Wednesday, April 26, 2017

for when you need to say things out loud

I remember what his face looked like.  The expression of complete regret and fear with eyes that were starting to show relief.  He sat across the room, knees apart serving as a place to set his elbows, hands up ready to catch his head if it fell forward from the raw emotion swimming inside.  I knew what was coming and even though it was the last thing I wanted to hear, I begged for him to just say it, say it out loud, because then the ice would be broken, then it would be out in the light...

Our lives revolve around communication.  Even in the most isolated places on earth there is language, the ability to speak and respond in some manner so that community can work together, rejoice together, disagree with one another, and live life.  However, unless you are under the age of 4, one can not just go around saying aloud every thought that comes through the mind.  Honestly the under 4 category probably shouldn't either but so far I have yet to find someone with the skill to enable that filter.

Words harm and words heal.  The phrase "If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all" is well shared among the southern states.  It is also well known that if you are told hundreds of wonderful, positive things about yourself and then one negative, it's that one negative that will stay with you the longest.  It is for these reasons that we are told to be kind to one another...(Eph. 4:32) and to no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only what is good for building others that it gives grace to those who hear it. (Eph. 4:29)

Filters are a valuable thing.  They strain out impurities so that what you are taking in holds only that which is good for you.  In the world this may be referred to as your conscious.  Good ol' Jiminy Cricket sang a very catchy song about letting your conscious be your guide.  Listening to the inner voice telling you what is right and wrong.  In Christianity, we believe this is the Holy Spirit.  What Jesus left with his children here on this earth living inside you and guiding is your filter. Through it, with knowledge of the Word, filters our words, actions, and thoughts sifting out impurities and changing them to be more like Christ.  A point worth mentioning however, is that whether we follow the Holy Spirit's leading or not we are still loved and forgiven and never left alone.

I know no one who does not have regret over something they said that they wish they could take but as we talk today about words we speak, it's not the ones we have said to others that is the focus, it's the ones we haven't said, the ones we hold onto inside.

Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And while it is easy to immediately think that she is referring to letting out that budding writer that may be inside some, it can also be very easily applied to the story we each live out.  Each life is a story written by the greatest Author, meticulously planning and allowing experiences that will mold and shape us to become what He has designed us to be at story's end.  But within life there is beauty and despair, joy mixed with sorrow, refining and rebuilding that needs to be done and our hearts and minds often want to pull away instead in hopes to keep away the difficult parts of the process.

While much concentration is done to learn to filter our words and only let out what is helpful to others, there is an equal amount of concentration by us to hold our words inside because of what others may think if we let out our true selves.  

I would be willing to bet there is at least one thing that even right now you are keeping inside, afraid to say out loud because of how it might come across, how it will sound, how it makes you sound, because it may be wrong or because of what another may think as soon as you finish the sentence.

If you are scared to say something, that is a usually a good sign that you need to say it!

Words can eat at you if you leave them hidden, causing agony as Mrs. Angelou said, and worse keeping them in darkness, away from the Light, where they can be twisted so violently that you begin to believe the lies instead of allowing in Truth.

As a "counselor in dreaming" I have developed a simple two step process to help release those words from inside your heart.

1.  Find someone to say them to-  Lucky for you, there are two people with you all the time that you can speak to.  One is yourself, the other is God.  Yes having a bosom friend or spouse who will listen and love you no matter what you say is a pearl above price, but please do not think you need to drive anywhere, wait for your next girls' night/bible study/community group/workout/counseling session or wherever else you might have conversation.  The first priority is not to have your words heard, it's to get them out and give them a voice.

2.  Say them out loud-  Quite often this one small but not so small action is the only thing needed to bring healing and relief to your soul.  It takes courage to speak out the things you have hidden and as soon as the words have left your lips there can be peace and understanding that what you have feared so much to say may not be scary after all.  This one action is an act of faith and that act is rewarded with a precious peace that passes all understanding.

Everything we say out loud that is bottled up inside will not be right.  We have hearts full of sin and our thoughts will skewed, our opinions will be unjustified, our words will be full of envy, or unforgiveness, or doubt.  Even if more steps need to be taken to process through whatever the words reveal, they will be out, confessed, given a voice, and brought into the light and THAT is when healing can begin, when perspective is given, when wisdom is gained, and when our inner dispostions begin to change.

You may say hard things, you may hear harder things but He is faithful and just...He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I pray that you will give all the parts of your story a voice so He can do just that, pray for me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

for when you are looking for joy

This isn't the first time this exact subject has been shared, it's not even the second, or even the third.  It is in fact the fourth version of this post that has come from keyboard to screen to others' eyes.  So for a list of verses that will pull your heart in please take the time to visit one of those links.  
The original reasoning behind sharing this again was because for the third time this year some yucky germs have filtered their way through our family and constant cleaning, laundry, care taking and/or being cared for has been happening for a week straight.  Writing something original today felt like a task weighing too heavily upon my shoulders, yet skipping completely, though done before when need arises, didn't feel right either.
However as thought and word came together, the original reasoning took a back seat to fact, I needed to ponder these words and verses again, to be reminded of their truths, and to see the growth that has come because an ever faithful Father has been working in me, always working.
There have been countless times in my life where I have struggled with finding joy.  Times when I didn't feel right, just not quite myself.  Years ago, God started opening my eyes to the circumstances around these feelings so that I could begin to pinpoint when it might happen or at least recognize the cause when the lack of joy was felt. At the time, four triggers were noticed that caused the heart to dip and joy to leak instead of remain full, (1) exhaustion (2) feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks, thoughts and decisions (3) not spending time with friends who encourage me (4) letting the lives others make me feel discontent with where I am in my own life. Since the original list, another has been added.  (5) letting past trials take up too much presence in my present.  
The past longs to haunt you, to bring you back down to where you were or who you used to be but all the while God is reminding you that you are not who you were, you are a new creation, being renewed day by day.
Today the past had no hold on me, and in a situation where frustration would usually reign, where triggers would  usually flip and hard roads would be trodden down yet again, Joy was there to greet me instead.  The most beautiful part was that I didn't even have to choose Joy, Joy chose me. 
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
Months ago, literally, there would have been more than one pity party, frustrated outburst, and emotional meltdown mixed in with the extreme search for joy in the midst of the not so normal.  Even with the hard learned knowledge that my joy does not come from me or my surroundings but only because I am a child of God and that I have an amazing Savior who sacrificed himself so that I could not only have everlasting life BUT that I may also enjoy the life he has placed me in here on Earth despite the circumstances I am in, there would have just been non-holy guilt for not living that out instead of the Joy it so beautifully describes being able to live out regardless of life's bumps.
Joy came in the morning.  It fought against flesh and won the battle and in turn reminded me that no matter how many times I have failed at this in the past, the Spirit is constantly working and changing those inner dispositions to be more like Christ so that each day I can look and see that He is good.  He is so faithful, completing that work in each of us.
But Joy is not alone.  The fruit of the Spirit takes many shapes and we each struggle with different aspects of it at different times.  We look at life and get discouraged that we aren't as patient as we would like to be.  Not as loving.  Lack self-control.  And yes kettle, this pot may be calling you black but listen anyway.  Remember you are being renewed day by day, not immediately.  Don't be discouraged by your failings, be encouraged by the one who continues to pull you forward especially when you fail.  Because when you "ask  it will be given to you; seek, you will find; knock, it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Matt 7:7-8)
I'm praying that you can see Joy, but even if right at this moment you see anything but, I pray that you will ask for it and seek it out because if you are abiding in Christ you will find it.  Please pray the same for me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

because in the midst of beauty and despair there is always a faith that keeps walking through

“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us?
You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up,
sobs to become humanity's song--all without lifting a finger that we could see.
You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped.
If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
We strain to hear...

The juxtaposition of beauty and despair is a constant for us all. The scales may dip to one side or another, staying down at times longer than anyone would wish or staying up so long the next dip down catches us by surprise more than it should. Growing up you learn in school about America and it's Melting Pot of colors, faces, cultures, foods. I, for one, do not remember specifically being taught that life is also a melting pot of experiences, the good the bad and the ugly as it were. There was always work hard, follow directions, and do your best with either the assumption or adult given guarantee that everything would be okay. But then things do not work out the way you thought. The formula didn't equal the intended result.

Recently I was lying by a pool with a view of Zach in a beautiful pool playing with our boys in the foreground and the mountains of southern Utah in the background while reading a book about a young girl abandoned by her mother, for her own protection, to live in extreme poverty in Nazi Germany yet still understanding compassion for all others when the world around her claimed superiority. Beauty and Despair.

It's difficult to share a cross country experience with your sons the same day you read about Syrian children losing their lives because of chemical warfare. Or checking on social media to look at pictures of a beautiful newborn right next to another showing pictures of their young son diagnosed with cancer. Or feeling helpless as you hear about yet another couple's marriage falling apart because of sin and selfishness when your own, after a similar heartbreak, is full of grace, forgiveness, and healing. Beauty and despair.

There are a few responses our hearts and minds revert to when faced with these two opposites living side by side. There's guilt, much like survivor's guilt, that your life seems easy compared to the struggle of another. There's naivety in believing that another deserves what they're getting while you deserve the rewards you are reaping--consequences are part of actions, but grace is the only reason we see blessing in our lives--Then there is that pesky desire to ignore other's plights while you just concentrate on your "good fortune" doing whatever you can to make sure the tide doesn't turn. You have probably guessed that none of these seem to be the path we should take.

A goal for many in everything life related is calm, peace, no waves, just a constant state of positive. Actions are directed at keeping the scale dipped as low as possible to the side of our earthly vision of beauty. Heaped on top of that plate to weigh it down are a combination material possessions, shared experiences, church visits, donations, and all things that bring a sense of happy no matter how short lived.

But how do we explain with our earthly sense when the scale seemingly stays tipped to the other side whether in our own lives, the lives of our friends, or the lives of strangers on the other side of the world?

The opening quote is one by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his book Lament for a Son. But that is not the full quote. It ends with this, "But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God."

When you picture that balance scale in your mind, and just so you know my picture includes a very LOST like image with black and white stones on either side, picture God, His Son, and His Spirit fully present on both sides so that one never outweighs the other because in every beauty there is an understanding of despair that would come if we did not have Him to call on and in every despair there is an understanding of beauty because He is always with us.

Hope always exists in every place hopelessness tries to overtake.

Emily Freeman said, "By faith, we trust he is building his kingdom even while we wait for the day when we can see with our eyes how he is making all things right again.

Much like my pastor's definition of love, Paul David Tripp has one on Faith that is simple to understand yet full of depth when pondered through. He describes faith as having two parts, both as important as the other. The first is believing that God exists. The second is letting that belief radically change how you live your life.

"Trust in the dark, trust in the light, trust at night and trust in the morning, and you will find that the faith that many begin, perhaps by a mighty effort will end, sooner or later, by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul." ~The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

So how do we explain the reasoning behind beauty and despair living side by side? We don't. Somethings are unexplainable and then again somethings just do not need to be explained. Instead, we just walk in it. Walk in the Faith that believes God exists and then continue that Faith by letting our actions shower Christ over others so that whether they believe themselves to be in a moment of despair or beauty all they will really see is Him.

As Pat Dye is known for saying, "There's going to be a lot of days where you lay your guts on the line and come back empty. Ain't a damn thing you can do about it but go out there and lay them on the line again. And again, and again."

The Truth of it is, you'll never come back empty handed if who you are laying it all down for is Christ.

Praying that in that mix of beauty and despair you can see the Faith in your life growing and the actions of your life being radically changed. Pray for me.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

because it's palm sunday

I loved singing this song today on this beautiful Palm Sunday.  Holy Week feels so different this year.  Last year, with all the doubt of how long our church was going to be able to stay afloat, there was a new understanding and deeper feeling on Good Friday and the thought of how the disciples and His followers must have felt on that day when they didn't understand what was happening and why it was happening.  That loss without the Hope that was about to come.

A year later there is still sadness, there is still a deeper understanding of loss, but come Sunday there will be a different understanding of the Resurrection, of the newness that comes because of Jesus.  Hope that is alive and well, always, showing itself to us again and again with each new step.

I looked at the the precious boys given to us as we sang the verse about a generation and prayed they would forever walk in selfless faith towards their Heavenly Father, deep into the Kingdom of God, side by side.


I see the king of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes

I see his love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing
The people sing

Hosanna in the highest [x2]

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We're on our knees
We're on our knees

Hosanna in the highest [x2

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Hosanna in the highest [x2]

Hosanna in the highest