A leg to stand on…

So. It’s my week for clichés apparently. My apologies if you have a strong gag reflex. But it seems to fit in this case. Sort of…

As I mentioned yesterday, I want to share the “Non-Negotiables” that I have been referring to over the past week or so. These are my foundational beliefs upon which all others must stand. If I am considering an argument or position, it gets put through this filter. This, of course, is a simplified version of each of these positions, and there is nuance that I do not get into here. But for my own internal processing, the statements outlined below represent the general direction of my thought process as I move through this process. This is the “leg” upon which I stand so to speak. Corny, I know. But it works for me.

Introduction
I find myself at a major turning point. There are many important issues that I need to think through and consider. Race, gender, politics. Many people can walk through life and not think or worry about these things. But, try as I might, I am not wired that way. These things are important to me, and I believe that is how God wired me.

My challenge has been that I’ve not taken care to maintain my foundational beliefs. This has caused me to drift, waffle, and otherwise fold in many areas. If I am to carefully and consistently assess all the voices and consider all the positions, I need to clarify my foundations.

That is what this document is for.

What this document is not: This is not the exhaustive final word on everything I believe. These are foundational beliefs that help me navigate through all the peripheral issues that pop up in my purview. These are my non-negotiables. Once the non-negotiables are established, I can work through the peripherals with better clarity and peace. If I’m standing on a firm foundation, the unanswered questions are easier to bare and easier to work through.

There would be some that would disagree with my non-negotiables, either wanting to add to them or subtract from them. I’ve tried to be as basic as possible, using the traditional categories of systematic theology as my guide. This is the important part: a subject being listed in the “peripheral” category does not in any way imply that it is not an important element of consistently walking out my faith. What it does mean is that it is not necessary for me to believe a certain thing about that issue in order to be reconciled to God. In other words, it’s not a salvation issue. What I believe about God, about myself and about Jesus are salvation issues. What I believe about race is not necessarily a salvation issue; however, my new position as a child of God should inform and change my understanding of race and see racial history and racism in different ways.

Oh, so complicated. Which is why the foundation is needed.

So, without further adieu, let’s get started…

Definition of terms
I alluded to them in the Introduction, but I just want to state clearly at the outset what I mean by the two main categories I will be working with here.

Non-negotiables, or NNs, are those beliefs that form my core convictions, my worldview if you will. These are things that I will go to mat for, the hills upon which I’m willing to die.

Peripherals, or PLs, are the “non-essential” beliefs that are informed by the NN’s but are not core to my worldview. In other words, if I discover information that is strongly persuasive, I am open to changing my mind on these things. I am willing to be proven wrong in these areas, as long as it is done graciously and respectfully. Likewise, if I find that my “side” is determined to be the most persuasive I wish to be gracious and respectful in return. Other items that fall into this category are things that I don’t feel I have enough information about to make a full determination. I have a feeling that as I go through this process, I will find that this list is the longest.

The Non-Negotiables (NNs)

This list is not going to be super lengthy. Which is exactly as it should be.

The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God. It is truthful in all that it teaches. All that is fleshed out beyond this point is based on this Word. The bible has both divine and human origin. God used human authors to write the Scripture. The doctrine of Inspiration explains how the human authors wrote as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

God is the Creator, the Source of life, and the Sustainer of life. He has always existed, is perfectly holy and just, and all-powerful. He exists outside of space and time; He omnipresent and omnipotent. He is all-wise.

God is one essence that exists in Three Persons. This is called the mystery of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons that eternally exist in one essence we refer to as the Godhead.

Jesus is God incarnate, the Second Person of the Godhead. He is both fully God and fully Man. He was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a perfect, sinless life, and died on the cross. He rose again and was ascended to heaven. Through his death, burial, resurrection we have been made whole and have been reconciled to God. He is the Messiah, the one the OT foreshadowed. All of God’s promises find their answer of “Yes” in Him.

The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead and is fully God along with the Father and the Son. Christ dwells in believers through the Holy Spirit. He quickens our hearts to understand and believe the message of salvation. He convicts us of sin as we work out our salvation (see Sanctification). He illumines our hearts and enables us to understand the Scriptures.

Humanity was created in the image of God as male and female. This is a matter of creation and biology. We were created to fellowship and commune with our Creator. God commanded us to exercise dominion and care for His creation on His behalf.

Sin and death entered the world because of the disobedience of the man and the woman to a direct command from God to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent (Satan), enticed the woman to eat of the fruit, and she then gave some to her husband and he ate also. For their disobedience, God banished them from the Garden, and death has reigned since that time.

Salvation only comes through Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be reconciled with God. Salvation comes through grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We add nothing to our salvation; we can only receive it from the hand of God. even the faith that is the instrument through which we believe comes from God.

Sanctification is the process through which we become more like Jesus. This is a lifelong process that will not be complete until we meet Jesus face to face.

Jesus is coming back to consummate His Kingdom. All believers will be with Him in the new heavens and new earth forever.

The church is the household of God, all believers past, present, and future. We are united through the blood of Christ into one new body that consists of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The sacraments of the church are The Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

The Great Commission is the task of all believers to share the Gospel with all those they encounter, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching the Truth.

So, there you have it. These are my NNs. I’ll leave it here for now. Until later, grace and peace…

Forgetting is not an option…

This weekend I read a very interesting quote from Elie Weisel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” He made this statement during a Nobel Lecture on December 11, 1986. Weisel, a Holocaust survivor, knew that of which he spoke. How much more poignantly can you define helplessness in face of injustice than the Holocaust? The atrocities of the Third Reich defy comprehension, and all those who were led to their deaths had no power to change their fate.

Weisel did not survive his experience in a Nazi concentration camp to become a bitter man filled with hatred. He went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his efforts to advance the cause of human rights around the world. This was his life’s work. And I wonder if, as a young boy, he would have imagined a world in which he would be called to such a duty. The circumstances of his life and his people made it so, and we are enriched by his presence and the message of his life. If we choose to heed the wisdom of his counsel and his experience.

When I read the speech from this this quote originates, I am struck by another interesting statement:

Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered. New Year’s Day, Rosh Hashana, is also called Yom Hazikaron, the day of memory. On that day, the day of universal judgment, man appeals to God to remember: our salvation depends on it. If God wishes to remember our suffering, all will be well; if He refuses, all will be lost. Thus, the rejection of memory becomes a divine curse, one that would doom us to repeat past disasters, past wars.

We are called to remember. Remembering is hard; it is painful. But it is necessary.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lenten season. Not all branches of the Christian church observe Lent; I grew up in a tradition that did not. But over the years, as I’ve learned more and more about the liturgical calendar, the more I have been drawn to this season of reflection and repentance. Of remembering. It is a way of focusing the heart on the significance of the cross.

Remember that you are dust; and to dust you shall return.

These are the words uttered as the ashes are placed on your forehead in the shape of a cross. It is a reminder of need. The need for salvation, for restoration, for healing. It is a confirmation that the Christian faith is about remembering; just as the Israelites who were called to remember their deliverance from bondage to Egypt, we are called to remember our deliverance from bondage to sin. And in our remembrance, we live a life of faithfulness to God our Deliverer.

We cannot do that if we don’t remember. Not to wallow in our sin and misery, but to build courage and resolve to live our future differently than our past through the power of the Holy Spirit. To live toward the promise we’ve been given through the deliverance we’ve received.

We also must remember that sin still lives in the hearts of men and women. And that our world is fallen. Fallen humanity build institutions and structures that then perpetuate that fallenness. This can produce horrible consequences, some so far reaching that they live on for generations. If we do not take the time to remember, and to face those realities with the courage and willingness to change them, we are doomed to repeat them; the cycle will not end.

We are living in a time when much of what has been a part of our history as a country is repeating itself. I firmly believe it is because we choose not to remember. We don’t want to remember because it is not pleasant; it doesn’t fit into our identity of an “exceptional nation”. It is jarring to our sense of self as Americans. I get it. But in refusing to see our past as it is, good, bad, ugly, we risk destroying what we wish to protect. Choosing to forget means we risk repeating the ugly realities of our past. And in fact, we already are. And lest we think this is something that is only happening “out there”, we as the Church in America must face the uncomfortable truth that we look much like the rest of our culture, and have since our beginnings.

Every year, it is customary to consider something you wish to “give up” for Lent. This year, I choose to give up fear. I choose to give up forgetting. I must remember. And even when I am powerless to change things, I still must speak. I must protest. I don’t know why this is so strong in me; it is burning in my belly. Perhaps it is a outworking of my faith in the God of this universe, who is making all things new. But I cannot separate my individual faith from my place in community. Where one is wounded, we all are wounded, whether we realize it or not.

I realize this is not the popular path. But it is the only path for me.

Because for me, forgetting is most certainly not an option.

Grace and peace…

Trigger Alert: Political Post Straight Ahead!

Hopefully, this will not be your average political post, however. I am working on a theory, and need to flesh it out. I could be wrong, but I won’t be able to figure that out until see it written down. If I am wrong, I welcome feedback and discussion. Deep breath…here goes…

I am an American, and as such, I have a certain idea of what political engagement should be. I have a specific understanding of government, a democratic republic, and my role in it and relationship to it. I don’t know anything outside of this paradigm. I live in a country where dissent is allowed, and we vote for our government representatives. I also live in a country that has as part of its national character a civil religion that borrows heavily on a “Judeo-Christian” ethic and therefore liberally applies biblical language and imagery to our public and political life. The American way of life is highly individualistic, focused on rights and freedoms, and champions the lone ranger who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and makes something out of next to nothing.

How much of that is really “Christian” though? That’s a post for another day, but I post that question to make this statement: America is not the Kingdom of God. And government can only go so far. No matter the structure, political philosophy or economic policy, every form of government is flawed. There are elements that are good, and elements that are sinful, because government is made up of a bunch of sinful people. It seems reasonable to me that if an institution or system is set up by people who are all sinners (a biblical doctrine, no?), then there will be things about that system that are sinful. Again, another topic for another day. My bottom line is this: Certain things are simply not biblical or Christian, no matter how many Christian words your sprinkle on them. And even in our most eloquent speeches advocating unwavering national pride, throwing God in the mix doesn’t make it Christian.

But, I digress, as usual…back to the point of this post.

Full disclosure: I am a left-leaning Christian. Not that anyone who reads my Facebook page or Twitter feed would be surprised by that statement. There are a few (extremely important) issues where I do not fall in line with the left side of politics; but for the most part, I would say I lean left. I own this preference, and will not necessarily apologize for it. What I will apologize for is that I at times ignore that I do look at things through this lens and therefore do not account for that particular bias when considering political commentary or news. If this past weekend has taught me anything, it is that I need to sit back and reassess how I’m seeing things.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a particular political preference. What I do think is wrong, and what I’ve seen in myself personally this last week is the fact that I allow my political preference to inform my reading of the Word versus the other way around.  There are elements on the left and the right that are God-honoring and very biblical. But there are elements on both sides that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. Naked Capitalism has winners and losers; it’s the nature of the beast. But applauding capitalism while ignoring the very real suffering of its losers and blaming them for their losses is not biblical. Treating men and women with equal dignity and respect in the home and workplace is a biblical concept. But redefining life in order to justify our desire to do as we please with our bodies is not. As you can see, I live on both sides of a very contentious fence. But things are not so black and white, and the lines we have drawn in the sand are proving to be more arbitrary by the day.

I point this out to suggest that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing, or better said, depending on the wrong thing to effect change in our culture and world. No matter what issue we’re debating or what side we are defending, all policy has unintended consequences. We are not omniscient. We cannot see all sides of everything. Fixing one problem can create a dozen new ones we never saw coming. When that happens, who is there to pick up the pieces and help those who have been hurt? Should that not be the church?

This is where I’m going: How would things look if we owned our political biases and allowed others to own theirs without automatically dismissing them as sub-Christian because they disagree with us? Or spent more time comparing our particular stances with Scripture and allowing Scripture to correct them instead of going to Scripture to proof-text the validity of our positions? Or stopped stereotyping each other and allowed facts to drive our discussion, even if they don’t support our position? This would require that we be willing to see the flaws in our positions and accept that the other side might have something valid to say. This would require that we hold our position loosely enough that we are willing to be wrong and change our minds. It would require more listening as opposed to speaking. It would require humility, some discomfort, and the potential loss of reputation and/or influence in the world.

But wouldn’t it be worth it?

We could then focus on being a prophetic voice instead of a political mouthpiece. We could a refuge that would help clean up the mess those unintended consequences of policy decisions will create. But most importantly, it would shift our focus as the church back to what we ought to be focusing on. Caring for the least of these, for the poor and afflicted. Caring for the orphaned and widowed. For the stranger. That is not a left or right position: it is a biblical position. It is uncomfortable and would require sacrifice. But I ask again: wouldn’t it be worth it?

I realize that opens up another can of worms. How best do we help the least of these? But that is a discussion worth having and should be had in the church. We have the resources within ourselves to do these things. We don’t need the government to do them. We need each other.

Again, this is a work in progress. I haven’t thought out all the implications, and as you can see, I haven’t yet dug deeply into scriptural content yet either. All or some of this is subject to change. I just know there is a better way than what we are seeing and have been seeing for a long time.

So this is part one of a multi-part series that will go on for who knows how long. I will take breaks from this topic because it is so thick that sometimes I have to come up for air. But since I don’t think this problem is going to get better any time soon, it’s not something I can ignore.

More later…grace and peace…

Why Am I A Christian?

Why am I a Christian?

I was asked this question recently, and it has been resounding in my heart ever since. It’s a good question too; it speaks directly to the very thing that defines who I am as a person. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but I do feel it is important that I share the answer – the introduction to this topic – that I gave to my dear friend. She has given me permission to share.

I am a Christian because I believe it is true.

Truth has been given a bad name these days. Oxford Dictionary announced that the word of 2016 was “post-truth”. They define it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion or personal belief.” We don’t need to think very long to consider areas of life where this phenomenon runs rampant. I would argue that much of what we witnessed during this last presidential election had much to do with this very idea. No amount of fact – or debunking of falsehoods – could persuade many on either side of the reality of their chosen candidate. We shall reap the consequences of this soon enough; but I digress. That is not the purpose of this post…

It is interesting to me that there are certain areas where we are post-truth, and certain where we would do not dare question the truth of certain objective facts. For example, I would never dream of climbing up on the roof of my office building and jumping off because I have been influenced by my personal belief that gravity is not true. We don’t argue with a creditor based on appeals to emotion or personal belief that we should be forgiven of this or that debt and expect to get anywhere. We don’t design buildings on the personal belief that load-bearing walls really aren’t necessary to keep the thing standing up. And I certainly wouldn’t go under the knife with a surgeon who has decided that he personally doesn’t believe in germs and therefore will not be sterilizing his surgical instruments. Facts are facts, we say.

But in other areas? We get squishier. Politics, as I referenced above, is one area. Religion is another. The two subjects that we are told not to discuss in polite company. And yet they shape and influence so much of our lives, both individually and collectively. It’s a matter of opinion. It’s what is right for me, or you, or whoever.

But what if, speaking specifically about religion right now, there is an objective, factual, and reasonable way to determine what is true? What if there were objective facts – facts that are true regardless of what I think about them – that have consequences in our lives and have bearing on what we believe and in whom? What if?

This was the question laid before me in my early 20s. Although I was born into a Christian home, and was in church from the time I was a baby, I did not embrace personal faith in Christ until much later. I was baptized at the age of nine, mainly because I was able to answer all the questions correctly that made me a candidate for it. But an embrace of faith, a conviction and belief, was absent. My faith was entirely cultural, and although I had a vague belief that there was a God, I was not convinced that the God of the Bible was the God.

I stopped attending church in my late teens and entered college as what I would call an agnostic. I never stopped believing that a God existed. But I was not convinced that we could know God or understand Him. And I certainly didn’t think if there was such a God He would be so small-minded as to provide only one pathway to knowing Him. The environment I lived in at the time (the University of Illinois) affirmed this idea. But I was still curious. My curiosity led me to take a comparative religions course as an undergrad. I left that class with unanswered questions and this nagging feeling that the “all roads lead to the same place” theory was just plain wrong. I wasn’t ready to take the step of saying there was no God at all. I didn’t think the evidence supported that idea. But I set that aside and began pursuing other things. I was having too much fun. I thought my life was fine just the way it was.

And it was. As lives go, I have lived a charmed one. Not that I have not had problems; but I know I’ve been blessed. And even then, I was aware of that. Not because I openly acknowledged it; it was just a knowing. Nothing I could define. I just knew. But I didn’t ascribe that blessing to a particular God. I was just blessed.

Thankfully, I have parents who did not try to cram religion down my throat. They let me take the path I needed to take, and loved me no matter what. I don’t know if the outcome of my story would have been different had they been hard-line with me. But, given my personality, they knew that approach would not work, so they had to let me fly on my own. Even if I crashed and burned. I had to figure it out for myself.

I didn’t have a “burning bush” moment. There was no tragic event that led me to faith. God did not audibly speak to me. I didn’t have a spiritual experience at a revival. It wasn’t one moment that I can point to and say, “this was the moment”. I can point to a moment when I realized there was a shift in my thinking, but I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint the source or exact point in time that shift took place. It was gradual. Methodical almost. Slowly, my arguments against God, and Jesus in particular, were chipped away until I was left with nothing but the hardness of my own heart, my own refusal to bow the knee, to accept the truth.

I read and considered the theories about the resurrection. I studied translation philosophies and how the English Bible came to be; of the thousands of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts that verify our translations. I’ve pondered the arguments for possible contradictions, and the evidence against those arguments. These were objective facts that lay before me and demanded a response from me. I couldn’t be neutral about it; I had to pick a side. That’s what I was left with. And I surrendered to that.

lightstock.com
lightstock.com

I believed. I still do. I am a Christian because I believe it is true. And it’s not true because it makes my life perfect, or gives me everything I’ve ever asked for in life.

I believe the evidence I studied about the manuscripts that are used to translate our Bible. I believe the evidence for the life of a man named Jesus. I believe the historical records that confirm He was a real person and that He really was executed on a Roman cross. I believe that His followers preached His resurrection, and lived and died for this proclamation. I believe in the objective, historical fact of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He said His resurrection would confirm that what He said about Himself was true. If He rose, then Christianity rises; if He is still in the grave, it is dead. I believe He rose. And I believe He is true, that He is Truth. I believe because the Christian worldview, one that is fully informed by the full counsel of the Word of God, makes sense of this life better than anything else I’ve considered.

That is why I am a Christian.

I don’t think I persuaded my friend. And that’s okay; she’s still my friend and I love her, and she knows that. Her decision one way or another won’t change that. I would love for her to embrace Christ as I did. But I can’t make that decision for anyone else. It is a “leap of faith”; but it is not a blind leap. There are reasons to believe. Good reasons. No, we can’t see with our physical eyes. But we can, with hearts open, consider the possibility that there is more to life than what we see. There is more than just this time and space we occupy. If we sit still long enough, perhaps we can hear an echo of eternity in our hearts, an ache for something that cannot be fulfilled by the here and the now. And that something gives meaning and purpose to the here and the now that it cannot have otherwise. It may sound like foolishness to some; but it is breath and life to me…

Enough…

There comes a point when you are just done. You hit a wall and can go no further. For me, it was this weekend – I came to a place where I was just over myself. I think my flesh has been having a field day with me, and the bitterness, cynicism and doubts that I have allowed to fester have been contributing to its takeover of my heart and life. I have been trying to fit the world into my theology, wanting things to be different than they actually are. I was fighting what I knew at the outset was a losing battle: wrestling with God about things I didn’t like or didn’t want. Or that I was angry about or thought were oh so unfair.

I felt the walls closing in, and I wanted out. But “out” felt even more oppressive than being “in”, and I hit rock bottom on Friday night. None of my outrage was creating anything positive, and it certainly was not leading toward anything resembling a solution. As hot tears ran down my face, I cried out to God, and asked what shall I do? The answer was so simple, I almost laugh at the absurdity of it all.
As the untwisting of the pretzel that had become my soul began, I realized that all I needed to do was return.
Return to the Lord. Return to His Word. Return to grace.
I wonder if you can relate to my story. I share it so that, if by chance you can, you may find hope and a reminder that God has not forgotten you.
To speak (or write) about it now, seems so abrupt, so clean. Like it all happened in a span of two weeks and now all is well. But nothing could be further from the truth. This has been a long time coming – years in the making. I simply could not name it, could not put words to it. Hence, the silence that haunted my blog. The desert in which I resided saw no relief – or so it seemed – and my most cherished outlet was cut off completely. There were no words to write, no prayers to utter that could touch it. I was swallowed up by my doubt, my anger, my frustration and cynicism. And it shut up my heart, my mind and my mouth, leaving me literally speechless.
Outwardly, I looked absolutely normal. I have this whole Christian thing down – I know the language, the moves, the right moments in worship to raise my hands. There were moments where I could sense it, where a small glimpse of light would invade and the inward matched my outward expression. But it was few and far between. Partly because of pride – I have to save face after all – and partly because I didn’t know what else to do, I pressed forward. Each brick wall would harden me further, but to what end? I didn’t understand it.
My prayers would either bounce back to me or rise up into the air, seemingly going nowhere, received by no one, achieving nothing. All the normal Christian answers felt fake, lifeless; I became completely disaffected by any of them. But that fake plastic smile never left my lips. Who could know of what I was really going through? No one; I had to keep it to myself.
I can’t point to one particular thing that has brought me here. Wallowing in the mud seems to have brought me to a place of epiphany, or more bluntly, a “duh” moment. If I had a Nerf bat, I’d knock myself in the head with it…it was all seemed so completely and absurdly unnecessary.
Every December I write out a prayer for the new year, usually consisting of goals I’d like to achieve or prayers I’d like answered. This year was very different. Instead of goals and specific prayers, a phrase keep turning over in my mind as I thought about 2015: No more pretending. It occurred to me this weekend that God might actually be taking that seriously. Shocking, huh? You know that cliché, “be careful what you wish for…”? I’m living that right now…in spades! When the masks come off, and you see what’s really underneath, it is not pretty. I wanted to run, but there was no escape from it. To use a familiar phrase, you come to the end of yourself and recognize that all the things that you used to prop yourself up were worthless, fleeting, and useless to help you find the meaning and purpose you were looking for.
But as the masks fall off and I come face to face with what resides in my heart, I feel a sense of relief. Keeping so many balls in the air at once is exhausting. But beyond that, I found the one thing that I had taken for granted all these years is actually breathing life into me afresh.
Grace. How utterly simple. 
My previous post was a list of all the things that I have been using to try to define myself, to give worth and purpose to my life. All of them have left me empty and parched, desperate for even a drop of cool water on my tongue. But only grace – grace poured out from a loving Father who knows all that is hidden deep within but still loves me – can give worth and purpose to me, can define and shape me to truly live as I was meant to live. And although I will spend the rest of my life working out the beautiful reality of this salvation I have found in love of my Father poured out in the blood of His Son and my Lord, I can rest in today this really is enough.
He is enough for me…always…

Gratefully…

I am not defined or assigned worth by the theological camp I belong to; what Bible translation I read; what denomination my church belongs to; how many big theology words I know; my marital status; my ethnicity; my gender; my spiritual gifts; my natural abilities; my job description; how much money I make; how much I weigh; what kind of car I drive; what kind of house I live in; what my wardrobe looks like; or how many books I’ve read.

I am not saved or reconciled to God by any of these things. Neither am I saved by my ability to keep the law perfectly in thought, word, deed, or desire.
Grace – it is all I have and makes me all I am. God’s grace through Christ Jesus. He does not forsake me because I am hidden in Christ. 
I cannot boast; I cannot be puffed up with pride. For grace is not grace if it can be earned. I can only live thankfully. Trustingly. Gratefully…

Take it in…

The morning after a good cry my eyes are always red, puffy and gross. No amount of concealer or eye makeup can cover the fact that I just look plain awful. It generally takes the entire day for my face to look normal again, long after practically everyone asks that awkward “Are you okay” question I have no interest in answering.

Well, I don’t look like that today, but my soul kind of has that same red, puffy feeling. Like it has had a good, long, ugly cry…for about 11 years. Yes, you read that right. It has been quite a journey for me to get to here. And here isn’t really crystal clear, but it much better than where I was. I can feel again. My soul feels again.
I am actually tearing up a little as I write this because there are no amount of words that can express what this feels like. As I was driving to work this morning, I looked around at all the budding trees, cherry blossoms, and splashes of green in lawns that just a few weeks ago looked dead and lifeless. Spring has sprung. The air has a hint of warmth in it, and a lot of pollen, reminding us that summer is not that far away. Everything is coming back to life, and soon my little town will be bursting with lush greenery, and flowery displays of reds, purples and blues. This is a perfect picture of what my soul is feeling. Those first little buds are starting to make their way into the light, drinking in the nourishing rays of the sun.
I feel alive again.
It’s amazing that you don’t know how awful you felt until you no longer feel so awful. And then you wonder how you survived so long in that condition. Before I knew I was anemic, I walked through life like a zombie. I could sleep for hours in the middle of the day, and still sleep a solid nine each night. My body felt limp and weak, but I trudged through it. Since I also have Fibromyalgia, I just attributed it to that and moved along…slowly. When the problem was discovered and corrected I was amazed that I actually walked through life in that condition for so long. The awful felt awfully awful, and now if I even sense a whiff of that, I am on the phone to my doctor, asking if I need to come in, to adjust my medication. I don’t want to go back to awfully awful again.
Honesty is refreshing. It’s amazing what happens when you are finally at that place where you can sit down and say things to the Lord that have been bottled deep within, and feel the cool breeze of His grace blow through your spirit. It’s not like He doesn’t already know. How easily we deceive ourselves into thinking we can keep secrets from God. And how kind and gentle He is when we finally come to that “duh” moment, and just spill the beans. My emotional outbursts of the last few days constitute my most recent “duh” moment. Now I sit, thoroughly exhausted and think, “Why did I put myself through all of that?” 
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, and I feel that freedom right now.
Trying to be something or someone I’m not has led me down a dark path. The uncertainty and struggle of a few days ago is not gone, but I no longer dread it as I did. The confession, “Lord I need You” seemed to release the flood of grace and love, and He has richly poured it out on me. The questions, the searching, the inquisitive spirit remains; but it no longer feels pointless and aimless. It now is being guided by a love that has laid dormant for too long, covered over by a mountain of pride, anger, and a healthy dose of self-pity.
Of course, the realist in me (read: pessimist) is waiting for the other shoe to drop. I mean, feelings are about as reliable as the weather. Especially in my neck of the woods. It can bright, warm and sunny today and tomorrow a blizzard can roll through. Or a tornado. Or both. But for now, I am rejoicing in the fact that God is indeed on the move, regardless of how I may feel at any given moment. 
I’ll just live here for a while and take it in…