The Chasm Between

There’s nothing for me in the in-between.

Pick a side, cuz that chasm falls deep.

Can’t climb out, no second chances,

A black hole pit, a temporary release…

That burns the bridge over the in-between.

There’s nothing for me in the in-between

3 am thoughts

Have you ever took up your life, forgone the seatbelt and purposely crashed into a wall?

Metaphorically speaking. …I believe we all have at times.

You see, unwise decisions and habitual sin lead to devastation.

Injury.

Death.

And, I have done it myself, speeding along at my will, wrecking my life, and all the while God is watching and allowing me to be wounded by my carelessness.

For example, I’m a writer, and I have many pieces that I’ve written that have not been shared. Many are too personal and many are simply waiting to be finished. Many are finished and the timing isn’t right.

Whatever the reason, when I read over them, I am remembering the WHY of why I wrote them. I can see them for what they are, as well. I know when they are ready and when they need work. I know when, let’s be honest, the written work is not very good. The intention and labor behind it was good, but the body needs a lot of work.

My whole point here is that God knows us and knows when we need work. He knows, probably like a writer too,  that even the best piece can be better. But,  at some point, the piece is just ready, and the refining will come along the way.

And I, in my humanity, can’t wrap my brain around this. I can’t comprehend how I could possibly be ready to serve him and so fallen, so imperfect and so undeserving of his attentions.

Especially, knowing that nothing is hidden from God and that on my own, my righteousness is like dirty rags…. God knows this about me, you, for we are all a people naturally bent towards rebellion.

Even more so…..

God knows us and our capacity to forget him.

Can you imagine? What if you had a spouse, and you knew that your spouse’s natural tendency was to forget you? What if you caught your spouse cheating, but it didn’t shock you because you knew it would happen?

But, what if you still loved your spouse anyway? What if you let it go at his or her own detriment, knowing all the while the damage they would do, but vowed  to wait for their return, anyway?

Wouldn’t we question the sanity of the faithful spouse I just depicted?  Yet, that is exactly what God is like. He is our faithful bridegroom.

We deserve divorce papers, but instead, he draws us into his will

We deserve separation, but instead he bridges the gap between heaven and hell with his own body, bent and broken on the cross for his glory and for our benefit

Yet, we continue to turn away from him;  we have little indiscretions, big ones, and sometimes, we plainly forget Him.

Yet, there he is..still waiting, still faithful, and still loving us without wanting to shame us, beating us down with “I told you so’s” or making us atone for idolatry because Jesus….

Because Jesus……who left his glory in heaven to walk the roads of humanity and than later… to die for us all, even those of us who spit upon his brow with our total rebelllion.  He embodies true mercy.

True mercy….

I don’t know about you, but I can’t fathom that. I don’t want to most of the time. True mercy is scandalous and makes us want to say  “he doesn’t deserve it! She doesn’t deserve it.”

But,

mercy doesn’t accuse and it doesn’t follow human moral codes of justice.

Instead, it comes, undeserving and so beautiful…and

It’s for those of us, just like me and like you ….who are violently driving themselves towards their death, ready to wreck against an iron wall upon our own violation.

I see that ….

God has allowed me to be the driver to my own death. I see now that He didn’t swoop down to pull me out at certain times.

And, in light of this, I can see that God allowing me to wreck myself is one of the best gifts he has given me.

Because only in the midst of my deep forgetfulness, can I remember how MUCH I need the wonderfulness of his mercy.

God, may your mercies work miracles through me….

-A

Despite All Things, Redeemed

Brave.

Fearless.

Warrior.

Courage, my heart.

For some reason, those words popped into my brain, a vision of letters somehow engraved into thin air…..

And I thought of every bar necklace, every t-shirt, every coffee mug that stands boldly with declaration of intent.

BRAVE

FEARLESS.

I wonder….what if we actually held the sign of our truths? What would mine be?

Fearful….

Afraid….

Insecure…

Anxious….

Lonely….

Regretful….

Not all at once, but sometimes and many times…too many times.

I am a vessel of many feelings, fear probably the strongest and most deceptive of all. Oh fear….what death is born from your whispers!

And,

The older I become, the more this truth empowers me, rushing through my veins and carrying me through unpredictable, volatile, HEAVY, storms:

That

despite all things, I am REDEEMED and living in a yet-to-be-fully-explored FREEDOM, and THIS is the fulfillment of ANY dream, EVERY hope, and where my humanity and eternal JOY collide.

The fear of the unknown?

The devastation of fairy tales ruined?

Rejection and betrayal?

More specifically:

When my marriage is in the desert place, due to our neglect, and as we rebuild, we wait, hand in hand, for the rains? I am still redeemed.

When miscarriage upon miscarriages reveals the betrayal of body to heart? I am still redeemed.

When rejection from family turns spring into winter, chilling your very insides into a frozen congealed mass of tears ready to BREAK out. I am still redeemed.

When anxiety paralyzes and handcuffs and whispers and rages and threatens and tries to re-identify you. I AM STILL REDEEMED.

In the valley of death...I AM STILL REDEEMED.

And this is my and YOUR greatest JOY – the horizon of HOPE waiting …….

THIS is what I believe. And this is what has carried me.  THIS has redefined me and EVERY relationship, my marriage, my perspective, my PEACE and has EMPOWERED me to survive with my mental and spirtual health not just intact, but strengthened. Stronger.

The beauty of redemption is that it changes FEAR into PEACE.

I am redeemed. Today, and forever, redeemed. And I seize that as my biggest WIN, my brightest JOY and my driving HOPE.

I am redeemed. Despite all things, redeemed. We are redeemed. Through all things, redeemed!

 

Thank you, JESUS

The Unshed Tears Of A Military Child

“I can see them. As we read books together before bedtime, I see them. I see the side of her mouth trembling a little, just like her dad’s does, keeping it all in because in this world,  STRONG is what we teach.

As we read, I go over the day in my mind:

  • The 3 times she broke out into weeping, the prayer we prayed in carpool, the goodbye, the dropping her off at school, the text to her wonderful teacher asking to keep a tender eye on her…..
  • The alarms I set on my phone to remind me to pray for her and myself, too…..
  • The more than 5 times she broke out into tears over small things, so small I don’t even recall what they were…
  • The arguing over her not doing her chores and the inevitable consequences…
  • The letter she wrote me, apologizing and explaining that she feared she would never be able to be a good girl because she isn’t strong when her daddy is gone…
  • The tugging of my heart and the sheer panic rising as I calmly try to determine the next step….
  • The walking of the tension between punishment and grace…..

And then, in a blink of an eye, I’m back to reality and I see them. Fluid waters of grief held at bay, they are.

Unshed tears, they are.

All of a sudden, my heart is squeezed with pain over what I cannot undo, over what I cannot fix. I see the unshed tears; I wonder what is keeping them in and than it hits me. She doesn’t want to disappoint me. She wants to be a strong little girl even though her emotions are wild and confusing and overwhelming.

Where did she get that? Why does she think that? How did this happen?

Even in this sudden realization, I know that there is nothing I could have done or not done to prevent her from exercising her will. After all, she is her own being, and this is her world. Dad is gone, mom is running the show, and even though she loves mom, her world is rocked every single time he has to leave.

And so, she weeps and she cries, but the time comes,  even for an almost 8 year old, where she chooses to leave her pain untended to so she can experience something – anything – else besides it.

As she reads to me, I wonder,

Why do we teach being STRONG with such fervor? If anything, maybe we should forget about being strong and just try to be TRUE. Maybe, we should  pay attention and tend to the unshed tears around us…in our families, in our communities, in our sons and daughters….our sweet military children in their untended grief.

We should! I should!

You know, I don’t know a lot about how to be a “great” mother. Who really does? But, I do know this. I will notice her tears…shed and unshed. And I will welcome them.  I will love her and I will be here, standing in the void, every time her dad leaves….wiping away all those shed and unshed tears. I will tend to her in her pain, and help her carry the burden of unspoken grief and separation from family. “

Guys…this is just a small little snapshot of my normal life.

However, it is not just my life. There are so many of us military families with struggles that are specific to our subculture. I can tell you through veteran eyes that it is difficult and that there is truly very little support. But the world has enough stories about people like me…..Not saying mine isn’t important. NO, not at all.

But, I challenge you to think about the child, the children, of military parents. As adults, we know how to function and we aim to protect our children. But there are realities we can’t always protect them from.

  • Mom or dad may be going to war or already there….
  • They may friends who have lost a parent in the line of duty…
  • Mom or dad may go TDY a lot …
  • Mom or dad may work insane hours because manning is low and the reality is that military members do not have the option to keep their family first…..AND
  • The kid starts to learn about war in school and the revelation hits them that mommy and/or daddy is in the military too and they could die…..

This,my friends,  it does more than affect our children. It helps form them, their dreams and their perspectives. Every story is different…but I am certain that the grief of missing mom or dad is the same….

This is the burden of the military child…

So that is one of many reason why I want to go to Brussels this summer. There in Brussels, on June 22nd, middle school children from every branch of the military all across Europe, will gather together at a camp sponsored by Jacob’s Generation. My team will be providing the music and stepping out as mentors during our time there.

I HOPe and I PRAY that I can be a light into their lives and that their stories will be heard. I pray that I can make a lasting impact, one where love really did pour out and fill up; fall down and lift up;  release and be received.

And I pray that each child will encounter the true, non-discriminating love of God, who promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, accepts us unconditionally, and knows what each tear drop carries- shed or unshed.

This is why I want to go; this is why I feel led to go…

Will you help me get there? Every donation is valuable; every prayer is cherished. Please partner with me as I prayerfully raise funds to minister to these very special, in need of love and tenderness, close to my heart, children.

https://www.gofundme.com/getAliciatoBelgium

The Hosea Sermon

I was so honored to preach at my church, IntentionalChurch.tv, this Sunday. I had no idea how to name this sermon, so I will call it The Hosea Sermon….

 

and I hope you listen and are moved by the faithful love of GOD (-:

 

https://clyp.it/bp3mmcip/widget

Hosea 13, “God in a Box”

day 18 response to #shereadstruth Hosea devotional

 

I’ve put You high

in unseen places.

 

A shelf with a box has Your name on it.

 

Shall I get You down in emergencies?

Shall I place You next to the band-aids?

 

Bandage of the soul and spirit, You are

In the box, on the shelf, placed high and

just out of reach.

 

But You, You belong on my tongue.

And You, You belong at my dinner table.

And You, You belong on my door frames,

Strong and ever-ready, purposed for entry.

 

Yes, You, You belong in the mundane moments,

In the everyday, spilling into seeds of eternity sown in fertile ground.

 

Yet, You, You’ve been reduced to emergencies,

There, on that shelf, in that box, placed just out of reach.

 

And so I take You down and I place you higher,

I take You down and I place you higher.

In my heart, in that darkest space, under my ribcage,

I place Your light, let it shine, Glory shine!

 

For you, You are Yahweh come,

The only SAVIOR that exists ,

There is no other One but You….

 

Breaking out of the box

Breaking into my heart

Breaking light into dark

Your glory can’t be contained.

Hosea 11

Sow in me righteousness,

Reap in me steadfast love,

Break in me fallowed land

 

It is time to seek You, Lord…

 

Come like the rain,

Your goodness pouring down.

 

For though I run, scattered in sin,

You do not lose me.

 

Your faithfulness reels me in,

Your fences protect my life

The boundaries of Your mercy secure me,

Your blood brings me into Your family.

 

O tender love of God,

It is time to seek Your face.

Even the Wanderer… A Hosea Response

And a wanderer was I,
Living in a house of rebellion
                                         Reclining on furniture of shame,
                                   Snuggling with blankets of humiliation,
                                                                And
                                              Sleeping in chains of sin
Let the sun come up
And shine on me,
For this darkness needs light….
I am the prodigal son
I am the prodigal daughter
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
So far away was I
But drawn near to the Messiah
By the blood of Christ
You beckon me to my true home
And
Father, I’m coming, I’m running back
Oh Let the sun come up, 
And shine on me
For this darkness needs light
I am the prodigal son
I am the prodigal daughter
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
It’s the great exchange:
My rebellion for contrition
My disobedience for repentance
My sins forgiven,
My humiliation forgotten!
My heart, for Your kingdom
Your plans for my own
My life for your instrument
My wandering for Your home…
For I am the prodigal son
I am the prodigal daughter
And
I’m coming, I’m running back
HOME.

Unedited: “The Sower of the Wind.”

After work, I’ll probably be annoyed that I posted this morning’s journal entry without bothering to edit it. I am compelled  to share this in its raw form though…and I hope even there, that it resonates with someone.
DAY 11, #Shereadstruth devotional
“They sow the wind and shall reap the whirlwind.”
Hosea 8:7
 Here I am, more often than not. Sowing the wind. Plowing through air, planting seeds of air, weeding seeds of air, and, sweating,  toiling and struggling, thinking I am sincere, but forgetting something.
 The WIND is an immovable force of nature,  and here I am sowing into her with abandon and all-intention, putting myself in harms way ….
 IN the face of God, his assurance and hope, his wisdom and beckoning call, I fail, time and time again.
 I try to construct my own safety nets. I run to the sight of false hope, disguised as eternity when in reality they are temporary distractions. I hire out for myself lovers, paying them to fill the void within me, when I should be running and skipping back to the cross, where the stripes of Jesus paid everything in my name….
 And, as I do so, my appetite for destruction grows to such an extent that I began to operate from what I need instead of what I’ve already received. I began to operate as a child of a temporary, fading world instead of a child of an eternal, expanding Kingdom.
 Until I see I’m standing in the path of the whirlwind, her winds turning and funneling before me, swelling and growing and whistling with danger.  And then, I look at my sweaty hands, my calloused palms and remember the LORD.
 And in the light of repentance, I see that I’ve placed my hope in the wrong things. I see that I’ve lived so much out of my own strength until I became the mini-little g- god in my own world. Controlling, stabilizing, manipulating, shopping, laboring at the plow trying to produce security in this fallen world , sowing the wind, and working so hard to fight against the pain in this world that looms like a big dark shadow over me.
 But, at the feet of Jesus, my eyes are opened and I’m so ashamed of what I’ve brought to the throne of grace that I began to fall away. And, as I kneel, bits and pieces of my broken heart, my sinful flesh began to fall and I lay before him in jagged fragments; discarded pottery at the foot of the LORD, I am….weeping and ashamed and SO wrecked before Him because NOW I can finally see and it’s not good folks.
 It’s not good. One glimpse into His glory and I break like glass before His face. I can’t handle all that grace, all that mercy , all that FIRE of truth burning before me. So, I break and then I wait for his hand to sweep me away or to do something with all these pieces that are SO shattered it would require divine patience to mend.
 Then, like a warm oil, I feel His hands. The hands of JESUS, who came for sick, broken people like me. The hand of Jesus, with scars from nails driven in, who know how to minister to pain. The hands of Jesus, who are imprinted with hope and mercy for the undeserving.
 He slowly begins to piece me together, taking choice pieces and leaving out others. Even in the remaking, I do not fear. Even in the discomfort, I do not shy away. For I am in the builder’s hands now and He knows what He is doing. And when all that is usable is done, he sanctifies me for his bidding, filling every empty part with the Spirit of the Living God; tracing over every seamed together piece with fingers readied to forever HEAL..
 And when I say, “Lord, look at what I’ve done! Look at who’ve I’ve been! I am not worthy to be YOURS”… He said I’ve made you worthy. 
 And when I say, “But Lord, my flesh is sinful; I am not holy!” He says, I’ve made you holy!
 And what I say, “But Lord, who am I to be with you? ” He says, YOU are mine.
 And before me, he shows me a cross. He shows me everything I’ve done, the sin I’ve confessed and the secret shames I’ve hidden. He shows me every.single.sin nailed to that cross, and I recoil back in shame as I SEE the face of my sin, JESUS, covered with my shame and everything I’ve ever done…
 You see, even though every bible book has told me,  even though I already knew, I realized I didn’t really KNOW.
 But this isn’t the end because the LORD doesn’t’ leave us in grief, to agonize over what JESUS did for us. You See, this is a gift meant to be received with JOY!
 And as He shows me that NOW, because of THIS, I am free, I am accepted , sanctified and that the beautiful process of remaking was because of JESUS’s work at the cross…
As He shows me that I was able to break apart before him and experience his tender hands of grace….
As He sings his song of love over me…As He rejoices over my deliverance with me …
 I weep and sing and dance, simultaneously experiencing joy and agony because this is what it means to be a child of God…
 Being so full of JOY that you shine like the sun, but so in agony over the destruction of sin that you burn for righteousness; this is my heritage.
 And I, the sower of the wind, am now the sower of righteousness now. Planting seeds of hope and eternity, I labor without exhaustion for the LORD is REST for my soul.
 Indeed.
 Amen.

Change

A few months ago, or maybe many months ago, I was asked to do the Wednesday night service teaching over Genesis 34:1-36:43

This is an tiny excerpt, my conclusion, and my call to allow change to seep into our souls.

  • GOD can bring good out of EVIL.
  • God is able to use the evil that people do, bringing about positive results.
  • God’s has the ability to overcome any obstacle; His covenant will always advance
  • God cannot be bought and his favors are not for sale. Instead, He has purchased our brokeness and our stench of death and mended us! With his blood, He has set the righteousness of His life in us, and he does not even charge us!
  • God is the ultimate changer: life-changer, heart-changer, emancipator King, our God.
  • We cannot pay him or ever afford to pay him. No amount of money in the entire universe would be enough to afford His mercies. We can only give him tokens of love and worship him for who HE is to us and for us.
AND
  • WE can change by renewing our minds and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, transforming our attitudes, leading with love, not holding God to our humanistic expectations, not trying to fit God into our systems of accountability, and by not treating Him as a mercenary providing favors that can be bought.
  • We CAN change because the Holy Spirit strengthens us with grace! We can change because we are laid down to death with Christ and we are crucified with Him. We live raised to life and seated  with Christ! And, if our God is for us, nothing can stand against us, in between us or separate us!  The accuser cannot condemn because GOD is the judge and He, by  dying for us, paid our debts and won the victory over death’s grip! We out of spiritual debt and  get to thank GOD forever for his abundant mercies.
  • We can change, because we are together in this! I may be one of a few or many who do not have blood family near. You guys are my family. We are a spiritual , covenant, broken family living in a broken world, but we are bound together by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and united in faith, love, worship and the precious blood of Christ.
 God….He does not demand instant perfection. And Hallelujah! For He leads us little by little, making inroads of our self-centeredness and doing his work in our lives one step at at a time.

For us…sometimes the best word we can give to the Lord is “thank you.” Thank you Lord!