Beauty Scars

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The world is full of beautiful places. Photographs of mountain tops and valleys inspire awe and wonder. Actually being in these scenic places evokes visceral feelings of joy and peace. The sheer weight of their glorious beauty can take our breath away and bring us to tears.

We think of these wonders as places of natural beauty. But if we had been alive to see them long ago at the time of their forming, I’m sure we would have shed a different type of tears. They were born of trauma and crushing forces. To see what had been familiar crumpled up, to see the fiery explosions or dams of ice scouring away the world we once knew, what pain and sorrow we would have felt!

All of earth’s geological beauty is evidence of her worst trauma. The places that resonate with our souls are scars from the past. Peaks stand like proud flesh, like puckered, granulation scars. Many were ancient sea beds now broken and thrust above the clouds by crashing continents. Canyons were once plains carved out by powerful forces of erosion. Beaches have endured so much continuous pounding there’s nothing left but little grains of sand.  Volcanic cones now covered in snow were once fiery, destructive eruptions. Island paradises were born by repeatedly ripping open wounds in the sea floor, building up stone layer by layer.

What we see now is the aftermath of ages past. The edges have been softened by time. Green has covered the blacked, bleeding crust. The places that are still raw are that much more beautiful for their rugged endurance against the elements. Life overwhelms the bleakness of pain. Even in the driest desert, life has a way of persevering, of winning. Trees cling to mountain sides, and flowers blush the hillsides. We look and see only the beautiful landscape that is, not the trauma that was.

I feel like so many times people only want to show the world our smooth glass faces. We act like placid pools of normalcy are the only acceptable beauty. We offer the world our meadows, but as beautiful as they are, that is not all we have to give. Through experience, both with my own trauma and observing other survivors, I know that our most breathtaking beauty sometimes takes the form of granulation tissue and fault lines.

Our souls seek mountains, valleys, and the constant rhythm of waves. There is something alluring in damaged beauty that has healed into spectacular vistas. We do not just look for it out in nature, but in the truth of each other. The peace that surrounds us in the wild places is the same peace we seek in our shared stories. We long to find a hero in our fellow man. We want to see that enduring the test of time is possible, that we can come out the other side stunningly, dramatically beautiful. People long to experience hope that life can overcome the ravaged places. Humanity wants to see that someone else has not only survived, but also thrived.

For some reason we think of the hero as someone out there, someone else. Yet tragedy is common to all mankind.  We all have experienced the destructive forces of this broken world. We each have the opportunity to be the hero someone else needs. That is the power of our story, our testimony.

Transformation from jagged rocks into a lush landscape doesn’t happen without the power of life. It is life which softens and covers the rugged mountainsides. It is the happy little trees that live in impossible places. It is the flowers that bloom where life seems difficult.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6) He also said, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV). If we want to see our rugged places softened over time, we must allow God to transform our scorched and wounded souls with life—his life. It is God’s sacrificial love that can heal any canyon of self-esteem eroded by public opinion. When the winds of change have turned our heart into a desert, it is the Living Water that can make an oasis for life to return and thrive—a place of joy not only for you, but also for the thirsty world we live in (John 4:14, 7:38). In him, our roots can grow deep again (Jer. 17:7-8). Those traumatic events that stand out like mountains in our lives can be turned into beautiful scenes of hope.

When the changes begin to take place, people will flock from near and far to experience the beauty of it. That is the power of your testimony. No one expects you to always be a placid, glass pond. The dynamic beauty life overcoming destruction is a world changing power. Let all the facets of you be seen. Don’t hide them. Instead of trying to cover up the scars left by trauma in this world, be transformed by Life and then share the beauty of it—even the parts that are still a little jagged. The hope that others will experience will be far more than the joy of a jagged mountain peak. You can be a shining, beautiful vista for all the world to see or simply for the lone hiker lost in the woods.

Politics.

I believe that the average citizen wants a better society–both Republicans and Democrats…and the rest of us. There are some who want a better society for altruistic reasons and some who want it for self-serving reasons–on ALL sides of the argument. Red and Blue differ greatly on how to accomplish a better society.

Republicans and Libertarians tend to believe that by empowering individuals we will have a stronger, healthier collective society. The self-serving folks in this group take the power they gain and use it only for themselves; they get angry when people try to take their hard earned profits. They cry that society is hateful and selfish. The altruistic ones take their power and attempt to serve others as generously as possible, often voluntarily joining other like-minded individuals in order to accomplish more.

Democrats tend to believe that by empowering the collective we will have stronger, healthier individuals, thus a better society. The self-serving folks in this group take from society and don’t give back; they get angry when society does not want to continue to serve their needs. They cry that society is hateful and selfish. The altruistic ones take the power of the collective and try to make sure the most people can be served as generously as possible.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Who’s good and who’s bad? Fingers fly in both directions. The truth is that there are good people on both sides of the argument. AND there are selfish people on BOTH sides of the argument. I can plead my case and tell you why I believe my side is right, but I cannot for the life of me answer who is good and who is bad because the answer is yes.

The Consistency and Relativity of God

Many theological debates can be easily reconciled when we recognize that while God is unchanging, He is rearing children in many stages of maturity.

Historically we can roughly match the ways that God dealt with mankind with the human steps to maturity. First, in the Garden, he simply met our needs within the boundaries of a loving relationship. God called us “good”. He gave us no specific rules about how to act among other humans but only a choice to be in relationship with him or not.

Soon enough Humanity decided we wanted our own kingdom. We broke out of our simple, trusting relationship and entered the toddler phase full of power struggle. The first fit of rage was recorded in Genesis 4. It wasn’t pretty, so God gave us a few rules to follow; do not murder or eat blood (Gen. 9).

Then humanity grew a little more and entered our school age. We were given a lot of very specific rules (i.e. the Law, Ex. 20) and were expected to learn and follow them. It was a time of reward and punishment according to the Law, so that we could learn the truth of what love looks and acts like. The Law could never make us perfectly “good” again, but it was a huge step in our training to love and respect our fellow man.

Yet following the rules was never the ultimate goal. We were always intended to be the ruling heirs of the Kingdom of God by voluntarily  filling the earth with his likeness (Gen. 1:26-31, 9:7-9, Mt. 5:43-48, Lk. 6:35-36, Rev. 22:3-5). Throughout history God has kept pushing humanity to mature into public servants who humbly reign as little responsible sovereigns in his image (Mt. 20:25-28). We’re to grow beyond the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. He wants grown children that spread God’s love across the globe because we passionately love Love.

Many theologies try to force us to stay in the toddler stage of relationship where we simply fear God. I don’t know too many toddlers who don’t one minute love their parent for providing their need, and then pitch a fit the next because their parent is telling them what to do. The parent’s kindness and sternness seems random and sometimes scary until the ability to reason is achieved. It is the same with us and God. If forced to stay in this fearful way of thinking, our religion becomes fearful, confused, and often abandoned.

Other theologies cap our growth at the school age where it is all about the rules. God is portrayed as the sovereign headmaster who enforces his will upon stupid, little children who never seem to be able to grasp his teaching. This theology keeps us distant from God and immature for all of our lives. Relying on reward and punishment to fulfill our needs can leave us frustrated when we don’t get the rewards we think we deserve, or our enemies don’t seem to be punished according to our standards of right and wrong.  When this happens, the Headmaster seems unjust, cruel, and even tyrannical. I’ve seen many who were in this type of relationship with God quit the faith.

There are huge problems with these theologies including keeping us from a real relationship with God and thus incapable of fulfilling our role in portraying who he really is to a broken and hurting world. His image gets all bent and warped into a tyrannical headmaster or a fluffy Santa Clause. God is neither one of these things.

If our religion is stunted in immaturity our actions follow suit. For instance, if our religion tries to give us the freedom offered to mature children before a child had matured to the point of responsibly loving his neighbor, then the child will undoubtedly abuse that freedom (1 Cor. 10:23-33). Conversely if religion does not at some point expect its students to mature, but instead continuously tries to enforce the “Law” on an adult who should be mature, then religion will no longer be a teacher but an obstruction to the freedom and power available to all who fulfill their God given calling. The fear of the Lord is only the beginning of wisdom, not the sum and total of it (Prov. 9:10, 1 Jn. 4:18). We should be maturing into sons and daughters of God, not perpetual slaves of the Law. When we take verses out of their contexts and mix God’s dealings with man at one maturity level with his interactions at another maturity level, we get messed up religion. We become tyrants or permissive of everything.

Religion was always meant to be a short term solution to our distance from God. It was meant to be an induction from the chaotic kingdom of this world into understanding proper citizenship of God’s Kingdom. It could never save us, only help us reflect on the truth. Nothing more, nothing less.

God’s standard is not relative in the sense that He is always bringing us to perfection. Perfection is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. If you do these two things, then the rest is covered. This has always been his unchanging intention for humanity. However, love is relative in the sense that it is quite literally all about relationship. Therefore, how Love deals with us on a personal level will always be relative. One way that it is relative is based on maturity level. It affects both expectations and repercussions. If we use a grid over the scriptures to sort passages based on the maturity of the audience many contradictions will align themselves into one consistent truth.

I am blessed!

It is true: I am blessed! Interestingly though, it has nothing to do with whether God just pulled something off exactly the way I wanted it or not. Life is full of wonderful things; all of them a gift from God. Take oxygen for instance, that’s awesome stuff. But the word blessed primarily has nothing to do with tangible things. In fact our landlord has served us with a 30 day eviction notice (no reason given), and I’m still blessed.

If you look up the words “bless” or “blessing” in the New Testament (http://biblehub.net/searchverse.php?q=bless), they are all about speaking well of, to, or about someone. “Blessed” is living in the state of life abundantly, which is wholeness and strength not having a bunch of things.

We can bless someone by speaking a blessing over them, or as Toby Mac says we can “speak life”. We can say a blessing which is a spoken prayer over someone’s life for their good and multiplication. It can also be a word of encouragement or a positive testimony about how wonderful someone is. (No, “bless her heart” and “blessing someone out” do not count.)

Being blessed is living in a state of joy and confidence despite our circumstances due to the understanding that God has already spoken life into us from the beginning and continues to do so. God created us, called us good, and then loved us even in our brokenness enough to give his life to buy us back from the Enemy. This is blessed.

Most often these days I hear it used as a euphemism for lucky. “I’m so happy; I just bought a new car. (Oh, wait that might not sound spiritual enough.) I’m truly blessed! God gave me a new car!” Or “I got the job! Whoop! God blessed me big time!”

But what happens when the worst case scenario happens instead? Do we still feel “blessed”? What if a child dies, or we lose our job …or the landlord gives us 30 days to get out with no place to go? Where is our blessing then? Sometimes it feels like God is withholding our blessing or giving it to some less deserving folk.

This is something I had to work through years ago as I watched the 10th person in our small group announce their pregnancy and got news that my drug addicted cousin was about to have her 6th. My husband and I had been married 6 years, actively perusing children for 2/3rds of that. We had good jobs and two spare bedrooms just waiting on a baby. Children are a blessing from the Lord, right? I had verses to prove it!

God and I had a knockdown, drag out, fighting/shouting match over this. Well, I was doing all the fighting and shouting, and really wished I could have landed a blow. It turns out I was wrong. I know; who’d of thought, right? Blessed is more of a state of being on the inside than a tangible thing we can hold on the outside, even children or a house.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us that being blessed is the ability to be emptied of your own selfish desires and filled with the Spirit, not getting our flesh’s every wish fulfilled. Blessed is being comforted when we mourn, not living a life without ever mourning loss. Blessed is an inner confidence which allows us the ability to exercise self-discipline when we could exert power and crush someone who is bothering us; it isn’t just having the clout to squash our enemy or never being bothered in the first place. Blessed is being able to pinpoint what truly will make you happy and running unrestrained toward it, not having another opportunity to snack along the way on what will never truly satisfy. Blessed is the ability to forgive and become whole, not the moment our revenge is realized. Blessed is a heart in love with Love Himself and nothing else, not finding a temporary substitute. Blessed are the peacemakers, not those who win the war. Blessed are those who withstand hatred aimed at them because of their good character, not those who force religion on those who they deem worthless heathen. http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/5.htm

Matthew 5 goes on, but you get the point. Religion focuses on God giving us what we want when we want it and calling that blessed. That is a Santa Clause version of God. This version of God is utterly confusing when God doesn’t work the way we think he should. We need a relationship with him, not a sky-daddy, vending machine.

Jesus described it by saying we needed to take on his yoke. A yoke takes two separate entities and combines them into one force with a common goal, direction, and leader. A meaningful relationship with God is blessed. It is walking and living side by side with Christ, having a common goal, direction, and leader: We are empowered to love this world at all costs in order to restore them to a relationship with God, live outside of ourselves, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Many of you are watching our story as this crisis unfolds. No matter what the outcome, worst case scenario or best, I AM BLESSED! It isn’t something you can touch; it is the hope and confidence that no matter what lies ahead God will work it into something wonderful. It will empower me to be stronger and greater than I ever could have been otherwise. I have joy unspeakable and peace that passes all understanding. I am absolutely unafraid. I hope my story will inspire you to find the same.

Freeing Behemoth

Welcome! I’m glad you found this blog. I pray that it will encourage you and give you tools to be free.
Jesus opened his ministry with an explosive mission statement:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk. 4:18-19, NIV)

He has done this for me in a dramatic way. He has brought me from overwhelming hopelessness into a life of joy and peace. That doesn’t mean that life has suddenly become sunshine and roses (most days it’s snow and mysterious stickiness), but my heart has become secure and happy. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than on this journey with my God. I hope you’ll join us in walking through life in a relationship that changes everything.

May Yahweh bless you and protect you; may Yahweh make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; may Yahweh look with favor on you and give you peace. In this way they will pronounce My name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Nb. 6:24-27, HCSB)