shout-out

What do you get when you cross a charismatic Christian, an earthy hippie and a conservative homemaker who loves a good adventure?

The answer comes in the form of a woman standing barely 5’2, dressed in a conservative dress and sneakers, with her olive-complexioned face browned by the sun and her eyes sparkling with joy and warmth. This woman effortlessly steps over unspoken stereotypes and mixes denominational and cultural differences with an ease and warmth.

She is friends with dozens of Christians from different backgrounds and beliefs, but manages to unite them with their one purpose of glorifying Jesus. Her own beliefs about Christianity reflect the stories in the book of Acts. Her faith is simple and substantial—rooted in a Love that captured her heart and healed her deepest wounds. God is her friend and she carries that responsibility with a joyful solemnity. Where He leads her, she will follow, treating it as an exciting adventure in which her role is to speak and do what He is speaking and doing. Her adventures with Him have taken her to England, Alaska and North Dakota—but also to the next-door neighbor and the local Wal-Mart.

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“Praying is coming into agreement with God,” she says, “And He can’t steer a parked car.”

Her car is not parked. She is constantly discovering new and fresh delights on her treasure hunt with the Lord. It is the glory of the Lord to conceal a matter and it is the glory of this woman to seek it out. Her shelves are covered with tactical rocks, keys, and scraps of paper—simple treasures that represent the more important ones that He has burned into her heart.

Her life has not been easy or full of delight. It has been years of walking and stumbling through a wilderness. I walked with her and sometimes God seemed more of a Mystery than a Might, more of a Hider than a Revealer. But like in the story of Much-Afraid, the Shepherd was always closer than we imagined. Sometimes He came in the hardest times and told us stories about Himself and about how He was healing her. I didn’t learn about the Ways the Lord Works after He had worked and the healing was complete. The learning came with the process—slow and painful and steady. She told us things that He spoke to her only hours after He had spoken and before we saw the fruition.   Sometimes when she talks about those wilderness years, now in this oasis time, I hear regret and sorrow in her voice. She told me that she was sorry, once, that I was there for some of the years that the locusts wasted. But I learned to follow Jesus in the wilderness by following my mom. I learned that He laughs, that He has inside jokes with us, and that He speaks hard truth that burns our ears and incinerates the barriers around our hearts.

She is not perfect. At times in my teenage years, I expected perfection and resented her humanity. But I am grateful for the imperfection because it allowed me to see, and to still see, a beautiful and messy Redemption. I don’t know a Middle-Class American God because I grew up with a God that sat in our mobile home and told us stories about Himself. I don’t know a comfortable Jesus because I grew up with a Jesus that walked through the discomfort. I don’t know a passive Holy Spirit because I grew up with a Holy Spirit that was constantly moving and active.

Jesus is her Friend and now He is my Friend. Following Him means embracing friendship with the Holy One. I learned how to follow Jesus because my mom followed Jesus.

And I am really grateful.

because I practice self-preservation

How often I attempt to sabotage our friendship.

I have two friendships, actually. The first one, the one with my needs, is sometimes the most precious one to my heart.

I know my needs. I know them by heart. I know my need to get well, to drink more water, to take better care of myself when I am sick. I know my need for security, to know that I am able to financially provide for myself, to know I am doing a good job at everything I do. I know my need for love, to know that I can dare to love others authentically and deeply because they love me authentically and deeply.

I am well acquainted with my needs. We are good friends and this is not the friendship that I sabotage. Instead I put forth desperate efforts to ensure that this particular friendship, this deep relationship between my needs and I, will be well-protected.

My other friendship really only exists to help me keep my need friendship alive.

Because Jesus can meet my needs. God can fill the hole in my heart. The story of redemption becomes a Wal-Mart for my soul. I carefully pick the items that will best help soothe my hurts and protect my needs. My friendship with God becomes a vehicle to happiness.

And this friendship, this one with the holy Wal-Mart, becomes the one that I try to sabotage.

Because when my needs aren’t met and I am sitting in the corner counting my losses, and my hurts aren’t bandaged and I am left picking at the scabs, I realize that I have been in friendship with the wrong Jesus. This hole in my heart was not filled by God. I think in some ways that it has grown ever bigger, with more needs and more discontentments and longing…so much longing…for a grace that I cannot accept.

I realize that I have been protecting my friendship with my needs by forming a friendship with a band-aid.

And I realize that friendships with band-aids never work because eventually that band-aid will turn brown from the old blood still seeping through it. I will pull it off my skin and I will throw it away. The garbage will go to the place where garbage goes and someday it will be burned. And my friendship will be nothing more than ashes.

But then this GodMan reminds my heart that He was never a band-aid and my broken heart that is still weeping over my disintegrated friendship realizes that my true friendship with Him is not sabotaged. I realize that I can never destroy this friendship because He is a person and a friendship goes both ways. I remember that I don’t always like Him. I remember that sometimes He demands everything. I remember that He does not fit comfortably and that is why I choose to forget Him and focus my affections on the band-aid.

But then I remember that sometimes He laughs with me and we share inside jokes and secrets that only come from those deep friendships. I remember that He gave all. I remember that He is so beautiful and holy and that I can laugh and dance and worship in His presence and He changes me so that I don’t need band-aids.

I remember that I love because He loves first. He will never let me sabotage our friendship. When I try to create new versions of our friendship that involves band-aids and meeting my needs; He reminds me that every time I do this, I always end up wanting that friendship to end.

The friendship with my needs becomes less important because I am satisfied with the friendship with my God.

shame

this is old, but still burns in my heart.

Picture this scene: a young woman trembles from anger and fear. With her arms wrapped around her body and silent, poignant tears streaking down her face, she tries to block out the angry accusations of those who surround her. How dare those hypocrites accuse her of adultery when she knows they, too, have sinned. Deep down, though she knows she deserves every indictment. And now she cringes before God.

Shame.

Shame is the defining element surrounding her quivering form. It hovers over her, like a furious black cloud intent on slowly suffocating her soul.

Can you relate? I can.

But then the story becomes beautiful. Listen.

“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger in the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.”

Now listen to Jesus’ words as they cut through the cloud of shame like a two-edged sword.

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin no more.”

I don’t know what happened after that, but I imagine she slowly turned and walked home, in a dazed mixture of puzzlement and elation.

She was not condemned.

And neither are you.

Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

The dictionary defines condemnation as either the state of being condemned, or strong censure; disapprobation; reproof.

To me, the word reminds me of inmates in the death-row, a building wrapped in yellow tape and boarded shut, a child constantly trying to measure up and never quite making it. It’s a chilling word. A depressing word. A word that causes flowing tears, broken hearts, and tragic death.

I was talking to my sweet friend, Emily, the other day and she mentioned John11:43:

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

I haven’t been able to get that line out of my head since. I can almost see Jesus’ smiling face, with tearstains still on His cheeks, as He subtly asks, “What does a living man need with grave-clothes?”

Centuries later, His voice still speaks through the shame, the condemnation, the self-hatred, the inferiority. Take off the grave clothes, beloved, because “for all you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

We are not condemned.