Prisons of Self

I just posted this image and the following response to The Parallel Bible – the world’s first visual and social Bible app – and thought it also belonged here as a milestone on my path:

Matthew 5:26

Matthew 5:25-26 – “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny.” (WEB)

We take ourselves to court, judging and accusing harshly, and sentencing ourselves to silent prisons from which there is no release. You will never get out when you hold yourself in contempt. It will cost you everything. When Jesus was preaching on the mount about making peace with our enemy before coming to tithe, I propose He was including our own worst enemy: Self.

I’m currently dealing with a whole trove of self-contempt I never knew was beneath the surface. But it keeps popping up to complicate situations in all areas of my life, so I’ve decided to confront it head on.

This photo and post actually comes from a prayer time I was having with Papa earlier this evening. I thought I was repenting and making sure all the last of some ugly sin in my past was covered – again. Suddenly, mid-sentence, I was startled silent – Papa literally rose up within and very sternly said, “STOP. I will NOT allow you to beat, condemn, discount, or hold (hostage) your self any longer! IT IS FINISHED! I don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore, but it certainly does not sound like the woman I know you to be.”

See, when Jesus died, He covered every last deed. He sent your past as far as the east is from the west…as the Cageless Birds song goes, “Guilt went looking for my past but only found Love.” But our hearts are not open to receiving that Love if we’ve locked them away in prisons of contempt and unforgiveness. They can see it through the bars and know it’s for them, but they can never fully receive or participate…and that deferred hope of Love makes the heart sick. And a sick heart becomes the wellspring of a life half-alive.

Release yourself today. Make peace with your enemy, and watch as the fruit your life produces to tithe at Jesus’ feet sweeten and increase by the bushels. The most beautiful offering we can give is our hearts, totally open and free to be loved every bit as much as He died to make possible.

The original post can be found on The Parallel Bible by clicking HERE or looking me up by username (LilWhiteHouse).

Homeless Outreach, Stories from the Street

The Beauty in a Blanket

Humans are beautiful. Every single one. I am overwhelmed by the Love of a Father and how He invites everyone to the table to partake of it.
Tonight was an interesting string of events that all led to this one:
An older woman who is currently homeless approached me at a Starbucks, and I ended up taking her a few places she needed to go. It was an incredible exercise in listening to Papa’s voice and holding boundaries as I felt I was released to do a and b but not c, etc; I ended up taking her more places than I had planned but felt unexpected grace and desire to do so, and I said no to buying her certain things, even though I could have, based on a gut feeling – the hardest one for me to say no to was a blanket. I really wanted to buy her a blanket but, because my own rent just barely eeked by today and I felt Papa saying no, I let it go and said no. Until recent breaking of old habits and setting of boundaries, that’s when the ol credit card would have come out – I’m growing! YAY! HA!
When I brought her to her end destination and said goodbye, a young homeless man walked straight up to her and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, for not doing this sooner, but I felt Daddy tell me to give this to you last week because I have others, and I just didn’t do it til now.” He tried to hand her a fleece blanket with Christmas decor all over it! She continually refused it, not wanting to inconvenience him or take something he might need, so he gave it to me and walked away, saying, “I assume you’ll have better luck getting her to take it.” Fortunately, I did!
– Humanity is not doomed, ugly, or beyond hope. Beauty is built into every single person, but not every single person chooses to slow down and see it. “Stop and smell the roses” is not just a frivolous cliche. It’s much more profound than that.
– No matter what you have or don’t have, you have more than enough if you have Papa’s love.
– Papa God knows all our needs and our desires, and He is never late in providing. Sometimes, however, it is us who reject His hand out of shame/feeling unworthy or miss it because it’s not how we expected it to happen.
– Just because you “can”, doesn’t mean you “should”. Papa wanted that young man to share in the joy that comes of showing His love to others. Had I bought the blanket, I would have been out resources I need (bad self care/boundaries) and I would have denied that young man the ability to be a blessing and obey what God told him to do. Sometimes we need to keep our best intentions out of the way of God’s best.
– I also would have denied that woman supernatural provision! It’s so much more meaningful to know Papa set things in motion a week ago, foreknowing her need, than to just get a store-bought something or other. His ways are always better (and much more fun) than ours. He wanted her to know His eye is on her needs and future: He told me to say, “Hey.. I know you don’t want to take his blanket, but he said he has others and you are so worthy of gifts from Papa. He loves you so much that He knew you wouldn’t have money for a blanket tonight and set that young man in motion to give you one…because you are the daughter of a King, which means you’re a princess, and princesses get gifts just because they’re loved. And look! It’s CHRISTMAS! It’s Jesus’ birthday! And I happen to know that Jesus loves to give rather than receive so of course He’d be giving you a present on His birthday. He says He’s trying to shower you in gifts all the time but you keep rejecting them…this one, He really wants you to have because you are loved, and loved ones are provided for.”
– I will, no matter how much darkness or pain or horrificness I see, never stop loving people, because He loves them so so much. I will also apparently never stop weeping at even the smallest displays of pure beauty – like a man with nothing being so yielded to Papa’s voice that he’d give sacrificially to one with even less than he. Driving away, replaying that moment in my mind, the feeling hit me that that woman was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen, and the tears poured forth.
What an honor it is to be trusted with moments as precious as these…I pray that you, person who’s read this far, have the privilege of witnessing pure beauty and Papa’s love this week, and that when that time comes, you’ll have crazy awesome discernment to know what is yours to do, what is God’s to do, and what is to be left for someone else. Amen.
Thoughts on God

Survivor: When Parents Outlast

Morgan and her daddy – they both loved this picture.

As I’ve slowed down to grieve and contemplate the tragic loss of my beautiful friend, Morgan, James 1:27 keeps coming to mind. It really hadn’t been the expected verse of choice, but because it has been popping up in my brain on repeat, I started to ask Him why. For reference, it essentially says, “True religion that God approves is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their distress…”

I’ve always just looked at this as the ultimate call to service and a reminder to Christians that religious BS is NOT the heart of the Father nor what Christ came to establish. He didn’t come to create a regulatory system of ritual worship and judgement. He came to heal our relationship with Him and clear the way for us to come back into His arms.

This weekend, however, I’ve come to see another level of what distress looks like as I’ve watched Morgan’s dad’s responses to her passing. His utter anguish is horrible, and my heart weeps for he, his wife, and their son. It has made me really stop and think about what it looks like to care for people their distress. Especially when distress looks like what I’ve seen this weekend.

Then it hit me.

The verse specifically mentions orphans and widows: children who’ve lost their parents and people who’ve lost their life partners.

Nothing is said of parents who’ve lost their children.

But I know that Papa God knows a thing or two about the agony of losing a child – His only Son, full of life and selfless concern for other people, a heart of gold working to make the world a better place, prematurely stripped from this world in one of the most torturous and horrific ways possible after having been tormented and scorned publically. Even if one doesn’t believe Jesus was who He claimed to be, the fact remains that He was a son, He suffered, and His parents had to watch (Mary from His feet and Papa from His head) as He took His final breath at the young age of 33. He wasn’t an old man, nor did He outlive His parents, and He’d only just begun His life’s vocation. His obituary would read just like that of any son who’s been lost before their time.

I KNOW God understands the suffering of a grieving parent and that He is close to those who mourn. So why would this not be included in the passage of ultimate religion?

Because it’s not supposed to happen.

Though it’s hard to lose anyone, it is an accepted fact of life that the time will eventually come for a child’s older parents to pass away or for one spouse to head Home before the other. But this… This was never in the plans. It’s unnatural. It’s unexpected. It’s horrific and heinous. And I think Papa was making a point when He left it out of His Book: even after sin brought death into the world that He had intended to be a death and suffering-free zone, a parent losing a child is still not the way it should ever be. Ever.

But… Because it is, He made the ultimate sacrifice, putting Himself into the shoes of every parent who’s ever lost or will lose their precious sons or daughters, so that they will know He understands what they feel and has a special place in His heart for them. He sees their pain, feels it as His own, and is forever joined with them in the fraternity of survivor parents. There is hope because His Son conquered death so that all the lost sons and daughters could know Life.

It’s to that Hope which I cling. Call it a silly coping mechanism or call it the Truth. I’m not forcing a belief, nor am I dismissing the pain. I’m only sharing that this is where I’m finding any remnant of peace in order to begin putting one foot in front of the other again. I don’t know how else to help or what else I could say. I pray that all the beauty and joy of Morgan’s life will find a way to circle back and manifest somehow through her death. A glimpse of that beauty can be seen on her blog: The Flight of My Life by Morgan Smith rocketscientress.wordpress.com

Ashes to ashes, then beauty from ashes. Joy from mourning and heaviness. Amen.


Your Song Made it Worth It

Tiny thing of only three
Golden pigtails all amiss
She swings and swings
Swings and sings
Flinging little legs with passionate kicks

Here she can finally be
She clearly sees her Papa
The higher she flings
The louder she sings
He can hear her at this height

Little verses from little lungs
Breathed with the beat
In her little bird heart
All else melts away
Like crayons in the sun
When she kicks and flings
And swings and sings

“I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul,
Take joy my King
In what you hear
May it be a sweet,
Sweet sound
In Your Ear”

No care in the world
But her Lord and worship
Unaware of the evil next door
Of the man who would come
For her innocence and song

Tiny thing of only four
Knows more of the world than she ought
Her song silenced in shame unspoken
Now, she kicks and flings and screams
For survival
Not for fun

Twenty-some odd years later, the broken little girl was emprisoned in an adult body, ruled by shame. Half of her heart longed for Her Lord to return to her, hold her close to His chest, and show her what love was supposed to look like. The other half, revolted; where the hell was He when these things happened? What kind of Father leaves a three year old in an old garage in the hands of lustful men? Men who held her to their chests, suffocated and abused her. Those who got close took all they could til she was a carcass of dry bones. Love? Well, what the heck is that? Does she even know what love looks like? Or peace? Or trust or joy or safety?

Her actions were her own, yet not. Her heart buried in chaos and shame and control. She knew she had to get back to her Papa, but she had no strength for the journey.

That’s where He found me. All the fragments of me, strewn across moments and personas and locked levels of closeness. My spirit crying out, my mind and body failing at every turn. He met me there.

About two months ago, I found an old photograph of my three year old self on my old swing set – the one I had before “the incident.” Before I even made that connection, I would weep, like, uncontrollably even time I happened upon that photo. I never quite knew why – I was dangling from the monkey bars, huge grin on my face. That was a happy time. Yet somehow, my soul knew something my head had forgotten.

When I was given the revelation of why this photograph hurt so much, I was also reminded of my aspirations to be the next Amy Grant. Even at three, I just knew I had the vocals to lead people to Jesus by the millions. I’d sneak away to my swing set, swing as high as I could, and sing at the top of my lungs, feeling like He really could hear me better since I was closer to Him on the up swings. And it was always that same, 80s cheese ball Vineyard song. Always. Repeat.

It’s been quite a journey that started when I was about 20 and intensified when I started serious counseling 3 years ago. But, about three weeks ago, God stepped in and completely healed these memories. He stripped away the shame that has insulated me from intimacy with Him, and shortly after that, He gave me a powerful revelation of my salvation – a prayer of mine for YEARS, that I would feel what Jesus felt, know He was really real, and physically feel His love and forgiveness. It’s all had a domino effect trickling deep into every other crevice of my being. I was set free, and I stepped into my true identity for the first time since I was three years old. Since that day, I have been singing. Loudly. About everything, all day. He restored my song. I even received the gift of tongues, which I suspect has always been there, but it’s in singing form, not spoken. I sing in the Spirit, but my song needed to be redeemed. I feel His peace for the first time – in fact, the feeling was so foreign to me that I couldn’t even name what I was feeling when the lady praying with me asked. Someday, I’ll share these stories.

But for now, I want to share is what happened last night. Watching the Son of God movie for the second time, God showed up. I felt my heart responding powerfully to Jesus’ torture and crucifixion. I felt my sins nailing Him to that cross. I felt His compassion for me, and my little heart cried out, “Jesus, what were you thinking in that moment before death? Oh, Papa, please tell me you gave Him comfort, gave Him hope, gave Him relief!” In that moment, Jesus spoke clearly to me:

“Little One, I was seeing you.
I was watching you swing,
and I passionately loved you.
Your song made it worth it.”

And then the Jesus on the screen cried out to heaven and released His spirit.

As he hung there, fully human and grasping at life, Papa God showed Him me.

And He decided my song was worth every moment.