God Became Vulnerable by Love

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Two days had passed, two long days, since Lazarus’s servant stumbled to Jesus’ feet and panted, “Laz…a…rus… is very… sick… Rabi. P…please come… so that you might… heal him…. We fear… he won’t make… it much longer.”

I searched Jesus’ face, wondering what he would do. Lazarus and his sisters were like family to him. He loved them differently than he loved us disciples. It was more than a comradery. He loved them with a tenderness, much like an older brother toward his baby sister, only with much more intensity. I studied his face, but it remained calm and confident.

“Go home,” he instructed the servant. “His sickness does not lead to death, but to the glory of God.”

And that was it. The servant ran back home believing Lazarus was going to be just fine, and we went back to… well, what we always do… walk around talking to people, camping out under the stars, controlling the crowds as Jesus told stories.

But the last two days have been different. Every word he’s spoken has been tinted with a hint of sadness. When the crowds are gone, he’s quiet. I asked Peter this morning if he had noticed something was off.

“Ah, John,” he quipped, “It’s Jesus. He’s always a bit… well, different.”

When Peter brushed me off, I asked my brother James. I only got a shrug out of him and a quick, “hadn’t noticed.”

Maybe it’s because Jesus and I have a closeness that the others don’t share, or maybe it’s because I’m simply more emotionally sensitive. I don’t know, but apparently I’m the only one who had noticed anything different. That is, until Jesus suddenly announced, “Let’s go to Judea again.”

You would have thought Jesus was suggesting suicide. Everyone immediately began to protest. You could hardly hear one above the other. Finally. Peter boomed above the others. “Are you crazy?! The Jews are wanting to stone you to death, and you want to just waltz into the middle of them?”

Jesus held up his hand and calmly asked, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

None of us were sure what in the world Jesus was talking about. Peter looked at me and raised one eyebrow as if to say, “I told you he was different.” I sighed and stayed close to Jesus. Something wasn’t right, and I wanted to figure it out.

When Jesus saw that we were confused, he said, “Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I will go to wake him up.” He said “asleep”, but his face said so much more.

I put my hand on his arm and probed him further. “Lord, if he’s sleeping, that’s a good thing. He will recover quickly.”

He sighed, and simply stated, “Lazarus has died.” Several gasps circulated through the lot of us as he continued, “I’m glad, for your sake, that I wasn’t there, so that you may believe. But, come on. Let’s go.”

Thomas began to gather up his few belongings then. “Let’s go, boys! We shall die with him.”

And so here we are… nearing Bethany. And apparently we’re not the only ones. “Hey!” I called to a Jewish man passing me. “What’s going on? Why are so many Jews coming into Bethany?”

“Haven’t you heard? Lazarus died. They buried him four days ago. We’re going to comfort his sisters.”

Is it my imagination or did Jesus just wince at those words?

“Jesus! Jesus!” Martha ran toward us. She stopped a couple feet in front of Jesus, breathing heavily from her jog. “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” she accused. Jesus took her hand and looked compassionately into her eyes, and her tone softened. “But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, He will give you.”

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus answered.

Martha sighed in frustration. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus took her other hand into his and explained, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

Martha nodded slowly. “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus gave her a soft, sad smile. “Now, go get Mary. I wish to speak to her.”

We sat down beside the road and waited, and within a few minutes, we could see Mary walking toward the large boulder where Jesus sat. She practically stumbled to his feet, sobbing, “Jesus! Oh, Jesus! If you had been here…. If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Her tears fell like rain as her body shook with sobs.

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Jesus placed his hand on her head and swallowed hard. The mourners who had been with the sisters were beginning to gather around as well, weeping for their lost friend and for the loss of Mary and Martha. Jesus cleared his throat and blinked hard. “Where have you laid him?” he managed to ask before he too began to weep.

He pulled Mary’s head into his lap and leaned his forehead onto her head. His body shook forcefully. I have never seen a grown man cry so hard. I couldn’t keep it in any longer. I stood beside him, wrapped my arm around his shoulder, and cried.

The other disciples shifted awkwardly as the crowd began to whisper amongst themselves. “Look how much he loved Lazarus!” But some in the crowd accused him. “He opened the eyes of the blind! Couldn’t he have kept this man from dying?!”

Jesus lifted his head when he heard these words. With tears still streaming down his face, he gently lifted Mary to her feet, and stood himself up. Taking her hand, he led the crowd to Lazarus’s tomb.

“Take away the stone.”

Martha turned her head quickly toward Jesus in disbelief. “Lord, he’s been in there for four days. By this time, he’s really going to stink.”

“Oh Martha,” he answered. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Several of the other disciples lined up next to the stone, but I stayed by Jesus’ side. He was hurting, and I wasn’t about to leave him when he needed me most. They pushed against the stone and it slowly began to roll from the opening of the cave.

Jesus looked up toward heaven and confidently said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” Then turning his face toward the tomb, he boomed, “Lazarus, come out!”

I nearly fell over backwards. Emerging from the tomb was Lazarus himself, still bound in burial cloths. Jesus nudged me. “Unbind him, and let him go.”

I hesitated, still trying to wrap my mind around what just happened. Jesus nudged me again, and I stepped forward. A huge grin spread across my face, and I ran to Lazarus. One by one, I unwound the cloths as his sisters and friends began to crowd around him.

After removing the last strip of cloth, I squeezed my way out of the crowd and found my way to Jesus’ side. “God feels. God cries. God understands. God is love.” I whisper these words, half to Jesus, half to myself. He smiles.

“God is love.” These words will stick with me for life. There is nothing so strong on earth as love. Nothing so exuberating… so edifying… so beautiful… and yet so painful as love. God came down from His throne to this humble earth. He allowed Himself to love… to feel it’s beauty and it’s pain. Why? So that we can believe. I will never forget this day… the day that God Himself sobbed uncontrollably because He loved.

 

When You’re Broken, and You Know It

brokenBroken. It’s a word that’s been running circles in my head for several days now.

Broken. It’s more than just admitting my childhood/early adulthood has adversely affected me. It’s more than just realizing I have issues, just like every other person in the world has issues.

It’s a personal admittance. I’m broken.

Sometimes I even whisper the words out loud… just to let the truth sink in. There are parts of my subconscious that are in dire need of repair before it completely takes over my entire being in a fit of selfish, angry rage.

And  you know what? It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. And I just want to go back to pretending I’m completely whole and happy, where even those who are closest to me have no idea what’s going on inside.

But I can’t. I’ve seen what happens when brokenness isn’t fixed. I’ve been on the receiving end of brokenness tearing out of someone’s soul and attacking my own. I don’t want that miserable life, and I certainly don’t want to spread that sloppy mess on my family and friends.

They need me. They need a whole-as-can-be me.

I need fixing, and I can’t do it alone. I need help. Because I’m broken, and I know it.

Your Story: A Girl’s Just Gotta Twirl

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Ginger is a dear friend of mine. She has walked the journey through the shadowy darkness and broke through the other side. She blogs of her experiences, as well as many other things, over at Just One of the Boys. Today, she shares with us a glimpse into her journey…

I remember twirling in my fancy dress as a little girl. Time seemed to pause just for me as I spun around and around on my tip-toes. My ruffled dress and I whirled about the room so fast that everything around me simply faded away. That dress transported me to my own little world where I could be a ballerina, a fairy princess, or Cinderella at the Ball. I wanted to dance in my special little place forever…

But what happened to the imaginative little girl that I used to be? Her heart had been bursting with endless hopes. The dreams that she held so dearly knew nothing of limits. Her little world was full of light – a beautifully magical place where good always prevailed over evil, no real harm could befall her, and where Prince Charming was coming to rescue her, dressed in his shining armor.

Dark shadows crept toward her, and she gradually stopped twirling. As she was confronted by these ghosts, she let her dreamland slip away. Over time she sadly gave into the idea that she would never be a fairy princess. When she stood still, darkness crept in to surround her.

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Other girls laughed at her. She buried her desire to once more twirl around and around. She tried to fit in…and failed miserably. “You’ll never be good enough,” the Shadow of Inferiority hissed.

“I’m not hungry.” The lies that she told herself over and over again were so ardent that she actually started to believe them. The lower the number fell on the scale, the closer she thought that she would be to perfection. She thought that she was almost there, but perfection never came. “Just a few more pounds. Just a few more inches,” lied the voice of Self-hate.

She felt in her heart that something was not perfectly right, but he seemed like such a nice guy. He sought her out. No one had ever paid her this much attention. He said that he couldn’t imagine life without her. Surely, this had to be her long-awaited Prince. The Shadow of Deception felt too good to be true.

“It’s your fault. You made him angry,” the Shadow of Abuse deflected the blame at her.

Crashing through her little home, The Storm of Infidelity left a trail of devastation in its wake. Once more she allowed her heart to listen to the vicious lies in her head. If only she had been prettier. Maybe then he wouldn’t have betrayed her trust. Maybe then she would have been good enough. If only…

As the shadows of Divorce and Loneliness threatened to surround her, she realized that she no longer had to be frightened by the ghosts of the past.  Wondering why she had ever stopped dancing through life, she worked to slowly unravel the darkness that had been her constant companion all of these years. She found courage that had sparked deep within her. She could now face the darkest of shadows without allowing them to overtake her. She gave herself the freedom to cautiously begin to twirl once more.

Days turned into weeks, weeks eased into months, and the months flowed into years. She gathered a strength and assuredness that can only come from staring down the darkness. With a new radiance, a smile graced her face for the first time in years. A deep and meaningful happiness welled up in her soul. She learned more about her true self as she grew as a woman, and she found that her real life journey far exceeded anything in a fairytale.

When the wounds of the past had started to heal, someone new entered her life. More than just a brave prince, he was a kind and selfless spirit. As their friendship developed, and then grew into something deeper, she found that she did not have to stop twirling for him, or anyone, ever again. He, too, was on a path of healing, and their separate lives began to mesh into one beautiful dance. She now had a partner, a friend, a Beloved – and the ability to keep twirling as life moves forward. Shadows will come and go over time, but she now felt confident that they no longer had the power to hold her back from pirouetting joyfully through life.

The little girl grew up, and as she fought, lost, blossomed, and triumphed, she began to twirl once more – and she vowed to never stop.

I vowed to never stop…

“Those who look to Him are radiant, 

and their faces shall never be ashamed. ~ Psalm 34:5

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*Photo credit: Top photo – by Joanne Funk. Post Header & Bottom photo – by John Zimmerman

Music Monday: Believer

laptopKutlessBeliever

(listen on Spotify or Youtube)

I can see thru the laughter
I know you’ve cried your share of tears
But you don’t have to do this by yourself
You tell me that you feel abandoned
Carrying the weight of all this pain inside
You trust in someone else
But you’re crying out for help
 
I’m a believer
That He’s strong enough to hold you now where you are
I’m a believer
In the One who’s always reaching out to your heart
He understands you
There’s not a greater love that you’ll find in this life
I’m a believer in Christ
 
You’re trying to escape the landslide
Running from the choices that you’ve made
When will you surrender to His grace
He promises He’ll never leave you
Offering to free you from your past
Cause that’s the sacrifice He’s made
He can be your shelter and your strength
 
No matter what you’ve done
Or how far you’ve run
There is hope for you
For every broken heart
He’ll meet you where you are
He will rescue you
Let Him rescue you

I see you sitting there with your laptop balanced precariously upon your knees. I see you standing at the kitchen counter clutching your phone in your hand. I see you sitting at your desk clicking through today’s interesting blog posts.

I see you… not with my eyes, but with my heart. And I see past the smiles, past the busy household, past the mess, past the perfect outfit… and into your heart. I know tears have streamed down your face and spilled onto your hands. I know you’ve felt the weight of loss, betrayal, and failure.

I’ve been there too… in the hopeless abyss of uncontrollable circumstances. Some caused by my own mistakes and some by the mistakes of others. I know what it’s like to wonder if my life will be completely different the next time the sun comes up. To wonder if I will find myself somewhere else surrounded by people I do not know, because the people I love most have been torn from me. To wonder if a few short moments would promote me to the next stage of life long before I’m ready.

I’ve felt the ripping of the heart. I’ve wondered if it could ever be whole again. I’ve felt pain deeper than I had ever dreamed.

And you know what I found each and every time?

That He was there… strong enough to hold me. Strong enough to carry me through it all. Strong enough.

And He was there holding out His hand of grace… not just a forgiveness that withheld what I deserved, but grace that gave way more than I deserved.

And let me tell you… I’m finding He is THE most skilled heart surgeon in the world. His steady, confident hand has rescued me more times than I can count.

Let Him rescue you.

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In the conservative circle in which I grew up, contemporary Christian music was not allowed. After marrying, I began to listen to a CCM radio station. Much of my spiritual growth since then can be attributed to the many CCM artists and the songs they write. There is truth in those words and power in their music.

If music means as much to you as it does to me, you might want to check out Spotify. This music program allows you to search for particular songs and save them to playlists, allowing you to listen to your music whenever you wish. Best yet, it’s free. (It will require you to download their music program to your computer, but I promise it will not download any junk.) You can find all the songs highlighted in Music Mondays at the Recovered Identity Spotify playlist.

 

*photo credit

My Love Hate Relationship With Fall

Leaves6Fall… the very word conjures up visions of cloudy days, chilly fingers, and a depressing gloom.

Everything bad happens in the fall. For real. My cat died in the fall (on my birthday). Bill Clinton became president in the fall (also on my birthday). I witnessed a near murder in my own family in the fall. My marriage was tested with torturous flames in the fall. You see where I’m going with this? Fall = Bad!

Oh, and also Fall signifies the start of winter which lasts far too loooooooong in Indiana.

In my teen years and early adult years, fall was a time of depression for my mother, usually resulting in thick tension. Depression slithered through the house threatening to swallow all of us into its stinky belly. During these times, I took on the role of mother for my younger siblings and the role of counselor for my mother. Two roles a daughter should not take on. It’s not her place.

I’d known nothing but depression during the fall when I married my love. It took me four years to finally get to a place where fall did not send me down into a spiral of darkness. I finally felt like maybe fall could be my friend. I reached out my hand in a peace offering to fall. It bit me. Fiercely.

Just a few short weeks into the fall of ’08, our marriage hit a painful hurdle. It was confusing hard. And once again, fall swallowed me up in depression. It didn’t help that I gave birth just a few short days before. Post partum hormones do not mix well with sorrow and pain.

Last year, toward the end of September, I packed up my kids and my camera and went out to find something to love about fall. I was determined to beat fall at this game of darkness. Where he loomed in shadows, I found light and beauty. I’m not sure that I really felt happy right away, but I forced it in an effort to trick myself into being happy. I chose to fight the gloom.

And I won. For the first time in all my life (that I can remember), I enjoyed fall. Before I knew it, Christmas had arrived and fall slithered away.

It’s mid-September. Fall is sneaking up again. The days are more often gloomy and chilly. I want to stand up to it… not let it win. But it’s so easy to just let it grab my foot and pull me back down. It almost sounds snuggy to be in the sorry-for-myself-in-my-sweatpants mode.

I think maybe now I know why it was so darn hard for my mom in the fall. It was habit to fall into depression. And habit is easy and safe. It takes bravery and strength to resist the comfort of gloom.

For the sake of my kids and my husband, I will choose to stand and fight. I will choose to wear clothing that makes me feel dressed for the day. I will choose to wear makeup and jewelry to make me feel pretty. I will choose to smile when I’d rather cry. I will choose to use gentle words when I’d rather snap.

Fall, you cannot have my soul. You just canNOT.

Snatch Up the Nuggets

goldnuggetMoving on… As if we simply turn our back on it and walk away. And yet that’s impossible.

The hurts, the mistakes, the wrongs, the struggles… We strive to move on and get past them in an effort to keep them from defining who we are.

But what if we’re going about it all wrong? What if, instead of trying to forget it and erase it’s effects, we embrace it… the pain and the mistakes… the tragedies we face in life?

It’s in the midst of hardship that we find the sweetness of life. It’s then that we dig the deepest, search the hardest, and rejoice the loudest over the tiniest glimmer of hope. These are precious, precious things. It’s this digging, searching, and finding that chisels away the “un-us” to reveal more of our true selves.

This reminds me of something I heard once. I don’t remember who said it. Probably someone from my ATI days that I’d rather not quote, but it’s true, none the less.

“Good and bad run on parallel tracks, and they often arrive at the same time.”

I’m not talking about a Pollyanna theology here, where if you just find the silver lining, the sadness will just go away. I’m talking about letting the hurt sink in. Letting the struggle take its course. And finding the good in the midst of it.

I read an excellent article this week over at Grace for Moms that speaks of this very thing. Donald Miller shares a very practical way of digging for the good in the midst of tragedy. I highly recommend reading what he has to say about finding a redemptive perspective.

So, don’t try to run away. Don’t waste your time with the giant eraser. It doesn’t work anyway. Embrace the tragedy. Find the gold nugget buried inside and let it bring out the best of who you really are.

 

*photo credit