Some of Our Parts

by Lore

I had to take Strengths Finder for work a few months ago. I had test anxiety, but it turns out I’m Intellection, Relator, Strategic, Input, & Ideation. I don’t know what those mean when teased apart from one another, but together they make a whole and that whole is me.

(And I’m in the .08th percentile with those odds, so I have that going for me.)

(Or not.)

Have you seen the photo of the earth that was circulating a few months ago?

My computer screen at work is large, as large as the iMac comes, but at the end of the day, it’s just a 27 inch iMac screen in a couple thousand square foot office, in one of the smaller towns in the DFW metroplex of Texas (probably the only really large thing in this equation). But I opened those high resolution photos and gasped at my 27 inch screen. I scrolled down to Texas second; New York isn’t visible and I know that because it’s where I looked first. There, under the cumulus clouds, on January 4th, it was life as usual for some on these parts.

Did you know that when you’re looking at a photo of the real earth, there are no border lines or country distinctions? It is just land and sea, every man for his own, a grand and graceful show of glory.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”

Sitting in front of a 27 inch iMac I am faced with the fact that I am very, very small. And my distinctions are very, very meaningless. And my boundaries and borders are very, very nebulous.

I have a roommate who is a quiet voice of reason in our home full of opinions and personality, and she won’t let us put her in any category, box or otherwise. If we say that she is an introvert, she shrugs her shoulders and rebuts with witticism. If we say she is peaceful, she points out all the ways she is the antithesis of peace. If we want to know her love language, she demands that we give and receive them all from her. I am grateful for a girl like her in my life, because aren’t we really the sum of our parts?

I have been dividing things in my heart the past week, trying to determine where I land and why I land there and how to communicate it and if it needs to be communicated and this is what I have concluded, just tonight: I am a very small pile of strengths in a very large earth without boundaries, and the God who’s adopted me has the whole World in His hands (and who’s kidding who? He’s got the whole universe on his thumbnail.).

What I am matters very little. Where I live matters less. What I do is a drop in the bucket. Whose lives I affect is minimal. Whose hands I hold is debatable. What strengths I have are susceptible. And what percentage I fall in is pitiable.

Someone said to do what makes you happy and here is what I know: there is no greater joy than being a minute part of a whole that shouts by its very nature of the Glory of God.

Enoch walked with God and was no more.

I could not do better with my own small life.

earth-hand-hands-hipster-photo-Favim.com-276562_large

 

Image from We Heart It. 

The Saintly Sinners of Evangelicalism

by Lore

It’s popular these days with the church kids, you know, to love Jesus but not the Church. And see, I get that because I’ve been there, done that, and got the Christian t-shirt. True Love Waited and I had the ring to prove it. Public School would pervert us and TV rotted the brain. Shorts were too short and don’t get me started on Bill Gothard and all the holy institutes of courtship. Mixed swims, long skirts, head-coverings, and the mark of the beast: it was all up for discussion in our house.

Clapping on the beat? No, sir. Beat at all? Definitely not. We recorded tapes of our CDs, omitting the songs that sounded like rock concerts: Ray Boltz’s Thank You made it in under the skin and oh, how we laughed behind our collective hands when he “came out.” Wolf in sheep’s clothing, the mothers and fathers tsked their tongues and shook their heads—what we’d been spared from by listening to the whole of his albums. Pastors kids were playing footsie beneath chairs and we were casting sidelong glances at Sunday School Steve to see if he noticed or if his glasses were too far gone off the bridge of his nose. Got all our badges, see, lined up straight on our sash, we could quote the books of Amos, Joel, Obediah—and Nahum on a good day.

Church Camp is where we learned about the power of the Holy Ghost and felt the damning when we didn’t speak in tongues. Maybe next year, we thought. Maybe next year I’ll have my junk together and the Holy Ghost will condescend to fall on me. But next year came and I was still swallowing my dry and unloosed tongue. This is where we learned about demons and maybe I have one. Maybe he isn’t scared off by my verses and stars and Sunday School attendance. Maybe he knows the bible better than I do.

We were baptized to wash the sin away but the sin stayed like the tattooed lady on my heathen neighbor’s shoulder. A ring on our finger didn’t keep the love true and nothing waited forever. We shook ourselves free from the bondage of denim skirts and four tracks and footsie. And then it all shook itself free of us when everything we knew came crashing down. We put God in our debt and He never paid us back in cold, hard cash. We gave Him everything we got and He swooped in and people died and got divorced and over-dosed and dumped us and left us and we were standing there with a Sunday School Sash littered with woven badges that never prepared us for this.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But He bends low, ear to the earth, hand to the helpless. He swoops away the clutter, the new moon festivals and animal sacrifices, the pity of good deeds and the litany of bad. His long arm clears the mess of what has been and what was done and what can never, ever, ever be undone.

He illuminates the injustice, he shows our unrighteousness, our filthy rags—the grossest portrayal of our goodest deeds. He bends near to us.

He saves even saintly sinners.

You and I, we who grew up in the Church and hated it. We who prefer to sit and talk theology and the way it oughta be and never get our hands dirty, because see how they were dirtied by others to us all our childhood? See how wronged we were? See how we were victims of the biggest hoax on Christianity, the blight of evangelicalism, the jail of legalism?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

He sees.

He looks on us, you and me, and he sees a saintly sinner and a son. A beloved son.

A whole Church full of ‘em. Wearing nothing but nothing. Bringing nothing but nothing. Bearing nothing but nothing. Beholding Him to Whom we are beholden. And Who owes us nothing and has given us everything.

He sees.

And, which is so much more, He saw then too. All of it. He never had an eye off of it. He never accepted any of what we gave to pay our debt. He was never in our debt. He promised to never leave nor forsake—and He never did. He never did.

So Church kids and Christian folks, wringing our Christian t-shirts out with good deeds, shaking the dirt of legalism from our shoes, and turning our collective nose up at the Church who is wrinkled and blemished: she is exactly as she oughta be.

He came for the sick and not the well, and we are as sick as ‘em all.

cold

Shoots and Shrubs, Sin and Stories

by Lore

I didn”t grow up with shrubs. Our land had straight rows of beans and climbing snap-peas, potatoes snug in earth and basil all summer long. In the flower gardens my mother took the “English garden” look so they were always towering over with wildflowers, lilacs, low-lying hosta, and tiger lilies. I know how to hoe a line, weed a row, and mow the lawn, but never once in my life have I trimmed a shrub.

I live in the suburbs now, though, and shrubbery is the tree, flower, and vegetable of choice in a dry climate with water shortages.

This morning I stand in front of our dining room window and see the bush outside has grown more than halfway up the window. A smart, albeit aesthetically challenged, architect designed our home—all but two of our windows face north, so sunshine is a commodity and shrubbery is buying us out. Armed with a cup of coffee in one hand and a handheld trimmer meant to cut the stems of flower bunches, I go straight Edward Scissorhands on that bush.

I don”t know anything about trimming shrubs, but I know how to cut a branch and make a straight line, so I do my best.

In Texas some plants stay green all year long and the only way to know new life has come is the differentiation of greens. This bush was dark green all over with fresh cowlicks of bright yellow gold-green: the new growth. These must go.

Yesterday I cut something beautiful off of my life. I stood there and decided that sunshine was more important than the wildness of growth that I love. I abhor weeds, but I love green, and I confess, I leave what is green and good growing far longer than it should. I leave it because how can what seems so good be so bad?

I have been sitting deep in the book of Hebrews for a few months now, thinking about men and women who never saw what was promised—even though they spilled and wasted their lives full out, full on for the hope of glory. I have been thinking about setting aside sins and weights, shrubs that shield from sunlight and thorns that tear us from truth. I have been thinking about what it means to set my eyes on Jesus, who authored and finishes this whole story in which I live—and how sometimes the story He tells and the story I want Him to tell are so very different.

This morning I trim our shrub and I think about what it means to cut off what seems good for the hope of something better.

As each fresh, green-yellow shoot falls to the ground I feel my heart constrict and my eyes fill with tears. They will die there, apart from the whole, apart from the root. I remind myself in their death they make room for a fuller shrub, a kaleidoscope of greens.

I stand back to admire my work, but the truth is without a hedge-trimmer my lines are crooked, there are no flat lines, no tea-parties to be had on the table-top of this shrub.

Inside, though, a full line of sunlight falls across the back of a chair at the table. I sit and finished my coffee.

shrubs copy

Shake & Burn

by Lore

dc

In 2010 I lost faith I’d never really found.

One of the things that frustrated me about Christianity, and Christians in particular, was the notion that heaven was a place where we were supposed to want to stand around a throne singing three chorded praise songs to a god who was the epitome of narcissistic.

And the truth is all I could think about was: God, don’t you dare come back and destroy this world and make me float up on harps singing praises to you, because I haven’t even had sex yet and that seems a pretty lame trade.

You can appreciate, I’m sure, why ‘falling away from faith’ was as easy as the child who ‘forgets’ his parent has asked repeatedly for him to leave his shoes at the door. Where there’s no conviction, there’s no joy in the obedience.

In 2010 faith finally became something tangible and intangible at the same time, and I was okay with that. But I was surprised by the theology that wooed me into deep faith and a love I’d never known or felt before.

It was the understanding of eternity this theology embraced that was so enticing and beautiful to a girl who’d experienced nothing but the seeming harsh backhand of God in a life of pseudo-faith. These people pointed out the eschatological inconsistencies in the vast majority of evangelical milieus and I was hooked. Part of the reason I had felt so gypped in my faith is because it seemed a lopsided trade where God always got the bigger and better portion: I had to endure all this, so He could get glory for eternity (albeit glory brought by white robed minions on three chords and a djembe)?

Now it seems laughable to think that way, but back then it felt sickening and disgustingly true. My heart sneered at that sort of god.

But this new theology (even if it was very old theology) talked about how the purpose of everything is to glorify God whose greatest act of love toward us was coming in, dwelling among us, then stretching out, bruised and broken, and dying for us. And so it meant too, in the face of such love, such holiness, that everything that did not glorify Him would be consumed by the All Consuming Fire.

This captured me.

All I knew was all around me, all inside of me and all overflowing from me was brokenness—a sick, cyclical, deep, brokenness—but I still liked who I was. I still liked parts of me that seemed real and authentic and individualistic. An eternity of robotic, white-robed, harmonic minions covering acres of white clouds seemed the absolute antithesis of enjoyable to me.

The Bible, on every page, from Genesis to Revelation, suddenly came alive now with God’s ultimate plan of redemption. And it was not the burning of everything and creating new, but the refining of everything and restoring it to original intent. This captures me. This retains me. This fuels me. Why?

Because it means what I’m doing here on earth isn’t a waste. The truthful, honest, real, authentically obedient things I am doing will be refined, but not disposed of. Not burned up. If they’re bringing glory to God (even in their fractional sliver of goodness), He’s delighted in them. He’s like a kid who brings home pockets of strings, pebbles, a frog, a rubber-band: worthless to the naked eye, but treasures to him.

That’s a God I can serve. That’s a God who I can feel loved by because I know I’m worthless to the naked eye, but I want to be a treasure, more than anything. I can’t live under the fear of being burned alive a la Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins theology. And I can’t live under the tyranny of being good enough to escape refining a la holiness theology.

But to know that every part of me that is disgusting and revolting is somehow—in a strange, mysteriously ultimate way—part of His intention, because He knows it’s not there for eternity and He’s not worried about me walking through eternity with a limp—oh, I can live there. I can abide there. I can find faith there. I can rest there.

“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:26-29

Closed Up With Flesh

by Lore

 

missing

I am making my bed, sailing white sheets caught by air and settling their mattress land. Full hands of down and linen.

In my bed I am home. In my bed I know who I am and I feel my curves and my edges and my mind, and my head sleeps there, empty, at rest.

I am jealous when pastors and preachers and well-meaners talk of the marriage bed. I do not know the marriage bed, but I know my own, where I sleep each night alone, missing someone who has never shared the space with me. I wake every morning missing him and I go to bed every night with a sometimes ache.

Someone asks me recently why I will not date this man or that one, and I tell them the answer is no, for today the answer is no. Not my answer, but God’s.

For some their singleness is their thorn, but for me singleness is no thorn. It is the No that is the thorn. I am a child who doesn’t know the lack of cookies or cakes or late bedtimes until the answer is No, you cannot have the cookies or the cake. I love my singleness. I love it as I love my bed: what it gives me, what it rests in me, what I rest in it. I sleep best here, on these white sheets, under these down feathers. I sleep best here because I know it best.

And I know my singleness best. I know it better than you know it for me or I know it for you. I know the joy I find in flexibility and lack of distraction, in building families from orphans and building covenant with friends. I am asleep to the joys of marriage and the pleasures of shared beds. My greatest and deepest pleasures come from Him alone and He has given the unmarried that special blessing. I receive it some days better than other days, but I receive it as a gift always.

No take backs.

But like the child it is because I have not tasted what could be. Oh, I have been in love and been loved. I have used words like marriage and love and wedding. I have dreamed of clinging to one arm forever and following one man forever too. But I have not shared a marriage bed. My bed is mine alone.

And until he wakes me one glorious day with a man I covenant myself to, or if He keeps me still until that final trumpet call, that final wakening, for now I am still asleep.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Genesis 2:21-22

 

A Beautiful Thing in a Broken World

by Lore

A friend told me once Christ didn’t ask us to pick up our feather pillows and follow him. But I heard a pastor say once that Jesus has a beautiful plan for my life and you can understand the confusion swirling about in my soul.

I tell someone recently that I want to adorn the gospel, I want to make it look beautiful, and he looks right down at me and says, “You can’t.” I turn my head sideways and challenge him. “You can’t.” He says. “You’re going to fail because it’s not your job to make the gospel look beautiful; Christ is the only one who can do that.”

It’s okay to carry a cross, I think, as long as I’m stripping and sanding and priming and repainting it all the way. As long as I take it down to its barebones, deep in its sap filled lines, its grooves and knots, down to its natural way, I will carry this cross. Stripping it of the effects of modernity and church-culture, catch phrases and empty, “I’ll pray for yous.” Repainting it beautifully. Showing it to be something that doesn’t hurt, not when you lift with your knees or carry it this way or that.

I want to make theology sayable, that’s the whole purpose and vision of my life. I want to make real what seems unreachable, ethereal, intangible. I want to turn words over in my mouth until they are palatable and show you how it matters that we feed ourselves on rich, nutrient-filled, whole gospel. This is the beautiful cross I want to carry.

But what happens when it is not beautiful?

What happens when Christ says in this life you will have sorrow. You will have persecution. You will not see in whole. What happens then?

When the beautiful plan for my life means trudging up a long and lonely hill, to a place of death over and over again, carrying a cross that is not pretty, is not perfect, is not comfortable?

What happens when what God says is true pushes me into tight places, uncomfortable choices, unpopular votes? Into the full ugliness of a brutal cross? What then?

What then?

cross

There are some things about faith that are not beautiful, friend. There are going to be unpopular decisions ahead of you; times when you doubt the goodness of God in the land of the living. You are going to stumble under the weight of what He’s asked you to do and I want you to know something: that’s okay.

The gospel is beautiful. It is. It is almost fairy-tale in its beauty—only it’s true. Our King is coming, reigning, taking dominion over the brokenness we see around us—and we are living a vapor. There are some aspects Gospel Living that do not seem beautiful until we’ve pressed through, been refined, & have seen Christ in all His fullness.

If you are His child, in this life you will have trouble. But your King is on His throne and He knows whose names are held more dearly to Him than anything you treasure here on earth.

He goes before, He fights for you, He protects His own, and He makes it more beautiful than we can imagine.

 

 

Mark Driscoll Isn’t My Pastor

by Lore

driscoll

I don’t know if it’s necessary to state the obvious, but I will.

I am a part of my church not because it is around the corner from my house. Not because it is conveniently located in a state I love. Not because it is filled with perfect specimens of Christianity. Not because the leadership there always makes the right and best decisions. And not because I have found there perfect theology or perfect community.

I am covenanted to my church because it is filled with people who are desperately seeking life and godliness in the context of the Gospel.

I am committed to walking alongside them, to submitting myself to them, to seeing their lives be compelled by the Gospel, and committed to them committing the same to me. I am accountable to my leadership. I seek the counsel of godly men and women to whom the Lord has given positions of authority, knowing that their best interest is not my interest, but the Gospel.

I am safe there.
I am heard there.
I am challenged there.
I am pushed there.
I am called there.
I am loved there.

I am known there.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A few years ago when I was asking some deep and hard questions, seeking direction from podcasts and books and blogs and opinions, one of my pastors at my church in New York came and leaned against my office door and said, “Lore, I think you’re going to need to step back and just trust the Lord on this. Filling your plate up with the smorgasbord of faith isn’t going to bring a resolution to the questions you’re asking. Only the Lord can do that.”

And He did. He brought me here, to my church, with this leadership, this service.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I don’t go to Mark Driscoll’s church. I don’t have to concern myself with how he teaches the book of Esther or how Mars Hill handles church discipline or how threadbare his tshirt is.

I don’t go to Rob Bell’s former church. I don’t need to worry about how progressive the service or teaching is there or how cool his glasses are.

I don’t go to John Piper’s church. His hand motions don’t affect me and the size of his congregation doesn’t bear on me.

I don’t go to Rick Warren’s church. I’ve never read The Purpose Driven Life and the main purpose of my life is drink more coffee, so that’s good enough for me.

I go to my church. I am covenanted in there. I am knit there. I seek theology first in the Word and second from my pastors. I trust there. I am trusted there. They rightly have the most influence on me and I trust that even with all the influence I might have elsewhere, the most influence I have is there. At my church.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If the leadership at my church begins to stir up controversy with their sermons or books, or if they let a wolf run rampant among their sheep, or I feel a definite check in my spirit (and not simply the itch of serving alongside broken people in a broken world), I would consider that my business.

But as for the rest, I give it a rest. In the context of local church, it’s not my job to police the world, it’s my job to serve quietly, lead well, counsel gently, love deeply, walk humbly, do justly in the lives with whom I’m covenanted.

We are not pastored by podcasts, theologized by twitter, or found in Facebook. Our pointed fingers are unnecessary to bring about the union of all things eternal. God has this, He’s on His throne, His eyes on His children. He’s got this.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, and lexhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,
but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering,
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
II Timothy 4:2-5 ESV

When You Don’t Get What You Expected

by Lore

Yet another friend is expecting. Her belly full, her face glowing, she grabs my hand and tells me of the coming baby. The joy is palpable and I am glad.

Last night a dear friend tells me I need to kill my expectations. I laugh because last week I told another friend he needed to kill his.

Someone I know often says “Expectation is resentment waiting to happen,” and so this morning I think of my expectant friend. If being a mother will be all she dreams it would be, if she will love interrupted sleep, nightly feedings, first steps and words, as much as she expects she will. I expect she will, but I also understand why someone might caution the idealistic among us to simmer down a bit.

_____________

I wake this morning thinking of a people who lived in great darkness and saw a great light. I used to think that great light was the star above the manger—burning bright in hope’s direction. But now I know it was the child within the manger who lit the way.

I wonder about the people who lived in great darkness and remained in great darkness after his birth—because who expected the government would be on the shoulder of a child? Who expected a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace would inhabit a squawking swaddled babe surrounded by the stank of animals?

And how often do I not see God when He comes?

Because I am expecting something entirely different, entirely of my design, entirely crafted in my daydreams and ideals, I miss Him.

_____________

I turn Isaiah 9 over in my mouth and mind this morning and end on The Zeal of the Lord Will Do This. It comforts, even just a bit.

My expectations are birthed in me, my dreams and hopes, my plans and purposes, but God’s expectations are birthed in lowly, humbled places, for His joy, His zeal alone.

Last night my homegroup sprawls in my living room and we talk about lives, disappointments and patience, rejoicing with those who are rejoicing and letting our joy turn to mourn with those who mourn. “Our joy, though, is secure,” one girl says and I can’t get it out of my mind. Our joy is secure. My joy is secure. Stayed. Steadfast. Rooted. Grounded. Firm. And why? Because my expectation is Him alone—however He comes, in whatever form. It is Him. He is my joy.

My greatest expectation.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad pwhen they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as son the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
wand the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:2-7

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