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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Run On Your Face


“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – Inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City

Sometimes in a race, the glorious competitors have inglorious moments. Sometimes the supreme athletes trip and fall. Olympians have bad days too; but what sets a champion apart from every other athlete? Maybe those who win aren’t the most talented or the brightest stars in the sky (take that however you like and you will surely be right). Maybe a winner is simply the one who keeps going? Maybe the champion gets up again, even if he/she has to hobble the rest of the way? Maybe sometimes a race is won by crawling the last stretch. Possibly you can only win if you choose to crawl the last bit. Sometimes, all we can do is crawl, barely moving, injured, heartbroken, weeping, bleeding, shattered both physically and mentally. Help is near, and relief is in sight; but not just yet……not just yet… Right now, it seems too cruel that you would be expected to get up with your hurts so fresh, your humiliation so current, your failure so complete. I have faced this situation numerous times, naturally; we all do, and have, and will. One time, in particular, comes to mind, when I was 22.

I was in the middle of my marriage falling apart, outnumbered and out-gunned by my in-laws on every side. I was a confused, whimpering, cowardly, cringing, craven mess! I was used to someone else taking care of things. I had a toddler to think about; and I wanted someone to just FIX IT. My ex has mental issues that blew us all out of the water right around the time of my birthday. His poor family didn’t know what to do either. At one point our frequent marital spats were blamed, at another point, I was. However, writing truthfully about past hurts is difficult. Honesty doesn’t always allow us to remain solely the victim, good, well-intentioned, and put-upon. Looking back, I know that I was not to blame for the abuse or the mental breakdown. There was a history of “off-ness”. I didn’t always help with my own choices and attitude, though. One thing became apparent over the several years I dealt with my ex’s mental fluctuations: the mind is a mystery even in this day and age. How much of a person’s behavior is choice, or hormones, or mental imbalance? How much of our wits are a result of past choices and their consequences? This is not going to be a post about mental illness. (I am absolutely not qualified to write that post. I am absolutely qualified to tell you about what I went through, however, so I will.)

The particular incident I wanted to relate was a quite memorable encounter with my brother-in-law, whom I was staying with at the time. He and his wife took me and my toddler into their home. There is always a lot of friction when someone does this. The negative bits of everyone’s personalities often “outshine” the positives because of the inevitable stress of living with someone else who is unfamiliar and doesn’t have the same priorities or worries as everyone else. I recall sleeping a lot, which did not endear me to my in-laws, let me tell you. I was depressed (did I mention my toddler and I were newly released from a battered women’s shelter?), and I was also newly pregnant. I suspected at the time, but felt so overwhelmed already that I was avoiding actually dealing with the possibility. The queasiness coupled with the stress of the situation took 15 lbs off of my weight. I don’t recommend using that particular diet plan, to be honest. 🙂

One day, tired of my complaining and crying, and no doubt longing for his home to be his own again, he confronted me. He laid out some steps I should take to start picking up the pieces of my life and take care of my daughter. I continued to whine and cry and bemoan my fate, when finally he lost patience with me and threw away the paper he had been writing on for me. He basically said “Fine then, don’t listen to me! I’m done trying to help you!” Well, it hurt a lot, and for a moment I decided he was just a hateful person and didn’t understand why none of it was my fault, and the constantly rehearsed stream of why-mes started up in my head….BUT suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have to like what he was saying for it to be right. I realized I had no other options and that he WAS actually taking his time to try and help me. Even after I had this begin to dawn on me, it was actually physically painful for me to get up, go to the garbage, take out the paper, and walk back to him and ask me to help me. My shredded pride was a tough thing to choke back while I was still so hurt and angry. My wounded emotions screamed as I did it, BUT I DID IT ANYWAY.

No, of course, there were a lot of rocky patches as I used my own wobbly decision-making abilities and determination to struggle up the long hill toward self-sufficiency. Many nights I cried myself to sleep, and it was several years before I could finally break free from my rocky marriage; but it was a start. I faced down my own pride and hurt feelings more times than I care to remember, and still do, and will, gosh darn it, though I hate to even type that!

Sometimes, moving forward means we can’t just sit forever in one cushy hospital bed, or hidey hole, or friend’s house, or relative’s home and nurse your wounds forever. Sooner or later, we must all stand back up, even if we have to crawl for awhile first. Crawl, if you must. Weep if you must. Fear if you feel fear, but do not ever give in!

“You whom I [the Lord] have taken from the ends of the earth and have called from the corners of it, and said to you, You are My servant—I have chosen you and not cast you off [even though you are exiled].

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

Behold, all they who are enraged and inflamed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; they who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.

You shall seek those who contend with you but shall not find them; they who war against you shall be as nothing, as nothing at all.

For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you!” ~ Isaiah 41:9-13 Amplified Version

It Is Well…


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul. – It Is Well with My Soul, hymn written by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

 

I feel for you. Maybe your day is going a direction you didn’t plan for, or you are feeling the dull thud of disappointment inside right now. I feel for you. Let me give you a little background… Today started off quite well. It’s my husband’s birthday. He’s sleeping in because he works at night. The older kids are off to school. The 2 little ones and I are enjoying a peaceful morning…but then…

The 4 yr old started calling in that tattle-tale tone “Mooooooommyyyyyyyyy! Look what the baby did!” I look up from my coffee. It’s not pretty. The baby has thrown her breakfast over the floor. Did I mention I fed my kids sweet rice with cinnamon, sugar and milk? Yeah, it’s not pretty.(Did I seriously expect something different? Come on it’s a toddler with a bowl of potential nasty-mess.) We shall be referring to this in the future as Rice-Pocalypse. Then, after I am just getting over my pity party for that, I decide I would treat myself to a bathroom break and getting dressed in daytime clothes before the kids get home from school. I think indulgent thoughts sometimes. I get the occasional wild hair. Well, you can stop shaking your head because I was appropriately humbled and chastened. When I returned to the living room, feeling quite accomplished and ready for whatever the day might bring, my toddler one-upped me yet again. My desk, you see, is a staging area for all kinds of wonderful things. Usually, I will admit, it is a class action MESS! I recently cleaned it. BUT my precious notebook with tenderly scribbled notes for a pet children’s story lay open precariously close to my cup of warmed-over coffee, as did my keyboard, mouse, and speakers.

Sometimes, I like to take a little trip back in time to the moment before something truly terrible happened and live for a blissful moment in the ignorance and innocence of that moment. However, as I faced the sweet, brown puddle that was growing on my desk, seeping into every nook and cranny and POURING out of my keyboard when I turned it at an angle, I came to a hard realization. All the heel-clicking, no-place-like-home wishing, time travel to the time of Morlocks and Eloi, or plugging my ears and saying “lalalalalalala” would help me. I don’t know if it was the coffee in the keyboard or the growing stain of it soaking into my precious story, but something inside of me sprang a leak and it started to trickle out of the corners of my eyes as I tried to sop up the mess. Again, I felt sorry for myself. Again, I grudgingly admitted that this could have been prevented. The crush of disappointment for the day I hoped for was heavy on my chest. I did a stand-up impression of Eeyore for a few minutes. But then, words gradually came into my mind that I have heard a million times at church and funeral services: “It is well, with my soul.” 

It is often ridiculous to me when the “peace that passes all understanding” comes my way in insane situations. While I was cleaning up the soul-sucking coffee spill, my kids were fighting with the door of the movie cabinet and the toddler was asking for food, when her breakfast had only just been distributed across the floor, mind you. All of the above was done at high decibels, I might add. Still, I felt the words “It is well, with my soul.” God really has a quirky sense of humor sometimes I think. Naturally, I tried very hard to remember if I’ve prayed for any kind of personal character growth and maturity for myself lately. I always have a very fuzzy memory when it comes to things I decide to do that will be good for me.

So, in spite of the hurricane that blew through my morning, much of which I could have prevented myself, I find that it IS well with my soul. He’s got my whole mess in His hands. He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6), even in the middle of a fit. He’s not going anywhere, and he can get me through anything I face, whether it is a serious tragedy or just the day to day million straws that break the camel’s back kind of days. In the words of one of my very favorite preachers, I had to get on with it already. I cleaned up the mess and shut down my computer because my keyboard may be headed for that ever-growing pile of electronics in the sky and wouldn’t work a lick. I also put My-Lady-mess-a-lot down for a blessed, blessed nap. Now I’m typing this on hubby’s computer and enjoying a bit of respite as I am reminded that God’s got this. The world continues to spin and my life with it. Time to put on the big girl panties and be thankful.

God is, nonetheless, very, very good.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

Are You Blowing Off More Than Steam?


Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

“Impossible! That will never work for me! I could try that, but it would never make a difference! You don’t know my situation. You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my husband. You don’t know my sister, boss, brother, mother, father, friend, neighbor, co-worker……” Have you ever said these things, or thought them at least? There are a great many promises and precepts of God in the Bible. He lays out the moral and spiritual cause and effect pretty succinctly for us. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Knock and the door will be opened. Forgive and you will be forgiven. These are statements in the Bible. We have heard them since childhood. The problem is that we know but we don’t really act like we believe it.

For example, I know that if I put God first and set my mind on him, I will have an inner peace in spite of whatever is going on around me. Because of this, I will be a nicer person, less hostile, less defensive, harder to offend, kinder, more patient, more like Christ. But, I get “distracted”, entertain negative ideas in my head, criticize people and institutions instead of praying for them; I complain, argue, stew over past hurts, get jealous, feel rejected, abandoned, etc. It tends to snowball. So by 9 a.m. I am all worked up and my intention to put God first in my mind is back somewhere in the dust of my train wreck of “doing things my way”. My way stinks. It’s even in the Bible.

“I WAS [ready to be] inquired of by those who asked not; I was [ready to be] found by those who sought Me not. I said, Here I am, here I am [says I AM] to a nation [Israel] that has not called on My name. [Exod. 3:14; Isa. 58:9.] I have spread out My hands all the day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts–A people who provoke Me to My face continually, sacrificing [to idols] in gardens and burning incense upon bricks [instead of at God’s prescribed altar]; Who sit among the graves [trying to talk with the dead] and lodge among the secret places [or caves where familiar spirits were thought to dwell]; who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of abominable and loathsome things is in their vessels; Who say, Keep to yourself; do not come near me, for I am set apart from you [and lest I sanctify you]! These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence but will repay; yes, I will repay into their bosom.” ~ Isaiah 65:1-6
When it comes to people, I find it so hard to remember how much bigger God is than it all, yes, even than the seriously difficult people and circumstances in my life. We all have them, we may even BE them (we can be honest, it’s just friends here).  When I dredge up old hurts or things from people’s pasts, I’m engaging in a fruitless exercise. Much as I might wish otherwise, there IS no time travel. I cannot go back and call anyone into account. I do not have the ability or the authority. Would I want someone dredging up my past? Um, no thank you please. When I try to figure it out or “self-help, positive think” my way to a better, happier life, it’s like all those people so many years ago who tried to get advice from the dead or sacrifice to idols. Self is a massive idol, after all, so big we fail to see it many times. When I “distract” myself, it’s not by accident. I’m actually just acting out what I believe, deep down: I know better than God. The point I want to make though, in relation to blowing things off is this: when we make statements like the ones above about things being impossible, we call into question the very character and nature of God. If we deem the hard hardheartedness of someone as greater than the love of God, then we haven’t grasped yet that God is not only a God of power and love, but of reconciliation.
“Therefore if any person is [in-grafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come! But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him]. It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor). So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].” ~
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
So basically, after we get a good mind-scrubbing, we are left with this: God is the Creator. He makes things, and he makes things NEW. When we choose to look at people through the lens of their past, or our past, we discount God’s role as Creator and re-Creator. He doesn’t just patch us up. He is in the process of restoring us to the amazing purpose he had at the very beginning of things. Because I am being made new, I can trust that God has been working, is working, and will be working in the people and situations around me, just as he is working in me. When I have this firmly set in my mind, I can have peace knowing that God’s good plan includes some painful scrubbing of all the scrapes I’ve acquired, the diseases and infections that have set in on the inside of my spirit. Sometimes people can be a mirror. Nothing bugs a gossip like a gossip, or a know-it-all like another know-it-all. (That hurt a little for me too.) When I am able to keep myself from judging the inside of someone, which I cannot see, I allow God to show me some pretty amazing things like grace and mercy, peace and truth. God, after all, CAN see our insides. Many times when we see a stubborn, black lump, he sees a diamond in the rough, just waiting to be revealed. Moreover, when we give God his proper place it frees us from a lot of responsibility to “fix”, aka stew and fume and criticize (we are so clueless sometimes, aren’t we?).
An awful lot of expense (ie the suffering of Christ) has gone into God being available to us, because of us turning our backs on him in the first place. Ever generous, ever gracious, he has prepared a vast banquet for us, to share in his goodness, the majesty of his bounteous love and plain awe-inspiring self. Stop thinking of the burnt porridge and look at the table in front of you!
“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].” ~ Philippians 4:6-8

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

The Drawbacks of Being a Hippo


“Arrogance diminishes wisdom”
Arabian Proverb

When I was very young, my family used to visit a restaurant in San Francisco called The Hippopotamus, or Hippo. It was an amazing place, boasting a large array of hamburgers as well as a lit sparkler in the center of the bun and a whole crew of singing wait staff on your birthday. Awesome, right? Sadly, this restaurant no longer exists. (You can, however, read a bit more about it here: Remembering the Hippo)

As amazing as I thought going to The Hippo was when I was little, being called a hippo is not something I would put on my top ten goals, probably the same can be said of you as well. Why is this? Besides the common Western phobia of fat on the body, is the fact that in spite of cartoons and coloring book pages which suggest otherwise, hippos are really nasty, dangerous, territorial, lazy, gluttonous, and bad-tempered. As much as we might try to deny it, this does actually describe us all from time to time. It’s not anything we should aspire to be of course.

Another “character trait” of hippos I have observed (I am CRAZY over those nature shows) is their tendency toward arrogance. Now, hear me out before you start citing behavioral studies. If you are as big and mean as a hippo, you probably deserve a fairly wide berth. (What’s that joke about the 300 lb gorilla?) A hippo in the wild is large and in charge, no doubt. Not many other animals will tangle with them. Did you ever notice the HUGE mouth on a hippo?!? *CHOMP*

Unfortunately, if we will be brutally honest, many people, Christians at the top of the list a good majority of the time I’m afraid, could be characterized as hippos. Very full of ourselves and our “knowledge” of an un-knowable God and self-important, in spite of our actual status as the sinful, unworthy, ridiculous specks we are. (Don’t get me started on the inane amount of arguing we do among ourselves over silly doctrinal differences, while the world hurts, and suffers, and rages, and weeps all around us.)

Notwithstanding our majesty and wonder as creations of intent and divine purpose, the wonder, majesty, intent, and purpose are not our own. With the limited, imperfect knowledge we have of an infinite, and perfect God, we sure pat ourselves on the back a whole lot. Why is that again? Maybe we are getting a little too big for our britches. Maybe our self-conceit needs to diminish a bit while we remember the reason we celebrate Easter Sunday is NOT so we can parade around like arrogant runway models in our pastel finery. Maybe, while we smile fondly at our amazing offspring as they club one another over the head for eggs, we might pause and reflect.

Jesus Christ came to earth as a squalling infant and grew up in this chaotic place only to die on a cross, horribly; because even in our Easter finery, we are wretched and lost souls in desperate need of sanctification. Pretending we are anything other than that is pointless. My continued walk as a Christian, and yours, depends on the continued realization of our need of Christ, not only for our initial salvation, but for our every day’s grace to think and act like a considerate, loving human beings. A hippo-like, prideful attitude tends to make us believe we are better than other people who are different than us and leads to gossip, exclusivism, cliques, bullying, and so forth; and, yes, I AM still mainly talking to Christians. This type of arrogance has no place in the body (aka the Bride) of Christ.

More than all of these reasons, God himself has warned us repeatedly against such full-of-ourselves attitudes, in His Word. (Proverbs 6:16-19; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 13:10, etc.) One of the most convicting (and by convicting, I mean reminding, encouraging, and exhorting) of these is the passage below:

“On that day when, as my Gospel proclaims, God by Jesus Christ will judge men in regard to the things which they conceal (their hidden thoughts). [Eccl. 12:14.]
 But if you bear the name of Jew and rely upon the Law and pride yourselves in God and your relationship to Him,
And know and understand His will and discerningly approve the better things and have a sense of what is vital, because you are instructed by the Law;
And if you are confident that you [yourself] are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, and [that
You are] a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the childish, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–
Well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you teach against stealing, do you steal (take what does not really belong to you)?
You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery [are you unchaste in action or in thought]? You who abhor and loathe idols, do you rob temples [do you appropriate to your own use what is consecrated to God, thus robbing the sanctuary and doing sacrilege]?
You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law [by stealthily infringing upon or carelessly neglecting or openly breaking it]?
For, as it is written, The name of God is maligned and blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you! [The words to this effect are from your own Scriptures.] [Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20.]” Romans 2:16-24

Beloved, fellow, imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ, he has so much more in store for us in this life. In order to realize the ultimate goal of his bountiful richness and completeness flowing through us to bless others first, and ourselves as a byproduct, we must take our eyes off of ourselves and put them back on the ultimate prize, which is the fullness and richness and completeness of Christ Jesus himself.

“For God has not called us to impurity but to consecration [to dedicate ourselves to the most thorough purity].
Therefore whoever disregards (sets aside and rejects this) disregards not man but God, Whose [very] Spirit [Whom] He gives to you is holy (chaste, pure).
But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another.
And indeed you already are [extending and displaying your love] to all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we beseech and earnestly exhort you, brethren, that you excel [in this matter] more and more,
To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you,
So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12

How to NOT Shine Your Light


“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Charles R. Swindoll

Attitude, attitude, attitude!! You guessed it. It’s ALL about attitude, yours and mine.

So lately I have been dealing (read that NOT dealing) with a terrible attitude myself. Mr. Wonderful now works nights. My mind wants to wait up for him. The 1 yr old has been teething and I am slowly, slooooowly trying to wean her. My school-aged kids wake up early and begin their morning clumping-through-the-house-like-circus-elephants routine. My 3 yr old is very mischievous and can-NOT be left alone. He finds things to nibble, and color with and on, and knock over, etc, etc. I also watch a little boy M-F and he arrives around 7:45 in the morning. I cannot usually sleep in. I cannot usually coordinate nap time so I can nap, although Heaven help me I am trying! Fact: I end up staying up too late to outlast my kids and the baby who needs a quiet room to actually stay asleep, and I have MUCHO interrupted sleep at all times of the night. Laying there fuming is not conducive to sleep as I try to get comfortable sans noise, and yep, when I DO finally start to fall asleep, that’s when the baby wakes up crying, Mr. Wonderful’s truck rumbles into the driveway, the kids get up for school, the 3yr old begins stomping up and down the hallway, there is a knock at the door, yadda-yadda. Fact: all of this adds up to make me a less-than-lovely, un-shiny, desperate, grumpy, snarky, impatient, schnickelfritz. Mr. T. a.k.a. B.A. Baracus. Yep, I AM that man……or woman. Anyway, moving right along. 

When I was looking up a passage on attitude for this post, I found a story about King Solomon. (You know, like the Mines? Kidding. Solomon, as in David and Bathsheba’s second son, Richie Rich in Biblical times, wise as…lots of wives, yeah, that one.) He and God had this agreement that basically went: Solomon honors God ONLY and puts a stop to worshiping other gods which were really leading the population into doing some bad things, like human sacrifice, etc. In return for Solomon’s exclusivity, God would bless him and his lineage and establish his kingdom, like He had promised David. Long story short…..Solomon flubbed it. He decided he was just going to go ahead and do his own thing (back to his insane, polygamous obsession for marrying, and marrying, and marrying…More on the company we keep and how it can ruin our character later.)

“Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’ ” 1 Kings 11:-13

A bad attitude can really ruin a good thing. Solomon should have known better, just like the rest of us when we decide to do it our way and reap the  less-than-lovely, un-shiny, desperate, grumpy, snarky, impatient, schnickelfritz consequences. You can bet your sweet Aunt Bippy that this kind of life is NOT what God intends for any of us, either. When we get an attitude, He wants to give us more of Him, so that the amazingness that is God, fills us up so much that there is no room for the junk that makes us (and everyone around us) so very unhappy. All that is left is Him, and we become the person He intended us to be all along:

“blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world.” Philippians 2:15 Amplified

Focusing my mind to actually think about my attitude and the effects of it on those around me, most notably the 3 tiny ones who can’t do anything to stop me and are at my mercy. When my attitude is horrible, they suffer. Then hubby wakes up and he suffers. My kids get home, the phone rings, I get a text from my mom, etc….a bad attitude will lead to consequences that just snowball. It’s time to STOP THE MADNESS already! Here is what God says about our attitude:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 Amplified
“Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another. [Zech. 8:16.] When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.” Ephesians 4:21-29 Amplified
“A scoffer seeks Wisdom in vain [for his very attitude blinds and deafens him to it], but knowledge is easy to him who [being teachable] understands. Go from the presence of a foolish and self-confident man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. The Wisdom [godly Wisdom, which is comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of [self-confident] fools is to deceive. Fools make a mock of sin and sin mocks the fools [who are its victims; a sin offering made by them only mocks them, bringing them disappointment and disfavor], but among the upright there is the favor of God. [Prov. 10:23.]” Proverbs 4:6-9 Amplified

Keeping your eyes on the prize is essential. Do you want to just wake up one day and find that 50 years have gone by and you are still as lonely, impatient, selfish, touchy, unforgiving, gossipy, and unhappy as you always have been? To make the needful and difficult changes to be a more whole and sound and actually beneficial to others human being, you are going to have to dig in and work for it, and so will I.

If you have read only this post, or even if you are a follower, you will hopefully understand that this is not a “mommy blog”. There is a need and a place for those, definitely; but I hope to relate to you as a human being first. I am flawed and ridiculous and vain and selfish and small. I also know Jesus, who is none of those things, and I need him DESPERATELY to not only bring me out of a funk or make me pleasant to be around; but to help me to reach my ULTIMATE life goal, which is to be like Him and help others to know him. There are enormous obstacles in the way of that, but Jesus Christ is more than enough, for you and for me.

 “IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Ps. 110:1.] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

Phoenix Rising


“We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.” –  Cesar Chavez

Death, despair, desolation…the defeat you have faced is so overwhelming, you wonder how you can go on. All hope lost, all dreams shattered, even your friends have gone, you are alone with your pain, and the smoking ruin of your life collapses around you. You have lost everything.

When we are faced with a loss so deep, a grief so great, that we can’t seem to make sense of the point to even draw breath, we have come to the end of ourselves; and we have found out that we are not enough to fix it, to heal, to cope, to survive. So many people are faced with these kinds of situations everyday. The doctor’s report is in, the police officer at your front door with hat in hand, the judge’s sentence, the letter of dismissal, the empty place at the dinner table, the Dear John note; and we think that we have come to the end of the sentence and the end of meaning, and there is no more to be written.

It is so tempting to lie down in our ocean of grief, feeling betrayed and abandoned, and make the oh-so-easy choice to close our hearts, not only to the people around us, but to the possibility of there ever again being a possibility. We let the waves of sorrow wash over us, and we sink into the sea of misery and drown. Hope seems foolish at this point. Joy mocks us. Happiness, too, we’d like to cover with earth and let it fade, mouldering in the ground where our dreams have gone. There are no words to speak to such grief. Even time is an enemy, as the clock’s ticking eventually brings each day to a close; and then night comes, when we lie in our beds and think, and think, and think. We stare at the ceiling, but all we see is black. Our days are spent, looking past the real world, to the realm of memory and what might have been, where we stare, transfixed at the source of our grief, and all else falls by the wayside. We can sometimes be this way for long periods of time; and those around us (often also grieving) are afraid for us, and love us still, and miss us while we walk like zombies in this half-life that has claimed us. We might as well be buried along with our hopes and dreams.

But life goes on, all the same.

It is important to remember that life goes on after grief. It seems wrong; it seems unfair, but life continues and we remain for a REASON. Of course, we can make the choice to sit in the ash heap and sift through the rubble for the rest of our lives. We can succumb to our feeling of hopelessness and make it a reality. OR….we can make a different choice, and have a different fate.

“Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent’s sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.”  Ovid, on the Phoenix Bird

The Phoenix does not only live on choice and expensive spices and resins, but it springs out of a nest of ruin. There is no re-birth for the Phoenix, until there has been a death. There is a time and place to deal with death, but that is not where the Phoenix lives.

“So when the new-born Phoenix first is seen,
Her feathered subjects all adore their queen,
And while she makes her progress through the East,
From every grove her numerous train’s increased;
Each poet of the air her glory sings,
And round him the pleased audience clap their wings.” Dryden 

Not only does the Phoenix rise from the ashes of desolation, but it is surrounded by scores of other birds because a Phoenix is a glorious conqueror, beautiful, remarkable, and rare. The Phoenix is an overcomer, and we are all encouraged by someone who overcomes. Against great, impossible odds, the Phoenix rises, strong, triumphant, and aflame!

Do not be drowned in your ashes. You can rise again to a brand new beginning! There is joy after grief, as surely as day follows night. You are alive for a PURPOSE. There is a PLAN. You can OVERCOME this sorrow, and be a light to encourage many people.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-31

The Velveteen Equation (Part 3): Return of the Gingerbread Man


“Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle”  Soren Kierkegaard

Spoiled, rotten brat! You think you can get whatever you want, and when you don’t get your way you throw a fit, make a scene, and run away……..yes, Mr. Gingerbread Man, I’m talking about you! Not content to fulfill your purpose as a son, brother, and friend, you run off into the wide world, where everywhere you turn something is waiting to eat you alive. You taunt and mock and think that you’ll always be fastest, you’ll always be free to play your games. Back at home, your mother misses you; but you never think about her, do you? You never think about anyone BUT yourself, you sorry excuse for a cookie.

In a lot of ways, the story of the Runaway Gingerbread Man reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son. A young man with everything decides it’s just not enough for him and leaves, but not without first disrespecting his father with his very own version of the Gingerbread Man’s “neener neener neener”. Many of us have been a prodigal in one way or another. We may never know the pain and grief we’ve caused our loved ones when we set off on our journey to “find ourselves”, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not that all such journeys are entirely selfish or wrong, but many times it is easy for us to justify the wrong things for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. The prodigal in the parable would have eventually inherited his portion, in due time, as a beloved son and cherished member of the family; but, impatient for “his rights” and not recognizing the value of what he had already been given, he took what he could get, ran away, and then made a BIG mess!

He didn’t realize it at first. None of us realize it when we’re in the middle of  “making our own decisions”, decisions that would be better labelled “another fine mess”. It takes us all awhile to realize that the sound in our ears is not applause, but jeering; the smell in our nostrils is not the perfume of success, but the stench of something else. IT happens, but it does us no good to surround ourselves with heaping piles of it in the name of individuality, now does it? OK, moving right along…..

The Prodigal Son’s story had a happy, unexpected ending. He experiences completely undeserved open-armed, open-hearted forgiveness and acceptance from the father he had wronged (as well as a supremely jealous older brother, but that is a topic for another blog post). The father in the story represents the desire of God to fully reconcile us to himself, no matter how filthy, dirty, ick-poo our lives have been previously. The message of this story is: there is room on the cross for your past, present, and even future screw-ups. The Father loves you more than he is saddened by your sin. You will never smell too much like pig for him to reach out to you.

Mr. Gingerbread Man’s story, however, has a somewhat sadder ending, as do the stories of many prodigals who stubbornly stick to their guns. He ends up being the lunch of a crafty fox, who was all too willing to take advantage of such a tasty, gullible, and foolish morsel. Let their stories be a lesson to you. Don’t be consumed by the world and its users and abusers. Run into the arms of the Father. He has been waiting for you long enough already.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

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.