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Home- Chris Tomlin

As a kid, when my Grandma yelled “Kids! Dinner!”, I stopped what I was doing, dropped everything, turned towards her voice and house, and raced home as fast as my legs would move me.

Before that, I was so involved in whatever I was doing or playing like “ice cream truck” with my tricycle upside down and the pedals spinning, (not sure how exactly that made it an ice cream truck, but– it was the best game to play!), or burying m&m’s and pennies hoping for very special trees to grow quickly– nothing else mattered!

Important things, right?

As I Watched the video linked above, I had this mental picture of Jesus in the distance, and then of me just freed from wrist shackles– throwing off the weight of the world that ties me to this place, taking off at a full dead-on run, pushing my legs hard to get to Jesus.

All those things I’ve been focused on asking for God to bring His Kingdom here on earth– Jesus is His Kingdom.

Jesus is His promise.

There is no one else I want to be as close to as possible, besides my husband– and even he takes a backseat to my Jesus. My Rescuer. My Holy Hero.

There is some ugliness in the world that is not going to let the healing, transformative Light and Life of Jesus into it. Ever. It will burn in that lake of fire with the enemy of God and our souls.

I want to be as close to Jesus as I possibly can be. Here on earth, in Heaven. Everywhere.

This song has reminded my spirit. There is nothing more important than closeness with Jesus.

Nothing.

No matter where I am, when I am close with Jesus– I am Home.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NASB

His rod and staff can only comfort me when I am close to Him. This Psalm is a picture of walking close to Jesus.

Believer’s Meeting

9:00 am, Sunday morning eyes close, hearts open– cue the perfect opening song, chosen because it’s upbeat, uplifting, and it gets the blood pumping. Energy surges. Those who practice loudly in their cars are ready to join in corporate Praise and Worship of Jesus, right?

Except, “I” and “me” are used far more often than His name.

It’s all about You, Jesus and how much You have done for me, how much I have been changed, how much You love me, how You’ve made a way for me…”

Song one finishes. Cue songs 2 and 3, in similar keys and subject so they can flow into each other smoothly. Hearts and minds are focused on all Jesus has done for “me“.

Cue song 4 for the offering, something catchy and convicting to encourage Believers to give to God freely…

Song 5 helps transition right into the sermon, getting hearts and minds prepared to receive the Word of the Lord and the Preacher’s sermon.

The sermon is deep, convicting, full of Truth and equipping Believers to make it through another week until it can all start over again.

A closing song extending the sermon message, inviting people to let down their personal guard so they can receive personal ministry to help them overcome the things holding them back, keeping them from fully embracing Jesus, God’s healing and deliverance…

And… we’re done.

It’s a set, a church service proven to be a smooth and embraceable formula that the majority of American Church models follow now.

What’s the fruit? Happy people, a love for deep, powerful music, a new determined focus to meet the challenges and difficulties of a week focused around “me”.

Mid-week, there used to be Wednesday night Believer’s Meetings to help get us past the dragging down of our spirits, and re-focus in putting Jesus first and foremost in hearts and minds. It seems many churches have instead poured their entire focus on that Sunday morning gathering. Which is fine, Wednesday night sometimes just adds into another thing that keeps us busy and exhausted.

Which songs in church help equip Believers in how to treat others? How many prepare Believers for interacting with those hurting, abused, or abusive outside of the Church bubble?

What church service songs encourage us to help rescue others from the spiritual muck and mire that acts like quicksand, holding and pulling people farther from freedom through Jesus.

We hear the words “help the dying and lost” so often, we’ve gotten numb to their meaning and impact.

The world that has not embraced the Salvation, Grace and Mercy of God through Jesus– it’s not a friendly, warm place. There are people who hate Christians, hate everything about God. Are we ever prepared to walk in the empowerment of God to not only deal with people that hate us, but also show them Jesus?

We lack transformative power, most often, because I believe we are stuck in a “me me me” rut.

Me filters everything– how does this song minister to me? How does this affect me?

All fingers are pointed at me. I’ve recently been confronted with my own boundaries of keeping the ugliness of the world out of my perception and eyesight-hearing range.

Choosing what I allow my understanding to be exposed to is a luxury.

The hurting, lost and spiritually dying don’t have that luxury. They don’t have Jesus, the necessity for us all, to protect them, to shield them, to deliver them from the cold, dark world of animosity towards all God has created– which includes them.

I had forgotten where I had come from. But– God reminded me. How can I not go back and help others ? Did Jesus rescue me so that I could become cold-hearted towards others who need Him to rescue them as well?

Jesus told us to go, share the Good News with the world that hates Him, and by proxy– hates us. Share the Good News that they don’t have to serve hatred any longer, they can have His free gift of Eternal Salvation. Before meeting Jesus, after allowing Jesus to give freedom is like night and day. It’s like shackles and freedom, caged and free, oppressed and… free.

Free.

No price.

No bondage.

No entrapment.

Free.

Mind-blowing, am I right? The human mind cannot even fathom what that means, and so many reject it because it sounds far-fetched and unbelievable.

We need God to empower us to demonstrate that reality of Jesus.

Where does the neat and tidy American church service infuse that empowerment?

We will never find that power on our own, within ourselves, to reach out to a torture victim. Because they do exist– in America.

How can we help rescue someone’s mind who has been trapped in human slavery– because, again, that exists inside of America.

Jesus left Heaven to be born as a human to walk with us, so He could rescue us– heart, mind and soul. Not just our soul. Not just physical and heart healing.

Our minds.

Our emotions.

He came to set the captives free.

Where are we most held captive?

In our minds.

How can we ever be ready to help people get free from the ugly hatred of the world if we stay focused on “what Jesus has done for me? Those trapped don’t care what He has done for me. They need Him to help them, and they need us to stand in the gap while He sets them free.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17 (NASB)

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Wound’s Protector— The Scar

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have scars on my scalp from a “friendly” domesticated adolescent cougar “playing” with my head as his chew toy. I’m thinking about that today because they hurt. Kinda bad.

So that got me to thinking– if my physical scars hurt so badly at times, what about those deep emotional scars? Sure I’ve gone through all those rituals of forgiveness, repentance for my part in some things, and trust in God for healing. And He has healed me– so much! (I’ve even felt Him heal my esophagus as I praised Him through singing– what an amazing, warm, wonderful feeling that was!) I wouldn’t be married again if God had not done major surgery on my mind and my heart. We just celebrated 20 awe-inspiring years!

Those of us operating in the American mindset think we have everything all figured out. We put things in neatly labeled boxes, organized by category, decorated prettily with descriptions, definitions and diagnosis.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if we take a box out of the organized line-up, sort through it and realize it really isn’t the way we believed it to be?

What if emotional pain is not always as explained? What if it’s the manifestation of pain from emotional scarring?

The tough thing about emotional scars is no one can see them. Only the person who lived the experience can feel and remember.

Incidentally– that’s exactly the experience of Christianity. Only the person who has experienced Divine interactions can feel them and experience their reality. That does not invalidate that person or experience, just like it does not invalidate one who has emotional scars. The experiences did happen, they did have an impact on the person they happened to. Jesus did Save the Christian, His actions and the Holy Spirit interactions continuously impact the Believer, though it’s deeply personal.

Do emotions exist? Do memories represent past experiences? Does pain from emotional wounds and scars ever manifest in our reactions, responses, emotions and beliefs?

I think maybe the “professionals” are really just guessing– and maybe they have guessed wrong in some things.

Maybe we look at mental health the wrong way. I don’t think PHD’s have all the answers because I don’t think they have been asking the right questions– many times they are just masking the symptoms, not getting to the core and root of what they diagnose– not looking for a healing solution.

Only God has all the answers, only God knows all things, sees all things and understands the “why” of all things. He has promised in His Word that we can call all to Him and He will answer us– He’ll show us great things we don’t know. Do we believe that?

I think I do. Sometimes. When we step away from the bindings of what has been explained to us with human understanding, and seek Divine understanding, God will show us, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to empower us.

How much of that have we stepped out in faith to embrace?

We cling to our diagnosis, definitions and descriptions as though those have life for us. The One Who holds all knowledge is life. My desire is to cling to Him.

I fall short.

Do my emotional scars manifest sadness through their pain? Anger? A desire to be comforted? A lack of trust in others?

I honestly think maybe they do. Maybe that’s part of their intended function as God has designed them to protect where we once were wounded.

Being Mary In A Martha World

I’m a worshiper. Most often, when I am able and there is a place and opportunity for me, I join the Worship or Praise team of a local church or chapel. We’ve moved quite a bit, or we’ve moved on when we find a church no longer is a good fit for us and our family needs. Right now my husband is stepping in to cover for Worship leaders and pianists that are taking a summer break with travel. Our current chapel service that we feel most fits us doesn’t have need for our usual talents and skills very often, so we both find ourselves in a kind of new situation.

As a home educating mom, in the past I have hit the “your kids use the nursery or classrooms, so you need to volunteer” in a head-on collision quite a few times. Many times I’ve responded by not using those things at all and teaching my children how to behave and participate in the praise and worship while I play my violin or sing.

The problem came in when someone got upset because I was playing violin and not rocking babies. This hasn’t been an issue for me in quite sometime– mostly because my kids aren’t nursery babies any longer, but I find I still have a tough time dealing with attitudes about me not serving the way someone else thinks I need to step up and do.

First of all– I am not 25. I have the energy of someone 20 years older than I actually am, and I live with limiting circumstances in a community that often just doesn’t “get” that. It takes everything I have to play my violin in Worship, some days.

Here’s a conversation I can imagine having:

Me— I’m here.

Church— what do you have of value that you can give to me?

Me— I have nothing of value in me right now, I’ve given all of myself to worshiping God.

Church— I’ll talk to you when you have something to give me that is worthy of my time.

I’ve had work supervisors that would get on me about not standing around, always looking busy. I’ve attended churches that treated me the same. If I “stand around” and don’t exhaust myself volunteering for every opportunity to serve, my value drops.

Can the Church please stop acting like the world?

Programs and outreaches are nice and often helpful. But sometimes they aren’t the necessary things they are presented as being. Church members are often exhausted, which causes dysfunction. Or maybe, a shifting of focus could help assuage those that do need ministry focus inside of the church body.

Many times programs, outreaches and ministries are started and run with good intentions but not necessarily at the leading of the Holy Spirit.

People in the Church have needs not being met. We are often encouraged and prompted to “give of ourselves”, but we need to be given to, we need healing, healthy relationships– we need kindness shown to us all just because and not because of something.

God made us to need one another.

This isn’t the big issue it’s been for me in the past. I’ve learned my own limits to avoid unnecessary exhaustion, as well as how to say no.

I want to be about the Father’s business. I want to worship at His feet, to rest in His Presence, to be a drawing force for others to enter into His healing, comforting Presence.

I am a Mary in a Martha world.

One Size Fits… Um No

I confess– I have a tendency to be a serial unasked-for advice giver. I can’t help it. I know others can glean from my experience-gained wisdom. Right?

Except that’s never how it’s taken.

If I’m honest, it’s also not how I take it from others, either, even though I try to be polite and respectful.

The old cliche’ about judging a book by its cover fits here well. How often do we hear or read something someone says and opine that we know the solution to their problem? After all– it worked for us, so it will work 1000000% for all– right?

Well, no. It won’t.

Nothing about me or my life is ever a one-size-fits-all fit.

Even Scripture is not a one-size-fits-all life application. I mean– it is– but it applies in endless ways. Some Scripture is the same for everyone. Like John 3:16-17. And most Scripture will help us achieve the same outcome as others, but it applies individually and uniquely over every life it touches.

Because it’s the Living Word of God.

It’s not a one-size-fits-most bandaid or covering. It’s the healing/repair balm uniquely designed to fit our specific needs.

God’s Word is not reactionary to us, it’s designed for us to respond to it.

Unlike our random acts of unasked-for advice-giving.

I have so much more to learn about letting God love others through me.

His ways are so much better than mine.

A Patchwork Of Memories and Emotions From An Overly Complicated Relationship

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So, I’m sitting here, alone, on the eve of the anniversary of my dad’s death. Hubby is deeply sleeping after a long day at work, the kids are in bed, and I wish I had someone I could just maybe watch a movie with– probably to avoid thinking. There’s no reason why anyone should think I’d need to talk or get my mind off of what seems to be an undercurrent of emotions I really just don’t want to deal with. (It’s going to turn into a flood of tears, and I don’t want to open that gate.)

I don’t think much about my dad anymore.

When I do, there aren’t many emotions involved. We didn’t have any kind of a relationship when he passed on, I hadn’t seen him in years. One of the last times I did see him– he humiliated me, in public and in front of my husband. I mean, horribly humiliated me.

I forgave him. My husband gently told him off, and forgave him. But, it sickened my heart to even see him again.

We had such a complicated relationship. He was mentally ill, before doctors knew what to do to help that. I have begrudged the VA for using him as a guinea pig, but some of that responsibility was his alone. He wouldn’t take the pills prescribed, he used his diagnosis as a crutch– and he was a jerk.

But he was also really funny. There were times he had us laughing until our sides ached.

He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I have met quite a few very smart people! He was a genius with electronics and rigging things.

He had times where he could be really mean. Thankfully those weren’t constant. But, he was unpredictable. And, of course, there was the abuse.

It’s always kind of felt like my dad was dead in some ways. When I think about him, I grieve for the father-daughter relationship I wish we could’ve had. I know there is not one thing I could have done to make things better, so I’m able to move on. There is a diminishing part inside of me that wonders “why?” Why did it have to be me that went through all of that?

Why did I have to have that dad?

And, after all these years, I think I finally know the answer– Because just like that scratchy violin I had as a kid that caused me to practice for hours and hours everyday to overcome that awful, scratchy tone– I had to want to make a better life. I had to actively seek God to make a better path for my future children. My first husband was not that path, he was not someone I would have trusted with children. After that (biblical) divorce (from a non-believer who wanted to leave), I desperately sought God to provide me with a man who would be.

And He did.

But, had I not experienced everything I did, I wouldn’t have known what to work towards.

I sometimes wonder if my life being so full of overwhelming things that I’ve had to push through, if that’s what triggered my body’s reaction with a disease that exhausts me. Physical things, nothing psychosomatic. Fatigue is a reality blood work has confirmed.

Ok, now it’s the actual anniversary of his death.

4 years ago, today.

Remembering is stirring up, I don’t know– I guess emotional dust? Cobwebs? Triggered reminders?

I’ve watched my husband over the years with our daughter, and it’s such a contrast to what I ever knew with my own dad. I grew up terrified, filled with hate and anger– though not anymore. My daughter and my husband laugh and joke, share music, and she has never had to build a protective guard against him for any reason.

I am so, so deeply thankful for that.

I’ve often said it’s been thoroughly healing to watch them interact, and see what I missed out on– yet gives me the opportunity to rejoice that my daughter has not.

Isaiah 61:3 has come to life in my life– “To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Doxology

Your Discomfort Is Not My Responsibility

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When we started dating, my husband, bless his heart, listened to so many stories from my past. He was my true friend– still is. He didn’t live through the same kinds of pain, and maybe he didn’t really want to hear what I was telling him about– but he did. I know he did, because he can still tell me things I told him about back then. He listened, and he remembers.

There are moments when I’m reminded just how separated from most people my experiences have shaped me to be. While I no longer hold onto anger, grudges or the pain of most, those experiences are still very important parts of who I am and why I am the way I am. But– why have I had to have so many of them? I have too much to add to some conversations, and nothing to add to most. Small talk is easier now, but it used to be impossible.

How I wish I didn’t have so much to say about some very difficult things. Most people have one or two, maybe three tough life experiences. If I stopped to count, I could name at least 8– ranging from spirit-breaking to devastating to near-death.

I’ve met very few that could honestly say the same, to the same degree as my own.

This causes me to realize just how alone I really am.

Certain songwriters’ lyrics speak to issues and express feelings I haven’t been able to give my own words to. I was surprised to hear Plumb’s story recently. I thought for sure she must have lived through similar devastating life circumstances to my own, because her words reach down into depths I had forgotten existed in my own past. What she has experienced are not light matters, it just wasn’t what I expected because of the impact her music has had on me. NF is another one that has a few songs that reach the depths of my spirit and my painful past, sometimes so deeply I have to stop listening to it. Through his music, I would guess he’s at a place in his healing that I’ve already passed through in much of mine, so sometimes his lyrics cause me to go back to the negative view of things God has already visited and healed in me.

My point in writing this is– I know I will never “fit in”.  I’m ok with that, now, I just recognize it for what it is. I recognize and I now just accept that if I mention or blog about something that nearly broke me in my past, a rare few stop to listen/read.

They don’t hear what God claims as victory in me.

I think some would rather I stay silent about those uncomfortable things because they don’t have to acknowledge them. Some think I haven’t moved past things if I bring them up. Some feel uncomfortable if others hear.

It happened to me.

It happened. To me.

Don’t they think I feel uncomfortable having to live with those memories, and the shame attached to them?

But– as long as I go out of my way to make everyone else feel comfortable by never mentioning publicly what has been constantly uncomfortable for me– it’s ok. Because they aren’t uncomfortable, and it’s got to be all about me making sure no one feels any discomfort around me because of circumstances outside of my control. That happened. To me.

I try very hard to be gentle in what I share. But to remain silent about it because of the expectations of others feels like I’m being shoved into that box I’m not meant to go into.

The comfort of others is not my responsibility, and it never should have been something anyone has expected me to go out of my way to ensure for others.

The subjects that were the main theme of my past are more than anyone was meant to carry. I’m not carrying that burden of protecting everyone from knowing what happened to me, anymore. That is not my calling. Because to not be upfront about what God has had to do in my life to help me be a normal, functioning woman, is to suppress the glory and praise God alone deserves. The discomfort or embarrassment others experience at hearing about what I have had to survive is not my responsibility.

I’m not going to be silenced by silent or verbal disapproval.

If they care at all about me, they will instead rejoice at what God has done and is still doing in my life– every time I mention it. They would praise and thank God for working unseen from most so that I am still alive, instead of them wishing, maybe, that I weren’t. If someone is embarrassed by something that happened to me because I mention it, the problem is with them, not with me.

People have to know what happened to me so they can praise and thank God for what He did when He rescued me.

And, He has rescued me. More than once.

If you have a broken limb, everyone sees the cast, and most will ask what happened. I’ve had a broken life, and if people were paying attention, they would have seen that. Since the things that broke my spirit are hidden, people want them to remain hidden so they don’t have to be inconvenienced by knowing.

I see that as a problem, never a solution.

That whole #MeToo campaign gave me hope that finally victims would be able to speak out, and be received with hearts of compassion. How disappointing that it’s become a mockery to victims, and I do not mean the fake ones paid to lie to ruin reputations! That needs to be exposed! Where is justice for the real victims of sexual assault? Not the “He said I look pretty.” garbage!

I am a survivor of real sexual abuse, who can claim victory. #MeToo #VictimToVictor #TheTruthHasSetMeFree

Those who don’t want me to speak out can #GetOverIt.