authenticity and grace


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I wrote an end of the year reflection for 2016 and only now in April do I feel the courage and peace to post it. Here is it with twitter list and some reflection from my notepad.

A book is meant to be read from beginning to end but best understood from end to beginning. ~Mr. Church

Big things 2016

after several months of constant body pain, an adjustment to medication causing relief, I build a wood awning for the back stairway

Amazing to have something back even for a short time so to remember the gift of labor.

2017: coaching daughter to make a cigar box guitar by herself

converting life insurance from term to accrued plan so that I would still be covered if I live past 70

Never thought 70 was possible. Still think it is a long shot but I am making plans for it.

2017: set long term goals and forgetting about “what if’s”

old and new cohort (esp. the pastor’s group) God Take Me Deeper groups

Legacy for the kingdom and the honor of leading, guiding and walking with those through dark caverns into light.

2017: engage with cohorts, write, empower Jared and Michelle and Sheena

watching daughter apply moves in game time that she practiced for years

This is just for the joy of it. Watching her is my happiness and my heartache.

2017: take her to gym 2x/week with her

the end of my gym membership

No longer able to be comfortable. It is a big loss.

2017: walk and simple home exercise

meeting poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera who raved over my daughter’s writings

God reminding me again that He has, is, and will always be watching over those important to me.

2017: trust more and live by the truth He has a plan for me and my family

finishing a collection of guitar instrumental video

As my finger crack, tremble and struggle, my mind unable to remember, I wanted something to pass on.

2017: Work on bass ukulele

purging my library

Accepting my limits. An idol let go of but like the gym, it is missed.

2017: listen more to books on tape and music. Be selectively reading.

getting a Japanese cherry blossom tree for MJ’s birthday

She wanted one. It will be wonderful to watch it grow. It reminds me of her.

2017: do more to show her I love her

Joelle telling a group of my close friends she wants to be like me

Those words left me in wonder, swelled with humility and tenderness.

2017: live worthy of that wish and to talk more with her as a budding adult

Philippians 1:20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

 Write on me Oh Author of life. As you have scribed so many chapters before, this year continue your story in me. May these pages continually reflect your mystery, your adventure, your joy, your strength, your grace.

“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply. The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay. The privilege is greater than the price.” —Helen Roseveare

These are my twitter account tweaks as I continue my 2016 reflections.

  • 12/01/16 My spirit, I realize, has been whispering, “Do what You will to me but leave her alone.” I repent of such a false view of my God and glory, life and meaning.
  • 10/17/06 I wish my hands didn’t shake and my knuckles didn’t lock up on me when I played guitar. I wish my eyes didn’t have blind spots and not be able to see the fine details when I work on making something in the garage. I wish I didn’t lose my breath and hear my knees crack and feel my calves cramp each time I get out of bed. I wish I didn’t lose my thought the moment after I feel inspired and want to write it down or forget what the conversation was yesterday and try desperately to remember what I am to do today.
    But don’t you dare feel sorry for me. For I do play my guitar. I do work in my garage. I do get out of bed. I do write. I take care of what I have to do today. And that is the gift. I just do it slower. I take more time. I rest more. I use more post-its. And somehow it means more to me than those many years I took for granted the gift. It means more because I am so much more aware.
    If I can’t today, I wait for tomorrow.
    Eventually tomorrow comes.

7/10/16
Grief and Gratitude
I stand between two worlds
One so deeply broken
Pain and sadness surrounds
It’s very fibers erode
Disintegrating before my eyes
The other so glorious
Joy and laughter reigns
With incorruptible fields
Everlasting and indestructible
I live in one
I taste the other
Sometimes overwhelmed
By one or both
Too many ways to pursue
Temporary relief of the pain
Avoiding the true work
Of grief and repentance
A forgetful mind
A distracted heart
Without a will to stay
Focus on the land ahead
The mystery is this
Belonging to both
One foot on each land
Brokenness and glory
He’s stood in-between
From glory to broken
So to bring us
From broken to glory
In his brokenness
There is grief and gratitude
In his glory
There is lament and praise
So I walk in grief and gratitude
One dependent on the other
And in this in-between
I am transformed
This is the movement of the walk
Between the cross and the resurrection
And the walk changes me

6/2/06
As this next stage of life begins how then should I live?
I start counting the years, months even days when J will be off to college. I am that way. I think, “What do I have left in my service to her as her dad?” It is ever changing as she grows in independence and in the many stages she will go through. September I turn 60. When she finishes high school I will be 65. More crucial to this perspective is that I would have walked in life with this chronic illness over 25 years at that time. Something that reduces me continually but has not yet destroyed me.
In my spirit I have cried out for years, “Don’t take me yet. She needs me.” And for whatever lies in the grace of God’s heart, I am still here. When the prognosis was 5 years, I have 4xs surpassed it.
With 60 around the corner I am starting to be tired of the race. I have set my resolve for a few more tasks, leaving a mark for the Kingdom of God and a legacy for my daughter. For the first time a few days ago I have let myself entertain the idea that I can go if the Lord so tarried. So much of my strength is reduced, so few things I do satisfies and in a few years J will be off to college and a full fledge adult. Yet this morning my wife tells me, “I am afraid of living without you.” And I realize staying is important for it just J but for MJ as well. It is it time for me to entertain the end but to fight on tithe very last breath.
I am overwhelmed. Some with burden and some with grief. I want back what I lost and then some. I want the comfort and company complete of my Savior.
I thought in 6 years I could let go but I think I still need to passionately fight to stay. For both of them.
Trust you with the challenges you give to me. Trust you with the challenges you give both to my wife and my daughter.
I am presenting again to you myself as a living sacrifice as I have once again crawled off the altar.
Grant me the grace dear God.

Dad’s role plays out in so many forms throughout the year. Sometimes multiple forms simultaneously. Having the savvy to move throughout the forms requires the grace of God and models of others in our lives.

“Love is a roof.” Love bears all things.

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I came out of speaking at this weekend’s retreat with this thought: Resisting vulnerability correlates with resisting grace. We need to risk being vulnerable in order to receive grace.
In the retreat talks I had each student do a tactile/kinesthetic exercise that was to help them:
1. self- examine
2. self-express
3. take a vulnerable step
4. allow grace to touch them deeply
I truly believe how much more deeper is this approach then just giving a message with some follow up discussion questions. After each session, the students gathered in small groups to talk, but they didn’t need discussion questions. They just shared their experience of the session to one another.

explaining the exercises
the latex glove- Jesus calling us out of our hiding places
As we looked at the man with the withered hand in Mark 3, we imagined his life and how he may have coped with it by hiding and pretending. Others who met Jesus, like the leper, the demoniac, the paralytic and the woman in bed with a fever- all who are recorded in Mark prior to the 3rd chapter, could not hide and pretend. Their shame was right out in front of all. But the man with the withered hand could hide his hand and pretend.
We talked about Jesus calling us out of hiding and bring our shame into the light in order to receive grace. Each student was given a glove and wrote on it their shame name. Some wrote “loser” “rejected” “broken” “ugly” “weak” “coward”. Then they took off the glove and turned it inside out. They wrote on the other side of the glove ways they hide their shame, like being funny, helpful, obedient, tough.
At the end of the session they each came up front, one by one, and took off their glove. They shared their shame name and ways they hide. With a wet cloth, I or another leader, washed each student’s hand and spoke the word of reminder that the blood of Jesus was shed for the cleansing of their shame. Then I took a marker and wrote a word of grace that I thought fitting to replace the shame name. I wrote words such as “victor” instead of “loser”, “glory” instead of “ugly”, “accepted” instead of “rejected”.
It was a powerful first night by providing a bridge to be vulnerable and to receive grace.

writing strengths on a balloon- The deconstructing of Peter
The second session was the next morning and I talked about how Jesus broke Peter’s props that he uses to avoid dealing with his own frail ego. Peter looked mighty strong and bold, spiritually, socially and even physically, but he relied on his own strength in following Jesus. And Jesus took the air out of that balloon along the way of their time together. It came to the point even where Jesus predicted that all Peter’s bravery and power would fall apart as Peter would deny Jesus three times.
The students took balloon and blew them up. They wrote their strengths and giftedness as they have perceived them to be. Then I had all the students raise their balloons (not tying a knot in it). I picked one student to release his balloon as the rest kept theirs. I asked him how it felt losing his balloon of strengths while everyone else still had theirs. Then everyone released their balloons and wrote reflections on what that would be like if they lost their “props” that keep them going while bearing their shame burden.
Again a deep time of interaction afterwards.

Making cracked clay bowls- Mary M and beauty out of brokenness
Saturday night we looked at the life of Mary Magdalene and how her life before Jesus was one of destitution. We then moved into seeing what a transformation into beauty came because of her encounters with Jesus. I used many stories and illustration of the power of God’s grace to make beauty out of brokenness.
The students took clumps of clay and made bowls. Then they drew shame cracks, ways shame has broken them. At the end they were given small strands of gold clay to fill in those cracks. They went off alone to do this and to talk with God about helping them see the beauty He is doing in them. Then they came together in groups and shared.
Most powerful of the sessions.

Clothspins on my ear- Leftover shame and Paul’s thorn in the flesh
I tried to answer the question “If Christ has come and washed us, why is their leftover shame?” Using several illustrations I proposed 4 reasons:
1. Unfinished work of grace needed to deal with deep hidden brokenness
2. compassion
3. humility
4. power beyond self
To start the session I had each one take a clothespin and write the temptation and struggle that had ever persisted in their life. I then put mine on my ear and asked them to put it on their body somewhere as well. After the message they broke up into triads and gave someone their clothespin. They made a covenant with one another to pray for each other and to support each other this half year in dealing with their “thorn in the flesh”.
This ended the weekend and finished strong.

I am convinced that more tactile/experiencial learning needs to be incorporated in the message giving in our church gatherings.

I am even more convinced that vulnerability is needed in order to receive grace.

Resist Vulnerability=Resist Grace

bridge

A new video on youtube I wrote and my wife drew. It is for my upcoming retreat talk this weekend.

I was paid a “compliment” when someone told me after speaking on brokenness that people can receive it because I am such a masculine dude. I wondered what he meant? (yes it came from a man not a woman). That retreat I spoke with many tears, told of power made perfect in weakness and led with my heart freely.

So what does being a masculine dude mean? I have all these images of my youth stream through my head from John Wayne to Zatoichi. And what difference did that make in this man’s mind to the reception of the audience regarding my words on brokenness? I was funny at times. I don’t remember mentioning sports or scratching myself in inappropriate manners. Hmmm. I did challenge. I talked at times firmly.

I think it was that perhaps for the first time in many of the people watching and listening to me they noticed a man broken but not falling apart. They saw strength, heard conviction and felt compassion. Maybe it was one of the few if only times they saw someone who led out of the weak places but not appearing one down and defeated. Hmmm.

Tough and tender doen’t usually mix in the image of the masculine. I am grateful that I am a bit of an enigma to some. I trust that is the mysterious work of Christ’s grace within me.

and by far God is not finished with me yet.

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