Come Undone


“Hey you, out there in the cold

Getting lonely, getting old

Can you feel me?

Hey you, standing in the aisles

With itchy feet and fading smiles

Can you feel me?

Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light

Don’t give in without a fight.” ~ Pink Floyd

Sometimes, after the pep talks end and the encouragement fades away, we are left alone in the dark; brittle, empty, and afraid. Sometimes we come to the end of ourselves and realize that our painful  situation is still going strong and we have nothing left to give. Sometimes, we find that we are not enough. What then? When reality smacks you in the face like a giant tidal wave, no amount of self-help, Oprah’s book club, pop-psychology will save you.

To borrow a quote from the movie Speed, “Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?” (Oh the irony of using a movie quote when I’m talking about facing reality, right? Seriously, sometimes you just have to poke a little fun at yourself.)

OK, so maybe not every situation is as life-and-death as that….but yours may be. Your situation could have you sweating bullets, or sweating because of literal bullets. We live in a very angry world. It seems no one can even state an opinion these days without bringing down a firestorm on their heads. You’d better not say something that someone else doesn’t like. You’d better never make a mistake. Further, you’d better never even suggest that there might be only ONE truth and that it is a Person named Jesus and that he died to save every one of us angry, opinionated, offended, fault-finding, hypocrites. I have realized as I go through life that it is the easiest thing in the world to say one thing and then do another when we come down to the sticking place. But I’m getting off track now talking about Jesus…..Oh wait, no I’m not.

So anyway, Jesus……because he is really what will help us all out here (as in our lives in this world), not more of our own opinions…… Jesus…Name above all names, beautiful Savior, glorious Lord, Emmanuel, God is with us, Blessed Redeemer, Living Word…….In the midst of very personal and painful trials with my own family, my loved-best-in-the-world, my children, my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my dearest of dear friends…I have had to camp out at the feet of Jesus and just weep on more than one occasion.

The funny thing is that from the outside, people have many opinions about the reasons we all hurt, the reasons someone else hurts, or you, or me (SOOO many opinions!!); but we’re all kind-of just winging it as we go. I mean, no offense to you planning, careful types. I know you’ve worked hard and you know where you want to go. Good for you! 🙂

But, let me just say, as a non careful-planning-type someone who knows, that plans unravel and stitches come out, threads holding you to other people fray and tear, buttons get lost and zippers break. Sometimes, many times, our best laid plans are just not enough. Sometimes we get the thing we’ve wanted, and sometimes we don’t. Quite often, in fact, we don’t get the things we want. Many times we get the thing(s) we never wanted instead. It quite honestly seems to be horribly, cruelly unfair.

So, there you are, sitting in front of the blank wall of disappointment, where all your hopes and dreams have been crushed by a giant, undeniable “NO”. And yet, failure teaches us. Pain molds us. Disappointment tests us. We cannot grow without it, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Without “NO”, there is no reason to change or improve. “No” hurts us deeply. However, “No” is not the final word written in our story.

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  2 Corinthians 1:19-22 Amplified

In our own lives, it will take each of us a good deal of time and thought and study to learn about the promises of God. We all have our own dreams and plans. Since we can’t honestly say that the purposes and motivations behind those plans and dreams are 100% godly, it behooves each of us to find out what God’s plans are for our lives and how they differ from our own often-frustrated plans….and how much God’s plans surpass ours in every way. 

Of course, a lot of us will say our own “No” here. We don’t believe it, and we don’t trust it…..but since we’re chatting as friends here, let’s call it truthfully what it is, this big “No” of ours:

We don’t believe GOD; and we don’t trust GOD.

There. I typed it out. You read it. No lightning has struck us. It’s not like it was a big secret anyway. 😉 A big part of the reason why we don’t see the fulfillment to the many promises of God is that we give less credence to the power, integrity, and intentions of the Maker of the Promises than we do to Starbuck’s when we order a drink at the drive-thru. In order to get past this stuff (and move on up, to the east-side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky as it were….you were singing along too, weren’t you?)….In order to set foot on the Promised Land instead of only hearing about it or seeing it from very far off, you and I have to grow up. (This post is taking me literally months as I stop and think about each new thought and walk some things out in my own life.)

You and I have got to quit playing at being followers of Christ, and actually take HIS lead and follow. Long ago, before Twitter or Facebook or any other ironically-named “social” networking site, there was such a thing as being a follower of Christ. The men and women who followed Jesus Christ were just like you and I. They had their own plans and hopes and dreams and families and heartaches and jealousies and livelihoods, etc…etc… Yet, each and every one of them was told to lay down his or her cares, take up their cross, and follow Christ.

When I was little and I would hear those stories with a child’s understanding, I thought they were basically left with the clothes on their backs. In my mind I saw this odd group of people trailing along in the desert wearing different colors of tunics and some sort of head coverings, like the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Their families were left behind. Their responsibilities were left behind. Basically, I thought Jesus asked them to beggar themselves and become outcasts. In my mind all I could picture was the loneliness, sacrifice and going without and being in want. I’ve heard it preached this way many times. Usually the follow-up example would be the rich young ruler, then riches were labelled a bad thing we all had to give up, and the collection plate would be passed.

Of course this kind of reasoning flies in the face of verses (from the NIV) like:

Psalm 23:1 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  

Matthew 11:28-30 ~ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

John 16:33 ~ “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

OK, calm down. I’m not spouting heresy here. Just be patient with me. 🙂 Some people are called to leave everything behind and follow Christ into a deep jungle, or a burning desert, or the urban inner city, etc. Not everyone is called to do that, however. In the Bible, Jesus had 12 disciples and there were many others who followed along at different times. They eagerly listened to the challenging and beautiful words of the Carpenter from Nazareth and then brought those words back to their lives and families. They returned to their responsibilities and loved-ones and God-ordained places. They reached out to the people around them every day, their neighbors, friends, and family. They gave their possessions and time and talents and even wealth to the cause of Christ. Spiritually, we are ALL called to set as priority one: Jesus Christ.

No, Christ doesn’t need our money. Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1) The people we share the world with, on the other hand, have just as many physical needs as we do ourselves. Therefore, we are presented with a very practical, no nonsense way of showing the love of Christ to the people we encounter every day. People need bus fare, rides to work, babysitters, help around the house, a hand to hold, a meal, a few bags of groceries, a shoulder to cry on, our knowledge, our skills, our time. As indicated by the verses above, our recompense isn’t only waiting for us on the other side of the grave. How does all of this fit in with the concept of coming undone and trusting God to fill in where we’ve fallen apart? I’m glad you asked. 🙂

 

“And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. [Isa. 40:5.]” ~ John 1:14 AMP

We, being so spiritually needy and helpless, needed someone to show us how we were supposed to put the laws and principles into living, breathing action. Much in the way a kindergarten teacher has to show their students how to hold a crayon or pencil, even to the point of physically molding the child’s fingers around the instrument, we all need to be shown how to do new things by someone who has already mastered them. Jesus came to show us the practical application of the Word of God, himself being the Word in the flesh.

Jesus came to walk it out for us. He came to show us what love actually looks like in human form. He became 1 Corinthians 13. He gave up everything to come down here in the mud where we live. He protected and taught. He served and healed. He befriended. He forgave. He took us by our sin-stained hands and raised us up. He gave us hope and a chance for a new beginning. Jesus invested himself in us. Now that is someone you can trust. Let’s look at a snippet from one of the verses above again.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. [Jer. 6:16.]” ~ Matthew 11:29 Amplified

When you’re feeling broken, you need someone to be gentle. When you’re grieving, you want tenderness, not a lecture. While I was figuring out how to say what I was figuring out for myself these past few months, I stumbled upon a Bible study about Jesus (which you can find here)In this study, a lot of emphasis was placed on Jesus’ character. The attribute I want to especially look at here is his gentleness.

“Behold, My Servant Whom I have chosen, My Beloved in and with Whom My soul is well pleased and has found its delight. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim and show forth justice to the nations. He will not strive or wrangle or cry out loudly; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets; A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering (dimly burning) wick He will not quench, till He brings justice and a just cause to victory. And in and on His name will the Gentiles (the peoples outside of Israel) set their hopes. [Isa. 42:1-4.] Then a blind and dumb man under the power of a demon was brought to Jesus, and He cured him, so that the blind and dumb man both spoke and saw.” ~ Matthew 12:18-22
In the previous chapter, Jesus bids us to learn from him and tells us that he is gentle. In the next chapter, we have the two pictures of the bruised reed and the smoldering wick. Then immediately after this there is an extremely bruised and smoldering individual who is brought to Jesus. So we can watch him. We can see if he will do what he says he will do. Jesus healed and restored him. Once again, Jesus shows us with his own actions all the things that God’s word has been telling us. He is his own proof.
So, maybe today you are feeling bruised, mistreated, and misunderstood. Maybe, like a smoldering wick, you feel that your own abilities, patience, strength, and importance are used up. Perhaps you feel forgotten. Perhaps you feel like the world has thrown you away. I want to tell you that God sees you. Jesus died for YOU. You are not an accident. You are not a mistake. God has not forgotten you! The breaths you take right now as you read this are no mistake, like someone somewhere just left the TV on and you happened to be in the room.
This life of yours has meaning; YOU HAVE MEANING.
If you are hurting, let me just tell you as someone who has hurt as well, deeply, and come out on the other side, the other side of hurt does come. In the meantime while you are still in the valley, still taking shallow breaths and gritting your teeth against the pain, taking one day at a time, hoping against hope..Remember there is a gentle Savior who walks right along with you. He will sustain you, and he will lead you eventually out on the other side. Keep your eyes on this gentle Jesus. He is our best hope and comfort in this life. He is true to his word. He is able to lead you through and out of any valley you may be facing. One day, Jesus will lead us gently out of the final valley, and we will be home.

“Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. [Ezek. 37:27.] God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away. [Isa. 25:8; 35:10.] And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new. Also He said, Record this, for these sayings are faithful (accurate, incorruptible, and trustworthy) and true (genuine). [Isa. 43:19.] And He [further] said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I [Myself] will give water without price from the fountain (springs) of the water of Life. [Isa. 55:1.] He who is victorious shall inherit all these things, and I will be God to him and he shall be My son.” ~ Revelation 21:3-7

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Pie in the Sky, and Why You Should Try


“If you run, you might lose. If you don’t run, you’re guaranteed to lose.” – Happy Birthday to Jesse Jackson (born on October 8, 1941) 

Ahh Fall! I love this time of year! It has always spoken to me of hearth and home, gathering in, and, naturally, being thankful that we have been kept alive all this year. It also makes me think of all the opportunities we have been given. Some opportunities have gone by the wayside, and rightly so; some, however, we should not have let pass us by. Making dinner for a sick friend, making time for our loved ones, making up, making amends…sometimes we can’t see the grand purpose of our lives through the day to day survival and routines. We miss out. We miss opportunities.

I’ve blogged about missed opportunities before (https://freeatlastww.com/2012/06/21/in-the-palm-of-your-hand/ , https://freeatlastww.com/?s=opportunity …), but my main point today is those “pie in the sky” opportunities. If something just seems too good to hope for, many times we settle for something we are worthy of, in our own minds. We think of ourselves as less than, so we accept a life that is less than. I read an article recently that talked about the way our relationships damage us and make us see ourselves as unworthy. This makes us much more likely to tolerate people who mistreat us, because, hey, that’s all we’re worth, right? Why should we hold out for people who respect us, when we don’t respect ourselves? That’s a topic for another blog, perhaps. 🙂

Personally, I have had this burning desire to write books for as long as I can remember. I’ve taken many side roads along the way. There have been times when I felt that I was kidding myself. (I can’t write, I’m wasting my time, etc.) The desire remains inside of me to write and become a published author. I can always improve, naturally; but my love affair with words is going strong. I expect I will always have this dream, because it is part of me. I expect you may also have a “pie in the sky” dream. Are you pursuing it? Are you working on it? Have you given up? No dream is too big. Men have walked on the moon, cured numerous diseases, fed the hungry, improved the quality of life, made fortunes, composed sonnets….on and on it goes. Sometimes, we may be really gifted in a particular area but still have a niggling dream somewhere else too.

A few months back, I had the privilege to stumble upon a video of Sir Anthony Hopkin’s waltz entitled “And The Waltz Goes On” being performed by André Rieu & His Johann Strauss Orchestra. It brought tears to my eyes. To think that this had been composed over 50 years ago, yet remained largely hidden all this time. It’s been quite a while since I saw the movie Mr Holland’s Opus, but I remember feeling the same sort of lifting in my spirit. How beautiful to not only dream your pie in the sky, but to finally be able to take a big bite!

Pursuing your dreams means a lot of work, and tears, and skinned knees, and falling on your face, and praying, and praying, and praying some more. I’ve had times where I realized I’d gotten a little too fixated on the Amazing Jessie, complete with fanfare. I had missed the point of my given dream. There IS, you see, a Dream Giver. He sits on high, high and lifted up, shining in the light of His Glory… God isn’t just some grumpy finger-wagger though we often make Him out to be. He isn’t a genie we can make wishes on, or a magic flute we can play whenever we’re unhappy. God is majestic, benevolent, all-knowing, forgiving, and GIVING. God gives us our gifts to give to others as well as to lead us back to Him. 

For my part, I feel God speaking to me through the motives of my characters, as well as their fears, failings, and triumphs. A musician might hear God in the harmony of notes, the precision and order of a well-played riff or chord. An architect might study the designed alignment of structures and see intent in the weight they can bear, their resistance to fire and earthquake. There is a seed of God in everything. It is sometimes difficult above the tumult of pain and suffering and injustice to see and hear His symphony, yet it is playing for you and me right now. God’s song of love for us has always been playing. 

Maybe when your “impossible Dream” comes to mind, you can remember that this dream was given to you by One who makes ALL THINGS POSSIBLE. Perhaps this dream is the song he sings over YOU. You are not alone. 

Today perhaps you should look again at this Pie in the Sky. Remember the flavor, the spice of it. Remember that aroma as it wafts again your way. God’s love for you is never failing. He is wooing you through the notes of this song, the nuance and specificity of your dream. Nothing can get in between you and His love for you. Nothing can keep you from the fulfillment of God’s gifts in your life. Nothing.

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

The Day of Small Beginnings


“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser (excerpted from the poem Elegy in Joy)

A seed, an egg, a single living cell, a word, a look, a thought….big things start with small things. A small thing can make a huge difference.  For instance, consider a lion cub, small, warm, golden, vulnerable. One day this cub will grow and become a threat, dangerous, a killer. Beautiful, still, but not longer vulnerable, warm and golden, but now a serious challenge. This cub is now a king! Many things in our lives, both terrible and benign, begin with something insignificant.

If we set bits in the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we can turn their whole bodies about. Likewise, look at the ships: though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze! ~ JAMES 3:3-5 AMP

It behooves us all to pay attention to the small things, the beginnings. A great deal of time and hard work, and hard work over time, is needed to bring great things into reality. Grand empires, dynasties, monopolies, legacies, every thing you hope to accomplish or possess under the sun, every wish, every hope, every promise….well, you get the idea. 🙂 The trick is to see the potential and draw hope from it, instead of seeing the immensity of the mountains you have to climb on the way there. Even Mt. Everest is conquered one well-timed step at a time. Our choices today shape our tomorrows.

As much as personal responsibility and choice are lauded these days, it is perhaps also wise to consider the choices of God. Ever the cheerleader for the underdogs, God chooses us often when we feel the least able to accomplish the impossible dreams he sets in our hearts. We are, if we will be courageously honest, admit that we are small, wretched things, riddled with weakness, misconceptions, infirm in our minds, biased in our opinions, unbalanced in our preferences and life choices. A quick review of the history of the world will tell you all you need to know.

 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:25-29

Perhaps, instead of being impatient with slow starts and small beginnings, we should be encouraged, not because of our own amazingness or ability, but because God, in his unsearchable wisdom, by his unfathomable prerogative, has chosen small things, has blessed small things. God’s real glory and immensity is best seen when our pseudo-substitute glory isn’t in the way. When we are no longer distracted by our opinion of ourselves, whether for good or bad, we will be able to truly look up from our position as objects of grace and mercy at the vast Majesty that is God. Small things are not remarkable in and of themselves. Their worth lies in something far outside of themselves.

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
 You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
 
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!” ~ Psalm 8 

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 

Hope Deferred, and Deferred, and Deferred…


“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” Eliza Tabor

Where I live, there is a common saying that Spring has not arrived until the snow flattens the daffodils.  Let me tell you, it is as true as it is disappointing.  The lovely, cheerful yellows, oranges, and whites under a blanket of snow is a bittersweet beginning to the end of winter’s long, slow sleep. Winter can seem so long and drear, it is sometimes hard to remember that it lasts only for a time. Winter, however, is only a season, even in the mountains. Everything in nature tells us that nothing lasts forever. Winter eventually turns to spring, every time. The seeds that go into the ground eventually sprout and rise from the soil as young seedlings, already well on their way to become the dreamed-of plants we originally intended to plant in our gardens.

Life, like the natural seasons, has its times of growth, blooming, death, recovery, and most of all, waiting. Sometimes it seems we wait forever, until the day at last arrives when we see the fruit of our labor, tears, prayers, and long, sleepless nights. Our hopes and dreams usually follow a wait, as well as a lot of hard work and planning. We often have to implement a lot of changes and innovations to our old ways of thinking and doing and talking. We make new contacts, buy new things: clothes, tools, buildings, etc.  (Dreams are many and as varied as the people who dream them.) We also often lose weight, start exercising, add rooms on to our homes, build, begin, become.

Days, weeks, and sometimes years pass before we are able to see our dreams come true. Most likely, more time passes than we anticipate. More money is spent than was in our original budget. More work was necessary than our original estimate. Our plans alter as we prioritize and fix our sights on the future and the realization of our hopes and dreams. We do a lot of waiting… “One day”, we think.  “Someday”, we hope. “But when? But how? But how long??” we cry.

“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48
Twelve years is a long time to wait, especially when an unpleasant situation continues to take its toll. Scorn, ridicule, shame, and more were this woman’s food for thought for twelve long, and exhausting years. Outcast and broken both physically and financially, she encountered Jesus, and followed in his wake until she was able, perhaps during a pause in his gait, to grab hold of just the smallest part of his clothing. She believed that even a brief encounter could change her life and make her whole. She was at first afraid of what she had done, but hoped on in spite of her boldness and the social impropriety of what she had done. Her shocking presumption to touch a man who was not her husband was met, not with a frown or yet more derision, but with the love of a Savior, whose purpose was to seek and save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
You are probably waiting for something today. You may have been waiting for a really long time. The continued waiting is probably frustrating, wearing, and discouraging to you and the people who wait with you.
Be encouraged. The snow WILL melt. Spring WILL come. One day will eventually be TO-DAY. Your waiting will not last forever.

More Than Fine


TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real !   Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

The Psalm of Life – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

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Sometimes we need a reboot. There are situations and circumstances that bring us down. People will disappoint us. We will fail. In life, we have to know there will be good with the bad. It’s all wrapped up together in the package called LIFE. As we adjust ourselves, recuperate, and pick up the pieces, we learn, improve our understanding, and grow. As many people have experienced first-hand in the last few years, financial troubles can lead to desperation, despair, and giving up on dreams once held dear. It’s not that we can’t undergo trials without falling completely to pieces. There are times, however, when the road we attempt to take on the way to our dreams actually leads us nowhere. We actually need these detours to lead us to the places we need to go in order to be ready for the grand dreams we all hold in our hearts.

Maybe you’ve forgotten your dreams, or laid them down due to outside pressure or difficulty. Perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that real life has no place for your dreams, or maybe even gotten the mistaken idea that the magical fantasy land of your dreams holds no place for you! I need to let you know right now that as long as there is life, there is also hope.

You are not finished. You are not defeated. Every moment is another chance, another choice. Don’t give up. You can do this!

“Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?— and treat your servants with kindness for a change. Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long. Make up for the bad times with some good times; we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime. Let your servants see what you’re best at— the ways you rule and bless your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!”

Psalm 90:11-13 (The Message)

The Head and Not the Tail…


“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”

Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Philosopher, internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest, 1869-1948)

There are times in life when we may need to change our situation for a time in order to fulfill our dreams; this is a common belief, that we need a big location for our big dreams. Some people think that when inspiration hits them, it is meant for them at another time and place. Other people think that they need to BE bigger, more important or more impressive in order for them to live out their big, important, impressive dreams. I used to think this too. Perhaps you do as well. Perhaps you have come to believe that small little you cannot ever see those dreams come true, those dreams that light your days with possibility like the sun and put a sparkle in your eyes.

Let me tell you right now that absolutely, unequivocally, and without a doubt, you are WRONG.

The dreams God plants inside us are, at first, seeds. There is some growing on our part that is necessary, but it is growing on the INSIDE that will actually get us ready for these dreams to come to light. Our outer limits (such as budget, reputation, economic resources, personal beauty, etc.) are much less limiting than we think they are. You see, if the Dream Giver plants a dream, He is well aware of what is needed for that dream to come true. God gives us dreams where we are for a reason. We may have to leave for a time, but we may eventually find ourselves walking familiar paths as we return to old stomping grounds and see the tiny green tips of our dream start to grow.

You are absolutely important enough right now for the dreams you carry in your heart. The reason is: Your dreams are not about you. Your dreams are not even FOR you. Your dreams are for everyone else in the world; and your dreams are all about God, the Dream Giver.

We are entrusted with dreams that require our care and time and patience. God has the resources and the wisdom to bring things to fruition in due time. Our job, then, is not to be billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist, or any such thing. God wants us, the very person with our very personality, experiences, and past, perfected to be the very best us for our very best dream. Nothing less than you will do. Everything else is beside the point.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading trough. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out. The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and in all that you undertake. And He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to Himself, as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. And all people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name [and in the presence of] the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity, through the fruit of your body, of your livestock, and of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord shall open to you His good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day and are watchful to do them. And you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28 : 1-14 (Amplified Bible)

“The Way is Shut”


“Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.” Sir Laurence Olivier (English Actor, Producer and Film Director, 1907-1989)

What do we do when the road reaches a dead end? Where do we turn? How do we go on when disappointment after disappointment overshadows all our brightest hopes and dreams?

It can be so tempting to give up when we look failure in the face and see its empty eyes staring blankly. Sometimes we will fail, and that is the simple truth of it. Failure is as blind as justice, and just as impartial. Just as natural disasters strike people of all kinds and characters, failure, too, sits in all our paths eventually. Then our dreams seem so foolish. The pessimists seem to rule the day. Our hopes evaporate into the blank, still air. There we are, fallen on the pavement with our skinned hands and knees, bleeding, hurt, humiliated, and confused. What went wrong? How did this happen? Why can’t I win??

It is never a pleasant posture to be in when we find ourselves on our faces in the dirt, instead of soaring through the air like Icarus and Daedalus. Although, if you remember correctly, they had their own disappointments. They also found their faces in the dirt.

“Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” Henry Ward Beecher (Liberal US Congregational minister, 1813-1887)

Sometimes, perhaps, it takes a failure to point us in the right direction. Every great inventor and innovator has dealt with numerous failures on the way to ultimate success. Maybe one reason for this is that every discovery lies somewhere outside the realm of the known. The direction is vague, if we have a direction at all. Sometimes, all we have is a fuzzy sense that there must be a better way, or better idea, or better life. When we fail, we are made aware of our limitations. If we know the problems, we can work to fix them, after all.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (American Baptist Minister and Civil-Rights Leader. 1929-1968)

Many, if not all, of our world’s greatest and most inspiring figures have faced crippling failure and humiliating defeats on the way to ultimate victory. If we are able to look past the gravel embedded in our scraped hands and knees, we will see the powerful truth behind every failure we encounter. Failure should not send us running for cover. Every failure is a lesson. Experience may be a hard teacher, but it DOES teach us many things. Time spent on the ground can help us to clarify, for ourselves, if this goal is worth the fight. Every time we stand back up again, we grow stronger. Every time we stand back up again, we demonstrate our faith and perseverance. Some things, are simply worth the work.  

So, remember the next time you find yourself choking on dust and picking rocks out of your wounded pride, remember that this fight is not over yet! You are still here! You may not be standing yet, but you will stand at the last, no matter what.

 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way. Psalm 18 : 32-36


The Dawn of Hope


Hope being born reflects on someone’s countenance. They are alight, aglow, they have a look of fulsome expectation. Hope is like a child, tiny and hidden, growing safely within its mother’s womb. The mother feels it growing, knows when it kicks, feels the little jumps and tumbles, sees the changes in her body. There is a joy that settles on her that makes her radiant. New life is on its way. Dreams to dream, plans to plan, so much to do before the special arrival. Such a special guest deserves for life to be turned on its end and redone completely. Even the grout around the tub has to be “just so”. Hope lives in the womb of the heart. Sometimes the ache of happiness is so great it makes the tears come, the appetite fail. It’s very much like being madly in love.

For long stretches we wait, and toil, our dreams held captive in our barren daily lives and rituals. We feel like something has died inside of us. Our hope withers, our cheeks no longer bloom. The one day, there is an inkling, a hint, a chance that maybe, possibly, our life will change, our dreams can be realized at last. There is a tiny flame that ignites inside of us, a twinkle, like a smile being born for the first time after much sorrow.

I have known this feeling a precious number of times in my life. Each of my children were like this for me. My husband coming into my life after years of struggling as a single mom was very much the same kind of hope. Love in bloom is a wonder to behold. It makes us young again, gives wings to our hearts and heels, and sets our minds reeling. Hope in bloom is a wonder of a similar kind. We can dare to dream, outrageously, ostentatiously, and sometimes obnoxiously. As anyone who has has the experience of being around two sweethearts during their courtship will testify, it can be frankly noisome for those who aren’t included in the mad, infatuating rush.

Thankfully, the kind of hope I’m talking about is open to anyone with breath in their body. God has giddy plans for each one of us. He knows the number of hairs on our heads,  the unique personality, the songs our hearts sing. Even when the blaring, glaring life with its thorns and razors and cuffs around the ears have all but silenced our hearts’ song, He knows it by heart and is singing it to us all the while. Everyday of our lives, He sings over us this song born in His heart and planted in ours.

This song speaks of Salvation, certainly; but it also speaks of a Lover taking the hands of His bride to lead her to the dance floor. He sings all day long, in the caress of rain on the windowpane and down our cheeks, if we venture out. His notes can be seen in the flock of birds that rise before us as we walk along, and heard in the sigh of the sunset as the sky blushes over us in the evening. Tiny discrete bouquets of flowers around a bend in the road, carpets of riotous color across entire hillsides, shape-shifting clouds that flirt with our imaginations as they fly overhead, the roar of waterfalls, the chitter of birds; all of these are merely notes in His unending love song. From the day we are born until the day we breathe our last, the notes reverberate; and He waits.

I always imagined that Heaven was like an immense choir, orchestra, and band all combined. Everyone there has a specific, individual part, and it all worked in harmony. Finally, here we get the chance to sing His song back to Him, and the words are the stories of our lives and the great and amazing things He has done in us and through us and to us and for us. He loves us all, yes, but He loves EACH one of us, separately and completely. He waits for us because of this mad exuberant love He has for each and every one of us. He longs for us to join the dance.

So the question I have for you today is this: What is the song of your heart? Can you even remember its notes? Do you recall its rhythm? Does your body sway softly, now and then, when you hear the notes playing faintly? What sets you on fire because you know, without a doubt, that this song is yours and your alone? He is waiting for you to join in His dance. How long will you make Him wait?

My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves  is heard in our land.The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Song of Songs 2:10-14