Category Archives: lost & found

Belting out the “Ballad of the Murky Middle”

Two years. That’s how long it’s been since our “yes” to God led us to take an overseas position and how long we’ve been here working, learning and training for our job. On the one hand, it’s barely any time at all. On the other hand, when I think about how long it’s been since I spent time with some of my most precious people, it’s seems like forever. But trust me: I’m not at all complaining.

Before moving we did our best to properly pack and prepare. In hindsight, some things we should have done more of and others were completely unnecessary. For instance, I brought things I thought would be useful and I’m only now getting around to pulling them out and considering how to use them. Other things have gathered an embarrassing amount of dust because they’re just stupid. I’ve sold or given away a quite a bit with still more to go.

This change has been huge. Mostly subtle, almost imperceptible, degree by degree and with thankfully only a few seismic situations that left us rocking and reeling for short periods of time. When you say yes to change and God‘s plan for your life, you expect this. Everyone tells you to, and it’s not like you don’t believe them, it’s only that you honestly don’t know how to define what to expect

It’s like other life changes, even the good and healthy ones such as marriage and parenthood. I mean, can you really know what to expect? You simply do your best to prepare and get sound advice– but you still can’t know how much of the quiet, behind the scenes, deep down and dirty work must often done in the dark and mostly alone.

Praise God, it’s never without hope!
Never without faith.
And hopefully, never without purpose.
This is when everything you have learned about God, everything you say you believe and everything you want to believe gets put to the test and into action.

Part of our preparation was official, but even that was the skipping of a stone along the surface of a very large body of water. I told someone this past week that one of the most surprising things about living this life is that you constantly feel like you are making it up as you go while praying and hoping you are doing it “right“. Graciously, the Spirit of God goes before us and if we can stand to be quiet and cautious and careful to listen…things gradually become ever so clear.  Moving slowly is really the best posture in this situation.

No area of my life has gone untouched. Definitions and understandings, gifts and talents, worship and work have all had to be inspected carefully and ever so slightly redefined. The energy and excitement that used to go into these sorts of things with confidence is now scaled way back and always laced with a bit of uncertainty and anxiousness – even hesitancy because some things just don’t happen the same way in this different context.

Things I used to be good at, things that used to be part of my identity, really can’t be anymore– it’s all got to be new. Brings a bit of light to the passage in Revelation “behold I am making all things new”. God doesn’t say that He is making “all new things” — He’s making those old things- ideals, ideas and identities, relationships and realities, heaven, earth and creation….everything, restored and new. It’s the already and the not yet…the then and now of working out our salvation with fear and trembling because… we are His and we are being made new.

Change hurts.
Change is exciting.
Change is a free-fall of faith with God that can’t be experienced any other way.
God is constantly making all things new.
Because He sees what needs changing even though we don’t.

One of the changed things I miss a lot right now is my previous role in worship. Gathering with my friends and sometimes family in a collective situation, singing loud, hard and long and striking chords from deep inside my heart — sometimes until tears came from my eyes. Feeling truth from every word sung and pressing my praise of God into the throne room of heaven.

I’ve really grieved this change. I miss being immersed and fully engaged and purposely leading and guiding others into this place before God. Honestly, I will not have that place here, if even ever again, for a long time.

I knew I’d be laying it down but.. somehow must have still thought in my heart I’d find a way to get there again. And maybe that’s what God wanted me to see about my own worship. As someone famous one sung, maybe I needed to remember the heart of worship. To have all “stripped away and simply…. come.”

It came to a peak just before Easter and there, I gave God my grief and the tears for the things I miss, whether it’s studying the Bible in my own language with people who understand, or singing songs in a room full of people in my own heart language. Because it’s been harder to do by myself. It’s harder to constantly be a “self feeder”.

I like to imagine Him just listening and nodding His head and waiting for me to finish. Because very soon after my little boo-hoodle (which really only lasted a few days), I could sense the Spirit speaking into my heart and asking, “I hear what’s grieving you, what you miss and wish you could participate in and give…so, where is it? Lorretta, where is your worship?” Ouch.

In other words, it’s good that I can see now how some of the things I thought were really important — really aren’t. It’s good to feel the pinches from the change and recognize that the deep down, one on one place of praise has not changed even while my circumstances have. After all, things are supposed to get redefined in the light of the truth and saying yes to Him.

Because God is making all things new.

So, where is my worship?
Honestly, I’m still working on it. Some of it’s right here- in these honest words about my honest struggles and in praise of our great God. It’s also in the kitchen, alone and by myself singing songs truly now for an “audience of One” (and my very confused cat!). Oh – as a side note: the “laying it down”? I’m so glad for the privilege. I’m changed and it’s been worth it.

All of it.

Yesterday, a friend shared this song and all I can say is WOW. It’s the kind of song that melts your soul and pours it back out in liquid worship. I can’t get over it. I’ve been completely undone by the truth of these lyrics since the first listen, and have been singing and wringing them back out to God from my heart all day.

So….Here is my worship. May it be yours too. This.

“I was a wretch… I remember who I was. I was lost… I was blind and running out of time.”

God of The Deep End

Hey…did you hear about …..?

The message flashed across my screen with all the annoying cling, static and pop that comes with such well intended gossip info relay. It stuck right to my heart. It was the third such message I’d gotten in the space of a month. It’s hard to go there with the senders because I’m not there— I’m here; halfway around the world. From this distance communications are getting spottier as the space between real, deep and meaningful conversations gets wider the longer we are away.

It hurt to imagine that the information might be true. It hurts to know that there are real people– people I’ve loved deeply– caught in the crossfire. It stings to know how often I could easily be the same sort of “info relay person” and how there are still times I still feel the downward pull in my soul, itching to do the same and just, you know–“share”.

“…yeah, they really went off the deep end.

It’s heartbreaking. When you know , as I do know, you’re just a simple, clay-footed sinner saved by grace, a.k.a. Christian…. and this kind of pain is always personal. It’s always real. If you have ever really loved anyone– especially God, then you can’t help but put yourself in another’s shoes and just imagine having to walk that path….just imagine having to carry that burden. As a community the hurt is always ours- not just “theirs”. And every one of us is always one step away from the deep end. No one really likes to talk about it — but maybe it would be helpful to at least acknowledge that “but for the grace of God there…go I.” or better yet, as Paul understood best:

“… by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1Cor. 15:10

Without a doubt, Paul was a man who knew his place of grace before God. In the verses before this, Paul is reiterating only what he knows to be true (my paraphrasing):
– the Gospel he’s sharing is only what he received.
– he was the last to get it.
– and he’s so unworthy.

Paul knows. He uses this phrase: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (8) Untimely born. What a phrase… what a God! It makes me want to cry. Because I can put myself in Paul’s place– unknowingly marching along a dead-end road with orders in hand believing I’ve got God under my belt… having no idea that I’m actually headed straight off the deep end. Then WHAM! The overwhelming…never-ending…reckless love of God pulls me from the very edge and straight into the arms of Jesus. This!

so unworthy…
so untimely born.
so deeply loved.
Can you feel it?

Backing up in history a little bit, to me there are few moments as stunningly beautiful and reverent as one of the last ones recorded for us of Jesus’s life. Paraphrasing, He’s on the cross, hung between two thieves. The crowds are mocking Jesus and one of the condemned men joins them… making his final act on earth that of shaking his fist at God. The other? As Luke records, he says:

Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (40-42)

He repents. Right there and then, hanging on the cross with no chance to make further amends, he is completely and totally—- utterly—- forgiven.

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Is anything more awesome?

I don’t know- I’m not some high-ranking theologian but I imagine that like the first of these men, Paul could have chosen to shake his fist at God when he was struck down on the road that day. He wasn’t only just about to have his life turned upside down- God was going to turn him inside out and it was going to be painful. No, instead, Paul gives us the benefit of his wisdom through the lessons he learned, a bulk of the New Testament, and ample opportunities to understand what having a humble servant’s heart before God looks like. I’m so grateful he did.

It’s these things – the life of Paul and the final moments of three men on Calvary, that I find courage and hope to bear up under the sometimes daily doses of sad news. It’s where I’m gladly reminded that God always has the final word in the midst of life’s choices– right up to the very last one we make. It’s helpful– even hopeful to know that God is still God –even at the deep end and even there…. He can make a way. He is the way. This is what I want to share.

“I couldn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
still you give yourself away.
Oh! the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God!” (Culver/Asbury/Jackson)


Beautifully Settling Dust

The beautiful Tusheti mountains.

The distance and silence in between now and then was honestly never meant to be. Gosh, one thing led to another and now here I am: more than a year since my last post.  So… yeah…sorry about that.

Oh, trust me— I’ve been writing, that’s for sure, but all my energy and efforts have gone towards a different goal, one that’s been more or less “achieved” as now I’m writing from a totally different place on the planet! As of March we’ve been living overseas and working for a European-based NGO! Talk about a life-change of scenery! Now that’s a long story I will likely be sharing more of in the future. But not yet. 

First I must tell you a quick story about a fast horse. 
I mean fast and maybe even a little wild. 

The shortest version goes something like this: hubby and I along with several others were in a remote village for a language immersion experience. Our hosts planned an afternoon trail ride with a local farm. Like many others we’d seen coming and going that week, we got on our horses and clippity-cloppity away we went. Until four of the horses took a still-unexplained detour and wide-open galloped down the mountain towards home. We were on two of those horses. He and two others got thrown and injured. And me? Well, I swear I’m not bragging, but I just leaned in and held on. 

With every ounce of energy and courage— all my physical and psychological strength— sucking wind, gulping air and prayers—
breathing with the horse because it was really all I could do–
I. Held. On. 

Until… the horse just stopped
I held on until the horse was home. 
It was awful. Thankfully everyone is ok now but trust me, it was not the plan.  Let me be clear: I’m not a rider. It was only the second time I’ve been on a horse in my entire life. I held on because God helped me to. Period.  It’s still a shock.

So I guess you could say the proverbial dust has settled and I’m finally beginning to see things more clearly all around.  While a great deal won’t be seen with absolute clarity until I meet Jesus face to face, it’s amazing how the shadows and lights shift when you are taken out of the “norm” of your life-long, personal existence. 

Some call it
“culture shock”…

I guess it’s an accurate term but for me it’s not the shock of a “here” or  “there”… I mean change— any change is just shocking I suppose.  And you know, shock is sometimes just what we need to get our flat-lining heart, mind and soul to start thriving again.  It’s often what can help us to really see and feel again if we allow it to. It can mean real growth and a complete change of perspective through the bone-deep testing of everything you say and deeply want to believe in.  

And I do. 

I’ve said it a lot recently: the words of those songs I once sang in church, the studies I once freely engaged in and all the places underlined in my Bible were somewhat theoretical…up until now. Now… they are— and had better be— my hoped-for reality and my daily, feeble practice. It all means what it all really means:


There also is nothing quite as shocking as taking in “your” culture’s news from a distance…

I honestly can’t summon up the courage to write in specifics about how I felt about hearing the news of two major Christian personalities and their recent public display of apostasy.  In general I’ll just say it  made me deeply sad but then I must summon the courage to recall the Bible says the last days will be like this. I remember John also said something about the ones who walk away from the Truth.  But I can’t judge their situations.  Jude reminds us to show mercy to them while we persevere. I also know Jesus welcomes doubts, anxieties and fears with open nail-scarred hands and called blessed those who struggle and hang on to the end. It’s enough for me to know how to live today.

Oh and yes… I’m fully aware that it really, really REALLY matters Who and What we’re holding on to. I’ve got some personal experience here—joy and sorrow, success and failure— enough of each to know that THIS matters most of all.  I also know with all my heart: it’s not easy. I’m certain you do as well.

On some days, this walk ya know is going to be your simple average, picturesque “trail ride”. On others, it’s just so hard. Those are the days when you’re just gonna have to lean in and with every ounce of your courage, energy, hope, mind and strength… sucking wind, gulping air and prayers… breathing only by the power of the Holy Spirit… because it’s all you can do…. It’s all we’re asked to do…until we find ourselves on the other side of whatever it was that day…or season. Through the doubts. Through it all.

Holding on- it matters. 
What we hold fast to is important.
Enjoy this life but honestly? Check your grip.
What are you really holding on to? I have to ask myself that question a lot these days. Make sure it’s Jesus.
And then persevere because one day…it’s gonna end. One day… well, like that ridiculous horse… we’ll be Home.