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We Do it to Ourselves

I got upset with my husband on Wednesday for leaving without telling me, when I was waiting for him to have our time together. Actually I wasn’t mad, I was shocked and then hurt. But I determined not to let it bother me. Not to give it any energy.

It didn’t go that way. I had a rogue thought I should accept his message to act like he isn’t here, and I’m afraid I liked it and gave it too much attention. Then I got caught in a situation I wasn’t prepared for. I was putting clean sheets on the bed and he came and helped me. There were no words between us. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. And then, of course, I kept to it. (I know better than this.)

But it was fed by what I learned at the end of my hospital stay, that he gets upset when I don’t let him lead. Ok so let him lead in this one.

You can see how quickly it goes downhill. More like in the ditch.

By that night I was under condemnation. Because I had felt God’s approval to my first thought, but couldn’t stay with it and veered off-track. I didn’t think what I was doing was healthy or what He wanted, and I kept thinking about Joshua (which I just finished) and all the times Israel missed God’s preferred will because they thought they needed to fight. They couldn’t imagine His way, so He let them do it their way.

The condemnation feelings (lies) I did catch. I know condemnation is a lie! Finally. (Roman 8:1) So I didn’t listen to my feelings, I just ran to Him and said, “I feel like I’ve let you down, but I don’t want this to come between us.  I don’t ever want anything in between us! So here I am surrendering to You and Your way.”

Immediately, the feelings of condemnation and separation lifted and I felt His smile. He gave me an idea of what to do that night and I didn’t do it perfectly (I forgot I’d written down what to say and it would have been better!) But I did manage a poorer version without the results we had hoped for. However, now there is an opportunity for him to lead. And me to learn how to follow!

We don’t have to let feelings of condemnation come between us and God. Those feelings aren’t from Him. I was so grateful to see I had learned that!

The other thing I learned through this (more is coming I’m sure) is that my love language is trying to “help” and take care of people. Many times it’s not in the way they want to be helped, and often feels like control (and our marriages could benefit from living with less attempts to control each other.) So I asked God for a new love language and He graciously said “Pick one,” and gave it to me. Now I’m anxious to see it manifest. It shouldn’t be too hard to adjust to if it’s a gift. And God graciously showed me I had already experienced it in the hospital.

So why am I sharing this? (It feels a little like the dreams I used to have of getting to school without clothes on.) Shame grows in hiding. If you hate shame and don’t want to live in it, share it with someone. It’s good for us to know that we are all the same broken beings. It isn’t something we will ever grow out of. We will get better, the closer we live with God and follow His ways, but we will still get caught in our ways, still fall on our faces. We aren’t ever going to be perfect on this planet. That should help us step out of discouragement at our performance; and step out of shame.

This is why my new book on Joshua and Ruth has the subtitle My Laws Will Keep You. God’s law was meant to be a comfort to us, a helper, a protector. This really comes through in the book of Ruth, a tiny but beautiful love story. Most of us haven’t seen His law this way, but in the Greek of John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, My laws will keep you.” Doesn’t that just make sense!

 

 

 

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The Power of Presence

There can’t be many feelings worse than going across country to help someone and becoming the one needing help! Especially when you are the mother. But that is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

My daughter was suffering from diverticulitis and post partum both aggravated by her 7 month old adjusting to a new bed  and waking up every hour all night. So I went to help. I didn’t do much but laundry and make breakfast one morning, gaining her an hour of sleep. Oh and maybe helped her pain with a few essential oils I brought.

But as Providence would have it she had started antibiotics that day and another product designed to promote gut health, and when I fell apart she was feeling better. I arrived on Tuesday evening and by Thursday evening had some swelling in my mouth and the beginning of a “soft lock” on my jaw. By Saturday it seemed to be improving and then bam! Sunday morning the left side of my face was really swollen. By Monday I could hardly talk and canceled my  flight for the next day.

Tuesday my daughter took me, with her two toddlers, to a dentist who after an hour referred me to an oral surgeon. So my daughter took me there; and after another hour, he said I needed to be hospitalized and should go only to Chapel Hill ER because they were the only ER with an oral surgeon on call. My son-in-law met us and took me the additional 30 minutes, so she could take the little ones home.

I was so grateful, yet feeling like such a bother and so disappointed in having to go to an ER. I could see hours of waiting ahead, and I had already filled out an hour’s worth of paperwork at the first two places. And the pain in my ear and throat were growing. An abscess from a cavity hidden under a filling, caused by the plane ride?

Was I surprised! From the time we arrived at the ER in Chapel Hill to the time they had me triaged and out of pain was 15 minutes tops! It was amazing to me–especially as busy as they were! They even had my son-in-law fill out the paperwork while they were tending to me. He stayed there until they admitted me which was five hours later! They did a CT scan to see if I needed surgery. The halls were lined with people on gurneys because there were no beds.

My son-in-law called my husband on his way home and told him he needed to come–I was having emergency surgery the next day.

And he came! It was a huge inconvenience to come, but to do it making all the arrangements in a few hours was truly taxing on him. He got very little sleep that night. But he came. And Jeremy (son-in-law) picked him up at the airport and brought him to the hospital (another couple hours investment), where he slept on a hard couch and stayed with me two nights till I was released.

That was very cool. And I learned about the Advantage of Weakness. I brought that book along to edit so I was looking at those words all the time and being reminded that there was an advantage here. It was helpful to rest in weakness and allow them to take care of me. The staff was amazing. They made me feel like I was their only patient, and it brought up so much gratitude in me. Other than side-effects of medication, it was a really great experience. I have never felt so special. They didn’t feel like they were doing a job.

But the thing that has really impressed me is how powerful presence is. Yes, all of my loved ones were really inconvenienced by me, and  guilt slightly taints the “cared for” feeling. But they were all kind about it. And having my daughter do the helping because I needed it was humbling. Having someone drop work and just stay was amazing. (They even made the trip again so I would have visitors! How sweet!)

The knowledge that someone has traveled across country just so you won’t be alone was almost overwhelming. All I keep saying is “My husband came. He came!”

That was also amazing because my grandsons had been praying he would come… and God got him there. I teased them saying God knew I would be willing to suffer to get him there. And I was. But I gained so much in the “suffering.” So much recognition of value, love, and care. And also education about the important things in life. I could have easily lost mine last week–that’s what many people have told me. I never had any fear, though. Once we got to the ER, it was so obvious to me that God was in control of every detail. Peace is feeling His presence. He stayed too.

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Lessons from a Lovestory

As promised, the message of the story of Ruth: the last chapter of book 7.

Ruth’s double-layered love story is truly about Messiah being our Goel, our kinsmen redeemer, who will do whatever it takes to rescue us and marry us in an everlasting bond of vowed love. God doesn’t waste stories.

Just as Ruth and Naomi need rescue from poverty, and their family inheritance needs restoring, so all of humanity requires rescue from Satan and restoration from the Law of Sin and Death. (That story is in Love’s Playbook episode one.)

Why do we need rescue? Because Adam gave up his dominion and sold all of us into slavery. And ever since then we are all born broken. Jesus’ stories would make it seem that we are the only ones in the universe who are broken and under Satan’s rule.

We want desperately to believe we are good. And half of each of us is good, but we have dual natures. However, it can take a lifetime to see your dark side clearly. Hiding our brokenness is the greatest temptation for Christians and people wanting independence.

The effect of sin on humans—all humans—is ruin and death, and sin is nothing more than separation from God and Their way. As J. Vernon Magee says, in his book, In a Barley Field, “The practice of sin is fatal to man.” But why?

Our brokenness gives us two natures—as Paul says in Romans 7—and   our evil nature likes being independent. It comes naturally to us. We like doing it our way, and taking the best for ourselves. We love ourselves to death. Except it isn’t really love.

True love is God’s love and it sets me free from slavery to me.

We don’t even realize that we actually became slaves of Satan.

We didn’t sell ourselves. Adam sold us. But God, in the Garden of Eden, didn’t give us over fully to evil. They made sure we still retained Their nature as we acquired Satan’s evil one, (see Genesis 3:15). So we are self-focused, but we are also conflicted. God guaranteed we would still long for love and goodness.

We need to be restored to wholeness and brought back into the presence of God in a loving relationship. With respect to the universe, we need a goel, a kinsman redeemer to redeem us from slavery and death; give us back our property—our true hearts and our lives.

And God provided one: “You shall know that Adonai is your Savior and your Goel, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 60:16) I learned from Magee that Isaiah uses “Goel” more times than the whole rest of the Bible. (No wonder I love that book!) Add to that Hosea 13:14 “I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave I will be your destruction.”

The first requirement for the goel is he must be blood relation. If he isn’t he can’t redeem the person from slavery or buy back his property.

Adam’s property went to Satan as the new owner of our earth because of Adam’s forfeiture and must be redeemed, same as Naomi’s field. We came under the law of sin and death and our family line was finished. But under God’s law the rental price until Jubilee could be paid to the present owner to redeem the property and the family-line could be re-instated by the next of kin. He wasn’t compelled to do it, but he was allowed to.

Adonai chose to become our Boaz, our goel, out of love for us. I think there was a closer kinsman in this story just so we would see that Adonai wasn’t compelled to come. He wasn’t “sent” to redeem us. He chose to come because He wanted to. In fact, I believe, as shown in episode one, that it was His idea to become Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer. Abba and Ruach painfully agreed to allow him to come.

And since that meant He had to become our blood relation, he had to be born human, under the law of sin and death, just like us, one of Adam’s sons, to raise up his family line. That is truly how They gave us his blood, because “the life is in the blood,” so he became a blood relative and gave us life.

It is in Genesis 3:15 where Adonai says to Satan, in serpent form, “I will put enmity (Hatred) between you and the woman and between your children and her children. It (their hatred of evil/their choice against evil) shall bruise your head (destroy you) and you will bruise his heal.” (Jesus will forever maintain his  glorified humanity. “He is not ashamed to call us brothers.” Hebrews 2:12) He promised to be our Goel in Exodus 6:6 “I will be your Goel with My stretched out arm.”

God gives us His name, life, and blood as Boaz gave Ruth his name and his life and blood to have a child and raise up her husband’s family name. In this story the goel, as a near kinsman, had to marry the widow of the deceased to raise up the family name. In our world God’s Law is the deceased and God’s church is the bride who marries the Goel to raise up His name (His law, reputation, character). If there was a widow (us), there could be no separation of person and property. You had to marry the woman to get the property. (Isn’t this cool!)

Satan’s power over us was in claiming the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). So Jesus went through death as a son of Adam, and gave us his life and blood to raise up humanity as whole again (no evil—no conflict, no brokenness.) And “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:11-12, Hebrews 2:10-14)

And two more things this story explains: atonement and redemption. As Magee explains, God redeemed Israel from Egypt, but at the Red Sea they were only freed slaves. It was after He showed his power in opening the water and bringing them into the presence of God walking through the sea, that they were “baptized” and given new hearts to worship.

This story also explains the temple tax that was the price of redemption in Leviticus. Whenever Israel was numbered, Satan must have claimed it signified that they were depending on themselves, and claimed the right to them—to send a plague. So whenever Israel ignored God’s way and did their own thing, depending on their own strength or numbers, Satan would send a plague, or at least he tried to.

To protect them, God had each individual pay a half-shekel to redeem himself because each person must cast his own vote for Adonai, and that was the way they did it. It made atonement for them—or showed they chose Adonai as king.

I never understood the temple tax making atonement before this story! Atonement is at-one-ment—oneness with God (Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17). It wasn’t much money and was the same for everyone, but it showed each individual’s choice for Adonai as king—a poll tax.

Redemption gives us restored sight to see God as good or worthy of love. (Redeemed beings sing “He is worthy” all through the book of Revelation.) Redemption is restoration.

My favorite quote shows redemption in contrast to our slavery, “Subjection to God is restoration to oneself; to the true glory and dignity of man.”

It’s good to be God’s because that makes me truly me—unbroken and restored to wholeness. That gives me true freedom. His laws keep us safe, protect our freedom, and keep our true selves intact.

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Of Time and Hearts

I promised to write the explanation of the story of Ruth, and I have. But I am still not satisfied with it. So I’ll try for next week and post what I presented at church last week. It surprised even me.

When the pastor asked if I wanted to take one of his vacation speaking spots, I was honored and excited. Especially since he had already asked me to deliver one of the talks I gave at The Character of God Conference last year. But this one was going to be a ten-minute follow up to a teen talk. He has been featuring teen speakers all summer. I was excited because it would give me an opportunity to do a shorter, less-important talk and get comfortable with my own congregation–always a harder crowd. And the topic was time–as in how we use time.

But when I started, it went somewhere I wasn’t expecting:

As the head elder at this church I had finally gotten myself into a rhythm of spending time with each elder, and then suddenly, I wasn’t. I went on vacation and just couldn’t get back in the groove. It’s all about time management–some of us are good at it, and some of us aren’t. But it is the gift we all have. How do I choose to spend time?

When I started to write this talk, for some reason my first thought was about pretests and post-tests. I used to be a high school English teacher, and educators then were pushing us to pretest, teach and post-test to see if you were effective. I didn’t like it then, so I was surprised  my mind went there. But since I’d asked God for help, I honored it. And here is your pretest.

  1. Generally speaking, how you choose to spend time tells who and what you value. T F
  2. Name two people in Jesus life who spent as much time with him as possible.
  3. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your relationship with God? (1=I pray every day; 10=I spend an hour + alone with God every day)

I started reading the Bible every day in high school because I was on a Bible Quiz Team. It was great fun and they encouraged us to keep up by reading every day instead of cramming before the meets.

In college I don’t really remember how I maintained a relationship with God. It was a hard time. I was overloaded with work and school. But I’m sure I stayed connected because I was miserable.

During my first job after college I was teaching at the California Women’s Prison, and was impressed with my need for a regular time with God. So I made a schedule to fit in ten minutes reading and praying in the morning. I was raised in church, but that year I experienced God’s love and understood that I didn’t have to be good for God to love me, and I began a real relationship with God.

During that year I made friends with a woman who became my surrogate mom, and she shared that her pastor had said point blank in a sermon that unless you were spending time with Jesus every day, you shouldn’t call yourself a Christian! She was shocked by that, and started reading the book The Desire of Ages, on Jesus life, every morning. That impressed me, and I felt the need for more time also.

So I started spending an hour after I got home from work. I couldn’t talk to myself about it or I would talk myself out of it.  I started saying, “There is nothing you have to do that’s more important right now!” It became a discipline, and looking back, it shows God’s graciousness. Because a year after that I had the hardest year of teaching ever. Plus that summer my little brother and his family were killed in a car accident.  I really needed that relationship with God.

For 25 years it was a discipline I maintained with Bible reading and journaling. The year before a faith venture of opening a tiny natural food restaurant by a lake in Minnesota, I was spending three hours a day, and it was rich. I saw lots of miracles.

Currently I generally spend two hours in the morning. The pastor shared a study with me, showing that it takes 50 hours to develop an acquaintance, 90 hours to make a friend, and 200 hours to have a confidant.

For the last five to ten years God has been teaching me how to just BE with Him. How to let Him make my discipline into a relationship with Them. (I think and write of God as Three persons who fill one position: Abba, Jesus and Ruach.)

It was my intention to talk about Mary and Martha. But it turned into Mary and Judas. The two in your pretest were Mary and John. Did you get that? They spent every moment they could right next to him. John had a terrible temper, but his heart was open. Mary was a prostitute, and Jesus was probably the first man she ever loved. I was thinking its all about time spent–the choice, the discipline. Mary would drop everything, to sit and listen to Jesus.

But as I was thinking through this with Ruach, I suddenly realized that Judas was with Jesus daily for two years! And he chose it! But why?

Perhaps it was his father, Simon’s idea. (John 13:2 ) Simon was a Pharisee who had been healed of leprosy by Jesus. (Mark 14:3) But while he was grateful, he wasn’t a follower until that fateful banquet he gave to honor Jesus. The one when Jesus kindly confronted him about what he had done to Mary. The banquet where Mary accidentally upstaged them with the spikenard, was when Judas got so upset at Jesus’ kindness to her that he went out and made arrangements to betray Jesus.  Simon was grateful that Jesus didn’t expose him, and was converted by Jesus’ kindness  that night, but his son was not.

Judas was a scribe, and maybe his dad Simon had urged him to go and become one of Jesus’ disciples to quietly show his gratitude. Judas prided himself on his ability. He was bright and well-educated. He wanted to be there when Jesus declared himself Messiah and king. In fact, he would help him set it up, even push him into it. But with all that time in Jesus’ presence, Judas never trusted Jesus. He always thought he knew better than Jesus. He didn’t respect Jesus’ kindness with his cousin, Mary. He didn’t love Jesus. He was there for what he could get. Or perhaps he was pleasing his dad.

But how could he spend every day for two years in the very presence of pure love and not be changed? Sometimes his heart warmed and he wanted to open up and be drawn to Jesus, he just wouldn’t give himself permission. He held back. His heart hardened. He criticized Jesus. He hardened more.

Judas never opened his heart. He never surrendered, was never  renewed. He didn’t let Jesus love him. Judas killed himself the same day Jesus was crucified. Poor Simon lost his son and his new lord on the same day!

Do you spend time with Jesus? What for? Discipline is a good thing. Starting with just a choice and no feeling is fine. And if you can’t give yourself, can’t open your heart because it’s become hard, that’s ok, you can still choose. Choosing is the strongest power in the universe, because God will never force you to have a relationship with Them. But you can ask God to make you want a relationship, to give you a new heart, a soft heart that can love. I’ve had to do that at different times. They love to oblige.

So now your post-test is to honestly write the number between 1 and 10 that shows your choice to invest in a relationship with God.

It’s important. Because this life is all about choices, time, and open hearts. Joy comes from God’s presence.

Jesus said something that summarized Judas’ life in Matthew 16:25, “The man who cares for his own safety is lost, but the man who will let himself be lost for my sake (love, trust, authenticity) that man will find his true self.” (NEB)

 

 

 

 

 

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Choosing Hope

I wrote the blog I promised, but this morning I got this from my daughter who is again struggling with depression–after her fifth baby. It’s so good I decided mine will keep till next weekend. This needs to be out there. And please feel free to repost it.  There are literally millions of people suffering with depression. Hers is postpartum, but depression is depression.

via Choosing Hope

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Choosing Hope

I did so well this time. Six months. Six months I flourished. I was so careful, so aware of my needs. My nutrition, exercise, water, rest, all of it. I was so careful. And in the last two weeks it’s crept up on me. Slowly, silently taking hold.

Postpartum Depression doesn’t discriminate. And it’s close friend, anxiety, is just as ruthless. When they’re together it’s a combination that leaves you constantly fighting to stay afloat.

It’s different this time. The fight is the same but this time I am not the same. I’m talking. Exposing their secrets. Shining light into the darkness. My hubby, my mom, even an acquaintance that God told me to tell, and you. I’m telling you.

We don’t talk about this much and that’s really part of the problem. Depression never tells you to reach out or speak up, it tells you to sit quietly, you’re the only one. No one will understand. And truly, unless you have lived it or loved someone that has you probably won’t. But none of us are alone. Not one.

Prayer is my fiercest tool in battling the dark blanket that falls. Nutrition is also key. Talking, exposing the ugliest of it, that changes everything. But it’s also the hardest thing. It’s hard to make sense of it all. There aren’t words that clearly describe it. No way to explain the way it feels. The way you seem to be drowning slowly and silently and your brain stops working for you and becomes detached. It’s weight. Heaviness falling over everything.

You won’t recognize the face of depression (anxiety) itself. It doesn’t look any different. It looks like me.

It looks like a wife wildly in love, a joyful, happy mother who adores her baby. It looks like one who pushes through and keeps showing up for her family. It looks like blessings and hope. It looks like beauty.

It also looks like exhaustion that feels heavy like death. It looks like battling through a constant fog to stay present and show up. To work hard at listening and hearing and being where you are. It looks like the sudden need to clean something with irrational urgency. It looks like utter panic that something will happen to your baby and feeling the terror of that when all is well. It looks like nightmares and deep anxiety over the reality of how fragile life is. It looks like so many different things for every different woman.

I have amazing support. I’m using it. And I am struggling but also so so good.

Writing these words feels cathartic and yet terrifying. Anyone with depression (anxiety) knows the hardest thing is this. Talking about it. It’s impossible to explain, and yet makes just enough sense to sound crazy. That’s exactly why it’s an epidemic. We need to be exposing it. Fighting it. Coming alongside each other.

Someone with depression (anxiety), postpartum or not, doesn’t reach out. That’s the very nature of the disease. And never mistake it for anything other than a disease. It isolates, suffocates, and steals life.

But there is so much hope. So much.

First, talking. It’s the hardest thing. Something I have to physically force myself to do. But it’s critical. Nutrition, feeding your brain and balancing your hormones is a must. Hydration is another big thing, especially as a nursing mom. Exercise, which is also monumentally hard, is so important. It produces endorphins and releases tension and provides energy. And rest, allowing yourself to rest is so crucial.

For me, prayer is the biggest thing. Staying present with Him minute by minute. It’s the only thing that anchors me in the fog. That shines joy into the darkness. The one way I can keep fighting on one step at a time.

Yesterday my teenager was talking to me in the kitchen. I was making dinner. Fighting to stay present. Praying through each second. I realized suddenly I hadn’t heard anything he was saying. I stopped. Turned and looked at him, and said quietly, “I didn’t hear you, I’m struggling today, can you tell me again?” And he did. In that moment I made a choice, a choice to be vulnerable and to expose my weakness. A choice to fight to be present when showing up was hard. I don’t get it right every time. But when I do I win a little of me back. It exposes the disease and leaves more room for my heart. It’s taken me five pregnancies, five rounds of this battle, to get to where I can do that. I’m so so grateful.

I’m sharing because I know that speaking my truth will empower my healing. I also know I’m not the only one.

There is hope. There is help. You are not alone. You are loved. You have purpose. You have a future.

Just like me.

Postpartum Support International

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July 27, 2018 · 9:53 pm

The First Shall be Last and the Last First

I learned something in church. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” It’s in the gospel of Mark and my pastor nailed it!

Jesus was the first human to succeed living in contact with God. Eve believed Satan in the serpent and failed. Adam tried but failed when Satan tested him through losing Eve. And every human since. But God became human, our do-over, our servant, or the last; and yet he was first to succeed passing every test Satan devised by trusting and depending on God. 

He was God–first in the universe, but died as a criminal, the lowest or last. And now he has been raised to the position of first in the whole universe. “All power and authority has been given to me.” He is now first in honor and authority because he laid power down and became last.

I’ve heard it many times, said it many times, but never truly understood it, not like that.

I just always thought it related to everything here is backwards. I’ve thought that for years. It is true because we were made to run on love and we don’t now, but have you ever wondered why everything is backwards?

Kids wonder. “Why do we have to go to bed when we aren’t tired and get up when we are?” Especially teenagers want to know this one!

And even little children wonder why they have to eat green food they don’t like instead of ice cream they do like. “Why do we have to learn to like vegetables? If candy and ice cream isn’t good for us, why did God make it? And if vegetables taste bad why did He make them?”

Good questions! And many more need answers, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why do bad people make money and have everything they want?” “Why are evil adults allowed to hurt children?” Many of them never recover. Some of them act out their pain and shoot a bunch of innocent people.  Trying to make things fair?

Why does a loving God allow evil and suffering? The two don’t seem to fit together. Why don’t They destroy evil? Why didn’t they long ago? If you read the Bible you can read a long time before you come up with answers. Well not really. It’s there in the third chapter of Genesis, but it isn’t on the surface and it isn’t explained. Even when you get to the New Testament it isn’t explained. It’s being demonstrated.

Why?

God didn’t want it to be My word against his. They (three persons in one God) needed us to understand the war between good and evil that we are in the middle of. Tonight I just saw pictures from HUBBLE, our space camera, on TV. They were phenomenal. I knew it was a big place–100,000,000,000 galaxies! But seeing it is so cool! I’m pretty sure we were not the first world of beings created but the last. We were the grand finale, because we were a new order, given the gift of procreation! And yes we blew it.

We are some tiny speck of a planet in a small peripheral galaxy and yet we are the focus of interest because God came here and  became one of us! Wow! Our war story is a love story also, all the way through, and is better than any out there. You can read my version of the story in episode 1 of Love’s Playbook. But back to my question. Everything is backwards here because we don’t know how to live love. We were made to run on it, it is how we do best, but we aren’t so good at it.

I’m not talking romance, just love, the kind of perfectly balanced pure energy that gives to everything else. If we try to give to everyone it is usually from deficit called pleasing, or worse, because we don’t really understand love. And because we have dual natures.

This is probably all getting too heavy so let me just say that God is demonstrating the difference between love and evil so we can choose. In fact we must choose. God created us free to choose and that is why things don’t make sense here. That’s why evil is allowed with the suffering it brings. Because our failure requires that each individual chooses. And that is why freedom is so important. Love is only real if it is freely chosen.

Next week, I’ll share a love story that I’ve just finished writing for Love’s Playbook book 7. It is a metaphor of our story and answers the most important questions beautifully.

 

 

 

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One of Those Dumb Fights

We were doing so well! We have been enjoying each other and the time we spend together. And then suddenly in 3 minutes time it all went south. Now we’ve had 24 hours of alienation. How can such stupid fights do that? It was just emotions and timing–really, that’s all.

We had worked well together all day, in and out of each other’s presence. I wasn’t pushing to get things done. There was a lot to do after the intense heat for a week, but I took my time and played a lot as I was working outside. I was not that tired.

I was finished on the outside, and came up the stairs from the lower garden. I had my hands full–in one of them was a large dustpan full of dirt and petals and dead leaves. I caught my toe on a step and down I went on the brick steps, the dirt in the dustpan going all over me and the steps I had just swept–not all of them–thank goodness–only four. I tore the nail on the big toe, skinned my shin and bruised my hip that I landed on. But I got up and swept it up, “Walk it out” playing in my head. Then headed straight to the shower. My husband was in the house talking on the phone–didn’t even know what had happened.

When I told him, he was concerned, and told me to sit down and let him fix the cantaloupe. But I didn’t. I didn’t feel too bad. Had washed off the blood, done hot and cold rotations and used my essential oils.

But then he said, “I told you not to work so hard, you were too tired.”

My response was wrong but honest, “I don’t need to be shamed. I need some compassion.”

He left. And I didn’t know he was angry till I saw him sitting outside and I went out and sat beside him. He didn’t talk to me. So I asked if he was angry and he called me a name and said that I tell him not to overdo it all the time.

He was right and I knew it, and it didn’t even hurt my feelings. I said, “Thanks for telling me.”

We went to bed silently. I slept immediately and woke up an hour later when he turned off the light, went back to sleep, but an hour later was awake for hours. So I woke up late the next morning, after four hours of sleep, tired, sore and slightly disoriented. I didn’t know where he was emotionally so I didn’t go back to bed at 7 like I usually do. (I was enjoying early morning on the patio with Jesus.)

If I had, we may have bounced through it because when I first woke he asked how I felt. But, of course, I didn’t think of that then.

Soon he got up, and I asked if we were going to read together (The best thing we have done for our relationship.) He said he didn’t have time–a joke–it was Saturday morning.

When I tried to fix it later, he was too far into resentment and attached something else he wasn’t happy about.

I knew then that it was going to be a day or two. Blew that! I thought. A beautiful morning, and probably the whole weekend, had just been wrecked. And I went back to bed alone. I didn’t sleep, but I definitely felt better both physically and emotionally afterwards.

I realized that the best thing about my relationship with Jesus is that these things never happen! He is always there. He always loves me, no matter how I mess up, what dumb things I do or say. And if distance comes in all I have to do is run back. I never have to worry about if he’ll be upset or take me back. He is always ready and happy to restore the relationship–no hurt feelings get in the way. And my explanations He already knows and understands.

He just loves me so amazingly! That carries its own conviction to look at my stuff. Love is very convicting, you know?

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Why Not Discipline?

I thought I was done with the topic of parenting, but in the last two days two things made me decide there has to be one more.

One was a trailer on a newscast for a later news program on kids behavior in stores. It was pretty hideous. Especially the mother who yelled “I’m going to leave you here!”

The other was a three year old running down the isles of the church and up in front, not during the praise time with everyone standing, but during the sermon. Our pastor is great with such things so it wasn’t a huge embarrassing distraction, but it made me wonder why parents don’t discipline.

If you would like to share some reasons parents don’t discipline please feel free to respond.

Here is what 30 years of therapy with parents offers:
1) Parents abused as children are afraid they will lose control like their parents did, so they don’t go there.
2) Parents who grew up without discipline and boundaries don’t have a blueprint for it. They don’t know how, and don’t realize how important it is to a child’s security, self-esteem and self-control.
3) Parents who need their children to love them so badly don’t cross them or set boundaries (an issue for the parent to resolve in therapy.)
4) Parents who are afraid their children will hate them if they give them consequences. The opposite is true. Children love more when they feel secure.
5) Parents who mean well and start out with discipline but who back down because their children get angry, guilt them, talk them out of it, or just beg until the parents give in. (This also is an issue for the parent to face.)

6) And I do believe there is the parent who just thinks discipline will taint their love and love will conquer all. Some of these people get lucky, and if  the bigger system they are in is somewhat healthy, the kids may be ok. I think a lot of Millennials have had this. (We are seeing with varying results.)

7) And finally there are parents who for whatever reason just can’t be bothered with the effort of discipline. It is work. They are too involved with their own problems, needs or addictions to be present enough to set limits and hold them. Or they pretend their kids know what to do, or are perfect.

Parents hear me, the kids are the ones that suffer–and later on, possibly the parents and for sure, society. I’ve written a lot about discipline and what it is and isn’t, and the difference between discipline and punishment (discipline is discipling and should never be done in anger), so let me finish with a few examples from a Biblical perspective.

It seems there were fathers who didn’t get good ratings because of they were too lenient.  Some of them God personally rebuked, or sent someone to rebuke, as in the case of Aaron, Eli, and David. Samuel was too soft on his kids too, but I guess God didn’t confront him because he had been given away at three or four or five (when he was fully weaned). He himself was an amazing man–a true intimate of God as a judge and a prophet, who God used even as a child. But abandonment by parents must have made him too soft on his own sons because they didn’t identify with his values–didn’t follow his example.

Aaron was too easy on his boys and it cost him two of their lives. Not because God killed them, but because they had no respect for authority and obedience, and expressly did their own thing instead of following God’s instructions, and when they went into His presence unprepared, the energy killed them.

Eli was rebuked by Samuel as a child. Eli had been too easy on his  sons who were also doing their own thing in the office of the priesthood–taking what they wanted from the offerings, instead of what was appointed for them, and raping the women! Eli confronted them but didn’t remove them from their office, and they all died because his sons took the ark into battle (doing their own thing again).

David was also rebuked for being too easy and preoccupied as a father. He allowed behavior to go by that he should have confronted and acted on, and as a result his kids were a mess among themselves and to him. Absalom staged a coup and then died in the fray that followed trying to take the throne.

These are just four of the big guys–men of God–priests, prophets and king. We are free to do what we want, or what we think is right, but we also get the consequences. Someone has said, “We are free to choose, but not free to escape the consequences of our choices.”

As I learned in high school physics long ago “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

If you don’t know how to raise kids, admit it and ask people you trust who have been over the road. Their advice won’t be perfect, but look at their kids. Ask several, whose kids you really like, and find the common themes. You probably won’t go wrong with that. And you may get a mentor with it.

And of course, always ask God for wisdom, He loves to help! And why wouldn’t He talk to you when He says over and over in scripture, “Listen, please just listen!”

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The Key to Joy

I think I’ve said everything about parenting that I wanted to, except thanks. Thanks for reading, following, learning in this almost-six-month series.

I’m now learning again that thanks-giving is the way to living an “abundant” life. It’s the way to joy–the precursor to miracles. But so easy to forget!

So I thought to share from the book that has brought it home again to me as a discipline. I’ve wanted to lead the elders at my church through one thousand gifts, but God took us to another book first, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and it has been really helpful to us as we try to form a safe community out of our leaders, which, I think, is where to start.

But now we have come to one thousand gifts and thankfulness again. And reading chapter two the second time, I realized the power in it. Ann Voskamp is an author and home-schooling mother of six, with an incredible gift for description. But she had been so scarred early in life, she had effectively shut down joy in her life without really knowing it–even though falling in love and having six babies!

She shares that for years she had awakened every morning wanting to die. And then one night she had a nightmare that changed everything and begin her search for what I call “whole life.” She dreamed she was dying of cancer, and the people she told were unresponsive. She woke in the middle of the night, terrified, and changed. The following is chapter two greatly condensed.

“I wake wildly wanting to live. Physically feeling it in the veins trembling, the hard pant of the lungs, the seeing it in the steady stars how much I really want to really live.” And so begin the search: “… someone, please give me–who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew–give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?…

“Isn’t it here? The wonder? All my eyes can seem to fixate on are the splatters of disappointment across here and me…The face of Jesus flashes…With an expiration of less than twelve hours, what does Jesus count as all most important? ‘And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…’

“I thumb, run my finger across the pages of the heavy and thick books bound. I read it slowly. In the original language, ‘he gave thanks’ reads ‘eucharisteo.’

“…The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’…But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ Joy. Ah…That might be what the quest for more is all about–that which Augustine claimed, ‘Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is joy.’

“I breathe deep, like a sojourner finally coming home…That’s what I was struggling out of nightmares to reach, to seize. Joy. But where can I seize this holy grail of joy?…Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo–the table of thanksgiving. I sit there long… wondering… is it that simple? As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible…The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be–unbelievably–possible!

“Charis. Grace.

“Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

“Chara. Joy.

“A Threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life? Grace, Thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo…

“It’s weeks later now, and the mind stores things for such a time when God aligns the stars. I read, ‘The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.’ Breath leaves the lung…I might have found the holy grail…and lost it, moved on. And yet really–hadn’t God set it in the center of Christianity? Eucharisteo…I won’t let it go this time. I’ll enter into the mystery.

“I shape loaves and think how Jesus took the bread and gave thanks…and then the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes.

“How Jesus took the bread and gave thanks…and then the miracle of Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before Him.

“How Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, the tears streaming…and prayed, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me…’ and then the miracle of a dead man rising!

“How there is thanks…and then the mind-blowing miracle!…

Eucharisteo–thanksgiving–always precedes the miracle.

“That was the fall! Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall–humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives. That is what has scraped me raw: ungratefulness. Then to find my Eden, the abundance of Paradise, I’d need to forsake my non-eucharisteo, my bruised and bloodied ungrateful life, and grab hold to eucharisteo, a lifestyle of thanksgiving…

“So what does Jesus mean, ‘Your faith has made you well’? (Luke 17–healing ten lepers) Had I underinterpreted this passage, missed some hidden mystery? I slow down and dig…I dig deeper. It’s sozo in the Greek. Many translations render sozo as being made “well’ or ‘whole,’ but its literal meaning, I read it–‘to save.’ Sozo means salvation. It means true wellness, complete wholeness. To live sozo is to live full life. Jesus came that we might live life to the full; He came to give us sozo. And when did the leper receive sozo–the saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. I lay down my pen…

“We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks…Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace…thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life. ‘He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God (Psalm 50:23 NIV)

“…thank offerings…prepare the way for  God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him.

Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live–this is the only way from empty to full.”

I can’t say it any better than that.

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God as a Parent

I was raised with shame, were you? It was a pervasive style of parenting. I doubt if my parents even knew it. It was a way to control behavior–how they had been raised–change behavior by making you feel bad about what you did.

The emotional punch was “not good enough,” that’s how it felt. And it left a residue that covered you like slime or sticky dirt. You felt like you couldn’t get rid of it, would never be good enough, would never make it, never measure up. I very much doubt they could have changed it if they had seen it. It was how you raised children then–slime them with your feelings of anger,  disappointment, discontent, disapproval.

I do think it changed behavior, but the high cost was self-doubt and self-loathing that caused paralysis and second-guessing; or anger and acting-out. And it seems the internal conflict of brokenness gave us all that as a starting point. The first effect of being separated from God in Eden was recorded as shame. It is a natural bent. A propensity, a tendency we all have now.

It explains why God has had such a hard time parenting us. It’s our default setting. And God doesn’t deal in shame. He is extremely direct, modeling honesty for us, dealing with facts and consequences–telling us what they will be so we can turn around and make a course correction. Always trying to help us minimize shame by accepting our guilt and dealing with it redemptively.

Interesting that shame and guilt don’t go together with God. He simply says, “Admit what you’ve done, and I’ll help you find a way out of it.” He doesn’t criticize, doesn’t condemn, doesn’t shame us. He deals with facts and treats us with respect, leaving us free to choose how to handle our indiscretions and missteps. No, He doesn’t come personally to us the way He did with Cain; wouldn’t that be neat! But it didn’t help Cain. He already had an attitude set in place that prevented good choices.

But look at how God dealt with him. First, he comes to him. Understanding that Cain doesn’t know death. The whole universe has only seen death of animals and plants at this point. He was jealous, he was angry, and now he is a murderer. He should have been horrified, and maybe he was inside, but he doesn’t go to God, he doesn’t even respond to God who comes to him and says, “Where is your brother?” giving him a chance to own what he has done. And Cain gives him attitude: “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?”

God ignores that and goes on with facts, “What have you done?” Imagine God’s pain. The first murder in this broken world that started out so perfect. He loves Cain. And He knows he doesn’t know what to do, can’t think straight after realizing what he’s done. But maybe there is an opportunity to reconnect with him now. He’s been blaming God and growing hard feelings.

No answer.

“Your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.” (I know what you did. You can admit it.) God had made man from ground, given him life and blessed the design; now Cain in killing Abel has returned him to the ground, bringing the curse of death to himself personally. So God describes the effects, “The ground is ruined for you, and your guilt will drive you away. You will have no peace.” (Can’t you just feel God longing for repentance. Just ask me what you should do! Please turn to me for help! Together we can fix this.)

But Cain blames God for the curse that isn’t from God. It is from Satan, God’s adversary who activated the law of sin and death. Cain knows this–he’s heard the story a hundred times. But it made him angry with God.

And here is his chance for change. His opportunity to make another choice. To turn around and go towards God.

But instead he says, “My punishment is more than I can bear.” (He may have been the first narcissist. It’s all about him, and he blames God.) “You have driven me out. And I will be hidden from your presence, and be a restless vagabond. And whoever finds me will kill me.”

Uh, who said anything about punishment? And weren’t you listening? The curse of sin and death has driven you out–your own guilt. God doesn’t want you to go but to fix it with His help.

So, God says, “OK then, I will put a mark on you, and anyone who kills you will have seven times the retribution” (life for life).

Why didn’t God let him be killed? He could have stopped a whole bunch of evil people from being born.  One, He loves him, two, its important for him and the universe to see the development of the curse of sin–maybe pain and suffering will bring him back, three, Cain asks God to intervene for him–and He does! He touches God’s father-heart that wants to give us good things more than we do to our children.

What could God have done for Cain? With Cain’s request He could have changed his heart, forgiven him and reinstated him in his family, taking his shame and guilt so he wouldn’t have had to leave.

Jesus favorite topic was Abba’s father-heart of love for broken humans. He showed us how God parents. He promotes and protects freedom and dignity. He won’t force us to make the right choices, but He would so like to be invited to help us sort them out. He doesn’t protect His kids from everything bad, but He goes through everything with us. He is always with us if we want Him to be. That is the ultimate parenting. Always available, always caring, never intrusive or taking over. He deals honestly, but not harshly.

After writing seven books of the Bible trying to understand and tell the story of God as a good parent, dealing with dysfunction in His family, one thing I see is we don’t understand God or His goodness because of preconditioning and language, and because of the brevity of the stories in scripture.

I invite you to read the series and fall in love with a new picture of God. He’s not a pushover, anything-goes grandparent, but He is a good, good father.

 

 

 

 

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