threaded

the story that must be told

I’m standing in the dark yelling out a line of hope. You will not win, I shout to the thing that has no shape, the thing I grapple to find a name for. I did not ask for this darkness to come. I never imagined I would have to fight so hard for my two feet to stand solid on this ground. Heart fly out from me and find Him. Your two wings come from me, you will remember your way back too. Let your beat turn into a beacon that calls for help. He will come quick and sure and we will be saved, my skin, my heart, my soul.

I hesitate to write so candidly. Hush those dark lines spilling out of you, says a voice from the ghost of past. But I am a truth-teller, an old, dubious tradition, and my words know no other way. I want to twist the dark lines into a glossy version but the harder I fight them, the fewer words come and the more uncomfortable I become. I wonder, will the lines tarnish my skin, or is that just another lie meant to silence me. Follow the lines, I want to say, follow them and find the fulsome hope that follows. A hope stronger than death. A hope that is the key to unlock every single unanswered need no matter how cavernous.

So I continue writing the story of how I expectantly send out my winged heart, bearing honest lines and naked prayers. He sent back the miraculous, as always, but never as I expected it would come. And in each miracle, the darkness is beaten back further and further.

“Our life of faith is uncertain, but we can be expectant of good. Because we belong to God, we can rest in knowing his promises to us are true and he is faithful. It’s not a question of if God is going to show up but how and when…There are no ifs with God. The only ifs relate to us. If we trust him. If we believe him. If we ask him. If we continue to ask him…Because, really, what’s too difficult for God? A virgin giving birth? God himself becoming a man and living among us? Flooding the whole earth, maybe? Or coming for you? Coming to you in your thirst and in your uncertainty? The angel Gabriel said, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37 WBT). The miraculous is not a strange thing to God. The miraculous is his normal.”     [Becoming Myself, by Stasi Eldredge]

I write the dark lines without shame because they press unrelentingly towards a light that will never be extinguished. And the lines become, every single time, the story of redemption.

They are the stones in the desert, piled high in memorial to a God who met me here.  Each is a stark truth. I imagine, hope, pray, they will be something for another soul to hold onto in moments—long and lean or short and stabbing—when darkness pulls light just out of reach of grasping fingertips.

Is there a part of your story that you’re afraid to share? If so, why?

there is a way through

IMG_0813There is a way through, God said to me. I read the verses laying open in my lap again. For so long I felt these verses were impossible, ridiculous. I didn’t want to read them again.

“‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, MSG

In the NIV version, it says, “I boast in my weaknesses”. I cringe at the words. What kind of person would say such a thing? A show-off? Why would anyone invite, glory in, celebrate pain and weakness? I’ve been in pain for far too long, I said to the Great Being. I’m looking to avoid hardship. I’m sick of weakness. I tried to ignore the herculean effort of a single thought that reminded me pain is guaranteed in this broken world. Where is the space for joy?

He rejoices because there’s a way through, God said again, His voice patient and kind—more than I deserved just then—unafraid, not put off by my bitterness. He learned to trust me, trust my redemption, he wasn’t afraid of the pain or hardship anymore, God continued.

Redemption—the word stuck in me. I know it well. I’ve been redeemed, saved, brought back to life, whatever term you want to give it. Before I was walking dead, now I burn hot with life. But Death hasn’t stopped trying to knock down my door and I have only one defense.

I am safe the minute I invite God into the dark, stinking truth of my weakness. Sometimes my invitation is a ranting shout of the ugly truth. Sometimes I wail it out, like a mourner. But each time, in my humble ask—my gut-level cry for His help and my faith that He will not forsake me—He comes.

Every. Single. Time.

He walks straight into the middle of my weakness, those broken places where my neural pathways are so twisted I can’t see reality right in front of my face. His hand reaches into the epicenter of those wounded places where I’ve been hurt deep. His scars heal mine.

I no longer have to be afraid of my hurts, habits, and hangups (as we say in Celebrate Recovery). They won’t overtake me. God will meet me in that moment. There was, there is, there always will be, a way through, He says again with full kindness.

There is great power in recounting those times God has broken through. What is a time God showed you a way through? Is there a place you wish God would step into?

True North Is Not—Perfectly Turned Down Beds

1Since childhood, I’ve habitually sifted through my days making two piles, good day, bad day. Good day when everything I did was right. I tried not to look too closely at the wriggling black mass of bad days. Someday, I promise myself, that black mass will shrink to the size of the period at the end of my sentence. For every bad day I asked the question a hundred times, what did I do wrong?

Then You put your hand between me and the hammering question and ask, will you stop and give me your heart?

Stop? I almost shriek. Stop and let all I’m working for [all the good I’m doing for You!] slip further from my grasp. Stop and let You see that I am something to be ashamed of.

I don’t see actions. I see heart. Out of the heart, actions are made, You say so quietly, gently.

The truth stings me quick and sharp. True north is not—perfectly turned down beds, steaming hot meals in an immaculate kitchen, a social calendar that makes Hollywood wish, a career that redefines the word.

The compass of my heart wobbles, and I fantasize about what my life could look like if I focused on Your face first. Suddenly I feel, in the slow release of my white-knuckled fist, the unknotting of the muscles in my shoulders, that from here—in a heart-aligned—outflows all I’ve ever strived to achieve.

What radical, upside-down kind of love would offer me such grace in a moment of such confessed shame. I read, “Surely goodness and mercy shall radaph [Hebrew word for pursue, run after, chase] all the days of my life.”*

That grace could find me here, at the end of a list of my very worst days. That such a Great Love would deem me worth so much. That He could pull out my striving, senseless strain, and create life immeasurable in its absence.

So here’s a question, because I love hearing from you, what’s a new direction God has been pointing you in lately?

*Bible verse and Hebrew meaning pulled from this blog post from Ann Voskamp

a love note

What are you wildly passionate about? What is the beautiful, driving thing you believe you’re born to do? What makes you feel on fire? There was a rather scary period of time when I didn’t have any passions. But it’s amazing what passion I uncovered after that dark, ugly thing—depression—that hounded me for years, almost killed me, was vanquished. I rediscovered a love of writing but there was something even greater, a passion for truth [italicized to distinguish the kind of truth I’m referring to] because it saved my life. Now, I can’t stop writing about truth.

Smothered under depression I used to believe that truth was hard, unyielding, cruel in it’s pristine perfection. It was utter condemnation—I saw the truth of me and it was nothing good. There was no grace in this truth and I needed more grace than I could afford. So I avoided truth.

His truth first came to me under the guise of grace. God isn’t pharisaical. That’s impossible for him because he is LOVE. Full, complete, perfect love. The kind of love that flies in the face of logic but is the only substance on earth that can save us all.

And yet, the hard, inescapable truth is that he is the final judge and can’t tolerate a spec of sin. In this most peculiar mixture of love and justice he ruled all lives with any sin must pay with death but then he stepped down from the bench, handcuffed himself, and paid the price—his death for mine, for all of us who choose to accept it.

The truth he offers says I can be redeemed, that I have worth, that fear has no place, that he has a plan for my life, that he can vanquish the darkness plaguing me. His truth is an invitation to a new way of life that has immortal, life-giving repercussions. His truth does not shy away from my sins [I must ask for forgiveness] but in the space of a breath, he offers me forgiveness, a way out, and takes away my shame.

I guess my passion for truth is a love note to Him. And it’s a message I feel compared to share for the rest of us who need unaffordable grace and a new way to live.

Question time: I’m wondering, how do you feel about this truth and what are you passionate about? I know, seems like two separate questions but I’m wondering, is what you’re passionate about linked at all to whether you believe in this truth or not?

If You Give a Child a Pencil: A True Tale of Transformation

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Click on the photo to learn more about our If You Give a Child a Pencil goal!

I’ve seen poverty in three developing countries because I feel driven to be there—driven to look it in the face. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. I often have this wild thought that I must tell the story of these places. I’ve come to accept this feeling as my calling—to speak for those who have no voice. Two years ago, I stepped into my job-dream come true. I work as a staff writer for Children of the Nations (COTN). In this job I see the naked reality of the brokenness that was, and the unaccountable, transformative power of the Great Love who is doing a great, great work in the lives of so many.

Most of the time I write accounts of these miracle stories from my home office. It’s clean, quiet, soft white and driftwood brown, one window facing to the sky. Here I let my mind to take me to the countries where our children live. Uganda. Sierra Leone. Malawi. Dominican Republic. Haiti. But each year, for a week or two I don’t have to imagine those places, I get to go. In May 2013, I went to the Dominican Republic.

We work with the outcasts there—migrant Haitian worker families who crossed the border years ago to harvest sugar cane. Now, generations later, they aren’t needed in the fields so much. Work is very hard to find. They have no rights as citizens. No access to public education or health care. They live in shanty towns. The poverty is raw boned. But here is better than where they came from, Haiti. And it’s home now, sort of, so they stay.

Here—where children hopped and skipped alongside me, pushing and shoving to grab even just one of my fingers—I see a beautiful future embedded in the dirt roads.

The beauty is only possible because I have seen what COTN is doing here, loving and caring for so many children. Otherwise, without this hope, the little fingers grabbing for my attention would break me. But here, one child at a time, hearts, minds, bodies, futures, families are being made whole again—the way God always wanted it to be. This is only possible because thousands of hands and hearts have come together to work with COTN.

Here in our Florida COTN office, we’re asking for 800 more helping hands. We recognize that education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. And school supplies are a critical, basic necessity. COTN meets this need through SmilePacks—individualized packages of school supplies.

We’ve called our goal, If You Give a Child a Pencil. There’s a simple yet profound progression from a pencil to a good education to a job to a child now grown able to provide for their family. These SmilePacks put real hands and feet on hope. COTN isn’t a hand out, it’s a hand up. This isn’t my typical blog, as you know, but I blog where my heart is, and here lies my heart. If you have any questions, send me a message! Thank you for reading!

living open-handed

IMG_0637Yesterday: I felt strong enough to challenge the big, dark thing creeping behind me, so I wrote—I feel like fear is eating me whole. Why this struggle? Why is this so important?

Today: The panic rose so high I couldn’t breath. I felt thankful for tears that came quick this time. They were the beginning of relief, they opened my soul wide enough to form words to You.  You spoke, as you always do when I lay it all out. Start at the beginning, You tell me. What is true?

God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I draw lines from power, love, and a sound mind, to their definitions—

power |ˈpou(-ə)r| the ability to do something or act in a particular way…the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events…physical strength and force exerted by something or someone

love |ləv|—I decided the dictionary cannot define it like You, my Great Love, so I recall this definition: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18

sound |sound| in good condition; not damaged, injured, or diseased…competent, reliable, or holding acceptable views

I have a two-handed grip on the throat of my life. The bit between my teeth is clenched so hard they ache and my toes dig into the dirt until my arches explode with pain of muscles unrelieved. I hold on hard to life because I. Am. Afraid.

I never knew it before. I should’ve had a clue every time I gloried in the things that didn’t scare me and laughed when they scared others.

The fear is buried deep down. I give it all kinds of other names—desire, discipline, hard work, responsibility, reputation—but its real name, too often, is fear.

Fear is another layer surfaced, one I had buried below the last layer You just dug out of me. How many more layers I wonder. What lies at the bottom of all this?

Today I’m thankful for sight. First step is to see, acknowledge. I see the fear and I’m asking you to help me live, two hands open flat. I want to live trusting You.

Do you struggle with fear? What shape does it take? How does it hold you back?

why so desperate for beauty?

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When Jesus is merely useful to me, I want Him to move my world. When Jesus is ultimately beautiful to me, it’s my heart that is moved – and this begins to change the world.” [Ann Voskamp]

I think of beauty and I feel great a sense of striving, angst, confusion and yet I have this great need to understand why I cannot let the question of beauty rest.

What kind of beauty do you want? I paint on lines, soften the blush, rub my lips against the thick color. I look in the mirror and feel happy and beautiful until I remember I must walk out into the sun and move along with the lines of people. I can’t look the man across the counter in the eye now. I’m afraid of what my made-into beauty will be to him, to them, to me. I feel naked, more exposed by my enhanced layer. I hear a girl must protect herself nowadays. Beauty is a cross to bear, said one teacher. She made me wonder what turned her bitter.

Beauty does things. It’s an invitation. But I can’t seem to control whom or what it invites. What does it mean to ‘put on my face’? Is my beauty a target or a celebration? When my strong man is beside me I feel it is safe. I feel full of beauty as it was intended, I think. But alone, I am not prepared. I have not learned how to form my limbs into a weapon to fight the armies of critical thoughts and dirty wants that have twisted what beauty was first created to be. So for now…

I feel more comfortable in my brown wren feathers. I am woman. A mother whether to children or to my passionate work. My feathers are my covering. Like the mother wren, I blend in and protect the life I have given birth too. But shouldn’t life beget life? Am I hiding the invitation to an antidote than can raise souls up from the dead? The feathers remind me of sky and forest and mountain. The places where I feel you most vividly, the places where I want to stay. I like to forget the horrors here sometimes. Are you here too? In the concrete, in the images, in the suggestion-laden streets. I hold tightly to the art of blending in. It is my secret talent. A shield. I call it a virtue.

But some days I’m tired of my mouse, brown feathers, their under-appreciated beauty. I lust for the power of persuasion. It is a kind of birthright. I want them to wish they had been enough for me. I want them to feel shorter. I want them to work and sweat just to gain enough presence to swell into my space and make themselves worth my eye contact. So with bared teeth I paint on lines, soften the blush, rub my lips against the thick color. I know somehow it can’t be right. But I walk out daring them to know I cannot be touched. I am as cold and beautiful as marble. They will not break me. I forget my desire for the Creator, that He is the key that unlocks the fear of this broken mess here on earth.

Why beauty? Of all the things you could have made? It’s brittle inspiration. It is a fragile declaration that there is more to life than just the mortal. Only an immortal code imbedded in our cells could cause such deep desire to feel and to be beautiful. Why must the line of beauty be taut? One step left is white, one step right is black. Why is the search for beauty desperate? Why is the need for beauty insatiable? How does one kind of beauty wreck us and the other lead us to an indescribable picture of You?

You. When I see You clear—no critical chatter humming in my ears, no twisted truths floating like cataracts in my eyes—I see beauty that is strength and heaven. I fall in love with the beautiful ways you restore me. So gentle, like I am a great work of art that has suffered the ruin of time and neglect that is as sure as time on this earth. You believe I am worth restoration. You, so soft, you can absorb every sickening thing humanity has ever done. And yet here You stand, strong as ever, full of life in such a way I never dreamed could be. You are beautiful. You make me beautiful. And I think, my Love, I want—now more than ever—to stand in all my restored beauty and tell them…

Here. Is. The. Way.

Dear women, I think now is a time to have a discussion of beauty. What does it mean? In your everyday what do you think of beauty? Do you hate it? Wish for it? Believe you have a hold of it? There are a million things to say about beauty and a million ways to look at the purpose of beauty. Do you believe it’s critical? Let’s start the discussion.

marking the moment of God

Altars are a memorial to the place where God meets us.” [His House Fellowship]pile-of-stones

What can I shape with my hands that will stand a memorial of the place where you met me? My creations turn to dust in this oxygen bound atmosphere. So instead I pick up immortal words and shape them into a hallelujah.

Let the sound of the words reverberate through the hollows. Let them be a sliver of light on darkest night. Let them draw together the hallelujahs from a hundred souls, rolling them together until the sound is an unfettered roar with a steady thrum running through it’s core. There is hope, life, unmeasured grace for the most undeserving soul. Together our hallelujahs breath collective, Messiah.

In your gratefulness for what God has done when he met you in a moment of impossible need, what have you done to mark the moment? And in your everyday what is a thing you or a place you go that acts as an altar, a place where you open intentional relationship with God?

And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan [river] while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot. When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”…a stone for each of the tribes of the People of Israel, so you’ll have something later to mark the occasion. When your children ask you, ‘What are these stones to you?’ you’ll say, ‘The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Chest of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan—stopped in its tracks. These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel.’” [Joshua 3:17 – 4:7]

walking in the fight

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”  [James 1:2-4]

Awake my soul. You are living. You were created, one spinning thread of molecules at a time, by the Great Creator. Awake. You were chosen to live. Your purpose is to bring life. The act of each day is your fight. It is your test. It is the step by step that will harden your muscles and make you ready for the next fight.

Practice living:

Wake. Say good morning over brewing coffee and pull out Bible and pages. Release the unseeing truth. Ingest His always-good, wise, perspective. It is the real truth. It will heal. It will give strength.

Draft the day’s bits and pieces. There is a war to be fought. It will be done one hour at a time.

Shower. My body is yours. I honor you as I honor me. Sit at the desk with a fresh face and a lighted candle. It is my reminder. It is a prayer. Work with built in hard stops for air, for walks, for stretches or strengthening, for prayer. It is the five minutes that will fuel the many hours.

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My fight is to live. To do what I was born to do. What I dream of. To use my hands, my head, my heart without letting fear grip me, paralyze me.

What’s your fight? Has God given you the steps to work through the fight?

[This picture will lead you to Ann Voskamp’s Grace Plan. God chose to speak to me about living my life through this. I share it with you. It’s not a must, merely a thought or potentially an inspiration. ]

before the dawn of time

 

image[This post is inspired by Ann Voskamp’s #TheJesusProject. Click on the picture to discover more.]

 

Before the dawn of time, C.S. Lewis writes. I feel a comfort knowing that you were there before me, before people and pain and sky and trees. That you stood unshaken in the dark void, dreamed and spoke. Solid words like a great oak door. The words were a part of you, pieces of you. Rock-steady. The words were good and true, just like you. Just like the words you speak today. Their truth, their goodness do not turn void. You spoke, the words hovered beside you, ready for the next command. Ready to do your bidding. They formed mountains and countless souls with immortal dreams.

Thousands upon thousands of words make up your being. All the good words, true, just, noble, kind, gracious, loving words. They are the bread of you. They hold a fraction of your form, but enough to blow my world apart. They are the words I stand on, lean on, hold hard and tight. They are pieces of you and when I feel alone and afraid I speak the words with my thick tongue and challenge my soul to touch each word as it runs by. I speak your words until my soul remembers and I can walk again.

I will hide your words in my heart, so I can walk and not grow faint, run and not grow weary, soar on wings like eagles. With your words I can fix my eyes on you, put on my hands around your face, see only you in the good, good times when I want to run ahead alone, and in the bad, bad times when I think my heart will stop beating. You are my rock and my fortress, my strong Deliverer. I have grafted your words within me and now they make up pieces of me.

What words of the Great Creator do you hold close to your heart?

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