whether you change or not

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“Jesus the risen Christ is with us this moment. Right here, right now loves you and accepts you just as you are.

You do not have to change to get his love. You do not have to give up your sin. You do not have to have a conversion experience. Obviously, Jesus wants you to change and yes he wants you to give up your sin and your selfishness… be converted and live, experience the freedom of the children of God but you don’t have to do that to get his love and acceptance. You have that already, before you decide to change and whether you decide to change or not.

Do you believe this?”

(part of a talk that I was watching given by Brennan Manning)

How absolutely scarily beautiful is that?!!

Love running into our days

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“Over the mountains and the sea Your river runs with love for me, And I will open up my heart and let the Healer set me free.”

Words to an old Delirious song. I was singing it this morning. Haven’t thought of the song in ages, but the words were in my heart. Patrik had already left for work and Eli was still asleep so really that only left Jane the dog to look at me like I was a freak while I was singing away and getting ready for work.  Then I just started thinking about how the words are beautiful but how do they fit in to what I’m in – God and Shannon?

So I started singing (for real, I did): “Over the co-workers and attorney Your river runs with love for me”

That is SO where I need His love to run into during my days.

“Over the clients and the pain And even over my weight gain I will open up my heart and let my Healer set me free!”

Haha! I made it personal. My days, my silly and not so silly struggles. I needed it to be my prayer and my song about God’s love running into today. It lifted me out of the dread of the work day and there He was, as He always is. A guy I’m friends with on facebook recently posted:  “In the Psalms David didn’t write, ‘Where can I go to find Your Presence?’ He wrote ‘Where can I go to escape it?”  You don’t even know how many sermons or teachings I’ve heard in my life about how it is hard to come into God’s presence or how he hides from us… but that’s NOT what David said in the Psalms!!  Beautiful!!

Psalm 139 v. 7-12:

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I run away from where You are? If I go up to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in the place of the dead, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning or live in the farthest part of the sea, 10 even there Your hand will lead me and Your right hand will hold me. 11 If I say, “For sure the darkness will cover me and the light around me will be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to You. And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to You.

Just so great. How beautiful and strong is God? He will never leave you or me, not even if we are making our bed in the place of the dead. He loves us.

All covered up in Love

Laying here in bed just enjoying the love of God as I prayed in my heart after getting my little boy back to sleep. One of those moments where a sweet stillness has come and the heaviness has lifted off of your soul and Love has grabbed your attention with His sweetness. Then unbidden, in creeps the truth about what I have done – something I am guilty of – to try and ruin my joy.

Well tonight I wasn’t having any of that so I began to pray again, to get out of my own mind and keep enjoying Jesus and how much he loves me. And you know what happened? I heard His voice talking about Grace. I saw a picture of it. I was standing under the sky and because of my thoughts about my sin felt the acceptance and happiness draining away from me and God pulled the ripcord on a parachute that I didn’t even know I was wearing. And when the parachute launched into the sky above me it completely covered all that I saw. It was a big canopy of actual grace over me. As it began to fall it changed all it touched. It made a new sky over me – a new reality. God said, “Grace touches everything you are.” The truth of what happened is there but the reality of grace is that mercy triumphs over judgment and you are going from here all covered and loved and new. Grace even seeps into what you were and bad choices you’ve made and forgives them. Touches them with the new reality that is grace itself. Such a heavy weight lifted all because of Love!

Nope. Not going to steal my joy from me tonight.

I’m still enjoying being so loved so I’m going to end this here. 🙂

Goodnight.

Manufacturing Love

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“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” 1 Corinthians 13 vs. 1-7

I’ve not just been running on empty, I’ve been doing things that shock me. Things that I never would have done if I had been coming close to Jesus and His love.

I feel empty and tired. Funny thing is, I also feel enlightened. Seeing how I have always been taught and been driven by the “you need to love because God is love” teaching.

Well, I can’t love. I don’t have it in me. I don’t want to love because it’s what I’m supposed to do. I want to love because I’m contented in love.

My life isn’t going to get any better if I continue this way. It’s weighing me down. It’s making me a miserable person.

Pray for me. I’m trying to just curl up and be loved right now by Jesus so that all my walls can melt down and my ulterior motives and plans of how to survive the next few weeks can be lost in the reality of His love and provision.

Verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 13 says this: “12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.” That’s me. I’ve let the mist make my decisions. I’m tired of striving. How often we think we’re free of the striving!! I’m not, anyway. I just want to see clearly. The One who is the true Reality has to break through to me today, and I know He can. My only job today is to be still and let Him.

“We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” C.S. Lewis

no time. what a mess.

I have no time.

No time to sit in the quiet and think. No time to put my head down on my desk and be.

No time for stillness.

So you come to me in the night. When my mind won’t shut down. When the baby is in bed with us. When they are in deep sleep and I am staring at the darkness as they snore.

What I’ve done…

I think, I know, I’ve lost myself. Who I was. The quest for goodness. For holiness. I’ve thrown it aside like a used towel. And I haven’t the desire to look back or pick it up.

So here I am. And here you are.

What you said… What you showed me…

When I wasn’t even asking you to, I wasn’t even praying. Or maybe I was.

Just trying to survive. And I took it into my own hands. And you loved me deeply. And you still do. And I’ll probably make the same decision again and it scares me… but I’m okay about it too.

Why don’t they teach this stuff on Sundays? I’m still loved. You still speak. I hope – I don’t want my heart to grow cold to you. I always thought it was all or nothing but I’m human and today, I can’t give you all. I gave some of myself away to the need that we had because I honestly don’t know how to receive from you. Is there a secret you’re keeping? Or maybe I’ve been taught inaccurately about this too. Expectations and things that I don’t understand.

Disappointed in myself, but not beating myself up. Surviving. Yet, you revealed love and dreams and your presence. I’m confused, but blessed.

I love you.

(I listened to this last night, before you showed up strong. It reminds me of what I’m sharing: http://vimeo.com/18884039)

 

 

Beautiful, beautiful love!!

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“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us……

…..So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!”

(Romans 8)

The disappearing church

Do you know what I think about all this talk about the decline in church attendance and how more and more Americans identify themselves with no religion whatsoever? (More than ever before in the history of our country apparently)

I think we’re missing the truth big time. The front page story isn’t that people are so wounded by the church that they’re leaving in droves (though that is happening). The truth isn’t how does Christianity meld itself into society without losing itself or compromising.

The truth is that it’s God at work. He doesn’t live in church buildings. He never has. He is moving everyone out into the streets, into the broken parts of their lives, into the creativity that He meant for them to be in, into the bland landscape of no particular religion so that He can have the freedom that we rarely gave or give Him in our gatherings. His light explodes into darkness and His life is arriving like splatters of color onto the blank canvasses of our numb, sarcastic, jaded, lonely souls.

He’s always wanted to break out. Like the guy who tried to keep the Ark of the Covenant from toppling over, we try to keep Him in place. (2 Samuel 6) He doesn’t want to have to be confined, He wants to be with us!! For heaven’s sake, don’t try to keep things steady, let Him out of the box!

We take ourselves too seriously. We see things backwards. We mourn at the decline of Christianity in our country and try to build more programs (or arks), or try to write the most hip blog to hold on to the people so they won’t be lost, but really, we’re the lost ones. We’re blind. We can’t see that what we fear the most is probably the biggest blessing to God… People being positioned to be less bound up by rules so that He can carry grace straight into their lives and make His home of love inside them. Us included.

Be free. Be free and think outside of all you’ve ever known. You’re loved and you’re not alone.

Memories for a friend

My friend died on Saturday. I found out on Sunday morning and I think I’ve been in shock since that phone call. Her name was Ronnell. She was beautiful and funny. She struggled with many things and she loved well. I’ve known her for over half my life.

Coping with her death today has been full of tears, conversations with friends (who have been and always will be more like family), and memories. Here are some of mine…

Sitting in my parents kitchen and Ronnell asking me to cut her hair. I didn’t know how to cut hair and told her so. She said I’d do fine, just go for it. I went for it, all right. And Ronnell’s mom had to take her to get her hair fixed at the salon. Ha!

All of us making that stupid Amy Grant video at Ronnell’s house!! Also the Eternity commercial and the rapture video… those special effects were amazing. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but that day, as always, there was so much laughter. Always laughter.

Whenever I think about her room I think about the Reading is Fun poster she had on the wall featuring R.E.M. and our endless conversations about Michael Stipe. Where did you even get that poster??

Other memories just keep on coming.

-Newts.
-The word “ergo”.
-Peaceful Valley.
-Prank calls late at night when everyone was camped out at Matt and Les’s house. We’d call some random person and immediately begin boisterously singing “Happy Birthday” to them, pretending we knew them. Not one person ever got mad at us for those calls. I think we made their day.

It will never be right that she isn’t here to share the rest of our days with us, however many days we may have. She will always be loved and honored and deeply missed. We’re not the same without her.

Tonight I hold her momma and her sister in my prayers.

Love you, Ronnell. Thank you for your friendship. I grieve for you with true hope. We will meet again.

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three deaths

My Uncle Bob died this week. So did a cousin of mine, and this morning my cousin Beverly’s husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Three deaths. One family. One week.

Uncle Bob’s name was Robert Hair. He was a full blooded Cherokee Indian. When he was little his great-grandma told him stories about the trail of tears. She could tell him the stories because she remembered it. For the first years of his life (until he was 6, 7, 8??) he lived on a reservation and only knew how to speak Cherokee. When he married my dad’s sister Joyce, I was young. He was a policeman where we lived in California, in a small county, in a very small town, in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The first party I went to in high school went something like this. Me, thinking I’m a badass at 16 years old holding a wine cooler (Ha! A wine cooler! What a nerd), talking to a cute guy in the kitchen of… well, to be honest I don’t even remember whose house it was. All of a sudden someone starts pounding in the door. Everyone in the party house froze. “Open up kids. This is the police!” Yep. You guessed it. I immediately recognized my Uncle Bob’s voice. Classic. We laughed hard about it years later.

He wasn’t perfect. He could be quite mean. He and my aunt had some tough battles and some wicked fights.

Fifteen or twenty years ago he had a heart attack. He died for a matter of minutes before they revived him. When he came back to life, he told everyone who would listen that he’d seen Jesus when he died. Jesus had told him that he was the way. From that day on Bob couldn’t shut up about Jesus. Some people in my family got really annoyed with him. It was awesome and never deterred him. The joy of Jesus was like fire in him.

I didn’t know my distant cousin very well. He was actually my Grandaddy’s first cousin. I saw him at family reunions. What I do know is that he had a family who loved him and that at 70 years old he finally got the grand kids he’d been looking forward to for years.

Bev’s husband woke up at 1:00 in the morning last night with pain in his chest. He didn’t want to wake Bev, so he sat up all night until 8:00 this morning when she found him outside on the porch swing. She rushed him to the hospital. He passed away about two hours later. They loved each other a lot and tonight her grief must be at its peak, and that fact hurts my heart so deeply for her.

So death has visited us too many times these past few days. Yet, life still flows on for us. I know that the coming week will hold my huge and wonderful family coming together and being there for each other like we always are. There will be lots of tears and a lot of hugs and laughter.

My cousin Pam and I talked on the phone tonight. We cried and laughed with each other. She has yet another cousin on her father’s side of the family that I am not related to, who is in hospice. His name is Ted and hospice told the family today that it will most likely be tonight or tomorrow for him.

She told me a story about her 97 year old grandma who once said to her, “We’ve got it all backwards. We should mourn for someone when they’re born and rejoice for them when they die.”

Maybe she’s right. We mourn when we lose people because we miss them. But we also celebrate because they are free.

I just wanted to remember them here tonight to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, because I loved them, I love those who they’ve left behind, and because they mattered.

They are now seeing fully what we only know in part. what we blog about and talk about and experience pieces and moments of… They know. It’s fantastic and it gives my heart a lot of peace.