April 6, 2015

Good Friday - Our Broken Hallelujah




On the night our Lord was betrayed
Betrayed by us, you and me
For all the hurt we feel and pin on Him.

Betrayed.

For letting us down
For not saving us in our time
For not being who we thought He was supposed to be. 

On the night our Lord was betrayed
For lust, for money, for fear
For harbored bitterness and anger

Betrayed.

For not healing all the wounds
And curing all the sicknesses
The way we thought they should be healed

On the night we shoved all of our anger, our disappointment, our failure
Across his body
And our hearts were hardened to his love

Betrayed.


For being the Healer, the Redeemer 
The son of the Most High 
The Savior we never know how much we need 

On the night sin thought it won 
As it mocked the cross 
And heaven weeped 

Betrayed.

For being willing to die to save us 
For having a heart that loved the unlovable
For humbling himself from the throne of heaven 

 - 

On the night our Lord was betrayed 
We sing our broken hallelujah 
And remember the cross 






March 19, 2015

Lent - Static and Change


The journey of faith reminds me of an old radio. There are periods of silence, a quiet stillness, and a deafening lack of noise. Are you there, God? Can you hear me? Is this thing on?

Then there is the static. Turn the station, wrong channel, white noise static. Where are you God? Why am I here? Can you hear me?

Then at last,  just like the channel that finally clicks into place, there is the music. Soothing, calm, clear. Perfect harmony. Perfect faith. The mountaintops of our Christian walks and the melodies we try to remember when all we hear is static. This is beautiful, God. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.


I live in the static more than anything else. The noise, the clutter, the constant knowledge that I’m not there yet. A frustrating place of trying to find the perfect channel, trying to hear God clearly, and knowing that I’m botching up the whole process again and again…and again.

When my pastor approached me and asked if I would write a few posts for the season of Lent, I was thrilled. Followed shortly by the massive knowledge that I don’t know what to say. Living in the static is a hard place to hear God. Living in the static is a hard place to want to worship, want to sacrifice, want to say something worthwhile.

For those who know me well, I am a closet poetry junkie. I devour old English like it’s my lifeblood. With that being said, John Donne is one of my literary heroes. He wrote a poem called “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward”, which, if you’ll indulge me, ends with these words: 

Oh Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
I turne my back to Thee, but to receive
Corrections, till Thy mercies bid thee leave
O thinke me worth Thine anger; punish mee,
Burne off my rusts and my deformity,
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou may’st know me, and I’ll turn my face    

Over 400 years ago a man wrote words that resonate with my heart and with my faith to this very day. I pray and cry for change, “I’ll take the pain, God, if only to look more like you.” I long for the old me to be so burned away that only the image of Jesus reflects off my face. There are periods of my faith, in the static, when I feel the rust burning and instead of feeling a euphoric sense of relief… it is so painful. I cry out, “God, where are you? This hurts! This is terrible. Maybe I don’t want this after all.”



This is my static. This is my Lent. This is why the words come rough and my heart aches as I type away on this keyboard. Because how do I have something to say when I don’t want to hear what Jesus is saying to me? How can I teach when I don’t want to learn? How can I grow when I refuse to change the radio station?

Static.

Is change possible when we live in the static? Through the lens of marriage, I see where I need to change to better my relationship with my husband. Through the lens of faith, I see just how desperately I need to change to better glorify God.

But God, it’s hard.

My entire life has been a culmination of events, set patterns, habits, and moments that have created the person I am today. The triggers, the pet peeves, the less-than-Instagram worthy fits of frustration. How do I push those aside? How do I become the best version of me when I am so comfortable in this skin I wear. How do I change, when I can’t even commit to 40 days without sugar?

If Lent is a short-term change, one I struggle with; do I really believe that God can change me for the long-term?

Even more convicting: do I really believe that God can change other people for the long-term? The abuser. The addict. The gossip. The bully. The people I hold at a distance because it hurts too much to let them too close. I give God a lot of credit, He can do great things, but when it comes to people…I’ll take a moment to be real and say, “Ehhh, the track record isn’t the best.” Because people fail. They choose not to be changed. They reject the promises of God and choose harder roads. And we blame God when people fail. Doubt creeps into the picture when humanity stumbles and with all honesty, we question, “Can God really redeem a picture like this?”


_

Sometimes, in writing, I dig holes I don’t know how to get out of. For three days now I have come back to this question over and over again. Can God really redeem a picture like this? My heart says yes, but I have no words to sooth over the message. I have no idea how or why. I want to say no.

Static.

Can God really redeem a picture like this?

The sin, the depravity of mankind, the crime, the heartache, the violence. We live in a world of social unjustness, racism, sexism, impurity, and utter darkness. Why would anyone want to save a picture like this?

In the static, I cry out over and over again, “Change this channel, God. Let us hear You better.”

Through the static, it is clear to anyone who listens: God has created the music if only we have the ears to hear. He renews the tired hearts. He comforts those who mourn. He transforms humanity by the renewing of their minds. God redeems, over and over again, He redeems.

We all know that one person who has changed dramatically. The bully who now asks for forgiveness. The substance abuser who now leads groups in recovery. That one person who broke your heart time and time again...but now they’re trying to heal it. The before and after’s we often get to witness are enough for me to say, “God can redeem.” It is painful, it can take a long time, but it is not impossible. I have seen the goodness of the Lord, and it is incomprehensible.

I used to think that I could never understand why people don’t change. Why the abuser keeps abusing. Why the addict never stops. Why mankind doesn’t get their act together. Why God doesn’t fix it right here, right now. But then I think of myself, and the painfully slow process of transformation. We have been offered redemption, but we have to choose it. This journey is not a one-sided process on the behalf of God. He requires us to die to our old selves to live in Christ. Change is possible, but it is a daily commitment.

The static cuts in and out. This journey is stuttered, fragmented, and frustrating. This growth is painful. I don’t want to be more patient, forgiving, or more understanding.  But the music is playing, just one station over. A few notes cut through the chaos of the static, “Be kind. Forgive. Be understanding.”

So I try, and for a minute, I hear music.

The static may begin again, but for a brief moment in time, the music of Heaven cut through and my heart changed. Soon, the moments will stack on top of each other one by one. Until one day, I will wake up to a new station, a new test of faith, and new static. Even then, when I will have come so far from who I am now, I know that softly, gently, the process will continue, “Change.” 

We worship a God who does not change. We worship a God who transforms his people and equips us to become who we were created to be.


It is safe to be faithful to a faithful God. It is safe to change.

February 24, 2015

Lent – A Season of Revealing


The mirror shines, freshly cleaned, Windex sitting on the nearby counter. Polished to a perfect gleam, I see me.

Sleepy eyed, messy morning hair, not-yet brushed teeth. Glancing quickly back to the sink, I pull out the toothpaste, the comb, the makeup. Without a second glance at that messy reflection, I primp and prod until the reflection reveals a more suitable image. The dark under-eye bags, the blemishes, the frizzy hair…they all disappear.

Day after day, morning after morning, the mirror reveals an image only to me...and I change and tweak what I want the world to see before I take a single step out the door. 

Welcome to Lent.

Lent is a strange season. We approach Ash Wednesday with somber hearts, motivated to perform and anxious for God to reveal Himself in some new way. Often, when our resolve is true, we are amazed and rejuvenated 40 days later. Even more frequently, we struggle to maintain a sense of depth only days after the ashen cross is rubbed across our foreheads. How easily we forget to be somber when distractions flicker across our lives. How quickly we push aside this strange season of reflection, because in all honesty: Lent gets uncomfortable. So shortly after we’ve all made our New Year’s Resolutions, suddenly the Christian calendar throws us for another loop. “Give something up.” “Give something back.” “Find God.” Do this, do that, be better, grow spiritually.

In the hard moments of life, in the periods of spiritual drought, when prayer is hard and knowing God is harder, finding Him in Lent feels impossible. Does the church not know we’re tired? We’re busy? We want God but…how? How do we embrace this season of vulnerability when we’re still pretending we have it all together? How do we surrender control, let God work in our lives, and approach Easter refreshed and humbled, when we hide behind the fa├žade we slather on every morning? How can we be changed if we won’t be revealed?

Gently, quietly, we are called to come before the cross and let go of all the masks we hold over our faces. Let go of the idea that we need to hold it all together. Let go of the show we put on every morning. Let go of the secrets we hold close to our hearts. The season of Lent is a season where God seems to reach out to us and whisper, “Let’s get real.”  

We’re on-stage and the show is running, we’re at work with deadlines and co-workers; we’re in church with burdens on our backs and smiles on our faces… and we need to stop pretending, be vulnerable, and be honest. Trying to fast in the season of Lent while still wearing a mask is nearly impossible. As we prepare for Easter, mourning the death of Christ and celebrating His resurrection, we need to open our hearts to His word and His redemption. Here, in this moment, He asks us to let everything else go and let Him be our Savior.

You see, God sees us: just as we are in this very moment. He has seen the darkness that resides in humanity and He has called us his beloved. He knows the hidden sins, the hearts that hurt, the choices that destroy, and He still chooses to reach out to us in love and faithfulness. When our hearts choose lesser gods, His heart breaks. When we say no, He says, “I love you.” When we turn our backs, He waits patiently. When we hide behind our masks, He gently pulls them away and says, “You are chosen.”  

As we embrace Lent, we remember that Jesus sees through the show. He sees beneath the masks we wear, the sins, the secrets…He sees us in all of our dirt and depravity and He invites us to join Him regardless. No matter how hard we try to cover up our mistakes, our shortcomings, and our regrets, He loves us beyond measure. No matter how hard we try, no matter what we choose to reveal to the outside world, He sees us. When we embrace this raw honesty, this terrifying vulnerability, we invite Him to work amid the brokenness and reveal a picture cleaner than we could ever have imagined. 

Lent is a season of revealing. The One who loves us most is gently asking us to get real and let Him work in our brokenness. As we journey through Lent, this remarkable and often difficult journey, let us approach each day with a renewed sense of honesty. Only when we approach the cross with humility and raw vulnerability do we truly begin to see just how magnificent God’s grace is in our lives.

The mirror shines, freshly cleaned, Windex sitting on the nearby counter. Polished to a perfect gleam, I see us. The church.

Christ-followers, lovers of Jesus, the people of God. We have been challenged; we are standing before the mirror of Lent and taking this season one day at a time. As the mirror glistens, daily, we must ask ourselves… will we allow God to be revealed in the midst of our brokenness?


Welcome to Lent.