Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Step into the confessional booth with me, will you?  I want to tell you a little secret, but shhhh!  Don’t tell anyone.

(Me whispering): I may be the only woman on the planet that will tell you this, but I have NOT read that book everyone is talking about.

It’s true.   Other friends have already informed me it’s ripe with never-in-real-life characters and plot, seasoned with weak writing, full of mental diagrams of how to have pretzel-twisting, mind-blowing, well you know.    The thing is I’m so past that.  I mean really, really long past.  Not as in a thing of the past, but in a girl, I’m so over it kind of way.   I’m past the point in my life, where that would be the Mount Everest not yet scaled, the utter pinnacle of exquisite satisfaction.

Ask anyone who’s been married long enough, or been around the block a few times too many, you will find something in common:  Your appetite changes.  Translation:  You grow up.  You mature.  You want connection not sex.  You want time to be SLOW and not rushed.  You want endurance, not intensity.  You want real not surreal.  You want relationship not temporary satisfaction. 

As I draw nearer to the half-century mark (just thinking fifty years seems surreal to even write) I find what I obsess most over is: hanging on.  Hanging on to love, people, relationships, memories, these are the precious jewels that we accidentally let fall through our hands like sifting sand in our vain attempts to manage our own lives more efficiently.

I’m at that precarious stage of life when I often don’t see my friends for long stretches of time, except sadly, when it’s time to go to another parent’s funeral.   I buy sympathy cards by the box now, instead of on occasion.   Sadder still, is going to the funeral of friends my age.   Recently, I found my high school actually has a Facebook page simply titled Angels beside the name of my school.  Scrolling through it was humbling, as I am keenly aware the time to realize my dreams and the things I want to accomplish may be on the shorter end of the gauge than longer.

Then I thought about it.  Maybe life has never been totally about accomplishing our goals and dreams.  Not that we shouldn’t have them, but maybe it’s so much more.  Maybe it’s about the life and dreams God had planned for us from the day we were born.    Maybe it’s about the kind of person He is molding us in to, and not the profession or ambitions that we define as who we are or wish to become.

If you’re like me, you may feel like life and our over-crammed daily schedule is whizzing by at breakneck speed.  Technology has amplified the affect.  With exponential forms of electronic communication to reach, inform, pester, entertain, beg , or demand us,  it sometimes feels like it’s changed us to that which we were never designed to be:  Too busy to connect.

So I’m working on consolidating my life a bit.  Organize the photos.  Purchase only the essential.  Spend less time on Facebook and more actual Face Time with those I love and am actually friends with.

Above all I pray.  As I get older, maybe it’s the natural order of things, but I find I pray more.  I need to pray more.  I want to pray more.    I actually love to pray more.

Life is so short.  Some dreams come true and others don’t for all of us.    Still, if you’re here—well, then you’ve got a lot to be grateful for.  That’s reason enough to pray.  But if you’re suffering, that’s even more reason, because God wants to use it to make you better, stronger, kinder, smarter, healed and whole, or something else yet defined.    You don’t always get to choose your suffering, only your response to it.

Love those you have left in your left.  Make necessary repairs.    Think of all you have to be thankful for.   And pray.

Pray because our God is awesome!  Pray because He wants to bless you.  Pray because you need Him to reveal something about that which is causing you pain.  Pray because you need to know.  Pray for others.  Pray because once you actually start to count your blessings, you realize it’s not only more than you can count, it’s so much more than you deserve.    Pray because you don’t have to know it all or control it all.  Pray because you are alive and you still can.

Mick Jagger sang “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” until he publicly claimed he hoped he never had to sing it again.  Apparently the repetition of singing it failed to sustain satisfaction despite the royalties it provided.  Paul Simon reminds us in his clever song there really is at least fifty ways to leave your lover; another testimony that relational satisfaction is often temporal.

My only conclusion?  Fifty Shades is cotton candy compared to The Real Thing.   Fleshly desires or eternal?  Happy for now or satisfied forever?   Pick one.

So we cry out, whisper, or silently say our prayers.  And we wait, oh how we wait–trusting that God has heard us, all the while believing He is good and in control and that He loves us.    We step out in trust blindly walking by faith, knowing we don’t have to know it all, have it all, do it all, or be that which we can’t be.

We may spend periods of our life in solitude, but we are never alone.  We are indeed richly loved.  And that’s a mind-blowing connection and lasting satisfaction, we can joyfully hold on to.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)

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WAR

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Christianity, U2, War, Wisdom
Tags: , , ,

War

Specialist Darrion Hicks – US Army

Broughton HS – Class of 2009

      I’m really upset about something.  A young man from my daughter’s high school returned home from Afghanistan this week.  Dead.  He came back in a casket.  He graduated two years before my daughter from the same high school with all the joy, promise, and expectation of a future that my daughter carries.  I didn’t know him.  I can’t stop thinking about him.

I admire his bravery and service.  I still believe it is the most courageous and noblest among us that choose to serve in the armed forces.  They serve because first they loved.

Still I’m so upset.  Musicians get it right before the rest of us sometimes.  I’m talking about war:

“War!  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!” shouts Edwin Starr with plenty of passion and soul enough in 1969 in his biggest hit “War” to protest the Vietnam War.

If you’re a U2 fan, it’s almost impossible not to be affected by “Ava Maria” sung by Bono and the great Italian opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.   With artistic liberty and lyrical beauty they added some American lyrics.  But this verse is unmistakable as its truth is quietly sung:

And strength is not without humility
Its weakness, an untreatable disease
And war is always the choice
Of the chosen who will not have to fight

      I think about this more and more these days.  I’m a fairly conservative person. I’m also Christian in my beliefs.  But you know what?  I don’t like the casualties and destruction of war any more than my liberal, apolitical, independent, Buddhist, New Age, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, or nearly any other “classification” of friends does.  In all my years, I haven’t met someone that says, “Yep, we need more dead people to bring about peace.”

I struggle internally as I try to understand what those in power have people fighting for.  Certainly I understand the need to defend one’s self, family, or territory when attacked.  Every person yearns to be free to choose their destiny and their beliefs in a land they can call their own.   Which provocations do we respond to and how?

It’s true; soldiers who fight on the front lines are never the ones in power that cause it to be so.  Politicians from all sides justify war to keep us safe.   And don’t forget:  War is big business.  No one can deny that war creates jobs and lots of money.   But for who?   At what cost?

Are wars just a land grab?  An unquenchable thirst for power?    Are they ever justified in the name of defense of freedom?     We could argue yes, and maybe no, to all of above—all with different view points.

Those of us who are still free, in our limited understanding, try to make sense of issues regarding politics, history, economics and vote our conscience in our quest to be both safe and free.    All the while, we know, the person we pick can guarantee neither.

Those in bondage of the evils of dictatorship have even more reason to fight for their freedom and security and are equipped even less to do so.  For those that seek to oppress ensure that the innocent and powerless are unable to do so.

Flip on the news on any given night and see entire towns bombed out, with women and children in tattered clothes searching for crumbs, a brick, a blanket, anything at all essential to their survival.    Syria comes to mind these days, and we a world away feel powerless, and we chase the bad images away.  Some of us pray.  Some of us do nothing but forget about it.  Some of us get angry and become activists.  Even our responses can divide us when we don’t agree with the responses of others we know.  Without even being aware, the war seeps in and expands.

 We are at war in the world, because first we are at war within.   As a Christian, I find this verse most sobering indeed:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask GodJames 4:1

    Desire is such a motivating force in our lives.  It propels us forward with our goals.  But when we covet something in such a way that we have to have what does not belong to us or is not intended for us, it will destroy us.   If not yourself, it will destroy that which you covet, if obtained by force.

We spend our lives tripping over ourselves because we can’t get other people to say what we want, do what we want, or be who we want them to be.  If they would just submit to our desire or demands, we could all live in peace we think.  At the very least, understand that we are right!    So we quarrel, then we fight, and taken to extremes– we kill.

The war within has been going on since the dawn of time.  If not harnessed and redirected, it will seep outward until we have a full blown sickness.

I’m not a preacher, but sometimes I’m accused of trying to preach.  If so, I apologize because I’m a lousy example of that which I profess to believe.  But believe it I do.  And strive for it I will.  Because I do believe this:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt: 5:9)

God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. (Prov. 3:34)

     I’m getting older and the small things in life aren’t worth fighting over.  The big things are out of my control anyway and I can’t seem to resolve those through people anyway.    I can only control me—my thoughts, my desires, my actions.  Oh sure, I trip about a dozen times a day, but I’m remembering more than I’m forgetting and for that I’m grateful.

If I could stop war and change the world, believe me I would. I can’t. You can’t either.  We can only fix ourselves.  And with all humility and a touch of humor I humbly beg you—PLEASE DO!

And for U2 fans, a little bit of U2 wisdom here:

Lay down
Lay down your guns
All your daughters of Zion
All your Abraham sons
I don’t know if I can make it
I’m not easy on my knees
Here’s my heart and you can break it
I need some release, release, release

From “Love and Peace or Else” – U2

For Specialist Darrion Hicks and His Family:  

I salute you and thank you for your service. 
May God bless you and your family eternally. 
I cherish freedom and life each day because your courage went before me.  
Rest in peace.

PRESS PLAY:  A SONG TRIBUTE FOR DARION:

Video:  Bono: A Conversation about Christianity

Who do you follow?  Click on Faces on Facebook, blogs, websites, YouTube, people, pets, places, ideas, or ideologies and chances are there’s a LIKE, SHARE, or FOLLOW button attached to it.

I’m a bit of a U2 fan.  OK, maybe too much so sometimes.  It’s just that I really in truly love their music more than ANYTHING else around.  It’s just me, my personal preferences.  Besides the technical genius of the Edge, the backbone and muscle found in Larry and Adam, you’d have to be fairly unaware in life to not know the lead singer and some say heart of the band is—Bono.  Even that’s debatable because most U2 fans know what makes the band endure through the decades is that each member is absolutely vital to the other.  Bono just happens to be the person in front.

A year ago today I met Bono.  I just happened to be in NYC, a place I’ve only been to three times in my life.  He just happened to be at the Letterman Theater outside my hotel on my last day in NYC.  I didn’t know U2 was in town, even more, just outside my hotel across the street a few feet away.   I found out randomly when I overheard another hotel patron telling her friend that they were in town.

I ran across the street and tried to get Letterman tickets.  I waited in line, interviewed, and didn’t get picked.  I left and did some sightseeing with my adult daughter in Battery Park.   We came back, and I went to the theater one more time where Letterman was filming.  Everyone had showed up.  There were no extra tickets; I was told I didn’t need to stay.  I knew Bono and The Edge were inside.  I wanted to meet them; I wanted to meet Bono!

I was beside myself with excitement. I sort of felt like a cross between the swooning moms who fainted over Elvis during my childhood and young teens who camp out and fast for days for a change to meet “The Bieb-ster”.   I ran back to my hotel to change and brush my hair.  I was determined to find a way.  Then I started calming down.  Then I started crying.  What’s wrong with me?

HE’S ONLY A MAN

Suddenly, there was a fire drill only on our floor.  I had to evacuate anyway.  I thought maybe, just maybe I’d go downstairs one last time and see if anything was going on in the back of the theater around the corner.  God?  What are you trying to tell me?

He’s only a man my child.  He’s definitely not Jesus.  He’s Bono, but at the end of the day, he’s still a man.

I quit running.  I started walking instead.  I told God something important:  I know!

So I surrendered.  If it was meant to be—fine.  If not, I could live with that.  Only four days prior, I had driven from this same hotel to see U2 in Philadelphia.  It was my third and best U2 concert of all.  Don’t be greedy with your blessings Liz!

I got there in the nick of time.  I had a blast and made some quick connections with other U2 fans; or as I sometimes say, “I found MY people!”

The backdoors opened.  Out walked the Edge and then Bono.  Then it happened.  I met Bono!  I wasn’t shaking.  I wasn’t falling down. I was able to speak coherently.   He’s just a man.  But for a brief second in time, I saw his eyes and perhaps he saw mine.  I told him to tell Nelson Mandela Happy Birthday.  I found out later, he was on his way to have lunch with him, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I wasn’t inside the theater when they were taping.  I just knew.  Because sometimes our souls just know.  I knew how close they are, and I remembered the audience singing Happy Birthday to Nelson at Bono’s request four days earlier in Philadelphia.

Then he said what I still refer to as just one word:  Yeah!!!!!

Yeah (YES)!   YES is such an affirmative word.  It may sound cliché, but I knew in my heart that day, it was time for me to start saying yes to pursuing some dreams I’ve carried around for a while.  It was as if God was whispering,

Your dreams can be a reality!  Why do you even doubt?

 Not because I met Bono, but because sometimes God just comes down and blesses you with something amazing, that you didn’t deserve, that you wouldn’t have seen coming in your wildest imagination.

At the end of the day, and the whole of my life, I am a U2 fan to the core, especially Bono.  But I actually follow WHO he follows.  I think that’s why I and millions of other fans connect so deeply.   It’s more than even U2’s great music.  It’s their connection to those that suffer in this world and making us not just aware, but challenging us to do.   To start where you are, and to branch out, that is the key.

Yes I’m a fan of U2, so I’ve hit my fill of LIKE buttons and commented volumes.

But I FOLLOW Christ, not perfectly, but absolutely, and that’s something I really want to SHARE.    Christ forgives, redeems, saves, loves, challenges, and changes us IF we let him.  Only God knows what plans He has for you though we’re guaranteed a few things as we go:  tragedy, triumph, love, loss.  So how do we survive it all?

Love.  Pray.  Hope.  Persevere.  Trust.

I’m many things—a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and a writer.  I’m a fan of U2.  I’m a follower of Jesus—like my brother Paul, we are ONE in Christ. And that’s reason to REJOICE!

NOTE:  I’ve read these quotes.  They can be found in these books, great reads for U2 fans regarding Bono’s views and struggles in his faith walk.

 

What is it about a beach sunrise that trumps a regular sunrise?  Yesterday morning I had my feet propped up on a deck rail, a warm coffee in my hand, two sweet dogs laying by my side, and watching the ocean on the horizon.

Such sweet relief!   Our souls often feel weathered due to the storms we’re forced to endure. We learn:

Change is the only constant we navigate by

Waves continuously change and crash, but the sea and the mysterious laws that govern it are eternally constant. I sat there vaguely pondering  this, but mostly I was trance like in a state of non-thought.

Then my dear friend of twenty years came out with a plate of delicious fresh garden tomatoes grown with the help of her hands and love for gardening.  We sipped our coffee as we watched the sea.  “Look!” she said.  “Dolphins!”    A pair of dolphins were swimming just past the waves’ breaking  point parallel to the shore line.

I rarely stay at such quiet beaches, so I had yet to see dolphins at sunrise.  I’ve hoped for it on many trips, but never got to see them with my own eyes–until yesterday.

It’s real, I thought.  I never saw dolphins swim at sunrise before, not because they didn’t exist or I wasn’t looking hard enough, but because it wasn’t my time to see.  Prayers are answered in God’s time, not ours.

There is nothing like the ocean that seems to settle our faith and our doubts between the temporary and the eternal  like watching the ocean for an extended period of time.  Our soul is soothed as we watch the ocean free from life’s pressures, distractions, noise, and rampant thoughts that compete for our attention.    Ah, to just watch the ocean with a truly open mind, and without awareness of time passing.

See God has planted the seed of eternity in every man’s heart.  It’s hard not to love the sea whose every breaking wave crashes onto shore, only to return softly back to itself.    From a distance it’s so beautiful.  But if you are standing at the waves’ breaking point, all you hear is loudness and feel its fury.  You certainly feel the power if you attempt to stand there.  Fixing your feet here is impossible.  But a few yards ahead or behind the breaking point, all is calm.

Our lives are exactly like that.  The storms come.   The circumstances come in bulk and threaten to pull us under.  We are standing at the breaking point where it’s loud, and we’re unsteady on our feet.  We see the shore and we see the horizon, but in the midst of the breaking point’s fury, we can’t seem to move further out to sea or return to shore.

Yes, viewing the ocean from the distance of being across the street, I had a wider and quieter view then when lying on the sand only a few feet from where the tide comes in.  I look at the sea from this distance and feel nothing but peace from the top of my head to the tips of my toes still sugared in bits of yesterday’s sand.  All is well with the world—or at least, in this moment, in mine.

Yet I know this same sea has blanketed fury on coastal cities in time past.  It’s destroyed property and taken lives.  Untold thousands have drawn their last breath of air before succumbing to the ocean’s depths.    Boats and ships sink.  Storms come.  People drown.   My worst sea nightmare would be of being stranded in a life boat, dying of thirst, yet wondering if I’d be rescued.

Yesterday I watched dolphins swim across the ocean.  Somewhere else in the world, in this very same sea, somebody else was on a sinking boat fighting to stay alive.  At their moment of peril, did dolphins cease to exist?  While I marveled at the magnificence of dolphins, did I not care for the person struggling in the sea just because I didn’t see them or know of it?

Our circumstances, perspectives, beliefs, and geography separate us, yet we are still united in our humanity.  When one suffers, humanity suffers even when others are not aware.  Thankfully, God sees the big picture of our lives with an ultra-wide angle lens—a perspective we can’t conceive.  It is not constrained by width or depth or time.   God is able to see both these moments, and every moment and every one.

I want to have and maintain peace like I did yesterday morning.  Can we have daily peace, even though there is continual chaos in the world, even in our own lives? If so, how God?

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.  James 1:5-8

This is one of the hardest and truest bible verses to me.  We are told that it is our doubts that blow our lives all around, sometimes to bits!  Our circumstances and our emotions toss us in such a way we can’t find True North, we can’t navigate our way home.   We get pulled between other peoples’ words to us and expectations of us and our feelings towards it all.   We don’t find solutions, because we don’t believe we will.

We get tossed by each event that threatens to overtake us, simply because we’re out of control.  We already know that in many circumstances, the control was never ours to possess anyway.    Still we fight the Captain of our soul for command of the wheel.  Sometimes our own mutiny is the real cause of our undoing.

It’s been said that seeing is believing.  But the real truth is believing is seeing. 

Would I have believed in dolphins had I never seen them at sunrise yesterday?  Of course!  I’ve known dozens of people who have already seen them; I’d seen them on TV and pictures.  That’s a no-brainer.  Everyone knows dolphins exist.

But God?  That’s another matter.  It can be hard to either believe God exists or that He actually is good or cares for you or the world that you live in.  How could God care or be good when there are storms such as wars, disease, famine , poverty, injustice,  and cruelty inflicted on living beings that God breathed life into in the first place?  Are those people or creatures less valuable to God then we are?  Of course not!  Then why?

WHY is the question we don’t have the luxury of asking.  When we do, our brain is limited in the answers it provides.  We can’t find rationale for pain or unfairness; our limited explanations don’t satisfy.   That dissatisfaction breeds doubt, and the cycle of being tossed about commences.

WHY is the universal question whose answer is like the sea.  It rises up, and then rolls back out.  We think we almost know sometimes; we think we have our lives figured out.    Then the storms come.

We have to trust in our faith that assures WHO, and not the knowledge that seeks to explain WHY.  Don’t allow waves of doubt to take your truth back to sea.

Man tries to explain his life and events, and the most brilliant, pedigreed people still fail miserably.   Life is a mystery.   The question is can you be at peace and NOT have answers sometimes?

I hope so.  That’s faith—being comfortable in not knowing the outcome or why.   If we can choose to live our lives as mirrors, so that our words and deeds reflect  light and love, rather than a telescope that tries to see and explain time and circumstance—that’s visionIf we can choose to love God and believe he exists, even though life isn’t fair, that’s true freedom.  Doing these things diminishes doubts, until they eventually die.

We don’t get to choose the location, timing, or severity of our storms.  We only can decide on who is in charge of our ship that sails over every breaking wave.  Choose well so that you can navigate safely.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

 

Every breaking wave
On the shore
Tells  the next one there’ll be one more

I don’t know if I’m that strong
I don’t know if I’m that strong
Don’t know if I’m that strong
To be somebody
To need someone……….

……..The waves know
We’re on the rocks
Drowning is no sin

You know
That my heart
Is the same place yours has been

(Partial Lyrics—U2 –Every Breaking Wave)

 

 

 

 

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

 

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.

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

Photo by Liz Gray

Go and wake up your luck.  Persian Saying

        Life is so beautiful.   I should easily be able to think of at least a thousand memories from the 17, 184* days I’ve lived so far,  but for sake of the preciousness of your life, allow me to account for just one day.

Yesterday was such a very happy day.  I woke up;  as is my custom, God willing, and that right there is something major to be grateful for.  This was followed by a series of multiple media message checking from cell phone, to email, to facebook, to homephone—all before I had a chance for my morning coffee.     Make the beds, make a plan for the day, change the litter box; change the plans for the day after consulting all the other family members and their plans.

Thankfully, it was Saturday, so we didn’t have the usual workday/school day stress of all trying to get out the door.   As words were exchanged and plans revised and rearranged, I first felt the twinges of stress creeping in from an “overstuffed” day, but for once I was able to pause  and remember something:

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

See I wanted to go to a dear friend’s daughter’s high school graduation.  I also already had plans to go see my daughter’s dance recital at a studio about two hours away, two hours from when the graduation ceremony started.  I had not seen my friend in over a year or her family.  Not only was her youngest daughter graduating, her oldest daughter was coming into town with a brand new baby, only a few weeks old.  I could not skip my daughter’s recital, yet how could I miss the graduation of someone so dear to our family?

What to do, what to do?  We’ve all been here.  How do you either A: Stop Time or   B: Be in two places at one time?

Well, if you figure that one out, please be sure and let me know, because it seems every day I live, there is more that either NEEDS to be done, or that I WANT to do, and sadly it’s just not possible to do it all.

So I prayed.  I rushed, but I prayed five simple words:  Lord, please order my day.  BOOM!  No sooner, than this simplest of prayers get lifted up, a possibility floated into my consciousness.   It was as if God let me know a visit with a friend delights and warms our heart no matter how brief.  I decided I would meet my friends, and hug her beautiful daughter if only for a few moments outside the church shortly before graduation started.  We spent about thirty true quality moments.  I did not get to see her graduate.  But I did get to see her.

I got to admire the serene beauty of a mom who raised four amazing children who have grown into Godly, well-adjusted, kind, compassionate young adults who will make this world a better place because of their purpose in it.  I got to see her two beautiful boys, one with a family of his own,  and her lovely oldest daughter, a mom of three with her newest gorgeous baby boy.  Hugs were exchanged and plans were made for a future visit.

Kiss, kiss, and off I went.  I drove the two hours west where the foothills, turn into what I guess I would call sledding hills.  Not quite the mountains, but there is a hint you’re getting closer.  Along the way to the dance recital, I kept stopping because I am the kind of person who gets distracted by Kodak Moments.  Rural America has a hundred snapshots a mile.  I could write into eternity, and I’m not even sure that would be enough time to capture all the beauty I see all around me.  Old wells, broken down cars,  wheel wagon mailboxes, giant ten-foot neon signs decades old, purple houses with pink petunias everywhere, and even the unique, humorous, and downright weird billboards I saw were all “signs”  from a higher power to:  SEE!  ENJOY!  WHAT BOUNTY AND ABUNDANCE I HAVE PLACED BEFORE YOU!

My favorite pic of the day was a sweepstakes building.  There was only one car there; I assume it was the owner or employee. There was not another car in sight.  They were open for business.  But no one came.  Maybe it’s because this small town felt like I did; I already won the lottery!!   Who needs a windfall, which often is accompanied by curses and broken promises, when beauty and memory is to be found everywhere.

I ultimately made it to the dance recital where my daughter sat in the front along with the other teachers, as opposed to dancing on the stage like all the recitals of the last ten years.    Her choreography was amazing and loud applause warmed my heart, because God continues to water the seeds of her gifts too.

I thought of all the unwritten chapters yesterday.  Not just what I want to write about, but what God wants to write about.  He truly has written eternity into the hearts of man.  Who will this new graduate become as she starts her voyage from this day forward as an adult?  Who will this new baby be?  What new adventures await my lovely friend who has successfully raised four amazing children and now after nearly thirty years will have the joy of time to do more of what she loves?  What lies ahead for all the talented dancers I saw yesterday? Their possibilities of choices, colleges, and careers are endless.

See I didn’t have to go inside and play the lottery.  For I have a secret to tell you.  I already won!!

It’s not about what we have or haven’t gotten yet.  It’s not about the career we have or don’t have that defines us.  Life is about  enjoying the gifts God puts all around you and within you.    It’s not about  stuff or status; it’s about purpose and perspective.  Ah yes, definitely perspective.

Yesterday I hugged three beautiful moms and one beautiful graduate!  I kissed a new baby.  I met a new toddler.  I saw dancers that could soar so high and dance so magnificently it made me cry that even that much talent can be squeezed into one person’s body, and even that was repeated in multiple dancers.   I hugged and kissed a beautiful teacher–my daughter.   Throughout the day I listened to music that inspires my soul and saw scenery that leaves me with only one thought.  Thank you!    Thank you God for letting me win life’s lottery.  It’s not free from struggle, by any means, but it’s days like yesterday, that make me realize, I’m infinitely rich beyond measure.

Today I even got to wake up for the 17, 185th time.  Seriously, how SWEET is that???

The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on.  ~Josiah Gilbert Holland

  How long have you been blessed?  http://www.beatcanvas.com/daysalive.asp