The Prerequisite to “Love One Another”

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:6-8

When the King of Kings picked up a towel and took on the job of the lowliest servant–washing the dirty feet of his first century Palestinian disciples–the experience would never be forgotten. It challenged age-old views on power and hierarchy, it was sensory and more easily and permanently written in the brain, and it was followed by a “new commandment” to love one another. Jesus used every powerful teaching tool to embed this truth in their minds. And 2,000 years  later the church is still pouring over this text, full of ready desire to love one another.

So why do our best efforts often fall flat? Why is the church not often seen or experienced as a place of love?

The answer to that question is in the text itself: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” And again in verse 34, “just as I loved you, you also are to love one another.”  We must not confuse following Jesus with fandom of Jesus. What do fans do? They watch, admire, perhaps they copy. If we look only at verse 34, we might assume that simply watching what Jesus did will give us a fully adequate example to flesh out in our lives.  But we cannot isolate verse 34 from the context of the passage. If simple head-knowledge of Jesus’ love were adequate in carrying out this commandment of love, then Jesus would have allowed Peter to step aside and watch the others have their feet washed. Instead Jesus made plain that for Peter to understand and share in this kingdom culture, He must place his dirty feet in the hands of the perfect Christ–and do so, before understanding why. There is a world of difference between “Jesus washed the disciples feet. So can I!” and “Jesus washed my feet. May I wash yours?”

Peter had to allow himself to be served by Christ before he could effectively serve others. He had to experience the shame, the shock, the discomfort of confusion and misunderstanding, the feel of the Master’s hands, the coolness of the water, the warmth of the towel, the look in Jesus’ eyes as he carefully and thoroughly carried out the task. What did Peter do, I wonder? Did tears come to his eyes? Was his mouth open in shock? I imagine him full of that “Peter” over-confidence (“Wash not only my feet, then, but also my hands and my head!”), sitting down abruptly and kicking his foot out, tense and confident. But then, when Jesus’ hands began removing his sandals, experiencing the vulnerability of being disarmed. The very feeling that marks a naked heart.

Here is the prerequisite to the New Commandment: let Jesus love you. Understanding comes later and effectiveness in loving others comes later. “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter had to be willing to be confused. For headstrong Peter, what could be more vulnerable than not getting it? He had to lose his sense control to receive and internalize the love of Christ. We are no different.

Allowing ourselves to be loved can never be done from a distance. The pure love Adam and Eve were born into in the Garden was a love where they were “naked and unashamed.” They had nothing to hide. More importantly, they had no wish to hide. Do we have things to hide within ourselves in this post-Garden world? Sure. But like Peter, Jesus is saying to each of us, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Another way of hearing this is, “You are free to pull away from me. But if you would let me love you, let me serve you, you will find true intimacy with me and become part of my kingdom.”

Ask Jesus to enable your ability to surrender to his love. Ask him to show you in what ways you are resistant, because sometimes we don’t even see our own tendency to hide. Did Peter think himself the type to resist Jesus? Yet Jesus was faithful to expose this in Peter, and he will be faithful to us.

It is this experience of Jesus’ love in our personal lives that then allows us to know what it means to “love one another just as I have loved you.” Let us bring to each other what we have allowed him to first give to us. Let us not simply be observers of Jesus. To copy Jesus without experiencing Jesus will be a shallow shadow of his love and ultimately lead to personal burn out. Instead, let us be recipients who reciprocate.  Let us come to him uncomfortable, vulnerable, dirty–but courageous in surrender. Understanding will come later. You will find yourself infected with contagious, healing love for others.

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The Bedroom of my Youth

When the New Hard comes

in mid-life and in waves I want to

shelf the details under my care

7-day pill boxes

insurance irritations

the Unfinished Importants

the fears

and float up out of my floral apron

messy with toddler crumbs and flour from

daily bread

let it slip to the floor

and slip on headphones in the

bedroom of my youth

 

Present waves cause a

lapse in my breath, a stone

in my chest

I seek out yesterday’s waves

of that old waterbed,

my socked foot against the wood, mindlessly rocking

Music loud–louder than my feelings

Turned up so I’m wrapped up in my

musical cocoon

Studying album covers, lyrics if lucky

(if not, I listen and write)

Monet prints and posters thumbtacked to drywall

James Dean cigarette dangling, smirking

Incense burning, falling, crumbling

Typewriter clicking loudly

too <click> late <click>

Dad knocking on the door, voice deep and serious

That purpose-filled parental tone

misunderstood to me until now

“Dark-thirty. Turn it down.”

Once an irritation, now a longing

To recall the resonance of his voice–the hour, the year–

unearths it all

a living memory

a resurrection

Another chest stone.

 

Turn it up.

 

36 wanting to be 16, just to drown

in my music

in my bedroom

the entangling weight of teenage dreams

and disappointments– so light

so weightless when traded for

role-reversal

responsibility

caretaking

suffering

death sentences and death.

 

I will face this New Hard

just as I faced the others.

Hands on hips, fists on apron,

I will breathe in purpose

and exhale love

love that loses self

loses all.

(The only love.)

My hands will shake and my

breath still lapse.

But I will still be, even when it seems

unfair

that she is here but

gone.

And if I am here (pat to check)

I am here for more than breathing,

more than thinking.

I am here to love

to live in love

to live out love.

Love is something that I trust

even when I dislike its methods.

 

But just for this moment

this deep inhale

I will go home

16

close my eyes and disappear

in loud music

Wait for Dad to say,

“Light’s out.”

Wake up 36 again.

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What does it mean to be healed? 1 Peter 2:24-25

1 Peter 2:24-25

24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Years ago I worked with a young, beautiful gal who had a slight limp and, on long days, required a cane or a seat. Had I not worked with her everyday I might not even had noticed this about her. On inquiry, she told me that her parents were horribly neglectful people in her early developmental years before her grandparents stepped in and raised her. She was born with hip dysplasia, a common enough issue that babies heal from if given medical attention. But that’s just it: this gal’s parents never took her to any follow-up appointments, regular pediatric checkups, nothing at all. As a result her hip socket fused abnormally. Grandma and Grandpa were able to take her years later to receive surgeries and medical care, allowing her to live the life of a “normal” teenager and young adult. But the question I bring up today is this: was she healed?

heal

/hēl/
Verb
  1. (of a person or treatment) Cause (a wound, injury, or person) to become sound or healthy again: “a healing effect on the body”.
  2. Become sound or healthy again.

Keep this definition in mind as we take a look at these closing verses of 1 Peter chapter two, which speaks about Christ:

24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

 

Like any good semicolon in a sentence, it is there for a reason: the thoughts are connected. “His wounds” were in fact the “sins He bore in His body on the cross.” The healing promised to us here does not come from a time Jesus tripped and skinned his knee playing with his brothers or hit his finger with a hammer learning the carpentry trade. The wounds that are rich with healing for you and I, come from none other than His brutal crucifixion, carrying the sins of all mankind on His shoulders.

That said, in what way are we healed? The verse itself gives answer: “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” While “sin” and “righteousness” have become tired, religious words over the centuries, the meaning behind them is still relevant: one is a life of harm and destruction; the other a life of healthiness and right-living. By Christ’s wounds, we are able to stop a life of harm and destruction and begin on a new track of “rightness.”

Have you ever had the wheel alignment off in your car? It always happens so gradually, too. I almost never notice until every few seconds I’m jerking the steering wheel just to keep coasting forward. There’s a drag to it, that pulls you off course. You could say, a car with the wheel alignment off is “living to go sideways.” If I take it to the mechanic and said mechanic was a little weird and spoke in Biblical terminology, he could say, “I have healed your wheel alignment. It is now dead to going sideways and alive to going straight.” Likewise, Christ’s death gave us power to die to a life of harm and destruction and alive to healthiness and right-living.

Unlike my car at the mechanic, though, my co-worker’s doctors and surgeons could not truly say to her, “I have healed your hip issues” because, while they were able to do something wonderful for her, her hip was not truly restored to the functionary design of a hip bone in socket joint. This is certainly not a critique on what she received from her grandparents and doctors. It’s just that I think we sometimes equate the spiritual healing we receive in Christ to this imperfect sort of “healing.” My co-worker was undoubtedly changed for the better, forever. But not healed. Not according to the basic definition of healing, “to become sound or healthy again.” There is a return to the previous, good and right state. Spiritually speaking, we call this state righteousness.

It isn’t easy to believe sometimes, but long ago humankind was right in every way. We know deep in our bones this is who we really are, without ever having to be told. Though our “wheel alignment” is off, we don’t have to believe in Christ to intuitively know that it is off. Though the drag is subtle, I think we’re all familiar with the need to jerk the steering wheel of our lives away somehow. We humans want to be good, to do good, to create, to help one another, to love deeply and be loved, to be brave, to be healthy, to live a life of true substance. We want these things because it is who we really are: image-bearers of a good, creative, helpful, deeply loving and loved, brave, healthy-minded God of true substance. We were born to be the moon reflecting the sun; to shine so brightly in our beautiful humanity that it reflects the One who breathed us into existence. The fact that this does not come as naturally as breathing in and out, shows a need for healing. We need not be simply changed. We as humans need to be returned to our true selves. We ache to be “made healthy again.”

The next verse, 1 Peter 2:25,  lays out so beautifully what this spiritual healing means:

25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

The next time you hear a song or a person quote “by His wounds you were healed” or you are reminded in some other way of the healing Christ provides, remember that it speaks to a return to who you rightly are. Because of Christ, we now have the restoration necessary to live as humans were meant to really live. Like the old hymn goes, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

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Journaling like Psalm 44: A Place to Put Your Pain

“Here the goal of keeping the record of my life and struggle is not so much to forge the chain of growth as to bring my inner being to the blacksmith.” –Morton T. Kelsey

Personally, I’ve found no greater arena for God’s “inner reformation” than journaling. But let me be clear: I define “journaling” as anything that happens when your honest pen hits the paper (or honest fingers hit the keyboard). Some people make bulleted lists, some draw pictures, some write stream-of-consciousness for pages. My dad wrote poems on napkins and stray pieces of paper. There are those with neatly bound and matching journals. There are others who burn their words as soon as they’ve emptied them from their souls onto a loose leaf paper. My point? Don’t let the word “journal” send you straight to groaning. Redefine it to your own personality and needs. But keep it real.

“Being open and honest with your feelings is never easy and almost always painful. But God gives courage in the midst of both. Ask him for the desire to be transparent in his sight.” –from Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob Benson, Sr. and Michael W. Benson

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 44 offers a great format to try on for size. Here’s a quick link to this Psalm from Bible Gateway, so you can toggle back and forth and see what I mean. This would also be a great time to get out a piece of paper and pen, a journal you cherish already, or open up a blank Word document.

Psalm 44 Format for Journaling

In this instance, your journal entry will be a prayer.  The first two words of the psalm are, “O God.”

1. Verses 1-3: Reflect on the character of God throughout history. What specific character traits does the psalmist recall? What stories from history come to his mind? Begin writing from the same place. Choose a character trait of God’s, a Bible story that demonstrates who is is, or a powerful experience from your own history with him. Take the time to write it down.

2. Verses 4-8: Write down your trust in those same character traits. In yesterday’s post I mentioned how Jacob “wrestled for a blessing” and didn’t write God off. In following suit with this psalm, let’s affirm our trust in him before we lay out all our feelings and fears. Even if the rest of your prayer is all about how you have trouble trusting him, you’d be in good company with your ambivalent feelings. A father in the book of Mark who desperately wanted Jesus to heal his child, cried out, “I believe, Lord! Help me with my unbelief!” Remember, God welcomes our conundrums and idiosyncrasies because he welcomes us. And when we bring those into his lap–like the author of Psalm 44–Hebrews 11:6 tells us “he rewards those who seek him.”

3. Selah: Don’t skip this golden word! Think of it like this: Now I can put down my pen for a moment and absorb all I’ve written about God. Soak it in. Feel it. Let the truth of your reflections permeate your thinking before you move to the next step.

4. Verses 9-16: Here’s where you put your big BUT. (Not your big butt. There’s a difference.) Verse 9 starts out in such anguish, “Yet you have rejected us…” No mincing words there! And it goes on for 8 verses without a break! Think of the author holding a giant pitcher of his painful experiences, and he just pours them word by word onto the page. Put the pain you’re going through in a similar pitcher to pour out. He won’t turn his face away from our pain. He isn’t like us.

5. Verses 17-22: Here’s where you stick your big WHY. Notice the painful confusion here. “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You…Yet You have crushed us in a place of jackals…” Yesterday I said I once told God, “I played my cards right, and this is what I get?!” Was it beautiful? No. But are you journaling to win a beauty contest? Jesus called the uber-religious Pharisees “white-washed tombs.” Why white-wash this stuff? May as well get the garbage out, and know you can do so without shame in God’s presence. Don’t even bother judging what’s trash and what’s good. Just bring out of yourself the things that are in, and let God sort through it all. And never forget, some of the best artists go to the junkyard for their material. I never cease to be amazed with what he uses from my life.

6. Verses 23-26: Cry for help. Failing to ask for God’s help and intervention after taking the courage to unload your feelings is an act of hopelessness. Even if you feel hopeless, you don’t have to act on it. It is often said that it takes a great deal of courage to feel and express our painful feelings. But it isn’t said often enough that it takes great courage to ask for help. It brings us out of the self-defeating habits of isolation and unwarranted confidence to handle things on our own. Ending a painful journaling session with a cry to God for help sets an expectant stage for his response. The vulnerability that comes with waiting (Did he really hear me? Does he really care? Is he powerful enough to step in?) heightens our sensitivity. And when he does respond “out of his steadfast love,” there will be no mistaking it.

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Faith with expectations of an outcome: When is it idolatry?

The “prosperity gospel” is something most Christians and churches I know would hugely reject; the idea that God is sure to give you good health and wealth so long as you follow Christ. From what I gather, it is also not a very popular doctrine in most other countries in the world. After all, it sure would suck to be a Christian living in a Kenyan slum under that sort of teaching. What a tragic measure of faith!

Reading Psalm 44 this morning totally debunked the idea that following God = health, wealth and wellness. Check out the end of this anguish-filled psalm:

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!

Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and our oppression?

For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.

Rise up! Come to our help!

Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

The verses before this elaborate (many times over) about how the psalmist has trusted in God alone. But as much as I can scoff at such televangelist teachings, I am quite guilty of adopting the same idea. I’ve never married my faith to the future hope of wealth, but I have certainly married it to other expectations of “wellness.” Ten years ago our marriage was in trouble (to put it quite mildly). I had been following Christ with my entire being–so much as an imperfect human is able. Both the surprise of our disaster and the overwhelming magnitude of it took me utterly by surprise. I said to God, “I played my cards right…and this is what I get?!”

I’m certainly not proud of that moment. (I also wish I could say it only lasted “a moment.”) But I’m not ashamed of it, either. God used my reaction to serve as a great epiphany. If things aren’t going the way I expected during my journey with Christ, and it sets off a deep disturbance of my faith, I’ve got an idol on my hands.

Recently two friends were at our house and we delved into a conversation along those lines. One friend said, “When God gives us a specific path to follow, we are sometimes prone to switching our worship from God, to the path. Idolatry.”  Certainly that’s not to say He never gives us direction, or that following said direction is sin. Quite the contrary! But He makes no guarantees that the glory and wellness we envision is on this path will actually be there. The same friend said another time, “We can be confident of two things with God: He always acts for our good and for His glory.”

Fred Rogers had a favorite quote on his office wall, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery from his book The Little Prince: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” If this is true (and I believe it is), then who’s to say that the “good” God is doing for us will be visible in any way in our outer circumstances? It might be, but who can guarantee such a thing? If anything, the “visible” good will be how He gets the glory in the midst of everything.

  • How even when my marriage turned out to be the most painful form of insecurity for a couple years, God brought me to a place of surrender and peace and trust.
  • How even when Corrie ten Boom experienced first-hand the atrocities and abuses of living in a Nazi concentration camp, she experienced miracle after divine miracle.
  • How even when a dear friend’s young daughter had a painful battle with Leukemia, her life was an uplifting picture to others of how God really is “near to the brokenhearted” in an unspeakably personal and tender way.

And isn’t that what our hearts long for in the midst of hard times? The even when’s? Sure, we also want the trials to go away entirely. But when they don’t, it is the “even when’s” that cause people to honestly say, “As hard as that was, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. It was the worst/best time of my life.”

My time in the Bible this morning began with Psalm 44 but ended with Ephesians 6:10-18–both a direction and an encouragement when we inevitably fall on how-could-this-be-happening-to-me times.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Feel the validation: There wouldn’t be this directive to “stand firm” if our faith guaranteed an easy life.

Feel the community: We need to pray for “all the saints,” because Christ-followers the world over fall into hard times. We’re not alone.

Notice the real enemy: Our “enemy” is not our circumstances, or even other people. It is unseen evil attacking the “essential invisible.”

Notice the available power: The unseen but real armor of God, given to protect what really matters inside of us.

This is where we can place an expectation on our faith in Christ: that He will stay with us and give us what we need to make it through. Out of the goodness of His character, our stories will contain a series of “even when’s” that will dramatically enable our ability to trust Him and take courage in hard times.

This is a “prosperity” I can get behind.

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Blue Like Jazz, Bell Biv Devoe, and Belief Integrity

Since there was a lot of fake pope confessing going on in last night’s movie, Blue Like Jazz, I have a confession of my own. I never finished the book.

Of course, we’ll be here all day if every book we’ve never read warrants a confession. However, I am a bit of a Blue Like Jazz poser. I recommend the book. I’ve loaned it out. I’m honest to people when I do these things. But I believe I have unknowingly presented myself as a Don Miller fan. It’s like when I was a kid and probably came off as a Bell Biv Devoe fan, but I really didn’t know their lyrics.

I may not have known all the verses of “Poison” but I could do a mean running man and roger rabbit. In other words, I was on board with the whole thing. And I’m on board with the whole Don Miller thing.

The movie was pretty darn good. I’m a Christian movie snob; I pretty much avoid them. (My apologies to my friends who like those Kirk Cameron movies.) But Don Miller and director Steve Taylor pulled off a stand-alone, creative film. This is a movie I can unashamedly recommend to all kinds of friends, no matter their belief in Christ. It was a humorous window into the sub-culture of conservative, evangelical, American Christianity. In contrast, it gave an equally humorous window into the sub-culture of Reed College, a la Portlandia’s Dream of the 90’s. The movie went beyond the cultural perspective, though, by following one young man’s very personal journey to decide for himself what he believes.

Having the courage to examine our own belief systems with the camera lens pulled back is something I think every person needs to do on their journey of maturity. I think no culture exists that is inherently ugly or wrong–including Don Miller’s portrayals of Southern Baptists in Texas or of Reed College students. But no culture is inherently beautiful or right, either. Any growing person–religious or not–desires intellectual honesty and congruency in their belief system. I know many who actually came to believe in Christ as a result of skeptically examining the idea of God.

Acts 17:26-28: And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.

For those of us who already profess to be Christians, bringing our doubts to the surface (“into the light,” to use Biblical terminology) is something that must take place for a relationship to be truly intimate. And isn’t that what we evangelical Christians love to say? That this is “not a religion, but a relationship”? After all, God knows very well the location and size of our uncertainties and even our angry feelings towards Him or the Church.  And in His outpouring of love for us, He invites us to be open with Him about it all. “Blind belief” is not the same thing as faith. God may not answer all our questions by sending us a three-point essay in response. But to assume He cannot bring our hearts and minds to a place of resolution and peace is to greatly underestimate the God of the universe.

As someone who has personally re-examined my own beliefs in the Bible and came out on the other side with a deeper awe, love, and conviction to follow Christ–I take no fear in encouraging others to do the same.  This is the first step of belief integrity–a power-packed word because it connotates “integration” throughout an entire person. Jesus, himself, quoted from Deuteronomy when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  A pastor once said something to me about wrestling with God that I have never forgotten: “Jacob wrestled with God for a blessing.” In other words, he didn’t write God off. He may have broken his leg in the process, but he walked away as a man with a deeper knowledge and faith in the God he served.

Even this Blue Like Jazz “poser” can say that is what happened to Don Miller. His powerful story points to God with “Don Miller-colored ink.” I hope we all can “write” that sort of story with our lives, but like Don’s, they must start from the foundation of inner honesty.

(If you haven’t laughed at Dream of the 90’s yet, please do.)

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Public speaking, shame, and renewal

So, what’s the number one fear of Americans? You don’t even have to Google this one; you know the answer.

Public speaking.

Did you shudder? Well, allow me to brag for three words: doesn’t scare me. I’ve spoken in front of people since I was a kid, and it is one of the few situations where my mind clears completely except for what I need to say. Now, my stomach gets in a knot beforehand and afterward I get a bit of the shakes. But truth be told, I love it. I feel I’m in my own skin when I speak publicly.  (To clarify, I don’t do so for a living.)

However, knowing I will speak publicly puts me in a tizzy for days. It doesn’t feel like” nerves.” I’m not afraid of making a big mistake in front of everyone. (I figure I probably will. What’s new about that?) For me, it just so happens that any time I speak publicly I’m sharing something close to my heart. My naked soul comes out of my mouth. I become perfectionistic about every single word, every intonation. To reveal the most tender part of myself for all to see and hear…well, it becomes a formal invitation for my old enemy, Shame, to rear its ugly head.

Believe it or not, this serves as even further confirmation to me that using words and storytelling are deep-seated facets of what God created me to do. More clearly, who I am and as a result, how I am to reflect His image. I’ve learned two things that have helped me tremendously in this area:

  1. Those days of struggling with shame and fear are gifts. They prod me in God’s direction, the only one able to comfort me fully. He “gets” it. And He uses those feelings to go deep within my soul and rewrite His good truth in my “innermost being.”  Psalm 51:6 “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”
  2. In the end, there’s only one thing I have control over: my choice to worship God or not. A mental image saved me. I empty each word from my mouth onto an invisible altar. God can do with those words whatever He chooses. But this very public act becomes a private exchange in my heart to a holy God.  Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.”

Habitually, my vulnerable soul intertwines itself with shame. Through practice of these two things, however, my vulnerable soul intertwines itself with intimacy–what it was actually made to do.

The hair-trigger of my most painful feelings–public speaking–becomes the chrysalis from which my created identity is reborn.

2 Corinthians 4:16 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

What serves as the “chrysalis” in your life?

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My review of Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage

Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage by Dave Carder

I saw a book review for this on Covenant Eyes and thought the concept was very interesting. I know that no one is immune from having an affair, and the author provides an almost formulaic way to safeguard your marriage from both sexual and emotional affairs. I appreciate that the book is intended to be read with your spouse and to initiate uncomfortably vulnerable discussions that result in greater intimacy with each other. The chapters are filled with charts that force the reader to interact with the material on a personal level. I also like that the author shows how many factors are at play to make a person more susceptible to having an affair (such as issues in your family of origin, emotional or mental problems, different marital climates, etc.)

However, I will not recommend it because it does not account for the very predictable patterns of sex addiction (though he uses that phrase here and there). I know too many couples who would receive damaging advice from this book because it lumps all affairs into the author’s pattern of recovery. I know that all marriages have hope of healing from affairs–no matter the type. But just as misdiagnosing a disease will greatly hinder healing (at best) and cause irreparable damage (at worst), so will “misdiagnosing” a pattern of affairs.

I cannot give my opinion strongly enough in this area: when it comes to affairs, see a professional counselor who is both highly trained and experienced with the patterns of sexual addiction. A therapist like this will be able to discern if it is a problem of addiction or not, and how to proceed in healing. And if you are a Christian (as this book is most likely marketed to), a skilled Christian counselor will also know how to apply the truth of Scripture (primarily, His incredible power to repair and redeem the most hopeless situations!)with current social science. Based on the individual situation, your therapist will know what books or resources to recommend.

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Yellow Belly

Confession: I am a wobbly-at-the-knees, fear-stricken, yellow-bellied chicken. But if I practice what I preach, thank God there’s more in my mirror than that. I am also an image-bearer of the Creator God, made to reflect back to Him in a way only I can do. One of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes says, “I am just a pencil in the hand of a writing God, writing a love letter to the world.” I’ve often said that if she were a pen instead of a pencil, she’d be “Mother Teresa -colored ink.” But in the end, who cares so much about the color of the ink as they do the content and author of the letter?

A hill I would die on (or in the very least, go to bloody battle on), is that the best way I can honor the God I serve is to be my truest self, dependent on Him as I go. This belief is one of those that often serves to kick me in the pants. It is the sort of truth that I don’t live out as often as I urge others to. After all, my “truest self” simply can’t be liked by all! Narrow it down even further, my honest self cannot even be liked consistently by the people who I am in “good standing” with! While I am no advocate for inappropriately “airing our dirty laundry,” honesty requires vulnerability. Period.

We learned from some friends of ours a definition for “obey,” which we use with our kids: right away, all the way, and with a good attitude.  And I believe my wonderful God has asked me to obey Him in this “call” on my life: be my honest self so that I don’t cloud His handiwork with my cheap facades of perfection and relative idealism. More specifically in my case, He has shown me again and again over the years that I am to do this very thing with my words.

To obey this calling “right away, all the way, and with a good attitude” has been a prime reason for publicizing this blog and writing about things I would normally keep close to my chest. (Such as a rant against Mark Driscoll.) And this is where the color drains from my face and I want to hide under a rock. My greatest vulnerability is attached to my words. The things I feel “called” to speak or write are often attached to a cord that exposes my soul. Almost always I have had good experiences with this. Other times the experience has shaken me to my core. But if my aim is to honor God, then He is to be my focus–not the accolades or judgment of others. Can anything be more freeing? I know how He feels about me! And when I err, I feel nothing but tender love in His correction. I never feel condemned or that a situation is beyond repair or redemption.

As I’ve meditated on this inner struggle over the last couple weeks, I “coincidentally” stumbled upon an article by Caryn Rivadeniera on Her.meneutics. Here’s an excerpt that hit me between the eyes:

“Lest you think I’m being dramatic or judgmental, hear me out: When God calls people to write (or teach or fill cavities or sell concessions), God expects us to do it well (Ecc. 9:10, Col. 3:23) and to his glory (1 Cor. 10:31). And writing in an excellent way, in a way that honors God, requires a few things: Writers must master the craft of writing, writers must be fearless, and writers must know—and use—their voices. While these three qualities are also essential to writers who don’t give a rip about honoring God, to those of us who write to honor God, they take on holy importance. After all, when we believe God’s called us to write, then we believe our role is a prophetic one: to shine light in darkness, to speak truth into lies. And we do this by telling our stories, by putting words to our experiences, by offering our very selves—and doing it all fearlessly with our God-given voices, not necessarily one acceptable to any and all possible reader.”

I am no professional writer, but I was born to listen to and tell stories. And I was born to bring glory to God. So underneath an accidentally polished facade lies a squishy, yellow belly. And underneath that lies a child holding the hand of the Good Father. I hope here you can find the words of that honest child.

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My Favorite Poem

Is it possible to have a favorite poem? My favorite songs tend to change from year to year. But so far, this gem by Maya Angelou captures what I feel to be the heart of abundant life.

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage

exiles from delight

live coiled in shells of loneliness

until love leaves its high holy temple

and comes into our sight

to liberate us into life.

Love arrives

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,

love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity

in the flush of love’s light

we dare be brave

and suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

which sets us free.

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