Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Of Scabs and Scars

So, of late, I have been contemplating my elbow.


(Don't worry, it gets better.) Short version, I ran into a mailbox about a week ago. Scraped up my left elbow pretty badly. It's now scabbed over and starting to peel off. And 's got me thinking...

In life, we get hurt. Sometimes we just get road rash. But sometimes we get wounded very deeply. And God, in His grace, sometimes lets those wounds scab over... protective mechanisms, if you will. This can look like burying memories, hiding feelings, escapism, false fronts, slapping a smile on it, deep distrust of others, keeping others at a distance (in a variety of ways)... and all that other good stuff. Now, I'm not encouraging that behavior. But sometimes it's a protective covering--a scab--over a wound that we just aren't equipped to deal with yet, or a wound that will take a lot of time and a lot of elements to heal. So I believe "scabs" can be used by Him as a vehicle of grace.

But I also am finding that there comes a time where the scab must come off, or it starts killing you in and of itself. It starts making the wound worse. Sometimes that scab must come off gently, being brushed off a piece at a time; but scabs were never meant to be our protection forever. If we open ourselves to the healing process--which can hurt in and of itself--new skin will grow. The scars are meant to fall off. This is really scary, though--the new skin beneath is incredibly sensitive and vulnerable, and oftentimes the scab comes off before the wound beneath is fully healed. We have to let the open, dangerous air touch us where we're weak. But I'm wondering... if we try to hold onto that protective scab forever, what will happen? Will the wound ever heal? Will we find ourselves with some kind of gangrene problem?

There's a natural process to wounds; emotional and physical, I'm finding. And I can only have faith that there is a higher Physician who guides both. He allows the scabs, and then there comes the day when He says "it's time for that to come off. Will you let Me help you through this?" ... and will we?

And then, it's true, there are scars. There are traces left from some wounds that will never heal--memories that will remain, fears that will have to be dealt with every day, battles that will have to be fought and faced until we die. That's okay; that's how it works with some wounds. And sometimes there are scars that last for years, but eventually fade. Sometimes they last forever.

But I find hope in the fact that scars are not scabs. Scabs hurt when you poke them. Heaven help the unlucky soul who tries to touch it before its ready (I know I've wanted to reactively punch one or two people who've bumped my elbow this week). Scabs bleed when you try too hard to get beneath them. Scabs mean the healing process has begun, but isn't complete, and may not be for some time. Scars are a medal of honor. A reminder, yes, and sometimes we want anything but a reminder. But a scar is a reminder of healing just as much as it is of wounding. Scars say "this is what happened to me, yes, but this is how I lived through it, this is what God did, this is how I came out stronger on the other end, this is how I'm still relying on Grace every day."

Both, I'm beginning to see, are a part of the healing process. But if you're in my boat, take hope, even as I'm trying to take it-- a scab doesn't mean we're as healed as we're going to get, and a scar doesn't mean we're damaged goods.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Been pondering some opposites lately... and we're not talking "stop" and "go" opposites here. Profound opposites. Because sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we greatly need an opposite--because an opposite is an antidote. But sometimes I think we don't think quite hard enough about opposites, and as such miss some interesting truths.

For example... fear. What is the opposite of fear? Courage? Bravery? How? Courage is merely acting in spite of fear. No, when you think about it, the opposite of fear must be love. (And, as such, the opposite of love is fear.) "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) So love is the antidote of fear. (Which kinda sucks for some of us, because love can seem very scary... yet it's the antidote to fear... but if you struggle with fear then... yeah. =____= But I digress.)

But what about others? Like... despair? Pain? I find those trickier in my ponderings.

Despair, hope. Kinda seems like a no-brainer, right? But I wonder... is the opposite of despair really hope? I could be wrong, but I don't think it is. Because the worst despair normally comes about when there's just the littlest bit of hope still left. Complete hopelessness is resignation. But "hope deferred makes the heart sick" and all that. I'm still very much chewing on this one, but could it be that the opposite of despair is faith? ("Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:2 )

Pain. This is an interesting one, and one that's been on my mind a lot. But I submit this to you: the fundamental opposite of (emotional) pain is beauty. It's a difficult one for me to find words to explain. Pain is a product of suffering, disquiet of the soul, brokenness, damage. Beauty in its profoundest sense is the product of peace, quiet, wholeness, and an unearthly sense of perfection. If we stop and listen to it, pure beauty--in any form--tells us "all will be well." Could be the beauty in a day with perfect weather, the beauty in a piece of art, the beauty in a moving piece of music, the beauty of poetry and words, the beauty in a person, the beauty of being in love, the beauty of God's Word... but beauty in and of itself seems to provide a sense of wholeness, of peace, even when peace doesn't make any sense. Ponder that one long enough and I think you'll come to agree with me. Fascinating stuff, to me at least.

Anyways. Just the wanderings of my mind of late. Fear... despair... pain... love... faith... beauty...Yup. All that good stuff.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Meet Me?

Lord, I can't take just one more valley
And I can't take just one more blow
If I'm not broken here already
Then, Father God, I just don't know

Oh I don't think that I can go on
This heavy heart is on the ground
And if I can't find peace already
Can what I'm looking for be found?

So if You hear me,
Please won't You meet me?
Come and make me whole again
'Cause I can't find You
I'm dead without You
Come and give me life again

And I wonder as I wander
If I can find my way back Home
'Cause it's not You that I've been seeking
I've tried to make it on my own

I don't deserve Your second chances
And I could never earn Your love
But, Father God, if You will have me
I know Your grace will be enough

Lord, if You hear me
Please won't You meet me?
Come and make me whole again
'Cause I can't find You
I'm dead without You
Come and give me life again

Oh oh oh
Come and give me life again
Oh oh oh
Come and give me life again

Monday, March 26, 2012

His Passion... Our Passion?

Watched the movie The Passion of the Christ tonight… man. Go watch if it you haven't. And if you have, watch it again. It's a great reminder. Yeah, it's gruesome but it always gets me crying because to me it's such a stark, strong picture of His love. A love so incredible it is willing to take all kinds of pain… for me. And for you.

When I watch the scourging scene in The Passion… and see that precious blood flying everywhere… and remember that that blood was shed for me, but also for you, and for the couple next door, and the homeless stranger, and the druggie up the road, and the raving atheist at the local college, and that jerk we all know, and the gal with a dozen piercings, and that guy who lives on Pennsylvania Ave, and the dictator thousands and thousands of miles away… it makes me think. 

It makes me think… how can I belittle or mock the people of whom Christ thought so highly? How can I say someone's not as worthy as someone else because maybe they're not as smart, or maybe they're not as knowledgeable or maybe they've got some struggle most people don't have? How can I ignore or be mean to them? How can I shun any of them? How can I NOT treat every human with graciousness, love and respect, regardless of how they treat me or how different they might be?

Guys--our Savior's blood was spilled for these people. They're the reason He died! If we don't strive to treat others with kindness and love the way He treated them, we're not only not obeying Him, we are in essence spitting on His sacrifice! Yeah, love is tough. Yeah, some of us aren't "good" at being loving or kind. Yeah, some of us have been hurt deeply and would like nothing more than to run away from this world (guilty!). None of us want to die to ourselves for the sake of someone else. But if any of those excuses change the fact that we're spitting on Christ's sacrifice when we don't love… I'd like to know. X)

My favorite part about the way The Passion portrays Jesus is His eyes when he looks at the ones who are betraying Him, mocking Him, beating Him, killing Him. His eyes are piercing with Truth… but they are also so gentle, so overwhelming with their love and compassion. If we are His children and He is in us… why doesn't the world see that in our eyes? We can preach to thousands of people, we can start great ministries, we can use so many gifts, we can have every theological problem solved, we can raise huge godly families… but if we have not Christ's love for others… we are only a resounding gong, a clanging symbol, we are nothing, we gain nothing.

We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Christ's love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14). I think we need to all be on our knees, begging Him to teach us His love… begging Him to help us understand the depths of His love for us. Because it is out of a deep understanding of that love that we will go forward in victory and make a difference in this dying, broken world. Truth is powerful, yes, but without a very real, very strong, very active, very visible love… it won't have the power to change the world. But the true, incredible love of Christ can.

So, do we love Him enough to take that love to the world He died for?

How can I speak of Your love?
How can I sing of its measure?
And how could I ever express
The depths of the joy that have filled me?

How can I ever repay?
And how could I ever be worthy?
What can I offer You, Lord?
Who gave Your all for me?

I wanna love like You love
Give like You gave
You held nothing back
Even for those who would slay You
I wanna love like You love
Forgive as You forgave
I nailed You to the Cross
And still You never stopped wooing me
Lord, I wanna love

How can I speak of Your grace?
How can I sing of its wonders?
Whatever did You see in me
To make You call me "friend"?

And how can I call You my Lord
Then turn on the ones You have ransomed?
Lord, empty this sinful heart
And fill it with Your love

I wanna love like You love
Befriend as You befriend
You chose lowly sinners
When You could have had any king
I wanna love like You love
See like You see
I was wasted by sin
Yet You saw the beauty You'd placed within
Lord, I wanna love

How can I speak of this joy?
How can I sing of this freedom?
I, once in bondage to sin
Now soar on the wings of Your mercy

And how can I think of myself
When You came and made Yourself nothing
Lord, take me--my every breath
From this moment on I'm dead to myself

I wanna love like You love
Serve like You served
You stooped to my feet
Though You are the King of Glory
I wanna love like You love
Die like You died
You gave everything
For a world that only despised You

Lord, I only despised You
'Til You called me by Your grace
Lord, I only despised You
'Til You washed me in Your blood
By Your love…

I'm gonna love like You love
Serve like You served
You stooped to my feet
Though You are the King of Glory
I gonna love like You love
Die like You died
You gave everything
For a world that only despised You

Lord, I wanna love… like You loved me
Lord, I'm gonna love… like You loved me
I wanna love.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Real or Not Real?"

So… I know people have mixed feelings about the Hunger Games trilogy, but there's one aspect of the third book, Mockingjay, that struck me as particularly useful as an analogy of our (very real) battle in this world.

In Mockingjay, one character is psychologically tortured by the enemy in such a way as to make him unable to correctly remember / interpret the truth of events in his life. Hallucinations are a big part of this as well. With this, the enemy can manipulate his behavior and perception of the world. Eventually, his allies are able to reverse some of the effects, but he is still very uncertain as to what is real and what is not real, because his ability to perceive the truth has been so brutally compromised. So because he knows he's susceptible to the enemy's lies, he gets into this habit/game of asking his friends/allies questions about reality (either past or present) to which they answer "real" or "not real." This helps him get his bearings and act in accordance with what is true.

It strikes me that we, as Christ-followers caught in a war against a very cunning, very deceptive Enemy, might do well to play this Real or Not Real "game" when we find ourselves under attack. And generally, the attacks will be very subtle--discouragement, doubt, lies about ourselves, about others, about our situation, about God, about His world, distortions of His truth. We're told to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." So when we catch ourselves feeling "down" or depressed or discouraged or in doubt… I submit this to you as a tactic:

Real or Not Real? Take those thoughts captive. First, identify the thoughts. What's causing the distress/discouragement/depression… what are you believing/thinking that is causing you to feel this way? And really think about just WHO'S voice is telling you these things. Is it God's? I doubt it. Not unless it's leading you to godly sorrow, repentance, and humility. Then play the "game" with God… take these thoughts before Him, before His Word. It might look something like this, if you're anything like me (and seeing as how you're all human, I think that's a safe assumption):
"I'm not worth loving. Real or not real?"
"Not real. I suffered and died for you, remember?"
"Oh, right. Howabout: I'm too stupid, too lazy, too weird to be of any good to You. Real or not real?"
"Not real. I have a magnificent purpose that only you can fulfill, and I have given you My Spirit to enable you to have victory and be used mightily in My kingdom."
"Oh, right. Well what about: You, Lord, put me in this fight alone, without reinforcements, without backup, without partners?"
"Not real. For one thing, I'm not just your Commander, I'm your closest, strongest partner. For another, I have an army and not just a bunch of lone rangers for a reason."
"Oh, that's a relief. But, then, what about--"

… you get the idea. X) We're told the truth will set us free. This doesn't just apply to salvation. If the Enemy can get us agreeing with the lies he feeds us, he gains leverage against us and, I believe, a certain degree of foothold in our hearts from which to work against us and foil our walk. The only way we can free ourselves from this and break that leverage against us is to break those agreements--to identify and reject his lies and replace them with the Truth.

Just remember, the Belt of Truth is the first article of spiritual armor we're told to don. Since we're talking Roman armor (on which Paul would be basing this), this belt could very well be referring to a special "belt" that--to be brief--made sure the rest of the armor stayed in place, no matter how much the soldier was jostled. If that Belt of Truth is compromised… chances are our armor will begin to shift and slip and we'll be much more vulnerable to other attacks.

Real or not real?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Take Back Earth

(Or, Fantasy and Reality--So Very Different? Part 1)

Well, last night, I was "dragged" into a crazy amount of roleplaying fun. It was totally awesome… in a nutshell, Earth was being invaded worldwide. One of my best friends was a seriously kick-(butt) Lieutenant, as were some of the new friends I made, and I was apparently the only medic in the whole crisis, oddly enough (funny, too, how it was mostly injured legs I was taking care of… go figure.) XD I'm sure most people on the outside thought we were all crazy, and maybe we were, but it was a blast anyways. ^_______^

But me being… well, me, it got me thinking. Something about last night struck a cord way deep down in my soul--a place that longs (strike that, pines) to be on the front lines of an epic clash between Good and Evil, longs for glory, that's never been satisfied with the mundane world around me. Fortunately for me (and others like me), I realize, I don't have to just write stories, be a gamer, or role-play and pretend I'm in a war of epic proportions and deadly consequences.

I was born into one.

Last night's motto was "Take Back Earth." As a Christ-follower, that should be my motto too (Great Commission, anyone?) I should whisper it to myself during the times when the fight seems impossible. I should strengthen my war-weary comrades with it. Heck, we should grab each other's forearms during the tough times and shout "NEVER GIVE UP! Send those [censored] bugs back to hell where they belong!! We can do this!" like we did last night. ^__^

...So…why...don't we?? The wars aren't that different besides the fact that one is far more real but also harder to see.

Maybe because we're too ready to see a host of Reapers invading Earth, and too unwilling to see our deeply entrenched Enemy and the scores of tactics he uses against us every day in our "normal" lives.

Maybe we're too ready to see complete strangers as vital allies in our struggle against an imaginary evil, and too ready to see our brothers and sisters in Christ as hypocrites, holier-than-thous, weirdos, people who annoy us, hurt us, would never understand us, you name it.

Maybe we're too ready to keep pushing against those alien invaders--even when our shuttles crash, our legs are blown off, our comrades are gunned down, and we're bone-weary and outnumbered--but far, far too willing to give up ground and give up hope when the Enemy (Devil) hammers us directly with accusation, condemnation, lies, temptations, hopelessness, (etc), or when our fleshly desires seem just too strong to overcome, or when the World entices us and sings its lulling siren song of complacency.

And maybe it's because we don't see ourselves as being in a war. Maybe if more of us began to really see the truth about the spiritual reality / war, we'd be banding together as vital allies instead of dividing over stupid things. Maybe we'd be bringing our injuries to those who can help us find healing and get back in the fight, instead of hiding our wounds and scars as much as possible and letting them fester. Maybe we'd be calling out our positions--our struggles, our enemy's positions, our victories, our defeats, our needs for reinforcement--over the comm, instead of pretending everything's fine and we don't need anybody. Maybe we'd be out on the front lines instead of trying to convince ourselves there is no war.

And maybe we'd be having more victory against the World, the Flesh and the Devil. I, for one, am not willing to live like a "civilian" when we're in the middle of the most epic war ever fought. I can see enough of it to know that closing my eyes to what I can see is a very bad idea. But I know I'm not meant to fight it alone... nor am I even meant to go in "just me and God." I'm in an army, a Body, for a reason. So, who's got my back? I'll cover you if you'll cover me. Any recon units? Any infantry divisions? Anyone who knows that what we see with our physical eyes is only part of reality?

Em, over and out.

Take Back Earth.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Jehovah, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." II Corinthians 10:3-5

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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." Ephesians 6:10-12

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  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." Ephesians 6:17-18

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:18

It's not like I'm walking alone
Into the valley of the shadow of death
Stand beside one another
'Cause this ain't over yet
I'd be willing to bet that  if we don't back down
You and I'll be the ones
That are holding the crowns in the end

When it's over we can say "well done"
But not yet, 'cause it's only begun
So pick up and follow me
We're the only ones
To fight this thing until we've won
We drive on and don't look back
Doesn't mean we can't learn from our pasts
All the things that we mighta done wrong
We coulda been doing this all along

Everybody with your fists raised high
Lemme hear your battle cry tonight!
Stand beside or step aside,
We're on the frontlines.

And we'll be carryin' on until the day it doesn't matter any more
Step aside--you forgot what this is for
We fight to live, we live to fight,
And tonight you'll hear my battle cry

We live our lives on the front lines
We're not afraid of the fast times
These days have opened up my eyes
And now I see where the threat lies

Everybody with your fists raised high
Lemme hear your battle cry tonight!
Stand beside or step aside,
We're on the frontline.

~"Frontline" by Pillar

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Story of the Lonely Girl and the Loving God

Today, I wanted to share a little story/testimony I sorta "stumbled upon" illustrating the love and faithfulness of God. Good reminder, too, of the sovereignty of God to use even tough or tragic things in life for our ultimate good.
There once was a little girl we'll call "Amelia." Now, Amelia was raised in a loving, godly home, had a cheery disposition, a vivid imagination, and an interest in almost everything. But, sadly, Amelia had been born a little..."different." Among other things, this led to her feeling very, very isolated in her heart. For as long as she could remember, deep down Amelia had felt a sucking loneliness and sense that, no matter where she went, she just didn't "belong." But none of it really made sense to her, so she went on with her life, melancholy all the time, absolutely miserable sometimes, and distancing herself from reality as much as possible. By the time she was 12, she'd decided that she would never find a soulmate, someone who fit the weirdly shaped puzzle piece of her heart. By the time she was 13, she'd figured out that she could at least snag a few friends that were sorta-close if she made herself something she…wasn't exactly. But even then, her best friends were the friends in her head and she wished more than anything she could live with them. By the time she was 14, the games she'd tried playing a couple years had fallen apart and only made her more miserable.

So that lonely little girl, who could never find her place in life, got angry at God--angry that He'd never been there for her, angry at everyone for telling her that a relationship with God could be deep like love when obviously that wasn't happening, even though she'd "said the prayer" when she was little and read her Bible and knew so much about Him. She told Him He'd have to come find her if He was there and wanted her, 'cause she sure's heck wasn't going to hurt herself looking for Him any more.

Fortunately for Amelia, God took her up on the challenge. Soon after that, He gave her something she'd always thought was impossible: a soulmate. And for the first time in her life, she wasn't lonely deep down any more. Without the loneliness always bogging her down, she began to change slowly. She dropped many of the games she'd played, because, for the first time, she felt comfortable just being herself. She even began to peek out at reality and think that, maybe, it wasn't such a horrible place after all. After a couple months had passed, she even began to reconsider her idea of God and her heart began to soften towards Him. Since her soulmate seemed to know Him and love Him--and wasn't just one of "those people" who were hyped about God but never understood her--she thought that, maybe, it was possible to really know and love Him after all. That maybe God would accept her as-is and be her friend, too. For the first time in her life she was really, truly happy and hopeful about life.

But then, just as things were the best they'd ever been for Amelia… God took away that soulmate. It shattered her--the one person who'd ever made her life a really bright, happy place, ripped away from her. It seemed to her that, just as she'd feared, she was destined to be lonely forever. But, thankfully, God had drawn her to Himself enough so that, instead of falling into a loneliness worse than she'd ever felt before, she finally saw Him… saw how wrong she'd been all those years, and saw that He was her ultimate soulmate. And thus, she began a relationship with Him that quickly became more precious to her than anything else on Earth and, eventually, made her world a bright place again. The lonely little girl had finally found the Lover of her soul.

Now, typically this is where the "and they lived happily ever after" would go. Unfortunately, coming to God didn't instantly put her shattered heart back together.  The next two years of her life were the hardest she'd ever endured, in which her newfound relationship with Christ was severely tested and refined. But, thankfully, the story ends, not with a "happily ever after," but with the blessed assurance that, even though her road may be marked out as a lonely one, she will always have at least one companion close by her side, for the Lover of her soul walks with her now, and always.
"Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee." ~Saint Augustine

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we've come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say…

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, you are faithful
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.

~"Never Once," Matt Redman