Saturday, July 20, 2013

I have moved.

This blog has moved over to wordpress. And it started there with a bang. 

If you are following me here, please feel free to follow me there! All of my posts and comments from this site have migrated. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

I Still Belong to You

I can't make the words come the way I want to. I've tried. I want them to be pretty. I want to be poetic. I want to tell my story in such a way that it unfolds beautifully. But the story is beautiful anyway - no matter how I tell it - because He is redeeming it. Everything the Lord puts His hands on becomes beautiful. So I am just going to tell you like I would if I were sitting at the end of your couch alternately clutching a pillow and talking with my hands.

When I left the flock I lost my identity. I didn't know who I was or what I believed. I could quote all the "right" doctrines. And tell you precisely how scripture "should" be interpreted - with no small amount of cynicism. The only solid thing I had to stand on was the cross.  I could not deny it's transforming power in my life and I clung to it.

For several months I was paralyzed with fear to approach any spiritual topic, to read the bible, to do anything that required independent thinking. I believed a lie that I would become the worst version of myself by leaving the flock. I worried that by walking away from certain relationships, I was walking away from Jesus. I worried that I would self-fulfill the prophecy of rebellion, heresy, and immaturity. I was slow to realize that none of those fears materialized.

At 24 years old I am starting over. The simplest truths completely wreck me. A few refrains of "Jesus Loves Me" and I'm a puddle of tears. It's baffling to me. I've been following Christ since I was a small child - you would think I'd know these things by now. For the first time in my life I'm experiencing humility that isn't forced or full of shame.

I'm getting my identity back. Several weeks ago my pastor at the church I'm attending abandoned his sermon to follow the Lord's prompting and invited us to wrestle with God as we felt led. I began to pray, not knowing where to begin. Gently the Lord put his finger on the lies that I have believed about my identity. He unraveled the fear. And told me in no uncertain terms that I belong to Him. I belong to Him alone. This is truth that no man can touch or take away from me. I can stop fighting, stop making excuses and simply believe Him.

Psalm 73 has been an anchor for me in many ways the last few months.

Psalm 73:21-26 NLT
I still desire Him more than anything on earth. He is the strength of my heart -He is mine forever. I cling to this truth, this promise. No one will take it away.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Shepherd's Presence

I love to lie on my porch swing and sway in a wide arc. I relish feeling my stomach drop a little with each deep back -- and forth. But tonight the crickets are humming to me. And my swing is rocking slowly, slightly. The barest hint of a breeze kisses my skin. I feel warm and comforted from the very depths.

"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs into his arms; he will carry them in his bosom..." Isaiah 40:11

I am learning the nature of the true Shepherd. Which is humbling, because in almost 20 years of following Him, I thought I knew Him well. The truth I'm discovering is that I'd been independent from Him, foolishly following and helplessly dependent on the flock rather than the Shepherd Himself.

So I separated from the flock. 

I had no choice. I couldn't any longer distinguish His voice from the bleating around me and the cries from my own mouth. I was overwhelmed and terrified by my inability to hear the clear voice of the Shepherd. Each time I thought I heard Him, I questioned the flock, "Did you hear that too?" and compared it against their cries. I only obeyed if they went with me.

In my panic to escape I tripped and stumbled on every lie in my path, believing I would never again hear the voice of the true Shepherd while distanced from the flock. Some of the lies were spoken over me as I ran, and some were offered up by the enemy of my soul who I'd disregarded for so long I was taking credit for his deceptions as my iniquity. I believed the Shepherd would not pursue me. I was labeled rebellious, a heretic, discordant, immature, and emotional. What would the Shepherd want with me? 

I grew up hearing the story of the Good Shepherd and never imagined myself becoming the wounded stray. I  believed I was alone and felt so lost. I still craved His voice, but I didn't trust myself to hear it clearly. I suppose that's why He let me out into the wilderness before He came after me.

And He most certainly came after me.

In spite of the lies I believed, the Good Shepherd sought me out in a place I never would have believed He still inhabited. And there He sang over me, rejoicing over me and gathered me to Himself. His banner over me is love that I'd wholly forgotten existed.

I am only just learning to trust that I know His voice. This moment on my porch swing encompasses His embrace. If I listen just a bit more I will soon hear the heartbeat of the Shepherd. I am invited to tuck my head against His chest. His breath is in the breezes. The rhythms of His voice are echoed in the leaves, crickets and frogs. Distant thunder rumbles His strength.

Here the Shepherd is present. I am the lamb gathered in His arms and He carries me in His bosom. 

Have you ever experienced a moment where you've felt His presence so poignantly? Share it with me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Awakening - And coming out of hiding

"Something inside is awakening. Like a dream I once had and forgot. And it's something I'm scared of and something I don't want to stop."
~Sara Groves, Awakening
I am coming to realize that prior to this winter I'd spent the better part of a year numb in my emotions. Perhaps more than that. Somewhere along the way I picked up this idea that my anger is unacceptable in every circumstance - even though it was caused by injustice. There was nothing I could do about that injustice so I had no choice but to ignore the anger and hope it would dissipate over time. I believe that my sadness equated unforgiveness and told myself that I must "get over it" in a hurry before anyone noticed or had much time to comment on it.

I don't think I was really afraid of anyone noticing my change in mood - I know I wear my emotions on my sleeve so some observance couldn't be avoided. It was the demand for an explanation that I feared. Because every reason for my change in countenance sounded like a lame excuse -- after all, He bore all of our iniquities and by His stripes you are healed, so why all this drama? I'm incapable of effectively hiding almost any emotion - so I developed a new tactic: Get over it. Which amounted to this formula of shedding a few tears, praying a few desperate prayers, then "medicating" with busyness or entertainment. This is how I lived - for years. In fear of the consequences of my emotions. It shows if you look over my journals the past few years. You don't have to look far. Two years is encompassed on about twenty pages.

It shouldn't surprise me that I was told I'm too emotional. When I did have an emotional outburst it was an eruption because I'd spent so much energy trying to contain it all. Those outbursts were quickly deemed inappropriate and quelled back into submission. Now my emotions are beginning to thaw -- slowly, unlike the tornadoes I've previously experienced. I'm afraid it's going to be the global-warming of my life that will change climates, erode boundaries and leave me permanently altered. I'm terrified, and I don't know how to prepare for it. I'm giving myself permission to feel, but it quickly gets out of my control. I fight, and sometimes lose against the temptation to revert back to my state of non-feeling.
"If we lose our ability to feel physical pain, we'd be in a very, very bad way. Pain is an important part of surviving and thriving in this world. It's from God. Emotions are the same way. They aren't untrustworthy products of the fall anymore than any other part of our bodies. They are gifts, guard rails, barometers, etc., that help us survive and thrive in a world that is both full of wonderful things and many terrors too... I love Jeremiah, Elijah, Nehemiah and maybe especially Habakkuk for how they feel so much, so honestly and how God doesn't go do the "churchy" thing of telling them what not to feel, but meets them each, in different ways."
I wish I had a link or even a full name for this quote but it's by someone who goes by DanaKX - she commented on this post by Elizabeth Esther. 
I know this is true. I need to remember it. I have a friend who is a microbiologist in the leprosy (Hansen's disease) field. Through her I know well the effects of nerve damage on a body. Yet, I have a hard time relating this truth to my emotions. It seems indulgent and self-centered to care for your emotions in the same way you would a physical wound. But I know that if I don't deal with these things now it will stunt my growth from here forward. Without healing, I will stay in this endless cycle of emotional dysfunction that will effect every relationship. And that is not what I want. I want to thrive in every area and one day be able to minister from this place. The desire to honor God with my life has not gone away.

In order to heal I must acknowledge that there is pain. It's taking me a while but I'm finally learning to do that. I'm trying not to look so much like a deer in the headlights when someone asks me, "What's wrong?" But that question induces momentary panic. I feel like I've been caught someplace I shouldn't be - my countenance does not speak of victory in Christ Jesus. I have yet to be able to produce anything other than an awkward, evasive response that leaves the inquirer more unsatisfied than before. But even that is progress for me - I'm no longer denying, lying, and covering with a smile.

So here's to recovery through uncovering. He's always been faithful to me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Finding the Fault Line

fault, Fault, Fault, FAULT
The pulse of my pondering
Make the world spin, pumping
Where does the fault lie?
Where is the fault line?
Can the uneven ground
Be repaired or found
Before it makes my world shake, tilt
Break, spill

Clenched fists can't stop a wave
Dig my heels in, learn to stay
Baptized by tsunami
Wash over my body
You are my earthquake
Witness of my heartache
Cast me on your will
Remake, refill

I can count on one hand the number of poems I've written that weren't forced out of me in high school English classes. Rhyme seems awkward to me. But awkward is fitting in this case. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Build an Altar Here

Can I whisper something in your ear?  It’s not really a secret but it feels like one of those holy things that can only be spoken of in hushed tones inside quiet sanctuaries. Can this be our sanctuary today?

The invitation was for those who need healing. But my wounds aren’t physical. The pain isn’t localized to any place you can lay your hands on. It’s deep. Hidden. Several minutes passed before I convinced myself the invitation was also meant for me. I stepped into the aisle telling myself, “Just get up there. He will do the rest.”

Then a woman whose face I didn’t know was standing in front of me, asking how she could pray.
“My heart. Pray for my heart,” was all I could think to say.
“Physical or emotional?” She asked.
“Emotional…” and I stammered, trying to say more but coming up empty.

So she started to pray as you would expect someone to pray for a stranger with unspoken requests. But then she paused. And my spirit began groaning with utterings too deep for words – quietly, in the pattern I am used to when I don’t know how to pray. She listened, and took my head in her hands. Like a mother, her forehead touched mine, crooning sounds of sympathy.

And then she began to pray with understanding.

{Here is where I want to whisper} Do you catch my meaning? She prayed specifically – as though I’d poured out my heart with her for a lifetime. This stranger prayed like she knew me, reading my heart open. She heard and understood my groanings. My spirit laid me bare, though I did not know it.

In the arms of this woman, I broke. In awe that my Heavenly Father sees me. He hears my heart and whispers my secrets to strangers when I am incapable. The wonder of holy moments such as these steals my breath. When I feel most forgotten and lost – or even when I don’t feel at all – He invades my consciousness, unmistakably informing me that I am seen, heard, understood, and extravagantly loved. He provides guidance and instruction, lighting my path and confirming the direction I am to go. He assures me that I am right where I belong in His hands.

Let there be no mistake. He still works miracles.

In the Old Testament whenever a miracle took place or God did something significant He instructed His people to build an altar in that place so that future generations would pass by the monument and recall the works of a mighty God. Today, this is my altar. A miracle happened here. Will you join me in my worship? 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hide and Seek Him

If you grew up in a two parent home you are likely familiar with the following scenario: A child is wailing loudly in protest to whichever parent happens to be administering discipline.

"I want my daaaaaaddyyyyyyyy!"

You would often find me so, curled into the back of my closet, sitting on piles of stuffed animals and discarded prom dresses. I would cry for whichever parent had not crossed me - hoping they would hear from the living room on the other side of the wall.

Then there was a day that I opened my mouth to cry for my mother or father and found that I could not call for either. I knew that neither would offer the comfort I sought. My tears became suddenly silent and I whispered,

 "I want my Jesus." 

I sought comfort from the only constant in my life. I didn't need to make a sound in order to be heard.

Today I can recapture my tiny closet sanctuary with perfect clarity. The pattern of my best Sunday dresses, walling me in, are burned into memory. The uneven plaster carelessly applied to walls never meant to be examined so closely. And the words, written in green crayon, "I want my Jesus."

That closet became my refuge. It was there my heart broke for the first time over friendships broken and lost. In that place I felt fully the first effects of loneliness and rejection. Pressed against three walls, I cried, confident each tear was captured by a Savior who loves me. I never cried for anyone else after that first prayer was whispered. My soul found its' resting place.

The place I used to hide taught me to hide myself in Him.

I have been hiding ever since. Not in a closet. These days my soul finds more refuge in the open air, admiring the handiwork of my Heavenly Father. I have sought Him from dried-up drainage canals, and in pine-carpeted woods, in clearings of wildflower fields, graveyards, and winding country roads.

I'm tempted to wrap this up with a nice little bow. I could do a concordance search on the word "hide" and find the deeper meaning, paired with a few quotes from the Psalms to solidify my position. But that wouldn't be real.  The fact is that right now my soul is seeking sanctuary again. I wish so much to return to my closet. I have very little that is familiar to me right now. I am vulnerable. I am broken. I am being humbled. And all I know to do is cry, "I want my Jesus."