Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Journey Twenty-Twelve

Journey Twenty-Twelve

Yes, I do realize that 2012 isn't quite over and this post sounds like it would be more appropriate for an end-of-year reflection.  But the truth is, I embarked on a journey that I thought would only begin in 2012.  As it turns out, 2012 also marks the end. 

Isn't true that sometimes this is the way things work out?  That at the beginning of our journey, our dream, really, we cannot foresee or even fathom that it would end?  Sure, we have goals along the way that we may reach, even an end goal of what the epitome of our greatest dream and desire would be, but when you dream, does it have an end?  For me, this journey, this dream did not have an end. 

So what do you do when you literally see your dream, your journey end?  What if the end is ultimately out of your control?  Does it really end?  I think the answer is yes and no.

The journey, the dream as it was worked out, plotted and trekked may have been ended, but I figure I can make the decision to jump off of that dead end path and begin to clear a new one.  I can dream a new dream.  I can journey another journey.  It will look different.  Different people will accompany me on this new journey.  People like-minded and with similar goals will grab the plow, don the work gloves and go.  We will begin, on the hardened ground, to plow.  We will shed blood, sweat and tears.  We will put forth the effort for the hope of fulfilling our greatest dreams and desires.  We will get dirty, we will get tired, we will question ourselves and each other, we may even want to give up, but even knowing this, I want to go.  Even if that next journey ends, even if it ends by another's hand as this one did, I can't stop.

journey's end?

The end hurts.  Clearly, I'd be a fool to say it doesn't hurt - that my heart isn't broken.  The moments of hope come when I think I'll be able to move on. But as quickly as those moments come, the memory of the words that ended it jump back into my mind like a demented jack-in-the-box to torture me and suck me back into another's choice that I cannot change.  Hurt, disappointed, devastated.  Adjectives that haunt me.  Adjectives that bring me back to the past, the very distant past that conjure up feelings I thought were long gone.  Memories of hurtful words and actions that have been buried by time but longing to be freed from the grave.  

Just as the fool doesn't feel the pain or admit to it, I'd be a fool to remain in my hurt.  Pain is a close friend of mine.  He visits me often, and over the years I've allowed him to stay with me longer than I'd like to admit.  I've allowed him to move into my heart, settle in and stay for years at a time.  He's invited anger and bitterness to join him and I've welcomed them in as our companions.  We've included envy and jealousy, pride and hate to join us.  I know pain.  As easy as it is to let them all in and stay, it takes an army to make them get out.  An army and time.  

So, I've let God be my army.  He does, however, require us to do work and He does give us the option to allow pain and its friends back in.  God and time have been my greatest allies against pain.  Even when I've asked God to back off, He has allowed time to continue to heal me.  So, foolish, I will try not to be.  I am hurt.  I am heart-broken, but I have the ability to move in a new direction and I will.  I just need my army to surround my heart and begin rebuilding that fortress - and in case there is a breach, I always can depend on our ally, time. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


PROCEED WITH COURAGE.  That was the advice I got the other day.  It was awesome advice.  I was looking for someone to tell me what to do and, well, I was told.  The problem is that I wasn't exactly sure what they were talking about.  I mean, I get it, but proceed exactly where?  I had been pondering some heavy questions for a few days.  I had been thinking of next steps, goal-setting, I had been dreaming, and of course, because I'm me, injecting chunks of realism (read: pessimism, skepticism). 

I want to sing.  I want to write.  I've been struggling with this thing I have called pride.  Brought to my attention a couple of years ago, pride, as I knew the definition to be wasn't exactly what was crippling me, it was the pride I never knew was pride.  I never overtly put myself on a pedestal.  I didn't proclaim, "I am so great!" with a puffed up ego.  So in that sense, pride wasn't the obvious issue I had.  It was pointed out to me in a gentle way, through a question from a friend, a mentor of mine.  And all because I refused to join in some silly antics of taking a harmless picture and distorting my image for laughs.  My objection was, "I'm just too vain, I guess," shrugging it off.  The response was, "Maybe you have a pride issue." 

See, I cared about how I looked, how people were going to perceive me, my image.  Instead of allowing for some harmless fun and silliness, I cared about what people were going to say if they were to see such a photo.  I didn't understand it at the moment.  Even the comment of having a pride issue didn't make sense at the time.  Graciously, the statement of having a pride issue didn't just end there.  Examples of how this person related to it was given and clearly I had similar thoughts much of the time.  So it gnawed and gnawed.  I posed the question to my husband the next day, "I'm not a proud person, am I?"  Again taking "pride" in the context of an outwardly puffed-up egomaniac.  He agreed that I was not.  But it kept eating away at me.  The next few days spelled it out for me.  I did have a major pride issue.  And even though the outwardly puffed-up egomaniac wasn't really what I was dealing with, my pride ran deeper; a thick, black sickness pulsing through my veins.  A transfusion would be all that would cure me.  A transfusion that still takes place this very day. 

Pride for me is ME, SELF.  Egomaniac to the core.  This is what I struggle with on a minute by minute basis.  Inward, not outward (so it doesn't necessarily project "self-absorbed-snob and prigish).  It's about me and how others see me.  It's about what others will think of me (this is also called fear).  It's about being afraid to do something silly for fear of my how I will look.  It's about being afraid to try something new for I may not be good at it and fail or I'll receive some remark about it's good that I at least tried.  It's about not finishing something for fear I could never be excellent at it.  It's about making sure I choose the right outfit so I can receive compliments.  It's imagining what the conversation will be like so I get noticed for something - all with a seemingly humble response.  It's fear and selfishness with a side of envy and self-doubt mixed in.  That's the recipe for pride in me.  It is something that has been brewing in me my whole life.  I have searched within myself for the reasons why I am this way, and certain things, events and experiences have contributed, but regardless of the reasons why, I have to accept that this thing, this pride thing is a part of me.  But I will not stop there and give the excuse of, "Well, that's just who I am, that makes me who I am, and that's that."  No.  This is not something to leave as is.  This has crippled me my whole life.  Why would I let it continue to be a part of me?  This is a disease that can be cured and will be cured.  I recognized it, and I fight it every second of every day.  I do not fight alone, however.  I have a power greater than I who fights with me.  Fights for me.  One who is on my side to cure this sickness which debilitates me.  I can rely only on Him for I find myself incredibly unreliable in this matter.  For once I relied on Him solely, things improved, then I begin to forget about Him and of course pride crept in again.  So I find myself back close to the starting point.  Beginning again, except this time with the understanding of what cripples me.  So, my reliance on God, the Mighty One, Jesus, will have to be a complete reliance for I have seen what I am capable of. 

This brings me back to the advice, PROCEED WITH COURAGE.  I want to sing, I want to write, I want to bring hope and beauty to a place where it is so rare to find it.  I must, I must, I must do those things without pride.  Without fear, without the desire to be recognized for my "talent" for the "awesome things" that I write or for the "attention"(good or bad) I receive for my voice (literally and figuratively).  So I must proceed.  With courage.  In all that I do, whatever it looks like for that moment, I must PROCEED WITH COURAGE.  I don't think it was an answer to any one of my singular questions I was pondering.  I think it was God saying, "Quit proceeding with caution and proceed with courage."  Caution for me equals pride (fear, selfishness, envy, self-doubt, SELF).  Courage is the cure to my disease.  With all that is within me, I must be courageous.  I'll let God hold the sword.  I'll be His armor- bearer and follow Him into battle.  I trust He will be the example I need to follow and pass along the sword to me.  I want to be courageous enough to take it and go.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fear Paralyzes

Fear paralyzes.  It disguises itself in so many different ways.  Sometimes it's obvious that it is the fear of messing up or choosing wrongly that paralyzes.  Sometimes it disguises itself cleverly as someone else's issues that hold you back.  "They are.... They won't.... They think.... They don't..."  "They" don't have anything to do with it.  It's just another excuse we give ourselves to wait and do nothing. 

We spiritualize it by saying that You don't want us to go yet because we are supposed to be learning something by doing nothing - by saying there is no open door yet.  We seek heavenly inspiration and wait until we get an obvious answer from above.  That is fear's trickery.  Fear is my enemy.  It loves to see me wait, loves to see me cry out in agony for a clear direction.  Fear loves to keep me alone and scared.  Fear is clever, sneaky and cunning.  

You, God, do not operate in that kind of fear.  You require us to live by faith.  You require us to believe in the things we cannot see.  You require us to go where we are unsure.  We know this about You yet we beg and expect clear directions and apparitions, voices, maps and lists.  We blind ourselves, our faith by these expectations.  If we love You madly and know You deeply then what we do is what You want us to do and Your love is the voice, Your character is the map, You are the direction, the list and the apparition.  

Blind faith.  True love - complete surrender to You - that is how we know where to go, when to go - that is anywhere and always.  Fear cannot live in Your love.  It cannot trick us or tell us to wait for a door, a sign, an inspiration.  Fear has no hold, no grasp, no place in the life You've given me.

Jesus, Father, God - I want to know Your heart so we beat in sync.  You love me.  I love You and fear must be banished from this temple.  I will go  You have led.  I'm coming.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I am convinced now more than ever, that in general, Christians are creating more hate than showing love.  This is a bold statement, I know.  I realize that I have put everyone that calls them self a Christian in this category.  Let me just clarify that I am generalizing and my "box of Christians" is based solely on what I see and what I have experienced.  Also, let me state that I have been in the group I am criticizing.  One more thing - this group I am referring to shows no mercy to "fellow Christians" or non-believers alike.  What have we done?

I know what it's like to want to do right in the eyes of God.  I know that in attempting to do right in the eyes of God, I was rigid, judgmental, prideful, stubborn, and hateful.  Except those characteristics were veiled - at least to me they were veiled.  Of course anyone looking at me probably saw those things for what they were and not the way I saw them.  No, I was not rigid, I was following rules set before me in the Bible.  I was not judgmental, I just happened to see the sin (or non- sin as it turns out) in others (tsk, tsk, tsk!) and "pray for them. " I was not stubborn, I was just extremely clear as to what God said about certain things and adhered to them.  I was not hateful, I just simply avoided people, things and issues that were ungodly. 

That is what I saw of myself when I looked in the mirror.  It makes me sick to my stomach to even remember that is who I was.  This was at a time in my life when my husband and I were deeply involved in a (Christian) church and served as leaders on several levels.  During this time, I learned more about God and Jesus than I ever had before.  I was reading the Bible and praying daily.  I experienced a deep and intimate relationship with God that was beautiful and even today I look back and long for some of those times (the relationship part).  But somehow, with as close to God as I felt, I was too closed off to the world around me.  I think, for me, this was somewhat necessary.  I had shut God out for so many years, lived an ugly life filled with so many regrets, I think I needed to close the door slightly on the outside.  I think I took it a bit too far, (I slammed that door, locked it, dead-bolted it threw away the key) but for me it was necessary to cut out things that were stumbling blocks for me.  A diet of sorts.  I had to... for my health, I had to. 

So, in surrounding myself with "Christian music" and cutting out all secular music, in putting restrictions on films, books, television and most art, I also seemed to judge (without really knowing I was doing it) everyone and everything that I deemed "unchristian."  Things I felt were not good for me to put into my body, I also determined they were not good for others to put into their bodies.  That is how the judgment began, the pride crept in, the stubbornness grew and the hate bubbled up.

This, I think, is how it begins for most "Christians" - we are simply attempting to live a life pleasing to God.  I never thought I was any of those negative things.  I never thought I was without love.  I loved people.  I loved my family and friends.  I served others.  I was empathetic to the hurting - but I could only see what I allowed in front of my eyes and if I was exposed to something I didn't agree with the love had conditions, the service ceased, the empathy turned to apathy.  It is only now that I see this. 

But I have been exposed!  Exposed to the real love of Christ, shown by people who look "odd" and act differently - the "not quite right."  These people I once condemned for not being "Christian" enough.  These people who love Jesus but show it in an odd way -  a different way than what the world is used to seeing.  These people believe as I do, that Jesus is the Son of God who died as a sacrifice in our place so we may have a relationship with God and ultimately so we may live in His Kingdom, and believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.  These people love unselfishly, give of themselves and serve everyone.  These people hang out with Christians and non-Christians (as Jesus did, by the way).  These people have hopes, dreams and passions that may or may not involve employment at a church or Christian organization.  These people long to build meaningful relationships and friendships.  These people are not afraid to share their pain and struggles in a real way.  These people are not afraid to talk about how screwed up they are or the mistakes they've made or continue to make.  These people are not afraid to tell you that everything may not turn out okay, that life sucks sometimes and it's hard, unfair and sad.  These people will also tell you of a Hope that keeps them going and makes life worth living.  These people show just as much excitement about living life now, here on earth, as they do about their eternal destination.  These people live life in this world without blinders on.  These people can live in the world but be unlike everyone else.  These people listen with Love in their hearts.  These people have a mission.  A mission to love as Christ loved while He was here on earth and as He loves us still.  These people will show you that the Love grows inside, breaking down the rigidity, judgment, hate, pride and stubbornness.  These people are not perfect, yet strive to be like the Perfect One.

I am sorry I judged you, hated you, was prideful and stubborn.  I have a million regrets.  I am by no means perfect or even "cured" of those things, but I have seen and experienced a different kind of Love that makes me odd, different and "not quite right" and I am determined to live it out.  God help me. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From Darkness...

February 1, 1990 - the day I began my descent into darkness.  For weeks I attempted to tread water, holding on to the Hope I had.  But I let the Hope fade and I succumbed to the darkness as my lungs slowly filled with water and I drown.  I floated down, down, down into hopelessness, carelessness and faithlessness.  I buried the Truth so deep down inside of me only on rare occasions would a speck of Light break through my darkness.  I liked the Dark.  Or should I say, the Dark liked me.  We fit well together.  Cynicism and Doubt became my companions.  They rarely left my side.  The values and morals I once believed in escaped my soul and I was glad to see them go.  I held nothing sacred.  It was easier to not care about my self, my safety, my life.  Nothing would ever bring the Light back.  I didn't really care if it did come back.  The Light had taken something away from me, something I couldn't replace... something I didn't want replaced. 

Darkness made my choices all right.  Acceptable.  Normal.  Darkness shadowed all the love others were trying to give.  The good kind of love - not the kind of love I accepted, gave into, chased, hunted.  Darkness said yes when Light said no.  Not that I cared what Light said anymore, for Light let me down.  Darkness applauded my choices when I knew Light would have been disappointed.  But I didn't care.  I didn't care.  My new life was what it was.  I had to accept that.  I could only feel alive when the pain was bad enough.  I had to make sure my heart beat so it was often that I inflicted my own pain.  I loved to hurt.  I must have - for my choices were painful.  I still have the scars.  I still feel the consequences.  I regret.  My pain made me alive, but really it was killing me. 

I had the Truth buried somewhere  and I knew it.  But I shoved it down attempting to snuff it out for good.  But the Truth prevailed even as I attempted to kill it.  The Truth gave me things - good things, even as I was strangling it.  The Truth chipped away and cracks formed.  Tiny streams of Light shone through.  I was given real love again.  I was given hope.  But still, I embraced the shadows and the Darkness.  I continued in the dark.

September 11, 2001 - the day I began my ascent from the darkness.  Unstoppable grief for people searching for their loved ones.  Lives gone in an instant.  It was something I witnessed first hand - life being lost in an instant - yet this time, its effect drove me to the Light.  I woke up.  I woke up.  I woke up.  I struggled for air.  Gasping, I could breath.  This pain this time was accompanied by Hope.  I still hurt.  I still felt the wounds, but I wanted them to close.  I wanted the scars to fade.  Although the ascent was instant, still 11 years later I deal with the consequences.  Regret still haunts me.  The journey has been beautiful, crushing and treacherous, but Hope accompanies me.  Truth is my guide and Light is my constant companion. 

This is a Redemption story.  Redemption, the Truth, Hope, Light -  that is Jesus Christ.  I needed redemption even when I didn't want it.  I was afforded the opportunities to make whatever choices my heart desired.  I chose.  I chose.  I chose.  The Truth never left me.  Hope pursued me and Light took the time to chisel away.  I had buried the Truth.  Perhaps you never met the Truth.  But Truth, Hope, Light pursues you.  Stop and look carefully. Listen.  Never far too far away. 

I recognize Darkness.  Cynicism and Doubt chase me, even sometimes catch me.  I see Hopelessness in hollow eyes and I still feel the pain it inflicts.  I remember.  I remember.  I remember.  I feel it.  I hurt as Hopelessness and Darkness imprison you.  I remember.  It is not Pity that I wish to throw at you, for Pity loves Darkness.  I just want you to know I know.  I remember.  I have the scars to prove I've been there and as much as I hate them and wish they would disappear forever, they are to remind me and hopefully comfort you - the wounds will close.  Those thick pink ribbons fade.  I can't wait for your Redemption story.