Spiritual Misfit (no book giveaway, I’m keeping mine thank you!)

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After all, that’s what grace is, isn’t it? The ultimate do-over. The infinite second chance. God gives us another chance, and another and another. Day in and day out. He works with us, he works through us, he does not give up on us. Michelle DeRusha

Michelle DeRusha dared to ask one question and it turns out that one question, “Why Not Believe?” was all God needed to crack a window of hope in her soul and launch her on a spiritual quest that ultimately found her surrounded by God’s love and grace.

I was deeply touched by the humility, honesty and laugh out loud humor that I found on every page of this book.  If I ever met Michelle personally, I would want to hug her just for the Cheezit story alone!

Growing up Protestant in the Evangelical Church of the 1970’s Jesus Generation,  my experiences were a bit different from Michelle’s. God was not distant for me, in fact He seemed to be everywhere I turned. You might not think of California as having its own Bible Belt, but it did. In my hometown there was just about a church on every corner and we went every Sunday, sometimes Sunday nights as well. I have early memories of talking to God like some kids talk to imaginary friends. I even had a glow in the dark plastic Jesus that I kept on my windowsill. There was something reassuring about that florescent glow.

I honestly don’t remember a time in my life when I had a serious doubt about whether God existed or if He heard my prayers. I also know that it’s nothing short of a miracle of His grace, surely not as a result of anything I ever did right. My doubts came cloaked in the form of fear. Fear of what would happen if I really let go and let God. I was the kid clinging to the side of the swimming pool even as my Dad held out his arms saying, “I am here to catch you, just let go!”

The church I grew up in was a bit on the restrictive side. Deep down, I always felt like I didn’t quite fit with what I perceived to be the “Baptist Mold” I saw others conforming to. I didn’t go to Church camp because secretly, I was afraid. In my head there was this social performance meter going on and I was convinced that if I went, I would fail some sort of test. I might have really enjoyed it, but now I will never know.

Every now and then, I went to certain “youth gatherings” and I always dreaded when the awful games would start. The ones that were supposed to be fun. I will never forget the one where we all lined up, boy-girl-boy-girl each with a tooth-pick between our trembling lips, passing life-savers from mouth to mouth. I was mortified. To a girl who was extremely self-conscious about her bad complexion it was traumatic. The life-saver was red, even all these years later I still remember that, and that the boy’s shaky upper lip was covered in blond whiskers.

The Pastor of our church didn’t believe in clapping or applause after a good musical performance, or talk, or anything, and the older members clearly were not comfortable with any of the new modern translations of the Bible, for them Jesus spoke in the King James version only. I do believe if He had shown up in the middle of our service, they would have wanted Him to shower, shave and change into a suit.

What I loved most about Spiritual Misfit, is the way Michelle relates the story. I felt like I was right there with her on the plains of Nebraska, and in seeing her, I recognized myself. I saw again how He blesses us when we are not afraid to ask Him the questions, when we crack the door of our heart open just enough. Just enough, is all He needs. Augustine said that to search for God is to have found God. I think there is some truth to that.

It goes without saying that I heartily recommend this book. As I finished, I found myself kneeling by my bedside in tears, wrapped in His grace, I thanked Him for being with me on my own journey and for being with Michelle on hers. I thought of all the times I have failed Him, stumbled, fallen, left the trail, flailed in the middle of the pool, only to see Him right there waiting where I left off.

And with a smile and an arm around my shoulders, He says, “Welcome back my child,” And we set out again.

 

How many is too many?

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When I opened up Facebook this morning there was a wonderful array of posts on my Newsfeed. In fact, there were so many that I thought maybe I wouldn’t include mine. Sometimes I must admit, it feels a little bit like tossing a pebble on a pile of rocks. But I seem to be afflicted with the disease of words and a core belief that I think is common to all writers. What keeps me going is an idea that on the surface would seem almost absurd and almost egocentric.

That my words matter, and so do yours.

And not only that, they matter to God. He said, “In the beginning, was the Word.” And that Word was God. Words have always mattered, since the beginning of time. That comforts me, because even though sometimes it may feel futile to add mine to the burgeoning sea of words already out there, it isn’t.

We must all keep adding them, because behind all those words stands an individual who is unique in all creation.

I liken it to this field of flowers. Not one of us would ever dream to say, “There are far too many flowers out there.” What an absurd statement. In fact, everyone was pulled over to the side of the road with their cameras out. They just had to capture it. At first glance, all those flowers might have seemed alike, but when viewed collectively, it was breathtaking.

Conversely, when viewed close up, each one of those flowers would take our breath away with the intricacies of its beauty; just as a single bird call heard in the afterglow of a sunset can fill us with a melancholy sweetness, so the chorus of hundreds of birds at the rising of the sun fill us with joy. Collectively, or on our own, we are a perfect work of art, as the result of an act of love by our Creator.

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So write on, I say. Capture the unique beauty and individuality that belongs to you alone. And together, we will be a stunning picture of praise to our Creator.

Along the hard road to Jerusalem, Jesus looked at His disciples and said that if the people were kept from crying out in praise, the stones along the roadside would have had no choice but to cry out. I tell you, how many words are too many for a God who loved so much that He gave us everything He had?

I don’t know about you, but there will never be enough words to praise a God like that. He deserves all the words I have to my last breath, and when I have breathed my last and I find myself at His feet, I will have the beginning of an eternity to start all over again.

I Woke to Beauty

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Once again, Mama dove is sitting in her place in the spiny cactus waiting for her baby. Seasons are really, renewed hope are they not? That even when life gets scary and you fill fear crawling up your back and life seems unstable that some things will go on as they should. I have been so concerned about my Mom’s health, and yet she is the one who always taught me to look for the beauty no matter what.

To look for the robin after the storm.

So today, I awoke after a fitful night to a world of beauty. The birds were singing, and the weather was glorious despite the fact that we have had almost no rain. Somehow the cactus will still manage to bloom. There is doom and gloom on the news because of the early fire season and while that is a real danger, I will choose today to look at what God wants me to see.

The wondrous cloak of clouds this morning amidst the backdrop of the doves and mockingbirds call……

The freshly tilled earth, seeds waiting to spring.

A best friend who stands behind me no matter what, ready to help, ready to pray, ready to do whatever is necessary in any situation.

Coffee, dark and rich and clouds of foam that cover my top lip as I sip luxurious cup after cup.

Last night I had a dream in which I saw Jesus approach a sick boy and take the sickness from him, I saw it. It was like a brief cameo shot in a movie but it was there just the same, just as real as if I really saw it.

He still rules and reigns and while there is no cure for sickness or aging, there is one for the death that really matters……..thanks to Him. That is why I will rejoice in the midst of sorrow and worry and pain and stress.

Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I also invite you to go here to read about a friends beautiful words of awakening to hope. You will be blessed, I promise.

A Dad’s Memory

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My Dad called. He said, “I wrote it all down, about our adventure of moving to Tahoe and how I remember it.” It came yesterday in the mail, and the pages tumbled out when I tore the envelope. “Do you think you could type it all down since I am not such a good typist?” I want to be able to read it, he said.

And in the writing it, and the reading of it, I knew he was reliving something powerful.

“I will do my best, Dad,” I said. And it’s an honor. When someone has put their heart on a page, you have to be careful with it. It’s something almost sacred that they are trusting you with, not just words on a page. I will keep the handwritten version for myself and I will save the other version on my computer, the one I will type neatly with no lines crossed out. No bold underlines. I will try to put the feeling in it, just the way he felt it.

I will do my best to bring it to life as he lived it.

Because our stories, our memories, is what we have. In sharing those, we open ourselves, our hearts to each other.

And it’s always a risk.

Because there is always the chance they won’t see it or feel it the way we intended. And that’s okay. We still have to share it.

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As I picked up the pages again, I saw the way he wrote and I thought of how someday he won’t be here. Even now, I squeeze my eyes shut to keep tears from leaking out because I know it’s true. Someday the letters will stop. And I will imagine him sitting in a corner spot of light in Heaven with a big feather quilled pen. Writing his thoughts of all the beauty he sees, and meeting Jesus for the first time.

I have words in my treasure box, so many words gathered over the years. Sacred ones. The lid no longer shuts, but I slide them in anyway.

Because words from someone you love are always sacred.

I will do my best, Dad with your memory. Here is my only memory of it. I remember standing in something I now know was snow and crying because I didn’t like the cold.

And someone, probably you, sticking a ski pole in a snow bank so I could see the holes it made.

That’s it.

I think maybe you can fill the blanks in my mind, since I was only 2.

We will relive it together and then it will be ours to share.

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One thousand (plus one) love letters to God

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 Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. A book was opened in God’s presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honored God’s name. Malachi 3:16, The Message

When I glanced up at the number of posts I thought, “It can’t be. How could I have passed 1000 posts and not have known?”

One thousand thoughts, one thousand meanderings, one thousand words I have set free to see what God would do. One thousand dreams, one thousand hopes, one thousand love letters to God.

One thousand ways I can share my faith, as well as my victories, things God and I and you did together……….One thousand times I have failed to love, and one thousand fears set free. It’s amazing really, what He has done with these words. Like bread cast upon the waters, He has carried them further than I ever thought possible.

I stare at the shore and wonder at my own words that have washed up from somewhere I never suspected. Only God can do that. When God stirs words they have a way of coming back full circle. I think of how they’ve come back from people I never dreamed would read them. I think of the ones who sowed the Word into me when I was young in all those Sunday school classes and sermons. To those that first sparked life and hope into my heart I would say this:

“It was the seeds of your own kindness and love for God that caused these words to grow.”

One thousand mornings of entering prayer like a sealed jar, my hope flickering like the candle, I sit back down and wait on Him to find He has already been there. It’s always Him who waits for me. Sometimes I’m not even sure where to start so I don’t. And it’s okay, for the waiting itself is Holy.

Once the words start tumbling out I experience a resurrection that I can no longer keep to myself. I find that God is not scared of what tumbles or flies out of this jar, whether black unnamed thing or brightly colored butterfly, and it seems that neither are you, dear reader. Many of you are still here.

The most important thing I have learned is how much He loves me, and that is what I want you to know.

And what He has taught me through all of you. I have learned that when I harness my words to prayer, miracles happen and when we join our words together it feels much like communion. I could never repay the friendships, the community of love I have found through writing. Your comments never fail to humble me.

Every now and then I think I might just seal this jar and keep the lid screwed on tight, who wants to see this mess anyway? But I thank God that never lasts, that feeling. The love I feel for God is so strong this flesh cannot contain it.

So here’s to 1000 more love letters to God.

And you…..

I thank you for hanging in with me this far.

A Champion for Ragamuffins

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He was a champion for Ragamuffins everywhere. When I heard he died yesterday I was saddened because of the words of grace he will no longer write, but I was happy knowing he was with Jesus. Brennan Manning’s book Ragamuffin Gospel went through my parents house and then mine and then everyone we knew, we bought extra copies and passed them like batons at relay races.

Brennan Manning was like a quiet megaphone that spoke softly and yet loudly into our hearts something that we tend to forget. That we are dearly loved by God, and there is nothing we have to do to earn it. Like Sally Field’s memorable Oscar speech of 1985 in which she emphatically claimed, “You really, really like me,” Brennan Manning had a mission, and that was to spread the word that not only does God like us, He really really loves us.

He opened us up to the possibility that there was nothing we had to do to earn God’s love. That’s what spoke to my heart.

 He hung out with dignitaries as well as twelve-steppers, and his book made me cry more than once.

And he also challenged me in my walk:

In the final analysis, the real challenge of Christian growth is the challenge of personal responsibility. The Spirit of Jesus call out a second time: Are you going to take charge of your life today? Are you going to be responsible for what you do? Are you going to believe?

His words were a balm for my soul and I won’t forget him.

Even today, I grabbed my copy of Ragamuffin Gospel and threw it in my bag. I may never get the time to open it, but I know it’s there and it makes me feel good.

Enjoy the first day of the rest of your life, Brennan Manning, and we will join you after a time.

Then we will all be Ragamuffins Redeemed, sitting at the feet of Jesus with you. Until then, we will re-read your books and strive to live and walk in the footsteps of Jesus until such time as we begin our own forever with Him.

When it just flows

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Sometimes you hit a sweet spot with blogging, or any kind of writing for that matter. You stop wrestling and trying to figure out what you should write, or what people want to hear, or what you want to hear from yourself. It doesn’t always happen this way, but when it does?

It becomes not something you do, but something you release as a free expression of the worship that naturally flows out of your heart and soul. It’s gratitude and nothing more…..

Just now, I was heading back up the stairs here at work. I had a spring in my step because I am on break and I knew I had an hour or so to do this post. I simply couldn’t wait, not because I have anything of much importance or earth shattering to say, be because I serve a very good God and I am so glad He is walking with me on this earth, because the more I see in the news?

The more hopeless it seems to get. The bleaker the outlook, the more I cling to my God and the more the gratitude spills out. And the more I want to share that with everyone else.

As I spent time with my family just this past week, I learned to cherish them all over again.

When I was unpacking my suitcase last night, I came across the hand drawn map my Dad made me, the directions to the hospital. I couldn’t bear to throw it away. I tucked it into my keepsake box, which is fairly bursting at the seams with each passing year.

Looking at that map, I wondered how in the world I have been so blessed. I have had people drawing maps for me my whole life. At every turn.

And when I took that wrong turn on the freeway just recently? I got a call from Elaine who was watching me via the “Find friends” app on my iPhone. She called to tell me how to get back on but I had already stopped and asked directions.

Friends and family that have your back. When it all comes down to it, that is what matters most. In the hospital room beside my brother there was a man who had no visitors. He was awaiting his heart surgery and he had no company.

He has no hope of any face to greet him when he comes out. No hand to grasp except the medical staff.  No loving eyes that meet his, and no one to wipe his brow with a cool cloth. My brother felt so bad he said he might even go visit him afterwards.

Yes, I am extremely grateful these days. For people who love me, and for a loving God who gave me the best road map and the only one I will ever need.

His word and His love.