You know, this world is ugly. Really ugly. I don’t know if my heightened awareness of this is due to my reading The Screwtape Letters again, or maybe just the mood I’m in, or the correlated ongoing state of frequently feeling so depleted…

Or maybe this is just how it is.

The hatred spewed from mouths of many, directed at their perceived enemies; the gorging of gluttony, the never-satisfied, ever-increasing pursuit of fulfilling lusts; rampant, uncontrolled greed, at the uncaring expense of a neighbor, no, all neighbors; and just the general devaluing of ourselves and everyone around us that can lead to all kinds of abuses, including sexual abuse of young girls.

I have young girls. Some stories I have read lately simultaneously turn my stomach, and anger me greatly. It’s really awful how disgustingly we can treat each other. My words here are not strong enough.

I deeply wish—often—that my kids did not have to grow up in and be part of this world. But they are. They do.

So it’s true then, what Paul said about us, while quoting some Old Testament scriptures:

“No one is righteous—
    not even one.
No one is truly wise;
    no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
    all have become useless.
No one does good,
    not a single one.”
“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
    Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
    “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“They rush to commit murder.
    Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don’t know where to find peace.”
    “They have no fear of God at all.”

There’s a whole bunch more from the first chapter of Romans. Listen to this paragraph:

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

But I love what Paul follows that with, saying directly after that:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

It’s awful dangerous when we notice the darkness of other people, but forget to acknowledge our own.

The world is ugly, because we are ugly.

I have not been personal witness to some of the ugliest things that one might encounter in this world. (Like murder, sexual abuse, and similar horrible, awful things we do to each other.) I think this helps me to maintain a false distance from the grotesque darkness of us. Of me. Thankfully, and so graciously, Jesus continues to build in me the desires that match his, and my inner light shines brighter with his resident spirit inside me—but I am far from perfect. I know darkness inside me, too.

But thanks be to God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our lord.

Yes. And we do have the victory, we’re “more than conquerors” … that just seems so far off sometimes.

Sounds like I need a good read through the book of Romans. What a great overview of the world as it is, through God’s eyes, and how it will be redeemed.

Boy do we need it.

Remember that Jesus is the light. Stick close to him, through whatever darkness you are in, or may find yourself in. He will walk through it with you.

Philippians 2:13
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

2 Peter 1:2-7
May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

To Write

I need to write.

And yet, I let my days go by without intentionally making that happen.

I have myriad reasons for it. Some practical, some less so. Quite often, I might just actually not have a moment long enough to flesh out these thoughts within me between all of the other things and people I am responsible for. Other times my heart is too burdened by the events of the day—and/or the current season of life—to allow the gates to be opened and the contents to spill forth upon paper; or, keyboard and data storage device, as it were.

But somehow when I take the time to pour forth my inner being through words chosen, crafted, formed in my mind and heart… somehow by that action my spirit is buoyed. My heart feels lighter, freer. It is because I am somehow made to be this way. Not just made to do this, but deeper. More true to me, as God fashioned me.

That’s not to say that I am somehow a great wordsmith or have honed any of this “way of being” into a craft or trade (or anything like it). My writing has at times inspired, encouraged, uplifted, even challenged other souls who may come across it, but in their essence, the times I take to write are meant for me. As I work out the thoughts that are nearly constantly “on” in my head, God speaks to my inner being and teaches me as the words form on the screen in front of my eyes.

It’s really quite humbling. Astonishing. Invigorating.

Again, this is more for me—likely—than for you, the reader.

I am also glad you are here, though. Because, even if your eyes should never come across this page… I write to you. I speak to you who listen intently. Who ponder these thoughts with me. Who allow all prejudices and biases and other cages we make for thoughts and realities and possibilities to be absent from this place; you allow your mind to wander with me down ways perhaps less (or even never) trodden.

It’s good to have company. It’s good to not be alone.

I must say, that I find God is recently stripping away façades that I myself have placed on others around me. Not anything of their own doing. Really and truly these are of my own making. It springs from my eternal optimism. (A friend once referred to it as PermaJube. I think he may have referred to me as PermaJube…) I always think the best of everyone, to the point of forgetting that we are all fallen, all broken. And so I hold people to higher standards than they can possibly achieve—unwittingly—until some event, direct or indirect, shows me that they are just as broken, weak, fragile, and needy as me.

And that leaves me feeling alone. Because, even in my brokenness, I know that I am redeemed. I am restored, healed, I have hope. And for the most part, I live that hope. What I’m seeing around me (I believe by God’s great grace given to me) is that so many of us don’t live in that. I’m sure that even though I feel that I am living that way, Jesus will reveal to me more and more deeply the ways that I can live in the fullness of life that is him. But somehow, in this season, I am seeing the frailty of even the people I most cherish and respect.

And again I am alone.

Just Jesus remains. Just he and I, navigating this path of brokenness. He, and I, and words. Words which meagerly attempt to capture the essence of these spiritual realities that my consciousness (and my unconsciousness?) merely grazes the outer edge of a much deeper, greater sea of truth that I can never really know.

But he does. He is that Truth. That Life. That Reality.

I’m so glad I have him. And that he has me. That’s even better.

And so I write. And by writing, by giving “voice” to these thoughts in my head, he reminds me of truth. Of him. I breathe hope. I exhale grief, weight, burden. I breathe him.

I am not alone.

I’m glad you’re here, too. I know you are frail and weak like me. I know we do have days when we feel more sure-footed, but I also know we look in the heart mirror at times and see the full blackness of us. But we have hope. We are loved. Even then. At our worst (or at what we think is our best)… we are loved.

You are. And I am. And we are not alone. We have hope.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. —John 14:16

And, since we have hope, we ought to live in the light. We can be free to be whom God made us to be. So I will write. I will. I must. And whatever it is that God has made you to be, be that.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. —Ephesians 2:10

Be you. As I am able to live in hope and light and freedom, I will endeavor to also be “me”. Thankfully, it’s not just me, but Christ in me.

It’s much better that way. As it was meant to be.

The Way Things Are

When I think of the ugliness of the way most of us selfishly fight to get what is “ours”, often based on an unnecessary fear of rejection and/or insecurity… my heart is saddened almost to the point of despair.

Why, God? Is this the beautiful world you created?

Quickly my mind is ushered to the images of a young man choosing to bravely face his quite-likely death on the beaches of Normandy, or the story of Desmond Doss who stood firm in his beliefs, and personally saved dozens of fellow soldiers… without a weapon of any kind. Those stories and thankfully many more (including non-wartime stories) remind me that God did place beauty and strength and courage and honor within the human heart.

But so often we misplace it. We so often get trapped by trying to “get ours”.

Then I think of the hurt in the world that is not (directly) caused by the ugliness of man, of the flesh. I think of our friends whose daughter is daily faced with the very real threat of her own death… for over two years now. (And still no real end in sight.) I think of another friend who lost her dad far too soon, and of a precious little boy who only spent four very difficult months in his present-earth body, leaving behind a hole in his family that will never be replaced.

But again, I am quickly reminded that in those four months that little boy brightened the lives of so many dozens—even hundreds?—of people without speaking a word. And that even in the very midst of pain, joy can be found in little things. I’m even reminded of the incredible intricacy of design that keeps any of us living and doing mundane daily tasks at all (have you seen what happens in a cell??)

There does seem to be two sides to the story.

I think of the hopelessness of our battle with sin. But then I think of Jesus.

I think of our society’s continuing to push God away, deny him at every turn. Then I think of the many people who are living lives of Grace that draw people back to their true Father (not some dusty religious version of him).

I think of my own struggles (internal and external) and then I am reminded the Jesus is walking through them with me. I am not alone.

Though I won’t even pretend to understand it… there is some incredible beauty in the midst of the seemingly hopeless brokenness of our world. I really don’t get it. (Shaking my head ‘no’ even as I think and type these words.) But the Spirit is so quick to remind me any time I ask “Why?” … there’s no answer to my direct question; only a reminder that there are just as many evidences of good as there are of evil.

That doesn’t fix anything, but it does help me breathe.

Jesus, please fix my eyes and heart and mind on all that is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…excellent and worthy of praise.

I think that’s just you, Jesus.

See: Philippians 4:8, Hebrews 12:2.