Craziness in an upside down world?

The world’s a mess. We may argue on the why and who, but no one is pleased with our state of affairs. Some ask how a good God can allow young children to be trafficked? Flooding muddy waters wash away villages full of people in Peru? Radiation from Japan not only wreak havoc there, but spread across the Pacific Ocean? Terrorists haunt major cities, even whole countries. Why the innocent suffer and the selfish and entitled seem to get more power, more wealth?

Warn and loved version

After I got my driver’s license, my Mom read to me from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers while I drove to school. When I moved into the dorm at the U of Houston she gave me my own copy. Through the years she sent new ones as I wore them out. Right now, my OM and I read from the last one she gave us, even though he has to hold it together to read.

What’s the draw for me with Oswald Chambers’ writing?

Wisdom so deep you never see the bottom.
So fresh you gasp.
So right you don’t argue, even if it flips you or turns you in your tracks.

Here’s an excerpt from a devo on prayer by Oswald (as he’s affectionately known by those who love his writing) on YouVersion.

Prayer alters a man on the inside, alters his mind and his attitude to things. The point of praying is not that we get things from God, but that we learn by prayer to detect the difference between God’s order and God’s permissive will. God’s order is—no pain, no sickness, no devil, no war, no sin; His permissive will is all these things. What a man needs to do is to get hold of God’s order in the kingdom on the inside, and then he will begin to see how to handle the riddle of the universe on the outside.

God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of redemption alters the way a man looks at things.

Reflection Question: What might happen if I spent more time allowing God to change me and less time trying to change my circumstances?

    Quotations taken from Still Higher for His Highest and Our Brilliant Heritage, © Discovery House Publishers

I don’t begin to understand the permissive will of God.

The only part I can grasp is, I’m still alive because of it. He didn’t wipe me off the face of the earth the first time I did something not worthy of life.

That’s permissive will.

But there is no peace in that, alone. I’d always be wondering when I’d cross the line, when he’d say, “Enough!” and snuff me out.

Through Jesus, the way God reveals himself completely to the world, I intersect with God’s order, the kind prophesied in Revelations, where there is no more death and no more tears. No more cruelty, abuse, or broken people. No more sickness of mind or body, or spirit.

He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and be their God, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Rev 21:4 NASB

Because of his death and resurrection, I get a taste of God’s order now, and a promise of it forever.

Until I graduate and join my sweet mama in heaven, I straddle life on one side in a world run amok, in God’s permissive will, and on the other side the inner peace His presence brings, internal order, the all-is-well and all will be well of His spirit.

There is plenty I care about, much that I’m concerned about, people I ache for. But when I pray I’m not giving God a to-do list, or explaining how important something is and how, or why, he should act.

I am opening my mind to the Creator, to the power of his spirit to untangle my mind and smooth my peace.

Then I know how to pray for the sick and the hurting, how to react to ugliness and brokenness, how to take the next step.

How to live is an upside down world.

And you?

Space junk?

Our newspaper reported the problem of space vehicles threatened by the remains of rockets and satellites, orbiting or floating indefinitely in space with no atmosphere to break them down. You may wonder why I reveal my thoughts, or my work on deeper issues that would be more comfortable to ignore or conceal. Experiences that harm us, cause impeded growth, or lodge as resentment can become like space junk, orbiting somewhere in the background of our lives.
partial eclipse of moon
As long as it’s floating, we can’t control our life junk. It’s difficult to protect ourselves from a head-on collision, or worse, heal if we are blind-sided by an unexamined past. And if we have to focus on avoidance, we lose the resources needed to reach our destination, the life we were created to live.

I’ve benefited from various counselors at critical times in my life. Years ago, pain and an intolerable life situation pushed me to seek help. I attended group therapy with a psychiatrist, and grew close to several of the ladies in our post-therapy dinners together. I clearly recall a session with the doctor. One of the women, usually very quiet, talked about various family members who had passed her around in her childhood. She sat forward, hand shaking and ashes falling from her cigarette, and gasped. “No one ever wanted me. No one ever really loved me.” I wanted to run across the room and comfort her, but the doctor simply looked at his watch, stood and pronounced, “Time’s up.” He motioned for the now sobbing woman, scribbled out a prescription for a higher dose of Valium, and turned his back on us.

I wanted to scream, “That’s all? You work for months to uncover her deepest wounds, and that’s all you have to offer?”

She went downhill from there.

And it broke my heart.

That was during a time when I’d felt like heaven was shut up, that God hadn’t answered my prayers in a painful situation.

That I was on my own.

But seeing the devastation in that woman’s eyes, I knew I needed more than myself. More than my own power to heal, and more than any outside help I could engage. In the end, all they could do was try to mask the pain.

I began to pray again.

The sweet Spirit of the Lord shone into my heart, just enough light to see one step ahead. And an assurance, like a gentle hand on my shoulder, that the Lord would reveal what needed healing when I was ready, and that the Spirit would be there to provide the power.

Counseling and therapy can reveal a festering wound or a scar that needs grafting, but has no power in itself to perform the necessary procedure for a cure.

The Holy Spirit became my counselor and healer.

That’s not to say my life has been perfect ever since then! Far from it.

The Spirit of the Lord is limited by how much I will open my eyes to see, and how much control I will give up for the Power to work in me. When you come from a dysfunctional or abusive childhood, that isn’t easy to do. You learn not to see, and to control as much as you can, to stay alive.

It’s been a long, winding road. I’ve been hurt, and made mistakes, and have grown desperate. At been times I sought counseling, and tried to find someone with a faith anchor.

But I’ve never sat with shaking hands and broken heart, looking into an empty well.

When I was afraid, injured or felt abandoned, my Lord assured me I was not alone.

Ever.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”…
You have always been my helper.…
O God of my salvation!
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the LORD will hold me close.

Psalm 27:8,10 NLT

The worst years are far behind me now. So much healing and blessing have brought great joy, in spite of physical challenges. I relish time with my family, friends, life itself.

I can live and worship with a whole heart, and sing and share from deep places, carved from healed wounds.


What about you? Are there times when your life feels like a video game, with creatures randomly popping up? You struggle to bonk them out of sight, but there’s always another?

A holy Lent?

It’s that time of the year when many western Christians in liturgical churches attend an Ash Wednesday service and receive ashes on their forehead, a reminder that we are dust (referring to our creation) and to dust we shall return. (That takes the wind out of the sails of pride, at least until the ashes are washed off!)

candles in church
Lent began in the early church as preparation for Resurrection Sunday of converts for baptism, as well as those who were separated from fellowship to be reconciled.

The weeks approaching the observance of the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus soon became a church-wide time of preparation with self-examination and repentance.

In my young teen years, my Roman Catholic friends couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. So, they’d plan parties to be sure to run until midnight, when they could feast on a burger with the rest of us, then we’d all head home.

At some point I joined the many in my church who gave up something for Lent, the most common being chocolate. The mindset was, the more you liked it, the holier you’d be if you gave it up.

Later I heard a caveat that Sunday, reflecting Resurrection day, is a feast day, so you could indulge on that day. That seemed like cheating, but I guessed it helped the struggling. The whole business wasn’t spiritual for me. It seemed more like a carnival game: Sin? Now you see it, now you don’t.

But this Wednesday I will be called:

to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and mediating on God’s holy Word. Book of Common Prayer

Good, healthy activities for the spirit.

I want so much to observe a holy Lent. A couple of years ago I felt strongly that I had to give up social media and online games, namely Facebook, Words with Friends and FreeCell, which can eat up a lot of time. Seeing how hard it was to do that let me know they held too high a place in my priorities. A worthwhile exercise, for certain.

The next year, after learning from Ann Voskamp and others about the value of a thankful heart, I decided I would both give-up and add-on for Lent. I gave up griping and complaining, and sought to add gratefulness to my conversations.

I thought I was just been realistic. But I saw that too many conversations reminded me of something sad, harmful or tragic from my childhood, which I felt needful to share to break free of the secret-keeping tradition, or warn another from hard lessons learned. Oh, my, it’s difficult to change those patterns!

(Note: The secret–keeping in abusive homes is harmful, blocking healing and allowing the abusers all the power. But talking about it over and over, years beyond therapy or confession, is only reenacting the pain, not setting anyone free.)

Each year I’d do an above average job of keeping my Lenten intents, but usually slipped back into old behaviors afterwards.

I’d take another lap around Mt Sinai, like the Hebrews who left Egypt but never made it to the Promised Land. Never enjoyed the life God had saved and rescued and delivered them for.

Always sensing that I’m not good enough.

Yet

After the physical struggles of the past two years, my time of unsought-for-spiritual schooling, as I approach Lent this year, I see “A holy Lent” in a new light.

The brighter light of grace.

My husband and I both grew up in performance oriented homes. (That is probably the norm for our generation, and why Baby Boomers have accomplished so much.) My position in the dysfunctional family was the worker bee, the one who tried to hold everything together, to make everything right.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to turn that off, especially in regards to my self-worth. I fall in bed a night, exhausted and relaxed after proper “sleep hygiene.” Then I close my eyes and pull up a movie of my day, in full color, seeing the errors of my way or words, freezing frames, wishing so much for an edit, or repeat performance, to get it right, as if I could “do the things left undone” and undue the things I “ought not to have done.”

All in my head.

That doesn’t make for great sleep.

Why is it that we can so quickly switch from receiving God’s love and grace to thinking we have to polish our shoes and shine our halos and make ourselves worth the Passion of Christ?

The lesson I have been hearing, month after month, and want so much to really take to heart is that I can’t do anything to be better than I am. God loves me, always has and always will, and nothing I can do will make Him love me more, or love me less.

Certainly, I can do things to show my gratitude and share the love, but NOT TO EARN THAT LOVE! No creeping to the top of 1,000 stone steps on bare knees, hoping my blood will earn a kind welcome.

No number of church services attended, offering given, acts of kindness performed, or Bible verses studied or memorized will make Jesus grin any bigger or stretch his arms any wider in welcome. All that comes from his heart. From the heart of Love.

My children and grandchildren are so different from each other, and whether or not they perform or “reach their potential” or any of the parameters we human beings are so fond of, I love them each passionately, uniquely. Always have. Always will.

And God is such a better parent than I am!

“We are not beggars on the one hand or spiritual customers on the other; we are God’s children, and we just stay before Him with our broken treasure or our pain and watch Him mend or heal in such a way that we understand Him better.” Oswald Chambers, Christian Discipleship, V2

So instead of so much striving I will bring my broken treasure, and at times my pain, and seek the face of the One who sees me, always.

The holy Lent I seek this year is being wholly, gratefully aware of the grace of every breath I take. Of the Love that cushions my heart. And will one day welcome me home, no matter how I perform today, or tomorrow.

Are you planning to observe Lent this year? What will that look like for you?