Diary of a Misfit

Bad Samaritans

 

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Do not judge … Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Matthew 7:2-3

 If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian. — Mahatma Ghandi

I’m with Ghandi on this one. Christians can be a prickly lot.

We are the best and the worst advertisements for the faith.

Years ago, I gave up on “church” altogether for a while. Too many perky perfect people, too many ways of saying I had it wrong. Couldn’t think what “church” was for. Then I met Maria. She cleans houses. She agreed that some in her church made her feel bad. Then she told me about when her beloved son died of cancer and she didn’t even have enough money to bury him. Already sick and hollow with grief, she just cried out to the Lord. By that night, people from her church, many of them strangers, had individually stopped by with gifts of cash totaling $6500. The exact amount she needed for a lovely service and burial for her son.

She didn’t have to tell me the lesson. Yes. Church exists to worship God and learn scripture. And yes, some of the people there make it hard to sit still for any of it. But yes, when the chips are down, many of them gather around you like a family. Maybe the family you never had. It can be the best. And the worst.

New Christians have a lot to learn. And they bring a bundle of old flesh patterns with them. My friend John thinks new Christians should be locked up for six months, before they offend anyone with their zeal and ignorance.

Other Christians can become overly impressed with all they’ve learned and become full of themselves. We still use the ancient word for the first religious know-it-alls: Pharisees. And phariseeism is still the occupational hazard of all religious people.

So what’s the problem?

When a lost and wounded person becomes a Christian, is he instantly perfect?

No.

When a sick person walks into the doctor’s office, is he instantly healed?

Never.

The first ancient churches put baby Christians through three years of discipleship before they allowed them to receive the sacraments of the church. Taught them the rudiments of the faith. Demonstrated by their service the love and humility of mature faith. Washed their feet. Taught them scripture, prayers, sacrificial giving. How to be a part of the body of Christ and a local community of faith. Way more training than we get today.

Mainly, we forget that everybody needs love more than they need behavior police. Something in us wants to fault the ones right behind us in line. We’ve got it now; why don’t they?

Ideally, after our initial conversion to Christ, with His Spirit in us now, we learn how to best cooperate with God’s will for our lives. Learn to pray, study scripture, worship. Mold a new relationship with our Lord and Savior. All the icky, horrid kinds of “religiosity” come from starting with behavior instead. You know…the rules. True Christianity, becoming a true bondservant of Jesus, starts with Him.

That love relationship with Him changes us. And then we want to change our behavior, work in His vineyard. He loves us first, we love Him back, then we want to please Him more than our own self. Slowly, gradually. Not instantly. So there are always pilgrims along the road at every stage of formation. Pilgrims who might hurt your feelings. Other pilgrims who are not yet perfected in Love.

Yet no other group calls down such animosity in the secular public. Regular Alcoholics Anonymous members fall off the wagon all the time. Nobody shouts “Imposter!” at them. Nobody stays out of AA because of them. And nobody tells them they don’t believe them. Even hate them. Or claim the whole program is worthless. But let a Christian act bad and you’ll see it in the evening news.

One of the first things we learn to accept in our holy journey is that there are going to be some bad Samaritans along the way. And that the other pilgrims are not who we are following.

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Invitation

Invitation

Come to Me, all who are weary.

heavy with secrets. limping in shame. coulda.. woulda.. shoulda.

Let there be light.

all the stars. then us. naked, fragile, loved.

and free!–perilous, priceless gift.

Peace. Be still.

holy whisper. roar of waterfalls.

You are safe.

your name, safe in His mouth.

your secrets, your soul, your heart and mind. safe.

maybe for the first time.

I hold your prayers before him, swirling like incense.

beautiful. sacred.

proud, stubborn child; we delight in you.

wounded by the fallen world, yet His beloved child.

let me hold you while you listen, bless you while you heal.

Ask and it will be opened unto you.

one gesture of His love and Will created all matter and space and time;

yet He has set His heart on you.

you are His story.

and He is yours.

–The Patron Saint of Misfits

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Mind of Christ, Brain of Frankenstein

MisfitMind of Christ, Brain of Frankenstein

  … we have the mind of Christ. 
I Corinthians 2:16  NASB

 

Babies and brains are delicate, easy to harm.  Some of us had loving parents who were o so careful.  Some of us did not.  Many bear invisible wounds from childhood.  Life is hard.  One child, lame, struggles and falls, alone.  Another, sturdier, is supported by loving hands all around.

It’s not fair.  Not as the world sees things. Yet faith leads us to believe God is building our souls.  By adversity or by blessings.  Still–whether we are seekers or believers, we sometimes wonder why we have the brain of Frankenstein when we mean to be all sunshine and joy.  Can we really have the “mind of Christ?”  And, more to the point, does God still love us when it feels like we don’t?

It is hard to understand with our natural mind.  Only the “mind of Christ” can accept it.  And scripture tells us we have the mind of Christ.  (I Corinthians 2:16)

Then why do we have so many problems with our “minds”?  Depression, anxiety, addiction, ADD, OCD, o my.  Labels abound, fixes elude.  Only God has medicine powerful enough.

It helps to understand that the BRAIN is part of the BODY, but the “mind” is part of our SOUL.  Big difference.  Can’t always change the brain, any more than you can change blue eyes or crooked bones.  But you can have the “mind of Christ” by choosing to agree with the Word, thinking like God thinks.  Choosing with your Free Will, safely tucked away in your wounded soul.

And accepting that there will be days the brain of Frankenstein wins out.  Can’t always overcome the neurochemical glitches of that brain.  But learning, implanting, speaking, and thinking God’s truth enables us to serve Him anyway, live above the circumstances that almost cripple us.  And, sometimes, amazingly, even gets down to the physical brain and heals it.  Silent little miracles of faith.

We tend to think of violence and poverty and bad news in daily life as our “circumstances” that the Bible is always talking about overcoming.  But the wounds to our souls lost in the mists of childhood can be our main circumstance.  Crimps to our brains and psyches that time has set in concrete, not healed.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… Romans 12:2

Since scripture tells us to renew our minds, it is plain that God Himself thinks it is possible.  Just like invisible GERMS can cause colds and flu, our invisible thoughts can cause all sorts of havoc in our souls.  These “cooties” of wrong thinking, thoughts that are contrary to God’s truth, make us prey to all sorts of chemical havoc in the brain as well.  But God has provided healing in His Word.

He sent His word and healed them… Psalm 107:20

 We sometimes fall under the influence of that damaged Frankenstein brain, but our soul still has the “mind of Christ” when it chooses to.  Therein lies the rub.  Whew.  Hard to choose it with the five senses yammering right from the Frankenstein brain.

But not impossible.

So long as we don’t wait for a certain “feeling” or expect a specific miracle.  But choose it, say it, repeat it, cry in the middle of it, try again.  A harder path than other people yes.  Well-loved, “normal,” not-Frankenstein brain people.  But our mission from God.

Long after our broken brains are dust, our souls will retain the fruit of our efforts to plant and use these bits of scripture.  God’s truth becomes part of our eternal vocabulary of worship and praise.  We will be glad forever.

And we can start now.

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Help Me, Lord! …Sozo

1109739.DAWNOFHOPEWhat we say in public is “I am saved.”

 What we say in private is:  Save Me, Lord!  Rescue me, heal me, restore me. 

 “Help! “

 And He does.  Hardly ever just like we think or expect.  Always in a way that is best for our soul, the part that will live with Him forever.

 The verb ancient Bible Greek uses for “save” or “rescue” is SOZO, root of “safe.”  Oh, to be safe in this fallen world, not just in Heaven, but now. Hard for our broken feelings to feel safe.  But we are.  “Saved.”  In every sense, every tense:

  PAST:  Our response in faith, our “yes” to Him, saved us already from the penalty of sin.  Our eternal soul is safe with Him.  John 10:2

 PRESENT:  He is saving us from the power of sin in our lives–setting us free from our addictions and ruined relationships, free from anger and fear and hate, free to forgive, be at peace, love.  One faith step at a time.  Romans 6

 FUTURE:  When we are with Him in heaven there won’t be any more sin—ours or anyone else’s—to ruin things.    I John 3:2

 So why are things such a mess here?  Why won’t He just fix everything now?

 Because of the inviolable gift of Free Will.  Ours and the other guy’s.  Always we are free to choose.  And so are they.  How could He expect us to love Him if we were not free to NOT love Him?  It is the difference between a slave and a beloved child.

 So, there are deserts to cross in this life.  Mountains to climb.  Circumstances of life to pick our painful way around.  Learning, like the apostle Paul, that God’s grace is “sufficient for us.”  (II Corinthians 12:9)

 I myself have been saved in ways I had not been able to receive on my own, or even in church.  Saved, mostly, from my own crooked thoughts.  Taught to think in cooperation with God and His truth.  Taught to live my life with Christ at the center instead of my weak and whiny flesh.   Saved.  Healed.  Rescued.

 A miracle of grace.

 

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Cry, Baby

1d7293c7321787ad62f0955dc6b15c70Hard to believe God loves you when nobody else ever did.  “Know” it, yes.  With your mind.  Intellectual assent.  But down deep into your Spirit?  Soaking through to your damaged Soul?  Hard.  Dripping tiny mercy drops down into your very body?  Almost impossible.

We have to want to real bad.  Have to ask Him to help us get it.  A lot.  Have to lay on the bathroom floor sobbing, yet still willing to say “I trust Your love.”  A miracle, really.

Faith is a powerful thing.  So long as we are sure it is faith in Him.  Faith in the sun or in the dark.  Faith in the joy and the suffering.  And not faith in our formula for getting what we want from Him.  He knows what we need.  Our faith is in the power to trust Him with all of it, even the tears.

Our tears are not a shame, not a sign on our back that says “Kick me.”  Not a letter from home that says “Let me tell you what your problem is.”  They are holy.  And He keeps them forever:

   “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears 
                     in Your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book.”  Psalm 56:8

Did you know that God saves all your tears? And what He does with them
is holy.
Eternal. Glorious. Only that much Love can melt that much pain
and make that
much glory. I do not know all of His answers, but I know that
one. I will pray for
you to know it too.    — The Patron Saint of Misfits

 

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Love Deficit Disorder

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Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it.
Love makes up for practically anything.
1 Peter 4:8 (The Message)

Sometimes I wonder, “Why did You make me, Lord?”

“To love and be loved,” He tells me.

Yes.  That is what we all want.  Even God.  Maybe that is how we are made “in His image.”

Love.

Everything rotten and ruined comes from a deficit of love.

Some of us always had it.  Some of us did not.  It’s the fault line, the watershed, the difference between us.

Because bad things happen.

Our hearts get wounded.  Then hidden away in the deep basement of our soul. We live above it best we can.  Craving love.  Seeking peace. Wishing for happiness.  Mystified by our own brokenness.

Because everything that ever happened to us is still inside, dense and convoluted like a walnut in its shell.

We try a lot of things.  Cry and hope they see our pain and give us what we need.  Heap anger and even violence on them, trying to force them to meet our need.  Kill ourselves, showing them what they did to us.  Drink or drug ourselves into oblivion so we don’t feel the need.  A million ways.  All of which tear our lives down around us.

There must be a better way.

And so we crawl to Jerusalem, limping, broken.  Talitha, Koum, He tells us. “Child, get up.”   And we learn to walk by faith, instead of by the white-knuckled greedy rage that kept us until now.

What do we REALLY want?  When we eat too much, drink too much, hate too much?  Throw dirt in the air, vomit the rage in words that tear our lives down around us?

Love.  Joy.  Peace.

Did pharmaceutical companies ever promise that?

Your favorite TV show?

You neighbor?

Your mom?

No.

Only one person EVER promised that.

Just one.

Jesus.

We can hang on, tooth and toenail, to the old wounded, angry, sullen, self-centered flesh we are so familiar with.  And keep on being disappointed.

Or give it all up and let Him take over the reins.  Read His Word and learn to renew our minds to His way of thinking.  Thought by thought, reroute the lies of the devil still churning in our brains.

It’s not easy.  But it’s easier than being lost and without hope.  And if we still suffer, then we have His promise it is not for nothing, but for the greatest story in the world.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…    II Corinthians 4:!7

 My only recourse is the expedient of placing at the service of truth what has been given me by the Father of Lies.    Leon Bloy

 

 

 

 

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The Physics of a Misfit

We know who we are, us misfits.  Nobody has to tell us. 

Most of us never got what children really need when we were small.  Abandoned or abused or neglected, we survived with a hole in our hearts where love and peace should have been.  Some of us crippled, some left too young to make our way in the world, no money or education, subject to the bad advice and example of broken people along the way.  Maybe perfectly normal on the outside.  But deep inside we feel our own woundedness, our own frailty.  Something at our core is damaged.  We know it.  Nobody needs to tell us. 

 How could anyone love us, we wonder? 

Yet we crave love. 

What would it take to feel peace?  To trust? 

What would it take not to hate ourselves anymore?  Or not hate everything else?

To be free of the grinning imposter we have created to hide our crooked little selves?  Feel loved for ourselves alone?

Physicists tell us that the universe is expanding all the time.  Like an enormous explosion in slow motion. But it is not slowing down, as they expected, but speeding up.  Leaving scientists with only one conclusion–that there is a power, an energy, that they know little of, connecting everything. 

We are not scientists, most of us, and can barely comprehend the elements at play in their theories.  But I wonder, if God is love and is the Creator and energizer of the universe, then we are all truly inside the exploding, ever-expanding sphere of His fierce love. And, in the exchange of energies at this level, maybe it won’t matter how much love we got, but only how much we gave.  Because even if it is too late for us to get the love we missed, it is never too late to give it.  That intention alone could answer all our questions about God.

Because God is love.  (1 John 4:16) That invisible, unlikely ache in the pit of your stomach, pain down the center of your heart.  Love.  That is God.  When you care more about the needs of someone else than you do about your own.  When you want His best for someone, whether they know enough to want it for themselves or not.  Whether they love you back or not.  Love.  The most powerful force in the universe.

 But most of us spend our lives looking for the second most powerful force in the universe.  Money, sex, alcohol, fame, food, drugs, revenge, control… It never works; but we keep trying it, like a bent key to a door that doesn’t budge. 

But giving love feels almost like getting love.  Healing.  Holy.

Giving money doesn’t feel like getting money.  Giving time doesn’t feel like getting time.

Only love.

Down in black and white like that, it seems simple.

“If you seek,” Jesus said over 2000 years ago, “and keep on seeking, ”it will be opened up to you.”  (Matthew 7:7)  We wish.  And we hope.  But seek?  Really search?  How can someone so lame, so wounded, ever get there?  Only by seeking Him…instead of all the other things the devil keeps presenting.  Hard choices.  So much easier to seek relief, entertainment, satisfaction. But worth it all when it is opened up to us.  A light we never knew before.  A song in the night where the dark used to be.

 The old Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” still sings:

 The birds sang at the break of day

 Start again I heard them say

 Don’t dwell on what has passed away

 Or what is yet to be

 …Ring the bells that still can ring

 Forget your perfect offering

 There is a crack in everything

 That’s how the light gets in

A broken vessel of fragile clay lets in a lot of light. 

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Glimpses of Heaven

This Morning I woke up thinking of a friend I had lost contact with over the years and purposed to look him up and get in touch with him. Hours later the phone rang and it was a mutual friend telling me he had passed away during the night. I knew right away he had “waved” to me from the journey.

Years ago, when my best friend died, I actually asked the Lord to let me hear from her from Heaven. Just a word, a glimpse, please Sir. To comfort my heart more than build my faith. Weeks later I woke early one morning to sense her unmistakable presence and intense, hushed whisper into my spirit: “All you can bring is Love!” There was no mistaking it was her nor that it took some sort of unfathomable effort for her to bring that message. And no denying that it meshed perfectly with what I knew from scripture.

My children and I remember when my grandmother left this world–a huge electronic pulse turned our stereo on full blast at 3:00 before the phone rang with the news of her passing. Never happened before or since. She came through to say goodbye to us on her way to her forever Home.

And I still remember the look on my dying uncle’s face as he crossed. Comatose for days, at the end he sat bolt upright in the hospital bed and reached his arms up towards the ceiling as if to be lifted up, a look of stunned awe on his face. Miraculous. Undeniable.

Any nurse will tell you people often “see” Heaven as they pass from this life, in explicable last visions or exclamations, often greeting other deceased relatives with joy.

On the other hand, I once sat with an aunt as she died and was intubated and put on a respirator. When she woke up, she told of leaving her body and going down to a dark tunnel and seeing her deceased husband who told her “Go back, go back” and motioned her away. She lived another year and spent every waking minute reading the Bible, watching Christian videos, and praying with friends and visitors.

So, it’s not that we don’t get hints all along in this life. And the older or more troubled we get, the more beloveds we lose, the more we think about Heaven. But the truth is, the Bible doesn’t give us much to go on. Lots of instructions about how to prepare for it, but hardly anything about how we will experience it. I Corinthians 2:9 puts it plainly: “…eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and it has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him…”

In a nutshell, Heaven is so fabulous, even GOD doesn’t have the words. Or He doesn’t want us to have them yet because He wants us to finish our missions here. Probably if we knew for sure, we’d buy the first ticket outta here.

Scoffers like to point out that astronauts don’t see “Heaven” up in space. And the Hubble telescope hasn’t located any distant place that would qualify. So where is Heaven? What is it?

In a nutshell, it’s not a place…it’s a condition. A “dimension,” sci-fi writers like to say. Physicists talk about the theoretical possibilities for other dimensions all the time. And scripture adds that it is where only God’s will is done all the time. No evil. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Pure “holiness” like we have never experienced in this thorny old world. Which is why Jesus has to vouch for us to get in. As Dorothy Sayers put it, “God came in the flesh and took His own medicine”.

People write books about Heaven–mostly how they died and went there, then came back. Usually kinda lame and fleshy, sometimes intriguing. Never provable, of course. Movies give it a try sometimes too.

But honestly, those occasional little “waves” from loved ones passing is more convincing to me. Probably you have experienced some as well. When you know and love a person, you understand immediately they aren’t pretending. People might make stuff up in daily life, but not when it comes to the end of their life. Dead serious, so to speak. Nobody is kiddin’ around on that last day. Going home.

Because Heaven is our real home. We always knew in our soul that this couldn’t be it. Everything there will be upside down. The poorest the richest. The famous unknown. The things our flesh strives for here banished forever there. The things our souls hungered for our crown.

I see God’s point entirely: How could you describe a place that will correct everything forever? Where perfect love transforms every crooked thing? No words. Love is like that…not what you say or feel…it’s what you do. Heaven is what God—perfect Love—does for us. Forever.

 

Here is one of the most credible accounts I have seen of “went to Heaven and came back” testimonies.

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You Just Can’t Teach God Anything

 

God Wants the Best for Us

God’s love is ruthless. Not fuzzy bunnies and heart-shaped chocolates, but the hard reality of death and justice. Not a lazy babysitter, watching us make our messes, thinking to clean up later rather than spoil our fun. No–a father who loves us too much to let us cross the busy highway. He is more than simple kindness–a consuming fire, refining us so we can be pure gold. We are infants in our cribs, totally dependent on Love to sustain us. Have you ever had to hurt a baby? Take them to the doctor for four shots that make them scream in pain and betrayal? Love knows things baby cannot know.

Misfits accept this more gladly because our hearts were already broken and what we feel or do not feel, what we want to feel or wish we could forget, is forever out of our control. We are wounded and our feelings will just not line up and behave like everyone else’s. It is more good news that God’s love is not a feeling. It is a fact. A concrete yardstick set in the swamp of shifting moods and bondage and pain and confusion. It is the one sure thing. He loves us. He loves you. He loves me. Not as a group or a race or a pair even, but each and every human snowflake. Desires a love relationship with each one of us that is unlike the one He has with anyone else. Knows us, cherishes us, loves us to infinity.

God persists in wanting what is best for us in His “forever.” We turn away, scream in pain, reject Him for shaping us. But He keeps on loving us, shepherding us toward Him, so we can live with Him forever. You’d think He would give up, since mankind has made it plain we’d rather do it our way.

Boy, you just can’t teach God anything, can you?

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The God Spell

We love stories. Movies, radio, books, chatting with friends, eavesdropping at the hospital, sobbing to a priest, sharing with someone. Stories. We have to tell them. We want to hear them. It is what we do for each other, how love behaves. We want a witness to our lives. A pattern in the chaos. Closure. Meaning. As E. M. Forster famously described it: “The king died, and the queen died,” is just the facts. Not helpful; not healing. But, “The king died, and the queen died of grief,” is a story. Now the facts are relevant. Now they satisfy our hunger, maybe even heal our souls. How else can we cope with the mysteries of life?

Perverts prey on innocent little children.

Strangers shoot into crowds.

Children and mothers starve, clinging to each other, flies walking across hopeless eyes.

Scoffers hog the spotlight.

Followers of the gospel of love and forgiveness debate with fury and scorn.

Cartoonish people preach on TV.

Seekers soon prefer smiling agnostics to Bible waving zealots.

And yet…and yet….we want to know. We wonder.

We have questions, but think maybe there’s aren’t any answers.

There are.

Or think because we are so wounded, maybe God’s love isn’t for us.

It is.

So why didn’t He prevent the horror?

Why does God let children suffer abuse, starvation, abandonment?

Why doesn’t he take away addiction?

Heal all cancer?

How can he love us if He doesn’t help us?

We are not the first to question God.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? King David asked over 3000 years ago. (Psalm 22:1)

We blame God for evil, like blaming light for the darkness. Yet we hope. Outgrow our childish expectations that life would be easy. Begin to see dimly, straining, that those who hurt us or left us or disappointed us had to go around God to do it. See that He is using our suffering to bring us closer to Him and a glory we can barely fathom.

By words, whether mental or spoken, our prayers take flesh. Like artists’ ideas take flesh in their work. And God Himself took flesh to express Himself–.His love and character and will–in Jesus. He told us the only story that could heal the world. Enfleshed the story. Became the story.

That is the “gospel.” In old English, “the God spell.”

A story that explains everything.  And never ends.

Halleleujah.

 

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