A Stranger to Your Holiness

Below are the lyrics to a CCM song that I listened to over and over, circa 1982-83. The album is Steve Camp‘s, “Shake Me to Wake Me“, and there are several songs of reasonable significance on it.  Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy, if you should find one, I’d be happy to take it off your hands.  You’d make this “Jesus Freak” a happy man. Even if you can’t do YouTube, I encourage you to read these lyrics as if it were a poem.

Lyrics to “Stranger To Your  Holiness,”  by Steve Camp

Looks like the boy’s in trouble again
Living much too close to the edge of sin
Now he finds himself where he should not have been
Oh God, why is Your peace so hard to find
And the answer to the questions that haunt my mind
Oh Lord, Your ways are not like mine
And it pounds like thunder within in my breast
All the anger of my humanness
And though I call You “Lord” I must confess
I’m a stranger to Your holiness, a stranger to Your holiness
Can we really be what we were meant to be
Jesus’ people, living by the Spirit and living free
My heart longs to serve, but wanders so aimlessly
Oh Lord You deserve every part of me
Hear my cry of desperation as I see the wickedness of my ways
You alone are my salvation, and Lord I’ve learned this one thing to be true
Is that the closer I get to You, I see I’m a stranger (to Your holiness)
Don’t wanna be no stranger, and it burns like a fire…

As I follow Jesus as His simple disciple, I’m very aware of the issues that tangle me. It is like a net that drops and I get quite caught in it. But we really are asked to shake these things off. In 35 years of following Him, I find my personal sin is more clear to me then ever as I follow Him. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” Lord hold me close as you continue to deal with me.

“Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. 2We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.”

Hebrews 12:1-2, CEV

Mr. Camp reaches into places that the average Christian musician misses, and communicates relevance to all those who seek His face.  This particular song has a lyrical integrity and sensitivity that makes it stellar.  As I ponder the words I find myself with someone who understands me and my issues.  I hope this blesses.

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Karma, Grace and Bono

Bono_U2_360_Tour_2011
Bono/U2 360 Tour 2011

Bono, on God’s grace:

“At the center of all religions is the idea of karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… It’s clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that “As you reap so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

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I think ‘fallen men’  automatically try to convert God’s grace to a thing more palatable. We gravitate to making it work; we feel that He expects us to do this, at least. Grace is not logical, and that makes it hard to explain. The fact that we have received a gift of grace grates at our very core.

But we can only enter His kingdom by grace alone.

We deserve nothing, but are made sons and daughters anyway. Karma is what we want. We understand it; It makes logical sense. We have settled on this in our minds. We have the hardest time accepting this grace. For the most part, we believe we are saved by grace through faith, but we often think we must work things out ourselves. He saves us, and we ‘reason out’ we now have got to crank out something acceptable with the ‘rest of our lives.’

We want to prove we are worthy, by our good deeds. But God’s grace is radical, and we are saved by grace– being saved, and we will be saved by grace alone. We will start and finish by His mercy and grace, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

8 “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT

We can only enter His kingdom by grace alone.

I desperately want grace, and not karma. To a massive degree, I have this atrociously bad habit of sinning. I can find no comfort in sanctification by my effort. I’m not consistent enough, strong enough, or good enough to enter in on my own merits. I must have God’s grace or I’ll be lost. What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?”

Psalm 116:12

The person who has been serving the Lord for 70 years still must come into the Kingdom by grace and mercy. All of their accumulated good deeds, and saintly demeanor cannot purchase their salvation. God’s grace through faith is the ‘narrow way’ to life. Just give me Jesus.

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The Man Called Cash

Johnny Cash
1932-2003

My favorite musical artist of all time is Johnny Cash. You will find frequent mention of him on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog.

There are only a handful of his songs that I don’t like. Of course, I love all the gospel music he recorded. But I also love everything from Cry, Cry, Cry to Cocaine to T for Texas to Hung My Head to his rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt and Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus. His music covers the whole spectrum of real human existence. Many of his songs bring tears to my eyes every time I hear them.

But as great as his music is, the reason I love Johnny Cash has just as much to do with his life and his witness to the grace and redemptive power of Christ. I have read two of his biographies and several essays about him in a book of collected essays. I also have a graphic novel about his life that I recently purchased (though I haven’t read it yet), and have read the introduction to his novel The Man in White. He lived a fascinating and tumultuous life.

For anyone interested in the life of a legend who is nonetheless an incredibly “real” person with struggles and trials just like the rest of us, I recommend The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love, and Faith of an American Legend by Steve Turner. This book is a meticulously researched and well-written account from which even those who knew Johnny well would likely learn something about him that they didn’t know before. Starting almost at the end, with the death of June Carter, and then winding his way through the early years, the middle years, and everything in between, Turner reveals a man who knew God as only a sinner can.

This book includes two awesome sections of black and white photos from Johnny’s life, as well as the unedited text of an interview Turner conducted with Johnny in 1988, a chronology of June and Johnny’s lives, a complete discography, and an index. But these are all just icing on the cake of a story that will bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your heart.

One of my favorite stories of redemption is about the time Johnny crawled into Nickajack Cave, thirty miles from Chattanooga, with the plan to never come out.

He believed that if he crawled in far enough, he’d be unable to find his way out. When he starved to death it would look like a tragic accident.”

In 1995 he [Johnny] told the writer Nick Tosches:

“It just felt like I was at the end of the line. I was down there by myself and I got to feelin’ that I’d taken so many pills that I’d done it, that I was gonna blow up or something. I hadn’t eaten in days, I hadn’t slept in days, and my mind wasn’t workin’ too good anyway. I couldn’t stand myself anymore. I wanted to get away from me. And if that meant dyin’, then okay, I’m ready. I just had to get away from myself. I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I didn’t think there was any other way. I took a flashlight with me, and I said, I’m goin’ to walk and crawl and climb into this cave until the light goes out, and then I’m gonna lie down. So I crawled in there with that flashlight until it burned out and I lay down to die. I was a mile in that cave. At least a mile. But I felt this great comfortin’ presence sayin’, “No, you’re not dyin’.” I got things for you to do. So I got up, found my way out. Cliffs, ledges, drop-offs. I don’t know how I got out, ‘cept God got me out.

Turner, pg. 119.

And God did have things for Johnny to do. He had to show the world how even someone as strung out on drugs as he was could be redeemed by the grace of God. He had to show that despite our faults and weaknesses – or maybe because of them – God loves each and every one of us. He may have been a music legend, but he was never afraid to use his talent to glorify God and to share the gospel. His was a life of redemption and grace well worth reading about. If you think your life isn’t worth living or that God can’t possibly love you or redeem you, read about the life of one who was chief among sinners but who was saved by grace.

As a bonus to go along with this book review of his biography I want to share this video of the song “Singer of Songs” by Johnny Cash. It is a great synopsis of the purpose God had for his life and how he fulfilled it. He truly was a singer of songs about life, love, death, birth, God, and more. I suspect he’s still singing today at the throne of the King.

Love you, Linda K.

Nothing New Under the Sun

sun1This post is one that I posted at my own blog over three years ago, but watching Pr. Lowe share his story so honestly here reminded me of it, and so I decided to share it. I know his story is one that has blessed others; I know because I am one of those people who have been blessed by his honesty and faith.

What’s your story? I know you have one; we all do. But a more important question is: Have you shared your story with anyone? So often we don’t. Even when someone asks, “How are you?” or “What’s going on with you?”, we answer with platitudes like, “I’m fine” or “Not much.” We do this even when it is not true, even when we are not fine or a multitude of stressful situations are plaguing us.

A Facebook friend posted as her status one day that everyone lies, and the biggest lie we tell is “I’m fine.” But why do we do that? Why don’t we share our story with others? I believe there are two reasons, both rooted in fear to some extent.

First, we think our story is ordinary. We are afraid that others will be bored by what we have to say about what’s going on in our lives. Sometimes this might be true, sometimes the person we are speaking with won’t really care enough to truly listen or will be bored. Dwight Yoakam sings a song called “Sorry You Asked” that exemplifies this concern:

You’ll be sorry you asked
me the reason
That she’s not here with
me tonight
And I know you were
probably just acting polite
But you’ll be sorry you
ever asked why

We think people are just acting polite when they ask how we are, and don’t really want to know the truth. But often that is not the case, at least not if you are hanging out with people who care about you.

Second, we think we are the only ones going through whatever difficulty we are experiencing. We are afraid that others will look down on us for the situation we are in or the trial we are experiencing. We are afraid they will think we are weird or worse. But seldom are we the only ones who have experienced the trial we are currently experiencing or have gone through in the past. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.

The truth is our shared stories are what bring us together in community. I believe God allows us to experience trials that He knows we can handle so that we can then be an encouragement to others in a similar situation. If you have had a miscarriage, chances are at least one of the other women in your circle of friends has had one, too, and could use some support and encouragement. If you have suffered from depression and recovered, odds are you will encounter someone else who is struggling with this problem who could benefit from your understanding. If you have lost a loved one, I would venture that many of the people you know have lost someone, too, and could find hope in the fact that you have survived this ordeal. (As a side note, all three of these circumstances are part of my story.)

I could go on and on with examples, but the specific examples are not the point. It is the fact that we are all the same in so many ways. We are not alone and need not feel alone. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Solomon wrote:

9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

10 If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

So go ahead, just like the character in Dwight’s song, share your story. Tell your friends how you really are, the genuine struggles you are facing, and the frustrations you are dealing with. Who knows, you just might help them feel less afraid and alone about their own trials, or you might encounter someone who is willing to share with you their story of hope and healing that you desperately need to hear.

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