Turn Down the Noise to Hear Love’s Whisper

This morning on the way to church, when ‘Stand By You’ played, I looked at Tim and said, “I’m sorry… bear with me here…” And with that I cranked the song like a teenager. (I would have said ‘like a boss’ because that’s a cool thing to say right now, but it really was more like a teenager.) I offered Tim an apology like that because I was fully aware if there was anything he hoped to say, it would be lost in the loudness of my moment, and would need to wait or go unheard. In essence I was tuning him out, not because I don’t love him, but because I wanted a moment of indulgence in a catchy tune, with a message that feels like our story.  

The song offers a bold declaration that ‘no matter what, I’m sticking with you… we might never attain that perfect relational ‘heaven’, but I’m committed to walking beside you in the ‘hell’ of what you’ve suffered, scars and all”. Tim, who sat beside me drowned out and unable to effectively communicate with me in that moment, has lived that very grace and tenderness in my pain.

Moments later, Hillsong’s “With Everything”played at a far more reasonable volume: a gentle cry for God to break down walls, to help us see the things that touch His heart, to restore hope:

“Open our eyes,
To see the things
That make Your heart cry,
To be the church
That You would desire.Light to be seen. 

Break down our pride,

And all the walls
We’ve built up inside,
Our earthly crowns
And all our desires,

We lay at Your feet.

So let hope rise,

And darkness tremble
In Your holy light,
And every eye will see
Jesus, our God,
Great and mighty to be praised.

God of all days,

Glorious in all of Your ways.
Your majesty, the wonder and grace,
In the light of Your name. 

With everything,

With everything,
We will shout for your glory. 

With everything,

With everything,
We will shout forth your praise.
 

Our hearts they cry

Be glorified,
Be lifted high,
Above all names.
For You our King,
With everything,
We will shout forth your praise.
Woah…”

 

Suddenly my heart was drawn to worship, not war…to being fought for, rather than fighting; to a deep inner need for a Saviour , not being someone’s saviour; to breathing in deep, not exhaling; to inviting in, not drowning out. But more than that, I started feeling deeply in ways that the past few weeks have not allowed, and was able to communicate with Tim about my heart, and the emotions welling up inside me.

The moment showed me just how much ‘noise’–even good noise–has filled my life since early November. Intense client situations. Meetings with police and organizational directors to brainstorm on ways to help ‘closed’ cultures–including but not limited to Mennonites and Amish–in a way that honours the culture and works with them, rather than against them. Travel to US. Clients moving here from US. Sitting with suicidal victims and encouraging them, speaking life and hope into the darkness. Inviting Jesus into places long held hostage.

So much noise… So much good noise. Noise that the mind and spirit are not created to hold inside longterm, without a place to release and process, and yet some things must remain private and be processed very personally to protect all involved…

In a moment of worship, I heard God speak. And when God speaks, the darkness turns to light. It doesn’t just scatter; it becomes light to Him. Tears spilled over, releasing the weight of the pain I touch daily.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot, I was appropriately composed, knowing well that later I will listen to worship, meditate on the truth of God’s promises, and the tears will spill again. Because God will speak. And when God speaks, burdens grow wings and become butterflies, and my heart releases its burdens. When He speaks, tears of gratitude water the soil of the heart, creating a tender place where we are touched by needs around us, and risk emotional pain to help others.

Rising from that place of worship, my heart will be strong and the identity of the One who first spoke purpose and promises into my life will fill my spirit with all that I need for the week ahead…. Because I already know that this coming week will require more courage, more dependence on the Spirit of God, and more resilience than any other week in ministry, so far. God has called us to places that are uncomfortable and that come with great risk to us and to others. Meeting with victims and abusers is not something I do lightly, and the ripples that follow often turn into full blown waves that threaten to destroy people… regardless of the grace and gentleness we exercise in that moment.

I know that God is with me. I know He goes before me, to protect from harm and to guide; and He comes behind, wiping up the ‘spills’ and redeeming the places I fail or am failed. Learning to trust Him at this level has been a journey of faith, and one that I continue to grow in. In it all, a most critical piece is  turning the noise low, hearing His voice and allowing Him to restore my heart and strengthen me.

We say we cannot hear God… that He isn’t speaking to us. But the problem isn’t that God is silent; it is the very nature of God to desire relationship with us, therefore God speaks with constant loving invitation. The problem is we can’t hear Him, because we’ve turned up the volume with an “I’m sorry… bear with me here…”

My prayer for you this week is that you will turn down the noise in your world, so that you are able to hear God speak love and affirmation over you.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Day 30…

It’s November 30, and the final of my 30 days of focusing on victims of sexual abuse in these blog posts. A day or two after I made the commitment to do my best to post daily for the month, and acknowledge survivors of abuse, in some way, I realized that November is Canada’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are many aspects to family violence, and sexual assault is a part of that violence. That said, while offenders are often family members or close friends, it is not always the case.

My goal this month has been to lift a weary heart, to encourage those lost in the shadows of shame, and bless victims who have lost sight of their own value and personal identity. And hopefully it encouraged those who are not victims to reach out to the hurting around them.

My prayer has been, and is, that each victim becomes a victor… an overcomer… So that together we become a people who raise our sails against the winds, and master the winds of pain and trauma… using the very thing intended to destroy us, as the launching pad for a future filled with purpose and hope.

In this 30 day stretch I learned that it is very difficult to focus solely on the victim, but it can be done. And it was a good exercise for me. Longterm, however, both sides of this equation need attention, and both the victim and the criminal need the appropriate help.

I also learned that it is challenging to write daily about sexual abuse, even from a ‘healing for victims’ perspective. There is a heaviness to this topic that cannot be done away with, no matter how positive the ‘spin’. It’s painful and it is hard. From that perspective I understand why church leaders, parents, teachers and the general population want to run, deny or silence people. But it is a cowardly act, and it is not of God.

God welcomes the cries of His children, and comforts us. He doesn’t tell us we are making things up, lying, over-reacting, or just trying to ‘get even’. He doesn’t tell us that our reality is nothing more than a nightmare or a demonic imagination. He  hears us. He holds us. He comforts us.

But most importantly, He reminds us who we are; His beloved, accepted and healed; His adopted, with divine authority over the darkness; His redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit. His love flows into us, and out to others. We breathe in His life, in exchange for the stale air of sin that poisons us, and we breathe out His life to those around us.

That is purpose. That is hope. That is a good future. That is redemption.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Wine, Poured Out & Spilling Reckless Love

wine poured out

Today someone confronted me…. And instantly my heart sank, as it registered what I had done and what I was guilty of… I felt sick and sinful; unworthy of the calling God has placed on me. Unworthy of His grace, and overwhelmed by my humanity.

Restless, I returned to writing the devotional my agent asked me to write, reading through the most recent chapter. And the truth of the story of Jesus offered hope to my heart…. what He did for me, for us…

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Written in my own words, how the story plays out in my mind, as I read Matthew 26, and having limited words to tell it, the following as an excerpt from the devotional:

“Wait here,” the God-man said to His inner circle of friends. “My heart breaks so that my soul is filled with sorrow; a sorrow so deep it feels to be drawing the very life from me. Stay… Wait… and pray, for temptation waits to trip you… pray that you will not surrender to it.” And with that He slipped away, leaving His friends behind, night shadows wrapping cool blankets around Him. He walked, willingly into the dark that night until He came to a Garden…

Gethsemane…. Oil press. What a name, on a night so dismal, when the agony was so near to pressing the very life from His compassionate heart… Gethsemane, the place where oil poured generously from the fruit of the Mount of Olives…

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Here, in that Garden, the God-man knelt, having found solitude from all but His Abba Father. Human flesh cringed at the burden suffocating a heart most tender, and in that humanness, the God-man spoke in intimate conversation.

“Oh Papa… If there’s any other way… if it is possible, please take this crushing burden from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Your will, Papa,” He prayed. And there the blood-red wine began to trickle from His heart, as sweat droplets formed in anguish, falling from His forehead like drops of blood, a symbolic prophesy soon fulfilled.

Having prayed, He went to His disciples and found them sleeping. Three times He prayed. Three times they slept. Each time He roused them, urging them to pray, until the third time; then He told them to rest. For then the time was at hand… That time when disciple-and-friend-turned-foe-and-traitor would come.

Faithless and filled with self, the traitor kissed the God-man’s cheek; a stolen kiss, betraying that tender heart, selling the God-man as if He held no worth. Still, that love flowed, poured out wine, for that one. Because love, when it starts to spill, knows no boundaries; it spills that generously over those who sell it.

Driven by whips lashing hate, a mocking crown bleeding, He stumbled up the hill…Golgotha; the place of the skull, a place of death. Such symbolic prophesy, for from that day forward, Life would spring from places long condemned.

Earth groaned beneath the God-man’s feet, crying for release, as from thorn-pierced brown the blood drops fell, each one a promise of life. A prophesy soon fulfilled…

He reached the top of that hill, and there, in ground long cursed, the haters laid Him on that cross. Nails punctured gentle hands. Life trickled, like wine poured out, blood-red, from His hands and His feet. Then, raised to heaven, naked and for all to see and scorn, love kept trickling without regard for the scoffing.

The spear, ruthless, sharp… piercing through the God-man’s side…  Oh prophetic victory! Oh generous love, poured out! For from that piercing, the blood of Christ spilled out, messy and red, staining wood, the ground and cloth on which it fell; leaving an eternal mark. Because Love does that; it leaves a forever mark and flows with abandon… Without straight lines, it spills in reckless patterns, wherever it will travel, on rough and scarred terrain.

Like wine, poured in generous serving, offered with bread, He sustains the life of all who reach for it. His body, broken by hate and rejection like bread shared with hungry, His blood, spilled out like wine on weary lips…. Flowing through us, shared with those around… Without reserve in reckless patterns without straight lines, wherever we travel…

Because that’s what Love does, when it touches our lives and spills over us generously like poured out wine…  

wine_ broken glass

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I am so thankful for what Jesus did on the cross, not only for my sins, but for those I have sinned against, to bring life and healing from ‘the place of death’ and skulls. And I am so sorry for wounding a heart and breaking trust… Praying God will heal and redeem all things.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

It’s all in Perspective & Purpose

I used to not like summer at all. Way too hot! The mugginess got to me, giving me headaches, and the lazy days just dragged on forever.. And all that mud in the spring was enough to stir dread of the next round, almost before the season was over… and what a way to precede summer!

Fall was pretty good; nice and cool with colourful leaves, but then boring and cold after the leaves fell. Winter seemed the perfect season. Cold, yes, but the beauty of pure white everywhere… and what’s better than looking out at all that prettiness with a cup of hot cocoa? Not to mention surfing snow drifts with a little car.. So winter was it. My favourite season.

That was all before last summer… in the days when I considered myself to be anything but a gardener. But that all changed when we did our front yard in August 2014. It was a bit of a ‘hope it looks okay mosaic piece of art’ I brainstormed even as we spent a week slaving over it. To my relief, it looked pretty good, when all was said and done. And I found myself looking forward to when the plants had taken deeper root.

This year, with time and nurturing, it’s all been stunning! I like sitting on my front porch for my morning coffee, or watch the birds steal drinks from the fountain, on a hot day, or sit on my bench. And I enjoy cool evenings, with nature alive around me…. except the misquitos… they chase me back in and I wouldn’t mind at all if they were less alive.

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In a few weeks I plan on popping in a bunch of spring-flower-bulbs I’ve never had before… And I find myself thinking about next spring and totally looking forward to it already! … and here I sit, on a beautiful fall evening, loving life, loving my garden, and loving the season….

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Life is like that… everything takes on meaning, with just a slight change in perspective. Hot days are not so hot, when there is a purpose, like growing flowers. And the hard times, when it feels like there’s mud everywhere, and we feel stuck and purposeless…. and then the flowers begin to poke out of that mud, as new life unfolds, having pushed through that dark and hopeless places… and the realization strikes that life is birthed in dark regions… and that life seems that much more glorious, in contrast.

Season by season, the awareness registers that we become stronger and more whole, with the experience of the years. Whether in committed relationship, or wisdom, or any other growth… Just like the Delphiniums grow taller and stronger, with each passing year, so we grow with trials, struggles and tragedies. Sure, sometimes the struggles knock us down–like the heavy rains and winds this summer, knocking down those electric blue flowers, breaking stems–and we feel lifeless. But like my flowers, that bounced back in full bloom this fall, our spirits are resilient, and we rise again.

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And, with time, we embrace the changing season and the up and down of life, weeping now and then when it’s hard, but mostly loving life and realizing that every experience serves a purpose. And our trust in God is strengthened with the awareness that He loves us in every season, in the rise and fall of our humanity. He is not daunted by it, neither is He swayed. He simply is. He is God. He is good. He is love.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

In Every Dark Place…

In every dark place, there is a Light. In every tragedy, Hope. In every trial, Victory… If only you will reach out to the One who redeems all things. Jesus.

This Light is, at times, hard to see. The hope, often, lies hidden behind the darkest of feelings, waiting for enough light to shine so it can burst through, like those first flowers in spring, fighting through the cold earth and snow, to offer a promise of new life ahead. And the victory is not always a glorious jump into the air, cheering loudly. Sometimes that victory is a mere cry for deeper faith to see the Light in that very dark place.

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Never give up. Jesus said He will always be with you–‘For lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world‘, reiterating what the Father said when He promised never to leave you or forsake you. When you have lost the courage to believe in any other thing, this one truth will simply exist, whether you believe it or not; you are never alone. And when you are too weak to believe it, I will believe for you.

Jesus. He is our Light, our Hope and our Victory!

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Holy Essential Oil

The darkness grows darker… the Light grows brighter… almost glaring.
But the blind see neither darkness nor light; their eyes are closed. And the ‘essential oil’ that heals, restoring sight, stands at their finger tips, but they refuse to stretch out their hands,
afraid of what they will have to face, if ever once their eyes see.

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John 3:19 (NKJV)
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

The blind stumble, not willing to see, not willing to know that it is only then, with perfect vision, all our sins laid before us, before Jesus, that darkness scatters. Only then can we truly see Jesus, and the price He paid for those sins, and all else is lost behind the wonder of His Love and Grace.

John 3:17 (NKJV)
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

All this love is for you and for me, because of God’s great compassion for us. God Himself, stepped into our planet in physical for, through the body of Jesus Christ, to dwell among us. Jesus… Emmanuel; God with us. Do you understand what that means? God, Himself, walked with the disciples. God, Himself, wept for those who ‘didn’t get it’. God, Himself, touched the leper… said ‘Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more’ to the woman in adultery. God, Himself, spoke to the Samaritan woman who had already had 5 husbands and was now with one who was not her husband. And God, Himself, walked that path to the cross. The soul of Jesus felt every agony and grief. The Spirit of God, contained in that body, strengthened Him. And the physical body–the shell we all get in the here and now–suffered, just as our body suffers. And the Holy Spirit–that Holy essential healing oil–was not unleashed on God’s people until after the death of Christ, because the Spirit was contained in the body of Jesus Christ,. And the very Spirit who dwelt in Christ, dwells in believers today. That is dynamite!

John 7:38-39 (NKJV)
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing[a] in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

All of this, pulled together, means this: We are sinful creatures. But we don’t need to be afraid of God; He loves us, and came to save us, not to condemn. We can lay all our sins before Him, in repentance, knowing He has already forgiven, and it is in us receiving what Jesus did on the cross, that we apply that forgiveness, and we are set free. Tragically, the condemnation of many religious people has communicated to the world a very angry, ruthless God. But God, who would have every right to condemn because of His holiness, did not come to the world to condemn; He came to save us and restore all things to Himself. All for Love. This means we can trust God, just as we can trust Jesus, if only we will let the Light of Truth–God’s truth, directly from His Word–shine into our hearts and minds, without the manipulations of people who have an agenda.

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John 3:16-19 (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Today I choose Jesus; I choose Light, and I choose that healing oil. He stands between me, and my sins. Sins I laid bare before Him, and before the world, nothing hidden. And as I did, the Light shone so brightly, that I could see only the Him, my sins having vanished… their power lost in that pure light.

Choose Light. He has more than enough Love to cover your sins.

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Serving from a Broken Bottle

We romanticize church, communion, and all things ‘Christian’ as hinging on a holiness born of perfection,
But it is the unrefined love of the Broken Christ, poured in messy spills, like wine from a broken bottle,
Flowing into and through broken vessels, and splashing reckless love into the world around
That ultimately spreads His grace to the world around.

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Christianity is a messy encounter between sinful humanity and Divine Love.

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There is this thought that troubles me, and one that has tumbled around in my mind, for years in a way that can’t be ignored…  Like the annoying sound of mindless, repetitious tapping that carries on until someone bursts out an exasperated ‘stop it!’ … or the faucet dripping water until you are forced to abandon what you’re doing and get up to tighten it…

My  first awareness that some people are ‘different’ came when I was about four or five years old. A girl in our community, or possibly a neighbouring colony–I cannot recall which–probably in her twenties, brought this revelation into my life. Or, more accurately, what people said brought the revelation. To me she was simply a more fun adult, than most. One I could connect with. Really connect with.

I don’t recall her name, but her image is burned on my memory, most clearly. When we visited her home, which I recall doing at least twice, she and I played together. This friend loved to play dolls, and sat with me, holding and rocking them with the same childish delight that I felt. Though I certainly didn’t recognize it as childish then. I did, however, observe that she did what other adults didn’t do. She entered into my world, and I into hers. We sat in our chairs pretending to nurse our babies, then rocking and burping them, just the way mothers in our world did. She didn’t talk much. I don’t recall, but it would be a safe guess that I chattered. I did that from time to time.

After one visit to their home my mother explained that this girl isn’t ‘normal’ or, the German wording, ‘not as she should be’. This bewildered me. To me she was as everyone should be.  It isn’t that my mother was rude, or condescending. It was the normal wording used for mentally handicapped or delayed people. Another expression used was the equivalent of retarded–something I found offensive, even as a child.

But the thoughts tumbling in my head are not exactly about the mentally delayed or handicapped, though this ‘learning’ of our differences does tie in, for me, emotionally, to my thoughts…

I don’t know when I first learned that there are people at church who are ‘different’. People who don’t fit the mold.  The ones who are not ‘as they should be’. Those who dance to a different rhythm. (God bless them, at least they dance!) These are the broken souls who don’t have it together, hold it together, or present a ‘church image’. They don’t wear a ‘suit and tie’ in a ‘suit and tie church’. And if they do, the pants are too short and the sleeves fall shy of reaching the wrist with an obvious deficit. Their shoes have no shine, if they wear shoes at all, and their socks probably don’t match. Not each other, and not the suit.  The tie, if worn at all, is a tacky mis-matched accessory, and the hair slicked to the side, haphazardly, with Brylcream and smeared flat.

When they talk, they stutter. When they laugh, it is a geeky laugh that incorporates a few snorts and maybe a cross-eyed glance, as they push their ‘taped-together’ glasses up their nose. When they look into your eyes it’s that awkward ‘look deep into the soul’ gaze that creeps the average Joe out, especially in church where everything is meant to be nice and peaceful, and no one is supposed to know anything below the nice exterior. And everyone is perpetually happy. Because God is good. And when they do that–the awkward ones–and look deep into our souls, they look past the ‘nice’ and see the dark spots on our souls and it makes us uncomfortable. I know. I’ve experienced it.

These people don’t fit into Western church culture. More accurately, they don’t fit in anywhere.

My descriptions  are figurative. It isn’t the external differences that make people ‘unfit’, but it is that way of thinking and living, of refusing to conform to expected norms, or maybe oblivious to these norms, that make them misfits. They are no more welcome in much of church culture than Jesus was welcomed into the religious community of His day.

And whether it is because of a mental handicap or just ‘being different’, and being ‘broken’ and scarred by life, we don’t really know what to do with these people. The mentally handicapped most of us accept. They can’t help how they were born. But the broken. Them we try to fix. Surely with a bit more effort, or offering another earnest prayer, or a bit more counsel, surely then they will pull themselves together and fit in. But they try–some of them, at least–and we pray, and we advise–or send them to the more qualified for help–and still they sing off tune and dance out of time… And slowly we pull away, or push them out, and leave them on the discard pile…

The broken ones who don’t fit…

While housecleaning my basement I came across an envelope. A fat, homemade envelope. Crooked and mis-measured, with holes where the corners should meet–gaps because she didn’t align it right. A few scribbles decorated the front. Inside a handful of papers with unintelligible notes, made of up wordless words, with letters randomly slapped together. Tall letters. Short letters. Fat ones and skinny ones.

i studied them, trying to recall where they had come from. A memory played at the fringes of my mind, teasing, but refusing to reveal itself. I flipped to another note, unfolded the uneven folds.  There, written in clear English were the words, “I Love You! Janet Kuepfer”

I smiled. And a tear fell. And I remembered why I kept the note. She worked hard to write that, many years ago when we attended the same church. It was one of a few such notes I received from friends there, who were mentally delayed, handicapped or had special needs of some sort. I found others as I rooted through my boxes. And while hundreds of beautiful cards landed on the discard pile, each of these notes returned to my keepsake box, where I will likely stumble upon them in a decade or so, the next time I go through my memory box, sorting what is worthy of storage, and what should be tossed.

And in the meantime the question will continue to tumble through my head, like an empty tin can, blowing about in the wind, demanding to be acknowledged.  What should the church do with the broken ones?

I believe I saw a glimpse of this on Sunday. We attended the Meeting House in Waterloo, and it was communion Sunday. At the very front, sat two gentlemen in wheelchairs. I don’t know them. I don’t know their stories…

A man went forward for communion but, rather than taking the bread, dipping it in the wine and helping himself, he walked past the cup and the bread to these men. He leaned forward and whispered something to them, then turned, took some bread and dipped it in the cup, and placed it in the first gentleman’s mouth. He followed suit with the second man.

“He’s a true gentleman,” I whispered to Tim, pointing out what I observed.  And something connected deep in my spirit with the broken Jesus–the One from whom many in today’s Christian culture would likely withhold communion, or walk the long way around Him, if the way we treat our broken is any indication.

In the background the worship team played ‘Jesus Messiah’, and I came unglued as the tears began to fall so that I couldn’t hold them back if I wanted to. And I wanted to. Because I don’t like to cry in church anymore. I’ve learned that people don’t cry in church, and mostly I prefer not to be so vulnerable in front of them. With Tim I don’t mind, and some of my trusted friends. But in church I have learned it is best to close down my heart and emotions, and blend in with the accepted norms.

Every now and then, however, the raw, real, broken truth, about love being poured from a broken glass without pretense of apology,  grips me with such force that all walls crumble and all defenses  dissipate. And then I weep. And in those moments I feel alive, as if Jesus has slipped again among us. And my soul reaches out with open hands and longing heart….

… for a place of vulnerability where it is safe to be broken…  A place where Jesus is lifted up and human effort is not glorified…  and the ‘least of these’ is valued as if they were Jesus in the flesh…

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Flame-Broiled Grace

Every diet needs balance to be healthy. And, while fine on occasion, all meals should not be served flamed-broiled. Neither should all messages on Grace be served with Hell Fire.

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She sat across from me, her hair neatly tucked under her prayer veiling, black covering strings in place, and hand-made ‘cape’ dress perfectly fitted. A church leader’s wife.

We conversed about many things. Her role as a leader’s wife, and what is expected of her. Their adolescent children. How they view Jesus and grace.  And then she took me off-guard….

“It’s almost as if we are uncomfortable with God’s grace,” she said.  (That’s true, I thought to myself. And so are most conservative Christians.) “I wonder why that is?” she added, thoughtfully.

“I don’t know… Maybe we’re afraid we’ll lose control?” I suggested.

“Maybe…” she looked thoughtful, not satisfied.

We discussed it for a while, this thing about grace, and how desperately we need to hear it, and how hard it is to tell without serving it wrapped in the condemnation of hell fire, with no real answers.

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This got me thinking a lot, lately, about why we feel we have to do that, serve the Good New of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, like that. As though His death and sacrifice are not convincing enough on their own, and a little fear of hell is necessary to get people saved.

Even writing this, I presume, somewhere, there will be those who gasp and wonder if I no longer believe in hell. If you must know, nothing has changed. I still believe there is a hell. But it is Jesus I worship, not my belief in any particular heaven or hell. Those are the mysteries of God that we are forbidden to fully understand. And there is a time and a place to tell of both, but not every time, and not every place.

Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all (mankind) unto Me.” He did say, “And don’t forget to tell them about hell. They’ll want to know about that place, because heaven with me is much more appealing.” He simply said that lifting Him up would draw all people to Him. Some will still reject Him, but He will invite and draw them. He doesn’t need the motivation of missing out on hell as a ‘bonus offer’. He is enough. More than enough.

And that is what I’ve been thinking, a lot. Whether the most revealing truth in all of this is that we don’t really have faith in Jesus as being enough, on His own–when He is lifted high and worshipped–to draw people to Himself. And if we have trained ourselves, or been trained, to serve grace, wrapped up in fear of hell, because we have not had a true revelation of Who Jesus really is, and exactly what He came to do. And, out of a lack of revelation, we don’t trust the Good News of Jesus to be enough.

In reading through the New Testament, I found Jesus spoke frequently enough of hell. But He seemed to reserve it for the religious–and leaders in particular–rather than for evangelism. And maybe we’ve had that part backwards….

And I wonder if the greater purpose of our knowledge of a place of everlasting torment ought not to propel us into telling the Good News, sharing the wonderful stories of Jesus, and lifting Him up, rather than using it to instil terror in people.

I understand that it isn’t possible to tell people what they are saved from, if we don’t first share that sin has consequence and brings separation from God. That sin cannot stand in God’s presence. And that is why Jesus died.  But that’s a different thing than preaching for thirty minutes–out of a forty-five minute sermon on grace–about the horrors of hell. (Or going over time so it gets properly explained.)

The world is full of condemnation and shame. Hardly does it need that message more passionately reinforced and expounded on, than the truth of grace and Jesus having paid in full, for their sin.  Or even expounded on every time we talk about grace.

Grace.  A free gift that will wipe all that sin away with one simple act of repentance by faith.  So simple. So profound. And therefore hard for the human mind to grasp…

****

I opened the email….

“Dear Trudy,

I have thought a long while about emailing you.  It is fear, I suppose, that kept me from it.”

She went on to tell me her story, as most people whom I’ve never met do, when they  email me ‘out of the blue’ like that.  She lives in USA, and was raised in a conservative Christian family. Abused in early childhood, and sexually active with other girls since long before she understood the meaning of sex, she struggled all her life with sexual addictions. Now, an adult, trying to live our her life of faith in holiness, she battled these same struggles and addictions at every turn. Was there any hope for her? Or would I simply judge her, condemn her for her sins, and turn away? She said she would understand if I did. It was how she felt about herself. Like so many  others she wrote, “I didn’t know who else to tell… I hope I can trust you with my story.”

I sat down to respond to her familiar message. If I had seen this message once, I had seen it countless times. And if I had believed in the healing of one, I would believe it for a thousand more.

“Dear Clara,” I wrote back. “Thank you for trusting me with your deepest pain, your story and your struggles. You need to know that you are not alone. There is hope. And I believe in your healing.”

I shared how I had worked with many women caught in pornography and addictions. Many with same-sex attractions or relationships. Many who had come hopeless, and found freedom through Jesus, even breaking free from same-sex desire, breaking sexual addictions and self-harm, and other struggles. I assured her that God’s grace was more than enough to cover her sins, to free her from the strangle-hold of addictions, and break the power of childhood trauma. Repentance for our sins brings freedom from its grip. Offering forgiveness to those who sinned against us brings freedom on another level.

That was pretty much my message. I offered no condemnation. No scolding. No reminder that she would be condemned if she did not repent of her current sins and addictions. Her email was filled with self-condemnation. There was no need for me to add to it.

Her response made me weep. “Dear Trudy, Thank you. I don’t know what else to say. Somehow I expected to be condemned. For the first time, in a long while, I feel a glimmer of hope that I can be free….”

That’s what grace does. It offers hope where there is hopelessness. Life where the spirit has died. And the promise of reconciliation with God, where sin once stood in between. All because of Jesus.  And Jesus, alone.

© Trudy Metzger

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Blog By My Old Order Friend

I received a phone call from my Older Order friend, and the author of this blog, a few months ago, asking if she could read something to me. It came at a time when I felt completely drained spiritually, and exhausted emotionally, after receiving a lengthy letter in the mail, attacking me, and our ministry. As she read it, the tears spilled over. It was a most timely reminder that God does not forget us, or abandon us. He meets us in our broken place, and feeds, fills and restores us. She offered to send to to me via snail mail, and gave me permission to publish it on my blog, and use her name. If you find yourself in this place of struggle, a place of fatigue or discouragement, I pray that you will be as encouraged as I was, by Martha’s blog.  

I used to view God as a policeman, who sits around somewhere, waiting to find someone at fault… who comes after you with flashing lights. He hands over a ticket, which means, “I’ve been fined.”

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Instead, God draws us… invites us… Not with flashing lights, but with a glow that comes from the very Father heart of God. An invitation, if you will: “You may kneel in this pool of blood… It was shed for you. All your guilt, and shame and sin have been redeemed before you were ever born. And that pool of blood, instead of a ‘fine’ or a ‘ticket’, offers a receipt… a receipt that says, ‘ You’re free. I’ve paid for you!”

What a Saviour! We have reason to rejoice. We have reason to be alive!

When I think of Elijah, I think of third degree depression. He was discouraged…. “What’s the use. Nobody cares… I am all alone… what I do doesn’t mean anything….They seek to kill me, for doing what is right.”

What did he do? He ran for the juniper tree.  “I’m done! Just let me die!”

What did God do? \he met him there. He said, “Elijah, what are you doing here? The journey is too great for you. Arise and eat.”

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Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that amazing?

God called him by his name. God knew him.  He saw Elijah’s pain. Not only did He call him, he provided for him. He understood his pain, his depression, his hopelessness.

Rejoice! That God is still alive today. If you find yourself under the juniper tree, or heading that way, take heart, God meets us there.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. There was a man travelling to Jerusalem, when he was overtaken by robbers. They beat him and took all his goods.

Along came two men, a priest and a Levite. Exactly what their missions were, I cannot say. We get the picture that they were tending to important religious matters.  These religious men couldn’t be bothered by the likes of the injured man.

Along came the Good Samaritan. He had compassion and stopped to offer help. He took the injured man to a place of comfort and healing.

Where do we find ourselves in this scenario? So busy with religious duties that we pass by the hurting? Are we the ones beating and robbing, taking what isn’t ours–be it money, or reputation? Or are we the one with compassion?

Or, if we stop and take a closer look… Are we perchance the person lying there, wounded and bleeding, not able to walk without support??

If that is you, take heart. You are in a good position. Just as God met Elijah under the juniper tree, He will meet you. It is for this very reason that Jesus came. In Isaiah 61 we read that Jesus is coming to heal the broken-hearted, to give sight to the blind, and to free those who are bound, to bring good tidings.

Are those not good tidings?

~ Martha ~