Archive for the ‘Christian message’ Category

You are lovedToday is Easter. For Christians, we believe today is the day that Jesus rose from the dead three days after he was crucified on a cross. It’s a pretty powerful thing to believe–to take something so incredulous on faith, and just completely run with it.

People who don’t believe it give us a hard time about it. That’s okay. We believe Jesus rose for them too.   But what does it all mean? Why all the brouhaha at Easter?

Even people who don’t believe know the bare bones story about Jesus:   He was born of a virgin birth in a manger near some animals.   He was an amazing kid, upsetting the status quo of the religious elite and calling them out on their hypocrisy, performing a bunch of miracles along the way, and gaining a substantial following long before social media existed. Then he died on the cross as atonement for our sins, and rose on the third day. Why would anyone take such a story from history and make it one of the defining moments of their life?

Some people who don’t want to acknowledge that they are less than perfect (sinless) or most likely, people admit they are flawed, but don’t really need a savior, they can figure things out for themselves. Okay, fine. More than likely, some will hit a wall when something unspeakable, unplanned, unimaginable happens – either catastrophic or miraculous. The miracles we can easily dismiss if we have little or no faith (the ocean keeps rolling in, the sun keeps shining, someone at death’s door suddenly is healed. We either don’t see it for the miracle that it is, or chalk it up to good luck. The catastrophic? Not so much. We want to know why. This is when we really wish we could just believe.

The thing about belief is, that is FAITH in someone, cannot be quantified by mere scientific reasoning alone. Just as you can’t prove you’ll live happily ever after the day you say I do, you’ll waste hours trying to convince others that Jesus is for real, God is for real, heaven is for real, the resurrection for real—all of it, it’s all for real, and it’s all good!

There’s a reason why you can’t prove it: The very anchor of our faith is hope!   It is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is simply a choosing to believe in something you can never prove. You cannot prove this to a skeptic, any more than you can prove the solidness of your relationships or the depth of the universe, etc.

So here’s why it defines us, and all the brouhaha that Christians make over Easter: Celebrating Easter means we acknowledge that Christ indeed is risen. He conquered death for us. Not just our physical death, but every death we experience. See there’s more than one way to die.

We die to our earthly life when we leave here to spend face time with Jesus. But while we are still here, we get to choose to die a little every day. We get to choose to die when we surrender a hard habit that enslaves us, surrender a bad relationship that entangles us, lay down a grudge that confounds us, or take risks that astonish even us when taken for the right reasons. We die to arrogance and awaken to wisdom. We die to tragedy and awaken to acceptance and hope. We die to poverty in our own life, and awaken to sharing with others. We die to despair and depression and awaken to joy because we choose to live.

We are a risen people. It’s not always easy. It’s a moment-by-moment, thought-by-thought, circumstance-by-circumstance choice. It is the prism thru which we filter every event of our life and reflect light and color and beauty.  We are far from perfect. We know we never will master everything we wish we could. But we strive for the same goal: To cross the finish line with our soul intact, dignity, and a hope that doesn’t waver.

We are not granted this peace, this grace, this hope or even that which we most wish for by a magic fairy that simply waves her wand. We choose to believe it.

It is in Christ and faith in God; we truly do move and have our being. We experience. We hope. We grieve. We move forward. And we love.   With this love, we find meaning and purpose in our lives. We love because He first loved us. And in so doing, we live. Both here and for eternity.

That is the reason we celebrate Easter. Because He first loved us, we are given grace to love more fully. Because He died for us, we have the strength to die to the things we need to. Because He lived before us and now lives with in us, we are free to live.

Rise up. Be the change you wish to see in the world!

 

One day you will look…back
And you’ll see…where
You were held…how
By this love…while
You could stand…there
You could move on this moment
Follow this feeling

U2 “Mysterious Ways”

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ALMA antennas under the Milky Way

  • Have you ever wondered if God is real?
  • Have you ever wondered if your prayers are heard?
  • Have you ever wondered if your dreams, your hopes, your deepest longings really will come true?
  • Have you ever begged to be spared from a certain suffering, but then you weren’t?
  • Did you ever have moments or days or seasons in your life that were totally beyond your control?

Chances are, if you’re human, you can most likely answer YES to the above questions.

Life can be so beautiful. It’s full of amazing moments: The birth of our children. The day we made eternal promises and said “I do” and “Forever”. The day we accomplished something so amazing, we surprised even ourselves. The day we looked out to the horizon and cried because what we saw was simply beyond words; it was indescribably beautiful. You wanted to just freeze time and stay in this place forever. And that’s always when the first stab of pain hits you. Because you know you simply can’t. Nothing here lasts forever.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. Kind of like Margaret of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”. I had the same prepubescent worries as she did. Will I ever even need a bra? Will I eventually become a woman in every way? Will a boy even like me….ever?  Does God exist or care about me?   Like Margaret, I wondered where is God more likely to hang? A synagogue? A cathedral?  A mountain top? At the beach?

But those thoughts passed, as did those days. As a child, you can’t even see yourself as a grown up, when you don’t have to feel so awkward or get your feelings hurt so much. We were young. We were naive. We didn’t yet know what we do now: Those were the best days.

Life would get more complicated, time would march forward whether we were ready or not, for what was headed our way. We were still at the beginning of our journey. We still had more hurt to go.

Sometimes parents divorced. Sometimes they died.   Friends moved away.   We outlived our favorite pets. First boyfriends or girlfriends finally arrived on the scene. But they quickly departed too, taking the first of many bites to come out of our vulnerable hearts. Sometimes we moved away or our friends did. Some friends died inexplicably young. In less than a decade we transitioned from girls and boys to women and men. By the time we turned our tassel, we realized some truths:

  • Life isn’t always fair.
  • The hard work of our lives isn’t over just because we graduated, it was merely beginning.
  • I’m not sure if I’m ready to be who I’m supposed to be.

We continued to learn more. We worked. We said I do and we had babies—babies who grew from toddlers to little kids to teenagers to adults almost as fast as one of those rotating doors in a hotel lobby.   From band-aids on boo- boos to full blown medical emergencies where lives are on the line, the days passed. From seeing many dreams realized and some crashed—all these things happened too.

We went to countless weddings, family barbecues and gatherings, and funerals. Two thirds of them were fun and full of promise. The other third, the funerals, many of which were beautiful, never got easier. They only got more frequent. That too made our hearts heavy. We knew where this is all headed.

Which brings me to the point we all ponder in life, especially in times of crisis? Are you there God? It’s me. It’s you. It’s all of us as humanity, but it’s each of us individually and we want to know are you there? Are you aware of me, in this moment?

It’s the question people struggle with at their core, until they finally decide to choose. Even if you make no choice as to what or whom you believe in, you have made a choice, if only to stay grounded in ambiguity, unsureness, maybe even anxiety and insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong. Believers struggle too. But deep down they know. It’s the essence of faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the being certain of that which we do not see.

Faith is truly a tightrope walk. It’s just like life—trying to find balance and not lose your head, especially when you are way out there, fairly far from the gravity of comfort zone, security, familiarity, easy street.   And yet you know, there is a safety net below. Should you fall, you’ll be caught before hitting bottom. It just doesn’t look like it. Or feel like it. You have to get your head and heart in alignment with a thing called trust.

God is like that. He is real. He is here. He is there. He is everywhere.   He sent his Son Jesus to catch us like a safety net, even when we’re way up(or out) there!

Each of us are so precious to him. He knows when we hurt, or fall, are sick, are weak, or when we lose, or succumb, or waver, or any other weakness as defined by us. But He knows differently; something we often can’t wrap our head around: His love is perfected in our weakness. We just have to be the willing Captain of the vessel called Self that will allow him to travel with us, in us, and pass through us in order to change our destination, and thus destiny by simply saying, not my will, but yours.

Jesus said in this world, we’re going to have some troubles and he was by no means exaggerating! But he also said to take heart, for he has overcome the world.   Every time I hear that, I rejoice a little more inside. I reclaim the parts of my heart that which is unfair or unbearable or unexplainable tries to conquer. The truth gets etched a little deeper each time. Because it frees me:

  • From having to have all the answers.
  • From being responsible for fixing that which I don’t have the power to do.
  • From focusing on why (the unfair/hard/unexplainable) of pain, and instead focus on the who I can trust with all this (God/Jesus).

We are not invisible to God. And although the universe is a fairly big place (science can’t even agree on where/if it ends and how long it’s been around), we are by no means small. We are not insignificant in God’s eyes.

We can look from the most powerful telescope billions of light years away and all we see are dots. But God can look across space and time and see us, every bit of us—our tears and our dreams-and all He can see are stars. We are His star, the crown jewel, the masterpiece of His creation.   Whether we are searching outward as far as our eye can see, or inward, as deep as our heart can bare, our heart beats strongest when we choose to simply be still and know He is there.

 

God is so big, He is real, and is involved in the details of our lives.   Verses (promises) that inspired this story:  Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Corinthians 13:11 John 16:33, Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 46:10

Books I’d recommend to anyone who is searching:Purpose Driven Life

Search for Significance

0 MA 370Photo Credit: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

The mystery of missing flight Malaysian Airlines 370 only intensifies with each passing day.  How can 239 souls simply vanish?  As the investigation has changed from finding a fallen aircraft to searching for evil intent that commandeered this aircraft and where did they all go, the agony of not knowing is surely some of the most unimaginable pain someone could ever know.

I can’t even fathom the pain these families are enduring as they have surely been “all over the map” emotionally, logistically, and probably spiritually.  How does one keep faith and hope alive in an ever-changing crisis?

You simply get up and go on, trusting God in every breathe, moment, and step.  Sometimes you don’t even know you have faith or hope, until you look back and you realize that’s all you had or you wouldn’t be here now.

I have never experienced the depth of unknown that these families have, but the few intensely difficult, extremely painful circumstances I have had to endure, all in relatively short order, has both tested and strengthened my faith.

These are the questions we wrestle with whenever the intensely painful unknown occurs:

Why did this happen?

Did I do something to cause this?  Did I deserve this?

Could I (or others) have prevented this?

Where is God in all this?  Is He even aware I can not deal with this for one more minute, even more so, one more day? 

And yet you do.  You will.    Though time stops in your world, the rest of the world keeps on moving forward.

And everything in life is divided into two chapters:

BEFORE and AFTER

You know the moment this occurs, from here until the end of your life, everything else will be referenced by assigning whether it happened before or after.  I don’t know why.  It’s just the way the mind works.

I’ve read the posts.  I’ve seen the news.  I’ve heard every speculation imaginable, as have you.  But this is what my heart knows:

THERE ARE 239 LOST SOULS ON BOARD

My heart hurts because we struggle when we cannot know what only God knows.

It also hurts because each of these souls are so very precious to not only their families, but to God.

My heart hurts because I’ve walked the solitary path of unfathomable grief that only the bravest wish to hear.

My heart hurts because I know what it means to have to wake up with unknowing.

My heart hurts because I know life is brief; and despite our best executed plans, our dreams of how we wish our future to be can’t be guaranteed.

My heart hurts because I’ve known through harsh experiences, what it means to cry out to God to save someone, please just SAVE THEM.  It may be their life; it may be their soul.

Sometimes God seems silent.  I’ve learned not to mistake God’s silence for God’s absence.

We are not in control; we settle for a certain comfort in thinking we are.

Certainly, our soul hungers to know that those we love are okay.  Especially when we are suddenly severed from someone we love.  Like phantom limb pain, our hearts throbs with longing and memory and beats to the rhythm of hope, no matter how slim.  Wherever we are, we feel as if we are held hostage to both yesterday and tomorrow, barely enduring today.

Every time you hear or read a story, remember that talk is cheap and media can dull our mind if we don’t hear properly: that is to say with intention, not just attention.   The investigators have a job to do.  But so do we:

Those of us who believe, have a calling to pray for the souls of each person on board MA 370 as well as their families.  These souls who disappeared in the sky over a week ago are this: BELOVED friend, coworkers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, beloved grandchild of many remaining souls here on earth.

Pray for wisdom.  Pray for resolution.  Pray for miracles.  Pray for the peace that passes understanding in Christ Jesus.    May you see this and appreciate your own family and life more.  Don’t leave angry.  Say I love you before you say good-bye.   Find, and then focus on what really matters.

Today I pray that God has the souls of Malaysian Air Flight 370 are in the palm of His hand, that they are in His perfect care, as the families carry on in courage and hope.    Because they too were/are loved.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.  Romans 10:1 

 U2’s  One Tree Hill – Auckland, NZ

Autumn Floral Heart

And we can break through,
though torn in two we can be one.
I will begin again, I will begin again.  – “New Year’s Day” – U2

      A friend of mine recently told me she chucked her tradition of stating New Year’s resolutions and instead decided on a new tradition of focusing on a “themed” word for the New Year.   It’s hard keeping resolutions.  Perhaps because such lofty sentences feel —well like a sentence.

So she decided to pick a theme for the year such as MINDFULNESS, or RISK-TAKING, or FORGIVENESS.  You get the idea.  She’d purposely focus on a character trait she wished to see magnified in herself.

I like the idea so much I’ve decided to adopt the idea of my own.   Three words keep floating up in my stream of consciousness.  I don’t feel like I picked them.  They picked me.  Which is another reason to abandon the “make a resolution” concept, it’s just one more thing for me to attempt to control when in reality, none of us have as much control as we wish to have or think we might.

These are MY THREE LITTLE WORDS for 2014:

RECONNECT:  2013 was the most difficult year of my life, but it was also a year of miracles.  It’s ironic that God always plants the miracles in the middle of your deepest sorrows, hardest storms, and silent suffering.  But seeds of hope always yield good fruits when sewn in tears and watered in love.  I had the privilege of both suffering and miracles this year, but in the process I’ve pulled away from people who I know love me.   I want to find my way back.  I may not be who I was, but my heart is unchanged.  It’s stronger than ever and ready to reconnect with those I love and who love me.

Who do you need to reconnect with this year?  Do you have relationships that need mending?  It’s hard to humble yourself sometimes or go first in reaching out.   Do it anyway my inner spirit cries, even though it is so hard for you.

CHERISHI am trying to spend more time praying that God will prioritize my priorities rather than me setting the agenda.  I want to cherish real people not just cyber connections limited to Facebook.  That’s a hard one.  Sometimes it’s easier to just tap out a facsimile of a relationship than to actually flesh out a real one.  Real ones are bumpy, annoying sometimes, hurtful, and well—just very real.  It’s easy to want to retreat to our collective shared diary and catch the news and pics of those we don’t know that well and distract ourselves from taking time to know better the flesh and blood under our own rooftop and in our own neighborhood and even extended family.

This year also taught me that time is actually the most valuable commodity we have.  We can’t hoard it or hold on to memories; for nothing good nor bad lasts forever.  Time:  Will we choose to waste it, spend it, or invest it?  When we invest it in people, we are showing love.  We are giving the gift of being cherished, one of our heart’s most often neglected desires.   Whatever I feel I may lack, I pray God grants me the courage to give what little of it I do have away– be it time, energy, or resources.

       SPIRIT-LEAD“Not my will, but thy will”. That whole control thing in life is a hard thing to shake.  After all God helps those that help themselves, right?  Not exactly.  I do feel called to work, give, serve, pray, love.  But 2013 taught me this much, if nothing else:  Let it go.  Let God.  Which means sometimes we need to sit still.  Rest.  Trust.

Our own sanity is like a rope.  And you know what?  Circumstances beyond your control, coupled with your default emotional thermostat can be a deadly cocktail and you can reach the end of that rope very quickly.  Without something bigger than YOU, when you find yourself in a pit, or feeling misunderstood , or unloved,  or undervalued– well that can be a lonely place.  Trials across time has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to me that God indeed exists, is good, and above all is in control.

      On that thought, I pray that if or when I am tested, I can continue to hold onto that last strand when hanging over a cliff with flames licking at my feet.

Yes, I want to be spirit-lead and worry less about the future, finances, circumstances, or the biggest demon of all:   What if?

          My head knows that fear is not of God, but my heart forgets sometimes.  I love too much sometimes.  I don’t love enough.   You’re probably the same.  And so it goes and so we sometimes suffer.

The secret is not to waste it.  Choose your suffering a wise pastor taught me.

      Reconnect.  Cherish.  Be spirit lead.  These are my New Year’s resolutions, my small humble prayers I shall utter each day, my big ideas—all planted in three little words.

Blessings in 2014 to you.    You too are loved.

U2 – “No Ordinary Love” — Video Download for U2.com subscribers.

Yep!  I’m a huge U2 fan. Me and a few other million friends.   They’re an extraordinary band not only because their melodies so easily latch on to our auditory taste buds, but more importantly their lyrics speak to a  much deeper place in our soul.  U2’s  music evokes memory and dreams and hopes.  They aren’t the pop flavor of the day, they speak messages of wisdom, if we have ears willing to hear.   A vision beyond visibility becomes a possibility when one is appropriately inspired.

I’m so looking forward to hearing all the songs that will ultimately comprise the soundtrack of Mandela:  Long Walk to Freedom  Not only is Mandela a mentor and inspiration for Bono personally, but also he holds a special place in people’s hearts all over the world who have seen or experienced or are touched by suppression, imprisonment, injustice or perhaps are fighting for freedom and human rights.

Even if you’re not a freedom fighter who has taken to the streets, you may be a prayer warrior or encourager  somewhere in the life or lives of those who struggle.  That’s what Jesus did when he read these prophetic words from the book of Isaiah to the people of Nazareth:

“The Lord has put his Spirit in me,
because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again.
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly.  Luke 4:18

I have a friend who for a long span of time wasn’t free.   For a time he was held captive internally by choices, as well as externally by unjust circumstances.   So as I wrote to the face of a friend I’ve never met until very recently, I reminded him that “You don’t have to walk around outside to taste freedom.”  You can get free inside first.  In fact, it’s probably a good idea.   And just because there are so many things you can’t see at this time, doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision of what life will look like soon, very soon.

This is seeing:   Believing what right now you can only hope for and resting confidently in assurance that God will use your hour of trial or suffering and turn it into something beautiful, or redemptive.  But it requires something of you first:

No Ordinary Love

Extraordinary love requires faith, being confident in that which you hope for and being sure of what you can not see.  (Hebrews 11:1) That’s no ordinary love.  Extraordinary love also requires sacrifice; it’s going to cost you something you value: your time, your money, your safety, your reputation, your safety net  or perhaps your freedom.  In some cases, even your very life.

“We can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love.”   Show someone in need some love today.     Take the plunge.  Give until it hurts.  Give with all you’ve got.  And even when you’re drowning in your own personal ocean of adversity and difficulty, remember you were loved first by no ordinary love,  so this pain you feel from time to time is only your heart cracking around the hard places until it becomes smooth as polished precious stones.

Don’t give up.  Look up.  Reach higher.  Assist the poor.  Minister to the hurting.  Forgive what seems unforgivable.   Show love in the name of freedom, in the name of justice and mercy, in the name of compassion, in the name of righteousness and then wait, and watch what God will do.   Perhaps if we each can show love to even just one, especially the difficult one, God can transform the ordinary to extraordinary.

May you find ways to show love today and be joyful in the anticipation of what God can do with just a bit of ordinary love.

POST SCRIPT 12/06/2013:  I started this entry about a week ago.  But I didn’t finish.  God had other plans.  I saw some miracles this week and witnessed first hand just how fast God can transform an isolated  captive person into a person being released into freedom and into loving capable hands.  ALL THIS, on the day Nelson Mandela has passed.  The world lost a true hero, a compassionate soul, and someone who fully understood  this truth: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.(1 Peter 4:8)  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  And welcome home too.  You leave a legacy of powerful truth spoken in love for the rest of us to aspire to.

Allow me to close with some wisdom of Nelson Mandela, who capably showed us light can chase away the dark and love is stronger than hate:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Bono Light IMG_6811 (2)

Let there be light!  That’s what God said when he first created the world.  But did you know, he also said it about us in Ephesians 5:8?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

 So what does this mean?  Does it mean live as if you’re a famous rock star and all the world’s a stage with the spot light on you?  Of course not; you already know this.

If you’re  Christian, you already know  just how dark, how shameful, how sinful you perhaps once were, or currently struggle with, or have the capacity to be.  That’s because our flesh wants what it wantsWe want control.  We want things, people, power or influence.    It’s the underlying motive beneath all our wants that determines whether we are walking as children of the light or darkness.

I snapped this pic of Bono at the 2nd of only three concerts I’ve ever seen him.  He was so close and yet….so far away.   It was taken with an ordinary point and shoot camera at just the right moment, a split second of perfect timing.   It almost seems like heaven’s light is shining down.

 But I know the truth.  Bono is only a man.  Nothing more; nothing less. He has made references before that he doesn’t feel comfortable if fans (strangers to him!) see him as a Messiah.  He’s clearly not.    Yet, he does carry a certain light, or at least seems to be perceived that way by tens (hundreds?) of thousands of U2 fans, and maybe even some people that aren’t even big fans of U2’s music.  

That’s because of his heart.  If you follow news about him then you know what he’s done to shine a light on Africa, and how he’s been instrumental in trying to reduce and eliminate hunger, poverty, political corruption, and the hopelessness these things cause.  You know he’s worked with world leaders in the political arena to bring attention and change to a silent suffering.  He’s used his rock star status to influence and to be a beacon of light—to bring attention to, hope, help, cure, and above all love at a time that clearly God has appointed for him.

He’s not Jesus.  But he gets it when it comes to carrying His light.  Yet it’s not Bono’s responsibility to carry it alone.  He’s a torch bearer.  He once sang, that “I’d join the movement, if I found one I could believe in.”    We live in a dark world in uncertain times.  But in a world of self-indulgent twerkers, endless me-centered  and copy-cat celebrities publicly showcasing their life of flashy material excess and simultaneous emptiness, Bono has been singing for quite some time to the beat of a different tune:

 A higher frequency.  This unmistakable calling of light.  The example of a love in action, not merely words spoken or sung.  He doesn’t just sing to us.  U2’s lyrics challenge us.  (“Am I buggin you?  I don’t mean to bug ya!”)  Kind of like Jesus.    How are you going to step out today knowing what you know of the world’s pockets of suffering?  Will you turn away in apathy?  Or will you reach out in faith  willing to risk  your reputation or security?     Are you brave enough to show goodness, kindness, compassion, or  mercy today to someone you don’t know or is hard to love? 

Truth has a way of showing us which direction we’re going to walk  in life. The incredible light that is ours simply by receiving.  This incredible gift of love that is ours to multiply simply by giving it all away.

So let there be light!  Because you too are loved!

 Be Yourself

I’ve been struggling with something lately.  It’s made me feel insecure and small and insignificant.

I’ve been seeking validation and confirmation in all the wrong faces and places.  I’ve been allowing what others say or do or don’t say or don’t do to define me.  It’s a hang-up, a bad habit I have.  And it always yields the same result:

An engraved invitation to a party:

THE PITY PARTY

      Have you ever been to one?  Oh they’re fabulous; let me tell you!  No limousines or glamorous gowns or flowing champagne and people to tell you how amazing, how stunningly beautiful, how incredibly talented,  how divinely gifted you are.  No!  You arrive, and you wonder where in the world are all the guests?

   You can almost feel the smirk on an unseen enemy’s faceThis is it.  You realize.  This is your party.  A party with the table all set for one: You!    It’s a lonely party.  There are no gifts or accolades or recognition.

Linda Rondstandt’s Poor Poor Pitiful Me blares in the background.   You begin to doubt everything you’ve ever done or hope to do in the future.  Past accomplishments are but a distant memory.  Hope for the future is a concept belonging to others rather than an assured belief. 

How is it that we can be so hopeful one day and feel in utter despair the next?

I’ll tell you.  We forget who we are.

    The moment we forget that we are created by a loving God who has plans so magnificent, our mind hasn’t even begun to conceive what they are, we fall prey to the schemes of an unseen enemy.  The devil, Satan, self-absorption, bad karma, narcissism; they’re one in the same in my book. When we are the ruler of our own kingdom, we become quickly disillusioned when our “subjects” (those people and circumstances we can’t seem to get control of) disobey or at least, disappoint.

I so know this intellectually.  It’s just my heart that trips me up.  Repeatedly.   See there’s these three things I just keep wanting over and over:

Validation

Admiration

Results to go the way I plan

        We do have to make plans in life.  It’s true, there is no such thing as a plan to fail, only a failure to plan.  But sometimes even the best laid plans are laid to waste if a higher law at work deems it so.

I’m talking about God here.  Yes, sometimes God allows us to fail, to hurt, to be disappointed, to not understand.  Why?  So that we can fall.  Fall on our faces and fall on our knees.  He doesn’t want us to fall prey; He wants us to FALL,  PRAY. 

       Do you ever feel restless  in your faith; anxious in your soul?  Do you have an itch you just can’t scratch?  Do sermons and scripture verses and encouragement from others  just sound like words:  blah, blah, blah, blah?  Do you ever feel misunderstood, abandoned, invisible, and disappointed?

     Not to worry.  It happens.  We are human.  This is the cycle of life.  We get restless and start to feel like there is something more over there!   We get restless and feel like if we only had……………

You fill in the blank.  You know what I’m talking about.  That thing.  That thing that if you could just possess or experience or be than everything would be perfect.  Except that it wouldn’t.

We were born to struggle and to wrestle.  To struggle and wrestle within ourselves, our beliefs, with those in the world, and yes, even with God.  We’re challenged to prove it’s true in that which we think we know.

We don’t have all the answers.  But God does.   I know that in all things a good and loving God is in control.   In His time, and in His Way, he is working out not just my Salvation (in Christ) but also my issues, problems, deepest longings, and dreams. 

How do we get back to true?  How do we turn around?  How do we get better?  How do we heal?

It’s simple, but hard:  We let go and let God.  We struggle to get set free as we realize by letting go, we already are.

You already know this.  I do too.  We just need to be reminded sometimes.

     When you know that you know that you know that you are loved by the Creator of the Universe and He has it all under control , despite your feelings today, He will bring you home, to Him, to the love that He has for you, and He has planted inside you, waiting to be poured out, spilling over the brim, in order to bless others.

     You too are loved.  Believe it.  Now live it. 

 

You rise up early, and go to bed late, and work hard for your food, all for nothing. For the Lord gives to His loved ones even while they sleep. Psalm 127:2 (New Living Version)

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (NIV)

In my dream I was drowning the sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You…you said you’d wait
’til the end of the world…..

“Until the End of the World” – U2

Stepping Stones      Once upon a time, I was subject to all sorts of stress and chaos.  That’s because for many years I was under the dominion of feelings, rather than acceptance of reality.  That’s not to say that feelings aren’t real or don’t count; they do.  I’m just saying it can’t be what guides you.

Thankfully wisdom eventually comes the longer one lives. So when I saw these rocks at a gift shop recently, and knowing nothing is a coincidence, a vision of truth settled over me.  It was as if a 12 step program (okay fourteen, but who’s counting?) for our emotions was suddenly available in summary form.   I thanked God for the instant wisdom and beauty He had provided.  So when you’re down and out, start by taking baby steps towards the power generated in just a few words worthy of being carved on rocks.  Meditate on them and then implement these action-steps and you will begin to leave drama behind and move towards peace, joy, and positive decisiveness.  Love is a decision, so take the steps necessary to love your life!

BreatheBefore you lash out or make a decision based on how you feel right now, just breathe.  It sounds simple, but it can be elusive when you’re hyperventilating on anger or extreme sadness.  Stop!  Get grounded.  Take a step back.  And just breathe.

ChangeThere are only two things you can change in life:  Your situation or your response.  It’s that simple.  If you can change your situation, by all means do.  Dump that toxic relationship, go back to school, decide to get out of debt,  get rid of that which is holding you back,  apply for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for anyway, go ahead and write that book you’ve been contemplating.

But what about the boss who chewed you out?  The spouse who abandoned you?  The grown child who never calls you?  And every other situation under the sun that falls under the category “unfair”?   There is only one thing you can do.  Change your attitude or response.  Besides you have to.  Why let what you can’t control destroy your well-being and sense of peace?   Acceptance of others and their flaws sets you free.  Putting up boundaries by saying, “I can’t talk to you until you calm down” or “I won’t allow you to speak to me like that” and then leaving a heated situation, shows that you are in control of your life and that you respect yourself to not allow others to disrespect you.  Remember you don’t have to be right all the time or have to convince others.  The goal is to be at peace!

ChoiceMy favorite advice on choice is this:  Choose your suffering.  Essentially that means don’t waste your suffering.  The Bible even states that “in this world, you will have trouble.”  And that is no lie!  You don’t get to the end without experiencing tragedy, abandonment, loss, hurt, sadness, anger, and unfairness.  Kind of like change, you have to make a decision.  Are you going to let that which you can’t control destroy you, or rest as the rock foundation that you build your testimony on, and become a source of inspiration to others, and even yourself.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Tap into that strength.

CourageDare to face the horrible truths in your life that you’d rather not:  You have a problem.  Deal with it.  Get help when necessary.  Tap into your faith.  Call on your friends.  Don’t go through the hard stuff alone.   As you get rid of toxic relationships outside of yourself, you’ll find it’s time once and for all to deal with the habits and hang-ups that keep you from reaching your full potential:  Insecurities, lack of confidence, bad or destructive habits, or fear of failure.    Attack each of these self-destroyers with all the tools in your toolbox:  Faith, family, friends, and above all a willingness to change.   Each step you take in the direction of courage builds momentum making each subsequent step a little bit easier than the one before.

Dance Put on the jamz and pump up the volume.  Life is too short to purposely not do things that can bring you happiness and joy.  Why settle for ho-hum washing the dishes and vacuuming the house when you can crank up your favorite music and dance the night away as you work!  As long as your multitasking, at least do it with joy.  Throw off those shoes and dance.  Grab a partner and surprise them with the joy of dance.

Dream Never give up your dreams.  Never!  What is that thing you’ve always longed to accomplish?  Write a song?  Start a new career in a totally different field?  Lose thirty pounds?  Then be like a Nike ad and just do it!  Start today!  You have to start sometime.  Don’t let excuses or lack of time be your reason why you didn’t fulfill your dreams.  A little today is better than none tomorrow and the day after that.  Slow progression is the key towards long-term results.  The key is to act with intent on your dreams.

Heal What is it you need in order to heal?  Professional help?  Spiritual guidance?  The compassion of a friend?  Then seek it and don’t be ashamed.  Perhaps you just need time.  That’s okay too.  Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it allows us time to get our head together and weave that which hurt us into the fabric of our being, so that we can step out in courage anyway.  You wouldn’t let an infection on your skin fester and get worse.  It’s essential  that which troubles your heart or your mind be healed as well.  Don’t let pride stop you from getting the healing you need.

LaughGo ahead; lighten up!  Laugh at your mistakes, it’s okay.  Don’t be wound so tight, you can’t allow yourself to be human.  Go to a funny movie with a friend!  It’s good therapy.   Become mindful of joy and learn to laugh.  Laugh lines are more attractive than worry lines anyway!

Organize– Get rid of excess.  Everyday pick a room, a drawer, a box to organize.  Stop buying that which you don’t need.  Put things away as you use them.  Remember that it’s more fun to do and to be in life than it is to haveExcess of things don’t make us happy; relationships do.  We don’t get to take our things with us.  The only commodity we truly have in life is time.  Time to enjoy our life, but more importantly time to make a difference in the lives of others.  When you are organized, you have more time to see friends, volunteer, and get out in God’s beautiful world and enjoy all there is to see and do.

Play You work hard.  Don’t deny yourself this essential ingredient in life.  Get a hobby.  Play a sport.   Play with your kids and your pets every day if you have them.   When you play, you’re apt to laugh and that is good medicine for the soul.  Definitely find ways to play!

RelaxSimilar to just breathe, this is the mechanism you need to calm your soul and soothe your spirit.  It sounds easy, but how many times do we deny ourselves the opportunity to just relax because everything else seems essential?   Reading a good book or watching a great movie or just taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon can totally change our perspective when we’re stressed.  If you never have time to relax, than go back to organize.  What things, commitments, or excess people do you need to purge in order to enjoy the necessary stepping stone of relaxation?

RememberRemember others who are suffering and you can be a blessing to.  Remember the good things in life that God has blessed you with and choose to save some of them.  Take pictures of the good things.  Make a family scrapbook.  Have a treasure trunk where you keep mementoes of happy events.  Remembering that which brings us joy and leaving behind that which causes us pain is a great way to have a fulfilling and joyous life.

Rest We can’t organize, relax, remember, play, work, heal, dance, laugh, make necessary changes, or even dream if we don’t first get enough rest.  We were designed to rest for a reason.  When we allow our mind and body to recharge, we are taking the first step to complete all the others.   Get on a schedule and get the rest you need.

TeachTeach others life lessons you’ve learned so far.  Mentoring others is a great way to make a difference.  Also be willing to be taughtHaving a teachable spirit is also a key to wisdom.  Try not to take all advice, even when unsolicited, as a means to control you, but perhaps as a kernel of truth worth mining.  Having a teachable attitude means accepting that we don’t necessarily know everything.  And that’s okay.

Okay, so that’s 14 stepping stones to lead you to a better life.  But there is one that was left out intentionally.  All these stones, pale in comparison to the solid rock foundation they rest upon: 

FaithThe people I’ve known in life that have it the most together mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually have a deep faith that is the bedrock upon which all else is built.  Having faith means you personally don’t have to have all the answers or be in control.  That’s because when God is in control, someone bigger than you is in charge.   You don’t have to know everything or be responsible for every outcome.  Faith steps in when people step out.  Faith is believing in someone or something bigger than yourself.  Faith is prayer.  Faith is active.  Faith is forgiving.  Faith allows us to love.  Faith is a conduit to all that is good in life Faith is more than a positive attitude, it is an assurance of things hoped for and not yet seen.   Sharpen your faith, and live the good life.

All Things Are Connected

If there is one thing I know for sure in life, it is this:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE

    Not a single moment, not a since chance meeting, not a single happenstance, not a single similarity, not a single bit.  It’s as if God weaves an invisible thread through time, space, geography, and lives tying events and people together, as He weaves together a grand tapestry too big for our eyes to fully grasp.

Yet like a jigsaw puzzle, we intuitively (well, those who are intuitively aware) know that something more is at work here.   Even disappointments in life are known as “divine appointments” if viewed through the lens of a different perspective, that is a mind that is higher than our own.

I personally know out of my deepest sorrows, the deepest joys were birthed.  In times of abandonment, I found connection simply by being aware of the God who created me and those He works through as he introduced them to me.  The core of who I most truly am started as a simple seed (that which my heart most truly desires).  It was planted and took root down low in the dirt. Then it was watered with tears.  Yet now it is shooting up and starting to bloom with buds that when opened bring me incredible joy and occasionally even others!

So I’ve learned some things as I’ve matured.  Nothing and no one God puts on your path is random.  We may not quite get the connection, but God does.   It’s up to us to seek God’s wisdom as we assimilate our experiences, to go with the flow, and hopefully not unravel or knot-tie what God has designs on.

Here’s a perfect example of how nothing is coincidence; all things are connected:  (And this happens to me repeatedly in life, I could write a dozen pages, but will refrain as our time is valuable.)

Tuesday I was at my friend Rebecca’s home.  On her refrigerator was a picture of a mom.  I said, “Hey, how do you know Julie?”  She replied, “That’s not Julie, that’s my cousin Rachel.”

Well she looks exactly like my friend Julie!  But I see now that it is not because there are different kids in the picture.  Well, everybody has a twin!” I say.

I think to myself, I should send a Facebook message to my friend Julie and tell her she has a twin on this earth, but I get busy that night so I don’t.  The next day, I kid you not, I run into Julie at the library. 

“Oh my gosh!” I tell her.  “I was just thinking of you last night!”  I tell Julie the story of my friend Rebecca who has a near carbon copy photo of her on her refrigerator.    She chuckles, and we talk about other things.  She tells me she may be moving to my neighborhood because that just so happens to be where Julie’s in laws live, and they may be combining homes due to aging parent concerns.

So we talk about that for a while.  Then she talks about her brother in law who sometimes gets a ride to church from a friend in my neighborhood named Dan.  She can’t remember his last name.  I tell her the only Dan I know is Dan Allen.   And she says, “Right!  That’s the same one.”

WHAT?!?!  I say in awe.  Well Dan Allen is the husband of my friend Rebecca (are you following me still?) who has the twin picture of Julie on her refrigerator.   “No way!”  Julie says.

      Not only is the world getting smaller, but it just shrunk twice, right before our very eyes.

By now our conversation has drifted with our walking out of the library and towards a playground where our kids can play together for a while.  She tells me that tomorrow she plans to take her kids to the zoo.  WHOA!  Wait a dog gone minute I say!  I had just made plans that morning to take my kid to the zoo tomorrow too!

Today I did go to the zoo.  I don’t know if Julie went as it rained so hard, it was basically a monsoon, but still the coincidences were so….well, connecting!

But wait there is more!  Julie used to have a neighbor named Rob.  Two years ago, Rob was giving away a stray cat he had become attached to but couldn’t keep.  So I met Rob through Julie due to a plea she made on Facebook while trying to help Rob who was desperate to find a home for his cat.   This is how I got my cat Toby who is now part of our family.

So a few months ago my mother-in-law breaks her leg.  She returns home from the hospital and needs intensive physical therapy.  She has a great therapist she tells us about as she learns new exercises each week.  Well, after eight weeks or so, as he wraps up his visits with her, he spots a photograph on her dresser.

“Is that Liz?” he asks her. On her dresser, Rob had spotted a photo of me taken almost 30 years ago when I married my husband.  (How did he even recognize me?)  “Yes it is,” she replies, “Liz is my daughter in law.”  “Well Liz adopted a cat of mine that I could no longer keep when I got married a year ago.”

And you could take it even further still.  Where did I meet Julie?  At our church.  About thirty years after we went to the same middle school together.

Maybe you chalk up these encounters as coincidence!  I do not.  I believe in “seeing thru a glass darkly.”  If we do not understand these connections that are good, friendly, or amusing, how much more can we not understand that which connects and binds us to one another in hurtful, disappointing, or destructive ways?

I am not excusing bad behavior or random acts of harm or disappointment that none of us are immune to.  I only know there is always more than meets the eye.  There is more to hear than our ears find audible.  There is more to grasp than our minds can understand.

We can’t make sense of our lives if we rely only on our own understanding.  But when we rely on God, the bigger picture becomes more in focus, the fine details are sharpened, and life becomes vivid, clearer, brighter, and yes–happier. 

        I believe we gain wisdom as we become more intuitive.  And we gain that intuition, as we deepen our faith.  In becoming wiser and more intuitive, we also learn to appreciate the people God introduces to us as well as circumstances and coincidences God allows to happen.  We start to realize they too have a place, a season, and a purpose in our life as well.    

      Why did you even read this far?   Maybe it was just coincidence.  Perhaps–or maybe it really was something more.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. Proverbs 27:19 (ESV)

     

Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust.

It sweeps the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must. – Mother Teresa

     Have you ever noticed when you are totally overwhelmed with a set of challenges (one for each finger I say), life has an uncanny way of dealing just a few more major blows– all at once?  Here you are standing tall as trees, trying to be strong, and be responsible and systematically solve the issues?  This feels like a theme for me these days in life.

I recently bought a post card from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum that sits in front of my kitchen window.  It has NO PICURES, just five simple words to remind me of today’s modus operandi:

Failure is not an option.

       It’s the famous line uttered in the Apollo 13 mission and subsequent movie.   It’s a verbal and visionary reminder to keep trying, to keep going…at all costs, beyond energy, beyond strength, above all:  beyond no, and I can’t and I don’t know and I’m tired.

       You must, must, must find a way, in order to complete the mission and come home safely.

The catch is this; life does not always play out like a great movie or space mission.  In fact, as clever as those amazing astronauts were, was there something more than mere intelligence at work?  After all, who gives us our amazing minds?

Perhaps there is a force at work bigger than the size of the circumstance.   Smarter than the smartest mind in the room.  Stronger than the strongest person or fire or storm that threatens.

Yes, we stand tall as trees, but God fells us to our rightful position sometimes:   our knees.

We’re not as big, or smart, or as important as we think we are.    We are not responsible for the resolution of everything!  That’s such a hard, hard lesson for me.  I just naturally associate doing nothing with being lazy.   I keep forgetting that letting go, actually does mean let God.  Nothing in the world feels harder than surrender.  After all, in battle, isn’t surrender essentially the same as defeat?

In battle, yes.   In matters of faith, surrender is true freedom.  Why?  Because that’s when the soft winds of grace can blow in.     What is this grace exactly?

It’s unmerited favor.  It’s granted when you don’t deserve it, perhaps because you don’t deserve it.  Or perhaps because you do.  It’s because despite your failure of choices or abilities, you deserve it, simply because you are loved.  It’s because despite all this which is not of your own making is not happening unnoticed by God.   You are loved.  And the solution will arrive right on time.  But not on your time, on God’s. 

      I think of grace as perseverance strapped safely in by faith.  It’s the ability to step out and endure before the answers arrive.

What is “that thing” you so desperately need right now to solve your most pressing problems?  More money?  More time?  More wisdom (something you hadn’t considered before)?  More energy?  More love?

    Probably “that thing” is the ONE THING you just can’t do by yourself, no matter how hard you try.

Solution?  Stop trying already.  Hear me right.  You still have to get out of bed each day, get up and do the best that you can.  Work as hard as you can, but work at it as if you are confidently expecting God to pull through for you.

Maybe muster up a tiny bit of joy as you are working.  Prayers of gratitude for what God has blessed you with will strengthen you further.  What do you already have working for you?  A family who loves you?  (Think how many people in the world don’t have this!)  A body still capable of working, even though it tires?    A mind which, though sometimes filled with doubt, can still decide, change, adapt to, and embrace new situations and challenges?     Basic needs such as a food, shelter, clothing?   I hope you see the gift of grace you have already obtained here.

If you have time, I hope you’ll watch the video. Mother Teresa had it right all along.  God designed us in this simple yet unique way.

To love, and to be loved.

      That’s it.  To love.  You struggle, yes.  But look beyond you, clearly there are harder struggles that you have not been called to endure.  That’s not good luck; that’s grace.    And yet there is a lesson here:

Amidst the chaos, the unknown outcomes of pressing problems, and being pressed for time all around, is there a way to extend grace to someone else?    Who nearest to your center of gravity simply needs to be loved?

 Failure may feel as if  it’s not an option for the challenges we face.  But grace is.    And grace is the one that will help us complete our mission and carry us safely home.

More Wisdom from Mother Teresa:

We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.

A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.