in the lifeboat, now what?

For those of you that know all too well the experience of facing the inevitable this blog post is for you. To gently encourage you to not fear the storm. Life falls a part and unravels. Sometimes that is by our own choices and sometimes we are shaken by life’s altering circumstances. Maybe you think you are never going to be courageous and yet you took or are taking the most courageous steps of your life. You climbed into the life boat and now feel utterly exposed. When you leave the life as you have known it and look ahead to the unknown an unimaginable fear will set in. The unraveling can be some of the most beautiful moments you will experience. How can “the tearing away” be beautiful? It is in the tearing away that God is most real. When God does the tearing it is for the sole purpose of exposing you and me in the light of His holiness and His love.

All through the Old Testament there are examples of overwhelming circumstances and the response of tearing their clothes. Why is this practice mentioned throughout scripture? What was it about tearing one’s clothes that signified deep grief or sadness? Why did they do it? The answer has everything to do with the economics of ancient days, clothing was a very valuable commodity. Nothing was mass-produced. Clothes were time-intensive and expensive, which meant that most people in those days only had a very limited wardrobe. For that reason, people who tore their clothes were showing just how upset they felt inside. By damaging one of their more important and expensive possessions, they reflected the depth of their emotional pain.
This idea was magnified when people chose to put on “sackcloth” after tearing their regular clothes. Sackcloth was a coarse and scratchy material that was very uncomfortable. Again, people put on sackcloth as a way to externally display the discomfort and pain they felt inside. (www.bible.about.com)

Some of you are reading this and the last sentence hit so close to home that you trembled: “people put on sackcloth as a way to externally display the discomfort and pain they felt inside”. Your pain is great! Your discomfort is chronic! When the soul is unraveling it is painful. There is no other way to describe it. When we make the choice to climb in the lifeboat and break free of living a life of hypocrisy and false thinking and a faulty belief system then we are being made ready for the unraveling. Just as the people of Israel would at times tear their clothes, a valued item, to express that their pain was greater than what was valued; we also are faced with the choice of tearing away what we deem valuable. A crisis always demands “the tearing away”.

However, there is a second type of tearing away. Matthew 27 gives the account of Christ’s death on the cross and there is a pivotal moment when God does the tearing. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” This curtain separated the Holy of Holies and was only accessible by the priest once a year for the atonement of sins. (Exodus 30; I Kings 6) But on this day, the darkest day in history, God did the tearing apart. When God chooses to do the tearing it is for the purpose to bring us to Him.

When we do the tearing it will reveal our pain. When God does the tearing it is to heal our pain.

So as you sit in your “lifeboat” and you are torn away from life as you knew it and the pain of the tearing is more than you can bear; intrust yourself to the ONE who tears things for the purpose of healing and to bring us to Himself.

My dear friend, Shelly Moore, wrote and recorded the song, “Unraveling”. Her words say it all so well.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=RDUQR1d2rdMDY&v=UQR1d2rdMDY

You have taken me apart at the seams
You have brought me to where I’m on my last string
Unraveling

I’ve looped the rabbit’s hole around the tree
Trying to ordain the life that’s best for me
All my knots were tied, my bows fell perfectly
Now I’m unraveling

I’ve heard You say
Wait for a better day
There is purpose
Even in the midst of this
And just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow
I’ll get you through the night

Broken hearts are the disease of a broken world
Full of people who have locked away the hurt
But the Healer of it all is at His work
In our unraveling

Yes, I’ve found hope that stays around
And I’ve got peace that lets me wait this thing out
Just hold me while I await release, please>

when the unseen cannot be hidden

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

As the months have gone by I have struggled in walking in obedience to telling my story. Why? It is painful. It is personal. I fear the scars I have will be judged. However, the Lord will not let it go and in obedience I step out trusting the One who led me through the pain the first time will give the grace I need to open up about the pain this time.

I have discovered over the last five years that it is only God that gives purpose to our pain. The pain Jesus suffered on the cross not only has purpose, it has great significance too. We glory in His suffering on the cross because it benefits our soul. Yet, we struggle to see His glory in our suffering because we desperately desire to be comfortable.

It is our desire to be comfortable or pretending to be comfortable that can lead to dangerous places. During these next several weeks or months, however long it takes me, I want to be transparent, using wisdom to address what should be addressed, and challenging the “lifeboat syndrome” among Christians today. (Lifeboat Syndrome is my personal made up term.) what do I mean?

Maybe you have been on a cruise ship and one of the first things you do is know where the lifeboats are located, how to get to the lifeboats quickly and effectively and how to wear the life jacket. It has been years since I have been on a cruise and so I am not sure if they continue that same safety speech or not. Nevertheless, if you are on a ship, you are all the wiser if you know how and where to get on the lifeboat. How crazy and irrational would it be if the ship you were on began to sink and you ran for the lifeboat and as you climbed in you immediately felt judged, ridiculed, misunderstood, and embarrassed. You realized there were only a few of you that had chosen the lifeboat option and the ones that remained on the ship seemed confident that the choice you were making was wrong. You heard the ones outside the lifeboat saying, “Have more faith”, “Read your Bible more”, “Pretend that everything is alright”, “We don’t see the problem so you must be over-reacting”. The confidence in the decision you are making to abandon the sinking ship for your own safety is now turning into confusion.

This is the struggle of the church. How do I know? As a counselor and one that has gone to counseling – I have sat in both chairs. I see it from the counseling side and I see if from the perspective of one seeking guidance. Just as Proverbs 11:14 states, “there is safety in a multitude of counselors”. Why do we shame those that seek it out. Why isn’t the church removing the stigma that the world has placed on mental health care? More importantly, why is the church helping place that stigma on those that seek help and desire to be “normal” and “better”.

You see, in 2008, I began to pray desperately for truth to be revealed in my own situation. My pain became greater than my fear and I no longer asked for relief, I begged for revelation. I knew things were not “normal” in my marriage. I had known it for several years. I too lived a long time refusing to get on the lifeboat because I thought if I pretended well and protected my image then the gaping hole in my marriage would never be noticed. In other words, I knew deep down that the lifeboat was there but to climb into that lifeboat meant I no longer participated in the games of denial, avoidance, pretending, and an unhealthy system. The hypocrisy I have to admit is I represented the lifeboat to many people by my own profession: counselor. However, I had to face the ugly truth that I believed the lifeboat was for “those other people”. I was afraid to enter the lifeboat myself.

Chronic pain of the soul will do one of two things: drive you to get in the lifeboat or jump ship in a reckless manner. Either way, your pain will become greater than your fear. The choice is what that pain drives you to do. I remember the day, I chose to climb into the lifeboat. What I didn’t expect is all that happened when I was in the lifeboat and on my way to safety.

Desperate!

I met a wonderful young woman by phone recently and during our conversation she asked me how I stood so strong during my own crisis and why my faith seemed unshakable. This is not the first time I have been asked something similar. Only recently have I mustered up the courage to tell my story. To be honest, I haven’t truly known exactly how to answer the kind of question like the one the voice on the other end of the phone asked. However, earlier that day I had been reading in the Gospels about the woman who had a horrendous bleeding issue and made her way through the crowd to get to Jesus. Her desperation gave her the courage she needed to reach out and touch the hem of his garment.

Seconds after my new friend had asked me the sobering question, I realized I did know how to answer. I responded to her question and said, “I wasn’t strong. In fact my faith was weak. The only think I was during those 32 months was desperate.” I told her that my pain had finally outweighed my fears. I became desperate for Jesus. Just like that woman centuries ago that made her way through the crowd not caring if she was seen or if she touched anyone. She knew she was considered unclean. She understood that other people did not want anything to do with her. But eventually desperation overshadows the label you wear and the truth of your condition. You get desperate! She had already done all that she could do and had spent all her money on physicians. She was out of resources and out of answers. I wonder how many things, potions, herbs, and crazy ideas she had attempted in hopes to be healed and return to a normal way of living. When desperation takes over, all those things simply do not matter.

My desperation to be made whole drove me to Jesus. My desperation gave me courage for others to see my pain. My desperation completely focused my heart on HIM and I didn’t see anyone else. It wasn’t that I didn’t care what others thought, I simply could not let anything keep me from getting to Jesus. I became focused. All that mattered was getting to the One who could make me whole and heal my broken heart and spirit.

If I had stood strong and my faith had been unshakable, would I have been desperate? Would I been willing to risk being exposed? Would I have been willing to get to Jesus no matter what and seek Him to heal me in His time and His way? Probably not. Unfortunately, I would have depended on me and my resources and my way. But pain can make one severely desperate. I am so grateful that I had the faith to be desperate for Jesus.

Here’s how to WIN A COPY of Joy’s book Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis To Credibility
give your review of the book on Amazon and your name will be chosen from the list of those that have written reviews The drawing will be April 25. You have time to order the book and read it and review it.
Ready… Set… Read… Review!

A letter for our wedding

Many of you heard this letter first hand and continue to comment on what was read. There are some of you that are curious about the letter that was read at our wedding. Brody and his family were not able to attend our wedding. This letter was gentle in tone and bold with the challenge of the Gospel:

“Let me start by saying that it is a little unnerving writing to a writer, giving counsel to a counselor, and pastoral direction to a pastor. Thanks for making me loose a little sleep guys. But to be honest, I am honored to take part in this day. I remember doing a wedding of a young couple where I shared in the leading of that wedding with an older pastor. It was one of my first weddings, and I was ready to learn. He was to open up the ceremony with a few comments for the young couple, and I was eager to hear what he had to say. He had been a pastor for years, and I was excited to gain insight from such a seasoned and patriarchal man of The Faith. I had enjoyed spending a little time with him at the rehearsal, and he seemed to possess a wisdom that a younger man like me needed to learn from. As he opened up the ceremony, I was anticipating the wisdom of a half-century of ministry, marriage, and life. He began by saying, “The most important thing you can know and do as you prepare for and head in to this marriage, is communication. Marriages that last, last because of strong communication. Marriages that fail, fail because of a failure to communicate. If you can learn to communicate well, you will be successful in marriage, and will live a long and healthy marriage.” I was confused. Communication? I mean I understand that it is vitally important and that marriages often suffer because of a lack of it. But, the one most important thing to tell someone in preparing them for the most sacred of all earthly institutions? Really? Then, the real bomb:

“And if could give you any advice on solving arguments, I would tell you to always take your clothes off in order to argue. This will make things seem almost ridiculous.”

I am serious. This was his “great” counsel. Ridiculous? I think that word better describes this man’s advice on marriage. As men and women of God, the most important thing we can learn about marriage comes from Christ, and the way he loved the church. He loves the church sacrificially, and gave himself to die and suffer for his bride. If I have learned, and continue to learn, anything about marriage, it is that marriage is a call to die. It is a call to be crucified with Christ, and not to crucify my wife on the altar of my on selfish wants or my own petty needs. If marriage is to be successful in the eyes of God, then it needs to reflect the Gospel. This is what scripture teaches, and scripture is THE authority under which our marriages must live. This is what moves a marriage from surviving, to thriving. The question I would continually challenge you guys with is, “How does our marriage reflect the Gospel-saturated love of Christ?”
Pursue that end. Strive for that kind of marriage. This is our great calling in marriage.

Jeff, I want to challenge you personally, as a man, to realize that you are not Joy, Meighan, and Caid’s personal savior. That job is taken. We are to live, in rebellion against Adam’s rebellion, as men who imitate Christ. Work and keep the garden of your own marriage. This is where the first man failed, and where Christ gives us hope. HE, is the savior of your family. Adam was unable to be or do what Christ did. In fact, it was Adam’s failure as a man and husband that led to Christ’s mission of saving a bride for himself. Live as God’s man for this family. As he leads you, submit daily to his word, and live under that authority. This will enable you and empower you to love Joy and the kids, like Christ. We do not stand in authority over God’s Word, but we live under it. We do not master it, but are mastered by it. Live as a man wrecked by the Gospel, and the Word of God, and you will not wreck you marriage, and family. This family was wounded, and Christ is healing them, and you are a massive part of that. Your submission to The Lord is vital to the completion of that healing. I am excited for you, and so confident that God has called you to this.

Joy, I would say to you that you can unclench your fists. You can stop living in a tense, braced, state. You have had to defend, protect, shelter, and guard your family. You have been both a mother and a father. You have been a pastor and a soldier. You have filled the roles God calls husbands and fathers to, while remaining the caregiver and mother and woman who honors her family by honoring Christ. You have done well. It has been a blessing to take part, in the healing process God has taken you through.
But now you are also a wife. This means you are not only Meighan and Caid’s mom, but you are Jeff’s wife. You have seen God’s faithfulness to your kids. This marriage, I believe, is your picture of God’s faithfulness to you, AND your kids. With Jeff, you will have to let your guard down, and learn to trust in areas of your life where you watched trust murdered and abandoned. But Jesus has taught you what trust really looks like, and, as he has been your true husband, so he must continue to be. Jeff is part of that plan, but he is not THE plan. Christ still is. So surrender yourself daily to Christ, and love your husband and kids, as Christ loves them through you.

And to Meighan and Caid, I want to tell you guys that what you are watching unfold, here, is an answer to a prayer that I have heard you pray and watched you long for, for the last three years. God is healing your family. But it is God who is doing that, not Jeff. He is a gift from the Lord, but he is not THE gift. Jesus is. You have learned, as hard as it has been, that Jesus is enough. And he still is. Long before you met Jeff, you had already seen what marriage is supposed to look like. You saw it in the way Christ loved your mom, and the way He loved both of you. If you continue to put all of your trust in The Lord, then you will enjoy the life he has now led the four of you into. If you do not, you will be disappointed. Because Jeff, your mom, and each of you will make mistakes, but Jesus won’t. He said he would never leave you or forsake you and he won’t. You have watched that become a reality in your life over the last few years.

Lastly, to those of you who are here today, you have a job. You are not here as spectators, or to enjoy a meal at Jeff’s expense, or to compliment or gossip about the choice of colors or dresses. You are here today because as a community of believers, we are saying to Jeff, Joy, Meighan, and Caid, “We agree with this marriage.” With that agreement comes the responsibility to pray for them, support them, and be here for them. Don’t come, watch, leave, and ignore. But rather, let’s love these guys well. They deserve and need it. Anyone who is married knows this.

One day Meighan and her husband, and Caid and his wife will walk down this isle, or one just like it. What they see today, and what they see between now and then will redeem much for them, and show them the way. That is part of our jobs as parents, anyway. We are to show the way. This day is not the beginning of that. From day one Jeff expressed the desire to example godly pursuit and courtship of a woman, by a man. I can give testimony to the faithfulness of that commitment, as so many who are gathered here today can as well.

So from Uganda, Africa, the Holloway family (Planet Holloway) rejoices with you this day. All seven of us. We love you and look forward to the years of sharing ministry and life together.”

Fatten Your Soul

I think it is safe to say that most of us in the midst of a crisis have a deep desire to make the right choices and do the right things. The challenge is to “not proceed rashly.” In other words, we must be extremely attentive to our souls, so that we do not become careless and impetuous. Carelessness can be a result of fatigue. It can also be
a result of an ungrateful heart. Can gratefulness be an active attitude in the individual’s life which has come undone? Can the fatigue of the soul be so real that one makes impulsive decisions with hopes to ease if not heal the pain? Yes.

Carelessness can get the best of us sometimes. It did for Moses in Numbers 20. Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had explicitly directed. Moses gave into frustration and he was careless with the Lord’s instruction. Sometimes we can crave relief from the circumstances so much that we overlook the moment-by-moment importance of trusting God’s best in every way he may direct us.

Numbers 11 also gives a vivid story of ungratefulness and its results. Hardship can bring out the worst in us at times. God’s people had seen God’s power and were experiencing his care and provision daily. However, the everyday wear and tear of hardship can put us in the place to give in to carelessness. The beginning of the end began with ungratefulness. ungratefulness will affect others and ungratefulness is not an attitude you can keep to yourself. Manna was given to the Israelites daily, in amounts sufficient to meet each day’s needs. The Lord had daily given the Israelites what they needed to sustain them. Yet, they wanted to eat something different. The complaining took root and developed an ungratefulness that affected everyone around them, including Moses. However, God gave the Israelites what they wanted. Knowing that it would be no good to them and it would not bring satisfaction, the Lord gave them what they asked for. Not only did the Lord give them what they wanted but he gave them more than they wanted. They became sick with what they had begged for. The result was that the selfish desire led to their physical deaths. There are times when, if we are not careful, we will be driven by ungratefulness and receive what we want. Our wants will never satisfy. But accepting how the Lord meets our needs will always satisfy and sustain us.

The psalmist wrote a brief reflection on Numbers 11 and summed it up best in Psalm 106:15: “And he gave them their
request, but sent leanness into their soul” (NKJV). I understand the weariness of living every day in crisis mode. I understand the longing of your heart to want something and anything other than what you have right now. However, I hope you realize that the Lord is the only one who sustains you. He is giving you exactly what you
need to bring you to the place of healing. He is providing for you in the midst of your great pain. Resist the temptation to complain, and become ungrateful. Instead, press on and pursue him who will fatten your soul with the truth of his Word. Stand firm in the promises of the God who can and will provide for you.

This is an excerpt from Joy’s book: Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility. You can pre-order your copy at Amazon.com

Give Thanks (for the Unraveling)

Life falls apart. You wake up and hours later as you climb back into your bed you know a crisis hit your life and you will never be the same. You are in an emotional free fall. Your head is still spinning from the last several days and hours during which you saw your life completely change. You know you have been freefalling, and then there is a moment when you realize someone is holding you. You will not be destroyed.

Recently a friend of ours who is fighting cancer said to me, “Sometimes it is very hard to see the purpose of the unraveling and can take along time as well. For me I’ve found out God lets our life get hit with some bad stuff to see just how real we are, it’s real easy to praise and love your life when there is no problems, but how do you respond when your life falls apart. I think the unraveling can be the greatest blessing God ever gives to you”.

As I have pondered my friend’s words, I have been challenged by his words. He is seeing his own unraveling as a blessing from the Lord. What a perspective. What a declaration of God’s authority! As we enter into this time of Thanksgiving I wonder if we can truly be thankful for the unraveling. We want to count our blessings. Can we count the ones that have only come through the unraveling? Can you and I really thank the Lord for the pain that He has allowed. ? Can we say as Job said, Though He slay me, yet I will praise Him. (Job 13:15)

When crisis hits hard, the comfort found in God’s truth is like fresh air. Knowing the same El Roi who met Hagar in the desert is the God Who Sees Me . Realizing the same Jehovah-Shammah found in Ezekiel is the same God, the Lord is there. Resting in Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that heals will heal hearts—your heart and my heart. God has not changed. God cannot change. Everything else can and will change. Maybe this is one of the purposes for crisis, to begin to understand and accept change and when everything has changed and fallen apart, you find the only ONE who is unchanging desires for us to know Him.

Please pray for and encourage the Dean family. Eddie and his wife are sweet friends of our family. It is Eddie’s words I quoted in my blog post today. you can find them online at https://www.facebook.com/groups/404916262962167/

He never will let go of you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB1NJV3rG6k