when hope gets lost

i think there is an expectation* that a retreat or missions trip creates a spiritual high that returns with you and lingers for a few days post trip.

and while i had long let go of that expectation, i find myself curious at an opposite effect happening post-lake champion. instead of feeling spiritually high, i am feeling spiritually turned off. starting saturday night it’s like i keep hearing these thoughts to just leave the faith, just quit. and tonight at small group, the topic of suicide came up a few different times and instead of being shocked and grieved, i related.

i don’t want to call this a spiritual attack, out of fear or over-spiritualising things, but i don’t want to ignore that as a possibility for my recent hopelessness and relapse into depression.

i know i’ve been disassociated from life lately. i’m trying, i really am. it’s just hard when hope gets lost.

 

*i have long loved and personally subscribe to the following two pithy statements: “expect the worst, hope for the best, and accept whatever happens;” & “expectations breed resentments.”

come up leaning on your beloved

written circa march 2013

Will you help me elicit the words you have given me, allow them to come out from their corners in the delicate hiding places of my mind? They are shy, the words I must write. This is why we whisper, so as not to frighten the syllables that have come to play. Did you know that they are a timid bunch? A harsh ‘shush’ condemns while a willowy ‘shhhh’ sounds like the sea and brings healing calm.

Words in themselves are just a combination of syllables, morphemes and graphemes, it’s the way we draw them forth that gives them meaning. Deepest meaning comes from the heart of the Author and everything else is translation.

Breathe in, breathe out. Sink down into the clouds and let the Word come to you. Be still, darling. I know it gets crowded in your head and the slow motion is just a hallucination for really things are spinning faster than a carnival ride and you just want it to stop.

So you break open the flesh, hoping another outlet will slow down the speech and it does, but it has the dreadful side effect of leaving scars and bringing forth the melancholy. It is a false promise beloved. It promises peace, but brings fear and a need for more, more thoughts instead of the Word of comfort and hope.

I am who I am and I have called you healed. My mercies are new each and every morning and I touch my own scarred places to your heart wounds and it’s warm here, healing balm for your spirit. My blood was shed. My blood is sufficient. I have transfused my blood to you, redemption.

You are set free. Let the words come out of their scared places and testify. Your words are now washed and I love when you whisper your story because you speak Truth about what I have done and that helps heal the souls of the world. I am using your talents darling-one. You are a penholder in my story, give glory to the One who was pierced, the One who writes, the One who unfolds. I breathe my words into you by the very Word and I have redeemed you from the depths of Sheol.

Come up, arise little one. Talitha Cumi. Come up learning on your beloved.

trust falls

written circa march 2013
and so so so relevant still.

I remember trust falls in 6th grade up at our school’s retreat center. I remember revisiting them again when they gathered all of us awkward freshman into the gym for Peer Leaders – a sorry excuse to miss gym for bonding with our classmates and learning how to trust and rely on one another.

Those moments when the group leader announced trust falls I’d feel my skin go cold and clammy. My head would start to spin in six different directions: from “I want to do this, to test and see if they’ll catch me” to “I don’t want to do this; I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” Standing in the old gym I’d slink to the back of the crowd and appear composed when inside I was weeping and screaming and falling apart.

I never did trust falls, at any time. I tried them when I was alone though. To see if I could trust myself at first, then to see if I could trust God. I’d stand on my chair, or I’d lift myself onto my tiptoes on the diving board facing the wrong way. I’d give myself permission to fall. I’d start letting go, but always I’d catch myself. Never let myself truly go. I always had the soft bed to land on, the knowledge that I could stop the falling and jump up if things got to scary. Surrender was in my vocabulary, but it wasn’t in my heart.

No one will catch me, I reasoned. So after these experiments (that sometimes I still conduct) I vowed to always have a safety net. Keep this much money in the bank and don’t dip below the magic number, stop after this and that, don’t get too close to people, remember to push them away. Don’t ever let anyone in fully. I got so good at locking the whole truth away, that I forgot who I was myself. If you’re going to jump, make sure you installed the net yourself.

Recently God has been revealing to me the closed-fisted, heart walled up girl that I still am. The girl who would rather be alone and figure everything out then just take things day-by-day, the girl who wants to drive the shard of broken glass down her arm after being in community. God, in his divine perfection pointed out to me – with all the bluntness of the Almighty – that I have a problem with control. I want to be in control always. When I am not in control I despair, I cry, I run. Through the compassionate words of a friend and the letters strung together in the Word, and then again in the book I am currently reading God has shown me just how my need for control is keeping me stuck, is keeping me in the pit, is keeping me from being a true disciple and member of the body of Christ.

But, may I ask… how do you let go of control? How do you learn to surrender fully? The Word says, in numerous places, that God is trustworthy… so why do I still hesitate when there is not safety net – that I know about? Will I one day be able to trust fall into the arms of the one who created the universe, the one with nail scarred hands and arms wide open?

Help me oh Heavenly Father, to know true peace in full surrender.

holes to holy

written circa february 2013

My Sunday-school classroom has a toy where you put shapes into their respective holes. The red square goes in the square hole, the pink triangle into the triangle-shaped hole. The kids all love this toy and enjoy figuring out which hole is the key to getting their piece inside the box.

As I have come to see, these children may just be teaching me more that I am teaching them. God is showing me more through them than the other way around, as I had once believed. As I watch each child struggle to put the diamond into the rectangular or the oval hole I am reminded of how I have tried to put this or than into my own empty spaces. As I see the delight on these precious little faces as they match the hole to the correct shape I am reminded of my Savior’s face when I allow Him to remove the poison I’d been filling myself with and allow what really belongs there – his own substance – to flood my being.

We all have holes. They are in different places and are different sizes, but nonetheless they are all places where we lack. We try to fill them will different things, but in the end our unique holes all need the same thing: the grace-driven love of Jesus Christ, his substance, his blood, his unique, tender, healing touch.

Two summers ago when my mom developed MRSA from a spider bite she only discovered this virus by a gaping hole that opened up on the back of her knee. To me, this is what I think of when I think of my own holes. Different places in my body, different areas on my heart, have these open sores and deep caverns. They weep, the bleed, and they hurt; and I try to fill them with stuff. I have tried to fill my holes with the touch and approval of naked men, with anything that money can buy, with knowledge, with alcohol, with food, to heal them by starving myself and hoping they’d disappear. I stick my finger inside these open wounds just to feel alive and see my hands covered in blood. But my blood doesn’t heal, it can only clot. All I was doing was further infecting what I would be unable to heal on my own.

I need the antiseptic of Jesus’ blood to cleanse me. I need the image of Jesus on that cross – taking my sin and shame upon himself – to remember who and who alone heals and fills. When I tried to fix myself on my own I just gave myself more holes and a worsening infection. The holes opened and oozed. But when I finally came to Jesus, saw how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been pursuing me, my holes were cleansed and slowly they were filled in with what is holy. What once nearly killed me became bruises – battle scars to remind me of where I have been and marks to show others that I am not perfect but continually being restored and made whole in Christ alone. Soli Deo Gloria.

We all have our holes. We all have our bruises and scares. We all have a story. Let the master craftsman in. We will all be limping to the table of eternal feasting and grace, and it’s okay. We carry our bruises in different places, but only as a reminder to what once was and what Christ has done. Where are your holes and how have you tried filling them? Do you know how much God loves you and wants to be The Great Physician to heal your wounds?

the victory is ours

written circa february 2013

There is love in my heart, words on my tongue and breath in my lungs and this is the way it is supposed to be. There is silence in my head and the Mighty Counselor whispering lyrics into my ear.

I don’t know how to just write anymore. Words get tangled up in the sinew of my muscles and my tongue gets tied into knots the same as my stomach. There is so much to say, but I’m tired of choking. People say that this is a war and I am starting to believe them because it feels like a great cosmic battle over whether or not we can speak. Are we more than pawns on a chess board? Are we not soldiers actively participating in the fighting?

After a battle I emerge bloody and covered from head to toe in bruises. After a fight I am sore. When the skirmish ends for the day – when the next on watch take my place on the front lines – I feel a kind of tired that permeates my bones. I am worn out and empty, a broken vessel.

The day after I wrestled with demons… I am tired. I ache. My muscles are still and my heart is in a tender state. My brain is heavy and I want nothing more than to sleep. It is not pain, no, that came the day before as I walked into the battle arena (but do we ever really walk out of the battle zone?) The pain rising in my limbs. Hot. Like fire in my bones, that is the only pain I feel. Pain is good, pain means I am alive, fighting, serving One who is higher.

The time after the fight I am drained. I am weak. I am susceptible to the sneak, freak attacks of the enemy. He plays dirty and when I want to let myself unwind, come undone I want to give in. But this, this dear Beloved, are the demons’ most cunning attack of trickery. They don’t play fair because they leave the battlefield. We then never leave the battlefield. The enemy knows he will not be the victor. The demons know their brute strength and physical attacks will never be enough so they curl underfoot when we think the fight is over for the day and we think we are safe enough to let our guard down – when we let ourselves be tired.

But I know that there is a place where I will be mended and refilled. I know a man who will heal my scars with only the gentlest touch. He has wounds of his own and when I look on them I feel my black-and-blues mending and my heart swelling once again with what is alive.

Even though it aches, even though it stings, even though it hurts, even though doing anything feels like the final straw – feels like we will break in half – we must press in. We press into the One we are fighting with, the One higher than any demon, power, or enemy. We seek refuge in the one with scars of his own, to the Father who gives us strength, love, and freedom. We press into the Son – our savior, redeemer, and friend – who died so that we might truly become alive.

Press in and walk out. Don’t succumb to the attacks of a beast who knows he is defeated and insists on playing dirty, waiting until you are weak and vulnerable to attack, a beast who cannot win the war. Press into the God who created you.

Beloved, we have the victory in Christ. Who can fight us? Who can call us out? What can they do to us that God cannot heal, fix or redeem? Don’t be tricked that you are fighting on your own – or that you have to fight at all. We are fighting as community, not as independent mercenaries. We are fighting by the strength and power of the Spirit. Keep going to the wellspring of life to be cleansed, filled, edified, and breathe… breathe, Beloved. Drink deep of the Father. Press into him. He is our salvation, strength, our refuge. Press into him for comfort and healing. He has overcome and we are part of that community. We don’t run foolishly into battle, but there is a Master with a plan, a Master who protects his servants, and a Master who will fight for us, if only we are silent, if only we submit and press in.

beauty from ashes

written circa february 2013.

We yell, scream, bicker, and fight with each other over whose grain of sand is bigger, over whose speck of dust is more important.

The disciples foolishly asked Jesus which one of them was the best, which one would sit at his right hand. We today compare riches and fight for power, not realizing we are both specks of the same dirt.

Our immensely, unfathomable and powerful God owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. The the ancient Israelites this was a strong statement, but to us it means nothing. So, let’s try it another way: God created the universe by the sound of his voice, the breathe he expelled in one word. He is the owner of all things created – which is everything that exists.

To imagine God’s size is to drive oneself mad, but it is more important to reflect on our own minuscule stature in the face of such a big God. We are like grains of sand. We think we are so important – able to build castles and become beaches, but in reality you have to place us under a powerful microscope to see just who we are. Essentially we are nothing fighting violently over nothing.

But, thankfully, the story doesn’t end here. That God who breathed the universe into existence is a God of love, of mercy, of grace. He knows our size, our abilities and he loves us. He calls us, pursues us. Our God is a great Father who sent his only Son to save us and reconcile us.

In our smallness, he is bigger. In our fighting and bickering he consumes our hearts. Look not to the other grains of sand and what you can “possess” but look to the God who breathed you into existence with a purpose and feel the grace of that relationship – that someone so big, powerful, creative, and transcendent would come down for the sake of someones so small, weak, and easily amused.

And as we look up at the Father and focus on that we become a beach, a communal body that ebbs and flows, changes and reflects back the beauty of our Creator.

We are significant and made majestic because of an through him alone.

*A/N: it makes me look twice about beauty for ashes when I see the sheer beauty of the magnified sand.