Monday, December 10, 2012

Unearthed Thanks

Sometimes I just can't find myself. And sometimes, I feel eaten alive by insecurity. And my nerves are raw edges that dig at me and make the very air around me seem ragged and harsh. Doubt and paranoia are wicked foes and I just want to sit in the dark and cry. And I feel like a wrinkled, bitter, frigid shrew; unlovely and striving against hate and rage and uncertainty. 

Praying gets interrupted by battles with my thoughts. I want to feel secure again so much. These feelings, the lingering events-past, are a distraction and an attack. And isn't it always the way that when I feel like I'm making progress, something shifts and suddenly I'm back at the beginning?

I must thank…I must thank. Gratitude for my life and my circumstances, regardless of how hard and how painful, is where I will ultimately find chara, joy. It is where I will remember what has been done that I might have life and have it more abundantly. And these last few weeks have been hard because the thanking got buried under the rush of the daily grind.

The thanking is a reminder of the blessing. It propels me to share; to focus on others. And then I am fortified for the battle. The thanking becomes praying and then praying flows fluidly. 

Jesus, I offer unearthed thanks:

Nov. 1--3 Gifts Eaten:  Lunch at Friday's with the Hubbs; Delicious Zingers; Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Nov. 2--3 Gifts Worn: Warm sweaters, Cozy scarves, Toasty hats

Nov. 3--3 Gifts That Start with "N":  Nummy candies, Never-ending love from the Father; New Life because of Jesus!

Nov. 4--A Gift Gathered, Given, Good: Leaves gathered everyday by Kiddo as she leaves school; A new hoodie given by a dear friend; God who is so very good!

Nov. 5--3 Gifts Acorn-Small: The tiny pills that have made such a difference in Kiddo's learning & experiencing; The tiny pills that help me feel better while sick; Faith the size of a mustard seed that can be powerful enough to move mountains

Nov. 6--3 Gifts Government:  The freedom & privilege to vote; A society that is not torn apart by war; A country that has been shaped and formed to provide freedoms and rights that are found very few other places on this planet.

Nov. 7--3 Gifts From Your Window: The view of Fall happening all around me; 

Nov. 8--A Gift Sweet, Salty, Sipped: Halloween Candy! Chips & Salsa; Mug of Homemade Butter Beer to soothe the sore throat

Nov. 9--3 Gifts Harvest:  Harvest of friends we've found here; the Harvest happening on farms all over our region--food provision from the Provider! Harvest of blessings that He provides daily!

Nov. 10--3 Gifts Found in Bible Reading:  For of His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace; Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit; All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Nov. 11--3 Gifts of Remembrance: My Grandpa, My Sister, My Savior

Nov. 12--3 Gifts at Noon: Lunch to Eat, Sun--high in the sky, Time to stop and breathe

Nov. 13--3 Gifts Behind a Door: Happy faces of a family waiting our arrival; Coming home again; A fridge with plenty inside it

Nov. 14--3 Gifts Silent: Silent before the Word--Bonhoeffer's Words; Silent Night & Holy Night; When snow falls

Nov. 15--3 Gifts Golden: Golden lights on Christmas trees; Golden trees; Golden ornaments

Nov. 16--3 Gifts Hard Eucharisteo: Battling my thoughts; honoring regardless; sick kitty

Nov. 17--3 Gifts of Laughter: Funny memes; Silly with my sister; SNL

Nov. 18--A Gift Made, Shared, Passed On: Made bread from scratch; Shared a meal with a dear friend; Passed on a sentiment from Bonhoeffer

Nov. 19--3 Gifts Autumn: Trees; Sweaters; Crisp Air

Nov. 20--3 Gifts of Traditions: Christmas Tree up the day after Thanksgiving; Considering new ones; Post-Thanksgiving trip to VA & Williamsburg at Christmas

Nov. 21--3 Gifts Family: Trip to VA to see family; Willingness of family to chip in for joint gift for Kiddo; Full support and unconditional love
Nov. 22--A Gift Grateful: My life

Nov. 23--3 Gifts Only in Christ: Salvation; Peace; Loving Others

Nov. 24--3 Gifts Humble: Overnight sitter for our anniversary; parents' willingness to help; White ceramic Christmas tree with peg lights like Grandma's--from a friend

Nov. 25--3 Gifts Ugly-Beautiful:  Skinny & sore kitty on the mend; Couri Family Christmas Tree 2012; My messy house

Nov. 26--3 Gifts Preparing: A home in Heaven; Baked yummies; God--the return of the King

Nov. 27--A Gift Handmade, Held, Happy: A meal made by a friend; Holding a little girl close to my heart at bedtime; A Happy Kiddo

Nov. 28--3 Gifts in Community:  Church family; Small group family; Kiddo's wonderful school

Nov. 29--3 Gifts Red:  Sparkly Christmas balls; Star on my ceramic tree; Bows on presents

Nov. 30--3 Gifts Astonishing!:  Advent; God with us; Grace

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Masks & Rings & Evil Things

There once was a man named Grotowski and he had much to say about masks. In brief summary and simplified paraphrase, he held the idea that we put on masks that represent our roles in society, culture, and our lives.

 Grotowski's statement of principles govern how one takes on roles in the theatre. And through the taking on of characters in a play, one is free to throw off those assumed masks, "emerge from oneself," and become the "living organism who strives for higher motives" through performance; interaction with an audience; a mirroring of humanity.

As an artist, this approach has merit. Once onstage, you stop being yourself and become the character with whom the audience "interacts." This may sound strange. In our culture, we go to a dark place and watch recorded stories, projected in light up on a screen. This approach, while highly entertaining, is a flat, 2-dimensional representation. There is no "interaction" with the audience. The actor doesn't change his approach or level of action and reaction based on the rise and fall of audience response. It is a performance that is, in a way, static. But real, live theatre beats with a breathing soul. Performances are closer, more life and less story. It is peaking in on others' experiences and finding our own in theirs.

But reliance on performance to bring totality and authenticity, misses the mark for those of us who long to follow hard after God, that totality and authenticity are found in Christ alone. This requires something from me. It requires a transparency; admission that I am NOT whole or genuine without Christ as my center. It requires surrender of my other "selves"--masks, if you will--so that He can re-form me as a minister of the Gospel...the core of my identity.

The older I become, the more I long for authenticity; a desire to be real about the ugly of me. In this kind of transparency, it becomes necessary to see what is unsightly and take it, reveal it, broken and mutilated, before the grace and mercy of my Father because it is only in Him that I can be transformed.

My own efforts to reshape myself drain my spirit, leave me raw and disillusioned in the wake of what I am powerless to change.  Or I find myself sweeping with long strokes to hide the muck under the thickest of rugs, pretending, ever pretending, that I have ridded myself of it.

Impatience, anger, pride, bitterness, rage...these are my foe and my bane. I've been watching Lord of the Rings. I always look for metaphor in these great tales. Tolkien being my Brother in Christ, a fellow sojourner on this narrow path, doesn't disappoint in weaving them into the tales.

There is the One Ring, sought by so many, betrayer of each one who claims it as his own. Each would-be ring-bearer believes that the Ring can be wielded, bent to the wearer's power for the sake of good. Each who takes the Ring as his own, becomes saturated with evil, seeing only his own broken desire.

I put on my own Ring, my sackful of awfulness, claiming its power for myself, intent on doing "good" but instead, wielding my weapons, harming, destroying, bringing strife and discord. And in this way, I function in defiance of the Gospel; in rebellion to the Word:

"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."

When was the last time I sought to bind myself to others in peace?

When was the last time, I relinquished my hold on my rights, in order sow peace for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of someone else--even my own family?

Do I stand with Christ in His message of sacrificial love or do I stand for myself, only, wrapped in filth and selfish concern?

What about you, Christ-follower?

 It is cruel irony that this season is celebrated and touted by many as one of peace. "Keep Christ in Christmas!" we clamor. And then, when the lines are long and the prices are low and the parking spaces are all filled, we shout different. We push, complain, show no mercy, disregard the very Person whose birth we claim to herald.

When we refuse to bind in peace, we will, in every certainty, scatter and separate.  And then the peace of God in our hearts is smothered and the message of God to a lost and dying world is neglected.

My identity as a Minister of Christ--mine and yours--must become central. It must win out no matter what is said or done to me. It must win out no matter who cuts me off or cuts in line or speaks disrespectfully or pushes me aside. I am not called to correct others' mistakes or dole out my own brand of justice. I am called to love--simply and without prejudice.

Our masks--mother, father, brother, sister, wife, husband, manager, employee, customer, business owner, driver, traveler--these are not truly who we are. When we throw them off in lieu for our true selves--Ministers, Ambassadors of Christ--we become who we were created to be.

We become better mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and all the rest because we don't have to wear the masks. We become, as Grotowski said, "living organisms who strive for higher motives." We become children of God and our strivings to share this with others become pure and selfless and holy.

Today, I aim to take off my masks; to take off my Ring. This season calls for it. My life calls for it. A Holy, Just and Loving Father calls for it. Who, with me, will answer the call?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

I'm watching a video about thanking God and I can hear it in between the words, in the pauses. I hear the commode, every few minutes, begin to run, struggling to fill its tank with a supply of water that won't stay put. The plunger ball, old and slippery with rot, won't seal off the valve and so it runs water at a steady but slow trickle that has been seen and felt in our water and sewer bills.

And when the sewer bill came, I started searching for the problem. I called friends and I called companies, trying to discover why in the world we were paying as if we had 12 living here instead of 3. It was under the heading, Common Indoor Leaks, on a document offered by our water company's webpage, a scant few lines down the page.

This is often a silent leak which causes the tank to continually drain and refill. Check for a worn or improperly seated plunger ball (flapper valve) by dropping a few drops of food coloring, into the toilet tank. Do not flush. If a leak exists, the dye-colored water will seep into the bowl in about five minutes. If it does, the plunger ball (flapper valve) may need to be replaced or realigned. 

And of course that's it. And I get mad. Mad at myself for not putting two and two together much, much earlier than this. Mad at my landlord that this wasn't dealt with before--wasn't the repairman just in to look at the toilet two days ago? And the anger is righteous--or so I name it.

But the video, it reminds me of what I've been trying to drill into my own head for three months. Give thanks. In everything, give thanks. I've posted it on all the social media sites I frequent. I've told testimony of how He's begun to change me because in beginning to give thanks, I am opening to the change. I've encouraged others to do it.

And yet, here I sit, with a rough patch that needed my Eucharisteo and I've botched it.  I've done that more than once lately. And this little leak in the toilet reminds me that if I don't choose thanks in all things--in.all.things.--then the joy in my own reservoir slips through the cracks and leaves me constantly running, constantly thirsty. And the filling of my own "righteous anger" doesn't quench that thirst.

Another day, earlier in the week:

Sometimes, life happens and the norm isn't the norm anymore or at least it isn't right now. And sometimes, it makes me forget. Sometimes it makes me selfish. And even though I know that I am called to serve and that I should pour myself out and that I should set myself aside, well, sometimes I just don't want to.

I tend not to be too demanding, most of the time. Pride and anger are more my game. They make me feel strong and empowered and justified. They puff me up and keep me far from the Spirit-filled things. They are lies. They are poison and yet, I keep drinking them down in such quantities that the Big Gulp would be envious.

Late at night is just a better time for maintenance of a movie theater. No crowds, no employees...just vast quiet and time stretched out. And under the gun of deadlines and executive visits and inside the demand of perfection isn't a good place to grind my heels into the dirt and swig pride and anger. But I do it anyway because when you swallow down deep those sickly sweet soul-killers you can't see anything but yourself.

Self-sight blurs sight of others and their needs. The Hubbs needed my understanding and support. But that paled in comparison to my need to feel.

It's too easy to just let go of my anger because if I let it go then my feelings won't matter and I'll fade into the transparency of the background. So we fight and he's pressured and I'm poisoned by my own hand and selfish and drowning in myself.

Sometimes, I screw it all up.  I ask forgiveness and I start again. But it can be such a self-defeating cycle when you see every mistake, looming large and blocking your way to peace, joy, thanksgiving. But I think part of the victory is in the struggle to keep going. Keep trying. Keep keeping track. Keep loving. Keep asking forgiveness. The Word says something in regards to keeping on:  "Love never fails." or in another translation, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. So I will begin again whenever I make a mess. I will take broom and dustpan to my mess of an ash heap and sweep it away with the Joy of the Lord. And no matter how hard it gets or how much I lose or how little I feel I can offer, I will remember that the Joy of the Lord is my strength and if I have that, I have all I need.

Praise & Thanksgiving for a whirlwind, wonderful October:
Oct. 15-3 Gifts Re-Read: Romans 12:1-2; II Corinthians 10:5; Psalm 19:14
Oct. 16-3 Gifts Burning: Scentsy Pot full of Fall smells; the desire to be thankful in reverence; it is the season for candles
Oct. 17- 3 Gifts Ugly-Beautiful: Bed head b/c it means I've gotten sleep, Sink-ful of dishes because it means we've eaten, Laundry unfinished and everywhere because it means we are blessed with clothing
Oct.18-A Gift Shared, Saved, Surrendered: A cup of ice water with the Hubbs, A plethora of boxes and plastic containers for art projects, A life daily surrendered to His will
Oct. 19-3 Gifts Unexpected: A pair of earrings from a friend, A letter penciled by my Kiddo,
Oct. 20-3 Gifts Unconventional:
Oct. 21-3 Gifts Undervalued:
Oct. 22-A Gift Silent, Still, Strong: The quiet of the morning, the stillness of the house when we're going to bed, The love the Father has for us!
Oct. 23-3 Gifts Begun: My antique chair, This blogging habit, List of crochet gifts for the Christmas season
Oct. 24-3 Gifts Accomplished: Homemade Brownies, Butterbeer, & Peanut Butter & Fudge Trifle
Oct. 25-3 Gifts Enjoying: Friendship, Fall, Freedom in Christ!
Oct. 26-3 Gifts Extravagant: His Love, Date Night with the Hubbs, Blessings from His Word
Oct. 27-A Gift Humbling, Honoring, Happy: Being a Mother x3
Oct. 28-3 Gifts In Christ: Relationship, Forgiveness, True Joy
Oct. 29-3 Gifts On Time: Being there in the morning, God's timing, sermon series on Romans 14-15
Oct. 30-3 Gifts Overjoyed!: Time with my family, A fantastically good month, God's provision in our lives
Oct. 31-3 Gifts Hallowed: Bed time story time, Hubbs & Wifey evening time, God is good all the time!

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Bad dreams are like phantoms in the night. For myself, sometimes they stay phantoms long after the sun's come up.  There's nothing like an insanely busy week to take your mind off of every other thing. Sometimes, that's a good thing. But my brain, while active in the subconscious dream state , remains vulnerable to the lies of the Deceiver. And sometimes, he works overtime to ensure that the thoughts I've worked so hard to capture and lay at the feet of Christ are taken back and let loose once I've entered that state of rest where my mind conjures up weird images.

And it's disconcerting when those phantoms follow me around in the light of day, plaguing my thoughts and my attitude. And somehow, the fact that they arrived at night, weakens my ability to fight them off in the day. I find myself irritable, sensitive--overly-so, emotional. 

And instead of turning to the salve of the Word, the sword of the Spirit, I turn to my own self-destructive methods. Acquire control, and then I'll feel better. Dominate the thoughts with spite-driven images that I conjure up from the ugliest parts of myself, and then I will be able to relax. But like sweet poison, it goes down smoothly, duping me into believing that this brand of venom is working. All of a sudden, it begins to wrack my insides with spasms and I am undone. Shame, remorse, confusion, frustration--all of these follow and I'm worse off than before. 

It's like being dragged back to square one. How can I ever claim joy and thankfulness and peace when I am so easily distracted by phantoms--unreal and utterly false? It seems that there are still hidden caverns of doubt and fear in my mind that have yet to be exposed to the brilliance of Truth, the rock-steady Word of the Cornerstone.

I am defeated a million times over, if I cannot find Your voice in the darkness of night! I will struggle and become deformed if I rely on my own methods. On my own, all I do is cut and tear and rip. And these wounds hurt and damage. They leave marks that I cannot reverse. Teach me, Abba, to wake with the Words of Life on my lips; resounding in my head, after the Prince of Darkness wreaks his havoc in my mind. Your Words will remind me of what is real.  Your Love is truly healing.  

*I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. 
*May these words of my mouth and THIS MEDITATION OF MY HEART be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock & my Redeemer 
*Do not conform to the pattern of this world be be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will. 
*We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  
*Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thank, Taste, Feast, See

It sits on the road of my life's journey, round-about this bend…a boulder of misperception at which I may suffer the loss of a friendship.  I am praying for healing of all kinds from the Great Healer. I am working at being a living sacrifice. Maybe I need a review…

"Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality."

Love…really love…with genuine affection.  Take delight in honoring others.  There are no caveats to these commands. Am I doing them? 

In my broken friendships, I must love. In my healthy friendships, I must love. In my every interaction with others, I must love. Love must never fail at my hands. But then, it never does, does it? It is my hands that fail. Not love. Never love.  My hands must be the channel through which love gushes like a mighty river. Being a channel requires right-thinking. Right-thinking can only begin with right-perspective. Right-perspective begins with feasts and thanksgiving. My favorite author says, 

"Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world. Because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down. The Word has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, 'I know. I know.' The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain.”

Feast on the Word and the aptness to love with abandon, everyone I encounter will begin to grow. Give thanks upon thanks upon thanks and the realization of all that I've been given will quicken the flow of that Love-river from my hands. And Love is necessary, needed, as essential as oxygen. 

We don't know! We just can't know the deep hurts, the dark blemished spots of suffering that the ones next to us, everywhere, carry with them. I can't fully understand the broken and distorted pain of my neighbor, of my Christ-siblings. But Love fully understands. And that is enough. 

I am discovering that it is thankfulness that really prepares my heart to do His will. So I need to begin with thanks, always with thanks. Upon the heels of thanks, I will feast on the Word, sopping up each morsel of delicious truth since it is this hearty Food that transforms me, truly.  If I live thankful & Word-filled, then I will taste and see Love's goodness. And the pouring out on others becomes as important as my own filling.

Oct. 1-3 Gifts Orange:  Pumpkins in the neighbor's yard, Acorn Squash Soup, Changing of the leaves of the trees  
Oct. 2-3 Gifts Falling: Leaves of the trees; The season; My weight…slowly but surely 
Oct. 3-A Gift caught, let go, midway:  Caught a realization from study about anger & irritation; Letting go of a propensity to get angry & irritated; Midway in working through the heaviness in my mind 
Oct. 4-3 Gifts Reaped: Happy mornings come from an attitude of resolve; Patience begets calm; A kind word turneth away wrath 
Oct. 5-3 Gifts Returned: Returning to a state of trust; Returned my library books; Returning to the feet of Jesus for forgiveness, strength, peace, joy. 
Oct. 6-3 Gifts Redeemed: I am! A really good coupon; freebees  
Oct. 7-A Gift Baked, Stirred, Eaten: Cheese Souffle; Chili w/ Friends; The Body & the Blood 
Oct. 8-3 Gifts Prayed For: Financial stability; Medication stability; Marital peace 
Oct. 9-3 Gifts Praised For: For I am fearfully & wonderfully made…even if I don't swim as fast or as well as the athlete in the lane next to me; For Your sovereignty and mercy, separate but equal characteristics of a loving, just God; the husband & daughter I've been given…extraordinary blessings! 
Oct. 10-3 Hard Eucharisteo:  Laying down my dreams & plans; Opportunities to shut my mouth & guard my heart (and mind!); Praying for a friend...a Mother's choice that caused a rift 
Oct. 11-3 Gifts of Change: Changing of the season; Kelly getting to change his phone; my changing mind & body 
Oct. 12-A Gift Small, Smaller, Smallest: Small apartment = big love & great closeness; Smaller-growing waistline & thighs!; Smallest dose of meds works like a charm for our girl 
Oct. 13-3 Gifts Read: 1000 Gifts; Feasting on the Word; statuses of friends' joys and lives 
Oct. 14-3 Gifts Said: Joshua 1:8; John 14:21; Ephesians 4:1-3

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Scales On My Eyes

There's something about watching the leaves of the trees in the fall…almost overnight, they morph from green to yellow to orange to fiery red…and then gracefully descend their top-most perches and flutter to the ground in cascades of burnished color. I look forward to this annual change and marvel at its wonder and its loveliness. 
And despite all this elegance, full-bodied change impacts humans--the animate, the sentient--not quite so gracefully. But who's to say those trees don't feel the pain of their leaves, exposed to bitter cold,  transforming from one shade on the spectrum to another? And when they fall off and float away? Detached, they shrivel and die. And the tree is left bare and stripped. 

But trees have no mouthpiece for complaining or for cursing. They stand silent and surrendered to their purpose; willing to be transfigured on a regular cycle and throughout the entirety of their lives.  It is when the tree is nude that it rests. And all the transforming creatures in this world rest during a period of change. Oh that I would learn from the very lessons under my nose! 

What needs transforming in my life? This forgiveness thing stretches me beyond myself..and not a slow, steady, let-the-muscles-lean-into-it stretch but a wracked, dislocating stretch. But if I am to be of use to Him, if I am to fulfill my purpose, if I am to let the world see the Truth through me, I must be pulled apart before it's all over.  Broken, torn down, made small…this is the only way I am workable.

I am an addict to feeling. I base my whole existence on it. Sometimes it is a lie and sometimes it is simply in the way. But I crave it. I surge with it. I wrap myself up in it and call the filth-covered tunic, useful, valid, necessary. And regardless of it's validity, I call it Truth. There is a difference, though, in the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Emotion. 
A fact by itself is disinterested in feeling. Take fact and steep it in sentiment and you have the Spirit of Emotion. What I see, what I experience is dyed the color of my feelings.  Take fact and sprinkle it in the Spirit of the Law and it becomes the salt that flavors my life. And what I see, what I experience is enriched with that spice. 

Transformation is not painless. It pushes out what is no longer needed. The tree senses the days shortening and begins to shed the obsolete. The source of growth trapped in a tree's leaves coupled with cold nights causes the beauty-shades, the ones for which we ooh and aah.  Here is a very living example of God's-work-in-nature that Paul spoke of in that self-same letter.  Do we not strive to shed what is not needed?  Do we not sense the shortening of days? Do biting winds not nip at our very lives? But it is these things that stir a quivering in our hearts, harrowing as the quivering may be, to draw close, immerse ourselves in His spirit and be transformed.  And once we do that, like the salve that Christ put to the eyes of a blind man and washed clean, then, oh, then we will see.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

O My Soul

I am learning a little something about choice.

We all have it. We're born with it. And when we learn to use it, trouble very often follows. But not all of our choices are bad. New parents revel in the wonder of watching their progeny begin to make choices.  But somewhere along the way, we learn to conform, to suppress our choice.  It's a process that is born out of the need for obedience. Unless we can learn to conform to a parent's instruction to keep our fingers away from the hot stove, we get burnt.  It is a safety thing. It is for our own good, this coercion.  But as we grow, we try to apply it generously to other situations of choice; the result often stunting us, perpetuating our misunderstanding of the true power of choice.

And somewhere along the way, we begin to value coercion over choice...coercion is effective, we surmise. The one who coerces holds all the power. And our tool of choice, then, when confronting others for the wrongs they've committed against us becomes obvious.

Choice still abounds in the small I eat an apple or a bag of chips? Do I turn right or left? What do I watch on TV?  But we seem to think that there's a line drawn somewhere that separates our ability to choose and our compulsion to force.  I can choose to be kind but I must compel the unkind person to admit their behavior & change. I can choose to live my life a certain kind of way but I must constrain others to do the same as myself.  I can choose to forgive but I won't forget and I will remind the wrong-doer of the events in an effort to pressure them (guilt them?) to change.

Why do we take a concept that applies to one aspect of our lives and spread it around everywhere else, thinking it will work just as well here as it did there. It would be like using shampoo to brush your teeth.

Choice is powerful. And far more-so than force.  For instance, God chooses us when it comes to His saving Grace but He also gives us a choice. And the two harmonize and blend into each other in ways we are wont to understand this side of Heaven.  For our part, when He whispers His truth to our hearts and breaths His message into our souls, He leaves room for us to respond. Much like an endless ringing of the telephone, we hear His message, learn to understand what it means and how to respond but must actually choose to make a connection.  He still gives us the choice even when He knows we won't make it.  He knows that to choose Him is to really love Him. To choose His way and to follow through with obedience are how we lavish our love on the Father.  If He forced us to choose Him, which He right could, the love would not be offered but required...and then would it be love or duty? And an offering is far more meaningful than a requirement.

On the path of my most recent pilgrimage, I have begun to glimpse my need to unlearn this wrong interpretation of choice and force. The trail is a rough one, this learning to identify what is within my power to choose to do; not only what is within my power but what I am obliged to do, what I must do, not for the sake of blind obedience but to be covered in unwavering faith.

My choices must be about forgiveness. My choices must be about remembering no more. We have been told time and again that to forgive AND forget is divine. But my rough road is teaching me that God remembers no more...and the power to do this is truly of God. It is a choice.
There is no winner in forgetting. And the hurts and marks left on our very souls by the harsh, by the sin, by the wrong...there is no forgetting those. We are fools if we try. We do further damage to ourselves when we build a wall of forgetfulness around our hearts.

And if we marinate our inner man in the brine of what has been done against us, we shrivel, become hardened, embittered and controlled by what we have chosen to try and control. That adage about swallowing poison to do harm to our is us; we become that. And we envenom ourselves.

Being on these warped routes, they are still our choice. We have lied to ourselves; tried to convince our minds that there was no choice. But if we can break away, there is another way. When we realize that we have our choices all along, that there is choice to forgive, there is choice to remember no more, then a healing salve can be applied to our hearts.

To even begin, we must remember what was given to us.And when we let this permeate us, it begins to change us and out of gratitude for our own forgiveness , our actions can flow accordingly.

It is a daily exercise in choosing to relinquish my own insufficient handling of my experiences. But If I can remember...if my ability to forgive can flow from my own gratitude for what I have been forgiven...then it comes clear.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A New Day of Playing Catch-Up

Making new habits sometimes causes a piling up, of sorts. There is thankfulness that must be shared and I am a week behind! 

There are words that have been marinating around in my head and while I have begun to put them down, I have yet to finish. But today is a new day. And a new day gives us a new start. Thanks be to God!  

No really. THANKS.BE.TO.GOD. :)

Sun., Sept. 16 - 3 Gifts Shared
*Music from the Hubbs
*Dinner with friends in Life Group
*Bowl of yummy soup with BestFriend

Mon., Sept. 17 - 3 Gifts Ugly-Beautiful
*A scar that became the entrance for my   daughter's life
*My body--saggy & stretched but made fearfully & wonderfully
*My messy car--crumb-covered & stained but functional & reliable

Tues., Sept. 18 - A Gift Fixed, Folded, Freckled
*God's love fixed firmly on me
*A brand new curtain, folded carefully
*The nose of one of my fave fictional characters

Wed., Sept. 19 - 3 Gifts in Conversation
        *God is purely just & purely merciful, equally & perfectly (in Life Group)
        *Chatting w/ mom & dad on the phone & on Skype; Chatting w/ my sis on FaceTime!
        *Sarah Groves song, "Conversations"

Thurs., Sept. 20 - 3 Gifts in Salvation
        *I have it!
        *It's free!
        *It sets the tone for my whole life

Fri., Sept. 21 - 3 Gifts in Information
        *Social Networking
        *Ability to learn about Hayden's meds 
        *PA's resources for Autism

Sat., Sept. 22 - A Gift Rattling, Receding, Reclaiming
        *Suitmate swim suit water extractor
        *The Heat
        *My identity in Christ

 Sun., Sept. 23 - 3 Gifts Quiet
        *Chair-sitting at bedtime
        *Moments of solitude at the pool, in waiting rooms, & in the car
*Prayer Listening

Mon., Sept. 24 - 3 Gifts Funny
        *Laughter w/ small group
        *Quirky Hayden-isms...
Me: "Hayden, what are you doing?" Her: "I'm just thinking about my day!"
        *My Hubbs 

Tues., Sept. 25 - 3 Gifts Finished
        *2 weeks of finished swimming
        *Laundry (whenever that happens!)
        * When dinner is made 

Wed., Sept. 26 - 3 Gifts Flourishing
*My kiddo's school progress
*The tiny seeds we planted beneath the dirt in the garden
*Our friendships and sense of belonging in this community

Thurs., Sept. 27 - A Gift Unexpected, Uneven, Unpopular
*Unexpected texts from friends
*Uneven, as in imperfect…embracing this about myself
*Enter through the narrow gate…an unpopular route; thankful for the directions

Fri., Sept. 28 - 3 Gifts Shy
*My Hubbs…shy by nature but bold with friends
*Being the first to say hello…others are shy but I must not be! 
*Leo…hides under the covers like we can't see him

Sat., Sept. 29 - 3 Gifts Shelved
*Bibles…to be able to own them unhidden
*Picture box full of memories
*Rows of words and stories and encouragement

Sun., Sept. 30 - 3 Gifts Shining
*The sun sparkling the water
*Freshly cleaned car
*Brand new plastic rain boots

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Push forward; engage your core; exhale & break the surface; inhale; put your head down; push forward...

In the silence created by my earplugs, I try to use the time spent slicing through the water talking to God; listening for the still & small. These days, I try to get a handle on my wrung out emotions.
Every time I look in the mirror, I find myself face to face with insecurity and the downward spiral of the thoughts that fuel it. There are other triggers...tiredness, spikes in progesterone, circumstantial events...but the end result is the same: I am pressed under a weight of doubt, fear, hurt, bitterness.

Kick off; glide forward; exhale; stroke; breathe; engage your core; push forward.

There is Truth. There are Words. There is a Command. And it's so easy to say them and it's cold comfort, sometimes when they don't pierce through the callous parts of my heart; those parts made callous by doubt, fear, hurt, & bitterness unchecked.

Exhale; face up; breathe in; stroke...

Those thoughts that unsteady me--those thoughts that destroy--they rip at the fabric of my identity; the part that I haven't brought under His authority. The prince of the power of the air, he whispers seductive lies into my ear. And I trade the Truth of who I really am for falsehoods. My imagination, made weak by that unbalanced exchange, is all too willing to create garish, gratuitous scenarios.

And grossly, like some dead thing, I crave these, the lies & the pictures; they intoxicate me; make me feel powerful and utterly vulnerable all at once. They consume my attention and my ability to focus and it is, in the moment of consumption, a deadly sweet indulgence.  But in their wake, they carve deep paths of chaotic damage. I feel as Paul did; he wasn't merely playing with words when he called himself a wretched man.

Reach; push forward; breath; engage your core...

I am learning what it means to take my thoughts captive; to put on the full armor of God; to pray without ceasing; to rebuke. These are my battle tools. And I feel His Spirit moving to change me. And I get the impression that the Deceiver is trying to lay waste to His efforts. Pressing on is crucial.  I must forgive the wrong at the root of all this ugliness. And I must do it again and again and again. Not in my power but in His. Daily, if necessary. It must be the foundation of my battle because without it, I will know no peace.

Face down, exhale; face up, inhale...

Is it too much to call this a cross I bear? Or is it more accurate to call this a thorn in my side? In either circumstance, His power is made perfect in my weakness. And I can bear it only if He will lavish me with his strength, His grace, His peace.

Engage your core...who is at my core? Is it not the Prince of Peace? Face down, exhale; face up, inhale...shouldn't new thoughts and a new way begin with me face down, exhaling myself? And then facing up, inhaling more of Him? Am I not to be reaching always for His way, His guidance? Should I not be breathing His Word, inhaling & exhaling His promises as I walk through the day-to-day in my life? Is it so easy to forget who I am?  Note to self: I am HIS. I am loved. I am chosen. All the rest? Well, all the rest is deception.


In the end, the hard work makes us stronger. The discomfort & irritation of pressing on grows muscles...physical and spiritual. Denying ourselves the indulgence of self-medication and learning to feast on proper means of coping, furthers our efforts and allows those muscles to flourish.

And it is only because of who Christ is and what He has done and what He offers us that these things become possible.

And this is what I think on as I move forward in the weightlessness of the water. This is what I pray about.  And I will keep on.  Greater things have yet to come and greater things have still to be done...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mondays Are For Thanking

Keeping step with September's Joy Dare, these are my praise offerings for the last week:

Sept. 9 - 3 Gifts Framed
*The 3 faces in our family that smile at me from above my desk
*My degree…I earned it only by Your grace & favor, Father
*A precious girl…one of Mommy's favorite gifts

Sept. 10 - 3 Gifts Moving
*Moving to PA
*Moving my body in the pool
*God moving me to draw closer to Him

Sept. 11 - 3 Hard Eucharisteo
*Thankful for heart-changes when marriage gets tough
*Thankful for learning to praise in the midst of falling apart
*Thankful for old rough patches that give me perspective today

Sept. 12 - 3 Gifts in His Word
*Praise unending throughout the Psalms

Sept. 13 - A Gift Scented, Scrawled, Started
*New Scentsy bar that makes home smell good
*Doodles & drawings from my little artist
*The gift of exercise begun!

Sept. 14 - 3 Gifts Drawn
*Drawing of Hayden's precious face, drawn by her Sunday School teacher while visiting Nanny in VA
*Rendering of our family done in dry-erase marker on the whiteboard
*Pictures found on all kinds of documents, showing me how she sees the world

Sept. 15 - 3 Gifts Paired
*A pair of really comfy flip-flops
*A pair of snuggly warm fleece socks

And a few of my own making:

*Another year of life for my Hubbs & a party with friends to celebrate it.
*5 miles of swimming; sore arms; accomplishing a goal
*Thick & heavy Life Group discussion on the Sovereignty of God--thank You that You have hidden these things from me; they are too great for me to understand! 
*School drop-offs are a breeze :)

Thank you for these. All of these. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Different Kind of Monday

It's been determined previously that Mondays are a special kind of difficult. That difficulty is all the more reason to praise and thank; to worship He who is worthy of praise; He who has given.

Think of this sentiment as a bylaw to the Law; one that is no less imprinted on the heart; on the mind. Not singular to Monday, only, but suitable to any difficult day. In fact, He speaks on it in his Book; enjoins us that this is to be the way of things:

It is clear:  Once accepted, continue to follow; let the roots grow in Him; allow a life built on Him; THEN faith will grow STRONG IN THE TRUTH and you.will.overflow.with.thankfulness.

Thankfulness is an outpouring--unavoidable; it rushes, surges, brims over when we follow and grow and move our own plans for our lives aside to make room for His.  It comes when our faith has been made strong in the Truth; Truth that has been tried and tested; Truth that has been revealed to us in the hottest part of the fire. It comes when He has allowed that which we do not; cannot; sometimes, will not comprehend to bring us into the dazzling light of His Truth; His love; His desire for us. These things prepare us to pour out the thankful. And when we tip the bowl of our thanks to spill out in praise, may we ever be conscious...willing...sincere.

Let these praises fall from my lips:

*Sunshine on my skin
 *Smiley Faces in texts received
 *Sticky Notes full of scheduled Tutoring Hours
 *Cool Breezes on Autumn Days
 *Warm Cookies from the Oven
 *Sun-soaked Treetops in the Morning--splendor!
 *Metamorphosis of the leaves
 *Delicious autumn-flavored coffee
 *School tracing out a routine for our family
 *Growing in Christ
 *Watching Hayden grow
 *My desire to make new habits
 *Cleaning up barf at 3 am...yes, even this; a gift of sacrifice
 *Praying for a friend in need of healing
 *Making homemade pizza for my kiddo
 *Hubbs made it possible for me to start lap swimming…even bought me two pair of goggles
 *The blessings & opportunities for growing masked as hard lessons

I marvel at the gift of this life…so very thankful; may I use it as You would have me to, Jesus. May the hardness prompt me to allow my life to be built on You; impel me to become strong in the Truth; lead me to overflow with gratitude...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Monday

No one I know really likes Mondays. They're full of rest-is-over, back-to-the-grind kind-of feelings. Sometimes they're a relief; allowing escape of the sometimes-discord of home and hearth--more of a false relief, really, since work would be but a temporary evasion.
Nonetheless, not the most loved day of the week. Mondays, therefore, are a good day to recall the God-gifts of the previous week. Take the focus off of my baggage and put it on He who carries my weight. Here I am again, Lord. Your work and Your blessings are not lost on me this week; may they never be:

*My mate who, daily, strives to be more sensitive; I see you. I feel your love & I am blessed by you.

*Friends with whom to share time; friends with whom to talk shop; friends with whom to cry; friends with whom to celebrate

*Growth in Kiddo's ability to speak & communicate

*Summer reaching its end

*An opportunity to make healthy habits, lap by lap

*First grade readiness

*Ann's September Joy Dare for Sept. 1: 3 Gifts of Summer
          -Nights to stay up late, hanging out with my man
          -Days to sleep in & lounge around
          -Fun at the pool with my Kiddo

There are so very many more...aid my counting of all of these, Jesus,     :)