Tag Archives: brokenness

A prayer from a coward’s heart

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“Father, I want to know thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys.  I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from thee the terror of the parting.  I come trembling, but I do come.  Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.”  ~The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Sometimes we say to our children, “You don’t need to know why I am forbidding something- you just need to obey.”  Sometimes God says the same thing to me, his child.  I just need to obey God.

I don’t always see things like he sees them.  I don’t always agree with his commands.  I don’t always LIKE what he’s told me to do.  I don’t enjoy putting to death my flesh.  It’s not a pleasure to carry my cross.

However-

I obey.  Perhaps begrudgingly, perhaps with a bad attitude sometimes, but I obey.

Some of those spiritual muscles are not used to being flexed and exercised.  Some of them have become weak and unaccustomed to being controlled.  I need to practice a movement, repeatedly, concentrating on correct form and execution, repeating it until it becomes reflexive and automatic.  I build up my muscles by repetitive actions until they become a part of who I am.  I do not enjoy the exercise, but I do it.

Hopefully this will get easier with time and practice.  Hopefully I will find joy in obedience.  But right now, I grimly set my hand to the plow and faintly trust that Jesus knows better than I do.

The flame of my faith is just a flickering candle, not a mighty blazing inferno… not yet, not here.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast and compliant spirit within me.

Broken Shells

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Friends of mine from the other side of the world have been forced to abandon all their worldly possessions and leave a beloved country with a volatile and hostile government.  It was heart wrenching for them, not because of all the stuff they had to leave behind, but because they don’t know if they will ever be allowed to go back to the country where they left their hearts full of first love’s tenderness.  Though I’ve never had to flee a country, I related very deeply with a lot that my friend has to say about brokenness and keeping up the appearance of wholeness.  I wanted to share her blog with you today.  This is from The Overturfs: “Shells”.

One of my favorite things to do on the beach is find shells.  Often they tease me, a beautiful piece sticking out of the sand and I pick it up only to find it’s just a broken piece of what was once a beautiful shell.  In some places, where the tide hits the shore hard, the area is covered with bits and pieces of what were once beautiful, whole shells.

I would describe my past few months as feeling a bit like those shells.  With the illusion of a complete exterior, I can feel hypocritical. What if I am picked up, then everyone will see that I am just pretty in that one spot–but otherwise broken and even sometimes empty.  Crushing my “shell” has been everything from Arabic (a daily humbling!), to losing our vehicle and entire household in S*d., the very real possibility that we won’t be able to return to that country.  Learning our daughter needs surgery. The list goes on and really, not any one of these things has been so overwhelming in and of itself…’life’ is happening to every one of us!  The much greater issue is not what happens, but how we respond to the things that inevitably will.  We must be on our guard not to measure our struggles against anyone else’s or to judge them, for sometimes it is the smallest of things that can bring brokenness.

To be transparent, it is my frustration with the brokenness and the allure of keeping appearances, even/especially if it is only to myself (i.e. the shell is whole) which has been the struggle.  What happens when we just can’t do ‘x,y, and z’ and find ourselves so insufficient to the task?  I can’t do it, how wonderful that is.  I wish it hadn’t taken me the past couple of months to ‘wake up’ to the truths I know.  Brokenness, hiddenness, weakness…oh the joy of it!  How often we ‘know’ things but still resist His gifts to us because they don’t come in the form we anticipated or think they should.

In the book Practicing His Presence, Frank Laubach states:  ”If our destiny is to grow on and on and on, into some far more beautiful creatures than we are now, that means that we need to have the shells broken quite frequently so we can grow.”  Oh Father, break my shell.  Break it, and then break it over and over and over again.

I will, even if subconsciously, respond in some way to the events of each day.  Inviting Jesus into those moments, to filter them through His lens of purpose and eternity makes every single thing look different when we take the time to look, wait…listen.  Embracing brokenness.  Allowing Jesus to determine how he will be glorified in me.  Recognizing what He wants to do in any circumstance comes from knowing His heart.  Could it be that we will know His heart more fully as we experience it in our brokenness?

If so, let the tide come in, and let us frequently find ourselves in countless broken pieces upon the shore…if only we can know Him.

 

Pause, Young Wannabe-Leader, Pause

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“I had coffee with a guy this week who just graduated college and wanted to know how he could prepare himself for being in ministry and becoming a better leader. He could feel the tension between the raw gifts and ambitions God had given him to lead and how he should refine them. The derailment of many young leaders is impatience, a premature demand to take the reins before the character or gifts are ready.”

I read this opening paragraph in an article “What’s Your Next Move, Young Leader?” on line last week.  The article continues with 5-6 points of advice that I myself have given young people who are eager to find what God has planned for their lives.  However, I would like to revise my advice from all those years ago.

Today if this young person who just graduated from college were sitting across from me, sipping coffee and asking for advice; I would say something quite different.  I would say “Pause.”  How can you prepare yourself for ministry and becoming a leader?  Pause.  How about 40 days in the wilderness fasting.  How about 40 YEARS in the wilderness leading stupid sheep.  How about loads of silence, and how about a crushing sense of being forgotten in a prison cell.  How about being a servant when God has given you the vision of being a great leader.

“Pause your life.”  You aren’t ready to begin yet.

Young people are always eager for their purpose to appear and for their life to start having meaning.  I remember I was eager at that age too.  “Just tell me what I’m going to do and I’ll be happy to get on with it!”  was how I thought back then.  But over and over in the Bible we see God preparing men for greatness by isolating them and breaking them down FIRST.  Those are steps that NO college graduate wants to take.

Think about it.  David didn’t become King over night.  He spent years running for his life from a jealous King Saul.  Moses was super eager to begin leading the Israelites.  So eager, in fact, that he jumped the gun and killed a guy.  Then he spent the next 40 years hiding on the back side of the desert with a bunch of sheep.  Joseph had dreams and visions of his future greatness at a very early age.  But when his brothers sold him into slavery and his slave master threw him in jail, I’m sure Joseph wondered if his dreams would ever come true.  Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his public ministry.  But there were 30 years behind those 40 days!

God plants the seeds of greatness in Isolation.  Young Wannabe-Leader, get alone with God.  Let God isolate you and break you open before he impregnates your heart with vision.  In the quiet, in the dark, all alone a seed dies in the dirt before it grows up into the sunshine.

My advice for young leaders is to Pause before you rush out into the spotlight with your ears full of your own voice, and your eyes full of your own visions, and your mind full of your own ideas.  Pause.  Wait on God.  Wait a long, long time if you have to.  Great men of God are made in isolation.

Grace is Messy

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I’ve been thinking about this blog now for some time and it’s just been a matter of sitting down to actually write it.  I am not writing this to embarrass anyone, so I’m not going to use any names.  The reason I’m writing this story is to cure you of the idea that you have to be perfect to serve the Lord.  I want you to put out of your mind once and for all the incorrect idea that missionaries or ministers or pastors are perfect.  Put that lie out of your mind once and for all.  Grace is messy.  Each of us have been and forever will be the recipients of sloppy, messy, beautiful, ugly grace from God.  Grace is about fresh starts, Happy New Year.

This past week I have spent a few days at a World Missions Summit where I reconnected with some of my best friends from around the world, other missionaries.  I was struck by a continual theme in their lives as we shared family updates and stories of our lives since we last saw each other.  I am stunned by our universal need for grace.  Our lives are sloppy.  Our details are messy.  It’s like we are all children learning how to color in the lines.  Nothing is perfect.  But Father God still takes our childish, out of bounds coloring and proudly displays it on the family fridge.  We are learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

One friend told me that their family counselor told them, “the only way we can do this is imperfectly.”  Liberating Grace!  Her teenage daughter is learning to be a mother.  My friend still aches for the mission field they left behind to nurture their daughter through a difficult season of life.  It is imperfect at best.  Grace.

With detached emotions another friend reported to us the details of a painful divorce he endured this year.  She ran off with another man.  He told us without flinching, “She just didn’t want to be married to me.”  I choked back my own emotion thinking of how much pain he was holding behind his brave face.   Walking out of the hotel at the end of the weekend, we saw him talking in the lobby with a girl he met at the convention.  Healing, renewing grace!  Fresh start.

Broken by abuse as a child, and now ministering through her scars, my dear friend has remained single when all the other girls were getting married.  Brave woman- broken girl, she kept every man at arms distance and the ones she let into her heart were as jostling, joking little brothers.  She has found powerful healing in God’s strong grace.  Now she is feeling sparks, long dormant, flying to the surface.  Her first love is back, fresh from a divorce where his wife walked out on him and the children.  This is life changing, challenging grace.  But it’s not cut and dry.  It’s a confusing and slippery second chance to love and be loved.  Tender, broken grace.

If our lives were pretty and tidy, we would not need grace.  We can speak of Grace and preach of Grace and sing Amazing Grace how sweet the sound because we WERE the wretches who were saved by it.  We once WERE lost and broken and dying of our wounds.  Now we are found, healed, and saved to live again.  Grace means we live with scars.  Grace means that Father God still loves us when our lives are imperfect and resembling King David.  Poet warrior king who was a man after God’s own heart, yet he still fell into adultery, lies and murder.  He fell and was restored again by God’s messy grace.  It’s what grace is for and why we all need it.

May your New Year be full of messy, much needed Grace.

Before you break your heart

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Heart-BrokenSometimes when the Lord speaks to me, it is in the same tone that I speak to my children.  I know God is treating me like his child, and I need to respond to him as my Heavenly Father.

This last week I sent Teacher Christmas presents to school with all my kids.  My Kindergartener has two teachers, an English teacher in the morning and a Spanish teacher in the afternoon (it’s a bilingual school).  In each gift bag, I packed a cute mug, hot chocolate mix, chocolate covered coffee beans, and a plate of home-made Christmas cookies.  My little one was so excited!  She’s 5 years old, so of course she wanted to carry her own presents to her teachers.  But she’s also short, so for the entire walk from the car to the classroom I was coaching Lulu in my most patient parental voice.  “Pick up your bags, don’t drag them.  Don’t clink your bags on the ground or you’ll break the cups.  Do you want me to carry those for you?  Be careful.  Lift them higher honey.”  Every 2 seconds it was a new instruction.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that this child is an insurance claim waiting to happen.  She is a natural disaster on two feet.  I have FEMA’s emergency number on speed dial.  She’s not malicious or naughty (usually) but she is high-spirited and has inherited her mother’s gracelessness.  So I knew it was a risk to let her carry her presents herself.  Sure enough, my fears proved to be foresight.

The minute she saw her little friend Anika she went running to hug her with a gift bag in each hand.  The arms swung around her little buddy and the bags smashed together behind Anika’s back!  It was all I could do to surpress the disappointed tone in my voice.  I then had to explain to her teachers that she just got too excited and forgot to be careful.  Sorry, here’s your broken coffee cups.  A little Super Glue should do the trick.  I felt so bad, but there was nothing more I could do as a parent to prevent her from breaking the cups aside from carrying them myself.   If she was going to carry them, it was a certainty that she was going to break them.

So last night I had a moment with God when he spoke to me like I was speaking to Lucy on that day.  He said to me in a Fatherly tone, “Give me your heart to hold for you.  Give me your heart before you break it.”  I set my heart on things that are unrealistic, dreams that will never become reality.  I invest my heart in ideas or plans or day dreams or wishes and then I am disappointed when my ideas fall flat.  Father God asked me to give him my heart for safe keeping.  If I were to hold on to it, I would certainly break it.  I have high expectations.  I am constantly getting my hopes up and then they come crashing down to the ground like Lulu’s Christmas cups.  I get all excited and smash my heart to bits.  God says, “Child, let me hold that for you before you break it.”

Now the question is, will I trust him?  Do I really believe that he knows better than I do what is good for me and what is wrong for me?  Am I going to surrender my heart, my dreams and expectations to him?  Am I going to trust my Father with my heart?

Here’s a promise I can trust when I am looking for how to guard my heart.  “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

Beautiful Surrender

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It’s late at night and I’m thinking deep thoughts.

I’m thinking that Surrender is not always a bad thing.  Think of surrendering to the contagious laughter of a friend.  Think of surrendering to the pure ecstasy and joy of holding your first child for the first time.  Think of surrendering to the first stomach dropping scream of a fantastic roller coaster.  Think of surrendering to your destiny, your purpose in life.  Think of surrendering to a peaceful sleep at the end of a long day.  Think of surrendering to love and all that that means.

When you surrender to the HOLY love of God, you have nothing to fear in that kind of surrender.  The rags of your life that you turn over to God are exchanged for perfection and beauty.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  You let go of a life that does not satisfy you, a well that turns out to be empty.  And in exchange you receive the deepest satisfaction, a fountain that flows cool and refreshing.

The drowning death of baptism is the ultimate surrender of the old me to the new life of Christ in me.  And it is beautiful.

Here before your altar I am letting go of all I’ve held, of every motive, every burden, everything that’s of myself.  I just want to wait on you my God.  I just want to dwell on who you are.  Beautiful, beautiful oh I am lost for more to say.  Beautiful!  Beautiful, oh Lord, you’re beautiful to me!…

Here in your presence I am not afraid of brokenness to wash your feet with humble tears.  Oh, I would be poured out till nothing’s left.  And I just want to wait on you my God, I just want to dwell on who you are.  Beautiful, beautiful oh I am lost for more to say.  Beautiful! Beautiful oh Lord, you’re beautiful to me…”  (Beautiful, by Gateway Worship)

I will surrender myself to that kind of Holy beauty.  It might tear me apart with it’s fierceness, but I’m not afraid.  I’ll let it consume me.

Like Mary who broke her Alabaster Jar of perfume to annoint the feet of Jesus- once the breaking happens, there’s no going back.  There’s no putting that jar back together again.  It’s an all or nothing commitment.  I am not afraid of being broken if I’m to be broken for Jesus.  I am not afraid of being poured out at his feet.  That is my surrender.  And it is a beautiful surrender worthy of a beautiful God.

I will waste my life

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I Will Waste My Life

By Misty Edwards

I will waste my life

I’ll be tested and tried

With no regrets inside of me

Just to find I’m at your feet.

I’ll leave my father’s house

And I’ll leave my mother

I’ll leave all I have know

And I’ll have no other.

I am in love with you

And there is no cost.

I am in love with you

And there is no loss.

I am in love with you

I wanna cling to you, Jesus

Just let me cling to you Jesus.

I’ll say goodbye to my father, my mother

I’ll turn my back on every other love and

I’ll press on, yes, I’ll press on

‘Cause I am in love with you, Jesus!