Monthly Archives: May 2014

It’s Dark

Recently our church challenged us to let our pain be used to breathe life into other people’s pain, to invite others into our pain so they may see hope and healing. This piece of poetry (if you can call it that) is what I offer in response to that challenge. This piece is a piece of my pain. May you seek the face of the one whose name is Peace, the peace in my pain.

 1

It’s dark. Eyes closed. My lungs are empty, my mouth full of water. Open my eyes. Burn. Blur. Light? Dark? Up? Down? Be still. Be still.. Be still…

Gasp. Cough. Exhale water. Breathe in air. Bright light. Close my eyes. Open them. Waves. Burn. Breathe. Swim.

I’m naked. The clothes must have gotten too heavy. Swim. Where? In front of me as far as the eye can see, water. To my left, water. To my right, water. Behind me, water. Which way? Stay? Drown. Swim… drown. How long have I been swimming? How long have I floated? I’ve lost count of the days, the months, the years.

To my left, water. Right, water. Ahead, water. Behind, water. Swim. Which way? I don’t know. But I swim.

 2

In the clearest moment of my castaway journey I decided to swim. We decided to swim. To swim apart. Was it the right way? I don’t know. To the left, water. To the right, water. In front and behind, water. I didn’t know. I don’t know. But I swam. I’m swimming.

I’ve been on the couch. She’s been on the couch. I’ve taken time. She’s taken trips. But on this day my bags were not packed with the intention of returning. It wasn’t a trip. It was a move. The right move? I don’t know. Left, right, forward, backwards… water. Float, drown. Swim, sink. I chose to swim. Swim to a shore? No. I can’t see a shore. Swim to avoid floating. Because after you float long enough you begin to drown. So I swam.

 3

The hotels were cold, lonely. The goodnight phone calls to the kids were unbearable. I can’t imagine what it was like for them. I left. Do they hate me? Does she hate me? Do you hate me? Do I hate me? We split. But I left.

I’ve heard that relationships have anchors and ropes that hold them together. Healthy relationships would have many ropes connecting them. Struggling relationships are sometimes, well, hanging by a thread. Why? Why cut the ropes? To the left, water. To the right, water. Forward, water. Behind, water. Float, drown eventually. Swim.

The last thread was cut. Earlier on it was a strong rope, a steel chain. Let’s stay together for the kids. Really? Let’s live a lie for years only to one day tell them that we lied to them their whole lives? It was a string in chain’s clothing anyway. We cut it along with all of the other strings. We swam. We are swimming.

 4

Have you ever done the walk of shame? For me the walk of shame is a concept I learned from the television. It is when one person unexpectedly stays the night with someone else and they have no fresh clothes or toiletries for the morning. So, when they wake they sneak out past the roommates, down the apartment corridor, into their cars and off to work in wrinkled clothes.

By now I had moved from hotels to friends couches.

One night we talked. One morning I did the walk of shame… from my own house. Kissed my wife as she lay in bed, sneaked past my sleeping kids, out my front door, off to work. Was it the right move? I don’t know. We had cut all strings but now a thread was born. And one string led to another. We’re swimming.

 

Jason Strader

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On Snakes and Struggle

A few weeks ago, I was hiking through a beautiful bit of Louisiana woods when I came to a split in the path. Directly in front was a well-cleared, well-marked trail, while the trail to my left was faint and overgrown. Remembering high school English and Robert Frost, I opted for the path less travelled. The way was marked every so often with splotches of faded blue spray paint. This wasn’t too bad, but I was spending all my time straining ahead to find the next marker, or glancing back over my shoulder to make sure I was still on track. A few minutes in, as I was scouting for the next swatch of paint, I noticed from the corner of my eye that my shoe was hovering mid-air over a funny-looking stick on the ground. “Hmm,” my eyes said, “that’s an unusually glossy stick.” “Wait a minute,” said my brain, “That’s no stick. That’s a snake!” I jumped back and sure enough, I had almost stepped right on top of a good-sized snake sunning itself in the leaves. I gripped my walking stick and stared, heart pounding. “How on earth did I miss that?” The snake, a bit surly at having its nap interrupted, coiled itself, hissed, and slithered away into the bushes. I watched, fascinated, but then decided I’d had enough of bush-whacking, and hurried back to the main trail, dodging and dancing away from every slightly-bendy stick and vine in sight.

Listening to Libby’s talk on patience and suffering (http://www.theportico.com/media.php?pageID=6), I realized that, recently, I’ve been running into a different kind of snake on my path. Libby said that the only way to have patience in hardship is to look to Jesus. We learn to be “passionate about God’s presence in the midst of suffering.”

But the enemy of our souls would much rather have us look to the past and feel guilt and shame, or look to the future and feel anxious or grasp after a (false) sense of control. And in doing this we lose sight of Jesus. But isn’t that so often how it happens? I’m barging through the woods, peering over my shoulder or straining my eyes for the next bit of blue paint, and my eyes definitely aren’t on Jesus at all. I’m so busy looking everywhere but at him, that the next thing you know I’ve stumbled across a snake in the path. This is a mean snake. A snake who hisses: “Oh poor you. Look at how hard you’ve served God, and this is where he’s brought you?” Or, “Let’s just figure out a way to make the pain stop.” Or this one: “You are all alone. You’ve been abandoned. You’ll wake up one day and realize how foolish you were to believe.”

Listening to Libby’s message, I realized that for a couple weeks now I’ve been frozen in the middle of the path, listening to this evil but mesmerizing snake. This snake tells me God isn’t moving quickly enough. This snake tells me I’ve been serving God so faithfully, and I shouldn’t have to struggle or wait or trust. This snake says it’s not fair and God must not love me because he treats me this way. This snake is a liar.

The truth is: the struggle doesn’t disappear, the path is still overgrown and difficult, but the Savior is present. We strengthen our hearts by looking to Jesus, and as Libby said, “The beauty of looking to Jesus is that he meets us in the heartache.” He meets us in the waiting, in the impatience, in the confusion, the frustration, the sadness, the loneliness, the despair. All of it.

We’re not home yet. We’re certainly not out of the woods, but we have a companion for the road. So then, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Emily Morrison

Snake Pic

24 Hours of Prayer Sign up

Hello friends!
I am so excited about our upcoming 24 Hours of Prayer on May 17 and 18! As our church finishes up a several month long study of James, we thought it would be a great time to reflect on all that we have learned and spend some time set aside for prayer.

James was a raw and real book with plenty of application! It was convicting but even more than that, revealing in a really good way. It called me not to just obey Christ in action but to look at the inner motives of my heart, to think through those deeper issues and to have truth in those inner parts. Sometimes what I uncovered there was messy! I hope that spending an hour of prayer will provide you with some good closure to our study of James and that God will give you fresh insight and strength.

The fun part for us is this: You just get to show up! We will have someone there to serve you communion and pray with you briefly before leading you to your room. Then the time can be spent however you like. We will have a guide and some suggested scriptures to read, but feel free to do whatever you want! When your hour is up, come into the sanctuary. We will have some opportunity for you to respond in writing to what you have experienced. For us on the prayer team this most feels like hospitality- creating a space for you to be with the Lord.

I know the summer busyness has already begun! Won’t you spend just a little time quieting your heart in anticipation? You won’t regret it! You will have opportunity to sign up for a one hour slot this coming Sunday! In years past we were more concerned with everyone having a “slot” this year we will have a couple rooms available and I am less concerned with overlap. Just let us know what’s good for you!
So Excited to see how God moves!

Shannon and the Prayer Team

PS- Questions? Email me at ShannonSchalles@gmail.com

Super HUB 2.0

In March, the men and women of The Portico Church gathered to “dream God-Sized Dreams” and plan for the future.
The overwhelming take away from that meeting was a call to seek God’s face, repent of sin and earnestly ask Him what He would have us – as individuals and as a church- do next. In doing this, we would be living out “revival” (aka Obedience).

It has been 6 weeks since that charge went out and now its time to rally together to see what God has been saying and doing since then.

Gather with your church this Sunday from 10:00 to Noon for brunch (provided) and heart-felt conversations. We will spend time praying with one another, hearing from each other and dreaming about what the “death to life” story could do for downtown Monroe and the greater Monroe region – and hearing what it is currently doing.

To get ready for Sunday and have it be the best use of everyone’s time, consider the following:

1. What is God up to in your life? (what’s He teaching you, working on you about, helping you through?) Be prepared to share that with a small group of folks on Sunday morning.

2. Would you spend some time praying about what God is asking you to start? stop? or support within our church?

3. Would you pray for our leaders and Elders as they listen for the guidance of The Spirit and themes from individuals’ stories?

4. Would you join together with others to power activities through your volunteer effort that are proclaiming the Good News of our Great Rescuer in diverse and creative ways?

See you at The Palace on Sunday, May 4th from 10:00 AM to Noon.

24 Hours of Prayer Sign Up!

This coming Sunday you will have an opportunity to sign up for a one hour slot for our 24 Hours of Prayer! The sign up will be in the lobby. Feel free to sign up with a friend or family member or alone. 24 Hours of Prayer will begin Saturday May 17 at 4:00 pm and run until 4:00 pm on Sunday May 18.
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