Grace is an Island (Unforced Rhythms Link-up)

digital art by nienor
island in a storm by nienor

I am pulled by the tides. Battered by the waves. Tossed about by circumstance. Worn down by the struggle.

Like Paul I cry out, “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7:19-20, The Message)

I forget all that I have learned about floating. And I surrender to the flailing. The attempted saving of myself from what feels like drowning in a sea of stress. Never considering to check if my feet could touch the bottom of what might simply turn out to be only a momentary pool of pressure.

Gasping for breath. Thrashing my body from side to side. Reaching for an anchor. Settling instead for sugar.

And what I already knew about myself and my drug of choice was proven true again. It only takes a little to make me want a lot.

I allowed it for a day or two. It’s Christmas, I reasoned. Nothing more than I can handle, I pretended.

Knowing with each and every bite that I had awakened my addict persona. And that she would not go down easily.

So I braced for the storm. For the onslaught of shame and guilt. To be knocked back and forth against the stones of “shouldn’t have” and “how could you” and “you’ll never change.”

I set my jaw, tensed my muscles, and lowered my head for the coming punch.

But the punch did not come. The winds did not howl. The sea did not swallow me.

Because Grace came instead.

And where I expected to be pushed face-first into the sand, Grace lifted me.

Where my lungs had filled with salt-water, Grace replaced it with the Breath of Life.

Where Shame wanted to scream obscenities at my mistakes, Grace simply said, “Let’s start again.”

With a gentle hand, Grace set me on an island. A solid rock in the middle of the sea.

Here the tides only ebb and flow at the shore. The waves do not overtake me.

Here the breezes sing this song.

Grace. Grace. God’s Grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace. Grace. God’s Grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.

p.s. I did not intentionally plan for my last post of 2014 to be focused on my Word of the Year: Grace. But it’s a fitting finale, indeed. I have found nothing anything close to comparable to selecting One Word each year to keep me focused. Partner it with a scripture, and the power multiplies. I’ll be announcing my 2015 Word soon, but I am spending these days praying that YOU would meet with The Spirit to come to agreement on One Word for the new year. And that you would have the courage to embrace it, then allow Him to unfold it in you over the coming days.

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The wonderful Kelli Woodford (Chronicles of Grace) is taking a well-deserved blogging break in December, but she has graciously let me borrow the Unforced Rhythm link-up community for the next few weeks. Your words are welcome here. So very welcome.

If you stopped by here for the link-up, would you consider to connecting with me as well. On the right of this page you’ll find lots of ways to keep in touch. Just pick your favorite method of communication, and I’ll see you again soon!



Peace for those with Empty Arms (Unforced Rhythms Linkup)

peace-1024x682(pp_w579_h385)Empty arms carry some of the heaviest weight.

Maybe it’s Distance. Divorce. Depression. Deployment. Death.

A relationship unreconciled. A wound unhealed. A longing unfulfilled.

Maybe your hole is left from a dream that never came true. Or the one that ended before you were ready.

Oh, my friend, I have been praying for you.

Again and again this advent season, God has brought you to my mind.

You with the empty arms. The ones that feel especially vacant in this time of joy and celebration and light. I hear your soul’s songs of lament even among the 24-hour broadcasting of reindeer songs and snowman tunes. I see you standing timidly with your single candle of hope while it feels like the rest of the world is fully embracing multi-colored bulbs and twinkle lights.

And I have been holding you closer to heaven, dear one. Asking God to be extra close to your tender heart. Begging Him to show up for you in expected places this Christmas. Praying that you will taste of His love for you in new ways.

And that you will have peace. Oh, how I have been praying for your spirit to have peace.

For your soul to sit in stillness, acknowledging every ounce of your sadness, crying every necessary tear. But knowing, deeply knowing, that you are held.

You and your empty arms are embraced so very tightly in His.

Now. Always.

May you know it. May you feel it.

Now. Always.

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HEY, BETH... Where are the links!?! HEY, FRIENDS... Over HERE!


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

The wonderful Kelli Woodford (Chronicles of Grace) was inspired by these verses to name a Weekly Web Gathering of grace as “Unforced Rhythms.” She is taking a well-deserved blogging break in December, but she has graciously let me borrow the UR link-up community for the next few weeks. Your words are welcome here. So very welcome.

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… 

(due to technology issues, Linky is not allowing the actual links to show up on my post page… I hope to have this resolved by next week, but please COME OVER HERE to add your link and/or read precious words from my Grace-Filled friends)

For When I Tap my Toes & Trust the Driver (Word of the Week)

psalm 20-7In the days before SUVs and seat-belt laws, I spent my days in the back of a station wagon. Exploring the country’s interstates and landmarks in carefully planned summer vacations.

Mile after mile. Four people in a Ford.

Often you could find me ticking off the exits on an atlas. (Even then, I needed to know my place in the world.)

But there were also hours upon hours of car games, singing, caring for dolls, naps, and just laying back watching the sky surround us.

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My feet are on the dashboard. Toes tapping to James Taylor. Or The Beatles. Or an 80s pop mix where he quizzes me on band names while we ride.

I had been used to driving myself along these roads. Now I am a wife. And a passenger. I learn to relax and pass the time unconcerned with traffic and other drivers and the gas light.

But it’s not a natural reaction. Letting myself be led. Accepting there is more than one way to get from Point A to Point B. Forgiving the passing up of the parking spot I would have selected.

Not being in control.

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I awake every morning this week with Tim McGraw on my mind. “No other shotgun rider beside me singing to the radio.”

He wrote it as a love song. I hear it as a daily reminder of my positioning on this planet.

Stay in the shotgun seat, Beth.

No need to grab the wheel. I’ve got this covered.

Bridges. Tunnels. Mountain passes.

Snow. Ice. Rain. Tornado-like winds.

We travel together.

He drives.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

For When He Pushes Past my Resistance and Holds Me Close (Word of the Week)

isaiah40_11-blogsizeI did not expect anger to be the first feeling to find its way past the numbness.

As the pumice stone of grace and truth crossed against my calloused soul, I had some understanding that sensation would someday return. I even suspected it might be uncomfortable. Painful perhaps.

Even so, I caught myself surprised when a series of relatively innocuous events left me in a rage of seething words. An avalanche of sharp edges thrown carelessly towards anyone who dared move past me. A day that left me shaking — literally, yes. But emotionally as well.

A bitterness that bubbled and boiled until hot tears burst forth. I could contain them no longer. Words and weeping flooded out simultaneously. Hurts I didn’t even know I was hiding. I didn’t edit. I didn’t numb. I let myself feel it all.

Addiction recovery is surgery without anesthesia. A deep, deep digging out of the things of life you’ve been trying to avoid by masking them. Numbing them. Stuffing them.

And when you stop masking, numbing, and stuffing, everything is magnified. Like a southerner’s first Minnesota winter, your blood is thin and your skin is raw. Vulnerable.  Exposed.

And that is a scary, scary place to be.

If flight is no longer a self-preservation technique, fight takes over.

There is an approach in psychology for children prone to rage called Holding Therapy. To wrap oneself firmly around the angry one until they settle and learn to trust and attach to their holder. It is not without controversy, and it is not my intent to dispute that here. Because my only frame of reference is that God uses it with me.

I shout and flail my limbs about, unwilling to surrender my right to be angry. I want to keep any more pain at a distance. The outrage inside is raw enough. I cannot risk anything or anyone getting close enough to pour salt in the wounds.

But my Jesus takes His chances. He is not discouraged by my flying fists or foul words. He holds. Oh, how he holds. Firmly. Tenderly. Without weariness. Without rebuke.

He takes care of his people like a shepherd. 
He gathers them like lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to him. (Isaiah 40:11)

As He gathers me in His arms, my spirit, indeed settles. And then it starts to sing. Softly at first. And pleading by the end.

Hold Me Jesus

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small 

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace
  (Rich Mullins)

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

My Most Important Interview Ever (Word of the Week)

psalm 139_23-24 neutralI have never really understood the phrase, “Know it like the back of your hand.”

Because I have no idea what mine really look like.

I know there is a mole near the center of one. The left, I think. I take a peek. Nope. It’s the right.

Because the left is where I have a small scar from a vacuum cleaner (don’t ask.)

Turns out that’s the right hand, too.

Which means I don’t really know myself well at all. I, like others who know things “like the back of their hands,” may be kidding ourselves about what we actually know at all.

We build facades to impress or to hide or assimilate to a group. We often don’t know we’re doing it. And of all the people we wear masks for, perhaps we fool ourselves the most.

Early in any relationship, we ask a lot of questions of the other party.

Where did you grow up? What was it like? What were your dreams? What are your goals? What was your relationship with your parents like? Do you like your job? What do you enjoy doing outside of work? What’s your favorite food/color/ice cream/movie/….

We instinctively know it’s the best way to get to know someone. Questions. Listening. Time.

And we neglect all these things for ourselves.

We don’t ask ourselves who we are or what we want. We certainly don’t take time to listen to much of anything our inner self is trying to say. We fear time alone not knowing what we may discover.

And we learned a long time ago not to ask questions we don’t want to know the answers to.

So we walk through our lives not as our real selves, but as those we think we are. Which keeps everyone at arm’s length. Even our truest self — the one just bursting to make herself known.

I am challenged as I move forward in my recovery to take a full and fearless inventory of myself. My memories. My motives. My strengths. My stumbles.

As a trained reporter, I’ve asked many people many kinds of questions — even the kind you don’t really want to have to ask. I am a professional asker. It’s the answering part I have less experience with.

But here I am, poised for the most important interview of my life. The one with myself.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I have had multiple births in this lifetime. And I’m in the throws of contractions for yet another — the Beth who is free from thinking that filling herself with food will satisfy her soul.

The earlier versions of myself were bringing me to her, but the imprisoned me is not who I really am. Certainly not who I was designed to be. They have a lot of baggage to leave at this stop for a forward path of freedom.

I do not say this in a self-deprecating way. Not as a way to dig up dirt on myself or point fingers or scold any earlier Beths.

But I speak as an excavator now aware that ALL the root must be removed before a new tree can thrive in its place. As a surgeon who can leave NO infected piece behind lest the wound never fully be healed.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)

The Message version says it like this:

Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life.

This excavating — this surgery — it may be messy work. Discoveries I would prefer to leave hidden. There may, too, be beautiful finds in the deep places.

There’s only one way to find out. Let the interview begin.

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

 

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