Down the Rabbit Hole: Places we don’t want to travel.

SIX

I’ve been in a meeting where I looked into the eyes of a deacon, a friend turned child abuser. I felt the bile rise in my throat when I tried to speak in that meeting when the sickening truth had all been laid bare. I do not remember much of it, but I remember screaming in my van as I drove home. I remember feeling strange hugging my own children that night; something so pure now tainted with the filth of someone else’s sin.

After so long in ministry, we have stories, people stories good and bad. The good outweighs the bad for certain, but bad stories are louder in your mind during seasons of sadness and hurt. The interesting part about being wounded is that everything bad comes back at once like a swirling negative memory cesspool, and you are trapped in the middle spinning through those memories, those pictures of faces who’ve betrayed you or betrayed the people you love. In the middle of trauma, you have a difficult time differentiating past situations and past hurts with present people and present places. The good people around you begin to look eerily similar to the villians in your past and you fear them and you can’t help but mistrust them. The weird thing is, most of the pain I hold in my heart is not from situations that affected me directly. It is from pain that I’ve absorbed from other people like a really irresponsible sponge. I tell myself to differentiate, but then I see my people in pain, and I soak it up again ready to make my soft spongy exterior jagged and capable of cutting all potential perpetrators coming close.

I don’t even want to type the next word because I still don’t understand it, and frankly, I don’t want to travel there.

Forgiveness is easy if you have little to forgive. Forgiveness is a bumper sticker word for Christians who’ve lived charmed and lucky lifestyles. The notion of forgiveness to people who have experienced sexual abuse from parents (or church leadership), abandonment, or betrayal from spouses creates acidic justified anger and venomous hateful retaliation. Forgiveness is only a pretty word if you haven’t had to practice it much or you are talking about someone forgiving your own indiscretions. We whitewash forgiveness in our churches. We make it seem like a swift change of heart. It is not.

Forgiveness is a daily act of will. It is not a feeling.

I want to be honest and tell you there are people in my life whom I have not forgiven yet. You can judge me for that. You can hold me accountable to it. I am working on it. There are days when I wake up that I must remind myself to live in a state of forgiveness in case I bump into someone on the street. And there are days I live in anger and bitterness. And I know deep inside me whether I’m living in forgiveness each day or if I’m holding onto that old familiar pain. Pain is often more comfortable to carry in the pit of your stomach than the acceptance of never ever hearing an apology or never seeing justice come to those who deserve it.

The most healing words I have ever heard are the words spoken to validate my personal pain; the validation that my anger was/is justified. When I heard those words from a friend, I finally began to heal. I began to move forward. “What that person did to you was wrong. They hurt you. They messed up big.” We need more words like this spoken to the hurting people around us. We are so afraid to call out sin and offend others, that we have a growing crowd of Christians leaving churches because they’ve never heard the words “You are justified in your anger. They hurt you. They messed up.” Instead, what hurting people usually hear is a trite and simple answer “You need to move on and forgive because Jesus forgave you.”

It is true. Jesus forgives us. It is true. We all sin. I sin. I sin in my unforgiveness. I risk being unforgiven myself. I need to forgive. I also need to hear that it is ok if that forgiving takes work and is undeserved.

It is not helpful to invalidate the pain of others and paint the forgiveness of abuse as an easy one step process to maintain the comfort levels of church leadership and the happy-go-lucky congregants. Our institutionalized versions of the church have made public relations and the protection of the institution more of a priority than the people within its walls. We desire to hide our ugly for the sake of our image. In doing so, we protect abusers. We protect adulterers. We protect cruelty. We protect everyone but the ones who need our protection.

Church shopping when you live in a constant state of mistrust is laughable. There is no church I could plug into over the last year until I began to move forward with my life. Until I started to unpack the sin sack I carried, both my own sins and those of others who had hurt me or my people, I could not truly love anyone.

I want to talk to you personally now…as if this series hasn’t already been personal enough to make my sweet mother squirm. If someone has hurt you, either within the institutional church or outside, what they did was wrong. You are justified in your pain and your anger. You will wear the scar for the rest of your life, and it is not a scar that you can hide with a floral community-comforting scarf. If you cannot spend time, befriend, be a digital connection, or even live in the same state with the person who hurt you, you are justified. The goal of human forgiveness is not friendship. Forgiveness and reconciliation may not always coincide. Only Christ can pull that off. Eventually, maybe you and I can become more like the perfect Christ. Until then, be justified in your boundaries.

A resounding theme this year above and beyond our Sunday visits are Christians crossing our path who have left the institutionalized church. They are still believers. I witness to you that many are more faithful followers of Christ than some at the Sunday show. But they are hurt. They’ve witnessed the mishandling of abuse, of finances, moral failure from church leadership, the neglect of the poor, the neglect of God’s people and his Word and they just couldn’t take the facade of “church” any more. They are daily practicing forgiveness, but they probably won’t be back through your church building doors. And that is completely fine. They need a church that is real and generally they’ve found a purer expression of church in people they gather around them; though it looks much different than the institutional variation of the Lord’s church that we’ve created.

If you are one of the spiritually exiled from the institutional church, I must challenge you to continue to live into forgiveness every day. Please don’t shut me down here. If you can never come back through the doors of the institutionalized church, fine. You don’t have to, but there are a few things you must do for your own spiritual survival. You must find a non-traditional church of your own, a simple gathering of people who call you to a closer relationship with Jesus, who hold you accountable, who live out the call to give to the unfortunate and share Jesus with those who don’t know him. It can be in a house or a pub or a park or your work at lunch. You must daily walk the path with Jesus yourself and live out that lifestyle to all people around you in love. But you also must accept that while the issues with the institutional churches are many, there is still good found there. There are still good people both trapped inside and still working inside to make changes for the better. I know some of those faithful people who refuse to leave and they would love to have you back if and when you ever get to that point.

 

Down the Rabbit Hole: Which church?

FIVE

You don’t know bitterness and cynicism unless you know a Detroit Lions fan. Detroiters are spectacularly loud, sarcastic, and sassy anyway, but talk to them about their football team and you’ll get a pretty clear picture of how brash and honest they really are. The Lions are a notoriously bad team, and we fell in love with them when we lived in Michigan. But everyone knows that you pick a second favorite team if you love the Lions because they just never win. Nevertheless, in this house, we are loyal fans even though they break our hearts year after year.

The most unusual Lions fan I know is Lew. Lew is a burly Detroiter with a scruffy beard, graying hair, and a heart that bleeds Honolulu blue ever devoted to worst football franchise in the country. He’s had season tickets for over twenty years and attends every home game and travels to away games loyally with unyielding hope. The best thing about Lew is his laugh. His low santa-esk bellow will make everyone in the room smirk and then feel bad for the ever-faithful guy who’s laughing while still sporting a personalized Lions jersey.  Lew religiously misses Sunday church services during football season. He graciously took my husband to several games and introduced him to the other season ticket holders who sit around him. (Well, the faithful few ticket holders who hadn’t already sold their tickets to the highest bidder for that game.) That crew of fans sharing that section all know each other by name. They all know details about each other’s lives. They ask about family and kids in college. They share stories of some of the best and worst games. They all sit week after week, loss after mind-blowing loss, and cheer on the Lions together; commeradarie in the face of adversity. 

The notable thing about Lew isn’t only his loyalty to the Lions or his great relationships with the other fans; it’s his post-game routine of stopping by his favorite bakery and buying sweet potato pies for himself and an extra for a homeless guy on the street. Not any particular homeless person; in Detroit, you are never too far from someone needing help. Lew never seemed to forget the guys laying in the cold, gray streets of the D. You’d only know this about Lew if you had a chance to join him for a game. He’s not the kind of guy who would brag about it because he’s usually talking about plays or throws or coaches. Lew misses some Sundays at the church building, but he never misses a chance to share with someone in need. Or maybe Lew isn’t missing church at all.

My observation of the church over the last forty years is Lew may do more good work on those Sundays at the game than most of us do sitting in our pews. If you are at a church that prioritizes good works for the poor, then you can trust that the money going into the plate serves that purpose. Yet, there is something intrinsically pure about just acting on Christ’s directives yourself and not paying a middle man to do your good works for you. There is something absolutely right and natural about sitting alongside your community, knowing them deeply and personally, cheering on a team together, and actually living out the example of Christ along the way. A lot of “good” church people judged Lew harshly for not showing up on Sundays in the fall and excluded him in some get togethers. But I suggest Lew does more good for the cause and witness of Christ cheering on the Lions and passing out sweet potato pie to the homeless than those of us trapped in our spiritual checklists of programs and preaching each week. Both seats are generally uncomfortable, but one actually serves a purpose for the greater good and the other generally just serves itself.

Every fall my husband finds or creates a fantasy football league. When we moved to Houston, Dave posted on the facebook neighborhood want ads looking for a fantasy league to join. Someone named Ben messaged him and invited him to join a league which meets every Wednesday night in a guy named Chad’s garage. So Dave joined. Chad’s garage has two nasty stained couches, folding sports chairs, a rubber exercise ball, an empty keg utilized as an extra seat, and a flat screen TV always on ESPN. On Dave’s first visit to Chad’s garage, he was greeted with handshakes from around the room, an open chair, and a cold beer. He soon discovered that originally the group was gathered as a men’s bible study but slowly transformed into this ecumenical gathering of men from all life stages. They play fantasy football, talk sports and beer styles, but they also openly talk about life in an authentic and unguarded continuous dialogue. I don’t exaggerate when I say that Chad’s garage was a refuge for my husband over the last four years away from a job where he always felt he was walking on eggshells, was unaccepted and was judged for who he was. Chad’s garage is place where Dave can have deep spiritual conversations with open bibles around other men but without the judgement and pretense of a traditional church gathering and thankfully without the lofty expectations placed upon him for wearing the title of “minister”. He is free to be real there. They all are. I believe it is a holy place.

I have a friend who was just diagnosed with diabetes. She is overweight. She can no longer eat all the things her church brings to the potluck, but she is so paranoid about the judgement of her church family that she has not told them about her current struggle. Imagine if that struggle was of larger moral consequence. I doubt she would still be coming in the doors, and if she was, imagine the burden of that secret.  And we are keeping those secrets and scandals and then they are blowing up around us in our churches both from our leadership and in the pews. If only we were comfortable enough to talk about it all openly. Perhaps one time sins wouldn’t lead to lifetimes of consequences and forever mistrusting parishioners.

My heartache for Lew was watching him be excluded by people who never missed a Sunday church service but would also make change in the youth group contribution tray. And I asked myself who the better Christian was in my own ugly judgment. My heartache for my friend is that she believes the relationships at her church building are real but will never truly be sure if they are real as long as she hides her health limitations.

So today I am at a crossroads. I don’t know which church to chose anymore. I want to live alongside people who live their faith out in the open and who refuse to be trapped in these weekly facades of pretense and practice thinking that is what saves them. I am fearful that those people no longer exist within our buildings. I am afraid we have all already left.

Due to sexual abuse of which I’ve witnessed the dark evils that exist within our leaderships that are often swept under the rug, due to the pious judgements of which I confess I’ve been a part and been victim to, due to the rigorous contempt and warfare for any shift away from modernity or tradition (not biblically mandated), due to our emotionalized well-marketed campaigns to sell people on our Sundays and our contribution trays, church, you are missing the mark, ignoring the harvest field, and we are losing the battle. And this is one Christian who is choosing a different path.

The church of modernity has lost its impact whether we want to admit it or not. The “if you build it they will come” mentality does not create honest believers. We attempt to win the masses to Sunday to pay for bloated budgets and billion dollar buildings, but we don’t win them to a Monday through Saturday Savior who shares a table with all the sinners. We have a church full of sinners who hide it on Sundays. If given a choice, I choose the church full of Lews. I choose the church that meets in Chad’s garage. I choose a church where I can tell people that I struggle without worrying that they will smile and then avoid me the next week. I wish those churches were found on every corner.

 

 

 

Down the Rabbit Hole: There’s more.

FOUR

I lost a much wanted pregnancy when our eldest was two. It devastated me. Looking back, I think that was the first of many obvious Spirit moments for me. Firstly, I think that’s when I first started to struggle with depression. And secondly, it was the first time that I became distinctly aware that there was an unseen mysterious spiritual universe around me. When it became clear that we were losing the baby, my husband and I prayed on our knees for God to change his mind. He didn’t. I decided that I would secretly name the baby Michael. I had a vivid dream before the loss that he was a boy.  Michael was his name in my heart. I never told anyone. His name was my secret.

Two weeks later our precocious first born was having a tea party rather than taking her daily nap in her bedroom. Before I could step into her room to reprimand her and cuddle her back into bed, I overheard her talking to someone; the typical play of a two year old who knows way too many words for her size. So I popped in and said, “Lily, who are you talking to instead of napping?” She responded without a beat, “Michael and I are playing, mama.” I left her to play without being able to respond. I cried in my room through nap time.


I want you to know that this season of church wandering was quite lonely at times. Most of this loneliness was self-inflicted. There were moments of emptiness especially on Sundays that are difficult to describe. Growing up in the ministry and then marrying it, I have always had some kind of purpose on Sundays. I never even knew that this self-assigned purpose was there until it was gone. I’ve always logically known my relationship with Jesus was more than a Sunday morning experience, but this year that relationship was put to the test. Ministering families are always on the clock on Sundays, you see. And I’ve been living a facade of being “ok” at worship on Sundays for a very long time. The energy it takes to be fake for the sake of everyone else’s Sunday experience takes its toll. An introvert struggling with depression attempting to pull this off regularly is exhausting. Being reminded weekly that you are a removable and exchangeable part in the frankinbody of Christ is straight up spiritually destructive. I don’t think I’m the only one playing this “I’m ok on Sundays” game. If you are faking it and expecting to make it, cut it out. Be real for the sake of you and the church.

For the first time in my adult life, I’ve been free to desperately and independently seek God outside my assigned church station.  I thought I’d find more of Him somewhere on this Sunday visit journey.  Maybe I saw glimpses. I heard the moving songs. I listened to the motivational sermons. I saw the plethora of children’s/youth/Christmas program advertisements and the fantastic artwork that some tribes showcase. I witnessed all kinds of Christians worshiping in their various ways. But what I saw and heard and learned was all too familiar. After three months, it all felt stale and rote regardless of the sign outside, regardless of what I witnessed. What I wanted was a burning bush.

I wonder if a lot of us are looking for that when we go into buildings on Sundays. We get little glimpses and then forget on Monday. And after a year of visits, Sundays all just feel manufactured. These manufactured moments are intended to bring people closer to Jesus, and I think this works sometimes. But for the most part, it’s just that it IS often manufactured for the sake of a visitor. It feels like a huge marketing strategy to convert people to Sundays and not the Savior. We are selling church experiences instead of sharing Christ. We are speaking a language on Sunday that visitors don’t speak, or at least, I stopped understanding. And it was the same whether the service was traditional or progressive. After a while for the most part, it all appeared like an attempt to convince me to put money in their particular tray.  So, I started paying attention to Monday through Saturday.

Before you say it, I agree. The heart of the worshiper is what makes space for worship. But what I was looking for was something more than my personal fulfillment, I was looking for meaning. I wonder if that is what most visitors are seeking. I propose it is. We assume they care about our worship styles. They come in looking for purpose, for faith in action, for a point to this difficult life, and often what they see is people singing songs then leaving to go get lunch. You can’t worship what you don’t understand. Sundays may not be the best way to spread the word that God is truly with us. You must see God in action to understand.

Most sermons I heard in my youth were devoid of conversations about the Spirit of God. I remember that it was considered progressive to have a bible class on the topic of the mysterious Holy Spirit. We certainly didn’t want to appear like the Holy Rollers down the street. But there were some of us, a curious few, who knew there was more conversation to have. In our first ministry, a sweet older lady held her bible tightly when she sternly looked at me and said “the Holy Spirit only lives in these words I hold in my hand”. I love that lady, but she was wrong.

I work in an elementary school. At the end of my work day, I sit and answer phones for the front desk. The after school daycare clerk sits alongside me and checks out students. Last year I got to know the clerk. Her name was Mary. She was 82 years old. She was a recently widowed pastor’s wife. She told me intriguing stories about their ministry in Arizona with the Southern Baptist churches. I listened. I never shared anything about myself. The day I came in after leaving our ministry thereby walking away from our primary source of income, I wrote Mary a note asking for prayers because I couldn’t speak about it without getting emotional for months. We sat in silence for the rest of the day after she read my note.

The next day when the office had cleared, Mary handed me an envelope. In it was $300 and a note that read, “I understand”. She then told me story after story about how she and her husband had been dismissed from three different ministries. She did indeed understand. How strange. Here at this moment in time in my life at this random school, the two of us sat wearing similar battle scars. I tried to refuse money, but she called it her “tithe” and backed away from me shaking her head. Her tithe wasn’t to a church building; her tithe was to help my family.

I never shared much with Mary about my personal life outside the note I wrote. I’m not a sharer by nature, and especially during this season, I was not talking to anyone or just handing out trust again willy nilly. Out of the silence one afternoon, Mary said, “But have you sang in praise to Him? Have you sang? You need to.” It was like she was finishing my thought. Mary didn’t know how much music was a part of my life. I studied classical voice for more than ten years. I started college as a music major and survived in college thanks to a generous music scholarship. Music speaks to my heart in a way that is personal and emotional. I had not lifted my voice in song for a very long time especially  not in praise. There was no way for Mary to know this about me. But God knows, and clearly, Mary was pretty tight with the Spirit of God.

Another morning as I drove into work and was having my usual argument with God about how we couldn’t pay our bills, I glanced over into the median and spotted these tiny white flowers. Immediately, I remembered Matthew 6:28-30.

 “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which are alive today and tomorrow thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!”

I confess I literally rolled my eyes at the thought in my own mind. Yep, I scoffed at the Maker of the Universe and his gentle promise of provision. Ten minutes later I was greeting students as they walked into the school and one little boy who I had never seen before, never spoken to, walked up to me with the exact same kind of flowers and said, “You need these today”. He bounded off never to talk to me again.

I have a friend who never stopped harassing me during my silent season. She would leave voicemails that spoke right to the heart of what I needed regularly. I have other friends who supported us financially. I have friends who checked in and left cards and notes and forced uncomfortable hugs. All people from all kinds of churches, some without brick and mortar churches, all listening to the Spirit of God and acting on it.

And this is what got me through this year: The Spirit of God loudly getting my attention and working through the lives of others. None of which had anything to do with Sunday morning. I learned that God is alive in our daily experiences and expressions. He is alive in others and works through us through the week to direct our paths. Sunday exists to share communion with our church family and remember our Lord together. Monday through Saturday exist to share communion with our church family and act on the Spirit of God’s directives whether they make sense to us at the time or not. I would not have heard God so loudly had that sweet little boy not handed me those flowers. How many times has God had a message for me that I’ve overlooked because I simply was not listening?

We carry the Holy Spirit of God with us every day. We are the conduits of this Spirit for each other, for the greater community around us, and we have a direct line of communication with the Father. We are responsible to live out these Spirit directives every single day. We must become more sensitive to the voice and the Spirit of God guiding us. If we truly believe that the Spirit of God rests within us, then each of us are burning bushes for each other and have our own pillars of fire guiding us. Do we believe that? Do we act on it every day or are we only expecting to see the Spirit move on Sundays when we get goosebumps during our favorite Christian anthem? There’s more.

The failure of Westernized Christianity is the creation of this one-stop-shop Sunday routine where we listen to our preferred songs, our prefered preachers speaking our preferred doctrines, do our attendance duties, pop a dollar in the plate, and then lock the Spirit of God up in a convenient Sunday box. In this habit we miss the greater more intimate messages on Monday that speak directly to our hearts. This is not the design intended for the people of God. Church, you must be more because there is more.


I don’t know what Lily saw that day in her bedroom so long ago. I don’t know if it was the spirit of my lost child or something else or just a two year old playing and a coincidence. But I know without a doubt that the Spirit of God is here to guide us and to help us and that we fight unseen battles for our hearts every day. I pray we all are open to that guidance and that we are listening.

I wish I could tell you…

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I wish I could tell you who I sat with last weekend. I wish I could share each of their stories so you would feel what I do about them. I wish you could fully understand where they came from and where they are going. But instead I’ll tell you this.

Last weekend I sat in a circle with ministers and their spouses on a retreat. I did not want to be there. Sharing circles are not my bag. Being an introvert, spending the weekend with people I don’t know who tearfully pour their heart out and then stare at me expectantly waiting for my reciprocal soul bearing sounds like a complete and utter nightmare. I admitted openly to the group that I ate cold turkey a few days previous in the hopes of developing food poisoning. I’m not joking. I did not want to be there with these mystery people forcing me to talk. I was judgemental from the start. I assumed most would be southern. And let’s be real, most southerners take a good five years before they are authentic with you. I went in ready to cross my arms and roll my eyes.

Enter my husband who would not stop bugging me about it for months…years even. Last weekend has been in the works for years. We had been invited three separate times over the last four years, and it was me that refused to sit in the share circle of lonely death each time. I am sorry for that, now.

I went. I, begrudgingly and heels dug-in deep, went. And I am changed.

What I heard from the mouths of ministers who serve the church:

  • I heard stories of loss. Loss that I wouldn’t make it through. Loss that would send me to my grave.
  • I heard stories of betrayal. Betrayals that angered me and lit a fire within my soul all for the sake of people that I didn’t know.
  • I heard stories of broken hearts and abandonment.
  • I heard stories of ego crushing self-doubt and spiritual confusion.
  • I heard stories of wayward children who have yet to come home.

The stories were rich and painful and beautiful. Some had happy endings. Some were still trapped in the throws of conflict. And some will find no resolution.

These people in the circle, their lives full of adventure and stories worth writing about, all could have chosen to walk away from God. They could have chosen to leave their churches many many MANY times, but they didn’t. They remain steadfast to the reason for all hope. They remain faithful and resolute to the calling by the One greater than us all.

That is the lesson.

So many in ministry walk away from the call. Some are forced out due to moral failure. Others simply are work-worn and tired. Here’s the clincher:  Most of us are work-worn and tired. But we press on faithful to one who won’t abandon, who won’t betray, who won’t die. We press on because the work needs to be done and there are so many souls out there who need to see what redemption and grace and love truly look like.

So, while there are churches out there who would raise an eyebrow at the pain and trials of ministers, and while some scoundrels who call themselves believers would wonder if God is punishing us for our poor theology and errant church branding or label, I say to you, minister, press on. Press on to the prize and hold on to your calling.

As for me, I have a few new friends and facebook connections. I have a few more stories in my pocket of transformation, grace, and triumph. I will cling to those stories on my difficult days.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

Don’t Make Me

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Caryn Blanchard Blog

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Lord, I love you, but don’t make me say so too loudly.
Lord, I love to sing praises to you, but don’t make me sing that old one.
Lord, I love your word, but don’t make me go to bible class and learn it.
Lord, I love all your children, but don’t make talk to that one.
Lord, I want to live for you, but don’t make me uncomfortable.
Lord, I want to be a Christian, but don’t make me look different than my peers.
Lord, I want you to provide for me, but don’t make me look at that homeless man.
Lord, I want everyone to go to heaven, but don’t make me tell anyone about you.
Lord, I want to pray to you, but don’t make me do it in public or when I’m busy.
Lord, I want to be with you, but don’t make me give up…

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To my mama and all the other sinners

36361867-old-and-young-holding-hands-on-light-background-closeupI’m 400 miles from my mother. It is a seldom occurrence that I can sit with her and hold her hand. I hate that distance between us. I miss her. I miss watching her eyebrow raise when I say something sassy, and I miss hearing her equally sassy reply. The apple doesn’t fall far.

My mother is always the last one up in the house. She reads or watches a decorating show on HGTV late into the night after my dad is already tucked in and snoring. She sits in her little maroon chair and enjoys her solitude without my daddy fussing about the president or the church or the grass that’s dying in the backyard. I always steal a few moments of her time when I’m there just to sit with her and visit. We catch up on the garden and on dad and life.

She is so precious to me.

Forty years ago my mother left her traditional Texas life to follow my dad onto the stateside mission field in Idaho. I remember growing up hearing her frustrations about not finding okra or black eyed peas in the grocery store. I remember watching her heart break as she tried to relate to the personalities of the people in the great northwest which is vastly different from the Texas debutant culture of which she was raised. But she challenged herself and changed for the sake of a church minutes from the Grand Tetons and the best trout fishing in the country. I watched my mother learn to snow ski, clean a fish, tent camp, and shovel snow on top of teaching Sunday School every Sunday morning, providing countless meals for potluck dinners, and raising three daughters all while hosting a young church in her living room.

My mother shared Jesus with every coworker she had. She always worked outside the home and always made friends where she worked. This didn’t come naturally to her. She was shy and introverted, but ministry trained her to be otherwise. Jesus developed a natural evangelist out of a woman who hid behind my grandmother’s skirt as a child.

She loved my daddy. She loved her girls. She taught us scripture and demonstrated the art of being a Godly wife and mother. I can still hear her voice when I sing certain hymns. Hymns connect me to my mother’s heart and to God’s as they did her. She never missed a worship service.

As I sat next to my sweet mother that night and listened to her, the conversation quickly turned back to Jesus as it often does in my parents’ home. She looked into my eyes and hers filled with tears and she said, “I just don’t know if I’ve done enough. I just hope I’ve been enough.” My heart broke.

After seventy eight years of following a stubborn preacher around the country leaving the land she knew and parents she loved?
After years of sharing Jesus with three year olds to atheist co-workers?
After countless hours over a hot stove cooking for the sick?
After leading three rather precocious daughters to Jesus?
After a thousand greeting cards mailed to the lonely?
After decades of turning pages of scripture to the point of your bible falling apart?

You, mama? You don’t feel you’ve done enough?

I looked down at her work worn hands folded in her lap and tried to process how a woman who devoted her life to the Lord could believe this.

We are all prone to the same self-doubt disease. We all still believe that what we do can somehow change the mind of God. We all still try to earn His favor. We all still doubt that He will accept us and our mess. The best of us and the worst of us all struggle with this sickness and it does its best to break us.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Life will zap any confidence you have.  I lose confidence in the church regularly. I lose confidence in my job, in my purpose, in my abilities, in family, in my friends…the list goes on. People let you down. Sickness comes. Money isn’t reliable. Children leave home. Politicians lie. Putting confidence in life here is risky at best even if you are not a believer. Because we are all on our way out the door and we will trip on our way there. We are not graceful beings, but that is the point.

His grace covers the lack of grace we offer ourselves.

Rest assured there is one thing of which we can be confident, and we can set our life on the outcome. And that is the grace provided to you by God. It’s done. The debt is paid. There is no bill collector. There’s no red tape. There’s no border to sneak across, no forms to fill out, no entry exam. Stop beating yourself up. You waste your time, friend.

Your doubt isn’t in yourself. Your doubt is in the one who already paid the debt. Don’t doubt His sacrifice and insist His death wasn’t enough for you. Thank Him for it. Trust the sacrifice was not in vain and that you reap the eternal reward of what He did. Praise indeed!

Mama, you are enough. You’ve always been enough to me, and I know you are more than enough to Jesus.

Because His grace is enough.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The days the discourse died

cemetery countryside cross garden
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Waiting for change…

Caryn Blanchard Blog

We’ve retreated to our corners, digging our heels into our opinions.

We ready our scripts for a fight

to prove we are right.

We seek approval and justification of our side solely from those who read the very same lines.

These are the golden awards we receive; having the most people who agree with us surrounding us.

Congratulations.

We hold pep rallies and rejoice in our common mind.

We rest in the comfort of being surrounded by an army of people who won’t question.

We must be right because that guy with the YouTube channel says so. We share it and feel the ego boost because of that guy.

We dismiss any questions.

We mock any disagreement.

We label any conflict as negative or uneducated.

We ready for battle to squelch discussion.

We shrink with bitter wounds because of what someone interjected.

We slaughter the opposition by plugging our ears…

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The Bathroom

img_4259It’s moments like this that I’ll miss the most
When she comes to my bathroom just to put her makeup on while I put on mine.

Side by side.

She plays her music and sings.
And I listen.
And I watch.

The songs have changed.
Little girl now beautiful woman.
Little hands grown now steady sure.

She’s ready to go.
And I’m not ready to let go.