The telling of a story

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

It’s late, and I have plans to get up early tomorrow morning to pray with a friend, but I need to share this tonight.

I volunteered to blog for World Help because I wanted to use my blogging for more than promoting my own voice. I knew the founder as a professor in my college days. If I wanted to be a part of an organization that was really out there doing humanitarian work and not losing donor’s money in the shuffle of administration, and where I felt confident they were who they said they were, this was it.

As a freshman in college, I heard Vernon Brewer share amazing stories. He had a way of telling stories that mesmerized even the most sleepy collegiate, from his life-threatening health issues to mission trips to less-than-friendly countries. One such story was a little boy, Nildo, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And 25 years later, I remember Nildo. His name was lost, but burned on my heart was the story of a street child who Brewer’s daughters took under their wing, fed and clothed, and gave the gift of very bright white tennis shoes. I remember their chagrin on discovering him the next morning with dirty bare feet again as the bright shoes served as a target and were stolen from him overnight.

Listen as Noel Yeatts, one of those daughters, retells this story:

 

Tonight, I read of Nildo’s death. As Noel wrestles with this ending and what it means for her and others, she writes,

My story gave people the ending they craved. It kept them coming back for more. It gave them hope. And, it neatly wrapped up an important truth. If we reach out and do our part, lives can be changed. Nildo was that shining example of a life transformed. He was inspiration to look past the masses and zero in on the one child, the one person God has put in your path. He helped us “see the one”…

I am realizing now more than ever before that Nildo’s story was never my story to begin with. I was just a small part of his story. A big beautiful story but one that I cannot write all the chapters in. There is no alternate ending to choose from, just one tragic end to a life beautifully lived.

And here’s the question I have started asking myself: How much are we willing to risk to let God write our stories? Am I really brave enough to let God write my story … my whole story – with no alternate endings to choose from?

And there is the heart of it all. I don’t write my own story or the story of others. I share the story that God is writing. It’s scary, because that means I don’t control the ending, the Author does. It is my privilege and joy to share it with you.

To give a gift in Nildo’s memory, which will help support his family, click here.

World

My church currently has a team of people on the ground in Rio, continuing the work of spreading the gospel to the people there. Would you pray for them?

Day 27: Where your brokenness brings you

Part of crushing kingdoms includes brokenness, which is weighing heavily on me tonight. This song is several years old now, but between the lyrics and the visual picture in the video, it really hits home.

This is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you new.

And then there’s this lovely song by All Sons & Daughters

I am a sinner; if it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words, tangled in lies
But you are a savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful

We’re continuing the series – click the photo for the index of all posts:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 20: Though you ruin me

not_meaningless

My words fail me tonight. My thoughts are jumbled. My intentions for this post have blown away.

It seems that this has been a season of things being taken away. And some days I can trust in God and carry on, doing whatever needs to be done next.

Other days, much like today, I collapse into a puddle of tears.

And so, this is what I need to hear today. Perhaps you do, too.

Listen as Shane and Shane sing:

Though you slay me, yet I will praise you
Though you take from me, I will bless your name
Though you ruin me, still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need.

Not only is all your affliction momentary; not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But it is totally meaningful…don’t say it’s meaningless. It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore. Therefore, do not lose heart. — John Piper

UPDATE: Dear friends, I realized from some of the comments (thank you for commenting, BTW!) that perhaps a little clarification is in order. I am not despairing. When I wrote this, I was tired, discouraged and a bit worn thin, but I shared it all to say, yes, sometimes it does get difficult, but holding onto hope in Christ is the only way through. If you’re worn and barely holding on, I get it, but don’t let go of God. Don’t lose heart. Love to you all,
Janice

Part of the #write31days series:
crushing your kingdoms

Day 12: My best guess

winter berriesThe words aren’t coming tonight.

*thinks a moment*

Nope, they just aren’t there. I have a ton of thoughts in my head, but none that make sense working on this series. So, I’m dumping out the words as they pop into my head and we’ll see where they take us.

I’m feeling quite a bit like a failure tonight.

Not just for my lack of coherence with the blog, but in not staying disciplined to work on house-related things, in lacking the stamina to continue vacuuming out water from the (still) flooded basement, for not planning out meals for the rest of the week (church friends have graciously helped out with meals every other day for the past 10 days), for not organizing the mess that sits around me – remnants of the stuff brought upstairs by helpful friends, for falling behind in my volunteer work for church, for not leading others well, for complaining again & again.

For giving into temptation again & again. For giving up hope again & again. For believing the lies repeatedly.

berries of winterI’m tired. I’m worn.

I don’t have beautifully strung out words for you tonight. I don’t have the answers tonight. I don’t have the solution to the problems. I do have a laundry list of problems.

I do know the answer is in Christ. I know the eternal picture makes sense, even when this temporal view is jacked up.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. — Colossians 1:11-14

I think this may have been crushing the kingdom of I-have-it-all-together. Or, at least, that’s my best guess.

Today was just one random day of:

Click to read all posts in the series

His Peerless Worth

This song has been on repeat for the last day. Different bits of the lyrics hit me each time.

…Joyful choose the better part…

…Let his peerless worth constrain thee…

…What can strip the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?…the sight of peerless worth…

It’s so easy to focus on things of this world, even good things, and take our eyes off that which is peerless worth. God is beyond compare. There is none comparable; no one to be considered his peer.

And suddenly the things that have occupied my time and attention seem flat and shallow compared to his peerless worth. Soak in that as you listen to this song.

 

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Captivated by His beauty,
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King.

What can stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.

’Tis that look that melted Peter,
’Tis that face that Stephen saw,
’Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.

peerlessworth

Day 4: Rest in God’s Strength

Broken Is

Back in July, I wrote a Five Minute Friday post right after a week serving at camp. This post, What Broken Looks Like, was written from a very bruised and broken place. In the post, I wrote that this wasn’t a full picture, but in 5 minutes, there was just no time for details. So, right now, let me share a little more about myself and this broken moment.

In my real life, I’m an admin. I do office-y things. I’m at a desk most of the 8 hour workday. At camp this year, I decided to sign up for the admin type position, for a variety of good reasons. I figured the job would be fairly easy for me. There’s not much in an office environment that I haven’t done over the past 11 years. And, as far as skill set goes, that was true. I handled the office-y part of the position well, got back up to speed in Access within a day or two, and even learned a little bit of new info regarding SQL (sweet).

So while the actual job itself was moderately easy to pick up, it sort of took me by surprise that I was completely floundering. I was doing the work and getting sufficient acknowledgement for it, but feeling like I was drowning nonetheless. Tuesday morning, as referenced in that post, I lost it. I had 5 minutes with my husband during breakfast, where I told him I was done. Then came the moment of breaking:  the flinging of self down on the bed, the tears pouring out, the cries to God in desperation, the complete surrender.

I knew there was nowhere else to turn.

It had to be God, because in my own strength I was failing at something I’m good at.
It had to be God, or I wasn’t going to make it.

That moment of giving up was a watershed moment. I can look back and see that I moved from the side of believing in God but working really hard to get things right on my own, to handing over the reins, if you will, to surrender control of my life to God. I’ve screwed up since then, believe me, and have had to hand everything back over repeatedly, even in that one week at camp. Even in this week, trying to accomplish the 31 day blog challenge along with my normal life activities and assisting my husband with a breast cancer awareness fundraiser, it’s been about me, like a child with grubby hands, trying to hold every toy herself and dropping most of the load along the way.

Now we rest.

Now we release the things we are trying to handle in our own strength. A hurt from a relationship gone bad. A physical pain that doesn’t respond to treatment, a huge to-do list that never gets done. A problem that confounds you at every turn. A project that you can never complete.

Give it up. Stop trying so hard. Rest in God’s strength, for in His strength, we don’t have to be strong.

Boast in weakness

 

During my week at camp, throwing myself completely on God in brokenness, I found, not only strength to make it through the day, but rest. You and I need to do this daily, giving him our brokenness, our weakness, our failure – those grubby toys that are so important to us. In return, He will give us strength and rest.

31Days_Rest_thumb ←Click to get links to the whole series.

I’m one of 1500+ blogs participating in the Nester’s 31 Day Blog Challenge.

Stepping Out of Your Skin

Black Dragon

Photo credit: akunite_reqium_sol (Creative Commons)

It’s time for some serious scab-picking. Yup, gross. Stick with me.

The nicest visualization I can think of comes from C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. Eustace Scrubb, a most annoying, spoiled boy has managed to become a dragon. I know, right? If you don’t know how that easily that could happen, please read the book.

On the last night before everyone else will be forced to leave him behind, Eustace finds himself confronted by a lion. Not just any lion, mind you, it’s Aslan himself. Aslan tells him that he must scrape off the dragon skin to become a boy again. Eustace takes his dragon claws and scrapes. It hurts a little; but continuing on, he eventually steps out and sees a full, ugly, scaly dragon skin lying on the ground. What a relief! But, wait! He catches his reflection in a pool and – he’s still a dragon! He starts scraping again; this time it’s deeper and more painful, with an even nastier skin left behind. He looks into the pond again and despairs to see a dragon still looking back at him.

Finally, Aslan moves forward. He gently offers to do the scraping, but warns that it will hurt even more than before. Eustace agrees. And C. S. Lewis describes an agonizing ordeal that burns and aches, rendering the boy tender and exposed to the core. Then Aslan scoops him up and tosses him into the water which first burns, then cools and soothes. When Eustace emerges, he is a boy again.

(Seriously, go to your library, find the book and read this passage. It’s moving. The movie did a fair job with the effects on this scene; but it’s still better in the book.)

God’s been moving in my heart in good and painful ways. There are scaly layers of pain, grime and the crust of the world on me. It took me finally facing my dragonness to fully acknowledge that I needed to scrape away these layers. But in my feeble strength, I only flicked away a surface layer of filth. It hurt. A little. Perhaps my pride was most wounded. Trying harder did little more.

Now, by faith, with prayer, I give up. It’s time to allow God to do the scraping. It’s agony at times. I keep wanting to take the job back on myself. I do pull away and have to submit yet again to what hurts but ultimately brings healing. Hopefully in the future I will find the boldness to share more of this story.

Where are you? Do you find yourself still comfortable where you are? Are you trying to clean yourself up in your own strength? Or are you with me in the agonizing pulling away of dead flesh, waiting for the newness to come? No matter where you are in the process, your strength is not enough. Turn to God and ask him to help you.

You Have So Much More To Offer

I am in my 40’s and I am still painfully insecure. I ought to have grown out of that by now, right?

At a conference in early 2012, the opportunity presented itself for me to meet a young female entrepreneur who I admired online.

“Hi Maggie! I love your work and sense of style!”

Did I say this? No. I was too shy to introduce myself afraid of being rejected, so all I said was a timid “hello” and moved on.

Warm fire

A short while later I sat morosely kicking myself by this lovely fire. All my insecurities piled on me with a weight that grew heavier by the second. Instead of dealing with a mere moment of bashfulness, I was suddenly flooded with memories of a lifetime of missed encounters.

Do you ever do that?

I really never thought much about it until I saw how bothered my husband gets when I’m negative about myself. He loves me as I am and it’s insulting to his love for me when I insist that I’m unworthy of it.

I’m not alone here. I see other women I respect who don’t feel that they have much to offer and, while it’s easy for me to perceive the lie of satan in their lives, I’m blind to it in my own.

But we are women made in the image of God.

We are chosen by God for eternity.

Jesus gave up his life for us on the cross.

We are his Beloved.

I don’t have an answer to fix my own insecurities or yours. But I know that we should not dwell on them or let them drag us down and keep us from becoming all we can be in Christ. I know that God uses our weaknesses as opportunities for his strength to shine through. As Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 12:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I hope to offer you some encouragement tonight. Whatever it may be that you are beating yourself up about, stop. See that God is at work through you. That where you feel like you fail is where he steps in and shows his strength and power through you. And if you’re struggling and just can’t see that, then know. Know that his grace is sufficient for you and that he is with you. Trust his word. Believe it.

You, and I, have so much more to offer. Our insecurities and weaknesses are shining the light of God’s strength to a darkened world.

I’m continuing to count the gifts God is giving me:

  • Jewel-toned colors through a stained glass window.
  • The warmth of a purring cat.
  • Sunshine and warmer than average days in January.
  • A peace that descends as notes reverberate through a piano.
  • Chocolate. 🙂
  • Sunset darkening the sky a little later each day as winter ebbs slowly into spring.

I’m linking up with:

The Scenic Route

Penny for your thoughts

How much are your thoughts worth today? What value would you place on them?

I started this post listing out all the self-chatter that goes on in my head in any given day. It consisted primarily of berating myself, complaining about anything  everything, fantasizing, and comparing. They weren’t very valuable thoughts. You probably don’t need to hear my chatter because I’d bet there’s a personalized live stream in your own head.
I’m right, aren’t I? (more…)

The danger of wearing a mask

It can be dangerous to wear a mask.

wearing a mardi gras mask

Tonight: a fun event with a colorful mask, but I wasn’t quite myself. A little too loud, a bit too enthusiastic – not really a problem since I’m rather reserved most of the time and after all it was a party. Hiding behind the mask, I felt the freedom to be more outgoing and vivacious. But as the night wore on there was an alteration. The mask felt more normal, a part of me – truly, it was starting to stick to my skin, but the smile below the mask began to feel false, too.

The danger to be not quite true, not quite me was strong. (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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