Of Trust

I saw the news about Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini yesterday.  To make a long story short- they were a Christian couple in ministry.  He was arrested for sharing the Gospel and held (and tortured) in Iran for 4 years.  His wife, Naghmeh, campaigned tirelessly for his release.  It was a big deal to the Christian evangelical community.  So he finally gets released and…she gets a restraining order against him basically as soon as he steps off the plane.  Turns out, there had been years of abuse behind the scenes.  A lot of the tireless work she had done for him had been under emotional coercion.

It is sad and disappointing, but not really all that shocking to me.

I’ve been stewing on this post for a long time.  A post about how we can’t put our trust in people.  Seeing this story really motivated me to write it.

I have my own story to share.  It’s a tale of a crazy ex step-dad.  We’ll call him C.P.

C.P. came into our lives when we really needed him.  My mom was losing her battle with alcoholism.  He was a recovering addict, bursting at the seems with charisma and passion for Jesus.  He shared his testimony with any and everyone and couldn’t talk about Jesus without tears.

He was instrumental in helping my mom get sober.  He took a real interest in my life.  We had great talks about God and he spoke some great things into my life.  I thought he was the mentor I had been hoping and praying for.

Sometime after they got married in a very rushed fashion, C.P. quit his good paying job to focus on writing a book about recovery.  Things started to get weird.  We found out he had been married like 5 times and that one wife had died under mysterious circumstances.

At this time I know God was really preparing my heart for the disappointment and chaos that was about to be unleashed.  God was whispering to my heart that I couldn’t put my trust in man, I could only ultimately look to him.

C.P. (ironically while writing his book about freedom from addiction) was abusing pills and became increasingly erratic.  A lot of horrible things happened but we’ll just say that it ended in divorce because my mom’s life was in danger.

C.P. released his book (which was really as garbled and erratic as his life) and started a new life at break neck speed.  Videos of him sharing his testimony at his new church surfaced within a couple months.

I want to make it clear that I have forgiven this man.  He was charging forward into life, leaving complete chaos and destruction in his wake- because he refused to look inward.  When things got hard he would blame everyone else and look for the next wife, the next church.  He couldn’t stop.  So instead of being still long enough to do an honest inventory and get the deep healing he needed, he just kept running.  He was running from the pain of his past and trying to numb the pain inside, but pain has a way of demanding to be dealt with.  We tend to continue to perpetuate that which we don’t face.

We tried to confront him at one point and he was pacing and sweating and ultimately took off because he couldn’t (wouldn’t) face the truth.  It was his life, in a nutshell.

It could have shipwrecked my faith but it didn’t.  It was such an important lesson to me.

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” Psalm 146:4

People can provide so much to us- love, encouragement, companionship…all that.  But people are going to fail.  People are going to let us down.  Churches and organizations too, because they are run by people.  Even the best of us still struggle daily with our fallen sin nature.  You show me someone living victoriously in Christ, and I can guarantee that person has struggles in the dark that they need to overcome (every.single.day.) to live that outwardly victorious life.

The danger in hitching our faith wagon to a person or organization is in that they could possibly go off the rails and take us with them into a ditch.

We can (and should!) go to church and look up to people further along in the faith than us.  But we need to be so careful to know that our faith is in God.  Not our church.  Not our Pastor.  Not our mentor.  Because God is the only one capable of being perfectly what we need him to be.  He is the only one who will never fail.

Not only that but when we put these ‘super-Christians’ on a pedestal we absolve ourselves of the call on our lives.  Like, “they have it goin’ on because there is special favor on their lives.  I could never be like that.”  The truth is that God does not show favoritism. Acts 10:34  If that person is rocking it in the faith department it’s because they have taken the steps to get there.  The invitation goes out to all.  It’s up to us to answer, and to what extant.

We can have it to.  You can be as close to God as you want to be.  You don’t have to settle for a second hand faith.  God wants to be real to you too, he wants to move as powerfully in your life as say a Beth Moore or John Bevere.  There are no favorites.  And that means when people we admire screw up royally, it doesn’t have to wreck out faith.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14

People change.  Circumstances change.  Our churches may change.  But…

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

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Of Hope and Heroes

My thoughts for today are on the importance of hope.

I’ve blogged frequently about my son, Gabriel, and his eczema.  I actually don’t talk about it much in life, for whatever reason.  There just doesn’t seem to be a point. I think a lot of people were unaware of how serious he was until it spread up his neck.  His eyes have read rings around them and from his jaw down, he is almost completely covered in red, angry skin with areas of swelling and infected wounds and abscesses.

It’s really bad.

There is no “but”.  It just sucks.  It’s horrible.

He usually handles it so well.  Most mornings he wakes up tired and in pain and doesn’t want to go to school.  But he does so well.  I just got his report card and he is meeting or exceeding expectations in every area, in spite of his frequent exhaustion and pain.

Today everything came to a head.  He came home emotional and angry.  He was crying and screaming and kicking his closet doors.  I had to force my way into his room and I had the sense to just let him be angry.  To just be there with him.  I sat with him until he let me hold him.  I just held him until he was ok again.

I sit here with tears streaming down my face.  This is so hard.

I’ve said before there have been times where this thing brought me to the edge of myself in every way.  Times where I refused to pray anymore.  Times when I could only look at and treat his naked body with a glass or two of wine in my system.

It’s been brutal.

But I have been praying and seeking and finding God again.  He reminded me of a story, a testimony I heard many years ago.  It was a ‘strong man’ who came to the church we were attending.  His thing was feats of strength- rolling up frying pans and breaking wooden baseball bats.  He did his feats and then shared his story.  Growing up he had been chubby, asthmatic, and completely immobilized by anxiety.  The most impressive thing about this man was how unbelievably tender his heart was and how incredibly he was advancing God’s Kingdom.

I think of his story often and it gives me hope. 

Awhile ago I was talking with Gabe and the subject of the movie “Terminator” came up.  I outlined the plot and he wanted to know why the robot wanted to kill Sarah Connor.  “Well, I said he knew she was going to raise a hero.”  As I said those words I was overcome with emotion.  I saw Gabe as a future hero, that that’s why his life has been under so much attack.  I refuse to let the enemy have him.

I am going to raise a hero.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Your Song, His Song

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for a couple days.  Don’t feel bad for me because the song is pretty epic-ly awesome.  It’s 80’s, it’s melodramatic and not a bad song to have stuck in your head.

I think the only way to get it unstuck is just to go with it.  I found it on youtube and decided to play it to wake my husband from his sweet slumber this morning.  Two birds, one stone.

I sashayed into the bedroom and dramatically belted out, “Take…these broken wings!  And learn to fly again!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1M80Z7zTjo  You’re welcome.

I think he appreciated it.

He’s used to this sort of thing because I love music and I love singing (and dancing) and my home is my stage.  I didn’t say I sing well but whatever I lack in talent I make up for in gusto.

Seriously though, music can touch us like nothing else.  I recently read the book “Finding God in the Ruins” by Matt Bays and he talks about the song, the music of our lives.  Jarrod Drawbaugh also speaks beautifully of letting out the song of our lives in this blog- http://www.infjwriters.com/dear-infj-advice-recently-deceased-philosopher-author/ and as a person of faith this got me thinking of how my song is inextricably connected with His song.

As a follower of Christ there have been many times where I’ve felt utterly defeated.  Times where; I fell hard into an old sin pattern.  I fell hard into depression.  I fell hard into feeling worthless.  As an INFJ, I see things very symbolically and the image I had of these times was that of being cast down into the dust while the enemy of my soul sneered triumphantly over me.  While he hurled insults and accusations.  Many of which had more than an element of truth to them.

But at times like that when I felt the darkness closing in, I would hear something else.  Quiet but unmistakable.  An ancient song, the kind that leaved you with goosebumps as it awakens pangs of hope and images of Heaven.

His song.

My song.

I think of the women caught in the act of adultery, recorded in the book of John, verse 8.  She had been humiliated and thrown into the dirt.  Surrounded by her accusers.  Too ashamed to lift her head.  I can imagine her accusers in breathless anticipation awaiting Jesus’ verdict, as their eyes darted from the woman to the Christ…The Bible says that Jesus stooped down and began to write in the dust.  Theologians argue about what he was writing and why.  But I wonder if maybe he was tracing out the lyrics to an ancient melody.  Maybe he hummed quietly a song that only that woman could hear.  The same fingers that set the stars in place wrote out this lowly women’s redemption. “He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support… You give me your shield of victory, and Your right hand sustains me; You stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:17-18 & 35

There are two voices, two messages we can listen to.  The ceaseless voice of the accuser or the quiet hum of God.  We can sing along with the voice of defeat or belt out the song of triumph.

I find in my own life that God is always speaking.  It is up to me to have my internal settings tuned to his frequency.  Whether I’m bopping through life to an upbeat 80’s tune (ah yiss) or immobilized in the dirt, God is always singing over my life.  He always has and He always will.

“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

My God is the God that stoops down in the dirt with us, to lift our tear-stained faces.  This is the God that rejoices over us with singing.  This is the God that puts a song of hope in our hearts, a song unique to each and every one of us.

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Unredeemed Brokenness

I happened to hear Pastor Matt Bays on my favorite radio show yesterday (Live the Promise with Susie Larson) and was really taken with what he had to say.  He spoke with shocking honesty about the wretched pain of his past and his turbulent path of faith- fraught with doubts and addiction.

His pain spoke so much to my pain.  I (being the impulsive sort that I am) bought his book, Finding God in the Ruins, with amazon one click.

Tonight I sat down and read through a third of it in one sitting.

It really speaks to where I am, the dilemma I face.

I’ve loved and followed God (not always well, but I’m still here) for ten years and yet I still feel broken in so many ways.  My son still deals with daily pain as we struggle to keep the eczema and resulting staph infections at bay.  I still deal with so much internally that never sees the light of day.

I, like Pastor Matt, got to a point where I just couldn’t pray and believe anymore.  How could I tell people about a Great God that loves them and has a great plan for them- when I found those promises so lacking in my own life?

The truth is that so many of us struggle with a disproportionate amount of pain.  A quick, pretty verse isn’t going to bandage wounded hearts sufficiently. The faith formulas don’t always add up as they should.

I went to a MOPS meeting recently and… felt awful the whole time.  The women there were really nice, they were genuine believers.  But I got the sense that these were the type of women that came from great families.  Women that have never labored under the shame of utter brokenness.  Women that knew how to match boot socks to their purses.  I felt so horribly out of place.

See, there are those of us who don’t come from the best families.  Those of us who deal with the anguish of shame.  Those of us who need much more than an inspirational service or two to get us out of our funk.

I think my theology has been woefully inadequate to address my reality.

God is good but a significant part of our journey here, our walk of faith, is going to be hard and at times, agonizing.  Much more so than we’d prefer.

Early on in my faith journey I was a good faith-filled believer and believed 100% that God was going to quickly and miraculously deliver me from my emotional pain.  That definitely hasn’t happened.  For years I thought it was because I was falling short somewhere.  The teaching I listened to had me worried that there was some hidden sin or offense lurking in me that was keeping the tidal wave of healing and deliverance back.  Maybe that wasn’t it at all.

Maybe there are just things that got broken so badly and profoundly early on, that healed so wrong, that they only way to get it right again is to re-break it.  To wrench away what is wrong before it can be set right and begin to truly heal.  Not a bandaid but a surgery.

So I am embracing the pain in my life and looking for God’s purpose in it.  I still believe.

 

My Power Source

I haven’t written in a while.  Summer is always a busy and chaotic around here!

I also switched jobs.  Now I work part time as a barista at a Target Starbucks.  Honestly, the job I’ve wanted for a long time.  I love Target and I love Starbucks!  I also love getting a discount, yay!  13626415_10154249884502429_8547029261097152568_nMy friend snapped this on my first day.

My husband’s brother and his family visited for the first time from Virginia a little over a week ago.  It was incredibly special.  We had a blast, hanging out and doing tourist-ey things with them.

Tomorrow is a big milestone for me.  I’ll be turning 30.  I’m kind of sad to leave my 20’s behind, but older = wiser, right?

I watched the movie ‘Miracles from Heaven’ a few nights ago.  At about 20 minutes in I started crying and couldn’t stop.  It just touched so many nerves for me.  The child in pain, the mom losing hope- it’s definitely been where I’ve been at for a long time.

My 7 year old son, Gabriel, has had severe eczema for years now.  It has been so tough for him.  Lately we haven’t been letting him play outside because he reacts so strongly to the allergens.  His eyes are always bright red lately.  There’s times where he can’t sleep because the itching or pain is so intense.  And all of this with daily anti-histamines and steroids and expensive lotions.  It feels like a never ending nightmare.

Watching him suffer, day after day, had really hardened my heart towards God.  Gabe had asked me, “why did God let me get eczema?” and I’m at a loss for words.

No, it isn’t as serious as what the Mother was facing in the Miracles movie.  But his condition has been devastating for him.  To the point that when we went to meet his cousins (in 90 degree heat) he cried because he wanted to wear a sweatshirt to cover up all the redness, bumps, and open sores.  He is also limited in his daily ability to just be a kid because the itching and allergies make him so miserable.

We’re still going through it.  There’s no end in site.

I think most (if not all) Christians face a make or break trial.  Something devastatingly hard, something that never seems to end, something that hits home.  Those times test what we know to be true.

God was speaking to me through that movie.  I realized I’ve been ‘under’ the trial and the devil was running roughshod through my life.  In my pain and sadness I was distancing myself from God, my power source, and leaving myself very weak and vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.

“Now if we are children, we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17

I have resolved to hold tighter onto Christ through this.  I believe in miracles.  Especially the quiet ones, where God uses tough circumstances to do an incredible work in us.

My sweet boy, with his Daddy….

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Winter is Over!

SpringSorry that I haven’t blogged in like forever.  I have been super busy.  I got a part time job at a local coffee shop.  Just to heap more craziness into my crazy life.  Cause that’s how I roll. 😉  I really love it though.  I get to smell coffee all day, drink free coffee, and get out of the house.  Win!  I also work with mostly teenagers, whom I get along with embarrassingly well.  I don’t know what that says about my maturity level, and I don’t really care.

We finally got our first really warm and beautiful day yesterday.  I was getting my daughter out of the van and was overcome with the warm sunshine on my skin (haven’t felt that in months!) and the birds chirping and I started to tear up at how wonderful it was.

Winter is SO long here. (I’m a Minnesotan) So when spring arrives it is glorious and wonderful.  I love Spring so much.  I love the renewal of it all.  It also makes me think of the cross and the resurrection.  The beauty and life that came out of the harsh winter that was the cross.

Winter passes and spring comes.  The ground thaws and flowers bloom.  The old makes way for the new.  Life goes on.

My hope and prayer is that we all find beauty and renewal in our lives as we experience spring and Easter time, that we would take time to marvel and get alone with our Savior.

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Dark Tunnel

Today I’ve been thinking about brokenness in life and finding glimpses of light in dark spaces.  Cheery, no?

Life is heavy.  Life is hard.  Sometimes it all, plus the unrelenting pull away from God can all be too much.

I have a child with aspergers, high-functioning autism.  It’s never easy but sometimes it is just so hard.

Another child has eczema an it is a daily struggle to keep it under control.

I have my own health issues- which means I am on a very restricted diet or  I feel awful.

I tend to get sad and withdrawn because of the weight of it all.  So often we bear our burdens alone.  No one can totally understand what we go through.  Or we get platitudes or the dreaded unsolicited advice.

Plus the pressure we feel to act like everything is ‘ok’ when it isn’t.  Suffering is just part of life.  I wish we could just let things be what they are without trying to put a positive spin on it.

But if we are real we risk being judged or having our pain minimized.  Like Job.  We are uncomfortable with suffering so we try to come up with a quick fix, an answer, a reason…when sometimes things are just broken.  Sometimes prayers just go unanswered.

If we can’t be real in our brokenness and honest is our faith even real?  Jesus was the ‘man of sorrows’.  He understands even when no one else does.

“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne…” Matthew 19:28

I’ve been thinking about that a lot- that there is going to be a great renewal of all things.

Every burden lifted.  Every tear gently wiped away.  Every last broken thing gloriously made right.

In the mean time I pray that my own pain and brokenness makes me a more compassionate, merciful, caring person.

No one has it all together.  We all have private hurts, pain, and burdens.  We all need mercy.  I think pain can be like the surgeon’s knife- cutting out the pride and arrogance and leaving something a little messier and tender and Christ-like in it’s place.

“Lord, all you asked us to do was to believe and follow you.  Help us to do that in spite, or even because of, our circumstances.  Help us to love.  Help us to be beacons of grace in a harsh world.  Help us to be strong until you come to set all things right and make all things new.”