Grace to You Hands

Grace to You Hands

Monday, March 19, 2012


Read a book. James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. I am different for having read it. Even if the book made Oprah mad. It taught me. It was a textbook that made the world more sensible yet chaotic at the same time. It scared me and shocked me and disturbed while it soothed and quieted my soul. If I never meet James Frey face to face, I know him. I know him because he is all of us. A man who fought and sometimes won and sometimes lost. When he lost, he lost big. To us, his addiction cost him his sanity, security and sense but to him it was survival.

I think the more we screw up, the less we have to lose so we keep screwing up. The moment love enters the picture, the stakes get high and we are at a crossroads. One arrow points to change, the other to death. The guy holding the signs is an old, familiar friend who has been waiting, waiting on your realization. The awareness that your day of reckoning was on its way, it was inevitable. It will hit you fast and hard. You know that Voice. It's that part of you that is always opposing the wrong you do, that familiar Voice. The Voice that quietly speaks. Some of you stopped hearing it decades ago. Your sensitivity and awareness of Truth within you has been drowned in bad decisions, fear and shame. That Voice never left and never stopped speaking. It's just that the "Fury" in you was louder. The shame and self-hatred's rage drowned the Truth.

When I read Frey's "thanks page" I cried. The horror of Frey's life and his actions didn't make me cry until I read who helped him. Those that loved him when he didn't love himself. Those that saw the Truth within Him and forgave and saved. 

As I held the book close, I thought about the broken, the lost and lonely. I felt their plea and their plight. It broke my heart. 

On St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, I was surrounded by revelry and mayhem. Some were innocently watching the festivities with their families while others were abusing it. It was an event that drew all and those that wanted release for just one day suffered for their cause. One in particular, one sight specifically, has haunted me. I saw the broken-up close and personal-and it haunted me. I thought of James and Roy and Leonard and Miles and Lilly. I realized I was watching true, unadulterated suffering in its most tragic form and I could do nothing. He was a man of 22 or 27 (his face was so marred that I really couldn't tell). He was sitting on a parking tile with a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper in one hand and a handle of Whiskey in the other. He was alone. His only objective was to get one sip of Whiskey and chase it with Dr. Pepper. He was unsuccessful. He could not find his mouth and he fell quickly against the pavement spilling his precious liquid. He was so battered and swollen, not from a fight but from his own stumbling and disillusionment. Everyone surrounding him did not watch in horror but with reckless beguiling and laughter. He was a nuisance that was embarrassing himself and providing wonderful entertainment to the passerby's. I stopped and gawked myself, a simple Christian girl seeing something she had never seen. My naiveté was blatant and nauseating.

I have never seen the inside of a crack house or whore house or jail house. I have seen the aftermath of these perilous behaviors but never seen them in real time. I wanted to go to him and save him and be the Good Samaritan that I knew I could be but instead I kept walking. I passed him by as we all did, just like the Priest and the Levite in the story. Yes. It was obvious. He had done it to himself but maybe that didn't/shouldn't matter. He was my neighbor and he needed me.

What could I have done? I am a 28 year old female who can barely lift my couch when I need to vacuum the floor but what do I have? I have a heart that breaks for you. A heart that weeps for you. 

His memory, him wasting away on the street haunted me the entire day. That night, my boyfriend Jason and I were watching March Madness and I was memorizing my words to the kids for church and I had to stop. I looked over at Jason who was yelling at VCU and Indiana and asked him if we could pray. He smirked. He put out his hand. I know what he is thinking or...maybe I don't. He says, "Absolutely." I pray for that son or brother or husband or nephew or grandson who was withering away on the street. I cry for him and I ask God to give him a bed and blanket and heat for the night because I knew it was getting colder. I prayed that someone who could would love him and remind him not to hate himself. I wanted him to know Love, real perfect love that cast out fear and saves. I said Amen and I went back to my task of memorizing.

I may have passed him by but I will never forget what He taught me. He taught me to never dismiss the broken.

I thought of the blind beggar in the Bible who was begging for the Messiah. The nuisance on the street who all ignored, even the disciples. I thought of the woman with the issue of blood and the woman caught in adultery. I thought of the demon possessed man and the man who laid beside the pool of Bethesda for decades. I thought of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof and the rich young ruler and the ten lepers and those that cried "crucify Him!" I thought of the lame and the deaf and the dumb and the stupid and the irresponsible and the fool and the thief and the liar and the whore. I thought of the sinner. The broken and the lost imprisoned by their pain. Whether self-inflicted or victims of fate, they are enslaved by their circumstance and Jesus never passed them by. The only time he passed them by is when He was carrying their shame and guilt and mistakes and failures on an old, splintered cross that bore into His flesh and marred His frame, breaking him and ruining Him. He was scarred by harm and addiction and anger as He was hammered to wood left to die. As the darkness ensued, and the light left, He forgave and took it. He endured without blame or anger or resentment. He accepted and submitted to the fate of all our mistakes. All our stupidity and failure. He did it because You and I matter. Our lives matter and our futures matter. He wants us to love like that. Love our neighbor as ourself and forget the past. It hangs on a tree. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He died knowing we would fail over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. We would disgrace His name and His death. We would ignore it and spit on it and come back and ask for more. His answer is a smile and an outstretched hand that is marred with scars the size of a 9" nail. 

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement, our need to obtain peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes that wounded Him, we are healed and made whole. Isaiah 53:5

Jesus never passes you by. He never refuses His love no matter how many times you need it. 

I need it. I need it every second. I fail continually, say the wrong thing, judge another and speak without regard. I need Him. I shed my shame for His peace. I am made whole with blood that spilled so that it can cover and heal. Whether I am a victim or a initiator of my own demise, I submit to a God who IS love. 

If you believe in love than you believe in God. God is Love. 1 John 4:16. 

I cried today for the broken and the lost. I cried for you because you are loved. Crazy loved. I sang these words to Jesus as I cried...

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdoms cause
As I go from nothing to Eternity

I sang them over you. If you are lost or broken or searching, these words are sung for you. If you don't have the strength to sing or speak, know that there is a God who sings for you and is waiting to rescue.  holding that sign that says "change" or "die". Choose love. It will change you.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The New Normal

I marvel at calm, demure people. Those people that seem to never be flustered or unaltered emotionally in intense, frustrating situations. I, myself, lack those endearing qualities and tend to react irrationally in frustrating situations. I am sometimes more like the Jesus who took the whip through the temple than the Jesus who simply walked away from the Pharisees that wanted to stone Him. At the end of the day when you are rehashing the events of the day and your involvement in its success or demise, it's tough to admit that Jesus still lives in you and loves you. Even when you do right and everyone you know celebrates you and your amazingness, it really is Jesus who did that through you too. 

Colossians 1:27-29 in The Message says this:
"The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God's glory. It's that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me."

There are so many wonderful truths deeply submerged in this text. I am attempting to reveal but a few that will prove how beautiful and wonderful we are even when we are our worst.

I agree Eugene Peterson, it is common sense. We are Christ. We are mature beings, capable and kind people who desire to do right. That is who we are. Here is the best part...even when we fail...miserably...and appall even ourselves, God still lives in us and is beckoning us to a more mature life. I love what Paul says "with the energy God so GENEROUSLY gives me." Hallelujah. God gives me the energy to be better next time. It is God who lives in me even when I ignore Him and fail. It is God who wants me to share in His glory and daily require Him to bring me into an even better version of myself. 

When you are totaling all your wrongs at the end of the day, interrupt your self-deprecation with "Christ in me, the hope of glory." Allow God to interrupt your failure with His glory. Allow him to generously give you the strength to believe you can be better. 

One lesson I learned in the last three weeks is in Romans 12:18. The verse says. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." How hard is this. My mom used to say, "This world would be a lot easier if there wasn't people on it." Sometimes you just want to fix your problems by blaming others or eradicating your opponent from your daily interactions. All of those desires are contrary to the word. "As far as it depends on you" forgive, let go, move on, and love. In order to accomplish this feat, you must receive God's strength. He is giving it out generously and all you need to do is make a simple request. 

Why is it that the Bible, the Word of God, is contrary to real life? When someone makes you angry, you want to tell them off. When your dog pees on the carpet, you want to back-hand it. When your spouse refuses to do the dishes, you want to storm into the bedroom and give the cold-shoulder. Satisfying our wants is our first instinct, our natural reaction. It's normal to be angry and react irrationally. We are human after all. It's not normal to bless those who curse you or not repay evil for evil. It's human nature to exact revenge. 

God calls us to a new normal. God's word is contrary to our flesh but to Him we are spirit beings created in His son. He sees us as mature, complete and entire. He sees us as He sees His son Jesus. We are complete in Jesus. Everything we want to be and need to be is found in Jesus. He calls us to a new normal, a new place of existence.

The new normal is not caring what people think. It's loving your enemies. Refusing to fix people and demanding the last word. It's denying yourself and living for others. It refuses to seek its own way and always let's others win. It's giving up your parking space or letting your child win checkers. It's paying someone's meal behind you in the drive -thru. It's refusing to defend yourself even when you have EVERY right. It listens. It supports. The new normal is comfortable in being behind the scenes and takes pleasure in someone taking the credit. The new normal will caterpault you to a place of leadership but you will only see yourself as a servant. Your greatest desire is for others even your haters to find success. You will lose the need to refute or prove your innocence. You will simply continue loving selflessly as you rise to prominence. Your newfound place of command is only meant for the other. It is not meant for your renown or reputation. It is simply a place of position where you die daily to live. The new normal is a life of unconditional love for all...even those who seek your downfall. Because in their attempts to destroy they will find their rescue. The new normal fails to follow the system.  God's system defies your normal. Pay little attention to those who will choose to resist. Stay true to truth. Love prevails.

The new normal invites those around you to be better. When you begin to love yourself unconditionally, you will begin to love others without conditions. They will become unconditional lovers of others and begin to spread the love. When we are loved unconditionally, we THRIVE!

It is time to thrive in the new normal and expect God to give you the strength to be the best you possible. 

This is why being a Christian is so awesome.