Friday, April 25, 2014

Hardest Work, Fullest Life - The Art of Believing

It's Friday morning and I'm straightening chairs, hoping to bring some sort of order to this room where the 300 children will come in and out and sing and run and talk and... learn?  Maybe?  And music will be made and there will be laughter and there will be frustration and there will be impatience.  And I will fail today.  Like I feel like I've failed every day this week.  And I'm tired.  And it's Friday.  And I straighten the chairs.

I have the words spinning in my brain, words that I've read from the blogs of women who are shaking up this world for Jesus, who are living as the Esther Generation.  They are mothers and they are speakers and they are teachers and they are women of God... And I wonder if I have a place among them?  And I believe that I do because Jesus is for all and the calling of the gospel is for all and the commission to be Jesus to the world and to allow Holy Spirit to flow through me is a call for all.

So I ask for strength, and I ask for help to do the job that God has called me to do today.  And I plead for eyes to See, to look into their faces and SEE... the stories and the hope and the future and to live out the work that He has called me to do.

I go back to John, and Jesus says that the work that He has called us to do is to believe in the One that the Father has sent... And maybe that is the hardest work of all.

To believe that I, who fail daily, raising my voice in impatience, forgetting to See their faces - that I could be an instrument in the hand of God for them today.  Maybe that is the hardest work.

To believe that there is Redemption in every moment.  To believe that in the here and now, in the mundane and the frustrating. God. Is. At. Work.  And it has NOTHING to do with me.  Maybe that is the hardest work.

And maybe that is the Fullest Life.

To bow the knee and to confess my weakness, to confess my own need, to confess that I am nothing.  And I am full of pride.  And I am full of self-centeredness.  Full of every broken thing that is wrong with this world.  Full and still so empty.  I am flesh.  I am but dust and to dust I will return.

And yet.  And yet.  And YET.  He has equipped me for good works.  And this is the Best Work.  To believe in the One He has Sent.  To believe in the Hope of Glory.  Christ in me.  Christ IN me.  CHRIST IN ME!  And I speak it out loud in the silence of  a classroom during the one moment for the next eight hours where life will not be chaos:

Help me to do Your work.  Help me to believe you.  I believe, Lord!  Help my unbelief!

And Spirit falls and Grace wraps around.  The sun comes up on the second day of Spring.  And it is forward.  And it is always enough.  And He is here and He is good and we are loved.  Now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

More than Sin - A Tenebrae Reflection

It's crazy how in the midst of all this pursuit, all these words and all this life, I can so easily manage to forget what is most important.  And there is something about looking myself straight in the eyes in the morning with a makeup brush in one hand that makes everything come back into focus.  Something in my reflection catches, and I stop.  The moon is still bright in my window.  The stars still shine.  And I can choose today.  Right now.  Before the sun even rises.  I bow my head, and I breathe, and I soak in the grace, and I listen for the whisper.  Beloved First.  I open hands, translate it all into love.  Didn't I do this yesterday?  Didn't we have this same conversation yesterday?  But I must do it again.  This is my manna.  This is my daily bread - soaking in the presence of God, being with God.  It is God Himself that is enough.  Not what God gives.  And if God and His heart are what satisfy my soul - I always have enough.  Where God is, I have all I need.  I don't need another blessing, another evidence of grace.  I need to experience the presence of God.  And God is in all, so all is grace.  I can't TRUST someone whose presence I haven't experienced, whose heart I don't know.

And where is His heart more clearly seen than at the cross?  I'm lifting my eyes to it now, on the day of Tenebrae, the day of darkness.  I am looking up at my suffering Savior, refusing to gloss over the brutal, bloody reality of it, refusing to fast forward to the good part.  Because life is broken and dark, and we all hurt and feel hurt, and I'm not sure which is worse.  I'm not looking away.  I'm not averting my eyes from the broken body, from the flow of blood.  And the Cross, it's more than the cleansing of sins and the purchase of righteousness, though it is that.  It is Jesus taking on all the grief and pain and suffering of all the world.  

It is the Father grieving the loss of His Only Begotten, and every loved one any one of us will ever lose.  

It is the Son feeling the sharp pain of abandonment as the Father turns His back, feeling so alone for every time any of us will ever feel alone.  

Jesus takes more than nails for our sins - He takes every broken shard of every broken mess that pierces every one of our broken hearts.  

He takes on every grievance done against us and all we've done against ourselves and others. 

Every moment we think might kill us - It killed Him.  He bled out.

When Jesus took on flesh, it was to do more than understand our pain.  It was to take on our pain.  It is the flesh that feels pain, holds me back and weighs me down, and it is the flesh that Jesus put on Himself.  And even in the resurrection, He kept the scars.  He never let go of the pain.  He gained our victory.  He declared it finished.  And still He never let go of the pain.  

He never let go of the pain so I can finally let go of mine.  

He kept the reminder of His suffering so I can remember where to put mine - right there in His nail-pierced hands.  

Love bled.  Love was broken.  Love took the pain.  And He keeps taking it over and over and over.  You never need to hold the weight again - not the weight of your sin or the weight of your pain or the weight of your suffering or the weight of the brokenness.  He took it.  He takes it.  All the way to the grave.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Watching Darkness Fall (Or How to Unwind and not Unravel)

We're standing in the parking lot, both tired at the end of a long day.  It's colder than it was when I left my jacket in the car, but that's not why I wrap my arms around myself so tightly.  I rub a knot in my shoulder.  I feel like I'm about to unravel, so I keep myself wound up tight.  I feel like I'm about to lose my grip, so everything in me clutches tighter.  And there is this battle raging inside.  I want to be sensitive.  I want to love lavishly and take risks and exude grace and See everything before me - God in the moments and the faces I'm facing.  But this is the third time in four months that a significant relationship has left me gasping for air.  My world blurs wet and wild, and I am just so tired of pain!

Our words wander from there, swirling on the breeze.  My weary heart is reaching, grasping, hoping to catch something, then comes the Knowing, the Whisper - grasping is never the answer.  We talk far longer than we intended and as we part ways, her words challenge me.  "What is it that fills and refreshes your soul?  And can you go and do that?"  She's asked that question before, but I've forgotten the answer.  I am determined to find it again.  A few minutes later I climb the stairs and pull out my keys.  I stop.  I can't go in.  Not yet.  Learning my head against the wall, I gaze west. The sky is fading to black, but not without one final blaze of glory.  I had forgotten how sunsets always remind me how to breathe.  I'll just stay here for a little bit.  I think it to myself, and exhale, the weight beginning to lift.  And I've found it right here.  Feeding the soul is like opening a door.

The words come in a rush.  I whisper thanks.  I plead forgiveness.  I confess my failure and my pride.  I bow my stiff neck. I hold nothing back.  I need to feel it again.  I need to feel loved.  This is my manna.  This is my daily bread.  His whisper that I am His Beloved.  Darkness falls, and I soak in beauty.  And I realize that in all my counting of gifts, in all my hunting for grace, I had forgotten what is most important.  I had forgotten how I need to translate this language, translate what all this grace and beauty is really saying - I.  Love.  You.  It's there.  He's writing it on the sky, singing it in the breeze, all that I need.  Will I feel it?

This Love, it to pulls me deeper.  Clarity coming with the falling darkness.  Sweet paradox of Grace.  And I have been shown such grace.  He offers me His hand, and He calls me out.  I can see it now.  How He has given me a place to put the pain.  How I don't need to brush it off, or shove it down.  He's given me a place to rest.  And the reflex reaction to pain is to clench the fists and hold the breath and fight back.  And the question is:  Do I trust God enough to exhale and open the hands and be still so He can fight for me, instead of me fighting the suffering?  Do I trust God enough to stop fighting the pain?  I will never understand why it is so much easier to clench the fists than to breathe grace, and release the pain, but I finally do it.  I breathe deep and open each wound and I give. it. over.  I take the weight of it all off my own prideful shoulders, and I place it on my wounded, crucified Savior.  And I plead forgiveness.  And I wait for resurrection.

The sky is all velvet black now.  I go inside.  In the darkness, I am covered, and I can rest.