Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

ALMA antennas under the Milky Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Search for Significance

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Autumn Floral Heart

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

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

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

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

These are MY THREE LITTLE WORDS for 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings in 2014 to you.    You too are loved.

 Be Yourself

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

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

An engraved invitation to a party:

THE PITY PARTY

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

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

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

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

I’ll tell you.  We forget who we are.

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

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

Validation

Admiration

Results to go the way I plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“Until the End of the World” – U2

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you? ” — William Arthur Ward

 Photo by Liz Gray

I saw this caption in a travel magazine promoting  tourism of the country of Turkey.  I saw it and immediately thought:  I wish that was my original idea!

It’s not.  But the practice of the concept can be an original idea for you, for me, for all of us, starting now:   This very moment.

Stop multi-tasking for a second as you read this.  Think about this deeply.  Look around.  Are you inside or outside?  If you are inside, where are you?  At home?  At work?  On a mobile device in the great outdoors?   Take a panoramic mental snapshot of what’s around you:  Architecture, mementos, photographs, nature, security, landscapes, gifts, birds, business, people, stars, flowers, insects, sky, sunrise, clouds–signs of life abounds everywhere.   When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

Do you see beauty?  Do you see what God has created?  Even if it’s man made, did not God put the original idea, the skill set to craft, the desire to create, first in the mind of you or someone who thought I’m going to build this amazing bridge or paint this amazing portrait or mix compounds in a new way and create a cure.

We live in a distracted world.  For sure, we have inherited a problematic world that multiplies daily in terms of crisis and depth of despair.  The news sucks, people everywhere around us are sick and dying, we are overworked, underpaid, overstressed, and undernourished in every way—spiritually, physically, and emotionally.   We are slaves to too much technology.  We can’t keep up with our own self, much less anyone else.

How do you turn it off?  How do you silence all the chaos that surrounds you and ensuing drama in your head?  What is it that works for you?  Do you have something?

  • Supportive Friends
  • Faith
  • Prayers
  • Hope
  • Music
  • Art
  • Love of or for someone other than you

I hope you have one, two, or even all of the above!

      We can’t always change our circumstance in life.  That means there is only one thing we can change:

Our Perspective

      I don’t know about you, but when I look at the world, this is what I see:

Flowers, character lines on old faces, color, deliciousness, babies, painting, design, patterns, solutions, craft work, words, kindness, goodness, feats of wonder,  sculptures, melody, truth, beauty…….

On and on it goes.

Sometimes I complain, believe me I do!  But with faith and daily prayers, good friends who hold me accountable to truth I can live by, the symphony of music, and an attitude that is growing a little more each day in gratitude, I am discovering that God’s love for me is bigger than any problem or emotion.  I still don’t measure up to my ideal version of myself, but knowing God loves me despite my flaws (many) and forgives me despite my guilt (much) frees me from self-condemnation while at the same time humbles me that He still has even more blessing in store for me.

Faith as a belief is an essential partnership with God which allows you to focus less on you, more on God, less on circumstance, and more on acceptance of what is.  We can ride the wave, go with the flow, and bend like a willow tree.   Faith as a practice is not about appearing or trying to be perfect or fit a stereotype, but to be the real you as God intended in order to be at peace.   Quirky, funny, emotional, deep, driven, ridiculous…..whatever it is, just be YOU so you can get past all that and start tending to the needs of others.

May you step out today in courage and stop fighting that which you can’t control, start changing anything about yourself that you can and know you should, and may you have enough heart to look around and see beauty…..everywhere.  This is the confirmation that God sets in each of our hearts that whispers you too are loved. 

Ready?  One, two, three…..breathe in!  INHALE LOVE.  EXHALE.  GRATITUDE

MORE THOUGHTS ON FAITH AND GRATITUDE:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”   Epicurus

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love”

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”  A.A. Milne – “Winnie the Pooh”

 (Quotes from GoodReads)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giulia Muraglia FF

PHOTO CREDIT: GIULIA MURAGLIA

What’s your most treasured memory?  The first moment you met someone you love?  A place you stood?  The beginning of something or someone?  A sight forever memorized by your heart?  Perhaps words that were said, spoken, written, or sung that you can’t get out of your head, even if you try?

Time passes and we want to hold on to special memories.   Our material possessions and even our relationships roll in and out of our life like the tide, and most we let go and don’t even know they are gone until something way off in the future triggers a memory:

  • Oh yeah, I had a stuffed bear like that once
  • I haven’t heard this song in years!  It reminds me of….
  • I remember being here as a kid
  • I remember you…..
  • I couldn’t forget_____ if I tried

I recently took the most amazing vacation with my family.  It was six years in the making and our first and only trip as a complete family since my youngest was born seven years ago.   We saved.    We borrowed.  We coordinated work and school schedules for all.    We saw it all, did it all, ate it all, and savored it all.

Along the way I took the next biggest extension of me, beyond my pen; I brought my camera and lens.  Not just any lens, the best lens, a luxury lens I had rented for my best camera in order to preserve these precious memories for time immemorial.

I clicked.  I clicked again and again.  Every beautiful animal and dreamy landscape.  Every arrangement of family portraits you could imagine. Lots of impromptu stuff too.  All professional looking.  National Geographic doesn’t look this great I thought.

My husband snapped an amazing pic of me with a Great Horned owl swooping above my head as I blinked in awesome wonder as he swooped a silent cool breeze less than inch above my head. I couldn’t wait to see this one later.  I didn’t look now in order to conserve my battery  and to save it for “dessert” after our trip ended.  I took a photo of my young son’s beautiful face softly illuminated by the light of a single birthday candle.  I told my family, this is the BEST photo I’ve ever taken.

I clicked over twelve hundred images.  I had plans to make scrapbooks and a movie of our trip.  Sights, smells, foods, countries, animals, music, architecture—it was all there.  It was dreamy.  It was surreal.  It was to be my concrete reminder of who we were then–in a place called the future.

It was to be my memory when future time becomes unreliable, perhaps even cruel.

I’ve  always viewed pictures as an insurance policy to protect our memory from what our brain invariably experiences:

A slow fade

These pictures were to be my proof that heaven on earth almost exists.

Except that it doesn’t.

On the last night, my camera disappeared.  In a span of less than ten minutes.  It’s possible I misplaced it, but I tend to guard my camera tighter than the Royal Guard watches over the Queen.

Stolen memories.  All of them.

I cried for almost twenty four hours straight.  It was hard watching my family watch me as they grappled to understand why this hit me so hard.  I explained, it wasn’t just the value of the camera, or the fact I can’t get back time and recreate all this.  It’s more.

A part of me was taken too.  Artists are more closely connected to their work than you may think.  You pour your energy and your soul into what you love.  It may only be understood and meaningful to you. Still, it does have meaning.

But this is the twist:  The creation becomes larger than life.  The creation supersedes the creator.

This is the great lie.  All the grandeur and majesty of created things, be it in nature, or be it made by human hands, is not eternal.   Be it castles or mountains or birds or prey or even temporary people like me or even the pictures I snapped away–it doesn’t last.

It all fades away.

We can’t hold on no matter how tightly we try.  No matter how determined we are to remember.  Just like we can’t keep anything we love forever, we also can’t control that which isn’t ours to control.

Yes, I lost all my pictures this week.  I lost my best camera, the one that snapped the first seconds of life of my youngest son.  I lost my digital best friend, my shadow sister who hangs on my shoulder at every significant event.

But I didn’t lose my children.  Oh, how I didn’t lose what I actually love.  We live in world where evil exists and a silent enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all that we hold dear.   This had to be my perspective as I had no other choice but to move forward–it’s the people in this moment, this sacred moment called now that is all we truly ever have. 

I still  mourn for the loss of precious memories, yes.  But there is something no thief, be it man or time can destroy:

  • My joy.
  •  My appreciation of beauty.
  •  My wanderlust to travel and understand the world way beyond my own.
  •  My love and zest for life.
  •  My compulsion to create and share.  
  • My soul memories.  
  • Me, and all that I love.

I know I won’t remember all the images.  But I will remember the essence of our amazing trip.

Time will pass and people will pass too.  Loss will keep meeting me at the intersection of  “unprepared for this.”   “Not expecting this” will keep colliding with “not yet.”   

Pain will continue to interrupt our plans and knock us out of orbit as we journey through life.

All that is beautiful  and lovely and inspiring and honorable and  good, as well as all that is crushing and cruel and unexpected and difficult will all diminish.

Everything on this side of the veil is a slow fade.  

See the beauty in your mind as you learn to let go in life and allow God to be in charge.

 

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)

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.