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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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spirit

just as you are 

She boarded the bus like she has the other 20 times I drove it; eyes down, frumpy clothes too big for her body and an awkwardness that made me want to look longer than normal. I was trying to figure out if she was indeed a girl but my gut told me she was and to leave the wondering alone. It didn’t matter. She was lonely and trying to hide under some ugly flannel shirt and most likely she was a girl who knew life’s bitter stings. I thought to myself as I pulled away from her house, “Dear bus full of kids, be kind.”

As she rang up my order, I called her by name. “Hey Fran. Do you know anything about these ear buds?” No. “Fran” didn’t know anything about the item I held in my hand but she quickly called someone and that someone called someone else. We laughed and she cracked a joke and I just about died and for a moment or two I forgot I was the customer in some store and she, the cashier. For a brief lapse in time, we were both just two people having a conversation and I thought if times were different, Fran and I could be friends.

He was probably one of the most flamboyantly gay sales representatives I’ve seen and my small, bearded clerk was trying to get me the right size shoe but since my feet are an abominably, he had not luck. “Do you think you could do a size 9?  I have several size 9’s.” No. Sadly I’d have to cut my feet off to make that work but thanks. Then he brings be another pair and then another of his selections and sooner or later he outfits my feet in an amazingly pair of black dress booties. I thanked him profusely like I just won an Academy Award and “Brad” gave me a hug, turned and disappeared. His touch lingered on my shoulders as did his cologne and I smiled. I did not hug him. He hugged me.

It’s the afternoon bus run and she boards to go home. I smile and say “Hello” and she cracks a thin line but it was still a forward moving gesture. I’m asked to play the radio, something their regular driver must not do, and decide to play the hand my mother does when she has my children. I give in and turn the music up loud. Obnoxiously so. The kids have fun and soon all of them are singing and being kids who are tired of a very long week. I up look in my mirror and catch her singing. She’s looks out the window and she cracks a wide smile.

One thing I’ve discovered along the way is that Jesus doesn’t want my belief. He wants my intentionality. My partnership. To BE his hands and feet. He wants me to show up in this life and live it. He doesn’t care that I feel broken in different parts or that I’m actively engaged in counseling like clock work everything two weeks. It doesn’t matter…any of these things. He wants me to practice what I preach.

That’s more important than my belief.

And for a small stint in time during my most recent life, that is just want I did. I believed with my head all while my heart disengaged. I stopped talking to my cashier. I stopped interacting with the flamboyantly gay sales clerk and I stopped seeing the kids that boarded the buses I sat on.

But through a series of unfortunate occurrences, I came to the end of myself and let go.

And the fall…well.It hurt. It hurts still, but.

I’m awake and I’m slowly coming back to life. I feel the raw ache inside my soul for more. To re-engage and love right where I am. He’s not waiting for me to have it all together, perfectly pieced. He says, “Come August. Follow me.” 

Just. As. You. Are.

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Bruised not Broken

When I was little, every time I turned around, I had a broken arm. Bike accidents were my nemesis and to this day, my left elbow still sports two titanium pins that serve as a powerful reminder to wear shoes when pedaling a bike. I also broke my wrist once riding a three-wheeler just weeks before my wedding but for the most part, I’ve been injury free. But two and half weeks ago it snowed (it will be fun they said) and I took the dogs out in our yard for a run. Little did I know one of their leashes would wrap itself around my boot and I would be suddenly pulled to the ground.

That hurt.

And long story short, I left it go even though I could not lift my right arm above my head.

It’s bruised, not broken. It will heal.

Yes and No.

Several days later I ended going to Urgent Care just minutes before they closed at the promoting of some friends who saw my yellow and black bruising. X-Rays confirmed no injury so the doctor sent me home and told me to move it as much as I could so it wouldn’t become stiff. And then the next day, Radiology called.

“We are sorry. The X-Ray was misread. You have a fractured Humerus.”

So two orthopedic appointments later, my bruising is an ugly shade of gray and I can lift my right arm now slightly above my head with pain. I have more motion but everything hurts. In fact, I have a constant throb that sometimes Tylenol doesn’t take away. My doctor assures me from my X-Ray that this is normal and that my fracture is healing but it will just take time and I need to go a bit more easy. I’ve been told no more heavy lifting, no more trying to reach my arm above my head and no more extending my arm out like I would to open the door of a bus.

I am not in a sling or a cast so if you were to look at me, you would never know what was beneath my sweater. You would never see the ugly shade of gray beneath the skin on my right arm. I look normal. Things look good on the outside and so I want the inside to match and they don’t. This injury’s come at a time in my life when I want things fixed. I want life fixed. I want my ducks lined up neat, in a row and they are somewhat scattered.

Not everything in life is a life lesson but most things are. Right now I need a hands on lesson in the external to help me better understand the internal, or better yet, I need the natural to help me better understand the spiritual. Either or.

Both.

My doctor wants me to keep moving my shoulder because moving it will ultimately help heal it. BUT I am only to move it as my pain tolerance allows so in other words, I’m to push it but not too far. Then when I push too far I am to rest and then push far again.

External injuries, much like internal ones, take time to heal. Hurts to your heart are finicky. You cannot place your heart in a sling or a cast, it doesn’t work that way and most of us, not all of us, are walking around with a wound that no one knows about. Much like the bruising beneath my sweater, you can hide your pain beneath a smile or behind a happy post and no one will know differently.

No one really.

But He knows. He always knows and He is always one I can turn to when I need to rest because the pushing has hurt just a little too much.

Friends, if you are hurting…it is legit. Pain and injury are real. Pretending that they are not by wearing your game face so you can soldier on will ultimately do you know good. You just go underground. Your scabby hearts get all crusty and eventually gets all tough but not in the strong and healthy way so give yourself time to heal. Be honest with your bruise but don’t mistake your honesty for truth.

Just because you feel broken doesn’t mean that you ARE broken.

Living above your circumstances is hard. Your present situation, though very real and up in your face, can make you think and feel a lot of things. If you are not careful, if you are not diligent, what you see and hear will lie to you and entice you to believe a different reality than what you are to be living from. It will tell you you are more than just bruised, it will tell you you are broken! It will make you believe a different truth than His and any other belief system outside of Jesus will take work to maintain and we are called to rest.

IN HIM. 

You may have a very real and very present circumstance before you and as tempting as it is to believe the lie that is loud and forefront, don’t. Practice believing the very opposite, even if it sounds impossible. Even if it look improbable, believe. Have hope. Intentionally move in the opposite spirit.

Regardless of whether your circumstance changes, YOU will.

And if you change, the reality around you will be forced to contend WITH you.

I believe in the finished work of the cross, even if I don’t always walk from it. I believe I am whole, even if there are seasons, much like this one, where I feel like I’m in pieces and parts. I know this “injury” is affording me the opportunity to look a little closer, take it a little slower, be a little gentler. It tells me that this pain is real but it won’t last forever. With time and Truth, I will heal and heal properly, wholly…all the way through.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:5

So I’m taking my real-life circumstances, my up-in-my-face realities, and smothering them with Jesus, my Healer. I need Him more than ever to remind me WHO I am. I need Truth to speak to every broken place, every place that is real and alive with pain. I need to believe in another reality than the one I am living in…

Most of us, not all of us, need to.

It is time to separate our circumstances from our identity. Our identity is to reign and rule over our circumstances. Not the other way around.
 

 

 

Shattered

“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. 

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,

Couldn’t put Humpty together again”

This childhood nursery rhyme is in my head this morning as I drive. I rounded the bend in the road and crossed over the railroad tracks and it played through my mind again.

“Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Shattered to pieces, poor Humpty. And where was the King? If all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t, could the King have put him back together again?

Will my King put me back together again?

I think the better question is, “Will I allow Him?”

I cannot play the victim here. I can no longer afford to allow other people’s actions or lack of dictate WHO I am. And I have allowed it. It’s a choice I’ve made, over and over and over again. It’s an old habit, an old neighbor, if you will, and the property lines are no longer clear and weeds have encroached me.

I am not broken.

And though I feel that I am, because I am most definitely bruised, I will not lay on the floor in a thousand little pieces waiting for someone to come rescue me. Waiting for someone to notice that I have fallen and fallen hard.

I will.

HE will.

HE does.

I show up to my doctor’s appointment and I am brutally honest. I am honest with my feelings. I am honest with my thoughts. I am even honest with the not good ones. There is no covering up today, I am direct.

“Help me. I need just a little. Just a little to get me through.”

I sound beggy. I sound pleady. Like a child, I out stretch my hand, “Please.”

Please. Because I am looking for a fix.

My feelings are running the show and I need to make sense of them, I need order, I need peace.

I want to escape. I want to run. I want to numb out. I no longer want to feel.

So we talk some more, she hugs me at the end after taking way more time with me than she should and hands me a script. I walk to the check-out desk with hope in my hands that maybe a little pill will help me to not feel all over the place so I can think clearer, be better.

Because I have indeed fallen all apart.

And I have hope to fall back together again.

Hope that reaching out to the doctor is a step forward.

 

 

Maybe

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” 

“No.”

And with that I go to bed.

OK.”

My daily communication attempts trying to delve past talk of kids and business fail. It is glaringly obvious, it is our only common ground. I long for deep and healing here in this place, this vast ocean that looks consuming and my continued asking feels like nagging and drudgery.

Maybe he is right. Maybe there is nothing more to talk about. Maybe this is as good as it gets. And with that, I walk up the stairs and step into the bath, delving below the surface of my life.

The water has become a drug to me. The heat is calming and soothing and numbs out my raw and achy parts.

I’m basing the whole of who I am and my happiness on this marriage. I forgave quickly. I thought I’d never mention our latest snag again. I immediately became a busy little bee who opened up her heart wide. I thought I’d work and he’d work and we would meet somewhere in the middle and this could potentially be THAT happy ending. The ending we all hope for and dream is possible and maybe for some it is, but it takes more than one to dream, maybe more than that to hope.

A mustard seed…and I had it.

But there needs to be communication and not just for a day. Not just for two. We need to cultivate intimacy and by default, I’ve been crowned conversation initiator and my initiator is tired and worn out.

I no longer volunteer as tribute.

My brain tells me all sorts of good and needed truths and I know I am full and overflowing with knowledge of WHO I am but my heart tells me another story. My heart tells me I don’t feel valued or loved, that I’m sitting around waiting for scraps and someone else’s left overs. My heart tells me if I was more important things would change and go another direction. My heart tells me a lot of things…

And if I stay here, stuck in a place that continually perpetuates these lies, that is exactly where I’ll stay.

An orphan.

Actions or lack thereof speak pretty loudly.

I’ve got to get myself healthy, for indeed I am sick. I hear the voice of my counselor in my head, “Your heart is broken. You need to heal,” and I know he is right. It is broken and I need to give it time and trying to help someone else mend who perhaps isn’t quite ready is not helping…me. I am pouring way more into this then he is and I’m beginning to feel the strain of my expenditures. I just don’t have it in me to ask one more time, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

Because essentially my tired refusal comes from a deep and hidden heart cry, “Would someone please pour into me first. I am empty. I no longer want to fix.”

And under the covering of the hot water that fills the tub, it becomes obvious.

The last time I turned someone over to the Lord with such resolve, my oldest son was six years old and was about to be airlifted to Hershey Medical Center for a skid loader accident. I remember standing over him as he was screaming, a mother whose heart was torn between what she could and couldn’t do, realizing, “There is nothing here I can. My very best works won’t help. But Jesus, if you exist, if you are alive and real, I believe you can help. He is yours.”

So I say it again, just the same.

“He is yours.”

I refuse to settle for anything less than what I know is possible.

“I Saw it Coming.”

 

I have this very creepy habit of possibly eavesdropping on other people’s conversations out in public. I call it active listening but I’ll use that term loosely since I’m not really a part OF the conversation. I can’t help it (says creepy people everywhere)… people intrigue me and I find myself sucked into their life into attempts to know them despite my best attempts not to.

 

 

The other day I was standing at the grocery store in a line that spanned the distance of forever and the couple behind me was talking about a friend of theirs who was just arrested for a DUI. They seemed to be genuinely concerned and I thought their sincerity was touching. However, one of them said something that absolutely caught my attention. They said,”

 

 

“I saw it coming.”

 

 

And the other person murmured in agreement. “I saw it too.”

 

 

I really didn’t want to listen anymore after that. I willed my ears to close as I stepped forward and proceeded to check out.

 

 

Those words really hurt my heart.

 

 

I wonder if people have seen it coming in me, in my life, and have turned and looked the other way. I wonder what people have become aware of and still…never reached out.

 

 

I wonder.

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the junk we have in our lives, at least I have been thinking of mine. And try as I might to find scripture condoning my need at times to point out other people’s trash, I just haven’t.

 

 

What I have found is this:

 

 

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:7-8

 

I read this and think when Jesus Christ Himself says, “IT IS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE THAT I GO AWAY…” I better pay attention to WHY He says it is to my advantage.

 

 

And my WHY turns out to be a WHO. 

 

 

Holy Spirit.

 

 

I often forget I am not Holy Spirit. **NEWS FLASH** Jesus did not depart this world so I could make it my life mission convicting the world (aka my family and friends or my “friends” online) of the junk they may have in their heart. That is what He does, it is WHO He is.

 

 

And me? My part in all of this is to LOVE.

 

 

Plain and not so simple.

 

 

Yes, Jesus pretty much made that clear as crystal when He said,

 

 

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35

 

I know love looks different for each and every one of us and sometimes, even “tough love” is still love when done with His leading and a open heart. I just know when I stood in that grocery store line the other day and heard the conversation from behind me; my heart broke into a hundred pieces for the gentleman with the DUI. The gentleman that obviously had his flag waving, “Hey. I’m heading down a dangerous path. I need some help; I’m just not quite sure how to reach out for it. Will someone see me? I know you see me. Will someone just love me enough to …”

 

 

Who knows? Maybe they did. Maybe someone had. Maybe this guy had tons of people cheering him on and trying to love him back to healthy and wholeness. In the end, just as it is not our job to convict people of their sin, it is also not our job to reach in and save them from the depths. We will exhaust ourselves from trying.

 

 

I’m a recovering fixaholic. I know how that all goes.

 

 

So friends, if you “see it coming” in someone’s life…please reach into them.

 

 

Not to convict them.

 

 

Not to fix them.

 

 

But to love them.

 

 

Not sure how? I have this friend and His name is Jesus…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make Room 

The perfect morning to me is a cup of coffee, the couch and a book and time void of hustle and rush. Slow. Slow makes it truly, truly perfect and as Chief Hopper says in the very first episode of Stranger Things

“MORNINGS ARE FOR COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION.”

And this morning I found myself having it all. The coffee, the couch and book…with plenty of time to get lost in some thought or some conversation and they walk right past, stuck in their morning routine, just the same.

“Come sit with me for a bit,” I say and I make room on the couch. I want more than just the normal Sunday Morning. I want their presence.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about PEOPLE. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Isn’t that Christmas? I think of people in particular…their role in my life, my role in theirs and our influence on one another. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, gleaning a few answers and in between doing a lot of soul-searching.

There is more to life then living from here to there. There is a place in between.

In the past few days I’ve sat with people when it wasn’t convenient or easy and through it, I’ve realized once more how important it is to give each other our presence. We all want to be seen and heard and sometimes, most times, I liken all of humanity to the old stainless steel tea-pot that sits on my gas stove: We take time to warm up. We don’t want hurried along like we are an appointment on someone’s calendar or an errand they are running that can eventually be crossed off their list.

But sadly, most times, that is what we get.  Remnants of someone’s leftovers, their seconds, their hurry, their less than best.

Looking back now, I can see where that rush has caused more than a problem or two. Lack of presence places Constance where intact should be forged and before you know it, it’s easy to feel like distrusting strangers.

I think it’s the people in my every day crazy, when things aren’t calm and slow, that I’ve needed to pay closest attention to. The ones I’m most likely to whiz right by or take for granted have needed my solid and sturdy legs to remain strong yet bendy so I could ask simple and basic questions.

**Like**

“How are you?”

How many times do we dig our heels in and wade through the awkward silence for their answer? Their REAL answer.

Not many enough.

Conversely, last night as I was putting on my shoes, a random thought popped into my head. I thought of one person in particular, one I’ve been giving too much time and attention to though they havn’t been anywhere in my travels, no where in my circles but they indeed have been taking up space in the thoughts inside my head. As I laced up my last shoe, I didn’t think but more RESOLVED that they were a common denominator in too many of my here-and-now-life-problems. Too much of what I have rolling on the inside of me has their name attached and just like that… I made the decision to take them out of my equation.

And I realized I can do that.

Just. Like. That.

I’ve been giving them too much space through no fault of their own and in the big picture, it’s been frustrating. I’ve allowed their influence to tip some scale inside my life in a less than life-giving way and I refuse to carry them with me into the New Year.

I choose to no longer give them a seat on the couch that is housed in a room within my head. I stood tall after tying my shoes and within moments, showed them to the door. I don’t need to think about them or talk about them because to do so, places an unhealthy, unbalanced importance where it shouldn’t and afterwards, I’ve wondered WHY I’ve ever given away such a powerful choice.

And the sad but wonderful thing about this moment, in the midst of shoes and laces is this…

My resolve has nothing to do with an actual person as first assumed. Sure there’s a name but in the grand scheme of things, it could be a hundred names. They were merely just a representation of a festering wound and I think I needed someone, essentially anyone, to blame.

And since blaming does no good.

Here’s the door.

Be free.

What they represented to me has to go. I need to make room in my heart for vision and hope and joy and laughter and I don’t want to make time for the incessant chatter things past try to hold me to.

We need to free up space friends for real people. Not for the stupid things people do or our assumptions about them. Not for past hurts that keep replaying like a broken record. Not for our offenses or the sordid scenarios that we play and then rewind again and again in our head. Sometimes it IS as simple as refusing to give those thoughts an audience and if it means for a while that the name that’s attached goes unmentioned so you can quit your bad habit, then let it be so. Go cold turkey. Do whatever you can to think favorably again.

It’s not about cutting our losses. We need to look at the rooms within our homes and examine what is filling them. Sometimes it gets a little crowded with stuff and I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to have a full house, I’d rather have it packed with presence. People presence. Not poor thinking OF people presence because at the end of the day, negative attention is STILL attention and takes up space. An awful lot of it.

Friends I’m short on time and like you, I want to make my time count. I want my presence count. If I have any resolutions this year it is this:

want the person standing in front of me to walk away knowing they were heard and seen **THAT THEY WERE LOVED** and I want my thoughts to count.

I don’t have people to waste. I don’t have thoughts OF people to waste.

Neither do you.

Making Sense Out of Christmas 

I woke up early this morning and said good-bye to our son. His ninety-six hour leave would come to an end in a few hours and he has to report back for three days before he could venture home again. I hug him and his girlfriend tight and tell them to be safe and that I love them, all the things I’m growing accustomed to saying when we part ways and moments later I crawl back to bed. I don’t have any trouble falling asleep and I wonder if I had truly woken up because sleep comes quickly and the minutes spent saying good-bye now feels like a dream.

I wake up for real several hours later and take the dogs out. The thought of heading to the barn crosses my mind but the thought of hot coffee nags and wins. I resolve to feed my miniature pig Rosie the next time I’m out and walk through the front door. My brain scans the living room that houses an incredibly dead Christmas tree and I begin plotting out my day.

It’s time to make sense out of Christmas.

Needles lace the floor and I almost cannot see the carpet. I’m not really sure what happened because I never missed a beat and was faithful in watering but I apparently missed something somewhere because evidence points to the obvious. It is dead. The tree has got to go…today.

The dog quickly finds a candy cane and then shortly after, a forgotten toy, and I feel as if I never stopped raising toddlers and somewhere between the living room and the coffee pot, I remind myself to go slow and smile because smiling is important.

I get to work.

I start in the kitchen and eventually meander my way back to the living room; sorting, unpackaging…trying to find a place for everything that was recently brought into this home. “Christmas is more than this,” I remind myself. It is more than the gifting and the eating and the cleaning.

But today it feels just like that and I am done.

An hour later, my husband comes into the house and tells me he went out to feed the chickens and found Rosie. She had died sometime between when I fed her yesterday morning and today. At first I have no words. I really don’t even know what to say about a pig I wasn’t supposed to love.

But did.

I think of our barn and how it’s housed calves, chickens, 4-H pigs and now little Rosie. I think of the smell, the cobwebs, the mice and the dirt and I wonder if moving Rosie from our home to the barn a few years was a good move. Did we cut her life short in the transfer? My brain scrambles to make sense and it can’t. Was she old in miniature pigs years? Was I feeding her enough? She was social and here I stuck her in the barn, no longer having room for her in my house. I don’t have answers so I shake my head and resolve to let those thoughts go. It will do no good to sort that out because there is no sorting. My little pig is dead.

The most random of all pictures comes to my head; a feeding trough. It’s one of the dirtiest and foulest things in a barn if not kept clean and I instantly think of how Jesus was laid in one at His birth. I don’t know why I think of this at the same time I think of that little pig, laying cold on the barn floor but I do.

I think of the packages that fill my home and the needles from my dead tree that fill the floor and the list of all the things I want to get done and thoughts of my son still flutter through my head. I look around the kitchen at my husband and kids. They sit, both quiet and compassionate, waiting for me to respond terribly with tears, but I don’t. It would be awkward to cry over a little pig and I do awkward enough. 

This is what I tell myself.

I think in my trying to make sense out of Christmas, I was trying to package Christmas up so I could move forward and get back to life as normal. I wanted to move forward from the gifts. Move forward from the floor laced with needles. Move forward from the busy and the chaos and the goodbyes.

And here all along, Jesus was reaching into me from the barn, reminding me there is no normal to move on to. He was trying to show me what Christmas really is: Love comes in unexpected ways and in unexpected forms. Jesus, the baby in the manager who I now call my closest friend, reminds me to open my heart wide; unbiased and unrestricted. Hours later I give myself permission to cry, even if just for a little and I wonder if the Innkeeper had known who Jesus was if he would have given him more than just the barn, more than just a feeding trough, more than…

So I choose today to not put Christmas away. I choose to stay focused on my family as I walk around the clutter as needles cling to my feet. I choose to allow my heart to relentlessly love who and what it loves, to be surprised when the unexpected stranger knocks on its door and to embrace the unsuspecting.

One thing we should never have to do is apologize for our hearts.

 

Protect Your Fruit

I used to think he would come and steal away my possessions. That he would kill my children or those close to me or destroy my home in fire from a burner that had been left on overnight, and though I pray and believe that will never be the case, I am increasingly aware of what it is he comes for. He comes disguised in the natural, camouflaged in my everyday life, in ordinary things. My relationships. My money. My possessions. Things I can put in my hands, people I can embrace.

I think that’s all just a farce. An invitation to look beneath the surface and go deeper.

John 10:10 says “The thief comes only that he might steal and might kill and might destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Now interesting enough, the word MIGHT and MAY are used several times which tell me, either side is not a definite WILL or WON’T. Insert our will which is free and ta-dah…we have a choice. And if we have a choice if we are stolen from or killed or destroyed, then we also have a choice to live the life that Jesus has given us, and not just any life, but an abundant one.

So what exactly does the thief come for?

Our fruit.

And truth be told, it is not even O-U-R-S. It is Holy Spirits. When we partner with Him, it naturally produced IN us as a byproduct.

Galatians 5:22- says “But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL; against such things there is no law.”

Our circumstances are going to be what they are. Life is going to continue to say, “because I told you so” and our circumstances will be like happenstance’s that seem to just flutter in from the air and land in our lap, forcing us to engage. Some circumstances, and I would say MOST, are going to be the result of a decision we made along the way…and not making a decision is STILL making a decision. Either way, it is the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT that thief ultimately wants.

He wants us to hurt and become offended so we wall up our love and box it up tight.

He wants us to dwell on our circumstances and get trapped by our feelings so we can lose our joy, our peace and our patience.

He wants us to see others, even God, as evil and unkind. That they are against us, that He is not FOR us so our kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness can slip quietly between our fingers like sand till it’s all together gone.

He wants us to react so we don’t activate our self-control.

He wants a lot of things, but we can CHOOSE to say, “No way. Not today.”

O.K. Sounds great, but HOW?

  1. Take authority: Authority doesn’t beg, it doesn’t ask, it doesn’t just hope the thief eventually bores and goes away…it commands.

Mark 13:34: “For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commands the porter to watch.”

Matthew 8:9: “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

2.  Exercise your authority through the spoken word. Seriously, eat well, speak life.

Proverbs 18:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

3.  Thoughts come and thoughts go, but be careful what you dwell on. And yes, every means just that…e-v-e-r-y.

2 Corinthians 10:5: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Proverbs 23:7: “For a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”

4.  In John 16, Jesus said it was for our good if He went away…he wasn’t lying. Holy Spirit no longer is in our midst, somewhere out there floating around randomly coming upon people and maybe occasionally talking to us. He lives IN us which means EVERY need we have, EVERY answer we seek…is IN us through HIM. We just need to listen and trust His voice and believe His truth.

John 16:13: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

In theory, ALL of this sounds so good. Even if you don’t follow Jesus, seriously…these are good and grounded principles that work, IF applied.

IF.

At some point in this life we live, our “in theory” needs to become our “in reality.” How we make that work is up to us; it is up to me, it is up to you. I just know for myself how I lose hours of my day, days of my week, weeks of my month when I ALLOW the thief to come and steal the fruit right off my table, right from underneath my nose and I for one am tired and worn thin having an intruder in my house that is more like a friend than a foe.

Guard your heart and protect your fruit…the fruit is where abundant life flows from and the world around you is waiting, just waiting, to eat from your table.

the word became flesh

I do not accept challenges nor do I play games. I do not cut and paste and then post. If it’s not personal, I’ll be honest, I just don’t have time nor do I want to make it, but when my friend Noel tagged me in a 10-day challenge to share my favorite scriptures, I looked at it as an opportunity. You want to know what my favorite ones are? Great. But let me tell you WHY they are my favorite.

Here we go.

I grew up Presbyterian. I also think there was a time we were Luthern too, but at this point, it’s all blurred. Church meant we went at Christmas and Easter, but I did go on and off as a child for a period of time with my mother who wanted my sister and I to have a firm foundation. The people were nice and our pastor was a African American woman named Myrtle. I loved Myrtle for many reasons but now, as a adult, I really have come to appreciate her. Myrtle was a pioneer.

I wasn’t really into the Bible as a child. My father’s mother Helen however was and she gave me a tiny, white leather bound Bible with my name etched in gold lettering. Her home was dimly lit and quiet and she often spent time reading hers and I think she had hoped I would do the same. I did not like reading and I dreaded memorizing scripture and Sunday school class so when I was called on, I’d pick at my shoe or at the braid of the girl beside me to create a distraction. I’d do anything to get out of reciting verses because that is what it felt like to me. Recital. On some stage, regurgitating words that I had no understanding of and then getting graded. Would I receive a sticker this week? Likely not. Why? I had no relationship with this Jesus who seemed so far off and I didn’t know how to relate to Him through a book. Head knowledge has always been a nemesis. I wanted to KNOW the Word Himself and that was WHO I wanted, the very person of Jesus. I wanted real. I wanted relationship.

“So the Word became flesh and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14

These words still sit humbly in my spirit. The Word became flesh. He made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. We are loved, THAT much.The Word did not just come as a baby, a book or a house guest who would leave. He came to reside IN me, the actual person of Jesus.

10 years ago I couldn’t fathom some far-off God being so hands-on present. I sat at a ladies retreat, done. I showed up because showing up is what I did and was in the midst of ruining the entirety of my life as I knew it. I was far removed from reality, but I do remember sitting in that chair, knuckles white to the bone from gripping the edges. I wanted to be anywhere but there when I heard a voice pop into my conciousness. It sounded much like my own and it said, “If you would just come to me, I would help you with all this.”

Envision a juggler and a poor one at that. That was me. Poorly juggling…

That voice. I would not say those things to myself, would I? Was it my conscience? I decided to take a chance that THAT voice WAS Jesus. Why not? I WAS at a ladies retreat and at that point, I had nothing to lose. Overtime, I have learned to distinguish His voice from my own and from others. I am learning still.

I have invited you here because I’m more of an outpost, meaning I relate better to people who are kind of on the fence when it comes to religion and church. I have an evangelistic, empathetic heart and don’t really know what to do with it besides wake up each day and LIVE. I believe God is everywhere and in everyone. I believe He is in it all and can use it all…both the good and the not great and is continuously present. When we choose to SEE and HEAR, I believe we can encounter a supernatural God in our every day lives. He is boundless and full of mystery and wonder and I will not place the limits of my knowledge of Him to the confines of a book. I will however hold the Bible in high regard and esteem. I do not think you can fully know the Father without having an overall understanding of it because the many pages that lie within it pour the foundational framework of His heart from which we walk forward. He is consistent and multi-facited and His nature and character are continuously revealed while inviting the reader into a new discovery and another conversation. I for one, am indebted to its teaching but my Bible is not the One I worship.

The very Word of God Himself is.

One thing that has become glaringly obvious to me is that there are certain things you just don’t mess with when it comes to people: Money, Politics and Religion. It no wonder why Jesus continuously challenged the leaders of His day. Want to see everything on the inside of someone rise to the surface? Talk about one of these three subjects. You don’t have spend a lot of time on social media to watch a newsfeed fill fast with arguments and debates when it comes to theology. Everyone thinks what they believe is THE way; we respond to be right instead of responding to better understand and when we do, we build walls instead of bridges. We all live in some shade of gray and don’t even know it.

Jesus, the true Way, please show us. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13

In my 20’s, I was not a fan of religion and not because of God, but because of an experience where someone vehemently picked and chose scriptures to win and prove their point about my choices. They bypassed a relationship WITH me in order to stand firmly in what they believed in and only wanted a relationship when I saw their light. I remember thinking, “If THIS is Christianity, I want nothing to do with it.” I think we can easily contradict the gospel if we do not carefully guard how we present it. The Bible was meant to be used in the context of relationship, a door that opens up conversations not only WITH God but WITH others. We close those doors before they have a chance to fully widen by the way in which we present the message. We lose our ability to influence when doors are closed and in my opinion, too many doors are shut tight.  

Then I think of Jesus on the cross. I think of Him whispering these words after greatly suffering, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34.  Those words shift the posture of my heart. If He could be rejected, humiliated, tortured and abandoned and still choose forgiveness, why can’t I? Forgiveness…asking for it and extending it is the CORE of Christianity. We often don’t know what we are doing; we rarely seek to understand our own motives.

Are we motivated by fear or love? Answering that question is key.

I hope we can take an intentional step back and see one another as He sees us. Wonderfully, thoughtfully and intentionally made. I hope that we can see His original design for mankind and understand that indeed, the Word HAS been made flesh. Maybe we would treat each other differently if we looked for Jesus in each other instead of focusing on the mud and the muck that often forms the heavy film of distraction.

So friends, I encourage you to listen. I encourage you to dig deep. I encourage you to guard your heart. Lift your head up and SEE. Open your ears and HEAR; walk by the Spirit. Let living Love lead you into a deep and meaningful relationship that surpasses the bound book you have been beaten by or that you hold your hands so closely to.

There is more.

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