Grief: Will it always be?

To care for those who choose to die; an awful, dangerous thing
and here they’re all surrounding me, professing to me the most bitter of stings.
Love can be deceptive, when I think it means they are receptive.
But the choice they make, eternal mistake.
It leaves my soul so desperate, that they might yet see one day.
I see we all are searching, so desperately wishing it true,
that God would somehow shake them or extinguish the eternal truth.
Surely it cannot be, the last breath is the last chance to see?
What did Jesus do when he left the tomb, but preach to those unreached?
Did Moses change the mind of God when he begged him to release?
Could it not be so with me? Would he shake my loved ones free?
Could he somehow yet redeem? Could he open their eyes to see?
Have they really chosen the most horrible thing? Surly they know not what they do?
Surely we are but grass, naive? Could it be? Could it be?
We can’t contend with the truth given, can we? So clearly lined out the destiny.
Even if I begged, they would yet deny the way.
Let them have childlike faith, even just for me.
The prayers of the righteous are powerful powerful things.
Oh Lord, let it be.
Somehow, set them free.
For who could awake and yet breathe,
living and loving.
Please let it not be up to me.
For I cannot bear the greatest of tragedies,
knowing it was me who failed to help them see.
Yet, somehow shake them.
Shake them, please.
Free me from this grief.
I could not bear all these days so sad to see them leave.

Advertisements

Dangerous Convictions

Opinions, they cut like a knife
formed from the word
wrapped up in the illusion of tried-and-true
to make them fit so nice
and we steadied our hearts
between all the red lines.
Some hiding behind the times.
Some hiding behind words like sacrifice.
But, the true light hidden behind:
the freedom that lies in Christ.
No matter how gray, or black, or white.
I’ll cut those opinions up with a knife.

Wisdom, it smells awfully the same
sends the “fool” quick to his grave
wrapped up in seclusion of 2 or more
declaring tips and tricks for living the Christian way
and we steadied our hearts
on the other’s conclusions.
Some hiding behind illusion.
Some hiding behind words like tradition;
or even expedition.
But, there’s a true light hidden behind:
the confidence that lies in Christ.
No matter how gray, or black, or white.
I’ll air out the wisdom like a burnt up cake.

Some call it independence, I call it paying attention.
Or walking in freedom to defend my intentions;
to disagree when in Word these “wisdoms” and “opinions”
are not so clearly seen.
The true light within Christ is what must matter most to me.
Not trusting in you, not trusting in me, but convictions can be dangerous things.
In the end it will be just me standing at the judgement seat,
giving an account, knowing ALL that Christ, in joy, redeemed.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight.”

life, a swing

a field, a swing – as a child I was placed gently in
I could not yet see
the broken dreams of those pushing me
sometimes harsh or soft, but still the wind would meet my need.

I learned then to swing a bit on my own
there were times I’d go high,
sometimes slow
sometimes I’d just stop, hoping maybe I wasn’t alone.

so they came, each in his own time
some would leave a scar, some would leave a smile
but as sure as they’d come, so sure they were to go
whether I asked them to stay, or asked them to go.

well I guess it’s back to swinging on my own.
But, I think I’d better start pumping even if it’s just for show.
I’m not sure I’ve got anywhere to go,
but it sure beats wondering if I’ll always be swinging alone.

If someone asks to stay, will I ever stop saying no?
is there room in this heart for a passenger row?
I guess time will tell or I guess we’ll never know.

What I learned about eternity waiting in line at the DMV

How could this be? What is there to learn about eternity at the DMV? Well, it’s not a perfect analogy, but in two trips, one knowledge test exam, 5.5 hours of line waiting – the Lord gave me a little something to make me feel like the wait had some purpose in drawing me into a closer walk with the Lord.

It started with a last minute, maybe foolish, choice to go to the DMV over my lunch break. You see, there were several things weighing on me in the back of my mind and one of them was getting my drivers license renewed so my home owners insurance would renew my policy at the end of the month. I’d still had my original license even though I’ve lived in three different states in the last 10 years… it was time to get it taken care of.

Everyone has a different experience at this DMV I hear, but boy… was that line long. I picked the wrong one at first, of course, and after a half hour, jumped in the right line, took my knowledge test, and then headed back to the end of the application line. 3.5 hours later, the DMV closes and the 20 of us pack up and go home. Nothing like feeling as though you’ve wasted your time like standing in line at the DMV and not even getting done what you came there to do. The analogy didn’t really come until the next day.

This time I went right away in the morning… turns out most of us had the same idea. The lady I had gotten to know or at least chat with was already about 15 people ahead of me waiting. I waved hello, but today no one around me was really very chatty. That’s alright.

I moved through the line, every 15-20 minutes another person would get called up to the counter, and slowly we shuffled forward. As I stood watching I started to notice how similar waiting in line at the DMV was to our journey waiting for eternity. Like I said the analogy isn’t perfect, that’s why we have analogies…

Life is like a DMV line. You never know where you’re going to plopped in. You show up at a certain time and you wade through the line of life together with the other random strangers around you. After waiting long enough, you sort of start to bond with them. Why not? You’re all here at the same time together. Might as well. Some people are waiting for their children to finish their driver’s test, some are just passing the time. Some talk, some don’t. Some are frustrated and some just keep breathing and waiting. There’s something sweet about being here all together at this one moment in time.

What’s sweeter is the amount of joy a person starts to have when they approach the end of the waiting line. “We’re getting closer!” “I wonder if we’re going to make it?” “Only three people away”. I bet that no person, had there not been a waiting period, would smile and wave at the people around them in line as they approached the counter, had there not been a waiting period. No one would be so excited about getting a license. But here we all are, smiling like idiots, because the wait made us appreciate the reward. And as they go, they get their paperwork done, and turn to head out, they look back at the people they were waiting with, cheer a bit, and celebrate that their turn is coming up next.

And so it continues as each person gets to the end of the line.

Maybe eternity is that much sweeter because, for some reason, we got plopped down into life with the random strangers that waiting in the line of life with us; we waded through the impatience, the hesitation, the celebration, and the consummation of the dream – getting to the end. And maybe it wouldn’t seem so nice if there never was that time of waiting.

And well, that what I learned about eternity at the DMV. God has subjected creation to frustration that we might be liberated from our bondage to decay and brought in the glorious freedom through Christ.

Finally after two hours, I too got to approach the counter. I didn’t wave goodbye to any body because I didn’t take the time to get to know the people around me, but I knew I could at least empathize and rejoice that there was an end and I made it, and so would they. Hopefully, anyway.

The Guilty’s Case

Oh don’t you worry
I’ll roll the stone in front of my own cave
I don’t need your help when I’m the one to blame
Only until maybe I’m used up, worn out, beat up, and done
the penance I think that earned my shame.

If it’s me at least then I’ll know I can always get out
If I roll the stone I’ll know how to push it down
I’ll know the end and I’ll decide when it comes.
And I won’t have to rest and receive.
I won’t have to feel that peace
that helps me believe that there’s worth hiding
in these broken, worn out, used up seams.

But, this need to pass blame?
It’s like a toxic drug, a bullying game.
Passed along from love to love.
Weighing us down from shame to shame.
Is the coast clear? I’m looking out.
Ready to fight or ready to weep, when I find out
no one was waiting there for me.

But You were. And You are.
And so You ever will be.
Ready to welcome me once again
And remind me I’m graciously
overwhelmingly and
inexhaustibly
Free.

Jesus, the Gentle Lamb

I am a woman of God, who is loved by the Lord with a love that is pure and undefiled.

These were the words I was told to repeat to myself after a soul wrecking intimate counseling session. Could saying these words feel vulnerable? For me, I wept as I held my sister’s hand and let her look into my eyes as I repeated it again and again.

As every child grows up, I suppose we see love displayed in many ways. As an adult reflecting on a past life where “I love you” was spoken along side of displays of violence, I found it very difficult to reconcile and sort out. In some ways telling someone you love them, to me, also meant giving them permission to hit you, lie to you, abandon you, wreck you. While love, in its purest form, establishes and grows in a place of safety and joy and binds people together, in it’s most destructive establishment (a broken existence longing for liberation) invites a “safe” place for pain and violence to destroy and divide.

As I contend with the parts of my soul that desperately want to be seen and known and the parts that want nothing more than to hide away; I find in its place a desperate confusion to know “what is love?”. I knew, or hoped, pleaded even, that it wasn’t what I’d observed: my mother screaming and hitting my father, my brother taking advantage of a pure trusting friendship, my other brother pinning me to ground striking my face. If that’s what it is,  I don’t want any part of it. I will isolate myself in suffocating loneliness rather than being seen, because when you are seen, when you love and are loved, you are hurt.

I found in my memories I was deeply troubled by my inability to have protected myself from harm as a child. In so many moments I should have been able to stand up for myself, but I couldn’t. Not for lack of will, but lack of might. I learned to just take it. I blamed my gentle spirit. “God why did you give this to me? This gentle spirit? It makes me weak. Its caused so much suffering.”

Something became provocatively clear. How just was it that Jesus loved?

The lover and the beloved. To love is to not always be loved in return because of the disposition of the article of the affection. It’s loneliness is not its defining quality – love is so much more – but it is the temporary reality and cost. How do I know? Well, it was one Jesus was fully acquainted with, by choice and with full acknowledgement. His choice to love and choose gentleness, was to open himself up to the neglect and abuse of the very people he was seeking to help and lift up. As I reflect on my childhood I feel angry because in a way I didn’t choose gentleness and I suffer it’s weakness and vulnerability. Jesus understood the consequences of gentleness with the full ability to choose otherwise, but for the joy set before Him took on the cross and its shame, accepting the flogging and abuse from people he longed to call friend. Jesus, the gentle lamb.

So what does it mean: “I love you”? I’m learning what a sacrifice it means to say it, to be the lover as Jesus was and is, but maybe it’s an entirely different question to understand what it means to hear it. Am I worthy of a love that is pure and undefiled? If I base my answer off of what I know and have experienced – I suppose, though we all try our best, the answer would be no, I have learned I am not worthy of it. I mustn’t be. Yet, I must eagerly separate from that definition or I risk my very understanding of God’s pure and undefiled love. One that does not act in sin, one that does always protect, always hopes, always perseveres, always honors, always rejoices in good, rejoices in the truth, one that never fails, never stops supporting, never stops cheering you on, never ceases to be patient or kind.

Oh, how hungry my soul is to know this love. This God. A place which invites a pure safety that, in contentment and with satiated appetite, peacefully ceases to concern itself with the art of being loved, but rather the art of loving.

Breaking me of envy

You are breaking me of envy. And I am taking myself as I am. Long over are those days of desperation: weighing, measuring, wanting no more.

You are breaking me of envy, I am taking the trials of my own. The glory of others’ blessings masked by temptation, but the suffering therein, you always withhold.

You are breaking me of envy, and helping me to find, there is a sweetness in these starving dreams of mine. And it will always be there waiting at every chapter turn; old ones come and go, but not the lessons that I learn.

You are breaking me of envy, that I may learn to rest, in the unquenchable thirst of heaven’s best. What does one deserve over the success and failure of another? And what better reward is there, but the unending love of an eternal father?

But a breath.

Life is but a breath, swift, but felt slow
Most of it was never enough, or so we thought so.
Someone always did it better,
but in the end we see we were all together
in the ways we got it wrong.

It’s too bad it always felt so long.
Always rushing to get to the end of the day.
Always pushing someone else down or out of the way.
Always leaning into the dreams we never got to weather.
Always staring in the mirror wondering when you’re going to get your act together.
Always sleeping, but never have rest.
Always breathing, but never taking a breath.

What can we resolve? We get what we got.
For some its not a lot, but why do we really need to know?
Everyone’s journey is one of their own.
Heartbreaks, headaches, and these moments of joys.
Some are packaged recognizably so:
A number of breaths, swift, but felt slow.

One thing I will never regret:

This summer I faced a strange and unexpected trial. Most trials in my life are emotional as God has chosen to allow me to have good health so I don’t experience many physical trials yet and He has given me a desire for saving, frugality, and budgets so I tend to avoid financial trials; but God has giving me a good portion of broken relationships in my life so most of my trials are emotional. This summer was a little different as my mental endurance was tested.

In preparing to move to Rochester, I sought the Lord for work and housing. I waited in great anticipation for His leading. It was quite challenging, but His timing was appropriate. Just as I was getting approved for a home loan, I was choosing between three different jobs. Because of the job offer timings and the length of the pros on my pro con list, I chose a temporary job as an intern for the city. It was the job that offered medium pay of the three and was going to work with people which I thought would be “more” honoring to the Lord (the others I would have worked in my car driving around the state alone).

The job consisted of me sitting at a computer all day doing monotonous jobs like checking thousands and thousands of rows of data for accuracy and then copying and pasting the date I checked them. Relationally, I struggled the whole summer to connect with people. Most weren’t my age and were either severe introverts or just clearly not interested in connecting with me. Sometimes I sat on the other side of people at lunch in the break room and had short lived one-sided conversations. I often wondered if it was because I was the temporary “intern”.

Alone. Monotonous. 8 hours a day M-F. It’s hard to call it a trial, because when you say it, it doesn’t sound like such a hard thing. I have a job. It pays me money. What’s there to complain about? However, the mental struggle left me feeling like I was in a mental prison. Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. No escape.

I started to wonder if I had chosen the wrong job. “Wasn’t I trying to HONOR you God by choosing a job where I work with people??” I started to see that if there’s something God wants to teach, our decisions can hardly stand in the way. That little nugget of truth meant a lot more to me as someone who struggles with decisions. No matter where I go or what I choose, God is there and faithful. That lesson sounds very familiar.

However the one thing I will never regret as I sat at the computer day after day hardly speaking a word to anyone, is how God transformed my attitude from bitterness to gratefulness as I learned to mentally persevere. It became clear to me that the only way out of this was to walk through. God helped me see that He was giving me an opportunity to persevere; to grow and train those perseverance muscles. The one thing that will never fail to serve me is growing in perseverance. Growing in perseverance will never be wasted. Who knows what trial God will bring into my life where this perseverance will aid me in my faith?

This week my internship ended. Monday I start a new job. The job is actually the same job, just with a different organization. It’s possible I will feel the same mental strain as I did before, but I have prayed for God to lead and this is the job He has provided me. Maybe I will learn more about how to work towards having a job I love, but I am grateful that the Lord has provided. This will be my first “real” job since college where I have benefits and I’m getting paid something that makes sense for a person with a Master’s degree. Though it is quiet, there is a small part of me that is genuinely jumping with glee for this new opportunity. I have also learned that I often walk hesitantly into God’s blessings He has for me. So here’s to seeking the Lord and resting in His guidance.

James 1:2-4, 12 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast (or perseveres) under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

Confessions of a Church Planter: There is no where to hide

May 2018 I graduated with my masters and the next day left on a 14 day camping road trip to the west coast. The day after coming back I drove a moving truck up to Rochester, MN where I signed the closing documents on a house and started a new job that Monday. A crazy whirlwind, too crazy to send updates on Facebook… my family let me know that.

December 2016 our church decided to go on a church plant to Rochester, MN and asked me to join. For many reasons, I became convinced I could take this step with confidence that this is where God was leading. It was closer to home in Wisconsin and my heart was carrying a sense of homelessness where I was. It was time to go. From December 2016 to May 2018 God did several things, the main thing being to delay my expected graduation day and lead me into and out of a sort of dating relationship both of which caused me to surrender my fears of the unknown and even surrender of NOT going on the church plant. With confidence I began to trust that there was no where on earth I could put myself where God would not still be beside me.

Finally May 2018 came around and I was one of the last few people to move up to join the church plant. I can imagine any large transition like this, whether for a church plant or just a move, is difficult for everyone and loneliness becomes a faithful companion to many. But it has been sweet to see the Lord faithfully bind our hearts together as family and bring both new believers and faithful servants into our midst.

We went from meeting in homes, to meeting at a small college, to meeting at a school where we tear down and set up every Sunday. Now we are getting into the groove, but it sure gets exhausting. In a good way. One thing I am realizing that is not so obvious with a larger church family, is that there is no room for quarreling, disagreements, or pride. It really ought to be this way with any size church family, but in my experience previously, when there was disagreement between two people it was easy enough to ignore them and go and bond with outher friends because there was enough people. You could join a different small group or start hanging out with people from a different house church. When you’ve got seven or eight single people in your church and theres a disagreement amongst two people, there really is no where to go. The Lord has given me these people to lean into, build up, confide in, conflict with, and reconcile to. You can’t simply find other friends because we’re all we’ve got. And there’s something sweet and encouraging about that.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4