A New Day, Broken, life making, The Mucky Stuff, The Vulnerable Side, When It Gets Dark

Coming Home

I let go. I let go of the writing. I let go of the processing. I let go of the feelings in an effort to stop The Terrible Awful I couldn’t seem to get away from. Because to write is to feel and to feel The Terrible Awful? To feel the grief, the pain, the death…So much death. So much loss. No, I could not feel it anymore. Because that pain was too great, and so in my effort to survive, I turned it off. I went numb. But in the going numb, I didn’t just numb the pain. I numbed the joy. I numbed the beauty. I numbed the technicolor rainbow pushing itself out from under the rain clouds. I messed up that day I put pen down. The day I no longer let ink bleed black into notepads, desperately hoping my heart would stop bleeding as well.

Little did I know the avenue I’d be walking a year ago when I started writing again. And now, seven journals later I have more than just words brimming. I have thoughts. I have feelings. I have tears. I have so many tears. But I have laughter. And I have smiles. And I have memories. Memories that do more than just dance around the grief I so much want to ignore. I have memories of joy, and love, and beauty. I have moments forever tucked away in this mind of mine. Moments I cherish. Moments I would sacrifice for a thousand times over. Moments I will never get back, and so I tuck them deep into this soul of mine and I hold them oh the more closer to me. And I have truth. I have so much truth. Truth that shines so much brighter than those lies ever could. Truth that reminds me that there is wonderful joy ahead. Truth that speaks to my soul that this story, this story with so much pain and death and ache and brokenness is not over. That there is a plan and a purpose, and that I am loved with everlasting love. A love that reaches into the fathoms of depths and widths and heights and breadths, more so than any of my imaginations could invent or build. Yes, I have truth. And I have spirit. Spirit made manifest from He who creates. Spirit that will never wither away. Spirit that is fed from the life breath of a God who sees more in me than I will ever know. Spirit from the bread of life, He who feeds me. Yes, I have spirit. And I have truth.

I still have so much to work through. Questions I do not understand. Why my dad died so young, and why he will never walk me down the aisle, or see my children, or have another talk with me. Why my brother at 34 was taken all the more too early. And why he could not be rescued from his disease of addiction, of pain and trauma. Why his healing had to be a heavenly versus earthly. Why this disease ravages my body, and keeps me from the career I’ve always wanted, keeps me at the grace and generosity of others instead of allowing me to support myself. Yes, I have so many questions. And I have anger. I have so much anger, and confusion, and I speak it out to Him daily. “Why won’t you take this thorn from me? And why won’t you change my life, and bring the prosperity you promised? And where are those plans to prosper and not to harm me? Where are they?!”  Yes, I have questions. And they may never be answered in this wilderness of life I walk through. But I will not  be afraid to do the feeling. Because perfect Love casts out fear. And God is Love. And Love is in me, because He is in me. And manna will still fall. And the seas will still part. And the rock will still bring forth life giving water. Even in the question, even in the feeling, even in the grief. That technicolor rainbow will still speaks to the promise even with the rain clouds. But He will not flood the earth again. And He will not flood this soul. And death will not bear a sting.

So here’s to starting over, to the writing I love, to new seasons, to feeling all the feelings, to life abundant even with the chance of The Terrible Awful, to technicolor rainbows and promises they bring. And most of all, to spirit and truth. Beautiful, confusing at times, yet ever so consistent and life giving Spirit and Truth.

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Adventure Makers, Gospel, life making, The Mucky Stuff, The Plans He Has for You

Let Down Your Nets

He does not call us to the easy, you and me. He never promised it even once. Put out into the deep, He says. Put out into the deep, let down your nets for a catch.  No, He does not call us to the easy. But neither does He call us to the small. His desire for us is to have a bountiful catch. More so than I could ever want for myself. More so than you could ever imagine for yours. But the call requires the necessity of the deep. And so we must, in order to have gain, reach deep into deep. We must go into the unknown, the unseen, the murky, and reach down for a deep, deep catch.

He is calling me to deeper waters. That I know. He spoke those words over me two months ago. He did not promise to tell me the name of those waters, or how far I would go. But He did promise not to leave me or forsake me in those waters. And now I am here. Knee deep, wanting to go farther, and yet, nervous. Nervous because I do not know if I have the faith or the trust to walk into the murky. Nervous because I know that no matter the outcome, it will be hard, and I do not feel strong. Nervous because I do not have a finish line in sight, and I don’t know how much endurance I can muster.

I never thought I would be back here. I never thought I would be called to this place again. This place of hurt and pain. And it needs no name, because we each call it something different. But we all know that place. That place that needles at our side. That place that keeps us awake through the longest night. That place that brings tears over and over, deep sighs, and long frustrations. That place that makes us ask, “why” in a multitude of groans. Yes, we all know that place.  

And we don’t always want to go. And we certainly would never walk into those waters if we saw what was to come. And yet He calls us. He calls to you and He calls to me. Soft and full, He calls us. He calls us forward into waters we would not go into otherwise.

And that call requires the necessity of the deep. It is required, it is mandated.  We must, in order to have gain, reach into the deep. For there is no gain in the shallow. There is no adventure in the shallow. There isn’t even room to store in the shallow. No, for by its very definition gain must require depths. And that is what He wants for us: Gain.  Gain so much farther out of my scope of imagination than I am capable of. Gain so far from the realm I deem important. Gain that is ever inexplicably more. Gain that refreshes and replenishes what that enemy sin took from us. Yes, His desire for us is a bountiful catch. An abundant catch. I came that they may have life and have it abundant. And in the deepest places of your heart you know, that it is your desire as well. And in the deepest places of your heart, you hear the whispers for more. And you wake up with the ache of a soul that longs for more. And you walk through days with a soul that lunges towards the hope for more.  And as the sun sets into night, so does your gaze onto the more that is to come. In the deepest places of your heart, you hear the whispers for more. Because we were made for that catch. We were created to know the bountiful.

But to know that catch, to understand what it truly means, we must go to places we have never been before. We must reach down into the deep. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. Your waves have rolled over me.

No, I don’t want to go. It may not be the inspirational answer, and it may not be the christian answer, but I do not want to go. Because it is different, and it is scary, and it is dark. It is a place I have never been to before. And it is a place in which I must give up everything. But when we go to the deep, it is there and only there that we find life abundant. And when we go to the deep it is there and only there that our hearts no longer whisper for more. And when we go to the deep it is there that we find our catch.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon,”Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as you say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken;”

We do not just find our catch, we find abundant catch. We find a catch that fills us. We find catch that spills over into the lives of others, and fills them as well. And we are seized with amazement at the One before us, the One who lead us to that catch.
No, He does not call us to the easy, you and me. And He never promised he would. But there is more to experience than the easy. There is adventure. There is a love story. There is life. You need only to put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

John 10:10| Psalm  42:7| Luke 5: 4-9

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life making, The Mucky Stuff, The Vulnerable Side

Always Winter and Never Christmas

I laid in bed all day. Some moments curled into a ball tighter than I can curl my fist. Other moments with groans deep and husky, gasping out a pain that struck so deep I could not tell if it was physical or emotional. I never thought I’d be here again. I never thought I’d feel this, this pain. Not again. I never expected to be in this place of waiting. Again.

Yet here I am. Sick, once more, hurting once more, waiting once more. And as I look through the window spotted with thick drops of rain, I ask myself a question, unwilling to hear the answer: How long? How long will this carry? How long do I go through this?

Does your heart wonder? Does it wander? Do you look to the night sky for a babe king to bring hope?  Do you hear your heart, your soul cry out in anger, in pain, as I do? How long? How long Oh Lord. How long? How long does this ache carry? How long does this urge to be more, to do more, to know more last? How long?

And I know it all too well. I know it as I lay in my bed. I know it as I walk downtown streets.  I know as I look up to a full sky with stars that paint pictures of something more. I know too well.

Always winter and never Christmas. My heart falls to the ground as I learn the true meaning of the phrase. I sit in the middle of my apartment and cry. How long oh Lord? How long must I hurt? How long must this be the best way I serve you? In pain? It seems such a paradox. The very antithesis of what He came to give. I came that they may have life, and have it abundant. I look at my body, eaten up by disease, gaunt and bony. This is abundant? I ask him. This is what you came to give me?

Always winter and never Christmas.

Does your heart wonder? Does it wander? Do you ask Him as I do? This is abundant? This is what you came to give me?

In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.

If you ask the Father for anything… Anything. Can this be true? I sit and wonder. Anything.

What do I want? I sit and think. I curl back up into that ball tighter than my fist. I cry. I think. What do I want? What do I really want? I want this disease to be gone. I want to finally rid myself of this disease. This disease that consumes. This disease that overwhelms. This disease that makes me do the very thing that I do not want to do. What do I want? I want to be healed of this disease. Not that one. Not the one the doctors see and monitor. Not the one that brought me to this night. No, I want to be healed of this disease of sin that consumes and overwhelms. I want to be made new.  This is what I ask. This is what I want. This! In my heart of hearts. In the deepest places, this is what I want. Have mercy on me, Oh God, because of your unfailing love. Heal me. Make me new. For it is by your stripes we are healed, it was your sacrifice. Blot out the stains of my sin. Heal me. Make me new. Wash me, and I will be white as snow. Oh give me back my joy again, you have broken me, now let me rejoice. Heal me. Make me new. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, Oh my God, renew a right spirit in me. Heal me. Make me new. Do not take me away from your presence. Oh God, do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Do not let this disease have hold on me. Heal me. Make me new. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Heal me. Make me new. Give me a heart that seeks yours. Strip me of this disease. This disease that ravages the soul, that eats its fill on the selfishness of the heart. The only thing in me that is truly mine. The only thing that was never from You. Let me be only what you have made me to be. Let my heart hold only what has been placed into it by you. Take this disease, take my sin. Heal me. Make me new.

If you ask the Father for anything.

Truly, truly, I say to you.

If you ask the Father for anything, in My name.

If you ask in My name, He will give it to you.

Oh, that you would give it to me. In Jesus name, Oh Father. Heal me. Make me new. Above all else, give me a heart that seeks after Yours. For you have come that we may have life. That it would be abundant. Oh Father, heal this heart. This heart that wonders. This heart that wanders. This heart eaten by disease. And give me a heart of flesh.

Does your heart wonder? Does it wander? Do you ask Him as I do? This is abundant? This is what you came to give me? Oh that we may know life abundant. Oh that our joy may be made full. Oh that even in the cry of ‘how long’ we may have healing. Healing in our bones. Healing in our lives. Healing in all of the broken places. But most of all, healing in our hearts. That we may know life abundant. So that our joy may be made full.

|John 10:10|John 16:23,24| Psalm 51|

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Healing From the Inside Out, The Mucky Stuff

The Cure

I can’t eat much these days without getting sick. I can’t really take in anything without getting sick. Even water poses problems. I eat, I drink, and always, there is so much pain. Sometimes it is only uncomfortable, sometimes it sends me to the floor. So I try to avoid food. I try to fast for as long as possible. I try to spend all day lying as still as possible in my bed so that I won’t use any energy, and then, I think,  I won’t get hungry. But of course, hunger rises up in me and often I find myself giving into it. Eating. Doing the very thing I know will not just cause me pain, but will also deter me on this road to health. How did I come to a place where eating, the very thing the body needs, becomes a door to sickness? I don’t know. Often I can hear my heart screaming at my mind. “Don’t do it!. Stop it!  It will only hurt you. Its not worth it. Just stop. Please”  But the hunger is louder. And so I eat. And then,comes the pain.

And maybe this is a skewed logic. Maybe  my mind is off, but I can’t help but see how much it is like my sin nature. I can’t help but think about another hunger that rises within me. How, at first, it is merely a thought. How it comes into my mind, and I fail to take it captive. In fact, I encourage it. I just think how a little food would be a good thing. And then, all the more and more I  continue to think about it. And all the more and more it sounds appealing, delicious, even. I tell myself it won’t hurt that much. In fact, maybe this time it won’t hurt at all. After all, it’s not that bad. Sometimes I even try and tell myself its not a sin. Just like that food isn’t really an allergen. I try somehow to validate it. Because I know the sin isn’t just in the action, its in my heart. And my heart has already given in. So, in order to avoid the conviction I condone. Its not really that bad.. And inwardly my heart is screaming at my mind. “Don’t do it! Stop it! It will only hurt you. Its not worth it. Just stop. Please.” But the hunger is louder. And so I sin. And then comes the pain.

Pain.

Pain from consequence.

Pain from conviction.

Raw, gritty, real pain. It is a different sickness, but a real one just the same.

I hate this disease. I have hated it since I was diagnosed 6 years ago. I hated it the 5 years before the diagnosis. I pray for healing everyday. And yet, I can’t help but be grateful. Because before this disease, I didn’t really get it. But with disease, I can’t help but compare it to that other disease I suffer with. The one that also infects me everyday of this life. That one I was born with, the one that comes from inherited genes of a spiritual kind. That disease called sin.

But there is beauty. Oh yes, there is beauty. Because we are not lost to our disease. Neither mental, nor emotional, nor physical, nor spiritual. There is a cure, for we have a victor. One who fights for us, and with us. One who loves us more than we will ever understand. One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. One who will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. One who has overcome the world. One who gives us armour, that we may stand! We can stand.

We can stand. Because there is victory. Because there One who died for sins once and for all, for the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit. This One. This One who loves you more than you will ever understand. This one who did more than you will ever understand. This One. This One Victor. Our Victor. He brings hope to the hopeless. He brings healing to the sick. He finds those who are lost. Lost to emotions, lost to mentalities, lost to hurts, lost to Him. He finds us. He finds us because He is God. He is the Mighty One. He is the One to whom all glory is due. It is He who will fight for you.

 

And me. And them.

 

So when hunger rises, whatever the type. We only need to look to Him. Our victor. Because it is He. It is He who fights.

 

Deauteronomy 20:4 | 1 Corinthians 10: 13 | John 16:33 | Ephesians 6:13 | I Peter 3:18

 

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The Mucky Stuff

Walking Like Philistines

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart,with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.

And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. 

II Samuel 6: 1-7

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Hebrews 4:16

I’m sorry for the silence. I haven’t written in two weeks, but it is not for lack of trying. I’ve been wrestling with tangled thoughts and emotions that refused to transpose into word. The past two weeks have been so difficult, but this time the difficulty laid entirely in the spiritual realm rather than in the physical.

I woke up last Sunday morning feeling off. I felt broken. I felt wrong. And guilt poured into my heart and head as I began to see the sin that had crept up into my thoughts. This sin of discontentment, this sin of not thinking I have enough, of thinking I’m not getting enough. I let down my guard. I let down my joy. I began to see things from the world’s point of view. I didn’t even realize it was happening, until I woke up in a pile of anger. I was reminded of that day so long ago when King David came and took back the Ark of the Covenant. He brought with him thirty thousand men and together they walked, they celebrated, forgetting what they had with them, forgetting Who they had with them.

They became casual. Casual with the presence of God in their lives. So much that they carried His presence just like those enemies they loathed. In case you don’t remember, years prior the Philistines had captured the Ark, and only after experiencing the punishment of God did they decide to return it to Israel. They loaded the Ark onto a wooden cart, led by cattle and sent it back towards Israel. And in II Samuel 7, we see those Israelites doing the same thing. What worked for the world now became an example for God’s holy people, God’s set apart people. And those Philistines in their blindness could not see what they had in their possession, but shouldn’t His people have seen? Shouldn’t they have known? Because their eyes were open, they saw, they knew. And yet they allowed themselves to become casual with what they had, with what they knew. Even to the point of carrying God’s presence on a plain wooden cart, a cart carried by oxen, no less special than a farm hand. They were given instructions. They were told how to carry the presence of God, but they ignored those instructions. They ignored the reverence. They walked like Philistines. And as the cart began to jostle and the Ark seemed to fall, one of Israel’s own, in complete casualty reached up to handle the presence of God. He reached to steady the One who had no need of steadying. This Uzzah, this Israelite who lost his life because of his casualty to the Great I AM, he is no different than I. For I carry the presence of God with me every day, and yet, how often do I carry Him with the same irreverence, with the same casualty. Because Jesus becomes my friend and I forget that He is also much more. And so, I carry Him into movies and rooms that He has no business being in. I place Him on carts that are made for dirt and junk, instead of carrying Him like I would a king.

I become casual with my King. And with the danger of casualty, comes the danger of forgetting who He is, forgetting what He does for me, forgetting that we are nothing without Him. Because when we bring God down to our level, we start to think we can do just as much on our own as we can with Him. And when we start to think that, well, the Ark in our own lives, the one that carries God’s presence within us, it gets jostled. We ignore those instructions on how to carry Him in our life. We do it our way, because our way looks easier, our way is what the world would have said to do, and that world sometimes can look so smart, so right, so delicious.

Just like the apple.

And then with casualty comes complacency. Complacency gives ear to lies. Lies that I can become more, lies that I can do more, lies that I need more. And when these lies begin to take root, I am only left with a life that proves otherwise. And soon I am living a life that is nothing, because I am trying to be king, and God, the God, Creator of All, is carried in me, but not carried by me.

And so I bring us back to Uzzah.

Uzzah, this Israelite who lost his life because of his casualty to the Great I AM.

Uzzah, this Israelite who has so much to teach us.

Uzzah, this Israelite who is so much like us. Like me. Like you.

We live in a new world. A world where the veil has been torn and we are now the holy of holies. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. But let us come with reverence, let us come in awe, let us come with a heart full of worship for the Great Sovereign One. The One who needs no steadying, but instead with great love, mercy, and justice steadies us.

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The Mucky Stuff

Calling It For What It Is

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
James 1: 22-25, ESV
Last fall I couldn’t even ride an elevator without the gravity pull forcing me to the floor. I would try to brace myself. I would wedge myself between a corner and hold tight to the handle. But every time those doors would close, the elevator would begin its assent and I would fall. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know it happened till I woke up in a hallway or office. Thank God for good Samaritans who didn’t leave me there. But as sick as I was, as obvious as my symptoms were, I just continued to repeat my mantra:

“I’m fine. It’s really not that bad.”

I didn’t even realize how sick I was. Do we ever? Do we ever stop and give credit to the things that disease us? Those things I call out in others but make excuses for in me? I could see the pain and struggle for others- my heart broke for them. But somehow I couldn’t exude that same grace to myself. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready to look into the mirror and admit what was really there. I led myself on. Maybe I knew I wasn’t in perfect health- but who really is?

And it is a carbon copy with our spiritual selves, if not more. C.S. Lewis says, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” How much of our soul do we ignore if it is that much easier to ignore this body we look at day to day?

Somehow in this christian philosophy we have passed down to our children we have created this sin hierarchy. We teach our children that losing our temper and hitting our sister is bad, but when daddy is driving and traffic is bad, its OK to yell-we are just venting after all.

Or how about murder? Murder is bad but that worry I hold on to, well that’s just a consequence of living in a high stress world, I can’t help that. And sleeping around, well shame on her! But somehow talking about her to all the other girls, well that’s just what she gets. Or maybe we even lie to ourselves and say we are merely thinking of ways  to help her. As if telling the community of her shame rather than talking to her is actually helpful.

I’ll tell you this. I’d much rather be friends with the person who struggles with sin, no matter how bad it may be, and recognizes his sin as sin and is seeking to change it, rather than the person who can’t even call it for what it is.

We just go on with our lives, repeating our mantra.

“I’m fine. Its not really that bad.”

Look into the mirror friends. See it for what it is. We are not fine. We are sinful. We are diseased. And we let those elevators knock us to the ground every day and don’t even see it as a problem. We are called to be doers of the word. Not hearers only. We are deceiving ourselves. Listening to those sermon podcasts isn’t going to do it if we can’t change our actions. What is the point of having wisdom if we can’t be wise enough to use it? We don’t know how sick we are. But take heart, there is hope. There is always hope when Jesus is involved. Because the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
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