Thursday, April 2, 2020

how to find hope in a global pandemic

How often does the whole world get in the same boat? And here we are. Together. 

We can't go to the grocery store when we want. And when we do go to the grocery store, it's strange, with face masks and missing food. 
Talking to a neighbor on an evening walk, the question forms quick, "Am I far enough away? Do they have the virus?" We know people who are sick and we sorrow and we pray. We question how long this is gonna last and why it's happening and what we should do in response. 

 Is it fear? Is it wisdom? What trips out the door are really necessary? How do I pray for the whole world? What words do I use to ask God to eradicate a virus from the earth? How do I protect the people I live with? Am I gonna get it? 

And asking this big question; 
what really matters? 

I don't have many answers, but here's one God's giving me loud and clear; He wants to hold us close. 

Staying with God. Staying at home. Staying with our families. 

He's helping me remember what really matters. 

It seems God's doing what only God can do; taking something horrendous and bringing good out in the midst of it. There are deaths and risks and questions and right here in the middle of the dark, there are families coming closer together and dinner tables being used and compassion growing and light shining bright. 

We each respond differently, in the ways we think are best. Some of us are still going to Target, some of us haven't stepped out of our front doors in two weeks. 

Life's different. For you, for me, for the world. 

My friends in India need help getting food to the families who live in the garbage. 

This week I talked to a friend in Hong Kong; she doesn't get out of her house either. 

My pals in Kenya and Uganda: also staying at home. 

"The whole universe needs God's mercy," proclaimed a friend in Uganda today. Yes. God's mercy is the thing we all need. 

Are you sick? Are you grieving? Are you lonely? Are you terrified? Are you hungry? 

God wants to hold you close.
Here, staying with Him; this is where the questions are silenced and the hope grows. In His company. He's got loads of mercy (endless) and He's inviting us all onto His lap.  

It's simple. We read the Bible, we talk to Him (pray), we stay still and listen. Here, there's refuge. There's life. There's comfort. 

"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself."

Exodus 19:4

That's currently my favorite verse in the Bible.
God ends slavery, He ends darkness. 
He sets us free. He carries us. 
He lifts us up, like we're flying on eagles' wings. 
And He brings us to Himself. 

Caring for you and me is our Maker's passion. 

And we can rest in that. 

Here is the safety. The comfort. The hope. The restoration. Right here. On this giant beautiful lap. In God's arms. 

We're invited! 

He has enough hope! He has enough lap! He has enough healing! He has enough Heaven! 
And He's generous!

If you're new to reading the Bible and talking to God, I've been liking Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40. You could start with those chapters, take your time, and talk to Jesus about what you're reading. I like playing some worship like this, too. His attention is on us. And He's good. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

How to ensure you’re not wasting your life

If you're 14 or 32 or 89, God's purpose for you is this; to love you and to be loved by you. 

I become even more sappy contemplative around birthday time every year. Aging, closer to death, purpose, what am I doing with my life—things worth considering. 

Looking at my daily schedule, my relationships, my thought patterns, my heart’s activity, my priorities; inviting God to share His feelings about all of it. 

Am I living how He wants? 

I don’t want to waste my life. 

There’s not much that matters. Two things, actually. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-39

God, am I loving you? 
God, am I loving people?  

Surrendering to God makes love grow. That's what I'm discovering. 

God is love. The more I surrender to Him, the more room I make for love in my life. A good trade. Surrender is like emptying your life of other stuff to make room for God, for love. Geeze Louise! I want to surrender everything I’ve got — to be all filled up with love! What could possibly be better than love? Some habit? Some idea? Some person? Some dream? God (love) is incredibly better than anything I surrender. 

Love. That’s what our Maker made us for. 

So as I wrap my arms around 32 tomorrow, I’m praying something like this; 

Jesus! Thank You! Have me. All of me. I surrender! Let love grow inside of me; loving You and loving people. Let love be every motive and every thought and every conversation and every decision. Love. All year long. Soak me in it. 

We’re all getting older. Death is guaranteed. So go with Jesus. He is love and He is forever and He wants you to know Him (1 John 4:8, John 17:3, John 14:6). 

He’s a kind Jewish Man with a heart burning in love for you and me. And we can know Him. 

And just to put words to it, here are some things not listed in the only two things that matter; 
how many friends we have, how much money we make, whether we ever "make it big," what our faces look like, the definition (or lack of definition) in our abs, how comfortable our lives are, and everything else other than those two love commands. Sighing deep relief.  

Here's what I'm currently finding beneficial and maybe you will, too: 

Give your life some thought, ask Jesus what He thinks about it, read some Bible truth (I just enjoyed psalm 65), and surrender. You may not feel love growing in your chest, but it is. 

Love God and love people and you won’t waste your life. Guaranteed.

p.s. A decade free from hair dye has been broken into with some blonde. Come on, aging. #ready 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

how do I take care of my soul?

Heroin quickly enters the blood stream and flows to the brain where it releases dopamine in rushes; the interior world filled with a pleasant rush, a gentle ease. A friend explained it like this to me,
"You know when it's raining hard and you drive under a bridge? And for a quick moment, everything's still under the bridge? That's kinda what heroin feels like. You're under the bridge in a quiet break."

I went to my first AA meeting a few weeks ago. It was a delight. Felt like family and hope. And honesty. A room full of people who understand what it's like to escape life to get some peace inside. People who have realized that the peace substance addiction provides is fake, a lying fake. People who have declared war on addiction. People who are winning. And finding new ways to get peace inside.

Our insides.

These interior worlds we live in--thoughts, dreams, feelings, doubts, sins--are our permanent homes.
We can't get away from ourselves.

Like honestly, what's happening inside of you? Take a look around. What's your most frequent thought? Is it healthy or harmful? Bright or terrorizing? What words best describe your interior world?

A desert?
A septic tank?
A garden?

Sweating, lifting weights, jogging around the block; I like moving because God gave me a body to live in and I want to take care of it. But no matter how much I sweat and lift and jog, this body ain't gonna last. So the more important question; our souls--how do we take care of those?

"The body matters and physical exercise is of some benefit, but what we really need to guard and tend is our soul, for from it flows the wellsprings of life."
-Dick Brogden

Through this past year in Kentucky and through lots of past years in Hong Kong and Illinois and flying around Southeast Asia and becoming intimately acquainted with falling apart, I'm noticing my interior world easily becomes a stinky maniac place that's crammed full and drab and not at all like the kind of place where anyone would want to live.

It’s not just when we move across the world. It’s when we compare ourselves to other people or wonder if we’ll ever be good enough or start dreaming about sleeping with someone we shouldn’t be dreaming about sleeping with or we become obsessed with everyone’s opinion of us or we escape life with heroin or live consumed with stress or let a little offense turn into a nasty humongous offense or a jillion other things.
Life’s hard and it’s easy for our hearts to get hectic. 

But, but, but, no matter what condition I get my heart into, looking at Jesus heals it.

Looking at Jesus.  

My interior world needs His constant help. It can get ugly in here fast. I have found Jesus to be the only one with the ability to transform my interior world into a spectacular space.

Looking into Jesus’ Eyes always produces the same thing — wow. He loves me. Then He lights a candle and decorates with peace.

When I look at Jesus, I see Someone who is looking back at me. Someone who is enjoying me. Someone who likes my company. Which is what Mike Bickle believes is the greatest emotional need of every human being; to know that God enjoys us.

We look into Jesus’ eyes and He brings peace to the war, beauty to the ashes.

"Looking into Jesus’ eyes" is another way to say “pray.”

But we’re not praying to a far away phantom in the sky. We’re praying to a Jewish Gentleman with real eyes and a real heart and real hands who walked dusty streets in Israel in human skin and touched people with leprosy who no one else would touch and His touch took their leprosy away and He died and went to Hell and took the keys and now lives in Heaven in love with you and me, still with skin — this is the Man we’re invited to look at inside of us. 

If it’s possible to look at God inside of us, perhaps we should ask the question my friends in rehab have been asking, 

A lady who has given her life to prayer and worship, Misty Edwards, sings these words to Him--'You are as near as turned attention.”

She suggests we simply turn our attention to Him and there He is.  
Look for Him and find Him. Right here inside of us.

I like reading what the Bible has to say about what Jesus looks like. Revelation 1 is one of my favorites. 

Verse 14: 
 The hair on His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire.  

His eyes are like fire. 

What does fire do? 
Warms, cozies, destroys, forges, spreads.

All activity I need to happen inside of me. 
I need my cold heart warmed, my lonely heart cozied, my sin destroyed, my heart forged and shaped, God’s good in me spread. 
And sometimes life is just frigid and we need a fire nearby to survive. 

His eyes are what our souls need. 

Hebrews 12:2—let us fix our eyes on Jesus.     

Our hearts don’t become beautiful places because life is easy peasy and we're dancing through our days like daisies. Life's got hard and sad and intense struggles and no one's excluded.

King David had monstrous problems and disgusting sin and enemies trying to kill him, but at the same time, seemed to maintain a vibrant inside.
King David knew about looking at God. 

Psalm 27:4
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His Temple. 

David’s heart always came back to that place--wanting and seeking and gazing upon God. 

One blog post doesn't fix your or my interior worlds. But maybe it can help us take a healthy step in the right direction. And because I have plenty of interior chaos, I have plenty of opportunity to let God teach me how to look at Him and find peace. Here are a few tips I've found to be helpful.
Ok. I love you.

p.s And, worshipping God in my bedroom while playing worship sets like this. That helps me, too. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

being loved is easy

“What are You gonna do with me?” I keep asking God. Despite the heavy confusion, intense sadness, pitiful pride, or any other I'd-rather-not-have-it smeared all over me, His answer remains the same:

“Love you.”

I can stay here. He invites me to. 
Loving me is all He ever wants to do.

Has 2019 been a doozie for anyone else? I’m gonna be glad to see that thing go. 

Yes yes, it was shocking and difficult. I’m a human who knows how to hurt people; and a human who knows how to get hurt. Two things now well-discovered. Also, moving across the world, regardless of which hemisphere I’m moving into, is hard. 

My 2019 was like this; heartbreak and pure delight, confusion and clarity, pain and healing. While at times, my heart thought it may not survive, it did. Even in the middle of the “Huh? Life wasn’t supposed to be turning out this way?” there was growing up and surrendering and new friendships that blossomed like lilacs and learning love. Jesus can use anything for good. Even my mess ups and confusions and tears.

Loving us is always His agenda. Always. 

When He crouched in a garden and crafted a lover out of dirt, love was His only motivation. When He escorted all those Israelites out of slavery, love was His only motivation. When He taught Kind David how to sing, love was His only motivation. When He entered into our depravity through the womb of a virgin girl in a barn, as a naked Jewish baby, love was His only motivation. When He took His last breath on a blood-soaked wooden cross as a naked Jewish man, love was His only motivation. When He grabbed the keys to Hell and defeated all the darkness it could conjure up, love was His only motivation. 

And right now, today, as He looks at 7.7 billion hand-designed human beings, and keeps their planet spinning, love is His only motivation. 

I don’t know what 2020 is going to be like. Maybe terribly hard, maybe relievingly easy; but I know what He’s going to be doing with me--loving. 

Love is all He's going to be motivated by, all year long. 
All eternity long.

And He's got the same motivation for you. 

Right now, with the extra weight, the broken heart, the unruly habits, the sadness you’re not sure you’ll ever be able to kick, or any other you'd-rather-not-have-it: all Jesus wants to do with you is love you. And being loved is easy. 

A year ago, I was in a jet lagged, reverse culture-shocked daze in Walmart in Carmi, Illinois. I held my one year old nephew in my arms and recorded a video on Facebook, rambling honest words about feeling thankful for all God did in Hong Kong for the years I lived there, reciting my plan for the upcoming year in Kentucky, thanking every person who supports me in any sort of way, and expressing a need for a car. 

I don’t have jet lag nor am I in Walmart, but I want to make a few December statements again:

God is still good and His motivation is still love.

We can talk to Him, cry to Him, read what He says in the Bible, and rest in His love. His love is the safe place. There is no one like Him. 

Regardless of our salaries or nationalities or relationship statuses, we face sad days, questions too big to answer, relationships that break our hearts, and many varieties of complicated pain.

But God is still good and His motivation is still love. 

I keep reading the end of the Story. Revelation 22 wraps it all up and man, what a finale. Jesus wins. And I'm with Him. 

He loves us, He pursues us, He wins us.

Night will be no more. They will never need the light of the sun or a lamp, because the Lord God will shine on them.
-Revelation 22:5

Go with Him, He's the one you want to end up with. 

A good chunk of my year plans were overhauled for various reasons, but the main plan stayed the same and I lived it out: letting God do whatever He wants with me. 

That's what He did. 
That's what He'll keep doing. 

And being loved is easy. 

p.s. The 2003 highlander y’all bought has 8,000 more miles on it now, is currently stuffed full of a moving friend's life possessions, and about 60 Bibles. And some snacks. Thank you for this car. 

And thank you for all the support. His motivated-only-by-love heart is being experienced by me, my friends in Kentucky, my friends around the globe—-thank you. 

p.p.s. If the question you're asking yourself is "Are those the same gold velvet pants you've been wearing since you bought them for $2 off the old woman on the street in Hong Kong?" The answer is yes.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

because we all need friendship and hope: life goals today

There are used condoms and needles and empty bottles of Vodka and my eyes are scared of what else they’ll see so I look up into the sky.

It’s blue and vast and open and looks like hope.

I'm waiting for a friend to come out of her tent so I can take her to the bus station and she can get off these streets. Home. Her mom's waiting for her. We've already called.

When I first started visiting my friends downtown, before they were my friends, when they were just "homeless people," there was a ministry feeding them sandwiches out of the back of a truck. I introduced myself.

"Don't come here by yourself. These people are always armed."

That's what the church lady told me.

"These people."

Like they were the infected and the church lady and I were the sanitized. I've never lived on the street or stabbed needles into my veins or sold my body to get another dose of heroin or had my one bag of spare clothes stolen every time I got another bag of spare clothes or stood on a street corner with a sign begging for money because I'm terrified of not being on meth. But if that's how my life was, and if these streets were my home, I think I'd want to be armed, too.

That was months ago, and now when I pull up, I get smiles and hugs and God keeps dumping out hope. And no one's ever pulled a weapon on me. And a couple friends have been coming to church with me and I'm learning what everyone likes at Taco Bell and I know CJ drinks coffee all day, loaded with sugar, and Alice likes chewing on ice and Tony misses his four-year-old daughter in foster care and Kendra's leg hurts her and Jacob's mom died in 2014 and he really misses her.

They're human beings.
Not projects.
They’re human beings. And my friends.

Don't we all know what mediocre and unwanted feels like? And doesn't no-strings-attached authentic friendship help those awful feelings dissolve?

I want to spend my life fighting mediocre and unwanted, proclaiming with my time and my words and my no-strings-attached-friendship--THERE AIN'T NOTHIN MEDIOCRE ABOUT YOU AND YOU ARE SO SO SO WANTED.

Looking into beautiful bloodshot eyes and smelling what happens when we stop showering and immerse our lives into numbing addictions trying to live a pain-free existence, I've been giving some thought to the goals of my life.

To be safe?
To be comfortable?
To never hear inappropriate remarks?
To stay away from "dangerous and dirty" places?

No. Those are nowhere on my life goals list.

To keep looking at Jesus and falling in love. That's my life's big goal. And from there springs all sorts of wonderful activity. Like finding the unsafe and the uncomfortable and the inappropriate remark-ers living in "dangerous and dirty" places and to make friends.

Jesus has enough hope.

When He watches Jay meander through the streets, dazed and dirty and eyes locked on the ground scanning for change so he can collect enough for a bag of numb, what is God feeling?

When Jesus hangs out with me everyday, it's not because He wants to put me in the become-a-more-decent-human-being program.
It's because He likes me.
Friendship is what we've got.
As we're doing friendship stuff, His love changes me.
He's teaching me His ways.

So when I drive downtown day after day in the 2003 Highlander a bunch of loved ones bought me (thank you) and hop out to see who's there and who's hungry and who wants to walk to McDonald's, it's not because I'm running a program.
They're my friends.
Friendship is what we've got.
Like any friendship, there's getting to know each other and helping each other and becoming better human beings in the process.

My friends who are currently homeless, I'm a better human being because I know them. And the brightest highlight--I'm getting to know Jesus better because these friends let me be in their lives. His heart is even better than I thought and we're exploring it down there on East Broadway amidst bodily fluids dried to the sidewalk and spice rolled up into blunts with any sort of paper available and coffee dates at McDonald's. His heart is even better than I know. Bigger and more diverse and stronger and more hopeful and better.

He seeks us out and makes friends out of us.

Jesus said our eternal destinies are affected by how we treat the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned. That means the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned are quite important to this King I'm serving and I'd better make sure to treat them well.

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
-John 5:3-9

It was like a nursing home without nurses.

I can't imagine the stench. And it's where Jesus chose to go.

It's bookmarked in my Bible with a polaroid of me and the girl who was trafficked to Hong Kong but got rescued and moved in with us and fell in love with Jesus and is now back home with her family, living in freedom.

He rescues African women in Hong Kong and He can rescue men from upstate New York homeless and addicted on the street in Kentucky.

I keep crying because life keeps being sad but I keep hoping because God keeps feeling hope.

Jesus reminds me He can do anything and He's loaded with love for every soul. And when we lay in the same spot for 38 years, hopeless and bitter, or decline our bus ride into freedom, or judge homeless people when we drive by them, He can heal us and help us stand on our feet.

God feels hope for all of us. We're all broken humans needing mercy.

Last night, Al started screaming profanities at Cindy and I interrupted him with “Let’s pray.” We stood in a circle and bowed our heads. I asked God to please help us all because we all need help. We said amen and I drove home, listening to “What Child is This” loud on repeat.

“Nails and spears shall pierce Him through,
The cross He bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

My friend didn't come out of her tent that day. She cried to me, "I can't do it. I'm not ready. I'm just not ready." I told her I loved her and watched where I walked on my way out.

But Jesus became a baby then bore a cross so He could help her leave the streets and I'll drive her to the bus station when that day comes.

“Our friends, our enemies, the children of God, and the children of the world are worthy to be loved. Those who are the hated, the ransomed, and the lost, the world as a whole, and every individual creature in particular are all embraced by the love of God.”

-Andrew Murray 

p.s. to the still-concerned-for-my-safety-loved-ones, thank you. I appreciate you. I'm being careful and bringing a friend as often as I can. Plus, I'm surrounded by angels.

Monday, October 14, 2019

how we can find hope in leaves and homelessness

Ten of my newest friends live on cardboard under a bridge and last night we had a birthday party. 

The birthday boy turned 54. I got 12 cupcakes for $9.99 at Kroger, stuck a purple candle in the middle cupcake, and we all sang happy birthday underneath that bridge. Know who else sang? Heaven. Because the cupcake-buying and the candle-lighting and the song-singing: all the King of Heaven’s idea. Jesus is the Great-Birthday-Party-Thrower. 

Leaves are falling and I’ve been taping them to my bedroom wall. They're pretty. I look up there and remember the way God makes things change. It’s a hopeful relief. They’re different sizes and different colors from different woods and different trees, but they all change. 

I told the birthday boy that God bought the cupcakes because God likes celebrating him. Then I reminded him that God can change things, turning rotten into beautiful and broken into whole. 

“Things don’t have to be like this.”
He nodded, said “I know,” and thanked me for remembering his birthday. 

A lady who’s always got an aching leg laid on piles of blankets and cried when I told her God can help her life change. She said she believes that. The man sitting next to her said “I’m her boyfriend,” then asked if he could have another cupcake.

All 10 friends bowed their heads as the traffic on 65 South drove 70 miles per hour above us, some stayed laying on their cardboard beds, others stood next to me; we asked God to have His way in our lives. We said “amen,” ate autumn-colored cupcakes, and I heard God tell me how much hope He has. 

Jesus loves us. All of us.

He changes leaves and He changes hearts and He’s loaded with hope. 

Who can we celebrate today?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

the best way to get ready to die

We’re all going to be dead soon so I'm sitting in the backyard grass surrounded by 42 Bibles.

My friends in rehab want new Bibles and Goodwill keeps running out because I'm buying them all so my home church put their extra Bibles together and sent them with me to rehab because the Maker God enjoys our company and wants us all to know Him. And Hell’s fiercest fighting has been defeated. Jesus died but now He’s alive. 

Billy Graham writes, "There is nothing more important to know and to have clear in our thinking than the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The Gospel--Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, because God's in love with human beings and wants to spend forever with all of us in Heaven, in holy matrimony. That’s right! Married. Joined together with an inseparable joining, humankind’s mess-of-a-heart and His perfect-God-Heart, joined together in love.  Ah.  Jesus took the punishment for our sin so we can marry Him. Now we get to decide if we want Him or not. He leaves it up to us. 

Oh God wants to be loved! 

I just left rehab. Four of the Bible’s found happy new homes. One lady asked if she could have two and God loves this lady and He loves hunger and I still have 38 Bibles in my car so I said “Sure ya can!” She smiled big and said,“What a blessin’.”

Life is super duper short and it's oh-so-easy to get distracted by what doesn't matter at all. So here's what I'm remembering today, on this beautiful and hot and sunshine-y October 2, 2019--
Jesus is Lord, He wants everybody to know Him, He enjoys our company, and He wins. 

What else matters? 

In drug rehabs in Kentucky and in red-light districts in Hong Kong and in orphanages in India and in every home, street, and heart in between--He wants to be loved. 

Reading the Bible. 
That's the best way to remind ourselves of all that matters in life. 
And the best way to get to know God better. 
We find the purpose of life and the heart of God and the way to Heaven and the way to hope and unconditional love in those ancient pages. 

I like to read a couple different chapters from a couple different places, loaded with colored markers and pens and highlighters and I go crazy on the pages every day (underlining and drawing flowers and writing prayers). I read super slow, too. Like, I'll read a sentence and then stop to talk to God about it for five minutes. I also like to have a cup of coffee in my hands. If you're just starting, Psalms and John would be good places to read. 

Life is complicated and I know what dark days feel like and the tragic stories I hear every week are heavy and hard and we all face big challenges that look like cold, ginormous mountains but guess what? Jesus wins.  He gets to write the end of the story and Love comes out as the champion.  

Every night for a couple months now, my bedtime reading involves Billy Graham's autobiography. It's huge. Because he lived quite a life. I'm currently on page 362 of 1265.   

When President Dwight Eisenhower was on his deathbed, he requested to speak with Billy Graham. The president asked the doctor and nurses to leave the room; he took the evangelist's hand and said, "Billy, you've told me how to be sure my sins are forgiven and that I'm going to Heaven. Would you tell me again?"

"I took out my New Testament and read to him again the familiar Gospel verses, the precious promises of God about eternal life. Then, my hand still in his, I prayed briefly. 'Thank you,' he said. 'I'm ready.' I knew he was. As I stood to leave, he grinned and waved." 

Jesus made the way for us all to be ready. 

If we want, we get to spend the rest of our days on the earth, and the rest of eternity, intimately intertwined with the Lamb of God. And even death won’t do us part. 

Do you have a Bible? If not and you want one, let me know. I've got a few to

Do you read the Bible every day? If not and you want to start, you can. God's inviting you. 

p.s. here’s a telling of the Gospel by my friends around the globe.

p.p.s. thanks for giving the Bible’s, everybody. Ladies in recovery are getting ready for a wedding. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

7 years today: what I'm learning about recovery

I've handed my dentist $3,000 in the past three months. 

Because on August 25, 2012, I wrecked a motorbike in Thailand.
Skull smashed into metal pole, two front teeth broke off, one pierced right through my bottom lip, we didn't know if I'd live, but I did.

Seven years? 
Shouldn't I be done with wreck-repercussions after seven years? 

When will I be recovered? 

My friends going through AA’s 12 Steps of Addiction Recovery, they're awarded these colorful celebration coins for remaining sober. For the first 24 hours of sobriety, the first 30 days, the first 60 days, etc, they're handed a token and celebrated. 

No matter what we're trying to overcome, walk through, conquer--why don’t we all give each other “I see you recovering and walking forward and I’m proud of you” tokens? I wish we did. We should. 

I wish I was better. 
Better at living, better at loving, better at surrendering, better at influencing, better better better. And I miss my un-scarred face and matching eyebrows and original teeth. 

But God isn’t wishing.
He’s delighting. 
In me, right now, scarred and giving the dentist my money, and still so far from where I should be—-my Maker is delighting in me.

In the process, He loves us. 

Some things take a long time to heal. That's what I'm finding out. Not just with a "failed" root canal (that's how the dentist put it) but with failed marriages, failed friendships, failed therapy sessions, failed jobs, failed (insert whatever you want). 

"Your wounds will heal and be scars that tell a story," my sister told me seven years ago, as the new deep red indentions on my face glowed back at me in the mirror. She was right. They've healed-- those deep red indentions have faded into scars and I'm telling their story. But what about when the root canal fails? What about when we go back to the awful habit we left? What about when we're terribly disappointed in who we've become? 

I've been reading Luke 15:20 to myself and to my friends in rehab and we're in awe that this is the God-Dad we have. 

So he (the selfish son who wasted his inheritance on a wild good time and was now dirt poor and smelling like the hogs he'd been feeding) got up and went to his father (because he thought if he begged hard enough, his dad might let him work as a hired hand).
But while he was still a long way off, his father (who had already forgiven his son and was dreaming of hugging him again) saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
And I'm guessing the dad got the stink of hogs rubbed all over him. But he didn't mind a bit. 

 Nothing helps us recover like letting our Maker sprint to us, kiss us, hug us tight and throw us a party, no matter how we're smelling. 

Jesus told this story to teach us what God is like. Not mean, not disappointed, not bummed at us. But sprinting! With mercy! And in love with us!
And ready, at all times, to give us hugs and kisses. 
And to give us celebratory recovery chips.
Oh oh oh He’s better than we know. 
Better better better.

We don't have to hide in shame, wallowing around in the mistakes we made--we can approach Him with the stench of our decisions rolling off of us, just as we are. 
And we don't have to strive to get Him to accept us, laboring hard enough to get Him to tolerate us again--He's already in love with us.

I'm so relieved. 

Luke 15:20--
Get it in our hearts, God.
You’re nicer than we’ve ever imagined.

The holy God who runs to His messed-up kids.    

No matter where we're at right now, giving a dentist our cash or trying to get over an addiction that keeps seducing our tired hearts or simply disappointed in our process--we have a Maker who wants to hug us and kiss us. And that place, getting hugged and kissed by Him, is the place where we recover. 

August 25. 
I'm still alive.
Jesus is my recovery

A few thousand bucks later.
My fake teeth are doing great, infection-free

And not to brag, but the dentist office is blowing up a picture of me and my fake teeth and hanging it in their hallway gallery. It's like God's handing me a celebration recovery coin.