Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
**These were the words that were born out of my healing experience in South Africa. If you are just coming in, the story started back here.**
A Long Night’s Journey Into Day
It’s been a long night’s journey into day and my feet are growing weary from the travel. Just on the horizon a fire grows brighter, but I’ve traveled so long in darkness that my body recoils from the light. As much as the flesh draws back, though, the heart pushes on closer to the rays of sunshine coming up over the land. This journey began long ago, long before my feet ever touched the ground, but this very day was known in all its splendor and detail to the One who pieced me together. The sun is now coming up.
The night was so long as I ran from sun’s outstretched rays. Around the world I went just to outrun that fire in the sky that consumes all darkness, revealing what is hidden and dragging out into the open that which is well concealed. Through turning my back on God, through the rape, through the drugs and alcohol, through the hatred and rage, through the violence and lawlessness that became normal life, watch me run. “This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil1.”
But running without rest leaves the soul tired and dry, cracked on the heels, blistered on the toes, and parched at the lips. The heart resents the consistently fast pace and the body wearies of the pounding. It all begins to fall apart.
There is no depth too deep that God’s arms cannot reach you.
There is just no depth too deep.
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it2.” What I could not understand was the mercy that was being offered to me. What I could not understand was the forgiveness being given to me. What I could not understand was how a King could take my punishment upon himself. What I could not understand was a love so unconditional that even the darkness within me was covered by the blood He shed. What I could not understand was that no matter how far or how fast I ran, the Light was still waiting to shine on the horizon of my heart.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like day, for darkness is as light to you3.”
So the running stops, and in the wee hours of the morning, the light of the Almighty begins to pierce the bitter obscurity that had become my existence. One by one, my sin, my hurt, my brokenness, my rage, my violence, my irreverence, and my hatred began to take shape, their forms revealed slowly by the long-awaited day. Just as sunshine pours through the tiny window of an unlit prison cell, revealing the cobwebs and dust of a stagnant, stale life, so the Light began to illuminate my life, causing my eyes to squint and turn away, and my heart to break for all the atrocities it harbored for so long.
Africa surrounds me now,
where the rays of the mighty fire dance on the mountains just over the waters of the deep blue.
I am the acacia tree that sways as the Spirit blows.
I am the lion who stretches out in the warm air.
I am the hospitality that was so generously given to God’s servants.
I am the colors woven into the old woman’s dress.
I am the church bell chiming to the people.
I am the drum beating to the sound of a new life.
I am the rock crying out in the silence.
I am the child lifting her hands up to her daddy to be held.
I am the broken man sitting in the cold prison cell.
I am the babe living with the fatal disease.
I am the prostitute weeping at the feet of the great Teacher.
I am the dirty kid begging in the streets for a piece of bread.
I am the guitar that belts out melodies of thanksgiving and
I am the voice that cannot sing loud enough.
I am the mountain that can be moved by His mere voice.
I am the imperfect broken vessel that is being used by the Perfect Creator,
and I am the immovable cold prison walls that do not give way.
I am a small reflection of the immeasurable grace
that was so easily poured out to me.
I am the tear that rolls down the cheek of the hardened criminal.
I am the hardened criminal.
I am the forgiveness offered to the rapist behind bars,
and I am the victim turned survivor of that very rape.
I am a picture of all that is wrong, and I am picture of all that is right.
Africa surrounds me and has enveloped my heart.
The incredible sun now hangs just above the mountains that dump into the oceans where my sin is buried. The Light now touches all that was once hidden, the cobwebs are torn down, the dust is brushed off, and what was once stagnant and stale is being moved out, stirred up, and stretched beyond all comfort for the glory of God. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ4.” So it has been a long night’s journey into day, and it will now be a long day’s journey Home.
1 John 3:19; 2 John 1:4-5; 3 Psalm 139:7-12; 4 2 Corinthians 4:6
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
He was made in My image. He's been redeemed by My blood.He was made in My image and has been redeemed by My blood.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
I read a quote today: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that crushed it.” Mark Twain said it. Very wise words. Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that crushed it. I can see that violet being crushed, fragile and sensitive, soft purple, under the weight of an unyielding, cold boot. And as the delicate petals flatten out with gentle cruches, that small puff of fragrance mixed with pollen and pigment and dust splatters the edges of the heel, like water being thrown on a wall or paint on a canvas. The sweetness that comes from such a violent death is remarkable, more than my mind can really fathom right now. The violet, in all its innocence and beauty, left behind what could only be offered in death of self, the remnant itself sweeter than that which embodied it. There is power, though also pain, in death of self, blessing the crushing oppressor with that which he did not deserve. He did not deserve it. And yet received it anyway. And when the blow was dealt, forgiveness was not requested, but still given freely without hesitation, and in the same instant that the insult was received. The instant backlash resulting from the step of death. There is power, though painful it will be, in the death of self.
It is an obvious picture of what Christ did for all of us. Before the request for forgiveness was ever offered up, Christ received the crushing blow that splattered his fragrant blood on the hands that nailed him to the cross. On my hands. Before I ever cried out, while I was still stewing in my own dreadful brokenness, his blood splattered me, violently painting the sweetest essence my soul has ever known all over my disaster. The very moment my hands swung the hammer down, his forgiveness sprayed me from head to toe. I didn't ask for it. I certainly didn't deserve it. And yet his death was so sweetly offered for the power that it held.
Forgiveness is such a difficult topic. This intangible, often evasive, thing that contains such power. We often cling to unforgiveness because the other party has not repented or because they just don't deserve it. But the thing is, forgiveness has nothing to do with the other party, and everything to do with protecting one's own heart. You see, unforgiveness leads to bitterness. It leads to a hard and calloused heart. It leads to poisoned thinking and uncontrolled, unrighteous anger. Unforgiveness has so much less to do with the offending party than it does with one's own heart and relationship with Christ.
In 2003, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and was blessed to work with a prison ministry team. This was the most cathartic time of my life, when God revealed Himself to me as Healer, Forgiver, and Redeemer. My own heart had grown bitter and cold after years of unforgiveness. But God had plans for me there in South Africa. And in the midst of large group of men who were locked up in solitary confinement for every crime under the sun, I saw the power of forgiving....
I'll unpack that tomorrow. I promise.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it al the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.