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Am I the confident one that speaks up in Bible class sounding as though I know what I’m talking about?

Am I the insecure one who doesn’t really reveal who I am or what I think for fear you’ll run?

Am I the sweet one, always with a listening ear and a hand to hold?

Am I the absent one who can’t be reached by phone or email or smoke signal?

Am I the steady one, the moral compass, the calming presence?

Am I the impatient one who shakes her fist at crazy drivers on the road?

Am I the resilient one who has overcome enormous physical difficulties?

Am I the public one, who twitters, facebooks, and blogs on a regular basis?

Am I a country girl from small town Texas?

Am I really a sojochick- world traveler, cross-cultural, rolling stone?

Am I a writer, web-designer, English teacher?

Faithful and faithless,
Humble and proud,
Strong and weak,
Sensitive and hard,
Saint and sinner.

By the grace of God, I’m all of the above.

Father, in your mercy, give us peace with ourselves and our many contradictions. Make us more in your image and use our many broken, crooked pieces to reveal your glory.

A few weeks ago, I read the following passage and it stopped me in my tracks. It stepped on my toes to the degree that I literally closed the book and wouldn’t open it again for a week.

As I come to grips with what this message and my reaction means, I wanted to share it here:

An old saint told me years ago that the devil doesn’t so much care what particular thing he gets us to fall prey to. His primary aim is simply to get us to do something outside of Christ, for then we are vulnerable.

I want two things that are mutually opposed– I want to live a nice little life, and I want to play an important role in God’s kingdom. And it’s in those times that I am trying to live a nice little life that I make decisions and choices that cause me in small and subtle ways to live outside of Jesus. The shepherd is headed one direction, and I am headed another. Not some flagrant sin—that’s too easy to recognize. Instead, I’m simply wandering off looking for the pasture I deem best. I don’t even think to ask God about it.

A very dangerous way of thinking.

As Christians we don’t get to live a “normal” life, and accepting that fact in all the details of our lives is what allows us to remain in Jesus.

There’s something we need to be honest about; part of us doesn’t really want to hear what God has to say.

Really. Even after years of God’s rescues and surprises and blessing upon blessing, there’s part of me that gets irritated when someone say, “Let’s ask God.” The act itself is a disruption. Sometimes it feels like grinding the gears. Stop? Now? Ask God? I’m bugged. That’s part of it. The other part of it is, if we do hear something, we’ll have to obey.

I don’t ask because I don’t want to know. If I know what God thinks, then I’m faced with the decision of whether to follow His counsel or not. What was initially just a quandary or moment of confusion becomes an issue of obedience. I don’t want that sort of clarity. Furthermore, I don’t want God messing with my approach to life.

And so we come back to holiness. To ask is an act of holiness, because we are seeking to follow our Shepherd. To live by faith in him. Then we are faced with the choice to obey what we hear, and our holiness is deepened.

What I am describing is a heart that is present and engaged with God, bringing our desires to him, yet submitting our wills to his, genuinely trusting what he says is best.

“Walking with God,” by John Eldridge -pp. 90-92

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
-Oswald Chambers

“I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
-Psalm 121:1-2

For a person who made her only C in physics, I think a lot about trajectory.

Trajectory is fantastic. It’s predictable! It lets you see where an object has been, then take its current direction and speed to tell you where it’s going to end up.

It’s true for inanimate objects, but it’s also true for lives.

I think that through honest self-examination and the power of the Spirit, it is possible to determine your life trajectory.

The past few days I have tried to do some serious soul searching as to where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m headed. In some areas, I’m so thrilled and praise God for the victories he’s given. In other areas, I’m shocked at how far off base I’ve gotten and how I don’t seem to be doing anything to change that direction.

Self-assessment is not for the faint of heart. It takes intestinal fortitude, an honest eye for the good and bad, and conviction that the Spirit of God can do anything and is truly the author of all good things. But, if we’re ever going to live the lives we were called to live, then it’s necessary. Thank God for the vision of trajectory.

Thank you, Father, for opening our eyes to see who we are and where we’re headed. You are greater than any other force that tries to determine our trajectory, and we praise you for healing broken roads and directing our paths.

On Friday, I went to a screening of the film “Back Home,” a documentary covering the story of one man who survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994. One of the themes of the film was reconciliation.

The method by which Rwandans have chosen to bring the perpetrators of the genocide to justice is called “gacaca“, which means “grass court.” At that time the the perpetrators come before the village, including the victim’s family, and confesses the crime. Then, the victim’s family has the opportunity to release the guilty party from their burden through forgiveness. There are still penalties paid by the offender, but this was described as the first step in their “re-humanization.”

One of the words that struck me as the director talked about this process was the word “sacrifice.” He said that in order for reconciliation to begin, the victim must sacrifice their right to vengeance. Those victims have every single right to demand justice be served and claim the authority to see the guilty pay for what they have done, but for the greater good, they forfeit that right.

To me, this is one of the greatest examples of selflessness I could ever fathom. It leads me to think of how much more then we should be willing to lay down our “right” to claim vengeance on those who have wronged us in the run of the mill, every day offenses.

There are times when we are done wrong- no question about it (although there are many more often times when we played a part in our being offended). But for those times when we are purely wronged, we have the choice to make the offender pay or to release them and help them “re-orient” to life in the Spirit rather than life led by the flesh, which led them into the offense.

Last night in my small group we read Numbers 21:4-8. It intrigues me because Moses had every right to be furious with the Israelites. He had been a faithful leader, and all he seemed to get was the shaft from the people. But when they plead with him to pray for them, he did. And because of his prayers, the Lord delivered the people.

I’m not sure how theologically sound this theory is, but I believe that those kinds of selfless, sacrificial prayers are deeply honored by God. When the offended can lay aside their right to anger and pray for the offenders, Satan’s plan is thwarted and the Lord can work powerfully.

The Lord is good, and His ways are far above mine. This is one of those things that doesn’t make sense to me, but I praise God for his love and the Holy Spirit that enables us to have moments where we can transcend this fallen world.

“See, I make all things new!”
Jesus the Christ, Revelation 21:5

That’s quite a promise. Only Jesus has the authority to make that kind of promise.

It’s fulfilled in more than flowers, you know. Life comes in seasons, and yes, there are winters… but there is also always the promise of spring. New life born only out of the darkness and death of winter. All things new!

Similar spring thoughts three years ago…

One of my spiritual gifts is passion. I relate this it enthusiasm, conviction, or just flat out caring. I think that for people with these types of gifts, Satan’s primary objective is to make you stop caring.

If Satan can make you stop caring, then that pretty much cuts the life-line of energy and desire to the ministries and people to which you were called to serve.

Lately I’ve found myself saying more and more often that I just don’t care, or worse yet, I can’t care.

Passion carries quite a price tag. It’s not cheap to live life passionately. Most people who embody this gift have battle scars to prove it. In the immortal words of U2, “the heart that hurts is the heart that beats.”

I saw this prayer a few years ago and it has been on my refrigerator since. It reminds me that to being a Christ-follower is not meant to be a life of comfort, but holy uneasiness is what God gives us to keep us longing for home.

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths, and
superficial relationships, so that
you will live deep in your heart.

May God bless you with anger at
injustice, oppression, and
exploitation, of people and the earth,
so that you will work for justice,
equity, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to
shed for those who suffer so you will
reach out your hands to comfort
them and change their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with
the foolishness to think that you
can make a difference in the world,
so you will do the things which
others say cannot be done.

I recently heard a wise man speak on the fact that the church is sadly lacking in laments.

Thankfully, we have St. Bono of Dublin, patron saint of every emotion the heart feels. :) Lately, I haven’t been able to listen to my standard music. It’s a little too gentle for how I’m feeling. So I’ve returned to U2.

What I like is that they can express the deepest emotions of the heart while remaining faithful to the complexity of each and in their intertwining.

Longing

I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Anticipation-

Something is about to give
I can feel it coming, I think I know what it is
I’m not afraid to die, I’m not afraid to live
And when I’m flat on my back I hope to feel like I did
And hardness, it sets in
You need some protection on the thinner the skin

Pain-

I’m around the corner from anything that’s real
I’m across the road from hope
I’m under a bridge in a rip tide
That’s taken everything I call my own
One step closer to knowing
I’m hanging out to dry with my old clothes
Finger still red with the prick of an old rose
Well the heart that hurts is a heart that beats
Can you hear the drummer slowing?
One step closer to knowing

Humility-

Tough, you think you’ve got the stuff
You’re telling me and anyone you’re hard enough
You don’t have to put up a fight, you don’t have to always be
right
Let me take some of the punches for you tonight
Listen to me now- I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

Courage-

Love is not the easy thing.
The only baggage that you can bring
Is all that you can’t leave behind.
And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong.
Walk on…
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on…
And I know it aches, and your heart it breaks
You can only take so much… walk on

Does anyone else have any music they turn to when they need something that captures the rawness of life? Anyone want to identify the songs I referenced?

With my gratitude to my U2 Sempai, Peter-san.

I don’t consider my blog a journal, but one of the goals of this blog is to validate that a Christian person can go through many things and have many emotions while remaining a faithful person.

That said, some days suck. Some weeks or months suck. Over the past few weeks, I have taken a series of blows that have left me weary and deeply wounded.

This morning at church my heart was not there. Instead there was bitterness and anger and sadness. I couldn’t sing, couldn’t pray, just couldn’t engage.

The service was fantastic. Great sermon, wonderful songs… in fact, we sang one of my favorite songs, “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle. The chorus is as follows:

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees,
And I am lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

This is a beautiful song and beautiful sentiment, but today it drove daggers into my heart. All I could think was, “Draw me gently to my knees”? Really? Because it sure feels like I just had my legs cut out from under me, anything but gently. And “sweetly” broken? I feel like someone’s taken a sledge hammer to me.

I know the truth of the message in the lyrics, but at the same time, sometimes it just hurts. Yesterday I happened to read the passage from Luke 9, where Jesus promises suffering for his disciples, yet still calls them to take their cross and follow. This song takes that gritty, hard teaching of Jesus and paints it in a much softer light.

Life promises to break us, and I would much rather be broken by God than the world, but that doesn’t guarantee it will be sweet. Some days it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

PS- Check out the new poll question in the left column.

Use me, break me, waste me on You, Lord
Ruin me, take me, waste me on You
For to die is to live…

To starve is to feast
and less of me is more of Jesus
Lord, I want it all…

-Shane and Shane

Be careful when you pray this kind of thing. God just might take you up on it.