Looking for a little Narnia

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Lucy and Aslan

I remember a time when the world felt safe. Oh, I know it has never been totally safe, but in my reality it was. Every kid needs to feel safe so that when they grow up and find they have lost their way and everything looks dark and scary they will be able to pull that memory out. Lately the world doesn’t feel safe or kind. I scrolled through my Facebook news feed today and I swear I could hear it screaming.

I heard from the Anti-guns, Anti-gays, Anti-Gods, Anti-Religions, and Anti-Governments, and Anti-Muslims, and Anti-Christians and mostly everyone sounded angry. I looked around for home and reached back to a time before death and sorrow and misunderstandings and hurt feelings and sadness.

I remembered a world brimming with hope. There are so many things I don’t understand. I wish for a little Narnia, a little Middle Earth. In those worlds everything is cut and dried. Forces of evil are fought by forces of good and good prevails. End of story.

Too often in this world we don’t even know who the real enemy is. Everything is twisted and confused and misconstrued. We look for justice and we don’t see it coming any time soon. Sometimes we even turn on each other out of frustration. We wish for a world where everyone is on the same side. We wish there weren’t any sides.

I don’t understand why evil is allowed to flourish. Yesterday I heard someone ridicule a Christian believer for believing in talking snakes, well I happen to believe that impossible things can happen in God’s world because nothing is impossible with Him. I believe that if He has to use a talking donkey  to scare some sense into Balaam, then that’s exactly what He will do.

Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.

I happen to believe God wants justice for donkeys and humans alike. You see, the donkey saw an angel which Balaam was too thick-headed to see. Sometimes animals are smarter than humans. I happen to believe in a world where sometimes God produces miracles out of madness.

And the world is more than a little mad right now. We have known terrorists on our FBI most wanted lists planning attacks yet we can do nothing until they kill scores of people. Instead our authorities choose to go after a little boy who shared some Scripture to his school friends. It’s an upside down world. A world where you can easily lose your way.

Jesus asks us to do just one thing each day. To take the hand He offers and find the courage to get up and start walking on wobbly knees just like those He healed. I don’t know about you, but something in me needs healing every day. And the older I get, the more things need healing.

Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (Note that Jesus first asked the man to get up. Sometimes just getting up is the hardest thing to do.) John 16:33

I remember what Elaine always said when she was going through the Alzheimer’s with her Mom, “I just keep going forward,” she would tell me, “Because if I stopped I may never want to get up again.” Because she knew where her help came from she was able to do what seemed impossible at the time.

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” The Message

There is an end to this race we’re on and the good news is that He’s already won it for us.

Take a step of healing with me won’t you?

Love is always the right answer

Weighing in on the side of Love

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7 The MSG

4:00 AM Prayer:

What a mess I am, God. I don’t love nearly enough or nearly the right way. I let petty things get in the way far too often. I miss way too many opportunities. I’m too critical of people and I am tired of it, I just want to love. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down because tearing down can become a habit. But so can building up. Can it be that simple? Help me to have peace and let me get a glimpse of You in this still hour while everyone else is asleep. Help me to fall asleep for just a while. Stop these thoughts, quiet my mind. Jesus……Jesus……Jesus.

Right after I prayed that prayer I allowed my mind to fill with a vision of what life would be like if we all truly lived by the Spirit and allowed Him to control our words, our deeds, our plans. And while I was still pondering that I fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke with an indescribable feeling of what could only be described as a “golden peace.” It was as if my heart was lit from the inside out, and I felt the peace that I recognized as the one only God can give.

I write this as if it happened just this morning but it didn’t. It happened as I lay awake on my brother’s couch last week the 17th of May. And I am still trying to piece together just what I dreamed because I can’t remember a thing, only that wonderful peace when I awoke. We get those gifts sometimes and when we do we are always amazed. I am anyway.

I never got a WWJD bracelet when they came out, but in any given situation should we not ask ourselves that question? More importantly maybe we should ask: “How would Jesus love in this situation?” This culture we are in, it’s not a culture of love. All we have to do is look at the headlines. Really, has any culture ever been about love?

Peter sliced a guy’s ear off when they came to arrest Jesus. But somewhere between that time and when he died (tradition says by crucifixion upside down) he learned how to love like Jesus did. I can’t even get my mind wrapped around that kind of love. I have a very long way to go.

But that peace I experienced that morning, and the joy and wonder and grace I experience so often tell me that Jesus still loves me this I know.

We’re all broken and in need of healing. If only we would let down our walls long enough to turn towards each other and help each other mend. That’s the Spirit of reconciliation God wants and desires for each one of us. Especially in the church.

Too much of what we take part in here in our modern world is unnatural–that’s why we don’t have peace. We don’t even know how to get it. In reading the Psalms, praying in the quiet hours and spending time outdoors we can begin to relearn what we have forgotten.

Teach me to love, God. Teach me to love. And thank you for loving me.

My review: “Coming Clean” by Seth Haines

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When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 

Here’s what I am not supposed to say: sometimes I do not see an active God in the world around me. Sometimes the realities of the world are not ideal; sometimes nature’s contours are not so supple. Sometimes there are no good metaphors. In the last year, I’ve hoped to see God active, even struggled to write it as if it were true. Instead, I have the dreadful feeling that God set all things in motion and then walked away. Seth Haines: “Coming Clean”

This is really not a review at all, for reviews are supposed to be somewhat analytical based on some kind of technical knowledge on the reviewers part of what makes a book worth reading. I have no such skill, but what I do have is my impression that this is a book meant for everyone. This is one of the most honest books I have ever read and many parts of it resonated with me, powerfully. If I weren’t giving my copy away I would be curled up somewhere quiet, highlighter in hand, reading it all over again slower this time.

This is Seth’s personal account of his first 90 days of sobriety, and yet I felt that it’s really a story that belongs to all of us. For who among us hasn’t felt themselves in the grip of something way beyond our control? Who of us Christians, if we were really honest hasn’t asked God to show Himself in the tossing and turning wee hours of the morning?

Who of us hasn’t thought, as the sick man beside the pool of Siloam, “If I could just get down to that pool then I could get healing and all would be well, my life could be good again.”

It all really comes down to one thing as Seth expounds so truthfully: “I found myself dependent upon something other than the God in which I professed faith.”

Well, isn’t that any one of us, on any given day or moment? The power of this book for me rests in its honesty and ultimately its victorious message of healing. For we are all wounded souls looking for healing or relief wherever we can find it. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we know where that healing comes from and yet, at times we don’t reach for Him. When the way is dark, it’s easier to reach for the easy fix, the quick relief, the instant salve, whatever it is.

We all have our story, and this book has a universal message. Jesus asks us with outstretched hand: “Do you want to get well?” In other words, are we ready to do what it takes to get the kind of healing Jesus offers, the kind of healing that lasts? So many times, I have expected living water to flow without reaching to turn on the spigot. Healing starts when I act by faith and turn the faucet a little to the left. Sometimes that one little act is the bravest thing we can do but also the scariest.

I remember one particular night at around sunset, about 11 years ago now.  I had just decided to abstain from wine for 3 weeks after hearing from the Holy Spirit that I was lying to myself about how much I was drinking. Out there in the corner of the yard under the mesquite tree, I asked God to fill up that empty place in me and replace it with His Presence. Sitting out there with Tux, the Oreo stray we had taken in, the cat and I watched the sunset. All around us the sky swirled in peach and orange and pink. I never forgot that moment. At that moment I knew that He would always be more than enough to fill any emptiness. This promise rang true:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

This is what I also know, each day is enough trouble in itself, and each day we need to reach again for the healing that lasts. It’s a life-long process, and thankfully, God is with us for the long haul. Over and over again, He has proved faithful in my life.

In the book, Seth talks about a time when he was a boy and he heard the whisper of God in the mesquite groves where he lived in Texas. He goes back to that time again and again where God delighted in making Himself real to a little child. As someone who has long heard and seen God in nature, this spoke to me.

Finally, this book challenges us to go back to our own personal “mesquite grove” where we first felt God’s presence, heard His whisper. He’s there. Has been there waiting all along. Only then will we be strong enough to venture into the dark cave and face our fears, knowing He will walk beside us every step of the way.

This book is eloquent, poetic, real, beautiful and also in a way terrifying the way life can be sometimes. Ultimately though, it’s filled with a message of hope. It holds a bold message for each one of us who desires to live openly and honestly before our Father who loves us and will never turn us away.

 

Feeling Empty? Don’t despair……..


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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Many of my days have felt flat lately. I am fighting a battle, it’s like a dragon really. It’s an old battle so I know how to fight it. The dragon I am slaying has to do with tanking hormone levels due to a condition who will remain nameless, due to my age. The battlefield is taking place within my own body, who seems to be betraying me about now. You see, I have always been able to get my weight under control. I have always been able to push my way through with some extra exercise and eating right. The extra pounds would come off and the muscle would form…..I could watch myself take shape without fail. This time a force beyond my control is resisting my every effort.

Then again, I have never been 56…..there I said it. Everyone who knows me, knows I celebrate every single birthday. I have gone into the whys with other posts. And I celebrated this one despite being in the fog, in the mist and malaise of that thing which will not be named. (For now I will refer to it as Voldemort.) For those who never read Harry Potter, Voldemort is the big evil, the one who gave Harry his scar.

This morning started as many mornings over the past year. I didn’t feel that surge of joy that a new day had begun. I had to pray to get up and face it. It’s not that I was depressed, I was just ambivalent about it starting. As I prayed and began to move about my day, God nudged me in that way He has and said……”You know, feeling empty is not necessarily a bad thing, I am an expert at filling empty.”

“Yes, Lord, you are. How well I know it.”

So I started moving, and living and choosing life instead of death. That is pretty much the secret. This is a season which will not last and there is blessing in being empty, for Jesus came to fill all places. There is no place in our heart, mind, soul and body that He can’t fill. So I said yes to blowing off the driveway. And I also said yes to gratitude, for I have blessings too numerous to count.

And I kept on saying yes when I got my fall flag out. And I said yes again when I filled my body with good things to eat instead of junk. And I am saying yes by typing life-giving words onto this screen, because if it’s one thing I know, it’s that God always rewards the step of faith however small. And the step taken with hope, even if it’s not felt right away will sooner or later take root and bloom into feeling just at the right time.

For hope is not something we feel, it’s something we have that’s tangible. It’s alive…..it came up out of the ground with Jesus. Hebrews 11:1 Parallel: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

So I will continue to beat my body into submission by exercise and eating right, and getting medical help if I need it, knowing that in due time if I don’t give up (and I won’t because I am stubborn like that) I will see results.

I remember like it was yesterday when I had to do this the first time. I had taken my wonderful gift of health and throwing it in God’s face by successfully starving myself and tanking my hormone levels to ground zero. After he healed my mind I had to do the hard work of healing my body. And I had to learn to forgive myself after God and my parents already forgave me for putting them through all that.

I remember getting up in the dark so no one would see me, running in any kind of weather. Those awful blue nylon shorts I wore…..I can still hear them swishing. Then my Dad joined me and we had some good times running together. It a good memory now, our running times. I went from death to life then, and now it’s another kind of passage from a different kind of death into a different kind of life. I guess you could call it the second act.

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do after He and I slay the dragon together.

What Ferguson needs is what we all need.

Thankful to be Thankful

I was in prayer as to what to write about today, waiting for a direction……a word. I click on the news events, the chief one being the funeral of Michael Brown. I pause when I read these words by Jesse Washington in the A.P article:

He was a “gentle giant” headed to college. Pictures of Brown circulate that show him smiling, baby-faced — reminiscent of the childlike photos that first introduced us to Trayvon Martin.

I try to reconcile that with what I saw on the video of him strong-arming that clerk when he and his companion robbed the convenience store. My mind wants to make sense of it…..wants to reconcile it somehow, settle it. That’s what we want in times like this. We want a definite right and wrong. Black or white, if you will. But sometimes we are left with no right answers but only our emotions, anger, confusion, sadness.

Each side wants to paint a picture, this is how I see it anyway when I look at the media. One side wants us to believe Michael Brown was an innocent young kid on his way to college full of hopes and dreams. The other side wants us to believe he was a thug, a would-be rapper, up to no good and going nowhere fast.

Our minds and hearts grapple……..we want to know what to believe. When it happened, the barriers went up. The battle lines were drawn, and there were those of us who stood back and just wanted to get the facts. We wanted to make sense of the anger and the violence. And then there were those who just wanted to go and see for themselves, to stand in the gap and pray. And I know that’s always right.

To be truthful, right after it happened and I saw Al Sharpton spewing anger on the news, I rolled my eyes. “Here we go again,” I thought, “Why does it always have to be someone like him or Jesse Jackson when there are so many other more intelligent, well-spoken individuals out there who we might listen to.” I believe I am speaking for many people here and not just white people either.

And after that I kind of shut my ears to it all. It just got too noisy.

But now, this morning, I see family members and a community grieving and that’s never good. I know how it feels to put someone in the ground. You can never forget that sorrow.

I’ve read a little about the history of the town of Ferguson and I want to have a deeper understanding. I think of how I would feel if it had been my dear friend’s son standing in the street that night and what if it had been him who had been shot. I would be at that funeral right now. And it wouldn’t matter if he’d been in the right or wrong, or if he’d been inside or outside the law because grief is grief and heartache is heartache.

Kids aren’t perfect, any of them. Neither are any of us. We all have the capacity to make good decisions and bad ones. We sometimes find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do. I do know one thing, violence will never solve anything, but prayer is always right. My prayer is that healing can begin, not just for Ferguson but for the whole world.

In times like these I believe the Church has a unique opportunity to pull together, that’s what Jesus would have us do. Because the world is watching. In fact, that is what Jesus is praying for right at this moment. Unified hearts united with Him. We are called to love each other, and sometimes love means standing back and seeing things from a different perspective.

Deep down, it’s not about black or white or anything in between, it’s about the battle we each fight within our own hearts. And the only way we will ever have true peace, true healing in our hearts is when we invite Jesus in.

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Apostle Paul