likes me the same way those kids in the coffee house did. I am still trying to find someone who is willing to be my friend, and show me where you live or hang out. I think I’d still like to get to know you Jesus, at least the Jesus who hung out with people like me. But the “Christians” who tell me that they know you make me question if you are even real.  Or worth it.

Maybe those nice people at the coffee house who said you loved me just for me, were were just my imagination.

Sincerely,

You Know My Name

When the “Church” Wounds

Dave and I talked deeply today, as we always do during our Saturday morning devotions. The word – devotions feels almost trite – so other worldly, religious at times – held as a scepter for the truly spiritual to hold up. We are far from super-spiritual. Just us – no more, no less, but everything to God and to each other.

when the 6Yet, “devotions” is exactly what they have become for David and I – a time of deep commitment, to each other, and to God. We are totally devoted to our time – the three of us. Five if you want to view it from a Trinitarian perspective. We are learning who God is at the core of our being, and by doing so we are learning who we are. We have learned how much he truly likes us, for exactly who we are. It makes it so much easier not to be offended by the actions of others when you know how much God likes you. It no longer matters as much what a frail human thinks about us, or does to us, when we know God thinks we are awesome.

Broken, but more than OK.

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God thinks I am remarkably OK. Actually, He completely delights in me, even if you don’t. Even as a lady “pastor.” A missionary. A chaplain. Even as none of those, but just his daughter and friend. Just Jamie. He is smiling at me- right at me. 

Right now.

Very few people have gotten to know Dave and I. At fifty-six years old, we are both very aware of how rare it is to meet people who are willing to take the time to go deep – to know our story – or to remove their masks enough that we might try to enter into their story. Especially not the tale that is told with words, but the one that is reflected in the emotion or our lives and the fabric of our humanity. The place where wounds are caused and then healed. The place where love is given, taking back, and then given again – empowered by the One who gave us His love.

That kind of love involves risks. It involves pain. It is a torn and repaired tapestry, wrought with a history of short redemption tales. Most people don’t want a tapestry with holes, they would rather throw it out and replace it with something new. A new friend, a new relationship, a new ministry partner, a new church, a new pastor.  Even a new marriage. Out with the old, in with the new.

when the 4It is even more difficult to develop relationships when you have been forced to move as many times as we have. Start over, start over, and start over again. Relationships take time, and time is not easy to find for many in our rushed society. There is no history in new relationships, and our history is deep. Our history points to our gifts and our gifts speak of who we are.

For all of us frail humans to tell our story means we are going to breathe deeply of the spirit of God, and admit that many things we believe about other people, we may be wrongly interpreting through the grid of our past experiences. It means we perceive rejection when there is none. We unknowingly try to control outcomes and behaviors out of fear. We hurt each other, apologize, get hurt, get over it, and hurt again.

To live with redemption stories means the church has to be the church; not just a place where you gather on Sundays to listen to a preacher, or the building that is dependent upon tithes to pay the bills, or classrooms of Sunday school teachers trying to get the Word of God, into hungry people.

It has to be a place where Jesus is found in the loving relationships that happen in the everyday fabric of our stories.

A place where people go out and serve others who have stories waiting to be told, so they can be received, and also redeemed. A listening place. A healing place.

A Jesus place.

A place where everyone who enters has at some point sat down with others in the “church” and broken the bread of communion which extends far beyond the cracker or wafer we celebrate in remembrance of the “ordinance.” Beyond the pot-luck suppers, or fellowship dinners to our homes.

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There is a vulnerability in welcoming people into our homes, and into our lives. It is the place where wounds are made and healed. It is the place where love is given and received.

It is the place where Christ dwelt when he walked upon this earth.

The church cannot grow beyond the relationships it develops. We have for too long made the church the building where we gather on a Sunday, or for a mid-week small group. We too often think in terms of inviting someone to church, instead of being the church to people.

If we were to ask Paul if he would like to “come to church” with us he would most likely wonder what strange doctrine we were referring to. We are the ekklesia, from the greek word kaleo (to call) with the prefix ek (out) added on. We are the called out. The English word for “church” however is derived from the kuriakon, which more commonly referred to a building or temple. At the time when the bible was being translated into Latin, the word most commonly refer to the building, as opposed to the people assembling in it. Sadly, the word has often translated into the attitude.

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We are the called out, and we assemble together. We need a place to assemble and the “church” building has become that place. I am incredibly thankful for the “churches” that are showing great love in developing relationship both with the “church,” and with other “churches”  (assemblies), for the sake of ekklesia growth – Kingdom growth, and not just individual growth. But it should never replace the intimate relationships developed within community, and outside the building.

Sometimes that happens within the building as well, but if it does not extend to the outside, if it remains the Sunday only, I only see you wearing your finery – your Sunday masks, and your spiritual attitude, then we are not living as the ekklesia – the called out. Instead, we are living no differently than the Pharisees did in keeping to the commandments, doctrines, routines, and rituals of men.

We will be known for our love.

I am so thankful for the few who have reached out from within the walls of the “church” to get to know Dave and me. With our cult background of spiritual abuse, an invitation to “church” was never really going to get us there. We’d lived through the writing on the wall. I am even more thankful for few in leadership who reached out in love, revealing to us not all pastors, teachers, or leaders are manipulative, abusive, or control freaks. Some, even reflected how we saw Jesus to be. In love with all His people, regardless of where they “assemble.”

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Some even loved us for exactly who we were, and love gave us the courage to could step through the doors to “assemble.”

So for those pastors, leaders, clergy, laypeople, churchgoers, humans – let me encourage you to look a little deeper – just like Jesus did. Stay a moment at the well and ask for the story of a women; actually listen to the “publican” with a faith perspective you don’t understand; help the young man you find appalling in his words and actions.

You may learn something about them. You may learn more about yourself. Most importantly, commune with the ones who God puts in your path, both inside and outside the “church.” You may just be an instrument of healing in their lives. At least you won’t wound them any further.

Whose Hand Molds You

Most of us know the scriptural references to God as a potter and to humanity as lumps of clay. We even have worship songs written about it.

 Actually, The Potters Hand by Darlene Zschech, is one of my personal top five favorite worship songs. It more often than not makes me cry when I sing. It brings about feelings of broken amazement.  It is in my list of “Crisis Songs” – the ones I listen to when I am attending to an accident, a traumatic death, or at a disaster site. I have my list of songs for worship, comfort,  and as a gentle reminder that I am exactly where He wants me to be and…

who he wants me to be.

“Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted
into your perfect plan…” 

I listened to it every morning in Haiti before our training others about PTSD and trauma – before I listened to the painful stories of death, loss, and total destruction. I listened to it at many natural disasters in the USA. I listened to it in the Philippines before I stepped out into the surrounding devastation, and lines of patients waiting to see a midwife, EMT, or doctor. Before I looked into the eyes of hundreds of children who called me Lola – many who were traumatized, lonely, fatherless, hungry, or the poorest of the poor.  Beautiful children. Wonderful, happy, loving, children. 

IMG_9872  Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.   Isaiah 64:8

Adam was made from the dust of the earth – the first perfect clay vessel, molded and fired by the fingers of God.

I love the thought of God molding a lump of clay like myself into something beyond my limited imagination and comprehension. He is the potter and we are the clay. He does the molding according to His plans and purposes. We rest in His hands as only a lump of clay can. We do not work towards our own making, or mold ourselves. 

That is the real miracle of it – He does it all. 

We don’t even get our hands dirty in the process.  From start to finish, God owns it.  (Phil. 1:6)

“You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes…”

Yet, we don’t always rest in His hands and allow Him do the work. We don’t see ourselves or others with His eyes.

IMG_6045We tend to beat ourselves up over all of our many and prominent blemishes, and then throw ourselves face first and headlong into fires of change, and furnaces of self judgement. We don’t want our work – who we are – to be visible,  so we stay out on the back deck,  hidden from all but those who know how to find us.

Sometimes they step over us without even noticing that we are there – alone – waiting to be seen.

We are clay in the Masters hand, but we are all apprentices to the Potter as well. Like a good Teacher, He allows us to be part of the learning process for others.

The minute we begin to share our faith, or mentor, pastor, disciple, or hold relevant groups, we become apprentices to the Master- we hold the responsibility of  helping to mold someone else. But we often shape others by twisting, forcing, and forming with our not so gentle hands. We hold onto images of the shape or time frame when our pots are ready to be fired, so we rush or manhandle them and produce lumps, bumps, and cracks.  We are all too quick to throw the pots into the fire before they are ready, and often they end up burned.

“I’m captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you’re drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray…”

Instead of being a display for the Master, they remain hidden from view completely – afraid that the piece they have become is a disappointment to the Master, and not worthy of a public display.

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Instead of helping them to come out from behind the rocks and believe in the unique beauty of their broken, burned, or marred pieces,  we push them further away so we don’t see their imperfections.  Their imperfections only point to our own, and we don’t want our imperfections revealed. We know we will also be prodded, molded, and thrown into the fire.

“To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice. Our minds have great difficulty in coming to grips with such a reality. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Perhaps it is only our hearts that can accomplish this.” Henri Nouwen

True love – God’s love – does not poke or prod. It doesn’t rush, or coerce. It never uses fear, control, or manipulation to incur change. True love is a presence that allows others to be drawn into the place where they are safe to be truly seen, in all their broken and burned fragments. True love reveals Jesus from the broken place within ourselves – within our own hearts.

The Master Potter takes a lifetime to mold us into His image, into who He has called us to be. We remain safely in His hands as he molds us, gently curving us where He wills, making each of us unique. The furnace remains in the far off distance, waiting for the time when we see him face to face, and He completes His perfect work.

Love is not threatened by what is revealed within ourselves when we embrace broken humanity. 

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“Take me, Mold me, use me, fill me 

I give my life to the Potter’s hand

Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me, 

I give my life to the Potter’s hand…” 

Our lives and the lives of others rest safely in the Potters hand. We need to remember that.
Images – Courtesy of SAMSHOTS Photgraphy

 

 

When Women Love

I have met so many women with a deeply ingrained ability to love and love well. We were created to be caregivers to the ones who are entrusted daily into our care.

When Women Love 2And to each other.

Like mother bears we are passionate about serving, protecting, and helping others.

We love deeply.

Sometimes,

we hurt deeply.

Large families, infertility, death, divorce, illness, image issues, abusive churches, domestic violence, human trafficking, gendercide, abortion…

So many issues that we experience, feel, hurt, regret.

When women connect intimately, they have the capacity to transcend all boundaries of race, color, ethnicity, creed- even religion; and when the women share the same agape love of God through Christ Jesus, the possibilities of healing are endless.

Women are gifted for so many acts of service that are often overlooked in the church and community. Sometimes we feel ill equipped to do the  very things that we are the most suited for.

This is the basis for my training and teaching women to respond to loss and trauma. From military families and vets, to tornado victims, and everything in between, the ability of women to minister to others with deep seated empathy is amazing. In today’s society where up to 95% of people will witness or suffer a traumatic event, women unleashed for service would to help hurting people is a powerful force for sharing the Good News.

In Genesis 2:18 were created to be “helpers” and without getting into a theological debate of the Hebrew behind this (saving that for another blog), suffice to say that the same Hebrew word used for helper suitable in Genesis is the same words that refer to God as our helper in many other passages.

We are powerful helpers to our husbands and to mankind in our capacity to love.

Mary was a perfect example of deep love, compassion, and human emotion.

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Jesus loved her.

Anointing the feet of Jesus – wiping them with her hair – she would later go on to reveal very human disappointment when he delayed in coming to save her dying brother, Lazarus. She hesitated in running out to meet him and when she did she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would have lived.”

In other words, “Lord, I have loved you so, couldn’t you return that love by saving my brother?”

Sometimes despite our love, the glory of God must be revealed.

And it hurts.

Jesus wept when Mary hurt.

Raised from the dead.

Lazarus lived again.

The glory of God revealed through deep pain and suffering.

Later, we again find Mary at the feet of Jesus.

But this time it is the foot of the cross.

IMG_5778Weeping at the cross she revealed for all to see her love of Jesus.

Wearing our hearts on our sleeves, we reveal ourselves for all the world to see.

We want to be seen. We want to be known. We want to be accepted.

We want to be loved for who we really are.  Without religious masks or Christian jargon, quick retorts of “I’m fine,” or hidden tears. We want to be connected to God and each other as it was in the beginning. Before the fall. Before the pain.

Before the humanity donned masks of shame and regret.

We want to reveal our true selves. Often we share our hearts too quickly, too often, and too openly, and it leaves our hearts battered, broken, torn, and burned.

And we, like Mary, go to the foot of the cross,

and reach for Jesus, revealing our tattered, broken, hearts to the the One who makes us whole.

 

 

 

 

Judging Others is Like Walking Into the Wrong Bathroom

Yes, I did it. Today while shopping at Walmart I accidentally walked into the men’s public bathroom.

I could have happened to anyone…

I drink a lot of water – nuff said. We had just purchased some groceries and I took off for the ladies room. I told Dave I would meet him and Sam outside and I was rushing. I began to walk into the ladies room when I looked up into the face of a man looking back at me. Seeing a man, I did what any woman would do – I made a 180 degree turn, and walked directly through the door behind me.

I quickly headed for a stall in the back, my peripheral vision barely catching some people to my left who were washing their hands at the sink. There was a little boy about age ten, leaning against the stall ahead of me and wearing a perplexed expression.  Naturally my full attention was drawn to him. I said, “Hello there” as I swung by him and walked into the first stall.

And that’s when it hit me…

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“Oh my God, I’m in the men’s room!”

And yes, I said it out loud.

I heard a chuckle and attempted to exit as quickly as I entered. As a walked back out I realized those sinks that had been to my left were not sinks at all – they were urinals!

Those men were not washing their hands.

UGH!

I threw my hands up next to my face to cover my vision (and hide my face) as I squealed, “SORRY GUYS.”  My exit was followed by a bit more hearty laughter.

It was then I saw the big bucket in front of the ladies room, which was being cleaned by a MAN!  (Lesson learned – pay attention to cleaning buckets!!!!)

There was no way I was going to stand outside the bathroom and patiently wait to use it now. I wanted outta there.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people.  Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her.   We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot.  The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one.  Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom.  Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. 

yokeLet’s remember Jesus’ words:  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged”  (Matthew 7:1).

Judging others is like walking into the wrong bathroom.

At first glance, I saw a man standing inside the doorway – my perception was that I was headed into the wrong bathroom. I thought I knew by an outward, quick, judgment, that I should flee in the other direction. I completely misjudged what I saw.

Sure that I was then correct in my assessment I turned completely around and headed into the men’s room. With confidence I walked deeply into the room and into the stall, ignoring the uneasiness that I felt. It wasn’t until I went to latch the door – a moment of stillness – that I knew. My outer judgement had been completely wrong. My perception of the situation had been completely wrong. 

It was only deep inside the situation that the TRUTH was revealed.

“Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see”  Soren Kierkegaard

To be honest, I have walked into a men’s bathroom, and almost walked into the men’s bathroom before – more than once.

But I have never walked completely into the bathroom while it was in use.  It was humbling to say the least, embarrassing, and totally awkward to be inside the inner recesses of that bathroom.

All because of a decision based upon an ever quicker judgement.

To love others we have to be willing to go far enough into their lives that we can have a reasonably clear view of what it looks like. We have to be willing to go far enough in to see a glimmer of the truth about their lives. We can’t judge the heart – only God can do that, but we can try to understand what makes their inner man tic.If you see a brother have need....Does the love of God dwell in you?What are their struggles? Do I know what they have suffered? What regrets do they live with?  What brings them joy? Do they have dreams? Or are they all gone?

Dried up with the wind.

The answers lie beyond where it is comfortable to walk. The answers lie in the inner recesses of love.

We have to learn not to judge others based upon a fleeting moment or a quick assessment – a wrong perception of who we think they are.  We are headed in the wrong direction, and it will be embarrassing for us when we stand before God and see others as God sees them.

In His image.

He has better for us.  He has perfect love. He desires we see others as He sees us – from the inside out.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Sam. 16:7

Kids Drink Half the Glass, but They Refill It

In the midst of a time when our family was going through one significant problem, loss, illness, or difficulty after another, a very wise woman said to me, “I guess when you have eight children you should expect more trials.” Though at the time it wasn’t really what I wanted to hear, I knew there was truth in what this pastors wife had witnessed over the years of mothering a church, and praying through all of it. Praying-hands-with-bibleSo here I am – large family and ten grandchildren, three son-in-laws and a daughter in law later, not to mention extended family and some close friends that are like family, noticing I always have someone in my immediate circle needing prayer.

I understand why older women and men prayer more – besides (hopefully) entering into mature disciples of Jesus – the retired crowd generally has more time and larger circles of people requiring a bended knee.  If not more time, more time to choose to pray. 

Just last week, I was reminded of Martin Luthers quote,  “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

Life is full of disappointments, misdirection’s, loss of dreams, changes – enough to cause a person to want to give up if you focus on the “have nots” instead of the “haves.” It is the glass half empty – glass half full principle.

GlassHalfFull-thumb-480xauto-3821I admit it – If someone at my table was drinking that,  I would look at that glass and think of it as half empty, and take it to the sink to refill it.

And yet…

I usually only fill my own glass halfway up. Unless it is my “required amount of drinking water” glass, I prefer most beverages in small quantities.

It really is one more thing that depends upon perspective.

Some of the “glass half empty people” like me tend to see the needs that are up ahead, instead of the just the blessings of today.  I see the person who needs a refill much more quickly than I see my own need to refill. I want to know that the future is somewhat secure and when it isn’t (which it has been far from for the last 5 years) I want to do something to make it better. I want to plan.

I want to dream again. I can’t live without dreams of a better future. It is in my makeup. Joseph was a dreamer and they came to pass. I will hope…

My glass feels half empty since the kids left home.

I should  have more time to relax – instead I have less.

I should have less worries about my children, but instead I have more. I have my children’s children now. I add them to my worry list. To my pray without ceasing list. To my burdens.

They drain the glass quickly on almost a daily basis no matter how far away they are. It’s not their fault. It’s mine.

If the glass were filled with my love, it would drain empty every time I have to say good-bye.

dont make me cryEvery time I know one of them – child or grandchild is sick, or hurting; when life thrown them a curve ball and they miss the pitch. I don’t ever want to see my kids strike out. I know how much it hurts. So the glass is frequently half empty – life drains it.

But my oh my, they sure know how to fill it back up again.

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So when you are tempted to look at someone who has a glass half empty attitude, remember you don’t know what life events may empty it.

Besides, they may be  the person who will instinctively know just when you need a refill.