Hope… the greatest resistance.

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as you ever can.”

John Wesley

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Dallas Clayton

 

The courage to be.  It is the title of this blog.  It is the mantra of my life.  And it is taking quite a few of us all of the courage we can muster to be who we are created to be in these current moments…

I was created for love, for kindness, and for good.  I was created for kingdom work. And while it is more than okay — while we SHOULD be moved — while I am angry, saddened, disgusted, depressed, overwhelmed, and discouraged by all of the evil incessantly increasing all around us — it is not okay for me to become paralyzed by it.  And I’ll admit, some days I have.  There have been many sleepless nights spent in tears, in prayer, bleeding out, pouring out pain to God.  Sometimes,  if I’m honest — screaming at him.  Why? Why, for the love, why?!?!?  But this is what free will looks like.  This is choice.  This is sin.  And I must continue to be who I was created to be for something, for someone, for a love so much bigger than myself. I must get up and walk.   

Because this isn’t about me.  This has never been just about me.  This has, and always will be, about US.

And that is the root of this problem.

There is the camp of ‘I’ – well, this isn’t directly affecting ME.  And there is the camp of ‘us’ — where there is injustice for one, there is injustice for ALL.

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And it seems really easy and super convenient for us to throw labels around to make these atrocities all the more comfortable and palatable for us too, doesn’t it? To make it an “us” versus “those people” issue. Labels like democrat, republican, pro-life, pro-choice, feminist, immigrant, Syrian, Muslim, Christian, Jew, liberal, conservative, (there.are.so.many–feel free to add your own), that proficiently categorize everyone oh so perfectly and throw them into a neat and tidy little box that we can check “yes, I agree with that” or “no, I disagree with that” and we may even chose to vehemently hate them.  I detest labels.  I thoroughly resent them.  Because while they, on the surface, may be created for the intention to do something good — to give us a glimpse into some one’s theology, background, upbringing, presence — as a society, they have made us abhorrently lazy.  They have made us superfluously stereotypical.  They have made us think we don’t even have to listen to each other anymore, because in our ignorance and egocentrism all of a sudden we have become “the experts” transfixed on one word set to describe or characterize a person.  And we have forgotten this simple truth–  That we are all just people. 

And that is both extremely humbling AND powerful, isn’t it?  Same beating hearts and blood coursing though our veins.  We all need oxygen to breathe. We have the same capacity  for good or evil.  The same propensity for choice.  People.  We’re the ones who decide to take it to the next level.  To judge each other.  To hate each other.  We take it there.

And I have been labeled a great many things in my life time.  Most of them have been yelled and screamed and beaten into me.  I’m still picking at some of them that are annoyingly sticky.  People think they get to decide your labels.  Because sometimes labels determine our value too.  There’s big words full of all kinds of meaning and associations in labels, isn’t there?  But that’s the funny thing.  People really don’t get to decide these things about us.  No one gets to define you or me or the person next to us or even half a world away.  We’re not that powerful really, or that all knowing about anyone.  It’s a form of hubris I’ve never understood…

And maybe that’s because I’ve never been a ‘neatly fit into boxes’ sort of girl.  It pisses so many people off.  What to do with THAT one?  And that frustration and anger creates more labels and violence and so many other names that get thrown at you.  So interesting.  Our fear of not being able to define and label.  Why can’t we just accept each other as people?  Sure, it’s messy.  And it takes more time to get to know one another.  And so much more listening.  And we might just have to make actual, real connections instead of just assumptions.  And we might have to get over ourselves a little and what we think we know.  And then, dammit, what would we do with all of our ignorance and bias and bigotry?  We just might have to unlearn it…

I have to bash through my labels every day.  I am NOT who they say I am, and I never was — one at a time — usually practicing yoga — BAM — one by one they go. And I am free.  This girl is a beloved daughter of God and I am who he says I am.  And that girl is love.  And that girl is pro-humanity.  All of us.  That neighbor thing doesn’t have borders.  It doesn’t have creeds or sex nor is it defined by religion.  I’m pretty sure by the state of our nation that Jesus would not be allowed into our country.  I often wonder if he would even be warmly welcomed into our churches these days.  He was the most radical and revolutionary inclusionary of all time.  And I’m walking in his footsteps.  And that is all I’m expected to do each and every single day of my blessed life.  Walk.  To get up and walk.  For him and for the love of every single child of God.  Which, in case there is any confusion, is every single one of us.  And in the words of my beloved sister Cole Sako, “I must have missed the scripture in the gospel where Christ said, ‘Screw ’em.'”  We belong to each other.

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So turn off those people who keep posting all those annoying ‘political’ posts and blogs in your Facebook feeds.  Most of us aren’t posting political, friends.  We’re just posting humanity.  But go to your notifications and do just that.  I keep seeing so many people posting this comment, and I understand — it’s getting to be overwhelming — it is.  But do you know what I think?  HOW INCREDIBLY BLESSED WE ARE!  How blessed we are that we GET TO DO THAT!  They are reminders to me — in my face reminders, and I am constantly praying for those people who don’t get to hit that “turn off” button.  Because this is their LIFE.  Every single day they are dealing with the horrific ramifications we get to “turn off”, ignore, or “turn away” from. How privileged we are that we get to tailor what we want to see and hear in our daily lives!  We get to choose it for ourselves and tell ourselves we’re going to ‘decide to be positive and not let that negative garbage affect us.  Those people are just whiners and complainers.  I’ll take care of that!  Done and done!’ And we kind of feel altruistic about it, don’t we?  Like we just did something really amazing and kind of righteous?

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Just turn him off and look away…

The truth of the matter is that evil IS happening in our world.  And even if we decide we DO NOT want to SEE it or HEAR it, it’s still out there.  We don’t make it GO AWAY by shutting our eyes or editing our Facebook notifications.  But we also don’t make it go away by screaming f*** Trump every other word either.  That doesn’t make it stop and only adds gasoline to his fire.  Rage and anger have their place, but after so long — they only become noise.  Noise lost in all of his noise.  And they, personally, make me stupid and incoherent.  There has to be a balance.

That balance is in love.  That balance is in hope.  This is our path to resistance.  And this resistance is displayed by action.  It is displayed by what we DO.

We have to get out there and DO.  Not just yell and scream.  Yes, we need to draw attention to what is happening because it is so stark raving ridiculous and awful.  We have to keep speaking out and speaking up.  I am NOT advocating silence.  Because the apathy, the apathy that this nation is displaying is just as stark raving ridiculous and awful.  I’m actually not sure which is worse.  So we draw attention to what is. We speak up. And we resist.

And part of that resistance is hope. And that hope is in the giving of love and the doing of good.  Supporting the good.  Drawing attention to the good.  Being light in the blackest of darkness.  Giving all the more.  Loving all the more.  Extending the very best of ourselves to each other in ways we may never have before.

How?  There are so many ways.  For this family it means donating to women’s shelters, love bombing those that are the encouragers and the supporters and the givers that do NOT get the love and support THEY need to do their jobs (love on your teachers, the activists in your churches, your police officers, your community support staff that are doing so much to BE THE GOOD!!!), giving to organizations that support children with disabilities and give them opportunities they would otherwise not be given (check out DWOL), giving to local and international organizations that are helping stop sex trafficking and supporting the victims of these crimes — this vicious slavery trend that is sweeping our country and the world, donating to the local food pantry, donating to this AMAZING organization called Help One Now (so many ways to get involved — from organizing your own garage sale, to a lemon aid stand, to supporting a child — just look into it, and please, please read Chris’s ‘Doing Good Is Simple’ and get involved — life changing, friends — life changing), to waking up each and every day and doing every good we can in every way we can for a hurting world.  It is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  We have to be tenacious about this — in our jobs, for our families, for each other.

And pray.  God, yes, pray.  This verse in the Bible always brings me to tears because it reminds me of the power of prayer and just how much Jesus LOVES us and how he encourages us, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1.  And he tells them the parable about the persistent widow.  A woman who does not give up.  A widow.  A woman.  Catch that, girls…

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We can’t give up.  This kingdom work is here.  Now.  It is why we are here.  “Once having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20,21  And as we say in this house, BOOM! Now, let’s get to it!

I want to leave you with a little something from Chris’s book, “Doing Good Is Simple”. 

“Imagine what the rest of the world would think of Christians if we fought hard for those who suffer, if ordinary people like us lived a life that is in fact not ordinary at all.  We can love deeper, give more, serve together, and feel a sense of mission.  We belong to God, we belong to one another, and each day we do our best to capture the opportunities right in front of us.  The kingdom of God will be found when we choose to leave the comforts of the Christian subculture and experience joy of life in the middle of the world’s mess and sin and devastation. It may not look clean and tidy.  We may not have nice, pat answers to all the world’s questions, but what we will have is far greater — a story about a God who is willing to lay his life down, and stories about his people who are also willing to lay their lives down.” (Marlow, 201)

This isn’t political.  This isn’t about labels.  This is human. This is life.  This is love and hope and despair and about all of us.  Not us versus them, but we.  The human story.  And some of us have bled the same chapters.  And some of us have not.  But we shouldn’t have to bleed the same history to know right from wrong or good from evil or to have the ability to extend ourselves in love and grace.

And we don’t have to wait for others to get on board or to figure it out.  We can.  Right now.  We are able.  Little by little.  We can’t do it all, but we can always do something.  Find out how you can do YOUR something.  Little by little.  I keep saying this to myself.  Little by little.  Just do something.  Wake up every day and do your best in love and in hope.  And that, that’s the resistance. Louder than screaming.  In fact, it’s the loudest protest.  To.be.love.  To.give.hope.

Little by little.   We can make a difference.

Love you.  So much.  ❤

 

 

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Radical, subversive love…

I been worryin’ that my time is a little unclear
I been worryin’ that I’m losing the one’s I hold dear
I been worryin’ that we all live our lives in the confines of fear.

Fear – Ben Howard

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Good morning, beautiful loves…

Happy Sabbath ❤

Breathing in and out as I give this day to God in the stillness of this morning, re-releasing all of the things that have kept me up praying.  Every day is a ‘do over’ and ‘try again’ and ‘start anew’ beginning for this girl.  I’m always a work in progress.  Never done, never anywhere close to perfect.  But always his daughter.  Always His Beloved.

And every day is another day to live for Him and show and teach my boys and love on my boys and inspire them to do the same…  Amazing, daunting, incredible, precious, hard — all.the.things.  And to be and do all of that for others too.  We are to be Jesus.  Just that.  Some days that smacks me in the face more than others.  Lately, it’s been hitting me pretty hard.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been having so many headaches…

Our world has always contained so much evil.  Sin entered in and it took off like pink eye in preschool. Along with the rest of you, this girl has put on her armor and fought these Goliaths for so long — but this new apathy, this new level of ignorance, this new blind following of hate has shocked even me.  But none of this is really new at all now, is it?  In fact, it’s very, very old. And maybe that is what makes it even more heart breaking and disturbing.  We’ve been here.  And the cost to humanity has been horrific.

I’ve always been told to be the “good evangelical Christian girl.”  Be quiet.  Look nice.  Memorize your Bible verses.  Go to church.  Do the right thing.  Be the good daughter, sister, submit and serve.  Always submit to and do not question authority.  That’s what being a good Christian is all about.  Whether that authority is beating you, raping you, and emotionally abusing you — you just take it.  Because that’s your cross to bear.  Because you are less than as a daughter of Eve.  In fact, you are quite nothingless.  Shut up, and try not to breathe so loud.  Don’t cry.  And maybe if you prayed more and thought better thoughts and tried harder to be a better person, you wouldn’t make your Dad so mad and people would like you a little bit more.  Don’t rock the boat.  You’re blessed to be on it.  God didn’t make this world for you.  You were an afterthought.  A need for a man.  And you will be used accordingly.  Did you say something?  Did you have a question?  An idea?  Didn’t think so.  And if you did — it was wrong and stupid.  And you will be punished for it.  All of your thoughts and ideas are bad. Do not be subversive. You will be silenced. This ideology was my life for over half of it.  I daily fight these voices. Minute by minute, breath by breath, by the grace of a very mighty God.

Yet, miraculously, through this all — God was always there.  And every morning I get to wake up to Him.  And every night I go to sleep and he holds me and he reminds me of his never-ending and never stopping love for me.  And the even BIGGER miracle in all of this is that somehow, every day growing up in this mess of lies and abuse and filth of untruths — He never let me go — and a fire burned in my heart for MY Jesus (not for who my Father and Mother said God was), and I dared to question my parent’s God and I held on to my faith–white knuckles as they tried to drive it out of me.  I understand now that the fire — which danced on the disciple’s heads and Jesus promises his followers and all of us in John — was and is the Holy Spirit. He was always my peace, my protector, my comforter.  He was and IS always with me.  I am very aware of this very real relationship.  It’s one that I thank God for daily.  Through tears and so.much.joy.  I was raised by the Holy Spirit. 🙂  I owe my God so much! I truly AM because HE IS.  My living and breathing is a testament to his existence.  I am nothing but his girl.  No other strength but His scraped me through all of those days upon days and years upon years.  I will praise His name forever.  I would have never known love or known how to love without his mercy and grace.  He is my forever miracle, my savior.

This world is a battle zone.  It’s been for me since I was a little.  And yes, I get tired of fighting, but we’re not ever alone — ever — and we’re not here solely to make cupcakes and ride unicorns (although, I DO bake a lot and really, really love unicorns and all things magical 😉 ). And we can and SHOULD experience and take in joy.  Yes, of course, YES!!!  But we also can not be ignorant that a battle rages on every day — and this battle takes the full armor of God.  It always has, but we need to be even more aware and mindful now.  Which can also be viewed in a positive way.  I am even more mindful of what I say and am trying to be even more giving and active to show what I believe and BE that.  Love is a verb, after all.  I want my boys so see this, not just hear it come out of my mouth in our Bible studies and devotions.  I want our home life and action to drown out the hate — or at the very least, be their daily example of good. ❤

And I want to encourage them to be subversive in a world that is championing blind following to hate spewing leadership.  What does that word actually mean?  Webster defines subversive as “an adjective meaning tending or intending to overthrow”.  We are tending to or intending to overthrow evil and injustice every day of our lives on this planet.  Yes, yes we are. And there are SO many evils and injustices every where.  It can be absolutely overwhelming!   And our Jesus was one of the most subversive leaders of his time.  This can be done respectfully and lovingly.  It doesn’t involve violence or meanness!  I want them to be subversive and brave — to fearlessly raise their voices in the face of injustice and cruelty — to never, ever just stand by when civil rights are threatened or when any one person or people seem to think it is acceptable to place value or call “better than” status on human beings for any reason what so ever.  This is never okay.  This will never BE okay.  And we will be called all kinds of names for standing up in love. For being love and giving in love to others who are deemed misfits and marginal.  Because bigotry, sexism, racism, etc. — those words are filled with hate and blame.  They are exempt of love, justice, or peace of any kind.  But we don’t back down from that kind of evil.  Because that’s not why we’re here.  We’re HERE to be like Christ…

And what does the Bible have to say about these things?

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First and foremost, we have only to look to the cross and Jesus’s sacrifice for us.  ALL of us.  Not just white, privileged men.  But all of us. Jesus was neither white, nor privileged, himself.  He was about as big of an outcast as they come.  Even by the church.  Our subversive Jesus.  Our rebel Lord.  ❤

Galatians is an excellent place to go.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28  We are all one.  Doesn’t get any clearer than that.

And this:   The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love you neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14 (not just your white neighbor, not only if you believe in your neighbor’s religion, not if your neighbor isn’t gay or disabled, etc. — just LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR).  We’re all neighbors.  And we don’t get to pick who’s worthy of that love.  Jesus died for all of us.  And since he made that sacrifice, I’ll leave the judgment part up to him.  I’m pretty messed up myself.  And loving people, just as he did, is the BEST way to bring people TO him.  I’ll follow HIS example.  ❤

Look up the word love in the Bible.  It’s everywhere.  It’s a humbling experience to read all of those verses. Very humbling.  This family has LOTS of work to do.  We have not even remotely TOUCHED the surface of these verses.   ❤

I also appreciated these thoughts expressed by Stephanie Lape:

  1. In terms of ethics, I don’t care who is President or what they say or stand for – each of us stands before God, accountable for our actions. I am the most imperfect person saying this, so I do not intend to speak from a place of superiority or hypocrisy. But let it be known that racial hatred is crystal clear in Scripture. It is not okay. Neither is denigration of women. Neither is oppression of the poor or “alien” among us. There is a lot unclear in Scripture, but not these things. God makes a preferential stand for whoever is the outsider, so get on their side in solidarity and – in concrete, observable ways – stand with the oppressed for their dignity and justice. Refuse to speak words or commit actions of hatred, but stand for courageous love of neighbor. Jesus did this even unto death. This is the Christian call.
  2. Again, I am not your model, God knows. I fail many more times than succeed. But if you are a Christian, Jesus is your model. Kingdom values are very clear. Get up again with me and by the grace of God let’s live them out in our real lives. This is not partisan. This is Gospel.

 

We are called to be Christ. Period. ❤

And I have began to think about some of my other subversive heroes in history, and talking to the boys about those people, those soldiers of his light and love.  Corrie ten Boom was one that came to mind immediately.  If you ever get a chance to read “The Hiding Place”, please do so.  Life changing, faith building of the most resolute kind. She, herself, was not Jewish (she was very much a Christian), but she stood up to the genocide and hid them and saved so many lives.  Subversive, radical love!!! ❤

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One thing I keep reminding my children and husband is that we’re really quite fortunate to feel safe right now.  As a woman who has experienced sexual violence, abuse, and assault, I have felt traumatized by Trump’s words in ways that others do not understand and don’t even remotely try to understand (rape culture has become so mainstream like so many integrated and culturally accepted evils — ‘just get over it already, bitch, every guy talks like that’)– but I also am fully aware that I don’t feel the intense gravity of this situation like so many of you do.  This is where all of that incessant prayer comes in.  It’s our greatest power.  It really and truly is.  Don’t diminish that, loves. Our God is all-powerful and He is the one in charge. ❤

Ultimately, my family GETS TO feel this way–this overall sense of safety.  So many people are not experiencing this same feeling for their future and their children’s future.  However, that doesn’t mean we don’t speak out and speak up and be a voice in all of this evil noise.  Wrong is STILL wrong even if it’s not directly affecting us.  Because, actually, loves — it is.  We are ALL a apart of humanity.  We are ALL we.  So this IS us.  We all belong to each other in that we are brothers and sisters in this thing called life — connected by the air we breathe, the hearts that beat with purpose towards the goal of living this thing out together in some sacredness of existence — can we at least agree that life has some sacredness left???  So when you come for all of the excluded, you come for us.  And as a girl who has always been one of the excluded — even by her own family, by God, you come for me…

And even if so many of our neighbors (and we love you so much too, we love the ALL of us ❤ ) are screaming and yelling at us — ‘quiet, you bunch of cry babies, what he’s saying isn’t really THAT big of a deal’ — I ask you, what if we changed those words around in Trump’s ‘not so big of a deal’ hate rhetoric?  What if we replaced the word “Christian” for Muslim, if we replaced the word “white” or “Caucasian” for Hispanic or Black or alien, if he made fun of disabled or beaten or raped “animals” (ex — cute little puppies, as we seem to have more sympathy for animals these days) instead of humans — how high would our meter of outcry and outrage be for the things he has said and is saying?!  ‘Well he wouldn’t be THAT dumb!’ (this was an actual conversation I had with someone…)  And then they came for me… 

My point is — and gets lost when trying to explain it but is really SO very simple — you do NOT trample on the sanctity of what it means to be who and what we are and the beauty and ornate preciousness that is in that diversity.  You don’t mock that.  You don’t disrespect that.  You don’t get to assign VALUE to that.  You are not God.  We may believe in different versions of that being, but YOU — you, sir — are not Him.

And I have to believe, I have to hold on to the faith that we — as God’s children — can be better than this.  We will be courageous and brave and I know, I know that ultimately LOVE wins.  I know the ending to this.  It’s not dark, it’s not gloomy — it’s actually quite full of light and victory.  We are overcomers.  “And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4.

Yet while we’re here, we’re growing and forever learning how to be more like him — and oh how much growing we can do in all of this, right? How much MORE we can learn to be like Jesus! ❤

“What ever we learn here on earth, however we grow or do good, it is all to become more like Christ.  When we wait, we have the particular gift of allowing the Holy Spirit to build in us the fruit of His Spirit.  When you abide and wait, you are uniquely pliable because you are living in trust and fixing your eyes on what is unseen.” (Connolly and Morgan, Wild and Free)

And as Corrie ten Boom states to eloquently in “The Hiding Place”,

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Amen. ❤

And He has always and forever been my hiding place, when this all gets to be too much — as it invariably does from time to time.  We are to live in the world but not be of it.  To carry each other’s burdens, but not to be all consumed by them.  To love, to have empathy, to feel and have compassion, but not let is swallow us alive.  This is so deeply, deeply hard for me.  Darkness can be so engulfing.  We must make a minute by minute, conscious effort to walk and live and breathe with him — for this girl, it is holding his hand all.the.time.  Because it’s not by my strength or by my fixing. And I try to do this without him if I’m not reaching for him constantly.  It’s all Him. And I want it to be all OF him.  “His will is our hiding place.  Lord Jesus, keep me in your will.”  Corrie ten Boom

Because this isn’t about me.  It’s never about me.  Or it gets bitter.  It gets angry.  It gets to be about what I deserve, what I’m owed, or what I want and what I’ve been through.  And it’s not about any of those things.  Ever.  It’s about living Jesus.  It’s about love.  It’s ALWAYS about love.  It’s about giving.  It’s about making sure others see him and know him and feel all of that never-ending, never stopping, never giving up love. It’s about my me-ness not getting in the way of all of that.  It’s about humility.  And wow, there’s just not much example of that anywhere so I really, really need to be mindful of that for my children.  It’s also about forgiveness.  And again, that’s not by MY strength.  That is also an incredible and miraculous gift from my Father. “It is not on our forgiveness anymore than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” (Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place).  He gives us so much.  And gives us the gifts we need to keep on giving, loving, and forgiving.  ❤ All of this is nothing short of everyday miracles. Can I get an halleluiah? ❤

And praise God for his miracles.  That happen every single day.  In you.  In me.  In our children.  When we show up for Him.  When we show up for each other.  When we bravely and courageously choose to be subversive disciples of love.  When we understand that His kingdom work is hard, but his walk and sacrifice was harder still.  We will never understand pain or persecution like that.  And we want to make him proud.  So proud of us.  Even though he is.  And we don’t have to.  We just love him so much we want to.  And we love our brothers and sisters so much we will.  We’ll love them ALL — all the way up to heaven.  Because I want us all to be there.  Praising our heavenly Father.  In whom we are ALL worthy.

So, let’s try this love thing.  Hate has played itself out in history far too many times.  It’s never turned out well.  I’m pretty sure that’s the biggest understatement I have ever made.  Let’s fearlessly and relentlessly love.  Just like our Jesus.  Who also fearlessly died.  So that we COULD do this love thing.  For him.  All for him.  Not just for certain people.  But for all of us.  Because he had the subversive and radical notion to see the world as an us.  I really, really love that God-man. ❤

Prayers for all of us.  He’s got us.  And we’re good.  Even when the world screams otherwise.  Take care.  Take heart.  Remember, the battle’s already been won.  But we’ll continue to walk in his footsteps to remind the devil that his day is coming… ❤

Love you.  ❤

Warrior on…

Angie

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Just keep praying…

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“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:22

Struggle.

I’m a firm believer in it’s what grows us.  Is it pleasant?  No.  It’s quite awful.  Growing is often painful stuff…

I’m one of those stick it out-ers.  Wade through the muck-ers.  “I’ve been through worse” kind of people.  My God is bigger.  There are billions of people going through far worse than you at this very moment, Ang.  I tell myself a lot of things.  And then I pray.  I’m always praying.  It’s like breathing for me.  It’s how I inhale.  It’s how I exhale.  It’s how I stay alive, how I move, how I rest, how I love.  But how do you pray when the being you’re struggling with is God?

Now I’ve been through some rough junk in my life (I am trying really hard to refrain from swearing — I’m told it offends people, and I know God doesn’t like it either.  It’s one of my many sins).  Seriously terrible things.  And in all of those dark hours and years upon years and heaps upon heaps of betrayals and darkness that seemed would never end, I never doubted my creator.  Not once.  Yes, there were times I wanted to die — honestly, yes.  I just wanted to be with him and be gone from here.  So.very.yes.  But I never doubted him and his love for me.  Not ever.  Not once.  I even got to a place where I could completely forgive.  And I could thank him.  Because for all the broken and raw those experiences made me — they also made me so very close to him — and they made me real, always real — and always thankful and aware of grace.  And my heart is always open — which is more painful than not — but I’m here to love and live for others, not myself.  Never myself.  Because I don’t want anyone, ever, to feel those things I did — to not have a single person speak up for them — and to later be manipulated or used by people who find them easy prey — be it men or women.  God uses our pain to make us brave.  To make us kind.  To make us love more than we ever thought possible.  He shatters us and breaks us so wide open, we become so empty of ourselves and so full of him.  He doesn’t cause all of that evil to happen to us.  We live in a sinful world.  But he covers us with grace.  He holds us, and he shows us a love like no other.  He is the love we never got, so that we can be the love that others need to know too.  So that we can point them to his amazing grace and love.  That’s a holy miracle, isn’t it?  We are holy miracles, loves, and never let anyone tell you different…

and dammit, (sorry)

I started doubting that…

because of world events

because of things happening in my extended family

because the devil is who he is

because I am who I am

but God is who he is, so we dug in together like we always do (I cleave, people – smile)…

God didn’t mind my questions.  He’s used to my mind being all over the place.  He created it after all.  He’s used to me scrounging the Bible for “all the answers”, walking the bike trail and praying and listening for him, always listening in the quiet for him.  We’re pretty close.  But my heart was broken.  And he knew this.  Who was this God of the Old Testament, the God of hate that kept spewing forth from so many Christians in the media attacking anything they feared and didn’t understand, my biological father’s God whose voice was filling up my nightmares once again justifying all the wrongs done to me, reliving all of those evils in the name of Jesus.  How does one pray?

Non stop.  Heart wide open.  Humbly.  Earnestly.  Relentlessly. Asking for answers, if you are willing, Lord.  And if not answers, peace.   That I may know and find peace again.  But that I may have some sense of resolution, God, please, if that is your will.  But I understand that faith isn’t knowing and understanding everything.  And if I must sit here and wait, please give peace and balm to my soul.  Crying.  Pleading.  Not giving up.  Because I know God can.  Because I know God is able.  Because I know God will. 

Waiting is hard for me.  I’ve had to do it so often.  It is a lesson I know well.  This waiting thing.  This be patient thing.  I’m called upon to do it again and again and again (you’d think I’d be AMAZING at it by now).  God always comes through.  Always.  Often in ways more miraculous than I ever imagined.  And in this case, it was no different…

I received a book in the mail a few days ago that began this peace journey, this ‘seeing the Bible in a whole new way’ journey — this ‘why oh why in the world have I missed the enormous fantastical miracle and life transforming forever and ever praise of that verse’ journey?  The book (like, you have to get this — please, this is so much more than a must read — spirit breathed…) is “Out Of Sorts — Making Peace with an Evolving Faith” by my Sarah — Sarah Bessey — forward by my other sister, Jen Hatmaker.  Please pick it up and let it bless you.  Men, pick it up and let it bless you.  Churches, pick it up and let it bless your entire congregation — especially pastors and ministers — of which we all are to our living faith in our savior.

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The verse that began it all for me was found in the disciple I relate to most (dare I say love the most?) in the Bible, my dear John (smile).  He wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  John 1: 17 It washed over me.  The law was given through Moses — that Mosaic law of do’s and do nots and ‘you’ll never be worthy ofs’ — but grace — and even bolder than that, my friends — TRUTH (you read correctly, truth, glorious TRUTH) — came through Jesus Christ.  Grace and truth.  I’ll hold on to those with my Jesus.  Go ahead and read it again.  And spend a little time with John.  If you ever doubt that men can express love or feeling, spend a little time with John…

I’m not going to make this long as my boys need me.  This girl has spent so much time in her head and in her Bible.  They need their momma.  I read all of Galatians this morning.  Let’s just say that Paul is not my go to guy when it comes to the disciples — because I find him to be too much like me (smile).  He’s a hot head.  He’s reactionary. He gets frustrated and angry and isn’t often the most patient of writers.  But Galatians, it’s my freedom song.  And in it, Sarah reminded me of this amazing treasure that Paul writes — “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28   You are ALL ONE in Christ.  Dear Lord, I hear you loud and clear.  And what a shattering turn your world upside down verse that had to be!!!  Thank you, Paul.  Thank you, Lord, and thank you Sarah for reminding me of the way that Jesus sees us, truly sees us.  Not as the world’s cultural dynamic of the time tries to define or sees us, not as the church often sees us, not as I may sometimes see myself.  But as Jesus sees us. We are all one.

Sarah goes into greater detail and speaks to other issues that weighed so heavily on my heart.  I encourage you to take a read — and take your Bible with you.  And remember that Jesus asks us to have faith like a child.  Sarah reminded me of this too.  And what do children do?  They ask a bazillion questions (smile).  Forever and ever.  And that’s okay.  It’s really and forever okay.  God uses them to grow us.  We need to be asking.  It’s a relationship.  It’s active.  It’s a back and forth conversation.  It’s not stagnant.  If you’re hearts pulling — ask.  Pray.

This is the realest relationship I have and know.  Because it’s the realtionship that teaches me how to be in all others.  It’s the relationship that teaches me how to love, how to minister, how to listen, how to forgive, how to ask to be forgiven, and how to give all that I am.  It’s a living and growing and changing thing.  It’s not ancient, lost in traditions long gone and dead with an Israel that was.  No,  it’s very much alive in a Christ that is, in a Holy Spirit that is alive and well in me — challenging me, asking me to be brave and to be more than I was yesterday.

One thing I can always be certain of is my Savior’s love for me.  And although I will never, ever fully know him or the depths of his love for me — I will wake up every single morning trying — attempting to understand and fully love the God-man that does fully understand this heart that beats solely for him.  And isn’t it absolutely wonderful to be fully known?  To be seen?  That is an incredible treasure to me.  I hold that so dear.

Peace to you, in the midst of ever walking with and loving a God who will never let us go — even when we struggle for understanding, he understands us. Love to you all.  I’ll leave you with some words from “Out Of Sorts”.  Take care, dear hearts… ❤

“I hope we all wrestle.  I hope we look deep into our hearts and sift through our theology, our methodology, our praxis, our ecclesiology, all of it.  I hope we get angry and we say true things.  I hope we push back against celebrity and consumerism; I hope we live into our birthright as prophetic outpost for the Kingdom.  I hope we get our toes stepped on and then forgive.  I hope we become open-hearted and open-armed.  I hope we are known as the ones who love.

I hope we change.  I hope we grow.  I hope we push against the darkness and let the light in and breathe into the Kingdom come.  I hope we become a refuge for the weary and the pilgrim, for the child and the aged, for the ones who have been strong too long.  And I hope we all live like we are loved.

I hope we all become a bit more inclined to listen, to pray, to wait.”

Out Of Sorts, Sarah Bessey (96,97)

A baby named Pinky…

this is what a fighter looks like

Sitting here thinking of friends Sara and Patrick tonight as the boys and I finish praying for their family and for our Ella.  And G is asking me those HARD questions like, “Why did Dod make Ewwa sick?” and “Why tan’t Dod dust make her all betta now?”

and I kind of lost it a little…

Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the week and I’m just kind of worn out.  Maybe it’s because I’m really tired of seeing such incredible people have to go through such hard things.  Maybe it’s because it makes no sense to me that a tiny little baby should have to suffer so much any more than it does to my five year old, and I don’t understand it any more than he does–and honestly, I’ve been asking myself the same damn thing.

And when it’s other nameless people, not YOUR friends, it’s just easier to say “God always has a plan”, “His ways are best”, and “He knows even when we don’t know” and nod your head in agreement and stoicism.  Ahhhh, but this, seeing this sweet angel’s face, hearing my boys beg to pray for her every single evening as if forgetting would cause the sun not to come up the next day, and imagining the anguish of her parents as a momma myself, just putting myself in their shoes for one tiny second breaks my heart into a billion pieces.

“Why can’t God?”

and all I can mumble to my five year old snuggled up next to my chest is this…  Because he loves us so much he wants to draw us as close to him as he possibly can and if only really, awesome, super, fabulous things (“like Twismas?” Griffyn yawns and says) — yes, like Christmas, happen to us — we just might think we don’t need him, that we’re strong enough all by ourselves, just on our own — so sometimes, he allows bad things to happen…

“And Adam ate apples. I don’t yike snakes.” G says, opening his eyes a little wider for a moment (we talk about how the world is imperfect and there are bad things in it because of sin which always goes back to the Garden of Eden for Griffyn … and snakes).

And I marvel at the faith of this amazing couple–taking one day at time, one procedure at a time, one breath at a time–praising the name of God all the way–gracious, thankful, so positive.  They are just as big of a miracle as she is, precious baby Pinky.

This tiny one, little Ella, also known as our Pinky, bringing so many people together, in love, in faith, in purpose, connecting hundreds in prayer.  Smiling all the way.  She knows nothing more than this fight as she was born into it.  She is thankful for every breath she takes.  The gentle voice of her mommy and daddy.  Her big sister who already adores her. For any second she doesn’t feel pain.  She doesn’t question why.  She isn’t bitter.  She doesn’t blame God.  She smiles. She fights. She just is.  Amazing.  One little soul, teaching all of us big kids (and my two boys) so very, very much.

And maybe that’s part of the answer too.  What looks so very awful and bad and horrendous — in all that desolation–there lies something good, something beautiful in all the broken, something so pure and so very precious.

“And sometimes hard things can teach us really important lessons, G, about loving each other, about what’s really important and meaningful in life, and bring out the very best in people too.” I say smoothing out his crazy hair and kissing it.

“Kind of yike how we pway yots mowah now togedda?” (I actually hadn’t thought of that) “and howwa Max is nissah to me wif his fings I touldn’t touch befowah?” (um, hadn’t noticed that either).

“I dust want her to det betta.  See’s so tute and tiny.”  He snuggles closer.  Griffyn has always wanted a baby sister, and in his world, I believe he sees all little girl babies as his little sisters (or at least wishes upon every single blessed star above that they were) and he must protect them–with all his heart.  And this little love, well, she needs his extra special protection.

As he falls asleep to “You are my sunshine…”, I am reminded that God has always been there, through everything for this tired soul.  He has promised us all that much.  And that is quite a lot.  This world is a mess, and that was not his doing.  And there are often times when I want to give up, as cowardice as that may sound–just crawl under the covers and tell life to go away–and then you meet the most lovely people like Sara, like Patrick, little ones like Ella–who remind you what that word FAITH is really all about–not just some theological dogma–but the flesh and bones, blood, sweat and tears of life stuff — and a sort of renewal takes place — a sort of wait a minute, I CAN do this, I MUST do this kind of renewal–and you get up, you pray, and you learn to hope again.  Because their hope is so huge, and so real, and their faith is so strong you can almost touch it…  and you can–you most certainly can–SEE it…

We love you, Pinky and family.  We take you with us in our hearts and up to heaven every morning and every night.  We know God is listening.  There are way too many prayers shaking heaven’s gates in Pinky’s name for him not to hear.  We thank you for blessing our hearts, changing the way we look at each other, the way we see each other, reminding us to slow down, to take care, to remember our divinity.  G’s favorite color went from orange to pink, he wants to buy Ella every baby toy, dress and piece of jewelry he sees (not to mention nail polish).  Max’s heart is a little more tolerant towards his “baby” brother and he has a bit more patience for his antics.  This family prays so much more and holds each other a little closer.  We did all this before, but somehow, we forgot–we got a little busy.  Thanks for bringing us back together and reminding this mommy’s heart that it is stronger and braver than it feels.  We love you so, forever and ever, because we can.  Hugs to all of you.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall to the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man… He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:4,7

“And my God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus… Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19, 6-7 NKJV