Waist Deep

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It’s that moment.

I’m standing waist high in the ocean..mere feet from shore, with my feet planted. For the longest moment I stand, face lifted upwards, the glow of the sun feeding my weary soul. I could stay here forever, basking in the peace of its rays, but just as I get comfortable, inhaling the ocean scent as I watch the gulls lite upon the shore, I hear the roar rising up behind me, the crash of the crest of the wave as it barrels toward me, and in that moment, I have a choice – dig my feet in the sand and brace for the impact or run.

Somehow I know if I move I will be overtaken, sucked under, swept up in the mighty wave never to find that spot on the ocean floor again. The sound of the crested wave crashes toward me, and I stand still, arms outstretched, legs locked, awaiting the connection of body of water and body of soul.

I’m unprepared for the fullness of the tumult, but my feet stand firm, refusing my knees the freedom to buckle. As the wave pushes me forward I find the strength to push back, against it’s current, against the pull to push me forward and back toward the shoreline I worked hard to get past. I close my eyes as the wave personified fist pummels my back, challenging my position, doing it’s best to defy my resolve.

If I’m honest, it hurts.

I think within my mind that is made of mere common sense that I could be safely on the shore riding this wave instead of fighting it, but the Voice that echoes peaceful “stand still” assures my mind that isn’t bound by fear that the best is yet to come.

All at once the wave breaks completely, stillness once again flows, and shaking the wet assault from my hair and face, I open my eyes. The sun still shines bright, the advance of the Oceans arms around me never blocked it’s rays, only my feeling of them, and the Voice that held me firm, beckons, “Deeper.” And I find my footing gained and take a step forward before the next strong current has me again longing to run back to shore. Because though the shore may be safe, life is found in the wrestle with the waves.

Psalm 93:3-4
“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!”

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The Siren’s Song

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Removing Splinters

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“I’m not one to judge… but…”

I knew what was coming, the same thing that comes anytime anyone starts any conversation with those words – judgment. I struggle with that. I think Jesus struggled with that, too. The same Lord that warned us, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matt. 7:1) and the very God who cautioned, “The same measure that you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2), He wasn’t lax on this issue of judgment; in fact, of all the things He reprimanded the “religious” for, this was consistent.

What is in us that wants to judge?

Comparison.

That’s the nuts and bolts of it. We haven’t evolved past Cain and Able. We still feel the need to compare ourselves with one another, and lets face it when we can point the finger at a more public, more destructive sin, we will do it. Why? Because in the shadow of those failures, our gossip and little white lies don’t seem like anything that matters.

Jesus addressed judgment with the analogy of a log and a splinter:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42)

I’ve been there. I’ve been the pointer and the accused. But it truly wasn’t until I had to fill the shoes of the accused that I could fully understand how the logs and the splinters must be dealt with.

Jesus wasn’t saying they don’t exist or that we should ignore them. He was bringing attention to the flaw, not excusing it, to help us to see that we must first inspect ourselves before we can even begin to correct another. But that is also the mystery of it, because as you see your flaws and imperfections, when you become aware that you have something in your life that humbles you before God and man, then you are much more gentle in the splinter removal.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

The other day Lily got a piece of glass in her foot. She limped around until finally I convinced her to let me look at it. Reluctantly and with great fear she grabbed her foot, letting me have only the shortest (and non helpful) look. I could sympathize. I have been there – clutching my foot, crying, begging my mom NOT to get out the needle! I got her fear. As I gently pulled her foot back to me, I told her a story, a story of a splinter in a kitchen when I was exactly her age with my mom and my grandma and grandpa. I shared with her the absolute fear I felt because I didn’t know what was coming. And something happened, in the telling, in the sharing, in the confession, she relaxed. She loosened her grip and her eyes lost that stark white stare as she relinquished her foot to my care.

And that’s exactly what removing logs to help with splinters looks like.

Compassion.

As we gently approach one another with the confession and story of a life where we stumbled and fell but found the strength in Christ to get back up again, when we tell them, and remind ourselves anew, of the love that met us when we were convinced we would be disowned, we become credible, and the difficult work of healing seems more tangible, more possible, and less frightening. I think that is the very point Jesus was making – before you point out your neighbors struggle, deal with your own, and then you will see better to help them… because empathy begets compassion, and compassion doesn’t stand at a distance and point, it reaches out.

Forgive me, God, I’m depressed.

ImageI hate it. I really do. I am a positive and hopeful person most of the time, but then like a thief in the night it sneaks up on me, stealing whatever positive thoughts and hopeful expectations my heart had settled on but not fully embraced.

 I feel guilty. How could one so loved and so forgiven and so obviously favored feel so down? I can so easily speak to another about the Truths of God to help pull them out of their pits of self-abasement, but when I am lapping from the pool of self-pity, I simply forget there is Living Water dammed up inside. Do I forget? Or do I choose not to drink thinking in some twisted way this is my punishment for past sins and aggressions?

 That’s when the lies begin to surface and hover around my heart like a million bees stinging the vulnerable places. Every angry word spoken to me, every accusation made, every failure and misunderstanding find their voice and threaten to undo every Truth I have hidden there. It becomes too much, too loud, and I start to shut down, undone by the venom, needing an antidote but feeling too unworthy to drink from His cup.

 And in those moments, I am so homesick for His compassion and mercy I am literally ill. What is wrong with me? I tell myself, “You better pull yourself together! There are people depending on you! If you become so depressed and overwhelmed and you know the Truth and study it daily, what hope does that offer others that don’t have that foundation?” And I curl up, letting my Saviour cover me with His love and strengthen my frame while I weep over my failures yet again.

“The Lord has compassion on us for He remembers that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14-15)

I don’t have to look far to find other ancestors in the faith that had the same struggle. The Psalms read like the diary of a manic depressive; David was no stranger to depression. He went from the heights of favor and provision and praise to the depths of despair and anxiety and fearing for his life. And yet, he was still regarded as “A man after God’s own heart.” I once heard that wasn’t because he always said the right thing before God but that he spoke all that was on his heart – whether it was highest praise or confession of unthinkable sin. Nothing was hidden from God. In that, I suppose I am not so different from King David.

Those around me get frustrated with my emotions. My tears, not hidden, make others uncomfortable. The usual gleam in my eye is replaced with a glassy stare and those closest to me recognize it. “As Jesus is so are you. Jesus is not depressed, and neither are you.” I understand the meaning behind that, but the logic is unsound. No. Jesus is not depressed. Not now. But He had moments of such raw and overwhelming emotion that He was undone. Granted, I’m not in the Garden of Gethsemane about to take on the fullness of God’s wrath for the salvation of the world, but there are moments when ministry takes me to my knees and I cannot bear up under the weight any longer.

“Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

 And how do you do that exactly? The word for “cast” there is literally “throw, as if casting a net, far and wide,” and far too often I merely hand my cares over like I’m afraid they will be dismissed or worse, rejected. You see how the thoughts then are cyclical?

 But in those desperate moments, very much like the one that I am in today, this verse becomes my beckoning:

 “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)

 With that declaration, my focus changes. The “self” cesspool that I was drowning in now is revealed for what it is, the destructive, defeat of an enemy that longs to see me stopped and silenced! And I declare with shaking voice, “You will not win!

 And this childlike warrior finds her weapon, takes her position, and resumes the fight. It is long and it is hard and sometimes I need a moment to run home and cry, to pull the covers over my head and beg for tomorrow to hurry faster, but my Daddy reminds me, “A failure is one that refuses to get back up. You, My child, are more than a conqueror!” Like my forefather David, I take aim at the giant before me, the impeding darkness of depression, knowing my God is greater than even my emotions.

School Daze

Like most parents in The South, last week my kids went back to school. My youngest began her last year of elementary school (I cannot truly be this old!) and my oldest began her seventh grade year. It seems like yesterday I held her in my arms for the first time in relief that the nausea and vomiting of the last 9 months was over and the fun had begun! What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t the pain of contractions, the pushing or the final clip of the umbilical cord that marked the end if labor… It was only the beginning.

I remember gently rubbing my bulging belly and hurrying the day when she would arrive – to see her face, to count her fingers, to watch her breathe and not just feel her move. I rushed those months in between trips to the porcelain throne to pray. When I started with contractions early, I obediently followed the doctors orders that I rest, stay off my feet, pretty much just get up to go to the bathroom. “Rest,” he said, “and don’t worry… You’ve have plenty of time to worry after she is born.”

I don’t think I really paid attention to that comment until the first night we were home, and her sleeping was so quiet I had to watch her back to make sure she was still breathing. Or the first time I heard her choke and cried for 30 minutes thinking of what might have happened if I hadn’t been there. The night she stuck a crayon up her nasal cavity, I envisioned how we would explain the bulge in her nose when she was older because that baby wasn’t going to let me help her get it out! Or the time she was playing with her daddy’s pocket knife and sliced her finger… That first sight of blood, from an injury… I thought I would faint – not from the sight of blood but from the knowledge that I hadn’t been attentive enough, I hadn’t guarded her enough and she was hurt because of my neglect.

I thought those were the rough days, until we experienced loss of friendship, abandonment, bullying, and heartache and disappointment, and those days have just begun, and I find myself wanting to scoop her up, open my womb again and tuck her back in… Safely, because the world is just too unpredictable and I can’t guard her from the perils or the problems.

But in those moments, I have to take a deep breath. I have to remember the words of Daddy God to me in some of those fearful moments when she was a baby, “Where your eyes cannot see, Mine keep watch. Where your hand fails to reach, Mine never leaves.” Those have been His words of comfort to me for years, and I cling to them!

Not just for my babies… But for myself. Life is unpredictable and full of uncertainties. Just when we think we have it figured out, everything changes. I once heard, “The only thing that never changes is that things always change.” It’s true. The more I live and experience and gain and lose the more this simple silly quote makes a world of sense.

Truth be told, I hate it. It leaves me dazed. I can adjust, but I don’t want to. It’s like this common thread in my life that screams, “Don’t get comfortable, it won’t be this way for long.” And still, like a fool, like a naive child, I forget and I allow myself to dream and believe only to watch it all change, again.

In those moments, just like with my baby girls, I have only One constant. One voice that can soothe me and remind me that where I cannot see, He has already charted a path, and where my hand is unable to reach, His is already there. And, I rely on that. I cling to it! Because as much as I’d like to build a cocoon around us and stay there safely tucked beside my Saviour’s breast sheltered and safe, life requires me to live apart from that haven for now to face and walk among the hurting, dying, and broken that might not understand a parent’s heart, that may have never felt protected, appreciated, encouraged, or loved. He requires of me to die today so I might live with Him forever, and that is anything but comfortable! But, I have a choice I can learn or I can sleep. I can roll back over making my own cocoon of comfort and denial and pretend like the Teacher isn’t calling my name, or I can sit at a desk right up front, pencil in hand ready to take notes, and learn all I can.

School is back in session, and I’m still a student.

I wear a Scarlet letter “A”

It was affixed to me a few years ago. I didn’t willfully walk into the title, it had searched for me for a long time. Exposing itself to me in childhood, beckoning to me in adolescence, and dangling just above my heart in my young adult years before solidly sewing its flimsy fabric over my heart.

Ironically, I didn’t set out to be an adulteress, in fact, this side of it all, I never was. I was a loving, passionate soul desperate to see a life find hope and help in what I was led to believe was a bleak world. I saw a hurting brother, and well, I don’t care to imagine what he saw. Mostly he saw a vulnerable woman that out of fear of failure refused to say no.

I did some stupid things. I’m not gonna lie. I cringe when I remember some of those things, but I could never paint as devastating a picture as he painted of me, broad red stitches on an already weathered and tattered soul. I felt like a pawn. Used and manipulated and set aside to try and figure out what had happened and where it had begun. And here is the thing about sin being turned from, it always comes back for one last play.

Luckily, Daddy God had gotten ahold of me. He had led me to confess and seek counsel and to expose the darkness… And just in time, because I didn’t realize how dangerous the game had gotten, and how vulnerable I had become. God only knows what I was spared that fateful night, but I know it is far worse than I ever suspected.

But, this blog isn’t about that night, or that sin exactly… This blog is about the freedom that broke through as I began to be honest about my journey. Even now some people will read this and say “There she goes again, whining about her story.” But those people don’t know me… And they don’t understand my purpose in this life much less this blog. Probably because they too wear the Scarlet Letter “A”.

“Afraid.”

They are scared to share their pitfalls and their failures because to do so will somehow compromise their righteousness. But this is what I found in my pit of self abasement, I was not alone. In fact, so many of us were held up in that tiny, airless, dark space we barely saw the others standing beside us. Our guilt and our shame was so thick, our letters sewed on so tightly we couldn’t make out anything. Some still linger there. Holding onto that last thread, allowing the enemy to label them and devour them with his lies, refusing God the ability to overcome them with love.

“Perfect love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
(1 John 4:18 NLT)

So I’ve risen from the pit, not perfect, but loved. And because I have been there and witnessed the lies – the pastors caught in adultery, the Bible teachers in homosexual relationships, the deacons dealing with addictions, and the heartache of a Christian mom of four still mourning her teen abortion, I can say with certainty, there is hope! We have wrestled the letter off of us and thrown it into the arms of our Daddy God and said “You saved me from even this!” You see, we know what others won’t dare to acknowledge, we are not perfect. We no longer look down from a pedestal of righteousness and offer grace, we jump in the pit, not afraid of the muck and the mire, no longer covered in shame, and we reach past their offenses into the hearts that just need mercy and grace and above all transcendent love. And they find it, not in our disdain but in genuine understanding, in words that say, “My sin may not look like yours but it is no less staining.”

So, I wear a Scarlet Letter “A” only because it is my ticket to help those who need it most… A ticket I paid dearly for, but one that Jesus paid in full. And, the crimson that covers its frame, removes my shame.

I am scared

I am scared.

That’s not an admission of guilt; it’s a transparent expression of fear.

I am scared of what I don’t know, what I can’t see, what I can’t quite put my fingers on, and what puts its hands around me.

I can utter a million reasons why I shouldn’t be. I can recite scripture after scripture of how God wouldn’t have me fear, doesn’t want me to fear, and begs me not to fear…and yet… I fear. Doesn’t mean I don’t trust Him, I do. But He knows I fear, and He has compassion on that fear, and gently guides my heart to peace.

I am fragile.

That’s not meaning I am weak; it’s means instead that I am vulnerable.

I am vulnerable to the emotions of others, to my own feelings, to the way that others see me, and the way I see myself.

I can hold a grip around my heart and beg it not to beat, not to bleed or feel the internal struggle and the worlds needs. I can remember His Word that says I am strong and brave and courageous and able to do anything through the power of His name. But, I’m fragile just the same.

I am small.

Though my frame is slight and my height petite, this is my humble reality.

I am too small to change the world by myself, to save any desperate soul, or to end any wrenching heartache.

I can’t even pretend I am more when I am not. I don’t expect to have the answers, to rescue anyone from any pain. I don’t imagine I can hold my ground with any giant that steps upon my land. Not in myself. In myself, I am merely small…merely human.

But when I commit my scared, fragile, small self into the hands of a powerful, strong, and mighty God, who I am ceases to matter. Who He is becomes my destiny! And I let the words of His character roll off of my tongue and slide down my heart and into my soul –

He is peace.
He is a strong tower.
He holds the universe in His hands.

And because of Him, I am.

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