Posted: April 19th, 2015 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, grace |
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I’m a fraud. Where do I begin tell you all the ways? I blur my age and make it look natural. I pretend I don’t care, but refresh fifteen times before walking away. I delete things. I call midnight “tomorrow” and start early. I let myself sink into anger and baseless jealousy because I can make art out of it. A decade slams into me and makes me cry holding the miniature clothes in my closet. I refuse to replace what I’ve outgrown because I’m holding on to something that I leaned on too hard. I sweat and sacrifice my sleep to get it back. I’m ambiguous because nobody really likes honesty.
I make friends, resent them for needing me, and feel rejected when they don’t. I write words I don’t want anyone to read, then feel useless and invisible when they don’t. I work hard to make people ask for me only to be disappointed with who ends up in front of me. I push them away and then want them back. I’m only just now awakening to the unquestioned guilt that religion has burned into my synapse and had me tied up. The white walls and tall ceilings and heavy seats made me feel like I needed to take another shower or just sit in the back.
You can only cage a bird for so long. You might think it cruel to place me next to a window, but that’s what kept me focused. I kept my eyes on the horizon waiting for my moment when no one was watching and the cage of lies was open. When I fly, I try not to think about the blades that tried to clip me or the feathers I lost. I try not to let my memory borrow any extra pain. But even a Phoenix gets bored and the man who used to be amazed at the art can critique the lines and find fault in the shading.
Sometimes I think I’m elegant and I notice the skin and muscles on my own arms as I stretch them around Grace. I smell my own perfume, check my own reflection, and laugh at my own undelivered jokes. I envy people who know the space they occupy when I’m making my way back to mine. I sabotage myself at the onset so I have an excuse for the failures that only I seem to notice.
I’m on fire and the light that came to me now comes from me and I hoard it because I’m waiting to find the peaks again. I end up camping sideways and losing the words. Light breeds light and keeping my mouth shut is dimming the reciprocation. I get lost in my own head. I stumble around thinking you already know what I want to say. I want it to be clever so I don’t start, and if I start, I don’t finish. I’m writing this from my sideways tent. It’s the middle of the night, the peak is nowhere to be found, but the child of light is writing.
Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light. – John 12:35-36 MSG
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Posted: April 17th, 2015 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, freedom, grace, judgment, sin |
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“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” - Romans 6:6 ESV
We know that our old self….
My old self was a tangled effort. The right numbers never came up when it was my turn to be measured. I would paint inside the lines, whitewash the shadows, and candy coat the rain. My insufficiency wasn’t a question of my devotion. It was just that I was born beneath the surface and thought I had to work harder than everyone else to catch up to zero.
My old self was a flailing, unswaddled infant. An old woman trapped in a body that defied her dignity.
…was crucified with Him…
Love knocked hard enough to get me to shave my legs and buy new perfume, but left with someone else at the end of the night. I was a pawn in everyone else’s chess game. I eventually stopped waiting for the phone to tell me why it stopped ringing.
They conspired against me and planned an elaborate going-away party without telling me where I was going. I thought it was finally my turn. No longer held back, I would be an equal. Legitimate at long last.
I was too far from the shore when I realized someone had removed the lifeboat and the roundtrip ticket was missing the return flight. I put on my life vest as I shoved feelings of betrayal with the sun beneath the horizon and waited for it all to make sense.
I was no closer, nor further from “right” no matter what I did. It took failure to realize that all of the sacrifices I could offer would never be enough. The betrayed became the betrayer. The cheated became the cheater. The pawn pulled up her skirt and walked herself off the chess board.
… in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing,…
I buried my pathetic efforts to be a good girl and haunted my grave long after the grass grew in knobby tufts over it. The old girl died hard. I finally realized that I had to get out of the passenger seat because the driver’s self interest never took my destination into account.
Nobody was left to judge my efforts. Nobody lengthened my hem, counted my buttons, or made sure I matched. Like being reborn into a parallel dimension where the streets are the same, but the road signs are missing. I was reborn into a Kingdom where Sin has been stripped of his heavy crown. I’m invisible in the world where Sin still gets the last word. He stands in his elaborate shoes and raises his gaudy scepter over the fearful masses to demand death and threaten penalty of penance. But he can’t see me. I’m free from his reign.
…so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
The “Do This” and “Don’t Do That” life is a façade to mask the innate ache for wholeness. Sin wants Christ’s Bridezilla so consumed with external décor that faithless effort wreaks through her pores as she walks, unwashed, down the wrong aisle.
The reign of Sin is only an echo down the canyons and corridors, but nothing more. The old self wants to climb the heights, run the distance, and build itself into a tower of righteousness, but something keeps moving the finish line further away. You think you’re building something for yourself, for God. But when you’re motivated by sin-avoidance, you’re a slave building someone else’s empire.
There exists a life where the wasps no longer patrol the streets waiting to sting you when you swerve. Law offices have been abandoned and the uniformed have found other passions. You wait your turn because you want to, not because you’re afraid not to. You stay in your lane because that’s what you would want someone else to do for you.
You’re not afraid of the judgment of someone in the old life because it doesn’t apply to you. You’re not afraid of God judging you because He has already passed it. Your only concern, now, is to figure out what you’ll do with your freedom.
The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.- John 5:22-24 ESV
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Posted: March 20th, 2015 |
Filed under: life | Tags: change, faith, forgive, freedom, grace, healing, hope, love wins |
So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. – 1 Peter 2:2-3 MSG
It’s so easy to find fault in anything. Focus gravitates to the shortcomings of others because it offers an excuse for our own shortcomings. It’s an unconscious tool to cope with the disappointments we have with ourselves. But what about the lives we affect? Are there others pointing out our faults to find an excuse for theirs? People who lack point out the lack in others. It’s a cycle of negativity that sucks the joy out of life and uses shame to obscure the view of the lesson.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. -Galatians 5:22-23 MSG
There is good and bad in everything. You can choose where you spend your energy by choosing where you put your focus. You’ll find what you’re looking for. So, instead of looking for why something isn’t working, look for what will make it better. Finding the flaws gives you an excuse to fail. Finding the opportunities gives you something productive to do. The glass is either half empty or half full. Your focus is entirely your choice.
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings… into our lives… a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.” There is no escaping the interconnectedness of life. We are all parts of the whole. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the “whole” and we are His parts (Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12). There is a larger narrative that includes the redemption of all on a much larger scale than we are used to including in our day-to-day perspective. We have lots of little things to keep us from finding peace in the larger story. It takes practice to change the habit of our focus. We have to look for Jesus, The Bigger Picture, in one another… His Parts.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.- Phillipians 4:8-9 MSG
Posted: February 23rd, 2015 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, grace, healing, hope, hurting, purpose, sin |
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Failure is a pandora’s box of debilitating lies. It’s not enough that you fell, failure has a slew of insults to keep you from getting back up. There are so many ways to dismantle a human. Too many to count. A blameless lack of knowledge leaves you without knowing where to look for your enemy. How can you fight when you don’t know what weapons you’re fighting against?
That’s why I want to keep it simple for the moment. You’re like a battle wounded soldier hiding in the shed of a farmer’s widow. We’ll search for meaning later. Right now, you just need to sip the broth of Truth.
Cynics look high and low for wisdom and never find it. The open-minded find it right on their doorstep! - Proverbs 14:6 MSG
You’re accustomed to a culture of distrust. Your social circle nurtured group-importance by finding all the ways they were right and the rest of the world was wrong. If another wasn’t part of your group, then there was something wrong with them. Cynicism.
But look at you. Your group doesn’t know what to do with a broken soldier and you’re bleeding out on an outsider’s wooden floor. Your tiny box of existential “rightness” has been smashed by the headlong rejection of your comrades.
A blown mind opens the door for Wisdom. You can choose to reject the Truth or let it swallow you whole. It’s a fearful thing to be swallowed whole. Instead of becoming inflicted with the Fear-of-God, many hide until the Truth gets explained away.
The Fear-of-God is a spring of Living Water so you won’t go off drinking from poisoned wells. – Proverbs 14:27 MSG
It’s human of us to balance incoming information with what we think we know. That’s why denial is always the first step. We unconsciously think that we are the authors of wisdom. We think we know all the words. We confer with ourselves. We consult with others. But you only confer to affirm that you’re okay. You only consult so you can be approved.
But what if you’re wrong? Reality is only a socially agreed upon attribution of meaning to the acknowledged narrative. Don’t you want the Truth? What if you’ve been drinking from a poisoned well? The Fear-of-God is a spring of Living Water. How do you get your hands on some of that Fear?
Failure is a pandora’s box of debilitating lies. The only goal of the enemy of the soul is to keep you from getting back up. The fading backside of your friends is evidence that they were not there to help you up. The midnight insults and accusations stealing your sleep are not there to lift you up. The blank stares of the answerless leaders reveal the gap between the Truth and the counterfeit. The curtain between the actors and the audience has crashed to the stage and you stand there in a noiseless gasp of mind blown denial. The basis of your assurance could not carry the weight of reality.
The gullible believe anything they’re told. The prudent sift and weigh every word. -Proverbs 14:15 MSG
Solid Christians sin. They knowingly, openly, unabashedly make choices that are contrary to what they know is right. This is the introduction of Truth that time reveals.
You can spend years thinking that you are the one holding yourself together. Skin seems impenetrable until it’s sliced. The only thing that can stand the weight of time is the bedrock of Truth. Sip your broth. You are not the source of Wisdom. You are Wisdom’s vessel. You cannot hold yourself upright. “Upright” is a proclamation. Grace points to the man on his head and proclaims “Upright!”. Not because he is, but because “I AM”.
We are insufficient and our failures make sure we know it. Not to destroy us, but to open us. Grace gives the failure a purpose. When that sinks in, you will know the Fear-of-God; the spring of Living Water; the broth of Truth.
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Posted: February 13th, 2015 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, change, divisions, forgive, grace, healing, sin |
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I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree. – Jeremiah 31:34 MSG
I’ve had a job since I was fifteen. I think coming from a gypsy mother with no money made the act of making money really intriguing to me. It’s just that I developed a habit of wanting to work in most places I entered. I was a clerk at a really small town grocery store until I went with a church group to eat at a little country buffet and became their newest server. One afternoon, I went shopping at a nearby bigger small town with my adopted mom and we grabbed a cherry limeade from Sonic. I was driving by this time, so I submitted an application and I upgraded from country buffet to fountain drink maker at Sonic.
Working in another town made it easier to get away with my crazy and most nights people would have to drive me home because I was too drunk to drive myself. In retrospect, these were some pretty good acquaintances because I lived over thirty minutes away and it would be the middle of the night down a country dirt road. My adopted mom liked to shop at Wal-Mart and they built a new supercenter in a different, bigger small town, so I quit the fountain drink making job and became a cashier at Wal-Mart.
After I turned seventeen, I got a second job taking care of the flower beds at a local college during the summer. That was the summer I left home. I’ve always been fiercely independent. I think I came out of the womb waiting to be on my own. I quit both jobs and started working for quarters, literally, at a diner. Then I worked at a fast food burger chain. Then a different fast food burger chain. I cleaned rooms at a hotel, made follow-up sales calls for a satellite company who made us call ourselves a “phone line cable” company, and then I sucked nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans in between making sundaes at a frozen yogurt shop. After that, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store.
It was hard for me to keep a job because I was homeless and my life was chaotic. When I turned nineteen, I was pregnant and a brand new Christian. A friend of a woman at my new church let me man her mall kiosk of flower arrangements until I had the baby. This brings me to the point of my story. Around this time, an Irish owned Mexican restaurant chain out of Kansas was built in our town. They opened right around the time my daughter was born and I went there with some friends after church. Old habits are hard to break. I filled out an application while I ate chips and salsa and I started my new job about two weeks later.
Due to the structure that living a Christian lifestyle brought, my life was more linear around this time. I had stability and a little group of people supporting me. My best friend from church started working with me, which made clocking out at 1 a.m. a blast. We were both nineteen, so the night was still young at 1 am. The rest of the world, however, was closed for business. That is, except the 24-hour Supercenter. We were the teenage girls who smelled like salsa and raided the beauty aisles of Wal-Mart at 2 am.
Our church groups would have their nights out to our restaurant. Other friends would end up there and wait to sit in my section. I loved when my world would take that place over. It made me feel important.
Life moved forward and earned some breaks and scars. Moves, marriages, break ups, failures, and redemptions looped us all in passing circles. I went there twice since I moved back. Once to see what the past tasted like and the second time to sit next to my husband as his heart was torn out.
Here’s the thing. I’m taking a small-town-ambition-fueled highlighter to this soggy-marshmallow-trailer-park-social-salad. The circle of friends got tangled. And a cold plate of nachos sat like a prop on an unfriendly Mexican Irish booth while words became razors.
We never entered that building again. It became an eyesore, a reminder of our sins, an innocence graveyard.
Then, a few months ago the place got shut down. Like a fed up landlord, a note hung on the door and the locks were changed. You can’t celebrate enduring memories on blood stains. So, I was glad.
An era is over. Grace has washed away most of the bitterness. New memories, new life, and redeeming Love has softened the pain of failure and loss. Healing has taken over and kindness has replaced scorn. So it’s only fitting that the Carpenter deemed it time to clean the slate.
Good riddance, Carlos O’Kelley’s.
“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.” – Psalm 32:1 MSG
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