gardenWe worked in our flowerbeds yesterday. I love the change of seasons for many reasons and a pretty flowerbed is one of those reasons. Fresh, neat, green! Makes my heart happy. They don’t stay this way long enough in my opinion. Between the sun here in South Louisana frying everything by mid-July and the invading weeds that take over unless you are pulling on a daily basis, they just don’t stay the way they are today – fresh, neat and green!

I had worship music blaring and sang my heart out as I wrestled the flowerbeds back into neat submission. It was a lovely day! Hillsong United’s Hosanna came on – that one line always gets me, “Break my heart for what breaks yours…” That’s a powerful and scary sort of prayer, not my favorite to pray. I want, don’t want it! Because the things of this world that break God’s heart are awful, you can see it all around you if you live eyes wide open – the homeless man people won’t look in the eye, the young girl trafficked for lust’s pleasure, the discarded orphan who doesn’t have a home. It’s everywhere if you are paying attention.

I made the mistake, I will recant this in a few seconds, but initially it felt like a mistake, of clicking on a dang Facebook video and watching it yesterday. I have done this in the past – once it was about a child being abused, another time it was an elephant being tortured by her circus owners. Oh my heart aches – I can’t watch such things, it stays with me for days. It gets stuck in my head and my heart, so I know better, but I clicked anyway. It was a dramatic video that depicted what some women in some Middle Eastern countries experience when they have been judged gulity and are sentenced to death. It was violent, painful, gory, unbelievable! It was hard to watch but I felt compelled to do so. Heartbreaking as she was buried waist deep into the sand, hands tied behind her back as her father, her husband, and even her two sons (who were forced to) threw stones at her! It was awful and it has stayed with me.

My first response was regret – why the heck did I just watch that?

Sometimes we look longer than we should because we are nosey.

Sometimes we look longer than we should because of our voyeuristic tendencies.

Sometimes we look, and this is what I learned yesterday, because we must! 

How can we ever know what breaks God heart if we keep our head under a rock never seeing the world, outside of our world, as it is?

Parts of this world are very ugly and it serves no one to not see it,

to not see them.

The ugliness of humanity is hard to look at, it will mess you up, it will stay stuck with you, and if you let it,

it will

change you –

move you –

empower you

to do something about it.

I felt like it was a mistake to watch that video because my heart has been heavy since with the reality that stoning still happens in our world today. It is not just a nice story from the Bible where Jesus stands between a sinful woman and her accusers, stones in hand ready to hurl at her. It is not just a nice story where men come to see their own sin and release stones from their hands as they walk away from her. Today, it is not a nice story at all…Jesus is not recognized by these men who feel justified in their actions to murder a woman, stones are hurled and a woman dies. It is not a nice story.

I have prayed continuously for the women in the Middle East since that click. It made me think of Stephen, the first of many Jesus followers to be slain for the Gospel, Stephen was stoned outside the city wall of Jerusalem for the cause of Christ. I have prayed for Christian martyrs across the world as well, those men and women dying for their faith. Since that click I have felt connected, I have felt an obligation to pray not just for men and women, but brothers and sisters. If you are a Christian, if you believe in heaven, if you believe in the salvation of Christ, then you know that we are a family, God is our Father and in Christ we are all brothers and sisters and one day we will live together as a family in our heavenly home. That click reminded me.

So I didn’t sleep well last night, I woke up many, many times and I prayed. It is still on my mind and heavy on my heart. All those beautiful women. I am pounding heaven’s gates for them, commissioning angels to position. Oh, how God’s heart must break over His creation. I don’t know that my prayers will change the hearts of men, I don’t know that my prayers, from my safe bed, will save a woman today but I must pray. I pray for her, like Stephen, that the heavens will open and she will see God’s glory.

Acts 7:54-60 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”When he had said this, he fell asleep.

So, I pray that Jesus stands between her and her accusers and that she falls asleep, ushered into her heavenly Father’s arms where she is accepted, loved, and SEEN.

I see the King of glory
Coming on the clouds of fire
The whole earth shakes, the whole earth shakes
I see His love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing, the people sing

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take the place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a near revival
Staring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosannabe the change
Hosanna in the highest

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Hosanna in the highest
In the highest
In the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna in the highest
In the highest
In the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest

“Open up my eyes to the things unseen, Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours, Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause.”

be the change 3

Break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause – it’s a scary sort of prayer but we must pray it – our brothers and sisters need us to pray it! Don’t let the security of your world shelter you from the ugliness outside. Pull your head out from under the the rock, look around, and as your heart breaks be changed, moved, empowered!

 

book bibleAmong the other books I am reading, I picked up the 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole again to go through during this Lenten Season. My oldest daughter introduced me to it last year and it’s one of those books everyone should purpose to read at least once or get a little crazy and make it a yearly Lent tradition.

It’s so good!

She takes you through the book of John, traveling with Jesus to the cross. She also challenges you to a daily “fast” of sorts to decrease self as Jesus increases in you. Today’s reading is to fast from “fixing it.” That’s a hard one isn’t it? We like things fixed!

Disappointment in this life is just part of this life. We get disappointed in ourselves, in others and even in God. When those dreams we understood Him to whisper take longer to come to fruition or they never arrive the way we thought they would, when the project, the baby, the adventure, the relationship fades into non, unexplainable existence, when waywardness has it’s way and promises seem to dissolve, we are left heartbroken, confused, even bitter at times.

Watching others in these struggling seasons is uncomfortable, we have a propensity to strap on our cape, rush in, and try and save the day as much as we think we can, but nothing, but Jesus and time, can fix this sort of deep ache.

Alicia writes, “Let the mourning mourn. Grant those who grieve the dignity to ask questions. Bestow upon the bewildered permission to not edit their honesty. Crucifixion, after all, is serious work.”

Oh how I love that! We are all off the hook to fix it! No pressure to make it better! Good thing because you couldn’t make it better if you tried. It’s not your responsibility to fix the God-sized, faith failing, crucifixion crushing hole that ensues when promises feel broken and dreams are shattered. That is a God-sized job for God alone.

Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” says the LORD.

The most important thing you can do in this season is listen.

Listen to their heart’s cry,

listen to their story,

listen to their disappointment,

listen to their questions,

listen to their wrestling with the invisible,

just listen! 

It’s uncomfortable, yes, but it’s important. It is an exercise in learning to become comfortable with what is uncomfortable. Don’t offer advice, don’t look for a solution, don’t challenge them, or make them wrong. Don’t make it about you, don’t try to share your stories to identify with them, don’t minimize their pain, don’t fix them!

The greatest gift you can give someone in a heart-wrenching season is to sit near and be an ear to listen if and when they choose to talk.

Never underestimate your gift of simply being present. 

God is after something in them, in the pain, in the crushing, He is looking for the oil. “Olive oil comes from the olive fruit. But when you press the fruit real hard, you won’t find oil, only a white sap. Also, the fruit tastes very bitter. To get the oil, the fruit and its seed have to be crushed by a great weight in an olive press. The crushing also removes the bitterness.” (Understanding the Significance of the Olive Tree and Anointing Oil, Joseph Prince)

God is not afraid of our questions. An African proverb states, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.”

Psalm 6:3 “O Lord—how long?”

Psalm 10:1 “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalm 44:23-24 “Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”

Psalm 74:1 “O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?”

Psalm 77:1-9 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old the years long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

Let those who grapple, grapple. Let them mourn. Grant them the dignity to ask questions. Give them permission to be bewildered and do not edit their honesty.

“Crucifixion, after all, is serious work.”

God is faithful to answer when He is good and ready, when the crushing is finished and the sweet oil pours forth.

He will see it through.

He is not afraid of the pain.

He is not offended by the questions.

He does not turn away from the shaking fist, the seething accusations.

He can embrace even when faulted with devastating disappointment.

He is not appalled by unholy words.

He is not agitated with the silence.

He does not distance Himself.

shepherd2

Deuteronmy 31:6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He will see it through! 

Psalm 77:10-20 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

olive branch

Spinning, spinning, spinning!

spinning

I sent a text the other day filled with concern for a friend and never heard back from her. I have spun in my head since – Did I overstep a boundary? Did I say something wrong? Was I out of order? Spinning!

I do this! I have done this for a long time now. And I am reminded of the man by the pool of Bethesda in John 5, laying there for 38 years in his sickness. That’s a long time to lay suffering, waiting, hoping…that’s a long time. And Jesus turns His gaze to me, “Yes, that’s a long time, my darling, do you want to be made well Melissa?”

I have been getting stuck in my head for years now, second guessing myself. DId I do the right thing? Should I stay or go? Was what I said ok? Walking away from situations, conversations second guessing, regretting, questioning…slipping into confusion, caution, chaos!

I am paralyzed.

Pause pressed…how do I show up? I am guarded on how to show up for others.

Do I go to the hospital and check on them? Is that overstepping a boundary?

Do I call in the middle of their tragedy? Is that overstepping a boundary?

Do I bring dinner? Do I stop in with flowers? Do I text and ask how they are?

Am I overstepping a boundary?

Spinning in questions.

I want to be sensitive, I want to be honest, I want to be present, I want to be real – I want to show up as me, but I am guarded because I fear I will do it wrong and offend, push away, overstep. Why? Where does this come from?

And I feel His gaze, “Do you want to be made well?”

I have been with my “sickness” a long time. I have a history of friendships that tended to be passive aggressive, pushed me away but wouldn’t explain why, would be angry with me and I wouldn’t know what I had done… this started as early as four years old…my brokeness attracted to certain friendships that perpetuated the cycle…it’s been a long time. I have owned it all – I owned it as my own, as something wrong with me. If I could be nicer, friendlier, more giving, going out of my way, not speaking up, not causing friction, being quieter, a fricking doormat really, letting others crap on me for a long time. This history shaped me into a second-guessor, a pauser, a guarded friend that spins on how to show up.

baggage2Now, please hear my heart on this matter, I am not blaming anyone. I was broken, I owned it, that was my choice. I didn’t know any other way. The people from my past were broken too, they had their own baggage and for whatever reason I picked up some of their stuff and carried for many a mile believing their was a problem with me. I was a sensitive little girl, still am, and I carried stuff that wasn’t mine as if it was. That was my fault, my problem, no one else’s – it was my way of making things better – which never really solved the problem…it wasn’t my problem to solve, it was theirs but I owned it.

So, I have worked through alot of the past pain from middle-school, highschool and even some of my adult friendships, Jesus has healed my heart with His tender care and attention and also with the amazing women He has surrounded my life with today. I am so rich with friendship, so when these moments of spinning happen it kinda catches me off guard because I mean….really? Am I still dealing with this “juvenile” crap?

And Jesus pulls closer…“Do you want to be made well?”

Yes Lord, I want to be made well.

And so He sent a friend this morning.

Unwinding the spinning tale that has captured my mind, searching for answers that spiral out of my grasp, the stories I make up in the silence threaten to swallow me whole, they mock me and stomp upon my heart. Fear controls,”I have messed it all up.” And this friend, full of love and compassion for me, in her gentle way, just as I imagine Jesus would do, poses a simple question that silences the spinning madness that has gripped my soul, “What was the motivation of your heart?”

newspaper hearts

Ah, relief, sweet relief. That is what it comes down to…why am I doing what I am doing? It is because I love and cherish the person on the other end of my gesture and it really doesn’t matter how they respond or don’t respond…that is not my stuff, it is not my baggage to carry. I can leave it by the door and let Him tend to their unpacked bags. They have a right to respond or not respond however they choose and that choice has nothing to do with me.

te amoI choose to be made well, to show up, to not second guess myself or press into paralyzed pause. I choose to pick up my mat and walk. I choose to be sensitive, honest, present, and real, no matter the cost, no matter what other’s may think, no matter what they do, no matter! I choose to step unguarded into each situation He prayerfully calls me to step out and in to. I choose to be true to myself. I choose to love!