Wounded Healers


I didn’t plan to be raped that night. Staying home for once from the Copenhagen nightlife to prepare for a test the next day, I was reacquainting myself with a solitude I realized I had missed. Gently flickering candles and a hot shower caressed my senses, as I was exhaling into the unfamiliar quiet. My guard was down.

Frustrated by the unexpected knocks on my door, I was ransacking my memory to see whom I hadn’t told I needed this night alone. Outside stood my guitarist with a surprising “I was just in the neighborhood” line.

If that happened today, I’d be suspicious. He taught me that night not to automatically trust anyone’s intentions.

But that hadn’t yet happened when I opened the door and let the clam darkness into my world. I didn’t invite it, no. But neither did I have the muscles to block it. From my creepy math teacher in third grade to my overly affectionate uncle, I had learned to be nice when I felt uncomfortable, to smother my inner alarm bells with external politeness. Those alarms rarely went off anymore.

Often, dancers and musicians shared a bottle of wine or two after rehearsal, but never had I been alone with the man who was now making himself abrasively comfortable in my little room. Two stacked mattresses served as both bed and sofa and occasionally a guest bed. For people I invited. I had not invited him.

So deep was my compulsive politeness that when the last bus had left, and he was still there, it dictated I suggest he stay overnight. He didn’t stay on his mattress. He didn’t honor my weak no. And in the morning, he looked like he had done me a favor.

He was fifty years old. I don’t know why that matters, but to my violated self, it did.

It never occurred to me to go to the police. I had opened the door, hadn’t I?

After a few days, we resumed rehearsals as if nothing happened. Neither of us mentioned it. Like none of us mentioned when that math teacher, bent over us before we learned not to ask for his help, had his hands down our shirts. We third-grade girls never compared notes on this. We learned to move on.

Fast forward thirty years.

Many years of counseling and even more years in the arms of Jesus have poured tremendous healing and training into my soul.
I can say no and be heard, and I can help others in their paths towards freedom.

“Wounded healers,” Henri Nouwen calls us, the host of survivors who have been rescued to help rescue others. Not just from victimization, but to flourishing in joy. We are not the pretend-Christians nobody likes. We are not the caricatures waging war with signs of condemnation. We are the ones who value authenticity, because we know Jesus is real.

So I didn’t plan to explode that day last week. In fact, I didn’t even know my temperature was rising until my dear friend stopped me in my tracks, looked me firmly in my eyes, and cautioned, “Take it down about three notches.”

We were on our way to a broken girl, one very much like my younger self, but somehow my wires had gotten crossed and I perceived her complaints as a threat what I so dearly love: my church family. Mama bear was rising up inside me, but not in defense of the most vulnerable. Deep exhale, and she is back on the leash.

But what happened?

Somewhere along the wilderness road towards freedom, I made a vow. I would not only learn to say no for myself, but even more so for everyone I love. No one would ever violate us again. No.

As the shock subsides, my feverish fierceness alerts me that I’m still in process. Learning to live in healthy freedom will never be a closed chapter, until I see my Liberator face to face. While the old captivity is far behind me, still some of my survivor skills need a bit of refining.

So He calls me back into His embrace and as if He strokes my hair He soothes me quietly till I’m soft again inside our hiding place. When my heart relaxes again inside the Love that has rescued me again and again, as much from myself as anyone else, I remember that all I hold dear, He holds dearer still. Only in His hands are any of us safe.

No, I certainly didn’t plan to be raped that night, but He had already planned the healing that would flow both to and from my wounds, a small stream of the healing that flows from His.

Elixir of Love


“You smell good,” someone whispers, as we both move from hug to hug in the group gathering around the coffee and snacks table. It’s Tuesday night, and defying the tropical downpour outside, we pour into this oasis, thirsty for the kind of warm community that makes the soul feel seen and safe.

We thirst for peace to coat frazzled nerves,
For the touch of a friend in the midst of our loneliness,
For laugher to melt away our frowns,
For hope to breathe again on dying dreams,
For life in the hidden corners of the heart

And none of us has it to give.

That’s why we are here.

If this were merely social, we’d leave more parched than we came. Maybe for a season, someone could sprinkle enough to satisfy the drought inside, but as salty as our tears, human affection alone is like drinking from the ocean. The momentary relief would lead only to deeper dehydration and despair….

Been there, done that, and the agony of that thirst is excruciating.

So what makes this different?
What transforms a cracked and dry soul, who feels like an outsider watching others enjoy a feast from which they are excluded, to a gushing, generous giver?

I was that shriveled desert, desperately drinking as deeply as I could from whatever salty reservoirs were available. Dying.

Then she came, not another cracked pot, but a lifeline I could grab on to with my last once of hope. She didn’t water my drought with her own desires; instead, she led me to her own Source.

Her kindness dared me to trust His.
Her desires redirected mine to His.
To Him.

To the boundless splashes of grace, playfully, tenderly finding every nook and cranny inside me, drawn to the needs and desires with the strongest force in the universe….

In Him, the good, the bad, the ugly in me becomes sacred. As He drills through the hardened ground, extracting the precious from the perverted, the desert becomes a spring of healing water to others.

Then she came, not another cracked pot, but a lifeline I could grab on to with my last once of hope. She didn’t water my drought with her own desires; instead, she led me to her own Source.

Her kindness dared me to trust His.
Her desires redirected mine to His.
To Him.

To the boundless splashes of grace, playfully, tenderly finding every nook and cranny inside me, drawn to the needs and desires with the strongest force in the universe….

In Him, the good, the bad, the ugly in me becomes sacred. As He drills through the hardened ground, extracting the precious from the perverted, the desert becomes a spring of healing water to others.

That’s what smells so sweet on Tuesday nights. Different degrees of saturation now spill over from soul to soul. Not our own streams, but His. Sure, it’s mixed waters, mixed motives, and all of us are thirsty still.

But that doesn’t scare us anymore, because we lead each other to the Holy River where bitter tears become tears of relief…. toxic salt water becomes diluted, purified, satisfying – when He is the Source.

So we hug each other deeply, dearly, trying to squeeze out the lies and lesser loves, and as the scents of perfumes and lotions blend, we drink in the elixir of His Divine love. It smells good.

https://youtu.be/IKVHGi1iRLE

The Girl Who Raised Me

The night of my first conversation with her father, her name was his answer to my question, which he later confessed had annoyed him: “Was is your favorite word in the English language?”

In my defense, I had only been in his country a week, and words fascinate me. He fascinates me. “Serenity.” One-word replies still characterize him and still leave me thirsty for more. As foreign and exotic to me as the man who spoke it, the word cried out for his explanation which became the conversation which became our love story.

She was the newborn who looked at me, one-day-old baby eyes calmly present and truly seeing me. As if she understood everything around her, as if she had known me for a long time, while I was just beginning to explore our relationship.

Maybe that explains why her earliest sentences all began, “When I was the mommy and you were the baby…” – and then she would lecture me in how she, in a reversed world she seemed to clearly remember, better handled whatever I hadn’t done to her satisfaction. “When I was the mommy and you were the baby, I never talked to you like that!” “When I was the mommy and you were the baby I always wore business clothes.”

Because her older brother was so ~ shall we say rambunctious ~ her quieter mischief went under my radar till I discovered that my four-year-old daughter had created a power structure that mysteriously made him do all her chores while she maintained control of the situation. Bribes may have been involved, but I’m not sure I ever heard the full story.

Bewildered, I realized I somehow had to step into that elaborate system, but her emotional appeal was way above my pay grade. “You don’t even know who I am! At all! I’m not made to clean my room; I’m made to have a maid!”

In retrospect it’s funny, but I looked into those big eyes sobbing with righteous indignation, and I honestly wondered if I was somehow violating her design.

She had me at hello!

Needless to say, I had much to learn, and most of it, the hard way.

Throughout her childhood years, she would articulate subtle nuances in relationships and situations with much quicker accuracy than I could begin to catch up to, so I learned to listen (while still insisting on chores and such, though rarely convincingly.)

A fiery tango, equal parts love and war, tension and joy, that was our dance together until she left for her six months journey from Hawaii through Asia towards her adult autonomy.

She’s marrying her Jonny Young Guns on the twentieth birthday. 16 days from now. They’ve had to fight fiercely for their young and unique love to be respected. And they’ve won it!

In the dentist office this morning, i looked at the stunningly composed lady that’s my daughter and asked her advice on a few things. Knowing love looked at me again through those baby blue eyes, and as her perspective patiently counseled me, I head her toddler voice’s firmness again, “When I was the mommy and you were the baby…”

And I’m realizing that she always raised me more than I ever did her.

We are One


A cool Antigua wind breathes into the white tent where we are gathered to worship, to seek His face, and to find fresh strength together. From all over the world, we are one.

“Quiero vivir cerca de Ti
que sea real el cielo en mi”

As the first soft, almost whispered words from the song move through us, the breeze intensifies. A slowly rising rumble – understated strength – and I know that my goosebumps are not from the wind.

“El gran Yo soy, Tu eres digno
no hay otro poderoso – el gran Yo soy”

He is here.

The mother in front of me is on her knees, others on their toes, reaching toward heaven, and I – my soul emptying before Him, I’m watching a private slideshow of the past three weeks here:

Naked children’s feet running through filthy mud, gashes exposed to the germs that surely thrive better than anyone else in the garbage dumps of Escuintla. I still feel Lionora’s eight-year-old arms around my neck, and unformed questions in her eyes still burn. Does she know why her mother wears so much make-up and glittering jewelry? When her baby brother stops nursing, mama has to go to work…

A kick in my gut, I feel the unspoken longing in the handicapped teenage girl, laying alone in a hospital bed while most of the others in her ward are outside in wheelchairs. Compassion streams uniquely from each one in my team; I hear Erica’s husky singing and Merlyn’s young laughter, and I know Bruce is wheeling a beaming girl around and around and around out there. The girl behind the bars of the bed inside never turns her eyes from mine, as I helplessly stroke her hair and whisper that Jesus loves her.

And He does.

That’s why we are here. Not one of these hurting children is unseen by Him, not one of their fragile futures hopeless. Wave after wave, He sends us, His hands and feet to the least of these, to look into their eyes and touch their skin and penetrate an otherwise dark world with His eternal light.

Maybe, at a cafe with friends, I might form lofty opinions, theories on social justice or theology on suffering…. But here, I’m quieted by reality. By His unmistakable Presence.

“The mountains shake before You the demons run and flee
At the mention of the name King of Majesty
There is no power in hell
Or any who can stand
Before the power and the presence of the great I AM”

Back in the church tent, I look around and see the little army of young lovers of God, who left everything behind to be the tangible presence of the Great I AM, wherever He calls them. Allowing Him to peel layer after layer from their souls, till His own is freely reflected in theirs, they openly welcome us close enough to know that this is all real. They are part of the answer to the questions in Lionora’s eyes.

Their stories bleed into mine, into one multi-faceted redemption story. We once were lost, but now, we’re found, were blind but now we see. Beauty from ashes, rebuilding ancient ruins….

My inner movie shifts to the breathtaking mountain scenery where wild flowers grow close to volcano ashes, and the 2500 meters’ altitude cannot but alter our perspective. Even the most beautiful places on earth are marred by the fall, and even the most horrendous conditions are penetrated by His beauty.

All of this is temporary.
All of this deepens in me the longing to infuse every moment with eternity. To dip my hands in heaven’s colors and paint my little portion of this earth with His hope.

I am not alone. We are many who continually commit to do exactly that, and more than anything else under this white tent today, I am awed by our great I AM who shapes His people into His image and somehow lets His heart beat through us.
Tomorrow’s taxi will carry us through the winding roads of Guatemala, past indigenous villages and the ever-present Walmart, and our airplane will defy gravity, lifting us home to where we are primarily called.

My heart scattered over three continents, I hear Pastor Luis and his hilarious sidekick of an interpreter read:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

The Lord is One!
His people is One!

“Aleluya santo santo Dios poderoso el gran Yo Soy
Tu eres digno no hay otro poderoso el gran Yo Soy.”

(Photo Credit: Bruce Klaiber)

Soul Celebration


We’ve passed over Havana when the tears begin streaming down my face. Uninvited. Quiet.

I didn’t know they were right under the surface, just waiting for enough stillness to emerge.

As if it were a spring of water, I’m attempting to pour into my man the stories I drank in yesterday, Sunday, from life after life touched by God.

Tears of awe.

Each life a battle ground where forces of destruction, disillusion, or dysfunction for a season wreaked havoc. Like the storybook princess bound under a spell, long enough to forget there was ever a time outside its grip. For some, there wasn’t.

Until; enter God. Gently, providing the key to each lock, using human hands, one by one, He opened the cages inside their souls. One by one, contortions replaced by compassion, tensions by releases.

But yesterday, I saw more than restoration. I saw original design. I saw the purpose and potential woven into each Imago Dei, each spirit mirroring its Creator.

Embarrassed, I wipe my face in my scarf, as tears keep splashing the new hopes, dreams, and fresh ideas I bathed in, inside the eyes of the people I love. Not cheap, Hallmark movie sappiness, but springing from salty wells of loneliness and sacrifice and a grace so inexhaustibly deep – I have no words.

As we begin the landing, my flow ceases – my heart’s window washed, I’m now ready to see Guatemala…

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, AMP)

A Moth to the Fame


It’s one of those rare days where the sunshine calls us into its light and we have the freedom to follow. Yearning to feel the wind whip our faces, my man and I hop on his Harley, but every stop sign and every intersection, there’s a traffic jam. An obstacle course to our rush.

But we are off today; we have no where to be and no timeframe to get there. He turns up his music, and Young Oceans sweep us into their worship. I realize that from our very first ride together, almost 25 years ago, I have loved to listen to his music.

He’s the quiet type, my man, so every word that escapes his lips, I cherish. But something about meeting him in his playlist takes me deeper into him, but also wider into our one vision. Right there, between stop and go in North Miami, my soul breaks out of the traffic rut and soars into the sphere of wider perspective where I feel most free.

I’m turning fifty next month. Exactly half my life lived on this continent, even in this city that has been the most chaotic, colorful, flavorful setting I could have wished for. I could not be more grateful as I reflect back.

Even before Jesus swept me into His arms and gave substance to my longings, I made a vow that I would hold nothing back. Terrified to live some orderly, organized life where form and function choked out the soul, I flung myself into whatever intense cause I could find, a moth in search of a flame.

Though I later reluctantly became familiar with the dark side of most ideologies, I’m still grateful for the pull towards the revolution fires. Zeal for the ideal is the fingerprint of God, a compass carefully placed in the human heart to guide us back to His.

Back on the motorcycle, we finally break free to ride the speed of the highway, the sun caressing our backs, the drums and synthesizers bursting in our chests. The longing to be flung, body, soul, and spirit into life, into love, free of the mundane, free of the constant circumspection of sin.

The first twenty five years here, by the grace of God and the invaluable army of ragamuffins that became our people, we pioneered a church, raised and homeschooled our children, and took in a few who needed a home along the way.

The first twenty five years here were a beautiful bootcamp for discipline and balance. A constant tug-of-war between seemingly conflicting priorities, it felt at times like the fire inside was spread so thin, it was only smoldering memories of youthful dreams.

But He sustained the embers with which we were entrusted.
And He sustained us, especially in the dark nights where even flickers seemed out of of reach.

I’m turning fifty, as my man has eye on his upcoming senior citizen discounts. And I’m savoring this moment.

My life’s first trimester was characterized more by wildfires than life-giving passions. Whoever said youth is wasted on the young was right – we didn’t have the wisdom to hone our savage strength.

My second gave birth to so much, and the joy of watching those lives rise in their own passions would be enough. Swelling with gratitude, I would be deeply satisfied if this was it.

But if this ride doesn’t kill us, I’m turning my wrinkled face to the last trimester. I feel like a young horse after a pint up winter. I can smell the new season, and I’m itching to run. To fly.

As a child and even young adult, I would look starlight into the sun, just because I loved the feeling. My optometrist sighs and tells me it shows. My eyes sight is terrible, but oh, I love fire. Older and wiser now, I long to let it loose again, not my own, but the fire of God who burns to love His kids and show them His beauty and free them from all lesser flames.

I long to look into His eyes till my sin is burned away, till my whole being is one flame of His to warm this cold earth and illuminate my world with His fire.

“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;” (Revelation 1:12-15)

“I want to hear You say well done
I want to be welcomed in
I want to feel Your love like sunshine
On my resurrected skin

I want to hear the music play
I want to hear the trumpets sound
I want to hear You call my name
And watch my feet lift off the ground”
Phil Wickham

https://youtu.be/sDG4hEWNZbk

So Come


Again, we stare at the screen in disbelief. Hooked up to our individual devices, still we are one in the grief. At our bagel bar this morning, my man and I don’t say much, as the CNN live stream in the corner continually bleeds over all of us this latest tragedy. A bearded man with a weary face enters with a laptop under his arm, and just says one word to the weathered waitress: “Orlando!” She shakes her head and brings him coffee.

So life goes on. For awhile, we will post #weareorlando, and we will agonize with strangers, before we again polarize into our factions of idealism. Gun control. Muslim control. Build a wall. Build bridges. Trump. Hillary. Feel the Bern. It’s understandable; we are hurting and powerless against this evil we grasp to define so that we can work to eliminate it.

What else can we do?
We pray. We post. We donate to good causes.

And for awhile, we invert our generation’s motto from “Don’t judge me” to “Where is justice?” We know the drill; we’ve been through it too many times already. And we know this won’t be the last or the worst.

I feel an odd detachment this time. Like a spectator. Like we are all in a theater, acting our parts, but outside the building’s little enclosed world, I hear the slowly rising roar of a tsunami wave approaching. Clips of scattered post-apocalypse movies play in the periphery of my mind, while my eyes try to focus and engage in the play I’m part of.

But I can’t focus. I hear that coming wave and I know it carries the elimination of evil we all cry out for. As in the days of Noah… We have no idea what we are asking.

We demand justice, but reject the Judge.
We hashtag compassion, but have outlawed its Source.
We are lost, but long to be found.

“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22)

They say, that while while being swept into oblivion by anesthesia before painful surgery, even grown men call out for their mama. Under the rubble of our well-intentioned efforts, our souls weep for our Creator.

We are so thirsty, and no Starbucks concoction or alkaline water from the theater vendors can quench it.

But He is here, pouring out His Spirit on anyone, whosoever directs their thirst at Him. Jesus. The Living Water. Before the wave of destruction, the rain from heaven gushes life into any dry soul who wants Him.

I rip my eyes from the theater and leave the building. Outside is my vagabond people, pilgrims and beggars, saints and sinners, their faces turned upwards, drinking the rain. Their backs to the theater, their chests toward the darkness, they sing intercession that slows the wave and protects the people inside.

For awhile.

“Dreams and visions of the Son
As we stand in Your presence
Revelations of Your love
As I look to the heavens”
(Hillsong)

After the wave, the River of Life, pure and healing.
The shadows of violence and fear now washed away. The souls saturated in love. One people of peace. Everything new, fresh, as the first day in Eden. Better. Complete.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

The invitation is for now. We have but a little time.

So come.

https://youtu.be/LiK9S8iq4ek

13 June, 2016 18:18


Again, we stare at the screen in disbelief. Hooked up to our individual devices, still we are one in the grief. At our bagel bar this morning, my man and I don’t say much, as the CNN live stream in the corner continually bleeds over all of us this latest tragedy. A bearded man with a weary face enters with a laptop under his arm, and just says one word to the weathered waitress: “Orlando!” She shakes her head and brings him coffee.

So life goes on. For awhile, we will post #weareorlando, and we will agonize with strangers, before we again polarize into our factions of idealism. Gun control. Muslim control. Build a wall. Build bridges. Trump. Hillary. Feel the Bern. It’s understandable; we are hurting and powerless against this evil we grasp to define so that we can work to eliminate it.

What else can we do?
We pray. We post. We donate to good causes.

And for awhile, we invert our generation’s motto from “Don’t judge me” to “Where is justice?” We know the drill; we’ve been through it too many times already. And we know this won’t be the last or the worst.

I feel an odd detachment this time. Like a spectator. Like we are all in a theater, acting our parts, but outside the building’s little enclosed world, I hear the slowly rising roar of a tsunami wave approaching. Clips of scattered post-apocalypse movies play in the periphery of my mind, while my eyes try to focus and engage in the play I’m part of.

But I can’t focus. I hear that coming wave and I know it carries the elimination of evil we all cry out for. As in the days of Noah… We have no idea what we are asking.

We demand justice, but reject the Judge.
We hashtag compassion, but have outlawed its Source.
We are lost, but long to be found.

“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22)

They say, that while while being swept into oblivion by anesthesia before painful surgery, even grown men call out for their mama. Under the rubble of our well-intentioned efforts, our souls weep for our Creator.

We are so thirsty, and no Starbucks concoction or alkaline water from the theater vendors can quench it.

But He is here, pouring out His Spirit on anyone, whosoever directs their thirst at Him. Jesus. The Living Water. Before the wave of destruction, the rain from heaven gushes life into any dry soul who wants Him.

I rip my eyes from the theater and leave the building. Outside are the vagabond masses, pilgrims and beggars, saints and sinners, their faces turned upwards, drinking the rain. Their backs to the theater, their chests toward the darkness, they sing intercession that slows the wave and protects the people inside.

For awhile.

“Dreams and visions of the Son
As we stand in Your presence
Revelations of Your love
As I look to the heavens”
(Hillsong)

After the wave, the River of Life, pure and healing.
The shadows of violence and fear now washed away. The souls saturated in love. One people of peace. Everything new, fresh, as the first day in Eden. Better. Complete.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

The invitation is for now. We have but a little time.

So come.

https://youtu.be/LiK9S8iq4ek

[Come]

In Over My Head


She was quoting to me the exact same chapter from the exact same book I so often use to help people understand boundaries. In the hour we spent together, my counselor said nothing new to me, nothing I myself don’t regularly say to others. And yet it was hugely helpful.

Sometimes familiarity with principles and processes weakens their effectiveness. Not because they no longer hold power; like gravity, the laws don’t change. Truth will always set free and God will always be good. But like the people we are prone to taking for granted, good habits and gospel truth can slip into the grey zone of oblivion, even while we look right at them.

My descent down the slippery slope into stress began when necessity required I step into new roles and responsibilities. Unfamiliar territory with new giants. Or rather, old giants in new disguises: Worry, Anxiety, and Control, all from the tribe of What-If.

What if provision doesn’t come? Worry.
What if I make a mistake? Anxiety
What if my husband makes a mistake? Control.

In the nights, thundering heartbeat, dry throat, and exploding headaches woke me up.
In the days, my capacity for compassion was drained and my ability to listen compromised by the loud chaos inside. Temporarily, I could shoo the imposters away with “It’ll be fine,” but they always returned with a vengeance. I got so used to them that I forgot they weren’t welcome.

Until they reared their voice in a conversation with Heather. Fighting for her daughter, Heather has been to hell and back. In the process, she faced some scary giants of her own, and through some very, very fierce battles, she stared them down and won back her freedom. So now, she doesn’t mess around. When she spots evidence of the enemy at work, she calls it out. As she did for me.

Which led to me booking an appointment with a counselor to get help sifting through the stress and the stressors. So there I was, hearing such familiar words and concepts, and because of their familiarity, I was tempted to dismiss them.

“Only God can provide for people; you cannot”
“We don’t have grace for “what-if,” only for what is.”
“Your are not your husband’s Holy Spirit; second-guessing his every move doesn’t help him.”

I know, but….

I know. No but.
Exhale. Ahhhh.
Quiet acceptance.
He is God, and I am not.
Relief.

For the first time in months, I feel the relaxing warmth of peace spread from my mind to my body, deeper than I could will it. This isn’t mind over matter – it is stronger. Places I didn’t know were tense, let go.

Truth always sets free and lies always entangle.

Somewhere in the swirling newness of this season, I swallowed the lie that the weight of my life and those I so love, rests on my scrawny shoulders. Had you asked me, I might have denied it, because I know better. But I still swallowed the poison.

My counselor prayed that I would see the boundaries between my responsibilities and God’s – and because He gives sight to the blind , I did. It was like seeing through the right prescription glasses again, and my soul found and finds rest in the quiet wisdom of His Word.

“Be still, and know that I am God;”
(Psalms 46:10a)

Yes.
And still, it’s a process.

That one counseling session didn’t neatly tie a bow on the complexities of living by faith in a world where nothing adds up, as far as human eye can see. More than a ready-made solution, it was a seismic shift underground whose shockwaves still are radiating, closer and louder, a continual shaking to sift the human from the divine.

Weeks later in my car one night, my friend asks a question that triggers the ingrained guilt over my insufficiency. Tears burn in my throat as I list to her the balls I’ve dropped: unanswered emails, phone calls, the usual suspects, but each representing a life I care deeply about.

With sweet simplicity, the most healing salve, she just says, “I guess that’s where faith comes in, right? That He is God and you are not. I guess that’s where trust comes in: that He can handle what you can’t.”

As she states the obvious, I see His concern laced with humor in her eyes.

Well, is it true, or isn’t it?

“No guilt competes
With innocence crucified.
No grave can hold what your grace has justified.
With breath that brings the dead to life,
With words that pierce the dark with light
Only by the blood are we set free.
With mercy strong to carry shame
And nail it to a tree You alone
Hold the power to redeem.”
~ Lauren Daigle

http://youtu.be/r47ux0RhLMQ

Since then, the underground rumblings have become continual tidal waves rushing me further and further from the shore of my control into the ocean of grace. I fear drowning less and enjoy the splashes more.

His way is fun and free.
I’m not looking back anymore.

“Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.” Bethel Music

https://youtu.be/qv3-TDdD1pM

What May It Cost You?


Materially, I am among the most privileged in the world, but by American standards, I live in a shack. Two bedrooms with one bath, our 1,000 square foot home is old and in need of continuous repair, which we are slowly and methodically undertaking, as time and finances allow.

But it feels like the mythical curse of Sisyphus, who was condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again.

The bathroom walls are currently held together by duct tape, the ceiling is drizzling plaster dust, and the tile on the front steps are a lawsuit waiting to happen. You get the picture.

In one of my sleepless nights, I stumble into the bathroom and look at that black duct tape (yes, that could have been done with more finesse, but that’s another story…) – I groan at the sheer ugliness and pray one of those sleepy frustrations “Lord, help me to understand this.”

Decades of priorities, such a homeschooling and traveling to see family at the expense of maintaining the house, explain a lot. The circumstances that led to here are complex, and most of them, we don’t regret. Still, there’s a nagging awareness that in this one arena, no matter what we do, this thorn in the flesh remains.

“And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees”
(Simon and Garfunkel)

For us, the thorn has been financial. For others, it’s been one health threat after another, or relational upheaval, or family deaths. You name it.

So in the wee hours of the night, looking at the black tape on my yellow walls, I see the collage of our hardships, of which mine is by far the most superficial. “Lord, help me understand.”

I must have drifted off to sleep, but when the alarm shakes me out of it shortly after, I remember the prayer. Like a dull ache, it’s just there, lingering in my groggy soul.

Coffee.

After decades with this habit, my morning routine is on autopilot: light a candle, open my Daily Bible, exhale.

More coffee.

And it happens again: He meets me right here in my messy nest, right here in my messier flesh. Cutting through the worries and expectations that hover like black matter around my spirit, He speaks:

“Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” (Mark 12:41-44, The Message)

Suddenly, I’m aware of the air conditioned comfort from where I complain. Aware of how much I have not given.

As is typical, I sense His questions, rather than an answer: “What may it cost you, Elisabet?”
“Will you draw a line for Me that says, “This far and no further?” “Is that really what you want?”

My gaze falls on the title of the book next to my bed , “i am n”

This single Arabic letter n conveys the life-altering accusation that the bearers, or the occupants on the house where it’s painted, are “Nazarenes,” people who follow Jesus of Nazareth.

“Any person who takes a stand for Jesus in the occupied Iraq, any person who chooses to be “n,” pays a high cost. Without warning, some Christians are dragged from their homes and
businesses by armed militants – and they are never seen again. Pastor’s who share the message of Jesus in their communities are beheaded in front of their families. Children who don’t renounce Jesus are shot. Teenagers may be taken from their homes and families and forced into service of ISIS or beaten, mutilated, and left for dead.” (Pages 15-16)

“What may it cost you, Elisabet?”

My Iraqi siblings don’t love their children any less than I love mine. They feel the un-anesthetized pain of these horrors, and those too unbearable to describe, exactly as I would. Knowing that one word of compromise can spare them, they face their persecution steadfastly. Not because they are super-human, but because they have counted the cost.

Somehow, they’ve embraced the greatest treasure that “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

This dilapidated, mortgaged house would be a palace for them, but that’s not the point. Not anymore.

Jesus follows the story of the poor widow who gave it all, with His disciples marveling at the grand structure of the temple, and grand it was. And He answered them, as He now answers my plea to understand, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)

My black tape on the wall is a visual reminder that all of this will be shaken, so that only the eternal remains. In the waves of refugees rolling in over Europe, I see the transience of life itself. The martyrs are living stones in a temple that will never be destroyed, and everything inside me just yearns to be among them. Not to die, but to live.

Everything, Lord, it may cost me everything. Forgive my spoiled perspective and replace my expectations with Yours.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

“Through the eyes of men it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
One by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves

But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid”
(Lauren Daigle)

http://youtu.be/7XAeyFagceQ