Posts Tagged: church

the cross is necessary

Sanctuary, You keep saying that word . . .

Psalm 73 . . .Still, when I tried to figure it out,
    all I gt was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
    Then I saw the whole picture: . . . {The Message)

Give me sanctuary! For the past few weeks I had multiple excuses to not enter the sanctuary of God. I have literally felt oppressively hot each time I entered, to the point of feeling faint, and this week I was on the threshold of seizures as a result of my severe insomnia. But each time, with equal grit, I entered the sanctuary anyway!

Why? Because sanctuary is where my thinking is reborn. I’m no longer in the vacuum of my own thoughts and see more clearly God’s hand on my life. I am not alone! Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:10) How differently the aftermath of my son’s suicide would look if I chose to go through it alone.  So many of us, struggling with depression, become echo chambers as we withdraw from any voice but our own. I have had 42 years of playing my own thinking . . . there might be a broken record or two.

So I sing a new song each week, along with hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ. This Sunday I let the truth of More than Conquerors remind me,  God overcomes every obstacle in my way. I can defiantly proclaim his love, truth, and presence to others desperate for answers. While participating in the sermon–which by the way means conversation–I hear God’s voice. You are not alone. Look around you. Do you think that you are the only one struggling to be here? Communicate your need to me, let me carry your burden.

I encourage you to enter the sanctuary, not out of obligation, but because there is relationship.  I raise my hands to praise, not because I have it all together, or have arrived at some spiritual nirvana! I raise my hands because I am defiant! I have a God who loves and fights for me and I recognize the warriors who surround me.

Find allies in the sanctuary of God.  (Please note, I have been abused by those who called themselves Christians, so I say this with the full awareness that church does not always feel like a place of protection.) But, I have also witnessed the generosity of Christians. I have experienced the provision and good gifts of a God who is not blind to my wounds. In the sanctuary I see that God is just.  We can angrily slam the door on God and Christians for perceived let downs, or we can enter the sanctuary and find our battle never was against each other. We have a common enemy and we cannot defeat him alone. Come to the sanctuary with me and raise your hand in defiance!

 

Lord, I praise you for placing a fire in me to be in the presence of your people. Thank you for the great music that encourages me and lights our way with the gospel of peace. Thank you for pastors that point to your truth and do not lean on their own understanding. Thank you that you raised your arms in defiance to death and teach me to become more than a conqueror! Amen

 

 

Depression is not meant for the Church Coatroom

I attempted to stuff my depression into the racks of the church coatroom before

straightening my face into a well pressed smile.

You, who did not hide your sorrow from your Father,

had the usher bring my cloak of despair back to me.

 

Shoulders drooped as I slipped into the putrid pew of religious repetition

believing faith wasn’t ready to share my coarse reality. But scripture shook me

awake. The world needs my tears, struggle, and depression.

 

Believers sing the blues too.

I confess, I struggle to accept Your ways.

Bones, broken with grief, scream to give in.

But, You give sanctuary to my lament.

Questions are met with open goodness.

I am reminded, God put on the cloak of humanity

to understand me.

And, when I wear depression into the sanctuary,

It is an open invitation for others to be real with You.

 

 

Heaven Is not Distant

In previous posts I shared my desire for God to move heaven from abstract images to concrete, life-giving, substance. Yesterday, while touring Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, God pulled back the veil.

There is a mural painted by Frank Duveneck . My first walk through, I saw only Jesus on the cross and the person I thought might be his mother (actually Mary Magdalene) pleading for a different outcome. I began to cry, her position at the cross is one I’m quite familiar. I came back to the painting later, this time I noticed God behind Jesus’ out stretched arms! Suddenly I realized that there is a heavenly perspective of our circumstances, not just our view at the foot of the cross.

God is not helplessly watching our vulnerability, he is actively, intimately aware of our sorrow, pain, and longings. He not only knows all things work to our good, but how they work to our good. His arms are outstretched even as our arms are outstretched. For example, when Stephen is stoned, “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) Heaven is present at this horrific moment and Jesus is standing to receive Stephen. When Saul is about to ratchet up persecution, heaven opens and a blinding light, stopping him in his tracks.  Jesus questions Paul directly. “Why are you persecuting me?” Even when heaven is not revealed to us, God is near! The comforter has come to rest, like a dove, on all who believe.

I’ve been struggling with the level of burden God has given to us. But, seeing the record of those who have gone before us, reminds me that heaven is not distant even when I can’t see. I have security, strength and a power to do what he has called me to do. We can paint earthly reminders of those who have gone before us. We can create vaulted ceilings to reflect the beauty and majesty of the heavenly realms and it is breath-taking. How much more so is heaven’s view of us. We are God’s beautiful stain glass window, a glimpse of heavenly glory is revealed in the way he walks with us.

Frank Duveneck Mural

Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross.

Laughing our way to the Cross: Practing Lightheartedness

I take things so seriously and I have been that way from the womb. Cultivating a light heartedness, no matter our personality, is a part of character development. How is that even possible for one as serious and sometimes awkward as me? Well how did Jesus do it?

He partied!

He ate meals with his friends!

He spent time with children!

He was disciplined!

That last one seems out-of-place in our wild life of the party mentality. Disciplined people can be fun to be around? Yes, because discipline lightens our load and makes us more effective in our celebration. Amazing how much more creative I am with a clean desk. Jesus was disciplined without attempting to control the outcome. He retired to a quiet place to spend time with his heavenly father, but if the crowd searched him out, he ministered to them. There is a difference between control and discipline. Control says, I must have things a certain way to function, but discipline stretches, strengthens, and prepares for us to receive our day.

As I am becoming more disciplined in exercise I am better able to be a blessing to my family. Consider the wise words of Elle Woods,”Endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t just go around killing their husbands.” (Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blond) I took her advice. Sunday I was extremely agitated, but after spending forty minutes on the bike trail calmness reigned in my out of control thinking.

Start small 5 minutes. Start with 5 minutes of outdoor time. Love gardening, spend 5 minutes daily weeding your bed. All kinds of biblical lessons there!

Spend time with children. My church has a stain glass window of Jesus on his throne, welcoming little children into his lap. It is easy to see how much pleasure Jesus took in them. My kids wrote me a birthday puppet show last night. They even broke out in song. Love it!

Creation itself throws one big God party! Are we too serious to pause, laugh and celebrate? Life bursts forth with streamers and noise makers every morning I wake up. I am not going to be outdone by the colorful pansies in my garden, or the robin singing his praises outside my office window. My art class surprised me with a cake and sang happy birthday to me yesterday. A gift arrived under my Jonathan tree. Delightful!

How much I value fellowship with you! Even though my “letters” for many of you, come a considerable distance, I still feel a bond with you as we share life together. Some of you I get to break bread with in person. I learn so much, and take pleasure in watching God in your lives. So, throw your streamers! Don’t become so bogged down by the brokeness that we forget that the cross wasn’t the end of the story. Resurrection was God’s invitation, and ALL of us are on the guest list. That is worth celebrating!

Holy Kiss Bat Man: Greeting one another with the depth of God’s love

2 Corinthians 13:11Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13All the saints greet you.

When was the last time you greeted someone with a holy kiss? A bit awkward in our present day social norms. Kiss aside, do we greet each other with the fullness of God’s love? I have been in many churches and there is a marked difference in those who are intimately acquainted and simple love worshiping with each other, verses those who worship on Sundays and have no relationship outside the church walls.

What a mighty work of the Lord, that so many different personalities could love worshiping together. I feel like I have gotten to know my church family better as they have embraced me, and comforted us, in the loss of our son. My shyness kicks in on Sundays during the greeting time, but I am determined to change that. When we meet, I want it be a moment that Christ love for you is clearly evident! I encourage you this week to step out in faith and fully be present with those around you. May your family, neighbors and coworkers become aware that the twinkle in your eye is the joy of Christ’s presence in your life. A joy that is all the stronger as we build each other up in faith.

Free Gift

Embrace hope in dark places.

Get three free printables of hope and encouragement when you sign up for my monthly newsletter.

.
Suicide Hotline

National Suicide Hotline

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to the website at  SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.