Category Archives: communion

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough

{The Conundrums of Christian  Writing and Blogging: A Series}

                                                                                 photo credit–Kelli Woodford 
Hands in front of the keyboard, I can’t bring them to type out any words. I’m overwhelmed with anxiety, and too many questions hanging over my head, so I gently bang my forehead on the table a couple times, then give in and go outside. I hope to gain perspective, for my writer’s block. I hope to listen. Because without listening, and living, I’ve learned, there is nothing to write.

Clad in jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals, the sun warms me all over. It finds me in the chair in the backyard, and I look up, squinting, I try to look straight at it, but it’s blinding bright.

I slightly lower my gaze and stare at the tree’s branches over me, and see spring’s buds about to pop out beautiful white.

I close my eyes and let the sun wash over, and the wind is so strong, the pages next to me flutter crazily and excitedly. The worn, frayed-edged card from a dear friend spins out from a book and rolls like tumbleweed over the table and towards the water-filled ditch. I jump up to catch it, and then all the papers go flying. They’re everywhere, scattered all over, spread out thin like me.

I don’t feel enough. For a long time, I’ve struggled with it. That I’m not enough.

I like to write about glorious things, like Kingdom Come and how to make a home, and where church is (and it’s not necessarily within four walls), and how to love the least of these–

And the truth is, my dirty laundry is piled up high and scattered down the steps where the kids have walked all over it, and my house aches sad with neglect, and I sometimes forget to fix breakfast for myself, and lunch too, and I’m hurting and broken, and I am tired of just writing about things.

I do pray Kingdom comes, for real this time. Because all I know is that He IS the only Really Real.

She comes up to me suddenly, to my chair in the sun and wind, and I see her smile, holding the yellow daffodils up to me proudly that she picked in the woods on the edge of our unruly backyard. I think I like things that way–unruly. It suits me just fine.

I smile back, thank you. I take the flowers from her dirty, chubby hands, and she wraps her arms around me in a hug, and like angels singing, the sun breaks through clouds just at that moment, and her head and mine are lit with it’s golden fire. I feel the heat and the love of this moment.

Moments like these tell me I’m enough. Moments like friends that tell me over the phone, You. are. capable. And moments when friends tell me there is so much bravery in me, and they BELIEVE in God IN ME. And they see, so clearly, that He is speaking to me, and has given me wisdom for this struggle.

For too long, I think I thought of myself as not good enough for anything, or anyone. And that included God. A blogger friend told me recently, that transactional, measured, performance driven prostitution is a pale comparison to God’s passionate love. And all I could say was a hearty Amen.

When I have lowered my standards, because I didn’t feel I was worthy, I have been the prostitute and I have made his grace cheap.

I allowed Satan to slither on that tree branch toward me, up onto my neck, seize the arteries tight, and tell me the lies —you aren’t good enough, and God’s love seemed pale to me, though I knew it was HUGE and I just couldn’t reach up. I wasn’t worthy, like the prostitute. Do you know? He loves her so much more than the religious who have it all together. Ah, that’s straight from his word, not from me. The “religious” that made His love and grace cheap, the ones that oppressed the people, bore the law down upon them hard, he called vipers. But he loved the prostitute, who recognized him as Saviour and washed his feet.

That is me. Unnamed, but named by Him, unwanted by wanted and called by Him before I was ever conceived, unqualified, but qualified supernaturally by the only Power that matters in this universe.

This is not a mamby pamby gospel. His grace is a force to be reckoned with, and I’m so grateful for this reminder. Because after going round and round the same desert for years, I am tired of mamby pamby faith and cheap grace.

Don’t mistake me to think I mean that now I will buckle down, grit my teeth and work harder to make his grace worth the sacrifice of his blood spilled. No–just the opposite. I will walk gentler with Him. I will let Him be Emmanuel, God with me. Jehovah Nissi, The Lord is my refuge, or banner over me. Jehovah Rapha, He is the Healer of all my troubles.

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

In writing I think we all deal with the Not-Enoughs. And we are tired of them, yes? Can I tell you what He’s been whispering to me?

You. are. enough. Yes. Just the way you are. Not how you used to be, when things were better, and days were brighter. Not how you will be tomorrow, or next year, when you’ve gotten yourself together and whipped those bad habits into shape, when your marriage is holier and more loving, when you’re a better wife, mother, co-worker, daughter, or father.

Now. Just as you are. He loves me as I am. And He’s created so much in me, given me so much already. All He’s asking me to do (and maybe you, too?) is to step out brave, and to use those talents and gifts He’s placed in us. Not only for His glory, but because He wants us to be happy.

Yes, He wants us to be happy, because everything He created was perfectly made for our enduring existence here on earth, and for our pleasure while here.

It’s a beautiful thing, to be enough. To feel it, and to know it. To know I have everything I need for right now. I may not feel like I have everything I need for tomorrow–that is okay.

                                             photo credit–KelliWoodford

He is providing for me today. An extra, very rich and powerful measure of grace. Never mistake God and think that His grace is soft, sweet, and for girls. Oh no, it is something the most demonic, prickly hairs on the back of your neck of forces tremble at. They are afraid, as they should be.

The friends that say NO to the lies? They heal wounds in me where I was told I was less-than, that I wasn’t worth of Love, that I was only good for holding at arm’s length.

When I’ve vulnerable with my insecurity, they don’t prey upon it, they don’t offer worn out cliches and religious platitudes. They let me see them, vulnerably naked too. And they tell me what they see is good. They say no to the lies.

The ones that chase me after I’ve written a piece that I hope is good, but I wonder about bearing my soul. The ones that chase me after a conversation with a friend, and I wonder if I said this or that the wrong way? Wounds from the past haunt, and these sisters tell me over and over, and they never grow weary of it–you. are. so loved. I’m here, walking beside you. There’s nothing you can do to make me leave.

This is what we can do for one another. I truly believe that. We can be women who heal, we can be the Esther generation, who don’t stay in our fine palaces, planning conferences or our next blog post, but who kneel with the broken, and break bread with the hungry, drink wine with the thirsty. We can look one another in the eyes, and daily say you are enough.

And watch for it–because when this happens, we are at the communion table with Christ.

This is a series–here is the most recent post with the links if you want to catch up to the entire series:
http://sixinthehickorysticks.blogspot.com/2014/02/rooted-in-tangible-grace.html

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For When You’re Cynical and Can’t Find Faith for a New Year {And a few blog posts I love}



The north wind blows hard down south, coming in and seeming to pick me right up off the ground. It whips all around, and I can’t tell from whence it came.

It’s like that with the Holy Spirit, how He whispers quietly, What are you doing?, and it makes me pay attention.

I’m not always sure where He came from, when or how he suddenly showed up, if He was always there, and I just didn’t notice, or if it’s really me talking to myself crazy, and I’m not hearing right.

The New Year can blow in hard, and it can seem this big impossible thing to tackle, this mountain that can’t possibly be moved by this iron shovel in my determined hand, much less a mustard seed.

One thing I’ve learned in all my short thirty four years, is that I can’t make hard lines for myself in the sand, stout immovable resolutions that don’t leave room for me to mess up, for him to pick me up gently with grace, or for Him to whisper quietly when I’m going the wrong way.

Christmas came and went, and I was so confused and dismayed and unsure at what my convictions were or where my faith was at all. Faith can seem so small next to the grandeur of Christmas and the Christ child. And Christmas magnifies what we are feeling.

I just could. not. feel. my faith.

And so I just gave into it. When the Holy Spirit whispered gently on the frost bitten chilly breeze, What are you doing?, I just listened.

I pondered. And I tried to be reverent.

I thought about storing the treasure of Him up in my heart. But my heart was conflicted, sore, split right open, calloused and cold to hide the blood pumping soft and warm underneath.

I gave myself over because it’s all you can do when you don’t know the way, and you aren’t sure in your human depravity who it is speaking, whispering, nudging. All you can do, is place that mustard seed in His hands, and say Here, this is all I’ve got. Do something with it, Father.

So 2013 was hard, and in the same cynical fashion, I allowed myself to keep snowballing, thinking the new year is going to be even harder, and Who cares if the numbers change, because it all still feels the same to me, and I’ll just mess this up too.

One continuous cracked, fragile failure after another turned avalanche, and the momentum seemed it would take me under.

Until… Until God.

Until I listened long enough and pondered enough that I knew, I just knew He was telling me You’re not made for this, no, I have created you for *this*, this thing here, see this thing? How beautiful, how right you are for it, and you know, daughter, you have worth too?

He showed me Hope.

And He kept whispering to me that it’s okay to embrace who he made me, my talents, my skills, all of the silly, wonderful, quirky, crazy, amazing things that he wrapped up all in one person and called it beautiful.

He just kept whispering and I just kept listening until I believed it.

I would turn away, afraid to believe, afraid it was all a lie, and a trap just to hurt me again, like in the past when I believed I could do something and went out on a limb, only to be ridiculed and humiliated by those who should love me the most, His own. My own brothers and sisters.

And therein lies my greatest faith struggle and my greatest setback to all the dreams He’s called me to realize.

But even though we turn away, He always gently cups our face, and pulls us back, and he gently whispers again, a lover wooing his bride, coaxing her to just give into love.

He just kept whispering it, you know? Like the beat of a bleeding heart, a drum that thrums over and over and over again, and with every beat of his heart, I found mine as I continued to listen to his pulse for life, and for me, and for all of creation.

If we listen quietly, long enough, we can hear it.

It’s all around us, the thrumming, drumming, pulsing beat of his heart for us. 

It’s grace raining down, and it’s a father picking up a child when they’ve fallen from their bike, and it’s the light in a newborn’s face. It’s the sacredness in a family holding hands around the table, and it’s the breathtaking holy in mom and dad and kids all laughing like heck because there’s only one life to not botch up, and it’s the gentleness in the cashier’s face at the quick stop, it’s in the kindness of the stranger behind you who pays for the difference when you’ve gone over.

Can you see it?

The rough callouses of his hard working hands, and her old, wrinkled, clasped hands, as she fervently prays.

It’s in the special need child’s understanding grin and affectionate hug, it’s in the hospital staff’s genuine care during a very difficult stay, it’s in a body of believer’s just being there when times are tough, it’s in a child’s first acceptance of Christ.

The father’s smile when he wakes from heart surgery, the trusting conversation between men of different races, the mutual respect between heterosexual and gay friends, it’s the baby dedication when an entire body vows in unison to assist the parents in raising children who love God,

the rise and fall of lovers, the searching and exploring of hands and lips.

It’s in bubbles blown, fragile iridescent orbs popping in summer breeze, and gold light spun out across the floor and the piano’s gleaming pedals, calling you to play, and it’s in your child’s voice, luring you toward the trampoline and their cheers and giggles when you mount and begin to jump and enjoy life,

the warmth of hot chocolate going down and it’s in the steam of a hot bath and the cool of fresh water from the arcing spout of a hose in the middle of July.

It’s in the howling wind, and the night sky banged out with a zillion stars combusting so many light years away, but shining in brilliance here and now, in this quiet moment, and it’s in the mocking jay’s echoing song, and in the leaves that fall, and in a coral pink sunset that he paints across the sky if we’ll only notice. It’s in pines that sway tall and swirl with pleasant earthy scent, it’s in the soft, snowy buds that flurry and fly off the wild plum tree in spring, it’s in the warm, giving hug of a child, and it’s in your daughter’s prophetic encouragement, Don’t worry, Mama, when I have babies, I’m sure you will be the first to hold them, upon sensing your sadness at the baby growing up so fast.

And in all this, God is whispering, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. I’m in the innocence of a newborn babe’s face, I’m in the Catholic priest’s quiet, disciplined communion, and I’m in the African American’s wild, freedom dance.

He’s telling us with each pulse, each beat, in this throbbing, thrumming, quiet sort of constant love All of this is for you, can you feel me here amongst you, do you see my creation, know my grandeur and glory, recognize me as Father?

He peels back the thick crust from my eyes, and He gives hope. He lets me know I was made for more than this doubting, this believing I’m nothing, this unfeeling life, numbed to faith.

He gives hope, and I see him. I grab on with a fierce grip, let him pull me back up. I hold on tightly, though the cold wind of doubt blows hard right through me.

Open your heart to really see, open your eyes to wonder… the right way for us to gain perspective in the middle of doubt and cynicism… His thrumming, constant love for us all around, heard around the world, if we listen. He loves us, we have a hope, a reason to hold on, to believe…

Some posts I’ve enjoyed lately, some new things I’ve happened upon. Check them out.

Outside the City Gate {even lepers have a colony} I love, love, love this. *And* it happens to be headed up by some amazing, head on their shoulders, down to earth, friends of mine, Kelli Woodford, Diane Bailey, and also Tammy Hendricksmeyer, who I know through writing as well.

From Chains to Keys an amazing write by my friend, Kelli Woodford. You must read this, if you ever felt the things of the past haunting you.

My One Word 365: Dwell Alia does it again. She blows me away with her writing, and her heart.

She Loves Magazine: Manifesto: Let Us Be Women Who Love This is beautiful.

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