Category Archives: body of Christ

God Is Not Threatened When We Leave the Church

{An Abstraction on Lipstick}

 

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It happened standing in Wal-Mart with my daughters. I was buying a lipstick and rubbed the pretty coral color that I fell in love with onto my lips. I didn’t notice the brand–that smell. That’s when the memories came flooding in. Memories of being the focus of ridicule at a school in a whole new state, the memories of the poems left on my desk that said “She wears socks with her clogs in winter. She’s in a bubble and thinks no one can reach her, because her Daddy’s a preacher,” and they giggled at me as I turned red and crumbled up the loose-leaf paper taken from one of their cute binders. But there are darker ones.

Dark memories of a 21 year old youth pastor, who came into the sanctuary when I was playing piano and put his lips on me, held me from behind. He befriended my father, came over to the house, and when we went downstairs to play ping-pong, he forced me to sit on his lap.

And the hits seemed to keep coming. I became chronically ill after having my fourth child. And there were people in the church who wanted to pray for me one Sunday. I made it known that I didn’t want it, that I felt uncomfortable with such a spotlight on me. They assured me it was fine, and it was in the midst of this prayer circle that I was told there wasn’t grace for this sickness, this depression, this anxiety, and that God was asking me to please come back home, to come back to where grace abounded for me.

I recoiled at this. Because I knew that God had not left me and I had not left him and the last thing I needed was for someone in the church to tell me that my illness was because I had done something wrong. The insinuation was that it was a direct result of my having left God. But I knew then, and I know now– that none can pluck me from His hand. It’s not possible.

I did feel very far away from God, and what I needed at that moment in my life was for someone to gently remind me that God was still with me and loved me beyond imagination.

That day left me aching, a hole wide-open in my soul, cold bitter wind blowing through. It left me confused about prayer, and unable to utter any words toward heaven. Prayer had been a means, as far as I could see, to hurt others. And I became bitter and maybe I let my words sting, too, because all I could see was people who wanted to hurt me.

I could tell you more stories–I have lots of them. I could tell you about a time my husband and I were asked by the pastor to be elders  because he was leaving and the church needed someone to help run things in his absence. We hesitated, but we loved our pastor, so we agreed. A short time later, we found out that the leadership of the church had sorely treated our pastor, and was the cause of him leaving. Our hearts were broken. We resigned, left the church, and never looked back. But we won’t talk more of that.

What I want to tell you is that because of a lifetime of those memories, my husband and I have chosen to take a time for healing……

{to read the rest of this post, please come on over to Outside the City Gate— I’m over there today, and I have more to share with you….}

{concrete words link-up is below}

 

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Photo credit: Church and steeple: Cindee Snider Re 

Holding hands: Kelli Woodford

Okay, time for #concretewords! ***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening–writing out our story with words that show, not just tell. We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #concretewords,  #listeningtoyourlife and also #awakeningtoGod if you like. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them? Writing alone is no fun–but writing in community? Well, THAT is the stuff!

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is lipstick. GO!


{**Since I’m posting this mid-week, this link-up will run until next Monday afternoon 2 pm CST, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be balloon .}

 

 

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A Gentle Life, A Legacy of Love {An Abstraction on Bend}

I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me.

This is not the home of my childhood that I remember, but she cooks for us here and makes her days here, and so it will do.

Dumplings and chicken piled high in the pot, the steam rising, she’s slightly bent over the counter in the tightly spaced kitchen, beautiful white hair slightly coiffed from church that morning, rolling dough out in flour, the dough that my grandfather said she rolled way too thin. Less meat, more dumplins, he tells her. This would become the center of discussion and debate at the table.

“Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!” She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes. She knows it’s my favorite and I had asked for it weeks ago when I was sick but she couldn’t come because she was too.

I set about the hard task of putting myself right into the work, a hard thing to do when you are used to your Granny always waiting on you, for all those years, and she never asked, really always discouraged help.

But I can’t bear sitting while she bends and breaks, so I plant myself right in her way and throw the soft unbaked bread on white powder and roll it out with 50 year old wood, careful of the sink water two inches away from floured paper.

The old wood, full of family history–it feels perfect in my hands and I watch the way the thick stuff flattens and smooths. We work side-by-side, Sunday afternoon sun streaming in through screen door, hitting our backs, and she willingly waits for the dough, throws it into boiling broth while I do the bending and smoothing.

She and I strain pears, that good juice running down the drain making no sense to me, and I call the girls in for them to pile the grainy sweetness on plate with mayo and cheese. The pears, they shine in the Sabbath sun. We do the most important and holiest of work and teach them a poor man’s {or hurried woman’s} Southern dessert.

I go to the hall closet in search of some stain remover for baby’s dress, and I see a woman’s tireless work, how she chooses to walk out her days, always working, serving, never giving up and there they are, staring out at me–clean, plush towels lined up neatly row after row, her bottles of cleaning supplies tucked in here and there. She has touched deep places of influence in me she will never know anything of.

In the kitchen, we cluck and cackle over sweet tea–has the sugar been added?–where the children will eat, girls, set the table, ice for glasses, and I take Granddaddy’s tea to his chair. The kids will have the little table in the kitchen.

Granny steps to the living room, and addresses Granddaddy: “What do you want now?!” We laugh at their old-couple squabble and we all gather around with trays and talk important matters, including whether the dumplings should have been thicker, and our stomachs are nourished with flavors of the South, that soul food warm all the way down.

Granny gets enough of Granddaddy’s complaining and in her feisty way, tells him she was aimin’ for healthier.

After the plates are cleaned, Husband needs a t-shirt for football with the church men, and Granddaddy says look in the second drawer. Underneath several bottles of cologne for a man who enjoys smelling good, I open drawer and pick up soft, worn t-shirts one by one, reminded of when I was a little girl, needing a t-shirt for staying over-night. They all say XL, and I know that will not fit my man.

I search and in the back, in shadows, a card with cute purses on the front sticks out between folds–I know immediately it was the card I gave him years ago. My heart hammers a little harder as I hold it up, open it, and I am so touched that he has kept it safely tucked away in his drawerthe place all men keep things close to their hearts.

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family–through addiction, disagreements and irreparable fall-outs– has been their mission field, quietly and consistently, unconditionally. 

They never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42. They have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid– because I wonder–

Do they know? Do they know what they’ve done? They’ve left a legacy of God-honoring, a life gently-lived with love. They’ve given til it hurts.   

“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” –Matthew 5:38-42

Husband finds me standing at the drawer, asks if I found anything. He sees the tears brimming, wants to know what this is about. I show him the card and he says, “Who is this from?” He watches my eyes, looks into me. Nothing gets his attention like the wet pouring down his wife’s cheeks.

A little shyly–“Me.” I pick up a bottle of cologne and inhale, and try to remember.

He reads the first few lines and skims it over, smiling. He reads the date, “2007…” his voice a little unsteady. I wonder if he is remembering the year that we had Isabella, when we were still at our old church with our beloved Pastor and his wife, when we were married to a church body, before spiritual devastation happened, when life was very, very good and God’s graces flowed abundantly. Like babes, we ignorantly lapped it up, not fully knowing what we had.

I reach up into the closet shelf where a soft, worn t-shirt, something close to cadet blue, peeks out and I look at the tag, oh, a Large, this will have to do.

I walk into the living room, right up to the man and hand him the card, tell him it made me cry to find it there, to read it, bend down and take his face in my hands and tell him he is a wonderful Granddaddy, my body bent over and my heart bent over in all this weeping reality, all this gospel light, all this love.

Instead of looking at me and acknowledging, he makes some remark about how not everybody thinks he’s so great. But I know it’s hit it’s mark–right there in the softness of his heart the arrow pierced–I can see that little bit of twinkle in his eye, the smile dancing slightly just there in the corner, that he won’t let have center-stage.

He avoids my eyes, but I know he hears me. These are the only words he ever wanted to hear in the whole of his life.

I lay down in the dark coolness of their room with baby girl next to me, and she fidgets some, but like me, her body soon gives way to Granny’s high thread-count sheets, shadow’s cool of blankets piled high atop us.

I lie there thinking as I drift off, how many graces God has given, how He has bent low and heard me, listened to my heart’s cry, that mighty God himself would bend over, heart exploding for me– this is extravagant grace that I can hardly imagine or fully allow.

But in spite of me, His arrow has hit it’s mark and I gush over and out and I can do nothing but fling arms open wide to all this love.

                                                                          *an edited re-post

linking with friends, MichelleLaura, and Heather

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it–Let’s not choose to only see Him on Sunday mornings-let’s not confine Him to a sermon or a prayer or a devotional, but let’s see Him in everything. Our prompt is Bend (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening, awakening to God, and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Bend. GO!


{**This link-up will run until next Sunday, the 6th at 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! On the 7th, the prompt will be Bloom.} 

**An Announcement about the Writing Series: You are invited to come back here for the continuing writing series, in which I’ll have an amazing guest-writer here this coming Wednesday! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, Kelli Woodford and I will be wrapping up the series with a collaborated post, and a link-up for all of you to share your writing journey! Be thinking of what you’d like to write and get your stories ready! We’ll highlight our favorite and feature it on our blogs!!
*

Kingdom Come:: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

                       
                                                                                                photo credit


There is a way for us to behold glory, and it looks like reaching across the table and just crying with someone who’s hurting, not saying much.

Sometimes all you can say, your arms around them, is this sucks.

I understand what it means to be angry at God–I’ve been there–it’s okay.

Because really, that’s what God wants to say to them if He could, audibly, but He wants to use us.

Jumping into someone’s life and offering advice is a sacred thing. They’re making room for you in their secret places, their inner chambers, their heart of hearts, letting you see all their dirt and grime, the dust on the furniture, the stack of food-crusted dishes in the sink. And the last thing they want you to do is point it out, or to look embarrassed when they make apologies. It’s best to just give some serious disclosure —girl, look, you don’t even want to see my dishes right now–they are way worse.

There is a way to behold glory and it’s not in pretending we are righteous. It’s not in our walls and our thick layers that protect and our fears that keep others at a distance.

See, I have this huge dream to behold glory, to see Kingdom come here on earth. It’s a scary dream really, because I’ve been burned enough to put my faith right out.

But that’s the thing about hope–it’s stronger than fear. It just keeps enduring, keeps flickering back on and won’t be snuffed out. Satan hates this, I think.

There is a way to behold  glory and this dream is that The Church will trust God to save the millions, and stop marching forward with our crusade in haste, leaving the wounded and the weak in faith falling to the sides in our wake. I hope that we will love well the few right around us, that we will make the time to reach across tables, across pews, across airplane aisles and checkout counters, really see the people behind the eyes we are looking into.

I don’t like conquests just for conquest’s sake, and I don’t think God does either.




{I’m over at Outside the City Gate blog today–will you join us over there for the rest of the story–and discussion?}

***Also–don’t forget to link up your stories all week, HERE, on our prompt for concrete words: DIRT!

The series on writing continues tomorrow with the lovely Kelli Woodford guest-posting, and around the end of Feb/first of March, we’ll host a huge link-up for everyone to share their stories/hardships/journey of writing and blogging! Get your stories ready–we want to hear them–and we will choose one to be featured at our blogs! **

A Hand in Your Own {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}


                                                                                                 photo credit


“Some good words from my pastors this morning,” I smirk as I enter the room where my husband is sleeping. The word “pastors” is slurred into paaaastuers and I’m facetious at best. Not exactly sarcastic, but then, what do I know of the response he’ll muster? This one who I’ve watched wear the title and then discard it (and all its clinging tendrils) when it ceased to fit properly.

He opens one sleepy eye.

But the silence sits on me hard. And I pause. “No. There’s something wrong about that,” I shake my head and squint at the flecked gold knob on the closet door, bending down to untie the knots in my running shoes. He knows I’m not referring to preaching ministers at a church when I say “pastors,” he knows I mean the men and women whose writing I read online and the ensuing conversations which I have come to cherish as part of my spiritual food on a near-daily basis. The threaded laces are stubborn beneath my fingers, but pulling on them somehow loosens me in all the right ways. Suddenly, there’s lightning, “I bet they wouldn’t like me to call them that …”


“They’d rather me call them ‘friends.’ “

I slide the closet shut around the words. His work boots oppose me, sticking their toes toward the cracks, but a shove does the trick, and she’s closed. I turn around and lean against it. Letting the words that just escaped my lips saturate my soul.

********

Maybe I’m the only one who has been wounded by the power-plays so common among the leadership of the church and the name-dropping and the ladder-climbing. Maybe I am alone here, still feeling the prick of loss when followers of the Servant-King use position as a means of personal gain. Those who, instead of gently guiding their flock, are fleecing them blind for the allegiance they give. For the control that is surrendered … Maybe. But I doubt it.

And internet writing is a messy, tricky thing. We bring our own back-story and half-healed scars to every piece we read. I can’t say that many out in the great cloud of witnesses called the blogosphere have been “pastors” to me in any holy sense of the word, but here and there in a thousand private messages and a million blog comments and a handful of face-to-face meetings, are a good number of those who I would consider to be “friends.” And since we’re all straddling the overlap between writing and faith – a place brimful with its own brand of power-plays and name-dropping and ladder-climbing – I’d say that’s not such a little thing.

In fact, the writers I love to read are men and women who write their posts and sing their songs and live their art not for the respect they can earn or the title they can solicit or the money with which they can fill their pockets. They have a heart to walk alongside. They are knowable, relate-able. They tell their stories with dirt under their nails and southern drawls dripping heavy from their honest, unedited lips. They write from the deep and the burdened places we all know – and they write it real. As real as a hand in your own.

Somehow they seem to grasp intuitively that the greatest gift they can give to the world has a whole lot more to do with sharing the specifics (even the gritty ones) of their personal stories than by quoting the worn-out platitudes or theological moral-isms by which they might exalt themselves over their readers.

No. If that’s what “pastor” means, they are never that to me.

I repeatedly watch them take the low road. They don’t live for the pedestals or the red carpets. They’d just as likely hug your neck and share a beer as shake your hand and hold your baby. They’re not untouchable. They’re not perfect. And – by far the most rare – they’re not afraid to come out of hiding and let you know it.

**********

And the shower steams hot. While I let muscles relax in the aftermath of my run, I remember my own limitedness and the finite experience of life within this skin. But I also feel the plea for human connection that rises up within my own story, asking to be made known. Why is it easier to give someone a formula to fix their aching heart than it is to get down into it with them and feel ALL THE FEELINGS alongside? I can’t say I know. But that is what makes a writer – a professional – cross the bridge into becoming a friend. The telling of the secrets that we think are only our own is the exact reason why I’ve come to relate deeply to so many whose breath I’ve never smelled and whose tears I’ve never wiped, who live worlds away from this mid-western farmhouse.

We are wired for connection, not only perfunctory answers.

For bearing each other’s burdens and holding close the broken, not for sanitary scripturized cliches.

Because love is always more satisfying than being right – hard as it is to believe sometimes.

It’s true for all of us: the gift of our lives to this world community is not given in spite of our humanness – as if that takes away from the poignancy of the message – but because of it. Because of the Babel places where we try to climb to God on steps of our own making and our Damascus roads where we are blind to all but the frightening light of a hairy paradigm-shift. Because of our willingness to accept ourselves and the dirt under our nails and the ins and outs of our messy narratives.

( … which might sound a lot like a tiny little mystery known as the Incarnation, if we listen long enough.)

There is a beautiful one-piece garment that transcends the in spite of’s and because of’s and waits with bated breath for the way redemption will shine through cracks in the one who dares to bare the soul: Whole.

And here I want to turn to you, dear reader, dear writer, dear friend, 

I want to say that in the kind of moxie that it takes for YOU to tell your tales and tell them real, I find my own story. Your secrets are mine. Your fallings and failures and glories. It’s there that I finger the edges of making peace with myself and an expansive hope comes just into view right next to a love that tears down walls. If beauty bursting through is true for you, couldn’t it also be true for me … ?

All of us belong to each other in this very way. Oh, how the world needs your wild.

Because this is the kind of courage that gives birth to a deeply personal bravery; this is not only the discovery of our humanness – but the necessary making friends with it; this is the kind of being known that inspires the greatest and least alike to call vulnerability out on her dare; to surrender all the ways we try so hard to impress everyone around us with our words and our art …

And to live as friends.



“I have called you friends … Now, go and do likewise.”
-Jesus of Nazareth






Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. You can catch her hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, or see more of her astounding words at her blog, chronicles of grace






This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, I’m going to have a link-up for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. What are the issues we face and deal with? This is not a place for maligning anyone in our writing and link-up or to debate in the comments. No mentions, please, of other blogs, quotes from other blogs, etc. These are the requirements for the link-up. Please keep this theme and discussion in mind, and think of how you’d  like to begin writing your own story, or journey of blogging. I’d love to hear it! I’ll choose one story to be featured here the following week, and on social media! 

In Which I Invite *All* of us to the Table {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



You know these lines that seem to sometimes be drawn hard? They make me heart-sick, make me long for Home. I’m talking about up there, in the sky, where there is no camp of beliefs, there is no side, there is no arguing, there is no pushing others out for the sake of our own theology. I think this makes God very small, not that it changes Him, but who He is to us and them almost becomes obsolete, something we so easily discard for the glitz of new-fangled theologies and shoring up our traditional beliefs that have taken a battering.

There, where there is no camp, where He sits on the throne, and His Son, the darling of Heaven, illuminates everything, there will be no darkness in us and we’ll see clearly.

G.K. Chesterson said “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”.

If religion really is about the way we love God and people, following the two greatest commandments our Saviour asked of us, how can we live this out?

Do we get too caught up in wrong and right, black and white? Do we divide and separate, hurt people in the pursuit of being right in our own religion?

When it comes to our brothers and sisters who are creating art alongside us, are we judging too harshly what others are bringing to the table because of our own likes, dislikes, beliefs and experience? Are we in actuality, because we believe our highest calling is to honor truth and religion as we see it done correctly, pushing the chair back in, and excusing people from the table, leaving them nowhere to partake in the body of Christ?

Are we making them feel uncomfortable in our piety, or by telling them that the pie on the buffet table they just dug into was special-made by a caterer for a church meeting and cost $20?

Our words, and the way we use them at any given time, can be so damaging to people’s hearts and dreams, and we need to be careful how we use those words on social media.

Have we broadcast a party, off in our secret corners, and made them feel uninvited? Have we made it for the elite only, for the rich, for the clean, for the holy, for the ones like-minded?

Does God want more from us?

There have been times I thought for sure I’d happened upon a community of believers that was for me, a place where it was safe, until I found, of course, that it was not safe, and hurt happens everywhere, and hurting people hurt people. It’s been hard for me to navigate the sometimes treacherous, sometimes loving, but always the very human waters of community.

I don’t know much, but I am sure we spend way too much time scrutinizing one another’s art, words, and lives, and not near enough time just loving.

I’d love to see us read, share and write in such a way that we look at it as exploring the many faces of God, because he has as many as there are on this great, spinning orb at this very moment.

I want to pay attention to every life I come in contact with, because they may not be here tomorrow, and they were the face of God for me, uniquely, in a way I’ll never get the opportunity to see again.

Why do we feel the need to be God, to call someone out, to correct, to criticize, to stifle their creativity? Whatever wrong we are so convinced we see in their art, or their lives, through our own filter, when we question their theology, their motives, their calling, we have become self-important and we take on a role only God was meant to have–the role of just judge. And we ask them to quit, tell them they aren’t good enough. We humiliate them, assault their human dignity in the name of truth telling.

Friends, this is the basest form of love, which really isn’t love at all. It’s more akin to apathy, because we’re serving our own purposes.

All I want to do is bend low and wash feet.

When walls keep getting thicker and higher, and lines keep being drawn hard, sides are taken, it becomes harder to wash feet, doesn’t it? If we’re honest, it becomes impossible.

I can’t help but walk around with this ache, thinking this isn’t what Jesus wanted. And this ache, it has no description.

I don’t have a church because I just don’t know how to anymore. I get online to find some community and I see my people scrutinizing one another, talking in whispers, off somewhere in a seemingly private corner, but oh, we must remember, everyone sees, others hear, and it hurts. It’s painful, y’all.

Let’s not whisper in corners. Let’s be bigger than that.

Can we be people who heal?

Let’s not ask one another to quit asking the hard questions. Let’s not ask one another to change theology in exchange for love and acceptance. Let’s not ask one another to quit writing, or creating, or living life audaciously. No, lets’s tell one another the sky’s the limit, because really, it is.

And please, for all that is holy, let’s not excuse someone from the table. They are the face of God, and we need God at the table. I beg of us, to be reverent, to be kind, to protect one another, to be the face of God for one another.

I beg of us to love.

During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples: 

Take, eat.

This is my body.

Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them: 

Drink this, all of you.

This is my blood, God’s covenant poured out for many people
for the forgiveness of sins.  

I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.” –Matt. 26:26-29; The Message

When You Need A Cure {An Abstraction on Come}

The visit–it woke me. And her question in that letter that traveled several thousand miles to get to me? Pierced the heart.

It was a joy to read your last blog post…I rejoice with you at the depth and tenderness of our Father’s care for your soul in this. I know the fruit of His Spirit in you was hard-borne, but it is so beautiful, and its sweetness has His aroma dripping from it. How have you been growing and testing the sweetness of His care for you since writing your last post? 

That poignant question.

I’m not the same I was this time last year. And I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. It feels bad.

We had made a pact that next Christmas would be different, standing there in the middle of the kitchen, cans lining the shelf, oatmeal, bag of sugar left opened, the grains scattered out, and two bags of rice because we forgot we already bought one. And the cabinets with no doors that bother me so badly, they an eye-sore, give away what’s obvious and wants to be hidden. The food stares back at us.

All of my choices face me. Pumpkin. Maple. Spicy chili mix. Oats. Corn. Green beans. Dark cocoa.

And children in the slums today, their only choices are garbage or rotten garbage.

We said we wanted it to be different, without all the hustle and stress of picking out gifts last minute, and long lists that don’t really satisfy the soul. We wanted it to be about more than just the sweet soft melt-in-your-mouth peppermint sticks filling our Christmas sugar bowl, the beautiful Nutcracker soldiers standing guard by the tree, or even toys and lovely stockings filled to the brim from Santa.

We said we wanted a Christmas overflowing with a different kind of joy –we would choose gifts from the magazine instead, a goat or a pack of seeds that would be planted and meet daily needs somewhere across the ocean for years to come, not for someone with a long Christmas list, but for a family who just needs to eat.

And the tall girl, the first born who came into the world wailing for months straight and sweetly suckling at my breast, the one I smile at and softly stroke her forehead as I tell her I didn’t mind how much she screamed–I just nursed her again– and her face illuminates like Christmas balls on a prickly pine tree at my admittance–

she had given us the magazine, put it on the counter by her daddy’s things, next to his keys, worn leather wallet, and hat, to remind us of our choices.

Choices at Christmas time. How they can entangle.

I’ve been dead and I just. need. to. wake. up.

I get up out of bed to answer the door, and there stands my friend, dark hair and her eyes asking, and her husband just there behind her, and my first thought is how my hair is a rat’s nest and I didn’t shower the night before, and haven’t brushed my teeth yet, and my life is chaotic and….the room spins a little… How can I invite them into all this mess? Surely they’ll be embarrassed to see? And me–ashamed.

But they give a big smile and warm hug, say they stopped by from their trip back home just to pray for me and talk for a few minutes.

He anoints my head with the oil, and it’s like a soothing salve. The care of Christ’s body is healing to the soul. They pray with me and we talk about forgiveness and grace. I feel God’s presence so strongly when they leave. I know I’ve entered in, talked and walked with God. I easily forget.

I’m a lost Israeli daughter. Always forgetting. Always hoping. Always looking to the horizon, aching for a hope, shuffling my feet in the dirt again, dust veiling my eyes.

What will save me next? The newest book out on Amazon? I find nothing to cheer or comfort me in their thin, wanting pages.

Calling up my friend and talking about my struggles? Venting? That relieves the moment, but what
will keep me secure and grounded, not today, but tomorrow and every day?

Christmas cheer leaves me feeling empty without the Savior.

I keep thinking that there must be some answer and I feel stupidly ridiculous for needing a cure, but it just. won’t. go. away.

This need to do something other than just sit here, in this dead skin, moving my limbs through rote tasks every day as if grace is not real, as if sacred breath was not breathed into my body by a Holy God, and crackers and cheese and orange juice with children around my kitchen island are not Christ’s body and the new wine.

As if every day that I wake up is not a miracle.

The man, he said he had tried everything there is to try on earth, and he found life meaningless.

And the longer I live, the more I see that I’m just searching through a fog of fleeting moments, one vapor disappearing, and my eyes are drawn to yet another. This is not real. This is not the answer, these fleeting things that do not satisfy the soul.

A book, new music, a conference, a new activity, presents under the tree in shiny paper, even people being changed by our words–all of it is meaningless without Christ. Because without Him, it’s just a fleeting happiness, a vapor that is gone in the wake of another high.

The kids–they have a long list. The tree was too bare the past few Christmases, they said, prickly cold branches with nothing underneath to warm it’s girth, to fill the laughing belly. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. And I have a long list too–of failures. They wrap around me, knot up and as far as I can see, there are all the things I do wrong. And I keep tripping over them everyday.

Entangled.

It seems I’m stumbling and heading straight into Christmas–the momentum is unstoppable and a crash is inevitable. No planning, no thoughtful meditation, no change-the-world-ideas.

There’s just me, and all this failing.

I stand at the sink in front of that little blue canvas that reads– Dare to make that difference ~ take that step ~ follow that dream ~  and I think of all those failings. As I scrub, my mind is working fast and hard, reminding me, and then something hits me in the face. Pop–and wakes me up. Stunned, I peer closer, really seeing, and notice what I hadn’t before. All the bubbles, floating up, all around, and they’re landing on me, tiny iridescent orbs dancing, teasing, mesmerizing. But I hadn’t even seen it before. And I wonder, Is this what Ann was talking about? I look at the little blue canvas and just smile to myself like a big dork.

I need Him to come. Yes, though I don’t want to admit it, because I’d like it to be easier–He is still the answer. There isn’t some easier way to the deepest satisfaction of a full life. I have to give my whole heart.

He’s a bit mysterious and it requires me to soften my heart. His Otherness requires just a bit of effort on my part–faith. But oh, how I need Him to come. And maybe, just maybe He will do the softening and changing.

So, being the lost daughter that I am, I’m desperately looking up, and with all my Jewish and Greek family, all of the bloodline and the ones grafted in, of past and present, I hope.

Oh, Emmanuel come. Here, now.

And while I’m hoping and asking that He will come, friends, I can no longer just sit here in this deadness and pretend there’s no miracle and ba-hum-bug my way through Christmas. So…in an effort to let the Creator to do something through me, I’m using my creativity and posting a photo of me (hopefully a fashionable one) in a dress every day to help free women and girls (and boys too) from sex trafficking and slavery. The project is called Dressember and you can go here to find out more, or go here to sponsor me and help me raise funds to offer Christ’s freedom to these in need of rescue. I’ll be writing more about my experiences and struggles with this very soon, so be on the look-out for a post on that! I owe it to my friend, Deidra, for igniting the desire to do this. If you’re interested in the jute bag in the picture, they’re made by Free Set, a fair trade company who gives jobs to women who’ve been rescued from the sex trade. If you’re interested in “picking out gifts” for a family in need, you can go to Compassion International’s website or World Hope’s gift catalog . Ann Voskamp and friends of mine work with all of these organizations mentioned in this post, and they’re legit.

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Come


{I will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so visit back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}

Of Things Unseen {An Abstraction on the Cup}

I cannot say how pleased I am to have Kelli Woodford, my dear friend, here today to guest-write for Concrete Words. Her quiet, searching heart stirs me deep. I hope her words move you as much as they do me. And please, be sure to show her some lovin’ for her words here. 





The styrofoam is warm in my hands. It imprints on my fingertips, a liquid story of contents unseen. 

Steam rises like prayers, fogging out the world as I draw the cup close, closer to my lips. I inhale the fluid decadence. Wishing I could ingest it just as slowly, as tangibly, as it escapes–wafting upward, upward. Always the scent lingering somewhere on the edges of time. I close my eyes. 

A chair skids loud across the flecked tile floor. It wakes me from my drifting. 

To the left, three men sit at a table set for four. One is slick bald. He looks like a preacher to me. Oh, not a preacher-comb-the-hair-over, wear-a-tie, King-Jimmy-in-hand preacher, but one of these cool guy preachers. The kind that sport those trendy, dark-rimmed glasses and the baldness without looking older than 40. 

I run the top of my middle finger along the rim of my cup. Circling, circling. My coffee is still too hot to drink, but I’ve nothing to do but sit with it and with my imagination. A mind at play among the rising fog. 

Their conversation is too low for me to make out, and I’m glad I don’t hear it. I think I’d rather invent it. Bits and pieces, that’s all we know, I wonder if he’s saying. As a preacher, I have a responsibility to proclaim what I believe, but God help me if I don’t spend just as much time with my hand clapped over my mouth, aghast at what great folly it is to ever speak with absolute certainty about God Almighty. He is not a tame Lion. No, no…

My imagination runs wild with the hope of what it would be to hear a preacher admit his finite understanding of God. To say what he knows as freely and gently as if whispered over a casket–instead of boisterous and aggressive, as if a little too used to the amplification of a microphone and stage lights. To give respect to the Mystery of all that defies explanation, instead of putting Eternity in a systematic box. But I know it’s just my experience talking. He’s leaning forward now, toward the others. Whatever he’s saying, it’s clear that he means it with all his heart. 

Velvet fingers, mine, stir serendipity into the coffee, sugar melting, sweet and silent. 

And I sense an opening. It’s deep in me. 

Something creaks as mercies widen, unseen changes afoot. 

I raise my cup and lock eyes with the dark-rimmed stranger over yawning styrofoam. His lips and mine receive the contents poured into our respective open spaces. The misty prayers that rise with this touch to my face are less selfish somehow, and more generous. I see his nerves. They play the surface of his face like a guitar solo. He doesn’t see me, I know now. He is looking at them, at himself. He feels the weight of this responsibility. For he holds something heavier in his hand than the cup from which he sips. 

And he deserves, not my contempt, but my compassion. It might not be wine of the covenant, but I feel the solidarity of our drink in tandem. I feel the words spoken in my narrowed places, now more open that empathy has done her work:

Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you … do this in remembrance. 

I whisper back, the echoes of another prayer uttered long ago, 

and the sound ricochets inside my cup, which now runneth over. 

That we may be one, Lord Jesus, 

that we may be one. 



12-12-2013.JPG
ABOUT KELLI WOODFORD
Kelli hopes never to recover from the mighty mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace. 



****************
Gratitude: {1109-1118}…
yellow and purple irises blooming in the yard :: how grown up my 12-year-old is–her intuition and quiet nature that are a gift to me :: my little one lying in bed with me in early morning and nuzzling up against my face with her cheek :: shafts of light across the couch :: beauty of early morning sun :: a cozy blanket and warm coffee :: my bible :: the comforting sound of clean, running water :: the cute sneezes of a certain 3-year-old

{This post shared with Ann, Laura, and Michelle} 

*************

***Dear readers, I had a conversation with the ever-sweet Amber Haines, and her handing over Concrete Words to me is meant to be a permanent deal. sixinthesticks will now be it’s home for good. Amber has said she can no longer do it on her blog. She has asked me to take it and run with it, change it up, make it my own. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! 
     
**************


What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or
                                             sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is the Cup

**Starting next week, Concrete Words will be going live every Sunday evening, sometime between 7 and 10 pm. I cannot promise an exact time, as my weekends are very spontaneous and I’m a little bit of a roving rebel.
The prompt next week is the Afternoon.{I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


For Your Weekend: A Little Madeleine L’Engle, A Little Photography, A Little Link Love

I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”
            ― Madeleine L’Engle

I‘ve been wondering lately, about childhood and why I write about it so much when I’m given a prompt or a 5 minute time-limit. It’s where my mind naturally goes. I’ve also been thinking about how hard writing has been lately for me, and for many I know. With all the noise, and loud voices raising to be heard above it, I wonder about still and quiet, child-like faith and wonder, happiness in simple things, and I wonder about happiness itself and how important it is to God.

I think I’ve about come to the conclusion it’s extremely important to Him.

Warmest wishes of love and happiness as you remember how to be a kid again this weekend, friends.

Need a little push?

I. dare. you.

So, run outside like a wild woman (or man) and swing with your kids, make fires out of brush and sticks and roast marshmallows and get sticky, sing songs, dance to old blues and jazz, lie in the hammock and read and smooth back their hair ’til you fall asleep, have conversations with little ones that stir wonder in them, chase them around the yard, and dare your daughter to see if she can out-run you with her long legs.

What do you think about Madeleine L’Engle’s quote? Tell me in the comments how you relate/don’t relate? Or meet me over here and let’s discuss there! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nacole-Simmons-Writer/504842422877296?ref=hl

And just to prove that I walk the walk, not just talk the talk, here ya go:

Jump-roping challenge during the Easter games my Lorna set up

The girls and I playing on the trampoline in late afternoon, us a rag-tag bunch

Me about to do some amazing award-winning gymnastics move. No, not really. 

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords is:
Ashley Larkin of Drawing Near–The Frame —this made me breathless, made me feel like I could fly–please give Ashley some lovin’ and share her post! (Remember to use the hashtag #concretewords!)
**Also, Kelli Woodford will be our guest writer for Concrete Words Monday, and our prompt is the Cup!**

*********
Some lovely reading & laughter for the weekend?

All the best links for me this week:

On voice in a noisy world…getting back to basics in writing..

Sarah Bessey —In Which I’ve Got A Song to Sing

Alia Hagenbach: Small grace

Ashleigh Baker– Simple Stories [An Invitation to Old-Fashioned Blogging]

Sarah Bessey —In Which (love looks like) an Unsteady Mother’s Day and an Anniversary at Wal-Mart

Seth Haines —Lyricism, Church Infighting, and The Creed–I keep coming back to this over and over…

Jennifer Camp– Waking Up–The Path to Experiencing and Creating Art–this deeply encouraged me.

At Bibledude:..
Cara Sexton– On Crumpled Bills and Broken Souls

Because we all need laughter in our lives:
Diane Bailey– The Exit Is Part of the Arrival  
Amanda Johnston Hill–Things I Tell My Six-Year-Old–have you been to Amanda’s site? If not, you should visit often. I’m in love with it. She seasons life with humor, wit, and fierce love.
This hilarious video– Pumpcast

Beholding Glory::Kingdom Come Here on Earth {Blessed Are Those Who Mourn}

stained glass diamonds

                                                                               photo credit

There is a way for us to behold glory, and it looks like reaching across the table and just crying with someone who’s hurting, not saying much.

Sometimes all you can say, your arms around them, is this sucks.

I understand what it means to be angry at God–I’ve been there–it’s okay.

Because really, that’s what God wants to say to them if He could, audibly, but He wants to use us.

Jumping into someone’s life and offering advice is a sacred thing. They’re making room for you in their secret places, their inner chambers, their heart of hearts, letting you see all their dirt and grime, the dust on the furniture, the stack of food-crusted dishes in the sink. And the last thing they want you to do is point it out, or to look embarrassed when they make apologies. It’s best to just give some serious disclosure —girl, look, you don’t even want to see my dishes right now–they are way worse.

There is a way to behold glory and it’s not in pretending we are righteous. It’s not in our walls and our thick layers that protect and our fears that keep others at a distance.

See, I have this huge dream to behold glory, to see Kingdom come here on earth. It’s a scary dream really, because I’ve been burned enough to put my faith right out.

But that’s the thing about hope–it’s stronger than fear. It just keeps enduring, keeps flickering back on and won’t be snuffed out. Satan hates this, I think.

There is a way to behold  glory and this dream is that The Church will trust God to save the millions, and stop marching forward with our crusade in haste, leaving the wounded and the weak in faith falling to the sides in our wake. I hope that we will love well the few right around us, that we will make the time to reach across tables, across pews, across airplane aisles and checkout counters, really see the people behind the eyes we are looking into.

I don’t like conquests just for conquest’s sake, and I don’t think God does either.

I dream that we will reach out with a hug when that someone walks in the door a little tear-eyed on a Sunday morning.

I dream of bringing groceries by to the family that lost an income, not because the pastor announced the event in the pulpit, and we think our name may be printed in the bulletin, but because they whispered it to us, they trusted us, and we quietly showed up, Jesus at their door.

I dream of personal, one-on-one, left-hand-not-knowing-what-the-right-hand-is-doing kind of ministry.

I dream of a time when we don’t call it ministry. We just call it Love.

Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for someone–it means entering into suffering with them. This is what Jesus meant when he said Blessed are those who mourn.

Because last I checked, I sin everyday and God said none of us is righteous, not one.



yellow haze

                                                                                                   photo credit:

We are still using a grading system for our sins, for their sins, his sin, her sin, this group’s sin, that group’s sin, and just like the Pharisees we have so many unspoken rules.

Because of this, doors have been slammed shut in my face, too.

We think we have come so far. Yet, we deceive ourselves to think that we really have no sin, that we are not in a perpetual state of sinner-saved-by grace, a hopeless state of constant sinning, if not for the cross and grace of one very scandalously loving God.

We could ask ourselves this revolutionary question: How do we know they don’t go to sleep every night, sobbing, asking God to forgive them, to change them too, the ones we push away?

So I dream and I dream big. I dream of a time when all the walls will come down and we will love fierce. A time when we won’t be cowardly afraid of what’s thought of us if we invite that pregnant, unwed friend to church and sit next to them, or have coffee with a gay friend, or invite that family from across the tracks over for hashbrown casserole.

I have hope, and this hope swells inside my chest til I believe it will explode and this is the question I’m asking: Shouldn’t we plead for all?

To tell them God is for them, that He loves them. Period. And if they trust us enough, maybe we get a chance to share the gospel.

I dream of a day when we don’t draw a line and throw words of hate back from our side, but instead, walk over to the picketers and boycotters and get to know them, share a meal together.
Because really, we are filthy rags and our love of self stinks.

So I dream of a better day when maybe pastors wear t-shirts and jeans, and church can be anywhere people are gathered in the name of love, and the red carpet is laid out for all, like our Father does for us, for those who come looking for love a little dirty and maybe their appearance a little different than ours.

I don’t dream of great exploits in God; I don’t dream of being a hero.

I do dream of beholding glory. I do dream of Kingdom come here on earth.

I dream of changing one stranger at a time with our genuine care, and I dream of a church, rising up out of the ash of their own bridges burned and beginning to build a crossway of Love.

trees and stained glass
                                                                          photo credit    




{This post shared with BibleDude.net, Michelle DeRusha, Jennifer Lee for #TellHisStory, Imperfect Prose, Shelly and Duane for #Wonderstruck}



Gulping From the Cup {On God Using Community to Heal Us From Bad Community}

I sat there on the plane, next to him, not knowing who he was, my arms waving in circles, exclaiming wildly with too-hoarse voice, and this is what he heard me say, as our plane backed out of the terminal at the Omaha Airport.

Why are we so afraid to say ‘I’m a writer, to say that what I do, what I create–is good’? I just really think God has so much grace for us that we’ve yet to grasp or tap into. There is so much freedom in God. Why are we afraid to accept and own that freedom? We wear this heavy cloak of guilt and shame for who we are, and we think that’s humility. But God doesn’t want us going around to everyone apologizing, ‘I’m not good enough’. 

It’s like God’s saying dance wild in my freedom, in a field of wild flowers.

And I’m on the edge of the field, dipping my toes into soft wet clover, and timidly testing it out. I’m wild with fear, wondering what huge thing is going to come across that field at me.

We think the shame of ourselves and our fear, our timidity, makes us more holy. But Jesus said blessed are the meek, not the timid. When we are meek, it means we know our might and our power to crush, to control, to correct, but we hold it back with gentle force in respect.

The true humility God wants us to wear says ‘I’m redeemed’, I’m God’s and because of His bloody and bruised sacrifice, my heart is bowed low and because He says I’m beloved, my head is held high.

And yet, we wear that heavy cloak anyway. It’s weighing us down. It’s a cloak of shame, of fear, of unworthiness, of “I’m not good enough”, of a humility that isn’t true.

Why do we keep putting it back on?

I walk over and hang it on the coat rack, thinking I’ve really laid it down, but God wants me to get rid of the coat rack, because everytime I walk out that door, I pick it up. And I just keep wearing it, over and over. And I think it fits so pretty and so snug, but Father-God who knit my pieces together, says “No, daughter, this shame-cloak is not made for you.”

I feel Him gently pull it off, His mighty strength holding back the darkness that tears at my soul, and with the weight off of what didn’t belong to me, I feel so free.

And I’m longingly looking to Him with adoration.

I look at him, in that tight small space, and he looks at me, asks me to share. I look away, maybe for a way out, but I know, in an instant, without thinking, it’s really God asking me to share, because He’d been doing it all weekend.

I tell him, timidly, laying my life in someone else’s hands, wondering what they will do with it.

I tell of why I can’t go to church, why worship is hard for me, what being a pastor’s daughter did to me, and how people in the Body of Christ pushing me away once they encountered the real me–how that all made me jaded.

He said he admired me, people like me, he said, who have more than they deserve dumped on them and yet they keep loving anyway.

This made me balk and want to hide somewhere. I had never heard these words from other Christians in the body before, and if I had, I had brushed them off, thinking surely they weren’t real.

There were so many others, ones who looked me straight in the eye, when I said I had no idea what I was doing, and said You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re in a very good place.

Ones who looked me in the eye, said they were just an email away, told me to let them know if I needed prayer for any reason. Ones who looked me in the eye, said, I’m here for you.

There were others who looked at me, said, Yes, you do, when I said I don’t do community well, that I don’t do relationships with women well.

And the truth is, I don’t. My heart is black when it comes to community–I run from it with a fierce determination, afraid for my life, a deer being hunted, panicking, heart thumping loudly.

But that’s my truth, not God’s truth. And these women–and men? They spoke God’s truth to me. They looked at my heart, not at all the things I did or said wrong, stumbling around, but they looked at the potential, at what God has placed in me. And they saw something good there. They championed my heart and my dreams.

They said no to the lie and yes to God has made me and said it was good.

There was one who looked into my eyes as I began to tell her how much I respected her work, how she had a passion for encouraging women, and how I avoided those forums, because community is hard for me. I told her how God had begun to set that free in me this weekend, something I never thought would happen. The tears poured and the ugly-cry came in spite of me, and I apologized, said, I just wanted to snap a picture–I didn’t mean to do this!

She shook her beautiful auburn hair, No, these are the things that I want to hear from you, from women, because these are the things I work for, these are the important stories, they are the things that encourage me, to know that God heals, that God redeems.

There was the one who had me at hello, before ever meeting her in real life, and because of her daring, wonderful, crazy vision to invite some writers and bloggers to Nebraska, now I can dream too.

I can’t forget the precious woman I affectionately call “roomie”, who is in all my dreams and waking thoughts, who has my heart, and she had it before she ever stepped out of that car, sunglasses over her baby blues at the airport. She was the one who said God saved my roommate for me until I was ready.

Ready to step out on that shaky limb, ready to say yes to God, ready to have faith, to believe in my dreams.

I watched all of them, the ones I rubbed shoulders and hearts with. I marveled at them, listened to their heart, how they lean in towards people, how their gentle eyes see into souls, how they went right past small talk and asked the important questions, the ones that made me shake in my cowgirl boots, the kinds of questions that let you really know someone intimately.

There were sacred moments, uncensored, organic conversation in front of a fireplace, everyone gathered and leaning in, really seeing, really listening, and not judging.

Those moments changed me forever. As one friend put it so well, it was most probably a turning point in my story. I know it in my soul deep, even though my mind says be watchful, be careful, you can’t trust–God’s spirit was made strong in me through that moment and now the spirit knows something powerful in me–that God’s people are beautiful. And because of faith, I can trust.

What gorgeous souls they all were and still are. Meeting them in real life was beautiful and did more for me than they could ever imagine. This stone-cold, black heart, so afraid of people, of relationship, of church–it was broken right open and poured out in spite of me.

One lovely woman of God, she shepherded us, led us right up to the Shepherd’s feet. She led my weary, wary, jaded and undecided heart. She made me feel his rod and staff, and oh they are good. Knowing Him in that way had seemed out of my grasp for so long and then came the beautiful liturgical rhythm of her sermons, the worship songs, and then her prayers, an oasis in my desert.

Her radiant confidence in a wonderful Savior moved me and how can I possibly explain the sacredness of that moment when she broke the bread and held up the cup for us to come, all tearing a piece off–I had to tear it hard– Christ’s body ripping and being broken for me.

I drank from the cup, all of us drinking from the same, and I felt unworthy, unclean, and unsure all of us drawing from the same well, and in swallowing that red drink down, I willingly swallowed down community, all of us one and the same, unclean but made clean in Him, all of us pieces torn hard, made whole as a part of a Larger Whole, unworthy, but called Son and Daughter and given not a cloak of shame, but a robe of righteousness to wear, a ring, and a feast, and an inheritance of the largest kingdom this world has ever known.

We are hidden on high with Him.



Then there was one who stood before us and she worshipped. There was no song, or guitar, or piano, or dancing. She worshipped with her heart, with her words, with the call that she urged us all with. This is what she said:

“Whether you’ve been the big “somebody”, or have believed that you’re a nobody, you’ve got a role in the Christ-body, and that means everybody. 

 
You’ve been bullied by fear, discouragement, comparison, unbelief, and a hundred other ‘Not Enoughs’. 


We’ve had Enough of the ‘Not Enoughs’. 


Jesus is not intimidated…He might just ask you to use a rock to slay a giant. And He’s been known to roll certain stones away.”–Jennifer Lee

Tears rolled down my face, as I held the rock in my hand that bore the words fear and unbelief on them, the rock she said that her and her precious daughter would take down to the lake and throw in.

I had never forgotten the prayer she had prayed for me all that time long ago, and as she talked, I felt her worshipping, and that was the first time I worshipped that weekend, that I had let myself at all in a really long time. I let it all go, and the warm ran down cheeks onto collarbones. And it just ran, like a life-giving well, bubbling up and out, running down and out and up to God.

I watched one walk down the aisle with our Pastor, lay their stones in the basket together. Those stones that carry our “Not Enoughs”.  I saw hugs and tears and prayers, and the pain and grief and love was tangible in that place.

There was something so palpable in the room as I sat there and listened to that gorgeous courier carrying God’s message, I could almost reach out and touch it, and she was an angel, God using her to place his hand on my heart, to touch the pain searing there.

I left branded a new woman, all of these lives seared onto mine.

Yes, I have people now. After all the tearing, I’m apart of a Body now, and I’m gulping from that cup.

                                                      photo credit: used w/ permission by the lovely Laura Boggess

“The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us. And I’ve learned the beautiful truth and the tragic truth that God uses community to heal us from bad community.”–Mary Demuth


This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory, Shelly & Duane for Wonderstruck, Emily, & Jen & Heather for the EO