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Archive for the tag “redemption”

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?

the richness of lives undone

This is one part of a mini series about love:

“Love is a choice,” one sage soul said to me before I got married. I was too polite to argue with her but I knew, in the glowing light of my affection for my fiancé, that love wasn’t a choice. It was a magical feeling that would transform my life. How unromantic to choose to love! Love was blossoms and golden sunlight and all kindness. Love made life bearable.

I’ve been married for seven years and that one line of advice is literally the only one I can remember out of hundreds of well meaning words from other people. I never expected to write about love on this blog but God has been pressing his fingers into my heart and love is the topic of the hour.

Seven years. It’s almost ironic that this biblical number has become such a significant mark in the life of my marriage. I am no longer the woman I was on that blue-sky, October day, walking down the stone path in my wedding dress. He is no longer the waiting man in the black tux and tie. Today when our fingers touch there is more in that moment than simple maturing that comes with years. There is a knowing.

We are, and are still becoming, lives undone.

Seven years of being undone, to be precise. Seven hard years to redemption. In that space pain, disillusionment, anger, confusion, hopelessness, squirmed into every crack and cranny. Truthfully, I, the girl who dreamed of romance turned bitter. I stopped reading about love. I stopped watching sweet movies with happy endings. I pasted my lips into a tight line in front of young lovers. And I asked God why he would strap me into a lifelong commitment full of disappointment. I blamed my predicament on my husband, on my brokenness, on God. I saw love, life itself, as a fight. I was the weary soldier. And I was alone.

But God was present. He didn’t speak in shouts. That’s not what I needed. He didn’t cut long, unrelenting lines of truth in my soul. That’s not the way of love. He asked for surrender.

I want your heart, the Great Love whispered to me. He whispered this line over and over through those seven years. What I didn’t understand was that love could not begin until it began with Him.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you believe your heart is central to you and how you live your life or is it more superfluous? Do you trust your heart or believe it’s dangerous? Do you let anyone near your heart or do you hide it away?

Stay tuned for part 2…

Insistent Prayer

Tell me it will be okay. I bury my face in kind cotton threads. Can I know this isn’t the end? Is this just a silly, mean wrinkle? Will I enter into the wildness of life lived again?

I strain against the pulsing pain. Against the wracking fear. I strain against the damning evidence. I ask—let me see beyond the seen.

No matter how my heart betrays me, I know within my soul, you are The Great One. I choose to remember your many names, all promises and goodness. You have gone before and fought. You have decided the victory.

Why you created me for this moment and time, I don’t know. The earth is burning. And we all are in desperate need. What can I offer?

In the midst of my brokenness, let me be your faithful oracle. Bring life out of the charred remains.

“They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3b – 4

the saving of something irreversably declined: redemption

heatherOur society knows very little about redemption.  We are the land of sweat, hard work.  We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  We work for the American dream.  You want it, you make it happen.  The notion of redemption, rocks me.  I have a strong sense of needing to be self-made.  And I drag my notions into my art.

re·demp·tion n

1.  the saving or improving of something that has declined into a poor state

2.  the improved state of somebody or something saved from apparently irreversible decline

3.  the buying back of something given, for example, to a pawnbroker, as security for a loan

4.  the removal of a financial obligation, for example, the repayment of a loan or promissory note

5.  deliverance from the sins of humanity by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

I was something that had declined into a poor state, apparent irreversible decline.  My life was a state of paralysis and therefore, my art was also at a stalemate.  There is something incredibly damaging about not being able to do the thing you were born to do.  It is a kind of hell.

I surveyed myself often, going over the damage.  Going over my strategy, how was I to get back on my feet?

And then God…my redemption story is for another time…but much of me has been restored and it wasn’t because I found some kind deep buried strength.  It was an act of God.  Grace.  Undeserved.

When I write now, I find my old demons start circling like vultures.  The old paralysis comes back.  And in that moment I call on my God.  I hold onto my redemption.  And then I start to write.  And I feel the fulfillment, the power, the sheer ecstasy that comes from being solidly in my skin working in the heat of my calling.

Have you been redeemed?  What do you do to hold onto your redemption?  Is there something you wish to be free of, something that is holding you back from your calling?  I’d love to hear it all.  There is power in speaking the pain and the truth.

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In case you are interested I added the lyrics from Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave.  God provides ways to remind us of things we need extra help remembering.  I find this one does the trick.  You can find the song on iTunes.

Seems like all I could see was the struggle

Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past

Bound up in shackles of all my failures

Wondering how long is this gonna last

Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “son

Stop fighting a fight it’s already been won”

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

I am redeemed, I’m redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy

Named by the voice of my shame and regret

But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”

I remember, oh God, You’re not done with me yet

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

Because I don’t have to be the old man inside of me

‘Cause his day is long dead and gone

Because I’ve got a new name, a new life, I’m not the same

And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, ’cause I’m not who I used to be

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, yeah, I’m not who I used to be

Oh, God, I’m not who I used to be

Jesus, I’m not who I used to be

‘Cause I am redeemed

                                                                                    Thank God, redeemed

Trailing Beauty

I crave beauty. A brilliant sky. A yellow scarf. My child’s flushed face. These beauties stir me, and I hold them, replaying the image throughout my day. But beauty sinks deeper than baby skin and colors, of course. Moments are beautiful. People are beautiful. And oh-my our Creator is beautiful.

When I look at my life, and the freeing work He has done, I see trails of His beauty. Peace traded in for fear. Intimacy for distance. And warmth for iciness. The art that sticks with me, really nestles in deep, is the work that trails to this Beauty. In the dark, there is that flicker. In the quiet, there is that whisper. And in the struggle, beauty.

Because God is near the brokenhearted.

I love art that explores the broken. It doesn’t shy away from despair or pretend our world is someplace other than it is. But even in the scorched, beaten soil, the artist paints a sprout of green. This is so true of life. And I like art that reveals the very present Beauty here for all.

What about you? Do you search for beauty in art? Do you see God’s hand when you spot it?

Much love,

Sam

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