Heart Wrecked

Have you ever pondered what kind of soul jerking, reality wrecking experiences twelve men must have had that would cause them to run, not walk into a life filled with persecution, pain and ultimately brutal death, simply because they refused to deny what they experienced and were compelled to share it with all.

Sure, they saw miracles, so did thousands of other people while Jesus was alive. But when they watched the life drain out of him as he hung between two grimy criminals in what would have seemed a shameful display of defeat, why didn’t they go back to life as usual and save their own skin?

What about those like the apostle Paul who didn’t know Jesus in life, but who after having a killing spree interrupted by a dramatic encounter with Jesus Spirit, immediately went from being king of the Christian killers to being a man permanently punch drunk in love with Jesus and desperate to declare His identity as God and savior to all of mankind until his gruesome death because of it?

What did these people feel? What did they see? What did they encounter that galvanized their resolve and flooded their soul with such unrelenting truth that  often death was welcomed over denying the one they called Lord?

I’ve had dreams that shook me to my core and then as the reality of the day wears on, the lasting impression of the dream that seemed so real fades to the corners of my mind without much afterthought. In the same way I’ve heard inspiring teachings, even moving sermons that I would describe as life changing, that once I’ve left the building, seem to leave me.  That’s human nature. When the emotions wear off and life is present in all its urgency, we focus on that and big ideas can often stay… ideas.

There was a reality that demanded more from the fathers of our faith, those misfits who became the mouthpiece of God to their world. It must have been a haunting reality. His words would have rung in their ears. The image of his face, etched permanently before their eyes. They. Saw. Him. They saw Him. They saw him in life. They saw him in death and they saw him live again. They encountered him. They knew him. Like a wife knows her husband, they knew him. They felt their souls shake. They buckled under the supreme pressure of what they expressed was irresistible love, wreckless forgiveness and utterly undeserved grace by a God they tangibly encountered. Their hearts were branded by the hot iron of his fiery touch. They could not ignore him. They could not forget him. They could never be the same.

What these people saw with their eyes and felt with their hands, millions more for two thousand years have been disrupted in their souls by with such gripping reality, that they can’t refuse it. What love is this? What grace is this? What truth is this? What God is this that apprehends the mind, the will, the heart and the purpose of those who encounter him, so completely that all other pleasures in life become filthy rags compared to the joy of knowing him?

His life was holy, his love scandalous and unrelenting. His sacrifice was real. He lives today and he is searching for the next heart to wreck, the next past to heal and the next purpose to give.

This is Jesus.

Advertisements

The Beginning and End… Your story

Angel_of_Victory_Victoria_Terminal_Kolkata_Trip_Tarun_Chandel_PhotoBlog

Author and finisher, Alpha and Omega. He who began… will be faithful to complete. He started your story, but that’s not all. He wrote a glorious ending and He is eternally determined to bring it to pass. He decided you would be their mother, their wife, their child, their sister, their friend. Not the universe, which He made, not the choices which you made and not the circumstances that happened that you thought were beyond His reach.

Sure, you or others who affected you may have been living life floundering with little sense of direction- but don’t mistake the circumstances that life began in, with the One who began life. You were the person He chose to pray, to love, to dream and to partner with Him to bring plans to pass. The middle part is hard because of free will. You get to make choices, you get to write a lot of the story and you can make the path to His end crooked. He will make it straight in time. You may be picturing your mistakes; the marriage that ended, the promises you failed to keep, the things you  or others did to you that made life harder. He said “no weapon formed against you will prosper”. He has declared the end of the story and the story ends in victory. He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it… it was His beginning and He owns the ending.

Don’t think for a moment that He didn’t anticipate the season you are in or the choices you and others who affect you would make, for better or worse. He made provision for that. “For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross…” The joy was seeing you cross the finish line HE drew. Yes he has made a way for you to run the race of faith with endurance, not always with ease, but always with access to power. However, don’t be afraid that if you or the people you love and pray for wander off, that HE won’t leave the 99 and go after the 1 to finish His story. It’s HIS. The end belongs to Him. With His last breath on earth, He declared, “IT IS FINISHED.”  He rose again and is seated now as the One victorious over death, hell and the grave. His book ends with Victory. The middle included pain, some brought by others but the greatest chosen by Him as He endured the cross. The end was written from day 1 and when He said it is finished, He said “My end is triumph”.

When you look to Him, you look at the Alpha, the Author, the Beginning of your story. Be reminded that while you or others who affect you may muddle through the middle; He who not only wrote the word, but is The Word, said this word, “It is finished” and the ending is victory. If you are discouraged, remember this: He is the bookends of your story. He chose when to start the story that is you and the end of your story is themed like His. He is on a throne, He wears a crown. Your last page says:

She won.

If you win- do you not think that the things and people that your Author and Finisher put in your heart to believe for, to stand for, to pray for and trust for… do you not believe that He has chosen those endings also? He has. You win and so does your faith. Do not stop believing.

A place of reckoning

reckoning is the path to freedom

reckoning is the path to freedom

There is a moment of reckoning that each of us must confront within ourselves, the people who have disappointed us, betrayed us and wounded us. We will stumble over the reality that our life included circumstances we could not control, events we did not welcome and the impact it had on us. We must reckon with the damage done to our own soul, confronting the truth of it and wrestling with what we will do now.

Many times the reckoning comes after seasons of self-destruction, acting out or perhaps just drowning in a sea of discouragement and the nagging bitterness that lingers there, even when we try our best to rise above it. A moment of reckoning happens when we stand at a crossroad.  It’s time for us to move on, but we feel weakened by the weight of our grief. We want more, but we know we are somehow handicapped by damage.  In this moment of reckoning, we stare in the face of the people and circumstances that have polluted our experience in this life, the things to blame for our deficit.  What’s more we don’t only see them, we see the changes in ourselves that occurred as a result and we take stock of our own altered beliefs, possibly poor behavior and the things in us that should be better and yet we cannot manage to change.

A real moment of reckoning, beckons the opportunity for lasting change, permanent freedom and ultimately the ability to fulfill our destiny, unchained by prior bondage of the mind and heart.  By virtue of definition, to reckon is the judging of something, the settling of an account. So we will wrestle with questions we will choose to answer truthfully. What happened? Why? How did it damage me? What mistakes have I made that I blame on what life has dealt me? What parts of me have changed that don’t serve me or the ones I love? Will I release offenders from my judgment so I can be free? Am I willing to let go of disappointment even though I may not feel vindicated?

With every answer we take the time to painstakingly process with honesty, we gain freedom, strength and like a veil which has been lifted, we gain clarity and faith.  We are empowered with faith in ourselves, faith in God and faith in others. The unexpected bi-product may very well be that the unseen bondage our blame and hurt has had on others, also frees them to move forward, to be better. The nagging stops. The shaming is silenced. The bitterness is sweetened by the presence of peace.

To think that such a monumental process of reckoning must happen alone is unnecessary.  I believe that the single thing God wants most for us is freedom… that we live in Victory, as over-comers.   Psalm 118:5 “In my distress I cried out to the Lord and He answered by setting me free.” For me, the simplest prayers are the most freeing. “Lord, I want to be free. I want to free others. Take these disappointments from me, heal the broken parts of me and help me move forward into all you have for me.”

Get recked. The us we want comes as we let. It. Go.

Friends… who needs em?

imagesAre relationships really necessary?  And what defines a relationship anyway? I mean, I’m married, I have three kids and I go to work every day. I am surrounded by people I am in “relationship” with constantly. My husband is my best friend. My kids are great conversationalists. My team at work is entertaining and engaging and frankly when I’m alone, most of the time I enjoy hanging out with myself. What more do I need?

That is the million dollar question. If my time is so full of people I enjoy, why do I feel like I am missing something? Is that “something” the reason I catch myself fantasizing about having lunch with people I haven’t had a conversation with in years? Is it that “something” that triggers euphoric happiness when I daydream about a yet to happen get together at my home with long-lost, what do you call them again… oh yea, friends?

I guess it’s not as bad as it could be.  I met for a visit with a friend (two different ones mind you) twice last year. So I have those memories to go on. I figure I’m at least on a par with prison inmates, registered sex offenders and people on house arrest. I’ve got to be one up Amanda Bynes. She can’t have more than a couple of outings with friends a year what with her unfortunate expressions of multiple personalities and all. But wait! What about her multiple personalities?? If I count her daily interactions with her “inside friends”… she DEFINITELY has me on this! And I just have this nagging feeling that even registered sex offenders rub shoulders and hang out with people they meet in their mandatory meetings. Don’t prisoners get at least a weekly visit from a friend? What if you include their gang allies and visits in the yard every day? Ok, deduct time if they are in solitary and lose their yard privileges. So let me add this up: seven days a week in the yard with buddies, plus a possible weekly visit from an outside friend, minus a spotty week here and there for bad behavior with lost visitations privileges and I come out with… MORE TIME WITH FRIENDS THAN ME!! Shut ins?? What about shut ins?? This is pointless.  Instantly I can think of several opportunities they probably take advantage of that I don’t i.e. visits from church volunteers who bring them meals and offer pity conversations and probably concerned neighbors who really want to know if they are still feeding themselves and their several cats,  but masquerade as friendly house-guests and to the shut in, you guessed it… it’s all friend time.

So there you have it. The most isolated of society enjoy more time with friends than I do. So back to my husband and my kids. Aren’t they my “friends”? I think if I’m honest, I have to say that those relationships, even though I enjoy them tremendously, are attached for life in my mind. Obligated by nature of either origin, or legal covenant. I won’t let them fade into memories of happy times past and just let them try to stop hanging out with me. S to the T to the AULKER. Yea, they aren’t going anywhere. My co-workers? Since my company is reluctant to pay me if I don’t go there and hang out with those people every day, I guess even though I like them,  those connections are  on lock down too.

That leaves me forced to admit that a kind of relationship; the kind with people who get to go home anytime they want and whose underwear I don’t have to wash, is missing.

I know what happened. My life got complicated and as a once leader in my circle of friends, I became ashamed that some things were falling apart for me.  I let time pass while I hashed out the hard parts alone.  Now that I finally feel like I have something to offer friends again, it’s hard to pick up where I left off.  I sit here stunned that I have spent the past ten years– TEN years working through rebuilding my life without my friends.  It wasn’t until my husband got a job out-of-town that I realized what I’ve let happen. Suddenly he wasn’t there to talk to at all times and sadly, no one else was either.  Except my three teenage boys and as smart as they are, I have a limit of how many farts I can hear in a discussion, before I tune out.

For my own good and to drive home my commitment to living out my word for the year (others) I’ve done some research about why we need  true friends and here is what I discovered:

  • The more friends a person has, the less likely they are to become debilitated as they grow older
  • More quality social ties increases longevity– some studies say 15% or more
  • Companionship releases oxytocin, a calming hormone that creates a sense of well-being. Several studies show highly connected people have healthier hearts– probably because oxytocin is cardio-protective. It also combats depression and lowers cortisol levels, the damaging stress hormone
  • In studies related to surviving disease, ongoing interaction with good friends made recovery four times more likely (family/spouses were not an influencing factor but greater numbers of friends were)
  • People with strong friendships are less likely to get colds and recover from viruses more quickly (likely due to less cortisol and more oxytocin)
  • Worldwide studies show that the larger a persons friend network, the higher they rate their overall happiness with life
  • People with more friendships are likelier to make and keep good habits and more likely to follow through with personal goals

It appears we were simply designed to thrive in community with others, above and beyond our biological family. It’s obvious that interacting with people who enjoy us and aren’t obligated to us, imparts wholeness to our entire being. It is literally a medicine to our soul. Is it because the necessary feedback loop of valuing and being valued by friends is hard-coded into our DNA? I think so.

I’m convinced it is a vital key in reaching our full potential.  We. Need. Friends. More inspiring is the fact that they need us. We each have a deep well of wonderfulness and it seems it was meant to quench the thirst of our friends. Perhaps we are much more designed for others than we realize. Great news for me! Now I don’t have to feel guilty when I look for lunch with a pal, instead of enduring yet another fartathon at home.  Sorry kids.

Turn Around

scales-of-justice-ladyHave you ever been in an argument with someone who is a master turn around artist? You know what I mean; you start to share your grievance or “concern” and as if by some dark miracle of master trickery, by the end of the conversation, they have woven a web of conversation trails that all lead back to what YOU have done wrong?  As frustrating as that is, it’s not the turn around  I want to talk about. However, the idea of turning our own pointing finger around, is.

When I told my husband my “word” for the year (others), he gave me a little feedback and then shared his word with me. His word was “me”. Simple. Putting the focus on himself to be the best “he” that he can be.

Not that his word is for me to judge, but that is a concept I can buy into. On that note, I dedicate this blog to him.

What if more often, when we feel the need to point out how someone else is falling short, we develop the discipline of turning the pointing finger around at ourselves… at least before, we broach the subject of their “need to change” list. I’m not claiming this is a particularly original idea, I have to give credit where credit is due. “Hypocrite, take the plank out of your own eye, then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brothers.” sound familiar? Jesus said it. Moreover, if He took the time to shape the concept into a lesson, I think it makes sense to embrace it as a practice central in relationship dynamics.

I know if I’m honest, I typically speak first, reflect later, especially when I recognize a supreme breach in someone else’s character… uh hem, they did something I didn’t like. It bugged me. It made me mad. It was wrong. It was stupid. It was selfish. It shouldn’t have happened. That gives me the right to avail them to all my corrective knowledge, right?  Perhaps if I found out that I too had actually been the product of a mysterious virgin birth and in a pinch, could turn my Ozarka bottles contents into a crowd pleasing vintage vino, THEN I could get away with that. Probably not so much if I’m just pretty irritated. The funny thing is that the more I jump other people’s case for doing dumb things, the more irritated I become. It’s like a cosmic , “ I’m annoyed at everyone feedback loop” and I become the authoritative corrector of all.

Here is what I want to work on and maybe,  it would be beneficial for us all to try more often; making my annoyance with others, become my cue to self reflect. We are all afraid of losing, all the time. It’s human nature and it causes us to make fear based decisions and to forcefully attempt to change other people, more aggressively than we want to change ourselves. It makes us controlling, reactionary and much less self-reflective. Yuck.

I wrote this “look at myself first” creed to help this practice to sink in more deeply:

“I will live by the law of grace. I do not behave perfectly. I will not expect from others, what I cannot give in return. When I feel angry, I will not speak. When I feel wronged, I will not assume. I will examine myself first. I will not be a hypocrite. I will not judge others for things I know I myself have done. I will not condemn or punish others for mistakes I know I have made as well. I will believe the best of others. I will openly admit my shortcomings  and be humble. I will pay much more attention to what I can change within than what others could do differently, to make me happier. I will love others, encourage others and pray for others even when my instinct is to simply protect myself.”

I find it very compelling that Jesus called our faults, planks and everyone elses, specks. Fascinating. It’s as if the more we get honest and reflect on what we need to change, the less marred we view others and perhaps the less we feel they need to change and who knows??… It may just make us better at loving people and happier all around.  I wonder how many marriages would be saved, friendships reconciled, family problems resolved and general forgiveness and healing would happen, if we were all more focused on fixing “me”.

I’m going to try to find out…

Don’t Make a Resolution; Find a Word

One word to guide all year

   This is an on target article and the suggestion I am definitely subscribing to this year, as it instantly rang true to me. It’s about finding a word that encapsulates the theme you feel your life’s energies would best be directed towards this year. The  moment I closed my eyes and asked God what my word was, I knew instantly. My word is others. I need more of them, I want to be more useful to them and my focus has been too little on them. I can’t wait to see what this year of “otherness” will change within me. I encourage you to find your word and then let God use that word as a beacon of guidance this year.  Welcome 2014!

                                     Don’t Make a Resolution; Find a Word.

A Health Creed

I won’t be sick. I won’t  feel bad. I won’t ache. I won’t be lethargic. I won’t be moody. I won’t have cancer. I won’t have headaches.  I won’t have diabetes. I won’t have high blood pressure. I won’t have a stroke. I won’t have thyroid problems. I won’t have constant symptoms that drain me.  I will not be another disease statistic. I won’t be a prisoner in my own body.

I want energy.  I want to be alert. I want to be happy. I want great sleep. I want to feel attractive in my clothes and out of them. I want to have great skin. I want to feel connected to life. I want to be up for anything. I want to feel young. I want to bounce out of bed to face the day. I want to attract healthy people.  I want to feel so good that I can take on any project or adventure I choose.  I want to experience life to the fullest and I will. Because my body is healthy and fit for all the purposes God has for me.

I am not a victim to circumstances, or weak will. I have the power of choice. I have a strong mind, a powerful spirit and a loving heart and I act as such by making choices that reflect the highest purpose for my body, temporary though it may be; I respect the fact that God gave it to me as a tool to accomplish my greatest dreams and His highest calling.

I eat food full of the best nutrition I have access to, in order to fuel my body to its fullest potential and seeing as how I was made in the image of God, that’s a lot of potential. Moderation means something different to me than it does to others. I don’t moderately poison myself with processed or fatty foods and sugar on a daily basis; simply because it tastes good- I’m smarter than that. I take full responsibility for my health, because it’s my happiness and my future.

I am powerful and full of promise. I owe it to myself to see what I am truly capable of, when I give myself the kind of nurturing I deserve.  I don’t make excuses for making bad decisions. I head them off at the pass, by being prepared and having a plan for every situation, every day. I continually educate myself about health and wellness, so that my self care can evolve daily and I can defy age expectations and thwart illness and disease, forever.

I do not eat for comfort, because I am comforted by a loving God and the knowledge that I am in control of this body. I do not eat from boredom, because I am excited by the prospects of the future I have planned. I do not eat poorly for fun, because I am entertained by feeling good and enjoying the people around me. When I have time to myself, I plan for a successful tomorrow or I enjoy pampering myself with things that are good for me and will make me better.

I am not tempted by others poor choices. They are not my example; I am theirs, because I am a leader and a strong one. This life was made for me and I was made to conquer this life, in this healthy body, with this strong mind, this heart and this spirit. No one will keep from me what is rightfully mine.

Victory is mine.