The Pacemaker Queen

I received an email from my stepdad a couple of days ago which caused all of us recipients to start praying hard and fast. It said that my mom’s pacemaker had shifted and broke through her skin. As though it wasn’t enough that my mom, in her mid-60’s, had to get a pacemaker put in.

I started praying, not only for my mom, but also for my stepdad. I could read the anxiety in his words. And my sweet husband could see it on my face. I know there are plenty of folks who have lost their mom by now, and I feel a little guilty with how much I dread that day, but if you knew my mom, you’d want to keep her around too. I tell everyone she should be canonized, and I mean it.

Speaking with her on the phone today, I was reminded of all the reasons I am so blessed to have her. From the very beginning of our conversation, she was laughing jubilantly. I don’t mean the kind-of laughter that covers a wound. I mean deep-hearted laughter. She began telling me of all the great news she had received from the doctors. So far they haven’t found any infection, which means no infection near her heart. Thank God! Only 3 more days of checking for infection, and if they don’t find anything that means she is set to have surgery. There was not a single complaint about having to have the surgery, about the botch job the last surgeon did, or any fear in her voice. Come to think of it, it was the same voice, same joy, same peace, she had a couple of years ago when the pacemaker was first put in. I was the one who was anxious then. And it was the same peace she had a couple of nights ago, before receiving any good news about her plight whatsoever.

Having the mom I have is sort-of like having front row seats to a miracle. If you knew all the things my mom has suffered in life, you’d be amazed. She is a sage warrior at putting her trust in the Almighty when things look bleak. She has learned, in the furnace, the art of transforming any complaints she might have into surrendered rejoicing in suffering.

My mom, lingering in the space between a shifted, protruding pacemaker and the surgery to remedy it, is shining like a radiant saint. It reminds me that every small choice we are given to chose joy, to chose trust, to chose surrender, transforms us into the kind of people we grow into. I hope, with all my heart, that I am just like my mom when I grow up… because there are very few that are as holy and beautiful as she is!

If you are the praying type, can you please pray I get to keep her around a little longer? Because I am still sort-of selfish, and she is one of my best friends in the universe! When she goes, it will be into the arms of Jesus, and I will learn to follow her example of joy in that, but in the meantime I really like being able to pick up the phone and hear her voice. Because her voice is always full of sweetness, joy and other-mindedness. Like I said, she should be canonized!

Space 4/7/21

P.S. This was written on the 30th anniversary of her mother’s death, and my mom is now the same age my grandma was when she flew up to Gloryland!

Accepting My “Inadequacy”

It seems silly, on Good Friday, to tell you about someone who is neither Jesus, nor any of the posse of hooligans who followed Him around a couple thousand years ago. Instead, I am going to tell you about a modern day disciple. My friend, Beth. Many of you may know her. She’s pretty great.

Beth is a dear friend of mine. Her and I are planning a local IF:Gathering together for late April (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up). I keep getting texts from Beth, asking if I like the Evite (I think that’s what it’s called) she created, or if she should start up a fb group to invite folks to. She keeps checking in with me for perspective, but all the managerial, hands-on-practical work, she just keeps doing… like a rockstar! And I am beyond grateful, because those things (anything technological or organizational) are NOT my areas of giftedness.

Years ago, I used to feel like having things I wasn’t good at made me inadequate. Like I had to be good at everything to be enough. Finally it occurred to me that God just didn’t make me that way. And that’s a blessing. I have other gifts. Ask me to teach a group of folks about the Bible, I’m all in. Or write about it. I’m your gal. But ask me to make some computer-generated flyer for it. Whaaat?

I’ve learned to see the beauty in this. Some old dead guy (I think it was Thomas Merton) wrote a book called “No Man is an Island”. I confess I’ve never actually read it (though I think it’s on my shelf, so maybe I should), but the point stands. We think we have to be good at everything, because we are bred for independence and self-sufficiency. But God made us for community. He made His Church to be one Body. A body has a whole bunch of different parts with different functions. I am more like a mouth, and my friend Beth is more like hands. And neither is more important. Nor can either get along very well without the other.

So I’ve learned, when Beth is shooting me texts of the awesome invitation she created on Canva (or wherever she manifested her Jedi-ness from), I just say “Thanks, you amazing lady!” and I move along with gratitude, rather than feeling guilty that Beth is happily exercising her gift. I am freer to exercise my own gifts because I’m not bogged down trying to be someone I’m not.

And you know what?… Self-acceptance is really freeing! I can enjoy living in my own skin, when I stop feeling guilty that I’m not gifted in every, single area. I can discover what I am good at, and what brings me joy. I can lean into community when I embrace my own incompleteness apart from others. I can rejoice in having dear friends who are gifted in ways I am not. And once I’ve learned not to feel ashamed of how I am made, or pressured to perform beyond my realm of giftedness, I get to exercise the gifts I DO have. The ones that infuse me with joy. Because usually, when we’re living fully and freely in our God-crafted skin, and not trying to be somebody we’re not, we can sense our own gifts because they are usually the things we’re good at, that give us joy.

So, how’s that for a Good Friday message? Don’t forget to rejoice in that cross today. Because Jesus is what matters most. But He sure does love His Church, and He made us to live in unity together. And one of the ways we do that is by leaning into one another, and sharing our gifts and our needs.

Space 4/2/21

Ode To Theresa

A dear friend passed into Glory the Wednesday before I loaded a plane for Alaska. Her funeral was a couple of days after we landed back home. A silver urn sat among brilliantly colored flowers, and a collage of vibrant photographs, symbolic of a life lived brilliantly.

The microphone was offered and many of us spoke of her jubilant life. But it seems unfair that all those words fell on only a small room of people who already knew her to be the Light she was, and that the rest of you who didn’t know her would miss out on hearing about a life well lived and a joy that spilled over into abundance.

We were fast friends, her and I. I could tell you of a few things we had in common, but for the most part it’s hard to put words to it. When your soul finds home in another, it’s a deep, surreal thing, not easily encased in language.

The day I met her, she showed up at our church. I knew she was extra special, because of her brightness, and also because I saw the pride and delight shining in her son as he, with arm draped around her, introduced her to us. I would continue to watch this relationship, with her sons, her daughter-in-laws, and her grandkids. They all adored her to pieces. As did the rest of us.

Theresa moved to Ohio only a few short months before she woke up in the isolation of a hospital where, thanks to covid, she was estranged from her family. The diagnosis of cancer absorbed in solitude. She was soon shuffled to a nursing home where our church family crowded outside her window to comfort and strengthen her with songs of praise to the One who made her body, and knew suffering beyond any we will ever have to endure. She pressed her face to the window to listen, with a smile which never abandoned her all the way until the end.

Theresa was a gracious receiver. I had the honor of taking her to some of her chemo appointments. She was easy to serve, because she neither rejected it (as we often do, not wanting to be a burden to others in our weakness), nor demanded it (as is the fallen nature of man to feel entitled). Instead, she received with humble gratitude, even her lot of cancer.

She found delight in the simple things. After one of our chemo-dates, she told me that her family had given her money to go get us some ice cream, her eyes wild with the glee of a child on Christmas… even after walking out of the oncology department of the hospital. We drove across the street, ordered our frozen trophies. She ordered her’s. Chocolate with cherry dipped topping. I ordered mine with pecans. She told me that pecans were her favorite food, but she was allergic. I immediately turned to the lady to ask her not to put pecans on mine, so Theresa wouldn’t have to watch me eat her favorite forbidden food. She caught me, saying “No! I want you to have pecans. I can’t eat them. But I would love to watch you enjoy them for me.” And that was Theresa, never cursing her own lot, but rejoicing in the joys of others! I will probably never eat pecans again without missing her.

Theresa made my soul feel buoyant. Even when her name was mentioned at a prayer gathering, and the news was discouraging, I saw faces in the room light up at the mention of this dear, precious, vivacious woman. It was though we could all see, with our mind’s eye, the radiance of her smile, and it warmed our souls from within.

On her final day, I was given a gift. An invitation to sit at her bedside and read Scripture to her. She was sedated, yet I knew she could hear me. I read her some Psalms. Psalm 46, 16, 1, etc. I read the chunks of Revelation that speak of the Celestial City, where I knew she would soon be headed. And shared joy over the fact that she would soon be dancing in the Kingdom, and listening to the legions of saints and angels singing endless praise. She had told her daughter-in-law that she really wanted to be at church dancing with me. But I knew then that we would have to dance together in heaven. Then, I read her Psalm 84. It might be my favorite Psalm, and it honestly reminds me of her. It speaks of one whose strength is in God, whose heart is set on the highway to Zion (to Heaven). It speaks of the glory of God’s house. And it says this “Passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a spring. The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength and everyone of them appears before God in Zion.” This is Theresa, passing through the desert lands, yet bringing life and vegetation with her wherever she goes. God pouring His blessings of those whose lives intercepted with her’s. She moves from strength to strength. Perhaps not of body, but of soul. Of the soul of one who never stopped smiling into the face of God, even as her body lay dormant under the sheets of a hospital bed in a living room.

Later that night, as Smiles, Simon and I were pulling into the driveway with a guitar in the trunk, ambitious to have a bedside worship service, my husband prayed these words “Lord, please usher Theresa into the place You’ve been preparing for her in peace.” It was as he was exhaling these words, with her children encircling around her bedside, that she breathed her last and the Lord ushered her into His very presence!

Theresa’s joy is now made full. And now you know the story of a woman whose legacy will live on in those who knew and loved her. I hope that, should I ever suffer the way she did in her final year on earth, that I would suffer with the same joy and graciousness, the same gratitude and surrender, that I watched my dear friend exhibit all the way until her final breath… where she went from strength to strength and now is appearing before God in Zion!

Space 3/24/21

Aurora Borealis

Standing outside, encircled with snow mounds, bundled in a down jacket and wool pants, hands stuffed deep to stave off the burning cold, I stared wild-eyed at the sky above, watching clouds-made-of-light dance in a spectrum of colors.  Mostly green.  Sometimes white.  A hue of red lining across the bottom.  A little blue tinting.  It changed as fast as I could notice.  Spanning wide across the sky, often tucking itself into both horizons, and swirling like soap at a thick trace overhead.  A patch of light suddenly appeared where darkness had resided before, and sends it shooting orb of misty, dancing light across, and overhead.  It begins to shimmer and I hold my breath in anticipation.  

I pull the phone out of the pocket of my green, down coat, to take a picture for all those back home who knew we were chasing the Northern Lights all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska.  We had found them!  Those elusive lights worth flying nine hours and driving twelve (from Soldotna) to get to.  We had rented a cabin twenty minutes out of town, though we didn’t plan on sleeping much if it meant missing out on all that glory.  

Looking through the screen of my phone, it was nearly black.  A dim spread of color crept through the center of the screen, but not enough to really see without getting a headache trying.  It looked nothing like the sky it was aimed at.  I sighed, and tucked my phone away.

Smiles heard me, and remarked, “Maybe we’re not supposed to be able to take pictures, so we will just be present.  Maybe you just have to come here to see them!”  I smiled, knowing this magnificent light show was for us.  That God wasn’t going to let me miss the majesty of the moment by trying to capture it, to put it in my pocket and take it back to Ohio.  I couldn’t have captured the dance anyways, and as beautiful as the colors are, the show isn’t complete without the dance.  

I remembered Tabitha, as she watched me snap pictures of everything within eye sight, during my first moments in Nepal telling me, “The best pictures are the ones in your memory.”  And even though my pictures take me back, the moments I was most present are the ones that mattered most.  You can’t be very present when you’re looking at a screen, even if it’s through a screen to capture a more permanent glimpse of what’s on the other side.  

I often remark that we are only promised two moments: Now and Eternity.  When I say it, it’s usually because I also need the reminder.  In the 90’s or so, there was a phrase that went something like “I’d rather be here now”.  I think they made bumper stickers out of it.  I don’t recall.  I did a lot of drugs in the 90’s and messed up my memory.  The problem is, our minds are often not very present with our bodies.  We are thinking of all there is to do, envisioning our future, or perhaps worrying about it.  We are elsewhere, when we ought to be here now.  This is not an accusation so much as a confession.  I am altogether too guilty of doing this.  That’s why I know you probably do it as well.  I think it’s human nature.  

Yet I recognize that it’s also one of the things God is changing in me, because I am so often convicted about it.  He is in the business of transforming His people, and when He convicts us of sin it is not to guilt us but to grow us.  God is growing me in the art of being present.  

So, when I am standing with my jaw slung open and my neck craned back to not miss a moment of all this splendor, next to a husband who can’t stop exclaiming a refrain of “wow!  wow!  Wow!” I know the cold cannot chase me indoors, because there is something far more spectacular to see, and I have traveled a continent to see it.  I don’t want to miss a micro-speck of these Northern Lights.  

I have a friend named Hugo, who is just shy of his second birthday.  On Sunday mornings, I follow Hugo around so his blessing-of-a-dad can play drums, and he won’t have to worry about his son’s safety.  But I also follow Hugo because he is my teacher.  And because I simply adore him.  Hugo teaches me about wonder.  One Sunday morning, I followed Hugo all throughout the sanctuary and into the kids’ room, where he told me about every set of eyes and tails on any animals he could find.  He counted the offering plates, and told me (repeatedly) which coat was Monte’s, and that Roger was still home.  Hugo’s vocabulary recently expanded exponentially.  Listening to him fills me with joy.  Because he is full of joy.  

Hugo is present with the moment.  He is full of wonder.  

I want to be like Hugo.  I want to act like a two-year old gawking at the sky, waiting for a shooting star to dazzle me, or some wild, dancing Lights to pierce through the dark and spread like wildfire across the abyss.  I want to rejoice in the Now.  

There are so many things vying for my attention.  So many projects.  So many loose ends.  So many concerns.  The whole world feels very, very vulnerable and unstable, like someone has shaken a snow globe and we are standing in the midst of it, without any ability to make it stop.  But there is Aurora, just waiting to greet me under her Alaskan sky, dancing free above the mountain peaks, like a hippie dancing between the circle of drums and the pit of a campfire.  I am full of childlike wonder once again.  

She reminds me that I can trust and surrender and relinquish all my pent-up fears and frustrations.  No matter how unstable the world is, I belong to an unshakable Kingdom and a faithful, true, unchanging King and Creator.  The One who invented the Northern Lights and invited me to go see them.  

But I didn’t have to fly to Alaska to see His majesty!  He also gives His cherished people eyes to see the mundane-magnificent.  To notice hot, running water, and a washing machine that works for me.  A sunset painted across the sky at dusk.  Smiling eyes and friendly faces.  Fingerprints and dimples and freckles and warts.  Tree bark and the first springs of growth in Spring.  We see this ordinary majesty when we give thanks.  All of creation is majesty, because all was created to sing His praise.  I was created to sing His praise.  When I am present and full of wonder in both the everyday and the spectacular, in washing dishes and Aurora Borealis, in each moment given, I am harmonizing the refrain of my life among the chorus of His worshippers, dancing in the firelight of a heavenly drum circle, to exalt the One who puts each and every breath in our lungs so that we can be full of wonder and gratitude and praise.  That we could be present with His Presence, and radiant with delight in Him!  

                                                            Space 3/16/21 a.d.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride Smashing

Sitting in a rocker in the sunniest corner of my room, I just read Daniel 4. It reminded me of myself… and Job… and America. But I better begin with Nebuchadnezzar, the main (human) character in Daniel 4.

Nebuchadnezzar was king over Babylon at the time. Babylon was the world super-power, the kingdom over all the kingdoms of earth. Pride was a great pitfall for Nebuchadnezzar. As was trusting in himself. This isn’t speculation. This is observation of the chapter. Having a conversation with himself, he accidentally admitted his own pride by saying “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (vs. 30)

The story begins with God giving Nebuchadnezzar a really disconcerting dream, which the prophet Daniel translated for him. In his dream, the kingdom of Babylon was to be taken from him for seven years, during which time he was going to lose his mind, end up eating grass in the fields like oxen, and after seven years, he was going to suddenly realize Who the true King is, and his authority over Babylon would be restored to him, along with the humility to rule it well.

It’s really easy to skim this and not ponder what this would actually mean for a kingdom and a man. That’s seven years. It’s a few words in print, but about 2,556 days in real time. That’s a long while for an entire kingdom to be flailing while their king acts like a wild beast. I’m sure someone else was ruling in his stead during this time, but that someone else was not expecting to, and likely not equipped to. “Someone else” can do a lot of damage to a kingdom when they start making executive decisions without any long-term vision, or goals that involve the betterment of the kingdom.

Yet, God had a long-term vision. He was going to give the kingdom back to a humbler Nebuchadnezzar. It would soon be a much greater kingdom because, although Nebuchadnezzar was obviously a very gifted leader, he was not submitted to or in awe of the One who rules over the entire universe and breathed everything we see into existence! One can only be the type of leader to rule well when submitted to the authority of the Most High.

Here’s why I thought about myself… because I make a million tiny decisions every day, involving ruling over my own little domain. If my moment-by-moment decisions aren’t under the umbrella of surrender to, and awe of, the one Whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation” (vs. 34), then I will make countless short-term decisions that will deal with that moment, but not be a blessing beyond. I will be working from a place of pride in myself, rather than trust in the Holy One. I will make a tangled mess out of all the things I am responsible for: myself, my family, my business, my relationships, my home, my time. Whereas, if my sights are set on the Most High, and I am looking to Him for counsel and directions day-by-day, my legacy will be one of blessings upon generations. Each generational blessing begins in the unseen, microscopic decisions we make in the mundane moments. Today, I had to choose to postpone dealing with the duties of my day to crease the Bible, get inspired, and write this post. I hope it blesses generations. And it might, because it was an act of surrender to God.

I am reminded of Job, who suffered more than just about anyone but Jesus. And yet, if you read the grand finale of the book, you will find that Job’s healing came from a deeper sense of awe of God, and a humbling of self. No longer did his tragedy of extreme loss invoke a pity party, because it was no longer just about himself. It was about the One who sits enthroned forever, and what eternal worth He would bring of Job’s suffering. This was Nebuchadnezzar’s healing as well. Both men got their stuff back, but both men caught a glimpse of the Majesty of heaven and it transformed them from the inside out, so that they were more equipped to rule their own domain well, because they knew that it was God’s domain they were being given. And God is a magnificent God.

And finally, it reminded me of America. We are a tangled-up mess right now. Our kingdom is crashing. There is so much disunity, misinformation, and… well, I am very hesitant to say too much, because I don’t particularly want to start a forest fire. But I will say, it seems like we are on the Titanic crashing into an iceberg. This past year has felt like that. And honestly, I have seen it coming for most of my adult life.

I have been watching this world unravel, due to our pride. Not only is it our personal pride, but our communal pride. We have spent decades indoctrinating our kids and their kids and their kids to believe God is increasingly invisible. We’ve omitted him from the public school system (where children are taught what they should believe), lied to them about the creation of the world, the value of human life, the purpose of their existence. And now, the whole world seems to be imploding. It seems like, as a nation, and maybe even as a globe (but I really don’t know enough to say), we are losing our bloody mind. It may remain like this for a season. It might be a reset for humanity, as it was in Nebuchadnezzar’s day. I hope we get to the humility-surrender-and-awe phase quickly, so this doesn’t last for 7 years or longer. A whole lot of damage can be done in that time.

But the glory is that, at the beginning of Daniel 4, as Nebuchadnezzar was beginning to tell his story, he introduced it with these words “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.” (vs. 2-3). Those of us who survive this trial, this pandemic, this up-ended nation and globe, may we someday soon be proclaiming the might and majesty of the Most High, and giving thanks for the ways He ushered us through this time of trial and brought us out into the Light where we will see His glory and worth! The only way we will heal is by laying ourselves low. As individuals, and as a nation. Or globe. It all begins in the details… in the hearts of individual men and women who are willing to be honest with themselves about how little we matter in the grand scheme of eternity, and how great and mighty the One is who created all things!

Space 2/25/21

Sensory Bliss

For some bizarre reason, I was thinking about senses. Realizing (and lamenting) how much we take them for granted, when they were invented to stir our hearts and minds to worship and wonder. Oh, the feeling of a gentle breeze kissing the skin, or the tenderness of a loved one’s hand on our arm. The smell of pine needles and honeysuckle, or a lavish bar of Lavender soap. The taste of Bacon-wrapped Venison loins and Brussels Sprouts, or a bowl of rich, delicious ice cream, or a decadent cheesecake slice. Oh, the glories! The sounds of children’s laughter, or even just their sweet voices, or the sight of their pudgy cheeks and curious eyes.

All of these wonders ought to fill me with wonder. Yet most of the time I am unaware. I am so trapped up in my mind, and all the stuff I think I have to be thinking about, worrying about, tending to… that I lose that sense of wonder and awe that all these sense were created to invoke. It is though our mind steps in the way of our heart and shoves it to the side… when both mind and heart are vital organs. Sometimes I think we aren’t supposed to analyze, but rather stand in awe. Life is so much fuller when it’s full of pauses!

Yesterday evening I called my Grandpa. He just turned 89 years old, and has 89 years worth of stories and wisdom to share. He talked a lot about how he used to love to hike in the woods, and go backpacking. I believe he is one of the reasons I love hiking… because when I was about 10 years old, he took me and my little brother deep into the wilds of California, to a place past the tree line, where you pitched tents on giant boulders made of granite, and watched the sunset cast shadows on rugged mountains of grey and white with glinting sparkles. Ever since I have been captivated by nature.

He told us of his old hiking buddy, and how he used to notice the smallest things. Once, my Grandpa was hiking next to him, when his buddy suddenly yelled “Stop!” Thinking he had seen a rattlesnake or something of the sort, my grandpa began looking around for the danger. Instead, his friend pointed out the tiniest flower, so delicate, petite, impeccably designed. They had to nearly lay on the ground to admire it. “You almost stepped on it” his friend told him. His buddy would often see things like that and say, “You know, God didn’t have to do that. He did it just for our pleasure!”

And this is just it, isn’t it? God invented all of this sensory bliss around us. Taste. Smell. Touch. Sight. Hearing. He didn’t have to do that. But He did. And He did it for our pleasure! It ought to stir up all our affections for the One who spun galaxies and spoke amoebas into existence. The One who hung stars like ornaments in the sky. The One who made dimples and freckles and curly hair. Who made an orchestra of different kinds of music, and bodies to feel rhythm in the bones and move like a musical instrument pounding out every syllable through the pads of our feet. He made majesty in the mundane! And it ought to stir us to wonder and worship. Because behind every great invention is an Inventor… and in this case, He invented the entire universe to proclaim His glory, and to fill us with awe and delight!

Space 2/20/21

Hand in the Cookie Jar

I sat on a friend’s couch, listening to her share about her week. We’ll call her Jane (get it, like Jane Doe). She is a woman overcoming a life of the slavery of pleasing others. I say it like this because it really is bondage when our lives are plagued with the feeling that the opinions of others defines us, or that we must live in such a way that wins everyone’s approval. It’s a violent octopus whose tentacles are conflict-avoiding, shame, dishonesty, insecurity, and behavior-modification (and maybe a few more that aren’t coming to mind right this second). I love to listen to her because I used to be her. I understand, and can offer wisdom I learned the hard way.

She tells me about a time recently, when she found herself lying to people (in minor ways, but lying none-the-less), simply so she wouldn’t say something she didn’t think they wanted to hear. This story ends well, though, because upon realizing it, she confessed it to God, and rose up without shame, knowing that conviction is not the same thing as condemnation in the Kingdom of heaven. She is learning that you can see your sin for what it is, and see His forgiveness shining brighter. My friend even had the courage to call and confess to the recipients of her “white” lies. This is monumental growth for a woman who has felt crippled by shame in the past.

I smiled from ear to ear! This is the exact reason we have been getting together. Because I want to see the same victories in Jane’s life that I’ve experienced in my own, as I navigated very similar struggles when I was her age, and have found the victory that comes from full acceptance of my identity as one whose sin was abolished at the cross, and who was made intentionally, purposefully, and perfectly (in His estimation) by the Master Craftsman.

She looked at me, with joy gleaming, recognizing the liberty that has just come to her, through being able to both acknowledge her sin, and also to do it without berating herself with shame… “Does this just keep getting easier?” she asked. “I remembered your analogy of God still loving me, even when I have my hand in the cookie jar,” she continued, “and how God was still smiling at me, and delighting in me, even in the moment I was sinning.”

I smiled at her, too. “Yes! It does keep getting easier! A lot of stuff does. It gets easier to confess and forgive yourself. It gets easier not to focus so much on yourself, so you can love the world around you better, by turning your attention to others. It gets easier to teach others about grace and humility. Like my kids, when I’ve sinned against them, and can easily apologize, they see a woman who has the humility to acknowledge my wrong, but also one who understands grace and has forgiven herself, as well. And it’s easier to forgive others, for all the same reasons. This newfound freedom is a leaf growing off the root of all we’ve been working through. The root is your performance-based understanding of Christianity. As you overcome that, you overcome all the things attached to it. When we realize we are fully approved by God, whether we get it right or wrong, it changes everything…

I often think of David, after sleeping with Bathsheba and killing Uriah. His bastard child dies, and he immediately gets up from his prostrated position. He washes up and gets some food. He was laying on the ground, begging for mercy, when his child was sick and dying. But when the child dies, he was able to get up and move on because he had already forgiven himself. Because he understood God’s grace, so he was able to show himself grace, as well.”

(For those who don’t know the story, you can find it in 2 Samuel 11 and 12).

Our conversation continued, but out of all the things we talked about, that was the real reason I came, and keep coming (though it’s more often at my house than her’s). I showed up because her and I need each other. We are connected at the roots. She needs me to keep pointing the lamppost down the path for her. And I need her to cheer me on, as the finish line of this book-writing endeavor seems so close, yet so far, at the same time. She is reminding me why I’ve spent the last half-decade of my life typing words until my hands feel arthritic… because I can only sit in so many living rooms, but a book can sit on a million shelves, or bedside tables in a million houses, and the same story of grace and forgiveness that is helping Jane overcome, the one that I lived out as God taught me about grace, could bring the same joy and freedom and grace-embracing to many more souls who are trying to navigate the chaos of this side of eternity, in bodies bent towards rebellion against the God who loves and created them.

So I continue to fight. I read once that “writing a book is war”. I agree. Jane’s story mingled with my story keeps my fingers dancing on keys, and my soul from atrophy and surrender. Because if I could just leave this one legacy, long after they throw a stone monument over my burial plot, it’d be a legacy of Grace. I just want people to know Jesus and His magnificent Grace. Grace changes everything!

Space 2/6/21

Ascribing Motives

A friend was just beginning to vent about a situation in her life, that I knew she had to get off her chest. She had invisible steam pouring out of her ears, and her brow was furrowed. “I know it’s because they think…” “Wait!” I interrupted. “Don’t ascribe motives”. Her face softened and she caught her words, because this friend of mine is also humble, and willing to hear the correction from a friend. She quickly apologized for her short rant.

Maybe I noticed where her heart was leading her because I’ve taken quite the tongue-lashing lately, for things I’ve said and done. Things that were coming from a place of love and care for neighbor, but the opposite motives were ascribed. The part that hurts worse is not that folks are offended at my choice of action. It’s that they’ve decided my motives for me. They’ve decided that, contrary to everything they actually know about me, or anything I was saying about why I behave like I do, I obviously must be a hateful, uncaring brute, since I don’t react the way they want me to.

It also hurts because these are folks I deeply care about, and I know their judgment of me is causing them harm, as well. I know that, when I have believed someone’s actions meant that they didn’t love me, it’s hurt far worse than if I had only disliked their actions. I’ve done this to my wonderful husband a million times over. I’ve translated insensitive, or ignorant behavior into “I don’t love you,” and all of the sudden, I wasn’t reacting to him, I was reacting to a perceived, invisible enemy which didn’t actually exist, and seemed to be wearing my husband’s face.

I’m also grieved because this whole thing about ascribing motives seems to be happening on a larger scale than ever before. I keep hearing the word “unity” recited like a refrain, launching from the highest political chambers, raining down like an order… but at a micro level, this is where it breaks down. No one can unify if everyone is the enemy.

For years, we’ve talked of tolerance, but in a deceitful way. Tolerance has meant “never disagreeing”. But tolerance, by definition, means we have to tolerate those we disagree with. Toleration requires differences. We must be willing to listen to those who think differently than we do… but we must, must, MUST do it without deciding what the other person’s motives are, even and especially when they say otherwise. If we want to have unity, we have to start giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and we have to honestly tolerate one another. We have to listen to one another. If someone reacts differently to the state of the world, we can humbly, graciously ask them “why”, instead of slamming their character and stuffing our fingers our ears when they try to tell us their reasoning. Or if we are going to make assumptions, we should assume the best in others… because maybe then WE will be able to love our neighbor. Because, honestly, it’s up to each of us to seek to love our neighbor, not for our neighbor to demand that we love them. If I am genuinely loving my neighbor, not only will I accept them for who they are and how they behave, but I will also be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, listen to what they say about their own motivation for their actions, and assume that they are also navigating hard times and simply doing the best that they can. That’s called showing one another grace. And grace makes the world go round!

Space 2/4/21

Making Coffee Together.

Chuckling, I thanked my husband for pouring the water into the French Press, after I had accomplished all the other steps leading up to it. Making coffee in a French Press happens in stages. I told him if I was ever a widow, I’d be so grieved to have to make coffee entirely by myself. We bantered back and forth a little, but while I was pouring coffee from Press to cup, he made a sincere comment about how grateful he was that we actually ponder what it would be like to be widowed, because it helps us to appreciate these present moments even more. He is right. Pondering death has brought depth to each moment of this momentary life.

I hiked back up the stairs, to my rocking chair, to the Book that beckons my soul. I wanted to read Hebrews 11. It’s been on my mind for days, weeks, months, maybe this whole year. I refer to it often, but it’s been awhile since I laid eyes on the ink. I pulled the Bible onto my lap, flipping pages, and started at the beginning of the chapter. Around verse 8, the author begins to summarize Abraham’s life. “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise.”

My mind began to wander towards my own life. I’ve lived rather alternatively, in my lifetime. A few years back, our family of five was crowded into a stationary school bus. We lived without running water, electricity, or really much space, for over three years. I’ve lived in various tents, a motorhome, a VW bus or two, and simply hitch-hiking the country. To be plain, I’ve been a nomad for a good chunk of my life. Really about a third of my grown-up years.

As I reflect on my life, I realize how very purposeful it has been. But my mind also wandered forward. This year, this pandemic of a year, has really made me ponder my freedom and how tight-fistedly I carry it. It’s made me pry my palm into an open position before the Lord, knowing that, at any given moment, all the comforts of this world might be stripped. It’s made me ponder the death of my freedom, just like I ponder what it would be like to lose my husband.

These musings have helped to detach me from the things, comforts, pleasures, and blessings of this world, and attach my heart to the next. I, like Abraham, “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” (vs. 16). But they have also made my heart voluminous with gratitude for this moment. I’m so thankful for the freedoms I know have, and the husband I now enjoy. I’m so thankful to get to co-make coffee in the mornings, and enjoy the friendship of the one I live with. I’m so thankful to be able to walk into a grocery store and buy what’s needed. I’m so thankful no one has stripped me of my home and sent me clamoring into the woods for refuge, though that might happen in the future.

But even if I was “wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (vs. 38), there would be a heavenly purpose in this. My heart being set on pilgrimage to Zion (Ps. 84:5) makes it so that even if I live as an exile on earth, I realize that I am only here for a short while anyways, and that what matters most to me is that the name of Christ is exalted, and that my love for Him is contagious. The rest is all superficial stuff. If I can see the face of Jesus, and bring others with me along the way, so that they also get to see His face, then any and all suffering down here will be more than worth it.

For now, I will enjoy making coffee with Smiles, and living under a roof while the snow falls, and being able to buy what I need at the store. But even if that is someday stripped, I rejoice that God has been in the process of teaching me to pry my fingers off of this life, and look forward to the next!

Space 1/31/21

2 Chronicles 7:14

Most mornings its a battle to get out of bed, because I see things on the horizon that make my knees knock a little. I oscillate between fear and faith, and contend to get my head facing the right direction before I face the day. I know that every fear that rattles itself in my face is also an opportunity to increase my trust and surrender to Jesus. So I pick up my sword and start swinging, recognizing that this battle for the mind is part of my refining.

For a long, long time, I think we’ve been reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 like Americans rather than Christians. We, Americans, tend to think we’re entitled to having things our way. So, we read the command to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and repent in order that God will turn back to us in grace. But what if He allows suffering, and it’s also grace? And what if we prayed, repented and sought to honor God, and the Church’s purification was the actual healing of the land, rather than us just getting to live out our days in comfort?

I really think the Church needs to be prepared to suffer. I am not looking forward to it, by any means or measure, but I have seen it coming for quite some time. I have prayed long and hard for revival, forgetting that revival usually comes by fire. I see us standing on the edge of the Promised Land, and remember that we are promised us a place of rest and joy, but we walk through battle to arrive. Still, the Lord never leaves or forsakes His Church, and He always has good reasons for allowing suffering. Sometimes He does give amazing victory, which He just might do today… but it won’t be because we manipulated Him with our selfishly-motivated facade of humility and contrition, or our warped version of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

For years, the Church in America has let her voice be silenced by the opinions of men. We’ve let others define love and truth, rather than staying faithful to the Word of God, which is always righteous, true, and loving. We’ve tacked God onto our own agenda, rather than making Him central to all. And, for one final, blasphemous blow, we’ve neglected and dusted Bibles, and hauled them to thrift shops like they were clutter! No wonder God seems to have turned His back to us, in so many ways, and we may not have seen anything yet.

Yet I am also reminded of the book of Judges. If you’ve ever simply read through Judges, you might have picked up on the cyclical theme. Israel turns away from God, gets enslaved by other nations, then turns to God with humble pleading, and He graciously sends deliverance. Then they get fat and lazy and the cycle starts over.

I just feel like it’s time to encourage and strengthen the Church. If He doesn’t give speedy deliverance, I hope you have cherished the Word of God, and memorized chunks of it. It will hold you fast in oppression. Suffer well, my friends. “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces will never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5) “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever for in God the Lord we have an everlasting Rock.” (Isaiah 26:3). Remember that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glories that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). If it is our time to suffer, may we suffer with the humility and courage of those three Jewish boys getting tossed into a furnace while professing that their God was able to deliver, but even if He chose not to, they were resolved to remain faithful to the end (Daniel 3).

Then, Church, lets also remember that the Bible is LOADED with stories of uncanny, impossible deliverance. Though things look bleak on these shores, and the whole world feels like it’s just about to implode, things may not be as they seem. I hope you have been reading that Old Testament. If not, it’s time to repent and look at all those crazy victory stories in Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Joshua, etc. They will stun you into awe!

Finally, beloved ones, lets truly humble ourselves and confess. Let’s repent of all that’s holding us back from full surrender and trust. Let’s take our concerns, frustrations, and fears to the One who always listens and loves us. Let’s trust that He is worthy of all our affections, and can give us radiant joy in any circumstances.

I think the greatest thing that’s come from this past year is the stripping of idols. Some of the idols we cling most tightly to are our comfort, our reputation, our safety, and our avoidance of suffering. It may be that we are soon to show the world how glorious and worthy Christ is by how we suffer. If that happens, rejoice! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We have a Kingdom waiting that far surpasses any hardship we could ever experience here. Even the worst of it is nothing but a “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17), and God has never relinquished His authority over all things. And really, we have nothing to fear, because perfect love casts out fear, and He, my friends, is Perfect Love. Besides, do you know how many times the Bible tells us not to fear… 365 times? That’s no coincidence.

On one final note, to encourage your souls…
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. And you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land, And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous, And gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him; For He sees his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow, To cast down the afflicted and the needy, To slay those who are upright in conduct. Their sword will enter their own heart, And their bows will be broken. Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken; But the Lord sustains the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless; And their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, And in the days of famine they will have abundance.” (Psalm 37:7-19)

I am not sure how this will turn out in the momentary, but the eternal is nothing but delight for the saints of God! Look beyond the temporal, and into Glory-land! “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!” (Psalm 84:5)

Space 1/29/21