Lament

Two years ago, I wrote these words.  I have written a lot of words and talked a lot about that in the last two years.  Most of the words I have written I cannot share.  They are too personal and too deep and they carry too much ache.  David read some of the words I wrote this week, and he said, you wrote that just a few days ago? That’s so vivid.

Because that’s how this sort of experience is. It’s vivid. And it stands apart from your other memories like some kind of etherial experience that you wish was a dream. And it whispers to you and it breathes at you in quiet and secret places when your mind is too busy to keep it down.

One of these pieces I wrote and I can’t share, but I so deeply want to.  I so deeply want other people who have been hurt in the way I have been to know that they aren’t alone. That it’s not okay.  That people who speak for God are still just people and sometimes they don’t actually speak for God. I want people to understand what it does to a heart, to a mind, to a soul, to hear words spoken carelessly that you can never unhear. I feel like people don’t stand up enough and say NO. You cannot speak that way. You cannot behave that way. It is NOT. OKAY.  But I don’t have peace about sharing it, and so I can’t.

One of the ways that I heal, that I make sense of life is by writing about it. And by thinking of you, dear reader, and hoping that in some way the Lord will redeem tiny moments– beautiful ones and especially the not so beautiful ones to glorify himself. That in the reading of my words, your eyes will be lifted to the face of Christ, and he will grow more beautiful to you.  It helps me to behold and to remember and to adore the face of Christ in my circumstances when I sit down to try to show it to you.

I am learning another way to behold Christ in the midst of brokenness.  And when I say “am learning” I mean I have barely begun.  It is the language of lament.  It is being willing each day, when even two years later, I hear whispers of lies as crystal clear as if they had been spoken to me today, I weep, I pray, I lay it out before Christ, my rescuer, in words and in sobs and in sighs. And he doesn’t tell me to get over it or to move along, sister.  He weeps with me. His nail scared hands remind me that he has carried the burdens of my sins and the sins done to me. His grace carries me when shame tries to empty me.

I am doing this with more than just this residual pain that seems to keep coming back around every few months. I do this when I hear both sides of the abortion debate. I do it when I think about just every broken thing that America is right now. That our world is right now. I do it when I think of refugees, of children and men and women in slavery.  I just lay it out before the Lord and I lament. And I say yes to feeling the hurt, and yes to living with the ache, because the same Holy Spirit that was present with Jesus as he said yes to death is alive in me.  And I am finding that when I don’t try to steele myself against brokenness, when I don’t just try to move on, be a grown up, and keep it together, my heart grows soft to hear Holy Spirit whispers of how to join Jesus as he makes all things new.

I think sometimes we’re afraid to be sad. Afraid to really look at what has happened in our stories or in our world or in our community because we know we will find things that are worthy of lament, and then we will be overwhelmed and we won’t know what to do and we will just be sad and hopeless and angry.  Friend, Jesus is strong enough to carry lament.  And it is a soft and broken heart that can ache with longing for a future inheritance.  It is a soft and broken heart that clings to Jesus, aware that obedience is not something it is capable of apart from the grace of God.  And it is a person with a soft and broken heart that has open ears and ready feet to obey Holy Spirit whispers of redemption that will bring God’s kingdom now, while we wait with expectation for the day when all will be made new.

OneWord 2016

I have been thinking, praying, and hoping to come up with my “one word” for 2016 for several days now. And, even though I actually did start thinking about it before January 1 this year, it wasn’t until yesterday that something finally came to me.  So, in typical Lindsey fashion, here is the post that most people would publish on the first day of the year, on January 4th.

I am frequently frustrated that spiritual change doesn’t come the way I wish that it did or the way that I expect it to, even though I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I still expect the birth of spiritual things in me to happen the way birth happens in the movies even though I know that birth takes time. That it’s slow and subtle and that most of the work is done in the waiting, in the holding on and leaning into the ache.   That only at the end of birth, while that newborn baby nurses for the first time, do we look back and say “Yes, I must have been in labor then.”

This way of thinking has been unlike what I have previously termed “Spiritual Growth,” for I am not setting out with a plan or a goal or a list of character qualities to grow in myself. No, this spiritual birth I am describing is a lot more about God than it is about us and the kind of people we are. It is in the gazing long and hard and in community at the God of the Bible that we find ourselves changed, that we see spiritual birth in our lives and celebrate the births in the lives of others.

And it is for this reason that I waited and I let my word for the year come on its own, that I am through calculating and orchestrating spiritual growth, that I am ready to lean in to the waiting, to allow the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit and the community of faith to work lasting, meaningful change in my heart, rather than attempting to cook something up with good words or nice thoughts or even noble goals for character improvement. I have been where those things lead me. And it was self-centered striving, heartbreaking disappointment, and ugly pride.

I have heard it said that the spiritual disciplines put us in the way of God’s grace—that as we read the Word, pray, confess sin, and spend time with the Lord and with one another, we open ourselves up to the life changing work of the Holy Spirit. To the grace that changes our hearts.

And this is why, my friends, I am excited about my one word for this year. Because it really has been months and months in the coming. That as I held this word in my heart, as I wrote it down over and over again, as I spelled it out in refrigerator magnets, I have looked back on my life and said, “Yes, I must have been in labor then.”

But birth is only the beginning, isn’t it? I am eager to see the way the Lord makes this word a part of me in the year to come, the way he who began a good work in me will keep on working.

My #oneword for 2016?

Living Room Liturgy: Third Week of November

Psalm 37

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him…

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, 

and his tongue speaks justice. 

The law of his God is in his heart, 

his steps do not slip.” 

Today, Lord, make me still before you.

In a world that rushes to do violence and to repay violence, may my heart hush still before you, eager for your wisdom.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him.

When my heart is tempted to worry and to preoccupation with the ache of our world, steady it with your wisdom.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

When all my heart can muster is fretful longing, fill it with the delight of the Lord.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

When the world creaks with sin’s ugly brokenness, remind me that sin is always first an offense against a Holy God.

Be still before the Lord.

When I come upon injustice in the world, in my home, in my community, be my voice.

Wait patiently before him.

When I choose complacency and convenience over justice and mercy, lead me in the way of righteousness.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

When this world’s brokenness and wickedness and injustice tempts me to close up, help me to open up the very same way your son did.

Mark my life by the generosity of the cross.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

Whatever interruption shakes the world, my country, my community, my family today, may I be found stubbornly trusting in your Lordship.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

Though all I have fall aside, though wickedness prospers, You, Lord, uphold my life. You are the keeper of my soul. 

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

As you daily teach this truth to my heart, may it move me to a place of fearless righteousness and resolute mercy.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

Make us Generous

It’s a quiet September morning. It has taken all my energy and stamina, but I have loaded up a toddler and my very pregnant self into a car and driven a half hour to a church building full of women I have never met before, praying that my very obvious pregnant stomach will act as a buffer for my awkwardness around people I don’t know.

I have braced myself for sympathetic smiles and circles from which I am excluded and less-than-enthusiastic welcome for my daughter, who has never been away from me before and doesn’t actually fit into the appropriate age category.

After all, I am new here and this is a church.

I am met by something much different from my expectations. I am welcomed. My child is welcomed. And over the next 9 months, that welcome continues to grow to include my new baby for whom there technically is no class, but somehow always is someone willing to hold her.

It has been a year, I now bundle up my two toddlers, load them and my (very non-pregnant) self into the van and drive the ever-so-worth-it 30 minute drive to my Bible Study. Our Bible Study. The anticipation grows, and I am greeted and greet others by name, gather in that familiar circle, and our leader smiles warmly and begins to pray. Her words strike me deep in the heart, between deep breaths and the smell of fresh coffee.

“May we be generous…”

Generous? At first I assume she is referencing the offering envelopes we pass around the circle each week. And then I listen again, and I hear what she is saying. I hear what the Lord is saying.

“May we be generous as we share with one another.”

Her prayer is that we will share generously the truth that has been generously shared with us, that the grace extended to us we will freely extend to one another.

I wipe a tear from my eye and lift my head, eager to share with these women who have become such a welcoming place for me.  Eager to receive all the Lord has for us this morning.  Eager to be generous.

For me this is a place where it is easy to be generous. Where I walk in feeling like I’m brimming with insight and joy and expectation, and leave just as full as ever I walked in, full of new insight and joy and anticipation.

Another day, I sit in a different circle, and my heart breathes that prayer quiet, Lord make me generous. Here it is not so easy. Here I do not always leave feeling affirmed and encouraged. Here I often feel misunderstood and marginalized.  It is not easy to be generous.

Weeks later, I sit in my living room alone and feel that familiar pang. The sting of being misunderstood and alone. That homesick longing for “my people” rises in my heart and I’m tempted to wish those if onlys.  And the Lord reminds me again that he can make me generous.

He, the very same God who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?

Jesus. Very God of Very God.  The God who became a man and gave himself for us and for our salvation.

Generously.

Though he was misunderstood and marginalized.

Accused and brutally murdered.

Generously. Gave Himself.

And while the pang is still fresh in my heart, while my eyes still feel the sting of tears as I think of familiar people and comfortable places, I feel his hand gentle around mine, carefully prying clenched fingers open. The generous king making me generous.

Living Room Liturgy: second week of november

Psalm 43

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me.

Lord, as I take my steps today, make me a channel of your grace.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

As I move through the rhythms of my day,  make my ears quick to hear your voice and my feet ready to obey.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

As I speak to my children, husband, friends, co-workers, family members, strangers may my words be filled with your truth and rich in love.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

As I walk in the way set before me today, may I be attentive to the presence of your Holy Spirit.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

When I stumble, Lord correct me.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

Lord, by your grace, grant that i may live today as artwork and offering to the glory of your name and the coming of your kingdom.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

Amen.