November 20, 2016

In Which I Take a Selfie and Bare my Soul

Every morning when I walk to the sink to brush my teeth, I am greeted in the mirror by the reflection of Abraham Lincoln.

Honest Abe wasn’t much of a looker. Too bad I take after him. I’m kidding, of course, but they say all stories have a seed of truth.

The selfie culture of our day is interesting, is it not? It feels weird to take a selfie---at least it is for me. I can never get it “right” the first time. My gaze or my smile always needs tweaked. After several takes, an acceptable image will present itself. Then there are photo editors and filters at my disposal if I want to spiff myself up. With some effort, it’s possible to turn my Lincoln-look into an acceptable representation of me.

I think it would be fair to say that a selfie rarely rings true. The image offers little about the person in the photo.

We live in a culture of mask-wearers----online and in real life. What most of us don’t realize is we don’t keep our masks firmly in place. Our masks dissolve and our real countenances surface without our notice. It takes too much intention to keep our masked faces in place for long periods of time. If someone shares a surprise, a list of instructions, or a piece of gossip, our faces will show our reaction to the subject at hand. Even when there is no big revelation, we still lose the masks. Our faces mirror our emotions and our souls. 

People read our faces all the time. What many of us don’t realize is our faces are likely not being read in the way we think they are.

In a world of faces, we are strangers to others and even to ourselves. 
Keeping it real!
That’s painful news. It is painful for me because I’m aware of a couple of different occasions of late where I was told others didn’t feel liked by me. Granted, these were people who didn’t know me well or not at all. If you are wondering why I care? It’s because I love people. One of my core values is to make sure people I encounter don’t feel invisible (people I know and strangers). Maybe these people who read me as not liking them should have asked me what was up or taken more time before making a judgment? The truth is something about my countenance made them question my acceptance of them. I own it.

Psalm 42 is a song of despair that many have taken solace in (including me). The song raises a question to the soul that reveals the deep pain of having tears as “food day and night.”  From the depths, the questions are repeated twice in the eleven verses:
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? (v. 5a, v.11a)
Like most of the songs of lament, the language of despair turns to a statement of hope at the end:
“Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”(v. 11b)
The writer of Psalm 42 knew it is the face that reveals despair. Only when the soul is healed can the face be helped, and only God can mend the soul.

It is important to me to have a countenance that reflects my inside. Sometimes that will mean I look sad or anxious. I risk being read wrong by others when I go maskless out in the world. Sometimes others will read my face as a judgment on them. It has happened and it will happen again. 

I can’t do anything about what others think, but I can ask God to help my countenance realizing that what I need is help with my soul. He alone can search our hearts, but he needs us to participate once He reveals to us our heart condition.

We are all in process. God is not a genie god. He is a shaper of souls. This happens as he gives us His life and we begin the process of dying to ourselves and living in Him. We begin the process of transformation as we learn, on the way, how to walk according to the Spirit. This is an intentional process that takes time.  As our lives in Christ grow, as we mature in our faith, we are changed from the inside out and it shows on our faces.

This should be true for us when circumstances beg for celebration as much as in times of despair. Unfortunately, in our cynical culture we are so numb and disconnected from our inner life, it is rare even for Christians to have joy written on their faces----and I confess this would include me.

Sometimes those little moments of celebration come and oh, how sweet they are. I shared with a friend at church some beautiful things the Lord was doing in my life. Her face lit up and her eyes welled with tears of joy. Her love and happiness for me showed all over her face. It was a beautiful gift. 

One challenge I’m giving myself (again) is to see people as God sees them even if their faces reveal some kind of hard truth. I want to laugh and I want to cry. I don't want to hide. When others look at me, I want them to see my soul.

I won't wallow when I fail to love people well. I will grieve for a bit, ask forgiveness if it seems right, and move on. I will go easy on those who judge me harshly and I will go easy on myself. I will ask the Lord to help my countenance, to shape my inside so my outside looks like Him...

and not so much like Abraham Lincoln.

How is your soul? What would I see right now if read your face?

November 16, 2016

A Better Country

I have a bent toward independence, but I'm not proud of it. It has limited me in many ways and kept me at an arm's length from most people. When I was young, I had a fierce desire to be right. I used words as weapons in ways that I’m sure offended and pierced others. I say I did this, but the truth is I’ve done it when I was older. Someone talks out of two sides of their mouth and I’m on it. 

I’ve felt a deep regret and conviction about the need to change, measure my words and grow in relationships. I am not good alone. I need others to help me see my blind spots.  I could use the Holy Spirit as my excuse for limiting the influence of others in my life, telling myself I only need his help and direction, but that would not be biblical. “It is not good for man to be alone.”

As I watch, listen to, and read the media of the day (both traditional and social), it’s made me feel alone on the earth. Of course, I am not alone but I do feel loneliness. I feel other than, peculiar, alien. I fight a human need (at least, that’s where I think it originates) to find someone in which I can align myself and I’ve found myself thinking about a question I’ve pondered over the years.

In times of sadness or uncertainty, I've wondered why God doesn’t just whisk us away to heaven when He saves us. Why does He promise us a better country and leave us to walk the sin-stained dirt of this earth? 

I am sure there may be many theological answers to my question, but something I’m seeing in the Scriptures is telling me the question may not be valid.  

Colossians 1:13 says I was rescued “from the domain of darkness, and transferred… to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” God did this for me in mercy and grace as I believed in Him and placed my faith in his provision for me through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Before the election, I was teaching a passage out Ephesians when I asked those listening to consider what a mistake it was for the church to "hitch it’s wagon" to the government because when the government fails people, the people it fails blame the God the church proclaims---guilt by association.

When preachers took to the Internet telling people how to vote, by implication and overtly, it made me cringe. Why did they want to get tangled up in politics? They have a bigger race to run. Where were their eyes? By being endorsers, they joined the media in the clamor in the world. (Eph. 4:17-32)

I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote prayerfully and live as good citizens. What I am saying is that we need to realize what we are signing up for when we align ourselves with a tribe. Inevitably, on the earth, tribes set themselves up against other tribes---they feel the need to defend their tribal identity with words, actions, or both.

God doesn’t intend for followers of Christ to be passive in the culture, but I do believe that those in Christ will spread the fragrance of Christ in the midst of the culture. How this is lived out is nuanced in the lives of each Christian based on their gifting and the place in the world where they live and have influence. The fragrance of Christ never has the stench of death. If it does, then it isn’t Jesus that is being spread. (2 Cor. 2:15-17)

Even as we live our lives in Christ in the different contexts around the world, the truth is our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God.  

God’s kingdom never gets wonky like the governments in this world. When we see people doing what sinful people do, the people whose citizenship is in the kingdom of God remember the better country. They recognize the promises of God are eternal, some of them to be fulfilled in the future. They live for, and in light of the promises of God. They live with true vision.
“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.” (Paraphrase of Hebrews 11:13-16, Eugene Peterson, The Message)

Why am I hopeful on this day? 

I’m hopeful because I see the “better country.” I see not because I’m special or intelligent or super-spiritual. I see because of the grace of God given to me and because of the Spirit of God alive in me. It’s the only explanation I have. 

I admit I have blind spots. There is no way that I can pull together all the factors that are in play in the political and cultural landscape of the country where I live. That truth makes it that much easier to fix my eyes on Jesus who is the Truth. I live in an unshakable kingdom. (Heb. 12:2; 26-28)

This afternoon, I walked the streets of the neighborhood, prayed for my neighbors, cooked a pot of soup, did the laundry and I looked with the eyes of my soul toward the better country. I was at peace. I won’t be joining a tribe. I will love people right where I am because the kingdom of God is here; it is now. (Luke 17:20-21)

November 6, 2016

A November Confession about My One Word for 2016

Back in January, my pastor asked our congregation if anyone had chosen their One Word for the year. He suggested a  move away from making New Year’s resolutions toward choosing one word as a focus for the year. A few shared their words as the mike passed around the room. I had my word, but I didn’t share it. 

I was reading last November when the Holy Spirit pricked my heart. A word lifted off the page and caught my attention. Over the next few weeks, I saw this word pass in front of my eyes several more times before I began to understand it would be my new "one word." I hoped I had misunderstood. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t completely sure what it meant and it had too many syllables. I wanted a word rich with biblical meaning with lots of references that I could look up in the Psalms. My word wasn’t even in the Bible.

The word was incandescent. 

If I had spoken it aloud in that church service, I wonder how many people would have rolled their eyes back into their head? I wouldn’t have blamed them. Who picks a word like incandescent to be their One Word? What did it even mean except that it described a type of light bulb? Those people, on the cusp of a new year, would have thought, “That poor lady needs to get a life.”

I kept my mouth shut and didn’t give anyone the opportunity to think any of those things. Others said their words---trust, hope, and grace---while I said a silent prayer for the Lord to give me the strength to trust Him with my weird word. 

Besides my one word, the other secret I was keeping was the doleful truth that my prayer was feeble; my faith was weak.

In the days before Christmas, I had awakened in the night and was overcome with doubt. It came out of nowhere and made my stomach ache. I considered in the darkness if everything I had ever believed, all that I had built my life around, my faith, was a figment of my imagination. Three years of waiting, of being sidelined by God from a place in leadership in ministry had me questioning purpose and significance. I came into the middle of my life thinking life would expand. Instead, it had narrowed as my kids winged away into the world and my parents dealt with health issues. I had tried to make some sort of writing life when a writer’s block fell around me surrounding me like a fortress.

I hate doubt. It tastes like eating soap. I told myself to get my act together. I tried to remember all the times the Lord had come for me, times when I was in sin or was sick, in times of loss and betrayal, when I was absolutely broken. I knew I couldn’t fix my doubt. I had already lived the story of trying to fix myself. No, this heart-sickness was too much for me. I didn’t give God a dare, but He would have to prove himself real. I wouldn’t walk away. Instead of freaking out, I would wait.

I did have my word simmering on the back burner, the crazy word that I had not yet looked up on “the Google.”  The dregs of Christmas lay about the living room when I opened up the laptop and typed the word incandescent into the search engine.
incandescent (s = adj.all) candent - emitting light as a result of being heated; "an incandescent bulb" Derived form noun incandescence1 incandescent (s = adj.all) - characterized by ardent emotion or intensity or brilliance; "an incandescent performance" (

My heart began to flicker with a little flame of hope.

I heard a preacher say one time that doubt is evidence of faith. I remembered the chill of last winter and I was comforted. You cannot doubt what you do not believe. Those without faith cannot doubt.

It’s been the warmest autumn I ever remember and the flame in my heart is burning hot. The Wind of the Spirit has passed my way again. 

“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;  
(Jesus in Matt 12:20, quoting from Isaiah 43 )

This is one of the many things I love about Jesus. He is not alarmed by the “smoldering wick” of our faith. When He sees our flame losing its heat, He is not disappointed or angry at us. He will not throw a bucket of water over our uncertainty and walk away.

Jesus is committed to his children. He always has been. He comes to our little smoldering coal of a heart and blows his love over us like whisper. 

He fanned my smoldering wick to flame because I was willing to sit in the discomfort of my emotional pain. I didn’t run from it. I didn’t try to make it better with food or exercise, shopping, or media binging. I put one foot in front of the other and lived in the rhythms of faith I had built over a lifetime. 

To my surprise and joy 2016 has been a year of great spiritual growth for me. The fire of faith within me is burning hot. I am more in love with Jesus, and more awake to his work in my life. I’m living with more trust that God is working sovereignly in all things whether I see it or not.

It’s November again and I’m paying attention, anticipating a new word to be revealed for next year.  I admit it won’t be easy to leave the word incandescent behind. Maybe I won’t... 

Are you anticipating your word? Do you have a One Word story?   
I would love to hear about it. What was your One Word for 2016?

October 24, 2016

You, Me & the Sea

We are a week away from time falling back so my feet hit the floor this morning in darkness. I slipped on my robe and walked in my rut to the kitchen, pulled one of the porcelain mugs from the middle drawer of the dishwasher because I’m partial to its thin rim with the slight curve perfect for sipping the beans roasted dark but not burned. I think about how heat changes things, makes them hard and beautiful, like the white clay that made my cup, or the bitter and sweet ground beans surrendered yet again to being scorched for the benefit of others.

Yesterday, after church I made some slaw for supper then slipped out to the porch with my books. It was the Sabbath and I was resting on the wicker couch on a golden autumn afternoon. I turned on music— movie scores and opened Mary Oliver’s new book, a collection of essays, a book titled, Upstream. It wasn’t long until I was in tears. I swallowed them, tasted their salt, accepted that swallowing tears always makes me thirsty.

It’s taken a lifetime to accept who I am rather than who I wish I was. Like so many, I thought I might be able to minimize the depraved state I am in—apart from Jesus. I think this is the deceiver’s foremost lie— that we aren’t that bad. When we believe his twist on truth, the bible says we choose disobedience, rebellion, which puts us under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). But there is something worse than just being under God’s wrath as crazy as that sounds. To believe the twisted thought that we are bad, but not that bad, keeps us from desiring the life God has for us in Jesus.  “We are half-hearted creatures,” writes C.S. Lewis in the “Weight of Glory”, “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

We ate leftover red beans and the slaw for supper. Warm banana pudding filled bowls for dessert, but the bananas weren’t ripe. They could have stood a few more days sitting on the counter coming into their own, sweeter, just before death.

Mary Oliver ponders the creative life as the third way of life, what seems to the world a reckless way of living—which she hopes it is. Reluctantly, I believe she’s onto something. The creatives gather along the edges of life, gather the chaos into something beautiful. It seems reckless to those who are ordering their lives around productivity—making the world go ‘round. It seems frivolous to be picking wildflower bouquets along the road and arranging them in a minnow bucket.

“The clock is still ticking…Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought.” (Mary Oliver, Upstream)

 We are living in time, but living for eternity.

Ray Stedman said the third way of life is that of a Christian who is not conformed to this world. We can reject conforming to the patterns in the world, refusing to wear the clothes of the world and using its words, resist fitting in, if you will. We can reject the culture’s magnetism but backing away from the world, we Christians, with intention, are tempted to form our own tribe with its own cultural norms, its own outer garb, and to speak in a language "outsiders" can not translate easily. As a Christian and a creative, I know this tension. We live between two worlds.

“Genuine Christians belong to neither of the extremes which are always present in society. They have to contrast with both. And therefore they get attacked from both sides, if they are really standing where Christ stands. One of the indications of whether your Christianity is genuine or not is whether you do get attacked from both sides, because Christianity is a third way of life.” (, Ephesians 2:1-3, The Human Dilemma) 

We are not to be creators of chaos. A Christian creative is never called to make chaos. We are called to set chaos right—to be reconcilers. This reflects the heart of the One who has called us to this third life, this vocation with eternal dividends.

To stir up the chaos, to gather it for the purpose of disseminating it, is the work of the enemy of the eternal soul. It is the kind of creative activity that fills the air, the sin-polluted air of the world’s rulers, who lust to keep the sons of man under the judgment of God’s wrath.

Living in the chaos without hope is torturous. So much of the world knows this pain well. The good news is Hope sits in the wings ready to take flight if we’ll accept and be real about our depravity---our need; if we'll receive God’s grace. Pride says don’t do it—you’ll give up your options, you’ll lose your life.

Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33)

We cannot grab hold of what will preserve our lives if we don’t let go of our desire to save ourselves— which is, of course, the biggest lie of all. We must give up our membership in the fellowship of the walking dead.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-6)
“But God…in mercy…in love…even when we were dead…raised us up with him and seated us with him…” This is our reversal of fortunes, but I’m afraid the words have become too familiar that we scant take notice. What a shame, for they hold the “weight of glory,” our hope, seated with Christ now and for all of eternity.

A friend asked me in a text why I thought Jesus saved us? Was it because He wanted us to love him and follow him? She’s been feeling the fire, the in-between with its pain and its gifts.

My reply was simple, an attempt to reconcile the chaos: “He loved and saved us because He wanted us to be able to sit next to Him ….” 

We should take him up on the offer, take our seat. It’s was costly, but it's free. I've always loved a holiday at the sea.

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee's Community.

October 16, 2016

Why I'm not Surprised and Why You shouldn’t be Either

I don’t want to be one of those prophets who shouts, “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace, but I wonder at how many Christians have become unglued because times are uncertain.

“I notice that the Bible gives a decidedly unromantic picture of life on earth. God doesn’t censor the soul-raw moments of His best men (and women). He refuses to airbrush fear, despair, failure, and discouragement. I wonder if He included these spiritually X-rated parts to deflower my distorted picture of what it means to walk with Him.” (Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life, italics mine)

I’ve been reading what people are saying on their social feeds about the election. I have been reading their words realizing there are motivations behind the words. 

I see a lot of despair, some discouragement, and a whole load of fear. 

The words from one of the Apostle Peter’s letters came to mind as I considered the pleas for right thinking and the shame talk running through the feeds and comment threads, many of them directed to Christians by Christians.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
(1 Peter 4:12-18)

It’s interesting that in the Gospels Peter is portrayed as the one who wanted things to be a certain way (under God) and seemed intent on going down fighting when circumstances were contrary to his expectation. He wasn’t into hearing anything about Jesus dying. He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. He cut off the soldier’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus in the garden. Then he lurked around feeling sorry for himself and denying his association with Jesus when things turned grim. 

It’s a wonder that Peter didn’t jump ship altogether. There was something in him that believed there would be a reversal of fortunes and he was going to be the first in line when things turned toward his point of view. Peter had hope.

I think all of us have been like Peter at one time or another in our walk of faith.

The reversal of fortunes happened, of course, but it looked nothing like Peter had envisioned the few years before when the disciple laid down his fishing nets and followed after the unorthodox rabbi, who in his mind, was going to set things straight for the nation of Israel.

I wonder exactly when it was that Peter decided to live by faith?

Was it a morning after the resurrection when Peter and his buddies had fished in the dark and caught nothing? Was it after the sun rose on their discouragement when Jesus filled their nets?

Was it after the breakfast Jesus’ cooked for the fishermen when he pulled him aside and asked Peter if he loved him---three times? Was that the day Peter let go of his need for a painless path through life?

Jesus told Peter the truth-- that things were going to be difficult:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (John 21:18)

I picture the scene as emotionally charged. I imagine Peter’s mouth falling open with Jesus’ forthright declaration about the future of his disciple. The reality hangs in the air for a pregnant pause, and then Jesus says, “Follow me.” (v. 19)

If you read the account in John 21, you will see that Peter doesn’t accept his lot without protest. He turns around and points at John and says, “What about him?” (v. 21)

Peter seems so familiar.

By the time he writes the words in what the Bible numbers his first epistle, he has grown up in his faith. He has matured. He’s no longer overtaken by circumstances.

Instead of being surprised by the “fiery trials,” Peter has these admonitions:
  • rejoice that you are sharing in Christ’s suffering (that’s a big turn-around since his night of denials)
  • consider insults as blessings (but don’t bring them on  because you are a meddler)
  • praise God for suffering when it is because you bear the name of Christ
  • remember God’s judgment doesn’t begin with the pagan but with those who are in the household of God
  • have compassion for those living without Christ (and remember they are reading your comments too)

And then this, the last verse in 1 Peter 4:

 “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (v. 19)

It doesn’t say be right.

Peter had come a long way since that day on the dusty road when he answered Jesus’ revelation of His death and resurrection with these words,

"Never, Lord!" ... "This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22)

It is time to let go of fear and grab hold of faith, to look up rather than around.The mission has not changed. The News is still good and we should live in light of it.

These are days of opportunity to grow up in Christ, to let the truth of the Bible speak into our lives and give us hope. He is the anchor for our soul in troubled times.

October 6, 2016

How my Prayer Life Transformed when I Ditched the List

A Facebook friend of mine, a guy I went to college with who is a preacher, asked a question online—“What do you love about prayer? How do you struggle with prayer?”

Almost everyone answered the second question with something having to do with staying focused. I understand, because I've been there.

I don’t think I answered his questions very well, but this is how I commented— 
“I once made long lists of prayer requests but now I listen for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind those He has for me to pray about---which of course is a great mystery but also a great comfort. He has taken over my prayer life and has transformed it. The hardest thing for me to get my head around is how he loves us all the same---his everywhere presence. It's just too wonderful for me.”
I struggle sometimes with the personal nature of God and the fact that he is personal with everyone. How can he keep all our chattering straight? And what about those heart cries, those groanings from the depths that have no words but are prayers all the same? It's a lot to wrap the brain around.

I believe God has challenged me to a lifestyle of prayer that is dependent on him. I wasn’t good at praying through lists. I rattled them off and then I forgot many of them. Now, when the Holy Spirit brings someone to mind, especially someone who has a need or is hurting, I take it as an opportunity to pray. I believe each prompting is “what is mine to do.” Those who come to mind are my prayer assignments. It amazes me how God has orchestrated the things I pray about all through my day. Sometimes, I pray for my people, those very close to me; sometimes, I hardly know them.

Does prayer change the mind of God? I don’t think so, though there are stories in the Bible that show that God responded to requests to change circumstances. I do think He, in his wisdom, can change the course of things as He looks at his greater purposes to bring about his kingdom upon the earth. He knows there is more than one trail up the mountain.

The example that comes to mind was when God was going to step back from leading Israel to the Promised Land. He was concerned that He might kill them. (Exodus 33 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible in my opinion.) God was being merciful and gracious when He told Moses he would send an angel with them instead. Moses would have none of it. He would rather risk death for all than to go forward without God. 

God promised He would go with them and give them rest. He wasn’t going to snap his fingers or twitch his nose and put them in the land. They would move toward their destiny and He would be there with them as they stumbled along toward the promise.

I’m beginning to understand prayer as a way of life, a way of communion with God who loves me and who loves others through me. As I express the longings of my heart to God and ask Him to show mercy, give healing and hope, or to give direction to those he brings to my conscience mind, I'm amazed at his desire for me to be part of this cosmic mystery to influence the unseen world with the power of prayer. I am humbled at the restraint God has toward me as often I stumble along. On days when I am discouraged and want to give up, He touches my heart with longing and I move forward as He leads me in his grace.

There’s no doubt that prayer is a conversation. The Lord knows we need this connection in a world that rages against him and is intent on distracting us. Knowing God cares about the things we care about is a great comfort. Nothing is happening apart from his sovereignty. Instead of worrying about things too big for me, I turn my concerns back to God and release them.

This prayer approach has transformed my prayer life. As I’ve heard the promptings of the Holy Spirit, as I have listened, my confidence has been boosted, my faith has been strengthened and my fear has been squelched. I remember that God is in control. I trust him for my needs and the needs of others. I remember his plans are good. I fall in love with people he loves as He allows me to carry their burdens.

Today, I am humbled and grateful that God has entrusted me with this little bit of understanding concerning prayer. It is transforming my relationship with him and helping me to understand his love for me and others. Instead of hating the longing that often grips my soul, I accept those heart pangs as “cords of kindness” that tie me to the heart of God.

I’ll still make lists when prayer request time comes around, but I'll not likely look back on them. Writing the request down keeps me engaged at the moment and gives me the opportunity to acknowledge God’s activity in the presence of others. Then and there, I submit to God to give me “what is mine.” 

And when someone asks me directly to pray for them, you might be asking? That request "is mine to do." It's a no-brainer. 

If you have a prayer request, I want to know about it. Would you share with me in a comment or message me in private on Facebook or Instagram? 

Be encouraged. God cares about the things concerning you.

September 26, 2016

Lost Dogs, Metaphors, and Life

Naomi on a silly day.

We lost Life.
The gate was left open. 
We all took out
and wandered the neighborhood.

The girls held their mother’s hand,
walked the pavement in their velcro tennis shoes,
cried out through the chain linked fences,
Zoe! Zoe! Zoe!

Where are you Zoe?
    Pain rained down her cheeks---
grief, on the face of a child. 

Zoe! Zoe! Zoe!

How she longed for life 
to lick her salty tears
with that sandpaper tongue.
Where had Life gone?

The lost lives unaware, 
enslaved to her true nature,
padding along, on the trail of a calico cat,  
sniffing the fragrance of lampposts. 

In hope, we believe that
wanderers will go home
when they get thirsty—the
first step it seems,
to being found.

These are the bones of a poem that has been simmering in me since we rolled up the windows and drove home from Annie’s house last Friday morning. I’ve been thinking recently about how God uses metaphors to teach us deeper things. He uses metaphors in the Bible in abundance and He uses them in daily life if we are paying attention to what is happening around us.

Annie scared me to death when she called on Friday morning. I heard the panic in her voice and my stomach knotted before she told me why she called. She needed help and asked me to come quick. Zoe had disappeared. Naomi had left the gate open and Annie wasn’t sure how long the dog had been lost. She needed help to find her so Jeff and I jumped in his truck and drove over.

We drove up and down the streets south of Moore. Annie called, said a lady had told her she had seen her over there. It was a good ways from the house and I was hoping she was wrong. We turned down toward a day care center thinking Zoe might be trying to make friends with some of the kids playing outside. That’s when we saw Annie walking up the street holding Naomi’s hand. Olivia was running along beside them weaving on and off the curb. It was hot; their faces were flushed and they were sweating. Naomi’s eyes were swollen from crying; guilt was weighing heavy on her. 

They crawled up into the truck and buckled in. Annie was between them. They all called for Zoe out the back windows. Olivia echoed Annie in words and in pitch. Naomi called out too through her tears. We rolled along hollering and looking to see if she might dart out somewhere from between fences and old houses or cars sitting in driveways. Annie wanted to go back to the house to get her car so we could cover more ground. 

Naomi was losing hope after walking all that way. Annie assured her that Zoe was smart and could find her way home. I wasn’t so sure, but I prayed Annie’s confidence was truth. I prayed too because God cares about lost dogs and little girl’s hearts. He knows the pain of loss. It’s one of his specialties—mending lost hearts. The three of them quit hollering when we turned up the street toward the red brick house they call home. As we came up the small grade of the hill, I saw Zoe come loping through the yard with her tongue hanging out. Her eyes were hidden behind a wad of black fuzzy hair. Liv grabbed her up and held her. Zoe thinks Liv is a dog.

Zoe, the word, in the Greek language, means life.

We found life in the front yard.

I couldn’t work it into the bones of the poem—at least not yet— but I’m wondering if there’s a bigger lesson for me about how I need to be more concerned for the lost, to feel grief for those who are far from the garden gate and the God who loves them, who is calling out to them, Life! Life! “Come all who are thirsty and drink, come to the waters.” Come home. You are lost but you can be found. 

This event (what others might consider as a trivial drama concerning a dog) seemed significant to me as far as metaphors go. As we drove away relieved, I felt like God was telling me to remember the lost, to grieve for those who are far from him. It seems that Christians in these times are mad at the lost, angry that people are acting out of their sin nature---like we all have. Why do I not grieve like I once did for those who are lost? Why do I not holler out the windows calling to them, introducing them to Life? Why are Christians hollering accusations out the windows and driving off? Wouldn't it be better to call to them, not to accuse them but to scoop them up and hold them? Is this my responsibility? Is it up to me? Are they not thirsty for something they can only find if they go home? 

I think it is up to me... and it’s not up to me—a paradox that I sit with today.

 I’m feeling a bit thirsty myself but I know there is a Fountain. I think I'll have a drink and I'm hoping to have somebody who is thirsty to join me.