Words Matter– Spoken and Unspoken

Have you ever stood out on the beach and just yelled into the wind? Did anyone hear you?

Social Media traffic is the online wind, tainted by “deboosting”, “algorithms”, “shadowbanning” and the bias of those enforcing them.

That’s a part of what I’m thinking of as I type this on my Social Media platform.

But, it’s more than that.

For me there has been a recurring theme of a sense of being unheard, undervalued, even unseen.

I found at times I could use that to my advantage in a defensive/protective kind of way– I could leave a room and not be missed. I could stay quiet and no one notices or tries to talk with me.

I can’t begin to describe that deep lonliness I’ve just learned to live with.

Why don’t some people want to hear me?

Some are so engrossed with what they want to say, others are lost under the clutter of words, ideas and opinions.

Writing has been my out-source. Sometimes I feel free to say whatever I want to say.

Except I’m not.

Because what if someone reads something they find offensive or hurtful?

It’s always about everyone else.

What about me? Do I ever get to just talk and be heard?

When can I openly share my heart and concerns?

I could tell some crazy and awesome stories!

I could even share bits of wisdom from firsthand experiences.

I think I’m pretty funny. (Don’t ask my husband though, lol!)

I’m pretty creative.

My topics of passion and pet peeves have “evolved” through experiences, trials and life lessons learned from that popular school of “hard knocks”.

One thing has always gotten me through the silent times, the emptiness, and the “I don’t quite fit ins”.

Answered prayer.

Because when no one sees me, hears me, or values my input or presence– God always has. And He has always let me know.

I’ve seen Him transform lives. I’ve seen Him heal people– He even healed me! I’ve seen miracles!

It’s sad that some will just never know what God has done because they won’t stop talking and listen to others.

Talking has always been a struggle for me. The anxiety after talking in a group setting is suffocating. Did I say too much? Did I talk too long? Did what I say make any sort of a difference to anyone? My spirit feels anxious, restless, even worried.

I know this problem is not with others– not most of it.

It’s how I react, how I relate, how I believe I’ll be received.

Or rejected.

Having been told I was “in God’s way” from someone who’s opinion I deeply valued has had an almost crippling affect on my life.

Having been told that I’m “poor in spirit” has stuck with me through decades of church relationships and church leadership. I think that’s because I’ve heard so little to counter-balance and cancel that out.

Where Scripture has admonished us to build up one another– I’m not a “one another” worthy of that, it appears to me.

Tearing down is for strongholds, not for people. Not ever for people.

I’m guilty of having torn others down in my past.

I guess it’s taken feeling like that outcast that helped me wisen up and learn the necessity of speaking life– and life abundantly– to one another.

This is my invisible enemy that fights me often. I wrestle not with flesh and blood– I know this too well.

I have people I do talk to, though my list is growing smaller by the year.

There will, however, always be One on that list. That is in no way a sad or depressing thing. I have the ear and attention of God attuned towards me. That is humbling– so very humbling.

Worshiping in Spirit, in Truth

I’m not a performer.

While I got over “stage-fright” years ago, I don’t like the spotlight. If I could plug in my violin and play from the next room, unseen by anyone, that would be my ideal situation.

Since my husband and I married, Worship has kind of been our “thing”. We’ve been involved with several ministries and churches the past 2 decades. While every experience is different, the focus has most often been the same– God.

At this point in my life, I believe I’m settling into who I am in Christ more. I don’t have to prove myself, I’m a seasoned Christian, with a solid understanding of Scripture, unwavering in my belief and understanding of Who I serve.

But, as settling has occurred, my understanding of certain concepts is changing.

Like the concepts of worship.

The Bible says we worship in spirit and in truth.

My church family says we worship with music.

Do these two ideas contradict one another?

As my husband points out in his latest blog What Worship is Not, there really is not as much emphasis in Scripture about music worship as we sometimes make it seem. There is not an office for Worship Leader.

Do we focus too much on our own definition and understanding of worship?

I know it’s easy to go on the defensive and stop listening when something we believe in strongly is challenged. I’m not set out to challenge, I’m just re-thinking things a bit.

Where in our current recogized system of worship does in spirit and in truth fit in? Sure, we can claim we do these naturally as we focus on God with our spirit, and sing verses written about Biblical truth, and that makes it all fit in a neat, nice little package that is easy on the ears and heart.

But.

Is it all really for God?

Does God need the sound system? Does He need the lights? The projection screens? What about the music and perfect-sounding voices– does God need that?

Is that what worship is to God?

What if we just didn’t have the worship part of the service one Sunday, and just dove straight into the preaching? Would that affect God at all?

If we are honest, our system of worship is really for ourselves. We like the concert-type atmosphere, with our favorite coffee off to the side when we finish. We believe we are ushering His Presence into ours– isn’t it really us just becoming aware of His Presence that is everywhere all the time, and living within those of us who have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, sealing us with the Holy Spirit?

Individually some do bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. But, do we corporately? Do we even know what that really means?

How do we worship in spirit? Does it have to involve music?

How do we worship in truth? Do we have to sing to do so?

When I think about Julie Andrews having her voice taken from her, I can’t help but wonder– what would happen if our music abilities or apparatuses were taken from us? Would we stop “worshiping” altogether?

Square Person in a “Well-rounded” World

That’s me there– the square one. You’d think I’d be the well-rounded one with all my experiences and whatnot, but that’s not how it really works.

Words that have been used to describe me by others over the years–

Intense.

Intimidating.

Too sensitive.

Angry-faced.

Project.

Beautiful.

Tenacious.

Words I wish I heard about me–

Compassionate.

Loving.

Kind

Giving.

True friend.

Loyal.

Honest.

Beautiful.

Generous.

Acceptable.

That last one is probably the most coveted by me. There seems to always be something people want me to change in order to “fit” their box for me and change the label they’ve put on me.

It’s not going to happen.

I’ll never again be happy-go-lucky. I’ve experienced too much first hand.

I’ll never be the perfect cook or housekeeper. I just won’t.

I’ll never perform the way anyone thinks I should. I have no desire to jump through “social norm” hoops.

Life has filed down my rounded edges into sharp corners with precise edging.

I can’t go back to being ignorant of pain and suffering.

I can’t heal the wounds others can’t see or make the invisible scars actually disappear for good.

I can’t become someone I have not been designed or conformed through life experiences to be. I can’t, and I won’t.

I am not my outer appearance.

I’m not my experiences.

I’m not maleable to people’s whims and wishes.

I am who God has made me to be, and who He continues to shape– as He kneads the mars and scars.

I am misunderstood and misread, as well as overlooked and undervalued.

Somedays I am only loved by God.

But– I am always loved by God, and that is what makes the difference to me.

I have demonstrated my love for others through acts of service in the past– serving my country, using my gifts and talents for the Body of Christ.

Right now I’m in a season of rest and retreat.

I’ve lived for 1/2 a century. I’ve seen and experienced so many things in those years, sometimes it overwhelms my heart, my mind and my spirit.

I’ve been looking for the miracles of God in people’s situations and lives. I’ve seen some in my life, in my circumstances, and God has caused my own life to do a 180 turn. Miracles are not always evident, but if you can catch just a glimpse of one, you are seeing the evidence of God in action.

I could chip away at the edges, but I’d be leaving off what God has carefully shaped. While that might please the well-roundeds, it would not please God.

So, I don’t mind being a squared person in a well-rounded world.

Because that’s the shape God has formed me into.

Caught In The Middle

I just caught a live sermon from Elevation Worship about transitioning. As I listened, it hit me– that’s what I’m going through!

I’m in such a weird place right now.

I don’t mean physically, or emotionally. Not really mentally– just in life in general.

I’m not young anymore, but not old. In my heart I feel maybe 15-20 years younger, but in my body I feel way older than I am. Maybe that’s part of that thing I was diagnosed of years ago.

Maybe not.

I’ve got two grown kids, and two at home. I’ve been a spouse and home educating mom for so many years now– much of that kind of isolated.

I think I’ve grown up now. Transitioning into a different mindset, a newly focused one– who did I grow up to become?

I’ve been defined by what I do for far too long now. I’m not satisfied with definitions and labels deciding who I am for me.

I’m caught in the middle of a transition.

And, sometimes that makes me a bit weepy. Sometimes I feel impatient for it to just be finished so I can step into the newness of being transformed into a better, wiser person.

Being caught in the middle feels chaotic, tumultuous– even ugly.

Looking through pictures to post here about transitioning, I found some interesting ones that helped me change my own perspective on being caught in the middle of a transition.

Like this dandelion caught in the middle of transitioning from a wildflower to seeds carried off by the wind.

Or the transition of day into night, with the sun captured, creating a breathtaking view– caught in the middle of the daily transition.

There is always a lot going on in the middle of a transition, but even if it feels awful, when we surrender our control– or lack of control– to God, He makes it a beautiful thing, with a beautiful change.

So, while I’m in this place that feels weird and lonely, often designated as the listener with nothing of value to say– God sees beauty in the process, and hopefully in me.

Transformed By Transcendence

I used to hold the collateral damage in

Stuff it way down deep

Keep it out of sight

Like it was nothing but a junk heap.

I used to care about

What people thought

But then I woke up

I’m different– so what?

I’ve lived an intense life

There are depths I know

Created through strife

I’ve been embarassed to show.

When I began to embrace

The pain and emotions

The trials and the breaks

The personal notions–

I realized others were in need!

I could share what God’s done!

How He’s made that difference

I’m thankful He’s the Healing One.

You see, rejection and I

We go way back– years!

We’ve been intertwined

Tied with dread and fears.

I used to surrender

Just accept the defeat

Now my spirit is strengthened

I forced it to retreat.

Oh, it still pops up

Tries to drag me back down to submission

But I know it’s a lie

I know it’s a fake prison.

I walked away

And found my acceptance

I have risen above, no longer blind

Transformed by transcendence.

I’ve embraced my purpose

I accept it’s about more than just me

Others need my experience

To identify with their need.

My pain, my wounds

My steep pile of stuff

Belongs to other

Diamonds in the rough.

I don’t matter to many

It’s ok, I accept it

Those lives most affected

Are puzzles my life fits with.

My views are intense

I embrace pain till it runs it’s course

Ignoring it seals it in

Confronting it gets to the source.

I thought I had to apologize

For being more sensitive than most

Yet, I owe no person anything

Except to the encroached.

My life has been open

My story a book for the broken

No more apologies

My understanding is now awoken.

Challenging Narratives

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASV

My husband had a conversation with someone dear to us that has inspired me to work through some thoughts I’ve kind of held on to for awhile now. I say kind of, because I’ve shared them with him but no one else.

I want to talk about grace– actually– point out a lack of the narrative of grace.

Grace is the difference between Christianity and every other religious belief.

Grace is humbling. Grace removes our efforts from the act of Salvation.

Grace should be easy to demonstrate and practice, a relaxation of criticism and fault-finding. But, in reality, grace is tough.

Grace removes blame. Grace replaces pride and self importance.

Grace removes accusations of other Christians.

We have many, many, many excuses for why it’s not first and foremost in our mindset, actions and view of others.

We look at what others do and we jump to some pretty strong conclusions about them and the condition of their soul, because of their choices that we don’t agree with.

We judge the container of their soul and think we’re in the right.

Only Jesus Saves.

Not doing the “right” “approved” things.

Not going to every church service possible and exhausting ourselves while not being ministered to or admitting what our needs are.

Not having a perfect house.

Not only reading “accepted” books or playing “accepted” games.

We don’t lose our Salvation by watching movies or shows that have garbage in them.

Our part in the Salvation process is confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and believing in our heart that He died on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose again on the third day, and He ascended into Heaven to wait for the time to return to rule and reign on earth for 1000 years. And then– go out and share the Gospel of peace and grace.

That is our part.

Jesus makes the changes to the desires of our hearts.

He is continuously perfecting us until His return.

Allow me to clarify: I’m not talking about outright sin. Some things are not in our best interest. Some things are stumbling blocks and we know what we need to avoid in order to have the best relationship with Jesus that we can– like we should also do with others.

Before every Christian there is a measure of grace.

Christians should be so full of grace that it coats every word and deed we do.

So– why isn’t the main narrative grace?

Which narrative will you fall for? Accuser of the brethren, or grace?

I want to choose grace.

How about you?

Loved Of God, Called By God

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NASV

As a child until young adulthood, I didn’t expect anything good to happen for me. When it did, I would brace myself for it to be ripped away from me, because then I wouldn’t feel disappointment– because I just “knew” *I* didn’t deserve good things like everyone else did.

I carried that belief with me until I made the decision to stop just letting things happen *to* me.

I had been rejected, abused, trash-talked and the butt of family member’s and some “friendsjokes my whole life. I was convinced I was stupid, good for nothing– worthless– because I was told I was by people I thought knew me best. I thought I had to believe them.

Someone even told me they wished I had never been born. Everyday it was confirmed that I “was just in the way.”

Inner wounds and scars are tricky things. People react with compassion and understanding to outer wounds and scars, but fail to recognize that some behaviors are more than likely the evidence of inner wounds, of deep scars only God Himself can see and heal.

And He does heal them.

This is what Romans 8:28 reminds me everytime I hear it. For me, it’s deeply personal.

It’s evidence of God reaching out for me– to me– because I’m not in the way of His plans and purposes– I am a part of them.

He took my life, and He repurposed it. He refashioned it, reshaped it into something He can use. He has taken all of my bads and made them into part of His continuous story within my life.

He takes all of the bad, and uses it to help others know that He is Jehovah Rapha– The Lord Who heals.

I used to worry that people said things to me because that was how God saw me, but the more I learn His Word, the more I can see He has always had compassion for me, has always accepted me. He carefully made me, and where abuse and rejection had trounced and marred me– He picked me up, reshaped me around all of those circumstances, and He reminds me that if those bad things hadn’t happened, I could never understand the depth of His love for me, and His forgiveness towards me. He helped me forgive those who have acted with selfish ambitions– with little or no concern for how it has affected me.

I still have “people trust” issues.

What I no longer have is God trust issues. He has proven Himself reliable.

Relationship Versus Wrongs

What do you focus on with your best friend? How about with your spouse or significant other? Your family?

Do you concentrate on what you have in common? Do you remember how they have wronged you?

Are you confident in how good things are, or are your thoughts consumed with how they just don’t measure up to your standards?

Do you tell others the positive things about them? Or do you feel justified in telling others about what you see as negative qualities?

Does how you treat them, how you talk about them to others, have any impact on that relationship?

How do they treat you, or talk about you? Does that affect how close you feel to them?

What does a healthy relationship even look like?

What about Jesus?

Do we focus on how Jesus has wronged us? How He just doesn’t meet (or mete) our standards? Do we tell everyone negative things about Jesus?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no to the last 3 questions. How do you even measure against His perfection?

So, let’s flip it around.

Does Jesus focus on how we have wronged Him? I think some people really believe He does, but Scripture tells us He throws our sins as far as the east is from the west. That there is no record of wrong.

Is He disappointed that we just don’t measure up to Him? I mean– who can, right? Scripture reminds us that Jesus is our strength, the Holy Spirit is both our Teacher and our Comforter, and that God is our Father. We have been adopted by Him, grafted into the vine of His family tree!

Does Jesus tell everyone the negative things He knows about us? No. Instead, He is our Mediator. He prays for us– He prayed for us all in the Garden of Gethsemane. He felt so much love and compassion, burdened so deeply for us then, that it caused Him to sweat His blood as He prayed! Who else has ever done that for even one of us?

And then– then He willingly died to become the final sacrifice to God, to pay for our failings, our inability to do right by God.

He became our Mediator– standing between God and the punishment for rebelling against God in our actions and in our hearts. He became our covering, the lens God now views us through.

If this is how much we are worth to Jesus, how much should we practice love, kindness, generosity– forgiveness– with our friends, spouses and loved ones?

The saying is, “You can’t pick your family.”

Jesus didn’t pick us– and yet He did! Our sins, our rebellion, against our Creator were the cause for Jesus to be abused and nailed to a cross to be murdered. There was no justification for Jesus to be killed, He did nothing wrong. We did! Jesus could have hated us all, instead. He could have focused on all we did wrong, and turned away with hatred and anger at us. He could have– but He did not. And God accepted His willingness to die the eternal death every one of us deserves. And because there was no sin found in Jesus, God raised Him back to life, and took Him up to sit next to Himself, at and as His righteous right hand. Jesus is God’s Right Hand man.

And Jesus, having done all of that for us, does not focus on what we did to cause Him to be murdered. No. Instead He has given His life to God, to help us be better. To strengthen us. To give us confidence. To free us from the death traps that have been set out for us by the enemy of God, the enemy of our souls. He sets us free as we trust in all He is, all He has done, and all that will come to pass.

Jesus has forgiven us. Jesus has forgotten our sins, all of our sins.

Shouldn’t we?

It’s no longer about sin– it’s about our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus paid it all!

All to Him I owe!

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow!

My Shoes

Nobody says, “I wonder what it would be like to walk in their shoes?” about abused children.

No one daydreams about being yelled at, called names– or worse.

No one envies the child with the broken spirit, no one celebrates their choice to fight to survive.

One of the strongest memories of my dad was the time I walked into our living room and he just started yelling at me about how much he hated me, how I was just in the way– how he wished I were dead and had never been born.

I reacted to that, at first, by contemplating ways to take myself out of the way. Then– I called my best friend.

She helped me realize the best way to help myself would be to remove myself from the situation. So– I planned a vacation, where I could strengthen my will to continue to live.

I was in high school at the time. I planned for a two week vacation from my life. I took time off from my job, I arranged for a place to stay, and I told no one except the person I stayed with where I would be.

That saved my life.

It was inconvenient for others, I know. Some worried– and they should have. They should have been worried more about my state of mind before I took my time-out, than the fact that I left.

I only used a week of that planned two weeks.

I was introduced to a life I had never known before that, but it was just enough to realize– that also was not the kind of life I wanted to live.

I woke up to some harsh realities, and I walked away from some permanent options that would have become permanent mistakes– had I chosen to take them.

I had always had a secret life of envying others who had dads that were loving, kind, and healthy. Dads who’s hugs were not dangerous, where insults were not the “norm”– ones that cherished their daughters.

My dad, he had a rough childhood. He probably had a secret envy life, as well.

I forgave my dad for his failings, years ago.

I made sure my own children had what I envied of others (God made sure too) because I knew what I had missed. I don’t blame my mom for my dad’s issues. It’s never been her fault.

I love my friends who have had wonderful, nurturing and healthy relationships with their fathers. But, it’s like bumping an unseen bruise to know that that’s something I will never get to know firsthand.

I’m old enough that I’ve forgotten many things I’ve experienced. That ache at what I was robbed of is always there, though, silently throbbing under the surface.

I’m so very happy for others, but my heart silently envies and daydreams about what their lives must have been like.

I’ve attempted to try on their shoes, but my callouses and bruises keep them from fitting comfortably, I’ve never been able to walk in them.

I’ve heard more often than I can count, that God is my Father. True– He is. He is a good father.

As awesome as God is, I still have a lack in my heart for a loving, mentally healthy, earthly dad. That’s my reality. Acceptance from God has been more healing than anything anyone could offer. This is why more mentally healthy, accountable-to-others, Christian men need to step up inside the church. There are people of all ages missing healthy relationships. We are so quick to just expect God to mysteriously fill every void and heal every affliction, when God gave us to one another.

Jesus made sure his own mother had someone to step in to fill the void He was leaving. What an amazing example of compassion and understanding! We lack nurturing, healthy relationships inside our church families. Our own members are hurting from devastating wounds and circumstances, and we busy ourselves with programs, not recognizing the deep needs right in front of us.

God help us to be what our own family-in-Christ needs us to be– what You call us to be.

God has given us shoes to wear. Shoes of the Gospel of Peace. Shouldn’t we wear them at all times, starting inside the Church? And if we don’t wear them there, if we take Abaraham’s burning bush approach and take them off on Holy Ground– Jesus made it abundantly clear the need to wash one another’s feet.

In other words– we need to look after one-another, with the same intimacy as close, healthy, loving family.

We need to get this right so we can effectively affect and reach the world around us with God’s gift of Hope, Love, and relationship with Him through Jesus.

Worship– What Exactly Is It?

We’ve all been there:

Cue music:

Oh, I love this song! I wonder if my hair looks ok? Did I brush my teeth? Oooh, my voice sounds so good today, I’ll sing louder!

How much thought do we give to God, really? Everytime? Do we pay attention to the words we sing?

Are we really worshiping God through music and singing?

As a worshiper, these are things that have been stirring up contemplation in my own heart lately.

The Bible tells us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It tells us to exhort one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and sing to God with gratitude.

I looked at 71 Bible verses about worship, and out of all of those verses about 10 mention singing.

Not one mentions music.

Am I saying worshiping God with music is bad? Absolutely not– I believe it is genius!

But, what I am saying is– worship and praise are not music. They can be done with music, with singing, but music is not the definition.

I wonder how God sees what we do in our churches we call His house? Does it really honor Him? Does He approve? Does He even like it?

Or, does He see that really, we are doing it for ourselves, at least, sometimes, and only think it satisfies God?

Or, maybe we are missing that whole worhip Him in spirit and in truth, completely.

How do we worship God in spirit and in truth? What would that look like to God? Do we even try to worship Him outside of the music sets and practice times?

What does worship mean?

What does praise mean?

I do believe we all come to a point in our walk with Jesus where these questions burn into our spirit. We think we know, but–

Do we really?

May God grant us understanding, a willingness to learn, along with eyes and ears to hear and see what we might not already, clearly.

Don’t stop the music and singing. Let’s just do a heart and understanding check to see if we are missing something.