Your Fandom

I know this may sound far out, but I believe all truth is God’s truth. I have suspected for many years that there was an intersection between science and religion that we knew only the tiniest bit about–that there really is no conflict if we had a larger perspective. And today I’m going to go out on that limb.

The more immersed I get in scripture, the more convinced I am that the story only makes sense if there is something much bigger going on in the universe. In 1973 my concept of the universe was stretched beyond ever going back, as Dickens would say, by learning that we live in a small insignificant galaxy which was one of 50,000,ooo others science was aware of. Since then the number has gone to 100,ooo,ooo,ooo they know of. It’s a big place. And I very much doubt we are alone. I believe Genesis 2:1-4 gives us the clue that we were the creation that came at the end of all of God’s creation–the grand finale–not the beginning. It is repeated four times in four verses.

In my first book of the Biblical series, Love’s Playbook, I tell the story of where evil came from–how it entered into a perfect vast creation. And it makes sense to me that since it happened before us, it must have tabled God’s plans to create us for a while. We were going to be a new design, a new type of creation with which God was going to share creation power. It would be so risky for us and for Them that They decided to wait until the crisis was resolved, so They did, sort of.

Finally, They decided our world would be the best demonstration of who is telling the truth: God or the new adversary, Satan. You wouldn’t expect God to say, “I’m telling the truth and that’s the end of it.” It would be just words. And that isn’t God. So we became the ideal demonstration: disadvantaged in our newness–our untried, unexperienced selves; but privileged in being given more than any world had been given before–the ability to procreate (Psalm 8:2) plus everything God could imagine to make us delighted and secure, with only one prohibition. Only one rule existed for us: Stay away from the Spot of Disadvantage–where my enemies will have access to you. If you believe their lies it will change you and kill you.

We didn’t have to fail, we had perfection plus everything we could want or need. But we did. Since then our history can be most accurately called a story of redemption, still an exact demonstration of the truth about God. (Ephesians 1:18-20; 3:8-10)

But I read something the other day that made me stop and think, again, about the hugeness of our significance (even on our speck of a planet in our tiny solar system and our insignificant peripheral galaxy). It was something like, it’s silly for us to be unbelieving when all heaven is interested in our welfare!

Think of that! All of heaven is a big place! The whole universe is watching us, cheering us on. We are their Downton Abbey, their Survivor. They tune in to see if you have grown any, have risen above your circumstances, have made any better decisions, have learned anything. They become bonded to you and you start to feel like family.

They are learning about the struggle with  internal evil vicariously through us. They haven’t experienced brokenness.

They are happy when you succeed, discouraged when you fail, disheartened when evil sets you up and you stumble, dismayed when you die. I can imagine they go ask God, “Did she/he make it?” if they aren’t sure. Maybe before that, they ask God to send you help or another angel.

They are your following, and they want you to make it. They may have watched you your whole life, and love you. And it’s not just a story. It’s true. You don’t know them, but they know you. They are your Fandom!

Do you feel the immense importance of the part you are playing? You are filling your role in the drama that is clearing God’s name before the huge watching universe.

 

 

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A Delighted Imagination

Something has shifted, and I’m loving it. I am feeling so much more delight and just excitement about life. I think it started with the following quote from a blog by Graham Cooke,

“God’s heart is just so full of pleasure and joy; He’s the happiest person I know. He has the sunniest disposition of anybody I’ve ever met. God is incredible in His joy, in His pleasure, in His delights, and He delights in us…
God invites, ‘How about you delighting in me? Because if you learn to delight in me, it’ll just open up this whole new space to you.”

Truly, I was jealous of his relationship with God. To know and hear God’s delight? To live like that? What would that be like?

I love the idea of delight, and especially that God delights in me! Don’t you? Scriptures like Zephaniah 3:17 have amazed me, “…I will delight over you with singing.”

Really? I’ve had trouble taking it in…You delight in me? But why?  And to hear it? To hear God saying it to me? But I did! He said “Because you’re my kid.” I get that.

You do have to believe you can hear Him, and it does take practice to believe what comes into your mind is Him and not discount it as you making it up.

Then this morning my devotional was about correcting a starved imagination. I loved that too, because I love seeing God in sunrises and sunsets, changing seasons and nature, period–the way sun looks in leaves, flowers, clouds. Did you know God loves us to see Him in nature?

Chambers said, “Learn to associate ideas worthy of God with all that happens in nature…and your affection for God will increase tenfold; your imagination will not be starved any longer, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright.”

I loved that.

It might help that I’ve been trying not to be critical too. I can’t say I’ve been successful. I haven’t yet made 14 days without saying anything critical. After a month of starting over, I quit noticing because it was so discouraging and making me critical of myself and I didn’t need more of that! It did make me more aware of just how critical I am! And I want to be a person who spreads delight not criticism.

Imagine living in God’s continual delight!

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Openness

I was going to make this about human connection because I saw two darling little boys between 2 and 3 in the DMV this week, so I’ll start with them and end with my new thrill, because these guys were too cute.

They obviously didn’t know each other. One was doing a special run-step around the empty chairs in a superman cape and had dark hair almost to his shoulders.

The other had dark eyes and hair also, but his was shaved just to the top. He was watching the one running in the cape, his eyes smiling and eager, his face open and full of admiration. And that was all it took.

The superman ran up and the other one fell in step behind him without a word, and in two minutes they were seeing which one could jump highest by the wall and having a great time. Connections are so easy at that age! If it only stayed that way–the openness, the willingness to engage and be friends, to believe in goodness.

That’s a good segue to the second half–it’s about openness too. My husband happened upon a documentary on Exodus–Netflix– and I caught bits of it. Since I’m finishing Exodus next week, I was intrigued, and yesterday the rain gave us an excuse to sit down and watch it. Twice! It was amazing. I highly recommend it.

It was made by Timothy Mahoney, a filmmaker. He became obsessed with wondering why there was no evidence that the exodus ever happened, reasoning that if it did, there should be some sign of it. Was it true or not? Was there truly no foundation for Judaism or Christianity? Were they based on a myth?

He decided to find out, and made several trips to Egypt and talked to archaeologists, Egyptologists, Biblical scholars, historians, and not just a few, over more than ten years.  And what he found out will amaze you.

I was thrilled with it, but I can’t say I was surprised, because writing Exodus as a story requires some research, and I had already discovered that the Pharaoh Ramses, had changed the name of Tanis to his name 200 years after the exodus. So when Mahoney started off with the verse of scripture that archeologists had used to set the date of the exodus in the time of Ramses, I already knew they were wrong. Didn’t they know he had changed the city’s name? I guess not. How did my commentators know, if they didn’t?

In the film, archeologists have found a town called Avaris underneath Ramses, (so the name Tanis (or Zoan) was changed by the Hyksos), but the mountain of evidence he uncovered, just by starting with the Biblical date 200 years before Ramses is staggering. It isn’t accepted by archeologists because Egypt’s chronology is already set–in stone, apparently. If you have any interest in how the dark side keeps truth from coming out, just by one word that was changed in a sacred text to fit the times, and loyalty to scholarship and cronyism rather than  open-minded concern for truth, you will be fascinated.

The name of it is Patterns Evidence Exodus, by Timothy Mahoney, and it is very well done. We found it on Netflix. Enjoy.

 

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What is God Really Like?

I had a dream a year ago that was pure feel good. I was in heaven, I think. Everything was very bright. Just the lighting itself was incredible! And the feelings! I felt like I could do or be anything–feeling truly me. The people were amazing. So shining and smiling. So unbelievably welcoming and gracious. I felt totally wanted there, totally accepted and loved. I met someone who was the leader. He didn’t look like Jesus, but He was. He was amazing. Everyone wanted to spend time with him. His presence felt so freeing, so satisfying. I never wanted to leave there. And then I woke up and wanted to go back. It is hard to put the feelings into words.

Writing Exodus has made me hungry to experience God. Moses had 40 days and nights in His presence! What would that be like? I attempted to write the feelings he had that morning. “Moses wakes up excited, today I am going up the mountain to meet with God!”  What thoughts he must have had!  He had felt the ground shake and heard the huge voice the day before. And he had to wait six days on the edge of the cloud with Joshua so he wouldn’t be consumed by the energy. What if he had thought this is taking way too long. I’ve got to get back to work.

Do you have a time when it’s just you and God? Have you experienced the good feelings that come in His presence? It can take time, but it’s so worth it. Is anything really more important?

I think it was a gift God wanted to give him. He had a hard job! Moses in the mountain with God didn’t eat or drink for 40 days because he didn’t need to. I’m sure he didn’t even think about it. From the bottom, the Israelites perspective, it looked like the mountain was on fire. Talk about lighting! His face shone so much they couldn’t look at him! It must have been hard to come back.

 

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Teachability Trumps Passion

Did you watch President Trump’s inaugural speech? It was the best speech he’s given. No, it wasn’t Obama’s beautiful farewell, an optimistic call to do the hard work of democracy, but it was strong in promise and passion for the downtrodden. I hope our new president knows what he is up against. Walking is a lot harder than talking, especially when you are bucking the system and need to carry the people with you.

Moses discovered that! He was a brilliant leader and yet he needed 40 years of time alone with God, questioning everything, to get ready. We can only pray that President Trump will recognize his need of Divine help and open himself to receiving it. I was impressed to pray for him the morning of the inauguration–the first time I’ve been impressed to pray for a president that I can remember. It is easy for a successful, strong man to run rough shod over everyone. But I am encouraged by the words of people who know him well. They say he is real and teachable.

Teachability is so under-rated. It is one of the attributes most prized by infinite wisdom, but on this planet it fights with fear. What will they think? How will I look? Will I seem weak? Will they think I’m a coward? What if they think I don’t know what I’m talking about?

On the other hand it fights with over-confidence. They don’t know what they’re talking about! These people don’t have a clue. Do I really have to listen to this? If these people weren’t so afraid of taking a risk!

This is going to be a real learning experience for the president. He is going to have to lead a group of good thinkers who are well-versed in their areas–hopefully he has had experience with taking advice and realizing that other people have more knowledge than he does. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t gotten this far without that. But he did make some pretty outlandish promises.

Humility is knowing what you don’t know. He isn’t known for that, hasn’t shown us much, but hopefully he has some. It is really just another word for teachability.

Again, I think of Moses because I’m writing about him. He is called “the meekest man on earth” but he was highly passionate. So the two do go together. I’m thinking of sub-titling this book The Advantage of Weakness, because Moses was highly skilled and very bright, but the education he most needed, the advantage God took 40 years to give him, was learning to listen to God. The most important humility is dependence on God.

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Good Choices Make a Good Life

Today is my birthday so I’m giving you a gift.

It’s part of my recipe for a good birthday that I have been doing for 25 years. 1) Invite God to spend the day with you (He’s great at celebrating.) 2) Do something to make other people glad you were born. 3) Do something you’ve been putting off 4) Do something you like–something that makes you happy.

After 30 years of working in mental health I should have some wisdom to pass on, right?  So here’s my alphabet for making a good life. Here are some good choices:

 

A  Awe. Nothing captures attention, stretches, inspires us like awe. Spend time contemplating big things. like God or the universe.

B  Be. Just Be.  Be yourself, live in the moment. Breathing purposely for 20 minutes every day helps hugely.

C  Commit to the good, and stop putting yourself down.

D  Vitamin D is very important to feeling good and good metabolism. The sun is your best source. If you can’t get that take a good D3.

E  Eliminate criticism. Take the 14 day challenge to say nothing critical. It will teach you a lot about yourself. More next week.

F  Fun — especially if it’s active — is necessary and bonding. Laughter cancels pain and fear. Let yourself laugh.

G  God is good, delights in you, and wants you to be your true self–delighted–that’s why He calls obedience delight! He’s for us.

H  Health is happiness because when your body is happy, you are.

I   Interrupt negative habits and thought patterns. That is how you stop them.

J  Joy has been found to be the single best healer for trauma. What is it? Mostly it comes from God–knowing you are loved. Help someone feel loved.

K  Kindness makes you feel better. Especially if you give it, and then you are more likely to get it also.

L  Learn/Love is of course one of the happy-makers.  Focus on all the forms of love that are available to you. Don’t settle for counterfeits.

M  Meditation can be time with God just breathing, it calms and soothes, and the busier you are, the more you need it. Start with 10 min.

N  New–try new things, especially if they don’t cost money. (My daughter didn’t know she was artistic until she started painting. Now it’s a business.)

O  Openness–share, let people know who you are, and how you feel.

P  Play/Pray both are important activities for happiness.

Q  Quit things that hurt you and make your body feel bad. Or things that make it feel good but hurt it.

R  Rest! Be sure you get at LEAST 6 hours of sleep at night, 7.5 is better :).  And take one day/week as rest/sacred too. Another R–Refuse to be a victim.

S  Smile because it makes you feel better, and everyone around you, too. It communicates love and acceptance.

T  Trust people who are trustworthy. Take time to know them. And trust God until you can find some. Find your trust issues and heal them.

U  Use what you have. Learn to look at things with new perspective. (I just found a new outfit in my closet from putting old clothes together.)

V  Velcro your brain to hold good. It takes 10-30 seconds to anchor a thought. Bad gets more. So savor the good in your life–breezes, flavors, beauty, smells…

W  Welcome God’s Spirit into your life every morning, or every night, or every noon.

X  is for canceling negative thoughts.  One negative thought activates CRH which then activates ACTH. The first causes worry, the last causes fear.

Y  Yell on paper instead of at your kids or spouse etc.

Z  Zip your mouth shut when you want to be negative or criticize.

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Death by Complaining

So I took the bait for a 14 day challenge. No, it’s not about food, it’s about not saying anything critical. Not even constructive criticism. If I do I have to start over until I get 14 days. One of my friends is reading a book that suggested it, and I thought it sounded like a good thing for me to do.

I’m sure it was a good idea, because I’ve already had to start over once, and it has kept me from saying several things today, making my closest relationship more pleasant. And just now I had a thought that was almost verbal, but no one heard it, do I have to start over? If it had been toward me I would think, yes. But since it was a general thought heard by no one…I’m giving myself a pass. Is that cheating? I don’t think so. You can’t believe how hard it is to monitor, even notice, when you are going to say something critical.

Am I more critical than most people? Maybe, melancholy-dominant personalities can be, I suppose. But even if I am, it amazes me how critical we are as people. I’ve been impressed that this is true in my writing of Exodus, also. It started with being impressed how contagious complaining is. It seemed one of them started it, and it spread faster than a wild fire in dry grass–to even the faithful. There didn’t seem to be any, or at least not enough, positive people to turn it around. It kept them out of their destined promised land! Everyone over 20!

Does that give anyone, besides me, pause? It must be like the worst disease there is. It must be worse than cancer, which devastates the body, weakening it so much that the treatment takes out the immune system!

I mean, think about it: God’s plan was to take them in. He wanted to take them in. He could have fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Think how disappointed He was! And forgiveness is the easiest thing He does! Had they so weakened themselves that they couldn’t go in even if He did it for them? He had told them He would do it for them all along.

I don’t get it yet. Stay tuned, I’m sure I will. There is just something about it that doesn’t make sense on the surface. But what it does say is complaining and criticizing is so destructive to us and our relationships that it takes us to unbelief and then failure of our best dreams and goals. Wow!  So bad that God can’t even do what He wants to do for us! That’s heavy!

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The most important thing

I received a Christmas greeting through text, “So God throws open the door of this world–and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable. Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you.”

I don’t know if it was original with my friend. I asked but he never responded so I won’t assign any credit. If you wrote it let me know. But it was so original and fresh I wanted to share it.

According to Brene Brown, social researcher on shame, without vulnerability there is no creativity, no innovation, no joy. Do you see why God has so much joy? How He (They–if you know me) can be the most joyful being(s)?

My friend’s text went on: “What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us? What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile that we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death…”

Vulnerability is a God quality. Maybe the highest value of God.

It is of course the lowest on our scale of values. It scares us to death. We fight it like the plague. The last thing we want ever to be is vulnerable. And that is because we all have experienced shame.

The problem is  we were made for connection, and that is where we find our greatest satisfaction. According to Brene Brown, shame unravels connection and makes us hide from vulnerability. I have her first TED talk on my Godhelps’ website (http://godhelps.net) because I love it. I’ve heard it over and over, and never tire of it.

But I may have to put up her next one because now I love it too. On this one she says that if you put shame in a petri dish and wanted to feed it, give it secrecy, silence, and judgment.

Shame comes from a root-word meaning “to hide.”

Do you see why God is transparent?

The antidote–Brene says it kills shame–is empathy. Do you see why God became one of us?

Wow!!!

Brene says that the best response to shame is “Me too.”

Wowww!!! Did God know what to do? Aren’t you just amazed!

And not just for us, but for the whole watching universe. (See Genesis 2:1-2 and notice the last sentence. I think we were the grand finale.)

God knew exactly what we needed: shame is “I am not enough.” and its progeny is “I don’t have enough, I’m not good enough at…, and I’m not as good as her or him at …”

These  feelings and beliefs separate us from God and each other. But connection is our deepest need. So we have to risk  being known. (There is that pesky vulnerability again!)   God came to say He completely knows us and still wants intimacy with us! We don’t have to hide anymore. (The definition of intimacy is safety.) We are safe. Our secrets are completely safe with Him (Them.)

If your God isn’t like that, you don’t know the real God. He is amazing! I can’t stop saying Wow! Jesus said the one thing necessary for life was a relationship with Him or listening to Him as Mary loved to do (Luke 10:42). If you listen, I already know what He will say, “I love you.” It’s the only thing you really need.

 

 

Playbook Cover 1000 RGB 01If you are like me, and you read the Bible and don’t get this picture of God, these books might help: This is the first one. It’s God’s story, behind our story, and you can’t really understand the events recorded in the Bible without the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Early Christmas Present

Last Friday, my husband walked in with a new light fixture for our master bathroom, or so he thought. It turned out to be an early Christmas present to me from Jesus! And two bathrooms got new fixtures.
A year and a half ago, he found a light fixture he liked on sale, and proceeded to install it in the main bathroom to surprise me. But it was brass and heavy, and since he was doing it by himself, he dropped it and it broke the sink! I know, I couldn’t believe it, either. And so started a partial remodel.
We soon had to ask God for help because our idea of a new sink and vanity was getting expensive. The old vanity was built to fit. He gave us a great idea and it all worked out, but since we changed faucets (we upgraded to nickel and then changed the towel racks etc.) I wanted to switch the light to the master bath where it would match. (And it desperately needed a new light too.) He wouldn’t hear of it, and I finally had to give up.

But guess what the finish on the light he just bought was! Yep! It was nickel, and I was able to talk him into putting it in the main bath (where it matched) and move the brass one to ours (where it matched).  That he agreed was surely God too! It made a lot more work, but I helped and we actually worked well together. Now they both look great!

When I compare our relationship this year with where we were at this time last year, what a difference! Last year at this time, he wanted a divorce and it took God till New Years to turn it around. But we are better than ever, and God has been so gracious to us. He has mellowed both of us, healing my fear of love and Richard’s lie that I wasn’t capable of love.

He took us through Richard’s blood clot surgery in May, reminding my husband of the VA hospital in Loma Linda, so we wouldn’t have to wait all night at the L.A. one. I got to stay with my friend who lives three blocks from there!

We did miss our May trip to North Carolina but had a fabulous one in October, celebrating Richard’s birthday there! His daughter took us to the Biltmore for the day and treated us royally. So fun! My daughter took us camping in the mountains. It was great! Plus he was good enough to let me to go with my sisters to K.C. and Arkansas in September.

He was even sufficiently recovered to have our grandkids for two weeks in August. AND they just came again yesterday for a week! So our blessings are overflowing. We love having them.

Here’s to the sweet presence of the God who makes life work out, who fills us with love just for the asking, and gives us gifts continually if our eyes are open to see them. May you know that generous, loving, fulfilling, all-good God, if you don’t now. I’m writing Love’s Playbook to capture that Essence, am now in the 5th book which comes out in January.
Playbook Cover Kindle RGB 04http://amazon.com/author/arlacaraboolad

 

 

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Cops and Robbers

We all get templates in childhood that we spend the next two decades refining, and we all end up pretty much in a game of cops and robbers. Opposites attract because you are looking for balance (unconsciously), so there is usually one of each in every relationship.

I’m a cop. I admit it. I think everyone ought to live according to the laws of their beings. My husband, on the other hand, is more of a robber–seeing what he can get away with–it started young in a rousing game of stealing grandpa’s hidden candy, who would then chase him swearing in Arabic. (One way to make diabetics–Grandpa was and Richard is now.) They were close, so getting away with something is accompanied by warm, fun feelings.

Good and evil all twisted up together is one of the things that makes living on this planet so difficult. When I was growing up things were very black and white, good and bad, or so I thought. Then everything  began to gray out.

My cop affinity came from not enough boundaries, which leaves a child insecure, and not feeling truly loved. My father had been the favored of nine kids in his family and had never been wrong, so he was lenient and insecure. My mother was a lenient parent because she’d had a rough, angry, non-involved father, so she was going to be different. But she was the cop for their marriage, and my dad kept thinking he could do whatever he wanted.

It takes years to see and admit which one you are, but once you do, it is easier to modify, with God helping you choose. However, the clearer you see things the more discouraging it can be. You often want to fall in a heap and weep, because the more clearly you see God, the more clearly you realize you aren’t even close to being like Him.

Nevertheless, redemption is possible. I can say that from experience. Thinking where we were this time last year (him wanting a divorce), and where we are today–there is no comparison. We are more in love with each other than ever.

Yes, there was work involved, but it was mostly just being willing to look at yourself and admit how you are. God did the work. We only had to give permission and cooperate.

My book on Exodus will come out next month; and writing that, as well as the last year of my own life, have helped me see what a great advantage it is to be aware of and admit your own weakness! I’m thinking of making the subtitle, The Advantage of Weakness. What do you think?

 

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