Friday, August 26, 2011

Above and Beyond

"I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to them, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace to those far and near, says the Lord. And I will heal them."
Isaiah 57:18-19

This morning as I read about God's compassion towards Israel and his great patience with their wayward hearts, I was moved to think that he still longed for wholeness for his people. That he wasn't done with them in spite of their habitual rebellion. He not only saves them from their own self destruction, but promises to heal, restore comfort, grant peace, and guide them. Talk about going above and beyond.

And while he was the God of the Israelites thousands of years ago as described by Isaiah, he is also my God, with the same olive branch extended -- ready to heal, eager to restore, providing the way. I texted a portion of these verses to my friend, Kristen, earlier. A young, beautiful, single mom, recently diagnosed with MS. Faced with many overwhelming circumstances at once, this promise in Isaiah is hers. Healing will come as will comfort and guidance from a God tender enough to be involved in her details.

May his guidance, peace, and healing be evident to each of us today -- finding us marked by this backwards, compelling God and ready to restore.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.

I mean, what if?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Work of Feeling

Last week, I was emailing back and forth with a friend. She was expressing an area in her life causing frustration while simultaneously trying to talk herself, or perhaps more accurately, bible verse herself, out of her hurt feelings.

As I read her circumstance and also her determination to not be affected by it, I was reminded of myself. How I often convinced myself to not feel the full extent of a situation, but instead rely on my knowledge of spiritual jargon to keep the inner peace -- mistakenly and pridefully believing my knowledge alone should preserve me from injury. I would even rationalize that if I admitted feeling hurt, jealousy, despair, etc., then I probably didn't believe my neat little answers.
Leaving me unraveled. Exposed even.

No thank you.

And as I implemented this defunct, circular line of reasoning, I unknowingly built a prideful fortress of biblical mantras and self sufficiency, and audaciously claimed it as God's protection of my confused heart.
Yet in reality, it was just my own flawed defense that kept me looking like a nice enough girl but in essence, I was a thief bent on robbing
myself of real, compelling life. A slow, festering wound I was; unwilling to get past myself to heal.

Laboring towards wholeness has always been the story of redemption. While limping around as a fractured facade of sufficiency is the same old worn out saga of deception. A repressed and continuous beating of sorts.

Thankfully though, somewhere along the line, I decided to stop beating myself. After some years of subconsciously hating my own guts, combined with numerous failed self pep talks, spiraling circumstances, wise professional counsel, and friends and family that have wisdom well beyond mine, I learned to extend grace to even a wretch like me. And since grace tends to evoke feeling, I learned to feel fully, even, if it felt quite horrible.

I decided identifying with Christ mandates feeling.
Even the scary, uncontrollable ones I try desperately to avoid. Which, incidentally, are the ones that often make me most relatable, most honest, most real -- most like him.
For he felt deeply. Far beyond my own limitations in fact, and experienced the heights of ecstatic joy mingled with the excruciating depths of anguish.

And I can't escape his call to be like him.

My email response to my friend that follows was a needed exercise for myself in articulating truth that after years of defensiveness God graciously settled on my own heart and mind:

" is OK to feel though...remember that. You can feel disappointed or mad...God knows...I just always have to remind myself it's what I do with the feelings that when I get frustrated or fearful or insecure or I let those feelings identify me or do I let Christ identify me? Unfortunately, it is sometimes the former...but in God's steadiness and grace...I am growing more and more to where I know my home is the's Christ...not insecurity...nor fear...or jealously...or even my sick, sneaky's just and thankfully him. Praying that for you now too.

...that we might be "rooted and established in love...and have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:18-19

Wow. The fullness of God...what a pretty dress that would be. Praying we wear him well."

Progressive sanctification. Or unraveling, if you will. A painfully, beautiful gift encased in the vitality of feeling.

Let's keep doing the work of feeling with Christ as our identity.

All the fullness of God awaits

And I want that more than anything.

For me and for you.

I mean, what if?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Such Things

Yesterday I was challenged to be identified by the things I favor. How easy it is to rant against the things that displease me. So exhaustively easy if that makes any sense.

Time to accentuate the positive instead of complain about what is lacking or disappointing. And this epiphany is in no way an excuse to abdicate the throne of truth telling. Clearly, truth is vital. Especially in the midst of situations that are disagreeable and compromising. Fixating on the negative, however, may very well be a slippery path towards entrapment.

And still I fall for it. I find myself wrapped up in frustration over an issue or individual instead of choosing to see God's movement. Repeatedly even rationalizing my feelings by declaring it righteous anger and citing instances of God's frustration with his own creation. When in fact, the sentiment is actually counterproductive cynicism than anything remotely resembling righteousness. A perspective that regularly, if I'm honest, leads to folly.


To be sure, God's patience will reach a limit. But as the sun rose this morning, I am reminded that day has not arrived. How thankful I am he has been slow to anger and abounding in love with this girl -- a silly, prideful wreck. Purposefully refined every moment by a compelling compassion.

Let me look in mercy at the process of growth around me instead of choosing to dwell in the brokenness. Therein lies the chance to love him more, and I'm always a sucker for great love.

I want to be a woman who angers slowly, full of love and mercy, walking in thankfulness. Humbly remembering that God is not finished.

With me or with you.

Good news indeed.

I mean, what if?

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Philippians 4:8