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