Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Candid thoughts

My mind has been running nonstop since the wee hours of this morning--meaning,  I cannot finish one thought without ten more barging in. I'm left with fragmented sentences lingering in my mind, disjointed ideas that scream for my time and an uneasy soul waiting for resolve. Some thoughts are light hearted and carefree, others carry a weighted burden, and some cannot even be placed into any particular genre.

So I write.


I write because it makes me:


Stop
and
Think.


Process
and
Finish.


There may not always be a solution or an answer, but there is always order and sometimes clarity.


And I share.


I share because it keeps me:

Real
and
Vulnerable.


Well-lit
and
Accountable.

So, be forewarned, if you continue to read, you will be sure to find random ideas, unfiltered thoughts, real struggles, and an open me.


1. This past weekend I saw Heaven Is For Real. This movie would have never been on my list of things to see, but with the suggestion of a friend, I found myself there. And even though I didn't walk away as the movie's #1 fan, it was still thought provoking. In the movie the dad says "If Heaven is for real, wouldn't we all live different lives." A powerful line that has played over and over in my mind since. Then add to it Monday night--our small group was planted in Matthew 13. Parable after parable we read . . . "And the Kingdom of Heaven is like...." we saw that Jesus was revealing that heaven is here. It started with the baby in a manger and it is now--that truth should radically change how I live my life!! Sometimes I just wish to shake my finger at myself and say. "O ye of little faith."


2. It's Bernie's birthday today. Some of you laugh, thinking she's just a D.O.G. And some of you are wondering where your invitation is to her birthday party. Well, there is no party, for fear of the friend's who live in the first category ragging on my until the end of time. With that being said, I will take any reason to celebrate over that little ragamuffin. I've had 2 dogs that have been up there on the 'love scale," but there is just something about Bernie and the crazy that she brings to this life. I know she is "just" a dog, but I sure am smitten!


3. Soon I will be spending Wednesday evenings studying A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker, with some cool ladies--that I don't really know! I hope I still think they are cool once I get to know them!! (Ha--that was a joke ladies if any of you are reading this). All jokingly aside, I am extremely excited about this, but for as much excitement, I have as much fear. I always find it terrifying to come around God's Word in an intimate setting with people you don't "really know." Perhaps not the way I am suppose to feel, but it's the truth.


4. Spring is here, which means love is in the air. It is unreal how many weddings have or will be taking place in the coming weeks. Weddings that either directly or indirectly involve the people I love most in this world. I'm a sucker for romance, especially weddings, but this year each picture, each invitation, and each spoken "I do, " leaves behind a twinge of pain in the depths of my soul. Like many young girls, I too planned out my wedding day. And if it were to happen now, even though my vision has drastically changed as I have matured in my understanding of this commitment, there are some key players who would decline to be a part. So as I see them celebrate with my friends or preform the ceremonies of acquaintances, my heart aches and my stomach always seems unprepared for the blow. Maybe things will change by the time wedding bells are ringing over me, and if not then I will continue to pray for a softened heart and grace upon grace upon grace.


5. Time. We all are given the same 24 hours. But lately, I have needed...wanted more! It's selfish really. I'm sure if I stopped and examined my daily routine it would be littered with poor choices and wasted hours. But here, right now, I wish I carved out face to face time with the bestie like I use to. I wish I cleared off more weekends to visit the family I rarely get to see and miss often. I wish I had time to sit and study....like really study, hours upon hours study and not so I'm equipped to lead a discussion, but because I long to know Him more. I wish I had more time to serve, to volunteer and to give back. I wish I made more of a habit daily giving myself vs just on Thursdays or every other month. I wish I had time to pray more....more than the prayer before I hit the road, or when I silence the car radio or scribble my lunchtime request--but like leaving indentions in my prayer closet kind of praying. I wish I cherished more moments and slowed down the pace of life. I wish ...


6. I wrote a song about a tortilla. We'll actually it is more of a wrap. :)


7. "Above all, remember that the meaning of life is to live it as if it were a work of art. You are not a machine. When you're young, start working on this great work of art called your own existence." --Abraham Joshua Heschele


Ahhh....and now my mind travels with one foot slowly in front of the other...this is a pace I can do.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A slab of concrete doesn't have to worry about weeds

There are a lot of things that are on that list of “can’t be _____, if I’m a Christian.” Sometimes we are taught them at home, in the church, or by those we look up to, and sometimes we aren’t taught them at all. Sometimes it’s a mystery on how “those things” have made their way to that list, but they are there nonetheless. This morning, I had the privilege to sit under the teaching of Angie Frame as she shared from her heart about being angry toward God.
 
Growing up, I was never taught that I could unload on God. And for the record, I don’t believe I was ever taught that I couldn’t either. For so long and in my limited understanding, God was up in heaven and I was down here on earth. He was a good God, and I was to live a “good” life. I was a good kid and never found myself or life to give me many reasons to be mad at God or to question His goodness--or so I thought.
The reality was that life had given me plenty of reasons to be angry, and I had just adopted this poor theology that if I called myself a Christian then it was wrong to show, express or even share my anger, disappointment or hopelessness. I was to stay strong, put on a happy face and continue moving forward even if deep down I was bitter and mad. I learned that I had a huge capacity to stuff and hide and to not deal.
 
But I remember when my capacity hit full. I remember sitting in the living room of a friend for this thing called “small group” with people I had recently met, but did not really know, the Frame’s being among them. And boy did I break. I don’t remember what started the crack, I just remember all my doubts, fears, hurts, anger and questions pouring out. And to my shock . . .it was ok . . . even encouraged.
 
I remember leaving that room more embarrassed that I had let those words of anger and doubt fall from my lips. But more importantly I left that room feeling intrigued by their challenge to unload this all on God. I was told “He can take it.” And over the next year I tested that theory. I trusted their counsel and borrowed their faith, for a time I had very little.
 
This afternoon, I spent time digging through old boxes and reading journals that I kept during this time, and boy was I angry---angry at the world, angry at God. Page after page after page, I shared that anger, my confusion, and my doubts. On some days, “ANGRY! I am so angry at you!” is all I could muster. As time went on, and as I continued to unload and He continued to take it, those pages read of healing and were once again filled with hope. My life didn’t get put back together--not the way I hoped, but He was there by my side through it all. The more time I spent opening up my heart to Him, the more real He became, and the less angry I was.
 
“A slab of concrete doesn’t have to worry about weeds--but it will also never be a garden,” was written in my journal about a year after my small group helped me understand that God was BIG enough for me to unload. My anger was keeping me down, unable to move forward, unable to change and to grow into something beautiful. I wish I could tell you I have all the answers, and that I understand why such pain needed to be a part of my journey. I wish I could tell you that looking back things don’t hurt. I wish I could tell you that moving forward anger isn’t a part of my relationship with God. But it’s not the case. In my past, there still lies unanswered questions, there still lies sadness over the broken pieces, but anger isn’t to be found. Moving forward, I am no longer that slab of concrete, there‘s now life, growth and an open honest relationship with a Gardener who hasn‘t given up on me and who won’t give up on me, no matter how much I need to unload.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stretch Out Your Hand

I don't take for granted that I get to study the Bible with my best friend. To be able to sit and read and share and discuss and question and dig in with her has been one of life's greatest gifts. I hope that she will not mind me telling you, but when her life hit "rock bottom" the Word is where she turned. She devoured it. Drew hope and strength from it.  And the wisdom and insight that God has laid upon her is simply incredible.

Together, we have been facilitating the study of Matthew on Monday nights. Now Matthew, for me, will forever hold a special place in my heart. It's where I found myself planted during my "rock bottom." It's where I met Jesus, and where I drew my strength and my hope during those dark days. So to revisit it with her and the new perspectives she has brought has made for one incredible journey.

This past week as we were preparing for Chapter 12 we got lost in the story of Jesus healing the man with the disfigured hand. I've read this passage several times and never before saw what she did.

"Why did this man stretch out his deformed hand?" she asked. She went on to explain that if she or I had a broken, deformed or disabled hand, it would most likely be second nature to stretch out our "good" one.

But this man didn't.

To be honest, I've wrestled over this this past week. You see, I can remember clearly the times where He has said "Mel, stretch out __________," and instead of holding out my weakness, I laid forth my strengths. Instead of trusting that He would love me no matter what, I tried to save face and lived in the denial of my failures. Instead of mustering up the courage to believe that He would break the chains that have held me captive,  I resigned to live in their misery and bondage.

Because . . . .
It's easier for me if He does not open those hidden doors of secrets.
It's easier for me if He works in my comfort zone.
It's easier for me if He uses me where I feel equipped.
It's easier for me if He calls me to safe places.
And it's in the easy, that I stay stagnant and unchanged.
It's in the easy that the greatest blessings of this life are missed.

As I am learning, I see . . .
It's behind those doors of hidden secrets where freedom is found.
It's out side of my comfort zone, where my faith in Him is deepened.
It is outside my feelings of readiness that my trust in Him is strengthened.
It's outside of those safe havens where I learn that He is always with me.
It's in giving Him my weaknesses that I find the strength in Him to overcome.
To change for the better.

In the midst of Matthew 12, among the attempts to trap and angry plots to kill Jesus, there lies this beautiful story of an out stretched hand. One that represents fear and faith, shame and salvation, repulsiveness and redemption. A story that reminds us that in our weakness He is strong and in our failures He is triumphant.

Be bold, stretch out that hand--the disfigured one, and watch what a merciful God can do with the messes we lay before Him.