Monday, November 20, 2017

Grace and Truth

Grace and truth are poor bedfellows don't you think?  It seems like we are either good at one of the other.  We either tell it like it is... or are kind.  We either have a harsh word of truth or a  false word of comfort.  But imagine both together in front of you at the same time.  Absolute honesty, and exposure... without shame.  Imagine.  John 1:17 says, "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  I can just imagine the relief to taste the freedom of true release from having to be right and do right.  The touch of acceptance instead of rejection.  And more than that.  Kindness.

I remember once being asked to tell my story.  The person I was having tea with had been a professor of mine when I went to college.  She was also one of the people on my disciplinary committee, one of a few people who asked the committee to show me mercy.  She said she saw something in me and didn't want to lose connection, not completely.  Fast forward a few years and I was a frightened young wife who was isolated and alone as many are who fear their husbands.  Every once in a while this professor came and knocked at my door just to see how I was doing.  I never let her in.

Fast forward again to this day,  and having tea.  It seemed like a good day to tell my story.  And so I recounted my years of pain and isolation and confusion.  I explained why I never let her in and my shame.  I carried such deep shame.  I finished my monolog and looked up,  perhaps for reassurance.  Maybe I had said too much or given too much information.

What I saw way a tiny tear coursing it's way down her cheek.  Grace, compassion, understanding, these are things I had never experienced before that day.  Before that day I don't think I really understood empathy, or that someone could have it for me.  It might seem like a very little thing.  But I walked away changed simply because someone actually cared!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Loneliness and Walking in the Light

I have been pondering lately how there seems to be so little time.  We are always reaching for more.  More of something.  I find myself caught again in the hamster wheel.  Running round and round but going nowhere and doing nothing that has much meaning.  So I fall on my knees and ask, “God, what is really going on, I feel lost…. sort of empty”  The answer back comes in a subtle whisper, “You are lonely”  

My immediate response is to run.  Switch on some music, any music… praise music!  Or search the web.  Not for anything in particular… just a distraction.  A distraction from what?  From facing that I have lost my humanness… again.  

Today I am back in the book of John.  I love John, he sees things the other disciples seemed to miss.  Perhaps the deeper back story.  John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them he gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:" Wow, the authority to become.  That’s all futuristic language… like I can, I have the authority, but also the choice.  I can, I have the authority to become a child… I can choose, I can sign the adoption papers… if I want to.  I can be the child of God… accepted into His family.  I can belong.  I am welcome to come in and dwell with Him.  if I want to.

What does it mean, “to those who believe in His name?”  It almost feels like a tag line.  I am a child of God to those…. but not to all???  Does that me I am a child of God to those who believe in Him.  Aren’t I a child of God whether you believe in His name or not?  Or is it just more of an explanation… that those who receive Him, believe in His name.  

I am thinking of 1John 1:7a But if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another.  There is a brotherhood, a sisterhood a connection deeper than friends when we walk together in the light.  I you receive Him and you receive Him, then we are related.  We matter to each other like brothers and sisters.  We are bother and sister in Him.  

That means a lot to me today :)

Friday, November 17, 2017

The hunger for more

I have a collection of music I listen to.  I've labeled it "breathe".  It is a series of worship songs that speak deeply to my heart.  They call me to cry out to the Lord with deep, deep longings.  Longings for fellowship and peace with the Creator and His creation.  Tonight, I am longing for quiet, sweet, sweet communion with the alpha and the omega.  The beginning and the end.  Come Lord Jesus! come!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Does anyone know about EMF (Electro magnetic Fields)

We are having heart rhythm problems in our house.  Nothing extreme, but something we are looking for a root cause for.  I asked a health care worker who is into natural healing and she told me to turn off my wifi at night.  I don't really have much of an opinion about the whole idea.  I haven't done enough research to have one, but I have noticed a big difference since then.  It hasn't made any difference in heart rhythm that I have seen, but I have been sleeping an average of two hours longer at night.  That has given me pause.  Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

When Helping Hurts

This week I went to a gathering of many of the community's service organizations.  The common question among us was, "How can you serve people without creating dependance?"  Good question.  There was lots of discussion about how we tend to think that poverty is permission -- permission to walk into peoples lives and make changes or at least try.  We talked about how we define poverty in terms of financial distress.  Which isn't how the world defines poverty.  We talked about the people standing on street corners with signs asking for help and expecting it to be financial.  We talked about how giving aid isn't helping.  There are organizations that hand out food to the same people day after day, week after week.  Everyone is getting tired.  There has to be more!

We talked about how we never refer to someone as "homeful" only homeless.  Homeless, here on the coast there are thousands of "homeless".  There are tent cities in every nook and cranny.  It's hard to go on a walk in the woods.  You do not know what you will find.  Here, there are many different people groups that are homeless.  Including one income families who are working hard to make ends meet.  They have an income, but can not find affordable housing.  Yes, many do need food aid.  But what is really missing is a living breathing community.  One that sees those in distress as a part of the whole.

Hmmm, isn't this what we are called to as a Church -- Not to eliminate pain but to be a living breathing community?  The deal is, it's a lot harder to walk along side those that are struggling with poverty than it is to throw food in their direction.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Courage to Hope!

It's finally raining!  This summer has been tough!  Many, many fires.  Fires so fierce we, in the valley, have been brushing ash from our cars and breathing smoked choked air for weeks. It's been tough!  But today is WET!  And they say it will be that way for a while.  I hope it will be enough to beat down the flames and start the healing process.  A week ago I saw many pleas on Facebook to pray for rain and finally, it's coming.  I have hope!

I wonder, is hope a choice?  Or is it a possession?  I'm thinking of that passage in Hebrews 6:19 "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil," Hope, wow, the thing that keeps us clinging to God. It sounds to me like it is something we have in our hands.  It sounds pretty powerful in that hope is the anchor that keeps us held fast in His presence!  Hope, the thing that is left in our hands after everything else is gone.  Hope, the blade of grass that peeks up out of the ground after the fires are over. 

Perhaps hope is a choice.  Perhaps it is a gift that must be received.  I know that with hope there is a sense of future and without it, here are only the ashes left behind.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A sad form of Human Trafficking

I have a neighbor, well, I had a neighbor.  He is challenged mentally.  I'd say he is developmentally in his young teens.  No one likes him because he is different.  He talks kind of loud, doesn't have the sense that others might over hear.  He prolifically uses foul language and sometimes he is clearly half a bubble off; like the time he told me you couldn't eat an apple with a worm in it because the worm would grow up and make your stomach explode :/.  He talks about himself... a lot, repeats himself... a lot, and he doesn't really know how to "be" around people.

In response, people around here talk about him behind his back.  They talk about how hard they work at not having to engage him.  They talk about all the ways he just isn't measuring up.  Their contempt is palpable. I know he can sense their disapproval.  He cringes when we talk about his encounters and I see him struggling to process how he feels about it.  It's very sad.

Having had some experience with the developmentally delayed, I recognized right away that he was struggling to function in the adult world he found himself in (he is in his 60's and still has a room full of stuffed animals)  He had a job and worked hard at it and was proud of the fact that he was making a living and owned his own little car and trailer.  He was homeless before he got his job and he was waffling between being glad he now had a home and wishing he didn't because living in his car was easier.  (i.e. he didn't have to face his challenges so head on all the time.)

We have befriended him and he has enjoyed having a neighbor to come to, to ask questions and advice.  We have helped him to navigate some yard issues and high tech challenges.  In return he has helped us with different projects around our house.

All the time I have known him, he has been in an online relationship with a girl in Asia.  She's young and pretty, and he is hooked.  She has been pressing him to come and see her for a long time.  He came to me for help getting his birth certificate, the first step towards a passport.  As I heard more of his story, I became alarmed.  He met her on what he called a "dating site".  As I helped him navigate getting paperwork online, I realized that the "dating sites" he was referring to were porn sites.  He didn't know the difference. Oh my! All my alarm bells were going off! This was a man in trouble.  To tell you the truth, I did my best to slow the process down.  I helped but, it took several months for him to get his birth certificate.  In the mean time, I called the national hotline for human trafficking.  They were a wealth of information but also helped me to understand that it was ultimately his decision.

We did our best to open his eyes to the dangers abroad.  We tried to give him tools for finding his way back home if he needed them.  But today, he made his choice and left on a flight to the rest of his life.  I ache inside not knowing... wishing I could have done more.  I feel like I have failed him. But I don't know what else I could have tried.

What is sad to me is how we all contributed to his decision.  The guys at work who let him take the blame for their behavior and got him fired.  The people in his neighborhood who refused to engage him because he was different.  The management where he lived who constantly confronted him with what he didn't do right without offering tools for success.  And me who didn't stick up for him soon enough.

I hope he will defy the odds and actually be meeting the girl of his dreams.  I hope that he can make his way back.  I pray that he will remember that his neighbors care.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Why are you here?

Some days I wonder why am I here.  What is my purpose?  I think I have looked at it as a big concept.  Why am I here.  What are my goals for way out there in the future and how do I get there from here?  That works when you are young and you can imagine having many more years in the future.  It's not working for me anymore.

As I age, I have a clearer picture of our fleeting presence on this earth.  Goals are great and working towards them is a good way to get from here to there, but I'm thinking that goals can also take your eyes off of the now in each day.

Why are you here right now today?  Why are you in this store?  Why did you come to work today?  Why are you standing here listening to the person you are listening to?  Why are you here, in this moment, in this time and place?  And, what can you do to make this moment better?  How can you bless the person who is talking to you right now?  What can you say that would bring hope?

I think we are here to plant a seed of longing.  Some kind of message that there is so much more to life than this!  It doesn't matter if you are living life to the fullest there is always more.  Not more to do... more to be, more life! more connection, more hope, more purpose.

Why are you here?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Barefoot shoes

Who invented shoes?  I'd sure like to know!  I have never liked shoes.  I remember being told as a child that good shoes were important, that you had to have a good arch in them or your feet would develop incorrectly.  Really?  Is that true?  Are our feet so fragile that we don't naturally grow good ones?  What about those fast olympic runners who don't wear shoes at all?  Did God create defective body parts?  Can we really improve on His design?

I remember when my daughter-in-law came over with the first pair of five-finger shoes I had ever seen.
The Vibram FiveFingers Komodo (KMD) Sport (this version is the ladies)
I thought they looked pretty ridiculous but my daughter-in-law raved about how comfortable they were.  At the time I blew them off as some kind of crazy fad

Then I acquired plantar fasciitis, which is a very painful foot injury.  My mobility slowed to only what was most necessary.  Mobility, you never really realize how precious it is until it is taken away.  I tried everything, special shoes, expensive inserts, physical therapy exercises and slowly the pain went from excruciating to tolerable. But, I am not satisfied with tolerable.  I felt like my wings were clipped.  I felt, I felt... old.  I wonder if age is an actual affliction, or simply a state of mind?  In either case, I'm not ready to sit on a front porch swing and watch the world go by.

I did some research on what caused plantar fasciitis.  Why does it affect so many people?  Where does it come from and why did the exercises I was doing help?  There are many theories out there, and I am speaking against some foot doctor's conclusions but at the end of my research I landed on a simple cause... shoes.  Thats right!  The very thing we tell our children they must wear in order to have healthy feet.  Specifically shoes that have any kind of heel or uplift in the back.  I used to think that tennis shoes were flat, but most are not.  They are thicker at the heel than in the front where the toes are.

Here we are again forgetting that God might know better than we do.  Here is a place both creationists and evolutionists ought to come together and agree on.  Wouldn't our feet evolve into the right proportions? When did we need shoes?  I used to say to people who teased me about wanting to go barefoot all the time that if God wanted us to wear shoes we would have been born with them.  Don't believe me?  I challenge you to go into a nursing home and look at the crumpled, deformed and crooked feet of the elderly.  Is this normal foot aging? or is this caused by something?

In my research I also found a thing called "Barefoot shoes"  These are shoes with "Zero Drop" which means they have no uplift at the heal.  I bought a pair of five-finger barefoot shoes like my daughter-in-law's.  Oh man, was she right!  They were so comfortable and within 3 months of wearing them exclusively I was pain free.  But more than that, my feet look like feet, I have better balance and no more painful foot corns.

I'm not really talking about shoes here.  I'm wondering what else we do thinking our ways are better than God's ways.  I'm thinking of the many ways we pursue gain monetarily instead of humanitarily (is that a word?) We chose to use pesticides on crops because the yields will improve. Is that the best way to improve crop yields?  Is that best for everyone and everything involved?  Or is it another time when the end result is something crooked and deformed?  Perhaps, it's time to ask more questions?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Who are you going to believe?

I often see guilt as the motivating pull towards Jesus. That’s easy to understand since we preach a gospel of shame.  I remember an encounter once with a youth group leader.  I was trying to explain why we worked hard not to make guilt the motivator in our presentations.  He was pushing hard for a presentation that brought on guilt because in his mind guilt was the best motivator.  Guilt is what brought people to Jesus… is it?  Are we to be motivated by guilt?  I thought guilt and shame are what Jesus came to release us from.  I’m still sad when I think of that conversation.  It felt like I was at odds with the whole religious world.  But I still believe that it is fruitless to preach the gospel to bring on guilt and shame so that people will repent and turn to Jesus.  I'm thinking of Zacchaeus.  You can read about him in Luke 19:1-10.  What motivated him to repent?  Was it his shame or was it that he was accepted... included... Loved?  I believe Love is the only fruitful motivator. Check out 1 Corinthians 13:1-3  

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."

We all feel guilty and shameful about something.  We all have those skeletons in our closets.  We hide them all the more meticulously when we have never encountered grace.  What is grace?  Isn’t it the release of all that guilt and shame?  not because we aren’t guilty but then again, well wait, are we?  If we stand cleansed of our guilt and shame,  what does that mean?  I believe it means we don’t have to move or struggle encumbered by our guilty feelings.  We can stand against them in the Name of Jesus and move out of a place drenched in Love.  We can walk without shame.  What does that even look like?

I believe we have a choice.  We can listen to the guilt and shame and be paralyzed by it’s condemnations.  Or, we can recognize that we have sinned and yet receive the cleansing given freely to us by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  We can receive that fact the Jesus delights in us, and because of His Love, we are free. Free means Free!

It then becomes a choice of faith.  Are you defined by the evil that you have done?  NO, No, NO!!!  You are defined by the blood of Jesus.  You are clean.  Choose to believe Him and He will set you free.