Broken Safe Heart

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Beautifully Broken.  A testimony shared in word and book form.  The story of Elisa Morgan, former president of MOPS International.  The telling of a teenage daughter pregnant, the shame of the thing, of the realization that we are all a mess, and this is a truth.  A friend and I ventured from home to attend the “I Am Loved, One Strand” Event featuring Elisa.  An evening of challenge to a church crammed packed with ladies.  Will I hide my brokenness, or will I take the risk and be a mess, for Jesus Sake.  As the evening hours came to a close, half dozen pastors and elders waited up front to offer a prayer for anyone who could use it.  Just as I Am keeping time, verse after verse and out of the hundreds of women attending, no one came forward.  Verses repeated.  Still no one.  Then a couple of the pastors facilitating the event came forward to be prayed for. As if to say “This is how it’s done”. 

We had been dismissed, the church mostly emptied, a few pray-ers still at post when I asked my friend if she wanted to go together for prayer.  Pray for our marriages.  For our kids. For our own personal struggles.  My friend is no ordinary friend.  She is one of those heroes who lives her faith despite depth of pain.  Sunday mornings, despite hostility at doing so, dresses herself and her children and slips off to church alone, shaking inside but holding it together, always holding it together.  The only Christian in her family.  A mentally unstable husband who swings from kind to damaging.  Having to scoop up children and leave her home for days, fly away, until the storm passes.  She is a mother who is doing everything she can to give her kids what they need, her husband what he needs, works full time, is a loving adult daughter of aging parents, a loving friend to me and many others.  All this amidst a blast that comes and goes, sometimes nearly crashed upon the rocks, when once again God comes through, and she holds steady again. 

We have so much in common, her and I, and you too, I’m guessing.  Our lives are full and beautiful and messy and painful.  We have the unexpected that tares at us.  Every time the calm comes, on it’s heels is destruction.  Willing again and again to be a mess for Jesus sake, as it would be so much easier to pretend all is well, easier to dust ourselves of the messes that disrupt our hoped for lives, but we’ve decided to refuse to give up.  And there we were, she and I doing the very thing the evening had lauded.  Praying not for the superficial, but for what needed praying for. 

Pastor woman, kind eyes, nice prayers she offers up.  The flowing kind of prayers, until tears flow from depths of those she prayed for.  Immediately friend and I feel the change.  Pastor Woman holds steady cold eyes on the one with tears and steps back.  Starts lecturing.  Shrouded in Christian-ese, she with smile and sneer eyes, she offers up a lecture of indignant setting straight.  Arrogance and irritation.  Distance.  Rejection.  Parental eyes.  As real as if she had said the words, “We don’t do messy here.”  

Shame, it hit hard.  Feeling sick.  Needing to find a hiding place, a bathroom, tears they showered pant-leg beneath the eyes.  And as shame flooded in, I remembered words I had heard hours before in a training I had attended.  Fight, flight and freeze occurs when comfort has not been extended.  Fight, flight, freeze.  The body’s reaction to not trusting.  An unsafe place to be a mess. 

The church is realizing how important authenticity is, and vulnerability.  Elisa Morgan has written “Beautifully Broken”.  Ann Voskamp’s latest book reiterates the same idea in “The Broken Way”.  Brene Brown has written extensively about vulnerability and authenticity, and about becoming a wholehearted person.  And many are speaking out on these issues, including God.  The Holy Bible is packed with raw stories of real people.  And still the church isn’t prepared for what it’s asking for. 

We better not ask for real if we have not done the due diligence of placing front and center only those who have done their own raw and messy work.  If my healthy vulnerability frightens you, as culturally Christian as I am, you won’t at all be comfortable with folks with a criminal record, an abortion never spoken of, same sex attraction shame, cut scars that run deep behind long sleeves, a porn addiction, shoplifting, the pain of life as a stripper, hidden heroine, purging, on the run.  Christian servants are not prepared unless we have intentionally peered into the toxic morass of our own less than lovely lives.  The grace of Jesus administered to shame makes worthy and safe my ears to hear your wound, and your secrets.  Professional pretenders have no place at the front line of the body of Christ.  This interaction was uncomfortable for me, but I’m not harmed.  I’m surrounded by healthy people who give me all the love and support I need.  Someone else might not have what I have.  One considering Christianity.  One who has risk it all to try once again to reach for Jesus.   

Jesus says:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Of course we don’t want pastors and leaders functioning as out-of-control messes.  This pastor offering prayer has either never come face to face with her own lacking, or had experienced the discomfort of letting a judgmental person in on her own disgrace, which is why she reacted the way she did to ours.  How can a pastor be honest with themselves and others when we marginalize them for owning their weaknesses?  Pastors are human beings.  They have a past, a present.  Arrogant Saul was only safe to serve when struck down by Jesus, made blind and dependent, and a mess.  Peter was only safe when he faced the ugliness and rejection of his distancing behavior.  We are only safe when we see who we are, and let God’s Grace pick us up again.  A pastor able to admit and speak about his or her own messiness becomes safe to love another.  And not before. 

I’ve written on this topic more than once, and will continue to write on it.  The front lines call for the real deal.  No pretenders.  Our Christian Culture must stop rewarding leaders and pastors for pretending, and punishing for honesty.  The route from death to life is across a cravat that separates Hateland of Pretend from The Loveland of Known.  From the Hiding, fight, flight and freeze (Adam, where are you?) place to a place of being seen, loved and forgiven.  Christians can’t stand on both grounds. Authenticity is attractive to the hurting who don’t know Jesus, because isn’t this what we all want most of all?  To be known AND loved.  We can’t pretend to be authentic as a way of extending a hand.  The call for authenticity has already been sent out.  Front line Christian’s, time is now to step across.  

Refrigerators and the Presidential Election.

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I’ve decided that this election is all about refrigerators.  Those homely green things that would have run 1000 years had we let them.  Eternal living fridges, faithful cooling machines still cooling our milk and sandwiches, had we, the homeowners, not rejected them for something more chic.  A demand for bells and whistles in exchange for units that would never leak, shoot ice cross the floor, rot through flimsy non-stainless steel exterior walls, taking chunks of pretend metal with it.   Have you been shopping for a fridge, a microwave or dishwasher lately?  I’m guessing in the past 5 years, you have.  My point exactly. There is no good reason an appliance should last less than 50 years or 100.  And now they last, what?!  A grand total of 10 years if we pay a maintenance man to keep fussing with them!! 

There was a time when reliability was more important than appearance.  When a person’s ‘name’ or company name was protected by solid workmanship.  Refrigerators are but one way our world cares more about the ‘cool’ factor, more about making an impression, taking up a place of position in the kitchen then it does function.  Let’s see, there is the lovely expensive blouse perchance at Nordstrom’s, a blouse I can’t do without.  One wash later, limp and faded, it should be tossed, but still takes up space because, after all, it use to be so lovely.  No conscience about the choice of fabric.  No name to uphold.  Books with a catchy title by a well known author, and inside the book, 7 ways to do such and such, a nice format and lacking anything of creativity and depth.  The can opener that looks the part and can’t do the job after a couple months.  An fine looking brand new all wheel drive in my favorite color, and along with the name, an expectation that the head on the engine has to be reworked routinely.  Seriously?!

We complain bitterly about the election this year, and about the lack of good choices in whom to vote for, but our options match who we have become.  T.V., radio, movies, music, books, art, the news, housing architecture, we have thrown out beauty, form, substance and have replaced it with a shell, one that appears to have some of the elements of something that once was.  What seems to be most important to us now is not goodness, but persons who act like they belong on a reality show.  We love the angry, loud, crass, shallow, dishonest, we idolize bullies, we devalue human life, both the old and young, people different from ourselves, we crave brazen show-off’s and have no respect for the quiet spirit of a green fridge.  The person that has few frills, no scandals, does their job, holds respect for those they answer to, (we are all under someone whether we scrub toilets, play football or serve ‘we the people’), does not see themselves as ‘the living end’, a person who uses power granted to them with humility, and uses it toward the achievement of peace, with the maturity to use force as a last resort.   

I can’t march over and change up the election process this year, grab a couple brats by the scruff of the neck and put them in time out awhile, bringing in two kind hearted, honest candidates.  But I can ask myself, what am I doing to perpetuate power and flashy?  What about me likes to hear a radio money man lip off at an ‘idiot’?  Likes to see wrongdoers put in their place in a disrespectful way?  What if we all move through our homes and cars, our entertainment, our faith, our parenting styles, through our lives and take to tossing everything lacking substance?  This election season will come and go.  We might forget what we’ve done to cause what happens this November.  The regrets on death bed are mostly about love.  Life is too short to be about power games and show.  What if the rest of my life I became the best green fridge I can be, and support all green fridges around me?  That’s what I’ll do.  This November I’m going green.

Ugly Duckling and God

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To mock me is to mock God, for I am God Art.
To mock you is to shun what God has thought up, and formed, breathed into and had high hopes for.
To mock is to set myself as an equal with God.
I will not do that arrogant thing.
I will notice the beauty in me.
The loveliness and intrigue in you.
And when I do, I glance at God.
God Art.
God Offspring.
It is God who causes us to belong to each other.

A Challenge to the Actor

 

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My daughter Maley is a poet.  I’m posting her latest poetry on my blog, as I love the content and heart of what this contains.    

A word from Maley, and then her poem.

Poetry is a big thing in my family. Here is a poem I wrote that scratches the surface of some deep topics. It’s a challenge for myself and a challenge to others on this path. Blessing to each one He has called.

What makes a great actor? It’s an art that is tough.
So many people think they’ve got the stuff.
They see that they’re gifted, it’s what they so crave.
But it’s no gift at all if it’s selfish and grave.
It’s ruined, it’s lacking, it’s finished, it’s trivial.
It won’t find it’s mark in the history that’s pivotal.

To be a great actor’s no fortune or fame.
It’s the heart of the servant, to give without gain.
You see acting’s the art of bringing to life,
A character’s story of trial and strife.
It’s their realness of tears and the realness of laughter.
It’s putting their heart in the pain and the chatter.
Don’t you see, this cannot be accomplished?
With a heart that is numbed out, prideful or tarnished.

And what has become of the scripts that we write?
They take all our value for such a cheap price.
We fill it with crudity, violence— it’s cheesy.
Cause quality writing is truly not easy.
It takes extra money, it takes extra time.
We don’t have the patience; we say it’s just fine.
But decade by decade, the years slip away.
And the horrid sad truth is our children will pay.
For art paints the pathway of morals and logic,
It determines if we become holy or toxic.
It changes our ethics, the way that we vote.
Now that, don’t you think is worthy a note?