Authenticity · Faith · Vulnerability

Exterior Walls

We put up exteriors daily. As if we don’t care about what people think.

As if I don’t care.

As if I don’t notice the likes, the comments or the lack-there-of. As if I’m stronger than those who need to be told every day that they are valuable in someway. As if I don’t need to hear the words of people confirming me and the things I do.

Deep down we just want to be understood, desperately, pathetically.

Humanly.

Listen, as much as you fight it and act like you are above such longings, if you’re human, those feelings are there.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

To the world, you may look confident. Or you may look hopeless. You may look like someone who has it all together or you’re falling apart at every turn. You may even give a phony smile, and say some cliche things. Or you may spew every careless thought that comes from your mouth in hopes of being real and bold.

But whoever you are… you hate it. Because deep down, we all know that that’s not what it’s about, is it?

As if one kind of wrong is better than the other.

Thank God, you are worth more than than your feelings tell you.

Can I just say something here?

Maybe we are all more alike than we want to admit. Maybe I’m just like that too-faced, self-righteous, rich snob we all avoid. That hypocrite in the church pews. That political maniac who rants day and night on social media, believing that those who are on the other side are the enemy. Or the “tolerant” crowd who are tolerant of everyone… except for those who are intolerant.

Maybe, that drunk homeless man, who reeks of alcohol, sitting on the side of the road asking “food” money, is just like me inside.

In fact, I’m convinced of it.

Pride tells me I’m better than all of the above, but there’s one thing that tells me I’m not.

The Cross.

Because on that cross, Jesus gave his life as much for the hypocrite, as for the drunkard, as for the bitter-old-soul who can’t forgive.

Think you’re better? Then maybe the cross isn’t for you.

…Or maybe, it’s especially for you. Because, friends, the ground at the bottom of the cross is equal. And not one of us deserved it.

Uncategorized

Don’t Weep for Me

I think one of the things that has hit me the deepest this Easter season, is the absolute humility of Jesus Christ.  The strength of his character is unimaginable. The compassion for others, to the core of his being, wasn’t something that could’ve been faked. It was his very nature to think of others above himself.

Before I lose some of you here who are thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I heard this story a hundred times already…I’ve seen the film. I get it.”

Just stop.

Picture Jesus. Close your eyes if you have to and picture him.

Not the Scandinavian man with long flowing hair from the Bible story picture books.

Not the man with the clean white robe and blue sash.

Not the white skinned, serious faced character from the paintings, surrounded by people.

But a man…A Jewish man.

Betrayed by his friends.

Beaten beyond recognition.

Innocent, but falsely accused.

Sentenced to a horrendous death.

Carrying a cross upon his torn up back, until all strength was gone.

And a crowd of women, crying and grief-stricken, trailing behind him.

And rightly so! Jesus was the victim here! Certainly, he deserved their sympathy. Certainly, he deserved their tears.

But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t you weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children…” Luke 23:28

When I read this yesterday, my eyes filled with tears. For Jesus was the most unjustly treated man that has ever lived on the face of the earth.  Yet he never once, NEVER ONCE, victimized himself. Even when he was falsely accused, even in his suffering, even in his betrayal and abandonment by close friends – he did not weep for himself.

He was continually more concerned with the spiritual state of others, then of his own darkest moments.

And as he was nailed to the cross? I have partially stepped on a nail (as in it went through my shoe and partly into my foot and it hurt for days!) I can not even imagine the pain of what he went through at the hands of human beings. Surely now he would curse them!

 “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

While hanging there, suffering beyond comprehension, he spots his mother.

“Mother help me! They’ve misjudged me! I only helped them and they’ve done this to me! Mom, I’m in so much pain!” That’s what my voice would’ve yelled.

 “Dear woman, here is your son…and John, here is your mother.” John 19:26-27

Not ONE selfish thought.

Not ONE bit of self pity.

Even on the cross he was honouring and caring for his mother. Even in his suffering he was forgiving his tormentors.

The amazing strength and integrity of Jesus is unfathomable. How I love this man! How absolutely perfect and noble. How incomparable to even our greatest hero’s today!

And when it was all said and done he cries out:

“Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46 

And he breathes his last.

Jesus simply trusted God‘s will. He trusted him even in his suffering, until his last painful breath. He trusted that God would keep his spirit, even while being under God’s judgement and condemnation himself.

It’s easy to read the story and not feel it.

Please, take time to read about this incredible man, Jesus, the image of God himself in human form. Read the story slowly. Think about it deeply. Really picture the details. Perhaps other things will stick out to you from the story, perhaps other details will bring tears to your eyes.

But whatever you do, DON’T harden yourself to the message of the cross, where Jesus didn’t weep for himself, he wept for YOU.

Poetry

The Road to the Cross

Heart full of pain, pack heavy as lead,

Not really alive, neither fully dead.

Wandering on to meaningless trails,

Endless darkness, walking the rails.

What am I here for?

Stumbling pain unto pain,

Life is a joke! Nothing to gain.

Flashes of visions: A man on a cross.

Why was he there? Never quite knew,

With all of my struggles, didn’t care to.

Why must everything bad happen to me?

How to avoid it, when one couldn’t see.

Darkness so thick you could choke on the black,

The load just increases upon my sore back.

Strength slowly dying, along with my soul,

Dreams become curses, crushing my goals.

Oh God, what’s the point? Are you even there?

Or am I just cursing into thin air?

If really existing, you’d make yourself known!

Why live anymore if I’m walking alone?

Night cold and hard, yet easier to breathe,

Darkness still felt, but thinner it seems.

I was told to follow my heart all along,

So why did this happen? Where did I go wrong?

Walking along the path that was shown,

Never thought I’d be stuck here, cast out and alone.

“Help!” The cry feels stuck in the air,

“Help me! Please! Much more I can’t bear!”

No sooner the words escape from my lips,

When the heavy pack drops from my grip.

In terror I struggle, I can’t let it go,

Turn back to grab hold, but notice a glow.

A dim light, so faint, didn’t see it before,

Grabbing my pack, I turn to see more.

Dawn peaks her head up from under the night,

I draw ever closer, so mysterious the light.

A loud sound hits the Earth, I hear it so near!

A gruesome sound that turns my stomach in fear,

A man groaning in pain, I rush to the sound,

Crying out loudly, for this man must be found!

The day steadily grows clearer and so does the cry,

Hurry to make it or this man will but die!

Then…there he is, hanging – Oh Lord! It can’t be!

A man cut up and bruised on a dark, blood-stained tree!

“Who did this?!?” I scream!

“How dare they?!?” I shout!

The evil that put this man here, it’s no lie,

The person who did this deserves to die!

Then the eyes of the man turn and look straight at me,

I can barely describe what it looks like to see,

Such innocent eyes, filled with love and pain,

Powerful eyes, but gentle the same.

How could there be such humility there,

Joined with authority in the same stare?

I look all around, searching who is to blame,

Justice would treat them exactly the same.

The man starts to speak, the Earth shakes with his words,

And I know that this Man is the Lord of all Lords!

“My Child, Understand, I was put here for you.”

Falling down on my knees, “Oh God, what did I do?”

Surely, I had nothing to do with this Man,

I had nothing to do with the iron piercing His hands.

Then my pack that I’m holding splits right into two,

And as the nails spill out, I see that it’s true.

The pack that I held, held the proof I was wrong,

The nails that I carried told the truth all along.

It was my very nails that held up the Son,

I could now only scream, “Oh, God! Look what I’ve done!!!”

But it was no use, for the Man’s life was gone.

Weeping and wailing, I fall to the ground,

My sobs carry for miles, a hopeless, lost sound.

Lowly before the cross I now lie,

Not to get up, for down here I will die.

Time standing still, the world holds its breath,

Then who comes forth – but the Man! Defeating his death!

Jaw open, limbs shaking…how can this be?

And my heart trembles greatly as He strides towards me.

Out in the open, nowhere to hide,

Exposed in my filth, dead to my pride.

I brace myself greatly and wait for the blow,

But to my surprise, the Man stoops down low.

He lifts my tear covered face in His hand;

The same voice that formed the sea and the land,

Speaks over me these three precious words, “I love you.”

Then says, “All that I wanted was that you would see,

What I really did for you on that old cursed tree.

And now you have done all that you need,

For in repentance and rest you will find that you’re freed!

It is finished, throw that old pack away!”

The Man stood there shining, brighter than day.

In death I died with Him, in His life I live still,

Now my heart cry becomes, not mine – but His will!

No longer a slave to the sins of my past,

I am saved by His blood, safe at home, free at last!

(A poem I wrote last Easter, previously titled “The Cross”)

Uncategorized

I Just Can’t

One of the biggest mysteries to me when I first got saved was how God could actually change who I was.

I always thought: but isn’t it actually me who is changing myself? Aren’t I the one making the decisions to change?

 I think part of the reason we become so confused about the concept of God changing us, is that we confuse obedience with a legalistic form of trying to attain our own righteousness apart from Christ. Obedience is really quite simple, while attaining our own righteousness is impossible.

On one hand, sometimes God will command us to do something that we can do, it’s just that we don’t really want to. Any example of this is when God prompted me the other week to shut down my Facebook account. Sure, I had about twenty good reasons to listen, from privacy issues, to wasted time…but on the other hand, there were just as many why I didn’t want to do this.

What will become of my blog? I wondered. Most of those who read it are reading it because of Facebook.

His answer? You were never supposed to be writing for them anyways…

Ok, God. I hear you. Loud and clear.

I deactivated the account. Not because Facebook is wrong, but because God saw something that needed to be accomplished in my life away from the spotlight of Facebook.

This is the one aspect: God commands, we obey.

The second one is harder though, because it happens when we recognize that our deeply imbedded habits are not lining up with God’s will for our lives. It’s these habits, these behaviours that we turn to when we’re broken and weak, tired or full of shame. This can include things such as addictions to alcohol, media, food, etc. Or it can be attitudes such as pride, bitterness or shame. It can also be reactions like anger, lying, and gossip.

Now, we can try to stop them (in other words try attain our own righteousness) but usually we just continue to fail and indulge in them all them more. Sometimes, the harder we try to stop them, the worse they seem to get. It’s these things that we are powerless to change without remaining in God. We can not do it. We simply will fail again and again.

We can not change our sinful nature. Only the work of Jesus on the cross can. If we actually think we can change ourselves, we have no business pretending that we need the cross.

A week ago, I had a picture while spending time with Jesus. We often talk about laying our sin and burdens down at the foot of the cross, but the picture I received gave me so much more insight into God’s grace.

Here is the picture: I was sitting on a picnic blanket covered in garbage. Not just wrappers and empty soda bottles, but the real rotten, disgusting garbage – representing my sin. The stench of it stung my nose and the horror of the fact the it was all sitting out like this in the open, where everyone could see it brought me into a panic. I quickly scooped it all up so that it was hidden within the blanket and I held it over my shoulder like a sack, looking desperately for a place to get rid of it. I couldn’t carry the load much longer it was so gross and heavy too. In the distance, I saw the cross and I knew what I had to do. Wearily dragging along my garbage, my sin, I came to Jesus. But instead of setting it at his feet, I lifted the load over my head and placed in on his shoulders. The weight of it pulled on the nails in his hands and he groaned. The garbage leaked through the bags dripping down his back. It was soiling him and causing him excruciating pain.

And it was here that the cross became unbelievably personal: MY SIN CAUSED HIM PAIN. ACTUAL PAIN.

It wasn’t just a casual moment like, “Oh hey Jesus, while you’re taking out the trash for everyone else can you take mine out as well?”

It was very real. Very personal. Very humbling. 

But the picture didn’t stop there. As I look up with shame, Jesus then calls out my name. He looks at me with eyes of love and speaks the words, “I love you, Heather. This is why I came.”

This is the view we must have of the cross. Our sin matters a LOT. It caused him pain. But he wants us to come and bring it to him. That was the whole point of the cross! Not a licence to sin more. Not a reason to cower in shame…but a reason to come and repent, to find true freedom and lasting peace!

He didn’t do this all so we could go on living in darkness like the world, doing whatever we please, but so that we could live in light, for him. ALL for him.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I’ve lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I might gain Christ.” Phillipians 3:7-8

It’s at this point where we cling to him, admitting our absolute inability to do anything good at all. In this state of weakness and clinging to him, God begins to work, which is why this confuses us so much…because God’s works cannot be explained!!! 

That’s why we call them miracles.

Salvation itself is a miracle. The greatest of them all.

We think of raising the dead, in the flesh, as being one of the “big” miracles, but in reality I think that is very easy for God to do. He just has to speak the words and life comes forth. But forgiving our sins?? That came at a great price…he had to give his very life!

It’s this ongoing work of the Spirit in our hearts that requires us to cling to him for all we are worth. If we part from the vine, we shrivel up and die. We are fruitless, lifeless, worthless – like a twig snapped off a tree. But when we remain attached to him, we grow, we flourish and we begin to bear fruit.

As much as the world tells me that I can do anything if I just try harder, the cross tells me otherwise.

It says: YOU can’t…but I can. 

 

Uncategorized

The Cross

Heart full of pain, pack heavy as lead,
Not really alive, neither fully dead.
Wandering on to meaningless trails,
Endless darkness, walking the rails.
What am I here for?
Stumbling pain unto pain,
Life is a joke! Nothing to gain.
Flashes of visions: A man on a cross.
Why was he there? Never quite knew,
With all of my struggles, didn’t care to.
Why must everything bad happen to me?
How to avoid it, when one couldn’t see.
Darkness so thick you could choke on the black,
The load just increases upon my sore back.
Strength slowly dying, along with my soul,
Dreams become curses, crushing my goals.
Oh God, what’s the point? Are you even there?
Or am I just cursing into thin air?
If really existing, you’d make yourself known!
Why live anymore if I’m walking alone?
Night cold and hard, yet easier to breathe,
Darkness still felt, but thinner it seems.
I was told to follow my heart all along,
So why did this happen? Where did I go wrong?
Walking along the path that was shown,
Never thought I’d be stuck here, cast out and alone.
“Help!” The cry feels stuck in the air,
“Help me! Please! Much more I can’t bear!”
No sooner the words escape from my lips,
When the heavy pack drops from my grip.
In terror I struggle, I can’t let it go,
Turn back to grab hold, but notice a glow.
A dim light, so faint, didn’t see it before,
Grabbing my pack, I turn to see more.
Dawn peaks her head up from under the night,
I draw ever closer, so mysterious the light.
A loud sound hits the Earth, I hear it so near!
A gruesome sound that turns my stomach in fear,
A man groaning in pain, I rush to the sound,
Crying out loudly, for this man must be found!
The day steadily grows clearer and so does the cry,
Hurry to make it or this man will but die!
Then…there he is, hanging – Oh Lord! It can’t be!
A man cut up and bruised on a dark, blood-stained tree!
“Who did this?!?” I scream!
“How dare they?!?” I shout!
The evil that put this man here, it’s no lie,
The person who did this deserves to die!
Then the eyes of the man turn and look straight at me,
I can barely describe what it looks like to see,
Such innocent eyes, filled with love and pain,
Powerful eyes, but gentle the same.
How could there be such humility there,
Joined with authority in the same stare?
I look all around, searching who is to blame,
Justice would treat them exactly the same.
The man starts to speak, the Earth shakes with his words,
And I know that this Man is the Lord of all Lords!
“My Child, Understand, I was put here for you.”
Falling down on my knees, “Oh God, what did I do?”
Surely, I had nothing to do with this Man,
I had nothing to do with the iron piercing His hands.
Then my pack that I’m holding splits right into two,
And as the nails spill out, I see that it’s true.
The pack that I held, held the proof I was wrong,
The nails that I carried told the truth all along.
It was my very nails that held up the Son,
I could now only scream, “Oh, God! Look what I’ve done!!!”
But it was no use, for the Man’s life was gone.
Weeping and wailing, I fall to the ground,
My sobs carry for miles, a hopeless, lost sound.
Lowly before the cross I now lie,
Not to get up, for down here I will die.
Time standing still, the world holds its breath,
Then who comes forth – but the Man! Defeating his death!
Jaw open, limbs shaking…how can this be?
And my heart trembles greatly as He strides towards me.
Out in the open, nowhere to hide,
Exposed in my filth, dead to my pride.
I brace myself greatly and wait for the blow,
But to my surprise, the Man stoops down low.
He lifts my tear covered face in His hand;
The same voice that formed the sea and the land,
Speaks over me these three precious words, “I love you.”
Then says, “All that I wanted was that you would see,
What I really did for you on that old cursed tree.
And now you have done all that you need,
For in repentance and rest you will find that you’re freed!
It is finished, throw that old pack away!”
The Man stood there shining, brighter than day.
In death I died with Him, in His life I live still,
Now my heart cry becomes, not mine – but His will!
No longer a slave to the sins of my past,
I am saved by His blood, safe at home, free at last!