Putting the Lie to Rest

leather bound journal with calligraphy pen, by Curt Fleenor

Leather Bound Journal with Calligraphy Pen by Curt Fleenor is licensed under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Cor 10:5 (NIV)

I look at my journal, that precious place where God and I meet, and I see a great, big “SHOULD” button flashing in my brain.  I try to pick up my pen, but I can’t start to write.  Shaking my head, I drop the pen back on the desk and push away the journal.  “No,” my insides shout, “not now,” so I sigh and turn to face the lush green woods outside my office window.  Something tight, something heavy, blocks my wonder, my creativity, my productivity;  I can’t even finish the simplest of tasks.  I can almost feel a physical grip on my heart.

“Oh, just do it,” my earnest evangelical friend (whose voice resides firmly in my head) exhorts.  “Don’t think and introspect;  Only start, and the rest will follow.”

Fair enough.  Plenty of times, my mountain is moved by small ant-sized accomplishments.   But this is not one of those times.  I know myself.  This lack of rest, driven busyness, and restless non-work are not driven by a lack of will.  Gutting it out may work as a short term prod, but never as a long-term solution.

“Ah,” my charismatic friend might say, “Your symptoms scream ‘enemy’!  His hallmarks, right there, holding you back!  Pray against that stronghold!”

Maybe.  In truth he is undoubtedly at work.  But that’s not where to start, not by a long shot.  Instead, I think about my reactions: my busyness, the piles of work I can’t complete, the immobilization that halts my every start.  The busyness isn’t my enemy—it’s just a coping mechanism.

What really lies at the heart?

Lurking beneath my roadblocks are usually deeper issues—reasons I don’t stop, or don’t rest, or can’t accomplish.  Unearthing those reasons will free me to move forward—or step back—intentionally.

Ironically, pondering will have to lead to journaling, that thing I don’t want to do because I’m afraid of what I will find.  Yes, that’s one block:  I’m afraid to rest and find out what’s lurking because I surely won’t like my own sin, or the sin done against me. Perhaps I won’t like the solution, either.  Can I trust that the word the Lord speaks will heal and not destroy.  Another block, surely.

But underneath is yet another lie. A bigger one, sucking me dry.  I know it’s there, and I know the process:  find the lie, discover where it came from, and pray for healing.  Listen to what the Lord says, and feel His presence changing my perspective surrounding its birth. He pours grace and peace over the still-throbbing ulcer and the pain subsides.  He heals the wound and changes my heart, and my body and soul return to rest.  Gladly.

I don’t know what it is yet.  I can’t tell you what the offending lie is, nor where it came from.  But I promise you this:  I will not rest, cannot rest, until it is found.  Jesus and I…  we will find that thing that chokes me, and Jesus will dissolve it.

And so I’m off on a lie-hunt.    And what about you?  Do you hunt, too?

Let’s hunt together, you and I. We all have those callouses of long-forgotten lies, built up to protect our vulnerable hearts.   Now they hurt instead, keeping us from all that Jesus brings: healing, restoration, and rest.

Can we join forces here?  What are the lies that hold you back?  What healing will free you and destroy them?

 

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Come Unto Me

image from mosaic in Dominus Flevit church, Mount of Olives. Image courtesy lentdevos.wordpress.com

image from mosaic in Dominus Flevit church, Mount of Olives. Image courtesy lentdevos.wordpress.com

“…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Mt 23:37

 

The world was too much with me. Beheadings in Iraq. Missiles in Israel and Gaza. Refugees stranded and starving on a mountaintop. A sweet, manic comic dead by his own hand. Too much change, too much pain, too much sorrow. I burrowed deeper under my pillow, too sad to cry, too weary and afraid to venture out.

How could the world’s troubles be so far and so near at the same time, somehow broadcast into my head from thousands of miles away. It could, perhaps would happen here one day. What would keep crowds of marauders from attacking my home and my bedroom, or devastating suicidal depression from consuming my soul and crippling my will?

“Come Unto Me.”

I tried to imagine Jesus by my bedside, with kindness and a good morning welcome in his eyes. It seemed too much an anachronism and I went back to the pillow. But the image stayed and He didn’t go away.

“Come Unto Me.”

But what about the children, I wondered. I wanted to take a stand, I wanted to help. I also wanted to be safe… secure… and rest. The images battled in my brain, so I stopped to let them settle.

“Come Unto Me.”

I imagined the Lord with long feathered wings, somehow gathering both me and all the hurting children under his massive reach, pulling us deeper, closer to His body, sheltering us from the storm. Watching the stormy world from His safe haven, I pushed my back closer to His side. Gradually, my heartbeat slowed. Gradually, terror ebbed away and engulfed a bit less of my soul.

“We’re not on that page of your story yet.”

Ah, the old story image. I nodded, beginning to understand. Years ago during a time of prayer I had imagined a storybook, the Lord reading my story to me. I was little, perhaps six years old, He was big. He squatted next to me and we pointed to pictures of my life. The house, the stone wall next to the garage, my dad, a friend. Each picture was a chapter, and the book was long, endlessly long.

I imagined horrors looming near the end of the book. “What if something happens? I couldn’t deal with that!” I was impatient, turning pages to get to the end, but He stopped me. “We’re not on that page, yet,” He said, the corners of His mouth smiling gently at my impatience.

“Yet? YET? You mean something DOES happen?” He shook His head. No, that wasn’t what He meant. He wouldn’t tell me the end of the book, or even a later chapter. We would deal with that when and if it happened. Whatever picture appeared, He would be there walking through the story with me.

The hurting children. I extracted myself from the comforting image as pictures of tortured children once again filled my brain, but Jesus wouldn’t leave me there. He shook his head slowly, side to side, warning me without a word.

“Come Unto Me.” I nestled back under His “wing” with all the hurting children. Here, I could be safe. From here, He could use me to help. To pray. To give. To act. But from safety, not pain or fear.

Rest. His place of rest gave me strength to live.

Where is your place of rest, sheltered under His wings?

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Missing Jesus

 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’” (Mt. 11:16-17, NIV)

 

It’s not very gratifying to fight with the anonymous editor of the liturgical lectionary. He or she is probably long-dead and wouldn’t pay attention anyway. So who do I rail against? God, for creating the readings? Or the editor who splashed the readings together like murky mis-matched ingredients in an unappetizing pudding?

The combination of Romans 7 and Matthew 11 for last Sunday was not my favorite pairing. Whether intentional or not, I heard condemnation from Paul (the good which I want to do I don’t do; and I do that which I do not want to do (paraphrase mine)) and frustration from Matthew (to what shall I compare this generation – Jesus’ irritation with the multitudes and cities which did not receive Him and wrote Him off).

“Great,” my soul said. “I am wicked and doomed to fail, without wisdom and doing what I shouldn’t, having all the wrong reactions.” My brain knew quite well that the writers of the Scripture did not intend that; I’d looked further than the intended readings and found lots of “rest” and “come to me all ye that are heavy laden” and “there is now no condemnation” passages. My heart, however, whined at the thought of dealing with the bad news before I could land on the good.  

The words, “Do I have to?” came to mind more than once, and I strongly considered tossing either a pillow or The Book at the wall in the general direction of the imagined lectionary editor. Couldn’t we switch to another Sunday’s readings? My grumblings took on that pre-nap thin, nasal, whiney tone that goes up an octave.

Not so fast, my husband countered gently as he tugged me back from my tantrum. It’s important to see why those passages are there, he said. I want to look at the context, he said. Yeah, yeah, whatever, I thought as I headed back to the computer. Gnarly. I was gnarly.

So it was ironic to find I was doing exactly what the passages warned against. I was missing Jesus, the same way the multitudes and the cities did. They expected something else from Jesus. They wanted Him to be a high and lofty military general, or a rescuer, or an educated Pharisee or something, anything other than who He was.

And I wanted Him to give me rest before I considered what He was really saying. He wanted me to see what He was really doing and challenge my heart to follow;   I wanted comfort.

“Okay, Lord.” I sighed as I gave up and landed in the chair. “Where am I missing you? Where am I overlooking the obvious wonders that you are doing?”

He replied without a hint of condemnation. “You’re despairing. You want big healings and wonders but you’re forgetting the little ones.”

Little ones? What little ones? My thoughts waded into a defensive puddle before I could stop them. My lower lip stuck out. Pouting? Was I pouting??

“Alright, really, what am I missing, Jesus?” There, that was more like it. I actually meant it this time.

“I’m answering the little prayers. Look smaller.” Smaller? I frowned, thinking fast. You mean all the times I prayed that fearsome storms would pass – and they did? You mean all the times that bad things didn’t happen? And the times I didn’t self-destruct in the middle of giving a talk or a sermon? You mean all the times that my dreaded illnesses weren’t as bad as I expected? And the times He blessed me with lots and lots of little successes? Those times?

In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus nod subtly and smile. I’d prayed big prayers and He was glad. Recently, though, the big answers eluded me. The little ones? Oh, I disregarded the little ones.

And so I thanked Him — for storms that passed, for sales made, for smiles seen, for encouraging words; for laughing at emails, for crying with friends; for sunsets, flowers, cats in the drive and birds in nests, for cars that lived long and for fights that ended short — I stopped and thanked. I chose to see Him. I redirected my eyes.

And then I rested. If I skipped the hard verses, I would not have entered into the nicer ones. Funny how one had to precede the other. A change of thinking, then a childlike response: dropping the burden at Jesus’ feet. No condemnation, lots of rest.

My shoulders relaxed as I leaned back, eyeing a large glass of lemonade. “How many times,” I wondered, turning the glass in my hand. “How many times do we miss Jesus?”

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