Tag Archives: ruins

Coming Home: Thoughts on my church membership

3 Mar

Clearly, this is not me.  This is just how I feel.  🙂

Sunday.  For the past 7 years, it has been the day I perused the newspaper ads, the afternoon I went shopping or ran errands, the evening I feared what the week could hold.  But it was NOT the day of the week I attended church, though for 24 years of my life, that’s exactly what I did.  Every. Single.  Sunday.  (And many other days/nights of the week as well.)

In the fall of 2004, after moving out of my hometown, I just stopped.  Devastation, brokenness, heartache, and a long string of failures followed after me as I tried to live a life apart from God, apart from the Church.

I could never really get away, as friends, near and far kept in contact with me—at times, saving my spiritual and physical life with a phone call, a card, or even a trip to Friday Harbor, Washington (thank you Bill & Shannon, you saved my life.)  I thought that BFF Sarah was my only constant in ever-changing circumstances.  But, no, God was with us both—guiding, directing, wooing His daughters.

Earthly fathers fail.  Mothers turn their backs.  Dreams get broken. Hearts are crushed.  How could God let this happen?  God, how could You let this happen to me? It was my angry prayer as I shoved Him away.  He “deserved” my rage, my bitterness, my hatred.  I shook my fists, and still He calmed me when I let Him near.

It became a game—I’d let myself get so close to God, but then I’d run away, like a scared puppy trying to find its home.  The puppy wants to trust the kind stranger who can offer safety and security, yet she runs close and dashes away, comes closer and dashes further out of reach.  I thought, God, You cannot reach me.  You cannot have me.  You’ve ruined my life and I will not let it happen again.  I know You’re God, the Lord of Heaven and earth, I just can’t surrender my life, my all to You…what will You ask of me?  What will you take from me?  How will I survive it?

In September, I started to come apart—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  A tangled mess of humanity, I sought healing in all these areas.  Strangely enough, these intertwined issues led me to discover my spiritual crisis—I had no idea who I was [in God]!  My spiritual sickness trumped all my other issues (though admittedly, they were painful and horrible as well).  My hope was scant, but I know what God can do with just a tidbit of faith.  So it continues to this day.  He continues to breathe life into dead areas of my life, heal infected, pussy wounds…for He makes everything new! (And one day He will make ALL things new.)  Most of all, He makes beauty from ashen dreams and builds on the ruins of our broken lives.

God has given me a new beauty for a handful of ashes, and has shown me that ruins are truly redeemed through His power.

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 4, is a culmination of the past four months—the search for a church, being found by Bethany Church, and belonging to a loving congregation that empowers women!  After how I’ve hated the “church,” been spiritually abused in the past by church leaders, and experienced panic attacks when I set foot in a church, I can’t believe that I am once again becoming a member of an actual, physical church tomorrow!

I am so excited I can barely contain myself!  I am jumping around my apartment, singing loudly, smiling from ear-to-ear, and ready to explode with joy.  I’m not sure that anyone can really understand what choosing to become a member of Bethany United Methodist Church means to me.

Lyrics from Bebo Norman’s song, “Ruins,” keep flitting through my head:

“This is my holy hour, This is my world on fire
This is my desperate play, This is where I am made
This is my kingdom come, This is my freedom song
This is my helpless state, This is where I am saved

Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

I’ve quoted “Ruins” before, but only the chorus.  Right now, my focus is on the pre-chorus (though the chorus is too lovely and meaningful to leave out!)  If I burst out in song during our reception into the church (not likely to happen), you will understand why. (See YouTube video with lyrics below.  It was made by some random Bebo-lovin’ person out there in the world!)

So this Sunday is no ordinary Sunday, at least for me.  I’ve found a home and the people in my home are giving me an official welcome—dorky name tag and all—thank you, God, for my temporary place amongst Your people, in Your Church (and church!)

It’s good to be home.

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Let my ruins become the ground You build upon

18 Oct

“Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

“Ruins” by Bebo Norman from Bebo Norman

I used to think the Apostle Paul was a madman when he asked fellow believers to “rejoice” in their suffering (Romans 5:3-4, AMP).  Are you freakin’ kidding me, Paul?  Throw a party for mental illness?  Get jazzed over medical issues?  Maybe a pity party; that’s all.

That’s how I used to think.  Admittedly, I’m still working on “rejoicing”; however, I am learning to be content suffering.  My current struggles have forced me to find true dependence in God.  I am starting to believe that suffering is a “gift” and I do not fully, nor will I ever, understand its spiritual implications on my life.  Where I see only pain, God sees hope and promise…and beauty.

The brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves beginning to dot the landscape of southeastern Pennsylvania illustrate beauty in death.  And isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to die to self and to find true live in Him?  And now just once or twice, but daily?  Besides the promise of Heaven, the Holy Spirit, God’s love, and much more, Jesus promised that in this life, we would all experience trials and suffering.  Yet He urges us to “take heart” for he has overcome the world.

For the past seven or so years (maybe more), I’ve bitterly resented suffering—my dad’s affair, my parents’ divorce, my life altering (and chronic) illnesses, my inability to find a job in ministry (which I now realize was a good thing), my mom’s remarriage and subsequent divorce from a horrible man who inflicted a lot of pain and abuse on our little family, and of course, debilitating mental illness.

At first, I sought after God and He is and always was present.  As I watched my life shatter around me, I screamed at Him, “How could You let this happen?  How could You do this to me?  You are supposed to love me.  You are supposed to do something with my life.  If You could do this to me, if You could let this happen, what else will You do?  What else will You ask?”  I simply ignored God and His still small voice that beckoned me home.  I prayed, read my Bible, and gave Him lip service only when it suited me.

I would not—I could not—relinquish all of me.  Yet God asked for ALL of me, so He could do immeasurably more than I could ever dream or imagine.

A few weeks ago, when I shut down emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I knew drastic changes needed to me made.  I could NOT go on like this [that] anymore, so I stepped away from Backseat Writer as well as other things so I could focus on overall wellness.  I have been learning so much about myself, God, and the Bible (among other things) through circumstances that forced me to come face-to-face with God.  No more running, no more hiding—just the naked truth of who I thought I was versus who God says that I am.

I am finding my identity in Christ, asking Him to help me overcome my unbelief, to help me believe the truth instead of the negative self-talk I readily offer myself, and most of all to learn to trust God in all things.  It sounds simple enough, yet it is a hard, long road, though it is the path worth taking.

At this time, God has called me away from many things, including Backseat Writer.  Not forever, not even completely, just for a little while.  When it is time, my sporadic and erratic posting will cease and Backseat Writer will return to a new “normal” with content that is solid, personal, and REAL—not the publicist pleasing garbage I’ve posted at times.  Although I assure you that not of it is garbage or posted to please publicist (or anyone else).  I can hardly wait to see what sort of future God has for Backseat Writer—something I believe will be far more wonderful that either you or I could imagine.

For now, dear readers, I must continue my sabbatical to focus on knowing God and knowing who I am to God.  I would like to pop in weekly with updates on what I’m learning—for there is so much to share with you!  Still, most will remain close to my heart; these things are spoken only between God and me.  But I want to let you in, at least a little, to show you what I’ve discovered.  I want you to know that God is not safe, but He is good.

I hear God calling to me, wooing me to Himself, “Come now, my love, my lovely one, my beloved.”  And it’s been such a long time since I felt lovely to anyone and loved by God.

“[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 5:20, slightly paraphrased)

Currently Listening To: Selections from various Bebo Norman albums, Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark (“Remind Me Who I Am” has been essential in my recovery. I hope to post more about this song/album at a later time.  Thank you, Jason Gray, for crafting such a wonderful album!) Select others including Matt Hammitt (latest album, Every Falling Tear, is excellent!), Josh Wilson, NeedToBreathe (mostly The Outsiders.  Yes, I purchased their latest album on iTunes, but haven’t really listened to much of it yet.  Shocking, I know!), and Cat Stevens.

Currently Reading: My NIV Study Bible (does that sound cliché?) as well as daily passages from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.  I highly, highly recommend both of these books.  I am just about finished with a powerful, lesser-known book by Elisabeth Elliot called The Path of Loneliness—not for the faint of heart.  An excellent read that I heartily recommend! Next I hope to read God’s Plan B by Pete Wilson and Jenny B. Jones’ latest, There You’ll Find Me as well as a smattering of writing books and whatever else pops up.

Other Randomness: I’m enjoying the new seasons of “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” and “Glee” as well as peeking at “The X-Factor.”  I’ve discovered Facebook games like GnomeTown, Words With Friends (play with me!), and Bejeweled Blitz, as well as exploring my world and spending time with friends, my mom, and of course, my beloved fur and feather children.

Please Pray For Me: To have continued spiritual, mental, and physical healing; that my nasty tooth infection would heal and my root canal procedure could be completed; for the small group Bible study I lead; that I may find a meaningful volunteer opportunity; and for my future writing endeavors.  Thank you so much for your faithful prayers!

So, that’s me…what are you up to?  What’s going on with you and God?  Any new pets or babies or anything I missed?  What are you listening to, watching, doing?  Dish it!

Bebo Norman :: From the Ruins

14 Sep

Talking with Bebo Norman is like chatting with an old friend; except I’ve never met Bebo Norman. However, I’ve closely followed his career.  Easing into our phone interview with a joke, Bebo informed me that he’s running errands while he talks.  Moving into a safe icebreaker, we chat about his family and rearing of his one-year-old son. Specifically, who is better at diaper duty: “I’m better at it; there’s no question,” laughs Bebo.  “I haven’t timed it.  I pride myself on cleanliness rather than speed.”

It’s this articulate attention to detail in lyric and music that has made Bebo Norman a popular singer/songwriter since 1996.  Looking back on the past 12 years is like reading an autobiography. “I really have a unique opportunity, a gauge of where my life story has been and how God has been so strangely consistent in the middle of all that.  I say ‘strangely’ because sometimes I can look up and wonder where God is, but I have this constant reminder of the consistency of Him through these songs and through my story.”

After finishing his first record deal, last year, Bebo signed with Seattle-based BEC Recordings, home to artists such as Jeremy Camp, Kutless, and Chris Taylor. On the heels of releasing an immaculate Christian album, Christmas…from the Realms of Glory in 2007, Bebo’s latest project is a self-titled album and probably his most revealing and vulnerable. “My prayer—and I really do hope this happens—that every year I live, I can be more vulnerable relationally and musically.”

Similarly, Bebo draws from his life humbly noting, “I don’t really know how to write songs unless I’m writing them out of life.”  Take the song “Britney,” a quiet apology to women who have been ravaged by lies about true beauty from culture and media.  Ironically, the song was inspired by Britney Spears.

“Truth be told, who writes a song about Britney Spears?” rhetorically asks Bebo with a chuckle.  “I was up late one night because I couldn’t sleep.  I was flipping through the news channels when I came upon a pretty tragic story about Britney,” referring to Spears’s hospitalization.

“She was being taken off in a stretcher.  My first instinct was to respond cynically, and then there was a freeze frame moment.  She had this look on her face where she was completely lost in brokenness and despair.  The thing that struck me—paralyzed me—was that I’ve had that look on my face before.  I was able to look at her life with compassion, not as a tabloid story.”

Not excusing her poor choices, Bebo continues, “Who, if not the Church, is going to say ‘hope is here’ to the culture, to someone like Britney Spears?  We are called to live with compassion in a broken world.”

Though it is the opening song on the album, “Pull Me Out,” is one of Bebo’s most personal songs to date.  Recently opening up about his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks over the past five years, Bebo lays it all out in this song.  But for the purposes of this interview, he was more than willing to candidly discuss anxiety with a fellow sufferer.

Suffering from panic attacks which seemed to revolve around playing music, Bebo says he felt as though he could not breath and his heart would race and sweat would pour down his face.  “I would try to convince myself before I played a show that I could do it.  ‘I know how to play these songs, which I’ve literally played a thousand times and I can breathe; I’m breathing right now.’  Despite the positive self-talk, Bebo shares that sometimes he would “literally lose it. It is the most helpless feeling I’ve ever felt.”

By opening up to those around him and getting help, Bebo is learning to manage his anxiety.  At first, he was ashamed to tell anyone about his attacks. “I was praying about it and praying about it and reading Scriptures about it and praying that God would heal me from it—all these things.  I don’t believe this, but subconsciously within the culture of Christianity, we communicate that if you’re not alright, then something’s not right with you spiritually.”  But it wasn’t the judgment of others that keep Bebo suffering silently, it was his own inability to reason through his anxiety.

“I’ve always prided myself on my ability or what I thought was my ability to reason my way through things.  This whole struggle with anxiety has been the first thing in my life that I haven’t been able to reason through… that was the scariest moment for me. I didn’t understand why it happened or when it was going to happen again.  For years and years, I felt a lot of shame and frustration in that; I was trying to fix it on my own.”

While anxiety has put Bebo on edge, it has also allowed him to cling to the very edges of his faith. “The older I get, the more I realize that faith is not about this accumulation of wisdom or wealth or knowledge or spiritual gifts.  Faith is literally, as defined by Scripture, a desperate clinging to Christ.  In that sense, anxiety has done nothing but increase my faith because it has forced me to do nothing but cling to Christ.” He thoughtfully adds, “Clinging to Christ doesn’t mean that the anxiety is going to go away, but it does mean that God is in the middle of that anxiety.”

In his musings about anxiety, Bebo swings back to the first song he wrote for the project. Inadvertently, “Ruins” became the theme song for the whole album with its simple phrase: “Let my ruins become the ground You build upon.”  Bebo shares. “Anxiety has stripped me of a lot of things.  It has broken down notions in my mind about control, vanity, and reason. It is from brokenness that I want God to rebuild this faith structure that I have, which isn’t built on my own abilities.”

Rebuilding and starting afresh are what Bebo Norman’s latest project is all about. His admirable vulnerability only add to his ability as a songwriter to strengthen this man of God, as he lets his ruins become the breaking ground of faith.


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