Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Signs and Wonders (Do You Feel Loved?)

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Faith, God, Love
Tags: , , ,

How many of us lift up a simple prayer sometimes and ask for a sign.  Just give me a sign Lord!  So, a few days ago when I was driving to the beach, I saw this sign by the side of the road.  Simple.  To the point.  What was it advertising?  I didn’t see anything else beside it.   Oh come on, someone doesn’t just pay for those words and not advertise a product!   Well, somebody did.

There has to be a story here, I thought to myself as I made two consecutive  180° degree turns in my van, just so I could digitally encapsulate forever this profound message.  Simple, yet profound.

Somebody cared enough to put these words on a billboard.  Somebody thought you needed to know.  Who in your life needs to be told?  The long term girl friend you kind of take for granted?  The wife you’ve known for fifty years who already knows you do—you’re long past having to say it?  What about the mother who you haven’t called in over a year?  The daughter you’ve been estranged from and you’re too chicken to call?    The friend who you let down?

Maybe there’s a him that needs to hear it just as well.  Who says men don’t need to hear it?  Maybe it’s your child or teenager.  Just because they have an attitude doesn’t mean they don’t long for it.  Either way, if YOU ARE HERE, then maybe this is your moment, your sign.

Love has two parts:

  1. Do
  2. Say

Do!  Actions speak louder than words and hopefully your actions are leaving heavy carbon footprints in the heart of those you love.  It’s the little gestures that count, the sweet notes, the surprise call, the dinner on the roof she wasn’t expecting, mowing your elderly neighbor’s yard, taking your daughter fishing, and a thousand other things you can easily think once you decide you’ve got the time.

Say!  Actions may speak louder, but words are the shadows of these deeds.  Love is the loudest whisper ever spoken, if it is said true.  Love is what you wear or omit when you go out in the world.  Love is what you broadcast when you speak, write, sing, or create.   It’s a feeling, yes, but so much more.  It’s an action, a decision, and it’s never static.  Love always leaves a mark.

Do you feel loved?

It’s so simple actually.  Start with something you do.  Then follow it up with something you say.  Trust God with the results.  Listen to good music.  Take note of things that are beautiful.  Appreciate life!   Pray.   Be patient and show kindness.  Let love be your outward habit towards others.

You are here.  You are not lost.  You are worthy of giving and receiving love.   Go forward smiling with a song in your heart and with God’s blessing.

You too are loved!

And I feel loved
Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved
And it looks like the sun
But it feels like rain
And there’s heat in the sun
To see us through the rain

Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved

“Do You Feel Loved?” – U2

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.    If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

 

 

I am going to go way out on a limb here, but hope you will stick with me to the end.  I want to ask you something.

How deep do you want to be loved?

      I’m also going to be unashamedly real in my answer.   THIS MUCH!  No, I take that back, even more!  For fans of U2, this song certainly has such a life of its own and certainly connects with people spiritually—yes, men like it too, not just women.   U2 has said its “goal is soul” and this chart-smasher proves it.

Let me talk about something else though.  Sometimes a person just can’t deliver the goods.  Not your mate; not a rock star, not your best friend, not even yourself, no one!    The thing is we are human, and thus limited by our humanity.

In our most giving capacity, we can’t totally be the very thing that someone else needs or wants from us, or more painful, we are capable, but we willingly hold back.  Yet the most painful of all, is even if we love with all of our soul and being, we still fall short, because of this one simple fact:

We can’t sustain it. Time promises this.

     We can’t sustain the intensity because we are constrained by time; the best moments can’t last.  Those perfect moments in life are also the cruelest because they don’t and can’t last, and some of us chase them until the end of our life, trying to recapture or recreate them in all their significance and magnificence, in the way we perceive beauty.  Yes, sometimes we need it like a drug.

Herein lies love’s curse:  I can’t live—with or without you.

       Hear me right.  This goes beyond sex or friendship or passion or reason.  It cuts right to the core of who we truly are.   It’s the deepest part of our soul that can almost seem misunderstood by others. We can’t even form the words that describe our desire for this love, this way to be loved.

Perhaps the closest word is perfect.  We want perfect love delivered perfectly!  No drama, no conditions, no expectation, just pure and perfect love.  This is the dilemma of our lives as we chase what we never had, what we thought we once had, or fight to maintain what we appear to have (if only to us).

Like the song says, “we give ourselves away.”  Indeed.  We give ourselves away as we work and we live and we do—everyday.  The sands in our hourglass fall a little bit faster each day.  Most of us push ourselves constantly past expectations—both of ourselves and others.  Still, it’s not enough.  In our most satisfied moments, we want just a little bit more.

This weekend I watched a mom and her children I’ve known for years bury their dad and husband.  You didn’t have to be their best friend, to grasp the depth of their loss.  The rawness of their fresh pain ripped everyone.  We all want to do something to spare them from this; we can’t.   It’s because on earth, we can’t keep it.   Either way the best love will eventually be stripped from our open arms or our clenched fingers.  That’s why we don’t need to manipulate, control, trick, smother, beg, or insist for another to love us perfectly.    That only insures us they won’t or can’t.

Believe me my heart struggles with this, but my head knows this:  Another human being can’t love you deep enough or long enough.  There has to be more.

There is.  God steps in.  Yes, God–the be all and end all of the perfect love we crave.  This too is hard, because we’re walking and loving not by sight, but by faith.    We’re walking and loving by truth and promises, not by what we feel.  That’s a heavy thought, but a freeing reality that makes our burdens lighter to carry.

Somewhere in the heart of all us, if we’re honest, is the little boy or little girl who just wants to be held, to be pulled in close, and to be looked in the eye so deeply you can see our heart.  We want affirmation that we are good, we are loveable, and that it is seen by someone bigger than us.

U2, both their music and especially their front man Bono, seem to master this “soul-connect” with people by expanding the invisible thread that connects our hearts to one another.  The truest, ok maybe the sanest, of U2 fans know this:   It’s not about Bono or the band or even the amazing music itself, it’s the love that comes from a higher power, and they’re just fellow travelers like us, mere humans, who allow it to pass through via music, lyrics, and most of all— heart.

Every good song, concert, moment, or relationship concludes.  So what’s left?

God’s love is the cure.  It transcends space and time and imperfection on our part.    We just have to get our head and our heart around it sometimes.  May you travel light, find your song to sing, love people, and live well!

 

For me, I take it on faith that perfect love exists because there is a God, He is good, and He loves us.  There are some of my favorite scriptures on love and faith:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrew 11:1

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  Romans 8:24

There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 (ISV)

And to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:19

On July 4th I published my post (Out of Control) Freak.   I woke up that day, wrote, and got on with my day making plans for July 4th with friends and family.  It seemed like another day, with the added bonus of being off work in the middle of the week.   I didn’t know the world was crumbling, changing form only a few feet from my home.

In the middle of the afternoon, the hundred degree heat sat thick and heavy on the ground. The sky grew black.  An explosion of thunder crashed as if a bomb went off.  Severe lightening and a pounding rain assaulted the heat.  Though it was ominous outside, I felt safe and secure in the comfort of my little world at home, near the half of family that was here and I prayed for my half that wasn’t here.

It appeared as if all was ok in my world, save for the barrage of fire trucks, police, and ambulances that began to flood our neighborhood.  I was busy writing and didn’t know only a block away, a fellow neighbor’s home was burning to the ground.   They were on vacation as their house perished in flames and smoke.  I also didn’t know that just over my fence, my neighbor of seventeen years got the dreaded phone call we beg God to spare us from:

I’m sorry; there’s been an accident.    Your husband was killed.

       Struck was the word used.   Yet he died as he lived; he was in the middle of doing something he loved.  He went for an afternoon ride on his bike before they were to leave for the beach.  What happens in a single hour?

  • A man who’s pedaled thousands of miles is struck by a truck in the middle of his ride.
  • Gawkers flood our street and follow plumes of smoke to see what is happening.
  • Pyrotechnicians are busy fusing fireworks on a platform while preparing for possible rain.
  • A neighbor rings my doorbell.  My writing time is interrupted.
  • Why isn’t my daughter back from work yet?
  • My friend is finishing packing bags and coolers when the telephone rings.
  • I want to finish my tasks so I can enjoy fireworks in a few hours.
  • Paramedics desperately try to save a man who was hit while riding his bike.
  • Thunder explodes.  Lightening crashes.  Then the rain comes.
  • It’s just another day.  It never is. 

Control of our lives is always an illusion.  I grieve for the moments I’ve lost due to anger, resentment, or frustration where I didn’t have control.   I wish I could take back moments I made the wrong choice or said words I shouldn’t have.  I wish I could freeze time and stay in the moments that were beautiful:  The moment you hold your new baby for the first time, the moments when you intensely loved and were loved, the sweet moment your child hugs your neck and jumps up on you.   We can’t; we’re out of control.

In life, sadly we get no do-overs.  We don’t get to remake yesterday; we only create today.  I found out by watching the evening news, something I rarely do anymore.  I felt sick, but prayed for courage and walked over in the rain to see my neighbor yesterday.   We shared quite a few conversations over the years.  We watched as new babies were born, and chatted when the kids played at the pool.  For years I smiled when I would wash dishes at my sink and watch her three rambunctious boys play with their dog and their dad outside my window.

Now there’s a good family I’d think.  They lived, and they worked, and they loved.  They loved Jesus, had cook outs, threw the Frisbee to the dog, and made plans for their future.  But they didn’t make this one.

In a few hours, I’ll be sitting in a church, most likely crying with hundreds of other friends and family members I do not know.  I’m sad and stunned by the loss of a great neighbor.   I can’t even begin to comprehend their loss of a father and husband who was cherished.

I only know this:  They are not alone.   When I went to visit yesterday, the house was full.  Full of comforting friends, grieving grandmothers, crawling babies, church ladies making food, and a sad dog wondering why all the people but no papa.  I walked in, and my newly widowed neighbor was laughing.  Laughing!  She was briefly in a happy moment as she was showing pictures to relatives.  This made me cry.  I knew when she turned around, there I’d be, another face with tears that kept repeating and confirming: It’s real.  It happened.  He’s gone.  I’m so sorry.

Hugs and tears were exchanged.  My feeble words were compensated for by God’s loving grace.  I was astounded by this mom’s great faith, for these dark hours where she stands and greets people warmly, clasps their hands and repeatedly says, “thank you.”  I reel at the unfairness of life.  I want to take this from her and spare her loving sons.  I can’t.  I have zero control.  They are going to walk through this anyway.

This is the moment we live our faith.  How do we respond when we go through what we didn’t ask for and once we are made aware of what someone else is going through?   I don’t know exactly; I know I can only start with this:  I pray.  I ask for wisdom, grace, comfort, and time to give these things.  I thank God for time we share with family, friends, neighbors, even when it’s brief.   I beg God for mercy and ask for all needs to be met.  I ask for this family to be surrounded by lots and lots of love, especially the long days ahead.

Every moment is indeed a gift; it really is a present.  I pray today that you can unwrap the love and then give it away.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:1-2

Though our grief is devastating, God’s grace truly is amazing.

 

We go through our days and tasks and relationships  and in each moment, it seems we gravitate towards one of two extremes:

Fear or Faith

      Joyce Meyer, a favorite Christian author of mine, teaches that fear is actually an acronym:

False Evidence Appearing Real

      It’s true.   So often we look at the situations of our lives and size each one up in terms of what might happen or what probably will happen.  It’s so easy to become paralyzed mentally that we are then rendered immobile with our feet.  We are afraid to face the difficult person or situation that lies in front of us.  This plague of doubt and worry of what could happen freezes us in our tracks.  We lie dormant, as if standing still somehow will allow it all to pass over us, or pass by.

It never works.  Sooner or later that difficult confrontation happens anyway.  The hard thing you’ve been avoiding still arrives.  Though you can’t prepare for every possible outcome, there is a better way to deal mentally and spiritually.  That is to face it with faith.

I hope you have it or can find it!  I have not searched for an acronym on faith.  But I have one of my own; it’s this:

Fully Allow It To Happen

      Yes, fully allow “it” to happen.  Whatever “it” is in your life.   It could be the impending death you know is coming in your family.  It could be the relationship you see ending.  It could be the job you know it’s time to give up.  But it could also be the miracles that are just around the corner, awaiting your signal to arrive.  How you ask?  By surrendering!  Surrender having to know the outcome, and instead walking with feet that go and a heart that trusts.  Live your life confidently knowing God is in control, and you don’t have to be.

And when you don’t feel it, pray it anyway.  When those prayers appear to be floating around aimlessly in the atmosphere, then remember this:  They are not.  Your prayers are being heard.  The answer is already there.  Every time you feel like you are going through something alone, you are not.   For there just may be at this very moment, a friend, an angel, a stranger unknown by you, who is praying for you and what you are dealing with.    If not, then I pray you know in the pit of your soul, there is indeed a God, a good and loving God who holds you in the palm of His hand and is working out your situation, ultimately to the good.

God’s confirmation of good and love is everywhere:  Mountains, sky, a baby’s smile, a flower in bloom, a hug, a dog who looks up to you, beautiful music.  God sings and says and shines and pours out so much love on us every day.   I pray you see it, take hold of it, and let it multiply in all you give away.   Find the truth, beauty, and love in your life and follow God’s lead.    Life is so good, so rich; may your faith prove itself and make it so.

     Wild Child!   Such a fitting nickname for me, and so many of my friends—that is if we were still stuck in the 1980s.  Ah yes, the carefree 1980s when life was a continuous party, with intermittent breaks reserved for school and part time jobs.  Oh wait, that’s right, we brought the party with us then, so school really was a place of “higher education” and retail and fast food jobs could be experienced as “funemployment”.

Bonfires, boys, beer cans, secrets, laughter, dreams, and things with a funny smell were passed haphazardly amongst friends–we dreamers who were grappling with an idea of what we wanted, but still couldn’t quite name.    Though we were young, clearly we had left childhood, yet still had no clue what it meant to grow up—yet.

Who doesn’t remember the boy or girl at the party who was the center of attention, you know, the one who everyone said, “Man, he (she) is TOTALLY

Out of Control!

      Why that was a badge of honor!  It meant you were superior at taking risks, yet skilled enough to stop with smoke coming off your heels, before diving off a cliff completely.

Fast forward the VHS tape of our lives about twenty five years.  Out of control takes on a different meaning.  Translation:  I’m losing it! 

It means you still don’t quite have it together yet.  You grew up.  You became responsible.  You make lists of things to do, schedules for work, family, and activities.  You call people back, as well as reply by email, text, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which we missed out on in the 1980s.  You either faced someone in person or phone, or avoided them, plain and simple.  Now there’s no excuse for avoidance—we can be stalked by phones (of the land, cell, or smart variety) computer, and quite possibly GPS.

Back in the 80’s we lived, and dreamed about working—a little.  Now we’re “on” 24/7 and are most likely on speed dial with our boss, our clients, our spouses, our kids, our friends, and extended family.  Now we work a lot, and dream about what we would be doing if we were actually living.  You know what I mean, that thing we’d be doing, when we weren’t being so frustratingly responsible.

Hear me correctly.  Responsibility is good; no, it’s great!  We all can think of the self-chosen few who didn’t take responsibility seriously and missed the boat in terms of careers, family, or being independent.   It’s just that with all the responsibility that continuously weighs on us, who doesn’t dream from time to time of just letting go for a while.

Somewhere around forty plus, you realize you’re at the mid-way point.  You question yourself.  Am I successful (enough)?  Did my family/life turn out the way I hoped, more or less?  Should I have become more?  Should I have worked less?  Am I where I am supposed to be?

Maybe you grew up and made good choices and tried to do everything right.  Still:

Life happened.

People still died.  The divorce happened anyway.  You got let go, after all those years.  You had to downsize from your dream home.  Someone you loved abandoned you.  Your child rebelled anyway.  You were told your child has autism.  You didn’t think your spouse would get cancer so young.  Or maybe, you became a smashing success, but somehow the happiness you thought was attached to it, eluded you anyway.

Here’s the deal:  It was always about control.  In our rebellious youth we acted as if we didn’t need it, and by the very act of pretending and avoiding it; we proved we were already mastering deception–the very foundation of control.

Yes, we post our notes, and fill our calendars, and answer our email, all the while, we kid ourselves thinking we know what tomorrow brings.    Yet we know we’re just one phone call away from devastation, or a kiss away from an unforeseen good-bye, and sometimes the miracle moments too, the ones you never saw coming that leave you breathless.  Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that in our heart we make our plans, but God always directs our steps.

We crave control, and try to order our lives in such a way that we appear to have it.  But if you’re like me, God will occasionally interrupt your bliss and hand you a six-pack of situations.  Pop!  ZZZZZZZ!  Start chugging baby.  Before you have time to accept the harshness of the first bitter swallow, BLAM!  Have another one baby!  And another!   Go ahead; drink your fill!  There’s more where this came from!

    I’m not calling God a party-crasher.  I’m just saying– none of us get to stay at the party of endless fun!  We all get called to come home.  Funny thing is, when we surrender our need for all of it, all this control, and can truly turn to someone higher than ourselves, we can finally rejoice in letting go of what we never really had.

We’re out of control though.  It happens.  IT HAPPENED!  Out of control.  OUT OF CONTROL!!

We got spirit, we got soul!  We got some big ideas; we’re out of control!!

— Bono at Glastonbury 360  6/24/2011

Suspended Reality

Posted: June 30, 2012 in Adventure, Faith, Joy, Skydiving, U2
Tags: , , , ,

 Suspended Reality

Suggested Listening: “Beautiful Day” – U2  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vncOE5JICc 

      Go!  And out you jump!  Can you even imagine what that first five seconds feels like when you take the plunge out of an airplane—willingly?  Oh sure, back on earth the decision may have felt totally sane when you were contemplating another item to cross off your bucket list.

Now you’re here.   No time to back out.  You may have traces of fear or you may be totally consumed with it.  No matter.  Your name is called. You and your more than capable instructor, who is attached in tandem to you, stand at the open door and prepare to take the leap.  This leap of faith; you own it!

     You’re OUT!     Wooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!  Your heart is pumping so hard; it feels like it might explode!  The earth is so beautiful from out here.  Sure you’ve flown before, but you were never part of the atmosphere like this.  You’re falling at speeds over 100 mph and cherishing every second of it!   Your mind is a movie camera as it tries to memorize your descent at multiple frames per second.     You redefine status in the Mile High Club; don’t you?!

Your mind is in a state of suspended reality.  You forget that down below babies are being born, wars are being fought, marriages are taking place, people are at desks working, or they’re driving vehicles, or riding on subways, or carrying water while walking  dirt paths, and a trillion other events simultaneously.   How could you?  You are here now.  The earth is silent, save the loud wind that pulls your face back–a temporary face lift.

Your falling, safely, at speeds over 100 mph.  You are at One with your partner that is attached to you and you are at peace with who you are and the world in which you inhabit down below.  This is the moment that you knew you were destined to meet up with.  Your fear left once you saw how beautiful it all was! 

You trust.  You are braver than most people who only tread the earth.  You know family and friends back on earth love you; oh sure they do!  You were always a risk-taker; but never without calculation.  The risk that you took is completely eclipsed by the grand reward which God gave you today:

Life!  It is Magnificent!  This Beautiful Day!

     Your trust in the instructor is required and is repaid a million times over the moment your parachute is pulled.   Like a flower that shoots up, you’re  temporarily pulled back and begin falling slower now, as you return to the gravity you’ve always known.

The moment your feet touch ground, you already know you’ve changed.  You did it!  You carry a new appreciation in your heart.  These pictures that suspend you in time and space will make your heart sing every time you remember.  When you feel the most alive; you truly live.

For Chelsea—So proud of you, my beautiful niece who always walks in a spirit of joy, courage, and faith, knowing that life always turns out for the best!  You are indeed your mother’s daughter!

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,

“why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:31 (NIV)

 

Today I woke up and realized something profound:  These days, I’m living:

All over the map!

Life seems to be a continuous itinerary of places to go, chores to accomplish, jobs to do, and people to interact with.  Yet, is there joy here?

Today I am blessed yet again to not have to work my my “real” job.   I work P/T and set my own schedule.  Still, my daughter has a friend over, then works until late this evening.  My six year old is about to wake up and will want to play and be entertained.   I am making a dinner to take to a neighbor who just had a baby.  My mother in law is coming to eat dinner with us for her birthday, but hopefully my daughter will be making that dinner.  She’s a fantastic cook, better than me!   The house is a wreck.  There is a tornado of papers all over my office.   I owe people letters, replies, and need to follow up on work and personal commitments.  I need to call relatives I’ve lost touch with.  I need to clean the crud off the bathroom mirror for Pete’s sake!

Where to start?  What to do?    I know!  First, I’ll write.  It doesn’t have to be good.  It just needs to happen.  Plug into My joy first I hear my soul whisper to me.  It will all come together, somehow.  It always does.  Let go (not reduce) your expectations.  Just let it go!

I am learning how to write, and in so doing, I am learning how to let go.  I am learning in order to follow my dreams a few side effects are going to result:

  • The house will be messier (than it already was)
  • Others will have to step up (thanks daughter for making so many dinners)
  • People will need to be patient!  (Citibank, Water Company–the check really is in the mail, just as soon as I have time)
  • I need to pray more, not less.  (God, PLEASE help order my day.  There is so much I want to do, but now I’ve added something huge:  I’ve got so much I want to say!)
  • I need to be patient.  (Good things really do come to those who wait and above all leave the results to God!  This is not the time to quit, give up, or demand results from others or from God.  The gift is to go with the flow!)

The last item is the hardest.  I am a “list” person.  Scraps of paper numbered in priority have always dominated my life.  Do this.  Pay that.  Call her.  Explain to him.  Complete every errand.  Spend “quality and focused time” with my son.  That one I sometimes feel I fail at miserably.

But today, I choose not to beat myself up.  I choose not to give up.  I choose to be joyful and to be an encouragement to anyone around me.  I choose to see distractions as divine appointments.  Most of all I say a prayer that God give me love today.

Please give me love to season the food with.  Please give me love to speak with.  And certainly love to set the house as a warm and welcoming place for friends and family, especially my own to reside.  Give me hands to do; yet let me use them by reaching out and doing things in the spirit of love, not in the spirit of “I have to do these 3,687 things or I’m falling down on the job as a mom/wife/daughter/friend.”

Let me bask in love and let me be love reflected.

Praying today if you’re addicted to doing, you can simply be.   If you are addicted to anything, that U2 (you too!) can let it go.  Just let it go!   You too are loved!!    U2areloved

This desperation
Dislocation
Separation
Condemnation
Revelation
In temptation
Isolation
Desolation
Let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so to fade away

“Bad” – U2

Trust is letting go of needing to know all the details before you open your heart.

~Author Unknown

Sunset in Raleigh 6/26/12

 

 Sometimes we get lost because it’s so easy.  We skip from one distraction to the next and in so doing we lose sight of The Big Picture of our life.  We are without compass and have lost our sense of direction.  We rarely have a moment of quiet or peace.  All we really want is to find our way home. 

I can remember when I was a very young child being lost in the woods.  Or at least I felt like I was lost.  I was at the total mercy of my father to return me safely to civilization, my known world.  He did, thankfully.   By middle school I participated in Girl Scouts and enjoyed my first camping trips without parents.

I learned to use a compass by day, but at night we hunkered down in our tents or shelters.  We never once explored the deep dark woods at night.  However, when  I was trying to fall asleep outside under a full moon with crickets chirping all around, and strange movements that could be detected close by, I was more than a little tempted to explore on my own, though my better judgment always kicked in.  We were young girls after all, alone yet together, with den leaders who also were young women–just a slightly more grown up version of ourselves.

It seems I was have always been hungry for adventure, and generally one to travel with relatively little fear “for a woman” some might say.  But I didn’t know then, what I do now.

 Sometime between childhood and adulthood, I learned I had better always be able to find “True North”.    Even “True North” is of limited use, if you are not sure of your arrival destination.

Today we are literally surrounded by a 24/7 onslaught of endless digital media, our old friends the TV and radio, and of course advertising everywhere you turn!  We go out shopping and we sometimes can’t even clarify our own thinking, save for the monitors at the end of every aisle subliminally reprogramming our decision making process over which products to consume.  Go online; it’s way worse!

Our daily travels and errands are constantly bombarded with noise, images, music, sound effects, giant paper billboards, and flashing neon and enormous LED displays that have fourteen different crawls scrolling across.   Times Square makes the Zoo TV Tour look like it was little more than a stationary backdrop.   We get to and from our intended destinations, but we miss 99% of the journey.

We are direction-less wanderersWe’re always in motion, but seem clueless as to where we are actually going.    We are in this space and time but for an infitesimally small fraction of eternity.

U2 was ahead of its time twenty years ago, because their tour foreshadowed the continuous wallpaper advertising and multi-media distractions that we’ve since incorporated as daily routine.  For a concert, it was amazing entertainment!  Now, we seem to live in a state of constant distraction with random or no focus, and no sense of where home (where our heart truly resides).  It’s just too much!

How many of us leave the house with one or more TVs just on?  Perhaps you fall asleep to the lull of “comfort noise”– the conversations of people both real and fictional characters, none of whom know or care for you and vice versa.  We interact with faces on screens more than faces on people!  We’ve silenced our inner voice by a bombardment of noise and lights, and wonder why do we feel so alone?

It’s time to leave it behind!  We need to get back to simple.  We need to leave our cubicles and get engaged in the beautiful day that is all around you.  Unplug from the pod and hear the earth as it actually speaks to you.  Feel the variations of the ground beneath your feet.    If you’re in the city, I hope you can carve out a regular time to visit somewhere that has tall trees, an absence of concrete, and vast amounts of silence.

Once thoroughly embedded in a night forest, begin traveling my friend.  (Bring a buddy of course, safety first!)  Look up!  Look around!  Do you know where you are?  Can you find True North?

It’s easy.  You’re looking for the North Star.  Her real name is Polaris, she’s also known as the Pole Star or Lode Star.  She’s not the brightest star in the sky, but she is bright.  Here’s how to find her:

  • Find the big dipper.
  • Look at the two stars (top and bottom) farthest away from the dipper’s ladle.
  • The one on the bottom furthest from the Big Dipper’s handle is called Merak–which for some reason makes me think of meerkats!  Whatever!
  • The one on the top furthest from the handle is called Dubhe –go ahead, call it doobie if you’re so inclined!
  • Anyway—while looking at Dubhe, in your mind draw a line that starts at Merak, continues on to Dubhe,  and in the same direction look until you see the top of the handle of the Little Dipper.
  • The very top star of the Little Dipper is Polaris.  Congratulations, you’ve found the North Star!

It’s easier to find Polaris by starting with the identifying the Big Dipper first since the Little Dipper isn’t always easily recognizable in the night sky.

Hopefully, now you know how to find your way home geographically.  But what about your heart?  Where is home?  Who or where is your North Star?  I hope you find it.   You already know this:  In life, there are plenty of black holes, most of them super massive!    At the “event horizon” of a black hole, is the point of no return; it’s where the pull of gravity will irrevocably take you down.  You can’t escape, even if you are traveling faster than the speed of light.   You’re sucked in, stretched thin, and shredded to pieces.   Sound like anyone you know?

So find True North.  May this be your moment of surrender.  You may think I’m not easy on my knees.   Look up—do you see what I see?   North Star.   And may your heart sing A New Song (40) as you journey home.

‘Cause there’s only one light that can guide you
Guide you home, home

Say it, say it, say it, say it
I can’t wait any longer
I can’t wait any longer for your love

“North Star” – U2

Suggested Listening:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuUsn3Ck9bU

Image from: http://allu2allthetime.tumblr.com/

One of the Best U2 Fan Sites Ever!!!!!

LMFAO! (Live My Faith; Accept Others!)

Posted on June 21, 2012

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.  ~Cleveland Amory

The other day I was having a lovely lunch with my young son and mother.   Though my mom is an extremely youthful octogenarian, she amused me when she asked, “Liz, tell me something, what does LMFAO mean when people comment with that on their Facebook page?”  Oh boy!  Not one who enjoys cursing in front of my mom, I told her what the acronym’s letters stood for and assured her that I never use it with the middle letter attached when someone tells me something funny.

Long after I answered her question, I was still thinking about what it could stand for.  You see, in the deep cranial cavities of Liz Logic, I am kind of an acronym aficionado, if there is such a thing.  When I see unfamiliar acronyms, I love to see if I can figure out what they stand for based on context of a website or article etc.

At church, we have sermon notes, with blanks left out for key words that will be divulged during the sermon.  Pastor, I’m one step ahead of you; I got this one I always think to myself.  I like to think I know my bible well enough, that I can guess the key words before he teaches us with an amazing sermon.  And you guessed it, I often get it wrong.    I see an L__________ (fill in the blank) and go ahead and put LOVE!   Only to find out, the answer was Live!

It’s a mental game I play with myself, seeing if I can decipher answers before sitting still long enough to receive the answers from someone who just may possibly know more than I do.

Get to the point Liz!  OK, here’s the thing.  So I was pondering a better answer I could have given my mom for the off-colored acronym for a response to a humorous comment one makes on Facebook.   EUREKA!  It just came to me, like this, in a Liz-Flash of inspiration.

Live My Faith; Accept Others

It seems like the last year of my life has been one of the best years I’ve ever had.  But it’s not because every situation in my life is hunky dory all the time.  Far from it!    I don’t know if it’s because the sands of the hour glass are heavier on the bottom side of my life, or God has just graced me with more wisdom, but this message just keeps ringing true these days–repeatedly!

Here’s why.  I have been involved in a neighborhood bible study group with the loveliest friends I have ever known for the last fifteen years.  Some of us leave for a season and come back; some simply move on to other things in life, but the core friendships remain the same.  We are a platoon of moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends and we have seen it all and been through it all in our own lives.  We’ve been through multiple deaths, births, and struggles with our families and deep within ourselves.  We’ve laughed and cried together all these years and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to face some of the things we faced, had it not been for one another.    Sometimes we look back, and think, how in the world did we even survive that?    Only one answer rings true, but for God.

Something one dear friend said, especially grabbed me last night.  She said, “You know the answer in life is just so simple.”  Impossible at times to execute, but so simple to understand:

“Just love one another”

 If we all could just truly love one another, and accept one another, we wouldn’t be at war within our families, or within the world, and even within ourselves.  You don’t think you’re at war within yourself?  Think again.  Do you ever participate in self-condemnation?  I’m so fat or I’m so stupid?   Do you ever participate in pride, or judging others?

See, this truth is the heart of our faith–to just love one another!   Where do you feel the most free in life?  It’s probably in the friendships and relationships where you feel totally accepted in life, despite what they know about you, or your quirks, or your flaws, or your areas that you are working on.

We’ve learned some other things in life too.  It’s not enough to just love each other in our little “holy huddle.”  There is a hurting world outside just beyond the smell of our fresh coffee and raucous laughter.    We know!  That’s the world we always go back to when our time together is up.

Our personalities, political persuasions, professional choices, and how we school and parent our children vary vastly.   Yet we are in agreement on this bedrock principal.  Just love!  We don’t have to beat the others in our family or in the world with bible verses.  It’s not our position to save, but our privilege to share.  We can share our testimonies and our faith as we understand it if asked, but ultimately it is our kindness or love (or sadly, lack of) that tells the truth of who we claim to be.

Sometimes I personally feel like I’m the worst as far as being an effective ambassador or servant of Christ.  I’m so full of inconsistencies!  I’m full of pride sometimes!  I still sin, not only as defined in the bible, but as that voice in my head that says this doesn’t honor God.   Yes, I struggle!    I’m real!    I think we’ve all taken turns passing the self-condemnation ball around but I also know that this is a tactic from an enemy who wishes to see us destroy ourselves, and NOT the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day I know God is a mighty big God.  He has a sense of humor and strength that far surpasses mine.  After all He’s God!  He knows my obsessions, my fears, my tears, and my confessions!  (Whoa…that rhyme just tumbled out!).  But He does!  He probably laughs and says, “There, there my precious child.  You’re going to be okay.  I’ve got it covered.  I know ALL about this, but I love you anyway.  That situation that’s making you nuts or you’re totally afraid of?  It’s all going to be ok.  Trust me.  Be patient.  Have faith.  Don’t be angry at others; just love.  Yes, grow in love.”

I’m still growing up.  But the love comes easier these days.  I don’t have to stay confined to this group or that group of people.  I don’t have to put people in a category.   It’d be better if I ignore any splinters in my neighbor’s eye, considering I have enough planks in my eye to build a deck, quite possibly on a ship.

Though I still get mad, and frustrated, and lose it sometimes, I’m learning I have a place to return.    It’s the heart of our creator.  Proverbs 4:23 teaches us “Guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” has never been truer than now.    I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to build a fortress around it, as to not contaminate it, but to build bridges from it and let the love spill out into the world.  I think this verse is misunderstood as to not let anything corrupt us.  This is true, but I think it also means to not fear those that believe differently, those who have a different opinion of truth.    I think of it as guarding your heart from falling prey to fear, cynicism, judgment, condemnation, or categorizing.  Just breathe life-affirming love into others.  Let God worry about the rest.

Is our faith so fragile, we could lose it by loving those that are different?  I hope not.  That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what I want to do either.  Though I’ve certainly been guilty of that, it’s not who I am anymore—at least I’m trying not to be that person!

For me, Jesus was perfect and I’m so not, and honestly neither has anyone who speaks in His name for the last two thousand years or so.   I think He would be a lot more popular if the world could see more love from those that claim to follow Him.

Love is not to be contained, or given to only those we deem lovely or loveable.  It is not reserved for the deserving, or folks like us.  It’s so much more than a cliché too; it’s actually a commandment…to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but don’t forget the second part—to love our neighbor as our self!

The world and its inhabitants have always and will always need more love and peace.  Just start with you.  Start now.  Where is the love?

Suggested Listening:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdt9kE58uww&feature=related

“Love and Peace or Else” — U2

YOU CAN HELP!   PLEASE! See photo credit/info  – Bottom of Page

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing (Yahweh – U2)

The thing is, I’ve got this rash thing going on.  It’s my neck.  It keeps itching!

See, I live my life with too much to do in one day.  I run around like a multi-tasker on steroids.  I work.  I’m a mom of three, one little, two grown but who still need me for advice, wisdom, and favors, definitely lots of favors.  I’m sandwiched between the needs of our young and adult children, aging parents, and our needs.  Our aging home needs more attention and money than we have to give.    I want to write a book.  I need to organize my time better.  There isn’t enough time to even find the time to organize!

Our days melt into one another as work, errands, paperwork, tasks, email, and chores at home get accomplished.  Pay the bills, throw another load of clothes in the wash.  Did you remember to buy toilet paper?   Take the kids for their six month check up at the dentist?  Get the tires rotated?   Get the kids signed up for camp?  Did you remember to sit down for five minutes and play?  All we ever do is do things, but are we accomplishing anything?

At the end of most days, the result of all the busyness seems to add up to futility.  The laundry isn’t finished.  The windows are  still filthy.  The siding really needs painting.   The car still needs tires, and probably a new transmission.    The toilet paper was forgotten, and there aren’t even any paper towels as a backup.    The kids are hungry and you didn’t have time after work to go to the store.  All the bills and paperwork sit like a tornado of terror waiting to suck up and swirl all your precious time away.

Even though the whole day was spent working at something, not much seems to have been accomplished.  I constantly think about what I need to do and all that I long to do, knowing I have insufficient time for neither.   That’s when my neck starts to itch.

Perhaps it’s something else that’s actually gnawing at my neck.    I once heard that pain or discomfort is God’s way of using a megaphone to get our attention.   See, I’m starting to get this feeling that’s rising up inside of me, that I am called to do less, at least to do less here, and be more out there, out in the world.  I think I know what it is.

Itchy Faith

Yes, I think my faith is starting to itch me a little bit.  It’s starting to feel like a thorn under my skin, a rash that won’t go away.   Because as a Christian, when I accepted Christ, I learned I was saved by Christ’s sacrifice by nothing I did, but because of his love for me.  But His grace is so much more extravagant than that.  It’s more than just, “thanks Bro!  Now I’m heaven-bound, and I really appreciate it!  I’ll really try hard to readjust my cynical attitude from time to time.   Again, I sincerely appreciate you keeping me from the flames!”

See, I’m itching to do more out there, to be more of what I think God is calling me to be.  I read the bible, but not nearly often enough.  And I certainly pray about life’s problems, all the time in fact.   I like to think of myself as one of “God’s complainer-in-chief.”

Yet, I feel like there’s a little bug crawling in my ear, and I  can’t get it out, simply by scratching it.  It’s almost as if a voice is whispering, “Yeah, and so what are YOU going to do about it.  I already put in you the answers.  I gave you the cure; are you going to USE it?”

 See I don’t like this part of my faith.  It makes me itch.  Because I know, just like other medications, it may make me or take me to this place:  UNCOMFORTABLE.    I know if I commit to feeding the hungry on a regular basis, my heart is going to hurt, and race.  It probably will depress me.  If I start getting to know the people Jesus healed then I’m going have to listen more and talk less.   Rescue requires involvement.

I am starting to think if I have eyes, ears, hands, and feet that work reasonably well, he’s probably called me to use them.  And that is so scary!

I freeze up sometimes when asked about my beliefs, or about the bible because  I don’t want to offend others or “botch” God’s word.  I avoid getting involved because it means I might have to commit time or energy.  We like to delude ourselves by hoping someone else will make a difference in the world.   So I lie to myself, and say I wouldn’t be good at it, or I don’t have carpentry skills, or I’ve just got too much going on.

Well!   We all have too much going on.  Yet while I go to bed at night in a comfortable king-sized bed in an air-conditioned house and mentally say my prayers, sometimes I close my eyes and I see continent sized groups of people that sleep on a dirt floor, or a stale mattress.  I see flies, so many flies!   When I sit at my desk inundated with mountains of paperwork, all requiring communication or financial responses, I feel swamped.  Then I remember, there is a child in a tattered dirty shirt and bare calloused feet somewhere in the world trying to till the soil of dry dirt, and ”hope for rain” as the only source of water.

I’m annoyed when I take my child to the pediatrician’s office and on the way, realize I’m nearly out of gas, and if I stop we’ll be late.  Then this uninvited vision of a feverish child swollen with malaria with half-mast eyes, and crying for her mother who no longer exists floats to the surface of my consciousness.  Who are you to complain about all the abundance I’ve given you? This too, creeps into my thought process.    I shoe away the fly in the car that’s bothering my soul.

I turn on the ipod in my air-conditioned van.  U2’s “Yahweh” is playing.  I love this song.  I’m bothered by this song.  Like other songs of theirs, am I going to just listen to another groovy tune, get to my destination, and turn it off?  Or am I going to respond to it?

……Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don’t make a fist, no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticize
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss (Yahweh – U2)

Yes, I’ve had this rash for a good while now.  I’ve gone from complaining often to complaining less and being grateful more.  But God hasn’t come down from heaven and said, “Good job daughter, I’m pleased with you. You finally got it.”   No, it’s more like this itchy thought that keeps rising, “You haven’t even climbed the first step yet.  Keep going.”

I don’t know where this will lead.   I’m scared.  How will He have me serve?  Write about ways to serve or actually serving?   Will he put me out there in the battlefield where people are actually hurting, crying, starving, or dying?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if or where I’ll be going or when.    I don’t have a field manual.    I just simply feel something is changing in me and it itches me in such a way I personally can’t live the way I used to.

Words like social justice and compassion and service keep rising up despite my political beliefs, despite my attempts to push them back down.  Oh no, I’m starting to feel a bit like Bono.  I have a feeling, lack of fame won’t give me immunity, any more than an abundance of it excludes him.   I’m pretty sure God is calling all of us to view our place and our purpose in the world, whether we have a platform reaching millions or a platform reaching only One. 

  Be warned.  If you have a tender heart, this rash is contagious.  It will make you uncomfortable.  The question is what are you going to do about it?

Take this heart
And make it brave

 Yahweh – U2

To hear this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyzPtjIP2eo

When searching for the perfect photo for this article, my first “hit” stumbled upon this;  it is a concrete and specific way you can help.  Compassion International is a fantastic organization that is one of the world’s most efficient charities in terms of applying the greatest percentage of money directly to those in need.   Our family has sponsored a child since 2003.  I will be blogging about this in the future!

Please prayerfully consider sponsoring, or even a one time donation to Compassion International!

http://ihrg.org/10-ways-to-choose-which-child-to-sponsor

Compassion International:  http://www.compassion.com