The Beauty of Scars

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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.

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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.

 

Throwing Rocks

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I’ve been tryin’ to get down
to the Heart of the Matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore” (Don Henley).

Kairos was fantastic as usual tonight. Amy Jo Girardier spoke on forgiveness, which probably is something that doesn’t come easy to any of us. Especially those who carry the scars of wounds and words from those who were supposed to nourish and protect.

For some reason, I thought about the scene from Forrest Gump where Jenny is throwing rocks at her old house. It’s the place where her own father abused her for years, where all her woundedness came from. After she throws the last rock, she collapses on the ground into weeping. Forrest Gump say a line which I think is the best line in the whole movie: “Sometimes there aren’t enough rocks.”

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Unforgiveness is like carrying rocks. You visualize confronting the person or persons who cut you with their words, who betrayed your trust, who let you down, who deserted you in your time of need, who feigned friendship while sticking the knife in your back. You imagine what it would be like to use the rocks to wound them like they wounded you.

It seems like the natural thing to do. You have every right to be angry, to hurt, to want justice– even revenge.

But maybe what God is calling you to do is to take those rocks and build an altar. On that altar, you sacrifice your right to be angry. You give up expecting that the person can fix what they did to you. You let go of hatred and of wishing them harm. Instead you learn to pray for them and even eventually love them.

Then you realize you’re not the only one wounded. The person who hurt you was acting out of his own woundedness. He’s continuing the cycle of violence, of cutting words, of lashing out, because it’s all he knows.

Forgiveness breaks the cycle. Forgiveness opens the door of the prison of hate and anger and bitterness and the person who walks out is you. You are the one set free when you choose to forgive.

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One of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis deals with forgiveness and the high cost that comes with it:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”

Forgiveness is hard, but in my experience, not forgiving and carrying the weight and burden of all that anger, bitterness, and hurt is harder.

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Easter Season Liturgy Part V

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“O God, Creator of heaven and earth:  Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

So I did the whole downtown Franklin thing again. It always does my heart good to be back there, revisiting my favorite haunts and breathing in the perfect spring night air.

I don’t really know what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. It seems so low-key compared to the tragic drama of Friday and the joyful triumphant victory of Sunday.

But I know what’s coming. I wonder what those disciples were thinking and feeling. Or the Marys. It must have seemed like the lowest point of their lives. All of their hopes and dreams and been awakened and they had only just begun to hope, then it was dashed and broken to pieces beyond recognition.

The one they thought would save them was dead in a tomb. They had seem the bloodied body, seen the moment when the spear went into Jesus’ side and both blood and water poured out. There was no doubt.

I’m glad I’m on this side of history and I know what’s coming. I know with the next sunrise comes Sunday and the empty tomb and a risen Christ. That’s where my hope lies.

I can’t imagine people whose faith won’t allow for miracles or resurrections. Would that even be faith at all? What if Jesus’ death were only an example and the only way He lived was in the memories of His followers? What kind of hope would that be?

Only a literal resurrection can give true hope. Only a Jesus who’s really and truly alive, with the wounds in His hands, feet, and side, could inspire the joy of Easter. That’s why I can’t wait for tomorrow and the celebration that comes with it.

 

More Beautiful Words

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“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.

Paying it Forward Again

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I had an idea. Maybe the next time you see a homeless person, instead of giving them money, maybe you should offer to buy them a meal.

I had that opportunity once and it blessed me as much as it blessed the homeless man who got a free meal. I know for certain it was a divine appointment and I knew in that moment the joy of being obedient.

When you get the chance to buy someone a meal and they ask why you are doing it, just  tell them, “I’m doing this in the name of Christ,” for the Bible says when you give someone a cup of cold water in the name of Christ, it’s Christ you’re serving.

Maybe you’ll get the chance to pay for the person behind you at Wendy’s or McDonald’s or Starbucks.

Maybe it you’ll be able to pay someone’s electric bill. Or water bill. Or phone bill.

Or maybe it will be an act of service like cutting someone’s lawn or cleaning up their gutters. You never know.

But meeting someone’s physical needs is only meeting them halfway. Jesus didn’t just heal people’s bodies; He healed their souls, too.

We’re called not just to bandage wounds, but to offer the ultimate healing found in Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity not just to offer a cup of cold water but to point to the Living Water that never runs dry. We can offer not just a sandwich to someone but the Bread of Life that eternally satisfies.

My prayer for you (and for me) is that we keep our eyes open for such opportunities. If you see someone selling those newspapers, buy at least one and give that person a bottled water or something warm to drink. Be willing to talk to them and listen to their stories. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and be open to sharing your own story.

On Valentine’s Day, remember Who first love you and me.

 

 

 

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

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“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.” (Henri Nouwen)

I’ve posted and blogged and mentioned multiple times before how the hardest person to forgive is often yourself. You know yourself too well and you know your own weaknesses because a certain adversary reminds you of them every single day.

I know I’ve blown it with a friend and the friendship won’t ever be the same again. We used to hang out and be good friends but now she won’t even sit on the same side of the room as me and we feel like really good acquaintances.

There are one or two (including that one at Starbucks) who have taken to actively disliking me and nothing I say or do will change that. For me, I have to remember that I can’t be friends with everyone and that it’s not my job to make every single person like me. It’s my job to be the best me possible.

But forgiveness isn’t optional. Not with others and especially not with ourselves. How dare I choose not to forgive myself when God (who incidentally knows me better than I do) has freely forgiven me? And why would I want to live under a cloud of condemnation when I don’t have to?

No one does relationships well. We mistrust each other. We read too much into silences and jests. We say the wrong things and fail to say the right things. Most of us have gotten used to the taste of shoe leather from sticking our feet in our mouths so often.

But real friendship between two believers is the Jesus in me communing with the Jesus in you. It’s practicing forgiveness and grace and blessing, giving these abundantly because we know our desperate need for all of the above.

You are not your past. Or your mistakes. You are not the names you’ve been called or that you’ve called yourself.

You are:

Redeemed

Forgiven

Blessed

Child of God

Beautiful

Beloved

To Die For

The One Your Abba Is Still Very Fond Of

May we speak not hurt but life, not wounds but blessings into each other. May we always look to see the best in ourselves and in others and call out the beautiful and glorious in each other. May we learn to love others and ourselves the way God has always loved us.

Kingdom of God, Here and Now

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“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.

Jesus Is Your Peace

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This is just a reminder for those weary and worn ragamuffins who occasionally stray from the road and get lost in the dark from time to time. There’s always a Voice calling your name to lead you back. And the name of that Voice is the Prince of Peace.

When you’re tired and you can’t sleep, Jesus is your peace.

When the one you really like prefers someone else over you, Jesus is your peace.

When your spouse wakes up one morning and decides he or she doesn’t love you anymore and doesn’t want to be married to you anymore, Jesus is your peace.

When a friend whom you trusted hurts you and the wound goes deeper than pain, Jesus is your peace.

When your good intentions get maligned and people ascribe you malicious motives, Jesus is your peace.

When you have a week of Mondays at work and nothing seems to go right, Jesus is your peace.

When you’ve been out of work for months and begin to wonder if you even have anything worth offering to anybody, Jesus is your peace.

When you’re bending over a sick loved one and your only prayers are tears, Jesus is your peace.

When your child hovers between life and death and you are powerless to help, Jesus is your peace

Through whatever storms or calm, joy or sorrow, victory or defeat, gain or loss, Jesus has been, is, and will always be your peace.

Amen.

 

Praying for Boston Tonight

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“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

I, like so many of you, just happened to turn on the television and spent the next several minutes trying to figure out what was happening at the Boston Marathon. The more I watched, the more I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It felt like I was watching a disaster movie.

It was horrific. People being carried away with missing limbs and blood splatters on the streets isn’t what you normally see on the news, especially that early in the day. The same feeling I had on 9/11 came back, only this time it felt scarier even though the terrorist attack was on a much smaller scale. I thought, “This could have happened anywhere at any marathon or half-marathon or 5k. It could have been The Music City Marathon and one of my friends who got caught in the explosions.”

I still have trouble accepting that it really happened. Did some deranged lunatic really blow up a bomb, then set the second one to go off just as the first responders were arriving? Did he really put shrapnel int the bombs to make them more lethal? Did he target that 8-year old boy or did he just have the misfortune to be in the way?

I can’t fathom the logic behind something like this. This level of evil goes beyond anything my mind can comprehend. A part of me wants to see this guy caught and shown no mercy, the way he showed mo mercy to these victims.

Then I remember the story of Joseph. How he suffered atrocities at the hands of his own brothers. How he ended up sold into slavery, the first victim of human trafficking in recorded history.

I especially remember his words in Genesis 50. What people intended for harm and for evil, God turned it into good and to salvation for a whole nation. Not only did survival come out of these atrocities, but salvation came through the person of Jesus, from the lineage of David.

I don’t know how, but I do know God will turn this heinous evil into good– someway, somehow. I don’t mean the act itself was good or that the aftermath is anything worth celebrating, but a reason for all of us to mourn and weep.

Yet I do believe that there will be stories that come out of this that will glorify God. Stories of people who sacrificed their bodies and lives so that others could live. Stories of how people came together as one, running toward the carnage when others were running away, and giving a little glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like.

The most shocking part of all is that God offers forgiveness even to the very individual who plotted and carried out one of the worst acts of terrorism ever. No one is too low for God to reach and no one is beyond his love. No one.

So I’m praying for the families of the victims and for those who are suffering with wounds that are more than just physical. I’m praying for God to make this and every other act of evil right.

I’m praying more fervently than ever, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Yet I know that one day someone’s testimony of faith will start out something like “I remember exactly where I was when those bombs went off at the end of the Boston Marathon and when God showed up to me in a very real way.”

PS Interestingly enough, today’s Bible verse of the day on my You Version app was Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”