Operating tables

I’m still alive.

but I feel as though I have been on the operating table of the Lord.

You know the times in your life where you find yourself removed from most of your best friends…your family…and the people that you turn to help you though? You find yourself totally isolated-and on the operating table of the Lord.

He stands before you, scapulae in hand and you shutter knowing what is coming. You know He is healing you but in order to do that He has to rearrange stuff, pull out all these cancerous growths that are killing you and mend all of the broken parts that you’ve tried to fix yourself but with no avail.

One day I will wake up out of this anesthesia and see that He has restored me. One day I will wake to find beauty from this. Infact, I think He gives us little glimpses of what it will be like in order to strengthen us.

Like my best friend Ash said, surgeries can be scary, but this one is healing. There’s nowhere I’d rather be then on the operating table of the Lord. It’s not safe, but it’s what I must do to be saved.

the depths of which you love, you will hurt

I had the great opportunity to sit under the teaching of Beth Moore this Sunday. Okay, it was via a projector and DVD, but nevertheless, it was Beth Moore. I’m not normally a Beth Moore fan, and I don’t normally go to the Beth Moore Bible study at my church since I’ve been living in a different county then my home church and working on Sundays (at a different church). DVD series’ tend to be a challenge for me anyway just because I am A.D.D. and can’t focus, but I try not to use that excuse anymore. I decided to go to Sunday School this week thanks to the encouragement of one of my big sisters, Mandy, and because I knew my other awesome friend Candi would be there because she leads it! I figured what the heck…why not eh? It’ll be fun I’m sure.

Sheesh-I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Talk about some heavy topics. The topic was on “Intensive Care” and Beth Moore talked about living in God’s intensive care unit. I’m really bad at summarizing, and I didn’t take any notes in class due to my lame excuse of not having a pen and feeling bad about asking for one, but this is what I got about God’s intensive care:

1. It’s a place where only you can go, a place where you go where you want your friends the most and they are not there for you. 

2. It’s place you go when you’re totally overwhelmed with specific sorrows and all you can think about is a specific pain that brings you there (it’s literally encircling you around your head and no matter where you turn you can’t get free from it). It doesn’t have to be a “big” thing in our society’s perspective or even our Christian circle’s perspective, but if it’s enough to consume you, then it’s enough to put you in intensive care.

3. Sometimes when you go there, your situation does not change. The cup does not pass from you and whatever sorrow brought you there in the first place does not get resolved.

BUT…

It’s there that we can be real with God. We can throw ourselves at the feet of God and literally kick and scream and ask “why” as much as we need-He won’t leave us there because our anger is “too much.” I admit, this is a new concept for me. I’ll question, sure-and I’ll be mad, yes, but I don’t dare show it physically. I was raised in a household that told me very clearly that we do not show anger-so I don’t. It doesn’t turn out well when I’ve faced tremendous grief (I think of one fall in specific where I wish I would have grieved better because years later I’m still dealing with it) with a lot of anger and I’ve just tried to ignore it. But God isn’t afraid of our (my) fits. He isn’t afraid of our screams, and in fact, by emptying ourselves of the negative emotions so many of us bottle and hide, we allow Him to fill us more with His spirit and joy. Asking “why” does not mean we doubt God. Asking “why” shows us that we’re hurting and we need Him now more then ever.

One line keeps sticking out to me from Beth’s message:

“To the depth of which you love, you will hurt.”

SO true for my life. I spent the night (I can’t sleep, in case you can’t tell) journaling the depth of some of my loves and losses (the more recent ones), and it’s been such a great time for me. I’m starting to be okay with the fact that I hurt and be okay with the fact that I lost some people that I dearly love and I am still grieving from those losses. My friends can’t help me, I have to face this on my own with God.  This whole summer God’s been at me regarding that, regarding the fact that I hurt, just like Him, I’ve lost, just like Him, and He wept when He suffered various losses, so why do I hold up the expectation to myself that I will not weep? He’s been giving me time alone with no one else beside me to make me understand that He is strong enough to hold me.

At the same time he’s helping me realize that I am surrounded by people who love and support me and want to help me through processing my loss if I’ll trust them enough to let them in. Even as I prepare to leave the circle of friends and support that I have here in Virginia (I move in 5 days), I won’t be away from the community of Christ. My challenge now is trusting from the start. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to trust, but as much as I am open to the help of others, God may just use some people to speak into my life in an amazing way.

I don’t know if this made much sense. It’s late, and my thoughts are kind of jumbled, but I want you to know that if you’re going through loss that you’re not alone. I want you to know that God can handle your questions, your anger, and your pain. I want you to know that He’s big enough to take all of your frustrations, and you don’t have to walk that path alone. Even if God’s calling you to intensive care where no one else can go but you know that you are being held by the prayers of the saints for you. I’ll say it again, you are not alone.

Portrait

I draw my inspiration for this poem from the broken stories I have heard this summer, the broken stories on my campus that I carry with me and the brokenness in my own life. If you know me well enough, maybe you will recognize some stories, or maybe you can relate to bits and pieces of a verse. I promise you, you’re not suffering in vain, your stories will not remain untold, and your hurt has never been unnoticed. If your reading this and your hurting, always remember that someone cares and you are loved-never give up.

“Portraits”
The hurt comes back to haunt my dreams,
I kneel so stifled by my silent screams,
You rise-slowely punching the life out of me,
I rise-I stand so still praying no one sees.

Terror in the night I awake,
not a noise will I ever make.
I don’t even call for you,
Because I know there’s nothing you can do.

A black eye for a blackened heart
you swore you would never depart
an open door and packed bags you left
and you wonder why I speak your name less.

Crippled anger, wounds that never heal,
fallen away from what I hold dear.
Searching for something-anything to satisfy,
I walk this desert land so dry.

Constant nagging, requiring perfection,
breaking your set direction,
Call me a rebal if you choose,
In the end it’s me you lose.

Have I lost my mind?
I search for nothing to find,
why does this come as no surprise?
It’s killing me inside.

A crippled life and crushed dreams,
There’s more then meets the eye it seems.
but today I let it all go,
and traded in my sorrow.

A frantic call in the night,
I pull out my car in a state of fright.
The stars have never seemed so near,
and the night has never been so clear.

A hospital bed and a dying breath,
without a goodbye you must be left.
Push away the sorrow, push away the tears,
and count down the many years.

A child is too young to leave the place they call home,
but now we have found ourselves again alone.
The laughter and the tears echo in our minds,
If only we could stop, and rewind.

In the middle of this mess,
I’m finding you’re all I have left.
In the midst of my weakness,
it’s my brokenness you bless.

Lessons from Philly

Many of you know how I am serving as a Youth Intern this summer like I did  last summer. One of the peaks of working in Youth Ministry is being able to attend the trips with the Youth. This past week we went to Philadelphia to serve alongside Broad Street Ministry. Broad Street Ministry serves on South Broad Street in Center City, Philadelphia. BSM has a high emphasis on homeless outreach and outreach to those who have been burned by the church. The way they “do church” is radically different from the traditional Southern American church. They reach out to the artistic community around them and draw in crowds of people who typically would not dare to enter a church. I was touched by the ministry of BSM and honored to serve alongside the staff (five summer interns and a directerr). Each day our team (my team leader was the best-yay for Anna Shaw!!!) went to a different project, everything from ripping up hundred year old carpet, cleaning alongside recovering drug and alcohol addicts in a recovery program called New Jerusalem Now, serving at a homeless ministry called St. John’s Hospice and labeling cans of food for the largest food bank in PA, Philabundence, and preparing for Broad Street’s homeless ministry, Breaking Bread. We encountered many injustices and grappled with the underlying issues behind them.

One day I experienced something that changed my world forever and it was found in something as simple as singing “Happy Birthday” to a homeless man. I have never been so happy, and never felt so free as when I was belting out those simple words and watching his face turn from heaviness to delight. I didn’t really think of it at the time, but it was all I really could give. Half of me was going “What the heck are you doing?” and 1/2 of me was going “You were called to this.” When it was over, the look on his face was amazing. Just to know that I somehow lightened a little bit of his load really encouraged me.

 Sometimes I got overwhelmed to think of all the suffering that I saw in Philly and continue to see now that I am home. How can I make a difference? I’ll be honest, I’ve been tired these past few months. Since school ended I’ve felt myself change and I don’t really like the change that occurred. I feel like I lost a little bit of me, and a bit of my joy. I’ve been too easily burdened with injustices in my own life and sorrows that I have experienced to really feel like myself. Don’t get me wrong, even on my darkest days there is a line where I cannot cross-I am still rejoicing in Christ, but I just was not myself. I feel like I’m getting myself back though this trip. I’m writing poetry again, I’m laughing, and I’m excited (although stressed at times!) for my summer, or what is left of it. I still carry around the faces I met on this trip to Philly. I remember the men and woman who are brave enough to admit they need help at New Jerusalem now and the man who took the time to help share his story and advise me despite his own sorrows. God keeps giving me glimpses of Him-enough to keep going-and going-and going. He doesn’t promise that the path will be easy, painless, enjoyable or not exhausting. He doesn’t promise we won’t spend time in the wilderness, in sorrow, in constant questions and exaustion (infact, He says it will be like that)but He gives us the grace to endure despite our circumstances, and help others along the way. While in Philly I dusted off the old Poetry journal and I’d like to share a poem I wrote with you. I did some edits since Friday, but it’s still basically the same.

“Broken life, Broken dreams,
Neverending silent screams,
Walking by in plenty of need,
Watching you as you bleed.
I’ve ignored the injustice of your case,
Stereotyped your complex race,
Blinded eyes and deafened ears,
Heart is locked with no tears.
Help me, I don’t want to feel.
Help me, the pain is so real.
Why is it that I just want to hide?
Shove it away, due to pride.
Well, today I’m changing my perspective,
Although the time has come and I’ve almost left this,
With my bags I carry all the faces,
inside my heart the many changes.
As we walk towards eternity,
the path I’m on only You can see.
I feel your hand stabilizing my frame,
and I press on, all for the sake of your name.

Ending darkness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. It’s a good thing! I’m sorry for my absence on this old blog! So what have I been thinking? Well, recently I stumbled on this verse and it says a lot of what I’ve been thinking about.

Isaiah 60:19-20-The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will NEVER set again, and your moon will wane no more, for he Lord will be your everlasting light and your days of sorrow WILL END.

See,in case you haven’t noticed- the sun sets every day!!!! As day fades to night the light is covered by darkness as the sun sets into the sky and the moon makes its entrance. The thing with the sun and the moon is that they change. They shift. They aren’t as dependable as we want to make them to be. Not so when we place our hope and trust in our Lord Jesus. There is no time where He is not strong enough to shine through the darkest of nights. When I began living for the Lord I noticed this change. Today I am discouraged, but it is never without hope. I know that my sorrows will end and that the Lord has forever been my light and will continue to be. No matter what you’re going through remember that your days of sorrow will end and your Father stands in the darkness with you as your light-eternal and neverchanging.

Questions

My English 241 class (Survey of American Literature) class has been studying Puritan literature over the past few months. A few things have really been hitting me about the Puritan religion. One thing that surprised me was that the Puritans basically believed that it was a sign that you were not saved if you questioned God when he brought you through the wilderness. I got to thinking of how blessed I am to know that I can question God and He will not remove His love from me. To be honest, I find honesty hard. People will ask me “how are you?” and with out even thinking my response is “good!, how are you?” Most of the time I am good when it all boils down to how blessed I am, but when there is things that bother me and frustrate me I know I am not “good” and yet I say I’m good anyway. I don’t know about you  but I grew up trying to pretend that I had no feelings. No anger, no sadness-I wanted to be tough and unmovable. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How many times have you said that, and how many times did words cut deep into you? Have you ever gone through things where you did not understand what God was doing? Have you ever had to bury a child, or been affected by murder, or adultery, or a friend’s brokenness which was too deep for cure? Have you walked darkened paths afraid for your life or thought about ending your life by your own hands? Have you ever fought with a friend and felt rejected? Have you ever broken up with someone you love? Have you ever had something incredibly unjust happen to you? Has your earthly family ever betrayed you? The list goes on about the things that could have happened to you, so during that darkness-Have you ever questioned God and been honest with Him? Take a look at the Psalms. They are full with honesty and questions. How about Psalm 13:4-6:

 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide  your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;  my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.   But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

See when we question God often times our perspective changes. We are focused back onto the fact that God really is good. Yes, we many not understand why things happen the way that they do but that is no reason to throw in the towel. We were born for this struggle and heartache. It’s okay to question-we have the freedom to do so. Doubt is a sin, questioning is not. Just because you question doesn’t mean you doubt. So go ahead, be honest with God and see how He changes your perspective. You are never alone. Stop trying to be so tough and let Him be God through your questioning.

It’s been awhile since I dusted off the old blog, I know. I’m sorry. God has been doing some crazy stuff in my life. I’m finishing up my associates degree, and moving along to my bachlor’s degree next fall which will require transferring colleges, and moving. I’m incredibly excited about what God is going to do, and what he is doing in my life now. So, what is He doing lately?

The Puritans believed that in order to reach heaven you had to pass through a “wilderness” or a period of testing given by God. I’ll admit, lately I’ve felt as though I went through a sort of wilderness in my life. This wilderness is nothing compared to the “winter of loss” as I call it, but it’s been a long year. Through it all, all of the testing, and all of the taking away, part of me just cries out to be heard by the Savior of the Universe. The other part of me tries to be stubbornly strong saying that I don’t need him, but I know I can’t even breathe without Him. In all reality where I am finding myself now is best. What a perfect place to be when you’re being completely broken before the savior of the universe. It’s also incredibly uncomfortable to be broken by the hand of God so our flesh naturally fights against it. I prayed for Him to break the idols in my life and He is responding by smashing them down. It’s beautiful, but it hurts. When you hold things before God that are substitutes for His glory and His love, how can he stand by and let you ruin your life? If you DON’T feel him ripping your idols away, you should be concerned. I knowthat I am His because of the way that He is disciplining me for my unfaithfulness. In contrast to my unfaithful actions, His faithfulness is showing up in ways I have never experienced before through this. I don’t regret anything over this past year because I feel as though I have grown more then I have in years past, but let me tell you nothing is worth the amount of pleasure it brings unless it’s actions point directly to the cross of Christ. So many times I’ve pursued things that I thought were right only to realize that I was moving only on my feelings. I am reminded that this Christian life is not about “feelings.” Just because I may not “feel” God doesn’t not mean He is not there, oh no, it means He is all the more closer, I just have to shut up enough to listen to Him. Just because this doesn’t “feel” good does not mean that God is not using this for His glory. I expect this. I expect pain and suffering, I am not perfect and there’s times that I grow frustrated, but that’s growth isn’t it? Do you know how muscles are strengthened? In order to make muscles larger they develop small tears that end up swelling (or so I was just told). Feeling sore isn’t always comfortable, but you know that you are developing something that will benefit you in the long run (no pun intended!).

I look forward to getting back into the swing of sharing life with you, my wordpress blog friends (and my facebook feed stalkers). To God be the glory.

Cheering Caleb

Recently as I was watching my little sisters’ compete at a Christian games competition (AWANA games for those of you who know what that is!) I sat next to this rather large, rather loud man. Throughout the start of the games this man would yell out to his son sitting on the line. His voice boomed out over all the other noises.

“The Lord is your strength, Caleb!!!” …..”You are more then a conqueror through Christ, Caleb!…..”There is VICTORY in JESUS, Caleb!” …..”Caleb! Be strong in the  Lord!” …”No, I will not stop!”…..”Caleb, I love you!”

I could have cried. I’m sure the kid was pretty embarrassed (or loved it, when you’re in 2nd grade, you never really know), but the fact that his Dad was unashamed in encouraging him in the Lord really struck me. It made me think of Hebrews 12:1:

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race that is marked out for us.”

Can you picture it? I can. I imagine myself running this path we call life. In my way are all these distractions and sins-like thorns and weeds, growing all over the path before me. Everything is crowding around me. I’m getting tripped up, and it’s hard through it all, but I’m not letting it stop me. No, I am going faster. Why? There are people who I’ve lost andwho have gone before me all around me, cheering me on. My Grandma is one of them. There’s two of my friends from gradeschool. One from High School. They’re cheering me on with loud voices, and I know I have to go on so I can make them proud. I don’t run this race  alone. I am never alone. People are watching me. Would I give up infront of them and dissapoint them? No. I continue on through the pain and through the thorns.  

We’re not alone in our race, this race we call life, on this path to Christ. The first step the devil takes to pry us from God is to isolate us. If it be making us believe we are alone or separating us from our Christian friends, he tries so hard to make sure we believe we have no one around us. See, it’s a lot easier to give up when you think no one is watching you. Don’t let him win in your life! Don’t give up. You are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.” Don’t give in to His lies or trip over the things in your path. You can do it. Whatever things may be thrown in your path to trip you up, remember we are more then conquerors through Christ who gives us strength. We are victorious!  Keep running hard towards the finish line.

Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God

English 241. Survey of American Lit class. Just a bunch of your average secular college students, a  couple of Christians thrown into the mix. Our assignment? To read “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. Have you read it? It’s….powerful. People don’t like to talk about hell. People don’t like to think about it. In writing this post, I’m probably not going to be liked, but I’ll write it anyway.

To summarize it, it comes down to the fact that Edwards says that we are like spiders in the hand of God and he is dangling us over the fire of hell. There is nothing keeping us from the wrath of God except for himself. He is literally holding himself back from releasing His vengeance on us, and destroying us. Edwards says we were born with these “seeds” of sin inside of us, and that alone is enough to condemn us to hell. Although Edwards maybe considered a little “too extreme” and perhaps he was, I think he is right in a lot of areas that we need to recognize again in the 21st century. We’ve forgotten a lot about the character of God that we need to come back to. We focus so much on the love of God that we forget the wrath that He saved us from.

God has every right to blow us out like an overused birthday candle. He has every right to let us go and watch us fall into the pit of hell. He has every right to push us off the slippery slope of this thing we call life. We have done NOTHING that amounts to anything in His books. We have done nothing to deserve His favor or grace. Is our religion really just a “get out of hell free” card like many of us seem to make it be? Why are so many of us living lives of sin apart from God but claiming to know what he freed us from? Is living life contrary to Christ once you really know Him even possible? Do you even understand the sacrifice Christ has made for us? I don’t think I do.

 God had NO REASON to send Jesus to the cross. No reason. You say “It’s because of His love”  that He died for us, yes, that is true, but what motivated his love? What made Him love when we had done nothing but broken His heart? “Oh, but-He loved us.” You say. YES, He did, but WHY? Why did He have mercy on us? Why did He have grace? We’ve done nothing to deserve Him but we walk around pretending that we have.

America we need to get on our knees and beg for Christ. The sacrifice has been paid in full, but we must continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Am I implying that salvation is on basis of works? Absolutely not!!!!! Am I saying that if you are truly marked by the spirit of Christ that you can lose your salvation? No, not at all. I am saying that we’ve taken advantage of the salvation of our Lord for far too long. We need to become broken in the arms of Christ and remember what he delivered us from. “When was the last time you wept over your sins?” as Paul Washer loves to ask. Well, when was it? When was the last time you became completely broken before God realising what a dreadful person you are and how much you don’t deserve Him. We take advantage of God. We take Him for granted. Repentance. Remembrances. Let us remember how much we need our Lord. How without Him we’d be destined for Hell. Let hell become real to you so that Christ’s saving power can become more real to you. God CRUSHED His son. He destroyed Him in order to save YOU.

View His love in the context of His justice. View His grace in the context of His mercy. Oh how great is His love for us that He would send His son to die a terrible death for a sinner like me. Brokenness has never been so sweet as when you realize your need for a savior. Let’s remember who He is. Just exist before Him with the knowledge of what He’s done for You. Let it change your life.

Considering Joy

Joy. What does it mean? I personally love the word Joy, not only because it is my name, but also because joy means a lot to me. I am currently leading a small group through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at my college. We’re going through the Fruit of the Spirit and this week our topic was joy. I got to thinking how society views joy and I realized, the secular world has no real concept of joy. Before you freak out on me, hear me out. Society views joy as happiness and happiness is situational. Happiness is not Joy. Joy is different. When I went to find some refrences for my Bible Study I was amazed to find that most of them talked about joy in sorrow, joy in persecution or joy when life doesn’t make sense. When happiness fails us because our situations are painful it’s then we find outselves faced with the chance to choose joy.

James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trails of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The word “consider” really leaped out at me when I read this verse. The word “consider” implies that we must choose to accept trials as joy. Choosing joy isn’t our natural response, but we must consider our trials as joy. In Sunday School we’re talking about God being our rock. God is steady, he is unmovable, he’s always the same-the same comes down to what our joy is in Christ. Joy as we know it equals God. There would be no joy without Him because we know that all things good come from Him and joy is good-therefore, joy is unmovable as well. Joy is not dependent on our situations or circumstances. Joy is not swayed when the tides of change roll in, instead, joy stands up and says “because Christ is greater, I can find more then just happiness in my suffering, sorrow and loss.”  Joy is more then just a smile or happiness-it is a hope, a peace, a strength and contentment that can come from only Christ. Choose joy today, no matter what situations may come.

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