If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw

Whirly Birds, Wheat Fields and a Wise Woman (Sheology Part 1 Learning)

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16)

I could hear the chug of the church bus rounding the corner at my Mom’s house. It was a rare occasion that I got to spend Saturday night with her and go to the fancy big church in town as my Granny called it. No country church for me, where the wooden pews and people smelled of must and old age and the “facilities” were still outside. Not this weekend. 

They were having a contest and my younger sister asked if I could please come with her so she could earn her hat for bringing a guest. The special bonus, if there were X amount of kids that Sunday, the pastor, John Maxwell, would eat a live goldfish. We were all in. 

The kids were singing, as kids do, at the tops of their lungs We’re Whirly Birds for Jesus, we live for him each day… I soon caught on and wanted to be a Whirly Bird too. I wasn’t sure about this Jesus but I really wanted the cap these kids were wearing, a red beanie with a little helicopter on top. You could earn pins for it too (!), which filled my people-pleasing-award-winning-accomplishment-doing-soul right up.

I soon learned that being a Christ follower was more than donning a Whirly Bird beanie heavy laden with bling from winning contests. Souls were at stake after all. Mine included. 

***

I discovered a classmate of mine also went to the fancy big church in town and happened to be at movie night. (Movie night? At church! Fancy big church’s meter pegged to the right of cool.) We settled in with some popcorn and candy and sat beside each other ready to watch the 1970’s film called A Thief in the Night. 

Our popcorn grew cold, candy uneaten as Micky and I watched the confusion and mayhem of this woman who had been left behind. At the end of the movie the youth pastor got up and explained how Jesus was coming back and how we needed to be ready or else be left here to suffer. He read Matthew 24:36-51 to us. 

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:39-40NIV)

I wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant. We didn’t own a hand mill nor did we have fields but we did have a garden and canned a lot so maybe that counted. What I did know was that I did not want to be without my Granny and left in a place where the people were weeping and gnashing their teeth. (Matthew 24:51NIV) Obviously there were no Whirly Birds there.

So Micky and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Savior whatever all that actually meant. This movie scared the hell out of me but didn’t drive me to a place where I would come to really know Jesus. 

For two more decades I would wax and wane between singing with my beanie on and running to escape the fiery flames. Always working to be good enough, missing the mark horribly, feeling the shame of things I’d done and things done to me, asking forgiveness for things that were already tossed as far as east is from west. It was a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat, rededicate, renew, return to old ways. 

Until life spun me in a different direction and landed me in a place I’d never been. 

***

Tucked in the Gospel of Luke are five little verses that introduce us to two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha who find themselves with a dinner guest by the name of Jesus. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, we find Mary had managed to make her way to where Jesus was and took the posture of a student, a disciple, a learner at his feet. 

Whether by invitation or an act of bravery, Mary knew she wanted to understand more than the bits and pieces she put together as she went about her duties or heard secondhand from her brother and those that knew him personally. She wanted and needed to know Jesus herself. 

So she sat at his feet, listened and learned. 

This first female New Testament theologian will glean much from this meeting. While we don’t know what Jesus was saying, I wonder if she was beginning to understand that this Man brought a different message than the culture of her day. 

Jesus tells those who are listening, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NIV) In a culture where women are not invited to sit at the table and learn this changes everything. 

***

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were going to church every time the doors were open. We served. We sang. We served some more. If a spot needed filled we were there. And yet my marriage was falling apart. My adult version of being a Whirly Bird was crashing fast. Those gnashing teeth were hot on my heels.

I soon discovered a foundation of theology built on service alone and the things I “do” is like shifting sand that soon crumbles when hard times come. All of my do’s are paltry compared to what has already been done. I needed to know the doer of done. Not just those bits and pieces I heard from the pulpit or Sunday school teacher. 

Sound theology starts with sitting and soaking at the feet of the Teacher Himself. Not just on Sunday mornings or even Wednesday nights. But every chance I get. 

Knowledge of his character, recognition of his voice, learning about his heart and compassion doesn’t keep us from walking through seasons of difficulty. Life happens and happens hard sometimes. But we weather storms differently when we know who is taking us through them. When we know the One who holds the compass.

Learning is the first step to being a sheologian. We wrestle with texts. We ask questions. We wonder. We wait. And then we are given opportunities to practice. To put feet on our faith. To live out what we’ve soaked up. 

There’s more to Mary’s story. And mine. As you’ll soon see. 

kw

From Where I Stood

The view from my daughter’s house in New Mexico

What are you up to Lord? Ever asked yourself that question? Ever wondered how he would work all things for the good when all seemed lost? (Romans 8:28NIV)

That’s where I found myself a couple years back when a friendship was severed like an amputated limb. Hacked off. Gone. Replaced with phantom pains and confusion. 

From where I stood, I thought for sure God was messing up somehow or angry, trying to isolate me and take away things (and people) I thought was good for me. All I could see was destruction. All I could feel was hurt and heartache.

From where I stood the mountain seemed too steep, too rocky, too unapproachable, too desolate, too lonely. I was in need of too much faith to maneuver. I was all out of mustard seeds. 

North Crest Trail, New Mexico

From where I stood, the trail back to who he would have me be meant an uphill climb. Sometimes the path twisted in ways I didn’t want to go and seemed impossible to walk on. Tree roots tripping, forks on the path, rock-slides, thinner air. 

From where I stood I had to learn (again). Rest here. Walk this way. Be still. Listen. Trust me. One step forward. Inhale him. Exhale grace. Don’t look back. Look up child!

You see, God’s view is different. He can see further ahead because he can see from on high the mountaintop. Past the pain, the hurt, the heartache. He sees into the future, my future, and knows exactly what I need (or don’t need.)  

He is the Maker and the Shaker of every mountain that’s in front of us. He is the God of impossible climbs when we cling to him for our next step, our next breath, our next direction. 

He alone is trustworthy. 

I’m learning.

And when you get to the top. My, my, my, such a show off. 

On a plane in Utah

Sometimes he allows you to see that the purpose in the pain was for your protection. Not to harm you but to help you. Not to isolate you but to draw you closer to him. He showed me that recently on this particular adventure. What a different view than the one I had at the beginning of the climb. 

Three Guns Trail, New Mexico

Moses knew a thing or two about climbing and trusting, even when (especially when?) he could not see. One such time, the air was alive with thunder and lightning, the mountain was covered in a thick smoke. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21) and climbed.

If the mountain before you is clouded over with darkness, maybe it’s to show you things he wants no one else to see. For you to walk by faith with your hand on his shoulder, keeping pace with his pace, trusting each step of the path like never before. 

He is there, in the darkest of places. He will teach you what you need to know. Trust him. 

I’m still learning.

I can’t help but think that each mountain is a preparation for the next one. As long as there are people involved, there will always be more mountains to climb because we are human. Frail, fallible and forever in need of a Savior.

From where I stood, the mountain seemed un-climbable. From where God stands, the view is spectacular. Trust him on the climb. He’s got this. 

My Man and middle daughter on the top of Sandia Peak, New Mexico

kw

Let There Be…Night

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Beautiful moon photo is courtesy of the gorgeous Dianna Dickson

Show me what I need to see today Lord.

This simple prayer is how I’ve started each morning since January 1st. It’s something I’ve never done…reading this ancient script in it’s entirety over the course of one year. Just me and Thee. Bible and heart open. Pen and journal in hand. (I say this with some sarcasm because, while this sounds uber spiritual, I’ve already thrown a couple fits, not liked what he’s shown me, and well, I’m getting ahead of myself…)

I’m 20+ days in and He has yet to disappoint. Granted I’ve not made it as far as Numbers and read those long genealogies but still. Some days there are more questions than answers but that’s okay. I’m finding the joy (?) of trusting that He will show me what I need to see today.

Take for instance the first few verses of Genesis 1….

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)

 My journal entry looked like this:

January 1, 2019

Read Genesis 1-3 God separated light from darkness right away. *Live as Light*

  1. Coffee
  2. Quiet
  3. Rose Bowl win for the Buckeyes

I closed my Bible and my journal satisfied that Day One was in the books. The message was to shine bright…after another cup of coffee of course…because he saw that the light was good. So light=good, darkness=bad. Right?

Not so much. But we often equate it that way. Maybe it’s because we can’t see as well at night. Maybe it’s because as soon as our head hits the pillow our brains have nothing else to occupy the thoughts we’ve been too busy to think about all day. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe it’s because the moment we’re still, grief pours down over us.

He could have made the sun to always shine but instead gave us night with a dimmer light to lead the way. Often times when life is all sunshine I have a tendency to think I know where I’m going and get completely lost. My arrogance leads me down a path I wasn’t meant to take. Once again I’m reliant on the Maker of both day and night to put me back on the right road.

God shows us things at night.

Take Abram for example. He was discouraged in his inability to produce offspring and was talking to the Lord about it. So God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1-5NIV)

This offspring thing kept Abram up at night. God didn’t wait to address his concerns until the sun came up the next day. No. He showed Abram the stars so when the darkness of doubt set in again, Abram could simply look up and be reminded that the God who put the stars in the sky does what He says He will do. He was right there with him. And he’s right there with you and me. In the night. When the doubt creeps in like the shadow of death.

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Photo courtesy of Dianna Dickson

God likes to wrestle at night.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. Esau is the brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. They haven’t seen each other in years and Jacob is a bit…nervous shall we say. Jacob sends his family on ahead and…

a man wrestled him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Then a few wrestle moves and a name change later the man…blessed him there. (Genesis 32:22-29NIV)

I’m not sure what all Jacob was wrestling with God about but I do know it was night once again. That time when you lay your head on the pillow, exhausted from a full day of running, working, kids, husband, appointments. You can’t wait to fall into the bliss of sweet dreams…

Instead you start thinking about running, working, kids, husband, appointments. Worry, doubts, wonder, fear…

But instead of grappling with God we grab our phones and Crush some Candy or scroll through social media and wonder why everyone else has it better than you do. Other people’s families don’t seem to be falling apart. What will the test come back as? The list goes on and we get angry at God but we don’t engage with him. Our noses get out of joint instead of our hips.

Could it be that we miss the blessing because we run from the wrestling?

Living a life of faith is not lived in the light but discovered in the dark. While I don’t want to live in utter darkness all the time, I also don’t want to fear it. What can light mean if we never experience dark?

I do want to live as light like I wrote in my journal. But that may mean allowing Him to show me things by way of moonlight and stars with just enough light for the step I’m on. My light may shine brighter only after I grapple with God for the blessing in the darkest of night.

There was evening and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NIV)

And what a day it was too!

To be continued…

kw

PS Disclaimer: the darkness I am talking about here is things that trouble or scare you or refers to a trial or hard time you are going through. I am NOT talking about the darkness of depression or other mental illnesses. Please seek professional counseling and take any prescribed medicine to help you. I have and there’s no shame in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Hijacks Your Joy

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Can I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes I overcomplicate things. I think too hard, wonder too long, analyze to the point of paralyze and run a million rabbits of what-if. At the end of all those thoughts, wonderings and trails are holes that lead to nowhere but tired. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes it leads to empty places, dark spaces that need Light.

This is where I found myself at the tail end of last year. Life had somehow hijacked my joy. Instead of an attitude of gratitude, I found myself wound up with worry. Oh, maybe not on the outside because I wouldn’t want the world to see my faith fading into fear like an ombre highlight at the salon…the subtleness soft, hardly noticeable until you take a step back and see the light to dark difference.

Even my word for this year is complicated. I had thoughts of Joy (the word, not my look on life at the moment) but it seemed inadequate. Gratitude seemed, I don’t know, lame (and so worn out with use. Really?) So in God’s witty humor he knew Eucharisteo was the other three-in-one I needed to get me out of this funk.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them…(Luke 22:19)

In the original Greek language, he gave thanks, is the word eucharisteo. The root word is charis which means grace. Jesus takes the bread and sees it as grace,  a gift from above….even in the knowing of what was to be.

This word eucharisteo, giving thanks, wraps itself around the Greek word for grace, charis but also holds within it the Greek word chara,meaning joy.

 Chara. Joy.

 James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2NIV)

I hate tests. Pop quizzes are even worse! It exposes any lack of preparedness. (Amen?!) Gracious sakes how can you be fully prepared for what life can throw at you?  So this recent testing of my faith had me mad at the Teacher, the One who did the testing. But the test allowed me to see areas where my faith is weak and trust is timid.

Pure joy can be found in (not because of) trials. I’m learning.

 Charis. Grace.

Sharing my story, my thoughts and lessons I’m learning as this year of practicing Eucharisteo unfolds, reveals the certainty of the grace of God…how good he is, not how bad I am.

Grace, that unmerited favor, something we hoard and crave is often difficult to give and sometimes even harder to receive. Grace, at times, is challenging to recognize, clouded by our own thoughts and ideas of what life should look like or what the outcomes should be.

All is grace. I’m still learning.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Deep joy, chara and grace, charis begin at the table of thanksgiving, eucharisteo.

 And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19NIV)

He gave thanks before the trial of all trials that would send him to the cross.

For you. For me.

He calls us to remember…

By giving thanks I am remembering what he did for me. Remembering what he did for me reminds me that I can place all my thoughts, wonderings, what-if’s, empty spaces and dark places, fragile faith and wearied soul before him with thanks giving.

It’s that simple. And that hard.

Joy, Grace and Thanksgiving…EUCHARISTEO…a beautiful word called to live out in a brutal world.

To be continued…

kw

Rebuilding a Nation

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I have a friend who posted an article from Psychology Today on social media titled Politics and the Catastrophe of Us and Them. I’m giving you the link to the article but that wasn’t what caught my eye. This comment did: This is going to need to start at the top, with our leadership, as the article points out. I hope we can find a leader who sets a tone of unity in 2020.

I agree with the need for unity (or at the very least kindness in our differences). I disagree that it needs to start at the top or that we should have to wait until the next election that is almost two years away. Can you imagine what this nation will be like if everyone waits to see who the next president will be before we treat each other with some manner of dignity? Can you imagine if we all lived our lives based solely on the behavior of those in government? God help us.

So if not from the top, then where?

Got a mirror? Look in it. Right there is where it starts.

Do Your Part

Nehemiah shows us a little about how to rebuild a nation that was in great trouble and disgrace, a nation that was broken down. (Nehemiah 1:3NIV) After weeping, praying and fasting for the city of Jerusalem (there’s a whole lesson just in that) he travels there to help them get back on their feet. In fact, not only did he help them rebuild the entire wall around Jerusalem, he did it in 52 days. (Nehemiah 6:15) What a monumental task to perform and in such a short order!

How did he do it? He had people be responsible to repair the rubble that was immediately in front of them, everyone doing their small part. (Nehemiah 3) While the task of repairing a whole nation in ruins may seem insurmountable, what if we focused on repairing what was in our reach, our scope of vision?

What if we had conversations instead of arguments? Even if we don’t agree. What if we put aside that feud we’ve had with a church member, family member, coworker or friend for the greater good? Even if we think we’re right. What if we truly treated our neighbor as ourselves? Even if our neighbor isn’t like us.

You may not be able to vote on a bill on Capital Hill but you can treat Bill with kindness and respect. Right?

The Blame Game

Finger pointing is the oldest game in the Book, going all the way back to the garden of Eden when God asked Adam if he’d eaten the only tree that was forbidden and his reply was yeah but the woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it. To which Eve responded, yeah but the serpent deceived me and I ate. (Genesis 3).

Yeah but…seems to be our mantra as well.

Maybe we should take a lesson from Rep-elect Dan Crenshaw when he took the high road after being on the butt end of a bad Saturday Night Live joke because of an eye patch he wears due to an injury sustained while in combat. He could have easily started a different kind of war; one no one would win in the end. Yeah but could have been his ammo if questioned about his battle tactic. Instead he accepted an apology from SNL and wants to work towards restoring civility.

I’d say he helped build up what was torn down directly in front of him. He did his part in responding with grace.

What about you? If you find yourself saying yeah but, maybe you are part of the problem.

Worry About Yourself

This leads right into a great story found in John 21:15-23 where Jesus is talking with Peter about the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. (v19). It was going to be a brutal one (v18). Peter, in turn, looks around, spots John and asks, what about him? (v21) Jesus replies, what is that to you? (v22, 23)

In essence, worry ‘bout yo-self!

At the end of the day we are responsible for our own selves. Our actions. Our words. Our responses. Our reparations. Our part in unifying. When we meet our Maker He will not ask us about somebody else’s choices. Only our own.

I don’t know about you but I want to be found on my part of the wall, not in 2020, not waiting for the next election cycle but today, right now, repairing and rebuilding, connecting and correcting, balancing and bettering not just for the good of this nation but for the glory of the God I serve.

Brick by brick.

kw

 

 

Election Hangover Elixir

It’s the day after Election Day. My phone has not blown up with texts and voicemails telling me who to vote for. My mailbox has normal mail in it…I’ve never been so happy to see junk mail that was fliers from stores and not a politician. Anybody else ready to see a couple sitting in bathtubs on a beach talking about ED rather than all the politicians bashing each other?

Some of you went to bed last night with a renewed spirit and some of you woke up this morning thinking Jesus was going to be coming back today because surely this is it.

I spent half the day at the salon doing something new….

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I am no longer a “foil virgin”…whoa Nellie was this a process!

The timing was unplanned perfection and it gave me time to start reading The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin. Oh man! I was only eleven pages in and she said this one sentence that wrapped up my million thoughts…

The loudest revolutions often begin so quietly, so unassumingly near the ground that most don’t bother to notice. I won’t speak for you, but surrounded by cynics, worrywarts, doomsday prophets, and Facebook apologists with their lofty solutions, I’d rather be a hope-holder with mud on my shoes.

 All day long, you guys. All the dang day long.

I don’t want to be a cynical, worrier who walks around with Eyore as her closest compadre and who thinks she has simple answers to complex issues. Nope. But as a believer I am never without hope. It’s my election hangover elixir.

As I was covered in tin foil and cooking in some new color, I thought about what a holder of hope looks like. I came up with this little acronym…

Heart. As in check it before you wreck it. This election cycle has done much to plant seeds of bitterness and hatred. Make sure your heart hasn’t become fertile ground to grow both. Harvesters of hope start with their own hearts first, tiling the ground, weeding the unwanted and planting seeds of grace and goodness.

Opportunities are everywhere! Don’t hold back doling out doses to everyone you meet! You don’t have to look far to see someone without hope or who is discouraged, down, and distraught. Let’s be known as the cocktail doctor of all things good and kind and patient and loving and…well, you get the picture.

Pray. For those who agree with us. And those who do not. For those who are our friends. And those who are not. For those we voted for. And those we did not.  If for every time we felt the need to put someone down, trash talk or say awful things about people, what if we lifted them in prayer? Instead of searching for a mean meme, what if we bend the knee? Whoa. Game changing stuff right there.

Encourage each other. Our words matter. Both written and verbal. The next time you post something or say something ask yourself: does it lift up or tear down. Does it heal or hurt? Does it mend or maim? Am I posting on social media to simply start a fire or to soothe a soul? Is it helpful to a cause or cause a fight? Am I hearing what you’re saying or preparing my retort?

Holders of hope don’t hoard. They don’t stand with fists clinched. Their hands and hearts are open wide offering optimism in the face of pessimism, faith in the face of fear, love in the face of hate, light in the face of darkness. Because as believers….

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

Maybe it’s the tin foil talking or the heat of the dryer but I want to be a hope-holder with mud on my shoes.

 How about you?

Thank you Shannan Martin for that one little sentence on page eleven and thank you Dawn for my new do…

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Back to my original color. 🙂

kw

I Loathe Blanket Statements

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When my kiddos were younger we had a rule that we weren’t to use the words never or always. As in you never let me do anything or you always take his side. While it may seem that way sometimes, very rarely are never/always statements true. In fact they can be suffocating, taking the oxygen right out of a conversation.

A close cousin to always and never is “all.” It is precarious to make blanket statements using the word all like an umbrella that neatly fits everyone under one space. Here are a couple I’ve seen floating around…

All Women Should Automatically Be Believed

Before your panties get all wadded up, hear me out. I am an advocate for women. I want to see women succeed. I want to see women heard. I want no woman to be abused or neglected or made to feel unloved, incompetent or undeserving.

But it’s a dangerous thing to say that someone should be believed simply based on her gender alone. As if women are not capable of lying. That’s a slippery slope on a road to no good. Every single one of us (male and female) has within them the ability to lie.

It’s a tale as old as time. Potiphar’s wife lied when Joseph refused to sleep with her. (Genesis 39) Moses’ family did it to keep him alive. (Exodus 2) Corrie Ten Boom hid Jews in her home to keep them from being sent to horrific concentration camps. There have been court cases that have made national news of women who have lied about being assaulted (think Duke lacrosse.) I have seen firsthand the destruction caused by fabricated stories.

Whatever the reason (either for the saving of some or the destruction of others) the point here is that women had and will continue to have the capability to lie. We are broken people living in a fallen world. So to say women are to be believed simply because they are women is unhealthy and unwise.

All Men are Pigs

I get it. I really do. We are bombarded with news of more women coming forward with stories of abuse. It’s horrendous and I hate it. I have my own story that I’ve shared bits and pieces of as well. That’s why I understand how easy it is for the pendulum to swing towards this blanket statement.

It took me many years to not see a white man with a God awful tight perm and assume he was a child molester. For a very long time cigar smoke made me go into fight or flightmode. But not every man who smokes a cigar abuses women.

There are kind men in the world. Decent men, who respect women and who are just as abhorred at the thought of women being abused, neglected and treated unfairly. They just don’t usually make the evening news because kindness doesn’t get ratings.

I’ve seen much name calling on social media feeds. Women who hate being called names but who in turn name call. Doesn’t that make you the very thing you are shouting out against…a name caller?

My grandsons play that game. One calls one a bozo so the other one shouts back that they are not a bozo and proceeds to call the original name caller a poopy-faced bozo. Take that why don’t ya! Things quickly spiral out of control and they both get in trouble while continuing to finger point and name call all the way to time out.

Are we not more mature than four and five year olds?

Sigh…

What are we to do?

First, avoid using blanket statements. Nothing snuffs out a conversation like using the words always, never and all. It will put defenses up and walls built. (We don’t need a president to build the walls, we are doing a great job at building them ourselves and keeping each other out.)

Second, be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16NLT) That is to say be prudent yet straightforward. Jesus prefaced that with, Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through the wolf pack…(Matthew 10:16 MSG) Man did he know what he was talking about!

Third, stop with the tit for tat. Choose to rise above the noise and go do something for someone who needs hope in humanity. Show someone love and respect and kindness.

Want to really hurt your (perceived) enemy? Feed him if he’s hungry. Give him a drink if he’s thirsty. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)

Today. Do it today.

(Is that the smell of singed hair from burning coals of kindness? Yes and amen!!)

kw

 

 

Not Your Standard Measure

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When I was just a little bitty girl I would sit at the kitchen table and watch my Granny whip up all kinds of goodies. Cookies, cakes, crust for pies, noodles, potpie, apple turnovers, bread, rolls…you name it, she could bake it.

When I got above knee high she would let me practice by giving me some of the left over pie dough to which I kneaded and balled up and rolled out with the fervor of a young Julia Childs. Add some melted butter with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, roll that up, slice into pinwheels and bake it for a delicious treat. (That is if I hadn’t played with the dough too much….Granny still ate it like it was blue-ribbon-at-the-county-fair quality. Bless.)

Fast-forward a couple of decades and I wished I’d paid more attention as a teenager. Instead of dishing out a cup of sass, I should have written a few things down step-by-step. There’s something about having a hankering for one of Granny’s desserts and not remembering exactly how she did it.

Several years ago, on a fall day much like we’re having here in the Midwest, I was in the mood for her sweet potato pie so I called her. She was now in a nursing home, her days of baking long past because arteritis had taken her sight except for seeing some shadows. I wasn’t sure if she’d remember the recipe from decades ago but much to my delight she did!

There was one problem…she didn’t use a standard measuring cup to measure out anything. She used a coffee mug. And even then never filled it past full, never careful to tap the side and get the air out,  didn’t scrape the excess off the top with a butter knife. How did she know how much she used? She measured by “cup and feel”; I needed rocket science precision.

I was afraid if I didn’t use the standard way of measuring, my pie would be a disaster; I would be a failure because I didn’t measure the right way.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation lately and Granny using her own method to measure. There’s a deeper lesson to be learned. It’s easy to use the world’s standard of measure to determine whether we are winners or losers, whether we have worth or are worthless, whether we are a favorite or a failure.

Take for instance the scales….groan…I know, I know! The scale is a measurement in pounds of what your body weighs. It is a guideline for health. It is NOT a measure of your value. Do we want to be healthy? Absolutely! But don’t confuse your weight with your worth.

Being single doesn’t mean you aren’t seen. Marriage doesn’t make you greater. Divorce doesn’t mean you’re less than.  All three can be or are hard. None of them makes us any more or less worthy of love and acceptance.

I’ve been both a working and a stay-at-home Mom. Both have pros and cons. Both are hard in different ways. Neither should be my plumb line for purpose. Nor yours. Why? Jobs/careers can change on a dime. Pink slips can be given without warning. Kids grow up, become adults, and venture out into the world on their own (as they should!) If the measure of who I am is based on the above then my value is one fifth of what it once was because I’m down to one kid living at home and I haven’t worked a paying job for 15 years. No. My value isn’t based on my career outside or inside the home.

Speaking of kids, we should never measure the quota of our competency based solely on their successes or failures. I know kids who come from terrible situations but are determined to beat the odds and succeed. Others who come from beautiful families that do everything they can to be great parents, but have kids who choose to take a destructive path.  If the measure of who I am is based off of my own kids’ wins and losses then there would be times when my value was through the roof and others when it was in the tank.

Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and a host of other social media outlets are not benchmarks for our own beauty, brains or bravery. Scroll through on any given day and see picture perfect, then look around and see how it makes you feel. I have many Pinterest attempts that were a bust. Others that were helpful. Some days/seasons I’m fine, others I watch how much screen time I allow myself because it is very easy to compare my movie reel to someone’s snapshot. Our “real” to someone’s carefully construed contortion can often leave us feeling lonely, left out and lacking.

The measure of who I am and who you are is not based on the world’s standard of measure. No. We are each created in the image of the One who sees us, hears us and loves us right where we are. Today. No matter the number on the scale. In your successes and failures. No matter if you have Miss, Mrs. or Ms. in front of your name. No matter if your kids are angels, prodigals or in juvenile detention. Whether your movie is a mess or picture perfect. You are his beloved and he delights in you!

My Granny may have been on to something. Grab a mug and offer the world a better standard.

kw

Sticky Notes of Goodness

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You are good and the source of good; train me in your goodness. (Psalm 119:68MSG)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I walked into the home of a couple that had been given dire news. He had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and given a poor prognosis. We were all reeling from the shock of it ourselves as just a few weeks prior he was teaching our Sunday school class with the depth of a scholar and the passion of one who knew what it was to be forgiven.

His study desk had been replaced with a hospital bed, an IV pole stood where his lampstand once did, medicine bottles lined a side table and there he lay. She told me he wanted to be in the same room where he met the Lord each morning to read, pray and study, knowing he would soon meet him face to face.

As I was walking from the study, down the hall, through the living room to the kitchen to put away the food I had brought, I noticed something…sticky notes….on the walls, the furniture, the countertops, the cabinets, in the bathroom…they were everywhere. Some had just a word or two; others were completely filled.

She and I sat down to have some coffee and conversation and I asked her about the sticky notes. She shared with me that this had been the hardest thing she had ever had to face and yet God was showing his goodness in all sorts of ways. She started writing them down on sticky notes as reminders when she was feeling extra sad or overwhelmed.

I walked out of there having learned something that would remain with me through some of my own difficulties and disasters, headaches and heartbreaks, faults and fears, turbulence and tears.

The goodness of God is immutable which is a fancy pants word meaning unchanging over time.

God is good even when…

I am not. I used to think God was only good to me when I was good. That somehow my behavior determined his goodness towards me. And yet, while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8)

God is good even when…

Others are not. People can be mean. We can feel unwelcome, uninvited and unseen. God doesn’t pick sides. In his goodness, he welcomes, invites and sees each one of us. Look for the goodness. It’s there. He’s there.

God is good even when…

Our prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be or in the time frame we wish they were. God is good. And God is good at being God. I am a work in progress but I’m learning to sticky note his goodness along the way of waiting.

God is good even when…

Life is not. There have been so many things that have happened since that day in Shirl’s living room 20 some years ago. Hard things. Long periods of time where I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Loss, sickness, devastation, marriage stuff, kid stuff, family stuff, health scares, you name it.

God’s goodness remains steadfast through it all. We can experience peace and joy no matter what, not because life is always good but because God is.

I’m not sure what made me think about this time with Shirl and Bud. Maybe I need to get my sticky notes back out. Maybe you’re going through some stuff right now and need to get some sticky notes of your own.

God is good.

Always.

kw