Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When the World's on Fire and the Fire Inside is Smoldering

The smoke plume grows. Every minute. Every hour.
For ten long days now.
The sky is dark with all of it.
Burning.

It's hard to believe that so much can burn so quickly and that with all of our technology and knowledge and equipment, there are just some things that can't be fixed or undone or curtailed. You can't harness the flames of fire incinerating a forest.

There's just no stopping a fire raging wild.






The angst of wondering for those who have been evacuated, relocated, reconfigured has been a heavy burden on our little town. I dropped the little people off at preschool again only to find one of the teachers and her family have spent another long night in a random place because they were evacuated early on. The weight of worrying cripples and maims just as well as any weapon.

So many of my own students are living in limbo. They can't go home because the fire wild still threatens. They can't move forward because the fire wild still threatens. They can only wait. And waiting is so hard. And waiting is its own purgatory, filled with what ifs and half dashed dreams.

You can't stop a fire raging wild.
I see where this road leads:

As Christ followers, is our fire inside raging wild? Because if it was, it would be unstoppable. As unstoppable as any wildfire.

I drove to school yesterday and found myself in a long line of fire engines. Apparently it was the shift change. And I cried. Because they drive in to a danger zone every day. They go in when everyone else flees. They risk their lives so others can be safe, so that someone else--a someone they have never met--might be able to go home.

I stopped by the grocery store this morning and the parking lot was filled with fire engines. And one of those heroes came up to me holding stickers, of all things, and asked me if he could give my girls each a sticker. Like he hasn't given enough already.

What do you say when the ones who are giving so much offer to give you one more thing? 
What do you do when the One who gave everything He had offers more than you can fathom? 

I'm struck by this. Profoundly.
Remember that children's song, "This Little Light of Mine, I'm gonna let it shine"?
It's true. Every word.

I wonder if we abandoned ourselves recklessly to the Refiner's Fire, what would happen? If we held our hands up and then held our hands out, what could Jesus do? Not, what would He do...because He's already doing it...but what COULD He do with Christ followers who were burning bright and steady and wild for Him?

How often do we Christ followers seek out the dangerous, dark places?
How often do we go in when everyone else leaves?
How often do we let our fire blaze and burn into the places where Jesus'
light is so desperately needed?
How often do we let Jesus use our little embers to showcase His glory?
How often do seek out a place, a person, a heart that needs Jesus and shine our light bright?
How often are we really living grace and giving love and offering mercy?

In the jails, the group homes, the inner city, the homeless shelter, the orphanage, the next door neighbor, the lady with cancer, the grouchy old widower, the Sunday School class, the group play date, the park, the moms group, the coffee shop on the corner, the PTA meeting, the elementary school, the middle school, the high school, the office, the classroom, the business...where we are is where Jesus wants us to burn bright. 

We don't have to always go looking. 
We can start right where we are.
And watch where He blows the fire.

And if we Christ followers ran into hurting, broken places, into hurting, broken lives, into hurting, broken hearts with our arms held out, what glory might God spread? What healing and restoration and redemption and forgiveness and miracles might we be witness to and then bear testimony to the glory and greatness of God? If we allowed, again, our own brokenness to be the vessel for God's love to spill forth in great waves from all of our cracks and chinks, who could resist and hold off such loving grace?

When we burn with the need, the unquenchable thirst for more of Him, the fire ignites. It's a paradox, really. The more we want of Him, the more we thirst for Him, the hotter the fire burns. The hotter that fire burns, the more light it shines forth, the more who see it and come to know the Light-Giver.

When we are consumed by the grace and love of Jesus Christ, when we know the cost of our redemption, how can we contain such a fire, such a passion? How can we hide our light and let it burn quiet and solitary?

There's a duality to the nature of fire. On the one hand, fire destroys without prejudice, without favor. And on the other hand, fire purifies and refines. As a force of nature, there's no favoritism with fire. We are all on equal ground. We are all at the mercy of a fire that destroys.

Jesus changed that. He took a fire that destroyed, took that destruction upon Himself and sanctified it, changed it, covered it with grace and love and mercy and forgiveness and then offered it to us, to save us, to change us, to refine and purify us.

The reality is that time is short. So many neighbors and co-workers and kids and relatives who don't know, who've never heard about, the saving grace and the unfathomable love of Jesus. When we reduce our purpose as Christ followers down to the lowest--or highest--common denominator, it's to know Jesus and make Him known.

It's so easy to be distracted by all there is to get distracted by. And there's so much isn't there. To deter and distract us from Jesus. We can complicate and confuse the issue. We can make excuses and justifications. We can procrastinate or claim ignorance. But the bottom line is time is short and Jesus' love is great. And there are those who will either be consumed by a fire that destroys or by a fire that purifies and sanctifies.

Which fire will I spread?

With my words. With my actions. With my attitude.

While the fire burns still, I keep praying for miracles. Small miracles. Cooler weather, overcast skies, a downpour that lasts for hours. I keep praying that the fire within me would burn bright while the fire raging through the forest would be contained. I keep praying that even in the midst of an inferno, in the midst of broken dreams and worried hearts, Jesus would be made known. That He would be close to the brokenhearted, a friend to the lost, a Savior to all.

Time is short...

Grace always rises,
Jamie

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When your heart's busted

How do we know if our heart's busted?

There's probably a good chance it's been busted, is busted, or will be busted.

But what I know, is that a busted heart is an opportunity. A grace opportunity.

Isn't it true that life is hard. Most of the time. And isn't it true that we cannot control other people's bustedness. And sometimes all this bustedness spills over and busts us. Breaks us. Brings us low and hurting and broken in bits.

Every day I see kids whose hearts are busted.

The young woman whose family is breaking right down the middle and in the middle is where she's caught. Heart: busted.

The young man whose mom is tired and worn and whose dad is disengaged and unavailable, leaving this boy's heart busted.

The girl whose dad had a CAT scan the other day, whose stomach fills with fluid, who battles hard the cancer. She's struggling to be strong. Heart: busted.

The friend whose marriage is teetering on the edge of gone. Who's tired of battling apathy and complacency. Who sees few options. Heart: busted.

There's a difference between a broken heart and a busted heart. It's this:

Broken hearts can fill back up, they can mend with time. Broken hearts are coming of age loves that go awry and disappointments that go deep or the path of life that goes bonkers.

But a busted heart. That's different.

It's a very slight connotative change between busted and broken that speaks to the woundedness we all carry. Bustedness is a result of the burdens we end up carrying for others. The woundedness of others that then spills onto us and leaves us wounded.

Busted is harder to put back together. Busted hurts deeper and leaves bigger scars. And needs bigger band-aids. And even when it seems we don't need band-aids, the tracks of all this running and carrying and the burden of all these heavy yokes runs deep and is harder to wash away.

It's overwhelming. All these busted hearts. They walk around me every day. They quietly soldier on while the busted bits swirl and sway and taunt and tease and they soldier on, wounded and weary.

The busted don't volunteer their brokenness. They don't play the victim card or place blame on anyone. They resign themselves to being busted and take one more step. They are the ones life knocks down hard, and though they aren't quick to get back up, they get back up. They are the ones whose souls stoop heavy and weary.

They are the courageous hearts who dare to believe that the next step might be easier than the one they just painfully labored through when there's no reason to believe it. The busted are the ones for whom my heart aches and cheers.

The stats drown us. Teenage suicide, drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, violence in general. It takes courage to face all this bustedness. And sometimes, most times, it's straight up sad.

The world shouldn't be so hard. Life shouldn't be so hard.

But I have to believe that God's grace is bigger than all of this.

I have to believe that He can make something good, something beautiful from all this bustedness. That there's meaning in the madness and God's sovereignty trumps all.

Busted hearts are God's specialty. He's got grace enough for all the busted, broken bits in all of us. And wouldn't it be wondrous, if we grabbed each other tight and true, and together walked all of our bustedness straight to the cross?

And wouldn't it be wondrous if we saw these busted pieces as soul-cracks for God's grace to fill and shine bright through?






And wouldn't it be wondrous if we dusted ourselves off for the umpteenth time and believed that those pieces that went missing, that were smashed to smithereens and then scattered to the far corners, that those pieces God has made new because He won't ever snuff out a smoldering wick and He won't ever break a bruised reed.

I believe God has big plans for our busted hearts. Our bustedness can reach more dark places because really, aren't we all the walking busted? And when God's grace shines through our cracks, we light up the shadows and bring healing to the dark places. When our bustedness becomes a vehicle for God's glory, for God's grace, it suddenly seems different. Like we're not so busted as we were just a minute ago.  

Here's the truth: Our cracks, our bustedness, our brokenness are calling cards for the immeasurable vastness of God's unfathomable grace.

May my life, my bustedness, my brokenness point others to Jesus and shine brightly in dark places. And may we grab on tight to each other and let all that Jesus-glory light shine boldly through the chinks in our hearts.

Grace Always Rises,
Jamie