Here! I brought you some worms!

Sometimes God speaks to us through the simplest things in life.

This afternoon we were sitting outside enjoying the beautiful weather. I was reading while Corban played with a neighbor and Christopher was digging in the dirt. Christopher ran over to me and said "Hee-yah! You can have these worms! Here's some water. Give them a drink if they look thirsty." A minute later, "I brought you another one!"

He was so excited to share his find with me. And I was happy to receive it. Worms aren't my favorite but they delight him and that makes his gift special, because he was sharing something he enjoys with me. His heart was open.

I think God feels the same way toward us. Some days I feel like all I have to give amounts to worms. But when that's all I have and I give it, it counts for something. When I share things that I'm excited about, that delight my heart, I think it delights His heart. When I do things I enjoy, when I laugh at ridiculous things, when I make silly videos that probably embarrass my family, I think He gets a kick out of it. I know it can be difficult to think of God in this way, but I've come to believe it's true.

Even as adults we should never lose our childlike innocence, the desire to share our happy moments, to believe He wants to listen. We're just overgrown children after all.

And He is our Daddy.


Questions in the Wilderness

"I feel like I'm headed into the wilderness."

That's what I said before we moved to Kansas City. And I think I was right. I feel that I've been in a wilderness of sorts for a long while now. There were some difficult things that happened before we moved and more awaited me after we moved. To boot I turned 39 and so that mid-life what-am-I-doing-that-matters stuff began to happen.

Bottom line: I've been having a little big identity crisis.

This morning Benji Nolot, of Exodus Cry, tweeted this:

"God has a wilderness for every person struggling with their identity."


The thing I've discovered about the wilderness is that while it doesn't appear attractive and seems from the outside to be deserted, I have found that there is One here with me. I've encountered God more deeply here than I have anywhere else before. In my barrenness He fills me and He speaks to me. He provides an oasis just when I need it. He puts refreshing words in the mouths of others who don't know I need them. He has sent me a friend. He has even given me my own personal cheerleader, who follows me around all day saying, "You're the best mom ever. I love you forever."

It's not easy to live in a wilderness, but I wouldn't trade it. I will come out on the other side. His purposes will be served.

The two questions I hear asked of me in this place and the questions we must all answer are:

"Who do you say that I am?"  

Who do I say God is? Who is Jesus?

"Who are you?" 

Who does He say that I am? Who was I created to be? How does He want to express His life through me?

Answer these questions and I will be unshakeable. These are the questions in my wilderness. Maybe they are the questions in yours.

Who do you say that He is?

Who are you?


Speaking the truth in love. And otherwise.

Over the years I've learned a few things the hard way about speaking the truth. These are some rules (a term I use loosely) that would serve me well during those times I really feel something burning inside that wants to be said. I do not always follow the rules...but if I did I would save myself and others a tremendous amount of trouble and pain. I am using the second person tense for simplicity. By you I mean we/us/me.

1. Just because it's true doesn't mean it's your job to say it. Discernment from the Holy Spirit, and consideration for what your relationship is to the other person, is necessary. You are not the truth police. There are times a thing doesn't need to be said, but rather prayed over, because God is really good at bringing His kids to the place of understanding.

2. Just because it's true doesn't mean it needs to be said at all. Are you nagging? Is it your place? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Is it really a big deal? Does it even matter?

3. When speaking the truth, it is helpful to focus on the main truth you want to share. Do not unload all the truth you know, or think you know, about a topic, or a person and his issues. Pick one or two. Too much is, well...too much.

4. Check your motive. Are you concerned for the other person or are you just frustrated? I think we can speak truths about things that frustrate us, but not while we are frustrated. T.I.M.I.N.G.

5. Speaking truth in a way that is destructive to another person, and blaming it on the Holy Spirit, isn't nice.

6. Be prepared to receive truth as well as dispense it. Otherwise, you lack integrity and may have no place sharing it in the first place. If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

7. Finally, be prepared to eat your words in the future, in the rare case that what you thought was true was, in fact, false. Because let's face it. Sometimes we get it wrong.

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 10:19. 

I need that verse plastered all over my house.


You Can't Park There!!

I was at Trader Joe's earlier and right after I pulled into my parking space, I heard a shrill sounding voice, screaming. I looked up to see a woman yelling at me, "You can't park there! It's a handicapped spot! You can't park there!" 

I was totally caught off guard and rolled down my window to say, "Excuse me?" She repeated. So, I apologized and said I thought it was a 15 minute parking space. Said I would never intentionally take a handicapped spot. She didn't look like she believed me.

When I pulled out, it was confirmed: I was NOT in a handicapped spot, but rather a 15 minute space...the same one I almost always park in. I moved to a new space and another equally non-handicapped person took mine. It was so tempting to defend myself once I got inside the store. My boys were insistent that I "tell that lady." But I didn't.

I saw that she did have difficulty walking and thought about how it probably is really frustrating when she can't get a spot close to the door, because someone parked in the handicapped spaces out of convenience, not need. It probably happens a lot. I get it.

However, the lesson here is that our own issues and frustrations can skew reality. They cause us to react to things that aren't even real...we see through our own set of lenses, not realizing they are a little smudged. We see disrespect and violation where it isn't. Or we interpret things from our own perspective, not realizing there are other equally legitimate viewpoints. 

And on the flip side, perhaps we can give mercy to the over-reactors, realizing they have issues of their own...whether they know it or not. Most people mean well. Honestly, we are probably all the over-reactors at one time or another. We just need a clean pair of glasses with a side of understanding.


You Learn

This afternoon I was in the car and decided to listen to my iPod for the first time in ages. I was going to put it on shuffle and just see what popped up, but I saw that there was something by Alanis Morissette on there. I wondered what on earth it was and it turned out to be "You Learn." I listened to it and immediately was taken back to another time in my life.

You need to understand my thing with music. I'm not musical, exactly, but I love music and my entire life has a soundtrack. Every season has music associated with it, and when I hear the songs I remember exactly what was happening in my life, and what I was feeling, when it was popular.

Now don't hate because I am having a moment with Alanis...yes she was super angsty and angry, but whatever. The lyrics that jumped out at me were these:

"You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn"

This song spoke to me at a time when I found myself in a life-altering circumstance. I had made some choices that were going to forever change my life. There was anxiety and uncertainty; I had confided in a friend who betrayed my confidence; I felt judging eyes on me constantly; I was the subject of much gossip; I felt lonely and abandoned most of the time.

In the midst of all of that I was driving down Eastdale Road South, in Montgomery, and this song was on the radio. Listening to the words, I felt like God came to me and assured me that everything was going to be okay, even though I had wandered pretty far away fom Him. Yes, through  an Alanis  Morissette song, of all things,, I received the peace and confidence I needed to keep walking forward.

"You live, you learn...you choose, you learn." So I didn't do things as I should have...let's move forward. Learn from it. Grow from it. "You're going to be okay." I really believed it.

Listening to it again today I realized how much it's true that just about everything of value that I have on the inside has come through difficulty. He has met me every time. Every single time. He has not failed me. He has corrected my course, when needed; He has healed my heart; He has provided; He has comforted.

I found myself totally in awe of how He does that. And totally thankful. I don't like difficulties and hard days, but when He takes something hard and makes it beautiful, I don't see it the same way anymore. I'm learning who He is and who I am, through every difficulty that comes along.

I've lived, I've chosen, I've grieved, I've laughed, I've cried, I've lost...and I've learned. I've learned that if I am following Him, then He takes messes and brings beauty. He takes mourning and turns it into dancing. He takes sadness and turns it into joy.

That's who He is. It's what He does.


Grace Propels

I don't think the concept of grace is one-dimensional, as it's often presented. It's not simply a state of eternal forgiveness and rightness with God that makes me feel good about myself. It's also has an element of internal empowerment.

Where the Law is a set of externally imposed rules, which our human nature and flesh cannot possibly fulfill, Grace is an internal drive and empowerment to love, which then fulfills the greatest Laws: Love God and love one another.

It's a result of the Spirit of God taking up residence in us and making us new. I think that's the heart of Romans 6:14:

"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law (trying hard to follow the rules), but under (the empowerment of) grace." 

We no longer have to be ruled over by sin, because we now have this power within us (the Holy Spirit), which is a gift of grace. We can continue to try hard and do our best, on our own, but we will be paralyzed. We are not to focus on the do/don't list, but rather on Him. Then the other stuff will begin to work itself out.

So, while grace includes rightness with God, if we stop there, we may accidentally give ourselves permission to behave however we like...which is what Paul spoke against. "Should we sin more because of grace? May it never be!" Use grace to propel you to righteousness, not just to stamp you as righteous. Is this making sense? It's hard to put into words. I guess maybe I could say it this way:

Grace is what labels you as righteous and Grace is also what causes you to actually live out righteousness.



What Will You Believe?

I've heard it said, and I believe it, that perception is everything. Perception may not be what's true, but I think it's what matters most when that proverbial stuff hits the fan in our lives. Attached to those situations is an invitation to answer the question:

What will you believe?

The ultimate questions we have to answer center around what we believe after something happens to us. Two people can experience the same event, and while one is traumatized for years the other may recover fairly quickly. Perception/belief can be the difference.

As I see it the three big questions we have to wrestle with are:

1. What do I believe about the situation? Do I see it rightly or are facts skewed by emotion or past events?

2. What do I believe about myself because of what happened? What we say about ourselves is probably more important than what others say.

3. What do I believe about God? This one is the most important, obviously.

We will all work through things differently based on how we answer these questions. For example, after a divorce; after the loss of a loved one; after a rejection; after a failure; after an abuse: what do you believe about God and what do you believe about yourself?

Where was He? What does He think? Is He angry with you? Is He willing to show mercy? Is He good?

Are you unlovable? Are you a failure? Are you not good enough? Was it your fault?

The other important factor is who we surround ourselves with. Without question, other trustworthy people are essential to getting through the hard things. Isolation will leave us stranded in the mire and so will negative people.

If we can find one or two people that can listen to our story, who love us, who are wise, we need to take advantage of that. Anything kept in the dark will fester and grow and rob us of joy and life. We need other people to speak truth to us: about who God is and about who we are.

Speaking from experience, there is great power and freedom in talking about the things we'd rather cover, hide or avoid. It's rarely as bad as you think it will be.

We will live "below our privilege," so to speak, if we believe the wrong things about God and ourselves. We can't live above what we believe in our minds.

Freedom is a daily choice. We have to take the steps and the risks, but it's so worth it.

So, what do you believe?


It's Not a Crutch

There are some days that, for whatever reason, I am reminded of my failures. My mommy failures, my wife failures and, very often, my friendship failures. There have just been times that I didn't show up and I wish I could go back and do it better. I'm sure the same thing happens to you. 

This can either be an opportunity to feel defeated or it can be an opportunity to be thankful that God is making me something better today than I was yesterday. Today, I'm choosing the latter. 

There are those who would call Christianity a crutch. And to that I'd say, no. That would imply that I even had a leg of my own to stand on. I say it's more like a wheelchair or even a stretcher, carrying me into the hospital. And I am so okay with that.

After all, that's what attracted Jesus to me in the first place. That's what makes Him pull up a chair at my table.

The things you like least about yourself do not cause Him to turn away, even if everyone else does. He is your safe place. 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


A Mid-life Crisis Thingy

A couple of months ago I had this revelation. And I can't stop thinking about it. On March 6 of this year, I will turn 39. Which means I'm almost 40.




How did this happen? I know I have some readers that are over 40, so I'm not saying 40 is old or anything. But it is........a milestone. Let's just say it that way. A milestone.

It's a milestone that is causing me some stress, not so much because of the number but because

What on earth am I doing with my life????

Will I ever grow up?

Am I too silly to be 40?

What should 40 look like?

Does that even matter?

Should I even care?

Do I have anything of value to offer the world?

When I "graduated" from elementary school I was predicted to become a comedian when I grew up. That was cute at the time, but as I've grown up I have both enjoyed and really struggled with that part of me. Who takes a comedian seriously? We all like to laugh but when you need advice, who are you going to call? Your free-spirited, impulsive, messy, funny friend or your deep, thoughtful, well-spoken one?

I guess this is a small scale version of what people call a mid-life crisis, except I'm not wanting to go out and buy a convertible (though if anyone wants to give me one, I'll take red). I think I'm feeling like I need a personality overhaul.

The problem with that is, I am pretty sure God did this to me on purpose. Or maybe better said, He made me like this on purpose. Not that I don't need to grow and change some things, but the core of who I am isn't one of them. So the greater challenge of the questions surrounding being almost 40 might be learning to like myself.

But for heaven's sake (literally) isn't it about time?


To Be or Not to Be...Still

"Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

We Christians know this verse really well, don't we? It's a great one. I love the encouragement that the entirety of Psalm 46 offers.

What I don't like, though, is when this particular verse is used as kind of a Bible study tip. You know, if you want to know God, you've got to be still. Stop moving. Sit down. Silence everything. Find a quiet chair. In a dimly lit room. At a little desk with a study lamp. Oh, and make sure it's really early in the morning. Before the first bird has chirped. There are mixed opinions on whether or not you can have your coffee during this time or if you should wait until later.

Don't get me wrong, because it sounds amazing, but that feels like a lot of pressure because, oh my gosh - when does that moment ever come for a mom with four kids?!?!

If you look at the context of Psalm 46 and look into the word, "still," and how it's used in other places in scripture, you'll see it's less about not moving and more about letting go. Sometimes it's a physical letting go, but obviously here it's a letting go of worry and anxiety, and trusting God. Though the earth shake, He will not be moved.

We Christians are great at taking things out of context and too literally. Be still. Stop moving. And then you'll know He is God.

David also rejoiced, in Psalm 23, that his cup was running over. When is the last time the waitress overfilled your tea glass and you were glad? How happy are you when one of the kids overfills his cup? You're probably having to bridle your words, not rejoicing. But if we want to be literal, then we should be happy, as it must be a sign that God is near. That's a stretch, obviously...I'm just making the point.

You may be wondering, "What on earth is your point?"

My point is that I believe we need to give ourselves a little freedom, as far as what seeking God or praying or quiet time or whatever you want to call it, looks like. Sometimes I feel I have the most clarity and connection when I'm mopping the floor. I often feel nearest to Him when I'm doing something creative. When I'm writing. When I make something with my own two hands. And I think it's because I'm doing something really close to what He created me to do. Sometimes moving is what stills my mind most. Kind of like a kid with ADHD.

We need to avoid judging each other for the ways we seek God (preaching to myself, here). Maybe we need to quit judging ourselves.

Some people thrive in a quiet room. They really need and love literally sitting still before the Lord.  Some need noise. Some dance (I don't and you're welcome). Brother Lawrence, a monk, experienced God's presence while washing dishes. Eric Liddell, the runner whose story is told in "Chariots of Fire," said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." He never felt closer to God than while running. I don't understand that at all. I have never felt closer to death than while running.

But, give me a project, some wood, sandpaper, paint, a saw...and I am happy and content and I'm telling you, I sense His pleasure and hear His voice. I even think sometimes He gives me advice on whatever I'm working on. Seriously.

I'm not saying we shouldn't ever set aside time to read scripture and pray or fast or attempt those early morning times with Him. I do all that. Heaven knows the days are better when I begin that way. But I've had so many conversations through the years with friends who feel condemnation because they aren't "doing it right." Some phases in life make it challenging and when someone comes along with yet another man-made rule to follow, it isn't freeing, its heavy.

I think I'm saying just be who you are. Enjoy the way He made you and be aware of His presence when you do what you do. Part of what makes you holy, set apart, are all the little things He put inside of you. Incorporate Him into everything you do...into all of your moving. Not just those fleeting moments of stillness. I believe He delights in us using our gifts and talents, especially when we recognize His nearness in it. Recognize His craftsmanship inside of you.

For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God prepared beforehand, so we may do them.
Ephesians 2:10


A Cup of Joy

This is a cup of Joy.

Joy tea, that is. It's a seasonal Tazo tea blend. On my morning trip to Target today, I decided to stop by Starbucks for a hot tea. Earl Gray is my usual choice, but the barista said she had eight teas to choose from today so I wanted to explore my options.

Not feeling especially joyful lately, my ears perked up when she said she had one called, "Joy."

In a symbolic gesture to embrace joy in my life I said, "I'll try the Joy." I thought, hey, maybe this is God's way of getting my attention, waving at me, so to speak, so I'll just go with it.

I got my tea, added a little honey and cream and set about shopping. After a couple of minutes I finally tasted it. And, for something with a name like Joy, it was not very...good. I did not like my Joy tea. (How many times can I say "joy" in this post??) It did not, in reality, make me feel good or happy.

So, I thought, nope, God was definitely not trying to get my attention with this because it's yucky.

But then this came to mind:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Consider it joy. Not feel (or taste) it joy. Consider. That word indicates a choice. It actually carries the idea of being in authority - leading. Take charge, choose, lead yourself into joy whenever you face many kinds of temptations and trials.

When circumstances tempt you and me to sin, or when trouble comes, we are to count it as joy because we know that the testing of our faith will strengthen us, making us complete and mature, lacking nothing. The joy is in what is set before us off in the distance, not in what's set in front of us right this minute.

Joy is a choice. It's a realization that I'm going somewhere. That life is an investment in eternity. That God will test my faith and allow me to grow and mature and become more like Him. It's dependent upon eyes that are fixed on the finish line, looking, though dimly and figuratively, into the eyes of Jesus.

Sometimes joy comes amid situations that are yucky - like my tea, only way worse. I have felt joy at the strangest times, in the saddest times, so I believe what James said is true.

Therefore...despite the fact that my tea was not yummy, I raised my cup and, by faith, said (to myself, of course - though I am known for talking to myself, but that's another post) essentially, "I hear you, God. I choose joy."

Bottoms up.