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.  

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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?

Song Writer

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I’ve been writing songs since I was fairly young.  I remember stretching my 14 year old back over the bathtub.  Cleaning, scrubbing, singing a little chorus I had thought up, humming, singing it over and over ….

“I was walk’n down life’s road,

trying to push through a crowd.

I was tryin and tryin,

but I couldn’t do it by myself.

And then Christ did it for me,

that’s why He died on Calvary…..”

By Lisa J. Boyl

On and on I’d work the song while I worked the scum off the tub walls. A simple ditty for a 14 year old girl who was trying to push through the croud of life, needing God to do it for me.  Other songs I wrote.  I had them all sketched onto the Bible I packed around. My odd brown song file, dilapidated covers taped together for preservation, I’d write another, and another. Sometimes scrawling sideways up the margins to make room for one more song. The summer I worked at Camp Berkshire upstate New York, my Bible went it’s way, never to be seen again, and gone were all my songs. Most I can’t recall.  Lost, my heart in words and rhyme.

College gave me other opportunities to continue writing songs. The best came to me when I was covered in dirt and sweat.  Working grounds, digging holes in packed soil to plant the colorful petunias, lines would come to me, and then the tune.  I’d sing it to myself and loud, out there alone on the arid college grounds of the eastern Washington.  Alone, most of the time.  If I remembered, I’d keep a short pencil and scrap of paper in my shorts pocket for when an inspiration would hit. Sometimes I’d hurry across the lawn to the ladies room, pull down a paper towel, tear off a corner and scribble out the line I’d been singing to myself, hoping to not forget. I have never learned to write a score, and can play piano only in the key of C, so after work, I’d hurry with my after work routine and rush over to a vacant chapel on campus where I’d play out the song, reading the lyrics off the wadded up paper, over and over I’d play it until I found the chords I had heard in my head, and until I had the song down.  There were friends who could make sense of the songs I’d written, and would put them to music, able to play them in the key that made the most sense for a singer.

There were week of prayer theme song contests.  Both years I decided to participate,  they choose my song.  That felt great.  Hearing my whole college sing my song for a week straight I found rather unnerving and special at the same time.  I loved it and also wanted to hide.  But I did love the challenge of being given a theme and writing a song that worked with the topic.   Both theme songs chosen belonged most of all to the planting of the petunias.

Some might say that being like you is too much to ask….

…You are the power inside me…

That’s the only way to be all I can be.

By Lisa J. Boyl

Another summer of groundworks, and another song.

Is the Jesus that you know

a kindly Man from long ago

A picture in a splintered frame

slanted on the wall

Has the Jesus that you know 

been forced into a plastic mold

A God who only loves the good 

the children and the old

If you knew the Jesus who turned my life around

And answered questions of my searching soul

You’d throw away the plaster And the statues made of Him

And come to love the Jesus that I know

The Jesus that I know.

By Lisa J. Boyl

One autumn day I met a boy who took to walking around with my heart, leaving me in quite a state.  I’d known the pain of love before, and one afternoon alongside a busy college street, waiting for the next bus, saw an old station wagon pull up and wait for the light, and from the interactions in that car I wrote

Wrinkled and baggy, frowning at each other

‘Stickin it out’, but only for the kids

On family occasions they fake some warm affection

And back at home they only show contempt

Does time always mangle a love once true?

Does it twist and tear a promise once forever?

And what about friendship, does that die too, in time?

Can I share this heart of mine?

By Lisa J. Boyl

 

That was the final song – before love rushed in, and marriage, college, babies, bills, career, house building, cancer.  Not enough stillness and digging alone deep into packed hard soil for finding songs.  For 30 years.  Then one morning, wedged between arm of overstuffed chair and a giant pile of clean laundry waiting to be processed, there I found a bit of unexpected stillness.   Reading the book of Acts, overcome with all the goodness of God and what His Spirit manages through us, His voice in heart elbowed me.

“Pick up a pencil”, said the nudge.

“What?”, I snapped.

Not audible but as clear as if the words had been spoken, He said to me.

“Pick up a pencil, I want you to write a song.”

The pencil just picked up shook in my hand. Tears slipped down unto Act 2. Slammed pencil down onto my Bible and tears.  Cried a long time. God had taken away my songs. Not once (by the flight of the little brown Bible) but twice (years of no space to sing my songs).  I’d not written anything since college, and now almost 50, past the age that anything I’d write could ever be relevant, God asked for a song.  Mad and sad, I was, and still I picked up pencil.  In five minutes, Holy Wind was etched.  Next day, Frozen Worship the same.  Both songs on God’s Spirit.

Music can bring out a territorial jealousy and disgust.  A kind of fire hydrant/dog ownership of ‘I’m the star, out of my way!’.  And so when the music pastor of my church was interested in listening to the songs, and interested in the idea of church members contributing to the music of the church, the tears, they came again. Car full of family heading home from service.  Wrong time.  No matter.  Tears dripping across the songless days that has passed.  Dripping off my chin for the nights of being awakened, hungry, no starving for music. Tears for songs long withheld for the harder tasks of life.

Although floundering some, I’m adjusting to writing songs again.  A new song rushes at me like a cartwheel.  I don’t go to it, it comes to me and flings me round until I’m upright again. A cartwheel arrives with a wide space of green grass.  Songs need their space, too. Relevance has been reserved for the young.  My songs are relevant to a life that has simple rhyme, hard times and beauty all mixed together.  I don’t quite understand God’s timing, but how foolish to push away what I’ve wanted for so long because it’s taken so long to arrive. Song writer. Starting over, like the awkward 14 year old.  Heart in rhythm and rhyme has begun to beat again.  And I like it.