Ugh. I hate sin. I hate my sin, but I sin every day. Every. Day. I tried for so long to be perfect for God, which really just diminishes Christ’s work on the cross. The truth is I can’t be perfect. I am, as we say in 12-step circles, “powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing.” When I try to be perfect I end up in denial about my sin and that is a dangerous place.

This is why I need accountability–a safe place with safe people to be real and honest with about my sin. Safe people who will love and encourage me despite my imperfections and sin, but who will also hold me accountable, are sometimes hard to come by. However, they are out there.

Truth in love. That’s what I’m looking for. Not just truth or love, but both.

Why? There are a lot of reasons. Among these reasons is James’ admonition to “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (16a).” Healed. That’s what I want. To be healed from my sin and it’s death consequence in my life and in the lives of those affected by my sin.

I also want to be free. I want to be free to love and worship and talk with my Jesus. But when I sin I hide, ashamed and naked except for a few leaves, in some hidden corner while my God calls “Where are you (Genesis 3: 8)?”

The amazing thing is that because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross I can answer Him. With the smallest of voices, often weepy, I say “I am here.” He will find me, and pick me up. I will acknowledge my sin and shame and he will clean me off and comfort me. I can rest assured in His love. We can start anew and I can be free to love and worship and talk with my Jesus once again.

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Ping. That’s the sound of one of the tacks holding down my concept of God and Christianity hitting the floor.
Ping. Ping.
The writings of authors Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans, Jesus Feminist and Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, respectively, are slaying my preconceived, off-the-shelf notions of God and the Church. It’s almost too painful! To be fair, these notions need to be slain. My views on God are just to constrained and boxed to allow for the Spirit to work fully and freely inside of me.
Bessey’s work, for example: For as long as I can remember I’ve had this sort of internal struggle going on inside of me. It’s a kind of polarization of the soul that has pulled and strained at the seams of my very being. At one end is a fiercely independent spirit that longs to slay dragons, shoot arrows at injustice, and ride free on the plains, at the other is a cultural construct of, as one friend describes it, idealistic womanhood a la 1950s-era America. I can’t point to one person, institution, or place as the sole source of this idealism, but I picked it up young and held onto it tight (read my essay on Unconventional Womanhood for more insight). I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m saying it’s not for me and I’m learning that it’s okay.
This polarization has been the source of an incredible amount of guilt and shame. Throughout my life I often found myself wondering if my salvation was on the line because I felt that I was in a constant limbo of internal disobedience. In my head, family was the pinnacle of life–marriage and motherhood the ultimate goal of a good life. But then, when did LIVING actually begin? Didn’t I have things to contribute to the kingdom before becoming or, dare I say, besides being being a wife and mother? I’m not minimizing the importance of these things, I’m just saying there are equally important ways of living and serving. Let me say that again–there are equally important ways of living and serving But see, that’s the rub. Somewhere inside of me I knew that was true, but this Big Culture that I held onto kept beating me up with a club of self-imposed, idealistic femininity.
Bessey contends that “life in Christ is not meant to mirror life in a Greco-Roman culture,” nor is an ancient Middle Eastern culture our standard or any other culture in any other time, including my 1950’s America. I’m not saying I believe women and men are the same (though I’d also argue that our notions of masculinity and femininity are largely cultural constructs, but that’s an argument for a different place), I’m saying I think we’re equal in the kingdom. I’m also saying that all of the arguments for or against this are second to the fact that “Jesus and his kingdom come, his will done, right now–that is the point.” My Jesus, MY Jesus, is the point.
Reading Jesus Feminist has shattered my views on feminism and what it means to be a good woman, and God has reconstructed those views into something more honest. In that honesty I have come to grasp more closely the truth that what is singularly important in my life is the individual, me-Him relationship with my God. Sure, I’ve given myself permission to admit being on the egalitarian end of the spectrum, but in doing so I’ve also given myself permission to be more comfortable with who God made me. That allows me to give more of myself to the relationship with God.
I’ll chatter about Held Evan’s equally disruptive Searching for Sunday soon. For now, I highly recommend both books to anyone who has found themselves disillusioned with or simply wondering about their faith. Happy reading!

 

 

That One Time

It was a bright day and sunlight streamed through the windows in warm rays. I wished I could see the trees outside, but the only thing visible was the blue sky streaked with high wisps of cloud. The windows were elevated beyond reach and the only chairs, found primarily in the common room, were extremely heavy and padded.

I didn’t mind the windows and chairs as much as the aversion of the place towards anything with a point or edge. Everything was dull. This made eating three squares a day difficult, especially when they included things like pork chops. It’s hard to eat a pork chop with a spoon.

Life was a boring drum punctuated by frequent outbursts by those patients with a propensity for aggression. I couldn’t blame them. It’s hard to be held in a place against your will with no certainty about when you will get out.

It’s not all bad though. There’s television, coloring, classes, and rest. Plus snacks, meds, family visiting hour, and chit chat with the endlessly patient staff.

When you arrive at a psych hospital under a 5150, you strip and hand over everything. Everything.

I was given a pair of underwear, which I was extremely grateful for, and a too-tight gown. I was mercifully given an extra gown and some socks. These tided me over until my parents brought me some pants, a tee shirt, and some pajamas–nothing with straps was allowed.

I was lucky and got released from the psychiatric hospital after about two and a half days of being held. I’ve never been so grateful for my freedom.

A Clear Path

It was my doing. I had gone to the emergency room and it was there that “the hold” started. But the reason began a little while before that. I can’t remember exactly when I started feeling suicidal, but the night before that ER visit was rock bottom.

I am and will always be grateful to the three women who held and loved me that night.

Bipolar can suck, sometimes making life difficult. I had been feeling desperate and unwell for a while and was low on healthy coping skills. I wasn’t about to use unhealthy ones, and the desperation grew. I was also barely holding onto God, though He was holding onto me the whole time.

When I left the hospital I felt free but not well. Something deep inside of me was not okay. My soul was broken.

I was not thriving. Yet, I knew what I had to do. Broken and empty inside, I began to praise God. This trickle of praise led to more and more. Soon it was streaming out of me like the hot tears burning my eyes. I felt God’s presence in those moments in a very real way.

I didn’t know what I was going to as I was on the verge of losing everything. All I knew is that God wasn’t going to leave me. So, I clung to Him and started going to church again.

Roots

Soon after starting church again I began to hear about a new program–Rooted. I figured it was just another Bible study, but folks who had been through it had trouble describing it as such…they had trouble describing it at all. After a while I started to feel like it might be a good idea to join a group. I resisted for some reason though, and I didn’t sign up until the last minute.

I met my group on a Sunday night, and I remember thinking “Is this going to be another women’s group?” My ladies turned out to be amazing and we formed a bond like no other.

Through the study I learned more about who God really is and how much He loves me. I learned the importance of being a participant versus a consumer and about the heart of worship. It’s been as life changing as Celebrate Recovery, and I have an extremely high regard for that program and the people who are now part of my family as a result.

Rooted is an experience…an experiment in faith like no other. I went from being desperate and suicidal to truly LIVING with Christ. I am grateful for my parents, family, and all of the friends who have helped pull me through this tough season. You have no idea how much God has used you in my life. Most of all, I’m grateful to the Living God for His redeeming love and transformation in my life.

Here’s to the next chapter…

 

 

It’s an overcast day in the sleepy town near the South Oregon coast where I am staying with a friend. Her home is cozy and warms my heart. I cannot be more grateful for this time and place and hostess.

Earlier this morning I worshipped and prayed, claiming victory over the strongholds in my life. I do not know what battles lie ahead, but I know who wins. Being here now, in this place so close to nature, reminds me of Him who goes before me, and it is he who makes me brave for the fight.

I’ve decided to pray for Mr. Trump more often than I have for presidents I’ve liked. It’s no secret, I don’t like that our president is our president. BUT he’s the president, and I should be praying for him.

Why?

Because our nation needs it and because he is the person, as his predecessors were, who God has placed in authority over our great nation (read Romans 13).

And let’s face it–he needs it. There are lots of things to pray for with regard to Mr. Trump: Protection for him and his family, wisdom, tact, wisdom, salvation, wisdom, compassion, wisdom…

Okay, mild tongue-in-cheek aside, we, the Church, should be praying for our leaders. We should be praying for their salvation and that God’s purposes would be fulfilled through their governance and, most of all, that God would be glorified as they execute their duties as leaders.

For those who might find it a challenge to pray for Mr. Trump: While it’s important to pray for POTUS, it’s also important to remember that praying does not mean you have to agree with the person you are praying for. Know and live your convictions. It’s okay to pray for POTUS and over policies that you feel strongly about, which may or may  not be in line with what the President would have. It’s also okay to hold the President accountable–rest assured, praying for POTUS does not excuse him from being accountable nor does it make him, or any leader, above the law and consequences. Finally, it really is true that if the president fails, no one “wins.” Think about that in your heart for a minute.

Okay, that was a tough one. Be well, My Lovelies.

 

The sojourner pulls himself along by his arms, dragging his dessicated body behind him. He leaves a trail in the parched Earth as he inches painfully along. Everything is dry and dying, even his heart is shrivelling inside his chest.

He reaches a spigot in the middle of the desert. The bones of those who came before lie scattered on the ground. The spigot, you see, has no handle.

But the Man. The Man knows.

He drags himself to the spigot, to the place where his head is just under the opening. He lies there, barely breathing. There is nothing left.

Holy, he wispers in the faintest voice. Holy. The breath is barely audible.

A single drop of water falls from the spigot and onto the Man’s cracked lips.

Holy, holy, holy. Water trickles from the spigot and enters the Man’s body as he swallows. It enters his heart and his heartbeat quickens.

Holy, holy, holy! In a loud voice he cries out and the water streams out and into the Man!

He cries louder and louder and the water spills into the Man and onto the ground and the world sees Him. Not the Man, but Him.

I am away from God. I’ve been prodigal with His riches and blessings in my life.  I am in that place, perhaps familiar to some believers, in which one wakes up one day and asks of the atmosphere “Where am I? How did I get this far away?” I’m on the far side of grace.

It starts innocently, doesn’t it? I go off to pursue some dream or idea or decision, never consulting God about them or sacrificing them to Him. But it’s a great idea or a grand dream. “Of course He would want me to pursue them. They are good dreams and good ideas.” Of course, even good things might not be okay or right for a person.

So, it begins. Something small here, something bigger there. Then I start to feel like I can run my life on my own. I stop looking to Him for my everything. In reality this lack of submission is tantamount to rejecting God and His very best for my life. It doesn’t feel that way at first. It’s a tiny but insidious decision. A mini rebellion. Motion in the wrong direction.

What I’m really saying with this mini rebellion is that I don’t trust God. I believe he’s holding something back from me. I doubt His goodness and love. It’s an age-old condition. Eve listens to the serpent who plants seeds of doubt about God in her mind. The simple act of taking a bite of fruit sends shockwaves through all of human history. Shame enters the scene…”Who told you you were naked?”

Over time a small drip of water can erode huge amounts of rocks and minerals. Over time I make less and less time for my relationship with Him. Prayers become random mutterings. Attending church and Bible studies becomes optional. Time spent in relationship becomes time wasted on petty things. I need a miracle and complete overhaul but what I ask for is cosmic duct tape instead.

The narrow road opens to a wide one and it’s easy to follow. Innocence gives way to a kind of drunkenness of the soul. Lust, envy, pride, and self-serving become my code and my way. Despite all this:”Behold I stand at the door and knock.” But the lust and envy and pride and self-serving…they are alluring. I choose them. I want them. They are my nature.

And so I lie on the floor of a cell with a door that love opened long ago. Lie in my own stink and filth here, on the far side of grace, where a loving Father still holds out His hands and opens His arms. The choice is mine, but what choice will it be…

 

My bag is packed. Dishes are put away. I have a small stash of healthy-ish treats ready to go and my big, floppy hat is perched on the chair so I won’t forget it.

I have been waiting for this vacation for months.I NEED this vacation.

Monterey calls with it’s beauty, intrigue, and even a little kitsch and I am SO ready to answer that call. Some of my most favorite things to do and see are waiting for me there: The Bay with it’s sea otters and pelicans, Asilomar, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, the Stanton Center Maritime and History Museum, the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, and even the slightly  creepy Steinbeck’s Spirit of Monterey  Wax Museum.

These amazing things are on the horizon, and I’m excited about them, but there’s this little tingle in the back of my mind that is apprehensive about the trip. Am I lonely? Not really. Afraid to travel on my own? Nah. Waiting for something bad to happen? Nope.

I’ve traveled alone plenty of times, including solo ramblings around developing countries. So, what gives? The answer is that I’ll be vacationing with a stranger…me. I’m still a kind of foreigner to myself and I don’t really know what to do with myself when I’m alone. I’ve scheduled some time in this trip to deal with that and that makes me apprehensive.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin. It’s the time alone in my hotel room that worries me. The ADHD and my mind would normally go wild, trying to find some distractor so I won’t have to talk with the stranger that is me. Not this time though. No addiction,no “others” to distract me from myself. Just me and Monterey and a fire and and pages of blank journal paper. Sure, I’ll be out and about a lot, but I’ve also reserved some one-on-one time with myself so that I can get acquainted with the person I’ve become. Let’s hope I learn to like her…

I love the crunching sound my footsteps make as my psychedelic trail shoes hit the decomposed granite of a nice trail. Sometimes the sound is deafened by leaf litter or pine litter–the deep, rich humus on a forest floor. Outcroppings of small rocks and “ankle-breakers” (gnarled roots sticking out of the trail) ensure my eyes continuously sweep back and forth between what lies ahead and what is directly in front of me. Sometimes soil fills in along one side of a would be “ankle breaker” and forms a nice, natural step.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s days like this, when the sound of my footsteps mingles with birdsong and the whisper of wind through the trees or the trickle of a nearby stream, that bring healing to a place deep within my soul. It’s a medicine found nowhere else but in nature.

Sometimes I want to shout like a mad woman (and I am) about the wonders of nature and being in it. On those occasions I want everyone in the world to experience the bliss I feel when I’m hiking. I want to show and tell and help make it visceral for people. Then there are those days when I want to hide in nature, away from people and the manufactured world. Those are the days I need nature most. Those are the days I need to tell my secrets to the trees and birds and water and wild grasses. I need to feel the wind dry the tears running down my cheeks and let my large body come to terms with the exertion the mountain demands–the “good hurt.”

Thwap! On one occasion wet bunches of grass whipped against my legs while the rain pelted my jacket. My face was red and cold and my fingertips were numb and icy. I pressed on along the mushy trail at a good clip as large raindrops continued to fall. It was a perfect day for hiking, not because of the weather but because of the pain and fear that had crippled me since days before.

I needed it. My soul demanded it. So, I walked on and on until I felt the fear and loneliness well up inside me. It made my chest hurt and each breath became shorter and faster.I stopped, panting. A harbor seal was bobbing in the water while watching me, sandpipers scuttled  along the muddy shoreline on the opposite bank and egrets soared above me.The fear and loneliness lifted and I could breathe again.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time… I knew then that I would get up the next morning and try again. A deep breath filled my lungs and I was off again…amen.

Funny puff of sea foam rolling in from the Sea.

Big puffs, small puffs, rolling all around me.

Rush, rush, run as the waves set you free.

Turning ’round the beach, fluttering with glee.

Racing down the shoreline “Come and catch me!”

Fleeing from mother Sea as fast as can be.

Now the Wind will take you shuffling down the beach.

Getting smaller as you go, your existence dwindling.

“Oh, no! Mother Wave, come take us back to thee!”

But only the Sand answers,

“Now you belong to me.”

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