Safe Places

“…maybe on the days we want out of our lives — it isn’t so much that we want to die from shame, but *hide* from shame. But let’s remember: shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable. Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.
You know what? Your scars are proof that you’re a kind of bulletproof — because living through the hardest battles proves you can live through any battle. You can trace those scars and let it feed your courage and feel no shame for the wars you’ve come through, no shame for any of your broken.
And tonight we’re just going to take heart — take His heart
and pour a brave and willing love like His
over all the open wounds…
that we may even now
take hope” (Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way). 
#TheBrokenWay #StrengethingPrayers

Normally, I like to share my own thoughts, but this one practically begged me to share it. I’m positive that someone out there needs this tonight, someone who’s battled shame for a long time and needs to know that there’s hope and freedom just around the corner in one of those safe places.

You’ll never know the freedom over the power of shame until you can find your brave and share your stories– even the hardest and most shameful ones. As my pastor said, healing takes place when the worst moment of your life that you never thought you’d ever share with another living soul becomes the first line of your testimony of God’s deliverance.

My prayer is that you’ll find someone and somewhere safe to tell your shameful secrets so that they no longer hold you captive. Then perhaps your story will encourage someone else to tell his or her story. Someone will her their own story in your words and find their own healing.

 

Gracefully Broken

“Here I am, God
Arms wide open
Pouring out my life
Gracefully broken” (Matt Redman).

The prayer from tonight’s Kairos went something like this: Lord, into your hands I commit my brokenness.

That’s a good prayer for those of us who know that we are broken. After all, all of us are broken, but it’s more apparent in some. Not all of us are quite ready to admit it.

Some hide it and pretend it isn’t there.

Some make light of it and pretend that it doesn’t matter.

Some will act as if there’s nothing wrong with it the way it is.

The best way is to acknowledge it and give the pieces to Jesus.

There’s a kind of Japanese pottery called Kintsugi that takes broken vessels and mends them, using lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. That way the cracks and imperfections aren’t hidden, but rather enhanced.

Rather than seeing beauty as flawless perfection, they see it as something that emerges out of a long history of suffering and survival.

Scars are what happens when the wounds of our broken places heal. Again, some will try to hide their scars and pretend they don’t exist.

My favorite writer, the one these blog posts are named after, one said, “On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars” (Brennan Manning).

Jesus chose to keep His scars in His resurrected body. He ascended into heaven with them. That says something about the honor and beauty of scars.

One quote from Kairos that stood out to me also came from an unlikely (at least to me) source, Ernest Hemingway. He said, “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

I like that.

Brokenness and scars not only can become beautiful, but in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus, they are beautiful.

PS Much of the credit for this blog post goes to Chris Brooks, Kairos pastor, and to the good folks at Google for providing the information on Kintsugi that I “borrowed.” It’s a good thing this isn’t a term paper, or I’d be in serious trouble.

 

The Beauty of Scars

quote-on-the-last-day-jesus-will-look-us-over-not-for-medals-diplomas-or-honors-but-for-scars-brennan-manning-71-55-68

I saw a girl who had scars on her face today outside of Starbucks. What struck me most weren’t the scars themselves but how beautiful she was, not in spite of her scars but because of them. I wonder if she’s ashamed of her scars as most people are or if she sees them in a different way.

Most of us have a scar or two. I have one on my left hand from an automobile accident from several years ago. Some of the most painful scars are the ones no one can see, the ones we bear inside our bodies rather than outside.

Still, from the right perspective, scars are beautiful. Every scar tells a story and reveals a history of God’s ability to rescue and heal. Scars mean that you are still here, that you endured whatever ordeal and came out stronger on the other side. Scars mean that you survived.

Jesus Himself still bears His scars from Calvary. The wounds in His wrists and side are still there, reminding us that scars are not shameful wounds to be kept hidden but tattoo of overcoming.

No one gets through this life unscathed. Well, perhaps if you hide under your bed and play it safe for 80 years you might make it without scars. If you hide your heart away in a lock box and never let it out, you can avoid having it get broken (but you also avoid feeling anything deeply).

Perhaps I should rephrase. No one who really lives goes through life unscathed and unscarred. It’s impossible. People and circumstances will wound you, sometimes deeply, but there is no wound that God cannot heal and no circumstance God cannot work for your good and His glory.

Trust me. Scars are good. Wear them proudly to remind yourself and others that scars mean that you’re still here and not going anywhere anytime soon.

quotefancy-319543-3840x2160

 

 

Here’s the Deal

So I found out today that the cost to repair the transmission on my Jeep is $2700. I almost needed the smelling salts as I typed that sentence. I’ll be sans car for up to four weeks. Pass those smelling salts, please.

That’s a lot of money. All for some itty bitty parts that decided on their own without consulting me or anyone else to stop working. All for some unseen mechanical gears that I didn’t even know existed until they decided to break down. Rude.

A lot of life is like that. Things break, people die, situations change. What seemed like a sure thing vanishes like the morning mist and what you thought would last forever ends abruptly without any warning.

It’s easy to let those things make you cynical, believing that only the very worst scenarios will play out and that nothing good can ever happen and that people are only out to get you.

Or it drives you deeper into all the Mystery that is the Abba Father.

As big as my car bill is, God is bigger.

As big as the void that is left by the passing of a loved one is, God is bigger.

As big as the hurt caused by the rejection of a friend or a family member, God is bigger.

As big as the accumulation of scars and wounds from a broken relationship are, God is bigger.

God is bigger than anything you will face today or tomorrow or the next day or any day after that.

God is bigger than any problem that you will ever face.

God is bigger than your fears and your doubts and even your unbelief.

Whatever circumstances, God will prove that He is enough. Everything you could possibly desire or want or hold in your hands without God is less than holding onto nothing but God.

That’s a lesson that all of us learn eventually, whether that means losing everything in a literal sense or in coming to the end of your own schemes and plans.

God is enough. God will be enough.

That is enough.

 

Show Your Scars

image

I had a random thought today. After all, randomness is one of my spiritual gifts, along with the ability to always come up with a movie or song quote to go with any situation. More on that later.

Anyway, I had this insight. I won’t claim that God spoke a word to me, but I think this is what He would say to all of us tonight: Not all scars are on the outside. Not all wounds are visible. Sometimes a smiling face hides tremendous pain.

Have you ever heard someone share her story and think, “I never in a million years would have ever guessed she’d been through all that.” Or maybe when someone gives his testimony and you think, “Maybe I need to rethink how I feel about this person. I’d have done way worse than this guy given his circumstances.”

All of us have scars, but not all those are visible. Some have learned to camouflage their scars better than others, but the wounds are just as real.

Why am I saying this? I’m telling you to share your scars. Maybe when you tell your unvarnished, unedited story with the ugly parts left in, someone else will find the courage to tell his or her story. And those who hear will realize that theirs are not the only scars in the room. Maybe some will find some healing in the process.

Jesus has scars. In fact, He’s known for His scars in His hands, feet, and side. Even in His glorified body, Jesus has those scars. The best part is how He got them. He got them so that ours would have new meaning and that our past could be redeemed and our future forever changed. He got them in pursuit of you and me in order to bring us back to God.

Show your scars.

image

More Beautiful Words

image

“Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.” Often we also treat people this way. We say: “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business…we’d better not take the risk of working with them.” When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak” (Henri Nouwen).

I’ve done that before– dismissing people because of their apparent woundedness. I’ve also had it done to me a few times.

I can say with all sincerity that these words are true. You and I may have every right to dismiss these people, but we do lose something– those untapped gifts lying hidden in those very wounds.

Maybe next time I can see those people and their wounds with a different set of eyes next time– eyes of grace. Maybe next time I can remember Who saw my wounds and sought me out anyway. I can remember that He gained His own scars for the healing of mine.

Just a thought.

If It Hadn’t Been for Those Meddling Hypocrites!

image

For some odd reason today, I thought about the movie Annie Hall and a great line. Woody Allen’s character says something to the effect of: “I wouldn’t want to be a part of a club that would have me for a member.”

Then I thought of all those people who stay away from church because of all the hypocrites. So here are my thoughts on that.

First of all, if you never went any place where there were hypocrites, you’d be at home alone in the dark with your pet ferret. You’d never go anywhere for fear of running into one of those hypocrites. You might even have a hard time looking in the mirror, because . . .

That’s right. You’re a hypocrite. So am I. We’ve all pretended to be something or somebody we’re not from time to time. We’ve played the calm dispassionate part when we’re falling apart and screaming on the inside.

Society teaches us to be hypocrites, to never let our true selves out but to only show what is culturally acceptable and normal. You can be yourself as long as that fits a certain cookie-cutter mold.

If there’s anyplace where you can be you, it should be the Church. If there’s a place where you can let your guard down and admit your hurts and flaws, it should be in the midst of the body of Christ.

Churches aren’t perfect because Christians aren’t perfect. As the old joke goes, if you find the perfect church don’t go there because you’ll ruin it with your imperfections.

Church is about doing life together and figuring it all out together. And if you’re not getting anything out of it, maybe that means you’re not putting in your fair share. Isn’t faith about more than just receiving? Isn’t there the part of giving and losing yourself?

I’m glad I’ve found a church where I feel like I belong, where I matter, where I can be a part of what God is doing in the world. I hope you find a place where you can feel like family, too.

Kingdom of God, Here and Now

image

“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it” (Frederick Buechner).

The Kingdom of God is here and not here at the same time.

It’s not here because there is still so much evil and injustice in the world. Seemingly bad people prosper and seemingly good people suffer.

It’s here because we’re here. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the people of God and it is breaking through.

If we’re truly citizens of the Kingdom of God, that trumps nationality and politics. We don’t have a flag and a President so much as we have a King and a Kingdom.

If we’re truly citizens of this Kingdom, then it should show in the way we live.

We should date differently, work differently, and play differently.

We should have Kingdom friendships, Kingdom marriages, Kingdom families, and Kingdom purposes. What does that mean?

It means your marriage is more than a perfect you and a perfect spouse in a perfect setting. It’s about serving together in a way that you never could apart and alone. It’s about two people whose love for each other testifies to how much Christ loves His Bride, the Church.

It means you love those who aren’t easy to love. You serve those who can never repay you. You forgive and bless those who hurt you because God forgave and blessed you when you had been His enemies and hurt Him deeply.

It means you are God’s living Word to the word. That when someone sees the way you live, they see what you truly believe, whether that harmonizes or conflicts with what you say you believe.

It means of all people, we should be the most joyful, the most hopeful, the most optimistic people. Not because we have no sorrow or pain, but because we’ve been shown the Last Page of the Great Story and we know it ends happily ever after. We know every tear, scar, wound, and loss has been worth it when we see Jesus and we’re finally healed and whole and just like Him.

Lord, forgive me. So often, I am petty and vindictive and self-centered. Help me to not think less of myself, but think of myself less and be concerned with people seeing Jesus in me.

Lord, may Your Kingdom come in its fullness. May You have free reign in me from this moment on. Amen.

Back to Loving Being Me

IMG_0131

It really is okay to love yourself. After all, the Bible does say to love your neighbor as yourself and you can’t very well do that if you’re not too fond of you. I think there’s a kind of false modesty that gets passed around where we have the “aw shucks” mentality and downplay any compliments that come our way. I can tell you for certain that kind of thinking doesn’t come from God or the Bible.

God made you. He created you exactly how He wanted you to be and no matter how many scars and breaks and bruises and messes you may have accumulated along the way, He still loves the work of His own hands– you. No matter how you may have been rejected or friend-zoned by girls or guys, God is enraptured and enamored and captivated by you. He is completely and totally crazy in love with you.

I’m loving being me. I can say that I’m not like anybody else out there. That doesn’t make me odd. That might make me eccentric. What that does make me for absolute certain is unique. There is no one in the whole wide world quite like me, and I like that.

I love that I can be socially awkward at times. I love that I can be overly enthusiastic in my friendliness and sometimes be perceived as coming across a little creepy.  That’s okay. Aside from maybe needing to visit Decaf-land from time to time, I’m fine if not every single person likes what I have to offer. Many people were turned off by Jesus.

I love that when God sees me, He sees Jesus. He sees beauty and perfection and wisdom and strength beyond measure. He sees my very best self, the one only hinted at in my best moments of selfless devotion. He sees the finished product of who I will become.

As of this moment, I refuse to take on myself any names other than the ones He has given me. Not from family or friends. Not from co-workers. Not even from me. I don’t have to be defined by words spoken in frustration or anger or resignation. I am no longer the mistakes I’ve made or the chances I’ve missed or the good intentions coming up short.

I am Forgiven. I am Set Free. I am Redeemed. I am A New Creation. I am Blameless.

Of all the names God has given me, my favorite is this: I am His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.

My hope and prayer for you tonight is to let go of all the names you or anyone else has called you out of hate or anger and embrace the name given in love by your Creator and Redeemer and Savior. Listen to Him calling you His Beloved Child. Hear Him singing His delight over you and smiling over you. Let your life be defined by God’s pleasure over you instead of people’s disappointment in you.

I truly hope and pray that you will come to the point where you can truly and honestly say that you love being you.

Scars

I was watching Slumdog Millionaire tonight and the ending got me thinking. By the way, this is a spoiler alert, so if you haven’t already seen the movie and don’t want to know how it ends, don’t read any further.

Jamal, the main character, finds his true love, Nakita, at the train station. She’s trying to hide the scar on the side of her face, but he finds it anyway and gives her a kiss on the scar.

What a perfect picture of faith.

We all have scars we’re trying to hide. Some do a better job, so that you can’t tell they have any. Some don’t do as well because their scars are more obvious and less easily hidden.

We think God will be repulsed by our scars, by the bitter words we’ve spoken, by the horrendous things we’ve done, by the vile thoughts we’ve cherished from time to time. We’re sure that if he ever knew about those scars, he’d want nothing more to do with us. After all, haven’t so many people in our lives treated us that way? People we loved and trusted to be there for us always? They got one look at our scars and couldn’t get away from us fast enough.

I’m thankful every single day that God’s not like that. God seeks us out, and when he finds us, he gives us kisses of grace on our scars. He turns our scars into stories of transformation and amazing grace. Like I heard a pastor say, that one thing you never thought you’d ever confess to becomes the very first line of your testimony.

God appreciates scars because he’s got some of his own. Three to be exact. Two on his wrists and one in his side. They are reminders of the price he paid for you and me.

So maybe scars aren’t such a bad thing after all.