brokenness 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 wrote this in the days following my 92 year old mom admission to a nursing home. It was my soul processing)

There is a saying from the Good Book: You reap what you sow. (Gal. 6:7) Some sow trouble… The Book says, Those who sow with trouble reap it. (Job 4:8) Some sow with generosity… The Book says, Those who sow with generousity will reap also generously. (2 Cor. 9:6) Some sow with tears… The Book says, Those who goes out weeping carry seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with her. (Psalm 126:6)

My mom loved her garden and planted many seeds. She planted for beauty. She planted for love. She planted for joy. And that’s what grew in her garden- beauty, love and joy.

There were times when strangling weeds came up in the soil of the garden. Weeds that devourer the nutrients of all the soil. So other plants were in danger of destruction. The weeds looked deceptively attractive at times. So it can be confused with the flowers. But left to themselves they would go out of control and take over all the garden. Fortunately mom realized this and worked hard at getting rid of these weeds, painfully pulling them out one by one. Thus she saved her garden.

One day, mom was offered a very special seed as a gift. It came with a promise that it would increase the beauty, love and joy of the garden. It would be a magnificent tree, the centerpiece of her garden. It would endure when all other plants and flowers withered.

Mom grew to love this tree. It provided shade for her to rest under and fruit for her to enjoy. She shared her garden freely to many people, often making baskets of fruit and flowers for visitors to take home.

Gardening got more and more difficult as she grew older. It became much more painful for her to get on her knees and weed. Many of the flowers and plants withered. Mom was so sad.

But the tree remained strong. And under its shade she found beauty, love and joy. The Book says, He is the Vine and we are the branches. The branches bears fruit as it abides in the Vine. (John 15:5) The Book also says, The world and its desires pass away but those one who does the will of God lives forever. And, This is the will of my Father, to believe in Me. (John 6:29)

The tree sustained her life here. Her faith in that Tree gives her life beyond this one.

I imagine one day, when my mom is in heaven, she will have a garden where there is beauty, love and joy.

th

Our compromised solutions sabotage any pursuit of meeting our needs.
boxed
Need of acceptance/Need of belonging/Need of competence
– compromised solution of people pleasing may result in be popularity but not for who you are but for the image you put forth, sabotaging the only way to get acceptance, the risk to be real.
– compromised solution of withdrawing (avoid rejection) may result in not facing potential rejection but left with being on the outside, sabotaging the only way to belong, take the risk to join.
– compromised solution of critical control (pointing out other flaws or manipulating others to do what you want) may result in inflating your sense of power but left in not knowing true authentic giving and receiving.

Sunday morning was traumatic for the Warden family. It was triggered by us simply being a few minutes late and Joelle not having a seat by her good friend, Emily, at church service. Didn’t know it at first but she was clearly visibly upset. Upset enough that MJ took her out of service to find a quiet place alone with her to try to comfort and talk to her. Fifteen minutes later I proceeded to look for them. They were far in the outskirts of the building, sitting on two seats in a very big hallway, all alone. Joelle was feeling left out and didn’t want to go to Sunday School class because she was too upset.

Actually it was kind of a long weekend of feeling left out for her. That night before her friends had a sleepover without her (not because she wasn’t invited but simply because 1. Joelle doesn’t do sleepovers well and 2. She had a basketball game the next day and I didn’t want her all tired out.). She did okay with not having the chance to be with them and she did get to hangout with them until she had to go home. But I think there was leftover residue of feeling left out. So when she saw her friend surrounded and no chair open for her in the front of the service, she fell apart.

So what does a parent do? Do we force her to go to class no matter what she feels? “Buckle up and get in there. That’s life deal with it”
Do we try to reason and empathize endlessly, hoping she will get it and be rational enough to go back on her own? “Emily didn’t know you were at church and so she didn’t know to save you a seat.”
Do we just skip it and let her sulk in the hallway? Or just pack our bags and go home?

So it dawned on me to simply reflect back to her how what she was doing was sabotaging any possibility of her getting what she wanted. That is, that she wants not to be left out and rather to be received and accepted by her friend. I had to unpack that a bit with her and told her that if she chose to withdraw and stay away from class and Emily she would not be able to feel belonging and wantedness. Her solution to deal with her hurt was interfering with what she most dearly longed for. If she stayed in the hallway, she sabotages any possibilities, though it may be less risky. If she went to class, it would be more risky but the possibility to get what she longed for was there.
She resisted quite a bit. She still didn’t want to go. But we were not going to sit and sulk with her. MJ and I would go to service and get her after it was done.
She did agree to go to class, with fear and trembling. Once in, her friend Emily welcomed her, as did other classmates, and she was no longer was left out.

We often resist the means of getting our deepest longest met because of the level of risk and connection to the pain of an unmet need much like a ten year old would do. Risking is scary. Acts of faith can be filled with fear. At the door to the Sunday School class MJ very patiently waited with her until she could open the door and go in. I gave her a big hug of encouragement and love. Then she walked in.

It is hard to navigate with our children such places of authentic struggles and not teach them our own compromised solutions. It’s hard to be brave ourselves in risking by standing in the vulnerable place. But that is the place of grace. That is the place of true possibility of deep heart needs being touched. The risk is that there is no guarantee. Needs may not be touched, may not be met. Only possibility.

The alternative in our compromised solution has no possibility at all.

At Grace Conference 2013
How God is about the business of defining us.

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

photo-4
A young girl, I would guess junior high age, came up to me after my last workshop on God, what are you doing to me?. She said thank you and that she learned a lot and got a lot out of it. I asked her what did she get out of it. She responded that she lacks self-confidence and has felt defective for quite some time (how long is quite some time when you are in junior high). She liked that I spoke about God redefining her and stripping her of these broken inscriptions placed upon her. She liked that God wanted to bring beauty and power within her.

I was touched with how much she was paying attention and that she was moved by the stories I shared and by the activities I led them in. Each had started the first day with a piece of clay about the size of a one year old’s fist. I had them inscribe their broken names and told them God seeks to redefine us into a new name that comes out of the spirit of Belovedness. The next day I had them identify their compromised solutions they use in dealing with these inscribed cracks on their lives and in what ways do they wear masks to cover it. Then on the last day I had them remove the clay and find what is inside which was a little treasure chest with a white stone in it. On the stone I wrote ahead of time a specific name for each clump of clay (prayerfully I asked God to lead me in coming up with these names and that each specific clump would get to the right attendee).

So I asked her what was the name on her stone. She said “Adored”. I smiled and told her to pray that God would make that real in her life and to find confidence coming out of this reality rather than the false inscriptions that has marked her.

Walking away from that moment, my heart was so moved and reminded that God is involved in speaking into the lives of people I speak to. He goes way farther than what I can possibly do.

That is grace at work.

lessismore

One of the great works God done to me was 17 years ago by breaking my body.
I was reduced so that I can be more fit.
Lesser to be greater.
I have been reduced and in it left with choices focusing on the most important activities: love and joy. When they work together, I am most satisfied.

A year prior to that breaking, now over 18 years ago, He gave me the wonderful gift of my bride to walk with me through it all.
Many fears.
Many tears.
She was with me and patiently took on the load that I could not bear.
And help me know, I am not alone.

The breaking and the beauty.
I am a better man because of both.

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