A Time to Speak: Finding Courage

prophet“And now, Lord, take note of their intimidations intended to silence us. Grant us, Your servants, the courageous confidence we need to go ahead and proclaim Your message while you reach out Your hand to heal people…” Acts 4:29,30

I get confused sometimes.

My heart pounds with empathy as suffering weeps in silence. I reach out to touch the wound that’s not mine to touch. And my fingers linger on the scar as I long for healing to flow forth.

The job of Savior is already taken. 

And I get intimidated sometimes.

Responding to hurt and binding up wounds is often easier than opening up my mouth to proclaim abrasive truth.

Do you follow? I want to be the healer instead of the prophet.

“Christan, you need to stop bringing home your clients’ angst,” a friend told me, the social worker hoping to save my corner of the world. Years ago, I had a 14 year-old client whose story came home with me everyday… whose fragments felt like my own brokenness, for I tried to piece them together in my mind all night long. I stayed awake night after night thinking and pondering and carrying a shame that wasn’t mine to hold. I still think of her.


“Is now the time, Lord — the time when You will reestablish Your kingdom in our land?” (Acts 1:6) Fresh from witnessing the resurrection, Christ’s friends were still feeling oppressed… still feeling taken advantage of… still wanting a political hero to rescue them from Rome… still full of fear at what they might find just around the corner.

Have you waited incredibly long to be rescued?
Have you yearned and longed while injustice rips through the flag of freedom over and over, tearing it to shreds?

“Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be my witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.” Acts 1:7-9

You will speak and reflect Me among what’s familiar
…and among people and cultures just a tad bit different
…and with those whom you fear and scorn and judge
…and with those you’ve never even thought of before.
That’s what you need to know for now.
You’ll open your mouth.
You’ll speak truth without fearing what others think.
You’ll boldly proclaim My love for those right in front of you,
for those that don’t look like you, for those who make decisions you would never make, and for those you’ve forgotten about. (Acts 1:7-9 paraphrase)

“You will speak, and I will heal,” says the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Oh. But I want to do the healing. I want to bind up the wounds and see brokenness transform before my eyes. I want to do something meaningful, and healing seems significant.

But the job of Savior is already taken.


Again…
“And now, Lord, take note of their intimidations intended to silence us. Grant us, Your servants, the courageous confidence we need to go ahead and proclaim Your message while you reach out Your hand to heal people…” Acts 4:29,30

I see the accusers pointing at me. I see their hate …and confusion …and fear. Everyone has a story that’s led them to today. But I will proclaim what’s real without intimidation. I will not wait in silence. I will open up my mouth and exchange shame for courage and proclaim a Gospel-driven message of love and wholeness. For now, I will speak.

And I’ll watch my Savior reach out His hand to heal those I love. I’ll see His hand with that deep, deep scar cover the wound. I’ll see Him touch the scars and bring a restoration I never could.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

 

photo source | john sting, portugal

A Letter

1_25_16Deep in history, a man penned a letter to people he’d probably never meet. His vision was far beyond the recipients, as he hoped his words would motivate them to engage the people of Italy and Spain.

At this stage in his life, he must not have had control issues. Oh, to trust a group of people you don’t know with such an important task…

To God’s beloved in Rome:
…We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything
to work toward something good and beautiful
when we love Him
and accept His invitation to live according to His plan…

Love,
Paul*

It’s a dance, right? It takes courage to integrate in society and yet live counter-culturally. It takes wisdom to pursue community without being influenced by a value system ruled by what’s temporary. And even among faith circles, we sometimes have to go against the grain by choosing a gospel-centered life instead of the “safety” of religion. Paul’s letter was a bit of a roadmap on how to swim upstream.

And swimming upstream leaves us so weary.

He wrote much, much more. But this. THIS. This short excerpt of Paul’s letter touched on themes we can’t ignore but still try to resist:

    • believing God is who He says He is
    • believing He is capable of orchestrating my life’s complexities
    • believing He restores and repurposes and creates beauty
    • believing His plan is worth following… is worth surrendering

Or, maybe you’ve heard it this way:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28). 

I so wanted it to be all about my circumstances.

For years I read Paul’s words and interpreted them as a promise that God would work everything out. Or I’d eventually have my way. Or things would at least make sense some day.

You, too?

But his heart-wrenching statements in the whole letter – before and after this tiny excerpt — whisper to wake up deaf ears. He pries open blind eyes.

They call to every mortal, resonating with all who’ve felt the tension — the tension between the sin fostering our brokenness and an honest desire to be different. Sin patterns and surrender.

Might Paul’s promises really be about changing our HEARTS rather than our circumstances? 

You’re not a slave to fear. (v15)
Our current suffering foreshadows a greater glory. (v18)
Someday we’ll transcend from bondage to freedom. (v21)
We ache as we wait in hope. (v22-23)
We’re invited to love God back and live according to His plan. (v28)
He chose us to look like His Son. (v29)
His love is so intense it can’t be conquered by suffering or deception.  Never ever. (v35)

Maybe believing He’ll “work for the good of those who love Him” means fear won’t be my master anymore. I wish I was there today.

Maybe I’ll hold my suffering in the palm of an eternal perspective.

And maybe my hope will be so great that I ache inside… my hope to be like my Redeemer… my hope for intense intimacy with my Maker.

“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” It’s really not about our circumstances. No, it’s truly all about our hearts.

He’s refining you, molding you, repurposing your heart to receive His deepest affections… To receive His love letter that bleeds with grace.

photo source | daria nepriakhina

*Romans 8:28 (the voice)

Table Talk: A Little Parenting Advice

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We saw A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room with our kids last weekend. In short, the off-broadway play speaks to the dying culture of the upper-middle class WASP in the United States.

Numerous scenes unfold around the same dining room table, portraying different families who owned the house throughout the years. Their issues overlap and intertwine while touching on realities many wish were not true even today — controlling mothers, manipulation, comparison and choices made to keep up with others, strained conversations in which family members don’t feel safe, infidelity.

Sadly, the dining room is a place of irony. Boasting of potential dialogue and possible connection, it sometimes serves as just a hope for too many families to mention.

What culture have you created around your table?

In one scene, a woman and a craftsman are under the table, looking at how it’s constructed, surmising exactly what needs to be repaired.

Dare we look and examine, really examine, what needs to be repaired around our table?

What would my kids say if I asked them?

That scene uncovered a memory for me. It uncovered a question, too. My godfather, a hobby carpenter, built me a hope chest when I was a teen. If you open the lid to the tangible dreams, you’ll find Proverbs 3:5-6 carved into the corner:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Not bad advice for a girl on the edge of adulthood.

But the table? I wonder… did he etch something under there, too?!


As a wedding gift, “Uncle” Al promised to craft us whatever I desired. It was an easy decision. I ripped a page from a Pottery Barn catalogue and mailed it to his Ohio home.

Post-honeymoon, we drove from the east coast to Indiana, stopping to pick up our treasure. We marveled at the work of my godfather’s hands. Only in my dreams could I have owned a Pottery Barn table, but he made reality better with love and intention carved and sanded and polished throughout.


So did he? Did he etch something under the table, too? Had I missed it for the past twenty years?!

Late last Friday night, we arrived home from the play, and I crawled right under that table.

Sure enough… My goodness… How had I missed this?

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Phil 4, Uncle Alan Gratz, July 13 1996

Philippians 4? All 23 verses?! He must have known a lifetime of marriage and family-ness would require an entire chapter of truth. Would demand heaps of direction. I understand that now.

I grabbed my Bible, wondering what wisdom I should have been heeding all these years. But it was perfect timing. Our timeless God gave Uncle Al a message for me twenty years ago, knowing I’d need it at this season of life… at this stage of parenting.

5 Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you. Philippians 4:5-9


To every mom and dad out there —

5 Clothe yourself with gentleness, for you’re reflecting the Maker to your children… even on weekday mornings before school.

Get real about your anxiety regarding your children’s path. Talk about it and surrender your fear to your Rescuer. Admit you need to be rescued and accept that your kids will need to be rescued, too. 

Don’t resent how God has created them. Don’t apologize for this to others, either. Be grateful your sons and daughters are already fulfilling God’s purposes for their lives (even though they might not know it yet).

It’s hard to believe, but you can actually experience peace in your thought-life and in your emotions. Jesus Himself is standing guard over your minds and hearts.

Pursue beauty and truth. Walk away from the comparison game and don’t lean into lies. Choose to fill your mind (and eyes and ears) with what is right and true and good… even when posts that breed insecurity pop up in your social media feed.

Live your story — not someone else’s.


Maybe you’re not a parent. Maybe your internal drama doesn’t happen around the dining room table but in trendy eateries with friends. Whether you’ve chosen your community, or it was chosen for you, there’s more than enough grace.

There’s grace for yourself, too.

 

Top 3 Posts of 2015

stories

“If we don’t tell our stories, our stories will tell us.” Dan Allender, To Be Told

If we don’t face our stories and ponder and process, well, then our stories will control us. We’ll be held captive by whatever drama is blowing in with the wind. But when we name and admit them, they have less power. Have you noticed that, too? I tell my kids that constructively talking about hard circumstances takes the power away from the hurt. When we willingly engage with our grief, we’re less controlled by it. And who wants to be controlled by anything? 🙂

I think we all want to be people who are aware and reflective and eventually smart in making future decisions. We learn from past mistakes, yes? The gray hairs which quietly boast of wisdom are grown from numerous regrets. They’re grown from redemption, too.

I’ve barely had a voice the past several months, and consequently, sometimes my day to day stories got the best of me. See, writing is my therapy. It keeps me in a good place. I did, however, find the courage to tell a few stories in 2015. These three here are the ones that resonated with you all the most.


 

When You're Scared to Write in Pen | hope, parenting, redemption | January 1

When You’re Scared to Write in Pen | hope, parenting, redemption | January 1

This story, When You’re Scared to Write in Pen, tells itself. It uncovers an an ever-common theme in my life: My children teach me more than I teach them. Anger, boldness, fear — this post touches on all of these themes. If you’re avoiding something or you’re blatantly angry and ready to unleash, this post is for you.

Happy Belated New Year and a Half | community, hope, parenting, redemption, surrender | August 1

Happy Belated New Year and a Half | community, hope, parenting, redemption, surrender | August 1

Happy (Belated) New Year and a Half is about being present and mindful of where you are rather than sweeping your story away and racing forward. It was born from a conversation with my then 13-year-old son in the car. Clinging to hope, this post admits I was all over the place last summer. Oh, and there’s touches of surrender, too… the hardest moments always seem to involve surrender. If you’re flirting with doubt — or it’s flirting with you — this post is for you. These words are also for those who want to believe but have lost their hope.

Goodness and Mercy Will Follow You. I Promise. | hope, parenting, scripture, spiritual formation, theology | January 29

Goodness and Mercy Will Follow You. I Promise. | hope, parenting, scripture, spiritual formation, theology | January 29

This post was born from hurts in my life and others’ lives. Struggling marriages, depression, chronic illness — these were all real-life circumstances some dear friends were submerged in last January. It’s for those crawling in the valley, for those who haven’t made it to the mountain yet. If you’re facing the loneliest of times, this post is for you.


So, based on blog traffic and post hits, these three are what struck a chord with you the most. Check back before the end of the week, for I’ll be writing about my three personal favorite posts of 2015.

Thank you for reading my blog. And thanks to those who told me to keep telling my stories even when I had walked away from the table a little too long. Thanks for your persistence.

photo source | John-Mark Kuznietsov