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.

 

Good Stories

I’m drawn to a good story, whether it be in the form of a song or poem or novel or movie. I believe a good story is one in which I can identify myself and see part of my own story in the unfolding drama.

I’m reading through the Bible again, and I recognize myself all over the place. I can identify with the Israelites who are chosen as God’s people but often act as anything but God’s own possession.

I know what it’s like to want to go back to what’s comfortable and safe, even if that also happens to be bad for you and going backward rather than going forward.

I know what it’s like to be constantly tempted by idols and the surrounding culture bombarding you with images and messages that flatly contradict the message that God keeps trying to tell you.

I can fully relate to the many characters in the Bible whom God uses in spite of themselves, their weaknesses, their fears, their hang-ups. I had always been led to believe that people like Abraham and Isaac and Moses and Noah were the heroes in the stories.

That’s not true. God is always the hero of the biblical story. These are people who are only famous because God chose to use them. If God had never spoken to Moses from a burning bush, I doubt he’d be anything more than a very small footnote in the book of Exodus.

The Bible reminds me that what I need most is not to discover the inner warrior within me but rather to rely daily on the Warrior Savior who cherishes me and fights for me and never quits on me.

I’m beginning to understand the point of all the rules of the Old Testament. The point is that I’m supposed to look and act different as one of God’s people. I’m set apart. I’m not like everybody else and my story won’t play out like everybody else’s. That’s the point.

It’s not even really my story anymore. It’s God’s story that I get to be a part of.

I love that.

The end.

 

Writing Your Own Story

“One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: ‘I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.’ This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.

We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them” (Henri Nouwen).

One of the reasons I write these blogs is because it’s part of me telling my story. It’s often very therapeutic and healing to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper (or more accurately, onto computer screen then onto cyberspace via the interwebs).

No one can tell your story better than you. No one has lived your life quite like you have.

It occurred to me earlier as I was watching a Baz Luhrmann movie that the best stories are the ones in which you find your story and I find mine. Those are the stories in which the specifics may be quite different than mine, but the emotions are the same. I find in a good story that I can relate to the characters and the situations in which they find themselves.

Even if you just write what you did that day, it’s something. If you write about your fears and doubts, however odd and neurotic they may seem, someone else out there will inevitably be able to relate. Someone else will be able to say finally, “I’m so very glad I’m not the only one who thinks or feels this way. Maybe there’s hope for me.”

So write your story. My preferred method is blogging, but yours may be writing a novel or short story, taking a photograph, giving your testimony before a church group, or just being intentional about how you live your life.

Three words: tell your story.

 

 

Show Your Scars

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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.

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Old Houses

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to old homes. Especially those with a front porch and hardwood floors and fireplaces.

Old homes have character. You know that if these walls could speak, they’d have plenty of stories to tell about families and memories and times of celebration and of sadness.

To me, new homes are just too cookie-cutter. They all look the same. They look like castles where people go to shut out the rest of the world.

Old homes always seem more inviting, like you expect to see someone on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea inviting you to sit a spell (as we say here in the South). I imagine that even the ghosts in old homes are friendly, like Casper (only slightly less annoying).

Maybe one day someone will leave me an old home in their will (hint, hint), along with a little extra money to help with the upkeep. That would be nice. I’m fairly certain that if I had a real genuine front porch, I’d almost never leave it but sit in my front porch swing and watch the people and cars passing by.

Old homes are a throwback to a simpler time and a slower way of life. Like Andy Griffith and Mayberry. A time when people were more satisfied with what they had and not always in such a hurry to acquire more and do more and possess more all the time.

I’m also open to house-sitting in an old house. Maybe for like four or five years, perhaps?

Still Yet Another Good Reminder

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“Sorrow cannot steal our faith or even cause it to be lost; betrayal and loss steal our faith only when we refuse to remember, tell our stories, listen even as we tell them, and explore the meaning that God has woven into every one. If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even our most tragic experiences” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

I don’t know why I gravitated to this quote. I’m not dealing with any kind of loss or grief or even sadness, yet these words spoke deeply to me.

Maybe because I realize lately how fragile life is and how easily those we love can slip away from us, how quickly those little babies grow up and leave home, how fleeting are the days.

The most tragic remembrance in the end will be how we took so many people for granted and left words of love and gratitude unspoken. In the end we will not treasure our trophies or promotions or rewards, but the relationships that made us come alive and be better people.

So all that from a quote I stole from someone on Facebook.

I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found

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I just finished watching the last episode of Lost.

I know. I’m about four years behind the rest of you who saw the series finale when it aired way back in 2010. But what can I say? I like to wait until TV shows are over so I can watch them in their entirety at my leisure. Or I can cram a whole season into a weekend. It all depemds on my mood.

I had heard that the ending of Lost was unsatisfying for many and left a lot of unanswered questions. I didn’t find that to be true for me. I loved the ending. And don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.

Well, I changed my mind. So sue me.

Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know how the show ends. Go make some popcorn or go take a restroom break.

I love the way they were all reunited at the end. I especially love how it took place in a beautiful church building. I don’t care if they were all dead and ghosts or whatever. It gave me a good picture of what heaven will be like. Especially with how they brought back all the characters they had killed off in previous episodes.

Ok. You out there who didn’t want to know about the series finale can start reading again. No more spoiler alerts. Or spoilers.

I love a good story told well, whether the medium is a book or a movie or TV series. I love the satisfaction of having my expectations thwarted only to find the outcome was better than my predictions. God is like that.

Now I have to find the next TV series to get hooked on. I’m currently taking ideas and suggestions. Or I could just read a good book.

Learning to Listen Well

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I love serving at Room in the Inn at my church during the colder months of the year. It helps more than anything to get me out of myself and into a more others-centered mind frame.

Tonight, I went to a dinner where Dr. Ken Corr, Congregational Care Minister at Brentwood Baptist Church, spoke about how to effectively minister to the homeless. One of the takeaways for me was empathetic listening.

Empathetic listening seeks to understand what the person speaking is feeling. It’s where you step into that person’s shoes and hear the story from their side.

It’s not about giving advice or trying to fix their story to make it better. It’s not even about offering to give their story a better outcome. It’s certainly not about formulating your response (as I have so often done) so that you will come across as wiser and kinder than you really are.

For someone to tell you their story is a rare and precious gift. They are inviting you into their private world, letting you in to a place that few people have been allowed. You should value that trust and respect the gift.

But also, the gift of truly listening is equally a special gift to someone. You’re saying to that person, “You are not invisible, because I see you in your struggles and triumphs, joys and pains. You are not alone, because I am a witness to your story and I know where you’ve been and what you’ve been through.”

You earn the right to speak life and blessing into a person’s life by listening to not just their words, but the feelings behind those words. Many times, the person will be unable to understand their own feelings related to their story. You can share what their story made you feel and in that way help them understand their own emotions.

I want to be a better listener. I want to learn to listen to what you have to say, for that is one of the ways God often speaks to me. May we all learn to listen well.

Hank Sr and the Night Air

hankwilliams__span

I spent another night in downtown Franklin with two good friends. It was another picture perfect evening, weather wise and in every other respect. I could almost literally feel the smile of God over me as I walked with my friends and revisited my favorite spots.

On the way home, I selected Hank Williams because it felt right. I had the windows rolled down, the night air blowing in, and that plaintive voice from the past crooning me to a happy place on my way home.

Hank died over 60 years ago under mysterious circumstances that may never be fully known or understood. From what I understand, he led a very sad life. I read an apt description that he was going 90 miles an hour down a dead end street. But he could write some of the most poignant, heartfelt lyrics.

I’d rather listen to his music any day than most of what passes for country music these days. It feels mass-produced and manufactured, even though the production sounds a lot better and recording studios have come a very long way.

Sometimes, it’s good to go back. To revisit the old values and the old sayings. To remember the stories handed down through generations and the ancient wisdom time-tested and proven true.

Like this one. It is more blessed to give than to receive. If you want to save your life, you have to lose it. If you want to be treated a certain way, you have to treat others that way.

Or this. Love God with everything you’ve got and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. That’s the Bible in a nutshell, all the laws and commandments at their purest, and everything you need to know.

Oh, I almost forgot. You can’t love God until you’ve found out how much He loves you and then received that love as your own. You can’t love your neighbors if you haven’t discovered who you are and where you belong and found that you have priceless worth as one not only created by your Abba Father, but redeemed by Him.

That’s an old truth that will never ever get old for me.

 

 

Things I Love 26: Sowing the Seeds of Love

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“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ” (Ann Voskamp).

“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change” (Ann Voskamp).

I think for me two of the biggest agents of change have been 1) letting go of expectations of others and 2) receiving all of life as a gift. Making this list has changed my outlook. I have too many blessings to not see God in my daily world. I have been blessed too much not to want to be a conduit of blessing to others. That said, the list picks up at #726

726) God using me in the lives of those around me who don’t know Jesus to be Jesus to them.

727) The moment when you realize that the headache is gone.

728) Unplanned naps on Sunday afternoons.

729) Any time I get a chance to have a conversation with my smart and funny friend Alex.

730) Getting compliments on my t-shirts.

731) Not being naked in public.

732) The anticipation of coming to a good part in a book I’ve already read before.

733) Old Glenn Miller recordings.

734) Those pens that have the four different colors of ink.

735) Finding something of mine that I thought was lost forever.

736) That everybody doesn’t think like I do.

737) The smell of a freshly painted room.

738) The way Jesus told the best stories.

739) Gibson’s Donuts (even though there aren’t any in Nashville . . . yet).

740) The scent of honeysuckle in the air.

741) Picking blackberries in summer.

742) Being a Bapticostalicopalean (Baptist+Pentecostal+Catholic+Episcopalian) at heart.

743) Dreams that refuse to die.

744) Goat cheese.

745) The idea of changing the world by changing one person’s world.

746) Hearing people’s stories of how Jesus found and rescued them.

747) Seeing the glow of a person coming out of the baptismal waters a new creation in Christ.

748) The smell of the tire section at Costco.

749) Road trips.

750) Capturing a moment and a feeling inside a photograph.

751) Old graveyards.

752) My book of Emily Dickinson poems that I’ve somehow managed to misplace.

753) That I’m over 3/4 of the way through my list.

754) The freedom of finally being able to forgive myself for not being perfect.

755) Wintergreen or spearmint gum.

756) A now discontinued flavor of Snapple called Ralph’s Cantaloupe Cocktail that actually tasted just like cantaloupes.

757) Memories of riding standing up on the back of my dad’s old pickup truck with Murphy the black lab in the middle, grinning like an idiot and loving every minute of it (I meant the dog, but I’m sure I was smiling a mile wide, too)

758) Finding one Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels in hardback at a used bookshop.

759) People who always give me the benefit of the doubt.

760) Those Market Fresh BLTs from Arby’s.