Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Friend!

I'm a planner and an organizer.  I'm the CEO of a small but forceful organization and most decisions require the consideration of a minimum of five people's schedules.  Even though today is ONLY midway through summer, I must make some decisions about the kid's schedules for the winter.  Trying to consider every eventuality and how we can make everybody's everything jive just about pops a muscle in my brain.  And then there's a nagging anxiety that I'll have forgotten something that will make us crazy trying to deal with all winter...

That anxiety makes it a good time to ponder the coolness of God's kindness toward me.  On this day many years ago one of my very best friends was born.  My kids get the biggest kick out of considering our age difference and what that looks like at their ages in relation to other people they know.  "That would be like me being best friends with _______ !!"  (Incidentally, it is the same age difference between my husband and I, but I'm the younger one in that scenario.)

On this day ever-so-many years ago, I was planning how I would celebrate my eighth birthday; reading my first full-length novel, Treasures of the Snow; biking to my friend's house; weeding the garden with my mom; maybe going to the beach.  It was the year I switched schools and encountered God in a way that marked me forever.

All the while, unbeknownst to me, clear on the other side of the country a baby girl was born.  I wouldn't meet her for more than twenty years.  What is so cool to me is that away back then God knew the plans He had for us.  I know it was with delight that He planned the ways we'd just "get" each other.  That our husbands would be bemused but relieved that we make sense to somebody.  That our kids would be friends.  That we'd both say yes to Him in ways that bring a little bit of heaven to earth.  That He planned everything just right so that we would lend each other strength and a whole lot of happiness.  It gave Him great joy to plan it all out for us!  And we had no idea...

There's no limit to the goodness in our Father's heart toward us!!  Celebrating all this goodness makes my heart so happy--and a little bit less anxious about planning my future. I get so furrow-browed over trying to figure everything out, but who knows what other happy surprises He has up His sleeve for me?

I will be your God throughout your lifetime--
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.

Isaiah 46:4

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Destiny Focused

Every year I print my blog posts for a few seniors I love.  Next to my Mom and Dad, Hanny and Otto may be my biggest fans.  If I had a million Hanny and Otto's, my husband could retire.  So, they were checking up on me to make sure I've been writing and I had to confess that I haven't been...  I had a couple speaking events in May that consumed my creative energy and then June ran me over as it usually does, I'm trying to write papers for a course I'm taking and then it had been so long since I'd blogged...where to start?  So I stayed stuck.  I wanted to write.  They told me that wasn't okay, that there are people who need to read what I write, they would pray, and I'd better sit down and prepare to write!

You get a bit of expectation when people like Hanny and Otto pray so I was waiting for it.  Sure enough on Wednesday I hit the web looking for pictures of our new little Prince George...and BAM!

American relatives recently grilled me on "the whole monarchy thing" and I really don't think I enlightened them much.  I told them how I love the Queen's Christmas message and how my heart shivers when she prays for us, her subjects.  How I respect her so much and how she believes her role is God-given and a serious responsibility.   I'm not sure I have an opinion on the future of the monarchy, but I do have an opinion on the disrespectful ways people express their opinions...

Anyway, Wednesday...snooping for royal baby pictures.  You know what I saw?  The same thing I've seen three times over.  I could relate to the look on Kate and Will's faces.  Their titles make no difference in that moment of wonder.  Kate's face told the story I know:  her world has been turned upside down by a squalling bundle.  A chunk of her heart will forever roam the world outside of her body.  Will, bursting with pride and protective joy, encircling wife and baby.   The wonder and the joy of it all is akin to ache.

And the little Prince!!  He's yummy!  A squishy little guy.  And completely oblivious.  He doesn't care that there are a million camera lenses aimed at him.  He's just snuggled up with his mamma.  He'll squawk when he's hungry...and stink when he poops.  In fact, he's not a whole lot different than the thousands of other babies born that day.

Except for his destiny.

And that was my ah-ha moment.  Knowing destiny makes all the difference.

It's what makes the difference in how we spend our time.  The risks we take.  The choices we make.  Knowing our destiny inspires us to push forward.  It lends courage.  It makes the opinions of others matter less.

Nehemiah had the destiny thing nailed.  Even though he was terrified, he boldly asked for the impossible.  Why?  Because God had put plans in his heart for Jerusalem.  He knew they weren't just his own good (crazy?) ideas.  He knew they were God's plans.  It seems everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but Nehemiah was undeterred in his vision.  He was scoffed at, insulted and assaulted.  His enemies went to ridiculous lengths to distract him but he remained calmly focused.  "I am in engaged in a great work, so I can't come.  Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?"

This great work of Nehemiah's?  It involved laying one stone on top of another, refusing to stop until it was done.  Moment by moment unremarkable, yet worthy of opposition and epic in it's completion.

You know the plans God has put in your heart. Maybe you're afraid to start or even to admit you know.  Maybe you've believed the lies and insults of jealous and small-minded people.  Maybe you feel you've disqualified yourself along the way.  Maybe in the one-stone-after-another monotony you've forgotten that each stone is part of an epic destiny.

It's time to silence the devices.  Extinguish the flashing screens.  Be still and know that He is God and He's created you with a destiny. What 'great work' is He calling you to?

"I am the Lord and there is no other.  I publicly proclaim bold promises.  I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner.  I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found..." 

Are you seekking?  Does the answer sound too good to be true?  Bigger than you? His plans usually do.

I know the plans He's put in my heart though I might be afraid to spell them out for you.  I have wavered and I have floundered.  Felt disqualified by weakness rather than empowered by grace.  Been cowered by taunts and afraid I'm getting it all wrong. But I'm picking up the next stone and praying you will too.  Hopefully you have a Hanny and Otto to cheer you along to your glorious destiny.

I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.  
Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you... 

You saw me before I was born...every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  

The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.  
He said, "You are my servant...and you will bring me glory."

"I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
have made you glorious."

Nehemiah 2 & 6
Isaiah 45:18b-19
Jeremiah 1:5
Psalm 139:16
 Isaiah 49:1 & 3; 55:5b

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Where the Grass is Greener

We sat across from each other over coffee and crumpled, crumby napkins, catching up.

She told me how long her evenings had been with her hubby working extra hours.

I tried to feel compassionate but was mostly wondering how she could complain...after all she has three solid days of solitude every week. What I wouldn't give for that!  I'm certain if I had 21 blessed hours of peace and quiet I could leap over tall buildings in a single bound.

I felt horrible immediately.  If we had to pick challenges, I'd keep mine over hers any day.  Yet there I was peering over the fence at her presumably greener grass.  Because we have that kind of friendship, I confessed.  She 'fessed up too.  Apparently she'd been thinking my grass was looking pretty sweet.

The seductive allure of that emerald green grass on the other side of the fence.

I heard a message last summer about longing for your neighbor's greener grass, and how our own would be greener if we'd take care of the weeds.  My head assented to the sound logic, but my heart was heavy.  I know better than anyone else just how weedy my lawn is and how hard I've worked to eradicate all the nasties.  How many times I've been certain that I finally annihilated one only to find it as hardy as a wretched dandelion.  Exhausting.

There is, however, a place where the grass is green beyond my wildest dreams.

This green meadow is not of my own making.  It's a place discovered while following the Shepherd.

When I follow Him I have everything I need.  He lets me rest in those green meadows.  There He renews my strength.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness.  He wants to.  He's a shepherd.  He leads me into righteousness--it's not the result of my own efforts.

The key to greener pastures is not in seeking weeds, but in seeking the Shepherd.  If you see a weed, by all means, ask the Shepherd how He wants you to deal with it.  Otherwise, let's keep our eyes on the Shepherd and our ears tuned to His voice and follow.  If you feel lost, find His voice in a favorite Psalm or begin to worship, giving thanks in all things.  This will lead to pastures so green you'll never long for the turf on the other side of the fence again.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He guides me along right path,
bringing honour to his name.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:1-3, 5b NLT

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dance on Your Disappointment

Monday we stood on the dusty roadside of a mountain pass peering under the open hood of our van.  Acrid, too hot scent stinging our noses.  An irregular knocking filling our ears.  Only one set of eyes knew what they were seeing, but five hearts were sinking.  We were supposed to be off on an adventure, having a change, a rest.  The only wise choice was to turn around and try to get back to the nearest town.

Naturally, there were tears and questions.  The little one leaned against me with a small sob and said, "We've had a lot of disappointments lately, Mommy."  I knew she was thinking of the Big Disappointment which was now about six weeks past but still fresh in our hearts.  Then she asked how I could bear this one.  The simple answer was, "I know He loves me."  Deeper than that, I had an epiphany right there in that melting mountain pass--I'd claimed Hope Territory in the time of the Big Disappointment.

We'd gone more than three months with mom, the heart and soul of the family, out of commission.  Quiet Christmas sans turkey dinner, limping along through the basics, postponing holidays, and continually praying for healing.  Into the fourth month and there was a cancellation, they would take me in for surgery.  Hope rose.  Only to be crushed after hours of waiting.  I'd have to be bumped to another day...a month away.  We cried together, feeling quite like we'd been taken out at the knees.  The long struggle had worn on us all.

I'd been sixteen hours without food, water or medication while waiting for my surgery.  With all those needs finally met, I slipped into the blessed relief of sleep while my family cuddled together with a movie.  A few hours later I returned to cognizance with one urgent thought, "You need to dance on this disappointment."

What a silly idea!  And not because, as my curly-haired family frequently tells me, I dance like a white woman.   Physically, I was no condition to dance and who dances anyway when they haven't got a clue how they're going to get through another month of this?  But I know that Voice and I've learned it's worth listening to...

So I found the song that said what I needed to say and I played it.  On repeat.  Loud enough to saturate my senses. And I sang and sang and twirled around as best I could until hope rose.  I sang and twirled some more until I was bursting with hope.  When I finally flopped down breathless I still didn't know anything, but I knew that I knew that I knew that God loves me and that nothing is impossible for Him.  I knew that as long as I could dance on my disappointment, thereby declaring my confidence in His goodness, He would make something glorious out of this whole big mess.  For me and for my family.

Navigating disappointment isn't easy.  It's important to be honest and process our sadness.  But we can't live there.  Disappointment pulls with a tremendous gravitational force, trying to hold us down.  Self pity encourages us to put down roots in that place.  Disappointment is a place to go through.

We can, in fact, be "perplexed, but not in despair...cast down, but not destroyed."  Whether your setback is great or small, I encourage you to dance.  Dance on your disappointment. 

Dance.  As though your life depends on it.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger, 
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
Psalm 84:5-7
2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Basis of Hope

She told me.  Right to my face.  She suspected that cheerful, hopeful people couldn't possibly be very intelligent.  Really smart people comprehend the full ramifications of the dire straight that is the state of our universe.  And it's impossible to be very hopeful or cheerful when you're so fully informed.

I laughed.  I really did.  I couldn't help it!  Maybe I didn't try, I don't know.  It's just that this joy is irrepressible.  Which probably confirmed her point.

It really is foolishness to believe that the impossible could be possible.  To have hope when there's no hope of our circumstances changing.  When the prognosis is bleak.  When the relationship has been fragmented for years.  When we've failed repeatedly to change.

It's utterly foolish to believe that a crushed lifeless body, devoid of heartbeat for three days, could live again.  Yet it happened.  It's been historically validated and it's power is still evident in our lives.  Even death is impotent in the presence of the Spirit of the Almighty God!

We have this hope that is an anchor for our souls...

Oh, this hope we have!  It's so much more than a lackadaisical, Pollyannic good cheer.  Much more substantial than the vapor that is the power of my own positive thinking which burns away quickly in the heat of the marathon.  This hope we have is based in the resurrection.  Every promise we've been given is backed by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead!  This same power lives inside you who are called by His name.
Hebrews 6:19

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Bride Price

What on earth does Good Friday have to do with a wedding feast?  How on earth could a bloody, gruesome death be connected to the finest of all occasions?

Yet, it is.

I can't quite bear to look straight at all that it meant for Christ, the perfect sinless Son of God, to be pierced and mangled and cast into hell on my behalf.  Him, tormented in hell, instead of me.  A glimpse is all it takes to send me to my's hard to breathe when I think of what He's spared me.

How much more the crushing despair of the disciples?  That ragtag lot who'd abandoned everything and placed their hope in this Messiah.  They saw Him with their own eyes.  Crushed and lifeless.  Their sky turned black. They felt the earth heave beneath their feet.  Terror and grief.  Utter hopelessness.

We have the privilege of knowing what those grieving disciples couldn't even imagine.  It might be Friday, but Sunday is coming.  We know the rest of the story...there's a resurrection.

Not only is there a resurrection, but we're invited to a feast that trumps all feasts, not just as honored guests, but as the Bride herself!

To we who have fallen in repentant grief at the foot of the cross, the risen Savior has come and lifted our faces to meet His eyes. His Spirit has called us to be prepared for a Wedding Feast.  This unfathomable groom doesn't just call us to the feast, but also provides the dowry and makes us His Bride.

Good Friday is the invitation to the wedding. The invitation is open to everyone.  Respond and receive the gift of freedom from the deadly cost of your sin.  He paid the price willingly, even eagerly, so great is His longing for you.

"Come!" say the Spirit and the Bride.
Whoever hears, echo, "Come!"
Is anyone thirsty?  Come!
All who will, come and drink,
Drink freely of the Water of Life!
Revelation 22:17

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do Ya Dare?

Hope is risky business.

That sense of eager expectation.  Anticipation.

It involves vulnerability.

Only those who hope can be disappointed.

Through all these months of medical ups and downs this purveyor of hope has been challenged.  One disappointment and delay after another.  There have been times when it felt like too much work, too much risk, too much potential dare hope again.

Cynicism is such excellent armour against disappointment.  Funny and witty!  Sophisticated, even.  But in the alone times it's a soul desert devoid of real joy.

Between the proverbial rock and the hard place.  To live without hope is to suffocate, but to hope again might be...will be, at times...costly.

There really is nothing new under the sun and 3,500 years ago there was a group of people who had endured slavery for many years, enough generations to have hope bred right out of them.  Along came Moses who told them that God says he's going to set you free!  Yeah, right.  They refused to listen.  "They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery."  Who can blame them?

The good news?  The state of their emotions didn't change the nature of the One who promised or the power of the promise.

Actually, things got worse before they got better for those ancient people.  It's often that way.  Still the power of the promise was not lessened.  Its fulfillment only nearer.

The only difference between those who dared to hope and those who didn't was the joy they had in the waiting.

Selah.  Pause and think on that.

Two weeks post surgery and I'm definitely feeling better. Dare I hope?  I don't have the pathology report yet.  What if...?

What if, indeed.  I have a Papa who knows the contents of that report before it is even written.  Not one iota of it will be a surprise to Him.  And He is faithful.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  He delights in every detail of my life.  His plans for me are good.

Pondering all of that goodness fuels hope.

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, 

fill you up with peace, 

so that your believing lives, 

filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, 

will brim over with hope!

Romans 15:13 MSG

Monday, March 4, 2013

Perfect Weakness

"My grace is strength is made perfect in weakness."

I feel like I've known these words my whole life.  In fact, I think my mother may have muttered them a lot.  Moms need a lot of grace.

They're beautiful words.  Poetic.

Yesterday, as I laid on a hospital bed for hours, these words ran insistently through my heart, on repeat.   I was hungry for understanding.  Needed that strength.

Weakness.  It's not something I like.  It might even be something I despise in myself.  Okay, it is.

Energy!  Competence!  Efficiency!  Helpful!  Those are my kind of words.

And I am all too aware of their absence in my life.  Recent weakness has been devoid of any loveliness, much less perfection.  It's humbling me.  It's costing others.

Seeking and hungering for more, I found what I needed.  Not in the morphine (though it was really lovely), but in the Greek dictionary on my smart phone.  The deeper layers of meaning in the beautiful words.

These words that were from the heart of God to Paul regarding physical weakness:

My grace...

...the merciful kindness by which God keeps, strengthens, increases faith, knowledge and affection... sufficient for thee. be strong, to be enough, to defend and ward off, as though raising a barrier.

For my strength...

...the inherent power of God which resides in him by virtue of his nature, a miraculous power... made perfect... carry though completely, to add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full... weakness.

...want of strength of the body (feebleness of health or sickness) 
or of the soul (want of strength and required capacity).

In other words,

"Michelle (add your name), 
I--your Heavenly Papa--
 gladly extend my merciful kindness to strengthen your faith 
and your knowledge of My affection for you.  
All that is in my nature I extend to you 
to carry you through completely.  
All that is in Me I extend to you
 to fill up what is lacking 
in the strength of your body 
and the capacity of your soul."

It really is enough.

It's for you too...whether its health in your body, mind, relationships...wherever the need.  He will add to what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full.

It's not you.  It's Him.  He will carry you through completely and make up all that you lack.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Invitation to Trust

It seems like it was ages ago, but perhaps it was only three months...

I was sitting, endless hours, in the waiting room. Keeping anxieties at bay with an ebook, but my reader died. Amusing myself listening to the darling nonagenarian blurting out commentary on the current state of affairs...but her name had been called.  Along with almost everyone else. Wondering if they forgot me? If the pain in my bottom might soon be greater than the one on the inside? Shushing all the what ifs. Grasping at gratitude.

A young, very young, woman came in with four little stair-step children, all preschoolers I would guess, the youngest still in a carrier. They quietly followed her through the registration process in wide-eyed silence. In a little row, they filed along and sat down across from me. Six big eyes stared at me. Six little legs swung. Six little hands folded in three little laps. 

This is usually when I begin to bemoan the fact that my children seem to be completely devoid of whatever gene is required for such calm and orderly behaviour...

Just then a large and odd looking bath chair contraption rattled by.  Six wondering eyes followed and then turned to mamma.  She smiled.

A nursed wheeled a severely handicapped woman by and legs stopped swinging.  Once out of sight all eyes turned to mamma.  She smiled.  Legs resumed swinging and eyes watched.

An eerie cry echoed down the hall.  Eyes widened and turned to mamma.  She smiled...extra reassuringly.  Shoulders relaxed and legs swung again.

Babies cried. 

Nurses called out. 

Alarms rang.  

Six little eyes sought mamma's and she smiled.

It was enough.  For now.  Maybe answers would come later.  

My turn finally came.  Kind nurses and gentle doctors did all they could but they couldn't budge the system.  Anxiety rose.  Uncertainty and pain are a nasty combination.

Then I remembered.  

Seek His eyes. 

He smiled reassuringly and invited me to trust.

My shoulders relaxed.  

Months have passed.  Waiting has wearied.  Uncertainty has vexed.  Friends have hugged and prayed.  I've fallen apart and gotten up again.  Panic rises quickly when the mind is focused on the pain.

However, I've had frequent reminders of those six little eyes and six swinging legs.  Every time I remember, I seek His eyes.

Every time I find His eyes are already upon me, anticipating my need.

All I can see is love. And an invitation to trust.

It is enough.

For today.

Maybe all the questions will be answered someday when we go Home.

For now the warmth of His tender gaze is enough.

I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go...
I will be with you constantly 
until I have finished giving you everything I have promised.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;

He is mine forever!

Genesis 28:15

Psalm 73:25-26

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Original Ideal Woman

A few weeks ago I came out of the closet about some of my health issues.  I think I even promised to be more vulnerable in my writing. Well, this could be more than you bargained for...

Four months now I have been inactive.  Not only am I not exercising in any formally recognizable manner, I find myself moving as little as possible in all matters of daily living.  It's just a little less painful that way.  There's a geeky corner of my brain that would like to calculate the precise number of unburned calories this would amount to, but the rest of my brain is currently too doped to quite make sense of the numbers.  Add to that fact, the current disturbance in my pelvis is causing some bloat-like symptoms...and, well, none of my clothes fit.  Except for the stretchy ones, that is.  I've become adept at all kinds of wardrobe disguises, but nothing hides the bare facts.  Bare facts.

Full disclosure:  I also ate a lot of barbeque chips on the way home last night.  More than anyone needs to...however many that is.  They were so good.  Anyway, now that you know that...

More vulnerable means admitting that I looked at an old picture and found myself wishing I was that thin again.  I detest of this kind of thinking!

When I taught English to recent immigrants I learned how absolutely cultural are our concepts of beauty.  My Asian students commented when they thought I was getting "fatter" (ya gotta love the lack of euphemisms in a limited vocabulary!) and my African students thought I was too skinny.  I vowed to remember that beauty is culturally defined, therefore hardly a standard to be too worried about.

Three times this week I had encounters with other women wherein the issues of weight and body image came up.  Sigh.  I look at my beautiful friends and I love them.  I have written posts about how God made us beautiful and I believe it with all my heart.

However, all this excellent head knowledge isn't helping me one bit this week.  You're in luck though--I am going to share a thought that has helped a lot...

I'm about to let you in on a little unscientific and perhaps unorthodox theory I have:  I don't think Eve looked like Megan Fox.  Seriously.

When God created seems likely that He would create the most beautiful woman possible.  Keeping in mind that he created peacocks and the Himalayas, His ability is obvious.  Yet she probably didn't look a bit like any magazine cover we've seen.

The beauty of this original woman inspired her name.  When Adam saw her he said, "Whoa, man!!" and we've been called "whoa-man" or "woman" ever since.

Have you seen pictures of the oldest human bones that have been discovered?  Apparently, scientists think they're about 7,000 years old (which coincidentally lines up with the general timeline of when Eve would likely have walked the earth).  I sincerely doubt that she was hairy like an ape, but the general shape is pretty clear:

The good news, sisters?  We look more like the original ideal woman than like Paris Hilton.

Just sayin'.

Splendor and beauty mark his craft...

Psalm 111:3a

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Autographed Original

Someone posted this silly picture on Facebook recently:

My first thought was that it would be sooooo cool to have a copy of the Bible with God's signature on it!  What would it look like?  Or would it be autographed by Moses, David, Matthew...?  A variety a scripts and scrawls?

The thoughts were barely formed before I heard the whisper, "I've autographed your heart."

Which choked me up immediately...  My heart.  Signed by God?  The God that made the northern lights and wove the delicate lace of the snow flakes.  The God who pulls children onto His lap and raises the dead.  The God who sets the captives free.  His signature on my heart?

I vaguely remembered a verse that said something like that...

  "You are a letter written not with ink 
but with the Spirit of the living God. 
You are a letter written not on tablets made out of stone
 but on human hearts".

But isn't my heart "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked"?  I used to think that was talking about me. There's certainly enough evidence to prove the point.  I don't know how it was that a little girl would know that verse so well without knowing the rest of the story...

The part where we cry out, 

"O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
 if you save me, I will be truly saved."

And He responds, 

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean...
I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. 
 I will take out your stony, stubborn heart 
and give you a tender, responsive heart.  
And I will put my Spirit in you..."

Tender.  Responsive.  Filled with His Spirit!  Given when we ask that He would heal and save us.  An extravagant grace that takes your breath away. 

On that new heart He's writing a letter.  It's a story of redemption   The story of a deceitful and wicked heart that is made new and chooses love.  It's so extraordinary that there is no question that this "great power is from God, not from ourselves."  

That letter He's writing on your heart is precious.  I need to read gives me hope.  With trepidation I share the letter He's writing on my's a love letter, a promise that He makes all things new, makes all things possible.

That tender, responsive heart, filled with His Spirit...  A gift.  

An autographed original.

2 Corinthians 3:3 NIRV; Jeremiah 17:9 KJV
Jeremiah 17:14 NLT; Ezekiel 36:25 NLT
2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

Monday, January 7, 2013

That Stuff on the Wall

"I need some of that stuff on the wall."

Mystified, I glanced animal posters, a string of Christmas lights, the skin of a long-dead critter, an adorable baby picture, and...cooties, definitely cooties.  

Not enlightened, I had to ask, "What stuff on the wall, Buddy?"

"You  know, the stuff you need all the time.  The letters you put on the wall."

I'm somewhat strangled by emotion.  Laughter and tears can be felt at the same time.  Intensely.

The "stuff" I "need...all the time."  It appears that I have modelled failure...often?  I know immediately to what stuff on the wall he refers.

Those letters I have stencilled on the wall in the hub of my home where they are needed often and desperately.  G...R...A...C...E.  Grace.

His cry for grace pierces my heart.  I burrow through tangled covers to wrap my arms around the sweating, heaving chest because I absolutely cannot refuse this cry for grace.  Impossible to be anything other than entreated.

"So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him..."

Indeed.   Why do I hesitate?  Frantically, foolishly, trying to remove stains with my own filthy hands.  Desperately trying to undo what's been done.  Justify.  Defy.  Clarify.  Who did what and when.  You.  Me.  Us.

What has been done cannot often be undone.  There is only one glorious cure.  Grace.  His divine presence entering the mess we've made.  Empowering the wronged to forgive.  Granting the guilty the privilege of standing free of shame.  All to be made beautiful.  Even that which cannot be undone.

Those letters have marked that spot for much more than a year, but it was only today that I recognized the irony of the fact that the "time out" bench has sat beneath those letters all this while.  The spot in which one sits to catch one's breath, to breathe deeply before any more words explode.  The spot to think for a moment before anything else thoughtless erupts into the atmosphere.  The spot one only gets sent to when it's too late.  When the damage has been done.

Except for grace.

"So let us boldly approach the throne of grace.  

Then we will receive mercy.

We will find grace to help us when we need it."

Boldly approach...receive...grace...we need.

Come and sit with me a while?  Let's stay long enough.  Long enough to soak up so much grace that all shame and distress is washed away.  Long enough that grace begins to run over and wash the chip off the shoulder.  Long enough to be filled to overflowing with grace for that one who feels like a thorn in my side, a pebble in your shoe, the spark to our fuse.  Long enough to worship.

Let's rest a while under the writing on the wall.

Because we all "need some of that stuff on the wall."

Matthew 7:11 NLT
Hebrews 4:16 NIRV

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Coming Out

I didn't mean not to tell you.  In the beginning it just didn't seem like a big deal.

When it became a big deal I couldn't figure out how to casually mention it.  It would have been awkward to suddenly shout into the blogosphere that I felt like I was dying! No one likes a drama queen.  Or a hypochondriac.

I didn't want to worry anyone.  Honestly.

Sometimes we need to process a bit before sharing. This is true.

Besides, the internet is rife with "too much information"!  VERY true.

Then the medication made my brain so foggy I was sure nothing I could write would have made sense anyway (though I've enjoyed a few blogs that I'm pretty sure were written in a chemically-induced haze).  I hated feeling so dull and inarticulate!

It was just awkward!

It took over everything until really there was nothing else I could have written about.

Little threads of pride were woven through the strands of common sense.

I missed you.

One day I found myself with a fresh wind of hope but I didn't know how to go about sharing it as I'd been so reticent.  How could I explain without explaining?  But if I don't share...well, you know, I'm quite sure I might burst.

"My purpose in writing is to encourage you..."  Ah, yes.  And how can one encourage unless they've been in need of it themselves?  Hope isn't hope unless it's what you're hanging on to when there's little reason to hope.

How do you get yourself out of a tangle once tangled?

Apologizing is almost always an excellent place to start.

I'm sorry, truly sorry, that I've been awkward...and prideful...I really didn't set out to exclude you.  I'm sorry that I haven't invited you to share my burdens.  So now I will share the struggle.  Without acknowledging the struggle, the encouragement really is quite meaningless.

I've been unwell for a couple of months now.  Many trips to outpatients, clinics, and specialists, poking, prodding, jabbing, stabbing and scanning have lead the reassuring news that I'm not at risk of dying imminently.  Organs are malfunctioning, but I don't really need them any more anyway.  I would prefer to keep them, but not if they keep this up!

I apologize for not telling you about...

~ The incredible peace that prevails even when you're panicking.  Isn't that a contradiction?  Oh, no!  The body is crying out for relief, but the spirit is anchored in the Love of the Father.  This is the promised peace that passes understanding and it's very real.

~ The day, the very worst day of almost unbearable pain, when four couples came and gathered around me and they prayed for me and for each member of our family and it's never been quite as bad since.  They wrapped us in love, physically manifesting the love Jesus has for the hurting.  I long for instant miracles, but I mark that day as the day something changed, slowly but definitely.

~  The good news that the change was enough to avoid having surgery just days before Christmas.  It wouldn't have been the end of the world, but I count it a blessing!

~  The way I was able to shop just enough and to know that we had all we needed.  Christmas was simple, but more than enough.

~  That Jesus was born into awkward and He invites us to be unafraid.

~  That there are things I don't understand about God.  I truly don't.  But this I know, no-word-of-a-lie, look-you-in-the-eye, truth:  He is good.  He is very, very good.  We can trust Him.  Even when we don't understand.

There's more, much more.  Maybe now that I've come out in the open about it, I'll be able to share.

For now, please pray for the healing to be complete!  I long to get back in the saddle!  I've got places to go, people to meet, kids to raise, and blogs to write!

I resolve to be vulnerable.

Love and blessings,

Happy New Year!