“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” C.S. Lewis
I met with a sister who is new to the area for tea the other day. We opened the lines of communication by learning a little about each other’s backgrounds. As she placed a few pieces of the puzzle of her life face up on the table, I began to recognize some of the name brand barricades in the backdrop.
Like all of us, she is a ball of yarn that will take time to unravel. She is colorful and flexible and is a critical thread in any fabric that is woven with her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize it. She sees the face of God from a distance but can’t feel His real proximity. She moves about on her path never observing the safety warning that says, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” She toddles along believing that she has many miles beyond the horizon to go before she can reach her Lord and Savior and constantly collides with clearly marked obstructions called unforgiven, unloved, and undeserving. All creation cried out with longing, with groans only You could comprehend; and with wisdom, You always answer and give the words of life so unfailing. – The Way by Jeremy Camp
As we continued to talk, I learned we have a lot more in common than meets the eye. I learned we both gain our energy from within, we are both guilty of the sin of too much self-reliance, and that the nightmares of the ugliness of others still creep into our days. We find great comfort in concepts such as mission, battle rhythm, and stronghold. We push forward and are always willing to lead the way into unchartered territory – unless that exploration requires an examination of the dark places where our points of pain lay. Then it’s time to rip the cord out of the wall, stopping the music and the madness. We do that by repressing those ghosts of experiences past deep into closets we mistake as graves.
As I began to scratch the surface of the places that lead to her darkness, her eyes welled up with tears. We skirted near the shallow fields of a few more skeleton crypts and the daunted, dazed, disbelieving girl of years ago came screaming from the darkness of the past into the now. As she sat quietly, taking in everything the spirit was saying through me, I reminded her of a great lesson I learned from a mentor on my journey. It is “that which we repress comes back to the party in a different dress, just at a time and a place that is not convenient or of our choosing.” The good news is that treasures are hidden in dark places. If we rely on Him, He will lead us to our trove of prizes; our paragon full of surprises. John Chapter 1:1-5 (NIV) tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And Your glory shines all around us; Your faithfulness shown for all to see. When we think of all of Your wonders, the beauty of Your plan that’s been revealed, we walk in Your light. We walk in it. Shine bright. Let Your glory fill this land; lift high, the King of Kings and great I am. Jesus, You are the way
I shared some of the nastiness I used to hide behind a façade. We talked about a few bones that used to fly out of my closet as soon as the door cracked ever so slightly. We chatted about our pursuit of peace and quiet. We discussed our inner desires to be strong and others’ reliance on us to be the tie that binds the unit together. Her eyes locked onto mine as if to say, “you too?” As her eyes filled with tears again, there seemed to be a sigh of relief that came from our common connection. I shared that I learned the hard way that to truly be undaunted, unflappable, and unchained, I had to become vulnerable. I had to be willing to expose the nerve endings of my pain and the full extent of my weaknesses. Through that discomfort, He gave me the courage I needed to enter those dark places. He, The Light, illuminated my treasures. My power and gifting were then birthed through the womb of vulnerability. Through the journey, His brightness shone through the crevices of my weaknesses and pain. I also shared these three things I have learned in the process:
- He has forgiven me for all that I have done wrong.
- He loves me even with my breaks and cracks.
- He has taught me that His grace is His eternal gift to me without regard for what I deserve.
My reflection on my tea time has me here:
It is in my many moments of complete emptiness that God says, “Here I am…Walk with Me. Your strength comes from Me, and Me alone. If only you would take my hand, I will take you to heights beyond the farthest boundaries of your imagination. Hold back, and you will forever remain in the middle of this mess. I am full of surprises! Come with me so I may show you your treasures. I am The Light. If you stay with Me, there is no reason for you to ever be afraid of darkness.”
I am looking forward to exposing many more of my cracks to this sister in hopes that she will see His light shining through them. Until then, my prayer is that she becomes mindful that the cold canyon that contains the anguish, agony, and ache of tortured ghosts from experiences past, is best crossed on a bridge named vulnerability with a guide called God. She is a beautiful sister with unabridged potential. Her happiness is His truth. I can’t wait to see His greatness unleashed through her. Her treasures are there for the taking; full of wonder, amazement, and surprise. We can see the works of Your loving hands with a hope and peace not made by man. When You poured out Your grace and Your mercy and You held out Your arms so we could see You bled for all mankind and set the captives free.
“Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised me I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations, and he will be the glory of your people Israel!’” Luke 2:28-32 (TLB)
May you always be willing to ask for Him and take His hand. May His light always shine through you. Come along side someone else and share your story. Be the love!
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“The intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection.” – Brene Brown
The holidays are a festive time and known as the season of giving, filled with busyness in preparation for Christmas Day. The malls are packed and the internet is jammed because so many people are searching for items to wrap and present as the perfect surprise to those they love. Some blame the year-end gift giving on commercialism and consumerism, causing people to spend more than they have to obtain what they don’t need. Others have a different outlook but choose not to indulge that way, providing only baked goods or handmade crafts – gifts from the heart – to encourage the ones they love.
But…what about the offering of time and what about the rest of the year? The commentary in the Voice translation of 2 Corinthians tells us, “Giving away money is one of the hardest things believers do, especially when there are bills to pay and more expenses than income. However, helping others with their physical needs and not only their spiritual needs is a fundamental principle of Christian spirituality. Perhaps it would be easier to give our financial resources if we could turn away from our own continual consumption and live simpler lifestyles. Then there would be not only the willingness but also the ability to share God’s blessings with others.” Verses 6-15 say, “6 But I will say this to encourage your generosity: the one who plants little harvests little, and the one who plants plenty harvests plenty. 7 Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ 8 God is ready to overwhelm you with more blessings than you could ever imagine so that you’ll always be taken care of in every way and you’ll have more than enough to share. 9 Remember what is written about the One who trusts in the Lord: He scattered abroad; He gave freely to the poor; His righteousness endures throughout the ages. 10 The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest from your righteous actions. 11 You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and thanksgiving to God. 12 For this mission will do more than bring food and water to fellow believers in need—it will overflow in a cascade of praises and thanksgivings for our God. 13 When this mission reaches Jerusalem and meets with the approval of God’s people there, they will give glory to God because your confession of the gospel of the Anointed One led to obedient action and your generous sharing with them and with all exhibited your sincere concern. 14 Because of the extraordinary grace of God at work in you, they will pray for you and long for you. 15 Praise God for this incredible, unbelievable, indescribable gift!”
Our requirement to be vulnerable and give of ourselves (time and talents) as well as our possessions brings to us far more than we lose by giving them away. By putting ourselves out there and exposing our genuine nature, we experience the joys and pains that are ignited or covered by His grace, giving us the power of clarity to see His love and forgiveness and the hope that lets us live to tell about it. But this reward is endowed upon us only when we take time to give time. By doing so, we relish in the flavors and scents of His love while unwittingly relinquishing the burden of being too busy.
What time do we have to keep except the measure of the moment in our hand? Does the inertia of our motion undermine our authenticity, clarity, grace or power? Busy – “If yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift and that’s why they call it the present” – how can we have so much to do that we can’t unwrap the wonder of time that is before us? The scents of softness from a sleeping baby – hug her and feel the peace that she brings. The look of love in the eyes of a five-year old with outstretched arms – embrace what he is offering. The fog of confusion that the teen tweets about – be the light that burns it off and guide him to the path on the other side. The delight in disorder in the life of the young woman next to you – meet her for tea to talk about it. The father who is missing the enthusiasm necessary to enjoy his children – encourage him with a story of your positive experience with The Father. The wisdom of the soul whose arthritic hands once held you – sit for a while and listen; then say thank you. From the simplicity of the cradle to the complexity of the grave, God’s greatest gifts are those who appear with us in this moment. How dare we take a pass for the four letter expletive we call busy? Let’s establish a connection with them: showing them our authenticity through our willingness to be vulnerable; our clarity through the eyes of His ways; His grace through the power of non-judgment or forgiveness; our power through the telling of our stories of weakness – which allows us to be vulnerable; which leads to the foot of the cross (his ways); which reminds us that He died for our forgiveness; which tells the story of the weakness in our ways – which teaches us the value of authenticity…and the double helix continues in perpetuity.
As we experience this wonderful time of the year together, make your gift-giving decisions as it has been laid upon your heart to do. Just remember, credit is not our sacrifice, merely a matter of pure secular indebtedness. There are however, 364 other days in the year, four natural seasons, and ten thousand ways and opportunities to give to others. Time is of the essence as our charity only exists while we are alive. For when we die, what we bequeath is no longer sacrificial. As we move throughout this season at a pace that makes time for each other, let’s ask ourselves this: What have we given of our time and talents today? What will we give of our finances before sundown? Will we stop and acknowledge the presence of the next human being we encounter? Will we take a moment to smile at him and encourage her? Will we sincerely share the dark spots in our walk as we shine beyond the shadows? Will we spend the currency of a split second to show the love given to us on that destined day at Calvary? Do we trust enough in our intimacy with Him to reach out and connect with another now? “The moment someone asks you to do something you don’t have the time or inclination to do is fraught with vulnerability.” – Brene Brown
In Give Me Words to Speak, Aaron Shust says: Calloused and bruised, dazed and confused; my Spirit is left wanting something more than my selfish hopes and my selfish dreams. I’m lying with my face down to the floor. I’m crying out for more. Give me words to speak. Don’t let my Spirit sleep ‘cause I can’t think of anything worth saying, but I know that I owe You my life. So give me words to speak. Don’t let my Spirit sleep. Every night, every day I find that I have nothing left to say. So I stand here in silence awaiting Your guidance. I’m wanting only Your voice to be heard. Let them be Your Words…that follow the gifts of our giving to one another for His glory. Be vulnerable! Be open!! Give the gift of your story!!! Be the love!!!! Say it with me: IN HIS MIGHTY NAME, Amen
Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability. – Brene Brown
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It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light – Aristotle Onassis
The past few weeks have been some of the most interesting times of recent memory. I departed the US on a high with enough fire in the belly to believe I could boil an ocean. As I travelled abroad, although the oceans stayed below 212 degrees, I set every beach ablaze I encountered. I took every opportunity I had to spread the good news in capital cities and remote villages. However, over the days my body and mind grew tired even though I thought my faith was strong.
You see, through it all I maintained a mindset that the things that were coming at me were bricks not bullets and therefore would not hurt me. My armor plates of faith and courage were on. Nothing could penetrate; not the intensity or diversity of my work, the miles travelled, the short adjustment periods, the domestic issues, the death of a matriarch, or the health concerns. Brick…by…brick, each issue fell in front of me. Each one lay beside another across the road, then stacking one on top of another building a thick barrier that I mistook as a thin sheet. Without regard for what it really was or appeared to be, the best way to survive an ambush is to continue driving through it. So I floored it, gaining speed in hopes that momentum would carry me through if all else failed. The acceleration quickly slowed and eventually I came to a rest. I was so intent on making it through that I crashed into the backstop on the other side of what I thought was the finish line. When I returned state side, I realized I had hit a wall. My only prayer in the moment was from Psalms 16 1 Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You. 2 I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord, for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.”
Feeling tried and extremely overwhelmed, the bricks just continued to pile up. The wall grew higher and higher. Day after day, my heart grew more and more heavy and weary. With every step I took, I prayed “be with me Lord!” Yet with each passing moment, I felt more and more alone. Last night, I finally buckled under the pressure, fell to my knees, and in full surrender I cried out. God then held me close and said, “This is the way you stand the tallest and the strongest – when you are most dependent on me! Yes I built you to be resilient and gave you a spirit of courage but it is wholly contingent upon the two of us walking in lock step. The moment you begin to operate independent of me, you lose your armor and you don’t even realize when it is slipping off. I am with you and always have been. Look back and see the single set of footprints. You are the only one who was somehow lulled into thinking they were yours. Listen! With great championships comes great adversity. But my people stand tall. Now dry your eyes and straighten up your posture. Look in My word to locate your faith and let’s go together to find your courage because evil is powerless only when the good are unafraid. Remember your name and remember that I have never reneged, not even once. We can solve these things together if you are willing to look to Me first.” Suddenly my heart broke out into song, You stood before creation, eternity in your hand. You spoke the earth into motion, my soul now to stand. So what could I say and what could I do? But offer this heart, Oh God, completely to you. So I’ll walk upon salvation, Your spirit alive in me. This life to declare Your promise, my soul now to stand. I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned in awe of the one who gave it all. I’ll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered. All I am is yours. Hillsong United – The Stand
At that point, the wall came tumbling down. I drifted off to sleep in thanksgiving. Psalms 16 continues with 3 The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me. They are true, and my heart is thrilled beyond measure. 4 All the while the despair of many, who abandoned Your goodness for the empty promises of false gods, increases day by day. I refuse to pour out blood offerings, to utter their names from my lips. 5 You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches. 6 My home is surrounded in beauty; You have gifted me with abundance and a rich legacy. 7 I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days and centers my mind at night. 8 He is ever present with me; at all times He goes before me. I will not live in fear or abandon my calling because He stands at my right hand. 9 This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest. Who could want for more? 10 You will not abandon me to experience death and the grave or leave me to rot alone. 11 Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment. The Voice
The first thought on my mind this morning was this: The anguish I had felt all week long was finally relieved. Whatever I will face moving forward is with Him on my side. Imagine the possibilities if we were willing to live our lives with the constant knowledge that we have the full faith and backing of our God. The possibilities would be endless. We would openly and willingly tame the tiger of racism, close hunger’s hippo-size jaws of death, eradicate the venom of domestic violence, etc. There would be no fear in the alley after dusk because we would know the truth – that what is in the dark also appears in the light. Love would fill our hearts, houses and homeland. Our focus would forever be on His promises and not our problems because we would understand the He is bigger than any hurdle we could ever encounter. Oh what an awesome God we serve who loves and cares for the sheep He shepherds no matter how often or far they wander!
Dear God, as I walk through this day called today, may I align my sights on You to keep Your perspective as the way I see things. I am grateful for the energy and strength You have given me, but may I be constantly reminded of their source. Thank You for returning my spirit of courage to me, as we both know I had lost my way. I know these current battles will be tough but I also know You are with me and will always remain by my side, carrying me when I don’t have the strength to continue on. You alone have the solutions, oh mighty God, and will resolve the issues in Your time. Thank You for the rain and the joy that follows. Amen
Bring me joy, bring me peace. Bring the chance to be free. Bring me anything that brings You glory. And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain. But if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain. MercyMe – Bring the Rain. Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and innovation. You can have comfort or courage but you can’t have both. – Brene Brown
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