because He fights for the beautiful things…

king

“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Romans 12″:14-19 MSG

My heart is sad tonight. Every day on the news there are more crimes of hurt and hate. The discord makes a soul weary. And tonight I came across something that hit home on a deeper level…

Many of you know Ryan, my son, is intellectually disabled. Last year he participated in Special Olympics. Although he chose not to participate this year, I hope he will in the future. They are a wonderful organization with amazing volunteers and athletes. So you can understand when there was recent news of Special Olympics swimmers being called “f***ing reartards”  – my heart broke.

Not just because I’m the mom of a intellectually disabled child…or have friends with special needs…but because of how raw and ugly we can be to those who are “different” than us.

“Different” via skin color, religious views, political views, IQ scores, color of hair, choice of career…whatever the difference is…we can be absolutely awful to those who we choose not to get to know, understand, or empathize with.

And it’s a delicate balancing act. Standing up for what we believe in and those we care about – yet responding and stopping what is not okay in a loving and respectful manner.

So my heart hurts…not just for the individuals who were treated like dirt…but for the one who treated them that way. And I wonder if the approach we take could be more centered around education than anger…in this situation and all situations.

We can choose hate about what we don’t understand – on both sides of the fence. Or we can choose to set boundaries using love and education. Knowing it’s up to us to offer these things, but up to them to choose if they accept it and make changes.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the size of our army. It’s not about how hard we fight or what weapons we wield. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing the Lord will fight for you – you need only be still. 

Maybe this song says it best…

because we cannot be where faith comes to die…

image

 

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. James 2:18 MSG

In my mind, I see it like this….

A well networked faith system at the roots, growing up through the thick nourishing soil of Jesus, and blossoming into a full leafy tree of works.

Close your eyes.

Do you see it?

Do you see the tiny fibers stretching far beyond and beneath their comfort zone? Wiggling and pushing as they gather up the splendor of what Jesus-soil has to offer. The Holy soak then delivered into the trunk of the tree. Steadily and stealthily pushing onward yet pressed hard under the soil of righteous obedience. Rising…but glouriously enveloped in Jesus.

Its’ only in obedience that the beauty of what is underneath can meet fruition. As it rises, a magnetic – yet gentle – force pulls it far beyond it’s greatest expectations. The tiny fiber of a root turns into a marvelous tree stretching high into the sky. Now extended high above it’s critics reach.

Can you see it my friend?

This is you.

This is me.

That is what we have the capacity to be.

Oaks of righteousness…planted for the display of his splendor.

But the best of faith rooted intentions often experience a fleshy death at the hand of anxiety.  Fear is where faith comes to die. If faith is confident expectation that God will do what He said He would do, fear is confident hopelessness that God never wanted to do anything good in the first place.

That while you may be able to pray brave prayers from the safety of your bedcovers, God never created you nor will He provide you with what is necessary to go from thought to action.

Fear feels like your feet hitting the floor and almost immediately…peace sucking vengeance seeking demons of the past and the present tie your shoes together and block the way. Instead of moving up into Jesus, our roots start to reach further down into the furrows of our humanity – gathering nothing but information from our past shame and sin. And there we sit…for hours…days…weeks…years sometimes…stagnant.

…having a form of godliness, but denying it’s power…2 Timothy 3:5

Sweet friend this cannot be.

In these times like these we cannot let it be.

The moments of sheltering strength deep beneath the blankets of “someone else will do it” are over. The world doesn’t need a ground full of root systems growing towards the center of depraved humanity. It needs trees that will stand up and stretch out high towards the one true God. Our world needs Christians that aren’t afraid to say the reason I can stand and sustain is because of Jesus. Christians that aren’t afraid to give Him the praise…the honor…and the glory in loud and extravagant ways.

Faith…Jesus…Works…they grow together. They need to be together. They belong together. They are His presence realized in a shallow body of nothing but dirty broken cells and messes.

This is beauty from ashes.

This is redemption.

This is salvation.

This is the love our world craves and so desperately needs.

Swell this earth thick with your favor.

With detached arms…

 

least

A sort of detached look on her face. Broken. No one glances beyond the scars.  Perhaps the scars protect her, but I’m pretty sure they protect me. As if what she has been through is too much.

Shards of glass fill her eyes. If someone gets too close, she has the power to push them away with a mere glance or a stare.

“That will teach them,” she thinks. “That will keep him form hurting me again.”

And I sit with her for a while, because too long is more than I can bear.

I sit with her and wonder what it is like to be loved with detached arms. To be handled with “care”. To be raised by a system that has your “best interest” in mind, but never really understood what that was in the first place.

Best interest. 

Best interest of who?

The placing agency? The protective services? The attorneys? The counselors? The parents?

All enter her life to supposedly make it a better place…so why doesn’t this place feel better?

Why does she sit in a stark barren room with nothing on the walls and emptiness in her heart? Why does she sit alone? Is this really best interest? Is this really the better her heart has longed for?

Because this feels cold and dark and incredibly alone.

And if her tiny heart could tell you one thing, this is what I think it would say…

Don’t love me with detached arms, like some sort of mechanical operated system that is in charge of keeping all my ducks in a row. Sometimes my ducks don’t want to line up. Sometimes my impracticality needs to hang out and run free. I desperately need to know that this is okay. 

That what has happened to me isn’t too disgusting or nasty to go unnoticed by your eyes. That you will not let me fall by the waste side.  That you will not throw me away or pretend you don’t notice.

Don’t hold me with broken hands that detach at the wrist and never give way to the heart. Hold me with real hands. Real hands connected to real love.

Love that says I get it.  Love that says you don’t have to hide it away for me. Love that won’t leave me in the dark.

Hands that hold. Real hands. In all my life I have never felt these kinds of hands.

They say they exist. I just really don’t know. And I’m even more terrified that if I find them…someone will snatch them away. Certainly I a not deserving of these types of hands.

So I’ll sit here with my glass eyes glazed a thousand times over so that you can’t see me. And maybe you have real hands. Real hands that aren’t leaving or hurting. And if you do, I’ll think about letting you in.

the connection conduit built for freedom…

set free

So there’s this way of doing therapy with sexually abused children that is so fantastic. It’s called TFCBT. I love it so much because it works. It contains very specific components which are super helpful and research driven…but if you set all that aside, there is this thing I see as the most important. Therapy, whatever kind of therapy it is, offers a conduit for connection…

Why do the kids therapists see love to come back? It’s not because we doing anything magical…it’s because they know there is an open door…

Not only an open door to the things people are comfortable talking about, but an open door to the very most horrific moment in their entire life. We give them the permission they need, and a tool belt filled with skills, so they can walk through that awful moment over and over again, and realize that they are in fact – okay.

Sometimes people ask me, does it make it worse? Does talking about it make it worse? And I get why they ask. Because I too thought it would make it worse. I chose to tuck that awful moment away in the dark recesses of my brain for years out of fear that if anyone saw it – surely they would reject me the same way I rejected that part of myself. But that’s exactly why it NEEDS to be talked about. There is power in visiting one’s most painful place with someone by your side that says I see it, and you my dear are not ugly. In fact you are beautiful..1,000 times over beautiful.

And I wonder if that’s how it works in our relationship with Jesus? We have these deep dark places that we try to conceal from Him. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we cover our broken shame filled spots with fig leaves and hide. We smother the darks spots over and over again afraid that if we open them up, it will make it worse. But sweet sister, Jesus didn’t come to rescue our happy places. He came for the broken, bruised, and abandoned feeling mess of a girl that feels she could never possibly be loved by the King of Kings. And He says: Here I am. Here is the open door. I’ll walk through this with you. And in the process you will know that you have always been okay.

He gives us the tools in His Word and the path through His unending faithfulness and forgiveness. With Him we have not failed. We can come to Him over and over again because He never gets frustrated or tired no matter how long the process takes. He the conduit of our connection to the God who formed us in our mothers womb and knows each and every fiber of our being. We are perfected, adopted, love giving, life living children born of and saved by Grace. We don’t have to do more, be more, have more, or live better to receive what He has already given to us. The price was paid in advance.

So that icky, awful, terrible feeling thing? I know it’s scary to uncover and you worry about disturbing the dust bunnies that live in that old musty closet. Talking about it can feel almost threatening…but God has given you an open door. And He has far more tools than I or any human on this earth could ever offer. He is willing and able to walk through it with you. He already knows it’s there, so let it loose because you deserve so much more than to bear this burden alone.

it’s not like popping a zit…

healingIt’s weird the statements that stick out to you. The ones you will remember all your life. Sometimes they are something profound and super spiritual or intellectual. Other times they are the simple statements that no one ever really thought would make an impact.

“It’s not like popping a zit, Stephanie…”

Said to me in therapy as I was processing tremendous pain. I was so angry that after I had talked about and processed it…that it didn’t go away. That after the majority of the bacterial pussy mess had finally oozed out, there was still work to be done.

So I thought to myself…well maybe there is more? Maybe there are parts I haven’t processed, and once I get those out – then I will be okay. I laid in bed at night, trying to remember if there was more…or if something else had happened that I had blocked out. When I realized there wasn’t…well maybe I was severely mentally ill. Perhaps I was just that sick and twisted that I couldn’t let it go. And so I researched mental illness after mental illness, diagnosing myself with every conceivable disorder. And then I thought, what if it’s something between me and God? What if I don’t have enough faith? What if I haven’t read the Bible enough? I poured myself into scripture hour after hour, day after day, to the point I was ignoring my family.

Yet it lingered…

Sermon after sermon…book after book…told me that God wanted freedom for me. To me, that meant I would never hurt again. That I would never think about what happened again – and if I did – it would be a gigantic rose garden transformed from ashes to beauty where nothing painful could possibly remain. Yet year after year, prayer after prayer, study after study, therapy session after therapy session – things changed – but something seemingly icky remained. I couldn’t shake the ickyness, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me…why?

But then one day…several years later, I realized something. Until I stopped trying to push that last lingering bit of shame/depression/anxiety/hurt/pain – a conglomerated leftover gloppy residual mess – away, I would fight a losing battle.

Could it be that this stuff was actually there with function and purpose? That I wasn’t being continually robbed of freedom, or so dysfunctional I couldn’t accept it…no…this stuff might actually be part of the freedom plan God designed in the first place.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”Isaiah 61:1

No where in Isaiah 61:1 does it say that we won’t experience a broken heart. No where does it say that freedom and release means the darkness ceases to exist. No where does it say that my mind, or yours, will be wiped completely void of every bit of pain we ever experienced. And could it be that this pain, the icky feeling that sometimes jumps into our throat and feels incredibly uncomfortable, allows us to share in the pain of others to a level that helps them know they are not alone? Perhaps part of the freedom Christ has given involves this tiny bit of leftover that allows us to sit with someone else who has experienced the same. What if it is a vital, crucial, essential part of our freedom gift?

This morning I got up with a big zit on my nose, disgusting I know, but I looked right at it and there were those words…Stephanie, it’s not like popping a zit…

Sweet friend who has done the work. The therapy. The Bible study. The coping skills. The essential pieces to healing…and yet you still feel just a little bit dysfunctional and messy…you are. And you are where you are for a reason. You are an amazing human rescued by an incredible Savior. Continually blessed to feel all of the emotions you feel for whatever reason and purpose God allows you to feel them. It’s not at all like popping a zit…and that my friend, is a really okay and beautiful thing.