The Refilling

The Renewal Conference
 
The party’s over, guests have dispersed and fatigue is now threatening to do damage if the refilling doesn’t come soon.
 Six days ago I pulled out of my driveway prepared to speak at The Renewal Conference for early educators in Sacramento. I have to admit my anxious heart seemed as full as the trunk of my car when I left. I’d carefully packed all the necessary things – appropriate clothing, powerpoint equipment, notes and every other item I thought would adequately equip me– but my heart knew better.
Truth is I’ve never considered myself a speaker. It’s something I do but find it difficult to claim as something I am. A close friend of mine once told me I was very brave, that what I did took courage. She’s right. Every time I head out the door to present to a group – any group, I’m terrified. Whether it’s an hour before stepping forward or the moment an invitation is extended, eventually terror hits. The familiar numbing paralysis usually enters the deepest core of my gut, slowly creeping up my throat and settling in my mind. Doubt whispers, “Who do you think you are – you have nothing to say”.  And it’s right.
Not too long into the three hour drive I heard those words again.  Accusation of unpreparedness and incapability set the stage for the real message – unworthiness. As cars race alongside me and the freeway drones on reminding me that there’s no turning back, I’m trapped with my thoughts. Knowing I have a commitment to people I care about, this giant must be slain. Bravery must surface.
The shield of bravery is not self confidence in either my abilities or past accomplishments. I can’t drum it up by rereading my notes or plunging into more research. I must own the fundamental truth that my fears are warranted, I’m not worthy. I’m not adequately prepared – and by myself, I have nothing to say.
It’s said “perfect love casts out fear”. I claim that. Love is what propels me to say yes in the first place. Love is what keeps my car pointed in the direction of the conference. Love makes me brave. It’s more than a motivation – it fuels purpose and forms message.
Without this fundamental core acceptance I am not a speaker and in fact, cannot speak. Bravery is acknowledging without Christ I can do nothing. He encases everything I say and do. Love is my motivation and my message.
Standing in front of an audience pouring my heart out takes a tremendous amount of strength. It takes courage. But when I visibly see life and love take root from my words into someone else’s soul I’m energized with the same fuel it takes to remain standing and speaking – love fills us both. It’s an unmatched satisfaction, a force bigger than my own fear.
With an empty car and poured out soul – I wait.
I wait for the refilling that comes from him. Gratitude and solitude prepare a place.

 

 

Pursuing Freedom

 

“Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love” Henri Nouwen

 

 

It’s much easier for me to share about my faith than it is to share about myself. Even typing these words bring a lump to my throat. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who thinks this way.


After all, I have nothing but wonderful things to share about my faith – my God and my Savior. Just look at him! He’s the star-breathing, magnificent creator of all we see and all we can’t see. Who wouldn’t brag about him? He doesn’t just love, he is love. He’s mysterious, yet approachable. He’s perfect.

 I, on the other hand, am deeply flawed. No one knows me like I know myself – so I choose to keep certain things hidden. I don’t think it’s wrong to filter what we publically share since some information is best left unsaid and some of no interest at all. But the crippling effect of hiding and self-protecting is unhealthy and wrong. We all want people to like us but when we cower behind a false persona or hide our scars and broken places we cheat ourselves of truly living. I can attest to this.

Merging our hidden places with who he says we are creates the key to walking in freedom and open relationships. Jesus tells me I am his. Even before I knew him, he invested in me. His investment bandages my ugly wounds. He cares enough to spend time with me, wooing me out of my place of hiding. He wants me to be free.

It’s easier to come out from hiding in the moments I truly believe what he says. The lure of walking in freedom becomes stronger than the need to self protect. There’s nothing more beautiful than someone who knows they’re loved just as they are.

I have a few heroes in my life who know this kind of freedom. They’ve encouraged me to come out and play – to accept myself, to share myself. Their lives are proof the benefit of openness and honesty outweigh the perceived risk of exposure.

Boston

 

Darkness Cannot Extinguish His Light

 

 

Shortly after publishing my blog this morning I turned on the news. Like the rest of the nation I sat frozen in front of my TV digesting gruesome images from the Boston Marathon bombing. Once again our nation grieves. We drape our hearts with mourning cloth and pray this never happens to us. Our emotions bounce from shock to sorrow, from grief to anger.

As we look on, two other terrorists begin to knock at our heart’s door, cynicism and fear – dwellers of darkness. Although barely visible they somehow seem familiar to us because they always accompany catastrophe. They wait to join terror, challenging hope and trust. They collaborate to extinguish light.

Cynicism and fear are darkness dwellers. Their job is to overpower our perception of truth – truth promised to us. Without hope our hearts fail. Light fades. Without hope, trust weakens. We harden.

We have a choice to be in the light and of the light. Let us choose to let our tears run freely and glisten in his light. May we trust him by letting our hearts stay soft even at the expense of, and during pain. Our path will brightly light up with hope as our face points to the One we can fully trust.

Father, be near to the brokenhearted. Let your light shine brightly through our bottled tears, use them as beacons pointing toward you. Place your Holy Spirit at the door of the discouraged, turning away the intruders of despair and hopelessness. Amen.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life” Psalms 27:1

“For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness made light shine in our hearts to give us understanding of his glory in the face of Christ” 2 Corinthians 4:6

 

 

 

Just Because

“The true object of all human life is play” G. K. Chesterton
“If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own” Brennan Manning

 

Do you ever wonder why the Bible encourages us to be like children? What possible behaviors could Jesus be referring to when he tells us to be like them? Seriously, are we to be like immature, fully dependent, somewhat self-centered little people? Or are we to simply be children, just because?

 

Why do they jump in mud puddles? Why do they fixate on the simplest, seemingly insignificant little thing? And why do they do it right when we’re trying to teach them our big important thing? Our adult moments are usually deliberate and delegated. We hope our time is filled with pertinence and productivity. Children embrace what’s directly in front of their eyes or in their mind – right now – just because.

 

 Could we for just a moment assume our intentional, all-powerful, creative and constructive God also lives in the just because? Why did he create so many shades of blue when any one of them is jaw-dropping by itself? Why do we have more varieties of tree bark within one species than we can imagine or why did he spend so much time on the detail of desert flowers rarely seen or appreciated by human beings? Could it be – just because?
 The gulf between Almighty God and our understanding doesn’t seem quite so large when we lay aside our need to know, our assumptions, even our theologies to experience communion of delight within the wonder-filled world of just because. Why not embrace rebellious foolishness, simple pleasures, and curious exploration. Maybe it’s where we’ll find Him.

In reflection I ponder this verse and wonder how I might receive the childlikeness myself today – just because. I ponder play and hope to understand my creator more fully today.

 

“Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me” Matthew 18:3 The Message

 

 Linking with #TellHisStory

 

 

Celebrating Us Today

I love you Brendon Baer. As I sit across the living room watching you sleep during a movie you swore we’d both love I’m struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for you. I can’t remember a time you weren’t in my life. After all, I was fifteen and you seventeen when we first met.

I knew and loved you before you were a believer. But I have to say you are one of the most compelling examples of a spiritual conversion I’ve ever witnessed. The minute you came to Jesus your stony heart and hotheaded nature tenderized and melted into him. You are non-pretentious and genuine. You’re loyal and impartial.

I have witnessed generosity for people you don’t even know many times. I’ve seen you fix cars, paint houses, repair appliances, clean yards and numerous other acts of kindness – expecting nothing in return. You’re quick to forgive and slow to judge. You’re honorable.

You are such an amazing father. I could never have tackled parenting without you. You taught our children integrity and a strong work ethic. You taught them how to play. You were the one who read Bible stories to them each night. All the important lessons came from you. Whether you were teaching them to clean a bathroom, listen better to me or ride a wave – it was always in love.

 

There were some rough years – lots of them. But you hung in there. You never gave up on us. I love you more today than I ever thought possible.

Happy 40th my love. Let’s go to Catalina and pretend we’re 21 again.