August 23, 2009

Hold Me, Jesus

Well, at the risk of sounding completely incongruous....
I'm writing right now because lately my mind has been swirling with one of those storms that pushes thoughts up against the corners and leaves them circling in little flurries -- sometimes for days. I am bombarded by them. I lose sleep over them. I am faced with them at every turn. I guess these storms of the mind come with the storms of life in a two-for-one deal; I've never experienced otherwise. And so I am writing some (or one -- we'll see) of these thoughts down in hopes of capturing some truth. For any attempt to verbalize them have left me stranded with only a trace left, melting on my tongue -- a fragment that doesn't make sense to anyone.

In an attempt to hold this very unpredictable post together: the lyrics of a song by one of my very favorite people of all time -- Rich Mullins.

Well, sometimes my life
Just don't make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus,
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus,
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something
I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

I'm singing, hold me Jesus
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace.

You have been King of my glory,
Won't You be my Prince
of Peace.

"Surrender don't come natural to me." Understatement of the year, right? I'm reminded of an incident when my son, 4 years old at the time, refused to allow me passage into his mouth to see what exactly he had shoved in there. He held out for so long, I was sure the chocolate would have melted completely away once I pried that mouth open. For chocolate it was, streaming down both sides of his lips, both squeezed so tightly together that even as he cried his tears were muffled beneath them. He knew he would be in trouble for "sneaking" candy. And he was not going to be caught.

So stubborn have I been for these many months of a struggle I am being worn out by. And just as ridiculous in my endeavor. And I haven't yet let it go; tonight after my conversation with the Almighty, He would not let me steer clear of that fact. I have held onto all of it, all year: the fear, the anger, the frustration, the anxiety, the heartache, the hurt, the feeling of failure, the despair -- all of the ammunition the enemy has thrown at me. I've simply caught it all and held it close, intending, I suppose, to use it in some way. To make me stronger. To make it count. Simply shrugging it off was not an option to consider. This has hurt too much to just let it fall........at His feet.

Unless you've been there, none of this is making sense. Maybe you have and it still doesn't. (If so, please don't share that in the comments ;) But if it's clicking, if you're tracking, then I'd like to share the verse that I came upon tonight in hopes of sparing you some grief. And to hold myself accountable, in some sense:

Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!"
Wait for the LORD, and he
will deliver you.

--Proverbs 20:22
Now, there are a mountain of reasons why bitterness is never our out in a situation with an enemy. I'm not going into those, suffice to say: it is a cancer. It will eat away the life inside of you. But this verse struck another cord in me, the one that had a tight grip on all the damage that has been done these past years. And this is the deal:

It's not mine to handle. It's not mine to hold. It's not mine to set right or to avenge or to rescue from. Those attempts will, in effect, only add a goose-egg to my forehead. As I bang my head over and over against the same wall, they will cause more pain, more frustration, with NO RESOLUTION whatsoever. I have got to let them go.

Easier said than done, my friend. I think sometimes we are so afraid to cast our burdens on the God that cares for us because we are not sure He will appreciate our "burdens" -- how much they have cost us or frightened us or weighed us down. We are afraid He will expect us to bounce back. To just spring right up, like the grass that is pushed underfoot momentarily. No, these are our griefs to bear. And we bear them with stoic determination, each step another weary testament to our foolishness.

And then, sometimes I think we want to hold onto the hurts because we have become accustomed to them and don't want them brushed aside. We think that in bottling it up, we are somehow capturing the strength for some kind of "pay back" opportunity that will come along. To dignify our suffering, at least. How could we otherwise vouch for so much "wasted time"? How else can we be sure we will see justice in the end?

In response to these very real doubts, these battles that I know I will encounter again, tomorrow, I simply offer a prayer:

"Hold me, Jesus."

Hold me, not only to support my broken frame, but to keep me from handling those burdens any more. I need You to still my hand. I need You to stop my foot from going any further with it. And though I don't know how You will deal with all of this, I am trusting that You will indeed, deal. There will be resolution, by the power of Your name.

For You, alone, can be my Prince of Peace.

August 18, 2009

Called

There's so much going on the lives of others right now. I personally know a few hurting hearts that I would do anything to mend, yet I know I don't have any means for a "quick fix". I also know some of you who are followers of Christ who are in this moment brushing up against such hard circumstances in the lives of those you know. Tragedies, hardships, and just frustrating circumstances --it's a hard position to be in, right there beside the suffering. Difficult to know what to do at times. Difficult to know what to say. Difficult to just *be* -- without a clue.

But I also know there is a reason you and I are here, in this place. I know God has brought folks into our lives that He knew would be under stress and various trials, right under our nose at this point in time. Some believers. Some not. All human, all within that realm of called compassion.

Esther faced the despair of her people and their impending destruction. Many had turned their backs on God; many had assimliated into a society that frowned upon their faith. How long had it been for most of those Jews in Susa since they had truly called upon the Name of the Lord? How many lived in dulled apathy regarding their relationship to the Almighty? The day hoofbeats were heard in the streets announcing Haman's edict of slaughter and annihilation, I wonder how many fell to their knees for the first time in a generation, crying out in sincerity to the Deliverer they had once heard stories of. Yet God, in His abounding mercy, did not turn His back on their cries. He called out Esther, one He had already prepared, to intercede for them, to put herself on the line, to stand in the gap for their lives.

I wonder what exactly is He calling us to, right now, right where He has placed us on this earth. In that awkward spot, in that difficult position, or in that place where our hearts are stirred on behalf of someone else -- the Lord has a plan for each of us. There is a reason we are here and aware of those circumstances. He has prepared us for this moment. It's no mistake you -- yes, you, are a voice in that life.

So ask the Lord what it is He would have you to do, as I am doing the same -- to earnestly pray, to intercede for the lost, to share a burden, to grieve alongside, to give hope, to give encouragement, to offer wisdom. To just offer the love of Christ. Maybe there's a purpose we are to serve here that no one else will ever be aware of -- it's a purpose none the less. A purpose He is working in us, changing us as we commit to His will in our lives. He is working it all out, right in front of us, giving us an opportunity to be a part of His great story somehow. The unfolding of His plan in the lives of those He allows us to touch...what an honor.

"And who knows but that you have come to this ________ position for such a time as this?"

August 16, 2009

PLEASE pray

...for Sam, a little boy who was hit by a car Saturday night. He is in a drug-induced coma resulting from medication to reduce the swelling in his brain. Please pray for God's healing hand, wisdom for those caring for him, and above all, the overflowing comfort of our Lord Jesus Christ.

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
-- Psalm 30:2

August 14, 2009

A Gospel-Driven Read


I've been following The Gospel-Driven Church, a blog maintained by Jared Wilson, for a couple of years now. Jared is one of those folks I have never actually met, yet feel as if I know, simply from reading his words about Jesus Christ and connecting with them in that way the Holy Spirit draws believers together. So when I found out that Jared had signed with a publisher and was looking toward a book release, I knew his book would be something that spoke loudly and passionately, even a little radically, about our Savior. I wasn't disappointed.

Now, I don't normally do book reports -- those lost their vogue for me back in third grade. But in reading Your Jesus is Too Safe, I was so encouraged in my walk, so drawn to my Jesus, that I wanted you guys, the readers of this little blog, to be exposed to it as well. Jared may not be a "big name" out there on the store shelves (yet :), but I believe that his approach to the life of our Redeemer is welcome wind blowing through the doors of your local Christian Bookstore. It's one that invites any skeptic of Christianity to unburden himself in the pages and find real answers. It's one that offers the sister who is wrestling with a particular sin another look at her Savior. It's one for folks who may actually pray to little baby Jesus or to another Jesus who has been stunted at a given stage in their perception for whatever reason. It's one, I believe, that might stifle a bit of pride in the heart of the holier than thou who believe they have this thing "figgered out".

This is a book for those who believe they have Jesus Christ carefully cut out in flannel and plastered on a felt board background of their choice. Which has been all of us, in some circumstance or another.

Twelve in all, the chapters stitch together a tapestry of the real Jesus Christ, woven throughout by the truth of His character, His life, and His passion. In each one the context of His role in the God's plan is carefully constructed, giving the most theologically-challenged reader a good grasp of what was going on in each case. Some examples:

In the first chapter, Jesus the Promise, the whole wilderness deal is explained. As in, why on earth were these people so keen on meeting up with guys that wore skins and ate bugs?

In Jesus the Prophet, Jared illustrates why, exactly, "Hippie Jesus" doesn't fit the bill and why any "faith" that follows this line of thought is basically an acid trip.

In Jesus the Man, we explore the smelly, sweaty Savior of the world who wasn't exactly glowing with a halo He had to hang up at the end of the day. He had real skin with possibly real acne. He could have had a cavity. He had morning breath. My brain exploded in that chapter.

In Jesus the Judge, the gavel raps on the block over sin, the sin of those people and the sin of our own hands -- and then the scales are tipped in our favor by the weight of His blood.

In Jesus the Redeemer, we witness the body-slam of our enemy and his lies. Even the ones we find comfortable and easily digestible.

In Jesus the Savior, the whole story comes together as the last threads are woven through -- a glorious, victorious pronouncement of triumph over death and the grave. Our grave. Our death. Yep, it gets personal as it gets profound, and the thought that kept me spellbound throughout the book was, "Blessed assurance: Jesus is mine."

That's the bottom line. That's the real draw of this book, although Wilson's quick wit and clever analogies are a plus. Coming away from this read, I am considering all that Jesus is, and was, and will ever be. The vastness of His love. The power of His humility. The scandal of His grace. And although I stand in awe, it's more than that. It's astonishment at the fact that I get to be with Him and share in every bit of Who He is.....forever.

That's an amazing source of joy, by the way, my friend. It's a well that a certain woman (addressed as "Barbara" in the book) was introduced to on a hot day in Samaria; one that changed her life forever. I can relate to old Barb. The gift of life is miraculous in this Jesus -- in all of His glory and in all of His humanity. Enough hope for the whole world shone in those eyes.

We have in our Bible four authentic accounts of Jesus and his kingdom. They tell the same story in different ways, with different perspectives,highlighting some events and characters and downplaying others, written to distinct audiences, organized in different ways, and all for the purpose of proclaiming, not just chronicling, that Jesus Christ is mighty to save. (270)

Mighty to save. And the once lost ones said, "Amen".





August 6, 2009

The Choice


This is the day which the Lord has brought about;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

--Psalm 118:24

I don't watch the news an awful lot. Now, this isn't really about a dislike for current events. I like to know what's going on in the world. Not necessarily what's going on with celebrities and millionaires, but the things that occur over our planet, shaping it as it turns on its axis -- those things interest me quite a bit.

But the horrors that often flash across my screen in the brevity of 30 minutes -- the things that leave us in awe at the fallen-ness of man -- well, that is why my television sits blank and abandoned at 11 pm most nights.

For instance, just this week the face of the "Health Club Killer" darkened sets all across the country as we tuned into the nightly news. I, for one, couldn't really pull my eyes from his wide smile in a photograph shot onto the screen. I couldn't keep the thought from circling: "But he looks so normal." The broken bodies of his victims and the shattered lives that fragmented all around them -- that was just too much to take. But the real question I had, like so many others, like every one of us when some grievous horror such as this breaks over our world -- the real question was, "Why?"

The grisly answer came today as I watched yet another video clip. Another interview with the stricken husband of the pregnant woman who barely survived. Another account of the other lives lost. Another reminder of the unconscionable loss of life for those who died so young. Letters the killer left behind, a blog, a few last words yielded his frame of mind and the justification he used to pull that trigger over and over again. Evidently, he felt entitled to take the fulfillment of others because he had none. It boiled down to the fact he felt cheated. Alone. He felt he had been robbed of the joys of life.

It was a tragic thought, but a solemn warning to me as well. How far the enemy can take someone who chooses to embark on that winding, downhill path; who chooses to believe joy is the responsibility of others to bring us; who is deceived into thinking the circumstances of our life are what determine our joy or lack thereof.

Hey, I've thought that before -- haven't you? And many of our first steps in that direction may seem harmless in the throws of self-pity -- after all, who could blame us? Life just isn't working out the way we'd planned. We've worked so hard to see it all come to this. Who handles the crises we have faced in the past year? Who could expect more from us? Joy? Are you kidding me?

Maybe some of us are even in that kind of season now, in whatever form it may take. I've known so many people who have struggled through the unfathomable. Setting aside the "normal" tragedies of life, I've had friends who have lost unborn children and friends who have lost children they barely had a chance to hold. Who bears that? I've had friends who bore a grueling journey through marriage, only to come to the last bend in the road and find themselves abandoned. Who can stand? I've had friends who have witnessed unthinkable travesties upon their families, their hearts breaking in too many pieces to account for later. Who can survive it? This life in a fallen world is desperate at times and so lonely at others that joy seems like an old acquaintance we barely remember.

And so my encouragement to a discouraged heart today is, simply this: remember, my friend.

Remember you have a God who holds you so tightly you are imprinted upon His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

Remember your fullness is found in a Redeemer King who thought it not robbery to pay for you with His holy life. (Phil 2:8)

Remember this world is not your last stop, nor even a minute spent in the breadth of eternity. (2 Peter 2:11)

Remember your hope is not just optimism, but surety in Christ. (Hebrews 11:1)

Remember that all of your hopes, your vision, your wildest dreams cannot compare to what is stored up for you by the Father of Lights. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Remember that you are a mystery, the great miracle of God -- He has kindled the Spirit of eternal fire in your heart to bring hope to the world. (Colossians 1:27)

Remember your joy in Him is complete, for His love is perfect -- and nothing, no nothing can take it from you. (John 15:10-11)

Remember your joy in Him and hold onto it for all you are worth. Remember it's rightfully yours in Christ; remember that your enemy longs to take it with all that is within him. Remember choosing joy is so powerful, so victorious that it's the one thing that radiates the hope we have within us to a world devoid of it. As His child, as His follower, as His friend, He has given it to you like a gem of eternal inheritance. A precious jewel, meant to reflect His power in you. Yours for the choosing.

So choose it right now.