Broken Praise (12/2016)

This is a poem I wrote for my Church’s annual Christmas Eve Candlight Service this year. I’ve been writing and sharing a poem since I was in my early teens. 

This year, I finally found my inspiration on Christmas Eve when I was at my grandparents. (It’s become a bit of tradition for friends to ask when I finally wrote it. This time I was in the car heading home from my grandparents, less than an hour before I needed to be at the church.) 

My grandfather said something that kept going around in my head. He was speaking of his mother, my great grandmother, who would nearly shout when praying. When he asked her why she always prayed so loudly, she answered, “I am so insignificant. I have to shake the rafters in heaven so I’m heard.”

It was something that itched my brain. Because that is the beauty of God. God doesn’t need your shouts to be heard, he listens to that quiet plea in the depths of the silence, when you have no words, he still hears you. The angels are said to rejoice when someone comes to Christ (Like 15: 10). That there is so much excitement in heaven that the very angels share it with each other.

We humans are not insignificant. God is so eager to have that relationship with us, that his messengers understand and rejoice with him when one comes back to him. We are not insignificant to God, we don’t need to shout. He hears us.

Broken Praise  (RKG 12/2016)
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
A shout was heard as the angels came
Rejoicing at the foot of Heaven’s throne.
Martyrs cried out with joy and saints danced with the Heavenly host.
The angels celebrated as Satan groaned.
Another one found is Satan’s loss.
The rafters in Heaven shook today.
The barest whisper of sound swept through Heaven with the force of a hurricane.
It had the power to close the gates of Hell and throw open the pearly ones.
It snatched from Satan’s grasp, one so lost that she found the light.
Her breathless plea, a whisper of hope, shook the rafters of Heaven today.
Lost in fear, betrayed by man, she took a leap and found faith again.
Never alone, always held, Emmanuel, God with us.
The Shepherd gathers his lost sheep, one by one.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
A shout rang out and angels rejoiced around the Heavenly throne.
His cry was heard in the darkened room, despair so thick trying to suck him in.
But light abounded and darkness fled, salvation found, peace within hand.
A warrior’s cry so loud within his broken whisper, that demons quivered in fear.
Abused and hated, homeless and hungry, he took a leap and grabbed the hand of Salvation.
Never alone, always held, Emmanuel, God with us.
The Shepherd gathers his lost sheep, one by one.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
The power of a broken praise that can heal hearts and find the lost.
Amazing the grace when love is given and hope restored.
The angels rejoice and martyrs cry with joy when one more is snatched from the grasp of Hell.
When Satan groaned, life is found.
When a birth foretold, and death chained the beast, Heaven’s rafters shook and a curtain tore, the joy poured out no longer contained.
Angels stood amazed as the Gospel was told, the love found in the act of sacrifice too great to bear.
My prayer so loud in my chaotic mind, shame pushed aside and grace found.
No longer condemned, I stand free.
I, I, shook the rafters in Heaven today, pleading to be taken out of the pit to live in the light of righteousness.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, take my hand and pull me free. Set me on the mountain high, out of this pit take me now.
Break the grasping talons of Satan now, shatter my chains, no longer enslaved.
Coat me in the sacrifice of love, wash me in the river of life, let me live in your perfect light.
My broken praise, my gift to you.
My rejoicing joined the angels today, as I was found in the darkness.
My Shepherd led me forth to the light, to drink deeply of the never ending life-giving water, never to thirst again.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
Satan raged while the angels rejoiced.
I found my God when all was lost.
The gates of Hell slammed shut while Heaven celebrated.
One who was lost was found.

Tears Worth Shedding

Two killed on air
Nine killed in church
Man stabbed in broad daylight
Suicide bomber kills forty, injures hundreds
Bomb hits China
ISIS beheads thirty men, kidnaps ten children
Terrorist attack hits England
Threat level rises in US

The news is full of the bad and the worse. Having a client who watches the news 14 hours out of the day, I hear so much negative news that I teeter on the brink of apathy.
I don’t want to not care.
I want my heart to break as God’s does.
I want my eyes to overflow with the shared pain of the world, as well as that heartbroken family, who just got the news their beloved soldier was killed on his way home.
I don’t want dry eyes and a hardened heart.
These deaths that blaze across the shimmering screen are worth tears.
Children being abused are worth getting angry about.
All are worth being prayed over, all are worth crying out to the God who knows all and mourns all.
These are tears worth shedding for the blood that flows, hearts breaking, and the pain felt.
Help me, Lord, to always love as you do.
Help me to the point I feel the sorrow you feel for your lost children.
No matter the actions of the body, the soul is always worthy of tears.

1 Timothy 1:5
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

2 Timothy 1:7
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Eternal Water

May 4th, I was honored by the chance to lead the Youth Fair’s Sunday service at the fairgrounds. I was wracking my mind for something to talk about. I had a week’s notice to come up with a minimum of 15 minutes of talk time.
What in the world would I talk about to a bunch of kids and their parents?
God’s sense of humor took over.
It was the week that we had a torrential downpour for three or so days in a row. We’ve had it before, we’ll have it again. It truly wasn’t that a big of a deal, it’s just the way people react to it. Plus it made the fairgrounds a lake where they nearly had to swim their animals from their stalls. 4Hers were digging trenches in the thick sawdust to try and divert the rain so the animals wouldn’t have to stand in the water.
So, what idea hatched in my mind that week and couldn’t be forgotten? The power of Eternal Water.
yep. God was laughing.
What follows is basically my talk, much to my audience’s amusement:
This week I had a song go through my mind over and over again, Tenth Avenue’s “Love is Here.” If you haven’t heard it, they take a verse from Isaiah 55 which says “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!”
Then the thought came of how very blessed we were in this nation that we never have need to thirst.clean-dirty-drinking-glass

In a world where 780 million people – that’s 1 in 9 people, lack the ability to get clean water in developing countries- Americans are extremely blessed.
In a world where women will walk up to six hours a day, to gather a ten gallon bucket of what MIGHT be considered clean water, we just have to turn on our faucets.
Where little girls are taken out of school to gather water, our girls just have to grab a bottle of water that they rarely finish.
Where a large slum city uses less water a day than what we waste in one of our showers. 3.5 million people die every year due to the lack of clean water and America is considered one of the most dehydrated countries with 75% of the population suffering from Chronic dehydration.
We are a nation greatly blessed by an over abundance of water, and we don’t drink. We chose to fill that thirst with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and false energy. We mask life giving water with stuff that doesn’t help us, but can actually harm us.
In a nation that if we are thirsty we just have to go to the sink, where even if there is a drought, there is still water to drink, we are so blessed but we ignore it.
We are blessed as well with living water. We have the ability pick up a Bible in our language at nearly any bookstore or supermarket. We can download it on any mobile device or computer in seconds. But we don’t read it.
We fill up on reality tv, and celebrity gossip. We can spend hours on end playing a violent game on our xbox, but we can never find the time to drink the life giving water of the Bible.
In a world where millions will never hear or read the Scripture in their language, we are blessed. We can choose our translation and our version, but we rarely spend time diving into the words.
We choose to believe what someone says about God’s word, rather than reading it for ourselves. We give away our God given right to know his word, because we are too lazy to read them.
We are given healthy, fresh, healing, life giving water to drink, and we pour it out instead.
Jesus echoes Isaiah in the story of the woman at the well in John 4, but shows that he himself is the true living water– When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

We can choose what we want to take into our bodies—dirty water or clean water.
We can choose what we read and watch that affects our spiritual body- the Bible or anything that is not glorifying to God.
Will you go thirsty? Or will you drink deep of healing water that can give you eternal life?
The choice is ultimately up to you.
If we live in a world where people will walk miles to sit at a reading of the Scriptures, in a language that many of the audience won’t even understand fully, while we use our free Gideon Bible to prop up a table, ultimately it is us who will go thirsty while they drink deeply of Jesus’ presence.
The choice is: will you choose a relationship with the Loving, Sacrificial God who died so that you could fill your soul with delight or will you choose to fill your time with false joy watching Keeping up with the Kardashians or playing Call of Duty?
Take in good and never thirst again.
or Take in bad and be constantly looking for more.

(And now, this next Saturday I have the honor to speak to the ladies of my church at a special Ladies’ Tea. Attempting to figure out what to speak in regards to Psalm 90:17, so I’m sure I’ll have something up here regarding that talk soon. God keeps giving me great opportunities to speak of him, and I stand amazed at every chance he gives me!)

You will know them by their love

 Brant Hansen (Air1 Christian Alternative’s DJ) really got me thinking the other day when he was commenting on a church that was picketing a Skillet concert. 
I’ve looked for the quote because I don’t want to misquote him, but sadly I was unable to find it. (So if anyone else heard it, please let me know!)
So from my memory: he was talking about how the leader of the group was yelling at those who were lined up to get into this Skillet concert. Skillet is a well known Christian rock band that has a rather large fan base. The leader was being downright cruel from my understanding. He was supposedly saying something about if you believe in a merciful God you don’t believe in the real God. That he is above the need for grace. 
I’m not even going to comment on how bad his theology is there, because that isn’t what caught my attention, or obviously Mr. Hansen’s since he is the one who was talking about it. 
This leader was raging against the people who were going into the concert and the people who were preforming. Numerous concert goers tried to stop the group by telling them how badly they were representing Christ to those who walked by, which just made the leader get even more belligerent. The lead singer John Cooper came outside and walked up to the group, and started passing out water. As Mr. Hansen reported, the leader asked what are you doing? 
Supposedly, Mr. Cooper said, “Well, I’m supposed to love my enemies and since you want to make yourself my enemy…” 
Mr. Hansen (as well as many of his listeners who called in) was struck by the grace that Mr. Cooper showed at the moment of tension. 
Mr. Hansen then put forth a question that has really struck me and I’ve been forced to mulled over it for the last week. “Why do we assume this ‘church’ is Christian? I saw no representation of Christ shown during their protest. So how do we know they were Christian?”
It was an interesting idea. We too often assume that when we hear ‘church’ that the people consider themselves affiliated with the Christian religion. Yes, they might truly have called themselves Christian, but the issue here is were they acting as representatives of Christ? No. 
There is a hymn written in 1968 called “They’ll Know We Are Christians” where they echo an oft repeated thought through out the Scriptures. They will know we are Christians- followers of a loving sacrificial God- by our love. By our own actions we will be known. 
With the recent death of Westboro Baptist Church’s former leader, Christians seem to be rejoicing over his passing. Another Air1 DJ commented on this by saying, “Here’s the dichotomy; By celebrating his death like, “Woohoo! He’s gone!” we’ve just reduced him to a symbol versus of what God created in His image! And by celebrating it, we’re actually participating in the very same thing that made him infamous!”– Ashton (from Air1’s Facebook page) 
We become no better than those we mock when we rejoice over a sinner’s death. We become no better than those very people who rejoiced over a solider’s death and picketed over it to make a political/religious stand, and who seemed to enjoy the family’s tears and anger. 
I saw it play out on Facebook during the Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s captures and deaths. We rejoiced over the death of a sinner, who as far as we know, never became right with God. How can we participate in that misplaced joy?
I need to keep my mind on what Christ said- Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Or like Mr. Cooper did, love them enough to give them water when their throats are dry from ridiculing you and your own actions.
How are my actions today representing Christ in his loving sacrificial glory to a world that does not know him? Maybe not as well as they should be. 
Do I act like a Christ follower when I react to people I don’t agree with? 

Crooked Crowns

I am the daughter of the King,
 but I feel like the prodigal son who hasn’t come home.
I was gifted a crown and a throne,
but I cling to my dirty rags and sit in the garbage pit.
I was given power from the hands of the Most Divine,
 but I think my own power is better.
I was forgiven of all my sins, my dirty little secrets, my hurtful digs,
but I refuse to forgive others and cling to my bitter grudges.
I was encouraged to pray for more wisdom and faith so that I might mature,
but instead I use my Father as if he is a genie in a bottle for unneeded desires.
I was given the sword of the Spirit, sharpened with the Word of God,
 but instead I sharpen my tongue on those who are defenseless. 
I was told to go out to bring other lost children back to their Father,
but instead I hide behind my doors, behind my friends, in my comfort zone.
I was told to live sacrificially with a true selflessness,
but instead I count the pennies I give out, wondering if I absolutely have to give.
I was told to speak truth,
but instead I spread gossip and lies along my path.
I was told to love my neighbor no matter whom they might be,
but instead I hurry to the other side of the road and buy into false stereotypes.
I am called adopted child of the Most High God,
and I forget the grace that comes with that calling.
I was called to a life of mercy because I was forgiven,
and I forget to tell all of that gift that is just waiting for them.
I call myself Christian,
and I forget the duty that is placed upon that name.
I am a child who sits on a throne too big for me,
a crown that sits a little too crooked on my ego filled head,
I’m a forgiven sinner who clings a little too much to a hate filled world.
I feel as if I’m an impostor to the throne even through the adoption papers were signed with blood.
I still see the blood on my hands even though I was washed clean in the purist water imagined. 
I am a human in all the frailties of my soul.
Split in two, my heart wages war.
To seek the divine or live a falsehood.
The war wages and sometimes righteousness win, but too often the Devil has his due.
My crown is crooked, my feet don’t touch the ground.
I’m a child of God called to rule.
He has my soul, but the Devil has his poisonous claws within my flesh.
Sometimes I’m just a little girl playing in the Queen’s closet.
Forgive me when my scepter slips, help me hold it up.
Forgive me when I don’t represent my King in the best light,
because I’m still just a little girl needing to mature.
Here I sit on a throne too big, with a crooked crown,
still needing to learn on the lap of Most High King.

Why I’m not God…

Since the creation of Man, we have thought that we could be better than God.
Throughout the Scriptures we find examples of prideful Man trying to push God off his throne.
* Eve listened to a lesser creature, because she wanted to be like God and Adam followed. (Genesis 3)
* Cain killed his brother because he was jealous, but he also thought that God was wrong. (Genesis 4)
* The Flood happened because Man reveled in their own evilness, we found sin to be much nicer than righteousness. (Genesis 7)
* Our multiple languages and dialects? Also, directly linked to the idea that we could be equal to God. We attempted to be in the space of God so that we could make a name for ourselves. (Genesis 11)
It continues on. Barely is there a story in the Bible that does not show the traces of the pride of humanity, kings were felled and nations were scattered or destroyed because of it.
Pride. We think we can be better than God.
Today, we are yet again attempting to take the place of God. We say Science is the only way! Everything can be proven, we need not trust a myth!
Why do we think this? Because, God gave us free will. He did not create creatures who followed him mindlessly, but rather because he loved us, gave us our own chance to trust him.
I am not God. Let’s admit it, if humans were gods, life would look a lot more like the Greek/Roman Pantheon stories. We would be waging wars over jealous looks and creating unwanted half divine children who create havoc upon the earth. We would be threatening destruction at every whispered cross word.
If I was God? Every time I got embarrassed people would go missing. Get angry? I’d probably shot flames from my eyes and there would only be ash were someone use to be.
Yeah, it’s a good thing I’m not God. I wouldn’t forgive, or look for the righteous among the sinners. I wouldn’t die for those that hate me, that’s for sure!
There are many reasons why I am not God. But, why would I want to be when we have such a loving one already?
We have a God that created us just for the pleasure of it.
We have a God who even in his anger, allowed humanity to survive.
We have a God who gave us what we wanted, even though it hurt us, then provided us with some warriors to save us from ourselves.
We have a God who died for us. Not only did he stop breathing for a time, but he suffered a horrendous death so that we could have the opportunity to be saved.
He gives salvation for free.
All I can say, is it’s good that I am not God.

Breaking the Christian Bubble

For the last 6 years I have been living in what is termed a Christian Bubble. Everyone on campus is Christian and believes in the same key ideals as me. I work and go to school in the same area, and before this year, I lived there as well. Not only that, when I went home to my parents, I was surrounded by more Christians because I was with my parents and then went to church. If it wasn’t for my grandparents and extended family, I would be totally surrounded by like-minded believers.
While this isn’t bad, it’s not good either.
When you always surround yourself by like-minded people you forget how to communicate with those who don’t believe as you do.  We get so used to hearing the Christian language and vocab being used that we forget that not everyone speaks it.  When this happens we start to become judgmental of those we are suppose to be sharing God‘s love with.
I was reminded about this wonderfully in the ongoing story of my injured foot. I am always willing to speak to anyone who wants to, but I haven’t had to have an extended conversation about faith with anyone beyond my own family who are non-believers.
I’ve been having to go to physical therapy twice a week to work on my foot (tomorrow I’m going to have an MRI to see if there is more damage than first thought 😦 ) because it’s not healing that well. But, the guy who is working on my leg is….interesting.
There really is no other word for this guy. He is simply interesting. He says he’s from a Catholic background but isn’t practicing. He’s a divorced 33 year old and according to him a co-dependent personality and he was in a new relationship within weeks of his divorce because of that. He’s an ADHD extrovert without a lot of verbal boundaries.
To say the least, I’m not bored in physical therapy!
The second day with him, he asked how long had I been dating my boyfriend? To which I did my usual- Don’t have a boyfriend, never have.
This seemed to horrify him.
He asked “Does that mean you’re a….”
Me- “Virgin? Yes, it does.”
To which he said, “I am so sorry.”
As if it’s horrible to be 27 and a virgin!
As if I should be ashamed by that title!
I’m not. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
He wondered if I felt like I had missed out on something huge, because he said he would have. I said no. Then he wondered if it was a religious thing, to which I said it’s part of it but it’s not the full reason.
What has followed after that appointment are more bizarre conversations about politics, religion, family, school, my boring life (his words) and other odd topics. Almost all of them end with him shaking his head either in pity or possible disbelief. He doesn’t understand it. I’m a novelty to him because I’m not ashamed of who I am or what I stand for, I’m not trying to make excuses for what I believe. I simply believe.
I also don’t judge him. A lot of friends and family members are a bit horrified by my stories, a few have suggested I report him,(to say the least my dad wasn’t too happy about the whole virgin conversation….) But, this is life. This is what outside the Christian Bubble looks like. It’s messy, crude, and bizarre.
He has asked me questions about the Bible that if I had come out and judged him in that first meeting, I would never had heard.
I am of the firm belief that judging someone has never caused them to turn to God, rather it makes them angry and bitter towards Christians. There is a reason why Christians have such a bad name. We are known as a hypocritical group that is judgmental and lies about our own sins. We condemn the world while not cleaning up our own mess.
My Grandma had a saying, “Don’t go cleaning up someone else’s porch until you clean under yours.” You can probably figure out that its based off of Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
I am not perfect. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I’m selfish, I’m given to bouts of depression and anger, I like my food a little too much, I have a sarcastic snarky self that makes appearances on occasion and so many more things…No, I’m not perfect.
I also believe that I don’t have the right to judge a non-believer by the same standards as I hold myself to. They don’t understand that what they do is spiritually wrong because they don’t believe the same ideals as I do.
All I can do is be myself and pray over them.
Many of the people who are uncomfortable with my ideals are those who know what they are doing is wrong but aren’t ready to change. So be it. If it bothers them too much they will leave, it won’t be because I verbally abuse them by judging them. I will love them, because ultimately they are my brother and sister in the world, and hopefully, some day they will become my brother and sister in Christ.
That all to say, I am still meeting with my physical therapist who keeps me on my toes, both figuratively and literally, and while I am in major pain when he is working on my leg, I slowly introduce him to the God who is waiting for him.
I am breaking this Christian Bubble around me because it doesn’t do me any good. Yes, I can minister with love and compassion to other Christians, but it doesn’t bring anyone new to the church. We become numb to our own salvation when we don’t get to witness and be part of the salvation story of a new believer.
They are the flaming branch to a smoldering fire. They are the flowing water to a parched desert. New believers revitalize us and gives the church a new revival.
Break the Bubble! Bring them in! Go out and talk to the Goth, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Atheist.  Stretch your thoughts and work your prayer muscle. Our faith isn’t suppose to have easy answers. We are suppose to be wrestle with the hard questions that the everyday person is living with.
Have you broken the Bubble yet?
Romans 1:14-17
 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”