Friday, May 7, 2010

Parallel Pain

My mom and I were sitting in the car today while riding around town. I got to drive my Dad's SUV, which always makes me happy, and my mom sat shotgun. I've been amazed through grieving my sister how often we sit and hurt together. Today we spoke few words and shared moments of tears and just silent hurt. What else is there to say? While we individually have our own unique losses and hurts to grieve, we are both hurting and grieving the same person. We have parallel pain.

Church services are filled with people experiencing parallel pain. People walking through divorce, financial pressure, addictions, wounds from others, and just plain hard knocks all sit by each other every week in church services. While their circumstances, addictions and hurts are not all the same, many of them are walking through the same experience.

Each week when I look out at each group of people in the service(s) I'm serving in, I pray in my heart for those hurting to feel loved and for those floundering around in their faith or in accepting God's gift of eternal life to be compelled to surrender completely to Him. I sometimes also pray for the people in the room to know each other. For someone hurting to meet someone hurting. For someone grieving to meet someone grieving. For someone alone to meet someone else who feels alone...on and on I could go. That's why I stare out at the crowd sometimes! Open-eye prayer. Yeah, it's legal.

There is a major shift in our world when someone understands us or a unique circumstance. Suddenly, we're not alone and someone "gets" what we're feeling or have felt. Parallel pain sometimes results in parallel healing. While we all heal at our own pace and in our own way, for those of us in Christ, we're healing. Every day closer to eternity is an opportunity to experience more healing than the day before because of the promise of eternity!

I hope you have someone to "parallel" you in your hurts and your healing. If you don't, I'm praying right now you meet him/her/them very soon. In the meantime, if and when you sit in a church service (and based on sheer attendance, your odds are even better at Southland) remember that someone in that room most likely has walked through or is walking through an experience not too different from yours. I'm hoping roads in the room cross long enough at just the right intersections for people to notice the others on roads going the same direction in hurting or in healing. Chances are good, you're not alone.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Healing Is In Your Hands

The title of this blog is the title of my current favorite worship song. Of course, Christy Nockels is singing vocals. I mean, besides Brooke Fraser, should any other female really sing great worship songs? I'm half kidding.

The words are so powerful. "No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know - could keep us from Your love." The song resonates with me on this "understanding God's love" journey I'm currently walking through. Singing truth, particularly truth directly from Scripture, combined with a powerful melody makes for the perfect worship tune in my opinion. What else is there to say or declare except the truth of God's Word. No other words have the power to slice us the way Scripture does. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." We could just stop there and let that one soak like laundry in Borax, but dramatic pauses don't work well in blogs, so we'll keep going.

The bridge of the song mentioned above says, "In all things, we know that, we are more than conquerors, you keep us by your love, you keep us by your love!" Over and over in this song it's one scripture after another. Please, please, please, download this song!

Mattie sings this song at the top of her lungs while riding in the van (a little under pitch, but when you're two, nobody cares). The sound of her holding out the long notes on the chorus saying, "How high.....How wide......No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands....How deep....How strong...Now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands" does something inside of me. She is unaware of what she's singing, but I'm praying the truth of God's love becomes part of our non-negotiable reality for the rest of our lives. Sing on, Mattie! Declare that truth over us!

Healing is in the wounds of His hands. This is not a "feel good" love we're talking about. This is the real deal - sacrificial, self-forgetting love. The kind God offers and that we should offer each other. Living out the love of God is by no means easy but it's the most fulfilling for both the extender and the receiver.

Once you've downloaded this song (yes, I'm pressuring you) - I hope you just drip with gratitude at the measure of love extended to each of us. And I hope that you are able to offer a cup of cold water you filled with the overflow of thankfulness to someone who needs refreshing in a "dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).

Because healing through God's love is in His hands, if you follow Him - it's in yours, too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pinky Swear

Remember when becoming friends involved either playing together at recess or riding bikes in your neighborhood? Remember the whole friendship bracelet craze? I even shared a locket with one of my friends (awkward that I cannot remember her name) where she had half the heart with the word "best" on it and I had the other half with "friends". Isn't that cute? Conflict at this stage involved pushing, shoving, not taking turns, or quite honestly, just finding a better playmate. What about the pinky swear? Nothing said commitment like a good tug on some interlocked little fingers!

Friendship evolved into finding people who most resembled us as we bounced around between identities as an adolescent. Peer influence took precedence over all other voices and that's why choices in friends at this age determines the path and choices of many people in this age group. Conflict in this stage involved boyfriends and girlfriends swapping boyfriends and girlfriends, comparing abilities in the classroom, on the field, or in appearance. The message about looking out for number one and being the best overturned the "take turns", now "share" talk from grade school.

Then, we mature into adults (I'm being slightly sarcastic). Friends often become co-workers or become other couples for couples and other singles for singles. We often think we have outgrown the selfishness, the pettiness, and the comparing - we also think we know how to navigate finding a better playmate. In all honesty, though, do we really get better at this? And what determines our ability or inability to be a good friend? I have no incredible insight into this except to say - I think the kind of friend you are determines the kind of friendships you experience. There's a saying, "To have good friends, you have to be a good friend." I have no clue who coined that phrase, but there's really a lot of wisdom in it. I quoted this to a friend the other day who told me I was being a good friend. I responded that I was a "product of her investment".

I found a website with a list describing characteristics of good friends. The site lists it for grades K-5, but I found it relevant no matter what the age. One of my favorites was that "good friends give each other room to change." That's so great. The phrase reeks of grace. If you're married, that's a keeper, too.

I've been thinking about friendships a lot lately. Mainly, I've been so grateful for mine. If I could lock them up and keep them forever I would (it sounds a little twisted, but I mean it in the most endearing way!). They love me and boy are they different from me. That's my favorite part. When we all sit around and talk I feel like I get the most complete picture of the image of God I ever see.

Who are your friends? Do you let people know you once you've established trust? What kinds of friends do you have? Maybe more importantly, what kind of friend are you?
Exodus 33:11 says that "The LORD would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend." Oh to be Moses! James 2:23 says, "And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend." Oh to be Abraham! Our God is most certainly your friend. He exceeds the list I mentioned earlier. He offers more than anyone. He lets his yes be yes and his no be no. He doesn't need the pinky swear!
Like anything else in following Jesus, He doesn't expect us to do or be anything He has not already done or been for us. He has been a good friend, so if we've experienced that, we should be a good friend to Him. What does that look like for you?
For me it looks like listening better to Him, asking Him what He thinks more often, and talking to Him first when things in life go haywire or just frustrate the dickens out of me!
Try friendship with God if you do not already know it, or if you do, try being a better friend to God - today! Experiencing the friendship of God changes everything - pinky swear.