Dancing With Bruises

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Bruises seem to be part of life’s package to us. Some will be serious, most minor. But each are noted, and some will just have to be endured.

Dancers are some of the most wonderful people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. I know this is far from easy. By choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain. Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some must live with chronic tendinitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion. Two things to consider.

  • They choose to dance. Dancers have an iron-will and a elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance.
  • The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” And they wouldn’t have it any other way. They would rather dance in pain, than not to dance at all.

Someone once compared depression as a “mental bruise.” I understand this. As depressed people, we must choose to walk out our lives from this pain. I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for several weeks. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt completely lost, and completely alone.

I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed. My sense of being totally lost was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering. And it is a hellish and desperate depression.dancer-feet

To my Christian friends. Yes, I believe Jesus died for all my sins. He has forgiven me of much evil, I know that will live for eternity (with you). But mental illness is real, and like other illnesses it seldom is caused by evil or Satan. We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. Now the dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. Satan just doesn’t have the spiritual “voltage.”

So, inspired by my dancing friends, and the Holy Spirit– I will make the choice to dance again. I’m pretty bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

Isaiah 42:3

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Still Figuring It All Out

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And I’m Still Learning

I’ve learned — 1
that you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.

I’ve learned — 2
that no matter how much I care,
some people just don’t care back.

I’ve learned — 3
that it takes years to build up trust,
and only seconds to destroy it.

I’ve learned — 4
that it’s not what you have in your life
but who you have in your life that counts.

I’ve learned — 5
that you can get by on charm
for about fifteen minutes.
After that, you’d better know something.

I’ve learned — 6
that you shouldn’t compare
yourself to the best others can do
but to the best you can do.

I’ve learned — 7
that it’s not what happens to people
that’s important. It’s what they do about it.

I’ve learned — 8
that you can do something in an instant
that will give you heartache for life.

I’ve learned — 9
that no matter how thin you slice it,
there are always two sides.

I’ve learned — 10
that it’s taking me a long time
to become the person I want to be.

I’ve learned — 11
that it’s a lot easier
to react than it is to think.

I’ve learned — 12
that you should always leave
loved ones with loving words.
It may be the last time you see them.

I’ve learned — 13
that you can keep going
long after you think you can’t.

I’ve learned — 14
that we are responsible for what we do,
no matter how we feel.

I’ve learned — 15
that either you control your attitude
or it controls you.

I’ve learned — 16
that regardless of how hot and steamy
a relationship is at first, the passion fades,
and there had better be
something else to take its place.

I’ve learned — 17
that heroes are the people
who do what has to be done
when it needs to be done,
regardless of the consequences.

I’ve learned — 18
that learning to forgive takes practice.
Yet it is always worth the work.

I’ve learned — 19
that there are people who love you dearly,
but just don’t know how to show it.
And, never bother to learn

I’ve learned — 20
that money is a lousy way of keeping score,
and an even poorer way of showing love.

I’ve learned — 21
that my best friend and I can do anything
or nothing and have the best time.

I’ve learned — 22
that sometimes the people you expect
to kick you when you’re down
will be the ones to help you get back up.

I’ve learned — 23
that sometimes when I’m angry
I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn’t give me
the right to be cruel.

I’ve learned — 24
that true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance…
and so does true love.

I’ve learned — 25
that just because someone doesn’t love you
the way you want them to, doesn’t mean
they don’t love you with all they have.

I’ve learned — 26
that maturity has more to do with
the way you handled experiences in life
and the lesson you learned from them,
and less to do with how many
birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I’ve learned — 27
that you should never tell a child
their dreams are unlikely or outlandish.
Few things are more humiliating, and
what a tragedy it would be
if they believed it.

I’ve learned — 28
that family doesn’t always mean biological.
Sometimes people you aren’t related to
can care and love you so much they
teach you to trust people all over again.

I’ve learned — 29
that no matter how good a friend is,
they’re going to hurt you
every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I’ve learned — 30
that it isn’t always enough
to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes you have to learn
to forgive yourself.

I’ve learned — 31
that no matter how bad
your heart is broken
the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I’ve learned — 32
that our background and circumstances
may have influenced who we are,
but we are responsible for who we become.

I’ve learned — 33
that sometimes when my friends fight,
I’m forced to choose sides
even when I don’t want to.

I’ve learned — 34
that just because two people argue,
it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other
And just because they don’t argue,
it doesn’t mean they do.

I’ve learned — 35
that sometimes you have to put
the individual ahead of their actions.

I’ve learned — 36
that we don’t have to change friends
if we understand that friends change.

I’ve learned — 37
that you shouldn’t be so
eager to find out a secret.
It could change your life forever.

I’ve learned — 38
that two people can look
at the exact same thing
and see something totally different.

I’ve learned — 39
that no matter how you try to protect
your children, they will eventually get hurt
and you will hurt in the process.

I’ve learned — 40
that there are many ways of falling
and staying in love.

I’ve learned — 41
that no matter the consequences,
those who are honest with themselves
get farther in life.

I’ve learned — 42
that no matter how many friends you have,
if you are their pillar you will feel lonely
and lost at the times you need them most.

I’ve learned — 43
that your life can be changed
in a matter of hours
by people who don’t even know you.

I’ve learned — 44
that even when you think
you have no more to give,
when a friend cries out to you,
you will find the strength to help.

I’ve learned — 45
that writing, as well as talking,
can ease emotional pains.

I’ve learned — 46
that credentials on the wall
do not make you a decent human being.

I’ve learned — 47
that the people you care most about in life
are taken from you too soon.

I’ve learned — 48
that although the word “love”
can have many different meanings,
it loses value when overly used.

I’ve learned — 49
that it’s hard to determine
where to draw the line
between being nice and
not hurting people’s feelings
and standing up for what you believe.

I’ve learned — 50
the feet you step on today
may be attached to the hand you’ll be
kissing tomorrow.

And….. I’m still learning.

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I’m not sure who wrote this, I can’t remember even where or how I found this. I’m not the author. But it is an excellent piece of thought, I really hope it blesses you– making you see your life through wisdom.

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Frederick

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Fredrick, the ‘prophetic’ mouse

I have always loved to read. I was given books by my mother, and these books were like gold. I had been a avid patron of the library, but terrible at returning books. I had pretty much been branded as “persona non grata” at the ripe old age of 12. (I think the librarians had orders to shoot to kill.)

I have fond memories of some fine books. But perhaps the most influential of them all was a title called, “Frederick” by Leo Lionni.  It won the ’68 Caldecott ‘back in the olden days.’ It very well could be one of best children’s books ever written. ( I realize now that many of these books that shaped me were prophetic in their own way.)

We see Frederick, who is a young field mouse, off on excursion to find food with his four brothers. They must fill their pantry for the cold winter that’s coming. They are quite successful (it appears) and all seems well.

However, there is a bit of a problem with Frederick. While the other mice are ‘busting their mouse-butts’ he sits quietly thinking. They question him repeatedly, trying to motivate him (or shame him perhaps?)  There seems to be a general consensus against him, which is verging on open warfare.

But Frederick insists that he is needed to do this. He says that he is ‘working’. He is collecting sunlight, absorbing it until it’s needed.  He absorbs colors, and then words. He just seems soak up these really wonderful experiences, and he seems a bit “clueless” (that’s not the right word), maybe a bit “preoccupied.”frederick_poetry

Finally in the dead of winter, sheltered deep underground, their supplies are running low. One of the mice turns to Frederick, and asks him to share what he has collected. And he does precisely that. They sit in a circle and Frederick shares the sunlight, and the rich colors and the beautiful words he has stored up for them. Their little ‘mouse-hearts’ are deeply touched by Frederick’s contribution.

In so many ways, this has become a parable, or metaphor of my life. As a eight year old, I could hardly have foreseen how my life would unfold. I do however had a deep sense of being different, even then. My mental illness, mixed with being “gifted”, and then combined with being isolated and impoverished, worked in me.

Essentially, we all are products of our personal history.  What we have experienced good or bad develops us.  It did me.  I think what “Frederick” wants to do for us is to process uniqueness, giftings and steadfastness.  One of the things that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me for the last few years is this, “Bryan, can you receive the giftedness of other believers?”

We really must make room for “Fredericks” and what they can bring to us.  We will be drastically weakened if we won’t– or can’t.  Jesus faced a ton of resistance as He began to minister.  There is nothing new about that.  But it didn’t touch His spirit.

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Rembrandt’s Meditation on the Younger Son

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Painting by Renbrandt, 1606-1669
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Three hundred and twenty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 329 words reveal to us a God who forgives much, and loves easily; the Father loves far too much, way too easy— and far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son— at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, some  of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the slop pails for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. But there comes this crystalline moment of amazing clarity. The prodigal—filthy and impoverished, has  a memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him. Sometimes in our captivity we instinctively want to go home, if only to be a slave.

The Father has dreamed of this moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more . It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring you for just a few moments back into its light. I expect that the Holy Spirit may have business with you. rembrandt-prodigal3 (1)

We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. His head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal before, when he was considerable younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is charming young man at a happy party. But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting us.

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