The Blessing of a Difficult Good Bye

These past few weeks have been difficult as I navigate the stream of good byes andHow-Lucky-I-am-Winnie-the-Pooh-670x1024 “lasts”. I have a hope and expectation for the next season but closing this one takes a significant amount of energy…there is a grief to it. A sadness that things are about to change completely. A pain that I won’t be able to continue the relationships in the same capacity. It is hard.

But this process is showing me how truly blessed I am.

I have invested my heart in relationships and have been surrounded by extraordinary people. My circumstances forced me into a more vulnerable place…a place where I needed to reach out and rely on so many in my community. But that vulnerability forged a depth to my friendships that make this move VERY hard. And for that I am extremely thankful.

Somehow, I think it would be more sad if I could just pack up and leave without difficulty. CS Lewis said it best:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis, The Four Loves

There have been many tears and long hugs. Laughter as we reminisce or enjoy a meal. My heart is a bit weary but full of gratitude. I will never have appropriate words to describe this season or how much people mean to me…even though it’s hard I am thankful I invested.

Blessings,

Lynnea

I’m not going to fake it

“Principles are what people have instead of God.
To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God’s or your neighbor’s sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there’s no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.
Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.
‘Principle’ is an even duller word than ‘Religion’.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

This quote came across my Facebook news feed this week and I had to re read it a few times as the message sank deeper into my heart. At first pass I thought…What?! Aren’t principles good? Shouldn’t we stand for right and wrong? Shouldn’t we have those lines that we wont cross?

The second read I thought well, I guess principles are our own construction of right and wrong. They can become rigid. A list of shoulds and should nots to adhere to. Fundamental behavior rules that we accept as true as we construct our own moral framework. We replace God with our own ideas of how to act. And when something falls outside that framework we judge it and cast it off without looking deeper into the heart.

The third time through I stopped at “Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them”. He didn’t forgive these people who had beaten, humiliated, and executed him because he SHOULD. Because a moral code told him to. He forgives them because he honestly LOVES them. He can see in their hearts. He can see beyond the behavior to the pain and the wounds. He can see their need for a savior. And even though they are taking his life he responds with compassion and forgiveness.

WOW…that is some kind of love and it’s there for all of us.

This is the point where I’m like Yea! Thank you for loving me that much! Thank you for your grace and compassion and forgiveness!!

And then there is a voice inside me that goes “Because I love you…go love others with the same sacrificial love”

Eeeerrrkkk (squealing brakes 🙂 ) It’s one thing for me to receive that love but to offer it to hardest to loveothers? That costs something. That costs A LOT. That costs EVERYTHING. However, if it’s been freely given to me…shouldn’t I freely give it? Yes. But let’s not pretend it’s easy. I have been in a very difficult healing and forgiveness process and I will admit to days where closing my heart and giving in to anger/bitterness seemed like the easiest way forward. My heart was hard. My pride was hurt. My sense of justice was screaming. My principles shattered. I knew deep in my soul that love and forgiveness were the only way to bring freedom into my life but I didn’t see how it was humanly possible. And honestly it wasn’t humanly possible but I had hope it was divinely possible.

So, this was my prayer “God, I’m hurt and angry. I confess to an extremely hard heart and not much hope for true forgiveness. I know you ask me to love this world like you do. To offer compassion and forgiveness to hurting people. There is nothing in me that wants to…BUT there is a small crack in my heart for you to work. I need you to honestly do this because I can’t and I’m not going to fake it.”

Deep in my soul I felt something like this “Thank you for keeping a crack open…I’m not asking you to fake it…I can and will do this. Trust me.”

It doesn’t happen immediately. In fact it is a slow, agonizing process but that crack is widening. Much like a rose going from a tight closed bud to a flower in full bloom. Every day brings almost undetectable changes but add them up and transformation is more obvious. The hardness is softening. The ice is melting. A miracle is happening. Authentic love and forgiveness are replacing anger and self righteousness. The impossible now feels more possible. And all I can say is Praise the Lord…I’m not faking it!!

Happy Monday,

Lynnea

Making sense of the senseless

Our brains are amazing things. They are the command center for our entire body…taking information in the form of electrical impulses from all the senses and synthesizing it into…sound…touch…taste…images. We can manipulate complex arguments and form opinions. We take the information we receive and fit it into our framework of the world around us. As we see and experience new things (hopefully) that framework adapts and changes.

But then there are things that happen that just don’t make sense. Realities that I can’t fit into my framework because I can’t get my brain around it. How do 3 teenagers go from being bored to taking an innocent life? Bored!? That is so delusional and self consumed with such an extreme disconnect from the reality and consequence of their actions. Senseless. My heart breaks for Christopher Lane’s family.

There are days when I feel like I view the world through the emotional equivalent of 3D glasses with each eye letting in a different image. One eye lets in the beauty, hope, redemption and love. New Life. A breath taking sunset. Forgiveness. While the other eye lets in pain, heartbreak, wounds and suffering. A senseless killing. Selfishness. Evil.

My brain attempts to make sense of this information. To merge both images into one. I can’t do it. I don’t believe things will ever make sense this side of heaven. And I’m going to leave it there recognizing that some things don’t fit.

I believe God exists…a good, loving, merciful, graceful, personal God.

I believe evil also exists…evil that wounds, kills, hates and enslaves.

I also believe that even though I don’t understand how everything works around me, I want to be a person in this world that chooses love, hope and redemption…amidst the chaos and pain.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful song from David Crowder Band.

…And I don’t know what to do with a love like that

and I don’t know how to be a love like that.

When all the love in the world is right here among us

and hatred too

So, we must choose what our hands will do

Where there is pain…let there be grace

Where there is suffering…bring serenity

For those afraid…help them be brave

Where there is misery…bring expectancy

Surely we can change something…

Surely we can change something.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Keep the Faith

These last couple weeks have been tough. I realize in the difficult times I tend to not write as much. I guess I’m not inspired. I feel a bit sorry for myself. I don’t have much energy…I try not to push myself too hard. I have been missing family a lot recently and feeling the full weight and isolation of living alone in a foreign country. The side effects of my medicine have been brutal as the summer temperatures climb and in general I have just felt suffocated by the things that are unknown and the things that are out of my control.

I have my bad moments. I don’t like them but it’s honest. I’m not endlessly positive…I can throw myself a pretty good pity party. I reached a point on Monday where I just needed to get out of town. Somehow being alone in an unfamiliar place is better than being alone in a familiar place. Through a last minute cancellation I was able to head up to a friend’s place on Ameland for a few days.

This has been just the right mental break for me. I don’t have any real answers to my questions but God is gently restoring my perspective.

I was incredibly encouraged by the story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew this morning:

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them (the disciples) and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits “A Ghost!” they said crying out in terror.

But Jesus quick to comfort them “Courage it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat and the wind died down.

Matthew 14:24-33 (parentheses mine)

Peter can sometimes get a bad rap in this story. The Message translates it as “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The NIV says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” I really empathize with Peter. At the beginning of the story it’s the 12 disciples…in a boat…in the middle of the lake…in the middle of a storm. Not a very nice place to be. I don’t know if they were sleeping but at 4:00 in the morning they were probably a bit groggy and then they see Jesus on the water. What the? I’d be terrified too!!

Peter tends to be the bold, impulsive one so once Jesus lets them know it’s OK he immediately asks to join him. My paraphrase of his question is:

Master, if it’s you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power…ask me to do something I would never be able to do on my own! And Jesus does.

And then Peter jumps out of the boat excited to join Jesus…he takes some steps and then there’s a moment when reality catches up with him. Hey, wait a minute?! I’m walking on the water!! In a storm!! This is impossible!! And he shifts his gaze from Jesus to the churning water beneath his feet…that’s when he begins to sink.

Even with his sinking I have respect for Peter. The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat where they didn’t need to risk anything. Peter stepped out of security toward Jesus.

I feel like I am Peter in this story. I’m not walking on water literally. But in a season of my life where fears…and insecurities…and doubts…and pain were crashing against my heart like the waves against that boat…I saw Jesus standing there. I knew there was a way forward toward him but it was a path I couldn’t walk on my own strength…

Jesus, if it’s really you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power.

Ask me to love when it is the last thing I want.
Ask me to trust when I don’t see the path but long to be healed
Ask me to forgive when it costs me so much.
Ask me to have faith that you wont let me sink.
Ask me to be confident that you will provide what I need
Ask me to have hope when things feel impossible.

Because in pursuing these questions I am no longer protecting my heart in the boat but RISKING…and it produces both fear and excitement…and life. I am being absolutely transformed.

I’ve spent the last few weeks focused on the fear and the waves at my feet rather than Jesus in front of me and I’ve been sinking. I’m thankful that he wont let me go down and is so gently shifting my focus back to him.

Sometimes Storm Survival is just recognizing the moments when your perspective is off…and shifting it back to where your strength/power comes from.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Boundaries

I have been thinking about this post for a while…not sure how to write it but knowing that itBoundaries is important. I decided to turn it into another book review because this topic will never be covered in a single blog entry…it is difficult to cover in a single book. I first read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in college and have since re-read it. Boundaries define who we are. They allow us to love and serve others in freedom rather than obligation. When you say YES to things…let it be honest and not motivated by guilt. Allow yourself to say NO to things without fear of judgement. This doesn’t happen by accident but through intentional choices and practice.

As I have been navigating through this storm season, establishing authentic boundaries has been a common theme. During the cancer treatment I had to decide what I was able to handle and what I wasn’t. AND THEN…I had to be OK with my decision…even if it was hard for other people to understand and accept. Outside of cancer I had to evaluate what emotions I was responsible for…and what emotions I wasn’t. AND THEN take responsibility or let go depending on what side of the line it fell on. I can only make decisions about things I am in control of but I can’t make decisions for someone else. Recognizing this and applying it has (at times) been hard but absolutely freeing! Encouraging someone is not the same as doing it for them.

The difficult seasons in life have a tendency to aggravate bad boundaries which makes it all the more important to establish healthy ones.

This is the book description from the front flap:

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives:

  • Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances
  • Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions
  • Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.
  • Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator.

Often Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations. When confronted with their lack of boundaries they ask:

  • Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
  • What are legitimate boundaries?
  • What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
  • How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy or money?
  • Aren’t boundaries selfish?
  • Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?

If any of these questions resonated with you I would HIGHLY recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book.

Here are a few good quotes:

“Learn to love in freedom and responsibility not in guilt. Boundaries in no way mean to stop loving. They mean the opposite: You are gaining freedom to love. It is good to sacrifice and deny yourself for the sake of others but you need freedom to make that choice.” page 135

“Problems arise when boundaries of responsibility are confused. We are to love one another, not be one another. I can’t feel your feelings for you. I can’t work through the disappointment that limits bring for you. In short, I can’t grow for you; only you can….You are responsible for yourself. I am responsible for myself.” page 86

“The point is this: we were called into freedom, and this freedom results in gratitude, an overflowing heart, and love for others. To give bountifully has great reward. It is truly more blessed to give than receive. If your giving is not leading to cheer, then you need to examine the Law of Motivation…which says: Freedom first, service second. If you serve to get free of your fear, you are doomed to failure. Let God work on the fears, resolve them, and create some healthy boundaries to guard the freedom you were called to.” page 93

“A boundary is a property line. It defines where you begin and end…You do not exist in a vacuum. You exist in relation to God and others. Your boundaries define you in relation to others.” page 100

Practical suggestions:

  1. Get and read the book. 🙂

To letting your yes be yes and your no be no…and surviving another week.

Lynnea

Colors of Hope

The colors of hopeSince I am travelling I don’t have time for my normal Storm Survival post…and it is a day late. 🙂 But I am going to write a quick review of the book that has been the biggest inspiration for me walking through this season. I first read this book, Colors of Hope by Richard Dahlstrom in December of 2011. (You can check it out in more detail here) It was at a time in my life when things were pretty “easy”. I was working in Europe…we were traveling when we wanted to…living an expat life can be lonely and isolating but all things considered it was good. However, everything felt a bit empty. It is hard to describe. I could do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it but I wasn’t investing anywhere and without that life was pretty selfish and seemed to lack direction.

This book is a call for Christians to be artists in this world…to paint our lives with the gifts God has given us and to truly share mercy, justice and love with the people around us. Artists! People who create beauty. People who share real hope for redemption and transformation. It was as if something in my heart was waking up and my eyes shifted from myself to actively looking for ways I could paint beauty on this world. I was inspired.

THEN came cancer…do I still want to be an artist with hope knowing now how much I can’t control? Yes. Absolutely. And the door opened with this little ‘ol blog to share my thoughts along the way.

THEN the chasm went deeper with a marriage crisis and separation…Crap, do I still want to be an artist with mercy and forgiveness when that seems like the last thing I want? Gulp…harder…but again YES. Absolutely.

This book and this year have transformed my heart and my faith. The colors we, as Christians, are asked to paint with are not trivial. They can be hard choices. But there is real hope and redemption in the suffering. I just re read this book through the lens of all the securities that were stripped out of my life…and the words still pierced my heart…in fact I read them with more urgency. Through all the hardships I have felt more freedom, more joy, more love than ever in my life and honestly I can’t help but share. Not to convince people of a path but to be authentic and let people judge for themselves if it is true. Because no one will believe that Christianity is good news until it is at least different news.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Free to love

I don’t often listen to “Christian” music…most of the time it comes across as a bit sappy and lacking any emotional reality. But I have a Spotify list that I turn on every once in a while and a song We are Free by Aaron Shust caught my attention (not necessarily in a good way – sorry Aaron):

The chorus is what stands out to me:

We are free to love like our god has loved we are free to give like he gave
We are free from sin we are free to begin to forgive as he forgave.
–> With blue skies and sunshine and soaring chords

I absolutely believe these words are true but, as Christians, are we ready to accept the reality of them? When I hear a song like this it is easy to get swept up in the melody and passively sing along with the lyrics…content to let the words wash over me without taking a moment to step back and evaluate what “loving like he loved”, “giving like he gave” and “forgiving like he forgave” look like in my life.

Today is the beginning of Passover (a Jewish holiday remembering the Hebrew people being freed from slavery and Israel being established as a new nation) and is celebrated with food, family and friends. The (arguably) most famous account of a Passover dinner is “The Last Supper”…the last meal Jesus shared with his intimate friends before he was arrested, humiliated, beaten and crucified…to be resurrected on Easter Sunday. This dinner has been the inspiration for countless works of art and I have found myself reflecting on its significance this year.

OK…here’s a really basic synopsis and paraphrase: There is Jesus, who knows he is about to be cruelly executed and suffer TREMENDOUSLY (physically and emotionally). He sits down to dinner with his closest friends. Friends who have been with him night and day…listened to him…laughed with him…prayed with him…shared life with him…but still Jesus on the crosscan’t really see him for who he is. Judas is at the table and has already made the decision to betray him by turning him over to the authorities and ultimately to his death. He looks at the rest of the disciples and knows that they are also weak and will deny him at this most desperate time. They are arguing about who will be the greatest and Jesus knows that once he is dead they will be terrified and run away to hide. He knows that he will be abandoned and that they will break his heart but he STILL LOVES them. He washes their feet and gives them one last urgent sermon…tells them to love each other as He loved them…to lay their lives down for each other…He is about to leave them but they wont be alone…he is telling them but they can’t hear it…he knows they are blind and can’t fully understand what he is saying but over and over he is talks about how much he loves them…how much God the father loves them and wants them to know Him…to follow the way he lived his life. Jesus looks at them and says “I love you. I want the best for you. I want freedom for you. I want REAL life and joy for you. I want you to know me. I want you to love this world like I love it.”

He knows these are still the same men who will turn their backs on him in a few hours. Betraying him. Abandoning him. Allowing fear and self preservation to consume them. Jesus knew they couldn’t understand what he was saying but he told them anyway because someday they would. He urgently wants them to know how much he absolutely loves them and is proving it by dying in their place.

OK…wow. Loving like Jesus loved is not necessarily a cheerful upbeat song. It is personal and requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice and humility. Loving someone means truly wanting the best for them. And it’s not just loving the people that are easy to love…it means loving the bad people too…the people who have hurt you. People who have wounded you with hard hearts and selfish choices.

  • It can be an injustice in your past
  • Maybe someone used you in a relationship
  • If there is a person whose mere name makes your blood boil
  • Someone at work stabbed you in the back
  • ….the list goes on

God loves them too!! You see the world differently when viewed through the lens of how much you are loved and forgiven. Do you look at this world with compassion and see blind, wounded people just trying to live life and find love and affirmation (probably in the wrong places)? Or do you see their behavior and put them in a box with judgement? Can you see through their choices and have mercy on the hurting heart that made them? Or do you want to stand on righteousness? Please keep in mind I am writing this as much to myself as anyone. And I don’t mean we need to live life without boundaries. Jesus took time to care for himself. Loving someone does not protect them from consequences but allows the truth to be revealed.

But on the cross…as Jesus was dying he said…Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Basically – They are blind.

So yes, we are free to love like he loved, give like he gave, forgive like he forgave…and actually living life that way is the only TRUE freedom…but let’s not pretend it is as easy or happy as our songs may make it seem. Maybe if more Christians truly lived life this way it would be easier to convince people that it is actually “Good News” rather than a list of rules.

Looking forward to Easter,

Lynnea