Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Living in the Light

I have been thinking lately about how I often write about the church I was raised in on this blog; I do not use glowing terms when I reference it. The things I write about on here are mostly about spiritual things and the journey I’m walking with the Lord, and much of the refining work God has to do in me requires me to examine the messiness and uproot the deep lies or untwist the messages I retained about who He is and who I am. I share them because I’m unwilling to hide when freedom is found in the light. I also share them because many of my extended family are still in the cult that the church of my youth broke off of or have left and are carry wounds because of all the broken things they’ve gone through and I want them to know who God really is. And I share them because maybe...maybe someone will read what I write and they will believe the hope and healing and affection of God for them.

But sometimes I wonder if my words hurt the hearts of the people who taught me there or brought me there. And that makes me sad because when I think of them...ALL of them...I feel no resentment or anger or fear or ill-will. I choose to believe they did not mean to harm me, I choose to believe that they did the best they could with what they had, and as strange as that may appear to you reading this, that was enough to soften my heart many years ago. Also, if you’re reading this and you ARE still angry, resentful, hurt, fearful or any other painful emotion not listed here...I don’t blame you. Those are absolutely justifiable, understandable feelings to have--you were harmed and that has never been acceptable. I am so sorry for your wounds (I seriously have tears running down my face as I just wrote that because I've seen some of them).

I had a good childhood, I really did. I grew up on a farm and played outside for hours with my brothers. Yes, we had a lot of rules and things weren’t always glorious, but I had a family who loved me, parents who encouraged me, a mom who listened to me, and a dad who taught me how to do things like fix my car. I had every physical need provided for, built sweet relationships with my siblings, and I even had some opportunities to do things I enjoyed (like sing in the choir and public speaking). Some nuggets I still carry with me: “Embrace your weirdness” (i.e. You don’t have to follow the crowd). “Know what you believe and why you believe it” (i.e. Think for yourself). “You are capable. Anything my boys can do, my girls can do” (i.e. Here’s a power tool, enjoy).

And there is one vivid thing that I took with me from the church I was raise in that I am very grateful for and I want to share it with you. I was taught to revere God. God was presented to me as a holy, majestic, perfect, mighty Being who was SO far above me that I couldn’t even grasp the wonder of who He was because the plane that He resided upon was far too great to bear the likes of a sinner like me, that this God was just in His wrath toward me and I should do nothing but tremble before Him.

That’s what I remember being told about God (in harsher terms, and for the record, that is a VERY lopsided view of God). But honestly, that was a great gift. 


Because it is true that God is holy, majestic, perfect, mighty, just and angry at sin...

and when THAT God bends down and whispers His affection to you in the darkest pit of your life....when THAT God cups your face in His hands and lifts your head and pulls you close...when THAT God sits beside you while you sort through the harm you’ve done to others and the harm you’ve done to yourself and the harm done to you without even once cringing at your ugliness...when THAT God pours out Himself to heal your wounds and bring beauty from your ashes...when THAT God says to you, “You are Mine and I am yours”...

then you will never be the same.

Monday, March 26, 2018

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue..."

I’ve been processing through my insecurity with the Lord; it’s been a somewhat ugly journey so far...but sanctifying as I am intentionally leaving no stone I come upon unturned.

I came to the realization yesterday that I find myself facing a deep juxtaposition in regards to my voice. In one hand I see the opportunity to bring life and in the other, the fear of bringing death. When I hold these together, I become painfully paralyzed.

If you know me well or have heard my story, you’ve possibly heard testimony of my physical voice’s disappearance and return and what God did in the space between. I am very much indebted to the Lord to even have the ability TO speak. Since that point in my life, I have often held up my voice in wonder to the Lord asking, “You gave it back to me, how do You wish to use it?”

In one hand I hold a deep desire to be heard: I long for opportunities to testify and to teach; to encourage and to exhort; to bless and to prophecy; to proclaim Truth and freedom; and to impact the world for the glory of the Lord and for His kingdom.

And in the other, I hold a great fear of my voice: I am terrified that I will unintentionally deceive someone or discourage a fainting soul; I am petrified of misrepresenting and dishonoring the name of Jesus; I am afraid that I will say something that leads someone astray or that my opinions would speak louder than the Truth; I find the idea of my voice adding to the destruction of another’s soul utterly unbearable.

Because “death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21a) and I know what death from the tongue feels like--both to receive and to give. As I look over my past, both the desire and the fear are no surprise.

I didn’t really get a voice growing up; I’m female, in the context of the church I was raised in, that meant I was born into a position of silence. I also was a pretty strong people-pleaser, so I mostly quietly stayed within the bounds I was given. I was told what to think, what to wear, what to do and what not to do. My voice was usually downed out or cut off.

And I was told a lot of things in the name of Jesus: I was fed twisted theology under the guise of truth and beat into compliance to the rules of men with pieces of God’s word. I was manipulated with fear, and presented an image of the Lord that was so lopsided it is a wonder I ever learned to trust Him. My honest questions were met with condemnation and I was deceived by the ones who claimed all others would deceive me. And until I became a believer in Jesus, I used my tongue in the ways I had learned; controlling my environment and the people around me with my words and manipulative tactics (in case you were wondering, yes, my first journey of repentance when I became a believer was a long and painful one).

But I am not who I was, I am redeemed by the pure blood of Jesus and there are 14 years of sanctification and learning behind me. I am sitting now praying that the Lord would help me discern between healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Because the former will secure me humbly at the feet of the Lord, intentionally submitting all I say to Him, while the latter will paralyze and silence me, rendering me ineffective for the Kingdom. I must learn to speak in my new life with confidence, secure in the Lord’s hands. I must not doubt that the One who calls me to stand and speak will protect my voice and respond to the deep desire of my heart to honor Him and not myself. Because He’s a good Father and He does not send us out to succeed or fail on our own; He empowers, equips and upholds us in the work He has for us to do.

I need to trust Him, friends. I need to wrap myself in the security of my identity in Him and not waver. And sometimes that's a hard thing to do because I must look my fear directly in the eye and remain there until it flees amid the assurance and presence of His unfailing love for me. 


So that is where I find myself in this journey; bowed down at the Mercy Seat with my fear laid out before me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

the sorrow of a tired woman

unchanging tomorrows
©3-21-18 hannah mclean

my fight is over
drained of perseverance
i gave my all
and came up empty
every last hope laid out
and i have gathered in
only empty sheaves

my head hangs
my feet drag
my knees bloodied
from feeble, staggered steps

there is nowhere to sit
no comfort on which to lay my head
and so i limp slowly on
in the sloughs of my discontent

how do i stand
without hope for my present pains?
on what can i lean?
where can i rest
to regain strength to face my
unchanging tomorrows?

i am too tired
to look upon this journey
another day

You call out
“shamar”
to preserve
to keep
to guard

psalm 145:20
“the Lord [shamar]s all who love Him”

in this promise
i close my eyes

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Insecurity and Impending Freedom

I’ve been feeling really insecure lately. This is unusual for me; I have found that if I know where and how I stand before the Lord, the things around me that could have the capacity to make me feel insecure lose their power to press me down. So I have been eager to identify the source of my faltering and to reposition myself on the Rock that doesn’t waver when I do.

I started reading a book the other day about freedom in Christ, and felt the urge to stop and share with you my insecurity. It’s something I have struggled with off and on for years, and perhaps now--if I will let Him--God wants to uproot the lies that feed it once and for all.

I am a very intense person; I feel things deeply, I process things deeply, I articulate things deeply (and oddly...sometimes everything comes out in the form of poetry because, let's be honest, I’m sort of weird), and I have no qualms about sharing openly all the things I am walking through AS I am walking through them whether they are good, bad or terribly ugly. For better or for worse, that is how I am built. Correction: All but the last one fall into the category of "how I’m built," the last one showed up after I started following Jesus.

My biggest insecurity is that I overwhelm people...like an unwelcome hurricane crashing into a coffee drinker while they are relaxing on their peaceful patio, or a massive gust of wind rushing on an unsuspecting picnicker just wanting to take in some fresh air. As I just wrote them, I notice that these analogies both produce the same result: Their nature and presence push away the things they meet.

So when I go through seasons of being bombarded by this insecurity, I find that I shut up, and I shrink down, and I withhold my thoughts and myself because of my assumptions of how I will be received.

I think somewhere at the core of my fear is the familiar pain of being alone. I grew up alone; the environment I was raised in was super exclusive, I was very cut off from people and developed an identity of being a misfit in the world around me. No place to belong, no people to belong with. When I discovered fellowship in the Body of Christ, I delighted in it like no one else I have ever met...I grabbed ahold of it SO hard that the lies that could have kept me from it didn’t stand a chance at holding me back. And when I learned how to build friendships in my mid 20s, I relished the privilege of walking through life with others; shoulder-to-shoulder, learning from each other, helping each other, weathering life in the intimacy of the highs and lows we encountered. I love people; I love getting to know who they are and how they are built and what makes them tick. I love watching them change and grow and remain. I love discovering their unique quirks and getting to understand them. I love learning from them and getting to glean from their presence and purpose in the world. I love connecting to and with people from any age or walk or place.

All that to say, I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to return to the loneliness of my past. I don’t want to miss out on the people around me (because let’s be honest, people are the most important thing in this world). And so, when my insecurity rears its ugly head, it holds a lot of power over me because it calls out to me that the cost of my voice and my presence and my nature is too much...it will simply push away the opportunity for relationship or fellowship. And I find myself back in the familiar (yet painfully uncomfortable place) of being an observer of life, not a participant.

So there it is. I haven’t processed and prayed my way out of this and into freedom yet, but step one is to bring it into the light, right? I hope I will get to share with you the end of this journey, not just the beginning. :)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

the mercy woven within us

reaching
©12-25-17 hannah mclean

oh glorious longing
image and likeness reaching for their Source

raging fires cannot burn away the ache
nor cries of pain drown out the harried whisper
joyful celebration can do nothing but join it in the air
and pleasures only point heavenward as they pass

oh glorious longing
image and likeness reaching for their Source

made to draw us
lest we never meet 


only when our souls touch
when the arms extended before us
enfold our fragility in unbending strength
will we finally rest

and then
this glorious longing will lead us
into depths of wonder, love and worship
meant to whet and satisfy
forever
when image and likeness reach their Source


-----

Genesis 1:26–27
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Angels Response

The girls and I have been going through a scripture reading plan this advent season called God With Us. We’ve looked at things like the promise of His coming and reason for His coming; this last section leading up to Christmas Day is surrounding the response to His coming. We’ve looked at Mary’s response (“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...” Luke 1:46–47) and at the shepherds’ response (“And they went with haste and found the baby...they made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child...the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God...” Luke 2:8–20).

Today we looked at the angels’ response. I don’t think I have ever really sat down and considered specifically how the angels responded to God coming to earth and becoming human. What a striking meditation, and I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts.

The angels had a very unique perspective: They knew the glory of God; they had seen Him face-to-face and actively live to work out His will--They knew His holiness, His power, His beauty, His wrath, His love, His worth...His undeniable deity. And they also knew humanity’s lack of all of the above; they saw our rebellion against God, our hatred for His ways, our denial of His being. They saw the vastness of the gap between God and man.

And then they watched as the One True Living God stepped across this vast chasm and became a man to save us.


And for the first time, He was "made a little lower than the heavenly beings." (Psalm 8:5)
 

It says at the proclamation of His birth in Luke 2:13, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God...” And today as I considered this unique view they held I wondered if perhaps their understanding of the utter depth of the love and meekness and wonder of God opened up to them in an astounding way; if perhaps they had awaited with utter curiosity and awe to see what the fulfilling of this promise they had had the privilege of delivering to Mary would look like; and if perhaps before the songs of praise rang out, there was a gasp.

I bet the worship burst out of them with greater force than it does in Psalm 29:9.

I can think of no greater messengers to bring the good news to humanity.

Monday, August 28, 2017

“Sometimes it is good to be sad.”

I was talking to my girls about the flooding in Texas this morning. During our conversation, Audrey said to me, “Stop talking about this, it is making me sad.”

Her words struck me and I told her, “Sometimes it is good to be sad.”

I get where she’s coming from--What a completely human thing to say. It is a painful thing to look upon the suffering in the world around us; it is uncomfortable and confronting. It can accost the quiet peace of our day and force our mind to travel roads we’d rather not venture down. I used to cling firmly to a personal policy similar to her 4-year-old request, “If I don’t see it, I can’t feel for it.” And I squeezed my eyes shut, unwilling to let other’s pain into my little world.

And then I met Jesus.

I met Jesus, and everything changed. 

Everything changed because Jesus, He looks upon the suffering and He weeps with the broken-hearted; He stands before both the oppressed and the oppressor and invites them to eat at His table; He kneels down beside the sickbeds of those no one would dare to touch; He puts Himself in the dark places so that the ones who reside there could know light.

Everything changed because if I wanted to grow in likeness to my Christ, I had to entrust Him with my heart. I have to let myself feel what He feels, see what He sees, hear what He hears so that I can learn to bring His unwavering love to a world that desperately needs to feel the gentleness of His compassion, to be transformed by His burning affection and to bow beneath the astounding wonder of His delight.

And so, I look at my intensely emotional little girl and I pray that someday she would find the courage to open her eyes.