Already Included #60 – Bad People

Maybe it’s not right theology that changes people as much as right love. Maybe we make it too complicated. Maybe we overthink things. Maybe the reason Jesus lets us fumble around in our denominations is party because that isn’t the main point. That perfect knowledge is not an end unto itself. That perfect knowledge is maybe only really as useful if it contributes to more perfect love. And as such, maybe for the more intellectual among us, the undoing of “knowledge” would maybe be more helpful than gorging ourselves on even more information.

Am I too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?

There is an avoidance of vulnerability when I live in my mind. Safely tucked away in the sanitized security of control and certainty. Very much alone. Nobody measures up. Nobody challenges me. As I hold people hostage to my expectations.

And then something outside of yourself wrecks your little castle. It’s on fire. Maybe you lose everything. And you feel very ashamed. Now you need others. And where are they? You have run them all off.

But what about what they did to me? True. But maybe there is something between the do-all and the do-nothing? Maybe there is a middle ground. Maybe the only person I have control over is myself. Maybe good people, people that love us, fumble up and mess things up and hurt us sometimes.

Maybe we hurt people also. Maybe we mess up. Maybe most others don’t know what we’re going through. Maybe we can give them the same grace that we need. I’m not saying excuse actions. I’m talking about how all of us need healing.

I think when you have lived in a paradigm that dismissed you as a person and your feelings for so long then once you wake up everything is sensitive and everything hurts. It’s like the brightest light was turned on and pierced the deepest wounds in your mind and heart. Maybe even in your spirit. Like you lived your whole life in the sewers of the slums and then one day were taken to the richest King’s castle and you look at yourself and your life and suddenly all this filth and poverty you previously settled for just overwhelms you. You suddenly see all the scars, all the dirt. And now that you are able you just want to scrub and scrub until you are clean. You want to stay far away from all that previous pain.

And maybe that time is needed. To heal, to recover our strength, to clear and rebuild our minds.

But to what end? To then forever sit in judgement on all who are behind? I think I am learning that is not at all Jesus’ heart. I think He proved it as He associated with all the broken during His time on earth. Not to judge them. Not to push them away. Not to sanitize Himself from their mess. No. He was all about healing.

Maybe there will be an expansion of our hearts. Maybe that’s the only way out of this. To see ourselves altogether as one. Maybe your healing is also my healing. Maybe I am only as whole as your brokenness?

The phrase that keeps haunting me is “forgiveness leads to repentance”. Not the other way around.

Before I used to do things with an agenda. I called it love, but I don’t think it was true love. It may have been sometimes “nice” or “friendly” at the most. But love is a whole other ballgame. Love is not safe. Love is not sanitized. Love doesn’t have a formula. Love doesn’t work when we keep score.

But the good news is that love is bigger than our failures. And love is always available for us to choose. Love heals. Love restores. Love is an irresistible force. Love gets in even as they fight or rage against it.

I’m obviously not the expert here. But I know Who is. And Holy Spirit’s wrath for our total healing will never waver.

Maybe my hell is driving me towards my redemption. Maybe I’ve been fighting the very things that will be my salvation. And not only mine, but the salvation of all those that I have driven off along the way.

Lord help us, we need a Savior. Who came to earth as a baby. Not a soldier.

Already Included #59 – No Condemnation

What an adventure. Trinity never ceases to amaze me.

I pictured Peter tonight. It sounds to me like he left his day job to follow Jesus. Jesus who looked like a human man, but Peter undeniably saw something different about this man. Peter probably heard all the gossip, all the naysayers, all the arguments against Jesus. And he tried his best. He dove in head first. He knew there was something Divine about this Jesus. Who leaves their day job to follow someone around without a plan? Surely Peter experienced God.

But then they are sitting in the garden and here is his Hero giving Himself over to the bad guys. To all the people who were fighting against them. Jesus just gives Himself up. I imagine Peter must have been so confused.

Here he left his job, defended Jesus to probably so many, maybe even his loved ones doubted his decision to join this rough group of followers without a plan. Just going here and there without any concrete outcome.

I mean these people come from and are surrounded by and were born into a very concrete religious community. Their entire society revolved around this monumental structure of a religion. Every facet of their lives were defined by the religion.

And Peter has the audacity to break away from the system. Peter has the audacity to throw away everything he’s ever known. Peter has the audacity to stand up to the pillars in his society.

And then his Jesus, this man he was so sure about, just gives Himself over and seems to throw in the towel.

I imagine Peter watching from a distance thinking, “Any time now my Jesus is going to throw these dogs off His back and show them who is boss. Show them who the real God is.” But then he watches them beat Jesus mercilessly.

Maybe as they place the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, Peter says, “Surely my Jesus will save Himself now. He saved everyone else.”

Maybe even when they placed the cross on Jesus’ back.

Maybe even when they stabbed the nails into Jesus’ body on the cross. Maybe even then Peter still held to His Jesus saving the day.

But then the cry. Then the water from Jesus’ body as the spear was thrust inside.

I imagine the sick feeling in Peter’s stomach as the people took Jesus’ body down from the cross. Maybe the doubts screamed so loudly inside of him. Maybe all the memories of the gossip and the naysayers and the religious arguments came flooding back to him. Maybe the most insidious of all flooded his mind: logic.

Maybe the other followers stood looking at Peter for an explanation. Maybe he had to go home to his family who were already past their last bit of patience with him. And then this.

The darkness of the night settled in. The stone was rolled over the tomb. And Peter’s Jesus looked very much like a human man who was dead. And Peter may have thought he looked to many like a fool following a crazy man.

But the miracles? But all the experiences with Jesus? Peter had been so sure. But now his Jesus lay very much dead. And with Him all that Peter had invested. Everything. His entire life. His reputation. His friendships. He had been so sure. Why did Jesus let him down and leave him? Alone.

The silence the next morning must have been unbearable. The deafening roar of a million questions. Of all his doubts coming true: “What if I was wrong? I probably took it too far like they told me. I probably should have just watched from the sidelines. Now look at me. I have nothing. How can I ever recover from this? And more – my heart. How will my heart and mind ever recover from this? Who on earth will have me now?!”

The looks in the street. Maybe haughty. Maybe filled with disgust.

Maybe it felt like a giant kick to the gut back to square one. Starting all over again except this time even farther down. “Look at me. I’m not a young man. I should have known better. Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Maybe I made it all up. Maybe I should have listened to them and just settled down and into place.”

Where was his Jesus to protect him now from all the people with power? Where was his Jesus to provide for him?

Where did you go, Jesus?! Why did you let them do what they did? How will anyone believe in You now?

Peter didn’t know his Father. We don’t know our Father.

No condemnation. But maybe you can relate. I can relate.

No sin was committed. This has happened so that people may believe. And be free.

Trinity has the last Word! Not death. Not “logic”. Not earthly powers. Not even our doubts and especially our failures.

The grave could not hold Him!! All was not in vain! For Peter or for us.

But I imagine those three days of silence must have felt like the end of almost everything. And maybe it was the end of one of the most important things: all of Peter’s well-meaning strength. All of our well-meaning strength.

I want to believe enough, but I can’t. I want to trust enough, but I can’t. Even the strength of our faith is not needed.

I cried out in anger and frustration, “God, if You are really God then….” God showed up. God saw me. God heard me. Alive for another day. Not just in body. But I mean really alive. Another monument. Another deposit into my trust account.

I cannot manipulate God with my belief. It is not needed. Again, the Father’s heart, Trinity’s heart. Or otherwise it will never work out. If anything is dependent on me.

“Peter, lead my sheep.”

“But I failed You, Lord.”

“I never needed your strength, Peter. Go tell them how much I loved and love you. Even when you thought you had failed and screwed everything up. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that their strength is not needed.”

Help us see, Father. Help us hear. Thank You that You already and always are!

Already Included #58 – First Frogs

By Sarah Nyhan

I was thirteen years young when I started high school. My best friend had an older boyfriend. She told me to go talk to his friend. I walked over to this older guy that I had never seen before. He told me, “You’re going to break up with your boyfriend and I’m going to be your boyfriend now.” And I didn’t fight back. I hate that.

I hate that I was taught to value myself so little. Now looking back, I blame a whole community completely soaked and saturated in separation mythology. If you’re told your whole life that your Creator is angry with you, that you are nothing, that you deserve nothing good, etc etc etc then it’s no surprise that you’ll settle for the first frog that comes along asking for a kiss. Or the first church that will have you. Or the first job that will have you. Etc, etc, etc.

It makes me sick now. Sick with anger. Sick with grief. To think about how much we are lied to and how we pass that mess along to each other. Crabs in the bucket. Dare someone to break out and the whole lot will come trying to pull them back down. Because don’t you dare challenge this sickness and sadness they’ve married themselves to. Don’t you dare challenge anyone’s fears.

What if I’m wrong? What if Trinity really isn’t concerned about my feelings? What if Trinity leaves me hanging? Leaves me making big dreams and big talk? I’d rather try and fail then rot away with regrets. I didn’t fight this long or this hard just to settle out of fear. No sir, no ma’am.

What on earth are we fighting for anyway? Why are we even doing all this studying and seeking? At the top of my list: real life and real love. A real God.

There is a song by Clint Black entitled, “Love She Can’t Live Without” that pretty much sums up my thinking. The chorus has the lyrics: “She can live with what goes with leaving, she knows it’s the only way, though it kills her to give up believin’, she can’t live with herself if she stays, she could settle for what she’d be feeling, if she gave in and worked this one out, she doesn’t want the kind of love she can live with, she wants the kind of love she can’t live without.”

There’s another song by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa. The chorus has the lyrics, “Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight is that we’re scared to be lonely?” In my experience, that is hell. Trying to fit yourself into someone else’s life, someone else’s world. Just to be accepted. Just to belong. The new toy for whoever. For the lover, the “friend”, the employer, the religious community. As long as you play the part then they’ll keep you around. Swimming in shallow waters.

I want more. I want real connection. I want real life. Real love. I want a real God. I want a Creator of this magnificent universe that cares about me. That didn’t spin me out on my own. I want the love story Trinity writes for me. I want all the life Trinity wants me to explore in this human experience.

We were Created just to tread water? I can’t buy that. It’d be easier if I could. But I feel like I’m completely cheating myself when I try. Totally letting myself down.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a beauty in simplicity. There is rest in God. I’m not talking about ambition for the sake of. I’m talking about not betraying my heart. I’m talking about being authentic. Being honest with each other. Valuing ourselves and each other.

One thing I did right in my life. There was a male and his family. After many decades, even recently, he told me I hurt him by not marrying him. Years and years go by. What you were so sure of gets less clear. You wonder if maybe you ask for too much. But I know I would have been miserable as his wife. No matter how much I love him. We just operate out of completely different values. It would have been oil and water. The lies creep up all around saying I should have just been happy someone wanted me around. But that’s not the point. I at least loved him and myself not to ruin our friendship. Not to force something out of fear. And that’s a love I hope he’ll understand someday. A love I wish a lot of people understood.

Maybe love made that decision easier. I loved him more than I love myself. However, these past few years have been an intensive course in learning to say no. Learning to walk away. Learning to fight back. And unfortunately learning to stand alone. Learning to trust myself. Learning to honor myself. Learning to value myself. Because Jesus didn’t come to die for nothing. Trinity didn’t Create this amazing planet for nothing. For trash. No way. That’s not my God. That’s not my Jesus.

I want this inheritance of fear to stop here. With me. With us. Not because of our strengths. But because we are safe in Trinity’s heart. Jesus proved it. I need God to help us see, help us hear. Help us be free!

Already Included #57 – Fine Right Now

I feel like I followed Holy Spirit out into a desert over a recent period. I feel like I am in that in-between hold-your-breath place where I can see Pharaoh coming at me on one side and a big sea on the other.

Trying to stay focused on the work I want to do. Slowly detaching from making those desires any part of an equation to attempt to manipulate God. Slowly resting as a child of Creator God. Loved. Living loved. Slowly not needing to know. Slowly embracing mystery. Slowly laying all my burdens down. Being a kid again. Doing my best while not relying on my part. Slowly. Decades of old habits die hard.

The sweetest times, that I admit I still resist, are when I run to Trinity with my raw honesty. With my questions. With all the messy emotions. The ones that aren’t pretty enough for public consumption. The thoughts I’m pressured to sweep under the table so as to make others comfortable.

Not my Jesus. He welcomes all of me. He can handle more than I could ever throw His way. He encourages my questions. He doesn’t push me away when I come with anger, tears, and fears.

Instead, I feel calm compassion. I feel that Mother gathering me in. I feel peace quiet my soul. I feel an invitation to let go of all I insist on carrying or holding onto.

Not a lot of talking. Not a lot to lean on for the future except reminders of Trinity’s love proven over and over again. And usually the question, “But you’re fine right now?” Followed up with the reminder that it feels like 99% of the time I’m upset over concerns about the future. About the story I have told myself about how things are going to play out. About things that aren’t even happening right now.

I am so accustomed to leaving God out of the equation. As if we are just an afterthought.

Slowly I am coming around. Trust slowly building on trust. Those monuments are helpful. Telling ourselves the true stories about how God has showed up and showed off in our lives before.

It’s one thing to have something good happen. It’s another thing when I remember how God protected me even in my failures. Funny how some of the most benign moments turn out to be lessons in that respect. I was thinking this week about how I left my laundry in the laundromat one day for several hours and nobody took it. I was thinking about another time when I left my money for doing laundry in the laundromat and nobody took it. I came back some time later and it was left untouched. Maybe little things to some, but they were big for me.

Over and over I don’t get answers so much about the future. I just mainly get reminded about where I knew God was real in the past. This is that adventurous life I prayed for. To be led where my trust is without borders. God alone.

Already Included #56 – Give Me My Mountain

If I trust Trinity for anything then why don’t I trust Trinity for everything? Do we get as much of Trinity as we settle for?

I think about where it was written that Jesus did not do many miracles for a certain group because of their unbelief. If that translation and interpretation is correct, I don’t want to be in that group.

I don’t want to be the Israelites who saw Trinity move in their lives and then assigned their fears and weaknesses more power than God. Always no condemnation, but I want to be like Caleb who believed God to be stronger than any challenge.

Isn’t that the whole issue? We believe we are abandoned. We believe Trinity spun us out, left us alone, and expects us to do our part. Like I’ll believe God to bless my efforts, but to trust Trinity into and beyond my failures? Not anymore than for eternal safety and reconciliation.

But what about here? What if God is in the healing and redeeming business right now?

Do we throw the baby out with the bath water if we totally distance ourselves from what is commonly referred to as “name it and claim it” or “prosperity preaching”?

I don’t know. I just think about my own life. I think about the stories I’ve heard in the recorded testimonies. And I wonder. I don’t want to miss out.

There is this fine line between trust and witchcraft. One involves rest. The other is very much about the illusion of control.

Witchcraft still says I have to do something. Witchcraft says it depends on me. Witchcraft reduces the uncontainable love of Trinity down to a formula to manipulate God. And I think that might be one of the main things being worked out of me. Because the old way of religion versus relationship was most certainly about a formula.

It’s almost blasphemous if you think about it: that I, this little speck on earth not even visible from a plane, have the power to flip a certain switch to make Creator God behave towards me a certain way. And then of course it is my job to keep that switch flipped. Totally ridiculous! I’m just a kid. I was thrown into a body on this earth without a clue about what is going on. How can I possibly have that much power and responsibility?

Maybe earthly parents expect their children to do for them, instead of the other way around. But I think Trinity is teaching me that They are different. They lay up an inheritance for Their children. As quoted in Isaiah, even a nursing mother may neglect their child – but the eyes of God’s heart never wavers; we are continually before Them.

I have been thinking on Psalm 127:
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”

In times past I interpreted Scripture from a perspective of God telling me what to do. Versus the way I now have been leaning: where all Scripture points to Jesus. So from that different viewpoint I look at Psalm 127 and I wonder if Trinity is saying: “I love My children. I take great joy in My children. I take care of them. I protect them. It’s useless for you to scrounge about like an orphan. You were lied to. Focus on Me and My heart instead of your fears and weaknesses.”

I mean that’s the whole story of so many starting with Adam and Eve. David and Goliath also comes to mind. If that scenario repeated itself today, David would be chastised endlessly up until he knocked Goliath out.

Heck, it was those that saw Jesus based only on physical appearances that sought to murder Him.

Who or what is the Goliath in our lives? Where are we limiting God? Again, such a fine line between resting and turning this concept into yet another “spell” to get what we want.

I think the healing of our inward brokenness may be the first versus the final frontiers in all of this. I don’t know, that’s just where I am today. But in that, I was thinking about Joseph. How he endured so much in the physical and yet we know in hindsight those experiences were not an indication that God was unhappy with him. Same as with Jesus.

But how beautiful is it that Joseph’s dream played a part in getting him rejected by his family and ending up in prison and yet God redeemed the whole dream thing by using that as his ticket out of jail.

I mean can you picture yourself young and excited because you feel like God is working in your life? And then something major happens like ultimate betrayals. But you’re still fresh off time with Jesus so you roll with it.

But then a little while turns into a long while. And it seems like God left you or put you on the sidelines and picked someone else in maybe what felt like a place you saw yourself fitting into.

You sit there wondering whether you went wrong. Replaying all the decisions. I mean surely you messed up. “But THIS badly, Lord?! I mean, I don’t want to compare, but how can I not when you look at so-and-so?!”

And at some point you just give up and try to forget about all those dreams. You try to learn to live a simple life in the prision you feel like you’ve failed to break out of no matter how hard you’ve tried. You feel like at best you can muster up the motivation to go through the motions some days. But it’s too painful to hope anymore.

And then one day, even in this state, God says it is time for Trinity to redeem even those private points of pain that are too raw to share with anyone anymore. Maybe you’ve even minimized them in your efforts to move on. But Holy Spirit sees. Holy Spirit knows. Holy Spirit is not content leaving any part of your heart broken. Holy Spirit takes whatever time is needed to get close to our great sadnesses. To delicately place them in Their hand. To not only help us move on but to redeem that which was lost along the way.

That’s what happened with Joseph. He probably doubted himself so much. He was probably done for the most part. I imagine. And God says, ‘Not only am I going to get you out of this prison, but I am going to restore all that was lost to you. Publicly! Your shame will be no more. You will not have all these people looking down on you ever again. And I’m going to redeem dreams – the very thing that seemed to lead you into this.”

Now that’s a God I can trust!

What is God redeeming in our lives? We want deliverance and relief, but what deep healing could Trinity also be up to? What is that Achilles heel in us that we’ve lived with so long that we have considered it something that will never leave us? That place where our best intellectual efforts haven’t been able to speak to our wounded hearts? Maybe the place where deep down we can’t see anything other than God failed us. Or that we failed ourselves or others beyond repair? I don’t think Trinity is content with leaving us alone with any of that darkness. All of you, all of us, will be redeemed, is being redeemed.

Now therefore, give me my mountain. As Peter said, wash all of me, Lord. I don’t want to let go until You bless me.