A Man Brought Me Psalm 126

I’ve got debt. It mostly represents a buildup of sin from my past – most from before I was even a believer. Before I became a Christian, I tried to save so many people because if I didn’t, who would? So I sunk money, time and resources into people (out of a distorted understanding of what love is) in ways that’s often ended up costing them and me more than either of us could afford financially, but also emotionally and spiritually. Then I became a Christian, but there weren’t major changes to how I viewed money until the last couple months.

I feel like God has been showing me how I had recognized my inability to “work” my way into righteousness in so many other areas of my life, and gratefully accepted His grace. In those areas, I’ve seen God work crazy miracles, redeeming parts of my life I thought were goners. But when it came to finances, I was trying to do it without Him. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but it was the one area in my life where I felt I couldn’t receive grace, because if He helped me financially, I felt like it would be taking resources from someone far more deserving than me.

I had failed to see I was viewing God through the lens of how money in our world works, not how Gods grace works! I DIDN’T “deserve” any of the grace I’d received thus far – why would this area of my life be any different? But I hadn’t been acting that way, I hadn’t surrendered this area of my life and heart to Him and so He couldn’t redeem it, it was not yet time to make that part of my life His testimony, because if He had I wouldn’t have recognized it. I wouldn’t have been able to give Him the glory. And so we’ve spent these years with Him giving my unrepentant heart just enough to get by.

So anyways, I’m working through all of this internally with God and feeling like God is saying that HE is the one who will do this work. I was reminded of the seven year cycle in the Bible in which debts are forgiven, and that my seventh year with God begins this December. I am feeling overwhelmed by this revelation and fearful to write it somewhere, let alone speak it…

So I go to a work meeting with a man at Panera with all this on my heart. As he opens the meeting, he decides to read me a psalm he felt was for me, in this season. Needless to say, I cried:

Psalm 126 NIV

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

When Running Gets Me Nowhere

I had this moment tonight where I looked around and thought, “I have no friends here. These are my sister’s friends, not mine.” I don’t *think* this is true…but it feels as if my heart sometimes believes it.

Rachel still feels like everyone’s first choice. She is affectionate and encouraging. She is comfortable with herself and puts others at ease. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m giving everything I have just trying to be present. I want AUTHENTIC connection with others but I don’t seem to be very good at it, and working on that makes me feel even more awkward and difficult. I become inarticulate and clumsy. The leap of the heart that even friendship seems to require doesn’t just feel distant – it sometimes feels impossible.

All I want to do is leave. I want to run away from everything. I didn’t used to be like this., but I lost my resiliency in my developmental years. My relationships, from family to friends to boyfriends, seemed to emphasize just how unacceptable I was, as is. I wasn’t meeting the conditions required to be loved.

I started putting distance between others before they could choose to distance themselves from me. This became a habit of my heart, which whispered to not get too attached because nobody would stay, which then became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not enough? Too much? The common denominator was me. And so to protect the little pieces of my heart that I had left, I would further entrench myself in habits of flight, rejection, withdraw and distance.

I know my problem isn’t being in the shadow of my sister, or standing in comparison to the billions of amazing women out there. My problem isn’t my roommate or my parents or my ex’s or my dog. The problem isn’t men, or culture. The problem is me.

That’s why running won’t help. That is why I have to stay and stand there and be more awkward than not. I must slowly build new habits of sitting in the uncomfortable, of risking rather than rejecting. To notice when I push people away and instead, to draw them closer.

This is not easy work, but it is powerful. I make dozens of choices each day over these past months to do the uncomfortable and it’s slowly changing me. I’m hundreds of small choices in, and know that in the process, new habits are being formed. I am doing it imperfectly. I’m going to take some losses, make some mistakes and probably continue to embarrass myself more than I would like. But years of running hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So it’s time to try staying where I am.

Lazarus and Liberty

I think of You when you wept for Lazarus.

I wonder if You wept, too, for yourself.

The cost of resurrection would be Your death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that what costs God much cannot be treated cheaply by us.

I am humbled. I am brought low. I am grateful. But I find myself upset, not at You but at me. That the I which I once was is now the barrier which must necessarily be removed.

I feel as if some of my past sin continues to limit my present sanctification. And if it is so… You are justified in doing that. It took your people decades to learn to live imperfectly at Liberty; a lesson I must learn as well.

So maybe it is okay for me to feel as if I am in the Valley of Darkness, a valley shaped by my sin. You tell me that you will lead me through it as my shepherd. And You went ahead of me-through Death and back into Life so I can walk confidently on the path you established.

A Child

I dreamt of the moment where you were given to me and I wrapped you in my arms for the first time. Something broke inside of me… the you who, just a little while ago, had been so deeply a part of me had now entered this world. Every pretense and barrier crumbled. I wept deeply; I sobbed as the love I have for you hit me in waves. I felt as if I was drowning in love…

I Sang a Song

You are my rock and my salvation;

To you I’ll always cling.

I am not invisible or unknown

But hidden in the shadow of Your wings.

You set a table for us

Before all our enemies

and when I cry out to You, Lord,

You always answer me!

My rock and salvation.

You always answer me.

You always answer me.

You say to me, “Seek my face.”

Oh Lord, Your face I seek!

You bring me Peace and Hope;

Only Your praise will I sing.

You are my rock.

I’ll cling to You.

You are my salvation.

All You speak is Truth.

And You always answer me.

You hear my cries.

You always answer.

My rock and salvation.

What is my Responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?

This is a question I ask myself often. What does active faith look like in this particular time and place? Justice has always mattered to me, but my understanding of it has changed substantially over time. Growing up, my biggest hero’s were Harriet Tubman and Robin Hood. My fairly simplistic (and flawed) moral code could be summed up thusly: those with power should leverage it for the benefit of those with little or no power.

Around age 13 or so I stopped believing God. To understand my world better, I began studying atrocities. The Holocaust, the Irish Potato Famine, the North Atlantic Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears, the Rape of Nanking… these events led me to two conclusions:

1. Atrocities supported my hypothesis that God is not real

2. These terrible capabilities sit in the hearts of nearly all people

It provoked me to ask myself: Do I possess the courage required to fight evil at any cost?

The desire in my heart for justice and to be on the side of the righteous did not die with my faith, but it got twisted. In attempting to set my own standards much of my moral compass became compromised. What didn’t change was my belief that racism and oppression are evil. But make no mistake: I’ve said things and behaved in ways that are unquestionably prejudiced or biased. My heightened awareness of mankind’s history of racism, oppression, abuse and prejudice didn’t alter the fact that my entire life is one of default power and privilege.

I grew up in a world of systemic racism which both benefited me greatly and kept its sins largely invisible from me. Right now, I think of my growing awareness on this issue along the same lines as I do sanctification: it is an ongoing process in life rather than a place one arrives. Undoubtedly, some of the very things I write at this moment will embarrass me when I look back on them in the future, but I must have the humility to make imperfect progress. Unfortunately, I can’t get “there” without being “here.” So I must humbly ask for grace I don’t deserve.

The topic of race and justice in the USA has only risen in importance to me during the process of transitioning from an atheist to a Christ-follower and reading what the Bible says about how His people should treat and love others. I also find myself embarrassed that those who continue to pay the highest price in a society designed for me find themselves in the position of explaining and revealing to me how it benefits me and costs them.

I struggle with the number of indifferent white Christians in the USA who point at “progress” and council “patience” to people who have spent generations being oppressed, marginalized, silenced, beaten, killed and shackled by (predominantly) WHITE Christians. I have heard with my own ears the argument by white Christians about how they didn’t have slaves, or support Jim Crow laws, etc. It’s not their sin, after all.

I think of Jesus, who we believe took OUR sin and laid it on himself. Then he looked to the people who called themselves His followers and asked them to do the same thing.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)

I don’t believe that any white person in America can really say they aren’t tainted by the sin of racism. We have benefited from privilege at the cost of the marginalized and that feels out of alignment with Luke 9:23 (and the rest of the Bible). I struggle to believe that we won’t have to answer for our complicity-I don’t believe God will accept the excuse that we were insulated or unaware. How can we be for the things God is for and calls us to (both in the New Testament and the Old) in the US right now without seeing and knowing?

I don’t know if there’s a “right” answer to the question, “What’s my responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?” But I do know I will keep asking the question, seeking God’s answer, and attempting to align myself in thought, word and action to His Will. I work to make a difference and to be an ally. I pay attention to my words and actions as I seek to grow more aware of my privilege and the presumptions inherent in belonging to the dominant culture. And I remember that even in this place, I have a privilege many in my community do not. I have the privilege of choice. At any point, I can opt out of being an ally. I can say I am weary and need a break. If the road gets hard, I always have the option of retreating into a culture of whiteness and choosing not to stand or speak in difficult places. It is not a privilege I want to exercise but it is a choice I get to have. And as a white Christian in the USA, I believe God cares deeply about what I choose and why.

When I Don’t Have Words (Story of Hannah)

I will pour out my soul

Pour out my soul

Before the Lord

And He will hear me.

 

The world will say, “Woman,

Why won’t you eat?

Why do you weep?

Your heart should not grieve.”

 

I lay the bitterness of my soul

In prayer before the Lord

Weeping in anguish to Him

Who will wipe tears from all eyes.

 

Lord, look upon my face

Your servant, weighed down in disgrace

Do not forget me

Remember she who clings to You.

 

Clinging, clinging

Clinging to You

God of the Hebrews

Cover me with Your cloak.

 

Other foreign women, I know

You claimed; You called your own

Yes, You knit them in

Into Your inheritance.