Sunday, December 09, 2007

Embracing weakness

"Rick Hoyt is a severely disabled man. He is a mute quadriplegic who suffers from cerebral palsy and whose only way of communicating is through typing, with his mouth, into a special computer.

5 years ago when Rick was a teenager, he read a story about a charity run that was being organized to help a young man in his school who had just become paralyzed in an accident. Rick’s heart was moved and he typed out to his dad that he wanted to participate in the race as a way of showing this young man that life wasn’t over because he was now disabled.

His dad, touched by his son’s request, agreed to push him in the 5-mile race. It was 5 miles that would affect the whole journey of their lives

Since that first race, Dick Hoyt has participated with his son in hundreds of marathons and even iron men contests where he has not only pushed a wheelchair with his 110 pound son for 26.2 miles but he has towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars -- all in the same day.

Yet when they cross the finish line, it’s Rick, not his father, who gets the ribbon placed around his neck.

Each one of us has a race the Lord is calling us to run but it feels like He’s asking us to run the Boston Marathon when we can barely jog around our neighborhood. We feel disabled by the limitations and weaknesses we see in our lives.

Some of us become discouraged. We decide that we’ll never be qualified to run “the big race” so we don’t even try. Instead we’re content to stay on the sidelines or jog in a few small races. But deep inside we know we’ve never stepped up fully to all that the Lord has for us.

Others of us begin to train obsessively. We work hard to perfect ourselves so that we can be properly prepared for the race. The problem is we never feel prepared. There’s always something else we could be doing better, some other area of our lives that needs fixing before we can enter the race.

When the Lord calls us to run a race it’s not because He thinks we’re qualified. In fact it’s the opposite. God delights in choosing foolish things to shame the wise and weak things to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). Why? Because God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul understood this and that is why he could say, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How many of us can honestly say we boast in our weaknesses? How many of us are willing to swallow our pride and openly display our weaknesses so that the power of God can rest on us?

The truth is we don’t expose our weaknesses – we hide them. We use them as an excuse not to venture with God. Or we frantically try to fix them so we can be “good enough” to be used by God.

In the story of Rick and Dick Hoyt it is the son’s weakness that allows the father’s love and strength to be displayed. That is what deeply moves us. Imagine what would happen if we, as believers, would “glory in our weakness”? What kind of pure love and power of God could be displayed to the world around us?

We are in a season where the Father is establishing us in rest. We hear the Lord is saying “Peace! Be Still” to the endless hamster wheel of human perfectionism. We don’t have to run around and around in circles anymore, trying to fix our weaknesses. We have a loving Father who will never call us to a race without giving us the grace to complete it – even if it means that He has to carry us the whole way. May we, like Paul, learn to boast in our weakness that Christ’s power may be seen. " (

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Finding my voice

"Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, and for the rights of those who are left without help. Open your mouth. Be right and fair in what you decide. Stand up for the rights of those who are suffering and in need." Proverbs 31:8-9

My daughter and I have been on a journey through history in our studies together and I am being increasingly broken by humanity's past and humanity at present. We still live in a world where life and freedom are not fully protected and honoured.

"The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly." - Jesus (John 10:10)

I can relate to the internal agony of Wilberforce as illustrated in the movie "Amazing Grace". Ignorance is indeed bliss but truth untouched is silent torture. I am becoming fully aware that there is a lions roar in me that has been supressed and struggles to find a voice. Because my own voice was silenced....I have found it easier to shut out the crys of others. I have found myself indifferent to the small acts of justice done by unjaded children.

As I reflected on personal moments of passion as a child I noticed they were always connected to rescue. When I dream in the night, I dream of rescue. When I imagine my future, I always see rescue. I know who I am when deep calls to deep. But I'm stuck. Freedom must reach me first. I am ready to be broken.

"What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love." - Martin Luther King

More Love, More Power, More of you Jesus. Let your kingdom come in me and then may it spill out, a fragrant offering.

"If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large” -William Wilberforce-

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

made in His image

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
~Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The God of the impossible

With hope deferred and failures too many to list...I was broken this week by what seems impossible and out of reach; relational wholeness, unity and honor.

My youngest son reminded me today: "Mommy if God is powerful enough to create this whole world than He is powerful enough to help us learn to love one-another."

Out of the mouths of babes tender wisdom is spoken.

"One of the keys to life is to feed on what God is doing and what he has done and NOT on what he hasn't yet done. So often we face disappointment which will put us in a place of vulnerability. What we need is to be ever conscious of a God who invades the impossible." - Bill Johnson

Sunday, March 04, 2007

When heaven invades earth

The key to evangelism and sanctification are real encounters with God. The LIVING God. In spirit and in truth. Through the supernatural experience of divine glory, and through earthly containers of glory.

The word became flesh.....and moved into the neighbourhood

TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS by Jamie Tworkowski

Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won't see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she'd say if her story had an audience. She smiles. "Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars."

I would rather write her a song, because songs don't wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her.

Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.

She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of "friends" offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write "FUCK UP" large across her left forearm.

The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.

She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I've known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she's beautiful. I think it's God reminding her.

I've never walked this road, but I decide that if we're going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes.

Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando's finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show.

She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott's) Travelling Mercies.

On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I'm not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope.

Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We're talking to God but I think as much, we're talking to her, telling her she's loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she's inspired.

After church our house fills with friends, there for a few more moments before goodbye. Everyone has some gift for her, some note or hug or piece of encouragement. She pulls me aside and tells me she would like to give me something. I smile surprised, wondering what it could be. We walk through the crowded living room, to the garage and her stuff.

She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She's had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn't have it. I hold it carefully, thank her and know instantly that this moment, this gift, will stay with me. It hits me to wonder if this great feeling is what Christ knows when we surrender our broken hearts, when we trade death for life.

As we arrive at the treatment center, she finishes: "The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope."

I have watched life come back to her, and it has been a privilege. When our time with her began, someone suggested shifts but that is the language of business. Love is something better. I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions. Don Miller says we're called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding. I agree so greatly.

We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love. I have seen that this week and honestly, it has been simple: Take a broken girl, treat her like a famous princess, give her the best seats in the house. Buy her coffee and cigarettes for the coming down, books and bathroom things for the days ahead. Tell her something true when all she's known are lies. Tell her God loves her. Tell her about forgiveness, the possibility of freedom, tell her she was made to dance in white dresses. All these things are true.

We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don't get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won't solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we're called home.

I have learned so much in one week with one brave girl. She is alive now, in the patience and safety of rehab, covered in marks of madness but choosing to believe that God makes things new, that He meant hope and healing in the stars. She would ask you to remember.

"...we must remember that it was not by interceding for the world in glory that Jesus saved it. He gave himself. Our prayers for the evangelization of the world are but a bitter irony so long as we only give our superfluity and draw back before we sacrifice of ourselves." (Amy Charmichael)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Word became flesh

"The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, (Full of Grace and Truth) Generous inside and out, true from start to finish." John 1:14

I went seeking you - in your precepts, in your promises. You were there, but there was more....

Jesus, you are so real. It's Incredible!
You are tangible, accessible, touchable, and reachable!
You are everything I have ever and always wanted and needed. You are my Father. You are my friend. You are my brother. You are my lover. You are my breath. You are my will. You are my desire. There is no other.

I want to hold your hand, always. Never let mine go. I want to fly beneath your wings, kiss your feet and laugh when you kiss mine, sing in harmony with you and dance in time. I see your smile cheering me on. How sweet your gaze oh Beloved one!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

When all is crashing down...there is You

In the stillness of a moon-lit night...I looked up and remembered my life
How could I taste, how could I touch or even breathe
How could I hear your voice, or move or even speak
Without you...
In the dawning of a brand new day
I woke up and creation praised
how could i question, think too hard or ever doubt you
When all the earth shouts out that life would never even be
Without you...
In the silence of a cold, dark room I looked up and could still see you
How could you pick me up every time I fall
How could I ever make it through this life at all
Without you...
In Him I live, In Him I move and have my being
- Jesse Goodman (In the stillness)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dark, but Lovely

"There is, for each of us, a point of choice, when we determine just exactly who we will be. Whether we will continue to stay behind the veil of our own darkness, or come close to Him despite it. It is this desperate longing to draw near to Him, even in the midst of our sin, which leads us to the place where His sheep feed and find rest. We remember anew that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). It causes us to see ourselves in a different light. We are no longer the “veiled.” We are the Beloved." – John Crowder

Father I feel your grace this year! I was tempted to bemoan my failures but you said "Forget the former things..." I await the wind of your Spirit. Blow apon these fragile wings. I DO want to soar with YOU!

"We have to understand both dimensions of the redeemed heart to understand the grace of God in a more complete way. There is a greater capacity for sin in our hearts than we comprehend. No one fully grasps the depth of the wickedness in the human heart. We have many unperceived areas of sin which lie undetected below the surface like hidden fault lines. On the other hand, the grace of God has helped us in ways which we do not fully understand. "

"To know that I am dark yet lovely is to understand my weakness, which is comprised of my sinfulness, my immaturity and my natural limitations together with the revelation of my loveliness to Him. “Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy” (Psalm 86:1,2). Without understanding this combined confession, we cannot continually progress in our pursuit of love. We are both far weaker and far lovelier than we realize. This is one of the most difficult tensions for a believer to combine. Typically we can understand one side of this paradox or the other, but we have difficulty grasping both of them together. By knowing our darkness, we fully receive and draw upon His strength. By nature, we so often want to be able to stand in our own resolution and commitments to the Lord. Yet God is committed to revealing the weakness of our flesh to us. He wants us to have a leaning heart at the end of the journey. He desires that we would not find our confidence in our commitment to Him but in His commitment to us. As Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it”? (Jeremiah 17:9)

"By knowing our beauty to Him we are empowered to have confidence before God even when our sin and immaturity is unveiled. When the enemy comes with accusation regarding my weakness or immaturity, I respond with the truth of Jesus’ delight in me even in my weakness. When He comes to deceive me into taking pride in my beauty or strength, I respond with the vivid remembrance of my weakness. Our loveliness protects us from shame and condemnation. Our weakness keeps us from pride and arrogance. Together they enable us to wholeheartedly abandon ourselves in love, confident before Him." - Dana Chandler

"We are God's image - yes, but we are not yet God's likeness; we have a capacity for God - yes, but it is not yet fully actualized. And so it is that to experience our divine capacity is to experience our innate nobility and our innate poverty - both experiences urging us on in our quest for God." - (quote from the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Abbey)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One story

"I found Betty. She was an older woman whose husband had left to get the mail a memory ago and never came back. Her world went into a downward spiral of poverty that ended there – in the motel – cold, hungry and alone. I knew this wasn’t about starting a ministry, firing up a program in the church or doing a good deed to ease my conscience.This was about the simplicity of worship. As much as I was being awakened in the ethos of music and the arts to intimacy with Christ – I was discovering that here at the fringes of society in whatever I was doing to the “least of these” – I was encountering Him.It began down the pathway of finding friends among the poor and marginalized of the world. Strange thing is though – in finding the poor and oppressed, we found God in a way I would have never thought possible. As we became friends with Betty, she became a friend of God. Some time after our first meeting she would die and I can’t wait to see her again and thank her for introducing me to so much about what life and worship are really all about.
There was a fragrance in this exchange that I’ve found to be unmatched in any other place – and without this as a part of our life – it is lost in the gathered place of liturgy. Not only is it lost to the church and the society to which it is called – but it is lost to God as well, a tragedy indeed, and worship is lost.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16

As one who has a sense of calling in serving the church at large by making a way for her to express her worship – I cannot be silent about justice. We cannot be a worshipping people without being a community of justice within and without our walls. I cannot be faithful to my destiny in worship without continually wrestling with the place of justice in my life as a worshipper and the worshipping community that I am a part of." - David Ruis

Monday, January 22, 2007

Digging wells and planting seeds

How much is it worth to dig wells and plant seeds in a barren desert land? What will come of it?

I came to a point of decision and deep cost a few years ago and turned away in fear. I didn't realize it fully until the invitation away from fear and into adventure came again and again.......slowly, consistantly and painfully reminding me of what I lost. I regret it all so deeply. So much so that numbness became an easier place to dwell. But when you are used to being "a heart on a sleeve" and you enter the new world of the cold, you cannot possibly stay long. There is no integrity in this life. The Lord in his grace has invited me to sow again. In his mercy, he beckons me to dig again. I suspect that the conditions will not be as easy and indeed the work will be even harder, having allowed the soil to grow fallow, having neglected to re-dig a well when the enemy came and sabatoged the first one, but:

"Hear this! The days are coming--the LORD's declaration--when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the one who treads grapes, the sower of seed. The mountains will drip with sweet wine, and all the hills will flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel. They will rebuild and occupy ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink their wine, make gardens and eat their produce. I will plant them on their land, and they will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them. Yahweh your God has spoken. "Amos 9:13-15

Friday, January 19, 2007

What God has joined together, let NO man separate.

There are certain truths that are uniquely powerful and glorious by themselves, however, they simply can not stand by themselves. They are a marriage of principals. Together, they ARE the true gospel lived out.

“The greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength and the second is LIKE it, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love the Lord your God:

It is Faith alone that pleases God. Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. Faith is our path of connection to God. Faith is the substance in which our relationship with Him has it's beginning, and it's maturation. Faith is the longing to trust and believe the best, the bold reach for the highest ideal - no matter what doubts and discouragement assail us. Despite cinical or fraudulent testement otherwise. Faith is a most beautiful and precious gift. Faith is, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer -the union of God with man, the commitment of man to God.

In the great love chapter (Corinthians 13) there are numerous acts of faith listed.....
but again and again we read that without love these acts of faith are MEANINGLESS.

" I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels. But if I don't have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal. I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don't have love, I am nothing. I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned. But if I don't have love, none of these things will help me. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant. It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs. It isn't happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never comes to an end. There is the gift of speaking what God has revealed, but it will no longer be used. There is the gift of speaking in other languages, but it will stop by itself. There is the gift of knowledge, but it will no longer be used. Our knowledge is incomplete and our ability to speak what God has revealed is incomplete. But when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways. Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me. So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the best one of these is love."

A marraige without love gives little meaning to the symbol of faithfulness.
Faith without works is dead.
Faith IS the prized jewel,
but it needs the perfect setting of love to shine.
Love alone will display the beauty and authenticity of faith.

Love your neighbour as yourself:
Jesus said OFTEN, "Go learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'.” He's teaching us HOW to love Him. In Isaiah 58 the heart of God pours out with His longing.

"The LORD says, "Shout as loud as you can! Tell my people Israel about their sins!
They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshiping me." The people ask, "Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?" The LORD says to them, "The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers.
Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that?
"The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. "Then my favor will shine on you like the morning sun, and your wounds will be quickly healed. I will always be with you to save you; my presence will protect you on every side. When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond. "If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses." The LORD says, "If you treat the Sabbath as sacred and do not pursue your own interests on that day; if you value my holy day and honor it by not traveling, working, or talking idly on that day, then you will find the joy that comes from serving me. I will make you honored all over the world, and you will enjoy the land I gave to your ancestor, Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken."

Scriptures says that if we come to bring an offering to God but remember our brother has something against us, we are to leave our offering and go make things right first.

“How can you say you love God whom you can’t see when you do not love your brother who you can see.”

“If you love me, obey my commandments. This is my commandment, Love one-another”

God takes personal how we relate to others, after all, each individual is made in HIS image and we are created a connected body. Nothing happens on this earth that does not affect or touch us, or Him.

"What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

Our offering, our sacrifice, our worship is a costly perfum but it needs the sweet aroma of right relationships to be a truly pleasing fragrance. Honor & grace make our sacrifice valuable.

The two commandments are NOT a divided focus. ALL of the law and the prophets hang on these two truths. They flow only in context with one-another. We cannot have one without the other. And it is only when both are in place that He is glorified, and the kingdom of God is manifested in power. This is Heaven kissing Earth.