Monday, December 19, 2011

His Providence

He walked into the church office with defeat written all over his face. His need was large, our benevolence fund was long gone, and the $9 I had in my purse would buy him a few more miles in his old truck, but not much else.

I recognized this man from a visit I'd made to his family's apartment to deliver food a few years ago. Sick wife, 2 sons, no work. Fast forward to this visit -- wife even sicker, still no work and about to be evicted from their apartment. "I used to have fifty customers in this area and I've gone to every single one. No one's getting their trees trimmed these days. Times are hard."

I asked him to sit down and said, "Things are really rough for you right now." He slumped forward, put his hand over his eyes and began to cry. "Yeah, it's really bad this time, and on top of everything else..." he paused, and swallowed. In almost a whisper he added, "my son tried to commit suicide last night."

The words hung there between us as the tears dripped off the end of his nose. His seventeen year old son. His namesake. His baby. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, " he said. "I just don't know what to do."

We talked for awhile, I prayed for him. I asked for a phone number, but he shook his head. His phone had been turned off. He thanked me for the prayer and the bit of cash and left. As he walked out the door, my heart continued to ache with his pain and hopelessness. Here was a man willing to do whatever it took to provide for his family, and he couldn't. And after a day of knocking on doors, he'd remembered the church that had handed out groceries one Easter and took a chance. And barely recouped his gas money.

I saw him pause for just a second before he got into his truck as if he was mustering up the strength to go home empty-handed.

And I cried.


After church the following Sunday, an older gentleman handed me an envelope with four crisp hundred dollar bills inside. "Use this for a needy family," he said.

Now I had the money to help, but no name, address or phone number. "Oh, God," I prayed, "if you want this family to have this money, you are going to have to connect us again somehow. I have no way to reach them. It's been years between the times I have seen them, but you know exactly where they are and what they need. Bring them back."


I'm in the office. The secretary is out, so I'm the only one answering the phone. The wife calls! I explain to her how God is answering both her prayers and mine.


I hugged two very grateful, very weary people and watched them drive away with cash in their hands and fresh hope in their hearts.

And I cried again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"I Think that I Shall Never See..."

I plan to grow more beautiful the older I get. I'm serious. I hope to be a knock-out by the time I'm 80! I see it happening all around me, and I believe it's totally doable. Here's how I know.

To me, Autumn is by far the most beautiful season. Now, I love the promise of Spring, when all the trees bud and the daffodils and tulips push through the hard ground as harbingers of sunshine. And I love the leafy green canopies of lazy Summer days.

But Autumn's beauty demands my attention. Seemingly overnight, individual trees which had blended into a sea of sameness now are blazing with identities of their own - scarlet, gold, orange, nut brown. Each one is captivating. Glorious! Their colors catch me off-guard as I round the familiar streets of my neighborhood. Individually each tree is a wonder, but together? Together they create a symphony for the eyes!

Where does Autumn get the courage to blaze so brightly? Doesn't she know Winter is coming?

You'd think Spring might be the appropriate time to be so showy. Spring, the beginning of a new life-cycle, when Winter is so far away. Instead, Spring's buds are delicate. There is a fragility in youthful beauty. The pudgy hands and rounded cheeks of an infant, the awkward legginess of an adolescent, the smooth skin of a young woman. Innocence and wonder. This is the beauty of Spring.

Summer seems like a good time for additional vivid colors. After all, the roses are blooming, the camellias, the iris... why not the maple, the ash, the liquid amber? Summer is a wonderful season. Its heat forces both rest and recreation. Summer is shooing kids outside to play and taking family vacations and eating dinner on the patio, enjoying the long, long days. Summer is getting comfortable in new roles and hitting one's stride. This is the beauty of Summer.

Autumn's beauty is different than Spring's, different than Summer's because it is not born from newness or warmth but from long, cold nights. Curiously, for the colors to be their most brilliant, a foretaste of winter's chill must be introduced. As the trees sap slows down, the sugars in the leaves stay where they are causing the color change. We might say that Autumn has suffered a little. She's endured some dark times, experienced some lonely, cold nights. But Autumn learns that suffering can produce beauty! Humility, compassion, perspective, surrender -- all of these are what make a woman beautiful.

To be sure, Winter is around the corner! Winter will take us all. There is no escaping the Winter. But, one of my favorite bible verses summarizes a godly woman's attitude toward Big Scary Winter: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come!"

Until Winter comes for her, Autumn displays her beauty for all to see, and carpets the world with fearless love.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pick and Pull

I attended a retreat last weekend where the speaker was a talented and passionate young woman who had powerful truths to share. Some were about God, some about herself and her own story.

These are a few excerpts from my notes:
"Most of us feel like minor characters, but God has an amazing plan for every ordinary person."

"Strength is for service, not status."

"All I wanted to do was to get back to my car and live my miserable life. It's all I knew."

"Even though I wanted Him to intervene, I didn't want Him to intervene because I knew I would have to change."

"Jesus, You are with me in my joy and in my pain. Jesus, You are with me in my joy and in my pain." I said this till I fell asleep.

"When fear and doubts assail us, we are tempted to shrink back. Instead, we are invited to move to change."

To "repent" = to re-orient our way of thinking, to alter our way of looking at the world

"The kingdom of heaven is available to those who realize they need more than this world offers."

"The One who called you is faithful, and He will do it!" 1 Thess. 5:24

So what about you? What has God been impressing on you lately?

And which of the statements above ring true in your life?

I'd really love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This week I was called to the home of a mother who had just received news that her adult son died suddenly.

There are no words to describe a grief so profound. I felt like an interloper at the most private of moments.

Should I even be here? This pain is so new, so raw, so devastating.

She was hunched over in a chair so low her head was almost touching her knees, sobbing as if her heart had just broken.

And it had.

Through her sobs, her hands constantly folding and refolding the tissues she clutched, she would occasionally blurt out things her son would never be able to do again. He would never hold his grandson, who is due in December. He would miss his 2 year old granddaughter's birthday party this Sunday. She wondered if they should still have it? Who would explain to this little one why she couldn't see her Papa anymore? As she thought of all the people in her son's life and how they would now have no father, no grandpa, one less brother, one less friend, a fresh wave of pain would rip through her and she would be racked with sobs once again.

There was nothing for me to say. The reality of her loss and her pain defied words.

I offered what I could. I rubbed her back as she cried and brought her more tissue.

I got her water and asked her to take a few sips.

I just sat and shared her pain and wished I could take it away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"He must become greater;
I must become less."
John 3:30

Becoming less is not something we embrace as a society. If anything, we want to become more! More attractive, more educated, more famous, more wealthy, more secure, more in control--more, more, more!

Yet in many seasons of life, God calls us to become less. As we mature, we begin to recognize our pre-occupation with self. We marry and we learn what "two becoming one" is supposed to mean. There's a giving up of rights, a combination of sacrifices both great and small involved in developing a relationship of oneness.

We have children, and we soon realize that our hearts have expanded. We now know how it is to experience someone else's emotions as if they were our own. Meeting our children's needs becomes our priority; we willingly and gladly sacrifice to help them in every way we can.

But this new season I'm entering is one that can be more difficult to embrace. The season of the empty nest. It's a season of becoming less. As my daughters and their husbands establish their families, they will begin their own traditions. And so ours will change.

They have inlaws (wonderful inlaws, by the way), so there are other people to consider besides just us. So we will sometimes be without them when we'd like to be with them.

There will be plenty of times to be together, but there will also be many times when their lives won't be operating around ours. We are moving from hub to spoke, as it were, as they are moving from spoke to hub. It's the way it should be. It's the way it is designed to be. It is appropriate that in this season of our children's lives, my husband and I become "less."

I want my children to have the freedom to live their lives without constant fear of my disappointment. I want their thoughts of my home to be full of fun and joy, not guilt and duty.
But in order to give this blessing to my children, I must become less.

It's not in a parent's nature to let go. We find this out as soon as we leave our little ones in the church nursery, the preschool, kindergarten, junior high. We experience it over and over as they get their driver's licenses, graduate high school, and head off to college. As they grow, our roles change. And we let go bit by bit of the minutia of their lives as we learn to trust the adults they are becoming.

Still, becoming less can be very difficult. It requires a mindset determined not to take things personally when my expectations aren't met. I must choose flexibility and not cling too tightly to my own agenda. I must stay away from passive aggressive attempts at control or emotional manipulation. I must check my own heart to see if what I'm giving my daughters truly meets the criteria of 1 Corinthians 13's definition of love- the kind of love my Father in heaven gives me.

And now I see why my becoming less is contingent upon Jesus becoming greater! That is the key! As I release my children to the Lord, He fills up that empty space, and helps me process my emotions. I'm not depending on anything outside of Him to make me happy because, as always, He is helping me choose a happiness not based on my circumstances.

I can be whole and contented and an integral part of my daughters' lives without having the need to manage their lives.

All of life's journey involves change. And change always brings up to the surface our fears, our neediness, our inadequacies. And yet, Christ always meets us in broken places! He has woven into the tapestry of our lives many many seasons of change so He can enter in to these very areas we have so carefully tucked away, bring them to the light, and heal us. Grow us. Mature us.

He loves to help us become less.
Less selfish.
Less bound.
Less fearful.
Less demanding.

In order to be the kind of mother I want to be,

He must become greater;

I must become less.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Last night I was hosting a dinner/meeting in my backyard for about twenty leaders of various ministries in our church. We had a great time together eating and laughing and were just starting to get down to business when the sliding glass door opened and out came my two adorable grandbabies in their jammies for goodnight kisses from Grammie.

The kids stood shyly in the doorway as my daughter asked us to excuse the interruption, but Evie had insisted she couldn’t go to bed without her good night kisses. My daughter told me later that she had tried to explain that Grammie was in a meeting, but Evie looked at her determinedly and said, “She will WANT to kiss me, Mama! I KNOW it!!”

Of course, from the second I had seen them in the doorway, my arms had been open wide. The meeting could wait, my guests could wait – these little people have my heart, and they are well aware of it. They ran right to me, I wrapped them in my arms, kissed their precious heads and thanked them for remembering to come give me kisses.

That moment was the most special of my day.

As I lay in bed last night, I thought of this passage in Hebrews :

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.” (Heb. 10:19-20)

My daughter's little ones trust my love for them. They know that I will want their kisses no matter how busy I seem. They know they are my priority and that my affection for them is assured no matter what the circumstance. Their presence is not only welcomed, it is longed for.

I am so grateful I serve a God who went to such great lengths to open the way for me to have the same kind of assurance of His love for me! Jesus died to cleanse me of the guilt and shame and sin that kept me from believing God’s love for me could ever be pure and true and unconditional. He washed away that lie, and He shows me evidence every day of His attentive care.

You see, it’s not that God doesn’t love us the way we long to be loved; it’s that we can’t believe God could ever love us that way because we are so very aware of our deficiencies. It’s the sin/shame combination that keeps us from experiencing the love that is already ours.

But His love "always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." His love never fails.

He’s always ready to scoop us in His arms because we already have His heart!

Let's run in.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Evening Post

The link above is to blogger I follow, Elizabeth Esther. She had this great idea of bloggers sharing their favorite post of the month on her site, and the readers get to peruse new writers each week!

Check out her blog and some of the others when you have time. It's a great way to find people whose perspective might just speak to you. :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Answer

It's impossible to overstate how unqualified I am for the job of advising other people how to live their lives. Or how to deal with massive pain. Or how to recover from the unthinkable. And yet, quite often I am asked to lend an ear and an opinion on issues beyond my experience and knowledge.

Today, for instance, I had two meetings scheduled with different women who just wanted to share with me what they are going through. On one specific day, two different women had chosen me to confide in, to seek advice from, hoping I would have some insight for them.

When people make appointments like this -- I mean, when they actually call or email and get out calendars and schedule a meeting-- I feel like it's a big deal, and I know that I'm really going to need God to give me wisdom because I could easily say what they want to hear or what sounds good to me instead of what may be difficult but necessary. I also know how limited I am in my own understanding.

So I pray about meetings like this, and I let God know that I am listening for His leading. I ask Him to help me express His truth, His grace, His love, His forgiveness, His mercy.

Today, it turned out that both women needed the same message I need: to live loved.

Human nature is to try and earn God's love when we already have it! We set ourselves up for a never-ending race up the down escalator by thinking that our good behavior is what God is interested in. After all, isn't that what the 10 Commandments are about? Doesn't God hate our sin? If He hates it when I sin, then isn't He truly disgusted with me about 70% of the time? Doesn't He want me to get my act together so He can be proud of me? If I try harder, if I work on myself, if I break those bad habits, if I stick to the program... if I, if I, if I...

And when I fail, I'm so ashamed. And I do what we've done from the beginning: I hide. I retreat. I shake my head in disgust. And after awhile, it seems useless to try for the millionth time. Right? Are you feeling me??

What if our hearts could grasp the notion that we are already loved as fully and completely as any human being can be loved? What if we could transfer this "head knowledge" down deep into our souls? What if we reminded ourselves every morning that no matter what happens to us on this day, we are truly and deeply loved- that God is committed to loving us as much as He possibly can?

This is the TRUTH, friends! Instead of focusing on changing our behavior, let's allow Him to fill us up with the fact that He created us to LIVE LOVED! As we let the Truth of God's love deep down into our souls, our behavior will naturally change.

And we will serve God out of gratitude instead of fear.

And we will have what Jesus calls "abundant life- life to the full!"

Don't ignore sin in your life. Confess it. Renounce it. But don't make getting rid of sin the focus of what is supposed to be a love relationship with Jesus. Love beats sin every time.

Let's learn to live... loved.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It Started with a Glance

It started with a glance,
a knowing smile,
eyes that locked two seconds too long.


It ended with a family's lives shattered: a woman shaken to her core, children grieving their father's betrayal.

The latest news from the world of entertainment chronicles the story's development. The other woman a trusted employee. A secret love child. Years of deception.

Today at the grocery store, the checker greeted me with, "Hey, what do you think about Arnold?"

Wow. My overwhelming emotion as I hear more and more about this story is one of profound sadness. Because, you know what?

He didn't set out to lose his wife.
He didn't set out to cause his own children the deepest wound they'd yet received.
He didn't set out to become a joke.

It all started with just one glance. Because that's how sin is. It's attractive. It's alluring. It seems harmless enough. It makes promise after promise, and keeps stringing us along until suddenly we're trapped in a sticky web of lies and consequences. And then we owe a debt we can't pay. There's no way to retrace our steps, or find the "undo" button.

It's done. We're in.
And we can't get out.

So we hide. And we get by. And we almost forget from time to time until something happens months or years later to shake us awake. If and when we face the music, we realize that our secret decisions, our personal choices haven't just hurt us - they've hurt those we love the most. In our quest to build something just for ourselves, we have destroyed something infinitely more valuable.

We have every right to be disgusted with our former governor. His choices were despicable. His deeds, completely and utterly self-centered.

But let's also remember, it all started with a glance.

What have you been glancing at lately?

Monday, April 4, 2011


Sometimes I play this little game with myself: I try to narrow down a person's personality to one defining characteristic. Some people are so balanced in virtue that they make this game more difficult. And some people I don't know well enough to define. But I find that many people have a quality about them that sort of rises above the others- it encapsulates them fairly well.

About a year ago, I met a guy we'll call Max. Max has spent half of his life in and out of prison for various drug-related offenses. Max says prison saved his life. Max says prison was God's way of answering his prayers not to die.

He's been out for a few years now, is living clean and sober and working his 12 steps. In the course of those years while working the program, he met a woman he felt was clearly out of his league. They became friends. And their friendship turned into love. A couple of months ago, Max married this amazing, beautiful, positive woman who loves him despite his past. Despite his flaws. Despite his lack of a credit score or a bank account.

Max comes to church, and soaks up the teaching like a sponge. He is thirsty for it. He tries to put everything he learns into action.

He's open to advice -- he seeks it out, and then says, "Thank you for that. Thank you!"

Max likes to tell the people who invest in him how much he appreciates them. He lives like someone who wants to make up for lost time. He works his maintenance job with devotion under the assumption that he can help other people by doing good work. He can make a difference.

Max wants to take chances on people the way people have taken chances on him.

Max inspires me. He's absolutely great to be around. I can't help but think life is better when I see it from his perspective.

Clearly, his defining quality is gratitude.

I am learning that gratitude is a choice.
Choosing it makes life joyous, precious, full of meaning and purpose.

Being around Max makes me realize that I take too much for granted. Life is not always what you see, it's how you see it.

Choosing gratitude today.

Thank you for that, Max.
Thank you!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Transcendently Oblivious

I was maneuvering through the small room crowded with round tables and chairs with a plate of pulled pork in one hand and plastic utensils in the other when I first noticed her.

In the corner of the room was a small stage, and on that stage was a lone woman with her guitar. She was strumming and singing. The room was full of women on lunch break from a small women's conference held in a local church. Everyone was getting settled into their chairs, opening their bags of chips and talking about the experiences of the morning. Absolutely no one paid any attention to her.

She had her eyes closed. A half-smile played around her lips as she swayed on her stool. She was really just playing two chords over and over and singing her own spontaneous praises to the Lord. Her voice was nice, but not beautiful. And she definitely wasn't a master of the guitar. But she didn't care at all. She just played and sang the entire 30 minutes it took us to eat lunch.

Sat there, eyes closed.
Singing to her audience of One.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And then it hit me...

"Can I ask you something?"
The young woman who sat across from me surprised me with this question as we were (I thought) wrapping up our time together.

"Sure," I replied.

"Why do you believe what you believe?"

Wow. As a "Professional Christian," I suppose this is the part where I should have dusted off my apologetics notes and made a case for the historical Jesus, the veracity of the gospel accounts, the evidence for the Resurrection, etc. -- but I honestly didn't even think of all that.

I thought of the Truth - the real reason I believe. Ironically, I had never said it aloud before. You know how sometimes you're actually processing as you speak and at the moment you hear yourself verbalize something, the idea has just crystallized for you? That is what happened to me at that moment. I heard myself speaking and I instantly knew.

The reason I believe in the God of the Bible is because I love His story.

Does that strike you as heretical at first? Hear me out.

I think we ALL love stories. We pay to see stories in the movies; we escape our own realities by watching others' stories unfold on tv or by immersing ourselves in books. When we meet people, we want to hear their stories. We love stories because stories matter - they really matter to us. We connect with the characters, the plot, the twists and turns that capture our imagination and thrill us.
And of all the gods offered up by all the religions out there, there's only One who is the ultimate hero - the One who is on a no-holds-barred rescue mission to save the arrogant rebels who snubbed His love and then found themselves on a collision course with Death.

There's only one God who loves like a daddy - the kind of daddy who would fight the bad guys and risk everything to save His kids. There's only one God who says, "Let them go! Take me instead!" and sacrifices Himself -- actually lays down His weapons and lets Himself be taken away to be tortured and killed so that His children can be freed.

There is only One conquering hero who came to earth with a rescue plan to win us back.

I believe that story because something deep inside me resonates that it is true, it is RIGHT, it is real. I want to see it again and again and again in movies, in books, in life. And so do you. You shake your head at the arrogance and ignorance of the victim who runs headlong into trouble. You worry when the hero puts himself in jeopardy, but you couldn't respect him if he didn't. You cringe when it appears the antagonist has finally gotten the upper hand. You marvel at the love and courage it takes for the hero to sacrifice himself to redeem the victim. And you rejoice when he overcomes!

The story of the One True God is written inside of all of us. It's what we all need, whether we realize it or not. The Bible unveils this story over thousands of years with layers and layers of foreshadowing. It's a story told by poetry, prose, character development, declaration, and history. It's easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the bible, but the truth is this: if you had to boil the Bible down to its essence, it's an amazing revelation of Someone so noble, so worthy of admiration and adulation, so powerful yet so loving that it's easy to see He's the ultimate Hero. He's the One who proves His love by compelling, forceful action.

You and I are made in the image of the God of the Bible.

His story is the one we most want to be true.

And I believe it is.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rubber, meet Road

So, I love the idea of my beliefs and values controlling my behavior. Because, really, what good is it to have beliefs and values if you can't or won't live by them? If you're not willing to live by your values, then they aren't really your values after all, right? They're what you think would sound great to say, or how you would believe and behave in a perfect world.

The trouble is, none of us live in a perfect world. We come up against situations everyday where we have to make decisions that pit our natural emotional responses against what we know would be better.

The most bizarre thing happened to me over the weekend -- I flipped my head over to blowdry my hair, flipped it back and got dizzy. And stayed dizzy. And at the doctor's today, I was told I'm going to stay dizzy for awhile -- indefinitely, she said. I jacked up something in my inner ear, and this dizzy feeling will probably go away on its own within a couple of weeks or more. Probably. For some people it never goes away.

When the dizziness is more intense, it makes me nauseous. It also makes my head feel muddy, like I'm on the verge of a migraine. It's harder to think, takes more effort to thread words together, to concentrate. So I'm affected both physically and mentally, and potentially emotionally, since it's irritating as hell. (Sorry, mom. I can't think of a more accurate way to say that!)

But you know, I'm constantly harping about circumstances not dictating responses. That God is making us more like Him, that His love and strength gets us through trials big and small. And I've experienced this in the really BIG ordeals of my life-- the stuff I didn't think I could ever get past or make it through.

So now I have this pesky, stupid, constant irritant and I think it will be a good test for me.

Will this experience bring out the love of Christ in me? Or just more me.

Will I let Him grow my patience and my understanding, my empathy for others? Or will I be so caught up in my own physical symptoms that I can't even think about other people?

Will I accept this inconvenience, which is TINY in light of what so many people are going through, or will I feel picked on, singled out?

Small things tend to level me faster than big ones. Calamities are so obvious. I'm driven to my knees to find out how to cope, what to do, how to go on. But a little (constant) nausea? A muddy head? Eh. I can handle it. And that's the problem. I can handle it --until I really feel sick or I really am tired or my "let's have a good attitude" attitude wears off, which is usually between 20 minutes and 2 days max.

So far, it's not even been 10 hours.

We'll see.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I find it interesting that online dating sites match people up on the basis of similar interests and personalities.

I've often wondered what it would be like to be married to someone whose ideal day would be to read in bed till sunset, and then perhaps enjoy a good salad.

Unfortunately, I'll never know.

My husband can't wait to get out of bed and out the door. I could be housebound for a week and barely notice. He has intense focus and drive. I start 100 small projects and have trouble following through with any of them. He's a connector, kind of a collector of friends. I often bemoan the fact that I don't have enough time for the friends I already have. He's always thinking about new ideas. New ideas make me tired.

Living with someone who is my opposite in so many ways has provided me many "growth opportunities," as it were. It's as if God knew there shouldn't be so much sameness... hence, the male/female, variety of personality types, ways of thinking, parenting styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

"It's as if God knew..." Did you catch that?

It's just like God to use every opportunity to sharpen and shape us. Marriage is difficult for a reason -- because there's a whole lot of self in ourselves. Continually communicating without criticizing, hearing one another out, compromising and yielding make us better people. When we can accept our spouse's opposing point of view as EQUALLY AS VALID AS OUR OWN, we win. Another rough spot has been sanded down.

I'm in the same line of work as my husband, but we approach things very differently. We have the same ideals, but he is so different from me that I frequently am surprised at how he wants to handle various issues. And I've found that I'm so vocal about it! Because we've had so many years together, because I trust him so much and know him so well, it's as if I've gotten into the habit of thinking aloud without considering that not every thought needs to be expressed.

Words have weight. I think I've been throwing my weight around too much lately.

Last night I found a photo of the two of us taken about 27 years ago. I remember that girl. Yes, she had a lot to learn, but she also didn't have to be right all the time. I'm pretty sure she was easier to live with.

So, this Valentines Day, I'm resolving to live by Romans 12:3: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment."

I have a great man whom I love with my whole heart.

I can be a better wife.

And I will.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Bob Goff's post on Twitter stopped me in my tracks:
"Let our goal every day be to simply maintain eye contact with Jesus, not to memorize more facts about Him."

Friday, February 4, 2011


on my shoulders
makes me happy...
in my eyes
Can make me cry...."

Does anyone remember that song? I think John Denver sang it.

(And, by the way, wasn't John Denver an oddity in the music business? I always viewed him more as a member of the Sierra Club than a pop singer.)

Anyhow, sunshine in MY eyes is a big deal. They say that brown-eyed people have less sun-sensitivity than those whose irises are pale. This is probably true of all people except those in my specific gene pool. In the neighborhood where I grew up, the mailboxes were at the edge of the street. My own mother could not walk the 15 feet from our house to the mailbox without prescription sunglasses, so I probably come by this condition naturally.

Here's the problem -- it's just TOO BRIGHT out there most of the time! Don't get me wrong - I love the sun. I'm all for the sun. But it is just too much for me sometimes. It's far too intense. Because I have a difficult time with the brightness and glare, I'm sure I miss out on some things. In my haste to avoid the irritation, I hurry inside or to somewhere shady to get a little relief.

Funny, though. As soon as I put on my sunglasses, things are immediately better. There's just enough tint in the lenses to soothe the irritation and soften the contrasts to a level I can handle. There's a filter that helps me see what's there without hurting myself so much.

Photographers, too, use filters to be able to capture their subjects in the most beautiful way possible. And there are other kind of filters - air filters, water filters, oil filters. But all filters have the same basic function: they keep out the really harmful things while letting the essential things through.

Today I went somewhere quiet and put on some worship music. And I just sat there and listened. At first I was trying to catch up on emails and do a little planning for the week, but pretty soon I was caught up in the lyric and the melody and most of all the MESSAGE of the music:

God is.
God loves.
God loves me.
God is for me.
God is strong.
God's power is at work within me.
God is glorious.


It's like I'd forgotten that for a little while.

I've been rushing around in this world where everything looks like it's falling apart at the seams-- countries in crisis, political and economic meltdowns, natural disasters, friends struggling in their marriages, job losses, sicknesses that aren't getting better -- and it feels like too much, like I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!!

Life gets too intense, sometimes, and we seek the nearest shade. We run to the fridge. To the bar. To the gym. Buy something new. Plunge headlong into a diverting project or a new relationship. Take a vacation. And it helps for a little while.

But what about the times we can't run away from life? The times we just have to stand there in the harsh noon-time sun and face it?

May I suggest a quiet place, some inspiring truthful music and a filter of faith, hope and love?

My God is glorious.
And He loves me more than I will ever know.
He renews my strength as I trust in Him.

He is glorious.

Somehow, for this moment, just knowing that is enough.

Monday, January 31, 2011


I watched my 20 month old grandson fall down the cement steps in the garage today.

I was only 2 steps behind him, but I couldn't reach him in time. And because he was holding a little cup of Cheerios in with both hands, there was nothing to break his fall. I watched his little forehead hit hard and bounce off the floor. It was one of those events in life that felt like it was happening in slow motion, you know? I was simultaneously cognizant of what was happening as well as my inability to stop it. Before he even hit the ground, I knew-- I KNEW-- the result could be very bad, and that he would most certainly be in a lot of pain.

I scooped him up and looked for blood. He was so shocked, he could hardly even cry- he just opened his mouth and choked out a mangled sob. After I handed him to his mom, she looked him over head to toe to see if there was any damage we hadn't seen at first. He caught his breath and cried his head off while we tried to soothe him the best we could.

Fortunately, the only damage done seems to be a pretty good goose-egg on his forehead. In fact, at the time of this writing, which is only a couple of hours later, he seems to have completely forgotten about it. Meanwhile, just reliving the replay in my mind gives me the same "pit-in-the-bottom-of-my-stomach" kind of feeling that I had before.

I've decided that helplessness is the worst of all feelings.

Helplessness and hopelessness are inextricably linked in some ways. Had anything serious happened to Chet - had he lost consciousness or something worse, I know I would have run that scene over and over again in my mind -- especially the awful part where I see his foot leave the step and I lunge a millisecond too late.

I've felt both helpless and hopeless as I've watched friends and loved ones slide headlong into addictions, sink into fresh waves of depression, and begin ill-fated relationships which left lasting damage.

I've seen people fall out of true love that had gotten a bit dusty and into lust, which soon destroyed their families. Others have run away from a God who loves them and into the chasm of nothingness. And I often feel like I'm too late. I can't help. I lose hope.

This is what it is to be human. We have so many limitations, including our ability to help. And it's hard to work up hope when you can't help.

If there were no God, there would be no reason to hope. The damage is already done. Some wounds are fresh, still bleeding. Others are angry red scars.

And yet, there's healing.
There's forgiveness.
There's restoration.

Or at least, there can be.

I can't always help others. Sometimes I can't even help myself.

But I've found help and hope in the same place I find Love.

In Him.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Give a Hoot!


There was a time when America cared about pollution enough to make commercials with an old Indian crying as he saw the result of what careless litterbugs were doing to his land. Maudlin, yes, but the point was well taken: "You're breaking my heart! You live here, right?" I was little kid when these commercials came out, and I was also a little confused because the guy they dressed like an American Indian didn't look Indian to me. He looked like a long-haired, melancholy-faced white actor wearing moccasins and a feather. But I digress...

The public service announcements that were aimed at little people MY age starred an animated Woodsy Owl, who had his own catchy theme song! I will quote it for you now as I sing it in my head:
"Help Woodsy spread the word
Never be a dirty bird
In the city or in the wood
Help keep Americaaaaaa-- looking good!"

I loved Woodsy and his positive vibe! "You can be a helper! We can do this together! C'mon, everybody! Clean is BEAUTIFUL!"

Fast forward a number of years. I am still pro-wastebasket.

The parking lot of my office is:
a) behind a 7-11
b) adjacent to a bus stop
c) on the corner of two busy streets which have a lot of foot traffic and
d) the apparent end point of a wind tunnel which deposits all the neighborhood trash on our property.
There is ALWAYS litter on our property, ALWAYS! And it drives me absolutely crazy! I'm forever picking up candy wrappers, cigarette boxes, fast food trash, receipts, plastic grocery bags, used napkins, soda cans, etc. etc. etc.

Today was no exception. Since most of the trash blows over from behind the 7-11 and the bus stop area, I spent about 40 minutes cleaning up those areas, too.

I started out just wanting to make the place clean, but soon found myself muttering judgmental things about the SELFISH JERKS that think they can just LEAVE THEIR MESSES for somebody else to clean up, and sure enough, SOMEBODY will because SOMEBODY cares, even if they don't, and what WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE just unwrap something and THROW THEIR GARBAGE ON THE GROUND, anyway?? What is WRONG with these people, for Pete's sake! This is the problem with America -- everybody wanting somebody else to clean up their messes and IT MAKES ME SICK and I can HARDLY BELIEVE what the world is coming to...etc, etc. etc.

And so, ironically, what started out as a "good deed" became yet another occasion for me to judge people I don't know for something they do that I don't like.

As God (some would say "luck") would have it, the bible study I led last night was on Romans chapter 2, which is mainly about not judging others. Oy! It turns out, the author suggests, that we who judge are guilty of the same kinds of stuff. Just as bad.

No, I don't litter. I don't leave my shopping carts in adjacent parking spaces. I don't use my cell phone in public restrooms. But I notice those who do these things, and I judge them. I say they are careless, thoughtless, rude. And really, some of them definitely ARE those things. I think what they are doing is wrong. But I take it further. I call them out as less than in my mind. And I feel a smug sense of satisfaction that I am better than that.

Better than them.

Oh, really?

So today, God called ME out for the litter I had just thrown around in my mind. It was starting to look a little junky in there.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Five dollars' worth of Joy

A friend of mine who has physical and mental challenges called me this morning to tell me about something WONDERFUL that happened to her yesterday.

This friend faces many, many challenges everyday -- she's older, she's alone, she's disabled, she can't walk without aid, she has a host of medications for her various physical problems, her income is very limited, etc. etc. etc. Her life is tough, no question. Little things we take for granted are very difficult for her.

Because transportation to and from places is such an ordeal requiring bus schedules and passes or pre-arranging trips with a social worker or friend, she shops for small grocery items at the gas station next to her apartment building.

Yesterday when she went to pay for her Pepsi and bananas, the clerk told her that the lady who had just left gave him $5 to go toward whatever my friend would purchase. She got her Pepsi, her bananas, and the change.

And she called today, still living on the high that someone would do that for her. That someone who didn't even know her would want to bless her like that! I'm sure that her call to me was not the only call she made to share her good fortune.

So far, a measly $5 has bought my friend two days worth of joy! And it's not the money... it's that someone chose her. They noticed. And they cared.

I hung up the phone determined to deliberately follow more of those little nudges my heart gives me to do the small things. To act on the impulse to show love or compassion as soon as I feel it, instead of arguing with myself about the practicality, the cost to me, the danger of being misunderstood.

Logic sucks the life out of love. It takes what is noble and twists it into something practical, something "reasonable."

I don't want to be reasonable anymore.

I want to give someone the experience of being noticed and chosen and blessed for no reason.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"These pretzels are making me thirsty!"

Just kidding.
I don't have any pretzels.
It's an old line from a Seinfeld episode, but I say it (albeit sometimes to myself) on all kinds of occasions when what I really mean is, "This Walmart is on my last nerve!" or "This doofus who slammed on his brakes for the gillionth time just might make me lose my salvation!" But today what I mean is, "This fog is making me crazy!"

I hate fog. It makes my world too small. It creeps in and covers the sun and the sky and shrinks the awesome height of the outdoors like one of those horrid acoustical drop-in ceilings. I can't see what I'm accustomed to seeing. I can't enjoy what I love.
And fog has no real redeeming qualities. Rain and snow aren't my favorite, but at least they bring needed precipitation. Fog's only purpose seems to be to hide and obscure the really awesome stuff.
I hate that fog has power over my emotions, too. I won't go as far as to say it controls me, but after a few days of it, I find myself discouraged, lethargic, sad.

Sometimes I look at my spiritual life and I recognize signs that a fog has settled. My world feels smaller, my problems seem bigger. Hope, like sunshine, is hidden from my eyes. I feel spiritually like I'm wading through a sea of molasses - my prayers are unfocused, my emotions flat. I'm tired out before I even start the day.

But I'm called to be a person of faith, and I need to remind myself over and over that the sun is still up there, even though it's temporarily hidden from my view. Why God chooses faith over works is a mystery to me. I can work up a storm! I love to make lists of good things to do and check them off one by one! Wouldn't God love for me to just visit all of those shut-ins and lead that bible study and put away my elderly neighbor's trash cans?? Why aren't these things-I-do earning me brownie points of God's favor? It seems like after a certain point, I could be on a maintenance plan of say, three good works per week. This would be good PR for God, in my opinion!
But God isn't interested in any kind of earned favor. It would be easier for me, yes. But it would not make me closer to Him. He loves relationship. I love religion. So it turns out my world IS too small. And fog is God's way of saying, "See? You're not happiest when you're running the show. Every once in awhile I have to remind you that my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways. And that's what makes them beautiful!"

So in the waning, foggy hours of today, I will thank my God for the sun I can't see but I know is there. I will praise Him for fulfilling all of His promises to me, even the ones which I haven't experienced yet. I will receive the joy and the hope that is mine no matter what the weather or the circumstances of my life look like. It's dreary outside, but there is sunshine in my soul! :)