Sunday, August 25, 2013

Accepting His Forgiveness

Life continues on and on, and my heart becomes more and more numb to God. And I see this truth, that Christ died for all transgressions, and isn't his heart full of grace? My mind says yes, but my life says no.

Those little sins, and even those things we call "nothing" those are what make my heart numb. Because not only do I refuse to label them, I refuse to receive God's grace regarding them. And aren't  I disbelieving in his goodness and love when I reject his forgiveness? I swallow hard, and blink eyes and try to take it in. In not coming to Christ and excepting and even embracing his love, I am throwing the cross, his love, his grace, his goodness....I'm throwing it all in his face and saying an emphatic "no!"

No to his love? Why would anyone do that, especially a Christian? Especially a Christian....This is the story of mankind, and why did I think I was immune? We throw it away because it's far too good to be true! It's far too good to be true that I can make a bad choice, and then turn to God and throw myself at his feet and still feel his grace. He still loves me in the moment of my sin...

Romans 5:8  - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were still sinning, and throwing it in his face, and yelling and screaming at him, and living out our "no", that's when he showed just how much he loves us...that's when he poured out his love on the cross and did the unimaginable. 

But I still struggle, because with a numb heart how do I know when I throw it at him? And I see my journal laying there untouched...the one I write my own One Thousand Gifts in, just like Ann Voskamp. And it lies there closed, and I don't even know when I last took time to write in it. And I know it's not just about writing it down, it's about actually thanking God...but without the physical act, the heart act has failed.

I struggle and fight this mundane life, this life full of mistakes. And I refuse to believe Christ doesn't care about the moments of my life. And doesn't he give me each breath, so how could he not care about them? I refuse to give the Devil a strong hold in my life, and isn't his goal to make me not trust in God's goodness....just like Adam and Eve fell for his lies, the devil wants me too to believe his lies, to refuse to trust in God's goodness.

And it's an every day battle, to keep trusting in God's love, to keep giving thanks, to fall into God's arm's each day. And with His kind of love, what do I really have to fear?

And I want to live out a "yes" to God in my life. So I remember his love and I accept his grace. I accept that I really am forgiven, treasured, wanted, and loved. And I see hope replace my numbness.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hearts vulnerable and Living Free

My mind goes wild, and my heart beats wild too. My heart cries out silently to the Christians all around. And I wish that it weren't silent. If only it were like the shot heard around the world...

Listen to me cry out, hear my words. We are falling apart. We are being deceived. We are an immobilized people. We sit in our beautiful church buildings and we smile and sing and listen and make commitments to change. And there we sit, doing nothing. We go home, back to our jobs, our lives, our homes. We go back with a focus to change ourselves.

I see it in the mirror, this need to change self. To gain more control of desires, to learn to be better. This self discipline, it wears on me.  I throw it out the window, refuse to look in the mirror. I sit and block it out. And I am dead in spirit and alive in body. And why would I want this and how do I get the strength to change?

I run through the gospels, my mind brushing fingers across memory. I want to feel it, to see it. And in my mind's eye, I do. I see Christ and I see service. I see dirt and filthy sandals and hands washing away grime. I see wet hair with dirt and leaves and accepting eyes. I see hands letting go of stones and words being written in sand. I see fishing nets and knives cutting away and cleaning. I see arms around children, and food in hand with grins across faces.

I see service.

What I see is a Christ who came to live. Came to live among us, and isn't his name Emmanuel? And wasn't that one of the first names we knew him by? God with us. God living among us. Not sitting teaching for hours, not home working on self discipline. No, this man, this Christ, this holy one sent to save us - he came to go and serve.

And I see it clear. All this sitting around, this trying to find the strength to change. And is this really what Christ modeled for us or is this what we've imagined for ourselves? And am I afraid to dig my hands into dirt, and lift the battered off the ground, and wrap my arms around the filthy and unclean. And am I really afraid to live Christ. Because what was it? What was this living that he did other than a drink offering? And am I really ready to be pored out? To be emptied of myself and filled with God? And his sacrifice was so great, can I also sacrifice like that?

I am afraid. I am afraid of what He will ask, and will I be strong enough? I am broken and battered and dirty and unclean; and how do I lift others up when I can not even rise to my own feet. I try and I fail and I am a mess. And I see the faces of family around me, and I can not help them. So we all stay on the ground beaten and bruised and together we moan. And I just sit there.

What is it about this giving away that so scares me? I am comfortable. Comfortable in this discomfort. And I refuse to really see it because I hide in this crazy life. And like a blanket covers my face and I am blind, I allow this comfort to cover this broken heart and the light doesn't touch it. And if this light, this truth, if it does not touch it, my eyes will remain comfortable. The burning light, how do I allow the pain of opening my eyes, and is it really worth it?

I nod yes slow. I look into the eyes of true comfort. I look into Christ's love eyes. And I slowly begin to release my hold on this comfort blanket. And he takes my hands slow, holds my heart and I try to keep breathing. I feel vulnerable, and it will not end with this uncovering. But I was never meant to live comfortable and safe, I was meant to live surrendered and free and vulnerable.

I struggle, and try to grab the blanket again, and he coaxes me quietly. I know that voice, and I trust. And I know that this releasing will only happen one little step at a time. But I am afraid and unafraid at the same time. I know my Jesus, I know that he is my comfort. I feel his love rain down. I want this surrender, and I want this living free. Free to live as Christ, to serve.

  And I open my heart to the fear, because a fearful vulnerable heart that is unafraid and protected because of Christ....That is a heart that is ready to live life surrendered. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Hard Gifts

I give up before I even open my eyes. The puppy cries. My heart cries too. How did life become all about surviving? And is it truly life when that's all I do?

The heart feels limp, limp as my wet hair after standing in water coming down. I hope it will wash away these feelings...but I'm not sure what these feelings are. Perhaps the walking dead? I feel dead and I wonder why these lungs keep breathing in and out. And some days I wish they wouldn't.

And I ask, why does God still care when my heart is so broken? Why does he want to pick up the pieces again, and does he really? And why can't I trust? And then I begin to remember.

I take a breath and practice...practice. I practice looking at the past, at remembering what God has done. And I see a little blond girl playing games outside, and digging in flower beds, and seeing all the flowers believing that she really did make them grow. And I see a face of trust. Where did that child bliss go? And do we really have to let it go or is it choice?

And I remember to give thanks for the past and the present. I see how easy it was to give thanks, because God seemed in control and I had nothing to fear. And I gave thanks for the ants and the flowers and the cold water on the counter. Trust - just complete trust. Childhood bliss was just trust? And I shake my head and a smile forms. I know how to learn to trust again, and is it really as easy as giving thanks? Can I have that bliss again?

So I count -
82 - Broken guitar strings and forgotten foot stools
83 - Shadows playing on the blinds and on guitar strings
84 - dusty pianos

I thank God for his blessings, and is he really a good God who loves me? And the more I count all as grace - as blessing - the more I see as gift and only a good God can give good gifts.

And what of the hard things in life? I sit back into the past, the table at the bookstore, Mom and Dad enjoying a muffin together. A smile turns my lips. And the question about the what ifs. What if something happens. What if we don't get the jobs we want and what if we loose what we have. And we know to keep trusting. Keep trusting because hasn't God provided already? And why would he stop?

But what about those circumstances, and how to make sense of the going ons.  And he's still good even if they're not? No, I shake my head. And I speak it, more to myself because I'm the one in need of hearing these truths. These things - the breaking and hurting and struggling - they are not just allowed to happen. They are gift. They are blessing. And I try to count them not just on paper but on the tablet of my heart. Because everything that happens is simply preparing us to be more like Jesus. More like Love himself. And who wants anything else but to be made whole? And so I thank him one thing at a time. For the hard and the easy, the ugly and the beautiful. And nothing ever falls outside the label of grace blessings.

I look around at the mess and say "blessing" (85). The calender has a sticky note with work hours on it. I don't feel the energy today. But still I say it quiet. "grace" (86). The weeds grow and I sit and I am lazy. And still I look to God and say "this is grace"(87) . The floor has just dried, and I wish that puppies knew to go outside..."blessing"(88). One at a time I count. And I say a prayer of thanks as I write them.

This love of God shown through his blessings...just as in salvation we accepted it, still each day we grow in our salvation by seeing his blessings and grace and naming them. And only when we name them as gift will we begin to live as though they are gift.