When a Friend is Trapped

Dear Readers,
Consider your life.

I can’t use enough words to say how important our lives are. You are more than a job. You are more than your latest or last relationship.

 

I had a shaking experience with a friend. We recently meet up, though we live in different towns, and have for years. I know his life isn’t what I’d hope for him, and despite my husband & I offering him a place to live at anytime…he remains where he’s been.

“What makes you happy?” I asked. “Not entertained, but happy…joyful.”  My question was met with silence. If possible black silence. My heart cracked. I understood the non-answer.
“You don’t do anything that makes you happy anymore, do you?” I asked, and humbly he confirmed.

He went on to tell my husband and I that he doesn’t think about “these things”. Simple questions that are deep. What difference do you want to make? What makes you happy/joyful? If money wasn’t an issue, what would you want to do or be?

My husband and I explore this questions all the time, so that we can assess the steps we take in life.  Money isn’t the goal, it’s the necessity on the way to goal. We try not to offer too much of our thoughts, ambitions, and life to such a minut factor. It’s not everything.

 

Don’t be trapped.

When I moved out of parents and into the shaky land of adulthood,  one of my first purchases for my new apartment was two huge maps. One of my country, one of the world. I hung them on my wall, and I’ve looked at them frequently thought the years. I still look and I still think the world I know is small. There is so much more beyond me yet.

If I’m happy with my small world, that okay. If I’m unhappy I remember that I could choose change at anytime. Get up, move, learn, experience, move again. No problem.

Money maybe a factor, but only one. Determination is another factor. Friends and influences could be another factor. Don’t let this things pigeonhole you. It could always change. You have choices. You have options.
In our meeting up, my friend brought his newest girlfriend. They seemed to speak of their city as the representation of our state. (A pathetic representation that would be too.) I’ve been around most of the state, intentionally learning and experiencing different things, so that I could legitimately know that state. We all make broad sweeping statements, but I’d just like to be able to back mine up if possible. It’s a wonderful state. I love a lot about it; despise a little about it, and I have learn to adore many of its quirks.

When I mentioned that perhaps they don’t leave their own city much (which I’ve seen to be true with many people) the girlfriend tried to say they don’t have much money for that.  Money has never stopped our friend before. He’d been an adventurer. Finding rides with friends, and friends of friends. Exploring whatever places he got a opportunity for. Maybe it wasn’t much, and yet …it was.

A while after talking with her, I realized she probably imaged traveling as a vacation. Hotels, eating out, spending money on attractions. We haven’t often done that.

 

GO and BE.
I believe every city has its own personality. And I suppose small towns do as well. A region can definitely have a particular culture to it. It’s amazing to see the stunning differences with crossing of a boarder, whether geographically mapped or not. You don’t have to spend tourist-y money to learn this.  Being there, driving through, walking around, sleeping, eating, talking with people, watching people …all of these normal day to day things reveal the full experience.

Often my husband and I camp when it’s warm enough. It’s cheap and it tells a lot about region. Some place have been amazingly beautiful and calming, others were rough and more unwelcoming as a whole.

 

Ironically, at the end of the day, this isn’t about traveling or visiting places. It’s about living life, knowing there’s more out there when you need an “out there” to adventure into. Sometimes we live our lives in such a small space that we miss our whole lives.

Survival mood can only work for so long, before it stops feeling like life. Before hopes stops flowing in. I don’t want to see that happen. Sometimes, I have to watch it happen. I can’t force anyone to get help, to try something different, to adventure beyond the unhappy state that they’ve known for so long.  Sometimes I can only proclaim that “other” exist.

 

We continue to pray.  We continue to hope, while we have hope. We continue to remind people the think, seek, pray, progress.  Sometimes the unpaved road leads to home.

Sitting With The Silent God

There I was well adjust to my thirties…far from high school, and yet…feeling exactly like I was in middle school again. In the middle of the camp dining room, a room full of adults, just moments ago talking to friends, but the dinner bell rang (so to speak) and everyone literally turned away from where I was sitting to sit with someone else.  It was just my husband and I sitting in the middle of the room…alone.

We both felt the sudden turn. What happened? We looked at one another. That was odd. We were just talking with people, and now that it was lunch time, everyone wanted someone else to talk to? No one else came to sit with us. It was too coincidental. Was God portraying something with our lives?

It was fine. My husband was still there. We had each other. I was fine with that. …And then… my husband decided he need to take a walk. I didn’t know it then, but he told me later that the pressure and the obviousness of the situation was too much for him. He felt it too.

So there I was. A living monument in the middle of the lunch room, and no one saw me. No one ate with me. I tried to calmly tell myself not to shove my tiny meal down and runoff like an awkward middle-schooler. I could do this. I could deal with sitting alone in the middle of the room where two minutes ago we had friends to talk to and now… suddenly…nothing. I could stand tall, or rather, sit like a normal person. No problem.

Quietly I was talking to God. It was too coincidental to miss. “What happening here, God? No one’s sitting with us? What is this?
And then to hear in my spirit, “I know. How do you think I feel?
It was heart-breaking. I continued to calmly eat my food and sit there ever-so politely, while fighting tears from these impactful words of God. Then came the unforgettable words: “At least you sit with me when I’m silent.

My heart broke. The Silent God, of course!

I finished part of my tiny meal, and threw the rest out. It was too much to ingest. I looked around the room more than once, and I didn’t catch any eye, not once. I was there in the middle of it all, and no one saw me. But to think…that I might have merely been a symbol of a God whom they didn’t want to endure, that…that was crushing.

Some months ago, I had posted about how I was currently learning about the Silent God (a side of God we don’t tend to like or believe in), and it was impacting then…but this! Hearing this: “At least you sit with me when I’m silent.”  was devastating… devastatingly beautiful. In that moment of hearing those words, I couldn’t believe that other people would miss this. I couldn’t believe that I was privy to hear the words and heart from the Silent God.
It was beautiful. It was honest. It was straight from a broken heart.
It was one of those moments that best friends share together.

I remember when I was kid, I always wanted my friends to be the kind of people who could sit with me, even if I was having a silent day or silent meal. Because best friends share stories, conversations, and share their hearts & lives even if words aren’t being spoken between them. Even in silence, the best of friends are still connected.

Yet we live in culture that promotes silence as being awkward. Silence in the ruin-er of moods. Silence is the killer of connection. Silence…silence isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. Not always.

I haven’t recovered.
I haven’t gotten over a God who would say to me, “At least you sit with me when I’m silent.
I haven’t stopped tearing up every time I think of it.

How close do you have to be to share a broken heart with someone? To feel their pain as they express it. To cry when they cry. To sit with them in that time and not try to change it, but just to share in it?
How quiet do we have to still ourselves before God shares his broken heart with us?

One of my favorite Bible verses say, “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much. And he who is dishonest with little, will be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)
God is seeking those who are faithful with little. The problem is, we have heard so much from a culture that says God wants to give us much …and that entices us.

The problem is we live in culture were dating is the same thing as having sex together. We live in culture where you can watch movies instantly and any part of the movie only takes two clicks to get to it or maybe just a spoken word (long gone are VHS and cassettes!). We live in culture where my husband’s coworkers ask him where he got his lunch, and they’re surprised when he frequently says we made it at home. We live in culture where we play little computer games during our dead time, but then we pay real money for unreal power-ups & instant-builds (and so on) in said game.

We live in culture that wants a form of greatness, but we want it now, and we’re willing to sacrifice some of our greatness in order to gain some instant-ness. We want to skip ahead to our favorite parts.

The problem is we apply this mentality to our spiritual lives, because it’s our everyday mindset. We don’t have time for menial task. The reality is relationships (including spirituality) are built on things that might otherwise be considered menial. Have we forgotten that in our modern world?

We need to practice being faithful with little in our everyday lives. Everyday we have choices to make. Just for today will we pick something that guides to healthier or more holistic living? Maybe tomorrow we fail. Maybe yesterday didn’t work out. But today? Today we could choose to be faithful with little. Today we could build a menial piece in our relationships. Today we could be a little more honest with ourselves.  Today could be great, or it could be nothing of consequence. And that’s okay. It’s only a little thing.

When greatness does come we will not know it, unless we are faithful in the little things.

It maybe a long, long wait, but… don’t be afraid of a Silent God.
Unimaginably beautiful awaits those who persevere faithfully.

Are You Afraid of the Silent God?

Maybe the coolest thing about going headlong into the traditions of Christianity, based on the Biblical definitions of Christianity, is finding a God that’s actually daring enough that it’s scary.

It’s great to find a relateable God, and the warmth of the closeness of the Holy Spirit. It’s encouraging to have Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But sometimes… God’s silent. …and it’s weird.

It’s challenging to spend years (or even months) building a relationship with God, and then all of a sudden, just when you feel like you’ve taken a big step of faith, God is silent.

Questions come and go. Advice from well-meaning people comes flowing in like a raging flood, and yet your heart says no to all of it. Suddenly these friends become your enemies because you don’t take their counsel. Suddenly you realize your in the midst of the wilderness, where all the great saints of the past, have traveled, stayed, sought, ran, and generally spent some harsh days & nights therein. You’re in God’s country…. and God is silent. It’s heart-wrenching.

Just like the book of Job, when we go through hard times, people have too much advice and too little listen. Just like the book of Job when we petition a silent God, nothing but the voice of God himself will satisfy.

Here’s the problem: When God is silent, you can’t just skip to the happy ending. When God is silent, my life sits in silence. I am not involved in a type of spirituality that comes with a fast forward button. I endure every last moment which I live. I have skipped none of them. I remember them; I feel them. I am not nothing.

Silence happens. …and it’s weird. But it’s not ugly.

Silence is painful. It can be agitating. We live in culture that everyone rolls their eyes at the phrase “silent treatment”. This is not a relaxing spa day, but a use of manipulation. Silence is known to us as bad in our culture. But it certainly doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Even a long silence doesn’t have to be a bad thing, cause by negative reactions.

Certainly if we’ve spent days and months, and maybe even years into building a relationship with God, then suddenly we discover a time of silence, hopefully we’ve built a solid foundation in our relationship with God.  Because it will be tested.
There has to be a faithful God with a plan for more than our lives, but for all things. Otherwise… it’s all vanity, and the silence will break you.

Silence is like being lite on fire…
You want it to stop as soon as possible.
It’s uncomfortable to say the least. It doesn’t feel right. It’s scary. It feels like death. But we are surviving. We are growing stronger. We are losing things that we never need to be growing on our souls in the first place. We are transforming, on a good day. On a bad day, we want to quit, to leave, to give up, and to tell God that he’s not listening. Ironic, right? Tell God he’s not listening? But this is the reality of the unrecorded moments.

There is an agony to be wrestled, and not merely vanquished. Silence is the arena for such  an agony. If we skip it to get to the happy ending, to sing our happy songs, to say only good things about a faithful God, then we lose possibilities of being effectual in our generation, as all the saint of ol’ were in their generations.

We’ve never had to deal with anything quite so profound as silence. It is a discipline. It’s an endurance. It’s worth it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Silence has a lot to say.
There are lessons to be learned that are not easy. Lessons that are not in cute $20 book at the Christian book stores. Lessons that come from living a life, and trying it out for yourself …once in a while.

It’s interesting that as my husband & I considered our faith, and considered that saints of old, we thought: why not?
I am a big believer in learning from other people’s mistakes and life-lessons, but when it came to the saints, I found that what I learned is I need to do this too.

I found that believing in God had little do with what Christianity (as a modern day system) promotes, and actually had a lot more to do with things that are record in the Bible. Things that people say aren’t possible anymore. Things that were so 5,000 years ago. I found those things to be the most lively and livable things about Christianity, or any connection with God. Because God honors his people for what they do, what they live, and what that shapes them into.

We are not a people who are solely about doing or solely about being. We are a people who believe you must have faith and you must do works. A lack of one only shows both as dead.
It’s not a demand, it the fluency of life.

The crazy thing that happened then, was that we found ourselves in the middle of the stories that all the saints have lived through. And guess what? There’s is no fast forward. There’s a lot of time and life that happens between one sentence and the next. Between one paragraph and the next. If our lives were recorded as movies, there would be a lot that wouldn’t make the cut, because it’s just day in & day out life.
But when you’re living it, yourself, it makes a difference. Everyday is a choice. Everyday could be pivotal. Everyday may be an endurance. And you feel every last one of them. They are important to you, and therefore they are important. period.

This isn’t a story in a book. This is real life. Silence is not only heard, it’s felt, and we do not make light of that. We do not brush it aside for a glorious “someday” we live through it because there are lessons to be learned here. There is life to be lived, and felt, and challenged here.

When God is silent, I can’t break that. I can’t move. I refuse to exit that silence. I won’t pray my way out. If God is silent, then I sit with God in silence.

If I believe in God, then I must also know the Silent God. I must know if this is real, what’s it mean, and how do I endure. Because my life isn’t just about me, but so many people have come across this Silent God, and have been told to “pray it away”, to ignore everything that’s happening for a someday that’s worth paying attention too.
But these don’t sound like the word of Jesus. They only sound like well-meaning friends, who are actually giving bad advice.

I need to know the Silent God. I want to approach him. I want to be able to sit with a Silent God. I want to know what happens with a Silent God. And I want to know him without fear. The Christian life isn’t actually about comfort and happily ever afters, those are only tiny pieces and a great big story. A story I want to fully live.

Can it be done?

Struggles

How far must we go until love is exhausted? Further than one can fathom in a single day.

I am watching a friend struggle and I am seated at a great distance away. I wish we could get there or that we could bring this friend closer, but patience does not fail. I wince with every new injury and I sigh with new tears. But he’s alive and so I’m still happy.

I know about addiction. Although chemical dependency has not been my field of struggles, I know about darkness. I know about being alone. I know about feeling like you’re in a hell, and somehow the world continues on without noticing your struggle or you. I know about sinking. I know what it’s like to have good advice and good intentions being your prisons walls. I know about fear, hopelessness, persevance, anxiety attackes, lonely walks, bouncing prayers, the endlessness of days and nights blurring together. I know about these things, and I do not fear them like I once did.

I know I can look back know and see a spirit within me that was fighting things other people couldn’t see. There was a spirit in me that was fighting when my body was being wasted with bad choices, bad mindsets. Freedom was calling me, and something within me dragged me to place in need to get to in order to begin healing and rehabilating my empty shell. I don’t know how I made it through alive, when I look back, except that there was a spirit within me that wanted more than I’d yet experienced at that point.

I made it.

I made it to today. I’ve made to the point of both compassion and hard love. A place where I can remember my story, and understand the persevance has given more than the gift of life, but perspective and character as well. I need these traits as I walked into a new chapter of my life.

I need perspective and character as I watch another friend struggle in a place far off that we can’t yet get to. I need to know how I, myself, made it out alive and how I can believe that same spirit can bring life to another. I need to know that even prayers that seem to bounce off the ceiling make some difference. I need to know this journey is a long one, and I can pace myself for the long haul. Because that’s what Love is capable of. It’s not just a distant prayer, but love is also joining one in their suffering.
We wrestle not against addicts and broken men, but against principalities and powers of the dark world. We wrestle because Love compels us to know “the least of these” is the face of Jesus. If there’s a chance that love can make the difference, then I am compelled to share the love I have for one who looks, to me, like Jesus. Maybe it’s not the miracle we’re looking for right now, but maybe its a first step. I think I can do that.

Come home. You are loved.

Death & Life: the Holy Week dance

Right now we’re in time that traditionally is called Holy Week by Christians, and this is usually more observed by the more liturgical & ritual related churches. It’s always a good idea to consider traditions whether we observe them or not. While this should be one of the best times for Christianity to enjoy it’s moment in the spotlight, I often find that Holy Week (for me) results in a palmface. …you know, smacking your on head because of the irony, or hiding your face behind your hands.

It goes like this: traditionally Palm Sunday is they day Christian remember Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time, and it was a big deal at that time. A lot of people who had been listening to Jesus during his life time and considering his teaching put on a big welcome ceremony type of thing. Palm Sunday gets its name because it’s remember that many people waved palm branches to welcome Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem at that time. Palm branches because they were readily available and it was kind of like the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag is nowadays. So it was a big time of rejoicing, and that also how Christians remember it nowadays.

Next is Maundy Thursday (I assume this a Latin name, I’m not sure where it comes from) is the day where Jesus would have observed the Seder with his talmidim, also known as the Last Supper with the 12 disciples.

Next is Good Friday, which I was told that it was “good” for us, because this is the day Christian remember as the day Jesus died his terrible death on the cross to make salvation available for all of mankind. A time to consider the realness of sorrow, and not just hide our emotions and “be brave”. Often this is the perfect day for weeping just because we don’t always mourn when we should, but our spirits need to be free enough to feel hurt before we can heal.
I’m not sure if Saturday has an official name, but it’s often considered “Silent Saturday”. We consider the times God seems to be silent in our lives, or in others lives, as we struggle to understand things we don’t see.

Last but far from least is Easter Sunday. This is the big celebration of beautiful surprises that God doesn’t always work in the same ways we do, or how we expect, but God does things we hadn’t previously understood. God makes things beautiful again and brings life where hopelessness was. This is the celebration day for Christians.
Is or should be anyhow.

So in short I love the ideas behind Holy Week and the thought, consideration, and emotion that’s behind it. Yet the reality isn’t the same. Sometimes I think church buildings and church systems almost seem bored of Holy Week. They certainly seem confused about it.

All my life I have heard Evangelicals talking about, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”, so might think that when Good Friday comes the Christians are all about it, right? That’d be the logically conclusion that Good Friday is the biggest moment for the Christians, right? Remember Jesus being tortured and then dying on a cross on Good Friday. …But do you know what I find?
On Good Friday, when we’re suppose to considering the depths of pain and the reality of loss & heartbreak, and the cost & destruction of sin in this world …and What do the Christians talk about on that day? About how on Easter Sunday Jesus will be alive! Jesus will rise from the dead! How there is hope! …on Good Friday.

Then Easter Sunday roles around, and do you know what they’ll preach for 25 of their 30 minutes? Jesus died on the cross for our sins!

But Easter Sunday is suppose to be about Jesus is alive and arose from the grave. It’s about how we’ve not only been cleared from our sins (on Good Friday), but now we don’t have to be afraid of death, and how God wants to not only be free from sin but to start to live in a way that brings life now and prepares us for more & more life in heaven. We’re no longer prisoners to death, destruction is no longer our native culture, desolation is no longer our native language, but because Jesus arose from the grave we also are meant to arise out of our destructive habits.

I hear a lot of a lot of Christians using a language of death: suffering, self-wreckage, belittling, pseudo-persecution. I whole-heartedly cannot agree with this tendency. Generally I understand where it comes from and the idea behind it, but yet I can’t seem to emend the reasoning of Christians who dwell in death language, verse a God who brings life. Above all, why at Easter should the language of death & dying reign supreme?

Why do Christians talk so big about the events of Good Friday, but when Good Friday comes they can’t bear the weight & fullness of it, so they remind everyone else the Easter is coming! But when Easter comes, they’re back to talking about the events of Good Friday?

I call their bluff.

I say this stems from consumerism. I say it’s not so much that we’re interested in the fullness of Jesus being a worthy self-sacrificial lamb who fulfilled all the Levitical offerings through his torture and death, and it’s not that we’re willing to identify ourselves in that pain & sorrow. Instead maybe all talk is simply to see what we get out of it.
Yet I have to ask: What kind of synthetic system teaches people to acknowledge God merely for what they get out of it, but then doesn’t bother to tell the greater story that they’re right smack in the middle of? Who does that? and Why?

We have some beautiful, beautiful traditions in Christianity, but they’ve also been allowed to become tainted over the generations. We need to personally reconsider what these things mean. We need to consider the heart of God, and then make that the one -or the main focus and filters- through which everything else passes. And maybe it makes me sound like a ninny, but I don’t think all this continual death-language is actually glorifying a God who is known as the Living God, who raised Jesus from the dead, who has come to give life and give it more abundantly, and who speaks through his Living Word.

Death, death is for the old things, the things that have pasted away. The old habits try to haunt us, the old advice that use to dictate us who or what we would be, the old belief that this is all we have and who gives a damn. Death to that! But not to us. Not today. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We live today. Today is beautiful, because we have life.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

-the picture above is an old stump which is growing a new tree out the side of it. New life were there was once certain death. Beautiful.-

Comfort isn’t cheap

“Comfort ye my people…comfort Zion!”

Surely if any preacher, speaker, teacher had to speak about Israel and their history & future, I would think this would be the best and possibly easiest one to speak upon. The title was great, maybe even perfect, I only waited to hear what would come next. …three days later I’m still waiting. I’m sorting through the thing which were not said. I’m sorting through the intentions of those who spoke and giggled and gestured fervently but never brought it home. Be nice? Be available? Be just the same as you’ve always been instructed to do things? I must have missed it. When the speaker made the great point which brought down the truth… I must have been daydreaming in that moment. How else could not be there?

Have you ever had the terrible pleasure of being the one person your friend trust and turns to in their greatest sorrow yet? I remember that terrible sound as if it was just two days ago. I remember my own bones shaking and zeal raising up within me at the indignation of circumstances. My beloved friend called me over the phone, because I was miles away, she and her long time boyfriend just broke up. I was so sure (we were all sure) the we’re going to get married and live happily ever after. Yet, that night there was nothing but sobs and sobs and sniffle-laced questions from a cracking voice. I hate that sound in my memory …and yet I cherish it. This was the worst thing to happened to her thus far in her life and she called me. Me! Miles away, I was her closest best friend and I was there for her, even if not geographically. 

But how does one truly comfort the broken hearted? 

In most cases I would say don’t. …at least don’t let it be your first reaction. Let them cry. Don’t be afraid to cry with them. I fear if we don’t learn to be strong enough to cry now and to allow tears, then what will be when the worst thing ever comes to us? God has built our physchology to break down and protect as needed. One can actual lose concionceness and/or control over their own mind if we are unable to handle a situation healthfully. We can believe a reality that doesn’t exist to protect what little sanity might be left in our severely hurting damaged selves. I do not want to be that person. I don’t want to allow those in my care to become those kinds of disengaged human beings. I must have truth, and it must bring freedom and healing. 

Can we offer this to Zion? Are we ready for disaster beyond comprehension? Where is the comfort in the end of the world as we know it? Where is comfort when we’ve come to “this isn’t how this is suppose to happen”   Where is the comfort when your dreams and hopes have been taken away, and when you feel forsaken? Who can comfort this? 

We must be a people who can say “Behold, Zion, your God lives!”   We must not comfort Zion in our own strength and good nature or human compassion. Instead we must know the words & purposes of the Living God of Israel and share them, at that time, with a people who can’t even believe in humanity anymore. For that emptiness cannot be filled with our good intentions, cheer-up regards, or reasonings. It is not within us to be able to comfort Zion, but only through our God who is the Father of all mercy & comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).  It is only Truth that will heal and set free in those days, and likely in these days as well. 

 

For more clearly defined thought on Israel & apocalyptic Biblical writings than my own check out: tjustincomer.blogspot.com