Scandalous Grace

We walk through doors all the time. In some cases tens of times a day. I imagine we rarely think about what we left behind and the new space we just entered. Yet, a door can be a metaphor for our spiritual lives. There was one moment toward the end of my last mission trip that I haven’t shared with many, even though it became a significant part of my faith journey after returning home last September.

There was door at the mission where I was staying in Peru last summer that leads from the dining area out to a large atrium. This door has no windows. Therefore, once the door closes you can’t see what’s on the other side. Additionally, it locks from inside the dining area with no handle on the other side. This leaves the person on the dining side the power to open the door. Much like opening our heart to Jesus. We have to do that.

Toward the end of my trip I watched this door open and close. In a flash it was as if God parted the red sea for me to the promised land, much like He did for the Israelites. Only, like Moses I was afraid and full of fear which caused me to stop dead in my tracks. I watched in fear as the door closed and I could no longer see out. The worst part about that moment was the realization that I knew I was living in a place of fear. Sadly this was not new news to me.

I actually think I’m no than different than many of you reading this post. Most of us are dying to live and scared to death of really living the life God has destined for us. So like Moses I needed to move from fear to faith, but how? I didn’t know. I had faith that I knew, but I needed greater faith. Faith like Abraham now.

I wish I could tell you the moment my battle with fear started, but I don’t know for sure. Yet, so much of it has to do with a fear of being left, abandoned, and the most prevalent of all – the fear of failure. The absolute need to know and always get it right the first time out of the shoot. In fact, perfectly right. These are some deep seated fears with lies attached to each one. What it does is cause stagnation and paralysis. None of which come from God the Father, but the accuser. The evil one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy.

As I watched that door close it was as if the devil and I had a stare down. I looked him straight in the eye, but in that moment I let him win. I was not able to say, “get behind me Satan” (Mt 26:23) because I didn’t fully understand the authority I held in Jesus name. A terror of the night that led to a very long desert experience and months of desolation in prayer. An incredible amount of spiritual warfare of temptation and doubt to quit the faith journey. You see there was a part of my heart that still thought my identity rested on something outside of me and not my one true identity – a Child of God. When you absolutely know you are a Child of God in your heart everything you touch changes.

So there I was holding my morning cup of coffee in a place of paralysis knowing God was calling me to so much more, only I couldn’t move. In fact, I didn’t move for a long time. There were tears as I sat there alone and stared at that door and wondered in fear what’s on the other side? Is God as good as He says He is? Is He as good as I’ve told people He is? Do I believe my own words? Is what’s in scripture really true about God? Is He really a good Father? Can I fully trust Him with my entire life?

That door was a metaphor for my life. All that is unknown, to be traveled, and revealed, but not yet. It’s funny how often we live more for this life than the next. When in reality life here is really short. We only get one shot at it down here on earth and we never know when our last breath will come. Yet, eternity is what we are destined for as heaven awaits our arrival, but so many of us live for here and not there. It’s a game changer.

Although, I was aware of some of these fears, there were some I couldn’t even admit to myself. I knew some things, but so much was unknown on the other side of this door that was now closed. The unknown is scary for us all. It poses a threat of fight or flight. I was doing both like a switch hitter in the batters box in a game I was losing at the bottom of the 9th.

We find comfort and safety in what we know, but God calls us out from that space and into a life of dependent trust in Him and Him alone. A place where we lay down and give of ourselves to serve Him and say ok, I’ll follow. Peter walked on water when he stepped out of the boat, but the instant he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink calling out in fear. “Lord save me” Mt 14:29. We too sink when we look to something or someone other than Christ on the cross. I still wanted to do things my way and not God’s way. I wanted to be dependent on me and not God. I didn’t trust God with certain aspects of my life, let alone my entire life.

The only way I was going to walk through that door, cross the Red Sea and walk on water was through the cross. The Lord’s power and grace was the only antidote and solution to my chains and hooks of fear, shame, and control that were holding me in bondage and keeping me tied to a past life that no longer gave any life. I was bound, chained, and held captive to this fear and doubt.

Oh ya, my head knew I was a child of God, but parts of my heart were enslaved to fear. You see the battle is in our minds, but the war is for our hearts. I desperately needed a renewal of mind to change my heart. I needed freedom. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

There was so much fear that I knew I needed transformation and more of God because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:28). To a certain degree, I’d even say I was living as a slave to fear. I’m not sure how I got there, but I knew I was there and I was about to run, quit, or turn back. No angel appeared in this profound moment of watching that door close in Peru saying “do not be afraid”. Nope, that didn’t happen. Instead, I went home afraid my last mission trip.

I was home less than a month and someone said “When are you going back? I want to buy your ticket no matter the cost I’ll send you back”. What, I thought? A month or so later another person asked when I was going back and said “when you go, I’ll follow you”. In fact, it felt like everyone and anyone who knew anything about me at all was asking when I was going back or said they wanted to follow me. Trust me they ain’t following me, but the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus Christ who dwells in me. But why “me” Lord I was asking?

I knew I’d go back at some point and even I thought about it daily. Yet, because I didn’t have concrete knowledge of why I’d go, I couldn’t commit. I wanted the plan of what would happen. I wanted to know exactly what I would do when I arrived. I wanted to know everything before I agreed to go back. So unbelievably arrogant and controlling of me to demand plans from God ahead of time and all true, even though He was saying two things “Go” and “Bring friends”.

The truth was I was full of fear and didn’t know if I could follow Jesus back, even though I too knew He was calling me back. Those friends who said “if you go, I’ll go” weren’t following me, they too were following Jesus. But I wanted to turn around. I didn’t want to pay the price or count any costs. This first person who I’ll call my “heavenly send” who wanted to buy my ticket was relentless. They kept asking me, hounding me, and wondering why I couldn’t say yes. I couldn’t say why, because I didn’t have the courage to admit to myself I was riddled with fear of the unknown. I didn’t trust God.

Now, no one who personally knows me would ever think I was a slave to fear and doubt. They’d probably tell you I’m their fearless friend and maybe there’s some truth to that, I don’t know. What I do know is you too probably have fear. If you don’t think you have fear then let me pose these questions to you. Why do you stay in that job, career, or position you hate? Why are you not able to take a stance and speak out about the injustice around you or at your work place, neighborhood or parish? Why do you hesitate to speak up and out when that co-worker, neighbor, family member, or Facebook friend is rude, crude, and mocks you or what you stand for in the Catholic faith on subjects like dignity of life; abortion, death penalty, immigration, euthanasia etc? Why are you waiting to retire, take that mission trip or pilgrimage etc. when you don’t know if you’ll have a tomorrow? Why does a silent retreat sound so scary? Why are you afraid to let Jesus into your heart, maybe you got it all wrong and this faith stuff is the real deal and you do have a purpose and destiny here on earth that matters. And that’s just a few questions many of you live with day in and out.

I’m pretty sure this is why the Bible says 365 times “do not be afraid” or ” fear not” or some version referencing our fears. One for every day of the year. God already knows our fears and yet He calls us anyway. He doesn’t need our ability, nope just our availability. His desire for us is to show up. We then need to get out of the way for Him to get to work.

The problem is identity. We don’t know who we are and to whom we belong. Therefore we want and desire control of our own lives, we want to drive when in reality we need to get in the back seat. We want to know before we go, and when we don’t know we stay. Only, that’s rarely how it works. When God says go to “x” place or do/say “x” He rarely if at all reveals His plan. That’s for Him to know and for us to be obedient to His voice calling.

God gave instructions, but no road map, project plan or agenda. What He said was this “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Mt 28:19-20. One cannot do that living in fear. You go afraid, but not in fear. There’s a significant difference. If you’ve ever wondered how the saints were able to do what they did. It’s this – they lived in freedom. They knew their identity and they placed radical trust in their good Father and Saviour in heaven. So when He called, they followed one step at a time. They were fearless walking into the unknown and sometimes that even meant martyrdom. They were willing to go to the cross for their faith and life.

So I bet your wondering what I did? First, I remembered one can’t get to the second upper room with out sitting in the first upper room and going through the passion. Trust me, I wanted to skip my own passion. Second, I admitted to myself I was living in fear and doubt, and on the brink of an identity crisis of sorts. The first step to freedom is getting honest. Then I prescribed myself with advisement a good old heavy dose of Catholic tradition of penitence; prayer, fasting, and almsgiving until it hurt during Lent.

I spent hours and hours in adoration crying out to God as tears streamed down my cheeks with no name. I spent more time in prayer than ever before and yes that meant lots of time alone and unplugged from the world. I needed to go deep and get deeply rooted in my Father in heaven because I was about to run from God. When in reality that also meant I was running from all that was good and even love because God is love. Silly right? But we all do it.

I did some other radical things like take the gospel for what is says. Jesus tells the rich young man to sell his possession so I did Mk 10:17-31. Now, I’m not a rich young man, but I sold all the gold and diamonds I owned. I’m not opposed to things that sparkle, in fact I like sparkly things, but that old engagement ring and diamond tennis bracelet represented the false idols I worshiped. What I saw was two carats of lies, deceit, manipulation, and betrayal that almost cost me my life. Every muscle I have remembers the pain I endured. Now I didn’t give the money directly to the poor, but it’s financing a trip to serve the poor. I don’t need to hold on things to that remind me of a past that belongs in the tomb. Roll away the stone Jesus because I desire new life. Kingdom life now.

I’m no longer wooed by money and worldly things, position or power. People who have all that are a dime a dozen these days in the culture in which we live in the US. They’re all around me. What woos my heart is what woos God’s heart – kindness, generosity, self control, gentleness, faithfulness, love, peace, and joy. The fruits of the spirit Galatians 5:22-23. Ultimately its holiness that woos me now. How one loves God and His people, honesty, integrity, sacrifice and character. It’s the same thing that woos God, it’s what He desires for us all.

In my decluttering I came across two boxes I combined into one; awards, certificates, achievements, scholarships, and degrees. As I sat “outside” that box and let grace wash over me I realized I’m not any of that! I couldn’t even believe I had all that. I thought wow, you must of been good and yet, in that moment it was now nothing. It no longer mattered. No one cares if I was the MVP, team captain, all conference, all state, awarded a division I sports scholarship or an academic scholarship which paid for a significant amount of my education, communications editor in college, graduated Magna Cum Laude and on and on and on. Achieving to earn more here than in the place that really matters, eternity. Nope, no one cares! I hope at my funeral not one of those things makes my obituary. Instead I hope what people say is this “When I was around her I could sense the presence of God.”

Additionally, I spent hours looking through a shopping bag of twenty years of photos and burned them all. I no longer feel like that woman I saw in the photos. In fact that feels like a lifetime ago. I thank God, YouTube was not around in those days. Why we glamorise partying like rock starts is beyond me. It’s not beautiful.

I cleaned my closet and dump bags of clothes and you’d think I’d be naked, ya no. I still have plenty to wear after a massive clearing out. I gave away a ton of other miscellaneous items that were left over that I didn’t get rid of before my last trip to Peru. Now, I can’t get my life into a Honda Accord, but my life will fit into a SVU or mini van. Besides who determines the right size of what’s left in one’s life to travel to the next. Imparted wisdom from a friend.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. -St. Augustine of Hippo

I needed to clear the external clutter and space around me because I was bound and determined to no longer be captive to an old way of life. I wanted Kingdom life, freedom, and to live in victory. Victory belongs to Jesus and that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to be free!

Twice this year I found myself at a conference in which I received prayer and before I knew it I was down on the floor. That’s right, someone just touched me, much like Jesus does in the gospels and I was on the floor. The power of God came upon on me and there was nothing I could do, but give in and surrender to the Holy Spirt. God was saying deeply to my soul, like a lover says to their beloved “Let me have you” – “I want you”. During that time I didn’t care what people saw or how I looked, because the Lord had His way with me and trust me I’ll never be the same. He wrecked me in a beautiful way. Praise God!

Ultimately I needed the “D” word and I’m not talking divorce, been there done that one. This is such a bigger deal, it’s a heavenly one. I’m talking about what brings genuine freedom and victory. Yet, we hear the “D” word and we run scared and hide, but the “D” word brings freedom which is directly aligned to kingdom living. The “D” word I’m referencing is deliverance. So don’t freak out, I was not possessed and I didn’t seek an exorcist, but I most certainly had some spiritual warfare working in my life. In fact, we all do and so did the saints. Heck, St. Theresa of Avila referenced demons and evil spirits like pesty flies that she’d flick off. If we only knew how much freedom comes in the form of deliverance we’d all be asking for deliverance. We often live our lives tied to lies and not truth. We live in captivity and not in kingdom freedom. In fact, we say it every week at mass “Deliver us Lord from evil”. Do we even know what we are saying? Do we believe a word of it?

So there I was during Lent in a very dark and tormenting cave wrestling like Jacob. I was in the tomb and only God could roll away the stone with His grace. I knew going into this journey wasn’t going to be easy. Truth be told, it wasn’t. I wanted to RUN!!! All I could do was cling to the cross and wait. Let the Lord’s grace do what the Lord’s grace would do. I had to be, wait, and receive. Other than losing everything twelve years ago, this past year was the toughest year I’ve lived and I imagine few knew. You see I had to die and lose me. I had to surrender, get on the cross, and die. Not my will, but Yours Lord. The cross is hard. It requires some radical grace.

During this time I was praying the passion narratives, specifically The Agony in the Garden in the form of Lectio Divina and for the entire 40 days I never got past “sit here” Mark 14:32. Oh was it ever painful. I knew the resurrection was on the other side and yet I still deeply fought to not RUN! I first needed to sit and hold the position for self abandonment to come and let go of the desire of wanting to know and control of what’s next.

You see, I was only willing to surrender and go all in if I saw in my hand a full house, four of a kind, or straight flush. The Lord in His kindness did show me a few cards, but I wanted to see the whole hand in advanced before I laid down. That’s wanting to control so you don’t fail and get it wrong.

I’m not sure when or what moment it happened, but suddenly I realized I could stand at the edge of the cave and see the light. It was then I was able to go to the table and say, I’m in. I’m pushing all my chips in. I’ll go all in for you alone Lord. I told my “heavenly sent”, let’s get a ticket.

So now you know why my hands were in the air signing the Hallelujah at the Easter Vigil Mass. I wanted to stand up and praise God during the song Horse and Rider song because Pharaoh and his minions of fear were cast out into the sea. I’m living in freedom and victory. But the Good News is there’s MORE!

The beautiful thing about the whole experience is the unexpected and unanticipated freedom I now feel. Its amazing and literally out of this world because it’s not of this world. So much peace! It’s absolutely, supernatural scandalous grace that I received that could only be delivered and given by Jesus. I’m not sure what people see when they look at me now, but inside I’m a totally different person. In my soul a major earthquake of a shift happened. One for the record books and the breaking of the Richter scale. I’ve experienced many supernatural moments in my relationship with God, but never anything at this depth. It’s amazing! In all honesty, I’ve had a hard time putting it to words. So often I just say it’s “crazy”. Because that’s all I got! I don’t have words or language for it. God is a mystery to be revealed and not solved.

That door I referenced in the beginning has been opened for me and I’m no longer afraid because I’m walking through the sea. So just like Moses I had to move from faith to fear to be sent. I had to learn whatever I need I’ll be given. If I need a staff to part a sea then one will be provided. It’s not about planning, preparing, readiness, reading one more book or taking another class. It’s just a simple yes I will go.

I will go with your grace Lord. I will be obedient to the promptings of my heart to go for You. If I choose the wrong road and fail all is well if my intentions are good and my heart is pure. You, Lord can work with my failings.

Our identity and purpose in life can never be found outside of a relationship with Jesus. So in my very first mission trip I was running from me and found Jesus so many years ago. This trip I’m actually running toward God where I can only become the me God’s created me to be.

So Here I Am. I am going back on mission to Peru. I go in trust and once again look back in grace to the One who held His arms around me and held me together once again. Thanks Be to God!

Where are you? Do you hear God calling your name like He did for Moses and Peter and the other disciples in the boat. You can’t deliver His people if you haven’t been delivered yourself. God will part the Red Sea for you if He needs to. He’s generous with His grace I can testify to that!

This Pentecost wait and receive the power that awaits you. It’s dunamis power, that’s a Greek word for dynamite. It’s resurrection power that transforms, heals, delivers, empowers, and equips. It’s the Lord’s desire to fill you with His resurrection power to serve His kingdom and be sent into the world. The first disciples could only do what they did with the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit. Be open to receiving power from on high and go.

The instructions are so simple. Even though not everyone is called to be a missionary in another country, we are all called to be missionary disciples and often that means sharing the gospel in your immediate corner of the world.

So who do you say that Jesus is? Is He truly the Lord of your life? What do you need to lay down to make Jesus Lord and receive dunamis power this Pentecost?

I will be on mission from June 29 to September 1 in Piura, Peru once again. Please pray for me and rest assured I will be praying for all of you. Peace of Christ my friends.

P.S. To all my family & friends back home not a one of you has a hand to bet on, so I suggest you all fold and wait to see what God does instead of telling me what you think God is going to do. God’s the only one holding a Royal Flush and He’s yet to reveal all His cards to me. Besides, I think I’ll know before all of you. Just saying…

Jesus chose His first disciples. He chooses YOU too. Through your life, He pursues you through various people, conversations, events, and situations. He promised to always be with us; we are never alone. Some people think Jesus was a great man but not God. Some say Jesus was crazy, a liar or confused man. Who do you say He is? If Jesus is God, then we must follow Him. We must choose to surrender to His will. He knows what’s best for us. Allow Him to finish the work He began in you, making you the best version of yourself. From Into His Likeness by Dr. Edward Sri

I play worship music and worship God every day. Here are some of the songs that got me through this past year. Literally, I listened to these songs over and over again. Because In signing “I want to Be Free”, I learned our words have incredible power.

I Need You by Toby Mac

Gon’ Be Free by Nicole C. Mullins

Song of Deliverance by Zach Williams

No Longer Salves by Zach Williams live from Harding Prison

1 thought on “Scandalous Grace

  1. “Nothin left to burn and nuthin left to prove!” Robert Clark Seger

    Liked by 1 person

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