Faulted Cries

When I think of my approach to God in my times of trouble, I am generally aware how much of my trouble I brought on myself. Sure, I am aware sometimes my troubles come upon me from other people or by effect of living in a broken system called humanity where evil things happen.

But there are more often times I have got myself into trouble and my own predicaments. There are also times when I find my heart and self venturing out too far and end up stuck in any number of troublesome situations where I am afraid, hurting, or in danger.

In those moments I resist the urge to cry out to God because I know I got myself into this trouble. I made my own choices and got myself into these traps, and dangerous painful things. I deserve this, right? So I choose not to call out to God in the trouble I brought on myself.

Then I listen to the heart of a father within myself. If my daughters had ventured too far by their own poor choices to end up in a scary or painful situation, I hope they would still cry out for me. Wouldn’t I still respond to them when they cried out to me even though they got themselves into these messes?

Wouldn’t I still hear their cries of fear, hurt, and pain, even though they are to blame for getting themselves into these moments and circumstances?

Of course I would! Because I have the heart of a father who loves his children. I will never stop hearing their cries and responding, even though they get themselves into some of these troubles.

The Thrill is Gone: B.B. King and my love of the blues and theology

The Thrill is Gone: B.B. King and my love of the blues and theology

Last night, another hero of mine died. BB King is one of the few artists who caused me to fall in love with the blues. Blues music gives an incredible parallel narrative and context to the Bible.

Thank you for Pain

pain The interesting thing about leprosy is the MAIN ailment is the absence of pain.  Because leprosy patients do not feel or know pain, they often do self-destructive things and know nothing of it.  They grab splintered rakes and sharp objects with bare hands and know no pain.  They wear very tight shoes and create blistering and festering sores they only see and not feel.  Leprosy patients are absent of pain, but it is that absence which dissolves the reality of destruction happening to them all the time.  We ought to praise God for pain. We are SO quick to get rid of pain when it is that pain which tells us we need aid.

There are parallels to be drawn to spiritual and emotional pain.  Without it we would be callous and shut off...which is destructive to our emotions, spirits, and souls.  We make it easy by trying to defeat pain.  It's like we don't want to hurt, but what if that hurt is exactly what keeps us from destructing.  If we felt no pain, we would only be a spiritual emotional leper.  The craziest thing is that lepers are afflicted, but I, as an emotional leper, afflict myself.  I resound with lepers of Biblical times and silently scream, "UNCLEAN!"  I am a spiritual and emotional leper.  I shut off my own pain sensors by covering them up and saying, "I'm not hurt...I'm tired of being I won't be anymore...I'm tired of hurting...I'm tired of caring."  So begins a self-destructive disease.

I get so terrified of pain that I shut myself off from it, but without it...without being honest about my pain, hurt, real emotion, I just destruct.  I am self-afflicted, but can only be healed through the grace of GOd.

In recovery!  Experiencing pain with gratitude because at least I feel.

Evil in the Church

hp photosmart 720 The gospel is lavished and laced with LOVE. If you know the gospel, you know you are loved. If you spread the gospel to others, you spread love. Oh how I long to love. I really wish I loved better...loved more.

It really is hard to love everyone. "Loving your enemy" is and will always be a difficult task, but why are we so quick to run from that challenging call? I am beginning to think it is not that the Church is "no good" at it as much as I would say Christians have been conditioned to not even try. Christians have walked further and further away from the challenge to love OUR dark side of life, and we do it by HIDING. By pretending.

For too long, we have believed and maintained hope by pretending that things are not as bad as they are. We have reduced the church down to a Sunday morning event rather than an EVERYDAY community. We are content to put band-aids on every Sunday, go to 'church', and walk away with gaping wounds nobody is willing to believe actually exist.

Church is no longer an everyday community where we honestly face evil happing in our CHURCH every day; issues like abuse, marital rocks, terminal sickness, cyber-adultery, depression, flat-lining-self-esteem, doubt...sin! We are more and more reluctant to face the issues of everyday, and we leave 'church' to be a Sunday morning EVENT! We have to realize that there IS evil in our church...OUR CHURCH COMMUNITY...everyday community.

If we don't, we will watch the gospel remain a sermon that is a part of the Sunday morning event. There IS hurt, evil, and sin in our church our world. We have to realize that our relationship with Christ is not intended to COVER UP the dark side of life, but rather to illuminate a path THROUGH IT! [Tweet that] We have to realize we are called as the church to be the hands and feet to love and stand before the pain. To take on the dark side of life instead of pretending it is not there. We cannot be afraid of the pain. We cannot hide from the sin, hurt and evil in our church.

We WILL be bloodied by the contact, yes! But we will be the community we are intended to be, the community which goes beyond being pumped with spiritual adrenaline on Sunday morning. Sunday morning is a congregation, but the church is an EVERYDAY COMMUNITY!!

I must be climbing

There is a flaw for me in the whole “mountain and valley” analogy we so often use for our spiritual journey. We commonly make the mountain top that spot we desire and aspire to, and the valley those times when it’s the most painful and difficult to take on. Then we make the climb the journey in between.

Now let’s think of the literal in hopes of understanding the symbolic a little more. In reality, I have never been in a valley I did not enjoy. Often valleys are complete with rolling grassy hills and a cool breeze. It is not all that unpleasant.

I do love mountain tops. When you are the mountain top there is a powerful sense of accomplishment. The mountain top is refreshing and holds a beauty which is often spectacular.

So there is only one other element left to be grueling, painful, and difficult. The climb up the mountain is the painful part. I love climbing and hiking, but it is usually a grueling task to climb the face of a mountain. Your heart beats to the thinning air and physical exhaustion. You come around every bend and corner wondering if THIS one will be the last. But a hiker, climber and backpacker will continue to trek because they know one thing; they are climbing to get to the top. It is painful but it is worth it knowing your endurance gets you to the top. Your endurance comes with pain, but it all gets you to the top where the beauty, refreshment, and accomplishment await.

Chapter 1 of James starting with verse two reads, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The truth is we all face trials and will continue to face more. Something I am learning to do in my prayer time lately is to actively praise God for my trials of all kinds. It has really stretched my faith to watch trials come my way and to not only take them to God (which is a common Christian reaction) but to praise God for those trials.

1 Peter 1:6-7 reads, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Christ is revealed.”

This kind of reaction stretches our faith to points many of us have never been before. I am talking about actually praising God…thanking him FOR our painful trials.

Why is this so difficult for us to do? Because we have the mountain and valley analogy all messed up. We have convinced ourselves that the pain is the valley, and like literal valleys we are comfortable there. So we just stay there. We have seen our trials in the wrong light.

We have to remember the valley is not the worst part of the journey. The climb is the worst part of the journey. If I can keep myself from experiencing pain and saying, “I must be stuck in the valley,” and instead turn those moments into praise by saying, “This hurts! I must be on my way up. I must be climbing.” If we can turn our responses to that, we can find it easier to praise and thank God for the pain and trials. Because we climbing!

Pain and Gods goodness

True Story: Our professor asked the class a simple question:

"What do you think of when you think of God's goodness?"

Slowly hands went up, and then a flood of hands shot up. It was story after story of hurt, pain, and suffering. Each story reflected how incredibly painful situations came and went, but there was a common thread of retrospect by which each person realized they were stronger having come through it. They each reflected on how they came away from those moments with a stronger understanding of God's goodness.

After about 30 minutes of story, I sat amazed that all these stories of pain faced and gone through were sparked by a question about what we thought of when we thought of God's goodness. We were not asked about pain, evil, hurt, or why bad things happen to good people. We were asked about God's goodness, and it sparked reflections on painful points in life.

I came away wondering if we could understand God's goodness until we have come through things like this.

How incredible is God's goodness!