The Siren’s Song

There’s a pain, a numbness, a vacancy left inside one who is molested. It doesn’t matter so much the degree to misuse or abuse… The hole presses in with the smallest infraction. There’s a shame that comes with the wounds made then that make the scar now that much more noticeable – a guilt that […]

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.

Suffering for Jesus

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We use this term loosely in ministry, usually followed by a stay at an all-inclusive resort or a trip to some exotic place no one would consider “suffering” at all. But, despite our quips, suffering is a part of ministry; it is a part of relationship with God, in taking on His work in the Kingdom. No one knows that better than those that have been there, and yet we use comments like “Jesus isn’t suffering, broken, ill, or misused so neither are we.” Where does that asinine train of thought come from? True. Healing is in the name of Jesus, but Jesus didn’t heal everyone from everything. So if we suffer it isn’t because we do not believe on the name of Jesus.

 In fact, if you think about sovereign saints that believed whole-heartedly and passionately in the healing work of God and the manifestation of His grace, don’t you think of all people, the disciples would have been spared from suffering? And you cannot speak of suffering without bringing up Jesus Christ, a man who suffered and died a cruel death in a state of innocence so that we would forever be cleansed from the cancerous cruelty of guilt and shame. Therein you will find freedom, but we are never guaranteed freedom from suffering. If that were the case, what do we make of the words of Jesus that say, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world.” He didn’t say “might” or “may  have” but a definite “WILL.”

 The words that got John and Peter and countless other martyrs through weren’t based on the denial of their pain, but the Truth that got them through was the understanding that no matter what, God had not forsaken them, and any sacrifice or suffering was worth the love of Christ. It is the same Truth that gets the countless Christians persecuted daily for their faith through to the next day even as they bury their children, spouses, and friends.

 We have to stop pointing at suffering as punishment and pain as an act of disobedience. The truth is, we are all going to suffer in one way or another in the flesh as long as we are earth bound. We have a choice in how we react to that suffering, in bitterness or in joy. Let me explain, joy is not happiness. No one is happy to suffer, no one laughs through chemo or transplants, but at the end of the day, they walk through it knowing they are led by Hands that know suffering and unfair pain. It doesn’t mean they are not afraid or they do not have moments of hopelessness, but in the end, they rest in the knowledge that He sees, He knows, and He promises that there is more on the other side.

 We cannot be afraid to suffer, and we cannot condemn those that do, questioning their faith, and challenging their obedience.  If you do not suffer, praise God! It isn’t because of anything you have or have not done, and if you suffer, praise God, because He has seen fit to send a message through you. Some of the bravest souls I know, didn’t deny their pain or their suffering or their illness, they acknowledged it, embraced it, and made it a part of a lasting testimony of faith. 

What women need men to know about pornography…

1. It hurts us.
More than you will ever know. More than we can articulate.

2. It IS about us.
I’m not sure what twisted part of your male psyche allows you to think it isn’t about us, and maybe for you that’s true, but we won’t be convinced. You looking in lust at another woman, is very offensive to us, and we DO take it personally.

3. 8. We know its everywhere.
That’s not an excuse. We realize this makes it harder to not be assaulted by the images, but love transcends temptation… Or it should. True love would.

4. We don’t feel like we can measure up.
When we see what you look at, we see our bodies and know they aren’t the same, they don’t measure up. We can’t be airbrushed. Our stretch marks should speak louder and look sexier than their tramp stamps.

5. We don’t want to be a replacement.
You see, we aren’t sure you see us at all. We aren’t sure that when we are lying there, exposing our bodies and souls to you and longing to be cherished, you aren’t thinking of someone perkier, tanner, skinnier, or more voluptuous… Someone you’ll never meet.

6. It’s unfair.
Nothing about it is, but – We are faulted for every perceived flirtation, every look we give, and every appreciative glance in our direction, but you can spend hours ogling women in a world where no one sees, no one judges, and no one can point you out.

7. It’s adultery.
You can gloss over it. You can tell yourself no one is harmed by it, but the truth is, you are harmed, your marriage is harmed and your children will reap the consequences.

8. We aren’t just a hole.
You can’t use our bodies to fulfill your fantasies. We have a heart and a soul, and we have a desire for love that isn’t made up of the faces and bodies of strangers.

9. You remind us of our past predators.
Our past misuse, abuse, and assault come roaring back into our lives, and the lies that we are something to be used and discarded, unworthy of love and affection, and easily replaced become truths to our hurt hearts, which means Daddy God has to reach deeper to heal those places.

10. It damages our trust in you.
If you will do this in secret, what and who will it take to entice you for good? Who will you leave us for? And when, if ever, will we be enough? How do you see our friends, our sisters, our daughters? Can we trust you to stay at home alone with them? Will you take advantage of them if we aren’t there to be used?

11. You cease to be our hero.
This is a hard reality. You cease to be the Prince Charming we believed you to be, you no longer seem like a knight in shining armor, and you no longer resemble our protector. This is as painful to us as it is for you to hear it.

12. Pornography to us is more than a hobby, a simple attraction, an appreciation of sexuality. It is a blaring, painful, aggressive cancer that eats at all we believe and hoped for in love. And, to many of us, it is the nail in a fragile coffin of insecurities.

13. We can forgive you.
Forgiveness is easier to do than forgetting… So holding a grudge or keeping a record of wrongs isn’t our way of rubbing it in, it is the struggle we face to forget we’ve been hurt.

*This list is based on multiple conversations I’ve had with women who face this daily in their relationships, ranging from men who “casually indulge” in pornography to those that are addicted. Some of these couples are walking in victory because of the grace of Jesus Christ and a lot of hard work, but many women and men still seek healing from the thoughts listed above along with serial mistrust and destructive addiction. Pray for them.

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.

Clinically speaking…

I’m dealing with exhaustion, or exhaustion is dealing with me.

No one knows why or what or how. I can’t prove what I feel or show them my weakness. The one thing that is symptomatic about these spells is that my lymph nodes swell and I run a low fever. What can’t be verified are the pains that dully throb in my arms and legs, kind of like growing pains, but I’m pretty sure my growing days are over, unless it’s the opposite of growth and I’m shrinking. It doesn’t affect me all the time, in fact, in between spells I’m actually quite energetic and useful. I have a good life, and I enjoy what I do, all that I do. The doctors can rule out depression.

I suggested to my doctor that perhaps I’m just a very convincing (if not severely deluded) hypochondriac. I like him. He’s a nice guy, but I’m frankly tired of seeing him every few weeks, and my wallet is really over him. He laughed when I said that and dismissed my fears, “I have met a few of those, and they would LOVE to be able to make their lymph nodes swell!” So..there goes that theory.

All I know is… my body isn’t right. I can’t explain it, no one can diagnose it, but I know it. And quite honestly, it sucks. (Sorry for my language, mom.) I know she will forgive me. She cried the other day. She knows my frustration. She wants answers, too, but when there are none to be had, she does what good mothers do best, she feels. And, that is beautifully comforting.

I’m not dying. It’s nothing critical or fatal. That much we know. So, I’m happy with that. The most it is is frustrating. It stops me, slows me down, and forces me into what our family refers to as “couch days”. Usually those days were made up of me, beating myself up for being unproductive as my family lives life around me and willing myself to push through and only feeling like a failure when I couldn’t…those days were long and mostly consisted of guilty sleep and frustrated kids that weren’t getting their fair share of mom time…while dad picks up the pieces not unlike Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom.

This weekend I was there again. It hit me on Thursday evening and by Saturday I was on the couch. But, somewhere in the midst of self-hatred and self-pity I heard the voice of God. Funny how on those days I find myself so lonely His voice is expected and longed for more than any other time, and He is faithful to meet me and speak to me of my worth when I feel so worthless. He spoke gently, “Be still.” It wasn’t a correction or a tone of discipline, rather it was like a mother pleading with her child that cannot stop shaking her leg or looking around her, “Be still.” And I felt my soul stop.

My soul heard the voice of it’s Creator and Father and without my having to think about it, my world stood still. Craig Groeschel reminded me this weekend, “If you are having trouble not thinking about what you have to do, think about what God has already done.” That’s what I did. I looked at all that I had fretted about the last 24 hours and said, “Daddy God, you have been faithful in the past, if you have to you can multiply my time, or minimize my tasks, regardless, this time with You isn’t wasted.” And I rested.

I’m waiting on more test results today. I’m not fretting. In fact, I’m actually thanking God for my couch days. They have helped me put things in perspective…His perspective! And He is our Great Physician.

 

A Mighty Wave

One of the things I loved most about working at the radio station wasn’t meeting the Christian artists that came through town… it was hearing their stories. I loved to hear what the Spirit of God did in their hearts to create and form the music that we all love to listen to, the music that speaks to us, the music that says what we need to say, that asks us to do what we cannot fully understand. Not too long ago we talked with Sarah Reeves…a precious young woman of God, who writes music that reaches into our souls and begs us take a listen. I want to share with you a piece of what I remember of her interview about the song, “Mighty Wave.”

The chorus of that song says this:
“Even when I’m walking thru the valley of death, even when I’m broken and nothing is left, You lead me on, You lead me on… So I’ll pour my tears in the ocean, and I’ll leave my pain by the shore, and with a might wave You’ll sweep them away til they are no more.”

This is the story Sarah tells:
This song came to me in a dream. I saw this picture of the beach and the waves were rolling in, strong but peaceful and sure. In the distance, I saw a woman and she was carrying a basket in her hands. I watched as she approached the shoreline, wondering what she would do; then, I observed in fascination as this woman emptied the basket, and as these huge waves licked the shore they took with them the contents of the basket – her tears. Mesmerized I kept my gaze on her. When the basket was emptied her bowed frame stood up, and freely she walked back up the beach away from the waves, carrying an empty basket. She faded out of my view but the water with all it’s magnificence still rolled, carrying those tears, that heartache further and further out to sea, until they were no more.

I listened intently as she told this story. She later said that she couldn’t get out of bed fast enough, that picture still clearly in her head, and the song that resulted is what you hear today. This song has played a lot in my heart the last few weeks. It has been a salve, a healing Truth that has helped me bear so much of what I’ve felt, not my own pain exactly, but the pain that I have watched my loved ones endure and persevere through. It hurts to see their eyes with tears and pain, their bent backs and shoulders, to watch them carry this basket that only gets heavier and heavier. And in some way, I suppose what I pray that I can do is to lead them to the shoreline, to help them carry their baskets, and rejoice as we watch the sorrows and pain dissolve into the Mighty Wave of God’s grace, and mercy and love until all that’s left is peace.

I love that story. I love that image. Listen to the song; may it bring you peace.