Wednesday, March 15, 2017

No Longer Afraid of the Dark

It's been a really hard week so far. Really dark. I don't know if any of you ever experience darkness, but I do...more often than I'd like. And honestly, way more often than I'd like to admit. That's the thing, isn't it? We love to give testimonies of wonderful things God has done, and how He has answered our prayers. We love to feel God's presence and sing about it and tell about it and enjoy it. All of this is great, and good, and needed. But we rarely talk about the times when we don't feel His presence. Times where it feels like the lights have been turned off and we are left alone in our misery. Sometimes it is physical pain. So many of us who love God and believe He heals suffer with relentless pain. We cry out, we wonder why He isn't answering our cries...and we choose to go on believing that He does heal...and maybe He will heal us some day.

There are other forms of darkness...darkness in the mind. It sneaks up on me out of a storm front coming at us from the west on an otherwise sunny day. Surely it won't land here. There are blue skies and warm sunshine. When the dark cloud comes it feels like such a betrayal. And even though I know the thoughts I'm having aren't really my thoughts, they plummet me..."Maybe I have mental illness. Maybe I will never see the sun again." Dark thoughts that rain down on me and soak me in pain and self-pity. "God, I need you!!! Where are you???"

I think of a technique I saw on some nanny show...where the parents are trying to get their kids to sleep in their beds, to feel secure enough to fall asleep on their own. She has one of the parents sit on the floor of the child's room, in the dark, facing the door. The child is in her crib crying...often screaming...and the parent is to just sit there. The child knows the parent is near. She isn't particularly happy that Daddy isn't picking her up and getting her out of bed. But...ultimately she knows Daddy is near. And after a lot of crying and not getting the results she wants, she finally falls asleep. After a night or two of this training, the child is able to be put to bed in the dark room with little or no fussing.

Over the years, through many seasons of darkness...physical and emotional darkness and pain...God has shown me that He is with me. It may be dark, and I may be crying out and definitely not at all happy with my situation...but He is here with me. I know that now with certainty. I also know that while I don't understand yet...He is training me for something. So in the midst of the darkness, I no longer  fear that He has left me alone, or that He doesn't exist.

I still don't like the dark. But I am no longer afraid. It makes all the difference...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Person

A popular way of saying someone is your good friend, is to say they are your "person". And we all need to have people that are there for us. We all need our people, or in some cases our person. I have been so thankful for the people God has brought into my life over the years. I am so thankful for my dear friends. I'm so grateful to have many people who have helped me do life.

But when I read Job's story in the Bible, I realize that his friends were unable to help him in his very darkest time. They tried, but they just didn't get what he was going through. And I see now that God sets it up that way. Our friendships can only take us so far.

When I went through one of the darkest periods of my life, my best friend was unable to be there for me. And strangely enough, my time of darkness caused her much pain and difficulty in her life. I was unable to turn to her, and she was unable to turn to me. We were both very much without our "person"...and it was really hard. For both of us.

Looking back on that time, we realize that God was in the entire process...the hurt, the struggles, the pain...He was there. And in it all, He was becoming our "Person" in ways in which He never could have if we'd had each other to turn to and rely upon.

There are times, dark and difficult times in our lives, that only Jesus can help us through. He will always reach into our pain and allow us to feel His presence, His love, His strength...and ultimately, He will use those times to prove that He is a friend worthy of our trust. The thing is, people we love will always let us down. Because they are only human. But instead of harboring anger and unforgiveness, remember this:

"And the LORD changed the fortune of Job, when he prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before." (42:10)

Many relationships have led me to my friendship with Him. I am grateful for each one.

I'm so thankful that He gave me back my "bestie"...though the truth is, she never really left.

It's just that for a season, God needed to show us...that he is the only best friend we need.

Over the years God has multiplied my friendships, and deepened them in ways I never could have...and probably never would have known before encountering true friendship in Him. 

Jesus is my Person.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Political Thoughts

I am not a Republican.
I am not a Democrat.
I agree and disagree with both parties.

I am a follower of Christ.
As such, I do not believe in name-calling or mud slinging.

I recognize that there are Christians who are Republicans, and Christians who are Democrats.
I also recognize that God is not in favor of one political party over another.

I do not believe that Donald Trump is the "answer to our prayers."

I question how we can believe the above while not believing God appointed Barack Obama as president.

I think praying for "our" candidate to win is much like praying for our sports team to win. It is presumptuous to assume God likes one side over the other. I am sure there were just as many people praying for another candidate. Therefore I do not agree with this theology.
I do believe God cares very much about our heart attitudes in the midst of sporting events or elections.

I do not hate President Obama. I did not agree with all of his politics. This does not justify calling him names or posting angry degrading comments on social media directed at him.

I do not hate Donald Trump. I do hate some of his actions. A lot. And because of those actions and also because of his rhetoric, I am not a fan. I will give him a chance while I watch, and wait, and see what actually happens in the next 4 years.

I do not believe that those in the entertainment industry speak for me.
I do not believe most of the posts on social media are unbiased or true.
I am frustrated with the "news" media in general.
I have become quite frustrated with big government, and a government which does not listen to the people it governs.

There are folks who are rejoicing over the new President, and those who are mourning or angry.
I would love to see us all growing in respect for our differences.

I think rioting in the streets needs to stop. I don't believe that those who are peacefully protesting are at fault for the violence. I believe it is a few angry people who have no business calling themselves political protesters. I pray that things will calm down, and we will all feel safe once again.

I do not believe all Muslims are terrorists, I believe most are not. I do hope for a day when those who are not radicals will rise up with a louder voice against those who are. This Muslim anti-terrorist voice needs to be the same way that the Christian voice should rise up against the actions and beliefs of the Westboro Baptist church and other bigoted so-called Christians.

My heart hurts for the women, minorities, LGBT and all other people who feel unsafe right now because of the things our new President has said and done. I want you to know that I do not condone his words or actions. I pray that things will calm down and you will feel safe once again. I apologize to you for being called names such as "snowflake" and "crybabies" because of your concerns. I apologize that we followers of Christ are not representing Him very well. I apologize that we have not loved you well. I apologize for the mixed message we're sending with every angry, prideful and insensitive post. Mostly, I apologize for our hypocrisy.

I do not agree with the "us vs. them" mentality of many Christian peers who have been caught up in the angry fray of political "sides". I believe Jesus came to break down the "us vs. them" religious mentality once and for all. I believe Jesus came to open our eyes to the truth of our connection with God, and with each other. We are either "us" or no one.

I believe that just as in most of life's bigger issues, the pendulum usually swings really far one way, and then the other...and eventually settles in the middle.
I believe it is our job to continue to walk in love, grace, compassion and respect during these extremes.
I am committed in my desire to do so...because I am not a Republican or a Democrat. 
I am a Christian.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Come To The Table

Look at this picture. 
Now think about our Daddy, God. Now look again. This picture, as precious as it is, says so much. It is so beautiful that it melts my heart.

This is it, guys. This is a picture of us...and the Kingdom...and everything!! Notice how the children are so intensely "helping" Dad. Does he need their help? Of course not! He can build the table. But, because he loves them so much...and because he wants to spend time with them...and teach them...he lets them "help" him build it.

That's what God does for us. Does God need our help building His Kingdom? Heck no! We muck it up most of the time! Still, because He loves us so much, and because He wants to spend time with us, and teach us, He lets us "help".

Isn't it so beautiful? Look at the Daddy. He's right there with them...watching them, but allowing them to do the building. He's there if they need his help. He's guiding. Closely guiding them. He wants them to succeed! But if they mess up, or get frustrated, He's there to comfort...encourage...and envelop them in his love.

This is the Kingdom!! This is life! God doesn't need our help, but He lets us help because He knows it is so wonderful to be a part of building something. It is rewarding. Doing it together strengthens bonds and relationships...with each other and with Him.

Can you imagine if you were to enter the picture in a few minutes? You would hear the delighted squeals of these two children, "Look what we made!!" Isn't that how we feel when we get to help God build His Kingdom? It is so much better than just sitting back watching.

That banquet table He invites us to come share with him means so much more when we understand the part we had in building it. And how gracious of our Daddy to allow us to feel needed! Beautiful indeed!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Why Christmas Makes Me Cry

It's 4:30 AM Christmas morning. The house is quiet. I'm sitting here in the glow of little white lights, and the tears just keep coming. What is wrong with me? Why does Christmas make me cry?

The whole story of Christmas, the reason for Christmas, is celebration. We celebrate our history. We celebrate the beauty of a Creator loving us so much that He became one of us so that we could truly know Him. We celebrate with family, friends, food, gifts...we celebrate with joy and laughter.
But I can't stop these tears.

Christmas is perfection. The story depicts perfect that is giving. Love that transcends everything bad in this world and shows us the purity of a heart with no malice, no envy, no hatred...a being who loves without condition. With great abandon, he lavishes love upon every single one of us...old and that keeps giving and reaching and chasing us down.

But love is so often ignored by us...this love that we need so much. 

I'm feeling like the shepherd in the stable on that night so long ago. I imagine my heart would be bursting at the beauty of that moment...this baby, so special. I might realize something amazing was taking place, yet not really understand what I'm witnessing. I'd be mesmerized by Him, by this babe in the cradle. While I'd feel frozen in time and space with my feet seemingly glued to the stable floor...there would be something stirring and swelling within me...something making me want to rush out of there yelling to the world, "Come and see!!! Come and look upon perfection! True Love is here!! Emmanuel!! God is right here with us!! Oh come!!! Everything has changed!! LOVE HAS COME FOR US!!" 

Yes, love has come for us. But we're so distracted that we don't even notice.

Love is here. And I want the whole world to know.
I don't want anyone to miss it.

So this is why Christmas makes me cry...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

United We Stand?

I have been quiet lately. I haven't said anything about the football players who didn't stand for the National Anthem. And it isn't because I haven't heard about it. I may not watch football, but Facebook is filled with outrage and opinion as if somehow our country is going to fall apart because a few young men didn't follow our patriotic ritual.

Have you ever seen the videos of North Korean children, all singing in unison about how their country is the best, and how they love their father-leader? It is a scary sight. What is most frightening is that they do not have a choice. They are required to sing those songs and march in perfect unison.

We Americans were taught to stand and put our hand over our heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We were also taught to stand when the Anthem was being played at our High School football games. I believe respect is a good thing. I also believe it is good to feel loyal to this great country.

Respect. Loyalty. These are attributes that should be taught and exampled, not laws to be enforced. Respect is earned. Loyalty born in a heart that feels safe.

There are people who love this country, but have a very different perspective than my privileged white one. People who do not feel "safe". People who feel they are being treated unfairly by certain citizens of law enforcement. No, let's just admit that they ARE being treated unfairly. Murder is very unfair. Being shot is not fair at all. Being seen as guilty or dangerous just because of the color of your skin is nothing but unfair.

We are outraged by the violent protests chanting "Black Lives Matter" yet these few who choose to protest in a quiet and non-violent manner still outrage us. Does it cause us to feel just a little uncomfortable in our white skin?

If this section of our populous is fed up, and wants to make a statement against these atrocities by kneeling during the Anthem, they have every right to do so.
(Yes and we have every right to go after them for it, with our holier than thou Facebook rants and twitter tweets defending this great country. As if America is offended by their lack of compliance to her tradition, and our servicemen cry over these protests.)

We might make this country we love so much even greater by noticing their empathizing with their pain, and listening to their cries for freedom and liberty for all.

We have allowed our outrage at people who don't follow the proper protocol to cloud the real issue. If there are some who feel threatened and unsafe among us, then why are we still singing? 

Why aren't we all kneeling in humility, crying with them, and asking their forgiveness for the atrocities they're experiencing?

America, what are we standing for?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My I am loves to Dance

(another excerpt from my someday book, "The Popeye Chronicles: Becoming my I am")

I have always loved to dance. Ever since I can remember, I have loved music, and when music is playing, my body is dancing. I feel music in every fiber of my being. It expresses some of the deepest parts of me, and that expression comes out in dance.

When we came into the Kingdom, I stopped dancing. After going to church and learning about how sinful I was, I knew the dancing part of me had to die. After all, I spent a lot of years dancing to ungodly rock very ungodly places. I probably caused many men to succumb to lust, and was responsible for many women's sinful jealousy. My dancing days were over. So sad.

The problem was, our church music was upbeat and there were even people moving to it during worship. But, they weren't really dancing...not the kind of dance that was inside of me. There's was an acceptable dance which didn't seem much like a dance at all. It was actually more like jumping. (Evidently aerobics are acceptable to the Lord.) Anyway, I felt very uncomfortable doing it. Oh how I wanted to dance!!

Well, the dancer within was coming home. 

In my house, by myself, I began to put worship music on and move to my heart's delight...and God's as well. I know He loved my dancing because He would dance with me. I felt His presence and the warmth of His smile. It was glorious to be find myself again. So, I danced and I danced and I danced...

But finding your I am can be a dangerous thing. My dancing I am was released at a funeral for a friend. She was taken, in my opinion, way too early. Her service was in the church I attended. Music was playing, one of my favorite songs...and the next thing I knew I was out of my seat...dancing in the aisle. Yep, my I am came out in full force for all to see. I guess I had become so used to being "me" at home, alone with God, that I couldn't be suppressed any longer. So, I danced. And in the moment I didn't care, I was caught up with Him, dancing with my Beloved, and dancing with my friend.

As the service was ending, that stupid insecure false me tried to rear her ugly head with accusations...trying to blanket me in shame. But God had me covered. He always covers our shame if we'll let Him. (Too often we jump in and try to cover ourselves which only serves to hinder our I am.) But this day someone very dear to the woman came up to me and said "I am so glad you danced! It was beautiful, and she would have loved it!!" Oh thank you!! And thank You, God...for loving me and loving my dance!!
I would like to say that I am completely free now and dance with abandon any time the Spirit moves me...but it is not yet true. But one thing is true; my dancing I am will never make me ashamed again.