Archives For suffering

Torn to Heal

June 18, 2014

Torn to Heal, God’s good purpose in suffering
by Mike Leake

I read Mike Leake’s book Torn to Heal almost a year ago and kept meaning to review it, and kept forgetting. In my initial read for the endorsement, I said that Mike, “has taken the ugliness of suffering, turned it over in his capable hands and shown God’s goodness and faithfulness in the midst. More than simple encouragement for those suffering, it is a handbook of scriptural truths about who God is and how He sustains.” I maintain that truth today. This short book is one of the most helpful books on suffering I have ever read. Mike does not sugarcoat suffering or get through that part quickly in order to get to the practicals of how to deal with it. He winsomely and carefully brings the reader through the pain of suffering to the whole and beautiful goodness of God.

Leake 364

Awaiting a Savior

June 10, 2014

Awaiting a Savior, The gospel, the new creation, and the end of poverty
by Aaron Armstrong

This book is the book I’ve wanted to exist for a long time—and now it does. In Awaiting a Savior, Aaron Armstrong talks about the roots of poverty, not in economic terms, but spiritual terms. Aaron brings with him knowledge as an employee of a charity, but also an obvious study of the subject biblically. In a strangely refreshing way, he exposes poverty for what it really is at the root: the result of sin, and not just the sin of others, but our own sin, and not just our own sin, but original sin. He doesn’t make excuses for poverty in a “what will be will be” way, but instead joins every act of poverty with the greatest display of riches: grace and the gospel. I found myself tearing up time after time in this book and want to give it to every person I know who asks the question, “What can I do about the problem of poverty!?” I highly recommend this short and powerful book.

awaiting-a-savior3d1

trees

If you are a Villager, or you podcast The Village’s sermons, this weekend Matt is preaching from II Corinthians 5. If you struggle with doubt, I encourage you to listen. One of the things I love about my church is that it is a safe place to wrestle with sin and the brokenness that sin brings into our lives. As I’ve been reading Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones, I’ve been so freshly encouraged to be honest not only about my sin, but also the brokenness that trickles down as a result of it. Note: if you haven’t read Spiritual Depression, I cannot recommend it more highly.

From Chapter III:

What is the cure for [spiritual depression]? For the moment I shall give principles only. The first principle is evident: above everything else avoid making premature claim that your blindness is cured. It must have been a great temptation to this man to do that. Here is a man who has been blind. Our Lord puts spittle upon his eyes and says to him: ‘Do you see?’ The man says: ‘I see.’ What a temptation it must have been to him to take to his heels and announce to the whole world: ‘I can see!’ The man, in a sense, could see, but so far his sight was incomplete and imperfect, and it was most vital that he should not testify before he had seen clearly.It is a great temptation and I can well understand it, but it is a fatal thing to do. How many are doing that at the present time (and are pressed and urged to do so), proclaiming that they see, when it is so patent to many that they do not see very clearly and are really still in a state of confusion. What harm such people do. They describe men to others as trees, walking. How misleading to the others!

The second thing is the exact opposite of the first. The temptation to the first is to run and to proclaim that they can see, before they see clearly; but the temptation to the second is to feel absolutely hopeless and to say: ‘There is no point in going on. You have put spittle on my eyes and you have touched me. In a sense I see, but I am simply seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ Such people often come to me and say that they cannot see the truth clearly. in their confusion they become desperate and ask: ‘Why cannot I see? The whole thing is hopeless.’ They stop reading their bible, they stop praying. The devil has discouraged many with lies. Do not listen to him.

What then is the cure? What is the right way? It is to be honest and to answer our Lord’s question truthfully and honest. That is the whole secret of this matter. He turned to this man and asked: ‘Do you see ought?’ And the man said, absolutely honestly: ‘I do see, but I am seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ What saved this man was his absolutely honesty.

Now the question is, where do we stand? The whole purpose of this sermon is just to ask that question—where do we stand? What exactly do we see? Have we got things clearly? Are we happy? Do we really see? We either do or we do not, and we must know exactly where we are. Do we know God? Do we know Jesus Christ? Not only as our Saviour but do we know Him? Are we ‘rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory?’ That is the New Testament Christian. Do we see? Let us be honest; let us face the questions, let us face them with absolute honesty.

A few nights ago I sat on the corner of our couch, faced my friend, and wept. Hot, sad, gross tears. The sort that feel shameful even as they fall from your face because you know they’re selfish—but you can’t change the hurt, the wounding you feel. The injustice of pain.

Whenever I hear even whispers of any sort of prosperity gospel—that if we do righteous acts, God will respond with righteous acts—my skin crawls with the falsity of it. But I cannot help the sneaking presence of it in my heart, even on my best day, especially on my best day.

I did this and this is how you repay me, Lord? I was faithful. I was righteous. I was long-suffering. I was. I am. And you are what? Where? Where are you?

Tonight I’m thinking of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and of entering into Christ’s sufferings. I’m thinking of the agony of the garden, those last moments when Jesus asked His brothers: can’t you even for one minute stay with me? Stay with me. Be with me here. In my last moments? In my sufferings? There’s a part of me that just longs to be there, in that place, with Christ. I am like the child in the back of the classroom waiting to be picked, the woman with the issue of blood pressing through the crowds, Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water—begging to be let into what He’s doing—even in His sufferings.

But when I taste those sufferings, oh, how I blanche. How I balk. How I complain. How I fear. How I demand.

Many people can’t handle a God who would slay, but tonight I know that even in the midst of the slaying, He is a staying God. Even when I leave, He follows through. When I fear, He stands on. When I barter and cajole and beg and plead, He offers without cost, without money. He slays so He can heal.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

A month ago today was to be my wedding day.

I was never the girl pouring over scrapbooks of wedding ideals or scrawling my crush’s names in margins on notebooks, I am far too pragmatic for such things. I wore a ring and I planned a wedding.

But today I am not wearing a ring and passed through March 16 with one long sigh and then sleep.

I suppose sometime the shame will lift, the feeling of failure will abate, the questions I ask of God and myself will be quelled. But for today they hang heavy, shrouding all of me. I am strangely okay with the hiddenness of today—though I long for the joy that comes in the morning.

He must increase, I must decrease.

. . .

Sayable has always been a place of vulnerability and transparency. If you know me in flesh, you know I am no over-sharer—quite the opposite, I must be mined for information. But here, on Sayable, I have no shame, or haven’t. The whole point of Sayable is to say; yet the past months have been a time of shame, fear, questions, and quiet, and this has bled into all my writing, especially here.

Some say, “No need to go public,” and some argue, “No one needs to know anyway!” But this past week I read yet another account of a man fallen from ministry and think to myself, “If we cared less about what people thought, and more about ministering through our weaknesses, I wonder if we’d ever get so high we had a place to fall from?”

The thing about ministering through weakness is you have to go straight through it, diving, like the poet Adrienne Rich said, into the wreck. But diving through and into is painful and revealing and I’m afraid I may still fall in the meantime.

There is no great theology to be found in the todaying of my life. It is the punctualness of my inner clock, waking to the same shame and sadness, the fear that because God is enough, all I ever get will be God—and will He be enough? Really enough? I know He will be, but if I don’t ask the question, I won’t remember the answer four-hundred times a day, and I need to remember the answer.

What is diving if not one long fall? Knowing I am caught and held, amidst the wreckage, among the damage, to find the treasure.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
Adrienne Rich

Wipe that Glass

January 7, 2014 — 1 Comment

The first thing we know about God is He is Creator. He takes nothing and makes something. He makes many somethings. More somethings than any one of us will ever see in our entire lifetime.

Staggering.

I understand God as Creator, but if He is Creator, that means He is infinitely creative—and that is something I will never be able to grasp or understand.

He is involved in every iota, every molecule, every atom, every gene, every thought, every action—and He is infinitely creative, which means He never stops creating.

Just thinking about that for three minutes staggers me.

But it becomes so real, so personal, when I think about all the ways He has been creative with me—and the accompanying realization that He isn’t finished with me yet. He is still creating, still teaching, still growing, still perfecting, still forming.

So an infinitely creative God, constantly creating and recreating His people, is a God who can be trusted to not make mistakes. Every scrap of my spectacular story, every rag of my richest rich, every moment of my mind—these form who I am and who I am becoming. He knew the washed up, backwards, inside-out, upside-down story He’d bring me through and He knew that through the mess I’d see Him.

And I’d see Him through a glass dimly, but that dirt and grime, that’s mine. I own that grime. God let me have that grime because otherwise I’d never understand His holiness, His set-apartness. Now all I can do is never stop asking Him to wipe that glass clean.

I love that.

I really love that.

I love it because it’s my hope, more than anything, that we’d spend our lives helping others to clean that grime. To take a rag and say, “You too? Me too. Let’s clean it together. Let’s see Him more clearly, love Him more for Who He truly is.”

I don’t know what your grime is, but I know God knows it. He made it, every atom and molecule. He knows your issues with fundamentalism, gender roles, abuse, theology, culture, suffering, depression, death, divorce, fear. He knows it all. And He’s so creative that He knows how to draw you in, grime covered you, and show you Himself, holy and splendid, majestic and clean.

It’s spectacular.

Counting Down

January 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

It is midmorning and I spread the logs apart, the time for morning fires over, the day’s work ahead. The embers still crack and spark and I stare at their orange and grey glare for a few minutes more.

There has been a dormant joy in my heart these last months. Depression is never such a stranger to me that I don’t recognize her creeping around the eaves and windows of my heart. We are old enemies, she and I, and old friends too.

She is different this time around. She knows where my faith lies and my certainty rests, and it isn’t in my hope or future, but His glory. I count all my hope and future as loss in the surpassing joy of knowing Him. But I have to count it and the counting never ceases.

If all I count are the blessings and joys, will I hold to tightly to the losses when they come? I ask it rhetorically but I ask it earnestly. I know idolatry, we have been friends too. If I do the math, it must only be that I decrease and He increases. In this life only one of us gets to live. It is in heaven, in final glory, that we are both alive.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” said the man who would be a martyr. I look around me and grasp at things, hopes, dreams, losses, always keeping, never giving.

God, help me lose.

Help me spread wide the logs, chance the death of flame, let the embers burn themselves out, and help me do the work of the day. Help me count as loss all things—even good things. Turn my wins upside down and my face to you. Let my counting not be accumulating but subtracting til there is nothing left but You.

A hedge of doubt

June 24, 2013

I woke this morning for the first time in weeks without the heaviness of condemnation on me. I haven’t been able to shake those feelings lately, no matter how hard I’ve pressed myself against the robe, no matter how much I’ve bent my face over Jesus’ feet. I’ll be honest, I began to doubt some things. Even now, writing this, my mind is replaying a litany of doubts. Do you really believe that God loves you? Do you really believe you’re worth something to Him? Do you really believe that anyone could love you at all? What makes you think He’ll be happy with you?

They pile up and attack what I know to be true. And so this morning when I woke up gently, quietly, I held my breath for a moment or two, waiting for the doubts to assemble and charge. But they didn’t. And I couldn’t figure out why.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of the greatest gifts God gave me was the gift of doubt. I doubt that many of us would see it as a gift, but I know it to be the deepest grace to me. He gave me the wide pasture of doubt and pleasant boundary line of truth. He wounds me with my doubt, but heals with me with His truth.

Like most who grew up in the church in one manner or another, I bought the lie that a fortified moralism would lead me to paths of great joy—purity until marriage, marriage by 22, children by 24, ducks lined up before me and behind me, I got them in a row. I organized my life to make sense.

And then life didn’t make sense. Life dealt me, as one person called it, a bad hand. I’ll never forget walking away from that conversation wondering how to play these cards. What do you do with a handful of threes and no partner in this game? I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

You fall full into it, bathe yourself in it, wash your soul with sin and shame. When the answers you’ve been given by well-meaning people fail, when the theology you believe (that God responds when we pray harder, give more, seek deeper, and repent faster) proves you the fool, and when God does not seem good, I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

And here’s the thing about doubt: it is a seemingly endless plateau. God has given us the gift of reason and logic and thought, and so doubt will take us where nothing else can because there is always another question, another possibility. Even if we bump up against a wall of truth, we are like little squares in Atari games, bouncing for eternity.

Doubt doesn’t seem like a gift.

This morning I read the first chapter of Job, the righteous man who we might also say was dealt a bad hand. But today I noticed a word: hedge.

“Have you not put a hedge around him and all that he has?” The enemy asked God before he unleashed upon Job the full fury of his minions.

God permitted the enemy to do what he would, only told to keep his hand from Job himself, and today I think about the hedge God has set around us. I want to believe that the hedge prevents the enemy from coming in, but that is not what we’re told. No, the hedge prevents the enemy from going outside the bounds of what God has set for him. It is Job’s hedge, but it is also the enemy’s.

This morning I woke up and felt myself hit the hedge. Not my limitations, but God’s. Not the end of myself, but the time when God holds up His hand and says “No more. This is the safest place I have for you. Within these boundary lines. Here. All the rest I have for you lies within these boundaries. All the struggles I have for you too lie within these boundaries. But do not worry: I have set this hedge around you and the enemy will not prevail.”

 

I’m loathe to take a camp, step off the fence, call my cards, or slap a label on myself, but all it takes is one quick glance through Sayable, a brief perusal of the publications for which I write, and the local church I call home for others to safely land me in with the neo-reformed. I won’t reject the title, but in normal fashion, I will not lay claim to it. However, there’s been something rotten in the state of Denmark recently and all fingers are pointing back at, well, I’ll say “us” for the sake of this post.

If you have no idea what rotten piecemeal is being bandied about, I have no interest in educating you. Others have done so much more thoroughly than I, with much more anger than I, with many more bones in the game than I. I weigh in today because May was supposed to be my sabbatical month and instead I have been peppered with more questions than ever on why I haven’t written on the SGM civil suit.

Here are the main reasons:

1. I am not affiliated in any way with SGM. Though I may be affiliated with those who are affiliated with them, we can play that game all day in every which way. Kevin Bacon anybody? These days everyone knows everyone somehow. It is a small world after all.

2. I am not a lawyer, but I think I am a fairly intelligent person, and even I had a bit of trouble getting my mind around the legal jargon of all the documents. And I’ve been in my share of courtrooms, with my share of lawyers spouting legal jargon—two can play that game. All I’m saying is, someone wants to win and so it’s hard to trust a system where winning is the goal. Last shall be first and all that.

3. I’m one of those fools who trusts the men who keep watch over my soul. Maybe that play isn’t for everybody, but I figure the Bible spent a lot of time talking about it, so nuff said.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Just because I didn’t say anything about it, though, doesn’t mean I didn’t feel complicit in the alleged ongoing silence by “us.” I was a bit confused as to why men and women I respected within the Church at large weren’t weighing in on the suit at all, save from a post by Tim Challies. It is good to be slow to speak, yes, but not speak at all? It didn’t seem right. I knew I didn’t have anything to add to the civil suit conversation, but surely something could be said to acknowledge the situation period?

(Adding my voice to the cacophony of the Christian blogosphere wouldn’t assuage those out for an admission of guilt, though, if you’re wondering why I didn’t say anything. I’m under no illusions—I might be affiliated with those affiliated with SGM, but I’m no Kevin Bacon, if you get my drift.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In the light of more recent occurrences, though, and now that some of “us” have issued a public statement, I thought a few things might be said. Take them for what they’re worth to you. Remember comments aren’t open on Sayable ever so I’m not shutting you down and there’s no need to respond. They’re just my simple thoughts for those who might need them.

If you are a pastor:

Please protect your sheep. I meant what I said above about trusting those who keep watch over my soul. I mean that because the Bible says it and I trust the words of God. However, you, by nature of your position and your God-given authority, help illuminate those words for your sheep. You can use or abuse your authority and position, and you can, unknowingly, be the voice of the accuser to people—even in your silence. Always protect your sheep. If one of your talented, seemingly godly, charismatic sheep turns out to be a wolf, go after him. If one of your sheep leaves the fold, go find her. Pastor your people, don’t just preach at them.

If you were abused:

This case feels like the nail in the coffin, trust me, I know. Even if it wasn’t the same as your experience, you can easily relive your experience every time someone dismisses the concerns of the victims, every time someone seems complicit with their silence. Your heart means well here. The grace of God for you takes a horrific experience and gives you the tools to minister to these issues in a way those higher-up might never be able to do. That is not your blight or your stain, that is the precious work of grace to take the broken and make beautiful. Now is your time to speak in and with grace.

If you were an abuser:

You did wrong and you know this. You ought to make recompense for what is considered a crime in the eyes of God and the judicial system. But this does not mean forgiveness is withheld from you, or should be withheld until you “pay for what you did.” Forgiveness doesn’t work that way. I pray you know the fullness of the gospel covers your crimes, but does not blot them from history. Repent, accept the judicial punishment, and if you are His Child, look forward to a lifetime of His grace and an eternity in His presence.

If you want to leave the church because of this:

Part of me wants to say, please do, and trust me, there’s no snark in that statement. I’m fully convinced that no matter how far you run, you cannot outrun the wild, ferocious, loving heart of our God. If leaving the Church for a while helps you clear yourself of the clutter of its underbelly, please do. You have the freedom to leave abusive situations, Christ sets us free to do that, and you should. But I will also say this, as a child who has seen her fair share of the underbelly, if you’re His? You’re grafted in. You’re knit so tightly into His body and flesh, his scars and blood-bought redemption that you can’t leave the Church because you are part of it. And it’s beautiful. Really beautiful when you see it like that.

If you are neo-reformed (or whatever it is called these days), but embarrassed by the silence or complicit responses:

Can I implore you to press in close to your leaders, your elders, your editors, and your pastors. Sometimes they know things about a situation that you don’t know, isn’t public knowledge, isn’t on some legal document, and isn’t widely known. Sometimes they’re withholding comment because it could actually make it worse for the most helpless of the situation. You don’t know. There’s a lot of speculation, regardless of who you are and who you know and who you know who knows someone else. You aren’t Kevin Bacon, you just saw one of his movies once or twice. Reserve judgement.

If you know someone who knows someone (who was abused, who went to an SGM church, or anyone at all):

One of the things I love about the Bible is there are all these portions where it’s just one man or one woman and God (or the enemy). There are no eye-witnesses, it’s just Moses and the burning bush, Daniel and the lions, David and the bears, Jesus and the enemy. We get this birds-eye view into the situation, but really, when it happened it was just them there.

So we have perceptions of how things looked or played out, but I’ll bet you could poll any thirty of us and we’d all have a different setting in mind for Moses and his burning bush. There would be similarities, of course, but it would be different. This is how it is to hear any story second hand. We can know that some things are true, but some things are simply perceptions. Because of this, it is almost always better to reserve your own words about another person’s experience. There may be truth to it (and in this case specifically, it seems like there is definitely much truth to it), but the retelling of it multiple times will never end well. Mourn with those who mourn, bring it to the authorities if need be, but keep silent about the specific matter unless you know you speak the canonized truth.

If you are a mere onlooker:

If you’re just a casual reader, a blog reader, a curious atheist, a questioning agnostic, I am sorry. This entire situation, from twenty years ago until today is unfortunate and shameful. This is not becoming to the Church and I deeply regret it happened. However, let me say this, I am firmly convinced the Church tries to keep its wedding dress too squeaky clean, and this case is a perfect example of it. The reality is we’re blemished and broken, spotted and wrinkled, and Christ is the only way we’re getting presented cleansed. He’s it. It’s not through a denomination, a pastor, a friend, a court system, or a blog post that the resolution of all things comes, it’s Him. Him alone. Be encouraged, there’s room at the table and we don’t mind if you’re messed up. Really. We’re messed up too.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

That’s all. I know this is long, and I’m breaking sabbath to share it, but I couldn’t sleep and I love to sleep.

Go in peace, brothers and sisters, pastors and sheep, abused and abusers, doubters and finders, He is faithful to complete His work. He seals it with His spirit.

Two Tuesdays ago I burned myself; my hand brushed the side of the cast iron pan while my eggs sizzled and spit. I jumped back and let a loose word slip out. First instincts kicked in and I wanted to thrust my hand in a bowl of icy water but I reached for the honey instead. In my family honey was the remedy for allergies and colds, burns and cuts. We bought it by the bucket.

Gracious words, these are like the honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Prv. 16:24)

And this is what I meditate on today because my heart was burned this week. Unknowingly, unassumedly, words cursed across my heart, searing and scourging. I want to self-medicate with quick fixes or find comfort in the coldness of a hardened heart, but I reach for the honey instead.

Honey pulls the swollen skin in, keeps the bacteria out, lessens the scar, and soothes in the process.

Lord, I confess I need honey. And I need it from You. I need what is sweet to the soul and health to these bones. I have been cracked and crushed and this week I feel pressed from all sides, fearful of everyone and everything. And, Lord, I don’t understand why you use sticky substances to seal the Spirit’s work. I don’t know why what feels most natural and right, is sometimes not what is best. And, Lord, I want what is best.

And I trust you to cover me over with it, bathe me in it, and supply me with it as often as I ask.

So I’m asking.

E&A-Honey-Opener_(Kopie)

Backwards Math

February 16, 2013

While a friend and I were grocery shopping today, I mentioned that it seems more and more of my friends are not only divorced already, but on their second marriages. We counted my friends on my fingers and I didn’t know whether to count them as couples or as individuals. Two or one? There’s nothing impressive about larger numbers when you have to do division to get there. Backwards math.

I know marriage must be hard and I can’t even imagine how hard. But I know it cannot be as hard as splitting in half what God has joined together.

A friend divorced last year and he asked me once what he could do in the aftermath. I had only one thing to say: when he spoke of his ex-wife to their children, he not call her “your mother” because this puts the ownership of all his and her dysfunctions on small shoulders never equipped to own all that. She is their mother, true, as truly as he is their father. But call her just “Mom,” and pray she counters in point.

Even if you tell your children they are not responsible for your divorce, can I tell you right now they will probably believe they are? Whether they are five years old or twenty-five years old, there will be questions in every crevice of their soul nagging, demanding, accusing. There is nothing you can do to assuage this—pulling adhesives apart leaves residue.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tonight I am thinking of how Jesus taught us to pray: Our Father.

Ours.

A shared Father. The Son shared His Heavenly Father with us. Us?

Our Father.

I had conversation a few weeks ago with a near stranger and she asked me how I could serve a God who caused bad things to happen to good people. I thought for a few minutes and asked her if her parents were still married. “No, of course not,” she said, as though divorce is so common now it should be assumed. “Does your mother refer to your father as ‘your father’?” I asked. “Yeah, so what?” She said.

“Do you ever feel the weight of all the ways your mother felt wronged by him on your shoulders? as though it was your fault? and are you sometimes ashamed of him? even if he is doing and has done his best your whole life?”

Her shoulders fell and she nodded, dropping her eyes.

Sometimes I feel like this about God, I said to her. Because the truth is that I don’t know why bad things happen to people. I don’t know why you got saddled with the guilt of a broken man and the accusations of a broken woman. But sometimes I feel the heaviness of owning the explanation and hope of the world on my shoulders because it is my Father who has created it.

I don’t know why we seem like we have to bear the weight of a broken world on our shoulders. But I do know this: if you’re His child, He’s our Father. And when we can’t bear the weight of Him being our Father, take comfort in the reality that Jesus sat on a mount with His disciples, sinners, and taught them to pray to Our Father, teaching us to enter into brotherhood with Him. Creating oneness out of brokenness.

He is infinitely good, incapable of doing wrong.

Always does what is best for His children, all of them.

son

Broken Bodies

February 12, 2013

I wake broken today. It is barely light outside, my weekend, my rest, and I feel unrested and restless.

I go back to bed. I read for an hour, then pull on a flannel shirt, find my way to a cloud covered lake and wish, like Joni, that I had a river to skate away on.

This brokenness, it is present in ways that prick and pin me against myself, against the mirror of my soul, showing me myself and the ugliness within.

I call a friend a few hours later to confess the brokenness, but she has had a hard day and she tells me stories for forty minutes and at the end I am too tired to say the simple words: I’m broken. And so I tell her instead the good news belonging to some friends and I leave my brokenness out. I am ashamed to be broken and ashamed to have it so tight around my throat, constricting and felt.

Tonight I am meant to stand at the front of our sanctuary, our place of rest and worship, and I am meant to serve the bread and the wine alongside another. And perhaps they will have felt their brokenness today too. Perhaps they will know their humanity constricting and tight. Perhaps their heart will feel as fragile as the wineglass they hold, as broken as the bread I hold.

Here is what I know of brokenness and here is what I know of communion: it cannot be done alone.

As He has entered into our sufferings, born a babe in a cruel manger in a cruel world, body broken and bruised, we enter into His. And as we enter into His, we enter into others. And as we enter into theirs, they enter into ours. We share the broken body, the poured out blood, we partake of Him but we do it with one another.

We cannot do it alone. Any of it.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
I Peter 4:13

000b3e470c8e0cce112081d7f2cb8d6c

That God Doesn’t Exist

February 7, 2013

Before I knew I would move a thousand miles from four seasons and local coffee shops, before I knew that my faith was going to fall apart on the threshold of spring and questions about tithing, membership, and provision, before all that. This all happened before that.

I knew that God wasn’t real and if He was real, He wasn’t good, and if He was good, He wasn’t good to me. What I couldn’t wrap my mind around was why I’d been dragged through the whole charade in the first place. Why a decade of spirituality and suffering and questions and confidence? Why all that if He was just going to walk me into the desert, spin me around in circles, and tell me to sort it out from there?

f7f4d09d5b30d14268f283105387e37a

One of the first sermons I heard preached after I moved down here was from a series about authority. In it my pastor, who was still in the middle of 18 months of chemotherapy for a brain cancer that kills most of its victims, said these words, “I believe that He did not cause my cancer, but He could have stopped it, and He chose not to.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There are all sorts of mental gymnastics in faith, right? In that sentence above you could spend hours and weeks and months trying to sort out what each word means and how it plays itself out. You might decide you cannot serve a God who doesn’t cause suffering, but could stop it and chooses not to. But in that one sentence, my mind stopped the questions and just believed.

Because here is the truth about what God promises and what He doesn’t:

He promises He is good and He promises His word endures forever.

He promises eternity to His children and He promises justice to us all.

He promises His character is inscrutable and generations will speak of His faithfulness.

And those promises trump. They win. They win because they pile these light momentary afflictions of cancer and unbelief, suffering and fear, and they place them in the hands of a Creator, an Artist, an All Good God, and He blows away the chaff, the things that feel like wasted time and wasted energy and wasted you, and He makes all things new.

All things.

New.

“Give me an M16 and I’ll storm that brothel!”

“Oh, I just want to hold those girls and tell them they’re loved…”

These are the two responses I hear most often when I explain what sex-trafficking is and how it plays out in the industry.

These are also the two reasons I am passionate about educating others about the depths of the trafficking problem, because holding someone or storming a brothel cannot be the answer. It cannot be. 

At the core of every person is a heart that longs for some sort of fulfillment, some validation, or security. So it is that at the core of the trafficking problem are the hearts of men and women caught up in the web of the industry—from traffickers to pimps to johns to madams to the sex slaves themselves.

Continue reading Storming Brothels & the Hearts of Men.

Stop Sex Slavery: Redlight

This image was taken by Hazel Thompson in partnership with us at Project Red Light Rescue for the book CAGE. If you’d like more information on how you can be a part of infiltrating the red light district with the Gospel, connect with me here, attention Lore.