Kissing Crooked Lips

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“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Luke 7:34

God in some profound way, accommodates Himself to your ‘sickness.’ He will turn away from you.

We find that He has this beautiful quality about Him–He becomes quite tender and gentle around any spiritual disease. He gravitates to the broken ones. His love for sinners is a well-established fact we must consider frequently.

In his book Mortal Lessons (Touchstone Books, 1987) physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed surgery on a young woman’s face:

“I stand by the bed where the young woman lies. . . her face, postoperative . . . her mouth twisted in palsy . . . clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut this little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight . . . isolated from me . . private.”

“Who are they? I ask myself . . .

“He and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously. The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “it’s kind of cute.” All at once, I know who he is.”

“I understand, and I lower my gaze.”

“One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers. . . to show her that their kiss still works.”

This is who Jesus has always been to you!

And if you think you are getting to be a great kisser or are looking desirable, I feel sorry for you. For it’s He who wraps himself around our hurts, our brokenness, and our ugly, our ever-present sin.

Those of you who want to draw big, dark lines between my humanity and my sin, go right ahead, but I’m not joining you. And I don’t really understand.

I need Jesus so much to love me like I really am: brokenness, memories, wounds, sins, addictions, lies, death, fear….all of it. (Take all it, Lord Jesus.) If I don’t present this broken, messed-up person to Jesus, my faith is dishonest, and my understanding of it will become a way of continuing the ruse and pretense of being “good.”

God truly loves the unlovely.

He is wildly passionate about those who have been disfigured by sin. Those who turn with pretense find a sort of ‘spiritual Botox’ that can only hide their blemishes. But by coming to him with all we can muster we’ll find healing and acceptance.

You see, you’re the young woman in this story. The kisses of your Savior are yours. Unconditionally. And forever.

For some reason, He delights in kissing crooked lips.

Standing With Her in the Rain

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“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2, NLT

By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author

Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.

Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.

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My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry, and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.

A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.

It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.

I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.

I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.

There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place:

We stand with them in the rain.

Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis.

Dying to Self

You will never have resurrection power unless there is crucifixion weakness. 

In this particular post, we’re looking at an element of Christian discipleship that ties us all together. It’s our common denominator as His disciples. We must learn to die to ourselves to be faithful. There can be no obedience unless we choose to carry our cross to a place of death.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.”

Galatians 5:24

But what does that look like? How can I know that I’m really doing this? Maybe this will guide you. I think it’s worth prayerful consideration

 

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By no means is this list exhaustive. Hardly. But you know that may be good. The principle of crucifying self then has the room to fit all areas of your life–the core idea of self-renunciation becomes the way your spirit operates.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:27

We deny ourselves so real life can begin. There isn’t any other way to follow Him.

We must go to the cross daily in order to find our life. That is the way. “This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him we will also live with him.”

2 Timothy 2:11

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A Very Dark Room

“Must I then, indeed,  Pain, live with you

All through my life? –sharing my fire, my bed,

And, when I feed myself, feeding you, too?”

 Edna St. Vincent Millay

The critical issue many face is just trying to survive the next episode of depression or mania.  Somehow I think that cohabitating with something that is trying to kill you is especially disturbing.  Depression is my mortal enemy and here I am, giving in and actually allowing it to destroy me. How crazy is that?

In a way, it seems sinister, the hair-raising stuff of scary movies. It’s the parasite that makes its residence in the body of its host.  (It sounds like a storyline out of Star Trek.) Some of us get absorbed into a dark melancholy. We instinctively carry despair and despondency wherever we go. It’s hard, but I really believe it’s crucial for afflicted believers to begin to worship again (and again.)

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.

When my depression slumbers, life proceeds fairly well.  I can play with my kids, and be a good husband, friend, and neighbor.  Everything seems quiet and normal.  But when the dragon awakes, watch out, there’s going to be ‘hell to pay.’  There were many terrible, dark days that I simply couldn’t get out of bed. I was plagued with awful, dark thoughts. Meds didn’t seem to help me. I felt completely lost.

Depression might strike at any time, and exactly when, you can never be too sure. “How will I handle it next time? Will I be in shape for Christmas, or will I lose it again this year? I just don’t know.” That’s the depressive way. But you know, the Holy Spirit ministers yet, and He will touch my heart again. He gently cares for the depressed.

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,”

2 Corinthians 7:6

My wife and I were missionaries in Mexico for almost three years.  We lived in a “burnt out” and very small trailer, with very sporadic electricity, and no running water. We had a 55-gallon drum for our drinking water, and we tried our best to avoid the mosquito larvae. And part of that time we had to park on the slanted slopes of a volcano. I always wondered what we would do if it decided to erupt.

Sometimes it feels like that, I’m just waiting for the next flare-up of another bout of depression.

“You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!”

Psalm 139:5-6

I am glad that God decided to intervene in my life.  Without question, I need Him to watch over me. I have to believe that He will keep rescuing me over and over. As a believer in Jesus, I know he has put his hands on me.  He shields me from the dragon. 

I have to believe that he protects me from the worst of it.  The Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.  I’m very glad that I belong to Him! My fear of a plummeting relapse is now His concern. I bear it no more. It is now His responsibility.

Your brother-in-arms,

Bryan 

 

You can check out my new website at alaskabibleteacher.com

 

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