So Cold It Hurts (Part 2)


“Grief is the price we pay for love” ~ Elizabeth II (Queen of the United Kingdom, b.1926)

 

Once upon a time, there was a king. (You can read about him here.) Needless to say, he was not a good king. He was petty, unstable, and too heinously jealous to share his kingdom. A king in this time period had a lot of power, almost godlike. If you caught the disfavor of this king, it was often best to run and hide. Even a baby might be at risk from a king like this. In fact, many were, even his own sons were not safe from this king. Power in the hands of evil men and women is a fearful thing.

The name of Herod the Great has gone down infamously in history, like many before and after him. In the face of such overwhelming evil, sometimes it seems as if there is no hope, not even a hope of hope; but God always gets the last word. In the midst of the darkness and fear that characterized Herod’s reign, a tiny germ of hope was planted in the womb of a girl named Mary. This hope was greater than the darkness and evil of King Herod, because this hope had always been, from the beginning. This hope came before any man’s envy or malice or lust or pride. This hope was brighter than any man’s grief or suffering or hardship or humiliation or depression. This hope was everything. This hope was the world’s salvation.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~ John 1:1-5 NIV

I read a post on Facebook some time back from the Christian speaker Christine Caine that talked about overcoming discouragement, fear, worry, etc, by remembering (or perhaps realizing for the first time) that the power of God’s word is bigger still. Herod the Great could not stop God’s promise from being fulfilled. Herod Antipas (Herod the Great’s son) could not stop the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s purpose, or defile it in any way. This was very encouraging to me.

I, for one, had a really aggravating end of 2014. As the time drew near for “Deck the Halls”, decking a human was looking more and more attractive. I am not overly fond of “Christmastime”….as in Martha Stewart, a gift for everyone, perfect house, have-to, need-to, shoulds. Christmas, as in the celebration of the birth of Christ I’m all about, don’t misunderstand. I also find that my children tend to test the flexibility of not only Santa’s naughty list but also my patience and love for them. The closer we get to December, the more the tempers flare, the mouths get mouthy, the chores are left undone, please and thank you are forgotten, and naturally, our bank account gets lower and lower. On years like this one, Christmas-ing is a sacrifice. I’m sure other parents can relate.

As things usually go, when your life is difficult, something will usually come along with a little sting to really grind home the point that you are not measuring up in one way or another. Whether it’s your family, friends, current or former classmates, co-workers, neighbors, housemates, or what have you, there will be friction between people of various kinds. Add to all of that the deaths, missed opportunities, regrets, and the rest of life’s sorrows, so much more poignant at the end of the year. The sharp edges in our lives often become most apparent at Christmastime. It’s not about that though…

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:9-14

————————-

So here we are in 2015…..sound of crickets. Yeah I have many of the same stresses as last year, some added, some taken away. It’s been months since I blogged, or worked on my story, or did any graphic design, or felt really inspired, or victorious, or joyful…Yes, this on again off again people person with a sunny outlook and Pollyanna-esque attitude has been in some serious doldrums socially, spiritually, familialy, personally…..you get the drift. Then in the midst of all of that, my beloved compy took a permanent trip to that lost pile of hardware in the sky. I kept thinking there would be a jolt of happiness, or joy, or love, or SOMETHING, but day after day I drifted, having cut myself off from all my friends in some crazed plan to hide myself from anyone that could hurt my feelings or judge me….I felt God to be distant, though it was never true. One day as I was yet again using my hubby’s compy and our tax return was miles away, something struck me and it was this:

This struggle that we face as Christians, or even just HUMANS, isn’t always glorious, victorious, comedy, tragedy, or even noteworthy; BUT it is our personal decision that every day we will try; every time we fall, we will rise; every failing meets with an attitude of I can be better! It isn’t hard to fight when you have a visible, obvious threat. But when we are feeling apathetic, forgotten, pointless, helpless, hopeless, friendless….our fight is with ourselves. It is then our duty to move forward because it is the right thing to do. God is never too far away. He is always waiting, peering down the road waiting for his child to come home, to involve him, to walk beside him. Now, this blog post is not meant to be about me, specifically, I just thought I would share a bit of my own struggles for a moment, because none of us are ever alone in this, even when we feel that way. ❤ Let’s get back into it now, shall we? 🙂

 

————————–

Sometimes, the big bad stuff in our lives seems soooo big and bad that we get the impression that there is no hope. Many early Christians must have felt this way with the overarching power so many of the rulers of the day held over their lives. Many things we face in today’s world can feel pointless and overwhelming. Thankfully, when we are able to lift our heads during a rare ceasefire, we can see that the Bible is full of examples of people in all walks of life who faced impossible, ending, embarrassing, threatening, and damning situations. These circumstances felt too big, too difficult; but then the wall crumbled, the whale spat them out, the sun rose, the enemy fled, the stones never flew, and the grave was empty. God showed up, and their lives were better than saved. They were changed.

John the Baptist paid the ultimate price and won the ultimate reward. Herod had him killed, but Herod didn’t defeat him. The picture at the beginning of this post of a silver platter is meant to remind us of John. It is also meant to point to not only John’s victory, but the final victory of Christ after the empty cross. Sin and death has it’s time, just as every dog has it’s day. The final word belongs to God. Maybe, during this time of Lent, when many around the world lay down their comfortable routine in remembrance of that long ago sacrifice, it would be good for all of us to take a moment and reflect on the gift of an empty cross, and the hope it represents for each man, woman, and child alive today. No matter the filth, the darkness, the hate, the prejudice, the fear, the POWERFUL love of Christ can lift us out of any pit.

 

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5 NIV

So Cold It Hurts (Part 1)


“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?” ~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Russian novelist, Nobel Prize for Literature (1970), b.1918)

‘Tis the season to give to charity, celebrate, be festive, give gifts, dress to impress, overspend,  and feel good about ourselves. No? Well, what do YOU see when you look around at your fellow man in December? What do you and I see when we look in the mirror? Thanksgiving was less than a month ago. The day after we sit down to give thanks, we rise up early the next day with greed and animosity to fight tooth and nail on Black Friday. Thus begins the tender and reverent celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus. But wait, there’s more…

December is the last month of the year, so when we pursue all this stuff, this window dressing, cake frosting, twinkle light decorated stuff, as beautiful and wonderful as it is and can be, we are ending the year on a false note. For many people, Christmas has become yet another thing to pay off and feel stressed about next year. Utility bills are higher, food bills are even more so, and  while there’s nothing wrong with celebrating with our friends and loved ones, we are missing the elusive “Spirit” of Christmas. Bigger than the biggest Christmas blowout, grander than the holiday buffet at a casino, brighter than the lights on your town’s most lit-up neighborhoods’ houses (the houses, not the neighbors), the Glory of Christmas stands alone: precious, pure, loving, enormous, and shocking.

Many of you are parents. I have several children myself and they are dear to me. I would protect them with my life, at the cost of my life savings (HAHA, raising a large family doesn’t easily allow for savings), at the cost of my health, my sanity, or my reputation. Knowing this, and knowing that so many parents feel the same, good parents mind you, it is unthinkable that we even have a reason to celebrate in December at all. I would not have given up my precious children to an amazing, loving family, no matter how wonderful they were. They are My Precious! MINE! I cannot imagine giving them to someone amazing, BUT God gave His ONLY child who is strangely part of himself as well to a rabid, desperate, cruel, thoughtless, selfish, depraved, abusive, unfaithful, greedy, hateful world. True, he picked some wonderful parents in Mary and Joseph; but you can’t hide at home forever. On top of it all, Jesus’ life path led purposely to a horrible death on a cross. He lived a hard, lonely life, and without the aid of an angel bodyguard. He stepped where we step. He ate what we eat. Sometimes he went hungry. Sometimes he was cold. Sometimes he felt stressed and over-tired and underappreciated.

Jesus was the most underappreciated person who ever lived.  It’s not that no one appreciates Him, but He is the Savior of the whole world; and even the most devout have only a sliver of an understanding of the amassed depth and sacrifice of this first Gift of the Season. Our cold hearts just don’t get it. It is a gift of pure Grace every time another piece becomes clear to us. It’s not like we seek to understand often. Like the huddled forgotten who line our streets and alleyways, we turn away as we rush to our comfortable “zone”. In many ways, each of us could star in A Christmas Carol as Scrooge. We are all struggling with past hurts, sorrow, regret, possibly financially. This is a hard time of year to be hard up. My own family has been eating a lot of beans lately….a LOT of beans. (Pardon me)

Yet at the same time, we are so wealthy with the lavish gift of free will we each possess. Each of us can make a huge difference in the lives of those around us for good or ill. I see the news stories that break my heart of a child who was hurt and then grew up to hurt another child and on it goes. A cycle of goodness also repeats. My dad tells often of his own father who was faithful to whatever he deemed his duty. He was on time or early everywhere he went. He didn’t call in sick, he didn’t make excuses. He just did what he believed was right. That made an impression on my dad. He is the most steadfast person I know to this day. As a child who was adopted later in my growing up time, I didn’t have the full lifetime of exposure to this hard to come by trait. I am often late, for one thing. I do admire this dependability, though. It just seems like such a reach. (I think of my dad like I would a superhero, possessing abilities I do not have.) I am glad, though, that when my arm is too short, my legs tired of climbing, when I feel like I just don’t make the grade, steep as it is, the Hand of Grace reaches down to bridge the gap. 

The wonder of Christmas is about faithfulness. God had been hinting and pointing and nudging and promising the Messiah for a long time, to get us ready when He came. This was a time of great learning, mankind was not a bunch of cavemen beating rocks together. We had no excuse; but our hearts were cold, and most people missed it. For pete’s sake there was a HUGE new star in the sky and we were so wrapped up in ourselves that we missed the birth of our Savior! Jesus was the answer for their questions. He was the balm for their hurts. He was the Friend for the lonely and forgotten. But the issues of day to day living were too big in the eyes of the world then. Today, we are no different. Perhaps if we remember a present for everyone on our list we will be filled with that elusive Christmas joy. Maybe if we attend every single community sing and Pops orchestra program, or at least catch them on TV, we will experience the wonder. Maybe if our house is covered in lights… We go broke. Our feet ache. We ache with mourning and loss. The Holiday have-tos bear down on us and the TV and radio and internet are all bursting with the message of give, give, give…..but give STUFF!! No wonder our hearts are so cold. We can’t warm ourselves with things. A mountain of gifts will not make anyone feel less lonely, or more-loved. Of course, we all enjoy receiving presents, but this is not the point. Our hearts are still cold. (To be continued…)

 “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~ Revelation 3:17-22 NIV

 

In Blog We Trust


“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous- to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.” – Thomas Mann

I love technology! I love movies that I can watch at home, music I can listen to at home, games I can play by myself at home, social media which helps me communicate with friends and family at home. I can take technology anywhere and have it all at my fingertips. What an amazing thing to be able to do anywhere and everywhere. Technology is so amazing, however, that a large majority of us, myself included, are beguiled to a point that we no longer look up to see what living, breathing people are waiting to talk to us, show us something, climb into our laps, go out for coffee, ask for our advice in person, hire us, promote us, teach us, or learn from us.

How ironic is it that social media makes us less social? I was soo struck by the sad irony of this phenomenon, in fact, that I had to take a break in the middle of writing this blog post to turn around and ignore my computer instead of my family. It’s been several days now and I am actively trying to engage my family more and more often, in spite of the seductive pull of the “time-waster” sitting on my desk. Today is the last day of school for my four older children. I will have an entire summer of chances to interact with my kids since everyone’s schedule will be more flexible. Am I up to the challenge?

People are demanding. They want our actual attention when they talk to us. They talk about things we don’t want to talk about. They say things we can’t control. They feel. This can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and irritating at times, but wading through the “peopleness” of people is how we build relationships. It is also the way we connect with God. Thankfully, God is ever patient with his children. I’m sure we can be tiresome, especially when he knows that oftentimes we know better.

The point of this post today isn’t about tolerance for the sometimes annoying habits of the people all around us. I’m not trying to convince anyone that technology, in general, or social media, in particular, is evil. I LOVE these innovations! I am, however, advocating balance. It’s funny sometimes which words make people cringe. For Christians certain over-used “buzzwords” like balance, proactive, centered, empower, etc, can really be “deal breakers”. (Ha ha) Balance, however is a Biblical concept first advocated by God himself.

“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” – ECCLESIASTES 7:16-18 NIV

Perhaps the answer to the dilemma of the time-sink that is the internet is not to be found in a cold turkey avoidance approach. Technology can be a wonderful tool. We would also be seriously kidding ourselves to think that we could dismiss it as a passing fad. Technology and social media are here to stay. We do need to establish some boundaries (another cringe-worthy buzzword). Just like the telephone or visitors to your front door, YOU are the one who has the power to set the limits for yourself and your family. Would you allow a guest to come into your house in the middle of the night for an unexpected, non-emergency cup of coffee? Does just anyone in the world have permission to enter your home? I seriously hope your answer is no to these questions. As the song goes, “We are the world.” Are you reading thios and other blogs when you should be doing something else, like plunging the bathroom sink, changing the baby, writing a report, reviewing your child’s homework, etc? These words will wait for you, life will not. The entire internet will wait for you. Your life is ticking away a second at a time, just as mine is. What is filling your time?

The mystery and beauty that is the internet is chock full of nuts certainly, but ultimately of dreams. As it was said by Dumbledore in the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Since we cannot take Harry Potter as our ultimate authority for life, naturally, we must also look to what God says about this.

“KEEP YOUR foot [give your mind to what you are doing] when you go [as Jacob to sacred Bethel] to the house of God. For to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools [carelessly, irreverently] too ignorant to know that they are doing evil. [Gen. 35:1-4; Exod. 3:5.] Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words. When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him). Pay what you vow. [Ps. 50:14; 66:13, 14; 76:11.] It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. [Prov. 20:25; Acts 5:4.] Do not allow your mouth to cause your body to sin, and do not say before the messenger [the priest] that it was an error or mistake. Why should God be [made] angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? [Mal. 2:7.] For in a multitude of dreams there is futility and worthlessness, and ruin in a flood of words. But [reverently] fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is]. If you see the oppression of the poor and the violent taking away of justice and righteousness in the state or province, do not marvel at the matter. [Be sure that there are those who will attend to it] for a higher [official] than the high is observing, and higher ones are over them.” – ECCLESIASTES 5:1-8 AMP

So much information can be found on the internet, for self improvement, for crafts, for DIY projects, for help with marital issues, and on it goes. The rabbit trails that we are led upon do not benefit us unless we turn from our “information gathering” and actually live them out! I have seen a small portion of the blogs available for perusal online. They have inspired and challenged me. I must live my life, though, not just read about living my life, not just sit by the window and dream like Bilbo Baggins.

When it comes to the passage above, it may seem rather confusing. If you see this in the light of daydreaming, it’s not too difficult to connect some dots. When we daydream, or use our imaginations, or over-think about things, including serious life situations such as injustice, oppression, and evil, we risk not ever actually doing anything about any of it. You and I may not be capable of righting all wrongs and saving every victim; but we can all do something about the day to day we are faced with in our own neighborhoods and lives. It doesn’t do us any good to get all worked up and show God our superhero capes during prayer and rant and rave about how much we can do when God is on our sides, if we never take any kind of action. (This is especially convicting to me I must admit.) Don’t only think about your life. Live your life. 

“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality,
Nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.
And such some of you were [once]. But you were washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and you were consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and you were justified [pronounced righteous, by trusting] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God.
Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.
Food [is intended] for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will finally end [the functions of] both and bring them to nothing. The body is not intended for sexual immorality, but [is intended] for the Lord, and the Lord [is intended] for the body [to save, sanctify, and raise it again].
And God both raised the Lord to life and will also raise us up by His power.
Do you not see and know that your bodies are members (bodily parts) of Christ (the Messiah)? Am I therefore to take the parts of Christ and make [them] parts of a prostitute? Never! Never!
Or do you not know and realize that when a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? The two, it is written, shall become one flesh. [Gen. 2:24.]
But the person who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.
Shun immorality and all sexual looseness [flee from impurity in thought, word, or deed]. Any other sin which a man commits is one outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own,
You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-20 AMP

What Would Scooby Doo?


“It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase “As pretty as an airport” appear” – Douglas Adams

Life is full of things that may be seen as mere coincidence, or strange irony. Some things just have an odd order of appearing. For instance, I was pretty pleased with myself for taking all of the musty sleeping bags out of the freezer they’d been stored in and carefully washing and drying each one with plenty of detergent and bleach and fresh air and sunshine. I felt very good about myself as a mom…..until my husband, who hadn’t yet smelled the funk, told me our 11 yr old daughter already took one, before I could wash it, on a 5-day field trip with her class. Sigh. It would be great to be the mom of something besides children sometimes, maybe houseplants. I do love my children, fiercely, possessively, like a bear with donuts mixed with bacon grease. (I saw this once in a National Geographic special on grizzly bears. In NO WAY am I condoning bear baiting, by the way.) Sometimes the level of ironic coincidence can be overwhelming, however.

Remember those times you searched and searched for something, only to find it the moment after the need for it has passed; like when you send your baby clothes and toys and equipment to Goodwill or sell it at a garage sale, and then learn you are yet again expecting? What would you call it if you walked out of a job and then found out you had been in line for promotion, or the time you refused to say “I love you”, or “I’m sorry”, and then death made your choice a regret? The different odd happenings in our lives can be humorous, tragic, or seemingly inconsequential; but even in the trivial matters, God’s fingerprints can be seen.

Many people ran late on the morning of September 11, 2001. The causes for their lateness were the usual things that make us run behind schedule. On that day, the trivial had lifesaving ramifications. Sometimes we end up on the road in a hurry and stuck in traffic, or behind a slow driver who will not pull over. Sometimes, many times, these ironic and frustrating situations just might be saving our lives. Even a swarm of hornets can be an instrument of God’s plan. (Deuteronomy 7:20) The phrase “the devil is in the details” rings false. It is not the enemy of our souls who arranges the day to day circumstances we find ourselves facing, but God.

Perhaps your situation is more calculated than coincidence. Perhaps you are under some sort of trial that is the creation of your enemies. God has much in store for you as well. Remember that it is God who has the final say. In my house, I call it a parent’s ultimate veto power, on pretty much anything that goes on inside the house whether its movies, bedtime, chores, attitudes, rewards, punishments. Since we are all under God, whether we think so, believe so, or not. God has ultimate veto power, being God and all. In Psalm 67, David yet again cries out to God because he was under pressure from those who were pursuing his downfall and even death. He had done nothing to deserve their animosity, and yet they were out for blood, literally.

“HEAR MY voice, O God, in my complaint; guard and preserve my life from the terror of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel and conspiracy of the ungodly, from the scheming of evildoers, Who whet their tongues like a sword, who aim venomous words like arrows, Who shoot from ambush at the blameless man; suddenly do they shoot at him, without self-reproach or fear. They encourage themselves in an evil purpose, they talk of laying snares secretly; they say, Who will discover us ? They think out acts of injustice and say, We have accomplished a well-devised thing! For the inward thought of each one [is unsearchable] and his heart is deep. ” – Psalm 67:1-10

The story of Joseph which begins in Genesis 37, is chock full of situations that seem orchestrated to humble this man who though seriously talented and gifted had a bad case of conceit. He was not the way he needed to be in order to fulfill his God-given destiny. His character couldn’t support it. Pride, after all must go or we WILL fall.

Hebrews 11 talks about a number of people who lived during Biblical times who saw past the temporal now-ness of their circumstances and looked toward God, who they were certain had their future well in hand. Of course they saw their circumstances for what they were, frustrating, disheartening, heart-breaking, maddening, preposterous, and seemingly impossible. They faced things that we do; but God was bigger in their eyes than their situations.

What would Scooby Doo do? Most likely he would panic, then run and hide. What will you do? Will you see your everyday coincidences as threads in a grand tapestry? Will you see your life as a series of mistakes and retakes? Is it all just an accident, or is there a plan, even behind your pain?

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

 

 

The Wind in Your Sails


“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh (American writer and aviation pioneer, 1906-2001)

There are times when being a Christian seems to entail a great deal of goal-setting and to-do list making. IF we pray without ceasing; and have faith to move mountains; and love our enemies; and bathe once a day at least; and speak to other Christians with songs, hymns and spiritual songs; and only wear a suit and tie or dress to church; and never swear; and wait until you’re married; and never judge our neighbor;  and on the list goes…..then we can be a good Christian and cross those things off our be-a-good-guy/girl list. Somehow, though, we never seem to remember all the things we are supposed to do, or do them well or often enough. We get bogged down with the serious metaphysical and theological questions of life, and we forget what it’s all about in the first place.

“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires. If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.] Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.” – GALATIANS 5:22-26 AMP

Yes, we want to work on improving as individuals in general and become more like Christ specifically; but Jesus did not come to die to bind us with rules and regulations that we could beat ourselves (and each other) over the head with when we failed to follow them exactly. Jesus came to free us and to help us along the way as we become sanctified through cooperation with his work in our lives. Jesus came to give us life!

“So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep. [Ps. 23.]” – JOHN 10:7-11 AMP

If we spend too much of our lives weighed down with the supposed rules and regulations of what a Christian is supposed to do, then we miss out on the JOY, which is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) Without this strength, our days are flat, dull, and empty of meaning. All the to-do lists in the world cannot make up for the hollowness of our accomplishments. Jesus’ own life was filled with turning aside from his routine, pausing, waiting, reaching out a hand to offer a healing touch, giving a word of comfort, of hope. His goal, you see, was people. You and I, those around us, both friend and foe, celebrities, drugstore clerks, the renowned, the forgotten; we are the goal, the prize Jesus died to win.

“Christ lived his life to bring hope, and died to become the bridge to ultimate love and joy and freedom and fellowship. Our lives can find fulfillment in taking hold of nothing less. So, the next time you find your joy taking a backseat to your ability to measure up, remember it’s not about what you can do, but about what Christ has already done.

But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith. [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.” – PHILIPPIANS 3:7-16 AMP

It’s a Great Day to Be New!


“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” John Maxwell

Right now I have a packet of seeds, several packets in fact, sitting in front of me on my desk. Have you ever looked at a seed, to simply marvel at the size of it? Even a very large seed, like from an avocado, is small when you take the time to consider the possibility and potential that lies inside. A seed on its own doesn’t usually give much of an indication of the eventual fruit of the tree or plant it will become. The majority of seeds are dry, sometimes withered, unattractive, and easy to discount, easy to overlook. I have never once felt hungry when looking at the seed of a watermelon or tomato or orange. I have never looked at an acorn or maple seed and thought, “Now that is some lovely shade.” There is a lot of time and work required to get anything of value out of a seed of any kind. Time……Work…..Time and work…….Hmmmmmmm…….. Did I lose anyone? 🙂

A funny thing about these seed packets is that they all look the same. They’re all about the same size and color. Some are slightly heavier or thicker, but for the most part, they are all the same: packets of potential. On the paper is printed the seed names, instructions for best results, and a hand-drawn picture of the expected plants lying dormant inside each one of them. (I love botanical prints, but that doesn’t really come into this post much. 😉 )

Each one of us, living on this Earth, is like a seed packet. Some of us contain the seed for great works, or beauty, or development, or discovery. Some of us contain the seeds to nurture and care for those around us, or lead, or inspire, or protect. Each of us, no matter what out outsides may look like, where we may live, what we believe, or who we love, or fear, or mistrust, have inside of us the seeds of who we were meant to be. Not all of those seeds will grow. Many will be poisoned by life and sin and choices of our own and others until we stop believing that there was ever anything good or helpful or wholesome or even worthwhile inside of us. Some of us will grow weary with the strange and capricious weather of the world and opt to not plant our seeds. Why risk the heartache and the long years of work and waiting to see if one or two of our dreams may come to pass? It’s too much to hope for. It’s too hard. Its too…..I’m not….They don’t care anyway. Who needs ________________ really?

STOP. Just stop and listen to yourself! What would have happened if the greats had said this and taken no and wait for answers to their burning questions?? Our world is a hard place to live now. Think about how much harder it would have been without the brave souls who paid the price necessary to plant their seeds! Do you think there’s no cost when you plant a seed? You just dig a hole, put the seed in the hole, cover it up with soil, and walk away?

What about the seed, leaving a safe place for the dark unknown, where there is mess and regular dealings with garbage, manure (to put it nicely), and all manner of threat from above and below? AFTER a lot of watering and sheltering, this most fragile living thing finally emerges weak, twisted, and STILL not anything like it’s potential promises. One seedling looks pretty much like any other. They are all delicate, sensitive, and easily discouraged or even killed. This is the fate of embryonic dreams. When we finally have the courage to go ahead and plant them, very often they seem to disappear and we wait an interminable amount of time for them to finally show some signs of hey-I’m-not-crazy-after-all! Patience is hard. We want what we want and we want it NOW!! There was no waiting involved in your imagination when the dream first come to you. There was no hard work or try, try, trying again. What gives? Now in the sick and weary world our dreams are held up for scrutiny and ridicule even by those we most love and that hurts very much. There are even times when we may forget what we even planted. (Wait, is this row radishes or rutabagas? *Author’s note: I will NEVER, EVER plant rutabagas in my garden. Also why is it spelled rutabagas when you pronounce it root-a-beggas? Anyway, moving on.*)

Some people would tell you that labeling your rows is just plain old common sense. I expect most serious gardeners would. I often forget to mark my seeds, or the kids move them, or play with them, or for Heaven’s sake eat them (who knows?)! I find this to be true quite a lot, and not only when it comes to the garden. I find myself distracted by life and the turmoil that comes with raising a big family, let alone dealing with my own inner turmoil and fears and sense of inadequacy as a woman, mom, and wife? I mislay my dreams and hopes and goals. Sometimes I mislabel them, like when I was still a single mom waiting for Mr. Wonderful. I labeled my hopes “Mr. Right”. I should have labeled them “Mr. Right-for-ME”. Alongside that goal, I should have also placed a marker for “Healthier, Happier, Self”.  That crop had to mature a bit first. (Take note, lonely single people.)

Set goals for your dreams. Measure their growth in benchmarks. Keep track of your hopes and dreams. Never forget how far you’ve already come! You are a packet of potential! It’s up to you to show the world what you have inside!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Amplified 

A Candle in the Wind


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night, Dylan Thomas

There are a lot of things which can snuff out the light in our lives. One of the most destructive is guilt. We become manipulated into doing and saying things we’d rather not. We lie to others to make them see us a certain way. We even lie to ourselves. “I’m not worthy.” “It’s no big deal.” “They didn’t mean to hurt me.” “They’re only trying to help.” “I owe them.” Relationships are difficult enough without the bitterness of guilt poisoning things. We sometimes just need to be brave enough to be honest with ourselves and others. Head games are for chumps.

So, how does avoiding guilt tie in with all this talk of light and candles, etc? The joy we bring to the journey is our light. It is very difficult to get light from a snuffed candle. Anything we allow in our lives that makes us continually unhappy will logically make it very difficult for us to be a blessing to anyone around us. A candle doesn’t just spontaneously light itself! As tenuous as our feelings of happiness and cheerfulness can be (and we cannot just chase warm fuzzies all the time), we have to take concrete steps to eliminate those nasty candle snuffers as much as possible. The whiny friend, the complaining relative, the gossiping neighbor, the manipulative co-worker; these are all relationships that will snuff out our joy and make us ineffective as lights in this already-dark-enough world.

Be careful with you. You’re the best you that you’ve got!

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

Marvelous Pigs in Satin


James: It’s like he said: Marvelous things will happen.

Glowworm: Did he say, “Marvelous pigs in satin”?

Grasshopper: No, dear lady.

[He takes out a megaphone and speaks through it]

Grasshopper: Marvelous things will happen!

(James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl)

As we travel down life’s road, we encounter situations that are many and varied. There is a lot of work involved. Sometimes the path is hot and dusty. Other times it is cold and windy. There are dark times, difficult times, long stretches where everything looks the same and it seems like we’re not making any progress. We wait, and wonder what the point is and why we’re here. We feel frustrated and lost and helpless…

However, that is not the entire book from cover to cover. There are other times, bright times, heartwarming, encouraging, sunny and marvelous. We have wide open spaces that appear along our path, glorious, roomy, and full of freshness. We can take in great breaths of air, take off our worn boots, wiggle our toes in the grass, squish them in the cool mud, and even bury them in hot sand. You can take off your weary pack, stretch your weary shoulders, fling wide your arms and draw the beautiful day into a soul embrace! Long have been the days of your travels, and toilsome. Your heart has been heavy, your mind confused. Bankrupt of all goodwill and generosity, you have shriveled in your heart, folded in upon yourself. Miserly have been your thoughts toward your fellow man. You were not made for this. Your heart was not fashioned for selfishness. Your mind was not created to only hold thoughts of self. For this reason, it is important to make full use of these times and allow your inner self to unfurl. Remember the caress of the soft breezes and the gentle whispers of love and value and ultimate endearment from the One who thought you worth the ultimate price, and paid it, and would again, and again in an instant. It is sufficient, however, that it was paid once and for all.

Now, as your wings unfurl, remember who you are, not a grasping, creeping thing, but a majestic, otherworldly being, with a resplendent soul. You have been washed, healed, and redeemed. You are in possession of knowledge so great that it can change a person from the inside out! Who are you, redeemed and beloved? What is your purpose? What will you do with this excellent and impossible love? Do you bury it? Do you keep it only for yourself? Why not instead open your heart to those struggling, creeping, suffering, despondent souls around you? Hold up the light for them so they, too, can exit that dark place to which you also once belonged. In this way, you carry the joy of the open spaces into the dungeons and shadows and cemeteries of life. You hold the power to free countless individuals, locked in the dark within their own souls. Knowing that such light and goodness exists, how can you not pass it along and extend a hand to a fellow traveler? The dark places of this world are made up of dark individuals and their dark deeds. Be a beacon that shows the way to the paths of peace.

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested and put in prison, He withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the country of Zebulun and Naphtali– That what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be brought to pass: The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, in the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles [of the peoples who are not of Israel]– The people who sat (dwelt enveloped) in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those who sat in the land and shadow of death Light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent (change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17