Do You See Them? (Still The Voices)

“. . .she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.”

Forgiven much meme

Last week we talked about Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee in search of a lost lamb, leaving the proverbial 99 to find the one.

Sometimes the Lord would have us go to great lengths, travel great distances, to share Jesus with the lost and hurting. And that’s good, we are commanded to go into all the world to share the good news, that is the great commission. But we are also commanded to love our neighbors as well. Often times we miss what is right in front of us. We can fail to see the person right next to us that desperately needs Jesus, needs rescued, just as much as the fellow from Gadarene that we named Xander.

My wife Donna is good at seeing those people, the lost lambs, and because of that they are drawn to her. She was working with one such young lady at McDonald’s in Billings. Donna had befriended this young lady, a single mother struggling to make ends meet, and this young lady began to pour out her heart to Donna. She had found a safe place to be real.

Donna felt compelled to invite her to come camping with us on our big annual family camp out (Family being used pretty loosely and extending to pretty much everyone we knew.) Since the campsite was not too far from Red Lodge where my church is, and everyone knew me either as family or from church past and present, everyone who was camping planned on coming to our church Sunday morning.

worship

You know you’re in a mountain town church when you walk in and everyone smells like campfire smoke.

So anyway, this single mother and her one year old daughter, did indeed come camping with us. They had never camped before and Donna invited them to stay with us in the camper we had borrowed. I found this a little awkward but I thought she was  pretty brave to go camping with the preacher’s family, especially since she had never even met me.

Donna told me on Saturday afternoon while we were camping that her young friend said that she probably wasn’t going to go to church the next morning with us. I was suddenly very disappointed. I had only met her the day before but I knew Donna had been loving on her for a while and was very concerned about, and had filled me in on, all heartache and betrayal she had already been through in her young life by her parents and her ex-husband.

Later I saw her and her baby girl sitting at the picnic table in our campsite and I did something I hardly ever do, I sat down across the table from her, and tried to coerce her to come to church with us. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to put someone on the spot.

She didn’t know me, and she actually looked kind of terrified when I sat down across from her. But I looked her in the eye and said: “I hear you aren’t sure about coming to church with us tomorrow. I would really like you to. I know this might sound weird but I really think the Lord gave me the sermon just for you. And if you come I’ll give you one of my books; To My Girls” (Yippee— Hey I was desperate.)

I was desperate because I really did believe that the message I was preaching that Sunday was written just for her. I knew in my heart that she was why God had given me the message titled: You are Loved. To my relief and joy, she came. And she came back the next week, with her sister, both of them giving there hearts to the Lord in that first week or two and both attending quite frequently for a few years driving 60 miles all the way from Billings to Red Lodge to do so.

That young lady is still a big part of our life, her little girl calls me “Granpa” and 8 years later she still loves the Lord with all her heart and soul and is healing from a horrific past as she walks with him and seeks to learn how to live in this messed up world as she tries desperately to see the world through the eyes of Jesus rather than the eyes of a distrusting wounded soul who has every right to be angry and rebellious.

But she has allowed the Lord to still the voices that taunt and haunt.

no tuning back

I had been somewhat amazed for quite some time that she even came that first time, let alone again the next week and that she just kept coming. Especially with what seemed like such an awkward invitation from me, the strange preacher she didn’t know. Maybe it was the book, I don’t know, it had deeply touched many. I was sure love was involved, the love of the Lord, the love of our church family.

Then, one day we were visiting about that day, and she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.

I knew she had been hurt and betrayed, seriously betrayed, by the men in her life, but his really startled me; no other man had ever treated you with respect!? —That doesn’t say much for the world we live in, does it?

How sad that people can go through life never feeling like people even see them, at least not as a person. I was kind of startled when she told me that, because of all the reasons I might have come up with for her coming to our little church—and returning— the fact that I had talked to her with the respect that I would give to any other person, would never have been one of them.

Donna saw her, then I saw her, that’s what it boils down to. I saw her through what was no doubt the eyes of the Father, a scared little girl struggling in a big scary world to be a mother and provider despite the worst the world could throw at her, a young woman who needed to know she was loved and that she was not alone. A lost lamb who had been betrayed in the worst way by her own father, her mother and then a husband.

GirlHiding

But Jesus saw her and sent someone to let her know.

We all need that; we all want to be seen;Somebody, anybody—see me for who I really am.” We all share this basic desire, and to some extent I think we all are a little fearful of being truly honest with one another for fear that we will be seen differently, so we either pretend for as long as we can, or we just go full blown; “I no longer care, the hell with y’all!”

At least that’s what we tell ourselves– But inside we are still dying.

The voices are still taunting us; “You are worthless, you deserve nothing but what you got— trust no one and strike first before you get hurt again.” Jesus would tell us otherwise.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?”. . . Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:44. 50

 

Hope meme

 

 

Killed by Life

“The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you. Then one day it happens. . . “

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After several years in kids ministry I used to look at those innocent, seemingly wise and well balanced kids who just had a simple faith—I always marveled at how I could pray for a sick child and nearly always there would be a healing, because the child just believed God would heal them; ‘Pastor Dan prayed for me, God answered the prayer and I am better’, it’s just that simple, but I would look at them and think, if only they could stay that way.

Puberty hits and they go insane. The world lures them into dark places and they become irrational, confused, rebellious and doubtful. What happened to that even keeled happy child? It’s a question that still haunts me. Not all kids go insane at puberty but they all face challenges that try their good sense and their faith. All we can do is hold on to the promise that if we train them up in the way they should go, when they are older they will not depart from it. We build the foundation, the rest is up to them.

And take it from one who has been around long enough to see it happen, that return—more often than not it does happen. God never gives up on our kids, on his kids, no matter how old—we are all his children and he still has a plan for us.

And God still has a plan for you, your days are still written in his book and he wants to share them with you, to lead you on in a spirit of fearlessness and trust, trusting your Abba Father—your Daddy.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Rom 8:15—16

Most of us know this with our heads, but it’s hard to live it. We need to get this notion into our hearts, it needs to become instinctive, overriding all other fears, all external stimulus to the contrary and ghosts of the past. We need to listen to the Spirit, that this would become such a part of who we are that we don’t even cognitively recognize all the time that it is the Spirit talking to us, we just know that we know that we are a child of God, free from fear, free from bondage to anything but the love of Christ to which we willingly submit, placing our hearts into the hands of the one who loves us more than we can ever fathom. Trusting the hands that never fail.

Child of God

We start out trusting, as infants we trust that when we scream our mothers will comfort us. As we grow we trust that we will be fed, nurtured, we take love for granted, it’s just there because it always has been. When our parents or any adult for that matter tells us something we believe it. We have an innocence, a trusting wonderful and palatable innocence where we imagine everything is fair, everyone is good and life will go on and only get better.

That’s the childlike faith the Lord says we must have if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. One that trusts the hands of the one who calls us like a child taking the hand of his daddy as they cross a parking lot together. You might not understand all the dangers and why you need that hand but you know it is there, that it is important, and that your Daddy wants you to hold it. So you just do, and it is good.

Then you start to experience more and more of life, you get into school, riding the big bus all by yourself, having to listen to a teacher who doesn’t think you are the center of the universe, interact with other kids whom you discover aren’t all always nice and willing to share the crayons with you. Some even call you names.

It’s okay, you are still loved, you are safe. Then you start to see and hear things, stories from other kids, TV shows, lessons in the history books; life isn’t fair, nor is everyone nice, in fact far from it. Life is still good though, you are safe, you are loved. The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you.

Then one day it happens. Someone you thought could be trusted does something to you that you never imagined happening, maybe more than once. You don’t know what to do with it so you just shut it out, you try to pretend it’s okay, in fact they tell you it is. ‘This can’t be okay. . . well, I don’t know. . .’

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And then someone leaves that you thought would always be there, the love you counted on is gone. The pain inside becomes not only sealed inside but now you feel alone and betrayed. But you don’t know what to do with that.

Life goes on, people start to ridicule you simply for trying to be good, you are not cool, you are a loser until you discover that if you do this one thing, you suddenly gain some acceptance—the mocking slows down, ‘maybe you are cool?’ The one thing leads to more things and you are loved by many but then the ones you desired most to love and accept you now turn on you—“How can you behave this way? You are such a disappointment, I don’t know what got into you.”

Now you feel more alone then ever so you retreat farther inside, fully harden your heart and shut out everyone—‘no one is going to hurt me again, no one understands me, no one cares—I don’t care, no one is going to tell me what to do, no one is going to step on my heart again.’

That little child inside is now dead, killed by life, and the person that takes his or her place is scarred and battered, but will survive; ‘I will do what I want when I want as hard as I want.’ From then on our reflexive mode to any provocation, to any potential hurt or reminder of past hurt is anger. We do not trust, we do not care, and we do not share. We remember those long ago days when life was simple and we somehow were happy without all the stuff we do now just to ty to feel normal, to appease the flesh, but we know we can never go back.

Then along comes Jesus who says: ‘trust me, I have been there too, I have experienced the hurt and betrayal, I know the heartache and have felt unimaginable pain both physical and emotional and I can give you a future.’

So we ask him in to our hearts, we are no longer dead, we can be that child again, and it is glorious— for a while. Until life rears its head and taunts us, and we remember past hurts, our reflexes kick in and we shut down and shut in. ‘No one is going to hurt me again, trust no one, fear everyone.’ We learn to manipulate and extract what we need from others because we fear we will never get it any other way.

Our story

Now, I made that story up entirely as I was writing it but I’ll bet every one of you at some point in that wondered if I was talking about you. . . because for the most part—that is the human experience, and sadly, it is as far as many believers get— that is their life story; the end.

They get saved but stop short of healing, of renewal, of true and lasting peace, the peace that comes as a result of knowing with our hearts, not just with our minds, that we are children of God, that we have a Daddy who will never leave us, never forsake us, who will always be there to hold our hands as we walk across the parking lot of known and unknown dangers. We are still in bondage to fear.

We don’t have to be. Choose not to be.

We have to accept the healing, to just believe that it has happened just like those little kids—‘pastor prayed for me,. God heard, and I am better, Stop hardening your hearts, we have to stop responding to every point of stress that threatens us, to memories of the past, to taunts of the enemy with the fear of a helpless child.

You are no longer innocent, no longer ignorant of the ways of the evil one—you are a warriorand you are free, f5e2864d8685336898f586437794c4d2-d9cyq2byou are no longer in bondage to the flesh, you are a joint heir with Christ and you are victorious, you just need to recognize it, you need to live it—it has to become your new normal, muscle memory,’ I can do this in my sleep’, reflexive, instinctual, ‘that is just who I am now’ intentional victory. I have a life to live, a plan to fulfill and a God who loves me and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Retrain your brain to come into line with what your spirit is telling you— that you are safe in the hands of your Father. He holds your heart and he is never letting go.