Trust & The Would You Rather Game

Sad Young Man

Would you rather die in a burning building or drown in the ocean?

They usually asked it form the back seat of a boring car ride.

Would you rather fall into a pit of snakes or have 10,000 spiders crawl all over you?

I cringed at their morbid questions but played along to keep a he touched me war from breaking out.

My answer, more often than not, would be a groan followed by, Neither one

“Gramma, you have to choose one,” they’d insist.

I have to choose one? I don’t want to accept that I have only two undesirable choices.

I’m grieved.

I’m heartsick.

I’m ashamed.

I’m grieved because the political front in America is disintegrating into a sophomoric competition of blame shifting and low blows. Where have decorum, respect and decency gone? Not to mention morals.

We’re being forced to play the Would You Rather Game and I hear myself groaning more than ever before. I honestly don’t know what my choice will be on the day my answered is required. A lot of us are groaning and getting ugly with each other as well.

I’m ashamed because our great nation, the land that I love, resembles a circus–a house of horrors if you will. This land of benevolence and generosity has become a showcase for all the ways power and greed corrupt. It has become a global spectacle. Lack of character, morality and integrity leave us all cringing and bewildered.

I’m heartsick because police officers are being murdered in record numbers. My son in law is a police officer with a wife and six children counting on him to come home at night after serving his community.

I’m heartsick because officer involved shootings of our citizens are now too common. It’s becoming harder and harder to identify the good guys from the bad guys. Heated lines are taken to the streets while hatred and fear draw lines on hearts.

Fear is being fostered in every corner of life. It pushes us inside–inside our walls and inside ourselves. An entire population resists connection so we lose the fiber of community and the strength in our camaraderie, both as a nation and as the body of Christ. Basic trust is whittled to dust and hope is scattered on the wind.

Where is trust found? Who can we trust?

We can’t trust man or man’s systems. We can’t trust what is being spoken, or promised or offered. We can’t. We never could actually.

The words I read in John remind me again that Jesus didn’t trust either. When he walked among us he always knew we couldn’t be trusted.

Because of the miraculous signs…many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.  (John 2:24-25 NLT)

Jesus placed his trust in his Father.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  (1 Pet. 2:23 ESV)

Because he trusted his Father he was able to enter into covenant with untrustworthy mankind. He knew full well that we’d never keep our end of the agreement.

Jesus entered into kingdom-partnership with us knowing absolutely that we would mess it up and get it wrong.

It wasn’t chivalry or heroics that compelled him. It wasn’t obligation that propelled him through the mire of humanity.

It was Love.

He chose to love, sacrifice for and redeem a people corrupted by sin in every possible way and  though grieved, he is never surprised at what he encounters living among us. He came knowing:

• • That his own would not recognize him. • •

• • That the forgiven would refuse to forgive. • •

• • That the healed would fail to return and give thanks. • •

He knew that his friends would betray him, religious leaders would kill him and that his bride would be an adulteress.

Jesus, Embodied-Love, commingled with sin-infected humanity offering our only hope for stability, freedom, peace and transformation. A future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

We can’t trust political parties or political candidates—our hope can’t be placed in that arena. We can’t trust justice systems or religious constructs—they fail to manage the scope of our sin and immorality and self-absorption.

Jesus entrusted himself to his Father and so must we.

We trust His will, His power and His plan. We trust the completeness of Holy Love to keep our hearts afloat in a sea of depravity.

trust

We entrust our grieving hearts and broken souls to the One who is love, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The One who is all this world cannot (and will not) offer.

For those reasons, we can live among a crooked and depraved generation without losing our love for them–without losing hope for them. We can encounter failing systems, failing governments and failing religious systems without losing hope that He contains, sustains and transforms lives.

We can look at the storms and not be shaken.

Jesus said:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14:1-3 ESV)

He is our home, both in this world, and the one to come.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled! This is our choice, weary friends! We can choose this! And in our choosing we can propagate hope in a world infected with sin.

DON’T BE AFRAID, FOR I AM WITH YOU.

DON’T BE DISCOURAGED, I AM YOUR GOD.

I WILL STRENGTHEN YOU AND HELP YOU.

I WILL UPHOLD YOU WIHT MY VICTORIOUS RIGHT HAND. –Isa. 41:10

Grace and peace!

P.S. I’d like to warmly welcome my new visitors! I see you from Italy, Germany, Brazil, Norway, India, France, Mexico and the UK! Many thanks to all who visit and follow Grace Grips. In a world saturated with good blogging, I am honored that you would spend a few minutes with me. Thank you for your referrals and for passing Grace Grips along to your friends. A big shout-out as well to those who can take time to comment! It is incredibly encouraging to know if these words inspire you! Big cyber hugs from a timorous author! 

Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus

Hole Up

Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus. 

The lines of that song came flooding into my head this morning, resurrected–I think–from a gray matter vault listed MEMORIES OF YOUTH GROUP circa 1974. I don’t think I’ve heard the song again since I sat in the Armory in Medford, Oregon with my gawky peers listening to Andre Crouch and the Disciples.

Last week I sat with puffy eyes and a pulverized heart, surrounded by a pile of wadded tissues in the corner of my bedroom. I repeated one prayer: “I can’t do this again, Lord!”

Let me lay down just enough background so that when I tell you what God did you will be encouraged in your heartache too. You will glimpse the nurturing heart of Father God like I did, and you will understand why my spirit regurgitated these lyrics:

Can’t nobody

    do me like Jesus

Can’t nobody

     do me like the Lord

Can’t nobody

     do me like Jesus

(Refrain) He’s my friend.

Six years ago I was dealt a heavy, life-altering blow by a loved one. I worked through it and worked hard to forgive and move on. Then last week I was blindsided with it’s sequel; the same gut-wrenching rejection and betrayal, the same heart-pulverizing crush that took over my thoughts and excavated the landfill of my life’s wounds. It triggered an avalanche of self-loathing and a running dialogue to run away–for good!

Perhaps you can understand that kind of hardwired pain with its large taproots that you’ve spent a lifetime hacking at. Sometimes current hurts can act like a key that opens the vault on terrible wounds. The pain of it can suck the breath–and rational thinking–right out of you.

I was pacing and praying and crying out in anguish and fear and confusion–cleaning and dusting when I stumbled upon a little piece of paper with a scripture reference I’d written. As I prepared to toss it, the Still Small Voice said, “Look it up.” I reached for my phone and looked up Psalm 46:10-11:

Be still and know that I am God…

I read it a couple times and let God’s voice settle into my thoughts and redirect my focus. As I was closing my Bible App, I received a Facebook notification. I clicked on the video  link. 

A newborn baby was crying and distressed, but when her daddy speaks her name and says, “I am here, it’s okay.” The baby immediately calms. A second time the baby is upset and crying her lungs out, once again she is soothed by her daddy’s voice. He repeats, “I am here…it’s okay, Daddy’s here…”—but this time the daddy adds, “…I love you.” The infant cranes her head in the direction of her daddy’s voice and then…

 …she opens her eyes 

Comedian Michael Jr. uses the video to illustrate an encouragement to those who are hurting:

“The key thing to do in the moment is to be still and listen to the Father’s voice….”

I became wrapped in the love and comfort of my Father. My prayer turned from “I can’t do this again, Lord! to “O Father….thank you for seeing me, for loving me.” I was so grateful that my Daddy heard my tears of pain and fear; that He stepped into the middle of it and spoke my name. I was calmed, ready to trust that same Love to lead me through wherever this will lead.

And then, as if on cue, the Andre Crouch throw back hymn played in my head. It was as if the Lord was saying, “Sherrie, I am the only one who understands your pain. I am the only one who sees you, truly sees you.

I’m you’re Father, let me soothe you—let me be your friend. 

Jesus knows the fiery burn of rejection. He knows what it feels like when your blessing is trampled underfoot. He sees the vulnerable efforts we make to love when our hearts want to run lock down. And he also sees how the enemy scoops up our pain and inflates it with lies and distortions and vivid remembrances of past hurts.

All of that, Jesus knows! He knows people will hurt us deeply…that we will hurt others.

But as He reached into my wailing room and spoke my name, calmed my fears and reminded me that He loves me, O, my friends He speaks your name as well.

Be still…your Father wants to soothe you with His love.

HOW?

“How do you maintain a critical need for God if your needs aren’t critical?”

five4

This question was posed to me many years ago by a speaker in a discipleship training school and I’ve never forgotten it. It struck a nerve with me because I immediately recognized my tendency to rely less on God when my circumstances are more comfortable. When hardships harass I’m digging in like a clam at low tide. When life is a bowl of cherries, I seem to get a mild case of amnesia and slip off into the dangerous waters of autonomy.

When our stuff tips the scales on our self-sufficiency it’s a no brainer–we seek His face, pour over His word and push our knees into the carpet inquiring of Him for the help we need. When pain eclipses our peace and pressures kick our hope to the curb, we don’t need a reminder of our constant and irrevocable need for our Savior.

We press into God most when trials and hardships press into us.  

We cry out Lord God, I cannot do this without you! But after we’ve made it through the rough patch, when life inadvertently settles down and we find ourselves in a season of easy travel, why do we invariably let down our guard and lessen our pursuit of the One for whom without we can do nothing?

On Easy Street I’m much too prone to slip into the driver’s seat. I take my prayer from the carpet to the car on my way to the next thing? Before I know it I’m off and running a marathon of independent living not realizing that I am becoming thirsty and weak and more susceptible to the one that came to steal, kill and destroy.

Lack of need can turn our clinging to Jesus into a base jumping lifestyle–hopefully we come to our senses before we slam into a rock face.

For me the first sign of independent living is the dissipation of my peace. It’s a subtle decline that is usually revealed when I have a knee jerk reaction to fear. Hmmm, where did that come from? I ask.

The dryness becomes noticeable—the anemia obvious and my apathy contagious.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who goes here?

Why do I need to hit the wall of my limitations and of my humanity before I adjust my course? I don’t want critical need to fuel urgency in my fierce pursuit of God. When my self-sufficiency, once again, leaves me soul parched and bloody I totter back onto the path of utter dependence upon Him.

If I’m completely transparent with you I’ll admit that many times throughout my walk with Jesus my spiritual discipline and dedication were born and fed more out of my need than from a place of love. I need to be in right standing with God.

In the early years the white noise of my spiritual canvas was glossed with compliance and performance. It looked something like this: A good Christian reads her bible every day. A good Christian keeps a fat prayer journal. A good Christian goes to church each time the doors open. A good Christian serves. A good Christian  ­­­­­­­­­____________________(fill in the blank).

Being raised in a wounding home inhibited my ability to see God as a loving father, it interfered with my freedom to fully trust His love for me. I could easily parrot the words and believe them to be true and infallible but I couldn’t grasp His love paired with my unlovability. I believed God loved me out of duty, but did He enjoy me? Hmmm…best to stay out of His way then and by all means, keep those i’s dotted and those t’s crossed.

I don’t have the complete answer to the question of how to maintain a critical need of God when our needs aren’t critical but I’ve got a start, I think.

When we’re in love–really truly in love–we can’t help ourselves from pursuing the object of your affection. Our desire drives our expressions and conduct rather than the “requirements” of the relationship. Until we are consumed with love for God, our practices risk being driven primarily by circumstantial need.

In that case is God merely reduced to an App we utilize for compliance, convenience and comfort?

Revelations 2 describes a church that was exemplary in their performance and epic in their achievements. But Jesus said of them, which applies to all of us as well:

I have this against you; You’ve lost your first love.

As a wife, I would be so disheartened by my husband’s acts of love, service and commitment if they were simply offered out of rote duty and compliance. My friends might be impressed with the flowers, gifts and date nights–but if love didn’t initiate them they would be painfully empty gestures.

Can I suggest that love is the crucial ingredient in maintaining a critical need for God?

Hardship, brokenness, poverty, illness, rejection, lack or loss–these are temporary and transient,  Love is not.

April’s Fool?

I hardly ever think about it.

But today I woke realizing that it was the anniversary. Thirty-seven years ago I walked down the aisle in a fog and a homemade dress I hated to marry a man I didn’t know or love. Waiting at the front with my five attendants was a gregarious and charming ministry student.

I was terrified of him because he was harsh and intimidating. I agreed to marry him because he wore me down repeating, “You can ignore me all you like. You can run. You can even hide. But sooner or later you’re going to be my wife because God said so.”

For added confirmation, the pastor supplying our pre-marital counseling chortled in his jovial Norwegian accent, “I hardly think we have much to cover here. It’s clear to me God put you together and called you to ministry.”  (Is it just me or does an accent seem more believable?)

I was a shell-shocked (PTSD was coined later) chamilion-like young woman with no identity so I complied and entered into the script that awaited my performance. My reasoning was rather messed up and went something like this: If God tells people to go to African countries where they will eat bugs and sleep on dirt for His sake, can’t he tell  a messed up young woman to marry for the same reason? 

No matter my internal reluctance, I pressed on, though I wasn’t the elated bride planning her big day. For me it was little more than a function to coordinate and the sad thing was, I didn’t know the difference.

My groom said years later, “You just looked like the kind of woman a pastor would need as a wife.”

When we met he had been a Christian just under two years. He’d come out of addiction on three sides, was reared in a home with seven step-fathers, had a fearful salvation experience, displayed life manageability issues, felt called to the ministry and was a musician in a Christian band.

I was a child sexual abuse survivor, raised in an un-nurturing alcoholic home and was the poster child for codependency, though in those days it was recognized as having a servant’s heart. Similarly, my “come to Jesus” was fear of eternal damnation. To complicate matters further, I had been raped the year we got married. I feared God more than loved Him and I sought safety in doing His work.

In the late seventies and early eighties, God was moving supernaturally among the lost and drug addicted youth of our generation. The prevailing idea that old things had passed away and behold all things had become new gave so many of us assurance that we could take our broken messed up selves and successfully step out to serve Jesus!

And some did.

Nine years after ‘til death us do part we had three children (in 2 1/2 years), had moved 11 times, had planted a church, had lost said church due to moral failure and relapse, had endured three separations and finally divorced.

Here’s the heart of what I want to share with you today:

God is more interested in who we are in Him than what we can do for Him and He’s committed to revealing that, especially to bruised hearts.

Both of us thought God wanted our servitude but both of us were too broken to realize that God wanted us. He wanted us to know and experience the boundless, immeasurable love He has for us and that nothing could or would separate us from that Love.

What neither of us knew then, but praise God we know now, is that until we experience the Love of God for ourselves, we are really just imposters attempting to share His love with others.

Last summer we sat poolside at the birthday party of one of our grandchildren and fellowshipped like old friends loved by God. In the ensuing years since our never-thought-it-would-be-said-of-me divorce, God’s love pulled him from the brink of certain death by addiction and pulled me from the brink of certain death by insanity.

The world says only a fool would love as He loves:

Vulnerably

Unconditionally

Sacrificially

Selflessly

Patiently

Fully

As the Shulamite said in Solomon’s Song of Songs,

Rightly do they love you. (1:4)