something we all need

IMG_0084The unheard melody of honesty dies like the last breath between now and eternity. I open my mouth, but the words will not dance, they will not perform their pretty pirouettes. They are ill-behaved, ill-timed, irreverent. Because nobody likes to admit their need.

I am sitting in a neutral coffee zone and meeting with a woman who directs a Hungarian ministry to prostituted girls. ‘We ask all of our volunteers to go through vulnerability counseling. You open up and share your weaknesses – in front of everyone. You go through the course with the girls who have left the life of trafficking. Almost every one has an addiction that they must beat.’

She pauses as if to gauge my reaction. She has done this before – met for coffee with a pseudo-interested do-gooder and watched them exit at this very point.

Admit my vulnerability? Talk about my addictions? Lay my shadow in the peering, probing, bright sunshine of observation? No thank you. I just came to offer my time. Volunteer. Do my part for the social fabric, you know? I’m here to rescue and rehabilitate girls who have been abused, sold, beaten, raped – administer the medicine of healing.

Because, that is what the Church does.  We are the hospital where the lives get patched and the wounds are soothed. We give. They receive. That’s the system. The hierarchy is happy.

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But sometimes, the world beyond our walls is relatively untouched, unimpressed, or un-impacted by what we have to offer. It is a head-scratching puzzle.

Why don’t they fill our pews on Sunday morning?

Why don’t they drink our small-group coffee in our cozy homes?

Why do public officials, and school administrators, and teachers seem ultra-wary when we offer our help?

There is a sweet group of faithful women in my community who meet every Thursday to pray over the items that needy folk post on the Facebook page. Normally, I don’t share prayer concerns, mostly because I have my act together – at least, that is what I tell myself. The truth is, I do not want to air my proverbial dirty laundry. Nobody does.

But, my stress levels were so high on Wednesday, I threw my prayer request into cyber-service before my sweet friend, Katy Beth, had even opened up the prayer chain.

I worded it nicely, acceptably, like Christians should do. But what I really could have said, if I were being vulnerably honest:

Help! Today kicked my but and if something doesn’t change, tomorrow will do the same. I am hanging onto a ledge by a little finger. I’m cracking up here.

Have you been there too? Ever feel like,

My ‘to do’ list is out of control.

My house is a trash heap.

My refrigerator is empty and the bank account is flirting with zero.

My kids are sick with 6 different maladies.

My dog ripped open the trash and it is all over the yard.

I forgot an important meeting and let someone down.

No matter what decision I make, it will be wrong.

I am the worst mom, the worst wife, the worst friend, the worst preacher, the worst student, the worst husband, the worst son, the worst missionary, the worst Christian that ever walked the planet.

And, I have a nasty headache.

And the company arrives in 36 minutes.

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Or, to be even more vulnerable …any one of us could be honest and say:

I do not like to lose control so I uber-organize every day and obsess about details.

Or,

I struggle with jealousy and it manifests itself in materialism.

Or,

I am afraid of growing old and irrelevant.

Or,

I am afraid of getting cancer, ebola, or a thousand other diseases that might change my comfortable existence.

Or,

And the list just keeps going because all of us struggle with baggage. But, we in the church rarely talk about the true vulnerability that builds a stage in our hearts and directs the production that the world sees.

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…

said our dear Mr. Shakespeare.

IMGP1268So, I am sitting here, backstage, wondering if the most powerful, world-changing, soul-purifying, healing, response to a world on the brink of war, and societies that are cracking up, and neighborhoods that are imploding, and marriages that are gasping, and teenagers that are using, and sexing, and pimping, is for the Church to be like this,

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross

A vulnerable Jesus, who wept, and bled, and felt pain for us, so that we might see God.

We know how to entertain, and tell stories, and dialogue, and welcome, and host, and play, and forgive, and preach, but do we remember how to lament?

To mourn.

To cry.

To weep.

To suffer with.

To raise our puny fists of fury to the doors of heaven and pummel it with ‘why?’

To flood the feet that brought us Good News with the tears of ‘when?’

To own our own vulnerability with one honest expression of, ‘This is how I prostitute my soul to the world, so that I can wear the mask that gets me through today’s performance.’

My best guess?

If We, the Church, the Body, were able to admit our vulnerability in a world that knows the dirty side of the night, they would join us on our journey to a Savior.

#flattenthehierarchy

#bevulnerable

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when we doubt that God is powerful enough

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Budapest Lonely

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Viscri, Romania

Budapest

Budapest

It is a difficult thing to see a place laid to waste. Where there was once life and laughter and activity, now there is nothing but a hollow chasm and the whistle of the wind chills the bones and the soul. It is a desolate thing, this place that once held such promise, but now offers nothing in the way of comfort or protection. The memories of what once was beautiful make the ruins more difficult to bare.

I have seen that place – in Kosova after the war – in Moscow after the fall of the Berlin Wall – on the road to IKEA in the movements of prostituted women who freeze their bare flesh by tire fires.

In the story of Isaiah (58:12) we are told that after 70 years of decay, the people of Israel now faced the ruins left behind by past generations.  Not only the ruins of a city with buildings and streets and life, but the ruins of a culture, of a religion, of a way of life, of a lineage and a promise.

Who could carry such a heart break and stay the course of the journey? Who could look past the destruction and see a city in the future? Who had the strength of soul to see hope in the midst of decay?

For the heartbroken, for the weary, for the resourceless, Isaiah spoke of a beautiful hope that was hard to embrace as a reality. A someday hope, when the foundations would be raised up, not replaced. Rebuilt. Repaired. Restored. The old made new.

We read the prophesy of Isaiah from a 21st century cushion and recognize the Savior, who came to make all things new. He came to restore broken hearts, decaying souls, destroyed cities and families and dreams. We see the fulfillment of the prophesy in the incarnated Christ. Looking back, we see Jesus as the answer, the only possible answer, to the brokenness of Israel. There is no question of his faithfulness, his power, his love, his able-ness to restore his people.

But, let us be honest: Sometimes we struggle to believe God’s restoration power for our future.

200_9905194487_9823_nCan he repair our broken relationships? Can he restore our cultures, societies and governments? Can he raise up the foundations of Christian ethics and holy hearts? Can he cure the decay of sin that is an everyday, uncontrollable predator of all that we love and hold dear?

The reality of our ruins sends a chill of fear into our bones and into our soul. The future can seem, well, hopeless unless we let Isaiah’s prophesy be true for our us as well.

Our story begins in a beautiful garden. It ends there too – in a garden; restored, repaired, raised up, healed from the bondage of decay. John writes of a new Earth restored from the old. He writes of a new Jerusalem. He meshes and blends and echoes the voice of the Prophet Isaiah with a promise for our future.

Today, will you believe Isaiah’s prophesy for your future?

Dear Jesus, 

It is true that we recognize your faithfulness in the past. Not only your faithfulness to us, but to those who came before us throughout history. Still, our human nature makes it difficult to leave our futures in your hands. We struggle to believe that you can restore, repair, rebuild that which has been destroyed. Help us, please, to give you our unbelief. Help us to submit to your restorative power in our lives, in our hearts, and in our world. 

We give you the glory. Amen.

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