Heart of Flesh

I yelled at Jesus this week.

Right out loud in my car.

Futilely fighting the tears, I yelled.

“You said, nothing wasted.

But all I see is waste.

Mess.  Drama.  Ugliness.”

It’s true, friends.

I want so badly to see hope win.

To see redemption.  Deliverance.

And I have a very real picture in my head of how that should look.

Today (or, preferably, this past Wednesday).

And I drive home with all of the feelings

But none of the answers.  None of the resolution.

A heart of stone doesn’t sound too bad right now.

Less to feel.  Less to lose.

And yet

These are the words that come…

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh

(Ezekiel 36:26)

Words that breathed life to me once upon a time when I was young and knew betrayal

When I felt the waste for the first time.

Words far from my mind for many years

But near today.

Home with the babies, I slow my breathing.

And talk with a sweet friend.

She doesn’t buy all this Jesus stuff.  Not just yet.

But it is here, in this conversation, that I feel him chiseling away at my stony heart.

The Light is breaking through.

I am not pretending when I tell her about the mess.

About how it all feels like a waste.

And I am not pretending when I speak of hope.

When I tell her I still believe in deliverance.  In redemption.

We know this, together.

And there is something beautiful in this moment.

Something beautiful and strong and right.

No easy answers.  No resolution.

No altar-call moment (y’all know you were thinking it).

Just a feeling that maybe my idea of hope is too small.

That deliverance might look different than I imagine.

That I need redemption as much as the next guy.

And that though stone may feel safe,

Light can only shine

through the cracks.

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Groaning

It’s ironic—I know this even at the moment.

Sitting in a room surrounded by my people…

Thinkers, not feelers, almost to a soul

(this was once upon a time before I became a big sap).

I am defending the Holy Spirit.

Ironic because, I will just say it—

I am a little skittish when it comes to the Holy Spirit.

The Father—ok, I can wrap my mind around that idea.

Jesus—divinity and humanity all together in one—I am irresistibly drawn to this.

But wind?  Breath?

It sounds so unpredictable.  So unquantifiable.  So feel-y.

And yet.

Even then, even before I became a big sap,

I knew groaning.

My heart knew the redemption ache.

We do not know what we ought to pray for…

The need feels too big.

Our faith feels too small.

We can’t process it all.

Words fail.

But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

This too, I have known…

My wordy, cynical, overthinking self.

When words fail, sometimes there is silence.

Giant, cavernous silence.  Silence so loud it hurts.

Or still, heavy silence.  Silence that beckons you to linger, to keep pressing in.

When words fail, sometimes there are tears.

Heaving, cathartic tears.

Or gentle, healing tears of release.

And then

When words fail, sometimes there are words.

Words that come from somewhere else.  From Someone else.

Words that tumble out of some hidden place that you know is not you

Because they are just right in this moment.

And you have nothing.

This, friends, is the Holy Spirit.

The One called alongside the called-out ones.

And so

Thinkers and feelers,

If, tonight, you know groaning,

If words fail,

Let him intercede.

He’s got this.

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Missing Life’s Beauty

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! :)

I hope you are spending today soaking in the sunrise moments with the ones you love.

If you have a minute, hop over and read more of my thoughts on enjoying life’s sunrise moments here.

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Be filled

Be filled.

It is a passive command.  (Ephesians 5:18)

Strange to our modern American ears.

Rubbing us the wrong way, even.

It’s not fill yourself.

Or even get filled (which implies, at least, maneuvering oneself into a place where it can happen).

But be.

Be filled.

It’s not an action so much as a way of being acted upon.

I don’t like being acted upon.

I don’t know many people who do.

But this is the upside-down, backwards way of the humble king.

This is the way of the one who tells us that the last will be first.

It’s all different here.

So much paradox.

I want to act.  To work and strive.

He wants me to be filled.

I want to boast about my accomplishments.

He reminds me that apart from him I can do nothing.

Nothing.

I want to dress myself up all presentable.  To make a case for myself.

He tells me that my righteousness is like filthy rags.

Rags, people.

And yet

When he looks at my rags, he sees his blameless son.

Dearly loved.

Be filled.

Passive.

And yet a command.

An imperative.  A must.

Be filled.

Not a movement, but a posture.

An openness.

And so, again, I loosen the death-grip I have on it all.

The ferocity with which I cling to what I claim as mine.

And, again, I ask to

Just

Be filled.

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Waiting for the Promise

Can I be honest for a second, friends?  I really want to be done with foster care.

Like really, really.

It is, hands down, the most exhausting work I’ve ever done.

It’s frustrating and all-consuming and—yes, I’m just gonna say it: expensive.

It’s all of the responsibilities of parenthood (and then some—hello CASA worker who doesn’t show up and neglects to call and let me know) and none of the rights (hello running all around the city to get the signatures required for the medical equipment that a child needed hours ago).

It’s thankless.  I know I am not a hero, but I deserve to be treated with a bit of professionalism.  Even when I am bothering you for the hundredth time.

Because, I promise, I am not bothering you for the fun of it.

Last year, I asked Jesus to be done with foster care.

The answer was “one thing.”

And, sitting at his feet, I answered a call and let another Little One into my heart—and my home.

This year, I don’t even have to ask.

There is one reason that I will jump through all of the hoops to stay licensed.

One.

One little bundle asleep in the other room.

Do not leave Jerusalem,

he told them.

Stay here.  Wait here.         

For the gift my Father promised.

I am exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed.

I hate waiting.

But I know this word is for me too.

I will stay.  I will wait.

The promise is not that this story will end the way I hope,

But that the Holy Spirit will come in power.

Supernatural, undeniable power.

I know I am not done yet.

And so I will sit my stubborn self down at his feet again.

And I will wait.

My hope in the system fades.

But my hope in the promise?

That is as bright as ever.

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Be still and know

Be still and know that I am God.

The refrain echoes in my ears, the challenge resonates somewhere deeper.

I am no good at being still.

I am good at working, good at running, good at fighting, good at doing all the things.

Even when I can manage to still my body, my mind is another matter.

All the things beg for my attention.

All the causes, all the stories, all the problems begging to be solved with just a little more ingenuity and grit.

I can do this, I say aloud in the car.

I’ve got this.

My daughter laughs.

And then a little one appears on my doorstep in need of all the things.

Tracking down the paperwork is a chore.

Getting all the signatures requires an act of congress.

End of quarter assessments loom large as unexpected leave days drag on.

My toilet is leaking.

And my sink explodes.

I know that he is God.

In a brain-knowing sort of way.

And still I rush about pretending like it is me who must fight all the battles

Do all the things.

Until Jesus shows up on my doorstep.

With clothes and toys and food.  So much food.

With plumbing skills and parenting advice.

With quality time and words of affirmation.

And (did I mention) food.

For a moment, because I must be

I am still.

And I know,

Heart-know.

That he is God.

When ingenuity and grit and self-talk and youtube DIY videos fail,

Sometimes Jesus shows up on your doorstep.

And you know.

All the battles are not yours to fight.

All the things are not yours to do.

Sometimes it is ok to just be still

And know.

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A warrior mama kind of peace

The verse flashes up on the screen.

I’ve heard it, read it, spoken it a thousand times before.

And yet

Today there is something new.

Don’t be anxious.  Pray.  Give thanks.  Tell God what you need.

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7)

I’ve always thought of this guarding as sort of passive.

Like a gate.

I give my anxieties to Jesus and he puts up a little gate (maybe a hedge?) of peace.

Today the word guard rushes in my ears.

It is strong, aggressive.

I bust out my Hebrew-Greek key word Bible and read that this guard is not a gate.

It’s a soldier.

A faithful soldier standing in front of the gate.

Ready to beat the crap out of anybody that tries to intrude.

A warrior mama standing guard over her babies.

Daring someone to cross that threshold.

Usually I don’t go much for military metaphors.

But this one has me.

The truth, friends, is that I need that peace.

Not passive gate kind of peace.

Faithful soldier, warrior mama kind of peace.

All up in my heart.

And my mind.

Because a gate isn’t going to stop my anxieties.

Not today.

But peace armed for battle,

Peace ready to fight?

That’s the peace,

That’s the Jesus I need today.

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