Featured

My First Blog Post

Why start a blog?

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

I argue with myself. A lot. And sometimes out loud. I’m actually pretty good at talking myself out of doing things. Once in a while I talk myself into things. Like starting a blog. Oh there was a lot of arguing going on, but in the end, the “let’s do it” won out. Does the world need yet another voice when so many are already clamoring to be heard? Probably not. So why do this? Because just possibly, my voice might speak to you.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and at the end, thought that they really speak your language? Their way of communicating just really spoke to you and you left feeling enlightened, understood, and with new insight. That is my hope. My voice may not speak to everyone, but it may speak to some. If it speaks to you and encourages you to think of God in new ways, wonderful! Nothing could make me more delighted.

So, I will add my voice to the others already out there and leave “God thoughts” here on this blog. I would sincerely love to interact with, pray for, and encourage those who may need this. Here’s to new adventures in our understanding of God…

God’s Gym

I hesitate to share this 1, because I am angry. It’s usually not a great idea to share things written in frustration and 2, it’s very personal. But I am going to share because I believe the lesson has implication beyond just my situation.

On and off for 10 years I have been part of the world of online dating. I’ve met some nice people, had a couple relationships, encountered some interesting people and received some hilarious emails. I do face book posts that I call “adventures in online dating” where I share some of the more humorous messages I receive. I view the online format as a way to connect with those that you would not meet otherwise in daily life. To be honest, I hate it. Hate might not even be a strong enough word. So why do I continue to put myself voluntarily through something that I so strongly dislike? In short, because it develops something in me that would otherwise remain undeveloped. It serves as a gym, so to speak, to develop, use and train muscles that would otherwise remain atrophied.

By nature I am an introvert, and on the shy side as well. It is NEVER fun to me to meet someone for the first time. In fact, it makes me more anxious than I can even describe. I am ashamed to admit that I have cancelled first meetings more times than I can count because the anxiety overwhelms me. No doubt the poor guys pick up on this anxiousness and believe me, it makes for a very long and awkward meeting. I’m guessing you are cringing even reading this! To be honest, lately I have had a series of bad first meetings (I don’t call them dates but refer to them as meet-and-greets J) A couple were completely my fault as I just wasn’t able to push past the anxiousness. A couple were simply because we weren’t a good fit. I have to say that this has been frustrating, discouraging and makes me want to give up hope. Now before you feel sorry for me and try to fix me up with your great uncle once removed, let me tell you why I am ok with that.

Ten minutes into the last meet and greet I had, I knew that we were not going to be a match. For a variety of reasons. Later, when the guy launched into an animated, detailed description of his new cooking gadget, I knew I was in trouble. His passion for food and cooking was evident. He joyfully described what he would cook and what spices he used and how cooking was his favorite thing to do on a winter day. I tried hard not to let my eyes glaze over or my face to reflect the fact that I couldn’t have cared less about his cooking. What I ended up saying was that I would rather scrub a toilet than cook! Probably not the best thing to say but it is the truth. I explained that I was not even close to being a foodie and I actually didn’t care anything about food or cooking. Again, the absolute truth. Before I had left the parking lot I received a text saying that he didn’t think we were compatible. I agreed. The thing is, this is still a rejection of sorts. And it is soooo easy to walk away and think “what is wrong with me?” Most women would be thrilled to have a guy who wanted to cook for them. They would be thrilled to have a guy who wanted to try out new restaurants because it means she wouldn’t have to mess with dinner! It is so easy to walk away from an encounter where you are not chosen and feel like it is your fault. Because you are somehow wrong or not normal. To think thoughts like- if I only talked less. If I only asked more questions. If I would have only not said this or that. What we are really saying when we think like this is: if only I hadn’t been myself. Let that sink in for a minute. If I hadn’t been true to who I am, maybe ______ would have liked me. If I hadn’t said what really represents me, maybe I would have had a second date.

I did feel like this for a few minutes. Then I questioned myself. Was it wrong or bad not to love food? No, it isn’t. Is not being a foodie a character flaw or going against God in some way? No, it’s not. Does saying that I am the furthest thing from a foodie that you will find accurately represent who I am? Yes it does. This awkward encounter was a bit of a turning point for me though. Food was really important to this guy and he wanted to share that passion with someone he dated. Perfectly acceptable and understandable. Food is not important to me but some other things are and he didn’t share those things. Instead of viewing it as me being somehow wrong or rejected (he’s good and normal, I’m not) I viewed it as we just weren’t right for each other. No one was bad or wrong, just not a match. My “self” muscle is indeed developing! See, there is no shame in being true to yourself. If fact, this is what God wants for us. If God knit us together in our mother’s womb and we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then he certainly knows what he created. And it is telling that he didn’t create us all alike. Even though we have some commonalities, we are all different creations. Hair color, eye color, skin color, height, personality, likes and dislikes set us apart from each other.

Part of growing and maturing is learning what makes you tick. What you like and dislike. What you enjoy and what you can’t stand. Too many of us have molded ourselves into a shape that we were never supposed to take. Our parents may have pushed us to play soccer when we really loved to dance. We may have studied one subject when we would have preferred to go another direction. People want us to act a certain way so we do it to keep peace within a relationship. We eat food we hate because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is possible for us to lose who we really are in the process of life. Part of my journey over the last 10 years has been getting a handle on what makes me me. Coming to accept what I like and what I don’t. What I want in relationships (and not just dating relationships). Learning that it is ok to say what is important to me and what is not. Learning to be genuine with myself and then with others. This is authentic relationship- when we know who we really are and that is what we offer to others.

Learning these things about myself has given me a new understanding of God as well. If you are a Christian, you have a relationship with God. He works in us and desires to touch others through us. Not us as in simply humanity, but us as in us personally. God’s desire is to use our specific bents, gifts, personalities, passions, and attributes to affect the world around us. But imagine how difficult that would be to do if we are always working against our true self. If we apologize for who we are or what we like or we cave in every time we are criticized for our passion or personality. If we constantly second guess our choices and wonder if we should have said let’s have Italian instead of saying you want Mexican food. It’s mighty hard for God to “use” us to affect those around us if we don’t have an understanding of who we are as individuals and through Him. We need both. Opposition will come and if we don’t have a knowledge and belief of who we are and what we are about, any push will cause collapse.

For me, online dating has been the format that God has used to develop this sense of self in me. Though this process I have gotten to know myself well enough to know what is important to me in a dating relationship. It wasn’t always this way though. In the beginning, I didn’t have my voice yet and anytime I received push back, I caved. I have to admit that I wasn’t very successful in being true to myself. Through the process of responding to messages, meeting people, and being forced to either stand or fall, I began to develop my muscle in this area. It is far easier for me to never encounter people, rather than have to be firm in who I am. When you are alone, you don’t have to defend what you eat for dinner, what you watch on tv or what time you go to bed. You do not have to defend your choices because no one is questioning you about them. This touches something very deep within me. If you are not typical in some way or another, you will be questioned and possibly pushed or made fun of. We see in many aspects of our world. If someone is not physically perfect, has a disability, strong values, beliefs or morals, or is different in some way, you can guarantee they will face some type of pushback for it. When this happens, our choices are to cave in on ourselves, collapse, doubt, find fault with ourselves, or stand firm (but yet flexible) in who we are. Because the world consists of people, we will encounter people who push against us and question us. We can either isolate ourselves so we don’t feel uncomfortable or we can develop our “self” muscle. Online dating has been the gym to develop those muscles for me.

Yesterday I received an unsolicited email from a guy who said that I had him right up to the part where I said that “grammar and punctuation matter” (yes I said this in my profile because, well, they do!). He then went on to question why I would limit who God could use to show love and while I may be smart, I am not wise. He continued to chastise me saying that I think I know what I want but God knows what I need and I am restricting Gods work. Wow. Unfortunately, I am used to emails that are rude, criticizing, argumentative, and even berating, because some people cannot accept a polite no thank you and want to argue about why what is important to me matters. I’ve learned what is important to me in a dating relationship and I am strong enough now to stand by this. But unsolicited chastisement that implies I am somehow missing God was another matter. After some self-checking, I decided to write back. The victory for me in this was that I was angry. Sounds strange doesn’t it? I tend to get upset about things but rarely get angry. This time I was angry. For this guy, who know absolutely nothing about me, to assume that I had not even considered God in the dating process was arrogant. Years of conversations between God and I regarding the dating process have taken place. Years! To assume that just because I have “filters”, so to speak, for a romantic relationship somehow limits God is preposterous. I wrote back an email saying as much. Then blocked him! My voice is developing, my sense of self is developing, my ability to know I’m ok with God and stand firm where he has me is developing. I don’t know how much longer God will have me in the gym of online dating, but I do know that it is serving a purpose in my life.

I don’t share this God Thought to vent about online dating. I share it to put forth the idea that although we may be a God follower, we can still have areas of weakness in our lives. Under developed muscles if you will. These areas of weakness will look different for each of us. It could be that your “no muscle” is weak. You simply can’t tell anyone no. Or say no to food. Or no to doing things that you don’t want to do or aren’t in your best interest. Maybe it’s the ability to control the tongue and what comes out of your mouth. Maybe, like me, it is the ability to voice your thoughts or stand up for yourself.

Quite possibly you have found yourself in situations and wondered why you are there. Or still there, if it has been for a period of time. You are doing everything right yet you are still in a frustrating situation. I encourage you to consider that maybe God has allowed you to be in certain situations because they serve as a workout for you. Quite possibly, you are developing muscles that otherwise would remain undeveloped, and quite frankly, useless.

I can’t honestly say that understanding God’s purpose in dating for me has made everything easier. It’s not. At all. But having the understanding of why I am there allows me to work with the process rather than against it. And that is definitely easier.

If you find yourself in God’s gym of some type, hang in with it. Don’t quit, keep pushing. Growth is always a beautiful thing.

He Knows Me

He knows me

I’m sure you have heard, and probably uttered these phrases: this is killing me! Or, this is going to be the death of me! Most times we don’t mean it literally. It’s more of an expression of exasperation as in- I exercised for the first time in 20 years and can’t move my legs- it’s killing me! Or, this kid is wearing me out and will be the death of me. Sometimes we feel that situations may just kill us, like we won’t make out to the other side. Honestly, at times I’ve felt like maybe God is trying to kill me. Probably not, but it has sure seemed that way. 

We’ve probably all gotten ourselves into a bad situations. Totally and completely our fault. We throw ourselves on the mercy of God. We may have to face consequences and it may hurt for a bit. In other words, we know we got ourselves into trouble and understand that we have to face the music.

But it feels a little different when those consequences seem never ending or we face a situation where we did nothing wrong or worse, did all the right things. If we are “guilty”, it’s easier to accept our discipline. But if we are “innocent”, it doesn’t seem fair that we face difficulty. This assaults our sense of justice and doesn’t feel fair. In these times, we can struggle with understanding God’s motives for allowing such difficulty. Faith can take a beating when we are stuck in times of great difficulty that do not seem to have an end. How can we hold on to our relationship with God when it seems that we might not survive what he seems to be allowing in our lives.

There’s an obscure passage in Isaiah that I have held onto for dear life. It’s a bit difficult to grasp because our society isn’t based on agriculture as in Isaiah’s time but it’s worth exploring.

Isaiah 28: 23-29   NLT

Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting?

Does he not finally plant his seeds- black cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat? Each in its proper place. The farmer knows what to do for God has given him understanding.

A heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cumin. Rather, it is beaten with a light stick. A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin. Instead, it is beaten lightly with a flail. Grain for bread is easily crushed so he doesn’t keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart but he doesn’t pulverize it.

The Lord of Heaven’s Army is a wonderful teacher and gives the farmer great wisdom.

Basically, this passage says that the farmer knows what he’s doing with his crops because God gives him wisdom. What would kill one plant will make another thrive. The farmer doesn’t use his heaviest instrument on a fragile plant because it would be crushed. He doesn’t use the most dainty instrument he has on a hearty plant, as that would have no effect. What would bring life to one plant would kill another. He knows what tool to use with what plant. I hope the meaning is becoming a bit clearer because this passage is one to hold onto! If God cares enough to give the farmer wisdom with planting, doesn’t it follow that he will use this same wisdom in dealing with us?

Humans have different personalities, bents, interests, life experiences and back stories. Ten people can have ten different reactions to the same situation because we view from different lenses. Words that would devastate one person could motivate another to do better. Actions that could wound and crush one person may have no effect on someone else. And God knows this.

So how does this help us understand God’s purpose in our circumstances?  For me, I can absolutely stand on the knowledge that God knows me personally and intimately. He knows my strengths, weaknesses, fears, what I can withstand and what would crush me. He takes all of these factors into account when he deals with me. He knows my personality, how I react to situation, what will make me freak out and what I can handle. He knows when to push me beyond my comfort level, when something is beneficial for me (even if I don’t like it) and when something would be too much for me. I can trust that when I am experiencing something, either scary bad or scary good, God will not use too much pressure and crack me. He knows the exact amount I can handle before I crack.

Years ago when my three kids were really small, I was caring for my mom who had cancer. She seemed to be nearing the end of her battle and since I was the only child, everything fell to me. She insisted that she didn’t want to go to a “home” and there was no other option but for her to live with me. At that time, I was in a pretty small house. She was too weak to do stairs, plus she needed to be close to a restroom. There was only one place in the house that would work- the living room. I have always said that I am not in the medical field for a reason! I don’t do well with the physical aspects of medicine and all that comes with it. To say that taking care of my mom plus my kids was hard was an understatement. That was also the time that I learned that pain has a voice, but that’s a whole other subject.

I was being stretched beyond what I was comfortable with and thought I was close to breaking. My greatest fear though, was that my mom would pass away in my living room and my kids would find her that way. I know myself well and knew that if she did die in my house I would not be able to continue living there. The thought of this was genuinely traumatizing to me. When I shared this with a family member, the response was- well she is either in the chair or in the bathroom so it’s going to be one or the other when it happens. There is nowhere else. I simply begged God for another option.

One day soon after my oldest came down with strep throat. I had to keep him segregated upstairs while stilling taking care of the other two (one who was a toddler) and my mom. The hospice nurse came that day and could see that I was struggling. She told me that hospice had a respite for caregivers and in no uncertain terms told me that I was going to use it. This meant that mom could go into a local nursing home for up to two weeks at no charge. She told mom that she had to go because she couldn’t afford to catch strep from my son. Of course, mom resisted strongly but the nurse won out. She made arrangements for an ambulance to transport mom to a nursing home that very day. I went to visit her that evening. She wasn’t happy but did say she understood. I stayed a while and left when she was worn out. A few hours later I received a call saying that she had passed peacefully in her sleep.

God, who knew me so well, allowed a negative event- strep throat- to be a doorway to spare me from something he knew I could not handle. I will be forever thankful for this.

Having my mother pass away in my living room was something that I certainly didn’t want. But what about those things that we desperately do want? Again, he knows us. Honestly, it is with a heavy sigh that I write that sentence. I, much like most of us, desperately want something right now. But God doesn’t seem to be agreeing with me in it. He knows us personally. He knows whether something will give us life, or actually kill us. With another sigh, I can say I am thankful for this.

Sweet friend, he knows you too. He knows what methods to use when dealing with you. When to push, when to stop, when to plant and when to harvest in your life. Rest in that thought today.

Pain has a Voice

Pain has a voice

As I alluded to in an earlier writing, pain has a voice. It can be difficult to distinguish the voice of pain from the voice of the person who is speaking but pain often causes people to say things that they normally would not say if not for the presence of the pain. This is true of physical pain and emotional pain. You may have heard the phrase- hurt people hurt people, meaning that someone who has been hurt in the past often hurts others. This can certainly be true.

Near the end of her time on earth, my mother lived with my family. She had lived in the small town in which I grew up and since it was an hour and a half away from where I lived then, her moving in with me was the only option. It was a small house to begin with, and the only place for my mom to be was in the living room. There simply wasn’t anywhere else. This required adjustments on everyone’s part, as I had three kids under 7 at the time. Mom was fortunate to have a great group of friends who came up to visit her often. One day while her friend was there, I had gone upstairs for something. As the house was small, I could hear them talking while I was upstairs. I heard my mom tell her friend that I didn’t want her to be there, and I didn’t want to take care of her. The bitterness in her voice stopped me in my tracks. Now my mom always had a sharp tongue but this felt different. As an only child, I had made a lot of sacrifices for her in the past year and a half and it never seemed like enough. For her to be angry at me really cut.

When I came downstairs, Betty knew I had obviously heard my mom and told me later that it was the cancer talking, not my mom. At that time though, it was impossible for me to distinguish the voice of cancer from the voice of my mom.

Contrary to the old rhyme of sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me, words can indeed hurt us. If fact, words can cripple and break us just as much as any stone ever could. It’s a bible principle that words have power. God didn’t mix up some clay to form the earth, he spoke it into existence. The words of God have creative power. The very beginning of the story of mankind started with words. (See the book of Genesis)

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18 

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.  Prov. 18:21

I doubt very much that my mom intended for me to hear her words or that they were intended to hurt me, but yet they did. That’s because by its very nature, pain hurts. Please hear this. Pain is exactly that- painful. And when pain speaks, it’s natural that its voice would bring hurt as well. My mom has been gone a long time now and I got over the hurt of her words. But the lessons I learned during that time still serve me well.

It’s fairly easy to see that someone is sick or in physical pain. Because we can see this and understand how they may feel, it may be easier for us to give some mercy and take their difficult words with a grain of salt. This gets harder to do if it’s someone very close to you and even harder if it’s an extended situation. If you are on the receiving end of the voice of pain for a prolonged period, you must care for yourself during this time. More on this momentarily.

It can be even more difficult to recognize the voice of pain when it is coming from someone who is physically fine but experiencing emotional pain. Especially if that person is us.

Our own pain has a voice and it speaks to us. Maybe I am the only clumsy one here but have you ever ran into something and it really hurt? Unfortunately, this seems to happen to me a lot. My first response it usually to call the desk a stupid piece of crap. Or, I say something to myself, like you seriously just ran into that again? What is wrong with you? Why don’t you pay more attention? Think about it. Next time you get hurt, pay attention to your first response. For some people, there is a constant stream of negative words that they say to themselves. Pain blames. It lashes out. It accuses. Pain is angry. Our own pain can yell at us pretty loudly and blame us.

I would be guessing that for most of us, thinking of pain in this way is new. But realizing this can help us separate the voice of pain and learn to give ourselves some grace. This may sound like a strange thing to say but, I encourage you to think about your thoughts. If there is old emotional pain that has been with you for a long time, chances are that you may not even recognize its voice.

For example, if you have suffered a serious rejection, the pain from rejection certainly has a voice. When you find yourself in a situation where it seems remotely like a rejection, (why wasn’t I invited to the get together) pain will tell you it’s because you aren’t wanted. You aren’t interesting enough, you have nothing that anyone else wants. And on and on. Over and over, situation after situation.

Whether our own pain is speaking to us or its voice is coming through another, we don’t have to accept the hurtful words of pain. Of course we may hear the words but we don’t have to allow them to penetrate our heart and accept them as truth. Again, this may be a new thought to some and may feel strange at first, but we can, and should “talk back”. If we are experiencing hurtful words coming through another person and we recognize that pain is behind the words, we can “stop” them before they pierce our heart. If we view painful words as Proverbs describes them, like swords that pierce, we can also picture our protection, which is truth, as a type of armor. Again, we will certainly hear the hurtful voice of pain but we talk back to it and say no, that’s not truth.

If you know me well, you know that one of my favorite shows is Law and Order. One thing that I always notice is how victims and families get angry at the police who are trying to assist them. Screaming in their faces, yelling, cussing them out. I mean come on! These are the people who are actually helping you and you go off on them? I cannot imagine myself in the position of the police who stand there calmly and let them yell. I want to scream back that I am on their side! Until I remember the voice of pain. The police understand this and that understanding is what enables them to calmly face the barrage of words. They don’t take it personally and recognize it for what it is.

In the situation with my mother, when I overheard her talking to her friend, instead of allowing her words to pierce my heart, I could have said to myself, no that’s not truth. Her illness is causing her to lash out but her words are not truth. I am doing the best I can and I will not allow her words to bring hurt and division. I may have even told my mom that I did want her to be there, and I know it was difficult for her. Would her words still have stung? Most likely. But they would not have taken root in my heart.

As awkward as it may feel at first, sometimes we have to talk back to painful words. Remember, it is a Biblical principle that the power of life and death is in the tongue. If pain is spewing hateful words at you, speak life back. I’m not necessarily saying that you speak back to the person, although sometimes you may need to. I’m saying that we can refuse to accept hurtful words. Instead of embracing hurtful words, we resist them. We say to ourselves, no, I don’t agree with this, I don’t believe this, I won’t accept this as truth. Make sense?

In this world the voice of pain will always be present but it doesn’t have to cripple or destroy us. My prayer is that you will begin to recognize the voice of pain and not let it hinder your life.

Reimagined

Reimagined

I spotted it as I walked up the driveway. The soft teal color and amazing detail of the cabinet caught my eye. As I got closer though, I could see it was in rough shape. The door was hanging by one hinge and there was some damage to the edge of the piece. But oh the detail! And no price tag. I cautiously asked the man hosting the garage sale how much he wanted for the piece. He said he would actually be ever so grateful if I would just carry it away. Perfect! Not much is better for a rehabber than to be given free items.

I have been told many times that I have an ability to see things that others do not. I can look beyond the present condition of an item and what its original purpose may have been and imagine what it could become. I seem to do this wherever I am, whether in a store, at a garage sale or when I see something sitting at the side of the road. My friends and family have gotten to the point where if they see something for free they ask me if I want it! I’m not sure how I feel about being the first thing someone associates with junk but that’s ok. I get a lot of amazing treasures this way. And I do consider them treasures.

By the time a piece reaches me, it’s usually “lived” a full life. It has served its intended purpose, done what it was intended to do, and has usually taken a beating. Sometimes parts are missing. Sometimes things are broken. Sometimes people just get rid of things because they no longer have use for it. Sometimes I know right away what I want to do with an item and sometimes I just stare at for a while until it speaks to me. Some pieces just need freshened up- new paint, detailing, cleaning, etc. and when completed, they still serve their original function (a table is still a table, just with a new look). Sometimes pieces are completely reimagined. When their makeover is complete, not only do they look better, but they now serve a new purpose. What was once bound for the trash dump now finds a new home where it is enjoyed and serves purpose for years to come. I love this!

I see such similarity between what I do with furniture and what God does with people. Broken furniture and broken people actually have a lot in common. For a few people, life works out basically how it’s planned. They know from an early age what they want to do in life and they do it. But for many, probably most, it doesn’t work that way. Even if we have an idea, have a plan, and follow that plan, it doesn’t always work out. Illness and accidents happen, we lose a job, death, divorce, family separations happen, we encounter hindrances and challenges and often end up going a different direction than we had planned. And like furniture, humans can take a beating along the way. We bear the scars of abuse and trauma and it changes who we are. Life events can shape us in such a way that we feel distorted and aren’t able serve a purpose. We get bent and broken and sometimes the hinges come off of our lives. We can feel like a piece of broken furniture sitting beside the road waiting for trash day. We feel worn down and useless, so far away from being purposeful that there is no hope of every getting back.  

But unlike broken pieces of furniture that either just get thrown away or have to wait for someone like me to come along, see their potential and rescue them from destruction, we don’t have to wait and hope that someone will take pity on us. See, I believe that God sees broken people much like I see broken furniture. While others may see a person who is rough, damaged or beyond repair, God sees potential. He sees who that person was created to be, everything that caused them to twist and bend away from that purpose and what they could yet become. He reimagines a new purpose for them once he has done some work. He sees how beautiful they will be once they are in their new environment. The way I get excited to work on a new piece is the way that God feels when he is invited to work in someone’s life. He already sees the end from the beginning. He sees what can be beautifully recreated.

The Bible as a whole tells the story of the restoration of humankind. Sin created a barrier between God and man. The life and death of Jesus removed that barrier so that man could be restored to a relationship with God if they choose to. Restoring is not just something that God does for a hobby. It is who he is. Restoring is what God is all about. See, our damage doesn’t surprise or overwhelm God. He doesn’t look at the messiness of our lives and go- oh wow, this one is too much for me to do anything with.

Whatever the reason for the damage in our lives, God can do the repair necessary. It doesn’t matter if hurt or damage came through the hands of another or if we self-inflicted pain upon ourselves. It also doesn’t matter if, like my cabinet, the hinges are off and it’s falling apart, or there is just slight damage to one part of our lives. God can take whatever we bring and do something new with it.

My challenge to you is this: If you are feeling like a piece of old furniture sitting at the curb waiting for trash day and your best days are behind you, invite God to do something new. Simply invite him into that area of your life. Invite the Restorer of all things to do a repurposing in your life. If God can put it into the minds and abilities of humans to restore and repurpose furniture, surely he can do the same for the people he loves so deeply. But it starts with an invitation. Be open. My mother would turn over in her grave if she saw the new color of the antique table she loved so much! But healing and rebuilding often involve shapes and colors we couldn’t imagine for ourselves.

If you are enjoying where you are and living in your purpose, wonderful! I challenge you to look around you at those who may not be. You may not be a refinisher of home décor, but you can be a brush that God can work through to add new color to someone’s life. Share this God Thought, give hope to another that there can be new life and purpose. Dare to see new color in your life and for others. You will love what God can do in the end. 

The String to My Kite

The string to my kite

            “He’s the string to my kite”. It was said in the context of a relationship. She was a kite who tended to get carried away with whims and dreams. Her husband was the string that kept her grounded and kept her from soaring out of control. It’s a beautiful picture of balance in a relationship. One person’s strength can balance the other’s weakness. This metaphor led me wonder who serves as the string to my kite.

            I’m not one given to whims or even dreams. I am logical, grounded, I overthink things and I’m analytical. Not much danger of me flying away! Yet part of me wants to take risks, do something important and fly away on the wind. That is what kites are designed to do. As I reflect on this, I realize there is no physical relationship that serves as a string for me. God has always been my string. He secures me, knows when to give me slack, when to tighten up, when to give me a shove. I love that about him. However, a kite and string are not all that is required. There needs to be there person holding the kite and string but more importantly, wind. Without wind, a kite no more than a piece of paper or plastic.

            There have been times in my life where the “wind” has been perfect. I know that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do at that time. I soar through the air and people think, yeah, that kite is doing what it’s made for. But when the wind dies down, the kite drifts gently to the ground, or perhaps violently crashes, causing damage to the fragile kite. The people that were once gathered drift away. After all, there’s really no point in watching a kite just lay on the ground.

I feel that this is a metaphor many of us can relate to in life. Things were going well for us. We were making a difference, had a direction in life, were soaring on the wind, then something happened. Our sting broke and we flew away. The wind died down and we crashed. We lost a job, a loved one, our finances, a purpose, what we thought was our future. And now our kite is damaged or just lying on the ground. We can struggle with the knowledge that God provides the “wind” in our life, so it seems to reason, if there is no wind, it’s because God not making it blow. This is a hard thought to embrace. If God is actually in control, as the church so often says, then that means he permits (not saying causes) the hard stuff. The dry times. The lean times. The alone times when we don’t have relationships or even a means by which we can serve him. It seems hard to make this line up with the God of blessings and love of the Bible. But it does.

In the new testament of the Bible we see the physical life of Jesus play out on earth. At one point in his life, we are told that the Spirit of God leads him into the wilderness. While there, he encounters the devil and faces temptation. It would seem to be easier to swallow if it said that Jesus stumbled into the wilderness or he landed there because he was deceived. But to hear that God led him there brings another element. God is good. He is light. He is love and has our best interest at heart. And he also allows things that don’t seem good. He allows the cloudy and stormy days, the days when it feels dark and we feel alone. He is the same God whether we are soaring on the wind or sitting broken on the rocks.

            So what do we do in the times when our kite string breaks, when we fly away too far, when the wind dies and we end up back on ground, feeling useless and thrown away? This question seems to have an easy answer- get up and move. If you don’t like where you are, go somewhere else. Sometimes this is exactly what we need to do. But other times, we try and try to move and do not get anywhere. Nothing we try works, we get turned down for every job. We never get a second date. Our family still doesn’t understand our choices. We are still in debt. We try to be useful and helpful but no one needs us. What then? If I could suggest anything, it’s to first be genuine and authentic, with yourself and others.

            In a nutshell, living an authentic life means that you don’t feel one way but talk or act another. We don’t say “sure, I would love to help with the kids this week, I just adore them!” when we are actually terrified of the little creatures. Authentic is when what we say and what we do matches how we feel on the inside. You can’t have real relationships with God or others without this.

            Living genuinely acknowledges hurt feelings, frustration, not understanding what’s going on. Living authentically acknowledges to God that we just don’t get it. We don’t understand why we are in time out. We don’t know why he would “let this happen”. It acknowledges our difficulties, hopelessness, aloneness, and fears. Having a genuine relationship with God allows us the freedom to admit to him and others that we are struggling.

            I want to step aside for a moment and note that genuine and authentic expression of what we are actually thinking and feeling is part of any relationship. As Christians we can get the idea that to do anything other than thank God is to complain or be ungrateful. Here’s the thing- God already knows what you think and feel! If you are a parent or are married, you can probably tell fairly easily when your child or spouse is upset/sad/frustrated. How do you feel when you see this and they say- “everything is fine”. You obviously know that is not true. You want them to tell you what is going on. You won’t be mad if they share their thoughts and struggles with you, it’s actually just the opposite. Because that’s what relationship is about. We can still be thankful and grateful for things in our lives, while at the same time, having difficulty. God can handle our questions, and invites us to be honest with him.

Authentic relationship with God also asks the questions- do I have a part in this? Should I be doing anything differently? Am I doing anything wrong? Relationship is not just sharing how we feel, it’s listening as well. If you feel a nudge from God to change something, then do it.

            Second, if you feel that your kite string is broken or there is no wind in your life, and you’ve been honest with God and others, hang on. This too shall pass. God is a God of seasons, and timing. If I am being honest, that’s a hard sentence for me to write. While I wholeheartedly believe it, I sure don’t like all of the seasons and sometimes I feel that his timing just stinks. Boy do I struggle with God’s timing. He just doesn’t do what I want when I want it. Nonetheless, his timing is a thing. A real thing. And I sure pray for grace to accept it.

If the kite of your life isn’t soaring on the wind right now, pour out your heart to God. Frustrations, hopes, dreams, and sorrows. Ask him for grace, peace and new wind. And when it comes, fly beloved, fly.       

Do you want to be well?

Do you want to be well?

I have always been puzzled by the exchange found in John chapter 5: Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made 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.”

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Jesus, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, asked a crippled guy if he wanted to be well. It seems to me like such a rhetorical question, the kind we ask when the answer is so obvious that we need to point out how obvious it is. Of course he wanted to be well right? I mean who wouldn’t. 38 years of being unable to walk, of course he would want it to be different. Yet Jesus asked him. I also find it interesting that the guy didn’t exactly answer the question. He didn’t say yes or no, only why he couldn’t be healed. The picture we are given seems to indicate that he was lame and couldn’t walk to the pool on his own. We are not told how long he had been laying by the pool but it appears to have been a while. Time after time he would watch the angel arrive and stir the water and time after time someone would get there before him and be healed. We can’t say for certain but it seems that he felt that because he was lame, he needed someone else to get him to the water. Of course, everyone else was trying to get to the water first themselves, so there was no one to help the lame man.

This thinking seems to make sense to me. Everyone is there for themselves and their healing, so of course no other sick person would assist a lame man. Except, I feel like there must be more to this story. The fact that Jesus asks the guy if he wants to be well implies that maybe he doesn’t. Maybe there is a “but” in the guy’s reasoning. Like yeah I want to be well but…  In this case the “excuse” of being unable to walk and having no one to help seems pretty legitimate. But still, I think about other options he may have had. It seems like the sick stayed by the pool because they never knew when the angel was going to come. Presumably someone could have helped the lame man get close to the pool when the angel wasn’t there. Imagine yourself in that situation. You haven’t walked for 38 years and a means of healing was available. If I really wanted my legs to be healed, I would be someone to drag me over to the pool so I would be ready. If no one would, I would scoot myself to the edge of that pool and stay there until the angel came. When that water stirred I would fall over the edge into it! I would even keep my arm dangled over the edge so I could touch it as soon as that angel showed up. A desperate man would try all of these things and more if he really wanted to be healed. Yet this man’s answer to Jesus wasn’t “yes! I want desperately to be well! I will do anything!” Maybe he was comfortable being unhealthy.

It seems to be a given though: if you are sick, you want to be well. No thought needed, it’s an automatic yes. But what we want and what we are willing to do are often two different things. This feels so important that I want to say it again. We may genuinely want something but not be willing to do what it takes to get it. For a variety of reasons.

2018 wasn’t the best health year for me. The year started with several sinus and ear infections. Eventually, I was told that everything looked clear. Yet the pain and discomfort remained. I was referred to an ENT but put off going. I didn’t know who to go to, didn’t want the cost, and could still function so I keep thinking I would look into it tomorrow. I struggled though it for several more months before caving in and going. Of course, he said things looked fine and I needed a catscan to look inside the sinuses. Again, I put it off.  Finally had it done and it came back clear. Saw another doctor who said it was most likely allergies and I should see an allergist. Sigh. Do you think I did? Nope. Put this off as well. Again, there was the cost and the testing needed, etc.

Around that time I was talking with someone about a couple of mutual friends who were struggling in their relationship. It wasn’t the most healthy relationship and something significant had happened to damage the fragile balance. I said “well, she needs to decide how unhealthy she is willing to be”. It felt like those words literally bounced off of the person and came back to hit me in the face. Just how unhealthy do YOU want to be? I had struggled for months, frustrated and drained. But I tolerated it because it wasn’t completely debilitating. I could still function. I tolerated unhealthy because I wasn’t willing to do what it took to get well. I called an allergist the next day.

While the encounter with Jesus and the lame man was about physical healing, it applies to so much more. How much unhealthy stuff do we tolerate in our lives because we don’t want to do what needed to get healthy. We tolerate unhealthy relationships because we are afraid we may lose people if we do anything different. We damage our bodies and eat horribly because it’s too hard to eat healthy- we just tolerate being overweight. We have unhealthy patterns of relating to people and are frustrated in our relationships because counseling is way too expensive and really hard work. So we stay in our dysfunction. We stay at a fruitless and soul sucking job because we need the money and are afraid to make a change. So we dread every day.

Because I’m a word geek and love the dictionary, I looked up the word “tolerate”. It means to allow the existence or occurrence of something without interference. I tolerate bad behavior when I allow it to happen and don’t say anything. Antonyms for tolerance are: disagree, disallow, forbid, refuse, reject, expel, stop, and veto.  How different might our lives look if we refuse to be disrespected and treated badly by someone? If we expel the junk food from our kitchens and diets? If we stop settling for the job that kinda pays the bills and worked towards another occupation?

For reasons we don’t exactly know, Jesus healed the lame man. He is merciful like that. I can’t help but wonder though, what the man would have done with the time that he would have gained had he been desperate for healing before he met Jesus. If he had dragged himself to the pool and fell in as soon as he saw the angel and his came up out of the water with whole legs. What would he have done since he no longer had to lay around. What would we do if we were no longer unhealthy? I imagine Jesus asking us: Do you want to be well? I hope we can answer with a yes, yes I do.

Walk beside me and just be my friend

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead

Walk beside me and just be my friend

Have you ever been asked the question- how is your walk with God? What exactly does that mean? How does one even answer that question? Fine thanks, and yours? It’s a well-intentioned question, as the Christian life is often referred to as a walk or a journey. A walk or journey is a good metaphor because life doesn’t stand still, it moves forward whether we like it or not.

This thought leads me to consider where I see God as being on this walk of life with me. I have to confess, I’m not one who can sense the Presence of God consistently. I believe by faith but don’t necessary feel like God is with me all the time. If I picture life being like a path through the woods, and I am walking along that path, I wish I could say that I always feel like God is walking right there beside me. But I don’t. Quite honestly, there are times that I have felt God is way up in front somewhere. I know He’s there but I really can’t see him and the pathway isn’t so clear. It feels frustrating because I can’t get where he is. I imagine my 5’2 daughter in law often feels this way when she’s trying to walk with her 6’2 husband, her 5’9 mom in law and 5’8 sister in law! Her little legs just don’t walk at our speed and we have to intentionally slow down to walk with her. Sometimes I feel like that with God. Like hey- I’m little back here, please walk with me because if feels like I’m walking alone here.

At times on my journey I have plopped myself down in the middle of the path and refused to move- the adult equivalent of a 2 years old temper tantrum. More often than not, it’s because of hopelessness, confusion, or exasperation. I simply get stuck where I am and don’t have the will at that moment to keep moving, especially when I can’t clearly see what’s ahead. At these times I can picture God actually taking hold of my arms and pulling me on down the path. Or he gets behind me and pushes me. Other times he lets me stay there for a while and even sits down beside me to take in the scenery. Never for too long though.

For me personally, I have most often pictured God up above the path, like cosmically hovering over me, giving me directions. Sometimes speaking, other times shouting, or simply clearly the path before me or putting obstacles in the path to direct me another way. God’s good that way. The Bible is clear that he gives us wisdom and directs our paths. I’m thankful for this. But this view seems more like a walk from God than a walk with God. Kind of like a coach giving direction from the sidelines. Our obedience to God is clearly expected, the Bible places importance on obeying the written directive in his word and the specific directions for our lives. But I’ve come to realize that there can (and should) be more to our relationship with God than him giving orders and us obeying them. We are called to serve God, he is the master, we are the servants. He directs, we obey. It’s completely possible to successfully relate to God this way and do a lot of good in the world. But if that is the only way that we relate to God, we are missing an element. Servants can be useful to the master without ever having a personal relationship with them.

Jesus clarifies the difference between the two for us: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”. John 15:15

Servant just obey, friends understand. There is a level of intimacy in friendship that is not present with a servant. Servants can fear their master and of course, we are to have a healthy fear of God. I mean he is the creator of the universe! But I am convinced that this is not all God wants for us. He doesn’t want us to serve or relate to him through fear but rather from love. When we relate to someone out of love rather than out of fear, it’s a whole different relationship. This has been somewhat of a challenge for me. For someone who has been fear-based for most of her life, being love-based looks completely different. It’s not all about God instructing, me obeying any longer. It is more of a working alongside to do something. Relationship isn’t about one demanding and the other obeying. Relationship talks and reasons together. This has been a revolutionary adjustment for me. God is walking in this mess of a life with me rather than just shouting instruction to me from the heavenlies.

Since I grew up as an only child, I spent a huge amount of time with books. One of my favorites was called Walk Beside Me and Be My Friend, which is where I found the poem above. This idea of “walking beside” took root in me and became the longing of my heart. Both to have someone walk with me and for me to walk with others along their journeys. Too often though, we not only feel that God isn’t walking beside us but also feel that no one else is either. This isn’t necessarily because we don’t have any friends. Often times it’s because we don’t want to burden the friends that we have. We hate to show that we don’t have it altogether or are struggling with something. We don’t want to appear weak or are ashamed that we aren’t the perfect Christian. So we keep things inside.

I once heard the question- who could I talk to in your circle of people that knows how you are REALLY doing right now? For far too many of us, the answer is no one. My encouragement today is twofold- if you feel that you are walking down life’s path alone right now, please reach out. Both to God and to someone in your circle. Inviting God and humans to share in your world, however messy it may be at the moment, is authentic Christianity. Secondly, look around as you walk through your path of life. You may be the only “friend” that someone encounters on their journey at this time.

What are God Thoughts?

When I was younger, I studied bible through NNU, and worked at a large church in my area. At one point I was writing lessons, teaching 3 times a week, doing a lot of pastoral counseling and simply helping people navigate life. I loved every minute of it.

For the past 10 years, I’ve been on sort of a sabbatical/hiatus/time out. My focus was on being a single mom, obtaining a new degree and career in the legal field, and experiencing some healing, forgiveness, and the mercy of God.

Within the past few months, I have felt the pull to begin writing again. Not exactly lessons or devotional thoughts but more like small articles that challenge me to view God differently or see a situation from a new angle. Little encouragements that cause faith to expand. Thoughts about God, hence the name God Thoughts. It is my hope that these God Thoughts will encourage you as well.