Get Back On

I don’t want to make excuses.  This season has just been tough.  September 10th will be forever etched in my memory.

So much of what has been in me has been sadness and hurt.  So much of what I write has been depression and anger.

Are you in a difficult time?  Has the world come unraveled?

Yeah, I get that.

My dear people, my friends, can you see God’s goodness?

A while ago, I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.  In the beginning they show, in very realistic ways, what it was like when the Allies attacked the beaches of Normandy.  The chaos, the death, the horror.

The thing that has amazed me ever since is the overwhelming question of how?  How do you run off a boat into that hell?  How do you run toward gunfire that is ripping people apart around you.  Once you find a spot where you aren’t being shot, how do you move from that relative safety?  How could you, how could any sane person do what they did?

I have no idea.

But they did.

And we are called to also.

I fear for my country and what the future holds.  And in this season, I’m a bit gun shy.  I don’t want to get up.  I don’t want to move.  But I have to.  You have to.

Get up.  Move.

In Jesus name, take the hurt and fear that you carry and lay it on the cross.  Take the pain that you’ve been through and rush the guns of satan that have destroyed so much.  Stand!  Pray!

We will stand together, you and me.  And through it all, we will find again, that God has been good all along.

I Can’t Feel

Last weekend I lost a very dear friend of mine.  I have not recovered.

My mind, my head feel full, pressured, blocked.

My hands, as I write, feel numb, thick, unwieldy.

My heart, oh that feels.  But what?  As I hear his voice in my head, his laughter, see his goofy smile and remember the stupid, silly things he said and did.  What can I allow it to feel?

I break down in tears over and over again and then laugh.  Then I am so angry and embittered.  Not at God, not at this young man, not at myself even.  I think I’m just angry at life.

What a crazy thing this life is.  So strong and binding…

So fragile and transient…

I’ve seen the pictures of birds on the internet, the swallow that feeds his dying mate, the protection of a pod of dolphins.  I don’t know what they’re feeling, what is happening inside them.  Maybe we are unique in the depths of our feelings, the strength of the attachments we are capable of forming.

Maybe we aren’t…

But I know enough of all of us that, if we let ourselves, we all enjoy living, we love life.

That means that when it is taken, when it is ended too quickly, when it is ended at all, a part of us dies too.

So, maybe how I feel right now is a gift from God too.  Maybe the hurt that I can’t feel, and the hurt I can’t allow myself to feel are all part of the evidence that, as stupid and ridiculous as I am, I’m alive.

Whatever…

I only know that I would rather feel this loss and know love, know friendship, than to set my heart aside and truly never live.

I can feel.

Let God Write The Story

I know a man who has failed time and again.  He is so sure of his failing, he can not allow success.  If things are going well, he simply forces failure on all he is trying to accomplish.

Let God write the story.

I know an old man who has betrayed his wife, his children, many times. The guilt and condemnation he feels over all the hurts he has caused, the overwhelming shame that darkens every day, tell him he can not be loved.

Let God write the story.

The woman who had an abortion so many years ago.

The teen awaiting sentencing.

A child bound in slavery of a type no one should ever face.

Let God write the story.

We don’t believe that He is, sometimes.  We want to help Him.  Maybe just skip ahead to the good part.  Or just read the last page and close the book.

But, if we let Him, He can write something amazing.

It will have pain.  It will be terrifying at times.  It is a God story after all.

Don’t grab the pen.  Don’t rip out the pages.  Don’t speed read over the details.

It’s a good read, a beautiful picture.  Let it capture you.  Let Him capture you.

Let God write your story.

Cling to Me

We’ve heard the story on Easter Sundays how Mary went looking for Jesus body in the tomb.  What she was the empty chamber, two Angels and a person she thought was a gardener.  In one of the sweetest moments in scripture, we see her fear and despair turn to wonder and joy as she recognizes the voice of her Lord.

Her response was completely natural.  She hugged Him.

But He has to push her away.  I always wondered about that.

“Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’””

‭‭John‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I’ll admit, I don’t understand this.  The only thing I would want to do, the only thing I still want to do is hold onto Him.

Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with Christmas.

I have friends who struggle with depression and addiction.  These are good people who are hurting deeply with seemingly no way to freedom, at least no lasting way.  There are friends who have lost brothers, children, parents, who face every holiday knowing they will never be able to see their loved one again on this earth.  There are women and children, and yes, men too, who face this season as slaves of human trafficking.

I have no easy answers, no quick fixes for these overwhelming problems.  

But I can tell you where to start.

You see, Jesus has “ascended”.  Jesus rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, and is now “seated with God”.  It is perfectly acceptable for us to cling to Him now. 

We can go to Him in worship, not just seeking an emotional high.  We can tell Him our problems.  We can open our hearts.  We can fall on our knees.

When we hurt, we close off, push people away, protect ourselves.  Jesus ascended so that we could and would cling to Him.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””

‭‭John‬ ‭12:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I know that when I get to heaven I want to spend the first million years like a kid wrapped around His daddy’s leg.  I think He is inviting me, this Christmas, to start living that way now.

What kind of fight is in you?

Being an averaged height person, I always liked to quote, “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

So many things come at us.  They attack and tear, condemn and hurt, messing with our faith, our hope.  And those hurts are so real, so painful, so overwhelming.

When Paul said, “We wrestle not with flesh and blood…” He wasn’t minimizing the damage we withstand.  And because the tools, the weapons wielded by our enemy, so often are flesh and blood, it becomes confusing.  We all know the broken places inside us though.  We know the reality of the emptiness we feel in betrayal, in tight fisted words.  We know the bruises of anger and hatefulness.

So what do we do?  what do we do?

I guess, right now, I’m turning that question around.  What do you want to do?  I’m asking myself, what do you want to accomplish?

Do I want the fights that I can “handle”?  Do I want the warfare that my wisdom and strength can conquer in?  I don’t think so.  Because just like those fights, temporal, worldly, so often meaningless, my victories will be the same, temporal, worldly, meaningless.

I want a God fight.  I want a war that only He can win.  I want a marriage that only He can secure.  I want a life that only He can bless.  I want to conquer enemies that dwell in the eternal, that war in the spiritual, that destroy not just the body but the heart and soul of my people.

I will be a warrior that fights by His rules, that wears His armor, that conquers in the name, the almighty name of Jesus Christ.

The size of the fight in this dog, is God sized, is Holy Spirit sized.

Come at me bro’.  Enemies of the cross – you don’t stand a chance!

Forgiveness

What happens when we won’t forgive?  Rightly described as a poison we drink ourselves, unforgiveness eats away at everything we are and live for.  It kills our hopes and dreams, sucking life from every facet of our being.

I am finding forgiveness difficult right now.

Some hurts reoccur with a regularity that makes it so difficult to let go of.  Some offenses cut so deep that they will not heal with band-aids and platitudes.  Marriage, brothers, parents, old friendships are where these things happen.  It finds no ground in the new relationship, the acquaintance, for they are easily let go of.  But in the soil of what should last, we find the place that seeds of anger, bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness find their environment for growth.  The place where we are hurt, and then hurt again, and again by those who should never want to cause us pain, that is where this poison does its work.

And out of this venom, we lash out at those around us, hurting others out of the hurt that we feel.

And nothing can stop this juggernaut of destruction.  It will go on ad infinitum, through generations, through changes in culture and politics, despite all that we do to cover it, to medicate it, to deny its existence.  And the only way out, the only thing that can set anyone free, is to forgive.

I will not hold to your account the debt you owe me.  I will not make you pay for the wrongs I have suffered.  I forgive you.

This malignancy will no longer live in my heart, in my family, in my church, in my home.

I forgive you.

Does the Hurt Ever Heal?

 

One of those scary places to go.  Death, sadness, irrevocable loss, days, weeks, months gone forever.

 

In 1978 my brother committed suicide.  His body was found almost six months later where it had washed up on a river bank.  As we waited through the months when we knew nothing and then endured the questions and analysis of dental records and other comparative data, we were torn between wanting to know and not wanting to know.

 

It has been thirty-five years and it still hurts so much.  I can’t write now without crying.

 

I miss him.

I would’ve loved to see him meet my wife, my kids.  They would’ve laughed at his idiosyncracies, some very similar to mine, some that put mine to shame.  They would’ve been amazed by his talent and insight.  And, if they were lucky enough to hold his hand, they would’ve have known the strength and gentleness that, to this day, is my picture of the hands of Jesus.

For those of you who have suffered great loss (some are so much worse than mine, so much deeper) you know that the hurt never heals, never goes away.  We compartmentalize, we bury, we cope with what has happened but we don’t “get over it.”

And that’s OK.

My Jesus will not remove all pain until I stand before Him in heaven.  When He claimed that He had “overcome the world”, it didn’t mean that the world was gone.  It meant that He was greater, stronger, deeper than what would happen to us here.  His triumph is not over the cross, it is through the cross.

And in that, I find His peace.