Friday, November 30, 2007

Today....and Beyond

Just a thought for today.

"We have crossed another bridge and the symbolism is that we leave something and we go on to something else. Even when we know we're going in the right direction, the adjustment is uncomfortable, and usually difficult. But it's not impossible." (Don Piper-Heaven is Real)

You can do it. You can go onward with God. You can leave the past mistakes and the debilitating patterns of self defeat and self destruction behind. But to do that you have to close the door, firmly, on the past, the old you, the old way of doing things.

"One thing has to be totally clear before we can adjust and move into a new normal: we must be convinced that we can never go back to the way life used to be...There is no going back."

Now, I'm off to run errands and accept that today holds enough challenge for me, and tomorrow enough promise for me, that there's no need to look back over my shoulder and long for anything in the past.

I have Now. And that's an incredible thing.

" Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." Phil 3:13-14 The Message

Thursday, November 29, 2007

You Don't Want to Go There

At 4:45 this morning, I woke up to the sound of Harry flipping his empty water bowl and clanging it down on the kitchen floor. 4:45am , he decides he is thirsty. What a life this dog has. Whenever he has a need, he tells us, and we comply- regardless of what time it is.

I filled the bowl, and hissed at him, "Now go back to sleep!" and went back to bed myself. When the alarm went off at 6am, Bill got up, made coffee, let the dog out. I awoke to the smell of the coffee. The day had begun. I came out to the kitchen, glared at the dog but he paid no attention to me. He was sleeping on the couch next to the twinkling tree.

That clanging sound in the middle of the night jarred me awake. I certainly wasn't expecting a literal wake up call. It just happened that Harry couldn't wait a moment longer for something to drink. And sometimes that's how life is. What happens, happens- regardless of whether you were ready for it or happy to see "it" arrive.

But then there are other things that arrive, or come back into your life because you go back and get them yourself. It can be an old way of comforting yourself, or an old way of thinking, or an old way of coping.

When that "old you" returns to the scene and wants to stir up trouble, you do not have to comply. You do not have to serve the "old you" just because it makes a loud noise and begs for your immediate attention.

Whether its an old habit of worrying, or the compulsion to drink again, or the temptation to return to an old relationship that never was good- these are all things that come from the past, and they can simply stay there where they belong. You have ended contact with the junk of the past, remember? Do not open the door to these things.

Bear with me if I sound vehement, but I'm thinking of someone who I care about, and this person is dallying with the past. We have talked about this together. I shared how I myself know the dallying dance- because I've done it. I know how I can easily forget that " if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" 2 Cor. 5:17.

And if it's a new life, there are new markers and sign posts that will help you know the way to go. God's Word is full of these helpful indicators to know how to go forward. Confirming peace and clarity of thinking, the counsel of wise, godly friends, the accountability of a friend who knows you well and will not let you lie to yourself or her- these are some indicators to help you go the right way. And when you head down the road that does not contain the junk of your past, be thankful for these clear markers to point the way.

"The new markers are there like a signpost to say 'The road you once traveled on has been permanently closed. Ahead is your new road and you must follow it until you come to the next marker' ," Don Piper writes in Heaven is Real.

If that road you once traveled on is permanently closed, it does not mean you may not long for it, at times. The familiarity of the past is soothing even if it is lethal. Even the way you once knew yourself, in the past, just feels better than looking into the mirror now and seeing someone who is "becoming" and growing, even if she has not yet arrived. It's unsettling to be growing and changing and having to get to know this new you.

I don't always know what I'm about to step into, what season of life I really am in, and if I am strong enough to face or enjoy what's next. But I do know that I want to go forward, onward, higher, and farther. And I can't do that if I'm trying to get back to the place where the sign says, "Road permanently closed". I don't want to stand there looking at that sign and weep over it.

I should look at that sign of "Road closed" and with a sigh of relief, turn and go forward on the road that God has for me.

It's a road that however risky it is, is safe for me to travel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That Will Change Your Life

I'm not supposed to be reading this book first. I should be reading his first book, 90 Minutes in Heaven. But I was at the library the other day, and I saw this book on the shelf of new books and I grabbed it. Heaven is Real, by Don Piper, is the follow up book to his best seller which relayed "his first hand experience of the joy of heaven" after a miraculous survival from ninety minutes of death.

I love this book, Heaven is Real. It's about "how to survive and transcend life's difficulties by seeking the assurance of God's grace" according to the summary on the inside book jacket. Surviving and transcending difficulties- it's what we're all after, to some degree.

I have loved ones in my life trying to survive some tough times. I am soberly gearing up to stay in a battle mode, to go on this journey with them. They will need friends who know that it's not a picnic right now. If anyone was to refer to the wonderful nature of life right now, they would scream. Cheerful, naive optimism would ground salt into their already open wounds. They don't need any more pain.

I also know those who are going through a beautiful time in their life, a time of fresh breezes, optimum health and financial success. That's a beautiful season to be in. But at the same time, a couple of these dear ones are beset by a killer naivete that they are in control, choosing well, and reaping well because of their skill and their intelligence. Some of these people are not choosing well. They just have not yet seen that their choices may become their undoing. They have not yet realized that they turned a corner, even if just in their spirit, and they walked out of mercy and into pride and self assurance. The heart may defiantly turn away, in a moment, affecting a life time. (Deut 30:11-20).

"Decisions. Decisions. At the time we make them, most seem innocuous, incidental, or minor. And most of them are. But you never know when you're going to make a decision that will change your life completely," Don Piper writes.

It's altogether possible that today you will make a decision that could profoundly impact your life. One open door in your heart, to God, takes you in one direction. Slam the door, turn your face from Him and from what you know He would ask of you, and you go in another direction. Just because you are confidently walking on a certain road, doesn't mean you know the ultimate end of it.

Yesterday, I was faced with only a small, little decision. I stood at the intersection of me knowing how I should live, and me knowing only that God knows all things.

I turned towards the road where God knows all, where He will sort it out for me, step by step. And I walked away from the road where I would have to handle it all, direct everything from a supposed vantage point of gathered information, researching, and cajoling family members to do their best. I don't want to go down that road of me in control. In other words, I let go and let God. Again.

Not a big deal. Especially compared to the big decisions so many are facing. But in my spirit, I may have just decided to walk on with God in such a way that when the big, desperate decisions come, I am ready to choose His way again, choose wisely...only because I know that He has to help me do so.

May I always remember that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nice Matters

Nice people are preferable to cranky, belligerent, angry folk- but we've all taken turns being " not nice" at some time in our lives. Maybe more times than we'd care to recount.

I spent this past Saturday afternoon running errands, and I stopped by my bank. The assistant manager was there. He and I had not been on the best of terms since the last time I was there.

I have banked at this place for several years, and have a couple accounts there. I've done countless transactions there. So to my surprise, one day this past month, this new guy tells me emphatically, "You cannot transfer money out of your business account into your personal account." I thought he was telling me I couldn't take money out of MY account and put it where I wanted to! After the manager came out and explained to me what the assistant manager was trying to say- that I needed to use a different form other than what I had previously been using (without trouble)- I said to the assistant manager, "You could explain it differently, you know. You could simply tell me how to do what I am trying to do- instead of telling me that I can't access my own money." He apologized to me in a clipped manner, and I walked away feeling shaken up. I didn't mean to have "an encounter" with anybody. But he was brisk with me, I felt confused and alarmed at first, and overreacted. We both felt relieved that I was a customer who only did a minute or two of banking there every week.

But on this past Saturday, there he was. I took a deep breath, went up, smiling, handing him the proper forms I've been told to use. He did the transaction. I asked him about ordering a new debit card because mine had expired. He said he would handle it. I thanked him profusely. He smiled more. Then I did one more transaction, and he handled it so nicely. I complimented him on his efficient manner. He laughed and smiled, and I smiled back. We both felt relieved that he and I were both being on our best behavior. In a word, I was trying to be "nice".

It's good to be nice, to be "pleasing and agreeable in nature". So when I found out this morning that I was awarded the "NICE MATTERS" Award, by FishHawk at I was so touched.

I smiled at God's sense of humor, His timing. He seems to be sending the message that He's watching me, sees my efforts, and that even banking transactions are an important matter to Him! (It's not so much what you do, but how you do it that counts, some times).

The award is given out to “…those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world.

Well, I will try to continue onward under this high commendation. Please check with those around me, in my little world here, to see if I am holding up my end of the bargain here!

I need to pass this award along to other more worthy recipients. I have gotten to know so many people in this blogging world, but let me take the time to single out a few who really are...Nice.

Mike, at This I Do
Lindsay at
Marion at

ALL of you know that being nice matters. So many of you have left me the nicest comments, and have welcomed me as a neighbor in this blogosphere. And to my family,who know my not so nice moments, I know you'll be reminding me of this blogging award over and over!! (smile!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Unless We Know

She shared with me something she didn't intend to share. She didn't plan to open up and tell me how she really was. Maybe she could tell that I earnestly wanted to know how she was doing. Perhaps she knew that I suspected she was having a hard time, that I would not be surprised to hear her account of fear, frustration over being able to do nothing about her situation, and alarm that she had to live with not knowing, not knowing, not knowing. That was the part she could not cope with, she relayed to me. I kept my hand on her arm as she told me.

I felt burdened the rest of the day. Felt burdened for her, and by the weight of what she had to carry. I know it was good for her to share. By sharing with me, she allowed me to help bear her burden. She knows I will pray for her. But she also struggles with what prayer will do. Haven't we all prayed and prayed, at a tough time in our life, and found an answer we did not want instead of the one we longed for?

After dinner last night, a somewhat fatty pot roast and pretty good mashed potatoes, I did the dishes in a slow, contemplative manner. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, greasy pots, and a blue sponge that was quickly turning brown. I felt the weight of knowing how often we feel alone. How hard it is to connect with someone. I remembered again that I do not like to open up and share my pain with people. And I thought of my friend, her eyes on me, telling me her burden and her painful reality- and I thought of her with such regard. I saw such strength in her- that she crossed that line, and said, yes, I'll open up and tell you how I really am doing. It might not have even been strength that prompted her to act. It might have been desperation.

I keep thinking about the almost-medicinal, therapeutic effect that "sharing" has. Most people feel a bit better after they've talked with someone. But often I take so long in carefully deciding who I would trust with my story, my pain, that I never get to the sharing part, to the part where I open up and you see what I am faced with: me, overwhelmed, and afraid.

I have my favorite people to talk to who have passed "the test"- my husband, my best friend, my dog- because his eyes tell me I am adored no matter if I am in a mess. But I know my circle needs to enlarge. I know my community, my fellowship of believers, should be larger and we should all be able to trust each other enough to open up and go through trials together. We should be able to do that. But the "shoulds" do not determine reality, do they?

"We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him," Thomas Merton wrote, referring to our desperate need for God. And if God requires us to "call unto Me", so that He can answer, then maybe we have to also bear the awkwardness of calling out to each other when we have no other way to signal our distress. We cannot find each other unless we call out, call out even in desperation.

When we really are not doing that well, there may be no other choice than to take a chance on someone who we think may just care enough about us, know enough about life's vicious take downs, and have enough trust in God that whatever is shared with them, does not mean God is any less on the throne, or that we are any less loved.

It isn't enough to pursue only this one-to-one relationship with Christ our Savior, while excluding all others. We have to let people "in". I am taking a deep breath and a faith- filled step in this direction, now. And it's only because a friend shared with me something that she didn't intend to.

Her need became greater than her intention to be private. And that's just how it has to be for any of us to ever take a deep breath and then say,

Can we talk?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Spite of the Mess

My living room, right now, is crammed full of boxes and shopping bags. It's not a large room and it looks even smaller right now. But soon, within four or five hours, there may be a decorated Christmas tree with twinkling lights, and a few presents wrapped and situated under the tree. Just to start with. I will have Christmas carols playing, and I might even get adventurous enough to tackle a baking project today. (It won't be dinner rolls, I can tell you that for sure).

It's bitter cold out today and we're all holed up in our little house, and none more so than Harry, our dog. He still has not recovered from his trip to the groomers and the shearing he underwent. He's nervous and skitzy, shaking himself constantly, running from room to room, and going out to pee constantly. My blonde mop of a dog is gone and in his place is this skinny thing that is acting neurotic and inconsolable.

When he's unsettled, I feel a bit more unsettled. So it will fall to me to speak soothingly to him, pet him a bit more softly and put some kisses on his forehead and keep telling him, "You're alright. You're okay. Really." I'm hoping he will believe me- even though he could be secretly seething with resentment for me having taken him to the place that was his undoing. But that's the sad thing. Dogs don't seethe with resentment. They bear the injustices quietly, their big eyes looking at you with a question of "How could you?"

He doesn't understand that this was a necessary thing. The clipping had to be done. The cleaning out of his ears, the shampooing and the brushing- it was all necessary. And then he would, of course, come home to me. He should know that by now- he always comes home to us. But he came home different than when he left. He came home troubled and fretful. And it's going to take him some days to get his old relaxed feeling, his equilibrium, back.

I completely understand that. Anytime I experience change- positive or negative- it takes me a bit to process what just happened. Just as I feel adept at coping with a situation, I get the news of something new that will affect me. It can be good news or bad news. I still have to adapt to the changes it will bring to my life.

If we go back to the subject of the apostle Paul's contentment with abundance as well as with times of lack, we see that the apostle really had a divine enablement in coping with not just these two extremes, but just coping with change, period.

For some people, going from Thanksgiving Day one day, and waking up the next day into the whoosh of full blown Christmas shopping, festive plans for merry making and holiday baking- it can be a little much to process. It's a change that can be a bit hard on the system- and that is not insulting the meaning of Christmas. It's simply explaining our human, physical reality.

I don't want to aim for perfection in setting the physical scene for Christmas. Because even if I decorate beautifully, the kids will throw the pillows on the floor, the dog will probably throw up on the couch, and I will bake something, at some point, and leave it too long in the oven. As the smoke fills the room and the smoke detector goes off, shrieking its outcry of judgment that I have burned something yet again, I will look around and survey the mess. I don't want to conclude, incorrectly, that I have failed to welcome Christ into our home, just because of the mess around me. I want to acknowledge my reality, but then I want to anticipate something more than what I see.

The original Christmas Day- the day of Christ's birth- did not contain detailed menu planning, shopping, decorating, Christmas tree decorating, dealing with relatives.... The scene, instead, was a hay encrusted manger, smelly animals, a woman in physical pain - giving birth, and then....wonder.

Wonder can be experienced, quite literally, in spite of the mess we're in. Or maybe it's precisely because we are in such a mess, that the wonder of God's miracle comes to us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

When You Do the Math

I'm losing my touch. Baking used to be one of my signature strengths. Now, it's questionable. It didn't help that I had dropped the bread machine paddle down the garbage disposal and ground it senseless. So I couldn't knead the dough for the rolls in the bread machine. And then I forgot to add salt to the dough. They were the worst rolls I had ever made.

"But I think the pies came out great," I said as we entered my sister's house yesterday, arms loaded with rolls, and two apple pies. Wrong again. Too much nutmeg in the apple pies. Not enough sugar. Not bad, but not good; although the hungrier of family members ate pie without much trouble.

It was not the most thankful and exhilarating of Thanksgivings, but it was real. And now it is Black Friday, where the retailers all hope the profits will be more than real. They hope they'll be outstanding.

My husband and daughter ventured out early this morning to do their Christmas shopping and have their monthly father-daughter date. They were happy to go out, my son was happy to sleep in, the dog went back to sleep, and I holed up in my usual place on the couch with my journal, Bible, and several books all about me.

I wrote in my journal about how I don't want my perspective on things. I'm tired of my perspective, and I'm tired of the world's perspective. I don't like the world's "celebration" of Christmas, either. It's an increasingly complex commercialized world. It's harder to keep connecting with people, keep warming yourself by the fire (particularly if you no longer live in a house with a fireplace, like we do now), harder to keep the sense of coziness and intimacy and wonder alive.

I don't want to write about how the world is becoming a hard place to live or how stressful the holidays are or how we need to link arms and sing "kum by yah" to get the fellowship feeling back. I would, though, like to at least acknowledge that it is more of an uphill climb, than ever, if you want to have a peaceful, peace filled, holy holiday.

Maybe you're also sensing that the odds are against us in the pursuit of a beautiful, meaningful Christmas celebration. I would have to agree with you. The odds are against us.

But of course, there is something better than "the odds". The odds can be against us, but if God is FOR us, then that cancels out the power of the odds.

I love the Mathmatics of the Kingdom. In God's Kingdom, you almost have to throw out what you learned in all your years of Math. For instance, we learned that if you multiply anything by zero it will always be zero. 1000 good things x zero = zero.

But in God's Reality, God's Kingdom, you can take zero and multiply it with God (His touch, His Power) and you can actually get something! You can have zero hope, multiply it with God's perspective, and now you have what I call Possibilities with a capital P.

Take also the other math formula: 1+1=2. Just two. Two puny little things, or two puny people. But in God's Kingdom take one believer plus one believer and you get a powerful presence of the Lord with you both, a smile that increases on your faces as you sense His enveloping presence. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.–Matt. 18:20

It's wonderful relearning Math from God. I was never that strong in Math in the first place. (I am the verbal, literary type- can you tell?) So I don't think it's going to be too hard getting used to this New Kingdom Math.

Let me try it, right now. Take one person beaten down by the odds being against them, and filled with trepidation over trying to get this Christmas holiday "just right" for everybody. Now multiply this person by the power of God to free and uplift "all who are bowed down". Multiply this person's resources (zero) with God's abundant and mind blowing resources, and you get one person about to experience the most incredible journey he or she has ever had.

It's a journey not only through the holiday season, but a journey through life where at every juncture of your limitation, God's abundance is already there, although perhaps not yet seen.

And if you can just imagine the scope of what God can do, instead of what you can not, you will start to be interested in a subject you may have bombed in back in high school. Only this math has far more interesting ramifications for your life than that old math ever did.

I'm just keeping it real by remembering to crunch the numbers...God's way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

All Clear

Image Hosted by photo by Alexander Caldwell

I would think that this post should be a proper Thanksgiving message where I admonish myself (and anyone who cares to listen) that we should be thankful, thankful, thankful. But I'm pretty sure everyone has gotten the message to be just that, already. Be ye thankful.

Some families have that mandatory "sharing time" when you go around the dining room table with each one sharing, in turn, why they are thankful. In some Christian homes it can get very intense or competitive, statistical or laden with Scripture, or lengthy as Uncle Egbert shares the very detailed history of Thanksgiving. By the time it gets to you, you wonder what to say.

It's your turn and you want to share how you're thankful and really, more relieved than than thankful if you're honest- for all that God has done in your life. You want to communicate how you're just starting to "see" how He loves you, how it's all becoming so clear to you now. You could quote verses pointing to this new found freedom and grace. But instead you simply say:

"I'm just so thankful that it's all I look up."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grace for the Day

Saturday and Sunday held minor challenges for me, opportunities to worship and to rest, moments of illumination and insight as I read Philip Yancey's Book, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" This is a book I had read years ago, but apparently I wasn't affected by it then. I am now. I am touched by it, unsettled by it, and stirred up.

The challenges I had this weekend were relational oriented. (Aren't they always?!) One college bound son who, in my mind, isn't acting very college bound (ie. responsible, organized, focused) had me fighting the battle to "release" and trust God. My daughter also has needs and it can't always be that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". Sometimes the quiet wheel needs a bit of attention too. Saturday was a lot of running around, errands, and preparations. It ended, though, with a birthday party for my niece, where twelve of us, ages 13-82 , gathered together- and we really did celebrate.

Sunday afternoon we stopped at the Grocery Store right after church to grab the ingredients for sandwiches and soup, so that I wouldn't have to venture out of the house again that day. I was feeling a bit run down and ready to hibernate a bit.

As I was in line checking out, putting the cans of soup on the conveyor belt, I heard the words to that beautiful melody "Let it Be" by the Beatles. Some say the song was not written about Mother Mary but rather about Paul McCartney's mother, Mary, who would always settle family fights by saying, "Let it be. Just let it be." Mothers everywhere are settling scuffles and outcries with those healing words. Let it be. Let it go....Surrender.

After lunch, I flopped in bed with my two new books, one from the library and one from the Salvation Army (where the world has opened up to me at 50c a hardcover. Incredible deal.) Harry was lying on the bed with me, very needy and fretful. He was clipped and shorn like a sheep at the Groomers on Saturday. (If he's not clipped frequently enough, he gets painfully matted).

After having Mono last year, it doesn't take much now for me to rest on my bed in an attitude of gratitude. A book, a sleeping dog next to me, maybe a pot of hot tea on a tray, and I am one blessed woman. Especially if my son and my husband are downstairs working on a computer project, and my daughter wants to do a craft in her room. Then everyone is settled, in their place of choice, doing their activity of choice. It's as it should be. It's peaceful. It's restorative. But it is rare that it happens that way.

I read and I wrestle with this idea of grace. The illustrations Yancey shares moves me to tears. Though this book was published in 1997, the issue of grace has come up again, ten years later. Grace for the Christian, Grace for this troubled world, Grace for our homes. People want to know if this word, Grace, is as powerful as it is purported to be. Could Grace possibly frees us from the panic we often feel? Could Grace deal with the broken down families and the increasingly complex relationships everyone is dealing with? How free would you really be if you walked continually in Grace- Grace for yourself and Grace for others?

Oh, the Land of the Free. "In this land you can question anything," I wrote the other day. Without Grace, you strive to be packaged nicely before you go and talk to God, as if He will not see through your thin veneer of pretense and pride. Who could come clean enough to come forward and talk to God with absolute purity of thought and heart? The longer you pour it all out with Him, the more you keep seeing the shallowness of your thoughts or the selfishness of your ways.

But Grace isn't there for us to become shocked at how bad we can look. Grace is there to help us absorb the enormity of our weak state and yet assure us that we can indeed talk with the Creator of the Universe. Grace holds our hand and leads us to the throne room, all the while declaring, "This one is with me, Father. Please hear them out." And He does. He can listen to every rant and rave, every whimper and every sob, every statement of anger and bitterness.

And to all that, God will give an answer of peace. Peace that heals- because "by His stripes we are healed." Forgiven. Peace that gives perspective- because God will direct you into success as well as keep you through times of failure. Keep you, literally. Will not toss you out because you bombed on a task, blew it big, or wimped out where you once declared your godly purpose to prevail. He already knows the state we need to live in- it's a state of grace because of our human state of weakness.

"The same God who created the heavens and the earth has the power to bridge the great chasm that separates Him from His creatures. He will reconcile, He will forgive, no matter what obstacles His prodigal children put in the way...God will go to any preposterous length to get His family back," Yancey says.

I had just dozed off in the middle of reading that when I heard my bedroom door open. My daughter came in quietly. I was just about to tell her, "Oh, honey, I can't talk right now. I just need to sleep" but before I could say that, she holds up a book in her hand, indicating that she just wants to cuddle in bed and read next to me. She'll read and I can read. Or I can sleep if I need to. That her desire to be near me could coincide with my need to rest filled me with such peace. I could be "weak" right now- tired and worn out, and it wouldn't take away from what she wanted. She hopped in bed next to me.

God somehow desires our company, a relationship with us despite the fact that we are weak, worn out, with not much to give Him. Yet He extends His hand and says "Come closer." When God reaches out to surprise you with a Welcome, instead of an Exile to the Wilderness, you will be touched by Grace. Surprised by it. Astonished that it could work. We can be weak, a mess, mired in sin and He could want to know us, forgive us, and heal us. Grace could overwhelm us.

Or in the case of apostle Paul,"knocked flat on the ground on the way to Damascus, he never recovered from the impact of grace...."

Then let me never recover, as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

When I Tell You What I Think

My mind was going at 5am this morning. I woke up, at the end of an interesting dream, wondering about its imagery and symbolism. I went out to the kitchen, made coffee, and then woke my husband up a half hour earlier than normal. The saint that he is, he came out to the living room couch where I handed him his mug of coffee and a plate loaded with questions , thoughts, observations, and ....more questions.

In our twenty three years of marriage, my husband has never uttered those dreaded, terrible words to me: "You think too much." And he certainly would be within his right to say so.

All my boyfriends did. I couldn't go out with a guy for more than a day or two, when coming home from a date, they would listen to my questions and musings and then look at me and say with a puzzled look on their face, "You think too much."

It was the worst thing someone could say to me. If they had said "You dress funny" that I might be able to change. (If I wanted to). Or if they said I was comical, I could stop cracking jokes. But think too much? I can't stop thinking. My mind has a life of its own. (A very colorful life, I would add).

I never understood the value of my mind, the value of having a sound mind, until recently. After years of affirmation from my husband about how my mind works (he finds it "fascinating"), I have come to be rather protective of my mind and my thinking. I would never tolerate any pubescent young man mocking the beautiful workings of my active mind, now.

"A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body,..." says Proverbs 14:30 Amplified. I can't say my mind has always been undisturbed. But one reason why it is more calm than it was years ago is that I cooperate with its questionings, investigations, discerning, and probings. I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to me, and touch my thinking to perceive things I might not "see" on my own.

But I can't get there if I shut down my mind, turn off the questions, or refuse to wrangle with the things that trouble me or upset me. I leave no stone unturned when it comes to thinking things out with the Lord. I will bring ALL my thoughts and questions to Him. I will write in my journal, the wrestlings of my mind. I will contemplate the meaning of my dreams, wondering if God is speaking to me through them, or if the pizza I ate the night before is doing the talking. But sometimes I am talking to myself, through my dream. Sometimes I just have to hear what I am honestly thinking.

I value my thoughts. In years past, my thoughts ran more in the camp of the terrorized and the troubled. But I am a free woman now. With my "mind stayed on Thee" I have gained entrance into that equitable, hospitable territory of the land of the free. In this land, you can question anything. You can go to the Lord, the God who says "Come now, let us reason together...". It is not by reasoning that I gain full insight. Its just that I don't have to throw out reasoning, either.

It's not an emotional experience- my faith in Christ. But it's not without emotion. It's not solely an intellectual experience- but it's not without reasoning and investigating. My journey is one where all travelers are allowed to use their mind. Even more so, we don't check our thoughts at the door and jump into a valley of blind faith, thoughtless drivel, naive hopeful wishing, and a wing and a prayer. (Although we do do a lot of praying).

My faith in Christ's power to redeem lives, cleanse hearts, and heal troubled minds- well, that faith is based on experience. I've seen Him work mightily in others. I've seen what He's done in me. I am certain of His existence, certain of His Perfect Perspective. And I utterly rejoice over the certainty of His perfect thoughts that He thinks towards me- thoughts of peace, not to harm me, but to give me a hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)

But even with the certainty of all that He is, still my prayer time is filled with my observations, thoughts, questions and ideas. Sometimes I will even make suggestions to God or offer my idea of how He could move in our midst. I'll share what my hope filled ideas or desires are. But then, at the end of it all, at the end of all I pour out in clear thinking and even in confusion, all these thoughts are laid at His feet.

And then He has the final Word.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Harry, our dog, refused to go out and "do his duty" this morning because it is pouring rain. He will not go out when the elements are hostile.

"This dog wouldn't make it a day, if he were lost in the woods," my husband said with a sigh this morning, looking at Harry curled up, asleep, on the couch. You would think there would be a bit of embarrassment Bill would feel about his other "son" being so ....weak.

Yet we all fawn over that dog, cuddling him, trying to get a little attention from him- if we can wake him up from one of his many needed naps. Last night, Bill was cuddling with him on our bed. I was at my desk in our room, and therefore Harry was right behind me. He has to be as close to me as possible. Bill tried to get Harry to give him a little lick, a glance, anything- but instead, Harry moves closer to the end of the bed, next to the desk where I am.

"He's in love with you", Bill said in a resigned voice. "I can't get him to pay attention to me."

Even when Harry flops on the chair in the living room, his paws hanging over the edge of the chair and touching the ground, he will direct his gaze at me- though you can't tell if he's looking at me or if he's asleep, since his eyes are hidden behind that blond mop.

I do feel adored by my dog, but I have to tell you- it doesn't do that much for my self esteem. Harry is not at all discerning of my weaknesses and my failings. He adores me simply because I am with him, most of the day, and I make him feel secure. Its a basic instinct we all have.

I'm trying to get through a new book, called Dealing with the Crazy Makers in Your Life by Dr. David Hawkins. I don't care for the title, and it's not the kind of book that you read eagerly and with a smile on your face. But I am gleaning some nuggets out of it that reinforce some things I have been thinking about lately.

This blogging thing has brought up an issue for me to deal with. The issue is self-revelation. The question I have is: how much do I want to reveal of myself, and why would I reveal certain things? I've already written about coming out of obscurity in my post, Queen of Anonymity No More (8/21). And I have come out of obscurity and into the blogging world. In a sense, I have self-published.

Now the question is, how far will I take this journey? In the last month, I have had increasing e-mails, conversations, and private messages from various people who are "opening up" to me because I have opened myself up to the world at large, so to speak. They don't write to me because I have it all together, and have proclaimed the Seven Steps to a Perfect Life. They write because I have questioned out loud on my dark days, shared painful moments from my past, and opened up about my hopes and dreams. What encourages people is not when we share our strengths, but usually when we share where we are weak.

Just as with Harry, people want to be near you, often, not because you have answers but because your imperfect reality is there for them to see, and they feel "safe" with you. But for them to feel "safe" I have to live a bit dangerously. Every time I share more of myself, I am more open to the world. I am "known" by those who "read me" yet I may have days where I struggle with confusion over who I really am.

How much honesty is helpful and how much privacy do we need to retain to be healthy? One thing I do know, while honesty is the best policy, it still creates problems. One problem is that as you know me, I will feel the weight of wanting to manage my image, how I come across.

Dr. Hawkins writes, "...except for certain special circumstances-such as when to do so would be harmful- total honesty is the best policy. This means not only telling the truth but also refraining from trying to manage others' perception of me by exaggerating personal strengths and minimizing personal weaknesses. If someone wants to really know me, he or she must be strong enough to know my many foibles. Anything less erodes the integrity of our relationship"

Now I don't know how strong you are. Are you strong enough to handle the depth of my failings in heart and attitude? My resentments that can build up, my fears, or my anger? And then I would have to ask myself, can I handle your weaknesses? From a distance, we seem to be able to extend compassion and empathy. But when someone we are in relationship with is "weak", falls down, looks "bad"- can we handle the truth of who they are?

Who could possibly be strong enough to know our weaknesses and failings- and yet not turn away, nor even flinch at the sight of them? Well, I know His Name.

And that's what I cry out every time I not only see Him, but every time He sees me- really sees me for who I am, and who I could be...


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quiet Time

Last night at a Leadership meeting at Church, our Pastor shared about the extremes we can unwisely experience in our thoughts and beliefs due to singling Scripture verses out of context.

One example was given about the passage,"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)

The Apostle Paul was referring to the conditions of living in lack, or living in abundance, and just plain being able to live, at peace, in a state of grace- no matter what. He did Not mean "I can bench press 1000 pounds - because I know Christ" or "I can become a famous opera star even though I sing like a chicken with its head cut off". (Everyone is glad I do understand this verse in context. I sing like...well, the example I just gave- but I know that I do. And I'm not expecting much to change here!)

Paul understood the undergirding, strengthening presence of God to take him through times of plenty and times of "tightness", times when the world sits at your feet to listen, and times when "all of Asia" has left you. He could "make it" because of God's grace and His power at work in his life. Yes, he could "do" that. And so can you.

But without Christ- well, that's a different matter. Without His amazing life -giving power at work in your mortal body, you can do "nothing". Now, be careful here. It may not seem like you're doing nothing. It may seem like you're doing an awful lot, panting and sweating in exertion, at the same time. But in reality, anything not touched by the hand of God, by the approval of God, amounts to nothing. I've seen this in my life.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John15:4,5

Last couple of days, I've come to a place of peace and understanding. I'm experiencing a quiet rest in Him that may seem unproductive. But I believe that rest can be a powerful form of abiding in Christ. Instead of striving and trying so hard to be productive, I'm just "waiting" and "worshipping" Him- glad to be small in His powerful hand.

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop" said Ovid, the Roman poet. This is especially true of those whose resting period is not done kicking or screaming. (I think many of us have an aversion to resting periods because of the nap times imposed on us when we were young!).

I'm just cooperating with the plan of God, right now. "Quiet time," He whispers to my spirit. I have decided to simply agree; to just abide in His timing, His strategy, His plan for me. I'm abiding in the Vine, that's what I'm doing. And the part where you see all that fruit...that will come.

In due season.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm Responsible

We salute you, Veterans. We acknowledge what you poured out on behalf of our country. Today we'll try to "grow up" and soberly recognize that so much of what we have and enjoy- peace and safety- you all played a part in delivering it to us.

Yesterday at church, our pastor asked all veterans to stand so we could honor them. In the row ahead of me, a young man was sitting next to two older gentlemen. These two older men, veterans, shakily tried to stand up. One started to stand but almost fell back, and the young man next to him reached out, put an arm behind him, and helped raise him up to standing position. He kept his arm there, protectively, supportively, lest the veteran start to fall backwards.

You have the right to be a bit unsteady on your feet when you've lived a long life, fought in wars, done your part to bring a measure of peace to this world, or even to just your tiny corner of the world.

But it's time to stop falling backwards if age, exhaustion, valor and courageous acts of service have not depleted you. If you're just falling backwards because you're frustrated , self sabotaging, or petulant about someone not liking you or liking your work- that's another thing.

Now remember, I am giving myself a good "talking to" here. (I need it). Don't listen in if you're not in the mood for a bit of battle charge.

I've shared about hearing the word "satisfaction" whispered to my soul, and how I can taste it - and want to walk in satisfaction continually. But I also shared the illustration that he who tills his land shall be satisfied with bread, and she who comes thirsty and crying out to God shall not go away empty or unsatisfied. In other words, to become satisfied, there's an action required.

Notice the implied action of pursuing something responsibly. If you've got a field, then work it. If you've got a thirst for something, then make haste and get to the throne room of God and talk to Him, tell Him your need, cry out for relief- but don't be silent, whatever you do. It's your responsibility to speak up.

We've got a responsibility to see that we are a satisfied people. Grace is available. Forgiveness is flowing. Strength for the day is offered. "They that wait upon the Lord SHALL renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles...". But if you're still stranded on the ground, dry and pinned down, ask yourself if you have availed yourself of all of heaven's resources.

You have a responsibility to your soul to see to it that you do not wastefully ignore the resources God has in mind to turn your plight into sight. "Oh, I see, Lord!"

I used to fall down in the area of being "overly responsible". (I can still battle this a bit, but am more aware that I don't want to fall into this). That can mean you take on too much, or it can show up in you not drawing boundary lines or you doing too much for someone who needs to learn to do for themselves. It can happen by having too sensitive a conscience or by having a martyr complex where you feel you have to give your all for the world- forgetting that the world already has a Perfect Savior- and it's not you.

But if we're not overly responsible, and if we're not shirking responsibility- then we have a call to walk that narrow road of being sane, sober minded, responsible- and joyfully so. After all, Jesus has told us that "the yoke is easy and the burden is light" - because He shoulders the burden while we participate in walking with Him, obediently, responsibly.

"We live in a culture that overvalues talent and undervalues responsibility," Maxwell writes in his book, Talent is Never Enough. But notice the subtitle of this book: "Discover the Choices that will Take You Beyond Your Talent."

Yes, in this life we have Choices to make. "Every day you have a chance to write a new page in that story. I want to encourage you to fill those pages with responsibility to others and to yourself. If you do, in the end you will not be disappointed," Maxwell writes.

And a person who has responsibly looked at the choices in their life, gone after the call of God on their life, made mistakes and botched things up but kept on going in His grace- that person will not only not be disappointed with the outcome of their life, but I daresay... they'll be quite satisfied.

"Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. "Ps. 90:14

Friday, November 09, 2007

Refuel Here

Sometimes I pray the most effectively when I don't use any words. My sighing tells God that I am feeling broken or exhausted. And when He hears my sighs, He breathes on me anew and fills me.

Sometimes, though, I am not meant to be comforted by God. Sometimes He has to provoke stand. It might be required of me to put on a rather militaristic uniform of conviction and begin an uprising of sorts. I have to take a stand. I have to lift my chin in defiance of what would take me down- whether that's fear, discouragement, or lack of vision. Instead of flailing my arms and quoting a bunch of Scripture, I will, instead, eye my enemy with a look of "You're not going to win here, bucko" and then just stand there. I may stand in the middle of the living room, silently, with the dog giving me a glance of confusion. Then he'll sigh and go back to sleep. (Harry, my dog, may need to learn a bit about having a warrior spirit, but that will have to be another matter I tackle later).

I went to bed, last night, reading John Maxwell's book, Talent is Not Enough- which probably wasn't a good idea. Great book, wrong time to read it. The book has sound instruction regarding initiating, focusing, preparing, persevering...but it fails to inspire me. I just don't get inspired to return to "the fight" through instructions and details about how to execute the steps leading to success and potential realized.

If John Maxwell appeared on my door step with the words, "Congratulations! You've won a day with me- the premier Christian Leadership Expert in the U.S.! Now what would you like to talk about or learn from me?"- this is what I would do.

I would invite him in, make a pot of hot tea, set the table with my favorite mismatched china- colorful and cheerful. I'd put pumpkin muffins on the table that I retrieved from the freezer, light an apple spice candle, and pour the tea. Then I'd look him in the eye and say this:

"I appreciate the information in the book. Now please tell me about a time in your life when what you knew in your head wasn't enough to help your heart. Tell me about a time when information and strategy failed, and yet you received 'a word' to go on."

If he didn't know what I meant, I would share about the times when God sent me a word, so that I would "know the word that sustains the weary". (Isaiah 50:4) Call it a prophetic word. Call it a word of counsel and insight.

At every major turning point in my life, there's usually been something I heard in the back of my head, a quiet phrase of lucidity that resounded in my darkness. Sometimes it's not even a phrase, or a sentence. Sometimes it's just one word.

The word for me, right now, is Satisfaction. Sounds carnal or selfish, at first. But Scripture resounds with this concept of God's people being satisfied in- and only because of-Him.

"For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness." Ps. 107:9

Yes, He satisfies- and when He does, it's like a refueling. At least it's a refueling of the things that should be refueled. When He satisfies us "with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's"(Ps. 103:5) what are you going to do with that sense of renewed youth?

Satisfaction leads to action. You decide to go back to the fight, to take on that mountain after all. Or maybe you decide to get off the mountain that you were encircling for too long. One mountain we should never stay on is the mountain of frustration. There's a principle clearly defined in the Scriptures- the man who works his field will be satisfied with bread. The One who looks to God will be satisfied. The one who comes empty, to His throne, will go away filled.

"To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" Ephesians 3: 19 tells us, referring to how God satisfies us. He satisfies us by filling us up. God's objective? "That you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

The word in Greek is pleroma- meaning full number, full complement, full measure, plenitude. My commentary, describing this fullness, gives the example of "a ship with a full cargo, a town with no empty houses."

Or in my case, I would describe it this way-

"A Woman with all her marbles. She's satisfied, and ready to go on."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My Statement of Faith

Had a wonderful time with Mu, my best friend, yesterday.
On top of a cinnamon spice coffee and soft leather chairs at the local cafe, she threw in a little bit of Shakespeare to enhance our morning chat. I laughed when she told me I need to "bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." I didn't know she was into Shakespeare.

After our inspiring time together, I came home to several "issues" I had to deal with. There were the arrows- and they weren't even arrows of outrageous fortune. They were arrows of reality and closed doors. Things seemed to only mount as the day went on. I went to sleep last night feeling a bit overwhelmed.

After getting the kids and Bill off this morning, I sat down on the couch with Harry snoring near me, oblivious to my conflicted state. I wrote in my journal. I let it all out- as I am accustomed to doing. When I opened my Bible, I wasn't even looking for answers. I just wanted to get grounded, again, on the truth that God reigns, He rules, and I have given my life over to Him. I wound up reading a passage from Isaiah 64-

"For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.

God acts for me while I wait for Him. It sounds like a more-than-fair arrangement. But waiting is often an excruciatingly hard thing to do. Is there anything we can do other than sit with our hands folded in our lap, our eye on the clock, our mind thinking "What could God possibly be up to that He won't let me get involved in the matter?"

While you're waiting for God to move on your behalf there is something you can do.

When there are no words left- you're done telling God how disappointed you are or how alarming your future looks to you- there's a statement you can make. It's a powerful action of belief and expectancy. It's a statement of faith, complete and emphatic.

Just raise your hands to Him. When all is said and done, God knows what He has in mind for you and me.

I don't normally run out of words, but when I do, I keep talking to God. And this is how I keep communicating with Him: I will lift my hands up to Him, even if tears fall down. I will lift up my statement of faith.

He hears me when He sees my lifted hands.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Crossing Over to Your World

There are spectacular things happening. I love to hear good news. I love to find out someone is taking a giant faith-filled step or making a break through. Someone shared with me recently about getting "freed" from something that held them down and back- and now it is "under" their feet. Then today I read my friend's news ( ) about how she is stepping out in faith, in love, in wanting to adopt a child from Africa.

Speaking of foreign countries, I have had the most enjoyable of experiences in having strangers come up to me, trying to guess my ethnicity. In the summers, my son and I, in particular, get quite dark. His teeth flash even whiter in his bronzed skin. My daughter is fairer, but in the summer she looks Mediterranean.

One day this summer I was at the Grocery Store in the bakery section. There was a man working, kneading the bread, who was obviously Italian or something close to that. I decided to call out a greeting in the little bit of Italian I know. He smiled and answered back in a stream of Italian, turning to my daughter, and asking her something. She looked at me with her eyes wide, silently begging my help with her Mom, look what you've gotten me into now!

I quickly said to the man, "Oh, she doesn't know any Italian."

"Shame on you, for not teaching her the mother tongue!" he admonished me.

"Oh, I'm not Italian,"I answered back with a laugh. "I'm Latin- my Dad is from Bolivia."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," he said, smiling at me. "You look Italian."

The Greeks think I'm Greek (ooopa!), the Italians think I'm Italian (mangi!). I look Portuguese or Brazilian, depending on the day. I've had the world, practically, come up to me and embrace me, thinking I am one of their own.

I try to learn a little bit of every one's language so that I can always say "Hello, how are you?" or "Do you want to go roller skating with me?". (I learned to say that, in Italian, back in my college days, and it has never come in handy since). I can say "You are a woman" in German- and that only works with half the population. (My of-German-descent mother taught me to say that, as well as how to say an expletive in German- though she swears she never did). I still remember one of the first things I learned back in high school French class with Mr. Brelle- "M. Brelle est sous la table"- and Mr. Brelle hasn't come out from under the table since. I don't blame him.

We learn strange things, sometimes- things that we can't always use in future conversations. But the good intention is there. Sometimes that, alone, is enough. (Except for the French- don't mangle their language or else!)

I want to speak to everyone in their own language. I want to get through to them and let them know I am interested in knowing them, glad to meet them, that I sincerely wish them well on their journey. I try to figure out a way to get this message across.

What works best is usually a big smile. That can cross the language barriers any day. And then, especially with teenage boys, a hug will work wonders at helping you cross from your world to theirs. Even if they act all weird and squeemish about you hugging them, they don't push you away when you embrace them- and they could.

"Mo-o-o-m, please, " my son will say, rolling his eyes as I hug him, pulling his cheek close to me so I can give him a kiss and whisper, "I'm proud of you. Don't forget to drive me around when I'm eighty, okay?"

He'll smile back at me. He can't help it. He understands what I'm saying to him. And I can see that he didn't mind the hug.

Didn't mind it at all.

Monday, November 05, 2007

God Moves...Spectacularly

Yesterday afternoon Bill and I went on a date. I had joked earlier with my 13 yr old daughter that I think she has more dates with her Dad than I do. They usually go out twice a month on a father-daughter date, and she comes home beaming with joy, her heart filled up with confidence and worth, her arms filled with little goodies that her Dad bought her. She has spectacular, wonderful dates with her Dad.

But when I go out on a date with my husband, I don't aim for spectacular. I aim for... encouraging. We aim for camaraderie and maybe a tad of fun thrown in. This is a big order- because since we don't go out on dates very often, there is a lot of expectation built up on how great this date should be. So we've learned to dial down a bit, aim for a "pleasant" time together, and see how it goes from there.

I was a feeling bit unsettled yesterday afternoon, so it felt good to watch other people and not focus on our own "issues". We walked along the streets of Saratoga, noticing all the couples, all the dog lovers walking their little "babies", and the shop windows calling out for our attention. We kept walking, doing very little shopping or browsing, because it felt good to just talk and walk.

As I walked I realized something: an old mental mantra had recently crept back into my thinking. I thought I had killed off this old thinking pattern, but it does not die easily. It quickly gets resurrected during times when I have given my all- and my all wasn't enough to make something spectacular happen.

Years ago, at a small Bible Study I was teaching with a couple women, we were discussing "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ". I had the women write down what lie was circling about in their thoughts, unheard by those around them, but loudly proclaiming itself in their mind. I encouraged us to get honest about the mantra that mocks us often, loudly proclaiming its reality over what we know we should believe.

"Let me tell you the lie that often hangs around in my thoughts," I said to the women. "Here it is: 'It's all up to me.' " I shared how I can easily work myself into a frenzy, feel the weight of a dire situation I am dealing with and the pressure to solve it, fix it, and make it all good- all by myself.

I can easily think, "it's all up to me", act like it is- and practically kill myself in the process. I can forget that God loves to show up, move mightily in our midst, and show His spectacular power to redeem, break through, make all things new, ... and more. He can do it- well. He can do it, spectacularly.

I can do a lot of good things. But God does great things. And He wants to do them in my life, through me, and more often than not, when I finally give up thinking it's all up to me.

Yesterday I surveyed the good work I've been doing: I've been cleaning house, taking stock of my inner attitudes, working on my writing, preparing talks for the women's LIFE workshops, serving my children and husband in all their needs. I know I have applied myself well, although not perfectly. But when all is said and done, if I have to rely on all my own efforts to achieve life changing results, I am in big trouble. I can only take far. I can do some good things, but they're not going to cause great things to happen.

A seemingly risky, faith filled thought needs to be present in my mind: it's not all up to me. I need to be looking for God to show up, for God to open doors, for God to reveal Himself in powerful, spectacular ways.

What I have to be confident of is this: God moves , even more, when I can not. It's not all up to me. My boast will be in Him, in what He is not only able to do in my life, but willing to do in my life.

That's why "we are not of those who draw back" as Hebrews 10:34 says. It's not that we don't see the end of the line, or the end of our own natural resources or opportunities. I see the end of many things, right now. I see a lot of closed doors in front of me. It's enough to make you draw back , with a sigh, and prepare to go back to square one.

But if I remember God's point of view- and God's perspective of what He intends to do in my life- then before me are incredible open doors that I don't see, from a natural point of view, but that are right there, nevertheless.

If I only have eyes to perceive them.

'Cause it's not all up to me.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

When You See my Scars

It's Saturday morning, and it's time to clean house. I mean, really clean it- and not just pretend I am. It would help if I went out and bought a vacuum cleaner that actually works, instead of using the one I have that smokes and growls loudly as I push it across the carpet, making a lot of noise,but doing...nothing. I need to clean out my overflowing bedroom closet and sort things around my desk. It is an absolute mess, my room.

And the kitchen- that should be attended to. If I look out the window, I'm inspired enough to keep washing the pots and pans, scrub counters, contemplate the view, and reflect on my life while my hands are in sudsy, hot water.

As long as I am not the one in hot water right now, then I can handle having a messy house. But I can't handle having a mess of a soul. I can't cope if I have hidden emotions, not dealt with, and lies of the soul that I want to cling to- that no one would know are there. And who helps you really do a deep soul cleaning? There is no commercial service that can come in and clean up your soul- in one day.

So while I clean house today, I may just sort out some old ideas I have been holding onto. I may let go of some things. In the case of my book proposal on dealing with depression, I have to decide if "this" is the book that should be written.

It may be that I am more like my old vacuum cleaner than I realize. It may be that I am working and looking like I am "doing" something. But the reality is that I could just be giving off a lot of smoke and not accomplishing what I set out to do.

My Book Proposal came out of a workshop series I taught on last year. There was a great response to it. But not because I am some expert- although you usually look like an expert if you share on something that has not taken you down for the count- and kept you down. Women wanted to hear someone just talk about the biggies of fear, anxiety, depression and worry.

I think some women were not so much looking for answers to these issues, but were looking for someone just to say that she struggled with them. This person- me- had to look reasonably sane, and hopeful; had to be someone who made it so far, in spite of these emotions and realities dogging their journey. So I stood there, last year, during this 4 week series, as a reflection of hope to these women. I was a symbol of success to them mainly by the fact that I was still standing. That's what they needed to see- someone who could talk about painful realities and stand, smiling, not scarred to the bone.

I'm not disfigured by fear anymore. But I do have scars. And that's what people want to see. Usually that's what encourages them, helps them know that you are real, and that they - being real- can make it on this journey through dark cavernous places.

Edward Shillito expressed this truth in his poem, Jesus of the Scars:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now:
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

So when people see me stumbling about in attempts to clean house, in my effort to draw near to God, they may be encouraged by how it looks to the eye to be made whole. It looks like a mess, often. You stand, somewhat exposed or raw. You share how you asked God, Put the salve here please. This is where it hurts.

That's why the books I will write have to be centered on...reality. I will have to zero in, even tighter, on things we normally back away from. I will have to be ruthless and daring. That doesn't come naturally to me- in spite of how some see me.

We are clamoring to know answers. Some of us are more in reach of these answers simply because we have put an honest hand out, raised it up, waved it furiously, and God came running. Or it least it seemed He came running.

The reality is, He was there all along. We just sensed His arrival because our eyes were suddenly opened, and we saw Him there. And then we took a stand, with Him supporting us. Or we wrote a book, daring to share with the world...what the world somehow knows, yet yearns to hear again and again.

There is a balm in Gilead. There is a salve that takes away the stain- but never takes away the scars. Take heart, though.Share those scars with the world. He meant for you to do so.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Who's the Counselor You See?

There were about 75 women at the Women's LIFE Workshop last night. They gathered to hear me share "The Answer to Runaway Emotions". I shared the good news that there was Someone who could handle the wide range of emotions they experienced. The bad news, though, was that we have to be honest about what we feel, whether its fear, anger, disappointment, jealousy. To be honest with God - about what we're not only going through, but what we're feeling- we have to call a spade a spade. We've got to throw away the mask, take off the pious smile of bravery and bluffing, and get real. With God.

Emotions are "a complex reaction pattern..." defines Wikipedia. "A conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling..." Websters online dictionary relates.

Just listing some emotions can make you feel woozy: anger, bitterness, confusion, happiness, embarrassment, fear, frustration, grief, hate, jealousy, pride, remorse. We could call emotions the volcano of our innermost being or the bane of our existence.

But since God came up with the idea for us to have emotions- He created us- we can have full confidence that when others can't handle us because of our complex, emotional state, God CAN. He can handle it all. Especially the ugly feelings. Nothing shocks Him. If you pour out your heart to Him, He can handle hearing your reality without His perfect character and viewpoint getting affected by your hindered state.

Beth Moore shares in her book, Praying God's Word- "One of the wonderful things about God's immutable character is that we're not going to tempt Him to sin when we take our negative feelings to Him. He can take our frustrations without being harmed by them."

I shared how throughout Scripture various figures expressed their feelings to God. Elijah had his despondent, almost suicidal moment in 1 Kings 19. David pours out all his emotions throughout the Psalms. Then there's my favorite, Jonah. Yeah, the guy who was swallowed by the whale. That's usually how we remember him.

But the great message of the book of Jonah is that this ugly acting, pouting, proud, angry prophet- while not a role model for us, as a whole- was an honest man. He excelled at honesty, in his "inner most parts". And for that we may need to give him credit for at least... authenticity.

The prophet Jonah is sent to a pagan city to preach a call to repentance. But more than that, the book of Jonah is also about God dealing with a petulant, angry prophet who can't deal with God's mercy to "those people". God listened to this prophet's expression of anger, displeasure and pain at seeing his former enemies receive God's mercy. An angry man talked with God- the King and Ruler of the Universe- and he lived to talk about it. God doesn't strike you down, dead, if you express your hurt, your rage, your pain. He can handle it. Perfectly. He's the Only One who can.

As we wound up last night, a young woman approached me. "What was that thing you said at the end, about how when people ask you 'Who's the Counselor you see?' and you said tell them 'It's the Lord Jesus- He handles my runaway emotions'? How do I get to see this counselor? How do I get to go to Him?" she asked, her eyes wide with longing.

So I sat down with her and her friend, and answered her. I told them about the incredible opportunity we have to not only cast all our cares upon Him, but the opportunity we have to go running to Him, without shame or fear, and call Him, "Father." I told her how we "change our mind" about who would be in control of our life. I shared about how we exchange our lost, sinful state for an eternal condition of "accepted and redeemed"; how we receive a robe of righteousness that Christ alone could put on us, because of what He did on the cross.

They both said they wanted "all that". I nodded my head in response to their request, recognizing their longing, thinking to myself-what soul would not want all that mercy spilled out for them? I want it, Lord. I want it fresh in my life, all over again.

We prayed together. They repeated a prayer after me- not because it was a magic formula and the words had to be just right, but because this was the first time they were talking directly to God.

But once you've been introduced to the merciful Savior and Lord, you know Him now as Your heavenly Father. You can talk to Him about what you're going through, what you're feeling, what flipped your world upside down that day.

If we've understood the magnitude of this access we have- to all of His counsel and His merciful love, there won't be a thing or a soul who can get in the way of us going straight to Him, every time, with every matter. If we're breathing, we'll always have something to say, something on our mind or something heavy on our heart.

But we now know Someone who will lovingly receive our tainted offering- our outpouring of who we are and what we feel. He receives us. He receives us as we are- feeling afraid, maybe angry or in grief. We can go to Him, knowing that we are not eternally lost, but perhaps temporarily "misplaced". Maybe we've wandered off course, emotionally spent or confused by the storm we're feeling. When we don't know what to do next, He does.

And with a sigh of relief we realize- we've got Someone who can handle it...all.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Next on the Best Seller Book List

It's dark when I open the doors to my kids' bedrooms and wake them- if they haven't woken up by themselves. My son will set his alarm and then turn it off. I therefore have to be the one to wake him- and he doesn't rise with a cheerful sleepy smile like my daughter does.

This morning I decide to continue speaking my litany of beautiful thoughts and powerful inspiration -into my sons' ears. I am going to be his personal Life Coach, his own motivational speaker-on-call. Whether he likes it or not.

"Alex, wake up," I bend over and whisper into his ears. "It's a new day. There are two days left in this marking period. This is your chance to finish the quarter well, raise your GPA, apply for scholarships, get into the college of your choice, and forge ahead into a dynamic future filled with promise and potential. Your life awaits you. Alex .... Alex..... GET UP!!!"

"Mmmm hmmmm" he mumbles, unaware that many would have paid thousands to hear that life changing dynamic "charge!" I have just uttered. I sigh and leave the room.

After everyone is off, the house is now silent. I have only Harry,our dog, to motivate and cheer. And He needs none of that. His ambition in life is to lie on my bed snoring, or to wait by my feet at lunch time for the sandwich crust that might fall to the floor. His destination is usually the couch or the pillow on my bed. His ambition in life is contentment and rest. He makes a lousy client for all my pep and rah-rah that I would like to pour into him.

My husband Bill is trying to help me plan for the other books I will be writing. (He is sure that there are many to come, simply because I have a lot to say). We've been discussing book titles based on the themes I most like to address. There's a plethora of possibilities.

"How about 'Advice I Would Love My Teenage Son to Adhere to and Chart His Life By"?" I ask my husband.

"Too long," he says.

"Okay, how about just.... 'Unwanted Advice' " I say, lifting my eyebrows.