Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.

broken, fear, communion, God, cross, Jesus


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Broken and afraid – where do we turn? :: part two

I sat in the back row with my husband and daughter.  The church was a humble little building, a pitched tent so to speak. Inside there were no fancy pews, or lights, or podiums —just little blue chairs lined up in rows, facing a stage that held a drum set, a piano, and a microphone.

It was all very informal and unassuming and it was nothing like the church where I grew up.

There is something nice about entering a church where no one knows your name, no one expects anything and you are you are met with quiet smiles.

Behind the stage were two screens that counted down the minutes to the start of the service.

Just as the timer reached zero, the lights dimmed and the music began.

I could tell from the start this would not be the traditional stand-up, sit down, sing, listen, greet your neighbor kind of worship that was ingrained in my DNA. This was a full on 15-20 minutes of singing and praying. It felt wrong. I felt wrong. The uneasiness was welling inside of me.

Then she came the long arm of anxiety slithering around my neck —her steely fingers one by one circling my neck and I am fighting for my breath. Pulling me under as waves of nausea pound against me as I try to regain balance and focus. And in one swift turn, I left.

This feeling is nothing new. I am prone to panic attacks. Anxiety disorder has been following me for years, it began long before they found the celiac disease and my body was starving to death, literally, and I was living in survival mode.

But here is the thing, each week we returned to that church and each week I couldn’t find the oxygen or the floor, and I left.

In everything I knew of church and Jesus, I came to the conclusion there was something wrong with this church and we should not be there.

And therein lies the rub.

When all we are taught is fear of the lord, as in be afraid, be very afraid —gathering the smallest ounce of courage to run to God is just not an option, because we do not recognize Him, because we do not know His heart or His character, this ultimately leads to not knowing how to experience Him.

Once I experienced God outside of all the rules, I had to know what is the truth? How do the law and grace fit together? Why is fear taught so freely without the knowledge of grace?

This is my meager attempt to understand my past, present and future. How each piece has a purpose and each broken piece from the past is redeemed over and over and how those pieces from my past give me strength for today, and for the days to come.

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Fear is used a lot in scripture and the meanings can vary based on context, but when it comes to the fear of the Lord in the Hebrew and Greek these words give light to a positive experience.

The Hebrew verb yare:  to fear, to respect, to reverence, the Hebrew noun yirah: refers to the fear of God as a positive quality, and the Greek noun phobos: reverential fear of God. These acknowledge God’s good intentions.

Gills Exposition of the entire Bible says it like this, “and that his fear may be before your faces; not a slavish fear of death, of wrath, and damnation, before dehorted from; but a reverence of the divine Majesty, an awe of his greatness and glory, a serious regard to his commands, delivered in so grand a manner, and a carefulness to offend him by disobeying them”

 

So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord
and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.
Acts 9:31 (HCSB)

I am learning the fear of God is an attitude. It’s respect. It’s reverence. It’s wonder.

The anxiety I felt in the midst of dim lights and music, was not anxiety at all it was the Holy Spirit. It was God making Himself known to me, reaching for me.

I did not recognize Him. Not yet.

 

chasing-grace-landing-page-graphic

 

This post is fourth in a series on Chasing Grace :: a journey further up and further in, if you would like to read the whole series go here.

broken, fear, communion, God, cross, Jesus


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broken and afraid–where do we turn? :: part one

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Mark 2:17 (NLT)

 

I was 18 years old. When my world tilted sideways. When the sickness with no diagnosis struck me and prevented me from doing anything and everything. When the church where I grew up, attended all the services, and special activities, the church where I walked streets with and knocked on doors with its people sharing the gospel, the church where everyone knew my name, knew I was good —that church turned its back and shut the door because a doctor could not find a cause to my sickness.

The church that so adamantly spread the gospel, sharing how God so loved the world He sent His son, made me an outcast —speaking of me and my broken body in rumors and lies.

What is the church if not the very representation of God? Is the church not supposed to be for the broken? Isn’t this what Jesus did here on earth? Did He not sit with all the broken people?

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Where do we turn when we need God?

When you reach that place where there is nothing left and you really need Him, but the fear that you are not good enough, and you will be too much and not enough, because this is what you have learned and it is all you know?

How do we know how God will respond, or if He will respond if we reach out to Him? If all we know about God and His character is to fear Him, how can we really know what He is like?  When everything I know in my heart is I have somehow let Him down, does He want my broken,—can He handle my broken?

And what if He were sitting right beside me, would I recognize Him? Would you recognize Him?

When all you know is that the fear of the Lord is simply this — fear, where do you turn when everything that you believe in falls apart? Where do you turn when you search your heart for scriptures but all that produces is that God loved the world and all the road that leads you to the cross?

Where do you turn when you know Jesus in your heart, and you have tried to live the “perfect life” and now you are broken, and your brokenness might very well be your undoing because you took the bread and drank the wine. And your heart is simply unclean?

Where do we turn?

Join me tomorrow as we delve deep and answer the question where do you turn?

 

 

This post is the second in a series on Chasing Grace :: a journey further up and further in, if you would like to read the whole series go here.


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grace :: it’s more than a blessing

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

 

Growing up in church, I quickly learned grace was simply joining hands and asking God to bless the potluck lunches and dinners spread out on the church lawn on Sunday afternoons.

Grace. Always the asking of a blessing, never the underserved gift God gives to us freely. I  never learned or better said was never taught to understand the true meaning of grace in the eyes of God.

I grew up in the glory days of legalism. A culture that over-emphasized the letter of the law over the Spirit of God. A culture that thrived on fear. A culture that embedded a seed of self-loathing, distrust, and anxiety.

A culture in which I came to believe that God did not and could not love me.

Looking back as I write these words, I realize how contradictory this is to the very nature of God. Most of my adult life has been spent discovering who God really is, how He loves us, and the real meaning of grace. I am no theologian and wouldn’t claim to be an expert, but God has met me in my seeking.  He has shown me His grace.

It rains over me.

I love how Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace? says it, “God loves people because of who He is not because of who we are.” If we are striving to live to the letter of the law, are we not trying to earn God’ love? His favor? His salvation?

In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul tells us that it is by grace we are saved, we can not earn it. Grace is God showing His love to us even though we do not deserve it. He GIVES it to us. Freely.

I am learning to accept His grace, to give myself grace, and offer that same grace to others.

How do you define grace? Have you struggled with the idea that God is a loving God, a grace-filled God?

 

I hope you will continue this journey with us as we spend the month of October chasing grace. If you would like a quiet reminder to join in each day click here to subscribe to the Chasing Grace series. Or, click subscribe in the sidebar.

 

 

{This post may contain affiliate links if you click them and purchase from them, it in no way impacts your cost, I simply get a tiny commission. Thank you!}

 

 

 


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Sally, tears and her new book. (revised)

This is a revised post from December, but I just had to, because tomorrow Sally Clarkson’s new book, Own Your Life, launches. And tomorrow evening she and some friends are going a webcast to introduce the book.

In December, I had the humbled privilege of getting a sneak peek into the book. I cried. Like ugly cried. Because… it’s Sally. And her words always fall like rain and wash over my soul. Comforting the hurting places, encouraging the scared places and because I secretly wish she lived next door. Right here everyday pouring into my life. But since she is not, I read her blog and her books, and her Facebook posts and pretend she is right here with me. And she always knows exactly what I am feeling. She is cool like that, because she and Jesus are super close, and He whispers to me through her. And this book, in so many ways, is going to be her best yet. I am so thankful she thought to write a book just for me.

Oh wait, I forgot, she wrote it for all of us. She says, “I want every woman to be renewed and refreshed in a personal life vision with the conviction that you can say with Paul : ‘I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus’”

Sally, I thank you for pressing on. For always pressing on.

For more information about her book check out Sally’s blog. To preorder “Own Your Life” go here…

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love

Buy from Amazon

For more information on the webcast go here, and there is a link to register there as well.

Revised from the archives


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I tasted the Grace and it was good.

I left my home on Thursday morning an Allume Newbie and in just three days I returned home an Allume alum. What I learned in the days between went far beyond anything I could have imagined.

Nearly a year ago when I felt God saying He wanted me to go to Allume, I thought He might just be thinking of the wrong person. Why would I, a girl who plays a writer on a blog, need to go to a blogger’s conference? A girl who has not been away from home in over 12 years without her husband and kids in tow? And not to forget that I would be going to a conference in which I did not know a single person that would be attending?

I didn’t have the answer, but I listened. I bought my ticket. Booked my room. And I waited. I waited seven months for this conference. As I followed Allume on Facebook and Twitter, I quickly identified myself with the hashtag #allumenewbie. Social media became my friend, and I began to learn what this blogging conference was all about. Or, so I thought.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, schedules were announced, twitter parties were had, and it became a reality. I was headed to this conference and I was in over my head, because these women were rockstars and I was an impersonator.

In a meager attempt to plan my weekend (you can read that as control it) I selected the sessions I would attend, bought more than enough food just in case I could not eat anything, you know, because of my multitude of food allergies. I packed piles of clothes. Clothes for when I felt good, clothes for the migraine days (because, well, I left my house with one) and clothes for the in between for when I was just felt blah. But most importantly, I planned to be inconspicuous. Just to blend. If I blended then no one would realize I was not a writer, and the writing police would not find me and quickly ban me from this event.

headed for allume road to allume

The morning of the first day, migraine raging, I left my house with just enough time to make it for registration. I rushed in franticly. Found my room. Dropped off my bags and out the door to the welcome mingle I went. It was kind of overwhelming, in fact, I must have had a neon sign flashing over me “Allume Newbie!” Because the ever amazing word weaver Jennifer Lee meets me in the hall and asks if this was my first year.

Of course, when I opened my mouth to speak, my words sounded kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wha wha wha wha wha wha… yeah like that. Then I might have even said I have your book, The Best Yes, insert foot in mouth here, this is so not her book! Love Idol! It’s Love Idol! I have it on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I knew those writing police were on to me and would only be a matter of minutes before I was tossed out onto the street. Yup. Allume newbie I was indeed.

Jennifer, she was ever so gracious. She smiled and nodded at my sheer embarrassment, took my awkwardness in stride and led me to the welcome mingle. She even told me that if I found myself without a dinner partner to come find her. She is a Jesus rockstar.

In the hours to come as I sat at dinner and listened to Logan’s opening keynote, my world turned upside down. God did not bring me to Allume to become a better blogger or writer, He brought me there because He loves me. He wanted me to feel that deep in my heart, to never doubt my importance to Him.

Logan and Sarah Mae IMG_4488 IMG_4489IMG_4498IMG_4512

He wove that thread through every keynote, every session, every chance meeting with another blogger… He loved me. At times I could not feel my breath, the weight of His love was somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to look real love in the eye without looking away. It is a love so holy, it seems shameful not to avert the eyes. But He would not have any of that, He was chasing me, pursuing me. He wanted me to see, to feel, to breath in His love. He was not going to let me go engrained in my soul.

He sought me through the sessions and keynotes to come and I scribbled notes in my notebook, trying to hang on to every. Single. Word. Why is it I do not know shorthand?

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend…

Rachel Jackson – We need to live everyday as if we are killing the enemy, even if that means just getting up.

Annie Downs – Lies – I have nothing to offer, no one is following me. Truth – Even if you have one follower you are mentoring them!

Sara Hagerty – God says I see your hidden moments and I like what I see. We have stories you and me, let’s build a history of just you and me.

Emily Freeman – (my paraphrase) Embrace wonder – as image bearers of a creative God we are called to fight for wonder.

Emily Wierenga – You are not defined by your story. You are not denied by who people say you are, but rather, by who God says you are. And He says you are loved. God does not allow Pain in your life to you there. No, He allows pain because it is the secret to your purpose.

Timothy Willard – (my paraphrase) Live in the new Narnia, because the further up and further in you go into God, you discover there is no end to Him. So choose each day to live in the hope of glory, to live in the magma of Christ who is in me and to tell the most dynamic story which is the gospel. It is what is making me beautiful.

But don’t get me wrong, this conference did not disappoint. In that notebook with notes scribbled long, amongst all the love notes from God, there are words upon words of tips and advice for writing well. For loving my audience, no matter how big or small, for showing them hospitality. 

It was bittersweet driving away on that Sunday morning. As much as I longed for home and my husband and girls, a part of me wanted to stay to soak it all in. Let it all break through my skin where the words of the weekend spread like salve on open wounds, strike straight through like arrows to my heart. To let it all become my heart.

I lingered in the hotel drive in the traffic jam that filled the circle. I watched as some of the speakers gathered on the shuttle to the airport, Logan walking to her car. We were all suspended in this circle waiting for the lead car to move on. It seemed a little surreal. Crowder was playing in the background, his voice breaking the silence “There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed, Come sit at the table, Come taste the grace, There’s rest for the weary, Rest that endures, Earth has no sorrow, That heaven can’t cure…”

I sat at that table and tasted the grace. As I watched and listened and spoke, the grace washed over me. It filled holes that had gaped for years. I gained a confidence that had vanished long ago. I found that I am not just a mom, I am a writer. I am a writer because He gave me a story to and He wants me to tell it. He wants me to tell it well. It is gospel.

 


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But We Were Unwilling.

31 days a writing challenge

 

Our house is filled with chaos and it answers to many names. Autism. Aspergers. Obsessive Compulsive disorder. Sensory processing disorder. Celiac disease. Hormone imbalance. Migraines. Food allergies.

This chaos is like a vortex that sucks you in without warning, and there appears no way out. The more you struggle, the deeper you go, and you fear you might just drown. We fight against it, drawing escape plans, creating ways to wrangle it, but really there is no fighting it. It is uncontrollable. Unpredictable. Undeniable.

For years we have lived in this chaos. Always running just on the edge of that vortex and for years we have continuously been sucked right into it.  We always say we need to find a way to stop this. We need to learn how to live. We need to learn how to stop the chaos.

This is where we erred. 

These things we bundle together and call chaos, they cannot be stopped. Sure we have doctors, therapists, medications; all tools to assist us in the chaos. But this chaos is and will always be a part of our lives. The answer is not in finding a way of stopping the chaos to find quiet, but finding the quiet in the chaos.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

This verse in its context is a warning to the rebellious. To those who have light, but choose darkness. Thinking themselves wiser than God and pursuing their own measures to salvation, but this path leads only to hasten their ruin.

This is where we erred. 

We rebelled. We took matters into our own hands and we sought to put an end to our chaos, instead of embracing it and turning toward the only one who could provide true quiet in the chaos. We rebelled. We were unwilling.

Pulpit Commentary puts it oh so perfectly for our circumstance.

“in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; in a quiet submission to the will of God, and in quietly waiting upon him for the issue and event of things, abiding in their own houses, and not in a hurrying tumultuous manner, running here and there for help; and in a holy and humble confidence in the Lord, and in the power of his might, where they should find such strength and security”

In all of our church going, bible reading and prayers, we have not simply sought Him for the quiet. In all of our hurrying and running we created more chaos. How simple would it be to return to God and seek Him in our chaos?  

To trust in His promise that  in returning and rest, you shall be saved, not the salvation we already have in Christ, but salvation from our chaos. Not that it be removed, but in that returning to Him, resting in Him, being quiet and waiting on Him would we not find quiet in our chaos?

 

Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:17

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:18

 

This is day six in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.


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Easter 2012

The sadness overwhelms. Tears well. And I swallow down hard. Images swirl in my mind. Thrashing skin. Thorns entwined. Broken body. Nailed to a broken tree. The words “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me.”

He didn’t take the cup, instead Jesus drunk it down. He took it and swallowed down all the pain and suffering. Took the punishment. And breathed His last breath.

His Father watching close. Watching His Son beaten and bruised. Mocked. Nailed to that tree. I imagine hot tears poured from His eyes, burning as they fell. He felt the grief. I wonder if He thought for a moment to put an end to this. The suffering and just bring Him home. But He didn’t. Instead He turned away and let the ugly darkness be put to death once and for all. And in all His glory He overcame this world.

Jesus’ body lay in rest. His soul tormented. The punishment. My punishment. He suffered it.

The one so perfect and pure suffered, bled and died. Then lived in torment for me. Three days spent in hell. For me. This undeserving wretch. He did it out of His love for me.

And it is all glory.

For God so loves the world that He gave his only begotten Son,, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

And on that third day… He rose again.