Finding what really matters

My friend has breast cancer. This is actually her second round with it in seven years. I did not know her the first time around, but I know and love her now. She is an amazing, strong, joyful woman and to watch the wind get knocked out of her has been hard. What has been harder is the slow withdrawal I have have felt in my heart. The thought of her possible death has been a little more than this cowardly heart has been able to fully contemplate. I am afraid of the possibility of the enormous pain that comes with losing someone precious.

I have written so much about my bitterness and my hurt, not just because it is about me but because there are tens of thousands out there who have been hurt in the church. But tonight it is as if all the wind has been taken out of my sails.

I am angry that she has cancer. I am angry that some pedophile freak isn’t dieing in agony because of cancer or some even more horrible disease. I don’t get it. I don’t understand why people who abuse and kill and maim and destroy are walking healthy, not worrying about chemo and radiation or leaving their families and friends. I am so angry. I want to scream IT IS NOT FAIR…….it is not fair.

We lost a precious friend to cancer several years ago. A man who had helped save our marriage, a man who loved others more than himself. I was so mad. I did not understand then and I do not understand now. Sometimes I am not sure that I even want to try and understand, I don’t think with my current understanding any answer would satisfy me.

My friend told me when she was first diagnosed that it made her think about the things that were really important and what wasn’t. She said she often found herself wondering about the things that so many of us get so up in arms about that don’t really matter. I understood her when she said that but I am not sure I “got” it.

Tonight I get it. Find what really matters in our lives. What is worth fighting for? What is worth standing up for? What is not worth our attention and certainly not worth us investing our emotions and hearts in? What pettiness is really worth disturbing our peace that Christ paid such a high price for?

Mostly I don’t know. I am going to have to seek the Lord to find those things in my life worth fighting for and those things left better in the hands of the Lord.

Some things I do know. One thing I know right now is that my questions and my anger should not be the determining factor in what I believe and how I walk out that belief. I want my lack of understanding, my anger and my questions to drive me to my knees to pray for my friend and her family. I want to find Jesus in a new way in this because I know that only He is bigger than my questions and anger. I know now more than ever that I want to let go of anger and bitterness toward anyone no matter the hurt. Living in that place takes up more time than I am willing to give it any longer, it takes more energy that can better be put toward ministering and loving.

Sometimes the only answer is there is no real answer. At least not one that I would find satisfactory. And what could I really do with the answer? Just say I figured it all out and I know why and how and what, I know the answer to why the apparent injustice of my friend having cancer and the man who murdered my father being healthy? I figured out the equation. But I still wouldn’t be able to change it. I can’t magically uncancer her. I can’t raise our friend Paul from the dead, I can’t make the horrible monsters be dead instead. So still, even with the answer, I am left impotent to change the circumstance.

What I can do is walk out the love for my friend that is in my heart in practical ways like making a dinner. I can speak for the spiritual healing for those who have been hurt in the church rather than always discussing the problem. There is a time and a place for everything. Right now I don’t wonder if the time we are in right now calls us to be instruments of healing rather than instruments of noise.

No it is still not fair. It is not fair that we live in a world filled with pain and confusion. It is not fair the the evil ones seemingly live unaffected by the pain they pour out on others. It still makes me angry but from now on I want to focus on what really matters. Love not anger. Forgiveness not bitterness. Truth not deception. Justice not fairness.

I do not know what will happen with my friend. I am afraid of losing her. I want her to be well and I want her to not have to go through this. And maybe a little bit of the truth is that I am afraid of failing her. I would rather be angry at the injustice than face the possibility of that I might not have what it takes to be a true friend in this time of great need.

I remember this song from way back when,

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You

It is you, Lord
Who came to save
The heart and soul
Of every man
It is you Lord
Who knows my weakness
Who gives me strength,
With thine own hand.

Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and Holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you

Lead Me on Lord
From temptation
Purify me
From within
Fill my heart with
Your holy spirit
Take away all my sin

Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You

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Where do I go from here?

Where to now? I have willingly and decidedly left the charismatic church. The faith movement? I drop kicked that lie to the curb. The half charismatic a bit more conservative? I just couldn’t decide. I guess they can’t decide either, makes for great leadership LOL.

I have one person in my life who worries I might become an atheist. I assure them that while my belief and faith in people has crumbled, my faith in God has grown by leaps and bounds. The hard part however will be learning to live and walk that faith in God out with those same people.

I have another person in my life who worries that I will become a super Calvinist and therefore everything before that i lived by will be a lie. I feel that my Calvinistic tendencies have given me more understanding of the God I have tried to follow for almost 30 years than ever. I am more secure in the salvation so graciously given to me as a gift from a loving God than I have ever been.

I understand that no man or denomination can corner the market on who God is and how He works. I have known that for a long time and yet every denomination will give you the spiel …….. we know better than you because we have been to seminary, or bible college or to rhema…….. Funny but wasn’t it that very kind of thing that the catholic church was built on? The common man could not possibly figure it out for himself so leaders in every denomination set themselves up as experts on who God is and how He works.

Not that I don’t believe that 98% of Leaders out there are absolutely sincere in their beliefs, their faith and their love for the Lord. I just feel it is arrogance to say “I absolutely know how God works”. Who can know God? What gives any denomination the right to proclaim that they in fact have all the answers?

There was a moment ( actually a few months of moments ) when I did question my faith. I had just been blind sided by people in the church who could lie to me, smile to my face and say horrible ugly things about me behind my back. That was in the health and wealth church, the FAITH church. They sure faithfully lied…..I couldn’t figure out why my life didn’t line up with the “promises” of God. That church was very helpful though. They helped me see that it was really just that I didn’t have enough faith, that I had hidden sin ( seriously? i gave anyone who asked a laundry list of my sin ) or that I “spoke death” over my circumstances.

I left broken, hurt and confused questioning whether God was even real. Out of that I learned three things, Either my understanding of doctrine was wrong, the doctrine was wrong or that God wasn’t real. Those three things don’t really leave you with very many choices to make.

After a long and painful process I decided one thing. GOD was real and true. That left two other problems. My understanding of the doctrine taught, or the doctrine itself was faulty. Now I am not the smartest crayon in the box but I have intelligence, the ability to learn. And it is pretty hard to misunderstand a doctrine that says if you have enough true faith you can have whatever you want. You can argue your point with me on this one, but bottom line the health and prosperity gospel comes down to that.

So I knocked out the problem of my understanding of the doctrine which left me with the conclusion that the doctrine was wrong. But that left a bigger problem……what is truth? what is true and what is lies? What do I believe and how do i figure that out?

The answer it seemed was to go to another denomination. Only the issues were pretty much the same. If your life didn’t line up with their doctrine there was something wrong with you, not with the doctrine ever.

I know where I have been but I have no idea where I am going. I feel as if the foundation that I am standing on has shrunk to the point that just barely my feet fit on it. I am left with only the basics. God, He is the creator of the universe, He is all things good, He is all things loving. Salvation, I am saved by grace through Jesus Christ, not because of who I am but because of who God is. The trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

That’s pretty much it. At this time in my life that is my whole foundation. I am sure of God.

I didn’t fit in the charismatic group, i didn’t fit in the faith gospel, i didn’t fit in the half way in betweeners and I am pretty sure I don’t fit in with the conservative fundamentalist. I look at all of these denominations and I just want to scream. It feels like I am some little tomboy who has been made to conform into this perfect little girl in my poodle skirt and bobbie socks.

I believe there is a whole new life to be found outside of the bobbie socks and poodle skirt. I want to climb a tree, I want to swim in the ocean, climb a rock. But in each denomination you can only climb the trees they prescribe, swim in their pools of thought and conquer only the mountains that they say are real.

I cry out for something less. Less protocol, fewer denominational rules, fewer opinions and less arrogance. I want something more basic. The message of God is simple, love me, love your neighbor. Care for others hearts more than you care for your own pride.

The cry of my heart is best summed up in a song by building 429. “all I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong”.

None of us belong boxed in a denomination led by men. We don’t belong to a world where our allegiance to a church or pastor causes us hurt and pain. We belong to and in Christ.

I don’t want life as I knew it. It was hurtful and disappointing. It was always lacking and the blame was always mine. I want a life lived in and for Christ. I have never felt like I fit anywhere, I always believed that if I could change enough that I could make myself fit somewhere but it never worked. But I found out I fit in Christ. I found out that Christ is bigger than a church, a pastor, a denomination and He has not asked me to conform to any denomination but He has told me to be transformed in Him.

So I don’t know where I am going from here. My foundation of faith is smaller and yet more solid than ever. I want to live my life differently than I have the past 30 years. I am only 49, i have at least another 35 years for God to teach me how to live for Him. I may have lost the “church” but I have found Christ. I guess that is a win for me.

Fighting the BitternessA

Fighting the bitterness is sometimes a daily struggle. Most of the time now-a-days I don’t really think on and chew on my not so great experiences with the church and those in ministry. Most often when I do start thinking and chewing after a few minutes of mind-bashing I really try to come back around to a place of grace and understanding that nothing, no one and no ministry/pastor will ever be perfect, blah, blah, blah. But every now and something brings up that struggle against bitterness and I wonder if I will ever get over it. Wow, good thing God is nothing like me.

Interestingly enough many times lately it has been the comparison of grace against not-so-grace that brings the bitterness. Let me explain.

There is a church and a body that at this time are showing a level of grace, from a ministry, that I have not ever seen before and did not believe that I would ever see in the future. They are handling a situation that no matter how you look at it, is a difficult situation at best. A situation that most churches and ministries would go ahead and wash their hands of it, but instead they are in there getting their hands dirty as they try to do what Christ would do. Love…….I have never seen this before.

As I watch and observe this grace I am awed. I wish that I could say that the show of grace makes it easier to forgive the bad and the past. For me it has made it more difficult. I see the real love, I see the real grace, I see the true humility and the everything from the past looks worse now than it did then. Somehow it’s as if the sight of real grace wiped the rose color off of my glasses.

I think to myself, wait….I don’t get this. I don’t get how people can really believe they are walking in grace and love and yet so many are hurting as a direct result of that supposed love and grace. I look in disbelief as the comparisons get further and further apart. HOW IS ANY OF THIS O.K. TO ANYONE? I don’t even know.

I don’t understand how promises to walk with and through, promises to mentor, to love, promises to be a friend just evaporate at the first sign of fight. I am so tired of hearing things like “they don’t really want to be helped so I will help when they ask for it.

CHRIST DIED FOR US BEFORE ANY OF US EVER ASKED HIM TO! GOD SENT HIS SON BEFORE…… HE LOVED US BEFORE. WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US. Christ did not wait until he thought we showed enough interest in Him……Who do we think we are to go around so arrogant as to toss someone aside because they aren’t worth our time because they aren’t desperate enough. How do we know? Who knows the heart but God?

Christ talks about leaving the 99 to go after the 1. We stick with the 99 because we think they are the ones worth the trouble. Christians. Yep that is us. How sad, we are supposed to be known by our love one for another but most often the world gets front row seats to our going after each other like a fighting chickens. Or they get to watch us abandon our crippled and hurting members.

Every single person that Christ went after was smack dab in the middle of their sin. Not one was without sin and walking a righteous life. Christ took the time to bring out those who were in sin out of the pit and into the kingdom. We sit around in our kingdoms waiting for those same sinners to come to us. And the ones He never gave up on? They were the ones who were already in His kingdom. Peter, Kind David, there are so many examples of those who really loved God and yet failed so miserably. What would have happened if God said “well David, you blew it for the last time, out you go”? Or what if He had dumped Peter after that third time he denied the Son of God?

And then I see these people who are as imperfect as I, holding out a hand and working to help others out of the pit. It almost hurts more, this kind of love. Because it humbles, it heals, and it shows with a startling clarity that hurts the eyes just how wrong the others were.

Suddenly all of the excuses, all the justifications, all the reasons you have been rehearsing in order to try and make some kind of sense out of the hurt cannot hold up any longer. That hurts more. Much more. I am angrier on a deeper level now than I was before. I am fighting bitterness on a deeper level than ever before. It has been one thing to believe that there has been wrong but it has been a whole new thing to see the fraudulent love held up for scrutiny against the true love.

The absolute worst thing about this? The ones shunned are almost always a church member. Oh we are so holy sending out ministry teams to the inner city and the far reaches of the world as “missionaries” to preach the Word of God, to go find the lost. Except for when we find them in our churches. Then we just kick them out. Sometimes we do it “in love”. Sometimes we do it as “church discipline”, we justify it any way we can, but in the end it is still about us and not about what Jesus would do.

So while on one side my heart is totally broken and humbled by watching this church walk in absolute love, it is also broken anew as I realize how much the others have really been hurtful. I am praying for the grace to both accept love and the grace to forgive. I don’t want to become like the pastors and churches I write about. I don’t want to be the one someone has to beg God for help to forgive me.

It is a war. I am at war with myself. I want to forgive and walk in grace and at the same time I want to hold on to bitterness and anger. I want to be at peace but sometimes the road to peace is through a war. I hope lose this war of anger and bitterness to Christ and I hope that as I continue to watch this scene play out before me that the example of grace that I am seeing will be the defining moment in this war against my own flesh.

Unity?

1 Corinthians 1:10
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

I have never understood how two people, who obviously love the Lord, who spend time in prayer and the word and who basically are good people trying to walk out the gospel can sometimes be at complete opposite ends of the spectrum on any given subject or experience.

While one person is praising the attributes of a church/pastor/ministry another person is trying to make sense of the hurt they are experiencing in that same place. How does that happen? and how do we walk in unity? What do we do when we can’t come into agreement about things? How do you account for each persons very different experience?

Years ago we left a church that to it’s core it was unhealthy. It was unhealthy to the extent that almost everyone, including the pastors in upper ministry ended up in divorce within 5 years of the time we left. Ministry ran away with other ministry leaving their families, people just got chopped up like mincemeat right and left. Yet still for all the people who were bleeding to death there were still, and are still members who fully support the ministry to this day. Those of us who left were referred to as “rats jumping off a sinking ship” by the pastor. Almost everyone though, except the voluntarily blind people can see the sin.

In more cases than not however, the hurt takes place in a healthy church. A church that for the most part tries to be obedient and faithful in walking out the gospel, tries to be loving and kind, and tries to meet the needs of the congregation. For sure not perfect but not purposing to cause harm.

And yet there will be those whose hearts are broken, who feel left behind and given up on. There will be those that leave in tears, promises unmet and relationships broken. They feel they are doing the right thing and the other person feels they have been wronged and wounded. How do you bring unity to that?

It is one thing for someone to blow the whistle on those in ministry who are blatantly sinning and hurting the body, but it is a whole different story to try to explain hurt when the church is perceived as healthy. At the point that a member of the church says that they experienced hurt in a healthy church, that member almost always becomes the bad guy.

Back to idolizing pastors and ministries. Why must we castigate the ones who are hurting? Because we cannot and will not admit that our pet pastor/ministry can do anything wrong because they are soooo Holy. I realize that this paragraph will sound sarcastic, the sarcasm is not however directed at the pastor/ministry but at those who can’t accept that the ones they idolize are not any more perfect than the rest of us. Ministries make mistakes. Not all mistakes are blatant sin but they are mistakes none the less and there is usually some form of fallout when there are missteps by ministry.

What happens most often is that the hurting one is branded as a malcontent, or someone whose heart is hard, or backsliding. Or they just don’t understand………. Maybe what is really happening is the offended persons thinking is wrong. They didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t do it biblically, fill in the blank as to why the hurt one is on the wrong side of the equation.

So often a simple I am sorry, please forgive me, I never meant to hurt you, or even a, maybe this could have been handled differently is all a hurting member needs. Most people don’t need elaborate gestures but they also don’t need the silence or the “I’m sorry you felt I hurt you”.

After a couple of times of that kind of treatment by the ministry and other ministry members, most people choose to not confront the hurt and just walk away. It isn’t worth fighting for because forever after your malcontent follows you through the halls of the church. You begin to feel like the crazy one, you begin to question your judgement. You try to rationalize your hurt so as not to make it anyone’s fault. You look to find the good and the positive and be excited for where the church is going and then you wonder what is wrong with you that you can’t?

Back to the question how can two opposing sides who know Jesus be…..opposing sides? You ask God often, “am I wrong?” You examine yourself deeper to find out what your problem is because surely it is you and not them.

Maybe the better question is how do we find unity when we are at odds with each other? How do we come into agreement together when our perceptions are so skewed? How do we do that without making either side the “wrong” side? I don’t even know.

But perhaps it begins in humility. Perhaps it begins in the understanding that all of us are faulty in our ability to perceive what God wants and how He views things. Maybe we can say to each other, I don’t understand, I thought I was right, i believed I was hearing from God, BUT I am willing to keep my heart open to whatever God shows me about this circumstance. The agreement comes when we are willing to agree to let God be the judge in any given situation,and until God unfolds the whole the rest of the story, go in peace.

I am at peace in my decision to be where I am now. I am at peace letting God figure out the rest of my story. I am at peace knowing that my side of the story is not the whole side, but neither is theirs. To be sure there are things that need healing but I am getting to the point where I can look those things square in the eye and ask the Lord to heal me and deal with my sin.

Blatant sin in ministry or in the body must be addressed and dealt with and spiritual abuse is a real thing that must be broken. We don’t agree to disagree, we don’t agree to sweep things under the carpet, we agree to endeavor to find out God’s view rather than our own.

Humility might not be the whole answer but it is a place to start for both sides.

starting over…..again…..

I don’t know if I can do this again. This starting over thing. Again. As a kid my mother moved us over and over and over. I was always the new kid, the new poor kid, the new poor weird kid with the weird mother. I hated it. It was not as if we had to move because my dad was military or something. My father wasn’t around. It was just for my mom she would never stay in one place long. Due to my mothers somewhat counter culture lifestyle we never fit anywhere. We were white and she loved the black community. Which is fine for an adult. But for kids….it was just hard.

Starting over. Most people see a chance for a clean slate. I have yearned only for permanence. I don’t think I can do this again. My whole life has been a series of start overs. And for the life of me I can’t recall one move when I was a kid that did not bring destruction and hurt. Whether physically or spiritually starting over is more pain for me than anything else.

There is a beautiful song by Tenth Avenue North called Worn. I heard it and I cried because it spoke my heart with words I didn’t know how to even write. I’m tired, I’m weary, exhausted. Those words never spoke my heart. Worn.

Another church. Again. Another body of “christians”. To this new church’s credit they seem to really try to walk out what they say and preach. A rarity. They all seem like lovely people and I think I really like them. But in the back of my mind, actually that is a lie, right up front, screaming to be heard is the voice that says “CUT AND RUN!!” “DANGER WILL ROBINSON!” The insistent voice that tells me to not allow myself to get in too deep. Because the deeper you get in, the harder the extraction when the time comes.

And it breaks my heart that I am so willing to let go of a possibly wonderful thing in order to keep my heart safe. I would rather risk not being loved than to risk the heartbreak of believing something that wasn’t again. The saddest thing is that they have only reached out in love and friendship. They are not the ones who wounded and hurt, in fact they strive to be part of the solution. They seem to be good people.

I read an article the other day in which the christian author quotes the words of his atheist friend “You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will.” It is truth. It is not everyones experience in christianity, but that fact does not make it any less true. And in my life it has certainly been my truth. We do eat our own, and then with our appetites for destruction never truly satisfied we turn our eyes on the world looking to find someone we can really sink our teeth into because of sin in their lives.

I want to ask, “when did we become this vicious?” But probably the real question to ask is “when have we not been this vicious?”

Bite after bite after bite, I keep getting up, I keep moving forward. I have never stopped trying to rationalize and forgive and justify my hurts. I have complained and cried loudly! but I have also wept quietly in the dark. I have fought back and been angry and bitter. As for the latter I can still be angry and bitter at times. I keep riding the same roller coaster of all of those things trying to get to the end, forgiveness. I never quite make it all the way to the end where my healing is. I can’t do this again.

Mostly though, I am worn. I am to tired to care that there are good and wonderful people out there who love God and love people. I am to worn to try one more time. I want off the roller coaster. I want to end the merry go round ride on which you never grasp the brass ring no matter what horse you ride.

But wait don’t I “TRUST” God? Because obviously I am walking in fear which means I am not trusting God. Which by the way is sin. Don’t you understand that absolutely I trust God? I know He will get me through ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Don’t I “love” the Lord? Yes, Yes! I love Him and I am so secure in Him and His love for me. I don’t think my heart will ever turn away from Him.

But I don’t want to go through this, not one more time. I can’t get back up on my horse, I can’t just hop back on my bike. I fell off my horse and I broke my leg, so i hopped back on with my good leg and broke that one too. So then I tried the bike, I fell off that and broke my arm, then my other one. I don’t feel as if I have any limbs left to sacrifice to the “church” I don’t think my heart will recover the next time around. So I am just not starting over again. If I got a divorce from my husband I would never remarry. I feel as if I have gone through my final divorce with the church and with christianity.

There is a part of me that wishes I felt differently……but I don’t. I feel bad for this new church as I say “it’s not you, it’s me”. But I have a feeling that they will be just fine without me committing to relationship with them. If I have learned one thing it is that the machinery of christianity just keeps going with or without me. But my machinery is old and worn and I cannot keep going with them.

The three true things in my life have been God, my husband and my children. I think I will stick with that, I don’t have what it takes to do the rest anymore.

I am worn.

Oh Happy Day

I guess by now we have all figured out that my life was one full of a lot of pot holes. I lived with a lot of darkness and a lot of fear. ugh. When you grow up feeling fear every day, when you grow up with craziness and chaos, when for most of your life that was all you knew, those things kind of follow you throughout your life.

You go about your life with a sadness you can’t seem to shake. Eventually it becomes second nature to feel joy/sadness, anger/sadness, happiness/sadness, love/sadness. Whatever good emotion you can feel, even Love for the Lord, it is always tempered by that little bit of sadness. Sometimes I feel like a little bit of a wet blanket, or a debbie downer lol .

Then one day you get smart and you decide you don’t want that anymore so you go after getting rid of that sadness. You apply whatever it is that you have handy, some of us end applying drugs, alcohol, sex, or food to the problem. ( I applied all of the above to some degree or another to my sadness ). It doesn’t work for very long.

For me, I got Jesus. I would love to tell you that one day the Holy Spirit came in and I threw myself on the altar crying, sobbing, snot flying, professed my love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I was filled with this sense of love and healing making my life hunky dory in one fell swoop. I am sure that for some people this is true. I was not one of those.

Inch by inch, day by day, year by year, God continues to have to work in me and cleanse me and heal me. There is still so much work to do that I sometimes still question my salvation. Usually because of my behavior or the words that just jump instantly from my mind and out of my mouth. If I could just have one thing sanctified immediately, it would be my mouth.

Back to the sadness thing. It was my life. Fear, sadness, chaos. Interspersed by things that for a moment could make me forget those feelings. Music for instance, I am not unique in that music is the only earthly thing that can transport me to a different time and place.

Although he is now a Buddhist, Cat Stevens had an incredible way of speaking what real life really was, and there was a hope in that for me. BILL WITHERS, wow just the voice alone, much less the kind of love that he sang about. Songs like Grandmas Hands and Lovely Day-who couldn’t find hope in that? He helped me know that love was a real thing and I believed him when he sang about it. Just let me tell you though that there is nothing like good gospel music to make you forget that your life sucks for a few minutes. I gets your heart pumping and feeling alive, you can’t help but want to get up and sway with a white hanky!

My favorite gospel song of all time? Oh Happy Day. I don’t really care what version or what new singer does this song it is just my favorite.

The Word tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. He tells us to praise Him when things around us are going crazy. He asks us to do it when we feel like we never get what we want, or we lose the ones we love. Life happens and it happens messy. He wants us to rejoice anyway. huh. But you know, God NEVER asks us to do something without giving us the means to do it. For me it is music. It is songs like Oh Happy Day, or it is Donny Mcclurklin and Kirk Franklin’s version of Ohh Child. When I was younger it was The Spinners and Bill Withers.

I obviously did not know Jesus growing up. but when I look back I can see where God inserted slivers of joy in my heart in the middle of my darkness. I certainly don’t have all the answers or any advice that ties up your life in neat little bows. But I know, in the middle of whatever it is we are dealing with, wherever we are at in our walk with God, He is waiting with whatever it is that we need to experience joy in Him. God never just asks or commands without giving us the tools to do what He is asking.

What are your tools against the sadness that never goes away? It could be the smallest thing, like a hello from a stranger on the street. Your barista makes you the best coffee ever. A sunny day, the smell of a baby. Heck for me it can be puppy breath! I know life sucks. I know that in the worst of the worst puppy’s breath isn’t going to fix your world, but all good things come from God. He puts things along our way to help us get through to Him. He gives us those little things to find joy in the darkest hour. Those little things help us get through to the other side of our pain.

If you are hurting and tired, go listen to Oh Happy Day, go smell a puppy’s breath. Take a second and grab your little sliver of joy and rejoice in that small moment and keep rejoicing in those small moments until you get through to the hard things you are dealing with. If we live on this earth there is no way we can avoid sadness and pain, but God in His goodness says that those bad things are not His final answer on your life and He will be there for you all the way through.

Abide With Me

Have you ever had those moments and days when all of a sudden a pain wells up within you to the point that for a moment you feel as if you can’t even breathe? You are going about your day and your life, just like you have been all day and then, BOOM there it is.

You feel swallowed up, your heart pounds, your throat tightens and your eyes swell…….eventually the moment passes, at least most of the time. Sometimes it is an old pain like the pain of losing Sam 25 years ago. In that moment it hasn’t been 25 years, it is today, the day I heard the words that changed my life with a swiftness and a finality that could not and would not be argued with.

Other times it is a thing or a circumstance that is happening now in your life and you wonder how did this happen? How did I end up hear? You can’t even ask why because it wouldn’t matter anyway. And again, your breath catches in your throat, you fan your eyes and you will yourself not to be enveloped in that pain.

It is the pain of losing the person you loved most in your life, and who loved you the most in his. It is the pain of separation of your children whether by simple distance or worse, hurt. The betrayal of a best friend. The pain of what is termed “spiritual abuse” at the hands of those you trusted. The pastor who lied, the church body that shut you out, the ministry that ignored the obvious signs of distress in you.

And it comes in your most unguarded moments. You think, i can’t breathe, i can’t cry, not here, not now. But there it is to remind you of your loss. I have no fight against that kind of pain. I have no shield, I have no recourse against it. I am, in that moment, at its mercy. That pain is not merciful however. And again, our hearts break.
Psalm 73:23-25
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

That is when I know what the Psalmist meant when he said “whom have I in heaven but YOU” Who do I have? So far there has not been one person or one relationship that has avoided this kind of pain. So when I can’t breath and my throat tightens, I am reminded that even in this, there is a God who loves me, who heals me, who is with me always. Not because I am special but because He is.

I heard a hymn this morning named Abide With Me by Indelible Grace, the very first stanza gave me goosebumps and the song itself is so beautiful.

“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

When those moments catch you off guard and they threaten to make you fall, Abide with God. Check out the link, it is awesome.