Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beaten Dragons

I am reading works written by G.K.Chesterton right now.  I like the way he thinks.  Like this quote, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”*smile* That's like David and Goliath. There are many stories in scripture of people being victorious against all odds.  Gideon, Jehoshaphat, Elijah.  These stories tell me that dragons can be defeated... more than that they tell me I am not fighting my battles alone. I do need to know that Dragons can be beaten. It's also good to know that someone BIG has my back.

I have had to face some pretty big dragons in my life.  Many were just plain beyond me but somehow, by divine intervention, I made it.

I think about raising kids.  How can a parent keep their children safe?  How can you perfectly protect them from harm and at the same time help them to become self assured and independent?  The answer is... you can't.  Just giving birth brings with it the risk of harming both mother and child.  After raising my children I have concluded that it is humanly impossible for children to reach adulthood alive.  They must be supernaturally protected, it's the only way they would ever make it. After raising children I don't know how NOT to believe in guardian angels.  It's beyond coincidence that my children survived without so much as a broken bone in a myriad of near misses. More than once I watched powerless as their life dangled by a thread of possible outcomes. It's mind boggling.

Hmm then I think,  what else are we protected from?  I once visited the observatory on Kit Peak in Arizona.  They have a small telescope there (well smaller anyway) dedicated to finding meteors that have the potential of hitting earth someday.  I don't know what they expected to find but they found hundreds of possibles and continue to find more every day.  Perhaps we are protected more than we know.  Perhaps the only reason there is life on this planet is because that life is being cultivated, nurtured and protected every day.

We are headed toward what they call a solar maximum.  In 2011 there were only 2 spotless days on the sun.  In 2009 there were 260.  Sunspots are one source of solar flares which often create auroras (the northern lights) at the poles. Most are harmless but some have the potential of effecting our power grid (among other things) here on earth.  In the last year, I have watched as over and over sunspots that were very active while facing away from earth quiet as they turn towards us.  Is that a coincidence or is it evidence of our protector?  I wonder

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Holidays used to be "Holy Days" but I'm having a hard time finding the "holy" in Christmas this year. The "Salvation Army" used to be ringing their bells, opening doors and offering a hardy, "Merry Christmas!" To passers by. Now they are snubbed by many stores because of their religious bent. There used to be a Nativity Scene at the park. That has been ended for fear of reprisal. We as a nation have been "purifying" ourselves but from what? I remember a song by Paul Stookey called
"Hymn" One verse reads,

"I visited Your house again on Christmas or Thanksgiving
And a balded man said You were dead,
But the house would go on living.
He recited poetry and as he saw me stand to leave
He shook his head and said I'd never find You."

That's how this Christmas feels.  It is no longer a religious, holy-day in this country.  It is a tradition and a sad one at that.  Billions of dollars are spent giving gifts, they once were in honor of the wise men who came to worship Jesus... now they are just... well gifts.  I don't get the draw.

My question is, is there anything I can do to reclaim it?  Really, Christmas started as a pagan holy-day perhaps it has already been reclaimed.  God what is your take? (listening) It feels like a distraction.  I'm thinking of Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God".  That's really what I want to do this Christmas.  I don't want to go shopping.  I don't want hit the parties.  I just want to turn my focus on Jesus.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Abide in Him

I have been reading the first few chapters of 1 John.  I love 1 John.  It is a small book but so full and rich.  It's a great book to marinate on. Right now I am pondering 1 John 2:27 where it says, "And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." That passage reminds me of John 15:5 where Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." I'm trying to imagine what it means to both have the anointing abide in me and for me to abide in Jesus.  Interesting that it says the anointing teaches us to abide in Him.  Wow, Holy Spirit, please do teach me to dwell in Jesus.  I want to live there!

I crave that kind of "dwelling there relationship with Jesus."  I want to simply be with Him.  Chaos has become the norm around here and just "being" is very hard to accomplish.  But imagine what it means if we are too busy, too swallowed up in the clamor to hear.  If the anointing teaches us all things... especially the true art of abiding in Jesus... is the clamor and chaos keeping us from gaining the most important lesson of all?

What a thing to say, "the anointing which you received from Him abides in you." What does that mean? Who is he talking to? He says in chapter 2:1 "My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin." I'm thinking "My little Children" is referring to those that he had influence on in the Church. This is a letter that was passed around and cherished by the Church of his day and continues to be read and cherished now.  It is written to the Christians who would read it.  It is written to me, and it is written to you.  So listen to it again... "The anointing which you received from Him abides in you." Wow, what does that mean? (listening) I'm looking at verse 20 of chapter 2 "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things" Those are bold statements.  I don't feel like I know all things.  I often feel very uninformed, and bewildered.  What about that God? (listening() Hmmm I'm thinking of Psalms 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." It feels like a correction, "Peace Child be still"  but also a call, be still and find Me.  Be still and I can be found.  Be still and abide in he stillness that is me.  The bottom line? "Be Still!" God help me! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lost in wonder

I get so busy.  There are so many ways to be detracted :)  but when I am busy I don't have time to wonder.  Oh I always have questions rumbling around in my head, I mean the kind of wonder you can lose yourself in.  The awe of the stars on a crystal clear night,  The hush of a winter storm, the tiny fingers of a newborn babe.  All these things are full of wonder... wonderful!  I think that word has lost its meaning.

It is cold this time of year in the North.  It hasn't snowed at my house yet but the air is crisp outside and begging to be kissed with white glory.  I love the snow.  It is so beautiful. Sometimes it feels like grace.  It doesn't matter what I have left scattered in my yard, what is still undone, what I didn't manage to store before winter,  when it snows all will be perfect, clean, white and beautiful.

I want to be lost in wonder.  I want to take time to see what's worth looking at and to hear, smell, taste touch.  Psalms 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the  Lord is good."  Wow, that is a wake up call for me.  SLOW DOWN!  Experience Me! Yes, Lord.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do we hear Him?

I was reading in Ephesians yesterday. The sermon was going one way but my mind was going another.  Checkout Ephesians 4:20, "But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:" Say what? This letter was sent first to the Ephesians, they were not Jews. They weren't taught but Jesus when He was on the earth.  But these are people who have learned Christ, heard Him and been taught by Him just the same.  They were taught through supernatural means.  That is awesome to me.  That means that I too can be taught by the greatest teacher ever known.  I don't have to worry about the message being misquoted as it is passed from generation to generation.  I can get it straight from the horses mouth.  (well you know what I mean)

I have heard warnings from many who fear listening because we might take as God what we want to hear instead of what He is saying.  It's true, we can.  It's right there in this passage. You have not so learned Christ.  I'm thinking they learned something else instead.  But the deal is, God is bigger.  He is bigger than my ability to get it wrong.  He can catch me when I fall down.  I can trust Him to protect me from myself.  He is there to teach me.  I can listen and learn.  How awesome is that!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day or prayer for the persecuted church

It was announced this morning in church that this is the international day of prayer for the persecuted Church worldwide.  We prayed a prayer of gratitude that we in America can worship without fear.  That we are even given a tax exemption as a church and we prayed for those in other countries who choose to risk everything rather than denounce Christ.  To tell you the truth... it seemed empty and cold. Here there is no real place for pain.  We take pills for everything from headaches to hot flashes.  Surely there is some kind of persecution prevention pill available isn't there? Oh Father open our eyes to really look at what is going on around us.

I don't in any way want to diminish the cost that is being paid by Christians all over the world.  But here, in America, there is a different persecution going on.  I am thinking of Daniel 8:25 where it says,

"Through his cunning
      He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule;
      And he shall exalt himself in his heart.
      He shall destroy many in their prosperity.
      He shall even rise against the Prince of princes;
      But he shall be broken without human means."

The line that jumps out at me is, "He shall destroy many in their prosperity." It reminds me of Rome which fell partly because of it's successes.  People became complacent and passionless.They lost sight of that point of their government system.

I'm sure mine isn't the conventional way of understanding this passage but it says to me that prosperity isn't always a gift, much less from God.  As I look over the crowds of wealthy, overfed, under nourished religious people in this country I wonder if it is our prosperity that is destroying us.  I wonder if instead of thanking God for the lack of violence in this country towards Christians we might consider praying that His people here might be saved from the things that are killing us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Sheep did not hear them

John 10:7-10 is an interesting passage "Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." I have read this passage many times but I never noticed that one line, "The sheep did not hear them"

The whole of John chapter 9 is fascinating to me.  There is so much in the story of that man that was born blind that Jesus heals by making mud smearing it in his eyes and telling him to go wash.  Because Jesus asks him to go and wash instead of healing him right there, this man can't identify Jesus by sight, yet he is convinced he is the LORD because he healed him. 

The rift comes when he stands up for Jesus amongst the Leaders of the synagog.  They can not intimidate the healed man or shut him up so they do the next best thing.  They kick him out of the synagog.  That is a much bigger thing than being kicked out of a church in that it eliminated his access not just to fellowship but also redemption. 

But Jesus knowing that he was cast out went to find him and then He says, I am the door.  Which I take to mean He is the one who can say, "You are in." and "You are out".  What a comforting thought but more than that it says whoever came before me are thieves and robbers... BUT... the sheep did not hear them. 

I'm thinking of all the out of order things that are done in the name of God.  Does that passage say that His sheep just blow off stuff that is out of order and not follow it?  Or is it saying that there are filters between His sheep's ears that keep them from hearing a foreign call.  Or is it that we come to know the voice of our true master and we are not distracted by the thieves.  Does this take practice or is it supernatural?

Knowing just what I have seen of God's protection of me over the years I tend to think that it is a supernatural protection.  Sweet!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Learning to serve, learning to look

I wonder about service and pain.  Somehow I think they are connected.  Service isn't possible unless you can see beyond yourself. On a good day that's hard to do but when I am in pain, well, that's much harder.  Why is that? (listening) Hmmm, pain stacks up for me.  I get overwhelmed with it.  So God, why does it stack up? (listening) Wow, the sense I have is that grieving takes time and that I am not taking it. I feel like I take time but to tell you the truth sometimes I waste my time on things that swallow up my mind but accomplish nothing.  Why is that? (listening) That feels like spiritual warfare.  I'm thinking of Ephesians 5:15-16 where it says, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

Hmmm, I wonder what "circumspectly" means. (googling) Webster says, "careful to consider all circumstances and possible consequences" Wow.  See that you walk carefully considering the possible consequences, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time.  That takes a mind awake but for me I can choose to be awake if I am pushing away pain and avoiding dealing/feeling it through.  Ok, but sometimes it feels like the pain will overwhelm me.  What about that God? The sense I have is that it will if I try to do it by myself I will be overwhelmed.  The picture I have is of a faucet that turns on too fast for little hands but big hands can turn it more carefully.  Ok, I can do that.

Still, my burden today is about service.  The further away we get from each other in terms of connection the less we offer service to each other.  (though sometimes we offer service to another because it serves us somehow) In a family, we work as a team.  One gets breakfast started while another starts the laundry, helps with the kids or takes out the trash.  Service requires that we open our eyes to see the man standing on the street corner or the woman who is bruised and skittish. Sometimes it's seeing beyond the day to day even in our own families.

Seeing requires wisdom.  I once saw a man standing on a street corner holding a sign that read, "Need money for beer".  Not everyone is that honest and service to some is refusing to be used... or beaten.  But service is a mind set.  It is choosing to look beyond my pain and see the plight of others with a heart to help.

I once watched a movie called, "Pay it forward".  Today is a good day to start a trend. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The "why" question

I have a friend who had a baby last week, a 29 weeker as they call her.  That means she was pulled from her safe, warm, comfortable womb 11 weeks too early.  I have another friend who had her baby just yesterday, 2 weeks late.  One is so tiny you can cover her hand with a quarter.  One so big he looks old somehow.  I have another friend who has conceived 6 babies and lost 5… I deeply grieve for her because I have lost 5 of my own.

It begs the question, why? Why do some mothers pop out babies with ease and why do some get no chance at bearing children at all?  I had a friend who has had 5 maybe 6 children (I lost count) She was addicted to cocaine. Every child had a different father and every child was wild, sad, and angry.  I cringed when she got pregnant because of the circumstance I knew her child would be raised in. But somehow our sovereign God allowed children to come and somehow for others seemingly more worthy, He does not. Why? I asked the question over and over as her babies lived and my babies died at 20 weeks gestation.

I don’t know the answer to that question. Why do some get cancer and die as children and why do evil men sometimes live over 100 years.  I read of a convicted child molester who lived beyond his jail sentence.  Something the judge never expected to happen. At 90 some years old, he was a free man with every intention of re-offending and every opportunity. The legal system has no power to stop him because he had served his time.

Few people ever ask God why.  It’s frightening to imagine a God who is not good and if He is good, do we need to ask why?  I believe we do.  I recall my own children at a certain age asking the “why” question incessantly.  Why is the grass green? Why do the lights come on when you flip the switch? Why do dogs wag their tails? Why do they chase cats all the time? Why did my Grandfather get sick and die? Why are you going to the store?  Why do you mow the lawn? Why do you take out the garbage and why do they pick it up on Fridays?  Why can’t they pick it up on Saturday instead? It can be exhausting for Mom and Dad, but normal children with healthy curiosity ask why all the time.

Curiosity is vital.  Let’s question everything.  Why do we do what we do?  Why does the sun come up in the east? Will it come up in the west someday? Why is the grass green? Why did my baby die and her baby live? I believe that God wants to reveal His nature to us.  He wants us to intimately know Him.  How can we if we swallow our questions of confusion and grief?

I have spent many hours agonizing over that one question why.  Why, if you are sovereign did you allow me to be ravaged? Why if you are sovereign did my baby die? Somehow there is a different tone than just why is the grass green.  A child asks with trust in her heart.  She completely expects us to have a reasonable explanation… even when we don’t   But my questions of God were questions of judgment.  Are you good or evil?  I’m thinking of the child who has lost trust in their parent.  Their questions carry a different tone, one of assumed violation and deep hurt. When I have asked God why as if I were His judge, He doesn’t seem obliged to answer.  But when I have asked Him why, simply because I need to understand, He has been quick to give both explanation and comfort.

Monday, October 24, 2011


The thing about chaos is you can't really fix it.  It is a consequence of sin.  Sometimes it is the consequence of your sin but sometimes it is your consequence of someone else's sin.  We live in a fallen world.  When you sin, you sin on someone else.  When you sin, you bring chaos into the life of another. 

I was talking to a friend yesterday.  He talked about Genesis 1:2 ("The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.") from the perspective of chaos.  The earth was without form... not yet ordered... chaotic.  But the Spirit hovered over that chaos. 

I don't know about you but that gives me hope.  During my bout with brain trauma, I had a CT scan.  In it you can visually see that my right brain is significantly larger than my left.  That explained a lot to me at the time.  Order is so hard for me.  It doesn't come naturally and our ability to be ordered comes from the logical, sequential side of the brain, the left side.  I was telling a psychology friend of mine about my lopsided brain and her comment was, "Oh yes, that is the picture of a traumatized brain!" really? Can you be damaged on a cellular level? Am I broken in places where no one can see?  Funny, that concept gives me some peace.  You see, I have always felt that to be true. It makes sense out of how I feel. 

Well, the good news is its more physical training than damage.  I had to be intuitive to avoid violence.  Logic would get me nowhere.  I exercised the right side of my brain and the muscles on that side are lean and strong.  I like being intuitive. It is a gift that helps me touch others with empathy and hope. I don't want to lose that training but I can still do exercises to strengthen the other side of my brain.  The research I have done says it's never too late for brain development.  The left side of my brain isn't dead or damaged... it's just flabby! W00t!

It's hard to know how to start.  I have made many efforts to bring order into my house, my days, my kitchen cabinets. Ugh! That is a lot of work! But the concept of the Spirit hovering over my chaos, my deep, dark bubbling pool of black and disorder, poised to make it teaming with life, that's cool! 

My sad confession is that I have passed my chaos onto my children.  Having no order to give, has cost them deeply.  My daughter has taught me a lot about taking that chaos to the LORD.  I remember when she ordered her kitchen cabinets.  She asked God where to put each thing.  It took time and patience and listening but her cabinets are beautiful and easy it seems for her to keep ordered because she knows where everything goes.  Wow, I am amazed. 

So God, help me, put me on an exercise regime that will work for me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Welcome to the Human Race!

I keep going back to the topic of shame. Guilt says, "I did something wrong" but shame says, "there is something wrong with me".  Shame hurts-- deeply hurts. It ought never be used as a weapon, but it is used all the time. 

I think it has something to do with who we authorize as judge. Who is the one telling me I am flawed? Do they really have the ability to know?

The media is wields shame without restraint and I believe it is a major contributor to the suicide rate.  The theory goes; in order to sell this product, I must convince you that without it you are flawed.  "Because you are flawed, you need this product for hair loss prevention." "Because you are flawed you must buy this diet food program." "Because you are flawed you need this drug."Really???

The truth is, we are all human; we are all inadequate... flawed at least by human standards. That is why we need a savior. But why is it that a savior doesn't seem to be enough? What are we trying to measure up to? What is the mark we are trying to reach? Is it perfection?  What is true perfection anyway?

Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse," That says to me that we can understand God by His art... His creation. It says even to His eternal power and Godhead... wow, that is a lot to see! I believe the same of any artist.  Understand someone's art and you understand the artist who created it. God has expressed Himself perfectly through His creation.  What an awesome concept!

It's very sad to me that we mow down God's art to create our own without really trying to see what He has given us to see.  (Hmmm, as I ponder that, I feel the gentle nudge from Him to come to a quiet place and spend some time with Him)

So what about perfection? When I have been pressed to be "perfect", I feel pressed to conform.  I never measure up to perfect.  My hair, for instance, if it was perfect, every strand would flow in a consistent pattern nothing would be out of place.  In order to be "perfect" I would need hairspray to hold it into place (really?). I have chemical sensitivities which prevents me from using hairspray does that mean I can never be perfect?

Why do we strive for perfect anyway?  Is it perfection we want, or is it love? Is it the fear of not being perfect that drives our shame or the fear that we are not lovable?

Going back to God's creation.  I marvel at the trees.  It is fall here in the North.  The leaves are ablaze with indescribable colors! Every leaf is a different shade of awesome.  That is amazing to me.  If perfection were about conformity then every leaf would be the same wouldn't it? But every leaf has a glitch.  Some have spots, I don't believe any one matches another in shape, size or color.  If so, can only one leaf be perfect? Or are they all perfectly unique?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Incompotent or in need of mentoring?

I tend to be a truth-based person.  I lean on the truth part of Ephesians 4:15  which encourages us to speak the truth in love.  My husband leans on the mercy part. It is a good blend.  He helps me live a life of compassion. I help him to give with wisdom.  This last week has been a test of our capacity to offer grace being "Wise as serpents and harmless as doves"  (Matthew 10:16) 

During a big windstorm, a tree fell on our house.  It was a big tree doing damage to the structure of the roof.  We hired roofers to repair the damage... they hired someone else, who hired some young, inexperienced kids to accomplish the task.  These young inexperienced (maybe in their early 20s) people had no common sense and our house has suffered huge water damage as a result.  Ugh! what a mess! My reaction, well, wasn't pretty.  It's funny, at this point I see at least some people thinking less of us for not choosing more competent workers.  I have to say that we have spend much of our lives in a small town where you know everyone and you know who does good work and who doesn't.  We felt a bit lost in the choosing but we picked someone we thought to be reputable, I still think they are reputable.  I will change my mind if they don't do what it takes to make it right.

My husband's response was to get up on the roof and join in the work of rebuilding the roof.  He has the experience and ability just not the time.  He spent the day with these young people and came home with a heart full of compassion saying what they needed was mentoring.  They worked hard for him and he enjoyed his day.  He offered grace, modeling and direction and they blossomed under his kindness.  How do you quantify that? I am humbled by his response.  It reminds me of Jesus' response in Matthew 9:36 "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd."

There is more to do, somehow figuring out what will be paid for in cleaning up after the deluge that poured into our house. But one thing I know.  Grace is like living water poured onto the heads of those who are suffering in this world with no purpose or direction.

Through a comedy of errors an inexperience we have suffered violation.  No one set out to violate us.  Shock and anger are what first rises up in me but I have been blessed to again see grace and kindness win out,  I am so grateful for the times when I have been given grace instead of condemnation.  I am also blessed to be the observer in another's dance of grace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Facing Shame

There are days in my life that still sting to think of.  I remember being the accompanist for my college choir, I was younger than anyone else there.  I had graduated early from high school, but I had a music scholarship which meant I had to do something in the music department. 

I was assigned a job I was not ready for, add to that I was assigned to a professor who was insensitive at best.  He had no patience with me. I couldn't understand what he wanted.  He didn't invest any time to explain.  In many ways we were a bad match but because I was a music major he was my adviser as well.

It came to a head no more than a week after I was assigned the job.  Right there, in front of all my musical peers, my professor berated my abilities, stripped me of any confidence and publicly ousted me from my position. As a musician I just couldn't measure up. Over nine years of private piano instruction, and I couldn't measure up.  I didn't think four years of his tutelage was going to help. From then on I was expected to sing for him with the rest of the witnesses of that day. Red faced and devastated I silently took it. I just stood there, wishing there was someone in the room who would speak in my defense.

Shame is a powerful tool of the enemy.  It is the terrible message that drives a wedge between ourselves and all others. It can become a huge wedge between ourselves and God.  The wedge is the belief that there is something wrong with us.  We are not wounded we are irreparably broken! That's how I felt that day.  That day has played over and over in my mind.  Oh, how I wish I had spoken up and said something... anything.  Like, "Do you really have to say all this in public?" Even saying, "Stop!" would have been nice. I wanted to tell him he was being mean and hurtful but it was impossible for me to process in the moment.  I think everyone was in shock.  I think they felt sorry for me in a way but they too were brutalized by his behavior.

What kept any one of them from speaking up?  I believe it was shame as well.  Shame that says, "Well, what would people think of me?" or ,"If I speak up he will yell at me next!" But not speaking up is what keeps the cycle going.  He needed someone to stand up to his cruelty so that he would think twice before repeating it.  If the whole room had roared out an objection, he would have been the one singled out.

I have found comfort in two things.  It has been awesome to know that Jesus bore more than my sins on the cross.  He took my shame as well.  He hung there buck naked.  Can you imagine? I think I can.  I'm not sure what the difference is when you are stripped emotionally or physically, you still stand naked before the one stripping you. But I don't have to bear that shame anymore I can lift it up to Jesus and let Him carry it for me.  I don't look to people to define me anymore.  Jesus created me because He wanted ME! If He had wanted someone else He would have created someone else. I have admired his artwork many times.  I love His seascapes best.  But this great artist didn't make His only mistake when He made me... I am in par with His other work. 

The second thing that gives me comfort is turning my talents back to Him.  I don't have to play for anyone else.   I can play my very best or my very worst and He is delighted.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Helper of the Helpless

I recounted a story yesterday to a friend who is becoming less and less capable of taking care of herself. It is humiliating to be accustomed to taking care of yourself to one day find that you need someone else to bath you, clean up after you, you name it! I know, I have been there. There was a time when I was not capable of washing my own hair. I could not imagine being without covering in the bathtub so I bathed in my swimsuit. I needed help getting that on as well but it gave me a sense of dignity. I felt, well, helpless and needy, perhaps less than human?

But God seems to have a sweet spot in His heart for the helpless. I know He doesn't pick favorites but He does stick up for the helpless, the widows, the orphans, the beggars, those that can not stick up for themselves.

Sometimes I wonder, what are we missing by being so, "capable"? I know this, in my deepest need, God was vivid. There have been other times in my life when I was unable to take care of myself. I remember running from an abusive man, moving to a strange town and seeking a job at a restaurant because a meal was one of the perks thus assuring me that I would get at least one meal a day. I used the last of my money... I mean every cent! To rent a small efficiency and a u-haul trailer.

I picked a restaurant that was within walking distance, walked in and applied for a job. I walked out employed. I was to start the very next day dressed in brown pants and brown waitress shoes! Without a cent to my name, I prayed. I had no other option. (sad to think prayer was my last resort eh?) Late that evening I walked to the pay phone to make a collect call. When I left the phone booth there was a 10 dollar bill lying on the ground with no one there to return it to.

In the morning I went shopping and found brown pants and brown waitress shoes both my size. The only pair of waitress shoes in the store. They were on the clearance rack. By the end of my shopping spree, I had enough change to put a bit of gas in the car and buy a taco for lunch! I went to work knowing I had a God who intimately cared for me... and He does, especially when we are not capable of caring for ourselves.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless. Psalms 10:14 NIV


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hurricanes, Floods, Tornadoes, Fires... What a year!

I was reading this passage in Joel (1:4-5). "What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten;What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten. Awake, you drunkards, and weep"

I couldn't help but wonder about the weather here in the U.S. this year. We have had one disaster after another. We had so much snow over the winter. Here in the North I dug out 17 inches in one storm alone. But in the Rockies, storm after storm pelted the mountains. Then the snow never really melted... and the rains came... and with it flooding.

Tornadoes are not unusual for the Midwest but storm after storm hit populated areas. That's unusual and very sad. Then came the heat. Days, months in some places baking in triple digit heat. Many ranchers lost their shirts as well as their cattle. Then came hurricane season, more wind, more rain, more lives disrupted. Then fires in Texas and elsewhere, where the heat never let up. What is going on? I really don't know but after a year like this one Joel is beginning to have new meaning to me.

Twenty years ago our lives looked like this year's weather. We had one thing after another go wrong until we ended the year homeless and drifting. We asked the question, "If God was trying to change our direction, what would He have to do to get our attention?" Our conclusion was that He would have to get pretty drastic. With new eyes then we looked at our situation and asked God what His plan was for our lives right then. He totally changed our direction. I'm thinking we as a country... maybe globally could use a direction change. Why do we do what we do? What is the point of our lives? If God were trying to get our attention what would He have to do to get it? This passage in Joel concludes with this plea, "WAKE UP!"

I'm not thinking of God bringing on disasters to punish us... but I believe He won't step in to protect where He is not welcome. I believe God has been our protector much more than we know.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I will put my laws into their hearts

I am still reading Hebrews. I am pondering Hebrews 8:10 where it says, "I will put my laws into their hearts." That sounds amazing and scary to me at the same time. I have a picture of a referee constantly calling,"foul!" It's not a pretty picture.

What exactly does it mean to have you put your laws into my heart God? (listening) Gosh, I have a picture of a defib planted under my skin and set up to give me a jolt when my heart is failing. Wow, that sounds a lot different than having a law in my brain that never lets me sleep nights because I can't measure up to it.

There is a difference between having compassion and acting compassionately. Acting on what I think I should do rather than simply responding naturally to what I see is exhausting! Far too often I think, I'm trying to follow God instead of letting Him make me into a follower. I'm thinking it's all about giving permission rather than trying to be the one that makes it happen. Wow, that sounds more doable. God I open my heart to you please plant within it your laws and help me to move in it with ease.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Practice not failure!

I am reading a book called radical by David Platt. I've only just started it but it is speaking deeply to my heart. It is a call to really listen to the words of Jesus, commit to believe them and obey them letting go of the American dream to live radically for Jesus.I am so hungry for real fellowship and purpose in my faith. I too have been lulled to sleep and I want to wake up ! there is a crisis going on in the world.the are hundreds of thousands starving, millions homeless, countless many enslaved.there are millions of children orphaned and we argue about the color of the carpet! Geez for what we spend to heat our cushy church building for one month, we could send 30 children to school in Africa for a year!

I want to start today, this week. But where do I start?(listening)hmmmmm the sense I have is to start first by reading the speed with a commitment to believe what I read and a commitment to do what I am convicted to do.

Ok so I've been reading Hebrews. Chapter 5 verse 14 has me pondering."Who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Exactly how do you practice that?(listening) wow I have a picture in my head of all the messy relationships I have had, many I would call"failed"relationships. I have a knack for messy. But the picture is of how those encounters are "practice" they are how I have acquired discernment. Wow you mean they were for a purpose? Practicing relationship has been a painful process for me. It's amazing to think it was positive, a working toward the goal. It's so a huge comfort to think of my"failures"relationally as some kind of positive success. I am successfully learning how not to relate that is practice not failure. W00t!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bees and being subject to Slavery

I've been reading Hebrews this morning. This passage caught my eye, "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." Hebrews 14-15 NAS Is that talking only about dying? God, how are we "all our lives" subject to slavery over our fear of dying? (Listening) Hmmm, I have a complicated picture. We do bees, that is my husband does bees. I would wager to say that he is a bee whisperer. Though he does get stung sometimes, even when he lifts the lid and messes with the inside of the hives they mostly leave him alone. I love honey but bees not so much. They don't like me either. They will go out of their way to sting me.

We have just finished harvesting our honey for the year. My husband got into the hives, pulled out frames dripping with fresh honey and then left the pile of frame boxes close to the hives. My kids came later to pick them up. Needless to say they were surrounded by bees wishing to take back their prize. Bees know if you are afraid. Basically, if you are calm, they are calm (present company excepted) I watched as two young women danced a dance, picking up boxes, blowing bees out, putting them in the car. Always being very calm and never getting stung.

For me, my fear of bees is a fear of death. Not that I am allergic to them and face real danger, but I am terrified of being stung. Where does that come from? I'm not really sure but it controls me. I'm thinking I am a slave to my fear. I'm also thinking that for me it feels like death.

There are a lot of things that feel like death. Exposing anything that I feel shame about feels like death and as I am gaining an understanding of God's amazing grace. I am less afraid over all. And without fear to drive my decisions I am way more free. It's amazing!

The thing is satan does a lot to convince us that life is death and death is life. Doing the right thing often feels like dying does it not? As a general rule I have found that when I run from what I fear, I'm running away from life.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 in Memory

Years ago people would say, "Do you remember where you were when John F. Kennedy was shot?" The violent loss of our president was a huge violation of the American people and we all remembered. I was tiny at the time but I still remember. I remember the gaunt look on all the adult faces in my sphere. Something unthinkable had happened and the loss was palpable. But no one said, "I was doing God's bidding."

Now people ask, Do you remember where you were when the twin towers came down. I remember. My husband was away on business and unable to get home, his flight canceled because of the attacks. I was stuck at home at a time when home felt very unsafe.

My world echoed the insanity of the attacks of that day as people I cared for deeply justified cruelty in the name of God. My life has been etched with the pain of my own 9/11. I felt like I had experiential empathy for the myriads of people affected by this ravishing.

I remember saying to those who served a god I do not know. "Look at the pain in your wake... is this authored by your god? Grace is soft. Not soft like letting you get away with anything. But soft like down comforter. My God doesn't let me get away with anything... but even in revealing my many faults He is gentle and kind and honoring of who I am. His people do not always follow suit.

The worst thing of all both in my 9/11 and America's is that God was given credit for the destruction. I want to give God credit for many things that happen that day. There are many stories of people who didn't make it to work on time. People who got down before the tower collapsed. People who lost their lives saving many more. People who kept a plane from reaching the capital. People who were just missed by debris, people who ... The loss was huge but the lack of loss was a miracle.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The art of compassion

It's cooling down here. The mornings have that crisp taste of Autumn. The birds are flying in huge clusters. The leaves have just a hint of color. I love the fall. Last week we harvested our honey W00t! Next week we start to gather the wood that will heat us through the winter. Seasons bring change but it is slow and predictable to some extent. We could have a snow storm any day here but it won't really start to linger until Christmas. That feels almost as dependable as the sun coming up every day. The weather is untamed but the seasons will change eventually.

I think about our life seasons. I am watching several people dear to me start to enter their closing season. I believe this life is limited and harsh. Like winters in the north. There are many times when getting out into the elements is unattractive if not unthinkable. I believe that God is good and leaving this life will only be gain if we will receive God's intention for us. I believe there is way more of everything awesome in this world like color and light and music. But the transition is frightening to us all, isn't it?

I think that our life seasons were meant to move slowly, predictably, but they don't always. I watch as families try to cope but are often impatient with new frailties and this kind of change. When we are in pain or if we are just failing physically our worlds shrink there is less that is important but the things that are important become very important.

Compassion in the midst of this season is huge. I remember a time when I hadn't the strength to wash my own hair. Having to have it washed by another is humiliating. I remember the humiliation of my grandmother as I helped bath her in her last days. It couldn't be helped but I didn't then understand what I could do to make it easier.

Compassion is an art I want to learn.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Filling the void and the little red hen

I received a correction from my daughter last week. I think it's awesome when she speaks up and tells me what I know is true. I was about to take on something that was outside my gift and call. It's easy to do. It reminds me of the old story of the little red hen who couldn't find anyone else to do it so she did it herself.

I believe that we are gifted with powerful spiritual gifts. Because they are powerful, they can be dangerous in the wrong hands. They are meant to be guided by a wise father. A spiritual gift can be a skilled scalpel or a butcher knife depending on who has control.

With that in mind, I believe it is way important to listen to the LORD'S leading. That to me is our call. It could be a big call like a call to mission work. But you could also feel called to make a phone call or clean house. Walking in the LORD'S leading is an art that I am trying to learn better that's for sure

That's why my daughters correction was such a gift. How delightful to have my kid say, is that what God is leading you to do? Awesome! The answer, no, I got carried away with the urgency and forgot to listen. So, listening now.

God is so tender even when we mess up. I am stepping back yet again and letting Him fill the void instead of me. He is much better at it :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I work with hurting women. Most are women of HUGE integrity. Most put my own faith and love of the LORD to shame. They cling to Jesus because they have to. When you are stripped of everything that was truly important to you, what else can you do?

I've been there. It was a rude awakening to learn that life was not something that I could control. I have never felt more shame than when I "failed" to save my marriage. But the place where I felt MOST shamed was in the church.

We raise our daughters to expect that Cinderella/ happily-ever-after ending, one that only prince charming can give us. But when prince charming turns out to be not so charming, we leave our daughters swimming in a pool of shame. We have laid it upon women to make prince charming... happy.

Think about it. Why do we teach our girls what we do? Why do women wear perfume, makeup, form fitting clothing? Are we teaching our girls to be prey? Are we trying to be lures trolling for some prince charming to catch us? Are we nothing unless we are loved by some man?

Then when we do "catch" that prince charming what does he "expect" from us as women? I know too many women who feel trapped in a world where their men feel entitled to them as if they were a purchased sex slaves. It is a appalling! Is no one appalled???

Most of the women I work with who fight a terrible battle to save their marriage, lose it because they are the only ones fighting. It is out of their control. You can not make another human being choose life. Nor are you to blame when they do not! Eve didn't make Adam take of the fruit. He knew what he was doing (Genesis 3). Something became more important to him than God and he paid a huge price for that reality.

When I lost what to me was the most precious thing I had, my marriage, I felt sub human, I could feel the stinging shame of a woman carrying the scarlet letter. I had a big red 'D' that I carried around with me everywhere I went. I was divorced... a failure, flawed. I was no longer a princess because the prince had rejected me. ugh!

The thing is, my thinking was perpetuated in the Church. Though I had no control over a man who chose to be unfaithful to his wife. I couldn't make myself attractive enough. Did I make mistakes... yes! But, the truth is... he just wanted fresh meat. How does that make me unfit to teach or serve as a Christian? Why am I the one singled out as the failure?

That happened years ago. I have been happily married for over 30 years but I am still afraid of people who would shame me because of someone else's choice. It's been over thirty years and I still see women who lose their church the day they lose their marriage. It is so mean, and wrong. Please Church, consider your ways!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The year of Jubilee

I am amazed at the global decline. It seems like every nation is having a debt crisis, not to mention individuals in each country having a crisis of their own. It got me thinking about God's solution to the debt crisis. Every 50 years all debts were canceled. I was called the year of Jubilee. What would happen if we canceled all debt everywhere every 50 years? What would happen if all debts were canceled today? Gosh, I wonder how much joy that would bring? What would your life be like if it was debt free? I know there are many of you who are, but those of you who are not, imagine what the year of jubilee was like? Imagine.

Imagine if there was no fear of default in Europe because forgiveness of all debts was planned. But then maybe we would just start it all again. Spending what we do not have so that we will be more than comfortable. We have started to use money to avoid pain. We have lost regard for the impact our choices make on the next generation. I'm not sure there is a way out without divine intervention. I am starting to pray for a year of Jubilee

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Image of His Son

Romans 8:29 says, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. I hear a lot debate about what it means to be predestined. I don't want to enter into that debate but if we stay on that part of the verse I think we miss the important part. That being conformed to the image of His Son. How does that happen? Do you feel conformed into the image of His Son? Yeah, me neither, I have so many glitches. I wish to be presented as a spotless virgin, Christ's holy bride but it will take a miracle!

That's just it. It does take a miracle. I can't make myself glitch free. I can only let it happen over time. It's God's work, and God's timing. He conforms us into the image of His Son. How awesome is that?

Talking with friends last night, each with their own set of glitches, we marveled at the path to holiness, that being the daily choice through tough circumstances to choose Christ, to choose Him when things aren't going our way, when it looks like His path only leads to death and loss. Holiness is what God makes of our choice to trust in Him no matter what the circumstance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last night was an awesome storm. The rain came down in torrents leaving 5 inches of water in some places. We once lived where rain is scarce so this kind of rain brings out the celebration in my kids (and me). Though now in their 20's they couldn't help but skip in the puddles and dance in the rain. I wanted to-- much more than I did but somewhere off in the close distance was lightning and thunder. I was taught to respect the power and dangers of a storm. It wasn't safe... but then... is anything safe? Are we meant to stay safe? Or are we meant to celebrate? It's confusing for me. I have been so trained to be safe and as a mom I have worked hard to keep my children safe but somehow they have learned a balance between being safe and living life. Perhaps that is part of being like little children that Jesus calls us to?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The hand of Blessing

It's amazing what we can accomplish when the LORD is on our side! Living out that thing that God created us for is awesome. It's like riding the very top of the wave. It's a rush. It's just plain cool! I love it. There have been times in my life when I could take any blow, survive any trial, because I know I am right where I am supposed to be, right here, right now. There is a blessing in this place that makes all things doable-- or at least tolerable.

But then there are times when nothing goes right. No matter how hard I try to accomplish good things, frustration is the only reward. At times like these I start to wonder if I really heard God at all or if I went off into left field... again. It's a place of darkness and it leaves me feeling lost and alone. It feels like that blessing is fickle and frail.

I'm thinking of Colossians 3:15 where it says, "let the peace of God rule in your hearts." That peace has a message. The word "rule" in that passage is like the umpire in a game who rules what is "safe" and what is "out". I believe that there are times when God removes his hand of blessing to ready us for new beginnings. It is not that He abandons us to our struggle but who would make a change if things were comfortable the way they are? I believe that God removes his hand of blessing just before He delivers our next assignment.

It opens our ears to hear and our hearts to obey with out hesitation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wedding Shower Devo

Some of you requested a copy of this talk so here it is in cyber form :D

A---, I am so impressed with you and J----- and your relationship. You have such a passion for the LORD and your desire to serve Him is obviously number one in your lives. That right there will make all the difference in your marriage. I know you will do well.

K--- and I have been married for 32 years and 5 days. It has been the best hmmm about 25 years of our lives. We have had many unique experiences. Oh I could tell you stories! In many ways marriage to K----, an engineer with a true eye for adventure has been a stretch for me but I can truly say that K---- is delightful and I am glad I married him.

I say it’s been the best 25 years of our lives because there were a few years mixed in that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. We have been wealthy, we have been homeless we have been each other’s best friends and we have hurt each other so severely that we have seriously considered separation & divorce. We both came into our marriage with baggage. Everybody does. Sometimes I wonder what relationship would be like without baggage… (I guess that’s why Jesus came).

Marriage is a covenant commitment. It is a commitment to help each other into a life of ever increasing grace and holiness. Remember that when your dreams are shattered, your bills are overwhelming and your babies are screaming. Marriage is not about the day to day routines. It’s about chasing after the more in life with ever increasing passion!

If I had one piece of advice for anyone getting married it would be this, master the art of grace. Grace is not just what you do it is how you think. Remember Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” It’s not just that God doesn’t speak condemnation to us. Condemnation isn’t in His heart towards us.

Psalms 103:11-14 says, “For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

We are dust. We make mistakes. We are dust. In our life time we will make some really horrible, life altering mistakes. Sometimes God will rescue us from the consequences of our mistakes and sometimes He will let consequences smack us in the face and though the mistake may be one person’s choice, both partners will bear the brunt of the consequences.

Mostly because of our baggage, both K---- and I have made some really bad mistakes during our marriage and the consequences of those mistakes have been hard to bear. I don’t think there is anything harder to navigate in marriage than the pain and embarrassment of the consequences of the financial, social, moral, spiritual or just plain stupid mistakes of our marriage partners. Mistakes don’t mean anyone failed. They simply let us know that we are dust. God and God alone makes that dust into somebody unique and special.

Allow for dust. Make a commitment now to allow for mistakes. God knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. You will save yourself a lot of heartache if you remember the same. Make a place of safety with each other where you can confess your deepest faults knowing there is no condemnation with each other as well as with the Lord. Be willing to forgive any violation. Walk in open redemption with each other, and…almost equally important… get a sense of humor. Stupid mistakes over time will often turn into funny stories if we let our pride go and get dusty.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

It’s easy as you are starting on this road to see the good in J---- now. But there will be days when you wonder if the man you married is still in there somewhere. He may wonder too. Make a choice to remember, meditate on the good and praiseworthy. Proclaim who you know J---- to be. Write it down now while it’s fresh in your mind and when he does something stupid (which we all do) tenaciously cling to who you know God made him to be. Be an ambassador of reconciliation. Stand up for his redemption. And may he do the same for you.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].” (AMP) That sounds impossible doesn’t it? But when our partners are floundering it is crucial to know that somewhere in there they are the same wonderful, loving person you married. The gift we can give to each other in marriage is the calling out to who God created us to be when we least look like it.

That’s not to say you are meant to put up with wrong choices or hurtful behavior. Sometimes it’s important to have a fire spitting, knock down, drag out fight.

We have been instructed to put on the whole armor of God for the purpose of opposing evil. Opposing evil in our marriage is vital. But always remember what you are fighting for, that being a life of ever increasing grace and holiness.

Fight for each other not against each other. Some things aren’t important. Some things are more important than they seem. How you get toothpaste out of a tube isn’t important. If you disagree on this topic get two tubes of toothpaste. But there may be more to the toothpaste tube fight than meets the eye. Perhaps one of you is a person of order and one a person of spontaneity. Perhaps one needs bathroom drawers to feel ordered because it is a part of their gifting to bring things that are out of order into order. In that case it might be important for a spontaneous person to honor the need for order, while it would also be important for an ordered person to honor spontaneous expressions.

Speaking of fighting, It’s dang important to learn how to fight fair. I think that lesson takes a life time but here are 5 principles to get you started.

  1. Invite Jesus into your conflicts. Listen to each other then together listen to God let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth about what you are fighting about.
  2. Own your own stuff first. There is no place for pride in an argument. James 15:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Notice that the same people that are confessing trespasses are also the righteous whose prayers are effective.
  3. Fight to understand-- not to be understood. Winning is when you both have a greater understanding of each other. Don’t stop fighting until both of you win.
  4. Use “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements. It’s important to fight from a position of vulnerability rather than power. If you say, “I feel hurt when X happens, it makes me feel disrespected.” You are expressing a piece of your heart and offering relationship. If you say, “You don’t respect me!” you are speaking the words of our enemy the accuser and it will destroy your relationship. Accusations are a wedge that separate people. You can not be in intimate relationship with someone who stands as your accuser. Remember Romans 8 there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I can’t stress it enough, accusations are poison to any relationship. As soon as an accusation is spoken, relationship is broken and it can not be repaired until you put the accusation down.
  5. Remember your ultimate goal, that being to help each other into a life of ever increasing grace and holiness. Even when you fight, believe the best in each other. Remember who your partner is in Christ and speak to them in that context. Fighting teaches us to live in accurate service of one another. It’s a good thing.
It will be exciting to see where God takes you as you learn to serve Him as a mighty, ministry team. I believe with all my heart that He has great things in store for your lives. Seize every opportunity. Today there is so much to hope. The two of you together aspire to do great things. And in Christ great things will be accomplished.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hidden contempt

Philippians 4:8 says, " Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." This passage to me is grace. If you want to live graciously, do this. It's not what you do on the outside, it is what you dwell on in your mind. What it your focus? When you look at a white piece of paper with a smudge on it do you see the smudge or the white? How do you look at people. Do you dwell on the smudge or the white?

I so long to be gracious. I am the kind of person that sort of parts the seas. You either like me, or you hate me. There is no middle ground. I don't seem to swim with the pack. I am different. I am sort of artsy fartsy, flighty and strange. My thoughts run deep or maybe just in a whole different track. In either case, I don't know how to do small talk. I try, I really try but it's like speaking a foreign language.

I say all that because I have observed it. I know it's true, but at the depths of "me" I like who I am. I don't want to make myself different to be acceptable. I want people to enjoy me because I'm me. I want people to wink at my mistakes because, hey, we all make them.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:12, "whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them," I want people to be gracious towards me. It hurts me deeply when I befriend someone only to find out later that inside their heads they have dwelt on my faults instead of those traits listed in Philippians 4. Hidden contempt hurts me deeply. I get fooled sometimes when people "act" gracious but on the inside they are not. Eventually it comes out. Luke 6:45 "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." I am often leveled by the shock of their contempt when it finally does come out. Contempt is a tool of the enemy. If Philippians 4:8 is good, then contempt is evil.

I don't always remember that I'm flirting with evil when I am dwelling on the faults of others but the evil is obvious to me when someone is dwelling on my faults. It is like a knife that cuts to the deepest part of me. Often those fiery darts talked about in Ephesians 6:16 come in the form of the contempt of another as they spew hurtful words and judgments towards me.

So it's become a battle, good against evil. Grace vs contempt. The biggest blow I can make against the enemy is to walk in grace. To dwell in grace. To dwell on what is noble, pure and lovely. I don't believe that grace is naive. Jesus didn't put up with evil. But He was also full of grace.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmagedon or the lack there of

I find it amazing what people can accomplish when we work together. I'm thinking of so many things that were built before we had "modern" machinery. Like the Eiffel Tower, the Panama Canal, the pyramids. We have build grand ships that sailed across the Atlantic centuries ago. We are capable of so much as people when we work together. I'm thinking of the fears LA had of Carmagedon. The biggest traffic jam ever in the US. But everyone worked together and the streets were more than manageable. My question is, what would happen if we worked together to clear the roads everyday? What if all of us cared about the starving in Africa. What if we all did something about it all at the same time? What are we capable of if we all came together and did it?

The thing is, we are also capable of horrific evil if we band together for an evil cause. Take for instance the reign of Hitler or the 9/11 terrorist attack. I'm thinking of what God said as the people were building the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, " But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” It makes me wonder what the problem was. What did God see as dangerous? (listening) This one thing comes to mind. The tower had people working together for an uninspired and therefore ungodly cause. At the base of it's inspiration was fear and fear is at odds with Love.

I don't believe that fear is an emotion. Sometimes there is respect, like I respect a snake that is close enough to bite me. My respect of the snake causes me to step back and give it room. Or I respect the danger of heights. But fear, the kind of fear that motivates us to make poor choices is a spirit. Romans 8:15 says, :For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” What is "the spirit of bondage again to fear"? Fear is the enemy. The motivation of evil comes from fear. It's what drives us into terrible things and it's what drives us away from amazing good.

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). We could clear the streets of Los Angeles. We could feed the millions or stop the slave trade. It boil down to who is inspiring us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Setting the record straight about women caught in domestic violence

My ministry often has me working with women in violent marriages. People ask me all the time, "Why doesn't she leave?" It's good question I suppose, but it makes my skin crawl most of the time because the question is asked in frustration, with a kind of arrogant contempt for the poor woman involved. I'd like to take a minute to set the record straight.

First, it is important to know that a woman may be staying because it's the safest choice for her and her children. That may seem like a contradiction but it is statistically true. Women have a 50 percent greater survival rate staying in a violent marriage than leaving a violent marriage.

A woman who stays in a hurtful marriage, stays because she is a woman of integrity. She made a vow and she meant it. She loves her children and wants to protect them. She works hard to love her husband and to fix what is broken in her marriage. Divorce carries with it a deep sense of failure for any woman of integrity no matter what brought her to that choice.

There is more to the story. We were never created to experience evil. This world full of violence we live in was not God's original intent for us. But at the same time knowing what we would do with our free will, God build into us the ability to survive terrible pain. Our brains include a mechanism that "forgets" trauma. Whether it is the pain and chaos of a car accident, the birth of a child or violence in the home, our brains will help us cope by minimizing our experiential understanding of the pain. That gives us the ability to drive again, it sets the stage for siblings, but it also makes the violence in domestic violence get lost in the fog.

If you want to help, start by understanding the complexity of this woman's dilemma. Love her with no expectations. Give up on the idea that you know better or would make better choices and simply offer comfort and support. If you know a woman in a violent marriage, please, respect her integrity, pray for her safety, respect the love she has for her husband and let her know she has a choice to stay or to go and that she is loved no matter what she chooses.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pain and Vulnerability

Relationships are a struggle aren't they? Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I ran away. I'm thinking of a song John Travolta sings (written by Paul Williams) "What would they say if we up and ran away from all the roaring crowds and the downtown city faces? Would they carry on and on when they found that we were gone or would they let us go?" It is impossible to be an island. We can't live life in a vacuum but at the same time people are fickle. You can't trust them, well-- you can only trust them as far as they serve the LORD. So how do you engage people and remain safe?

My answer? You can't. I remember a saying I had on my wall as a child, "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is made for." That's so true. We were created for adventure! Adventure is fun and exciting but it is also dangerous, dangerous meaning unsafe. As Christ so amazingly illustrated you could get killed being a Christian. And I would wager to say that if we are not taking risks, we are not living.

I'm not so much afraid of death though. I'm more afraid of life. I'm afraid of the pain that life can bring. I fear people and their contempt. I am not like freaking out terrified. I'm just being honest here. Who isn't afraid of people? How about you, are you totally without the fear of people?

Contempt sometimes levels me and leaves me floundering. I wonder why. What's the deal with that God? (listening) wow, God always puts a new twist on things. The sense I have is that it matters be cause people matter to me. I care. That's true. So to some degree, the more I love people, the more vulnerable I am. Hmmm. I'm thinking of 1 John 4:7 which says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." So, is God calling us out to be vulnerable? And if so does He also call us to hurt? I'm not sure He calls us to hurt but He does seem to promise pain. John 15:20 says, "Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also."

I think all that is true. But the thing is someone has to start somewhere risking and being vulnerable. If we are ever going to be a people know by our love we must also be known by our risky lifestyle. We would have to peal off that hard layer and learn to be soft and safe. Wouldn't we?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chaos, satan, what's the difference?

I'm thinking of 1 Peter 5:8 which says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." in terms of chaos. I keep trying to conquer chaos and it keeps conquering me. Grrr! I feel stalked by clutter, assaulted with junk mail and smothered in things that are left undone. What's the deal with that God? (listening) Wow, I had a sense that I can't see the damage done to enemy lines. I have a picture of a Roman army, lines and lines of soldiers when you take down one of them the man behind fills his place so that you don't see the losses. The grown taken is only seen at the back of the line. I AM taking ground it just doesn't look that way. Cool!

That's a cool picture for me of spiritual battles. Sometimes I get weary in the war. The attack seems endless and the enemy line just keeps coming and coming. The Romans fought in lines. Rows and rows of soldiers would simply march straight into a battle and overwhelm the enemy by sheer numbers. When one line of soldiers fell in battle the next line stepped up fresh and ready to take on warriors that had exhausted themselves in the last fight. Ugh! (Our wars now are so tidy in comparison... I'm not sure that is a good thing.) It's a cool picture that the lines are getting shorter and progress is being made but it's still overwhelming. Lord, how can we ever win when there are so many rows of attacking forces? I'm exhausted and the chaos is so toxic to me! (listening) Hmmm, the sense I have again is that I am winning.

I have a picture of the propaganda wars that go on where NATO drops fliers from airplanes into the crowd of enemy troops saying, "You don't have a chance, surrender now and you will be well cared for" I hear the enemy saying you can't do this, it is beyond you the chaos is too huge. But I hear God saying, "just stick it out your almost there" Much different message, one full of fear and the other full of hope. I guess today I will chose hope.

So God, what do I do today to win? (listening) I hear, take one room at a time eliminate clutter and add white space. Ok I can do one room today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Boundaries ugh!

Today was a war. I spent much of the day in battle in prayer. Sometimes life feels like playing chess... We have a crafty enemy who knows what every piece is capable of. Sometimes it's hard to know the best move and so much is at stake.

The name of the game today was Boundaries. Boundaries are the things that define where I end and you begin. Boundaries are a huge part of grace. Boundaries are the gift of respect and honor. If I have good boundaries, I will see you... really see you. Because you are far enough apart from me that I can see the difference. If I don't have good boundaries you will be so buried in me that I won't see you at all.

All that said, Holding boundaries is exhausting, and lonely and I am tired. I feel like a piece of swiss cheese. Yes, I stood up to the onslaught of boundary crushing shrapnel that came careening in my direction today, but not without some bloody wounds. I can relate to the picture Paul paints in Ephesians 6:16 "above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." I wonder exactly what that looks like. What kind of faith quenches what kind of darts? Having my boundaries crossed feels like daggers to me. God I'm not so sure how faith can shield me from that. (listening) The picture I have is of being faithful to God in keeping His place His. His place in my life and His place in yours. Hmmm that makes sense.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Grace and boldness

Sometimes it seems like the only time I can be bold is when I am angry. I can stick up for myself well enough. But I'm not always kind. I want to be bold in being kind and full of grace. There are many times in scripture where Jesus stood up for the least noticed, the dirty and disadvantaged. I'm thinking of the call girl who cried and washed Jesus' feet with her tears. (Luke 7:3-50) Or the Man who was born blind (John 9). I want to see past the lies that puff us up and see the innocent outside of my own fears. Boldness, I think I have mistaken boldness for bulldozing or being impenetrable. But Jesus mowed people over with His compassion and wisdom--and grace.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flowers, the test of the mind

My mind is pondering George MacDonald today. He is hands down my favorite author. Excluding my daughter of course :). He comes to mind every time I look at my flowers in the garden. If you read much of George MacDonald you can understand why. George MacDonald talks of becoming a mind awake. His test as to whether your mind is or isn't awake is to look at a rose. If the beauty of that rose brings you to tears, your mind is awake. I don't know that roses bring me to tears but sometimes they feel like a symphony, such a blend of color, movement and light. It is a part of God's art that is delicate and revealing.

I long to be a mind awake but I think sometimes I'm too tired or distracted to really see anything. Sometimes I'm my worst enemy that way. I start my day desiring to connect with God and His creation but I sequester in my house and never go out to look. What about that? (listening) It is always cool to hear direction from the LORD without any disgust or condemnation. All I hear is a sense of calling... come on out and have a look. Sounds good to me. My chickens are calling to me too. "let us out of this coop!" The day is too short to waste in here. Hmmm I wonder if they have something to teach me :) Take a look... what do you see?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grace vrs control and contempt

2 Corinthians 8:7 "But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also."

What is grace? How can you abound in it like in diligence and love?

I know when I am treated with grace. Sometimes I can feel God's grace sort of pouring over me. But I'm not sure sometimes how to walk in it... or abound in it. I want to be a carrier of grace. Like you can be a carrier of the flu! I want to have people say when I leave, "That was like a breath of fresh air." But how?

I can see opposites to grace. I have been thinking about a God who allows choice. Allowing people choice has allowed so much cruelty. Without choice there would be no sin... maybe, or is control sin all by itself? By allowing choice, God seems to deem control as more ugly than all the horrible things we have done to ourselves. I can see as many oppressive leaders are being challenged right now that control is at the heart of the damage they are doing. People need freedom to become great.

Another opposite of grace is contempt. There deeply seated enemy of love. Contempt is seeing the wrong instead of the right. It's choosing to be judges instead of participants in relationship. Contempt is by it's very nature a destroyer of people. Contempt is easy when people make so many mistakes. But there is something right inside of everyone. God breathed into us life... that life is holy. It's not that I want to ignore evil. I want to call out to the good. Blow on the coals of the authentic... is that grace?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Compassion, pain, and listening

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about compassion. What is compassion really? I want so badly to live a life of grace. To care for the afflicted and broken hearted. But what is care? Real care? The kind of care that will make a difference. It is true that you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Is giving him a fish compassion or is it prolonging his agony?

Sometimes compassion is sharp. It cuts away at the lies that hold us captive. Jesus was sharp sometimes. He overturned tables and made a whip of cords. Did his compassion leave him in those times? I don't think so. Many times it is not compassionate to remove a person's pain. Pain can be a gift. It is certainly a motivator.

So what is compassion? (listening) what I hear is that compassion is doing the hard work of relationship. It is walking into the conflict. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." It's interesting that it says as. Iron sharpens iron but rubbing and grating against it... It doesn't feel like friendships can hold up under such conditions. (listening) Wow, the picture I have is of a very fine line between the selfish need to "fix" someone and the compassionate gift of grating. One is standing up for and defending a friend even from themselves. The other is a huge violation of boundaries. God how can you tell the difference? (listening) The only answer I get is "by listening". Keeping my ears focused the gentle nudges of the Spirit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have spent the last several days out in the wilderness. It was quiet. I miss the quiet more than I can explain. My ears have become so accustom to noise that when we finally found a quiet spot I could hardly hear the quiet because of the ringing in my own ears *sigh*. Psalms 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God" It goes on to say, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" Hmmm, I wonder if there is a connection between being still and God being exalted? I know that when I find a quiet place, I am more inclined to listen... Sometimes I wonder if I can glorify God more by being still than by anything I try to do for Him. One thing is clear to me, the pathway to knowing Him is learning to be still and learning to listen.

We live on a noisy street in town. The noise feels like a constant attack on my spirit. It is hard to find a quiet place where you can only hear the sounds that God created. Have you ever noticed that man made sounds (traffic, drippy water faucets, machinery) are wearying to the soul where as God made sounds (waterfalls, birds singing, the sound of the breeze in the trees) are calming to your spirit? The constant clamor and noise in my world makes it hard to hear God just like the noise of the traffic on my street drowns out the rustle of the leaves.

So God, it is wonderful to find some quiet, but I am wondering how to be practical about it. I long for this quiet but I am swimming in clamor most of the time. What about that? (Listening) Hmmm the first thing that came to mind was Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Then Jeremiah 29:13, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." So is being still, seeking Him?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I have a choice

I have a choice. Do you know how amazing that is? I believe the whole story from creation to crucifixion is God’s excruciating and yet gracious act of giving choice. God offers choice instead of control. That is huge! Here I am small and in comparison insignificant and yet I often cling to the illusion that I can control my world I’ve paid a high price for other’s choices. Others have paid a high price for mine. Control seems much safer… doesn’t it? Many times I have screamed at God in my anger, “Why didn’t you intervene?” But what good is relationship if there is no choice in the midst of it? Complicated questions… I do wish for an end to the pain and cruelty in the world but today I am glad that I have a choice.

Today I have a choice, not so much about how I feel as how I choose to respond to how I feel. I am a very passionate person. I feel a LOT all the time. I feel muddled, confused, protective, frustrated, weary, sad, discouraged you name it. Sometimes I feel down right PISSED! It is a temptation for me to bounce from one extreme to another passionately something all the time. It can be exhausting not just for me but also for those around me. *sigh*

But I do have a choice. I can be gentle when I feel like ripping through life like a bull in a china cabinet. I can dance when I feel like hiding under the bed. I can be bold when I feel like a bowl of jelly on the inside. I can choose how I will affect the people around me. I can work to see their needs and hurts, even when I am in pain. I can look beyond myself and take the needs of others into consideration. I can be loving when I don’t want to give a rip. I have a choice. That’s awesome!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Soft Heart... Hard Heart

The older I get the harder it has become to see the best in people. I have seen such contradiction between what people present as their values and what proves out to be the case. And yet I cling to 1 Corinthians 13:7 which says in the amplified version, "[Love] is ever ready to believe the best of every person."

I want to be a person of grace. I want my heart to be soft towards others. I want to be moved with compassion like Jesus was moved, even to tears (John 11:35). But there are some days when man's inhumanity to man causes me to turn my face away from humanity and seek "hardness" to cope. What about that LORD? (listening) Matthew 11:30 comes to mind, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." How is that related? (listening) Hmmm it's like I am seeing a contrast between trying to "love" in my own power... I want my heart to be soft... I want to be a person of grace. There is nothing wrong with the desire but muscling my way into "softness" is contradictory!

So God how do I let you soften my heart? (listening) *smile* "Well... ask me!" *smile* Ok, so I am asking. It is true that I can not make myself gracious or soft hearted and the harder I try the tougher my heart becomes. God soften my heart... let me see the pain in people and even the inhumanity but from side of your perspective and under your yoke instead of mine.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Following the Ball

I have a ministry called, "Follow the Ball". I hesitate to call it a "ministry" because it is just a principal that I want to live out and God can do with what He will. It's named after the old sing-a-longs TV shows that had song words going across the screen and a bouncing ball on top of the words to help you know what to sing next.

The idea is to follow God's lead, not to go ahead and not to get behind, just follow the lead. It's not easy. I get swallowed up a lot in the clamor in life. I'm not sure how well my spiritual hearing is doing. Sometimes I wonder if I'm going spiritually deaf. Usually, when I ask God about that He shows me that I have my fingers stuck in my ears (again).

So I'm wondering today why my fingers are in my ears. (Listening as best you can with your fingers in your ears) It makes it hard to hear when your fingers are in your ears and the only way I know to have the courage to take them out is to hear the LORD. God what about that? (listening... or trying to) It feels like I can't tell the difference between fear and exhaustion. That sounds funny to say. Maybe I am afraid of exhaustion, like I'm afraid God is going to ask me to do one more thing and I just don't have it. What about that God? (listening)

Hmmm, the picture I have is that there are two kind of exhaustion. One is when you have put in a hard day's work. There is a sense of accomplishment and peace with that. Then there is the kind of exhaustion where you are battling up stream... swimming but not getting anywhere. The sense I have is that God doesn't ask me to do the latter. He asks for a day's work, because we were created for good work.

But, I have MCS. That often translates into chronic fatigue. A day's work for me is more than exhausting at times. I'm tired of that exhaustion! What about that God? (listening) Hmmm the sense I have is that fear is exhausting and rest, deep inner rest comes from Him. Hmmm so are rest and work opposites? (listening) Hmmm, I would have said they are but I have a picture in my head of resting peacefully while digging in my garden.

So what does all that have to do following the ball? (listening) I hearing Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Wow, that has a whole new meaning to me right now!