just be: further adventures in taking up the easy yoke

pebbles resting

photo credit: me!

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

oh how i want to rest! and yet, it seems to be the very hardest thing for me to do! “what do you mean i don’t have to do anything? how can this be? i mean, if i’m not striving, working, earning something, aren’t i just a slacker taking advantage of grace?”

but as hard as this is for me to wrap my mind around, if i’m NOT resting, i’m denying the grace of God. i’m refusing God’s promise that His grace, Christ’s death is sufficient to save me from my sin and perfect me every day (see Galatians 3 and 5 or my previous post). This is unbelief! I’m refusing to believe that God is telling me the truth about his rest.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:9-11

Ray Stedman explains this for us very well. you can read his whole commentary on the book of Hebrews for free here. Here’s a quote from it (all emphasis mine):

Moses was just a servant, but Jesus was the master. Moses led the people of God out of Egypt towards the land of Canaan, which was the symbol of the rest of God—the rest which God wants people to learn to live on inside their heartsJesus leads into the actual place of rest.

That rest is defined for us here in chapter 4. It says,

“whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his.” (Heb. 4:10)

That is, if you stop depending upon yourself and your self-effort, you have learned to enter into rest, because you start depending upon another—God’s work in you. That is the lost secret of humanity. That is the secret that Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden, and which Jesus Christ came to restore to us. When we learn to operate on that, we learn to be perfectly peaceful, calm, undisturbed by circumstances, trusting, powerful, effective, accomplishing things for Christ’s sake. And that is rest…Therefore, he says, “let us strive to enter that rest” (vs. 11), lest like those people in the wilderness, we fall away and lose out on what God has for us.

i’m hanging on to God’s promise that he has rest for me, that he has already done it all, and that i am already victorious because of Christ’s death. he says i am more than a conqueror! (romans 8) and i am going to believe that with all i’ve got! that’s an anchor to hold me fast even in the storms and raging seas of life.

just be loved. just rest.

stop. trying. so. hard.

Soft Lightphoto credit: biana moraes

“aren’t you tired yet?”

i didn’t ever hear those words from God, like, literally. but He might as well have been screaming them at me with all that was happening around me in the year or so before my diagnosis. everything was falling apart. i was confused by the horrible choices i saw leadership making in my church. i was confused by the suffering i saw others going through. and i was so confused by the fact that i was doing all the right things, at least, trying really hard to, and yet i was still such a miserable failure at being a Christian. i worked really hard to put up the facade of having it all together, because it looked like everyone else around me had it all together and what if they found out what a screw up i was then they’d know i was a failure and that i wasn’t good enough, was in sin, was backslidden…was fallen from grace.

what i didn’t know then, what it would take me years of suffering and incapacity and total helplessness to even begin to learn, was that i HAD fallen from grace. paul might as well have written these words to me!

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Galatians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

when i say i’d “fallen from grace” i don’t mean that i’d lost my salvation. i mean that i’d fallen from the safe, perfect, free place that Christ put me in when He saved me. when i came to Christ, or rather, when He came to me, i specifically remember praying “my way does not work, Lord. no matter what i do, it doesn’t work. i want Your way from here on out. have Your way.” in that moment of salvation, i recognized that i was helpless to do well, to do right, to please God on my own. i knew it. and i ran to Him for help. (isn’t that really what salvation is? agreeing with God that i can’t be good enough and falling on His mercy and grace?)

but somehow over time, even though i KNEW Christ had saved me by grace, and not by anything i had done, i’d begun to believe (however subconsciously) that i was going to be sanctified, be better, do better, be perfected by my own efforts. i had completely forgotten why i had come to Christ in the first place.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

the yoke of slavery that i was struggling under, that i still fight to NOT take up every day, was the yoke of legalism, of living as if i had to check of all the “do’s” on my list of what a “good Christian” does in order to earn the right to rest in God or to grow as a Christian.

when my whole world fell apart in 2004, when i was cut in two at church, and my thyroid died, and consequently my mental health completely disintegrated (though i wouldn’t know or understand that until years later), i was really in trouble. not just because all these things had happened, but because i was literally flat on my back and could not do anything on my list.

it was then that i had the privilege of learning, long, slow, painful learning, that giving up on my own efforts, on my list, was the only way forward. the only way to freedom. the only way to start on the path to experiencing salvation in this life, not just after it.

i could write more about that, but someone else wrote it better than i probably ever could. i encourage you to read her words. they will bless you. you can find them on ann voskamp’s wonderful blog, in a guest post by sarah mae.

ann wrote a great book called one thousand gifts. i’m only two chapters in, and it’s amazing. i highly recommend it.

Suffering may be the best gift God has ever given me

My friend Michael wrote a great post about the Beatitudes and how basically they promise that everyone who is blessed by God is going to suffer. You can read the post here.

I posted a comment in response and I thought maybe it would make a good post on my blog, especially since I’m trying to post more often and this is sort of easy.

So, here it is. What God’s been teaching me about suffering.

I used to be really comforted by the thought that it would be worth it, that all things work together for good, that I’d come forth as gold. I was really focused on those things in my suffering.

Some people say “it’ll all be worth it” as if there are some cosmic scales that suffering and blessings the weighed on that will all balance in the end. The problem is, some suffering, some losses, some hurts–there is nothing my mind can begin to imagine that would be “worth” going through them for. Would anything be worth someone’s child dying for? Would that result be comforting in the moment?

For me what’s become most important and most comforting is that God is with me in all of my suffering. It doesn’t comfort me to think that it will all work out in the end, etc. even though I know those things are true. The really comforting thing is that God is with me–he knows me & knows what’s going on in my life.

I don’t need less suffering or for my suffering to end: I need more of him! I find myself less concerned with whether or not this thing that I’m going through going to result in some blessing later and more concerned with the fact that God is with me, that he is good, and that he always does right. Whatever’s happening the character of God hasn’t changed. And it’s never going to change so I can rest and trust that his presence is with me.

As I relax more into that presence, the suffering is still there but it is dimmed in the light of God’s love for me. The more that I focus on God and who He is, the more possible endurance seems. I remember that even though he allows suffering, he’s not the author of it.

the fall of mankind & of this world is the fountain from which all suffering flows. One day, he will end all this suffering and he will set the world to right…to what he intended it to be in the first place. That gives me comfort–to know that it’s not going to last forever.

Paul said that the things we suffer now aren’t even worthy of being compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. That glory is glory for God. God is using the things that we suffer and everything to reveal his glory and I want him to be glorified! The more I know him the more worthy I know he is.

I don’t know I guess maybe that makes it worth it–maybe that’s the thing I can look forward to and say: “that’ll be worth this.”

forward motion

Jumping; running straight high jump

in another sign of forward motion, i’m all set, numbers on a list, to make three appointments tomorrow. one to see a psychiatrist (finally, one actually recommended by someone i respect and trust!), one to see a counselor (among other techniques she uses Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Solution Focused Brief Therapy–these things are totally what i want: solution oriented approaches, not endless prattling on about emotional baggage) and another appointment to deal with a plain old health problem.

i’ve been putting off the first two appointments for-EV-er. i’ve been kind of paralyzed by a bad appointment with one psychiatrist here and by worrying about money. anyone that thinks having health insurance makes health care affordable must not have any big health issues. it’s a constant concern of mine and i really need to learn how to battle the concern and worry about money.

i’m just so ecstatic to see such obvious working of God in my illness. i feel so blessed to have him picking me up and helping me move forward.

i realized a new challenge today.

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Job 13:15

this verse has often caused me to cry out and ask God to slay me, because it’s too hard, i can’t take anymore, it’s not fair, i’m useless like this, and on and on. the real question for me is not whether i will trust God if He slays me. Him slaying me sounds pretty good–being with him and losing this totally broken body.

the real question is: will i trust Him if he doesn’t slay me? if i deal with this illness and it’s consequences my entire life? if i miss out on things because i just can’t handle them. if i stay totally impoverished because i can’t work anything but part time forever?

is my trust conditional? or will i take Him at His word? that He is good, that He loves us more than we can possibly imagine, that everything that happens to us is orchestrated & allowed to ultimately work out for our good, that He keeps our tears in a bottle, and that His heart is tender toward us?

oh Lord, you know i once asked you what would happen if i was so mentally ill that i forgot you, forgot that you existed. and i know what you told me–that you would never forget me. remind my heart of you at every moment. remind me of your great love for me.

Yes, in the way of Your judgments, O LORD, we have waited for You; The desire of [our] soul [is] for Your name And for the remembrance of You. Isaiah 26:8 

being the world’s worst friend is one hell of a downward spiral

By p-a-t-r-i-c-k

to all of my friends, to all the people that at one time considered me a friend, to every person that i love: i am so so sorry for being such a lousy friend in the last seven years or so.

i have not returned your calls. i haven’t initiated calls or contact. i have canceled plans. i have been unreliable, a flake. you have every right to be upset with me.

i am truly sorry. i am crushed under the guilt and shame i feel about this.

i want to give you some context for you, but i don’t want to excuse myself. i just want to be sure that you know that it’s not because i don’t love you. i love all of you so much. it’s not because you aren’t important to me, or because i don’t value your friendship.

it’s because i’ve been sick–really sick. and it’s completely changed my life. you see, in June 2004, my world came crashing down around me. i’m not ready to talk about the specifics yet, but i had two really wretched, painful things happen to me. and i just broke. emotionally, mentally, psychologically i was shattered.

that shattering triggered the most intense flare of my mental illness (bipolar disorder, type II) that i have ever experienced. i knew i had issues before then, but this was like all the lights went out. there was no light for me. the things i trusted in were no longer trustworthy, with the exception of God. and even he was so incomprehensible to me. everything was spinning. i didn’t know which end was up.

i didn’t know how to explain to myself what was wrong, and i sure didn’t know how to explain it to anyone else, even my dearest friends. whenever i am feeling depressed, i tend to withdraw, and this time was no exception. i withdrew even more intensely than ever. it was like i imploded. i was trapped in my own head.

when you called, or sent emails, or otherwise reached out to me, i didn’t purposely blow you off. but i was so hurt that i didn’t want to be close to anyone. i didn’t know how to explain that i wanted to die, that i lived in blackness all the time.

when i didn’t return your call right away, i felt guilty and ashamed. and that made it harder to return that call, so i felt more guilt and shame, and on and on in a vicious cycle.

when i was supposed to hang out with you, i wanted to. but i also didn’t want to leave my house. i was so hurt i felt just raw, and if i stayed in my own little world, i thought i would be safer. plus, i was exhausted. depression makes you want to sleep, a lot. and just going to work and getting through the day was taking almost all of the energy i had.

and on top of all this, my thyroid stopped working, which made me more tired, fatigued and mentally miserable. it was the perfect storm of misery.

i have been so sick, and writing this is the first time i realized that it’s really been almost 8 years. wow. that’s awful. the good news is that i really feel like i might be on an upward trajectory and that it might last.

you might be wondering what prompted me to write this, today. well i’d been thinking about it for a while, but then i read this blog post.

the story she told was so sad and i felt such crushing guilt reading it. please forgive me.

though don’t have the right to ask you anything, i am going to ask anyway. if you can forgive me, if you still love me, if you still want to be my friend, please give me another chance. if you can, please reach out to me. the thought of reaching out to each of you is so overwhelming. it immobilizes me. especially because i am afraid that you all are angry with me and have written me off. but i am going to try.

if you can bring yourself to forgive me and reach out to me, please be patient with me and don’t give up on me too soon. i’m going to do my very best. but i’m rusty and still healing. have mercy on me.

have you forgotten you’re forgiven?

my dad wrote a great post on forgiveness today on his blog. do yourself a favor and check it out.

have you really thought today about the fact that all of your sins, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. are forgiven, forgotten, cast into a bottomless sea, separated from you by an immeasurable, incalculable distance?

have you REALLY thought about that today? rejoice in your freedom!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

mars hill does it again and acts 29 is still silent

note:  believe me when  i say that i am seriously hot about this situation, and i know that at least some of my anger about it is righteous.  i’m totally open to anyone challenging me on my points of contention, but please deal with the specific concerns i raise. don’t just tell me to watch mark driscoll sermons (i have, many) and don’t tell me not to touch God’s annointed. don’t tell me that these are minor issues. they aren’t. these are issues of destroying God’s beloved, the people that Jesus died for,  issues of causing Christians to stumble and question even their faith–issues that might result in worse than having a millstone hung around your neck and being thrown into the sea. (see Luke 17:1-5)

 (it is not an accident that mickey mouse is on his shirt here.)


so, after refusing to comment publicly on their disciplinary process and the accusations that the process is unnecessarily authoritarian, punitive and legalistic, on february 13, 2012, mars hill has now released a statement about their church discipline process, in which they reference two specific instances that people raised concerns about.

before you go any further in this post, i suggest you read the mars hill statement.

i’m just going to say it: these guys are liars. first they try to justify themselves in the dark to “protect” the people involved. when that didn’t work, they released a statement. well if they couldn’t go public for fear of hurting people, why did they then go public? are they wrong for going public now or were they lying when they said they couldn’t go public before? did the rules change?

they are purposely spinning and distorting the truth in an attempt to make themselves look good. they have sold their integrity to try to cover their sin, and it’s not even working because anyone with a brain and some ability at critical thinking can see right through them.

the most obvious thing they are leaving out is that they did a lot more wrong in Andrew’s case than just posting that letter to the city (their internal social networking site). to suggest that was their only mistake is either the height of arrogance or dishonesty.

in their statement, they seek to justify their actions by defining confession and repentance. the not so subtle implication is that the people with problems with their disciplinary process are not repentant. this is my favorite section:

“…we’re unrepentant when we pridefully resist the change process. A few examples include: unwillingness to face our sin truthfully, including not allowing other wise and loving members of our community to help us see what we may be blind to…”

so, who are these wise and loving members of the community? were the people  that subjected Andrew to meeting after meeting and wrote up that absurd disciplinary contract wise and loving? what about the people that published the letter instructing other church members to shun Andrew? what about the leaders that mentored those folks? the ones in leadership that those folks went to for advice about how to handle the situation? who gets to decide whether these people are loving and wise?

what they basically say is that unless you are willing to participate in their fascist disciplinary process, you aren’t truly repentant. who in the hell do they think they are?

further, this statement misleads (i believe intentionally) readers into thinking that the dismissals were directly related to those cases.  from the 2/16 update section of the official mars hill statement:

In addition, in two separate instances, we have removed the staff members involved and they are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church.

first, firing two leaders for being what they were trained to be will in no way fix the problem and in reality is just as bad as what they’ve done with their “church discipline” efforts. two guys lost their livelihood because they followed their leaders example. shouldn’t they consider the fact that their totalitarian disciplinary contract might create leaders that overstep their bounds in this manner?

i don’t know if anyone else has pointed this out, but i think this is VERY important to note. from the christianity today article regarding the mars hill statement (see page 2):

Update: Mars Hill’s Justin Dean explains: “We want to clarify that there are many leaders involved in the discipline process and the vast majority did a Christ-honoring job of pastoring those people. The two leaders who we identified in the blog were removed because of overstepping their authority in cases unrelated to the Andrew and Lance cases. Our goal in mentioning them was to say that we protect our people and not our leaders.”

so, the leaders that were actually removed had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CASES OF ANDREW AND LANCE. so how does this address in any way the concerns that have been brewing since January? the whole intro of mars hill’s statement is written to lead the reader to believe that it is relevant to these two situations, when the biggest “action” that it mentions them taking actually is totally unrelated to those issues. talk about spin.

following the update in from the christianity today article is the following statement:

The church has updated its blog post and this article has been edited to reflect those comments.

i can’t find anywhere where the official statement finally released by mars hill has been been updated to reflect this statement by Justin Dean. so, their statement maintains it’s illusion that mars hill fired pastors for poorly handling the case of Andrew, when in reality, the firings were totally unrelated.

where is the outcry about this? even if you think the disciplinary process was justified, isn’t the lying, misleading, spinning outrageous for a church to engage in? why aren’t pastors in the acts 29 network speaking  up about this? why aren’t any of them refusing to be associated with this kind of falsehood, arrogance, and manipulation?

acts 29 pastors: why are you sitting under the leadership of a man that sees nothing wrong with this? a man that is ok with official statements from his church that intentionally obscure the truth and attempt to confuse? are  you really content to let this man and his church represent you? they are representing you, now more than ever given the larger role that mark driscoll now plays in your network.

are they misrepresenting you, or are you just like your leaders? 

where are the prophets? the men and women that obey the words of God rather than the words of men?