We’ve Got To Do Better: Making Ministry the Heart of Church

I am not among those who have given up on the local church.

But I AM critical of the way we in the U.S. –and especially the Southern U.S. -do church.

Let’s be honest. 

Most of us go to church because it makes us feel good, refuels our spirits for the week ahead and is a safe spot to park our kids for a few hours respite from the demands of parenthood.

An added bonus is that sometimes we get to contribute to a cause, a mission or a personal need without having to get TOO involved.

So we come away feeling pretty good about who we are, what we believe and how much we “sacrifice” for others and the Kingdom.

But this is not what Christ came for folks.

He didn’t come so that we can have a weekly club meeting, soothe our souls and shut out the world.  He came so that desperate hearts on the fringe could draw near.

He rent the veil so that no one who trusts His finished work is excluded.

Not even the messy and imperfect.

Not even the poor or unlovely or slightly crazy.

We have got to do better.

We have got to make church a place where people who have no hope feel like they are welcome.  We have got to reach out and reach down and reach across and pull those hurting hearts inside.

I know (believe, me, I know!) that it takes more energy than you want to exert.  It takes more flexibility than a crammed-full schedule can allow.  It takes more time and more emotional investment than any of us really want to spend.

But this is what Christ came for.

He came to expose the barriers religious people had erected between God and man. 

He came to make a way where there was no way.

How welcome are the truly broken to our house of worship? Do we want to see their pain, entertain their questions and offer hope that includes walking the road alongside them and giving support for the long haul?

Jesus came to heal the broken.

Healing takes time and resources. It requires personal commitment to those God brings into our lives. It is messy and can’t be boiled down to a formula or pamphlet.

Jesus has invited is to be His hands and feet.

Will we accept the invitation?

christ has no body but yours teresa of avila

Bereaved Parents Month Post: A Broken Heart

I wrote this post in response to the deaths of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher in December, 2016.  Debbie died of a broken heart within a day of hearing of her daughter’s death.

It was an opportunity to educate others about the reality of child loss and a parent’s broken heart while the world’s attention was focused on the subject.  

Like so many other things competing for headlines and social media hits, it was only a hot topic for a brief while. 

But for those of us living with the daily reality of a missing child and a broken heart this still rings true. 

I think Bereaved Parents Month is an appropriate time to revisit it.  ❤

debbie-and-carrie

“The world is stunned by the  deaths of Carrie Fisher at 60 and her mother Debbie Reynolds just one day later.

And it should be.”

Read the rest here:  A Broken Heart

Bereaved Parents Month: Courage is a Heart Word

You know what breaks my heart all over again?  

The fact that so many bereaved parents tell me they don’t feel they can share their experience on their own FaceBook or other social media pages.  

That’s just WRONG!

They have been shushed to silent suffering because when they break open the vault of emotions and let others see what’s inside, most people turn away-or worse, they condemn that wounded heart for sharing.  

SHAME on you if you are one of those people.  

I’ve written about this before here:

In recent years we have dragged many topics into the light.  We’ve made space in the public square for discussion of things we used to pretend didn’t exist.

But life after child loss is still a hushed topic.

The long road to healing after burying a child is rarely acknowledged outside the community of bereaved parents.

We have splashed all kinds of garbage across the Internet because in one way or another it makes us feel good (yep, admit it-it feeds some place in your soul) but we will not tolerate someone being utterly honest about how impossibly hard some things are to bear in this life.

Because THAT makes us uncomfortable.

Not every hurting heart is brave enough to risk negative public opinion.  I understand that completely.  This post is not for THEM, it’s for the hundreds and thousands who want to shut them down and shut them out.

This may be for you, if you have ever scrolled past a plaintive post or made some glib comment like, “God has a purpose in this for you” or worse, written a private message scolding someone and telling them they are begging for attention, refusing to “move on” or hanging on to hurt.

Think for one minute-literally 60 full seconds-how it would feel to hold the cold hand of your dead child, bury your child, go home to his empty room and then live the rest. of. your. life. without the earthly companionship of the child of your heart.  

Then think again about censoring your friend who’s grieving.  

Instead, speak courage to his or her heart.  

Strengthen their hold on hope don’t destroy it. 

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad.

~Brene Brown

Barefoot Over Broken Ground

I first shared this in 2014 not quite a month after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

His leaving has made me much more aware that what we read as “stories” where we can turn to the last page and know the ending, others lived in real time, with no ability to fast forward to the ending.

It’s easy to be impatient with a heart barely holding onto hope and try to goad someone into “looking on the bright side” or hammer them with Scripture because “we know how this ends”.

But when you are walking barefoot over a path of sharp stones, you really can’t focus too much on the fact that it might not be as long as you think.

All you know is it hurts like hell right now.

When I read the Gospels it is tempting to mock those who refused to see that Jesus was bringing in a kingdom that would be so much better than the earthly one they expected from Messiah.

But they were living a day-to-day reality of hopelessness under Roman rule that made them ache for relief.

When life this side of heaven is more than you can bear, there is great tension in your soul to beg God for relief in this earthly life and to be a bit impatient with the idea of “all things working for good” in some distant future.

It doesn’t mean you don’t believe it, but it does mean that you carry a weight of sorrow.

So be patient with broken hearts and with those walking a broken path.

You might think declaring “Victory in Jesus” is helpful.

But it’s not. 

Instead, hold a hand, call courage, choose to walk alongside.  

In the end it’s endurance that’s the real victory and that is only possible when a heart can hold on.

endurance is patience concentrated

 

NO Heart is as Whole as a Broken Heart

It is possible to go through life without having to question your faith.

But I’m not sure that is a good thing.

Although I would never, ever have chosen this path, child loss has forced me to entertain questions I might have ignored and to dig deeper than I might otherwise have done if life had been easier and less challenging.

My faith is not blind faith. 

My faith is not unchallenged faith. 

my-faith-is-a-wounded-faith

I am facing the fact that terrible things happen even to those who love and trust God.  I will not parrot empty phrases that promise smooth sailing to new converts if they will “only turn their lives over to Jesus”.  

I don’t even know where we get that idea.  Every single disciple was martyred except John and he was boiled in oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

faith-deliberate-trust

There are faithful believers starving TODAY, dying TODAY and suffering TODAY. 

Why should I be exempt?

‘No heart is as whole as a broken heart.’ And I paraphrase it differently: No faith is as pure as a wounded faith because it is faith with an open eye. I know all the elements of the situation; I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t have faith. I have better arguments against faith than for faith. Sure, it’s a choice. And I choose faith.

~Elie Wiesel

Advent for the Brokenhearted: By the Holy Spirit

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

 

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25 MSG

I’m not the first person on the planet God has asked to walk into the future without understanding exactly what the plan is. 

When Joseph found out his bride-to-be was pregnant, of course he suspected that she had cheated on him.  That’s how babies are made, isn’t it???

Yet he was noble and kind and hesitated to expose her to public ridicule, or worse (the Old Testament penalty was death) so he waited a bit, deciding what to do.

As he waited, God spoke to Joseph’s heart, assuring him that this was no natural conception and that Mary had done nothing wrong.

God also gave Joseph a commission:  to raise His son as his own.  

Joseph received this word and did as God commanded.   

Now God hasn’t spoken to me in a dream, or in clouds across the sky or from the mouth of a donkey or any other supernatural phenomena.

BUT He has spoken to me by His written Word.  

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience.

Romans 8:24-27 PHILLIPS

It’s hard when life seems to be going terribly, terribly wrong to trust.  

It’s understandable to look at what I can see and assume that is all there is. 

But I don’t want to do that. 

I can choose, like Joseph, to embrace the command to wait, to be patient, to step confidently in the direction of tomorrow because He is already there.

I want to stretch my faith-receiving God’s promises, holding onto them, and walking boldly into the future trusting they will be fulfilled.  

he is faithful who has promised

 

 

Advent for the Brokenhearted: At the Right Time

Change can happen fast.  

There is nothing that prepared me for that split-second when the words, “I’m sorry to tell you….” sank into my brain and my world went black.

In a single instant, life as I knew it was utterly and irrevocably destroyed.  

Some changes can be seen from far away.  

A mother waits nine months to birth her baby.  Time enough to set up a nursery, choose a name, pick out clothes.

And then some changes are longed for, hoped for, hinted at but seem that they may never actually come to pass.

The birth, life and ministry of Jesus was all these things.  

Prophesied for so long, Messiah’s coming was almost a sacred fairy tale passed down from one generation to another-a nice thought, a promised Savior-but no more likely to happen TODAY than hundreds of years ago.

And then, there was Mary.  Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and bearing within her body and heart the beautiful knowledge that He had finally COME!  It was years more before Christ began His public ministry and others were privy to what only a few knew in the beginning.

Finally, Jesus completed His earthly task-paying in full the price required for sinful and selfish men-died, was buried and rose again

He conquered death.  

He offers abundant, eternal life to all who believe.

For the Jews that lived centuries before, it seemed as though God had tarried. 

For those who lived at that moment, it seemed a sudden and unexpected thing.  

But for God, the timing was precisely right.

He had neither forgotten His promise, nor delayed in keeping it.  

When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law) to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, “Abba, Father.” You no longer have to live as a slave because you are a child of God. And since you are His child, God guarantees an inheritance is waiting for you. “

Galatians 4: 4-7 VOICE

He sent Jesus when it was time.  

I often wonder about the timing of my son’s death.  From my perspective, it feels like his life was cut short.  It feels wrong.  

But I don’t know the end from the beginning like God does. 

I don’t have a panoramic view of all history so that I understand precisely where I fit in, where Dominic fits in and how our stories mesh with the story God is writing for everyone.

So I  lean in and trust that the Father Who sent His son at the right time, knows what He is doing.

And that when it is again the right time, He will redeem and restore this pain I’ve carried.  

Because what He has promised, He will do.  

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her