The Broken Phone

“You gonna replace your phone?”

I’ve heard the question countless times. I suppose it’s a reasonable remark considering the state of my cracked phone screen. How the multiple shards of glass have managed to keep from falling out or cutting my fingers is a mystery. Still, the question rankles me a bit. Why? Because the phone works just fine despite its cracked appearance. 

We are a people obsessed with perfection. If something is broken, just toss it away and replace it with a new model. A better one.

Sometimes our attitude about objects bleed into the way we treat people too. What a tragedy.

I battled epilepsy as a child. I’ll never forget the shame that accompanied those moments in elementary school when I would find two dozen pairs of eyes staring at me in horror because I had a seizure. I remember how frustrating it was to find a chunk of time yawning like a black hole in my memory. And I remember the helplessness of having no control over my own body.

Fast forward to the present, and life hasn’t changed. We all deal with tough stuff: poor health, children with special needs, the slicing pain of divorce, rejection, depleted bank accounts or angry coworkers. For some, the most devastating blow of all is being forgotten by your children. For others, you might be dealing with the mess from your own poor decisions and you just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it. Whatever the situation, we’re far from perfect. Messy. Broken. We wonder, How can God possibly use me now?

Our culture has glamorized what the world defines as “perfect”. From the airbrushed models gracing the latest covers of Vogue to the highlight reels inundating social media, we are constantly told we must be flawless to be accepted. The flip side of that lie is that anything broken must be rejected.

If we build our identity on something other than Christ—whether it’s our appearance, “goodness”, social reputation, prestige, or approval from others—the greater the pain when that identity crumbles.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Neither are brokenness and worth.

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” (Vance Havner)

All my life, I’ve heard it said that broken things are special because the cracks allow the light to come in. I don’t believe that’s true. As a child of God, brokenness allows the Light to shine out. 

When we put on a mask of perfection, we’re only allowing people to see a plastic version of who we really are. Brokenness allows the masks to be stripped away. Pretense is gone. All that is left is honesty, humility and fractures of space where self has been stripped away so others can see Jesus shining through.

Best-selling author Bob Goff says it best. “It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”

I doubt I’ll be replacing my cell phone anytime soon. It’s broken exterior hasn’t effected its functioning ability one iota. I’d hate to lose it. It’s chocked full of pictures and videos, memories and a hundred other treasures. Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean I need to throw it away. If anything, its fragile cracks give it character. No other phone looks exactly like it. Its one-of-a-kind.

It’s brokenness hasn’t effected its worth in my eyes.

Advertisements

The Civil War, Messy People and Jesus: Why I Write

 

With my debut book release with Tyndale scheduled for summer of 2018, this week I’ve begun the daunting task of writing another story. It’s set in one of my favorite time periods…the Civil War.

This isn’t a new assignment for me. This will actually be the fourth Civil War story I’ve penned, uh, typed, but the research involved is always staggering. Always bloody and gruesome, yet filled with heroism, astounding tales of beauty and forgiveness…even humor.

lincoln beardPeople like 11 year-old Grace Bedell who wrote Abraham Lincoln a letter when he was running for President and convinced him the population would find him much more appealing if he grew a beard. (He listened.) Or fiery John Brown or the reckless zeal of Roger Pryor who, after firing the signal cannon that launched the attack on Fort Sumter, thought to celebrate by grabbing what he thought was liquor from the physician’s supply. Instead he swallowed iodide of potassium and almost poisoned himself to death. belle boydOr the eccentric Belle Boyd, who rode horses into parlors for attention and fancied herself the most beautiful, heroic feminine star the Confederacy could ever produce.

There are other stories of drunkards and misfits, spies and traitors, women and Zouaves, generals and cowards . All of them fascinating. I suppose what is most interesting to me in studying these odd assortment of lives is how often they acted, and reacted, and lived and died for a cause or an ideal. They all claimed to be ready to meet their fate with a hero’s fortitude, but peeling back the surface, most of these fascinating legends were terrified of one thing…the hole inside.

In reading their journals, the cry for significance screams from the pages of now still ink pens and dry blotters. They signed up to fight or spy or whatever their task was without a moment’s hesitation. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe in the Union or the Confederacy or the Underground Railroad or whatever ‘the Cause’ was. But for some of them, it was their chance to be seen. Heard. To matter.

They wallowed in insecurity. In fear. They were desperate for a father’s love. For a mother’s love. To catch the attention of a beau or a spurned lover. They were tired of being rejected, or had been pampered and spoiled to a sickening degree. Some were abused. Some were desperate. All were messy. All were broken. All were consumed with a need to “make their mark”. vinicius-amano-145607

Yet most refused to look deeply at the reason why. Scores of these legends would have rather thrown themselves in front of bullets or screamed through a hellish battlefield than look at the demons inside.

We’ve often heard it said “History repeats itself.” I don’t know that history repeats itself so much as human nature repeats itself. We’re all a jumbled mess of broken hearts desperately yearning for love, stumbling about in the shadows looking for that illusive something. No. Correction. Someone. Jesus.

Heart _But it’s easier to fight for a cause than look at our own pain. Easier to drown in noise than face the truth of silence. Easier to follow the crowd than stand the rejection of walking alone.

That’s just one more thing that makes Jesus so remarkable. As I sat watching the sun break through a cloudy sky during our church’s sunrise service, the pastor said someone I’d not considered. He spoke softly. “Upon having the nails driven through his hands and feet, and being lifted high, Jesus could have chosen at that moment to say ‘It is finished’ and breathed his last. He didn’t just die for us. Instead, He chose to suffer for hours and feel our pain as well.”

jesus painJesus chose to feel the pain. He leaned in to the crushing agony, the numbing screams of severed nerves, blood loss, asphyxiation, rejection, shame. He stared unflinchingly into the darkness. And because He smashed death and darkness to pieces when He arose, He offers freedom from the misery of it all.

This is why I love to write. Whether past or present, real or allegorical, all people are broken. Over and over, the human condition reminds us of our need for redemption. For Hope. For a Savior. As I write, I unearth more of my own brokenness as well. Writing is discovering the shadowed, scarred corners of my heart and understanding how God has redeemed them. How He has redeemed me…that discovery then bleeds over the pages of my story world and the struggling characters inside.

So I begin again. The names and characters will change. Plots and places will be altogether different. Their motivations and crises will alter but the Hope that will transform their lives will remain the same. Praise God, He is forever the same.

CHAPTER 1

Washington D.C., 1861

            Cadence Piper walked down the darkened street, clutching her reticule to her middle. Her booted footsteps clicked loudly against the gritty walk. She winced at the echo that drifted back from the inky alley to the right. A shiver crawled down her spine…

dark street