Thursday, June 14, 2018

FREEBIE for tired mamas of sleepless littles!

Hey to all the tired mamas out there! I am very familiar with the havoc wreaked on the entire household by sleepless night after sleepless night. Sleep affects our mood, energy level, patience, physical health, mental health, emotional health... all the healths. Need I go on? You know what I'm talking about. There is no tired like mama-of-kids-who-don't-sleep tired. One kid who doesn't sleep well makes life tough, and when you start adding multiple non-sleepers, it just gets crazy. It's hard to think about anything else except how you are going to survive the day on so little sleep. I knew things were going downhill today when I kept saying, to myself, "It's fine. It's fine. It's fine..."

Fellow tired mama here with something that might help you out! Our girls are now almost 7 and 2.5 years old, and I'd say at least one of them is up at least one time in the night about 2/3 of the time. On bad nights, which occur far too frequently, both girls are up at once or tag team so that I am awake for most of the night. I could (and did, actually! ha!) write a book about the reasons they are up, but I don't want to get into that now. For now, I want to share with you something that I am hoping will be helpful. As a side note, this is not intended to help you with infants, who are wired to be up in the middle of the night, or for children who have legitimate needs which need to be addressed. This is for your run-of-the-mill kiddo who is in the habit of waking frequently at night and wants you to join in the slumber party.

After another rough night last night, I decided we needed a better battle plan so that grumpy, incoherent, middle-of-the-night-Lindsay isn't the one trying to figure out how to handle it. In an effort to be proactive, I sat down with my almost-7 year old and we brainstormed all the things we could think of that she could do (instead of coming to wake up Mommy and Daddy) when she wakes up in the night. We came up with 27 ideas (if my counting is correct... my fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain is difficult to trust) that she wrote and illustrated on sticky notes (pictured above). I decided to make a printable chart to share in case that might be helpful to other desperate, sleep-deprived parents. She enjoyed coming up with ideas, and I'm hoping this will alleviate her tendency to panic when she wakes up while everyone else is sleeping. I made one chart with words only and lots of ideas for readers/elementary-aged children, and then a simpler chart for pre-readers that has just a few words and room for them to draw a picture underneath.

You could cut these out to make cards, leave it as a chart, have your child create a poster or book, or do anything your wild, creative-mama mind can imagine. Here is the chart I created with some of our ideas to get you started. If you try it, let me know how it works! Hang in there, super moms! Praying for sweet sleep for you and for strength, patience, creativity, and endurance in the mean time! Maybe a girls' night out, too.

Monday, June 11, 2018

the unexpected path to delight

Do you ever feel like you are full of contradictions, all wrapped up in one body? I am both a people-pleasing conflict avoider and *at times* a stubbornly argumentative aggressor, which can be confusing but makes more sense in light of my Enneagram number (6). I want to please others but sometimes just cannot seem to stop myself from getting into an argument about something that’s important to me. I inevitably feel embarrassed if not ashamed after these encounters and feel a bit like my evil twin took over my brain, upset some people, and then left me to deal with the fallout. Because I know this about myself, I’m working on showing better restraint and giving myself time to think before reacting, which has proven difficult but beneficial. In my anxiety, I feel an almost uncontrollable need to be in control (of myself and my environment, rather than be controlled), which expresses itself as scurrying about, preparing for the worst case scenario, and letting myself feel like I am doing something about whatever disaster awaits.

Recently, I had been fretting over an upcoming situation that was going to thrust me into uncomfortable proximity with someone with whom I have a challenging relationship. The clash of the other person’s unhealthy boundaries with my unhealthy boundaries can make for an unpleasant, unproductive time together. I find myself trapped in a pattern of trying to please the un-please-able and then feeling angry that all my efforts to behave well have been ineffective. I have trouble asserting myself in a firm but healthy manner without the motivational nudge—ok, shove— of anger. Lord, help me.

So. Now that you can see what a picnic I am, I want to tell you about what happens when God enters the picture. In order to appreciate the greatness of the Lord, you have to appreciate the imperfection He has to work with in yours truly.

I’ve prayed often about this relationship and asked for God to change my heart. As I was anticipating the upcoming situation, I woke up a few days before the Big Day and read Exodus 14:14:

The LORD will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.
-Exodus 14:14 (Amplified version)

I had been so focused on praying about what to DO, I guess I forgot a little that God is doing something, unseen and unbeknownst to me, without my help. I was asking for help so I could do something about all the turmoil I anticipated but had forgotten that He might already be doing something.

I am crazy in love with Jesus, but I still sometimes have an underlying, quiet, subtle belief that He doesn’t care too much about my silly affairs because He has more important things to tend to. How easily I forget how smitten He is with His children!

Certainly, some situations call for action, while others call for waiting quietly and expectantly on the Lord. However, even when a situation does call for action, I no longer want to be a slave to my impulses and personality—the default settings that are programmed into my brain. I want my responses—whether they include action or restraint— to be chosen, intentional responses, not thoughtless reactions. So often what seems good to me in the moment is actually detrimental, and what seems harmful at first glance is sometimes wise and mature boundary setting in the long term. Because I can’t always count on myself to choose wisely, especially when emotions are running high, I need to cultivate a holy dependence on the Lord for direction. When He doesn’t give a clear answer, I can rely on what I know about His character, His word, past experience, and a healthy dose of common sense. Sometimes when I pause and listen, though, He takes me down a very different path than I would have chosen on my own.

I decided to trust that He is fighting for me, that He sees and knows and cares and has it under control. I chose to keep silent and remain calm when I wanted to speak up, assert myself, and get all worked up.

That decision, which I felt peace about only because He said He was fighting for me, freed up my mind and energy to enjoy the delights that were right before me: my firstborn’s newly toothless grin and the way my two year old scrunches up her nose, crinkles her eyes, shrugs her shoulders, and beams at me whenever we make eye contact, love oozing from every part of her teeny tiny being.

I finished the day feeling deeply grateful, fulfilled, and delighted as I sat in silence in His presence. More often than I’d like to admit, I have hard time being present with Him and with those whom I love, but this day, it felt easy and good. He pulled back the curtain and gave me a glimpse of the delight that awaits when I follow His lead, which in this instance meant keeping silent and remaining calm, trusting that He is fighting for me.* The scurrying, worrying, and mental chatter dissipated, and the joy that was set before me was almost more than I could bear. 

When I lean on His wisdom, I am actually in more control than when I clamor for control that wasn't mine in the first place. When He leads the way, my reactions become thoughtful responses, which gives me control over the only thing that is mine to control: my own wild self. All of that previously wasted energy spent trying to manage what is not mine to manage (i.e., situations and the feelings and behaviors of others) becomes available to enjoy a quiet mind, a calm demeanor, peace in relationships, and the beauty the Lord has set before me.

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
-Psalm 25:4-5

*I want to emphasize that “keeping silent and remaining calm” is absolutely NOT the right thing to do in every situation. We must ask the Lord for discernment and courage to speak up, stand up, and take action when He leads us to. In this particular situation, my speaking up would not have added anything beneficial to the situation.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

the welcoming prayer: how (and why) to welcome pain

One of the most comforting pieces of encouragement I ever received was from a friend who came to visit me in the hospital. I was wrestling with grief after a miscarriage, recovering from an emergency surgery, and still waiting anxiously for the doctor to figure out what was wrong in my body, which stubbornly refused to let go of a failed pregnancy. I was sad, angry, bitter, envious, emotionally exhausted, and afraid as I lie uncomfortably in my hospital bed. I remember watching nurses, doctors, and visitors walking quickly and effortlessly about the room while I felt envy creeping into my heart. I was envious of their healthy bodies, allowing them to perform normal, every day tasks while I was in too much pain to get up and walk across the tiny room. Pain has a way of freezing time so that it’s hard to remember what it feels like to be pain-free or to even imagine that a day without pain will come again. 

On top of all the feelings, of course, was the shame. I felt ashamed for feeling bitter as I listened to the cries of newborns coming from the rooms nearby. I imagined the other mothers on the postpartum floor counting the tiny fingers and toes of their healthy babies, smelling that sweet newborn scent. I felt ashamed for feeling envious of the healthy people who came in and out of my room even as they worked so hard to keep me comfortable and take care of me in the midst of my doctor’s uncertainty. I felt ashamed of my unwashed, unkempt body as each new visitor arrived. I surveyed their makeup, attractive outfits, and washed and styled hair as I pulled the sheets of the hospital bed up higher over my pregnant-but-not-pregnant, recovering-from-surgery body. 

Perhaps most of all, I felt ashamed of my anxiety. I was ashamed that I didn’t have more faith in God to take care of me while the doctor seemed to fumble her way through trying to figure out what to do with me. If I had more faith, surely I would be able to rest in the peace of knowing that God’s will would be done. But alas, the anxiety overwhelmed me, and I could not get past this cocktail of negative emotions. It could have been a chance for me to minister to others by showing how peaceful I remained in the midst of adversity, but clearly, I was failing. 

Then this friend came. I knew her from church but hadn’t spent a lot of time talking with her before. She shared with me about her own experience with miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy. She shared in my grief and then said the thing I didn’t know I was desperate to hear: “Sometimes, well-meaning people will tell you ‘It’s going to be ok.’ Sometimes, it’s not ok.” The flood of relief overpowered every other emotion and I felt validated and free— free to grieve, free to hurt, free to be angry, and free from the shame of it all. I had had no idea how healing it would be to give myself permission to have these feelings without attaching shame to them.

In the beginning of the book of Job, we meet a wealthy, godly man who very suddenly loses everything and everyone who is dear to him. Verse 21 records his oft-lauded response:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
 And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

That’s the kind of response I wished I could muster up. I wanted so much to put on a brave face and be like Job, proclaiming God’s goodness in the midst of my suffering. However, as I was studying this passage recently, I realized I had not given much attention to the previous verse. Job 1:20 says,

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.

My Nelson Study Bible notes that first, Job “showed intense grief according to the accepted custom of his day.” Job did worship the Lord, but first, he allowed himself to grieve deeply. In our culture, we try to suppress, ignore, and push through grief, but God did not make our hearts to operate that way. We were created to be emotional beings and to allow ourselves to enter into the vulnerability of loving and caring so much about someone that our hearts break when we lose them. When we cover up our pain instead of acknowledging it, we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience healing from the Lord, slow though it may be.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop called “Sustainable Spiritual Practices” led by Reverend Joe Stabile at Life in the Trinity Ministry. One of the spiritual practices he explained is called “Welcoming Prayer.” He talked about that moment between when something triggering happens and when we experience an intense emotional response. In that moment, we can choose to respond rather than react. The Welcoming Prayer is a tool to help us with this. It has three very simple steps: first, you focus on the way your body is responding. You notice that maybe your shoulders are tense, your jaw is clenched, your heart is pounding, or your stomach is churning. In this first step, you give full attention to your body’s response to stress. Next, you identify what you are feeling and welcome it: “Welcome, pain,” or “Welcome, anger,” or “Welcome, ________.” Rev. Stabile says that when we welcome the emotion, we disarm it so that it loses its power. You can read a practical example of a time when I learned to disarm shame by welcoming it here. Last, we let the emotion go. We may not be able to change the circumstance, but we can acknowledge, welcome, and let go of stress so that we can choose a response instead of being slaves to reaction.

Our tendency is to move too quickly to the step of letting go. These stressful emotions are uncomfortable and sometimes shame-inducing, so we try to hide them or push them down, but repressing them gives them more control over us. In that moment between the triggering event and our reaction, our bodies give us helpful information about what is going on in our hearts. After we name the feelings and allow them to reside in us, we can eventually let them go so that, despite our lingering pain, we can choose a response instead of a reaction. My study Bible says that when Job “fell to the ground and worshiped,” this was a deliberate action. After he acknowledged and welcomed his grief, he was able to make the choice to worship the Lord. Though Job’s difficulties were far from over, his ability to grieve freely and then make the choice to worship God set him on a path to healing and restoration. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be mindful of our words to those who are grieving. In a culture that says grief and pain and anger are bad, let’s help disarm shame by showing up to hospitals and funerals and coffee shops and Bible studies and living rooms and front porches of those who are hurting and say, “Sometimes, it’s not ok.” Let’s listen and validate as we pray with them and wait on the Lord to comfort, strengthen, and heal. We never know when our presence and validation of their pain might help lift the heavy burden of shame as an important step toward healing.

Monday, May 7, 2018

finding God in feminine endings

I saw a play once called “A Feminine Ending” by Sarah Treem. The main character is a musician with high hopes that deflate as her life begins to unravel with adversity on all sides. At the end of the play, she says, “The term ‘feminine ending’ is used when a piece of music ends in an unstressed note or a weak cadence. … I’m afraid this is a feminine ending. I’m…afraid.”

Any time a movie starts with life being rosy, I begin to feel uneasy in anticipation of what will fall apart. I much prefer when things start out rocky and the only way to go is up. I want the authenticity and depth of a story with some conflict, but I want to see that everything works out in the end. That’s what I want in life, I suppose—authenticity and depth mixed with hope. Sometimes when we are stuck in the depths of suffering, with no discernible way out, we need to know that it’s ok to not be ok and that our not being ok is not a permanent state. As believers, our feminine endings are more like painful pauses.

Psalm 89 starts out joyously. For 37 glorious verses, the psalmist praises God and recounts the covenant He made with David. Verse 1 begins optimistically: 

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever, 
With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.

He goes on to praise the Lord for His mercy, faithfulness, and strength. In verses 19-37, the psalmist relays what the Lord said in His promise to David. The Lord is quoted as saying that He has anointed David and will strengthen him and that God will conquer his enemies. Verses 30-34 express God’s promise of unconditional love:

If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
If they break My statues
And do not keep My commandments,
Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless, My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him,
Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
My covenant I will not break,
Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

The Psalm takes a sudden turn in verse 38. With the exception of a brief doxology in the last verse, the rest of the Psalm is filled with expressions of pain and despair. After the psalmist reminds the Lord of His covenant—God’s own words spoken to David—he says in verses 38-40:

But You have cast off and abhorred,
You have been furious with Your anointed.
You have renounced the convent of Your servant;
You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
You have broken down all his hedges;
You have brought his strongholds to ruin.

The psalmist seems to be saying, “You promised this good thing, but it doesn’t line up with what I see happening.” These verses have a lot of “You” statements directed at the Lord. This seems like a pretty bold move, but God can handle our anger, frustration, confusion, and disappointment. Like a young child spinning out of control in the middle of a temper tantrum while the parent stands, ready to soothe the child, we can express our big feelings to God and trust that He remains steady. When we are in a pit of suffering, our circumstances seem to indicate that God is not fulfilling His promises to us. Worse than our pain is the sickening feeling that the Lord has abandoned us, which feels like a betrayal:

How long, LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?
—Psalm 89:46

When I was in the midst of a difficult season, I felt like I was living in a fog and couldn’t get to the Lord no matter how hard I tried. I certainly wanted to feel His presence, but most of the time, for a season, He seemed very far away. We are told in Scripture that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, that God will never leave us nor forsake us, that when we were still sinners, He loved us. These truths do not cease to be true when we can’t discern the Lord’s presence with us, but it can be painful to live in the discrepancy between what Scripture says and what we feel. To make things worse, well-meaning believers may pressure us to deny our pain in the name of trusting God, but real faith requires honesty. 

My Nelson Study Bible notes that in voicing the people’s feelings of despair, the psalmist “allows the process of healing to begin, even as the people wait for deliverance from the Lord.” Before we can be healed, we must open our hearts honestly before the Lord. 

Though it’s uncomfortable, I sort of love that this Psalm has no resolution because I need to know that the Bible is for real people in real life going through real pain. I need it to not read like a sitcom that resolves everything in 30 minute episodes. I need it to allow for the complexity and uncertainty that we experience in real life. There are oh-so-many stories, Psalms, and Scriptures we can turn to for hope, but sometimes it is comforting to know that we don’t have to rush to get our feelings to line up with what we know will be true, in the end. 

If you are experiencing a season of pain that is unresolved, remember the Lord’s promises. Tell Him what He told you and why you’re upset. Tell Him what makes you angry or sad and why you feel betrayed. He can handle it, and He will stand by, steady and true, ready to comfort you even as you wait for the deliverance and peace that is promised to His children. And then, after you have had your say, even if you don’t feel like it, speak the words of verse 52:

Blessed be the LORD forevermore! Amen and Amen.

Though we are angry, sad, and confused, we trust that He is faithful, and we wait to see what He will do. Verse 52 is not the conclusion of this individual Psalm only, but of Book III of the Psalms. When we are living in pain, we are in but one piece of a bigger story, to which the conclusion will be our hearts singing His praises, over and over again, as we experience His glorious deliverance.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

limitless: a reflection on identity

You said I am made in Your image. I’m beginning to see myself in You and You in me. I used to think You looked a certain way and that I needed to be set aside so that You could shine through. Now I see that one gender, one race, one ethnicity, one personality is not nearly enough to contain the fullness of God, except in the person of Jesus Christ. We are all different expressions of Him, pieces of the fullness of His glory. 

The more I study racial unity and issues of gender and racial equity, the better I understand the need to see yourself represented in role models. Inspiration comes at least partially from seeing ourselves in someone else who is doing something that we didn’t think we could do because of our limitations. When we identify with someone we admire, that person is like a mirror, reflecting back to us who we could be, who we can be. So it is with God. He has made us in His image so that He reflects back to us who we could be, who we can be, and even who we are through our identity in Christ.

When I became a mother and was living in the sleep-deprived, postpartum haze of new motherhood, I lost myself for a while. I thought I was "just" a mother. Now, I see “God, Our Mother” in this poem by Allison Woodard  and I can see this part of You in me, imperfect though I am. When I gave birth to my children, my body broken for them and my blood shed in the process of bringing forth life, allowing them to “take and eat” of my body, I was like You. You said to offer my body as a living sacrifice and to take care of “the least of these,” and I can think of no better description of my painful, difficult experience with giving birth and breastfeeding.

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"
--Isaiah 49:15

When I feel You have something pressing You want to tell me, I immediately start looking for words, and I am a little embarrassed at my need for You to be so direct and literal with me. Then, I find myself in a little chapel, waiting to hear from You, looking around desperately for some words to hang on to, and I hear You whisper, “I like words, too.” Jesus, the Word become flesh. My love for words is a love for You, The Word of God.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
--John 1:14

When I was a child, my family laughed and rolled their eyes every time we watched a movie and I interrupted to ask incessant questions about what was happening. My brother teased me when, as a 10 year old who had gotten new glasses, I asked whether my family thought that Jesus had 20/20 eyesight. I studied the Enneagram and found that one of the names for my personality type is “the Questioner." I notice myself worrying frequently that I am taking up too much space in conversations when I ask question after question, but I can hardly keep from doing it. I want to know more, to understand more thoroughly, to consider more perspectives, to dig deeper. Sometimes I think that I am too much, too intense. But then, I see all the questions You ask in scripture and suddenly, I think, “Hey! He’s a questioner like I am!” You use questions to draw people to Yourself, to engage them, to make them stop and think, to lead them to discovery, to teach and to enter into greater intimacy with those whom You love. I see the beauty in being someone who asks questions when they come from a place of love and purity, and now I can love this about myself because I love it about You.

When I think of You creating me to resemble You, I am undone. I can see value in myself that I could not see before when I thought that I was just an imperfect thing that needed to be set aside in order for You to show through the cracks. In awesome wonder, I behold the beautiful expansiveness of God and can’t believe that You took parts of Yourself and put them in me, crafting me not around but actually from these bits of You. 

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

--Colossians 1:16

What an awesome, beautiful, mysterious thing for You to do! Loving You is loving Your imprint on me. Let all the defense mechanisms of my false self fall away so that when people look at me—and indeed, that when I look at myself—we see not just Your reflection but actually Christ in me. Behold, Your masterpiece. 

 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
—Ephesians 2:10

You are so great that one small part of Your vast creation cannot contain Your limitless glory. When I push beyond the limits of who I thought I was, letting go of shame and embracing the way You made me to be, my view of You expands. When I look past the bubble I've lived in most of my life (my own culture, gender, socioeconomic class, race, personality, etc.), and when I reach out to connect with Your beautifully diverse people (of all cultures, races, genders, personalities, etc.), my understanding of You deepens. When I drink in the beauty of nature--from the vastness of the ocean to the intricate detail of a dragonfly's wings, knit together by Your hand--I am drinking in the nature of the Creator. To know Your creation, Your image bearers, Your craftsmanship, is to know parts of You. 

...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

--Ephesians 3:17-19

You overwhelm me with Your fullness over and over again, and I am amazed and grateful to know that I will never get to the bottom of Your riches.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
--Psalm 139:6

1. Consider the most salient parts of your identity. How do you see the person and character of Jesus through those parts of Your identity?

2. How does seeing His beauty in You affect the way you see and feel about yourself? 

3. How does it affect the way you see and feel about others who are different than you but are His image bearers, nonetheless?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

what I didn't tell you at church on Sunday

“You’re taking up too much space.”

The thought bubbles up from somewhere deep within me and yet also right below the surface, as though it were tired of being shoved aside. Today it has decided to crowd out everything else, growing bigger and louder like a toddler’s temper tantrum, demanding my energy and undivided attention.

Unable to push it back anymore, I concede. 

“Yes,” I think, “you are right. That is precisely how I feel.” 

I know this feeling. It has a name, and I am learning to call it out accordingly. Hello, Shame. I see you there, trying to lurk behind the corners of my mind, growing in the dark like a shadow that lengthens as the sun goes down. When I acknowledge you, you begin to shrink back, afraid of the exposure.

I know I am battling shame as I walk in my new, brightly colored Easter dress down the breezeway to the open door of our church. Today I have made myself taller with my wedge sandal shoes—“normal height,” I think, compared to my short stature. I’ve made myself look more put-together with extra makeup and a fresh haircut. “Too short,” I think, self-consciously brushing my bangs aside and then pushing them back down where they were before brushing them aside again. 

I look around at the other women my age and realize that I stand out in my white dress with the bright splashes of blue and green flowers all over. I don’t want to stand out; I want to disappear, to fold into myself so no one will notice me. I am taking up too much space.

I go to worship and have a little trouble losing myself in the music at first. The pastor says that Jesus loves us and asks us to reflect on how that makes us feel. I have been overwhelmed by His love for me many times, but at this moment, that is not my initial response. Right now, I don’t relate to any of the examples the pastor gives—indifference, happiness, or skepticism. No, this time, when I hear that Jesus loves me, I want to shrink away, unable to let myself be seen and loved. I know this feeling. It has a name. Hello, Shame. I see you.

I worship You with my lips, but my heart has been distant. I want to be with You, but lately I’ve felt like I can’t get to You or let You get to me, like there’s a barrier between us. I look at it and try to name it. It’s not exactly a wall, just a bit of a gulf between us, something to wade through. I haven’t been letting You in. Forgive me.

Then the worship music is playing again and the refrain cuts through the fog and pierces my heart: “The cross has the final word.”

I listen to the whisper of a thought, “They don’t get to define who you are. I determine your identity. The cross has the final word.” 

Forgive me for allowing society, culture, other people, and my very own sinful self to hand my identity to me like an entree on a platter, prepared by someone else. That job is only for You, and You say my worth to You is equal to the cost of Jesus’ perfect, sinless life, laid down and poured out for me. 

Shame says that my struggles will always be the same, that real transformation is a lost cause.
You say I am a new creation.

Shame says that I am not worthy of belonging, that I don’t fit in.
You say I am Your child, a co-heir with Christ.

Shame says that You look at me and are angry, displeased with my inadequacy.
You say I am beloved.

Shame says You won’t want to deal with me until I’ve dealt with my mess first.
You say I am Yours, just as I am.

Shame says I am separated from You by my shortcomings.
You say I am forgiven and restored.

Shame says that when I open my mouth and talk about my true self, people see what a mess I am.
You say I am clean.

Shame says I am only as good as my last accomplishment.
You say I am worth the most precious thing You have to give.

Help me to accept the love You desire to lavish on me. Help me day by day, moment by moment, to accept Your love, to believe Your truth, to love You back with my whole being. I can only love You in proportion to how I have been able to receive Your love. Soften my heart and remove the barriers which I thought could protect me. Perfect love casts out fear. When I abide in You and in Your perfect love, the fear falls away. A loved person is invincible because she has that which matters most and cannot be taken away. 

Your perfect love lifts me from shame as You see me exactly how You made me to be. You look at me with the gaze of One who knows all and sees everything and loves anyway, and then You hand me back to myself. I am changed even as I become who I already was in Christ. Shame says I’m a lost cause. You say that I am being renewed day by day. Praise to the One who promises to complete the good work He has begun in me but loves me just as much now as He will on the day of completion.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the spiritual practice of lament

O Lord, how long?
How long will injustice plague our nation, 
Taking the lives of the oppressed
And poisoning the hearts of the oppressors?
How long will we believe that some lives matter more than others,
That grief for the lives of the marginalized is commonplace and unimportant,
A tool to be wielded in the hands of politicians?
How long will the very air we breathe be steeped in lies about who we are,
Some overt and blatant and others subtle but just as insidious?
How long will we point our fingers and say, “Not I!”
refusing to examine our own role in injustice
And the way our very souls have been damaged by our own superiority?
How long will rhetoric and political agendas replace true lament and right action?
How long will we go on living without regret or repentance,
Our willful ignorance a sign of the very privilege that is killing Your beloved children?

Save us from ourselves, O Lord.
Forgive me for my complicit inaction,
The entitlement that pushes me to push myself ahead of others,
My safety, reputation, motives, and behaviors unquestioned 
While others are robbed, shamed, mocked, and killed by the system of oppression
That I have neglected to acknowledge.
Forgive me for my part in it all.

Bring about the healing and reconciliation that You desire, 
Reconciling us first to Yourself and then to one another.
Jesus was blameless, without sin, and made Himself one of us,
Suffering at our hands
Yet He initiated reconciliation with us—
the broken ones who refused to see our own brokenness,
The ones who mocked and hurt and ignored the only One who was without sin,
Broken for the broken ones.

And now, the same story plays out again and again,
The story of the broken ones breaking others so that we would not have to face our own brokenness.

Forgive us, Lord.

Thank You for the willingness of people of color, 
though they have been hurt and disadvantaged,
To engage in reconciliation with me, with us—
the very ones who benefit every day from the system of oppression.
Thank You for their resilience, their grace, and their Christ-like forgiveness.

Thank you that where two or more are gathered in Your Name, You are in their midst.
Be in our midst today, and do the work that only You can do.
Turn our mourning to dancing,
Our sorrow to joy,
Our fear into faith,
Our despair into hope
As we delight in the richness of diversity that You created
Because it was good.