I just went back to winter camp at thirty-nine as the supposed adult, if you can believe that. In the spirit of Rainy Day Woman, I snowshoed back in time, remembering God's provision for a teenager scrambling to be at home somewhere.
Quiet for an anxious, trembling heart.
A little stability, a space to take a breath in belonging.
Some relief from a mad, mad world.
I went up the mountain.
Now, I do not recommend Jane's Addiction as a conduit for worshipping God, but Comin' Down the Mountain is a lyric of thanks for me. It's a memory of friendship born of music. Because remembrances are everywhere-especially in my ears. It's Wayne Everett singing while hanging out post-worship service, as we had a little band named the Prayer Chain that we'd recently begun following, as our musicians at winter camp. I know, don't hate. But that moment stands out as a symbol of God banding together a rag tag bunch of youngsters as a sort of family unit. At least that's what is was for me. Driving some awesome vehicles-Chinook, anyone- to rock shows every weekend and playing our own music (#truth- I only had a minuscule chickbackupsinger role-probably out of pity). It helped push back the tide of overwhelming loneliness that this then fifteen-year-old girl had been drowning under.
Those years were a life raft; they kept me afloat.
I couldn't have vocalized my squall of insecurity; my gawky demeanor of nerves, flitting around looking for calm.
But God is good and He knew.
And still does.
That year, I went up a mountain and came back down with some brothers and a sister for life (looking at you, Robyn).
And a new nickname.
And God has given me a heart for youth, because I remember.
With great affection I salute you, Sgt. Wormwood as I battle in the flesh against that bitter root that always wants to pop up-with remembering His grace in seemingly random playlists of Bob Dylan, Jane's Addiction, and the Prayer Chain. Going back last summer for a meet and greet with my Fab Four was not a simple act of fandom, it was overwhelming thanks to God for my future, because His hand held me in that past.
Oh, the brave, brave souls who answer to "friend."
Authentic friends have mad grit.
Friends whose hearts draw from a well of trust in the Lord.
They are the courageous ones, who ask tough questions. Because they really want to know your heart.
And share a piece of theirs.
Confronting and admonishing with lips of kindness.
Lips that honor God.
Chancing a defensive lashing. Or great sorrow to wade through. Or simple awkwardness.
Speaking truth in love. Truly from love.
Not to pass morsels around for the hens to gobble up.
Not to bolster presuppositions.
But to love and guide with the cross as their compass.
Lips that are sealed with the sweetness of discretion.
They are the risk-takers, who stand in the sun with a broken one. Under all that heat.
No fair-weather, here.
Not hiding nor retreating. Risking discomfort in order to give comfort.
Embracing in the open. And all those knee-aching prayers.
Avid protectors and lifters of the soul.
Facing fatigue, they grab ahold of the weight you carry and quietly walk the road in togetherness. And trudge on.
No gain to be had. No networking to be checked off. Their love is sacrifice. It's sweat and pain and relief.
Awash in Christ's love, they do not cower. Sharing a generous portion of grace from their plate.
Fed by a steady hope.
They are the brave ones who risk their hearts with humility in friendship.
Bless you, with all your guts.
You gift this worm a million ways.
Keep on, valiant teachers.
Forgiveness and reconciliation.
More than lip service.
Especially as weaponry is being fired from those lips.
Poison darts of punishment.
Come to the table and I'll serve you up a cold plate of revenge. With cold looks and cold stares. The venom dripping from the corners of my mouth being the perfect compliment to the meal. Feeding me and making me taller and stronger, while you shrink and shiver. Allow me to pour you a cup of coffee brewed through my filter of hate. God, there is such sweet satisfaction in being right and never letting you off the hook for being so wrong.
Hey, would you mind wearing your transgressions on you sleeve? Maybe post it on "What I Wore Wednesday" and every day ever after. Yeah, yeah. You're sorry.
Never sorry enough for me. I'm not wrong about you.
Shhh. I don't care to hear you. Not listening. I already see your heart in my god-likeness. Vengeance is mine sayeth......wait, how does that go again?
Feel the pain you've caused with every pass in the hall. With every seed of discord I plant among the peeps around us. With my gossipy lip service.
And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:33-35
"I forgive you" but I don't.
"I believe in mercy" but I don't want to give it.
"I believe in reconciliation" just don't ask me to participate in it.
Let me pay lip service to and keep my unforgiveness in my pocket for a rainy day. A little morsel to feed my belief that I really am better than you, filthy one.
"I believe I'm a sinner" in theory
"I believe Christ died to cover sins" lucky you
"I believe in humility" because it's my job to keep you low
"I said I forgive you" because I'm the bigger person, now pay up and pay up and pay up.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Old foe, I'm trying to let you off the hook. I'm suffocating on the same one.
Can we lay downs our arms? God laid His down.
The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever. When I send clouds over the earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the sky, I will always remember the promise that I have made to every living creature. The rainbow will be the sign of that solemn promise.
All the pain and the scars
Could you lay down your arms....
It might be easy for another man to see
But I think you still look a lot like me
Old Friend Lyle Lovett
A very good listen:
When God Put His Weapon Down (and When He’ll Bare His Teeth) | Benji Magness
Any one else think I sound like a broken record, yet? Put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record........and dance! Together.
People who stoop low to offer their hand as a lifeline as the tar pit of failure, shame, and despair threatens to swallow you whole are a soothing balm. When you've made an absolute mess of everything. They are not afraid of your mess. They are not shocked. They get mud under their fingernails by digging in. They are love. They are a picture of Jesus. I want to be those kind of people. Bearing each other's burdens is sometimes dirtying. So was dying to cover those burdens.
Our first instinct may be to run the other way in fear. Of exposure. Of reputation. Of rejection. Of threats. Of humility. Of grace.
Hiding is not safe. Retreat is not healing. Hurtling at full speed and collapsing into a body of believers is protection.....or it should be. It comes at great risk to the giver and receiver.
In having arms of grace and Christ's love, I have been humbled over and over with the realization that perhaps I've offered reserved grace and lived out of a prideful version of forgiveness. My love and mercy had limits until the waves of Christ's love and mercy came crashing on my shore. It's almost too much to recieve. But I now know how to better give it. For real. For Christ.
I shudder at the ways that perhaps I haven't been a safe harbor for the hurting.... for those living in fear. Isn't that all of us at one time or all the time? Show of hands. God, forgive me. I want to offer bear hugs of mercy unreservedly. Without a thought of the blood, sweat, and tears that may transfer. Offering life to someone shackled and staring at hell. I've been grabbed from that brink by loving, determined hands.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
Let us also be an example of coming to our brothers and sisters with confessions of our weaknesses. Walking through our fear of man under the covering of God's redemption through his son. Remembering that we are His, and in obedience, we bring glory to him. Especially in our weakness. Right, Paul? He is given the floor. Though the scenario may not go well, it may leave a seed of remembrance for that brother or sister in the future. God strengthens us to give strength to others, whether we know they need it or not.
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:15-16
By grace, I am still learning and stretching. Let's dig in to the mud together and turn it into a dance of joy as we pull each other up. Who's up for a game of mud football?
And you know how I roll...... The Prayer Chain DigDug for your listening pleasure.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. matthew 7:3-5
the hands and feet of Christ are life
hands to hold tight and feet to walk along side
hands to pick up off the floor and feet to blaze the trail before
hands to brush off the dust of shame and feet led by God to navigate the way out
hands to grasp each other in prayer and feet to steady while God is making us stronger
hands to wipe tears
hands to serve
hands to soothe and heal
God has made us to live together. To need each other. Especially those of us who don't want to need anyone. It is one of the greatest markers of our father's love for us. His love, when demonstrated through his church, is overwhelming and life saving and unmistakable as anything else. It makes sorrow bearable, repentance possible, and growth inevitable. Let us be soaked in God's word and grace to be ready to catch one another. Give your fear to God to admit your need to lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be the hands and feet.
And hold tight to those hands when they are offered to you. They are a gift from your Father.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Look up introvert in the dictionary and you will see my picture. Small talk makes my heart race with anxiety. Meeting new people is nerve wracking. I replay everything I say ad nauseum in my mind. Big gatherings overwhelm me. My contemplative nature annoys even me at times. I get stuck in my head. Really stuck.
But I was reminded this week that my status a a follower of Jesus comes well before my status as Queen of the Introverts.
It came from an unexpected conversation. It was asked by a disciple of Christ. By one who actually reads her bible and has such overwhelming love for her savior. An believer who isn't complacent. And it struck me with a big ole "DUH".
Why don't we just do what Christ asks of us? Why don't we love one another?
It was born of a discussion of our behavior as a family of believers. Look around at church on Sunday. You can even observe me on Sunday. Are we behaving like family? Am I too afraid to risk looking like a fool to greet someone I haven't before? Am I so prideful that it prevents me from making the space a little more comfortable for another who's as nervous as I am? Too many thoughts are in my head like this....I don't know what to say. I'll say something stupid, I have nothing to offer, I am a total goof-why would they want to talk to me? Am I in someone's personal space? Are they in mine? Oh no, eye contact! Theme here-I I I I !. It's so ridiculous, that these same thoughts have even prevented me at times from giving to people who happen to be homeless. What if they don't want what I have, will I say the right thing, will I look like a dork? Anxiety rendering me useless. Not okay. The Holy Spirit is pushing and it's frightening and encouraging all at once.
God's word speaks, convicting me. And I tell him I'll try to do better and usually leave it at that, not knowing whether I will allow him to make me truly uncomfortable in action.
And then Yoda walks in.
Do. Or do not. There is no try.
There is no loophole for introverts. God's grace is sufficient to cover the stumbling words and awkward pauses. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. Let's be gloriously uncomfortable together this week.
Mark 12:30-31English Standard Version (ESV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
p.s. i write this as a personal conviction and as a record for accountability. i know we are all struggling. and He is not done with us yet. press on in His marvelous grace.
and also "weird al" is now stuck in my head, too