Uncategorized

“Thanksgetting”

This is a post I wrote two years ago. I am itching to write this morning but baking and family are calling for my attention. So, here is some food for thought today. And its fat and calorie free…because if you are like me, you will need that margin as you graze and gorge for the next few days. 🙂 Love to you all. Couldn’t be more grateful for you.

One more thought ( you know I can’t help myself when my fingers get going on this keyboard)…Today. Decide what your primary purpose is and stick to it. Determine to be the best daughter, son, husband, wife, friend, relative, mother or father you can be and leave the rest to God. Live and let live. You live the way God wants you to and let others live how they are living today. They are doing the best they can with what they have. Relax and look for all the things you have to be grateful for instead of focusing on that pesky, irritating, drunk, irrational, loud, negative, bossy, controlling person at the Thanksgiving celebration location you will attend today. And just in case you have a pattern of being the person I described above, just for today, try to live in God’s will and plan for you. A plan that calls you to be gentle and kind in spirit. Loving others where they are at and minding your own business rather than theirs. Watching your words and holding them in if they might harm or hurt. Be who God made you to be and be patient with those who are still becoming enlightened to his way of life. And be grateful for what is before you. Who God has put in your life. It is all good.

 

THANKSGETTING (2015)

I don’t know if this is an official thing, but it should be: I think I have a “Thanksgiving-Food-Hangover”. Even though Thanksgiving itself was only ONE day and ONE meal, I have actually eaten Thanksgiving food in some form or fashion for the past FOUR days! When diet experts estimate the number of calories the average person consumes on Thanksgiving, I think, Oh, that’s not too terrible.” The main problem comes when we eat that meal about 7 more times after Thanksgiving! One of the ways I justified how much I ate this year was to remind myself that I raked 20 bags of leaves, all by myself, the day before. I am positive that I burned enough calories to carry over in to the next day. While I was raking, I put my headphones on and listened to Pandora. Since I am cheap, I have to listen to the bottom level (read: free) of music which includes occasional, very loud, commercials. I heard a commercial for a popular cell phone company advertising their deals for “Thanksgetting.” I could hardly believe my ears. I mean, I know this is typically how most of us think, but they actually had the guts to put a name to it! So, let’s just break this down a bit…

We call it Thanksgiving: a time to GIVE thanks. But really, if I am honest, i am a bit more focused on the “getting” part than the “giving” part. I like to think of myself as a pretty grateful, thankful person, but the when it comes down to it, I have to admit that my thankfulness is rather dependent on “getting” my way or “getting” what I want. I am very happy and grateful to get a new car or house or job. I am also quick to shoot up a prayer of thanks when my kids starts on the basketball team or when my daughter gets an A on that math test or my son gets in to the college of his choice. But how do I respond when I DON’T get what I want and DON’T get my way? Is my spirit still full of “thanks-giving” when I don’t get the job? Do I pout or feel ripped off or do I trust that it’s possible that God knows what I need better than I do? How do I act when my car breaks down or worse yet, when my kids don’t get what I think they deserve? Do I grumble? Do I throw a fit? Or do I thank God for the opportunity for us all to grow and learn through this and develeop the character that is only built through hardship. Throuh NOT getting what we want.

It’s been about 15 years, but I distinctly remember a friend of mine giving me some new insight into an old, often quoted verse. “Consider it all joy whenever you face trials of many kind, for the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:1 Did you catch that first word? CONSIDER. It means, “to regard (someone or something) as having a specified quality.” It means that even though it isn’t the typical response to trials, I can choose to CONSIDER it all JOY. I can only do this when I decide that I will GIVE THANKS, and develop the habit if “Thanks-giving” rather than “Thanks-gettting.” You may have heard the saying, “nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” We have a choice to consider our daily challenges opportunites for growth or to consider them a burden. It’s that simple. I have no control over my circumstances, but I absolutely have control of how I react to them. I learned this in a very real way when I had Leukemia. And if I can respond with joy and Thanksgiving in THAT scenario, i am pretty sure that any situation that arises can be an opportunity for “Thanks-giving”, if I “consider” it so. Continue reading ““Thanksgetting””

Uncategorized

“That Sinking feeling…”

It’s that sinking feeling. One similar to those crazy dreams I sometimes have, where I go to a math class and am handed a test that I forgot to study for (and in some cases, forgot to ever go to the class at all!). Or maybe like a bride who meant to shed those last 5 lbs. so she could zip her dress on her wedding day, only to have the day sneak up on her having actually gained a couple. Now it’s too late. And here’s one closer to home; the brutal reality that you will be listening to Rosetta Stone German all the way to California because a certain college student only took 3 years of German in High School yet needs 4 years to graduate from said college (just a random example, and on a side note, prayers would be appreciated 🙏😜). Anyway-I think you get my point. There are some things in life that require preparation and when that “thing” arrives, it’s too late to go back. You can’t make up for not losing the weight or attending a class.

Well-school just started for my 2 High-Schoolers and I leave in a couple hours to drive with my college student back to California. I have been feeling very unsettled and experiencing the “sinking” feeling I referred to above. I couldn’t really put my finger on why I have it until this morning. As far as i can dissect, I think it relates to a couple different things (and please don’t stop reading if you don’t have kids-it’s really not about that in the end…): Regret and Trust.

It’s not really regret about the things I did over the summer, it’s about what I didn’t do. This is where I start “shoulding” on myself. I should have set up a better schedule of exercise and maybe had them read something spiritual everyday. I should have spent more one on one time with each of them. I should have taken them on more weekend getaways. I should have organized more gatherings with their friends. I should have had them work on their math and language skills so they will be prepared for school this fall. I should have have limited their TV and video gaming time. I should have arranged for us to volunteer. i should have made them clean the crap out of their rooms and had a garage sale. I should have been more intentional about teaching them about faith and prayer and how to love others and God more fully. I should have required everyone to spend more time as a family. But now-it feels like it’s too late. School has started and now it’s all impossible.

That’s how my crazy brain has been working this week. This is when it’s important to remember the Trust piece. The reality (Miss Heather), is that “enough is enough.” I can’t go back and change anything. What I have already done has to be enough. I did the best I could do at the time. And though I wish I could do more or do it different, I have to trust that God’s hands are not bound by my shortcomings. My children will not become serial killers or vagrants or selfish, lazy people because I came up short this summer. He is bigger than that.

I have been “shoulding” on myself about the summer. But I have strong tendencies to do this in a variety of ways every day. Sometimes I think we put pressure on ourselves to perform at a certain level and then beat ourselves up when we fall short. Which we will, because life happens. And that’s actually a good thing, because it helps me live the life God has for me each day, living according to His will, not mine. Much of His plan to grow me up and mold me into maturity comes from how He uses me in the lives of others each day. If my way, my agenda, reigns, I hijack that plan. Our striving and scraping to succeed at life often leaves us feeling like failures. Like we aren’t enough. We take God out of the equation and try to work out our own worth.

So, I guess what I am trying to clarify for myself, that what I did this summer, what I do today, it’s all “enough”. I don’t have the power to make or break someone else’s life. God makes up the difference, always. I have to do my best and turn the rest over to Him in humble vertrauen (that’s German for trust…I am getting a head start 😉).

 

Uncategorized

God is Like…

Right now I am in Real Estate Overload mode. I am working on several deals that need special attention, so the terminology and nuances of buying and selling houses are whirling around in my head consistently. But writing helps clear my head and focus on the parts of my job and life that truly matter. So, since I can’t really block the Real Estate thoughts, I figured I might as well make good use of them. Sit for a few and join me in my maelstrom of thoughts on how God is like various Players in the Real Estate Game.

God is like a Home Inspector. But let me set it up for you. If you haven’t sold or tried to sell a house lately, here’s how it goes. You are given a list of 23 areas that you can mark as either a yes, a no or a Not Applicable. Your agent cannot help you with that at all. Only you can give an honest answer to the questions that are in this list. In the past few years, a new question has been added and you will be relieved to know that a seller is required to disclose whether or not there was ever a methamphetamine lab in the house. Phew! As a seller, you reveal any defects that you are aware of and then give an explanation for them. Then, after your house is under contract, the buyer will send in a Home Inspector who will spend several hours searching for everything that is wrong with your house that you didn’t even know about. It’s a nerve wracking thing for a seller and they are often surprised that there has been mold lurking in their basement and that their toilets flush backwards. In this way, as I said, God is like a Home Inspector. There are many defects we have that we are fully aware of. But then, He takes it to the next level. He searches the nooks and crannies of our hearts and souls and finds dry rot and hot electrical wires and gas leaks and termites and all kinds of things that threaten our “house”. Dangers we didn’t even know about. Defects like pride, image-management, dishonesty, greed, lust and jealousy. Defects that aren’t as obvious to the casual observer but can cause structural damage to our lives if left un-addressed.

God is also like a Buyer. A really easy buyer. One who sees the results of the home inspection report and the laundry list of flaws and imperfections, and buys it anyway. He buys it AS-IS. I just love those kind of buyers. They understand that every house has its issues and don’t expect a 100 year old house to present itself like new construction. He has bought us at a great price. Actually, I am fairly sure we would “under-appraise” for what he sacrificed to make us His own.

And, He is like a Seller. He has a list of Disclosures in His Word. He reveals everything about His House, which is to say, Himself. He shares it thoroughly, honestly, and freely. It is our job, our privilege, to do the Inspecting. There are many characteristics of God that are obvious. Anyone can tap into them if they give it just the tiniest bit of effort. His love and compassion and forgiveness are available to anyone who asks. But it’s when we take extra time to explore His House that we really find the beauty of what’s often hidden from plain sight. Luckily, we are always pleasantly surprised by our findings. When we pray and meditate and read and open up our Being to His will and wisdom, we experience His presence intimately. We begin to anticipate what we will find around the next corner of our relationship with Him.

Today I am grateful for what God can teach me about Him, even in the midst of circumstances that seemingly have nothing to do with spiritual things. I am reminded that this is how I stay in constant contact with a God who is not just interested in my spiritual life, He is interested in my life. All of it. And today He and I are gonna do some serious Real-Estating together.

What is it that you and God will be doing?

Brokenness, identity, insecurity, Relationships, Uncategorized

God Doesn’t Chew Gum

The other night a friend of mine, a college professor who teaches real writers how to write better, pointed something out to me. I told her I wish I would have been able to write when some traumatic events from my past were happening. I indicated that maybe I could write about them now. She said, “Now you are thinking like a Writer.” I am not sure that she was referring to writing about trivial past events such as the one I am about to share with you, but nevertheless, here it goes…

I was about 10 years old and was beginning to take a “Tap/Jazz” class. I had never taken any class like this before and was very excited to choose a couple leotards to wear to said class. One was pretty cute, robin egg blue with light pink tights. The other, and I have no idea what I was thinking or why my mother allowed this (though I suspect I wasn’t an easy person to say “no” to back then, any more than I am now), but I choose a canary yellow leotard AND canary yellow tights to go with it. 10 yr old girls often go through a slightly pudgy, shapeless stage and I was right on target for that. So there’s a lovely image. Tap shoes really topped off the outfit. So I enter the dance studio and quickly feel awkward, untalented, and very very bright. There are two other girls who seemed to be best friends nearby. I don’t know what they were really thinking of me, but I sure felt like a 3rd wheel trying to become part of that team. I tried my best to be friendly and make conversation. I truly can’t even remember if they were nice to me, but I knew one thing, I desperately wanted to be their friend. And here is where the memory sticks. After many failed attempts to get them to include me, to like me and acknowledge me, I finally came up with a solution that was iron-clad: I would buy them some gum. Yep. That should do the trick. When all else fails, just buy them some gum and that will break down all barriers and create life-long relationships. I am not sure if I ever actually did it. Probably not, because I had to get money from my mom and have her take me to the store and she, being not a lunatic, might have steered me away from such humiliation. My time in that class was short-lived. I never won their affection and am sorely deficient at tap dancing to this day.

I still remember this because I still occasionally feel myself trying to impress someone or win someone’s approval. I used to work at a job where there were a couple girls who I really wished would let me “in”. Who would like and include me. I snicker because I said to myself, “maybe I should buy them some gum.” Because that’s how I felt. Like a roley 10 yr old in a neon yellow leotard. When I think this way, I know my identity is at risk. It means I am not finding my identity in what God, my creator who loves me and includes me and accepts me for who I am right at this moment, thinks of me. I am depending on what other people think (or what I think they think) of me to feel secure. Author and Speaker Tony Campolo says, “Whatever the most important person in your life thinks of you is what you’ll think of yourself.” If God is not that person, I am in big trouble. I love the slogan “What you think of me is none of my business.” It sounds rude at first, but is actually a giant relief. It means we can relax and stop trying to impress people around us. That we can do the right thing without worrying if others will agree with us. We can be “ok” even when other’s around us don’t think we are.

We can avoid an identity crisis because God’s love and affection and stamp of approval never falters. And we can stop buying people gum (and don’t quote me on this, but I am pretty sure God doesn’t even chew gum).

Uncategorized

“Stepping In It”

As long as I live I will never run out of material to write about because doggonit-I just keep “stepping in it.” I guess I can view it as “job security.” Every once in awhile, though, I pleasantly surprise myself by being aware of what I stepped in before God has to use a bullhorn. This time it was a gently nudge and I actually listened and obeyed.

I had coffee with a new friend last week and in the process of sharing our stories, I realized she was very very good friends with someone who has hurt me and is connected with many others who have hurt me even deeper. It’s a very long story and sounds very “Jr. High Girl-ish” but nevertheless, the pain is real. I tell you that, not to make you feel sorry for me, but to point out how my reaction to this information was also very “Jr. High Girl-ish.” I did a couple things right and a couple not so right. I was feeling pretty good that I chose not to use names and didn’t give details of the betrayal I felt. That was the right thing to do. But I did manage to over-share about how her friend used to be my friend but no longer acknowledges me and a few suggested motives for her doing so. I dragged her into something that had nothing to do with her. Super-Mature. That goes against everything I have read and studied and prayed about for the past few years; letting God do His job and not taking revenge into my own hands and forgiving others and proving it by not talking about the offense with, say, people that are not part of the problem. I could have caused much more damage had I not invested myself in learning those things. I could have told all, taking advantage of an opportunity to get the “real” story out there and warn her about certain people. It could have been complete mayhem! But luckily, gratefully, I have learned a little and been humbled enough to not go all the way down that dark road. But I still danced around at the beginning of that road long enough to regret that I said anything at all.

So here is where the good part comes…I apologized. i felt that thing in my Spirit, God nudging my soul, that told me I had said too much. I had attempted to damage someone’s reputation so that I could have just the tiniest bit of justice (or is it revenge?). I told my new friend that I was sorry and that I shouldn’t have brought that up with her. She was gracious and we moved on to other topics. But here comes the kicker (and this is where God gave me a little break from the guilt and shame of feeling “caught”). I hadn’t done my reading for the day, so after I made my amends I turned to the reading for the appropriate date and here’s what it said: “Watch your words diligently. Words have such great power to bless or to wound. When you speak carelessly or negatively, you damage others as well as yourself. This ability to verbalized is an awesome privilege…You need help wielding this mighty power responsibly.” Ya think? My first thought, or feeling, was, “Phew!”. Glad I made that apology before I turned the page. What a relief that I listened to God’s whisper instead of making him have to yell.  Maybe next time I’ll listen before I “step in it.”

Uncategorized

“Seatbelts Everyone”

I am going to do my best to give you an accurate mental picture of what I am going to write about this morning. I wish wish wish I had an actual picture, because it would be definitely be something you would want to hang on your wall (for occasional comic relief). I’ll do my best with my limited descriptive vocabulary.

When I got out of ICU I couldn’t move on my own. No rolling to one side or sitting up, and walking was virtually impossible. After a few days of recovering, they sent in a physical therapist to help me practice getting my shoes on and attempt a couple laps in the hall. I remember that my only option for working with the therapist was “now”. He only had a small window and even though I was dead asleep (probably from some really lovely sleeping meds) I had to rally and do my “chores.” I was wearing a hospital gown that was open in the back so they had me put on another one that closed in the opposite direction. No free shows! I had on yoga pants underneath said gown(s). Then, I got to practice putting on my running shoes which are practically fluorescent. I managed to do this after several minutes-and even tied them myself! (What a big girl i was!) Then, the best part. In order to keep me from landing on my face should I start to stumble while trucking down the hall with my walker, they put a seat belt around my upper belly that was cinched and had a long “leash” for the therapist to hold on to. More than likely I had a dew rag on my head to top off this adorable outfit. So imagine how sexy I felt shuffling down the hall wearing not one, but two hospital gowns (one of them backwards), yoga pants, happy colored running shoes and a giant seat belt under my chest. I remember praying , “Oh Lord, PLEASE don’t let my husband come around the corner right now.” (There are just some things you can’t “unsee”-even though I am pretty sure he had already seen such things while I was unconscious and intubated in ICU). I hope my description gives you a hilarious image in your head so that you can conjure it up when you are in need of a good chuckle.

I tell you all that useless and humiliating information to point out one tiny but tremendous truth I learned about in my reading today. God’s Spirit in us is like that seat belt. He is wrapped tight around us, and when we wander from Him physically or in our mind, He prompts us to return. Just like that therapist had a hold on that belt so that if i started to teeter, he could gently pull me back toward him. I suppose, if I was crashing to the floor, it might be more of a strong yank, but all of it is designed to give me freedom as well as safety. Author Sarah young points out that God is saying to us, “Your mind will wander from Me, but the question is how far you allow it to wander. An anchor on a short rope lets a boat drift only slightly before the taut line tugs the boat back toward the center. Similarly, as you drift away from Me, My Spirit within you gives a tug, prompting you to return to Me. As you become increasingly attuned to My Presence, the length of rope on your soul’s Anchor is shortened.” We want to make sure we keep our selves on a “short leash”. Not so we feel stifled by God, but so we are bound “tight” to Him. When we minimize the slack between us and God, our lives are more apt to be lived out in ways that exude the attributes of God Himself (i.e. love, kindness, tenderness, sweetness, and confidence). Bad things happen when that seat belt has too much slack. You are apt to stumble and fall on your pretty little face before you can be caught.

This is a great visual to remind myself not to wander too far and keep close to the Source (and for me, that means daily reading, reflecting, mediating, serving, and being mindful of the activity of God in my world) lest I have bigger problems than just looking like a goofball scooting down the halls of the oncology floor.

Uncategorized

“You Too? Me Too.”

As I get closer to publishing my collection of blogs, I’ve had to start thinking more seriously about my target audience, a title and potential ideas for a cover. I don’t like this part. It’s not in my gift set or why I started writing. Last week I talked to someone who has a degree in Marketing and asked for some ideas on how to spread the word about the upcoming book. She immediately asked me who my target audience was. Apparently “anyone and everyone” is not a useful answer. For marketing purposes I am apparently going to have to narrow it down. But in reality, I know my answer is right. I have personally heard from readers who are 46 year old married mom’s like me, as well as 75 yr old businessmen, 60 year old grandmas, and 25-70 year old singles. They are from all walks of life; authors, entrepreneurs, professors, doctors, homemakers, musicians, pastors, etc. And many of them think very differently from each other on matters of God and church and faith and spirituality. So how in the world can there be a common thread in a pool this vast? Let me back up a minute…

I was literally on my knees begging God for some clarity. I have been trying to discern what I write about so I can declare an audience. I consider cancer, faith and addiction to be some of my most repeated themes. But within that framework I cover control (over and over again), worry, fear, spirituality, purpose, and general life lessons that one can learn from Special Ed Pre-Schoolers. In other words, it’s impossible to pick one overarching theme. As usual, when I ask for an answer, He gives it. And this time it came to me immediately: “It’s not what you write about, it’s why you write about it.” I could just as easily write in a journal about all of this and keep it between me and God. Which, by the way, would be far less embarrassing. God already knows I am a nut-job. But I choose differently. I write it to YOU. I write it to you because God has put it on my heart to share my struggles so that you (regardless of your age, life-stage, marital status or views on God) don’t feel alone in yours. My belief is that God created us, and he created Eve to be with Adam because “it is not good for man to be alone.” That doesn’t mean that we never spend time by ourselves, it means that we were not designed to live in isolation. Secrets and shame keep us isolated.

We have a book in our house called Post-Secrets. It’s heart wrenching to read the entries. It is a compilation of confessions by people who were instructed to send in a post-card revealing “anything-as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.” One read, “Sometimes I wish that I was blind, just so I don’t have to look at myself everyday in the mirror.” Another, “I have so many secrets I don’t know which one to send in.” People are keeping secrets about themselves. If me sharing some of mine can help you come out of hiding about yours, then I am willing to go there. I am finding that plagues of the heart like worry and fear and anxiety and desire to fix, manage and control are universal struggles and do not discriminate. I don’t know about you, but I feel about 12 years old on the inside most of the time anyway.

I recognized this “why” in me when I had Leukemia. Specifically, after I lost my hair. When I was out in public, I was especially aware-searching, even-for others like me. Someone who might be wearing a dew rag or beanie or just plain rocking the bald head. I would always sidle up to them and start talking as if it were perfectly normal to have a personal conversation about a complete stranger’s health issues. But it was always received with gratitude. With an understanding that we shared the same disease. It was my way of asking “You too?” And then assuring them that “Me too.” We were not alone in our battle.

Every single time I write a blog, no matter the topic, I am saying the same: “You too? Me too.” You may feel crazy, lazy, guilty, fearful, faithless and hopelessly flawed and less-than, but you are not the only one. You may question God’s goodness, kindness, wisdom, purpose and capacity to love and forgive “someone like you”, but you’re not the only one who feels that way. Maybe it’s just the two of us (though I highly doubt it), but when we carry our brokenness with someone who understands, the burden is much lighter. It breaks our isolation and helps us live as we were created to live…together.

 

  YOU TOO? ME TOO.

Uncategorized

“That’s Gonna Leave a Mark”

I just can’t stop thinking about mark. Or, more accurately, a mark. It started while listening to my iPod on my flight to Las Vegas. The band U2 was blasting the song “Magnificent” in my ears while Bono sang “Only love, only love can leave such a mark.” My schizophrenic mind then pulled up other files in my brain relating to the word “mark”. Ever since Chris Farley uttered the words in the movie “Tommy Boy”, I haven’t been able to bump or cut a body part without declaring, “now that’s gonna leave a mark!” (If you have never seen that scene, stop what you are reading and go directly to Utube and check it out before continuing). After I went down that rabbit trail I remembered a client of mine who owns a tattoo parlor. His name is Mark and his email is “permanentmark”. Get it? Permanent Mark? (I know, I am easily impressed). If I ever get a tattoo I am going to him based on that name alone. So, even though I want to take a nap on this flight, I just have to talk about marks for a few.

Unless we get a tattoo, or are married to Mark, most marks are not permanent. They may seem so at times, but usually there are ways to remove, remedy or repurpose them. All of us have had defining moments, marking moments, in our lives. Events that threaten to stick with us forever.They damage in ways that feel pretty permanent. And left untreated, they indeed are. But, my friend, you have a Redeemer-One who wants to remove, remedy or repurpose those marks. One who wants to leave you with a different kind of mark. I love how Bono says “only love can leave such a mark-only love can heal such a scar.” God is that love. Sometimes we falsely believe that people are that love, but the humanness of those people can cause that healing to be quite temporary. God’s love is a permanent mark, leaving a scar as a reminder of where we once were when we were damaged. A mark that reminds us to trust in Him to be a salve for the wounds that we thought would ugly-us-up indefinitely.

Pure, unadulterated, healing love is a permanent gift from God. And ya, “that’s gonna leave a mark.”

Uncategorized

“Rephrase the Question”

I have only been called in for Jury Duty once. And sometime soon I will tell you how I managed to get my self selected for a trial (because apparently playful attempts at clever banter with the judge is “frowned upon” in a court of Law). But today I want to tell you a little bit about case I was selected for. It was pretty awful. Not the crime itself, but the situation. A woman was suing a certain superstore that starts with a “W” and ends with “almart”. It had been almost one year since the accident (she slipped and fell in a puddle of shampoo that had fallen off a shelf) occurred and, here is the bad part, she was representing herself. Just let that sink in a moment. Even if she had the best lawyer money can buy, I am still fairly certain that losing was in her future. It was excruciating to watch this woman “play” lawyer. By the end we, the jury, just felt sorry for her. The professional and powerful lawyer representing the superstore took full advantage of the fact that she had no idea how to argue her case. And the judge was no help. Every single time she made a statement or asked a question and the other lawyer objected, the judge would tell her to “rephrase the question/statement.” That’s when it got especially painful to watch. Bless her heart, she tried her best to think of 3 or 4 other ways to ask the exact same question, but she could never quite get her point across without being told to rephrase it, as if she had been to law school. In the end she was broken-down and humiliated.

Basically, she ended up losing, partly because she couldn’t seem to express herself in a way that was acceptable to the judge or the cut-throat defense attourney. Her groanings, her cries for help and for someone to truly “hear”, her fell on deaf ears. She had no chance before she even opened her mouth. But unlike that woman, we do. Maybe not in the presence of a judge, but of the Judge. Before a God who is just, but also loving. And most importantly, a God who knows, before we even open our mouth, what we are trying to say. What we need. A God who doesn’t expect us to know exactly what we want and be able to express it flawlessly before He will even listen. Through God’s clear Word to us, He tells us in Romans 8:23 that even when our own words are unclear, His spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” This is very good news. Because outside of a 650 word blog, I struggle with clarity. I am often hell-bent on getting what I want but at the same time am pretty certain that it doesn’t line up with what I need. What I ask Him for may not be good for me. And that’s on a good day! When I am under emotional duress, stand back! When my heart is in anguish and I can’t see straight or focus on anything but the feelings weighing down on me, His Spirit in me steps in. He takes the jumbled letters of the alphabet in my head and puts them into the words He needs to hear. My”groanings” suffice. He knows and hears our pain, but “groaning” isn’t reserved for just the bad stuff. By definition, “groaning” denotes a deep inarticulate sound conveying pain, despair, pleasure, etc.” Have you ever been so overwhelmed by His goodness and blessings in your life that you are speechless? Again, His Spirit can communicate the depth and intensity of feelings we can’t define with our meager vocabulary.

The best news of all of this, is that when we can’t trust ourselves to ask for what’s best for us, we can trust that if we are humble before God, His Spirit will intercede on our behalf  “in accordance with God’s Will.” I truly want to live my life aligned with God’s plan for me. I think most of us do at some level. It’s ever so much richer than living life on Self-Will. Matthew 6:8 assures us that God knows what we need before we ask Him, before we ourselves know or are willing to admit what we need.

My “groaning” today comes from a deep place in my soul that wants God to know the fullness of my gratitude for being a Judge who understands what I am trying to say without making me repeatedly “rephrase the question.”

 

Uncategorized

“Eat This, Not That”

A few years ago a diet book came out called “Eat This, Not That”. Pretty self-explanatory. I think it would be hard to write an entire book outlining what should be common sense. Do we really need hard evidence that we should eat Strawberries (“this”), not Strawberry flavored ice cream (“that”) or a baked potatoes (“this”), not french fries (“that”)? I realize there is more to the book than these kind of instructions, but humor me for a few minutes. This morning I was reflecting on Step 7 of the 12 Steps of Recovery. It says, we “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.” We ask Him to take from us the character defects that cause us to “come up short” of His standard for us. And though I used to believe otherwise, today I don’t see it so black and white. When we humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings, we allow Him to choose which ones benefit us and which ones don’t. My typical approach has been to give Him a list of things I don’t like about myself and request that He take them away. Please take my selfishness, my stubbornness, my attempts to control and manage my image. But the more I learn about this step, a couple things occur to me…

The first is that when He does take something away, it needs to be replaced with something else. Theologian Richard Rohr says, “God’s totally positive and lasting way to remove our shortcomings is to replace it with something much better, more luminous and more satisfying.” Otherwise we are left empty and are tempted to long for and crave those defects. Anything feels better than hollow. We have to be open and willing to receive His good and fulfilling gifts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.”

The second thought that occurred to me is that it’s not always an “all or nothing” scenario. Sometimes, when we are not spiritually fit or under the influence of addictive powers that are unhealthy for us, our assets actually become defects. They are too far down the dangerous end of the continuum. When God “removes our shortcomings”, there may be times when He says, “eat broccoli with lemon juice (“this”), not broccoli with cheese sauce (“that”). The good news is, we still get to eat broccoli (well, that’s good news for some of you. I’m still  wishing someone would tell me that if I eat nuts on my ice cream and not chocolate syrup that I can keep ice cream on my diet plan). But you get my point, right? Sometimes He just needs to bring what appears to be a character defect back to it’s rightful place, turning it into an asset. For example, I have a friend who claims she has “helpful disease.” She can’t help but…help people. Helping people is not a defect of character when it is in it’s rightful place, but if she doesn’t stay emotionally healthy and spiritually fit, her tendency is to over-help and turn this gift into something that doesn’t benefit her or the “helpee”. I have to be cautious not to take advantage of this, however, because I have been the recipient of a pair of great pants that she owned (after I told her they looked good on her) and an adorable purse she bought at a party (after I mentioned that my mom’s identical purse had been set on fire by a candle).

The bottom line is this: Our job is to humbly ask. It’s God’s job to do the removing and replacing. That sounds easy, but for some of us, and especially those of us who like to feel in charge and in control and important, it is challenging. But what a relief if we can learn what is our job and what it is not. And be OK with what God takes and doesn’t take. And what He tweeks  instead of takes. “Eat This. Not That.”